Monday, 14 March 2011

First day in our new home! (14th March 2011)

Jono was up at 7am and I continued to snooze for a bit while he got ready for his first day at work. A brand new week in Sydney and we're officially moving into our new home in Erskineville today! Jono headed off to work shortly and with the remaining bags, I went to the reception at Regis to settle our bills around 8.30am. I was left with only $50 in my bank account after paying for our stay at serviced apartment ($1000 for the week). Ouch... Interestingly, we weren't charged for internet usage in the room so I kept mum about it and proceeded to leave the building with our belongings. 

Our rented serviced apartment at Regis

We had a kitchenette which was really small and not ideal for cooking

View from the apartment

I headed over to Central station and caught the train to St Peters - though we live in Erskineville, our apartment is actually closer to the St Peters train station. It took quite a bit of effort carrying two day-packs and a trolley up the flights of stairs. I wonder how the disabled and old would manage getting to and from the platforms at St Peters station when there aren't any lifts or escalators...A short 10 minute walk and I was at the apartment, arriving around 9.30am. I was panic-stricken for a split second when my key wouldn't work on the lock of our door - phew, thank god it worked! I have the IKEA delivery turning up today and have to be able to get into the apartment!! I stayed in most of the day, putting our stuff away and just enjoying the peace and quiet of the place. Hmm, I like our new home - it's smallish but good enough for two and once we have the place set up, it'll be nice and cosy :)

The IKEA delivery truck turned up at 1pm. I was told by the deliverymen that our apartment was 50 metres away from the road thus they cannot carry all the items up to the apartment as it was against the company policy (the distance from truck to residence has to be under 50 metres). "We'll have to leave it by the footpath," he continued. WTF?! How do you expect me to carry the bed, dining set, study desk, sofa etc on my own??? And it looks as if it would rain soon! They weren't at all helpful with the situation, adding further that I could call a friend to help move the furniture. ARGH!!!!! I eventually sorted out the problem by calling the apartment caretaker to find out if I could have the truck drive up the footpath to the entrance of the apartment and thankfully he said that was no problem. Great! Finally we can get the furniture to the apartment - sheesh, what drama!

I quick stop at Annie's Place Cafe located at the end of our street by Mitchell Road for a takeaway falafel kebab and coffee, and then t
he rest of my day was spent putting together most of the IKEA items we bought. Jono turned up with Indian takeaways for dinner at 7pm and bought toilet paper too (the latter, very important). We ate sitting on the floor while we continued to fix up the furniture and caught up on Jono's first day at work. He enjoyed the induction day and proceeded to show me what he was given: a Macbook Air (work laptop), a sturdy backpack and a Noogler (new Googler) propeller cap. All meals were provided for staff (they have an on-site cafe and if the cafe was closed, they could charge their meal on the company credit card) and there were many other perks including free entry to museums and attractions. Google also pays for our medical insurance (yes, it's for the Googlers and their family members so as Jono's partner, mine is paid for as well) and subsidises up to $70 for our monthly internet expenses. I like it that they take good care of their staff and their family members as well. It is a very awesome company to work for, that's for sure (I wished I work there too)!

I enjoyed putting together our IKEA furniture though m
y hands and arms were pretty sore after working hard the whole day trying to complete as many pieces of furniture as I could. I got Jono to check all the screws to make sure they were tightly secured and we worked together to set up the bigger items like the sofa, study desk and bed. Finally got to sleep around 11.30pm, tired but happy. Ah, our first home, just us :)

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Day 6 in Sydney: Trip to IKEA (13th March 2011)

Today was another early start for us, getting up at 8am for a day of shopping for the house. Neither of us has started work but already spending so much on our first week in Sydney!

Beryl and Tim told us over dinner the other night that there was an IKEA in Supa Centre Moore Park (IKEA, to us, is the place to buy cool furniture and household items at an affordable price) so we walked to the suburb of Surry Hills to catch the bus to Kensington where the mall was located. Cost $3.30 each for a one-way prepaid ticket on bus M20 (the bus is on a route that is prepay only i.e. tickets must be purchased prior to boarding - the driver has no cash). This was our first bus experience in Sydney and it was crazy - the driver was driving the bendy-bus pretty fast and we were swaying jerkily as we rode on. Is he even driving within the legal speed??

We arrived at Supa Centre around 11am but there was no IKEA to be found. It turned out that the Heskeths had gotten Freedom Furniture mixed up with IKEA; IKEA was in another suburb called Rhodes which was a lot further west than where we were. Hmm, we should have checked before we headed out...We had a look around the shops in the mall, mostly selling furniture and a variety of household items, and ended up in Bing Lee, a consumer electronics chain store that has branches based in New South Wales (NSW). What we thought was quite interesting about the store was that you could negotiate the price and because we were purchasing big ticket items such as the washing machine and refrigerator, the lady staff who serviced us was giving quotes for anything we showed a slight interest in - she really wanted her sales bonus, reeling us in with all the discounts she could give us. We spent about $2,000 all up - a top loader washing machine, a sleek stainless steel refrigerator, microwave, vacuum cleaner and iron - it was quite a good deal. And it included delivery and unpacking as well which we definitely require. Yay, we'll have a fridge on Tuesday when they deliver!

If you think that was the end of our shopping expedition, well you're wrong. It was just the beginning - as our place came unfurnished, we have to purchase our own furniture too so we continued our hunt for IKEA in Rhodes. We caught the bus back to Surry Hills from Kensington, then took the train from Central to Rhodes in search for 
Rhodes Shopping Centre where IKEA was located.

