Sunday, September 30, 2012

End of Week One

On Wednesday, it was beautiful out. The sun was shining and it was warm. We were really glad we'd reserved that day for relaxing time at the beach. And so, on Wednesday afternoon, we packed up some snacks, a blanket, and our books, and were off to Brighton Beach.

When we got to the beach, we laid out the blanket, and then the hard work began: lying in the sun and reading. *Sigh* It's a hard life. We read, we snacked, we soaked up the sun. We must've been at the beach for at least 3 hours before the wind started picking up and it was getting a little bit chilly. Also, as it's school holidays, this was about the time that all the high-schoolers started crowding the beach. So, we headed home and continued our laid-back, relaxing day by doing nothing. It was such a good day.

On Thursday, we went down to Scienceworks, a science and technology museum. There were a lot of little kiddlies running around, mostly kids in day camps. We still had fun wandering around and trying out some of the little activities they had. Then we
Southern Cross
saw a show about black holes at the Planetarium. Neither of us had ever been to a planetarium before, so it was pretty exciting. And after the show about black holes, they showed us some of the stars and constellations that we can see here. I know a few of them at home, but as we're in a different hemisphere, all the stars are different. No big dipper or north star around here. We have the southern cross to help you find the south pole. The only constellation I recognized was Orion, and that one you can barely see here.

Friday was pouring rain out all day, but we picked ourselves out of bed and were off to the last stop for the week: The Melbourne Museum. They currently have an exhibit on The Wonders of Ancient Mesopotamia that Becca and I were both interested in seeing before it finishes next weekend. The exhibit was divided into 3 parts, which were the 3 great centres of ancient Mesopotamian civilization: Sumer, Assyria, and Babylon. It was really interesting, and I'm glad we had the chance to go see it. We spent the rest of the day exploring a few of the permanent exhibits at the museum, but didn't have a chance to see everything. There are a lot of exhibits! But we got year passes, so we can go again any other time, and entry is free. We'll definitely have to go back and see more.

Saturday was cleaning day, again. Becca's mom, Juanita, was due to arrive in Melbourne around 1:30pm, so we spent all morning cleaning the apartment and doing laundry. The Melbourne Airport is really weird. Even though we weren't boarding a plane ourselves, we had to go through security and went all the way into the terminal, right to the gate! It was really weird. They only checked boarding passes at the gate to the plane. It was nice to be right there to meet Juanita when she got off the plane, though.

Although it was only mid-afternoon when we got home, Juanita was already really tired from her trip. However, we didn't want her to be up in the middle of the night, so it was our mission to keep her up and about until a decent bed-time. Becca and Juanita went for a walk, we had dinner, and then we took the tram up to Kmart. By the time we got home, it was 8:30, so we decided it was acceptable for her to go to bed.

We didn't have anything big planned for today, Sunday. Becca and I have been dying to go to Costco, especially because we see it from North Melbourne Train Station all the time. WELL, Juanita has a Costco card, and after some research, we discovered that you can use your Costco card at ANY Costco WORLDWIDE.

So, guess what we did today?? Oh yes, COSTCO.

It may sound sad to you, but visiting Costco is a favourite pastime of mine and Becca's. So we were so happy to be in one today. And we didn't buy too much stuff, which is good because we don't have a car so we had to lug our purchases home on the trams. We had fun.

Tomorrow begins our newest adventure: road trip down the Great Ocean Road!
Click to see larger

I'm sure I'll have lots of stories to share when we get home!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

What Happens When We Have Holidays

Monday was our first official day of holidays, in my opinion. It was our first day of planned holiday fun-times, at least.

We started the holiday by sleeping in a on Monday, of course. No need to get up at 6am! By the time we pulled ourselves out of bed, we started on adventure #1: The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), and the Napoleon Bonaparte exhibit.

We toured around the exhibit for a couple hours and then walked back to downtown for lunch. There's this meat pie place here called Pie Face, and they're EVERYWHERE.

