Author Archives: Cristin

A Letter to My Daughter: To Read When History Tells You about Donald Trump

politics

to-my-dear-little-daughter

 

To My Dear Little Daughter,

You, my spunky girl, are the best person I know. You are unwaveringly nice. It has never, for one moment, occurred to you to judge anyone based on anything other than their kindness. Your world is limitless – it’s incredible. Being 3-1/2 is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever witnessed.

I know the world, and not just your doting parents, will sculpt and form you, as you grow, which is why my great hope is for you to live in the most just, accepting, generous, and intelligent realm possible.

So, today, I am just so profoundly sorry for this box of evil spirits that my country has loosed upon our world this week.


You know that you are American (and Australian, of course). What you know about America is that you love visiting your adoring family. You know that you get to eat a lot of hot dogs, and something called “nachos,” that you’ve never even heard of before. People are effusive towards you, you get gifts, and you always have the most incredible adventures.

I have to tell you, kiddo, that even though I’ve lived a bit more life than you, and have seen a lot more of America, that my perception of our country has always been pretty optimistic, too. Aside from two years in New York, I have always been a “Blue” in the reddest of “Red” states. John McCain was my Congressman. Then Newt Gingrich. Then Marco Rubio. I’ve known quite well the Religious Right. When I was in college, the KKK marched a block from my campus. My own father was an atheist with a PhD who, inexplicably, loved nothing more than a good riling up from his radio pal, Rush Limbaugh. Yet, despite some serious ideological differences, I always had this feeling that the people of America – the vast majority of them, anyway – had big hearts and an inherent sense of kindness. Blues and Reds might disagree on many things, but we could mostly get along, and there was a cultural thread of decency that knitted us together.

My girl. I am so sorry, but I have somehow gotten things wrong. Hence, the first President you will be able to remember is not the graceful, diplomatic Obama of your toddler years. It’s not, though it brings me to tears to say this, a woman who dedicated her life to people like you – children and girls. A woman who I believe to my very core is so much more good than not. Instead, America has risen to the highest literal and symbolic office in the world, a man who would judge you by your looks, on a scale of 1-10. A man who thinks it’s just “guy stuff” to grab your genitals, as if he owns them, not you. A man who thinks your biological functions are disgusting. You, my perfect little person, are nothing but flawed, in his eyes.

This election is historic. Maybe, when you’re old enough to learn about 2016, you’ll have some questions about where your mother stood. These are the things I’d want you to know:

  • I have been sickened by the words we’ve heard Donald Trump say about women, immigrants, refugees, the disabled, and minorities. His values are so far from the values I carry, and those that I would wish for you.
  • I would not, to my last breath on this Earth, cast a vote for a person who would strip away health care, reproductive rights, or the rights of our gay friends to marry.
  • I believe in science. Climate change is real. Vaccines save lives.
  • I cried big, sloppy tears when I cast my vote for America’s first female President. Those tears were for you, and for me, and for every warrior woman and girl we’ve ever known. And, for every man and young boy, too – they also need to see an amazing woman in the highest office, at least as much as we do.
  • Please know that more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump. That may go down as an historical footnote, nearly forgotten by the time you’re old enough to understand this, but I need you to know that there were more people in the United States who rejected hate and ignorance than who supported it.
  • I cast my vote, and I spoke my truth to my friends, but I could have done so much more. Remember that. In your life, when you see something that you know so fundamentally in your heart and mind to be wrong, you will never regret doing more to fight for what’s right. You will only regret your silence and inaction.

My best girl, I need you to understand that I can never stop being American, and I’ve always carried a quiet hope that one day it would be your home, too. Today, that feels like a distant dream. Today, I am angry, and sad, and for the first time in my life, pessimistic. I only hope that when you’re old enough to read this, society will be on the other end of this vile pendulum swing, and that the memory of Trump and his ilk will just be a strange blip from your childhood.

No matter how history unfolds, I hope you’ll see that your mother and father have never wavered from seeking to uphold our family’s values – kindness, acceptance, respect, equality, peace, curiosity, and education. No one – not even a President – can ever take these things away.

 

With so much love,
Your adoring, angry (not at you!), heartbroken mother

5 Things American Elections Can Learn From Australia

politics

Election day is upon the U.S. once again, and this one ought to be the dooziest of all doozies. Buckle in.

Though I haven’t physically cast a ballot in the U.S. in several years, I’ve done so many times in the past. I was one of those Democracy enthusiast people who voted in local school board elections and the whole lot of ’em. Luckily, I never encountered many problems at my polling places, but after voting in Australia a couple of times, I’ve taken away a few best practices that I’m certain would make the American election season and the process of voting much easier, and infinitely less frustrating for everyone.

And, just to be fair, Aussies don’t have everything worked out perfectly … those meter long Senate ballot papers?? We’ll chat next go ’round, Australia!

Short Election Seasons

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m starting to feel like I’ve aged dozens of years since the start of this campaign season – and that’s not just because of how many wrinkles screaming at the TV during the debates has given me. In truth, Clinton announced her candidacy in April 2015 – 19 MONTHS AGO – and Trump just one month later. In this insane amount of time, the campaigns have looked for increasingly wild ways to stay on top of the news cycle and keep voters’ attention. This involves doing nearly anything aside from talking about actual policy, which has been hardly a passing thought over this long, long, painfully long season.

My American friends, this is going to sound impossible to believe, but in Australia, an election must happen between 33 and 58 days after it has been called. DAYS. And, here’s what I’ve noticed about that – candidates have to get out there and hustle on the quick, and we, including the media, actually talk about issues and policy positions. Of course, there’s some mud-slinging, but I’ve yet to see it get anywhere near as personal and ugly as in these never ending American contests.

Preferences

There’s been a lot of talk this year about “not throwing away your vote” on a 3rd party. That it’s “too important to make sure that the other guy isn’t elected.” While I get the sentiment, I’m personally of the belief that you should vote for whoever reflects your values and the values you want for your country better than anyone else. The more voices in the conversation, the more interesting things get, in my estimation. And, frankly, some people are never going to vote for the major party candidates because they just can’t stand either of them.

