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:
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.
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 thinkwe’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.
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?
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.
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.
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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!).
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:
How’s the family?
Do you still hate your job?
Would you consider moving to LA?
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.
The first (or last!) in a series of what Los Angelinos love to do. And the very top of the list is that people in LA are obsessed with hiking. Yep, Los Angelinos love to … hike!
At first I didn’t really get what all the fuss is about but now I’m starting to get the picture.
Thanks to Google, Pinterest and earnest Bloggers I found a few links to LA Hikes. I had pinned this article a while back and as a good “gunna” (aka going to but never do) person that’s where it stopped. Until now.
I don’t think you can hike alone and when fate hooked me up with a fellow Aussie at an ANZAC Day function we decided to check out LA’s hiking scene and see what all the fuss is about. The goal is for us to do a different hike each week.
If you live in LA—or if you’re just visiting—I’m going to share my quick two-cent’s worth about each hike we’ve done as well as a link so you too can do the “LA thing”.
Hike 1/Week 1. Runyon Canyon
Billed as the “Celebrity hike” I haven’t seen one in my two times (!) I’ve been. When you’ve come from Australia & your morning walk/run was around the Bay in Leichhardt/Five Dock/Haberfield hiking along a dirt track with the possibility of coming face to face with a rattlesnake takes a bit of getting used to (yes, it’s a bit of a come down).
The second week we ventured a little closer to my place and not far from Runyon Canyon. Also a spot I discovered via the Celeb Spotting pages, Tree People is off Coldwater Canyon & Mulholland Drive. Like Runyon Canyon is from Mulholland to Hollywood, Tree People takes you down to the Valley into the Laurel Canyon area.
It’s a little greener than Runyon Canyon, and probably not quite as good on the people watching but it’s a pretty good hike nonetheless. Once you know which track to take!
Coldwater Canyon Park, 12601 Mulholland Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Parking can be tough, especially at busy times so beware.
Once I discovered I could enter via Mulholland Drive (opposite Tree People) rather than drive all the way around into Beverly Hills then up again I was much happier. This is a gorgeous place to hike—easy to park (during the week), lots of options to hike and some great spots that make you feel you’re in the middle of the bush when you’re actually in the heart of Beverly Hills.
There is water in Beverly Hills
There are several hikes here and we only did one of them so I’m looking forward to coming back to do more.
Address: 2600 Franklin Canyon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Also great for dogs.
Watch out for: Yogi-Bear like stop sign cameras. When it says there is a camera, they mean there’s a camera and you’ll get a ticket in the mail. They’re also serious about the sign that says you better be out of there beyond sunset—I know because I met a girl who had to front up with a “please explain” what she was doing there beyond this time (her answer: trying to leave!).
Smarter than your average bear! When the sign says they’re “photo enforced” it means they’re “photo enforced!”
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While we were troopers and did it (minus a little incident that we won’t talk about in this forum) there were a number of very fit people who do that trail quite a bit.
When we nearly got to the top we thought we should head back down again. We bumped into a couple of “old-timers” who warned us against going back down the steep trail again but continuing on and following the loop as it was a much more gently decent.
It was great advice but when they told us it was just ‘around the corner’ don’t believe them. That and “the bench” which would be our marker to descend down the gentle decline. Everyone we asked kept telling us we’d see the bench but that bench was a long time coming. Clearly they were walking a lot quicker than we were. (If you click on the link from the Blog below you’ll see plenty of pics of that infamous bench).
All in all a good hike.
Address: Reseda Boulevard, Tarzana (start is just near Braemar Country Club).
Tips: Take plenty of water to hydrate & be on the lookout for mountainbikers hooning down the track.
Beverly Hills is known for its mansions and compounds–many of which take up entire blocks–its lush green gardens, the bands of gardeners to maintain said gardens and the food trucks required to feed said gardeners. It’s an eco-system that makes LA–at least Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Brentwood etc–go around. Can it be that the very stylish and chic Beverly Hills needs a make-over? Does Beverly Hills need a new look?
This week I’m getting my “Greece on” for summer and have started gently walking each day. So I headed down to the walking track in Beverly Hills when I was approached by a news crew regarding water restrictions, the drought and what I thought about the lush green gardens of Beverly Hills.
Are there “younger generations” coming in stealing its thunder? (Enter Venice Beach for example).
Does it need to look at itself and think, “my look is so pre-drought, what can I do to move my look to be up with the latest drought trend?”
Keeping up with the times
We went through it in Sydney.
We couldn’t water (our gardens) and everything was conserve, conserve, conserve. I agree it took a while for the message to get through—you know how it is? You think, it’s bound to rain soon or we’ll give up water tomorrow; it’s really not that bad OR how can we run out of water … to … we won’t really run out of water will we?
But then it started happening: people started replanting their gardens, stopped watering (fines were issued and news stories were sensationalised thanks to the people who refused to follow the rules). You start turning the tap off in while you’re brushing your teeth, you become aware how long your showers are (and curse your guilt and those damn restrictions), you don’t throw away half-drunk glasses of water (you empty them in a pot plant or in the garden).
And all of a sudden you look around and think, “huh, my look is so outdated”. Peer group pressure rules supreme (not that I’m condoning peer group pressure per se). Because the Sydney garden landscape started changing. Gone were the lush green lawns and in their place were succulents and natives–plants that didn’t need constant watering (or very little water) to survive.
