Wednesday, November 27, 2013


My parents got called on a mission, because they had grown a foot or two.

My parents, with four feet between them.
Back in August, before they left, I said I'd help my mother find appropriate clothing.  There were several things to bring on her list, but the hardest things to find were skirts.  She needed several conservative skirts: skirts that hung below the knee, but above the ankles.  Unfortunately, there didn't seem to be many available.  After spending a few hours in the outlet mall, finding short skirts and artsy long skirts and ridiculous maroon skirts cut diagonally that wouldn't match anything else, we ended up buying only a couple of blouses.

Then we took our search online.  

There were more options online.  Online, you can find cotton conservative skirts from Walmarty-like places for under twenty bucks, or fine and fancy wool conservative skirts from Italy for three hundred dollars.  For a couple of days, I left several websites open so I could show my mom what was available, and so she could pick out the conservative skirts of her dreams.  I clicked on lots of skirt ads in those days.  And then, after a long and thorough search, I had a couple of skirts shipped directly to her home in time for the Big Adventure.

And they lived happily ever after.

Except somehow, three months later, I'm still getting a lot of skirt ads in my web browser.  They're in the margins of my news sites, listed in the corner of my email inbox, and plastered across the top of a few other websites I check out occasionally.  They show quite lovely conservative skirts, if you happen to be shopping for a future missionary.  But I'm not.  My missionary is many thousand miles away. 

It's great that my websites know me, and know exactly what I am searching for.  

But how do you let the algorithms know that mother is already happy ever after, and that I don't need any more conservative skirts?  

Come on.  I want the car ads back.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Shopping for apartments

I haven't written about it in a while, but our trip to Melbourne, Australia, is still on.  Lately, we've been looking for places to stay, via internet. 

There are two French immersion primary schools in Melbourne -- or at least in the suburbs.  One of them wrote me instantly and said no way, we won't take short term enrollments.  The other wrote and sent application materials.  They would take our son, and he could keep up his French language skills. 

Unfortunately, the French school is located an hour away from the University by train. 

We could live near the French school, and I could commute by train every day.  The school is near a lovely park, not far from a public library in one direction, shopping in another direction.  A tram would take us three miles down the road to great beaches.  And perhaps during my two hour daily commute, I could get work done on the train.  Some people do it.  But the last time I commuted by public transportation for an hour each way, I fell asleep just a few minutes into the journey.  In retrospect, I think the sleep was my body's way of dealing with motion sickness. 

In any case, as we looked at housing near the French school, we found options, but all unfurnished.  We'll only be in Melbourne for six or seven months.  We'd rather not purchase furniture and then dump it again in that time.

So then we started looking elsewhere.

On one website, we found a house for rent, complete with furniture, piano, game room, several bedrooms, and right on the beach!  But it was an hour's drive away by car, nowhere near public transportation.  Since we were hoping to avoid getting a car, that doesn't sound like a possibility.  (Tim:  But it's right on the beach!)

With further searching, we found a pretty spacious 3 bedroom apartment near two parks and just two miles from the university -- furnished, and within our budget.  The best part of this place was that it had a separate study on the opposite side of the building from the bedrooms, where Tim could work in peace at 3am when he had his meetings with California.  We wrote the landlord, discussed rent, internet, etc, and I emailed a colleague and asked about the area.

When the colleague wrote back that the area was great, we were ready to go.  Except 20 minutes later the colleague wrote back again.  The nearest primary school was not in a good neighborhood, he said, and there was no guarantee that our son could go to a better school closer to the university.  I looked up the nearest primary school.  Indeed, on their FAQ page, they stated that the school was located right next to the "projects" -- but don't let that bother you, they assured parents like me.  And I don't want that to bother me.  It does look like a good school, with lots of international students, and special opportunities.  But I would be walking my child there and then back by myself each day.  Which would probably be fine.  But in the wrong direction from work.  And not recommended by my colleague.  Is it worth the risk? 

My colleague knew of a guy who lived very close to the university, who would be moving out in early January.  We contacted the guy, and found out his house was suitably sized, near good schools, an easy walk to work, even cheaper than our budget -- but unfurnished.  Again.  But he would be willing to sell us some of his furniture if we were interested.  (Assorted mattresses, bookcases, and a refrigerator.)  So that's an option, but his landlord hasn't written back to us. 

Lately, we've been looking in the Central Business District.  There seem to be many furnished apartments available there, within a reasonable walk of the university, within the boundaries of the one guy's school (where his kids have been attending, and which they liked).  But the properties are nearly all available NOW.  I emailed a couple of them, and they told me to stop by to view the place at the next open house, at the end of the week.  Which is of course impossible.  And then no further info after that.

So we have booked a hotel for a couple of weeks.  Our current plan is to wait, to set up some appointments to view apartments just after we arrive, and to snatch something available in those first two weeks -- probably in the Central Business District, because that seems to have the largest number of furnished places.  The area near the beach also has several furnished options.  But the commute....

Anyway, I have spent a lot of time studying the primary schools and neighborhoods of Melbourne, and public transportation routes.  It will be interesting to actually arrive in the city and start putting visuals with the maps.  And fingers crossed that there will be a suitable furnished apartment waiting for us somewhere in early January.  If not, we'll just have to move to the beach.