Expat Experiences: it’s not all kangaroos and koalas

Australia really is breathtaking. There are sights, animals, sounds and smells here that don’t exist anywhere else in the world. It feels like every day is a learning experience, and I am like a sponge soaking in every piece of this culture and lifestyle. It is thrilling, but it is also a challenge. Some are smaller than others, and most of them have lead to positive changes in my lifestyle and outlook, but they are obstacles to overcome, nonetheless.

The rhythm of this city goes against every instinct I have. The cars are not just on the “other side of the road,” everything is. You don’t only have to learn to look right before left when crossing the road, you have to learn to always walk left. And oh yeah, when you walk over to those escalators, the one you think is up is down. I can’t tell you how many near collisions I’ve had with people because as soon as I stop thinking about where I’m walking, my feet wander me over to the right.

Because I am from the US, I am living a day ahead of everyone I know and love. It’s something I’m mostly use to, but that doesn’t make it easier. It means after about 3-4pm my time, everyone I know stateside is down for the count asleep in bed. The upside of this is when I wake up my phone is always abuzz with messages and notifications because the other side of the world has already lived half of their day. For me, birthdays happen “Twice,” and the day I live them is not the day my friends and family live them. It’s confusing for me, but also kind of fun. I called my dad twice this year. Once when I had his birthday and the next when he did. (He jokingly asked me how his birthday was going for me)

I have no car here, so I walk most places except when I take a tram. This is great for health and exercise, but also changes the lifestyle a bit. I have to allow more time for things like grocery shopping. Suddenly a trip to the store is a bit of an ordeal (even though it is close by) because it takes time. I can also only buy what I can carry so unlike in the states where I could load up my car once a week, here I end up at the store 2-3 times because I can only fill up my backpack. Luckily for me, in general not having a car isn’t an issue here because their public transport is so widespread and efficient. Some trams get delayed and during peak hours your commute will take longer, but the system overall is quite good.

Most stores here close at 5pm (except on Thursday, Friday and Saturday I think). The grocery stores stay open a bit later, but any regular shopping you need to do needs to happen before 5pm. This isn’t as big of a deal as I’m used to banks and postal offices closing at 5pm stateside, but when you are in need of the occasional random item, you have to plan your day around it. For instance, we were due our first bit of rain here since I arrived and I needed a backpack cover before the next day. I had to take off from school early in order to get to the shop before it closed. For the most part, though, the store times don’t affect everyday life, as the only stores you really need to visit after 5pm are usually the grocery stores.

The running joke at my Uni is when something goes wrong to say “Welcome to VU” (Victoria University). It’s a joke, but with a lot of underlying truth. I’m not sure if it is nationwide, but there just seem to be a lot of barriers at VU to setting things in motion. For instance, I am teaching tonight (a lab to Masters students), but they haven’t put through my employment paperwork because I am missing a tax file number (their equivalent of a SSN). Since I am on a student visa, I am not allowed to get a TFN until I have a student ID. I am not allowed to enroll at VU until March 2nd. It’s a bit of a mess. So I will teach tonight without a school email, ID card, or access key. I’ll be paid for everything in a month or so when they can put all the paperwork through, but it’s just a bit messy, isn’t it? It can be frustrating, but for the most part I just choose to respond to the mess with a smile and a chuckle because, let’s face it, nothing I say or do is going to change it, so might as well keep calm, cool and collected.

The internet here is equivalent to when the US has a hurricane rolling through and the connection gets spotty. Well, wait, even then if we have power we typically have internet. Hmm. Ok, it’s equivalent to the days of dial-up internet. Sometimes you have great speed, and sometimes you just walk away from your computer and amuse yourself for 5 minutes while the page, document, picture or video loads. Other times the internet works fine and you don’t notice anything except for that fact that you can’t watch anything in the US. As with anything though, there are workarounds,and I just end up watching more of the free TV here. Australia’s free TV is extensive compared to the US. Granted, I’d say that from I’ve seen on free TV, 70% of the shows are either american or a direct remake of an american show, but everything is better with an accent right?

