A Home Divided.

I’m currently sitting on one of my balconies (yes, our new apartment has more than one– it’s delightful!) while Donnie grills chicken for our burrito bowls we’ll soon eat for supper. It’s absolutely lovely here: 27 degrees (80 fahrenheit), sunny, with a nice breeze coming off the ocean, and our friendly Cockatoo hanging out on the roof. It’s hard to believe that two weeks ago we were in the middle of winter!

IMG_7818.JPG

IMG_7821.JPG

We had a fabulous time visiting home over the holidays. I got to spend nine days in Carlsbad, CA (just north of San Diego) with my sister, brother-in-law, niece, and nephew at their new home having a blast at Sea World, Disneyland, and exploring their beautiful neighborhood beaches and hangouts. I also got to meet up with one of my best friends from college for a day of living out high school dreams in Laguna Beach.

img_7430

IMG_7446.JPG

IMG_7364.JPG

I missed my niece’s eighth birthday on December 2, so I took her to Disneyland for a belated celebration. She’s been to Disney over a dozen times, but she still was so excited when we got off the shuttle that she couldn’t stop squealing and we ended up sprinting to the ticket line. It was a truly magical day.

img_7468

IMG_7495.JPG

After a week full of laughs, games of speed, trampoline time, and snuggles with my fave little ones, we all headed to Nashville the day before Christmas Eve. We walked off our flight to the best welcome home committee ever, including a giant poster of my face. (Funny side note: I saw the face as we were walking up and thought “Hah! That’s so funny and also embarrassing for whoever it is on the poster…. wait… that’s MY face!”)

img_7571

Donnie got in later that evening after 17 hours from Sydney to Dallas and a quick 2 hour flight up from DFW. We all rendezvoused at our all-time favorite Mexican place, Las Palmas, for some much-craved cheese dip (which sadly does not exist in Sydney) and the always delicious LP Special (chicken, peppers, and onions over a bed of rice and doused in cheese dip). Donnie and I went back to his parents’ house to spend the night and have a reunion with our little black pup, Lucy. My in-laws are graciously keeping Lucy while we are in Australia and I miss her immeasurably. She was very happy to see us and promptly snuggled up on the couch with us, even when there wasn’t really room for her. All the puppy kisses and snuggles helped make up for all the tears I cried when we had to leave her.

img_7656

37943151-63DC-4C8B-BBA5-4B30949841C2.JPG

Christmas was a whirlwind of family time, comfort food, and presents. We got to celebrate with both sides of our families which was such a treat. The highlight of my day was waking up to Ally and Burton (8 and 3) digging into their stockings and trying to hold off until all the adults made it downstairs for presents. My nephew gets unusually excited about clothes, and when he opened the t-shirt Donnie had picked out for him he squealed, “It’s got a kangaroo AND a koala!” Later in the day at my aunt’s house he paused while tearing into a giant package, looked around the room and asked, “Is everyone enjoying their presents?” He’s pretty emotionally tuned in for a three year old.

5D42A059-5F11-44D2-97EE-A7A246FCCF6E 2.JPG

img_7661

img_7648

IMG_6573.jpg

15874784_10100226793800705_6834115411497249163_o.jpg

After Christmas we got to spend time with our parents and siblings– enjoying game nights, a Preds game, more delicious food, shopping, and just hanging out. Donnie got to go to a Titans game with his buddies and we got together with one of our favorite couples to watch our only Vols win of the year when they trampled Nebraska at the Music City Bowl, followed by some fun out on Broadway downtown.

IMG_7716.JPG

IMG_7781.JPG

We rang in the New Year with some of my college besties and their husbands and friends, really fun games, too many jello shots, a music note drop, and a Keith Urban concert. (I was pretty convinced that if we told Keith Urban’s security guards that I lived in Australia he would let us meet him. Luckily, I didn’t test out that theory.)

IMG_6655.jpg

Being home felt surprisingly normal. At one point I remember thinking, “That was fun when we used to live in Australia.” Falling back into old patterns felt seamless. And now that I’m back home (Australia home) it also feels surprisingly normal. The day we landed in Sydney we collected our bags (and our two amazing backpack beach chairs with headrests and cupholders that recline- thanks Mama and Daddy!) and took a cab back to Dee Why. We dropped off our stuff, grabbed bacon and egg rolls, showered and rested for a minute before heading to the beach. It was a perfect day and we soaked up the sun until we were too tired to stay awake and promptly fell asleep at 6:30 pm.

