On July 10, 2001 I received official confirmation that my entry visa to Australia was approved. I then set in motion events committing me to moving to Australia to join Kaye and marry her. It took about a month, and it was a hell of a month. After much financial, physical and emotional travail, I arrived in Brisbane on 13 August, 2001 and was greeted by a very enthusiastic and very pregnant Kaye.
My previous archive detailed my thoughts and life in the US. I will now continue this archive in a new file to denote my new live in Australia.
As always, standard disclaimers apply.
Dear gods, where to begin? The beginning, of course! some might say. But where would that be? I guess I'll just have to take my best shot at it.
I didn't get to see everyone that I wanted to see before I left. Lots of people weren't checking their email, so my announcement about my travel plans got missed up until the last minute. Then, on my last day at work (a Friday), a bunch of people called or emailed me in a panic, hoping to see me before I left. At least four different people suggested dinner on Monday. Since I wasn't up to eating dinner four times in a single evening, I agreed to the first invitation and sadly declined the rest. At least one enterprising soul (hi, James!) switched to lunch, so I got to see two of those four people. Sorry, folks.
My motivation for actually getting around to packing up was very low. For some strange reason, I felt reluctant to actually dig in and pack up my life to leave everyone I love to go be with Kaye and marry her. It wasn't that I didn't want to be with Kaye and marry her, gods forbid. It was that I was sad to leave everyone else behind. Easy solution, bring Kaye to Denver, right? Not quite feasible, particularly with the baby almost due.
The baby. You hadn't heard about that? Sorry, I'm still trying to get used to my impending fatherhood. A lot of people know, but I never remember whom I've told directly so some people get left out of the loop. It isn't personal, I promise. I'm feeling a tad overwhelmed. For those who didn't know: Kaye and I are having a baby, and the ultrasound technician is 90% sure it's going to be a girl. So long as God doesn't play one of Her slapstick jokes, we're going to name the baby "Emily Jane." Don't like it? She isn't your baby. I don't know why we came up with that name, it just struck me as inevitable; one of those prescient things. The due date is somewhere between the 29th of August and the 5th of September. She hasn't arrived yet, and we're waiting patiently while I read up on all sorts of material regarding birth and parenthood to make up for the ante-natal classes I had to miss.
I seem to have gotten ahead of myself. Okay, I was back in Denver, trying to pack and not feeling terribly motivated. Wendi (hiya, pretty!) hung around and helped me out as much as she could, and I am eternally grateful. We didn't get it all done, and it was a very emotional experience for both of us. I managed to get a big, mountain-gear backpack filled with roughly 30-40 pounds worth of clothing and other junk. Unfortunately, international flights only allow about 40 pounds of baggage total, so I couldn't take a third of the stuff I wanted to bring. We packed up as many boxes as we could for shipping, which will cost me many paychecks to afford. Hopefully the baby stuff I couldn't bring with me will arrive first.
Wednesday morning arrived clear and warm, which was not how everyone else was feeling. Linda (hi, Linda!) gave me a lift to the train station along with Wendi, where we met up with Laura (hi, Laura!). That was it for the people who could see me off. No, it isn't a problem: 8 AM Wednesday morning isn't practical for most people. I didn't expect people to show up, only those people who reasonably could. The train was a tad late but not excessively so. The goodbyes were tearful and I pulled out of Denver armed with lots of books to try to keep me sane over the sum total of 52 hours of travel time.
The train ran late getting into San Jose where Brent (hi, Brent) was intending to pick me up. In fact, the train never arrived in San Jose. We arrived in Emeryville, CA two hours too late to catch the last train to San Jose. The only train I could catch that evening was to Oakland, from which I would have to catch a bus to San Jose. Suddenly I'm glad I'm not going to be riding on Amtrack again. Brent was kind and patient enough to drive down to Emeryville and pick me up. We swung by and saw Don (hi, Marzy!) just in time for him to hook up with his new girlfriend. Then I crashed at Brent's place and hung around with him for a day and a half until my plane left for LA to connect with my Qantas flight to Brisbane, Australia via Auckland, New Zealand.
