joel and andrea’s excellent adventure

just in time for christmas, my cousin joel and andrea returned from australia. the purpose of their sojourn was so that andrea could attend teacher’s college. so, from february through december 2011, andrea and joel got to experience life as residents of australia’s sunshine coast.


it was so good to reconnect with andrea and joel at christmas-time!

christmas 2011 file photo: andrea and then joel are on the LEFT! (followed by my cousins alex, kate and fiance pete!

there is just never enough time to totally catch up – so, i asked andrea and joel if they would answer a series of six questions about their time in australia. in honour of the format of this year’s kikiproject, questions 1 through 6 involve 1 through 6 answers! enjoy!


1. what is ONE “life a-ha” realization that you had while in australia?

andrea: As a ‘go-go-go’ type of person, it was good for me to be immersed in a culture that embraced a slower-paced way of life.

joel: The idea that everything in life is open and you have the ability to control your path at all times. I found living abroad especially conducive to big thoughts like this. With everything around me being new, I found myself as optimistic and creative as ever. Exposing yourself to a host of new experiences though travel and living abroad is something that I would recommend to anyone!

2. please attach TWO photos and describe why you chose them and what is going on in the photo.
Photo #1: The first photo is with me and my surfboard on Alexandra Headland Beach, which was right in front of our apartment. The board was an Aussie version of a “Canadian Tire Special”. For months I thought it was in okay condition, and it was just my surfing skills that had plateaued. My thoughts changed when I tried another board that actually floated properly!
Photo #2: The second photo is of a kangaroo at the Australia Zoo. The University of the Sunshine Coast (where I worked for part of the year) was a protected area for kangaroos. On the paths between school buildings, whole families would just be hanging out under the trees. andrea:
Photo #1: In July (the middle of Australia’s winter), Joel and I rented a hippie van and took a road trip down the East Coast to Melbourne. The Sunshine Coast’s temperature doesn’t change drastically between seasons, and being the ignorant Canadians we are were, we didn’t realize how much colder it would be further south. As a result, while most people were wearing wool and down jackets, I was stuck making do with the warmest clothes I’d packed – an assortment of light cardigans and sundresses. Not ideal!

In an effort to save some money, Joel and I spent a number of nights parked in random parking lots and side streets rather than paying for campsites. This photo was taken in Canberra, the capital city of Australia at our favourite found ‘campsite’. It was also one of the coldest nights – I think it must have been hovering around 0*C that night!

Photo #2: The last big trip Joel and I took was by train to a relatively large Outback town called Longreach. This photo was taken by Joel from the train as we were rolling through one of the many Outback towns we passed through. I think it sums up the culture of the Outback nicely.


3. what are THREE australian terms/phrases that you learned? (and please translate for us!)

