Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Awaken the Spirit

The year is almost done and I cannot still believe I am living my dream... Finally I am in Australia and I am making some plans for the future... There is so many things to tell about, but something more important come every now and then, keeping me busy... my blog sometimes gives me a mean and recriminatory look saying ‘you are not abandoning me, right??? Right!???’

Bloody hell no, and to prove it I am going to tell you guys my plan for this new year eve :P

As many of you may know, Australia is the first big country (Sydney to be more precise) to receive the New Year, right next to Kiribati Island, New Zealand and Fiji. The government and its responsible organisations planning the New Year eve, prepares huge spectacles and some of those I have already witness it with my very own eyes.

Here some fireworks on Christmas Eve on Darling Harbour.

More fireworks from Darling Harbour same day.

This December 31st, 2010 the theme is “Awaken the spirit”. Every Sydneysider and visitor must wear something blue to receive the New Year with hope, joy and lots of inner peace... but there is something else that gives this day a tingle or two making it more special... Hahaha, no, is not that I am here already :P

This December 31st will end with a full blue moon (a blue moon is a second moon within a month, even though this website says we are not going to see it 'full' because the full moon occurs at 5:00 AM in the morning of January 1st... Who cares? I will look the moon as the same two hours later that day, right?) and this event will not repeat itself until 2028!!! So grab your camera and take as many pictures as you can, then make as many wishes as you want and third, kiss the one you love :P

Nope... a blue moon isn't really blue... Is just a term to describe a second full moon within the same month.

My wife and I, as some other mates will take a glance of the spectacular scenery of Sydney skyline from Bradley’s head point, in the Ashton Park; which is estimated to hold 5,000 spectators for that night only (which are very few people for that park, in comparison to other years), thus we need to be as early as possible to grab out spots and enjoy a lovely sunny (luckily) day till the clock reach 5 seconds to the first minute of the upcoming 2010. Are you ready to awaken the spirit and enjoy this New Year eve?

The fireworks might be just like this...

Or even better!!

At the end, the company and the sharing is all the really matters.

I will try to post some pictures of that night as soon as I get home (and the liquor gets out of my system :P)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

It had been a while since I wrote and I want to update again everything I have done since the 25K :P
Since my arrival I had the time to start checking job advertisement web sites looking for my first job in Australia... To be honest I was a little afraid of the upcoming changes, meanly because in Venezuela I stand out from the crowd because of my knowledge in computer science and having a look to the Australian market quite left me with a shaky base of my background. Almost every single job was requiring the latest technology which I am into, but made me the illusion of being in a place were almost every single professional is as prepared and trained as I am. And so, with little insecurities scratching my back I started looking for a job... Something challenging yet different from what I was used to. I will post in several other posts how my experience was hunting for the place I wanted to fit in.

But days went by and October, then November passed by and nothing came up, nothing totally definitive and I bumped with Kyle and Ann. Among other recruiters, they were pretty kind and focused their business to totally give me an opportunity in the Australian market. And as the first days of December started I was thinking ‘oh god, are you letting me out of light? Am I going to have a stressing Christmas and a crappy channuka’ and then, I got a called from Ann two days before Channuka, she gave me the excellent news that I was selected to work with Cochlear... I am not a very religious man, in fact I believe pretty much that each of us is a tiny part of god, waiting for the perfect moment to awake and make the change to come... but as these days went by I just want to express my gratitude to the universe or god, for not letting me down.

Thank you god, you gave me light just before my oil was about to be depleted.

Happy channuka guys (I will give you merry Christmas in about some more days :P)
Chag urim sameach!

Friday, October 30, 2009

The last week’s Sunday it was Sydney’s Seven Bridges Walk; A city event and perfect opportunity for us to walk around the city and get to meet something else.

I may have not said it properly in the blog, but I have been in Sydney’s CBD just a couple of times before this walk, even though I am going to have two months in Australia. The reason of this lack of visits to Sydney’s CBD is due to we came down under short of money and we cannot afford to spend our money as we were tourists.

Anyway, Kathy was looking on the Internet the city event planning and bumped into the seven bridges walk website (Sydney Events Calendar). This event’s idea is to walk around to city, getting to know something else than just the Sydney‘s regular attractions, gathering the bridges stamps, starting and finishing in your nearest point and walking a closed track of 25 kilometres length. As we are living in Hornsby, our nearest point was maybe Lane Cove Village, but we decided it would be better to start near our beloved Sydney’s Opera House, so our starting point was moved to The Rocks.

And so, the Saturday before the event, we went to our closest Chinese market (in other post I will explain the pros and cons of those markets) to get to waterproof ponchos (just in case it started to rain during the walking) and get some bread at woollies in order to make sandwiches and maybe an apple or two for the journey.

Sunday morning it was truly a sun-day, because at very early hours in the morning the sun came up soon, shining and heating without mercy, but something fishy was in the air... I had read in the Sydney Morning Herald that rain was predicted during the day... So we packed our waterproof ponchos, water bottle, apples and sandwiches and marched to gather with our mates at the Hornsby train station heading to Circular Quay station (the nearest train station to The Rocks). Once in Circular Quay we noticed the Opera House was opened for free visit during that day... Was I already told you guys, we were not wasting our money, so decided to give it a shot and visit the Opera House, but 30 minutes later and 25K ahead of us we knew we needed to start walking; back to the walking at the rocks we picked our passports, take a picture or two and marched to the Pyrmont bridge (our first bridge from The Rocks).

Oh! Almost forgot to show you a funny thing, a techno-aborigine... He he, in our way to The Rocks an Australian aborigine was peacefully playing his didgeridoo in the floor at the beats of a techno music. Pretty cool beats!

Quick note: The first thing to notice when you have the map is you don’t really need it unless you are lost. Every block, turn or redirection is marked with sign related to the event. So you better concentrate in the signs and check your map just to find out how much you have walked and how many is pending.

