San Fransisco to Hawaii

On Monday the 25th of November, we left San Fransisco at the crack of dawn to fly on a Charter carrier called 'American Trans Air' to Honolulu. I took a lot of heat from Julie for booking on this charter because its price ($169 US) was far below all the major airlines ($319 with United was the next cheapest). If I was to get under the alloted military budget, it was critical to go this way. But, even though every seat on the L-1011 was sold, the service was great, there was as much legroom as on a regular carrier, and we arrived ahead of schedule!

We were very luck to visit Navy friends here in Pearl Harbor, and they lived near the Pearl Harbor entrance. We are having a great visit as they have girls 4 & 6. We went to the beach each afternoon, and the Pacific Ocean was like a bath to swim in. We had our 3rd Thanksgiving for 1996. We had the Canadian one on Firefly Terrace, then Julie's parents prepared a feast last Thursday for an early celebration, and now we had another US one. I have enjoyed 'the bird' a few times this year!

Hawaii to Canberra

The next leg was an 0100 departure on Saturday morning for the 10-hour flight to Sydney, followed by a Dash-8 40-minute hop to Canberra. After crossing the equator and the dateline on this leg, we missed Saturday completely, and dropped into Spring-Summer!

While the flight to Sydney from Honolulu was only 10 hours, we were 21 hours ahead when we landed. We crossed the dateline with little fanefare as everyone was sleeping. Quantas is the way to go! We got socks, toothbrush, toothpaste, eye covers, orange juice upon entering the plane, water, kids meals, kids toys in a little canvas knapsack, and TWO movies. Unlike the 'American Trans Air' movie (Superman from 1970ies to which we had to pay $3 each to view), Quantas showed Phenomenon and Mulitplicity. We were met at the airport by the 4 Thorntons (we're taking their place), Tony (Aussie in charge of International students at the RAAFSC), and Gary ( military liasion person). They drove us to our serviced apartment where they had started us off with groceries and flowers. A lovely welcome. The kids asked to go to bed around 5PM.

From Sunday until Friday, we've been looking for a place to live. We gave up the idea of living in the city after we viewed 5 houses in a row with green, orange, pink, etc. bathrooms and kitchens. Many of the rental inner-city houses haven't been renovated since they were built 40 years ago. We came to the realization that we belong in the 'burbs. So on Friday, by absolute luck because it had not yet been advertised, we found a 'burb house in a nice neighborhood, with a great local school. It is very similar to the one we had in Ottawa - 4 br (2100 sq ft), eat in kitchen, formal living room & dining room, family room, and a double garage with auto doors.

John bought a 'commute mobile' - an '82 Ford Laser with 93,000 km, 4 dr hatchback with a reconditioned engine. We also get a 95 Station Wagon when the Thornton's leave on 31 Dec.

We haven't had much time to sight see, but we have seen two kangaroos. One was road kill and the other was in front of a store........ but he was plastic - you had to put in Aussie coins to make him go! We have seen some gorgous birds; wild parrots, cockatils?, and others I can't name yet.

We finally saw a live kangaroo!!!! Olivia kept asking if we could drive past the place we found the dead one, so I knew the poor deprived child needed to go to the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve to see live animals. Once at the reserve, we saw families of resting kangaroos. They were very tame. My guess is, as the year progresses, the McManus clan will get closer to the wildlife. We saw emus and koalas as well.

After the pressure was off to see live marsupials, we could get down to the business of renting furniture and looking for equivilents of products we're used to in the home country. I've been told that chicken broth comes in cartons. I wasn't too surprised because that's the way sour cream comes. Candied ginger is cheap, so if any of you want some, let me know. I have 10-pound bag of flour in the shipment that I don't think I'll need because there are still about 75 different kinds of store-bought cookies to try. Champagne is cheaper than wine ($5 a bottle) . The other neat thing is that tax is included in the price of everything. So, kids can go to the store and buy an overpriced ice cream bar without the worry of tax. We were at a restaurant for the first time this week. John wasn't sure of the custom, so before he paid the bill, he asked some locals what the tipping rule was. They told him tipping was an insult because it implied that the restaurant owner didn't pay his staff well enough. Such a deal! John will like it here.

