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Diary of the Traveling Marshalls

Australian Sabbatical 2017

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Half Way (Miss ya, Denver)

May 1st is the halfway point in our crazy Austalian adventure. We arrived exactly 3 months ago, and we plan to be back in Denver 3 months from now. We really hit our stride in April. It was everything I had hoped for from this experience. We traveled, spent time with friends, enjoyed nature, and did some sightseeing. Homeschooling is rolling along smoothly and the weather has been fantastic. 

We’ve begun to plan the second half of our journey once we leave our house here in Sydney. I truly love it here and I hate to leave, but we have some exploring to do before we return to the States. I’ve also started to plan our homecoming. Mostly setting up Pinterest boards for house projects. I am giddy about the opportunity we have to start over. To move back into our own empty house and start over. Reset. 

As we enter our final month as Sydneysiders, I’m relfecting on what I am missing at home. Aside from people, of course. We’ve lived in Denver for 8 years now, and this is the first time I’ve had the chance to MISS it. I’m used to missing the East Coast. I always miss New England. Missing Denver is a new feeling. 

I miss…

Having more than 1 bathroom

Having my own bathroom

Having a garbage disposal

Having a grill and backyard 

My front porch 

My fireplace 

My bean bag 

My soft Restoration Hardware blanket 

Amazon Prime

Target

My coffee pot

Freshly brewed Iced Tea

Dropping my kids off at school 

Happy hour with girlfriends

My bike

My oven

Sammy, our salamander

Body Pump 

Bounty Select-a-Size Paper Towels 

Starbucks Refreshers

Teavana tea bags

My favorite handwarmer mug

Having a DVR

Not needing an adpater to plug things in 

$1 Bills

 It’s the little things.  Now…back to enjoying this gorgeous city while I can. I wake up earlier these days to get the most out of each day. The days are dwindling, and I’m not ready to say goodbye to Sydney quite yet. It’s going to a fun month soaking it all up. 

“The weather is here; I wish you were beautiful.”                                         -JB

*DBM 

BEACH

The beach 100% deserves its very own blog post. Truthfully, I could have an entire Instagram account and blog devoted to the beach. I have always known I wanted to write about the beach, but I am worried I can’t do it justice. I have been putting it off.  I know you have all been to the beach. I grew up at the beach. Most people love the beach. I don’t know if I can put this into words. If you follow me on Instagram, you have an idea of what I am talking about (or trying to talk about.) Living this close to the ocean takes my breath away on a daily basis, and it has changed me.  For Good.

My parents gave me a gift. I grew up in Connecticut, but we spent our summers on Cape Cod and right near the beach. Our house on the Cape was, and still is, just a few houses down from the ocean. It is a very special place to me. I have amazing memories of CC with my immediate family, extended family, friends and it’s where I met and married Wes. My kids have spent weeks there every summer of their lives. Again, it was a gift my parents gave me. I hope that someday my kids look back at this time in Australia with the same adoration. However, I am not going to attempt to compare the beaches here to the ones on the Cape. They are literally 2 different worlds. Suffice it to say, I love them both. Differently. Cape Cod beaches are a part of my soul. Always.

Now, I am really here to describe the beaches of Sydney and what they have meant to me these past few months. This is all about ME and my love affair with the beach. I can’t speak for the rest of my family.  Wes and I both remember being bored at the beach when we were young. My kids, when we are on Cape Cod, only think it’s fun if there are friends or cousins to play with. The beach, here in Sydney, isn’t something we DO….it truly is part of our our daily life and it’s where we live. My kids absolutely love playing in the waves. That is their best beach fun. They have all gotten braver as time has gone on. They all will swim underwater and dive into the waves. We have an ocean pool that Mae is a big fan of. We used to go for evening swims when Wes got home from work. However, we have turned our clocks back now that it is Autumn and our days or shorter. Sadly, it’s now dark when Wes gets home. We take morning swims when we can or mid day…we find the time. The water is still warm enough to swim and we now have wet suits to extend our swim season. We mean business.

Back to my love story. Debbie and The Beach.  My love for the beach has evolved. I used to love to get tan and lay around and read a magazine. People think of me as a beachy girl. After all, I was the Gate Attendant of the Year for the Dennis Beaches in 1996. But this is different. After living here, I appreciate the beach and the ocean for so much more. The beauty literally stops me. I try to go for walks, and I just pause and look. I love to photograph it, too, so I can remember it. Forever. We knew we wanted to live close to the beach when we were house hunting. We really lucked out finding a house this close. Going to the beach is effortless, and we see the ocean even when we walk to the grocery store or the bus stop. It really is our backyard. The backdrop of our day to day. I pinch myself.

I feel happier being this close to the ocean. I feel lighter. I have a greater sense of all the good stuff…gratitude, peace, and calm. The beauty overwhelms me in such a good way. I also get a little giddy when I am down by the beach. I truly appreciate this experience and am not taking a second of it for granted. 

  The beach has prevented any homesickness I would’ve otherwise had being this far from home. It is my happy place and it made me feel right at home. Everything else came with a learning curve. Money, transportation, and food were all an adjustment. Not the beach. It was familiar. From day one. We cliqued. It is the one place in this big city that I understand and I totally belong. 

