Browsing Tag

expat life

Renewing my expired CA Driver's Licence | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com
Moving to LA, Posts

Renewing my expired CA Driver’s Licence

Renewing my expired CA Driver’s Licence? (California but you know that!) Doesn’t it seem like only a few months ago I (finally) got my Californian driver’s license?

Well.  At home you can renew your license for 5 years or 10 years (5 years now if you’re over a certain age. Ugh).  Here (where, let’s face it, bureaucracy isn’t their strong point) they only give you a licence valid for the length of your Visa. Somehow though, even though my Visa is valid until next March my license was only valid until November.

I got a form in the mail telling me to fill in the blanks, provide a copy of my passport and my i94 and visa page in my passport.

Alas I never heard back and so you know what that meant?

Yup, it meant I had to go in and apply to renew my license.

Again you know what that meant don’t you? Yep, forms and queue.  Horrendous.

We were going on our road trip so it was important for me to get my license renewed.  Mr H was at home so could take over my carpool and I’d get up and join the DMV queue at 7AM (ish).

Trying to pack and get organized I needed to wash my hair.  My first instinct was to put a beanie on, suck it up and head over.  But with a bit of packing still to do, appointments banked up and precision timing required I decided the safest thing to do was to actually do my hair, pop on some eyeliner and finish the rest of my make up when I came home.

I head on down (still early enough) to join the queue.  There is always the longest queue at those DMVs it’s a nightmare.

So to share my pain with my fellow expats living in LA here you go.  Three steps to renew your Californian license.

Renewing my expired Driver’s Licence

This applies to renewing “in-between” times because it’s coinciding with your Visa date not the length of time they would have given you a license.

1.  Get in the queue early. Best to be there around 7/7:15 to get the shortest wait time.  Seriously.  If you don’t want to wait in the queue make an appointment, it saves so much time. (https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/portal/foa/welcome).  Having said that sometimes you don’t have a chance as appointments can take weeks to wait for.

2.  Complete the form.  It is the same form as when you applied.  It’s called the DL44 and it must be the original form.

     Some things you’ll need to know or bring to get your temporary licence:

  •      Expired license
  •      i94
  •      Passport
  •      You’ll also need to know your Social Security number for the form (I know Americans know it by heart but I don’t).

3.  Wait your turn and they’ll process your form.

That may well be good information but here’s the number one tip I will leave you with:

DO YOUR HAIR AND MAKE-UP

Because they’re issuing you with a new license.  That means a new photo.

Oddly enough there was no fee to get you a new license.  (And on the positive how much cheaper are licenses are to get here?)

One more thing.  And this happened to my son who passed his test and hasn’t had his proper license yet (three months later).  And it happened to Mr H whose temporary license kept expiring and he had to continually follow up.  If you don’t get your license back you might need to call this number:

Legal Presence:  (916) 657 7445

I believe it might just jolt the system back into place and move your license along a bit.  That’s because our licences have to go through an extra step.  I was recommended to call the two weeks before the temporary one expires.

Good luck. You might just need it.

xx It Started in LA xx

Los Angelinos love to talk routes | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com
Differences between America & Australia, My LA story, Posts

Los Angelinos love to talk routes

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Los Angelinos love to ...

Los Angelinos love to talk “routes”

Routes.  Better known to us Aussies as which way to go.

We call them “roots” they call them “rowtes” (row as in argument not what you do in a boat).  However you say it Los Angelinos love to talk about it.  It starts every conversation when you meet up somewhere, and it will be the last conversation you will have when you part ways.

“Which way are you going…?”

“Which way did you come…?”

“Did you take the 405…?”

“Which way should we go, the 101 is busy at this time of day, is it quicker to use the side streets?”

Even recently, when an Australian friend was talking about which way her friends were going on the way from the airport to her place, she said this:

“From LAX they took the 105 to the 10 to the 101….”  Only at the end did she say “they went via Downtown.”

The sad part about that is not that she just didn’t say, “yeah, they went via Downtown,” it’s that I actually could picture the “route” (said with an American pronunciation if you will) they took.

One time when I hadn’t been here too long and went off to Disneyland for the first time my friend said, “Let me send you the best way to get down there.”

405S
105E
605S
91E
5S
Disneyland exit.

“Don’t I just plug it in my GPS and follow?”

Which way you go is a sport in LA.

And now it’s fuelled by apps like Waze (pronounced ways) that will tell you the “fastest” way to get to a given destination.

Waze has fuelled the discussion even more making it an extreme sport.

“Did you check Waze?”

“What does your Waze say?”

And Waze has a lot to answer for in the back streets of LA.  I’m too lazy and selfish to suck up my phone’s battery to use Waze.  My GPS will be just fine.  But I have to confess I’m getting suckered into the “Which route …?” discussion too.

Gotta love LA.

xx It Started in LA xx

 

Posts

Celebrating Melbourne Cup Day in LA

Halloween makes way for Thanksgiving and Christmas … but in Australia November kicks off with Melbourne Cup Day: Celebrating Melbourne Cup Day in LA

In one day here in LA the shops switch over from Halloween mode to “baking season” and, of course, “The Holidays” (as in Christmas, Hanukkah or Chanukkah).  The pumpkin farms make way for Christmas trees—or holiday trees and the three-month long holiday session moves up a gear.

Meanwhile … in Australia the first Tuesday of November is Melbourne Cup Day.  It’s the “horse race that stops a nation”.

It is by far my favourite day, so this week I thought I’d share with my American readers what Melbourne Cup Day is all about.  (I think it would make a great episode for my Chuck Lorre-produced sitcom).

To start, if you hadn’t already gathered, Melbourne Cup is a horse race.  As the name suggests it is run in Melbourne and if you live in Melbourne you have a DAY OFF work (that’s right, a public holiday for a horse race—don’t you love Australia?!).  If you live in Sydney, like I did, then you either host or attend a Melbourne Cup function of some kind.  Between my girlfriend and I we always hosted a lunch.

The rules of engagement are pretty clear.

Champagne

This is a rule.  You must serve and drink Champagne at a Cup Day function. The boys may drink beer from a bottle.

Hats

My theme was traditionally “hats and heels”.  A hat, fascinator and dress are also compulsory.  If you’re going to make an effort to dress up, today is the day.

Sweep

I don’t know if you do a “sweep” here in the US.  It’s basically where you put every horse racing into a cup and blindly draw names.  There are usually few sweeps at different price ranges—say $2, $5 and $10.  Then you work out the winnings according to winners for coming 1st, 2nd and 3rd; last place gets their money back.  So if you put in $30 to the $10 sweep, you can draw three horses.  The fun of it is you could draw a good horse—or you could draw a dud!

Lunch

Lunch is served to a group of ladies, given the blokes are working hard at work.  Even if you work, many of my working friends will try to get the day off so they can still join the festivities, they’re that important.

It is compulsory that the live telecast of the race be screened on your TV and everyone must critique the “fashion on the field”.  Remember this is the day to make your mark on the fashion so you’re opening yourself up for scrutiny—it is possibly more serious than the red carpet on the Oscars.

The race itself

Literally the race that stops the nation, everyone stops to watch the race.  Even if you’re not interested in horse racing for the rest of the year, everyone is captivated—and cheers for their horse to win.

