A Park, A Wedding, A Prison, and Some Kangaroos

Now that I’m back home and sort-of settled in, I’m going to go back to updates on our travels over the past few months.  I don’t know about you, but I could use to see some pictures of warm places, given the absolutely frigid temperatures in Ohio.  I’m also at the Veterinary Cardiologist with Callie, waiting to talk to the doctor while she gets her follow-up ECHO, ECG, and BP so thoughts of happy times in sunny destinations is very welcome and much-needed.

On the day of our friends’ wedding in Perth, we went to King’s Park to walk around for a bit.  Situated in the center of the city, it’s a beautiful park overlooking the Swan River.  Some of us tossed the American Football around while others relaxed in the sun.  RIP Football.  It was taken at Airport Security in Perth as a security agent told us, “Love, that football is inflated and could explode mid-flight and cause major issues.”  Never mind that we had flown from Cleveland to Perth with it without issues, not to mention countless domestic flights in the US.  The husband will forget to bring shorts or a bathing suit when visiting a tropical destination, but never forgets his most prized possession: his football.

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Tossing the Football in King’s Park

The wedding was beautiful, and so much fun.  Set right along the Swan River in Perth, it was the perfect setting for a wedding.  More than a few tears were shed by the husband during the ceremony.  I’m still not sure whether or not I should be offended that the husband didn’t cry at our own wedding, but seems to have cried at every other wedding we’ve ever attended.

The husband loves weddings so I wasn’t too worried when he disappeared for an hour or so, I assumed that he was busy chatting up random strangers.  My suspicions were confirmed when he ran up to me and exclaimed, “I’m making SO many friends.  I’ve invited all of them to visit us in the US.  I hope that’s okay.”  Needless to say, it was a great night celebrating a most lovely couple.

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The Husband and Me at the Wedding

Our flight to Bali left the day after the wedding, but not until the evening, leaving us a bit of time to explore before our flight to Bali.  Modern Australia has its roots as a penal colony for British prisoners.  One of the old prisons is located in Fremantle and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It is quite aptly named the Fremantle Prison.  We took a general tour of the prison, which was known as one of the toughest in Australia.  Until the prison closed on 30 November 1991, prisoners were forced to do their “business” in buckets while they were locked in their cells.

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Our Tour Guide, Whose Expression and Tone Never Changed

IMG_5425 (1)Showing us the Contraption They Used for Whipping

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The Cell Block

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You Can Tell That This Guy Had a Great Time at the Wedding

After the prison, we headed to a beautiful lunch spot, Bib and Tucker for some lunch and ocean views.  I’m pretty sure that they could have served dog food for lunch and people would still go there because the views are just gorgeous.  (In fairness to Bib and Tucker, though, the food is far from dog-food esque—it’s delicious).  If you visit, I would highly recommend one of the pizzas.

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The Beach that Bib and Tucker Overlooks

Since I’m a crazy animal nut, and we were in Australia, I had it in my head that I could not leave the country without seeing a kangaroo.  No, a captive kangaroo simply would not do, it had to be wild.  I’d seen plenty on my previous trip to Australia but that wasn’t enough…I needed to see one again.  I had the same feeling about Koalas until I discovered that there are no wild Koalas in Western Australia.  Never mind you that we were staying in a city, I would find a Kangaroo no matter what.  Enter Heirisson Island.  I did a quick google search and learned that a family of kangaroos lived on this island in the Swan River, and planned to visit them the morning after the wedding.  It turns out that kangaroos are active at night during the hot summers, and sleep most of the day (they’re obviously smart animals).  This meant that if I wanted any chance of seeing a roo, I had to be there at dawn.  This sounded like a lovely idea until my alarm went off and my headache, sore feet, and tired eyes from the fun at the wedding the night before reared their ugly heads.  Snuggling with the husband won over the roos and I slept in instead of heading out to find them.  I was having major regrets over not just sucking it up and getting out of bed as the day went on and our flight to Bali neared.

After we finished lunch we had a bit of time before we had to head to the airport, so I made the husband detour the car to Heirisson Island to see if I could find those sleeping roos.  Warning: this is not the type of place that you want to visit before boarding a plane.  It is a dry, dusty, windless expanse of dry grass and flat land.  I’m fairly certain that one cigarette butt would light the entire place on fire, it’s so dry.  It’s also probably the only place in Perth that I would not call beautiful.  After looking in and around bushes for sleeping roos, it was about time to go and I still hadn’t seen one.  As we were leaving, I noticed a small piece of land that jutted out from the main part of the island and convinced the husband to check there before heading back to the car.  As we were walking along I looked left and there they were!