In Australian elections, however, you don’t just choose one the person you like the best. You actually put your candidates in order of preferences, and if the vote count is close, those preferences come into play until a 50%+ winner is decided. For me, in the last election, I wasn’t crazy about either of the two major parties, but there was certainly one I liked better than the other. But, I really wanted to give my vote to a few of the small parties whose platforms reflected my interests a lot better. So, I preferenced two minor parties, and then the major party third, knowing full well that if it got close, my vote would go to the major party that I disliked the least, but I still got to give my nod of support to the smaller parties I preferred.

Who’s number 1?

Vote Anywhere in Your State

The first time I voted in Australia, I was in a bit of a tizzy because I was trying desperately to find “my” polling place. In the U.S., there’s only one local school or hall for the local area where you reside at which you’re able to cast your vote. If, for any reason, you’re not going to be near that particular location on election day, it takes some planning ahead – either voting early (where available), arranging for an absentee ballot, or just calling it too hard and skipping it, altogether. What I discovered about Australian elections, however, is that you can vote at any polling place in your state. You may have to go into a separate line if you’re voting outside of your council area, but it’s allowed. So, if you’re travelling or working away from your home area on election day, it’s no issue to cast your ballot.

Saturday Elections

Elections in the U.S. are always on Tuesdays. Do you know why? Because once upon a time, it took a full day to travel to the county seat from your little country farm (supposing you were a land owning white man and eligible to vote), so elections needed to be on a day that didn’t interfere with either Sunday church services or Wednesday market days. And, so totally logically, even though most of us don’t ride horse carriages to our polling places any longer, and Wednesday is just cloyingly best known as “Hump Day” now, we haven’t changed things … even though most people now actually have to go to work on Tuesdays. And, yes, employers are technically required to give you time off to vote, for many people it’s just too inconvenient, either because you’re too busy, too far away from your polling place, or your employer isn’t as supportive as they ought to be.

Yes, early voting – where available – does help with work conflicts – but, what if we just voted on a day when a lot more people have the day off? Like Saturday? Of course there are people who work on Saturdays – there is no perfect day – but far fewer than Tuesdays. I mean … Tuesday? Plus, when the election is on Saturday, it doesn’t hurt nearly so much the next day when you stay up all night watching the results come in, celebrating/drowning your sorrows.

Sausage Sizzles

Speaking of celebrating – can you imagine if election day was like a big ol’ party? Bake sales, maybe your kid can get her face pained or have a listen to the local school’s musical talent. And, do not forget the sausages! In Australia, the “sausage sizzle” is almost synonymous with elections. Get your “Democracy sausage!” Local schools and community groups use elections as fundraisers, and everyone sees taking part in the festivities as part of the experience. Polling places are a festive atmosphere, not an onerous chore to dread. Gives new meaning to “Rock the Vote!”

***You might notice that I left the biggest difference between American and Australian voting off this list – compulsory voting. Frankly, I like it, but I think there’s arguments to be made for and against it, and it’s a much, much, much bigger topic than this article. Let’s live through this election and then talk again soon, shall we?

Go get, ’em, America! And, Florida, don’t screw this up for everyone!

Sydney Expat Interview Series: The Weekend Getaway

Sydney Expat Interviews, Sydney Weekend trips

I don’t know about you, but this warming Spring weather we’ve been having in Sydney lately has turned my mind right onto “road trip”. Map out the places one can drive to from Sydney on a weekend getaway, and we are spoiled for choices – beaches, cities, wine, food, culture, and more. I’m always up for inspiration, so for this month’s Sydney Expat Interview, I asked the expats to share their favorite spot for a Sydney weekend away. Hope you find some ideas for hitting the road, as well!

This is the 16th in an 18 part interview series with expats living in Sydney. Please make sure to visit the fantastic websites of the participants linked below, and join me on Facebook for much more on expat life in Sydney.

sydney-expat-interview-series-the-weekend-getaway


Name: Julia
Country of origin: UK
Lived in Sydney: 7 years

Hawks Nest bout 2.5 hrs north of CBD (in-laws have a holiday home there) its really beautiful up there – gorgeous unspoilt beaches and lakes – It still hasn’t been developed so is lovely and unspoilt.

Sydney Weekend Getaway

Hawks Nest


Name: “Bushranger”
Country of Origin: Serbia
Lived in Sydney: 6.5 Years

Definitely Jervis Bay – crystal clear sand beaches, pristine beauty and kangoroos on the beach. Fair dinkum, the best spot for nature lovers south of Sydney.

jervis-bay


Name: Shane
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 1 year
Shane blogs at Sea Salt Secrets

It’s a toss up between Hunter Valley wine region and Port Stephens beaches. I spent Christmas in Port Stephens, which was an interesting experience given I’m used to snow and subzero temperatures around the holidays. And I love visiting wineries around the world, I could see myself getting married in the Hunter!

port-stephens

Port Stephens


Name: Kirstie
Country of origin: United States
Lived in Sydney: Since September 2013
Kirstie blogs at Venga Vale Vamos

I’m partial to Newcastle – there isn’t a ton to see, but it’s incredibly relaxing with some quiet, beautiful beaches. It’s a great weekend escape from the hustle and bustle of Sydney, especially if you know locals.


Name: Debbie
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 10 years

Unfortunately, no. The cost of living in Sydney has meant that we don’t have any spare cash for weekend trips away.


Name: Victoria
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 6 years
Victoria blogs at The Freedom Travellers

I love heading down the NSW South Coast to either Kiama or Jervis Bay, so chilled out down there, it’s the perfect getaway from city life.

kiama

Kiama


Name: Dido
Country of origin: India
Lived in Sydney: 2.5 years

Jervis Bay  – 350K south of Sydney. Beautiful drive with nice suburban towns to stop over nick nacks. If have kids and time – go to Mogo Zoo which 15K from Jervis Bay. Very exciting place as well.


