Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Apartment: Part 1

It's been just about a week that we've moved into the apartment, and I think we're just about settling into it now. What's great is the place came fully furnished (down to the brand-new shrink-wrapped fluffy white slippers stolen from hotel rooms in the bedside table drawer. It's exactly what I would've done!) (stolen the hotel slippers, that is).

Besides plodding on in the job hunt for the past week, it feels like I've been shopping everyday. Don't get too excited - this is the boring kind of shopping... the "gotta fill up the kitchen pantry!" kind of shopping. And of course even with the lists I make, I get side-tracked and inevitably have to go back to the shops again the next day for whatever I missed out. Thank goodness the supermarket is literally across the road from us... in fact we've got TWO! A Coles and a Woolworths (completely different from the South African Woolworths.) Produce here, surprisingly, isn't as fresh and tasty as it is in S.Africa... but that's a story for another time.

So we packed up our stuff last week from the serviced apartment and managed to hail a station wagon cab. Just as well we did, seeing the number of bags we had.

There's a technicoloured fountain outside the foyer. It's very DRAMA. And even changes colour throughout the day. In the mornings, it's blue. In the evenings, it's pink. If I come across other colours, I'll be sure to post it up. It's one of those so-ugly-till-it's-almost-pretty things in life...

These are pictures of the place the very first night we moved in. I'll take more daytime pictures when I've got the time.

Ever his plebian self, Kelly made himself right at home since he was hot and bothered from lugging all the bags up.

This is the beautiful mail room.

And how's this for the daytime view?

We haven't got a clock in the house yet, so the Town Hall clock below us will just have to do for now.

(The green roof behind Town Hall is the QVB mall)

Will have more daytime photos of the apartment, plus the gym. Oh, and if you thought the fountain was drama, wait till you see the pool.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

...Of 2-year olds, job hunting & apartment rentals

On Monday, I went to visit one of my old friends from college, Woks. She lives here in Bondi. And that's not her real name. It's just short for her nickname, "Ewok". Don't ask.

She's got the cutest, smartest little 2.5 year old son, who took about half an hour deciding if he liked me or not, and then decided after that he really, REALLY liked me and was trying to get my attention for every single thing he did that day. I dunno if you've ever spent an afternoon with a 2.5 year old. And a hyperactive boy at that. It is freaking exhausting!'s such a cliche, but much as I had a great time playing with him, I was so glad to hand him back to his parents afterwards! :p And yup, that pretty much confirms my theory that I'm gonna wait a looooooooooooong time before having any kids. (Sorry mom, you've gotta look to Ben & Dee for grandkids if it's any time soon!)

He's really too cute and I love him to bits... especially when he put on my trainers and was clomping around the house with them on.

Apart from that, I spent the last couple of days in meetings... meeting up with a headhunter and two agencies. Both weren't hiring of course as they'd just gone through a round of retrenchments, but it was good to get out there and meet them anyways, coz... I suppose you never know in this industry... if they win an account, suddenly it's 'all hands on deck' and could need someone quickly.

This is probably gonna be boring stuff, but bear with me, it's what I've been going through the past week... the headhunter says I've got a good CV so shouldn't worry about getting a job. BUT... I've contacted about 10 of the major agencies so far and only heard back from... TWO! (who aren't even hiring!) ...she says it's just the way things work here... that the Ozzies are a little more laidback and I've just got to chill a bit. Imagine that. Now that's really gonna test my patience. A quality I'm really lacking...

Funny thing is, coz I've already hit most of the bigger networks, there aren't that many left for her to help me with!

And since I've resumed my yoga practice again, I suppose that's a sign that I'm slowly getting settled and not too unfocused now. It's kinda interesting... I went from a 5 or 6-day a week practice to nothing for about 1.5 or 2 weeks, and coming back to it I actually feel a little stronger. I guess my muscles have had time to readjust. Or something.

...In other news, WE SIGNED OUR RENTAL LEASE!!! I've just come back from the housing agent with the keys in hand, and we might actually be moving in tonight. Apparently there are sheets and towels in the apartment already, so... BLISS! Stay tuned for more pictures of the place. (oh yeah, just found out there's also free wifi in the common areas, so this internet freak is sorted!)

Since this has been quite a random post, here's a random picture. It makes me laugh although this guy has skills!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sunday with Bee

Belinda's my little cousin who lives here in Sydney. OK, she's not that little anymore... she's grown up quite a bit and is working at an American bank. So while Kelly popped back into work today (yes, on a Sunday), she gamely picked me up and we hung out this afternoon.

First stop: Mamak in Chinatown. A Malaysian street-food place. She had the Nasi Lemak while I had the Maggi Goreng. That's literally instant Maggi noodles stir fried with all kinds of goodies like tofu, shrimp and egg. Dee-lish! We shared a Roti Canai too (or as it's called back home, "roti prata"). Talk about serious carbo-loading!

To be completely honest, my noodles were completely greased out but I'm not complaining, they were yummy! The best thing there was the Teh-Tarik. It was a nice familiar taste of close-to-home. Plus, she's such a sweetie, she insisted on paying for lunch. Damn, should've ordered more!

