12 months!

Melbourne 1074 2013-06

It has been about a year since we moved to Melbourne and I am approaching my 12 month anniversary at my current position.  All the clichés apply, time flies, where did the time go and the lot but in all honesty the past 12 months have been amazing, we have made new friends and a new home, Beth is doing what she always wanted to do, which was to work with children and I have gone back into the food business.

 


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Driving around the city that we now call home things start to look familiar.  I was driving earlier today and as we passed the exhibition center I saw the ANL building in the Southwarf, a building that I have now visited many times as my friend George (george-vrakas.com) works as we have lunch often.  The same building and the area of Southwarf and Docklands were completely new to me, I remember looking at it 12 months ago and it was just one of many.  The same goes for so many parts of the city, I have started making connections and little by little things not only make sense now but they are familiar.  Driving through South and Port Melbourne , I remember getting lost, now I know the streets, some of the restaurants and cafes, we have friends there and we go to the beach and the playgrounds with Ben.

This has also helped put my mind at ease, for the psychologists under you, system 1 is now more at ease because of the familiarity with the surroundings and the establishment of routines. You see it is system 1 that makes that has problems making sense of the new and in our case it has been working overtime and it has been exhausting at times.

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Cultural Shock…

Philly Skyline

Philly Skyline

Ok, it seems that my blog has generated some discussions among our own friends, for good reason that is.  We have had mood swings, bewilderment, enthusiasm, borderline depression, an overwhelming feeling of everything being different, we have criticised and we have been criticised and much more.  There is a name for this… …it is called cultural shock!

Let me put it in perspective, most people I know, would not move to the other side of the town they live in.  Whether that is because it is not a place they know or it is far away from friends and family, it does not really matter.  It is foreign to them so they stick to what they know and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  Well, we are about 16.000km away from where home used to be and nothing much is here that we can hold on – for better or worse – to insert some routine, some sanity into our daily lives.  Our values, our priorities, the things we know and what we consider common sense, the rules and regulations, they are all very different, they are foreign.  Certainly, the fact that we have moved 4 times within two states in Australia did not contribute to any routine being established.  We again moved this past weekend and we hope that this will be the last time for the next couple years.

Wuppertal-Panorama

Wuppertal-Panorama

So back to cultural shock, it is a normal condition and everyone that emigrates goes through at least some of the stages of cultural shock.  Even if one goes back to the country that he grew up after living in a different one will go through the shock, albeit a reverse cultural shock.  It is extremely important to get a routine in place and to be open to the new environment, to smile and keep positive and communicate with the new surrounding as much as possible.  It is one thing to say it and another to actually do it, it is a very difficult task but it is not insurmountable.

The Arch

The Gateway to the West

I remember the first one I went through back in 1990 in the St. Louis, a place that I know call home (one of many, more on this on another post) but one that I hated with all that I had for a couple months in the fall of 1990.  It has long turned into an eternal love affair.  There has been a few since and it always has turned all right.  I was not keen to move to Germany and now I miss it, I call it… you guessed it right… home!  I have always been a bit sentimental and as much as I look forward to exciting times I look back at fun times, I do though forget the pain along the way and that is fine by me.

So to our shock now. Culture shock is defined as a psychological disorientation that most people experience when living in a culture markedly different from one’s own. Culture shock occurs when our “…cultural clues, the signs and symbols which guide social interaction, are stripped away. …A difficult part of this process for adults is the experience of feeling like children again, of not knowing instinctively the ‘right’ thing to do.” (Piet-Pelon & Hornby, 1992, p.2).  In general there are four phases to a cultural shock: Honeymoon, Adjustment, Negotiation and Mastery.  Everyone experiences it in different ways and so it is for us.  We are between the negotiation and the adjustment phase, had it not been for the four moves within Australia we would probably be ahead of that.  We are building a routine, we have started friendships, Ben has started with Kinder and so it goes.  We will be reaching the mastery phase in the next few months and while that does not necessarily  mean that we will totally assimilate it means that we will feel at home and as we have many homes by now this will be another one that we will come to love.

