08 December, 2011

I found our family GP

As part of the 457 visa you are required to carry private health insurance. I am in the process of submitting our first medical claim with our carrier Australian Unity. The insurance works via reimbursement. You send in the receipts and they credit your bank account in about one week. One form required the doctor to date the onset of the condition. Australian Unity wants to be completely confident that they are not paying for a pre-existing condition. I was told the form needed to be filled out by the first practitioner I saw. No worries, I waited until the after hours clinic was open and went in to have the form filled out. Of course, there is a large rotation of doctors and the one I saw was not in and on holiday for three weeks. Ugh.

I called Australian Unity and they said I could have another doctor sign the form. Enter Doctor Neo. I saw Dr. Neo the following Monday after having very intense abdominal pains Saturday. This is the same doctor that personally called me to see how I was doing. So on a raining Tuesday, (remember we still don't have a car) I ride down to the clinic to see Dr. Neo. I was already annoyed because I had to make an appointment for a 5 minute discussion. I had a nice chat with Dr. Neo as he completed the form. I told him about making cremation arrangements for the baby, how we had seen the heart beat flutter during the ultrasound, how then I had a car accident the next week, blah blah blah. He listened intently and said that he could tell that I was still needing to work through a lot of emotions with this miscarriage. He was right about that. Then he did an amazing thing. He asked if he could pray with me. We bowed our heads there in his office and he prayed that God would continue to heal me and my family. What a blessing. What a tremendous witness of his faith. Oh, and he didn't charge me for the visit.

Next time anyone in our family needs medical care we will be making an appointment with Dr. Neo who works to heal body and soul.

06 December, 2011

Lessons Learned

A car is not critical. Until it is critical.

As you may have read in the previous post, Erika was involved in a car accident. Thankfully nobody in either car was injured and Erika was not at fault, so it isn't going to cost us anything financially.

WA not only stands for our state name, Western Australia, it is, we are told by the locals, also an abbreviation for Wait Awhile - the unofficial state slogan. Being the most isolated capital city in the world, it takes some time to get things that you need... like auto parts. So, while we wait for car parts - hopefully we'll be back on the road by Christmas after a three week delay - we are doing a lot of walking and biking (push biking in the local vernacular).

This has taught me some important lessons:

1. As the comedian said, EVERYWHERE is within walking distance if you have the time.
2. Living on the top of the hill makes it easy to bike nearly anywhere... coming home... not so fun.
3. There is a strong correlation between exercise and weight loss

Some of the ways in which this has impacted me :
> I have to leave the house 15 minutes earlier in order to bike to the train, but Erika now gets to sleep in.
> I sleep better.
> I can only wear a set of clothes once (as opposed to hanging back up a "clirty" shirt - biking up the hill home makes me sweat
> The kids can't go to evening activities due to the distance involved, it being dark for the ride (sometimes on the side of the road) and the time involved.

We may have figured out a way to get a rental car finally (living without credit cards is nice, but sometimes you REALLY need them), so we can become a bit more of a NORMAL family again.

My only real concerns is what to do if there is an emergency. James caught a Red Back (an Aussie Black Widow Spider) in the kitchen the other day. If he had been bit, I could not throw him on a bicycle and a recent train accident saw a man wait 20 minutes for an ambulance to arrive after he had his leg severed by a train... and that was minutes from the hospital and ON the large freeway.

Not our typical Aussie post - apologies. Was just on my mind.

29 November, 2011

It's the people

Australians are generally very kind and helpful. I was very much reminded of this truth over the last few days and weeks. This November has been a particularly bad month for me although it is a memorable one to be sure. I mis-carried a baby, had surgery, and was in a car accident within a three week period. There were several other smaller problems but these definitely top the list. What has helped me and my family through these trials (and really isn't that what they really are?) are the amazing Australians I have encountered. Here are some examples of the Aussie hospitality I have experienced.

When I was recovering from surgery, my dear friend brought meals and even took my kids for the day. People have sent flowers and offered help. Medical personnel were very kind. I even had a doctor call me personally just to check in on me. That is unheard of in the US! Friends have called to chat, or visit, or text their support. Another friend rescued me from the auto shop today and loaned me her car. All of these kindnesses I would expect (with the exception of the doctor's concern) but it the kindness of strangers that I really want to highlight.

Warning this next paragraph is very long and rambling. It is a spaghetti story that will make sense in the end, I promise.

Today, while taking Madeline to school, a woman pulled out in front of me at an intersection and I struck her car with my van. No one was hurt thankfully. She was apologetic. We exchanged information and were on our way. Note: You don't need to involve police here in a motor vehicle accident. You are required to file a report online. VERY EFFICENT!! We limped to Madeline's school. I got out of the van to see if I could bend whatever it was that was rubbing on the tire out of the way so I could drive home. Out of no where, a staff member from the school asked if she could help me. Susan called maintenance and I was wisked away to have a cup of tea in her office while the van was gafted (duct taped) together. We ended up having a wonderful conversation once my hands stopped shaking. Turns out her sister lives in Colorado but is returning to Perth this Friday to live. We plan to get her niece and Madeline together. I was later sent on my way with a caution to drive carefully. All I could say was thank you. Susan and the maintenance man both said, "It was our pleasure to help you, that's what Mater Dei is all about." Fast forward about 3 hours to when I limp the car to the auto shop. Note: If you do auto body work in Australia you are known as a 'paneller'. (Spell check doesn't like that one). I didn't have an appointment but they managed to squeeze me in for an appraisal. I'm was told by a very kind man that I can't legally drive my car the way it was and that it will take an act of God for it to be repaired by Christmas. I'm feeling sick to my stomach with the news, wondering how am I going to pay for a rental car for that long when a lady from the office comes out with an offer of a 'cuppa' and a next door rental place. I manage to arrange for a friend to come and rescue me and give me a ride home. (Oh, and pick up Madeline from school 20 minutes late.) Then begins my attempt at renting a car in Australia. Not easy. No worries. Kay offered to lend me her car until tomorrow afternoon thereby giving us some time to figure some things out and go to the bank (they close up tight at 4 or 4:30). Immediate problem solved. Everybody can get to where they need to go in the morning.

