Sunday, August 1, 2010

To New Zealand we go ...

Hello everyone!

It has been pointed out to me that some people actually do read this blog so I should keep it up even if I've moved most of the photo posting to Facebook. I'm glad to hear it and I will do my best to keep you updated on our travels.

On that note our next adventure lies in New Zealand. John accepted the job at Weta and will be starting in early September! We are both very excited for a few reasons. New Zealand is amazing first of all. Secondly, Weta has made some great films (Lord of the Rings, Avatar, etc) so it will be good for John's career and look great on his resume. Lastly, the cost of living is rather low in Wellington. Even though it is an island and things like clothes and some food has to be imported, things like rent are very low because Wellington is a much smaller town and infinitely less expensive than LA or Sydney. Because Weta pays fairly well and I will be getting a job this time, our income will increase while our expenses will be going down. All good things for our goal of home ownership when we get back to the states.

We are excited for the change of scenery and pace but will miss Sydney that is for sure. We've really grown to love this city. Its an amazing place that, while still feeling a bit foreign, feels like home. We are hoping to return for a visit someday maybe with our kids.

We were really hoping to come home for a visit before we left for NZ but it doesn't look like that is going to happen. There was a mix up with the studio and our flights would have incurred a lot of charges to change the dates. Whilst (an aussie term haha) moving to another country, spending money on vacations is not really the best plan. I called the airline and tried to shuffle things around as much as I could but it still would have cost us over $2K to come home, we would only be able to stay for about 5 days, we would have spent our first anniversary on a plane, and John would have to go to work the day after we got to New Zealand. Not exactly the ideal situation. So instead we are planning on taking an extended trip during Christmastime. We plan to come home for about a month. This will give us enough time to visit friends in LA, John will spend a good amount of time with family and friends in the midwest, and I will be able to go visit everyone in Detroit for Christmas plus also enjoy some time being a new aunt in Seattle with my family. All in all this seemed like the best plan even though we will miss everyone for another few months.

On a side note .... can I just tell you how happy I am that we have over a month to plan this move instead of just two weeks? Who the hell moves to another country in two weeks?! Crazy people!

Love you all and miss you tons
- Mel

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Overdue post

Hello everyone!

I apologize for not writing sooner if you are following this blog. I've kind of transferred most of my posting to Facebook considering most family members seem to have made a profile on there. Here is the link to my page, not sure if this will work right but you can try, or just go on there and search for Melissa Vassallo.!/profile.php?id=1050609915

In my photos section you will find a ton of albums containing pics from our travels. I've been taking a lot of photos and posting them on there. In theory Facebook is easier to upload photos on and organizes them better than this blog will allow.

If you don't have a Facebook account you may not be able to view everything. I do keep my profile public but I highly suggest signing up and adding me as a friend. Its free and a great way to stay in touch with people. Ok, enough Facebook endorsements haha.

John and I have really settled into life here in Sydney. We both really love this place, and of course now our time here is coming to a close. The job hunt has been stressful as always but John has really been doing an amazing job of it all. Doing contract work is not easy to deal with in any case but with his demanding work schedule on top of things it does take its tole. There is never really one clear path and we are still deciding on where we will go next but the options are staying here, going home, or going to New Zealand. I will post more about our choice when the dotted line is signed but New Zealand is looking like the most likely choice. Not exactly what we had planned but life leads you in different directions sometimes, as we are clearly proof of.

As for me I'm doing great. I went to Brisbane with a friend a couple weekends ago which was really fun. We tooled around the city and took lots of photos. We went to the GoMA art museum and had a lot of fun. There is a separate album of photos of my trip on Facebook.

My work is going well. They asked me to come in more this month as we are training a new batch of volunteers for the new school term. The kids here go to school all year long so we have to bring in new volunteers to work with them each term. I believe there are 4 terms total each year and we are going into term 3. I am really enjoying work and get along great with the other ladies in my program. I'm pretty sure they are happy with me too considering they are having me come in more often now. I really love my work not just for what I'm doing but also because it adds structure to my week and gives me a peek into the "real Australia". Its easy to float around with only a tourist's perspective but working in another country has given me a look into how life really is here. I love it!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

I got a Jobby Job!

Hello All!

I am sitting here on the couch after a wonderful weekend with John. I always love whenever he has a day off. I know this sounds fundamental but in this biz any day off he has is golden and I never take them for granted.

In addition to his crazy work schedule I am adding my own to the mix. Nothing major but I did get some volunteer work.

