Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The case of the fortuitous leak

In a few short days, the stars in the sky will be familiar again.  The voices from the mouths of those around me will be like mine.  The sights and smells will be foreign to my daughter and yet they are a part of her homeland.  Yes, the water will drain in the opposite direction again. And while I will miss Australia terribly, I will truly be home. I love America. With all of her faults she's still a grand ol' lady and I'm keen to try to be one of the positive voices to remind people how good we have it and how much we can help others.

I'm tearing up just thinking of the first "steps" my child will take at LAX on American soil. I know exactly the moment I'm looking forward to.  There is a sign above where you enter the United States with a picture of President Obama welcoming visitors and saying welcome home to us Americans. Let me tell you folks, regardless of your politics, that is a beautiful sign.

President Obama was here last weekend for the G20 and seeing him speak to the University of Queensland and to the Australian people filled me with such pride.  I was proud to call him my President.  It's a funny thing, most of the people that I run into here love him.  They don't understand why so many Americans are so upset and why he has a low approval rating. Then again, I don't understand why they elected Tony Abbott.  It is what it is.

I'm not going to make this post political.  Just so far as to say that I believe we have it good; period.

I was looking back at my posts over these past couple years and found it so amazing that so much can happen in such a short period of time.  In some ways, I feel as if it flew by.  Yet in others it has drug out longer than the waiting line at the DMV.

I am basically just a huge ball of feels right now.  I had a little break down last week when everything came to a head.  Moving with a child internationally is a grand adventure.  Sometimes the adventure takes you to a dark cave where you just have to curl yourself up into a ball and cry.  My cave is my shower.  Thankfully, Sean made it back from New Zealand and gave me a little time to go to my cave.  Then, the next day, there was a leak in our room.  I called up maintenance and about 5 hours later we were moved into a new room WITH THE MOST AMAZING VIEW!! We just sit outside in our solarium at night and watch the world go by like VIP's.

I've started calling it the "case of the fortuitous leak".  I was seriously almost at my breaking point and then boom, a light appears.  God works in mysterious ways.

Now I have my mojo back and we are in fighting shape ready to take on this epic first plane ride with a renewed vengeance!  Look out America, here we come!

Friday, November 14, 2014

I'm not normal. And that's so normal.

There are a lot of things to be learned when moving overseas.  The most interesting part for me is not that I learned a lot of things about Australia but more what I learned about myself.  I'm not quite sure why I didn't expect this.  On paper it makes total sense.  You will take everything you know and pack it away in a box to keep in your attic.  You think that when you get back it will be the same stuff that you left.  And while it may be the same salad bowl, the way you look at it is somehow different. So weird and yet absolutely life-changing.  I can't go back.  The damage or progress, depending on how you look at it, is done.

I've never really spent much time in thought on the concept of normal.  Everyone always tries so hard to fit in and be normal.  But the minute you step out of your nationalistic culture bubble, your concept of "normal" changes.  Those of us that grow up in Western culture have certain expectations of normal.  For example, in America, we smile and say hello as a stranger enters an elevator.  In fact, we think it's normal when you smile.  In some cultures it is rude.  Does that make it wrong? Nope.  Just different.   We have become used to the fact that the majority of Asians in our building never make eye contact and do not want to have a chit-chat with you.  This was a hard fact to get over coming from our overly-jovial American society.  Yet, we still usually try to say hello.  They rarely have any response. Does this mean they are not friendly? Not at all. They just act differently in lifts.

Sydney is such an international city that we meet a wide range of cultures on a daily basis and the one thing it has taught me is that all people are human.  We are all differently the same.  Hopefully, it's given me a greater empathy towards people with ideals I don't fully understand.  Instead of automatically fearing what you don't know, try to find the commonality you share.

I don't fear Muslims. I think the idea of coexisting in peace is coming to the reality that in order to live with other cultures you must accept that we may look at things differently.  We may believe in different things but we need to strive to see how others may interpret things.  It's not being politically correct, it's being humanly sensitive.

As a Christian, it all comes back to something that Jesus taught; do unto others as you would have them do to you (Luke 6:31).  The Golden Rule. Guess what?  This concept is spread across almost all religions.  It traces its roots to Confucianism.  Treat others like you wish to be treated. Reciprocity; it seems like such a simple concept. It is part of the reason I love Jesus and his teachings.  You can't just pick and choose when you want to employ this concept. It must be in and of all things.