Kicking on

Functions generally start at 12:00 and the race starts around 3:20.  School typically finishes at either 3:00 or 3:30 clearly interfering with the race.  So the kids get booked into After-school care (the busiest of the year!) and the Dads are on pick-up duty at 5:30.  The older kids get their own way home because this is Australia and they catch public transport.

IMPORTANT: Unlike LA the race being raced signals more partying, time to open another bottle of Champagne or turn the music on to start dancing.  It does not signal it is time to go home.

Then, when the kids and dads get home, the second leg of the function starts.  This is usually a smaller version of the lunch as only typically a few friends kick on. The dads chug down 50 beers to catch up to their wives and the kids are fed dinner.

At sometime around 9:00 or 10:00 everyone has had a truck load to drink and walks or cabs home.

Celebrating Melbourne Cup Day in LA

This year I thought about doing a lunch on the Tuesday but it’s already Wednesday in Australia so it just wouldn’t work.  And, most people have to pick up their kids because there’s little to no public transport so I doubted it would work.

In a fit of desperation, I texted a couple of friends to see if they’d like to have a glass of Champagne with me after school.  I know, it’s a Monday night but it’s still Melbourne Cup Day!

Thankfully for me they answered my call and came over.  Then my Australian friends FaceTimed me from their lunch.  It was so cool that I got to introduce my friends to each other—not that anyone could hear what anyone was saying!  We posed for photos together and I got to watch the race with them.  The wonders of technology.  How fun.

Melbourne Cup Day in LA

Watching Melbourne Cup Day in Australia in LA | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com

The day after the night before and life is back to normal once again.  And back in LA it’s finally cooling down meaning we might get to experience Fall rather than summer.  How novel!

Enjoy your week,

xx It Started in LA xx

Differences between America & Australia, Posts, Soapbox

My right to do what I want

It’s time for my weekly look at the differences between Americans and Australians.  This happened to me last night. I don’t think this would happen in Australia but I’d love to get some feedback from my Australian friends–or others who may have had a similar experience.

Am I looking at Australians through rose-coloured glasses? Is this being a bit harsh on Americans (not my friends though don’t you know)?  Or is it not a negative thing in a different context, with a different example?

Differences between Americans and Australians: my right to do what I want–you can’t make me

I’m sitting on the tarmac in Las Vegas airport on the last flight to Burbank (LA) and as we’re getting ready to pull back some smart arse starts talking back to the flight attendant.

While getting ready for the safety demonstration, the “hostie” asked him to please get off the phone as it was time to switch mobiles off.  Instead of wrapping up he kept talking.  She asked him again, quite patiently, to “please sir finish your call and switch off the phone.”  He kept talking, showing no signs of wrapping up his call.

Then minutes later when he was ready he said goodbye and switched off his phone. The hostie then reminded him that he must listen to her requests while on board the plane.

“I don’t have to listen to you, I turned off the phone before we took off, I can do whatever I want.”

Here we go.

She reminded him again that he needs to listen to their instruction and cautioned him.  With that she walks down the aisle to continue her checks.

He yells back again saying he can do whatever he wants.  (It’s his right).

The supervisor comes up the back to question him further.

“Excuse me sir are we going to have a problem on this flight?”

To which he says,

“No, she told me to turn the phone off, I got off the phone before the plane took off, she doesn’t have the right to tell me what to do.”

“Well sir, on board the flight you are required to follow our instruction so are we going to have a problem with that?”

“No, I did what she asked but if she asks me to pick my nose I’m not going to do that am I?’

“Well sir she is not going to ask you to do that.”

Blah, blah, blah on he goes about how he flies all the time and has never had a problem and how he’s going to write a letter to Southwest and how he’s already spent tens of thousands of dollars with them.

Then one guy ( who can fend for himself) stands up and says to the guy, “please stop talking, listen to them  so we can all go home”.

But Mr frequent-traveller-who-may-or-may-not-look-like-a-frequent-traveller is adamant he can say and do what he wants.

He is still rabbiting on about how he can do whatever he wants and his rights.

Meanwhile I sit back, three rows in front of him to the other side, and think, do I want to go home or do I want the plane to stop and get him off? My first thought is is he allowed to carry a gun? I’m guessing he’s not.  Or at least not a loaded one. Everyone is a cross between disbelief, sitting quietly hoping the issue will be resolved and looking back at him with intimidating stares begging him to pull his head in.

All he had to do was pull his head in.

I’m relieved when the plane stops and moves forward towards the gate. Now we’re sitting on the tarmac waiting.  The pilot asks us all to stay in our seats.  Is this going to turn ugly?  He must know something is going on.  Right?  How are those rights looking now mate?

Are we waiting for the cops to take him off the flight? Is he getting more ruffled sitting there knowing full well it’s because of a scene he caused?

So now I’m quietly anxious and nervous and text home an update. He didn’t pull his head in before why should he now? And as the minutes are counting down I’m thinking it’s obvious we’re waiting for someone to get him.  What on earth is he thinking?

Are we going to have an incident or are we waiting for him to cool down? But what if he’s waiting to cool down then when we get in the air he loses it?  Like my teenage girl when you think everything is ok, she remembers what happened then relives the anger.

The people in the row in front of me start talking about guns. Do you have one? What do you do? I couldn’t hear much of the conversation but I thought back about Lorie on Twitter and how she thinks if there’s a mass shooter there would only be two shots fired. What if the guy in front of me thinks he’s defending himself and fires a shot? Would he be a good shot and would the guy hurling abuse have a gun & shoot him or shoot the nearest person? What about stray bullets?

Would the guy with the bad attitude think it’s time to pull out his gun. And why am I thinking about who’s carrying a gun? Isn’t that what the strenuous security measures are there for?  But if you’re a psycho then could you get around the security measures?  Can I trust them? And why–if guns are a right and used for personal protection–are we not allowed to carry them on board a flight?

Am I going crazy?

Finally the doors were opened and two ground staff came to escort him off the flight.  I was so surprised to see two women and not security or police.

He was escorted off the flight in a bit of an anti-climax. Thank God. I was expecting a tantrum-like scene that would make my daughter look like an angel. He still didn’t really get it though. He was still playing the it’s-my-right power card and “you just can’t do that” to him.

Here’s the thing. In “the future” post October 21, 2015 (had to get a Back to The Future Day reference in there somewhere), post 9/11, post mass murder after mass murder you just can’t do that. You just can’t do that.

So we’re taking off half an hour later than scheduled but I feel safer. I started thinking about what would happen if we were in the air and he wouldn’t stop. Then what. Would we have to pull together and fight him down. Cause I would. I’d be amongst it. I’m not going down wondering.

So you see it’s not your usual “Difference between Americans and Australians” post.  The rest of the flight–filled with Americans–did not agree with this guy.

But engrained somewhere in many American’s psyche is that whole “my right to…” thing.  And it’s not always a bad thing.  Sometimes it’s used for good and not evil.  But I wonder if America and its taglines “living the dream” or “the land of the free” leads some of its citizens to believe that means they can do whatever the bloody hell they want.  Because it’s their god-given right.

And, by the way, dickheads are all over the world.

In Australia we have dickheads you can put up there on Wikipedia as the ultimate definition of a dickhead.