I discovered something new. Mornings at the beach. I realized there is a part of the day that can be all mine and they start in the wee hours of dawn. On this sabbatical, I am with my family 24/7, so this time is all mine. Elle has come with me a couple of times and I plan to bring the others along someday. But during this time of day, something unbelievable occurs. The sunrise. It truly is something I had been missing out on my whole life. It is magic.

     We live at Coogee Beach, which is an ocean beach in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. We chose to live in Coogee because we found a 3 bedroom rental near the beach and a friend here confirmed it was a good location. That’s all we knew. It turned out to be very different than I expected. The little town is very busy and a mix of residential and commercial. Locals and tourists. It is not crazy backpacker land like Bondi beach, which I’d say is Sydney’s most well known beach. There is not a parking lot. We literally walk to the end of the street and there is the beach. It has a more urban feel than I expected for a “beach suburb” and it’s bustling. On a sunny day, people seem to just pour in. On week days or cloudy days, it is noticeably quieter.  The further we get from summer, it has slowed down, but the nightlife on the weekends is a SCENE. It feels very alive and happy. There are 2 schools right up the road, so there are kids around after school and many retired people (large groups of gentlemen at cafes in the morning having a very good time.) Lots of dogs. Young people dressed in little clothing. It is very casual. People grocery shop in their swimsuits and I have even picked up some groceries barefoot myself. Anyway, I have never been anywhere quite like this and I have grown quite fond of it. All of it.

     Back to the beach…Coogee is part of a cliff top costal walk that extends to Bondi Beach. It is 6km (3.7 miles) and has gorgeous views, beaches along the way, cliffs, rocks, bays and rock/ocean pools.  It also continues the other way toward Maroubra Beach.  From Coogee, I can walk in either direction and see the most stunning views I have ever witnessed.  It is here where I feel full of awe and wonder and amazement and joy.  We plan to all do the entire walk to Bondi very soon. I take morning walks along these paths.  Every turn brings a new sight. It is different along the way and unexpected. Staircases, boardwalks, rock pools, secret pathways, bays, etc… My favorite pictures on my Instagram are from these paths. Whenever I am there, I think of you all and wish you were here so we could experience this together. Of all the things we have seen here, it is by far my favorite and what I will miss the most. We have taken family walks and scooter rides along some of the paths. We have done scavenger hunts along the way for homeschooling and science lessons. It really is my personal piece of heaven here. I am very much looking forward to doing the whole walk with the whole clan. 

    The coast and the beaches here are so vast. When we traveled to Melbourne last week, we saw the Great Ocean Road and Phillip Island. This allowed us to see the Victoria coast line and it was mind blowing. So vast! Expansive. Spectacular.  We have plans to explore the northern beaches of Sydney next month.

     Our days are full of homeschooling and field trips exploring the city, but we always come back home to the beach. It is our home here in Sydney and brings me so much happiness. I wish I could bottle it. Although, as I mentioned, it has changed me. For Good. So Good. And as the song goes, “So much of me is made of what I learned from you. You’ll be with me. Like a handprint on my heart.”

*DBM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Car; No Problem (Most of the Time)

I am a big fan of “Location Efficiency.” I learned this fancy term from the transportation expert I am married to. It means I like to live close to everything. I love living here in Coogee because I can walk to the grocery store and Mae’s ballet class and cafes and the beach.  I can actually walk, get a coffee, and be back home in the same amount of time it would take me just to drive one way to the town center back in Denver.

Now, if you know anything about where we live in Denver it SCREAMS “location efficiency.”  The kids’ schools, grocery store, restaurants, etc….are all a hop, skip, and a jump away. It’s a good way to live. However, Denver gets cold and a car is a necessary evil. We are fortunate to be able to walk to many places in our Denver neighborhood (shout out to Stanley Marketplace) and have quick drives everywhere else. My kids don’t spend much time in the car and that is good with me. When we sign up for an activity or find a new doctor, the first thing I do is Google Map it. I like to live close. We all have friends a stone’s throw away, and I’ve even ridden my bike with girlfriends for happy hour. That’s my life in Denver. We don’t drive much, but we certainly do need a car.

Now in Sydney, we decided not to have a car. This decision has proven wise, but not without its difficulties. First of all, Sydney is a big city and that means traffic and parking nightmares. We knew there was a grocery store and beach within walking distance. We also knew there was a bus stop close by and car share programs all over.  So we came here with no intention of getting a car. When we sold my car before we left, it felt so freeing. Wes hung on to his beloved Wrangler and left it in the hands of a good friend. I will need a new car when we return. Cars are just not my thing.  They seem like a boring way to spend a whole lot of hard earned money.

Anyway, we got our bus passes as soon as we arrived. They’re awesome. They work like a debit card.  You “tap on” and “tap off” when you board and exit the bus. You can “top up” your card by adding more money online to your account. Easy peasy.  These cards actually work for the bus, train and ferry systems​. On Sunday, the max you can pay to travel by any mode of transport is $2.50, so that’s a great day to take advantage and travel far. It’s a pretty good system, in general, and it’s how we get around. Wes, of course, commutes to work by bike. I’ll have him write a blog about that. It’s not an easy commute, but he gets his exercise and has gotten to know more about the roads here, which is helpful for his work. The rest of us don’t have bikes and our neighborhood isn’t really condusive anyway. The kids have scooters.

