Category Archives: Australia

Sydney Australia in April

Okay, I’m a bit behind on my posting. I’m only up to April!! Yikes! I am going to do my best to get caught up, so in the next few days, you will see lots of new blog posts!

Our flight left Singapore at 2 am on a Saturday morning. Which to the kids, is really just very late Friday night. They had school all day, then swim practice, then the boys had a friend come over to the house. We left our condo for the airport at 11 pm. Needless to say, the kids were exhausted. After fueling up on a last minute footlong from Subway

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and yes, I threatened Shane with his life if he dared to stow some of that sandwich in his backpack and try to bring it into Australia. Don’t know what I am talking about? Then see this post from December:

https://blinkmanbuzz.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/watch-list/

The kids were out cold in the airport while waiting for that flight.

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Sydney in April, it’s everything we could have dreamt of. Our first night in town, we were lucky to stay in the Harbour. We were on the 33rd floor of the Shangri La Hotel, and we had the most awesome view of the harbour. I could have sat at the window all day looking out at this view!

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Isn’t it gorgeous?? Well, the sun didn’t last long, because that afternoon we were on an America’s Cup Sailboat cruising in Darling Harbour, and it was overcast, cold and raining. It rained the entire time we were on the boat. We all had a blast anyhow, a little rain doesn’t’ get in our way of a good time.

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We cruised right past the Opera House!

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I kept thinking about Finding Nemo, isn’t that just crazy?? I was thinking about all the little fishes in the water, and of course I asked my new friend Captain Peter ( pronounced “Pete-ah” ) and he told me all kinds of stories about sharks in the harbor. One story was about a Navy diver who was cleaning up and working on the props on one of the military ships and he was attacked by a shark, it bit his leg clean off. Another story was that there was a study launched to see how many sharks were actually in the harbor, they were given two years to catch and tag sharks, and they were shocked to be able to finish the study within only two months, because they actually caught their quota that quickly. So yes, there are sharks in the Harbour.

Here’s a selfie of me and Pete-ah

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This was our only true day of sight seeing, because the next day the Australian National Swim Meet began, and we were staying in an apartment that we rented for the week.

The same time of the swim meet, the Royal Easter Show was also occurring, all at the Sydney Olympic Park. We had heard that Prince William and Duchess Kate, and Prince George were all in Australia for the week, and were expected to make an appearance at the Royal Easter Show. I was so excited, I really wanted to see the royal couple. When the day came, however, I chose to stay at the swim meet, sitting around for hours and hours to see Shane swim about 3 minutes. Maria and Cale, however, walked over to see if they might be able to catch a glimpse of the pair. Keep in mind that the Royal Easter Show is HUGE, comparable to a State Fair in the USA. I thought that there was no way my two kids would get lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time, and be able to push their way through the crowds.

Well, I was wrong.

They did in fact see Prince William and Duchess Kate. Here is a video they were able to take.

I nearly cried when I saw this, Maria and Cale were so excited, but very casual, when they told me about their adventure. I was so happy for them, but so so so sad for myself. It IS after all, about me. And I missed my opportunity to see the Royal couple!!!! I’m still kind of mad about this. Wouldn’t you be too??

Later in the week, we were able to take an afternoon that we were free and we made the quick trek to the famous Bondi Beach. It’s pronouced “Bond-I”, not “Bond-E”, by the way.

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This place is known all over the country for how gorgeous this beach is, and also for the show on television “Bondi Rescue” where the lifeguards are constantly saving really dumb beachgoers who are completely unaware of what rip currents are. It’s quite funny in fact, and if you ever get the chance to watch it, you must.

http://tenplay.com.au/channel-ten/bondi-rescue

Here is a picture of Maria with two of the guards who are on the show.

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It was very windy and kind of cold, but Cale braved the weather and did some body surfing. I was terrified the entire time, never took my eyes off of him, because the week prior to our visit, a lady was attacked and killed by a shark on this very beach!!!

http://www.closeronline.co.uk/2014/04/woman-killed-in-shark-attack-whilst-taking-daily-swim-across-bay#.U6JQMRZsoTM

After surviving his swim, we took some photos in front of the famous lifeguard station, watching this artist spray paint the wall, bought some souvenirs, lost Trents credit card (which we were able to get deactivated before it was even used), collected some sand in a gatorade bottle for our sand collection, and made it back to our rented apartment without missing a beat.