We have bogans that think they’re tough and give lip.  And in Australia I wouldn’t be scared of guns I’d be scared of the fighting–fists as weapons which do get through the security checks.  But I think in Australia we might be more worried about the consequences. I don’t think we’re prepared to take the chance that we might be black-banned from flying again–or at least for a long time. I don’t know.

That’s where you come in. What do you think? What would you do? Do you think a guy would talk back to–and continue to talk back to–a hostie and then a supervisor on a Qantas internal flight or Virgin flight?

When we landed I felt like doing American/Chinese style woo-hoos and clapping that I landed safely. What a bizarre situation. Come on Chuck Lorre we can make an episode out of this one. Let’s do it.

Meanwhile. I’m exhausted and signing off.  And weirdly, the kids didn’t know what had happened to me but when I came home they raced out of their rooms and welcomed me home with hugs and kisses. Yep, life is short … and too short to be a dickhead.

xx It Started in LA xx

PS:  My congratulations to the crew of the Southwest Airlines 845PM flight 143 from Las Vegas to Burbank who handled the situation with professionalism and putting our safety ahead of their schedules.

First Six Months in LA
Moving to LA, Posts

The first six months in LA

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Moving to LA

Two years on: the first six months are the hardest

We’re in the thick of the first semester and it’s getting harder to work out what’s for dinner each night and we’re struggling to get up in the morning.  Isn’t that a sure sign the novelty’s worn off and you’re in normality?

It’s a lot easier this time around than two years ago–our first six months in LA–though.

It’s nearing the end of October and it’s still so warm.  Despite this everyone here seems to be very excited about “Fall”.  I’m not exactly sure why.  It could be the cooler weather (well that’s not happening), the smells of Fall like cinnamon and fires (that’s not happening either) or the prospect of a little rain (nope, still not happening).

I’ve started noticing people on the East Coast dressing up and the Coats starting to come on and the magazines are filled with darker colours.  But here in LA the only thing that’s not playing the game is the weather.

I don’t get the Fall love.  It feels more like Spring to me (apart from the leaves falling from the trees).  It’s still warm and probably has more to do with the fact that I’m intrinsically trained to think that September and October are the Spring months.  I don’t know, maybe it’s a wavelength thing.

When we first arrived we didn’t want the weather to cool down as we’d just come out of an Australian winter (yes it’s mild but still winter) and the prospect of back-to-back winters was not something I was looking forward to—no matter how mild they were.

The first six months

It’s time to continue with my series on looking back at our first couple of years here.  I left you having found a place to live and the kids accepted at a private school here in LA.  All was going well until reality set in.

It’s so true of moving anywhere that the first six months are the hardest.  But you’d think a girl from Sydney moving to LA—California—with a few moves under her belt would not have such a tough time.  Right?  Wrong.

Let me tell you the first six months are the pits.  The honest-to-goodness pits.  Then they can be exhilaratingly good: everything is new, life is an adventure and things as simple as grocery shopping can be a challenge.  I was used to that in China but not America—land of the ultra big supermarket.  But when I had to buy bullet chilies for example, I had to go to an Asian grocer because they don’t sell them at the normal supermarket.  That’s right, all the chilies are Mexican.

So then the challenges become nightmares.  The glass half full starts to look more empty.

Even things like paying bills I have to think twice.  No more BPay or Direct Debit.  I’ve caught myself a couple of times saying, “how do I pay you?” to which the response is generally always, “Well I take a check,” yes not a cheque.  That means I’ll have to go to the Post Office and buy stamps.  Such a foreign concept for me.

Anyway, It’s true the most important thing to do is to find a school and somewhere to live.  But once you’ve moved in, done a bit of sightseeing and getting around … then what?

So I started going to visit different areas checking them out, taking photos and posting lots of “cool” stuff on Instagram.  But there’s only so much of that you can do.  On your own.  We all go through it.  And we all get over it.

I remember hearing about some women in Shanghai living far out in the “suburbs” feeling lonely and depressed.  If I felt lonely and depressed and I live in the middle of Beverly Hills—with a car to drive myself around and a working internet connection—it’s a wonder they survived their long weekdays.

That’s why you can’t write this post at the time.  No, you need the benefit of “I live to tell the tale” behind you and a bit of perspective.

LA Private School

I remember the first time I went to school to the Orientation, the Welcome BBQ and even to pick up the kids in carpool I was feeling very intimidated.  I imagined everyone being rich and groovy and famous.  If not then they’d look like something out of Housewives of Beverly Hills.  I thought I’d be the beached whale—helpless out of water and a little larger than my LA counterparts.

Last weekend–two years on–I volunteered to help at the school’s Open House and if I wasn’t comfortable with my place at school by then, I am now.  Granted they’re not in yet but there were some interesting looking people.  Why do we always doubt ourselves in a new environment?  Why can’t we—I—back myself and be confident I would fit in?

Scattered amongst some rather good-looking people were fat people, skinny people, daggy people and just plain weird people.  I actually started to think that I fit into LA life better than some of these people.  How’s that for a turnaround?  And, I wonder if the family that came in matching-coloured tops—five of them—and daggy footwear will get in?

Google

It’s true as a family moving into 90210 and finding ourselves at a school with well-known identities we’ve done our fair share of Googling.  What did we do without it?

I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned it before my daughter is friends with the son of arguably one of the most famous people in the world, certainly one of the most successful.  She’s recently told us that her friend is obsessed with Mr H’s company and thinks it’s the coolest thing in the world.  And, in an interesting turn of events he was telling her how he’s been Googling Mr H.  Wow, Mr H being Googled by said famous offspring.  How funny.  It’s all about perspective.

What else do you need to know when moving to LA?

Back to those first few months.  The most frustrating thing would have to be …

Credit rating, credit rating, credit rating

… it affects everything.  Literally everything.

When Mr H tried to connect up to our Direct TV “cable” service there were specials on at the time.  Ready to go ahead he found out that our price would be higher than the advertised special price.  Because we had no credit rating.

Same thing when we went to open our Electricity account.  We needed a giant deposit because we had no credit rating.  Aren’t they supposed to help people with no credit?  Isn’t that discrimination?

Everywhere we turned it came down to credit.

Luckily, with a Citibank account in Australia we were able to open up an account in the US.  And, once Mr H said he’d get his salary paid into the account we could open a credit card.

To this date I don’t really have any accounts in my name—something I should seriously try to do.

We were also lucky we could get a car—actually two.  That was thanks to BMW recognising that Executives tend to move around so if they’ve previously owned a BMW in another country they’ll take a look at you.  Thank you BMW!

Two years later on the whole credit thing

Two years later and I’m still tossing up whether or not to buy a house here.  The good news is we can get a mortgage, the bad news is we need a sizeable deposit.  And they still look at your bloody credit rating. The rate they give you actually depends on your credit rating–the better your credit the sweeter the deal.  The lower your credit rating, the higher the interest rate. Wow, way to go America, nothing like being supportive and helping those trying to get ahead in life.  Keep the poor downtroden and the rich richer.  OMG. Granted ours is better now but the fact that we’ve only had a credit rating for two years tends to go against you.  Go figure.

 

I’m off to keep Googling.  Who knows? Maybe my daughter’s friend will start Googling me and subscribing to this Blog.  That’d be cool—so long as he tells Chuck Lorre he loves it.

