A Visit to the Green School and Green Village, 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.


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


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


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

The Novice Citizen’s 100% Unofficial Guide to Voting in Australia


The Novice Citizens 100 Percent Unofficial Guide to All Things Voting in AustraliaPolitics is my sports. This year, I get the equivalent of two Super Bowls. Of course, we have the Presidential election in the U.S. (and, boy, has that taken a lot out of me during the off-season), and this year – for the first time – I am voting in an Australian Federal election on July 2nd, thanks to becoming a citizen in 2014.

It’s taken me a few years to get my head around the Australian political system, but just in time for my first Federal election (*fist bump*), I think I more or less have the finer points worked out. So, for anyone who is also voting for the first time in this election, or will be a citizen in the near future, I’ve compiled this completely unofficial guide to what you need to know before election day.

Compulsory Voting

If you’ve already become a citizen, you no doubt know that voting is compulsory for all Australians. You’d be hard pressed to miss that fact. It’s hammered home pretty strenuously in the citizenship ceremony, where you’re required to add your name to the electoral role, and in case you forgot, a follow up letter from your MP a few days later will nudge you in the right direction.

Once you’re enrolled, failing to have your name checked off on election day will score you a cool $20 fine.
That’s almost six coffees. Why would you do that to yourself?


The Lower House and the Upper House

Like the U.S. (or rather, like England, where we all got the idea from), Australia has two legislative houses – the House of Representatives (“the lower house”) and the Senate (“the upper house”). There are 150 Representatives – also known as Members of Parliament (MPs) – who represent local areas and serve a term of up to 3 years (don’t get too comfortable). The Prime Minister is a member of the lower house. There are 76 Senators – 12 from each state and 2 each from the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory – who are elected to serve terms of up to six years (Six years! Settle right in, mates).

Australian Election

The Lower House on a quiet day. The Upper House is red.

The Government and the Opposition

We can split hairs about this, but in effect, Australia has a two party system, and the majority of our officials are either Liberal-National or Labor. The closest approximation I can make in American terms is Liberal = Republicans and Labor = Democrats – though that’s a sweeping generalization that’s probably unfair to the Liberals (#trump).

Whichever party wins the most seats in the Lower House does a little jig and forms the “Government,” and the leader selected by the party is Australia’s Prime Minister. Whichever sad party has fewer seats comes out swingin’ as the “Opposition,” led by the Leader of the Opposition. Its job is to boo at everything Government says.

The Prime Minister gets to pick his most-favoritist Ministers to help him with things like foreign policy, education, immigration, money matters, and all those important things. (S)He appoints a cabinet of Ministers to advise, sit next to him and make faces at the Opposition, and go on TV to say how smart the PM is. Not to be left out – and I think you’re going to agree that this is pretty bad-ass – the Opposition leader also gets to pick his darlings to talk to him about those same issues. These folks are the Shadow Ministers (right?!?), and they basically follow their Government counterparts around and tell them they should get stuffed.

Shadow Treasurer

Frontbenchers & Backbenchers

It’s kind of like high school: Gain favor with the leader of your party, often by winning big in the election, and become a Minister or Shadow Minister, and you get to sit with the cool kids on the front bench. If not, you’re out in back bench land with the band kids and the drama nerds.

It’s brutal on the back bench, it would seem.
“Ugh, I never liked it on the front bench, anyway.”
“Yeah, those guys are the worst.”
“Let’s egg their houses this weekend.”


The Coalition

This is one of those phrases I heard on the news a lot, but never exactly knew what it meant. So, I looked it up. The Coalition is an alliance of a few center right parties who, together, form the Liberal-National Coalition. Oh, and here’s something I learned while researching this on Wikipedia – “At the federal level, the Liberal Party leader usually serves as Prime Minister and the National Party leader as Deputy Prime Minister.”


Third Parties

Third parties. There are kind of a lot of them in Australia, and though they don’t hold that many seats (5 in the lower house and 18 in the upper house, in the last election), they can be influential when votes are close, particularly with a “hung parliament,” where neither of the parties holds a majority of seats. As you can imagine, there’s a whole lot of wheeling and dealing with the third parties. “I really like your shirt! Want to sit by me at lunch today?? I really like that thing you said about renewable energy. That was fun.”

They’re also important in elections, and I’ll talk more about that later.

The Greens are the most viable third party, at the moment, though at any time, there can be dozens of others. Some of them are pretty specific AND fun. – like the Motoring Enthusiasts Party, or the Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Party, or, hey, the Sex Party. There’s also been a recent rise in independent candidates forming their own parties, like Palmer United or the Nick Xenophon Team.

I snapped this photo of part of a ballot from a 2000 state election while on a tour of the Parliament of NSW. Sample Ballot

Calling an Election

As an American, this is probably the craziest part of Australian politics to me. While I’m used to officials sitting for fixed terms, and federal elections are always held on the same date, here in Australia, the Prime Minister can pretty much call an election whenever (s)he wants to shake things up around the ol’ homefront.

OK, that’s not completely true – they can’t do it on their own. They have to get approval from the Governor General (who basically speaks for the Queen) for the House and the Premiers of each state for Senate. And, elections for the House must be held at least once every 3 years and once every 6 years for Senators (half of them every 3 years, usually coinciding with the Representative elections).

Double Dissolution

WHOA! Things just got really crazy in here. A double-frickin’-dissolution is when the Prime Minister says, “I HAVE HAD IT UP TO HERE WITH YOU LOT” and sends them all home to bloody well think about what they’ve done, and only come back if they get re-elected. Everyone. Representatives. Every single Senator. The whole naughty bunch.

