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28.11.08

Happy Thanksgiving!

To my 'Up Over' friends, I hope you all have a lovely Thanksgiving.

26.11.08

The Maternal Instinct

Meet Chloe and Dexter. Chloe (to the left) is an Australian native flowering plant and Dexter is a good ol’ ivy. Both are very sturdy plants, like to grow all over the place, take little maintenance care (it’s okay if I forget to water them one day) and are basically the perfect plants for a beginner gardener like me.

And, given I can’t get a cat and I probably can’t get a dog, I named them.

If you talked to the me of only five years ago, I would have told you that I’m not mother material. The whole maternal instincts kicking in? I never figured that would happen to me. I wasn’t even the kind of little girl who wanted baby dolls to take care of; it just plain didn’t jive for me.

These days? Well, I don’t know if it’s marriage or if it’s just plain time, but I find myself aching for a family. My husband ‘divorced’ his family before I met him, so I’ve never met any of them. My family and I aren’t on the best of terms either. While I consider some new friends I’ve made here like family, it’s not quite the same as getting started making your own family.

Health issues (and financial issues, too) prevent us from starting to try just yet and it’s dragging me down. Over the past… Oh, I don’t know how long it’s been now, but what started out as an exciting but scary idea has now become a small ache in me. So, until I get my health straightened out and we get a bit of a nest egg, I’ll be taking care of Chloe and Dexter and hoping that will ease the ache for the time being.

I guess I am mother material after all.

22.11.08

Somewhere in the Middle

Today I received an email from an acquaintance in the US. In the email, this person said:

"Thanks, mate!"

I giggled a bit and turned to The Bloke. "Do you think it's cute when people from different countries say 'mate'? 'G'day mate.' 'Thanks mate.'"

He admitted that it was kind of funny and we had a little laugh, but then I realized what I was saying. Talking about an 'Australian experience' as if I had been born and raised here and encountered it all my life.

I feel very... middle-ish these days.

"I'm not technically Australian" is what I say to everyone else. I'm not even a permanent resident yet. (June 2009, here I come.) But I don't feel American by any standard. I feel Australian and at home, but there are little reminders - like someone asking where I'm from because of the accent - that I'm not Australian.

I'm somewhere in the middle.

21.11.08

Australian Wildlife (AKA Reasons Not to Invade Australia)

The Bloke had a little fun with someone from the US on a forum...

American Guy's Post…
I'm getting a group together to go raid some Australians for their gas. Picked a lonely coastal town and everything. One road through, one small harbor and no airport. All long range communications centrally located for your convenience. No guns. No problem. Yay Google Earth!

Have a decker on tap to drop their satellite phones and several tuned bolluxes (as in the electronic warfare use of the term, not the UK) for ham and citizens band. Though some nit picking bean counter is insisting we will burn all the fuel stolen getting back home. We had to give him a wedgie for being a wiseguy. And sort of not getting it.

Already have my head shaved into a mohawk and bought a spiffy set of cestuses?, cesti? big spikey gloves weighted with lead. For smacking heroes and "red shirts". Have a vest good enough to stop most shotgun and pistol rounds.

Though unlike my role model, knowing myself I'll probably pick a female as a girlfriend. (A man has to know himself, and that was an easy guess.) I'll pick a local wench, as a pack of mutant gasoline raiders will still probably treat them nicer than the local males, if memory holds true. And they talk cute.

Open to all. Sign up sheet below. Standard rules of raiding by independents apply.

We leave in a week. I want more bodies in on this as those Aussies can be hard as ticks when they get riled. Seen it. Land combat vets get 3 extra shares. Dyerwolf, since you were a combat Marine and an O to boot, I'll cut you in for ten extra shares if you sign up. Though I'll need you to secure the road south. Won't even require you to enter the town unless something goes way wrong.


The Bloke's Reply...

As an Aussie I'd like, in a friendly manner, to offer a cautionary word or two...

1. Insects & arachnids - we have a few here to give pause to the bravest souls. Couple of spiders that specialise in large mammalian types, another as big as a plate that likes meat. Got a couple of flies about an inch long that bite like the devil's pitchfork.

2. Snakes - of the top 13 most poisonous snakes on the planet, we have 12 of them. The King Cobra is about No. 8 I think. The top five a a whole order of magnitude above all others, in toxicity & amount delivered. Tiger snakes like to come hunting if you so much as walk too close. Most of them like to swim.

We have a snake that like to climb trees & hang around till someone walks near the tree. They can flatten their bodies & glide so from 100ft tree you aren't safe out to about 60ft away.

