Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Jet Lag

The journey back to Melbourne was relatively painless. My parents and I had dinner at Willow Street in SFO, and then I bid them farewell as I headed into customs. I was very happy to have a direct flight to Australia, as well as an aisle seat. There were more good films this time: Pride and Prejudice, Fever Pitch, Elizabethtown, and Aeon Flux. I dozed on and off throughout the flight. After about an hour and a half layover in Sydney, I boarded my flight to Melbourne. I was amazed at how quickly I cleared customs- I think I was out of there in about 15 minutes.

By the time I returned to my apartment I was starting to feel the effects of the flights. It was like I had been hit by a truck, and I was in bed by 7:30 p.m. that night. Today I was up at 4:30 am (still on California time), and finally felt the fog lifting about half-way through my RPM (spin) class this morning. It's good to be back in Melbourne, and hopefully my work opportunities will pick up this school term. I've already got 5 days of substitute teaching work booked, so that's a good start.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Farewell Homeland

It's time to head to the airport for the long trip back to Australia. I have had such a great time being back in the Bay Area and visiting with family and friends. The last couple of days have been spent saying goodbye to people and eating some good home-cooked meals. Thankfully all my belongings have fit in my luggage- with a slight bit of effort. My parents are actually driving me to SFO (no airporter- yay), where we will have dinner in the international terminal after I check in for my flight. At least this time I get to avoid LAX, as I have a direct flight to Sydney tonight, and then a quick hop to Melbourne on Monday morning (I lose a day this time). See you in OZ!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


My tour of Marin continues. On Monday I spent the day in Novato. First stop was Rancho Elementary School, where I taught third grade for two years. I joined the faculty for lunch in the staff lounge, which had been renovated since I was last there. It was great to catch up with people, some of whom I hadn't seen in almost 3 years. Most of the staff is still there from when I was teaching, but all of my old students have moved on to middle school. All the classrooms have also been renovated, and I spent some time with Debbie's class listening to solar system reports before leaving. That afternoon I met up with the Klinkmans at Starbucks in San Marin. Cindy and I went through the teacher credential program together at Dominican, and Monika was one of my students at Rancho. I'm not sure if I still hold the title of Monica's favorite teacher, but it was great to chat with them and find out all their latest news.

Tuesday evening I met up for drinks with Leslie at Marin Brewing Company in Larkspur. We lucked out because it was $2.50 pint Tuesday. I didn't really get a chance to catch up with Leslie when I was at Wilson last week, so it was nice to chat without kids around. Leslie is another person that I know through my credential program, and we also taught together. It was a quick drink as she had to meet up with her parents for dinner.

Today I spent the afternoon with Angie and Katie in Terra Linda. I met them at the coffee shop and then we went and had lunch at the Japanese restaurant King of the Roll II. It was very tasty and this was Katie's first time eating some Japanese food (she liked the tofu in the miso soup). After lunch we headed over to Three Twins Ice Cream for dessert. We had been promising Neil that we would stop by his shop to taste the organic ice cream and today we finally made it. It's very good stuff, and Neil even makes his own waffle cones. If you are ever in the Scotty's Market Shopping Center, stop by and get a cone (after you visit Angie for a coffee, of course).

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Out and About

I am happy to report that the weather has gotten a bit warmer, and it's been dry for the last few days. I continue to catch up with people and hit some of my favorite restaurants around the area. On Thursday I met up with Angie at her coffee shop (Espresso Express in Terra Linda if you are ever in the area) and we headed out for a late lunch at Chevy's. It is so great to eat decent Mexican food, because Australia really does not do good Mexican. I enjoyed my chips and salsa, salmon soft tacos, and the very yummy strawberry and raspberry margarita. After eating we shopped at Old Navy and Target. I was good and didn't get too many things. That night I met Joanne at Broken Drum Brewery in San Rafael. Since I had eaten so late in the day I just had a bowl of chips for dinner. It was good to catch up and hear all the latest news about Wilson Elementary School.

