Now seeing as this is pretty much an up-to-date blog post, let me tell you what's happening in our lives right now.
We've been in Australia for 2 years! Yip, time has absolutely flown!!! Scott will have been working for the company for 2 years on 3 March, which means that we are now eligible to apply for permanent residency (PR) on the ENS (employer nominated scheme). We've sent our fingerprints & paperwork off to the South African Police for our police clearance certificates. The Australian Federal Police forms are all ready to go, just have to post them off which I'll do next week.
Even though we are English speaking, we still need to write the IELTS test (International English Language Testing System). Unfortunately, because South Africa has 11 official languages, we have to prove that we are proficient in English to qualify for the visa. So we're booked in for Saturday 6th March at the Spring Hill test centre. Hold thumbs!
After that, it'll just be a case of going for our medicals and then actually putting in the visa application with the company. I spoke to the big boss lady last week while she was visiting our branch and she's more than happy to give our in-house lawyer the go-ahead for our application. Phew! That's a relief because we were worried they'd try to string us along for a while.
But we're also not in a huge rush to put in our application. On the working visa, Scott gets a substantial tax break through the living away from home allowance (LAFHA) - he basically doesn't pay any tax. Well, the minute we apply, we lose that allowance. It's a hefty whack which we'll be losing each week. And this whole visa process doesn't come cheap I tell you! But worth every cent to be able to stay here permanently!!! The credit cards are a bit warm... :-) So we've decided to submit our visa application once we've cooled them down somewhat. LOL! Think they need to be frozen in the bottom of a tub of water in the freezer!
We've signed another year on the lease for our house in Moggill. Yes, I know - we were hoping to be able to head back to Sydney when the lease was up. Unfortunately that's just not going to happen yet. Much to both our sadness, we've had to put that goal on the back burner until at least November. Our number 1 priority is getting our permanent residency here in Australia.
Actually, when I said before that the credit cards are warm.... they're smokin' hot! We've also bought tickets to Cape Town for 3 weeks in October to visit family and friends. From Brisbane. To move before the trip to SA would just be madness.
There's also the issue of work - Scott has done his usual & made himself extremely useful here at the Brisbane branch. Actually so have I. This is not good for our move back to Sydney because they don't want to lose us here. Bugger! So once we've got PR, we'll have to figure out a way to get back to Sydney. One thing this move to Brisbane has taught us, is that Sydney is home. It's taken moving away to realise just how absolutely special and amazing Sydney is. It's not for everyone, but to us Mupersans, it's home.
So in the meantime, we're concentrating on paying off the credit cards and then saving some money for our trip to SA. We can't wait to see our families! I don't know how any of us would've survived without Skype, but it'll be awesome to get real hugs 'n kisses instead of XXXOOO!
Now let's get onto the fun stuff...
Last year, when the tickets for AC/DC's Black Ice tour went on sale, the Brisbane shows sold out within minutes. So, looking for any excuse to get back home, we bought tickets to see them at ANZ Stadium in Sydney! We decided to make the most of it and booked off a couple days to spend a glorious 4 whole days in Sydney.
Thursday, 18 February
We were awake at 2.30am on Thursday morning. We'd packed the night before, so just had a quick shower & took off for the airport about an hour away. Our flight took off at 5am and we were on our way! Woooohooooo!!!!!!
Remembering that daylight savings is still in effect, we landing in Sydney at 7.30am. Flying Virgin Blue gave us a great discount on a hire car from Europcar which we collected without a hitch. The weather was absolutely beautiful - normal weather! No suffocating humidity! Yes, I know Sydney gets hot and humid.... for a few days a year. I can handle that. But Brisbane's average temp for 3 months of the year is above 30 degrees with humidity levels above 70%. It's just unbearable! I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to be able to breath in without feeling like you were drinking the air.
Our first destination was the Northern Beaches. We decided to head for the beach front at Manly for breakfast.
Blue Water Cafe couldn't have been a more perfect setting for the start of our Sydney holiday
After sustenance, it was time for my haircut. Yippeeeeeee! Off to the one person I truly trust to cut my hair just the way I like it - Nicola at Bodhi Hair in Mona Vale.
What a fabulous team of hairdressers. That's Nicola in the centre with Leigh on the left of her with Jen on the far right.
Next on the list of absolute must-dos for our first day back was lunch at our all-time favourite sushi spot - Rainbow Sushi Train! Yummy! Yummy! Yummy!!!!
Salmon nigiri for Scott
Tuna sashimi for me
A little over-exposed, but here's Scott outside after lunch
Rainbow Sushi Train
Beachin'....! Mona Vale Beach. They say home is where the heart is... this is definitely home. For now, just our spiritual home. Not many captions needed on the following pics...
And the fooling around begins....
Looking straight ahead to our old apartment
Scott's happy feet
Ooo... look here....
Mandy's happy feet
Sea & sand - life just doesn't get better than this!
Oh Scott, just go and stand on that rock for me, I wanna take a pic of you.... *evil grin*
In for a penny, in for a pound!
Rinsing off after all the fun
Just spending a couple of hours running around the beach like kids totally recharged our batteries. We'd started feeling like getting back to Sydney for good was just a dream. But being back reminded us how much we love it here. How alive we feel in this beautiful little seaside village north of Sydney. After PR and our trip to SA, getting back to Sydney is all we'll focus on until we're happily back in Mona Vale.