Pyrmont Bridge gave us a nice surprise, rowing race, as well as rain. But we wanted to finish this event no matter what cost, Kathy and I pulled out our ponchos but our mates didn’t had anything to get covered with, so we walked to a couple of stores just to find, those ponchos are sold in very few places; but raining or not, we wanted to keep walking (not trademarks or slogans were use) and marched to the Pyrmont village to get our stamps in our passport. At that point we noticed our passports (with very few water drops on them) started to suffer some heavy damage due to the water and storage place (my pants’ pocket)... but what the bloody hell, with or without passport we were going to finish the walk (still 6 bridges ahead, no biggy). Put the passports back to my pocket and headed to Anzac Bridge.

The Anzac Bridge showed its silhouette 15 minutes later; is a beautiful and modern cable-stayed bridge. This one was Kathy’s favourite so she took her camera out and starts shooting every aspect of the bridge.
As we kept walking, the rain kept falling hard upon us, but every step near another bridge seemed to fade away the water so we could take a couple of pictures and continue with our journey. That way we went through Iron Cove Bridge (an art-deco ugly bridge with a nice view of the vicinity), Gladesville Bridge and Tarban Creek Bridge (bow concrete ribbed modern bridges with awesome view of Sydney’s vicinity with an outstanding Harbour Bridge perspective at the background) and Fig Tree Bridge. Was at the Fig Tree Bridge were we count those bridges left behind and realised there was one to go... Only the Harbour Bridge was pending for us to walk upon his concrete and iron structure. We took the map out just to find a horrible truth: we were 12 kilometres away from the Harbour Bridge and almost every bridge of this event is included into the very first (our very first) 13 kilometres of walk... But how hard could it be? 13 kilometres went by without any issue... So let’s keep moving forward! (again, no trademarks used)

The thing with this part of the track is, gets very into a residency area with hills and slopes with up to 45 degrees; maybe I am exaggerating a bit, but after almost 3 hours walking in cold rain and those slopes our legs muscles were making our way harder to complete, but we marched on through Lane Cove up to North Sydney. I got to tell you, my left knee was killing me more than anything else because of lesions I had suffered when kid, but I didn’t want to slip this away. Once in Milson Point (about to start the Harbour Bridge) the pain was almost unbearable; the knee was making me squizzed my teeth against each other but at last I was in the Harbour Bridge.

When you start reading about Sydney, the first thing to pop out is the Sydney’s Opera House and the second is the Harbour Bridge. To be honest, I didn’t find anything special about this bridge except it was big, but as the time goes by and you keep readying about your future place to live you start to develop some empathy with its things and a caring sensation grows within. Near the concrete pylons making the Bridge to stand as is, your heart starts pumping and adrenaline flows through your veins. Is something magical that makes you admire the structure and fully understand why this bridge is so important for Sydneysiders. Every step in the bridge was painful but at the same time made me wonder about its construction and how perfect it seems to be. Kathy was mesmerised with the Opera House view and very 20 metres stoped to take another picture of those five hundreds we already possess. At the end of the bridge there was what we believed to be our last stamped. A lady asked us very kindly, “Is this your last bridge, right?” after nodding due to be breathless she told us “you got to hurry up, in order to complete the walk you got to return to your starting village so they can stamp in your passport the walk completed stamp, and it is almost about time to pack everything... Without that stamp your walk would be pointless so hurry!”

All of the sudden, my knee started killing me badly, but my wife and Joe (our only mate to complete the walk with us) cheer me up to walk 3 more blocks to get the final stamp. We saw the village and a peaceful sensation embrace us; we finished our walk at the rocks having these glorious red stamps in our passports. Maybe isn’t something big to finish a 25 kilometres walk, but for us (that we never had participate in these kind of events before) tasted as having completed the Australian Iron Man.

Back to home, the body started complaining about everything done during the day... Due to almost 5 hours of cold raining I was having hypothermia and Kathy had terrible back pains the following days. But even as painful, as hard and exhausting it was... Get to know your city and complete this event is something great and worth it to be done again, in many cases the view will be enough to mitigate exhaustion.

Quick notes:
As we walked, we noticed the experienced one among the group. People don’t tend to give for granted weather conditions, thus bring with you something to take cover. Umbrellas don’t work well.

To protect your passport bring something waterproof. Plastic bags don’t work. Maybe a plastic folder would work well.

As you will be burning out your energy reserves during the day, is great practice you have a high energy breakfast (high energy cereal with milk, sugar, pancakes, etc) but you will need to keep it light as you keep walking. Fruits will do it for lunch and maybe snacks, but right after finishing the walk a hot chocolate (or just a chocolate candy bar) will replenish the energy shortage you might be suffering. If the weather is cold and you have low energy reserves is highly probable you will suffer some kind of hypothermia as I did. Believe me, isn’t pleasant.

Hope you enjoy the pictures and the story.
Cya soon mates.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Since our arrival

Since or arrival (on September 9, 2009) we have manage to enjoy the days with the easy and graze of any Sydneysider; he he, not really.

The day we got to the airport and after the inspections to our bags, we went to exchange some US Dollars into Australian currency (that was our very first time having in our hands these plastic funny bills). With some Australian dollars in our pockets we asked some directions of how to use the phone which work backward to those in America, where you put some money in, dial and talk; here instead you dial the phone number and after someone picks it up you put the coin in the machine. This cost me two dollars to find out until a gentle man told me how to really use it.

After calling, all we needed to do was waiting for a little bit till our mates came by and picked us up, to take us to Hornsby (where we were supposed to spend the next days without flat unit) then take us to meet our closest mall, The Westfield shopping centre and the Water Clock in the Westfield middle park. I must say, I was dreaming all the way to the mall and back, with mare remembrance of opening the account at the commonwealth bank of Australia we went back to meet David (building manager where we were renting) and he told us what we needed to do to get our flat, thankfully to my mate Moira, I was able to rent at once in the building, paying as few as possible.

