Saturday, May 22, 2010

Little Differences

I read a few expat blogs and one blogger specifically does a segment on the little differences between her home country (US) and her new country (Luxembourg). I find this sort of thing endlessly fascinating and have been toying with the idea of doing the same sort of thing.

So in an effort to blog more often, I'm going to occasionally blog about the little differences between Canada and Australia. The thing I keep telling everyone here is that Canada and Australia are actually quite similar BUT there are a few things that pop up occasionally that take me off guard. It's like you'll be cruising along in your daily life doing things how you always do them and then *BAM* something will be completely opposite to what you're expecting. So some of these differences are going to be pretty obvious (ie: driving on the other side of the road) and not so obvious.
I'm not going to present them in any specific order. It's basically going to be as I think about them/photograph them. So without further ado, I present to you:

Little Difference #1:

Most Houses Don't Have Central Heating

(This is something I mentioned in this post so it's a bit of a repeat.)

In an effort to conserve energy it's getting more popular for people in North America not to turn their furnaces on in the autumn until absolutely necessary and then turn it off at the first possible moment come spring. Not having a warm, cosy house in the spring/autumn/winter is the reality for most people here. It seems that only new houses are built with central heating and even then it seems kind of optional. Growing up in Canada and spending the last 6.5 years in the Arctic, not having a furnace just wasn't an option. Not only would it be extremely uncomfortable, it would be downright dangerous (and expensive once your pipes freeze and burst). A lot of time, energy and money goes into keeping our houses warm in North America.
For a lot of people at home, when they're cold, they go and turn the thermostat up. Here, you make a cup of tea or put on (another) sweater.

Glen's parents have a gas radiator type thing in the living room and otherwise, they rely on a space heater (and heat lamps in the bathroom) to take the chill off. Glen's sister has a wood fireplace and in-floor heating that they rarely turn on (it's expensive and takes a long time to really heat up).
We have space heaters and possibly in-floor heating (we have a thermostat on the wall but no vents or radiators... We have no idea what it controls so we haven't bothered checking - also, in-floor heating is expensive).

Our new heater. The only thing standing between me wearing a toque, scarf and mittens in the house.

We've been using a small portable heater in the evenings that didn't really do a great job heating a room the size of our living room - we basically set it up and then sat close to it. We have a portable radiator that doesn't do a very good job either (it makes great heat but doesn't move the heat around so you only have a two foot radius of heat around the thing). After Glen spent the day home by himself (I was working) I think he realised that the two heaters we had weren't adequate and brought home this beauty from work. One of the major pluses of this thing is that it oscillates so not only is it blowing air out towards you, it's blowing air in different directions and circulating it a bit. We've noticed a HUGE difference in the evenings (I'm still drinking multiple cups of tea, wearing sweaters, slippers and watching TV under a blanket BUT I'm not so cold I hurt).
Another thing that's helped is closing the doors to the bathroom/toilet/bedrooms/hallway so we're only really heating up the living room. I'm thinking about getting a tension bar and a set of curtains to hang over the arched doorway that connects the living room to the hallway/kitchen/laundry room.

This whole heating one room at a time/preserving heat is a concept I'm familiar with but never had to put into practice. It's also a bit of an adjustment to waking up to a cold house/showering in a chilly bathroom/etc.

Temperature: +9C
Sunrise: 7:19am
Sunset: 5:14pm

Friday, May 14, 2010

Things you find on your sidewalk...

Now this could be a variety of mostly unpleasant things but I'm happy to report that I've found something quite awesome sitting on the sidewalk that runs down the side of our building (one way leads to the street, the other way to the carport and in the middle is the door to the building).