IKEA is a world renowned company that designs and sells ready-to-assemble furniture and home accessories, and it is a store I have always enjoyed spending the afternoon in whenever I visited my extended family in Kuala Lumpur with Mum during school holidays - Mum likes their innovative and user-friendly products which are affordable yet look like they would cost lots. It was a novelty because we do not have an IKEA in my home town. For me, I loved being in the different showrooms - it was like playing house except there were other people doing the same as well (there might be another couple or person sitting on the lounge sofa 'pretending' like it's their living room to get a feel of the product). Still, I enjoyed checking out each room and just soaked in the feeling of what it would be like if this was my bedroom/kitchen/lounge when I grow up. Oh, I've definitely growned up a lot since then and now my dreams are turning to reality :)

It was about lunchtime when we arrived so took a break from shopping for lunch at Sumo Salad at the food court. Sumo Salad is an Australian food franchise that is part of this new wave of healthy food served fast and offers a 'design your own' made-to-order salads as well as selection of gourmet salads, wraps and soups to choose from. I went for a Pesto Chicken Express Medium Salad while Jono ordered a Vietnamese Grilled Chicken Salad where he got to choose his own ingredients. I can see why the company has reference to sumo - the servings were HUGE! Cost us $20.90 all up which also included a 450ml bottle of water and small snack.

k, now that we have refuelled, time to get back to business. I cannot believe there is only one IKEA in the whole of NSW and it's so far from the city (the train ride took almost half an hour). It was quite horrific being in here - it was SO crowded and felt like the whole of Sydney has decided to turn up on the same day to shop! We spent several hours in the 'forest', the first few rounds just to check out what was available and what suited our apartment then back again with pencil and paper (these are free and found on stands scattered around the store - measuring tapes are available too) to jot down the product name and number. Trust me, you WILL need these later. We agreed there were way too many things we needed to get so got only the big items - bed and mattress, dining set, sofa, side chairs and bedside tables. We will have to make another trip the coming weekend to pick up more stuff. 

Part of the fun of IKEA is that you get to be warehouse person in the enormous warehouse because you have to carry your own items to check out using the industrial-size trolleys (we needed two!) and/or the large IKEA bags. This is where those product names and numbers will come handy as you snake along the aisles to find the correct match. And then you get to take your new purchases home and assemble them yourself (this is why the cost of the product is much lower because you have to do most of the labour) - it's like being a kid again, using screwdrivers and L-keys to secure the parts. I love it!

Boy was I tired come 5pm when we finally left. Furniture shopping is hard work - my feet are sore from all the walking! Fortunately we didn't have to carry our purchases home; there was a deal on today where if we bought a particular brand of mattress, the delivery fee would be waived. We took the opportunity to source out a suitable mattress of the brand and had it plus the rest of our furniture delivered to us tomorrow afternoon, saving ourselves $90 and the pain of having to carry these heavy items to the door. Total spend at IKEA today was around $1500. Ouch, we singed $3,500 in one day...

Back at Regis at 6pm and we went to Chon Siam for dinner, a cosy little Thai restaurant just round the corner on Campbell St a few doors away from Chilli Cha Cha and the Thai grocery store (we obviously live near the part of Haymarket that is popular with the Thai community). Cost us $25.80 for my Tom Yum soup with rice and Jono's Thai Green Curry as well as beers. Oh yeah, I need a beer after working so hard today...ahhhhh...this is good... We stayed in the rest of the evening and had an early night - Jono starts work tomorrow and I've got a busy day checking out of the serviced apartment and dealing with the delivery of our IKEA stuff. A brand new and exiting week ahead :)

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Day 5 in Sydney: Move to our new home (12th March 2011)

Got up at 9am and headed out for breakfast at North Espresso Bar on Goulburn St near Regis. Cost $24.50 for our coffees, muesli for Jono and eggs on toast for me. Hmm, not sure what it is with scramble eggs but it often makes me feel a bit sick after eating them...maybe I should have had muesli instead...It was a fairly quiet start to a Saturday morning and there were hardly anyone walking about - I guess we were in the business district end of town so most places were closed during the weekend.

Our plan today was to move most of our luggage to our apartment - Jono starts work on Monday, the same day we would be checking out of Regis so I'm pretty much on my own; we needed to move most of our belongings today so I that have only our day packs to carry home on Monday. Around 10.30am, we piled up our items into a taxi and got the driver to take us to Glebe to pick up items Beryl and Tim have put aside for us - some bedding, cutlery, bowls and mugs, a pot and a pan - just a few basics to get us started. I cannot believe the Chinese taxi driver has no idea how to get to our destination in Glebe and he was flipping this thick book of Sydney suburban maps to find the location! Wow, that's just ancient - I've not seen taxi drivers using physical maps these days. Everyone's using GPS! We ended up directing the poor fellow to the Heskeths home using our smartphone. Do we get a discount on the fare for doing your job?

Cost us $45.39 for the taxi ride. We have SO much stuff to carry - we didn't have a box to carry the items we collected from Beryl and Tim so had to leave them on the footpath and made multiple trips back and forth to pick them up and walk to the entrance of our apartment block. Working up a sweat! The rest of the morning was spent unpacking and making a list of things we needed to purchase for our home. Yes, we definitely need a fridge and a washing machine...yep, microwave, kettle, toaster...and the list goes on. It's so nice to have our own place - we have a lot more space to store our belongings than our previous flat. I even have my own separate section of the built-in cupboard that we have in our room. No need to share hanging space with Jono any more :P 

Around 1.30pm, we left the apartment and headed back to town. Darn, just missed the train! It's going to take another half an hour or so before the next one arrives :/ Oh well, might as well grab lunch around here then. We went to check out 
Jetts' Coffee And Delights near St Peters station for light lunch of quiche, tandoori samosa and chilled juices. The owner was really friendly and chatty, and boy was it good to be indoors with air-conditioning - the weather was so warm today! As we were about to pay and leave, we found out that they take only cash so Jono left me at the cafe while he went to find an ATM to withdraw money. How annoying! Shops that take cash only really should have a sign on the door that states so, warning prospective customer in advance. We really need to get into the habit of having cash with us from now on - this is Sydney,  not Wellington any more.

As we left Central station, 
we noticed huge lines of young 20-somethings cramming themselves onto buses at the bus stop across the street from the station. Not sure where these people were headed to but it was for some Futuremusic festival. Look at the mess they have created, littering all over the place while waiting for the bus:

Total havoc!

