Sunday, August 25, 2013

What's in a Name?

When I was writing the post about our 2 year anniversary Down Under, I realized I have never really explained how this blog got it's name. Erik and I met in graduate school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, home of the Tar Heels, often referred to as the 'Heels. Carolina's fight song states "I'm a Tar Heel born, I'm a Tar Heel Bred. And when I die, I'm a Tar Heel Dead," and though we were not born in North Carolina, we were "bred" as Tar Heels during our time at UNC. One of the long-time professors in the Exercise and Sport Science Department told a story on the first day of graduate school about how the Carolina blue gravel will "get stuck in your shoes," and once there it will never really go away. Erik and I still have a very special place in our hearts for Chapel Hill, though we have not lived there since 2006.
October 18th, 2003. The day before my 24th birthday. Our first date was 3 days after this (ironically at Outback Steakhouse, an "Australian-themed" restaurant). We were married 3 years and 8 months later!
My other blog also got it's title from UNC roots, as it is a line from Charles Kuralt's speech given in 1993.

"What is it that binds us to this place as to no other? It is not the well or the bell or the stone walls. Or the crisp October nights or the memory of dogwoods blooming. Our loyalty is not only to William Richardson Davie, though we are proud of what he did 200 years ago today. Nor even to Dean Smith, though we are proud of what he did last March. No, our love for this place is based on the fact that it is, as it was meant to be, the University of the people."

The bridesmaids wore Carolina blue at our wedding. Our first dance was to "Carolina in my Mind." You get the point! Anyway, I could not leave our "roots" out of the title of this blog, as we are truly two "Heels" living far, far away from Franklin Street.
Tar Heels win the 2005 National Championship in Basketball!!
As far as "Oz" goes as an abbreviation for Australia, most Aussies do not use this word. They do, however, shorten the name of their country to "Aus," which to the American ear sounds exactly like "Oz." The first time I heard the "Aus" or "Oz" term was while traveling in Europe in 2004 with a bunch of Aussies (when I say Aussie, to them it sounds like I am saying Ozzie!), and the shortened version just stuck. Besides, "Two Heels in Oz" sounds more exciting than "Two Heels in Aus," don't you think?!
Contiki in Florence 2004. 75% Aussie!
Australians do love to shorten the names of things and sometimes I have to ask my coworkers to repeat what they have said because I have no idea what they are talking about. Most of the terms I am quite familiar with now, but occasionally someone will say a word I've never heard. For example, a few weeks ago one of the coaches at school kept using the saying "fair dinkum" over and over again in a conversation. Now I've decided that the closest American equivalent to "fair dinkum" is probably "for real"; i.e. "is he for real?" or "is he fair dinkum?". Learning new expressions/words is always fun, and it is one of the highlights of living abroad. I'll leave you with a few of my favorite Aussie slang words!

Cuppa = a cup of tea/coffee
Hoon = a person who is driving wildly or street racing
Bikie = someone who rides a motorcycle
Rellies = relatives
Cos = romaine lettuce
Ta = thank you
Bub = baby
Arvo = afternoon (I actually used this in a text yesterday without thinking twice about it!)
Unco = uncoordinated
Bickie = biscuit (a cookie, not the type you get for breakfast at McDonald's, aka Macca's)
Chook = chicken
Rug up = put on lots of warm clothes
Snag = sausage/hot dog

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Professional Life

Over the last few months, I have occasionally mentioned my "new" job, but I thought I would expand on what I am actually doing for work and how I got to that point. If you have been reading the blog for a while, you might remember that I struggled A LOT to find work when we arrived in Oz. I applied for numerous teaching roles without even getting interviews, though it turns out now that I realize my applications were incomplete, because here in Australia instead of just sending a cover letter and resume, you are expected to respond to something called "selection criteria", which I did not do! Slowly I started piecing together work here and there in various different roles. During our first 2 years here, I taught the "Sports Trainer" course for Sports Medicine Australia, worked as a Sports Trainer for a local footy team (which I am still doing now), taught a few courses at the Australian College of Sports Therapy, worked as a lab instructor/tutorial teacher for Human Physiology at the university where Erik works, and finally worked as a CRT (causal relief teacher - substitute teacher) for physical education and other subjects at a variety of schools. I was appreciative of the work, but I was yearning for a permanent role so that I could really "settle in" to this country professionally. 