Name: Rachel
Country of Origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 4 Years

I love Macmasters Beach on the Central Coast. I’ve been there a couple of times for weekend trips with a dozen or so friends to stay at a beach house. It is so tranquil and idyllic, going for brunch and walks along the beach. We relax over beers, a log fire, and chocolate smores. We take walks through Bouddi National Park up to the headland, and we were fortunate enough one time to see whales on their migration northwards.


Name: Caitlin
Country of origin: England

Lived in Sydney: 1.5 year
Caitlin blogs at Where’s Wallis

Jervis Bay – I’ve been down twice already, once to do the Husky triathlon and once for a big girls’ weekend. Make sure you walk all the way along Hyams beach to the quieter end to enjoy the stunning sand there.

hyams-beach

Hyams Beach


Name: Ashley
Country of origin: United States

Lived in Sydney: 2 years (in Newcastle)
Visit Ashley on Instagram

We live in Newcastle so frequently our weekend trips are TO Sydney! Other awesome weekend getaways we have done are to the Blue Mountains, Port Stephens, Hunter Valley, and Bowral (awesome, awesome, beautiful, stunning, amazing town!!)

Sydney Weekend Getaway

Bowral, NSW

 


Where can you recommend for a weekend trip out of Sydney? 


Read Part 1: Expectations vs Reality
Read Part 2: The Most Memorable Sydney Day
Read Part 3: Your First Day in Sydney
Read Part 4: Drinking Like an Aussie
Read Part 5: The Birds of Sydney
Read Part 6: Australian Christmas
Read Part 7: Off the Beaten Path
Read Part 8: Questions About Your Home
Read Part 9: What People at Home Think of Australia
Read Part 10: Advice for Moving to Sydney
Read Part 11: A Sydney Weekend
Read Part 12: Australian TV
Read Part 13: Something I Miss From Home
Read Part 14: Favorite Sydney Restaurant
Read Part 15: The Huntsman Spider


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In This Election, We Chose Our Words With Care

politics

This post has positive things to say about President Obama. If this angers you for any reason, I invite you to scroll along to another article that will bring you joy. 


This American Presidential election season is a month away from completion, and it’s left me feeling battered, heartbroken, and confused. I’ve never seen such vile rhetoric splashed around like so many droplets of poison rain. I’ve seen whole swaths of the population reduced to vulgarities. A few days ago, I watched in real time on Facebook as a family was torn apart over political views that dipped into personal rights.

I have these pictures from the last time that we elected a new President, and it seems like a world ago. For me, it was a world ago. I was living and working in Sarasota, Florida. Australia was just a place on the map with kangaroos and shrimp on the barbie. I had work to do. Many of my friends and I did. We were going to show the world that we could elect the “Hope” guy, the one with the smarts and the class. It had been a long 8 years for many of us, and we’d complained – oh, we’d complained – but, we hadn’t sunk into hate, and we hadn’t lost our hope.

I’d been a Hillary fan, but by this point in the election season 8 years ago, none of that mattered. Florida had only gone Democratic once in the past 30 years, but things were looking favorable for this new guy. Everyone knows that Florida is important. And, it was in that spirit, on a cloudless morning in October that around 2,000 of us, in an historically Republican stronghold district, gathered together to walk together across the Ringling Causeway bridge in this absolute crush of smiles, joy, homemade signs, and impromptu dance parties. This was about the guy from Chicago, but it was so much bigger than one person. We were going to “bridge” our differences in this really positive way. It was time.

This day was nothing but sunshine, community and happiness.

Later that day, I had a phone banking shift at the local Obama office. Republican President Dwight Eisenhower’s granddaughter was in the office, talking to the press. She looked like a Republican granddaughter – polished, bouffanted, pearls and a pastel suit.Obama was her guy.

A few weeks later, on election night, about 20 of us crammed into a studio bungalow apartment that the theatre owned – the temporary actor residence of my dear friend, Andy. We all worked for the theatre in one capacity or another – actors, technicians, administrators, teachers, interns. We had a cheese plate and bubbly and a lot of nervous energy. And then, far sooner than any of us expected, the Florida map on the TV went blue. Corks were popped, cheers were let out. Even the Republicans amongst us had to at least admit the beauty of the fact that we were Florida, and we hadn’t messed up the election, this time!

It wasn’t such a late night before the election was called, McCain graciously conceded, and we sat in front of this 14 inch television watching our first African American President take the stage in Chicago.

We were America in that little house that night. Black and white. Straight and gay. Democrat and Republican. Hailing from communities across the country – rural and urban, rich and poor. Some had voted in their very first election. Some of us had been doing so for years. I’ve talked in these pages often about my trouble with patriotism – my sense that it’s odd to be “proud” of a place just because you were born there. But this night, and with these people, I have never been more proud. We were part of something historic. Optimism won the day, even for those whose candidate didn’t.

We chose to come together in the name of hope. That’s my American pride.

Sydney Expat Interview Series Part 15: The Huntsman

animals, Sydney Expat Interviews

This post is brought to you by the Tourism Board of Australia. Just kidding!

You know that old chestnut about how every critter in Australia is out to kill you? Well, the Hunstman spider is not one of those things. It is, however, an extremely common and enormous spider that people routinely find behind doors, in shoes, or crawling out from under the car’s sun visor. Encountering one is sort of an expat rite of passage. 

Toughened up Aussies will tell you, “ah, mate, it’s just a Huntsman! Leave it be. It eats the other bugs.” And, I suppose that is one possible response to seeing a spider the size of a basketball in your living room…

I have somehow managed to escape my Hunstman initiation, and every time I say that, I think I’m cursing myself. I don’t know why I’d put it in print.
Here are some other expats and their tales of Huntsman bravery. 

This is the 15th in an 18 part interview series with expats living in Sydney. Please make sure to visit the fantastic websites of the participants linked below, and join me on Facebook for much more on expat life in Sydney.Sydney Expat Interview Series - Hunstman spider

 


Question 15: Have you encountered a Huntsman spider?