Back to Regis to chill out and around 5.15pm, we walked to Coles in World Square Shopping Centre. After eating out almost every meal since we got here, Jono suggested we cook instead this evening. Hmm, cooking ended up being a lot more effort with our lack of kitchen utensils and tiny kitchenette in the studio. I can't wait till we officially move and set up our apartment - we have a proper kitchen and gas stove too :) The rest of the evening was a quiet stay-in, watching TV and eating mint chocolate chip ice cream we picked up from the supermarket. Yum!

Friday, 11 March 2011

Day 4 in Sydney: We have a home & I've got a job! (11th March 2011)

Was up at 8.30am and headed out by 10am to the bank to collect our Visa debit cards and a bank cheque for $3000 issued - this was for the bond and a month's rent in advance for our new place, almost half the amount we transferred to Australia! Eeks, I had better find a job fast at our current rate of spending. We aren't planning to transfer more funds over unless absolutely necessary.

Back at Regis for final prep for my interview and around 11.30am, we headed out, me taking the train from Central to North Sydney for the interview while Jono walked to the Google office where he was having 
introductions and lunch with his immediate team. Cost me $4.40 return ticket and it was easy to find my way second time around, arriving well ahead of time. 

Ok, I feel terribly overdressed for my interview - my interviewer (same guy as in the first interview) turned up in t-shirt and 3/4 pants and I was wearing a work shirt, pants and jacket. As usual, he was fussing about his coffee and I refrained myself from rolling my eyes, patiently waiting for him to get ready. The interview this time included the HR manager who was based in NZ so the interview was conducted via conference call. It was weird talking into the phone (we were on speaker mode), answering questions about my personality and whether I worked well in a team environment etc. As strange as my interviews with this company has been, I thought it went alright even if it only took 20 minutes. I was told that I was one of three applicants that was short-listed for a second interview for the permanent role and I would find out the outcome by Monday. Well, let's see what happens - if it doesn't work out, I'll have to start actively looking for work next week.

I headed back to our accommodation to meet Jono and he accompanied me over to Chilli Cha Cha for lunch before we headed to Erskineville to meet property agent Sarah of Park Properties to sign our tenancy agreement and collect the keys to our new home. I
 can't believe we are parting with three grand today - THREE GRAND! 

While we waited for Sarah to review the documentation, Hayden rang me to say I've been offered the job. Oh my god! That's great!! The offer however was not what I expected - the base salary was lower than market rate (dollar for dollar, it was similar to what I got in my last job which is bad when living costs in Sydney is much higher) and because the branch in Sydney is new, there are no benefits or bonus schemes in place. Oh...The recruiter assured me they were in the process of doing so and that there would be a salary review in 6 months time. Hmm, the role does sound pretty interesting with plenty of opportunity to grow and build on my current skills...I decided to accept the job (even though disappointed that Hayden told me the job would be within my salary expectation only to be told it wasn't when the job was offered) - I needed a foot in the door in the Australian job market and hopefully the pay cut wouldn't cripple me financially and/or affect my current lifestyle. "Come by the office on Monday and we can sort out the contract," said Hayden. Right, so that's it - I don't have to worry about looking for a job any more. Yay! Work starts the following Monday with an induction session the Friday prior - yep, it's all happening very quickly. 
Wow, I couldn't believe how smoothly our move has been so far. We pretty much got everything sorted in 4 days! :)

We popped by our new place to go through the inspection list which we are to return to the property agent within the week, noting down damages if any. You know, this is our first home for just the two of us. I can't help grinning - we have our own place! 
It's going to be awesome :) We've already lived together for almost a year so this was just another step in our relationship, living on our own, in addition to the move to Australia, of course. View of our apartment block:

We headed back to the city around 6pm. 
Dinner this evening was at Paddy Maguires Irish pub in Haymarket. The pub was buzzing and crowded with people who were gathered for Friday after-work drinks. We managed to secure a table outdoors and had pub food of Beef Nachos (with beans, salsa, sour cream and guacamole), Steak Sandwich (with lettuce, tomato, caramelised onion, BBQ sauce on ciabatta bread and fries)  and beers as we watched passerbys from a variety of nationalities make a beeline into the pubs and restaurants in the area. Cost us $44.50 for our meals which tasted like what you would expect in a pub (not particularly good or bad).

Back at Regis to chill out for the rest of the evening only to learn that a 9.0 magnitude earthquake had hit Japan earlier today, causing a 6-metre high tsunami which swept away homes and vehicles, and flooding buildings as it moved inland from the eastern coastline of the country. 
Christchurch has had a bad series of earthquakes in the last 6 months and now this? I don't know what's happening to our beautiful Earth but this is all very scary and sad to me :'( We were lost for words watching the news on TV and see how quickly the tsunami destroyed towns. Poor Japan...

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Day 3 in Sydney: Sydney Fish Market & dinner with Jono's godparents (10th March 2011)

We had an early start this morning with a property viewing in the suburb of Erskineville at 8.30am so was up at 7.30am for breakfast. We headed to Central Station to catch the train to Erskineville ($6.40 return per person) and as it was rush hour, we were flooded by Sydneysiders (term you use to call inhabitants of Sydney) exiting the station heading to work. Patience definitely required as we shuffled and dodged the throngs of people that looked like they were on a mission and would rugby tackle anyone who stood in their way. Quite a scary sight, if you ask me.  Photo of a quiet platform at Central Station where we waited for our train:

At Central Station waiting for our train

We hopped off at the Erskineville station (about a 12-minute ride from Central) and walked down Erskineville Road to Cafe Sofia where we picked up coffees before continuing on to the property viewing. That's just ridiculous - we couldn't pay for our coffees with EFTPOS because the transaction was less than $20! I could put through a 50 cent transaction on my EFTPOS in NZ but there was no way I could do so here in Sydney. Argh, this is really annoying, having to carry cash on hand all the time!

