Sunday, November 18, 2012

131 Days Left! happened again.
How do I go so long without updating this blog?!
I have many many excuses, but they don't cover a period of three months so...oops.

We've been sooo busy, as usual. It does seem like we just have gotten busier and busier since moving here. I suppose with more work and more stuff comes more to do. More to clean. More to keep up with!

We have officially booked our flights home! Plans have changed a bit, since we now have a niece on the way!! I could not be more excited. I can't wait to be an Auntie Julie. My beautiful sister-in-law is due to have her inevitably perfect baby on April 7th. We have booked our flights for March 31st! And we land...March 31st. After a 27.5 hour flight, we land on the same day we left. Trippy! We talk a lot about our time here, and how happy we are that we had this opportunity. We both think that you become more confident, and grow and change as a person, when you move so far away and immerse yourself in a new culture. You are expected to work like one of them, live like one of them, be like one of them. For a while, you might feel like an outsider. Sure, Australian culture is very much like American culture--in that we live in houses, go to jobs in a stable environment, have running water and clean, edible food. But immersing yourself in a different culture changes you, regardless of if the culture is very very different, or similar with small differences. It forces you to grow, and I like that we have been able to do that together.

My last day of work is January 31st. Ben is going to work right up until March 28th. Ben gets up at 5am, leaves the house by 5:40am, and doesn't come home until 6pm--every single day. This is a rough schedule, and it's great that he is getting some experience and good money, but we both agree that we'd never want either of our schedules to be like that permanently. Especially once we have children. Anyway, this gives me about six weeks to sell everything we have (we are only taking back a few suitcases) and clean the apartment that we will have lived in for 2.5 years up to the crazy standards they have here. We'll have to move in with a friend for a couple of days so we can get the final inspection over with.

This might not seem like a lot of pressure, but it is. It's not just about selling a few things. We started from scratch here, and we've managed to accumulate A LOT. We have a car to sell, two beds, a big TV, two couches, the big@$$ wine hutch Ben designed and built, washer, dryer...oh man. The list just keeps on going. We also have to do special forms for our taxes because we are leaving the country before July 1 (the start of Australia's new financial year), as well as close all of our accounts, make sure everything is paid, and file for our superannuation funds. There's a lot to do, and I know I'll be busy in those six weeks. But this takes any pressure off of Ben, since he's putting in 60 hour weeks, and allows us to sell things for what they're worth, instead of having to rush with it all!

We're hoping to take a long weekend in February and fly out to Cairns so we can do the Great Barrier Reef before we leave. We are thinking Ben's birthday weekend--better celebrate his last summer birthday the right way :)

My mom and her friend Betsy are flying out to visit NEXT WEEK! I can't believe I can actually say NEXT WEEK now. I am so so excited for my mom to see what my life is like here, and to see a new place and meet new people from the other side of the world! Living here has been such a big chunk of my life (by the time we get home, Ben and I will have been together longer in Australia than in the US!) and it's so important to me that she gets to see a little of my experience here. I am so excited for her to pet her first kangaroo, eat emu (and kangaroo, but not on the same day that she pets one, that's just morbid), and touch both the Indian AND Southern Ocean. I can't wait for mom and Betsy to taste amazing Ferguson Valley, Geographe Region, and Margaret River wines, and soak in the sun from the beautiful beaches here!! Could not be more excited!

If anyone still reads this blog, I hope things are well in your world, and maybe I will see you in 4.5 months? :)

Photo time!!

We were Marilyn Monroe and JFK Zombies this Halloween:

 This is a random picture of me and my friend Megs. I met her through work (we share an office, too) but she has turned out to be one of my closest friends here. I'll miss her when we go back!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Our Southeast Asia trip, and Upcoming Plans

Our trip through Southeast Asia was incredible! We started in Singapore, and worked our way up through Malaysia and Thailand. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to get to Cambodia or Vietnam :( But we didn't want to rush through each place and not really get to SEE anything. So, maybe another time!