That is what’s happened with this election. Basically, Malcolm Turnbull got in a real dither and said that if the Senate didn’t pass some legislation that, I swear to you, maybe 7 people in the real world cared about, that he’d see us all on July 2 (which makes me think maybe it wasn’t *really* just about the ABCC legislation, but who am I?). He had to go up to the Governor General’s house in this very dramatic fashion – the news was full of black sedans rolling up the driveway – and ask permission. And, off we go – see you at the polls!

There have only been six previous double dissolutions in Australia. This video explains the legalities and the tactic really well, if you’re interested in hearing someone who knows what they’re talking about explain it.


Campaign Season

Unlike my homeland, where the campaign season lasts for *literal* years, Australian candidates only campaign for a few weeks. The election must be held between 33 and 58 days after the elections has officially been called. Days.

What. A. Relief.


I don’t know if it’s a blessing or a curse for the indecisive, but on election day, not only do you choose your top bloke or blokette for the job, but you also get to say who you think should have the job if your person doesn’t win. On your ballot, you number candidates or parties by order of “preference.”

Preferences are a pretty big deal because they can sway a marginal (“swing,” as we’d say in the U.S.) seat one way or another. To win, a candidate must receive more than 50% of the vote, but with a dozen or more candidates on the ballot, they don’t always get it on first preference. Soooo, they then start counting preferences for the lowest ranked candidate, then the next lowest, until someone has 50%.

Winner, winner, chicken dinner.


How to Vote Cards

All this preference voting can really put a lot of pressure on a person. Luckily, every candidate is here to help with your difficult decision with a “how to vote card.” It’s sort of like shopping on Amazon … “Customers who like Tanya Plibersek, also like…”. I’ve gotten a few in the mail, already, and volunteers stand outside polling places on the day, handing them them out – “Preferences! Getcha preferences here!”

By the way, the people handing those out are volunteering their Saturday to so something they believe in. Be nice to them, even if you don’t like their party, yeah?how to vote card

Donkey Vote

Despite the boon to the printing industry that these “how to vote” cards provide, some people still cannot be bothered. They show up to get their name ticked off because they know the value of $20, but  they have places to be, man. And so, they begin with the beginning and write “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,” in order, and done. That’s called a donkey vote, and though I think anyone who votes this way is a donkey, I’ve read that people voting can give a small edge to whoever is listed first on the ballot.

Donkey Vote

Above the Line or Below the Line

In a Senate election, you have two groovy options – voting “above the line” for just the party or voting “below the line” for individuals. Preferences are still important. If voting above the line, you must number your preferences 1- 6. Below the line is 1 – 12. So, basically, voting above the line is easier, while voting below the line gives you more say in who you’re voting for.

Senate voting papers are actually a really long sheet of paper with a literal line separating the two options.

Aussie Battlers

There is nothing more important in an election than the Aussie battlers. They are, ostensibly, the people every candidate wants voting for him/her, and they are also what they all purport to be. An Aussie battler is that person who is just working hard, scraping by an honest living for their family, keeping their head down, and trying to do right. Joe the Plumber, to my Yanks. They get a lot of notice around election time. You’ve gotta get that Aussie battler vote.

Sausage Sizzle

THE most important part of an election, just ask any Australian. Aussie polling places have almost a party atmosphere to them, thanks primarily to local community groups and schools setting up “sausage sizzle” fundraisers outside. For a gold coin donation ($1 or $2), you get a sausage on a piece of white bread, on which you can put some barbecue sauce or tomato sauce. Maybe even some fried onions, if it’s a fancy one.There’s even a website dedicated to mapping polling places with sausage sizzles. #snagvote

sausage sizzle site

So, if like me, you’re headed to your first Federal election, don’t forget your gold coins, or the experience of helping to choose your elected officials will simply be incomplete.

And, if this guide written by someone who has never even voted in a Federal election has somehow not answered all of your questions, I suggest checking in on the people who actually know – The Australian Electoral Commission, whose site will answer, seriously, any question you could possibly have.

Want to know who to vote for? Try Vote Compass from the ABC, which aligns your views with those of the candidates. 

Seasoned Australian voters – what have I missed? 
Are you putting BBQ or Tomato Sauce on your sausage?

Discovering Clovelly


Discovering ClovellyNot one of Sydney’s most iconic beaches, lovely little Clovelly has long been on my list of places to discover (hence its appearance on my Undiscovered Sydney to-do list), so when I won a voucher for a Clovelly spa from the fabulous Mum to Five, a most excellent plan started to come together.

Recruiting husband for a few hours of Daddy duty, I decided to make an afternoon retreat of my Clovelly outing.

First stop, Yummy Mummy Day SpaDiscovering ClovellyDiscovering Clovelly

As you can see by the sign, they cater to pregnant women, but this is not an announcement. They’re happy to take regular, non-expectant “mummies,” as well. I went in for a couple hours of massage, facial, foot bath hoo-ha, and it was gorgeous. Just a big, giant sigh of candlelit, eye pillow, hushed voices, piano music relief.

You should go there. I should go back!

I took my time returning to reality in the relaxation room, and then left to walk down the hill for part two of Operation Clovelly Holiday.Discovering Clovelly

Clovelly Beach was about a 15 minute walk from the spa, and the whole area just has that relaxed, beach town feel to it. Deep saltwater sighs, all the way.

I found the beach, and it was quite interesting, a tucked away little inlet, leading out to the greater ocean, which you could observe on rock cliffs at the other end of the park. I could see why this secluded beach is popular with families (there’s a little playground just off the beach, as well).

Discovering Clovelly

Discovering Clovelly

There had been a storm the night before, and the water was still pretty wild, waves crashing up the cliffs. It was beautifully dramatic.Discovering Clovelly

After having my Joni Mitchell, clifftop, hair blowing in the breeze moment, I walked along the boardwalk, past the beach pool, and set myself up on a towel in the sand. One of the main reasons I wanted to go to Clovelly was because it purportedly has excellent snorkeling. I’d brought my snorkel, but sadly the water was far too murky from the storm to see anything, and the only sealife visible was an onslaught of of seaweed.Discovering Clovelly

I did make an effort, but ended up just setting myself up for a lounge on the beach with my book. Which, truly, was no hardship.