The property we viewed was really lovely - it was an unfurnished 1-bedroom place in a newish apartment located about 3 blocks away from St Peters train station and the main shopping strip of Newtown (the apartment was located by the borders of suburbs St Peters and Newtown). It was by far the nicest place we've viewed to date and though the rent is a bit steep ($495 a week, which worked out to be the same as what we had been paying for our flat in Wellington but it would cover rent for the whole 3-bedroom flat instead of just our room), we decided to put down the $500 deposit to secure the place while we got the rest of the paperwork completed in the mean time. It seems properties for lease in this city are managed by property agents and if one was interested in the property, you have to put down a deposit together with an application form which the property agents will review (a deposit doesn't necessarily guarantee you the place). The application form required rather extensive information from all tenants - we each had to fill out an application form, provide references, proof of identity, address and employment. There was another younger chap 
(probably an international student) who attended the same viewing and he seemed really keen. I hope we would find out the outcome of our application soon - they couldn't possibly reject us because only one of us has a job. Plus Jono's going to be working for Google. That has to be enough to guarantee our ability to cover the rent and also provide a character reference.

Around 11am, we took the train back to Central and walked over to Blackwattle Bay in the suburb of Pyrmont to check out the famous 
Sydney Fish Market, the largest fish market of its kind in the southern hemisphere. Daily wholesale seafood auctions are held for local seafood retailers (I believe this happens early in the morning) and common folk like you and me can also purchase a wide variety of seafood from the fresh seafood retail shops for a much cheaper price than your neighbourhood seafood retailer or the supermarket - you may wish to walk around to get an idea of price from the different shops before buying as prices do vary. Definitely a place I can see myself frequenting to buy fresh seafood once we have our own place and able to do our own cooking. I highly recommend a visit to the fish market, even if you have no plans to shop. Jono and I ended up at Doyles At Sydney Fish Markets Bistro, Bar & Grill for lunch where we shared a BBQ Seafood Plate (with calamari, prawns, scallops, fish & chips) and the lobster tail special for $47.60, as well as two Hahn Super Dry beers to complement our delicious, succulent cooked seafood. Oh, I'm in food heaven - we need to come back for lunch again soon! Not surprising that Asian tour buses were 'dumping' their tour groups here during lunchtime - fresh oysters, sashimi and/or cooked seafood - a sure hit with the Asians :P Photos taken at the fish market here.

After a full belly of yummy food, we decided to skip the next property viewing on our list today and headed back to our accommodation for a siesta. We took a slight detour to Pyrmont Bay where Jono showed me the Google office. The office was located on two floors of the Accenture building which Jono doesn't have access to just yet so we could only view the place from the outside. Still, it was cool being in the lobby and seeing the the company logo on the wall. Photos taken while we were at Pyrmont Bay:

Wharf at Pyrmont Bay
The Accenture building where Google is located
Photo of Jono with his company logo at the lobby

Either I really ate too much earlier or it is just the humid weather but I'm feeling really sleepy...Took a short nap and was woken up by the phone ringing, the first call was from the recruiter informing me that I have a second interview on tomorrow (so the interviewer WAS interested in my skills and experience!) and the second was from the property agent - our application for the apartment was successful. Yay! We are SO close to getting everything on our to-do list sorted :)

Jono's godparents invited us over to their home in suburb Glebe for dinner tonight. Tim and Beryl had left NZ for Sydney shortly after Jono was born so they never really got to see Jono growing up in person. Dinner tonight would be quite interesting as it would be the first time in a long while that both parties will meet - I'm sure there would be plenty of catching up to do, getting to know each other all over again.

We took the Light Rail over to Glebe around 6.30pm. Cost us $5.90 per person for a return ticket and unlike the CityRail trains which require purchasing a ticket prior to getting onto the platform, all you needed to do was pay the on-board conductor for your ticket. You do not need to seek out the conductor - he/she will come to you. There were not many people on board today so I guess it was quite easy for the conductor to tell who has paid and who hasn't. It was interesting to watch how the conductor marked our tram ticket - he stroked the thermal paper ticket with his fingernail and the line indicates you have one ride left. Huh, much easier than using a clipper, I suppose. Brr, chillly in here with the AC cranked up...

The Heskeths home was a beautiful townhouse with an exterior that deceives the eyes - the 2-storey house looked narrow and tall from the main entrance but it actually extends quite far in and has a backyard as well as a garage for two car at the other end. We dined al fresco in the bakyard which was lovely with the current warm weather (though Beryl had to light a mosquito coil under the table, a sight I've become unfamiliar with since living in NZ - I used to have to light one near my feet when I did the dishes in the kitchen at my parent's place), sipping our wines and enjoying the grilled fish Tim cooked on the barbecue accompanied with steam vegetables and kumara mash Beryl prepared. It was really nice to spend the evening with them, listening to Jono's childhood stories as he brought his godparents up to speed with the events in his life and vice versa, learning more about Tim and Beryl. This would be a start to many more catch ups now that we are all living in the same city :)

We finally left for home around 10pm, Beryl and Tim showing us a shortcut back to the tram station - was really lovely to meet you guys and let's catch up again soon!

Day 2 in Sydney: Interview and afternoon tea at the Chinese Garden of Friendship (9th March 2011)

Was up at 7am for breakfast in the studio apartment (cereal and milk we picked up on our way home last night - we have a bar fridge and some kitchen items provided) and got ready for my interview. Gee, it has been over 3 years that I last had to go for an interview. I'm actually feeling quite nervous! I've done my due diligence, doing as much research as I can last night on this company though frankly, there was hardly any information found on the internet (only 3 short paragraphs on the company website which doesn't fully explain what the company does and search results returned only brief details of which clients they have worked with). Oh well, tough luck - I'll just have to wing it.

Jono is just awesome :) He accompanied me to see the recruiter on George St and then took the train together from Wynyard to North Sydney (return fare $4.40 per person) for my interview. Was really nice of him to come along for support as well as make sure I got to the interview on time. Thank god for smartphones - it sure makes life a lot easier with GPS access! We were able to locate 100 Miller St where the interview was held on the iPhone quite easily.

While Jono waited at the lobby, I headed up to the 33rd floor to meet us with my interviewer. I was early so the receptionist got me to take a seat at the waiting area. Wow, the view from the windows were amazing - you could see the Sydney Harbour Bridge with skyscrapers on both ends and boats of varying shapes and sizes moving in perfect harmony in the busy harbour waters. Hmm, I wouldn't mind having an office in this building - great views, immaculate interior design and it seemed rather busy with people zipping in and out of meeting rooms. They have 4 receptionists at the front desk - it must be a huge company if they needed that many.

