And We’re Off

In less than 1/2 hour we leave our ‘home away from home’. It truly has been a home for us for the past year, and each return home from our 2 week stints has felt like coming home. But now we start our next adventure.

Kyle and ‘JC’ have been catching as much time together as possible before we leave, including a tour of the Mandurah canals to see the incredible Christmas lights adorning the ‘ritzy’ homes on the canals. And Mike and I have been socializing up to the end also. Last night we had a wonderful ‘Christmassy’ dinner hosted by Donna & Chris and with Richard & Phillipa. Again too much good food and drink!

But now having spent the last few days frantically packing and cleaning and disposing of the car, we are waiting for our ‘bookend’ hosts to take us back to the airport. Richard and Phillipa met us at the airport upon arrival and are now seeing us off. In between they have been the perfect sponsors, always there when we need them.

So, as promised here is our final adventure plan. The next few weeks will see sporatic postings depending upon network access on our travels. But here’s where we’ll be:

Dec 16-22 Fly to Adelaide and drive down to Melbourne where we’ll hook up with Montgomery family friends, the Wallaces.

Dec 23 – 29 In Tasmania – 3 days near Cradle Mountain, and 3 in Hobart. Tassie for ‘Chrissie’ as the Aussies call it.

Dec 30-Jan 13 2 weeks in New Zealand (the map is a bit off – we really do start in the far south and then head north). In the North Island, we’ll hook up with the Birds who were in Canada on exchange a few years back.

Jan 14-21 Thailand – we do an organized tour for the week.

Jan 22-23 Back to Hong Kong and hopefully catch up with Simon who we met on the way down.

Jan 24 – BACK TO CANADA !!!

These Are a Few of My Favourite Things…

Just 4 sleeps left till we leave Western Australia. All the expected lines apply – “Seems like we just arrived”, “Time flies when you’re having fun”, “Where did the year go?”, “A penny saved is a penny earned”. Okay, not that last one. Just checking to see if you’re paying attention πŸ™‚

I’ll do one last post after this from WA with our travel plans. But todays focus is all the incredible memories and things we’ll miss from this corner of the world. Just as back in Canada, our list is topped by family and friends, the list here is headed by the wonderful people we have met. It may be ‘a small world’, but distances are still very great when you would like to just sit and have a coffee (or glass of Aussie wine πŸ™‚ with a friend.

We’ve made friends through many channels. Both Mike & Kyle have new mates from school as expected, but there’s also my fitness friends (they even took me out for morning tea to say goodbye), yoga buddies, Kyle’s friends through his gaming club – not to mention his girlfriend whom he met through those friends, and the Canadian and Aussie friends we now have acquired through the exchange teachers group. Canadians are supposed to be known for their generosity, but the Aussie folks we’ve met have done their country proud. They have made this an absolutely memorable (in only good ways) year.

And then there’s the other stuff. Being nature buffs, both Mike and I have been especially taken with the variety of birds and trees down here. I’ll miss the 29’s (coloured parrots – family lives in the tree behind us), the magpies, the pink and grey gallahs (Kyle’s fav), the cockatoos (my favourite) who wrestle each other off the branches of trees for entertainment (theirs and mine), the ravens with their loud laughter and cries which make you think there’s a baby out there, the wagtails – especially the one who danced on our window ledge at his own reflection, the wattle bird who picks off all the spiders around the house and the pelicans who waddle around the waterside.

The trees are fascinating to me in how distinct they are from our trees. Almost all trees flower in colour – spring is wonderful. The bottlebrush have colourful ‘brush’ type flowers along their branch, the grevillea with their wonderful constant flowers, the wattle with their masses of tiny pompom flowers, the banskia with their unique cones and large cylindrical brush flowers, the eucalyptus in all their many varietes with wonderful bark and aromas, the desert oak (not an oak at all) so soft and whispy, the tree ferns which florish after fires. Some trees lose their bark, not their leaves. Some can survive fires which appear to have decimated them. Then there’s the giant fig trees which are massive in their width, and the karri and the tingle and the tuart – all giants in their height. And when you do see a North American tree such as an oak, it is suffering to survive in the dry heat of summer and missing it’s long winter nap.

And of course, there’s the food and drink!!! We will definitely miss the Aussie wine. We’ve been spoiled for the entire time with quality wine for a reasonable price. And although that has not helped the waistline any, it’s been good for the palate. Besides a glass or two of red wine is good for you – right? Also on the list are macadamia nuts, mangos, bananas, Milo (kind of a chocolate milk drink mix – Kyle is addicted and will likely suffer from withdrawl), TimTams (chocolate biscuits), pavlova, prawns, and perhaps most of all – meat pies (especially from Miami bake shop!)

