Today I have a guest who should be familiar to our regular readers, as she often drops in to comment and is a friend to several of us here at 4Foxes, 1 Hound.
What is very interesting to me is that Jeanne, who is an American, now lives in Australia. I’ve made several seemingly big, far moves in my life, but never across the globe. We read here some things about Australia because a past Fox, Iris Blobel, also lives there, however, Iris moved to Australia from Europe. She gave us rich information about Europe, as well, but I am curious to hear Jeanine’s outlook as that of an American Midwesterner at the other side of the world.
Jeanne, welcome to the top part of 4F,1H!
Hi Tonette. First of all, I’d like to thank you for having me here. This is an honour I never expected.
Would you like to give us a little bit of your American background?
I was born in Detroit and grew up in the suburbs, then moved to Houston in my mid-twenties. I lived there for a year, then joined the Air Force. I spent two and a half years in Germany, then the rest of my enlistment at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia. After getting out, I moved back to Houston, lived there for three years, then moved up to East Texas, to the VERY small town of Timpson (made famous by Tex Ritter in the song, ‘Tenaha, Timpson, Bobo and Blair’).
I had always heard about everybody in small towns knowing everybody’s business, but it wasn’t until I actually moved to a small town that I realised that’s because everyone is related!
I moved to the larger college town of Nacogdoches, about 30 miles from Timpson, after getting a job there. I had also spent a month in Spain in my first year of college for a class, so I guess I’ve always been somewhat of a nomad. Anyway, I lived in Nacogdoches for seven years, which is the longest I’ve ever lived in any one place since I left home.
And now, tell us how you ended up in Australia.
Once my job was outsourced to India, I got involved with a network marketing company, and I started looking for ways to market on the Internet. While doing research, and networking with other people, though, it seemed half the people I met lived in Australia. And even though I couldn’t market my business to them, since it was a U.S. only company, they were just the most fun and helpful people to talk to!
I was in a business conference chat once, and there was this guy named Richard in Melbourne talking about something I wanted more information on, so we exchanged Yahoo Messenger IDs and started chatting after the conference was over. Somehow, we just clicked. He was so easy to talk to, and I could tell he was a very creative and intelligent guy. What really got me, though, was I happened to mention that my computer was running slow (I knew absolutely nothing about basic computer maintenance at that time) and he offered to help me fix it. He spent the next two days walking me through how to clear my cache, clear cookies, and do a defrag (none of which had ever been done on that machine).
This got me to wondering who this guy was who would be willing to spend that much time with a total stranger helping them to get their computer fixed. Now, I’ve always been leery of talking to guys on the Internet, and never got into any real personal conversations. Rick was different somehow, though, and I trusted him. Long story short, we started chatting in March of 2007, got married eight months later in November, spent December with my mum in Michigan, and I flew back here with Rick at the beginning of January, 2008.
What was the biggest adjustment you had to make in the move?
Biggest adjustment I had to make here was learning to drive on the wrong side of the road, with the steering wheel on the wrong side of the car! (You’d be amazed how much your perspective changes by just moving over a few feet!) I still occasionally turn on the windscreen wipers instead of the turn signal, or head for the wrong side of the car.
And roundabouts. I HATE roundabouts! The little ones in residential areas are okay, but the ones at big intersections still make me nervous. Especially when you’ve got three or four roads coming together, instead of just two. I invariably end up on the wrong road in those cases, unless I just need to keep going straight.
I still haven’t quite got the metric system down, either.
What are the biggest differences between living in the U.S. and living in Australia?
Everyday life here isn’t really all that much different, except all the shops, even the shopping centres (malls), close at 5pm. They only stay open until 9 on Thursdays and Fridays. There’s no such thing as 24-hour shopping. The one thing I do like about that, though, is that the supermarket is open until midnight, so I can go after all the other shops have closed and have no trouble getting a car park. Yes, the shopping centres here include supermarkets! The one I always go to actually has three of them, along with separate meat and produce markets. Only one of the supermarkets has its own outside entrance and is open late, though.
I notice that you have adopted English spellings as they are used there. I guess it’s a case of “when in Rome” uh? You’d be constantly ‘corrected’; I get that with pronunciations now that I live in Kentucky. Have you picked up an Aussie accent? I’m sure I would if I were there.
