Victoria...The place to be

Trip Start Jan 21, 2011
Trip End May 01, 2012

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Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Sunday, February 26, 2012

I am feeling very naughty that I haven't written since New Year's eve, a whole 2 months has gone by in a whirl of activity since then!  So yet again to condense it all into a snapshot of the last few weeks I will be as brief as possible.

After our epic new year in Sydney, at a house party overlooking the harbour bridge, and therefore with a prime view of the huge fireworks display (awesome), we set off on the last leg of our Australia trip to Melbourne.  It's not a long drive but we decided to take it slowly and see what we could of the landscape before arriving in a city again.  We particularly enjoyed being in Bumble after a good 6 weeks of living in an inner city apartment, but the freedom was to be short lived as we knew we would be selling the van when we reached Melbourne.  Upon our arrival we hooked up with Aislinn and Toby again as they had kindly offered us a room until we could find our own place and a job.  They live in Newport, which is a suburn west of Melbourne CBD and only about 8kms away so very close by train.  We spent our first weekend helping Toby build his kitchen as they were in the middle of renovating their house, which suited us as the weather was pony that first weekend!

On the Monday we decided to head into the city as we had arranged for some employment agency meetings, and also wanted to get our bearings.  My agency meeting was first and after a very brief chat I was told that there was a job I could have if I could start tomorrow!  It was a great bit of luck and the best bit was that it was as a Project Officer for the Australian Red Cross, my first ever role in a not-for-profit company.  I had no idea what to expect and all I knew was that it was something to do with the migrant situation within Australia.  So I rocked up on my first day with absolutely no clue as to what I would be doing, and thankfully there were another 8 temps in the same position.  It turns out we were to be working in the Community Assistance Support department, which in short is a department that looks after migrants who have recently been released from the immigration centres all over Australia due to the government's new policy stating that no-one can be detained for more than 15 months.  They are on bridging visas until their situation is resolved and some of these people have been in detention for over 2 years and still have no idea about whether they will be allowed to stay.  Our role was to provide community assistance to the most vulnerable of those detainees (there are 2 other departments that look after the families, unaccompanied minors etc) and provide them with accommodation, medical help and pyschological care. 

I got stuck into my role but Tom wasn't having much luck in finding work, so I called the agency I used and asked if there was anything for Tom.  After a brief meeting it was discovered that yes, there was a vacancy, at the Red Cross!  Tom's role was working in Accounts Payable for the property and fleet team, looking after all the retail invoices etc.  But the lucky sod was only covering a sick leave so his position was a 3 days a week part time role!  We weren't sure if we were going to be able to afford to live on our wages but after a couple of weeks we were fine so Tom stopped looking for other work and has been having Thursdays and Fridays off ever since!  We both got our contracts extended until we leave for Thailand so have been able to do lots of things guilt free as we know we have the budget for it!

One of those things was something we have been wanting to do since we arrived in Australia - get tattoos!  We both have a few tattoos already but had ideas of what we wanted to get while we were here, and were very fortunate to find a tattooist in St Kilda (Voodoo Ink for those of you interested) who was absolutely awesome and totally got what we wanted from our rather rubbish explanations. Tom therefore got a beautiful feather inked on the back of his calf and 2 bands to represent us ringed around the top of his other calf.  I got the lyrics from a Pearl Jam song (yes, another one!) tattooed on my ribs and two bird silhouettes to represent the 2 of us also.  But it didn't stop there!  We both kind of got the bug after the initial ones we had, and Tom decided he felt comfortable enough with this artist to see if she could design him a half sleeve of the flowers and leaves we had in our wedding bouquets.  For those of you who know Tom, this suits him perfectly as I always joke that he is a little nature boy (his tattoos are a testament to this, having had a circle of leaves, the feather, and now flowers)!  The design that Leonie came up with blew us away, it was absolutely incredible.  Neither of us had expected it to be as beautiful and unique as it was, and it was indeed a nice reminder for us to see the flowers we had chosen for our wedding in print, as we had decided on really colourful, flamboyant flowers with unusual shapes.   So far Tom has sat through 5 hours of outline and a small amount of shading, but the rest will be done on Tuesday.  Watch this space!

