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The Gambles were on the move again in 2007.  In late May we moved to Sydney for Neil to work with EDS.  So far everything seems to be going OK.

For Usa, Roger and Rex this was a big move as it is the first time they have lived in Australia – they've visited a few times but never lived here.  For Neil the move represented something quite different as he left Sydney in 1979 and Australia in 1983.  Life in Australia is certainly different after many years away and in so many places.  Come to think of it, this calls for a table of places the Gambles have lived:

Country Neil Usa Roger Rex
New Zealand
Long Term Assignments [staying in hotels]        

We decided to live in Mosman, a north shore suburb of Sydney.  The public schools have a good reputation and Neil takes a ferry across the harbour to work every day.  We rent an apt – we'll never be able to buy a place in Sydney – and are lucky to have a great view of the harbour and Taronga Zoo; we can see some of the city skyline but if we want to see the harbour bridge and Opera House we nearly fall off the balcony!  We haven't lived near water before, so didn’t realise that the harbour is like a mirror reflecting the sky.  When the sky is blue so is the water; when the sky is overcast or dull the water is grey or even an inky colour.  That may be obvious to those who live near water, but it wasn't apparent to us until now.  We will have a great view of Sydney's famous New Year's Eve fireworks.  Speaking of fireworks we have been surprised that there seems to be something every 2nd weekend; we can't figure out the reason for most of them but enjoy them anyway.  The biggest we've seen so far was for the grand final of Australian Idol. 

We have also found Cremorne Point, the suburb next to Mosman going towards the city, which features parkland right around the point with places to go down onto the rocks – it's a great place to explore or to go for a picnic. 

Everyone is settling in to Sydney pretty well.  The main comment after being in Wellington is that everyone is happy to be in a big, bustling city – it seems that the Gambles don't like smaller places – Wellington has a population of 325,000 and Sydney has 4 million – we prefer the hustle bustle and extra diversity of the larger city.  Roger and Rex enjoy their schools and feel they are much better than NZ.  Usa is not doing much and is probably getting a bit bored – she dreams of opening a café but the problem is that we never have capital.  Here is the Gamble Family version of Karl Marx's famous book: "Das Kapital – We Have None".  Hhhmmm, maybe not extensive enough to be published …

One of the good things of being here is that we get to see Neil's dad and he can be grandpa.  Because Neil's family is distributed [sister Barbara has lived in Adelaide for 30 years and sister Kim has moved around the world – she is currently in San Francisco], Neil's dad has never had the chance to be a grandpa on a regular basis, so hopefully that's something he enjoys, too.

Since arriving we've seen some of the sights and experiences of Sydney – Balmoral beach, Manly beach, Long Reef, the zoo, Fort Denison, the Opera House, Luna Park, Darling Harbour, Harry's [pies] on wheels at Woolloomooloo – but there are lots of things we haven't done yet; the main city tourist attractions [Sydney Tower, the aquarium and the wildlife centre], Bondi beach, Katoomba, the Blue Mountains and Koala Park all come to mind pretty easily.  Rex is also dying to get to the theme parks on the Gold Coast, a la Orlando; it's unlikely we can do that in the coming Christmas holidays but it's something we can keep in mind for the future.

Recent Photos

Rex [10] & Roger [13] in December

Usa in October

Neil & Usa in October [photo by Rex]

Roger is now finishing Year 8 at school.  We have come to Australia at a challenging time for him.  At the end of Year 10 he faces his first big test, the School Certificate – this is equivalent to England's "O" Levels.  In NSW the School Certificate is made up of 50% assessment over Years 9 & 10 and 50% examination at the end of Year 10.  So his challenge effectively starts next year.  If things work the same as when Neil went to school then the School Certificate doesn't do much to qualify you for future work / career, but it can disqualify you.  The School Certificate governs what subjects and levels you can study in Years 11 & 12 and the exam at the end of Year 12 is the Higher School Certificate which determines entry to university.  If you don't do well in the School Certificate then you can't do the advanced courses needed to qualify for the leading degrees at universities later – so you can effectively be disqualified from them.

Rex is now finishing Year 5.  Next year he will move into Year 6 and start high school in 2009.  Rex continues to enjoy singing and next year will start with the Australian Youth Choir.  This is a well known choir in Australia and performs at many public events.  Rex is starting at the entry level and there are 3 levels before reaching the elite group, but he enjoys his singing and we feel this choir could bring opportunities that otherwise wouldn't be available – plus it should be fun.

