Friday, June 27, 2008

Crocodile Rock

As I was driving north for my second foray into the field, that Elton John classic came on the radio, reminding me of Jon Bennett requesting it in middle school for Bryna Joncas on Night Rock, the old cable access show in Miramichi. The irony of the song, and the realization that Elton John played it to adoring fans at his show in Darwin last month, was not lost on me.

Other songs stuck in my head during this two and a half week trip included:
Land Down Under (self-explanatory)
Beds are Burning (also self-explanatory)
That stupid Rihanna song about a tattoo (no explanation for that one)

This trip promised harder work and more difficult conditions and it certainly delivered. From the moment we left Cairns the elements were working against us. It started when we busted a trailer hitch (the one carrying our electrofishing boat) while navigating a rocky dip in the road. If you could see some of the "roads" that we drive over with our vehicles you would be shocked, it's no surprise that trailers bottom out and trucks get bogged. The broken hitch set us back about one day, and forced us to split up (Dominic and Richard went to get the hitch welded, I moved on to the next site with Kate and Courtenay).

We reunited a day later at our first "croc site," meaning it was below the upstream limit of saltwater croc range. Because salties hunt their prey, and are capable of taking down victims as large as adult cattle, we have to be very careful while working at these sites. No wading allowed! It makes many things a little tricky, including launching boats and collecting algae and bugs that are living on the bottom of the river. Fortunately we operate a boat that sends a 1000 volt current into the water (used to stun and capture fish), so if a saltie wants to mess with us, he's going to get a bit of a jolt out of it.

Our equipment problems continued on through the first few sites. Our smaller outboard motor (4 horsepower) was leaking fuel so we had to switch to our backup which is a pig (15 horsepower) to lift. Our generator refused to work, our centrifuge started making an awful racket because something was loose inside it. And to top it off, one of our two freezers, containing our precious samples that we came all this way to collect, went on the fritz, meaning we had to pile everything into the one functional freezer and nurse it for the rest of the trip. All of the above happened in the first five days. Poor Laura got a phone call from me just after the freezer went out, I was at my wits end. Keep in mind that I am built for the office, both mentally and physically, this "field work in tough conditions when equipment is malfunctioning, it's 30 degrees and there are crocs hunting me" thing is not meant for me. I was ready to quit the job and scurry back to Canada, training to be an accountant like my father wisely did.

Eventually I got my head screwed back on straight and we plowed onward. Our next incident occurred when we were working at a lagoon and after spending over an hour in and around the area where our boat was moored, Courtenay froze in her tracks after spotting a red-bellied black snake curled up around the stump to which our boat was tied (see picture below). Luckily this species is not overly aggressive, but had we made a wrong move any one of us could easily have been bitten, meaning a serious bout of sickness and some medical attention. We were all a little spooked from this event, and it only got worse as we carried on further down the river. There were snakes everywhere. On our last trip to the same area, we saw maybe two or three, on this trip, over a dozen. Browns, blacks, taipans, pythons. It was like a top ten list of the world's most poisonous. Made for some sleepless nights.

Finally we arrived at the downstream end of the river, to the aboriginal community of Kowanyama, for our first shower in exactly one week. It would be an understatement to say that Kowanyama is an interesting place; I really like it there. I will reserve my thoughts on it and the aboriginal situation in Australia in general for another post.

After two days in Kowanyama we parted ways with Richard (he is a Londoner who works for the government in Mareeba near Cairns) and made our own way back up to the headwaters. These sites are much easier to work (no crocs, few snakes, better road access) so they made for more enjoyable days. We were also just a few days away from heading home.

You may be thinking that the trip was complete torture, but there were some highlights, mostly centred around food. I was able to try kangaroo steaks for the first time, and they are delicious! It's hard to believe that it isn't a more popular meat here. Compared to beef it's cheaper, healthier and better for the environment. The problem has a lot to do with marketing, since kangaroo meat is located at the far end of the meat section in the grocery store, right next to the dog food, and probably considered as such by many Australians. We also ate some tasty prawns that we caught with baited traps from the river. These things approach the size of small lobsters, and taste really good when cooked with butter and lemon over an open fire. Finally I tried traditional Aussie damper, basically flour and water heated in tin foil. Makes a good thick bread that has the consistency of a scone. I still haven't really tried vegemite, that will have to wait for another day. The other highlight was the chance to stay at the Post Office Hotel in Chillagoe (picture at right). "Hotels" are essentially buildings that have a pub and kitchen on the ground floor and rooms upstairs. Pretty much every Aussie outback town has one. Staying at them gives you the best chance to get a feel for the town, because the locals come and have a meal and some beers. As a weary traveler, you get your meal, a couple of bundy and cokes, then wander upstairs to your bed, and breakfast is ready in the morning, all on one tab.