I’ve actually gotten used to the British spelling, and it just comes naturally now. There are a few things I still have to look up, but that sometimes gets hard, too, when they add letters to the BEGINNING of words! I mean, how are you supposed to look up ‘estrogen’ when it’s spelt ‘oestrogen’? (And let’s not forget oesophagus and aether, either. LOL)
But the one thing about moving around a lot is that no matter where you are you always sound like you’re from someplace else. My American friends think I’ve picked up an Aussie accent (definitely lost the heavy East Texas accent, and one girl I grew up with in Michigan said I sounded like Nicole Kidman!) and Aussies usually ask me if I’m from Canada. And by the way, Aussies also think of ‘America’ as both Canada and the United States.
Well, yes, so are Central and South America, for that matter, but I digress!
What are your favorite things about Australia?
Favourite things. Hmm, let’s see. Well, the people here complain about the public transport system all the time, but when you come from a place where public transport is pretty much non-existent, I think it’s wonderful. Melbourne has the third largest train and tram system in the world, and I’ve even taken the train (and in one case a bus) to visit Iris Blobel a few times. I proofed her first book, so it was great actually getting to meet her and her family.
I’ve always hated driving in the city, even when I lived in Houston, so being able to just hop on a bus and then a train to get to the CBD (Central Business District, or what you would call downtown) is fantastic!
The first time I went to visit Iris we went to a wildlife park, and I had to laugh when I saw a family trying to have lunch in the picnic area with two kangaroos circling the table, begging. That was also when I did one of the things I’ve always wanted to do here, and that was to be able to pet a koala. (I’m not much of an animal lover, in case you haven’t noticed.)
What do you think you will NEVER get used to?
I don’t think I’ll ever get used to sweltering in summer heat and seeing Christmas decorations! Christmas in summer is just WRONG! (Although watching fireworks in the city on New Year’s Eve and not freezing is nice.) Not to mention Halloween in spring and Easter in Autumn…
Can you tell us about your family? Who is with you? Who did you leave in America?
I live here with my husband, Rick, and his daughter, Phoebe. Age-wise, Phoebe is sandwiched right between Iris’ two daughters; one’s a year older, and the other is a year younger, so the three of them always have a great time when we visit.
Rick’s twin sister used to live close by, but then she got married and moved to New South Wales, so we don’t see her very often anymore, whereas we used to have dinner at her house every Saturday night. We went up there once, and the drive just about killed us. Sixteen hours is a bit much for me nowadays. I guess I’m just getting too old to drive for hours on end like I used to. Just ten years ago I drove all the way from Texas to Virginia and back by myself. Now I’m lucky to go for an hour without wanting a nap…
My mother, my two brothers and my sister all still live in Michigan. My older brother (older than my other brother, not older than me; I’m the oldest child in the family) and his wife still live in the same house I grew up in. When my mother remarried nearly twenty years after my dad died, she and my grandmother moved out, and sold the house to him. He had been living there anyway, as sort of the (maintenance) man of the house after my dad died.
My mum’s 80th birthday was on Halloween of 2013, and my brother’s birthday present to her was a plane ticket for me! It was wonderful to visit, and my mother couldn’t have been happier. She had no idea I was coming until I showed up. My brother Jim has always been good at setting up surprises. My other brother, Glenn, had just gotten a new job, so he made a pretext of wanting the whole family to go out to dinner to celebrate. (I actually got there two weeks before her birthday because Jim, his wife Kim, Glenn, and Kim’s daughter were running in a marathon in downtown Detroit that weekend, and they wanted me to keep my mum company to watch the race.) I talked to my mum just the day before I left, and she was telling me about this dinner, but that Jim and Kim were going to be late because he had to go pick something up (of course, I knew that ‘something’ was me from the airport) and then had to pick Kim up from a meeting at church. Glenn had made sure my mother was sitting with her back to the door at the restaurant, and then Jim and Kim walked in with my iPad, and Jim said he wanted to get a picture of everybody. When he had the camera poised, I snuck in and stood behind my mum. After my brother snapped the picture, he handed the iPad to my mum and said ‘Can you see everybody?’ She looked at it for a second and said ‘Oh, that looks just like Jeanne!’ At that point I wrapped my arms around her from behind, and then it was a tear fest between her, me and my sister.