So long…

Another home in St. Louis, MO

Another home in St. Louis, MO

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Entertaining Ben at Bordertown on the way to Adelaide

Entertaining Ben at Bordertown on the way to Adelaide

Ben in an airport and on the move again...

Ben in an airport and on the move again…

Ben will start learning to fly, it will be easier to be on the move

Ben will start learning to fly, it will be easier to be on the move

Melbourne!

Yarra River & Melbourne City Skyline View at A...

Yarra River & Melbourne City Skyline View at Alexandra Gardens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our new home is the city of Melbourne.  A city of more than 4 million people in the Southeast coast of Australia.  It is as far as geography is concerned very far away from anywhere.  The closest “big” city is Canberra although most Australians ignore that city, Adelaide and Sydney are about a day’s drive away and cities like Bangkok (8000km), Tokyo (10000km), Los Angeles (12000km), New York and Frankfurt (16000km) and the list goes on.  So the isolation in terms of distance is without a doubt, a fact.  In many other ways though Melbourne is so central in the big scheme of things and beyond that, as it is typical for Oz, there are so many events and festivals that keep one entertained and relaxed.

ANZAC Memorial

ANZAC Memorial

Let’s start with my favourite Australian sport, The Footy, it is one of the most exciting sports out there and while I do not claim to know all the rules or understand it completely I have my favourite team and I have been in quite a few games both here in Melbourne and in Adelaide to see Port Adelaide games.  It is not the most powerful team but it is most certainly my team.  The game itself, for those who have never seen it, is spectacular.  It is fast paced and while it seems to be very hard it is still in a very Australian way easy going with everyone trading punches during the game and then taking it easy once the horn sounds.  Other notable sports events cricket season, the Australian Open, the Grand Prix, the Races and so many more.

The other amazing thing that never ceases to amaze me is that loads of people are active anytime of the day and anywhere you look.  I see people running to work, I had never seen that before.  When I drive along Beach Rd in the mornings rushing to a meeting I see people in the water and the same goes for most afternoons.  Obviously the mild weather and the proximity to water is a key driver for this behaviour but every weekend there seems to be some kind of athletic event or competition.  Most people at work are active and regularly exercise at all times, I among few others are the exception rather than the rule.  There are outdoor groups of people who get together to exercise in parks, the beach, anywhere where they can really.

Flinders Station

Flinders Station

There are so many festivals around from cultural ones like book or movie festivals to something a lot more interesting like a BBQ festival in St. Kilda.  Multicultural events like the Greek Antipodes festival that took place in the city this last weekend draws thousands and then there are those regional ones like Jazz Festivals and River Festivals where artists from around the globe come and visit.

One thing that we really have taken advantage of is concerts and plays/theater in Melbourne.  I have seen more concerts here in the past few months than the last few years back in Germany.  I even got a chance to see Jimmy Buffett one of my favourite one, that was a very special night!

Melbourne MCG

Melbourne MCG (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The list is really endless, there is something new and exciting to do every single day.  It is an amazing place, we live so close to this metropolis and these opportunities to enjoy so many things…  …it is an unbelievable place!

This does not change the fact that it is so far away from most places but it does make for an extraordinary place in its own right and one we are proud to call home!

Our view…

Our views have been shaped by the experiences that have brought us to this point in our life.  In principal this is not very different to the other immigrants to Australia, what makes it unique in its own way are the nuances of these experiences and that is our view.

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Sunset in Hallet Cove, South Australia

I cannot talk about these views without putting them in context and speaking a bit about our last station, Germany.  I have lived in four different countries and Germany is by far the one place that comes close to perfection more than any other and it is the place where I have lived the longest.  The efficiencies, the frugality, the thoroughness and a global conscience  that is the collective German way of life has developed over the past 6 decades is unprecedented.  A good friend of mine from Russia described it as a very boring place because everything works and it is near automatic, isn’t it ironic as it sounds a no worries kind of place yet it so far from it on daily basis as Germans are overall very formal, distant and constantly unsatisfied and then Germany has that terrible weather.

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Footy!

