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August 24, 2016

Living in Australia, Part 1

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been almost three months since we moved to Australia - and our furniture should be here “any day now.”  Cindy and I were lucky to find a townhouse by the ocean where the owner was willing to let us move in with it furnished, and then they will take away the furniture when ours arrives.  It turns out that most of the appartments we looked at were on the market furnished, and no one wanted to remove their furniture, so we are fortunate to have found this place.  But it means I do about a 45 minute commute each way.  Don’t feel sorry for me . .
For me it is a dream location because almost every room has a view of the ocean so I feel like I’m on a boat, except without the expense and maintenance of actually owning a boat.  I just hit 600 days straight of running, and most days I get to run on the beach.  I’m putting in a lot of hours at the University so on the days when I’m running before the sun comes up, or late at night, I run on the esplanade.  It’s still winter here, but the days are getting longer and Spring starts September 1.  It seems very safe here, so I just put on a headlamp and go.  
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Going to work is an adventure too - I walk up a nature trail, often in the dark, through a neighbourhood, up to the train station.  My sister taught me when I was a kid that I didn’t need a flashlight most of the time if there is just a little bit of moonlight, so I think of her when I walk the trail in the dark.  I’ll admit it was a little scary the first few times, but I enjoy it now.  Walking down from the train with the sun setting into the ocean makes it all worth it.
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The reason I’m running and walking so much is we’ve decided to try to do without owning a car here.  That seemed really easy the first month when we were staying in the Central Business District (Thanks again Jana!).  Adelaide’s CBD is beautiful, clean and safe and it was nice to just be able to take the elevator down, walk a few hundred meters and be at the grocery or a restaurant.  
We gave that up when we moved to the ocean, so now we own grocery trollies and we walk or take public transportation everywhere we go, except for the occasional weekend where we rent a car for a few days to either see the sights or do a big shopping run.  Most weekends we drag our trollies up the hill, get on the train and go to the grocery store four or five stops down the line.  It’s fun really, and I’m not missing having a car.  Adelaide has declared that it will be the first carbon neutral city in the world, and I feel like I’m helping a bit and staying healthier in the process, and it is so much less stressful to just hop on the train or tram.
I expected that there would be some challenges in moving around the world.  In fact I’ve learned that figuring out all the little differences in culture and society is a big part of the fun.  Some of the challenges are amusing - learning that french fries are chips, and ketchup is tomato sauce here for instance.  I still don’t know what to ask for if I actually want tomato sauce to use in our spaghetti sauce recipe.  
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Here they say “How are you going?” rather than “How are you doing?”  I'm quick to tell people that I am the one with the accent.
Other things are not so amusing, like having to work with companies in the US who simply do not have a way to deal with people who’ve moved to another country.  Here in Australia phone numbers look different, and zip codes are four digits, not five.  More than one place where I had an account couldn’t deal with that, but luckily a very good friend is allowing me to have what little paper mail I get to be sent to his address in Colorado, and I can use that address when they won’t accept an Australian address.
Just today I found out that the US Post Office sent change of address notices to everyone, including the Department of Motor Vehicles, who now has sent me a letter saying I could be fined if I don’t update my vehicle registration to match my new address.  The problem is, they won’t let me do it online, or even by mail - they expect me to actually go in person to the DMV in Longmont to make the change.  For a car that is in storage and not being driven.  
Adelaide is a great multicultural city.  Every day I hear languages that I don’t understand and can’t even identify.  And it turns out that Americans are not that common here.  In Sydney yes, but not Adelaide, so I’m often asked if I’m Canadian.  I think they are playing it safe - if you ask a Canadian if they are American, they might be insulted.  (That’s a joke, sort of)  In any case, often total strangers will ask me where I’m from and what brought me here.  And if they talk to me more than a few minutes, and they often do because everyone here is so friendly, they will usually ask me “what’s up with Trump?”  I won’t get into to politics too much here, but the rest of the world seems to be making contingency plans in case he gets elected and they wonder how it is he got this far.  They just don't understand it, and they are worried.  I actually saw “Trump” listed as a risk in a PowerPoint presentation for a startup that is bringing a product to market in the US.  I’ll save the rest of my thoughts for private conversations.  And yes, I am registered to vote in November, which was another little challenge.  It’s not like they make it super easy for US Citizens to vote when they happen to be out of the country during an election.
The point is that all of these little challenges, that happen almost daily, do add up to a bit of fatigue at times.  I had not expected it, and I was feeling like I was always behind in the tasks I had to get done.  I certainly wasn’t regretting making the move, but I was getting a bit tired.  (Australian’s love to say “a bit” as in, “A crocodile took off my leg, and now I have a bit of trouble walking very far.”)  Lucky for me the Uni assigned me a buddy to look after me and help me get settled into the job.  I believe she had been in the Peace Corp, so she saw the signs and told me that it was normal for people who make big moves to go through a cycle of ups and downs.  Euphoria when you arrive, then a down bit when you start missing family and friends and “normal” life, and then you come back up again when you start to get settled.  Just knowing that it was normal helped get me back on track, and I’ll always appreciate that she told me about the phenomena.  That was a turning point for me.  (Thanks Alicia!)
Before I stop whinging, I’ll say that staying in touch with family and friends has been more difficult than I expected, but I’m working on getting better at it.  Given that I am 19 AND A HALF hours in the future, that means there is only a window in the morning, or after midnight, when I can call people.  I never was very good at making phone calls, and now I’m worse.  I’ve actually considered posting to Facebook just to make sure people know I’m alive, and I’m doing this blog post because several good friends cared enough to poke me.  Thank you.  I do not intend to disappear here.
Here’s part of the problem - most days are fabulous.  I mean living the dream, amazing, can’t believe I’m here, happy days.  I think to myself, “Oh, I should post on Facebook that a dolphin just swam by” or “A flock of parrots just flew over.”  But then I think, “I don’t want to be that guy who only posts “Look at me!” posts."  So, to avoid that, I have to commit to posting frequently and to writing about the normal, trivial and even annoying stuff, and that’s not my nature either.  So I haven’t figured it out, and that means it may be another three months before I do an update.  But I am thinking of all my family and friends.  I wish you could be here, I wish we could talk and have a coffee or a beer, and I wish you all the happiness that I am experiencing right now.  I’d love to hear from you too, and though it may take me a bit to answer, I am thinking of you.  If you are up for a 24 hour plane ride, we have a spare bedroom.
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To my new friends in Australia - I love it here, and I appreciate you inviting me into the country!  Sometimes I think you don't realise what a great place this is, and that's the only negative thing I can say. Oh, and the slow Internet, but that's another post.  :-)

August 24, 2016 in Australia | Permalink