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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale...

I think I've noted the Oz school schedule before. There are 4 terms, each being 9-10 weeks long. Between terms, students get 2-3 weeks break. Summer break is 6-7 weeks. Remember, summer break is mid-December until end of January.

So with the kids first school break, we decided on a 13-day Royal Caribbean cruise out of Sydney. My dad joined us all the way from Detroit, MI, USA! Living in a port city has huge benefits! The itinerary had several stops in Fiji and New Caledonia; plus Mystery Island in Vanuatu.

I don't really know how to describe being on a 13-day cruise. It was lovely not to have to cook or clean for almost 2 weeks! But we were very tired of the food and activities by day 10.

Our favorite stop was Isle of Pines, an island in the archipelago of New Caledonia (an overseas French territory). I'm not a beach lover. In fact, I'm a beach hater. I loved this beach. The sand was soft and luxurious. It was amazing and relaxing and loads of fun. I even offered to let the boys bury me in the sand!

We also stopped at Noumea, New Caledonia; Inyeug, Vanuatu; Lautoka, Fiji; Suva, Fiji; and Mare, New Caledonia.

In Noumea we walked around a bit but there wasn't much to see right near the port. The port itself is an "active" port, meaning it is in frequent use for shipping goods. We had to be bussed from the ship to just out of the port.

Bus out of the port in Noumea

View from ship in Noumea

Noumea is the capital of New Caledonia. Right near the bus drop felt incredibly touristy, and by this point Passover had started so eating off the ship was very challenging. We walked around a bit but didn't do much else.

Inyeug is commonly referred to as Mystery Island. As someone in PR can tell you, this is all BS. This tiny islet off the southern tip of the Vanuatu archipelago is totally uninhabited. The human population of this lovely place is 0. Zero. Nada. Zip. Zilch. The natives that service the island live on a different island -- they won't sleep here. History says in the 1850s Australian blackbirders (kidnappers who would enslave islanders and drag them back to Queensland to work on the burgeoning sugar cane farms) used the island as a hiding spot and safe haven from authorities. The local islanders, then superstitious cannibals, feared Inyeug was inhabited after dark by ghosts. So after dark, the blackbirders could roam free here.

Inyeug / Mystery Island is supposed to be an amazing snorkel and dive spot. We had miserable weather; we played on the beach for a bit, then got back on the boat. Sad.

I picked up this neat shell and realized it was someone's home!
Digging to...China?

Lautoka is the second largest city in Fiji. It is in the heart of Fiji's sugar cane crops. Lautoka was a mostly wonderful day (more on that in the next post). We took a taxi to a lovely resort and spent the day swimming and lounging. We skipped seeing the town as it was Easter Sunday and most everything was closed.

Passover lunch at the pool -- icy poles (popsicles) and crisps (chips)

Next stop was Suva, the capital city of Fiji. It's a shame we were here on Easter Monday (public holiday in Fiji, Australia and many other South Pacific countries) as I would've liked to explore a bit more. The boys skipped this port (again, you'll learn more about that in our next post) and hung out on the ship in the kids club. We shopped a bit but most stores were closed for Easter Monday.

Our final stop was Mare. I didn't think I'd be able to cajole them off the boat, but at the last minute they both joined me. We took a bus to a beach and played in the water and sand all day. The sand wasn't nearly as magical as Isle of Pines, but I toughed it out 👧

The boys burying each other at the beach near Mare

Proof that Grumpa visited a beach (he likes beaches less than I do).
All in all, it was a nice trip. Thirteen days was a bit long, but its hard to complain about that. Our special order Passover food never materialized but the crew did a phenomenal job catering to us. Here's M eating a ship-made matzo pizza!

Explorer of the Seas matzo pizza!
Lunch at Johnny Rocket's on the ship. Root beer floats!
Romping around the ship 

Early birthday celebration!
Arriving back to Sydney on day 13 was spectacular! I hope this view never gets old or mundane.

It was great to have no internet for almost two weeks, though returning to the grid following that was a bit painful.

As you've probably gathered from this post, M had a defining event in Lautoka, Fiji, that he wants to blog about. Until next time...!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The magic suitcase!

As you probably know, my dad came to visit us! It was a surprise to the kiddos. They were excited to see him, but only briefly. I had made homemade pancakes for breakfast the morning he arrived and they wanted to return to their delicious food.

