Sunday, April 29, 2012

Our One Year Australia-versary...and a Contest!

Is it just me, or does Zack look a little nervous here? Maybe he's just tired after such a long flight!
If you had told me on January 1, 2011 that within four months I would quit my job, sell my car, pack up everything I own, say goodbye to my dog (sniff sniff!), and be living in another country halfway around the world, I would have told you that you were crazy. But here we are! Even as everything was coming together, I kept saying, "I won't believe this is actually happening until we have landed in Australia and I am sitting in Melbourne drinking a glass of wine." The picture on the left shows that famous glass of wine!

On April 29, 2011, we landed in Melbourne, Australia with eight boxes, four suitcases, a couple of instruments, a bike, and golf clubs (which Zack still hasn't used!). We had no idea where we were going or what we were doing, but we made it work. Now we have jobs, friends, furniture, a few more bikes, a couple of new hobbies, and lots of awesome memories. We've had family and friends come visit, and we've seen so much of this beautiful country. Oh, and we have almost 30,000 hits on this blog!

When trying to think of how best to summarize our first year here, I decided to get the negatives out of the way first. There are eight main things that have bothered me while living in Australia. The links will take you back to related blog posts.

1. Missing our dog Molly.
2. Little annoyances and inconveniences.
3. Difficulties with airlines.
4. Zack's ridiculous workload.
5. Rainy, gray weather.
6. Being so far away from family.
7. The lack of holiday celebrations.
8. The loud and/or annoying birds, especially the pooping pigeons.

I was flipping through my online picture albums and realized that there are hundreds of happy memories I could share, but I've really kind of already done that on this blog over the past year! So instead, I narrowed it down to ten memorable moments that made me think, "Wow, being in Australia is an amazing experience." I've included the links in case you want to reread the old blog posts related to each memory. These are in no particular order:

1. Wading through knee-deep water with my sister Morgan while seeing hundreds of waterfalls stream down Uluru.
2. The feeling of awe upon seeing the Sydney Opera House for the first time.
3. Mountain biking among the huge, hopping kangaroos at Lysterfield.
4. Hanging out on beautiful Johanna Beach on Christmas night with glow sticks.
5. Seeing hundreds of incredible sunsets and several fireworks shows from our apartment balcony.
6. Belting out 80s songs on our walk home from the tram after the Rock of Ages show for Zack's birthday.
7. My brother Justin showing me "Nemo" while snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef.
8. Surfing alone in the clear, blue water at Bondi Beach and treating myself to an ice cream cone afterward.
9. Biking to go see Queen Elizabeth II ride down St Kilda Road in a royal tram on a random weekday.
10.Watching wombats crawl around our tent at Wilsons Promontory.

Okay, contest time. This one is meant to satisfy my own curiosity, reward our readers, and help me plan for future blog entries. To enter, please leave a comment on this post with answers to each of the following questions:

1. Who are you, and where do you live?
2. What has been your favorite blog post, and why?
3. What is your favorite picture on this blog, and why?
4. How long have you been a reader of this blog?
5. How often do you check or read this blog?
6. What are some topics you'd like to see covered in upcoming blog posts?
7. What is one thing that you think Zack and/or I should be sure to do before our second year Australia-versary?
8. Anything else you'd like to share? Compliments, bribes, etc. are all accepted. :)

The winner will be chosen at random. Your comment with answers to the questions above is worth one entry. But you can earn extra entries! With each person you get to "follow" our blog either as a member or by e-mail, you get an additional entry. If you share a link to our blog on your Facebook page, Twitter, or on your blog, you earn three extra entries! Just let me know if you have earned additional entries somehow. The deadline is May 5 (yes, I'll wait until the end of May 5 in the United States!).

Now I suppose you want to know what you will win? Well, if you live outside of Australia, I will send you an Australian prize pack. I'm not quite sure what that means yet, but I promise it will be worthwhile. Trust me. If you live within Australia, I'll send you a United States prize pack. And if you're American but live in Australia, well, then I'm not sure what I'll do, but I'll work something out. Good luck, and thanks for playing along.

Happy one year Australia-versary to us!

Our last "family" photo on the shores of Lake Michigan before leaving. Molly does not look amused that we are going to Australia without her. And our lovely mix of cold weather gear borrowed from my parents is especially attractive!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Day That Didn't Exist

The first glimpse of our new home from the plane.
One year ago, April 28 did not exist for us. We had left Denver on Wednesday, April 27, and we arrived in Australia on the morning of Friday, April 29. Somewhere in the air, we lost Thursday. Tomorrow I'll post some sort of reflection on having lived here for a year, but I thought I should post a short blurb today in commemoration of the day that didn't exist!

