Monday, August 29, 2011

It's been a while - some highlights.

Hey Friends and Family,

It's been a while since we updated "brown snakes."  Our last post about the great ocean road seems like ages ago.  It would require far more than you're interest in reading to give you a full update, so I'm just going to list some of the things that have went on since that time:

We moved out of our shanty apartment in Coogee to a fairly nice one in Rose Bay. Erin got a cat (which I have begrudgingly accepted as 'our' cat - seriously, she's not too bad). Oh, Daisy arrived (that was a while ago, but again post last update). Erin got a job! Then, she didn't really like that job and got another job! She likes the new one a lot which is great for all (happy wife = happy life). I ran the Sydney half marathon (my first ever distance run). I got a promotion at work to Account Director. Erin got her Open Water Scuba certification and has completed seven dives. Erin met Shannon, her mom, and Aunt Jo in Hawaii for a girls week in April. We celebrated our one year wedding anniversary (May 31st, 2011) in Tropical Far North Queensland (home of Daintree Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef) and Hamilton Island. We've made some really great friends here that makes it feel a bit more like home even without our wonderful families. I was part of a team of 4 that raised nearly $8k for Oxfam by participating in a 100K bushwalk (23 hours and 37 minutes!). Mama Dunn and Aunt Dot (Thelma and Louise as they called themselves) came and visited us for Easter - great time! We showed them Sydney and a very generous friend and colleague of mine invited us all to his vacation home on a golf course/bay 4 hours north of Sydney - very beautiful. This is in not chronological order by the way, we also went to the Kangaroo Valley (about 3 hours south of Sydney) for a long weekend with Daisy. That was really nice too. Australia puts a whole new definition on "small town;" it's amazing how tiny the towns get when you get outside of any of the major cities. Back to that Queensland trip, we saw a crocodile in the wild!!! We got a car ('95 Ford Festiva aka "Festy"). Erin wrecked the car (she was fine and in fairness to her it was a pretty impossible accident to avoid). We got a new car (2000 Daewoo Lanos).

Thanks to facebook you probably already knew most of that and I'm really starting to feel a bit self absorbed talking about all that we've done. But more importantly than stuff, places and things - we're really happy and having a great experience, together (which makes is so much more fun).

We really miss all you guys back home and hope that we have many more visitors in the next year (c'mon USD and rebound already!). Would love to hear updates on all that's going on with you if you have the time. Please give us an email or a call on skype (

With Love,
Erin & Sean

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Great Ocean Road: Day 1

The Great Ocean Road is a road that runs along the southern coast of Australia.  It starts about 45 minutes southwest of Melbourne in a town called Torquay.  We learned today that the Great Ocean Road was built by soldiers returning from WW1.  It was a program devised by the 20 year young nation of Australia to ensure their troops had employment.  God, are we thankful for this wonderful idea. 

Our first stop after driving through Torquay was Bells Beach, a famous surf beach that hosts an annual surf championship.  It’s also the home of the surf brand Rip Curl, or, at least I think it is.  It’s a beautiful beach set between two cliffs.  The place where the surfers paddled out was along a rocky part of the coast.  It was a little beyond our “intermediate” skill level, so we set out on our next journey…

KANGAROOS!!! It took a month, but we saw kangaroos.  There is a golf course in a town called Anglesea where the ‘roos run rampant.  We parked the car and walked along the fairway no more than 20 meters before we saw Skippy.  That’s what we named the first Kangaroo we saw.  Skippy was surrounded by heaps of mates (Australian for tons of friends).  They are odd looking creatures.  You can walk right up to them and they don’t seem to mind at all.  It’s a little scary at first because they’re about our height when they stand.  They’re actually taller if you’re short like Erin.  As captivating as our first wild Kangaroo experience was, we had to hit the road again…

There were many breathtaking views, a stop at a pretty cool waterfall called Erksine Falls in the Otway National Park, and then…

KOALAS!!!  Yes, that’s right, kangaroos and koalas in one day.  First, some background:  To see the Koalas in the wild you park at a little café (called Koala Cove Café) and walk up a dirt road called Grey River Road and according to several websites are GUARANTEED to see koalas.  We walked for a long fucking time without seeing koalas.  But, we did not falter.  Well, we did turn around to walk back to the car.  When I married Erin I knew she had many talents, but I didn’t know she was a great Koala spotter.  There sitting along the side of the road we saw a big fat Koala chilling at the bottom of a tree.  And, with the exception of the occasional yawn, that’s about all it did for the next 15 minutes.  Amazingly, it was the most captivating 15 minutes of this journey so far.  We snapped many pictures, see facebook link below.  Before leaving, an older couple helped us spot a few more, one of which had a baby.  Want to know an interesting fact about koalas?  They’re stoned on eucalyptus pretty much all the time.

