Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Coldest month is almost over!

July is the coldest month here in WA, and it's almost over! The past couple days we haven't even turned the heater on :) It'll start warming up in September, and by December we'll be Christmas-ing on the beach. What a strange, strange way to spend Christmas day.

We had a very laid back weekend, doing laundry and some exploring. I keep forgetting to say this, but WA really knows where it's at when it comes to recycling. I'm sure if you buy a house, you're on your own as far as the big recycling cans go, but when you rent here, they provide you with a huge rolling trash can and a huge rolling recycling can. You can throw glass, paper, cardboard, aluminum, cans, flyers/catalogues into the recycling can and they come collect it once a week. They make it soooo easy. I asked Ben and some other people why we don't do that in the States and I guess it's because it's expensive. It's funny, because it feels like the States are always nagging about "going green" and recycling, and not wasting water, blah blah, but we won't spend the money on recycling cans to make it easier to do these things. Silly.

We think that Moses/Jamaal is actually our neighbor's cat. Here is the evidence we have collected (we have sweet detective skills):
1) There is another cat that has the same collar, and we see him sitting in the neighbor's window all the time.
2) That's pretty much the only piece of evidence. We won't be going into the Detective business anytime soon.

Here are some cute pictures of Moses/Jamaal snuggling with Ben:

I think we should rename the cat "Stewie". Look at his face in this one!

Like I've said before, we usually go down to the beach and watch the sunset at night. It's really beautiful here. Sometimes we see other people on the beach, but they are usually fishing off the jetty, running with dogs, or surfing in a full wetsuit. People look at us like we're crazy when we walk through the water on the beach. The ocean is so warm though, and it's a nice walk. Here are a few pictures of our last sunset adventure:

A picture of the beach---sand as far as you can see!

Proof that we're crazy Americans and like walking in the ocean in the winter

Dead jellyfish!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ben's job is going well. He has been put on a project in a town nearby called Donnybrook. He has to log so many hours with another worker. They are reworking the drainage for the town. Not ideally what he wants to be doing, but it's a good start! Nancy continues to be an awesome boss. I am (still) in the process of getting my qualifications assessed. It will be a few weeks until I hear back, but I do have a couple of job prospects. I have been searching the web and posting ads on GumTree, which is like craigslist here. I think it'd be awesome to get a nannying job :)

Here are a few random pictures from last weekend:

For Kelly--she specifically requested a 'Roo Crossing sign :)

For Tammy and Steve--look, it's just like home!

This is Henry the Lizard. He lives outside our drain on our apartment. He's skiddish (skittish?) and we don't see him often. I'm not sure if his name is actually Henry, but that seems like a good name for a lizard. If it turns out HE is a SHE, we'll call her Henrietta--but I don't think we'll ever get close enough to find out the gender.

Well that's about it for now. I'm sure we'll have some fun new adventures soon. Miss you all!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Buffalo Beach, Lavendar Toilets, and other exciting news.

Ben and I have continued having wonderful adventures. Most involve our yard sale futon, 3 rounds of Phase 10, and episodes of "The Mighty Boosh". Just kidding...well, not really. That's what a typical week night is for us :)

Last weekend we had $20 to spend yard saling. We had to be super picky, but that's okay. We had fun and found some nice square dishes (we feel so fancy eating off of them!), a pretty wine rack (there's nothing in it, but maybe someday when we're loaded and classy.....), spoons, a free bottle to put (future) flowers in, another fruit bowl (we love our farmer's market fruit! We got a bag of 15 kiwi for $3 and it was the best kiwi ever!), etc. We also got a mattress and box spring for FREE from a couple in Dalyellup (Dal--ee--all--up). They originally wanted $30 for it, but when she found out we were from the States and had just moved here (and were broke), she said we could have it for free. They were really really nice and had two cute kids! She is originally from Detroit, and her husband is from Australia. She said to keep in touch and she could show us around. Dalyellup is a very neat and tidy, up and coming neighborhood/community, so we knew the mattress wouldn't be sketchy ;) If you are familiar with "Weeds" the tv show (Ben and I are die-hard fans), you will know just what I mean about Dalyellup when I say...

"Little boxes, on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky tacky..."

That's a picture of our new bed, with the quilt that I busted a$$ to finish before we moved here. It's flipping beautiful, isn't it? Also, notice the curtains. They came with the apartment. That's all I'll say about that.

So, after a good 5 hours of yard saling (we really know how to stretch $20), we drove around the area and found some cool spots. One is called Buffalo Beach. Here are a couple pictures:

Buffalo Beach is really beautiful. It's just sand as far as you can see. Most of the beaches here are very sandy, with hardly any rocks. The sand is different from Maine though--it's not as fine. It's a little grittier, kind of like Old Orchard, but not dirty :)

We also followed a road that said there were camp sites--we wanted to see what they were like. I can't remember what it was called, though. Belvidere or something? It doesn't matter. Either way, we found THE MOST ridiculous roundabout you will ever see. Here is proof that Australia has gone completely bonkers with roundabouts:

Yes. This is a roundabout on a dirt, occasionally traveled, road. I couldn't believe it. They really have gone mental!