1.    ‘Sos’ (pronounced ‘saws’). Meaning: Sorry.
2.    ‘Have a squizz’. Meaning: Have a look.
3.    ‘Too easy’ The first time I heard this phrase was from a 7/11 cashier in response to my ‘thanks’ at the end of my transaction. Huh? “Too easy?” I later learned that it’s akin to saying “no worries” or “no problem”.
1. Fair Dinkum. Translation: truth or acknowledging that someone is speaking the truth.
2. Flat out like a lizard drinking. Translation: I’m busy.
3. Rock up. Translation: to turn up somewhere, to arrive
4. what are FOUR unique-to-australia foods or drinks that you tasted/tried, and what did you think of them?
1. Tim Tams. The classic Australian cookie. I fell in love with them… they were perfect for after dinner or sometimes for “afternoon tea” (snack at 3:00-4:00pm).
2. Cooper’s Pale Ale. This beer dominated a lot of my mental space while I was down there. It is bottle-fermented, so it had a nice flavourful fruity taste and full, cludy texture. Perfect to bring to the beach for sunset (a legal and socially acceptable manoeuvre there).
3. Goon. Wine in a box. Four litres was available for the low, low price of $10.
4. Meat Pies. A classic Aussie staple. It’s a small, round pastry packed with ground beef and potato. It’s a must-have item for any sporting event. Instead of hot dogs, people flock to the booths for meat pies.
1. ‘Aussie’ pizza. A favourite of Aussies, this pizza features an egg cooked either on top of pizza toppings or underneath. Surprisingly, it’s hard to even tell that the egg’s there; it just adds a bit of moisture to the dry crust.
2. Vegemite. Vegemite is made from yeast extract, a by-product of beer manufacturing. Sound yummy? In my experience, this is best-enjoyed spread thinly on toast, on top of butter, not thickly directly onto toast. I learned that one the hard way.
3. Kangaroo. Once I got past the idea of eating the cute and cuddly creatures that populate my campus, I enjoyed kangaroo meat! Its texture is similar to beef, but it’s darker in colour and is more flavourful.
4. Capsicum (red bell pepper). Well, not technically a new food, but new name!
5. what are FIVE things that you missed from home while you were away?
1. Fast, cheap, reliable Internet! Internet in Australia is very expensive: about $150 for 10GB.
2. Cars driving on the other side of the road. Being a pedestrian is dangerous business when you’re used to looking one way for oncoming traffic!
3. The Fall! Seeing friends’ and family’s pictures of beautiful fall landscapes during Thanksgiving (another holiday Australians don’t recognize) made me realize how fortunate we Canadians are to have four distinct seasons.
4. Friends and family, of course.
5. Did I mention that we missed fast, reliable Internet?
1. Family and Friends. Especially during the holidays.
2. Low-priced, high speed internet. We were paying WAY too much for a mobile broadband internet plan. The worst part was that it was very unreliable and was dependent on online traffic and weather. Whenever I was Skyping with somebody and a cloud passed over the apartment, the call was dropped.
3. The build-up to Christmas. It just isn’t the same when it is 30 degrees and Santa’s in board shorts.
4. Tim Horton’s coffee. It’s a taste that grows on you…
5. Morty‘s wings. Maybe the best in the world?
6. let’s pretend that i have two weeks to spend in australia. what are SIX places that i have to visit/spend time at/go see?
First of all, you gotta rent a van or RV! The country is huge but is designed for road trips… Plus everybody, especially Aussies, do it for travel. Along the way, see:
1. Melbourne: The most classic and traditional of the Australian cities. It’s a city known to take advantage of it’s leisure time as everyone takes time out of their day to visit a cafe or bar. It’s a huge sport city too: probably home to some of the most passionate fans in the world.
2. Canberra: An unexpected choice – the capital of Australia is famous for being boring with a horrible city atmosphere. It was a city pre-planned by a urban designer in the early 1900’s so there is a lack of intimate feel. Everything is spacious and laid out. That being said, with low-expectations, it surprised as one of our favourite destinations.
3. The Gold Coast: Perfect Aussie beach on steroids. Popular sub-tropical holiday destination for Aussies. The huge, sandy beaches and the beach-front skyscrapers of Surfer’s Paradise are a sight to see.
4. Sydney: The Opera House is as awesome as you’d think it would be. You get amazing views just flying in and out of the city…
5. Whitehaven Beach: The most pure white sand and immaculate aqua waters I have ever seen. Located on the Whitsunday Islands, you have to take a boat cruise to go see it.
6. The Outback. Anything in the Outback. The space. The fields full of kangaroos and emus. The red soil. It’s everything you’d imagine. Just remember an extra jerry can of gas… it’s an empty, desolate place.
1. Melbourne: Melbourne (pronounced ‘Melbin’) was, by far, my favourite city in Australia. Melbourne is heavily influenced by its European origins. In contrast to the beach culture of the Sunshine Coast (where we lived), Melbourne’s café- and shop-lined streets create the feeling of being in Paris.
2. Cairns: Cairns (pronounced ‘Cans’) was the most northerly city we travelled to. Being the most northerly, it was the most tropical and home to many crocs and other dangerous creatures! We did not see any wild crocs, although, shortly after we returned to the Sunshine Coast, we saw on the news that a croc had been caught wandering the city streets. Apparently, not a very uncommon occurrence!
3. The Outback: Completely the opposite of everything that Cairns is, the Outback is dry, barren, desert and is largely inhabited. Fun to visit for a short time.
4. The Australian Zoo a.k.a. home of the Crocodile Hunter: If there’s one thing Aussies know how to do right, it’s how to treat their tourists. Joel and I had a wonderful day at The Australian Zoo: it was thoughtfully laid out, had plenty of washrooms and offered many informative shows. Despite living only 45 minutes away, we didn’t visit until shortly before we came home (the $50/each price of admission may have something to do with that!).