After we checked into the motel and got some dinner we went back to Otway National Park to see glow worms.  This was a pretty scary experience.  We drove for 1 hour round trip and saw 9 CARS!!! 9 cars in an hour!!!  To see the glow worms you have to drive 6km up a dirt road into the dark and then get out of the car and walk to an embankment where they rest.  I’m not too proud to admit that we sat in the car with the doors locked, but were able to see the glow worms once we turned all the lights off. 

One of the most amazing things about Australia is how scarcely populated it is.  It’s amazing that you can be somewhere so beautiful and it’s not littered with commercialized tourist attractions.  None of these wildlife spotting were commercialized, although we may have felt safer if the glow worms trip was.  While pretty much everyone wants to come to Australia, its remoteness must be a strong deterrent.  We’re glad we made the journey and hope you do soon.  Days like this really make us fall in love with this country.  And, we expect tomorrow will be almost as good…

PHOTOS LINK: Great Ocean Road Pics

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Melbourne, our home away from home

I thought it’d be a good idea to post an entry on our blog.  Unfortunately, I have no real focus, so it may jump around a little bit.  Let me start with some news from work. 

If you weren’t sure who “I” was in the intro, the word “work” should be a dead give-away.  While that’s true, Erin’s also been hard at work readying our apartment and pestering the nursing board for her registration.  It seems that’s going well too, all they need are the results of her English language exam.  To my dismay, she passed, or at least she claims she did. 

I’ve come down here at a very interesting time for Vision Critical.  Our CEO and Founder came down to present at a big research conference.  Part of the festivities included a harbour cruise on private yacht.  Erin and I were grateful to get such a great chance to see the harbour so early into our adventure down here.  We were also happy to have great company; everyone that I work with has been so friendly and generous. 

As Sean started this entry over a week ago and has not completed it, I’m going to take the initiative. The day after the harbour cruise, Kris, someone that Sean works with, invited us and another guy over to his familes’ place for dinner. He and his wife are Canadian. They have two adorable boys who put on a puppet show for us. We had such a nice time and it was the best meal we’ve had yet (they even made me a special tofu dish).

Today is September 22 and Sean and I arrived in Melbourne yesterday for our second trip down here. As it turns out, we will be spending more time here than expected. Sean will be working here 2-3 days out of each week for up to three months. Melbourne has a much different feel than Sydney; it’s very artistic and has a big café culture. Sydney, on the other hand, has more of a surf and pub culture. Sydney is bigger and more crowded, as well. Melbourne also had the world’s biggest tram system, although I haven’t used it. I walk everywhere.

 I’m not sure how long I will be accompanying Sean down here for, but so far there seems to be plenty for me to do. While Sean goes to work, I’ve been sightseeing. There are lots of parks, museums, art galleries, shopping, etc. to keep me occupied. I’ve been learning a little about Aboriginal art and visiting galleries. Today, I’m considering a trip to the Melbourne Aquarium. I had booked an Eco tour for today to see koalas and kangeroos in the wild. Unfortunately, it was overbooked and I have to reschedule. What a bummer.  In surrounding Victoria, outside of the city, there are many beautiful national parks and outdoor things to do. Next week, Sean and I are staying here over the weekend so we can do some exploring.