Our entry to Australia has led to a decline in sporting activities for the boys.  We arrived in mid-season for rugby, so Rex gave up on that.  We are currently in the summer sports; after not enjoying softball in NZ neither of the boys wanted to register for baseball.  Nor are they too interested in cricket, but when Rex said he'd like to try we found we were too late for registration.  Neil contacted the local junior cricket team – before the season started – but was told that registrations were closed and they "didn't think" opportunities would be available.  Take that!

This year Neil started work with EDS in Australia.  It came after many months of searching and "near misses" with great opportunities.  The year started with an AP regional opportunity with AIG based in Manila.  While Neil was a great fit for the role there was no spark in a video conference interview so that went nowhere.  Come to think of it Neil has had 3 video conference interviews over the years and not enjoyed success with any of them … interesting.  At the beginning of the year there was a regional opportunity with Barclays Bank covering the Sub Sahara countries, but that fizzled for reasons he would find out later.  Around Easter there was a global opportunity with Barclays Bank and that was progressed very well until Barclays announced their intended takeover of ABN AMRO and recruiting was frozen; Barclays failed with the takeover bid and everything has been quiet since.  But during the interview process Neil learned that the reason the African opportunity didn't pan out is because the seniors in Barclays felt his experience would be better suited to new initiatives than BAU work. 

When interviewing with Barclays Neil met with one of their technology leaders who was vacationing in Auckland over Easter.  We figured that since it was a friendly meeting and we were paying our own way that we'd have the whole family drive to Auckland for the visit as we hadn't been there before.  We then came to a startling revelation – we all thought we didn't like NZ, but we did like Auckland.  We decided it wasn't NZ that didn't suit us, it was Wellington.  Auckland, with its harbour, larger and more diverse population [around 1 million] seemed to have more "buzz" and we all thought it looked like a nice place to be.  We didn't see job opportunities in Auckland , but it seemed like a good place.

What follows is a series of complaints about moving to Australia.  We put them here because they're interesting and kind of funny.  If you'd rather not read complaints then you can skip them.

Our move from NZ to Australia was a disaster.  The packing in NZ was fine but the unpacking in Sydney was by far the worst we have ever experienced.  EDS used a well known moving company in Australia called Wridgeways and we have to recommend that you never be involved with this company.  If you move within Australia don't use Wridgeways; if you move to Australia and the receiving agent is Wridgeways then find a different moving company or insist they use a different receiving agent.  See our story for details.  In the end we received an apology from the Wridgeways Managing Director for the experience, but it hardly makes up for our disgust and duress with the experience.

Having moved to Australia the first order of business was administrative, mostly government, and this was a real surprise.  We had to do the normal things, the big ones being to get tax IDs, Medicare coverage [an Australian government initiative for basic health care], driver's licenses and open bank accounts. 

On our first full day in Sydney we walked into the tax office to apply for tax IDs.  Usa was instructed to fill in an online form and would receive her tax number in 28 days.  That was easy; can Neil do that?  No.  He had to go to a separate counter where he was told that to get a tax number he had to show a Medicare card, one other form of ID and wait 28 days for the tax department to search records to see if he already had a tax ID [as it's illegal to have two numbers].  So, OK, we had to go to the Medicare office before Neil could apply for a tax ID. 

At Medicare we had the same experience.  For Usa, Roger and Rex to get Medicare coverage was easy and arranged on the spot because Usa was a new immigrant and Roger and Rex hadn't lived in Australia before.  But Neil, as a returning citizen, had to prove that he had an address in Australia and was returning permanently – not easy considering we had been in Sydney less than 24 hours.  For proof of address they accepted a company-arranged one month lease on an apt in Sydney; for proof of intention to return to Australia they wanted a copy of our shipment records.  What a pain.  Neil had to go back to the apt to retrieve the shipping manifest for our household goods and then return for Medicare enrolment.  When he returned he was then told that he couldn't join the same enrolment record of Usa, Roger and Rex due to some kind of system limitation.  So now we are all enrolled in Medicare with Usa, Roger and Rex enrolled under one number and Neil under a different number.  Medicare won't let us be a family group – weird.  But the strangest [i.e., most annoying] thing is that Usa, as a new immigrant, had an easier process for these things than Neil, who is a citizen.  It makes you wonder.