The man next to me had a better time of his swim, as he emerged quite chuffed to have found $20 floating in the tempestuous water. The sea taketh, and the sea giveth – you never know!

When the weather warms again, I’d like to get back to make another attempt at the snorkeling.
And, while I’m in the neighborhood, check in to make sure the day spa is still, you know, running properly.

Sydney Expat Interview Series Part 12 – Australian Television

Sydney Expat Interviews

Australian television. It’s rather a funny beast – original Aussie shows, interspersed with British and American fare. Shows start at odd times (8:03?) and you’re never entirely sure when the new season of your favorite program is set to begin again (“House Raiders is back – after Australia Day!” So, February? March?). Cooking shows, home renovations, and panel shows reign supreme. Not long after moving here, I realized that if I wanted to make conversation with my co-workers, I needed to start watching Masterchef, ASAP. Watching local TV is one of the quickest ways to get in touch with the culture (for better or for worse!), so this month, I’ve asked the expats to give me their take on TV in Australia.

This is the 12th 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 Answer - What Australian TV Shows Do You Love

Question 12: Do you love any Australian television shows?

Australian TV schedule

Name: Ashley
Country of origin: United States
Lived in Sydney: 2 years (in Newcastle)
Visit Ashley on Instagram

Yes! I LOOOOVE watching TV shows from other countries. It really helps you get a glimpse into another culture. I got hooked on Big Brother when I visited for the first time in 2007. It’s an addiction. I’ve also enjoyed My Kitchen Rules, House Rules, and Real Housewives of Melbourne. I haven’t gotten into any of their dramas or sitcoms and I think that’s because the reality shows are on almost every night of the week. Meaning House Rules will be on 5 nights out of 7 so if you want to get involved in it, you have to watch nightly.

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

I am loving watching Masterchef, at the moment.Sydney Expats - What Australian TV Shows Are You Watching?

Name: Katie
Country of Origin: UK (but, born in Australia)
Lived in Sydney: 12 years

I LOVE Masterchef, contestants need real talent on that show. I also loved Heartbreak High, the kids were so cool! Big fan of The Cleverman (just started on ABC).

Name: Paul
Country of Origin: England
Lived in Australia (currently Perth): 6 years
Have a look at Paul’s doodles at Sprotson Green via The Notorious MUM

Gogglebox, Border Security and Summer Heights High. Also, Police Ten Seven from New Zealand. They’re funny – Australians “take the piss” in a really nice way.

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

I have to say, Chris Lilley’s shows (particularly Summer Heights High) probably contributed to my decision to come to Australia! I knew I’d love the sense of humor.Sydney Expats - What Australian TV Shows Are You Watching?

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

Honestly haven’t turned on a TV since I’ve been here. Australia recently joined the 21st century with Netflix and I find Upper Middle Bogan entertaining. (A bogan is a redneck).

Name: Caitlin
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 1.5 years
Caitlin blogs at Where’s Wallis

I’ve been so busy enjoying what the country has to offer that I haven’t had any time for TV!

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

Not really, I don’t really watch TV since moving here, there’s just so much other stuff I’d rather be doing. My other half does love the AFL and The Block so those would be the two we watch the most.

Name: “Bushranger”
Country of origin: Serbia
Lived in Sydney: 6.5yrs

ABC Kids (by coercion from my toddler).abckids

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

Nope. None whatsoever. I find Australian TV to be very poor quality and the Australian TV Networks idea of program scheduling is non-existent. It’s impossible to follow any show through a season as the networks move the shows around, drop them for a week, change the days or just stop showing them altogether.

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

Definitely not. Most I have seen are pretty bad.

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

No. But I do watch a whole lot more British television since living here. QI, Would I Lie About You?, the Alan Carr show (Chattyman), and The Graham Norton Show.

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

Quite a bit of Graham Norton, but I believe that’s BBC based.

Name: Rachel
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 4 years

I don’t tend to watch much Australian TV. I’ve recently become hooked on Netflix and catching on English comedy re-runs and trying new boxsets like House of Cards, Orange is The New Black and The Killing.

Name: Alana
Country of Origin: New Zealand
Lived in Sydney: 14 years

I watch absolute minimal TV (2-3 hours a week), but LOVE Offspring for its quirky, relatable characters and Wonderland for its beautiful people.Sydney Expats - What Australian TV Shows Are You Watching?

Name: Patricia
Country of Origin: Switzerland
Lived in Sydney: 5 years
I love A Place to Call Home, Gogglebox and The Great Australian Bakeoff. First one because I love seeing how Australia was in the 50s, second one because it’s funny, and the third one because I love baking, and I love how they help each other and they are always polite and respectful.

Name: Emily
Country of Origin: UK
Lived in Sydney: 13 years

When I first got here I liked Grass is Greener and McClouds Daughters. I watched The Footy Show a lot – but then I grew up. I loved Masterchef first and second series.
I will watch Bondi Rescue.  Kath and Kim is another classic. I’ve loved panel shows like Gruen and The Glass House and RoveIn the UK, I watched Home and Away and Neighbours religiously at uni, and my favourite late night telly was Prisoner.  Sydney Expats - What Australian TV Shows Are You Watching?

Name: Kristen
Country of Origin: United States
Lived in Sydney: 8 years

I don’t get to watch as much TV as I’d like, but when I do have a few moments I love:
* The Project. I’m a huge Waleed Aly fan. I would love to see him in a one on one debate with Donald Trump.
* Selling Houses Australia. Love seeing the renovations but get frustrated by people who hold out for a price that is not supported by the market.
* AFL! This is the year that the North Melbourne Kangas will take it all. Mark my word.Sydney Expats - What Australian TV Shows Are You Watching?

