Yesterday marked one year since we stepped off the plane.

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What is this strange place??

It has been an amazing experience so far. In many ways, it was just as easy as I thought it would be. In many other ways, it’s been harder than I think I could have prepared for.

I obviously neglected the blog, which makes me sad. I think for the first few months, it was painful to continue to read and comment on your lovely blogs (the ones I link to on my sidebar, and many more) because they reminded me of home, including the house that I could no longer work on. It had become such a huge part of me. No matter how many cool experiences I had down here, my homesickness and depression were dark clouds hanging over everything. (Not to mention that we had two back-to-back winters, which I think seriously messed with me!) Here are some dark Adelaide clouds to demonstrate.

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Pretty, soul-sucking clouds

As the months went by, I gradually settled in and started to find my place here. I finally got a job, and started volunteering. I joined a few expat groups. I found an awesome gym buddy, and became closer to the wonderful group of people from Stan’s work who so generously welcomed us from the very beginning. Family visited us. I got a little more used to the culture. I stopped pressuring myself to have the “best experience ever!” and let myself be sad about moving here. Finally, the anxiety knots started to loosen (probably along with my bowels, heh heh!) and life started to get back to normal.

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Keep ya head up, ya flamin’ galah!

Just today, I was hit by another wave of missing home, which prompted a few tears. But overall, I still felt happy and at peace. There is a very important difference between depression and everyday sadness. Depression is like when you’re trying to run away from something in a dream, and you know you have the strength, but you just can’t do it. It does not mess around! Sadness is a normal emotion that in some ways actually feels kind of good. (Come on, I know I’m not the only one who enjoys a good cry sometimes.) I can deal with sadness, and let’s be honest, I just wouldn’t be me without it!

Moving on from that bit of General Business, we really have seen and done (and eaten) some cool things, which I plan to tell you about shortly.

But for now, it’s dinnertime.

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Can I start out on the negatives today? Is that okay? Alright. You know what sucks about moving really, really far away? You can’t call your mom when you feel like it. Because when you feel like it, she’s asleep. Because it’s nighttime there. Forget getting off work and calling one of your friends or siblings to vent about the day. Because they’re all asleep!

It’s really hard moving. Yes, it’s an adventure, and every day is filled with new experiences that I don’t regret having. And we have met some really awesome people here. But I can’t seem to shake missing everything about home. I just miss it. It’s a bit of a shock realizing that life goes on when you move away: people get married, they get engaged, kids get bigger, your siblings visit your parents without you… I want to put a ban on anyone having any fun until we get back!

I called my parents the other day. It was my lunch break, so I knew it was approaching bedtime for them, but I also knew that in reality, they’d probably be up watching Hoarders or Toddlers and Tiaras. (They were up, although I’m not sure what they were watching.)

“So do you think you’ll live there forever?” asked my dad, a little too nonchalantly.

I replied, “No way! This isn’t home.”

“Well I’ve always kinda thought that… home is where you are.”

Oh, dad, with your wise words. He’s always been so adaptable and up for anything. Those words have been following me for the past week, and they’re comforting.

Home is where you are.

I guess I can live with that.

 

 

After my gripping post about our new couches, I figured you would all enjoy an update on our entryway! Here’s an artsy pic of it.

And here is a boring shot.

We broke down and spent $100 on that little table. After trolling Gumtree for months, I realized that teeny, thin entryway tables are pretty hard to come by, so we bought this little guy new. I quite like him, though.

You can see that we have our pet paintings (sniffle), our wedding photo, a mirror, some pictures I bought from a lady who was selling a bunch of crap, a napkin holder that works as an outbox, a bowl for keys, and a flower. You know, the essentials.