P.S. There just might be a blog contest and/or giveaway in honor of our first year in Australia, so check back tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Today is ANZAC Day in Australia. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. This public holiday marks the anniversary of the first military action during World War I. Australians spend the day remembering the sacrifice of those who have died in war with dawn services, ceremonies at war memorials, and marches in cities.
In Melbourne, the Shrine of Remembrance is a well-known memorial. The other week (when the weather was sunny and warm-in direct opposition to today!), I started my photographic tour of the Royal Botanic Gardens by stopping at this shrine. I had seen it from a distance on the tram, but I had never gone up close or inside.

There was so much around and inside of this impressive structure. The Gallery of Medals has 4000 service medals, each one representing 100 Victorians who have served in war and six who have lost their lives. There is the Sanctuary where Remembrance Ceremonies are held every half hour and the Crypt with sculptures and bronze panels dedicated to various units.

You can climb the steps to the balcony and get a great view of the city and the surrounding gardens and monuments. Then you can head back downstairs and check out the Visitor Centre and Education Centre. When I was there, several schoolchildren were there on field trips.

The Eternal Flame is always burning in front of the Second World War Memorial in the Forecourt.

No, I didn't make it to the Dawn Service at the Shrine of Remembrance this morning. Instead, I celebrated the holiday by sleeping in after a late girls' night out last night, staying out of the cold and rainy weather, and baking traditional ANZAC biscuits (cookies). Zack "celebrated" by working-ugh! Anyway, it's been interesting to see how another country celebrates its soldiers. Happy ANZAC Day!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Comedy Fest Fun

We girls enjoyed a couple of bottles of wine from a Margaret River Region winery Zack and I had visited!
On Friday night, we headed to the CBD with two other American couples (Alena/Todd and Emily/Adam). The main event of the evening was going to a show as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, but we met beforehand in the Southbank area for drinks and dinner. The before-show festivities turned out to be a lot more enjoyable, because the comedian (Mark Watson) wasn't actually that funny. Oh well; it was still a fun night out with friends!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Aubree's Observations About Australia Part V

Not much going on around here lately, so I thought I'd do one of these posts since they seem to be popular and it's been a few months since my last one. So without further ado, here are some differences I've noticed recently between America and Australia.

1. Reckless, speedy drivers are called "hoons." Police are always trying to crack down on "hooning."

2. When people ask where I am from, I answer "America" or "the States" or "the US." Nobody says the full "United States." In the US, saying you were "American" was sort of un-politically correct, because you were leaving out other North Americans (like Canadians) or you've got the whole Central and South America thing to consider. Not the case here. America=United States.

3. Australians shorten lots of words to end in the letter "o." Document=doco, reservation=reso, chocolate=choco, etc. And a chicken is a "chook." I don't know why.

4. Shootings are rare, because guns are just not that common here. If there is a shooting anywhere in the country, you'll hear about it on the news. For example, four motorcycle gang-related shootings in Sydney were all over the news here yesterday. This would be like living in Denver and hearing about some random shootings in Dallas.

5. Zack says that some men's restrooms have "troughs" instead of urinals. I obviously can't elaborate on this due to lack of experience, but you can use your imagination.

6. We haven't really seen any buffet restaurants. Those must only exist for us fat Americans!

7. Gas nozzles do not have the automatic lever that clicks off when your tank is full. Instead, you have to stand there and hold it the whole time. You also rarely find gas (petrol) stations with the option to pay with a card outside; you always have to go inside. Americans are so lazy (and lucky!).

8. The letter "h" is pronounced "haych" instead of "aych." This one bothers me. As does saying "zed" instead of "z."

9. The Prime Minister can change at almost any time. Julia Gillard became the first female Prime Minister when she contested Kevin Rudd's position a few years ago. A few months ago, he tried to take it back, but Gillard won. They are both part of the Labor Party, and the members of this majority party in Parliament basically get to decide who they want to be in charge. Rudd thought he'd have more members backing him.

10. The drinking age is 18. Maybe I'm oblivious, but you just don't seem to hear about many crazy teenage drunken parties or drunk driving accidents (called drink driving here). When the police set up a major breathalyzer checkpoint along a road, it is called a "booze bus." The legal limit for blood alcohol content is 0.05%, whereas I think it's usually 0.08% or 0.10% in most US states. No, I do not know any of this from personal experience!

11. When you ask Americans about a dream place they'd like to visit, you get all sorts of responses: Paris, Greece, Africa, China, Rome, etc. When you ask an Australian, at the top of nearly everyone's list is the United States. And if/when they go there, they usually list California, Las Vegas, and New York City as their top priorities.

12. Bali=Mexico for Australians. It's fairly cheap to get there and stay there, it's a little bit sketchy in some areas, and the beaches are nice. All the schoolies (spring breakers) go there on holiday (vacation).

