My blog is about the scenic, stressful, spectacular life (and everything screwy in between) of a
California girl turned expat transplanted to the land down under: North Queensland, Australia.

August 31, 2010

Picky, picky.

There’s a really funny old ass Sinbad stand-up comedy show where he’s talking about pay diets and says, “you know why you lose weight on those programs? ‘Cause you broke! You done spent all your money on the program! Friends bein’ like, ‘man, you look good!’ I WANNA EAT!!!” (It’s hilarious, go watch it here) That’s how I feel at the moment about Australia.
Beggars can’t be choosers, and well, we are pretty much dirt poor at the moment. What we have is what we have. And I’m a big girl (of course I am, I’m American, right?), so three square meals in America for me equal about fourteen Australian ones. And I’m trying, I really am. I’m trying to set a nice routine where I wake up, have a nice bowl of cereal and some coffee (have to also get used to the non-sugary unflavoured black coffee here-I would kill for a Starbucks macchiato), have a small lunch, and a balanced dinner.
In the States, there’s so much variety that I completely understand why we are all fat asses. Do we want Mexican today? Hamburgers? Chinese? Would you like to upsize that for 99 cents? How about two apple pies for a dollar? Yes please! Here, I swear to God, the choices are meat pie, sausage roll, or sandwich. The end. I was born picky (my mom would have to smuggle in food for me when we went out to eat when I was a kid), so I only like about twelve different kinds of food. I could eat french dips, patty melts and chicken fingers every day until I die and be happy. With french fries a side salad and a milkshake, of course. I’m so used to living alone, on MY terms, with MY food, that even going to my mom’s house for dinner was a feat. I like what I like. So being under someone else’s roof and eating what I am given is unnerving.
Please don’t get me wrong, I am eternally grateful that my husband and I are given a chance to get back on our feet and start over (hi mum I love you!). I just feel extremely stifled at the food choices. This is totally the fat girl in me talking, by the way. I know in my heart that eating a sandwich, an apple, and vegetables for dinner is the right thing to do. But my stomach thinks otherwise! And everything is slightly different. The ketchup and mayo is a little thinner, the cheese is a little whiter, the coffee a little stronger. I miss Panda. I miss Chick-fil-a. I miss roast beef sandwiches! For the past ten years food has been my only source of comfort, and now I am forced to not be on a crack binge like I have been recently. I’m doing okay, but the excessive person inside of me wants to go to McDonalds and order ten Big Macs.
I will end my blog with something positive because I was able to bitch and vent today. The entire experience, the goals if you will, of coming here was to open my eyes and really do something great with my (our) life. My family all had a big laugh when I was in America whingeing about the lack of food choices here, and they all told me, “lack of food choice is a GOOD thing!” I’ve always wanted to cook. Really cook. To have the opportunity to actually add healthy food to my palate is fantastic! Now someone just tell my stomach that!!!

August 29, 2010

Geckos. No longer a cute British lizard.

So I’m at my computer last night and right behind me I hear this bird screech less than five feet (oh crap I don’t know the Australian equivalent of “feet” yet) from me. I bolt from my chair and yell to J that there is a bird inside the house! He opens up the curtains and there is nothing there. I tell him, “I swear to God there was a bird like, RIGHT THERE!” He walks back downstairs and I sit down, looking behind my shoulder every few seconds for an invisible killer bird.

A few hours later at dinner, my husband’s dad muses, “that noise you heard earlier, was it like a ‘tick tick tick tick tick’?”, and I’m like, “YES!!! OH MY GOD THAT WAS IT!” He very casually tells me, “ah, that wasn’t a bird, that was a gecko. It probably was in the house then”. A…gecko made that noise? A…reptile? And it’s…IN THE HOUSE!?!?! I’m trying not to freak out, so I imagine this dude casually strolling up onto my desk saying something along the lines of, “I can save you a bunch of money on your car insurance, mate”.

images

[Sidenote-HOLY SHIT AS I WRITE ONE IS IN THE ROOM MAKING THAT NOISE! BRB!!! Damn it, now I can’t write. There is a thing that sounds like pure evil hidden somewhere in this room and with the anxiety that comes with me being me and living in the deadliest-animals-in-the-world capital, I am freaking out. I ran downstairs and begged my husband to come upstairs so I can finish this blog. Okay, commencing.]