Australia is a great place in many ways, life is for some reason just easy-going and the mild weather makes for an excellent outdoor lifestyle.  In our view though it is far from perfect and that maybe the curse of just knowing to many homes.  Things are made unnecessary complicated  in more ways than we could have imagined when we arrived.  Simple things like setting up and proving your 100 points of id as they do in Oz so you can get basic services takes time, patience and above all it costs nerves.  The surprise is that one would have thought that there would be someone who can or should tell you what you will have to do and how to do it, the onus is on the newcomer.  In a country that welcomes so many thousands of immigrants you would have thought there would be more to it.  That is not the case and while it is not rocket science per se, it is made more difficult by the incompetence, the lack of systems and of processes for new arrivals in the country.  Beyond that even matters that one would believe is common sense are relative complicated, such as trying to get decent broadband, a matter that is trivial anywhere in urban Europe, US or Japan, has cost us at least a couple thousand dollars and countless hours on the phone with providers, as well a broken lease and countless hours on the matter of leasing properties, our rights and obligations.  It is amazing that in 2013 this is an issue, I would understand it if I was in Alice Springs or some other place in the outback or the countryside.

Ben in Melbourne

I am not going to compare here every little aspect but suffice to say that having moved between four countries over the past twenty years, I have never had as many issues, not even when I moved back to Greece in 1996 from the US and had to deal with the incompetent civil servants.  Unexpected because Australia is a modern society and it is one of the most urbanized nations on the planet, the envy of many and the place where many people dream to be able to get a chance at calling it home.

I am not, in any way, saying that this is an awful place, quite the contrary, despite our tribulations and the various costs both monetary and otherwise we are looking forward to the next 12 months with renewed confidence that things will be better, they will improve and we will finally be able to get more out of the Aussie lifestyle.  It is not a post of despair nor is it one of disappointment.  It is merely our experiences and while there certainly have been difficult times we have had luck with family and friends that have supported us all along.

 

Friends, relatives and people that love you

People usually ask what is the one thing that you would like to take with you if you are ever stranded on an island, well my answer is my friends and -most- of my family.  These past few weeks would not have been possible without them.

On March 8th and 9th the moving company packed our household and put it in a container.  What was left was, well…  …another household!  We took a decision to not take everything with us for various reasons, so we were left with a lot of stuff that we had to either sell or give away and of course all the trash.  I know it sounds trivial bit taking care of all that took almost two weeks.  During that time we were sleeping at friends, my uncle loaned me his car and others were helping in any way they could.  The neighbors chipped in and they let me use their scanners, printers, garden furniture, etc.  It is overwhelming really to think of it all and without their support I am afraid we still would be trying to finish up.

In a couple of days we will be in Australia where another bunch of people will help us set a base in our new adopted country.  This is not the first nor will it be the last time that we have been in this situation.  Some people ask me why I am such a giving person and considerate, I just am.  Most of them do not realize that they are very much like that themselves.  You always get what you give, people are usually afraid to give or open.  I have found that by giving, by opening up, being honest and responsible towards others you gain so much, you have fun along the way and above all you learn things about yourself and others that would otherwise not be possible.

R.W. Emerson said it best: The only way to have a friend is to be one!

So I would like to thank all you who have been here and there for us and the ones that couldn’t, I will always be there for you.  Without you our lives would be very poor, you are and always will be in our hearts!

Here is one to friends, relatives and people who love you!

PS: We are now in Kuala Lumpur on our way to Adelaide.  I love this city and I like Malaysia.  I have a few things that I want to write about on my next post, which should be in a day or two…  …meanwhile here is a photo for you.

Our view from our hotel

Tropical Queensland – Part 2

4 Mile Beach

We were sick by now of the rain so we decided to find a place that we at least did not get wet.  It was a bit difficult as the whole region between the

A beach along the Cook Highway.

