The Land of Oz

by Brad on June 11, 2011

As we’re half way through our time here in Bali, our last stop before heading to see what the United States has to offer us, it’s way past time to sum up our three months in Australia and share a little of what we’ve experienced here in Bali. This might take a couple posts.

Leaving New Zealand was hard. We absolutely adored everything about the place. Seeing family in Perth was really the only piece that made us look forward to our departure from NZ. I told Kelli, who had been to Perth before, that Australia was going to have a lot to live up to if it wanted to hold a candle next to New Zealand.

Guess what? We fell in love with Oz too. It was hard not to make comparisons when we first arrived, but after we settled in and got to know the place a bit, we realized that we had room in our hearts for more than one country.

Our entry point was Sydney which is absolutely as pretty as you’ve been lead to believe it is. It’s hard to imagine that a bridge and a nutty looking concert hall could make a place so cool, but they do. We felt like our three days there was barely enough to even peek at the place but we had fun while we could.

We found out pretty quickly that we were “in luck” because we were going to be there for the annual gay and lesbian Mardi Gras festival. It was on our second night that we found ourselves caught in a sea of people dressed in costumes (fancy dress) that I’m not going to describe. A few strange sightings on the streets, and some lurid comments shouted at me from guys in cars passing by was all it took to send us running to the train station to head back to our hotel.

So yeah, check out Sydney but beware of that one weekend in March….

the rocks

The Rocks - Sydney's original settlement at a penal colony.

Sydney Opera House at Night

Sydney Opera House at Night

Sydney Harbor Bridge

Sydney Harbor Bridge, affectionately known to the locals as The Coat Hanger

Looking over the harbor from the bridge

This takes religious confusion to a whole new level

Sydney Barracks

The Sydney Barracks. This was the first building to house the prisoners, a decade or so after they started shipping them over. Before that, they would leave work at 5 and then have to go find a place to sleep with local settlers. And of course hopefully return for duty in the morning. Yeah, you can see the sense in building this.

The best part of  our trip came next, heading to Perth to visit this long lost branch of the family, affectionately known as the Aussie Kleins, who went over the top in making space for us in their home and going out of they way time and again to help us out. Good on ya.

This was Brad’s first time meeting niece Lexi (6), and nephew Tyler (5), and Kelli last saw them when they were only 2 and 1. So we had some “getting to know” to do.

Their secrets weren’t hard to discover. With Tyler, if you’ll kick a soccer ball with him you are instantly granted best mate status (I learned on our visit to Melbourne afterwards that if someone else comes along after you and does the same thing, the last “best mate” is quickly forgotten.:)

With Lexi, the smartest six-year old I’ve ever seen, give her a chance to teach you something (my favorite was her teaching us to speak Australian), or to tell you a few of the heaps of words she’s learnt to spell (mind you the letter “h” is pronounced “haych” in Oz), or spend some time with her doing craft, you’re golden. And of course buying a few lollies for them doesn’t hurt either.

A fun day at the beach, five minutes from Kevin's place. Righto.

The Pinnacles are a large group of random sandstone pinnacle that shoot out of the desert floor. No reason. They just do. Lexi loved climbing all over them.

The battlefiled

The battlefield. Many tears were shed, drops of sweat poured out, and blood spilt, and I still couldn't beat him without cheating.

Western Australia has so many gorgeous beaches, drive 20 minutes north of town and you can have a few miles to yourself. Kelli and Lexi went exploring on the fourwheeler.

Tyler, the king of Grasshopper Soccer League.

Bought this ostrich egg at the Fremantle Markets. Turned it into an omelette that fed the whole family...twice.

One of the best ways to get to know the nieces and nephews is babysitting right? So, with permission from the parents, we just have to share this story from our Adventures in Babysitting. We were cleaning up after dinner, and Tyler and Lexi were running around with the soccer ball (Tyler waiting for us to finish so we could go play). All the sudden we both caught wind of a bad smell – definitely smelled like poop. “What do ya reck that is?” Kelli checked the bottom of her shoe, and sure enough there was the culprit. Odd, since she had only walked from the car in the garage into the house.

She was perplexed: “Where did I step in it? Why haven’t we smelt it before now? Is there dog poop in the garage?”

With the shoes outside and floor sterilization begun, Kelli spots a plop of the nasty on the kitchen floor. More questions: “How did that come off my shoe? Is there a dog in the house? Where did this dog come from and how did it get in? I’m so confused!”

I tried to help Kelli find answers to her questions and sudden desperate need to make sense of the world, keeping the kids quarantined in the living room while Kelli cleaned the floor. Suddenly Lexi and Tyler’s conversation was getting louder and slightly heated. Then Lexi dobs on her little brother: “Tyler pooped his pants.”    Say what???

Kelli walked over to Tyler (the kid who likes to run around at night with only his flash boxers on) and a quick check confirmed Lexi’s story.

After a shower and some odd conversations, we got things settled down and the kids to bed. But we still couldn’t figure out why Tyler pooped his pants. Certainly it wasn’t usual for him. Kelli was still a confused woman and she wanted answers.