See?? That's 9 in the Central Business District! And I don't even know if Google Maps got them all. So we decided to try it for lunch, and they were really good! They're all baked fresh in-store daily, and they have lot of different kinds, like steak and peppercorn, mince beef, and thai chicken curry. (I tried a steak injected with cheese, and Becca had the steak and peppercorn). Yum!

After our yummy lunch, we headed back over to the NGV to see the other exhibits. The gallery is free, except for the special exhibits, like the Napoleon one right now. We spent another couple hours wandering around the galleries. We mostly saw European art from the 14th century to the mid-20th century. There's also an Asian art gallery (can't remember which centuries), but it's currently closed. So we'll have to go back another time to see it, I suppose.

This was my favourite room in the gallery, in (bad quality) panoramic view. Both sides of the hall were full of paintings displayed this way. It was reminiscent of the way paintings were once hung (can't remember the time period, though).


Hello, Tuesday! Tuesday was Zoo day. The best part about it, was that it is only one train stop away, so it literally takes us no more than 10 minutes to get there.

We chose a really good day to go to the Zoo. It was sunny, but not too warm, so we were able to see almost all the animals, since they weren't hiding in the shade. I think one of the best things we saw all day was the lions roaring. We were looking at the animals in the cage across from the lions, and all of a sudden we heard this booming noise coming from behind us. I honestly didn't know what it was at first, until I peeked around a bush and saw these two male lions throwing their heads back and roaring! It was amazing! Becca got a video, so we'll have to check later how that worked out. I got this amazing picture:

A couple weeks ago, when Sarah was here, I mentioned the Mali elephants that were stationed around town in celebration of the Zoo being 150 years old, and how Becca was on a mission to find and photograph them all. Well, we were sad to see one day that the elephants were gone from town because we hadn't had a chance to find them. However, they Mali elephants had just been moved to the Zoo for the next month before being auctioned off. So we were able to get pictures of ALL of the 50 elephants.

Becca's squee-ing inside as she takes pictures of all the elephants.

We had a really good day, saw lots of animals and went home tired. I promise I will put up pictures on Facebook soon, but here's a few from the day to tide you over.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Our Busiest Week Yet!

Good news, friends and family......


Ok so it's good news for us. And maybe you in the long run, because I'll have LOTS to say in the coming weeks. However, first I have to recap the week we just had!

Since it was the last week of term, I wasn't expecting more than one day of work. I figured most teachers would be in school to tie up loose ends before sending the kids away for holiday. Becca had a job set up for Wednesday as of the Friday before, so at least she was guaranteed one day, if nothing else.

Well Monday came and I got a call for an Teaching Assistant position. Basically, that means I wasn't teaching, but I also wasn't getting paid as a teacher. But money is money. And we knew that two weeks of no work means two weeks of no incoming money, so of course I took the job. It was fun, I was working at a special school, Jackson, with students diagnosed with Autism and various behaviour problems. And I suppose they liked me, because they asked me to come back the next day, too! I was really happy to get called back, even though it was for less pay than teaching, because I wasn't expecting any other work. Also, I really like the school. I've been to another special school and it didn't seem as organized and devoted to academics. I hope I go back to Jackson, maybe as a teacher next time.

I got a call on Tuesday afternoon to teach 3/4 at Sydenham-Hillside, the school where I taught Gym a couple weeks ago. Back-to-back in-advance jobs AND it's the last week of term?!? Heck yeah! And then I had a really good day at S-H. Of course there were some difficult times, but the class was fairly good overall. It was nice that the kids knew me already from the last time I was there (I was in their class for one hour as a time-release). I think 3/4s are the best groups to teach around here. I've only had a few days in 3/4 classes, but they've been my best.

