Sunday, March 25, 2012

Comforts of Home

Erik just returned from a ten day trip to the States, where he was able to stock us up on some of our favorite U.S. products. Obviously we've had to make the transition to using different items while living abroad, but there are just a few things from home that we tend to miss on a daily basis. We were able to purchase just about everything online and had the items shipped to Erik's brother's house in Denver, where Erik could pack them into one of his allotted checked bags. A few items that made the trip across the Pacific Ocean were the TIDE to-go pen, Kenra mousse (my hair can't live without it and it's not sold here!), Aleve (there may be a comparable option in Oz, but all of the medicines have different names), aftershave for E (costs about 4 times as much here, ha!), lint rollers (I have yet to find a brand in Oz that actually works well!), and one of my favorite all time treats as a surprise from the hubby, Junior Mints! I also provided Erik with a wish list of liquor (he was allowed to bring 2.25 liters of booze back to Oz duty-free), and I actually have to thank my father-in-law for the liquor store run that he made on the last day of Erik's trip. :)
$51 for this purchase in the States. Would have cost about $110  in Oz.
Also haven't seen whipped cream vodka anywhere here...the Aussies don't know what they are missing!
If you are wondering why I did not make the trip to the U.S. with Erik, he was over there for a conference, and I actually had to work (in ordinary circumstances I'd be disappointed about this, but the fact that I've found enjoyable, consistent work is a blessing at this point!). He spent 5 days in Little Rock and then was able to fly to Denver to enjoy a weekend of skiing with his family before leaving the U.S. of A. Unfortunately his flight from Denver to L.A. ended up getting cancelled, requiring American Airlines to re-book him on a United flight, but the flight did not arrive early enough for him to make his flight from LAX to Melbourne. However, we are SO lucky to have a wonderful friend living in L.A., and she was able to provide Erik with a day's worth of entertainment while he was stuck on the West Coast.

In addition to Erik's arrival, we also welcomed a short-term "roommate" last week... a Canadian who is also a post-doctoral fellow at Victoria University. We thought it would be nice to help him get settled in Melbourne, as our hosts did for us when we first arrived. Andrew is a super friendly guy, so it's been an easy transition to have him around. At the moment he is searching for a place to stay a bit closer to the city, all while he gets used to the Aussie lingo, public transport, and the weather. When we talk to him it actually makes us realize how many adjustments we've made since arriving, and it seems like ages ago because we have learned so much since then!

For the most part we laid low this weekend and just enjoyed each other's company. We were thinking about heading to St. Kilda to watch the inaugural Ironman Melbourne race, as we knew a few people competing, but opted to have a lazy day around the house instead. On Saturday, Erik played in his first footy game, at which he received numerous compliments about how well he played. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before, but if not, I am working part-time with a footy team this season. During my initial meeting with the coach, Erik was running a workout on the field (he had driven me to the meeting...as this was when I was terrified to drive...I've come a long way with driving on the other side of the road!). The coach noticed him and asked if he had ever played footy before. I told him about Erik's background with American football and track, which led to the coach talking to Erik about joining the team. He decided he would give it a try, attended a few practices, and actually ended up enjoying himself. The team is quite a mix of guys, but I'd guess that Erik is one of the oldest. Even though he hasn't picked up all of the skills yet, he is one of more fit guys out on the field, and I think that helps improve his level of play. Even after yesterday's game, Erik still does not know all of the rules (nor do I!), but his teammates and coaches certainly think that he has the potential to be a decent footy player judging from comments made to me about his performance. From an athletic training standpoint, footy is different because you can actually run on the field while the game is still going on. So if I see a guy limping a bit, I can jog out and ask if he's okay or if he needs to come out and get his ankle taped (or strapped, as they say!), all while play is continuing. It is an extremely physical game, therefore, there are often many injuries, so I'm thinking that I'm going to be quite busy on Saturdays throughout the footy season.

I also crashed my bike AGAIN this week. It was minor compared to my first crash, but it definitely shook me up a bit. It had recently rained and I slipped on wet tram tracks while trying to cross them on my road bike. Fortunately my knee is okay (it has literally just recovered from the first crash), and the only major damage I sustained was a vicious bruise to the shin, a bit of a hip abrasion/bruise, and some neck pain. The response of on-lookers was totally different with this crash, and Erik was with me so that helped as well. The people behind us stopped and insisted on giving me band-aids and antiseptic spray and wanted to know if they could do anything else. Another driver moved Erik's bike out of the street, as he had stopped to help me. It was a complete 180 from when drivers were driving around me lying in the intersection a few months ago! Unfortunately, the crash occurred on a road where I have to bike to get pretty much anywhere, so the crash will not be easily forgotten. Erik and I have actually tried to work on some strategies about how best to handle biking on that road, because it's not easy with the traffic, the tram tracks, and some uneven seams in the concrete. I do know that I'll be writing a letter to the council about the dangers of biking on that specific road (Erik crashed in that exact same spot a few months ago, so it's not just me!), though I'm not sure that will elicit any response. In the meantime, perhaps this time I really have learned my lesson about staying away from anything metal while riding a bike!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Autumn Arrives

