Sunday, May 27, 2012

Saturday Routine

Local footy season is now into Round 7, so for the last 7 Saturdays, with the exception of the one that we were in Brisbane, Erik and I have been spending most of the day watching and/or playing footy. As I mentioned at the beginning of the season, Erik plays for the "2's", or reserves, which is the first "adult" game played on Saturday. There is an under 18's game that is played before the 2's game, which I will have the pleasure of working in a few weeks when the "head" sports trainer is away on vacation. His game starts at noon and he has to be there by about 10:45am. I need to be there about 11:45am, but since we only have one car, if the game is away, I go a bit early with Erik and bring things to do for an hour before I start working. The home field is about a 20 minute bike ride for E, so for home matches he rides his bike and lets me have the car.

I work as the sports trainer for the first half of Erik's game while the head sports trainer takes a lunch break, since she has been there working since about 8:30am. Around half time, I go into the locker room to help her get the 1's ready. This involves mostly taping and massage. The Aussies love their massage. In the States we would typically use a heat pack, stretching, and perhaps a warm up on the bike to loosen up muscles, but here it's all about massage. It is something that has been hard to get used to, especially because some of the players think massage is a "cure" for injuries, while what they really need to be doing is stretching and rehab on a regular basis. As I've gradually gained more respect with the club, I have been making the guys aware of these things and a few are starting to listen, I think.

Around 2pm, Erik's game finishes and the 1's warm up for a few minutes before their game begins at 2:15. The game lasts about 2.5 hours (4 - 25 minute quarters with breaks at quarter time and half time), and during the game I'm often running on the field for injuries or taking care of players on the sidelines. One thing that has been extremely difficult for me to get used to is that sports trainers are able to run on the field while the game is being played. The second a player goes down, someone is yelling for the "trainers" to get on the field. Yes, sometimes those athletes are legitimately hurt and need to be carried off of the field, but often they just need a minute to "walk it off". I've spent a lot of my career "learning" to determine whether or not I need to go on the field for athletes when they go down, and now I am told to run out immediately, regardless of how bad the injury is. I do think it's a bit overkill and I tend to gingerly run out to an athlete who I think is going to be okay, while most of the sports trainers in our league are sprinting out to those athletes right away.

After the game I help players with ice and give advice to injured players about what they should do during the week. Every week we always have several injuries, and every week I tend to be shocked at just how many people get hurt. I can count SO many games that I've worked as an athletic trainer in the States when no one got hurt. In 7 rounds of footy, there have been multiple injuries in every game! Two weeks ago we had 2 shoulder subluxations and one dislocation, a high ankle sprain, a hamstring strain, and a hip pointer, along with a few other "minor" injuries. This week it was an eyelid laceration, an AC joint sprain, and a severe quad contusion. The number of injuries actually plays a huge role in footy because you only start the game with 4 substitutes, so if 2 are out due to injury, you are left with only 2 subs for the rest of the game. We have had several games this season where 4 players were injured, leaving us with no substitutes. Needless to say, that causes the guys to get "puffed"!

Erik usually stays to watch the 1's game, and after the game, players from both teams are encouraged to stick around the clubhouse to drink beer, eat food, and watch MORE footy on the telly (Aussie-speak for television). The coach gives out awards to the best player from each team (the best player from the opposing team gets a 6 pack of beer!), and sometimes there is free food for players and staff. Even after away games, guys will go back to the home clubhouse to hang out and have a beer. It's a good time to get to know the players, and I certainly am enjoying the friendships that Erik and I are forming due to being part of the footy club. One of those players was nice enough to offer to take pictures of Erik when he noticed that I had brought our camera, knowing that it was hard for me to try to "work" and photograph the hubby at the same time.
The black electrical tape on E's arm is in memory of 2 people close to the team who passed away this week. This seems to be done in all levels of footy. Before the game, each player does this, and sadly we seem to be doing it nearly every week this season!
Benefit of your wife being a sports trainer - she brings you her water bottle to drink out of at quarter time!
Erik getting a "mark", or a catch. "Marks" are a statistic kept throughout the game.
Using those tailback skills to dodge the opposing team.
Kicking the footy, a skill that has been hard for Erik to learn (the footy is shaped differently than an American football and is meant to be kicked end over end - not in a spiral), but one that he has really improved upon, according to his coaches and teammates. 
Erik in a "contest" for the ball. I know E hates wearing the mouth-guard and a lot of guys do not wear them, but I strongly encourage him to so and fortunately he obliges.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Casual Relief Teaching

At the moment, I'm still working several different jobs and I'm enjoying the variety that they have to offer. Presently, I am available for casual relief teaching (Aussie-speak for substitute teaching) 3 days a week. I have made myself available for primary (basically kindergarten through 6th grade) and secondary (7th through 12 grade) schools, and I'm more likely to work as a CRT (the common abbreviation for casual relief teachers) in Physical Education, because that is the subject area for my teaching degree.