What do you wish people in other parts of the world knew about Australia or Australians?
That’s a tough one. I guess it’s that people seem have this idea that Australia is filled with the deadliest creatures on the planet, and that anybody who visits here is just asking to get eaten or poisoned by something. But while some pretty nasty things DO live here, most of those are up north in Queensland. (Like the giant saltwater crocs whose favourite snack is American tourists.) And when people do get hurt, it’s usually because they ignore safety warnings, though not always. I have yet to see a snake outside a zoo, and I haven’t run into any jellyfish, either. While it’s true that the most venomous snake in the world lives here (forgot what it’s called now), there’s no record of any human ever being bitten by one.
Most of the really nasty weather is up north, too. Queensland, northern New South Wales and the Northern Territory are the only places that have cyclones (our term for hurricanes,) I’ve never heard of tornadoes here, and we don’t have volcanoes, either. Might have an earth tremor now and again, but no really big earthquakes. We do get some pretty nasty bush fires, but I’m sure California can relate to that.
Aussie people are great for the most part (you get a few bad apples in any barrel), but I was surprised at how multicultural Australia is. People from all over the world live here, especially Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe. I know America has a very diverse population, too, but I never noticed it as much there.
Australia has a land mass only slightly smaller than the United States, but the population is about two million less than the state of Texas.
I know it has become quite the place to move to! What I had noticed over the years was how extraordinarily friendly the Aussies whose families go back for many generations were.
Now, tell us about your work with writers.
I’ve been friends with Kay Springsteen since ninth grade, and she was writing stories even then. I started one just because she was doing it, but gave up when my characters didn’t behave the way I wanted them to.
She’s written many stories over the years, but it wasn’t until she came across Stephanie Taylor, who was just getting Astraea Press off the ground, that she actually got a publishing contract. Kay became a volunteer editor, so I hooked up with Stephanie myself on Facebook, and offered to proofread. That’s how I connected most of the writers I know today.
That’s also how I got to proof Iris’ first book. They seemed to figure that since we were both living in Australia, and that was where the story was set, that I would be the best one for the job. I’m glad I got that opportunity, because it’s always cool reading about places you’ve actually been to.
I’m currently working with an author on a fantasy/sci-fi novel which is the first book of a series. A friend of an editor I used to work with at Astraea Press (now Clean Reads) introduced me to this lady on Facebook about three years ago, and then last year she asked me to have a look at her NaNoWriMo project. I was intrigued by the story, even though it didn’t have a clear plot, and there were a lot of holes in it. I love filling holes, and brainstorming ideas for scenes, plot development, and characters. I felt like I knew the characters, though, and sometimes felt like I knew them better than she did.
This work has been a first for both of us. She’s never published, or submitted for publishing before, and I’ve never done more than line editing and proofreading, so it’s been fun getting in on the creative process. It’s been a great learning experience for both of us, and we’ve had some very helpful suggestions from other experienced authors.
I doubt I would ever get into writing myself, but I do love to play with other peoples’ characters. I’ve always had a habit of making up stories in my head about the characters at the end of romance novels, because for me, most of them seem to end too abruptly. I want to know what happens AFTER the wedding, if it even gets that far in the book, which it very often doesn’t. I’m not into writing fan-fic, though, either.
Do you work in any other genres or forms?
I helped another author friend with a paranormal type story, but that was really just a proof job. I’ve been helping her out with another story in the same series, though, and yet another book she’s been working on. This one is a sort of romance set in an alternate universe, sort of what Europe was like in the seventeenth century. I’ve actually written a whole scene for that one, and a couple more paragraphs of another one. Oh, and there’re pirates in this one, too.
What are your hobbies? What other special skills would you like to tell us about?
I used to do a lot of cross stitch, but then found a Hardanger pattern in one of my cross stitch magazines, and have been hooked on that ever since. The biggest project I’ve done there was make a tablecloth for my mother. I haven’t touched it in a few years, though. My hobbies go like that. I’ll be obsessed with them to the exclusion of almost everything else for a while, then move on to something else, and it may take a number of years before I get back to a project.
Thank you for being with us, Jeanne. I appreciate your time.
Thanks again for having me here, Tonette. This is a first for me, too. I’ve never done a blog or been a guest on one before, either.