"That was quick - how did it go?" asked Jono when I returned to meet him about 20 minutes later. I thought it went well and the role of Management Information (MI) Analyst sounded like very interesting with potential for career development in the area I would like to build on. My interviewer turned out to be a man around my age who happened to also be a Kiwi from Wellington. A part of me wondered if he was really interested in talking to me about the role. Why? Well, for starters, he kept forgetting where we got to in the interview when the receptionist popped in and out with his coffee order, making me feel slightly uncomfortable if he was really concerned about the coffee or eyeing up the receptionist's short skirt. And as the interview progressed, he never really asked me what I could bring into his organisation but more of why I moved here (he was quite keen to hear the story of how Jono got the job at Google) and why I changed jobs from being an administrator to IT - it was all very informal. Towards the end of the interview, I was told that the team I would be joining (if successful, of course) was a newly formed team in the company and that the Senior MI Analyst I would be working with had just been hired the week before. "There's a second interview, this time with the HR manager, if I get through the first round," I said to Jono as we headed back to the train station. Fingers crossed and hopefully we'll know the outcome of the interview soon.

Around 11am, we took the train back to the city and headed to the Apple Store on George St to get me a replacement phone casing for my iPhone 3GS. Oh my god, it was SO busy, even on a weekday! 3 floors of Apple products to try out and/or buy and there were even a group of people taking a course on iPad functionalities (these courses would suit my folks who aren't tech savvy but use flash toys). It was just cool being in the Apple Store, its sleek design complimenting its products, walking up and down the thick glass stairs and looking out onto George Street from inside - it felt like I was in a huge glass cube!

At 12.45pm, we walked to Chilli Cha Cha Thai restaurant located around the corner from our apartment for lunch. I had the Chicken Cashew Nut Stir-fry with rice while Jono ordered the Chicken Pad Thai, both costing us $9.90 
inclusive of a free drink each  (this is part of their lunch specials deal). The food was great and the iced tea I ordered tasted exactly like the 'teh peng' (iced milk tea sweetened with condensed milk) served in Malaysia. Ah, flashback of the past for me, even if it was too sweet for my palate...

We continued on our exploration of the city after lunch and took a walk towards Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre in Darling Harbour, stumbling upon a beautiful Chinese garden next to Tumbalong Park. We decided to check it out and for $11, we got an admission and afternoon tea combo ticket each to visit The Chinese Garden of Friendship. The garden is modeled after the typical private gardens from the Shang dynasty (
ca. 1600 BCE – 1046 BCE) and was designed by Guangzhou, Sydney's Chinese sister city, symbolizing the bond between China and Australia. Unlike Western-style gardens, there are no planted flowerbeds or manicured lawns but instead has aspects of nature recreated in artfully designed landscapes that features waterfalls, mountains, lakes and forests. We went on a journey discovering the many parts of the garden, walking through the serpentine walkways, stopping every now and then to admire the exotic plants, sculptures, landscape and observing the the animals that live within the grounds - Eastern Water Dragons basking in the sun on large rocks, cranes taking shelter under willow trees and plenty of hungry koi in the lakes waiting for visitors to feed them with pieces of bread. Hidden stone pathways led into private courtyards and traditional pagoda-style pavilions. We even found a few Westerners donned in traditional Chinese costumes which you can hire from the costume shop on site and have photos taken in them. 

It was nice feeling being here, so tranquil and you somehow feel rested, as if you have been zapped to another world, all worries and stress in your present life miraculously disappeared. Our last stop in our self-tour was at The Teahouse where we had our afternoon tea - a choice of either English tea with scones or Chinese tea with dim sum was available with our tickets and since there were two of us, we each got one to share. A great way to end our visit in the garden and I highly recommend getting the combo ticket when you come visit. And make sure you take your time to unwind and take in the surroundings - there is no need to rush. Photos taken at the Chinese Garden of Friendship here

We took a brief rest at the apartment before our property viewings late afternoon. Neither were suitable (poor location and design) and boy, did we do a lot of walking today, visiting the garden and then to suburbs Ultimo and Chippendale for the viewings. My legs are sore!

Dinner tonight was at Sushi Roll in World Square at the ground floor of World Tower (
a 230 metre skyscraper located at Liverpool St). Cost us $47.50 for the sushi train dinner and beers which we thought was a bit steep. Back to the apartment around 8pm and Jono made me guide us home without the use of the GPS. Ah, success - we got home without the GPS! Starting to get some idea of directions in this city ;)

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Day 1 in Sydney: First day in our new city! (8th March 2011)

Was up at 4am to get ready for our 4.20am taxi pick-up. Oh my god - look at our huge bags! We pretty much packed our whole lives into 4 check-in bags (and a carry-on each as well). Yep, that's all we are bring across the Tasman and no, we don't have any boxes for shipment for the move. Not bad, huh?

You must be wondering how on earth we could pull off bringing 2 check-in bags each on an economy seat fare with Air New Zealand. Well, Jono did a bit of research and it turned out that the 2nd check-in bag only cost an additional $50 and you can pack it up to 23kgs - works out a lot cheaper than shipping the 2nd bag over. I was surprised that we could use the self check-in kiosk to pay for the extra cost and get tags for all the bags - most airlines would require you to pay at the check-in counter. Sweet! 

"It's over 23kgs - you need to repack your items," said the Air New Zealand female ground staff that was stationed at the bag drop-off area. Even though our total weight of the bags per person did not exceed 46kgs (23kgs x 2), the lady was adamant that each bag had to be under 23kgs. 
Argh! We had to reshuffle our items and weighed the bags again - so rushed! 