Remarkably, the flight to LA and subsequently overseas went without a hitch. Not a single problem whatsoever. I checked my phone one last time at the LA International Terminal to find that my parents (hi, Mom!) wanted me to call them. I called and discovered that my battery was a lot lower than I expected it to be. It meant that the call was a lot shorter than any of us intended, but I had no means of calling them back. I left shortly after.
Arriving in Brisbane, I discovered that Australia is having a very cold year. Cold enough that it's raining sleet not too far away from where I sit now. Doesn't that just figure? But as close as we are to Latitude 25 South, it doesn't snow. Let me repeat that. It doesn't snow here. Latitude 25 is too close to the equator for the weather to allow snow. Pardon me while I savor that for a moment. It doesn't snow here. That is so satisfying, you have no idea.
Where was I? Oh yes. It was a bit chilly, although that condition is drastically improved once you get into the sun. I was able to take off my leather trench and enjoy the bright Australian sun. I'm repeatedly advised I need to be careful of that, because the Australian sun is particularly harsh on human skin. Point taken. Kaye, her sister Debbie (hi, Debbie!) and Deb's partner Steve (hi, Steve!) had arrived to pick me up, and Deb was busy taking photos while Kaye beamed beatifically and hugged me as best she could with her very pregnant belly. It'd been almost six months since I'd seen Kaye, so I wasn't used to the belly but I knew it was about that time for her to be awkward with it. The good news is that she's had a very positive body image throughout the entire pregnancy, and she's not self-conscious about it. We went up to Mount Cooth-ha (I think that's spelled right) which has a beautiful overlook of Brisbane and chatted for a while.
I discovered how Australian food and drink taste a bit different from American food and drink. Example: they use real sugar in their soft drinks, not corn syrup. The Mountain Dew I had didn't have the bite I've come to enjoy, but the Coca-Cola tastes better than in the US. Kaye keeps asking me what I think of Australian food. My answer: different. Not better and not worse. Just different. Some things I like better (do you know how easy it is to get single serve bottles of pineapple juice here???) and some things I like worse than in the US. Food isn't high on my list of priorities (unless, of course, I'm starving) so I tend not to pay that much attention to it. It's food and it keeps me going. I'm satisfied.
Arriving on the 13th of August (13/08/01 as Australians date things), I've had just shy of two weeks to adjust so far, and I feel it's going well. It took a few days to get past my inbred panic at seeing a semi-trailer barrel down the road on the right side. Over the past week I've been driving Kaye's car a lot more, and I'm starting to learn not to engage the windshield wipers instead of the turning indicator when making a turn. I'm getting used to the fact that Australians use $1 and 2$ coins for their small change, and have no bills smaller than a $5. I'm getting used to the dialect and don't have to ask people to repeat themselves nearly as much.
Friday, Kaye and I got married.
Yes, it's true. For those of you hoping I wouldn't do it, I apologize but I said I would do it and spent lots of money in preparation for it. Kaye and I were married in a very simple civil ceremony at the Warwick Shire Courthouse. Her parents, Debbie and Steve and Kaye's friend Kelli were in attendance. We bought the rings earlier in the week and I'm now getting used to a solid metal ring on my left hand. I'm quite content. Being married isn't that much different, since I've had plenty of time to get used to being around Kaye. Calling her "wife" or "Mrs. Vickery" is a bit of a change, but I think I can get past that. The wedding wasn't very impressive, but we're still looking to do a big, public ceremony at the end of December and I'm still planning on helping Wendi come over to visit so she can sing for us.
Kaye's family is a bit eccentric, but I certainly can't complain. Not after dealing with my family (hi, Mom!). Kaye's father is a firm believer in just about any conspiracy theory you can think of, and seemed a bit miffed when I laughed at his announcement that the British (and Australians, by extension) are really direct descendents of the Children of Israel. He's very big on how the Jews (not God's Chosen People, just the people inhabiting Israel at this moment) are the masterminds behind every evil plot up to and including global warming. Other than that quirk, he's a very outspoken fellow who is vocal with his opinions, but very shy when it comes to personal matters. His daughters were shocked when I relayed the fact he privately welcomed me into the family after the wedding. Kaye's mother is a nice lady originally from England who has been taking care of the household chores and has never learned to drive. Since we live a few miles outside of town in farmland, it means she's pretty much stuck around the house and starving for any bit of news or gossip to liven up her day. She's also got a very strong accent, one I would describe as cockney, but I don't know if that would be considered an insult. Kaye's sister Debbie lives in town and swings by frequently to help out around the shop (Mr. Templeman is a fuel pump specialist) and keep Mum company. She's very jovial and outspoken, very down to earth. She's doing her best to support everyone and everything with varying degrees of zealousness. Her partner Steve is a former Navy man who lives in the house next to Debbie, and between the two of them they've done their best to make me feel as welcome as possible. The more I'm around them, the more I like them. They like to tease and banter, and they seem surprised and pleased that I like to tease and banter back.