Then there’s this whole business of starting completely over and not knowing anyone outside of the one family I followed over here. It makes for a lot of nights hanging out at my townhouse, but it’s given me a chance to explore solo. And being alone has never really bothered me. For the 7 months before I moved here I lived alone in an apartment and I quite enjoyed it…but there I could always call up a friend for dinner or a chat, and here I don’t quite have that yet. Time is the only remedy for creating a life here, but it is certainly hard not to be impatient.

So there you have it folks– the everyday struggles of an American expat down under. I love it here. I’m glad I came and excited for this adventure. Everyday there is something new and challenging, but I enjoy rising above. It’s easy to share the adventure side of life (and often times more exciting to read about), but today I wanted to share the challenges, because as fun and exciting as Australia is, it presents obstacles everyday, just like anywhere else in the world. Sorry folks, it’s not all just kangaroos and koalas here (but they are pretty awesome!).

Cheers!

P.S. Don’t the sunsets here make up for everything else?
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My first weekend out and about in Melbourne

This past weekend was my first real weekend in Melbourne. Not to say that the weekend before to the sanctuary wasn’t incredible (it truly was something I will never forget), but this was my first weekend where I went out and about in the city and my suburb.

Friday night some colleagues at work invited me to come along for dinner and drinks in the Central Business District of Melbourne (I guess technically I’m not sure if they’d be colleagues since they are all staff and a bit older, but that’s what they called me and I’m going with it). So after work (school?) Friday we went straight from the Uni to the train station in Footscray. They had told me I was welcome to tag along on their journey in, or I could just meet them at the restaurant. Having absolutely no idea how to get around, I obviously opted for the former option. Everything was new and overwhelming. They walked through the town with ease, whilst I tried to keep up and turn the right way.

The trip was actually fairly easy from the train station as most of the lines take you right into the city center. I was able to snap one nighttime shot of the semi-well known Flinders Street Station, but other than that I just enjoyed being in the moment and kept my phone pocketed. My companions seemed to thoroughly enjoy my excitement and lead me on the more scenic tour of the CBD.

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I’ve never experienced anything like Melbourne. In the states restaurants are mostly self-contained entities that each provide their own atmosphere upon entering, but in Melbourne (much like some European countries) most of the restaurants had an outdoor component as well (seating, entertainment, etc). This changed the entire feel of the city as each unique dining experience was contributing to the overall buzz of the street life. As we wound through the alleys, I was just in awe of the sheer variety of shops, sweets and restaurants. You’d be walking down a fairly average unexciting alleyway only to turn right into a walkthrough indoor mall strip beautifully adorned with artwork on the walls and mosaic tiles on the floor. Needless to say I am already planning a return expedition into the city in order to truly get lost with my camera.

I was with a smaller group of four, but there were plans for a rendezvous with the larger group for birthday drinks at Myers Place bar. Since we had some time to kill we started the evening at this little outdoor diner for some drinks. Everyone had their favorite drink in mind almost instantly but I had to peruse the menu for a few minutes, not knowing ANY of the drinks listed. I found a word I recognized (lager) and ordered an O’Brien light lager as my first Aussie beer. I’m sure there will be many more to come, but this was a great, light pre-dinner drink. It was light on the alcoholic content and very refreshing.

Luckily I had read enough to be prepared, but for those who don’t know, drinks here (and restaurants in general) are quite expensive. A beer will set you back (outside of some specials you can sometimes find) about $8-10 , wine can be a little less, but for the most part about the same and cocktails seemed to start around $13-15. The other odd aspect of dining out is that the restaurants do not split tabs. It’s just not something that is done. So when you go out, you always bring cash to cover whatever your portion of the meal is. Most places also have a $10minimum charge if you want to use a credit card as well, which also encourages the use of cash (though, you won’t find too much for less than $10 anyway).

One of the women picked up the tab at the first restaurant and refused to be paid back and throughout the night it seemed to me that they kind of work on the principle of I’ll get this one, you get next time, and sometimes they just genuinely want to buy you a drink. We had a quick meal at a little Mexican restaurant (can’t remember the name), and then we were off to the main event. It’s a good thing I rode with them as I don’t know how I’d ever have found the restaurant off some random alleyway.

