Sunday, August 26, 2012

Finals

Faithful readers be forewarned, I am going to do a bit of bragging about the hubby in this post! If you have been reading the blog for a while, you'll know that Erik started playing footy (Australian Rules Football) around March of this year. During my interview to work as a sports trainer for the team, the coach saw Erik running a workout and asked if he'd like to give footy a try. Throughout the season, he played with the reserves, or "2's", the guys who are not quite good enough or physically fit enough to play with the "1's". The 1's, or seniors, get paid to play every week, and some of them have contracts paying them a bit more than other guys on the team.

A few weeks ago, in our last round of the regular season, Erik got the "call up" to play with the senior team. I think in a way it was a reward for showing up to training consistently (that is a problem among both teams), and also for being one of the more fit guys on the team. He can certainly run with the 1's, but his football knowledge and skills are far from perfect. However, during his senior debut, he proved that he could play at a higher level when surrounded by more sophisticated teammates. It needs to be noted, though, that this team we were playing against was the worst in the league. They lost every game, and often lost most by more than 100 points, so while Erik playing was an achievement, it wasn't exactly as if he had been asked to play in an important game.

Fast forward a week to the first round of finals (playoffs), and Erik made the roster for the 1's first finals game. There were a few injuries and a couple of players who were unavailable, and he proved himself enough in the prior week to give the coaches confidence to use him in a game that really mattered. We were the 3 seed in that game and ended up beating the 4 seed, as expected, to make it on to the next round of finals. Erik was able to contribute, and, according to the coach, may have been the sole reason that 2 goals were not scored in that game (we won by 11 points, a goal is worth 6).

Team selection is held on Thursday of every week, immediately after the training session. To be honest, I wasn't sure that Erik would make the side this week, as we had players coming back from injury and now we were the 3 seed trying to beat the 2 seed. However, he ended up making the team as player number 22 (18 players start and 4 substitutes are allowed for the entire game). Unfortunately we had a very serious injury to one of our players in the first 15 minutes of the game, requiring him to be taken to the hospital via ambulance. In addition, we had a player with a muscle strain who was not 100% and ended up not being able to play much at all. These two circumstances, along with the fact that we were playing on a rather large ground (not all footy fields are the same size), meant Erik got quite a bit of playing time, and again he was able to make an impact by tackling, shepherding (essentially blocking), and running all over the field. What is even more awesome is that we WON!! This is a team that only won 2 games last year, and now we are headed into the Grand Final game next Saturday. For Erik though, there is not a happy ending to this story. He has to fly to Perth next weekend for a work conference and will miss the chance to play in the Grand Final. Even worse, the course he has to take is about something that he is already proficient in doing, but because he has never used the equipment in Australia (mind you it is the SAME equipment as in the USA!), he has to complete this certification in order to proceed with his research. And after all, the reason we are living in Oz is because of his job... footy is just an added bonus. I, however, will be on the sidelines, and the coach has said that when we win, I will accept the medal on behalf of Erik. Pretty cool stuff.

Unlike college fight songs that are played throughout sporting events in America, the footy team's song is only sung if they end up as victors. Below is this week's rendition. The video quality is not great because for some reason blogger will not let me upload the good version from my phone. Can you understand any of the lyrics?!
video


Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Year in Oz

On Wednesday August 15th 2011, we arrived in Melbourne after the long trans-Pacific flight. We were tired, scared, nervous, excited and filled with anticipation about what life would be like in Australia. The first few weeks were spent learning to navigate our city, looking for a place to live, and wondering if we had just made a crazy decision to move to the other side of the world! Now, a year later, we can state with confidence that we are happy with the decision we made to move to Oz. However, it was not always easy, and of course there are still times when it is hard to be so far away from the majority of our family and friends. While reflecting on our year abroad, I thought about the things that I love most about living here and the things that I like the least. These are mostly my opinions, though Erik did chime in on a few.
Nighttime along the Yarra River
 I'll start with the things I don't really like about living in Melbourne:

1. The weather. Many Americans might be surprised to learn that it is not always warm in Australia, particularly in the Southeast. In addition to cooler temperatures, it rains quite a bit, and even though the rain does not usually last very long, we still have to be prepared for rain by bringing a rain jacket everywhere! As if the rain was not enough, it is often very windy here, so with the combination of rain and wind, it makes 50 degrees F feel "bloody" cold!!

2. Graffiti. There is SO much graffiti around the area where we live and it bugs me. Some of it is talented artists showcasing their work, but most of it is "tagging" and it is just plain ugly.

3. Birds. Loud birds! There are a few species of birds here that have very loud and complex calls. You'll have to visit us to enjoy these calls for yourselves. :)

4. Household appliances lack power. Tim the Tool Man Taylor would make millions over here giving "more power" to our appliances. Our vacuum cleaner struggles to actually pick debris up off the floor. Fortunately we don't have that much carpet in our house! The washing machine sounds like a rocket taking off, however, it does not actually get our clothes clean.