Yesterday, I called a funeral center to make some arrangements for our baby. The lady could have just signed me up for the most expensive services but she didn't. She went out of her way to help us. She called the hospital and made an appointment for me to speak with the chaplain. Turns out the hospital staff should have mentioned these resources to me but didn't. Anyway, it sounds like some of the expenses might be picked up by the hospital but I don't know for sure. I didn't have time today to call the chaplain, I was too busy having a car accident.

My whole point is, these people didn't have to do what they did. The funeral lady could have just done her job and charged me the fees, but she didn't. The doctor could have waited until my next appointment, but he didn't. The auto panelers could have put me off until tomorrow, but they didn't. Susan, could have just left me to rip the wheel housing off of my car by myself, but she didn't. These people helped me when I really needed it and it made a huge difference to me. We all can help one another. We are called to do so, but how often do we 'not bother'? In the U.S. I have been helped by strangers many times. I've been known to ask a stranger for directions, or to jump my car. The difference is that in the U.S. people will certainly help you when asked. In Australia though, I wasn't asking. Help was offered me before I even really knew what I needed. Isn't that the definition of hospitality, anticipating someone's need?

Good on you Aussies!!! You made my day and I love you for it.

22 October, 2011

Squid dissection

Two weeks ago, I dissected a squid at Scitech. It was awesome. First, I went in the room where I was going to dissect a squid. Our teacher (I forgot her name it started with a C) had a video camera on a stand right above her dead squid hooked up to a screen. The class and I grabbed some stool's to sit on. Our teacher was telling us about squids for a while. Then, she told as to pick a squid. The squids where in little trays with one or two tools in them. There where about twenty trays on a table that was shaped like a square U. I was on the edge right next to the teacher and a boy about my age named Alex. He had never dissected anything before. He asked, "are you from america?" and I said, "yes, and I'm from Minnesota." My squid had very short tentacles. I named it Inky. Then our teacher told us to cut the squid open right up the back. It was hard to cut. Then she told us to find its' ink sack with out it spilling. Mine spilled all over. Then we cut out its' gills (they looked like feathers). Then we cut out its' three hearts. One heart was for its' body and two for each gill. The teacher wanted to cut my squids head off and she showed the whole class it's brain.... then she told us to name each part of its body. It was cool and I figured out how to tell a boy squid from a girl squid. I really liked it. It was fun, yes I said fun.
hello world this is isaac. this my first blog post with up north to down under.

08 October, 2011

Rudy has Landed

Ways that Australia is Worse than the United States

We've written a lot here about some of the great things about living in Australia. But we've really become used to a lot of the parts of living in the United States and some of the conveniences that come with that. Here is a list of the mild annoyances about living in Australia in general, and Western Australia in particular.
  • No Turn On Red

    Yep. When you come up to a red light, you cannot turn. In the U.S. this means that you cannot make a right turn on red. In Australia, being on the other side of the road, this means that you cannot turn left on a red light. This is STUPID. Nobody's coming. I don't have to cross over any lanes of traffic.

  • Speed Limits

    The speed limits here are a lot slower than that in the US. Residential neighborhood speed limits are about the same, but the high-speed roads are significantly slower.

  • Stores Close Early

    Basically, everything closes in Western Australia at 5:00 or so on most days. On Sundays, things close much earlier. Each suburb has a night that they stay open late. In Joondalup things are open until 9:00 on Thursday night. But if you want to go out at 3:00am to buy a sippy cup and a DVD of Bosom Buddies seasons 1-4, it cannot be done.

  • Slow Response Times

    I really don't like waiting three days for a tradesman to get back to me. I like calling and getting an answer.

  • Whining About Power Costs

    Moving here we are paying a lot less in electricity, both in terms of total bill and in terms of cost per KWH. BBut because people are seeing their bills go up here, there is a constant complaining about energy costs. We don't get it.

  • High Costs

    Some things cost a lot more here than they should. The same goods that you can buy in the US are available here (kind of). You would think that being so much closer to the shipping ports - China, Singapore - that the costs here would be less. But they're not.

  • Limited Choice

    In the U.S. you can walk into a store and select from a dozen brands of television, jeans, etc., etc. Here you have choice, just less of it. In the U.S. you might see ten things, here you might see six or seven.

  • Lower Quality on Appliances

    We have had no luck with consumer electronics and appliances here. Maybe we're just unlucky.