So I returned home Thursday night to my loving wife, who promptly departed for the weekend Friday morning (EWB retreat). The last two nights have given me a taste of what it's like when one of us is gone - not cool. She'll be back today and we'll be a family again, with the Goob's arrival the next major milestone in our lives. It's good to be home.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I shall never mock bus-schedule obsession ever again

Not sure how it’s fair, but I’m stuck with duty on the ol’ blog again this week. Husband leaves pregnant wife to fend for herself, and she’s expected to pick up his slack. Hrmmmm. Perhaps these are the sacrifices one makes when tying the knot…I’m sure it will pale in comparison with the sacrifices to come our way starting just about September 2nd. But wait! I was told in a breastfeeding workshop this weekend that it was important to acknowledge a partner’s contribution to the family, like bringing in an income. So, Tim (wherever you are when you read this), thank you for your contribution to our family in every way, we really do appreciate it. Try contributing from closer to home from now on! Just kidding…kinda.

I do miss the guy though. He’s on the tail end of his work trip, and is in cell phone range so from here on in I think that we should be able to be in touch every night. Also, it means that Tim and his crew will be able to sleep in hotels rather than on the ground. They are literally working all daylight hours, and when they camp, they’re usually having to set it up in the dark and then can get their meal together. So, we’re talking 13-14 hour days, almost everyday since they got to their first station back on June 10th (including weekends). It also means showers, which means that they might be somewhat clean when they arrive back home, but probably unlikely. Apparently the dust up there just sticks to everything, and you can’t get rid of it. And I’m quite sure that Tim has already worn all of the clothing he brought…He’ll probably have stink lines and a dust cloud around him like Pigpen from Charley Brown. But it will be nice to have him home. They expect to be rolling in on Saturday. Tim is sounding better and better everytime we talk, I think it’s cus they can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

It’s been an exhausting week here. I’m sure it’s a big combination of Tim being away, work, medical appointments, catching up with people and growing a Goob, but I’ve found myself just as tired when I wake up as when I went to bed (at 8:00 the night before). And that’s probably part of the problem. It just seems that when I get home, all I want to do is sleep so I end up going to bed so early, and waking up in the middle of the night without being able to get back to sleep for hours. I hope that gets better when Tim gets back because I was hoping to stock up on sleeping hours before the Goob made her/his appearance.

And I’ve come to the conclusion that our experiment in public transport was going much better when Tim was home. If he were gone any longer he might just have found a car parked in our driveway, one that belonged to us. So here’s the deal. If you’ve known me for any length of time, especially prior to meeting Tim, you’d know that I’m late almost always. It’s not usually a conscious thing, but it seems like when I’m leaving to go somewhere I either don’t feel the need to rush or I remember the bazillion things that I was meaning to do before I left and feel that I can accomplish them without being late. That theory hasn’t worked in 28 years, but still it wins over when I don’t have someone pushing me along. Tim doesn’t actually push me along, he knows that drives me nuts. Most of the time he just makes me feel like life is actually 15 minutes ahead of where it really is. So, he tricks me, essentially. He does it if he’s cooking as well. He’ll tell me that supper is ready before it’s actually ready (I call it the 2 minute rule), and then I rush to finish up what I was doing and supper is actually not ready, or is ready just when I get there 5 minutes later (hmmm. Maybe he just knows me well…). Either way, I’ve missed the bus probably 5 times these past 2 weeks for various reasons. 2 times (on 2 different days in 2 different places) I’ve been within a close enough distance to the bus that I’ve thought that I could make it by running. Of course I’ve been thinking that busdrivers would for sure have some sympathy for an obviously pregnant lady (Goobie hit a spurt this week…more about that later), but twice I’ve almost made it and the bus has pulled away. To give you an idea of what that might have looked like, and how frustrated I’ve been with my poor public transport skills, I’ll give you the example from last Wednesday night.

