Sunday, July 17, 2011

One man's Trash is another's Treasure

In todays modern world we live in a throw away culture. If it breaks, buy a new one. Thanks to convenience and large corporations like Walmart we have adopted a mentality of "this will do, for now" instead of "this quality will really last". I admit like most I fall into the common category of those who replace instead of fix. However, when you are living on a budget and have a husband who loves projects you start to think outside the box and jump on the opportunity to take one man's trash and turn it into a treasure.

Like most apartment buildings ours has a trash and recycling room and in a transient city building with people moving pretty frequently or just replacing stuff you never know what you may find down there. Our first big find was a space heater. It was just getting cool in Sydney and Chris and I were taking down the recycling and saw a space heating sitting in the room against the wall and next to it the box of an upgraded model of a new space heater. We both kind of gave each other a look that said "do you think that thing is any good?" Then decided hey its worth a try, we might as well see if it works and if not we'll just return it no loss.

We loaded our prized possession in the elevator glancing around as if its mirrored walls were judging us. Then to our delight when safely in the comfort of our chilly home, it worked. The middle setting didn't work so it was all or nothing as far as heat goes, but hey it was certainly better than nothing. It's been going strong for a couple of months now.

After that, on another occasion, we acquired a computer monitor and some useful cords. Then last night, we returned to our place to find a giant 43' inch flat screen tv sitting on the floor of our living room. I shouted in an excited squeal to our flat mates, where did this thing come from? The reply of course was "the trash room." They said it didn't seem to work. Chris saw this as an opportunity for a project and immediately started fiddling with it and searching the internet to determine what may be wrong. He came up late to bed and said "I think I can fix this thing." 

So today he took a trip to the electronic store and spent next to nothing (a womping $4) on the required parts and spent an hour tops fixing it up (most of this time was spent on the millions of unnecessary screws involved). Then to my amazement we had ourselves a new TV! 

Never underestimate to usefulness of having a having a handy-man around! I feel so blessed. Who knows we will find next. This gives a whole new meaning to idea of recycling.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Life as a Story

I have always been fascinated by stories. As a small child, I have fond memories of my mom reading me bedtime stories, then hiding under my covers with a flashlight in attempt to continue reading or journal and write my own.

My sister, Catherine, and I lived in a world of fantasy stories created by forts and creeks outside, dramatic dramas in full apparel (growing up in the theatre one would expect no less) and a quite impressive barbie land creation put together with whatever happened to be around. Jenga blocks became garden fences, washcloths became high-class canopies but that was not the most important part, the most important part was the story. Which character would do something unexpected and leave the mansion for the farm because of a forbidden romance or the famous gymnast would break her leg and everything suddenly when awry.

As I grew older, barbies became too juvenile and I spent more time with my nose buried in books. I pictured myself like Belle in "Beauty and the Beast," one of my all time favourite stories, in the opening scene reading with village chaos surrounding her. Unfortunately, looking back, I imagine wandering down the school hall with book in hand, oblivious to world, probably appeared much less attractive than my heroin.

Somewhere along the line I had the epiphany that my life in itself was a story. I didn't have to rely on stories already written or even fictional stories I created, everyday I lived, whether I realized it or not, my decisions, my thoughts, the places I went and the people I met were all evolving elements in my story. Then the realization that my story in combination with everyone else's individual story is divinely intertwined to make up life.

People talk about life as a story. It is not uncommon to hear someone say they are "turning a new page" or "entering a new chapter" of their life. However, the thought that each persons day to day actions have the potential to create a fascinating story or a dreadfully uneventful one in the end, seemed a novel and liberating feeling to me. So I made a decision I wanted my life to be a story worth reading.

One of my favorite songs is called "The Story" by Brandi Carlile. Not only is it a great song to belt in the car with your girl friends, it really showcases its not just the happy ending that make up a good story its the sweat and tears it took to get there.

Another encouraging find was reading Donald Miller's book "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years." I highly recommend it to anyone on the quest to fulfilling this ideal. It emphasizes not only the idea of life as a story but that thats how God intended it to be, not shoved in a box of limitation but full of risk, adventure and romance!

I read this book at the time I was trying to decide whether or not I wanted to take the risk to complete my Master's degree in Sydney. It was just the encouragement I needed to take the leap into the unexpected. I try to remind myself when life doesn't seem to go quite as planned: at least it will make a good story!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sydney Life

Chris and I decided to move to Sydney so that I could obtain my Master's degree in Speech Pathology. No, this is not the typical path for newlyweds from South Carolina but then again normal would be boring. There are many challenges involved in moving abroad sorting visas, airfare, finding a place to store the stuff accumulated back home and find a place to live in our new destination (much more difficult than anticipated). I studied abroad in Melbourne during my undergraduate program in 2007 and fell in love with Australia. I loved the laid back chill factor most of the people lived by, hopping on a tram and being greeted with a "G'day, how ya going," life at uni was great and getting lost in various cities, or the middle of no where in New Zealand completely surrounded by sheep, was exhilarating to say the least. These memories and the love for travel Chris and I share, motivated my return to Australia. However, this time there are a number of significant differences. Then I was in an undergraduate program taking mostly dance classes (my second major in college), the American dollar was much stronger than the $AU, and I was not a broke newlywed.

Though it is different from before it has offered new opportunities, it was a bit of a shock to the system to go from living in Ghana to the cost of living in Sydney (absolutely ridiculous!). Life in Sydney has certainly been an adventure so far, even on a budget we always manage to find something to do even if its just wondering around the city. One new experience was Christmas on Bondi Beach (since seasons are opposite here).

We do miss little things from home like American biscuits, and Southern Barbecue (our favorite is Roger's BBQ in Florence, SC) the price of food and drink in general

A True Buttermilk Biscuit (in AU biscuit means cookie)
Typical meal from Roger's BBQ

and more importantly our family and Trevi (our dog now with Chris's parents).

Me and Trevi

My program at the University of Sydney is 2 years. I have successfully completed my first semester which consisted of a great deal of stress, reading and reviewing more peer reviewed journal articles than I even knew existed and complex case study projects. Hope its worth it!

Proof that I did my homework!