What was next...? Oh right, the next couple of days we went to Bing Lee to shop for our washer and fridge plus some other stuff. The tip here is, talk to the vendor. He (as you) likes a good chat, and what is better than looking for a berrigans? We talk to ‘Eddie’ trying to get the price as low as possible and we got the fridge, washer, vacuum cleaner and iron for under a$2,200.00 saving odd a$250.00 or more as we got free shipping to our home. Then we went to buy the matrix for our bedroom and bumped into a comfortable matrix tagged as a$ 5,000.00, but due to low stock and the one we wanted was on display, we got it for a$2,000.00 or a$1,999.00 (as the sales lady told us, you are having a cool matrix for under two thousand dollars, that’s good deal). When I had to pay, she told me that I needed to by 40% of the bed set, but I didn’t had on my wallet a$800.00 so I tell her if there was any problem on paying just a$300.00 which told me ‘no worries then... head over those $300 and pay the rest when bed is delivered’.

Back to our flat, my mate and her husband got us two sofas and a dinner table with someone had it for us, our apartment was nearly complete with its basic furniture and we were ready to know something else from our new city. So our first stop was the beach (as spring break open just two days after our arrival) then Sydney CBD to be standing in front of the Sydney Opera House. Is it me or is more beautiful than in pictures, don’t know, the thing is, I am truly in love of my new home.

Back to Hornsby, the next couple of days we were staring sunsets (as shows in our balcony), with one rare hail fall and today, unprecedented strong dust winds or sandstorm. Oz really wants to show us what nature beholds.

This sums it up till present days; I will leave you some pictures of today’s sand storm.

Cheers and till next time.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

These posts are a compilation of every aspect of moving, packing and farewell every migrant will suffer when its time is right. With this I would like to express the stress and exhaustion of the last month getting ready for what awaits.

The last days are split into these separate posts, read it as you wish or follow the order:

Thanks for reading, and till next time.

This post is part of a bigger compilation of thoughts and thus, it might have no sense or lead to miss information. If you want to fully read it, start from here, otherwise continue reading.

As you probably already know, my visa was granted on March, 19th and since then, all despair, excitement, sadness, joy, wrath and stress have been taking a new meaning. Picture it as your entire world is wipeout and you just have to put it all together again. That should be the exact feeling.

So, what to do? What to do? Obviously finishing work, find more information of our new place, enjoy family (this one got to me several times… “You got to enjoy your family to the fullest, because you are going to miss them”).

All of the sudden, everything reminds you what you just have in front of you. The land that watched you grow, become from baby to kid, from kid to teenager and from teen to man, giving to some nostalgia for what you haven’t lost yet. All of the sudden the problems and issues are dimmed by those good moments that defines you (then some biker yells at you, someone press the horn or start fighting and that moment is gone) and you can’t stop asking yourself, what if… everything change? What if everything would it be different… would I make the same choices? The truth is, I am totally in love of Australia at the moment and everything here (Venezuela) seems to be so full of chaos that the only way to secure a more stable and peaceful future is moving somewhere else.

As the days goes by, you start moving again, thinking in the future and start planning everything for this moment we (my wife and I) have been dreaming for more than 3 years now.

The next big step is resigning the job, gathering everything to move and enjoy the last days.

This post is part of a bigger compilation of thoughts and thus, it might have no sense or lead to miss information. If you want to fully read it, start from here, otherwise continue reading.

Once your visa is granted (well, in my case was way before getting the granted) you must tell your boss you are planning to move overseas. In my case, wasn’t a surprise for them and had it expected, preparing everything to avoid delays and help me going. It might sound that my job wanted me out, isn’t? but wasn’t like that, in fact the company was moved to Hermosillo, Mexico and I was offered a position there and I rejected because as for me, was pointless to move to Mexico waiting the Australian visa.

Once I clear out the final days on work (which at first, was last of May, then it was moved to last of June with the purpose of gathering more money) the only thing to do was preparing my way out with the best references I could get, training other coworkers in “my thing” so they could continue working without the gap behind my departure.

In my case, the definition of the “last day of work” was sort of a nightmare, many of my coworkers were prepared for the job, but the manager was lacking of the necessary skills to lead the team (and from my point of view, didn’t mind it to learn it neither) so I got to write a huge report that took me some of the days (odd 10 days) later my leave (which wasn’t cool at all). The hard thing of these days was saying goodbye to your mates and wishing the very best for them (as so do they).

My advice at this point, get everything done so you can resign up to 45 to 60 days before traveling. 30 days seems to be much time, but really isn’t.

Once I was out of duties I could manage my mind and focus to get pending things to its final state, but to accomplish it, I had to create a to-do list.

This post is part of a bigger compilation of thoughts and thus, it might have no sense or lead to miss information. If you want to fully read it, start from here, otherwise continue reading.

Who doesn’t know what a to-do list work for? I didn’t fully understand it till these days when you get so crowded with stuff in your mind that things when to on priority to “what was I going to do?” in no time.

In any case, my wife got me a piece of paper and told me to list everything I was planning to do in the upcoming days. As I had it mentally listed for so long, building up the list was easy… following it was the hard part :P Got to buy shipping bubble plastic, got to buy the travel bags, got to… do so many things, Oh lord!

I went from home to the streets and back all day long gathering those final details (but important) that many don’t give it importance till you are wasting so much time in things you could had done way before the visa approval.
My advice in this part, build a to-do list with every possible aspect needed for the departure… if you have near 50 items in that list, I bet you there are 20 more you haven’t thought.