So, I have an aquatic aerobics class at 6:15 on Wednesday nights. I happened to be working at the university that day, and the gym is quite close to the university, so getting to the class was a breeze, although it was raining cats and dogs that day. The instructor for the class is nice, but tough, so I’m always beat once class is done. And I ended up talking to another girl in the class for probably too long afterwards…So when I left to go to the bus, it was actually closer to 7:15. Little did I know that the bus I needed to catch was a 7:20 bus (see? Tim would have known that!). I just couldn’t make my legs move any faster when walking to the stop until I saw the bus pull up when I was maybe 100m away. So I started to run, but my legs just wouldn’t follow. I felt like Chief Wiggam on the Simpson’s episode where Maggie shoots Mr. Burns…There’s a scene where he’s running to a crime scene and basically he’s huffing and puffing, his little arms going while his belly stays in one place, and the whole town of Springfield passes him (with pitchforks in hand if I remember correctly)…I knew I wasn’t going fast enough, and it was dark so maybe the driver didn’t see me, but he pulled away just as I was getting to the stop. I wanted to cry. The next bus was supposed to be 10 minutes, it got there ½ an hour later. And this bus was only a connection bus so it actually took me to an interchange where I had to catch another bus to get home. It turns out that when making the connecting bus, I accidentally got on the 170 instead of the 175 (again, never would have happened with Tim around)…The 170 dropped me off a good 2 km from home…Which I had to walk in the rain in horrible shoes. Thankfully I remembered that I had packed an energy bar (thanks Rach!), which gave me enough energy to get to the Subway about half way home (Subway the sub shop). I think I could have eaten gruel at that point I was so hungry. I got home around 9:15. Bah. If there had been a car salesperson at my house when I got there he/she could have sold me a K-car and made a mint.

So, I’m going to have to think a lot harder about where I’m going and how I’m getting there this week. I maybe shouldn’t make so much fun of Tim for being obsessed with bus schedules and such, his obsession could have come in quite handy many times these past weeks.

So, at my last doc’s appointment, I was given instructions to get to a clinic and do the glucose challenge, which is used to determine if pregnancy-induced diabetes is happening to pregnant ladies. It’s a mandatory test that pregnant women have to take at 28 weeks here. There are no clinics that are easy for me to get to by bus, and work has been nuts these past few weeks, so, I put off going to take the test until last week (I was already into the 29th week, but that really shouldn’t matter). The good news; when I got to the clinic the nurse who took my blood asked how far along I was, and I told her 28 weeks (oops), and she thought that I was really big for 28 weeks. So, I’m guessing that the growth that my doc was looking for the last time that I was in to see him has happened. Actually, I’ve had quite a few comments on how huge I am in the last couple of days. It may be the only time in my life that those words are sweet to my ears. The kind of bad news, I failed the glucose challenge, which means that they need to test me more stringently in order to determine that I don’t have pregnancy induced diabetes. I really don’t think I do, I happened to eat a huge fruit salad and nothing else on the morning of the first test. According to my limited retention of human physiology class notes from 2001, I should have eaten something with a few more carbs and a lot less glucose-fructose...And there were probably some residual effects of the crazy exercise that I did the night before (the whole bus fiasco). We’ll see. Either way, lots of women become diabetic during pregnancy, it’s a temporary thing. The only real annoying thing is the fact that I have to devote more time now to finding busses to get to the hospital. Yes. I’m getting car envy.

So, this morning I was happy to find that my Grandmother had requested me as a friend on Facebook. I like to call her my electronic Gram. I think it’s pretty stinking cool that she’s “online” now, I’m glad to be able to keep in touch with her more often.

I was also pleasantly surprised one morning this week as I was rushing out the door that I had a package from my friend Rachel sitting on my doorstep. It was a birthday package and had lots of goodies in it, my favorite being baby leg warmers. As if our child won’t be an individual from day one with the combination of Tim’s genes and my own, the legwarmers have skulls and crossbones on them (quite gender neutral and perhaps hip amongst 14 year olds these days?). I told Rach that if our child grows up to be a biker, we’ve got her to blame, but by golly, he or she will have warm legs.

