Sunday, January 8, 2017

Mission Life – Part 1 – Life in Australia

Warning! This is going to be a long, 3-part post! But I thought I would take some time to tell, in a little more detail, what life is like for us here in Australia. I'm writing it in three separate "parts" because there are three different aspects of serving here, each worth mentioning.

First, life in Australia. This has been an adventure so far, for sure! From learning to drive on the left side of the road (with a driver's seat on the other side of the car) to understanding the nuances of the language, to using the metric system of kilometers instead of miles, to understanding the currency exchange rate, it's been a couple of weeks of learning and adjusting. And of course the seasons are the opposite, so it's summer here now, and hot!

Speaking of the weather, Melbourne weather is about as unpredictable as it gets. The high can reach 95 degrees one day and only get to 60 the next! That's a huge range and the local weather forecast doesn't really seem to help much. And we always keep an umbrella in the car because even on nice sunny days, thunderstorms seem to come out of nowhere. And then disappear as fast as they came. But it's not all that humid, so even the hot days aren't too bad.

Driving has really been interesting. It only took a couple of days to get used to driving on the left side of the road, but there are several other things that are different than in the states. First, there are very few stop signs, which is nothing short of brilliant! Instead, there are lots of yield signs and round-abouts. Yield signs, which actually don't say "Yield" at all, but say "Give Way" instead, make every corner much easier to navigate. They even have Give Way signs (for left turns) on the busiest highways. I love it! And round-abouts, even on fairly busy streets, keep the traffic moving a lot better than stop signs or lights. We see round-abouts on many of the main streets and even in many neighborhoods, not just for the occasional intersection, but for many of them. Once you get used to them, they work great.

Another big difference between driving in Australia and back home is speed limits, or rather, speed control. Here, they have traffic cameras EVERYWHERE! If you speed, you get your picture taken. And the penalty for just 7-10 KPH over the limit is about $200! A red light is more than $300! The bottom line is that unless you're rich, you simply don't speed here. Cars, even on major freeways and highways all go pretty-much the same speed, so there's very little passing between one car and another. (From what I hear, the death rate from traffic accidents is way lower here, so the system must be working.)

Saturday is our P-Day, or Preparation Day. (We work in the mission office M-F, but more on that in the next part — Day-to-Day Responsibilities.) On P-Day we take care of personal needs like grocery shopping, cleaning our flat, laundry and writing letters home. We are also able to do some fun things like play tennis or travel around and see the sights. For example, yesterday we went to the Healesville Sanctuary, which is sort of like a zoo, but in a more natural habitat, and saw the native animals, birds, reptiles and plants. It was a lot of fun. (And for those of you that are wondering, no, I have not yet played tennis, just haven't had time, but I do plan on doing that soon.)

We live in small two-bedroom twin home in Bayswater, which is about 40 minutes east of Melbourne. (The assistants to the mission president live in the flat next door, which is a nice bonus. We love those missionaries!) Our flat isn't anything special, but it's comfortable and works just fine for our needs. The only drawback is that the air conditioner is not central air like we have back home, it's a wall-mounted unit that is located in our family room on the opposite end of the flat from our bedroom. That's made for some warm nights. Our home is located in a typical residential neighborhood. Just about every neighborhood has a "Milk Bar" right down the street, which is basically a little neighborhood grocery store, with the emphasis on "little." We don't do our regular grocery shopping there, but it's nice when you need a liter of milk or a loaf of bread.

So, there you go, a little bit about life Down Under. Scroll up to read Part 2 – Day-to-Day Responsibilities.

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