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Oh, Hello Kangaroo!  We Named Her Adele

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She Was a Hungry Girl, That Adele

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Stalking the Kangaroos

It made my day to see the wild roos, and I was able to happily get on the flight to Bali.  Well, mostly happy.  Our flights were on AirAsia, and we were flying just a few short weeks after the AirAsia plane crash.  Needless to say, while not typically a nervous flyer, I was more than a little nervous for this flight.  Luckily the 3-year-old girl in the seat behind me was equally nervous, and her freak-outs made me feel a little better.  It was all for naught as we arrived safely in Bali, ready to relax on the beach for a few days!

Lots of Learning Going On

As you may know, I am a little behind on posting.  I am currently in a plane over the Atlantic, on my way back to the US.  The husband still has two weeks left of work in London, and a few more days after that away from me, but I have some friends’ showers to attend this weekend and need to get back and ready to return to work in a little over a week (boo).  I tried incessantly to change my flight to go home later, but the husband talked me out of it due the costs.  I even tried to do it at the airport, to no avail.  I have the worst flight buyer’s remorse that there is.  It is a real problem.  If only I could afford refundable fares.

I will return to updates on our travels over the last few months soon, but did not want to confuse anyone as to where I am.  I also wanted to reflect a little on what I have gained from this experience.  I cannot begin to explain how wonderful it was to live with the husband in the UK for the last 4 months, and in Montreal before that.

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I Love This Guy So Much

Living in another country is something that everyone should experience in his or her lifetime, if possible.  I am biased as I have always loved other cultures (arguably more than my own), but I do not think there is a better learning experience, and I so wish that we could have stayed longer.  Living in London with the husband brought us close in a way that I do not think any other experience could have done.  We certainly could not have grown this close had we stayed in Ohio, nor could we have done so had we just been traveling around during this time.

We have always been supportive of each other and our professional and personal goals, which has often led us apart from one another in physical distance (see About Me section for proof).  Prior to moving to London, the husband traveled 4 days a week, and will return to doing so once we come back to the US.  I fully believe that it takes two strong, independent people to make all that work, and an immense amount of trust.  What it does not do, however, is help a couple learn to lean on one another through adversity, or even just simple, everyday tasks.

Living overseas taught me to rely on the husband in a way that I never would have otherwise and it altered the dynamic of our relationship in a positive way.  I am close with my family, and given the husband’s crazy travel and frequent absence from home, I often relied on friends and family for support when he was away.  Given my crazy work schedule in the US, the husband had also learned to do many things himself, often relying on others for support as well.

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Waiting for the Tube

Living in London removed all those other support systems; we only had each other.  As I was not able to work and he was working 80 hour weeks, the husband had no choice but to rely on me.  He has always been the family communicator and I have always been terrible at keeping in touch with friends and family.  I suddenly became the one that replied to all of the emails, the one that arranged our social events, and the one that kept our families in the loop as to where we were and what we were doing.  I took care of getting things fixed in the flat when they needed fixing, and took the initiative on things that I never would have in the past.  The things that I had previously relied on others to do became my responsibility.  It got me out of my comfort zone, and I found myself enjoying tasks that I would have previously hated.

I learned to better support him in a way that he needed it and he learned to do the same for me.  We could not go to friends or family for support that the other person was not great at providing, so we got better at providing those things to one another.

In the past, when I’ve explained that the husband travels during the week, people inevitably ask whether we fight a lot when we are together, and if we like not seeing each other that often.  Honestly, you would be shocked how often I get that question.  The truth is, we get along so much better when we are together.  Living in London was no exception.  When you are away from what you know, you do not take for granted what is near, and you learn to love it more, even for the things that drive you nuts about it.  You also learn to let the small things go and to consider whether what you are upset about really warrants a fight.

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That Time I Made Him Walk Through Hyde Park in Search of A Peter Pan Statue

We navigated his high-pressure job in a new culture, my having to re-discover an identity outside of my profession, and living in a culture that, while similar, is still not our own.  I am so thankful to have had this experience, and even more thankful to have had the husband to share it with.  We have that rare sort of love that you only dream of or read about in books (the kind that also makes others want to vomit), and I am so fortunate to have had this experience which brought us even closer.  I only hope that we can remember what we learned when I return to work and he returns to his crazy travel schedule.

