Tuesday, April 29, 2008

FInally- internet at home = photos for you!

We finally got our home internet hooked up, so here are some pics I've been wanting to share.

Here's Adi in his safety vest at the Climate festival:
Here we are with Vikki and Nathan, in the bush on our hike:
And here are my mediocre shots of the Kangas...I was scared to get too close. Apparantly they can kick some ass!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Commemorations to Kangaroos

Chag Sameach. I assume all of the fellow Yids out there are as sick of Matzah as I am. The good news for me is that my Passover ends before yours does.

Had another action packed weekend with Ghetto commemorations, Kangaroos and some Seders thrown in for good measure.

First, Adi’s gig on Friday night was a huge success. He set up his keyboard at the front of the house and played standards (called such not only because they are from the “Great American Songbook” but also because they are his standard fare when playing such a gig). The owner of the bar gave him 50% more than he’d promised and offered 3 more weeks of work. So tomorrow (Thursday) we return. It’s on a Thursday this week as it’s a 3-day weekend, with Friday being ANZAC day. But I’ll tell you about that next week.

Saturday, April 19, was the annual commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. A nice, light way to spend a Saturday. Adi was the music director of sorts for the Skif kids (Skifitsn) – the youth movement he was in- where all the Central Perk folk are from. His cousin directed the whole thing and they apparently pushed some boundaries, including putting in a hip hop dance that was scrapped by the head Bund adults 4 days before the show. Nevertheless, it was a moving event, complete with poetry in Yiddish, French and English and a few Yiddish songs. The idea is to never forget, and to keep telling the stories of both the Ghetto uprising and the Holocaust to generations that come later. The philosophy behind the hip hop dance was an attempt to reach kids in their own language but the old school members of this “progressive” movement didn’t see it that way. Drama drama drama.

Luckily, that was the peak of drama for the day (well, there was a little drama when our phone wasn't connected..see below) and Seder at Adi’s mum’s house was free of such strife. It was Adi, his brothers, his mum, me and Adi’s grandmother (Adi’s father’s mum, but she wanted to be with her grandchildren so Adi’s mum included her). And 3 main dishes for the 6 of us! I wasn’t sure what to expect but was pleasantly surprised when I saw the children’s Haggadah used – and clearly it is a reform Haggadah. I pointed out that it was gender-neutral and no one had ever noticed that before. Adi’s mum fully enjoyed the orange so I wasn’t ex-communicated. And Bubba was on fire, and the daytime event inspired me to suggest recording her stories, the funny and the more harrowing tales of her escape to Russia during the war and how she lost her whole family in Poland.

The only problem I encountered was earlier in the week when I tried to make the Matzah crack using a cookie sheet with no edges and I mis-converted the measurements so I started my second small fire in our house. But the second batch came out much better and was a big hit.

Sunday was a beautiful autumn day and we drove down the coast towards the peninsula (look at a map of Melbourne) to have lunch with Adi’s friend’s Vikki and Nathan. I met Nathan in NYC last Pesach so it was nice to see him again and meet his wife, who is from the UK originally and like me, is expanding the Skif gene pool. After lunch we went on a lovely walk in the bush, overlooking the sea. The highlight was definitely the KANGAROOS we saw at the end of the walk. I was so excited. They are gorgeous creatures and I had to laugh as they hopped around, using their tails for leverage. No one had anything in their pockets but there were some babies grazing near their mum’s.

Our second Seder, Sunday night, was with Adi’s Dad and his sister and her family (one of the sons who was the Ghetto commemoration director) Bubba was there again and even funnier. There was not even a semblance of a Seder here; it was just eating. But fun nevertheless. I did miss both my annual event as well as those in NY, but it wasn’t as full-on Orthodox as I’d feared…at ALL! No Had Gadya or Who Knows 1 but life is change. Maybe next year I’ll have one, though our flat doesn’t really lend itself to many guests!

Photos will have to wait, given that we STILL don’t have internet access, I’m posting this at work so can’t do the whole pic thing. We did finally get a phone on Monday. The guy was supposed to come Saturday, actually, but was in a car accident. We were thinking of accepting the signs and becoming Amish but then it finally happened on Monday. Internet should follow soon, I hope! Till then, enjoy your Matzah and your springtime.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What a Weekend

Now that I’m a regular working girl, those weekends are so important- and yet, so fleeting. Had a good one, chukkas (that’s Aussie for full) with activity.

