Thursday, August 26, 2010

Two Weeks, but who's counting?????

Bellingen, 087

Tamara here! So, tomorrow makes 2 weeks that we've been “down under.” I think we've just now gotten really in the groove with driving on the left hand side of the road, realizing that my fear of funnel spiders and venomous snakes may be a bit exaggerated, and in general, learning to slow down a little.

Dorrigo & Waterfall Way

Things I really love about Australia:

First and foremost, the people-- friendly, extroverted, helpful, and a bit sarcastic. After being teased first about my ignorance, each Aussie I've encountered has gone above and beyond to provide assistance. (Here's a kiss to the bus driver that recovered my backpack with the passports and traveler's checks with only a little ribbing to me!)

Box wine: Okay, I remember the box wine of the 80's in the states that our parents drank---nasty! The Aussies have gotten it right. They have really good wine (shiraz, cab, you name it) for cheap (~$13 for a good 1 gallon (4 liters)) in a box, so no more worries about opening a bottle of wine for just one glass. I'll toast to that!

Photo Poles: In prime picture spots where we tourists usually want a family pic in front of some momentous icon, we usually have to beg some passerby to pause and snap a photo for us. The Aussies have placed these metal poles at just the right height and location where you can screw your camera in and put on the timer and take your family photo without bothering anyone else---brilliant!

Dorrigo & Waterfall Way

And for # 3, Ecofriendly: From half flush toilet to full flush toilets (I'll let you figure out when you need which), recycling in all cities, large and small, solar panel and hot water heaters, and they even have “eco” churches! The US could learn from Australia. I used to pay for a recycling service since I lived outside Nixa city limits, but the company went out of business.

Bellingen, 074

Things I'm still getting used to:

Limited internet—the only free wi/fi is in McDonald's, and it is financially prohibitive to have unlimited internet at home! High priced diet coke---at $15 a case, I've weaned off my addiction, and now drink tea just like everyone else! No Mexican restaurants----this one I still really miss. Could someone air mail some chili con queso and fajitas immediately??? Mayonnaise---can't find this in any grocery stores, and dry sandwiches are getting a little old. Italian sausage—seriously, the stuff sold as “Italian Style Sausage” tastes more like German weisworst than anything Italian.

So, overall, we're having a great experience. The kids are adapting much easier than us old folks, of course! We've learned not to stress so much about everyday life. Evan is still unemployed at the moment because of new Australian medical regulations, but anticipates in 4-8 weeks to get through that, but “she'll be right, Mate.” In the meantime, we're exploring options in New Zealand—stay tuned. We've traveled to Sydney and now to the Belligen/Dorrigo area to see the “Waterfall Way”. I'll be checking out possible travel to Brisbane, Canberra, and Adelaide, depending on what we hear from New Zealand. Thanks for all the e-mails and facebook contact. We miss you. Come visit!!!!!!

Bellingen, 060

Saturday, August 14, 2010

We're Here!!

Early Australia

15 August 2010

That's how you're supposed to do the date in me, it seems easy, but every time someone asks your date of birth the instinct is to say 12/20/66...and that's not really a problem for me b/c everyone can figure out that there is not a 20th month. But if Tamara were to sayd 4/1/67 they might think her DOB is January 4th, 1967 when it's actually April 1st, 1967.

And that's just one of the many, minor, but easy to mess up things in Australia. The bigger things are driving on the left side of the road and sitting in the right front seat of the car to drive. The turn signal stick is on the right—resulting in my turning on the windsheild wipers with annoying frequency when trying to signal a turn. Serviettes are the pieces of paper you wipe your mouth and hands with when eating, asking for a napkin here will get you some odd looks at a restaurant since people will wonder why you want a feminine hygiene product at the dinner table of their establishment!

Our house is purple...and apparently that's OK here...that or we're the brunt of a funny joke in the neighborhood.

Early Australia

Getting here was laborious—from door to door, Hawaii to Port Macquarie was 40 hours + including actual travel time and layovers. And I've never been more proud of my kids. They were patient, helpful, and even cheerful throughout. They didn't complain about the food, accommodations, waiting or confusion. Then, the real kicker to the travel stress...we inadvertently left our most important bag on the final bus from the train station to Port Macquarie—the one with thousands of dollars of US and Australian cash, our travel documents, our passports, key paperwork for my license and Visa, Tamara's computer, and a number of other irreplaceable items. We didn't notice until the bus had left us. As it turned out, our cabbie was another exceptionally friendly Aussie, and the bus depot is literally less than ¼ mile from our house. While everyone was gone that night (it was pretty late), Saturday morning Tamara was able to walk to the depot, have a minor meltdown for one of the bus drivers who promptly determined that getting rid of the crazy hysterical American had become his top priority. He went on the bus, found the bag and sent a very relieved Tamara on her way.

Early Australia

It seems that all the people are nice. They're exceptionally friendly and welcoming really. One guy at the train station, seeing us with more bags than hands to carry them had walked all the way to the end of the platform, then turned around and came back offering to help. Another couple called a cab for us and another offered advice of when and where we could find groceries late in the evening on a Friday after we arrived after overhearing our conversation. Amarra has already befriended 6 of the neighborhood took all of 5 minutes to become one of the gang.

The town of Port Macquarie is quite nice. Peaceful with just gorgeous beaches, everything is small enough to be conveniently close. There's a Target, plenty of grocery stores, a nice little mall. We really like the town. We're heading to one of the parks on the beach in the downtown area today for a family picnic and a stroll along the river and ocean. We'd love to stay here.