Around 5am, we finally sorted out the baggage drop-off and paid our departure taxes. We can now take a breather from all the rushing and packing from the last couple of days. Aaa...We sat around the airport lounge munching on muesli bars that I packed for us (we got cheap seats for $356.20 for two one-way tickets to Sydney so food wasn't provided) before going through customs, then headed to 'The Rock' (this is the newly expanded international terminal) for flat whites at Mojo. This is probably our last good coffee for a long while since everyone in Wellington keeps telling us that the coffee in Sydney is terrible :(

Left Wellington at 6.30am and arrived in Sydney at 8am. The queue to exit the terminal was ridiculously long - you needed to snake around the baggage collection area till you find the end of the queue. We were in no rush so it didn't matter but I highly doubt travellers who were here on business would be able to attend a 9am meeting on time (and there were quite a few of them too, dressed in business suits and looking rather flustered). Hah, and if you think the queue is over once you got out of the airport, you are wrong. To get a taxi, you had to join another long queue at the sheltered taxi rank where a supervisor was busily directing people to the next available taxi. We were directed to a taxi van given the amount of luggage we had and at 9am, we finally left the airport and headed into the city to Regis On Castlereagh where we would be staying for the week. 

Cost us
 $51.20 for the 45-minute taxi ride. Unfortunately our serviced apartment wasn't ready so we left our luggage bags at reception and headed out to explore our new city. I can't believe I'm finally here, back in Sydney after some 21 years (I came here for a holiday with Mum when I was 8). Took me this long and one Jono later to move to Australia - I guess my last 3 attempts to move to Australia didn't work out because it just wasn't meant to be. But I'm here now and ready to start a brand new chapter in life! I'm really glad I'm not doing it on my own this time round but have Jono with me :) It's going to be exciting, rediscovering Sydney as an adult! And it's a warm 27 degrees too - loving the weather already ;)

We took a walk towards the city's famous Darling Harbour and ended up in the food court in Harbourside Shopping Centre, Darling Harbour's one-stop location for shopping, leisure and dining by the waterfront. It was only 10.30am but we were famished so had an early lunch (technically not early as it would have been 12.30pm in NZ). What a pain - you can't buy a meal under $15 on your credit card so we had to withdraw cash from Jono's NZ credit card to pay for lunch. We didn't carry much Australian dollars since we had transferred a lump sum to our bank in Australia which we set up before we came over and were due to collect our bank cards later today. Still, you would think most places would accept credit cards...

Back to 
Regis On Castlereagh to check in and took a nap till around 12.30pm, showered and then headed out again to the bank located a couple of blocks away from where we stayed. To be honest, our accommodation didn't turn out as nice as what we saw on their website. We had an oldish-looking studio apartment that needed a bit more TLC and revamp. It was pretty basic with enough space for us to unpack our bags, a tiny kitchen (self-catering), bathroom and no laundry facility. It was next to the railway tracks and there was a construction site around the corner - even with the AC cranked up and living on the 11th floor, we could still hear the sound of drilling coming from downstairs. I sure hope we'll find our own place soon! I've been asking friends who live Sydney for advice on where to find rental properties and which areas to live in (avoid the west side and Redfern, I was told) and it seems the site everyone uses is Domain. Need to start our search when we get back later!

"Hello?" I answered my mobile phone which was still connected to my NZ number. Who would be calling me from Australia?? Turned out it was the recruiter from M&T Resources (M&T stands for Management & Technology) calling me up to confirm an interview tomorrow morning. What?! I've only landed a few hours ago and now I've got an interview to attend??? 
Wow, is the job market in Sydney really THAT competitive? I had a Skype interview for a database analyst position yesterday (the day BEFORE I arrived in Sydney and I clearly told the interviewer I would arrive today) and now this. I don't even know where the heck the interview location is - I've just got here! "Don't worry, I'll give you directions to North Sydney when you come see me tomorrow," assured Hayden Lines, the recruiter whom I've spoken to over a week ago when he first contacted me after reviewing my CV for a data warehouse position he had advertised on SEEK. Babe, I've got an interview tomorrow - I need you to coming along with me so I won't get lost on my own in this big city!

Finally left Regis at 1.30pm and headed to National Australia Bank (NAB) on Liverpool St to meet banking consultant Vinod. NAB is one of the four largest financial institution in Australia and we chose them purely because we were able to open a bank account while living overseas, simply filling up an online form. Our funds were transferred across last week when we received our bank account numbers and all we needed to do now in order to access the money is provide the bank with proof of identity and our bank cards would be issued to us on the spot. The account type we got was called NAB Classic Banking (equivalent to the transaction or cheque account in NZ banks though here, the cheque account is redundant and they use the savings account instead i.e. you need to select the SAV button when using the bank card at ATMs and on EFTPOS machines) which doesn't incur any monthly fee, regardless how we bank (use of another bank's ATM, international transaction and overdraft fees still applies). We learnt from Vinod that we could also get a Visa Debit card with our accounts so requested for the additional cards ordered in for us. This will come in handy should we need to purchase items online, even if we first need available funds in the bank  (this is a debit card so no funds =  no zap). Oh, and it has this payWave facility so you only need to 'wave' the card on the contactless reader for purchases under $100 and the transaction is complete - no pins or signature required. How cool is that!

Left the bank and went in search for an Optus store to get ourselves new SIM cards for our phones. Cost us $30 each for a pre-paid starter pack which included $30 credit, unlimited SMS and 500MB data that expires in 30 days. Sounds like a pretty good deal for only $30 per month :) Ok, so we now have new mobile numbers and the GPS on our phones are working - yes! I'll need this when job-hunting while Jono's at work.

We stopped by at e-Bluetooth Internet Cafe on Liverpool St on the way back to Regis to sort out a few things online and then popped in to have coffee and cake at LoveBite. A chic cafe that is quite empty at 3.45pm (whereas when we passed by this morning, it was packed and had a queue from the counter onto the footpath). Cost us $10.50 for our shared cake and two flat whites - the coffee isn't that bad as everyone warned us. Perhaps a tad too much water but was still alright and drinkable.

Back at the studio apartment and we started looking for houses on Domain, noting down viewing times and locations for properties that seem to meet our criteria - minimum 1-bedroom place with internal laundry, under $500 per week, near the city and easy commute to work - looks like we have quite a few to check out this week. Broadband internet was available via Ethernet cable in our studio for $10 a day which was reasonably cheap.