On Thursday, Becca and I worked at a more difficult school. The ANZUK rep that called me said it was more difficult, and then the principal introduced us to the school-wide behaviour management program, and these two things combined put a knot in my stomach. It may have been one of those moments where I was expecting it to be not-so-great, so it wasn't, but I really did my best to keep an open mind, as always. But it wasn't my favourite day. I was in a 1/2 class, and I had to send a kid down to the office (as per the behaviour management program). I hate doing it but I couldn't manage him anymore. The part that really ticked me off was when he came back about 30 minutes later and there was no change in his behaviour at all. I mean, what's the point of this program if half an hour in the office doesn't change anything? I feel like someone should've come to my class or at least spoken with me afterwards. They knew I was an emergency teacher, so where's the support? Oh well, it was the end of the day, and we figured it was our last day of work for the term. (It was.)

The week didn't end in a very exciting way. After the bad last day teaching, we spent Friday doing groceries and picking up random odds and ends that we had on our shopping list. Saturday was a bit more fun because we went down the the QVM and also went to the mall. It was a mini shopping-spree kind of day. (Very mini.) It's spring-time, so there's a lot of nice clothing on SALE. Today (Sunday) was laundry day and crafting day. So it was not fun, but also kind of fun. A weird mix.

Tomorrow officially starts our holiday, in my opinion. We're spending the week visiting various attractions around town that we haven't had the time to see yet. But I'm not telling you in advance where we're going, but be assured that it's all planned out and on the calendar. I recommend you check back, because I'm sure I'll have lots of stories to share, and probably a few pictures, too.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sarah's Visit: Part 2

Welcome to Saturday!

We had planned to go on a road trip down to Phillip Island this day. Sarah also wanted to visit a couple National Parks while we were down that way. Unfortunately, one was pretty far away so we didn't get to it, but the other was closer and we were able to fit it into our schedule.

We were out of the house before 9am to head down to the QVM again to get pictures of some Mali elephants we'd missed the day before. Then we walked down to East Coast Rentals to pick up the car we'd hired for the day (hire = rent). There were a few people ahead of us, so we had to wait a while before actually getting our car and heading out.

And then I had my first experience driving from the right side of the car, and on the left side of the road. By the way, I'M A PRO. It wasn't that hard. I think, because we've been in the city for a month and a half already, I'm pretty used to the change. The part that I had some issues with was just staying within the lines. I tended to crowd the left-hand side because I was in a new vantage point. But other than that, I felt really comfortable, never forgot to stay on the left side, and never forgot to get in on the right. Like I said, I'm a pro.

Then we were on the road. Google Maps came through for us, and the directions I'd printed got us out of the city and all the way down to Mornington Peninsula National Park, one of the places Sarah wanted to visit. We walked around the paths and down to the water's edge. The boardwalk down to the water consisted of over 200 steps! TWO HUNDRED! And we walked all the way down, around the rocks at the bottom for a while, and then all the way back up! And that was just the beginning of the day.

We followed our Google Maps directions around Western Port, stopping briefly for lunch, all the way to Phillip Island! Oh hello beautiful island, how I missed you. Our first stop was to the Koala Conservation Centre, and you will never guess what we saw there. A BABY KOALA. It was so cute! It was just hanging onto Momma, and they were both grabbing a snack from the tree. Adorable. We saw quite a few koalas, some wallabies again, but this time we also saw a Kookaburra! They're big birds.

Next we were off to The Nobbies and Seal Rock. (This was when Becca practiced her Australian driving.) I was super excited to see seals! Unfortunately, Seal Rock is far enough away that you can't see much, even though it is Australia's largest colony of fur seals. We paid to use one of those coin binocular/telescope things, and were actually able to see a few seals on the rocks. If it was sunnier out, I think they would've been easier to see.

The Nobbies and Seal Rock in the background

Last stop was to the penguins! Thankfully, it was much warmer this time that it was when we first went. Although, of course this time we were much more prepared. This time we had layers of clothing: shirts, sweaters, jackets, and we had a blanket, too! The penguins were as cute as ever. There was a lot of beach for them to waddle across, unlike our first time when they had to emerge almost right on the rocks. The downside was that there was a congregation of seagulls scattered all over the beach, so it was heart-pounding and nerve-racking to watch these little rafts of penguins (around a foot tall), huddle together and make their way from the water to the safety of the rocks and their burrows. The worst was the first two brave souls that didn't have the safety of the raft while making their way across the beach. I thought Becca was going to cry or run out on the beach and chase the seagulls away! On our way out, we noticed at the information booth that you could buy return tickets for only $6, almost 1/4 of the regular price. So we got 3, and maybe we'll go again when Juanita is here.