It was a small but homey venue, and the birthday girl had packed out the place with people from the Uni. I mostly stuck with my group but met a few PhD students (finishing up their dissertation) from Vic Uni. I had some of the delicious Shiraz wine and just enjoyed chatting with the melting pot of friends I had made (one from Adelaide, one form the Netherlands, another native Aussie and a New Zealander. Between the lot of us we had great conversation.

I had my first “oh no” experience with a word that night (thankfully I was around the friends who, after correcting me and having a good laugh, shared their own “oopsie” moments with language). So I won’t go into the details of the reason why the conversation was had, as it would take too long and I can’t remember all the details, but somehow I used the word fanny (meaning it as a person’s backside). The Aussie immediately turned a shade of red and asked me to repeat what I had said and then laughed. He then explained that fanny here meant, um, hmm, a woman’s front side…and it’s apparently quite a dirty slang for it. OOPS. I immediately explained what I had meant and we all had a good laugh. Note to self—never discuss fanny packs.

On the whole the night was an amazing first venture into Melbourne. One of the women drove me home, so there was no stress of which train where and when.

Saturday morning I had made plans with a girl I’ll be doing research with through the hospital here to do a timed 5k along the river by my house. I woke up bright and early, but after a late night of drinking and socializing, I had to drag myself out of the house to make it to the start line on time. I shared hellos with the girl before the race, but then quickly expressed in the most sincere way that she NOT wait for me or try to pace with me during the race. I have not run since October, and even this little 5k kicked my tail. All that being said, the scenery was breathtaking. We ran along the river and saw many other joggers, dog walkers, families, rowers and stand up paddle-boarders along the path.

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I underestimated the sun’s strength even at 8 in the morning so by the end I was a bit overheated. Luckily Catherine (my new friend) and her husband took me out to a brunch to chat and recover. The lunch conversation deserves its own blog post entirely as it was my first real chance to compare life, politics, and economics in the US to Australia. Needless the say the conversation was enlightening for all and a true, honest exchange of culture.

I finished off the weekend with Jason and Sandee and kids at a festival in their neighborhood (it seems there are always festivals here!). I don’t know what I was expecting, but this festival was more akin to a city fair at home. There was live entertainment, free smoothies, face painting, kids activities, rides, food, etc.

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(me blending smoothies)

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(Sandee and I enjoying the spoils of my hard work)

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(goofing off)

It was an incredibly hot day (high 90s—or mid 30s in C), so we had to head home for a break and dinner midday. It was good timing as a small storm popped out of nowhere (as they all seem to do here). Thunderstorms tend to freak me out a bit, and this one was no exception, but as we were outrunning the storm I couldn’t help but look back at the beauty of it all. I’ve never seen rain that looked like that

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We returned to the festival for the fireworks show (which was INCREDIBLE). Seriously guys, the Australian sky is MADE for fireworks. They filled up the entire sky

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This weekend was an important one for me as it really helped me feel a bit more settled in my new home. I’ve got a lot to learn still about the transportation, language (whoops), and culture, but for now I have to say I am really loving every bit of this crazy adventure down under.

 

P.S. I hit a new personal record in steps saturday and accordingly haven’t moved at all today

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Happy, Healthy Living

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Living a healthy life is always a choice. There can be barriers (financial, emotional, etc), but in the end, how much we move and what we eat are decisions we make. Health professionals are constantly trying to make healthy habits more accessible and understandable to the general population. For instance it’s now fairly common knowledge that one goal for good health is to hit about 10,000 steps a day. In the health field, we still talk about minutes of exercise and intensity, but for the masses, steps per day are easier to understand. What we’ve found, however, is that the problem isn’t not understanding what is necessary and good for our bodies, the problem is with the follow through, because let’s face it, if something’s not easy, we are a lot less likely to do it.

This is one of the reasons I love Australia. Here it is easy to hit 10,000 steps. I hit it every day in fact (usually surpassing my goal) just in my every day activities. Public transport is so efficient around the city that people end up walking to trams, trains and busses rather than just hopping in their cars. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of drivers as well, but overall this Aussie city seems to be very active.