To Rotto We Go

On the day before the wedding, we took a day trip to Rottnest Island.  It’s a small, 7 square mile island located 11 miles off the coast of Fremantle, near Perth.  Only 100 people actually live on the island, but thousands of people visit every day, with up to 15,000 people visiting per day in the summer.  Rottnest was originally inhabited by the Aboriginal people, but has a long and storied history: it has been a convict prison, a boys reformatory, and an internment camp during World Wars 1 and 2.

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Salmon Bay on Rottnest Island

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I Can’t Say I’d Mind Being Imprisoned Here 😉

Rottnest Island got its name from the population of cute little Quokkas that live on the island and are found in very few other places in the world.  When the Dutch arrived to the island in 1696 they encountered the Quokkas, which their captain mistook for giant rats.  He thus named the island Rotte Nest, which means rat’s nest in Dutch, and, unfortunately, it stuck. I’m not quite sure how you could mistake these cute guys for giant rats.  Perhaps he had one too many glasses of homemade alcohol on the long ship ride over and had gone a little mad.

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My Little Quokka Friend

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Is That Food I Smell?

When we arrived to the island, we immediately rented bikes to explore from Pedal and Flipper.  We had mapped out our plan for the island on the way over and were eager to get there and explore some of the beaches.  There are tons of beaches all over the island, some more popular than others, some easier to reach than others.  There are no cars on the island save the ones to bring goods, etc around the island, and the rare tour bus, so bikes are really the only way to get around.  The only bad thing I have to say about the Rottnest is that these are the worst bikes I’ve ever ridden, I’m pretty sure that they are from 1980 and haven’t been updated since.  After more than a few chains falling off, some while pedaling uphill, and a few gears that simply didn’t work, we made it across the island to our first destination, Little Salmon Bay.

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A Rare Non-Selfie Picture of us Together

After some of us snorkled, which, they said, was better than the Great Barrier reef, we were back on our bikes.  It was pretty hilly on the way over to Salmon Bay, and I was fairly certain that I was going to end up walking the bike up a hill or two. Amazingly, the ride back was so much easier, and before we knew it we were back in the “town” for some lunch.

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Quick Stop on the Bike Ride Back for A Photo Op

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Don’t Mind the Crazy Hair

The town, while obviously small given the island’s 100 inhabitants, is set up for tourists.  We found a great table overlooking the ocean and ordered some food.  I was starving after having done more exercise than I’d done in months on those bikes but, unfortunately, lost my appetite for the chicken sandwich I’d ordered when this guy came around trying to steal bites off of people’s tables.  I made a meal of my chips with aioli (fries if you’re American), which I never seem to have an issue doing.  It’s very likely that the peacock was just justification for my desire to eat chips and only chips for lunch.  If you know me, this will not surprise you.

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Right Before Stealing Chips Off Their Table

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This Guy Knew What He Was Doing

I’m not sure which was funnier, watching the bird steal food, or watching the tourists terrified of the bird stealing food.  After a nice, entertaining lunch in the main area of the town, we set off towards The Basin, which was recommended to us by our friends from Perth.  It is a beautiful beach with a perfect spot for swimming and laying in the sun.  It has been rated the most beautiful beach in Australia and it’s really not hard to see why.

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The Basin

Do not let the photos fool you- even though the water looks warm, and everyone appears to having a jolly old time, the water is absolutely freezing.  That being said, I may or may not have been the only person that thought that. Luckily, the sun was out and it did not take long to warm up once I got back to the beach.  We hopped back on our bikes and headed back to the port where we sat in the grass soaking up our last minutes of sun before heading back to Fremantle.  I may have also walked around stalking the little Quokkas.  They are just so cute, I couldn’t help myself.

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The Basin in all its Glory

Before we knew it it was time to head back to mainland Australia.  The winds had really picked up by the time we made our  way back to Fremantle, and the swells were so high they went over the windows on the boat.  The workers quickly passed out bags for those that were seasick but luckily, none of us needed them.  It was another awesome day in Australia, and left me wondering why I still live in central Ohio.

New Year’s Eve Disaster…Averted

Let me start by saying this…I hate NYE.  There is nothing worse, in my opinion, than getting all dressed up in the freezing cold weather and having to wait forever for a cab at the end of the night when all you want to do is go home.  It’s so expensive and never worth the hype, in my opinion.  That being said, spending NYE at a beach house near Perth completely changes how I feel about the holiday and it quickly rises to the top of my list.