My goal all along was to get a job at the Sports Academy that happens to be very close to where we live. I had done some temporary work there last school year and found that it was the closest thing to my job "at home". To briefly explain, in Australian schools, there are no sport programs like they exist in America. In the States, I worked as a certified athletic trainer, caring for injured athletes at various levels but predominantly high school-aged kids. I also taught Sports Medicine and a few other classes, as I have teaching certification in addition to my athletic training certification. Athletic trainers cannot practice in Australia. The profession does not exist here, and the closest profession to it is Physiotherapy, which I would be required to go back to school for, a 3 year process. No thanks, I'll stick with the 7 years of education that I already have! Anyway, this academy where I wanted to work actually has school-based strength and conditioning and some school-based sport, making it an ideal location for me to use my skills and knowledge!

Professionally, I have always put an emphasis on networking, but having moved abroad and looked for jobs here, I now realize how ridiculously important it is to "know" the right people. I ended up getting an "in" at the Sports Academy thanks to a former UNC soccer player who I worked with about 10 years ago. The High Performance Manager (Head of Strength and Conditioning) at the time put me to work (just based on my soccer player raving about me!) and also made sure that I was the preferred substitute for PE at the school. This was great, but I was still getting thrown in to different classes every day (and often it was not teaching PE, but Italian or Wood Tech or Science). Towards the end of last school year, I applied for a role there (within the Sports Academy, not the school...I will explain in the next paragraph) for the new school year. I was able to convince the Head of Sport to hire me, however, it was only 3 days a week. I had hoped for full time but I took what I could get and tried to make the most of it. I started that role at the end of January, and continued to teach Human Physiology at the uni one day per week, just leaving me with Fridays off (which was not a bad gig, actually!!). Around May, another staff member wanted to drop down in time fraction, so I was offered the chance to go full time and I jumped at the opportunity! Though my contract is over at the end of the school year, I am optimistic that I will be hired for next school year, as I have really fit in well with the current staff and students.

This Sports Academy is unique in Australia. It is essentially a government-funded sports school that has just finished being built this year. It is within a secondary school (years 7-12 in Australia) with a total school population of about 1200 students, 500 of which are within the Sports Academy. Students who are at the school for sport take their classes within the regular school, but then they have special classes in their day called ADP (Athlete Development Program). Years 7/8 have 3- 45 minute periods of ADP per week and Years 9/10 have between 5 and 10 ADP periods per week. Years 11 and 12 are a bit different because they have a tougher academic timetable and they might be coming in before or after school to complete workouts. During ADP, students undertake a physical preparation program where they learn and perform basic lifting techniques, Olympic lifts, and maintenance exercises designed to prevent injury. My role within this Sports Academy is as a Rehabilitation Coordinator, primarily for athletes in grades 7 and 9. Every morning, physiotherapists from a local clinic visit our school for an hour. We schedule 5 minute time slots during that hour, so students who are injured can book in to see the physio, either for a new injury or for a review of an old injury. The physios do not perform treatment or rehabilitation during that time, they only make a diagnosis. After athletes have a diagnosis, they (hopefully) come to see me for rehabilitation exercises, and I progress them as tolerated. In addition, I might have to modify what they are doing in ADP because of their injury. There is also A  LOT of documentation and paperwork involved in the job. We use a computer program to keep track of the injuries, though it is hard for us to track things like time lost due to injury because unfortunately most of the injuries we see actually occur in the sports played outside of school.
The "physio" room"

Hot and cold tubs (or "spas" as they call them here!)

