Saturday, December 23, 2006
It has been a very topsy turvey mixed up year. I’m balanced now, at least, having lost AND gained 3 days. Did I miss anything: March 6, June 1, or Sept. 9?
I feel like I SHOULD be telling you about the exciting life I’m living downunder- but I can only tell you I generally feel unsettled. If it weren’t for recognizing some of my clothes, Kevin, and Zelda, I wouldn’t really be able to tell it was me who was living in Brisbane. I’ve got basically no books, no garden, no job, no furniture, and no friends. Let's not mention the spiders who share our home- or the rat! And yet, I feel compelled to respond with regularity, “I really like it here”. I don’t like it. I want to be home. Kevin’s happy. So, is Zelda- but she just doesn’t want to take any more airplane rides- and, she’s mourning the change of power in the US legislature. She did have a run in with a couple local toughs this week- a couple of big, bad cats- so maybe she would return. I’d probably have to fly her business class, however. So, I’m trying to fix my heart. Everything is fine. I have Kevin and Zelda. I have no unmet physical needs. I just need to work harder. On order- one attitude adjustment.
We did have some really good times last year. We finally took our honeymoon. We went to Hawaii. We enjoyed bicycling (downhill) on Maui, snorkeling with sea turtles, hiking, and watching the sun rise from above the clouds on Haleakula. Kevin was disappointed that there was no spewing lava to see at Volcano National Park- just a faint red glow in the distance and steam rising from the shore. His fantasy was to poke a stick into a river of lava. I’m guessing that one never gets fulfilled- or it never comes out like he imagines it will.
We went to the first Australian Games Expo in Albury, NSW. It was a brutal drive (we fought savagely to stay awake and road worthy past 8 PM) with brief moments of pleasure- Eating Australia’s best meat pies in Dubbo. Contemplating the meaning of the picture that accompanied NSW’s anti drunk-driving campaign (a fender? An eyeball flying through the air? A monster that “comes together” only with a minimum blood alcohol level?). Wondering how many speeding tickets we’d receive in the mail as we drove under yet another speed camera. (Queen’s Birthday Weekend- fines doubled!) It was a 2 day event. Kevin entered the national championships in both Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne. (I’m most likely the only one who thinks about dead flesh when that name comes up….) Anyway, he lost EVERY game of Settlers! And won EVERY game of Carcassonne to made it into Sunday’s semifinals. We were very amused to think of Kevin representing Australia in Essen Germany at the planetary championship- how we’d have to sneak out of the Expo while the natives stormed after us with pitchforks and lighted torches (This is a funnier thought in the US where a torch isn’t just a flashlight. Well, maybe not.) But, alas, it was not to be. He lost that semifinal game. Soundly.
Zelda spent a month by herself in Sydney. She requested a view of the opera house and harbor bridge- but her petition must have been mis-delivered as she was kept in a cold damp run overlooking a sea of similar runs. Visiting hours at the big house- Tues and Thurs between 1 and 3. I went one day about half-way through her quarantine. She was so excited she couldn’t nap. We sat huddled on her cot and sang every song we knew.
Finding a house to rent in Brisbane is an experience. There is a very helpful website- www.realestate.com.au. After that, the helpfulness runs thin. Most homes are shown as “open houses” for- and I am not exaggerating (here)- 15 minutes once a week! As you might imagine- it is not uncommon on a Saturday for the 2 houses you want to see to be shown simultaneously. Then, once you get there you have to weigh the pros (I’d be out of the elements) with the cons (the toilet is outside the back door, the windows are all frosted, there are no screens for the windows – no fans and no a/c, no fence, or the washing machine hookup in housed in a nest of SPIDERS.) At the very last moment we found 2 good houses and struggled to make the decision. At this very moment we are breathing the last of our 6 month lease. Regardless of the outcome of this issue, we’ll always have room for you. I’ll sleep next to the curb- excuse me, kerb.
Finally, saw whales. Awesome. (Though, the pelican made for a better photo.) Went to the Australian Zoo too late to meet Steve Irwin. Played games most every Thursday evening and Sunday afternoon. Won some games of Tichu. Baked a pumpkin pie from scratch! I can drive by myself just about anywhere and hardly ever close my eyes any more when entering a round-about.