Aside from walking by means of transport, it seems the whole city is buzzing with opportunities to get outside and move. At the Saint Kilda festival my first weekend down under, there were several different setups for exercising (a zumba class by the beach, a yoga session in the park, etc). Additionally, in each of the suburbs of Victoria there are weekly timed 5ks available for free to anyone who shows up. Back home in the states there were also loads of running groups (some free and some not), but any timed 5k I ever went to had a fee associated with it, and though usually it was a small sum of money, it was still a barrier. And barriers turn people away.

Being in the exercise field, I recognize that I am probably more aware of things like steps and avoiding inactivity, but with all the technology that’s available, there’s really no excuse. There are plenty of people here who still need to drive into work, as public transport is not easily accessible on some of the suburbs farther out, but even so I feel like the environment here supports those people who prioritize health. But again it comes back to individual motivation.

Beyond the movement aspect of health, even nutritional options seem to be superior here. At the fresh markets I’ve found, the cheapest things to buy are fresh fruits and vegetables. There are very few fast food restaurants around so the temptation to run out for a quick, cheap dinner just isn’t quite the same as in the states. The cost of dining out practically encourages you to cook a meal in, as it’s likely to be faster and cheaper. Even just a lunch out can run you anywhere from AUD$8-16 at an average café and much more at a nicer restaurant. While the high cost of dining out here isn’t really a selling point in everyday life, it is quite a good motivator for cooking a meal at home (with some inexpensive fresh veggies and fruits).

In the end, it doesn’t much matter where you live or what you do. If you want to make healthy choices you will. You will make the easy choices and the hard ones and barriers won’t slow you down. It is nice to see here at least, there seem to be fewer barriers to making those healthy choices…whether that translates to more people turning around their bad habits, only time will tell.

All I know for sure right now is that I am loving how well this city is supporting the lifestyle I am striving to live.

Cheers!

Selfies with Kangaroos

This weekend it happened. I finally had my “oh my gosh, I am really in Australia” moment. It may have taken a week and a half for it to hit, but boy was it worth the wait.

This past weekend I traveled to Healesville Sanctuary (one of three zoos in the state of Victoria). I was thankful to have the opportunity to tag along on my Advisor’s (Jason) family trip out there (lucky for me they’ve adopted me into the family fold!) as this zoo is in no way easily accessible to me with only public transport and a bike at my disposal.

As we wound through the country roads, we got out first (or maybe just my first) real look at the Australian landscape, and I must say, I was surprised. We were in no way near the desert outback, but we were out an hour and a half from the CBD (central business district) of Melbourne. I expect to see dry, flat land with a lot of open fields, but where we were was lush and green (well as green as I’ve seen Australia anyway) and there were hills. There were HUGE hills. Hills big enough to cause some ear popping as we wound our way through them.

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(not the best picture from the car, but you get the idea)

As we drew closer to the sanctuary the landscaping only improved as we hit wine country. The vineyards were breathtaking, and we must have passed dozens of them. I made a mental note to find a wine tour that traveled out that way at some point.

Since it was a family outing, we all did our best to find kid friendly shows and activities and keep the little ones entertained as best we could, and luckily much of their interests coincided with mine. My long list of must-sees boiled down to Koalas and Kangaroos. And all expectations of the sightings were surpassed.

The zoo was beautiful. It reminded me of the Asheville Zoo in North Carolina back home in that the animals were, for the most part, in larger pens where they had some room to roam around. Beyond even the animal enclosures though, the walk around the zoo was scenic on its own.

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(walking through the zoo)

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(still within the zoo–incredible)

They had sculptures throughout (and some were interactive water sprayers) and the trees concealed any signs or sounds of human life outside of the sanctuary.

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When we made it to the kangaroos, I could hardly contain my excitement. They were in an enclosed pen that you could walk through. The animals had safe spots behind ropes if they wanted, and for the most part that’s what they wanted, but there was one little roo who was just curious enough to come say hello and I got some awesome shots of him(her?).

