Culturally, I have never been feeling like a fish out of water in Australia. Apart from the language thing, Australia is not all that different to Canada. It is different from Québec, but that is because Québec is special and has latin charm (just like me!).Although, lately, I have noticed some subtle differences.
They don’t sell cinnamon flavoured chewing gum. Nowhere. I have eaten my last piece of cinnamon gum yesterday and I had been “saving” it for when I was really feeling like having it. And that gum came from the bottom of my laptop bag where my big pack of gum had spilled in the Los Angeles Airport. It could have very well been on the LAX floor before landing in my bag. And yet, it’s cinnamon-y goodness was worth the possible bacteria intake.
Also, I bought a whiteboard. Well, it is not truly a whiteboard, it is a magnetic board that I write on with whiteboard markers. It is a semi-good idea because the finish doesn’t allow me to properly erase the marker (which is kind of the point of this whole whiteboard thing, uh?). The internet gods are telling me that rubbing alcohol would probably do the trick of cleaning my smudged magnetic-wanna-be-whiteboard. I mean rubbing alcohol; de l’alcool à friction, it’s kind of easy as 1-2-3 to find, right?
Hum… no. Australia doesn’t seem to have any clue about what that oh-so-weird substance is. When I asked Mark about it, he asked me back what kind of alcohol it was. The isopropylic one. And then, he went on to draw the molecular structure of that substance. He’s cute, but not helpful. I checked at the grocery store. None. I went at the pharmacy and asked the clerk about it. I could have asked him about rubber-flavoured crumpets and he would have given me back that same absent/you’re a freak look.
I mean, I knew I was “right” (as in, that rubbing alcohol exists and is generally sold in pharmacies), but because I was outnumbered, I was the one who looked like I was asking for a screwdriver in a seafood shop.
As a side story about that pharmacy: when we bought our wooden bench in the kitchen, we needed some mineral oil (parafin) to seal the counter bit. You can buy this from the pharmacy because it is also a useful thing to consume if you’re ahem… backed up. So I went there and asked for it, taking care to precise that it was for my countertop. I don’t know why I felt the need to precise that I was not buying this because I was constipated. Which probably made me sound like I was trying to cover the fact that I hadn’t pooped in a few days. Oh so meta.
Monday night, I started writing a post about how I was feeling slightly nervous about the immigration interview of the following day. I was not stressed or anything, but I just wanted to be over and done with it already: we put so much efforts and money into that process that it had to work or else, we’d be up shit creek.
So Tuesday morning, off we go to the immigration office in the city. We even have time to take a coffee before we go it (my tastebuds enjoyed it, but my bladder thought it was a semi-good idea, quite frankly). Finally, we got to meet our case officer and thus the interview began. I was kind of expecting the interview to involve dark room with a spotlight in my face and a big burly guy in a trench coat with a hat asking me to confess about everything.
Instead, we got interviewed together (no cross-checking of our answers) and the case officer was a young woman who really just wanted to chat with us! She asked us to tell her about our relationship and that was pretty much it. I was expecting to have to defend our application, recitate the name and birthdates of all of Mark’s relatives (btw, Mark has been learning dutifully my family tree for nothing! eh!), explain why we did not have a joint bank account and how we maintain a relationship while living with housemates (hum… we like our group sex?).
At the end of it, she asked us if we had any questions and if we’d like to know how long from now before her decision was going to be made. Of course we wanted to know. She then said something un-be-lie-va-ble: “I should send you your visa approval via email THIS AFTERNOON”. Holy shit!
And people: she did.
I am now officially an australian permanent resident. I’ll get the sticker to go in my passport tomorrow. I might just sleep with it under my pillow for the next month.
Bonne fête maman! Je m’ennuie de toi tout plein.
I wouldn’t have thought that it would be so much trouble and paperwork to submit a permanent residency application. I felt at times that I had to prove my relationship to them with their own standards. Yes, we lived in a shared house for a few years. No, we are not hippies into orgies and community sex. Yes, we had our space and our privacy. No, we don’t have any bills in our name in that house. Yes, we were a de facto couple. And so on.