Brisbane, despite having several good art theaters and a film festival, is not Cleveland. Our movie attendance is way down….but, of course, we still had favorites. (I’m saying we- but you know who’s writing this.) #1 without question: Little Miss Sunshine. I laughed till I cried. Big red, tear-streaked face crying. Junebug. (Yes, it was on last year’s list, but it just arrived in Australia!), An inconvenient Truth, TransAmerica (I think I needed something light after Brokeback Mountain and Munich, which while both were fine are not part of this list), 10 Canoes, Thank You for Smoking. And, because it was among the last things I saw- (FLY QANTAS- WAY better movie selection) About a Boy.
We maintained our American TV identity thanks to the internet watching the “usual”- The Sopranos, The Office, The Shield, Arrested Development (RIP), The Wire, Nip/Tuck, 24 (two seasons!), Bill Maher, and adding- Dexter (we liked Dexter and pretty much hated the rest of the cast- but the idea is cool- serial killer/forensic officer), Big Love, and watched the entire catalog of the original British Office. We’ve also been watching Heroes- but I’m not sure we really are comfortable admitting it. If it was 1977, we’d be so onto Jack in January when he (and Hero’s) return. No question. It’s the Jack Bauer Power Hour any day. (I’m going on about this because Heroes will be scheduled opposite 24- and the writer/director/spokesperson somebody thinks they’ll do OK. Get a story!)
Finally, I can walk to the library- if I leave early enough before it gets too brutally hot- like before 8 AM- so .. I need to thank Tim for recommending David Mitchell. I really enjoyed “Cloud Atlas”. I finally read “The Secret Life of Bees” Sue Monk Kidd- that was probably my favorite read. Also, I really enjoyed “The Fourth Hand” by John Irving, “How to be Good” by Nick Hornsby, “The Songcatcher” by Sharyn McCrumb, and if only for the title “Nostradamous Ate my Hamster” by Robert Rankin.
Rumors circulate about an influx of descendents of Walter and Veronica Hunt flocking to Australia in August 2007. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. You might want to hold tightly onto something in case this creates some sort of aberrant tilt to the earth’s axis and a subsequent loss of gravity. Ya’ll might fall south. I hope they come. I hope YOU come. I hope I see you soon! If you have the opportunity, please sent us a note and/or a couple of photos! You can still reach me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or via my mom in Versailles (57 Harrison St. 45380). If you are interested, you are still welcome to share our Brizzie life at http://nnv-a-blog-downunder.blogspot.com/. (Oh, wait! You're here!)
Wishing you every joy in the new year!
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
You'll probably remember that I was experiencing a bit of a culture shock to learn how little Halloween is celebrated here in the springtime of the Southern Hemisphere. Fortunately, I have a family for whom Halloween is second only to Christmas- and that's only if it is Christmas with no cold or snow. So, my Auntie and my Mom bought a boat load of decorations from such holiday establishments as "The Dollar Store", then spent three times that amount to ship the box to Brisbane. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. With their help and a little midwest ingenuity we fashioned our own celebration and invited the cast and crew of GWAN and Sunday GWAN (that being, Gamers without a Name). We were VERY impressed by the enthusiasm that our new countrymen mustered. Even the one that stole our jack o'lantern on the eve of the 31st! All it takes here are the pictures!
Zelda meditating under Kevin's vampire cape- in watercolor.
Our window cemetary- tombstones provided by our new refrigerator.
Entry to the house- These bats are petite by Australian standards.
Our party "Jacks" the day after. Peppers (Capsicum), I discovered, make great lanterns with a fabulous glow. Easy to carve- but quick to wither. Our beautiful green lantern found a new home in which to spread the joy of the season- nabbed from sitting atop our mailbox!
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
There is something about Australia which results in some people, mainly women, I think, to get two birthdays per year. Yesterday, for example, was the Queen's birthday in Western Australia. The Queen has another birthday here in Queensland and for all I know a third birthday that she celebrates with friends and family... not that Ozzies aren't friendly. Me. I had one birthday in May (in the US) and a second this weekend. What concerns me about these birthdays isn't the extra cake: its that I'm not sure if one ages faster as a result.