Name: Victoria
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 6 years
Victoria blogs at The Freedom Travellers

Yes! The first one I encountered in my house was literally thudding across the carpet it was that big! Think a house spider on steroids that can run faster than Usain Bolt…not much sleep to be had when one of those is running wild in your apartment!


Name: Julia
Country of origin: UK
Lived in Sydney: 7 years

We had one make its way off our terrace into our lounge one evening – and was positioned just next to my husbands head when he walked back in – I have only ever seen a spider that size in a zoo before – so I am so so thankful that my husband was home to deal with it – my first reaction on seeing it was to scream and jump onto a sofa – it was actually bigger than the shoe my husband hit it with – after that I made a comment about not being able to live in Australia anymore!!

huntsman5


Name: “Bushranger”
Country of Origin: Serbia
Lived in Sydney: 6.5 Years

Yes on our balcony ceiling – it took at least a quarter of the ceiling and retreated fast.


Name: Ashley
Country of origin: United States

Lived in Sydney: 2 years (in Newcastle)
Visit Ashley on Instagram

Ohhhh yes. The first time was in my son’s closet. I shut his closet door, then his bedroom door, and ran out into the living room and stayed there. I left it as a present for my husband. The second time it was chilling inside my bedroom window sideways. I was calm and did not freak out so I didn’t scare the kids. The third time, our front door was open and it had come in from under the screen. It was chilling on the TV. I mean…we’re trying to watch a show here, Mr. Huntsman!!! My husband got a plastic container and tried to capture it but omg those things move faster than I eat a bowl of ice cream. We (he, definitely not me) got it and threw the ENTIRE plastic container on the front lawn! They’re freaky looking and they move fast but the good thing is, they eat all the bugs and won’t eat YOU!

huntsman2



Name: Caitlin
Country of origin: England

Lived in Sydney: 1.5 year
Caitlin blogs at Where’s Wallis

Thankfully not and I hope to avoid one for as long as possible! I’ve heard they are super speedy though and that I shouldn’t be scared of them as they eat all the other bugs!


Name: Debbie
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 10 years

Plenty! The most memorable story took place in our first house, out at Galston. It was winter time so we were using the wood burning stove daily. I opened the door to sweep out the previous days ashes and lay a new fire, I was really close, had my head almost in the stove while I was reaching to the back when my hubby suddenly said really urgently ‘move, get away from the stove now’. When I looked up there was the biggest spider we had ever seen sitting right there on the door of the stove. I leaped away and we both stood there just looking at this monster. We made a plan, hubby got a broom and I got a mesh waste paper bin. Hubby knocked the spider off the door, at which point the bloody thing made a beeline straight for me and the thingwas FAST, somehow I managed to get the bin over it just before it got to me. We thought it was a wolf spider, but others think it’s a huntsman.

huntsman4


Name: Mollie
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 4 years

Only safely on in the woods or in our garden. I left them alone.


Name: Kirstie
Country of origin: United States
Lived in Sydney: Since September 2013
Kirstie blogs at Venga Vale Vamos

I did once find a spider at a friend’s house that I feared was a Huntsman because of its size. Please keep those spiders away!


Name: Melissa
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 1 year

Melissa blogs at Leche Love

Yes, we had a big one living in our basement! One day, it disappeared, which is even scarier. We finally cleared piles and piles of boxes (thanks, Ikea), and she reappeared. We had named her Charlotte. After a few days, we gave her a new home-outside.

huntsman3


Name: Erin
Country of origin: Texas, USA
Lived in Sydney: 7 1/2 years
Erin blogs at TexErin-in-Sydneyland

Ohhhhh….emmmmm…geeeeee! I hate spiders. With a passion. I was in the passenger seat, looked over, on the window (yes, the outside, but still scary in my book) was the hugest, ugliest, scariest spider I’ve ever seen. I started to crawl into the backseat of the car. My guy still quotes my very weak cry to “Help me!” whenever a spider is around.


Name: Rachel
Country of Origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 4 Years

Earlier this year I had my first close encounter with a Huntsman. I was hanging out my laundry in our sunroom, and low and behold a super fast huntsman shot out from amongst my bed sheets (had been airing on the outside line) and shot diagonally across the wall. It seemed to be larger than a dinner plate. I screamed and my friend Kate helped me capture it. A glass proved too small and we had to resort to using a Tupperware tub before successful capture and subsequent release back into the front yard.


Name: Shane
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 1 year
Shane blogs at Sea Salt Secrets

Can’t say I have…but lets not jinx me.

huntsman6


You made it to the end!
Are you ready to cancel your ticket to Australia, or do you think that we expats are a bit soft?
Tell us your Huntsman story. 


Read Part 1: Expectations vs Reality
Read Part 2: The Most Memorable Sydney Day
Read Part 3: Your First Day in Sydney
Read Part 4: Drinking Like an Aussie
Read Part 5: The Birds of Sydney
Read Part 6: Australian Christmas
Read Part 7: Off the Beaten Path
Read Part 8: Questions About Your Home
Read Part 9: What People at Home Think of Australia
Read Part 10: Advice for Moving to Sydney
Read Part 11: A Sydney Weekend
Read Part 12: Australian TV
Read Part 13: Something I Miss From Home
Read Part 14: Favorite Sydney Restaurant

Six Year Expativersary

expat issues

6 years ago today (today = a little over a month ago. I’m a bit late on this post), my two suitcases and I landed in Sydney. I thought we might stay for 5 years. We’re not going home anytime soon.

It makes me sad to write that, but 6 years ago, I couldn’t imagine the clown car carrying Donald Trump hurdling recklessly towards a potential Presidency. I’ve written and deleted many paragraphs on this topic, but it’s bigger than I can talk about. Bigger than I want to think about. Bigger than Trump. If you’re here, you get it. Or, you don’t, maybe … I can’t do anything about that.

Regardless, my husband, my daughter and I will be calling Australia home for some time longer.

