We just crossed a milestone, the anniversary of our arrival in Australia. My daughter and I landed here a year ago yesterday, the morning of January 5th. My wife took the long way around and arrived a week later.

It was hot. We took ourselves to University College and began our early efforts to figure the place out. Our poor cat had been sent on ahead, so the our first train trip was to Spotswood Quarantine Center. She was not overjoyed with our visit. Her body language was obvious. “Get me out of here.” She turned her back on us and wouldn’t even meow.

By January 31 we were ensconced in our new digs in Essendon. We had the goods from our shipment to fill the house and a car to decorate the garage. We had met some of the neighbors. We had appliances. We blew a few things up experimenting with the voltage difference. How quickly you forget things like that.

I learned how to drive to the supermarket and where to find cat food. My wife resumed her teaching career and my daughter found work at a coffee shop downtown, in the CBD (central business district).

We got everything insured, of course, including ourselves. It would be several months before we qualified for Medicare coverage, (not to be confused with U.S. Medicare). Medicare provides universal coverage for most everything but dentistry and glasses.

The Howard government managed to convince Australians that universal coverage wasn’t adequate, of course, and what they really needed was the American model of health insurance. It works so well for Americans. Now, the Australian government subsidizes premiums for private health insurance. Figure that out.

I learned how to negotiate roundabouts and parallel parking from the wrong side of the car. I found out the windscreen (not windshield) wipers are located on the left (not right) side of the steering column and the turn signals are where the wipers should be. I found a local recumbent cycling group who adopted me since I was no more peculiar than anyone else in the group.

In short order, we discovered the nearest tram stop to the 59 tram, which goes right by the Royal Victorian Hospital, close to the Law School and directly down to Flinders Street Station. We found our local bottle shop (read liquor store), a gym, the library and the equivalent of Netflix.

We took in some of the endless cultural events on offer through festivals that rotate with breathless intensity. We saw some good plays and ate out in a few fine restaurants. I learned the local names of fish and new names for familiar veggies.

I started writing this blog shortly after arriving on these shores. It began as an attempt to keep our friends and acquaintances in North America up to date on our adventure here. A simple way of eliminating multiple emails of the same information.

It seems to have evolved into a vehicle that asks me to explore my own curiosity about this vast country and its curious customs. I wanted to capture the newness before the strange became familiar. I needn’t have worried.  This is a strange and extraordinary place.

Welcome to my point-of-view. Odd and opinionated, of course, slightly skewed to the left. Comments are welcome. Good books and fine bottles of wine very welcome, indeed.

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