The Wizardess of Oz

An American's Adventures in Australia and Beyond

Category: Life In Sydney (page 2 of 7)

The Daily Comings and Goings of Living in a New City

Everyone in Australia is Gay (If You’re American)

In the US, from the time you’re a little kid, you understand the connotations of “boyfriend” and “girlfriend.” At first the words make you fake gag and squeal about cooties (and that’s just the boys). Then there are the angsty, hormonal pubescent years where you waver between fervent, desperate desire to make the lead singer of the boy band with crappy hair and babyface your boyfriend, and the utter disgust and lament over the state of the boys in your class who actually want (or don’t want) to be your boyfriend. Then you actually have a boyfriend (not the pretend middle school “hold hands in the parking lot” but one who actually picks you up and takes you out on dates), then you swear you never will again when your young and nubile heart is shattered, etc. etc. etc.

With homosexual relationships slooooowly (pathetically slowly) taking their place as valid relationships among the ignorant/Bible-thumping American public, the term “partner” has started to become the norm to describe these relationships. “Boyfriend/girlfriend” still exists for homo- and heterosexual relationships, but in the States they seem to have bequeathed “partner” to the gays. Or the gays decided to take it and own it. Either way.

Upon my move to Australia, one of the most confusing things that would happen when my peers would describe their significant other was the reference to him/her as their “partner.” I would be thrown into a momentary confusion, assuming they meant their same-sex partner, and would lament the absolutely tragic state of my gaydar. But then he or she would follow up with a gender pronoun of the opposite sex, which meant an opposite-sex partner was being referred to. And it would take a little longer than it should have for me to realize that “partner” is a term equally shared by gay and straight couples in Oz. And then I would be momentarily upset that the mega hottie I was sort-of trying to flirt with in the work meeting wasn’t gay, but was definitely off the market. I would’ve preferred gay, personally.

And that is the inane and totally senseless story of how I spent a couple of months assuming everyone in Australia was gay. Definitely not the payoff I’m sure you were expecting with that headline, hey?

(And here’s one more set of brackets and italics just because they are apparently my favorite things today)!

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Oh, Hello Holiday Hangover

Nothing like a Monday to back-hand you in the face with a resounding thump of homesickness and exhaustion. Celebrating my birthday with copious amounts of drink for three days straight likely isn’t helping matters much, and the fact that it’s Monday morning is just adding insult to injury, but approximately 27 days after my departure from the USA, I have finally been inflicted with the most vicious of the expat afflictions: The Holiday Hangover.

The Holiday Hangover is a unique variant of the homesickness virus. Onset usually begins over some ocean somewhere in the world as you are returning to your country of residence from your country of birth. But symptoms are rarely expressed for weeks, sometimes months, after onset. Then, it hits you like a freight train: you’ve just used up your entire vacation day allowance visiting home, you have nothing to look forward to, and you’re not likely to see any of your family members or friends for months (if you’re lucky).

I expected my Hangover to hit much earlier than it did, and I even thought maybe I’d gotten off clean this trip home. But no, that sneaky little asshole was just storing up his energy waiting to deliver a stronger wallop than normal. After a deep psycho-self-analysis, I’ve determined that this is likely due to anticipation for my (now-passed) birthday, the fact that my only family member in this country is preparing for her return to the US, an incredibly stressful few weeks at work (and not much hope of it letting up anytime soon), and some disappointments in my personal life that I’d tried to convince myself didn’t really matter (but actually kinda do). A glorious snowball effect that reached critical mass this morning as I booted up my computer and tried to swallow a lump in my throat.

For the first time, I’ve realized that my homesickness isn’t just the result of missing the people and places I’ve left behind, but is brought on by the ever-present restlessness of soul that seems to have become much more pronounced the past year I’ve been here in Australia. Somehow I feel like something is supposed to be happening that just isn’t, and maybe that’s why I keep feeling like I want to go back, because I feel like I’m not going forward anymore.

As I’ve mentioned before when the homesickness beast reared it’s ugly head, I know that this too shall pass and tomorrow will be a brighter day, etc. etc. but today, I’m just giving it up to the Holiday Hangover.

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Commitment and a Massive Party

I’ve been accused of being a commitment-phobe, of not taking things seriously enough that should be taken seriously, of not finishing things I start, and was summed up in a word by an ex-boyfriend on my move to Australia: “flighty.”