This is not my perfect home. There are parts of myself that I’ve lost in the past six years. My choice to stop driving has stripped me of an independence that I used to love. Leaving work outside the home has given me a lot more freedom of movement, but left me with less intellectual confidence. I don’t have the roots of family or longtime friends here.

You know what I miss the most in this world? I miss having a best friend. You know that person you feel like you’ve know forever, who you call up anytime and say, “hey, what are you up to today?” And they say, “oh, listen, I just have to run to Target to get some new pillowcases. Want to come?” And you’re like, “Uh, YES! See you in 20.” Does anyone have that once you have children, or is this a symptom of having transitory expat friends?

It’s not perfect, but Australia is going to be home for now. I can’t imagine a place I’d rather raise a child. At this stage in my life, that’s just about the only consideration that holds much weight.

But, I defiantly hold onto things from home because these little rebellions make me feel like I still have one toehold in my home:

  • My American i-Tunes account
  • Saying zee, not zed
  • Making my kid peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch
  • Using the Oxford comma
  • Voting in American elections

So, a year past my expected Australian expiration date, life just carries on – me being my quirky self, happy most days, grateful for the many gifts I’ve been given in this life. Health, family, friends, beaches, flat whites, and the ability to choose which country I call home.

As I do every year, I’ll leave you with some the most significant images from my past year.

If you’d like to know what I’ve thought about on previous expat anniversaries, try these:
1 Year Expativersary
2 Year Expativersary
3 Year Expativersary
4 Year Expativersary
5 Year Expativersary

Coffees on the beach. The best of Sydney life.

Coffees on the beach. The best of Sydney life.

My favorite singer in this world came to Australia for the first time in 10 years. I was in absolute heaven.

My favorite singer in this world came to Australia for the first time in 10 years. I was in absolute heaven.

This theatre major got to see the Theatre of Dionysus.

This theatre major got to see the Theatre of Dionysus.

This was my balcony for a week.

This was my balcony for a week.

We met the Princess of Serbia, and she was gorgeous.

We met the Princess of Serbia, and she was gorgeous.

My kid was baptized.

My kid was baptized.

Jacarandas!

Jacarandas!

We threw a baby shower for one of the best girls I know. One more beautiful baby in our AusMerican extended family!

We threw a baby shower for one of the best girls I know. One more beautiful baby in our AusMerican extended family!

We took an impromptu trip to Jervis Bay, our happy place.

We took an impromptu trip to Jervis Bay, our happy place.

We celebrated Thanksgiving - a couple of times.

We celebrated Thanksgiving – a couple of times.

We had a pretty spectacular holiday season with our Christmas activity advent calendar.

We had a pretty spectacular holiday season with our Christmas activity advent calendar.

Loved the Sydney Festival

Loved the Sydney Festival

My little dinosaur turned 3.

My little dinosaur turned 3.

We went apple picking.

We went apple picking.

Hushpuppy and I spent 5 weeks enjoying all things Southern.

Hushpuppy and I spent 5 weeks enjoying all things Southern.

This one started daycare.

This one started daycare.

I saw Gloria Steinem.

I saw Gloria Steinem.

Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

Vivid Festival

I voted in my first Australian federal election - and SBS TV came along!

I voted in my first Australian federal election – and SBS TV came along!

We went to Bali, baby.

We went to Bali, baby.

I made this thing that I'm immensely proud of. Artsplorers.com

I made this thing that I’m immensely proud of. I’d love for you to have a look. Artsplorers.com

Sydney Expat Interview Series Part 14: Favorite Sydney Restaurant

food, restaurants, Sydney Expat Interviews

Food, glorious food! Discovering new cuisine is one of the most entertaining and enlightening things about exploring a new place. Sydney hosts the whole world in terms of culinary adventures; so, I was curious about what places the expats have discovered to dine. I asked them to tell us about their favorite restaurant in Sydney.

This is the 14th in an 18 part interview series with expats living in Sydney. Please make sure to visit the fantastic websites of the participants linked below, and join me on Facebook for much more on expat life in Sydney.

Sydney Expats Share Their Favorite Sydney Restaurant


Name: Julia
Country of origin: UK
Lived in Sydney: 7 years

Sake in the rocks – modern Japanese, fantastic location. You can go for pre-drinks at the Argyle beforehand, as its next door, and the food in there is just amazing. Cant wait to go back! photo 1 (2)


Name: Debbie
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 10 years

Well, I can’t exactly claim it’s a favourite as I’ve only eaten there the once, but I’m Angus at Cockle Bay Wharf served by far the best steak I’ve had in this country (if not ever), I’d love to go back again sometime. photo 2 (2)


Name: “Bushranger”
Country of Origin: Serbia
Lived in Sydney: 6.5 Years

Toshiya – Japanese restaurant on Military Rd. in Cremorne. Somehow the chef, who came from Tokyo, really knows how to deliver tasty dishes and also cater to the local palette. photo 5 (2)

 


Name: Shane
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 1 year
Shane blogs at Sea Salt Secrets

The Grounds of Alexandria in Alexandria.

See some of Shane’s photos from Easter at the Grounds … like this one! The Grounds


Name: Kirstie
Country of origin: United States
Lived in Sydney: Since September 2013
Kirstie blogs at Venga Vale Vamos

The Potting Shed in Alexandria (next to The Grounds, which is incredibly popular for brunch) is absolutely beautiful at night, with twinkling lights and lush plants from floor to ceiling, and offers delicious share plates. photo 3 (2)


Name: Melissa
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 1 year
Melissa blogs at Leche Love

So far, Mad Pizza E Bar in Newtown. Both pizza and service are really good. photo 4 (2)


Name: Victoria
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 6 years
Victoria blogs at The Freedom Travellers

It would have to be Sokyo at The Star in Pyrmont. The most amazing modern Japanese food and cocktails! The service is fantastic and the food ticks all the boxes. We usually just ask the staff to recommend dishes and they always get it right. photo 1


Name: Dido
Country of origin: India
Lived in Sydney: 2.5 years

Nilgiri’s at St. Leonards – Dosa’s are to die for and go for a nice Sunday brunch with family and friends to enjoy the buffet @$25 per head. (Nilgiri’s is moving to a new location in Cremorne, as of August 2016).
photo 1 (3)


Name: Rachel
Country of Origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 4 Years

It’s not so much the restaurant, but a regular social get-together with friends represents my favourite restaurant, and not only because of the food. When I lived in Manly, for the best part of just over a year each Monday night would be spent catching up with friends over dinner at The Steyne pub on Manly’s Corso.