  • No Bill of Rights

    Really, this hasn't impacted me at all - but it is a little bothersome.

  • Lot (Block) size

    The yards are tiny tiny. You'd think that, given the low population density of this country, they could spread out a little. The average density in the cities are low, even given the small lot size. This appears to be because there is very little high-density living. Basically, there are almost no apartment buildings.

  • Property Costs

    Way too high especially given the lot (block) size.

That's it - nothing major. If these are the worst of our problems, then this is a kind of paradise. No issues with crime (low). We know where to find cheap, good food. The people are generally (almost universally) nice.

02 October, 2011

Australian & American English

Here is a list of Australian words that might be confusing to Americans. These are all things we have heard used in common speech.
Apples - as in "She'll Be Apples"
"It Will Be Okay" - an expression implying that some work currently being undertook will be finished in a way beneficial to the parties involved. Also, possibly, meaning, "Don't Worry, Be Happy" without the musical connection.
See "Use In Anger"
The Afternoon - "I'll meet you in the arvo"
Canadian Bacon - Sliced pig meat that comes from a slightly different part of the pig than American bacon. It does not crisp up until it is burnt. When you order a bacon cheese burger at Hungry Jacks, you get a ham sandwich / burger combination. You can buy American Bacon from some butchers.
Banana Bender
A Queenslader - a person from Queensland. Mildly insulting. About the equivalent of "Yank" for an American.
Swim suit
A container - generally for trash unless specifically prefixed by some other bin type, e.g. a storage bin.
A female without connotation to prestige, fairness or age.
A Cookie - unless it is a chocolate chip cookie, in which case it is a cookie, and not a chocolate chip biscuit. Cremes are cookies of the Oreo variety with a creme filling.
Small Pieces - as in "pick up the bits", the phrase "pick up the pieces" is not used.
Male, Man, Guy, Dude - A general term for an adult male or a male in his late teens. Not as friendly as "Mate" and generally used in the third person as in "That Bloke just spit on my car."
Trunk - specifically used when describing a car - the rear storage area.
Hood - specifically used when describing a car - the cover over the engine.
Suspenders (see Suspenders)
Mustang - a wild horse
The Home Depot of Australia. They often host Sausage Sizzles.
Pharmacist or Drug Store - either the person or the shop itself.
Drink Mix - Kool Aid and other powdered drink mixes are not found here. Instead you purchase liquid drink concentrate called a cordial.
Lawn Grass - rhymes with "pooch". This is a hardy, short grass that has branches that run along the ground. This does not have the vulgar slang meaning as the word does in the U.S., but saying "I need something that will kill the weeds on the front garden, but won't hurt my couch" still makes me blush.
A scone or small bread ball. Think of the cheddar biscuits at Red Lobster.
Chips - as in Potato Chips (or any similar type food)
A cup of coffee - as in "would like to stop for a cuppa"
A way to address an unknown child - same meaning as in the U.S., but actually used here informally.
Dickey Bow
A bow tie - mainly an British term.
A woman. Generally old or unattractive.
Appetizer, before a meal.
Deductible - the amount that you pay for repairs before an insurance claim is paid.
Expiration - as in the expiry date is an expiration date
Fancy Dress
Fancy Dress Party
Costume Party - these are not held only at Halloween.
Fancy Dress Shop
A Costume Shop - where you can purchase or rent a costume.
Fairy Bread
No American Translation - White (Wonder) bread covered with butter and bright colored sprinkles (see Hundreds and Thousands)
Fairy Floss
Cotton Candy - A spun sugar confection. Fairy floss traditionally has vanilla flavoring.
Female Genitalia - for Fanny Pack, use the term "Bum Bag"
Foot Path
Sidewalk - Concrete pathway either in front of your house or through a park.
Flat White
Coffee with a LOT of Cream - like a latte, but without foam (that's the "flat" part).
Australian Rules Football - Or possibly Soccer or Rugby (League or Union). It really depends on who you're talking to. It does not refer to American Football, which is called Grid Iron.
Two Weeks - a contraction of Fourteen Nights.
A hot dog - though not quite the same thing in the U.S. sense. These are like the Ambassador Sausages with a slight red coloring. Generally this term applies to the meat. In a bun it is a hot dog (but a sausage in a hot dog bun may also be called a hot dog by some).
G'Day (Good Day)
Howdy, Hi There, Hello - a term used in greeting another person. This is not said as a good bye (as in "Have a g'day", in this case you would say "Have a good day").
Lawn or Yard. It is not just the grass, but the landscaping as well. It may include a verge.
Natural Gas - used as a motor vehicle fuel (as in the U.S.). Here Gasoline is called "Petrol" and not "Gas". Telling the clerk at the petrol station that you have $50 in gas might have you paying for the wrong pump. You probably had $50 in petrol.
A slingshot. These are illegal to carry as a concealed weapon I am told.
Good On You
Good For You - both in a "You did a good job" sense and a "lucky for you" sense. I cleaned the coffee machine at work and was told "good on you".
Grid Iron
American Football - As played by the American Football League.
To Rent - a Hire Shop is a rental shop.
Hot Chips
French Fries
Hundreds and Thousands
Sprinkles - as in the colorful bits of sugar you might put on a doughnut or ice cream.
Hungry Jacks
Burger King - at one point there were both Burger King and Hungry Jacks restaurants (though only Hungry Jacks in W.A.). At some point in the past the change was made to exclusively Hungry Jacks.
A cowboy and a brand of pick-up truck
Jelly - sweet mashed up fruit, spread on toast or a sandwich. Jelly has a different meaning here.
Gelatin / Jell-o. Because this has a different meaning, the Australians can be grossed out by the idea of a classic Peanut Butter and JELLY sandwich, though Bill Cosby might like it. See Jam.
A cowgirl
A light jacket or sweater - not to be confused with a summer dress worn in the U.S. Men wear jumpers to work - kids and women wear them too.
Kilo / Kilogram
Two Pounds (approximately)
Krausky Sausage
Kielbasa - or Polish Country Sausage (not common usage in either country)
Lady Finger
A small banana - they look like plantains, but are much sweeter.
Sprite or 7-Up like Soda Pop. A carbonated, sweetened lemon flavored drink.
Lemon Mash
Lemonaide - a sweet, uncarbonated drink made from lemons. See Cordial.
Candy - of any sort. This is not limited to lollipops. A Jolly Rancher is a lolly.
Long Black
A coffee drink - basic black coffee with no hit of sexual connotation.
McDonalds - the fast food chain. this restaurant just turned 40 in
IN the U.S., the entre or the main part of the meal. The main course.
Man, Dude, Buddy, Pal - An informal friendly (generally) way of addressing a person, whether or not you know their actual name.
Hour devours in an informal sense.
Diapers - for children.
Nigel (Nigel No Friends)
Loner - something off on its own. Every heard of cows has a Nigel Cow, one that is off by itself.
Excuse me or say again (as in the U.S., but actually used here in common language)
Person with whom you are in a long-term relationship - this MAY be a spouse, but not necessarily. Australians have only around a 50% or lower marriage rate. Partners are given benefits and may be of the same gender.
Gasoline. Gas is a different product (natural gas) which is also purchased at a petrol station.
Petrol Station
A Gas Station - you can also buy Gas at a Gas Station, but it is not the same as Gas in the U.S. - it is Natural Gas.
Piss Taking
Provoking, teasing or chiding
Coitus - slang. As a verb to describe the general act. Also as a noun for your intimate partner.