Anyway, that smooth cockney accent is definitely NOT the noise coming out of some animal of death. This is what a real Gecko looks and sounds like (P.S. Props to me for making the following video!):

And this morning, I awoke to the devil’s siren sound again next to the bedroom window and it made me bolt out of bed (hmmm…maybe I’m onto the invention of a lifetime! An alarm clock pet that ejects you out of bed!). Mind you, we live in practically a jungle, so some baby lizard should be the least of my worries. Mosquitoes must love pale American flesh, because I have eight bites over the course of just one day. Since Australia seems to shut down on Sundays, we had to go to three different convenience stores to see if they carried some sort of Benadryl. They didn’t. I’m going to get malaria and be confined to bed and be surrounded by geckos. Crap.

August 28, 2010

Automobiles.

(C’mon! This post had to be called “Automobiles”!)

So today is our first full day in Australia without movement. We’ve been travelling two days and, as much as I don’t regret taking a day-long train ride, I am TIRED. Jet lag combined with confined space and going from 100+ degree heat to low 60’s, and my head is about to explode.

Not much news from the train, but when we got closer to our new home, the landscape suddenly changed on me! The whole trip there were tall trees, grasslands, swamps and fields, and once we got more northern it changed to this bright jungle land. Where we are moving is “Tropical North Queensland”, and…well…it’s spectacular to be honest. I asked J how to describe it, and he actually said “a conglomeration of trees and magic”. Well, there you go. Google it! I still flip out when I see parrots flying around. It’s a parrot! And it’s just an ordinary bird here! WTF?

When we got to Townsville (that’s the regional city, not some fake pseudonym for the city-it really is called Townsville!) and met up with the husband’s parents, we hopped in the car and headed to The Strand, a gorgeous strip of super blue beach and awesome food. We got fish and chips (yay!), and the prawns (shrimp) were $27.00 a kilogram (kilogram=2.2 pounds). Guess I won’t be eating shrimp cocktails anytime soon *sadface*. By the time we ate and walked around a little bit, I was ready to head home. We took the 90 minute (more travelling!!!) drive to Charters Towers, and we were home.

I get all warm and fuzzy thinking about my husband seeing his house, his parents, his pets, his room, etc. after two years. He’s positively glowing! And anytime he’s happy, I can’t help but be happy. J’s mum outdid herself with our “lounge”. They literally closed off half of the house so we can have a cute little suite to ourselves. It’s fantastic! My husband’s old room is our entertainment room, stocked with a flat screen TV, stereo, two computers (hi), a little card table and two rocking chairs. Down the hall is my sister-in-law’s old room with a queen size bed, walk in closet and our own bathroom. I am in awe of how much room we have. Honestly after the year we have had, I would have been happy with a cot and a wash bucket.

I crashed yesterday at 7pm (2am California time), and was up and awake at 7am today. I cleaned out four of our six ports (luggage), and J’s mum took us to the grocery store for some quick shopping. Ahh, a foreign grocery store. Fun! As most stores in Australia close in the afternoon on Saturdays (and at 5pm during the week and closed on Sundays-WTF?!?), we did a quick trip and just grabbed some snacks for the weekend. #1 on my list? SODA! Apparently, beer>soda in Australia (duh), so soda is pricey. My husband tells me, “you should probably stop drinking soda since we are living here now”. You’re kidding, right?!?!? Soda (and food) is my only vice! I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, and you want me to give up my favourite food/drink item? REALLY? No. No, I am sorry, I need my diet coke. I got a 30-pack for $17.99.

I can see why Australia is known for its “laid-back” attitude. I’ve kind of been sitting and wandering around all day today, partly because of my head cold and partly because there’s not much hustle and bustle. I walk a little slower, panic a little less, and generally take my time with everything. I told J when I woke up the first thing I wanted to do was take a walk around the block. He told me, “nah…let’s just wait a few days”. Well, alright. No worries, mate.

Trains.

I’m on a train! (Sung to the tune of “I’m on a boat!”) As we speak, I don’t have internet access, but I am still writing my second blog because, like I have said, I have the memory of a fish, and will forget everything I told my husband to remind me not to forget. First off, we’ll call this “Stuff That’s Weird to an American!”