There are advantages and disadvantages of my current role compared to my previous employment as an athletic trainer/teacher in the USA. Here, I don't have to stay until 11pm covering a high school football game, which is obviously an advantage! However, I do miss the acute injury evaluation part of my job, which is why I have remained working for the local footy club on the weekends. Because so many of our students play sport outside of school (since most Australian sport is club-based), we have little control over what they are doing, which can be frustrating. I realize that this can also happen at high schools in the US (and it did happen to me a few times), but more often than not, injuries I was caring for occurred on-site at my school during a practice or game. Ironically, rehab is something that I struggled to do in my US high school athletic training rooms because it was often pushed to the side due to athletes needing to be taped before practice or needing to get to practice at a certain time. I have always believed that rehab is a crucial part (arguably the most important part) of injury management, but I haven't always had the time and/or resources to implement rehabilitation programs like I am able to do in my current role.

It took nearly 2 years for me to settle into ONE job that I love, but it was well worth the wait. Even though I cannot "work" as an athletic trainer, I feel fortunate to be able to use most of my knowledge and experience in my current role. I even get the occasional chance to teach different year levels about things like injury management, which brings back memories of teaching Sports Medicine classes in the US. I always thought (and stated!) that I could do any type of job and be happy, but after months of working at jobs that were only slightly satisfying professionally, I have realized that I have a passion for my work and I NEED to be doing something in my field in order to be happy. After all, going to work every day to a job that you enjoy is not really "work" at all, is it?!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

2 Years in Oz

This Thursday will mark 2 years of living in Australia. On August 13, 2011, we departed LAX with nervousness and excitement about our adventure. On August 15th, we arrived in Melbourne on a cool and cloudy winter day. August 14th, 2011 never existed for us, and that holds true each time we fly back from a visit to the States...we skip of day of life! On the flip side, when traveling from Australia to the USA, we get to re-live a day over again. On my most recent trip back from the States with Qantas, there was a little girl who was missing her birthday due to crossing the international date line, so the flight crew wished her happy birthday via an announcement...quite a nice thing for an airline to do!

I occasionally check to see who has been reading our blog over the past 2 years and there have been almost 10,000 views from all over the world. Some of our earlier blog posts get a lot of "views", and recently I realized that might be because I've never discussed HOW we ended up in Oz. When Erik was close to finishing his PhD at the end of 2010, he started looking for jobs. He knew he wanted to do a post-doctoral fellowship, something that most PhDs in the Exercise Physiology field choose to do. Erik and I had many discussions about places we would like to live, and we also discussed the potential of living abroad. Erik tried to sell me on a few different European countries, but the thought of having to learn another language was too daunting for me. Australia, however, we had a consensus on. Though I had never traveled "Down Under", I became acquainted with many Australians in 2004 on a Contiki tour of Europe. I became slightly obsessed with the people and the country, and decided that one day I would visit Oz. Erik traveled around Australia for almost 2 months in 2002 (though he did not make it to Melbourne!), and he had nothing but positive memories of the place.
Graduation Day!
Erik applied for a few different post-docs and some faculty and/or research positions within our desired locations. Ultimately, after applications and interviews, it came down to two offers; one in Melbourne, Australia and one in Denver, Colorado. The thing is, Erik received the Denver offer before the Melbourne offer. We were not optimistic about the Australia option because Erik was expecting to hear back from them and had not heard anything. He sent some emails to try to follow up but did not hear anything after that either. So we (well, "I") started getting VERY excited about moving to Denver! I was picking out neighborhoods for us to live in and started looking for jobs. We had not said "yes" to Denver yet, but they needed to know by Friday and it was Wednesday. Interestingly, Erik came home from work on Wednesday and said that he had to talk to me. He had gotten the Melbourne offer and we had less than 48 hours to decide whether or not we would be moving across the world to Australia or across the country to Denver. At first I was anti-Australia because my heart had already moved us to Denver. Then, I came around and Erik was anti-Australia because he didn't know what kind of move it would be for his career. We called one of my childhood friends, Brian, who had been living in Sydney for about 8 years, to ask questions. That call helped calm our nerves and we ultimately decided that we had nothing to lose, taking the Melbourne option!
You can't find burritos like this in Oz!
That was in April and they wanted him to start as soon as possible. We had to sell our condo, get rid of our cars, pack and ship a container of our stuff across the world, etc., etc. It was a crazy time to say the least! We ended up settling on a mid-August start date, which allowed us time to take care of those important tasks but also to travel and spend time with family and friends. I went to New Orleans for the athletic training convention and Erik went to Denver (ironically) for his professional conference. We spent a few weeks in Alaska with Erik's brothers, followed by time spent in Minnesota and Maryland with our families. Our container shipped during the first week of July, leaving us with nothing but a couple of suitcases to live out of for the next 3 months. We sold our condo 5 days before leaving and fortunately my brother-in-law purchased one of our cars.
NOLA. The hand grenade really is a powerful drink!

