Monday, April 29, 2013

Expat to Expat Q & A

Since starting this blog, I've become a bit of an "expat blog junkie."  Many of the blogs I follow are those of fellow expats across the world.  I love reading about other parts of the world, travel adventures, and mostly feeling a sort of camaraderie with people who understand the "expat life."  One of my new favorite expat bloggers, Belinda at Found Love, Now What is co-hosting an Expat to Expat Q&A session, where expats from around the world are invited to answer the same set of questions.  Here's the link to the original link-up post.  The April questions and my responses are below.  Enjoy! 

A bit of my expat background: I now live in Queensland, Australia, but I am originally from Phoenix, Arizona.  I've also lived in Spokane, WA.; Granada, Spain; Los Angeles, CA; and Houston, TX.  I've been in Australia since August 2012. 

1. What was your favorite season back home and is it the same now; why or why not?
In Phoenix and Houston, my favorite season was Spring. Even though Spring in these two places can sometimes be all too short with summer often coming much too soon, I still loved this time.  I love the 70-90 temperature range, blooming flowers, sitting outside, and while teaching I loved taking my kiddos outside during this time. 

2. Is there a place you would want to move to based solely on the weather?
My ideal temperature range is 70-90 degrees. For the two years I lived in California, I got to experience this perfect weather nearly year round.  So, I guess I would move (back) to California, simply for the weather. 

3. What is an article of clothing that you had to buy for your new home due to the weather? i.e. galoshes, winter coat, etc
Having lived in my fair share or warm weather climates (Phoenix, Los Angeles, Houston), my wardrobe didn't really need many additions.  However, I DID have to buy a sun hat.  Australians are really big on sun protection, and just about everyone wears sun hats.  At the schools, teachers are required to wear hats outside, and the students follow the rule of "no hat, no play." 

My trusty Australian sun hat- a new wardrobe staple.
4. Have you found the weather stereotypes of your new home to be true?
Absolutely. Australia, especially Queensland, is probably just how you imagine it- hot and sunny just about everyday.  I've been here 8 months now, and I've been wearing the same clothes the whole time- never once having to cover my arms.  Since summer weather in Houston started in May and I moved at the end of August, this has essentially been what I've dubbed, "The Year of the Never-ending Summer." However, when the weather DOES change here (rain, etc.), the changes can be quite extreme

5. Is there somewhere you would never live based solely on the weather?
I do NOT do well with cold weather. Being born and raised in Phoenix truly made me a desert rat. I'd rather be hot than cold any day!  So, with that said, I could never live somewhere with harsh and extreme winters- especially where those winters were mostly gray. The four years I spent in Spokane, WA for college were amazing, but I really struggled with the weather. 

Don't let the smile fool you- I am a HUGE cold weather wimp!
6. What are you looking forward to most this spring?
Well, since Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere, we are currently in Fall (strange, I know).  Although, the seasons seem to be more of just a technicality.  Like I mentioned earlier, I've seen very little weather change in the 8 months I've been here. 

7. Where you live, what is your go to outfit for spring?
Again, I've been able to pretty much wear the same types of clothes the entire 8 months I've been here- which consists mostly of what one would consider summer and spring clothes.  If I had to pick a favorite, it would definitely be a sun dress and sandals. 

8. What is one thing or event that you miss that happens back home at this time of the year?
In Houston, the start of Spring (well early March) marks the start of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.  This is basically a 2 week long holiday in Houston.  I was never a huge rodeo/western person, but I LOVE the rodeo. This year was the first time in 5 years I wasn't able to go.  I love the food, the BBQ Cookoff, the great concerts, the rides, and of course, the ridiculous and hilarious tradition of mutton bustin'.

Houston Rodeo 2012 - BBQ Cookoff
9. If your hubs could bring home a bouquet of any type of flower, what you pick?
I love gerber daisies and tulips!

10. What does your perfect Saturday look like?
I LOVE to sleep late, and luckily haven't lost that "talent" yet.  So I'd sleep in with no alarms set, enjoy my favorite meal of the day at a fun brunch restaurant, do something outside (go for a walk, swim, etc.), go shopping, and then enjoy a night of dinner and drinks out with the hubby.

Bonus: Are there any special holidays in your new country in the month of May?
None in May, but April 25 was Anzac Day here. I'm never one to argue with a holiday that provides a day off-even if it did happen to fall on a Thursday this year. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Time I Decided to Hurl Myself Off a Bridge

Bungy jumping.  Never have I ever had any desire to participate in this activity.  I always asserted that I would much rather skydive (if that even), than bungy jump.  To me, it just seemed absolutely terrifying.  Oh, and dangerous.  I couldn't imagine why anyone would willingly throw oneself off a perfectly good bridge (or any other structure for that matter).  Nope, not for me. 