But I’m not sure Beverly Hills is ready to reinvent itself quite yet. I think Beverly Hills thinks it looks pretty damn fine the way it is thank-you very much. I’m not so sure you can sustain that look though. You might not run out of Botox anytime soon but we could well run out of water. Bugger …
Five bits of advice
So, here are my five pieces of advice for Beverly Hills to embrace a new look that’s keeping up with the drought:
Book in a therapist. Obviously you’re in a state of denial and that is not a good state to be in. The sooner we face the fact and deal with the problem head on the sooner we can get on with our “normal” lives.
Get a stylist darling. It’s imperative you have a cutting-edge stylist that can show it the latest trends and looks and just how modern and edgy it can be. After all, if you’re going to change your look you want everyone to go “wowsers”.
Shop, shop, shop: what’s the number one pastime of 90210 residents apart from Soul Cycle & plastic surgery? Well it’s to shop of course. What better excuse do we need to hit the shops and get our new look on.
Flood social media with selfies. Peer group pressure works every time; like any good fashion trend someone has to start it but make that look happen and people will be trying to emulate you (or outdo you). Instagram, tweet & Facebook the new look: get everyone talking about you and you’ll have instant buy-in.
Hire a new publicist. He/she needs to pitch your new look to entertainment reporters and news reporters to encourage everyone else to get on board with the new look. Before you know it there’ll be specials, reality TV offers and even a book deal. This new look could really pay off.
So now that you’ve got the new look happening and it’s working for you we have to remember there are—of course—other things we can do to conserve water.
How to conserve some water
To start we could, like, make sure our watering systems don’t go on during those rare moments when it does rain here (I know, you don’t have to do it though we still need those gardeners to be gainfully employed).
Perhaps you could stop washing down concrete areas (yes they still do it over here–shame on you).
And, possibly the hardest of them all, try shortening our showers.
(I would have said drink bottled water fresh from the springs but it seems there’s a separate campaign to ban them—something about landfill?).
But seriously, drought or no drought don’t let your teenage sons convince you he’s conserving water by not taking a shower. Tell him it’s a community service to keep him showered and smelling sweet.
I’m getting back in the swing of LA life again—thank god!!! I guess that’s what happens once you’ve vented and you know there’s nothing else to do but get up & get on with it.
It’s also what happens when you get out and about. Last week started a “campaign” to get me out more. And with the right attitude comes results!
The other day I had coffee with a friend I possibly text more than anyone—and have done since we moved—my fellow carpool mum. We rarely see each other though so coffee was long overdue. Off to our latest “S” we went. In one and a half hours we saw Paul Stanley, Eddie Murphy & Arsenio Hall. OK not everyone is a “star f#@$er” (as one of my Australian girlfriends likes to call me) but there’s nothing that makes you feel you’re in LA more than the good old celebrity spot.
A post shared by It Started in LA 🌴 Gwenny John (@itstartedinla) on
The interesting thing about celebrity “stalking” (I prefer to say watching with heightened interest) is that realisation that we’re all the same: they really are normal people. (OK I have to say most of the ones I’ve encountered over my nearly two years are …. Kanye West maybe not so much).
Paul Stanley for example was up and down from his table the whole time he was there—getting coffees, getting chairs, moving chairs, getting serviettes (or napkins), taking one kid here, taking another there. Sound familiar? (Remember BK—before kids—when you could just sit and enjoy your coffee before getting up & down the whole the time?).
Over the weekend at the Dance concert at school—well done to my gorgeous girl for her dance—out come the parents to watch their kids dance (best place to celeb watch). Every school function I’m at I see one of the original members of Guns n Roses. I love that he’s always there and actively involved. Just a normal dad (actually he may well be at more school functions than Mr H).
School in 2015
Speaking of school don’t you wish you went to school now? OK, maybe not to go back but to go now instead of when you were at school and with all you know now?
Being at that Dance concert made we wish I was at school now—even with the added pressure our poor kids have these days. Even though I went to an excellent school I didn’t make the most of all the opportunities I was given. I did ballet (outside school) and I think if I was at a school like my kids are at—where dance and drama are offered as electives—then I would have continued dancing a lot longer. Actually I might actually be a Hollywood star living in one of those nice big houses that sit alongside mine. You can call that either laziness (I didn’t have to go outside school to dance) or peer group “pressure” (supported by the fact others are doing it with me and I’m not “unique”) or a bit of both. I also think dancing has come a long way from the days of classical dancing at my ballet studio.
Diversity is a big topic at the kids’ school—as it is in America. So is LGBTQIA—and a big deal is made trying to inform and educate the kids on these issues. I find it both well-meaning but also a little condescending and so 2008 that they’re on this bandwagon.
Here’s why: We’re in LA, California in 2015. We support same sex marriage—yes Australia it’s legal and it didn’t hurt one bit—and we made Kanye West famous, in spite of the fact that he’s a bit of a knob. We have openly gay students, we have many kids the product of gay marriages and we have a sprinkling of different nationalities and backgrounds (perhaps not so much socio-economic but that’s not the school’s fault per se).
(As a brief interlude don’t you love that Australia is generally far more liberal than here in the US yet there are more states that have legalised gay marriage? Shame on you Australia letting a prudey minority conservatives control that line of thinking.)
Diversity is exemplified through the actions of the kids and administration and not by their words. Wait, isn’t there a cliché actions speak louder than words? Hmmm….
What I love is that two boys can get up and perform a dance and receive a rousing response—duh! because they were really good. There were another two boy dancers who were also very good. One boy—who was also a standout at the musical Godspell I blogged about late last year—was a more traditional dancer and he was so good and, alongside the talented girls, was applauded.