I wouldn’t have thought it would be so expensive to get it all together as well. So far, that immigration business has cost us more than 2600$ (and that doesn’t include my flight to Australia).
Anyway, at this point, it doesn’t matter really, because we want to live together.
So, last Friday, we went to the immigration office to submit the application. I was giddy with excitement. Finally, after 3 years of pretty much dreaming of that moment, that was it, we were finally applying for me to live here.
It went quite smoothly. We paid and after the immigration lady started to ask us some questions. When did your relationship started? Since when are you in a de facto relationship? I answered the questions quicker than if it was a “Génie en herbe” quiz. Bring on the red buzzer, I rock with dates. I thought it was funny that the immigration lady briefly made sure that we were satisfying the basic criteria for our visa after we paid 2000$. What if we were clueless idiots (and not checked the condition of this visa) and we hadn’t been in a relationship for more than 12 months? 2000$ gone and also a speedy 5 minutes visa assessment to tell you that you didn’t make it?
After she checked those basic facts, she gave us right there an interview date! Yé! Get party hats and gazous, people! Our interview date is May 1st. When you apply abroad, it can take a few months to get an interview date (and it is also the case in bigger immigration office like Sydney). We were pretty happy.
Interview is really an important bit of the process. You can photocopy 142 receipts of things you bought together, but I would like to think that they will be even more convinced of the “genuineness and ongoingness” of our relationship when they see us in the interview.
So I am now hunting immigration forums to get a sneak peak at the possible interview questions. Some say their interview was quite easy, mostly asking questions you already answered in your relationship statement (when did you meet, what happen afterwards, bla bla bla). Others seemed to have it a little more harsh: what was he wearing when you first met him (Emilie jumps on the buzzer: his lucky black stripped shirt! Mark says… euh… a black top?), what are the birthdates of every family members, etc. They might even also get into more private stuff, but nobody on the forum seemed to incline to say what that stuff was about. How nice would it be to be an immigration case worker and have to ask random people when was the last time they had sex?
Basically, at this point we are in a mild anxiety state (well, I am) and we do interview rehearsal. I can’t wait for that immigration thingie to be through people. I can’t wait.
We all know April 11th is a very special day, right? It is on April 11th 2004 that Mark and I met in Salzburg. Up until last week, Mark didn’t have a precise idea about the “specialness” of that date (a careful remark about it put him up to speed though, it was all good). I can’t really blame the guy: he is highly gifted in the “understanding complex theory field”, whereas I am the one with talent in “remembering useless facts and tiny bits of unrelated information for a really long time”. We complete each other in a very practical way. Also, Mark did not have that much practice with celebrating our meeting anniversary: it is the first time that we get to spend this day together. We were in different countries for the 2 previous years. So it is not as if he had to remember this date every month or anything.
We had a lovely day together. I got roses and we went to have tea at the Windy Point Cafe. It is in the Adelaide Hills so we have stunning views of the city and the ocean. Very civilised. I also got to gush about how great and special and wonderful our relationship is. So it was a very good day all in all.
I insisted we take a picture at the Cafe (for immigration you know). Sorry for the bluriness and darkness of it, that it is the best I could do with the .27 seconds of patience Mark had to get his picture taken.
In other oh so thrilling news, we decided to be all anticonformist for Easter and instead of giving each other chocolate, we went to Bunnings (un genre de Réno-Dépôt) and we bought some gardening stuff to put in front of our . We kind of went all out. Mark seems to have a fairly green thumb, but what I lack in knowledge, I have got in enthusiasm (is it time to fertilise the plants yet? we want them to be really strong, should I put some in now? I saw some slow release fertiliser at the shop, should I buy it?).