What are your favorite Australian television shows?
Anything else we should be tuning in for?

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

Vivid With Kids – It’s All North of the Bridge!

annual events, art, Sydney

Vivid Festival With Kids - North of the Bridge

I’ve made no secret of my love-hate relationship with Sydney’s annual Vivid Festival. On one hand, the light displays are spectacular. On the flip, there’s the crowds – the soul crushing crowds. Add a small child to the experience, and it can become an experience that makes a woman question her own sanity.

It’s like the organizers of Vivid heard my agoraphobic cries, and arranged for families with small children to have a completely satisfying Vivid experience, all on the north side of the Harbour.


Last year was the first time Chatswood took part in the Vivid Festival, and we loved the easygoing and family-friendly atmosphere, so we headed straight there with our girl this year. The theme is on dinosaurs, which could not have been more perfect for our dino fanatic (ours, and just about every other 2 – 5 year old I know).

We started our night at The Concourse, where a moving dinosaur show was projected on the huge outdoor screen and dino eggs glowed below in a smokey swamp. Vivid Festival Chastwood

Hushpuppy’s favorite part of the night was interacting with the roaming mechanical dinosaur skeletons, which were manned by Vivid guests who could take a turn wearing them. Both the kids and volunteers seemed to be having a great time playing with these puppets.

Vivid Festival ChatswoodFurther down Victoria Avenue is a fun moving light display full of dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures, which was particularly fun for the little kids to interact with. Vivid Festival Chatswood

Vivid Festival Chatswood

At the Interchange (next to the train station), is definitely the coolest part of the dinosaur spectacle. Large glowing and squawking pterodactyls soar up and down 3 stories, powered by visitors on step machines below. It’s definitely a sight.
Vivid Festival Chatswood

Finally, up at The District (dining district above The Interchange), the kids found the “crumbling bridge” – another light projection that young children were loving. Hushpuppy managed to “cross” the uneven bridge, and then looked up with amazement with it crumbled away under her feet.  We ran into some friends, and from The District, we decided the best way to end the night was with dumplings at Tim Ho Wan (can recommend!).

Lights at Chatswood are on at 5:30p.m. and there are plenty of dining options at Hawkers Lane, The District, and in between.

If you happen to be in Chatswood during the day, or between 5-7p.m. on a Thursday evening, there’s one more display you might try. On Level 1 at Chatswood Chase is “The Luminarium,” where kids (and grown ups, too) get to dress up in underwater explorer costumes and enter a “deep sea” adventure, mostly to do with projected light sea creatures and some mesh and light “jellyfish.” I wouldn’t say it’s worth a special trip, but if you’re there, it is fun for the kids to wear the costumes and enter through the secret door.Vivid Festival Luminarium

Taronga Zoo

We didn’t know what to expect when we booked tickets to the Vivid Festival at Taronga Zoo, as this was the first year they’ve had a display there. Our day finally arrived, and what a bummer – there was a huge rainstorm. On top of that, my daughter decided that she didn’t care to leave the house without her “super duper” jacket, which after running through all possible candidates, I found out was the one that was soaking wet in the washing machine. Though we’d been looking forward to it, none of us were in much of a mood as we arrived at Taronga!

The good news was that there was no crowd, thanks to the weather, and we hopped right onto our round trip ride on the Sky Train (booked through the ANZ Blue Pass, which is limited, but the same price as regular admission). The bad news is that we couldn’t see much out the windows, which were covered in rain. So much for our view of the city.

Aaah, but everything turned around when we got off, found that the rain had stopped, and started to make our way down the ramp into the zoo. The path was illuminated in blinking green rays of light that felt like stepping into a mystery jungle land.

From there, we spent an hour or so walking the well marked path with illuminated sculptures of endangered animals around every turn. “LOOK AT THAT!,” was Hushpuppy’s refrain for the remainder of the evening. Many of the displays moved or had an interactive quality, and zoo volunteers staffed each display, happy to tell you more about the animal.

Each display was just so beautiful and charming. I was particular to the gorgeous elephant, and Hushpuppy loved the tail-wagging tiger. Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

At a few spots along the walk, there were additional light displays, several of them made from paper lanterns shaped like animals, made by Sydney schoolchildren. Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

And, we got one final surprise on the way out – a real animal, out for a late night snack.Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

I was a little sad when we came to the end – I could easily have done another loop around, as it was all so magical. But, the parent in me knew that was pushing our luck way too hard with Little Miss Super Duper. Fortunately, on the way out, we had one more treat, which was the light and sound display that was projected on a loop on the front of the Taronga entrance. We’d passed by it on the way in, not wanting to stand in the rain, but settled in for the show on the way out. The theme was on human’s responsibility towards protecting endangered animals and featured moving images of all of the species that were displayed inside. It was gorgeous. I wanted to applaud at the end. Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo

If you’re thinking of going to Vivid at Taronga Zoo, do make sure to book your tickets online ahead of time. Lights are on at 5:30p.m. Food options are limited both inside and near Taronga Zoo, so either eat before, after, or bring food in with you.

The Vivid Festival runs through 18 June (Chatswood ends 13 June). If you’re attending with young children, my best recommendation is to head over the bridge for these perfect family nights at Chatswood and Taronga Zoo.

A Visit to Club Pippies in Chatswood Westfield

expat issues, Little Aussie

A Visit to Club Pippies

Edit: Club Pippies is, unfortunately, now closed.

