Thursday, April 7, 2016

Land of Oz

We decided a few years back that we wanted to change our gift giving habits at Christmas time.   After packing containers of STUFF,  throwing away boxes of STUFF and struggling with each move to find places to put STUFF we decided we wanted to make Christmas less about getting.  We want our family to focus on the birth of our Savior, giving to those in need, blessing others around us and creating special memories.   Our poor little tree does look very barren come Christmas Eve.  It's ok though because we are learning you don't wrap experiences and memories in pretty paper to sit under a tree.
You live them.

We headed to AUSTRALIA otherwise known as OZ to those of us in the Southern Hemisphere.  We left Christmas Eve and found ourselves in Melbourne (pronounced "Mel-bun" NOT "Mel-BERN").  We stayed with some lovely friends we met in Fiji a few years ago.  We hosted a NZ trip for them now they were showing us "Melbun." 

Cultural Note: Kiwi's and Aussies are EXTREMELY competitive against each other.  Don't confuse the two, they will be offended.   Let's say you meet a New Zealander in the US and you say, "Oh, are you from Australia?"  They will want nothing more to do with you after that comment.  Same if you call an Aussie a Kiwi.  (CONFESSION: i can rarely tell the difference between an Aussie accent and a Kiwi accent.  If i admit that to my NZ or Australian friends they are both equally appalled i can't hear the revolting difference.) 

We spent a very hot Christmas Eve at Brighton Beach.  

Cultural Note:  Can you tell the difference between a NZ flag and an Aussie flag?  There's only a 1 star difference between the two.
 We learned about the value of beach front property.

Brighton Beach Boxes.  

Adorable little colorfully painted huts lining the beach. No running water or electricity.  A place to store your beach stuff and find some shade.   How much would you pay?! 
(Read about some Crazies here!)
(At $285,000 i am not sure i can legitimately use the adjective adorable anymore. )       

Christmas Day our gracious friends included us in their gigantic family reunion and lunch at the local Lawn Bowls Club.

Next day we headed to the country side.  We were on the lookout for the amazing Australian wildlife.

During our drive out to Flinders we were GIDDY to see kangaroos bound across the road in front of us!  (The only way to possibly capture this on film is to drive the whole trip with my eye glued to the camera.  Not gonna happen!)

i did manage to get a shot of one bounding across a field during a walk. 

We found a Christmas Beetle and various other types of birds and bugs.  We were able to avoid other deadly Aussie animals so we considered that a success.  

Cultural Note:  NZ prides itself on having NO deadly animals, spiders, snakes or plants.  You can walk out in the great outdoors and never worry about being harmed regardless of where you step or what you pick up.  Australia on the other hand is known for their strange and deadly animals and spiders.


But the views!

Will she remember this as the Christmas her parents didn't buy her any of the latest toys or the year she stood at the edge of Australia with her Mum?!? 

Next we headed to Sydney and played the part of ultimate tourists.

Friends in Sydney hooked up us up with a sampling of all the local junk food.  

We did it... We sampled Kangaroo meat.  That's how we roll, gotta try the local stuff.  The kids are keen to try anything!  (For those interested it is a gamy tasting meat and doesn't taste at all like chicken.)  i preferred it as a burger rather than on a pizza and honestly i'd choose a camel shwarma over a kangaroo burger any day. 

Cultural Note:  Kangaroos are so common they are considered pests and locals do consume the meat.  If you go camping you may very well run into some at your campground.  Friends of our shared how the cute little 'roos boxed and scratched their kids one summer.

But i mean come on!  How adorable are they?!  

The koala on the other hand completely harmless.

i am not kidding when i say we were tourists.  We saw the platypus, the dugong, the wombat
and the cassowary.  
The only thing missing off my animal bucket list was the adorable  
(rhymes with the way an Aussie would say Soccer... Socca')
We even caved and took our kids to Tussauds Wax Museum.  We kept telling ourselves, "Memories... Memories we are creating memories for the kids."

 Turns out even the Wax Museum is culturally based.  There were quite a few unrecognizable figures.

The kids actually refused time at the local amusement park.  A little too freaky it seems.

But the again the views...

There are lots of ways to save money as a family.   
Pay $250+ per person to climb the arch of the bridge (which would be very cool) or be frugal like us and pay 13$ to climb the tower to enjoy similar views but less thrills.   

i got to spend my birthday at Bondi Beach.

Bondi Icebergs Swimming Pool

One of the few pools in the world where you should check the daily surf report before swimming.  Pounding surf effects swimming conditions.

Bondi to Coogee Walk

i was treated to a delicious sushi dinner and hand made birthday messages written in soy.  These are sweet and fleeting days!

My mama's heart knows i need to hold tightly to images like these.

This teen guy willingly walked this way with his arm slung over my shoulder for 20 minutes chatting it up.  i am still a bit taller and can still wrestle him to the ground but i know we are just counting down the days until that all changes. 

 Taking in the sights of a different city is exciting and memorable but its the togetherness of ANYTHING that turns it into a remarkable memory.    

Chris and i try to make time for just us but often it is hard to make it work and rarely does it happen on family trips.  BUT how lucky were we to score a babysitter for our kids the night of NYE?!  
Aren't we Sassy Funky Fresh?!   
i mean really!  We get to take a dinner/dance cruise on the Sydney Harbor at New Years Eve! Feeling pretty fabulous and in our prime.  Not at all like an old married couple.  

