Just yesterday I found out that I have an approved work visa for Australia – yes! So let’s get back to how the Hooks came to choose and answer the “Where in Australia?”
Most folks know that Australia is both a country and a continent (pretend like you knew.) It’s not as large as the U.S. in land mass or in population, but Oz is pretty darn huge. If someone said they were moving to the U.S., your first question would be, “That’s great. Where?”
We chose Western Australia (WA) or I should say Western Australia chose us. Since neither Hook nor I are big city people, we were actually hoping to land anywhere except Sydney or Melbourne. Oh, of course, we’ll probably visit Sydney and take in one of the many Sydney wine tours but remember, we need less people and more bugs.
In his pre-Rosemary days, Hook lived in Brisbane while he was pursuing his doctorate work. Since he’d been there before, he knew that his landing spot had to include a tie to a university that would provide him certain privileges, e.g. bug collecting permits, lab space to study specimens, and an intellectual community he could engage with. And both of us wanted ready access to a full-sized swimming pool, someplace we could frequent daily (one of the many benefits we had both enjoyed while working at St. Edward’s University in Austin.)
Hook threw out inquiries in the western and northern territories. The first was to Charles Darwin University in the tip of the northern territory. I was still riding the high of “Australia!” and didn’t know enough about the Darwin area to know that living there for an entire year would have been like living in New Jersey or Seattle or some other city close to water that looks really good on a map but you’d really have to work at enjoying yourself there.
The other quick replies of interest came from the territory of Western Australia (WA). I’ve since learned that WA also stands for wait awhile in the laid back city of Perth, home to the Western Australian Museum and a large private university, Curtin University of Technology. Hook settled on Curtin which has a student population close to 48,000 which is even larger than the University of Texas in Austin. Apparently not everything is bigger in Texas!
The competing university to Curtin is the public university, University of Western Australia (UWA), but Hook had already settled on Curtin when we received word back from UWA. As it is, Hook will likely store his specimens with the Western Australian Museum which is run by the Australian government. This means both universities and the museum will have free access to Hook’s contributions which benefits everyone. Plus, the majority of what Hook collects and researches will stay in Australia because there is a limited supply of bugs that customs will allow him to bring back into the U.S. when we return in 2013.
And that is how we chose Perth, the second best city in the world (Austin, Texas being the first of course). Perth in Western Australia rests against the Indian Ocean in the southwest corner pocket of the country. Perth not only looks great on a map, but it is the most idyllic place to have as a home base down under. Can you imagine yourself in a Perth harbor, sitting inside a café that looks out over the water, your laptop on a table and you, writing your little brains away? Oh sorry, I was imagining me and not you.
“Babe, we’re going to be spending weeks at a time camping in the Outback. It’s going to be a little rough. Are you sure you can handle it?”
Hook is serious when he asks this so I respond likewise.
“Will there be little cabins like we had in the jungle?” The jungle he took me to on our honeymoon. The jungle that had cabins with only three walls!
“No. We’ll only have a tent.” Hook says and I can tell he’s wondering if I’m kidding.
“Can we bring little cots with us to sleep on?” I ask because I am most definitely not kidding.
“What about an air mattress?” I inquire because if there aren’t any cabins and we’re not going to take any cots, where does he think we will sleep?
“Honey, this is the Outback. We’ll be sleeping on the ground.” Hook says this with his matter-of-fact voice, his voice of reason, a tone an adult might use with a 6-year old.
“Okay, well, you’ll be spending weeks at a time in the Outback,” I say as I kiss him on the cheek, “I will be in Perth waiting for you. Please don’t get eaten by anything.”
I’m not kidding about the getting-eaten-by-anything remark. Hook zones out when he’s collecting. A party of Australian crocs could easily sneak up on Hook and half of his leg in their jaws before he realized anything was amiss.
I’m sure I’ll spend a couple of nights in the Outback. How could I not? It’s Australia!