These boys are empowered (I hate that word) to get up and join in and perform in front of the school community. The other boys didn’t shoot them down and call them girls, they embraced them—they respected them and congratulated them. And by the way those boys are also on sports teams and participate freely in whatever activities are open to them that interests them–they’re not labelled and pidgeon-holed “dancers”.
You don’t need an assembly telling kids to embrace lots of different types of people you just need to show them. Shoving ideals down people’s throats—no matter how good they are—never worked and it’s not about to now.
Death by firing squad
My Facebook feed has been filled with opinions and tributes for two of the Bali nine guys sentenced to death (via firing squad) for trafficking drugs into Indonesia. This issue runs deep, there are many different opinions and no right or wrong answer (or opinion).
Seeing that footage in the link brought shivers up my spine. Seeing the media contingent taking photos & live footage and the onlookers also brought shivers up my spine. As did this news story detailing what goes on at such an execution.
As one of my Facebook & old (as in past not that we’re old!) school friends, Anne-Marie Hardy, put it … ”On a day where the whole country has an opinion, I’m reminded how important it is to listen to each other. Listening, without interrupting and constructing your next sentence takes practice and restraint, especially if we disagree. We are lucky to have free speech, let’s listen freely too.”
I think it’s wrong that in 2015 people can still be sentenced to death. No, no, please no haters or arguments for and against, I can see both sides so just let me finish… in general we were taught no “eye for an eye” and all that. The way some of these countries choose to punish people is so First Testament and being a “feeler” as opposed to a “thinker” I don’t like it. Particularly if a heinous crime has been committed, like my 14 year-old son said, “don’t we want want to make them suffer through their life rather than ending it?” (He’d be perfect too if he wasn’t a teenage boy).
Anyway, don’t be yelling at me via your screen or device—this is a light-hearted blog it’s not a conversation—or debate—starter, it’s actually a segue.
Consequences and behaviour
I’ve talked a few times now about the kids’ school here in LA and how I mourn the Australian approach to teaching. Here in America (Hollywoodland) they refer many aspects of our education style and system as “Harry Potter style”. (If we’re going to talk condescending maybe we could take a look at that …?).
I mentioned last week about the uniforms and because the administration didn’t believe their role was to police the rules they changed the uniforms.
Well now it seems there’s a bit of good-old-fashioned cheating going on. So you think that would be nipped in the butt before it becomes an issue don’t you? Apparently once again “being strict police officers creates an environment opposite of what we want to create”. Oops. There go those brakes again, screeching to a halt.
Say what? I am picturing the looks on the faces of the headmaster at my son’s school and the principal at my daughter’s school wondering how long it will take for them to burst into fits of laughter. Or at least die of shock.
Like parents, teachers are not in a popularity contest (did I say contest instead of competition?). Cut if off at the pass, take the bull by its horns, nip it in the butt, there are so many clichés to say stop it before it becomes an issue. How do you stop it? Consequences people consequences. You lay down the rules, you get caught you face the consequences. Can no one else see that?
Many of us back home (in Australia) are in awe of a Kiwi lady named Celia Lashle. She worked in prisons for many years and decided to look into how these men got to where they were. I highly recommend her books (especially if you’ve got boys at home and want/need to understand them better). You can find them here on Amazon.
Basically one of the things she says is that boys—which we can expand to be we as a community wherever we may be—need to have clear boundaries set and we need to be aware of the consequences if we break the rules or veer outside (or push) those boundaries.
It’s a bloody hard lesson (no harder than those poor boys who faced the firing squad) but if we don’t start by showing our kids what consequences mean then you want to hope it’s not too late by the time they do actually have to learn.
In other words we’re not doing anyone any favours by not showing consequences for poor choices at school because by the time they get to the real world—and they think they don’t need to follow the rules because they can get away with it—those consequences might just be a hell of a lot more than detention. (And if the Breakfast Club is anything to go by detention can be quite fun).
And before you go reading more into what I’ve said I did not mean those two Australian boys deserved what they got, I’ve moved on from there–it was a segue remember? That’s not a consequence that is strictly black or white, there are more than 50 shades of grey in that one.
I don’t know when exactly I grew up (or how I got so bloody perfect) but life’s not meant to be easy. The sooner we teach our kids that the better equipped they’ll be to deal with it. Otherwise, what does Edward Rooney say?, “I weep for the future.”
Bring me school according to Harry Potter anyday. (I guess I better watch those movies so I know what they’re talking about. Yes, yes, yes, I haven’t seen any of them. No, I haven’t read the books either. Don’t bully me or talk about me behind my back. I haven’t seen any of the Lord of the Rings or the Hunger Games either while we’re at it. Yes my husband is in entertainment, whatever, move on.)
When I went to school—and every other school the kids have been to—you’re scared to get hauled into the principal’s office. You know you’re in big trouble. But guess what? You usually respected that principal and you knew unless you wanted to get in trouble you stay within the boundaries. That’s all I’m saying. Boundaries are actually a comfort zone & policing those boundaries is a community service.
Back out for more celeb watching, this grown up thinking and parenting stuff (and being perfect) is exhausting.
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
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
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.
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.
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)
What are 10 things you miss about your home city? Or what are 10 things you don’t miss! Would love you to share.
It’s true I’m an Expat junkie. The only problem is I’m not that good at it. Sure, I’m good at saying “yes” and jumping in boots and all, I’m even good at moving and making the transition. But then reality starts to hit and I get really bad at it.