When we arrived (via taxi ride from the airport), I was pleasantly surprised at how very close to us everything really was. I am ashamed to admit that I don’t have a great understanding of the metric system. So when my landlord told us we are 150m to the grocery store, I didn’t really grasp how close that is. Same with the beach. We can see the ocean from our windows, and it’s just down the street. And in between are bunches of cafes, shops of all kinds and restaurants galore. It is definitely location efficiency at its best. The bus stop is right at the beach and busses come frequently. They come so frequently that we never check the schedule, which is called a timetable around here.  When we want to go somewhere, we just head to the bus stop and soon enough a bus comes. Very convenient.

We don’t LOVE traveling by bus. It can be gross and busy and bumpy and windy and long, but it gets us where we need to go in this big city. Almost everywhere. Occasionally, we need to take a 2nd mode of transportation after a bus ride. Maybe a ferry or a train. We are all thrilled when we can go somewhere via ferry, and the train is decent. But this can make for some very long trips to places that aren’t very far away. The worst is a transfer to a 2nd bus. We avoid that at all costs.

We have used the car share, and  we rented a car when we went to Melbourne for 5 days. I have only driven​ on “the other side of the road” once and it was in the parking lot (or car park) of our hotel so that doesn’t really count. I’m scared. City driving + opposite side of the car and opposite side of the road terrifies me. I leave that to the one with a PhD in transportation.

Occasionally, we run into some places that are just difficult to get to based on their location in relation to our house. We have, on 3 occasions, resorted to Uber. I’m not a fan of  getting into strangers’ cars and said stranger offering me mints. My kids find it enchanting and lost their minds when they got FREE bottles of water in the Uber. We can’t all fit in a typical Uber, so it isn’t really a typical option. However, we’ve done it a few times to the kids’ delight.

One day we were going surfing and our friend was joining us.  She offered to pick us up IN HER CAR and drive us. It was like she offered us a million dollars. It was crazy how fast we got to that beach. It’s now foreign to us to actually be IN a car and get somewhere fast. It’s a treat. We got to ride in another friend’s car recently when they picked us up from somewhere nearby and brought us to their house. I’d been to their house a couple of times, but only via ferry.  I had never seen or knew how it looked to drive up to their house by roads. It was a different world. Luke slept at their house one night and went with them to drop the kids off at school. We had a million questions for Luke about this. We were fascinated he had been in a car and they had driven over the Harbour Bridge to get to school. None of the rest of us had even been on the bridge.  Since then, we have walked across it and taken a train across it. The rest of us haven’t done it by car. Lucky Luke!

Someday we will tell stories and stories of our bus rides. Or we may keep them between us. What happens on the bus; stays on the bus?!?!?! I can tell you that our bus time has been a source of bonding. We usually go to the back row where there are 5 seats across. That means the little 2 each get a window and Elle sits smack in the middle with parents on either side of her. However, the kids end up talking over us playing games. A favorite game is “I’m thinking of a person.” Many of you reading this have been the “person.” If you play with Luke, he will always guess 3 people first…Colton, Uncle Michael and Elvis (so don’t choose any of those.)  They also play the rivotting game, “I’m thinking of a number.”  Sometimes they tell jokes. Elle and Luke tell Mae stories that are to-die-for adorable and Mae couldn’t love this more. Sometimes everyone is grumpy and quiet…or hot or wet or tired. It isn’t always pleasant, and we always can’t wait to get off. One night we were stuck in bus traffic, so Elle and Wes did get off and walked home. It gets us where we need to go and the bus has been a big part of our adventure of living in Sydney.

I feel like I’ve gotten used to this lifestyle, and I don’t mind it for me personally. A family of 5 is a different story.  Personally, I like sitting back and just arriving at my destination. I like not dealing with parking lots and traffic. I can read on the bus and chat with my family.  I find it a fun challenge to find our way places. One day I took a bus to go shopping (alone) and couldn’t find what I needed. I was wandering around inside a shopping mall, and next thing I knew I was at a train station. So I hopped on. Eleven minutes later (and one chapter in my book), I was at a new shopping area. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve traveled around sans kids. I don’t even miss having a car for grocery shopping.  We get to cut out the whole step of taking bags out to the car and loading and unloading them. I just walk up the hill. I can carry a lot of bags at one time and sometimes I don’t buy something because I can tell my basket is full of “heavy” or “bulky” things. We could shop online, but I enjoy daily trips for groceries. It’s also my “alone time.”

I didn’t realize how not having a car would be such a big deal. It affects us daily and everytime we want to go somewhere outside of Coogee. It’s been a learning experience about public transportation, but we’ve also learned other valuable lessons as we journey around Sydney on the 374, 373, 370, m50, etc… Life lessons.