With the to-do list ready and priorities assigned the following days are execute those tasks shipping those not possible for now. Our top priority was trespass our vaccine history to the yellow card (International certificate of vaccination).

This post is part of a bigger compilation of thoughts and thus, it might have no sense or lead to miss information. If you want to fully read it, start from here, otherwise continue reading.

You might be thinking “god rod not again the story of your 5 shots in the arm…” and I am not going to recapitulate how painful it was.

The important thing is how to get the yellow card so you can travel without any but nor complain. We called the sanity department requesting directions to where, when and how to go. With clear directions and regular vaccine history in our hands we marched to the sanity department general office in “Centro Simon Bolivar”, Caracas, Venezuela and asked the board, we were sent to the 4th floor general and public epidemiology department.

There, we were requested to show our airplane bookings (to check the traveling dates) because they were only attending to those within 30 days prior to travel (bring your bookings, just in case you are requested to show it). Thanks goodness the receptionist was willing to generate the card and accept our 35 days prior traveling as 30. In that moment, you are called for examination and in case you don’t have the influenza vaccine or the yellow fever vaccine you are going to be dismissed in order to get it. Important note: the sanity department doesn’t provide any vaccine to general public; you must go there “with your vaccine already in your regular history”, also double check your history (and the yellow fever vaccine), otherwise you will be requested to go somewhere else to get it first. In the examination you are told to get the influenza vaccine as well in order to avoid any further problem with the H1N1 spreading all over the country.

It is also important to remark, check your vaccines histories, Kathy had an issue with her card as her history does not mention the vaccine batch applied to her, so she had to go and get a brand new shot in her arm. The yellow fever shot could be applied at least every 10 years but it really doesn’t matter if you get it twice in a year, avoid 40 days vaccines prior travelling, for us this would be a problem (because we would be short of days) but the doctor told us not to worry because she had a shot before.

This section advice, bring the information needed to prove you are traveling outside the country limits and the destination request the yellow card in immigration; in some countries such as Venezuela, this card is something very unusual, thus some doctors or receptionist will look for excuses to not give it to you.

Next, packing.

This post is part of a bigger compilation of thoughts and thus, it might have no sense or lead to miss information. If you want to fully read it, start from here, otherwise continue reading.

After a day or two a gathering all your stuff, documents and other important things you will start thinking about “what is that important thing to do next? What to leave behind and what shouldn’t I?”

In our case, Kathy and I had lots of home things such as pots, pans, kitchen aids, our tableware, cutlery, and so on plus our bed clothes, bathroom accessories, etc; our dilemma was keep it or leave it.

After an intense internet search (related to prices in Australia) we decided to leave behind every electric device not complaining Australian standards, some useless books and really old clothes, the rest will travel with us (or shipped down under).

But why did we choose to take almost everything else with us?

Taking a look to cutlery (for instance), we find nice stuff over the Internet which might be our first things down under, but talking to our Sydney friends, they express the quality vs. price as the following: “obviously there are cheap things, but aren’t good neither durable; in the other hand, good and durable things are really expensive, it’s your call”. Then doing some calculations, we were going to “throw away” all our stuff (almost for free) to get new things down under (at full tag), those new things require lots more money than we could possible get from our stuff here… So, why to bother? Is kind of better to ship our stuff there, clean it up, package it and wait for it to get there.

Is there any tip or advice? Not really, these decisions are kind of personal and it really doesn’t matter if you want to leave to your family your cutlery even though down under are pretty much expensive and the price you are going to pay on shipping plus its value will be less than getting a new one.
This topic is divided into these two posts:

Next to picking and packing was shipping.

This post is part of a bigger compilation of thoughts and thus, it might have no sense or lead to miss information. If you want to fully read it, start from here, otherwise continue reading.

Again, the searching for convenience is a most choosing what to leave and what to take with us in our moving... As you may know, several months ago we moved to a new apartment in Caracas, getting ready for the upcoming changes, at that moment we disposed several damaged, unused or worthless pieces of clothes (with disposal I mean gave away to someone, if clothes were in good shape to charity otherwise to my mom so she could use it as cleaning rag) taking ahead on this duty.

But what is the important thing in this post, how to pack our clothes. And you may say, “what? How to pack our clothes? Man, everyone knows how to do their bags!” and you might be right, but I think it was worth it to be remarked the advice someone in Australia told me once.

Try to do your luggage taking note of everything. Don’t just throw everything in the bags because you might need to know where the bloody hell you left your tie, shirt, pants, underwear, etc. And so we did, at first we start compressing our clothes (you should read the saving space post first in case you didn’t, here) trying to keep some ‘order’ into the huge mess, storing some underwear, shirts and pants here and there... What does that means?

We didn’t set all our pants in just one bag, neither the shirt underwear and so on. Why? Just in case any of our bags were sent by mistake to Uganda; seriously I don’t want to imagine the face of the aussies with me walking with shorts and no shirt on Sydney’s CBD. The same tactic applies to fur coat (for winter) or swimming suits (for summer). Most of our clothes fit into six bags and one big box which was sent by post office in Caracas.

This labour was made in parallel with packing our stuff (other than clothes). And if you want to know what kind of bags did I used, read this post.

Once done all the packaging, came the shipping.

This post is part of a bigger compilation of thoughts and thus, it might have no sense or lead to miss information. If you want to fully read it, start from here, otherwise continue reading.

As I already said here, we had lots of kitchen aids, tableware, bathroom accessories, bedroom clothes and accessories and we decided to take everything with us that might be expensive in Down Under excluding electrical devices. Most of those things were planned to be sent by post office and few within our luggage.
So, what’s the standard procedure to pack fragile things such as plates or drinking glasses?

Easy, you will need bubble plastic, polypropylene pellets, paper duck tape, tick cardboard and cardboard boxes of different sizes. The purpose of boxes of different sizes is, small boxes will contain the fragile articles and bigger boxes will isolate (with the pellets) the small boxes from unexpected bangs.