For the cuisine, I would recommend Provence by Antoine in Concord. Having been there just recently with my boyfriend – the food was incredible. It’s a small French cuisine restaurant with a great menu of authentic sourced food and wine and friendly staff, offering a real personal touch in their service. photo 2

photo 3


Name: Erin
Country of origin: Texas, USA
Lived in Sydney: 7 1/2 years
Erin blogs at TexErin-in-Sydneyland

The Oxford Tavern in Petersham for their BBQ pit on Saturday afternoons OR Chophouse on Bligh Street in the CBD for fantastic steaks.

photo 4 (3)

photo 4

 


Name: Caitlin
Country of origin: England

Lived in Sydney: 1.5 year
Caitlin blogs at Where’s Wallis

I love Toko in Surry Hills. The best sushi I’ve had in Sydney and fantastic décor and atmosphere. Tip: try to get one of the tables by the bar! photo 5


Name: Ashley
Country of origin: United States

Lived in Sydney: 2 years (in Newcastle)
Visit Ashley on Instagram

Because we have kids, we don’t tend to pop into real restaurants while in town. We have been to Smash Sausage Kitchen in Newtown which was so delicious. They had veggie sausages which kept me and the kids happy! The Bucket List in Bondi. It’s a buzzing atmosphere on the beach and full of model-type people. Everyone’s beautiful there!

photo 2 (3)

photo 3 (3)


Drooling, yet? Do tell us your favorite Sydney restaurant in the comments!


Read Part 1: Expectations vs Reality
Read Part 2: The Most Memorable Sydney Day
Read Part 3: Your First Day in Sydney
Read Part 4: Drinking Like an Aussie
Read Part 5: The Birds of Sydney
Read Part 6: Australian Christmas
Read Part 7: Off the Beaten Path
Read Part 8: Questions About Your Home
Read Part 9: What People at Home Think of Australia
Read Part 10: Advice for Moving to Sydney
Read Part 11: A Sydney Weekend
Read Part 12: Australian TV
Read Part 13: Something I Miss From Home


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Why My Family Needs the Olympics

Little Aussie

I’m not a sports person – nothing against sports, I just sort of forget it even exists, most of the time. But, when the Olympics rolled around, I felt like we’d all get something out of watching, so we’ve been tuning in catch as we can for the past few days, and this experience of watching the Olympics with our 3 year old girl  has turned out far more important than I expected.

A few reasons why the Olympics are turning into something special for my family:

The Opening Ceremonies

From the first moment of the Opening Ceremonies, my little girl was on full alert and bursting with questions about what the performers were doing. It occurred to me that this was her – and probably many children’s – first experience with conceptual performance art. We take her to art galleries and children’s performances, but it’s rare to see theatre on this scale. I tried to answer all of her questions and point out interesting things for her to notice.  I thought it was a splendid example of beauty, spectacle, vibrancy, color, metaphor and message. The more children see art, the more they can appreciate it, and this show was something special.

Women in Sport

I have a sporty, sporty little girl. Soccer class is her favorite hour of the week, and ever since about 2-1/2 when a lot of little girls started enrolling in dance class, it has not been unusual for her to be the only female amongst a dozen boys. In daycare, she doesn’t look twice at the dolls, instead rushing out to the playground to scale the climbing equipment. I couldn’t possibly be less athletic, so I know she didn’t get it from me, but she is just wired for activity, coordination, speed, and competition. As she gets older and more aware of gender roles, I don’t want her to lose her love of sports, just because it’s not what most of the other girls are doing. I am already seeing the first signs of it creeping home – “Arrabella said that I’m a boy,” she said to me the other day. And then a few days later she started crying, “I don’t want to be super. I want to be beautiful.” My heart broke, and I got angry, but mostly because I know this is just the beginning of her internalizing this stupid message.

So, having all of these examples of the different sports that women can play and excel at is a moment I am not going to miss. I know the women in sports have spoken out about not wanting their physical appearance discussed, which I understand and I don’t think the media should use it as a talking point, but frankly, with my little daughter starting already at 3-1/2 to get the message that she can’t be both sporty and beautiful, I am going to say how strong, fast, determined, and beautiful these women are. My girl is beautiful, and I don’t want her to think that she has to choose one or the other.

Hey, Arrabella, have a look at these incredible Olympic women and tell me they’re boys, hey.  

Sportsmanship

Last night, we watched Catherine Skinner as she captured her gold medal for trap shooting, and it did not go past my kid that she was receiving hugs and smiles from her fellow competitors. “Why are they hugging her? Are they happy?,” she asked. 3 year olds aren’t particularly known for being magnanimous losers (or winners, nah-nah-nah-nah-nah), so don’t think I was letting that teachable moment float by!

“It’s kind to congratulate the winner, even if you wanted to win. You should be nice, even when you win. Blah, blah, blah.” I don’t think that this is automatically going to turn her into a pre-school statesman, but she got the picture all on her own, and I trust that we’ll continue to see good examples of sportsmanlike behavior.

Family Together Time

We do a lot of activities together, but it’s rare for us to find something that we can all agree on to watch. Heck, even my husband and I are rarely interested in watching the same program, never mind the tiny tyrant’s usual demands that our single TV be perpetually tuned to ABC Kids. So, to snuggle up together in front of something that we can all appreciate is a fleeting moment to embrace.

When your international family has three teams to cheer for, it’s even more fun. Go Team U.S.A.! Go Serbia! Go Team Australia!  We’ll be watching, and learning from you, our excellent athletes.

