Saturday, 30 August 2008

Ric goes surfing and I get to work

We have been busy here in Surry Hills. My sister arrived on Wednesday so I've been showing her round town and visiting the sites. Taronga Zoo, where I fell in love with wombats again, and the Aquarium at Darling Harbour are fabulous! They really put Beijing's concrete prison to shame and the views from within the zoo are fantastic. Lucky giraffes!

Seeing the fishies today made me long to go diving again, or at least get some pet ones. I'm looking in to dive sites around Sydney as we speak.

Due to my eagerness to get back to work I decided to go down the temp route and consequently registered with a few agencies while Ric bought a bus ticket for the east coast. He left in the early hours of this morning. I miss him so much already but I wont call...

Fortunately, I wont have much time to dwell as I have a job starting on Monday! Hurrah!

It's not exactly the broadcasting job of my dreams and I'll probably be bored senseless answering the phone and pushing pens around my desk all day but it's better than sitting at home while I wait for the ABC to come up with something. I'll be working for a rather high-profile client and his family, 'very corporate...a good name to have on your CV' and dealing with 'highly confidential matters'. Sounds intriguing!

I'll certainly enjoy meeting people and having some pocket money. I just hope the massive red spot on my face vanishes before Monday morning!

And then there's the other problem, my attire. Despite my sister bringing out an entire suitcase full of dark clothes, my wardrobe still looks like a backpacker's, albeit a fairly discrete one. So with clothes panic in motion, I trawled some of the cheaper shops in search of my new corporate look. I soon gave up on that idea however and went to David Jones where I bought a very swish three piece suit. I spent at least an hour in the fitting rooms frazzling the assistant and trying various garments on. I'm used to wearing scruffy shorts and T-shirts to work so the look is hard to get used to. I quite like it though, especially with my new heels and fitted blouses (not sure about the ruffle one). Since I can walk to work I don't think I'll get a bike just yet. I've yet to see a single female cyclist in Sydney and there aren't nearly as many commuter bikers here which I suppose is hardly surprising when the drivers are so hostile and the streets so hilly. I find that such a shame when the climate lends itself to cycling!

I'm sleeping on the sofa tonight to give my sis a good night's sleep before I pack her off to Mittagong tomorrow. Then I'm on my own with a stuffed wombat, a pile of unread books, a drawing pad and a notebook entitled 'Alex's Novel' for company. I also have a copy of Grazia magazine, the weekend edition of The Sydney Morning Herald and a 7inch telly for distraction.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

The end of the weekend and the Beijing Olympics

It was a lovely sunny day today and the city looked beautiful with its rich blue sky.

Ric, Charlotte, Paul and I went for a walk around the harbour, the Opera House and the Botanical Gardens (which weren't hugely interesting at this time of year although very green) and sat basking in the sun on the edge of the water.

I love the fact that all this is just a short walk away from our flat. Another ten minutes stroll brought us to China Town for a late lunch (it was like being back in China except cleaner and with English menus!) and then to Darling Harbour for some early evening drinks.

Now we've settled down to watch the spectacular closing ceremony of the Olympics and the handover to the UK while I apply for yet more jobs (or are they the same ones as last week? They all seem the same now!).

I'm also conversing with my mum and sister in London about which of the items I stuffed in my ginormous suitcase back in April can be left behind when she comes out next week. She was allowed to bring two bags then. Now it's only one. Nightmare!

Having to decide between my GHDs, potions and perfumes, my converse trainers and stilettos, my LBDs and cycling shorts is not an easy business let me tell you!

We were very sad to watch the story of the baby whale unravel this week. There always seems to be a whale or shark story in the news here.

Ric is going to book his bus ticket tomorrow (watch this space) and I'm off to buy him some new underpants (at his request).

I'm still simmering away inside. That's a good way to describe how I am at the moment in this limbo period of no work and no sense of belonging here. I spend the day just off the boil, achieving nothing much beyond chugging round the park a few times, sending a few emails, writing a list or two, tidying, food shopping, cooking, more tidying. By 9pm, with tiredness framing my every move and desperate for the sweetness of forbidden treats, I am ready to boil.

But I must not. I can not. Sydney is a great place, we have a sweet little flat and our time here has only just begun. I know that as soon as I have a job and a few friends and some warm weather I will wonder why I was so impatient.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Settling down or taking off?

Things are looking up a bit here in wind-swept Sydney - ie. Ric isn't leaving me just yet.

I haven't found a job and am bored applying for ones I don't even want (in PR, Sales and Advertising mainly) and I haven't decided if and when to go off traveling but Ric has changed his mind again and decided not to disappear immediately or if he does, I will meet him in Cairns in a few weeks.

