Friday, September 17, 2010


When was the last time you saw a wild cockatoo flying freely in the sky? To many Australians, this is an everyday occurrence, much like seeing a crow fly to an American. Rather "ho-hum" wouldn't you say? Let's face it, the only way we Americans see cockatoos is either in a zoo, or caged up as someone's pet bird. Never do we see them flying...wings spread magnificently in the air.

On my last trip to Australia, back in December, we drove the highway from Adelaide to Sydney for New Year's Eve. On the way, we stopped at a little town...just a little blip on the map...but a very significant spot to Aussies. We stopped at Gundagai...well, 9 miles from Gundagai, (pronounced "goon-duh-gye".) An historical monument and tourist center was built there to celebrate the deep history of the early pioneers and a poem that they recited over the decades. Australian children read it in primary school; often referred to as the "Dog on a Tucker Box" (a "tucker box" is a lunchbox.) (for the poem, see: )

It was there that I had my first encounter with cockatoos in the wild; hundreds of them filling the trees! We had stepped into the park surrounding the "Dog on a Tucker Box" monument when I heard the sounds of many birds...all hanging out together and chatting like a large gathering of ladies at a Mary Kay convention! They had their yellow cheeks like perfectly placed blush and their eyes outlined in black as though put there by Mary Kay herself! They were strutting their stuff with plumes stretched-out like they were showing off their latest hairdo. It was quite the spectacle!
I was literally awestruck as my eyes took in their beauty. It was though I had stepped into a fairy tale that had actually come true! I felt like a little girl who just met the real Cinderella at Disneyland! I had this dumb smile on my face like a Cheshire cat and walked around with my face pointed to the sky saying "ooh" and "ahh" as though I was watching fireworks on the 4th of July! Rather silly, huh? This may sound ignorant, but I never realized that cockatoos flew around wild. Well, it's not that I didn't realize's just that I had never thought about it before. Of course, they have to be wild! I mean...they have to come from somewhere, right?

Up until that point, my only close encounter with a cockatoo was at my mother's house! She had a pet cockatoo named Tuts, (she inherited him when a friend passed away.) He was a sweet bird to look at, but definitely had a mean side to him. If you stood too close to his cage he would bite at you like you were today's lunch! Mom always knew how to deal with him; she could feed him and tend to his very large cage the size of an apartment! (Well...maybe not quite that big!) but anyone else was considered a potential meal! Let's just say I kept my kids very far away from his cage!

Every now and then, Tuts would start strutting his stuff with his white feathers glistening like John Travolta on the dance floor in his white disco suit! He could be quite entertaining with his head bopping up-and-down, until that is...he started his vocalizations of "Stayin' Alive!" Have you ever heard a cockatoo squawk in a small contained space like a living room? It's enough to leave your ears ringing and you begging to hear your teenager's loud rock music blasting on the stereo speakers for some peace and quiet!

Poor Tuts. I guess he was meant to be in the wild along with the thousands of cockatoos that fill the Australian skies.  
...He could have used his disco moves to pick up chicks!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


We went out tonight to look at a car we are interested in purchasing for me...a cute Peugeot convertible. After seeing it up close, we decided it was just too small for our needs and we headed home. By the time we returned, it was dark outside so I immediately went about the house closing the blinds.

I headed to the sliding glass doors first of all, and then quickly moved to the kitchen blinds, reached out and.... "Aaaaaaaaahh!!!" as an unexpected high-pitch rang out of me.

Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, Oregon
I haven't heard myself squeal like that since I was 10-years-old! I was in the meat department of my dad's grocery store in Cannon Beach, Oregon, (on the west coast of the States.) I was holding a razor clam freshly dug from the sand that morning, terrified of what it might do. My dad had just given me instructions on the "fine art" of cleaning clams; something I was more than happy to never learn. (You have to understand...I was a girly-girl and did not like things that were slimy, dirty or just plain gross!) As he described in great detail how to clean the clams, I grew more and more tense...fearing the point where he would hand the mountain of clams, as high as Mt. Everest, over to me. (Now I know that the pile of clams wasn't that high, but to my 10-year-old eyes, it might as well have been!)

a slimy razor clam...YUCK!
Well, now it was my turn...I reached out with great intrepidation for the first slimy razor clam, assuming it was dead. As I held it in my small hand, I slowly grabbed on to the scissors and cautiously placed it on the clam for my first incision. As I gently squeezed the scissors, the clam...obviously still alive...tensed up and moved! Jumping backward, I squealed out in that high-pitched little-girl scream like you would typically hear emanate from playgrounds and threw the clam, along with the scissors, across the room like Orel Hershiser (one of the most famous pitchers of Major League Baseball) on the mound! My dad asked me what was wrong. Tears streaming down my face, I cried, "It moved!" That was the last time my father ever asked me to clean razor clams.

But I digress...

Well, tonight there were no tears, but definitely the squeal of a 10-year-old little girl as I ran out of the kitchen as fast as my feet would fly. I couldn't believe it! My deepest, darkest fear just came true...the spider had returned! Please don't tell me he thinks my kitchen window is his new home. Or, as my sister put it, he is scoping the place out planning his next heist of valuables!

