1 year in Oz... where did the time go?

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January 2nd 2015
Published: October 25th 2015
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And so more than a year had passed by already... Actually it’s closing up on two years already, however I had started writing this blog some time last year already so in the end just decided to stick to the original idea of 1 year in Australia roundup... Where did the time go?

The over 24-hour journey to Australia at the beginning of January 2014 seems like a distant memory now. But then a part of this journey will probably always stay in my mind as it most certainly wasn’t an uneventful one... Hey! It even made the news in Australia the following day! Yep I was lucky enough (or maybe unlucky, depends on how you look at it really) to be on a flight where one of the passengers decided to cause quite a bit of disturbance... We were quite close to our destination already, well close for Australian standards at least, as we had only just passed Alice Springs when suddenly two rows in front of me something started brewing... A big group of people gathered around one guy and soon after he was on the floor...He??? What the hell was going on? Apparently the passenger despite the stewards telling him numerous times not to smoke in the plane, decided to have a smoke anyway... First in the toilet and later on didn’t even bother to hide it anymore and tried to light it sitting on his chair! There wasn’t the end of it though, as when he was told AGAIN to put down the cigarette, he seemed to have lost it and decided to smoke outside the plane I guess as he ran to the emergency door and pulled the handle!! To say that caused quite a bit of a commotion in the plane would probably be an understatement... Stewards were doing the best they could to calm the troublemaker, but seeing they all looked like they were well under 50kg they simply weren’t strong enough and a few passengers had to step in to help out. One of the stewards even got hurt as his shoulder seemed a bit out of place, no doubt dislocated... In the end there was no other way to keep the troublemaker in his sit but to tie him up, or tie his hands at least... Can’t say he didn’t ask for it though! Once we got to Brisbane we had to wait for the police to come and pick him up, also some of the passengers were asked to leave their statements... What a bizarre journey! I sure was happy when we finally got off the plane... A few days after they showed the ‘rebel’ on the news appearing n court and complaining how poorly he was treated on the flight, showing the ’wounds’ on his hands... All this drama didn’t seem to work too well for him though as in the end he was told to leave Australia – turned out to be a short trip to Oz for the guy and one in a lifetime for that matter as well as he said he would never be back – what a shame! 😉 I guess the moral of the whole story is if you can’t handle the drink you shouldn’t even be sniffing the bottle...

After such an eventful welcome to Australia, I was wondering how the next few months would enfold... Well... it was all about settling in and the next few months turned out to be very uneventful in the end... Just trying to get to know the place and get that homey feeling again... Can’t say it worked very well though... One thing’s for sure I had A LOT of time on my hands and no ideas what to do with it really... It’s great to hear when people are moving countries and have no problems settling down – everything pre-arranged and ready for the big move... Seems almost effortless... That wasn’t exactly the case for me... When choosing the country we would settle down in, we didn’t really have much choice seeing how fresh our relationship still was and how many different immigration rules each country has... With Europe still struggling with recession and immigration rules slightly stricter than before, Australia seemed like the best option in the end... For us as a couple of course, slightly less great for me really... The immigration process seemed like a never-ending story and it surely would take a while before I could even think of looking for a job... No working permit, no job searching – as easy as that! First we had to wait for our relationship to ‘mature’ a bit before I could even apply for a proper visa... Partner visa was the only one we could apply for in the end as sadly I didn’t qualify for any other ones... Either too old (yep, slightly shocked about this one too!) as work & travel only good until you reach 30, you’re basically considered retired after that... 😉 Skilled visa for a graduate of finance – no chances whatsoever... So partner visa it had to be then in the end – after all that was the main reason for me being here at all...

