Saturday, August 30, 2008

It’s good to have friends

*Warning* – this post contains what some might refer to as “sentimental tacky crap” (to quote Jack Black from our favourite movie “High Fidelity”).

When we made the decision to move to Australia, we realized that we would be leaving behind plenty of good people, both family and friends. Laura and I have been surrounded by fun, caring groups of individuals since we were young. These groups ranged from sports teams to co-workers, childhood friends to university friends, and fellow EWBers to soup kitchen volunteers, just to name a few.

As the time of our leaving drew closer, both Laura and I got very emotional. She was able to link it to her pregnancy hormones, I had no excuse. We would lie awake and wonder if we were making the right decision. Just before Christmas CBC Radio was running a Charity drive and when they joyously announced the final tally – something like $60,000 – I found myself leaking fluid around the eyes. We were a collective mess, and the wonderful going-away parties and well-wishes we were given only served to heighten the emotions. I never fully expressed how much that meant to us, even though there were plenty of opportunities.

And then we left. We made the journey from there to here. Life was such a whirlwind for six months that the time for reflection was limited and our feelings of sadness slowly passed. Just read our old posts and you’ll see how that comes across. It was a roller coaster ride but we slowly established a routine. So we’re good now. It’s only been in the last week or so that things have really slowed down, as we watch the minutes tick by waiting for the Goob to arrive, that my thoughts have returned to the importance of friends in our lives.

The friends that we’ve made here are an eclectic mix to say the least. Perhaps not surprisingly, we have more friends here who are foreigners than those who are Aussies. I guess there’s something about having no roots that forces you to find others who are in the same boat. Our friends here hail from all corners of the globe. Probably the people we spend the most time with are a couple who arrived around the same time as us – Lisa from New Zealand and Mike from the Netherlands – and their three kids Brennan, Gemma and Kaine. We’ve leaned on them considerably for company and moving furniture (and vice versa). That’s not to say the locals have totally ignored us. We’ve been completely embraced by the crowd at the Salvation Army and the 29 so-called “surrogate grannies” in the Women’s Home League there. They’ve thrown a baby shower for Laura and the folks at Sunday services have made us welcome since day 1 (hence our willingness to participate in the talent show Laura spoke about last week). People at work have also been excellent. Though we don’t tend to hang out with them due to mutually busy schedules, there have been numerous offers of help should we need it over the next few weeks. And it doesn’t end there. We’ve been given a car to drive from our friend Peter (a Canadian from Surrey, B.C., who is proud of his “Surrey-ness”), baby gear from our next door neighbours Derek and Nikki (from England), and just yesterday lettuce from Marcia across the street, a true-blue Aussie who has a daughter-in-law and grand-daughter that lived in Fredericton a few years back.

So with all this kindness shown to us as we navigate our way through parental planning in a strange land, my advice to you is this. If you’ve lived in your community for a long time and feel comfortable there (as though it is home), take the time to befriend someone from overseas who might not quite fit in as well as you do. Offer them something that seems trivial to you (like lettuce!) You might just well make a difference in their lives. It certainly has for us. Also, it’s time I said it. If you are still reading this blog six months after we started it, obviously you are a friend; know that you are important to us and we think of you often. Despite the fact that I am an introvert and usually prefer a quiet night at home with a good book to the company of others, it’s hard for me to imagine living a life in isolation from family and friends. That’s why this move in unlikely to be permanent, unless of course we can convince you all to move here.

Ps - The next post you see will most certainly be post-baby (the due date is Tuesday), so keep an eye out for news and pics.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Teenage Pregnancy, 'Roo Kebabs, High-Class State Fairs and the Olympics

Howdy Doo?