Confession time: I get a little jealous – in particular, I turn a shade greener whenever I hear about fellow parents with family nearby. Such is life as an expat parent (parents with families out of state, who don’t have a great relationship, or whose family is no longer with us – I see you, too). For us expats, of course it was our choice to step away from our village, but sometimes I do have a quiet twinge of envy towards people who can manage a date with their partner while the grandparents take the reins for a few hours, or get to run a couple of errands, while leaving the kids for some quality time with aunts and uncles. So, when I was invited to visit Club Pippies at Chatswood Westfield, I was intrigued by their “Shop and Drop” program, where parents can leave their kids with the staff while they do their shopping, or sit outside and get some work done using the free WiFi.

Not quite “baking cookies with grandma” level, but it still sounded pretty good.

Club Pippies Chatswood

We popped into Club Pippies on a weekday afternoon, and it was fairly quiet, but Hushpuppy still quickly found a couple of friends to conspire with. She did some painting and craft with little boy, whose mum had gone out for a some shopping. Then, she and another girl ran into the big play gym with one of the staff members, from where she occasionally poked her head out over the next two hours, just to tell me that she’d mastered the slide or that they’d renamed all the balls from the ball pit after fruits. Actual acts of bribery were required to convince her to leave as we inched close to dinner time. Meanwhile, I sat at one of the tables in the cafe drinking my coffee, wondering why I hadn’t brought a nice book to read, or my grocery list to tackle alone.

Grocery shopping alone. Even big dreams can come true.

Craft at Club Pippies

Nailed it!

Club Pippies Westfield

The club’s manager told me that they always have activities on for the kids, and that they change them out during the day. All of the staff have First Aid certificates and Working With Children checks.

I loved how the staff got the kids playing cooperatively together. Sometimes play centers can turn a little Lord of the Flies and it’s every pre-schooler for himself, but the staff kept saying, “would you like to play with Bobby?” and “Look, you and Anna can play with this together!” – and so play together they did. They remembered off of the kid’s names, and knew the particular interests of the frequent attendees.

Club Pippies accepts children from 6 weeks onward, and run extra activities during school holidays. Parents can either “Stay and Play” ($12 for 30 minutes up to $25 for 2 hours) or “Shop and Drop” ($18 for 30 minutes up to $45 for 3 hours). I asked for the full lowdown on the monthly membership because I really felt like some of my expat parents will get something out of it, so here’s the deal: For $99 per month, you can bring one child as many as 3 times per week for up to 2 hours per session. If you do the math, that’s not quite as cheap as Grandma would be, but a lot less than a babysitter or occasional care in Sydney.

**I got a little cheeky, and asked if Club Pippies could sweeten the deal even further for my people, and they said, “yep, sure thing.” So, mention Between Roots and Wings, and you’ll get $20 off your first month’s membership. (Club Pippies does require that you commit to at least 2 month’s membership, and then you’re free to cancel with at least 2 week’s notice).**Club Pippies Chatswood**I did not receive any compensation to write about our visit to Club Pippies, though our visit was complimentary.


If you go…

Club Pippies – Level 6 at Chatswood Westfield
Website / Facebook 
Email: chatswood@pippies.com.au / Phone: 9419 5050
Suitable for ages 6 weeks up.
I’d suggest dressing kids in something suitable for craft and active play.
Mention this blog for $20 off your first month’s membership.

The Introverted Expat Makes Friends

expat issues

Makes FriendsOur little daughter went through a shy phase awhile back. She would literally hide her face if a stranger even looked in her direction. She liked her friends, but if some nice grandmother on the bus looked up from the afghan she was knitting to give her a smile, my shrinking violet buried her head in my chest for the rest of the trip. It was a little embarrassing, but I really got where she was coming from. I’m introverted, and a shy introvert, at that, and though I’ve learned to fake it pretty expertly, sometimes new people make me feel like burying my head for the whole trip, too. I love being social and having great friends, but I like intimate groups, small talk stresses me out, and I hate being someplace loud where you can’t have a meaningful conversation.

Moving to a new country where I knew no one but my guy (who also knew almost no one, but has the distinct advantage of being the King of the Extroverts) was a particular challenge for a shy but social introvert. But, can I brag for a tiny moment? Right, thanks – so, I haven’t aced every aspect of expat life, but I feel I’ve done pretty OK on this whole making friends business, despite myself. I call some of the best and most loyal people friends today, and I love that about my life here. So, for all the introverted expats – I know I’m not the only one – these have been my best tactics:

Online Friend-Dating

When we first arrived, we hauled ourselves around to expat meetups and social events. I took classes and got out of the house every single day. That’s what “How to Make Friends” guides  tell you to do it. Except, those things are written for extroverts.

Big groups just are not the way that introverts make friends. We hate small talk, and “meetups” are about 98% “Where are you from? How long have you been here? What brought you here? And you?” I wanted to kick a wall every time we left one. And, as for classes and just walking around the grocery store, I’m about as likely to strike up a conversation with a stranger as I am to learn to love Vegemite toast.

The beautiful thing about meeting people on the Internet first is that you can cut the small talk, and when you do decide to meet in person, it’s because there’s already some kind of friend-spark. I’ve met people through blogging, expat forums, and Facebook groups.

You do have to put yourself out there on the Internet. You can’t just be a “watcher.” It’s good to try to get the lay of the land when you first join an online group or forum, but once you’ve picked up the tone, jump in on conversations you find interesting, and be yourself. We introverts are often at our best in writing, where you can avoid, “I can’t believe I just said that,” “oh my god, I have no idea where this story is going…,” and “did I just snort when I laughed? Did she notice? Why? Whyyyyyyy?!?“.

