Monday, November 5, 2012

POSTIE BLUES


Gone are the days that I could take my outgoing mail to the curb in front of my house, place it into my mailbox and hear the “screeeeech” as I push the mailbox door closed and another “screeeech” as I place the red flag up for the postman. Those of you who live in the States can relate to this, can’t you? Well, believe it or not, you are probably the only ones in the entire world who do! 

Who knew when moving to Australia that such a mundane, everyday task that I took for granted in the States would be so much different here! What makes it so unusual, you ask? What is so different that I would find the need to write an entire blog posting about it? Well…hold onto your hats…drum roll, please…We don’t have outgoing mail picked up at our homes! In fact, Australians have NEVER had such a luxury! (And I suspect most of the world!) I know…I know! Are you in as much shock and disbelief as I am? What’s even more sad is that our cute little red flags on our mailboxes are as rare as hens teeth! (An Australian expression meaning, “They don’t exist!!!”)

Once again I am faced with my own inadequacies adjusting to my new life in Oz as I sheepishly ask my Aussie husband a question that I have known the answer to most of my life. I am immediately reduced to a 6-year-old little girl in pigtails when I ask him, “How do I mail a letter?!” Let’s just say I no longer have the luxury of making a last-minute sprint for the curbside mailbox in my bathrobe and slippers…letter in hand…hurdling over the white picket fence in my front yard like the next Olympic hopeful in training before my mailman gets there! 
(Come on, you know you’ve done that, too!)

My local post office
Instead, I have to drive to the post office and wait…and wait…and wait in line (sounds like the U.S. postal service) until I hear, “Yes, please.” (Aussie speak for “next!”) As I hand the postal worker my mail over the counter, I come to the realization that I have no idea how much postage is here. But then again, postage charges change so often in the States, we hardly know how much it costs to send a first-class letter there, either! Oh well, I just wait for my total, give them money in exchange for the stamps I am handed, walk to the nearest mailbox (Aussie’s call “letterbox”) and breathe a sigh of relief that I have completed my task at hand.

We don't always have to go to the post office, though. We can load up on stamps at many stores and place letters in mailboxes around town. But what's the point? 
I already have to drive to a letterbox to drop off my mail, so I might as well go to the post office and take care of it all at one time. Besides, there's one conveniently located in the mall near my home where I do all my grocery shopping. 

An Australian "postie"
I guess that explains why the postmen/women (called "posties" in Australia) have a different form of transportation here. They all ride motorbikes (every schoolboys dream job!) with saddlebags to carry the mail. They scoot around from home to home, dressed in their fluorescent yellow clothing and their motorbikes "whirrrrring" about, delivering our mail and our all-important junk mail. I don't know how any of us would live without junk mail transforming our kitchens into a waste dump of "need-to-be-recycled" piles of paper that we have never read! It's nice to know that some things never change no matter where you live, I guess!

Okay. So I have to deal with this new way of sending mail. I guess it’s not so bad. As long as you don’t have some other surprises for me. I mean, next you’ll be telling me we don’t get mail delivered on Saturdays! ...Gulp! I was only kidding! Are you serious? In Australia (and again, probably in most of the world) we go an entire weekend without mail service! Now I am facing one of American’s deepest postal nightmares! This same thing has been discussed in the States in order to cut back on costs, but Americans meet the idea kicking and screaming. In actuality, not having mail delivered on Saturdays isn’t so bad! It’s a blessing in disguise, really. At least it’s one less day that you have to deal with the junk mail!

All in all, I guess it’s not so bad dealing with the different postal service, here. Not having Saturday mail isn’t as big of a deal as I thought it might be. However, the Australian Post has done a disservice to the country as my hopes for an Olympic gold medal in hurdling have been dashed without my regular and necessary sprints to the mail box to keep me in tip-top performance. 

Oh well, at least my neighbors will be shielded from the horror of me running down the street with nothing on but my bathrobe!




Tuesday, August 14, 2012

DISCIPLINE IS A BAD WORD!

"Discipline" conveys such negative imagery!
I need your help! My husband, Ashley and I were recently discussing the word "disciplined" the other day and we found we had very different definitions of the word.

Ashley is a very disciplined and determined person. He is very athletic...has been his whole life. He works out just about every day. He tries to eat healthily. In fact, he rarely eats at fast food restaurants (maybe twice a year) and drinks plenty of water. I, on the other hand am a self-professed couch potato (see my blog "Grampians Champions") who hates to exercise and only does so under duress. I eat my fair share of chocolate and love a good flame-broiled Whopper WITH french fries from time to time. Truth be told, I'd eat it a lot more if I could get away with it not showing up on the scales. And worse than anything...I'm a Coca-Cola addict! So now I ask you...which of us is disciplined?

