Thursday, 29 March 2007

Wednesday report

God knows what time – Wednesday 28 March – LAX

I think it is somewhere between the hours of 12noon and 1pm. My flight is at 1 and my sense of time (dulled somewhat from ‘sleeping’ between two men for 13 hours) tells me that myself and my luggage left the baggage collection area around 10.30. So maybe, it is actually 11-ish. Have no idea and really can’t be arsked.

Good flight, which arrived early! Was fortunate enough to have exit row seat, and with congenial people, although one was a rather hefty fellow (kind of like a Chunky Soup commercial). My left upper arm kind of is tired from tensing to avoid contact; this was fruitless, did not work and only produced lactic acid in my arm. It is weird how we have our significant sense of space in the West and other cultures have so little; a man in line for Immigration kept standing right behind me, touching my purse and it really bothered me. So I turned sideways at the next shuffle forwards, and that worked. The poor man next to me on the plane (the one whose arm spent a large portion of the flight 1/3 of the way into my armrest barrier), had a fractured ankle and was flying from Melbourne to NYC today – with no bandage or anything. I think he missed his flight. Man on other side is a harp technician, so he had been in Australia repairing harps. He lives in Chicago and plays the guitar and the mandolin and his mother lives in Cloutierville (how bizarre)! He says I have lost a Louisiana accent.

There was a man on the flight who looked just like Kim Jong Il (kept hearing, ‘I’m rone-ry, oh, so rone-ry…’ in my head every time he went to the loo. Tee hee.) However, that particular family was the most standing-up-est group of people I have ever seen on a flight; they just would NOT sit down! Well, until a man from a row behind us clapped and yelled at them because they were just loitering with their screaming child for like 30 minutes. Admittedly the screaming was laughter, but this was still rude and unpleasant. They yelled back that she was only a child and he yelled the observant retort that this was not a kindergarten. I smirked quietly and gave a silent ‘Bravo!’

United Airlines claims on their napkins that they have the most legroom of any US airline. However, I think American also claims this and I believe American, since I have sat in American Economy several times. Admittedly, this trip, was seated in exit row, so had loads of legroom (except when Asian-origin kindergarten was in session), but the other people looked very cramped legwise.

As well, I am not too fond of flying on 747s – they do not have the nifty little screens with entertainment on the backs of seats in front and sound system leaves much to be desired.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Tuesday report

8.17 am – Tuesday, 27 March
Got trapped in parking garage behind shrubbery and various metal barricades and unable to get to Holiday Inn shuttle before it pulled off. But it did return 30 minutes later, giving me an excellent opportunity to do some fascinating Inter-social Traffic Research. People are just amusing; so amusing in fact that many of them would be perhaps better off in zoos for everyone to enjoy. Note for future travel: hotel shuttles located in v. confusing and difficult location at Sydney Domestic Airport.

Was not allowed to knit on Adelaide to Sydney flight and while I had no problem and was perfectly willing to putting my Entertainment Activity ‘safely away for the duration of the flight, it was a bit unnecessary to have the lispingly veiled threat of, ‘If you won’t put it away, I could take them away from you, lock them in a cupboard for the flight and pass them on to Ground Services at Sydney.’ Yeah, okay... I am sure Ground Services would have been terrified.

Another exceedingly early morning today, which E was kind enough to assist with via a 6am phone call. Speaking of which, due to various and sundry time changes, it is now really difficult to know what time it is anywhere but my immediate location (and that is still kind of questionable sometimes – had to ask HI employee what time it was last night). Northern hemisphere springing forward; Southern falling backwards; no idea when the States is doing their thing… It was, oh, so simple just two weeks ago: 11 hours difference between Eastern Oz and UK, subtract 6 (or maybe that is add) for the US. Just so simple, then. [She gazes into the sunrising distance as a Carpenters’ song intro begins…]

Travelling to Wollongong this morning. This is not pronounced with a short ‘o’ as one would phonetically expect, but instead the first syllable is ‘wool’. The yuppie suited guy in front of me in listening to Madonna Hung Up quite loudly on his earphones. Tee hee. It is not that I dislike this song; it is, after all, an excellent tempo for doing wall push-ups (when one does those) – it is just a bit froofy-and-pink-spandex to match his Copious-Amounts-of-Hair-Gel-Make-Me-Excellently-Masculine-and-Cool appearance.

