New Eyes


It's funny how you start to see things differently when you realise that someone else's eyes will be doing the viewing. We've lived in our house for quite a few years now, and we really like it, but I'm starting to see things through the eyes of a visiting family and realising that there are things we have grown accustomed to that probably need fixing, finishing or updating. I have always felt that our house is a very comfortable and pleasant place in which to live, and there's not all that much that I felt needed changing. Donna, on the other hand, is always thinking about things that can be changed... she moves furniture, swaps paintings from wall to wall, buys new accessories, even moves the plants around in the garden. I'm not sure how many of her changes are actually necessary... at the end of the day, I think she just really likes to change things. Actually, I suspect she just has an exceptionally low threshold to boredom, and making constant changes to the house is one way of relieving that.

Anyway, I digress...

Knowing that the Graces will be coming to live has prompted us to do some renovation rescue. We had a very ugly and poorly made closet at the end of the hallway, and although it was ugly and poorly made, we had just gotten used to it. The other day I decided to rip it out and build a new one. That plan soon got modified to just "rip it out". Whoever built it did a lousy job of building the actual closet, but a great job of attaching it to the walls, so when I demolished it it left its mark on the walls and ceiling. After much sanding, filling, sanding, filling, sanding, and eventually painting, it looks quite good. We bought a bookshelf to fill the void and the hallway looks much better now.

I spent today repainting the cedar windows and doors at the back of the house. When we did our first big renovation to the house we decided that we wanted the beauty of timber doors and windows. They looked fantastic, but we were devastated when, not long after I installed them, our dog decided that the best revenge for being locked out of the house during the day would be to chew on the doors in an attmpt to get inside. Needless to say, we no longer have that dog, but the scars on the doors persist. Knowing that another family will be looking at them for 12 months Donna convinced me to spend most of Saturday sanding and revarnishing them. They still looked chewed, but at least they are all more or less the same colour now.

And then there's the tree. We had a big Camphor Laurel tree just outside the driveway. It looked beautiful, but it was a nuisance. It dropped leaves, it stained the cars if we parked under it, but mostly it was starting to damage the driveway. Long story short, the council came and chopped it down this week, and we are currently in negotiations with their insurance company to have a new driveway laid. We have lived with the old driveway for ages, but knowing that our exchange partners would be using it made us realise just how unacceptable it really was.

So, I guess the exchange is working out to be a good thing for more reasons than just the obvious. Being forced to see things with fresh eyes is a good thing really.

Lines of Communication


Phone companies must really hate the Internet.

I mean, we will be away from home for about a year, and we intend to keep in regular contact with people back home, so that's potentially a lot of income for them. Donna talks to her mum at least every day and she loves a chat, so if we had to pay for international phone calls we'd go broke. When Dave and I first started corresponding we used MSN Messenger, which I think has evolved into a fairly remarkable little piece of software. Dave never had it installed, and later admitted that it was because he was always under the impression that Messenger was just something that teenage kids used to waste time online. I convinced him to install it, and I think he's changed his opinion somewhat. The instant chat option is just the tip of the iceberg, and once you start to get the hang of Messenger's full functionality... being able to exchange files, as well as all the audio and video capabilities, it's a pretty powerful tool. We've spent quite a bit of time using the audio chat, which to all intents and purposes has been as good as a phone call. I've streamed video over to him, although it's a bit one sided so far till he gets his webcam... but the ability to click a button and send video is pretty cool.

And then I recently got reacquainted with Skype. I tried Skype a while ago, and although the concept seemed good, at the time it didn't appear to do much more than what I was doing with Messenger - in fact it seemed to do less, as it didn't support video. But with the upcoming trip to Canada, and the need to be making lots of actual telephone calls to our families back at home who are not all that computer savvy, we could see the potential in Skype's SkypeOut feature which lets you call directly from your computer to a regular telephone. Also, I guess because Skype is purely a VoIP telephony application it does seem to have a slightly better voice call quality than Messenger. Let's face it, my 93 year old Nan is not going to set up an MSN account to let me chat to her, but she will answer her telephone! So with Skype we can call our family and friends back in Australia, directly from our PC to their telephones, for about 2 cents a minute!

That should make us very popular with our families, and decidely unpopular with the telephone companies. :-)

Getting the picture


Spent some time chatting to Dave tonight on MSN, and we exchanged a few location files from Google Earth. What an amazing tool that is! We checked out each others houses and schools, he showed me exactly where lake Kashwakamak is (where they have a holiday cottage). It's really a very cool concept to be able to surf around each others neighbourhoods using satellite photos, seeing where the local schools and shops are. I feel like I'm getting to know my way round already!

Oh, we also had a closet at the end of the hall that was always pretty daggy and ugly. Funny how when you know someone else will be living in your house, suddenly things that you've put up with for years are no longer acceptable :-) We ripped it out yesterday, and I spent the morning patching, filling, sanding and painting the walls. We went out and bought a new bookshelf that will fill the space, and I have to admit the hallway will look much better.

Oh, also, Dave if you're reading this... Donna decided to move all the furniture around (again) so those photos we sent you are now all wrong. Will try to get some updated ones to you.

It's Official!


Yes, it's now official.

Our family will be spending 2006 in Oakville, Ontario, where I will be doing a teaching exchange with a Canadian teacher and his family. It all started when I saw a note on the school noticeboard for a Canadian exchange, although all that really did was get us thinking about it. The note I saw was for a maths teacher (which I am not). Coincidentally, that same night I got an email from the Ozteachers mailing list asking for an exchange partner for Toronto. I mentioned it to Donna, who I thought would immediately dismiss the idea as impractical, but she actually got quite enthusiastic about it and we started to think really hard about what we would have to do to make it happen. Long story short, further investigation lead us to a different exchange yet again, and after some negotiations and paperwork it seems that it really will happen.

The Canadian family, Dave Grace and his wife Heidi and children Charlee and Adam will be living in our house, and we will be living in theirs. Dave will assume my role at Mount St Joseph Milperra (well, a somewhat modified version of my role), and I will try to do his job at Holy Trinity School in Oakville, not far from Toronto city.

I plan to update this blog fairly regularly to keep track of the next 18 months. If you're interested in following our adventures, this is the place to be. :-)

Skype: betchaboy

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