Hey Everyone. Apologies for my tardiness. Again, the delay is not due to Goob entering our terrestrial realm, more just a busy schedule and a need for frequent naps, and not being able to sit down for too long lest my feet become pin-cushions. I think that aside from the 30 lb bump that I’ve been carrying around the middle, and my bellybutton (that Tim tells me resembles the end of a hotdog), my feet are the most unrecognizable part of me these days. They’re so wide and flat and generally manly looking. I tried to paint the toenails so that they looked less like my dad’s feet, but I could only reach one, and that was only for a short time. I can’t see them for the most part, so it’s not so bad I guess. I just hope they go back to normal once this is all overwith, along with the rest of me.

So, it’s been a busy couple of weeks. Lots of really unexpected fun came our way. I’ll try to relay it all as best I can, but my memory is some fuzzy these days.

To start off, Tim and I were in a talent show. Wha-what? Yes. You read correctly. A background: I don’t know how many would remember that Tim and I have been going to a Salvation Army church that we checked out when we first got here. It’s been fun. They’re a pretty geriatric group, but they have a lot of heart and generally are amazing people. As an example, we’ve got a 68 year old friend with 2 artificial hips that will be biking across Australia soon to fundraise for programs. He loves to bike and loves to help people (a seriously genuine love of people & biking), so he’s attempting a 4,075km ride from Perth to Sydney…He’s planning on doing it in 26 days (with 5 of those being rest days). He’s a piece of work that one. He reminds me of my dad a lot. Always with a smile on ready to be friendly to anyone. Anyhow, that was a big aside. The talent show. Because people are so genuinely nice and good, it’s difficult to say no to them. So when someone came up with the idea of a mens vs. ladies talent show, Tim and I got roped in when we were asked to participate. I still think I got roped in further, but Tim had to sing (albeit in a group), which is a pretty huge for him. I ended up having to act in a skit written by an old lady who asked me to take on this role 2 nights before the show. The idea was clever, but I’ll say that the execution left a bit to be desired in the world of acting. First of all, I was supposed to be a teenage daughter…I don’t know if they noticed how ironic it was that I was in a church play acting the role of a teenager while being 36 weeks pregnant. I ended up cracking up about halfway through…Lost it. The main character was the lady who’d written the skit and she was just so serious about it all, serious while being dressed up in a hideous purple dress and with a ratty wig bobbing around throwing out misplaced lines everywhere…Anyway, I think entertainment was what won us points on that one, it was actually pretty fun. The women beat the men and I slept in until 2:30 the next day. I get wiped out by everything these days. In retrospect, we both had fun despite being pushed well outside of our respective comfort zones.

Secondly, we had our 2nd Canadian visitor this past week, Kelly Munkittrick was visiting Australia for the SETAC conference in Sydney. He came up to Brisbane the week following to meet with researchers at the Australian Rivers Institute and give a lecture here at Griffith University. He’s on Tim’s committee and is someone we knew from Canada, so we were excited to meet up with him while he was here. We picked him up on Saturday morning and headed to the West End of the city for breakfast (hippy central but amazing variety of excellent food). I got to revisit my old quest for finding the best eggs benny on the planet which I’d given up on long ago when I considered how my arteries might be feeling about my love for hollandaise sauce. Either way, the eggs benny dish that I had on Saturday morning was a little higher than middle of the pack I’d say. Kelly and Tim both opted for the international flavored breakfasts, Tim with the Canadian (your standard greasy spoon breakfast with the addition of a side of maple syrup) and Kelly with the Australian (your typical greasy spoon breakfast with the addition of a stewed tomato)??? Once we were finished up, we took Kelly for a tour of the city…mostly due to the lack of directions that we had for getting back to our place. Kelly got the first-hand experience of what it’s like to drive with Tim and I when I have to navigate. I hate navigating. I always get frustrated and Tim keeps driving which makes me more frustrated. And you might say that I’m easily frustrated these days. But we did see a lot of the city. We took Kelly up to the top of Mount Gravatt (for which our suburb is named after) and were surprised to see a skywriter spelling out the words “Sorry Ranga” across a clear blue sky. We half expected to see a write-up in the paper about it, given the quality of the local rag, but haven’t seen anything yet. It’s more fun to think about what it could have meant anyway or what the writer was sorry for (or the person paying the skywriter). We were hoping that the message would be a little more general so that Kelly might think that we had done it for him. But ‘Ranga’ threw everything off.