3F0F99FD-6FE1-4969-A0B1-F42AF6F92195.JPG

I have felt an acute loneliness since we’ve been back that I hadn’t really felt before. I miss my friends, my family, my niece and nephew. I miss being able to drive anywhere I want to go. I miss being surrounded by people who know me, who just get me, who speak the same and grew up the same and share my cultural identity. But I also simultaneously crave the slightly uncomfortable growth that I experience here almost daily. While in Tennessee, I really missed being surrounded by various accents and languages at all times. I missed the ease of jumping on a bus and being driven wherever I need to go. I missed being able to walk to the grocery or to shops. I missed my little apartment and my new familiarities. I felt a sense of relief the first day I boarded a bus, tapped my Opal card, and sat down to listen to a podcast while riding the 15 minutes to the mall. I suppose what I’m trying to describe is the bizarre reality of truly having two homes– two distinctly different places in which I feel both comfortable and also like some integral part of my reality is missing. While living here is not our forever plan, it really has become home over the last eleven months, and I think there will always be a little piece of my heart here.

IMG_7790.JPG

Advertisements

House Hunters Down Under

We have officially begun our home search! The housing market in Sydney is quite competitive, with apartments on the market for only a few hours in many cases. We are fortunate that Dell hooked us up with a relocation consultant who is helping us, along with a real estate consultant, to narrow down a list of properties that fit our wish list. If you’ve ever watched House Hunters, you know how crazy people can be about a house search: “We want 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, light granite that isn’t too sparkly, hardwood floors laid on a diagonal, and a northern exposure (whatever that means.) Also, our budget is $125,000.”

We fancy ourselves more practical, and came up with the following list of priorities:

  1. Air conditioning. (Central air isn’t even really an option, but after a week of no-AC in the granny flat, we desperately need some kind of aircon.)
  2. Short walk to the beach.
  3. 2 bedrooms. (We want everyone to come visit!)

That’s really all we’re after. It’s a very different process than when we were building our first house this time two years ago and I was stressed out over the specific tiles for our kitchen backsplash and finding the perfect hand-scraped hardwood.

We are specifically searching for properties in what’s called the “Northern Beaches” of Sydney. Across the harbour from the CBD (central business district– this is what they call downtown or the city centre) the Northern Beaches run from Manly (where we are living now) all the way up to Palm Beach.

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 12.18.13 AM.png

Donnie currently rides the bus to work, so we don’t want to be too far from his office in the more inland neighborhood of Frenchs Forest. We’ve focused our search mostly in Freshwater, Dee Why, and Collaroy, because they are somewhat reasonably priced and have great beach access.

According to the law here, a resident must physically visit a property before being allowed to lease it. The way most people accomplish this is to attend an “inspection” that is held for 15 or 30 minutes and generally quite crowded. Because we are working with an independent consultant, we are able to schedule private showings.

On Thursday, Donnie and I met up with our consultant to tackle 9 apartment inspections between 1:30 and 4:30. We generally had about 10 minutes to look around and ask any questions. Several agents asked if we were shipping our refrigerator or washing machine from home. Honestly, our fridge wouldn’t even fit in the entire kitchen in several of the places we viewed, and the space for the washing machine is generally about two feet. Needless to say, our American appliances wouldn’t begin to fit. It’s hard to remember all the different places, so Donnie took very detailed notes.

image1.PNG

After an exhausting day of searching, we’re excited to narrow down our list to two places we really like. Now comes the fun part– applying!

Applying to lease an apartment in Australia is infinitely more complicated than applying for a mortgage in America. We each had to fill out an online application for each place we were interested in, and then attach heaps of documents. They have a “100 point” identification process that requires each applicant to provide documents (each worth different point amounts) to total at least 100. You are given higher prioritization the greater points you can provide. We used driver’s licenses, passports, 457 work visa, proof of benefits, bank statements from our Aussie and US accounts, 3 utility bills, references from our realtor, mortgage statements, and our marriage certificate to establish our points. It was somewhat overwhelming, and not made any easier by our super slow and intermittent internet access.

image1 (7).JPG

 

image2 (1).JPG

After several hours, we finally completed our applications! Now we just wait and cross our fingers that someone wants to give us a home. Stay tuned for updates!