Saturday, February 26, 2011

Don't Stress The Little Devil Out

This week's PhotoHunt theme is mostly black.

A Tasmanian Devil is mostly black except for a white spot that can occur on his chest or rump. His black ears will turn red when he becomes stressed.
As you can see the similarities between the Warner Brothers bipedal Taz and the Australian marsupial are practically non existent. Though, they both do have a ravenous appetite and a bad temper.
The Tasmanian Devil only survives in the wild on the island state of Tasmania. However, widely spread fossils indicated that they were once found on mainland Australia.  It is believed that due to meteorological changes and the spread of the dingo they became extinct prior to the arrival of European settlers. The Tasmanian Devil is not a large animal, and they are about the size of a small dog.  Its build is stocky and muscular.  It makes a variety of boisterous noises, but its vocalizations are primarily to warn and ward off intruders. The devil is carnivorous and nocturnal.  It roams considerable distances, up to 16 km a night, in search for food--either carrion or prey.  It uses its powerful jaws and teeth to completely devour the carcass bones, fur and all.
After almost a century of being hunted by those that viewed them as a threat to livestock, the Tasmanian Devil was on the brink of extinction.  However, in 1941 they officially became protected and their numbers began to increase.  Unfortunately, starting in the mid 1990's the species has fallen victim to the devastating Devil Facial Tumor Disease-a fatal condition characterized by cancers around the mouth and head.  Currently the wild Tasmanian devil population has decreased by 80%, and the animal is now considered endangered.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Going Postal

No matter where you live, when it comes time to move there are a series of tasks that need to be completed. In addition to the actual physical part of boxing stuff and physically transporting it from one place to another, we are all pretty familiar with cleaning a rental for the final inspection, contacting companies to terminate gas, electric, phone and internet service, and notifying the the Postal Service of a new mailing address. 
On our recent relocation all of this seemed pretty straight forward and simple--well maybe not the moving and cleaning but--the terminating of services was a breeze. Unlike Spain, where we had to do it in Spanish and in most cases fill out endless paperwork, in Australia we were able to do it over the phone. Of course, one task always gets left for the end. In our final week in Adelaide I stopped by the Post to pick up a form to have our mail forwarded. I was going to fill in the paper then and there but a quick scan made me realize that proper ID for all requesting their mail be forwarded would have to be shown. Oh well, fortunately the post was just around the corner and I figured we could do it when the cleaners were shagging, I mean washing our windows. Besides, if worse came to worse we could always skip  this task since with skype, electronic billing, etc., little snail mail actually passes through our box. 
On our second to final day in Adelaide we considered skipping the forwarding all together, but I reflected on what a pain it had been for the last 2.5 years to have to return the inconsiderate previous tenant's mail. So off we headed to the Post Office
With the paperwork and photo ID's in hand we marched up to the counter. The teller slowly went over all of our information and entered it into the computer. As she scribbled something on the bottom of the paper, she briefly looked up and asked us how we wanted to pay for this transaction. We quickly replied "How much is it?" Neither of us could refrain from gasping when when she answered $70 dollars. We  sheepishly informed her that in the States it is a free service then quickly slunk out the door.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Painless Move Is An Oxymoron