March 1st was the official start of autumn in Australia. However, this past week has felt much like summer, with mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 70's and low 80's. The forecast for the next few days looks like much of the same, but towards the end of the week it appears that temps will start to fall. It's a strange thing to have the days getting shorter instead of longer in March and normally we'd be looking forward to summer right now. We don't have much room to complain though, considering we essentially got to enjoy two summers back to back in 2011! I'm not sure how much color-changing of the trees we will see, but I'm excited to find out what the fall and winter have to hold for us in our new country of residence.
Hoping for a fall season full of sunsets like this one!
This week I actually felt the stress of work for the first time in months. It wasn't completely overwhelming, but I was quite exhausted by the end of the week, and I think that going from not working at all to working so many different jobs actually caught up with me a bit. I also had a very challenging day of CRT (substitute teaching) work at a high school teaching an extremely rowdy group of 9th grade boys, which reminded me of my days teaching boy's freshman health, who were the most challenging group of students I've ever taught. I also had the opportunity to play cricket with a group of 7th grade boys, which I thoroughly enjoyed despite the fact that I was a terrible bowler (a position similar to that of a pitcher in baseball) at the beginning of class. Eventually I did improve my bowling skills and was able to hit the wicket, and the boys actually seemed quite impressed with my progress.

After a long week I was happy to catch up with a few friends this weekend. One of my former workmates is moving to Vancouver to pursue her dream of becoming an actress, and she had quite a lively going away party on Saturday night. On Sunday, I enjoyed catching up with another former coworker, as we took a stroll along the Maribyrnong River and followed that up with a delicious lunch of Columbian food in West Footscray at a charming little place called Besito. The food had terrific flavor and I will definitely be dragging Erik there to try additional items on the menu.
A delicious treat! Arequipe, a Columbian caramel sauce topped with chocolate ganache. AMAZING!
I am absolutely missing March Madness over here. Unfortunately I've only been able to watch clips of the exciting games, and it's just not the same as watching them live. It seems like there have been several huge upsets this year, and even though those games have busted my bracket, I love to see that happen (unless it's Carolina that is being upset, of course!). I'm totally bummed that I have to work tomorrow during the Carolina-Creighton game, because with the tournament on network television instead of ESPN, it is not possible to watch replays of the games. I'll be cheering on the 'Heels in spirit though and hoping that I will have several more chances to watch them in 2012!!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Moomba

This past weekend was Labour Day weekend in the state of Victoria. Yes, for the sake of this holiday, I am using the Australian spelling of "labour", but I have been reluctant to change my spelling of other words such as favourite, behaviour, and of course all of the words that substitute an "s" in place of the lovely "z" or "zed". I learned that Australia does not celebrate Labour Day on the same day, as it differs drastically between states, which I think is interesting given there are only 7 states in Oz.
A beautiful day for skiing on the Yarra River
Erik and I had been looking forward to this weekend for quite a while, not because it was a 3 day weekend (we actually just learned of the Labour Day holiday a few weeks ago), but because of the Moomba Masters Water Ski Tournament. In the water ski community, Moomba is considered one of the greatest water ski tournaments in the world. Until this weekend, Erik and I actually thought that the festival was named after Moomba boats! Turns out that the festival is much more than a water ski tournament, and there are live entertainers performing, carnival rides and games, delicious food stands, fireworks, and a parade on the last day of the festival. Moomba is Australia's largest free community festival, having been held for more than 50 years, and the word moomba actually means "let's get together and have fun".
Quite a large crowd gathered to watch slalom
Clearly there are people that could care less about the water skiing portion of the festival, but that was certainly the highlight for us and I would say that it drew a large crowd of spectators. The only water ski tournaments we've previously attended have been in Charleston, South Carolina, where a few people came to watch but it was mostly competitors cheering each other on along the shores of the lake. We actually watched Chris Parrish break the men's slalom record in Charleston circa 2005 and, despite the small crowd, it was really exciting.
Chris Parrish making slalom look ridiculously easy
No record breaking this time, but still fun to watch!
We spent pretty much all day at Moomba on Saturday, as we found a nice spot to sit on a grassy hill with a good view of the slalom course. One of the huge crowd-pleasers at Moomba is the jump, and Erik and I happen to have a friend, Natallia Berdnikava, who currently holds the world record in women's jump. Natallia and Erik worked together at Coble Ski School back in 2004 and 2005. We knew that Natallia was going to be jumping and also trick skiing at Moomba, and we made sure to watch her jump on Saturday where she recorded the best jump of all of the women and went on to win the jump competition on Monday! We also got a chance to catch up with her a bit after her jump and she mentioned how amazing Moomba was with the crowd, the setting (right in the CBD), and just the general atmosphere. The Yarra River does provide a beautiful backdrop for skiing even if the water looks gross (Natallia confirmed that it is!), though according to skiers it can be a tricky place to ski because of the changing tides of the river, something that is not a problem in a lake, where most ski tournaments are held.
Natallia getting ready to jump
Flying high in the air!
Night jump begins...
video

