Our Bunyip

“Can you please tell me what bunyips look like?”

“Yes.  Bunyips don’t look like anything.” 

A bunyip (pronounced bun-eep) is a legendary creature from Aboriginal folklore.  A bunyip is said to lurk around the Bunyip River, water holes and other areas of the bush and outback.  There a many descriptions of its appearance from glowing eyes to feathers to a haunting ghostly figure.

We picture our bunyip to look like this:

The children’s book, The Bunyip of Berkeley’s Creek by Jenny Wagner is a story of a friendly bunyip who emerges from a billabong and questions his existence by asking other Australian animals about his appearance.

However, as a young child I remember the movie Dot and the Kangaroo and being extremely frightened of the bunyip that appears in the movie. 

Bunyip from Dot and The Kangaroo, 1977

I was so frightened of it and its eerie music (check it out on youtube) that I am still scared today.  Honest.  My children have not seen the movie or read the book.  We will look into it when we return stateside as a reminder of our animal adventures. 

Bunyip postage stamp

Looking for more?   The National Library of Australia has a fun, interactive website for children.  For the adventurous, you can trek into Bunyip State Park outside Melbourne, camp overnight and try your luck at spotting your very own bunyip.  Torches (flashlights) optional.

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Giving Thanks and Going Home

Thanksgiving has come and gone. 

Thanksgiving came and went without a whole turkey (I roasted a $65 turkey breast from our local butcher over the weekend), without family football, without stuffing, without pumpkin pie, without a parade and almost without turkey-hand tracings.  The funny thing is that instead of missing the whole to-do I’m not sure if I really missed anything.

Life without Thanksgiving is just life.  No one worries about what to cook, about who is going to show up or about which platter to use for the sliced turkey.  Popular culture and Williams Sonoma don’t dictate what it should or should not look like at a traditional or non-traditional Thanksgiving meal.  However, Thanksgiving is part of Americana and that’s the part I miss.

It won’t be long before we get to experience our Americana again.  Our time in Australia is coming to an abrupt close.  In 2 weeks my husband rolls off his case and we return stateside (but not before a mini-holiday on the south island of New Zealand.)

There will be much to blog about in the coming weeks; what we will miss, our don’t miss Australia to-do’s, what we look forward to, our last minute adventures and our fears returning home (plus all those posts built up in my queue.)  To all those bloggers out there I’ve come to read, follow, like and comment I send my thanks for giving me a new place to explore and be myself.

Through my expat experience I’ve learned an incredible amount about myself, the people who surround me and what I want to be.  It only took me 33 years… 10 months of which I spent living in Australia.

Posted in American Expat in Australia, Holidays, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The Weather

What’s with the weather around here?  It comes, it goes, it comes back, and goes again.  The weather is incredibly indecisive and the forecasts are terrible about predicting inclement weather.

Australians often complain about the weather in Melbourne because it simply gets too cold in winter.  News flash for all Americans: winter does exist in Australia and it gets downright cold in Victoria.  I’ve broken out my long quilted jacket a few times and those palm trees they’ve planted along Beaconsfield Parade (beside the bay) cannot be local.

An Aussie mum said to me the other day, “the weather is so strange this time of year, it changes so quickly.”  I thought to myself, did you just miss the past 6 months?  Or did it change so quickly one might not even notice?

One day it’s 90 degrees (32 degrees celsius).  The next day it’s a chilly 65 degrees (19 degrees celsius).  It goes so far as to change 10 degrees farenheit an hour.  I took note of one particular week day where the weather went something like this:

  • 12 noon: sunny, 72 degrees
  • 1pm: cloudy, windy, drizzle, 62 degrees
  • 2pm: sunny, 75 degrees
  • 3pm: heavy rain, 60 degrees
  • 4pm: sunny, 72 degrees
  • 5pm: partly cloudy, rain, sun, rain and sun, who knows what temp it was at that point?

The sky over Melbourne brews with interesting patterns and colors.  Rainbows are a common occurrence.  The pictures are from our back garden looking northwest

Rain and sun equal fire:

 

Doomsday looms:

 

If only I had my camera for this shot over Elwood Canal (please excuse the phone pic):

 

Think it’s going to rain this weekend?  I’d check again if I were you.

Posted in American Expat in Australia, Melbourne | Tagged | 2 Comments

The Kids Storm Through Melbourne

To see, sense and explore with children can be an arduous task.  They can become overwhelmed and easily frustrated with museums and attractions at any age.  Melbourne is extremely accessible and welcomes children.  In turn, my kids have welcomed the city into their vernacular.

The Melbourne Museum: a lot of everything

This place has it all.  Aside from the fabulous regular exhibits of dinosaurs, animals, planets, Melbourne and Aboriginal history, it has a large children’s area.  There are reading areas, coloring tables, mini-exhibits, building blocks of all sorts, puzzles and an outdoor area for running around.  I was thoroughly impressed.  That says a lot because I’m not easily impressed by museums. 

Australian Centre of the Moving Image (ACMI): sensory overload

My 4 year old, Claire, and I stumbled into ACMI’s entrance looking for a break from the sun.  We were ushered into a dark exhibit filled with tv screens, mirrors and flashing lights. 

Where do we begin?  Wii Mario Cart on a big screen?  Awesome.  I quickly taught Claire how to “drive” the controller (after I figured it out a few minutes earlier.)  Moments later she drove herself over the finish line.  There we were, dueling Wii Mario Cart, me and my 4 year old, in the basement of Federation Square.