Before we went on our trip, we had to get We both had a tetanus booster, Typhoid shot, and a Hep C shot. I think that's all. It was unpleasant. My neck/shoulder/arm hurt from the tetanus booster for a WEEK! I don't remember it ever taking that long to heal. We thought we could get immunized for malaria, but there is no shot for that. If you go to areas with a high risk of malaria, you can get prescription medication, but from what we hear it's VERY unpleasant. We slathered on the Bushman's (it's kind of like Ben's at home) that had 80% deet in it, and we were a-okay. It was mostly Chiang Mai that we had to worry about. I hate putting that stuff on my skin. If cancer is caused by anything we do to ourselves, I SWEAR something like deet has a hand in it. Yikes. Must research natural bug repellent...

Here is a link to the photos of our trip:
Photos from Southeast Asia trip

And a link of our videos from the trip:
Videos from Southeast Asia trip

Time is flying. I think I say that every blog. I think I say THAT every blog. But it seems to go faster and faster the closer we get to going home.

Our next trip is only a few days long, in October. I have an arts conference in South Australia, and then Ben is meeting me out there and we are flying to Melbourne together. This will be right around our anniversary (6 years together, 3 years married!) so that will be nice. Melbourne is known for it's artsy scene and great shopping! mom and her friend come to visit!! That's not until the end of November/early-mid December. I'm so excited and can't wait to show people from home what our lives are like here in Australia!

The next trip is to Sydney for New Years! We are still trying to decide if we want to do Christmas day out there, too. There are so many public holidays around that time that we wouldn't need to take very much extra time off. There's also the possibility of doing Great Barrier Reef/Cairns in that same trip. So many things to see and do, so little time left...

Here's a map that shows where we are in relation to the places we have left to visit. My conference in South Australia is near Adelaide, which you can see on the map. (We are in Bunbury, which is just a little south of Perth on the west coast on the map). You'll see Hobart (we visited Tasmania last October, remember?), Sydney (New Years!), Melbourne (this coming October), and Cairns (maybe December/January this year). The only state we won't have visited will be Northern Territory.

This is the hostel we're staying in for New Years in Sydney this year! We are going to this rooftop party, too:
(See the Opera House in the background?)

This is a photo of the fireworks from that same rooftop party! Can't wait for this! I'll take a beautiful Sydney New Years climate over a freezing cold New York climate ANY day!

Anyway...lots coming up in the next few months!

Work is going really well for both of us. Ben is such an amazing engineer. He sends me his reports and his emails sometimes, and I am always so impressed with his technical writing. He is so concise and sounds so professional! I can't wait for him to settle into a position that he really loves and is passionate about.

That's all for now. Enjoy the pictures, videos, and ramblings :)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Backpacking Southeast Asia? Sure!

Just a quick update on the amazing lives and times of Ben and Julie!

Time is going so quickly and it's scary. 

Ben and I are planning a mini-backpacking trip through some of Southeast Asia in about 3 weeks. It kind of snuck up on us! We've been talking about going to Thailand, and then realized...why not practice backpacking, and go minimalist? Flights to Singapore are cheap, and sleeper trains in Southeast Asia are REAL cheap. The (tentative plan) is as follows:

Fly Perth-Singapore
Train Singapore to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)
Train Phuket (Thailand)
Train Bangkok (Thailand)
Train/Bus Chiang Mai (Thailand)
Train/Bus back to Bangkok (Thailand)
Fly (there are no trains) to Phnom Penh (Cambodia)
Bus to Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon (Vietnam)
Fly Vietnam-Perth

So, here are a couple of photos to show you where we're going:

Here is a close up of the countries:

This one gives you a good idea of the countries in relation to Australia. Remember, we are wayyyyyy southwest coast!

I probably could have typed all those countries into this one map but guess what...I am toooooo lazy. Plus, you should really learn some geography, jeez!