*Debbie

Surfing (by Elle)

     A little while ago I went surfing for the first time ever. The first thing we did when we got there was fill out paperwork and then we got on our wetsuits. We grabbed our huge, heavy surfboards and sat on the grass. We got to know each other a little bit because it was a small group. It was my mom and I, and 2 German women. Then we took our surfboards and carried them down to the sand and sat down. The instructor taught us how to stand on our surfboards and do the basic surfing rules. Then we learned some cool facts that’ll help us surf. Like how to find rips and what to do if you get stuck in one. Then we took our surfboards and went into the ocean. We jumped into it really quickly too. 

     What I loved when we first got in was the wetsuits. A warm layer of water goes between you and the wetsuit. That water stays warm and feels great. It makes it so much easier to get in cold water. We got further into the water and turned around towards the land. Then one at a time the instructor held onto the back of our surfboards and at the perfect wave, pushed. I was the first to go and didn’t really get that we were supposed to stand right then and sort of just layed there.

      Soon enough I got the hang of it. The wave came and the instructor let go. I pushed myself up quickly so I didn’t get to the sand before I could stand up. I pushed myself into a brief downward dog position and found myself standing, cruising the ocean. The wind was in my face and it was exhilarating. Even if most of the time at the end I fell off and had to lug my surfboard around, it was amazing. And sometimes I didn’t fall. I just rode until I decided to jump off or when the surfboard hit the sand. 

     I loved it and I would and will do it again. I was tired and wet by the end, but it was a lot of fun and totally worth it. I highly recommend surfing. You get to forget about the world and fall into the ocean with no doubts. Well, that’s my surfing experience thanks for reading!

-Elle❤️

I Like Big Books and I Cannot Lie

     We have been in Australia for 2 months. One thing very different about my life here, as I mentioned in my last blog, is that I have time to read. While I am with my kids 24/7 (literally)…  I don’t have my usual TV shows to watch and not much of a social life. It rains so much, and we spend a good amount of time on public transportation. So I read. I used to a read a ton. After babies I lost my attention span, and I’d fall asleep during anything I tried to read. Then I was teaching, so I mostly read 5th grade essays. I’m so happy to be rekindling (hee hee) with an old love! 

     I decided to share what I’ve read. It’s a funny assortment of books. I have a few non fictions I am also working on, but those are more about how to raise children who can function in society. Boring. And I’m also reading some books with the kids for homeschooling.

      These are the books I’ve read for leisure. I am at the point where I can’t afford to buy books anymore because I am finishing books in just a few days. Therefore, I am limited to books from the Denver Public Library and Kindle Unlimited. So aside from some purchases early on, I’m reading whatever I can that seems interesting to me in that moment and is free. Amazon Prime also offers me a free book once a month and has occasional sales. I love my Kindle. So much. It’s so easy to bring everywhere. I can read in the dark if Wes is asleep. I can read at the beach. It’s the best. I am having a full on love affiar…in Australia….with my Paperwhite. 

I wish I could tell you I remember them all. A few, I would have to look up to remind myself of the characters and then I’d know the story. I’ll just tell you that my very favorite was Hillbilly Elegy. Highly recommend.  I also really liked Yellow Crocus. I know I liked it because I kept giving updates to Wes and Elle as I read that one. Three Wishes was okay, but I did enjoy very much that it took place in Sydney. It was fun to understand “local stuff.” I hated Mindy Kahling, and I found Gloria Vanderbilt’s life fascinating. Elizabeth Warren is my hero.

I’m sure this list will keep growing. Such a fun perk of sabbatical life! 

*DBM

PS. Here’s where we find out if my twin reads my blog. Ha. My brother recently wrote a book called “Help! My Child Wants to be a YouTube Star.” I read MOST of it when we first got here…Especially because Luke really, really does want to be a You Tube Star. Elle read the whole thing and told me I should take parenting advice from Michael. It was a great read and helped me understand Luke’s current obsession with some married couple from Florida named Pat and Jen who play Minecraft and Hide and Go Seek. Love you, MJB! 

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Yellow Crocus- Laila Ibrahim

The Rainbow Comes and Goes -Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt

Three Wishes- Liane Moriarty

Not that Kind of Girl- Lena Dunham

Between Breaths-Elizabeth Vargas

Why not me?- Mindy Kaling

Where am I now? True Stories of Girlhood  and Accidental Fame – Mara Wilson

Everything We Keep -Kerry Lonsdale

Small Great Things- Jodi Picoult

Hillbilly Elegy- JD Vance

Hungry Heart- Jennifer Weiner

Good as Gone- Amy Gentry

Delicious Foods-James Hannaham

A Fighting Chance- Elizabeth Warren

Marshall Kids Answer YOUR Questions

Marshall Kids Answer YOUR Burning Questions About Their Australian Adventure

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Thank for you questions via Facebook. The Marshall Kids have answered some of them.

They have also made a video to answer 3 of the questions (and they edited it, too).

Here is the link:

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

.Kate Peabody- LeGault Anna wants to know if you can have a pet Koala null:

All 3: No!

Shana Paladino-Ripp Arabella wants to know what their favorite new Australian food is

****SEE VIDEO FOR THIS ANSWER*****

Michael Buckley What do they miss most about Denver?

M: Beanbag

L: Friends

E: Friends and School

How do they think they have changed since they got there?