When describing the path one takes between two points, use route (rhyming with shout). You CHEER for a sports team. The things on the bottom of a plant are roots as well, but in context you don't get people snickering.
A Sport Game - Similar to baseball, but played with cricket equipment.
Royal Show
The State Fair - held in early October in Western Australia
Trash or garbage (as in the US). Trash is less commonly used in Australia as a term for discarded items.
Rubbish Bin
A Garbage Can
Lettuce - I would like a sandwich with salad, means that you would like green leafy vegetables on your sandwich. Also can mean a salad in the American sense - as in a side to a meal.
Same as in America - a scarf is used to show support for a footy team. You wear a scarf with your teams name and colors on it to show support.
Paper napkins.
A female. Generally used without regard to age, but a slight implication of a common person not, for example, a lady, which is more polite.
Shopping Center
A Mall. Don't call them Malls.
A Crescent Wrench
Similar to a hot dog and used when only describing the meat. May be called a hot dog (some disagree on this point) if served like a hot dog on a bun.
Sausage Sizzle
Hot Dog Cooking - Generally seen as a fund raiser, like a Smelt Fry. Often stores (like Bunnings) will have a Sausage Sizzle right outside the door with the proceeds going to some charity that mans the booth. Compare with the Coke Hot dog Stands outside of a Cub Foods on a Saturday when it is nice out.
Garters - as in the underwear that holds up stockings.
Thanks - an informal way of saying "thank you" for some small favor, like holding open a door.
Tasty Cheese
Cheddar Cheese - only without the orange coloring. It is white like mozzarella.
Flip Flops - open-top informal footwear worn to the beach or pool.
Use In Anger
To use something well or to its fullest extent. I have only heard about this in the context of technology. This is opposed to tinkering with some technology for fun or on an open source project.
A pick-up truck. A shortened form of Utility Vehicle. Originally a vehicle like an El Dorado, but now more generically applied.
Vegetibles. As in "Eat your veg"
No American Translation - A brown veritable-based paste made by Kraft that is spread on buttered toast as a breakfast food. The key to enjoying Vegemite as an American is to put excess amounts of butter on the toast and then spread the Vegemite on as thinly as humanly possible and proceeding to eat the entire thing before your body has a chance to react. Although it is not made from powdered dried toad and mixed with a flavorless toothpaste, it looks and tastes like it might have been.
Easement - The strip of land between the sidewalk and the road that is maintained by the property owner, but owned by the city. It is common for people to park on the verge in Australia, which is nearly unheard of in the States.
Western Australia - the largest state in Australia - it takes the West third of the continent and is rich in mineral resources. It is not pronounced "wa", but rather the letters W.A.
Wheelie Bin
A garbage can on wheels - like the kind you might have for your weekly garbage collection.
Wind Screen
Windshield - specifically for use in cars.
Winding Up
To provoke. The result of winding someone up is that they are all wound up. See Piss Taking.
An American or one who acts like one. Often you might be asked if you are Canadian rather than being asked if you are a Yank - mainly because Canadians can be offended if you ask them if they are a Yank, but generally the opposite is not true.
Zee - The last letter of the alphabet.