*The toilets have two flushes: one for pees and one for poops. And yes, the toilet water drains clockwise. (Go flush the toilet at home. You’ll be amazed to see it drains COUNTER-CLOCKWISE!!! I think this is proof there is a God and he can be silly.)

*They don’t use toilet seat covers. Ew.

*They use these pull-down cloths to wash your hands on instead of disposable paper towels. I don’t know if I’m down with that yet, reusable public towels. Air dry here I come!

*Carts=trolley

*Elevator=lift

*Restroom=toilet (it sounds so vulgar to me, I don’t know why)

Anyway, customs was cake. We stored our luggage until it was time to take our train up the coast (you know how I’m afraid of planes? I convinced my husband to skip the 1hr 45min transfer plane in favour of a 22 hour train trip. Yeah.) and head to the food court. I get Donut King, and order a iced mocha (yum! Not Starbucks yum though!) and this chocolate ├ęclair-ish donut of death, like the best thing that has ever touched my mouth. Seriously. J gets Red Rooster, a cross between Chick-fil-A and KFC, and I give in and get some of their chips (Chips=fries). We are both in the food court on the floor salivating in ecstasy because it’s SO GOOD! Plus, they have Coke Zero and coffee all over the place. Winner! We hop on the train and, well, that’s that for now. I’m going to be excited to upload my pictures because I think when we picture Australia, we picture two things: beach or Outback. Most of what I have seen of it is vast green lands, covered in Gum (Eucalyptus) trees and grass as tall as Sierra trees. It’s so dense you can’t see past the first few feet of it. I’m kind of hoping to spot a kangaroo hopping around (and I’ll do my damndest to take it’s picture!). Our train goes up the coast, and there is literally only a handful of towns dotted into the landscape. Haven’t actually seen the coast on our train trip yet, though we are only a few miles (doh! Kilometres) inland.

It’s 4:15pm in my new country, even though my American brain is telling me it’s 11:15pm at night. J ordered us two sausage rolls for lunch (pretty good-they are a rich croissant-like pastry stuffed with sausage) and I got a Magnum ice cream bar. O…M…G. It is vanilla ice cream with a chocolate coating, with a caramel coating over that, AND another chocolate coating over that! It was a never ending ice cream bar, the best kind of ice cream bar in my opinion. Oh, and Red Rock Deli Sweet Chili and Sour Cream potato chips. I think for Christmas I am going to send all my friends a bag of these potato chips, because they are the only reason I agreed to move to Australia in the first place.

My husband is reading this and said, “all you’ve written about is food!” What the hell else am I supposed to say? I’m fat and stuck on a train! Okay, okay, when my jet lag subsides and my brain becomes creative again, I can tell you all about the…well, I don’t know yet. I just got here myself!

(Footnote-I counted 7 kangaroos!)

Planes.

So I’m absolutely terrified of planes. But, like birth, you forget about how horrible it is until you do it again. With all my goodbyes done (FYI-all that worrying about having to say goodbye to everyone forever hasn’t even hit me yet. I cried when I saw my grandpa, and I cried when I said goodbye to my mom. That’s it. *Pats self on back*), I wasn’t really concerned or anxious about my impending flight-even at the airport. But I was sick as a dog. Without going into the gross details, I may have had a little too much milk products combined with stress the last few days. Needed to make a couple stops on the way to the airport. Unfortunately, being sick left me dehydrated and with a wicked migraine waiting to board the plane. I was faced with a handful of hypochondriac options: Take the anti-poo medicine for a bubble-less flight? Chug a bottle of water with airborne in it? Take a migraine pill and have a clear head? Be sick all over and overload on Xanax? I chose option 4.

Right before we boarded I swallowed the relaxo-pill and headed for the plane. I get a sheer sense of panic as I tell J, “I’m going to throw up. I’m going to throw up” and start to semi-hyperventilate and tear up. I’m trying to do everything I can to not get emotional and go batshit crazy, so I start staring at the flight team guys bright yellow jacket. It’s yellow it’s yellow it’s yellow it’s yellow I say over and over in my head so I don’t think of death, fear, grandpa, California, Mexican food, everything. I’m finally relieved when we come to our seats-a two-seater in the very back of the plane with extra leg room (I did my research-they say people who sit in the back of the plane have a better chance of living in a plane crash. Heck yes!). All is right with the world. I call my mom from the plane, post a Facebook status update, and buckle my seatbelt. That’s when all hell broke loose.

