We made it to Canberra and to our temporary apartment on the ANU campus!
We left from MSP airport early Tuesday afternoon. Here is Pretty Boy’s gear bag riding down the luggage belt. We weren’t sure if we were going to have the space to pack his riding gear and then I was worried we might have problems checking his gear and tools, but its was not problem!
And guess who we saw waiting for our flight to LAX:
My father, Dr. Sam! He is featured in a full page ad for SDY shampoo in the April issue of Men’s Fitness magazine. I was pretty excited about that.
The flight from MSP to LAX was unremarkable aside from flying over three solar concentrating fields somewhere in Utah which is closely related to my research. Oh, and the rocky mountains! Those are pretty amazing.
Each solar concentrating field is a bunch of mirrors that track the sun and reflect it all onto one point at the top of a tower. The temperatures at the top of the tower get extremely high, and myself and other researches in my field are working on technologies that utilize those high temperatures.
Our flight from LAX to Sydney was nice. It departed at around 9 pm West Coast time or 11 pm Minnesota time so it was dark and we were ready to sleep. About half of the seats were empty so we had our row to ourselves and took turns laying down to sleep. I slept on and off for almost the whole first 11 hours of the 15 hours flight.
The turbulence on the flight was really bad. I don’t know if it is often that way on flights crossing the equator over the Pacific Ocean, but I’ve never been on a flight with so much turbulence! The turbulence startled Pretty Boy while he was sleeping a few times. Lucky for me, I did not get motion sick until we landed in a storm in Sydney, but even then, it never got too bad.
It was rainy, dark, and humid when we landed in Sydney. Because it was an overnight flight plus we crossed the international date line, we landed at 6 am on Thursday morning, two days later than our departure date. Pretty Boy and I had discussed departure and arrival dates already so we knew we would be loosing that much time, but a flight attendant on our flight kept announcing the wrong thing. She said a few times we departed on the 25th and arrived on the 26th and then she said we departed on the 26th and arrived on the 27th, but we knew we departed on the 25th and arrived on the 27th!
We had been told many times that Australian customs are very strict about what they let into the country and I was again worried about Pretty Boy’s riding gear, my rolling pin, and some other small items that we had to declare, but we got through without even questions. Just a quick K9 sniff of our bag and we were through. We only had 3 hours between flights to clear customs and immigration, recheck in for our next flight, switch from the international terminal to the domestic one, reclear security, and get some breakfast. It turned out to be just the right amount of time. Pretty Boy was so excited because the food court in the domestic terminal had a stall that sold some Chinese dim sum as well as a coffee shop that sold Portuguese egg tarts!
The plane we took from Sydney to Canberra was a small propeller plane which we had to walk out to and climb stairs to get in. Me and Pretty Boy were the only ones on the plane not in business suits. The flight time was 40 minutes and went super quick.
The Canberra airport is really nice and overbuilt in preparation for growth of the city so it was easy getting our luggage and everything. My advisor met us at the airport, and we were able to (somehow) shove all our bags in to his compact Toyota Prius. He brought us to the Australian National University‘s campus and the temporary accommodation we will be staying at for the next month.
There was some confusion about what time we would be arriving and how long we would be staying and the lady who runs the University accommodations was super condescending to us, but in the end, everything worked out and we will be able to stay here for a month until we find a permanent place.
It’s been rainy our first few days in Canberra. We finished checking in and hauling our bags into our apartment around 11 am. We showered and rested a bit in our new place before we headed out to explore campus and find some food. The apartment is fully furnished so we will be able to cook here but we still have to find where to buy food and general house stuff.
We walked around the center of the city the first day, in a light drizzly. There is a pedestrian mall called City Walk right in the center of the city, which reminds me a lot of the Ped Mall in downtown Iowa City. There is also an enclosed mall called the City Centre, which reminds us a lot of malls in Hong Kong. We stopped for some cheap eats at the Burmese Curry House on the City Walk and did some grocery shopping at the Supabarn grocery store in the City Centre before heading back home and going to bed early.
The second day we both woke up pretty early, but slept through the night at least. Hopefully jet lag won’t be too bad. We stayed in the apartment that morning, cooking breakfast and unpacking some before heading out to find the engineering building, get my new student id card, visit an Asian grocery store, stop by our new bank and order check cards, find the bus stop, eat pineapple buns, and do some more shopping at… TARGET!
The Target here is a complete knock-off of Target back home. Australian Target is not related to American Target, and the Australian version has copied just about as much as they can, down to the marketing inside the store even. It seems to be common actually. In the City Centre, there was also a Bed, Bath and Beyond copy (called Bed, Bath and Table) and a Crate & Barrel copy (called Wheel & Barrow). They have some international chains that are actually the same as in the US like McDonalds, The Body Shop, and Aldi.
Walking around campus, we ran into the post-doc who also moved to the ANU with my advisor. It was awesome to happen upon a familiar face! Walking around, we’ve gotten to see a lot of the cool plants and birds that are here. Cockatoos and parrots fly by our window, and there are birds somewhere nearby that sound like a wailing baby.
And some of the crazy cars! Holden is the most popular car brand here which my advisor told us is the Australian GM brand. Pickup trucks are more common than I thought they would be, but many of them have an open flat bed instead of a regular truck bed and many have a car cab instead of a truck cab. Car cab and truck bed, wait, wasn’t that called an El Camino? Yep, El Camino style pickups are everywhere here. We find it a little ridiculous.
Today we headed out early to look at some apartments. The apartments ended up being much further away and further apart than we thought so we did a lot of walking! The first two were pretty crappy, but the second two were nice and we are going to apply for them, but we’re still going to keep looking. It was sunny this morning for the first time since we arrived here, and it was really nice and felt like summer, but the rain came back this afternoon. And its really humid. Really, really humid. But not hot, so we just end up feeling sticky all the time and things take forever to dry. It will be quite an adjustment for us.
Walking around here is sort of challenging because none of the roads run straight, many of them change names every few blocks, nothing is oriented with the cardinal direction, and streets signs are not easy to find. But after three days of a lot of walking, we are starting to figure it out. After the first few days, I’m still mostly in shock that we are here and missing the familiarity of home.
We are being pretty tight with our money right now because we’re not sure when I’m going to start getting paid exactly and other money stuff. So that means we’re cooking at home and not buying too much excess food stuffs, like cookies or pie (there is a popular chain here called PieFace that’s been tempting me). Once Pretty Boy gets a job and I start getting paid and we know how expensive our housing is going to be, we’ll know how much we can spend on treats and eating out and the fun stuff. I tried to be extra stinge-y and not even buy coffee but that only lasted for one day 🙂
Will update again soon!