Hello everyone! Today marks one week since we arrived here in Melbourne, and what a week it's been! I thought I would give a recap of this first week for anyone interested in what we've been up to.
On July 8, my sweet grandparents took us to the airport in Birmingham, where the rest of my family met us to see us off. We all went out for lunch, and then Daniel and I headed through airport security and, not too long after, boarded our first of 4 flights, this one a very small plane to Houston, TX. In Houston, we hurried through the airport, as we had a very short connection time, and caught our flight to Los Angeles. Once we arrived at LAX, we had the joy (note: that is pure sarcasm) of changing terminals, from domestic to international. Daniel and I both dislike LAX's design, because if you are changing terminals you have to leave the secure area, take a bus to your next terminal, and then clear airport security again. It's quite frustrating, but we managed all right, and then grabbed some dinner and washed our faces and brushed our teeth in preparation for our very long overseas flight from LA to Auckland, New Zealand. The flight to Auckland was around 12 hours long, which was definitely a test of endurance, though it wasn't as bad as I expected it to be (especially since they fed us twice!) We both slept a decent amount for that type of situation, and we arrived in Auckland around 6 or 6:30 am local time. I enjoyed watching the sun rise in New Zealand while we waited at the gate for our final flight to Melbourne, though unfortunately due to the location of the Auckland airport and the location of our seats on the planes, we never really got any neat views of New Zealand. No worries though, as we plan to make a hop over to explore NZ at some point while we live here in Australia.
From Auckland we had a 4 hour flight to Melbourne, and landed around 10 am Melbourne time. Flying in was exciting, as we managed to get some glimpses out the plane window at the Melbourne area. Our initial views were fun; we saw lots of water and green space interspersed with all the buildings.
After arriving in Melbourne, we cleared passport control, then went to international baggage claim to pick up our 6 checked bags. We were very thankful that the Melbourne airport supplies complimentary baggage carts at international baggage claim, because we certainly needed them! Once we loaded up our bags, we had to clear them through customs, which turned out to be absolutely no trouble at all.
Due to how much luggage we were carrying, we had decided to take a taxi from the airport to our temporary accommodations, so headed outside to the taxi area of the airport, where a staff person hailed a large, handicapped accessible van taxi for us (we had to have a big vehicle for all those bags!) The taxi took us straight to our temporary place...every part of our travels was just remarkably easy, something we were immensely grateful for.
Our temporary place here in Melbourne is actually a room we rented through a site called AirBnb. AirBnb allows people to list their spare rooms or other spaces which they want to rent out to travelers. The rates tend to be quite good, and we chose to rent a room like this instead of using a hostel or hotel because (a) it was cheaper and (b) we get access to a kitchen and laundry facilities here, which is nice since we are likely going to be without our own place for a few weeks, and it would be annoying to have to eat out all the time or lug our clothes to a laundromat.
Our room here is in a flat that is part of an apartment block in a converted chocolate factory. Two girls and one guy live here, though we haven't met one of the girls as yet, since she's currently traveling in Europe. The girl and guy we have met already are extremely nice and helpful, and have been so patient with all our questions. The flat is in one of our favorite neighborhoods here in Melbourne, an area called Fitzroy. It's sort of the bohemian, artistic neighborhood, so there's lots of great restaurants and cafes and bakeries, as well as cute shops that sell anything from art to vintage clothes and furniture to vegan products to almost anything else you can think of. We are also within an easy walk to a supermarket, our bank, and all of Melbourne's public transit options (I'll post in the future about public transit here).
The other neat thing about Fitzroy is its street art....Melbourne is known for accepting and encouraging artists to create their works all over Melbourne's buildings and walls, and Fitzroy has some excellent examples of it, for example this one which is just down the street from where we are currently staying (not my photo though, I got this from Google...we've been terrible at taking our camera anywhere!):
The next day (Thursday), Daniel went to work at the University for the first time. He met several of his colleagues and did some of the paperwork always involved in the the start of a new job. So far he has been very happy with his experiences at work (I think I'll probably have him write a post to talk about his job in more detail soon, as he can obviously offer much more on it than I can!) While he was at work, I organized all our stuff (the day before we had just kind of left it all where it dropped!), researched prepaid cellphone plans, and then started looking up apartments and making a schedule for visiting ones that had open inspection times listed (I'll do a post later explaining how apartment hunting works here, in case you don't know what "inspection times" are). That evening we went out to dinner again, at a place called Rockwell and Sons that we found listed in a guide book. Daniel had their burger (which apparently they are known for ) and I had a fried chicken sandwich (we are surrounded by innumerable ethnic restaurants here in Fitzroy but somehow haven't managed to eat in one yet...though I am positive we will remedy that soon!)