In fact, after my initial panic about being abandoned, I've decided to encourage him to go as he's never been away on his own and we could probably do with some space. Plus it would give my sister and I a little more room here in the tiny flat for a while. I also don't much fancy the idea of bussing round Oz. I did enough of those long journeys in Asia and they weren't fun. I know it's a bit of a cop-out to miss out on the in between bits but I can live without seeing various sheep farms, ranches and vast expanses of outback en route to the northern coast.

So there we are, no major fall out after all. Neither of us wants that really and for the most part we get on fantastically. Who knows what he'll feel after a few weeks on the road with out me and my funny eating and all those 'bang tidy' gap year girls...

We've finally got Internet in the flat which has revolutionised our evenings. I realise that sounds a little pathetic but we were about to go out and buy Scrabble or a jigsaw puzzle. The telly is really rather bad - a mixture of budget adverts, British dramas and sport.

We're off to a house party later. It will be good for us to go out as we've done it so little since we got here. I wish my wardrobe was more stylish and smart. I'm quite tempted to bin all the scruffy clothes I traveled in. If I get an office job I might well have to buy some suits!

We've enjoyed the coverage of the Olympics but wish they'd shown a more diverse range of events and we could have done without the endless overtly patriotic Coles supermarket advertisements. Well done team Great Britain! Again, the coverage of their successes was minimal as is news from the UK in general.

We have discovered a very funny website on which you can 'yearbook yourself' - bored? us? never!

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Bomb Shell

Hello from George Street. Failing to get web in our flat yet, Ric and I have been using this large internet cafe every day to look for work and pass the time (I simply can't buy any more shoes). It's a shame the management insist on playing crappy 90's dance tunes all day long.

We've been in the flat a week now and although I'm prepared to have a stab at living here for a while, Ric seems to have decided to up and leave ASAP. He's bored, a bit sick of my company and doesn't want to work for less than he does in London. That's quite a blow and I'm not really sure what to say or do in response. I'm shocked and mortified.

He reckons he is here to see the country, not settle down. We have always known that I need to stop and work for a while before I travel again, for my mental state if not financial.

Hmmm. What a terrible blow. How dreadfully I will miss him. Will he even come back? How much will we lose if we have to get rid of the flat? I can't imagine him not being around after all this time we've spent together. I experience separation anxiety if we are apart for more than 3 hours!

Things are quite up in the air still. He may change his mind again this week. So might I, I suppose. Would I, could I, stick to my guns here? Should I stay and work and more importantly try to conquer my demons alone or with the help of a support group? I have really enjoyed being more settled and it's been good for me. I don't fancy yet more traveling just yet.

Meanwhile, my little sister gets here in a week so I'm not going anywhere before then. I am widening my job search, sending my CV off left, right and centre, joining numerous temping and media agencies and hoping Ric will decide that I, if not Sydney, am worth staying for.

I just wish I had some more friends here else I am going to feel desperately alone if and when Ric goes. I can't rely on Charlotte and Paul exclusively!

What are we going to do?

We went for a nice walk from Bondi to Coogee at the weekend (see pics). It was hilarious how many posers there were power walking in their Lycra all along the pathway. Every other person seemed to have a dog too.

I just love the salt water swimming pools they've built beside the beaches. What a great idea when the sea is too choppy to swim in!

Friday, 15 August 2008

Settling in to Foveaux Street

After 14 weeks of backpacking across eight Asian countries using trains, planes, boats, Jeepneys, Tuk Tuks and every other imaginable mode of transport, a restful week at my dad's in frosty Mittagong N.S.W. and two more in the plush basement billiard room of my kindly family's pad in leafy northern Sydney suburb Turramurra, Ric and I have successfully moved in to our own significantly more modest abode in (the reputedly) hip, trendy and 'gay' Surry Hills.


As documented here previously, it was an absolute pain in the back-side looking for a place, getting our deposit in on time, waiting for the approval checks to be done on us and then trying to organise the $4000 bank cheques (for the bond and rent deposits) without yet having bank accounts here. 'Why can't we pay with cards or in cash' we asked, exasperated?! The bureaucracy with which seemingly everything here comes is bewildering, time consuming, often costly and means that essentials including mobile phone accounts, renting properties, visas and health care are so difficult to sort out. It's also highly embarrassing to have to borrow off my family when I can't access my UK money! Today I was told that in spite of proof of my new address and my Aussie passport I am not allowed to register with Medicare until I have proved I lived in the UK before now. Funnily enough, I have neither an NHS Card, a tenancy cancellation letter, work cessation letter or Tax form here. I might have to wing it without.