I want to be out “on the road” but then I want to be settled at home.
That’s why I haven’t written for a while…
All I seem to be doing these days is apologising. And the apology seems to be for the same thing: not writing enough. Blogging is like having a pen-pal—you’re all gung ho at first then it gets harder and harder to find time to write.
Well this time the reason I haven’t written is that I think I’ve lost my mojo. I hate being negative so like I tell the kids, “if you can’t say anything nice then don’t say it at all.” So radio silence.
Life in LA hasn’t been that bad it just hasn’t been that great. Truth be told it has nothing to do with LA and more to do with me.
Our two-year visa was nearly expired so we had to leave the US and reapply for new ones.
Another two years
There was no way we were going home after two years—after all the time it took us to get settled we need to stay at least another year. We only lived in Shanghai for two years and we left there kicking and screaming so if we can stay then we definitely should try.
So we went back to Australia to re-apply for our visas. I really didn’t want to go back to Australia—it was too soon. I wanted to go to see mum in Wales or check out Canada to get our visas but Mr H insisted we head home to Australia. I couldn’t argue with him: there are no holidays here at the end of year (once school starts back after summer) and we plan to travel during summer so this was the only chance we had to head home. So home we went.
I don’t know if I had it in my head that it would make me homesick but I just knew it would stuff me up. And it has damn it.
I wasn’t going to write about it. Then I thought I should. Then I didn’t know where to start. Have I really lost my way? Days and days doing everything I could to avoid blogging.
One foot in each continent
Imagine this. Get a map of the world. Here’s one.
There’s a lot of land (& sea) between LA & Sydney depending on which way you look at it.
See there’s one pin on the US and one pin on Australia? Yep, that’s me: I’ve got one foot in each country. I’m trying to keep one foot in Sydney while trying to balance on the other foot in LA.
We agree we want to stay on and continue the adventure: Mr H is enjoying work and the kids are doing well at school; I even have a work permit now. But why can’t we let go of life in Sydney? Part of it is the fact that we moved for a new job in a different country that’s not really a posting: this is it. If we head back to Australia it’s resigning from Hollywood and securing a new job and staying there.
Your future’s where you might not necessarily want to be
We know our future is here—at least for the next few years—so why is it so hard to accept? Will our world come crashing down? I doubt it. Will we lose our friends back home? Hardly likely. Well then, why the doom and gloom and moping around? Why is it so hard?
Well we’re back to that problem of feeling unsettled—unsettled when we should totally be feeling settled. I’m not talking about feeling unsettled with friends but come back to the house—a home.
I’m a Cancerian so to feel like I’m not in my “own” house unnerves me. When we lived in Shanghai we knew we could be moved at any time, and we had the ‘expat’ package to make up for it—that and our fabulous apartment on the Bund right in the hustle and bustle of downtown Pudong, Shanghai (but close to creature expat comforts like the Shangri-la Hotel and City Shop).
But like I said we’re not about to get moved—unless we decide to move. Why did I feel more settled in Shanghai? Is it because we were in a salubrious apartment that was possibly the nicest place I am ever going to live in? Is it because two years wasn’t long enough for us to feel unsettled?
Do you buy a house in your new country?
So that brings me back to buying a house here. It makes sense doesn’t it? It’s the great Australian dream—why pay someone else’s mortgage when you can pay off your own?
But buying a house isn’t really the problem. No, commitment is. Sure we’re committed to staying but actually using our (hoarded) money in Australia is a bigger step than I thought. Add to that the complication that taking that money out of Australia and moving it to the US means it’s not there to use to renovate our house before we head home. Uh-huh. That there is your problem.
Sounds like choices have to be made—buy a house here and feel settled or keep renting and use our money in Australia to eventually renovate our house (with plans and council approval waiting for us). Reluctant to let go but wanting to establish some roots.
Yep, it sounds like I can’t have my cake and eat it too. Still I guess I am in LA—land of Kale & Quinoa—I shouldn’t be thinking about eating cake.
Will keep you posted but instead of feeling better, writing this post has just depressed me even more: I want to eat cake!
What does your Expat life look like? Are you on edge to see when/if you’ll be moved? Have you made the decision to move away like we have and are in limbo? Have you taken the bull by the horns and established yourself, bought your own home? Or are you somewhere in between your old home and your new one? I’d love to hear about it.
xx it Started in LA xx
Oh and by the way in case you’re a knight in shining armour or a mortgage broker who will let me use my Australian house as security deposit please get in touch with me, I’m really really worth it and I’ll be so so grateful ;-).
FOMO. A Fear of Missing Out. Why is it that I’ve only just learnt this term? For as long as I’ve been in tune with my inner self I have understood–quite categorically–that I suffer intensely from this condition. (And yes, you’re right, there’s no such thing as FOMO phobia. It’s a tautology, you don’t need phobia because you already have fear. But I guess I just have fear squared and FOMO squared doesn’t have the same ring to it. So FOMOphobia it is).
This week I’m back to feeling like I’m in limbo. We had a fun weekend with local friends and all of them asked when we were going home. Or if we were staying. We’ve been here one year now and in our minds our “LA Stint” was always going to be two-three years.
But niggling at the back of my mind is the fact that we leave LA and Mr H has to find a job back in Australia. He resigned from his previous role to move–a permanent role not a contract. So what then? If he’s happy here do we stay? Do we want the kids to be educated here or in Australia (hmmm…bit late to be asking that question?). Do we want to actually live in LA “forever”? That’s not something I can answer yet.