L: Braver in the Waves- tI used to not want to go under in salt water. I practiced in the ocean pool and got better.

E: More Perseverance- Change is hard. Having to adapt to a different place.

M: Braver in the Waves- I used to run away and now I jump in.

Megan Mccomish-Jermain Can you have a pet kangaroo?

3: No!

Chelsey Richey What is your favorite candy or treat in AU? What is different about the candy there, or the flavors?

E: Tim Tams

L: Gelato

M: Kinder Eggs

E: Kinder Eggs are illegal in USA.

M: They call sprinkles 100s & 1000s

E: There is a lot of chocolate around and not as much variety of kinds of candy.

Adrienne Brockmyre Buckley Does it feel weird to have it be summer when we are cold and dreary here?

M: Yeah

L: We are missing Spring

E: I think it’s weird. I miss the cold and wearing fall and winter clothes.

Maura Ahern Buser Elle Luke and Mae. Hi crew! Tell me about understanding the accent and different words. Is it difficult? 

L: Depends who you are talking to.

M: I watch Peppa Pig so I understand everyone.

E: Sometimes difficulty, but you can kinda figure out what they mean.

Tell me your new favorite words?!

E: I like the phrase…”How ya going?”

Have you found anything new and so different that you will miss it when you are home?! xxoonull❤Maura

L: My friend, Noah

E: Ferry and Homeschooling Group on Fridays

M: Homeschooling

Stacy Hirschorn Boothroyd Compare American and Australian beaches. Which do you like best and why?

E: I like the waves here better.

L: The water is cleaner. Less seashells.

M: Less seaweed

3: Australian beaches are better

Kristen Rushworth Shanahan I would like to know how common boomerangs are- if you go to a playground do you see kids playing with them? Any group boomerang sports?

****SEE VIDEO FOR THIS ANSWER*****

Mary Mannix Simonelli Sean says he believes that Australia has the most poisonous animals of anywhere and wonders how it feels to be living amongst all those poisonous creatures? null😂

M: We don’t see much poisonous animals.

E: I have heard they are around. But we haven’t encountered any (that I know of.) It does worry me.

L: I’ve read that the poisonous animals haven’t killed that many people.

He also wonders if it was super weird to move somewhere living in an opposite season?

M: I don’t really notice, but I miss winter.

E: Christmas would be weird without snow.

L: Everything is opposite. It feels weird.

Casey Metz What’s the coolest thing you have seen so far?

M: Little lizards walking around

E: Ferry and Opera House

L: Harbour Bridge

Kate Johnson Dee Henry and Connor want to know how many venomous animals you’ve seen so far? Are you developing an accent? What’s the weirdest food you’ve tried?

3: No venomous animals (YET)

3: No weird food…we aren’t very adventurous with food

Erika Banwarth Cedrone Naomi: what animals do you have in Australia?

M: Dingo, Wallaby, Koalas, Red Kangaroos

Brie: what do you do for Easter in Australia?

M and E: I hear Americans get more in their baskets. We will probably do what we do at home. It’s a 4 day weekend here.

Jessica Boothroyd Weiner Have you made Australian friends? Will you be penpals (or social media followers) when you return home?

3: Yes and we hope to keep in touch

Is your mom a good teacher? Do you like your classmates?

3: Yes and Yes, but we miss our Denver classmates very much

Hope Milligan Reinhard What is the the major difference if any between American kids and Australian kids? Do you share the same music, books, and television shows?

L: I play same video games. Not sure about TV. Kids here like Pokemon and MineCraft. Some same books like Series of Unfortunate Events and DIary of A Wimpy Kid.

E: Haven’t noticed much differences. We have some similar games, but we have different names for them.

M: People here like Peppa Pig and Frozen like back home.

Ginger Stabach What has been the most unexpected surprise with living in Australia so far?

M: I thought it would be sandy and beachy everywhere

E: It’s not totally different. When I wake up I don’t look and think, “THERE is Australia”. It’s just a different city. Nothing major makes you realize you are in Australia. Being in another isn’t as shocking as I expected.

L: More beaches than I expected

Alicia FaJohn Sophia asks: is it fascinating to a an American to Australians?

Fianna asks: Does anyone think your accent is weird?

****SEE VIDEO FOR THIS ANSWER*****

Renee Fittler What’s your favourite mode of transportation? (Body board is a legitimate answer!)

E: Ferry! Anything but the bus.

L. Car

M: Ferry

Pros & Cons of Sabbatical Life

    Have you ever considered dropping everything and leaving the country for an adventure? Well, we did it!  This (long) blog post is about the pros and cons. Not really about Australia specifically, but about going away for 6 months in general. There have been many blessings and plenty of challenges thus far. I’ve decided to share some with you.

Let’s start with the CONS:

1. Getting Around 

While I love not having a car, it definitely requires a new skill set and patience to get around, especially for a family of 5. Consider how long it takes you to drive somewhere. With public transport, it takes us at least double the time and usually more. Everywhere we go takes planning and packing. Everywhere. We can walk to stores, restaurants and the beach. That’s about it. Everywhere else requires a bus, train, or ferry. Sometimes 2 of those. When we go places…we stay. There’s no dropping the kids off and going home. All for one. So trips require stuff. I have resorted to using an old diaper bag. What’s in my bag? Wet wipes, hand sanitizer, bus passes, wallet, sunglasses, water, snacks, and band aids. Lots of blisters. I’ve never lived without a car. It seems like a luxury to me now. 

