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!
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.
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!!!!!!