Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Australia Day Weekend

Here's what happens to a laptop when you're living in a furnished rental without a desk near the wifi...
We finally got it fixed today since Monday was a holiday.  Less than half an hour and it was as good as new.

So quick update: We picked up our black Pathfinder on Friday and signed the rental agreement today for our house.

Saturday was Australia Day, the Australian version of the 4th of July.  So instead of going to the crazy festival a block from the apartment, we headed off to the zoo on the south side of the Swan River.

 Black and white stork
 Simmo, the 60-year old male crocodile that can hold his breath for 40 minutes.

 The dingo stole my baby... oh but not these dingos since they were licking their zookeeper and acting like a normal domesticated dog.
 Kangaroos (Red and Grey)!  They have a portion called the Australian walkabout so they're just roaming around.

Baby and mama orangutan

 Giant tortoise
 Zebras and giraffe
 Baby meerkats

 Fireworks from our balcony

 The beach on Monday.  Clear water, white sand, and tons of seashells.  This is a beautiful place to live!

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Beau tripped this morning and fell on the laptop and destroyed the screen. So we need to get our monitor fixed. We went to the zoo yesterday in Australia Day so pictures coming hopefully next week.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Days 3 and 4: Helpful hints for moving to Perth

Quick house update-- We were approved!! 

So this might sounds like a lot of complaining but I'm going to try and make it a constructive lesson's learned (how very engineering of me)!

Before getting on a bus, make sure you check if its going all the way to where you want to go.
Our apartment is at the other end of the CBD from my office.  So all I need to do is catch a bus, go 5 stops and go to work.  Well, I didn't look at the bus number but I did ask if the bus went to St George's Terrace.  She said yes and on I went.  So we went a couple of stops and she said that she was about to turn off and that I should probably get off and just walk up.  I should have clarified I needed the end of the street. 

Before you trust a stranger for directions, look at the street signs for the number range.
The Perth office is at 235 St George's Terrace.  I saw #225 and kept walking.  Ended up at a split and walked down the street that wasn't St. George's Terrace anymore.  So I see a building that I thought I recognized but didn't see a number.  So I ask this guy if I was on the right street and he said no that I needed to go back and then he asked what number and pointed to this brown building.  So I walked back up and crossed the split road.  Well that was #251 or something.  So I turned around and noticed #240 so I knew I had passed it.  Then I see the little silver number that leads to the building behind the other buildings.  I also see that the street signs have the street number range on them.  So obvious once you miss it.  At least I gave myself half an hour so I wasn't late but I was a little sweaty for my 1st day of work.

I managed to get home on Wednesday and get to work and home on Thursday without incident.

You need points for everything from house rental to cell (mobile as they call it here) phones.
Chris and the kids met me at work this morning so we can go to the bank and get cell phones.  Bank was pretty straight forward.  So off we went to find someone to break the iphones and get a new plan in Australia.  Well no one is able to break the phone so we can call AT&T to get it done in 5-7 working days.  We knew that they could do it before coming but thought someone at the Apple store here could do it.

We see a doctor in the middle of the outdoor mall so we take E in since she hasn't been able to keep food inside.  Big diagnosis: diarrhea and to keep giving her the probiotics, electrolytes and water.  Chris was worried it was dysentery, parasites, etc. thanks to googling symptoms (he should know better).  But E and I really liked the doctor and it's close to the train so it will be an easy ride to go back there in the future.
{Emilia fell asleep on the toilet after we woke her up to talk to Kaley and Mia.  You can also see the suitcases in the shower.}

So then we go to one of the big phone carriers.  Chris had gone in while we were at the clinic and found that we could get a iPhone5 and plan for $70/month each but he couldn't get past the employment question since he doesn't have a job here.  So I go back and sit there and answer a million questions and try to get them what they need.  We have passports.  We don't have an Australian utility bill (although we had US ones), we don't have Australian driver's license but the US ones are reciprocal, we don't have birth certificates, rental agreement in our name, etc. so we can't get a phone contract.  By this time, I'm irritated that we wasted so much time and I need to get back to work since it's only Day 2.  So we need a phone and can get a pay as you go card.  So we could either buy a cheap phone or just wait for the phones to be unlocked.  I learned that there are burner phones at the post office so I think we'll get Chris one so I can at least talk to him while I'm at work and not depend only on email.