It's a Feijoa (or Pineapple Guava/Guavasteen). I've never seen one of these before in my life so imagine my surprise one night when we were walking towards our door and we found a few of these on the sidewalk. Normally I wouldn't pick up random things and bring them in but this looked pretty interesting. I cut it open and smelled it and it smelled pretty good so I set out to figure out what it was before I sampled it (I'm living in a pretty crazy country and it wouldn't have surprised me if I found something poisonous). I called Glen's parents and they had no idea but Google came through for me when I searched for "green skinned fruit" and then looked through pictures until I found something that resembled what I had (I also posted on Facebook and a forum). After a few "It's a Feijoa/Pineapple Guava/Guavasteen!" answers I was reasonably assured and ate some. They are delicious! Sort of like a cross between a concord grape, pear and kiwi. (I'd also like to say I think I'm solidifying myself as the family weirdo with my in-laws. They thought it was HILARIOUS that I'd pick some random fruit off the ground, bring it in, cut it open, decide what it was and eat it. In one way they were surprised and in another... They weren't so much haha).

So since I found the first one, every few days there seems to be a few more on the ground (no idea if other people are picking these up or not) so I've been bringing them in when I find them. I took a few over to Glen's sister's last weekend too.

I find it absolutely insane that something like this is just growing outside our door! There's other examples of random exotic fruit growing around here (back home you were hard pressed to grow anything besides crab apples and choke cherries). I'm devising a plan to get a few of the pomegranates from the tree around the corner (which means I'm working up the courage to knock on their door). Pomegranates!

Temperature: +13C
Sunrise: 7:12am
Sunset: 5:20pm

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Day Tripper

Glen had the day off yesterday so we decided to do a day trip that we've been meaning to go on for a few months now. All the moving and going to IKEA and then Glen getting sick (sinus AND chest infection - yuck!) had kind of stopped us from doing any random day trips/exploring. We've been eying the You Yangs for a while now so we decided to make a day of it and make a stop at the Brisbane Ranges as well.

So we got to the You Yangs around 11am and picked the hike we were going to go on. They were all pretty decent in length (between 3 and 5km) so we decided to pick the one that sounded the least challenging (it was one of the longer ones at 4.5km). Usually the words "gentle loop walk with medium graidents" means that it has some ups and downs but is for the most part flat or slightly undulating. Um. No. I wish I would've taken pictures because it was pretty ridiculous and more like mountain climbing in some spots. The shortest walk was 450 steps to the top of the peak and after climbing 50 of them to start our walk, we knew there was NO way we could do 400 more. INSANE. So we walked/climbed for 45 minutes before turning around and going back. We figured that we had only gotten about a quarter of the way around and we were pretty exhausted.

Once we got back to the car we stopped for some lunch (we picked up Subway before heading out then we packed other snacks and water). On our way out of the park we stopped and took some pictures of the incredible view.

That's Melbourne in the distance - 56km away. I don't know what it is but there's something about the skyline that I love. You can see the city from so many different view points. I've never lived anywhere where you could see the same thing from everywhere. Often when we're driving around, we'll come around a corner and suddenly the skyline will come into view, it's kind of neat.

So, on our way out of the park Glen spotted a Kookaburra so I hopped out of the car and took a few pictures. It's probably the closest I've ever gotten to one. They're SO fluffy!

We made our way to the Brisbane Ranges and I have to say, for a National Park it was SO hard to find! There were hardly any signs and then when we finally saw a sign it was pointing left and right. So we turned right (since we had to travel in that general direction to get home anyway) and could NOT find an entry to the park. We drove around for ages before we turned around and made our way back to the sign then went the other way. We finally found some signs hidden by trees and bushes so we drove in. There were little posts showing where the trails were but there was pretty much no parking. You had to pull of the side of the road and then go for your walk. So we picked a trail (with the promising name "Koala Track") and started out. The trail was more like an old logging road and there wasn't any wildlife - not even birds! So we turned around, got back in the car and came home. I was actually the most excited about the Brisbane Ranges since it seemed to have the most promise for viewing animals.

I'd definitely go back to the You Yangs and explore some of the other areas of the park but I don't think the Brisbane Ranges is the top of my list to take other people to (we're compiling a mental list of cool places to take friends and family when/if they visit).

So after all of that,we drove home and since I had my camera with me, I got to take a picture of one of our favourite views of the city.

This is the view you see once you turn off the freeway and start heading towards home - it's like the "home stretch". We're approx. 10km away from the city centre.

Temperature: +17C
Sunrise: 7:02am
Sunset: 5:32pm