I know you may ask, why volunteer work? The answer is threefold .... #1 We are only going to be here until the beginning of October and don't really have any plans for staying past that time. Not that I have tried much but I assume that it will be hard for me to find paid employment for such a short period of time in the kind of work I do. I would either have to lie and say we were staying longer or I would have to quit after 4 months which wouldn't do anything for my recommendation or resume. #2 I have been thinking about trying out the non-profit sector for some time now. Not that I wasn't good at my sales based job but I really want to try doing something more fulfilling, something that makes me feel really good about what I do and that makes a positive impact on the world around me. #3 I have no desire to spend 70 hours a week of my time here in an office being a slave. I still want to enjoy this experience and do some exploring not just working. Plus John and I both have really enjoyed having one of us at home during the week to do all the little things we never had time for in LA when both of us were working all the time.

So as altruistic as it sounds I did some poking around into volunteer positions a while back. I ran into a lot of roadblocks because some of the places I applied for seemed to have restrictions and back asswards ways of doing things. But that's par for the course in Oz. I won't go into that, just see my rant about setting up the internet and apply to this topic. LOL!

I filled out some online forms and registered with some organizations but didn't hear anything back for a few weeks. I had kind of given up when I got a call from someone with SPARK, the St. Vincent de Paul Society Assisting Refugee Kids. Basically they are a social services organization run through the St. Vincent de Paul Society's state office here in New South Wales. They help refugee children from over 20 countries, mainly Sudan, with education and housing placement, after school programs, ESL education, child care and any other services they might need.

The position is an Administrative Assistant to the program coordinators. One of my many jobs before we left LA was Administrator to our sales team at PromoShop so needless to say I was very comfortable with the task ahead.

I hadn't written a resume or had a job interview since 2001 if you can believe it. It isn't a life or death situation if I didn't get the job either so it was perfect practice for me. I went in for the interview last Tuesday and felt really good about it when I left. They told me that they were going to interview a few more applicants before I would hear back that Friday. I got a call around noon on Wednesday saying that they were very impressed and weren't going to do any more interviews. I got the job! WOO! It feels so good to put myself out there like that again and come up victorious.

So I will be doing general admin work on the other side of town every Thursday for the next few months. They will probably up it to two days a week later on. I'm really excited about it. It shouldn't be very difficult but I will be trying my hand in a new industry and gaining some experience in a different field while still using the skills I have learned over the last 10 years in my career. Its PERFECT!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Melly vs. Nature

I have made a friend down here named Mary Jo. She is the wife of one of John's friends at work. She and I quickly bonded due to both being in a similar situation. We both quit our jobs to come here following our husbands and are currently not working. Plus we are both cancers and I usually get along famously with other cancers.

Its kind of funny because there are many things about being a significant other to an animator, or at least someone in this industry, that you just wouldn't get unless you were in it. She and I joke about being military wives in a way.

Anyways, so seeing as how the boys work 6 days a week we have decided to do some exploring on our own. Last week she hit me up and said that she wanted to check out the royal national park. This is a huge national park just south of Sydney about an hour outside of town via train.

So we hopped on the train at Bondi Junction near her house and John's work,

then traveled south to Loftus aka BFE!

We were hoping to take the tram from the Loftus station further into the park but we found out the tram only runs on Wednesdays, Sundays and public holidays... Oh Australia.

So we hopped back on the train

and headed one more stop south to Engadine aka nowhere. I had looked online the previous night and knew that there was a trail that ran from Engadine to Audley towards the middle of the park. When we got there we had to ask some locals where the trail was because there were no markers or signs. It was literally a path leading off into the bush from the wrong side of the tracks.

At first it was kinda cool. Not much to look at but it was interesting to see what the real Australian terrain looks like. It looked pretty much like what I expected it to look like. Lots of trees,
some bushes, more trees, rocks, oh yeah and some trees.We did come across the occasional flower though. That was a thrill. lol

We ran into some massive palm bushes. Here is Mary Jo being swallowed up by some.

About halfway through the hike we came to the top of a ridge, in the middle of a bunch of trees of course. Off in the distance you could see the ocean. Everything in between was the national park.

The whole time the bugs were swarming me, as usual. They were all over my face and trying to get inside my ears. UGH Naturally Mary Jo didn't have any bugs near her. Apparently I taste good or something.

About an hour and a half into the hike I stopped because I thought I heard a noise in the bushes. Considering I had been swatting bugs the whole way I didn't want to do the "OMG what was that?!?!" thing because I didn't want Mary Jo to think she was in the middle of the woods with some paranoid nature freak. So instead I just stopped on the trail to "take a photo". Really I was just stopping to see if I heard the noise again. Here are the photos I took.