We all totally loved our visit to Bondi Beach, and highly recommend taking the time to visit this iconic beach.

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Lastly, I have to say we LOVE the birds in Australia. The lorikeets and white cockatoos make such a racket beginning at 4:30 am, it’s unbearable. And I absolutely loved it.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sulphur-crested_cockatoo

And here are a couple pictures of some other crazy looking birds! How can you not love them!!

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This was our third visit to Australia, and it was just as amazing as our first two visits! We love the Australians, they are warm and welcoming, with their no-worries laid back attitudes!

http://www.shangri-la.com/Sydney
http://www.sailingsydney.net/Sailing-Sydney-Americas-Cup-sailing-experience.html
http://www.eastershow.com.au
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bondi_Beach,_New_South_Wales
http://www.bondivillage.com

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Australian National Age Group Championships

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What an adventure in swimming Shane is having. In April he was scheduled to swim in Sydney in the Australian National Championship meet. Cale and Maria didn’t qualify for this meet, but they managed to convince us that they should take a week off from school so they could support their brother. Trent was scheduled to be working in New Zealand the week before, so he met us in Sydney.

The meet was to take place at SOPAC, Sydney Olympic Park, site of the 2000 Olympics.

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It was so inspiring to walk down the Hall of Fame, and see some of the memories, and all the records set in this pool.

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Shane qualified to swim in 10 events throughout the six day meet, so with preliminaries and finals he had 18 races. He did quite well, as he wasn’t tapered for this meet, and this was by far the biggest competition he’d ever participated in. Swimmers from all over the world were here to compete, including teams from South Africa, Great Britain, Greece, Guam, New Guinea, Peru, Thailand, Zimbabwe, the Canadian National Youth Team, the New Zealand National Team, along with 281 Australian teams.

It was pretty neat to see our home team from Hudson Wisconsin represented at such a big meet. Shane was able to swim for HASA (Hudson Area Swim Association) with special permission granted by USA Swimming. Since he was a visitor at the meet, he was eligible for medals, but the Aussies would still get their medals.

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Shane’s best events during the week were the 100 meter Breaststroke, where he took 1st place overall, with a time of 1 minute, 9:04 seconds, and also the 200 Individual Medley, were he placed second with a time of 2 minutes 14:29 seconds, and the 200 breaststroke, where he also took a second place, with a time of 2 minutes 16:52 seconds. Shane was so excited to be awarded his medals on the podium for all three of these events, that none of us will forget how thrilled we were for Shane.

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He made so many new friends this week, including his “mom friend” Veronica, Elijah Winnington, and of course he reconnected with our Perth friends Brody and Raiffe. Shane and Elijah are close friends after only knowing each other a week, and I have a feeling they will be lifelong friends.

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By the way, Elijah broke a couple Australian national record during the week. Shane was so happy for his new friend! Also at this meet we watched Kyle Chalmers break several national records held by Ian Thorpe! What an exciting week!

A big thank you to the West Brisbane Swim Club for welcoming Shane into their team for the week!! You guys are awesome!!

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And yes … Shane ALWAYS wears a bandana. He’s been doing this for nearly two years now, and it’s become his “thing”, it’s what he is recognized for and known for. It’s so fun to see him develop his own brand! It’s brilliant! And even more fun to see kids copy him and emulate him! In his first meet back in the states, (next week, June 8th) Shane will proudly wear his new Australian headband given to him by his mom-friend Veronica!

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Australian Christmas! Happy 2014 from the Gold Coast

Okay, it’s mid-March. And I am FINALLY getting blogging about our holiday in Australia.  The part that started AFTER our adventure in the airport with our illegal Subway sandwiches.   Our rented condo was in Surfers Paradise,  right on the ocean.  From our 12th floor balcony, we had a view of miles and miles and miles of the Coral Sea.  And it was glorious.

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Every morning we play in the waves until we couldn’t stand any longer, let me tell you, the most ferocious waves ever.   The boys tried out their surfing skills,  and even Trent and I took a swing at it.  Hours and hours and hours of playing in the water and on the beach.