So, although Tim gets home on Saturday, I will be heading out of town on Friday for a retreat that will last until Sunday. BOO for bad timing! Not only will he find that he’s got to find supper for himself on Saturday, but also an empty bed with no pillows. Since he’s been gone I’ve discovered the joys of sleeping with 4 pillows…and I’m thinking that 4 pillows will be nice on this retreat (leaving him none!). The retreat is located about 70 minutes outside of Brisbane at an aboriginal camp. So, no luxuries there. When I told Tim about it the other night he said that he’d just set up his swag and sleep in it, since that’s what he’s been doing for the last 3 weeks. Funny joke until he gets home and finds that his pillows are gone. Who’ll be laughing then? The retreat is actually a National Council retreat for Engineers Without Boarders. Yup, still in the EWB loop I am. I’m looking forward to it, but I’m a bit wary of my energy levels leading up to it…I’ve never been so thoroughly tired as I have been this week. But tired isn’t all that bad. I guess it’s probably a good thing to get used to. And I kind of am.

SO, I’m signing off happy, healthy, with lots to look forward to this week. I hope that things are going well for everyone that we miss. Again, sorry about the lack of new photos, I can’t wait to post another belly shot. You will not believe your eyes. I think that Tim is in for a big surprise. As in, “Surprise! Your wife can’t get herself off the couch without grunting anymore!” or “Surprise! Your wife can’t bend over to tie her shoes”, and, “Surprise! She can’t fit in to most of her shoes so she's wearing yours!” Fun times.

Love to everyone!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

1 down 2 to go!

Hoy hoy folks,

It’s Laura. I am sitting in my office enjoying the end-of-daylight songs of the Kookaburras, who like to sing in gangs I think. When the sun is coming up and when it disappears, you can be sure to hear them…One will start off with a timid oo oooo ooo oooo, and then you’ll hear another shy one join in, and then all havock breaks loose and a whole cacophony of sounds emerges, which sounds a lot like a pack of monkeys. If you try to listen to just one of the birds in the group it’s just hilarious what actual noises come out of them…Like they’re just making any noise that they can, really loudly and really quickly. Probably not the best description of what the Kookaburras sound like, but you’ll have to come and visit to get the whole effect. It’s quite pleasant. I’ve come to expect to hear it in the mornings and it’s usually the break whistle for me at the end of the day. Australia is nice.

So, one week down, two more to go for Tim’s latest stint in northern Queensland. So far I haven’t heard from him much except for when he first arrived in Cairns and a 30 second satellite phone call on Wednesday night. He was able to tell me that he and his crew were safe (i.e. not eaten by crocs), and that they were having equipment issues. I think they broke a trailer hitch while driving on a river bank somewhere in cattle country. Two of the guys had to go back to “town” to get it fixed while Tim and the remaining crew set up camp at a new site on some cattle station. I haven’t heard anything from Tim since then, but they phone the manager of the project every night to tell her that they’ve arrived safely at their destination, I usually call her to get updates. I hope I get to hear from him soon, although I knew that on this trip there would be a lot less satellite coverage than the last one. Last week an old lady friend of ours called me a “grass widow”. For any non-golfers out there, this is what women of friends whose husbands spend all of their free time on the golf course are called. I agreed with her even though Tim wasn’t there to defend himself, which I think I stated that I wouldn’t do in my wedding vows (for everyone’s memory lapse on that one “I’ll stand by you even when it makes me look like an idiot”), I hope she knew I was kidding (about agreeing with the grass widow part, not the wedding vows)! Regardless, I’ll be happy to have Tim home. I like him a lot. Life is more fun when we get to hang out. I think that the Goob likes it better too. I think I eat more when Tim is around.

We haven’t told you about a couple of firsts for us here in Australia. The first first for us, was the receiving of our first letter from Canada the other day. It was from our friend Jean Saunders, who I like to call “Jean Jean the Cleaning Machine” (she’s a stickler for a clean kitchen). We used to work with Jean at the soup kitchen in Fredericton although she’s been working there a lot longer than we ever were, I think that she’s the longest-standing volunteer there, at maybe 25 years now. Either way, Jean is an amazing woman (Older than the queen and better looking, according to some), and brought us up to date on all of the goings on at the kitchen, including a fire in the dishwasher and a volunteer shortage this summer. So, if you’re in Fredericton and have a spare couple of hours around a meal-time, please, please, please call up the kitchen and see if they could use your help. You’d be surprised at how much fun it can be there. We’ve made some of the best friends we have from working there, and generally people that we wouldn’t have had a chance to cross paths with otherwise. And, even if you really hated it there, at least you’re helping someone (many people) less fortunate than you are, most likely. Whatever the motivation is, it can’t be a bad thing that hungry people get something to eat who wouldn’t necessarily otherwise. Back to Jean’s letter, it was nice. Letters are great to get. Thank you Jean.