A bit over four months to spare until our first anniversary and until I could apply then... So the first few months I was basically still a tourist (according to my visa at least but also I was actually feeling like one too! New surroundings... new climate... everything new actually!)... Not much travelling going on during those months though... Grant was working full time and I wasn’t exactly too keen on travelling on my own anymore... Besides I was still very much in my thoughts in Asia and on top of that my head was still set on Asian prices it would seem as the Aussie prices were slightly overwhelming to say the least! $20 and up for a meal, $10 for a pint of beer? Yep, it would take some time to get used to this new reality... I can’t say we didn’t do any sightseeing at all though... Almost every weekend we had a little (or bigger) trip planned somewhere... Not too far away, but then you don’t really need to go too far to find a nice spot somewhere... So many lovely places to see around... Still during the week it was up to me to fill in the free time somehow... Seeing that we lived (and still do) 40 km from Brisbane and had only one car for the first few months, my options were quite limited to say the least... And I didn’t even realise how hot the Australian summers can be – as much as I love the sun, with day after day of scorching sun, I was really looking forward to some rain... Who would’ve thought? 😉 Let me just say I definitely caught up on sleeping the first few months... Besides that I just turned into a bit of a housewife... Cleaning, shopping, cooking... yep... and a few classes of yoga a week... Still days and months seemed to have flown by... Now when I’m looking back at all these months I definitely could’ve done much, much more... At the time though I felt like with every day stayed at home my confidence was decreasing and so the will to do something more did also... I had struggled before with my first move from Poland to Holland years back so before I came to Australia, I said to myself that I will do my best not to fall into the same patterns again. Somehow that was exactly what was happening though... And the more I was thinking about it, the more lost I seemed... I guess my expectations were a bit too high... and the plan of making new friends and ‘merging’ into Australian society straight after coming to Oz was far, far away... There is a Polish saying which goes more or less like: ‘There is nothing difficult for someone who really wants it’... Well... As much as I really wanted it to happen, I can’t say I did my best to make it happen... And seeing how much of a ‘shy beast’ I can be sometimes (my friend called me like that once and it kind of just got stuck in my head), it takes me a while to warm up to people... Checking my territory first and then slowly opening up...

So my first half year in Australia wasn’t exactly that great after all... Lots and lots of ups and downs... one day happy, one day depressed, feeling sorry for myself... Yeah... Not what I had in mind... I moved the countries before so I should have been prepared for it... Moving from Holland to Ireland couldn’t have been any easier, but then I did get a job in the first week of being there, so that made things much, much easier... Moving to Holland was a different case as I didn’t have a work permit then either – in 2004 only Ireland & UK were welcoming the citizens from new EU member states with open arms, Holland still had plenty of restrictions... It had been a difficult time for me then, so I knew that I would have to be a bit more creative when settling in Oz... But in the end things got on top of me again... It’s quite disappointing looking back at my first few months in Australia now... I could’ve done so much more... Hey, I probably could’ve even learned a new language by now! Ah well... Another series of valuable lessons learned and time to move on...

Eventually when I did get the work permit and finally started working in August, things started looking much brighter around me... I found myself walking on the streets and smiling again... After all, I dreamt of living in this country once so you could say that I was actually living the dream now! What was it that I was complaining about before??? What’s even more important, once I started bringing in the ‘big bucks’ (not really, but getting paid on a weekly basis certainly makes you feel like you have cash in your pockets all the time) I didn’t feel as guilty treating myself (and Grant of course) to a lunch or dinner here and there and some weekend trips around. The time seemed to have been flying by much faster when I started working also... 3 hours a day commuting to and back from work (yes, we might be living in a beautiful spot but it sure is a bit away from Brisbane CBD), around 8 hours of working which seemed to have gone in a blink of an eye actually (pretty busy environment what can I say?), dinner, a bit of relaxing after dinner, sleep and back to work again... Quickly fell into the routine – work, weekend, work, weekend... with a few extras in between like Trivia Tuesdays in a local pub (sorry hotel!) for example, quite a lot of fun I have to say!

Thankfully the whole year didn’t evolve around work only (or the lack of it in the first half year)... After all I was starting my life in a new country once again and getting used to its ways... First of all it was all about exploring the greater Brisbane area and northern New South Wales... What can I say? Australia is definitely not a bad place to live in... Every weekend (or throughout the week) you can find plenty of things to do – markets, festivals, rugby games, strolls on the gorgeous empty or full beaches (depending what you prefer), short or slightly longer rainforest walks, ... the list is endless... and the best part of it is that you don’t have to wait or hope for the nice, sunny day to do any of that as on the contrary to Ireland, there are very few bad weather days here (cloudy or rainy day comes as a relief in Australia I have to say though, for me at least!)...