Since my post a couple of days ago about this furry intruder, I have learned that it's a Brown Huntsman Spider.
brown huntsman spider
No, that's not me holding my"friend"; I wouldn't be crazy enough to do that! I got this picture off the internet because I didn't have the clarity of thought to take a picture in my terror. But now you can clearly see why I have been quite bothered by him. You will also see that my descriptions of "hairy", "gargantuan" and "tarantula" were not overly exaggerated! I'm telling you...he's big enough to eat the Empire State Building in New York City! (Okay...maybe that was a bit exaggerated!)

Australians at least have a sense of humor about their 8-legged monsters...
To tell you the truth, I had wondered if he would return. Every time I enter my kitchen I carefully peer into the window, making sure I am not being stared down by my hairy peeping-tom. Once I see that the coast is clear, I proceed about my business, throwing an occasional glance at the window...just to be sure he's still not there.  I guess he interpreted my "squeals of fear" as "squeals of delight" and thinks he's welcome!
...Time to get out the vacuum cleaner!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


It has been my long-held, fundamental belief that everyone in the world has an accent except me.  It wasn't a conscious decision that I made...just something that I have always felt down deep inside.  (In my defense, Wikipedia describes North American English as being "more homogeneous" within the boundaries of the U.S. and most Americans tend to feel the same way I do.) There are variations of the North American English accent such as on the East Coast with those from Boston (Massachusetts) or The Bronx (New York) as well as the south in Texas or New Orleans (Louisiana), two totally different southern accents. My "accent" however, is the more homogeneous accent in America...the kind you hear as you sit across the table from your girlfriend chatting over coffee. It's the same accent you hear in the movies and on American TV news and programs.

So now I find myself in a land where everyone has an accent except me. that possible? Suddenly I am faced with the realization that every time I open my mouth, the people around me think that I am the one with an accent. I know logically, this is the case. I totally understand why all Australians would think that I have an accent, because clearly I don't sound like them. That having been said, who can say who really has the accent? Whose way of speaking is the "purest" form of English and all others are a variation of it? This question can leave your head spinning much like the age old question, "which came first, the chicken or the egg?"

Now I know what it feels like to be a foreigner, (an unusual feeling for this born-and-raised American who rarely left the U.S.) Here in Australia I may look the same and can blend in with everyone but the minute I open my mouth I certainly don't sound the same. In fact, I stand out like a sore thumb! I try to explain that I'm not from around here, (like it wasn't obvious the second I opened my mouth!) I bumble along trying to fit in yet the moment I feel my confidence rise, either my "accent" gives me away or I mistakenly use American words that aren't used here.

At the mall, I walked around and felt so self-conscious about my "accent" that I hardly spoke a word. I just wanted to fit in and not be so obviously different. I eventually found myself in the food court for lunch. Eureka! American franchises McDonald's and Subway were amongst the other choices that were unrecognizable.  Surely I will be able to order something, blend in, and feel like my feet have briefly touched U.S. soil. I stepped up to the Subway counter to order my foot-long ham sandwich. (Side note: Why do they say "foot-long" when the entire country uses the metric system?) 

napkin, aka. serviette
 As I strolled down the veggie counter telling the clerk what to add to my sandwich, I stumbled into a deep crevasse as I attempted to tell her I wanted green pepper on my sandwich. You see, here in Australia they don't have "green peppers"...they have "capsicum." Same thing...just totally different names. Of course, I already knew that, but at that moment in time when I was put on the spot, the word "capsicum" escaped me. After a few brief and embarrassing moments, I had to point to those long green slices and sheepishly say..."I'll have some of those." As I paid for my sandwich I dropped deeper into the crevasse as I asked for a "sack" for my sandwich so I could take half of it home with me. The clerk looked at me like I was from Mars! " mean...a bag." As I reached for a "napkin" (which are "serviettes" here) I realized I had a long way to go in order to blend in if I can't make it through a simple Subway line!
...So much for feeling like I fit in!!!

Monday, September 13, 2010


I woke up this morning and went downstairs to begin making breakfast. Before doing that, however, I went around to open all the blinds to let in the morning daylight. I opened the first set of blinds that cover our sliding glass doors, peered up into the morning sky to see what weather we had in store for the day...lots of clouds with a touch of blue...not bad! I then went to the kitchen window and what to my wandering eyes did I see, but a visitor...a very LARGE visitor!

click on link to view commercial...
 You must understand...from the time I was a little girl, I have hated creepy, crawly things with eight legs. My dad would be jolted by my screams into his "Knight in Shining Armor" routine to defend me from the clutches of the evil intruders. Of course, there are the smaller versions that, as I have grown into adult-hood, I learned to bravely face and smash to their death. There are the Daddy Long-Legs that don't particularly creep me out.  Probably because they tend to move very slowly and gently, and let's face it...they are mostly long skinny legs with a teeny-tiny body. Then there are the larger variety...the kind I refer to as "meaty".  You know the kind...when you squish them, you can feel their bodies crack under the pressure of your fingers (preferably with a very large tissue between you and the spider!)
Great spider killing technique!