2. Eating 

This may be particular to our situation, but I’m sure a universal challenge when you travel. We have a small beach house rental kitchen. Basically we don’t have a full oven. Our grocery store is pretty small and we can only buy what we can carry. So that makes mealtime more challenging. I go to the grocery store at least once a day. There’s a limited amount of meals we are capable of cooking well. I don’t mind going to the grocery store every day. I feel like we waste less food when you don’t have a big cart to fill up and a trunk to drive your bags home. We only buy what we truly need. The kids miss certain foods from home, and I miss having a fully stocked kitchen. 

3. Togetherness

This is listed as a pro and a con. This probably doesn’t need much explanation. We spend a whole lot of time together. This is very different from life in Denver where on most days the kids are at school or with friends. Here, we have a smaller house and 1 bathroom. We do most things all together. At home, we are usually a “divide and conquer” type of family. We have less to do here, so we do things together. 5 different personalities + daily challenges + less privacy can be a recipe for disaster. We all have good days and bad days, so the biggest challenge is to not kill each other and to not let the person having a bad day rub off on everyone else. It makes me giggle when parents complain about being stuck home on ONE snow day with their kids. Try homeschooling 3 kids in another country in a smallish house with endless rain and no car. 

4. Socializing

Sometimes we feel a little isolated. 6 months isn’t quite long enough to really establish a social life. The kids aren’t in school and where we live isn’t quite the same as courtyard life in Stapleton. We do have some friends. They live pretty far (when you don’t have a car) so getting together happens, but not easily or frequently. My kids are spoiled in Denver with endless friends at their doorstep. We knew this would be a challenge for them, and we’ve done our best to get them out interacting with other kids. I am very grateful for the families we have met and the ones we already knew. We’ve had some very fun get togethers in the 2 months we’ve been here. They’ve made us feel welcome. 

5. Unknowns

Many days are filled with unknowns, newness and risks. While we embrace them…It’s not always easy and we have some bumps and hiccups along the journey. We make mistakes (lost backpack/Chromebook) and get some boo boos. The weather can ruin plans or we can miss the bus. This experience requires us all to get out of our comfort zones, be flexible, and do some hard stuff. Most of these are too personal to share…But you know what I mean. 

And now the Good Stuff….

1. Living Simpler

Less stuff. No car. Our calendar is almost empty. It feels so good. It feels quieter. Calmer. It feels like one big giant sigh. 

2. Life Pause 

You know when you’re at a work meeting and they start to talk about something that doesn’t apply to you. It feels so good. This whole 6 months the feels like that. I know what’s happening back home and we can totally remove ourselves. It allows me to get a good perspective about what’s important and I plan to make some changes when we return to our normal life. I remind myself of this perk daily if I ever start to have a bad day. I remind myself that even if today isn’t awesome….I’m on a pause from normal life and that’s a gift. 

3. Togetherness

Speaking of gifts… Togetherness also has many advantages. We are all getting to know one another on a whole different level (for better or worse) and we talk more and play more. I see different relationships between the siblings forming that weren’t there before.  In a blink, Elle will be off to college. Back in Denver, her world is her friends. I will cherish this togetherness because I know we may never have this opportunity again. So much magic mixed into the madness. 

4. Grit 

Remember all those cons? Those are changing us for the better. I’m sure. We are building grit and patience and perseverance and other good stuff. It’s happening. 

5. Time

Another gift. The empty calendar means more time for each other, but also to do things we love. No hustle and bustle. The word “busy”is almost non existent. As a part of homeschooling, the kids had “hobby day.” They each prepared a 30 minute presentation on a hobby. The rest of us paid attention and even gave it a try. Instead of each having our own separate lives, we took the time to learn about what makes our other family members happy. A gift. I get to see the sunrise. We take walks. I’ve read over a dozen books. We sleep well. We exercise. We are able to take time for ourselves and each other. 

     Instagram is our highlight reel. The hard stuff is ingrained in our memories forever and making us better humans (I hope!)

*DBM

Namaste

I took a yoga class.  It took me 6 weeks, but I finally joined a studio. Yay me! Seriously….yay for me. I was being so weird about it. I had a million excuses not to go: it was too hot; too rainy; too busy; classes were too late or too long or too early; too expensive, etc…  The truth is, I was nervous. I’ve been going to the same gym at home for over 5 years and I go to the same 3 classes. So I was being weird and nervous and kept putting it off. Then I realized that the kids have jumped into new classes here…so I should be brave and do the same. So I went. But not to take a class….just to get the lay of the land. I didn’t know what door to go in or how to pay or where to check in or what I needed to bring. I don’t even have a yoga mat. Is yoga different in Australia? I went in and asked questions that made me feel embarrassed. I know…I am so weird. I signed up for a month of unlimited classes because it was a smoking deal. I may not be able to afford to stay after 30 days, but at least I am now set for 30 days to just show up as I please. Now…to actually go to a class.