We began our life as ex-pats with four suitcases and a set of golf clubs. This was during the pre stringent weight rules and our bags were filled to the brim. Of course, over the next five years we gradually added to the contents of these 5 parcels and when it was time to leave Spain we were forced to deal with a relocation company. In all honesty, I had wanted to ship my cherished European ceramics back to our storage unit in the States and take what we could carry. But Mark argued that if the company was paying for shipping why not take our belongings with us. So our 22 tagged items (boxes of clothes and ceramics, Turkish rugs, hat racks, golf clubs, 2 guitars, and a bike) made the long journey across the ocean to join us in Australia. Of course it was not all smooth sailing and our belongings had to brave being hefted from a second story  balcony (the guys decided it was easier than taking the stairs). Then they had to wait out a transportation strike--not an ideal way to start a voyage half way across the world.  But we were lucky, and after 3 months our stuff, except for the couple of wood pieces that were confiscated and burned, arrived in Adelaide. (Australian customs Law is very picky about what you can and cannot take into the country!)
By the time our belongings arrived we had filled our unfurnished flat (Mark fell in love with the view and just had to have it) with stuff from Ikea. Since we knew our stay would not be permanent we figured it was best to furnish the place with inexpensive basics and we were able to create an environment that I was happy with. However, the arrival of our goods from Europe was the icing on the cake and the place turned from a bare furniture show room into our home.
Then 2.5 years later we were once again faced with a move. I had never planned for our furniture to travel with us. In fact, I strongly believed that Ikea furniture is not built to survive a move. Once again Mark insisted that if the company was paying then why not ship it? I finally gave in; to be honest, I had no desire to have to shop and fill the empty flat that awaited us half-way across the country. It also didn't hurt that the Mark's employer promised to make the move as painless as possible.
We were provided a list of company recommended removal companies, who would not only take care of the move but the clean up of the flat as well.  We sat through 3 meetings where we heard promises of bubble wrap and special cartons. Everyone seemed to have plenty of experience with delicate ceramics. No worries that we lived in a strict parking area--a special permit would be acquired from the local council. There would be no problem cleaning the stained marble counters or making the huge salt crusted plate glass windows shine. We were given personal mobile numbers, just incase something were to go wrong. It all seemed so up and up and everyone was so professional. As we sat down to make our final decision I couldn't help but feel that all was going to be OK.
Then the hassles started. First we were told that the company would be there to pack in the morning and pick-up in the afternoon. But then they decided that wouldn't work, so they scheduled to pack on Monday and pick-up on Tuesday. Friday before the move we were contacted and informed that we were back  to the a.m./p.m. pack & pick-up scenario. The packers arrived as scheduled but they had minimal supplies and no bubble wrap was to be seen. I quickly pointed out the fragile ceramics and was assured not to worry. I cringed as I watched my precious bowls, plates and pitchers wrapped in acid free paper and placed in a meter deep box. I shook my head in disbelief as electronics were hap-hazardly thrown into boxes. The furniture was left alone and we were told that it was the job of next crew to wrap it. The second crew arrived in the large truck, without  a council permit and all they could say was " Well lets hope we don't get towed!"  There was still no bubble wrap and one of the workers insisted that they don't wrap like that here in Australia even though we had been promised that the delicate furniture would be individually wrapped before loaded into the container.  Mark eventually had to pull out the private cell number which was conveniently turned off. So instead he called the manager who assured us that things would be taken care of appropriately. A little late since most of the furniture had made its way out to the container. As the unhappy crew stood on the balcony having a smoko (at least they asked permission) and waiting for bubble wrap to be delivered, I thought back on the idea of a painless move, and realized that they meant we would be numb with pain.
In preparation of our move I had done some cleaning, so the flat was in good condition. In many respects it was cleaner than when we had moved in and all the company had to do was the windows, counters and floors--an over all simple job. Or at least it should have been.
Unfortunately the contracted cleaner called in sick. A second company had been contacted and would arrive at 3 pm. No, make that 4 pm. Ummm, perhaps by 6. At 7:30 a guy arrived. The tired looking worker informed us that he would work for a couple of hours and return in the morning. He assured us that it would be no problem to have the apartment finished for our final inspection at noon the next day.
There really wasn't much we could do other hand over the keys. We headed to our favorite local bar for a celebratory glass of champers before grabbing a bite to eat. We ended the evening with a stroll on the beach where we saw the lights at our place still burning bright. I figured the guy really wanted to get the job done, but then we realized that there wasn't much cleaning going on. Instead, our jaws dropped as we watched the cleaner and a female companion walk out onto the balcony with a basket. It wasn't long before the drinks were being poured. We were not up for a confrontation. So out came the cell phone and though we knew the private number would be of no use at this point, we were able to leave the company a message informing them that their contracted cleaner was about to shag on our carpet. Needless to say our phone was ringing first thing in the morning.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Partial Eclipse

After a couple of weeks off, I am back. It wasn't that I didn't was ignoring you all, but our recent move left us without internet. Who would have thought that a cyclone that hit over 3600 kilometers away would have knocked out our Broadband Mobile service in Perth? But things are back up and running, we are settled into our new home, and I am ready to play!
This week's PhotoHunt theme is silhouette.

It is impossible to visit Litchfield National Park in Australia's Northern Territory without calling in to see the famous termite mounds. The early morning is an ideal time to visit the amazing fortresses that are considered Mother Nature's Bioreactors. To see more pictures and read about these impressive structures you can read my previous blog here