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  1. Hey guys I have not posted any detailed updates since touching down in Oz as there were so many things going on that the stress was overwhelming. The first few months here was far from fun and I didn't want to admit that I was feeling like I had made a huge mistake. Suffice to say that living in Oz initially felt very different to the months I spent here some twenty years ago and the many holidays we have had here since. So here goes: We touched down in Brisbane November last year and after struggling for 4 years to get a visa I assumed that the worst of the worry and stress was done. The truth was it was just beginning. As soon as we arrived the race was on to get everything sorted out before we ran out of cash or had the visa revoked. i had just about enough cash to keep us for about 4 months before we would have to get back on the plane. The visa we finally got was a provisional 489, formerly known as 475 which came with living and working restrictions. So I had two priorities: 1. Find somewhere to live that was in a regional postcode within 90 days. That sounds like not such a big ask and I guess that was the easy part. 2. Find a job in a regional postcode that was within driving distance of the regional address. Not so easy. We hung out in Brissy for a week or so and then started to hunt in earnest for somewhere to live. The sooner I moved out of Brisbane, the sooner we could start meeting the two year regional living requirement for permanent residency. I wanted to be within two hours drive of Brisbane as the main reason for coming to Oz was to be close to my sister. I was never that keen on the hot weather but I did like the beaches. So we bought a map in the Post office and drew a circle two hour drive around Brissy. For the next 10 days or so we visited pretty much every hinterland town and everywhere up the Sunshine Coast. We saw some lovely spots but with very few schools anywhere near and what looked like zero employment prospects in other places the list became narrower. Eventually we settled on Caloundra as it seemed slightly cheaper to rent than the rest of the coast and it was beautiful. I went through the lengthy process of registering my teaching credentials with the department of Education and employment so that I work as a casual relief teacher. I was then waiting to be interviewed by them so they could make a decision on what salary I would be paid if I was placed in a state school. They sent me details of the available jobs in my specialism and there were 3 in the whole state. The closest job was west of Dalby in a remote region - about 4 hours drive and the other two were in the far north. None of these were suitable so I realised very quickly that getting work as a teacher was probably not going to happen. I started to apply for lots of different jobs. I knew it was the wrong time of year. Schools were closed for the long break and most jobs are advertised in September. So I googled a list of every independent school from Caboolture to Bundaberg, realising I may have to move further away. I finally came across one job two hours north of Brissy. It was just over an hour's drive from Caloundra so I thought it might be doable. I applied through the agency and within two days I had an interview. When I got out of the car at the school it was 42 degrees C and there were kangaroos on the lawn and flies everywhere- one of the joys of heading inland. I went in to the interview and the air con wasn't on. Jeez. Despite the heat, I thought it had gone ok as they gave me a tour afterwards but I couldn't be sure. The grounds and buildings were lovely and apart from the stifling heat it looked like an idyllic setting with a bushland backdrop. We returned to Brissy and they said they would be in touch. I then heard nothing. I forgot to mention that my sister and her family left for UK for 8 weeks in November so we were alone while all of this was going on. We were looking after their house in Brissy and at the same time trying to get ourselves settled up further up the coast. In December we moved to Caloundra. Our furniture and shipping was not due to arrive for another 8 weeks so I scoured gumtree and ebay. I managed to furnish the place for 350 dollars and then bought some bedding and kitchen things from kmart. As soon as the rent payments started that is when the money started to rapidly deplete. It was coming up to Crimbo and no jobs around. Nobody wanted to hire a teacher that was likely to disappear come term time. I had plenty of real estate experience so I was able to get a job in Caloundra as a sales specialist but this didn't start until after New Year. The teaching agency was closed for crimbo so there was no way of getting any feedback from the interview. Crimbo was a tad miserable. We were for the most part on our own apart from Christmas day which we spent with my brother in law's family. New year passed and I started the job in Caloundra. It didn't take me long to establish that the boss was a complete tool and most likely the reason he was looking for staff on the mouth of crimbo was that the last person had marched out the door. Anyhow I figured I would stay until something better turned up. After 4 days I got a call from the teaching agency saying another school had seen my cv and wanted to interview me. I said 'okay but before I go, what went wrong on the last interview'? 