13. Australia is not a religious country at all. Yes, there are churches, and some private schools are affiliated with various denominations, but on the whole, religion is not a part of the culture and society like it is in the US.

14. When you support a team, you say that you "go for" or "barrack for" them. You don't say that you "root" for them, because root has an entirely different meaning here! And you wouldn't say "Go Irish" here. Instead, it'd be "Go the Irish!"

15. A fanny pack is called a "bum bag." I guess "fanny" has a different meaning here too!

16. A popular tattoo that you see on lots of guys' upper backs is the Southern Cross constellation, which is found on the Australian flag. Some say that only bogans get this tattoo.

17. Australians view America as kind of a crazy place. For example, we get snippets of news stories from the States such as the invention of "dog TV." I guess these are television shows for dogs which include colors that dogs see best and no noises that will startle them? Anyway, the news reporters ended the story with saying that this takes place in "Where else? America." That kind of sums up how they view our country (perhaps with good reason!).

18. A lot of places have a $10 minimum in order to use a card to pay. It can be rather annoying if you're not carrying cash and you need something small.

Well, that's all I can think of for now. I'm sure it'll be another few months before I store up enough of these to do Part VI. Upcoming posts will probably be about Anzac Day, knitting, and being here for one year. Have a good weekend!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Botanic Gardens Beauty

Confession time: After living here for almost a year, I had never been inside Melbourne's Royal Botanic Gardens. Yes, it's true, though it's one of the highest rated attractions in the city, it's totally free, and it's only a few miles from our place, I'd never checked out what was inside the gates. I'd run around it plenty of times on training runs with Emily or as part of the Spring into Shape Series, but I had no idea what was inside. So on a sunny day last week, I gathered up my camera gear and headed to check it out.

I was impressed. I always had it in my mind that Sydney had it all over Melbourne with its Royal Botanic Gardens, but Melbourne's is really beautiful too! I walked all over the park snapping pictures of various flowers and plants for a few hours, and I've included some of my favorite shots.

The ponds inside the park are covered with some type of algae growth, so the poor ducks and birds swim in a sea of green. The leaf from the plant in the picture above right was nearly as big as me!

It's definitely starting to feel like fall here. You can see the leaves turning colors in the picture above, and the mornings and nights are much cooler. We're lucky that we're still getting some sunny, warm days. I'm not ready for another winter yet! If you want to see lots more pictures, head to my Shutterfly link. Otherwise, have a "bee"-utiful day!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Lake Elizabeth and Forrest Mountain Biking

After a Friday spent watching surfing and doing some surfing ourselves, we headed to Lake Elizabeth to camp. We were shocked at how crowded it was at this free campground, because it's sort of in the middle of nowhere in Victoria, but apparently Australians are big on camping over the Easter holiday. We got some rain that evening, but we were still able to cook our dinner and get a good night's sleep.

Lake Elizabeth is near the town of Forrest, which is known for having great mountain biking trails. So on Saturday, we tackled several of them, and it was a lot of fun. There wasn't any wildlife on the trails like there is at Lysterfield, but the routes were well marked and built for optimum mountain biking enjoyment. After a few hours on the trails, we enjoyed a cider and beer at the local brewery. Zack was able to create our own little "firepit" that night at our campsite, and we enjoyed a warm dinner followed by S'mores.

Lake Elizabeth was formed when heavy rains caused a landslide which flooded the forest. The lake has strange looking tree trunks still sticking out of it. But the coolest part is that you can see a platypus here! I guess six or seven of them live here, and if you go out at dusk or dawn, you can catch a glimpse of them. I went out on Saturday evening, but it was too dark to spot any by the time I got to the lake. However, I did get to see the glow worms. In the bush along the path leading to the lake, you can see hundreds of little lights at night. It looked like my walk was illuminated by lots of tiny stars, but I've read that the light actually comes from the silk threads spewed out by silkworms. They have sticky glowing beads on them to attract insects, and the worms eat them once caught. It looked really neat. 
I went for an early walk on Easter morning and did see a couple of platypus. the time I realized I was seeing one (which just looked like a lump in the water), it would go back underwater. We headed back home to unpack our camping gear and went out for a delicious Mexican brunch in St Kilda to celebrate Easter. We hope you had a nice holiday too!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Rip Curl Pro

On Good Friday, we drove down to Bells Beach to check out the Rip Curl Pro, a major surfing competition. We went on a great day; the weather was beautiful and we got to see Kelly Slater, the amazing 11-time World Champion from the United States. Zack has even read his biography!

First we watched a women's heat...

Then Kelly Slater came in for his semifinal bout, and his first ride scored over 9 points! He had some pretty incredible turns and tricks.

As Kelly Slater was ripping up the waves, Mick Fanning, the Australian who beat Slater in the final later that day (barely!), headed into the water for his semifinal round.