We got some herbs and loads of seeds. I have never gardened from seeds before. It is truly a test for my patience. From seeds, we are expecting to grow 3 types of lettuce, beetroots, radish (they are the “French breakfast variety and it never ceased to crack Mark up” – for the record, as a French speaking person, I have never eaten radish for breakfast), spinach, some mixed flowers, strawberries, chives, pepperming, cress and mustard. As I said, we went all out.
While planting and potting our stuff, we got an unexpected visitor (although he -she?- looks somewhat artificial, this is a true and living creature). Mark reckons it is a blue-tongued lizard, but I cannot confirm since the thing did not open its mouth (an internet search seems to confirm Mark’s hypothesis). If it is a blue-tongued lizard, it’s good news: they are garden friendly, eat slugs and they are not poisonous.
Here is an up-close-and-personal encounter with the radish and beetroot pot. Also worth mentionning, I am trying to get Mark to learn French through osmosis: whenever I write something for him, I also write it in French. So all our little identifying sticks (made out of an ice cream container – turns out those are not only useful for protection against magpies) are bilingual. Maybe Mark cannot conjuguate verbs from the first group in any past tense, but he sure can tell you that dill in French is aneth.
Finally, I could not resist buying this funny little gnome. Hopefully, it’ll help resuscitate our dill. Also, behold my good taste, because I could have easily gotten that horror. Nothing says welcome better than a garden dwarf showing its butt in front of a toilet in a garden, right?
* * * * *
Bonne Fête papa!
I caught your attention, eh?
I mentionned that we are not living in the same area as we were last year. So, in order to get more familiar with my surroundings, I decided yesterday to grab my bike and hop on the train that would bring me straight to Belair National Park.
A little side story here: did you know that when you feel all economy+environmentally conscious and you buy rechargeable batteries – right before catching the train to get to the park in the hills – well, those earth-friendly batteries will not come charged? I paid 12.50$ to buy freaking flat batteries (and I obviously discovered it in the train, so no option B here). This is going to explain the lack of pictures to document my adventures. Which is a shame.
Adelaide is a flat stretch of land surrounded by hills and the sea. It makes for gorgeous scenery. Belair national park is in the southeastern part of the hills. I haven’t been there before and for whatever reason, I felt like going for a bike ride so I thought it would be a good idea. The only problem was that Mark hasn’t been there in a long time so he was no use in telling me what the bike tracks would be like. I was a tad scared because of the concept of hills+bicycle (and I am the person who would bicycle downtown Montréal in peak hour in the middle of freezing February). My point being, I am not naturally squirmish on a bike, I am just not a mountain bike person. I actually seem to have a bit of a trauma even about it. Maybe in year 6 when I opened my elbow at camp Minogami because of a bike tumble or maybe because of the mountain bike at Mont Ste-Anne in secondaire 2 (Rosalie, did anything that traumatising happened then? I don’t remember anything, but maybe I have repressed that memory… hehe). Anyway.
The Belair Park website said that the bike trails are the sealed roads crossing the park. I was cool with that. Hills I can do on pavement.
I got there and the place is hilly (what a surprise, seeing as we are in the Adelaide hills). I decide to do the whole tour of the park. One of the road I have to take is called “Saddle Hill Road”. If they put “hill” in a road name, you can safely expect that the thing is going to be a mean bitch of a hill. Oh man, it was. That typical nightmarish hill that each time you think that it cannot possibly climb more, there is a turn and there it is: an even meaner incline right in front of you. Well, I am proud to say I did not turn back. I climbed it and I got to realise that yes, there are circumstances when that smallest speed on the bike is not even quite small enough (and I also got off the bike at some point and walked a bit).
At that point, I was basically on the top of the universe, with all the uphill riding. And I had to turn on Queen Jubilee Drive. Sounds like a civilised place, right?
For whatever reason, I don’t feel confortable going downhill (from that point, it couldn’t possibly climb more, obviously) on uneven ground with slippery rocks and what not. I don’t feel enough traction and my reflex (which I know is not a good or a safe one) is to hit the brake and go slower. I understood there why wearing bike gloves is useful. I still have as we speak the imprint of my bike handles in my hand because I clutched them tightly. All that time, I was thinking that my comfort bike was not design for “offroad use or stunting” (there is a little sticker on it saying exactly those words). I was also thinking that Matt (our used-to-be-housemate), a mountain-bike amateur, would laugh his head off if he could see me.