A Visit to the Green School and Green Village, Bali

bali

Partner-in-Crime and I have had the Green School on the brain for some time now. Since seeing John Hardy’s Ted Talk about the unique school – focused on the natural environment, constructed of bamboo, and nestled in the woods of Bali – we’ve harbored a little fantasy about packing up our lives and sending Hushpuppy there for a year or so. It’s mostly fantasy, but as we happened to be in Bali for a holiday, we thought we’d at least have a look. To really make a go of it, we opted to combine our Green School tour with tours of the affiliated Green Village and Bamboo Factory.

I thought I’d find out about a school. What I truly came away with was a new appreciation for the wonder of bamboo construction and beautiful design.

The Green School

The day began at the Green School on a tour with around 25 other curious travelers from all over the world. Students were on term break, so we didn’t see them interacting with the space. The upside of this was that we could take as many photos as we wanted.

The school is located on a sprawling and rustic campus, the buildings and structures made almost entirely of bamboo. Here’s what the Green School has to say about itself:

“Imagine this, a school without walls, a campus which ignites the senses and the natural curiosity of children, a place where innovation, creativity and learning flourish, a community, which has come together from all corners of the globe to share new experiences, a place of joy.”

So, we set off to see.

The youngest “early years” children have an area near the entrance that doesn’t require too much uphill hiking, and looked open to allow for a lot of play. It’s not too far from a duck pond, as well!Green School

Green School

We then saw the mud pit, where students and teachers both get immersed, as a way of getting closer to nature. Our guide told us it would be in use later that day, as part of new teacher training.Green School

We hiked down stone stairs and dirt paths through the campus, including stops at the yoga studio and full cycle garden patch/fish ponds.

Green School

Yoga studio

One of the most iconic structures on the Green School campus is the bamboo bridge over the river. The whole group stood on it, as we learned about its construction (this is the second bridge, as engineering mistakes were made on the first version). To prove the bridge’s worthiness, our guide invited us all to simultaneously jump. It survived us. Green School

Green School

He also pointed out the swimming pool, which features a rock climbing wall that some students designed and constructed as a class project.

We saw a larger vegetable garden, the compost area, and the “microhydro vortex,” which is a project that is still in the works, and aims to provide a large amount of renewable energy to the school.Green School

Green School

Finally, we climbed a fair number of steps to arrive at the main school building, a jaw-dropping structure that must be a marvel to enter everyday. Everything from the structure to the chairs and bookshelves is made of bamboo, and the creativity of the design is beyond anything I’ve seen. Certainly a more inspiring learning environment than the grey cinder blocks I spent most of my education between! Green School

Green School

Green School

The Green School has been open for 8 years, and its curriculum was designed by the school’s founders. My understanding is that it is both academically rigorous, but also involves a lot of student designed project work, which much meet criteria, including considering nature, wellness, sustainability and economics. All school parents are expected to be part of the school community, as well.

One drawback I noticed was that it would not be at all accessible for students with physical disabilities (I asked our guide about it and he agreed that he didn’t know of any students with physical disabilities). Someone else asked about accreditation, and they have not yet achieved accreditation by recognized boards, so students leaving for university have to use more creative means, like portfolios, to gain admission to their chosen schools.

It’s also cost prohibitive for most Indonesian students, and though their mission was to have 20% of the school population be local students on scholarship, they haven’t raised enough money to do that, so currently only have an 8% local population. Our guide said that they do have other outreach programs to work with local students and the community outside of school hours, as well.

After seeing the school, I was awed, but I wasn’t just racing to get an application to send Hushpuppy there. I think it’s more of a lifestyle for the whole family, and one we’d have to fully consider. But, I do think it’s a pretty stunning and visionary place to be. It seems like they still have some kinks to work out, which makes sense as this grand scale project is really quite young. Still, the lessons from this school must last long beyond a school year.

(Oh, and because I know you’re dying to know…) Green School

The Green Village

From the Green School, a smaller group of us took a short drive to the Green Village, a community of houses built using the same architectural principles as the Green School’s bamboo structures.

The houses are various sizes, and are rented out on a per night basis, though at least one house pointed out by our guide had been rented for the year by a family whose four children are attending the Green School.

We learned about the four different types of bamboo used for construction, all based on their size and strength. Foundations are laid with concrete for permanent structures.

The bamboo is grown by farmers in the north part of Bali who had land that wasn’t ideal for other crops. They Hardy family gave them bamboo shoots for free, if they agreed to farm it, and then sell the grown crop back. They use bamboo that has been growing for 3 – 5 years, and that short growing time means that it’s a very sustainable plant to use for construction – a pretty fascinating thing to ponder, especially when you think how long trees take to grow.

We toured two houses. The small house was around the size of a hotel room. I love the teardrop door. It opens from the middle.Green Village

The large house had three bedrooms, a kitchen, and even a massage room, all spread out over several levels. How great would it be to round up a few friends and camp out here for awhile?Green Village

The kitchen was my favorite – wide open and just so lush. Hushpuppy found a “tree house,” too.

Green Village

After the tour, we had an Indonesian lunch  in the community area, and Hushpuppy struck up a quick friendship, piling up stones with a couple of French children at the pool. While we were there, Elora Hardy – the designer and daughter of the Green School founders – came up to one of the other women in our group to apologize for the hard time she had booking the tour – I didn’t realize who she was until afterwards, but she did seem very nice!

The Bamboo Factory 

The final stop on our tour was the bamboo factory where they process the stalks, and make prototypes for projects like furniture (and go-carts, apparently!).Bamboo Factory

Perhaps the most fascinating thing about bamboo production is that up until a few years ago, bamboo construction was not considered feasible, and only very poor people built houses with it because inevitable bug infestation meant that the poles would lose their integrity after just a couple of years. However, they’ve developed a system of treating the bamboo with a borax/boric acid solution, which has solved the insect problem.