The second first for us was our first Canadian visitor! Greg MacNeill was in Brisbane at what happened to be the coldest, wettest week that we’ve had since Tim and I have been here, and we were able to convince him to catch a bus to come and stay with us for a night. It was surprising just how nice it was to listen to someone with a good maritime accent…Probably what it’s like when you hear someone with an Australian accent in Canada, you just want them to keep talking so that you can just listen. Greg’s good at talking, and is doing some really cool stuff these days…We really enjoyed his company. He was woken up by the Kookaburras that usually start around 5-6am these days…I don’t know if he enjoyed them quite as much as we do. Either way, we felt dull around him. He’s in visitor’s mode and wanted to get everything done that he possibly could while here. I think that he mentioned going south to the Gold Coast one day to surf, going up north to Cairns the next to scuba dive, and making sure that he saw everything else in between. We haven’t been that ambitious since…probably well before we got here, maybe when we found out we were having a baby??? Not sure. But it was definitely when we thought that all of those cool things to do were a lot closer to home. Either way, we’ve got lots of time to explore. But it is crazy how similar the patterns and activities of our lives are here, to the way that they were in Canada. We seem to thrive on the same stuff, what creatures of habit are we. Traveling half-way across the globe to settle into our normal routine in a different setting. That’s not 100% true, but more true than we’d like to admit sometimes. Oh well.

Getting Greg to find our place was a bit tricky too. I told him to take a bus that would bring him to a stop that was about 800m away from our house (an uphill walk from our place). So, rather than leave him to find our house from the bus stop where we told him to go to, we decided that we would go and meet him at the bus stop (800m walk UPHILL, pregnant lady emphasis). Oh, I forgot to mention that it was raining BUCKETS. So, the first bus that he should have been on came and went. So, we thought, maybe he missed that one. And waited 35-40 minutes for the next one to come along. No Greg. So, we had no way to get in touch with him, it was late and we had no food ready for when he got there (making us extra fun to be around…no food = cranky Tim and Laura), and it was raining, and we didn’t know where Greg was. So we decided to walk back down the hill to our house to see if he’d tried to call or something. When we got to our street we saw this guy who looked like a drowned rat that obviously had no clue where he was staring at house numbers and a GPS through fogged up glasses. The fact that he looked like a lost foreigner with a winter jacket on in our neighborhood was the only thing that gave him away because it was raining so hard at that point that we couldn’t really make out anything like facial features. So we approached him. It was Greg. He had ended up by chance taking a bus that dropped him off at another stop, which was actually closer to our house but took twice as long to get here. So our timing was actually quite perfect except for the fact that we were all cold wet and hungry when we actually met up. And when it’s cold outside here, it’s cold inside. There is no hint of insulation in houses in Queensland based on the fact that cooling down is usually more of an issue than warming up. So 10° here is cold, as there’s no warming up inside of a snuggly heated house. I kind of miss that about Canada. I’m not sure that I miss it enough to go back to 2 snowstorms a week or anything…but it had its perks. Certainly when you’re wet down to the bone, it’s nice to have a warm fireplace to cozy up to. Once we all got food and I got a blanket, we were the finest kind.

So, we’re obviously going to have to work on travel means when all of our friends decide to come and visit. Soon, right?

I think I have gained about 2 inches in girth in the last 24 hours. Seriously. Yesterday morning I walked normally…Like pregnancy wasn’t really affecting me all that much. When I went to bed, I waddled. And I’m waddling today. This is good I suppose. The last doc’s appointment I’d had the doctor had said that my belly was a bit small for the stage I was supposed to be at (and in my head skinny Laura gave herself a high five). He’d said that if I didn’t get bigger then they would have to start looking more closely at the wee one…i.e., more ultrasounds, which M. ou Mlle. Goobert(te) does not like. I think there’s a spurt happening. Lots and lots of movement too. Especially in the middle of the night. I’m finishing off a yoga program for 2nd trimester moms on Tuesday, I’ve really liked it mostly for forcing me to stay flexible. I’ve replaced it with an aquatic aerobics class which I love, love, love. It’s in a heated pool (which makes the workout a bit tougher) but the best part is how light I feel. It’s like I weigh what I used to. The shocker is when I jump out of the pool and find that gravity is again a factor. It would be nice to always feel buoyant, hey?