After some of the issues we’ve been having with our flat in Sydney, it’s somewhat of a relief to be spending so much time in Melbourne. I won’t bore you with all of the details, but I delivered a letter to our property manager on Monday listing about 8 complaints, pertaining to everything from lack of hot water for showers to unsanitary conditions of “rubbish” from the shop downstairs. I’ve learned that when you live near the beach in the eastern suburbs of Sydney, you are paying for location and not much else. Sean and I have been having renter’s remorse and realize now that we should have been more patient in our search. However, the most important thing was for us to have a place that would allow us to bring Daisy over, so at least it met that requirement. I just keep reminding myself that our lease is only for 6 months.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Moving in

Well, we're moved in to our new place and it's fully furnished.  It already looks much better. While Sean spent the entire weekend assembling furniture, I cleaned the place floor to ceiling. Allegedly, it was cleaned prior to us moving in, but the woman's hair in the shower was evidence to the contrary and I wasn't taking any chances. We have all necessary appliances now. Flats over here don't come with refrigerators, so we purchased one. We also purchased a machine that doubles as a washer and a dryer (these seem to be popular here). Although I took proper measurements of the space alotted in the bathroom for the washer/dryer, I failed to measure the width of the doorway into the bathroom. You can see where this is going. A handyman should be coming shortly to look into shaving 2 mm off of the door frame.

Although there are many good things about our apartment (lots of space, next to the beach, bus stop, nearby cafes and shops), we're also discovering some less positive attributes (in addition to the colors). Part of the benefit of living near the beach is the sea breeze. However, many of the screens have holes in them. As you will read later in this post, I'm neurotic about bugs, so this didn't sit well with me The real estate agent told me that the landlord was not responsible for replacing the screens. In fact, many flats here don't even come with screens. After consulting our friends Paula and Allan and Sean's co-workers, we've learned that this is a load of crap. Sean called him and someone should be at least coming to look at it, but he continues to say that the place isn't even supposed to come with fly screens and the previous tenant left them here. I'm copping somewhat of a resentment over this exchange. Also, we need spark sticks to light the stove and there might be a problem with the hot water in the shower. Coming from where I come from, I'm under the false assumption that for the amount we pay in rent (more than double what we paid in the states), some of these things should be taken care of. I'm learning otherwise. I don't think of myself as a high-maintenence person, but by Sydney standards, I might just be.

I've gone to war against cockroaches that I'm not sure even live here. Everyone keeps saying that cockroaches are a problem in the flats of the Eastern Suburbs and Sydney is infamous for their cockroaches. I've initiated a preemptive strike. I bought a pack of 12 cockroach baits and placed them strategically around the flat. I've also done a fair amount of research on cockroach prevention: do not leave cardboard around, do not buy wicker furniture, etc. Sean thinks I'm paranoid. His assertion is supported by the fact that I have yet to see an actual cockroach in or near our flat. But mark my words, he'll be thanking me in a few months when it becomes cockroach season and our flat remains virtually bug-free and sterile. Hopefully these chemicals aren't too carcinogenic ( I worry more about Daisy, who'll be arriving in late October, than I do about us).

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Our "Unique" Home

After searching frantically, we found a pet-friendly apartment near the beach! It's a large 2 bedroom with tile floors and the ugliest decor we have ever seen. I've been told the style and colors are very "Greek," but to me they just look tacky. The walls are a baby blue color and there are 2 gigantic, crystal chandeliers hanging in the living room! There are bay windows off of the living room that overlook the main Street in Coogee;  however, the window is surrounded by a terrible border of sponge paint.

However, despite it's appearance, this place has a lot of checks in the plus column. First and foremost, they have no problem with pets. Secondly, it's actually really clean-looking, and there's a lot to be said for that in the Eastern suburbs. We have seen some real smelly dumps for about the same price as this place, which is $550 per week. The place is large; there's an an echo in the living room, but hopefully that will be better when it's not empty anymore. It has two bedrooms, which will be great for our visitors, i.e. the people reading this blog. Also,  we are free to paint and do pretty much whatever else we want with the place, thank God. I guess the owner figures there's not much we can do to make it less appealing. Also, the location is PERFECT. We are less than 1 block from the beach and there's a park and rugby field across the street. We are right on the main street with all of the shops and cafes below us. Also, Sean can catch the bus to work about 30 feet from our doorstep.

The following is a link to some pics of our new apartment:

Some more exciting news: In September, Sean and I will be making several trips to Melbourne. Sean's company is sending him down to work with a client  and since I don't really know people in Sydney yet and I don't have a job, his company has agreed to send me, too! Also, his company is having some kind of harbour cruise for everyone on Sept. 11th (and I get to accompany Sean). The people Sean works with have been very kind and welcoming to us. I'm really grateful that he works with such awesome people.