The exhibits were a lot to handle for Claire.  She became frustrated more than once, scared twice, and overwhelmed the entire time.  However, she can’t wait to visit Uncle Johnny and drive princess toadstool to the checkered flag… or escape a hot day in the CBD again.

Scienceworks: hands on

Need activity?  Go to Scienceworks.  While the under 8 area included a construction zone, diner/cafe, mini Melbourne made of legos, and tv weather station, the main area contained exhibits geared toward older visitors but work for any age.  A large outdoor space provided picnic tables and 2 playgrounds.  It was perfect for my kids’ standard brown bag lunch. 

We raced each other on a mini track, snowboarded down a virtual ski slope, threw the footy, interacted with moving dinosaurs (although slightly scary at first) and built a brick wall with the help of pulleys and wheelbarrows.  My kids loved it.

Werribee Open Range Zoo: safari and more

The third zoo in Victoria Zoo’s triple threat, after the Melbourne Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary, is a typical zoo experience combined with a bus safari.  The gorillas were a bit far, the lions lazy (as usual), but the bus ride felt as if we could have been in Africa.

I noticed the details.  I noticed the stylized signage and continued safari theme within the zoo.  We also couldn’t help but notice the children’s activities between exhibits.  From mini obstacle courses through the bush, to a dance party stage and water play fountains with realistically placed exit holes, extra care was taken for children’s enjoyment. 

The best part about our outings is that the above activities were mostly free for children with minimal entrance for adults.  Melbourne children’s guides are available at tourist information centers with further discounts and ideas.  With so many options, what’s not to like?  I recommend going slowly with repeat visits.

The kids have taken Melbourne by storm.  A storm where many unhappy moments are outshined by the brightest ones, learning to see, sense and explore.

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The Castle

“A man’s home is his castle.”

We rented the movie Australia with Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman (I love myself some Baz Luhrmann – just ask my Moulin Rouge watch group back home) and despite being disappointed, learned a bit about the country’s past (American schools simply ignore the majority of Australian history) but we were in search of a classic, something you would have watched in high school and reminisced about with friends.  Great comedies are cult classics.  The Castle is Australia’s version.

With great lines, humorous family and a younger Eric Bana the movie was a pleasant surprise.  I had never heard of The Castle before, even though it was released in the States (unlike Muriel’s Wedding, which is another comedic Aussie film widely viewed in the US).  We are certain there are more out there.

Enjoy the laughs.  “This one’s going straight to the pool room.”

Posted in American Expat in Australia | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Loving the Livability

If you haven’t already heard, Melbourne was recently named the “Most Livable City in the World” by The Economist.  While there have been arguments against this title, including lack of “urban density” and transit options, I reside in the affirmative camp. 

Here are my 5 reasons (in no particular order) why Melbourne is truly a most livable city for our family.

5.  The Inner Suburbs

These are not really suburbs, but outlying city neighborhoods.  It is the perfect blend of city and suburb life.  You can live in a house, have a small garden, take bike rides with the kids,  enjoy neighborhood shops and restaurants, feel miles away from a large city and have but a 10 minute drive downtown.  You can’t beat that unless you want to get away from it all…

4.  The Surrounds

Yes, get away from it all by traveling an hour south to the Mornington Penninsula.  We recently rented a sports car, had a fabulous winery lunch, took a dip in the hot springs and returned home in time to put the kids to bed.  OR…

Travel an hour northeast to the Yarra Valley.  We recently visited Healesville Sanctuary (again) for our Aussie animal fix, had yet another fabulous winery lunch, ran through art installations with winery dogs, and again, we were home in time to make a quick dinner.  OR…

Travel a couple of hours north toward spa country or the Grampians for even more outdoor adventures and wild Aussie animals.  It goes on and on.

Mt. Martha

3.  Relaxed Atmosphere

There’s a no frills, happy-go-lucky feeling about Melbourne that I enjoy.  (Of course, you can opt for the fancier side of Melbourne.)  This feeling makes it different from my experience with Sydney.  Sydney is gorgeous with lots to offer but during my visit I felt I needed to take extra time to look the part of mum with the most.   

Perhaps I feel this way about Melbourne because of our neighborhood or the people I’ve met, but there’s simply a relaxed, comfortable air about the place. 

2. The Under 12s

With 5 playgrounds within walking distance of our home (countless others a short drive away), library, playgroup center, toy library, state of the art sports center, nicer cafes and restaurants with play areas and children’s menus, museums with fabulous children’s centers, multiple wildlife options and children’s programs during holiday periods Melbourne is my favorite city for my children.  They agree and noted that I forgot to mention the beach.

Melbourne Museum

 1. Everything Else

Have I mentioned the services?  Great restaurants, markets, shopping, museums, arts, sports and outdoor activities are yours to choose and enjoy.

Sure, groceries, restaurants, home goods, gas and real estate (and just about everything else) are expensive, waitlists for schools are common and it’s necessary to obey the speed limits but the resources and surrounding environments are right at your fingertips, just waiting to be explored.

Of course I miss home but you can make Melbourne your own.  We have and we are loving it.

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Cup Day

Our first Tuesday in November, Melbourne Cup Day, (and State of Victoria public holiday) was spent at home organizing Halloween candy and watching the “race that stops a nation.” 

We saw many champagne flutes and fascinators fluttering about the marquees.  Then the horses appeared.  3 minutes later it was over.  Americain, our obvious choice, came in fourth despite being the favorite… and the winner?  He won by a nose or rather, a nostril.

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