So with rosy cheeks and sand still stuck to our feet & legs, we set off to find our friends Gus & Ian who had very generously offered us their guest room for our stay. They live in a beautiful apartment in Pyrmont with spectacular views of the Harbour Bridge. We met Gus & Ian through our very good friend on the Gold Coast, Kerry-Lea, who went to school with Gus.
We were greeted by Gus and his legendary martinis
Gus, Scott & I on the balcony with the city reflected in the glass
The guys hanging out at the barbie
Don't ask! I think that may have been after the 2nd martini....
Friday, 19 February
We awoke to this!
Sunrise over the city
After a bite and some of Gus's Nespresso, we walked down to Darling Harbour. We came across the Welcome Wall. Thousands of names of immigrants to Australia engraved in bronze. It really made us feel a part of something really huge to realise that this country has been founded on immigrants from around the world. Once we've got our PR, we're planning on having our names engraved there too.
Us in front f the Welcome Wall next to the Maritime Museum
Hrm.... definitely time for another cup of coffee
After some browsing around the shops at Darling Harbour, it was time for another must-do - iced chocolate & cake at the Lindt Cafe. That was my chocolate fix for the YEAR!
Scott in the city
Outside 3 floors of Apple Awesomeness! I was totally bullied by Scott into buying a new iPod Classic 160GB..... Bullied, I tell you! Bullied!
Down at The Rocks where Scott found himself his new favourite cap
We met up with Gus and went down to Circular Quay to have a look at the Queen Victoria
Having a sandwich & a coffee at one of Gus's fave cafes in the city
Birdcage Alley (as I've named it - have absolutely no idea what it's actually called). Heaps of bird cages hanging over this lane with the sound of bird song filling the air. Gus tells us that a street bar opens here in the evenings. Another spot to add to the long list of things to do & see in Sydney.
After a very long week, Ian was ready for this cosmo at the Festival Cafe on Darling Harbour. This was our first stop for tapas and cocktails.
Festival Cafe, Darling Harbour - Gus, Ian, Me & Scott
We headed across to Waggamamma after cocktails and tapas for a delicious Japanese feast! We were all pretty pooped so headed back for a good nights' sleep before a big Saturday.
Saturday, 20 February
The big day dawned bright & sunny - just perfect for our coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee Beach guided by Gus.
We started off at The Crabbe Hole which is a little kiosk/cafe at the famous Icebergs pool at Bondi. Oh my lordy lordy! The eye candy was just something out of this world! No wonder celebrities hang out here when they're in Sydney - it truly is full of beautiful bodies!!!
Gus's cheesy grin is due to an extreme hottie walking out of the gym behind me
That be a little eye candy for Scott to the right of me
Bondi beach in the background
Clearly some more bods entering the gym behind me again!
What a setting for breakfast!
Gus & I head off down the boardwalk
Tamarama Beach - otherwise known as Glamarama!
This is why!
I got my very own eye candy! And I get to take him home too! Yummy!!!
These pics taken especially for Scott's mom, Ali, who is pretty adept at the game of bowls. Don't you just love this setting for a bowls club Ali?
Clovelly Bay - we're dying to bring our goggles & snorkels down here.
We made it to Coogee! What a fabulous walk! Thanks Gus!!!
After our walk, Gus dropped us on Oxford Street in Paddington so we could take a browse through the markets. Wow! Now THAT'S a market!!! From there we hopped on a bus to Circular Quay so we could take a ferry around to Darling Harbour.
Loving that reflection in Scott's sunnies
Heading into Darling Harbour. That building with the white criss-cross is Macquarie Bank where Gus works.
With a quick fueling stop at Festival Cafe before the concert
The view from Festival Cafe over Darling Harbour. That's the South Steyn - the original Manly Ferry which has been turned into a restaurant.
Back at Gus & Ian's there were more of Gus' fabulous martinis!
What a great way to kick start an exciting evening....
It's hard to describe the feeling of being involved in something so huge - 70,000 excited AC/DC fans.... Here are a few panoramic shots of the stadium as it filled up.
A sea of red flashing devil horns - spectacular!
Rock 'n Roll Train
The set was awesome with the steam coming out of the train throughout the show
Angus Young doing what he does best!
Whole lotta Rosie
I think this was the end of Angus' 10 minute guitar solo - absolutely friggin' awesome! Check out the crowds!
Just before their encore - I put the camera down after that.
Sunday, 21 February
Another perfect day dawns in Sydney!
Scott stretching out
Gus & Ian took us to their new favourite spot for breakfast - the Poolside Cafe at the Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool (otherwise known as the ABC pool). A beautiful setting on the Woolloomooloo side of the Botanic Gardens.
I need my flat white! Where's that cute waiter...?
I really do need to speak to the staff about taking the boat out on weekends!
Looking down on the Poolside Cafe
We said our goodbyes to Ian and Gus (thank you again for your amazing hospitality!!!) and headed down to Mona Vale to spend a lazy day on the beach.
Scott took a nap...
While I took a snap... (sorry, that was terrible, wasn't it? It's getting late now and this is a HUGE blog & I've totally run out of cool, witty comments!)
Happy & totally rejuvenated after an incredible trip home!