Before you make up your mind, please hear me out! Granted, Ashley is definitely disciplined. I give you that. But I suggest that I am very disciplined as well. How you ask? How is it possible that a couch potato could be disciplined in the slightest? Well, it all depends on your definition of discipline. Most people think of things that…let’s face it…aren’t exactly fun things to do in life. I mean…who really enjoys running? Seriously! Yeah, I know, there may be a few weirdo people who enjoy it (no offense intended to my running readers), but most people would agree that it’s not on their top ten list of things to do in life. In fact, it’s probably not on their top one hundred things to do! And when reaching for something to drink…would you like a glass of water or a cold, frosty beer or soft drink…perhaps even an adult beverage? I’m not asking what “should” you reach for…but what would you prefer?

The new definition of "discipline"
Ahhhh…now you’re getting closer to my definition of "disciplined". I like to think that I am disciplined in having FUN! In fact, I’m quite good at it! An expert, I might add! Yes, when comparing running to sitting around watching a good movie on TV, I’d choose the movie every time! When choosing to eat an apple or yummy, melt-in-your-mouth piece of chocolate, something tells me the chocolate would win. And when choosing between a glass of water or a tall, ice-cold-moisture-dripping-down-the-glass Coca-Cola…well…you get the idea!  All of my choices prove my dedication to the task at hand…to enjoy every moment of life and choose to be happy!

I’d say my definition of discipline wins out over the blood, sweat and tears of Ashley’s definition every time. So let’s eat, drink and be merry doing nothing, for tomorrow we will diet! No…not really! That would go against my definition of fun! Let’s hear it for discipline …the new, fun and fabulous word in the dictionary! No longer will it conjure up images of drudgery, boredom and “un-fun”! Hip! Hip! Hooray!

So once again, I ask you…who is more disciplined? Before you answer that, let’s see…it’s after noon and I really need to get out of my bathrobe and get dressed for the day. I’ll check your responses after my nap! 




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Saturday, June 16, 2012

BUDGIE SMUGGLERS


I have a question to throw out into the great cosmic void… “Why, oh dear God, WHY is it okay to wear budgie smugglers in public, in Australia?” Not only are these skin-tight, band-aid sized pieces of fabric worn, but they are worn PROUDLY! I mean…what’s up with that?!

I grew up always being aware of the existence of this particularly miniscule-sized item of men’s clothing. After all, Ken (Barbie’s boyfriend) wore them! They have also been famously worn by super heroes like Superman. (With the body to pull it off I might add!) And to be fair, these garments are worn today by competitive swimmers, but even then they have a specific place and purpose for wearing them!

On my recent trip to Lorne, Victoria, Australia April 2012
What exactly, is a budgie smuggler, you ask? Well, Americans know them generically as Speedos! Aussie’s affectionately refer to them as “a-4-letter-word-rhyming-with-Rick bathers!” Yes, that’s right! When you wander out onto the iconic beaches of Australia to enjoy the sunshine, beautiful white sand beaches and blue ocean waves, you might also find yourself unintentionally ogling an Aussie man, butt naked, except for the postage-sized swimsuit covering his…uh…er… “budgie!” Instead of gazing upon the gorgeous, scenic surf and sand, you might find yourself wanting to look the other way!

At this point I find it necessary to defend the men of Australia. Fortunately not all of them feel it is important to parade their “stuff” on the public beaches in front of women and children. In fact, most of them do not! (For which I am most grateful!) Most are wise enough to know that they could potentially scar children for life! Besides, what’s the point of wearing one if we are too embarrassed to look!

I grew up at the beach…a tourist destination on the Oregon coast, and I can honestly say that in spite of growing up there, I managed to go throughout my life without being “blessed” by seeing a Speedo worn in public! So why is it that some Aussie men find sharing their glorious naked bodies with God and everyone a totally respectable thing to do? I mean, where’s the Australian tourism industry when you need them???!



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Thursday, May 17, 2012

"AUSSIE WORD OF THE DAY"

G'day mates! In case you haven't gotten enough of me, (I'm joking of course!) I have recently started a fan page for my blog on Facebook. You can find me there..."Yank in Australia". I update it almost every day with my "Aussie Word of the Day". If you "like" my page, you can join in the conversation! We have a blast discussing the current "word of the day" which is sometimes sharing Aussie Slang, Rhyming Slang and sharing things that I find different from life back home. I hope you will join us!



