Monday, January 24, 2011


Hi folks,

Just a quick note to let you know that we're heading off to Tasmania shortly. We'll be there until Sunday and are pretty excited. Although it's a family vacation/work trip (we're still working on the eel project which took us to Tassie last May), we're pretty excited about going back. It'll be nice and cool where we're heading which is Hobart and due south to a little town called Southport, it'll be the closest we'll ever get to Antarctica I expect. I'll say that it really hasn't been untolerably hot in Brisbane lately, it's actually been quite beautiful weather with lots of sun and lots of cool breeze. A lovely contrast to the soggy months we've just spent here in Queensland.

Edie is excited about the prospect of bush-wees in Tassie, bush-wees being what they sound like, and have been eagerly picked up from her good friend/older kid idol Eli. The lemon grass in our back yard is a great alternative to the big-girl potty in our bathroom apparently. She's also excited about the prospect of her very own seat on the plane-ride to Tassie and back. Gone are the days of free air travel for this one, but it does come with perks, the main one being that we don't have to beg people to give up their seats so we have a little bit of room (and when they don't comply, watching Edie prove to others that she needs her own seat/will get her own seat through sheer toddler willpower (or torture, whatever you want to call it)).

We'll take lots of pictures and will be in touch on our return with lots of fun stories. Oh ya, the night we get back Tim and I are off to see Sufjan Stevens at the Tivoli here in Brisbane, super exciting! I'm sure we won't be too tired to enjoy Sufjan at a standing-only venue after a week of dealing with Edie in Tasmanian nature...Might be just the break we need despite it being a late-night for us. I'm sure it will be amazing.

Love to all

Laura, on behalf of the team.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

More Australian adventure for Team Jardine

Good evening friends,

I write from home tonight in the suburb of Mt Gravatt east, and since we live on a mt, yes, we're high and dry and safe from the crazy flooding that has hit the city over this past week. The worst of the flooding in the city of Brisbane is over now, and most people directly affected by the flooding have been able to get back to what remains of their homes to start clean-up for the lucky ones, or to say goodbye for the unlucky who have lost their homes. At this point it's probably now safe to unofficially say that the number of people who have been directly affected in these past few weeks of flooding in Queensland is either equal or greater than the number of people who have gotten by unscathed. I guess this is what happens when it rains for two and a half months straight, and yet the extent of what we experienced in Southeast Queensland was pretty unexpected. Even so, there are other parts of Queensland who have been hit repeatedly over the past few weeks, and I can't imagine the frustration which those folks muct be experiencing. But the reality is that a) Australia is a pretty volatile place and b) that this summer is predicted to be a wet one, and therefore the chance of more flooding to come is quite real. Just think: when Tim and I arrived in Feb of 2008, Brisbane was just coming out of a roughly 7 year drought with a dam capacity of barely 15% volume for the main water supply to the city, this week that same dam reached over 200% capacity. Things seem so much more at the mercy of mother nature here then what we experienced back home, it's hard to get our heads around.

So, despite reporting that we're safe and dry now, in true Team Jardine Australian adventure fashion, we got stuck in the very wrong place at the very wrong time over this past week. If you check out which of the 35 inundated suburbs in Brisbane were hit the hardest, Graceville comes up as a big one. We were on the tail-end of house-sitting for our friends in Graceville when this flooding hit. They were in Vietnam on two weeks holiday and we were at their house on two weeks holiday because their house is a) much nicer than ours and b) has a pool and a dog. The pool was kind of a bust because it rained pretty much the whole time we were there, but the dog and nice house were a big hit with all of us. As the day approached for our friends to return I was thinking that it had to be the easiest and most non-eventful house-sitting job I'd ever had. No losses of pets, no major 2-year old damage, relatively little to clean up after ourselves...

However, watching the evening news last Monday the commentators made an announcement during the middle of the show saying that anyone in the Lockyer Valley should evacuate immediately as their was a 7m wall of water heading towards the area. That was shocking, but I didn't realize how close the area was or that the water that flowed through that area would end up at the mouth of the Brisbane River eventually...Things a Canadian who is house-sitting in a low-lying flood-plain in the same catchment should know. As most have heard, the Lockyer Valley was devestated. By Tuesday morning, it was basically understood that the Brisbane river would flood, but the extent was unknown. So Tim and I decided to move a few things
that we knew were valuable to the upper floor of the house and then went on with the day. When Tim went to work the news reports and emergency warnings became more urgent, and I got freaked out, I'll admit it. By noon Tim had decided to come back to the house given that the warnings were getting worse and I was getting panicked. My worst fear was being stranded at the house without Tim trying to manage an Edie, Ella (the dog) and a very nice house that might potentially be underwater in the near future.