The landscape is another of my favourite aussie memories – beaches and coral reefs, ancient rocks and giant bolders, and canyons and ravines and waterfalls. You’ve seen the photos and know that I can’t even begin to put them into words.

Finally – though certainly not least – the weather. Although it seemed to rain endlessly in the winter, it was NOT SNOW. Apart from the occasional day when rain kept me in, I rode the bike all year round – not something I can say back home. And even though it gets very hot in the day at times, the nights almost always cool down with a wonderful sea breeze. If I have to complain, it would probably be the wind – it rarely stops and often causes painful sand blasting on any exposed skin. Not being especially keen winter sport fanatics, both Mike and I can’t really say that we’ve missed the Canadian winter. But I must admit – it’s just not right having Christmas around the corner and 35 degree weather. And TV commercials with shrimp on the barbie for Christmas dinner just seem weird – sorry folks. Regardless – I will really miss the weather….sigh.

I’m starting to think I should have done this post first, and then followed up with the Canadian things we’ve missed while here. Right now I’m struggling with why we’re leaving (just joking Mum πŸ™‚

Year End Staff Party

With just one week to go before we leave WA, we had a chance to spend an evening with Pinjarra staff at the year end party.

Fund raising and fees are used to fund the entire do for staff (reasonable charge for partners), so with all your booze and food paid for, many staff take advantage!

We were lucky that the venue was at the local cricket club – so we were able to walk and not have to worry about ‘drink driving’ (that’s the Aussie term for DUI or drunk driving). In the end, we actually were given a lift home by Paul Mitchum and his wife (and daughter) which was a nice bonus.

We are told that not as many people attended this year since it was held a week prior to school end. Sounds like some people don’t want to show their face after the party πŸ™‚ At any rate, there was still a good turn out and those in attendance had a great time (at least we did).

Given Mike’s passion for music, he supplied the music for the evening. He and Kyle headed over early to set up and make sure all was in order (and grab an early beer). As you can see, it did get people up dancing. It was good to burn off some of the alcohol and calories that had been consumed!

And as seems to be an Aussie tradition, there had to be a certain amount of bared flesh. While some of the boys had fun dropping each others drawers (you can ask Monty about the unintentional full Monty – apparently he needs tighter elastic on his boxers :-), they also had a full out streak fest on the cricket field later in the evening. Too bad the lights on the field were not on!

And finally around midnight, the bar staff had had enough of us, and the booze tab had run out. So we all headed off – several staff continued on at Players – a Mandurah bar, but knowing our limits, we very maturely headed home – after all it was hard to pass up a drive home!

 

The Stuff We Miss Most

Hi folks. Past time for another post. As mentioned in the previous couple of postings, we’re wrapping up here, so weekends have been spent socializing and organizing. My days are now spent cleaning and packing.

For this post, we’ll focus on the stuff we’ve missed the most while here in Oz. And up at the top of the list is family and friends.

 

This week Mum & Dad celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary. We obviously knew when we left that this would occur – but that doesn’t make it any easier.

It was posted very kindly by Joanne/Mark and Robin/John in the Hamilton Spectator. Above is a copy of what went in – and at right is a photo similar to the one on November of our family calendar. It’s been very nice to have a different combo of the Wotherspoon family greet us as we turn each month.

And of course we’ve missed a year of birthday celebrations with family and friends (except for the couple we were able to share with George & Marucia). That includes Joanne’s birthday which just passed!

And we’ll also miss two weddings – one on each end. Daren and Alison will wed in Mexico over the Christmas break, and Anne Maree and James hook up in January down here. Unfortunately we’ll be nomads for both events – but best wishes to both couples – married life has been good to us – hope it’s the same for you!

And there are babies that have been conceived and born in our absence!!! In addition to a few more which will arrive just after we return – so looking forward to seeing those brand new bundles.

And on a more basic daily level, here are some of the other things we’ve missed – in no particular order:

cruise control on the car, bacon, maraschino cherries, graham crackers (for cheese cake crust and Nanaimo bars), bacon, being able to go more than 3 km over the speed limit without getting a speeding ticket, our hot tub, shopping after 6pm or on a Sunday, bacon, coffee cream, Canadian butter, and did I mention bacon?

Next time we’ll summarize some of the stuff we’ll miss from here – and I’ll try not to shed any tears as I post that one, but it’ll be hard! After all, we’ll return to the Canadian stuff we’ve missed, but no telling if we’ll ever revisit down here (sigh).

Cricket & Surf Rescue & Moustaches

Yeah, the moustache is now gone! But before he shaved it off, we made sure we took a photo for posterity. At left is a group shot of the Movember gang. They received donations from students towards prostate cancer as well as raising awareness. All for a good cause, but I’m still glad to have it shaved off πŸ™‚

Sorry for the reduced postings – but we’re spending more time at home with wrap up activities and local socializing, so not so many photos.