The intention of this Blog is to share the surreal things that we’ve been exposed to since landing in LA so you know that life for us has been a lot of fun. But there is a downside to this whole adventure caper. For me it’s feeling unsettled.
Things going on back home
The minute we arrived home from living in Shanghai for a couple of years I engaged an architect to come up with plans to renovate our Sydney home. It took two years to agree on plans and get to work on construction drawings so we could start building. We were supposed to start building this year but then LA happened. We packed up the house, put the renos on hold and vowed to renovate while we’re here so we could move back into the house all done when we came home.
But who knows what’s going to happen to us? It’s far too early to decide what to do “with our lives”. But I want a plan. We’re paying a lot of money in rent and I’d much rather that money be going towards a house that we own. We’ve spent a fortune with an architect designing exactly the house we want but that’s the house we wanted this year. If it takes us another two years to get home (and build) then we’ll have one son just about at Uni and one daughter with only a couple more years in the house. What of that gorgeous family home with a beautiful outdoor space, granny flat and pool?
Hashtag first-world problems I know but my first-world problems nonetheless.
The unsettling feeling also extends to the kids being at school. They’re trying and learning etc but at the back of their minds they’re finishing school somewhere other than America so they don’t have to worry about the things American students need to worry about like building a resume to get into College (and we don’t have to worry about paying for it!).
Amazing College campuses
But the other night as my son was at waterpolo training my daughter and I walked through the grounds of UCLA. What a magnificent campus that is. There must have been an event on like O Week in Australia because there were students everywhere–many of whom still looked like babies.
Some things made me cringe (I still can’t wrap my head around sororities–sorry I’m sure I’ll come around at some stage but you have to give me longer on that one) and other things made me think that Americans do “College” really well. (Why don’t they call it Uni given most of the elite Colleges are in fact Universities???)
For example I like that it’s a right of passage–a transition phase–and life is all about “College”. The kids aren’t grown up yet–they can’t legally drink to start with–but they’re given controlled freedom and are growing into adults. (Does that make sense?) The fact that sport and activities are actively encouraged to me is fantastic. It means they peak at a later stage more in line with their growth and development.
I think at home we’re like, “oh, well done you’ve got your HSC now get to Uni, get a job and by the way you’re an adult; but you’re still studying so you’re not really grown up yet so make sure you do really well because you want to get a good job but by the way you’re still living under my roof and you live by my rules.” (Or something like that). It’s so … grey.
That’s where FOMO comes in. I want it all. I don’t want to miss out on any of it. I don’t want to miss out; I don’t want the kids to miss out.
What FOMO means to me
I want to hang out with my friends at home in Sydney and be sitting in my girlfriend’s kitchen on a stool with my name on it as I txt Mr H to come meet me so we can do an impromptu family dinner together and then all walk home because we’ve had “one too many”. I want my kids to be at school in Australia. My son should be off on the camp-of-a-lifetime: four weeks studying and doing outdoor ed as they face one of the most challenging years of their young lives (being 14/15). He’s missing cadets and playing waterpolo for the school and woodwork and Design & Tech. My daughter is missing so many leadership opportunities including giving her school captain speech as she had to resign from her position because we moved. Year 6 was a big transition year in her school and she’s missing that special time. I want them to play Saturday sport. I want to renovate and live in our beautiful house that we planned meticulously but haven’t hadn’t had the chance to build.
But then I want to be here in LA, getting to know my friends better, making new friends, travelling, experiencing life in an LA private school where the kids are meeting such a fascinating array of people (not least of which extremely famous people we’d never get the opportunity to meet back in Sydney).
I want I want I want
I want to go to the Emmys and Golden Globes and (who knows) maybe even the Oscars. I want to keep watching movies in Mr H’s amazing sound stage with no one but us there. I want the kids to experience College life on a campus continuing with sporting commitments even after school has finished continuing to grow rather than be active as a hobby. I want to buy a house here and feel settled because it’s our own.
I want my Baker’s Delight, Violet Crumbles, coffee shops, local butcher and beach house.
I want my Netflix, million different ice-cream flavours that don’t cost the earth, WeHo restaurants and inexpensive wine.
I don’t want to miss out on what’s going on in Sydney. And I don’t want to miss out on what’s going on in LA. Damn you FOMOphobia.
FOMO is real and I suppose is very real for Expats who have left mates at home yet are leading an adventurous life in their host country.
I don’t feel like I really had FOMO while we lived in Shanghai, maybe it’s because we lived in an opulent apartment overlooking the Bund but maybe also it was because I didn’t have a deadline to build my house. And maybe it’s because the kids were younger so the question mark of uni and where they may call home doesn’t come into question. Or maybe it’s because I don’t remember, I’ve chosen to forget.
Either way going out on the road can have its challenges. I guess it’s just a matter of perspective.
xx It Started in LA xx
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Another week and another visitor to show off our LA to last week. This time it was my niece coming over from Wales. My dad was from Wales and left home when he was young to travel the world. While we go back often to visit it’s not often we get to spend quality time with relatives apart from immediate family.
Ironically at the time my daughter was doing a history assignment on family so she got her nose out of joint that she hadn’t met any of Mr H’s extended family and only saw mine on holidays to the Philippines and Wales–and have since met more here in LA.
While her friends were having family gatherings and weddings she hadn’t experienced that because we have never lived in the same city as family. (OK technically that’s not true–Mr H’s brother and family lived in Sydney at the same time as us so the kids have a special bond with them as a consequence but that was some four + years ago now and with us both living out of Australia I can’t see us living in the same city again for quite some time.) That’s the tough part about being an Expat. The plus is that you establish close friendships stronger than any family bond and we’ve always had families take us under their wings (which we just love).
