Expect the unexpected

We know how to prepare for life changing events. Ask anyone who ever helped us move or who were involved in the planning of our wedding. We prepared for our move down under the only way we know how: thoroughly. The number of to-do- and where-at-lists we made (and length thereof) is probably more than normal people can stomach. But hey, that’s how we roll. As a result our move and settling-in went quite smoothly. Yay us :).

Still, some things here are not as expected. Not in a bad way, just unexpected. Which is telling in its own way I think, so mostly for my own memory I made a list of things that come to mind.

  • The weather. How could I not start with the weather. It’s amazing how much simpler life is when the weather is always sunny. I hoped I would adjust to it, but I did not expect I would like it as much as I do. It’s just so easy. Even though some of the other points in this list might seem to contradict this, they don’t. They’re just a different side of the same coin.
  • Your stuff. No matter how well you try to imagine your new life when you decide what to bring and what to leave behind, you make mistakes. For example, I hardly wear any t-shirts down here and I brought so many! Between the Deltares polo’s and my singlets (of which I made a bunch before we left) a T-shirt is just too warm. Things might change in winter though. This is just a silly example, but many a time I have found something, wondering why we brought it and other times missed the stuff we left behind. Maybe this should teach you to just leave everything other than a suitecase with clothes. Especially considering the next item in this list.
  • New stuff. Starting a new life starts with buying loads of stuff. And then some. And some more still. It got to a point that I decided against buying some things, just because. Silly of course. I just wasn’t mentally prepared for it. All you do those first weeks/weekend is hang around in malls. It can suck the life right out of you.
  • Adventures. Life down under is pretty much just that: life. We work, eat, sleep, repeat. No exiting trips every weekend, discovering this whole new continent; no diving all the time; no coffees and lunches and dinners out every day. Basically we’re still boring old us, just in a different location. What also doesn’t help is the sun. You can be dissuaded from leaving the shade of the apartment pretty easily in the middle of the day. You really need to plan your outings for the start of the day, or else you might not find the courage to go out.
  • Exercise and diet. Since I no longer have a proper bicycle ride in the office every day I actually have to make an effort to exercise. It looks like I found my rhythm though. I try to hit the gym (cross-trainer) and pool at least twice a week. Should be more, but what can I say. Food wise, lunch in the office is generally not a cheese sandwich over here. Often people go out for lunch, which basically means you have dinner twice a day. All the more reason to exercise!
  • Internet. Emigration nowadays is not a big deal as it once was. Especially for folks like us, who live half their lives online anyway. You stay in touch with friends and family on Facebook and Skype, and with you colleagues on email. Apart from the timezone difference, which is less inconvenient now because of Daylight Saving Time, you hardly feel the distance. Also, sites like linguee.com help you navigate a new language more easily. And stuff like Netflix is just as available as anywhere :). Did I already tell you Oz TV sucks balls even more than Dutch telly? But to be honest, these are things we did foresee while planning, so I’m cheating by putting them on this list.
  • Kids. Don’t worry, I mean other people’s kids :). Those are the people in your life with whom it’s hardest to stay in touch with over the internet. Just talking gets boring pretty quick. And at the same time, they are the ones who change the most. We’ll have to get to know them all over again in a few years time. Which will be fun too, no dramas!
  • Visitors. I sure did underestimate how much I would want to share the fun bits of our new neck of the woods with the people I love. These blogs help, but I can’t wait to show my parents around town next weekend! Also, my sister-in-law and brother-in-law will be here in winter. Good times!
  • Books. I actually read a lot more down here. Less distraction maybe, but breakfast on the balcony every day without a proper newspaper to be found in Queensland sure helps. Maybe this is not such a good thing after all.
  • Sewing. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I’ve learnt here that – even more than I thought – I’m happiest when I can sew. Can, not must. Just knowing it’s one of the possibilities is sometimes enough.

And on that note, and because I wanted to add a photo, I started work on Project Purr Purse this weekend. More on that as the story unfolds.

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Hot cross buns

A good three months in and we’re checking all the boxes. By now we’ve had our first visit to the GP, gotten a haircut, (some of us) got a facial, went on a short holiday in SA (more on that will follow), had our first dive and most importantly, our first barbie. Still no thongs though, you’ve got to draw the line somewhere!

During the long Easter weekend (Good Friday is exactly that over here), we joined the lovely people of UniDive on a one day trip to Tweed Heads (NSW) for a shore dive. We saw a spotted eagle ray within the first minute, and a turtle soon after that. But the highlight of the trip was an encounter with a super chill porcupinefish, that did not mind us checking him out while he was getting his scales cleaned. Never knew they had such puffy lips! Jaap shot an amazing video, but I got an image online for this post. According to the sign on shore there’s plenty more fish to be seen, so we’ll definitely be back. Also because it’s practically the only shore dive you can make from Brisbane. At the barbie afterwards we made many an omnivore envious of the shashlicks and burgers we made. Go veg!

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And Easter over here is all about hot cross buns. It’s like a krentenbol, but different. For some reason, everybody goes apeshit over them.

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Discovering Straddie

We ventured off to North Stradbroke Island, or Straddie for short. It’s to Brisbane what Texel is to Amsterdam, but with more whales, sharks, rays, turtles and dolphins.  It’s about a 45 min drive and a 45 min ferry ride across the Moreton Bay. You book the ferries in advance, so you have to to guess how long you want to stay before you even get there. However, this also means they greet you by your first name when you arrive.