So we definitely took advantage of the beautiful sunny days exploring the ‘nearby’ areas – nearby definitely has a different meaning in Australia to a nearby I am used to... I did mention that in the previous blogs already - one thing that never ceases to amaze me in this country is its landscapes and wildlife. Even seeing a kangaroo or koala road sign by the road was getting me all excited for the first few months living here! I was slightly less excited to see the kangaroos by the road when I was driving, especially after dark! Not to mention that I was (and still am!) quite broken-hearted seeing so many dead animals... Makes you wonder whether people here are such reckless drivers that they don’t even bother slowing down for the roos or whether it’s the roos that are slightly road dumb? I say probably a bit of both but more inclined to blame the reckless drivers!
hello there little fellow!hello there little fellow!hello there little fellow!

always petrified seeing the wallabies so close to the roads :(
What can I say? Quite a lot of idiots on the roads in here for sure! But then I guess you can find them anywhere in the world, right?

Out of all the places we’ve been to during my stay here I have to say that still Tamborine Mountain and area between Kingscliff and Hasting’s Point in northern NSW are my favourite spots. Tamborine Mountain has so much to offer – first of all a slightly cooler weather due to its altitude, but also lots of things to do: lovely markets every 2nd Sunday of the month with some local artists, little rainforests walks, skywalk, little creeks, picnic sites and lots and lots of nice spots to sit and enjoy a meal or a pint of beer. Few definite favourites here – Clancy’s: nothing beats a proper Irish bar with live Irish music and food and what’s more important no TVs and pokies!!!! (Seriously shocked about this whole pokies thing here – why on earth would anyone find gambling away their money in that way is beyond my comprehension! Don’t see anything entertaining about it at all...), local brewery at Gallery Walk: which actually changed its name (and owners) already since I’ve been here, still great beer and live music during weekends, Polish Place: first of all because it brings me back home for a moment and because of its location and ‘wildlife’ as well – absolutely stunning views from the terrace, some wild birds around and quite a few ‘domesticated’ rainbow lorikeets as well (they seem to be living here and to be fed here – sometimes helping themselves to customers’ food also). As for the food I can’t say I tried too many things here as spending $30 for a portion of ‘pierogi’ or ‘bigos’ seems quite ridiculous to me seeing that I actually can and do make it myself sometimes for a 10th of the price, but the restaurant seems to be always full during the weekends so assuming whatever they are serving here should be good. Service is quite disappointing though – no attention to customers at all and slow as hell (I’d say mostly because the waiters are quite unexperienced – I’d say average age is 18?), but overall I still like coming here – after all it’s as close as I can get to feeling at home...

As for the Kingscliff to Hasting’s Point area what can I say, simply love it! And not too difficult to guess, it’s all about the beach here – lovely, empty beaches and beautiful and quiet paths to walk on along the coast... So relaxing... And a nice place to watch the whales from Cabarita as well...

Apart from the visits to Tamborine and northern NSW we did plenty of other things in and around Brisbane. Brisbane itself has a few nice spots to hang around – South Bank always good for a stroll, market and live music during the weekends, not to mention all the festivals happening around here as well – Latin, French, Food festival... you name it... You can also stroll along the Brisbane river or simply take one of the boats (some are even free!). Definitely Brisbane is quite a charming city...

There are plenty of events throughout the year you can go to as well – obviously this involves a bit of money, but hey! Once you’re actually earning some bucks you can treat yourself to little luxuries like that once in a while... So we took the opportunity to go to a few concerts – New Zealand festival and Day on the Green being two biggest ones we went to probably (I couldn’t believe that people – and so did we actually also – come to these events with all sorts of equipment with them, chairs, blankets, baskets full of food... I can’t say I have ever been to any concerts like that, but really loved the idea of it!). And finally there were a few rugby games we simply couldn’t miss in 2014... When Crusaders came to Brisbane there was no way Grant would skip that! 😊 Also Rugby 7s was taking place the last time on the Gold Coast that year, so there was no chance we were missing out on this event either. There was no semi-naked haka this year unfortunately as New Zealand didn’t make it to the final, still it was as entertaining as the first time and I can certainly say I know a few more rugby rules after watching so many games now for sure!