Anyway, for my birthday Kevin took me to The Australia Zoo. It wasn't the celebrity rub that he'd planned as unfortunately Steve Irwin was killed while K and I were in the US last month. Within the last few months the Australia Zoo also lost their other famous resident, Harriot, a Galopogus tortoise who "sailed" with Charles Darwin himself! Harriot has a very simple memorial. Her yard and sign remain while inside a silly faced ceramic turtle pot sits waiting. Steve has memorials at the gate, outside the crococellium, and an AV production prior to the big croc show. I was touched by both responses and wished I could have had only one birthday this year- I could have seen them both.
The Australia Zoo (as it should) has a fabulous collection of Australian wildlife. I saw my first Tasmanian devil (pictured above). Yards of wombat- including one very full pouched female. Oodles of koalas- virtually all asleep and most with babies. Birds, snakes, and plenty of crocs. For a little spice- there are very attractive Tiger and Asian elephant exhibits and a posse of "naughty" American alligators. ??? I can't say I understand any of this- though it interested me that the AZ has taken a page from Dreamworld and keeps the tigers "caged up" with their keepers. The tigers sleep and the keepers trade jokes about Siegfrid and Roy.
I really enjoyed the Snake, Bird, and Croc show at the crococellium (it was the only show we saw. I might have enjoyed more shows had I seen more!) The snakes were OK- but the bird show was fully flighted! Soaring through the stadium: cockatoos, lorries, a wedgetail eagle, a kookaburra, and a magpie! (No photos.) The croc show was appropriately cautionary- you know, "never smile". The croc man did a fine job, though he was bit more weenie about the breeze on his fingers than I'd have expected. I'm sure Steve never sweated out loud before the audiance.
I had a great time. We finished the day with cake and candles as required...and did it all again the next day for ole Queenie.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
We did spend 3 of the last 4 weeks in the US. Kevin wanted to go to the World-con in LA (science fiction convention) and to Dragon Con with his friend Steve in Atlanta. I thought that sounded like too much conning for me, but I was not interested in being left alone here in Aspley. So, I went home. It was fun to visit with my mom and family. We went to the Great Darke County fair not once, not twice, but three times! The last time was pretty sad- everything was closing down. No goats or dogs left- (no pigs, either, but you know how I feel about those of the porcine persuasion... I think I passed my national boards in spite of missing every single swine question.) No flowers. The Fine Arts building was roped off with only those stopping by to retrieve a entry allowed in. Still, they charged full admission. We did plenty of shopping and eating of pie: pumpkin, black raspberry, apple, key lime! Here in the underworld there is very little pie eating. I'm pretty much motivated to figuring out how to make my own. We'll see how far I go with that idea.
August 27 was my Uncle Carroll's 80th birthday. This required two parties. One he planned and an improptu one on the actual 27th. Improptu BUT including the birthday lobster. (Photo here would be nice.)
We visited the Johnny Appleseed museum at Urbana University (http://www.urbana.edu/appleseed.htm). It is really challenging to create a museum for the public for a man for whom there are no photos, pictures, or artifacts. Really, I think the only thing that was really of John Chapman was a piece of bark from one of the apple trees he planted. (If I had been paying more attention I could tell you the name of the family for whom this tree still grows and where it is. Maybe attention isn't the problem. Maybe it is storage or retreival.) A husband and wife team of docents? curators? tackled us at the door and talked us through the exhibits (and more!) for I'm guessing a good hour. It was interesting that although this organization is trying to educate the public on the real John Chapman as opposed to the Disney image a good proportion of their stuff is directly from Disney. Posters. Records (33 1/3 rpm- remember?). Tin pot hats for the kids to wear. They did have a decent sized bookcase of documents from people who knew John- though (I'm pretty sure of this) there are no writings OF John Chapman known to exist. More interesting to me was being back on the UU campus. Once upon a time I taught there. It was my first grown up, full time job. (Why, you may ask, is the Johnny Appleseed museum at UU? Urbana University is actually a religious school founded by the Swedenborgans (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emanuel_Swedenborg). Chapman was a missionary for the church and was instrumental in getting a college established. Plus, he planted a bunch of apples in Ohio.)
We did NOT get to see the production of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow". It was rained out. Does Australia have a history of similar literature? Or, does one need a halloween mentality to create it? I thought it would be appropriate to list the website for the performance (except there really ISN'T one- at least not a cool one) so I googled it. Instead, I came up with the following site from the state of Ohio- featuring ghost tours of the Mansfield prison.
