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My Blog

July 2010

120 v. 240... PAL v. NTSV... Ugghh

I’ve spent the past week trying to find a power adaptor that will work for Alex’s XBox360 here in Australia – and it’s absolutely killing me.  It has caused me to create a guiding principle for international moves which would read something like this… “If it runs on electricity, leave it home, no exceptions.”  When we were moving to Australia I thought we’d be okay with any electronics that had an outboard power supply that converted power from the wall outlet into usable (DC) power for the device.  Boy was I wrong.  This is often true for laptop computers and other things that charge (cameras, cell phones, etc.) but for video game systems that is definitely not the case.  
First we bought a very expensive step down transformer that should have allowed both the Wii and the XBox to work, it didn’t.  Then I found a tiny little store in a back room at the top of three flights of stairs in chinatown (no joke it was as clandestine and dramatic as it sounds).  They had Wii power supplies, but didn’t have any for the XBox.  With that, the Wii was working, but the XBox was still not in action.  This afternoon I went back to my friends in Chinatown (oh, by the way, the store isn’t marked in anyway, unless the Chinese writing on the wall says something like “Bootleg Electronics, Really Expensive!”).  They sold me an XBox power supply, it’s not exactly the one I need, but I’m willing to give it a try to protect sanity in the house.
I also found out around the time of our move, that movies have a different code here… PAL vs. NTSC back in the states.  Uggh, here I go again, running afoul of international standards.  I’m tempted to give up and read a book.
It all reminds me that things are a little bit different everywhere you go around the world, but that’s okay, it is the little differences that make places wonderful and unique.  People are different too, but they always surprise and humble with their generosity and willingness to help.  Australian’s may use different money and have more power coming out of their outlets, but they are genuine, wonderfully funny and helpful (except the people at the Sydney RTA, but that’s another story).    
Now, back to international standards.  Alex had a question the other day – and I might add – a really good idea too.  We were watching the World Cup championship match and Alex says with a smile, “Dad?”
“What Alex?”
“If the US were ever to win the world cup, would the rest of the world have to call it Soccer?” 
I laughed of course.  But it made me think.  It’s not such a bad idea.  If the world would call it soccer after a US victory, I bet Americans would get behind the idea and field a championship team, the US is after all a high-performance culture.  What could be next?  We could stage an international electrical engineering competition and the winner could decide 120 v. 240.  Not a bad idea at all.   

Louise and Oliver... no the other Louise and Oliver...

We made it through our first week!!  Has it really only been a week??  It feels like months have passed since I've seen each of you.  As I told Mike, we are officially 1% of the way through the adventure.  He was quick to point out that there are 52 weeks in a year, so we're technically a little less than 1% through.  I countered by telling him that at this particular moment, I'm thinking we'll high-tail it out of here as soon as the kids' break starts in June 2012, taking at least 3 weeks off our overall stay :)  I'm sure I'll feel different when the time actually comes.
Alex LOVED his overnight "excursion" to Bathurst.  He had a great time, made lots of friends, learned a lot about the Australian goldfields, ate new and delicious foods, AND saw multiple herds (do they call them that??) of kangaroos in the wild!!  Seriously, it sounded like a great trip.  I'm afraid the rest of the term is going to be a bit of a letdown since he might actually have to start doing some school work.
Max is finding his way.  There have been several surprises along the way.  For example, the boys wear their sport uniform to school 1 day a week.  There is another day each week when they bring it and change into the uniform before attending PE.  Where do they change?  You'd think a locker room, right?  No.  Turns out the Year 3 kids change in their classrooms.  The teacher requires the boys to face one directions and the girls to face another.  Poor Max!  No one had mentioned this to me, so I hadn't even had a chance to mentally prepare them. 
Of the 3, Max is the only one who doesn't have an over-the-top, super nice teacher.  For those of you at McT, he describes his teacher as "like Nancy Giasante but worse."  Mr Latimer takes his job "way too seriously."  Yet, based on what I've heard, I'm sure once Max and Mr Latimer get to know one another, they'll get along just fine.  On a more positive note, the kids in Max's class think he's fantastic.  He's made lots of friends.  Everyone shortens their name here, so among Max's new friends are TomTom and Coops.
Both Alex and Max are currently preparing for an Athletics Carnival next week (where they'll compete in track and field events) and a Jr School (which is years 3 thru 6) musical concert that they'll be performing in the following week.  Nothing like jumping right in, huh?
Jake continues to let his lower lip quiver just a bit each morning at drop off.  But it's clearly all for show because he has the biggest smile on his face when I pick him up.  In Australia, they expect kids to start reading in kindergarten, so he's spending a lot of time working on those skills.  As soon as he gains some confidence, I'm sure his reading will take off.
Here are my funny little observations for today...
  • They allow bikes to ride on the highway.  Yes, like 495-type of highway.  They ride along in what we would consider the breakdown lane.  Are they crazy??
  • When we first arrived, we were in an elevator that made announcements (1st floor, etc.).  Alex's comment... "Wow!  Even the elevator voice has an accent!"  We had to help him understand that now he's the one with the accent.
  • I can't get the ordering of coffee down... it's worse than Starbucks.  I think I want a slim flat white with sugar but somehow I keep asking for a tall lite.  BTW, they hate Starbucks here.
  • Apparently all neighbours share the same names... Louise and Oliver.  No joke, the families on either side of us have a mom named Louise and a son named Oliver (as well as a Dominic and Phoebe).
That last one is just a little too much like an episode of the Twilight Zone, but it's all true, I swear.  Can't wait to see you all here.  Gotta Run!  