06 September, 2011

The Flora and Fauna of Oz - Part Three : Crows (or something)

So I'm standing outside with my neighbor, Chris.  We're talking about his sea kayak and the kids are milling about when this bird flies overhead making this most unusual sound.

Me: What's that bird
Chris: That's a crow
Me: What's wrong with it?  Why is it making that sound?
Chris: What sound?
Me: (Imitating sound coming from the crow)
Chris: That's the sound that they make.  What do crows say where you come from?

I guess even the animals here have Australian accents.

Where I come from, crows say "Caw".  It rhymes with "Paw" or "Pa" and is not this long drawn out sound effect.

For my American friends... I give you the Australian crow (or something)

31 August, 2011


I don't get Vegemite.  It is kind of like bitter butter.... or maybe spicy peanut butter.  No, that's not right either.

Whatever it is though, it is NOT cheese.  These are packs of crackers (err... crisps?) that you can spread with Vegemite.  No, we didn't buy them.

21 August, 2011

Driving Home from Church

Rather than me paint a word picture of the experience of driving here in Western Australia - here is a short video that shows the drive from our church to our house.

27 July, 2011

Licensed to Drive

It has been a red-letter day at sunny Casa Del Riecken.  Both of the adults are now officially licensed drivers in Australia!

Our "real" licenses are not in our possession... yet, but we do have the temporary paper versions.

If you are considering moving to Australia from the United States, here is what was involved for us.

There is no test required.  You simply show up, pay your fee and they send you your license in the mail. You will need TWO forms of identification though.  Erika used her passport and a utility bill.  I used my passport and a copy of our signed lease.  You can see the required documents in this PDF.

There is no written test.  There is no behind-the-wheel test.

Once all of the paperwork has been filled out and your picture has been taken, it takes three to five days to get your license in the mail.  That is not a typo.  Three to five DAYS.  Wow - that is super efficient.  I am used to waiting weeks.

Erika was able to walk in, pay and be done.   I was a special case.  Because I am diabetic (Type II), I had to get a (very very brief) medical exam before getting my license.  I make an appointment with Central City Medical Center and was able to get in the same day that I called.  The ten minute physical cost me AU$75 (AU$65 for the exam and a AU$10 new patient fee).  The doctor asked me about my condition, took my blood pressure, did a simple eye exam and listened to my heart and lungs.  I gave him the forms and he faxed, then mailed, them to the drivers license center.  That was on a Thursday.  On Tuesday I was able to return to the center (centre) to finish the process.  (Again, very fast.)

The doctor approved a two-year license for me.


Your fees vary based on how long you want your license to be valid.  Erika is a healthy person and she had the option of one or five years.  She took the "I'm committed to living here" approach and put down AU$116.00.  If she had opted for one year only it would have cost AU$37.00.

I could only get a two-year license, so my fee was $48.40.  I am not sure what the fee amounts are for three and four years, as they are not published.

That's all there is to it.  If you come from some other countries, there is more involved.  My Scottish friend, because of the licensing rules, had to sit for the written test and has a heavy vehicle license - because his Scottish license allowed him to drive heavier vehicles (his wife has the same license) - though they didn't have to have any special training for that.  He tells me that they have since "fixed" the system.

If you are from Burma or Bangladesh you need to sit for a theory test.  Some countries require a note from the consulate indicating that you are licensed to drive in your home country.  If your documents are not in English you may require an official translation.

The Australian Department of Transport:

We would call this the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) in Minnesota.  The waiting room here has the same queue system that the Hennepin County License Bureau has in Minnetonka.  You get a ticket and then wait.  The ticket in Oz is distributed by a machine, where in Minnetonka you ask a person for the ticket.  You then wait while tickets are called.  Different services go to different counters.  You wait until your number is called and then go up to the numbered counter.  Very efficient.

But... don't go over lunch.  The ADT is only open banker's hours and, of course, everybody goes down on their lunch break.  I waited for an hour over lunch and only a few minutes when I went in the early afternoon.

See this PDF  and this page for additional information.

19 July, 2011

Thrifty digs at the Ops shop

Thrift shopping is nothing new to me. With one income and a gaggle of kids, I often shop thrift stores for clothing and other items. In the midst of our packing we were able to make a very large donation of our stuff for charity. Thankfully Australia has such shops. They are not known as thrift stores or Goodwill here but rather "Ops Shops". I think that's short for opportunity. I'm not sure about whose opportunity it refers though. Mine perhaps in getting a bargain or someone else who benefits from the proceeds. I like the new name (new to me that is). Opportunity Shop is very positive sounding. There are lots of opportunities. The opportunity to get a bargain, to recycle, to help someone in need. It's much better than second hand or thrift store.

The items we saw were typical of what one would find in Minnesota, clothing sorted by color and season, kitchen wares, toys and books. Prices did differ though. There was a half price rack with items for $2. But most clothing was $6 or $7 dollars and not the $2 or $3 I was hoping for. Still, I went away with a renewed sense of hope that we can make a go of it here in Australia. I took comfort in the fact that yes there are thrift stores and Target is just around the corner.

14 July, 2011

Aussie English 001

Seen in an advertisement at the Joondalup train station:

Ticket price includes one free drink and "nibblies".