The next morning, Kelli mentioned it to Leah, just because she  figured that was incredibly unusual and, as his mum, Leah would want to know. She couldn’t believe what we told her. She told Kevin, who decided to ask Tyler straight up about it as soon as Tyler walked into the room: “Tyler, why did you poop your pants last night?” Tyler immediately became shy, looked the other way, cracked his adorable, sly grin and said in his lispy five-year old Aussie accent, “I thought it wath a fluffy.”

Finally the world made sense again. We’ve all been there Tyler. Too right.

The coolest Aussie kids on the planet.

Ok, a little about Perth now. Last time you went to the store there’s a good chance you bought something made in China. If so, there’s an even bigger chance that a piece of that thing you bought was made from materials that came from the state of Western Australia. If you look at Oz on a map, that big piece in the upper left corner is being slowly shoveled away and shipped over to China one boat load at a time, and China is paying well. The state is flowing in cash, and the trade is so strong that the GFC (global financial crisis) was barely more than a hiccup for the entire country. It’s made Perth a magnet for people willing to get their hands dirty and work odd schedules.

Perth is one of the smaller main cities in Oz but has the highest per capita count of millionaires in the country, most of them are tradies who have been smart with their money. Meeting a “mine widow” is a daily event, meaning her partner works for weeks at a time up in the mines then comes home for a couple weeks. Even with a couple million people Perth still feels small, and you can certainly feel the “country” side of it. The bogan teenagers love to speed their old Holdens down the streets and then  hit their breaks to see how long of skidmarks they can leave on the road. In fact, this happens so much and they so often lose control, that the city has to place water barriers in front of all the signs and poles along the streets.

The idea of a college education is a tough sell, and many don’t ever finish high school, because as soon as you’re 18 you can head north to the mines and make close to a six-figure salary. Even the tradies who stay behind make just as much money as the people with the bachelors degrees. Life is definitely pretty cruisey in WA.

The city itself is beautiful. The central business district is fairly small, but everything is very clean and well kept. The Swan River and Estuary provide the backdrop for the city and it makes for quite the postcard.

Perth Australia

Perth Skyline

Kelli at King's Park

King's Park. Doesn't take Kelli long to display her dominance.

London Court, Perth

One of our favorite streets in Perth, London Court, made to look like an old English setup.

Fremantle Dockers

We went to a preseason Aussie Rules Football game. These are the Fremantle Dockers, and we were able to get right up close to these Aussie superstars. These boys are to Oz what NFL and NBA players combined would be in the U.S. Gotta love those short shorts. Darling.

Kelli got into the action at the Fremantle Chili Festival. That frying pan is big as!

We threw our swimsuits on and walked across the sandbar to Penguin Island. The water was up to our chests as we walked across, fighting the waves. It was fun as!

Yes, you can find kangaroos right in the middle of Perth. Kelli does a good imitation.

The koalas take driving a little bit north to find. They sleep during the day and look like people sleeping off a wild party from the night before.

Some look like they might have a few regrets.

Zonked out.

Other than the economy, what draws people to WA is the coastline, agreed as the prettiest beaches in Australia. We took a few days to drive south along the coast and visit some of the smaller cities along the way. It doesn’t take getting too far south before the scenery changes quite a bit, and pretty soon you’re wondering where the desert went and if you’re still in Australia.

There’s the beautiful Margaret River wine region, massive forests that dominate massive portions of the south of the state, and then you get to the green beauty of the southern coast with its enormous cliffs and unforgettable views of the Southern Ocean.

Kelli and the Pirate Cow. Why a pirate cow? Just cause.

We stayed a night in beautiful Bunbury. No red rocks here. We explored the mangroves, went toe to snout with a wild dolphin, and found good food. Loved it.

The Busselton Jetty

The Big Orange at Harvey, Australia

The Big Orange. Aussies's love making a roadside attraction. Make it big and they will come.

Someone thought it'd be a good idea to stick a bunch of poles into a tree so you climb all the way to the top. Then someone thought it was a good idea for us to climb it. Scary. Yes, I was scared.

Albany Bridge

The Albany Bridge, and Brad's new friend who insisted on being his guide for the rest of our visit.

After a month in Perth, our travels took us to Melbourne to investigate a potential job offer. That needs a post of its own.

{ 4 comments }

becky June 15, 2011 at 11:12 am

what an amazing time you guys are having…jealous!

i’m dying over your babysitting story… and his response was even better!

miss you kel!
becky recently posted..miss s

Brad July 29, 2011 at 2:45 pm

Thanks, Becky. Yeah, we’re great with kids. :)

Kelli misses you, too!

Kevin June 22, 2011 at 8:23 am

Aww, you guys–you’re making me miss Perth as much as we miss youse! Sweet job with the lingo, Brad–you’ve done amazingly well for three months. The use of “smelt” instead of “smelled” shows impeccable eye for detail.

Some things will be hard to let go of. I was talking to a guy at our American credit union and I wrapped up our exchange by saying “Lovely.” There was an uncertain pause on the other end of the phone after that.

But–looking forward to catching you on the flipside!

Kev

Brad July 29, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Bring it! Can’t wait for you guys to follow us back to the U.S., but do keep as much Oz-ness as you can.

My first time driving a car in the States again it took me all but a few minutes to hit the windshield wipers . . . some things just stick.

See ya soon.

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