3. We have lizards that like to eat snakes...

4. Those kookaburras that you hear in jungle sound tracks in movies? The laughing jackass as we call them? They like to pick up poisonous snakes & fly up in the air & drop them. This tends not to please the snakes. Try not to be under one.

5. Kangaroos - about 4ft tall (the greys) up to about 7ft tall (the reds), claws an inch or more long, head of bone, hind legs able to rip the belly from a rhino. Get a little short tempered when anything gets between them & food. Try not to...

6. Wombats - short cute little sorts, build from molybdenum steel. If one starts running, DON'T let it hit you. You'll lose the bit it hits. Sherman tanks were designed after them but they couldn't quite get the solidity factor with mere metal.

7. Koalas - We keep them stoned on eucalyptus because they have muscles of steel to drive 2 inch claws. Australia would be uninhabitable if they ever get straight.

8. Emus - About the size of an Ostrich but meaner. Like to kick & capable of giving you new front ribs - sticking out your back

9. Cassowary's - Emus are afraid of them, think they're too stroppy.

10. You don't need to worry about sharks in the estuary waters. The crocs ate them out...

When & if you get past all of that, you'll probably reconsider the whole 'raid' idea & figure anything requiring that kind of commitment should probably result in you becoming an Aussie.

That's OK, we've got a few nationalities here - 130+ at last count. We accept almost anyone. *grins* ...who survives...