Do you think that they mean appetizers? Appetizers on menus here are called "entrée" and what folk in the USA would call an entrée is called a "main".

Viva la differance.

Location:Collier Pass,Joondalup,Australia

Caversham Wildlife Park

Last Saturday, on the advice of a friendly co-worker, we took the family to the Caversham Wildlife Park in the countryside to the East of Perth.

The park is somewhat like a zoo, in that there are many animals in cages.  But more interesting is that many of the animals are not in cages.  This gives the animals an opportunity to interact with the humans... and gives the humans a chance to interact with the critters.

The Entrance to Witeman Park, where the Caversham Wildlife Park is found.
Critter Alert!  Let's see.. Kangaroos, Cows, and... ?! What is that?

At The Park Entrance
It costs $101 for the whole crew to go in.  It was worth every cent.
In the large kangaroo encounter area (that's not what they call it)

The 'roos are fat and lazy.  Why be anything else when hundreds of children bring you hands full of food.

Brave James is the first to approach an upright 'roo.

Zoey feeds a 'roo.  It is taller than her.  James is there for emotional support.

Oliver has the 'roos eating out of the palm of his hand.

Isaac commented that the 'roos fur is very soft.  It is - it is like cat fur.

A 'roo on the go.

Hannah has a new buddy.

Zoey, of course, found the smallest kangaroo in the park (that wasn't in a pouch) and had to snuggle it.

Madeline and a mob of kangaroos.

Emu.  Emo emu.  Freaky bird.  The fence next to it is just over waist high on a 2m tall adult.

Zoey grew brave enough to wander off on her own to commune with the wildlife.

Here's the kids and a ... Quokka.  I have no idea what a Quokka is... but there is one in the background.

The park is divided into sections based on parts of Australia.  And there is a large farm (domestic animal) section as well.  Here we walk from SE Australia's section to the farm.

In the farm section they had a bunny pen.  It is only open to kids five and under.  Oliver sat down and the bunnies started to mob him.  It didn't hurt that he had food for them.

City boy successfully milks a cow.  Shortly thereafter the cow urinated on the farmer.  What do you think the kids will remember?

Matilda the Carpet Python.  Picture by Hannah.

Rieckens + Wombat + Park Lady = Christmas Picture?

Some minions with a Barking Owl.

Zoey FINALLY found a DINGO!  She loves dingos.

Erika is pinching a koala's butt.
No... really... she is just stroking with the back of her hand.

All of the Rieckens and a sleeping marsupial.

13 July, 2011

no Middle School in Australia

When I was growing up we had three schools.

Elementary School - Grades k-6
Junior High School - Grades 7-9
Senior High School - Grades 10-12

Then it all changed. We got rid of Junior High School and had middle school instead. Then it looked like this:

Elementary School - Grades k-5
Middle School - Grades 6-8
High School - Grades 9-12

In Australia they only have two schools: Primary and High Scools. The High Schools sometimes are called a collage.

Primary School - Grades k-7
High School -Grades 8-12

UNLESS it is a Catholic School, which are wildly popular here, in which case it is

Primary School - Grades k-6
High School - Grades 7-12

I'm not sure what I can do with this information, but maybe you will find it useful.

09 July, 2011

The Cost of Electricity

Synergy is the electricity retailer for Perth and the surrounding area.

According to their web site, we will be paying $0.2187 per Kilowatt Hour for electricity.

For our little portable heaters then, which burn at 2000 Watts (2kW)- this means that it will cost us...

2kW x 1 Hour x 0.2187/kwH x 3 heaters = $1.31 to run our heaters for one hour. If we run them for eight hours at night, this comes to $10.50 per night. For a month of this, it will put us out $314.93 if the month has 30 nights.

Our current plan is to run all three heaters in the large common room with the rest of the house sealed off during the day, but only run them for an hour or so at a time. At night, we will put the heaters in the bedrooms on timers and run them from an hour before bedtime to an hour after lights out, then an hour before wake-up time until just after wake-up time (approximately 7:30-8:30).

Erika also spoke with the previous occupants of the house and they were kind enough to tell us their average electric bill. They told us that they were spending $125 every month. This means that they weren't running the heat on electric like us.

07 July, 2011

When life brings you lemons dress them up and play a game

Today the kids and I were invited to lunch at a friend's house. Christine, is a member of St. Simon Peter Parish and kindly welcomed us with open arms. What a treat to be in an actual home with regular home furnishings. We lunched on hamburgers, cookies, chocolate cake, coffee, tea and milk. Fun was had by all, but the crowning touch for the children was picking lemons from her lemon tree. Lemons are in season here now and they are beautiful! Some are the size of large oranges stateside. Everyone got to pick one and bring it home. They were so excited! They immediately gave names to their lemons and starting being absolutely silly. When we pulled up at our house I found myself saying, "If your lemon is now your new best friend, why don't you take him around back and show him the pool?" The lemons enjoyed a tour and a nap on the air mattress with a doll blankie. Oliver's quickly sported a sock hat and I couldn't help but wonder why I packed ANY toys at all in the shipping container when children can entertain themselves with boxes and fruit. I hope the children won't be too upset when their new friends become lemonade or lemon tart tomorrow.