Take the max amount of cash out of the country with you.
We should have taken $10,000 not just $1500.  So I've been trying to get our money transferred from the US bank to the Australia bank since I got back to work.  Security is high and so anything over $1000 transferred needs a site key.  So you can get that sent to your cell phone or $20 for a card to be sent in 5-7 days but you can't do that if you've changed addresses in the last 30 days.  So when I got home we called my mom to see if we could get it sent to her.  Couldn't do it sooner since we're 14 hours ahead and it was the middle of the night.  So of course she says no problem.  So we go to get set up and it looks suspicious since my office has the server in KL and then we're trying to login in Austrailia (like we're some computer geek that knows how to manipulate that kind of stuff.)  I'm the opposite of  the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo!  So we then talk to the bank and they say try again in a hour since we answered all the security questions so it will go through.  So we've now tried again and he's on the phone with them since it still didn't go through.  Well they said to use Internet Explorer and it worked.  Halleluiah.  Hopefully we can get cash tomorrow and it's not being held.  Nope looks like Tuesday.  Ah... Nothing is easy.

Have a backup plan and patience.
We set up Vonage so at least we can call the US and skype.  Our parents will bail us out but they're wire won't be any faster than ours.  I can mail something 2 day but electric money can't go across some wires?

So tomorrow morning, we're going to pick up the Pathfinder.  Since I now have a 4-day weekend (off Friday plus Australia day on Monday) we'll hopefully get to site-see a bit and explore what's around us.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Day 2: House Hunters International in Perth

Yesterday we went house hunting.  Part of the package was a relocation expert to look at houses for a day and schools for half a day.  So we combined the search yesterday until we need to go and register Emilia.  So we started at 9:30 since the first appointment was at 10am.  Our criteria was north of the Swan River with good public school, close to transportation since I don't want to drive to work and 3 bedrooms/2 bath.  Apparently its difficult to get showings so we were lucky to get so many instead of just drive-bys.  Appliances like refrigerators and washers/dryers also need to be purchased for the houses but they have hook-ups.

First house was a 3 story duplex.  It was huge.  Too much house than what we need.  There were 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 2 car carport, a study with built-ins, the whole 3rd floor could be a gameroom with a wall of bookcases and desks.  But it was pretty dated.  Pink laminate counter tops in the kitchen and the stove was 2 burners and a wok. It just didn't feel like where we wanted to live for the next 2 years. http://www.realestate.com.au/property-house-wa-nedlands-409528619

Then we went to a more traditional Australian style house.  These are like the Craftsman style one-story.  I liked this house.  There was a decent kitchen with gas stove.  It was older too but Emilia and I found it charming.  There was stained glass windows and a kids part in the back with 2 rooms and a small gameroom along with 2 more bedrooms towards the front of the house.  But the bathrooms were pretty dated with brown tile and a brown toilet.  There were a lot of common rooms but it was choppy.

The next one was nice with wood floors in the living room and a fountain with goldfish in it.  There was a 4th bedroom downstairs with its own bathroom.  There was another full bath downstairs and an eat-in kitchen.  Upstairs had 3 bedrooms but the only bath was in the master and it was tiny.  This was Chris's pick before lunch.

So we drove by some a few more houses and some schools next.  Nedlands Primary has a really nice, large playground that is shaded by many mature trees.  So we really liked this school from the outside.  School is out for summer break right now and so registration can be done starting on the 29th.

We took a break for lunch and then had our next appointment at 2:30.  Next up was the house that I liked from searching the internet.  It's what we envisioned when making our budget and deciding on how much furniture to take.  I was disappointed when it disappeared from the listings but was happy when it popped back up last week.  We were early but a handy man was tinkering with the wall of window doors in the back and preparing the porch for new paint.  He said that we could take a look through until the agent got there since we were half an hour early.

This house didn't disappoint.  There was a front porch.  The ceilings were high.  The bedrooms and bathrooms were spacious and updated.  The master closet reminded me of a smaller version of the American one and would hold all our clothes.  The wood floors were great.  There was no carpet.  Each bedroom and the living room/kitchen had an AC/heater.  The street has mature trees and just is picturesque.  The house literally has a white picket fence (and so does the one next door).