Lovely big rolling hills covered with trees and other green stuff – there are entire hillsides covered with masses of lantana, brilliant blue flower vines (maybe morning glories?) and heaps of asparagus ferns (in the shadier parts of course). Had hoped to see ocean as was under impression that would see this, but not so far. Whilst enjoying this, though, am glad to have last event today.

2.01 pm – Tuesday 27 March
Train got to the GORgeous ocean section of the trip approx. 47 seconds after typed last paragraph and put computer to sleep. But of course! It was v. difficult to get photos of housetops (I will go on about the interesting roofing differences here… it is quite difficult and funny to try to explain shingles and tar paper to people. Craig from Canada: CFC and I attempted at length the other day to describe what exactly a shingle is, but blank looks prevailed.), pretty flowers and waves because of trees flying past window. That, and the fact that the battery image on my camera screen is now red.

Fair is outdoors, but my table is UNDER a building overhang – hoorah!

Monday report

4.22 pm – Monday, 26 March
Sitting at Adelaide airport v. early before flight eating a burger at a restaurant called Beetroot (tee hee hee). Beetroot seems quite common here and I kind of like this. Burger Classic is supposed to have beetroot on it, but this has yet to be discovered. Maybe, though, the beetroot is not in a slice but is instead the purple-ish smush on the lower bun. It is yummy! Although the mayonnaise is slightly weird. Refrained from adding onion rings or fries to dinner and shall drink my 1500ml of water and perhaps eat my apple from the Hilton in case there is Shockingly Stringent Quarantine on produce in NSW (am flying to Sydney in 2 hours time).

Have been at Adelaide University today for a fair. It was under a tent. I said a prayer of thanks (although Katie B. may not thank me for the V of tan on my chest that just looks absol. ridONKulous when compared to the general overall tint of blue on the rest of my body).

They are now carrying out a test of the airport emergency system. It is loud.

Yesterday, had lovely excursion with International coordinator at Uni South Australia – along with my new friend, Craig from Guelph Uni in Canada; and Gerhardt and Ulrich, who are from two universities outside Stuttgart. We stopped at Brighton Beach, had a coffee and then who had to go down from the jetty and get a perfect shell? Who do you think.

Then we drove a little further to the south to the Maclaren Valley, which is a wine district. ________ is the cutest little town, with quaintsy-waintsy little cafes and shops and vineyards stretching over the hills. Just lovely. And it was a perfect weather day, too! At the ends of the rows at some of the vineyards, roses are planted. This is because they act as a sort of Impending Disaster Warning System – diseases and/or insects often attack roses first, so that vintners can prepare the vines against whatever is coming. Isn’t that clever?

We ate at Hoffmann’s Vineyard at the Old Currant Shed. Sitting on the veranda was a potentially addictive way to spend a low-key afternoon. Olives and almonds are also significantly increasing crops in Australia. Australian olive oil is actually exported to ITALY! Who knew! Saw my first olive growing on a tree (I thought they grew on bushes); saw no almonds. There are the cutest little blue wrens that hopped around looking cute in lecherous hope of crumbs. There was a neighbouring Australian Shepherd with one blue and one brown eye that came and sat next to our table and looked pretty until she was shooed away by the wait staff. Many vineyards have a Vineyard Dog, and at the next vineyard shoppe, there was a book on Vineyard Dogs – am proud of myself because did not purchase. But it was sooooo cute!

Craig and I were the only ones who tasted at the next vineyard, d'Arenberg, and we tried to act like we knew what we were doing. But we fooled no one. However, it was fun. I think it would be great fun to go on a short course so as to find out how to look like you know what you are doing, even perhaps actually knowing what you are doing.

For lunch, ate KANGAROO Pie! Ooooh, it was so delicious! V. tender, not gamey, and is apparently v. low in fat. It was kind of like a steak and kidney pie sort of thing. There was a Kangaroo Meat merchant at Central Market the other day; I think I would eat it regularly if this were my habitat. Starter was a pate and had one bite of the communal Lime Tarte for dessert. All of us were fairly bloated.

Two exciting things I saw yesterday:
A hopping kangaroo road sign
A KOALA road sign (saw no koalas. nearly made self carsick looking at the trees.)