06 July, 2011

We are the Rieckens and would like to apologize in advance

I am slowly meeting people. I've become accustomed to speaking to strangers in fact. While at the grocery store I often ask the poor person who happens to be in ear shot something inane like, "Excuse me, is this sour cream actually sour cream like you would put on a baked potato?" I've never bought sour cream in what looks like a small carton for whipping cream before. Turns out, just like the kind woman at the store with the lovely accent said, "It's beautiful!" The creamiest (I know this can't be good for me) sour cream.

Today I met our neighbor to the east, under a more distressing situation. "Hello, I'm Erika Riecken your new neighbor. I'm so sorry, but my daughter Zoey has just bitten your son. There luckily isn't any blood. I'm not sure why she did it, but I wanted you to know that we do not accept this kind of behavior and she has made an apology and been punished." Belinda was very congenial and we chatted for some time on the front step. I probably should have apologized too for my children teaching her children how to play "toilet tag." Aussies play tag but not TOILET TAG. That was something new. I'm so proud.

"Sing to the Mountains. Sing to the Sea!"

A five minute drive west from our house lands us here, the Indian Ocean. This was our first official outing with just "Mum." I've become familiar enough with driving on the left side and with our roads/surroundings to venture out this afternoon. AND, the weather was cooperating. I sat by the pool with my lunch today and my pastey white Minnesota cheeks got some color. In reality, it is still only 60 something but lovely in the sunshine.
We had intended to also go to the Joondalup library but Oliver's wet pants lead us to stop home first. He was mortified to sit in his undies for the ride home. Upon arrival at home, we found neighbor kids wanting to play so the library trip was postponed.

02 July, 2011

House Music... and Zombies

I am still adjusting to the sounds that out house makes in the small hours of the night.

It is raining tonight (it currently being 6:00am and still dark out due to the Winter sun, I can still call it night).  And there is a drain pipe that goes down the side of our house in the patio area.  So you can imagine that when it rains there might be some noise that comes from this drain pipe...

Our house has almost no furniture yet.  The shipping container won't come for 6-10 weeks.  So there is a terrible echo throughout the house.

(You can see where this is going?)

When the rain slows down, this drain pipe makes a gurgling noise... much like a zombie outside of your door wanting to come inside and eat your brains....

Which echos through the entire house...

and apparently, in the case of an Australian zomb-pocolipse, I will be the only one awake for it.

Now that I know the source of the brain eating freak's gurgling call, I can go back to bed... but not yet back to sleep.  So instead of finding another hour of sleep, I blog.  My irrational fear of drain spout noises will hopefully translate into some minutes of reading pleasure for you.

Also, I can hear the toilet tank running (it doesn't seal properly and perpetually fills) from across the house. This however, has a financial, and not a survival, aspect to it.

Trying to return to sleep now.  Good night zombies.... wherever you are.

01 July, 2011

My Homeland's Birthday Party, Celebrated Abroad

Though we are half a world away (I guess a full world away would be right back where we started), we still celebrate America's birthday.  We will be joining the American Women's Club of Western Australia for their annual party.

Money changers

My mother always claimed that I could get into line at the bank and know everyone in line's life story before I got to the teller. Today that personality trait made me $140 and a bottle of Margaret River (Australian) wine.

I was "in line" at the bank getting some money out to put a down payment on a new van. The line at my bank involves checking in at a computer. The computer spits out a number and then they call the number. This way you get queued up for the teller that can best help you.

While I waited for my number to be called, I noticed a lady who looked to be lost. I asked if I could help. She was looking for the money changing counter. There is a sign outside of the bank that advertises the exchange rates and she was looking for where to change her money. As we were looking thorough the options on the computer screen a bank employee helped direct her to the dedicated money changing counter. Problem solved.

Then my number got called and I was at the window next to the lady. I overheard her complain about the rate that the bank offered her on AMERICAN DOLLARS. It turn out that they charge a commission and a changing fee on top of the advertised rate.

"Ma'am," I said. "I have American dollars that I can trade for you at the market rate." We sat down in the bank lobby and exchanged information.  I called Erika to find out how much American currency we had and called the lady on her cell to see if that would suit her needs.

She drove up to our house at dinner time and we made an exchange of AU$1,400 for US$1,500 (which is the going market rate within a dollar). She drove all the way up to us AND brought us a bottle of wine as a "welcome to Australia" present.

She saved about $140 in exchange fees and so did I. The bank lost out on $280 total.

As for her life story, she is going to visit her daughter in New York City next week and is a mortgage broker. We will call her in a year when our lease is up, perhaps.

You are never alone if you are not afraid to talk to strangers. And you are never without friends if you are not afraid to be kind to strangers.

And the wine was good. :)

For you bible thumpers out there: Link

License to Drive

I spent some quality time at the licensing bureau of Western Australia today. I found that the licensing bureau here is the same as it is anywhere. Yu dimly queue up and pay money. I could have been in Minneapolis or Timbuktu.

I was in the office to transfer the title to my new car (new to me, it is old, old, old in calendar years) and to register it for another six months.

While there I inquired into getting an Australian driver's license and this is what I found.

American drivers licenses are valid here for a period of ninety days. If you are going to stay longer, they prefer, but do not require, that you get your license before the ninety day period. There is no test for adults. Yu dimly fill out a form (know your height in centimeters) and pay a small fee of $36.20.