joel at the australian zoo

5. The Great Barrier Reef: The GBR stretches from Cairns to the Whitsunday Islands. We were fortunate enough to snorkel both in Cairns and the Whitsundays and although we didn’t spot any sharks or turtles, the underwater world was beautiful and fascinating. Definitely a highlight for us.
6. The Sunshine Coast: We are thrilled with our choice to live in the Sunshine Coast region. Located an hour north of Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast provides visitors with the typical Aussie experience: laid-back lifestyle (shoppers wearing togs (swimming suits) with no shoes in grocery stores is a common sighting), and year-round beautiful weather.
thanks so much, andrea and joel, for your intro to australian culture! what an amazing life chapter for you both. i think we need to go for coffee so i can pummel each of you with more questions and beg for more stories!
have you ever traveled to australia? me = no. and to be honest, i do not know if or when i will ever get there in this lifetime. we shall see!
interestingly enough, right now my friends duncan and jillian are back in australia (duncan’s home land) while jillian attends teacher’s college!
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  • Dorry  On January 27, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    such a fun read! I would love to visit Australia – it’s actually on our list of places we’d like to go before we have kids. 🙂 when we lived in Belize, we definitely learned quickly that there were things we desperately missed from home – including fast internet!

    • 1970kikiproject  On January 27, 2012 at 5:39 pm

      yes! along with my cousin joel and his sister, kate, you pop into my mind when i think of “adventurous traveler,” dorry! i hope you do get to australia – i can only imagine the gorgeous photos you would take! 🙂

  • Zo  On January 27, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    Thanks for doing this post, Cathy (and
    Joel and Andrea). Fun and educational.
    I’ve never been to Australia. I love the name University of the Sunshine Coast!
    Wow. I had no idea the Internet could be so expensive in other places.

    • 1970kikiproject  On January 27, 2012 at 2:46 pm

      that was news to me, too, about the internet cost – i would not have guessed that! i will not complain again when i get the whirly circle for, like, 10 seconds when i am waiting for google to come up! and, zo – did you see that the stephanie plum movie is opening today? “one for the money.” it only got a one star rating in the globe and mail…i think i’d still like to check it out, though! (not sure about katherine heigl??).

      • Zo  On January 27, 2012 at 4:14 pm

        Oh. I’ve seen previews, but didn’t know it was out today! I wasn’t optimistic about kh as Stephanie. I was hoping I’d be surprised though!

  • Gina Unger  On January 27, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    Yesterday was “Australia Day” like we have Canada Day on July 1st so this post was very timely – did you know?!! 🙂
    I LOVED reading this post as Australia has been on my “must see” places in the world since I was a kid. I’m just waiting for Jeff to do a teaching exchange there so I can tag along… someday soon I hope!

    • 1970kikiproject  On January 27, 2012 at 2:17 pm

      no way!! i had no idea it was “australia day” yesterday – how perfect! oh, can you imagine if you could do an exchange to australia?! that would be SO amazing for your family…and then that really WOULD give me reason/opportunity to visit down under!!! 🙂

  • Lisa  On January 27, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    I’ve never been to australia but it sounds amazing.
    I like the “fair dinkum” and “Sos” terminology. I may have to Americanize those…

    • 1970kikiproject  On January 27, 2012 at 12:32 pm

      haha – i hear you! i was trying to think how i can throw some of the expressions into every day conversation, too! and still have people understand!!

  • karen at virtually there  On January 27, 2012 at 10:30 am

    Makes me want to start travelling to remote places again. I really miss it when I read about other people’s adventures. Someday I’ll do it again….

    • 1970kikiproject  On January 27, 2012 at 10:35 am

      i agree, karen! and with the weather we both have today in our respective cities, something WARM would be most welcome, eh?! i just heard about a family (parents + two children) that will be spending a year traveling around the world, starting in july. can you imagine?! talk about creating family memories!!

  • Johanna B  On January 27, 2012 at 9:56 am

    I’ve never been to that part of the world and don’t know much about the culture except what I read in “Thorn Birds” which I loved. Thanks for the recap. Even though I haven’t been there I always have an interest in other places and cultures. I think the world would be a better place if more people got to experience real life in other countries.

    • 1970kikiproject  On January 27, 2012 at 9:59 am

      i agree with your philosophy, johanna – there is nothing to make you appreciate home, and to open your mind to new ideas like there is when you travel. i’m so glad joel and andrea could have this experience at a “young” age. i read the thorn birds, too, as a teen. it was a great novel. i have not see the tv movie, though!

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