Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wollongong, Sound of the Sea

We call this city home now and have done for almost exactly 5 months.  We love it here and in many ways it found us as much as we discovered it.  When we first talked about coming back to Australia, we had no idea we’d be coming here.  We’d never travelled to the Illawarra back in 2002, and had never heard of the place until my agent first mentioned that there was a job going there that I ought to consider.

This is an aerial view of the city; what a beautiful place!  We live right on the harbour at the moment.  The name Wollongong is unusual – one theory is that it comes from an Aboriginal word meaning “sound of the sea”.

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When we initially arrived we were living in temporary accommodation by North Beach.  Of course one of our first jobs on arrival was to explore the beach!

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Here are the girls playing down at the beach shortly after we’d arrived.  This was the day after they said that they didn’t want to go back to London – and who can blame them?

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Despite us arriving in early autumn, the girls spent most of their days out and about, playing at the park and enjoying the weather.

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It wasn’t long before we found ourselves a more permanent base to call home; a gorgeous flat by the harbour.

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We love living here.  The beach is just across the road and there is also a children’s playground there, which the children love.

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We had about two weeks in the flat without furniture before our belongings were released by Customs in Sydney.  It was quite a shock to see all our stuff after almost a year of living out of boxes!

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It took about two weeks to unpack properly, but when all was finished, it was a really good feeling to be finally “home”.  The girls were also thrilled to have all their toys and books back.

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We didn’t bring their beds from the UK because they were toddler beds and not true singles (and because one got broken in Richmond!) but we bought them a “princess bunk bed” to compensate for this.

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Initially, they both loved their bunk beds but more recently, Jocey has been going through a phase of refusing to sleep in her own bed (and wanting to come into our bedroom instead).  I wonder if this is partly to do with the fact that she can’t see Lauren in the night – in their old bedroom, there was enough room for the beds to go side by side but there wasn’t enough room for this in our present flat.

Even I got some new toys – a shiny new fridge, a big new washing machine and new tumble drier.  I love the big capacities of my new washer and drier.  Seems daft that you can get excited by this – but when it makes your life easier, it makes you happier!

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The weeks flew by but we did manage to see Aunt Candice and Uncle Kenneth on their return from an extended holiday in Hong Kong.  They decided to see us in Wollongong and came to visit us one Saturday in June.

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I cooked a big seafood lunch and we even had some barbequed satays – our first BBQ in Australia!  I think we were all really full afterwards; a walked by the beach certainly helped our digestion.  We all had a great time and it was lovely to see them.

Over the last two months, we have been very busy – Jase started work with a subsidiary company of one of the big banks in Sydney and commutes up every day.  Now that he’s got used to the rhythm of that commute by train, he tells me that it’s actually not that bad.  It means an early start and a late finish, but he gets time to sit down on the train and enjoy his new iPad.

Of course, it was also a welcome relief to see him working in a role suited to his level of experience and finally get paid properly for the first time (surprisingly, he got a big pay rise compared to the UK).

Plus, I am pretty sure that this view compensates for the commute – this is the view from his desk!

Back in Wollongong, we’ve had a number of fun outings, including a trip to Symbio Zoo back in April.  The girls loved seeing all the animals; here they are patting the miniature horses.

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They especially loved seeing the koalas and kangaroos up close.  It was really nicely set up and ideal for families with young children.  We all had a great time!

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More recently, we also went to the circus – a first for everyone except me.  It was really good fun (except the opening act with the lions was slightly terrifying when it became obvious that the lions weren’t in the mood to “play” and the handler looked like he might get eaten any moment!) and the girls got to ride on ponies at the interval – which they loved.

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The girls have also had fun going to the theatre for the first time.  I was initially expecting problems because we had heard from her teachers that Lauren had not enjoyed a show at the Sydney Tower when she and her class had gone on a day trip to Sydney.  She cried and had to be taken out because she was scared.  It was a shame because I think otherwise she had really enjoyed going to see the Opera House and the Tower, as part of their term learning about buildings and architecture.

So I promised the girls that they could each bring a favourite soft toy to the theatre.  I really wanted to take them because I thought it was time they experienced the theatre and the children’s musical that was in town sounded a lot of fun.

To my surprise and relief, they loved it.  Despite being apprehensive when the lights initially went down, as soon as the actors came on stage and the singing started, they were mesmerised.  Afterwards, they both asked if they could go to the theatre again.
Here they are after “Wombat Stew” last month.

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To round off a great day, we went down to the beach for ice cream, and to enjoy the winter sun.

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Two weeks ago, we went back to the theatre (after it went down so well with them the first time) to see Dora the Explorer, the musical.  They both still enjoy Dora, and this was based on the story of the City of the Lost Toys.

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They were impatient waiting for the musical to start.  When Boots and Dora finally came onto the stage, their faces lit up with excitement!  They had a wonderful time.

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The thing I like about the theatre in Wollongong (the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre or IPAC) is that it is a really intimate venue, so great for taking the children.  At Dora, we were sat in the second last row, but still had a good view of the stage and weren’t too far away.

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I think we will definitely be going back in the future.  Hooray for our new lives in the ‘Gong!

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