This past week I was called for my first casual relief teaching (substitute teaching) job. I was pretty excited because it was in a Catholic primary school (grades K-6), and I thought it would a fun day working with the little ones. "Fun" isn't exactly the word I would use to describe my day, although the students did love my accent and wanted to know if I knew Taylor Swift, since we are both from the USA. :) The school is a new concept "open" school, which I thought was great at first, until I realized that if one class was noisy or walking to a "specials" class, it was disruptive to the other nearby classes. Also, I learned that the role of a PE teacher is quite different here, at least at this school it was. Instead of the classroom teachers walking the classes to the gym, I had to pick up and drop off the students after class, and I was even responsible for taking attendance of the first class while they were still in their classroom. Furthermore, during what I thought was going to be my free period, I filled in for grade 3, teaching English and Math to the same group for almost 2 hours straight! The school seemed to emphasize freedom to move, so the students did not have desks or chairs and in PE they did not sit in spots or lines. The students could eat snacks when they pleased and many students were taking off their shoes while they were doing work! There is no bell between classes, but hip hop music plays when it's time to change subjects or go to recess. I had about 15 minutes to eat my lunch, and there is no cafeteria so I ate in the gym. Overall, it was an exhausting day! I really like some of the concepts that the school has, but at the same time I'm not sure that all of the freedom is the best idea considering when the students get into upper grades they will be expected to deal with structured classrooms and learning and won't have previous experience with that type of education.

In my last post, I mentioned that I had a meeting with a local college about teaching in their Sports Therapy program. The meeting went well, and I was offered a full course load of subjects to teach for this semester, which starts tomorrow. However, given the short notice and my previous commitments to other work, I agreed to take on 2 classes. I will be teaching First Aid, Trauma, and Emergency Support, which is right up my alley given my background in athletic training. I should have two classes of about 16 students, and each class runs for 2 hours, which should be plenty of time to discuss injuries and have the students complete hands-on practice of caring for injuries. I'm looking forward to starting this course tomorrow, though I'm not as excited about my 1 hour commute on public transport to get to the college. At least I can play my newest iPhone addiction, Draw Something, while I make my way into the city!!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Taaaaaaaar

Heeeeeeeeeeeels!

A lot of people have asked me when/how/if we watch U.S. sporting events while living abroad. The simple answer is "yes", that we are able to watch a few games here and there, but the timing of broadcasts are not always ideal since there is a 16 hour time difference between Melbourne time and Eastern Standard Time. During the Fall months (Fall in the Northern hemisphere), we were able to watch college football games on Sunday mornings, and since I wasn't working, I was able to watch NFL games on Monday mornings. All of this watching was done online, some live, and some on recorded broadcast that is available after the games are over. The free TV over here is actually pretty good, and they do show select NFL games every week, but we did not have a television for the first few months so we were doing all of our watching through the computer.

When the Winter months rolled around, we discovered that college basketball was a bit harder to watch based on the variety of game dates and times. However, we've been able to watch a few Carolina games this season, particularly the ACC match-ups. For the Tar Heel's first match up against the Dookies, I watched the heartbreaking loss live on a Monday morning since I was still unemployed. I then had to hide any emotion from Erik so that he would not know the result when he watched it after returning home from work on Monday evening. I watched the ending twice and that made the loss twice as heartbreaking! This time around, however, the game was on Saturday night at 7pm, which is 11am on Sunday for us. We actually had plans to meet some friends for brunch, so we stayed away from the internet and any type of social media until the game was over and started watching the game basically right after it ended in Durham. The beauty is that here we don't get any texts on our phones or score alerts on the television to let us know the end result. In fact, if we were to stay away from Facebook or ESPN for a few days, we still wouldn't see the result and could watch the re-recorded game a few days later. I really prefer to watch games live (I like to know that it's happening at the moment we are watching), but Erik doesn't seem to mind much. Needless to say, we were much happier about the end result of this game. The 'Heels certainly weren't flawless, but how good does it feel to get a win over Dook on Senior Night at Cameron Indoor Stadium in front of students who have been sleeping in tents for 7 weeks to see that game?!

We've had a nice week/weekend despite the rain that fell pretty much all day yesterday and several days during the week. I worked several different jobs once again and I have to say that I'm enjoying life SO much more now that I have a purpose! This week I have a meeting with a local college that has a Sports Therapy program, which is the closest thing I've seen to an Athletic Training Education Program that exists in Oz. I've expressed an interest in sessional teaching and the director was keen (yes, this is a commonly used word in the Aussie language...and it is the first word that came to my mind when writing...scary!) to meet with me right away, so I am looking forward to hearing what he has to say. We met up with one of Erik's colleagues and his family (wife and 2 young sons) yesterday. They are from Israel and arrived in Melbourne around the same time as we did, so it was nice to share stories and thoughts about the transition, though I give WAY more props to them because they made the move with 2 kids! Our brunch today was at Fruits of Passion in Kensington, which is on a tree-lined street of shops in a town just a few miles from where we live. We rode our bikes there and I'd say that it won't be the last time we head to brunch in that area.
Enjoying the Sunday sunshine!