Cheryl gave us a Lonely Planet Sydney (City Travel Guide) as a gift for our move so we used it to decide where to have dinner this evening. We settled for Vietnamese and around 7.30pm, we went in search for the restaurant that was supposedly located on Thomas St 
(about 4 blocks from we are staying) in Haymarket. After two trips up and down the street and still no luck finding the place, we ended up in a Vietnamese restaurant on George St named Pasteur. Definitely not a place of ambience with the noise, slippery floors, white fluorescent lighting and tables packed up so closely to maximise the number of customers in the restaurant. However, it was quite busy and bowls of pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) and plates of basil and bean sprouts kept coming out from the kitchen. "Shall we try it?" I asked Jono and we decided to give it a go. Busy should mean good food, right?

For $27 (they take cash only), we had a large beef noodle soup for Jono, a small chicken noodle soup for me and 2 glasses of coconut juice (Chinese tea was complimentary). Mmm, the soup was YUM! It was just like the one Claus took us to in Melbourne last year. I don't care if the place looks terrible - the pho is great and I'm sure we'll be coming back here quite often!

Walking back to our apartment, we saw several restaurants in the vicinity that were packed and had insane queues outside (the queues were blocking the footpath). Seriously, the food is THAT awesome that it is worth the wait?? I think it'll take me a while to adjust to the idea of queuing like that for food, and just the sheer amount of people living in this city. I've gone from a capital city in NZ to a city that has the same population as the whole of NZ - it is going to take quite a lot of getting use to...

You know, given it's only our first day in Sydney, I have to say we've been very productive and got a lot of important things sorted out today. Hopefully I'll secure a job soon - it is my biggest worry, coming to Sydney with no job (I did start my job hunt once I handed in my resignation) and even though Jono is happy to support me while I'm looking for a job, I wouldn't want it to be dependant on him financially for too long. Well, let's see what comes out of my interview tomorrow. Eeks, I can't believe I have an interview tomorrow!

Monday, 7 March 2011

Last weekend in New Zealand (5th - 6th March 2011)

Time flies and it's now the our last weekend in NZ. Still quite a lot of packing to do, sorting out what goes back to Steve (Steve used to flat with Jono and left a lot of his furniture and kitchen items with us when he went overseas) and transporting them in our cars over to Steve's new flat in Thorndon, which items are to be dropped off at the Salvation Army and which ones to pack up for storage in Palmerston North, and of course, deciding what needs to go with us to Sydney. And in between all the sorting and multiple trips here and there, we also had TradeMe buyers dropping in throughout most of Saturday to collect their purchases from us. It was insane!

Around 5pm, we finally stopped working and sank ourselves into the sofa in the lounge. Oh my god, I'm exhausted...I can't move anymore...but we can't stop's our farewell drinks tonight...We took a short nap on the sofa and was back up and got ready to head out to our party. A quick stop at Kapai on Courtenay Place for a healthy dinner and around 7pm, we walked over to Hashigo Zake to meet up with our friends.

Hah, as I expected, we were the first to arrive! Well, we were the hosts of the party so should turn up ahead of everyone anyway. I had contacted Hashigo Zake to book out an area for our party as well as ordered platters in advance ($180 for 3 platters of mixed nibbles to be brought out throughout the night). Signs "The lounge is reserved from 7pm for Jonathan & Angelica" were put up on the tables in the lounge area which was great though we got several evil looks from other patrons for hogging the entire area when there's only two of us sipping our beer. Some didn't give a damn about the signs and sat down anyway. Hmm, they can stay for now but when more of our friends turn up, they had better move...grr... 

Friends and work colleagues from both our social networks started to pour in as the night continued, stopping for a drink or two and gave us their well wishes for our new adventures in Sydney. It was really nice to catch up with everyone before we headed off and sorry if I didn't get to spend more time with each of you as I would have liked - too many friends to catch up with in just one night! Do keep in touch and come visit us in Sydney soon! Photos taken at our farewell drinks here.

Sunday was yet another day of moving, this time with David's help to bring the remaining furniture and storage boxes up to Palmerston North on the trailer we rented from the corner gas station in Palmy when we were there last weekend. Gee, how is it that we have so much stuff?! I would have a lot more if it wasn't because I intended to leave NZ in 2007 and moved several times within Wellington since I returned - it was a tedious effort to move my stuff that I swore never to build up crap again. Still, I'm guilty for a few boxes to be brought up to the Woolleys home for storage :/

Wow, our room looks so empty...With the queen-sized bed dismantled and packed into the trailer, the only remains were our luggage bags and pile of clothes to be reorganised into them on Monday. This is it - we are moving to Sydney!

The rest of the day was spent up in Palmy, unpacking the trailer and putting our stuff away (mostly stored in Jono's room) before heading out to dinner with Jono's parents and their family friends at Rendezvous Restaurant in Fitzherbert that Cheryl had organised. Was so nice to catch up with the extended family - Tony & Mary, Graeme & Diane, Janet, Hossien & Nazi were all present tonight. And Cheryl even got us a farewell card and has been secretly going round the table for each person to sign. Thanks everyone for your well wishes - we'll miss you all heaps! Keep in touch and please come visit us in Sydney!! Photos taken by Janet:

Me and Jono all smiles for the camera

Cheryl and Mary

Graham and Diane

Jono and his mum

One more day back in Wellington to finish up the last of our packing and cleaning up the flat, a few hours sleep in our sleeping bags and then an early departure to the airport for Sydney on Tuesday morning. Oh, and we'll be dropping my car off too with my work colleague Anne and her partner Vincent - yes, they bought over my lovely Yaris (s0 sad I have to part with it - I really like my little blue zippy car!). But it cannot come with us to Sydney so has to go :/ But I'm sure Anne and Vincent will enjoy the car as much as I did :)

Sydney here we come!

Friday, 4 March 2011

Last day of work at Telecom (4th March 2011)

Mother Nature really knows how to encourage me to leave Wellington by giving us such terrible weather leading up to the move to Sydney – it’s pouring with rain outside with gusty winds, AGAIN!

