Saturday, December 4, 2010

Happy Chrissy Mates!

Christmas 2010 019crop

How ya going, mates?

After four years of planning, saving and dreaming we bit the bullet and 'Bob's your uncle'-- the Fusco family is in Australia having the walkabout of a lifetime! Up front we'd like to apologize for the odd way we're doing the annual letter this year, but the distance and Post costs were prohibitive to our being able to mail out letters. We hope you enjoy the photos on the cards we did send out and appreciate Tamara's sister, Tiffini, bringing them home from Oz and sending them for us. There are more Christmas pictures at our Flickr site.

Also, the letter will be a bit limited in content/details because we've put all the details of this trip, since serious planning started in February, into the blog posts below. For those of you who have not been following us on our adventure, “have a look, Mate” at the blog posts that start in February. We cover a range of topics, trials and adventures, and there are lots of nice photos (for those who would rather not slog through the thousands at the flickr site) that accompany each blog post, so “have a go!”

First though, let's back up a bit... In January we took our usual annual trip to Colorado for skiing with the Graves. As always, it was a wonderful visit and great time skiing. It was the first year for us to really ski together as a family since Amarra really took to skiing. We were all over the mountain and she just did wonderfully. The boys continue to advance in skill as well, and I have little doubt that they'll be blowing past the old fogey parents any time. Evan's sister, Danielle, even came up from Colorado Springs for a visit. Unfortunately, it won't be in January of 2011 since we'll be stuck in Port Macquarie suffering through summer on the beaches doing the Australian slip, slop, slap! (Translation: slip on a rash shirt, slop on sunscreen, and slap on a hat.)

Colorado 2010

Evan had a conference in Las Vegas in February and the entire family came along for the first few days. I'm sure the kids found the experience pretty eye opening, as anyone does on their first visit to the city of lights. No, we didn't go to any red light revues, but did have a great time at the Mac King comedy show, with Brendan being Mac's assistant. We pretty much stayed to banker's hours and the more tame areas of the city. While Evan was in meetings, Tamara rented a car and took the kids out to Hoover Dam and Red Rocks. We had a great time, although it's very different visiting Vegas with kids than without!

New York 2010 171

Then, in March, we took a much belated trip to New York City for Spring break. Neither Tamara nor Evan had really visited the city, we're ashamed to admit and the kids were eager to see some sights. While our time was limited, we tried to make the most of the experience. The boys became expert navigators of the subway system as part of their 'training' for our 'Round the World' adventures. We hit all the touristy highlights including a Broadway showing of Mary Poppins. We visited the Ground Zero site. Despite the fact that the boys were only 2 years old on 9/11 and Amarra was not yet born, it was a pretty emotional experience for all of us to visit the memorial at the site. Heath was actually inspired to write a song about 9/11 that he titled “Falling Down” that is incredibly insightful for a boy of only 10 years making his first effort at writing something like that. Later on, his Uncle Brett helped put the song to music though we're still waiting for him to record it. We visited the UN, which really needs some major renovations, the Statue of Liberty, Union Station, etc. Perhaps the highlight was a fantastic Italian meal at Carmine's—wow, this picky Italian family was very impressed—and stuffed!

New York 2010 181

After that we were a bit more home bound as we saved up for the trip. We made it to a St.Louis Cardinals game, spent time with friends and family at the Lake House and worked and worked.

4th of July 142

We had a lot to do to prepare for the trip as we found a wonderful house sitter in Kristi Burch and her 2 daughters Kelsey & Kinlan. We had to arrange for bills to be paid automatically, we had to 'winterize' the lake house, and we had to arrange for all the everyday matters we attend to to be taken care of either automatically or to beg family to help us—which they very generously have. Evan even managed to part ways with his beloved Prius for the duration of the trip thanks to the TLC his Uncle Ed is giving it up in Indiana.

Just to create some necessary panic, Brendan got sick a month before we were scheduled to leave with mastoiditis (infection of the bone/cavity behind the ear). He spent 2 days in hospital on antibiotics and had to have a myringotomy (surgical hole in his ear drum) to allow the infection to drain. Ultimately he made a full recovery, but that was certainly not planned or fun for anyone, especially Brendan.

Pre-trip, getting ready to go

Finally, on August 5th, Evan finished his last shift in the ED and with multiple family members in attendance we boarded our first plane in Springfield bound for Los Angeles, then on to Hawaii where we spent 5 days relaxing and contemplating our coming adventure.


On August 11th we boarded a plane and 40 hours, 2 planes, 1 train, and one taxi ride later we arrived in our big purple house in Port Macquarie. (“We all live in a big purple house, a big purple house, a big purple house....”)

While things have not gone strictly to plan up until now, it's been a great example of how you must be flexible and adaptable when traveling for the kids. We spent 2 months in Australia without a pay check or work because of red tape and administrative issues. However having the Aussie attitude of , “She'll be right, Mate,” we, fortuitously, managed to find work in New Zealand for a month, then returned, just recently, to Port Macquarie with all the credentialing issues resolved. Finally Evan is working at the job we intended to have to start with. The people here are great and we're sure it'll be a nice 3 months. Our savings have taken a pretty big hit, but we'll survive by living conservatively. We briefly stayed in the same purple house we had the first 2 months here, but are moving to a smaller “Holiday Apartment” for the duration of the trip that will, hopefully, be easier to care for, has a pool and game area, and is much closer to the beach. If anyone wishes to write to us, the address there is:

Oasis Holiday Apartments, Apt. 27

216 Matthew Flinders Drive

Port Macquarie, NSW 2444 Australia

Of course, we're big email people, so or will work too...and we're always posting on Facebook and usually have a new blog post every 2-3 weeks.