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It was a HOT day (95F so about 32C), so going in I assumed  that most of the animals would be hiding out in the shade, and while some were, a lot were out and about. It seemed like we kept hitting each pen at the opportune moment (feeding time). Even the Koalas (famous for their 22 hours of sleep per day) were roaming around when the keepers brought fresh food out. I managed to grab a few decent shots of those fuzzy old men as well.

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The whole trip was a grand adventure and a great kickoff to life down under. I don’t feel “at home” here yet (and maybe I never will, but 2 weeks isn’t enough time to know, give me a break!), but at least I can finally say two things for certain.

One- I am DEFINITELY in Australia.

Two- I got a selfie with a kangaroo!

Cheers!

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How you going?

The language here is mesmerizing to me. It’s so familiar and yet so foreign. I’ve mentioned the Aussie’s love of all things abbreviated previously, but it goes even further than that. Even words that are the same, are sometimes pronounced differently (putting emphasis on different syllables and such). There’s a rhythm to they way they talk and it feels like even though the language is the same, they are marching to a beat that I just haven’t learned yet.

I am starting to feel more in sync with the rhythm of the city though. My confidence is growing and I’m pulling out my phone’s gps mapping app less and less. I still look both ways at all road crossings (both ways at least twice), but I’m starting to recognize which way the cars are coming.

My roommate taught me how to use the grill, giving me even more cooking options, and today I got tutorials on a few more of the house appliances. We are trying to fit everything in before she takes off for the US in two days.

In another step towards independence, I purchased a bike today for my daily commuting. The Uni is only a few miles from where I live, and while the trams are super convenient, they are quite expensive (7 dollars a day). I try to tell myself that back stateside I was spending close to $200 a month between insurance and gasoline for my car, but even so spending 7 bucks a day for a ride I can do just as fast (if not faster) on my bike seems silly.

Anyway, I really like my new bike.

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And I got a snazzy helmet to go with it:

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It was a fairly large expense, but I wanted to be sure to get something that was reliable and would last. Without a car, this bike is my main mode of transport. My roommate took me for a ride around to show me the area on two wheels. It was incredibly intimidating because here in Oz it is illegal to ride on the sidewalks, so I’m being thrust into the chaos of driving, with only two wheels and no metal surrounding me.

There are loads of bike paths in the area, but to get to any of them you have at least some road travel. It’s also oftentimes faster to just ride the roads (which typically have bike lanes) because the paths are out along the rivers. For me, however, speed is the least of my worries and I plan to stick to quiet roads that get me to calm bike paths. Luckily my Uni is right off the river and my home is also very close to the river so I can take a longer, more roundabout commute with little road travel.

The other excitement (I use that word loosely) of the day was finding a GIANT (Aussie sized) spider in my bathroom.

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It’s hard to tell in the picture, but it’s body was probably the size of a nickel to a quarter. Ashley and I removing it was not the most graceful venture, but we got the job done.

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Yes, he went for a swim. No, I don’t feel bad. Needless to say after that I have been watching where I step even more closely.

Speaking of scary animals, the other day at the Uni I went to an international student orientation where we were inundated with tons of information. Overall they presentations were fairly helpful, but one in particular caught everyone’s attention- the life guard (life saver). She started out the presentation saying something along the lines of “now even though we had that event yesterday, shark attacks are NOT common.” Needless to say, that piqued everyone’s interest. Apparently earlier this week someone died from a shark attack in Northern New South Whales (not near me). Luckily the state of Victoria is not known to be a shark area. It helps that most of the close by water access is to the bay and not the open ocean as well. She repeated again and again that as far as water safety goes, the area we are in is about as good as it gets as even the jellyfish aren’t venomous. PHEW.

Aside from that I’ve just been trying to get sorted at the Uni. Everything moves at a rather slow pace here, and I’ve actually adapted ok so far. Somehow I’ve managed to not get overly frustrated. Comparison can be a killer here so I’m trying to avoid it entirely. Of course for purposes of this blog I’m obviously highlighting some differences between Oz and the States, but for the most part I just go with it and accept it as the new norm. I even caught myself absentmindedly throwing out some Aussie phrases.

