Overview of the first 4+ months to date
09.11.2011 - 27.03.2012
After nearly five months in Australia, and a month in our own home; it’s time to stop procrastinating and start blogging.
The transition to Aussie life has been quite smooth- they are an “easy going lot”, with a love for chit-chat and a welcoming nature. It is impossible not to compare our new country to our home and native land. So, in the upcoming blogs, these comparisons will be made. But, for now, we’ll start with a brief overview of what we’ve done and seen so far:
We land in Sydney on the 9th of November to a sticky 30C day, and got over jetlag by not sleeping well on our flights, and staying up as long as possible… that was actually fairly easy as we couldn’t get into our hotel right away. So, we walked from our hotel at Kings Cross to the iconic Sydney Opera House with an amazing view of the Harbour Bridge. After finally getting into our room, we had a much needed shower, a three hour nap, then force ourselves get up and grab a bite to eat. So, we embark upon Kings Cross after dark – the seemingly innocent area in the day comes alive with trannies and strip clubs once the sun goes down.
While in Sydney we also visited: Bondi Junction, our first Westfield (shopping centre superchain); Bondi Beach, where we were fortunate to have perfect timing for Sculptures by the Sea; and Canadian bar "The Stuffed Beaver".
Two days later, we traveled by bus to Port Stephens; a coastal bay area made up of a number of communities, including Nelson Bay and Salamander Bay, where I had a job offer. Although we had chatted on Skype, we decided to visit the area and meet the owners of Hunter Physiotherapy (Steve who had worked in Vancouver for a couple years, and his wife Maryann, originally from Montana) and tour the area before making a decision on the position. We hired bikes and Jeremy nearly lost his teeth from a faulty crank shaft. We took a dolphin cruise, and a sand dune tour (complete with “sandboarding”, which is really tobogganing). Initial impressions of “the bay” were that it was a bit small and slow, but with gorgeous landscape, nice wooded national park and various beaches; definitely an enticing proposition.
Six days later we flew into Brisbane, where we stuffed Shawna’s SUV with our luggage and headed to the Tomlinson house, our home for a number of weeks. I had a locum position in Brisbane that would start in a week, so the transition from visitor to productive member of society had to be quick (at least for one of us). We took advantage of having John as a tour guide and saw the XXXX Brewery and Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, with a physio classmate, Joe. It was a very sticky Queensland day, but we had a good time watching the sleepy (ok, eucalypt-stoned) koalas literally hanging in the trees, and the kangaroos laying in the shade (and males vigorously scratching themselves). We also had our first trip to the CBD (central business district; Aussie speak for downtown) and Southbank before heading to Raevyn’s school awards night in QPAC.
Before I knew it I was commuting nearly 2 hours each way from North Lakes to Coorparoo… that’s if the transit system was working well. My first day of my locum, it was not. I was about 2 hours late, instead of a half hour early, but the thing I noticed was that people were quite relaxed about the whole thing. I just kept thinking that if this was in N.Am., people would not tolerate having to wait for an undetermined amount of time for the train lines to get back running during peak time, or stand in line to wait for a bus that comes 85% full only to drive you onto a completely backed up motorway… but, as we’ve grown used to (and part of what we came for) is that people are just a bit more chilled out here. It’s nice.
I worked at Body Leadership Australia for about 4 weeks. Because I had to work Saturday mornings 8-12, I typically stopped in at the Southbank Lifestyle Market for some browsing, and a bit of buying in one of Brisbane’s trendier areas. My last day of work, John (fresh from camp) and Jeremy picked me up, we went to the Gabba for some 20-20 cricket action Johns friends Pierre, and our personal cricket tutor, Mark.
The Tomlinson clan also met with Mark and family at “Wet n Wild” on the Goldcoast (ask us about the AquaLoop and running between rides to get our money worth!), and stopped at Yatala pie shop on the way home. We also visited the Sirromet wineries for an afternoon of great wine, food for Corle's 40th Birthday. Pierre and Corle (ex-pats from South Africa) are longtime friends of the Aussie Tomlinsons, since the NZ days.
We had Christmas festivities in North Lakes with the South Africans; and while it didn’t feel like Christmas sitting around a lake, singing carols about “dashing through the snow”, or having pavlova for dessert, or beers by the pool- it was still great!
Between Christmas and New Years we made a couple trips to the Sunshine Coast to enjoy the beach and check out the (huge) Eumundi market. Then we packed up what we could in our small rental car and headed to NSW. I had another locum in the Blue Mountains for 5 weeks starting Jan 3. The drive and camping trip wasn’t quite what we’d hoped- the Pacific Highway is often windy, small and definitely overcrowded during the busy summer holiday season, but it is not close enough to the ocean to allow for any views. It was also a very rainy summer overall, and we weren’t prepared to camp in the rain. We spent New Years in a motel in Coff’s Harbour, and watched the fireworks in Sydney on the telly.
Jan 2- Feb 4 we lived in a 2 bedroom cabin in Blackheath. I drove a company car ~10km into Katoomba where I worked at Anita Villa; an aged care facility, that specializes in psychological conditions, particularly dementia and schizophrenia. The first couple days were challenging (I was told to “piss off!” more than I had ever imagined possible as a physiotherapist), but by the end of it I actually felt a little sad to be leaving; it’s easy to grow an attachment to people who have very little else in their life… and some of them were quite hilarious! We enjoyed being in the Blue Mountains for that length of time; it’s quite a unique area with many waterfalls and gorgeous lookouts and hikes. It gets its name from a blue haze that is released from the eucalyptus trees; but many of the days we were there were really thick with fog, giving it a mystical appeal. Unfortunately, our hiking was limited by rain and threats of flash flooding, so there were many tracks we weren’t able to take. Many days after work we utilized the greenspace to work on our footy skills, and became quite proficient at not only tossing, but kicking the ball back and forth with either foot. Another milestone in these weeks was buying a car; and despite countless hours Jeremy spent searching on the web, and a couple trips into Sydney, we found our car at Blue Mountains Mazda- a dealership I passed daily on my way to work.
I started at Hunter Physiotherapy on Feb 5. It’s a busy private practise, I was the fourth physio added, but the only one with full time clinical hours. I have enjoyed getting back into my own treatment planning, doing real manual therapy, and learning to integrate clinical pilates equipment into exercise prescription. I share time between Salamander Bay, and at the Nelson Bay Plaza Clinic, and enjoy riding my bike between the two clinics, cautiously avoiding huge spider webs along the path.
We have enjoyed spending our spare time enjoying the beaches for a few hours between intense melanoma sunburn hours and shark feeding time, and settling down in our new home. A few weeks ago we moved into an unfurnished 3 bedroom townhouse (yes, space for visitors!), and have been working to provide it the comforts of home. We managed to get some freebies, and good scores from eBay and Gumtree (kijiji Aus), and have even started a bit of decorating.
Last weekend we had our first go at surfing, and although we set expectations low to avoid disappointment, we both managed to catch some waves and have a really fun day. I’m not one to brag, but Jeremy will tell you I was the star of the class, managing a few turns and riding out some decent waves… it’s only fair to note that the other class members were still in grade school, but nonetheless, I was proud to receive the accolades.
Last night we had our first visitors, and were proud take them on a brief tour the area we now call home. In just about an hour we showed off a handful of beaches, and were blessed with a spectacular sunset at Burubi beach. Many thanks to physio friends Mike & Tash (and Mike's sister Wanisa) for being our first guests, and giving us the opportunity to show off the bay; and thanks to the bay for not disappointing!
Well, that’s about sums it up --