When I took the one above I even thought to myself "man that would be a nice little shelter for an animal".

I didn't hear the noise again after a few moments so I kept walking. About ten paces down the path a big ol' snake darted right next to me on the path. It was about an inch and a half - two inches wide and was a weird grey color.

I don't think I have ever moved so fast in my whole life. The stupid thing was that I moved in the direction down the path that I was already headed so when I decided it was DEFINITELY time to go home I had to back track past the spot where I saw the thing. I'm sure I looked like those cartoons where yosammity Sam shoots at the feet of the hero and tells them to dance.

This was the only other photo I took the whole time because all I wanted was to get the hell out of there. The trip back went a LITTLE bit faster than the trip into the bush, even though it was uphill hahaha LOL!

I consulted Google later on that night and found what I think it was. A Pale-Headed Snake.

I determined this by the photos I had taken before I saw it which matched a description of its habitat and behavior. It likes to sun itself on sandstone overhangs on the side of hills in that park during the day. It is poisonous but not deadly. Unfortunately while I was researching I found that four of the most poisonous snakes in the world are found in that park... the kind that are deadly.

I will not be going back, nor will I be doing any more hiking anywhere else in the bush. I had a vision of going to Ayers Rock or something like that while we are here but that is so not happening now.

Nature doesn't like me.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Happier Posts

See .. I told you! haha on to happier posts.

Here are some pics I realize I haven't put up yet. They are from about a month ago but I will catch up. Better to keep things as chronological as possible I guess. I will try to write a brief explanation for them as well.

This was taken from the rooftop patio just outside our hotel room. The photo doesn't do it justice. It was the most amazing sunset. The lighting hitting the clouds made the whole sky look ablaze.

People really like to paint their cars here. We see them all the time. So weird. I feel like I'm living in Fremont or something. Anyways, this one was particularly amazing. Please note the handmade antennae affixed to the roof. Um yeah .... and its on your team.

Sydney has so many beeeeeeautiful parks. This was taken in Hyde park which is the equivalent to Central Park. Its right next to the CBD (central business district) and is one of my favorite places to read, and John's to draw.
This photo is the beginning in a saga ending with me scrubbing Sydney's red light district off my bare feet.. as you can see above John and I took a long walk around town one day. This photo was taken in Circular Quay which I have since learned is pronounced Circular "KEY". This is the area of Sydney where all of the ferries and cruise ships come to dock.

Here we are looking all couple-y in front of the opera house. Don't mind the wikked tan lines. They are better now :)

One of the highlights of the day .... giant cheese ball. Holy NOM!

We kept walking to the other side of Circular Quay where there is a great view of the Sydney Harbor Bridge aka "The Coat Hanger"

Around the next bend we came up on the Opera House. Such cool architecture.

I decided to to take a few artsy fartsy shots.

.. and a shot of Farm Cove. I jog around this part of the Botanic Gardens when I have the energy. There is a path that winds around the cove here. Our apartment is just on the other side of that far hill.

And then ....

my sandal broke.

As you know, once your flip flop breaks there is no limping around on it. Its just done. No sense in trying. As I mentioned our house is on the other side of that far hill in the previous photo. At this time we were still at the hotel which is one hill beyond that and happened to be located in the middle of the red light district, a neighborhood good for entertainment but not exactly the place I wanted to be walking around barefoot.

The first part of the journey wasn't so bad because I could walk on the grass through the botanic gardens. Once we got to the Finger Warf near our place now we decided to cab it back to the hotel. The cabby got stuck in a one way area and couldn't turn around easily. Instead of paying the guy a million bucks to take us door to door John said for him to drop us off, in the middle of Kings Cross = YUCK. I had to walk about three blocks without shoes through some nasty back alley coated in 20 years of bum piss and frat boy barf. I immediately jumped in the shower upon arrival. HA HA :P

Long time no type

First of all I apologize to those who actually follow this blog. I know i haven't posted in a while. There are a few reasons for this but I am sorry for the 40% that can be attributed to my own laziness.

The other 60% I blame on the last month or so. Its been a doozie. Nothing terrible but it has been one of the harder months through this whole experience. We knew going into this that not every day was going to be crocodile smiles and rainbows over the opera house. haha I believe the last time I wrote we were still staying at the hotel. Since then we found an awesome apartment which we are sharing with our roommate Lindsay. But the last month was full of setting-up-house activities some of which made us want to bash our heads on the beautiful stone counter tops.

