Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What Brought Us Here - The Work-Related Reason

What brought you to Australia?

That is a question we get quite frequently.  I wish we could say that we came just for the opportunity to travel and see the other side of the world.  While we have done a lot of that, that isn't why we are really here.  We came here on a job assignment with my husband's company.  My husband works for a large international construction company that does most of its work in the oil, gas, and chemicals industry.  One of their biggest contracts currently (we're talking billions and billions of dollars- something I can't even wrap my head around) is here in little old Gladstone, Australia.  Just off the coast of this small port town on Curtis Island, they are building three large LNG (liquid natural gas) plants.  So, that's why we're here.  David is working on one of those three LNG projects- along with close to 8,000 other employees (both international and Australian). 

For as little as I know about this type of thing, I've actually (surprisingly) found it really interesting to be so close to such a large-scale construction project.  Unfortunately, the island and the construction sites themselves have pretty heavy security, so you cannot normally access the sites unless you are an employee.  Luckily, I've had the opportunity to get pretty close to the constructions sites on two occasions. 

When my parents came to visit, we were able to go on an informational ferry cruise that cruised past the construction sites on Curtis Island.  It was pretty neat to be able to see how seriously massive these things are.  And also neat to see where my husband spends from 5AM to 6PM six days a week.

Our ferry for the "cruise"
This is a far-away view of just ONE of the THREE nearly identical plants they're constructing
The red/orange dome is one of the gas tanks
Another gas tank.  It's hard to tell from the photo, but these cranes were the most massive ones I've ever seen.

The coal ship in the photo below is not related to the projects at all, but it's an example of one of the many massive coal ships that are constantly in and out of the port here.  Gladstone is also a major coal exporter for the world (mostly China).  Those little "boxes" you see at the top on the crane?  Those are the huge containers that you usually see on semi trucks.  They look so tiny on this giant ship!
Then in early September, the company actually opened up the site for an employee family tour day.  We got to actually tour the island itself (by ferry and bus), which was really neat.  Unfortunately, with all the security, they were very strict about enforcing that no photography was allowed. 
Walking to get back on the ferry after the tour.  The only photo I was brave enough to sneak. 
So many cranes!  And tons of progress can be seen since the previous photos (2.5 months time)
Here's a short time-lapse video (it's only 30 seconds) that shows the roof on one of the tanks being lifted.  Kind of nerdy, but pretty cool, too! 

So, there you have it.  Not the most exciting story of what brought us here.  But this is it!  Really proud of my husband and his hard work here! 

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Snail Mail Collective {October}

For the October Snail Mail Collective, I was paired with Charlie from Curious Charlie.  You can learn more about the Snail Mail Collective blogger mail exchange HERE.  I had fun getting to know Charlie through emails and her blog.  It was interesting to be paired with another American expat living in Australia.  Charlie is from San Francisco, and is lucky enough to live in one of my favorite cities in Australia- Melbourne. 

Charlie's gift was so generous and creative!  She even had each item individually wrapped, so that made it really fun to open.

I love everything she included, and I've even already used the nail polish :-) 

See that cute little owl card?  She made that!  And those pink and white paper stars in the glass container?  She made those, too!  Totally impressed! 

Thanks, Charlie!

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Thursday, November 07, 2013

Sewing Wannabe

It goes without saying that living abroad allows you to have many experiences you might never have had otherwise.  Most of the biggest new experiences I've had here revolve around travel and the incredible sights I've seen.  Oh, and koalas. 

However, I've also realized that there are quite a few other new experiences I've had that have nothing to do with travel.  While living here, I've had the chance to do things like: be a part of a book club, blogging, working in a completely different education setting than I'm used to, having a standing weekly Saturday coffee date with friends, etc.  These are things that for one reason or another, I never had the interest in or opportunity for before living here.  I think that living in a small town combined with the fact that there are plenty of other Americans here in a similar situation somehow created the perfect setting for some of these things to happen here. 

Another one of these new experiences that I've fallen into recently is sewing.  A few of the girls that I've become close friends with over the past few months had been going to a Monday night sewing class.  They'd been inviting me to come for weeks, and I kept turning them down.  Sewing wasn't something I ever really thought I was interested in taking up as a hobby.  Well, a few months ago, I finally went along with them.  And I actually enjoyed it. It's not so much a structured class, as it is a sort of sewing "study hall."  You can work on whatever you want while having access to a very helpful "instructor" and tons of sewing machines/supplies.  Most of the girls who go are making super fancy things like beautiful quilts and Christmas stockings.  I'm definitely the least skilled of the group. 

I started out by making a very simple pin cushion. 

From there, I decided to make a gift for a friend whose baby shower was coming up.  Growing up, my mom used to make these cute little hooded baby towel things.  I think I even "helped" her a few times.  I figured that would be a simple enough project for me to move on to next. 

I used this tutorial and tips from my mom as my guide:

My friend Alexa is having her second little girl, and she's not a super "pink" type of mom.  So I went with this coral fabric... although for some weird reason, it looks pretty orange in these pictures. 

This project ended up taking me a lot longer than I anticipated, but when it was finally finished, I was very happy with the end product!  It was fun to give someone a gift that I had made myself. 