Well, the meaty spiders I learned to either squash with a large shoe about 100 times their size, or my typical means of disposal is to get out the vacuum cleaner! I much preferred this method because it was not only neater (meaty spiders tend to leave nasty, bloody spots on your walls), but it was much safer as it put several feet between the spider and myself. I would use a very long attachment and suck the spider inside, and then put the nozzle into the carpet for additional suction to insure the spider met it's death, deep within the bowels of my vacuum cleaner.

But I digress...

Huntsman spider similar to the one in my window.
So, I'm sure you have guessed by now that the "visitor" in my window was a most unwelcome...most unwanted guest! Unfortunately, this was not a small wasn't a Daddy wasn't even a "meaty" spider...this was a tan-colored spider of gargantuan proportions! I would put it in the tarantula family...about 3-inches across with long, meaty, hairy legs. I don't think my vacuum cleaner would be up for the challenge, as the spider would probably put up a death-defying struggle like a super-spider on steroids eventually tearing the vacuum out of my hands and turning it on me!

The only saving grace is the spider was snuggling up between the window and screen...fortunately, still outside! I closed the blinds, hoping it would die or simply go away, but every time I checked on it, much to my dismay it had changed positions (clearly signifying it was still alive!)

Well, I went for my 2 1/2 mile jog/walk which I do every morning. However, this was not my typical walk as the spider was very much on my mind. Now, instead of enjoying my morning routine, I found myself afraid of the grass and bushes. Some of the trees and shrubs dip low enough that I need to bend down a bit to get under them. Before, I didn't care if they touched my head, but now, all I could think of is what other large creatures were lurking on leaves that might find their way into my hair or climb up my legs. I just kept moving, hoping the speed of which I was traveling would make it impossible for any potential hitch-hikers to grab on!

front door mat for all spider visitors
I returned home, and slowly opened the blind to find that my "visitor" had overstayed it's welcome! Ugh! Will he never leave???

Well, fortunately about an hour after returning home, I found he finally disappeared from my window. He must have finally realized that he wasn't welcome here.
...Took him long enough to get the hint!

check out this youtube video link if you want to see how big and scary huntsmen can get!

Thursday, September 9, 2010


WELCOME to my blog where this "Yank" (that's what Australians call us) will be sharing the adventures of being an American living in a new land. What is it like to transition from the U.S. to Oz? What are my many new experiences and what is it like to be "different"? What everyday tasks are now complicated?  Read my blog and laugh along with me as we enjoy the many humorous stories of trying to fit in!

...for my friends and family to keep up with what I'm doing.
...for those interested in moving or traveling to Australia, giving you a chance to learn and giggle from my mistakes and experiences.
...for Australians to see their beautiful country through fresh new eyes, so as not to not take the little things for granted.
...for a LAUGH...hey, I'm trying to make light of my situation! =)

On board Air New Zealand
So...let's begin!
After several trips flying to South Australia from the U.S. I have finally found the perfect route! Flying through San Francisco, then New Zealand and continue on to Australia.  (By the way, I flew Air New Zealand for the first time and LOVED it! From the professionalism of the crew to the glass wine glasses...everything was top notch!)

When flying from the U.S. to Australia (or Oz), you typically have two through Los Angeles or San Francisco. When given a choice, you should really fly through San Francisco (SFO). The complication typically arises when maneuvering between the domestic side of the airports to the international side. Los Angeles (LAX) is cumbersome and difficult, especially when you aren't familiar with it. SFO on the other hand is fantastic! They just spent millions of dollars on a new international wing and obviously put a lot of thought into the needs of the traveler. Not only is it an easy walk to the international wing, but my favorite part is that you stay behind security, unlike LAX. Why is that important you may ask? Because once you have struggled with taking off your shoes and every little piece of metal on your body...once you have fidgeted with your laptop bag in order to remove your laptop for inspection...once you have been stripped down, searched and a wand waved over your entire body because you look "suspicious"...once you have gone through all of that humiliation, you don't have to go through it again in SFO.  You do, however, have to face it again in L.A.

This last trip, I flew United from Portland, Oregon and transferred to Air New Zealand for my flight through New Zealand and then on to South Australia. Once my bags left my hands in Portland, I didn't have to touch them again until I arrived in Oz. What's great about that? I did not have to face customs until I arrived at the smaller airport in Oz. Typically, most flights are through Sydney, which is a huge airport. You have to struggle with all your bags...going through customs, passports and tickets in hand and then have to figure out how and where to catch a bus or train to get from the international wing to domestic (if you are flying within Oz to your final destination.) Not to you have Australian dollars on hand to help speed you through the process?

Bottom line...the route through San Francisco and New Zealand is the easiest most stress-free way of traveling to Adelaide and this wonderful world of Oz.