I think I’ll finish off there for the night. I miss everyone so much more when I’m here alone. But truly, this week hasn’t been bad at all. I suppose I’ve kept busy, and I’m actually kind of feeling sorry for Tim this time, because I know that there are so many things about our everyday lives here in Oz that he really enjoys that he can’t do while away. Like going to the market and eating amazing fruit salads while the sun is rising. I’ve also been able to hang out with some good friends this week which is always nice, he’s really got no choice in who he’s hanging out with up north, there aren’t that many people to choose from. And he’s making them work for him. I really hope things are going well up there.

Love to everyone, have a great week this week!

Just got a call from Tim, another 30 second satellite call. Things are going better for them and still no croc fatalities or issues even. They’ll be in a town on Wednesday or Thursday so I’ll get more info from him then when he can call from a land line. I do miss that guy. Good night!

PS. Sorry about the not many new photos thing, Tim has had the camera with him for these past couple of weeks and we just haven’t been taking many new pictures although he has lots from his work trips. We’ll fix things up when he gets back.

Friday, June 6, 2008

On the Road Again

I write this with some apprehension, as I leave tomorrow for my second field trip, this one a three week stint to the same remote locations we visited on the last one. The novelty of the tropical landscape will no doubt wear off on this trip (hey look, more sugar cane!), but the good news is that after this trip is over I'll be home (to Brisbane not Canada) for several months.

Don't get me wrong, I love it out there in the bush, and if Laura were with me, I could happily stay out for weeks. Being here in this country has made me regret not doing more hiking, camping and appreciating wildlife back in Canada while we were there. There are many Australians who would be thrilled to see a moose or bear (or even a chickadee), but Canadians take them for granted. Now, here, we get excited when we see brush tailed possums on the telephone wires along our street under cover of darkness, but they are just like squirrels to Aussies, more of a nuisance than anything.

Laura grows more pregnant and beautiful each day. She is now working two jobs, along with volunteering her time with two chapters of Engineers Without Borders. Yet somehow she still manages to have food on the table when I get home each night. She's even managed to master homemade Pad Thai, and boy is it good. You can probably sense a bit of a food theme in our blog thus far - it really does play a prominent role in our everyday activities. In fact, much of our thought time is spent on planning our next meal. Hard to believe for those of you who knew me as a youngster that turned his nose up at anything but hot dogs and french fries.

We've been here three and a half months now and I can honestly say that the transition into a new job and new life hasn't been super easy. You might be thinking "how hard can it be? Australia isn't that different from Canada" (and you would be mostly correct). But anyone who has recently started a job in new place can empathize with what I'm saying, no matter how suited you are for a job (and I was recruited to come here after all), the foreignness of the new surroundings can be very disorienting. The scientists at Griffith (where I work) are really good - they know their water issues, they know the system, the plants and animals, etc. I feel like such a newbie sometimes. Of course, it didn't help that my lunch caught on fire in the microwave in the common room a couple of months ago. Probably not the best thing to have happen when you are struggling with confidence in a new job. But alas, things have turned around. I am getting much more comfortable, things are starting to make sense, and I'm even starting to have proper scientific ideas again, after months of thinking about visas, medicals, drivers licenses, bus routes, and all the other things that come with moving to somewhere new. Of course, this feeling of comfort will no doubt come crashing to a halt in September when the Goob arrives. After all, what could be more life-altering than having a child? Oh well, at least we now have the duck crib for him/her to sleep in.

Finally, back by popular demand, your monthly Aussie lingo:


Sunday, June 1, 2008

Teeeaaaa with jam and bread, with jam and breaaaad!

Howdy Folks,

That title will be understood probably only by my sister Heather. It has to do with a little outing Tim and I took last night (read on for details).