So far, we are having a great time and slowly meeting people. Yesterday, I went to lunch with someone who seems to be the first friend I've made. Her name is Paula and she's a "theatre" (Operating Room) nurse. I've been doing a lot of walking around the city and getting to know the bus system slowly. Sydney is beautiful. This morning, I walked Sean down to his office, then went to the Royal Botanic Gardens nearby. I walked through the different gardens and along the harbour. It was so peaceful. Now that I'm done searching for an apartment, I have some free time. Love you and miss you all!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

We Made It!!!

We decided to start a blog from down under so that we never have to call any of you suckers still in America.  Just kidding, obviously.  We miss you all very much and can't wait until we're settled in more so that we can focus less on learning our way around and more on reaching out to all our friends and family back home. So, here goes a generic and unpersonalized update:

We left LA at 10:30 PM on Wednesday night and arrived 14 hours later in Sydney, where is was 6:10 AM on Friday.  We both slept pretty well on the plane, so we hit the ground running on day 1.  One of the first things that reminded us we weren't home was that the cars we're on the other (read 'wrong') side of the road.  After settling in at the serviced apartment we're staying at we had another reminder when we went to order coffee.  The barista pegged us for American's when we walked up to the counter and asked for "2 coffees."  $10 AUD later, he told us that American-style coffee is called "long black," and Aussie-style coffee is "flat white."  Sean lived on the edge, while Erin stuck with old faithful. 

We decided to walk up through Hyde Park, passed the NSW Parliament, Mint, and Sydney Medical Center to Sean's work. They were kind enough to have a mobile phone and an internet stick waiting for us.  One of his colleagues gave an extra phone to Erin so that we could set her up with pre-paid mobile service also.  Some of the sheilas gave Erin shopping tips too.  They were all so nice and helpful and we're looking forward to getting to know them all better. 

We left Sean's office through the side door to venture off to set up a bank account.  We were quickly distracted by the Harbour Bridge that was only a 1 minute walk away!!!  We had to take a break from being productive and check out the bridge and the opera house.  They're both so beautiful.  One other thing we found amazing was that we were kind of hot and sweaty in our spring sweaters, the locals were all wearing peacoats and scarves.

Back to work - We made it to the bank and we won't bore you much other than to say the very openly homosexual bloke from Portugal that helped us was quite a trip.  He raved about America and some of the finer parts of our culture (e.g. Brittany Spears and Lady Gaga).

3 hours later (Victor could talk) we were off to Bondi Beach to see if it's somewhere we want to live.  It seemed like more of a grunge area full of surf bums and backpackers.  It reminded us a lot of Venice beach or South Street, a great place to visit, but not top of the list to live.  That said, we're still considering it, which leads us to what we learned on.......

Day 2:

Australians love dogs, just not if you want to have one in a flat.  We went to one flat that had a dead cockroach on the floor, but the agent told us the owner was worried a dog would be unclean - WTF!!!  We wouldn't want our Daisy living with that cockroach anyways.   The whole process of searching for apartments is quite painful here.  Rather than an agent showing you multiple places or meeting  you on your schedule, they simply open the apartment for 15 minute inspections.  As if that weren't bad enough, all the inspections happen between 10 AM and 1 PM on Saturdays.  You can imagine how much of feat it was for Erin and I to make it to about 6 or 7 of these without a car.  This style limits you to one area per day, so we focused our efforts in Coogee, a beach town that we both liked a lot.  As we were growing quite discouraged about the lack of nice apartments or pet-friendly apartments (not to mention nice and pet-friendly apartments) we had a HUGE disappointment in the late afternoon.  We showed up a little late to see an owner-listed apartment and were inside talking to him about how he may consider our dog when the people that saw it before us came by and gave him a deposit.  We really wanted to cry (Erin did, when we got outside). 

Daisy, if you're reading this - Don't worry, we'll find you a place.

On our way home we met some nice people who are ex-pats from Ireland.  We actually ended up grabbing some dinner with them at the local mall.  They told us we should just not mention our dog and bring her into the apartment.  We're not resorting to lying just yet, but maybe if we get desperate enough.   Regardless, it's nice to have made some friends this early in the game.  The guy is actually in a recreational Rugby league and his wife is a nurse, good connections for both of us. :-)

As we said at the beginning, we miss you all very much and can't wait to start getting some visitors.

Stay tuned for more adventures.

Here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure: Facebook Album