By Tuesday night it was pretty clear that the house that we were in would probably be flooded based on what experts were calling for and on the past history of the house, which was flooded in the devestating flood of '74. We were in touch with the house owners and were instructed to start moving things from the ground floor to the top floor, which we did with help from the neighbours. By 10:30 that night, Tim and I were in hot debate about whether to stay at the house in case flooding (which was predicted to hit our area by the next day) was minimal, or to leave in the event that it was as bad as predicted or in the event that we couldn't get back to our own home in Mt Gravatt east. We had two things working well against us: 1) that Edie was already asleep and we were not keen on getting her back up to pack our things and move at that hour and b) navigating potentially flooded roads in the dark was not up our alley either. So, whether it was smart or not, We 'collectively' decided that we would wait things out overnight and get out quickly in the morning. Between anticipation of this natural disaster and a 2-year old with crazy sleeping patterns, there was not a whole lot of sleep had that night. At 5am we were up, got our things together and packed up the dog to head to the higher ground of Mt Gravatt. Unfortunately overnight, Graceville flooded enough that most roads out of the suburb were underwater, and we couldn't find a way out where we wouldn't have to drive through water up to our headlights or higher to get back home. So with our tails between our legs and a few tears in our eyes, back to the house we went to prepare for sticking the flood out.

Thankfully the house was well stocked and had plenty of supplies in it to handle a few days of no electricity, as long as the water didn't rise above the second level we thought we'd be safe. We called our parents and broke the news that we were stranded. Not the first call we've made to our parents to break the news that we were seriously in a bad way...more like the 5th since we've arrived on this crazy island, so maybe they're getting used to it. To keep ourselves sane, we kept on working on getting ourselves prepared (moving the cars to higher ground, etc) while watching the flood-water backed up in the storm drains creep up our street. By mid-morning Fran (the homeowner) was texting us to tell us to get out of there, and the neighbors were of the same mindset. We weren't sure what to do (since we knew none of the layout of the suburb nor anyone on higher ground where we could crash, nor what one should do in a flood anyway), but when someone told us that the toilets would back up with the flooding, we decided to take their advice and find somewhere higher to crash until we could get out of the suburb. By this point we'd lost electricity as well.

So Fran texted a friend of hers in a non-flooding area a few streets over and we made our way there. This house was a hive of activity with scads of stuff being dropped off by people who had nowhere else to take their things. Someone there who recognized the signs of a horribly exhausted and ragged ex-pat family offered us a bed and Edie and I took advantage while Tim continued to help others move stuff, and to check on Fran's place as well which was just starting to flood. I should also mention that Wednesday (the day this was all happening) was the first beautiful non-rainy day that we'd had in weeks...It was eerie I tell you, not the typical picture one would have in mind when thinking of what a flooding city might look like.

When Edie and I got up from our nap, the family who owned the house we were in were eating Subway. I don't know if it's just me, I suspect not, but Subway is one of the foods I crave the most as a pregnant lady. I rarely eat it otherwise, but there is something about it when incubating a foetus that I can't pass up. So you might say that I was drooling a little bit, Tim was in the house by this point and could read my mind, so he asked where they'd gotten it (since we couldn't find a way out of the suburb that morning and no businesses in the area would have been operating at that point). The guy said that earlier in the day he'd taken a run to Forest Lake, a suburb about 35 minutes away that wasn't flooded. Also the suburb where our Canadian friend Steph lives! That did it for Tim. He insisted on taking a solo-run to see if he could get us there for the night, because the potential for electricity and no flooding was too appealing to the husband with a very pregnant wife and child with a medical condition to pass up. I balked at the idea because I really didn't want him to go alone, or leave us behind, and certainly didn't want to risk us getting ourselves into deeper problems by trying to flee a drowning suburb as a family. But Tim won out and scouted things out. He came back about an hour later and had found a dry route that would get us there. So we packed up our things for the third time that day and took off for Forest Lake, leaving Ella behind with the neighbours who'd agreed to take care of her.