We start taxi-ing (is that a word?) onto the runway and I’m doing okay. I see planes take off and I’m like, “no problem, I can do this!” and I hold J’s hand. As soon as we start the sprint and lift off, I must have left my rational brain on the runway because my teeth lock up along with the rest of my body and I can’t move. Because we are in the back of the airplane, I swear it feels like we are going up into the air vertically. I’m holding J’s hand so hard I’m surprised he still has feeling in it! Plus the plane is doing these mini dips to level itself out, so I’m convinced we’re just going to fall from the sky. Holy crap I’m gonna die. I’m throwing out Hail Marys and telling Jeebus please don’t let me die on a plane! Let me die from a food-induced heart attack! Let me die in my sleep! DON’T YOU LET ME DIE ON A PLANE!!! all the while with tears streaming down my face and gasping for air through my teeth. My poor, sweet hubs is in my ear telling me “you’re okay! This is normal! I love you! I’m so proud of you!” and I’m bawling like a baby. Oh, and since I’m an adult next to like, a hundred passengers, my face is plastered to the window so I don’t look like a wuss. The “bong” sound for the seatbelts pops on and people start walking up and down the aisles, doing their thing, and I am so shocked they can walk at a time like this! By the time the plane levels out my Xanax had (FINALLY) kicked in and my husband suggests we watch The Simpsons together, and the episode they had on the plane was one of my favourites ever (OH! Since this is my transplant blog, I need to start typing and using slang like an Aussie, hence the extra “u” in favorite lol), PLUS the food came out then too so all was right with the world…until we crash, of course.

I dozed off watching “Hot Tub Time Machine” and woke up with only eight hours left on the flight. THEN dozed off listening to opera on the radio and woke up with only four hours left. Holy crap! I never sleep on planes because I’m usually too scared to move, let alone close my eyes. The two extra Xanax after dinner may have helped that out. Watched two episodes of “True Blood” (seemed like it would be a good show to get into-don’t have HBO sadly), dozed off…again! and the time flew by, and all was right with the world. Until of course the landing. Holy crap!

August 24, 2010

22 hours left on American soil.

First off, I want to apologize to anyone who stumbled across my blog address and thought this was a porn site. I finished all the layouts and showed my husband, and he pointed and laughed at the name. Damn it!

Anyway, I should be in bed. I promised myself I would wake up super early tomorrow so I would be utterly exhausted by the time I got on the plane. Tomorrow is today and I’m still awake. Crap. I have said all my goodbyes to my friends and most of my family, and no tears were shed. Good. I still have to deal with the double punch of saying goodbye to my mom and grandpa, which leaves me with a hole in my heart. Maybe tomorrow-uh, I mean today-I will be in so much shock that I will be able to just say, “peace out!” It was easy with everyone else. Just a hug and a “I’ll miss you!” My stepdad and my sister are taking us to the airport, and we are not a mushy huggy-kissy bunch. Good. It sucks to hand over your passport to a customs agent while bawling your eyes out.

I’ve been setting up things like it’s my last day on Earth. What’s my last meal going to be? They don’t have A&W in Australia, I need to make a root beer float! Have I tied up all loose ends? The nearest Starbucks is fourteen hours away to where I will be living so I want one last caramel macchiato before I head out. I need to get that as soon as I wake up since I am terrified to fly. TERRRIFIED. With all the insane anxiety I carry with me while looking at basic things like driving under an overpass, being on a massive airplane that I’m not in control of for fourteen hours over water is pretty much giving me a coronary. Thank Jeebus my doctor prescribed me some Xanax for the trip. I plan on taking about twelve. (No, not really)

Not only for this blog, but for a new look on life, I am vowing to take my camera with me everywhere I go in Australia. Who knows what I will see and discover! Plus I have the memory of a fish, so I will probably forget about something I saw before I have a chance to write it down. P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney. Just keep swimming! Well, I have to make an attempt to go to bed. By going to bed I mean laying in a dark room and fretting over flying and moving and saying my goodbyes and eating what may be the best food ever (America=greasy, awesome food that makes you fat). At least on this flight I won’t be going alone like all my previous ones. Good.