Settling back into life in Aus!

Finally, I am able to do a post – it has been a very busy week settling back into life in Newcastle, going back to work and catching up with family and friends.

Overlooking Nobby's Beach, Newcastle

Overlooking Nobby’s Beach, Newcastle

Being back in Australia has required some adjustments, surprisingly! I thought it would be so easy to slip back into Aussie life. There are some obvious differences that I have had to adjust to like driving on the left side of the road, seeing kph on the speedo and not mph, and not going quite so fast on the roads (60kph [~38mph] seems so slow when you are used to 55mph (90kph) most of the time). I also need to remember to TURN ON the power outlet and not just plug in my electrical device (in the US, there are no switches to turn power on/off – the outlets are live and you just need to plug something in). The light switches are upside down too! Up is off and down is on in Australia – and vice versa in the US.

Aside from the day-to-day activities, returning to life in Australia I have also noticed a few things about Aussies and Australia that I previously was unaware of (and some of them I didn’t like).There are a number of things I have certainly missed, but equally, there are some that I haven’t and even a few things that I miss about Texas and the US! All-in-all, however, I am still gratefully for many of my home country’s blessings. I thought I would share a few of my thoughts and realisations:

My first realisations were about the people of Australia:

  • Hearing that Aussie accent – after being away so long and listening to nothing but an American accent, it sounds odd, rough almost.
  • Australia is much more a multi-cultural and multi-lingual society than anything I have experienced in the US. Sitting at a café I heard 3-4 different languages (not just accents).
  • Aussies swear far more – I hardly hear any swearing at all in the US, but my first day back and I heard the “F” word dropped in general conversation more times than I could count – it’s really not a good impression.
  • I didn’t realize how often we Aussies say “no worries” and “mate”, often strung together (“No worries mate!”)!

Some of what I’ve missed:

  • Paying the just ticketed price (I don’t miss having to pay additional tax at the register)
  • Not having to tip
  • The scenery – the gums and eucalypts, the beaches and the harbour of my hometown, Newcastle. On my drive from Sydney to Newcastle, crossing the beautiful Hawkesbury river and seeing the wonderful scenery of the Aussie bush (nothing says welcome home than all the gums trees!) and the glistening river, whilst listening to some great Aussie tunes on the radio – I have to admit, that felt good and some of the tension just melted away! (And as I type this I am sitting harbour-side on a glorious sunny autumn day enjoying the views and sipping a cider – oh, yeah! 🙂 )

    Newcastle Harbour (the view from where I enjoyed my cider)!

    Newcastle Harbour (the view from where I enjoyed my cider)!

  • The food – not quite so sugary (a fresh loaf of bread was one of the first things I devoured). My list of goodies to take back to the US grows everyday.

    Arnotts biscuits - delicious!

    Arnotts biscuits – delicious!

  • The café’s – being able to sit in (or out of) a café, enjoying a drink and watching life pass by
  • Cadbury chocolate (YUM!)

What I haven’t missed:

  • Paying more for just about everything! In Australia, we pay 25-100% more at times. For example in the US – I can buy 20 cans of coke for $7, yet in Australia 2 x 10 pack coke is $16 on sale! That’s double – when on sale – I can get 3 x 12 pack (so, 36 cans) for $9 in Texas! Levis jeans – regular price in US is $40 but $80 here and that was on SALE!
  • The lack of service (generally) in retail outlets – American employees seem far more attentive and willing to help
  • The swearing – as I mentioned earlier – there is far too much swearing here (even in general conversation)
  • The general lack of respect for others – so different from in Texas where people are always polite, courteous and refer to you as “ma’am” and “sir”

I love Australia, my home, but I’ve also come to love Texas too!

A look at 19th Century Grayson County

On Saturday 4th April we paid a visit to the Grayson County Frontier Village, which is located by Loy Lake, off Hwy 75 (exit 67) in Denison. The village is a collection of 27 exhibits from around the local area that have been rescued and relocated to the site. It is great that local historical buildings and artefacts are actively being preserved for the future. The entry fee is only $3 per adult, with the proceeds going to the preservation of old Grayson County homes. There is also a museum and research center on site.

Having paid your admission fee, you are provided with a “Tour Guide” booklet which has a map and description of each of the exhibits, and a key that enables restricted access to 5 of the buildings within the grounds; you can open the front door and look into the roped off rooms that are displayed with artefacts of the time period.

Inside the Lankford House

Inside the Lankford House

The remaining buildings you can walk around and look though the windows and doors.