Enjoy the rest of your week. Happy Fall!

xx It Started in LA xx

 

What's the difference between grocery shopping in an American "market" or an Australian supermarket? Here's a little something that happened to Gwen | It Started in LA | itstartedinla.com
Differences between America & Australia, Posts

Differences between Americans & Australians: grocery store queues

Let’s take a look at the differences between Americans and Australians waiting in a grocery store queue for a couple of minutes.  (Or in Australian what’s the difference between Americans and Australians in a supermarket queue).

I get so mad when I go to the supermarket and just want to get in and out really quickly. I have the luxury of shopping (almost) daily—mainly because I can’t plan more than a few days in advance what we’re going to eat and there’s no Baker’s Delight to get my beautiful fresh bread from (salivating at the thought of Baker’s Delight, sorry just need a minute).

OK.

I know, I know, it’s not a luxury to go to the supermarket daily but it’s right around the corner from school and it suits me with nothing better to do with my life (yes, a little bored I’m not in paid employment but that’s another story).

As usual I went down to pick stuff up for tonight’s dinner. I’m a frequent visitor of the “About 15 items” aisle. It’s my saviour as you can imagine.

Not today. There was a lady with an overflowing trolley full of groceries. In the “About 15 items aisle”. With four other aisles (for normal loads) free. And with people behind her (not me because I went looking for other aisles) waiting for her. Waiting for her.  Waiting for her with only a few things in their hands (they didn’t even need a basket).

That my friends is the difference between Australia and America.

Grocery shopping in Australia …

… bitter and twisted people like me would be eyeballing her into feeling the guilt and moving aisles. And, if that doesn’t work we’d start heckling her, first nicely then not so much:

“This aisle is for 15 items or less (what we call them at home), this aisle is not for you.”

Followed by the checkout chick looking at her like she’s diseased saying:

“Um … sorry, you have more than 15 items, you’re going to have to go to another aisle. Next…” (as she proceeds to help the next person).

Instead, grocery shopping in America …

… she was having a lovely chat with the woman behind her buying a magazine (after she finished reading it waiting for her) and a couple of grocery items. Another man came to stand behind her, again not saying word. I lingered in case they were looking for moral support of the kind that goes like this…

“Excuse me m’am but this is for people with about 15 items, between the two of us we have five items, do you mind moving to an isle where they can accommodate your trolley load full of shopping so we can get out of here fairly quickly.”

Nope. Not even something nice like that. This is a country where you risk getting shot going to see the premier of a Batman movie and yet a woman can hold up a grocery aisle checking out her cart FULL of groceries. (I’m not saying she deserves to be shot.  Not really anyway.)

Where’s the grocery rage when you need it America? You are far, far too nice.

What happens where you live? Are they patient and kind or bitter and twisted? Please share.

xx It Started in LA xx

Ever been tailgating? If you're Australian it may not be what you think. It Started in LA went along to a USC game to see what tailgating really is all about
Posts

When was the last time it rained in LA?

updated 4:00 Thursday 17/9/15 LA time with James Corden Late, Late Show video…enjoy

When you ask when was the last time it rained in LA—or your hometown—you can’t often say. But here in LA we can. We get very excited when it rains it’s like one of those rare moments in time because it’s such a rare occurrence that every time it does, it’s right on par with, “where were you when Princess Diana died?”

The last time it rained in LA was over summer and we weren’t here. I knew about it though because everyone talked about it. See? Not unlike today. It’s like a novelty. It is a novelty. Like snow. Even before it rains the forecast of rain gets everyone talking about rain: will it rain? I hear it’s going to rain. Better cancel my appointments tomorrow; it’s going to rain.

Yes, you read right. I’m not exaggerating. LA has never been able to cope with the rain—people aren’t used to getting wet, they don’t know how to drive and it can be chaotic out there. So, many people cancel their meetings, work from home and generally cocoon at home for the day.

Yep. Real. Live. Rain. #rain #roadswillbechaos #laneedsrain #la #socal #drought #turnoffwateringsystems #aussiebloggerinla #aussieblogger #lablogger

A post shared by It Started in LA 🌴 Gwenny John (@itstartedinla) on

 

My “Realtor” told me about this little-known LA fact when we were first here and looking for houses to rent. I thought it was so far fetched and just assumed because she had such a flexible job that she was able to do this. But then last week at my first PA Board Meeting—yes, more on that in a second—some ladies were telling me exactly the same thing. Lucky it rarely rains here in LA or business may not survive.

And just to prove it, here’s the rain in LA according to James Corden

 

Middle School Chair

Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you. I am indeed our school’s new Middle School Chair. It’s very formal here in PA land and for two years it’s scared me. But this year I decided to put my hand up and get a little more involved. And since my daughter is our school’s first Australian Middle School President (unqualified) I thought I’d join her for the ride.

I hear you ask: “WTF is Middle School Chair?” Well, it’s the liaison between the PA Board and the Class Reps. Yes, such a role exists. The good thing is by the time you get to Middle School there’s nothing much to do and I get a little insight into life in an American PA.

We had our first Board meeting last Friday. It was very fancy, in a restaurant. We had assigned seats and our place holder was a gorgeous cupcake in school colours (no photo, I ate it before I could think that would’ve been a nice idea–oops). We talked about the year, what’s on the agenda then did a lot of lovely small talk about the holidays and life in LA. I’m pleased to say I survived, came out unscathed and it wasn’t as bad as I thought. In fact I actually had a nice time. To my surprise lunch was on the PA. And, no surprises, not a drop of wine to be seen. I’ll have to work on that.

Tailgating

In Australia tailgating is where you’re driving and you ride right up the person-in-front-of-you’s arse and are really, really annoying. Well in America it can mean that too but the more fun meaning is pre-(American) football fun. There’s even a website for it: tailgating.com. Not to mention several Pinterest pages, hashtags et al dedicated to the all-American tradition.

No ordinary carpark--each tent (in team colours) marks a different tailgate

No ordinary carpark–each tent (in team colours) marks a different tailgate

And I have to say the Americans win. They beat us Aussies. They have it down. They do it bigger and better hands down, in fact we’ve got a lot to do in order to catch up with this widely followed professional drinking phenomenon. It’s probably also the closest thing culturally that you can get between Australians and Americans. And yet, the Americans are better at it than us. How can that be? Just check this out.

tailgating

Tailgating is a sport all on its own in America

 

What is tailgating? To quote tailgating.com (who quotes a dictionary) it’s to:

“Host or attend a social gathering at which an informal meal is served from the back of a parked vehicle, typically in the parking lot of a sports stadium”.

That’s a very elongated way of saying, pre-game frolicking, a bit like having a party in the carpark on the Boxing Day test at the MCG or the endless partying on Melbourne Cup Day. Or, as one American friend put it, “you drink and eat as much as you can before the game, so much so that after the first quarter you don’t care what happens in the game and you go out and continue to drink.”

It's a full bar at this tailgating party

It’s a full bar at this tailgating party

Then the tents come down ...

Then the tents come down …

... and everything packs up into the "trunk" of the SUV.

… and everything packs up into the “trunk” of the SUV.

What about the (American) football game?

Well, like I said, come the second term and you’re ready for more drinks and in search of a bar. Well, not really but we did get stuck at the bar.