Since we were in Chinatown, we walked around the streets for a bit, and Bee was shocked that while we went to Paddy's market yesterday, we didn't even check out the fresh fruit & veg section. I hadn't known it existed! This place is literally like a wet market back home, with EXTREMELY CHEAP produce. I mean, I bought 4 peaches for 80 cents. ?!?? It was more than double the price at Coles supermarket!

Then we took a drive to Clovelly Beach, a few beaches south of the famous Bondi.

(that's been the colour of the sky the entire week... it's a stormy Sydney!)

This is the view on the other side where we were, of another suburb, Coogee.

Tucked away in a little alcove was the actual beach. Yes, it's a TINY little sliver of a beach, quite protected from the elements, with a small pool right next to it.

The local bowling club.

And how's this for a prime piece of real estate, forever and ever, amen?

We actually cut through the cemetery to get to Bronte Beach... anyone would tell you I'm the biggest chicken-shit ever, and wouldn't have done this walk if it were in the middle of the night... but it was rather peaceful during the day, with many people jogging and walking through here. I half-expected ghouls to rise up out of the ground a la Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it was kinda weird. It also felt a bit strange taking pictures of the tombstones. I truly meant no disrespect!

We ended off at Bronte before it was time to head back again.

Bee had just been home for Chinese New Year, so it was great catching up on the family goss, finding out who's doing what and who's seeing who now. I've just realized now how out of touch I've been on the other side of the world!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

City Walkabout

It was pissing down heavily, as its been the entire week. Actually, I've just recovered from a cold... because of the lack of sleep, the lack of yoga practice, and packing in too many house inspections, my immunity just bombed out.

Since I was feeling much better today after a day of rest, Kelly and I went walking about the city. The agent had gotten back to us to say that we can sign the contract on Monday, so we were pretty excited to go check out the possible new neighbourhood. (I say "possible" only coz until that contract's signed, nothing is a definite, no?)

The association for the blind were having a donation drive to fund their guide dogs. With so many cute pooches sleeping in broad daylight on the crowded pedestrian Pitt Street mall, how could you not donate any money?

We walked down to Chinatown and checked out Paddy's market... it's pretty much a very scaled down version of Chatuchak in Bangkok, or even the pasar malam in Bugis back home. It's funny how every single Chinatown in every major city around the world pretty much looks the same... inevitably dirty, rough on the edges, with the same kind of weird rotting garbage smell. Except in Sydney, things seem a lot more regulated. Oh, and we caught the occasional whiff of Hong Kong noodles. Yum! FINALLY! REAL CHINESE FOOD! :)

Saw a really funny name for a kids' toy store.

And on the edge of Chinatown, we saw a group of Falungong members meditating. It was so cool... in broad daylight out in public! They're such a peaceful group, I don't understand how the communists could've banned them in China.

(I've been so out of routine and slack with my own yoga practice I almost felt like going up and joining them)

We walked through Cockle Bay Wharf and crossed the bridge over to Darling Harbour, and saw an amazing naval ship with a submarine berthed at the harbour! I think it must've been a tourist attraction coz aren't submarines supposed to be classified information?

Then we ended up in the Queen Victoria Building, the QVB as its known, and it's just such a spectacular sight of oldskool grandeur, down to the clock that chimes every hour with a little glockenspiel thing that happens... y'know, when the clock moves and a whole spectacle happens kinda like a cuckoo clock but on a much larger scale? ...the word or the phrase escapes me now.

It's pretty amazing on the one side of the clock as it describes Australia's history... and up until about a year ago, the government was in denial about the wiping out of the aborigines back in the day. Hence, it was good to see an acknowledgement of this on the clock. The line reads "The taking of the children".

Don't get me wrong - it's a dastardly thing that happened, but the fact that it happened and the government was in denial about its history... makes it even more wrong. There's no difference between what had happened in South Africa with apartheid versus Australia, and somehow it's glossed over in Australia. (in fact, it's actually worse if you think about it, since they pretty much killed off the entire race!)

That is, until only about a year ago when Kevin Rudd finally made that public apology to the aboriginal people. It's a pretty fascinating history they've got here... (no, it's not just about the convicts!!) I'm slowly starting to learn more about it as I'd never really been bothered before.

It's exciting! Everything's still so new and fresh!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The First Week in Our Adopted Country: Part 2

Last night was the first time since we've been here that I've actually slept all the way through the night. Yay! ...except for when the bloody alarm clock rang at 5.10am. The previous person in this place probably set the alarm for that time, and it's been going off every single morning since we've been here. When you're half asleep and dead to the world, you're not going to fiddle around and try to figure out how to shut it up forever. And then of course we forget about it when going to bed, only to have to go through the same thing all over again the next morning. Irritating!

Anyways, picking up where I left off last night... while sightseeing over the weekend, we cut through the Royal Botanic Gardens to get from town back to Woolloomooloo and saw an amazing sight of a gazilion bats hanging from the trees. Look closely and you'll spot the black balls of furry things in the leaves.

Every evening in the city, there are SWARMS of bats flying around... big black trails in the sky, waking up to start their night. I guess the Botanic Gardens is their "bat cave" (a la Bat Man).