'Err, I will find out' he said. The next thing he called back and said they want a second interview just to ask some additional questions. The next morning I went back to the real estate job. I worked the whole day. The tool was gone most of the day on appointments. He marched in the door at 6pm and said: 'Alright Champ?' I said 'yeah great thanks, and seeya round because I don't work here any more'. He was flabbergasted because I think from his perspective we were getting on great..... not. So I was again unemployed but feeling more positive about being able to get some teaching work. The next day I had a phone interview to answer additional questions. I got the job and started work the very next day. I felt pretty lucky to have got the one one and only job I applied for, especially since there was nothing around. It didn't take too long to realise the commute was brutal with the long working hours and after falling asleep on the road and almost crashing head on one morning I knew something had to give. We broke lease in Caloundra and moved north. Then we had a car disaster. The car we had borrowed from my brother in law gave up and died and they bought a new one. They offered to lend it to me but I said I would buy one. I was just considering a car loan when my sister suggested she buy my half of the house in Ireland. It was less than I wanted to sell for but with that I was able to go ahead and buy a brand new I30 which was ideal. I banked the rest. After almost a year teaching in Queensland I can safely say that I have never worked so hard as a teacher. The senior assessment procedure is so convoluted and complex that it is massively labour intensive. When they convert to national assessments like NSW it will be easier for teachers but in the meantime, half the holidays are lost in the assessments. In the first two terms I was having a crappy time with one particular student who was like a dog with a bone. I bided my time and quietly logged every issue. Eventually they made one mistake too many. The school supported me and expelled him for which I was very thankful. It became much easier after that as most of the students are lovely uncomplicated country kids who are so kind hearted. After three moves in a year we are finally in the one place. One of the advantages of moving inland is that we were able to afford a nice big house for less money than our Caloundra place. However, we are not so keen on the town we live in. It's a boring place and everywhere we go we bump into people from work or students and I feel like I haven't left. Just today I met 6 people in Coles in one 10 minute slot. So if our landlord wants us to move when the lease is up in march we will most likely leave town and commute again. Not so far this time but maybe half way to the coast so that it is easier to get to the beach. One good thing about being rural is the chance to be in the fire brigade. That has been a lot of fun so far and it really feels like the true Oz experience. I have done fire-fighting in my younger days so most of the equipment looked familiar but I knew naff all about wildfire. I still have a lot to learn. It has helped me become familiar with most of the crawlies in Oz as when you set fire to stuff they all run out in your direction. When you get home and take the gear off you always have a few up the legs lol. yeuch. So far we have been so busy that there has not been much time for fun stuff. There have been a few ups and downs. Some health issues incurred some chunky medical bills and finances have only just started to move in the right direction. The year has been fairly tough. I have spent most of it being exhausted and stressed out trying to get used to so many new things / situations. We are now finally finding time to relax and enjoy and remind ourselves of all the things we like about the place. Does it feel like home? Not yet. Will we stay forever? I don't know to be honest. Before we came I would have said yes. Next year though my son will turn 18 and he can decide whether to return to UK. I am not sure how I would feel if he was so far away. Time will tell. The plan was always to live in Brissy near my sister but to be honest we love the Sunshine Coast so I am hoping we can end up there for a while at least. The whole place has such a great chilled atmosphere. I love the fact that the beach is packed at 6 in the morning. My contract is full time permanent which I gather is hard to get in Queensland. Right now the plan is to see what the next year will bring and hope that bush fire season is not too busy. Oh and I still really want to get a Birman cat but no pets allowed here. Next place hopefully. Gosh I have gone on a bit. Sorry all. Millie x
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