That said, when I moseyed on over to my lil blog here today to make what are starting to become twice-monthly updates, I was congratulated for successfully blogging for a year. A YEAR! I forayed into blogging upon my move to Seattle and wrote several incredibly boring posts over the course of a few months before the blog finally was abandoned like an unexpected litter of puppies in a drugstore parking lot. Nobody missed it much, including me. But now here I am year later, actually sticking with blogging, and over 50 randoms from around the world are surprisingly interested enough in my writing & life to follow me, plus at least a couple dozen of you dutifully read each post I write (that number triples when I write about dating, and my heartbreak post STILL gets about one Google hit per day, through very depressing search queries).

So basically, go me, and stuff that in your pipe and smoke it Mr. Flighty.

I think it makes sense to reflect on where I was a year ago since I will be back in the US celebrating my brother’s wedding for my actual one-year Sydney anniversary and think it should be marked blogally (yep, just made it up). Trying to convey the vortex of big dreams, great expectations, trepidation and excitement that I was in is tough – I was already nostalgic for the city and life I was saying farewell to, but confident that I’d snap my fingers and re-create it. Overly confident, I see now. My optimism had lifted me out of reality, away from remembering that it’s a long, hard road rebuilding a life. And so the past year has been a rebuild in a lot of ways, a tear-down of my old comforts and a restart with some new. And if I had thought I’d done Seattle on my own, this brought that game to an entirely different level. I’m still working on being proud of myself for what I’ve done, but I’m sure in another year I’ll be mentally high-fiving, booty slapping, you-go-girling 2 years ago Jenn. I have to remind myself it’s not only the pretty colors that make the masterpiece, the shadows are what give it definition, a shape, a structure.

In other news, my flatmates and I are planning a massive housewarming party to properly break in our new abode. I spent a few minutes this morning calling around to get a keg delivered to the house Saturday (to my college frat boy friends, the price of keg here is appalling – you’d have to charge a hell of a lot more than $5/cup to get your cash back on these), and to showcase my American heritage I will be encouraging everyone to binge-drink via flip cup, beer pong, and other such collegiate diversions. I’m afraid my Aussie and English flatmates can’t really bring as much to the table – when it comes to creative drinking Americans have cornered the market I think.

Onward and upward, here’s to Year 2! Xoxoxo!

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Trying to Keep My Head Above Water

I can try to use my laziness at setting up a new internet connection at home as an excuse for not keeping up the blog, but since I have this handy iPhone app that lets me blog from anywhere, that’d be a pretty piss-poor excuse. So let me try to outline some of the other reasons why I’ve been so slack:

  1. I’ve Moved
    Duh, right? Isn’t that what my last three – five posts have been about? Yes, the prep and post of moving is time-consuming, as is getting used to a new routine where blogging doesn’t fit in as much as it used to. I also now have housemates, which leaves me less time alone in my head and more time actually speaking to someone other than the dog; you know, someone who actually answers my questions back? Which means I have less time to sit alone and develop my deep philosophical ideas that absolutely must be shared with the world. Plus even when the house is empty, I can hear every. single. thing. the neighbors next door are doing, so I’ve been too busy blessing them when they sneeze through the wall to think about writing.
  2. I’ve Started Expanding My Horizons
    Or just finding another outlet for drinking outside of work functions and Friday nights. I signed up for a wine education class with a couple of friends to tutor myself on the merits of Australian big-girl grape juice. So far, I’ve learned I’m shit at describing what I’m tasting, which is pretty sad for someone who studied words on such an intense level for so many years, but I’m going to look past that for now. This is part of my “learn something new every six months” self-imposed, post-university education system. Next I think I’ll do a brush-up on Spanish, because I really don’t need another reason to drink on a weeknight. Mostly because…
  3. My Work Life Just Exploded
    I’ve officially taken over one of my agency’s biggest accounts, I’ve had to learn a thousand new things in the course of taking this over, and my expanded role means every sales rep in Sydney is humping my leg for a meeting, or drinks, or lunch, or whatever will keep me out of the office for an inordinate amount of time. Which I can’t do because we have a few giant projects to get off the ground in the next four weeks that have had me working until 8 p.m. most nights when work parties aren’t dragging me out the door at 6, if I even go to them at all. Passing up a party to get work done? What have I become?
  4. My Social Life Also Exploded
    Partially from the new coworkers becoming friends, partially from the new flatmates becoming friends, and partially from my friends suddenly deciding that we need to regularly catch up for drinks/dinners/brunches, I’m now at the point where I have to schedule nights off. My “bikini bridesmaid” diet has been massively derailed by too much work, too much food, and too much drink. So please don’t mind my flabby photos that will be coming out in a few weeks – at least I’m enjoying myself.