Lastly, came the drive home. I'm a genius and forgot to print directions home (back to our apartment), so we stopped for dinner/a snack at McDonald's, and I utilized their free wifi to chart a route home. Sarah slept the whole way, and I drove. Becca stayed awake with me and we sang to stay awake. It was fun to get to our parking spot. I forgot to take a picture, but I'll have to do that at some point because it's awesome. We literally have the absolute last spot in the garage. You can't go anywhere else but to our parking spot. The best part was having to drive in circles for 7 floors until we finally got there. (Oh yes, the first 7 floors are all parking.) By the time we got up the apartment, it was at least 11pm, and we basically fell into bed.

Morning came too soon, since we had to get up and drive Sarah to the airport for 8am. And my goodness, who knew there would be traffic going into the airport at 8am on a Sunday? WHO KNEW?? Afterwards, we almost got lost driving around looking for a gas station, and then returned the car. We did some fresh foods shopping at the Queen Victoria Market, and then went home and just veg-ed for the whole day. We needed to catch up on our rest, and boy did we ever.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sarah's Visit: Part 1

Sarah has now come and gone, and I don't even know how to recap everything that we did. We had an exhausting couple of days, but we also had so much fun.

She flew in on Wednesday, and neither Becca nor I were working, so we took a shuttle bus down to the airport to pick her up. She was surprised and happy to see us, I think! After taking the bus back to downtown Melbourne, we just hopped on the train back home. By the time we had dinner it was too late, and we were too tired, to go out and do anything. So we hung out and chatted for a bit before heading to bed. Becca and I had to work on Thursday, so we still had to be in bed at a decent time, and Sarah was tired from travelling.

Thursday wasn't too exciting. Becca and I worked at the same school, and we ended up staying really late (like an extra hour) because I had to do some marking for the class I was in. Sarah had a good day touring around the city on her own, and although she went for a nap when we got home, she made us dinner.

Friday was our first big day. We didn't get any work, so we took the opportunity to show Sarah around and do some touristy things. While Sarah was out on Thursday, she took a picture of the decorated Mali elephant statue outside the Queen Victoria Market. We made it our goal for the day to photograph as many as we could find (there are 50 throughout Melbourne in celebration of the Zoo's 150th year). We started at the QVM and basically walked all around downtown. We visited the hostel where Becca and I stayed then walked over to the State Library of Victoria, although it was closed. We headed down to Federation Square, then walked along the Yarra River to the Melbourne Aquarium, and spent some time in there. And we did this all before lunchtime!

Even though it wasn't the nicest or warmest day, our afternoon was full of beaches. We started further south at Brighton Beach, where Becca and I visited last weekend. It was a lot less busy, considering it was during the day and not as nice out. But we walked in the sand in our bare feet, collected some shells, and took lots of pictures in front of the beach huts. Next, we hopped back on the train and then on the tram and made our way down to St. Kilda Beach. We got some beverages and walked out on the pier. And you will never guess what we found out there......


You can bet your blue bonnet that Becca just about had a conniption fit. We could hear them in the bushes along the rocks and Becca and I just stopped. We were like dogs listening to a high pitched sound, both standing there with our heads cocked. Then our eyes widened then she said: "I KNOW THAT SOUND." There were already people taking some pictures, so we hopped right in. It was so exciting to see them when we weren't expecting it. And to have the opportunity to take pictures was amazing! Especially since we can't take pictures of them at Phillip Island.

Needless to say, it was an extra special way to end a very long, but fun, day of touring Melbourne.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sunny, Sandy Day!

Sunday was a fun day. We did get a bit of a late start because we had to do things around the house, but we got out to the beach like we wanted!

