Monday, April 4, 2011

The Adventure Begins!

FLIGHTS-First, I have to say that I heard a great quote on the airplane, “Traveling opens our eyes and enriches our soul!” Oh and on the plane to Australia I noticed that instead of asking me for my trash they asked me for my “rubbish.” This was like my mantra when I was leaving the country J I sat next to a sweet older couple on the flight from O’Hare to San Francisco, a divorce counselor from San Francisco to Sydney (she was going to Melbourne for a conference and she was a breath of fresh air to sit next to on that long flight. I was really nervous and about in tears when I got on the plane but seeing her smiling face and her warm and welcoming nature helped put me at ease almost instantly and the flight really did seem to fly by because I stayed awake for the first half (which meant till like 4 am IL time-ahhh! But it was worth it because I then slept for a good 7 hours, just getting up periodically to stretch at the rear of the aircraft. It also helped me to not be too jet lagged upon arrival in Perth later on Monday. Also, the other gentleman in our row offered us junior mints after each meal J), and a retired teacher, from San Francisco, on flight from Sydney to Perth, her husband has been living near Perth for the past year doing geology research so she was going to meet him because he was just finishing up and they are going to travel around the Perth area and then head back to the states. She said that when her children were in high school their family moved to Sydney for two years and that her children really loved it. She said that most people in Australia are very engaging and it is an inviting and nice place to live. Oh! And I got to see the big bridge and the Sydney Opera House as we took off from the airport! I’m glad I was sitting on the right side of the plane! It really helped put me at ease when right away people were being so very kind and offered to help me put my heavy book bag in the overhead bin (or locker as they call it here). Someone always offered right away to get it down for me at the end of the flight. We had a two hour delay once we got on the plane in Sydney…so instead of being on the plane for 4.5 hours we were on it for 6.5…nice surprise after 24 hours of travel already J It was due to the fact that their computer system was down in the airport so they had to start checking in passengers manually so we had to wait for the last 10 to get on our plane and then wait for someone to bring us a hard copy of the finalized boarding passenger list and for them to try and sort out what luggage goes where. It affected ALL of the Quantas flights leaving Sydney so there was a lot of confusion…which is probably why only like three people on our flight got their luggage when we landed. John and his wife, Hazel met me as I got of the plane in Perth. It was funny, I was walking off the plane and into the airport and an older gentleman says, “Are you Nicole?” I turn to see two smiling faces and they both greeted me with a hug J, which was very welcome after that long flight and missing my family. They walked me over to baggage claim and I was feeling VERY dizzy and about fainted. Hazel was very sweet and found me a chair and bought me a cold bottle of water. I then filled out the necessary documents to hopefully get my luggage back. They told me it should be delivered by tonight but it is now 11:40 in the evening and no word from the airport…maybe tomorrow!
MONDAY, OCTOBER 4: So far people really are easy to understand, but they have said some words and stuff that went right over my head…I will catch on soon I am sure. John and Hazel drove me (in their car with the steering wheel on the right…quite odd I must say and it made me smile because I got in at the right backseat door and looked over and my first thought was that their steering wheel was missing and then I had to giggle because I remembered that they drove on the other side of the road…which is going to take some getting used to.) from the airport to Irma Roberts’ home (Denyer’s mother, and my principal at South Padbury Primary School). I felt like I was about ready to pass out and I looked like a rag-a-muffin because I had not showered in over two days now because of travel and according to my internal clock it was past midnight which was quite the contrast to all of them because they were dressed to the nines and looked great. However, I put on a smiling face and their whole family was really very sweet to me. They were getting family pictures taken so I lay down on the lounge chair for a little bit to try and settle my spinning head. I then went with them to Hyde Park where they got more photos, while I wandered around the park taking pictures of the scenery. I realized that I was walking on the wrong side of the walking path right away J I will get used to it soon I am sure! They let me eat with them at dinner (Denyer, her sister, and her husband, and their 9 week old little girl, and Mr. and Mrs. Roberts). Mr. Roberts let me use his laptop and I was able to briefly email some people back home, but to my dismay I was not able to talk to Ben on Skype. I about broke down and started crying right then and there when I realized that it is going to be very difficult to do Skype, but I pray that the Lord will keep me strong. They then let me go to the couch upstairs and lie down while Denyer had to go out to meet up with a friend. They said that on TV tonight there is a back-to-back showing of Crocodile Dundee, and Mr. Roberts laughed a hearty laugh and said then I could see everything that Australia is NOT J. I tried to stay awake but I cried myself to sleep almost instantly…I did not realize how tired I was. My emotions are going in waves right now I am either very happy and interested, very sleepy, or almost panicked and bursting into tears…you would think I had the hormones of a pregnant woman or something! Denyer then came back to her mother’s house and picked me up and we went home to Marangaroo, which is the neighborhood where she lives. She gave me a tour of the house and let me pick my room (I had the choice between a bigger room or cozier room-both with a twin bed, desk, and closet). I chose the cozier one and I think it will suit me perfectly. I threw my clothes into the wash so I can wear them again tomorrow until my luggage hopefully arrives and Denyer let me borrow some pj’s. There is no dryer so I think we just hang dry everything. She gave me a hot pad to put in my bed in case it got cool tonight…which it did and this hot pad (which looks like a whoopee cushion filled with really hot water) is AMAZING! And of course, knowing me, I checked high and low to make sure no spiders were hanging out in my room, and before I used the toilet, and pretty much everywhere else I walked to in the house J All is clear for now. I asked Denyer if I would see a lot of snakes and spiders and she said that she has only seen 3 snakes in her life, but spiders are much more common and many things in Australia are venomous so it is best to just kill it when you see one (In my mind I am thinking…I REALLY hope I NEVER am in that situation where I am trying to kill a venomous spider…because if I miss and it bites me-AHH!-but it sounds like it may be inevitable that I encounter one. She just said to not go picking up rocks and sticking my hand in places where I can’t see what is there, check your shoes, shake out clothes, etc….this is definitely one part of Australia that I already know I am NOT going to miss J Right now according to my internal clock it is 11:30am, but here it is 12:30 at night and I should probably try to get some rest!