And now to the fun part, here are some fun sayings I’ve noticed from people at work:

  • “Have a chin-wag” (have a chat)
  • “Spit the dummy/chewie” (throw a fit)
  • “Don’t get precious” (basically don’t be a princess)
  • “Dear” (expensive)
  • “Cheers” (thanks/bye)
  • “Good on ya” (way to go)
  • “Too easy” (no problem)
  • “Ta” (thanks)
  • “phone hookup” (conference call)
  • “Flick an email” (Send an email)
  • “trackie dacks” (track pants)
  • “to dack someone” (to pants someone)
  • “shivers” (expletive)
  • “far out” (exclamation of wonder or annoyance)

Also, the other day my co-worker asked me what I’d brought for lunch, and when I told her peanut butter and jelly, she seemed confused. Not that she’d never heard of a PB&J – more that she’d never seen one. She asked me, “So… do you mix the peanut butter and jelly together? Or do you spread peanut butter on one side and jelly on the other and then stick them together??” The concept of someone not knowing how to make a PB&J cracked me up. This, coming from someone who loves Vegemite!

Also, this, and variations thereof, are common conversations in my office.

“Amanda, will you please post this to Greg Palmer (pronounced “Palmah”)?

“Sure. Greg Palmer. Got it.”

“Yes. Greg Palmerrrrrrr.”

They get a kick out of my hard Rs. It hasn’t seemed to have gotten old yet!

When we first moved here, we set a bit of a budget for our house furnishings. The idea is that we won’t be here long enough to invest in really nice stuff, so I set my sights high on a Craigslist/Gumtree steal (which worked for me last time, back home) in the form of a $100 couch.

Well, that ended up being kind of a disaster. As you may remember, the couch turned out to be pretty grody but we bought it anyway (ugh, just… ugh). Dumbest move ever.

After realizing that no matter how cheap we were trying to be, I couldn’t fathom sitting on that thing for the next three years, I googled and searched high and low for a decent but reasonable deal. Eventually  I found a couch/loveseat combo for $695 at a place called Le Cornu furniture. And the best part is that tax is already included in advertised prices down here. We kicked our old grody bodily-fluid-ridden couch to the curb guest room and were left with this:

And then, blissfully, this:

Sure, $700 for two couches won’t buy you the highest quality out there (as was evidenced by our poor friend fearing that she broke one of the arms due to some mysterious creaking noises!). But if they at least last for half of their 5-year structural warranty, we should be okay.

TL;DR: We bought new couches.

A lot has happened since I graced you all with my presence in blogland!

We celebrated our first anniversary by re-creating our favorite wedding photo:

(Yes, I am holding a flower that Stan picked for me.)

If this city has anything, it’s beautiful sunsets. So we thought we’d get an awesome one for our anniversary, but nope! Sandwiched between many days of gorgeous sunsets was our anniversary, foggy as can be.

Here is the viewpoint where we’d hoped to take in some gorgeous orange and gold sky!

We could only laugh.

I  wrote in our leather journal that also served as our guest book.

A friend joined us for the event:

Here I am getting ready for our shot. I wore jeans and tennis shoes for the hike up, then swapped my shoes (same yellow ones I got married in!) and ditched the jeans.

In other news, I’m more homesick than I had anticipated, but I’m settling in here more and more every day. Lately I’ve taken to asking myself, “Now why did we have to move so far away?” I could really use a weekend visit home, but those don’t happen when the round-trip journey eats up 42 hours.

I other other news, I got a job! You guys, unemployment was really really hard. It’s some of the most dejected I’d felt in my life. I started temping, which was really good. I think it made me more relaxed (read: less desperate) for my interviews for permanent jobs. So if you’re currently unemployed against your will, I would suggest signing up with a temp agency!

People seem generally pretty surprised that I managed to land a full-time, permanent job here. A lot of jobs are on a contract basis, which means in 6 or 12 months you get to look for a job all over again (yuck). The job is as a receptionist and marketing assistant at a small financial planning company. So far I really like the people I work with. Nailing the accent is proving to be pretty important, otherwise when I answer the phone all I hear is “G’day heewaahh yeeouui? This is <thickly drawled and impossibly quickly spoken name> ” No disrespect to the accent, it’s just a little hard to understand for a yank!

