Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Project Cairns

The three hour flight to Cairns was on a Saturday morning and it was already Wednesday and I was yet to pack the bags. I had to make a quick checklist for things to pack and do a quick shopping for all required stuff during my lunch break at work. Usually I never stress on what to pack, but this time we had two toddlers coming with us. So here is my rough checklist-

Firstly, basic things for the kids to be packed -

  • Diapers, wet wipes
  • Milk - Powder/ Bottles to store water/ Feeding bottles
  • Sippy cups
  • First aid kit for kids - for fever, dehydration, wheezing, band-aids, thermometer, baby vicks etc
  • Bathing essentials - soap, toothbrush
  • Needless to say that kids will need extra clothes as they can get dirty easily
  • Stroller/pram if needed.
  • Small toys to keep them engaged during the flight or in the car
  • Hats - Remember that they can get lost and we may need extra ones
  • Lots of tissue papers 
  • Carry a handy bag to take things while going out to places
As we had plans to visit the beaches and pools, we had to pack some extra stuff-

  • Sunscreen
  • Swim diapers
  • Extra towels
  • Small pool floaties which can be filled with air while using if needed.
  • Swimwear
  • Footwear that is easy to slip to their feet and good to play with water
  • Toys to play with beach sand- Mostly they can be purchased after getting there
My daughter trying out the pool for the first time

Also, it is important to pack some food for the kids while travelling -
  • Finger food to munch on - nuts, crackers
  • Packaged fruit juices, jelly
  • Handy food pouches like Rafferty's Garden ones. 
  • Backup main food for kids in case we could not stop at restaurants on time - Cheerios, some rice, veggie fingers etc
  • bowls, plastic spoons and forks as not all restaurants provide them and it is safer to use the plastic ones in case the kids drop them and throw a tantrum

Some other tips-
  • Staying in a service apartment is preferred to staying at a resort/hotel as we have the freedom to cook whatever the kids want. Also, we can get to do free laundry. My friend tipped me about this and it really worked for me.
  • It is good to keep time to visit the nearby supermarket to buy things like yogurt, cheese, milk, eggs etc for the kids if there is fridge to store them. My daughter was a bit fussy about food the first day and so we got her favorite and usual food from nearby store so that she was comfortable.
  • Call up and make sleeping arrangements for the kids well in advance.
  • In case if you are renting cars, make arrangements for car seats for the kids.
  • Do research on places to visit especially with the kids. For example, I checked out this website before going to Cairns. Visiting Muddy's Playground was one of the best part of the vacation for the kids which we would have missed if we did not do our research. 

Muddy's Playground

Well, the kids learnt to adjust as we did not follow their routine. They managed to get some sleep in the car or in their stroller as we had to miss their naptime. Overall, it was a good experience for all of us.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Living a Melbourne life

We started off with the wrong foot. I used to live in a suburb closer to the Melbourne city and it was dead silent in the weekdays as almost all humans migrate to the city and get back only to sleep. And the unpredictable weather and frequent rain made everything even more difficult. And needless to say that it was dull and cold given that it was winter season. So if you are a housewife living in a suburb outside Melbourne with kids (especially infants or toddlers), then you are likely to experience loneliness unless you have friends living closeby.

But the good things was that my kids got adjusted to Melbourne time in just a single day. Sometimes they really surprise me! We bought some winter clothes from India knowing that it was winter in Australia and so all was good for them. We gave the same kind of food we used to feed them back in India and so kids were very comfortable in the new environment. Flavored yogurts and cheese for kids are very cheap compared to India and kids really enjoyed them. I started applying for jobs in parallel but nobody bothered to call me for an interview. Job search for a computer science engineer in Australia is a blog post by itself, but shortly, I can say that it is not as easy as I had imagined. Apart from not having Permanent Resident Visa, the recruitment agencies seemed to look for "local experience" in Australia which is not possible unless some one gives you your first job to gain that experience. There are people who I know that took apprenticeship/internships to gain local experience and land a full time job. In this scenario, I got a call from Google Sydney though I had not applied. Relocating to Sydney was out of question and it was for SRE role and I was not sure about my fit. As I did not have any job at that point I decided to go with the flow. But the process was very slow than I had imagined and so I kept applying for other jobs in Melbourne. Finally I got a job in Melbourne that was exciting to me and so one more thing got crossed off from my checklist!

The next thing I could think of was to find a daycare for the kids and get them settled before I head off to work in a month's time. Childcares here are way too expensive - about $100 per day for 8 hours a day, and well, I had two kids. But for the lucky fellas who had Permanent Resident Visa, there are some child care rebates from the government. But I was in 457 Work Visa and without any rebate it seemed too expensive for 1.5 year olds. Moreover in my opinion, they were not independent enough to handle themselves in the daycare. Also, waiting periods for these daycares are too long - 6 months to a year. So the other option was to find a registered family daycare with available vacancies. We found a few and chose one that was good. The caretaker kept her house very safe for kids and had all the facilities for them - like table for nappy changing, high chairs, etc. Her own daughter was 2 years old and she seemed to be a good girl. She was also independent in many ways like she knew to feed herself. She agreed to train my kids as well. So the first week, I stayed with the kids in the daycare to make sure they were comfortable. The kids enjoyed playing and were taking naps as in home and my son started to feed himself though need little help. The kids were very happy in the daycare and they did not mind me not being there with them the next week. That was a very good improvement! They were happy in the daycare and so I was in peace of mind!

Learning @ the daycare

Playing @ the daycare

I started working and only then I started spending more time with the city and now I have become a part of it. The lanes are beautiful - I take a walk around the lanes during lunch hour to experience it. The "lane culture" in Melbourne is quite popular and good to take a nice long walk. The Bourke Street is the really happening place in the city - I call it as "The real Melbourne". After being a zombie in the dead suburbs, I should say that the Bourke street brought me to life! Lot of artists performing in the street, fashion stores on the side and seats to watch them all. And Myer Christmas window is just like cherry on top. Sometimes I grab something to eat and go there to have my lunch. It feels like I am on a holiday for an hour before getting back to work fully refreshed.

The Bourke Street, Melbourne

After getting to know my way around the city, it feels good to be in this part of the world. When time permits, I plan to go on for a date with the city- just me and Melbourne... This part of my life, this part right here, is called "living a Melbourne life"!