Online friend-courtship is your chance to make a great  impression, showing off your smartest and wittiest side long before your first pig snort laugh.Computer

Be the Cruise Director

Here’s the secret about making friendships. Almost everyone wants new friends. Very few people want to be the one organizing the get-togethers where you’ll meet new friends. It’s a pain to organize things. You have to stick your neck out and get everyone to agree. You have to pick a date. And get everyone to agree. You have to find a venue, which is ridiculously hard. And get everyone to agree. Then, people will want to change the time, find out if they can bring their sister, or just cancel at the last minute. This is why no one wants to do it.Cruise Director

Nonetheless, I like to be the Cruise Director sometimes. For 4th of July, we threw a little party for American families in our section of Sydney. That’s a pretty limited group, which is exactly how this introvert likes it. We picked a spot and time, told everyone to bring a dish, tossed up a few balloons, and I think everyone had a nice time. We had 5 families in total, which is the perfect number for me – enough to feel festive, but not so many that you get that crushed in a crowded room feeling. When you host, people will naturally talk to you, which is half of the shy person’s battle.

Sometimes it’s as simple as asking someone else to coffee. I think “we live in neighboring suburbs, we both have toddlers, and that thing you said online made me laugh” is more than enough reason to suggest meeting up. I can’t remember ever being turned down for a coffee date. Sometimes they go nowhere, but sometimes it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Identify a People Connector

There are people in this world who love nothing more than meeting new people and putting them together with other people. A Friend Emissary, if you will. If you’re an introverted expat trying to make friends, you should do your best to befriend at least one of these people. Luckily, I’ve met a couple, and I can trace almost my entire network of friends back to these people. The good news is that Friend Emissaries love making new friends, so if you’re open, there’s a good chance that you’ll get one in your corner.People Who Need People

Fear Not the Extroverts

Real life talk here: Extroverts often stress me out, and I can feel myself immediately trying to back slowly out of the room when I come across some of the particularly boisterous members of Tribe Extrovert. I always thought that I was just choosy about people until I read a quote that, to paraphrase, said that introverts are sometimes wary of extroverts because we feel that they “steal our energy.” That was a ding-ding-ding moment for me. The other thing about extroverts that, for me, is hard to understand, is that they are so social, have so many friends and obligations, that it’s hard to feel that you are an important part of their life. And so, consciously or unconsciously, I have tended to keep extroverts at bay, in terms of friendships (which is crazy because I married an extrovert!).Extrovert

It is only recently that I’ve realized how unfair and limiting this bias has been. Yes, there are shallow “energy thieves” in this world – and we’d all do well to steer clear of them – but that’s not all extroverts. I’ve discovered that I need to manage my interactions with extroverts, where possible, and be together in smaller groups or one-on-one, rather than at large gatherings. This has the dual benefit of allowing me more introvert-energy to commit to the friendship, as well as allowing me to feel like we’re connecting on that deeper level that we introverts crave. I have some very close extrovert friends, and they all understand that I’m always good for a lunch date, but probably going to pass on the big party where I know no one else.

Oh, and don’t forget – the Friend Emissaries I mentioned above – pretty exclusively extroverts. Love the extroverts, and they will love you back.

Don’t Chicken Out!

There’s a joke that introverts think, “I love making plans so that I can cancel them.”Canceling Plans

I’m always enthusiastic when I make plans, but then the date comes closer, and it seems like a lot to put on the clothes, catch the bus, find the restaurant – every part of the event that isn’t me in yoga pants watching Nashville. Many of us introverts imagine our energy being sapped long before it’s even happened. And, if there are going to be new people there, even more so.

But, then I get there, and 98% of the time, it’s really fun. Is that your experience, too?

Repeat after me: Don’t cancel. It will be fun, and it will be worth it.

Follow Up

I’m not great at this, and should really heed my own advice. You found someone rad to friend-date because you made each other laugh in a Facebook group. You had coffee, and the conversation flowed nicely, and you were both like, “hey, we should try that new hot chocolate and brownies pop up cafe that’s opening next week!” (*If only*).

Then, maybe you go home, and you think, “well, I had a good time, but I did say that one awkward thing, and also I snort-laughed, so I wonder if I came across as kind of weird…?” She’s probably super busy, anyway. And, then you think you’ll text tomorrow … the next day … after the weekend … and it just gets away from you. Here’s the thing – there’s a very good chance, that she went home and thought some of the same things.

There’s a bit of a narcissistic tendency many of us introverts have to think that we are the only ones with self-doubt and insecurities, and I think we probably need to try to get over ourselves. Be the one to pick up the phone, write the text, be brave enough to say you had a fun time, and set up the next get-together.  Making plans

Allow For One Flake Out (Way More If You’re Parents)

You’ve made the plans, and you’re psyched for the hot chocolate and brownie cafe on Tuesday afternoon. Tuesday at 10a.m. she cancels because she’s “not feeling 100%”. That’s a bummer (but also a tiny bit not because Nashville is not going to watch itself, am I right?). Reschedule. One flake out is allowed. Maybe she’s cancelling because she changed her mind, but maybe she’s about to come down with a raging flu, or maybe she’s going through some tough stuff at home that she’s not ready to talk about, yet. Let it slide. But, when the flake outs become regular, that’s not on. No adults need that in their lives. One flake out, totally fine. Multiple flake outs – probably time to move along.

UNLESS. Unless you’re both parents. Then, the flake out rule goes to, I don’t know, 7 in a row? 9? Because, let’s get real, you’re going to be pulling the, “sorry, Kenny has a runny nose, and it’s clear, but – I don’t know – he’s just not acting like himself” line out plenty of times in this friendship, too. Sorry I Was Late

Keep At It

Unfortunately for us introverts – and, especially we introverted expats – this work of making new friends is never done. It’s like laundry. As long as you want clean clothes people to spend quality time with, you have to keep at it. Friendships ebb and flow, and the reality of expat friendships is that someone is always moving on. But, the fortunate part of this cycle is that you never know what extraordinary person might walk into your life tomorrow. Keep at it. Be bold. Do the work. The really special people make it all worth it. Ghost friends

How to Ride Sydney Buses with a Stroller Like a Pro


How to Ride Sydney Buses With a StrollerSince landing in Australia, I’ve done everything possible to avoid driving. Lucky for me, Sydney public transport pretty good, and there are rarely places I can’t get by bus, train, or ferry. When I started my Mother’s Group, it actually came as a shock to me that all the other local mothers drove, as a lot of my expat friends were also non-drivers. Never one to conform, I was determined to carry on riding public transport, baby in tow.