While I’m at it, here are a few differences I’ve observed between Oz and home:

  • They work fewer hours (my work week is 37.5 hours: 9-5 with a half-hour lunch) and they don’t generally go home and check work emails
  • They drink at work! My office apparently shuts down for “Beer o’clock” at 4:30 sharp on Fridays – for beers in the office
  • “Hours” are called “Trading hours”
  • “Ta” = “thank you”
  • Sprinkles on donuts are sometimes called “hundreds and thousands”
  • They don’t call it 1% and 2% milk. You have to read the label if you want to know how much fat is in there; they’ll name it anything from Skimmer (which is actually 1%) to Lite (which is actually 2%)
  • Stuff is in Kilojoules here, instead of calories. And at McDonald’s (Macca’s) all the KJ info is posted right on the menu
  • Yes, we Stan eats Vegemite

I can’t think of any more at the moment, but I’ll keep you posted.

You guys are so nice. You left me nice comments and sent me nice messages, and I appreciate it so much. I’m feeling better now, actually. Funny enough, the very next day I got my first temp assignment, and then today I got a call from a recruitment firm! Small victories, but the important thing is that things are finally moving forward. I have learned what true frustration tastes like, and I’d rather lick a tub full of baking soda. I’m starting to see a little sunshine behind the clouds, which makes patience so much more attainable.

Anyway, on Friday Stan insisted that I take the day off, so I did (after I applied for a couple jobs). What did I do on my day off? I did what a lot of homesick Americans would probably do: I went to Ikea! I didn’t buy anything besides a double chocolate sundae. (It tasted like slushy sweetened condensed milk… not the best sundae of my life.) Whoever invented chain stores was a genius, because the emotional, familiar aspect gets even the most skeptical consumer. When I go to Ikea, I might as well be in Draper, Utah (as long as I don’t listen to the conversations around me). I might as well be home! Pretty lame day off, I know. So then I went to the beach.

The nice thing about Adelaide is that if the temperature dips below 50° F, people start hunkering down with their scarves and tea. So I had the beach completely to myself.

But eventually even I got rained out, but I went home feeling refreshed and pretty happy. Does anyone else love rainy days when they’re sad? A sunny day when you’re sad is so mocking. A rainy day makes you feel like a good friend is empathizing.

The next day we decided on a whim (after I made us some delicious French toast) to drive down to Victor Harbor. It started as a major whaling site in the late 1800′s and, like many other poorly-planned human endeavors, the people quickly ran themselves out of product (whales), and therefore out of business, in about a hundred years. Blubber and lots of other whale parts were used for common items that are all petroleum based these days.

Anyway, it’s a really beautiful spot. It was rainy on and off, but that just gave us some pretty skies and moody light to play around with.

There’s a little island called Granite Island, aptly named for its geology. It was used a lot as a whale sighting spot. A horse-drawn rail tram still carries people out there. (It must not run in the late autumn, though.)

Some pretty scenery.

No island is complete without a pile-o-rocks with some birds on top. Put a bird on it!

Here is another cute bird. Stan tried to figure out what it was, but to no avail.

There are some cool eroded rocks. This rock looks like a seal:

Stan would like me to add that as a geologist, he is particularly talented at taking photos of rocks. I mean, look at this beauty!

Don’t you want to go there?? The water looks so inviting, but then again the next piece of land is Antarctica.

The island also has Little Penguins, and they offer penguin tours at dusk. Otherwise, you can stroll around on a self-guided walk of the island. It took us a little over an hour, I’d say. Then just as the rain picked up again, it was time for us to walk back across the causeway.

It was around 3:00 and we still hadn’t eaten lunch, so we went to see what Victor Harbor had to offer. As you may expect in a small, off-the-beaten-road town, most restaurants have stopped serving lunch, but don’t serve dinner for another couple of hours. We found a semi-deserted deli and ordered some wraps (think quesadilla)  and an enormous “small” order of “chips”. American-sized portions, my butt! Here I am waiting for the greasy goodness in all my greasy rainy goodness.