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 5: I woke up around 8 this morning feeling like a whole new person! It is amazing what a shower and good nights rest can do! I woke up before Denyer so I took a look about the house again looking for spiders…and I found one-Yikes! It is under the chair in the game room so I thought I would leave it alone for now. I am not yet ready to kill a deadly creature yet (I don’t actually know if it is venomous or not but I was told that it is hard to know so just kill them all). It is a beautiful sunny day outside, a little bit on the chilly side but very pleasant. Denyer made me a smoothie like she usually has for breakfast. She used a frozen banana, a bit of honey, and some milk and mixed it all up in one of those magic bullet things like we have back home. It was surprisingly delicious! We then took our smoothies and set out on the patio and talked for a good while. We get along great and she is very warm and welcoming. Some things that she said that are different are that they say they are going to use the “toilet” but we say the “bathroom” and apparently instead of having a school “cafeteria” they have a “canteen.” Also they don’t say grades (like 1st grade), they say years. So she teaches French and SE (social studies) for year 8-10 students. She said that year 11 and 12 are spent on classes to prepare you for University (college) and the other French teacher in the building teaches those students because she is older and more experienced. She told me that the spiders are not deadly but if you get bit they hurt A LOT. She said that around the house and even IN the house before she has seen the long black ones with a bit of white on them and she said that the venom causes an abscess on your skin and will continue to spread and grow until you get it cut out-ouch! We went to the supermarket and I learned that instead of grabbing a “cart” they get a “trolley.” The food seemed a lot like what we have back home except for the brands of food and they had some French and English foods, teas, and cheeses. I bought a hot water bottle (like the one she filled up for me to put in my bed last night). They work great and really did keep the bed warm so I am going to bring one back home! She giggled when I told her I wanted to buy one to take back home. She said it must be more of a European thing since we don’t have them. But they are very common here. She took me to Hilary’s, which is a tourist type place with shops and boats along the ocean front. I saw that they have boat tours that you can pay for to go out to Rottnest Island and you can pay to learn to surf on the island as well!! Maybe that is something that Amanda and I can do later this week because Denyer will be gone on Holiday to Melbourne Wednesday evening. Sunday and we are going to have to entertain ourselves. I am going with John and Hazel to pick up Amanda from the airport on Wednesday evening and I am not sure how up to traveling she will be on Thursday so we will just have to see. Denyer drove me by my school today as well. It seems nice, they are doing some construction and it looks like a new small building is being built. Unlike back home where everything is in the same building, here they have many small buildings that make up the school. Denyer said it is because they have plenty of space to do so and the weather is usually decent all year round. In high school they have a building for math, science, etc. just like at university. One of Denyer’s high school friends stopped by for afternoon tea and brought her 10 month old with her, which reminded me of Jack (except in Asian form J). It was nice, we sat outside on the patio (which has a suncover over the sitting area so even in the heat of the day it is nice) and drank tea and had cheese, jam, (a really good French cheese) and biscuits (crackers). I spent the evening at her parents home tonight because she had lecture (class) at the university. She is currently getting her Master’s in accounting. Mrs. Roberts made a delicious vegetable and meat pizza. While we were eating they told me a little bit about South Africa and apparently Mr. Roberts goes there for business and they lived there for 10 years. While we were eating Mrs. Roberts saw a bird (it was black and white) and so Mr. Roberts got some meat from the fridge and opened the door, said hello to the bird, and threw the food out to it. I believe they told me it was called a magpie bird and that now is hatching season so the mother birds will sometimes swoop down at you, not to hurt you but just as a means to protect their young. She said that although it is natural to want to look up it is important to just cover your head and look down because the birds have long sharp beaks and people have had their eyes poked out and gone blind. She said they have to teach the kids at school this to help prevent any serious injuries. My bags arrived so I have clothes and toiletries. Some other observations…the toilet has two buttons located at the top and I am not yet sure what each one is for or what the difference is. The toilet has a room of its own and the shower, sink, bathtub are in a separate room-the bathroom. Instead of cooking chicken on the “grill”, you cook it on the “barby” or barbeque. Oh and right before bed I plugged in my US power strip to the converter and I heard a loud pop and smelled smoke. I then tried to plug in and turn on some other things and it was not working, then Denyer comes and asks me if my lamp is working because hers isn’t. I just smiled kindly and explained that I believe that would be my fault…OOPS J Apparently I blew a fuse for the whole house…gotta love it J She said no problem, she would go out to the fuse box in the morning and take care of it. I giggled to myself and thought….NIIICCCEE one Nicole J I do not think I will try to use the US power strip here again-it is much to powerful!