19.11.08

My Australian Angel

This is for the newspaper column for December and I usually wouldn't post it until then... but it happened to me today and I feel really compelled to share it with you all sooner rather than later.

~~~~

“Be nice and smile to everyone you meet. You don't know what they are going through, and they may need that smile. And treasure it.” - Christine M. Huppert

I had intended to write something completely different for this month’s column; the beginning of it is still waiting patiently for me to finish it in my notebook. However, inspiration doesn’t work by schedule or by intention. Inspiration strikes when and where it pleases, and if you are smart, you grab onto it and hold tight while you can.

Today, inspiration struck me in an amazing way and I wouldn’t be the woman I consider myself to be if I didn’t grab hold.

Over the past month, I have had an increasing amount of headaches. I have tried various things that didn’t work so, seeking any kind of relief, today I went the local chemist to see what the pharmacist would recommend. I needed to pick up some groceries anyway, so I tucked my reusable grocery bag in my purse.

After a frustrating conversation with the pharmacist, I had another headache alternative I hoped would work, paid and left.

A few steps out of the chemist and I realized I had lost my reusable shopping bag somewhere. Somewhere along the walk or in the chemist, it had dropped out of my bag. I went back and looked around where I could, but it was nowhere in sight.

By then, I just wanted to get home, but I had to get a few groceries and it was nearing lunch so I figured I’d pick up something for that as well. I was a short walk from the mall, so it wouldn’t be a huge detour to stop in anyway.

I bought groceries and decided a noodle box was exactly what I needed. I didn’t have to wait long before the kind woman presented me with my noodle box, and I was on my way.

Looking back now, I can’t help but wonder why I didn’t ask for a bag. I always ask for a bag.

Right outside the doors to the parking lot, the box busted. While it was a bit of a contained break, the box still fell to the ground and chicken, vegetables and noodles spilled onto the ground. The contents had been super hot as well, so what spilled on my hand hurt enough to almost make me curse out loud.

I knelt down to shuffle around the contents of my bags so I could have a free one to put the mess in. Of course, by then, I was thinking this was just another perfect moment for another perfect day and... Well, my thoughts went in a direction that wouldn’t be suitable to print.

People passed by. I wasn’t surprised; I didn’t really expect anyone to stop. I felt more embarrassed than anything. But then something wonderful happened. Something amazing.

A woman stopped and asked if I was okay.

I explained that the box had broken and spilled everything and I was just trying to get it cleaned up. She volunteered to get some tissue or whatever else she could find and disappeared. She came back with a huge stack of paper towels. Not only that, she insisted I hand the used paper towels to her to take to the bin while I cleaned up.

All while this is happening, she’s chatting away about my accent, life in Australia and what a shame it is my lunch is all over the floor. I couldn’t help but make the comment that it was “just another ‘wonderful’ moment in another ‘wonderful’ day.”

After that, I couldn’t hold it any longer. I sobbed a few times – those great choking sobs you do when you’re really trying not to cry – and she rubbed my shoulder, offering words of sympathy interjected with suggestions about getting my lunch replaced.

When I’d gotten hold of myself, wiped away my tears and stood up, she didn’t give me time to protest as she talked about getting my lunch replaced and how she’d go with me ‘as a witness’. Had I been by myself, I wouldn’t have thought to go back and ask for a new box; I probably would have gone home and cried a bit.

She walked with me to the noodle place, took charge so I didn’t have to say a word and waited with me while they cooked my replacement meal. Still she chatted on about doing nice things for people, how my star sign – Leo – didn’t mean I had a lot of bad luck but she, as a Sagittarius, had a heck of a time with being accident prone. We talked about the US economy and how wonderful it is that you don’t have to be insured to get care in Australia and, again, about how we all have ‘those’ days sometimes.

I received my replacement noodle box – in a bag this time – and she walked me back out to where we had met. She remarked about how you couldn’t even tell there had been a mess on the floor and asked me if I needed a ride home. After assuring her a few times that it was just a short walk home and that I really would be okay, I thanked her repeatedly for her kindness.

I told her how wonderful it was that people still stopped to help other people these days. Of course, she shrugged it off and said, “Well, it makes me feel good to help other people. I’m your guardian angel for today.”

I thanked her again and she checked one last time if I would be okay walking home. Then she gave me a kiss on the cheek and told me the day could only get better from now on.

I told her it started to get better the moment she stopped to help me out.

She chuckled a bit and walked back inside to do whatever it is she had intended to do before she saw me. I looked back to see her and she was already almost lost in the crowd. I never got her name. All I know about her is that her sister shouted her lunch and that she’s an accident-prone Sagittarius. She has dark brown hair and glasses – just like me.

On the off chance that fate should bring you to a copy of this paper like it brought you into my life today, thank you again. In this world of fear and bad news, it’s wonderful to experience simple human kindness and generosity. It’s not just wonderful, it’s beautiful. You may have considered the action small, but it meant the world to me. With everything in me, thank you.

Until next time...

18.11.08

My Newspaper Column

Woohoo! I received my copies of the Hastings, Rosebud, Rye, Sorrento, Somerville, Mornington and Frankston community papers. (Yep, that's seven papers.) What makes these papers special (to me) is that they contain the first of my regular monthly column "The New Australian".

Yeah, go figure. I have a column by the same name as this blog.

My plan is to share my column with you when I receive the papers (meaning when they have been out for a couple weeks) so people here can read what I've written for the paper. (Because all of the people who currently read here are from overseas and can't get those papers.)