On Friday I decided to head over to Richmond and visit Wilson since the weather was decent. I walked onto campus during recess and was immediately greeted by a chorus of "MISS ELLIS!!!" and children running toward me. My ex-students are so sweet and cute, and getting very big. They were all excited to see me and asked me lots of questions about Australia and if I would come back. I stuck around for the upper grade recess to catch my other class, who are now fourth graders. It was great to visit with everyone and see all my former colleagues. I tried to explain the differences between the Australian and American education systems- and they are different in many ways. I had only planned to stay a short time, but ended up there for the rest of the school day as I popped into classes and said hello. When I got home I had a message from Lynne, so I headed into San Francisco for the evening. We avoided the drunken St. Patrick's Day celebrations and had dinner at Lettus Cafe Organic on Steiner Street and dessert at Emporio Rulli Gran Caffe on Chestnut Street. Lynne's husband Jeremy and his brother Josh were busy watching the NCAA Basketball Tournament. They had the tv and computer broadcasts going at the same time. Since I went to a non-sports focused university, I'm not as into "March Madness" as everyone else.

On Saturday my aunt Chrissie and cousin Leilani came up to the house for lunch. Mom made her chicken and apple salad, and we had cake for dessert to celebrate all the family birthdays in February and March. It was great to see them again and catch up on all the latest news. Leilani's face is healing nicely after her car accident last week. We laughed a lot throughout the afternoon, and hopefully I'll see them again at Christmas. That evening my parents and I met up with my brother, his girlfriend Simi and her parents at Insalata's in San Anselmo for dinner. They serve great Mediterranean food that is fresh and flavorful. We left very full and satisfied.

Today Lynne and I had brunch in Larkspur at Left Bank and then did some shopping at Vintage Oaks in Novato. It was a pleasant day, but we didn't find any good bargains out there. I guess it's a good thing that I haven't found a lot of stuff in the stores that is appealing to me- I would have trouble getting it all in my suitcase if I went overboard. I have one more week to go until I head back to Melbourne.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Meeting Up With People

It has been so great to catch up with people while I have been home. Today I had lunch with June at Comforts in San Anselmo. We took a walk around downtown after we finished eating. I got to see some photos in a shop window from New Year's when there was about 5 feet of water racing through the streets. It's amazing that most of the businesses are back open again after such damage.

Last night I went to the Glisson's house in San Rafael. Lucille cooked up a yummy dinner for us, and then we watched American Idol. I haven't seen any of this season, but it was the first show with the final 12 contestants on the big stage. Lynne already had nicknames for all of them, and we heaped abuse at the tv screen as they butchered the songs of Stevie Wonder. No one really stood out to me- definitely not a Constantine in the bunch this year. I have no idea who will win. My favorite Simon Cowell comment of the night was when he told Bucky to get rid of his "Jessica Simpson hair." I have to agree with Simon- the hair was distracting!

On Monday I got to visit Angie and baby Katie at the coffee shop. Katie has gotten so big- she's the tallest baby ever (9 months old and 30 inches long). It was nice to hang out with Angie for a couple hours and catch up. We are having a late lunch and doing a bit of shopping tomorrow while Katie is with her grandparents. Should be fun.

Oh, and I have to wish my dad a very Happy Birthday today! I'm so glad I am home to celebrate it.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Shopping in San Francisco

Lynne was supposed to come to Marin today, but my mother woke me up with the news that northbound Highway 101 was shut down due to a deadly 28 car pile-up north of the Golden Gate Bridge. The cause, which you can see in the photo, was snow and bad driving. The highway was shut for 11 hours while the police investigated what happened.

Since my mom was going into work anyway, I hitched a ride with her to Lynne's apartment in San Francisco. It was so great to hang out with my buddy. We headed out for brunch and while we were walking we caught a brief glimpse of Mayor Gavin Newsom as he went to get coffee. Lynne and I were good and refrained from stalking him. Once we arrived at La Cucina on Union Street we decided to sit outside in the sunshine even though it was cold out. After eating we headed back to her place, where we met up with her mom and brother.