I do need to take a minute though to talk the phenomenon that is College Football. It’s out of control. It’s as big as an AFL match. No. It’s Bigger. Bigger because of the pomp and ceremony (and fireworks) that go on before the game.

 

The fact that these kids are (supposed to be) at “Uni” to get an education and attract a 100,000 strong crowd each week (as is the case, I believe, for any USC or UCLA game here in LA) and that doesn’t even include the TV rights and the millions of people who choose to tune into College football each week—even more so that the NFL in the case of many households throughout America.

Imagine this: Take the passion of supporting your football team, add to it a bucket load of school pride and school spirit (we’re talking A LOT) and you have a stadium full of one-eyed supporters. Add to that the tailgating festivities and they make Collingwood supporters (or Manly supporters?) look like amateurs. The atmosphere is electric and a must-do bucket-list item for any sports fan. Even if you still don’t get American football.

And, now that I’ve done it I can’t wait to do it again.

 

xx It Started in LA xx

 

PS: Did you know LA has an underground Metro system? Neither did I. We took the Metro to the game though and it was so easy—a great way to get downtown. And just to prove it:

Look it up if you’re here.

 

LA Restaurants, Posts

The Church Key

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. People complain about coming to the US and getting sick of eating hamburgers, hot dogs, salads with mayo all over them and fries, fries, fries. That’s not America’s fault people: it’s yours. You can’t use that excuse here in LA. The only excuse you have is ignorance—of not knowing where to go. But thanks to Google and blogs like mine you can find great restaurants to eat and with a bit of planning ahead of time you can check out some of LA’s great dining spots.

(Don’t forget to tip between 18-20% though—10% or rounding up the bill doesn’t cut it here! Blog post to follow).

Let’s start with the fabulously located The Church Key.

The Church Key… Just ✋. 😍 #canthandlethecute #thechurchkey #latergram #bestdonutsever @thechurchkeyla

A post shared by Love and Loathing Los Angeles (@loveandloathingla) on

 

The bar. Love it @thechurchkeyla #thechurchkeyla #ladining #lafoodie #aussiebloggerinla #aussiebloggerinla #Itstartedinla

A post shared by It Started in LA 🌴 Gwenny John (@itstartedinla) on

 

It’s on W Sunset in West Hollywood right amongst some of the popular hotels.

Firstly you’ll thank me the minute you walk in as the décor is LA hip. You can enjoy cocktails at the bar and take advantage of the tapas/dim sum-style carts that wheel around specials with anything from tuna to mini shepherd’s pies and samosas to popcorn to deep-fried & breaded bacon!!! (I know sounds kinda too much but nothing in this place was terrible so I imagine it was anything but, still we weren’t game to try!).

Last one I promise! I want one of these drinks carts @thechurchkeyla #ladining #lafoodie #Itstartedinla #aussiebloggerinla #thechurchkeyla

A post shared by It Started in LA 🌴 Gwenny John (@itstartedinla) on

 

The menu is a sharing one—my preference to get a little taste of everything and not forced to pick just one thing. We sampled:

AGED CHEDDAR FONDUE—Asparagus, Artichokes & Carrots / Pretzel Twist

AHI TUNA TARTARE—Apricot / Greek Yogurt / Pistachios / Serrano Chili / Pappadam

BRUSSELS SPROUT “CAESAR SALAD”—Tomato Raisins / Sunflower Seeds / Parmesan Cheese

RICOTTA GNUDI—Corn Espuma / Parmesan / Brown Butter / Chives (my personal fave)

 

JIDORI CHICKEN “TIKKA MASALA”—Dehydrated Mango / Cilantro Raita / Basmati Rice

And next time I’m going to try (just don’t know what I’m going to swap for):

ENGLISH PEA “HUMMUS”—Vadouvan / Cherry Tomatoes / Grilled Paneer / Garlic Chips / Nigella Naan

OSOSKY’S POTATO PIEROGIES–Peach Butter / Aged Gouda / Crème Fraîche / Chives & the

CRISPY PORK BELLY—Gochujang Glaze / Cashew Butter / Radish / Pea Shoots / Cilantro / Sesame

RIGATONI PASTA—Fennel Sausage / ”Red Sauce” / New Olive Oil / Parmesan Espuma

TAPIOCA CRUSTED TAI SNAPPER–Broccoli Rabe / Sushi Rice Cake / White Soy Vinaigrette

Dessert |Filipino Key Lime Pie with Calamansi

Dessert |Filipino Key Lime Pie with Calamansi

 

Be sure to make it to the toilets as there are a few photo opps!

I lied. A couple more for the blog. Link in bio 🍷😍🍸#thechurchkeyla #lafoodie #ladining #livingthedream #myreality #weho #aussieexpat

A post shared by It Started in LA 🌴 Gwenny John (@itstartedinla) on

 

So next time you’re in LA eat somewhere nice! Here’s the website for more info & to make a booking.

I look forward to the thank-yous in the comments ;-).

xx It Started in LA xx

 

PS: For more LA Dining suggestions visit my Pinterest page.

Moving to LA, My LA story, Posts

Two years ago: finding schools in LA

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Moving to LA

This time two years ago was quite a significant milestone moment for us as it was a rude awakening that this LA “thing” might actually happen.

Cut back two years and six weeks ago Mr H got a call from an old boss with four questions:

  1. How’s the family?
  2. Do you still hate your job?
  3. Would you consider moving to LA?
  4. How quickly can you get here?

Then I got the call from Mr H:

“I’m about to rock your world,” he said. “F called,” he started. We were down at our beach house on the South Coast of NSW getting ready for a long weekend with friends. We’d prepared the menu, bought the grog and I was out in the car with a friend heading to the Bottlo to get a couple of extra bottles of champagne—just in case as we hate to run out.

“Oh my god,” I interrupted. “Is he in town? Coming to town? It’s OK, he can have the spare room…” as I proceeded to play musical beds and musical rooms so we could fit in an extra person…

“…And I’ve got seafood which he loves so it’ll be all good.”

“He wants to know if you would move to LA,” he said once I’d done with my ranting.

“What? Sorry? Huh? LA? I hate LA. Remember? Been there done that never coming back?”

“I knew you’d say that.”

It’s true Mr H and I went to LA with my best friend and her boyfriend when we were all of 19 or 20. LA didn’t really do it for us and I had absolutely no desire to go back. So why would I want to live there?

“Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.”

By this time my girlfriend, sitting in the car next to me is wondering what on earth is going on. I looked at her and shook my head.

Digesting the concept

It was a crazy weekend of utter shock that some 36 hours ago we just got that call to move to Hollywood and Mr H had gone back up to Sydney to attend a video call to get briefed on the job. The job was to run the post-production division of a multinational company. He would be based in Hollywood and he’d have to work with all the studios and production houses. To say the weekend was a daze with endless workshopping, dreaming, reality checking and more workshopping was an understatement. And let’s just say there was a LOT of champagne (and wine) drunk as we all tried to come to terms with the prospect of moving to LA. Those extra bottles came in handy—we didn’t run out.

We too’d and fro’d with the pros and the cons but first practically had to come into play.

Schools in LA

We thought we’d be very systematic about the possible move: pinpoint work (Hollywood), find a decent school not too far away then find somewhere to live.  Sounds easy enough.