In other news, I am still breathlessly anticipating my trip home to the US – the girls’ weekend suite at the Wynn has been booked, the flight back to Philly will be by tomorrow, and I’ll be looking for swimsuits for pool parties and the hot the beaches of Cabo San Lucas in between all of the above craziness.

Here’s to not slowing down, xoxoxo!

There are worse parties to be invited to, yeah??

Bachelor Awards!

Finally Settled

Well, I’m (more or less) settled. I’m no longer a denizen of the beach towns. I’ve hung up my cutoff jean shorts and flip flops, put my beach towels in storage. Gone is the three block walk to the blue-green water of Bondi, the constant grit of sand in the carpet or shower. I’m officially a resident of Paddington.

I haven’t had time to feel nostalgic for my first place in Australia, and I wonder if I ever will. I loved Bondi, or at least the small sliver of it that was warm sand and cool water and a breezy grassy hill that looked out over all of it. But it housed some lonely nights, some difficult days, a temporarily zombie-like state of isolation and disbelief and doubt. And maybe unfairly, Bondi will always be a little tinged with that for me. So I left. Standard, right?

But I didn’t go far. Fifteen minutes will put me right back on that grassy hill, where I can review the scene again. After time, perspective, a string of full days, happy nights, a new “family,” fresh confidence and a life being rebuilt for the first time, finally, can remove the pallor that had been cast on it.

The move went as moves go, at least for me – procrastinated, panicked, but magically somehow pulled off. Not smoothly, but I’m rarely the smooth one anyway so that’s not new.

The unpacking is still in progress, my flatmates and I shuffling the detritus of our lives like a deck of cards, inching toward making a big empty house a home. And I’m exhausted from the sprinting and hauling but I’m eager for the new routine, to see Sydney like it’s new again. To start trying all the cafes, bars and restaurants in my new corner of the city. To become a regular somewhere like I haven’t been since Seattle. To stop this transience for a while. My things may still in disarray, scattered around this house, but I think I’m finally settled.
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Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

So a few posts ago I had mentioned some changes to my life to help me through the winter. Kicking off with a career reboot, I figured I might as well keep the positive momentum by overhauling other parts of my life.

So, I’m moving! As much as I’ve loved walking around in the nude and hated having to fend off spiders on my own, I’ve come to the conclusion that I actually don’t prefer living alone (my friend Raquel called it). Coming from a family of six where personal space and silence was rarer than pygmy unicorn, I had expected to love unfettered access to a bathroom, silence when I wanted it, and living in my own squalor instead of that created by someone else. After ten months, I’m ready to trade it in for the camaraderie of roommates.

I’m also changing location, from the transient town of Bondi Beach to the more settled (and arguably posher) neighborhood of Paddington. It’s closer in to the city and reminds me a good deal of Queen Anne, where I lived in Seattle. The house we found is perfect – directly across from a big park, a couple of blocks from the shops and restaurants, with a big backyard for the pup. Probably best part of all? I can walk to work on nice days in about 20 minutes. How’s this for a kicker – my new street name is Brown Street. So basically, I own the street, yeah?
My House!

Here She Is!

I’m on the hunt for a final flatmate (what we call roommates here in Australia), and have already found another awesome one through the interwebs. It’s all promising to be an amazing step into new friends, new places, and settling a little more deeply into Sydney.

Til next time, xoxoxo!

Failures In Aussie Dating, Part 3 of a Many-Part Saga (Apparently)

Guess what?! I have met so many men. Move over Weather Girls, because it isn’t just raining, it is a torrential downpour of men. And they are all lovely. Intelligent, great careers, well-spoken, good-looking, love to have an adult beverage but don’t turn into raving idiots after a few, good listeners, not afraid to dance when the tunes demand it, actually good at dancing, witty, clever, cultured… Okay I think you get it. So, perfect, right? My dating dilemmas solved! No.

Three problems: 1.) Many are my coworkers, and I have a no coworker policy that I refuse to break. 2.) None of them are single, which isn’t a surprise with that description, right? 3.) Oh, and they’re all gay. Strike three, you’re out.

So while my social life has become ten times more fun and fabulous, many times those social activities are spent in gay bars, where my feminine wiles are vocally adored but never successful in hooking the ever-elusive Aussie male.