The next house was a closer to the school but farther from public transportation.  It had carpet in the bedrooms.  They have heating in the floors, solar panels, water barrel.  It had great, natural Australian plants for landscaping.  I should have loved this house.

We cancelled the appointment for our last house since I didn't care for the location.  It looked onto the backs of the next street's houses and just didn't give a very friendly vibe.

So of course we put in an application last night for the 1st Shenton Park house.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Part 2 - We're here (Perth: Day 1)

The plane ride from Dallas to Brisbane was long but not too bad.  Everyone had their own tv and we could watch movies, tv shows, listen to music, play games but mostly we slept.  The kids slept and slept and slept.  Someone was sick on our flight so when we arrived at the airport, we couldn't get off until Quarantine had ok'ed the plane.  Our next flight was scheduled to take off in less than 2 hours and boarding was in 1.5.  So it took about 15 minutes to get off the plane.

Once we got off, we had to go through customs, claim our bags (3 trolleys-- Emilia pushed one along with Chris and I and Beau was riding on top of mine in the car seat), travel to the Qantas check-in counter to re-check our bags, catch a bus to the other airport for domestic flights, make it through security and rush to the gate.  We had 5 minutes to spare.  We're now 12 hours ahead of Houston.

So the kids slept on Flight #3 from Brisbane to Perth.  I think I was more restless on this flight even though we had the tvs again since we didn't have as much room in Economy as we did on Flight #2 in Economy Plus.  Once we arrive, we're 14 hours ahead of Houston.  We see our driver, and start getting all the bags.  Chris is paged and told that one of our bags didn't make it from the Brisbane flight.  Not too bad considering that we had 10 checked things (8 suitcases, 1 car seat and 1 stroller).  They said it would go out on the 4 o'clock run so we should have it between 4:30 and 6:30.

Emilia as we get to Perth.  Still holding onto Tooth #3 but it's going to be lost any day.

So we get the van and trailer loaded up and head to the property management office to pick up the keys to the furnished apartment that will be our home for the next month.  We thought we would stay until our container got here but now the rented furniture option is looking more appealing... but I'm getting ahead of myself.  We have the keys and find the building.  Our driver waits outside while we got to find the apartment.  We got in the front door but then can't figure out why our keys aren't letting us in the building.  Someone comes out so we go in.  Then the key won't work in the elevator.  Someone asks us where we're trying to go and explains that we're in the tower part and that's why we can't go up-- we're in the wrong building.  So he shows us where to go.  Up 1 elevator (or loads of stairs) and then into the back building and up to the 8th floor.  Its funny how they number this building.  Its not 100s on the 1st floor, 200s on the 2nd, etc.  We're a 2 digit number and not surrounded by all sorts of other numbers.  Its like the numbered the units by completion date or something.  Weird!

So we get to our apartment finally.  Not that it took that long to get there from the airport but we had been on 3 flights over the last day and a half.  Its around 1pm, we're hungry and hot and thirsty and just want to get everything settled. I go down and get the driver to go into the garage so we can bring the bags straight up and not go through 3 doors and 2 elevators to get there.  We need to call the airline with our phone number so they can call on their way and we realize that the phone doesn't work (still doesn't to call out but if you come to our building you can call the apartment) so we get the wifi working an email becomes our lifeline to people in Perth.

I email my HR person and tell him that the crib isn't here, the phone isn't working and I have no way to contact the airline.  So he calls the airline.  We had ambitious plans to get a car, phone and bank on Day 1 but now we're waiting on a bag.  So I talk to the car dealership about the Nissan Pathfinder we put a deposit on and say it will probably be tomorrow since they close at 6pm.  They saving grace was some staples that they gave us to start.  The kids had some milk, banana and bread and checked out the tv.  Chris found a grocery store and bought some more milk, frozen pizzas for dinner, and some other random food.  Emilia fell asleep on the couch and wouldn't wake up for dinner but then was up at 1am doing cartwheels.  We got them back to sleep since we knew we had another busy day ahead of us.