Kelly was back at our place on Monday night for some ‘Roo kebabs that we’d promised him. It was a fun night. Perhaps there aren’t that many people reading this that know Kelly but my landa, he’s some kind of story teller. He and Tim got into the sauce a bit and the stories were rolling…I can’t remember having laughed as hard as I did that night in a very, very long time…Well, the talent show was a laugh as well, but not the same kind. We realized after Kelly left our house that night that he had no idea where to tell the cab to go to get back to his place and the cab drivers here are awfully good at not knowing where anything is in this city and charging crazy amounts to get you there…So we hope that he got back safe and sound. He was supposed to be heading to Melbourne the next day, we haven’t heard otherwise so hopefully everything went smoothly. Otherwise, we’re most likely going to be a part of the next hilarious story that he’s telling others some crazy night.

The third fun thing that we got ourselves into this past week was an eye opening trip to the horse races. So, I’ll set the scene a bit. Every year in Brisbane there is a state fair called the Ekka (short for Exhibition, of course), it lasts about a week and a half and there is a state holiday in the middle of the last week that it’s in town so that everyone will go out to it. Apparently everyone and their dog go to the Ekka on this day, but Tim and I both grew up in rural towns where the novelty of the state fair is rather lost on us. So for the public holiday I must say that I was looking forward to resting. However, some of Tim’s colleagues at work thought that it would be fun to attend the horse races that day, which were a part of the Ekka, and invited us along. We’re usually pretty good at saying no to that kind of stuff if we don’t want to go (which I didn’t…Let’s just say that even putting real clothes on these days is a task and a half), but Tim thought that it would be a good experience. So, that morning I reluctantly threw on some jeans and a sweater, Tim threw on some nicer clothes and we both laughed off the fact that the people that we’d be meeting up with at the races were wearing crazy Kentucky Derby hats. We innocently thought that they’d be the outliers in the crowd. It was a state fair, not a real high society event, right? Wrong! Our first clue should have been the bus ride to the racetrack. Tim and I were some of the first people on the bus which eventually came to contain the most fashionable young people on the planet. We’re talking prom dresses and suits. And not just some people, ALL OF THEM. Eye candy galore on both sides. At first it was quite entertaining, I guess that was probably because I thought that there definitely were other people dressed like us, but as we got closer to the raceway, there were just more and more and more very well-dressed people, everywhere. We kept asking ourselves where all these fashionable people came from, and what did they look like normally. Seriously. Fake tans, fake nails, fake hair, low-cut dresses, pinstriped suits, diamond pinkies, diamond earrings, stilettos…As we got our tickets and went inside, it was madness. So I know and admit that I exaggerate sometimes. But there was not ONE person I saw there that wasn’t dressed up to the pinnacle of fashion (minus myself, and less-so Tim), and we were in a crowd of 30,000 people (at a state fair???). It turns out that this event would be the equivalent of attending a prom if you were in high school or perhaps a high-class wedding if you were beyond the high school stage…Or maybe a classy ball. This crowd was a 20-something crowd and they were beautiful…and messy. And they just got messier as the day went on. So where there were 29,998 beautiful people dressed to the nines when we got there, when we left let’s just say the beautiful part was wearing off, as it usually does when you mix beauty with copious amounts of alcohol. I might have even started to recognize certain people that I knew just because the heels were off, the suit shirts untucked, the high hair and hats having lost their positions upon the heads of girls who’s heaps of makeup was also wearing off by mid-afternoon. And most were more than tippy. It really was like leaving a party at night and realizing that while most people came looking great, the act could only be carried on for so long…but we were leaving this “party” in the middle of the day where you could actually witness the melt-down. Yikes. It was very surreal. We never did find our friends who invited us there, and for the most part we were uncomfortable (large crowds + materialism + general crudeness and boisterous behaviour is not generally our bag), but it was interesting. And the horse racing part was great. This was no Fredericton Raceway and it wasn’t harness racing. It was full on jockey on horse riding. Really fun to watch. I’ve never been sure why this was the case, but my mom gets a little weepy whenever she sees marching bands and horses. Sadly I found myself getting a little teary myself when watching the horses race by. What’s with that? How could that possibly be genetic? I just made sure that I occupied my time by snapping pictures so that I could concentrate on something other than the fact that I felt like I was going to cry whenever looking at the beautiful horses. So weird.