Wednesday, May 9, 2012

BELLS BEACH, BABY!


Bells Beach, Rip Curl Pro
The world’s longest running (since 1961)
and most prestigious world tour surfing event

My husband Ashley and I recently returned from our holiday travels. He’s a phys-ed teacher and Athletic Director of a high school and with year-round school in Australia, he gets a 2-week holiday (which Americans call “vacation”) every ten weeks. We had been looking forward to our vacation to Bells Beach for about a year now. In fact, it was exactly one year ago that we had taken our two teenage boys on holiday and traveled home via The Great Ocean Road. As we passed iconic Bells Beach we couldn’t help but notice all the traffic surrounding it. Turns out it’s the venue for the Rip Curl Pro, one of the most sought after titles on the World Championship Tour held every Easter. We turned off the main highway in an attempt to see all the excitement, but the traffic was too thick and we had a schedule to keep in order to get home. With ten hours of driving looming before us, disappointed, we continued on our journey but couldn’t help but think about what it would be like to return some day to see the competition of every surfer’s dream.

A couple of weeks ago, Ashley and I hurriedly packed up our car (without the boys this time), filled up on petrol and gas (our car runs on two fuels which is nice for long road trips) and drove from our home just outside of Adelaide,South Australia to Torquay, Victoria (outside of Melbourne.) We spent over 8 hours in our car driving along 750-plus kilometers (or over 460 miles) of straight highway covered in “bitumen” (pronounced “bich-oo-men” and Americans would call “asphalt”) across wide-open Australian plains, dotted with gum trees and the occasional dead kangaroo on the side of the road! Yes, that's what I said, "dead kangaroo!" Sorry to be the one to break it to you, but kangaroo are to Aussies what deer are to Americans. We love to see them in the wild, but fear hitting one with our car for the damage they cause. We talked about our kids, laughed about the way we pronounce words differently, (did you know that in Australia, “walk” and “fork” rhyme?) And we even made plans on how we would grow our new SendOutCards business in both America and Australia. We have dreams like everyone else does and know this is the vehicle that will finally change everything! We sang along with The Jets and the Beatles…watched “Two and a Half Men” on DVD…well, I watched and Ashley listened! And we never ran out of things to talk about! Life’s great when you’re married to your best friend!

Along the way we passed little tiny towns that if you sneezed, you’d drive right passed and never notice they were there. In fact, there was one small town in particular that totally captured my imagination! It was obviously owned by a guy who loved this little spot on the South Australian map. I mean, this guy’s name was all over the place; he owned everything! His name was on the seed company, the deli, a meat shoppe and pharmacy. He even had the local footy club named after him! It seemed, no matter where you looked, his name was there! I was so impressed; I figured he had to be some millionaire who decided to settle in the middle of nowhere (or as Aussie’s would say, “beyond Whoop Whoop” which is a fictitious place a long way away) simply for the love of being there. He obviously had quite a big heart and a love for this tiny community to support so many businesses that would sustain the livability there. As we drove through, I couldn’t help but wonder who was this guy? Did he grow up there? What kind of a philanthropist must he be? And then it hit me... I saw his name on the hospital and realized Keith wasn’t the name of a guy…it was the name of the town! “Doh!” I guess I was having one of my Homer Simpson moments! Come on, you can’t tell me you’ve never caught yourself thinking something incredibly stupid like this before! At least I have the guts to tell the whole world! “No guts, no glory!” I always say. Well, I don’t always say that, but it sounded good! =)

Remaining grandstands on Bells Beach
We made it to Torquay in one piece and the next day, walked along the Surf Coast Walk from Torquay to Bells Beach and back. Along the way we took in beautiful vistas of crashing waves against rocky headlands below and eventually made our way to Bells and to our disappointment the surfing competition was the week prior! As we arrived, they were still taking down the grand stands. Oh well…next year maybe. It actually turned out to be okay because this way we had the beach all to ourselves taking a leisurely stroll and soaking in the magnificence and the beauty as the roar of the pounding surf on the gritty sand filled my head. About an hour had passed as I stood amazed and hypnotized by the wonder and majesty of it all, taking pictures of every wave. My poor husband just stood around patiently waiting for me to get my fill, knowing how important the ocean is to me. I could easily have stayed there all day just staring at the waves pounding the beach, but even my husband, as willing as he is to make me happy, has his breaking point!