Since not all the animals are that easy to spot in the wild, I just knew that if I really wanted to see some of the Aussie animals and hug a koala J we would eventually need to visit one of the many wildlife parks around. I know that hugging a koala is probably not on everyone’s list and seeing how shy these cuddly animals are, the act of hugging is definitely more entertaining for the hugger rather than for the poor marsupial for sure, still with a guilty conscience I have to say that it was on my ‘to do’ list ever since I thought of coming to Australia, so it just had to be done sooner or later... But then I’m not the only one that had this idea stuck in her head after all... Just before G20 I have even read in a paper that at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary they were training koalas to be cuddlier! More cuddly for G20 leaders that is! Talking about priorities right? 😉 I was wondering how they were going to get all the leaders there and thought that it seemed like a lot of hassle to be honest – closing the park and probably all the roads leading to it, not to mention all the security involved in this ‘operation’... Well it looked like the organisers of the ‘hug the G20 leaders operation’ thought more or less the same and rather than bringing the guests to meet the koalas to the park, gorgeous marsupials were brought to the leaders instead... Well how about that?

I knew I would have to make a bit more of an effort for it to happen for me. And after all it’s not a really difficult thing to do at all... I can only assume that most of the animal parks in Australia give you an opportunity to get closer to one of these little cute marsupials… for a price of course! So the only thing is to empty your pockets to do so... It’s not exactly a cheap pleasure... As I came first to Oz with nothing but my backpack and a backpacker budget! and straight from Asia for that matter as well! spending $100 for a cuddle with koala seemed a bit too much I have to say – and that’s only taking 2 entry tickets and a photo into account… Once I finally started working and discovered that they do have Groupon in Australia as well, I got a bit closer to my special encounter. What can I say? $40 for 2 tickets sounds way better than $49 for one for sure!

So all was left to do was to choose a weekend to go... and enjoy it! And that’s exactly what happened... We went to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary one Saturday morning, camera in hand and a big smile on my face... So exciting! So far I’ve seen 3 koalas in Daisy Hill Koala Centre, so suddenly being surrounded by tens of them was quite a surprise... They are just absolutely adorable! And quite smelly as it turned out... Not that it really matters to be honest... just an observation! 😉 So we went straight into business, paid for the photo (once in a lifetime so $20 for one picture didn’t hurt as much), got in line... Line moving quickly... Woohoo! Our turn! Gorgeous little thing was set gently on my hands, smile for the camera... and that’s it, time to give room to other people behind us...

And that was my 30 seconds of guilty pleasure... And another hour and a half (or more!) feeling like a koala... Or maybe more just smelling like one? 😉 Was it totally worth it? I’d say – yes it was, as it definitely put a massive smile on my face and in the end I am hoping that the money we paid for this 30 second experience would be used to take good care of these gorgeous marsupials...

2014 was a big year for Brisbane as the city was hosting G20 summit that year... Have to say that the whole preparation for it definitely created more fuss in the city than the G20 itself... Closing the streets, offices shutting down (including mine – the building itself was shut that is, as we were still working, only from home – for the whole G20 week actually!), helicopters flying all around and increased police forces on the streets... Even 2 bomb scares in the week leading up to the summit – in the end it just turned out to be confused tourists leaving their bags unattended, especially one of them caused a bit of a trouble as a few offices had to be evacuated... Then in the end maybe it’s best to be extra cautious? Especially nowadays... When the G20 finally came, there seem to be almost no one left in town or maybe people were just hiding from the heat as massive heatwave hit Brisbane that week! We made it to Brisbane on the last day of G20 and I can honestly say that there seemed to be more policemen at South Bank than passers by... but then walking in 42 degrees wasn’t that pleasurable for sure! And no leaders in sight! 😉

Finally I had a chance to experience one of the worst storms recorded in Brisbane in the last years! And I was just in the middle of it! In the office we just watched as the massive storm clouds started heading in our direction and then in no time at all it was just the sound of golf ball sized hail hitting the windows... Pretty scary to be honest as it felt like the windows might not hold and sitting on the 35th floor watching and hearing all that surely was quite terrifying... 15 minutes later it was all over! It was just a matter of getting home now... When I left the building I was absolutely shocked how much chaos this 15 minute storm had caused! Broken tree branches everywhere, streets flooded, many cars with broken windows and full of holes from the hail, windows in some of the buildings all shattered... Definitely never saw anything like that! When I made it to the train station I knew it would take me a while to get home... Trains suspended as some of the stations got flooded as well... Of course it took a while before anyone actually suggested that probably it would be best for the passengers to look for alternative means of transport... Hmmm... There was no way I would be able to get to the station to pick up my car as nothing else was going that way except the trains, so just needed to get somewhere close enough... First of all I just needed to get away from the city somehow – thankfully the buses were still running (at least some of them!), so there was no time to waste, long queues everywhere, but hey! I did get a bus in the end and Grant juts picked me up from the last bus stop. 😊 3 hours after I left my work I was finally home – no storm signs around at all... In the next few days we found out more and more about the full scale of the storm and the damages it had caused! 15 minutes of storm turned into $1 billion of damages! And that was only the beginning of the storm season that year...