One thing about CRT work that is hard to get used to is that it's incredibly unpredictable. One week I might get called all 3 days and the next week just 1 day. The way substitutes are organized here is very different from when I have worked as a substitute in the States. I started subbing over my first winter break of college, so December of 1997, for Carroll County Public Schools. Over the course of college I spent many days as a sub in CCPS and also in Wicomico County Public Schools. Their systems for finding subs were telephone-based, so a teacher would call out and then the system would start calling potential relief teachers until someone accepted the job. These calls might occur the night before or early in the morning (probably by 7am at the latest) on the day of absence. I would imagine that in 2012 they have probably gone to an internet-based system but I cannot confirm that for sure. Here in Oz, there is NO telephone system and NO internet's just done by people in an office who get calls from the daily managers at schools around 7am and then start calling substitutes for the day. So usually I do not get calls about working until 7:30am and sometimes as late as 7:45, when the school needs you to be there at 8:15 or 8:30. The point is, that I have to get up and "get ready" to go to work, when I might not even get called to go to work!! I did explain these telephone systems to 2 different CRT agencies (the school systems don't find substitutes...they hire agencies to do so), and they seemed amazed that such a system could exist (which I find amusing because the telephone system was operating in the 1990's!). The agencies did mention that they like their system because it helps them build relationships with the schools and the CRT teachers by communicating via the phone, but usually when I get a call they talk to me for 2 minutes and then call the next CRT teacher.

Physical education teachers might be the only ones that understand the next quirky thing about Aussie schools, but perhaps elementary school teachers reading this might decide to come to teach here because of it! When teaching PE in elementary school in the States, the grade level teachers walk their class to PE and then pick them up at the end of class. Here, the PE teacher does both! In addition, the PE teacher might be required to take morning attendance in the classroom or to take the students back to the classroom at the end of the day to help them pack up their things. I had to do that with kindergartners last week and it was nearly impossible to get twenty-some 5 year old kids packed up with ALL of their belongings in the 15 minutes of time that I had allotted for "end of the day" activities!

Last week was my first experience with kindergartners (technically they are called "grade prep" here..."kinder" is like pre-K and is not associated with schools), and I had 3 separate classes for an hour each in PE. I think an hour is a really long time to have that age group in PE, so I tried to mix it up and played many different games with them. It was a fun change from my typical subbing of high school students, because it's always nice when you tell kids to go run and touch a wall and they get excited like it's the best thing they've done all day. :) After running around for a while, these 5 year olds are yelling "I'm puffed" and "I'm gassed", as apparently those are Aussie words used to describe "out of breath" or "exhausted", ha! I also had a student take a tissue out of his pocket to tell me that he "bless you'ed" and his mum (they don't use "mom" here) had given him a tissue for when he bless you'ed, so I promptly told him to put it in the "rubbish bin" (saying "trash can" might have confused the kid!).

In the high school setting the students are generally very curious about where I'm from and why I'm here. Most don't really make an effort to learn my name and they just call me "Miss", but I have noticed that some of the students call their regular teachers "Miss" as well, so I think that might be a common occurrence here. At the high school level I'm often getting stuck with year 9 maths (not sure why they add an "s" to math, but they do!), which is often quite challenging. I have been lucky to get a few groups of 12th graders and I have really enjoyed working with the older students.

Two other random observations from both schools are that: Lachlan is a ridiculously common Aussie name, and I kind of like it. Some of the boys abbreviate it to "Lachy" or "Lachie" though and I'm not a fan of those names. Also, teacher's mailboxes are called "pigeon holes". I have absolutely no idea why we just don't call them mailboxes. The only thing I can think of is that mail here is called "post", so maybe postboxes would be weird?! I just know that the first time another teacher told me to leave notes for the teacher I was covering in their "pigeon hole", I was a bit confused. :)
Sunrise from our bedroom "balcony" one morning last week

Monday, May 14, 2012

Cinco de Mayo

Back in the States, it had become a tradition to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Erik's University of Maryland classmates. We wanted to continue the tradition here, even though we are a long way from Mexico and it is not a commonly celebrated occasion in Oz. The date snuck up on us and we didn't realize that it was so close until we were getting ready to leave for Brisbane. At that point we tried to get something organized and fortunately many people were still available on the date of the party, which actually fell on the 5th of May! :)