Contrary to how it looks on Beverly Hills 90210 and the OC the LA public school system is in shambles—especially as you get to Middle and High School. There are a few good school districts in South Pasadena, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and the Bay areas but they either require a long commute to Hollywood for Mr H or require me to sell my body to pay the rent in Santa Monica or Beverly Hills. Then you have to be in the right zone for the “better” school in that area.  (Read: it’s not as straight forward as let’s rent a house in Santa Monica and we can go to Lincoln Middle School.  Thankfully we didn’t find that out the hard way.) The public school system in LA is not easy to navigate—and when you have finding a house in the zone is like playing the lotto.

So as I was coming to terms with the fact that US high schools aren’t like they are on TV and my kids weren’t going to have a Breakfast Club/Sixteen Candles/Ferris Bueller/90210 high school experience moving to LA started to look a little bleak.  Both kids are thriving at great schools in Sydney and education is so important to my family (my dad drilled that into me from a young age) that we’re not going to a below-standard school just because Hollywood is knocking on our door.

(Now I wonder if they’ll get the chance to have a College experience like Pitch Perfect?)

I emailed a few people and the resounding response was private school. There go my dreams to be rid of private school fees and enjoy my life. Plus, America being America, private schools aren’t subsidised so we got a rude shock to see not only weren’t we saving any money but it would cost us more money than it does in Sydney.

I knew the prospect of a Hollywood lifestyle was too good to be true.

But I ploughed ahead and started researching websites to see what schools we liked and what we didn’t. We rated them and I started the arduous task of ringing admissions directors. It was now May 2013 and applications closed in late December 2012 and offers were made earlier in the year. There’s a shortage of places at LA private schools—because the public ones are in such a state—so all of a sudden our dream of moving to Hollywood was shattered.  No school=no move.

Because of the time difference I would set the alarm for 4:00am Sydney time (which was 11am the day before in LA) and start making calls. It’s pretty hard to pitch your family and your kids to an Admissions Director with a full enrolment at that time in the morning.

Some were helpful, others felt for me, others didn’t care.

I got traction at two schools. A great start. The next hurdle was sitting the ISEE test. What on god’s earth is that? Well it’s a standardised test (Independent School Entrance Exam) that most of the private schools use to test would-be students.

Can’t we just skip that bit? How do we do it in Sydney?  My  kids are doing well in school, here are copies of standardised tests they’ve completed here…

Well as matter of fact there is a location that administers the test in Sydney.  It was a pain in the backside booking two appointments at the same time because the system would only allow one student at a time (I guess what are the chances of two kids wanted to sit an entrance exam for private school in the US in Sydney?). There was no one to talk to either at the location or at the head office (another alarm set for 2am this time to try to reach someone in the New York office). Nothing about this stage was even remotely easy.

So Mr H took the day off work, we all went in hoping they’d say that both kids could sit the test together—no luck—so I sat with one while Mr H took the other home then came back again to swap kids while I waited the entire day given it was a ruling that the parent or guardian had to stay with the child the whole time. And the ID rules were so stringent it was as stressful as anything formal here in the US. One thing wrong and you have to reschedule—and pay for it all over again as there’s a cancellation fee involved don’t you know? A day I’ll never get back. An experience I’d rather not have to relive. But I was so proud of my kids, they did it.

It wasn’t until we got to LA that we heard that kids are tutored for this exam and some take it a few times until they get the score they want to give them a better chance to get into their school of choice.

This was my first glimpse into the privatised world that America is—there is a company making money for a service (which comes at a fee) for everything.

Playing the waiting game

With two schools secured (with no promises even now there’s room for one or both of them) and another interview secured at a school for my daughter it was time to look into public schools.

Public schools have open days where you can come and check them out. I was still in Australia for these so via our relocation agent we put calls into Santa Monica and Beverly Hills both of whom said they were so overworked they didn’t have time for private tours. Tell me that didn’t put me right off.  And they’re supposed to be the good ones.

 

Such an emotional rollercoaster that whole “will we move; won’t we move”, “can we move; can’t we move” thing.  At least when there’s little or no choice like “normal” expat assignments you know the city is geared up for you. Shanghai, for example, has plenty of expat housing (not all good by the way), a number of international schools and the company you’re moving with has some degree of leverage because they’re responsible for not just your school fees but a number of others.

What I remember most about this time was how applying for schools was anything but straight forward. Simply having a place was not a guarantee of entry. You had to pass the test but you just don’t know what that (or those) tests are.

It’s a bit like a Seinfeld episode:

“Great, so you’ve got room for both my kids?”

“We have the flexibility to admit your kids but first you have to apply.”

“So is it worth my applying if there’s no room?”

“We have room but you have to apply.”

“Oh so there’s room for both my kids so if I apply, based on what you’ve seen and what I’ve told you then there’s a good chance we’re in.”

“Go ahead and complete the application and proceed with the tests, we’ll have a better idea of what our enrolments will look like once you’ve done those and we’ve interviewed you.”

Wowsers … I hope passing school isn’t as hard as getting in.

Nonetheless we hopped on a plane bound for LA not sure what to expect when we got there.

xx It Started in LA xx

Next week … looking for somewhere to live

Differences between America & Australia, Expat tales, My LA story, Posts

A postcard from Sydney

G’day LA.

A Postcard from Sydney.  I’m still recovering from my trip to Sydney which was a whirlwind.  There’s never enough time to do what you need to do.

One of my highlights was getting back into the early morning rises for swimming training.  (If you’ve been following along he’s on a quest to qualify for the CIF–Californian Interscholastic Federation–made up of private and public schools across California and his coach suggested it was not OK to take two weeks off swimming in the middle of the season). I was so happy to wake early and even more happy that his old school took him in to train with them without question, in face welcome him with open arms. There is nothing more glorious than the site of nearly 100 boys swimming sets when even the sun hasn’t bothered to get up yet.

An hour later we’re on our way to the American Embassy applying for new Visas for another couple of years in LA.

Why would you want to leave Australia I was often asked?  What a great question.  It made me think (and appreciate) …

10 things I love about living in Sydney

1.   Our Beach House (& the unspoilt beaches in general)

Ah yes, our beach house.  Who needs holidays were you have to spend hours on end researching the ins and outs of new destinations when your home away from home is on the white sands of Jervis Bay with uninterrupted views, crystal clear water and unspoiled beaches? It’s the simple things.

It doesn't get much more spectacular than this

It doesn’t get much more spectacular than this

2.   Boats & Water sports

One of our favourite things to do is to head down to “The Shire” to spend a day with our gorgeous friends wallowing away the day.  The kids get to do all things watersports: wake boarding, tubing & biscuiting, Jetskiing, swimming and paddling around and we get to top up our Champagne glass and feed the adventurers when they’re hungry.  Good old-fashioned fun all day.

Doesn't get much more fun than this for the kids--and the grown-ups

Doesn’t get much more fun than this for the kids–and the grown-ups

And we can repeat it all again at the Beach House all summer long.

Ahhh the things we took for granted.

3.   Saturday Sport

Yep, seriously.  I never really whinged about Saturday sport: I loved getting up to watch my kids play and participate week after week for their school.  I also loved meeting and catching up with other parents.  So long as we have a coffee in hand (and a good BBQ complete with egg & bacon rolls) Saturday sport is a gift we give our kids.  And everyone knows where they stand: ‘no show’ means immediate detention and if you can’t commit then you’re presence isn’t required at the school.  That’s what you sign up for and besides, there’s nothing more important than teamwork, representing your school and good sportsmanship.