One very sad moment of our trip came when we decided to see if we could sell Bumble.  We were worried that it might take a while to sell, so we figured if we put it on Gumtree we could get an idea of response and plan around it financially.  We needn't have worried, the day after we put the ad on we had 2 viewings - a German couple and a pair of Swedish girls, and the girls decided there and then that they wanted him!  We were so shocked, particularly as we managed to make a small profit due to the amount of work we had done on him, and they didn't even try and bargain with us!  It was very sad for us to finally have to say goodbye, especially as we thought we would have time to do the Great Ocean Road in him.  Unfortunately we weren't able to as we parted with the van the following week, but we had an amazing time driving around the country and had to think about the positives.

I haven't yet mentioned our living situation, which is absolutely great!  We really struggled to find a room to rent here as no one ever got back to us when we called, or the places we did view were just awful. Eventually we put an ad on Gumtree and were contacted by a guy called Reo, who rents a house in Yarraville.   It is a lovely little village and is really green and has gorgeous little shops and bars, and the station is also 2 stops closer to Melbourne than Newport, so we thought we would go and have a look. The house is a 1920's original features building, and is huge and beautiful.   Our room was decorated with vintage furniture and was really big, so we were sold immediately and moved in the very next day! We are all foodies so it is not uncommon for us to cook for Reo, or in fact it is more likely that he will cook for us as he has his own fine dining company and is an amazing cook. He is always baking or cooking up a storm in the kitchen, so we often find leftovers in the fridge for us! This is great in theory but not at all helpful for my dieting situation...

Australia day came upon us in our first week in the house, and Reo had a big Champagne breakfast planned with the neighbours, which we were invited to, along with our new friends 'The Germans' (remember the German couple who viewed the van?! Although they didn't buy it we really clicked so starting hanging out with them from that weekend onwards), Jani and Martin. We had a huge table set up out the front of the house and our neighbours Maz and Enzo brought their BBQ round to cook up the meat. The menu was amazing, with sweetcorn fritters and an avocado tomato salsa, berry pancakes, pesto eggs and maple bacon to name but a few items. We had such a great day socialising and getting to know our new friends and neighbours, and we went into town later to watch the fireworks, which was lovely but not as spectacular as the new year's ones obviously!

Tom's 32nd birthday was on 1st February and keeping to our theme of not spending loads of money on each other, I organised a lovely evening at a Moroccan restaurant followed by a screening at the Moonlight cinema in the botanical gardens. It was the first time we had ever been to an outdoor cinema and we watched Attack the Block, a film by the makers of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. It was very funny and reminded us of home quite a bit, but we should have brought a blanket as when the sun went down it did get a bit nippy! We also went to Ararat for the weekend with Aislinn and Toby as Toby's mum owns an olive farm there.  It was Toby's birthday on 3rd February so we had a joint celebration with them and even managed to get around some of the wineries and do some tastings! 

We finally managed to get ourselves to the Great Ocean Road this weekend, as Reo is in the car industry and managed to get a car for us to take down there, very handy indeed!  We started off on Saturday morning and chose a scorcher for it - the temperature was a roasting 37 degrees!  I think it was the hottest I have ever been since arriving in Australia.  Luckily the car had air con and we took it nice and slowly taking in the sights of the road as we went.  It really is a very beautiful landscape and the water was the most crystal clear blue that we have seen in a long time.  We stopped off in Apollo Bay and stayed in a backpackers for the night in a private room.  Unfortunately it was a bit of a dive and the bed was the squeakiest thing ever which woke us up all night long every time one of us attempted to roll over.  It also had no fan so needless to say an uncomfortable night was had by all!  The beach was lovely though and we had a great swim in the sea being smashed to bits by the waves.  The sun was so strong though that we had to be very careful not to stay out for too long, even with factor 30 on.  Today we drove to the 12 Apostles, a landmark of 12 huge stones jutting out of the sea, and took in the sights before driving home exhausted and hot this afternoon!  It was a lovely weekend and exactly what we needed to get out and about again, and we are so glad we were able to do it before we left.

We only have a few weeks left in Australia now before we head to Thailand for Jay and Annu's wedding - something we are ridiculously excited about so are trying not to wish our time away! Until then, we will live it up while we can with the time we have left. One of the things we have always taken notice of here is the slogans each state has on their vehicle license plates. Queensland's was 'The Sunshine State', NSW has 'The First State' and Victoria's is 'The place to be'.  We couldn't agree more!

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