When deciding on the menu, I knew that beergaritas were a must-have for this event, but what I didn't think about was the fact that I cannot just walk into a store and buy limeade concentrate, which is a necessary ingredient for the beergaritas! Fortunately, I found a few recipes online and I was able to make homemade limeade concentrate, which the guests suspected led to the deliciousness of the beergaritas (though I've had them with the canned stuff and I still think those are delicious, too)! We were able to use proper American enchilada sauce, thanks to a shipment made by my good friend Mo late last year. We were saving the sauce for a special occasion and this proved to be the perfect time to use it. Next year, we'll tackle homemade enchilada sauce.

It was a true multicultural event at our house, including guests from our current home country along with friends from New Zealand, Canada, Spain, and Italy! A good time was had by all and I'm confident that our group will grow even larger (and perhaps even more diverse?!) by the time Cinco de Mayo rolls around in 2013.
Enchiladas, anyone?!

Sunshine Coast

I sat down to write the second post about our trip soon after we returned home, but got sidetracked by several other things. We got back to Melbourne midweek and started planning for our Cinco de Mayo party while getting back into the swing of things at work (I am being called in to substitute on a more consistent basis now, which is great), and I let the blog post slide to the end of my list of things to do. Hopefully I can remember all of the best parts of our trip without leaving anything significant out!

Since we were in Brisbane for a wedding, I thought we should take a few days and explore some other areas of Queensland that were within a few hours drive. From Brisbane, you can go south and explore the Gold Coast or you can go north to check out the Sunshine Coast. Most Aussies that I had spoken to recommended the Sunshine Coast, and when Erik visited Oz about 10 years ago he remembered not being super impressed with the Gold Coast, so that made our decision about which direction to go pretty easy.

On Sunday morning after the wedding, we head north out of Brisbane towards Noosa. I had been told that we had to stop at Glass House Mountains National Park. These "mountains" are actually extinct volcanoes that most likely formed about 27 million years ago! The park is obvious to spot once you get close, because the peaks of these mountains stand out among the remainder of the land, which is relatively flat. To get to the Glass House Mountains we drove on Steve Irwin Way, which would have taken us all of the way to the famous zoo if we had chosen to visit it. However, given our recent experience with kangaroos and koalas, I didn't feel a visit to the zoo was necessary! The drive down Steve Irwin Way was reminiscent of being in Northern Minnesota. The two lane road is lined with thousands of pine trees on either side. However, once we got closer to the mountains, we noticed landscape and flora that was very similar to that of Hawaii.
From the lookout on Mount Tibrogargan. Mount Beerwah to the left and Mount  Coonowrin on the right.
We did a short hike of Mount Tibrogargan but did not hike up that mountain. Apparently it's a really popular place for rock climbing and we actually heard a few climbers while we were strolling around the base of the mountain.
This is where we spotted the climbers. Obviously they are too small to see in this picture.

Crazy looking fern!

After our short hike, we drove to the lookout point of the Glass House Mountains for a different view. The picture below is probably all that many people see of the National Park, as it has easy driving access and signage from the road.

At this point it was getting late in the day but we still wanted to do a bit more hiking, so we headed to the base of Mount Ngungun. This hike was quite steep and rocky in a few places, but the reward at the top was worth the work.
Can you spot Erik in this picture?

Did I mention it was humid in Queensland?! I actually enjoyed it, as it is relatively dry and cool in Melbourne this time of year and it was a nice change to have some warmth and humidity. After the hike we hit the road again on our way to Noosa, arriving after dark and after a mix up about which condo we were renting. Once we got settled, Erik grilled dinner and we enjoyed the most delicious roadside pineapple I've ever tasted. In the morning we walked down to the main beach in Noosa and spent some time relaxing on the beach and laying in the sunshine.

The unique thing about Noosa is that it's a beach town right next to a National Park. It also has waterways that run through the town, making for a very picturesque place (given the nice warm weather and the beautiful beach, I was harassing Erik about why he did not get a job on the Sunshine Coast!). It is "famous" for the triathlon festival that is held there every November, as it seems to be one of the most popular triathlons in Australia. After some beach time, we headed off for a walk along the Coastal Track in Noosa National Park. This hike reminded me a bit of the Bondi to Coogee cliff walk we did in Sydney.

Watching the surfers in Tea Tree Bay. Huge numbers of surfers here, even in the middle of the day.
These characters are everywhere you turn, similar to the roosters on Kauai
Sadly, the sun is setting on our last night in Noosa.