Trains and ferries are fairly straightforward, but catching the bus with a stroller (pram) is a different animal. Like going out to eat or boarding an airplane with your new baby, riding the bus can seem daunting for a new parent. Will I know how to get on and off? Will I be able to balance everything? Will the bus driver gnarl at me if I’m not fast enough? Will the other passengers shoot me death rays from their eyes if my baby cries? I know I’m not alone in this, as many people have told me that they find the prospect of riding the bus with a stroller daunting, and I, too, was so nervous on my first few trips. Having been riding Sydney buses with a young child for over 3 years now, I think I’m a bit of an expert, and I want to share with you my top tips for riding Sydney buses with a stroller.

Catching the Bus

Your best option for riding a bus with a stroller is to catch an accessible bus. If you’re able to plan ahead, use the Transport NSW Trip Planner tool. Look for buses with the wheelchair symbol. Most accessible buses will also have the wheelchair symbol displayed on the front or side. Accessible Bus

For the official word on riding an accessible bus, this is Transport NSW’s policy.
As for my suggestions …

  • Hail the bus, as usual, then have a look to see if there is space for your stroller. Most accessible buses have two areas where the seats fold up for wheelchairs and prams. They are usually red seats across from each other near the front of the bus (just behind the luggage racks), or sometimes they are closer to the middle door. If both sections are taken with wheelchairs or prams, you’ll either have to wait for the next bus, or choose to fold your pram (more on this later).
  • Assuming there is room, the bus driver should lower the bus for you (though, honestly, I can manage even if they don’t). Push on your handle bar to lift up the front wheels of your pram, and lift it on board. Remember to tap your Opal card.
  • If there are people sitting in the accessible seats, and they don’t automatically move, you may need to ask them nicely if they’d mind sitting elsewhere. 99% of the time, people are happy to make room for you, though very rarely I’ve had someone either rude or completely oblivious. *Do be mindful that there are people with invisible disabilities for whom changing seats may pose a problem, so if you’ve asked nicely and been told, “I’m not able,” please don’t press the issue.
  • Fold up the seats, and move your stroller into place, facing backwards, and apply the brake. There is also a seatbelt that can be looped around the stroller’s handle for extra safety. I don’t often use it, but you will occasionally get a driver who insists that you do, which if fine.
  • If you’re nervous about riding the bus with a stroller, definitely do your first couple of trips outside of peak hour when the buses aren’t as full and people are less frenzied.
  • And, you’re all set. Enjoy the ride – could be your first chance to sit all day! And, if your baby cries, don’t stress it. 90% of the passengers have headphones in, anyway!

Getting Off the Bus

  • Ring the bell for your stop, as you normally would. Wait until the bus has come to a full stop to take the brake off the stroller and begin to roll towards the exit. You never know when a bus can make a sudden stop, so seriously –  always err on the side of caution.
  • If the bus driver notices you getting off, she will often stop any passengers who are getting on, as there’s really not enough room for you both to pass. If not, you may just need to ask them nicely if you can pass.
  • *This is my number one tip for riding the bus with a stroller* When exiting the bus – GO BACKWARDS. I can’t tell you how much easier it is to get your stroller off the bus if you pull it, rather than push. You can step down first, then pull down the back wheels, then front wheels. It’s far more manageable than trying to push your stroller off the cliff that is the bus step.
    If you take nothing else away from this article – go backwards!

Oh, and don’t forget to thank your driver and tap off with your Opal card.

Non-Accessible Buses

Don’t even get me started on why Sydney Buses even have non-accessible buses in their fleet. Can you imagine the frustration if you’re a wheelchair user? Completely not cool, in my opinion. Yet, they do exist. I had a chat to a bus driver about this once, and he told me that the plan is to have all buses accessible by 2018, so that’s still awhile before the non-accessible ones are out of the equation. Based on my experience – and completely unscientific – I’d guess that maybe 10-15% of Sydney buses are not wheelchair/pram compliant. So, if you’re a frequent rider, you’re going to get one of these, eventually. As I said above, your best bet is to pre-plan for an accessible bus. However, often you’re just rocking up to the closest stop, and hoping to catch the next bus that comes, and pre-planning isn’t possible.

Here are my suggestions:

  • Ask the driver (nicely) if you can push your pram in between the red seats. The non-accessible buses have a bank of four seats in the front which face each other. If the bus isn’t busy, some drivers won’t mind if you just push your pram in between these two seats. Be aware, that you do this at your own risk, and the drivers can’t guarantee the same level of safety as in an accessible bus. And, some will downright refuse, which they are completely within their rights to do.
  • Can you fold your stroller? If your stroller isn’t too unwieldy and you don’t have a lot of shopping in the basket, consider folding and storing your pram in the luggage rack. Only do this if you’re comfortable folding and lifting your stroller with one hand (baby in the other arm, of course!), as it is unlikely that the driver will help you.
  • Wait for the next bus. Such is the reality of public transport – sometimes it’s just necessary to wait for the next bus. As much as possible, leave yourself extra time when travelling. Thankfully, the chances are that the next bus will be accessible.