Champion Mick Fanning

Here are Kelly Slater and Jeremy Flores (from France) heading in after their semifinal...

Kelly Slater had a short interview after winning his semifinal, so I was able to get a close-up picture. He is not a bad-looking guy!

After watching some of the other semifinal, Zack and I headed to nearby Torquay eat some fish and chips and then to do some surfing of our own. Though we weren't quite ready for the Rip Curl Pro, we had a fun hour or two before a big hail and rainstorm blew in and we went running for cover!
That night, we drove to Lake Elizabeth to camp. More about that in the next post, but the sunset on our drive there was gorgeous! It felt like we were on an African safari, minus the lions and giraffes of course. We drove straight toward the sunset for awhile, and then the whole sky turned orange. It was a beautiful start to our Easter weekend. More to come soon...

Monday, April 9, 2012

Birds, Not Bunnies

No, the Easter bunny didn't visit this year, but these cockatoos were having a grand ol' time in the park behind our place the other day! I figure this picture can hold you over until I catch up on some blog posts about our Easter weekend spent surfing, camping, and mountain biking. Stay tuned...

Monday, April 2, 2012

Toughing Out the Tough Mudder

We survived! After several hours of running and obstacles on Saturday afternoon, we can now say that we are truly Tough Mudders! Here is Team AUSsome before the race looking clean and happy; our team included folks from Denver, Chicago, the UK, New Zealand, Perth, Sydney, and Melbourne.
I went into the race kind of scared about how difficult it would be and wondering if I'd be able to complete all of the obstacles. I had done plenty of running and some upper body work, but I didn't know what level of difficulty to expect. There really was no reason to be scared; it was fun! Here we are going over one of the many walls we had to scale throughout the course.
This ("Arctic Enema") was probably the "worst" obstacle. You had to jump into this freezing tub of water and ice cubes, duck under the barrier, and climb out the other side. It was so unbelievably cold that you immediately lost your breath and all feeling in your body. I seriously almost cried!

We didn't stay clean for long. There was SO much mud. We had to crawl under barbed wire through mud, go through tunnels with mud, march through trenches with mud, climb up hills made of get the idea. I guess it is called the Tough MUDder. Two days later, I'm still finding mud in my ears and when I blow my nose!
Our friends and teammates Kristy and Nigel had a waterproof camera that they took along with them during the race, so they were able to get lots of these pictures as we completed the obstacles (you'll notice water drops on some!). Our friend Orla came along as a spectator and got some other great shots of the team before and near the end of the race. I think Kristy took this one as she was swimming away from the platform from which we had just jumped!

The two obstacles pictured below were probably the most fun. The first one is a giant Slip and Slide. Of course, you landed in a mud pit. The second one is a giant pile of hay bales we had to climb over, which was cool because I could do it myself (versus the walls where the guys would have to yank us girls up in order to get over).

Our team didn't start the race until about 11am, so there were huge lines at some of the obstacles. That was kind of annoying, because we basically just stood around in the mud waiting for long periods of time. The whole course took about five hours for us to complete, but that included a lot of waiting. Though it was a sunny day and we got hot at first while running, we ended up pretty cold by the end because it was so windy and we were wet and muddy. I guess there were 15,000 people doing it on Saturday; 600 or so started every fifteen minutes.

The obstacle I was most scared about (not pictured here) was "Electroshock Therapy," which involved running through a tunnel of dangling wires, some of which were charged and could give you a nasty shock. Luckily, I didn't get electrocuted at all, not even in the surprise obstacle called "Electric Eel" where you had to belly crawl under and between wires. Zack got a small shock, but he said it didn't hurt at all.
In the end, I'm glad I did it, though I didn't want to sign up for this thing months ago when we first started talking about it. It was pure peer pressure that caused me to join in, but it ended up being a good excuse to work out more often and with friends, and we had a fun weekend hanging out on Phillip Island in a big rental house with everyone. And other than a few scratches, bruises, one twisted ankle, and some sore muscles, we didn't have any serious injuries on our team, so that's good!

Our dirty team is pictured above left partway through the course. I've since soaked our shirts in the tub with a stain remover and am currently washing them for the second time, hoping they are salvageable! And yes, my shoes are among the huge donated pile seen in the picture above right. Saving my old running shoes came in handy for this race!

Celebration time!
After getting back to the rental house and showering up (one of the best showers ever!), we all enjoyed some drinks, a huge pasta dinner, "dirt" for dessert, a few board games, and some footy watching on TV before crashing in bed. We were all pretty tired! There are lots more pictures on my Shutterfly site if you want to see more of the fun we had on Saturday. Tough Mudder Melbourne 2012-mission accomplished!
We are Tough Mudders!