I can say "yeh" like an Australian

Trip Start Dec 18, 2011
Trip End Sep 15, 2013

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Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Monday, November 5, 2012

I've been practicing the easiest word to say with an Australian accent. Yeh. Yeh.
I practice on the kids at the school canteen when I volunteer there. It all started when one of Andy's classmates asked where I was from because he heard me say "ja" in reply to a question. Andy told him his mom says "yeah" but not "ja" (think Scandinavian). So, I've been trying out the guttural "yeh."
It's just one of the many subtle differences that make life interesting here. I hesitated to write a blog about what was different before now because everything was so very new, but now I feel ready. You may live in suburbia and find that what is new and different to us is common to you. In fact, many of the differences I notice might stem from living in the country before compared with living in suburbia now. So I'll begin with the easiest and most obvious area.
Inside the home
Almost nobody owns a clothes dryer. We don't. They are simply too expensive to use. Instead, every household has an "airer" for hanging clothes inside on dreary days and a "merry-go-round" clothesline outside at the end of a concrete sidewalk. What's an airer? It varies. Mine is on wheels and has six racks I can fold it in various configurations to hang lots of things or several large things. Most mornings I'm hanging clothes outside. The dew is so heavy I don't forget and leave thing out overnight.
I have my first front-loading washing machine. I program it to run overnight because we have time-based electricity rates. We pay exorbitant rates for electricity! The cheapest rate, from 10 p.m. until 7 a.m., is double what we paid per kilowatt hour in western Colorado. The next rate is from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. It's four times what we paid for anytime electricity. The most expensive is from 2 to 10 p.m. It's ten times what we used to pay. You read that right: Ten times the rate.
So, the washing machine runs overnight and the dishwasher is also programmed to run overnight. A recent letter to the editor in the newspaper poked fun at the time-based rates, commenting that the lamb roast was ready at 7 a.m and the family ate muesli for dinner. The neighbors were complaining about the vacuum running at 2 a.m., but headphones would solve that problem.
It must be working; Australia has actually decreased its electricity usage since 2009. Electricity and water are billed quarterly instead of monthly, so some families are faced with an electricity bill greater than $1,000 just after Christmas. And the one that comes next is even larger to reflect the late summer heat. We haven't had an electricity bill yet.
We have what's known as a three-part bathroom. The vanity is in a room with no door, the toilet is in a separate room with a door off that, and the bathroom with a tub and a separate shower is in yet another room off it. Many houses have a second toilet off the laundry room. We have a tiny 3/4 bathroom off the master bedroom. These seem to be the only bathrooms not build on the WC model with the toilet in its own room.
All newer houses are brick exterior with either a tile or metal roof. There is one old building in East Maitland with asphalt shingles on the roof, and it stands out. Older homes might be clapboard, called weatherboard here. No new homes are. Many new homes are built with metal supports--so no wood is used anywhere in the construction. Houses that do use wood almost always use treated wood to try to prevent termite damage. Bush fires are a real concern, and exteriors made of brick and tile are more resistant to fire while minimizing what is a precious resource here.
At our Halloween party a little girl told me the toilet wasn't working. I called her dad over as I don't understand how to do anything beyond flushing an Australian toilet. Every toilet has a half flush and a whole flush. You can't take the lid off the tank, and water fills only about 1 inch of the bottom of the tank. Somebody had tried to pull up instead of pushing down, but even Chris doesn't know what the inner workings of the toilet tank look like or how to access them. I typed "toilets Australia" into the search engine just now to see if I could learn how toilets work here, and the first result is a government-sponsored map of all public toilets in the country. Our tax dollars at work!
Wood cabinets are too expensive for most houses, so they are made from particle board, medium-density fiberboard, or plywood. They have a melamine or laminate coating outside. The countertop is called the bench or the benchtop. If you plan to put your rear on the bench, you need to find a bench seat.
Houses don't typically have a coat closet. Strange, because people put coats on at the slightest excuse.
The electricity outlets are called power points. Each power point has
its own on/off switch. So, rather than just plug things in and turn them
on, we need to plug in, turn the power point on, and then turn the object
on. It seems a good way to reduce the ghost electricity demand. We're
living in a brand new house, and there are hardly any outlets. Compared
with the US building code that calls for outlets every six feet (at
least that is what it was when we built our house), there seems to be a
minimal requirement of one outlet per room. So, each bedroom has one double
outlet. The living room has two double outlets. We've had to
strategically place things that need electricity rather than put them
where we want them and assume there will be power where we want it.
And, finally, the bathrooms and laundry room floors are raised about two inches higher than the other floors. Yet they have drains in the middle of the room. I would think the rooms that might flood would be lowered to contain the potential flood. Anybody know why the floor levels would be raised?
A future blog will have to deal with other topics as I've exhausted your reading time with only the things inside a house.

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Aunt Shelly on

Just a thought.......maybe hand washing your dishes will ease the pain a bit....we forget how good we have it on this side of the world don't we??? Miss you guys!!! The boys look great!

Cami Bair on

I imagine Liam got lotsa' treats - he looked pretty cute. Trick-or-treating in the "warm spring" sounded so weird.... can't wait to hear from you re. Christmas in the midsummer heat! Re. "Yeh": Here's a song I grew up with, in England:
"Wanna bet on it?" "-Yeh, yeh, yeh"....
"Really truly?" "-Yeh, yeh, yeh"....
"Come on, then...." "-Yeh, yeh, yeh"....
"All right, then".... "-Yeh, yeh, yeh"....
"You won't , then".... "-Yeh, yeh, yeh"....
"Wanna' fight, then?" "-Yeh, yeh, yeh"....
"Let's go, then".... "-Yeh, yeh, yeh"....
Pretty sophisticated, huh? The toilets thing was hilarious, esp. the part about you typing in the search word "toilets" & getting a map of where all the public toilets in Australia are!!!! Now, that sounds EXACTLY like England. God forbid you'd actually get useful information! Stay well... good luck w/ the infrastructure.... Love, Cami

Auntie Mo on

Love the last pic with Liam's face! Fun and sugar high to be sure! There seems to always be something more to learn - now you get to figure out the inner workings of an Austrailian toilet! Can't believe it's already November - hope your weather cools down a bit. Hugs and love to you all, Auntie Mo

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