Sunday, September 28, 2008

The first week in Perth

Period: 18 - 24 September 2008 (We landed on 18 September)

Thursday night is called "Thursday late-night shopping” night. Then the shops stay open till 21h00. On weekdays they normally close at 17h00, or 17h30 at the latest. My friend Dewald took me to Harvey Norman to get a starter pack for my cell phone. (Or, as they say here: “ a stehduhpehk for my mowboil”) for $25. When I tried to activate it later, I dialled a number that told me it could only be done during working hours. So much for late night shopping.

When I went to sleep that first night, I had a bit of a panic attack. I looked at my wife and the kids, who were already sleeping, and I just wondered what the hell was I doing here in this strange place. I thought about the Chinese people at Kentucky with whom I struggled to communicate, and the cost of things here - multiplied by nearly seven, a hamburger eats away at your credit card in a nasty way. I wondered whether I made the right decision coming here.

But this was all just the shock of the first day taking it’s toll. I never, ever, felt like that again since I landed here.

The most people I’ve seen in the city during the first few days were of Asian background. You won’t believe how many of them are walking around here, I nearly thought I was still in Singapore. There are also some black people here and there - you literally see each and every culture and nationality here.

At the bank, the manager (who is also of Asian origin) asked me from what country in Europe I came from. I had to explain that I was an African - born and bred. Most people here have heard the word "Namibia", but have no idea where it is. It could just as well be Bolivia or Kazahkstan for all they know.

I must admit that I was not impressed with Telstra - extremely expensive, and my prepaid card did not even have 3G - it was a 2G card. I converted to Three (3) Mobile later on, and this is a much better choice in my humble opinion.

In my hotel room, I wanted to activate my internet connection. The cost was as follows:
One hour - $14.99
One day (200MB) $22.96
One week (1G) $89
One month (5G) $299

That converts to nearly R2000 for one month’s internet connection! I don’t think so mate...

I first made use of the daily tariff (nearly R140) just to get online and get connected to all the fans out there. Dewald also allowed me to use his internet connection at their home, but I couldn’t sit and blog there too much while we were actually visiting with them.

If you want some good advice, try getting your hands on Optus Mobile prepaid wireless. You pay $199 for the modem (internet key), and you immediately have 2GB of data available. If you have someone on this side who can organise this for you beforehand, that would give you a nice connection until you have a permanent place to stay where you can get ADSL or whatever you want. You need to provide your passport when you buy this package, the same goes for prepaid phones and starter packs with Three Mobile. (A contract is not easy to get hold of if you don't have proof of residence and bills and stuff to show that you are credit worthy.)

This modem looks like a memory stick that you stick into your laptop and whalla - you have the world at your fingertips. There are a lot of things you can do via the internet, like activating your mobile phone, etc, so it’s worth getting online as soon as possible.

Thank God for my friend Dewald. It really helps having someone on this side. He even borrowed me $150 at one time when I was struggling to get hold of cash. I realised later that I could withdraw even up to $1000 from my debit card, and I also paid over some money from my credit card into my Commonwealth Bank account - what a struggle to get that done...

You can open an account with Commonwealth Bank while you’re still overseas - they supply you with a BSB number and an account number, and you just need to activate the account once you are in Australia. I received my ATM card the day after we landed - no worries mate.

We also rented a car from Bayswater car rental (No Birds) - around here they call girls “shielas” or “birds”, and these guys say they don’t advertise on TV using good-looking “birds” - hence the name “No birds”. It costs $210 for a week, and you have to pay a deposit of $250 in addition to that - insurance excess fees. If you do not damage the car, the deposit is refunded. Don’t even start converting to Rands, mate, you’ll kill yerself.

Dewald borrowed us his NavMan - a GPS that talks to you while you drive. It tells you where to turn off, and so on. The voice talks in this real Ozzie drawl, saying stuff like: “wheathean the next 200 meaduhs, tuhn left”, or “at the rounduhbouht, take the theahd eggszeat”. (This means: “ take a right at the circle”)

On Saturday morning I went to a men’s breakfast that some church organised. I met Peter Pollock, the great South African Cricket player - in Australia. Can you believe it? I used the NavMan to find Dewald’s house, and from there we went to the breakfast at a golf club. I met a lot of Aussies there. One older guy, Phil, took me under his wing and introduced me to everybody. He introduced guys like “Khobuhs, Mharheahs, and Leehon”. Kobus, Marius and Leon. Souf Effrikuns.

There were probably more of “us” than there were of “them” - Lot of Boertjies from the states were attending Peter Pollock’s great speech. One of the guys asked me whether I was this Biltongboer guy from the Forum. I wondered whether I should lie about this, because I didn’t know whether I had insulted him at some stage. Chances are good that I have. Luckily he turned out to be the guy called Bloubul. Small world. I am constantly on the lookout for angry forum members - you just never know with these violent South Africans...

I met Peter Pollock, we talked and he even prayed for me. What a way to start in Australia - meeting one of the greatest SA sportsmen, and being blessed by him too.

We went to the beach at Mullaloo that evening. The sun was setting in the west, just as it does in Namibia - the sun sets over the sea. I looked at the sea and thought about iAfrika far away to the west. So far removed from everything here, in every sense of the word.

The beaches are beautiful, and everything has been developed to be family-friendly. We also went to Hillaries, its something similar to the Cape Town Waterfront, just a bit smaller.

We Skyped with the family - both grandmothers are online, even though they are both older than electricity. Amazing, this technology, isn’t it?

On Sunday we visited King's Park and climbed onto the DNA tower. We also managed to find our way home without the NavMan - victory at last!

The City had me in a bit of a shock - I’m from a small town, not too familiar with freeways, highways and motorways. To me, this is a large city - others from Gauteng say it’s a small place. It took a while for me to adjust, but once you’re out of the city, it’s just so great. There are lots of trees everywhere, and parks in every neighbourhood.

There are traffic signs on the freeway that have a kangaroo on them - nearly like the kudu signs we have in Namibia. I haven’t killed one yet. Also some signs that say “wildlife crossing”. Can you believe it?

To be continued...

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