Anyway, I am pleased to report that I didn’t die (well, duh), didn’t fall and did not have a heart attack. And it doesn’t sound like it with my dramatic depiction of the events, but I managed to keep my shit together during the more mountain-bike-like part of my ride.
No, the heart attack came a little bit earlier. You know, that emu story.
In the first part of the bike ride (where there were sealed road and no killing hills), I arrived to a sort of clearing just in front of a volunteering association building. And in the clearing, there were 2 very still birds that looked very much like emus. As in they were big. Then, because of the stillness – and the lack of decent fence – I thought that they might be statue-emus decorating the lawn accross the volunteer house.
And then, the right statue moved. Hum.
Here again, I have to tell a tiny side story. One of my mom’s worst fear is big birds. She has told me countless of times she’d rather be around a tiger than a turkey or a goose. So, really, don’t start her on emus and ostrich. Though, I have not absorbed that fear through genes or osmosis, I am not comfortable around birds looking like this and being free to come and peck your eyes out.
Look at those red eyes.
At that point, I reached for my camera and foolishly hoped that there would be enough juice for just one picture. After some fumbling, the answer was no. But one of the bird started to walk in my direction. Not fast, but steadily. At that point, it was probably less than 3 metres away from me. I remembered that if that thing was going to run for me, I was done: an emu could probably outrun a leopard (ok, not quite, but almost) and I am no leopard. So, I threw the camera in the bag (stupid camera with the flat batteries) and I briefly thought I could at least take a picture with my mobile phone, but my survival instinct kicked in and decided it wouldn’t be wise to linger any longer. People, you have never seen someone hoping on their bike quicker than me at that point. Comme on dit, j’ai paqueté mes p’tits pis je me suis pas attardée pour jaser.
I thought Maman would have loved to be there.
All in all, it was a good day.
I have documented before my utter lack of imagination when it comes to meal planning. If you ask me spontaneously what to cook tonight, I can come up with 3 meals: stir fry, curry and spaghetti. A rotation of the same 3 meals is obviously doomed to come back very often. And I have to say that Mark is never particularly helpful with my usual “what do you want to eat tonight?”. Although, last week, when I asked him, he said I should make something “québécois”.
A québécois meal? Hum. Apart from simmering everything in maple sirup or making poutine, what could be a typically québécois dish? The answer to that question: pâté chinois.
People, last week, I made my first pâté chinois ever. Steak, blé d’inde, patate (thank god for La petite vie, maybe I wouldn’t have remember the recipe without them). And I got all fancy and put paprika on top. I am proud to say that it was pretty good. But I am even prouder to say that Mark is becoming more québécois every day: not only can he swear in French (what a skill), he also loved pâté chinois. I am sure that if I keep working a little bit, he will become a sovereignist.
So here is my creation:
Man, my life is thrilling.
In other news, my ordeal with HP Australia is not over yet.
I called them last Friday and they said they didn’t receive the email I was supposed to send them (bullshit, they did, I checked), they didn’t have my phone number to call me back (bullshit again, they had it, it was in the email and I gave it to at least 3 different people) and that anyway, the documentation I provided was not enough (it was straight from HP Canada with the details of the work that has been done on my laptop).
So really, they are full of shit. I will make a complaint Monday because it is not acceptable that almost 2 weeks after my initial call, they have still not done anything for me except lie. In the meantime, Bestiole is still not functionning.
In my search terms last week, somebody googled “problem nx7000 hp laptop not booting” or something and they ended up on my page. That fills me with a little bit of glee because maybe that person read what I have been through with HP in Australia and in Canada. This is like bad publicity through word of mouth, except that it is done at a planet level with potentially a lot of people hearing how much HP is a dishonest company as far as warranty goes.