The Internet here is also very expensive. Almost twice as much as back home. We were meant to sign the lease two days ago but realised (almost too late) what the financial consequences might be if we decided to cancel a 12 month lease with the agency. So we asked them if the owner would agree to a 6 month rolling one instead. Thankfully he did.

Having only arrived in Australia three weeks ago it's just impossible to say where we want to be in 6 months! This is a big country after all and one with many faces. Besides, we have got a round the world ticket, so New Zealand, the Cook Islands and America are still on the list of places to visit before next April.

It's not grand in any way this flat and it needed a good clean once we'd got in, but it is an adequate size, contains the basic large pieces of furniture and the city and Central train station are a short walk away. Better still, we are surrounded by cafes, pubs, restaurants and fashion factory outlets. There is also a fabulous cheap Thai Cafe right on our doorstep for when we are feeling lazy as well as a small park round the corner for when I'm feeling fit. Today as I did my laps, there were about 30 Asians doing beep tests in there jeans. As the name suggests, it sure is hilly round here. Fortunately we are situated near the bottom of a very long, very steep road. I hope our guests (my sister is coming in just two weeks!) wont mind having to reach the bathroom via our bedroom. It's not an ideal lay out!

We decided to find an Ikea as there were lots of things we needed including ALL our kitchen utensils, cutlery, crockery, bath towels and bedding. It turned out to be near a place called Homebush (where the Olympic Park is) and not Moore Park as the Yellow Pages suggested, so we ended up traipsing round for hours before we found it. Ric's sister Charlotte gave up on the mission long before we got there at 5pm. It was strangely reassuring to be back in the store experiencing the oh-so-familiar love-hate feelings towards it as we pushed our trolley round with all the other couples, choosing once again between the cheap, simply designed and oddly named items we have both become so accustomed to during our time in shared houses and student digs. We have taken this cheap-skate stance as we don't want to spend much on things we might have to leave behind eventually.

Two hours, two hotdogs and $650 later we escaped the place and in spite of a rude and stupid taxi driver dropping us off at the wrong station we somehow managed to haul our huge bags on to a train and get back home. If we've forgotten anything, I'm going to a local KMart!

Now all we have to do is stock the kitchen cupboards, repair the hob, dishwasher and bathroom light, sort out the electricity supplier (all seem to be government regulated which is good), organise the phone and Internet connection, direct debit our rent, perhaps buy a hardy pot plant and then have a housewarming party to which all our friends (4 to be precise) will be invited. Rock on.

I also want a bike as I miss cycling!

Now we have visited the family and have started paying rent in a flat, my holiday remorse has properly kicked in. In Asia, where it is the norm to see people just hanging around with their paunches hanging out, lying in hammocks and generally not working much at all, one doesn't feel too guilty for doing very little in a day. Here on the other hand, I've been surrounded by suited city workers and commuters and by my relatives going to their respective offices, schools and universities and I am feeling the need to be part of that, pronto. More to the point, it's cheap to live in Asia - not so here, though it's probably on a par with London!

Shopping has lost it's appeal even for me and Ric is also itching to put his mind to more productive pursuits. I am going to have to keep an open mind about what I do as I feel very out of the radio and media circles I was once in back home. It's also been more than three years since I went for a job interview. I'm fairly confident I'll find something I can enjoy, although thus far the jobs advertisements haven't exactly been calling out to me from the careers section of the paper.

If only I had web this week it would make life so much easier! Patience, patience. I just hope at least some of the better jobs here are advertised externally, else I'm not sure how to get a foot in the door. I might have to temp for a while or even take up the offer of a job in the stylish cafe/restaurant/gig venue next door. The manager offered me work this morning when I went in for a coffee in my sweaty running gear. It's tempting.

Meanwhile, we have been checking out the city, sorting the flat and various accounts out and huddling under our new duvets to watch the telly. Its all about the Olympics here. Every time we turn on our wee box Stephanie Rice seems to have won another gold in swimming or is being interviewed about her successes. Ric thinks the green and gold colours of the Aussie team are pretty unflattering. It's hard to see how the Brits are doing in the games unless they happen to be competing in the same events.

The Chinese are doing well. They are an impressive race. It's a shame the Australian press doesn't stop moaning about the poor air conditions in Beijing. Give them a break I say! I was sad to hear that the little girl who sang in the opening ceremony was actually miming as the real singer was deemed not pretty enough just minutes before she was due on stage. Imagine how that would feel for a five year old! The predictable censorship continues. They have blocked the news of the miming girl scam, a bus crash and on the news now we are learning how a British ITN news reporter was arrested for reporting a pro-Tibet protest.