As far as being normal goes I think the key is to be yourself.  Whatever that entails. As long as you can find a way to be comfortable in your own skin you are "normal" on any continent. Embrace it!

Okay, enough preaching.  Time to get out and enjoy this 90 degree weather before we head back to the icebox that is North America! Here's a panoramic picture of the view from where we are staying to warm you up.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Gotta Get Back, do, I do

In an effort to try to remain positive I'm going to spin this next blog into, "Stuff I'm looking forward to," Rather than "Things I won't miss about Australia."  Here it is, ta da!

  1. Prices:  If I ever complain about what anything, I mean anything, costs in the United States I hereby grant you permission to slap me in the face.  You may refer back to this statement as proof. 
  2. Selection:  This can go both ways. While I'm excited to have the endless choices we are afforded in America, from anything such as bread to running shoes to toothpaste, I would be lying if I told you I didn't look at it differently than when I left.  We have too much selection.  I fear it has created a society of people who think that it's their right to have such a selection and complain when they don't. This could spin me on an entirely new post entitled,  rights vs. privileges, why is this so hard to understand?  But, I will save you the rhetoric.  A lot of Americans have turned into whiny, privileged, self-aggrandized brats. Believe me, it's not a great look from the outside. I strive to not let myself become a part of that culture. 
  3. Sunflower Seeds:  I am grateful to my wonderful friends and family who have kept me in supply with my beloved David Sunflower Seeds while I was here.  Either by airplane or mail, I've had a lot of seeds for a country with none in sight. But, I'm so excited to be able to get in a car and drive to the local store to get them. Seriously, it's embarrassing how excited I am about this. 
    Soon, my love, soon.
  4. Family (this includes Zoe and Zoom Zoom): This is the number one reason why we aren't staying here for good.  I feel like if we even had one, second cousin, twice-removed, we might entertain the thought. But alas, we do not. My mother is rejoicing. Plus, we really miss our dogs. My daughter and I sit at the park and watch the dogs play.  It's a sad sight and maybe a little creepy. Soon, they will be our dogs we will be watching! 
  5. Watching American sports at normal times: I will enjoy not having to wake up at 3am to watch the Tennessee Titans play their fascinating brand of football. Fairly sure that is a form of torture in some cultures, especially the watching the Titans part. 
    Actual picture of me watching the Titans.  Really?  Not really.
  6. Food:  Weird that this is on both lists, eh?  As much as I love having independent, local shops and restaurants everywhere, there are a few foods from Nashville I've truly been missing.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder.  But, I'm also looking forward to knowing exactly what stuff is going to taste like.  For some reason, companies here have bought licensing for American products but not the recipes.  That means that I get super excited when I see a product from home only to eat it and be horribly disappointed that it almost tastes like what I remember. It is a very frustrating phenomenon.  
    Don't be fooled. These are "Australian" Doritos. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

15 Things I Will Miss About Australia

Well, time has a way of getting away from you.  I took a little break from writing during my pregnancy and just looked up to realize it's been 8 months since I posted anything. Oops!

For those of you that actually follow this blog (thanks Mom) I will attempt to make up for my absence in the next couple of weeks.

First up is 15 THINGS I WILL MISS ABOUT AUSTRALIA.  Yes, I just said that I am trying to make up for not writing by giving you a list.  Hey, can you blame me? This writing business is hard yakka!