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 6: AHHHHH!!!! I KILLED a SPIDERRRR this morning! It gave me the heebee-jeebees!!!! BUT I did NOT scream!!! Go me! I was hanging up the foot towel after my shower and as I moved my hand away a spider fell off the towel and onto the shelf…my hand was WAAYY to close for comfort! I took a look at the little bugga and he was exactly the little guy Denyer had warned me about yesterday. Long black body with a white tipped end, so I went to my room, got my shoe, and SMASHED that lil’ guy! Sorry dude, it’s not personal, you just creep me out and can hurt me so a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do! I told Denyer about it and she laughed and said that I am a REAL AUSTRALIAN now J John and Hazel came by around 11 today and we went to the airport to meet Amanda. On the way to the airport I told John that I killed a spider and he laughed and said “Just Wait! November is the worst because that is when the flies come, and then the cockroaches!”…And I am thinking-Yippee J When Amanda got off the plane she seemed to be faring much better than me when I got off the plane, I mean at least she could walk straight J Her bags made it with her on the same flight which is good! We then went back to the house and the three of us had some tea and biscuits on the patio and chatted for a little while before the electrician and security system men got there and then Amanda laid down for most of the afternoon because she was exhausted. While she lay down Denyer listed off some places that would be good to see during my time here, so I took note and posted it on the fridge! I am very excited to go sightseeing on the weekends! The three of us went out for a drive in the convertible this afternoon along the beach and had coffee (I had water because I think coffee is nasty tasting) at a cute little café called Trigg on the beachfront. We got to see the sun beginning to set before we headed home for dinner! It got to be pretty chilly this evening so we put the top back up on the car before going home. I am DEFINITELY ready for the warmer weather to present itself so I won’t have to wear a jacket around and then we can go to the beaches! Denyer did say that we need to be careful because the great white sharks are known to get surfers on the coast because it is a cold current running there along the beaches and the tiger sharks are around snorklers especially near Rottnest Island because of the warm current and it being more tropical and they usually have a number have shark attack deaths a year….GREAT J We had a delicious salad and tuna casserole for dinner and I am going to have to get the recipe for sure! Denyer left tonight on her flight so it is just Amanda and I holding down the fort until late Sunday evening…well it almost feels like I am home alone because Amanda is exhausted and has already gone to bed around 8pm but I am still wide awake…maybe I should flip on the television and take a gander at the local news! Oh and I can’t wait to get to use the internet again…but that probably won’t be until school starts…but I want to email Ben and the family to get a calling cards so they can contact me via phone at least since this Skype thing does not seem to be working out.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 7: Some new facts about Perth-Apparently it is the most isolated capitol cities on earth, and it is known as the windy city…like Chicago back home J and they aren’t kidding-it gets windy! I woke up about 3 hours before Amanda this morning so I did some Pilates and isometrics and then ate breakfast and read on the patio…so relaxing! I feel like I am living the life of leisure right now…but I know things are going to kick up to full speed in just a few days and I’ll be a busy bee-except for the weekends which I am reserving for F-U-N!!!! John picked us up at noon and dropped us off at Hilary’s Harbor and we spent like 3 hours just looking at the shops, walked along the beach, ate at the beach shack, and got prices on the underwater aquarium and snorkeling. John then picked us up and drove us past the dog beach, Edith Cowan University (She was the first woman in Parlament and she had a big influence on Australian education, which is why that school was named after her) and then we went to Greenwood shopping center (biggest tent covered shopping center in the southern hemisphere) for the rest of the evening. Some fun facts from John: more people are killed from lightning in Australia than shark attacks, and more people are killed by golf balls (around 6 a year) than anything else. And apparently they sometimes get really big hail here to. They got a really bad hailstorm earlier this year. He also showed us the planet Venus, and the constellations Scorpio (the head points you in the direction of the Indian Ocean), and the Southern Cross. There are wild horses called Brumbies in the center of the country. And they have A LOT of camels in the inner country as well, they send quite a few of the camels to Saudi Arabia. Also they either say “How goes it?” or “How you going” instead of saying “How are you” J