And so I’ve finally resorted to what I would consider my last resort: Online Dating. Dun dun DUUUNN!

I have to admit, I’m probably worse at online dating than I am trying to hit on a guy. Here’s how it works: A guy does this winky-thing to express his interest in you using pre-crafted pickup lines supplied by the site. If you like what you see, you wink back using a pre-crafted response. Then usually he will pay money to send you an email. At first, I was getting winky-things from all sorts of people. Some seemed normal, some seemed really weird, about 2% were actually promising. But I felt bad sending back a pre-crafted “Not Interested” response. The options I had seemed really harsh and abrupt – “Thank you for your interest, but I don’t want to take things further right now,” or “I’m very flattered, but I don’t think we have enough in common.” I mean, read between those lines and it felt like I was screaming “Thanks for the wink, but I’d rather stab out my own eyeball with a dull rusty nail than talk to you! Now I’m going to go try to recover the five minutes of my life I just lost looking at your hideous photos!”

In reality, I would have preferred something like, “Hey you seem nice enough, and I realize I can hardly know you from a paragraph and some pictures, but your grammar was atrocious and it’s just a dealbreaker for me. I’m sure you understand. Want to meet my friend Ashley? She can barely spell her first name but she looks like a goddess.” But unfortunately I’m only allowed to send the former.

After a while though, it became exhausting. Dozens of random 45 year olds who lived 100 kms away were sending winky-things, and the site has this obnoxious “response rate” percentage that is always below 100% unless you reply to every single thing, and because I panic if anything is below 90%, I started getting ruthless. Wink! “Oh hey, a 23 year-old giant ginger goon, yes let’s get to know each other. NOT!” and “Oooh a 48-year-old Indian IT analyst wants to be friends, right. And I’m really an inflatable doll with incredible life-like qualities.” “Wait, didn’t I just decline this guy? And he came back AGAIN, with the same pickup line? Facepalm.” Next thing I know, the rude “Not Interested” replies were whizzing through cyberspace at breakneck speed, and it was probably a good thing that I wasn’t allowed to editorialize.

Filtering aside, a few I let through. One emailed to the point of texting, but never tried to set up a date (though he had family visiting). He seemed nice, normal, etc., then one night starting joking (I think) about an ex girlfriend buried in his backyard. What?!? I’m all for making inappropriate jokes, and actually laughed about (joking) insinuations that his sister was a Thai hooker, but the delivery of this joke wasn’t really funny enough, plus I don’t have the context of understanding how he speaks in-person, PLUS he was someone I met from the Internet! Let’s just say texting has ceased and isn’t likely to resume. And now I’m afraid to reply to any of the other emails I’ve gotten in case there are more girlfriends buried in backyards. Or dog haters.

Net-net, I’m wondering if I shouldn’t take down the profile and just spend some time with my new fabulous gay friends.

Grappling with Tragedy from Afar

There is nothing, I’ve decided, that makes you feel farther from home than a catastrophe in your home country as an expatriate.

On Tuesday, I woke up early, got out of bed, fed my dog, went to the gym, showered, and went into work. My co-worker arrived at work, greeted me, then mentioned how sad what happened in Boston was, and my heart sank directly to my knees. Something terrible had happened, I could already tell. But I hadn’t even heard. My best friend lives in Boston, and I hadn’t even heard. It’s like the air is sucked out of your chest and in a millisecond you expect the worst, instantly jumping to a worst-case scenario where anyone you could possibly know and love, and thousands you don’t, are hurt or dead.

Then comes the frantic Googling, the phone calls, the Facebook checks, anxiously diving into misreported details and watching footage on television and choking back a lump in your throat and blinking away the tears that rise in your eyes as you watch a great American city thrown in chaos once again.

My friend was fine, everyone else I knew was OK, but here I was on this island and my country had been wounded, if only temporarily. It’s a helplessness and internal yearning for solidarity I can’t even describe, desperately trying to understand why someone would even dream up such an unfathomable and cowardly attack on a group of people who couldn’t be more innocent.

But what really gets me, and I would venture to say most Americans who aren’t able to hug the people they love when these terrifying reminders of the absurdity of the world come crashing into consciousness, is seeing the scores of people who rush toward danger to help. Boston is a town known for the size of it’s heart and pride in equal measure, and the size of that heart was seen in every single police officer, marathon volunteer, and fellow spectator who rushed toward that explosion and did incredibly clear-minded and heroic things to help the people who were hurt. Seeing the heroism of our fellow countrymen in action, so sharply contrasted by cowardice of the person or people who committed this ugly act, makes those of us placed elsewhere ache for even the strangers that passed us by every day on the street when we lived stateside. It makes us want to do more than post a picture on Facebook and feel our hearts bleed for the people who were killed or forever changed by this awful act.