Coley's "15 Things I Will Miss About Australia":
(not all-inclusive and in no particular order...except for number one)
  1. Tim Tams
  2. Ginger Beer
  3. Carrie Bickmore
  4. Rainbow Lorikeets, Cockatoos, Ibis, Parrots, Flying Foxes, actually all Australian birds (even you crazy backwards-speaking Twin Peaks birds). Except for the ones that dive bomb you if you get too close to their nest which they have so elegantly placed above the sidewalk on the way to the bus stop.  Yes, I've actually been hit in the head by a bird. Twice. In the first instance an older lady at the bus stop saw it and told me I should maybe start wearing a helmet. Yes, that's how this situation should be fixed. Thank you for your input.
  5. Coffee. Seriously, at least in Melbourne and Sydney, you are never 1km away from a really good cuppa. I fear I have become a coffee snob. Say it ain't so. Damn you, Australia! I'd better still enjoy my 3am-after-gig coffee at Waffle House! 
  6. Australian National Anthem.  I actually love this song.  They use the word "girt" and get away with it. Bloody fantastic! Advance Australia fair.
  7. Rocket.  It's what they call Arugula.  Or is it what I call Arugula? Yes. 
  8. Beets on everything.  My Grandma Flo would be so proud of how many beetroots I've eaten. 
  9. Food in general.  We eat way less processed foods and are going to try to continue it when we get back to the States.
  10. 1-359x268
    I will miss you Kevin Bacon, the pig. 
  11. Everything is a question but it rarely needs to be answered.  I am so meta deep right now most of you probably won't even understand my previous statement. Strewth.
  12. Bogans. What am I talking about?  We've got good ol' rednecks!  
  13. How to spot an Australian in Buenos Aires
    I'm gettin' a Southern Cross tattoo next, bro!
  14. Weather.  One of the benefits of Sydney is that we have what we like to call "Simpsons" skies.  Blue skies with fluffy white clouds where when you look up you can hear the opening of the theme  ♫ The Simpsons ♫ . That is if there are any clouds at all. Blue skies as far as you can see. 
  15. Sunsets.  I love a good EO sunset.  That's Eastern Oregon for those of you that aren't as cool as me.  But, living on the 9th floor of a west facing apartment means we get to see incredible red-tinted sunsets every night.  Every single night!  These are actual shots from our balcony.

  16. Sydney Harbour. It's a real life postcard every way you look. 
  17. Accents and phrases.  Even though my husband and I like to make fun of the words and phrases we hear on a daily basis I have a feeling this will be one thing I will truly miss.  Let's give you a list within a list of some of my favorite sayings. See if you can figure out what they mean. 
    • What's the John Dory?
    • Howya travellin'?
    • How's it? or How's it goin'?
    • Yeah, no. (Both Sean and I use this now. It's insidious.)
    • Sweet as. Easy as. Hard as. "Anything" as.  (We actually use this too. It's fun. Try it!)
    • Fair dinkum
    • Strewth
    • Good on ya
    • Mad as a cut snake
    • Busier than a blue arsed fly
    • He spit the dummy
    • Pissed as a fart
    • Whaddaya reckon?
    • You beauty! 
     16.  New Zealand

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Just Add Snow!

It's Olympics time again! Hooray!

I am a total sports nerd as many of you know and I absolutely love the Winter Olympics.  I always had this secret dream of becoming a world-class luge star but alas, Vale had no luge course.  Yep, that's definitely the only reason I am not a luger.  I coulda been a contender!

Anyway, I'm very anxious to see what it's like watching the event from a different country's perspective.  This is Channel 10's ad that has been running non-stop for the past two months. I must say that it's rather inspiring.  I know all of the words to the National Anthem now so I'm ready if they win gold.

I'm curious to see what Opening Ceremonies will be like without Bob Costas telling me what I'm supposed to be thinking and feeling at any given moment.  What will it be like without an American slant?  Do the Australians just stop showing the other countries the second they walk in or do they air the entire broadcast?

I will tell you one thing.  Americans missed out on the London Olympics coverage.  If you ask any random person throughout the world what they thought of London 2012 I think the average response would be something like, "London was great, wasn't it? My favorite was the Paralympic games though.  Man, that was fantastic."  Wait a minute, the Paralympic games?  I vaguely remember NBC advertising a recap of those or did I imagine that?  Hold on, you mean to tell me that they broadcast the Paralympic games?  Yes.  And apparently they were almost better received than the regular games.

Hopefully, at some point NBC and Universal Sports will see fit to allow us to see these inspirational games for ourselves one day.  What a concept.   Jacqueline Freney, from Australia, won 8 gold medals at the London Paralympics and was just awarded the Young Australian of the Year.  She says that she just feels normal in the water.  C'mon NBC, don't rob young kids from seeing role models like this.  Heck, don't rob me!   Put emphasis on these games too.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Extreme Makeover: Baby Edition

Wow! Haven't written anything in a really long time.  Sorry about that.  Lots of things happening though.  First and foremost, we are having a baby!  In Australia, they say that I have "fallen pregnant".  Every time I hear this I feel as if I've either contracted some kind of disease that results in me procreating in 9 months or I picture myself falling in an old 80's Life Alert commercial where I can't help myself.  "Help me, I've fallen...and now I'm pregnant."  But, that's what they say so I just go with it and smile.

