Tuesday, January 16, 2007


We have now arrived Home... on the other side of the world... in Chicago. It was strange to return - didn’t have the same feeling as getting off the plane in Melbourne - my ‘original’ hometown (or even Brisbane for that matter), as I have SO many times. O’Hare does not have that same familiarity (more an overriding feeling of chaos and mayhem). As we haven’t yet become accustomed to the city landmarks, the drive home along the Dan Ryan Expressway doesn’t feel all that familiar either. 

I went for a walk Saturday afternoon to pick up some bagels for lunch. It was strange to step outdoors wearing a big coat, hat and gloves when I had worn as little as possible a day or so earlier. The city looked remarkably clean. It occurred to me that the season of winter is fully operational; all the leaves have gone from the trees and the copious street sweeping, along with recent warmer weather, have meant that all the dirty ice and fallen leaves have been cleared. Everything looks ‘fresh’ - the chill air enhances this.

Our trip home was as good as one could expect (on a 14 hour, very full flight, with two young children). We were a little surprised to find that ALL passengers had ALL their hand luggage checked and then ALL passengers were frisked (even the boys!) before boarding the plane in Melbourne. The boys were great once again (video on demand rocks!). 

The immigration procedure at LA airport was the most painful experience with a very long line, some 1000+ people to be processed and only 5 immigration officers interviewing and processing the arrivals. We were in line for at least an hour and a half. I had been impressed upon arriving in Brisbane, when an immigration official picked out the family groups waiting in line (particularly those with young children), and fast-tracked them - to everyone’s relief. There did not seem to be facility (or desire) to do this at LA, or even to fast-track those that needed to transit quickly. Therefore a few people missed subsequent flights, despite assurances being given that all would make their connecting flights. There were some very dour and unhappy faces as a result. Perhaps the officials didn’t care for internationals (all citizens were processed rapidly)?

Our flight to Chicago was delayed by an hour and a half so we were able to spend some time in the Admirals Club (Qantas Club equivalent). The club in LA has a brilliant feature: a Kids Club. This is a room with computer games, a TV tuned to the children’s networks, kids snacks and small armchairs - all in a soundproof room. We spent our time here with a couple and their children from Hobart (living in Denver) and a Chicago couple and their twin girls who moved to Melbourne last year! We felt a little like we had traded places and compared our moving experiences with theirs. I must write a little more about this when I get the chance

The boys have welcomed our homecoming as they have been reacquainted with their toys, a more consistent routine and their familiar beds. I heard happy squeals of delight from the boys bedroom on the weekend. Upon investigation I found a blow-up tyrannosaurus rex attacking a stuffed inch-worm. The inch-worm was doing OK I must add. Commentator and head-spectator Nic was devoting his full attention to the attack, giggling and offering assistance when required.

Threatened snow finally fell yesterday. Falling snow is a truly brilliant and beautiful sight - particularly from indoors! It is a bit too cold to go out at the moment (a chilly -7°C as I write at 1pm), but I will have to summons the courage to get the boys out before they go crazy (or crazier). 

Photo: paper snowflakes hanging in our window - made by Luc and myself - in honour of yesterday’s snow

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The end is nigh

The end of our holiday is now upon us – we leave Australia tomorrow! We left Chinchilla on the 28th December and travelled via the Gold Coast to visit Paul’s grandparents Patrick and Elva and his uncle Frank, aunt Gloria, cousin Christie and Oscar the Octopus (who all live around the corner from Patrick and Elva). Luc was quite taken by Oscar, a very curious and personality-laden octopus in a fish tank – if somewhat of a kleptomaniac! 

We arrived back in Brisbane and had a lovely dinner with (chef) Craig, Tania and boys Angus and Jack. We woke early the next morning to a perfect Brisbane day, and made our way to the airport where we relinquished the car and said our goodbyes to Paul, Naureen and Marna. We made our trip down to Melbourne on the 29th of December. This was the hardest flight during our trip, on the account that we all had come down with a nasty bout of flu – and the boys suffered terrible ear pain. We said hello to Dad and Mum and Jenni and Sebastien (when they arrived home). 

On the 30th we attended a family BBQ with Mum’s side of the family. Maggie and Rod did a great job of catering for a crew of twenty-six, on a very warm day, in a park, out of a very newly renovated house. This was a great time to catch up with some cousins (and respective families) that I have not seen for many years (due to us all living in separate states or being a new-born!) We managed to catch up for a quick coffee with friends Peter and Ryan (down from Sydney) before returning home. We spent New Year’s Eve at Toomah Winery: a winery owned and operated by Paul’s first-cousin-once-removed Matthew and his wife Michelle, along Paul’s Great Aunt Mary and Uncle Roger. I collapsed on the 1st and spent a good portion of the day horizontal (the flu, flying and socialising with no voice had taken its toll). 

A bout of hot weather meant our time with Jenni and Sebastien was spent close to home but we did climb Mount Cannibal (at a majestic 230 metres!  Remember that Australia has no official mountains!) and managed to see a wallaby, a goanna and two echidnas. We saw some more Australian native wildlife at Gumbuya Park – including a rather vicious emu that took a shot at Nic!  We managed a visit to Noojee in the very picturesque West Gippsland area. Unfortunately some of our favourite destinations including the Alpine Trout Farm and Piano Hill Cheese Farm were closed and the Drouin West Berry Farm was closed and on the market! Jenni and Sebastien departed for France (via Bangkok) on the 5th and Mum and I accompanied them to Melbourne where we had dinner with Ian before Ian took the travellers to Tullamarine. 

I was able to catch up with some school friends (Coral, Sue, Maya, Denise, Tiffany and Verity), who I was reacquainted with at the end of 2005. We had a very long lunch together, catching up on many years of gossip and discussing the some 15 children, 3 step-children and one step grand-son we had between us! We decided we really should go home at around 5:30pm. Thank you for organising this Coral. 

Dad, mum and I took the boys for a trip on Puffing Billy, a wonderful historic steam-train run by very enthusiastic and willing volunteer group. I remember taking this trip during my childhood and it was a nostalgic trip through the beautiful rain forests of the Dandenong Ranges from Emerald to Gembrook. Paul and I took advantage of having babysitters and went to the (much-improved) town of Warragul to see a couple of films and have some ‘adult time’ together. 

We made a long day trip to Anglesea to see my Uncle Robert, Aunt Margaret and Cousin Simon, his wife Lisa and their children Max and Tamara. It was a shame we couldn’t spend more time here, as Anglesea is located on the very picturesque and notable Great Ocean Road (which I would love to show the family).  A very pregnant cousin Kate made the trek out to mum and dad’s for lunch (on a very hot day) with her young son Sam – well done Kate! 

Despite Paul’s work commitments, jet-lag, a very nasty flu virus that took us all out (and is persisting after several weeks), and some hot weather that zapped our energy, we have had a wonderful time catching up with family and friends and have indeed ‘warmed up’. Thank you so much to Paul and Naureen and to Simon and Lisa for making your cars (and car-seats) available to us – this was invaluable. Great big apologies to all those that we did not have the opportunity to catch up with, or were not able to see again. Perhaps you can visit us in Chicago! 

Photo: Luc on the Puffing Billy steam engine, travelling towards Gembrook.