Choose Your Stroller Wisely

If you are an infrequent rider of public transport, bus riding won’t play much into your selection, but if you think that you and your little one may hop the bus with some regularity, I urge you to take that into consideration when purchasing your pram/stroller. A couple of things to think about:

  • Can you fold it easily? As I talked about above, there are times when the ability to fold your stroller may mean the difference between getting on the bus or waiting for the next one, and with a cranky baby, the wait can seem like an eternity. Even accessible buses can get full – I’ve been on a bus leaving the beach with as many as six strollers – two parked and four folded up in the luggage rack! Make sure that you can fold your stroller with one hand, and that you can lift it at least to shoulder height for storing it.
  • Is it light? You definitely want a light stroller if you’re storing it, but not having to push too much extra weight will also just make things easier for you as you maneuver on and off. Don’t forget that you’ll also have several kilos of baby, a nappie bag, and maybe even some shopping tucked away. Make it easier on yourself with a lighter pram.
  • Double strollers. If you have more than one child in a stroller, I highly recommend that you get a double stroller with the seats above and below, rather than the side-by-side style if you’ll be riding the bus with any regularity. All strollers need to fit within certain width guidelines (less than 800mm wide), and it’s very hard to get through the aisle with a side-by-side stroller. I have actually seen a mother refused a ride because her double pram was too wide.

How to Be an Awesome Bus Rider 

So maybe you’re not riding with a stroller (I don’t know how you made it to the end of this article, but cheers!). As a mother with a stroller, this is what I’d say to my fellow passengers who want to be awesome:

  • If you’re sitting in the accessible seats (the ones that fold up), please don’t zone out or get so engrossed in your phone that you don’t notice when someone who needs that seat – either because of a wheelchair or stroller – gets on the bus. Don’t make us ask you to move, if moving does not pose a physical issue for you. Be rad and jump up when you see us coming. Extra awesome points for the people who push the seats up for us. Yes, I can do it, but it’s a kind gesture. Your parents raised you well.
  • If you’re getting on the bus, take a moment to look down the aisle to see if anyone with a stroller is getting off. If they are, stand to the side at street level, and let them pass before you step on. I promise the bus won’t leave without you.
  • Offer help, if you’re able. It’s so nice when I’m stepping on the bus and someone offers to lift up my pram, or on the odd occasion when I’ve had to fold my stroller – yes! I could so use your help, thank you! I don’t actually typically need help when I’m getting on and off, so I sometimes decline with what I hope are profuse and sincere enough thank yous, but you never know who does, so it’s really lovely to offer. It just makes everyone feel happy, you know?
  • Don’t give the stink eye if a baby is crying on your bus. Actually, this is just a good general rule in life. Babies cry. Move along.

There are a lot of perks to using public transport – better for the environment, not having to find parking at the other end, letting someone else deal with the traffic jams – and having a stroller shouldn’t be a deterrent to choosing this method for getting around. Let me know if you give it a try. I expect you’ll also be an expert in a couple of trips.


Do you ride the bus with a stroller? Have I missed any pro tips? 

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The Zebra Conundrum Part 2: Notes on a Third Culture Kid’s Accent

language, Little Aussie

Notes on a Third Culture Kid's Accent“She’s been telling us all the names for this,” the daycare worker told me this morning, holding up a garden toy. “She said it’s a spade, and can also be called a shovel.” That’s my cunning little AusMerican, showing off a skill she’s worked out all on her own.

Last year, I wrote “The Zebra Conundrum,” a post where I talked about choosing whether to pronounce words my way (American) or the Australian way when talking to and reading with my 2 year old burgeoning talker. At that point, it still wasn’t clear what words she would pick up, with what pronunciation, or if she’d find it all terribly confusing. I was certainly finding it confusing.

When I’m speaking to Australians, I’m pretty good about changing my language from Yank to Aussie, but it feels odd to do so when speaking to my nearest and dearest. Like a fraud. Or, a even a betrayal.

Maybe that was a smidge dramatic.

Today, I have a 3 year old chatterbox, and the funniest thing has happened. Australians tell me that she has an American accent. Americans, on the other hand, hear an Australian accent. And, I can see where they’re both coming from.

At the gym creche, the Australian workers like to ask her to say “soccer” because they think it’s cute how she says “sock-ER,” not “SOCK-a.” Yet, I’m continually taken aback when she asks to eat a “to-mah-toe.” Yet, somehow, she requests a “buh-NAN-uh,” not “BAN-nan-uh.”

The other day, she ran up to this thing at the playground, and told me – Notes on a Third Culture Kid's Accent

…”I want to go on the roundabout…” It took me a moment to even remember which country calls it that.

It became clear to me that she’d picked up on the social nuances one day when we were out with a British friend of mine. Hushpuppy had chosen a doll, and she marched up to my friend and told her that the baby was wearing a (*insert nearly indiscernible pause*) “nappie,” despite the fact that I have only ever called them “diapers” at home. Somehow she knew that my friend, who speaks with a different accent than her mother, would know them as “nappies.”

When I wrote about the Zebra Conundrum, I was mostly concerned with how my word and pronunciation choices were going to impact her future language. What I didn’t give nearly enough credit to was TV. We like our ABC Kids in this home, and they show programs from Australia, England, and the U.S. I believe that, more than anything I’ve done or not done, that the mix of accents from The Wiggles, Peppa Pig, Curious George, and so forth, has impacted her fluidity in moving between accents. I don’t know how else you can explain the way she occasionally whips out the most British sounding “mummy!” just like our hero, Peppa Pig.

She also recently began childcare, and looking around her center, she’s surrounded by a lot of other Third Culture Kids, who will surely be leaving little linguistic stamps on each other, as their language develops together.

From before she was even born, everyone we know wondered how her accent would turn out. Meryl Streep or Nicole Kidman? Or, Guy Ritchie era Madonna?

While it’s still a work in progress, it would seem that she’s sounding exactly as she ought to – one part her parents, one part her culture, and a big sprinkling of her own wits, desires, and charm.Notes on the accent of a Third Culture Kid