Sunday, May 28, 2006

A Foggy Day in Melbourne Town

One of the things that one doesn't get very often in the Philippines anymore is real fog.
View from our balcony on a normal day. . .View from our balcony on a normal day. . .
I used to experience fog in the Philippines when I was a young boy, during the early mornings in Baguio or in Cavite. It has been a long time since I actually had the pleasure of real fog.

But one of the glorious things I am experiencing now is real, almost tangible fog. Winter is setting in and it is getting cold, but fog does not usually form. However, over the last two weeks, there have been at least one day that there has been fog, and I find it wonderful.

Oh, I am aware that fog is dangerous and hazardous. Ærynn tells me that fog only seems wonderful if one isn't driving around in one's own car but instead riding a train to the city.
. . . the same view during a foggy day.. . . the same view during a foggy day.
I also know that it may not be very healthy to have too much fog. But it is still the most wonderful fog I ever experienced, not dissipating when one comes too close and with one's breath actually adding to it. Here, too, one's breath actually "smokes" even when one is merely talking. Still, I find the fog really nice.

There are times when I try to awaken the "creepiness" when I walk through the fog, because this is very much like the sort of atmospheric quality of the game and movie called "Silent Hill" but one thing that is absent in Silent Hill but present in Heidelberg are the noises and the colors. One cannot feel creepy. I feel, rather, that this is just one aspect of Lothlörien: dangerous but wonderful at the same time.

Silent Hill
I took all these pictures with my camera in my mobile phone when Ærynn and I were on our way to the train station to go to work. As she had mentioned in the previous entry, I now have a job. For the first week while we underwent what is known as "induction" I also got to ride the train in the morning and walk from the station to the street where the main office was. Incidentally, it was just a block away from where Ærynn worked, but we've only had lunch together once—we were that busy. A bit about the differences between what Pinoys and Aussies mean about induction. To the Pinoy, induction is a ceremony where some new manager or big-shot is welcomed to work. To the Aussie, it is at the very least a three-day orientation program (ours lasted about a week) that is meant to have us up and ready to work: we are introduced to everybody and their functions (no long and arduous trial-and-error methods of finding things out through assimilation), we are shown what our duties are, and we are given a trial run where we are allowed to make mistakes. How about that.

The bowling lane just on the
other side of our street
After the induction, I was given the option of working from home. There are, of course, several advantages, primary of which is that I don't have to wear my suit very often. It's not that I don't like wearing the suit because I am glad for the excuse to dress up. It's just that I only have one suit and I can't afford to have something happen to that suit. Suits here are expensive (costing around $200 to $500) and having the suits dry-cleaned (a must) is also expensive ($11, while a good meal already costs $6).

That's another reason why I am in no hurry to go to the city for work, much as I want to. We've so far been living off Ærynn's salaray and even if we aren't destitute, having another mouth to feed has reduced us to living hand-to-mouth. Of course, this is not as bad as living hand-to-mouth as it is back in the Philippines, but being able to cut corners until I start having a much more regular salary is a good idea. And one way to cut corners is to prepare lunches from home without having to spend on public transportation or on a restaurant. In fact, I even make lunches for Ærynn to take in the morning.

The Heidelberg train station across
the street enshrouded in mist
And so I work from home and, technically, we are allowed to keep our own hours. Practically, those of us who work from home need to keep basically the same hours as our office-bound brethren. For one thing, our team leader and Lead Instructional Designer, ð–, should always find a way to contact us and vice-versa. So we were instructed to install Skype into our computers so that we can always call each other if we need to. It was just like going to the office after all, except that I can be dressed in my flannel pyjamas and gusset slippers (which I was dressed in when we were having our weekly meeting via phone conference).

There are few things that I miss from the Philippines and which Australia does not have. One of the most important is true unlimited DSL Broadband. I believe a lot of people take it for granted that Pinoys pay a pittance for DSL service that allows unlimited downloads. In Australia, we are limited to a monthly allowance. The cheapest is around 300MB per month. If all you do is check your email, then 300 megabytes a month isn't all that bad.
The Hurstbridge to Flinders Street train
coming out of the mist
But if you chat and use VoIP, you are in big trouble. For the unfortunates, their ISP would start charging them for every extra megabyte they download above their monthly allowance. The fortunates (like us) merely have their download speeds limited, from 512Kbps to only 28Kbps and no extra charges. Of course, it means snail pace internet access slower than even the dial-up in the Philippines.

So, even when we now have Skype (for free calls over the internet to our family back in the Philippines) and even a web cam (given to us by GM from Fairview Park), we can't use it. We've used up all of our data allowance and the only time we can use it freely would be today, the first billing day of the month where everything is reset. At least Ærynn had enough foresight to get the package that allowed us to download 2 Gigabytes a month, but even that wasn't enough. We're thinking of upgrading our account to 7 GB a month, but at the cost of an extra $11 to the monthly bill. We will pace ourselves instead.
When in Oz...

Ærynn was asked how it felt like to be a "dink"—of course, she had no clue what that means. DINK, it appears, stands for "Double-income, no kids" and she was asked that because I already had a job too. Finding that out, Ærynn had to truthfully answer that she didn't feel like a dink yet, since my first paycheck comes a month later.
All in all, God has been faithful and active in our lives in such a powerful way. It sounds clichéd, I know. . . like the sort of things that false prophets (televangelists) get people to say on their TV shows to get even more people to give them more money. But God really has. I cannot say I didn't expect God helping and blessing us—it was as expected as when people who love us give us help. But it is as wonderful and tangible as the fog that was wafting around Heidelberg that morning. People were taking that fog for granted in the same way that a lot of people take God's blessings for granted, which isn't always a bad thing. What is a bad thing is when we stop being thankful for those blessings and, instead, feel that we are entitled to them. I know that I am not entitled to what God has given us now, but I am glad and thankful that He blessed us anyway.