My 30 day membership began that day, so it made sense to jump right in. I planned to go to a 5:15 class on a Wednesday night. Made sure Wes was home in time. Here is the crazy part. The class was an hour and a half (that isn’t the crazy part…but that is a crazy long class.) What’s crazy is that I realized  I had not been away from my children for that long since arriving in Australia. Yup…the longest I had been sans children was a trip to the grocery store or my morning walk. Crazy, right? 6 weeks and I hadn’t spent 90 minutes kid-free?!? Very overdue, and that’s when I decided no matter the cost, I will stay a member of this yoga studio until we leave Sydney. For sure.

I showed up. Told some lady with a laptop my name. It’s Deborah. I am Deborah and I do yoga. I always use Deborah when I sign up for things but then somehow expect people to call me Debbie. Not this time…I remembered and checked in as a Deborah, and she found me and I was good to go. I’ve got this.  The room (see picture above) overlooks my beach and it literally is right down the street. There were many people already there and they were all lying on their backs, some with pillows. Hmmm?  At my gym, people are on their phones and chatting before a class. This was different. I found a spot and looked next to me. There was a man who was probably in his 60s. He was wearing a shirt with a collar and a sweater. I am always fascinated when I see people at the gym in street clothes. The worst is jeans. He was either deeply mediating or asleep. When he started to snore, it was confirmed. I was very excited to listen to a beautiful Australian accent for an hour and a half, but it turns out my teacher was from Manhattan and had no accent of any kind. Disappointing. She began by waking everyone from their slumber and had us give a namaste bow to a neighbor. I tuned to my snoozing friend and he was awake and he had the kindest eyes. I thought it was weird to bow to my neighbor, but it ended up being a blessing. Now instead of the snoring guy in the polo shirt, he became the man with kind eyes. Reminded me of my dad.

The class was great. Waves crashing= the perfect background noise. I spent too much time thinking about other things, as I tend to do. An hour and a half is a long time and it was my first time, so I was soaking it all in. I have since attended more classes (the hour long ones) and have done better staying zen and being quiet in my brain. It’s a struggle.

Some thoughts running through my head as I went though my poses:

  1. Couples who yoga together? They probably don’t have kids. Wes is not interested in any sort of group exercise, so I can’t imagine. I feel like it’s “me” time and I don’t think I want him there. Is that mean?
  2. My teacher’s outfit is so cute. I want a shirt just like that. Then I remember I don’t spend $70 on work out tops…or any tops for that matter. But it was really cute.
  3. Yoga is pretty universal. I wasn’t confused about anything. What a relief.
  4. Is that my family on the beach (it was!) and where is Elle? I only see Luke and Mae. Is Wes even there? Okay….found Wes. Where is Elle? There she is. So much for an hour and a half break from them….Every time I stand up….there they are frolicking in the ocean. They are so cute. Glad they are getting exercise.
  5. When we were told to keep our gaze on something to balance….I kept picking Luke out on the beach in his orange rash guard, but he kept moving so that wasn’t helpful with my balance.
  6. I hear the lifeguards announcing “NO SWIMMING” on their megaphones, so why is my family still in the water?? (Update: they were ankle deep.)

And here are the reasons I heart yoga:

  1. Pigeon pose. My hips are so grateful for this pose.
  2. Headstands Feels good to be upside down.
  3. I get to lie down and relax with no kids fighting or asking me questions
  4. It’s an exercise I can get better at
  5. Makes me stronger
  6.  Makes me feel peace inside my chaotic brain

I was grateful to get my awkward first class out of the way. Met up with the family at the playground afterwords. My second class was at 6am, and I saw the sunrise. Teacher had a lovely accent and I loved the flow of the class.  I didn’t like the teacher in my 3rd class. She seemed like she wanted to be somewhere else.

Now I am in the groove and so glad I joined. Silly me for being nervous.

Namaste.

 

*DBM

 

Ten Differences

It’s so different here. And it’s also not. Here are some examples…

1. Words. Yes, we all speak English. But there is a sort of  “language barrier.”   I google many items on menus. There is a sign at our grocery store that I have no idea what it means. I need to take a photo and Google it all. Sometimes we have trouble understanding the accent, but mostly we just don’t know what some words mean. It seems like we have all the same things…We just call it something different.   The list is long. Here are a few: 

Take/out or To-go is called Takeaway; Flip Flops are called Thongs; Ketchup is called Tomato Sauce and Swimsuits are called Bathers/Cossies/Swimmers
2. School. The school year begins around February 1st. The year is broken into 4 terms that are about 10 weeks each. There are school holidays (breaks) between terms. It seems like most schools require uniforms including hats. (The girls’ dresses are adorable in Coogee and I wish Mae would wear one for homeschooling.) We see heaps ( that’s a new AUS expression) of kids around town and on the bus. I can recognize what school the kids in our area go to based on their uniforms. Many kids use the public bus for transport to school. There is primary school which is typically Kindy- Year 6 and then high school which begins at Year 7 through Year 12. 

