Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Farewell ANUgreen

It's probably a bit redundant at this point to say once again how much I have loved my work at ANUgreen but I have relished being part of such a great team of people at a world renowned institution with a kick ass award winning sustainability program. It was wrenching to tear myself away from meaningful and fulfilling work surrounded by colleagues who've become friends over the years.

But, my departure offered another opportunity to pat ourselves on the back for what we've accomplished and to reflect on the journey we've been on together. And, to have one awesome farewell party of course!

Very nearly the entire team, past and present, was able to spend an afternoon at Barry's lovely home sharing food, homebrew, mead and good company.

The team: Jeff, Wayne, Amy, Adam, Jenn, John, Bart and Natalia in the back. In the front, Tim, Steve, Barry, Teifi and Beth. Cream of the crop, these folks.

The gathering doubled as a farewell party for Adam who is off for a year of traversing round the Americas with his US passport and Aussie accent. Look out girls!

The lovely Beth who despite having moved on from our team several years ago, has remained one of my most treasured people in Canberra.

Our charming heritage guru, Amy, is now the only girl in the office!

Great memories around the fire.

Sarah, solo mama to three boys and all around awesome gal is the third dual American Australian citizen who's been part of the team! 

Student turned staff member, Natalia is destined for great things. She and all the others went home with a bottle of our specially crafted lemon mead.

I was showered with so many thoughtful gifts - books and music and wine and an Aussie care package and even gifts for the kids. And, as if to capture the thoughts and memories swirling in my head, the team presented me with a beautiful book of photos from my years at ANUgreen featuring my programs, my interns, my events, my awards, my team. Priceless.

I held it all together pretty admirably until the very end of the evening when the tears burst forth. So much gratitude, grief, joy and uncertainty collided. I was about to get on a plane in three days and leave it all behind and the sadness of leaving so many friends spilled out. Deep breaths. Trust we're making the right decision. 

So, at the risk of sounding redundant yet again, I'll take this opportunity to say one more time to my team:

Thank you for the opportunity to forge a meaningful career on a beautiful campus, for enthusiastically supporting my ideas, for always sticking together through thick and thin and for sharing so many stages of my life with me. You filled up my tiny dining room when my firstborn made his debut, you've serenaded me at my desk more times than I can count and you gave the phrase "another day in paradise" real meaning. It has been an honour and a pleasure to know and work side by side with all of you. I will carry the knowledge and professionalism you've shared with me to wherever my journey leads me next. Keep up the good work!

Jenn aka J-Mac

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Farewell Friends

Over the course of our last weeks in Canberra, I tried very hard to arrange visits with as many friends as possible. There were endless tasks to attend to but I always tried to prioritise people as I knew the chances to meet face to face were limited and it was very important to me to let everyone know how much they'd meant to me. And of course, the kids had formed their own bonds as well and we wanted them to be able to say "see you later" to their friends too.

Riker and Isabella first met when they were about three months old. Here they are, nearly five and digging for treasure in her garden.

Mark, Riker, Ari and Isabella. Mark and Isabella's mum, Angela, has been a great friend and being from Peru has shared many of the challenges of a life lived away from one's place of birth.

A farewell lunch with my dear friend Kate and her family. 

Ari, Emma, Ben and Riker at Green Square in Kingston

Farewell drinks on my last day of work. Here I am with Odette and Zoe, students with whom I've worked extensively over the last year. They are excellent examples of inspiring students who contribute so much to campus sustainability and my own enjoyment of my work!

With my colleague and friend Meetu who, having moved overseas several times, wisely reminds me to take it slowly and to remember that feeling settled again is a long process and won't happen all at once.

There were so many beautiful moments with so many beautiful people that I couldn't begin to capture them all here even if I managed to get my camera out with every visit. So to all those who came to our farewell party, met us at the park, visited us at home, offered to look after the kids while we packed and were part of our amazing community over the last eight and a half years, we love you and despite the distance, will not soon forget you!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Australian Citizens!

For years we'd been debating whether or not to acquire dual American Australian citizenship. Becoming Australian citizens would mean losing some tax breaks associated with working away from home, it would lock up our superannuation funds in Australia until retirement and would require significant hassle and expense. On the other hand, becoming Australian citizens would give us the freedom to return to Australia whenever we choose and would give the kids opportunities in the future in relation to work and education.

When we returned to Australia after our six months in the US while I was on maternity leave with Ari, we decided that we would pursue Australian citizenship. We'd put in the time to make us eligible and thought the big picture reasons to become dual citizens outweighed the negatives. We immediately applied for permanent residency upon our return and then waited out the one full year requirement before being able to apply for citizenship.

Strangely enough, events conspired that we made the decision to return to the US not long before we would be granted citizenship. And so it came to be that we participated in the citizenship ceremony the week before we departed Australia.

The official citizenship pledge with a backdrop of the queen, the Australian Aboriginal flag, the Australian flag, the Torres Strait Islander flag and the Australian coat of arms.