We saw how they choose different pieces for projects including flooring, furniture, and fixtures. We heard many times throughout the day about how “the boss” (John Hardy, I assume) hates using glue, but that it’s occasionally a necessary evil (both because it’s not natural and it’s quite costly) – a concern they still have to solve.

We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the bamboo factory, but based on the enthusiasm of our guide, it seems like they take a lot of pride in working with this material and creating beautiful, usable homes and furnishings.

Bamboo. Who knew? The stuff of dreams, and maybe even our homes of the future.

More on the Green School vision on John Hardy’s Ted Talk: 

And, more on the Green Village design on Elora Hardy’s Ted Talk:


If you go:

Tours can be booked separately or as a package for the Green School, Green Village, and Bamboo Factory.
Website: Green School Tours 
LocationLocation Map (approximately 20 minutes north of Denpasar or 15 minutes south of Ubud)
Phone: +62 361 469 875
Transport: You will need a driver to transport you between locations, if you are not self-driving. Or, pre-book a driver from the Green School for around $2.50 USD per person (call first).
Clothing: Wear comfortable walking shoes. There is significant climbing of stairs at both Green School and Green Village, and may not be accessible for guests with mobility issues. 
Children were welcome. Under age 6 are free.
Food is available at the Green Village. Water bottles may be refilled at the Green School and light snacks are provided after the tour.

Sydney Expat Interviews Question 13: What I Miss From Home

expat issues, Sydney Expat Interviews

Regardless of how much expats love their new city, there’s always something from home that can’t be bought for love or money (well, *sometimes* for money and a good postal system). It’s that thing that brings up memories or floods our senses with feelings of comfort. I think for many of us, what that “thing” turns out to be can be a real surprise, too. Food is a powerful cultural marker for many.

You can’t have the experience of leaving home without missing something, so this month, I asked the expats, “what is one thing from home that you can’t get in Sydney?“. 

This is the 13th in an 18 part interview series with expats living in Sydney. Please make sure to visit the fantastic websites of the participants linked below, and join me on Facebook for much more on expat life in Sydney.

Sydney Expat Interviews - What You Can't Get From Your Home in Sydney


Question 13: Tell me one thing from home that you can’t get in Sydney.


Name: Debbie
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 10 years

Decent sausages! And by decent I mean typical English, fatty bangers. I so miss a good old fashioned sausage butty. When we went back for a holiday, I placed an order with my Mum to have in stock 1 packet of Richmond sausages and a loaf of Warburtons bread.sausage-472333_640


Name: Julia
Country of origin: UK
Lived in Sydney: 7 years

A proper curry – or a decent Roast dinner with all the trimmings like you would get in most pubs in the UK  for a sunday lunch!!


Name: Caitlin
Country of origin: England

Lived in Sydney: 1.5 year
Caitlin blogs at Where’s Wallis

Percy Pigs: a little jelly sweet from Marks and Spencers food stores. A friend recently went home and much to my delight brought a few bags back and we introduced our Aussie friends to them.


Name: Victoria
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 6 years
Victoria blogs at The Freedom Travellers

Real Dairy Milk chocolate. I used to visit the Cadbury factory as a kid in the UK and it just doesn’t taste the same here. Apparently they have an added ingredient to stop it melting which makes it taste different.


Name: Mollie
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 4 years

Crispy bacon and Velveeta cheese.bacon-737245_640


Name: Shane
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 1 year
Shane blogs at Sea Salt Secrets

Pumpkin Spice, Ranch dressing, Mexican food, Franks Red Hot, Root Beer, decent peanut butter.

 


Name: Melissa
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 1 year

Melissa blogs at Leche Love

I have not been able to find Fritos and good Tex Mex. I’m from Texas, after all.


Name: Erin
Country of origin: Texas, USA
Lived in Sydney: 7 1/2 years
Erin blogs at TexErin-in-Sydneyland

Tex-Mex; oh…I appreciate the efforts of some Sydney Mexican food establishments…but…they ain’t Tex-Mex. mexican-food-279892_640


Name: Ashley
Country of origin: United States

Lived in Sydney: 2 years (in Newcastle)
Visit Ashley on Instagram

Luckily, I don’t have any massive things I crave! The main things are Fritos and Dunkin Donuts. 2 years without Dunkin Donuts. How have I survived? Oh and cheap sneakers. So lucky my mom brought me some Converse from the U.S. at $45 instead of $90.

sneakers-1441118_640


Name: Kirstie
Country of origin: United States
Lived in Sydney: Since September 2013
Kirstie blogs at Venga Vale Vamos

A few select restaurants (Californians can never live long without In-N-Out), and, perhaps it’s the obvious answer, but for as much of a “family” as I’ve found here, not being close to my family is the biggest setback in living overseas.


 

Name: Rachel
Country of Origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 4 Years

It’s pretty cliché to say it, but I used to miss the English sweets and treats, I’ve found as time goes on your forget which foods you’re missing and quickly integrate favourite Aussie alternatives. Like swapping my beloved Bovril for Vegemite or my chocolate biscuits for TimTams. More than that though, something from my home country that I can’t get in Sydney are my family members. I think of them every day and FaceTime at least once a week. The longing for home changes but never leaves you, regardless of the time you’ve been away from home.


Name: Dido
Country of origin: India
Lived in Sydney: 2.5 years

Family.


Name: “Bushranger”
Country of Origin: Serbia
Lived in Sydney: 6.5 Years

Squirrels.squirrel-1425416_640


Expats, what is that elusive thing that you miss from back home?


Read Part 1: Expectations vs Reality
Read Part 2: The Most Memorable Sydney Day
Read Part 3: Your First Day in Sydney
Read Part 4: Drinking Like an Aussie
Read Part 5: The Birds of Sydney
Read Part 6: Australian Christmas
Read Part 7: Off the Beaten Path
Read Part 8: Questions About Your Home
Read Part 9: What People at Home Think of Australia
Read Part 10: Advice for Moving to Sydney
Read Part 11: A Sydney Weekend
Read Part 12: Australian TV