The cool thing is, this trip is crazy cheap, and it's going to be an amazing experience. By backpacking and taking trains, we are cutting costs but also seeing much more of the countries and experiencing the culture instead of just...resorts. And let's face it, you can go to a resort and relax and drink tropical drinks and lay by the pool or on the beach in any pretty, exotic place. But eating, travelling, and being with the locals is why WE travel :)


Sunday, May 20, 2012

1 Year left!

I am really really trying to continue updating this blog, because:
1) I want everyone to know what's going on (especially the people that we don't get to talk to very often!)
2) I want to have kept this updated the entire time we were living here
3) I want to somehow figure out how to print it and arrange it into our Australia scrapbook :)

Well, things are usual! Ben's been working crazy hours up at the power station. It's a lot of responsibility and a lot of work, but it will pay off on his resume and it literally pays off, too! He re-signed there so he is officially at the power station until 30 April, 2013.

I'm working a lot too because really...why not? We get up (yeah I said we) at 5am and Ben doesn't get home until about 6pm. I get in usually about 8-9 hours a day. This allows me to accrue time in lieu (we don't get paid for the extra hours, but we accrue extra time off for every extra minute we spend over 76 hours per fortnight.) So that just means I have sick time accruing, annual leave accruing, time in lieu accruing, not to mention I get paid for public holidays. Seriously...does it get much better than this?

Ben is still brewing like a mad scientist, and he has made his first beer from scratch (fresh hops and everything). It's from a recipe from one of his books, and it's called "Righteous American Ale". I think it's going to be incredible! He's nearly finished the wine hutch, too. It's absolutely beautiful. Will post a picture as soon as it is officially done!

Here are a few little things that are coming up, and some future plans (but you can only plan so much):
+Family Day Event this Sunday at the Galleries. Our Indigenous Arts Development Officer (we share an office, a love of good music and food, amongst other awesome things) plans this event annually. I'm excited to work this event--there are traditional indigenous foods (like dampers, which were originally just flour and water cooked in a hole), kangaroo stew, etc. She has also booked a professional indigenous dance company to perform. Plus they'll be lots of art and children running around. Should be fun :)
+Long weekend the first weekend of June. We'll be having a Wine Tasting (to celebrate the wine hutch being finished!) The hutch holds 55 bottles of wine. We plan on filling it up (wine is VERY tasty here, and also very inexpensive!) and serving some classy nibbles like chocolate dipped strawberries, brie and camberbet and crackers, fruit, turkish bread with dips, etc. We are asking that everyone dress in semi-formal attire (no jeans or flannel) and bring one bottle of wine that is at least $15 and their own glass (we keep breaking ours. And no it doesn't have to do with filling it too many times!) Then we'll have our own little wine tasting. I think it will be so much fun!
+End of the financial year as of 30 June, 2012. That means we file Australian taxes and get an incredible tax return, which we will pay off all of our credit cards with, and our car loan. The only debt we will have will be student loans, which we are slowly chipping away at! If we have any money left over, we will probably use it to book a trip (Thailand, anyone?!)
+Trip to Thailand in July/August?
+Same plans for October as I mentioned in my last blog
+My dance "graduation" (recital) in November!!
+Mom and Betsy are coming in early December!!!!!!
+New Years Eve is booked and we are ready to see fireworks over the Sydney Opera House and bridge to ring in 2013 :) Hopefully we will be booking a trip to Great Barrier Reef at this time, as well
+We will start backpacking and making our way home in mid-May 2013, probably will arrive home in July, depends on money and our plans!

I'm sure I'm missing a lot of exciting stuff, but that's all I can think of at the moment. We are enjoying our time here, but also really looking forward to being home. Everyone cross your fingers, pray, send positive vibes, do whatever that might help us secure jobs in the US! (Grad school idea is a no-go for now. After contacting grad schools about financial aid, we found out that even though we are citizens and were last residents of Maine, we would no receive in-state tuition because we have been residing out of state for the past three years. So...maybe we can find jobs that will pay for grad school!)

Hope everyone is doing well, and knows how much we miss them xx

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Update!'s happened again. I think this is probably the longest I've gone without updating! I really didn't think it was possible for life to get any busier, but I was wrong!

I haven't updated since November, so I'll do my best to tell everyone how things have been.