As for my OCD, mood and eating, I'm afraid to say the mental wranglings continue. I vacillate many times a day between fleeting bursts of pleasure and extreme happiness and almost overwhelming depression, heart-stopping fear and a sense of loss and loneliness.

As we start to settle down here I am still feeling very much in limbo and I find myself questioning my identity as a London-raised half Australian like never before. It is an unusual and sometimes painful thing to have two dearly loved parents living on opposite sides of the world. There's also no escaping the stark culture and personality clashes between myself and Ric and my young sports-mad cousins which has heightened my feelings of separation from this place which was once, a long time ago, my home. That's not to say I don't like it here. Sydney is an easy place to navigate around and the people are friendly and bubbly, it's just too early to call it home.

Perhaps it's not surprising that I am clinging to the security of my old routines and bad habits. I am so disappointed in myself though for simultaneously yearning to quash the demonic desires and craving the comfort of my sugar binges and obsessive rituals. Ric says I seem far more on top of things which is good to hear.

Ric made Tacos last night and we'll be hosting Charlotte and Paul later. We just love having our own kitchen in which to cook meals as we like them and not having to order food, be waited on, sit in a restaurant with fussy tourist or have to decipher foreign menus!

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Bonds, bank cheques, boring bureaucracy

We have been given the go-ahead for the flat and can move in on Tuesday!

That is, if we can find a way to turn $4000 of our dosh in to two bank cheques for the bond, 6 weeks rent and the '$15 lease prep fee', since the real estate agency wont accept cash or our UK bank cards. We've already given them $410 which we'll need to reclaim or remind them about.

We've been pulling our hair out trying to think of a way to get the bank cheques before Monday afternoon when we go in to the office to sign the lease. We don't have Aussie bank accounts yet, so are having to call upon my family.

A quick look on the UK money advisory site Fool has revealed a few cheapish ways to transfer money in to foreign accounts.

Tranzfers seems to be the best for us and only charge £7 for a transfer.

So now we are holding our breath and hoping the money hits the right account in time and doesn't end up in the wrong hands or 'disappearing' in to cyberspace.

We reckon that we found and secured a place quite quickly here in the end (I'd been told some real horror stories by friends) but we just can't believe the amount of bureaucracy or how costly it is just to get on the lease. Our next concern will be how long the lease has to be. Can we get a 6 month rolling one?

And now it's Sunday so there's nothing we can do until tomorrow, except watch the Olympics which seem to be on six different channels here - wasn't the opening ceremony impressive?

It'll be worth it in the end though I'm sure!

Thursday, 7 August 2008

The wait continues...

No news of the flat yet. The agent seemed to be off work yesterday and today. The cheek of it!

Today Ric, Charlotte and I felt we should do a bit of sight-seeing since we're not yet working or able to furnish our homes. We went to The Rocks, a pleasant area by the Harbour Bridge, where the ferry terminals are, and we visited the so-so Museum of Contemporary Art (which reminded me of the Tate Modern in its frontal appearance and wacky contents - I felt like I'd seen and failed to appreciate it all before somehow) and then we went to the Observatory (good for 8 year olds on a school trip but not all that exciting for us!) and park which seems to be a haven for exercise nuts doing all manner of wacky races. We lost count of the number of lunch-break joggers, people doing sit-ups, press-ups and there was even a group doing boxing. The sun was out for a while as we sat on a bench on the hill over-looking the water, watching the boats and chatting about jobs and flats. It was even quite warm for a while, in the sun.

Then as we polished off our sandwiches, it went icy cold as a massive black thunder cloud crept across the sky and lashed rain down on top of central Sydney (and us) for the next hour or so!

My aunt reckons when it's as icy cold as this, you can guarantee that it's snowing in the Blue Mountains. So far she's been absolutely right!

Ric and I are so eager to have our own place. The fatigue of living out of a back-pack and in hotels or other people's abodes (gorgeous though they may be) has well and truly kicked in. As has the apathy we now feel towards most touristy activities and new places, though we are confident this will pass in a few weeks when we are sat behind desks staring out of windows. Nevertheless, we are anxious, for various reasons, about what the next few months will bring.

Will we like living here, together, in a one bedroom flat? Will Ric find something to do that pays well enough for his liking and/or satisfies his creative geeky mind. Will I find something I can stick to and enjoy and that will satiate my own creative urges? Will I be able to stay on top of my OCD and eating problem and not start abusing food if the new job proves stressful? Will we find interesting friends and pursuits outside work and those which don't involve each other?