Brighton Beach is on the Bay side of Melbourne and easily accessible by the public train system here. Thank goodness! So we took the train down and walked the 5 minutes to the beach. It was really nice to take off our shoes and walk in the sand. We put our feet in the water, too, and it was cold! Definitely not swimming water yet, although some people were crazy enough to be in already. We walked along the beach and picked up a collection of shells.

It was a further walk down to get to the tourist spot: the brightly painted sheds along the beach.

I love how you can see the Melbourne skyline in the background. It's really a beautiful view. And of course, anything you can do for free is fantastic.

We walked along the beach and enjoyed the sun for a little while. We stopped at some of the huts for pictures, as well:

Hut #37 - it was our 37th day in Melbourne, so we took a picture to celebrate.

Hut #24 - Becca's age.

Hut #23 - My age.
I like my hut. It's GREEN! And red. But, GREEN!

And we both decided that we were glad we weren't 22 anymore, because that hut was old and looked like it was starting to fall apart......

Other exciting things we saw while at the beach:

A sun-bathing bird.

And a war memorial.

The memorial was erected after WWI, but there were also plaques that listed the names of all those from the area who had died in every war.

And then we headed back home! It was a nice afternoon. I hope we get back down there at some point. I think we may take Sarah if one of us is off and it's a nice day.

Speaking of Sarah, she's coming today!! She lands in about 4 and a half hours. Neither Becca nor I are working today, so we're going to meet her at the airport. I think it'll be nice to have us there waiting for her after such a long journey. I already mentioned our plans for the week with her. So be ready for lots of stories! Not sure if I'll have the chance to write them this week, but I promise you'll get them all, along with lots of pictures!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Three Week Recap

This is why I need to update more often.........

August 19 - August 26
Our first week in the new apartment!

Let's see what I remember..... This was our first week in the apartment and the first week we were fully available to teach. I got two and a half days of work. One day I actually went back to the school I was at on the previous Friday, which was my first day. It was an easy day: excursion to swimming and an assembly. I really like that school; the kids are good and the staff is awesome.

On the two days I had off, I was still doing running around, picking up little things we still needed for the apartment. By the time the weekend came, we were pretty tired, and Becca had picked up a cold. We weren't in any shape to go out and do tourist-y stuff, so we stayed in and relaxed. I know we're in a new place and should be out exploring, but it was really nice to have a weekend where we could relax and sit around in our own place after living out of suitcases for two weeks.

August 27 - September 2nd
Weird and bad week!

This week started off weird. I thought I wasn't going to get any work, and then they called asking if I'd be willing to go to an administrative position for the day. You know, answering phones, helping people in the office, etc. To be honest, I never thought I'd be given that kind of work while I was here. But there was no way I was going to turn down work. The office administrator was able to find some work for me in the morning, but I basically spent the afternoon waiting for the phone to ring while perusing Google News. The phone barely rang and I'm not a news reader, so needless to say, I was pretty bored. But hey, it's money in the bank.

The rest of the week sucked. I had two grade 5 classes back-to-back (Wednesday and Thursday) and they were both just bad days. The first class was terrible. There were so many kids that were disruptive, had behavioural issues, were rude, and completely disrespectful of me as a teacher. It took all day - literally 6 hours - to actually get them to settle down and listen to what I had to say, which happened to be after I sent a couple kids to the office because I couldn't handle them. And so, we spent the last 15 minutes of the day having a conversation about respect. I want to be open to work and flexible and rise above, but if I'm offered to go to a Grade 5 class at that school, I will refuse. It was a terrible day and if I didn't have Becca to talk to and hug me when I got home, I would've climbed in bed and cried.

The next day I was in Grade 5 again, at a different school. The class as a whole was better, but there was one student that was rude, disrespectful, and didn't listen any instruction I gave. When I tried to speak with him about it, he literally turned his back on me and walked away, and continued to walk as I called him back. I was so upset I went to talk to the principal, who was out for the day. But I was able to talk to another teacher, and I ended up crying. I was so embarrassed. But they helped me out a lot and took the student out of the class for the next couple hours. When he came back for the last hour of class, he still tried to fight me on some instruction, but it was better. Still, overall it wasn't the best day. When I got home, Becca had bought me a hot chocolate and a cupcake to make me feel better. I have the best friend ever.