We got to Stephs in time for supper, had Subway (of course) and crashed hard as a family by about 7pm. Roughly 11 hours later we awoke from our coma and felt rested for the first time in days. Fran and her family arrived home later in the morning, to a house in about 1m of water, which was much less that predicted, and an upstairs that contained all of their items from downstairs as well. All in all, they had very little damage to their house or possessions, which we're all thankful for given the extent of damages to other people within that same suburb and certainly across the state. They are still without power (it's Sunday now) and probably won't have it for another week, but they have been able to get a good start on the clean-up process. Many other people fared much, much worse, but I won't go into detail because it's readily available through the good old information highway (by the
way, if as North Americans you want a reliable source for what's happened/ is happening here in terms of flooding, check

All-in-all, it was undoubtedly the worst house-sitting job I've experienced based on our last 3 days there. Trying to figure out what is important enough to salvage when dealing with threats to your own possessions is hard enough, and I don't recommend trying to do it for someone else. On the other hand, we now have a much better idea of what to do in the event of a flood, and Edie became very very good at puddle jumping.

We're safe and sound, unscathed and tired, and wishing that we now could be more help to those who have been affected. Logistics prevent doing this in a tangible way for us at the moment, so when things settle down a bit more we'll see what we can do. Parts of Victoria are now experiencing flooding from an unrelated system, which is scary. And to be honest, most everyone knows that we probably haven't seen the worst to come yet for the summer. Our dams are still at almost 190% capacity, the ground is saturated with water and there is a lot more rain predicted to come. I think this is part of life in Australia, and most Australians have come to accept it...Not something that was brought to our attention when lured here originally.

We've got a few pictures, but ran out of batteries/became insanely busy before long to really record what was happening through pictures. I imagine that there are lots that can be found online, I haven't bothered to look at them because I saw it happening and don't really want to remember what it was like. We'll post a few in the next few days.

Through this we've been exposed to the 'best-side of Australians', and I'd agree that in a pinch like this, you won't find better mates. Again, good on ya Australia.

Signing off for the night,


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Tennis anyone?

Happy New Year all! The wet weather from late 2010 has carried on into 2011, with no let up in sight. The country north and west of us is pretty much submerged or slowly drying out, as most of you would be aware given the amount of news coverage it seems to be getting globally. Unfortunately this is just part of life in Australia, the land of drought and flood. Hopefully some good will come of it, with agricultural yields likely to be high once full recovery sets in. The recovery, however, will probably take several years. Thankfully we haven't been affected in Brisbane thus far, with the only side effects being higher fruit and vegetable prices.

Despite the rain Laura and I were able to make it out to see some top-tier tennis at the Brisbane International this week. The venue is walking distance from where we are housesitting, so we thought, why not? The first match featured former world number 1 (current world number 8) Andy Roddick. This was significant in that, for Laura, it increased the number of live performances she has seen by men who have dated Mandy Moore to two, the other of course being her trip to Portland a few years back to see Ryan Adams. Now she only needs to see Wilber Valderrama and Zach Braff to round things out.

The tennis was good (we also saw Jelena Dokic) but Steph had a rough night with Edie, who has thrown some pretty serious tantrums lately and still keeps us guessing with her sleeping habits. Otherwise she is doing well, doing lots of colouring in, splashing in the many puddles in the backyard, and playing with the Wii. Her favorite part of staying here though is hanging out with Ella, the dog. Of course, Edie's love for Ella is put to the test each morning when Ella tries to steal her vegiemite toast.

Our Tassie trip is only a couple of weeks away. This will be our last crack at a family adventure before Team Jardine expands yet again in late March and we have to hunker down for a few months. Just to make things interesting, we've bought tickets to see Sufjan Stevens the night we return to Brisbane. Sufjan is someone who was on our "go see if you get the chance regardless of your circumstances, financial or otherwise" list. So we're going for it. He's been playing mostly from his new album, which leans towards techno hip hop (as opposed to the eclectic folk of his past) so it might not suit us, but the reviews have been good and he rarely tours. We figured this might our only chance. We'll catch up with y'all in early Feb.