So the apartment is modern.  Not exactly kid-friendly with 3 balconies but nice.  We have 2 bedrooms (and closets) and 2 bathrooms along with a washer and dryer. There are no overhead lights (except in the kitchen and bathrooms) or dressers.  There is a darker carpet that looks nice (coming from an anti-carpet person) but really going to be a challenge due to a certain 2 year old's eating habits.

There is a big square dining table that is dark wood with 8 leather parsons chairs.  The kitchen has a nice fridge but no ice (or trays to make ice), electric cooktop, microwave, dishwasher, toaster and tons of plates, glasses, platters... we could give a dinner party.  White lacquer cabinets with big stainless steel pull rods with slick grey square tiles and solid surface ivory speckled countertops.

 The master bedroom has a queen bed and attached bathroom with a sink and bathtub/shower combo and toilet.  The sink is on a floating shelf with some storage.  The beds are pretty low so there isn't room to put the suitcases under them.  So now we're going to put them in the 2nd bathroom's shower.  Yes, in the shower.  I will take some pictures once we get things put away and not in the middle of the living room floor, hallway, and bedroom floors.

I'll catch up on Day 2: Househunters International Perth tomorrow and also Day 3: INTECSEA Perth about how the 1st day of work was.  It will begin around 9am with all the HR stuff and then end with the state of the company dinner from 5-7pm (we have it as a lunch in Houston).  Just a tease-- we put an application in on the house I've been internet stalking for a month.  Maybe we'll even hear back.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Flying Halfway Around the World Part 1

16 of our immediate family went to Saltgrass for lunch at noon. My parents were dropping off the luggage and taking their car back while Chris's parents had standby seats so they could get through security and wait at the gate with us.

We needed to arrive 3 hours before our flight and we were closer to 3 1/2. We are flying Qantas but our 1st leg to Dallas was through American Airlines. So I try to get our boarding passes using the computer. It doesn't find anything. So I have to talk to an agent. There's one person in front of me. She has to look it up since it doesn't list the AA flight number. So she gets us checked in for the 1st flight but can't help us get Beau's seat number for flight #2.

So she's checking in our 8 bags and car seat. She prints 5 luggage tags and then has to print more. We finally get them all through and she hands us their number tags. There are 8 and she has 1 printed that wasn't put on a bag. So she goes to check and see if there's one in the car seat and there is. She calls down after 5 minutes to see if there are any unlabeled bags. She gives them the numbers so they can pull them out.

When she calls back again, they go through the numbers and they say they have 8. But 1 of the numbers isn't in her claim tickets. Oh-- there it is when she looks behind the printer and the car seat is number nine the baggage handlers realize.

Next up, security. We manage to get through screening fairly quickly and then the metal detectors. Beau cries because he has to send his truck through and then won't walk so I end up carrying him and he won't let me put him down.

We see a Starbucks, get drinks and sit down. We're thru at its around 3:15. Restroom breaks, wiggling, sitting in the massaging chairs ensue. Then I take a look at the boarding passes. Gate check in us at 3:30. So I tell Chris and then he asks what time it is... 3:45. Great I figure we've missed our plane. We hear final call for Chapman and Emilia and I run down to the gate (always at the end). Apparently we got on an earlier flight but that was never pointed out to us probably due to the bag fiasco.

So there was no lingering goodbyes to Chris's parents. Just quick hugs and dragging all the carry-ons down the causeway. The plane is half empty so we take our quick flight to Dallas and land about the time we expected to board the plane.

We've had a bite of dinner at Bennigan's (We thought they ally closed) and some Ben and Jerry's. Chris got our seats while E and B ate their ice cream and now we wait for a couple more hours until we can board the plane. Emilia has her blanket and pillow pet out, shoes off and is curled up watching Peter Pan. Beau is playing Legos on the iPhone running on pure adrenaline.