My dad brought a suitcase of stuff just for us. You can get most anything in Australia -- but at a steep price. This is an island nation. There's no Mexico or Canada from which to procure produce if the crop is poor in Oz. There are a few shops throughout the country that cater to Americans (which remember is the size of the US lower 48). Mostly, though American goodies are pricey.

A few weeks prior to Grumpa's visit, I began loading up our online shopping cart and shipping boxes to him. About a week prior to his departure he noted the suitcase still had some space. Big mistake :-)

So, here are some of the items that were so valuable to us:

  • The Sunday New York Times. This probably doesn't require an explanation, but you cannot get a print copy of the Times in Sydney. I really enjoy the Sunday edition. It takes me back to my pre-parenthood life. The New York Times recently opened a full bureau in Sydney; they report some interesting things and put out a weekly newsletter. But no print copy. No printed magazine. I savored that paper for 2 weeks and paced myself. It was glorious.
  • VPN-enabled router. We have a lot of streaming content available to us when we're in the US. When you're out of the US but still have that content available, it's not easy to access. Your device tells the request device where you are geographically. A lot of content gets blocked when you're outside your "home" country. We could stream American content on a laptop with a VPN (a sort of location scrambler) but that was very unsatisfying and inconvenient. The router is VPN-enabled. It has its own wifi name and password and it tells servers we live in the US. It took a long time to get situated but it's so nice to have. Very happy with this purchase. Thank you again M.O. for the help!
  • Girl Scout Cookies. We're rationing these.

  • Cheerios. The struggle is real. This was a last minute addition. E was so thrilled they had arrived!

  • Toiletries. All these can be found in Oz. At a hefty price. I found a comparable deodorant to what I like and it was $25AUD.
  • Zipper sheets. M requested bunk beds when we were furniture shopping. Having never tried to change sheets on the top bunk, I didn't know how challenging this would be. The zipper sheets will make life way easier. Props to Aaron for this suggestion!
  • Goodies for us + the kids. Nani and Bubbie Erma put presents and cards in for the kids, us and me. So thoughtful! I'm saving mine until my birthday.
This is not a full list of what was in the suitcase but it is some highlights. Nothing spectacular, as you can see.

There was a long delay in posting while we were on a 13-day cruise. More about that shortly!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Oh, crap!

I started writing this blog post several days ago and it mysteriously vanished. Oh, crap! Fitting since this post is about the Coriolos effect and the impact (or lack of) on Australian toilets.

Australia is in the southern hemisphere. The United States is in the northern hemisphere. This means there are many opposites.

Winter in the northern hemisphere is from mid-December until mid-March; that's summertime in the southern hemisphere with winter happening mid-June until mid-September. In the northern hemisphere you go south for warmer weather; in the southern hemisphere you go north. We're still comprehending all of this.

Image credit: quora / Peshawa B Salih

The other interesting thing about being in the opposite hemisphere from what you're used to is that some things can be impacted by the Coriolos effect. I'm not a physicist but from what I can tell the Coriolos effect is how a moving object veers right in the northern hemisphere and left in the southern.

Image credit: NOAA

When we announced we were moving to Australia, one of the comments people often made was about how the toilet flush would swirl the opposite direction. As if this should be a major concern of ours. I assure, this has not concerned us. And I can tell you, if there is a directional change in flush I have not noticed it.

Joseph Castro from LiveScience had this to say a few years ago: The influence of the Coriolis force on spin direction is real, but it is generally only observable on very large scales, such as trade winds and hurricanes.

The affect the Coriolis force has on a toilet bowl is much too small to actually see in a flushing toilet but that doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.

One of the beautiful things about toilets here is that I've yet to come across one that doesn't offer a low flow option. This allows the user to decide whether the deposit requires just a little water or a lot of water. Such an easy place to conserve. Good on ya, Australia!

So there you have it, America -- the water flushing down the toilet might spin differently but its on such a small scale you can't actually see it.

You know what's not on a small scale? My excitement for our first houseguest! Squeal! My dad is en route from Los Angeles. He'll be surprising the boys and joining us on a 13-day cruise to Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. Yeehaw! I'll try to post one more blog before we head off but no promises. 😘