Erik and his buddy Matt hiking at Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado
Morning view from our tent in Denali National Park.
Leaving our condo for the last time
Family going away dinner with my side of the family
When I reflect back, I think about how scary it was for the first few weeks and even months. For the first 6 months I was probably counting the days until it was time to move back to America. Once we started meeting people and forming friendships, I found life more enjoyable. Now that I have a job I find fulfilling, where I can utilize my skills and knowledge, I have settled even more in this wonderful country. Erik and I love living in Australia for many reasons, but we did not always feel this way. Certainly there are times where we miss our family and friends back in the States, but we are happy here in Oz and feel fortunate that we are getting the chance to live in the "Lucky Country".

Sunday, August 4, 2013


I'm not really sure if we have a word for "tradies" in America. Typically we'd just use the specific name of the tradesman we were looking to hire, like plumber, electrician or carpenter. Sometimes we might refer to people in those professions as blue-collar workers, people who perform some type of manual labor. This would be the opposite of "white-collar" employees, who tend to spend most of their workday at a desk.

In Australia, the term "tradie" is used to refer to an Australian tradesman. It gets better than that though, as many of the tradies have a nickname. A carpenter is known as a "chippy", an electrician is a "sparky", and someone who does mason work is a "bricky". If you drive a truck, you will likely be referred to as a "truckie". Not really in the tradesman category but professions still deserving of nicknames are that of a firefighter (firey) and a paramedic (ambo). Quite a few boys on the footy team that I work for and that Erik plays for are tradies, so when asked their profession, they obviously respond with the slang terminology. Needless to say the first time that one of the boys told me he was a "chippy", I was a bit confused.

Another interesting tidbit about these professions is that the workers always wear high visibility (known as "hi-vis", of course) clothing. In the States we might see these on road crews along the highway or in a few other chosen jobs, but here they seem to be everywhere. Everyone from police officers to postal workers (see the picture in my post from last week!), from garbos (garbage/rubbish collectors) to parking inspectors are wearing hi-vis clothes. The one that is most surprising to me is the truck drivers. All truck drivers (not just the guys that drive the big semi trucks), even those that drive small delivery trucks that are probably more like minivans, are wearing hi-vis vests while driving. Not sure if those high visibility clothes are worn to avoid accidents or if they are meant to make the drivers visible when they get out of their trucks to make deliveries.

Sorry for the blurriness of the photo, but I quickly snapped this picture in food court of the mall (referred to as a shopping centre here...I get made fun of when I call it the "mall"). Nearly every single person down there is wearing either yellow or orange hi-vis clothing!

There is so much more Australian lingo that I hope to share with you at some point. The scary part is that I am now commonly using these Aussie words on a regular basis! :)