Anyway, without further ado, my first column for the November editions of those papers:

The New Australian
...Introduces Herself


Before I ever set one foot on Australian soil, I felt homesick for this wonderful place. Strange, I know, but after staying up many late nights in Wisconsin so I could talk to my then boyfriend (now husband) thousands of kilometers away in Australia, I longed to finally live in the beautiful country I heard so much about.

On the four-part flight from Minnesota to Melbourne, I was chided about making my first flight one that lasted so long. But, as I put my forehead against the window while my plane circled around to land in Melbourne, I marveled at the beautiful things I could see. I knew the long flight and nervous anticipation was all worth it.

I had finally come home.

In October I celebrated the second anniversary of my arrival in Australia. While some may argue that I am well past being a ‘new’ Australian – I have long since stopped calling all petrol ‘gas’ and calling the boot ‘the trunk’ – there is still much more for me to learn and discover here.

As my husband cheerfully informed me, “There are people who have been here forty years and are still ‘new’ Australians.” I don’t think I’ll be so new forty years from now, but I do hope I’ll still be discovering things about this place.

The discoveries and observations I make in my travels and the things I encounter on my journey from spousal visa to citizenship are the things I would like to share here. I’m looking forward to getting to know Mornington Peninsula and the people there better. Plus, in my career as a freelance writer, it doesn’t get any better than being able to write about the country I love so much.

So while you may read here about things you have encountered before, I hope you’ll enjoy them again from the perspective of a twenty-something still taking it all in.

It’s a pleasure to meet you. Until next time…

15.11.08

Council of Australians for Uneducated Americans

Man, I love this. I found these at The Two of Us.




Also, please note that the problem with the second one isn’t the kangaroo in the house, nor the cigarette in its mouth, nor the over-sized stubby, nor the fact that a child has it, nor the fact that he’s drinking beer with a straw (I saw somebody do that in a pub yesterday).

The reason it’s wrong is that no-one in Australia drinks Fosters.

14.11.08

New Template

Woohoo! I'm so happy with my new template!

Don't you just love it? All the little pictures are so awesome. Look closely at them - there are typical Aussie things in each of them.

Thank you so very much to Zoe at Chic and Sassy Designs who made this template. I could not be happier.

12.11.08

The End of the World (NSFW)

Aussies will be the last ones left.


New Template Coming

Soon I will have a fabulous new *custom* shiny template for this blog from Chic & Sassy Designs. She sent me an image of the header to give my opinion on yesterday and I'm so excited! It's going to look uber-awesome.

My wonderful friend Dorothy is getting me the template as an early Christmas present. Isn't she sweet?

Now I just have to keep holding on a little bit longer... Patience. Patience...

11.11.08

Why, Australia? Why?!

I honestly think Australia should be the death point for McDonalds. Australia should be the place where McDonalds simply cannot thrive because nobody eats there.

And yet, despite my most fervent wishes, I still see McDonalds everywhere with long lines consisting of people of various ages (and waistlines, I must add).

Wake up Australia!

I was a McDonald's child – it's true. What's cheap and easy is what's done in the family with a lot of kids and not a lot of money. (My mother raise my aunt's children, too, so there were six of us.) But we didn't have a lot of options, which isn't the case for city-bound Aussies. Or any Aussies for that matter. If you're not in the city and drive to McDonalds then you can just as easily drive somewhere else.

Aussies have so much lovely, delicious (and cheap!) food available to you, and yet you keep eating number-laden, chemical-packed, crap out of a package.

Tell me why.

Tell me why you insist on eating that kind of stuff when you have so many cultures breaking out their best in cultural yummies that is often just as cheap if not cheaper than fast food.

I saw a mother talking on her mobile and barely paying attention as she fed her baby greasy chip (fries for non-Aussies) after greasy chip. A baby who couldn't yet walk! Let's all join together and say 'childhood obesity', shall we?

Australia, you officially have no excuses for allowing McDonalds – and other fast, crappy junk food for that matter – to exist in this lovely country. Not one single excuse.

9.11.08

The Kindness of Strangers

I had never been in an airport, and thus obviously never been on a plane. I didn’t know who to ask for help, where to go, or even how to turn in my non-carryon luggage. And yet on October 11th of 2006, I decided to fly across the world, away from all I ever knew, to Australia.

I likely wouldn’t have made it, if not for the kindness of one man.

Minneapolis airport wasn’t the biggest airport (though you couldn’t have told me that when I first got there), and I had made it to where I needed to be to get on the plane for the first leg of the flight. Journaling was my solace, as I was there alone with no one to talk me through my first flight.

Once I was on the plane and we were in the air, I was in heaven. Seeing the sun set over Minnesota as I quickly wrote down my thoughts and feelings was absolutely wonderful. It was only after getting over my initial fascination with being so high up that I noticed the man beside me looked like someone in a television show I used to watch. The similarity made me smile, a smile which he noticed and returned.

As we descended towards the Denver airport and I switched my watch to the local time, I began to panic as I realized I had no idea where to go to connect to my next flight and only ten minutes to figure it out. When we stepped off the plane, I truly began to panic.

Compared to what I saw of the Minneapolis airport, Denver was absolutely huge. I followed the other people off the flight hoping that someone, anyone, would be going to the same next flight as me.

The man who had sat next to me on the plane caught up with me and must have seen the fear on my face. He asked if I was okay, and I was only too happy to admit I had no idea what I was doing, where I was going, and admitting how little time I had left.

