Tuesday, May 17, 2011

It's that irking feeling that my life was constantly being put on hold for bigger plans.

Just filled out my FAFSA form...

It feels like I am eighteen again, and not in the good way.  I feel like the people (assuming they are human) at the Department of Education own a part of my soul or something.  Yes, I realize it is my choice.  I'm not trying to feel all entitled or anything, but man, when you see that total tuition bill and realize that it is your destiny to remain in the public sector (earning a living, but not earning much money for anything else) sometimes it's hard to reconcile.  Like, I could see the point of taking out large loans for a law degree or a medical degree, but often times when people enter those professions, there is a massive salary involved to offset the price of the loans.  I can't really say the same for my chosen field.

I need to look at the larger picture though.  Like, why I am doing this.  Here comes another list!!!

1.  It has been a goal of mine to both a) earn a doctorate (or attend law school, but I figured that I would have to chose one or another) and b) to live abroad again.  Two birds.  One stone.  This is pretty awesome.

2. I truly feel that all children deserve the very best education possible.  Horace Mann called public education "the great equalizer."  Our school system needs to realize that.  Or better yet, our culture needs to realize that.  I feel like going back to school will help me to better serve my students and community.  I find it extremely annoying when people have said things to me like, "You're getting a doctorate and you want to go back into the classroom?  Won't you be a little over-educated for that?"  My response is always the same:  "Who do you want educating your children?"  This usually quiets them pretty quickly.

3. When, if ever, will this opportunity come along again?

4. I have resisted the idea of settling down for years.  For example, J and me have been in the position to buy a house for awhile now.  However, whenever I considered this, I always felt like it would be a nail in the coffin of the dream to return to Australia.  It's that irking feeling that my life was constantly being put on hold for bigger plans.  Now that the bigger plans have arrived, it feels right to leave.  It's very hard, but I know it's right.

5. This is an opportunity for adventure.  And really, who can ever say no to that?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I am coming down from what is known as "the airfare high."

At the moment, I am coming down from what is known as "the airfare high."  After months and months of looking for airfare, Delta has finally come to their senses and has lowered their price to be the "best" one.  For the record, Air Canada has championed the lowest price from MSP to MEL at $1826, for months on end.  This morning, I checked the Delta fare and it was at $2100 or something.  In the afternoon, I get an email from J telling me that the same flight (apparently, Delta only has one flight to Oz... LAX to SYD) is now $1925.  "Alriiiiight!" I thought to myself. So, I get home at like, 5:00pm and decide to check it out again.  It's still the same.  I spent some time watching quality television (The O.C., if you must know) waiting for J to get home from work so we can head up to The Lowbrow for beers and food.  We walked up to the restaurant, had dinner, walked home in a lightning/hail storm (but that's really neither here or there), then returned home.  Over dinner, we had agreed to purchase our tickets upon returning home.  So yeah, while watching all the tornado warnings on television, we decided to peruse the airfares again.  Wouldn't you know it?  The price had fallen again!  This time, Delta lowered the cost to $1825 (take that one dollar difference, Air Canada!). Click, click, sold.  We are in like Flynn!
I should mention that I don't have some weird affinity for Delta or anything... we had vouchers.  Last summer, when we were leaving England, our flight was totally overbooked.  The agent asked us if we wouldn't mind volunteering to be bumped.  Naturally, I said it would depend on the amount and where they were going to put us up for the night.  Usually, the voucher is something crappy like $200.  Trust me, whenever I fly out of Newark to London or Berlin, that flight is ALWAYS overbooked and I think $250 was the best deal I've ever heard offered (plus an overnight stay in Newark!  Personally, I think they need to sweeten the deal more if I'm gonna have to bed-down in that city for the evening.)  Anyway, you could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard the agent in London tell me that we'd each be receiving a $1,000 voucher, plus a stay at the plush Heathrow Hilton, with all meals included.  So yeah, $1825 minus $1000 for airfare to Melbourne.  I can barely get to Europe for $825 these days.  Not too shabby...

St. Christopher... thanks for having my back, man!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Melbourne CBD Panoramic View

One of my favourite views of Melbourne.

I just think these next few months are going to be really hard for me

I was just thinking the other day about how I haven't fully grasped this concept of leaving.
Truly, I haven't even wrapped my brain around it.  It feels a world away, yet it's coming up in about 10 weeks (again, haven't purchased that plane ticket just yet.)  J told me a couple of days ago that he just feels ready and is itching to leave now-now.  I don't have that itch.