After lunch we decided we needed a little more grease, so we went and had our first Australian donuts. They weren’t bad, but they were no Banburry Cross. (Oh, what I wouldn’t do for a couple [dozen] Banburry Cross donuts right now.) Then we hung out in the park.

Although Stan is not a biologist, he is talented at taking photos of living things such as trees in addition to rocks.

Then we went to the South Australian Whale Center. The people at the desk were very super friendly, and were excited that we were from the USA. (Although the guy was a little sad that he still had to put “Adelaide” on his tourism survey form, since that’s really where we live.)

Here is Stan standing next to a Southern Right Whale skull.

Although encountering any being that size would likely cause me to soil myself, there is no real reason to be alarmed. Their throats aren’t even big enough to swallow an orange. They have baleen, which are basically big comb-shaped keratin shields that filter out their true culinary delights, which are plankton, krill, and other tiny organisms.

Here is Stan again being very frightened that the shark behind him might be able to fit its pointy head through the cage:

Fun fact: The guy who invented the shark cage, Rodney Fox, was attacked in a big way some years earlier. The shark gripped his whole left side and arm, and the only reason he lived is because he had the presence of mind to poke the shark in the eye. Can you believe that? The lady at the museum animatedly told us more details, like how he surfaced and found himself surrounded by bloody water, only to look down to see the shark surging up for another go. See above re: soiling myself. 400 or so stitches later, good as new (if you dare, Google Image “Rodney Fox”).

The lady also talked about how her husband had been bit by a shark, but it was “just a little nip”. You know, one of those love bites that pierces your diving suit and your flesh.

Lastly, I just loved this guy. He is a Port Jackson shark; endemic to Australian waters.

Sorry for the blurry picture, but I didn’t want to flash him. Aren’t his markings incredible? Stan pointed out that they look just like water ripple shadows. Evolution at its finest.

It was a great day. Just what I needed. Thanks for reading!

The sun keeps trying to poke out, which feels like a lame metaphor for my life right now. (Yes, I totally just retreated to an angsty corner of my teenage bedroom.)

Job-hunting is the soul-sucking worst. It’s hard. I have been living the past five years under the delusion that a great boss (who took a chance on me and was even so generous as to “pick the hayseed out of my hair”), and great co-workers,  in a job that provided a lot of variety and stimulation, was just a normal part of my life that would always be there. I thought I had a lot to offer, and I thought I was pretty okay at conveying that in a non-cocky way. Sure, I realized the importance of a having a “network”, but hey, I’d broken through cold-turkey before, and I could do it again! Oh, three-months-ago-me, how naive you were.

I haven’t even joked about wanting to sit at home and eat bon-bons lately, because it’s no longer funny to me. Right now, if you gave me the choice between a room full of bon-bons and every Oprah episode ever, and a job (any job) where I got to leave the house and be a productive member of society and have a life; believe it or not, I would choose the job!

Stan tells me I should chill out, maybe take a break, and maybe my days need more structure. (What is it with guys always trying to fix everything? JK, love ya hun.) I should try that out. Meanwhile, I started volunteering, I registered with a temp agency, I’m continuing to fill out applications, exercising, cooking a lot, and generally keeping myself busy. That’s all fine and dandy, it’s just that every other waking moment of my life involves waiting. Ugh. Isn’t waiting the worst?

I even went to a social event that I heard about (gasp!) online! It was outside my comfort zone, but actually really fun. A lot of people made me feel better about my employment struggles, because a lot of them have had similar problems. It’s hard, but at least I’m not the only one.

So for now, I’ll try to concentrate on the encouraging words from the librarian who noticed I was printing off resumes. (Seriously, thank you, lady.) I’ll try not to concentrate on the not-quite-rude-but-not-anything-close-to-nice-and-slightly-annoyed responses from some people when I follow up on an applications.

I’ll try to be happy for my friend Candice’s upcoming wedding, instead of selfishly feeling sorry for myself that I can’t go. Skype is a wonderful thing, but after you close the computer and it’s just you and everyone else is so far away and together and happy… well, unleash the floodgates.

The hard parts are harder than I anticipated.

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