Had my birthday party. Ben bought me a Kindle which I LOVE! We had a '90's themed party where everyone had to come dressed in '90's clothes or as a '90's icon. See pictures here:

Christmas was great. We kept very busy and had a bunch of friends over that don't have family around either. It was a huge help to be surrounded by misfits :) We also went up to a friend's in Perth for Christmas Eve, she is our parent's age so it was nice to be in a family setting. I managed to find a used wii on ebay, and that was Ben's highlight gift at Christmas (along with some great games!) He was so surprised. It's so hard to keep Christmas gifts a secret when you have to order most of them! My highlight gift was a guitar and lessons! I started lessons in February and I'm hooked. Starting to get callouses on my fingertips, so it's making it easier to play!

See pictures of Christmas here (it's mostly just getting our tree!):

Poor Ben didn't have a lot of work, so he was getting quite discouraged. I had a LOT of work leading up to our big annual exhibition and celebrating the 25th year of the Galleries. Lots of things happening. Probably a ton of stuff happened but it seems so long ago.

Had our big annual exhibition, showcasing the best of south west art. About 700 people came. Was a very successful event. Ben's birthday was a huge hit! We had a themed birthday party (we really like themes, have you figured this out yet?) He did a "Good Beer, Bad Beer" party. Everyone had to bring a six-pack of "good" beer and a six-pack of "bad" beer (using obvious judgement.) We had two bins set up full of ice, with cardboard over the top and a flap. The "bad" beer bin had a poison sign on it, and the "good" beer bin a happy face. Every time someone needed a drink, they were to have someone flip a coin. If they called it correctly, they could reach through the flap in the good bin, and if they called it wrong, they'd reach into the bad bin. We had about 20 people come and everyone played! It was really fun (except that I'm not very good at calling a coin....apparently.) Ben also got GREAT news at the end of the month! After a longgggggggggggggggg time with no work, he was offered a secondment at Monadelphous ( They are an INTERNATIONAL company, and a HUGE one at that. Ben is currently working on a job site in Muja, which is over an hour away. It's at a coal plant. He is one of very few project engineers, and easily the youngest. It's a HUGE step for him, and a ton of responsibility. He is working on multiple jobs, worth millions of dollars. He deserves it! He has to get up at 5am and he doesn't get back until about 6pm :( But it beats being bored and having no work, and it will be great for his resume! I started a dance class and guitar lessons this month, both of which I am really enjoying.
We also went on a trip to Exmouth, Ningaloo Reef, and Cape Range National Park! We snorkelled and hiked and explored for a whole week. Pictures here:

So we've passed the half way point of living here. Here's our tentative plan for the next 13 months :)

-Work our butts off and pay off a bunch of debt while saving some money too, until about July
-Attempt some weekend camping trips, see Northcliffe, Esperance, maybe try to get to Albany again
-Possibly go on a trip to Thailand in July (if our work schedules allow it), study for the GREs
-Work some more and study for the GREs
-We both take the GREs in Perth in October
-National Arts Conference in South Australia for me in October, as well as my huge exhibition opening in October
-Possible trip to Melbourne to see a friend's friend in a dance performance (AND TO SHOP BECAUSE MELBOURNE HAS AMAZING SHOPPING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! or so I hear)
-My mom and her friend Betsy visit in November!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
-Sydney for New Years, and a possible Cairns trip to dive the Great Barrier Reef! (This is practically definite...we book our hostel (you can see info here!
on 31 March, and we will see the fireworks on the rooftop terrace party they have! Then we'd head to Cairns to dive after New Years
-Work a bunch more, start selling stuff, etc.
-Possible trip to New Zealand (or maybe combine this with backpacking, we HAVE to see New Zealand while we're over here, non-negotiable!)
-Leave in April 2013ish for a backpacking trip through Europe (possibly Asia?)
-Be home in Juneish to see everyone, get settled, buy a house :)
-Ben starts grad school Masters in Structural Design in September 2013, start renovating our first home, maybe pop out some babies, adopt a dog from the many options!

So obviously..this is all tentative, and we all know life doesn't go the way you PLAN it to. I mean, who would have ever thought we'd be in Australia? doesn't hurt to have some sort of plan. Can't believe we're a year away from leaving. I'm so happy we were able to travel and work and get into such a good place in our lives, but I will be happy to be home again. I am going to go absolutely AUTUMN CRAZY next year, that is the season I miss the most, by far.