There were a few themes I noticed last week–especially as I see LA through the eyes of a first-timer–but I thought I’d use this week’s post to fess up to something I blogged about at the start of my new venture.
That post was about young girls here and their designer handbags. Specifically it was about us getting swept up in 90210 and wanting my daughter to have a fabulous Furla handbag.
At the time I was annoyed that the PE bag of choice was a Michael Kors tote and naturally when you see someone with something you like you want it too. But even with my fetish for handbags I couldn’t see how a Michael Kors PE bag would in any way be acceptable in my house. (Thankfully I think the bag du jour has changed once again proving my point that I can’t afford to get caught up in many of the trends out here).
As I re-read the post I don’t think I even articulated myself all that well. I think I was trying so hard to cover up what I was really trying to say that that’s exactly what I did!
Some of my gorgeous friends’ daughters do have designer handbags and to me that’s OK. It’s OK because they don’t get everything they want and they are uber fashion conscious and spend time creating their own individual looks and it works for them. They also don’t flaunt it. It’s normal to them and they don’t judge my daughter for not having … a designer handbag for example. It’s also OK because they can afford it. To them buying a designer handbag is like me buying my daughter a Sportsgirl bag or even a Country Road bag.
What’s not OK are girls who make others who don’t sport the latest designer handbag feel bad or out of it. Actually I don’t think many do but there’s a difference in my daughter’s behaviour (and what she wants) depending on who she’s been hanging out with so I’d love to know what is said and why she acts like that only after hanging with certain girls. As I’ve said to her lets limit the amount of hanging out time with those girls–if nothing else but for my nerves and my alcohol intake.
So here’s the confession. My daughter is now the proud owner of a spunky Marc Jacobs bag. She was over the moon to be given one as a gift from a few of her friends recently. Good for her. She loves it and cherishes it. It’s so special, especially because it’s come from friends.
She has also saved up for her very own matching Michael Kors wallet & tote bag. And no, she won’t be using it as her PE bag. She has counted every penny and watched as her favourite “camo” (that’s camouflage print to us untrained) gear went on sale. She was able to use Christmas and birthday money as well as the very generous gift cards she got from her recent party to get it with her own money.
The much-yearned-for Michael Kors camo bag
OK She didn’t actually have to work for it but she did get to experience the importance of saving up for something you really want.
Since I wrote about pocket money at the beginning of the year we’ve also been thinking seriously about that. The kids have been OK with doing some jobs but they’ve been doing a great job at budgeting their money and spending it wisely. So much so that we’re pretty much eliminating gift giving in our house in exchange for money giving.
The main downfall is that it’s completely impersonal and a real downer on a celebration day. But, money giving is helping our kids appreciate the value of money and make choices about what they really want–as opposed to asking for everything then being disappointed with the “little” they get.
My son did the same sort of thing with his money–saved it up and got a racing car set he really wanted. Like my daughter he counted his “pennies” until he hit the magic number and got exactly what he wanted.
The only other downside to this experiment is that neither of them can have a bank account here with a linked debit card until they’re 15 or 16. Once they get that then they’ll truly be able to transact without fear of losing their cash and track their savings and spending.
Back to handbags
You see one of the things I hadn’t fully thought through was the problem is similar back home. And it’s even more true in Expatland where Cashed-up bogans rule supreme.
In Australia there are girls with designer handbags, wallets or designer clothes. Or the latest Mac. Or holiday house. Or boat. Or iWhatever. There are some girls who get what they want, and others who don’t.
In Expatland it’s probably even worse. I bought my daughter a designer wallet (fake of course–which brings up more ethical debate truth be told) and thought nothing of it.
When we lived in China things were so ridiculously cheap and we didn’t have mundane bills to worry about like rent, utilities or school fees that the discretionary spending was abnormally high. I didn’t have a blog then but I spent a lot of time analysing how much the kids had and how no one wanted for anything that we were raising a generation of spoilt children living in a surreal world. I spent a lot of time then making sure we weren’t buying the kids too many material possessions so they would think that was the norm and OK. (No wonder my kids think I’m a hard-ass.)
The moral of the story?
The moral of the story is and always will be each to their own: their own beliefs, values and judgments. This blog contains the world according to Gwen John and it doesn’t have to be the world according to you.
Am I being hypocritical that now my daughter, too, owns a designer handbag? That’s for you to decide and me to justify.
What I love is that, sure, it’s got the Michael Kors element about it but it’s my daughter to a T–she loves everything camo. In my mind she’s not compromising who she is for the sake of buying herself a designer bag.
I go back to my mum’s advice when she visited a couple of months ago when she questioned me and my steadfastness.
She cautioned me at being stubborn to resist the change (you always want what you can’t have). She agreed we have to be true to ourselves and our values but we also had to be mindful we’re bringing kids up in a different place to where we grew up. She reminded me that the same thing happened to me when we moved back to Melbourne after spending a few years in Queensland. It’s OK to be pliable and blend a little so long as you remember who you are and what you believe in. And I think we are and we do.
LA through different eyes
My niece was gobsmacked at LA–not just the six-lane freeways but the uber wealth in not one but dozens of different neighbourhoods (Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Los Feliz, Malibu, Larchmont, Santa Monica, Brentwood, Hollywood Hills .. need I go on?) She was also surprised to see so many homeless people and the terrible state of some of the roads. She laughed at dinner the other night as she reflected that everyone in the restaurant carefully checks out everyone else to see if they are “someone” or if they know them. (She said I was being checked out–love it!).