Today’s my last day of work at Telecom. I can’t believe I’ve actually been in Wellington for the last 3.5 years; I had all intention to make a short trip back to Wellington in 2007 to pick up the rest of my belongings and move to Melbourne but ended up staying on this long because I got offered a job with Telecom. It was a great opportunity for me as I got to move into an IT-based role which is more in line with my degree, and in the process gained new skills and experience which I’m hoping will quickly secure me a job in Sydney. Eek, I’m jobless effective tomorrow!

With Telecom’s recent cost-cutting policies, the company wasn’t throwing me a farewell party like they had done for my former colleagues so we had to improvise and had a small morning tea instead. I bought an orange ricotta cake from Moore Wilsons (cost $37) for the team, and Phil and Peter chipped in some cookies (the unofficial new policy is that the teams pool money for their departing team member but with only me, Hamish and Phil in our immediate team, I can’t expect them to fork out the full cost of the morning tea so bought my own cake). Around 9.30am, everyone gathered in the kitchen for the morning tea with Chris kicking it off with his farewell speech. The team pooled together money to get me a leaving card and gifts – a mug (every person who leaves the team gets one), a keychain with shape of New Zealand and a long-sleeved top with Maori designs, all to remind me of my roots in NZ. Chris insisted I unwrap the mug and show it to the team. It had a map of Australia but instead of having names of the cities and towns, it was replaced with a list of all possible hazards and disasters one could encounter in Australia: floods, baby-eating dingoes, stingrays, sharks, box jellyfish etc. We all cracked up laughing as I read them out loud! Really have to hand it to Chris and the team leads for coming out with the list for the mug – it’s brilliant :) Thanks everyone for the gifts and card!

My last day was very cruisy, mainly tidying things up and clearing my desk. Several of us headed down to the pub for a few drinks after work before saying our final goodbyes. I’ve enjoyed working with everyone and will definitely miss being in their company. Please do keep in touch and you’ll never know, we might end up working together again in the near future! Like Chris said, those who left somehow ends up back in the team ;)

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Logan Brown Restaurant & Bar, Te Aro (2nd March 2011)

After putting off going to Logan Brown Restaurant & Bar several times, Jono and I finally booked ourselves in for dinner at this well-known Wellington fine dining restaurant located on the corner of Cuba and Vivian Streets. This was our final week in NZ before moving to Sydney so it was now or never!

I went to pick Jono up from work around 7pm in his car (correction, it's now Cheryl's car since she's bought it from Jono - we are technically borrowing her car). I think I'm quite a careful driver and despite having driven Jono's car a few times, I still feel nervous being in the driver's seat. There's always this niggling fear that I might dent or scratch his car though I don't seem to feel as bad if it was my Yaris...

Our table was not ready when we arrived so we had to sit by the bar until the maitre d' came to call us. "I suppose we may as well order drinks while we wait," I said to Jono and requested the drinks menu from the bartender. I tried the VIP cocktail, the restaurant's most famous cocktail made from a blend of passion fruit, citrus, Plymouth gin, Dolin Dry and Pimms while Jono ordered the Japanese Yebisu Lager (334mls). Sitting by the bar sipping our refreshing drinks, we soaked in the atmosphere of the restaurant - located in the restored 1920s historic bank chamber with its high ceilings, the place was lavishly decorated with leather couches near the bar, taxidermy game animals hanging on the walls, a grand chandelier illuminating the restaurant with soft lighting, and most interestingly, a bar top that is actually a salt water fish tank which stretches across the bar from one end to another. You can see small fish, baby crayfish (so cute!) and anemones through the glass top - it was very cool :)

Twenty minutes later, we were still hanging around at the bar so Jono went to enquire if our table was ready. It seemed that the maitre d' had forgotten about us (and the restaurant wasn't that busy). We were seated immediately but like earlier, the wait staff left us on our own for quite a while and we had to try catching their attention to put through our orders. Fortunately we were not in a hurry so the wait was ok - still, I would have expected a much better service than this from a top-end restaurant.

We finally got the attention of the wait staff and placed our orders. Boasting their use of the finest NZ ingredients (favouring organic, fair trade and responsibility gathered ingredients), this restaurant serves contemporary food prepared using classic cooking techniques. There was no contention on what I was having for dinner - steak! I have been told by friends that Logan Brown serves the best steak in town and you all know how much I love a good steak. Would Logan Brown outdo Arbitrageur and become my new favourite steak place? Well, we shall see. Jono had the lamb dish for his main and we shared a side of Wagyu Fat Potatoes with Habanero Mayonnaise, as well as a glass of red wine each served in large round bottom glasses (the bottom fits into my whole palm) to go with our mains. Photos taken at Logan Brown Restaurant & Bar here.

When we first looked at the menu, our eyes nearly popped out when we saw the price. Our mains were around $50 each which was a lot and I'm sorry to say that their steak did not live up to its reputation; Arbitrageur still reigns in my books and more appropriately priced (at the $35-$40 mark). Jono agreed with me that the food was rather average. I didn't find the wow-factor I had expected given how amazing the restaurant is hyped up to be. Cost us $171 all up (ouch!) but thankfully we had a voucher from the Entertainment Book so that saved us on the cost of a main (the cheaper of the two mains) plus Jono had a $50 discount voucher he received from his company as a bonus for his 5-year tenure so that made the bill a lot easier to digest. Well, at least we can now say we've been here and I highly doubt we would come back. "I still prefer Arbitrageur," I said to Jono as we left the restaurant. It's not just the quality of food and cost that makes Arbitrageur a winner but their excellent service and ambience too trumps that of Logan Brown's (Arbitrageur is an ideal romantic dinner venue whilst Logan Brown has stuffed up dead animals that stare at you while you eat the cooked version - not very appealing). Perhaps we should have lowered our expectations to start so we didn't feel this disappointed :/

Logan Brown Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ah, finally home around 10ish. Yawn...I need sleep...I've been feeling quite tired as I've not slept much the past few days - there's still so much to so before we go!