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My last sunset of 2014

Our friend’s family has a beach house in Mandurah, about an hour from Perth.  We drove there on the morning of the 31st and spent the day there hanging out, drinking, and playing games.  Due to the strong Western Australia winds that come up in the afternoon, we had to abort our idea sitting on the beach outside the morning hours.  It didn’t even matter, though, because we sat up at the house and stared out at the ocean and beach without having to get all sandy.  Really, it was a win-win for everyone (except the husband, who spent over an hour blowing up Frannie, our inflatable flamingo, only to never have anyone use her).  I can’t begin to explain how beautiful the beach and water was, and my crappy iPhone photos don’t begin to do it justice.

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The husband and I enjoying the view

Cricket is a huge sport in Australia, about which none of the Americans knew anything prior to arriving in Australia.  Having just learned what a wicket was and a very rough idea of the rules, we played a backyard cricket game in the front yard of the house (front yard cricket, if you will).  I was pretty terrible and kept forgetting to hold on to the bat, which you need to keep after you hit the ball, unlike in baseball.  Once you hit it, you run across the pitch and have to cross a line and then run back to where you started to score a run.  Only your bat has to cross the line, so holding onto the bat and reaching it over the line is a good idea that I couldn’t seem to master.  I did, however, manage to hit it into the brush across the street once.  I then had to run back and forth across the pitch for so long that my super-out-of-shape self had to just quit running and stop scoring points.

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“Playing” Cricket

After cricket, we all got cleaned up and ready for the festivities.  By festivities, I mean an amazing dinner prepared by our friend, who is an amazing cook, games on the patio, and champagne.  We played Balderdash until it neared midnight and then headed out towards the beach to light sparklers.

Note: be careful when lighting sparklers in super-dry Western Australia during the summer.  We literally almost burned down all of Mandurah in doing so.  The best man accidentally threw a sparkler that was still lit into the brush, adjacent to the road.  The brush immediately lit up as though we had poured gasoline and a match on it.  He quickly threw his glass of alcohol on the flames in an attempt to put out the fire.  This is not recommended.  Have you ever seen Bananas Foster made table-side? If not, let me explain.  They take the dessert containing bananas and ice cream, pour alcohol on it, and light it on fire (the alcohol is used as the accelerant for the fire). Alcohol is highly flammable, and alcohol + dry brush = disaster. Shockingly, pouring his drink onto the flames only made things worse.  He quickly used his shirt (and maybe his bare hands, we still aren’t sure?) to stamp out the flames.  It’s still unclear how he didn’t end in the hospital with third degree burns, but he didn’t, and we were able to get a bucket of non-flammable water to pour over the ashes to make sure that nothing re-kindled itself overnight.  Disaster averted, we headed back inside to continue to NYE celebrations.  After a brief episode of thinking that one of our friends very likely had a DVT due to a very swollen and painful leg after a 15 hour plane ride, we were off to bed.

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Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015

It was my first time celebrating NYE outside the US, and it was only 10am in the US when we rang in the New Year in Western Australia.  It was a bit strange not watching the ball drop in Times Square on the TV and not counting down the seconds to the New Year, but I can’t say that I missed it.  It actually felt very much like the 4th of July celebrations back home, given the warm weather, sparklers, and general lack of all things winter.  Prior to this, I had never considered how much weather affects how we celebrate holidays.  I always associate NYE with freezing cold weather and snow, and thus, have never really like the holiday.  It really doesn’t need to be like that, I just need to move to Perth (hint, hint, husband).  I hope that everyone had equally lovely and disaster free NYE celebrations!  2015 has been a great year so far.

Pleasantly Surprised on Penguin Island

For those of you that know my love of penguins, you can probably imagine how excited I was when, while perusing the guidebook for Perth and Western Australia, I found that there was a place called Penguin Island.  I have a healthy love of animals in general (more like I love them so much it’s unhealthy), but I especially love penguins (and dogs).  The husband does not share my love of penguins but kindly obliged my desire to go to Penguin Island, probably so that he didn’t have to hear me complain that we hadn’t :).

We landed in Perth in the early evening after our long layover in Melbourne.  We rented a car and drove to the city.  We were staying with our friend’s dad the first night on arrival in Perth, as we were renting a house near the beach with friends, but the rental started the next day.  It was so nice to see a friendly face after a long day of travel, not to mention that we didn’t have to get a hotel for the night.  After 36 hours of travel, we were very weary and ready for some sleep in a real bed.  We quickly showered and headed to bed.