And here's a photo of some of the girls I sew with at Alexa's baby "sprinkle." 

Nicole, Me, Jackie, Alexa (and baby Sawyer), Colleen, Katie, & sweet little Elise up front showing her belly to the camera :-)

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Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Phillip Island & The Penguin Parade With My Parents

July 7, 2013

Our last Melbourne adventure was a day trip to Phillip Island.  Phillip Island is about a two hour drive from Melbourne.  It is a beautiful place full of incredible beaches, vacation homes, wineries, Nobbies Centre (home to a large population of seals), and most importantly- the cutest little parade you ever did see.  The PENGUIN PARADE!  It is also important to note that the Hemsworth brothers hail from Phillip Island.  Sadly, no Hemsworth sightings.

Here are some photos from our first stop- the Nobbie Centre.  Unfortunately, we didn't see any seals, but the views were amazing!  (No Hemsworths AND no seals?!  I want my money back!)

Double rainbow ending at the kangaroo crossing sign!
Can you tell it was FREEZING cold?!
Supposedly this thing is usually covered in sun-bathing seals

So here's the deal with the penguin parade- first, you must know that these penguins are the smallest penguins in the world.  Which also conveniently makes them the cutest penguins in the world!  Anyway, each morning at sunrise these penguins go out to sea to spend their days fishing, and then each evening at sunset they return to their nests.  This is what you are seeing when you view the Penguin Parade.  Like clockwork, right as the sun began to set, we started to see little black blobs coming up to shore.  The penguins were coming!!!  The penguins get together in large groups, and before you know it, they're standing on the sand.  It's pretty funny to watch, because it takes them 3 or 4 times to build up their courage to really come ashore- the little groups would keep on running back into the water before finally beginning their parade.  Once they start coming up, it's the cutest thing as they march/waddle in perfect little lines across the beach, and up the hills to their nests.  Unfortunately, pictures were not allowed- and they had tons of park rangers around enforcing this rule.  So you'll just have to take my word for it- they were adorable!  It was such a cool sight to see and so amazing to think that these tiny penguins repeat this ritual every single day. 
The penguins we saw are only as big as the tiny little one at the bottom!
Since I couldn't take photos of the real ones, this will have to do...
Snuck this photo while waiting for the penguins
And that concludes my very overdue recaps of my parents' visit to Australia.  Thanks for coming mom and dad!  So glad you got to see this beautiful place! 

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Tuesday, November 05, 2013

The Great Ocean Road With My Parents

July 5, 2012

I was so excited to take my parents on The Great Ocean Road tour.  David and I went on this tour in January, and it is one of my favorite things that we've done in Australia.  So I was really excited that I would have the chance to see it all again!  You can see the recap from my first time on The Great Ocean Road HERE

As I mentioned in my last post about this tour, The Great Ocean Road is a very famous stretch of road along the southeastern coast of Australia- somewhat similar to the Pacific Coast Highway. The road is narrow and twisty, but it travels right along what I can honestly say is probably one of the most beautiful coastlines I have ever seen.  There are also lots of famous landmarks and beaches along the way.  The entire road is actually a war memorial, as it was built by soldiers returning from WWI. 

It's impossible not to take a million photos on this tour.  Everything is just so beautiful.  It's also impossible to narrow down which photos to include... so prepare yourself for a major photo overload. 

The first of many rainbows we saw that day
Our first stop was the little beach town of Torquay which is home to Bell's Beach.  Bell's Beach is a very famous surfing beach.  We didn't see any surfers this day though- the water was extremely rough (and cold!). 


Next up was Lorne where we stopped for morning tea at a park overlooking the ocean.  Such a fun little Aussie custom!


We made another stop just a bit later at Mount Defiance Lookout Point.  Not far from here, we stopped again for a walkabout in a little area known for having plenty of koalas (!!!!) hiding in the trees.


Our next stop was Apollo Bay and the nearby Mait's Rest Rainforest.  In true rainforest fashion, this is when the rain began again.  So our walk through the rainforest was a bit more of a hurried power walk.  It was still beautiful and impressive though.  The rain continued off and on throughout the rest of our trip, but always seemed to let up when we got to each view point, so I can't complain too much.  Plus, it made for a series of amazing rainbows that seemed to follow us the whole day. 

Can't you just imagine dinosaurs roaming through this rainforest?
At long last, we arrived in Port Campbell to see the incredible Twelve Apostles!  A lot of the photos I included are from pretty similar vantage points, but I just thought it was so interesting how much the sky changed in the 45 minutes we spent there! 

The path out to the 12 Apostles viewpoint


Also in Port Campbell is the Loch Ard Gorge.  This little cove and the ocean right outside this area are known for being extremely rough.  There is a long history of shipwrecks in this area. 


And finally, we made it to our last stop- The London Bridge.  This rock formation used to be connected and people were allowed to walk out to the end.  There's a story about a couple who met for a rendezvous out on the point and had the bad luck to be out there when it collapsed.  They had to be rescued by helicopter... and then explain to their spouses what they were doing out there.  Scandalous!
Crazy beautiful sunset action happening in the upper left corner

Can you tell we were freezing by this point?

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