For people on medications (like me, I am a diabetic) you will be required to get a little note from your doctor that says that your pills aren't going to cause you to drive off the road. So, a new adventure begins as I have never visited a doctor in another country before.

More to follow on this, I am sure.

Location:Transport Clarkston Line, Perth, WA Australia

29 June, 2011


Sorry for the delays in posting. We should have regular Internet access in 2-5 days.

Boy do we have some stories to share.

Location:Meadowbrook Promenade,Currambine,Australia

11 June, 2011

And on the seventh day...

Reconciliation before Mass... I guess I can fess up to missing church while flying last Sunday. I could have gone to a vigil service while in Los Angelos, but it completely slipped my mind.

Anyway, a two-for-one.

The Flora and Fauna of Oz - Part Two

This looks the cross between a pidgin and a puffin. Once again, if you think you know what this little guy is, leave a guess in the comments.

The Flora and Fauna of Oz - Part One

A spiky berry ball thing. I have no idea what this is. If you know, please respond in the comments.

1 Canberra Rise, Ocean Reef

This home is a bit older and it feels a bit dated, but it has large bedrooms and is very close to both the ocean and everything Catholic.

First off, it is across the street from a park. The park backs up to a Catholic primary school and church.

You can see the stairs leading up to the school in this snap, and the yellow building in the background is the church. We could walk to mass!!!

There is a Catholic University three blocks away.

The ocean is not too far off and we are but a few minutes form the train.

The appliance kind of suck. The range is old and the stove is small.

The master bedroom is at the front of the house and then there is a long hallway going to the back three bedrooms. This house also has a separate WC, bath and laundry room for the back of the house.

The bedrooms are all above average in size for an Australian house. They are all a little pinkish though. Pink and blue must have been popular color that week.

New carpets throughout. New carpets have their own particular stench that I could not identify at first. Once the realtor identified it for me though, I understood and it was tolerable.

The back yard is smallish, and contains a bottle brush tree. I am told that this blooms with bright red flowers in the Spring.

On the down side, the neighbors house connects to this one (though there is no entry) and it appears to be a group of young men, each with their own car parked on their front lawn.

Other than the chatter of the neighbors over the fence, the road was quiet and serene. This is on my B list.

They want a $510 application fee, which is non-refundable if they select you. This means that good applications can end up losing money if they get selected by multiple landlords.

Location:1 Canberra Rise, Ocean Reef, WA, Australia

3 Zurich Fairway, Hocking

This property is for sale for $460,000. The owners have moved to Canberra for work and have a desperate need to sell. The agent was geared mainly to that type of transaction. I told her my need and upped the asking price of $460/wk to $500/wk rent with the condition that the house be available for me BEFORE Erika and the kids arrive. The realtor is going to talk to the owners and see if they will change their plans.

Beautiful newer house in a newer development. The houses are still being built and sold, so there are a lot of signs pointing the way to open houses and the like.

I parked in front of the house across the street an hour before the open house, as I am want to do. I do this to listen to the sounds, observe traffic and see if I can't talk to any neighbors before I see the house. The lady in front of whose house I was parked cam out and asked me to move, as she was expecting some 12 guests. I introduced myself and explained why I was there and we chatted for a while. Her two charming daughters aged 3 and 6 came out to see what was up. It shouldn't bother me that she lied about the guests needing parking. She just probably wanted the strange man gone from in front of her hues. It does however bother me. She also had little good to say about the neighbors. One was loud, another was stubborn, etc... Sigh...

The house is nice inside withe BUILT IN SCHOOL ROOM. There is a small desk built into this little nook and a mural of Noah painted on the wall. This is the view from the kitchen... So you can keep an eye on the kids while doing other things.

The wood floor is gorgeous in the dining/living rooms and kitchen. It has modern appliances and a clean feel.

The bedrooms are fine, though one has florescent lighting as the owner used it as a beauty salon in her home.

The master bedroom and a sitting room are located at the front of the house. The house is painted in modern, tasteful colors. I ink that I twas built in 2007.

It is okay. The realtor was very concerned about the number of children.

Location:3 Zurich Fairway, Hocking, WA, Australia

10 June, 2011

21 Medowbrook Promenade, Currambine

I love this house!!!!!!

It has a small pool and decent sized bedrooms and, from the front yard, you can see the Indian Ocean. It is minutes away from the train and they are asking just a pittance.

The strategy here is to be more attractive than the other ten families that came through the house with me. According to the realtor, this means more money. They are asking $480/wk and I will offer $525. Tis is less than the Joodalup house that I like so much, but it is a much bigger and nicer house,

Some pictures:

The Ocean is the straight blue line. Yes it is far off, but you can see it.

Here is the pool. It is small, but it would be wonderful on a hot summer day. There is also a shade sling.

There is a little wall separating a room off of the kitchen from... another room off of the kitchen. I am thinking that one is a school room and one is a living room.

There is an additional room at the front of the house that is kind of a sitting or media room. This shot was taken from the dining room off of the kitchen.

Here is a wonderful picture of my left thumb... And a gas range.

From the front room there is a hall that goes into first a study and then the master bedroom. From there the hall beds to go to the other three bedrooms, a laundry room and three bedrooms. All of the bedrooms are above normal size.

I don't have a picture of it, but there is a separate bath room and WC.  The toilet is being shy off to the right.