So, let’s imagine we are going to pack our tableware. The first thing to do is protect dishes, cups and other stuff with cardboard so it does not hit each other within the “small” box. Then cover the ‘small’ box with bubble plastic leaving the bubble facing in and the smooth surface facing out; this way the bubble will protect the box from impacts and the smooth face will help you with duck tape stickiness.

Then, cover every face of the bigger box with plastic duck tape without leaving spots. This technique is great because helps to cardboard to be impermeable and stronger. Cut open the up side face to the next step.

Next, put some pellets inside the bigger box (making a soft bed for the small box) and put the tableware box on that bed, leaving an inch from side to side. Then you can fill in the spaces with small (but resistant) stuffs such as books, spoons or kitchen aids to finally add more pellets; shake every now and then the box so the pellets fall in inaccessible places, creating a better protection.

Finally, close the up side of the box with duck tape and cover the box (if required) with bond paper. In Venezuela the bond paper is a most, because the box’s cardboard face doesn’t allow the post stamp’s glue to work properly, plus you got to remember every box’s face was covered with plastic duck tape.

This way you can forget how uncaring the handler could be.

Next thing to do, ship boxes down under.

This post is part of a bigger compilation of thoughts and thus, it might have no sense or lead to miss information. If you want to fully read it, start from here, otherwise continue reading.

Shipping stuff over is one of the obvious tasks to do moving anywhere, and correct information is a must before taking boxes out with us (especially when we don’t have any car) so we called the post office and talked to a kind man named Jesus. He give us some directions of how to pack everything so he can check it prior handle it.

With things classified and ready to be sent from overseas to Australia we took a taxi (in fact, were two taxi’s) to the main post office in Caracas (address here), and after some minutes waiting a kind man came from his cubicle saying “are you rod? Hi! I am Jesus, remember?” proceeding to take care of our boxes and helping us to get the weight of every single box.

This procedure is really simple to complete, just go ahead to the post office, with the boxes upside open and without any pellets (discussed in the previous post) so these guys can check the content inside the boxes. Then add all the protective material you want and leave it to them.

In our case, the boxes took odd 15 days to arrive tops, and as the days goes by, it gets quicker.

If you haven’t read how we shop our bags, then click here. Otherwise continue reading “closing unnecessary things

This post is part of a bigger compilation of thoughts and thus, it might have no sense or lead to miss information. If you want to fully read it, start from here, otherwise continue reading.

One of those things that makes me wonder what would be a great purchase, were the travel bags or luggage. I wanted to be slick and strong enough to resist bad handling and even heavy treatment, but at the same time something easy to handle and light so I can use as much as possible in the airplane.

Checking on the Internet and chatting with my mate Victor, found a great deal with the travel bags, because are light, most cases has wheels (which is great when the content is too heavy) and once used easy to store.

And right there is the important feature “easy to store”, many people don’t realise why good bags are better than suitcases which will be nicer to look at... But when you are moving anywhere in permanent basis you most think about the space you are going to use in your temporal or final residence. In our case we bought 8 bags (maximum allowed by IOM and the airlines) in which we stuffed all our immediate things, and then moved to my parents home to finally take it with us to Australia.

And the question will be, “tell me Rod, what travel bags should I get?” the answer is, it depends on you. I choose something alike to the picture, the colour doesn’t really matter the important thing is you feel comfortable with it and you have (or will have) the proper space to save it for later.

Next you will need to close unnecessary things.

This post is part of a bigger compilation of thoughts and thus, it might have no sense or lead to miss information. If you want to fully read it, start from here, otherwise continue reading.

Prior moving down under (which isn’t precisely close to anything) you will need to establish what to leave open and what not to. In my case bank account and everything else were closed and some mail addresses changed to a P.O Box where my family could check it every now and then for me.

This post might apply only for Venezuela, so read it at discretion.

In Venezuela the bank entities just sucks. Every single bank is a major headache and none try to give you better products, treatment or benefits. So I decided to close everything, if you choose so, build your patience, write a letter saying you want to close your accounts (credit accounts, money saver account, saving accounts, everything) and head to the branch office. Talk to a teller or office representative, if you start with the wrong foot, request the manager presence and continue finishing your accounts.

We also request the end of service of electricity, water, Internet, and gas.

Next, planning a trip and farewell parties.

This post is part of a bigger compilation of thoughts and thus, it might have no sense or lead to miss information. If you want to fully read it, start from here, otherwise continue reading.

Something important of moving anywhere else is getting ready to the upcoming changes; weather is one of those big changes anyone would suffer. Thus Kathy and I were checking every now and then the weather forecast for a whole year and we already knew that august in Sydney is cold because of the winter, then for a moment or so I remembered the 2000 summer Olympics on Sydney (celebrated on September) when a sports reporter took a chance to review a Venezuelan and his only couple of words were “man, here is freezing!”.

I must confess, at that time I didn’t know or even thought about moving down under. But it got to my attention that a huge desert as Australia could have low temperatures, so I tried to check the Internet to find out more and was my first time to know that Australia has the four seasons, it has snow in some mountains and also has tropical monsoons at the very north.

The idea of arriving to Australian land, looking as ice cube didn’t like me too much, so we figured to buy some winter clothes, blankets, quilts and the list goes on and on. After a long listing of stuffs, we went to the only store in Caracas which could have anything alike just to find out it was extremely expensive; another solution must be found, maybe to somewhere colder than Venezuela, but where? The only nearest place to Venezuela with cold weather could be Bogota in Colombia.