Don't get me wrong, I am totally excited and cannot wait to return.  I just think these next few months are going to be really hard for me.  Because I love lists (this goes along with the anal retentiveness, I'm pretty sure), that's what you'll be getting.

Top Reasons It'll Be Oh-So-Hard To Go

Leaving friends and family in the United States This will be the most difficult thing.  I think about how life will go on without me (and I mean this in the least narcissistic way possible!) and I'll be left with bits and pieces of memories that I wasn't there to be a part of.  For example, my first Christmas home after studying abroad in 2001, my cousin was trying to jog my memory about when her, her sister, and her father came to Minnesota for a camping trip.  They went on and on about details of the trip and started to tease me because I couldn't "remember" [okay, now I will be deliberately narcissistic here and mention that I have a pretty awesome memory] their visit.  Eventually, feeling like I was losing my mind, I interjected, "When did you come to visit?"  My cousin's reply was "The second week in June!"  To which I replied, "Yeah, I wasn't even in the country.  I was still in Australia."  Oh, will anyone miss me when I'm gone?!?

Minneapolis  This city has been my home for the past fourteen years... nearly half of my life! I went to school here, I met my husband here, I've made a home here, et. al.  I really love my neighborhood too.  I already feel bummed that I won't be able to wake up on Sundays and walk to the end of the block to my favorite brunch spot, Grand Cafe, and order eggs en coquette (without the ham).  J and I won't be able to walk to the Lyn-Lake neighborhood to grab a beer outside at Bryant-Lake Bowl.  We can't just hop on our bikes to go around the Chain of Lakes (or better yet, bike to Cafe 128 near Lake Harriet for a jalapeno albacore tuna melt or head over a couple of blocks to the amazing Sunday Kingfield Farmer's Market) .  The list goes on and on.  And yes, to answer your question, I'd love to have some cheese with my whine (just as long as the cheese is Australian cheddar and the w(h)ine is Shiraz, hey?)

My job  To say I enjoy my job is an understatement.  I psychotically LOVE my job more than words can express... Being a primary school teacher really is my dream job.  "My sweet babies" crack me up every single day with their (often unintentionally) funny antidotes and really inspire me to do my best (in every avenue of my life) when I am a witness to how hard they work and their joy of learning and love of the simple things (seriously, these kids clap when I announce that it's lunchtime... shouldn't we all be so fortunate to love the small things in life that much?).  I feel like being out of the classroom for three years is going to kill me... that's how much I love teaching.  I'll also take this moment to give some love to my school.  I have the best coworkers and principal imaginable.  Every day, I honestly think to myself, this is how all schools, or all work environments, for that matter, should operate.   I don't mean to gush, I just feel so incredibly blessed to work in such an amazing school.  As I type this and pontificate leaving my school, my throat gets that hard lump and I feel the tears well up.  June 10th (my last day of work) is going to be unimaginable for me.  I must remember to bring Kleenex and leave the mascara at home.  Damn, this is going to be even harder than I thought.

My apartment  We live in this completely darling, 1920's art-deco building.  It's a super-quiet (with the exception of the annoying neighbor next door who thinks she's Christina Aguilera on Rock Band II everyday from 7pm-10pm), super-clean building.  Actually, our specific apartment is up on the website.  Take a look!


Our landlord asked our permission to use photos of our apartment because he knew that I kept a clean and tidy apartment.  I still beam about that comment... I love  it when others recognize my anal retentiveness!  Anyway, am getting off-track...

Did you happen to notice the Australian flag and the boomerang in the photo of the living room?

My shoes  I'll have to get rid of most and leave some behind.  I hope those left behind don't get all jealous of the shoes that are coming with me.  For sure, I am bringing both pairs of Camper boots, my black Juicy Couture ballet flats, and my gladiator sandals.  Beyond that, I am not totally sure.  I do happen to know that it'll be an arduous and painful process.  Don't even get me started on choosing handbags that will get to go with me... this will surely give me a stroke.

