Thursday, September 26, 2013

CSIRO article

Small article done about me for CSIRO, check it out!  It's just a small profile of who I am, what I'm doing, etc... but I was kind of excited to see it in their national newsletter!  Makes me feel quite welcome :)

*Edit:  I've been told that the link I originally posted is not visible outside the CSIRO servers, so I've posted a photo of the article below

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Geelong sights

Geelong is the city in Victoria in which I live and work, and I don't think I could have asked for a better place to live in Australia.  It's a moderately-sized city with about 150,000 people.  It's one of those towns where people might not lock their front doors.  I haven't yet experienced the bus system, but I'm told it works quite well to get around town.  Something that I noticed as soon as I arrived, a lot of the houses are decorated with white wrought-iron or plastic lattice along the trim.  It's a very popular decoration style, one that makes lots of the houses look like dollhouses (in my opinion).

A typical house in Geelong, complete with a front garden and fence
Another thing I noticed as well, there are houses here and there that are for sale, but they're being sold at auction rather than through a traditional relator as in the States.  Actually, one of the houses across the street from my host house was auctioned off, and I went outside to watch the proceedings.  Evidentially, people sell their houses here via auction to get a better price compared to traditionally selling a house.  I found it very bizarre, but I think that's just because I think of the only reason to auction off a house would be if the bank was trying to sell it.  Also, I think it's a matter of living near the ocean, properties here are much smaller and the houses are quite close together.

More familiar Geelong sights

One of the first things I did when I arrived in Geelong was find the closest Catholic church.  I was very happy to find that there was a church 20 minutes' walk away.  And not just a church, but a Basilica at that!  St. Mary's Basilica has quite beautiful architecture.  It reminds me of the Netherlands a bit (though I've never been there).  There are other buildings in town that use lighter-colored brick, and with peaks and towers it feels very European.

St. Mary's

A kindergarden center
There are lots of tropical-looking trees and foilage around.  A large palm tree sits in front of CSIRO (my work building), and I always take notice of it when I walk in and out of work.  It's weird to be living in an area with palm trees!  And the other day while walking to the grocery store, I walked by a house with a front garden that had bird of paradise growing in it (but I didn't take any photos of it).

View from inside CISRO, looking out onto the reflecting pond in front of the building
There are black crows and pigeons present all over town, but what surprised me was the large amount of magpies that are present.  They are everywhere, and if you don't see them then you hear them!  Sinead, my host mom, really hates them, because they dive-bomb the kids when they are outside.  I'm told that people out walking their dogs have to watch out for the magpies too.  It's a common sight to see people out riding their bikes, and their helmet is covered with zip-ties tied tight and the long ends sticking out (just like how they put small spikes on statues to discourage pigeons).  I might eventually get sick of them, but right now I get a kick out of the magpies.  They are pretty birds and they are quite musical (but they can also be obnoxious as well).

Last week, at the end of my first week of work, I was treated to my first Australian rainbow outside work.  It had been a rainy week and the sight of the sun finally coming out along with the rainbow was a very welcome sight.

The photo below is of the river near where I live, and in the distance you can see the white lights of the Aussie rules football stadium peaking over the treeline.  This coming weekend is the footie final, aka the superbowl of Australia.  I'm not much of a sports fan, but I am interested to learn about the sport as well as enjoy the Australian culture surrounding it.  If you don't attend the game then you definitely watch it, and the tradition is to have a big party with BBQ, lots of beer, family, and friends.  I was very fortunate to be invited by a new Australian friend, Selena.  She's invited me to her family's property about 45 min outside Geelong to enjoy a traditional Aussie BBQ and watch some good footie.  I'll have more stories next week!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

My Australian family

Moving to another country has been stressful, but I have been very fortunate to have a great host family for my first two months here.  I'm staying with my boss, Dr. Williams and his family.  Dr. Williams (David) is one of the head managers, both the Pathogen Characterisation Group Leader and the Diagnostic Virology Team Leader at AAHL.  His wife, Sinead, also works at AAHL in one of the virology labs.  They have two cute kids: Orla (age 4), and Thomas (nearly 2).  I've been very comfortable staying with them, as I have my own room to keep to myself and they invite me to join them for dinners.

Sinead (pronounced like Shen-ay), is from Ireland, and she met David when they both studied in Glasgow.  She has made some wonderful dinners and been so kind to me.  She even lets me join her on her grocery store trips and lets me pick out my favorite foods and snacks.  Of course, I only pick out a few things because I don't want to overstep in any way.

Orla (sounds like Ola with the Australian accent) and Thomas are a lot of fun.  They are both happy kids, though sometimes Orla is more grumpy than Thomas.  They have a corner of the living room filled with toys, and both kids are pretty good at entertaining themselves.

Orla has this strange obsession with Snow White, particularly the Evil Queen of the Snow White story.  She loves to watch the Snow White movie that the family owns, but sometimes it gives her nightmares.  I still haven't figured out why she wants to watch the movie all the time if the Evil Queen scares her so much.  She is a typical girl in every way - ballet, ribbons, lots of pink and lace.  And Thomas is obsessed with Thomas the train - go figure.