We will eventually return home about April 22nd. But not before a paid “holiday” in Vanuatu and a return visit to New Zealand to see the South Island—which we didn't have time for when we were working. Then the rest of our 'Round the World' adventure including visits to Tokyo, Hong Kong, Thailand, Cambodia, India, Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Spain and France all crammed into the last 2 months of this trip. I wish you could all see just how much the kids have matured, changed and grown during this sabbatical, and we can only dream of how much they will change and learn during the next 5 months. What we dreamed of is for them to become more worldly and to appreciate other cultures in a way that so many Americans lack. We can already see the changes!

Uluru_day_1 035

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy Holidays to all!

G'Day--The Fusco Family

*See all the trip photos at

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Diving back into Australia!

Great Barrier Reef-Below Surface

*As always, click on any picture to see it larger and to go to the flickr site which is replete with photos.

We're back where it all began—the purple house at 9 Scarborough Close in Port Macquarie, Australia. At least for the time being.

Early Australia

In the last blog we mentioned that Tamara's father, sister, brother in law & nephew had come down for a visit and we'd met up with them in Sydney. We had a nice tour of the usual tourist spots around Sydney including the Opera (soon to be Oprah) House, Sydney Tower, Circular Quay, Darling Harbour, Paddy's market & etc.

Sydney November 2 054

Sydney in November

After that we boarded a Qantas flight up to Cairns (pron. Cans), an area none of us had seen before, but a popular jumping off point to see the Great Barrier Reef, rain forests, and the far north coast. We enjoyed a really nice reef tour with Passions of Paradise Tours .

Great Barrier Reef-on deck

An all day trip complete with gourmet lunch, scuba diving for mom, dad, Tiffini and Kerry, glass bottom boat tours for Tamara's dad and snorkeling for everyone but her dad! It was quite exciting snorkeling with the kids, they struggled, but ultimately enjoyed the experience with Brendan, Heath and Mom actually seeing a shark! The diving wasn't as spectacular as we had hoped, the water was hazy due to the chop and season. We'd sure like to see the outer reef during winter and dive that sometime.

Great Barrier Reef-Below Surface

Great Barrier Reef-Below Surface

We also drove as far North toward Cape Tribulation as conditions allowed, but heavy 'wet season' rains and a flooded road kept us from going too far.

Cairns & Port Douglas 006

We did enjoy a nice rainforest stroll at the Daintree Rainforest Discovery Centre. We learned about the frightening Stinging Tree, or Gympie Gympie as the aboriginals call it. As if the fauna of Australia aren't frightening enough, this rather innocent looking tree has tiny silica needles covering every bit of it (trunk, stems, leaves) that merely brusing up against causes them to imbed into your skin and causes excruciating pain that can last for weeks. And even after the initial pain resolves it can be reactivated by touch, cold, or heat. Horses have been known to go mad and kill themselves after coming into contact with these babies! We did successfully avoid them.

Daintree 038

After a too short visit to Port Douglas we had to turn around and come back to Sydney for a night before heading back to our prior temporary home of Port Macquarie.

Cairns & Port Douglas 061

Time here was more relaxed. We visited the Koala Hospital where the kids used some of their allowance savings to adopt a Koala, Bonny Willy (click link to read his story), which helps support the privately funded hospital—the only of it's kind in the world. We went for a swim on Lighthouse Beach (near where we'll soon be moving—see below), and drove up to Dorrigo National Park to hike to one of the beautiful water falls.

port macquarie family 009

port macquarie family 016

On Monday the 29th of November, a full 9 months from when he first began the interview and application process and more than 3 months after our initial arrival in Australia, Evan finally had his first day of work at Port Macquarie Base Hospital in the ED. What a relief it was. The job here has similarities to my job in New Zealand in that it is a teaching environment, but it is also different in many ways in that ancillary services are run by contractors and are thus much more efficient, no more begging to do CT scans or even MRIs. Evan is considered a “Staff Specialist”, which means somewhat lower pay than the VMO (visiting medical officer) contractors, but the benefits of a full time physician including paid leave. If he was staying longer there is even paid CME and almost 2 months total paid time off. Patient load is small b/c there are registrars, interns and contract medical officers who see most patients. As in New Zealand, there are no night shifts, but he will be working Christmas.

On December 1st Tamara and the kids went down to Sydney again to see off her family returning to the US. Sad to see them go, the first bit of 'home' we've had since leaving almost 4 months ago—hard to believe it's been that long—4 months. And we still have almost 5 months to go before we get home again

December 1st also marked the first day of Summer in Australia, but you'd never know it from the weather—still fairly cool and rainy. We hope to take advantage of a move to a smaller, but a bit more comfortable accommodation in a “Holiday Apartment” at the Oasis Holiday Apartments near the previously mentioned Lighthouse Beach. It's still a bit further from the center of town and our expat friends, the Ross's, but it has a pool, game room, faster (if pricy) internet, and should be a bit nicer than the house we're in now. We'll be putting up a small Christmas tree and we've purchased a few ornaments during our antipodean travels to decorate with. In other exciting news...Tamara will be learning to drive on the left—gonna have to so she can run errands when Evan is at work.

BTW, Christmas Cards will go out this year to the usual suspects. But the Christmas letter will be a blog post and photos on the card itself and online. Keep an eye on your mail box!