As our time here passes, we are getting to know more of the people and their customs. John spent the good part of a day getting the blue bomb (his 82 Ford Laser [Mazda 323 built in Australia]) inspected in 'the pits'. The Aussies sure do a thorough exam of what Nova Scotians would regard as scrap metal. The blue bomb passed despite the previous owner not registering the recently installed re-conditioned engine. Then, a few days later, I got a phone call from the Telstra man. He's the phone man. He was phoning from outside our new home on a phone line presumably last serviced by Thomas Edison himself. The echo, combined with his strong accent, made it impossible to understand him. But he wouldn't give up. I gathered that he couldn't hear the phone ring because their was no phone inside the empty house. He kept calling me 'honey' and 'darling' and then confessed he'd probably be able explain himself better but he still wasn't "to rights" after the company Christmas party the night before.

We moved into our new place on December 16th that we will call home for the next year. The removers(movers) showed up a few hours later with the furniture we had rented. After being on the road for a month and a half we almost had a home. With our shipment not due until January, we decided to take off for the coast. We had heard tell of a place called Pebbly Beach where Kangaroos and parrots were as friendly as they get. The road to the coast was pleasant (the road-kill kangaroos weren't) until we got to the Great Dividing Range. The GDR divides the wimpy cars from the real cars. We who have semi-wimpy cars have to drive fast down hill to pick up enough speed to make it up the next hill. That is until we came to the really steep hills with the emergency runaway ramps for buses and trucks. The hairpin turns required a slower speed. When we heard Olivia say 'Hey, this looks just like the road to Yosemite', we opened the windows and put beach towels on their laps just in case the kids decided to get sick (like they did in Yosemite). We got to the coast in the afternoon in time to look for a place to stay. We drove around and looked at several hotels. It is a custom (at least on the coast) to bring your own sheets and towels. They can be rented, but at a greater cost. We found a great place with pool, hot tub, barbeque, play area, tennis court, and laundry only 5 minutes out of Bateman's Bay. With that out of the way we headed for a place to eat. John was really in the mood for seafood but Olivia got a whiff of the seafood restaurants she convinced us to eat at a deli. The next morning we found the road to Pebbly Beach. It was a dry, unsealed (unpaved) road where the rivers of water had flowed down the mountain making the road feel like driving over a washboard. The road got steep, the car started to shake, and we hoped it would be worth it once we got down to the beach. The parking lot had a few cars and at least two dozen kangaroos. They were so friendly, they broke open the bag of bread we had to feed them. A man gave us handfuls of bird seed to feed the wild parrots who soon began to eat out of our hands. Then we headed out for the magnificent kangarooless beach. Once the kids got used to the ocean, they ventured further and further out.That night we went out for Mexican food and watched the local outdoor Christmas concert. How's that for cultural diversity?

After a few days at the beach it was time to go home, make new plans and wait for Santa. On the 23rd, John met a new little friend when taking the kids to the park. His new friend asked us over for Christmas Eve. There we met many of the neighbors a few blocks down. One of them had 5 year old twin girls and a pool. We haven't met many of the neighbors right around us yet, but it is summer holidays. We're busy enough trying to keep the clover that passes for lawn green.

Santa brought many great, noisy, breakable items for us all. One of the items in the kids stockings was the Canberra Passport. In it contains many of local points of interest. As we visit each place, the information booth stamps the passport. It's a great way to check the sights off. We went to Australia's mini version of the CN tower called the Telstra tower. It's built on about a 300 metre hill so the views are stunning. Near the tower lies the Botanical Garden with every variety of Australian plant possible. It was hot, so the rainforest portion of the garden was, as Parick said 'refreshing'. After all, how many types of eucalyptus can we go 'ooowww, aaahhh' over?

We are so out of touch with the calendar that when someone called to cancel a dinner invitation because he had forgotten it was his anniversary, I hung up, looked at the calendar and realized it was December 29th; our anniversary. But being that we did cross the dateline, we can celebrate tomorrow. As the locals say 'no worries'.

Happy New Year '98 to everyone.