When planning our New Zealand trip, it was clear from the beginning that bungy jumping would be one of the activities.  For one, Queenstown is home to  one of the best known bungy sites in the world- the Kawarau Bridge Bungy.  This bridge is also considered to be the first "official" bungy site in the world.  Also, our friend who lives in Queenstown (the one whose wedding we attended in NZ), happens to work in marketing for AJ Hackett Bungy Company, so she had agreed to come along and "host" bungy-ing for her friends who wanted to jump.  From the beginning, I said I wanted to go watch, but I knew I would not be jumping. 

AJ Hackett Kawarau Bungy Centre (too bad the Bungy Bar was closed)

Fast forward to Monday, March 25, 2013. 

I know, right?!  No idea how this happened!! That morning, I had unofficially signed myself up to be the photographer for the other girls who would be jumping.  However, we got to the site, and something came over me and I started to think...

What if I regret not jumping?...
If there would ever be a place to bungy, this would be it...
I know one of the employees here, and she knows all the operators, so it kind of feels comfortable...
They have a perfect safety record, and this place seems legit...

And next thing I knew, my cousin Lee Anne had set the form in front of me to jump tandem with her and then handed me a pen.  And there I was, signing my life away.  And off I went to the bridge.  Honestly, I think it actually helped quite a bit that I hadn't planned on jumping.  That way, I hadn't been worrying about it the night before or that morning.  I wasn't even nervous when they were strapping my legs in.  I must have been in denial/shock.  I truly did not get scared until I was standing at the edge of the platform.  And at that moment, I really did freak out.  I told the guy to untie me and that I didn't want to jump anymore.  I tried to sit back down.  I kept grabbing onto the railing next to me (so much so that an employee had to come and peel hold my hand off of it). 

This is the bridge from which I was about to hurl myself

Eek- the view from above!  Somehow I have to make it down there.

How we really felt |  Hiding fear with smiles
Believe it or not, I wasn't yet nervous at this point

I do not remember making the decision to actually leave that platform.  I must have either blacked out or (more likely) I think we may have gotten a gentle push.  All I know is that before I knew it, we were bouncing around at the end of our bungy frighteningly near the river below.  And no, that bounce/snap at the bottom point of your jump does not hurt- it's very smooth.  I didn't even open my eyes, until I felt that bounce.  But when I did, I just remember feeling a mix of excitement, relief, and disbelief.  We were quickly and smoothly lowered down into the boat below.  It took a few minutes before the craziness of what I did hit me- oddly, I started tearing up a little bit.  The adrenaline rush that everyone talks about is real.  And intense. (The photos below are the professional photos taken by the bungy company- they have an amazing camera system set up, and I'm SO glad I have these photos.) 

See my death grip on the rail?

Our friend Katie cheering us on

I love the perspective of this shot

Safe!  We did it!

I am really glad that I decided to jump.  I am normally such a wimp and very rarely, if ever do I take big risks.  But, I am really really proud that I did it!  Was it terrifying?  Absolutely.  But, even still, it was such a fun, amazing, thirlling, and unforgettable experience!  I definitely do not regret jumping.  Am I addicted now?  Am I an adrenaline junky?  Do I feel the need to jump again?  Nope.  Not in the least.  I honestly feel no desire whatsoever to bungy again- once is enough for me.  But.  I am so so so glad that I did! 

Watching this video still makes my stomach drop and my heart beat faster.  Oh, and side note- the only reason I would maybe consider jumping again is because as you'll see in this video, we did a wimpy feet first jump/drop- I totally wish I had been brave enough to dive.  Oh, and thanks to Lee Anne who was able to convince the bungy operators to play our requested jump song- "Sail" by AWOLNATION. 

*Well, I can't seem to get the video to upload correctly. :-(  I'll update with the video as soon as I get it figured out. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Everything In Australia Is Scary!

Before I moved to Australia, I was visiting one of my best friends from home, and her dad sat me down at the computer to show me some articles he had found about how many dangerous and deadly creatures live in Australia (I think they were trying to convince me not to leave).  It did freak me out a little bit, but I took it with a grain of salt.  And off I went to Australia.

Well, it was only a couple weeks after moving before I started to realize he might have been right when I had my first snake and big-as-your-palm-spider sighting, which I wrote about here.  I'm really not a squeamish person when it comes to bugs or other creatures, but Australia really takes it to a new level with their creepy crawlies.  I've quickly developed tendencies like refusing to enter the garage before the door is entirely open so that I have a clear escape route if there happens to be a snake in there, thoroughly inspecting the doorstep and any corners nearby before I will go out any door leading outside, inspecting my shoes for spiders before putting my foot in, etc.  I know it's kind of ridiculous- but in my mind, it's totally necessary.  Now, I realize every part of the world has dangerous animals and conditions, but it's almost comical how extreme many of these things are here.  And yes, Australia does also have many amazing and beautiful creatures, but still...