The stars. Oh my gods, the stars. I jotted this down last weekend as Kaye, her father and I swung up to Bundaberg:
The sky is incredible at night. I've lived all my life staring at the stars, never realizing what light pollution made me miss. I understood it intellectually, but nothing could prepare me for the shock of truly seeing the Milky Way and the brilliance of the stars overhead.
Bundaberg is a quiet little coastal town with deep blue waters of the Pacific and strangely enough, no seagulls. A definite plus. Australia isn't better than the US, but neither is it worse. I think I'm going to like it here.
I think that pretty much sums it up.
To everyone I left behind in Colorado and California, I miss you all and I look forward to visiting in the future. I don't know when that will be, but I will visit. I don't regret embarking on my new life here, but I regret that I couldn't bring you with me.
People keep asking me for news. News about the baby. News about Australia. News about my job hunting. News about me in general.
Unfortunately, the answer is pretty much the same: not much. But for the sake of news (or lack thereof), let's take those questions in order.
News about the baby. Emily is a happy, healthy little girl. As of 31 January 2002, she's just shy of five months old. She's talkative (babbles constantly), she smiles when you pay attention to her, laughs when you play games with her and rolls around like crazy when you lay her on the floor. She sleeps through the night, from around 7 PM to 6 AM with minor variations in the schedule. She's growing like a weed and demonstrating mastery of new aspects of living every week. Thus far we've been extremely lucky and not had to deal with any health problems like a pox or flu, in spite of Kaye's work with young children. We're hoping that run of luck will continue indefinitely, even though we know better.
Australia continues to be Australia, just as it has been for the past two hundred years or so. The weather has been very hot and sticky, and I'm not complaining (even if everyone else does). Point of fact, the temperature has not gotten much above 30C during January, and there's only been one week or so of near-40C temperatures this summer. The humidity has been brutal, but bearable if you can stick to air-conditioned buildings or keep the blinds closed and run a decent fan. We don't have the luxury of the former, but the latter works well. The freezer is in constant demand for ice cubes, too.
The job hunting does not go well. I've had one interview for a job in the three months I've been searching, and it ended with a good/bad result. Good in that the interviewer liked me and wouldn't mind seeing me apply for another job, but bad in that she didn't want me for the job I was applying for. The agency that arranged for the interview seems hopeful that they'll be able to fill a request for them soon (it's a very big and important company in Brisbane, probably Australia as well). Unfortunately, my applications for other positions advertised for other companies seem to have received lukewarm responses at best. Other agencies have expressed concerns over my "overqualification" for the jobs I'm applying for. Guys, get a clue. I wouldn't apply for Desktop Support if I didn't enjoy the work. You don't see me applying for every Help Desk (phones) job that gets posted, do you? Maybe I should. I'm getting that desperate.
How is my life in general? Not bad, mostly neutral. I'm eating regularly, even if I don't like the meat they sell in the markets. I miss people back in the US, even if I don't have anything exciting to relay to them (and vice-versa). I love my wife even if we don't have enough money to go out and do the crazy things we want to do. We're still trying to get out and see Lord of the Rings, and I'm afraid it won't wait for my birthday to roll around. At least at this point, we should avoid the worst of the crowds.
The game I was running (three sessions) died out because two of the three players found their lives getting unnecessarily complicated, and the game was the easiest portion to cut. I don't blame them a bit; games are and should always be a lower priority than Real Lifetm. They know where to find me if they want to start up again. Another gaming group called Chelon Rose has invited me to play. Unfortunately, they don't have room for Kaye to play as well, and I'm trying to convince her it isn't personal.