I'll post on Facebook when we land in Brisbane and again when we finally get to Perth. We're dreading dragging all of the luggage and carrying through customs after this 16 hour plane ride. I should have taken a picture when it was loaded up at the curb but its every bit as crazy as you can imagine 8 large suitcases, 4 carry-on suitcases, a briefcase, back back, diaper bag, purse and car seat would be. It's looks like we're moving... Oh yeah, we are... and this is what we have for the next 2 months until our container shows up from its travel at sea.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Unmistakably Blessed

In the words on my dear friend Amanda, we have been unmistakably blessed.  Two years ago, there was an opportunity to go to the UK office that I was very interested in to work on a project in Egypt.  Then this happened.  We had rushed the get passports for everyone and didn't even set up a Christmas tree since we didn't know how fast it would happen.  Well it didn't happen and we signed Emilia up for spring soccer and kindergarten and went on with our lives.

Then it felt a little like deja vu when I was asked about Perth except this offer wasn't dependent on a project.  We had just set out all the Christmas decorations over Thanksgiving... and I mean decorations!  Chris was born on Christmas Eve and loves Christmas so we go all out.  We even bought a new slimline tree with the lights already on it and sold our other tree.  Life was good.  Emilia has a new best friend named Amelia that moved into our neighborhood this summer that she met on the 2nd day of school.  She had just played in the Winter Blast soccer tournament in between the fall and spring seasons.  She moved to Level 3 in gymnastics and finally got into her friend Bridget's class that we were on the wait list for.  I was about to start changing Emilia's room from princesses to Paris.  I promised when she was 3 and choose Sleeping Beauty that she could change it in 3 years.  I found a fabric to jump off of and make a couple of pillows.  Now her room in Perth will turn into Paris.  Beau is counting to 10 and potty training.  Chris had his groove at work and I was hitting my stride with project management and new engineers programs.  Plus I finally felt like I had a set of Mom friends in The Woodlands that my kids liked to play with their kids and we could hang out and chat.

Would I be interested in going to Perth?  Australia.  I've wanted to go there since I can remember knowing about this country.  I wanted my dad to get transferred there when I was little but he would just go on business trips.  He even brought Emilia a koala necklace a few years ago.  So I didn't hesitate when I was asked.  The timing would work for Chris since it was a few weeks until his Christmas break and that would be a natural break point for the students.

I told Emilia's teacher that it was a possibility when I was the classroom helper if she heard her say anything.  Then the next week had to tell her that it was happening.  I was supposed to run Bingo for her school's big spring fundraiser and had to back out.  This was also the friend from Villa that convinced me on Labor Day that we could do the sprint Triathlon as a relay where she would run and I would swim and someone else would bike; then I looked at the distances and thought I had enough time to train to do it all (thanks Jenny for the inspiration/crazy dream).  And I got a new friend and neighbor to host the January bunko that I signed up for.

So things just keep falling into place for us even with the Christmas break.  We already had passports so we could apply for the visas, my offer was more than the minimum number Chris and I came up with to consider a move, I found a storage place half off, rented a mailbox, got a phone number and could transfer our current house number, friends and family have watched the kids, loaned us trucks and trailers, helped load boxes to storage, and things were getting sold off Woodlands online.

We were going to list our house before Christmas for lease.  Then it kept getting closer so we decided to just get all the Christmas decor put up before pictures were taken so we had time to clean out too. So the pictures were taken Friday after Christmas.  She thought they might get uploaded on Monday in time to get them up before New Year's but they got them late in the day.  We signed the paperwork on Monday night and got the lockbox and sign in the yard then the listing went up yesterday morning.  An hour later we had an appointment for a showing and that afternoon we had a full price offer for 1 year and probably 2.  Now should we have asked for more?  We thought it might take 30-45 days to get it leased and have to reduce the price since the market is slow in the winter but only 4 other houses had pools in our zip code with similar bedrooms.  I call it a God wink that hopefully everything will work out with this family and that they were meant to have this house for their son and daughter.  We will break even on the mortgage/insurance, yard and pool maintenance, storage unit, property manager, real estate costs, and mailbox.  So now we just need to get the cars sold.  People have been interested but flaky.  I'm going to go by the dealer and CarMax since I'm sure they would buy them just for less money than independently selling them.

Everyone has good things to say about Perth.  The only drawback is that it's expensive and isolated.  Closest place is Bali which is a 3 hour place ride and Sydney in 5 hours.  Their school year starts in February so now we're anxiously awaiting our visas so we can plan the next part of our lives!  Maybe I'll come back a rower!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!  It's hard to believe that we've already reached the end of 2012.  It has been an exciting end of the year.  Let me do a timeline to catch up the blog.