Then we all drove to Union Square for a little shopping excursion. I had been wanting to check out the H&M store, which opened after I left for Australia. It wasn't as trendy and fashion forward as I expected it to be. Lynne had warned me that I would be underwhelmed with the place. I did manage to get a couple of tops, a pair of pants, and a jacket though. Next we went to Urban Outfitters and the Levi's Store, but didn't find anything to buy there. After a quick stop for coffees and chai at Starbucks, we headed back to Lynne's to relax until my mom came to pick me up. The temperature is dropping again, so we'll have to see if there is any snow tonight.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Longest Day Ever

It was travel day today, and I have made it to the States in one piece. My flight up to Sydney was not full, but when we reboarded for Los Angeles it was packed. I was unfortunate enough to have a middle seat, and although we had some good movies (The Family Stone, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Good Night and Good Luck (was trying to sleep then and missed most of it), and An Unfinished Life), long haul flights are a real pain. I was very happy to get off at LAX, but it just meant there was one more flight to go. For some reason, the United Airlines Gods allowed me to sit in Economy Plus for the last quick flight to San Francisco. I wish I had that seat coming from Sydney! Due to the magic of the international date line, I arrived in the States before I left Melbourne.

I took the airporter to Marin and my dad picked me up. It is so cold here right now! I may see snow or at least hail- we'll see what happens. Don't get me wrong, I love cold weather, but it's a bit of an adjustment when you have been experiencing summer for the past few months. I had a lovely home-cooked dinner with my family tonight. It's strange, but it does not feel like I have been gone for over 5 months. Tomorrow Lynne is coming over and I'm sure we will be shopping.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Sydney Road Street Party

Today I spent the afternoon at the Sydney Road Street Party with Michelle and Ruth. It's an annual celebration for the Brunswick community. We started off by watching a fashion show done by local stores and designers. There were some good clothes, and I now have a couple new stores to check out. We spent the next hour walking down Sydney Road checking out the various booths and sampling the local cuisine. There were also lots of different music acts on the various stages spread throughout the street. Sounds of Polynesia, who perform music from the Cook Islands, were excellent. There was also a very amusing Chinese heavy metal band called The Five Venoms. Their lead singer has the biggest hair I've ever seen.

Ruth and I headed over to The Brunswick Green at 4:00 p.m. to catch a set by Charles Jenkins, who was the lead singer of the band Icecream Hands. The place was packed, but we found a nice spot of grass to sit on out in the beer garden. Ruth's boyfriend Danny joined us there later. For dinner we went to Piazza 51 and had some good pizzas. Unfortunately, someone stole Michelle's wallet out of her purse while we were eating. Not the best ending to an otherwise good day.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

A Day In The Mountains

Today Fran, Rosemaree, and I headed up to Mt. Dandenong to visit Peter and Mark. We met up with Peter at Ripe in Sassafras. It was a good thing that Peter told us where the restaurant was because there is no sign to indicate its location. We ate a very yummy brunch- I had scrambled eggs on toast with bacon, spinach, and mushrooms. Ripe is famous for its hot chocolates made with Lindt chocolate balls, so we all had to order one. It was good. Thanks to Peter for treating us.

On our way back to Peter and Mark's place we went up to the lookout at SkyHigh on the mountain. It has a great view towards Melbourne. Since the weather has been hot it was a bit hazy and smoggy- sort of an L.A. view of things, unfortunately. Back at the house we sat outside on the deck and finally got to chat with Mark. The boys gave me a lovely little wooden jewelry box for my birthday, and I also picked up Peter's US mobile phone to use on my trip. We left Kalorama mid-afternoon and headed for home.

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Footy Is Back!

It's preseason time for the Australian Football League, so this afternoon I went to watch the Essendon Bombers vs. Sydney Swans match at Optus Oval in Princes Park. It was a practice match so a lot of the senior players didn't play, but the game was still entertaining, and it was nice to see my Bombers in action in person for a change.

I met up with Adrian and his girlfriend Helen and we caught the last ten minutes of the second quarter before halftime began. One of the great things about Aussie Rules is how accessible the players and grounds are for fans. You are allowed to go onto the field and kick around the footy ball between quarters and after the match. At today's game fans were also allowed to come onto the field and gather around to listen to the coach's comments to the players. After the match players will sign autographs as they leave the field, and are very approachable. These things would never happen at a NFL game! It's just a relaxed atmosphere with people from all walks of life in attendance.

As for the game, the Bombers really took control in the second half and won the match by over 30 points (Sydney didn't even score in the third quarter). The weather was hot, so they shortened the time of the quarters at the end. It was a good start to the season, and I hope to catch many more matches in the upcoming months.
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