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In the afternoon, we entertained ourselves at Wet N Wild Water Park, Dream World Amusement Park, and twice to Sea World.  Always ready for a great selfie photo, we met this man in the parking lot directing traffic, and on a dare from the kids, this is the pic I snapped.    Can you believe the kids didn’t think I would do it??

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We also went in search of kangaroos and koala bears, which we found exactly zero.  Oh we saw the signs along the road, even stopped to take our pictures with the signs.  But no kangaroos or koalas.

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On Christmas morning, we went again in search of the mysterious unseen kangs and koalas, and instead found a watering hole, where we stopped for a picnic.  The boys jump off of cliffs with some of the locals, and I was bird spotting.  Saw this giant bird, squawking away, and found out it was what the locals call a “Jack Ass” …  a Kookaburra!  From then on I was in search of more Kookaburras, which I found were everywhere.  Dance Kookaburra, Dance Kookaburra!

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Our favorite was Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, where we finally saw the kangaroos and koalas!

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We are so blessed, Trent and I brought in the new year on the beach in Australia, another dream come true!

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Cottesloe, Perth

Our last afternoon in Perth,  we totally enjoyed this beach.  The kids new Aussie friend Brody recommended Cottesloe Beach, said it was one of the nicest around.  He was right.  This beach is famous for it’s terraced lawns overlooking the Indian Ocean.   The water was crystal clear, the powdery sand had a few shells, and the waves were gentle.  What a beautiful place to live!!

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There were many people at this beach, but most were hugging the shoreline, not going out far, despite the smooth water and lack of riptides.   We did notice a couple of swimmers who were getting in their workouts, swimming horizontal to the beach, swimming their freestyle in the ocean.   It was so peaceful, we just wanted to stay.  I could live in this beach town happily.

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On our way out, we stopped at a small general store across the street from the beach, looking for any type of souvenir, when I just happened to see the headlines in the newspaper.   The article was about how there is this group of senior citizens who brave the ocean every single day at dawn, to get their exercise in.  They call themselves “the chorus line” .   The article was about how most locals do not go to the beach as they used to, because recently there was a great white shark attack at this very beach where a swimmer was killed.  They knew it was a great white because they analyzed his speedo that washed up on shore.

What???  Right here on Cottesloe Beach?!?  A quick scan of the article and I read that there have been 11 fatal shark attacks in as many years right there in Western Australia.  Yikes!!   Holy smokes, that is really scary!

And my girl Maria, you know how crazy she is, she’s afraid a shark is gonna attack her in a swimming pool, this was too much for her.  She was done, no longing looks back at the ocean, no asking to stay just a few minutes longer, she was ready to go, she was done with the beach.

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UPDATE:  My sweet Aunt Vera sent me a note about the recent protests on this very beach.  I am posting a link to the news article.  It’s a must read!

 http://au.news.yahoo.com/a/21207700/wa-shark-cull-thousands-gather-at-cottesloe-beach-as-catch-and-kill-protests-ramp-up/

 

Western Australia Long Course Swimming Championship

Last week I took the kids out of school so that they could compete in Western Australia’s Long Course Swimming Championships.

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All three kids qualified, and since I am THAT mom, you know, the one who thinks swimming is as important as school, (if not more important)  we took off Sunday morning for a 5 hour flight to Perth Australia.  Trent couldn’t make the trip because he was headed to Hong Kong and then Bangkok instead for work.

The kids haven’t been training regularly, as they missed 12 days of practice for our Christmas vacation,  they weren’t tapered, and honestly, I wasn’t even sure if their coach here in Singapore knew they were competing, so I wasn’t expecting too much at this meet as far as times go.  I was hoping that the kids would gain valuable racing experience, and make some new friends along the way.  When we lived in the states, I could say that we were in a swimming routine.  We knew most of the kids at the meets, we were familiar with the pools, were feeling pretty comfortable.  I was thinking that this would be a great learning experience for Maria, Shane & Cale, by getting them out of their comfort zone in a foreign country, where they don’t know anyone, are unfamiliar with the Australian rules and ways of doing things, didn’t know the pool, etc.

To say this experience far exceeded our expectations  would be an understatement.  My kids stepped up to the challenge, and loved every second of this adventure.

Cale is the only one who was nervous, which in turn effected his races.  But while he didn’t have any standout swims or massive time cuts in any of his six events, he was right on where he should have been, at or about his previous times.  Couldn’t ask for more!!