Friday night, while Adi and his brother went to the footy, I almost burned down the flat by leaving a baked potato in the microwave a bit too long. I was unimpressed that none of the neighbours dropped by to see if I had enough oxygen. The potato itself, after being sucked dry of all moisture, levitated to hit the plastic microwave cover and resulted in melting that. So I’ll get to return to a dollar store. The stench is almost gone and I settled for pasta.

Then we stopped by Toby and Nat’s house because they had a present for me. A case of Barq’s root beer, purchased at the American Food Store. The Aussies passed one around and declared it disgusting, but this is a people who eat vegemite so really, what sort of taste do they have? Anyway, more for me. Still, it was nice of Toby to think of me.

On Saturday, after over a month of nudging Adi, I finally got to meet Bubba. The picture painted of her was one that seemed an almost caricature of a stereotypical Diaspora grandmother. When Adi called her in the morning to arrange our visit, her first words were: ”so, you remembered you had a grandmother.”

When we arrived, I entered her home and her gentle way of breaking the ice with me was : “Thank goodness. You’re 100% better looking than in your photo!” I guess that’s better than the other way around! But she’s a sweet little woman who clearly enjoys her grandchildren as long as they pay her the proper amount of attention, so I’ll work to help Adi do just that!

Saturday afternoon was spent shopping for a piano amp for Adi, as we’ve moved his keyboard into the flat. He has a gig next week so the time was right to satisfy his urge for a new amp, as he’s wanted one the whole time he was travelling.

Saturday night was “date night” to celebrate my first pay check- of which 1/3 went to the government. So that’s how they have universal health care. It might bother me less to pay into it if I were actually eligible to use this health care, but in a few months I should hopefully be a permanent resident and will then be able to do so. Meanwhile, I pay for a private plan specifically for immigrants.

I’ve been jonesing for Mexican so we hopped on the tram to go up to St. Kilda to Amigos. Upon arrival, I looked around at the primarily Eastern European staff and realized that I was the closest thing in the building to a fluent Spanish speaker. Once I resisted comparing the taste of my so-called enchiladas to the kind I’d have at Rosa Mexicana or anywhere in CO, it was good. I was frustrated that we weren’t allowed to bring our leftovers with us, though. Apparently, there is a law against doggy bags. So I’ll have to bring Tupperware and a bigger purse next time. It’s crazy- there are lots of homeless folks who would have enjoyed our leftover chips but instead we watched them get thrown away. This is the first time I was really frustrated by the difference in culture!

After dinner, a friend of Adi’s had directed a show that it supposedly on its way to NYC- off Broadway. Having seen it, I’m thinking more like off-off-Broadway. Or maybe Staten Island. It was horrid, to say the least. (Don’t worry, this particular friend doesn’t know the blog address). It’s called Dutch Courage and is a musical about a group of gay resistance fighters in Holland during the Holocaust. Mel Brooks notwithstanding, Holocaust and musical doesn’t usually equal success. This was no exception, although I did like the song “fags Can’t Fight in Act I. It was a self-indulgent project for Adi’s friend, who also cast himself as the lead, ‘Gretta, the Queen of Amsterdam.’

Sunday was my first Melbourne Jewish Wedding. The Chuppah (for the non-Yids, that’s the ceremony part) was during the day at a beautiful old shul that would normally anger me, but didn’t since men and women could sit together. Then we went home for a few hours and returned in the evening for the reception which wasn’t that different than a good old USA Jewish wedding with a few exceptions. The Hora was segregated, there were two of them and all of the speeches were given with Aussie accents.

It was a fun night and I got to meet a lot of family. And it was the first wedding Adi and I have attended together so it was nice to have a dance partner (though he needs a little work or I need steel-toed shoes!)

This week I’m going to be preparing my matzo crack which I plan to bring to Seders to distract people from the orange I’m planning on slipping onto the table. I am missing having my own annual event, but will be thinking of all the folks I normally celebrate with. Happy Pesach to all!!

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Whole Bunch of Stuff

Here it is Friday and I haven’t written about last weekend yet! Time flies when you’re a working stiff. I suppose this means that I’m busy, which I am, but it is taking some getting used to.

The driving is coming along nicely. I’m using the rear-view mirror more and more. I have found one new challenge. Because we drive on the left, the slow lane is the left one and the right is generally used for passing. Makes good sense. Except there is, of course, an exception. On streets with tram lines, for example, my street and seemingly every other street in Melbourne—I guess the reason it has a reputation for good public transport- the tram line is laid near the centreline, on either side. So, if you want to pass a tram, you must do so on the left. Of course, you want to avoid doing this when the tram is stopped to discharge passengers, something I realized a bit belatedly yesterday when I almost took out a senior citizen. Oopsie.

