Sunday, January 17, 2010

Move to Melbourne

I stopped adding to this blog after my trip with my sister, because I thought that we were all settled and I had nothing of interest left to say (did I ever, you ask?). Am I completely unable to learn from the past? Isn't that some kind of sign of mental illness? Sometimes I wish I was that kind of Psychologist. Clearly my life is destined to be a constant progression of changes, admittedly mostly brought on by my own decisions.

Just before Angela's visit, we decided that we'd like to live near the beach, both to reverse our commute times (shorten Eric's, lengthen mine, which was only a fair swap) and to improve our surfing (have only sustained one black eye recently). After an exhausting search of several Saturdays, running from showing to showing while Eric worked, I came to the conclusion that real estate agents choose the only decent vantage point of any given property to post on the web. Naive much? Was I the last person to figure out that truth doesn't live on the internet? The larger issue was that 100% of properties in Cronulla don't allow pets.

Angela came, and we resigned ourselves to another few months of living in our shitbox in Erskineville. One weeked shortly after she left, Eric posed the query on a Friday night, "So have we officially given up on living in Cronulla?" I half-heartedly searched the web, found two questionable properties with inspections the next day, and agreed to give it one last shot. As you'd expect in any good fairy tale, one of the properties the next day was dramatically underpriced and had an amazing view of the ocean. At the urging of all of our friends, we decided to jump on the bandwagon of lying about the cats. "Everyone does it," they said.

Now because Eric and I have been huge dorks our entire lives, we were a little sceptical about this lying gig, but it seemed like the odds were with us. WRONG. Part of the deal with the new place was that the landlord would keep a few things in the garage. As it was a double garage, this was not really a concern. He sent me a text to let me know he was going in on Monday, so I figured we were good for a while after that and took the cat cages down on Monday night. On Tuesday I received this text: "Not to be pedantic, but can you please confirm that there are no animals in the unit." Shit.

While I was down (mostly) with the lie of omission of leaving the cats off the rental application, direct lying was really beyond my experience. I moved on to pleading. Similar to the time my best friend and I were pulled over in high school in some rather compromising circumstances and promised to go to the movies every weekend until we were 23, I just began offering things: additional bond, covering the sofa (the place was furnished), keeping the cats out of the bedroom. To be honest, I was pretty proud of my salesmanship, and in the end he decided not to exict us. By "in the end," I mean that the negotiations continued over several days, days when I couldn't eat without feeling nauseous. At work, I became known as the "crazy cat lady," and I was afraid Eric would finally follow through on the promise to chuck one of the cats off the balcony.

The last four months in the place have been amazing. One morning, I saw dolphins from the balcony, and I was able to run down to the beach and be in the water within three minutes. We can walk to go surfing, I jog along the ocean every morning on the path that runs right in front of our house, and I've been able to do some cycling again, none of which was possible when we were living in the city. We live so directly on the sea that our address is 14 The Esplanade, The Esplanade being the path that runs along the ocean. There isn't even a road in front of our apartment block.

Cronulla is referred to as "The Shire" by Sydneysiders, and upon mention of liking the area, the response is always, "Have you heard about the riots?" Apparently, some years back, there were some race riots. Groups lower on the economic ladder tend to flock to Cronulla at the weekends. As in most places, this includes a mix of bogans and people of various ethnic backgrounds. This was an explosive mix that was set afire one day by the warm summer sun, and suddenly Cronulla had made a name for itself. Other than the preponderance of scantily clad teenage girls who flock to Northies on a Sunday night and teenage boys with faux hawks and rat tails, we haven't really been much bothered by the seedier side of Cronulla.

When we moved here, we signed a six month lease since a possible move to Melbourne had been on the cards since late May. However, my firm hope was that I would eventually be buried in Cronulla. That's how much I love it, despite the 3 hours of daily commute time. On 10 December, though, we got the news that Eric was expected in Melbourn on 4 January. At least they gave us plenty of notice. I picked my parents up on 11 December from the airport having barely absorbed the news. The next month I was conveniently distracted by all of the fun activities I had planned for their visit, even when Eric took off a couple of days after New Year's.

Now it's all becoming real, though. I spent the first couple of weeks of Eric's time in Melbourne scouring the internet for places to live without a real idea of what areas were nice. This weekend, though, I went down for a crash course in Melbourne suburbs and to see as many properties as possible. We found several nice places, which we've applied for, one of which I've become obsessed with. The real estate agent has to think I'm some kind of stalker at this point given how many voice mails and emails I left her this weekend. Come to think of it, if she wanted me to do her laundry or rub her feet, I'd probably be down for it. I really love this place.

But then I got back to Cronulla tonight. It was really sad leaving Eric at the airport after being there with him all weekend and feeling like Melbourne was almost a normal place for us to be, but it was also really sad sitting on my balcony with a glass of red wine listening to the ocean thinking about how soon that would all be over. I mean, look at the pictures of this place. Who in their right might would want to leave it, right? But then again, how bored do I get with any place in about 6 months? Every place I live, I convince myself that it's the best place in the world, and I never want to leave it. Then, at most a year later, I want to move just to be somewhere different. Charater flaw? Probably. But it's just reality. And I'd be lying if I didn't admit that this entire weekend in Melbourne, I was convinced that it was going to be a fantastic place to live, particularly the little neighbourhood that I fell in love with, which I've already dubbed "The Triangle."

It does make it easier that we're not starting entirely from scratch. Since engineers who have worked on other desalination plants are in short supply, many of Eric's colleagues from the Sydney plant will be moving with us. In particular, a couple with whom we've spent a fair amount of time and who we both think are fantastic are going, as well as another guy who has a new girlfriend in Melbourne. God willing she'll be cool, and then there will be at least two other couples with whom we can hang out. I'm not sure I have the energy to start all over again so soon.

One big stressor is that I'll be working from home in Melbourne. I did it for Sun Microsystems for a year, and I very nearly lost my mind. And that was only part time while I was writing my dissertation and had lots of stimulating interactions with the university library staff. I mean, a good three hours of my work day on average is spent chatting and making idle comments about things that don't really concern me. I'm not sure I'm cut out for spending all day in the house by myself, no matter how lovely that house may be. For now, I'm trying to focus on the positive: Without the three hours of commute time, I should be able to cycle for an hour and a half in the morning before work. I can work in the park or at a coffee shop. I won't be exposed to the negative atmosphere that exists (partially created by my constant whinging) in our office. On the other hand, I may turn into a gross person who never wears makeup or puts on a dress. And I may be so lonely that I die. We'll see.

I'm fairly certain that none of this is of interest to anyone, but the good news is that I think everyone stopped reading this blog ages ago. And it serves the same cathartic purpose as a journal, but I don't get the hand cramps I do from writing in a journal since the only hand writing I do these days is to-do lists at work. How long before pencils and pens are phased out all together?

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