Thursday, November 22 : Thanksgiving Day. Run Thru the Woods.

Friday, November 23 : Tumey Thanksgiving
Saturday, November 24: Chapman Thanksgiving.  Tracey starts to run a fever.
 Monday, November 26 : Tracey tries to go to the doctor but there's a 3 hour wait.  Figures that she will get some Mucinex and feel better tomorrow.
Tuesday, November 27 : Still running a high fever and goes to the doctor and waits for them to open.  Diagnosed with the flu and bronchitis.
Thursday, November 29 - Still sounds bad but energy is returning.

Friday, November 30 : Chris gets the flu.  Goes to the doctor and gets Tamiflu and feels good again on Sunday.  Tracey goes back to work.  Less than 2 hours later, gets asked if she would be interested in going to Perth, Australia.  YES! The position would not be project dependant but then do they want me? I don't have the years of experience and don't know the Perth employees or projects.
Tuesday, December 4 : Phone interview with Perth.  Only scheduled for half an hour but goes for over an hour and a half.  Realize that maybe this could happen after about an hour and that they're not just humoring me.  So when?  ASAP.  Person is transitioning onto a project already so the position is vacant.  Takes 3 - 4 weeks for a visa.  The school year for Emilia starts at the beginning of February so we'd target mid-January.

Wednesday, December 5 : Chris tells his principal that it's a possibility that we could be transferred (halfway around the world with a 14 hour time difference). 
Monday, December 10 : Given a verbal offer and accept it.
Tuesday, December 11: Chris turns in his resignation.  He's not going back after the break.  Start the ball rolling with how to lease the house, getting a mailbox and storage unit.  Transitions at work, etc.

Monday, December 17 : Tracey emails the signed contract.

So we've been sorting everything lately along with all the Christmas festivities.  Stuff to donate, throw away, store and what we're going to keep.  We can't find a house until we're in Perth since they have to be done in person so we're taking the stuff like beds and dressers and couch but none of the electronics and lamps since they won't work there. 

The "For Lease" sign went up in the yard yesterday and we should be up and listed on Wednesday.  Freckles and the fish went to live with some friends and Mao is with Chris's parents so we'll be able to keep up with them. The cars are being sold.  And we're generally trying to get everything done while waiting for the visas to come through.

Chris and I before the Christmas party

Beau and Emilia on Market Street for Tuba Christmas

So to wrap up 2012, let's visit the resolutions for 2012:
1) Work out 3 days a week.  I'm following the 9 week Couch to 5K program on my iPhone. I'll also keep going to a yoga or Pilates class.
We joined Villa Sport and love it!  The kids go to the Kids Club while Chris and I workout.  Then this summer we'd go to the pool.  Then soccer season started and we haven't been back to the pool.  Also started training for the CBI Sprint Triathlon in May 2013.

2) Wake up early to do Goal #1.  This means 4:15am for 2 or 3 days a week.
Yeah I call this one a fail.  But with Villa we could work out after work.

3) Celebrate our 11th Anniversary in March since I was out of town for our 10th.
We went to lunch at Jasper's on Market Street.  Didn't get to the movie though.

4) Give Emilia and Beau fun birthday parties.
Done and done.

5) Help Chris around the house more.  He cooks, he cleans, he takes care of the kids after school.
I'm sure Chris would say that he hasn't seen any improvement here.

6) Read at least 12 new books, probably on my iPhone.  Maybe I should make a resolution to read 2 real books that I have stacked up and 10 iPhone books.
Read 13 books (3 real books).  I keep track on the right side of this blog -->
7) Visit Cloudcroft, NM to see Bethanee, Marsha and Bill.
Went over Spring Break in March.

8) Visit Seattle to see Stephanie, Brian and Jake.
Went in August.

9) Take my lunch to work and only buy it once a week.  We make Emilia do it and we should too!
Well I might only buy once or twice a week since I have a lot of lunchtime meetings but not so good on bringing it from home.

10) Chris and I want to Run through the Woods on Thanksgiving 2012 (which goes back to Goal #1) We did the family walk so we could have Beau in the stroller.