Friday we got up and headed to the CBD (central business district) to get our phones set up.The CBD is where you can definitely tell you are in a global urban center...it's full of skyscrapers and people rushing around everywhere and cars and buses and trams and shops and so on. Our phone setup was quite simple (like most things here have been, thankfully!). We also stopped at Target (yes, they have Target here, though it's a company that just has the rights to the Target name and logo, they aren't the same as Target in the US) to pick up some pj pants for Daniel, as somehow we had apparently managed to leave his in the States. Once we got back to the flat and had some lunch, Daniel headed off to work for the afternoon, and I worked on apartment stuff some more. We spent a quiet evening in once he got back from work.
Saturday we spent most of the day going around the city to apartment inspections. We looked at 4 apartments, but ultimately decided not to apply to any of them. It was fun to see so many different areas of the city though.
Our inspection times ranged from mid morning to mid afternoon, and we had a break between two of them, so we decided to get some lunch. We were in a suburb called Brunswick East, and we walked a bit until we came across a small cafe and decided to stop and eat there. It was a tiny little place with different soups and sandwiches and breakfast items, as well as espresso drinks. There were only two staff members, a man and a woman, and we're pretty certain they were the owners. After we ordered, while we were waiting for our food, the man struck up a conversation with us about where we were from (we explained that we were from the Southern US) and his travels in the US. It was quite enjoyable (as was the food). About the time we were finishing and getting ready to head to our next inspection, some New Orleans zydeco music started playing in the cafe (there hadn't been any music before). The owner popped his head out of a back room and announced that he'd wanted to make us feel at home so he'd put some music from the South on for us! It was such a kind gesture, but so funny at the same time, since neither Daniel nor I have any real connection with New Orleans :)
After we finished all our inspections, we came back to the flat, then decided it would be nice to take our laptops and work at a coffee shop of some sort. Melbourne is known for its coffee, and there are little espresso bars and bakeries and cafes absolutely everywhere, so we assumed that we would just wander around a bit and run across a place. Instead, we ended up walking around for probably half an hour, only to never find a place that looked like a standard American coffeehouse with wi-fi where you can order a drink and then work for a while. We asked our flatmates when we got back about it, and it turns out that studying/working at coffeeshops is sort of an American thing (though there are a few places near the universities here that function that way, it's just not common). Generally, it seems that Australians go to coffee shops and bakeries and cafes to eat and socialize with each other instead of to do their work. It was an interesting cultural discovery (as well as one of the first things I think I might miss about America!)
Sunday we visited the church that we had heard about through several different avenues before coming here, and after service we went to lunch with one of the members there. I'm sure I'll write a separate post at some point about the church, but suffice it to say that it was a wonderful, wonderful first visit there.
Monday I met with my midwife for the first time, which went very well. It was definitely nice to finalize my medical care arrangements here so quickly. Daniel spent part of the day at work, and then that evening we went to another apartment inspection. Once again we decided not to apply for the unit we saw.
Tuesday Daniel went to work for a bit, and I met him there to go to another apartment inspection. We liked the place we saw and almost decided to apply for it, but ended up deciding against it. Last night, we went to yet another inspection, and this apartment was almost exactly what we were looking for. We came back to the flat and put in an application, so now we are waiting and hoping that maybe we will be accepted for it!
Today looks to be quite similar to yesterday...we have two inspections to go to...until we land a place our lives pretty much revolve around going to these inspections! I'm hoping we secure an apartment soon, partly for peace of mind as far as knowing we have a place to live, but partly as well so we can spend some of our free time exploring some of the neat things in Melbourne that we haven't had time to go see yet! That being said, though, it's hard to believe we accomplished so much in just our first week here: Daniel started his job, we have phones, I have a midwife, we've found a church that we liked on the first visit, and we've applied for an apartment. In some ways it feels like we've been here longer than a week. :)
I know this post got a bit lengthy, I think I should probably not attempt to write up an entire week in one post! I'll split it up more in the future. If you've hung on this long, thanks for reading! And a big thank you to all our friends and family who've been so sweet and supportive during our move here, and continue to be that way. We love you all!
Victoria (and Daniel!)