I should say something here, you might be thinking “rod, are you out of your mind? How could be any cheaper to travel to another country to get stuff instead just trying harder in your own country?” and you might be right, it should be cheaper to take a deep look if you are talking about a regular basis economy. But in Venezuela things work different, every Venezuelan has a limited access to foreign currencies such as American dollars, these limitations also applies to companies, thus a parallel market to acquire dollars exist in which the American dollar is valued 2.5 to 3 times more than the government admits, plus 90% of the products consumed within the country for daily operations is based on imported merchandise. As consequence, every single good in a store / market / shop tags a price with is 400% inflated related to the same product bought in the US or other country. If you sum the expenses of traveling outside Venezuelan borders + the good price (if you buy big contents, not just two things) you will be having more things and you traveled somewhere else and get to know something.

So, back to the travel, the thing was getting to Bogota, make the arrangements for a cheap hotel or hostel, and acquire the knowledge of where to shop. At that very moment, an angel falls to my sight. Alex, a mate and moderator from my forum ‘aussie neighbour’ emerged from the nowhere giving some directions and offering me some stay for few days.

Once everything was set and ready to go, we went to an online travel agency named “” ( in Spanish) and shopped two tickets headed to Bogota. With the tickets and everything ready, we went to CADIVI (the Venezuelan responsible for releasing dollars to the market) in order to get the approval in our credit cards so we can buy our clothes.

The train seemed to be unstoppable until an issue occurs.

This post is part of a bigger compilation of thoughts and thus, it might have no sense or lead to miss information. If you want to fully read it, start from here, otherwise continue reading.

In the last post, I said we wanted to travel to Colombia prior Australia. In order to get some winter clothes, fur and other stuffs. With tickets (flying on July 30th) in hand and ready in the airport we checked in and made our way to the immigration area. After 30 to 40 minutes waiting a long line it was our turn to be interview by the immigration agent in the Simon Bolivar Airport, first was my wife, she handed her passport and immigration card, everything was cool, then it was me. The agent looked the passport, then the extension period in it and asked me:

- “Sir, where did you get this extension?”
- So I respond “in the Onidex branch office located in coche… Why? Is there a problem?”
- The lady in a mocker tone of voice told me: “Are you sure? Didn’t you get it in a cereal box? This passport isn’t suitable for traveling. I am really sorry but you will lose your flight until you get a new passport.”

All of the sudden I stop listening, it was like a really bad nightmare. How could this be possible? I went to the Onidex (which is the immigration and foreign control institution) to get the passport and 10 days before my departure to Australia this lady is telling me that my passport is invalid???? Is she making a cruel bad joke? She turn her head to her back and called her supervisor which took my left arm and showed me a piece of paper (at first sight appears to be a printed email, second time confirmed the first time with the exception that had a government stamp in one corner) yelling me “Sir you are unsuitable for travelling, your passport does not work due to expiration!” Then I was escorted out the immigration zone.

Man, oh man. Why was this had to happen? My first concern was to jump the big pond to aussie soil. All of the sudden my dreams and hopes seemed swift away and, Kathy & I were trapped in the bizarre world of Venezuela. Despair hit me hard, now what I needed to do was to notice the flight crew I was unable to board, then call IOM so they could make the proper arrangements to get another spot in the next plane I could board once I get a new passport. When I was able to contact IOM representative named Mariana, she did not understand what I meant with “they say my passport is worthless” so she got me into my senses and told me that I needed to go to the SAIME central offices (A.K.A Onidex, The Venezuelan government keeps changing the institutions names every two years to show that the “social revolution is really working”), head to immigrations affairs and talk to the responsible in there.

I must confess, everything here in Venezuela is a mess, so I did not have much faith in a good and quick solution for my problems, it is common to have a disrespectful treatment (as if you where begging your rights); but in a despair situation, despair counter measures and I needed sooner or later to go to the central office to fix my passport. I talked to the receptionist who told me to wait the manager for five minutes. After two or less she made me go in the office, this way I meet the immigration Officer Hilda with a kind smile and disposition to heard me out.

- “Hi, what can I do for you?” (she said)
- “Hi, I am Rod and I had issues with my passport at the immigration check point in the Simon Bolivar airport. I called the International Organisation for Migrations here in Caracas and they told me to come here. I really don’t know what or why my passport is failing to complain the checks but I really need it done quick, next week I will be traveling to Australia to reside permanently”
- “Ok I see, can I have your passport so I can take a look?”
I handed her my passport just to be filled with horror as I looked her face.
- “Rod, where did you get this?”
- “At Coche, several years ago. Can you tell me what is happening?”
- “I am afraid that your passport is currently invalid. You see, that office was not allowed to do this kind of extensions and I am afraid you are a victim of a scam. I am calling to Principal Direction. You sweat to me you didn’t pressure any officer to do this?”
- “No I didn’t. I took my passport to that office in a hurry and the officer told me he could work it out but I needed to pay a fee for that.”
- “A fee? How much?”
- “Not much really, he said something like 70 dollars at that moment... I don’t really remember.”
- “Uhms, that’s not good. Don’t worry you seem to be honest and we will do everything in our power to help you, but I got to tell you, if you need another passport for travelling it won’t be ready for the next week... ok?”
- “Ok.”

Somehow the conversation was not that bad, I was starting to have some hope. After a while she told me to go to the “Principal Directions” where I needed to talk to the director himself. I waited for an hour so he could receive me in his office. Once in he asked:

- “Who are you and how may I serve you?”
- “I am Rod and I have an issue with...”
- “Rod? You are the guy that talked to Hilda?”
- “Uhms... yeah”
- “I need to see your passport now.” (I handed it to him) “Not good... not good at all. Rod, do you know what is happening, right?”
- “No sir, I don’t. Hilda told me that my passport was invalid because the office I used to get the renewal wasn’t allowed for it.”
- “Kind of, the problem is that this passport might be taken as illegal, as you forging a fake identity, where you aware of that?”
- (almost having an heart attack) “No... Sir... How could I know...?”
- “Rod, you seem to be a good guy; and so far, no one who had talked to you told me that you offered money or any kind of bribe as most of people does. It just talks good about you. What I am going to do is, send an order to the fifth floor so you can have you blueprints and information managed by an officer. Your new passport should be ready in 10 days, but I am afraid you will lose your flight to Australia. Have you talked with the travel agency?”
- “No sir, I didn’t get the tickets in a travel agency. I had the fares from the IOM. They have limited vacancies every few flights, the next vacancy might be free within the next 6 months which isn’t suitable for me.”
- “Well Rod, that is your task, find another spot and I will try to get your passport in 10 days. Deal?”
- “Ok Sir, thanks.”