But that, still, is an uncertainty. Due to the very poor handling of my paperwork, and worse communications with the hospital, if I'm to work here it will be a minimum of another 4 weeks before my license can be approved, realistically it'll be 8 weeks, and theoretically it could take more than 12 weeks if it takes a while to get the mandatory interview in Melbourne scheduled and completed and then the college takes as long as they're allowed to approve my application. And that is, by far, the most discouraging and frustrating thing we've encountered so far. I'll meet everyone at the hospital tomorrow (Monday) and hopefully be able to get a better idea of the timeframe for things.

Depending upon how that goes, we will either stay here and spend some time traveling about Australia while simultaneously trying to be as frugal as possible (everything is expensive—good luck finding a bath mat for under AU$20) and biding out time until my license comes through. But I'm also looking into possible placement in a more remote area of Australia (called an Area of Need (AON)) either for our entire time or for a couple of months until my license here comes through—this is a non-AON hospital and thus the much more arduous pathway to get a license. We're looking at New Zealand as a possibility too, though that'll take at least 20 days after they get all my documentation (which could take a bit since they need a letter from my medical school).

Either way, we're here. We're adapting and relaxing. We don't have internet access at the house, unfortunately, and probably won't for a while since the hospital isn't willing to pay for it and since we don't know for certain that we're staying here yet—I don't want to contract for service then have to leave. My iPhone, is allowing us some internet access, but it is slow and expensive—so we won't be Skyping for a while. We have no phone in the house, but Tamara and I have Australian pre-paid phones (my iPhone is unlocked so I just have a prepaid sim and am able to use the iPhone here), but we're not going to give those numbers out since the international call cost is outrageous. Email will be the best way to stay in touch for now.

School will start Monday in Nixa, Missouri...and so will it start here in Port Macquarie, Australia for the kids with Ms. Tamara as their teacher. Should be interesting getting that process going and seeing how our kids do in a totally different atmosphere.

I know this is a long blog post—I apologize for that, but appreciate anyone who suffered through it. Hopefully most won't be quite so long, but I felt like it was important to get our experiences and emotions and such for this first week down.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Hawaii Photos

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.
Theodore Roosevelt

Volcanos_Nat_Park 050

We've spent a couple of nice days enjoying some relaxation and scenery on the Big Island of Hawaii. It's been nice to have a chance to partially adjust to the time change we'll have once we get to Australia. We decided to have one "busy" day and we visited Volcanos National Park and explored the volcanos and lava tubes.

I don't think I'd provided a link to my flickr site in my prior posts. All of the Australia Trip pictures will be within one "collection" but divided into separate "sets". I would suggest bookmarking the Australia Collection, then I will provide links to new sets (probably organized by specific location most of the time (ie. Hawaii, Port Macquarie, Thailand, etc...)


We have 2 more days (Today and Tuesday) that we plan to spend doing as little as possible--beach, pool, sleeping, etc. There may be a trip to Hilo, but even that looks like it may not happen at this point. Then, we'll probably be out of contact with the world for a few days while we fly to Australia and onward to Port Macquarie and get settled in there. My license status is still unsettled, so it appears we'll spend a couple of weeks traveling in Australia before I actually begin working. But, at this point, that's fine. What comes will come...the anxiety of getting ready is gone and now it's all about the experience and adapting as new adventures and challenges come along.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The fateful hour approaches!

Bags are packed and loaded in Paw paw's truck. Extra rooms locked up. Personal items stored away....

In less than 2 hours we will load the cars to head to the airport. Several family will accompany us to see us off.

The anxiety of the wait will be, I'm sure, worse than the trip itself. We're eager, anxious, excited, nervous, worried and thrilled all at once.

Brendan's getting a last minute X-box fix. Heath is watching Selena Gomez videos like a boy moving from his longtime first love. Amarra is reading and running around and posing for photos. Tamara is making last minute calls and I'm just walking around the house in circles looking for any little thing I should have done but forgot.

But soon we'll be on our way and it won't matter what we forgot. If we forgot it we either won't need it or will have to find some way to fix/replace it...and that's when we'll know our adventure has truly begun.

One last thing, we have been extremely touched by all the people who've come by to see us, called, emailed and said how thrilled they are for us. I think there are a lot of people who will live this dream vicariously through us...or hopefully be inspired to take the risk and make an adventure of their own. Thank you all...see you down under!

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Tamara's step-sister, Melanie McDonald sent us the following poem as a Godspeed and farewell for our journey. We loved it and thought it appropriate. Perhaps we won't encounter Cyclops and Sirens, but our modern day adventures should be no less exciting.

Melanie will have an upcoming book EROMENOS from SGB Press, Inc., in late 2011/early 2012--look for it!


As you set out for Ithaka

hope the voyage is a long one,

full of adventure, full of discovery.

Laistrygonians and Cyclops,

angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:

you’ll never find things like that on your way

as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,

as long as a rare excitement

stirs your spirit and your body.

Laistrygonians and Cyclops,

wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them

unless you bring them along inside your soul,

unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.

May there be many a summer morning when,

with what pleasure, what joy,

you come into harbors seen for the first time;

may you stop at Phoenician trading stations

to buy fine things,

mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,

sensual perfume of every kind—

as many sensual perfumes as you can;

and may you visit many Egyptian cities

to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you are destined for.

But do not hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

so you are old by the time you reach the island,

wealthy with all you have gained on the way,

not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.

Without her you would not have set out.

She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.

Wise as you have become, so full of experience,

you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

C.P. Cavafy

(Edmund Keeley translation)