Maria had three events and cut time in two of them!  But only having three events over a four day meet meant that she had a lot of down time, where she was just sitting around, waiting for her brothers to swim.  At first, she used this time to do a little homework, do a lot of reading, do a little people watching, and do a lot of boy watching.  Everyone knows swimmers have the best bodies, but add to that the bronze tans, the highlighted hair, the accent, and super casual, laid-back attitude, and wah-lah, you have the Australian swimmer.

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On the third day she realized how nice the kids were, and began to make friends.  And since all the kids were interested and curious about the Americans at the meet, it was easy to make friends.  She left that meet with many new friends, and I am confident that she will continue to keep in touch with them.    And now I have a bargaining chip with her, since she desperately wants to return to Australia in April when we go for the National Championship meet.  She hasn’t qualified yet, and might not since she’s thinking of dropping swimming for a bit to try out for a school play.  Should I bring her with? I will use this April meet and work it best that I can, and then yes, I will probably take her with.   Remember, I am THAT mom, who believes that not all learning happens in the classroom.

Shane had 9 individual events to swim, and he swam fast enough in the prelims in the morning to qualify for the finals in the evening.  We would try to rest in the afternoon, between sessions.  He was pretty amped up, he was cutting time and doing well.   He quickly became the swimmer who everyone was watching, the 13 year old from America who swam fast.  The fact that he always wears a headband also makes him stand out, and at one point he was being interviewed for live streaming on the internet, and he was asked about those headbands, and why he does it.  He said, “Well, Ryan Lochte has his shoes, and I wanted something of my own”.   Love that!

Shane cut time in every event, achieved two more Speedo Sectional times (bringing the total to 4) and he broke a Western Australia All Four Corners Record in the 200IM.   He ended up with four 1st place finishes, two 2nd places, and two 3rd places, all in the 13 year old age group.  His 50 Breast stroke was classified differently since it was only a 50, and he made it to #14 overall, from kids aged 13 to 22.

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An unexpected bonus for us was that we got to meet James Magnussen, Australian Olympic swimmer and the current world champion in the 100 Freestyle.  Remember at the 2012 London Olympics when Nathan Adrian won the Gold medal in the 100 Freestyle?  Well, James Magnussen took the 2nd place Silver medal, he lost to Nathan by .01 seconds.  Yes, that’s the swimmer we met.

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Maria and I met him while the boys were swimming, literally in the water swimming.  Most of you know that at swim meet you will sit for hours and hours, waiting for a 30 second or 1 minute race.   Then you will wait hours and hours more for the next 60 second race.  Well, after waiting and waiting, my boys were finally up next, and heats right after each other, and I had to make the choice to watch my boys swim OR meet James Magnussen.   What do you think I did???

Of course, I met James!!  I was so excited and frazzled, feeling guilty for not watching my boys, that I completely forgot that I wanted to get a “selfie” photo, and instead got this one:

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Nice mention about Shane!
http://wa.swimming.org.au/article.php?group_id=546&id=2

“Watch List”

Christmas 2013 … we were so lucky to spend Christmas and New Years in Australia. We had a fabulous vacation .. that started a bit rocky.

By “rocky” I mean we almost spent our holiday in jail. I want to journal all about our adventures in Australia, but I must start at the beginning, when we first landed foot in Australia’s Gold Coast Airport.

We were scheduled to leave Singapore at 10:30 pm, and fly all night to Australia. We chose an airline that gives you the option to purchase their food, and since we all know what airline food tastes like, we opted to not eat it. Instead we hit up a Subway while still in the airport. We each ordered a foot long. Maria and I did not eat an entire 12 inches of sub, instead we wrapped up our remaining sandwich with the intentions to eat it on the plane, or to give it to Shane and Cale, our ever growing and always hungry boys. We specially ordered our sandwiches without veges or condiments so that it wouldn’t get mushy or icky.  It was just sub and turkey.  Plain Jane.

So, with said sandwiches in our bags, we boarded Scoot airlines, and all five us fell asleep almost immediately, awaking when our plane touched down on Australian soil. Trent woke a few minutes before the rest of us, and he filled in the mandatory immigration forms. No big deal, right? Except that he forgot we had sandwiches in our bag, and checked off “NO we are not carrying any food into the country”.