I went out that office, with a good feeling. Not just that my passport issue was about to be solved, I also felt that Venezuela has opportunities with people like these working in government institutions. There is hope for Venezuela so my kids (whenever they come) could someday know their past.

I waited with much stressed (almost driving crazy to Hilda calling her every two days) the resolution for my passport and after 10 days I went back the central office in ‘Plaza Miranda’ to find a gorgeous new passport. The new passport had a biometric card with all your information checked with international institutions, every single page is made of cotton paper (similar to the money paper) with the pictures of Venezuelan heroes such as Simon Bolivar, Sebastian Francisco de Miranda, Andres Bello and so on.

Next we called the IOM to confirm that we had the passport and to book to another plane. As someone told me “innocents are protected by god’s hand” in 4 hours I had my new plane ticket to Sydney, Australia via Santiago de Chile and Auckland, New Zealand. The travel day was September 7, 2009, arriving the 9th of September of 2009 (9/9/09) down under.

In the meanwhile we had several farewell parties, some with the family and some with mates. Then ‘Da day’.

This post is part of a bigger compilation of thoughts and thus, it might have no sense or lead to miss information. If you want to fully read it, start from here, otherwise continue reading.

In the last post I was telling about issues I had with my passport and several things we needed to get done to get some winter clothes and flight planning to Australia. But in the meanwhile some farewell parties occur.

I must be honest from the beginning, after saying good bye and godspeed you to so many good mates, I deeply wanted my party because says you are almost there, hold on good things are coming. Even though many asked me when my farewell party was meant to, no one really offered himself as host for the party, so the time went by and I started losing hopes on this, till my dear mate frank from the Pineda’s five blog, told me to go to his house for my farewell. This party was meant to be one or two weeks before departing (original departure on August 7, 2009, party planned for July 25, 2009).

At the same time, my mom was planning for my birthday (11th of July) a farewell party as well, so my closest mates, family members and neighbours could say something to us and say bye bye. At my birthday many people came without even knowing I was leaving the country, bunch of people told me “wow, here are so many people leaving to Australia... Why?... mates of you?? Why???... you too leaving????????????”

Anyway, my mom had invited many people in order to be strong to avoid being crying every now and then, but could not help it when was time for the cake; my dad as well hugged me tight wishing me the very best. It is hard for anyone (especially parents) to see their offspring go, even harder when is faraway, so if you are planning to move down under and you have close family you got to be strong and hold it for the last few days; why? Remember that in first place you were the one choosing to move elsewhere to have a better and prosper life, hold tight to these ideas against the general comments such as “sadly, you are leaving your family behind…”; being down under is not just your opportunities, it will open as well opportunities for your family members whom decided to stay.

The next farewell was in frank’s place, we had some ‘choripanes’ with is a hot dog with Spanish sausage instead regular pork meat sausage used in the hot dogs. The choripanes are kind of common here in Venezuela although I have not ever tasted one, so it was cool. Plus many mates from Valencia in Venezuela and other places came by to meet us and say goodbye as well. The evening surprise was having Victor and Raul call (on Skype) and having some knowledge transferred to us of their experiences in Perth. At the end it was a good night with good food and good company.

Is that all? Nope, those parties were taken place before my passport issues, obviously in the meanwhile I didn’t had any intention of parting but with the plane ticket and passport ready to go I was in the mood again. Frank called me again but this time the party was exclusive, on one of the gorgeous beaches of Venezuela with crystalline water, little fishes swimming around you and fine food, all this for us and the Pineda’s five.

Back in Caracas my mates Santos and Rosely (both architects) told us to gather with them for a barbie; as regular dinner or lunch were frequent we didn’t even gave a thought this one was supposed to be our last with them in Venezuela (at least for a long time) so they also planned to wish us the best on this opportunity and say goodbye. And so, this was the last time Kathy and I meet our mates to have a meal or just chat in Venezuelan soil, next time will be down under.

With parties done, everything packed and little things to do we just had to travel to Bogota (this time meant to buy nice outfits instead just winter clothes as some friends in Sydney already told us the winter was fading away) and once back to Venezuela spend the last couple of days with our family.

This post is part of a bigger compilation of thoughts and thus, it might have no sense or lead to miss information. If you want to fully read it, start from here, otherwise continue reading.

Long time ago, I was talking to Kathy explaining the good feeling and experiences anyone could have when travels outside the boundaries of their country. Venezuela for so long was her home and only experience and somehow I was scared if she would ever going to like leaving her world behind for something yet not tasted.

Someone told me once, “visiting a country is one thing, living it is totally different; tourist could and would see everything with kind eyes, flawless and timed, meanwhile a resident will complain about several daily things as people parking were it shouldn’t, weekend drunk people or maybe irresponsible politics attitude regardless citizen rights or wishes” but what about if she didn’t even had that candy eye before traveling? Comparisons could be easy to make against Venezuela which is suffering of so much hatred and intolerance, suffering a poor politic process that doesn’t give the proper treatment to corruption or felony because is deeply rotten with those diseases. Colombia offered us a perfect comparison with Venezuela, why? Its situations are totally opposed yet suffer same diseases such as corruption and felony.

