Thursday, December 20, 2018

Life in Australia (and Nusa Lembongan)

It’s supposed to be summer here in Oz but today it’s rainy and cold, as it has been a lot since we arrived three weeks ago. Our first few days we spent in Melbourne with our friend Romi (whom we met in Thailand at the writing retreat). What a great city—lively street cafĂ© culture, beautiful waterfront, incredible food—but I had a hard time enjoying it because of a bad cold. 
Now I am enjoying feeling well at our housesit in Ballarat, a small town two hours northwest of Melbourne. We took a train to get here, watching vast open spaces speed by, meadows and hills with oak trees reminiscent of Northern California.
For Australians, this cold weather is unseasonal. They associate Christmas with blue skies and barbecue. I kind of like December to be snuggly, so it’s fine with me. 
downtown Ballarat

We’ve been reading a lot. While I was laughing and getting teary over Michelle Obama’s memoir, Dave was doing the same with 84 Charing Cross Road. We’ve now switched books and are talking about them as we go. We’ve been logging three or four books a week, pulled from the house shelves, downloaded from the Kindle, or bought at one of the many “Op Shops,” second-hand stores that provide “opportunities” for people who need jobs.

Lake Wendouree
We have gone to the movies and also spent a day driving up into the foothills to a place famous for mineral baths. We spent two hours in the Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa, soaking in the various pools and steam rooms. And every day, rain or shine, we walk the dog—most often to Lake Wendouree, the jewel of this town, four miles in circumference and inhabited by thousands of birds: black swans and their downy cygnets, sacred ibises, kookaburras, all kinds of coots and ducks, and little songbirds. Dave has taken lots of great pictures, and we read about the birds in Liz’s (the homeowner’s) Reader’s Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds.
Gem is the dog in our care, and she is perfection, a papillon mix who barely makes a peep, follows me everywhere, loves to cuddle and play with her toys—and basically is pure love. We agree she is among our favorite pups we’ve cared for in our years of housesitting. 
Gem: a perfect name for her.
We did some tallying and discovered that in this time we’ve cared for 22 dogs:

·       6 golden retrievers

·       1 pug

·       1 bulldog

·       2 chihuahuas

·       2 pit bulls

·       1 cocker spaniel

·       3 poodle mixes

·       The rest Heinz 57
We’ve also cared for 7 cats and numerous birds, fowl, and rabbits. This has been the result of 21 housesits, 10 of which came through websites (mostly Trusted Housesitters) and the rest through friends or referrals.

In the 5 ½ years since we dropped jobs and home for this nomadic adventure, we have basically lived the equivalent of:

·       1 year in China

·       1 year with friends

·       1 ½ years of housesitting

·       1 year in our house in Mexico (spread out over the course of 3 visits)

·       1 year in Airbnbs, hotels, etc.
Our most recent hotel stay was between our housesit in Malaysia and Australia: a few weeks in Nusa Lembongan, an island off Bali. For about $25/day we stayed in a small resort with a pool right on the beach. Nothing fancy, but very easy. A dive shop was on the premises, which Dave took advantage of, diving with manta rays and other beautiful creatures. He was heartened to see so much healthy coral.

I took a lot of yoga classes, and we explored the island on a motor scooter, including taking a bridge to nearby Nusa Ceningan, which has stunning views of the transparently clear waters. Yes, the whole experience is as laid-back-heavenly as it sounds. Our friends Susanna and Doug, whom we’d met in Mexico, came to hang out with us for a few days; we snorkeled, got 7-dollar massages, and enjoyed sunset and dinner each night.
snorkel boat

amazing every night
As I write this, I’m stunned that Lembongan was just a month ago. There is so much change and movement in our lives that time kind of loses its meaning. “What day is today?” one of us will ask the other. Often. 
This housesit ends January 2. Usually with just a couple of weeks to go, we know we were are headed. But right now, we don’t. We have a few irons in the fire but nothing has been confirmed so we are in limbo. I have been obsessively checking my email for news. 
But then I remind myself that “waiting” equates with thinking some other time is better than now. Now is pretty damn good. We are healthy; as I am writing, Dave squeezes fresh orange juice in the kitchen, and Gem snuggles against my foot.