How cool is that?! Are there ghosts in Australia? http://www.ohiotraveler.com/october.htm
Continuing on the Halloween theme- Went to the news agents today just to see if I could find a magazine that included any Halloween ideas. NOT A ONE! The US magazines were all old (August) and there weren't many of those (Good Housekeeping, Oprah- I think that was all!) No Halloween cards for sale! Oh my! Guess I'll be busy making my own decorations- though my mom and Marianna sent some to me, too. There is always pumpkin for sale at the grocery- but it is typically sold in pieces. I'll have to look around to find a jack-o-lantern worthy one. Wonder if there are any local ordinances against putting candles inside produce?
Getting back to our trip- Zelda spent the time at the Pet Resort, "The Pines" where- get this- she made a friend! The individual runs faced into a center exercise area- with real grass! I tried to play down her antisocial nature when I dropped her off. "She doesn't have much experience with other dogs." While her run was prepared she was placed in the center courtyard. Two wiggly, exuberant cockers (housed together) ran to their fence to meet the new dog! meet the new dog! meet the new dog! They were beside themselves with joy. Zelda was intrigued enough to approach them- tail held very stiffly pointing at the sky. That's my girl. "Who wants to know?!" Anyway, she and Elsie, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, got along famously. They were joined in their shared distaste for dogs. I think this friendship means that the caretakers were able to put Zelda and Elsie out together without any growling or chasing or lunging (not that I've seen Zelda behave in such a way with other dogs....) because they totally ignored each other. Neither was inclined to sniff, play bow, run at, or approach the other- and so peace and friendship was established.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Yawn! A sixteen hour drive that we managed to squeeze into 21!! Queen's Birthday weekend (except in Western Australia)- double fines, double demerits for speeding. New South Wales was dotted with traffic cameras spanning the highway- and I hope we were smiling. Not sure if we were ever caught speeding (funny, isn't; given the first sentence!?) or whether our savings will cover the accumulated fines (up to $3300 for a speeding offence- so the signs say. Eegads!)
REST! REVIVE! SURVIVE!
Meals took an hour on average and the number of wrong turns, missed turns, back tracking was really minimal. (I was an excellent navigator.) We just couldn't stay awake past 9 pm. Used to be just me- and I could sleep whilst (nod to Au, there) Kevin drove. Now, I must struggle to remain alert to keep Kevin awake. The first night we stopped at least every 30 minutes to get out of the car and into the cool night air to wake up. (Well, Kevin did that.) Or, we just slept in the car. What a time to be committed to a caffeine-free lifestyle!
Albury trip count:
1 fox alive- at least 1 dead
3 living leapers- plenty of carcuses
Gallahs, Falcons, kukaburras
--despite signs warning of the risk, we saw no cattle or sheep on the roadway, nor stiff-legged on the shoulder.
NO DRINK DRIVING
A concerted effort of billboards lined the NSW highways. We studied these. We debated. We stopped the car and pondered. What IS that picture?
There's a fender and best we can figure a disembodied brain- or maybe an eyeball? My belief is that if you have an appropriately elevated blood alcohol level the image transmutes into a horrendous monster and frightens you into sobriety, abstinence, or a taxi. Still looking for volunteers.
Photo: Kevin (playing yellow) gets his butt kicked in Settlers.
Albury NSW- site of Australia's first Games Expo! Kevin, former candidate for game czar of Cleveland, Ohio couldn't miss that! Signed up to compete in both the national championships for "Settlers of Catan" and "Carcassonne"! The winner of each would go onto Essen Germany to represent Australia. How cool would that be!
The Games Expo was held in the convention center Saturday and Sunday, June 10 and 11. The competitions started at 9 AM on Saturday. Kevin was scheduled to play 3 games of each before 5 PM that evening. (Didn't see much of him!) Settlers was not very good to our man- but Carcassonne! He won every game he played and went into the semifinals on Sunday in 6th place overall.
We pondered- how would it play, a Yank winning the first Australian competition and representing the country in Essen? Surely, we could not be denied an application for permanent residency- maybe even citizenship! Still, we decided, it might be best to sneak off immediately with the crown before the pitchforks and torches were pulled.
Kevin lost in the semifinals.
Ah! it was a dream!