So there it was! 2014 is long gone now! And 2015 turned out to be a totally different story... To be continued... 😉

Happy travels everyone!

Additional photos below
Photos: 101, Displayed: 38


Getting to know some of the smaller Australian inhabitants - at the reptile show at Bearded DragonGetting to know some of the smaller Australian inhabitants - at the reptile show at Bearded Dragon
Getting to know some of the smaller Australian inhabitants - at the reptile show at Bearded Dragon

Blue-tongued skink, shingleback lizard ...and a little croc! And sharing lunch with blue-faced honeyeaters of course!
couldn't be happier! ...couldn't be happier! ...
couldn't be happier! ...

...and have to say I did feel like a koala afterwards also... they sure are cuddly but also have quite a distinctive smell... ;)

25th October 2015
getting close with rainbow lorikeets at the Polish Place

What a contrast!
Glad the last half of your stay with filled with wild adventures, and sorry the first half dragged on, though I guess you had lots of time to prepare delicious Polish food. You'd been on Asian money mode, so for sure shocking to pay $30 for pierogis--yikes! I've been in Peru for a couple of years and dread returning to the US for that same reason--sticker shock! Love the wild, exotic animals, all the great parks and festivals. Brisbane sounds great!
5th November 2015
getting close with rainbow lorikeets at the Polish Place

What a contrast!
Thanks for your comment Tara :) Yes, lots and lots of time to improve my cooking skills and to grow some fruit and veggies in our garden as well - still amazed that there are no seasons here really and you can grow new produce all year around! The prices here were definitely a shock (for a good few months actually) and coming from Peru to US would surely be similar... Yes, it's all about the outdoor activities in here! Plenty of festivals around and don't think I'll ever get tired of seeing all the exotic animals. Have to say it's surely isn't a bad place to live in :)
25th October 2015

Oz through your eyes
I always find it interesting to hear the perspective of those that visit -v- those that stay longer on our shores. It always depends on what one does and attitude as to how one finds finds it. Brisbane comes with extreme variants in weather as does Melbourne. The one constant is the desire to hug koalas. Maybe I should take more visitors to animal huggings than bush bashings in future. Enjoy Oz...it's bigger than you think!
5th November 2015

Oz through my eyes
Thanks for your comment Dave! Yes quite extreme weather here for sure! Thought I loved the heat, but it can be a bit overwhelming at times! Still Brisbane is a really lovely city, haven't been to Melbourne just yet, my 'to do Aussie list' is getting longer and longer... and yes! you're right! Australia is way bigger than I ever thought it was... You should definitely consider animal hugging trips, totally recommended ;)
25th October 2015

Hi Anna, I loved reading this blog. Moving countries can be a very exciting thing, but I'm glad you also wrote about the possible downsides of it. If you and Grant are ever down in Hobart, let us know :)
5th November 2015

Thank you :) Would definitely like to visit Tasmania one day! If you are ever around Brisbane, let us know as well :)
26th October 2015

hugging koalas
that's one of the top reason why i booked a flight to australia for next month! though I have yet to find one zoo in Sydney that will allow me to do that
4th November 2015

hugging koalas
Sure you will find plenty of wild parks in Sydney that will give you this opportunity, be prepared to smell like one afterwards though! ;) looking forward to your blog from Sydney!
3rd November 2015
Sydney Harbour Bridge

Harbour Bridge
An amazing city and an amazing bridge.
4th November 2015
Sydney Harbour Bridge

Harbour Bridge
Yes totally agree! I loved Sydney also... Very short visit only, but definitely would like to go back and explore it a bit more...

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