But since I’m here, I have to be content with the fact that I come from a country where good far outweighs evil, even if evil sometimes makes a louder noise. I come from a country where one or two people may do an ugly thing, but dozens more risk their lives to help those in need. And even though I’ve left, these are reasons more than any other why I’ll never not be proud to be an American.

…And Then, Winter

NOW

Winter has finally hit Sydney, it appears. After a four-day Easter weekend spent enjoying time with friends in the sunshine and 80-degree weather, I woke this morning to the sound of furious raindrops against the windows.

As had been my custom for the last five months, I slipped on my flip flops and went to walk my dog for his morning round. I opened the security door to my apartment block and almost stepped into a flowing river, ready to sweep us both away and into the sea, never to be seen again.

Okay that might be a little dramatic, but there was at least an inch of water rising quickly in any depression in the pavement in my little suburb. Sydney is a bit of a drama queen (maybe that’s why we tend to clash every so often), and her transition from summer to winter had all the hallmarks of a diva in a mood swing. Raindrops the size of quarters were pushed sideways into faces by violent wind gusts, making umbrellas useless. Traffic jammed every road and side street, making a normally-10-minute commute to the train station last 40. And magically, everyone was suddenly in sweaters, boots, scarves, and socks. For the first time in months, I put socks on. Winter had arrived.

Fortunately, the weekend prior was beautiful, four days long, and filled with things like Easter lunches, hot cross buns (my first time trying them. FYI, delicious), lawn bowling (also a first), brunches, and day drinking with friends while making new ones. Oh, and losing my cell phone (so if you’ve been trying to contact me, I’m NOT ignoring you). Since some major shifts have happened in my struggle to settle here in Sydney, it’s appearing that they may have started a domino effect, with more changes possible on the horizon. I’m not opposed to some things staying exactly the same, but maybe a “re-do” in more ways than one is what I need to power through this wet, glum season of short days, long nights, and no holidays to break up the monotony.

 

Starting Fresh

After a luxurious three weeks spent lapping up the sun in both Thailand and my own Bondi Beach, the Australian Department of Immigration got around to sending my visa sponsorship to my new agency, and I was legally allowed to begin work.

The interlude between jobs was a strange one for me. Usually, holidays still have a slight hazy fog of the work left behind in the office tugging at the corners of my happiness and presence in the here and now. But I had abandoned my fretting over the past in the pages of this blog, and I knew next to nothing about what awaited me in the next phase of my career, so there was nothing to indulge the worrywart in my brain with, except maybe questioning if staying in Sydney and continuing my career in advertising was the right thing to do.

My brain was literally vacated from care about corporate things for these three weeks, other than an hour or so spent outlining my goals for the next 12 months with my new company to ensure I didn’t show up and just drift around, waiting for direction that may never come. My uncle sent me a gift that I received a few days after my return from Thailand that was such a well-timed act of providence that I have no doubt a higher power of some sort influenced his sending it. Guided by this gift, the creative side of my newly-vacated brain began dreaming, and the pragmatic side of it began planning, and I started to lay the foundation of my next five-year plan. The ideas that I have are still too new and tender for me to be comfortable sharing them publicly yet – I don’t want them to be crushed under the weight of doubts and rolled eyes when I myself am still working on believing in them enough to put them in motion. You will find out soon enough, though.

And then, I started work. And any doubts I have had about the decisions I’ve made in the last few months were eradicated, at least for now. There is a fundamental clicking I feel at my new place of business, with my new team, that I hadn’t felt even once at my last place of work. I believe that this is another important part of my journey, that there are people here that I am supposed to meet, that I will be gaining ever more valuable experience from this career that has given me a wealth of transferable skills that I can take into the world with me, should these dreams and plans started during my mini-sabbatical put down roots and grow.

If you’ll allow me to indulge in the metaphor that the name of this blog created (and I had no idea how apt it was when I chose it almost a year ago): I landed in Oz with my little dog, I faced down the Wicked Witch of the (Inner) West and her flying monkeys, I have made a few great friends who have helped me on this journey immensely, and I think I may quite possibly be very close to finally seeing the Wizard. Or perhaps once I’ve found him, I’ll realize it had been me all along.

Einstein Quote

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