The standard greeting here is “how you going,” which is their version of “how are you,” and EVERYONE says it. For the first few days I just smiled and said “good thanks,” but recently I found myself spouting back good how you going. Every time I leave out the “are” I feel like somewhere across the world my English major mother is cringing.

That’s all from OZ folks…

New home, new Uni, same old American girl

This week I moved into a townhouse with an American roommate I found before heading over. The story of our connection is semi-long so let’s just say we had mutual connections at UNC Chapel Hill (where we both attended – though not at the same time). It feels great to finally unpack all of my suitcases and feel like I have a bit of a “home” here. This is my new bedroom:
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It’s a fairly average size from what I’ve seen of the homes here and it has ample storage space for my modest amount of personal items. It is in a quieter part of town, but incredibly convenient to a shopping center (one of the LARGEST shopping centers around—and certainly bigger than any American equivalent I’ve seen.

My first night Ashley showed me the way to the shops in order to procure the groceries I needed to make my first mealin Oz. My jaw dropped when I saw the fresh market at this shopping center. It was HUGE.

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So how the shopping centers work here (or at least my experience of THIS one) is that they have EVERYTHING in them. They have clothing, banks, speciality shops (like at malls), produce markets, chain grocery stores, meat markets and pastry shops! It’s setup like a mall, so everything is indoors, but the pure size of this one is incredible. Back to the fresh market though. It is so vast that I literally didn’t know where to start. They had every fruit imaginable (and plenty unimaginable), and whatever they had, they had 10 varieties of. I’ve never seen so many plums in my LIFE.

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And all the fruit looked delicious
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Ashley circled the market like a pro, scouting prices, freshness and quality…meanwhile I fumbled around looking for recognizable fruits and veggies (bananas, grapes and lettuce), before ending up at the plum section. I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten a plum before, but I couldn’t leave the market without at least trying one of the varieties (it was delicious….no, I don’t remember which one I got).

Following the fresh market, we ventured over to Woolworths (the chain grocery store here) to get more of the everyday foods. I thought I was somewhat prepared walking in as I’ve shopped and cooked for myself for years now, but when you go to the deli counter and see every price in AUD$ and every weight in kilos and grams, you realize you are about to really show off your American-ness. Thankfully everyone around was incredibly nice and helpful.

Whilst wandering the store I did see some delicious imported beer….sadly it’s now quite out of my price range

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The BEST thing I purchased by far and above were these little pieces of heaven
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They live up to their hype in every way imaginable. YUM.

Ok, enough on food. I also visited the Uni (University) Monday for the first time. When you first walk up to it, it doesn’t seem all that special. Honestly it’s a bit dull with its old brick exterior, but as you wind through the paths you come across benches and trees and sculptures that make you feel like the place has some character. Beyond that, the building I will be working out of is the newest on campus and is stunning.

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(ISEAL-Institue of Sport, Exercise and Active Living)

I also started setting up my teaching contract. My advisor arranged for me to teach tutorials to Masters students at the Uni. Well, he set me up to teach “Tuts” (pronounces toots). It really is true that Aussies abbreviate everything. It honestly feels a bit like they let loose a bunch of teenage girls and had them shorten every word and then said “Yep. That’s perfect. Let’s all talk like that.” I don’t mind it at all, in fact I kind of love it, but until you know the lingo, it truly feels like everyone around you is speaking a different language.

I also had my welcome to Australia moment. Throughout the day I kept hearing semi-disturbing whispers after I mentioned my new town Maribyrnong. I overheard “river….body,” from one person, and a bit later after the same conversation with another person I caught the words “pieces…floating.” Needless to say as soon as I made it home, I looked up what the fuss was about. Evidently police here identified a body that was found in bits and pieces in the river near my town. OY. Ironically (I don’t know if it’s good or bad ironic, or if it’s even ironic at all) the death was not animal related. So much for the animals being so scary (STILL NO SCARY ANIMAL SIGHTINGS).

I met about 50 people I don’t remember and maybe 3 I do (not bad odds for me, honestly). I tripped UP the stairs in a grand, embarrassingly loud fashion twice (only one of which someone saw), and I got lost trying to find my way back to the room my advisor wanted me to meet him. All in all I’d say I got the full first day experience. Today was slightly less eventful, but I’ll save more stories for next time.