Kaye has decided that she would much rather stay at home and look after Emily while I go to work. I've long ago decided I'd rather go to work and let her stay at home. Our desires mesh quite nicely, but reality isn't being so kind. That's part of why I'm so desperate to find work, but improving our income adds extra flavor to it. We're not poor, but we can't afford some simple things we used to enjoy back in Denver. We both got spoiled on my income, and the only thing barring us from saving money and going to the beach on the weekends is our current income-to-debt ratio. We're breaking even, but with no margin for error.
So, that's the news. When you boil it down, it doesn't amount to much news at all. So when I say "nothing much," I'm being literal. There isn't a lot going on, even though we're trying very hard to make things happen. Patience is the key, and I'm being patient. Just don't ask me to provide in-depth details of my daily routine, because it bores me to tears.
Oh, there is one side bit of news I remembered. I made some changes to King of Nightmares. I added a character and restructured the flow of information so I don't end up narrating a documentary like before. Look it over and tell me what you think of the changes. I doubt it's finished, but it's a good start.
Months have passed, and things have changed. I sent out an email to those I have addresses for letting you know I found work, and that I'd post an update soon. Well, I've been working almost 50-hour work weeks and traveling to Warwick and back on weekends, so I hope you'll forgive me for not following through on that promise. My workload has lightened up a bit, so I'm writing the update now.
In June, 2002 my blood-relation brother finally got married. I haven't met the lady in question, but from descriptions I've heard she sounds like she's perfect for him. No, I'm not going to elaborate beyond that. I'm very happy for my brother and glad that he's finally been initiated into nuptual bliss. My new sister-in-law is exactly what my mother hoped for Jim and myself.
I was, of course, invited to the wedding. Kaye really wanted to go, largely so Emily could meet her other set of grandparents. I kept saying this was a bad idea on so many levels. The last time I spent two days in the company of my parents it almost ended in bloodshed. Three weeks under the same roof would qualify for federal disaster aide. I absolutely would not go. My stated reason was that I needed to keep hunting for work, which was true. The reason I did not state to my parents (but Kaye knew) is that I really can't stand being near my mother. It's all I can stand to chat on the phone once a month or so. Now that my father has been converted to her religion, it's only gotten worse. But Kaye insisted and flew out to the US with Emily without me.
What we forgot (at least, I did) was that we had a pregnancy scare. The short version is that I got pounced on one morning and we didn't remember to use protection. Kaye isn't on any birth control because her body reacts badly to hormonal changes. Very badly. Once we realised the mistake, Kaye found a doctor who would administer the "morning after pill" and was deathly ill for several days after. It turned out that the pregnancy took anyway. We didn't realise this until she was in Buffalo with my parents and her typical 24-hour morning sickness kicked in.
Meanwhile, I was safely ensconced in Brisbane when Bay Technologies called to announce they might have a job for me. I was over the moon. The first job in Australia is supposed to be the hardest to get, so this was the break I was waiting for. The job got delayed by a day. Then a week. Then I didn't have the job. Then I got the job. It was a hassle, but I started on a three-week contract for the Brisbane Government Ministerial Services doing the Windows 2000 Professional migration. I've learned a lot about Win2k and the pay has been awfully nice, too. Plus, my contract has been extended an extra two weeks.
Kaye ended up staying at least two extra weeks in the US because she was too sick to travel with Emily without help. For a while it was looking like I would have to miss work to fly back to Buffalo and escort her home. I ended up missing work, but I only had to fly to LA and back. My mother flew with them from Buffalo to LA and back. Let me just emphasize something here: I am never doing that again. 20 hours in cramped conditions in the air with an infant and a barely functional pregnant wife is hell. Emily was mostly good except for the last hour when she was tired, cranky and got pinched by a belt buckle because I was tired and harried and didn't pay enough attention to what I was doing.
However, for the moment things have worked out well. I've been working and can actually pay my own rent for the first time in a year. Emily is feeling a tad insecure but is otherwise the same cheerful, energetic baby she ever was. Kaye has new respect for my opinion of my mother and agrees that we're not going to try to visit my family again in the near future. Because Kaye is still too sick to watch after Emily alone, they're staying with her parents in Warwick until she feels better or my schedule clears up. I get to see them on weekends. At the end of this contract I'm going to get my license converted so I can legally drive in Australia (it turns out to be much less of a hassle than we thought) and Kaye's father is going to pay for MCSE Boot Camp so I won't be hearing that excuse again. Hopefully Kaye's sickness will have passed by the end so she and Emily can come home while I work. Between my new references and my upcoming MCP/MCSE status, I should be a regular participant in the Brisbane work force and be able to afford the new baby in addition to the current financial responsibilities. And by gods yes, I am going to get a vasectomy. Things are finally looking up.