Mexican food Americans don't even realize how good we've got it with this one.  Whenever I've visited a Mexican restaurant on another continent (and I've tried Mexican food on six continents, mind you) to say it's a disappointment is an understatement.  I've been in places where Old El Paso is considered palatable (or even delicious!) salsa.  Most amusing burrito ever?  Nha Trang, Vietnam.  There were lo mein noodles inside the burrito accompanying the rice and veggies.  J had an idea to create/drive a taco truck through the streets of Melbourne.  I kinda like this idea.  I would like to see that giant truck master a hook turn, over the tram tracks.  I wonder if we could start the first Chipotle franchise in Australia?  I shouldn't despair too much though... I'll still most likely be able to garner decent tequila, which would definitely serve as a distraction if the Mexican cuisine totally stinks.

Speaking of gastronomy... here's a list (within a list!) of foods that you can either a) exclusively find in America or b) only find a decent version of, in America: root beer [Side Bar: I've never met a non-American that likes root beer... most non-Americans seem to think it tastes like medicine], ranch salad dressing, ice in abundance (luckily for me, this is easy to make), Dairy Queen (although randomly enough, I did see a DQ at the Siem Reap airport in Cambodia... the only non-U.S. location I've ever witnessed), maple syrup, Reese's peanut butter cups (or even tasty peanut butter for that matter), wild rice, Chicago deep-dish pizza, pecan pie (Southern tearoom versions ONLY), salt bagels, and half-and-half.  I'm hoping I can find some yummy facon (faux bacon), otherwise, I just may need to start eating meat again.

The Convenience Factor  What?  You mean grocery stores actually CLOSE?  I can't swing by Target at 4:00 am during Christmas season? I don't have eighty different boxes of cereal to choose from?!?  As stupid as it sounds, I've not only grown accustomed to the convenience factor, but I've actually grown to liking it.  However, that said, I think it'll actually be good for me to get away from it.  It'll be hard to not really on Amazon.com either... shipping to Australia doesn't seem to exist.  At least I've got my e-reader though... The Kindle store is gonna lurrrrve me! 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


 For those unfamiliar with Hinduism, Ganesha is one of the deities.  He is considered to be the god of wisdom (Hey! I'm going back to school!) and the remover of obstacles (Hey! I'm going back to school... and attempting to find cheap airfare at the present moment!) Anyway, I like him... a lot.  The homeliness of his elephantness really grew on me.  When I was in India several years ago, it was always advised to "leave some for Ganesh," be it extra food or a few extra rupees.  Couldn't hurt, right?

Men At Work - Overkill (1983)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Kata Tjuta

Here's me and my now-husband, Justin back in June of 2001.  We are visiting Tata Kjuta, in the outback, near Uluru.  Justin came to visit me for six weeks during my study abroad experience.

So here we are, 2011

It all started ten years ago.  I was a twenty-two year old undergrad studying abroad at the University of Melbourne in Melbourne, Australia.  I knew back then that I would like Australia.  What I didn’t expect, however, was how that experience would profoundly shape everything afterward.  The autonomy I had garnered through my experience was like nothing I had ever felt.  The encounter was one of the most empowering moments of my life.
After leaving Australia in July 2001, I knew that I wanted to return there for an extended period of time.  How to do this was a more difficult feat.  It’s hard to scrape up enough money to move abroad, when you are a college student… or even afterward when you are just beginning your career.  I ran into problems at immigration, thinking that after I received my teaching license, I could teach in Australia.  Bottom line: I couldn’t get a work visa without a job.  I couldn’t get a job without a work visa.  I literally researched for years ways to return to Australia.
The dream was still there, but I put it on the shelf while I instead focused on my budding teaching career in the Twin Cities metro area.
For years, I spent every summer traveling abroad.  Four years ago, I traveled to Ecuador and met another American that was earning her undergraduate degree in Australia.  The thought that I could complete a degree program in another country hadn’t really ever occurred to me.  I had always planned to return to school to earn my doctoral degree.  Wait, I could do this in Australia…
I spent the next four years teaching and preparing to attend graduate school.  The process for returning to school in another country is a second job in itself.  University bureaucracy compounded with government bureaucracy from two separate countries means one thing: waiting is inevitable and you must allow yourself ample time to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. 
So here we are, 2011.  I’m heading back to study at the University of Melbourne for at least three years to earn my Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.), come July.  I feel super excited-nervous-ambitious-terrified, all wrapped into one neurotic package.
It’s going to be hard to leave my life here in Minneapolis.  I love my job, love my neighborhood, love the seasons (with the exception of winter), etc.  There are days when I wonder if this is a good decision.  However, I remind myself that change is hard, but I can’t ignore the visceral feeling that returning to Australia is what I need to do.
Here I go.  It’s really happening.  She’ll be right.