We continued through each direction on the roundabout, and discovered that the campsites were quite like what we're used to. A picnic table, a fire pit, some were near the water. They were pretty and very private. Some day we'll try camping there!

After we went exploring, we headed back towards Bunbury and walked along some footbridges in a beautiful part of town called Pelican Point. I would love to live here some day! (Or a place like it). They have gorgeous houses, many of them have their own boat yard! It leads right out into the ocean and many people have a dock and a boat to take out on the ocean. Here is a great example of one of the houses in Pelican Point (expensive!!!!!! you'll have to copy and paste the address into a new tab on your web browser. Make sure you look through all the pictures though! This house is gorgeous)

And here is a picture we took from one of the bridges:

After we went home and rested for a while (Ben was sick last weekend, but he's feeling better), we decided it was a good day to check out the observation tower. It had been sunny all day and not too windy, so we headed to Marlston Hill to climb the tower and get some pictures. Here are a few of the houses, the city, and the lighthouse from the very top of the tower!

The Lighthouse! Looks different than the ones in Maine, huh?

The city of Bunbury

Pretty pretty Bunbury!

And now, to make this blog a bit unpretty (like that TLC song, remember that one?? Old skool!!!!!!) We've had a few requests for more pictures of the apartment...specifically, the purple toilet. Do you people not believe us?!?! Just kidding. We have the ugliest toilets known to mankind. Mustard and lavendar. I guess the lavendar one isn't really ugly, but it's just strange. The large circles on the top of the tank are the flushers! So, I'll break the ice with the really ugly one.

Go Mustard! (Have I mentioned that it is not unlikely for you to see a separate room for the toilet in Australia? Our downstairs has a tiny little closet for the toilet, and then a large bathroom with sinks and counters and a huge shower. Weird!)

And....lavendar!! (The floor is much more purple than it looks in this picture. Don't let the blue tones fool you!)

Well there you have it. Our adventures as of Wednesday afternoon :) Tonight we'll be going to Nat's place for dinner. I also have a few job prospects, but nothing definite yet. Turns out I have to get my qualifications assessed which is a huge process, $100, and a royal pain in the BEhind. But it's what I have to do in order to get a job in my field over here. Let the paperwork begin!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Updation Station!

Dear Avid Followers,

Sorry it has been so long since we last updated. It took two weeks to get the Internet hooked up here. I won't explain how incredibly bored I was, because I'd rather not relive it. I'm afraid I'm going to forget all kinds of stuff, but I'll do my best! Also, there are going to be approximately 238571526487528274 pictures in this blog, so beware dial-up users :)Ben's job is going well. He is currently IT and office slave. Someday he'll move up, but for now, it is what it is! Nancy is good about making sure that he always has something to do. And he likes his co-workers and the environment. Everyone continues to be helpful and supportive, and we're grateful for that!
We've been going to the beach a lot lately when Ben gets out of work. We don't have much else to do, so we drive down and take a picture of the sunset from the same spot every day. Eventually we want to make a sunset collage so we have some wall art. Here's one of the pictures of a particularly beautiful sunset we saw:

There's a ship that's always out there. I think Ben said it was an oil rig or something? Maybe I just made that up. Either way, what a pretty picture! The ocean is about as cold/warm now as it is in the summer in Maine. Can't wait to see what it's like in February!
We moved into our new apartment and things are going fairly well. A guy just came to fix the "hood" over the stove--it's legally too low, and because we complained that our stove isn't working and they have to replace it now, they had to fix the "hood" first. Here are a couple pictures of our new pad for your viewing pleasure!Here is our place from the outside--we are in the front half. How cool is it that we have rose bushes and a palm tree in our front yard?! (That blue beast of a car is Mark's--it's the one we drove around before we got the Magna...the one that stalls randomly)

Here is a picture of the kitchen (please note the fake wood cupboards and the orange backsplash tiles!)Here is a picture of the living room area--it's all open/connected to the kitchen (and our sweet yard sale futon and pink/purple end tables!)

I'm not going to post any pictures of the bedrooms because honestly--there isn't much to see. They're completely empty except for some empty suitcases, a twin bed, and some mattresses. However, I will show you a picture of the random cat that shows up occasionally at our place and is incredibly snuggly. Ben calls him Jamaal, and I call him Moses. As you can tell, we really believed he deserved a strong name--I went Biblical, Ben went ethnic. Should I just say Black there? Am I supposed to capitalize black? Am I being offensive? It's not my intention. Either way, here is the cat, and please note the psychedelic carpet he is sitting on---this is the carpet on the stairs and all of the bedrooms.

