Showing posts with label Australian Life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Australian Life. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Goodbye Australia!

 "You get a strange feeling when you're about to leave a place. Like you'll not only miss the people  and places you love but you'll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you'll never be exactly this way ever again."
--Azar Nafisi

The Gladstone Port from Auckland Lookout Point
Well, somehow the day is here already.  Today is the day that David and I leave this place that has been our home for the last year and a half, and return to Houston (with some stops on the way to visit our families for Christmas and New Years). 

As I expected, I have very mixed emotions about this day.  I wish I could be more excited about a trip home for the holidays... but the sadness of leaving this place (and knowing I likely won't ever return) is overshadowing that for now.  I guess you could say I'm having a bit of a hard time letting go...

I have a lot more I want to document about our last two days in Gladstone and the roller coaster of emotions it has been, but I will have to revisit that after we return and get settled a bit.  So for now,
I just want to say thank you, Gladstone for letting me call you home and for bringing such amazing people and experiences into my life. 

Goodbye, Gladstone!  Goodbye, Australia!

Beautiful Aussie skies!
One last sunset over Canoe Point
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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Going Away Party

Like I've mentioned before, we have been lucky enough to make some amazing friends during our time here.  It did take a while for me to make these connections, but once I finally did, I felt like the friendships developed quickly.  These people quickly became friends that we really do consider family.  When you live abroad, being able to share the whole expat experience is something that instantly bonds you with others.  You just automatically have so much in common- your frustrations, your joys, your husband's crazy schedule, etc.  You just "get" each other right off the bat.  Not to mention that everyone is so far away from family and friends, that you come to rely on and support each other a lot more than you might in other situations.  Because of this shared experience, I know that these are friends that I will stay in touch with for many years to come. 

Last Saturday, some of these friends had a little going away party for David and I.  It was so great to have everyone together.  I mostly just pretended that it wasn't a going away party, so I wouldn't get overly emotional.  We had such a great time that night just hanging out, drinking, and we even played Taboo later in the night, which was a blast. 

All the girls - Me, Nicole, Alexa & Sawyer, Jackie, Katie, Ann
Jackie surprised us with these adorable framed subway art photos with each of our last names and words that remind us of our time in Australia.  Thanks, Jackie!

The couples: Nick & Katie, David & Me, Tim & Alexa, Jason & Jackie, Chris & Ann, Brad & Nicole

Truly, if it wasn't for this group, I would be ready to leave Gladstone in a second.  These friends have been such a support and blessing.  I will miss them so very much.  And I'm holding out hope that a few years down the line we will all end up in the same place for another work assignment for our husbands.  One can hope, right?! 

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Last Day Of Work

Last Friday was my last day of work.  As anticipated, it was a tough day emotionally.  But I guess I feel fortunate to have found a place to work that makes leaving difficult. 

A little background about where I worked... I was a special education teacher in the US.  So when we came over here, I started to research schools in the area to see what my options were.  I started out substituting or "relief teaching" as they call it at two schools.  One was a "regular school" where I worked in the special education unit when they called me in.  The other was a dedicated "special school"- strictly for students with severe needs.  At first I had a hard time wrapping my head around this, because in the US, completely separating students with special needs would never fly.  But I managed to put my opinions around that issue aside, and I really did end up enjoying working at the school, so I was thrilled when they offered me a contract.  I was contracted for three days a week, with the other two days as "call in days" where they would have me come in if someone called in sick, etc.  More often than not, I ended up being there 4-5 days a week.  It was a pretty sweet schedule, and nice to have some flexibility on those two non-contracted days.  Pretty sure I will be totally spoiled/ruined when I go back to the US and have to look for a full time job :-) 


In the US, I worked with students with mild to moderate disabilities (think- learning disabilities, ADD, autism, dyslexia, behavior issues, etc.).  In this job, the entire school had children with moderate to severe disabilities.  On top of that I was placed in the classroom with the students who were the most severely disabled (think- wheel chairs, non-verbal, feeding, toileting, medications, etc.).  I was SO intimidated at first.  It terrified me to be working with such high risk and high needs students, but it didn't take long for me to end up absolutely loving it.  Sure it wasn't the most glamorous job... especially dealing with feeding, toileting, and lots of lifting... but I really did come to love those kids.  And now I actually will consider looking into working with this population once I start looking for jobs again in the US. 

On top of working with some amazing students at this school, the staff was very welcoming and supportive.  It was a really great environment to work in.  Sure, there was some dysfunction and disorganization- but I think all schools have their fair share of that.  Another thing I loved about this job, is that I got to work in the same classroom with a friend that I had made here- Katie.  She started working at the school in August, and I loved working so closely with a friend. 

At any rate, Friday was the last day of school for everyone since the school years here run on a calendar year.  The Christmas break is their long summer break.  Since it was everyone's last day for the year, I was hoping to kind of fly under the radar.  Wrong.  Every Friday morning, the school gathers for a parade (what we call an assembly).  This morning after the usual National Anthem, classroom presentations, announcements, birthdays, etc., my friend Katie and another teacher I worked with brought me up in front of everyone for the students I worked with to present me with a scrapbook they had made for me.  I was sure I would make it through the day without tears... but once I saw this, it was insta-tears.  No I hadn't been at this school for long, but it was long enough for the school and students to make a real impression on me.  The students are just incredible... and have so much love to give, and gosh are they resilient... and I will miss them so very much. 