That evening we grilled our dinner again and then headed into the town of Noosaville for dessert. It was really quiet with not much open, but we stumbled upon a place called Amo Gelato. The guy behind the counter was incredibly friendly and he didn't have much other business, so we proceeded to taste just about every flavor of gelato they had available! Everything was made from local. real ingredients and the taste was evident of that. The almond and praline flavor was our favorite, and we also tried tiramisu, rocher (made from Ferrero Rocher chocolates), and chili chocolate.

In the morning we headed back towards Brisbane along the Sunshine Highway, which runs right next to the ocean and provides beautiful views. We stopped at Mount Coolum, which I had been looking forward to hiking the top of, but instead found this:

Unfortunately the trail was closed for work (even though we did not see or hear any work taking place...this also happened to us when hiking in the Dandenongs), so we'll have to return one day to check out the views from the top of Mount Coolum. At that point we decided to hit the beach in Mooloolaba, another town along the Sunshine Coast.

We were able to soak up some sun before the rain came in and ended our afternoon a bit early. Fortunately, that worked out well because we were able to meet Dave and Jaylene, the bride and groom from the wedding in Brisbane, and their charming son Zane, out for an early dinner. We ate delicious burgers at a place along the river in the CBD, and it was great to be able to spend some time with the newlyweds before boarding our plane to head back to Melbourne. So long, Sunshine Coast, hope to see you again soon!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


In 2004, I went on a trip to Europe with a tour company called Contiki. On that trip, I saw beautiful sites and also formed friendships with several amazing people. In 2007, two of those people, Joe and Dave, were able to make it alllllllllll the way to the US of A from Australia to watch Erik and I get married. This past weekend, I only had to fly two hours to partake in the wedding celebrations of one of my greatest tourmates, Dave. Dave is affectionately known as "Super Dave" due to a trash bag party, a phone booth, and a pair of Superman underwear.
Antibes, France. May 2004. Trash Bag Party.
Erik and I arrived in Brisbane, also affectionately known as "Brissie" and/or "BrisVegas", late Friday evening and were met at the airport by Dave, Joe, and another great tourmate, Pete. One of the lovely things about traveling interstate in Oz is that security is minimal. They were able to just go through security to wait for us at the gate. No boarding pass necessary. No need to show ID several times. No taking off shoes or jackets before going through metal detectors. It's fantastic! Once organized, we headed to a pub for a few beers and enjoyed catching up that evening.
Dave, Joe, me, Pete, and Erik's finger. :)
Unfortunately it was raining on Friday night and it continued to rain all day Saturday and into Saturday night. Because of the weather, Erik and I didn't get the chance to do much exploring of Brisbane, though we did make a trek in the rain down to the waterfront. Much like in Sydney, but on a smaller scale, there is a ferry service that runs up and down the river that many people use for commuting purposes. The waterfront was flooded about a year ago and it appears to have made an amazing recovery in a short period of time. 
Erik getting soaked so that I could get a picture of the Story Bridge
Our hotel, the Novotel, was right in the CBD and was in an outstanding location for the weekend. It's not often that Erik and I splurge for a nice hotel, but I found a package that included the all you can eat breakfast buffet. We also got upgraded, I think, to a "premier floor", which had really nice amenities. I wish I had pictures of the brekkie (Aussie slang for breakfast) to share with you, because my mouth is watering just thinking about all of the delicious food. The hotel gym was really nice as well, complete with a squat rack and a hip sled, two pieces of equipment that are a rare find in hotel gyms.

The wedding was at The Brisbane Club, a beautiful venue in the CBD. The ceremony was on one floor, the cocktail hour on another floor, and the reception on yet another floor. The food was delicious, the DJ was great (lots of classic American wedding songs were heard), and Erik and I even got a shout out in the father of the groom's speech! Overall it was an absolutely amazing night and I was so happy to have the chance to be a part of it.
Contiki friends reunited! Dave, Smash, Jemal (aka Marley), Joe, and Pete
With the beautiful bride and handsome groom!
My handsome husband of almost 5 years!
On Sunday morning, Erik and I hit the road towards the Sunshine Coast, which I'll blog about next. We came back into Brisbane on Tuesday night to meet the newlyweds for dinner, and we were able to see the waterfront in a bit more of it's glory since it was not raining! Unfortunately, I forgot my camera. The newly married couple was also kind enough to take us to the airport for our trip back to non-tropical Melbourne. We had a great stay in Brisbane surrounded by wonderful people and surely this will not be our last trip to the state of Queensland.
Not my picture, but wanted to add a shot of non-rainy Brissie!