In 2007 we said that we decided to live in the Sydney suburb of Mosman. In 2008 our landlord decided we should live somewhere else. So in June we moved to a nearby suburb called Cremorne – about 3km away from our last place. Moving to a nearby suburb meant that Roger and Rex could stay in the same schools. However, our new place is smaller and we don't have much of a view this time …
Last year we listed a bunch of things to see in and around Sydney; this year we managed to visit the main attractions; we went to Sydney Tower, the aquarium, the wildlife centre, Koala Park, Bondi beach, Katoomba and the Blue Mountains. Rex has been dying to go to the theme parks at the Gold Coast, a trip we intend to take just after New Year.
Talking of New Year, we had a prize view of the famous Sydney New Year's Eve fireworks in our old apartment – and they were great. Fireworks all the way up and down Sydney Harbour – it really was something to see. We mentioned in last year's letter that we were amazed by the frequency of fireworks on the harbour, there seems to be something every 2nd or 3rd week. New Year's eve is certainly the Big Daddy of them all.
Usa had a good year and in the last term of the school year started working as the manager at Rex's school canteen. She has the only paid position in the canteen. She brought enthusiasm and worked well with the volunteers, some of whom were frustrating to deal with. By the end of the term she had raised the weekly takings by around 15% over the previous term; word gets around when there's something good to eat at school.
Roger had a successful year at school. He came first in his year in electronics, which won him an award at the end of the year. Unfortunately the school timetable won't allow him to continue the subject next year because its timing clashes with Japanese, a subject he prefers. He had good results overall for the year. He said he was disappointed by some of the results but they seemed pretty good in the end of year report. The highlight of Roger's year was a school trip to Jindabyne, near the Australian Snowy Mountains; they went to the Snowy Mountains most days and he spent time snowboarding which he enjoyed a lot. He has developed a keen ear for heavy metal music – he knows genres of heavy metal that would make Wikipedia blink and is dedicated to getting as many into his library as possible. Unfortunately he wants to own many of them, so he is a leading light for the failing CD industry. Roger also acquired braces for his teeth late in the year in an effort to further reduce our bank balance.
Looking at the photos below, from the beginning and end of the year, you'll see Roger has had quite a growth spurt. Not before time, he will say. All those years of drinking milk and finally something happened!
Rex had a year that focused on singing, school and rugby. After arriving mid season in 2007 he was keen to play rugby this year so he signed up for the local Under 11 team and had great fun playing each Sunday. In NZ he was a prop forward; in Australia they thought he was too small so he played in the second row. He didn't like the position at first but enjoyed it more as the season progressed. His singing was a constant through the year. Rex joined the Australian Youth Choir at the start of the year and enjoyed it. In his first year he was in the Probationer Choir and he will move to the Training Choir next year. The choir had 3 concerts through the year, in May, July and October. The May performance was OK, the July concert was great and the October concert was a bit "experimental". Rex also performed in the NSW School Spectacular – a very big deal in Australia. It is a show put on by school students from NSW and the only adult contribution is from the teachers who provide the creative and organizational elements (that is, they do everything except perform). Admittedly Rex was one of 3,000 students involved – not exactly a starring role, but he has another 6 years to contribute if he wants. Speaking of which, this year is Rex's last at primary school. [The Australian education system has 6 years at primary school and 6 years at high school.] Taking a leaf from his brother's book Rex said his end of year report was "average" but it was a very positive review. Next year he goes to high school – a big change in environment for anyone. Rex will go to Mosman High, where he has been accepted into the Performing Arts stream and he will focus on singing. And not to be outdone by Roger, Rex had 2 school excursions this year, one to Canberra and one to a coastal area called Tea Gardens.
2008 was a bumper year for seeing Neil's family. His mother, who lives in Adelaide, visited twice. While we lived overseas there were few opportunities to see her, generally once every 2-3 years. This year she visited Sydney in September and again in November. As she is over 80 each trip is a very big deal with airline and travelling logistics, so it was great to see her. Neil's sister, Kim, who lives in San Francisco, visited Sydney in February [see photo above] and continued on to Adelaide to see our mother. Neil's Dad lives in Sydney, so we get to see him often; we intend to visit him every Sunday, but sometimes family things come up and we see him every 2nd Sunday.
Neil's year featured 7 months on assignment in Brisbane. Every Monday morning it meant a flight from Sydney-Brisbane and the return trip every Friday late afternoon. He invites you to join him for a typical trip. The good thing about Brisbane is that he managed to regularly see Phil & Maree, his good friends from university days. Neil's assignment made things tough for Usa who had to figure out everything about running the boys around Sydney when she had only been here for about 7 months herself.
As you have probably read, Neil's employer, EDS, has been acquired by HP. He admits that it is harder to drink the kool-aid these days – especially when the EDS CEO walked out with $51.5 million in his pocket when the takeover was completed; and that was just a few weeks ago when the market was sensitive to executive compensation. Or maybe Neil can drink the the kool-aid but this is just the wrong flavour? Being employed by HP there are now have some new, revised features of employment: 1) all travel, for all reasons, worldwide, uses economy; 2) as a special welcome to HP salaries will be frozen in 2009. Well, it's better to have no salary increase than no job. Although in this environment who knows what will happen next …
And that was our 2008. We wish you well and, while things look bleak, we hope that 2009 is a great year for you, for us and for everyone.
Best wishes from the Gamble Family in Sydney.
Neil, Usa, Roger and Rex