5. Time zone differences suck. It is difficult to chat with our families and friends because we are always somewhere between 14 and 16 hours ahead, depending on daylight savings time and which US time zone we are trying to call. However, we are thankful for Skype and FaceTime, which would not have even been options for communication ten years ago.

6. Costs. This is one that we have come around on, as we've decided that when you are making Aussie dollars things aren't really that expensive. On our visit to the States we recognized that some things are actually cheaper in Oz. However, if you want a brand name item made by the likes of Nike, Asics, North Face, etc., it will cost you twice as much or more here. Many Australians have figured this out and have started ordering online from the States to save a significant amount of money.

7. Lack of good Mexican food. We have found a few places that have good South and Central American cuisine along with a few restaurants that serve Mexican food, but we really miss the authentic Mexican food found in the USA. Also, coriander does not equal cilantro, and cilantro is nowhere to be found in Oz.

8. Bag checks. Nearly every store that you go into (Target, grocery store, etc.) will check your bag when you leave. I find this annoying because I am often stopping by these stores on my way home from work, so of course I have a backpack filled with stuff that must be searched because I have walked or biked to work and I have everything with me. I guess they have a problem with theft and perhaps this method helps with that problem.

9. The internet. It is sllllllllllllllllow. And it stops working A LOT. This happens at home and work, and while being a minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things, is annoying.

10. My employment situation. I am still struggling to find a full time job and it is frustrating that I cannot practice the profession that I am educated and certified in because it is not recognized here. I am certainly thankful that I have found some work, but ideally I would like to find a position where I can utilize all of my knowledge and skills, and I am not sure if the chances of that happening are very good.

Enough of the "whinging" (aka whining for you non-Aussies)! Here are my favorite things about living in Melbourne:

1. Owning one car and rarely driving anywhere. It is glorious to be able to walk, ride a bike, and/or take public transport nearly everywhere we need to go, including work.

2. Markets. Markets are an excellent way to get fruits, vegetables, and meats at fantastic prices. They are found all over Melbourne so you don't have to go far to find a market close to wherever you live.

3. Biking/running trails. These are found in abundance here and obviously we use them often!

4. Footy. Having never even seen footy before arriving here last year, we have grown to love this game and Erik has gotten quite good at it, actually. This season is nearly over, but next year I might have to shoot some video of him playing for you loyal blog readers. In the meantime, you can watch this video to see what happens when the footy team wins.

5. Feeling like a superstar because you have an "American accent". When the grocery store clerk tells you she "loves your accent", you cannot help but smile. Also, being called "love" by the Aussies will never get old.

6. Travel. Living on this side of the world means that we get to explore many new places. Our Christmas trip to Thailand has been our biggest and most exciting trip so far, but we also loved our trips to Sydney, Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast, and our drive along the Great Ocean Road. There will be many more trips to come, so stay tuned for reports about those!

7. Animals. We had a koala bear in our campsite. Enough said. :)

8. Cafe culture. Melbourne is known for this, and it's for good reason. Every neighborhood has several cafes that serve delicious coffee drinks (no drip coffee here, they only serve the real stuff) and unique food options. The menu often changes seasonally and sometimes even daily, and usually cafes strive to use local ingredients. Friends often meet for brunch on the weekends at cafes, and the best thing about no tipping in Australia is that you can enjoy your meal and your company for as long as you like, as there is no rush to "turn the table" like there would be in the United States. Also related to cafes, I love the fact that there only a few "chain" restaurants here in Oz, which makes going out to eat much more of an adventure.
This is how Melbourne does coffee!
9. Diversity. I mentioned that we had people from several different countries in attendance at our Cinco de Mayo party. Since then, our group of friends has become even more culturally diverse, as  people have arrived from Hong Kong and Great Britain. The school where I often teach is like a mixing bowl of different ethnic groups, and I've taught students who have come from Sri Lanka, Iraq, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe, just to name a few. I guess the fact that Melbourne was named the world's most liveable city for the second straight year helps to lure people here from all over the globe.

10. Pace of life. We live in a slower, more relaxed and laid-back environment here in Oz compared with the hustle and bustle of life in the Baltimore Metro area, at least in our chosen professions. I think that Aussies tend to be better at maintaining a work/life balance, and that is certainly something we are enjoying while living here. Also, nearly every work-related gathering seems to involve the consumption of alcoholic beverages, and usually the workplace is paying for them!