4.   Australian private school and the attitude to educating kids

When the Principal at my kids school here in LA said in reference to changing the girls uniform because they were sick of the short skirts–and they were short:

(I’m paraphrasing) “our job is not to be bogged down disciplining your kids it’s to educate”.  Wait one cotton-picking moment.  Screech those brakes.  Absolutely not.

Together the school and the parents must set boundaries for the kids and show them that if those boundaries are tested then there are consequences for those actions.  And those consequences aren’t changing a uniform because some girls don’t know how short is too short.  Those girls can learn a lesson–the hard way.

That’s how it is in Australian private schools and it doesn’t seem to be how it is in LA’s private schools.  I really miss that.

5.  Picnics in the park or by the beach–with wine (shock, horror)

As we were driving to friends house on our last night in Sydney we drove past the local park on a beautiful sunny Sydney afternoon.  There were groups of mums & kids sitting in circles on picnic blankets; kids playing happily (not without incident though!) and mums with a well-deserved glass of wine in hand.  After all it was Thursday and nearly the weekend.

Many of my best friendships solidified from “Friday arvo park days” or Champagne arvos.  And the best bit: you could walk home and no one has a mess to clean up.

6.  Pubs

Or is it Australia’s drinking culture I miss most? I’m not sure. Every afternoon pubs are crowded with people catching up for a drink or two after work.  Here in LA it can happen but it’s more like grabbing an early dinner then doing a runner once it’s finished.

7.  Everything revolves around a drink

Case in point.  I had exactly 50 minutes to catch up with a very dear girlfriend.  I dropped in to her house and she opened her fridge and there was no wine.

“It’s OK water’s fine,” I said.

“Wait, what time do you have to leave?  Right we’ve got enough time to go to The Three Weeds, have a drink and be back in time.”

With that we both walked out the door.  And guess what? We did it.  And we loved it.  And that’s something I sorely miss about my Aussie mates and Australia.

Back to point 6–there are pubs everywhere it doesn’t take you long to get to your nearest one to catch up over one or two “sherbets”.

8.  Public Transport

Yes! It might be shite because it never runs on time but you know it’s there if you need it (and you need it to head into the city because the cost to park is highway robbery).

But what I love best about the public transport system is the fact that my kids can catch the bus or train to and from school.  Not only does it give them a social outlet but it gives them freedom and a sense of responsibility.  And it means I’m not driving to and from their school two or three times a day or trying to schedule carpool.

9.  Corner shops and everything at arm’s length

You’ve already been to the supermarket but you forgot to buy milk.  I miss being able to send the kids to the corner shop to pick up the milk or bread, or even get me coffee.

The first thing the kids want to do is get on the bikes and ride to the fish & chips shop and get fish & chips for dinner.  Because they can.  All I have to do is handover the wallet.

10.  Bogans

Seriously.  Where would we be without bogans?  Where would we be without the newest breed of bogans of the cashed-up variety?  I’ve forgotten all about bogans living in LA, there really is no other breed quite like them.  Bless Bogans.  For those of you who don’t know what a bogan is… well that’s a whole other post!

Bona fide bogans: Kath & Kim (Image taken from The Daily Life)

Bona fide bogans: Kath & Kim (Image taken from The Daily Life)

What are 10 things you miss about your home city?  Or what are 10 things you don’t miss!  Would love you to share.

xx It Started in LA xx

Costco
Posts

Give me five reasons why I should renew my Costco membership

I’m serious.  This isn’t one of those Top five posts, it’s a serious, legitimate question.  It’s my first-world problem but I’m keen to know if it’s yours too.

It’s that time of the year again where I have to pay $55 to renew my Costco membership. Costco is one of those love-em-or-hate-em kind of places; a necessary evil. But is it (necessary I mean)?

Costco is making its mark around the world. Many of my friends at home swear by it and recently when I was in Australia entertaining a Korean client (OK that didn’t sound good but get your mind back to Costco) he gave up that he has a Costco (not helping I agree): he’s a regular Costco goer, spends hours there and loves it.

Here’s my problem with Costco. You have to pay for the privilege of shopping there. Genius. Whoever approved that business idea really ought to be shot—but lucky it was approved because we buy it and it works. (I’d love to see how much of its revenue is actually generated by the annual membership).

Secondly, it’s like Ikea; you walk in there with a small list of things to buy and you come out with stuff you never imagined yourself buying—or needing. Many people know—or discovered—Costco for its quirky things like hearing aids and tyres, even holiday packages. But did you know you could buy a gun safe from there? I’m not sure I’ve even seen a safe safe but a gun safe you can buy.  I’ve even seen designer handbags. Expensive ones.

(Oh, and by the way, I think Ikea is a necessary evil).

 

Thirdly, it’s a shitfight. Really. No one actually likes going to shop there (except for the converted cult shoppers who have grins all over their faces relishing every minute and every possible bargain there is to be had); like I said it’s a necessary evil.

I go for the catering/bulk size items like giant Nutella (two for the price of one medium-size); meat (very nice); sugar, olive oil and tomato sauce (ketchup) and mineral water.  they also have great battery-operated candles (that smell of vanilla) and Christmas decorations. But with those staples as my list I come out with nuts (they are very good), flavoured extra-virgin olive oil, sweat tops (did I just say that? jumpers), drugs—frankly anything else I don’t need.

I’m not a mathematician by any stretch but I’m thinking if I go to Costco once every six weeks and spend at least $300—$100 of which is on stuff on my shopping list that I actually wanted am I better off? That’s not 100% true if I buy meat then one piece costs me $100 but then my shopping bill climbs to $500.

It’s cost me $55 for the pleasure, plus the extra $200 per visit (let’s say eight visits per year) at $2400 and I saved a couple of hundred dollars through the year buying in bulk.

It doesn’t really add up does it? But am I willing to risk not having a membership?

What do you think? Do you have a Costco membership? Do you think it’s worth it? Are you a Costco lover or a Costco hater? Are you one of those converted cult-like followers? Tell me more, tell me more.

Enjoy your weekend,

xx It Started in LA xx

Home sweet home
Celebrity, Expat tales, My LA story, Posts

Home sweet home. Or is it?

I’m back from my amazing Aussie holiday that went by so (too) quickly.

I had so many ideas for my first Blog post back and like I often do have written some great lines in my head.

But alas now that I sit down to write all I can think of is how amazing our holiday was and how Australian life suits us so well.  Not so long ago I would have used the phrase, “… how we love Australian life so much better.”

Is Australia better?

And I probably would have gone into a spiel to say how weird America is.  (Shoot me down now American friends).  But I’ve grown up now and I can use mature, experienced Expat words—I call that experience rather than being politically correct because let’s face it that’s exactly what it sounds like I’m being (politically correct).  (Oh, and I don’t really think Americans … ahem America … are/is weird!).