Speaking of psychedelic! There was an article in the paper last week about how the police were cracking down at a local forrest in Perth. This time of year, Shrooms (yes! The REAL DEAL! Jim Morrison would be proud...) grow in the forrest. People come from all over in hopes of getting Shrooms, but because of problems associated with the effects of them (real example: someone was running down the road naked screaming something strange and most likely as obscene as their nether-regions), the police have been patrolling the area to catch any potential Shroom pickers! It's also dangerous because there are other mushrooms that grow out there, and if you don't pick the "right" ones they can be fatal! Okay, enough drug talk. (No, we haven't made a weekend Shroom run yet. Although, it would be an easy, under the table job for me...just kidding! Kind of.)

Here are three random pictures, all amusing in their own way:

(A mostly terrible picture of Chocolate Covered Honeycomb. They sell it at the local Farmer's Market. If you can get past the texture of the honeycomb, it's really good!)

(Apparently this happens so often that a sign needs to be created and posted at the harbor.)

(Our cup holders are circular AND square! Are they like this in the States and I've just never noticed? Or do people frequently buy cartons of milk to drink in the car in Australia? Oh and guess who's is who...I'll give you a hint: Ben's is the PINK one. Hehe)

I can't remember if I said anything about Marlston Hill in my last entry, so I'll talk about it again. Marlston Hill is the very prestigious, upper class area of Bunbury where there are brand new, modern, HUMONGOUS, gorgeous houses right on the harbor. It's on the way to the beach where we take the sunset pictures. Here's a picture where you can see the harbor, some of the Marlston Hill houses, the Milk Carton (it has lots of important offices in it and it's in the downtown area), and the cool swirly observation tower!

The houses are so beautiful. This picture doesn't do them justice. They all have enormous balconies overlooking the harbor. I don't even want to know what they cost! (But I kind of do, too.)

On one of our weekend driving adventures, we found a little "back road" that goes all along the ocean. It's a pretty drive, and we found the 'Roo hangout! We got a lot of pictures and some video. We were really close to them too--probably about 20 feet! They look so cute in pictures, but when you are actually watching them, they are incredibly awkward. They can't move their legs individually, so if they're moving slowly and not hopping, they use their tail to lift themselves up. Their front legs are like little t-rex arms---they're kind of useless, why don't they just evolve into more useful, large legs? I don't know. Evolution always confused me. So anyway, when they move slowly and they're not hopping, they kind of crawl/slither. It's a little creepy and a lot awkward. Don't let them fool you with their cute, "Huh??" expressions. I'm getting closer to trying Kanga Bangas every day! ('roo sausages).

I think that's it for pictures. Lots of adventures, huh?

In other news, I am recently getting over a hideous sickness. Ben finally made me go to the doctor last Friday. Turns out I had ear infections and a throat infection. I finished up the antibiotics yesterday and I'm feeling a lot better. I can't believe how fast and efficient everything was here! You can go to the pharmacist (they call them "Chemists") and sometimes they can just diagnose you and give you a prescription. But because I had an ear infection, I had to go to the doctor. So, we got to the chemist at 8:30am, and she told us to go around the corner to Brecken Healthcare. I walked in and asked if they had any open appointments (praying they would because I didn't think I could go through the whole weekend with my ears hurting the way they did) and they had an open appointment right then! The only one of the day. I waited in the waiting room about 5 minutes, saw the doctor, and she wrote me a prescription for antibiotics (that I'm not allergic to, I remembered to tell her about penicillin in my delirious state). We went back to the chemist and had the prescription filled. We were done with all of that in 40 minutes! Can you believe that?! And guess how much the prescription was (and this isn't because we have health care, because the way it works with them is you pay it up front and then you can bring the receipts to get a refund if your insurance covers it)...it was $9.50 which was enough for almost a whole week! When I had mono, I remember the antibiotics being like $100. So far, the health care system gets a big fat A+ in my book!

Ben is going to start working on the residency process. Residency for us would mean that we don't have to renew our visas, but we aren't quite citizens either. It would also mean we could get national health care, which is a big reason we are going to apply. It took Mark 8 months to get his, so I'm not sure how long of a process it would be. But if we started now and it took us that long, we could be on national health care for almost 2 years, which is worth it! Also, you have to be out of the country when residency is granted, which means Ben gets all expenses paid vacation to the country of his choice (within reason...I think most people go to New Zealand, Tasmania, Singapore, Fiji...countries that are close). How cool is that?!