We mingle, we dance, we meet and befriend other fabulous people from California.  We are TOTALLY relating and having a great time.   Just when we are feeling all fabulous and youthful we find out these very cool people who are SO like us (hear the sarcasm?) have only been married 6 months.  SIX MONTHS!  The only people they know that have been married longer than us are their PARENTS!  Our feeling of youthfulness quickly flies out the window but we are able recover some of our fabulousness when they swiftly mask their shock with, "We would never would have guessed we've been married 18 YEARS!"  Sigh 

We discuss similar service projects we've all done in Mexico.  We ask them how they ended up with the organization they went with.  "Oh, we connected through Facebook."  

Oh, OK....Mark Zuckerberg was still in diapers and the Internet wasn't even INVENTED when WE went to Mexico.

So from here on out we are hoping to cling to Sassy and Funky but thinking Fresh is now a mute point.  
We continued to danced the night away (because we can!) and take in the stunning fireworks show.  We gave in to the fact that we are indeed an older married couple with teen and pre-teen kids

but there is a whole lot of fabulousness to love about that!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Watch Your Mouth

The other day my 10 year old gave me a tutorial on substitute teaching.   i am in the lengthy and expensive process of trying to convince the NZ Ministry of Teaching that my CA teaching credential does indeed deem me fit to substitute RELIEF teach within my children's school.  It is going to cost me about $1000, and endless amounts of paperwork including police clearance from every country we've ever lived in.  (Try getting an Arabic police report in English sent to NZ.  That is a whole other story.)  BUT the point is i figured once i complete THAT portion the teaching would be simple.   Riley doesn't want either of us to be embarrassed by my behavior in her school so she gently reminded me i still haven't mastered the "English" language or culture here.   

Let me just give you a few words i STILL slip up on. 

WARNING:  This post contains more colorful language than previous posts.

1.  The first day in class when a teacher told the 8 year olds to make sure they all bring their "RUBBERS" to class tomorrow.  Straight face she said it... in all seriousness.  No context whatsoever for me to try to figure it out.  


2.  The day at school when "MUMS" (not MOMS) were talking about the school "GALA."  Naturally, i get all excited and start daydreaming about the prospect of dressing up in formal attire and enjoying a lovely evening out.  Quickly my dreaming turns to confusion when i am told how lucky we are that our class has the TOMBOLA booth and not the hot dog booth at the GALA...????? What?!  

GALA= SCHOOL CARNIVAL with face painting and cotton candy on a Saturday afternoon.
TOMBOLA= i can't even begin to explain.  That deserves a separate post.

3.  i have known even before arriving that we should NOT use the word FANNY-PACK.  FANNY is a word reserved for female anatomy.   Luckily, i really have no use for this word anyways.  However, there are moments of forgetfulness.  Can you imagine the look on New Zealanders' faces when we are chasing Riley playfully around the beach telling her we are going to swat her "little fanny??"


4.  (This is a new one for me.  i like to keep up on the latest in education you know.)  Riley told us we have been using the word "period" all wrong.   "That is it.  No discussion, period."  Wrong use of the term she says.  AND when i am teaching she explains i should not use that word to describe what comes at the end of a sentence.  i am having a hard time following her at this point.  So i ask for clarification.  "You mean the little punctuation dot which ends each sentence that isn't a question mark or exclamation is NOT called a PERIOD??"  
"Yes MUM, instead use the phrase "full stop."  
 i am absolutely sure her little 10 year old mind must be confused so i consult my kiwi friend who has spent time living in the States.  (She is one of the few who doesn't laugh at my English As A Second Language Questions.)  She verifies Riley is indeed correct.  The end of a sentence is followed by a "full stop."  What??

"."  = FULL STOP

5.  Signs like this plastered all over school.  Seriously... no context...just... MUFTI.  Luckily someone threw me a bone and let me know this means kids don't have to wear their school uniforms that day.

6. i continually want to reprimand kids for their foul mouths.  It is true kiwi kids in general feel free and comfortable using words in front of adults that most kids in the States would reserve only for the playground away from adult ears. However, i find myself wanting to stop them from commenting on others' "ass" or from using the F word when in fact they are keeping the language G rated.


When Kyle first told me he was mucking around with his mates i wanted to wash his mouth out with soap.   Say it out loud and tell me it doesn't sound dodgy??!

i could go on and on but i won't bore you.  Let's just say quite often i am confused about what is being discussed and many times the person i am speaking to looks just as baffled.   You should see the look on those dazed and confused little faces as i try to talk to Riley's friends.  Honestly, they think i am speaking a completely different language.  


Living in another culture is good.  It keeps us humble and teaches us to not take ourselves too seriously.  Trust me we have done a lot of laughing.  Oh the mishaps and stories we could tell of our foolishness and the mistakes we have made even when we think we are all speaking the same language.    

Culturally we are always a little off as well.  We reserved a skating time at the local rink for Kyle's birthday.  He thought roller blading would be a fun way to muck around with his mates.  He invited his friends only to realize skating for boys is considered really lame here.  None of his friends wanted to come and they couldn't understand why he would ever pick such a stupid place to have a party.  Not lame as in... "We are in middle school and too cool for that" but lame as in "only GIRLS roller skate."  Culture here equates skating with figure skating rather than hockey therefore very feminine.    We obviously changed the venue.  

The same month we discovered roller blading is for sissies we also learned costumed ONESIES for the whole family are cool sweet as.   Really!  You can easily find Men, Womens' and Children's Onesies and it is perfectly acceptable to wear them in public when the weather is cool.