As days went by, we called or chat with our mate Alex in Bogota; she kindly offered to be our host during those days and go to shop with us. With tickets in hand we went to sleep at the Simon Bolivar Airport, mainly because it was the earlier flight at the airport and the check-in was supposed to be made at 4:00 in the morning. Once checked-in and waiting for the immigration check I could not helped to be worried.
“What if I had yet again another issue? What if the officer just wants to mess me?”

Then the officer called us, asked for our documents and took a deep look into our passports... Gave me my passport but turn his sight to Kathy and asked her “Mrs, why do you have an amendment on July 30?” She explained at that moment that my passport had an issue so we were unable to travel and the cancelation was necessary as she didn’t leave. The officer gave us the go without any other second thought. At that moment an old lady asked to us where the gate 17 was (the one pointed at our passages) and after she watched our tickets asked to stay with us; 30 minutes later we were heading to Bogota via Cartagena.

Once in Bogota, Kathy had mixed feeling between excitement and supreme rush, like being electric; after picking up our bags and setting off last couple of things, we meet Alex to go to her home, leave things there and go to a mall. As the day went out Kathy and I were shocked of how different things were; daily costs as food or anything else, compared to Venezuela were so low and so, we realised our choosing was right, we needed to leave Venezuela behind in order to have a nice family with high standards of life. Next couple of days were shopping and the final day, we headed to the salt cathedral. I must confess I didn’t imagine being in such a magical or beautiful place, something worth it to visit whenever someone go to Bogota.

Was it everything ok? No, even though we request permission to the government to use dollars through our credit cards, it didn’t work. We spend time and money calling back to our banks in Caracas just to be mocked by the bank representatives, didn’t do anything to help us or trying to solve our issues with the credit cards. The reports at stores were “oh, your credit card has problems with our credit card point... do you have other payment type?” thankfully we were prepared to pay in cash every single time.

Now, how has the fault? Is it government or bank fault?

Several days ago I was chatting with a forum member (who is going to Australia to study English) and he told me that after long conversations with CADIVI (the responsible of approve dollar requests) he had its courses approved and “paid” in dollars through a bank entity, but when he call the bank where he holds his account, they told him that there isn’t such money ready to go. As usual, he thought the bank was telling the truth and all the fault was CADIVI’s so he called back his officer just to find the bank was playing fool just to keep the dollars for its own benefit.

Our case, whose fault? Don’t know and seriously don’t want to know neither, leaving these things behind will be the best and keep moving forward. All we know is, it was delightful and we really appreciate to Alex and Stef having us as such magnificent hosts. Thank you guys for everything you were the best.

Next? Jump into the plane whose waiting to make our dreams come true.

This post is part of a bigger compilation of thoughts and thus, it might have no sense or lead to miss information. If you want to fully read it, start from here, otherwise continue reading.

I am not going to tell how the last two days in home were, lots of crying and few sleeping sums it up. It was hard to take a look to my family through to glass door that separates the check-in area and the duty free and I could not held it, I started crying what I was holding last three months when chatting with my siblings, or mom and dad, or godmother, but there was no turning back because ahead was my future and my offspring waiting for a good life.

After a while the plane parked at gate 6, we board it and take off to ‘Santiago de Chile’. My advice here, if you can reserve (book) left plane seats you will be able to have a spectacular view of the Andes mountain system, second height in the world. Quick note on this plane, do not sleep, you will understand it within the next few lines. Once in the airport (if you have a notebook, netbook or macbook) you will have free internet access, so you can send some information to your beloved ones, but if you are low on battery (as we were) I got to tell you, Chile’s power plugs are different to those in America or Venezuela; instead of two flat sticks it uses three rounded sticks, so unless you got time to buy the proper adapter you won’t be able to find a computer or plug to use the internet. What we did was, changed some dollars to Chile’s currency, then got a phone card (5000 pesos is too much for calling, try to get something cheaper as 5000 gives you more than 20 minutes on calling to mobiles) and dial to my mom’s mobile and Kathy’s dads mobile.

When the Qantas flight arrive (or in our case was a LAN plane with Qantas connection) the adrenaline tops and your heart is pumping hard... finally you are about to see (in 17 more hours of flight) to Australia.

Quick note on this, if you really paid attention to not sleeping in the first flight you should be pretty tired at this moment, which is great! As soon as you are ready in this airplane (Santiago de Chile to Sydney, via Auckland, New Zealand) buckle up your seat belts and prepare for sleep as much as you can; easily you might sleep 13 hours (till you get New Zealand) then stop at Auckland, refresh yourself in the bathrooms and buy whatever you want to, then jump back to the airplane and keep dreaming for two more hours. If you did it right you will be fresh as an apple when the airplane touches land and you will be totally ready to endure 14 hours of Jet lag.

Many people told me that I would be disappointed with Sydney’s International Airport and well I kind of was... The airport was a racking mess; some sections of the airport were under construction but, what the hell... I was moving to Sydney not the airport! I headed to immigration, gave our passports and visas and with a pretty nice tone of voice, our officer looked into our eyes and said “Mr, Mrs... You are very welcome to Australia, have a nice stay.” I ran to pick up our luggage (which arrived in perfect conditions), headed to the luggage inspection area were the officer took our card, checked it and made us open two or three bags, looked our shoes (which we cleaned with soap and water, then brushed with vinegar so it were sparkling) and let us go. Once out, you watch a bunch of flags hanging from the ceiling saying “welcome to Australia”, “welcome Down Under” and at that very moment, I could hear was Iz singing this beautiful song...

- somewhere over the rainbow -

Finally, Australia is here for us to take... Now we need to get a job and make a decent living.

If you thought these were the last posts, aren’t. My target is Australia, not just to get here, but to live it.
Thanks for reading and till next time (that should be explaining how I have my apartment or so).