That's probably a good enough update for now. I hope your eyes aren't bleeding from staring at the screen for 23874874 hours. But..enjoy! Hope everyone is well at home. We miss you!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

That (Australian) '70's Show

Sorry it has been a few days since we updated. As my mom would so kindly remind me, "Nothing happens, and nothing happens, and then everything happens." Ain't that the truth! All of a sudden we went from having 3 suitcases and some Australian brand Ramen noodles, to 3 suitcases, a car, an apartment, a tv, mattresses, a refrigerator...the list goes on!

First of all, here's a picture of our 2003 Mitsubishi Magna:

Unfortunately, we realized there was something wrong with the gas gauge. *Sigh. Really? We just bought it and there's already issues? We were not impressed. We talked to the salesman and he said it sounded like a gas gauge sensor blah blah blah, I don't know and I don't care, just fix it! So we bring it in on Monday and it's under warantee, so it WILL get done quickly, correctly, and most importantly: for free. The brakes are also making that high pitch squealing sound, which usually means the brake pads are low. We brought this to his attention and he said the brakes are one of the first things they check before they sell the car; it could just be some dust (really? Is this true? That sounds absurd to me.) Either way, he will have them look at the brakes if they are still squeaking on Monday. Can't anything be easy?!

We signed the lease for our 2nd choice apartment yesterday. This one has a great location, but it's very very very '70's. Orange back splash tiles, olive green tile floors, crazy psychedelic carpets, orange toilets. But, we only signed on for 6 months, so if we don't like it then, we can move. For now, it's fine.

Anyway, the process to lease an apartment is a huge pain in the derriere. They make it easy with electricity, water, internet, and making payments, though: we just signed a sheet and they take care of turning it all on for us (as opposed to us having to call all the separate companies and set up appointments to have it done like we had to do for all of our places in Maine!) You can also pay rent on the internet...so easy! But, here is the ridiculous, not so easy part. She gave us a packet that's about 20 pages thick--no exaggeration! And told us to "go over it with a fine-toothed comb". The packet lists the condition of everything in the apartment. Everything. Tiles, walls, light fixtures, curtain tracks and rods, door knobs...it doesn't leave anything out. She said if anything was inaccurate or wasn't listed, to mark it in the space provided. We thought, okay, that's very thorough of them! There were even pictures in the packet. So we took the packet to the apartment and got about 4 pages in, 2 hours later. The packet was completely inaccurate and the pictures were old old old. Probably from the '70's. (Except that's an exaggeration because I know digital cameras didn't exist then :) ) So the more we go along, the more infuriated I'm getting. You know Ben...he's keeping calm, but is frustrated as well. The more we have to mark, the angrier I get. Of course I haven't quite adapted to the "No worries" part of the Australian lifestyle...give me some time. Here's a sample of my frustration (not for the faint of heart):

"Are you @#$%^&*$ kidding me? Brand new? No marks, stains, damage or scuffs?! This is #$%^@#&^! I can't #$%^@#$% believe this! Do they even do their jobs? Are they taking advantage of us because we're stupid Americans?! This is going to take us 12 hours to finish! Expletive expletive expletive." (Steam coming out of my ears, skin turns green, muscles emerge, HULK SMASH!)

And it goes on....but really, we had to mark every tiny thing. So we stopped after about 2 hours and went down to the place that we signed papers. We were fine with living in the apartment in the condition that it's in, but to have to fill out this humongous packet of papers that are completely inaccurate was making me very uncomfortable. First of all, we didn't feel like it was our place to have to do their job---why don't they have updated information? Half of it had the wrong color paint on the walls as described in their description! And I also didn't want to not get such a huge security deposit back because they had one packet describing this place as brand new, and our comments stating otherwise.

Anyway, we talked to Mark about it and he said he had to go through the same exact thing. He said to mark everything as worn with scuffs, etc. And they just take your word for it and you get the deposit back. I'm annoyed, but at least I feel better about it. (We're still not done filling the *expletive* thing out, by the way.)

We'll take pictures of the place this weekend, and hopefully we'll be hooked up to the internet soon and can post them! You're all in for a treat :) Everyone is helping us so much. Tyler and Mark gave us 2 mattresses and 2 box springs (so we already have guest beds!) They gave us a tv that used to be Nancy's that they don't use anymore. Nat gave us all kinds of linens and coffee mugs, some tupperware and a coffee maker. She even gave us a canister with coffee in it because she figured we didn't have any. Nancy is letting us borrow her spare refrigerator (no, apartments don't come with refrigerators...weird huh?). We're going yard saling tomorrow and hopefully we can find some pots and pans and silverware, stuff like that. Monday we are taking a tour of the local gym here, and I can't wait for that! Ben really wants to get into playing Squash (it's a lot like racquetball) and I'm dying to try those BodyPump/Body Combat/BodyStep/etc. classes.

So, we might not be online for several days. We're not sure how long it's going to take to get the Internet hooked up (hopefully it's all done already!) but we'll be sure to update with some more pictures.


(See, I'm already getting the Australian lingo..)