The ceremony was held at historic Albert Hall which happens to be where the very first Australian citizenship ceremony was held in 1949. We were seated in the very front row and somehow managed to wrangle the kids through the hour long ceremony!

Wiradjuri Echos performs a traditional dance and after years of enjoying the music of the didgeridoo we were fascinated to have its sounds explained in detail. Turns of many of them mimic animal sounds, a kangaroo hopping, a kookaburra laughing or an emu booming and grunting.

We were grateful that Coral could come along to the ceremony with us since Brian's parents had to fly out the day before. This also meant we had our own photographer!

The official photo from the ceremony which was mailed to us several weeks later. Brian's middle name is spelled incorrectly and you'd think the photographer could have snapped a few more photos until the two year old took on a more flattering pose but there you go!

Despite the fact that we are relocating almost immediately after becoming Australian citizens, we are honored to carry this title and very much look forward to a time when we can bring the children back to the country in which they were born and spent their early lives.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

My Favorite Photographer

Riker loves to take photographs! When we got our new camera, we gave him our old point-and-shoot camera and he loves it. He even learned how to attach it to a tripod and program the self timer on the camera to take photos of himself!

Very serious about his craft.

 A quick lesson on using the timer and he was off and running!

Getting the hang of it.

 Everybody in!

We were late to school this morning because of his tripod photography but I just couldn't tear him away!

And below, a selection of my favorite photographs taken by Riker. 


It's been great fun to watch him figure out how to use the equipment and decide for himself how he wants his photos to look - moving around the room, zooming in and out, flash or no flash. I'll be very happy to encourage him to continue with this hobby!

My favorite photographer at work.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Fermented Farewell

Our last harvest of honey from our hives in Downer yielded almost ninety pounds of honey and we wanted to find a very special use for it. So, we decided to craft an original mead that we could bottle and give to our friends as a token of friendship and love.

Once the mead had been fermenting on our kitchen bench for most of a month, Brian decided to try something new. I'm pretty sure I argued for sticking with a tried and true recipe but, a more natural risk taker than I, Brian insisted that lemon would be the perfect touch to this mead.

So we set about acquiring eighty lemons!

And then juiced them all by hand!

We decided that in order to make this mead a truly beautiful gift, we'd also bottle and label it.

Brian designed the label by manipulating an image of a flower from our garden.

The front text reads:

Mellifera Estate
2014 Sweet Mead with a hint of lemon
Canberra, Australia

The back text reads:

Apis mellifera is the name for the species of honey bee whose labours feature prominently in the product you are holding in your hand. From three hives in the inner north of Canberra grew an obsession with beekeeping which complements a decade long family tradition of mead making. This mead is a product of the many adventures we have had in Australia and is a gift for all of our friends to enjoy at this time of transition in our lives. We brewed a unique blend of our joy and sadness, a sweet and sour concoction of lemon and honey with a bit of a bite. Enjoy.

It was such a joy to share this labor of love with our friends! And to subsequently hear about how much they are enjoying it has been pretty delightful too!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Tassie to the Tropics: Byron Bay

After our fabulous week in the Whitsundays we headed back to the mainland for the only week of the journey not spent on an island!

We traveled to Brisbane via buggy (golf cart), ferry, shuttle bus, plane and van. Exhausted, we landed and drove two hours south to the Byron Bay area where we'd rented what turned out to be a stunning beach house in Suffolk Beach. We spent our days lounging by the pool, eating nice food and getting massages and pedicures.

SunBlest, our awesome beach house with its cavernous front door and hall like a runway.

We spent an afternoon at the town's main beach and Cael got this fabulous dragon face paint by a busking artist.

Cael and Riker both enjoyed spending their pocket money on trinkets at the Byron Bay markets.

Cael chose to spend his birthday at Dreamworld, a large theme park on the Gold Coast. We spent most of our time riding the train, going on kids rides and visiting the animal park though I did manage to sneak away (literally) to ride the Giant Drop a couple times. Wheeeee!

On the Dreamworld Express.

I'm not sure what this was about but I treasure tender moments as they seem few and far between right now!

Teagan and Porter

Brian and Ari

A cassowary at the Daintree Rainforest exhibit.

Patting a kangaroo at Dreamworld Corroboree.

Common bronzewing or rainbow pigeon

In koala country.

A tree kangaroo

When visiting the playground just down the street from our holiday house, we were enthralled by these stunning insects that are known as harlequin bugs or jewel bugs, for good reason.

A koala mural at the park makes a great backdrop for this dynamic duo.

Grammy Jan and Heather

A visit to the iconic Byron Bay Lighthouse

Heather, Aaron, Teagan, Cael and Porter at Cape Byron, the easternmost point of the mainland of Australia.

The boys and I take a break from whale watching. We spotted several whales breaching in the distance. 

After the better part of a week in Byron Bay we headed back to Brisbane for one night before Heather and family boarded a plane for their return to the US and we went back to Canberra with Carl and Jan where they planned to stay with us for a week while we packed and prepared for our own return to the US. What a truly fabulous holiday and an absolutely amazing way to say farewell to a country we adore.