Perhaps one (or two) of her biggest surprises though were the canyons. Like most people she saw LA as being Beverly Hills (the flats), Santa Monica and the beaches and Anaheim. She had no idea of the beauty of the surrounding canyons. Coupled with that spotting deer crossing the road just two doors down from our house spun her out.
That’s what I love about LA: the surprise factor. There’s so much more to LA than you might think. Whichever way you look at it though, it’s worth getting to know better.
xx It Started in LA xx
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It’s the ANZAC Day long weekend in Australia where we remember those that served our countries (Australia and New Zealand). While the spirit of ANZAC Day encompasses all Australians who served and died in war (and peace-keeping missions) it especially represents the landing on Gallipoli in 1915. One of the most moving ceremonies we went to was in Shanghai where the Australian and New Zealand communities get together to commemorate the Day. Likewise we will be attending a ceremony here in LA.
So … straight onto this week’s Fact or Fiction where I posed the statement:
At one point Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie & Kim Kardashian all went to the same school here in LA.
The answer is correct: Fact. Nicole, Kim & Paris all went to school together in their younger years–at the very same school my kids go to.
And 75% of you got it right! Well done!
I’ve been excited over the last couple of weeks to be visiting Beverly Hills’s iconic hotels. So I thought I’d pose this week’s questions about one of those hotels.
The Beverly Hilton pool is known as the largest heated pool in Beverly Hills, it is just about as famous as the hotel itself. You know the Golden Globes have been held at the Beverly Hilton since forever so … My question is:
Is the pool covered over for Golden Globes after parties?
I’ve mentioned a couple of times now that we lived in China–Shanghai actually. I have such amazing memories of our nearly two years there despite it being a really tumultuous time. I wonder if you asked my close girlfriends back in Australia what they would say about my time in Shanghai.
I’m tripping down memory lane for two reasons today:
We spent a fun weekend catching up with dear friends from Shanghai last weekend in San Diego and naturally we took a great trip down memory lane (I’ll post a full report on San Diego)
One of my readers asked me to write about the not-so-good stuff about LA and how there are days when you go enough’s enough, I just want to throw in the towel and give it all up just to be back in the comfort zone of family and friends living a normal life.
It was so good to hang out with our neighbours from Shanghai. We lived in a fabulously salubrious apartment called Tomson Riviera–the most expensive apartments in Shanghai–it was ridiculously convenient to Super Brand Mall, another fabulous Mall, IFC, we had the Shangri-la and great restaurants but we still had a Blind massage and “local” amenities so we felt like we were in China and not some surreal world.
Home in Shanghai
Our neighbours lived in the apartment downstairs from us and they had to put up with our kids thudding up and down the hall like a herd of wild elephants. We would see each other most days–either in the morning at the gym or around 4:30 for Orange Blossoms or wine (or both–morning and afternoon that is not Orange Blossoms and wine but come to think of it yes to both). We would also schedule shopping days out or “Tomson Tours” as we liked to call it where a bunch of us from the apartment block would go out and explore areas (like a day trip to Expo) or factories and shops we’d heard about from other expats.
We were each others’ sounding boards, rocks but it was a great balance because we weren’t living out of each others’ pockets. Our kids (with some 10 years plus between them in ages) are pretty much carbon copies of one another in temperament and roles which cracks us up–especially our two youngest “princess” daughters.
Fast Forward three plus years and they’ve repatriated back to Seattle and we obviously moved back home and are now here. A lot has happened in both our lives since we moved back home but it was like no time at all had passed, we were just loving catching up and everything clicked back into place.
I wrote the other week about how Americans struggle to laugh at themselves but it was Sue who laughed at me moving to America where I would “never live” and now I have more than one American friend. It was Sue that had to listen to my ear-bashing of Americans and how Australians don’t really “do” Americans as a rule yet she was one of closest friends in Shanghai. And it was Sue that came to rescue when my princess was having one of her (very regular) tantrums–oh and of course to help with our many dress-up opportunities.
But it got me thinking about our time in Shanghai–and back to my reader’s feedback. Not once did our trip down memory lane touch on the bad bits about being there. We led the most glamorous lives and according to Mr H all I did was “shop, shop, shop” go to the gym (yes, I was a gym junkie) and eat at fabulous restaurants and jump the queue and get into great VIP bars inside the best Clubs in Shanghai. But living in China was also hard. There’s not enough time in this post to try to get you over the line to understand the daily drudgery but it was there. (Hmmmm maybe it’s time to publish that book after all.)
So why are trips down memory lane always so good? I don’t know much about psychology but I’m guessing that has a lot to do with it, that it’s in our best interests to remember the good bits and flush out the bad bits. We do remember some bad bits–and that’s how we grow as people but by and large we look back on life (hopefully) rather fondly.
Get me out of here
When we were in Shanghai I remember vividly wanting to go home. I think it took me eight months to get over. I loved it but I hated not having friends (despite of course having friends). The closing chapter of my book was all about the realisation when we left that I had friends the whole time. Good friends. But those friends played different roles in my life compared to my friends at home. I likened my time in Shanghai to The Wizard of Oz that, like Dorothy, I had what I needed the whole time: Dorothy needed to (ironically) get home to Oz and me, well I had friends.