A couple of things of note. How relevant they are depends on who you are. I'm not upset with anyone back in Colorado, and I still miss everyone very much. It's depressing not to be able to send back good news once in a while, so I'm happy to share this joy. I still wish some things could work out differently, but I just have to keep working at them one step at a time. Oh, and contrary to what my parents have suggested, I do not hate my brother Jim. If I'd been able to afford the trip, not had to focus on job hunting and most of all wouldn't have had to deal with my mother, I would have attended the wedding. Hell, I can't make my twin brother's wedding (hi, Wildy!) and I know I won't see my parents there. I'm just as keen to go to that, and Wildy isn't a blood relation.
That's all for now. No updates with my writing. I know I have to keep at it but my Muse is still being a fickle bitch. I really hate on again-off again relationships.
Wow, an update in less than three months! I must be on a roll! Well, sorta....
12 October, 2002 Kaye and I (with the gracious assistance of her family) moved into our own home (bought and paid for with the money from Kaye's gracious father) on the outskirts of Ipswich. Driving into Brisbane will take a bit longer, but it's quiet, peaceful and cheap to live where we are now. Plus, since the house is paid for we don't have to worry about rent. We'll just pay back Kaye's father as we can afford it. Settling in hasn't been nearly as much trouble as I thought it might be, and we're quite pleased. It has four bedrooms, a rumpus room and a study in addition to the kitchen/dining room and living room. It's quite large, and the backyard is quite impressive (I think it's about 700m2). When I first thought it I thought it was going to have tiny little rooms, but I was wrong. I'm very happy with it.
Training with Drake hasn't been working out very well. I'm now finishing my second month when I hoped to be finished in the first. Self-study isn't working very well: the tests are extremely detail-oriented and I don't have much support from my Drake "mentor." Between that and other distractions (like moving, for one) I haven't even finished the first section of the training.
I'm not working either, but that's no real surprise. It's okay, though. I can survive on noodles and vegetables. I've done it before.
I was surprised to find my Muse visited me over the past week. I managed to finish a lot of work in a short period of time. Therefore, Chapter 4 is up on the webpage, although it's just a first draft. If you feel like reading through it (or any of the others) and giving me suggestions on how to clean it up, feel free. I'm still looking for an editor.
Baby news: Emily has started walking. The new house has lots of open space for her to practice, and once she realised she could carry things easier she's been on her feet a lot more than hands and knees. She loves the new place at least as much as we do, particularly because there's so much more she can do in it. We even got to set up play areas and toys we couldn't in the old house due to space limitations.
Last but certainly not least, Kaye went for her ultrasound on the 18th. The scans were surprisingly detailed and came out beautifully. The doctor captured some of the images and put them on disk for us, but I don't have the space to put them up here. Maybe eventually I'll get around to setting up a family page for us. Eventually. When I do I'll put up the ultrasound scans. It turns out we're going to have another little girl. Kaye has decided on the name "Bronte" for Number Two Daughter, and I have no objections. Of course, it'll make introductions very interesting when Emily is around. "These are our daughters, Emily and Bronte." If you don't get the joke, put the two names together and visit the library.
The new year has come and all anybody can seem to say is "thank
Emily is recovering from her first serious illness (one week of fever and declining stubbornly), Kaye is feeling better physically but movement is impaired and I still don't have work. I haven't done much writing since Contract, and I haven't received any feedback for it either. It's enough to make a grown man cry sometimes.
On the other hand, a friend (hi, Michelle!) suggested that I post a link to my PayPal account and beg for donations. It's an incredibly lame and cheesy thing to do, but on the other hand, what do I have to lose? A nickel would be more than I'm making now, and I could use all the help I can get. I like to think of it as donations to help support a starving writer. Maybe I can promise an extra chapter for every $100 I receive in donations. Maybe I can offer little handpuppets. On the other hand, I'm probably just wasting bandwidth (Internet panhandling: the vagrancy of the new society), but I still have nothing to lose. Not even my dignity.