Church and Evans Carpenter Cabin

Church and Evans Carpenter Cabin

The Village is made up of 10 historic homes (all originally constructed between 1838 and 1866), and a collection of other buildings (some of which are replicas) that include a church, courthouse, country store, school, barbers & dentist shops, a saddle shop, newspaper office and a smokehouse.

Two of the more interesting buildings were:

  1. Bullock Bass House

    Bullock Bass House

    The Bullock/Bass house: Originally built in 1850 by Randolph Bullock and later sold to Col. T.C. Bass whose daughter Nettie was born in the house, lived there for 97 years and died in the same house. “The Nettie Bass House probably is the most historic in the county. It was the first house in the county to have glass windows. People came from miles around to see them in the early days with many traveling all day to get to Sherman, camping out at night the returning home another day”.*

    Bradley Bodkin Cabin

    Bradley Bodkin Cabin

  2. The Bradley/Bodkin Cabin: originally built in 1842 by Thomas Bradley who married twice and brought up 14 children in this 1 room cabin!

There is also a collection of farm implements, a blacksmiths shop and a couple of different types of wagons on display, including a jail wagon (essentially a steel cage on wheels) that was used to house up to 30 County Jail inmates overnight who were out working on the roads.

The Jail Wagon (originally had a wooden floor 1/2 way up the sides)

The Jail Wagon

I am glad we went, the village provides an insight into life in the area during the mid-late 1800’s and is worth a look.

If you are in Grayson County on April 25th, 2015 the Grayson County Frontier Village will be hosting a “Village Frontier Day” where you can step back in time and enjoy experiences of the 1800’s as well as craft demonstrations, music, and vendors to entertain you. Entry is $5 per adult; kids 7-12 are only $1.


Grayson County Frontier Village

About Sherman – my Texan “home town”

So, after being in Sherman, Texas for 12 months now, I thought it was time to visit the Sherman museum (open Tues-Sat 10am-4pm) and learn a bit more about my ‘home town’ in Texas! The museum is located in a building that was formerly Sherman’s first public library, built in 1914 by Andrew Carnegie. It is a fairly small and simple museum, but still interesting – there are only a few permanent displays on the history of local life and a couple of temporary exhibits (at the time of my visit it was prehistoric Sherman – dinosaur bones, etc. and local musicians from the Texoma area – Gene Autry was born in Sherman!). I didn’t mind the $5 entry fee as I like to support the promotion and preservation of local history. I thought I would share some of what I have learned about Sherman and Grayson County.

Sherman Museum

Sherman Museum

Sherman was founded in 1846 and designated as the seat of Grayson County in the state of Texas, USA. The city is located approximately 65 miles north of Dallas and was named for General Sidney Sherman, a Texas Revolution war hero who was credited with the cry “Remember the Alamo!”

Sherman was a great producer of cotton and by 1896; the Grayson County Birge-Forbes Cotton Company was the largest cotton broker in the South. The Sherman Cotton Seed Mill, founded in 1879, was the largest in the world until 1891!

Sherman was also home (in later life) to Olive Oatman (later Fairchild), a woman who, along with a sister, was captured by a Native American tribe (in Arizona), whilst her family was trying to make their way to California (her parents were murdered and a brother survived). She wrote a book about her experiences among the Mohave people and she achieved some celebrity status, partly because of her blue tattooed chin (she wore a scarf around her chin in later years to cover it), which the Mohave’s gave her.

Today Sherman is relatively small town, but still has a bit to offer; there are plenty of parks and recreation areas, a good cultural offering with the Sherman Symphony Orchestra and the Hot Summer Nights free concert series offered during the summer months, the shopping is good for its size, offering everything you could need and the historic downtown square has character and interest.

The climate is classified as “humid subtropical” – and I can attest to the fact that it is humid!

The population is around 40,000.

I think the unofficial symbol of Sherman must be the Pecan tree (pronounced: pe-carn!)

Religion is strong in Sherman, with there being around 85 churches in the city. Sherman was known from its early days as an educational and religious centre (it earned the nickname as “The Athens of Texas” in the 1870’s) and is home to Austin College, whose mascot is the kangaroo!

The big Texan in Sherman

The big Texan in Sherman

A lot of the area around the city of Sherman could be classified as rural as there are large amounts of farming and crop growing lands.

The city is half of the Sherman-Denison Metro Area

The city is only 15mins from the Oklahoma border

According to Sterlings Best Places Sherman’s unemployment rate is 4.9% and the median house price is only $80,500! You can get an exceptional house for under $200,000 here and the cost of living is relatively cheap compared with areas closer to Dallas, but it is still close enough to Dallas (which is only an hour away) for all the big cultural, sporting and entertainment events you could want (a weekend in Dallas is far cheaper than a weekend in Sydney!).Sherman, Tx map