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 8: This morning Amanda and I went for a run and tried to get a better feel for our surroundings and how to get to the nearest bus stop. We found a short cut by going through two parks! John came by around 11 and took us to Caversham Wildlife Park…and it was AMAZING! We got to see so many animals! However, it was a really hot day so there were quite a few that we could not see because they were sleeping or hiding in the shade…but a successful day nonetheless! I got up close and personal with A LOT of kangaroos…one of the smaller ones even jumped up from behind me, stuck its head and half its body between my legs and looked up at me J And I got to see and pet a koala but they don’t let you hold them and you can only touch their back and you can only use the back of your hand…these precautions are put in place to help the koalas. And I learned that koalas are not really called koala bears they are really only called koalas and they are the only animal without a known predator because they eat eucalyptus leaves, which are not pleasant for other animals…its not poisonous but they don’t like the taste of it well enough to even bother trying to eat the koala. We went to a farm show at the park and at the end I volunteered to go onto the floor and learn to crack a whip! The guy made it look way easier than it actually was! We then went to an open market and got to see some new kinds of fresh fruit, which we definitely want to try later! And learned that they call cookies “biscuits” and that a really good “biscuit” here is the Tim Tam (cookies)! And they ARE good…MMM! Also, it does not seem that they use ice in their drinks here and the toilets have two buttons at the top for either a half flush or a full flush to help save water. Oh and drinking water here is safe but further inland where it has to be piped in you have to filter it or you get sick. And quite a few cars here have like a protective set of bars on the front end and they call them RooBars…can you guess why?...yup! to help protect the car if they hit a kangaroo. Apparently there are three subdivisions which they call the KGB because those are the first initials of each subdivision and they are areas to stay away from…and we are right on the border of all three…but as long as I make sure I don’t run in that direction I should not have any problems…but it makes me a lil’ nervous nonetheless but our house has security screens and deadbolts and we keep all of the doors locked ALL of the time even when we are just walking to the other end of the house because apparently a decent amount of people’s homes get broken into and it can often happen even while you are home and just walk into the next room and when you walk back the computer may be gone. So we just take the necessary precautions and all is well. Oh yeah and another new word: they call sunglasses “Sunny’s” and they REALLY love their tea and coffee…you can hardly go anywhere without there being tea and coffee as an option.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 9: We went on a run this morning and I got my first experience being dive-bombed by a magpie bird…HOLY MOLLIE!! That was terrifying…I felt like I was in the movie Birds or something J Some more new stuff: Slip, Slap, Slop (Slip on some sunny’s (sunglasses), Slap on a hat, Slop on some sunscreen) they are really big into sun protection here because they have a high rate of skin cancer. Hazel said that since the flies get so bad, when you are waving them away from your face they call that the Australian Salute J The terms sheilas and blokes are not necessarily derogatory terms to call people but they are more used by hard/rough (like people who go to be bars) people, kind of like saying “Hey woman” or “sexy” in America. They call the ocean breeze that comes in the afternoon the “Freemantle Doctor” because it cools everything down and feels AMAZING! Their mailboxes don’t say mail-they say letters (so you don’t go out and get the mail, you go out and get the letters). They also say “Rightiyo” (I don’t know how to spell that) instead of saying “alright.” Instead of saying “You’re Welcome” they say “You’re Alright.” We spent a BEAutiful day at Cottesloe Beach…it is in a really ritzy part of town and there were a lot of young people and families there. We also are now proud owners of our very own SmartRider card which allows us to “Tag on and Tag off” the train and bus and you just put more money on your card when you need to…I feel like one of the locals now and you get like half off when you use your card! The last bus going home left the train station at 5:30 and we BARELY made it in time. Then the ½ hour bus ride was very interesting…we were on there with like all highschool age kids-boys in the back-and girls in the front and they were yelling obscenities at each other, I mean you name it and they probably were talking about it and LOTS of cussing….a pretty rough crowd that seems to have grown up at a young age if you know what I mean…and there were Amanda and I just sitting in the middle of it J But, when we got home we cleaned up and then made some DELICOUS chicken tacos for dinner if I may say so myself.

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