On Friday night, we finally met up with Mel, a girl that we went to school in North Bay with. It was nice to see a familiar face and catch up. Saturday and Sunday were chores days. We spent Saturday down at the Laundrette. It is so expensive here! For a wash it's $4, and for a dry it's $1 for 8 minutes (which is nothing, so it really costs like $5-$6 a dry). Thank goodness the dryers are huge. Sunday was groceries, and a crafting day. After all, it was Father's Day on the 2nd.....

September 3 - September 8
I can teach gym!

I started the week as a gym teacher and ended it as a special education teacher. That's me, flexible and multi-talented! I actually had two days of gym teaching. It was fun! The first day I worked with another teacher most of the day. We played T-Ball with the little ones, and then I did Golf with the Grade 5s and Rounders with the 3s (which is like T-Ball except you have a bowler who lobs the ball and the runner hits the ball with a one handed cricket-like bat). It was nice to work with the other teacher so I was able to learn the routines and some of the warm-up games they're familiar with. The second day was just me, and I also did some time release teaching. It was a big school, but really nice, too. I liked it.

And then came the two days of no work. We mailed some things, did some shopping for essentials (extra sheets and the like), and bought some crafting things. On our second day off, we decided to finally check out the Queen Victoria Market. It's a really huge, permanent flea market downtown. They have everything: bread, meat, fruits and veggies, dairy, deli meat, retail, restaurants, etc. It was nice to walk around, buy some fresh fruits and veggies, look at some of the shops. We'll definitely be going back again.

Friday we were working at a special needs school. Becca had worked there before, but it was my first time. I was in a junior class, that had 8 students aged from 7-10. They had a variety of developmental issues such as cerebral palsy, autism, Down's syndrome, and others I've never heard of. It was an experience, that's for sure. I didn't do any teaching that day. It was a Friday and the teacher had said to just have an easy day: iPads and movies. So that's what we did.

Saturday we spent the day at home, since it was yucky and rainy and cold all day. But we got out last night! We were invited to a party by another ANZUK teacher. We met a LOT of Canadian teachers there. It makes sense: you meet at school, you talk, you exchange numbers, and everyone shows up to the same party. Okay, well not ALL, but a lot. We did see a few girls that we had worked with before, but also met a lot of new people. And although it's not our usual scene, we did have a good time.

As for today, who knows what it brings? I want to go to Brighton Beach. It's supposed to be alright weather-wise today. Hopefully going up to 18 degrees! Woo! Spring is here!

In other news: SARAH IS COMING THIS WEEK!!! She's flying in on Wednesday and staying until Sunday. The highlight of the visit (hopefully) will be on Saturday when we go down to Phillip Island! We'll be renting a car and driving down. Oh yes, driving. I'm so darn excited. Other activities may include: Federation Square, Melbourne Zoo, and maybe a museum or two. If we're not working on Wednesday, we'll be picking Sarah up at the airport as well. Should be an exciting week with a lot to report! And probably some pictures, too.

A Reminder to Me

I need to apologize to you all. I know it's been almost 3 weeks since I've really updated anything on here. Yes, I gave you some pictures, but I haven't told you much about what I've really been doing. My excuse is always that nothing exciting is happening. But I was thinking today, and I remembered the true purpose of this blog. Of course, I want to keep everyone at home updated on my (not very exciting) life in Australia, but originally I wanted it to be a sort of travel journal. And I've been failing in making it just that.

And so I will make a promise to you, to Letters Home, and to myself. Whether I have the most exciting day of my life or I laze around on the couch, I will try to write something on the blog at least twice a week. Because the purpose isn't to record when I've done something exciting; the purpose is just to write and to remember.

So please call me out on it if I neglect my blog! Poke me virtually on Facebook, bombard me with emails, comment on my posts ten times a day, whatever it takes! Don't let me neglect my blog again!