I hope to be able to answer yes to all off those eventually. It just might take a little while longer than I planned.

Must remember to take some photos tomorrow...

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Still waiting...

Thanks for the notes of encouragement from my readers!

We're still waiting to hear about the flat. Shouldn't be long now. We'll be so upset if we don't get it. The latest news is that my checks are fine (thanks to my dad and uncle for glowing references) but they need more from Ric's accountant.

We haven't done much today except buy up the local supermarket and cook a Mexican dinner for the family.

Either we're getting used to the cold or it's getting warmer.

I have been staring blankly at the dead lizard in the pool. It's been there for a week now.

Watching the telly for any length of time here is a pretty soul destroying experience unless you like sport. So much of it seems to be crappy British exports and budget adverts, though there are some rather good cable film channels. I don't mind at all that we wont have a box when we move in the the flat.

I have an Aussie mobile phone at last! Now I need to get my Medicare and tax numbers. That is, after I have mopped the laundry room floor which flooded this morning with my load in it. 'What's that you say Ric?...Someone left a tissue in with the darks?!'

Lordy day...

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Fingers crossed...the house-hunt might be over

We might have found somewhere to live!

I don't want to tempt fate but we have secured a cute little flat in Surry Hills with a deposit and all we have to do now is sit tight and hope our checks are OK. All being well, we could move in this week! It's a good size, in a great central location, only $410 per week and it's even furnished!

Fingers, toes, arms and legs crossed! Then we have to persuade Charlotte and Paul to come and be our neighbours...or otherwise get a place with a gym and pool so I can use it.

Now, just as I start think about getting myself a bicycle for commuting, my dad has sent me this cautionary piece of press from the Sydney Morning Herald. Yikes. I thought London drivers were hostile. I will not be deterred, although the slopes of Surry Hills and other parts of Sydney are somewhat off-putting...the clue is in the name I suppose!

Friday, 1 August 2008

House-hunting blues

Hello. I'm still here and not going in to hibernation!

I'd love to say I've had a great first week here in Sydney admiring the harbour views, knocking back beers, basking in the sun and watching some of the live sports on the box while Ric tends to the barbecue but it hasn't quite panned out that way. It is great to see my family again; they are being so kind to put us up, and now Ric's sister Charlotte has joined us here with her boyfriend which is fantastic, but all the same, we're not having a lot of fun yet.

Sydney hasn't yet lived up to my few but fond childhood memories of it or the rave recommendations friends (those who don't live in Melbourne that is) and the media have variously given it. So far, all Ric and I have had is bad weather and bad luck. Not even my lovely family have been able to lift our ever-plummeting spirits as we delve deeper in to the gruelling business of house-hunting. Sorry. I do sound rather glum.

Perhaps my expectations were excessively high and somewhat squiffy but I thought that after week's worth of looking we might have found a place by now. I thought hunting for a flat in London was hard work but here it's a nightmare! Long gone are the days when you could rock up at an agency, give them a few details and get them to drive you round to show you what they've got on offer or even call you up when things become available.

Your best bet here now is to get up early, have your phone at the ready, fire up your computer and scan the real estate sites all morning until you secure some viewing slots. Most of these seem to take place on Saturday mornings, are just 15 minutes long and involve a scrum with up to 30 other prospective tenants, all of whom are as desperate as each other to find a place to live and are often willing to offer more than the asking price just to ensure they do. Then there are the registration forms, character references, proof of identity, residency history, employment records, amongst other off-putting legalities. Yes, if you want to rent in Sydney you have to be determined, focused and very well organised! Tomorrow we have just two hours in which to madly zig-zag across the city to see four different flats with four different agents. If it wasn't for Ric and his trusty compass I'd wouldn't have a hope of doing it.

On the plus side, we seen a fair bit of residential Sydney now, as well as the busier commercial districts, although we haven't yet been to Bondi, and I've been so busy thinking about flats that my OCD has been temporarily shunted to my mental side-lines, although I am still panicking a lot more than I was back in London (I'm still confident this will change once we've settled in a bit).

I like certain things about this place very much already, including the fact that it is smaller and therefore more walkable (if hillier) than London, that many of the major stations have a mini shopping arcade in them (very useful), that the trains are fairly cheap and clean (although quite errtic at times when you get out to the suburbs) and that even on a weekend night in the busiest areas of town there don't seem to be nearly as many people, specifically the drunken idiot types you find staggering round in certain parts of London. Oh and the fact that I can always find falafel and hummous when I 'need' it.