I've been going through a whole bunch of house listings since before we got here, and we've been narrowing down our options. How it works here is the majority of agents have one "mass inspection" - they give you a date and a time on ONE DAY of the week, and you're expected to show up then to view the house. And it's not like you have all day to get there either. Mass inspections are usually only held for 15 - 20 minutes. I guess they can afford to do this coz there's a property shortage here, where there's heckuva lot more demand than supply. So if you can't get your ass to an inspection, sorry for you coz the place could be gone the same day.

We'd been hearing horror stories where up to about a year ago, agents used to have auctions on the rental price right there and then at these mass inspections. The thing is, you rock up to view the house, and there are like 10 other couples there as well waiting to see the same place. Some people are ultra kiasu and would've printed out application forms from the agent's website already, and if they like the place, they immediately hand in the application together with a cheque deposit. So you can imagine if there's more than one party interested in a place, what kind of bidding war could start. eBay in the flesh!

We're pretty much city people, used to living close to where it's happening. So one of our options was looking at the Victorian terrace houses in the Paddington, Surry Hills, Darlinghurst areas. These suburbs are a hop, skip, jump away from the CBD city yet have a lot of character (depending which streets you're in of course)... it's definitely a lot more charming in an oldskool way with the Victorian wrought iron balconies along leafy streets, and the areas feel kind of bohemian, dotted with cafes and little shops.

This particular terrace house we inspected (I'd use the word "view", but they seem to call it "inspect" here) was renovated on the inside, so it had modern finishings. Most of the houses have a backyard/ garden area behind, so it gets really pretty if the owner has done it up well. Over the past few days, I've seen some pretty shocking interiors - if left unrenovated, the space seems tiny and dreary.

The thing with the terraces is that while the downstairs living/ dining/ kitchen areas might be really nice, a lot of the time the upstairs bedrooms are really small. Stick one Queen bed into it and that's all the space you've got left to move around in.

There was yet another terrace that was completely done up on the inside that it even had a roof terrace with braai, oops sorry, they call it the bar-bee here. Their backyard was done in true Singaporean fashion - no trace of garden, just tiled up completely.

There was one place that even converted their backyard into a pool! If you wanna see more terrace house examples, click here.

The thing about Sydney is that it's a small city (in the central/ town area), but because the buses and subway connections are all on the main thoroughfare, you end up having to walk. And you walk. A lot. I guess that's similar to other bigger cities in the world. So with a lot of these terraces, if they're tucked away it becomes a bit of a pain in the ass when getting around. Taxis are expensive so that can't be a daily affair. While cars are extremely cheap here, we want to see if we can live without one for a while and see if that works. So if we'll be using the bus & train as our main modes of transport, these terraces start to become less appealing.

And then there's the issue of maintenance too. We've become super spoilt having a maid who comes in weekly to clean our flat in Cape Town, for pretty cheap too. Goodness knows if that even exists here, and even if it did it would probably be super pricey. So the thought of having to clean house by ourselves all over again, plus a bigger one with garden out in the back too is just extreeeeeeeemely LEH-CHEH. I'd rather spend my weekends chilling out, not cleaning the house!

People have suggested we live further out in the Rose Bay, Edgecliff, Bondi areas near Bondi Beach since you get better value for your money and a bigger house... but we're not at the point in life yet where living in the suburbs with a 2-car garage has any appeal!

So then we also looked into swish, yuppie apartments in the CBD city area. I think this is probably what we'll go for, since it's close to shops, restaurants, subway and bus stations. How's this place for a view?

Oh yeah, the other thing was... unfurnished or fully furnished? ...not like we really have a choice in the matter coz most places come unfurnished but we were preferably looking for a place that's fully furnished. Since we rented our place in cape Town out fully furnished, we've got absolutely NOTHING with us and having to start up from scratch again is a bit of a pain the ass.

So 1 week after arriving and after inspecting 12 places, we found an absolutely stunning 2 bed/ 2.5 bath apartment at the almost new Lumiere Residences. It's got a loft vibe, right in the middle of town, with amazing views of the city skyline. Oh, and a cool-in-an-ultra-pretentious-way pool too if you check the link.

Of course I did say "we found it". Whether we'll actually get it is a different story! Haha! We've just put in the application and made an offer, so it's just sitting around and crossing fingers now that the landlord says OK. The whole application process is a whole other long grandmother's story, plus it gets trickier too coz we've only just arrived and set up bank accounts a day ago. Hence there are no local bank statements nor money in the bank to show proof yet! (Kelly's trying to also sign up for a mobile contract, but because the bank hasn't issued any cards yet either, we're still in limbo land...)

I hope we get it. Since Kelly's a foreigner sponsored by a local company, the Ozzy government gives us back 50% of rent in the first 2 years. Which means we can live it up the first 2 years, then downgrade later. Heh. We figure since there's only one time in life where we can live the completely pretentious, designer-wank I mean swank, yuppie lifestyle, we might as well stay in a place that's out of our league. If nothing else, it'll be a really handy location for guests when they come visit. So in your best interests, you'd better also hope and pray that we get it too!
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