However, as part of our wrap up activities, there were a couple of photo venues Mike still wanted to capture – and we managed to fit them in this past weekend.

With ‘footie’ finished for the season, cricket has now taken over the sporting world here in WA. On the tellie this past Saturday afternoon, the only shows on were a choice of either cricket or the world championship of Women’s Netball. Neither sport would even appear in Canada – so it was quite a unique experience. If you aren’t familiar with netball, it’s kind of like basketball, but no dribbling, no jumping, free access to shoot the ball and no backboard. For us basketball fans, it’s not very enticing I have to admit.

On Saturday, Mike attended a cricket match of one of the teachers – actually not the whole match as it does go on for an awfully long time – but part of the match at least. From the photos you would almost think it was a game full of action!

We had attended a performance of the school play a couple weekends ago, and this past weekend we had more social dates.

Friday evening Kyle was bowling with friends, and Saturday evening Mike & I had dinner at Richard & Phillipa’s (fantastic lamb roast dinner).

And we even managed to rise early enough on Sunday to head up to Fremantle to catch their hosting of the Surf Lifesaving Competition. This was the other local activity Mike was hoping to catch before we head out, and this visit was much more successful than our failed attempt a few weekends ago!

Many local Surf Lifesaving teams competed in a whole range of age groups. The events included individual and team competitions. There were running races on the beach (individual and relay both photoed here), swimming races, board races, boat races, and even tug of war for the younger crowd!

Kids start at a very young age and it’s a very impressive program. The members are all extremely fit, and it’s obviously a very popular activity with kids and adults of all ages. I can’t really say we have anything like this in Canada, although ski patrol programs would be the closest thing.

And one final photo to finish with – a shot of a bobtail skink from the local surrounds. Mike comes across them every now and then, and finally had a camera handy on this occasion!

The Melbourne Cup

Tuesday was the running of the Melbourne Cup. This is a monumental event here in Aus – running since 1861. It is the most famous Tuesday in Australia, and an actual public holiday in Melbourne. The whole country stops at 3pm AEST to watch/listen to the event – Kyle even got to watch the horses run during his sport class today. In a country of 18 million people, they expect 160 Million to be bet on the race. That’s almost $10 for every single Aussie!!!! They do love their ‘punting’ (betting) down here!

The Melbourne Cup is also an ‘urban fashion show’, especially known for the women’s hats. And they are not only worn to the actual race, but on the day where ever you may be. This years event was jeopardized by the equine flu which has been widespread and devastating to the racing industry/horses down here. But despite the ongoing lock down in the stables, the race was run – although there were no horses in the parade for the first time ever.
A few of the teachers are Pinjarra are photoed here in their race day get ups (either their own or borrowed – you guess which of the 3 is wearing an outfit on loan!). And not to miss out, Anthony Pittman (host of the last party we attended) has created the Official Pinjarra Cup including Race Book – in which he states “If anything written offends it was totally unintended but those people should dry their eyes and toughen up”. The Pinny Cup consists of 2 races ‘run’ by a group of fictitious horses from Pinjarra HS. ‘Maple Syrup’ (Monty’s horse as you may have guessed) was listed as:
“Out of Dud Exchange and by Walshy’s Pad. A long horse
who doesn’t like carrying weight on his long frame. This overseas invader
hasn’t had success on Australian tracks and will be a long shot, may just screech past them on the home run.”

Each race has 6 horses and they included ‘Algebra Sinner’, ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Bookman Magpie’, ‘Gun Pouch’ and ‘Office Chicks’. There even was official commentary of the running of the races.

In the first race Bookman Magpie came from the rear of the pack to take the lead towards the end of the race. Then right near the finish, jockey Guillam fell off the horse. And in the end, this allowed Canada’s Maple Syrup to win the race (yeah!) followed by Pickers of the Bunch and Dancing Queen.

In the second race, Office Chicks appeared to have won the race but were later disqualified for whipping their horse leaving the win to Algebra Sinner. Two very exciting races!

And a couple of other random notes….

You will now notice that Daylight Savings has come in to effect down here and it has finished in the North – so we are now 14 hours ahead of Southern Ontario. And if you want to start a heated debate down here just ask someone what they think of DST. It is in it’s second year of a 3 year trial right now. The pressure is on to put it to a vote tomorrow with the strong expectation that it would be voted out overwhelmingly. They really don’t get the concept very well…. people constantly refer to the ‘real’ time and have to clarify they mean daylight savings time when making appointments. Our hike even started an hour later since we were in DST – quite funny really. No matter what they say, I like the extended daylight in the evening myself.