Hope you’re all doing well. It’s been a great week here in Brisbane, it’s been raining and overcast here since Wednesday (it’s now Sunday), a well deserved wet period in the midst of a relatively dry bout (we haven’t had a significant rainfall here since we first arrived in February, and that was short lived). Brisbane is still under Level 6 water Restrictions, essentially meaning that the combined flow of water through the major dams in the Southeast Queensland (SEQ) region is still on average, meeting less than 40% dam capacity. Tim wrote about this shortage in a past blog, the situation really hasn’t changed all that much since then. So this rain, although it’s rather cold and damp, is well needed and people are unusually happy about predicting just how much it’s going to rain. I even find myself going to bed at night wanting to be woken up by the downpours, which has happened on a couple of occasions this past week. A funny thing; because of the water restrictions in this area, the government has introduced this campaign to get people using less water then previously. The target is 140L per household/day and supposedly heavy users are penalized with fines (checked this out, the rules are very vaguely defined and truly, it doesn’t seem like the current regulations have much teeth). This really means that people can’t use water willy-nilly anymore, and people in SEQ have become really good at meeting the 140 target, with the latest stats coming back saying that average daily consumption per household is more like 125-130L/day. It’s pretty impressive. The funny part is that basically this program has been in place for a little over a year, and before the long-term lack of water made things as bad as they are now (where Level 6 Restrictions are in place), folks in SEQ were just as bad as everyone else. Using water for everything from washing cars every week to watering the lawn every second day, the excessively long showers (4 minute showers is one way to cut down hugely on water consumption that is encouraged), etc. Now that the restrictions and targets have been in place and are being met and surpassed in SEQ, people are getting a bit self-righteous, I’ve noticed. Just last week Tim pointed out an article in the paper where SEQers were calling people in Northeast Queensland water-pigs (the newspapers here are a little more tabloid-like then what we’re used to in Canada), and the article pointed out the major differences in consumption, which were real. The thing is, they’ve had rain. We haven’t. They’ve got water. We don’t. This, of course, is not mentioned when people from SEQ talk about how much better we are at conserving water than our neighbors. To me it just reveals how very eager we are to one-up our neighbors, in any way that we can. It’s like everyday Canadians being excited when our dollar is a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a cent above the US dollar. Does it really impact the average joe’s life? Not really. But we can say that our dollar is better than the US dollar. And that makes us (including me) feel good.

Another great thing about this week, we were able to put the last chunk of change down on my student loan that I first took out in 1998. If you think I was sounding too cynical about human nature in the last paragraph and that bothered you, I’ll spare you my thoughts about student loans in Canada. You’d never want to read my blog again. Let’s just say, with a bub (Aussie-talk for baby) on the way, we’re thinking hard about how we can keep our kids free from the burden of this kind of loan so early in life. I get fired up just thinking about it. Needless to say, keeping Goob out of major student loans will now be lots easier since mine are finally done with. We are very, very thankful for this.

So, like I said, the week was good. It’s been so nice to have Tim around again…It’s a good thing too. I’m getting tubby and I huff and puff when I have to exert myself in any way. So even if Tim were a terrible, terrible husband (which he is the opposite), I would still have someone that could at least pick up my slack…Like at least give me a push when I have to roll myself out of bed rather than help me up like a gentleman. Although I put up a fuss when he picks up 7 grocery bags and leaves me the 2 light ones, and that kind of stuff, it’s way nicer to have a choice in those matters (i.e. whether there is someone who can help carry things at all).

As a celebration of many things, and as a part of my birthday present, Tim bought tickets to go see a community theatre production of The Sound of Music which opened last night. He also reserved us a lovely dinner at a great little Indian restaurant. It was a good, good night. I don’t know how popular this movie was amongst my friends growing up (Tim hadn’t seen it, but he might not have necessarily been my friend growing up), but when my parents finally gave in and bought a VCR sometime in the early 90’s (so long after all of the cool kids had a VCR, I remember thinking), The Sound of Music was one of the first videos we owned. And my mom probably still religiously watches that movie along with the Anne of Green Gables series, at least once a year. So it was awesome to see it preformed live. It made me miss my family (pretty much everything does these days) because I’m sure every one of my siblings could belt out every word to every song just like I wanted to. I had to restrain myself while watching the production. It’s community theatre so Fraulein Maria was no Julie Andrews (how could you really top her anyway), and Captain Von Trapp was a little weak at times, but overall it was an amazing production. I smiled the whole time. It was a great night. Including using the bus and train to get there and back. Saturday night is a bit dodgy for characters that show up on the trains especially, so we were at the very least ‘entertained’ by a) drunk skateboarders & young punks in general who didn’t purchase train tickets but still felt at liberty to ride the train b) the train police that hunted these vandals down (on the way to the show AND on the way back…same kids) c) the older drunk patrons who by 11:00pm were looking quite rowdy and d) the young chicklets on their way to the city talking about boys and hair, etc. All in all, we felt a bit…old. Making us feel even older, was how we felt today. We got home around midnight after leaving the show, taking the train and then catching a bus which dropped us off a 15 minute walk from our place, and were in bed shortly after that. And there was no drinking at all involved in our night out (quite obviously on my part), but both Tim and I have spent the day re-cooping from…A lack of a 10 hour sleep? I’m not sure. But we both felt rotten and dead-tired the whole day. We had had to get to the market this morning at 6:30 so we did miss out on a couple of hours of sleep last night, but our laziness post-market until now was very reminiscent of having drunk one drink too many the night before. What’s becoming of us? Who really gets wiped out by going to see the Sound of Music?