The Kookaburra is no laughing matter!

Greetings loved ones from down under.  I believe we have a Kookaburra problem, or it could be rabid-venomous flying monkeys I can’t be sure.  You see, I haven’t actually laid eyes on the creature(s) yet, but each of the last two mornings have been split wide open by a sound that can only be described as the combination between a deranged chimpanzee and a teething colicky baby with gas. 
I did a little reading on the Kookaburra and found out that they eat little creatures like bugs and snakes, so it might be a good thing to have in our garden… I just wish they didn’t go to work so early in the morning.   
I’m not sure if having a Kookaburra around is supposed to be good luck or not, but they (I call them “they” because judging by the racket they are making there must be about a dozen of them) are certainly waking me up early which can’t be good for anyone.  If I get any grumpier about losing my beauty sleep, that silly Kookaburra won’t be laughing any more. His luck will run out!   

Cars, Cars, Cars....

What a great weekend here in Sydney.  Since it was our first weekend here, we ran around like a bunch of Venice merchants trying to buy everything we could.  Silverware, towels & sheets, it’s amazing how quickly it all adds up. 
In our buying mode there was definitely one thing we needed more than anything else, an Australian car, which we found on Friday.  Instead of leasing a car, we decided to buy a used car, which allowed us to get more features (the cool stuff).  Our car is a Toyota Klueger -- which is just an outstanding and different name for a Highlander – and it has tons of gadgets.  The best is that it has GPS which includes a woman with an Australian accent (duh).  We call her Australian Julie.  She is wonderfully helpful most of the time and has a beautiful voice, but I can't say much for her sense of direction; she told us to make a u-turn on the Harbour Bridge yesterday, not a good idea.
We really needed a new car because the rental van we had was so big I was afraid to pull it into our driveway.  I know it would have been fine, but I kept imagining the phone call to Avis, “… you know that giant van you rented me…?  Right, that one… well it’s stuck in our driveway so we’re just going to have to leave it there… un huh, I know… but maybe we can turn it into a spare bedroom or something…"  Anyway, the giant went back to Avis on Saturday.
Finally on cars, and I thought this was just too funny not to pass along.  My old car in the states has become a movie star…    I thought I’d go see how much the dealer was going to try to sell the car for and I found this listing for my old car.  Watch the video it’s priceless.  Apparently since I was the only one to own that car they have made me out to be a little old lady who only drove the car to church on Sundays… no comments please. 
Anyway, we’re settling in with the help of lots of great people here (and lots of love and attention from our friends back in the states too).  Hope to see you all soon.  Our Klueger seats seven, so even our friends and family with five kids will fit – come on down!

Lost in Translation

I've realized that it is the small victories that mean a lot at the moment, things like...
  • Making it through a driving trip without anyone shrieking "You're too close!"
  • Actually hitting the turn signal (NOT the windshield wipers) when I want to turn while driving.  (Our windshield is AMAZINGLY clean!)
  • Finding my way to a new location.  You would think since Sydney is a relatively young city that there would be some logic to the way everything is laid out.  That is definitely NOT the case!
  • Managing to make dinner for my family when I don't have a single piece of real silverware yet and only one pan.  Don't be too impressed... dinner was just grilled cheese and cut up fruit/veggies.  Tonight is eggs & toast.  My poor family :)
  • Having someone ask me out for coffee or even take the time to chat with me at drop off or pick up.
I haven't found any really funny phrases here yet but here are a couple things that are different...
  • jumper = sweater
  • runners or trainers = sneakers
  • cable = internet (not TV)
  • gorgeous = adorable (Jake's teacher uses gorgeous a lot when describing the behaviors of some of the kindergarteners)
  • full stop = period
The boys are completing their first week of school and our house is in fairly good order.  There is still lots of shopping to be done this weekend for things like kitchenwares.  We can't wait for the Internet and home phone to be installed next week!  Unfortunately the cable TV is going to take a couple weeks because the street number for our house was recently changed and has messed everything up. 
Many of you commented on how great I sounded.  I know the hard part is yet to come.  We are very busy getting everything set up.  Even today when I had a few moments and didn't know what to start on next, all I really wanted to do was reach out to someone.  Hence the reason why I'm here.  I know I'll soon have local friends I can call but at the moment it feels a little lonely.  I'm definitely missing you all!
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