On a final note, November is ‘Mo’vember down here. It is a fundraising month for Prostate Cancer. Men grow their mo’ustache’ for the month to raise cash. Mike had hoped to do the full beard since he really does not look that good in a mo, but that was voted down. So he’s going for the Frank Zappa look with a minor goatee as well as a moustache. It was quite by chance that Mike decided to copy Frank Zappa. In looking for a photo of him on the internet, Mike discovered that Frank actually passed away due to prostate cancer at age 52. So it was quite an appropriate choice. We’ll include photos once the facial growth is worthy.

Happy Hallowe’en

Hope you all had a few treats in honour of the day, and got into the festivities in your own way. You can’t blink down under, or you’ll miss Hallowe’en! We actually did get kids to the door for ‘lollies’ (aka candy) last night – a grand total of 8 kids in 3 groups. And we live in a neighbourhood with kids! So I did miss the annual fun of dressing up – it’s the first time in many years that I haven’t done so. It will make next year that much more fun!

As you can presume, last weekend did not involve any photo taking. Mike & I attended a party on Friday night (too much food and drink AGAIN), and Kyle was at a birthday party on Saturday. I’ve been spending endless hours on the internet planning our final trip, and also starting to plan our Aussie wrapping up (selling cars, shipping stuff etc.). It’s already November, and we leave here in just over 6 weeks – and we’ll travel almost that long again before returning to Canada!

This weekend we are off with the Exchange group once again. Back to the Margaret River area in the south to do some hiking along the ‘cape to cape’ trail. So next week will hopefully have a little more for you to look at!

Our First Dud Weekend!

This past weekend Mike & I headed to Perth to check out the ‘World’s Biggest BBQ’. We had seen/heard advertisements for this event which was sponsored by the Lottery Corp (lotteries are big down here also!) and hosted by Surf Life Saving WA – groups from Broome all the way down the west coast around to Albany participated.

We had high hopes of Life Saving demonstrations and competitions, similar to the event we had caught the end of the last time we visited Scarboro beach. We even booked a hotel room in Perth to be sure we arrived at the beach early.

Alas, when we got to the beach, we found the BBQ but discovered that there were no Life Saving demos or competitions scheduled by the Scarboro club. The weather was cool and mostly overcast and quite windy. So our beach plans quickly evaporated.

As usual however, there were many surfers at the beach on a Sunday, so Mike did manage to catch some reasonable photos of them at least.

Guess we can’t complain – one weekend of poor planning over the past 9 1/2 months isn’t too bad of an average!

Party Hearty Monty Style

This past weekend we hosted a party for the Pinjarra staff as a thanks for all they have done for us. My co-workers will be happy to know that my project management skills continue to get a work out between planning parties and our trips! So I spent the week cooking and baking and cleaning and shopping to prep for the party – a week where I actually was kept busy!!!

After everyone had eaten their share of chili with the fixings, we set them to work. The theme of the evening was Canada naturally. In keeping with the Aussie tradition of Quiz Nights, we had created a Canadiana trivia quiz. Expecting some real history, sports and trivia geeks in the crowd, Mike had created some challenging questions. But the ‘ringers’ didn’t make it and as a result many of the questions were a tad difficult – which made for some creative answers!

As expected, many Aussies are up on Canadian music and movie stars, but they are perhaps a little less knowledged in the French and Inuit Canadiana. There were some interesting definitions for Metis, tuque, mukluks. Metis is neither a wine nor a venereal disease, poutine is not a pillow nor a toilet and mukluks are not a moose. I certainly had fun marking the score sheets though!
In the end, they all got to learn a little more about Canada – perhaps more than they wanted to!

In the end the ‘Double Up Ya Bums’ won the contest. The ‘Strip Club’ team managed to sink to a convincing last place – so they got to wear their Aussie tattoos to advertise their true Aussie colours.

In keeping with the theme, everyone had to bring something Canadian. There was a wide variety of content. We had several Canadian music CDs as well as comedy routines. There were several Canadian clothing items including hats, ski goggles, t-shirts and sweaters. On the consumable theme we had maple syrup and Canadian Club. We even had a custom Canadian Power Point presentation! And finally, we had a live rendition of ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’ which we all joined in with having been supplied with the lyrics. Even Gordon Lightfoot would have been impressed.

People also brought appetizers and the makings for B52s – both which were a big success and much appreciated. And in keeping with the Australian tradition of consuming substantial volumes of beer and wine per capita, we managed to overload our recycle bin (which is substantially larger than the Canadian version I might add) with empty bottles (they don’t return them for refund down here).

Kyle also had his social activities this weekend – out most of Saturday (to avoid the party of course) and Sunday with friends. And so another week passes!

We are now in the last week of the 3rd term. Once again, we’ll be off on a two week break starting this weekend. We are off to Bali on Saturday. Mike & Kyle are very much ready for some real R&R having been at school for 13 straight months at this point (every time they get a 2 week break I keep them very busy). I’ll try to do a post before we head off with some details.