So, now that I've fallen pregnant I find myself overwhelmed by the choices one has to make during the process.  What stroller?  Do we get a car seat?  What kind? What color?  Are you going to use a pacifier?  Will you lose your mind before or after the baby gets here?  It's kind of maddening.  But here it's also fun because I get to learn yet another entire vocabulary for baby stuff.  Here are a few examples of the Australian/British word and its American equivalent.  They're fair dinkum, waddayareckon?!

  • Pram = Stroller
  • Dummie = Pacifier
  • Car Capsule = Baby Car Seat
  • Nappy = Diaper
  • Up the Duff = Pregnant
  • Bunny Rug = Blanket
  • "You want to nurse the baby?" =  "You want to hold the baby?"  
  • Mum = Mom,  typically you see/hear "mum and bub" for "mother and baby"
  • Terms for a baby/child =  Ankle biter, Bub, Billy lid, Carpet Grub, Kiddiewink, Happy Lil' Vegemite, Nipper, Rugrat, Whippersnipper, Littlie, Sprog, Little bugger

Oh, and the best thing ever, they have paid parental leave here for both parents.  Apparently the United States is the only industrialized nation to not mandate paid leave for mothers of newborns.  Here's a graphic from the Huffington Post so you can visualize our shame.  Cheers!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

You say potato and I say starchy tuberous crop

I'm currently in rehearsals to sing in the performance of Handel's Messiah at the Opera House in Sydney.  I wasn't quite sure how things were going to go but I definitely wasn't expecting what I've experienced so far.  First of all, for some reason I was shocked at how good we were at the first rehearsal.  Most of these ladies have sung here in Sydney for years so I guess they are prepared.  Way to go ladies.  Get your tickets now!

Then the conductor started saying, "crotch-it" and "dotted crotch-it" and "quaver".  At least that's what I heard.  What?  Okay, I just kinda went along with it and focused on the music.  But last week I couldn't take it anymore.  They are definitely saying, "crotch-it" repeatedly.  What is going on?  Thank goodness for Google because I felt stupid to ask as I seemed to be the only one that wasn't in on the joke. It has dropped me down a rabbit hole and led me, (finally!) to one of the only things that Americans do that is more logical than our European counterparts.

In America, we name musical notes in relation to the mathematical equivalent of the time signature. Stay with me non-musical folks and I'll try to break it down for you.  For example,  in a song that is 4/4, that means there are four beats to a measure.  This is what splits everything up and makes it easier to read and play.  This is when you hear people counting; 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4.   If a note fills all four beats it is called a 'whole' note.  2 beats is a 'half' note, 1 beat is a 'quarter' note and so on and so forth.  Likewise, if you want to display a rest, an absence of sound, it is measured accordingly and referred to as a quarter rest or an eighth rest, etc.   Music is math.  It makes sense to break it down and call it by the math equivalent. (Notice I am not pluralizing math into maths.  I find that maddening for some reason.  It's an abbreviation.)

But what do the British and therefore all of their Commonwealth states call them?  Hmmm, well, apparently they have a different name for each and every note and for the life of me I can't figure out why.

Here is a table to show the differences: (please note that each term is for notes and rests)

Octuple Whole Note/Rest Maxima
Quadruple Whole Note Longa
Double Whole Note Breve
Whole Note Semibreve
Half Note Minim
Quarter Note Crotchet
Eighth Note Quaver
Sixteenth Note Semiquaver
Thirty-second Note Demisemiquaver
Sixty-fourth Note Hemidemisemiquaver
Hundred Twenty-eighth Note Quasihemidemisemiquaver or Semihemidemisemiquaver
Two Hundred Fifty-Sixth Note Demisemihemidemisemiquaver

Okay, wow is all I have to say.  I have to learn an entirely new language to understand what's going on in rehearsals. That was unexpected!  Luckily, I basically already know what's going on so I just smile and nod and focus like all get out.  I vaguely remember seeing a chapter or two on this in one of my music books at some point.  But it's already hard enough trying to decipher the accent, which by the way varies from British to Australian week to week according to who is conducting us. When people start throwing around "crotch-its" left and right it's hard not to laugh.  Because it gets even better.  You see they call it a crotchet because most of these terms come from the English renaissance and they thought that a quarter note looked like it had a hook.  So naturally they took a French word, crochet, and pronounced it "crotch-it".  Another wow.  

I find this entire thing fascinating and have my mind blown every week now.  Can't wait to see what I learn in rehearsal tonight!