3. Food. It’s all the same and yet, so different. First off, the grocery stores are similar, but much smaller and have less variety. At home we have aisles devoted to ice cream and breakfast cereal. There just isn’t that many choices here. US grocery stores or even Super Target are one-stop shopping. Here there are bakeries and butchers and pharmacies and stationary stores. You may need to go to a few different stores instead of just one. 

4. Coffee. Again, this will probably get its own blog post one day. It’s so good. So good. But so different. Everything is different. The portions are so small and mostly espresso drinks. I haven’t seen just plain coffee anywhere. Every drink is made to order. No big carafes of coffee anywhere. No refills. I’ve switched to caffeine while I am here. Many places charge extra for decaf. It is so delicious. Flat whites are hands down my favorite. Back at home, my drink from Starbucks was an Americano. (I have seen Starbucks when we pass them on the bus. I think there are a couple in Sydney, but I feel no desire to go.) Here, an Americano is called a short black or long black. I haven’t had one yet. All coffee drinks are typically  the same price. I’m used to a latte being more expensive than an americano. There are not extensive coffee menus or  many places that serve just coffee. Instead, everyone serves takeaway coffee. Restaurants, cafes, jucies bars, the gelato place…All serve coffee.  There is a boutique down by the beach that has takeaway coffee out the window. I once saw a dry cleaner that sells coffee too! I am in flat white heaven.

5. Money. This was hard to get used to. Many differences. When we first arrived, we didn’t have any AUD dollars so I had to use my credit card. Some places charge  a surcharge if you use a credit card. Especially if it’s for just a small amount. Some places don’t take AmEx. The credit card machines are tap and go…But not for my overseas card. I actually have to sign a receipt  every time I charge. That is annoying. We can take money out of our ATM without having an ATM card. Also,  Wes can send me money when he’s at work and it texts me a code to go to the ATM and get the money. Dollar bills are called notes. The notes are made of plastic and can’t be torn (and allegedly more hygienic.) $1 and $2 are gold coins. It’s very strange to carry coins around and use them. Finally, taxes are included in prices so you pay what it says and nothing more. I love this! And typically it’s nice round and even numbers. No $3.99 here!  Especially since the smallest coin is 5¢.

6. Shopping. Malls are kind of different. I’ve only been to a couple and this could be because we live in a big city. But there are grocery stores inside the malls. And other things I’ve never seen inside a shopping mall ..Like a gym, post office and library. Target is also inside a shopping mall, but it just isn’t the same. It mostly sells clothes, house stuff and toys. It’s just not the same. I have gone a couple of times and leave feeling sad  I guess these shopping malls are better than strip malls. But I miss Amazon the most. 

7. Driving/Transportation. This will definitely be another blog post some day. Living without a car is very interesting. But we drive on the left side of the road. Steering wheels are on the opposite side of the car. Wes drove once. I’ll try someday. Wes bikes to work. The kids have scooters. I’m good to walk. When crossing the roads, I finally know which way to look (right then left) and I now understand where cars may be coming from and such. Again, living in the city means traffic and parking woes. It’s good to be without a car. Sydney has many options to get around. We primarily use the bus because of our location, but there is a train and light rail and my personal favorite, ferries. 

8. Beaches: I haven’t seen as many as I plan to. The weather isn’t cooperating. I still have time. Again….A future blog post. The beaches I HAVE been to are big! Big waves. Ocean pools. Kiosks with food and coffee. Big life guard stations. We have to swim between the flags which the life guards set up as the safest place to swim. Water is cold. We live in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney and all our beaches are connected by a costal walk. Many of my Instagram posts are from the walk because it takes my breath away. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before and I can’t wait to see more. 

9. Restaurants. No tipping! Sometimes you pay for things like ketchup (tomato sauce.) When it’s time to pay, they bring the credit card machine to you at the table. Eating out is soooooo expensive!!! I have sticker shock everytime. It is THAT expensive compared to back home. It’s hard to even admit to some of the prices we’ve paid to eat out because it is just not our style. Since our kitchen isn’t very condusive to cooking big meals, we are finding some affordable ways to get food out occasionally. We’ve found a kids eat free taco place and sushi is much cheaper here. We tried Uber Eats. My strategy is to just order the cheapest thing on the menu 🙂 But we pack our lunches when we head off for the day. And the food is all good!!!

10. Animals. The birds are so freaking loud.  I’d like to murder them. Sorry. It’s true.  We all loved the first time we heard a kookaburra. Now, I’m woken up starting around 4am. There are birds are the beach that aggressively want people’sfood.  Other birds swoop down when you’re walking along the sidewalk. Birds come right into restaurants. At the zoo, pigeons and turkeys are fighting over your food..INSIDE the food court!! Lizards! They are all around which I love. We see tiny little ones on our street, but even seen some big guys around too. There is a cat on our street that we see everyday and one day he was trying to catch one of the tiny lizards. It was hilarious. Once we get out of the city, we will be able to see more Australian wildlife…Stay tuned. Currently we mostly see birds and dogs. (Dogs usually aren’t on leashes around here. I’m amazed how they stop at the corner and wait for the walk signal 🙂  

After 5 weeks… This is what we have noticed and observed as some differences between life in Denver and life in Sydney. 

*DBM

(The whole family contributed to this blog post)

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