As if I needed further proof, just the other day, my dad sent me this list of "17 Pictures That Prove Absolutely Everything In Australia is Terrifying." 

See for yourself:

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Real Beauty

I was at the doctor's office the other day waiting to be called for my flu shot (it's fall and the start of flu season here), and this ad came on the waiting room television.  I was immediately transfixed, and by the end I was definitely drying my eyes a bit.  This has such an amazing and powerful message.  I really do think every woman should watch.  Well done, Dove!

Monday, April 15, 2013


I'm posting a bit out of order here.  I'm jumping over the rest of my New Zealand trip for the time being, because I'm waiting on some pictures from some of the other girls I traveled with.  So, pause on Queenstown for now... skipping ahead to Sydney!


March 29 - April 2, 2013

Although sad to leave beautiful New Zealand, I was looking forward to being reunited with David in Sydney for a long weekend trip!  One of my favorite parts about Sydney was how surreal it felt to see the iconic Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge every single day.  You see both of these landmarks on TV, in movies, etc., but to see them in person was almost unreal.  They're both just as amazing as I imagined!

We stayed in an area of Sydney called "The Rocks."  This is an older area of the city, and I loved how they've maintained a lot of the historic buildings.  Most of the streets are still very narrow and brick-paved.  It has a very eclectic and funky vibe, and it's a great location in the city.  On our first morning there, we were lucky to stumble upon a farmers' market just down the street from our hotel.  It ended up being a really fun way to explore the neighborhood and eat some delicious food while we were at it!

Our awesome hotel lobby.  Part of the floor was glass so you could see through to the water below. 
Mah man.  Enjoying some drinks outside our hotel.

After stuffing our faces with amazing market food, we headed to the Royal Botanic Gardens.  We've visited the botanic gardens in both Brisbane and Melbourne, but this one was by far the most impressive- not to mention huge.  You could probably spend an entire day there, just wandering around and people watching.  We saw two separate weddings being held there, too.  Such a pretty setting! 


Next, we headed to the Opera House for a guided tour we had booked.  Usually I'm a little wary of touristy tours like this, but I'm so glad we did it this time!  It was really interesting to learn about the building's history, construction, controversy with the original architect, etc.  Plus, the tour gives you access to parts of the Opera House that you wouldn't otherwise have.  We were able to go into several of the performance areas, which was amazing (no photos allowed there unfortunately).  I'd love to go back for an actual performance sometime while we're here! 

Close up of the tiles on the roof of the Opera House. 

View from inside
There's an awesome bar right outside the Opera House that was perfect for having a drink or a cheese plate shaped like the Opera House while enjoying the views. 

Opera House at different times of the day

The Harbour Bridge was so neat to see in person, and just about anywhere you go in Sydney (as long as you're near the water), there it is. Our hotel was actually literally right at the base of part of the bridge.  And of course, you feel compelled to take a picture of it just about every single time you see it.  :-) 


This was the view of the bridge from right outside our hotel!

On Easter Sunday, we took the bus to the famous Bondi Beach and went on the well-known Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk.  This ended up being one of my favorite parts of our trip.  The coast line is gorgeous, amazing views the entire way, and it was so fun to visit all the beaches along the way.  Oh, and awesome people watching, too... as you'll see below :-) 

I couldn't resist sneaking a photo of this beach babe :-)
A really cool pool/swim club literally right on the ocean.  It was originally built for lifeguards to train in when the ocean was too cold. 
Scary cliffs

The next day, we took the ferry to Manly Beach, another well-known beach in Australia.  The ferry ride was fun, and the beach was pretty.  But in general, I was a little underwhelmed with Manly.  It might just have been the crowds, but I was more impressed with the beaches we'd seen the previous day.  We found a fun little brewery (Four Pines Brewing Company) on Manly and had a great lunch and beer tasting there.  Definitely check it out if you're ever there!


Later that afternoon, we headed to the Sydney Aquarium.  I'd never been to an aquarium with one of those "tube" walkways where sharks and other sea creatures are swimming all around you, so that was really fun to see!  David loved the sharks, but that manatee was my favorite by far!

Manatee eating lettuce.

On our last day in Sydney, we visited the Pylon Lookout Point, which is basically where you can climb up 200+ stairs in the base of one of the Harbour Bridge's main supports (a pylon) and get an incredible view of the harbour, the bridge, and the Opera House.  It was pretty interesting too, because on your way up, there are several exhibits where you can catch your breath learn about the history and construction of the bridge.  It was a perfectly clear day when we went, and the views from the top were breathtaking!

If you look closely, you can see the people climbing the bridge.

Sydney was amazing!  It was so incredible to visit such a famous city- someplace I honestly thought I'd never have the chance to see.