Last weekend we found a little baby furniture recycling place. They buy and sell and rent good used furniture (that meets Aussie standards) with the idea that people don’t use baby furniture all that long, yet it still costs an arm and a leg, so why not pass it on slightly used and for a better price? I like their philosophy. I’m telling you baby-stuff selling has to be one of the most lucrative markets. Think about it, babies are always being born (i.e. the need for furniture, etc. will never go away), parents want “the best” for their children and “new” generally means “better” in our society (I think that new parents are especially vulnerable to this one), and gifts…how could you go wrong marketing this stuff? Either way, this place, like I said has used, but still usable stuff. Our friend Peter lent us his car for the weekend and we found a crib (and bought a new mattress for anyone out there thinking ewwwww old baby spew, etc.) and a stroller. I will say this. I never thought that I would be the type to be ogling over baby furniture, but the crib we found has ducks carved into the headboard. Ducks! I sometimes go into the nursery room just to look at it. Again, what’s happening to me? We also found out that they rent car seats for very reasonable rates and time periods based on the fact that babies outgrow car seats so fast. We still haven’t decided whether we’re going to bite the bullet and buy a car before the Goob arrives, so buying a car seat seemed like a weird purchase anyway, given we don’t actually have a car. The rental option at least gives us the ability to rent in the case that we haven’t made our minds up by September.

If I haven’t already made it clear in previous entries, we’re still working on our experiment in public transportation, i.e. we don’t own a car and don’t want to…We’re trying to be reliant on the public transit system and our feet. It’s going really well for us at the moment. The frustrations that we experience with late busses, and the amount of time it takes to get to where we need to be are quite real. But I think that they don’t hold a candle to driving in rush hour traffic twice a day, at least. Or the environmental impacts of so many folks driving cars these days. So in terms of making life easier or harder, in the beginning, I think public transport made our lives a bit harder with figuring out the system and not being able to carry big loads (like furniture), but now, it’s way easier. It forces us to manage our time well, to walk a lot more and to know where we’re going and how to get there…And we don’t pay to fill the tank, and brother, fuel costs are soaring here. At the moment they bounce around the 1.30 – 1.50/L range, with diesel costs starting at around 1.55/L. Let’s put it this way. Peter’s car is a Corolla, a pretty fuel-efficient little car. It takes over $50 to fill the tank to 1/3 right now. If that doesn’t get people looking for alternative transportation, I’m not sure what will. So the question is, what are we going to do when I’m in labour or if we have an emergency with the baby? Wait for bus or a cab to get us to the hospital? Well, maybe. But we’re thinking that one through. I still think we can get by without having to own a car. We’re considering renting one for maybe the last month of pregnancy and the one or two months following (seeing how things go). That’s the best option we’ve been able to agree upon so far. I should make it clear that it’s not the money that makes me not want a car. It’s the fact that we just shouldn’t have to have one if we’re living in the city since there is already an existing way for us to get around, and it’s crazy how many people’s lives are made that much more stressful by the fact that they have to sit in traffic for hours in a day. There’s also that the risk of injury that is represented every time you get into a car well exceeds that of getting into a bus, or getting eaten by a croc for that matter. We’ll keep you posted on how things go. And mom and dad, we’re not crazy! If we need to bite the bullet, we will. I think we just don’t want to feel like we have to do what other people are doing, necessarily (although there are lots of people using the public system here). Maybe this is not all the surprising to you. It’s been the story of my life.

So to wrap up, this week wasn’t the most adventurous one we’ve had, but I think we can say that we’re really starting to feel settled (it was the crib purchase!). Tim leaves for another 2-3 weeks up north next Sunday and I actually am not so worried about it this time. Maybe I’ll feel differently come Sunday, but I think that there’s enough going on to keep me occupied. More about that next week.

Love to all, please keep in touch.