At the bottom of this page is the link to donate to my PayPal account. I know, I'm pathetic, but can you really blame me? I've got mouths to feed and another on the way. I'd juggle chainsaws if I knew how.
2003 is almost over (okay, 3/4th over) and I'm just now getting around to my first update since January. Sorry 'bout that. I have two pathetic excuses. The first and more accurate one is that I've been singularly uninspired of late. That's why there have also been no updates to writings or anything. I've gotten some work done on Galactic Trader but not much. It's especially frustrating when you realise the chapter you've almost finished isn't the chapter you thought it was.
The second and more technical reason is that Nyx had a 2MB limit on webpages, and I hit that limit when I posted in January. I was looking half-heartedly for a new website for hosting when last month I discovered that the wonderful Nyx admins have increased the web quota to 20MB. I think that'll keep me for another decade or three. It's hard to fill 20MB with mostly text. Thank you, Andrew and all the other dedicated (and volunteer) Nyx people.
So, what's been going on Down Under? Let's take it from the top. Emily recovered nicely from her earlier bout of illness. She got sick (along with most of the rest of us) with some sort of cold in June/July, and we've been dealing with secondary effects like a nasty rash that stubbornly refuses to completely go away. What's worse, I got it on the backs of my hands, and I'm slowly getting rid of it with frequent applications of a broad-spectrum anti-fungal cream. Yay. But she just celebrated her second birthday (I'm amazed she survived that long. I'm amazed I survived that long) a few days ago and is generally pretty happy, curious and energetic in that frenetically toddler way. She's also a computer veteran and can open her favourite music videos and hit the "play" button. Scary.
Kaye gave birth on February 13 at 11:35 PM to a healthy baby girl. She named her Michaela (pronounced Mick-ay-la), and we're still trying to figure out an appropriate diminutive nomenclature for her. Neither of us really like "Micky," but "Kayla" hasn't really caught on. We just keep calling her "Michaela." Anyway, Kaye went back to work not too long after giving birth and had to quit recently. The working conditions were so bad the stress was seriously affecting her health. We figure she picked up the bug that hit most of us from the childcare center where she worked. She's well on the road to recovery now, so that's a relief.
Michaela is a very happy and alert little girl. Her development is somewhat slow in terms of physical activity (she only started rolling over from her belly to her back just before she reached seven months), but she seems to be pretty quick mentally. We went through a nasty period where she couldn't handle normal formula, but we had already experienced that with Emily so we switched to alternatives quickly. We stayed away from soy formula this time because of concerns of too many hormones in it and stuck with a thickened formula milk this time. It seemed to work, and she's back on regular formula without any problem.
Work has been sporadic. In May the FiL surprised us all by deciding to get a computer business started. As he didn't have much experience with it, that naturally meant he expected me to pitch in. Seeing as I had nothing better to do, I didn't argue much. However, I have never run a business before, and I'm so terribly ignorant about the whole process that I don't even know what questions to ask. I know how to build and service PCs, but I don't know a thing about accounting or other business matters. This is particularly relevant because except for supplying the money and some other small details, the majority of the business has been dumped in my lap. I'm doing the best I can for the moment and hoping I don't screw up too badly. I know I'm going to hear about it when I do, but I can legitimately plead ignorance. At least I'm not wasting money borrowed from the bank. We'll see how long Lightspeed Technologies lasts.
In July I was surprised with a three-month contract installing computers for an Australian national bank. It's largely grunt work in that there isn't really much computer skill involved. Everything is mostly done in the background, but they need strong backs to lift heavy boxes and get the physical machines installed. To quote a very bad movie, "And the monkey pushes the button." The pay is good and I'm traveling all over the state of Queensland, seeing places even my wife hasn't seen before. I can't complain too much. It's paying for insulation on the house, so that's a bonus. I just hope this will lead to more work next month after the contract is over.
Hmm...that's family, work and writing. Still not much writing. Well, nothing for this site anyway. I've been fascinated by a role-playing forum at NationStates and been doing some great writing there. Thanks to Michelle for getting me hooked on my latest obsession.
Oh yes, thank you to everybody kind enough to donate to me on PayPal. You know who you are.