The next morning, we awoke to the beautiful Perth sunshine.  The flat where we stayed is in an amazing location, right next to King’s Park in a beautiful area of the city.  The three of us walked to breakfast through the park, while our host pointed out things to see along the way and told us a little about the history of the area.  King’s Park is beautifully maintained; the grass is so nice that it looks like the whole thing could be a fairway on a golf course.  After an absolutely delicious breakfast outdoors at The Botanical Cafe, we headed back to the flat to pack up our things and prepare for the day, which included a visit to Penguin Island.

We had been warned that we likely would not see any penguins on Penguin Island, so I was prepared to be disappointed.  We arrived, parked, and got into the queue for the ferry.  You can actually walk across a sandbar to the island, but there are signs stating that it is dangerous, and  I’m not inclined to do things when posted signs tell me not to.  Much to the husband’s dismay, we took the 5 minute ferry instead of walking.  He does not share my fear of most everything that’s even slightly dangerous, and often refers to me as the safety police due to my over-regard for our safety.

 

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View From Our Hike on the Island

After arriving, we went to the Education Center where we heard one of the guides talk about the penguins and watched her feed them.  It is a center on the island where injured penguins who cannot be rehabilitated and returned to the wild are able to live.  I thought that WE were going to be able to feed these penguins, so ,needless to say, this part was more than a bit disappointing.  I did learn, however, the reason as to why we were unlikely to see any penguins; the penguins hunt in the ocean during the day and return to the island at dusk.

 

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Penguins at The Education Center on Penguin Island

Disappointed in the Penguin Encounter Experience, we set out to explore the island.  Penguin Island is a 30 acre island off the southwest coast of Australia, near Perth.  It is home to the largest colony of Little Penguins in Australia.  Visitors are only allowed on the island from mid September to early June, and only during daylight hours.  There is no trash on the island: everything that comes on the island must come off.  There are water-less, eco-friendly composting toilets, too.  It’s a pretty environmentally friendly place, and an important ecosystem for the Little Penguins and other birds due to its distance from the coast and lack of natural predators.

 

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Gorgeous Views  From Our Hike

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Exploring the Beaches of Penguin Island

Just as we were setting out on our hike around the island, which takes about an hour, we stumbled upon this little guy, whom I named Walter, hiding under the boardwalk.  Mike calls me the animal whisperer due to my sometimes uncanny ability to spot animals.  Unfortunately, this ability applies to animals both living and not, which is quite useful sometimes and quite unfortunate at others.  Luckily, this time it was a good thing.

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Little Penguin Molting

Our visit fell right in the middle of the molting season for the Little Penguins, making it easier for us to find them. Unlike other birds who molt gradually over time, these guys only molt once a year.  This means that they spend 2 weeks straight on land, essentially staying hidden in one place while they molt.  They eat a lot beforehand to plump up, and rely on those reserves as they fast while they molt; the molting process renders them unable to go into the ocean to hunt.

The two weeks during which the Little Penguins molt is their most vulnerable time, as they are prone to starvation and dehydration if they do not find a cool, safe place to hide during Australia’s hot summer days.  I found Walter in a nice, cool spot under the boardwalk.  I think he did a great job of picking a place to molt, and am confident that he’s back to his normal life, hunting for fish in the ocean.  There are no predators to the penguins on the island, so their dangers come from dehydration and starvation during molting, as well as ocean predators.

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Seagull Momma and Her Baby

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A Natural Seat on the Beach

Hiking around the island takes about an hour and is nicely marked by signs.  It is by no means difficult as there is a boardwalk over the path, save the part on the beach.  The views from the Island back to the mainland are absolutely beautiful, and despite the fact that penguins are scarce on the island during the day, it was well worth the visit.

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After a nice trip to Penguin Island and some much-needed fresh air, we headed back to Perth to meet our friends who were just flying into the city.  We first stopped off at a brewery in Freemantle, home of the Freemantle Dockers, called Little Creatures.  It was right along the water, and had delicious food, tasty beer, and a great atmosphere.  It was a great break after a fun morning.  I can’t begin to explain how excited I was that we were able to see some penguins when I wasn’t expecting to see them at all.  I was like a kid in a candy store.  Our first day in Australia exceeded our (my) expectations.