Fiji Islands and most of Northern Queensland was heavily influenced by a series of cyclones, the radar showed covered skies everywhere.  The only exception at least for the highlands.  You see a few miles inland along the coast there are a series of hills that lead to the highlands, the climate there is very different than the coast, it is a lot drier and mostly cooler.  So we decided to head inland to the Atherton Tablelands.  The Atherton Tablelands are a plateau that is part of the Great Dividing Range.  The plateau is named after John Atherton who sttled near the town that now bears his name in the late 1870s.  The region is well suited for farming as the soil is very fertile due to ts volcanic origins and it is also well suited for dairy and grazing.  The region though was originally developed for its tin that was discovered near the present town of Herberton.  It is not an easy drive, especially with the car we had, the road up through the mountains onto the plateau is full of tight curves, there were lot of look out points but the only thing

A WWII bombing site

we could see was a white nothingness as the clouds were hanging very low.  It was raining all the way up but once we reached the plateau the weather turned favorable, we even saw some sun.  We did not come prepared as we were not planning to visit this area, our idea of Port Douglas and Queensland was sun, beach and tropics but in life you do not always get what you want or even what you paid for.  So we just looked at the map and drove to Mareeba.  Mareeba is the biggest town in the region with a population of about 7000, as always Australia is just way to big to fill with 22 million people.  Nevertheless by now we were accustomed by now and found the town to be bigger than expected.  The town grew with the arrival of the railroad in the late 19th century and also during World War 2 when the Australian army used the town as a staging area for the battles in the Pacific.  According to the tourist guide the town gets 300 sunny days a year and that was a reason enough for us ti explore the town a bit.  We headed for coffee at the Coffee Works.  A delightful little place that was packed and offered some very tasty desserts, the Mississippi Mud Pie (I know it is not Australian) was the best and of course excellent coffee from local coffee beans.  As with all places in Australia the town was trying to project a sense of history, to somehow tell a story and prove to anyone willing that there is more to the place than meets the eye.  Australia is so young though that

Ben at the marina

to us it did not seem very significant in the big scheme of things, maybe only in the Australian scheme of things.  Mind you that this is not a criticism, just an observation.  The drive had taken us longer than expected so we decided to head off to Cairns with a stop at Kuranda.  The road was better, we also got to see some huge termite mounds, they can be huge!  It started raining again, it was pouring like there was no tomorrow.  That was to continue for the rest of the day, which was still half the day.  We drove to the town of Kuranda, 25 kays from Cairns.  Thousands of tourists visit the town either with the skyrail  or the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway.  The rain was so bad that we did not stop to get out but just drove through the town that was devoid of any tourists.  We managed to find our way to Barron Falls were Beth and me took turns to run to the lookout platform to look at the -only in the wet season- spectacular falls.  It was a pity that we did not get to spend more time but it was uncomfortable so we decided to get on to Cairns and hope to find some respite.  The road turned nasty again as we had to drive down from the highlands, I wish we can visit again sometime when the weather is better the views must be breathtaking.  We went into Cairns looking for food, we were hungry as we only had had breakfast in the morning but it was not meant to be.  The restaurant we wanted to go to was closed and would not open until 5pm, so we took a little walk at the Cairns Esplanade in the

Near Mossman Gorge

rain and went into a couple of souvenir shops.  Before long we took off to go back to Port Douglas.  I cannot stress enough how beautiful the drives were, the scenery despite the gray skies were breathtaking, we stopped at Palm Cove and while the beach was closed for swimming the place looked very beautiful.

This was our last night in Port Douglas and we decided to try Thai food, Beth did not allow me to give prik (Thai for chili) to Ben but we had fun and enjoyed a very nice evening out.  We also started talking about the return trip and we wondered where two months went.  We only had four more days in Australia, we had so much fun and we done so much that we did not realize that our time here was almost up.  We went back to the hotel and packed, we had a flight to Melbourne to prepare for….

So long….

Somewhere around Mossman

The Daintree River ferry crossing

ANZAC Memorial in Port Douglas

My BB's at the same ANZAC Memorial

A very nice tree, mv BBs next to it.

Macrossan Street

Wind in Ben's hair!

Ben packing

An interesting statue in Mareeba

The museum in Mareeba

Barron Falls near Kuranda

The Cairns beach front

Ben at the Cairns Esplanade

Palm Cove

My BBs at Palm Cove

Mossman Gorge

Four Mile Beach

Ben entertaining the flight crew

Ben and his new friends on the same flight