Thursday, 16 January 2014

Happy Australia Anniversary!

As of the 16th of January we have been in Melbourne one whole year! Wow, it has definitely gone by super fast. It's funny as we are in the middle of a disgustingly hot heat wave (this is the fourth or fifth day of temperatures over 40 degrees), and also the Australian Open is back on, so it kind of feels exactly like last year all over again. The only thing missing is the other half of our 'Olympic Dreams' team, who have moved back to London (sad). 

So to celebrate our one year anniversary I've thought of some things we LOVE about Melbourne, and somethings that can be... a bit annoying.

Things We Love

1. The Cafe Culture
Everywhere you go there are independent cafes that are all completely different to each other, with creative menus and excellent coffee. Going for brunch is one of our favourite things (which we've had to cut back on since deciding to save more) and you are pretty much guaranteed fantastic food. Actually you can extend that generalisation to lunch and dinner as well, the quality of food in restaurants here is consistently well above average and worth the price you pay. Also in cafes and restaurants they always automatically pour you tap water which for some reason really makes me happy! I hate asking for water and then specifying 'TAP water' instead of still or sparkling. Some of our favourite brunch places are:
Two Birds One Stone (South Yarra)
Pillar of Salt (Richmond)
Birdman Eating (Fitzroy)
Beach Cafe (Seaford)

View from the Beach Cafe in Seaford

2. Being outdoors more
We both feel like we spend more time outdoors here than we did in London, whether going to the beach, going for a run or bike ride, or just walking through a nice part of the city. Exercise is more of a way of life here and walking around you are always passing runners, cyclists, or people on their way to the gym. Added to that, it seems acceptable to walk around in your gym gear, which our fashion minded friends probably hate, but I love! It also seems like a great place to bring up children as there is a lot to do outside and it is a relatively safe city. 

Going for a run through the City


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Andy and Adriana at The Colour Run

3. People in the service industry are actually friendly
Sometimes in London if you were shopping or eating out and needed help with something, the sales person or waitress could be a bit less than helpful - you almost felt like you were bothering them by asking a question. But not here, everyone is super friendly, helpful and chatty. It reminds me of Canada in that way actually. And even when you have to phone someone, like the bank or an insurance company, the person on the end is always really nice and helpful.

4. Better work/life balance
Both of us work less hours teaching than we did in the UK, which was one reason we moved out here. I still feel like I work hard planning lessons and managing my department, however there are less top-down performance measures than in the UK which frees up time for actual teaching. There are also less behaviour issues here than in London. The students are of course not perfect here, but there is less of the talking back and disruptive behaviour that can be so draining in London.


Things we wish we could change:

1. Renting an Apartment
The rental process is horrendous. You search for properties online and then look at when they are open for inspection. The inspection time will be a 15-minute time-slot that the apartment is open for people to come and have a look. So you have to inspect the property with every other person who is interested in the flat, and sometimes that is like 40 other people. Then you have to fill in an application form and hope that the landlord picks you. How they choose people is anyones guess, but you have to include your salary and occupation so I'm sure that has something to do with it. Sometimes if it seems competitive applicants will say they are willing to pay more rent than the landlord is asking in order to secure the place. Oh and there is a 'real estate agent' present, who probably knows nothing about the flat and whose only purpose seems to be to open the flat with a key. (In fact, this is the only profession that I have found to be extremely unhelpful, which contradicts number 3 on the list of things I love here. But they are the exception, not the rule.)

2. Public Transport 
Ok, this one may be influenced by the fact that we lived in London, which has excellent public transport. My London friends, please don't complain about TfL anymore, you don't know how good you have it! First of all, there is no underground (subway) here, which is always going to slow things down a bit. Second, the train lines are organised in this way: There is a central loop of 5 stations, called the 'City Loop', which goes through the CBD (Central Business District). From each of these stations are train lines that branch off in different directions. The problem is that if you want to get from a station on a train line in the south, and say you want to go somewhere that is north east, you have to go in to the city and then back out again.  They basically need a few outer loops connecting the outer suburbs. 
Melbourne Train Map. We live in South Yarra
Also if your train is cancelled, well, that's it. You just have to wait for the next one. There are usually no alternate routes except maybe to take a bus which will most likely be very sloooooow. Especially if it is after work at peak rush hour. And if it rains the trains are often cancelled. Wait, rains?! Yes, that's right. Melbourne is one of the rainiest cities in Australia (probably) and lots of rain creates chaos on the trains. I remember laughing at London when the trains were cancelled after a few centimetres of snow. That doesn't seem so bad now!
I could probably go on and on about the public transport system here but so as not to bore you too much I will just write one last final gripe. The Myki system. Myki is Melbourne's version of the Oyster. It's the Oyster system's poorer, less efficient cousin. The main frustrations are it is slow to 'touch on' to the card readers at train stations and on trains and buses. Also you have to touch off buses which is annoying and easy to forget. But the main issue is it is just slow, creating lots of lines at train stations when it is not even that busy.
The good thing about public transport though is that it is air-conditioned which on days like today when it is 44 degrees I am very grateful for!

Beautiful Melbourne!
3. Melbourne is SO FAR from everywhere else in the world.
Well, it is close to like Adelaide, but that is not much help to us. We both miss our friends and families in the UK and Canada so much. We feel very far away from everyone and feel like this would be an almost perfect city to live in if it was just a bit closer to everyone. Although for me it's been over 8 years since I actually lived in Canada, being in London never felt that far away. It would be really great if they could invent a super fast and cheap plane to take us back to the northern hemisphere more often. 

And that's it. So here we are, one year on. The new school year starts in less than 2 weeks. Andy is going back to his Catholic school in West Melbourne where he is doing a maternity cover until June. He also starts his Graduate Diploma in Education in March through Deakin University so that he can be fully registered with the VIT. We are anxiously waiting for our Permanent Residence visa to come through so that we will not have to pay international fees for Andy's course. The timeline is pretty tight, it needs to come in by Feb 24th, but we think we have applied for it in time and all our documents are in order. I am going back to my school as Head of Mathematics, with a team of 25 maths teachers to lead. It will be a challenge but I am looking forward to it. 

Andy's parents are arriving tomorrow so we are looking forward to spending some time with family, along with the activities we have planned including a trip down the Great Ocean Road, the Australian Open, and doing some touristy things in Melbourne over the next 10 days. 

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