Interesting fact: There is a classic surfing movie called “Point Break” set at Bells Beach. Wikipedia says, “Although the final scene of the film Point Break is set at Bells Beach, the scene was not filmed there. Bells Beach is a straight stretch and the beach in the film is a cove with spruce trees atop a hill. The actual location of the film was a beach called Indian Beach, in Ecola State Park, located in Cannon Beach, Oregon, USA.” Guess where I’m from originally??? If you’re a regular reader of my blog, or happen to know me in person than you definitely guessed it…I’m from Cannon Beach, Oregon! How cool is that?!

Geelong life savers...you'll also need to search for the sailor,
pirates, a brass band, a mail carrier, artist and swimmers!
Not to be deterred, we spent the next week looking around some of the other coastal towns nearby. I especially loved Geelong…such a pretty city nestled in Stingaree Bay at the gateway to the Bellarine Peninsula with their darling, 7-foot-tall, obelisk-like statues dotting the waterfront. We also got our dose of surf culture in Torquay, the birthplace of iconic brands Rip Curl and Quicksilver. Torquay is alsoVictoria's surfing capital where the beach-based culture is at its strongest. We visited SplitPoint Light House at Aireys Inlet and walked around St. Kilda and Luna Park in Melbourne.

Off The Great Ocean Road, Split Point Light House at Aireys Inlet, Victoria
I took this photo. Isn't it pretty?




Another highlight for me was spending a day in Lorne where we not only discovered Erskine Falls but had some close encounters with cockatoos! One thing I have never gotten tired of is seeing cockatoos flying freely in the sky. Back home in the States the only way you see these beautiful birds is behind bars! Never do you get to see them the way God in His infinite wisdom intended…with their large white wings spread open, flying across the bright blue sky. Living in Australia, we get to see cockatoos quite regularly. In fact, Australians are a bit
“ho hum” about them to tell you the truth! They think of them as noisy, messy pests because they squawk loudly  and chew into telephone wires. But to this Yank, all I see is the bird who starred in "Baretta" (starring Robert Blake 1975-1978) and I want to snap pictures wildly, like some paparazzi chasing after a movie star!

Now imagine these are cockatoos staring you down!
So, you know how it is, when you go to the beach and throw bread into the air, how the seagulls all fly in at your feet waiting for their next morsel? Well, in Lorne it’s exactly that with a twist…the cockatoos do it too! My theory is they were trained by the seagulls on how to get a free meal. Now they just have to be taught to say, “Mine! Mine! Mine!” like the seagulls in the Disney film “Finding Nemo”. This scene is actually set in Sydney's Darling Harbour with the iconic Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House in the background. It’s one of my classic all time favorite lines in a movie! Puts a smile on my face and a chuckle in my heart!

So the cockatoos of Lorne are not only beggars but they are in-your-face beggars! Seagulls will at least keep a respectful distance, but the cockatoos have no problems flying right up to people and stealing their lunch out of their hands, as we saw them do while we were there! One older woman...probably in her 70's was feeding them, when they decided to start landing on her! The poor woman had two on her shoulders and one on her head and they were wildly flapping their wings about, messing up her hair. It was reminiscent of the scene in "The Birds" when Tippy Hedron was attacked by seagulls! Needless to say she won't be feeding the birds in Lorne again any time soon!
Costco, Melbourne, Australia...looks like the one back home in Oregon!
Similar menu...except for the prices and the "Aussie Meat Pie"


Before we left Victoria, there was one last thing this Yank had on her Bucket List...as long as we were near Melbourne we had to go shopping at Costco! Oh yeah!!! We don't have a Costco in Adelaide yet, so shopping at the Melbourne location is always a highlight for me. (Yes, I get to use my Costco card from the States!) Last year when we took our boys with us we shopped at Costco and my son Andrew and I ran around like it was Disneyland! We pushed the oh-so-familiar "normal" shopping carts...er, I mean "trolleys" (see my blog posting "What's Wrong with the Trolleys?") up-and-down every aisle and I took pictures as though we were at a memorable tourist attraction! (Well, to me we were!) We laughed and enjoyed every second of it as we ate our Costco hotdogs and sipped on berry smoothies! Ah…that was the life! It was very reminiscent of our American lives that we miss back in the States.

Love the view of Melbourne from Costco!
Well, Ashley and I spent a couple of hours shopping there and $450 later, we finally left! My poor credit card got a huge workout on that visit! The only really…and I mean REALLY disappointing thing about our Costco run is that the food court happened to be closed the exact week we were there for renovations which meant no hot dogs and no berry smoothies! Argh!!!

Well, our trip is over and we have settled back into life as “normal” but the memories of Bells Beach, Costco, over-friendly cockatoos in Lorne and a man named Keith will forever stay in my mind.

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