Sinead works part time, so this week she was home Thursday and Friday with the kids.  The kids rode their scooters down to the cafe where Sinead and I enjoyed cappuccinos.  The kids had baby-cinos, which was steamed milk with some chocolate sprinkles on top.  They really seemed to enjoy playing "grown-up" with their tea cups.  After our coffees, the kids headed down to the park.  It had rained quite a bit earlier that morning, so there were lots of puddles around that needed to be stomped in ;)

Scooter time took a bit longer with frequent stops to look for frogs

The kids couldn't resist stomping in the puddles with their rain boots

I've certainly done my fair share of babysitting, and will likely to continue to babysit while I'm living with the family.  I'm more than happy to clean and babysit in exchange for food and housing - it's a very generous deal, especially considering how expensive everything is (especially food).  A favorite game of the kids is to play with a photo app on my phone.  One app adds a mustache and one adds crazy hair.  Plenty of car entertainment :)


I'll post again about what Geelong looks like.  I'm off for an afternoon enjoying the area by the beach!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

New Beginnings

I finally made it to Geelong!  What started out as a 30 hr trip had another 24 hrs unnecessarily added to it due to delays and plane problems.

My first flight from Wichita to Dallas was severely delayed due to a mechanical error of the plane, and by the time I made it to Dallas I had missed my connection.  I did find it quite funny, the airplane magazine had a really cute article about swimming pigs in the Bahamas.  Pigs... of all things, as I make my way to my job working on pigs...

Once I missed my connection at DFW, the airport put me up in a hotel for the night, and I also received food coupons to cover meals.  They rebooked my flight for the evening the next day, so I had quite a bit of time to sit around and wait.  My rebooked flight from Dallas to LAX was scheduled to leave at 5:00pm, but again, a mechanical error of the plane lead to another serious delay.  Luckily I had plenty of time to catch my connection from LAX to Sydney.  The flight to Sydney was a long one (15 hrs), but Quantas had a much nicer flight experience than any of the American Airlines.  Each seat had a TV screen where you could queue up a movie or TV show - they had a ton of options to chose from!  I also got a pillow, blanket, and eye mask.  Plus they served really good meals, with free alcohol!  I did not expect it to be such a nice flight, but then again, a long flight is a long flight, and I was quite stiff by the end of it.

I was happy to board the plane at LAX because I thought that surely once we were in the air, I was golden on getting to Australia.  Unfortunately that wasn't the case.  A few hours into the flight they made an overhead announcement soliciting anyone who had a medical background.  An hour after that they announced that we would be stopping in Hawaii to drop off a guy on the plane who had a heart attack.  I honestly didn't believe it at first (I mean, could anything else make this trip more discombobulated?).  We stopped in Honolulu for two hours to let the guy get to the hospital, and then the crew had to fill out a bunch of paperwork to account for making an unexpected stop.

Thankfully from Hawaii onwards, the trip went smoothly.  I arrived in Sydney with no troubles and found my connection to Avalon, where my boss picked me up from the airport.  Due to all the flight changes, my luggage was behind me, and hopefully it'll arrive within the next two days or so.  I'm currently staying with my boss and his family until I can find a place of my own - hopefully within a month or so.  I'd hate to infringe on them too long.

For now, my job is to set up a bank account, cell phone, and work on finding a place to day.  I get a whole week to relax and set things up before I start work on Monday.  I'll post more about my Geelong adventures later!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Flying out

I've been planning on today for the past four months now.  Months of sorting, packing, moving, planning and plenty of paperwork to go along with all of it.  It seems pretty unreal, but today I fly to Australia to start the next chapter of my life.

I'm somewhat excited, but mostly just nervous.  There is so much involved with moving to another country.  I had to close down everything I have here - close my apartment, move all my stuff, shut off my phone, etc.  And the daunting task ahead of me is setting it all back up once I get there.  I'm hoping to find a place with another PhD student there, but I honestly don't know what to expect.  I am exceptionally lucky that my boss and his family are willing to host me in their guest room until I have a place to stay.  Until then, my jobs will include starting an account at a local bank, setting up a cell phone and hopefully finding a bike for a relatively affordable price.  And of course, adjusting to the time difference will be a task in itself.  I'll be 15 hours ahead of my family back in Wichita, so that means it'll take a bit of planning to set up video calls and send texts at appropriate hours.

For now, my phone number is no longer in service.  But if you'd like to contact me, I'm available via facebook or email.  I have the "google hangouts" app with my gmail account signed in, so I am able to send and receive free text messages when I have wifi access.  It'll be tricky until I have a phone set up in Oz, but once I have regular phone service it should work very smoothly.

Hopefully the flight goes smoothly (all 20 hrs of it), and my bags arrive with no troubles.  I'm ready to get settled and find a normal routine, since I really haven't had a good routine since May.  I'm a creature of habits and routines, so it's been very distressing to be unstable like this for so long.  I also look forward to meeting new people and finding a good friend base, but I'll take things one step at a time so I don't get too overwhelmed.

See everyone on the other side!!