Meanwhile, I’ve named my little blue car. I’ve decided that for the first time in my 21 years of driving, I have a male vehicle. It’s a little rough around the edges, so I thought it appro. In honour of Beyonce’s recent nuptials, my little Mazda (pronounced Ma (as in map) z-da is herby known as May-Z! It’s ghetto fabulous, so perfect for the Balaclava area!

Work, as I said, has been going well. I like my boss Deb and I am excited about all there is to do for this program. In addition to returning to the Peninsula campus on Monday, we had a field trip on Wednesday that was a lot of fun. Deb is one of the Profs for the Graduate Certificate in Medical and Health Sciences Education. She’s teaching a class on simulations so we had a day of show and tell of a variety of simulation situations available for medical education. We started at the St. Vincent Hospital Simulation Centre, where they have what’s called a high-fidelity simulator. This is an expensive patient whom they call Vince, who is hooked up to a variety of computers. The facilitators run a program for students, for example, a trauma, and Vince reacts the way a patient would. For example, if Vince doesn’t have enough Oxygen, the students must either provide it—actual oxygen- or his stats will fall. It’s really cool, and I don’t even know the medical stuff.

We did a simulation with the students and I got to play the distressed wife. Finally, the hours I’ve devoted to ER and Grey’s come in handy! After that, we went to the impressive and quite British sounding Australia Royal College of Surgeons, where they have a number of computer simulations where student surgeons can practice things like a colonoscopy, using virtual reality. After lunch, we had a session on using Simulation Patients and I helped Deb lead the discussion. I also did a demonstration of one of my favourite cases from CU, so it was fun to revisit that character.

Last weekend, the first actual “weekend” I’ve had in years, where I had really earned my 2 day break, I was quite social. Friday night I went to my “friend” Maria’s house for Shabbat dinner. Adi couldn’t join us because he had to do the finishing touches on his festival but I was okay solo. I met Maria a few weeks ago at the picnic…she’s married to a cousin of Adi’s friend Nat…so Adi doesn’t really know her at all. So since she’s outside the “Central Perk” group of Friends, I consider her MY friend. We became facebook friends and a few weeks ago, in what might be unprecedented facebook history, took it off the virtual page and into a cafĂ©.

Dinner was lots of fun. In addition to me there was also a couple she and her husband Jeremy met when taking conversion classes (you may have noticed Maria doesn’t usually equal Shabbat dinner). They all belong to the huge reform shul here so it was nice to be discussing things like the orange on the Seder plate without fear of stoning!

On Saturday, I went to Adi’s festival with Nat, Toby and Alon. The layout of the festival looked great and everything was running smoothly. That was Adi’s department. As far as the crowds…well, there weren’t any. The marketing of the festival was sorely lacking, which Adi knew going into it, so unfortunately, the 8000 + concert goers expected were more like 2500. But Adi’s part was good. Also, had the stages had acts like Phish or the Indigo Girls or Bela Fleck or Billy Joel it would have been preferable to the electronica noise (sorry Shannon). The so-called headliner was Tommy Lee who apparently DJ’s now. Adi walked passed him and apparently, he hasn’t aged very well. Surprise surprise.

In an effort to avoid resembling Tommy Lee in the future, I’ve joined the on-campus gym. It’s a great facility and is less expensive than other gyms, though still spendy. They take it out of my pay check though so I don’t notice. I’ve already been a couple of times and hope to get into a routine. Had a bit of a scare the first day. I stepped onto the elliptical trainer and began pedalling. I entered my program and time and then my weight. After doing this it said re-enter weight. So I punched it in again. It started flashing “TOOHEAVY SEE TRAINER”.

Now, we all know I’m a curvy girl and I haven’t’ been working out lately. But still. I didn’t think I’d gotten so huge that the machine was in danger when I stepped upon it. After my heart sank to my stomach as I thought about the dang tim tams I’d been eating I realized they want my weight in KILOS!! That made me feel much better!

Another long entry to busy yourselves with this weekend. A quick shout-out Mazel Tov to Sara on the birth of Lindsay and to Stacey on her engagement.