Shaking the sleep from our eyes, we went through the immigrations line, where we were asked if we had any food with us, and we all replied that we did not. We go through to the baggage pick up area, and another officer is asking everyone if they had food with them, and again, we said “NO”.

We completely forgot our half uneaten Subway sandwiches.

We gather up our bags, round the corner, where we are told to stand in a line and drop our bags. Then comes a drug sniffing dog, who sniffs our bags. The kids and I were oohing and awing, such a cute little beagle, who I see sniffing Marias bag, then sit down.   That dog was signaling that there is something in Maria’s bag!   My heart rate soars, I’m wracking my brains, terrified that someone put drugs into her bag when she we were all sleeping. The dogs handler grabs Marias bag and accuses her, “You have meat in there, don’t you”.

Maria and I remember at the exact same time … our Subway sandwiches!  Dear Lord.  Yes, we have meat in our bags!   We have food in our bags!!

My heart is pumping so hard that my vision is effected, I’m literally seeing white. The dog then sniffs my bag, sits down, and now Maria and I are pulled out of line.  We are in big trouble. Trent and the boys follow us, all of us unsure of what will happen next.

An immigrations officer then pulls out a scale, takes our subway sandwiches and weighs them.   I am not kidding, he weighed our sandwiches on a little food scale, one that he pulled out from underneath his counter.  He weighed them!   You cannot make this stuff up, really.

We each were subject to a fine of $66,000 and/or 10 years in prison! TEN YEARS IN PRISON!   For a half-eaten day-old plain Subway sandwich!   Maria would be 24 years old  by time I would get out. My boys will be 23. Oh my word, I’ll be nearly 60 years old! Who would take care of the kids for the next ten years? What about our dream of holding a koala bear? Would the kids stay in Australia and wait for us? Go back to Singapore? To America? Hudson? Pittsburgh? To Zelienople to my aging parents?  To Iowa to live out the next 10 years with my sister, her husband and their five boys?  To my sister-in-law, who is now an empty nester and happily working on building up her business?  Oh my gosh, I’m going to jail.  So many thoughts going through my head at one time.  Oh my gosh, I’m going to jail.  I’m going to jail.  Jail. Jail.

He then very seriously tells us that we are lucky that the sandwiches are half eaten, because if they weighed much more, the penalty would be the highest possible for us.     He then hands us a piece of paper, where he circles the penalty we are really facing,   a $340.00 fine.   Because Maria is a minor, Trent and I would be receiving her penalty as well.  My thoughts were jumbled, hitting my brain at warp speed. I looked at my dear husband, who was trying to explain to the officer that we just forgot, we literally forgot we had those sandwiches. He was taking the blame for filling out the forms wrong, saying that the rest of us were sleeping when he did so. But we each had signed off on our immigration cards, and yes,  we had technically lied. We lied three times about not having food with us, when in fact we did. I looked at my sweet boys, who were clearly confused at the situation, not understanding the seriousness of our predicament. I looked at my beautiful daughter, hair still messed up from sleeping on the plane, arms crossed and looking pretty mad at this delay. In what seemed like slow motion, I took in the faces of my sweet sweet family, and did what I had to do: I cried.

My eyes glassed over and a big tear rolled right out, down my cheek. Shane looked at me, shocked to see his momma cry, Cale looked concerned, and Maria was in complete disbelief. Oh yes, later I would be teased mercilessly about my tears. I had seen enough late night episodes of “Locked Up Abroad” to know that I was in big trouble. I was terrified. So yes, I own it. I cried.

I am not sure if this helped or not, or if it was Trent’s apologies, but before we knew it, we were given a severe warning, a virtual slap in the face, told we better not ever ever ever lie to customs officers again, enjoy your holiday, bye bye.  Oh, and from now on, you are on the “Australian Watch List.”

The five of us grabbed our suitcases and bags and took off so fast, fearing that he would have a change of heart and make my kids orphans.

When we rounded the corner, safely out of danger, we all looked at each other, giggled a little bit, laughed a little bit, all in complete disbelief at what just happened.

And we have this little souvenir too!

Australian Immigration

And that my friends, was the beginning of our Australian Adventure, Christmas 2013 & New Years 2014.