It was interesting going back and even more interesting that we all just stepped back into our lives like we had never left.  My daughter spent the day at school–including an early start for tennis training at 7am and my son competed in a swim meet for his old school.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

While we were in Australia we caught up with a teacher from the kids’ school who has recently moved from LA to Sydney.  She’s a good 10 months behind me in time so she’s in the hard stages of change.  I’m sure a good portion of the time we’d rather be in each other’s shoes.  It got me thinking of the concept of home:

  1. You love home and never really looked to move anywhere else no matter how divine your new destination is.
  2. Because you love home all the familiar sights, sounds and smells of home play a big part in making you who you are. Everything else—especially when it’s actually so different but there’s absolutely no reason it should be (like Australian and the US)—is “weird”.

Weird is a matter of perspective

It’s not about which city is better or that the new city you’re in is “weird” it’s just that home is home.  And your newly adopted city isn’t (quite yet).  And, by the way, neither of us should get defensive when we say weird because it’s weird as in different-to-us-and-I-don’t-get-it not weird as in you’re-a-freak weird.  There’s a difference.

I have many friends that live in Australia that wouldn’t move out of their suburb let alone move overseas.  I also have many friends that have spent—and enjoyed—their time overseas they almost think Australia is too small for them.  I fall into neither of those categories.

You know before I left for this holiday I was talking about settling down here and how good it would be to buy a house.  I thought it would settle us.  Now I’m not so sure.

The day after we arrived I went to the supermarket for milk, bread, fruit & vegetables.  I remember when we lived in Shanghai and I’d go to the supermarket after a holiday it would drive me mental.  With a capital M.  It was difficult to navigate around and everything is in Chinese so it would remind me how hard something so easy could be.  Then I’d get accosted in the supermarket isles by sales agents wanting to direct me to their washing powder or their mop that I’d run for cover, race home and text my friends to say wine o’clock is starting early today.

carrefour

The newspaper and magazine section of my local Carrefour, Shanghai, China, 2009

 

Thankfully grocery shopping isn’t that hard in America.  I was safely minding my own business when I got to the checkout and started unpacking my shopping trolley.  A lady came behind me and blurts out, “Is there another aisle open?”  I looked at her.  She says, almost to herself, “Well you have to ask”.  I looked at her again, careful not to stare and show exactly what I was thinking.

I bit my tongue.  There are very few people that would say that in Australia—and the queues are often much longer.  I felt like saying to her, “chill love, by the time you’ve unloaded your trolley they’ll be ready to check you out.”  Honestly, seriously, by the time someone opens another checkout, they log in and she moves she’d be better off staying where she is.  But she doesn’t want—like—to wait.  I find that weird.  Someone who’s moved to Australia from the US might find it weird that we wait.  In silence.

I get that the service is better in the US.  I love that the service is better in the US.  When we checked through Coles Burwood last week in Australia (stocking up on our Aussie treats) my husband and I looked at each other and said, “It’s not quite Ralph’s service with a smile and a chat is it?”  But seriously … still weird.  Chillax chick.

 

Top five questions I was asked when we were home

Not that I’m one to dwell but was good to get a home fix.  Especially when we were so acclimated that we were on such a high point here in LA we didn’t really need to go back to Australia for a visit. So aside from my close friends and the “how are you going?” question there are lot of different things people wanted to know about life in LA.  Here are my favourite questions (and answers).

1.Who has been the best celebrity you’ve seen and what were they doing?

I initially answered with JLo but my friend wasn’t interested in her.  Bette Midler? Joan Collins?  Yes, much better responses.  I saw Bette at my favourite West Hollywood restaurant and Joan Collins having lunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel by the way.  Joan Collins is forever classy.  (Still think my favourite spot to date is the very yummy Joshua Jackson aka Pacey from Dawson’s Creek).

2. Have you seen any celebrities? Do you go to school with any celebrities?  What are they like?

Ummm, yes.  Lots.  It helps that (yes) there are plenty at school but they’re just normal people doing normal things like attending school functions and back-to-school nights.  Except the Kardashians but I haven’t seen them around (even though Kim & Kanye used to live just up the road from us).

3. What are the people like?

It’s pretty much the same as being at home: there are people you like and people not so much.  Like at home there are people who are extremely egocentric and others who are very kind and considerate.

There is a paranoia that exists here more than at home and I have to say that I feel like we should be more paranoid at home and the Americans (especially around here) less so.

Then: have they all had lots of work done?

We noticed it when we first arrived then we just got used to it.  Then we noticed it more when we got back to Australia (the lack of work) and again since we’ve come home.  Funny.  So … yes.

4. How long do we need in Disneyland?

As little as you can.  Seriously.  The happiest place on earth is wonderful … until it all starts to go pear shaped and then you need to exit stage left IMMEDIATELY.  The problem is it’s very hard to judge when the right time is to leave so be prepared for pear-shaped.

5. Are you ever coming home?

Good question.

Three funny things I noticed being back in Australia

It’s interesting being away for some 15 months then coming back again.  It’s more interesting the things you notice that you didn’t before.

1. We talk funny.

At least we use very different phrasing (non Australians might in fact say “weird”).  We were on the Virgin Australia flight up to Hamilton Island and the hostie was taking drinks orders.  “Too easy” was her response.  I laughed out loud.  I hadn’t heard that in a long time.  What does that even mean to an outsider?  Only in Australia.

2. We don’t stop drinking.

That’s right, hard to believe?  The day we arrived we got to my girlfriend’s house where we were staying and settled in with a few bottles of wine.  We had friends stop in and go and stop in and go; it was so lovely and informal.  By about 6:00 in the early evening we were still going and no one even considered we’d be stopping.  Ah love an Australian drinking afternoon.  So informal and I didn’t even have to stop.  How good is it to be home?

3. We walk everywhere.

It was our last day and I had a couple of jobs to do: drop some stuff off to an artist friend, deposit some cheques and a last-minute dash to the supermarket.  What struck me when we were driving around was the number of people walking everywhere.  Not parking and walking but actually walking; like from point A to point B.  (I know LA readers, I know; breathe).

Admittedly I live in the inner suburbs of Sydney and that essentially means our houses are in walking distance of the nearest pub/bank/post office/coffee shop and other conveniences that it’s really easy to walk.

My kids went to the corner shop more times than we could count just because they could–one there actually is a corner shop and two because they had the freedom to go that they’d missed so much here in LA.  They even cycled to get their fish & chips for dinner.  Love, love, love the freedom and independence Australia allows them.

Walking is a sport here in LA not a pastime so there are barely any footpaths let alone people walking.  It’s funny what you notice when you’ve been away.

It is good to be home

Alas I’m home.  I’m re-adjusting to LA life and I do love it here.  I went to the doctor this morning to follow up on my yearly checkup.  Sit down Australians he actually took my pulse and listened to me take deep breaths.  He actually spent some time with me and cared to follow up my results.

I said that I could neither think Australia is too small for me or could see myself living anywhere but Australia.  I am so thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given first as an “Expat brat” living in the Philippines and now as a “trailing spouse” (revolting term but can’t be bothered coming up with something sexy at the moment) in Shanghai and LA.

The first-world problem that arises out of the scenario from my perspective though is that I will always want the best of all worlds.  Sadly there’s no such thing as a perfect world so I’ll just have to pull my head in and be thankful I’m getting the chance to experience life from many different angles.

Enjoy your weekends,

xx It Started in LA xx

PS:  Happy birthday to my gorgeous friend Kristen Long who was the reason for our return trip and thanks to all our friends (old & new) for making our trip ah-may-zing!

%d bloggers like this: