Sunday, October 28, 2012

Blue Mountains

Fun trip yesterday with Nadeane and Ryan to the Blue Mountains (about 2-hours drive from Sydney). We went up, instead of down, the scenic railway that had a 52 degree incline making it he steepest railway in the world. Not as scary going up but I was imaging the cable breaking and taking a huge fall back down the incline. And PS- we were not buckled in so not sure how that all works out for those boarding to take the railway downwards. Ride at your own risk?

We also rode the skyway with the glass bottom floor where we got a view of Kotoomba Falls then rode the cableway over the rainforest.

We got invited to our new friends house for a BBQ where we got a tour of Jane and Andrew's beautiful gardens and we were introduced to their amazing daughter Julie... And their 4-chickens too. Such a great Sunday afternoon.

Xoxo, Amy
Turpentine Tree that got burnt through the middle of the trunk during a forest fire.

Going down the Cableway over the rainforest of the Blue Mountains

Looking over Katoomba Falls through the glass bottom of the Skyway. Apparently this waterfall gets 5,000 times this size during the raining season

Nadeane and Ryan getting ready to go up on the Scenic Railway. Look just beyond where they are sitting and you can see how steep the incline is.

Whatchu lookin at? One of the 4-chickens in Jane, Andrew and Julie's backyard

"Can we come in?" -Betty White and Clara Cluck

My new friend Clarice resting comfortably on my bump

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fraud and Frustrations {and a bump pic too}

After finding some cheap airfare on Tiger Air, we flew to Brisbane over the weekend. Kevin and I got to visit friends and took a trip to Surfer's Paradise on the Gold Coast. We want to find a place to take 'holiday' over the holidays as this will be our last trip alone together for a very long time ... while. The Gold Coast was one of our places to look into but I can't really see us spending more than a long weekend there. It looks like a fun place to party but no partying for this girl ... for a while. There's a nice beach but we're looking to snorkel, do some hiking and relax; this place looks like it turns into Crazy Town, USA, especially during the holidays. So for now, we're looking into other options.

Don't forget to swim between the flags in Australia. Taken at Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia

Blue Box Jellyfish all over the beach at Burleigh Heads,  Gold Coast, QLD, Australia

Now I don't like to rant but I'm going to. After our nice weekend in Brisbane we come home to find out our checking account had been drained. AGAIN! Someone had stolen the numbers from Kevin's debit card and produced a new card. Some of you remember this SAME thing happened to us during our last month in New Zealand. I am beyond irritated and disgusted that there are people our there in this world who do these things. The Customer Service Agent from our bank said that unfortunately people have been installing a virus on ATM's around the world that capture peoples account information when they go to use the cash machine. WTF??? Just one more thing to be concerned about but there's really no way to tell if the ATM you are about to use has this software on it. Furthermore, the same Customer Service Agent tells us it's going to take 20-40 days to deposit the money back into our account! Again- WTF??? There literally is no sense of urgency. Thank goodness we have other accounts to take money from but there are so many people out there that don't. This is a good lesson for everyone: 1.) Check your banking transactions often so you can monitor activity  2.) Do not keep all of your money held up in a checking account. 

Further to my rant above,  I just have to vent about something that has been annoying me these past few years living abroad.  Customer service. 

I first noticed the horrible customer service when we were living in New Zealand but my observation has carried over to Australia. Starting with restaurants. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that there is no tipping culture here so the Waiters/Waitresses/Bar staff get paid a much larger hourly wage than in the US. I just feel that by not having tips to work towards completely decreases the motivation to do what Waiters/Waitresses are getting paid for-customer service. I can't tell you how many times I've had to get up and ask for a glass of water after I've been seated. Coming from America, the mentality that I'm used to where 'the customer is always right' definitely does not apply here. I'm a pretty easy diner and don't consider myself high maintenance but I am used to being able to alter a menu item to my liking and having a response from the waitstaff  of "sure, no problem". When I say alter a menu item, I'm talking about asking for egg whites instead of standard scrambled eggs. If I ask for that here, I have to explain what exactly I am talking about and tell them that I am allergic to the yolk-which is no ones business- and more often than not, they have to leave to go ask their manager if that's doable. It came to a point where I just don't ask because I've been made to feel like I'm a weirdo. Nothing is done to think outside of the box to solve a problem. 

OK I just have two more stories that have frustrated me with customer service. Then onto happier topics. 

It took us 2-months to get internet! If you are reading this and you are from Australia you feel my pain. I hate Telstra and the thing that is so irritating is that we have no other companies to choose from for our internet provider. Since we live in an apartment complex, the only connection we can get is ADSL and not the cable connection we wanted. I remember trying to hook up the internet in the US and even in New Zealand and it took maybe a day. It was not difficult. Telstra made every excuse under the sun as to why we didn't have internet shortly after it was requested. Like our banking situation I mentioned, everything is done with a procedure and if we ask why or ask for a solution to our problem, if it's not in the companies manual, the Customer Service Representatives have NO idea how to handle the situation. Nothing is of an urgent matter to them.

OK, last one! Kevin and I have been taking taxi's quite frequently, especially since we didn't have a car when we first got here and relied on them.  What I've noticed is that when you get in, you tell them where you want to go and they ask you "which way do you want to take?" Ummmm- I am paying you to drive me somewhere. You tell me. Isn't it a part of a taxi drivers job responsibility to know the city they are working and understand how to take their customers to their destination the quickest way possible? I cannot tell you how many times we have been ripped off by the drivers taking us the long way or keeping the meter running after we ask them to pull over so we can pull up the map app on our phones. Why should I be using my phone to pull up a map to tell them where to go when they have a GPS installed in their car that they refuse to use? Well, I do it so I can tell the drivers where to turn so I don't get ripped off. Another thing that irks me is when it comes time to pay the drivers try and tell you they don't take Eftpos (debit) cards. Clearly, I can see the machine to run the cards right there! Guess they would rather take the cash but believe me I don't let them get away with it. I'm just so sick and tired of going through the same song and dance every time we need a cab. 

Overall, I'm pretty happy living in Australia but there are just some days where I want to pull my hair out. I don't want this post to come across like I feel like I am better than those that live here or that America is better. I guess everyone is used to the places and surroundings where they grew up. Living abroad is an amazing experience and there are many things that overpower the negative as you can see from my previous posts. 

And for the baby update- I'm getting big! I'm feeling Baby Boy King more and more everyday, especially at night. Here's the bump at 21 weeks-


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Palm Beach... and I'm not talking about Florida

While test driving a car today, I was able to snap this quick picture of one of Sydney's northern beaches: Palm Beach. We didn't end up getting the car but we did find a new spot to explore on the weekends. SCORE! After our scenic beach tour and a few hours of searching and deciding what type of car we wanted-we did buy one! I am so relieved! While public transportation is convenient, it's not the same as having your own set of wheels. Happy Sunday to us. 

Kevin and Amy

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

20-Week Ultra Sound

We had our 20-week ultra sound on Monday the 8th. Everything looked perfect and all the measurements are showing normal results so we both left there very, very happy. It was so fun to see the cute little bug moving around so much; every scan we've had they always comment on how active he is. In Australia 20-weeks is also when they confirm the gender but since we already knew she reassured us that this little baby is "very male". It made us laugh... are some baby boys "just a little male"? I love looking at these pictures of our sweet boy. I think he looks like Kevin but he's still a little to alien-ish to tell for sure.  :)

Amy and Kevin

Monday, October 8, 2012

Cornhole and other fun springtime activities in OZ

Hurray for making friends! It's been so fun for the two of us to meet some cool people that we can have some fun with out here. There was a group of American's that got together for a Cornhole tournament in September. I also want to note that this tournament was a sanctioned National Cornhole Association event :) Didn't even know there was such an association but we are now a part of it. Mmmm kewel.  Anyway, it was such a beautiful afternoon to hang out a meet some new people. 

This last Sunday, we went on a 9k hike from Spit Bridge to Manly Beach on another gorgeous day with some of our new friends. 

Amy has her game face on (lower right hand corner) during one of the final rounds.

Enjoying the view (from left to right: Amy, Kevin, Prem, Tanja and Renee).

Posing in an Aboriginal cave 

Lucky for us, walking next to this gorgeous water was part of the hike. Kevin giving the thumbs up as he gets to chat it up with Nezza and Tanja!

My "H" and me!

Kevin and Amy