I’ll write again before Pesach. Til then…xxx

Friday, April 4, 2008

Driving and Working and Driving To Work

Well, it’s official. Tell everyone you know in Australia to get off of the roads because Sheryl is behind the wheel. Adi’s brother, Alon, bought himself a new car last weekend and kindly donated his 153,000+ KM (I don’t know- I know 5K=3.1miles, you do the math) Mazda to his poor older brother and his immigrant girlfriend.

So last Sunday, while Adi went to work, I ventured out. With my heart rate rising, I slid in behind the right sided steering wheel and spent about twenty minutes going around the block to the left. Later on, I was ready for a larger challenge—a trip to the mall. The car is low to the ground and obviously is driven on the opposite side of the road. It’s a manual and I haven’t driven stick in a few years. And never with my left hand on the gear shift—okay, that’s not entirely true- back in my 4Runner days I sometimes had to reach over to shift with my left hand if I was on the phone and changing the music. But I don’t think I was supposed to be doing all that (and don’t worry mom, won’t do that in the new car—cuz no one really calls me yet!) So, I haven’t’ really ever officially shifted with my left.

I got used to the shifting fairly quickly and have just given up trying to see anything in front of me because I’m so low to the ground. One of the biggest problems is that I let people know I’m going to be turning by switching on my windshield wipers. And when it rains, my blinker is going crazy.

For the first day of work—which I’ll get back to in a second- I decided it was in the best interest of my blood pressure to take public transport. I left the house at 7:30 and walked into my office just before 9. That’s a long commute and by Tuesday, I was ready to face my fear for the sake of sleeping in a bit. The less than half-hour drive is far more pleasant and will be even shorter once my parking permit arrives and I don’t have to park as far away.

I noticed on the drive that I actually have a couple of nice things to look at. En route to work, there are mountains in the distance. And on the way home, there is a brief time with a lovely view of the city. I was impressed that I was taking the time to notice these sights. Then, I accidentally looked up to my left and realized I’d been seeing these sites when intending to look in the rear-view mirror! I’m still working on that but hopefully, drivers in other lanes understand that if my wipers going on, I’m probably going to switch lanes without being able to see them!

So…I know everyone wants to know…how’s work? Today marks the fifth day in a row I’ve risen, showered and put on actual clothes (of the business casual sort) and make-up and left the house. It’s a far cry from shuffling to the next room over in my pj’s. I’m enjoying it so far, although I’m a bit overwhelmed by all I have to do. For those who don’t know, I’m Simulated Patient Coordinator at Monash University. Sim Patients, as they’re called here, are actors trained to act out a specific case to guide medical and nursing students in communications skills and also during assessments. I was an SP for 7 years at CU which has a much more developed program than here. So It’s a bit overwhelming thinking about all I need to do to grow our list of SP’s, increase our client base, and increase funding…always increase funding.

On Wednesday I drove down to the Penisula campus, about an hour south of the city, to help my boss, Deb, out in a research project using s SP’s in an inter-professional (MD and nursing students together) setting. It was fun, after a couple of days of reading files at my desk to get to do something and I was excited to meet a couple of SP’s.

There were 4 women working that day as a patient suffering from delirium. One of the actors, whom I’d been previously warned about, was quite..shall we say…opinionated. Not just about the SP program…she told me she though my moving to Oz was a mistake and also informed me that NY is a transient town that only 20-somethings live in. Who knew there were over 8 million twenty-somethings?

My favourite part had to be when she started bragging about her daughter. Her daughter, you see, is “a very very important attorney in NYC.” Really? I know a few of them myself. I gave her dad’s name but she said her daughter wouldn’t know someone who worked for the city...which she said with as much disdain as she could muster. We’ll see….I hate that she brought out my obnoxiousness, but I see your obnoxiousness and I raise you, lady!

The day went well and I’ll return this Monday to do it again, though it should run a bit smoother since it isn’t the first time. The biggest challenge last Wednesday was navigating my way home due to gale force winds over 100KM an hour (look it up people!) These were the strongest winds Melbourne has seen in over 20 years. Felt like Boulder to me, except if a railroad crossing being down caused massive traffic delays in Boulder, I would know of other options. As it was, I just had to sit and hope no trees fell on me. The wind, along with the heat wave, which included the hottest night in March history, is helping me appreciate Melbourne’s crazy weather I’ve heard so much about.

This is very long, so the next lot of adventures will wait until next time. Adi’s festival is this weekend so that should be fun. And then we have daylight savings- fall back time…so for those who call me, don’t forget!