He checked my ticket to see where I needed to be and quickly began to lead the way. We walked around and through places I never would have made it through alone. With a smile and three easy instructions – “go down the stairs, get on the subway-like thing, and get off at the end” – and a smile, he wished me the best of luck.

As I took a moment to watch him walk away to his own connecting flight, I smiled, realizing I could have missed the rest of my flights to Australia if not for him. And I didn’t even get the chance to ask his name.

7.11.08

Turning the Lights On

When you’re in Australia, most people ‘back home’ (in the northern hemisphere) are likely to ask you the big question: “Does the toilet water really go down the other way?”

That’s for another post.

Did you know that in Australia, you turn the light switch down to turn the light on?

It’s a simple thing, but the first small thing I noticed they do different in the land down under.

My husband and I argue a lot about which things that the Australians do are right, and I have to give him the point on this one. While it goes against the “up is on” logic, it is a lot more sensible movement as far as the movement is concerned.

If you’re fumbling around in the dark, it’s much easier and more comfortable to put your hand on the wall and just let fall rather than feeling around to flip the switch up.

So, score one for my husband, and for Aussies.

6.11.08

Our Beloved Huntsman

Tonight I passed yet another Aussie milestone – I saw my first Huntsman!

The Bloke was calmly destroying a chicken so he could make his sangers for work and I was going on about my latest writing project when…

“So, I looked on the website and the only specification they gave was – Holy shit! That’s a huge spider!” (Forgive the language; I was startled.)

Just past The Bloke under the kitchen window (well within his arm’s reach) a big ol’ spider was happily hanging out. He said, “Oh, it’s a Huntsman.”

For those of you not familiar with the Huntsman… http://www.australianfauna.com/huntsmanspider.php

My combination fear/fascination gave way to excitement as I raced around to find the camera. (Because things that frighten me take second place to my important Australian moments, of course. Let’s hope the same thing doesn’t happen when I come across a Tiger Snake http://www.australianfauna.com/tigersnake.php .)

The Bloke assured me the one we had was “just a boy” and that they got bigger, but the one we had was more than enough spider for me, thank you very much. I refused, at first, to get close enough to move things for a decent picture, but he had no problem. And eventually – making sure the thing couldn’t jump at me – I got close enough to take a good look and a comparison picture.

(The spoon pictured is a teaspoon.)

So there you have it! One more Aussie milestone for my ‘book’.

5.11.08

2008 US Presidential Elections

Ballot and box with words vote
The coverage for the election has just started on channel seven (and others) here in Victoria, and I'm already feeling the election buzz. Obama and McCain both have one state so far and I can promise you that the television will certainly be on in this flat until the next 48 states are accounted for.

One thing that impresses me about living in Australia is the fact they are covering the election. I never saw an election in another country covered when I lived in the States.

Mind you, I would have to check to know if covering the US election is something that happens every year in Oz.

I'm not trying to be snarky about the US by any means; I'm just happy to be living in a country where you can take in so much about not only what is happening locally but the world scale as well.

I don't think it's an exaggeration at all when the news reporters say this is the most important US election there has been in decades. The world is hurting and every country needs strong leaders to carry us through to better times.

Whether that actually happens or not remains to be seen...

Any early election predictions anyone?

2.11.08

Spring in Melbourne

It’s Spring! The morning is all beautiful blue sky, bright sunshine, slight breeze and it’s 15ºC by 8AM. For the first days of September the weather god has put a sparkle in the air, zest on the breeze and got the birds out filling the surrounds with song… Well, it is song if you can describe the cacophony of magpie warbles, cockatoo squawks, kookaburra laughs as song.

People on the road as I head for work are cheerful and polite – I double check to make sure I’m in Melbourne – so I guess the lovely day is getting to them as well.

Melbourne is renowned for the variety of weather we get, but there are few lovelier places to be than in Melbourne when it turns on the fine spring weather. There is no better time to get out into the city exploring than in spring. Everyone is so happy that winter is nearly through that nice manners not only go a long way – they go a very long way.

But sure enough, it is Melbourne. By 11:30AM the clouds are rolling in, it’s back to 15º and a glance out the window leaves me wondering about the wisdom of not having a raincoat.

Even so, I’m happy living here. It’s a city of contrasts, of mixtures and it’s so cosmopolitan that in certain areas it’s difficult to understand this is Australia. With a decidedly European feel to the lifestyle, as opposed to the more Americanised pace of Sydney, Melbourne is a city pleasant to visit, easy to live in and hard to leave.

Especially in the spring.

1.11.08

Places to Go Around Australia (Reviews)

*Locations may be recommended or not recommended. Please refer to the actual review.
**Some links will take you to Down Under Views, where I also put up café reviews.

Victoria


Nibble and Natter - Ballarat

Pugg Mahones - Carlton

Tiamo 1 - Carlton

University Café - Carlton

Center Stage - Chelsea

Hopscotch Café - Elsternwick

Flying Emu Café - Halls Gap

Gallery Corner - Hamilton

Marina Bar and Bistro - Hastings (Mornington Peninsula)

The Famous Blue Raincoat - Kingsville South

Federation Sqaure - Melbourne CBD

Mrs. Parma's - Melbourne CBD

Royal Botanic Gardens - Melbourne CBD

Café Moderno - Ringwood

Coach and Horses - Ringwood

Gourmet Junction - Ringwood

Theobrama Chocolate Lounge - Ringwood

Niko's Tavern - Ringwood East

Toolangi Tavern - Toolangi

Australian Capital Territory


The Durham - Kingston

New South Wales


Batemans Bay Bakehouse - Batemans Bay

My Chocolate Shoppe - Kiama

South Australia


...


Tasmania


...

Queensland


...

Northern Territory


...

Western Australia


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