Cheers, Mates!

Living in the Sun Globe

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(View of Melbourne from the Train Station)

I think the weirdest part of my first few days living in Australia has been how NOT weird it has been. Don’t’ get me wrong, this is different, it’s a challenge, and I am definitely NOT in Kansas (the US) anymore…but it still isn’t quite the extreme I expected.

I guess it goes back to Americans’ expectations of what Australia is. We think outback, snakes, spiders, crocodiles—ok,ok, so we mostly only think of everything that can kill you, but isn’t that what Australia IS? Well, no.

So far Australia seems like some weird cross between England, Miami and California. It reminds me of England because they speak English, but not really (more on that later). Miami comes to mind due to the landscape and plants (built for hot weather!), and the cool wind even in the bright sun reminds me of my trips to California. The truth is, it still doesn’t FEEL like Australia, or at least the Australia I thought I was jumping into. I haven’t seen a spider, snake or shark, well, unless you count this big guy.

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(Giant shark slide the kids were loving)

So to all my American friends–Australia (at least in the cities) isn’t as scary as we all picture it to be. I haven’t even checked my shoes for spiders, though I do still look for snakes EVERYWHERE, but that could be due to my past run of bad luck with poisonous critters.

Now for what you REALLY want to hear about…all the weird things I’ve seen thus far! Let’s see, the new words I’ve learned thus far are:

Tasty cheese—seems to be some sort of cheap cheddar like cheese that I believe can pass for “American cheese”…I opted for swiss cheese that day as it looked questionable.

“Give way” signs—these are in place of “yield” signs….Made me smile

Sunnies– I overheard someone say to a friend “I really like your sunnies” and quickly figured out that they were referring to sunglasses. I like this abbreviation and will be adopting that one immediately.

Fairy Floss– Cotton candy’s cuter name…I love it. It reminds me of in france where it is referred to as something that translates to “Papa’s beard.” Personally, I prefer fairy floss….

I’m sure there are many more words I’ve forgotten, but those are the ones that have stood out to me.

Today was my first day out and about in the CBD (central business district of Melbourne) as we went to a Festival at Saint Kilda Beach. Hundreds of thousands of people flocked to the festival and though the morning was overcast (and a bit chilly with the wind blowing off the bay), the sun came out early afternoon and I saw the city in its natural light. It was beautiful. It is much like any other city with it’s large skyscrapers, graffiti marked alleys, and lots of trees. Melbourne has the added benefit of a river cutting through it and a bay up against it. To call it scenic is an understatement.

On the way to the city there are plenty of smaller suburbs (some of which are picturesque and some one would deem “sketchy” to travel through at night). There are also plenty of open patches of land with the wildlife look I expected from Australia. Flat lands with small rolling hills, dried grass next to plants that have seen way too much sun and are too little rain and very small trees. I loved that part of the train trip because it made me feel like I was truly down under.

No matter where I’ve been these last three days, one thing has stood out to me above all else and that is just how BIG the sky is. I feel like the only pictures I have been taking here are while utilizing the panorama setting on my camera because the normal photo simply can’t do the sky justice.

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(Saint Kilda Beach)

I truly feel like I am in a sun globe. I look up at the sky and think that surely this is exactly what someone in a snow globe would be seeing if their snow globe had sun. The sky truly feels like an immersive Imax experience and I simply cannot get enough of it. And the sunsets…oh my those sunsets…

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(Sunset from Jason and Sandee’s House in Caroline Springs)

Tomorrow will be a busy day as I finally get to see my University (I need to get used to calling it the Uni), and I will move into my new townhome, closer to school and closer to the CBD). It has been such a blessing to have this pitstop with my Adviser and his family, as being around friends made the transition much easier…still, I am very excited to finally unpack all of my suitcases (as I’ve been living out of them not wanting to unleash the chaos until I am in my own room).

Wish me luck as I continue this venture, friends. I am sure I will have trying times ahead, but so far I am adjusting well to my new life living in the sun globe.