We have quickly found that, while Sydney is an absolutely beautiful city with perfect weather and plenty to do, the system and infrastructure here in Australia has a little left to be desired. Nothing we can't move beyond but we have had many an "Oh Australia" moment.

Examples ... (sorry this may sound a bit negative, keep in mind that we are totally over all of it at this point and really enjoying our stay now but to recap the last month here you go)

1. In order to rent our refrigerator we had to give the rental company a copy of our passports not drivers licenses, credit card, previous rental history with references, a copy of our lease with references, and at least three personal references of people who live in Australia that don't live with us and aren't family members. At the time I told the guy "I don't know three people who live in Australia" to which I got a quick "tough shiz". Fortunately we made a few friends out here who were kind enough to vouch for us. All this for a used small fridge by US standards that is probably worth about $400.

2. In order to get a Blockbuster card we had to again bring copies of our passports because they wouldn't accept our CA driver's licenses, credit card, phone number and a copy of our lease proving residency. When you make an account with them they don't give you a Blockbuster card. You have to remember the phone it is registered under and the pin number. We went through all this and went to go pay for our movie, come to find they have a $10 minimum for debit/credit card transactions. We walked out, cooled off, got cash, went back, got our movie, THEN come to find out the disc drive for my computer has decided to crap out on us. LOL! <--- really, its laughable at this point. :) 3. The electricity is billed differently here. They basically hedge on what you are going to use because they will only send someone out to read the meter every quarter, not every month. So right now we are paying $80 a month for electricity (which is way more than we paid in LA) for the next three months because that's what the reading was last quarter. When they come to read the meter next they will adjust the rate. I have the feeling that if it is less they will probably not tell us. I'm sure we will be notified if it is more though haha!

4. Oh the internet. This is where the differences between the US and OZ are most apparent. First of all it seems that the phone companies and the internet providers are in cahoots. They want you to pay for a phone line which no one ever needs in the day of cell phones. If you don't have a phone line they make you get one, for an additional contract through a company unrelated to the ISP. Once that is in place you can have someone come check to see if internet is even possible at your home. Yes, here in OZ there are places where you can't get internet. I don't know how people survive. In addition to the phone line thing most of the ISP require a 2 year contract. This obviously doesn't do us any good because we aren't going to be here that long. We tried checking with the cable TV providers but were told by one that we can't get cable in our building, another wanted a 2 year contract. So after a solid week of searching and talking to these providers on his lunch, on a pre paid phone by the way, John was able to find one company who would give us internet through the phone line via one company, not two, and without a 2 year contract. In LA we paid $15 a month for internet, here we are paying $60 but that's the way it is and we are lucky we can get it at all it seems. You would think that they would want to install the internet as quickly as possible so they could start charging us, nope. We were told it might take up to 28 days. TWENTY EIGHT DAYS!!!! WTF!? yeah so after a week we called back and I was a beotch to them. It got the ball rolling though. They had to send one guy out from the phone company to check the line, then another guy to connect the wires or something to our unit. THEN they sent out a courier with our modem who I had to send back because he ding dong dashed the first time. The guy who came to set up the service didn't set anything up really. All he did was make sure the line was open and said "ok good luck". I had to call the IT guys at the provider and sit on hold for hours to get it working. John had to set up our wireless network himself. .. yeay for men :)

5. Most of the bills here are paid weekly or fortnightly (every two weeks) yet employers pay you every month not every two weeks. Because John and I got here ahead of our roomie we handled most of the deposits and had to float rent for the whole unit ourselves for a few weeks. Also, his relocation bonus worked like a reimbursement or expense account so we had to wait for that to come back to us after submitting our receipts. We felt like we were bleeding money for the first month or so. Things are sorted out now that Lindsay is here (the roomie), John got paid, and the relocation bonus was deposited into our account. But man we were living pretty slim for a few weeks there!

So anyways, we had a month of frustration setting things up, we watched our savings whither away and had no internet connection to keep in touch. Add to that the fact that we tapped out our relocation bonus and had to wait for the roomie to get here so we could get the rest of our furniture. It was a little desolate in our house with only a bed and no outside connection. But all is well now. We have furniture, free TV thanks to a socket in the wall connected to an antenna, savings back in the bank, a credit card back in the black, and internet that, for the most part, seems to work ok.

All is right with the world ... on to happier posts! :)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

New pics

I don't know about you but I am really more into pictures than reading about some chick who has too much time on her hands. ... *ahem*

So here you go ... more to come :)