It will be interesting to see if our perspectives change at all in our second and/or third years of living in Australia. That is the beauty of keeping a blog, I suppose, so that we can reflect on how we felt a year ago and how different that feels now that we are settled into our new "home" country. Even though there are rarely comments on our blog, I know from visiting the States that we have many loyal readers, and I appreciate you joining us on our journey!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Skinny Jeans


Last night, we attended a "reverse raffle" at our local footy club. I believe there were about 250 tickets to begin with, and tickets were drawn out until there were just two remaining tickets. The winner (not either of us, unfortunately!), walked away with $2500. There were also small prizes for the first ticket and second to last ticket drawn. Purchasing a raffle ticket also entitled the buyer to food and beer/wine for the duration of the raffle event, which lasted about three hours. In addition, it's always fun to hang out with guys from the footy club in a social setting.

Obviously Australia's culture is heavily influenced by the Europeans, so I suppose that is where the skinny jean trend comes from. I feel like it's much less common in the States to see guys wearing tight jeans and pointy shoes, but here is seems to be the norm. In addition, many of the hairstyles have an "unkept" look, but they require some sort of hair product to look that way.
This is "Derm", short for Dermott. He wins the award for tightest jeans of the night. I confirmed with him that it was hard work to get into those jeans!! Thanks for posing for the picture, Derm!
A blurry close up of the skinny jeans!
Of course, not every Aussie guy wears tight jeans and has gel in his hair, and Erik certainly won't be sporting that look anytime soon, though at times his curls might benefit from some gel to "tame" the mane. One of the trends for women is to wear dresses with tights or leggings underneath, and I think I might be the only female in Australia that does not own a pair of tall black boots!

Despite the fashion choices that we may not be used to, these Aussies, and in particular this footy club, have been very welcoming to Erik and I, and we have really enjoyed being a part of the club throughout the season. Our "finals" (equivalent to playoffs in America) begin next week, and we are "in", which is exciting! In the AFL, finals are just around the corner too, so people in Australia, and particularly in Melbourne, are passionately cheering their teams on in the last few rounds with hopes that they will make it into finals.
This guy won "best on ground" in the match yesterday! :)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Olympic Coverage

Since the Olympics began just over a week ago, our telly (Aussie slang for the television) has been on nearly every moment that we have been home. TV watching had been a very rare occasion for us before last week, as I think that being without the telly for our first 6 months here, we got used to not having one. Anyway, I thought I'd write a short post about what it's like to watch the Olympics from a country that is not your "home" country.

The first thing I noticed about Olympic coverage in Oz is the lack of the famous song that always goes with the Games when they are televised by NBC. I naively assumed that song was an "Olympic" song played around the world! Secondly, we see more coverage of a few events that we don't normally see in the US - rowing, field hockey (both men's and women's but mostly men's), track cycling, and equestrian are the ones that first come to my mind. Similar to the USA broadcast, the Aussies try to make sure to cover all of their own athletes, but they seem to be a bit more likely to show athletes from other countries. They also do stories or try to get interviews with the "big time" competitors from other countries like Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt. It has actually been refreshing to hear unbiased announcers talk about the American athletes participating in the Games.
If attending food & wine pairings was an Olympic event, I could compete!
The time change has been a bit challenging, but that is obviously something that exists in the United States as well. London is 9 hours behind Australian Eastern Standard Time, so that does provide some unique opportunities to see the morning events during our evening and the evening events during our morning. Did you follow that?! For example, as I write this it is just after 8pm on Sunday night AEST, and we are watching the women's marathon that started at 11am London time Sunday morning. Tomorrow morning (our Monday), it will be Sunday night in London, so we will be able to watch the men run 100 meters at 6:50am before getting ready to head to work! Australia is very good about airing all of the events live on free television, so in theory we could stay up all night and watch the events. There is actually a big screen set up in Federation Square, in the city centre of Melbourne, airing live events from 6pm to 6am. We have also used the NBC website to see a few events, and I was actually fortunate enough to have off work two days this week during the gymnastics competition, so I got to watch the Fab Five of 2012 live! Lastly, it seems like the Aussie coverage has far fewer breaks for commercials compared to what we are used to during primetime coverage in the States. That being said, I do have a favorite commercial of the Olympic Games, which you can watch here. For some reason it makes me smile every time I see it! There is an advertisement for asthma that refers people to a website called "get your puff back". I know I have mentioned at least once how the Aussies like to use the word "puffed" when they are out of breath or tired.
Fed Square. Not a good picture, but this place will surely be packed with people when a prominent Aussie athlete is competing and also for the closing ceremonies.
While substituting last week, I had multiple students ask me which country I was cheering for in the Olympics. My usual response was "what kind of question is that?!". Of course I want the Americans to win, particularly those who I have connections with from my work as an athletic trainer. In these Olympics I have a close watch on former athletes Shalane Flanagan (marathon), Alice Schmidt (800 meters), Heather O'Reilly (women's soccer), Megan Hodge (volleyball), and Vikas Gowda (discus for India). That being said, as we watch the backstories on some of the Australian athletes competing in the games, it's hard not to cheer for them as well. :)