Field trip to the Botanic Gardens

Not to get all doom and gloom, but you know what's a strange feeling?  To know with 99.9% certainty that when you say goodbye to someone that that is the last time you will ever see them.  And unfortunately, this was in the back of my head this day as I said goodbye to the staff and students.  Sure, I guess you never know what will happen.  But in all seriousness, there is a very slim chance that I will have the opportunity to return here.  Which made leaving that day even harder.  BUT, I am so very grateful to have had this opportunity.  These students will always be in my heart, and they have made a big impact on me.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Aussie Photo Shoot

... Just in case you weren't already sick of photos of David and I after my Anniversary post yesterday :-) ...

We have been lucky enough to make some amazing friends here in Gladstone.  Granted, it took several months for me to make these connections (which makes me even sadder that we are leaving sooner than expected), but either way, I am so glad to have these friends.  One of these friends, Katie, is an extremely talented photographer.  She and I also worked together at the same school here, which was a blast- but that's a story for another day/post. 

I had really wanted to get some photos of David and I (that weren't of the extended arm selfy genre) to help us remember our time here in Australia.  When Katie offered to do the job, I was thrilled!  We met up at the Tondoon Botanic Gardens in Gladstone for a little photo shoot before heading to our going away party last Saturday evening (also a post for another day). 

I had told Katie that I only had one request.  And that request was that we get some shots with Eucalyptus trees (gum trees) in the background.  I love these beautiful trees, and for me they are the ultimate iconic Australian tree- they're everywhere here.  So I am SO happy that she got these amazing shots!  Now if only we could have caught a koala up in one of the trees and some kangaroos hopping by in the background.  I think I might have died...


Here are some of my other faves...

Can we just pause for a moment and note how crazy long my hair is?!  Who let that happen?! I think I've worn it down ten or less times in the past year, so I was even surprised.  Don't worry, I have an appointment to chop it off on Dec. 29!


I am so thankful to have these photos.  Katie did a great job, as expected.  Man, my friends are talented :-)

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Expat To Expat Q&A {Holiday Edition}

Expat Q&A
Linking up today with Found Love Now What and The Hemborg Wife for this month's Expat to Expat Q&A which is all about the holiday season!

Has your idea of the holiday season changed since becoming an expat?
It was really interesting to experience Christmas in Australia last year.  And this year, we will be here until Dec. 24... so I basically will have two Aussie Christmases under my belt.  There are a lot of things I observed from being able to compare the way a big holiday like Christmas is celebrated in two different places.  But what stands out most is that for what I'm sure is a multitude of reasons, Christmas is very very VERY North American-ized/ European-ized.  I mean sure Australia has their fair share of Santa's depicted in board shorts surfing, but even still, the majority of the images/ideas surrounding Christmas are still very "western."  They still sing Jingle Bells and Let It Snow... you see snowmen in the stores... kids read books about Santa coming down the chimney, etc.  Guys, it is SUMMER here.  Most people in Australia have never seen snow, you would have to be crazy to have a fireplace here, pine trees do not exist here, and hot chocolate?  No way!  It is just so strange to me.  But it also makes me realize how powerful the images and ideas that North America and Europe project about something like a holiday (among other things) really are.  Sure, people here do have their own Christmas traditions that are better suited to their weather and lifestyles (grilling and hanging out at the pool or beach with a cold beer), but it almost makes me a little sad... that "our" culture has to be so overwhelming even on the other side of the world. 

How do you build new holiday traditions, while keeping ones that remind you of “home”?  
Last year was the first Christmas away from home for both David and I.  It was hard for both of us, although probably a little more for me since Christmas isn't AS big of a deal in his family.  I knew I would be sad to be so far away, so last year I made sure that we made our house feel as Christmas-y as possible.  We bought a fake tree and decorated it, put up lights, I made a big Christmas Eve dinner, and we had stockings and presents on Christmas morning followed by a big breakfast.  Doing these things definitely helped make being so far away a little easier.  It was also fun to incorporate some new traditions.  On Boxing Day last year (Dec. 26), we spent that day at the beach.  Now THAT is something I can definitely get on board with and would love to be able to make that a Christmas tradition.  Aussies also do a lot of vacationing around Christmas time since this is their summer and the long break from school for the kids.  So we also took part in that tradition and traveled to Melbourne just a few days after Christmas.  Again, I could totally partake in a post-Christmas vacay each year! 

Decorating our tree in shorts, bare feet, and tank top/short sleeves
This year has been a very different Christmas season again, but for other reasons.  We knew months ago that we would be visiting home for the holidays, and I was SO  looking forward to getting to feel those "American Christmas feelings" and be near friends and family.  However, once we found out we were moving and that our flights were now one way flights, I got a little scroogy about Christmas.  I'm just taking my frustration and sadness out on Christmas.  Sorry- nothing personal.  Basically what happened was Christmas began to be associated with a move that I was sad about, so I just kind of have avoided doing much of anything Christmas-related at all this year.  How scroogy is that?!  But I know that once we leave I will be fine, and I'll be able to put my displaced anger at Christmas aside.  And at that point, I fully intend on soaking up every last ounce of Christmas that I can on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day! 

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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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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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