Jump forward nearly four years in the future to today in a new country yet again. I have made some great friends here in such a short time. I’ve been welcomed and included and had lots of fun. Repeat after me: I have made friends, I have made great progress. There was a time not so long ago I may have forgotten this lesson though.
I was pretty miserable a couple of months ago. I announced to Mr H that I’d had enough, I wasn’t happy that the kids were missing out on the great things Australian private schools had to offer them and I wasn’t sure this is were we should raise our kids for an extended period. That was totally my “get me out of here–now” moment. I hadn’t shared it directly with you to put it quite as blunt as that but I had written about some challenges we were having, conflicts in ideology and questioning whether we fit in or not.
I missed the “anniversary” of us being here eight months. What a great sign that things are on the up-and-up again. Of course we fit in. The kids are getting a great experience going to school in a different country and (hello!) living amongst the rich and famous has (big-time) the fun element.
Coming back from holidays does that to you though–you get this spring in your step, a rejuvenation like you’re ready to kick on. I felt precisely the same way when we got back from our Spring Break in Wales. We used to call them “Get out of China” days you needed to regularly get out in order to come back in fresh. Maybe it’s the same wherever you are as an Expat?
And catching up with friends that get you also does that to you–recently having dear friends here from Australia and just his past weekend with our Shanghai-American friends. They’ve given me my confidence back that I’m doing ok.
Wherever you are you have your good days and your bad days–home, overseas, on holidays. However much money you have you have your good days and your bad days. No matter how successful you are you have your good days and your bad days. What I’m learning all over again is that, despite my fear and loathing of rollercoasters, that’s life. Hop on and enjoy the ride and essentially they’re the same wherever you go. OK, maybe some are bigger than others but the bigger the climb, the bigger the thrill.
updated October 8, 10:00 LA time with new info on The Slap.
Happy Easter long weekend (although it’s now the tail of it). And, of course, Happy Passover. I love that we’re in a melting pot of religions here in 90210 and being exposed to Judaism and all its associated traditions. I knew, of course, that there were many Jewish people in Hollywood and TV Shows like The OC celebrated Hanukkah and “Chanukkah” but didn’t even think about it when we were planning to move here. I have to say that’s what’s so great about being an Expat and immersing yourself in other cultures, even if it’s fundamentally similar to your own (ie. not like our move to China!).
I love that I’m learning so much, too, about things like kosher food. When I first got here I was having two friends over for lunch. I sent them an email wondering if I needed to use kosher salt in my cooking as I’d seen it all over the supermarkets.
Knowing me they knew I was serious but a friends’ husband thought I was taking the piss (taking the mickey, joking). Now I know why–if you’re truly cooking kosher it has to be that the whole kitchen is kosher and I actually even think that you then have to be practising kosher yourself. Not sure I’ll have to look that one up. You get the gist though … salt is not going to miraculously turn the meal kosher!
Anyway, onto this week’s Fact or Fiction question:
At one point Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie & Kim Kardashian all went to the same school here in LA.
Results from last week
The US is remaking The Slap for US TV.
The Australian cast featured a stunning line-up including Melissa George, Sophie Okonedo, Essie Davis, Alex Dimitriades and Jonathan LaPaglia producing an incredible mini-series that absolutely nailed it.
The answer is indeed Fact, NBC is rewriting and adapting the quintessentially Australian show for US TV. They’ve got a great team (Jon Robin Baitz, writer for West Wing and Brothers and Sisters) behind the project but I’m betting it won’t be anything like the Australian version.
We all know American and Australian culture is very different and no one is learning that more than me as I live and play here. The Australian version is too raw and real that it couldn’t play out in its current form. So I’m guessing we shouldn’t expect it to be quite as confronting as the Australian version but I look forward to seeing how it goes. If nothing else I hope it will give me some fodder to be to eloquently isolate the differences between American and Australia.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, NBC announced it would take up the show in 2012 but it’s only confirmed that it will put it into production this year. Watch this space …
I got a call from a really good friend of ours to tell me that he & his family are moving to London for 2-3 years. Evidently his recent visit over here with us inspired him to take on an adventure of his own.
This got me thinking about our life and what we’re up to. One of the things I’m afraid of by being here in LA as the kids get older is their desire to stay–as we get older and want to go home they get older and want to stay. Heaven forbid they’ll want to buy a house here and settle down. Especially with access to Hollywood they could be “stuck” here if they choose to be in the Entertainment Industry for example. I know, how lucky they are to be here and have access to contacts they would never dream of living in Australia (much like we never did!). Also choosing to work in the industry as an option makes them extremely lucky.
But there’s that element of “control” to take the family back as one cohesive unit so we stay together. My kids and I missed not having my family around as they chose to go back to Wales and I chose to stay in Australia (and Shanghai & LA as it turns out). I want to be close to my family and babysit my grandchildren (… just had to pause as I said something like that out loud so soon in my life) when the time comes.
Back to my friend. He has grown up in the same Australian city: gone to school, married, worked and started a family there. He recently also bought a beach house so his roots were firmly entrenched where he was.
Success–and an adventurous spirit–can move you to a different part of the globe regardless of whether you’ve moved as family through various expat assignments or stayed in the one spot your entire life. Perhaps I need to focus on what’s best for us all in the moment rather than plan ahead to something that may or may not happen.
And should it be that my kids get the opportunity to move and travel for work then I should actually be the one person who is happiest for them because I know how rich their life will be as a result. Of all people I should recognise how lucky they are to be gifted the opportunity–and how lucky they are to share that experience with their kids.