OK, so Neil goes back to the tax office with the required Medicare number and is then subjected to a series of questions about his last tax return.  No malicious intent, just questions to determine whether there is already a tax ID on file for him.  The trouble is that the questions are being asked about a tax return filed in August 1984 when he was in Singapore and related to income earned in 1983.  Where did he file the tax return?  Melbourne.  Did he file it himself or use a tax agent?  Tax agent.  What was the name of the tax agent?  No idea.  Where was the tax agent located – what suburb of Melbourne?  No idea.  Well, we have to investigate to see if this tax number on file is you or not.  So, the tax office can find a someone named Neil Gamble [no middle name] with the same date of birth who hasn't filed a tax return since 1984 – but they are not sure if it's the same Neil Gamble standing in front of them – because he can't remember the name of the tax agent he used 23 years ago to file a tax return when he no longer lived in the country.  Amazing. 

This run around continued for the next 6 weeks.  It turned out – with several unpleasant interactions along the way – that the tax office had gone through multiple system migrations over 23 years.  Neil was now sitting on an archived database and had to be verified before he could be brought into the current database.  And when they did that they managed to lose his date of birth [which was correct on the archived database but restored incorrectly] so Neil had to fill in a form and mail it to the tax office to correct it.  This contained the same information provided on the phone [which is recorded for security purposes] but that wasn't good enough, it had to be filled onto a form, signed and snail mailed.  So, Neil, welcome back to Australia and you'll be pleased to know that government processes are as flexible as ever.

The driver's licenses were the exact reverse – easy for Neil and difficult for Usa.  The issue for Usa was her name, which is Visutthisen on her passport but she has always used Usa V. Gamble on her ID outside of Thailand.  The driver's licensing rules in Australia are quite strict so for an "overseas conversion" she had to prove that she has driven for more than 3 years.  Her Thai documents were useless because they wouldn't be recognised until they were translated into English by some government authority that would charge $75 per document and take 2-3 weeks for the turnaround.  Unfortunately her NZ license was issued in 2006 so they wouldn't accept that as proof of 3 years driving.  Her Singapore license from 1995 wasn't recognised because it didn't have a photo.  We needed her US license, but that was back in Thailand because it had expired.  So we had Usa's family send the US license to us in Australia which showed she was licensed to drive there since 2000.  When that arrived we tried again.  This time the license was accepted but we had a problem with her name.  Even though we had a marriage certificate they wouldn't accept the name Usa V. Gamble because her passport says Visutthisen.  We tried to explain the difference and pointed out that her US license says Usa V. Gamble but the net result was that, in these post 9/11 times, there was no way we could convince them.  Their position was that they would only use the passport name for the drivers license or Usa Gamble without the "V", unless she officially changed her name.  We could have done that, but to change a name in NSW [the state we live in] she has to prove that she's lived here for 3 months.  That means she needs to have a document from some recognised company or organisation addressed to her in NSW and a certificate from the Dept of Immigration proving that she has permanent residence in Australia, because for some reason the visa stamp in her passport isn't sufficient.  [It's a Thai government issued document with an Australian government issued visa but they prefer a piece of paper issued by the same Australian government dept; it's too confusing to understand.]  She had a letter addressed to her from the tax office but it wasn't 3 months old; getting the certificate of permanent residence would take more time & money ... so we gave up.  Usa is no longer Usa V. Gamble; in Australia she is Usa Visutthisen.  So Usa, welcome to Australia and you'll be pleased to know that government processes are as flexible as ever.

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And guess what?  Opening bank accounts was easy.  We looked for the best deal and found an organisation called Citibank offering a checking account with no monthly service charge and unlimited electronic transactions if you deposited your monthly salary by direct credit.  And they provide a relatively high interest linked savings account that can be managed via the Internet.  No automatic sweeping of funds from savings to checking which would have been nice, but for us it was the right deal at the right time at the right price.  At least one thing out of four was straight forward.

And that was our 2007.  We wish you well and hope 2008 is a great year for you, for us and for everyone.

Best wishes from the Gamble Family in Sydney.

Neil, Usa, Roger and Rex

2008 ...