We weren’t sure what to expect, but wildlife is what we got. During the North Gorge Walk we saw big sea turtles, wallabies, a sting ray, no less than two groups of dolphins and quite possibly a shark in swift succession. Yay! All of that on a backdrop of beautiful beaches. And in winter this is the place to be to spot whales from land, so we’ll definitely be back!

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We also tried our first shore snorkel session at Deadman’s beach. It was pretty strenuous to cross the surf, but we got through it. Once you get the hang of it, it’s actually not that bad. However, no flora or fauna was to be seen anywhere within a comfortable distance from the shore. Fortunately, on our way back we stumbled on a group of Jacks and Snappers (somewhat like this). Maybe we should try a guided tour next time, so we know where to look.

Our interest was piqued by UniDive with their stories about the under water flora and fauna at Moreton Bay and at Point Lookout. They ran a project called Point Lookout Ecological Assessment (PLEA), where they mapped the flora and fauna at the local reefs – we even managed to get our hands on one of the last copies of their photo report “Straddie”. They’re starting up a new project called Flinders Reef Ecological Assessment (FREA), which we hope to participate in.

Things that go bump

Cycling in Brisbane, it’s quite the adventure. Don’t take my word for it, take a look at this research paper to cycling injuries in Australia. Of course you are required by law to wear your helmet. Safety first, right?! Instead of making a helmet obligatory, how about getting some bike lanes, like, everywhere (Feb 2015)! And while we’re at it, let’s change the rules and regulations as well, since “Achieving high levels of safe cycling begins with acknowledging that cycling is a legitimate form of transport” (Sept 2011). And then we don’t mean “higher fines for dodgy cyclists“. NSW, I’m talking to you (Jan, 2106).

But Australia says it wants to change. The national bicycling council aims to double the number of cyclists between 2011 and 2016, inspiring all with this H.G. Wells quote: “When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.” But double a few is still only a few cyclists. In 2001 nearly 20% of the Danes cycled to work, while only 1.2 % of the Aussies were so inclined. The report does mention a lot of good points, but unfortunately doesn’t touch the topic of regulations. Which is a pity, especially since this comes from a national council. The update from 2013 shows promising progress and good intentions, but the financial numbers show that investing in safe cycling is no priority. Australia invested $4.83 per capita on Cycling Infrastructure in 2012-13. This is only 0.61% of the total transport expenditure. And that while bold spending makes all the difference  and most Australians want the government to spend more on biking and walking facilities, according to this report.

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In my research for this post, I found a lot of information online. However, the average Joe will only consume information that is brought to him. Like Pedal Brisbane, an exhibition and event celebrating and promoting cycling in Brisbane through photography, film, talks and initiatives associated with cycling in a fun, positive way (promoFacebook). It started in 2013, I visited it 2014 and in 2015 they teamed up with APPC to become Bicycle Fringe Festival, together with the Bicycles Welcome Here Festival, presenting Brisbane as a bicycle friendly city. Instead of creating more bicycle lanes or other such novel ideas, they made another promo  – don’t bother watching this, unless you like to hear random people saying “Bicycles welcome here” for a couple of minutes. Really people, that’s not helping. Festivals like these give me the impression that Australia is not taking this seriously, but maybe I’m underestimating the bad rep cycling has with most Aussies?

There are other initiatives, like Space for cycling in Brisbane, which contacts individual council members to get bicycle lanes higher priority on the local political agenda. This leads to friendly posts in my Facebook timeline, and I hope it will lead to actual change as well.

Clearly I don’t have the answers, but I’d hope Australia can learn from other countries, like The Netherlands and Denmark in the 70’s. In the meantime I will at least contribute by reporting pot holes with Brisbane City Council. I’ve reported on the crack that brought me down and got a response that they’ve received my report. We’ll see…

And I will cycle to work of course!

Edit: with the upcoming elections, the group Space4CyclingBrisbane has made this excellent video.

Gaming brings people together

Turns out you can play a game of Pathfinder with 3 party members in one room and the DM and the other party member in a room 16,200 kilometres away (or 12,750 if you just go straight through the whole thing).

You’ll need a bunch of hardware on either end and decent network connections, but with two laptops and a PC on one end and two laptops on the other end you can make it work. Running Inkscape for the map, Teamviewer for the connection and Skype for the social interaction, it all works surprisingly well.

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The first time we tried it, but certainly not the last. Black Skeletons and Champion Skeletal Archers beware!

Perfect Dark

Sometimes the best things about a place are about what’s *not* there – like light pollution. http://darksitefinder.com/maps/world.html

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Heaven

It’s interesting how close to the skin my sewing experience is to me (no pun intended). Before we left I joked that all I needed to settle in was a fabric store close by. Turns out this is truer than I knew.

Some disappointing experiences at Lincraft and the other options in the CBD left me feeling a bit out of sorts. Apparently fabric á 150 AUD / meter is a thing down here, while tracing paper is not. They buy single patterns and cut them straight out. I should have known, since they do not seem to sell sewing magazines like Burda anywhere. The Needlefruit Sewing Lounge in Paddington seemed promising online, but turned out to be just for sewing courses.

However, the lovely lady there did point me in in the direction of The Fabric Store in Fortitude Valley. This is where I finally felt at home. So much nice fabrics arranged by color and material. Mostly plain instead of busy prints, often really fun but just not me. And next to cottons they have jerseys as well, which is a rare thing in this part of the world. I got a mustard cotton and a beautiful red raw silk for the projects I have in mind, and some tracing fabric (when in Rome…). But I’ll be back for more! They are open on Sundays as well, and they are having a sale at the moment….

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