All in all, I’m not sure that we’d do the races during Ekka again (I’m actually quite sure of that), but it was a day we won’t soon forget…I still can’t get my head around how such an event takes place a)during the day and b)at a state fair. Fun times in Australia.

Finally, I have to mention the Olympics. Tim and I have had a long-standing disagreement as to whether it’s better to be on a winning team or on a team that tries hard but isn’t at the top of the pack. He’s all about being on the winning team, while I believe that being on a not-as-good team is better for character development, which I think is more important than winning. My argument breaks down here as the Olympics are incredibly amazing to watch when Australians are ripping world records apart and are just racking up the medals. We don’t hear much about Canada, but Canada never really does that well on the Olympic scene. I feel like a heel saying that, somehow less Canadian, but it was just not as fun to watch when your country chokes at sporting events so often. In the book “A Land Down Under” by Bill Bryson, he talks a bit about how Australia has to be the most athletic continent on the planet. Given that the population is rather small compared to many other countries, on a world scale, they rip other countries apart in terms of the success of their athletes. Just think about how many people live in China (1,321,851,888 est. July 2007) or the US (301,139,947 est. July 2007) compared to Australia (20,434,176 est. July 2007) and the fact that Australia ranks 6th on the planet in the medal rankings for the Beijing Olympics right now. I think that Mr. Bryson links it up to Australia’s criminal history…I think it’s a cultural thing. It’s sunny all year round here and generally people like to be outside for the entire year & lots of people have lots of $. In Canada we’re just not that lucky. Maybe that’s why the Winter Olympics tend to be more successful for the Canadians.

I still root for Canada whenever I get the chance, but it is pretty amazing to watch an Olympic event and see your country smash the competition. And not only country, but state, city and suburb. Here’s a fact for you, 9 of Australia’s Olympic athletes are from Brisbane this year. And historically, and up until now, 20 Olympic athletes have come from Griffith University. It’s nuts! In the Brisbane Times yesterday it was reported:

“If Queensland was a country, it would have been sitting sixth on the Olympic medal tally as of 6pm last night…The rest of Australia would be in 23rd spot”…Of course, later on it mentions that if Michael Phelps were a country he’d be in 7th spot right now.

Interesting stuff, this whole move to Australia.

In other news, Tim got buzzed by angry territorial bird yesterday while walking down the street. He wasn’t sure what kind it was but brother, it was mad. When it first dove at Tim he was able to duck away, but when he turned around to look back thinking that he was in the clear, he got another dive bomb that he had to dodge. I wish I had been there to see it. From a distance of course.

That’s all for this week. In general, I’d like it if we had some baby news for you for next week. We’ve got 3 more weeks to go technically, but I’m kind of tired of being pregnant. I suppose I won’t be any less tired after the Goob is born, but maybe it’ll be easier to get around. Here’s hoping. And I simply can’t wait until I can wear pants that don’t have an elastic waist (or jeans that I can button once again). And fitting my feet into normal sized shoes will also be nice. And meeting our wee one will be the best part. Not having a little bum stretching my belly to the max from the inside will also be refreshing.

Love to everyone, keep in touch. Laura