Sunday, 22 February 2015

A Long Weekend in Euchca

We spent the last weekend of our summer holidays this year (Australia Day weekend), in a town called Euchca, which is located about 2.5 hours drive from Melbourne on the Murray river. Our friends Adam and Charlotte did an amazing job organizsng a whole weekend  for us and one other couple, Chris and Ness. We rented a 3-bed villa in the town, complete with hot tub, and drove up Friday after work for a long weekend of of fun activities. I knew pretty much nothing about Euchca before going, so had no expectations about what it would be like. I was very pleasantly surprised about how lovely the town was and how many things there were to do. Here are some of the highlights:

Wharf to Winery
Our first activity was a trip down the Murray River in a paddle steamer to Morrison's Winery. The paddle steamers leave from the Port of Euchca, a historic part of the town that transports you back to the 19th century. For $69 we had a relaxing half hour trip down the river, and then a 2 course lunch with a drink at the winery, followed by a wine tasting. The food was very good, and the service was great. Our waiter was especially good, very funny and was able to recommend some things for us to during our stay.  It was a very hot afternoon, and the wine tasting consisted of 9 different wines, so we all had a little nap on the trip back in the paddle steamer. A great way to spend the afternoon!
Historic Port of Euchca

Port of Euchca from the paddle steamer

On the paddle steamer

Andy and Adam steering the paddle steamer

Wine tasting at Morrison's Winery

vineyards at Morrison's Winery

Water Skiing
Water sports are really big in Euchca, so we had a 2.5 hour water skiing lesson with Josh from iwaterski. Josh was pretty funny and a great teacher. Most of us hadn't water skied before, but he got everyone up on their feet at some point. 
Adam getting ready to water ski
Andy wakeboarding

Enjoying the sun on the boat

Ok, so this is an actual thing in Euchca. You grab a lilo and let the current carry you down the river. This was recommended by our server from the winery, and we saw lots of groups of people floating. The more experienced floaters even had Eskies full of beers floating with them! With the temperature reaching nearly 40 degrees, spending a few hours floating down the cool river sounded very appealing! It was very relaxing, we all loved it except for Andy, who was bored after about 10 minutes. As it took us about 2 hours to get to our finish point where we had left one of the cars, this meant we had to endure quite a bit of his moaning about being bored. Perhaps not the best activity for people who don't like to relax!

We ate out twice for brunch and once for dinner. The rest of the time we had BBQs at our villa. Johnny & Lyle's was my favourite brunch place, with excellent coffee that was comparable with anywhere in Melbourne. The Black Pudding was another good brunch option. Our first night we had dinner at The American Hotel, which we were less impressed with in terms of food. However they had a good beer garden and it seemed like the place to be on a Friday night. Perhaps better for drinks and dancing than actual food!

Dinner at the American

All in all a great weekend, thanks mostly for our friend Adam for doing such a great job organising it all. I'd highly recommend this place as a good weekend away from Melbourne in the summer. 

Below is one of Andy's famous videos of our weekend:

*You may have noticed, but yes, loads of these pictures were taken on a selfie stick. Adam bought one for Charlotte for her birthday and we had a lot of fun with this!

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Finally fully registered!

After 2 years in Australia, Andy has finally been given full registration from the Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT), hurray! This has been a long process due to his original teaching qualification from England, a GTP (an 'on the job' qualification, rather than the more traditional route of the PGCE). Luckily, Andy was able to get provisional registration from the VIT, called Permission to Teach, which allowed him to work in a school that could not find a suitable fully registered teacher. He has been working at a Catholic school in west Melbourne since July 2013 with this registration, but would only be able to do that for a maximum of 3 years. 

With this in mind, and knowing that we would have the same difficulties with the GTP and teacher registration when we eventually move to Canada, we decided it would be best if Andy went back to uni to complete a Graduate Diploma in Education (Dip Ed). He started this in March 2013, while still working full time as a teacher. Although it was a lot of work for him, in many ways we've been fortunate with how things have worked out. First of all, his programme at Deakin University was a distance education course, meaning most of it was completed in his own time and he only had to go into the university for four 2-week blocks. Secondly, the school he was at supported this and gave him paid time off to attend these weeks at the university. This was also the last year that Deakin was offering the programme, as all teacher education programmes are now 2 years long in Victoria (this one was only 8 months long in total). And Deakin also gave him 'credit for prior learning' based on his GTP, teaching experience, and Masters in Education. (Yes, incredible that he was not able to get full registration here with those qualifications!) In the end he actually only had to complete about two-thirds of the course.

So everything fell into place quite nicely, including our Permanent Residence visas, which came just a few weeks before the uni fees were due. If this hadn't come through in time we would have been stuck paying overseas student fees, which were something like $22,000! Yikes!

Andy finished the course in October last year, and then had to go through a process that all first year teachers here have to do. This involves putting together a portfolio of evidence to demonstrate that you meet the teaching standards, along with an Investigating Student Learning project. As he was working in a school while doing his Dip Ed, he was able to submit this just after finishing his course, instead of waiting another year to do it. This is normally something that the school assess and signs off on, and the VIT don't have much to do with, however of course Andy and his school were audited by the VIT and had to send in all his evidence and his project! So the full registration was delayed while we waited for them to check over his work. Thankfully it was all fine and the registration came through last week. It is such a relief to have this all done and dusted. I don't think Andy will be signing up for any more qualifications or courses anytime soon...