This trip was special because it included the infamous Ms. Z. We spent about a month trying to feel good about "our" crate. Ate supper there. That's as far as we got, really. When I dropped her at the cargo building for Delta, I don't think the death cry that followed was any less heartfelt for all those meals in the carrier. She did OK. She had a very nice hotel in LA- and somehow accumulated 2 days of boarding there in only 6 hours...??? We parted ways in LA. She flew on to Sydney while I winged on to Brissie.
I was traveling with 2+ months of my nutritional supplements and was a might bit concerned that the customs officials wouldn't appreciate them. I held my breath as the lovely beagle bitch moved through the crowd sniffing at each bag. Damn. I was done for! My bag probably had a big red beagle bullseye because packed within were Zelda's chew bone, her giggle ball, and her babble ball! "Hey! What are you doin'?" "Aaaaaaa! I'm gonna get you!" How am I going to explain a talking backpack to "the man"? She passed on by. No worries!
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
This mural lines a church parking lot in downtown Brisbane. I look forward to seeing it- and might even consider driving just so I could park here.
Kevin and I found these yellow flowers on a bush while walking along the river one Sunday morning. They were much more attractive than the enormous orb spiders who were living higher up.
I believe this bush was blooming beside the local mini-mall at the end of our street. I played with photoshop to make this painterly picture.
Native flowering shrub.
Because I've been receiving acupuncture at the natural medicine college, I am in Chinatown every week. Not a bad place to visit. Colo(u)rful ... AND, I think I found my next job/career! (see the posting on the last storefront in the Chopstix Arcade.)
Koalas: It was feeding time when we arrived and the "honors" went to a group of Japanese tourists. They are in the enclosure depositing eucalyptus branches and taking photographs.
There were two dingoes (dingo?) in this enclosure. The bathtub is filled with water. I thought it was pretty clever. The dogs looked fit, young, and strong. Kind of surprising for dogs who I'd expect get little exercise.... I mean, hey, they've got a car, why walk?
Saturday, April 01, 2006
If you look closely, you'll notice that not everyone is riding feet down on the centrifugal force ride, right.
Here I am at the welcoming archway of THE home of the Wiggles! I didn't actually see any of the Wiggles, though I'm not sure I'd recognize them. Seems like the color spirals around their heads might be a good clue, however.
We THINK we found where they live- but no one responded to Kevin knocking on their door.
While walking through Chinatown, I found this disturbing meat market. I'm not sure you'll be able to see the sign clearly, here, but the middle chalkboard boasts Special Pork Mince and... AMERICAN RIBS ! I don't think I'll be traveling alone down there again.
Kevin demonstrates the superior castor wheels on Australian "trolleys". This grocery is within a mall and the regular stores weren't open yet on Sunday morning.
Goodnight from Ann and the geckos!
Sunday, March 26, 2006
Kevin found this apartment and has been living here since October. Our unit is in the front on the second or first floor, depending on how you count. It is the one that has the screened porch with all the geckos INSIDE. These are our special friends and I'll send a photo of them soon. Unfortunately, we are now looking for a new place that will allow us to keep Zelda. We are hoping for air conditioning, 2 maybe 3 closets! and, lets go wild, an oven you don't have to climb into to light.
But for now, lets go down the stairs and take a little walk...
We live conveniently close to the Windsor train station- about 2 blocks. There are cool stairs to climb to enter the train station if you are coming from the OTHER direction. We just have a little footpath, but it does have a gate that closes and a light that flashes when a train is coming. In this way we have avoided being squashed.
You can either buy your ticket inside the booth or in the silver contraption you seen in front of the Coke machine. Except for the busy morning time the cost of a ticket to travel from Windsor to the city (Central station, remember?) is $2.10. If you want to travel before 9 AM, it is going to cost an extra 10 cents.
At the corner of Lutwyche and LeGeyt is this shopping centre. It features a minimart/news agent/post office- The Golden Casket. There are also 3 restarants: an Indian Restaurant that we think is ALWAYS closed due to illness, Samari Sushi featuring Windsor's own sushi train, and a generic Asian restaurant. The Hot Bread store on the other side of LeGeyt is currently advertising to "Get your spicy hot crossed buns (in) here". Also not pictured is the nicer restaurant across Lutwyche, PL8. Their outdoor dining experience includes watching the orb spiders contemplate how they might snare an American.
P.S. The orchid I opened with is blooming in a tree in front of a neighboring apartment building. The tree is full of orchids and other - what are those plants called that grow without soil....???? EPIPHYTES!!