Was corrected that a koala is NOT a bear. It is a marsupial. A Gum Tree is the same thing as a Eucalyptus tree – eucalyptus is the leaf. And the UniSA lady wanted to know how in the world I knew the song, ‘Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree’ – doesn’t everyone know that song?

In true American style, I am uncomfortable with extremely long silences in situations signifying social interaction, so I asked an awful lot of questions about everything from Kookaburras and koalas and from communal property trends to the NSW elections (the number of my interrogatory statements may have made everyone think I was three, but for gosh sakes, DISCUSS! CONVERSATE!). In Australia, it is the LAW that every person over the age of 18 must vote! If you are do not vote you have to pay several hundred dollars fine. If you are out of the country, you must mail your vote. You may, if you like, go in and submit a blank paper, but you still must go.

One interesting fact: There are more Greeks in Melbourne than in any other city outside Athens!

Sunday, 25 March 2007

The Banning of Boys

7.48 am – Sunday 24 March

Boys should be banned.

There should be separate floors for males, as they are just loud and slovenly. (They also whoop when they are getting ready to go out early in the evening, which activity is just pointless and absurd.) Admittedly they did quieten down when I went out with my hair sticking every which way and asked if they wanted to perhaps call the person in the room since their drug-raid style banging and kicking was apparently not doing the trick at 5am. Although it did the trick with me... leading to vexed tossing and turning and a full awareness of the loveliness of the dawn. Stupid males.

But at least I got my paper early. Tee hee hee.

9.43 am
Quite chilly in Adelaide today and v. nearly got sunny frostbite on fingers during coffee and Italian breakfast sammich, because was determined to sit outside on pavement. Being collected in a bit for outing with S. Australia Uni International Office lady and will be going with two Germans, my Canadian friend from earlier in the week and maybe someone else. I forget. Something has happened to my left knee overnight and am gimping around quite pathetically. Although I now have no grey hair to logically coordinate age with limp – hoorah!

The 2007 World Police and Fire Games are being held in Adelaide this week(end?) and there are herds in matching tracksuits everywhere.

Earlier this week, the day I left Melbourne, there was a massive tragedy in the Burnley Tunnel which I drove through on maybe Wednesday – while only three people were killed, it was really horrific. One tractor trailer was stopped in the tunnel to fix something, another ran into it and exploded, along with a car that was trapped between them somehow and then more explosions happened. It is quite sad. A 1994 Olympic cyclist died.

Saturday, 24 March 2007

Reviews of life

Saturday 9.33 pm (before DLST)

Am very slightly appalled.

Have just returned from dinner to find turn-down service has been in my horrific room to leave mints on my pillow and close the curtains. My room is a disASter. Every item from my suitcase is strewn over my bed (and the floor). Even the bear has been straightened on the prepared pillow area from his flung askew position of my departure.

Poor pillow turn-back people. They are probably wondering why in the world I was upgraded to the 17th floor – YES! Am on the 17th (out of 18) floor. Needless to say, I can see the ocean from here. This pleases me.

Today, spent three-ish hours in Central Market (toodling and generally faffing about).Returned to find MARvellous 17th floor room (had to take pictures was so happy with accommodation). Flung things around in clothes-changing mania and headed to beach at Glenelg. Have never been so cold at a beach (prob. wouldn’t have been so cold had I kept cardigan on, but was unable to keep skin completely hidden). Found most marvellous shell specimen within 5 seconds of entering water – it is being added to hoard. Lovely beach (although had to return to city within two hours due to plan for hair fussing and because of cheaper ticket on tram, which was founded in 1929, btw). On trip home, saw wool shop from tram window – terrifically disappointed, but more financially secure.

Had absurd need to have hair prepared for wedding next weekend (covering grey and cutting, requiring that mother cancel hair appt. next week – we don’t have time for such vanity in such a short trip). Liquid Hair is the place to go in Adelaide and you must ask for Jenny. Super colour (although personally, I could have gone darker, my mother will be pleased) and excellent cut. They asked, ‘Are you going to be a regular customer?’ I might have to be…

After removing myself from the list of The Great Unwashed, took hour-long walk searching for Fate-Designated place to eat. Fate has designated that I do a scathing restaurant review. A Taste of Spice is not worth positively mentioning either as a service industry experience or as an example of Malaysian Cuisine, as promised by their sign (several people on Yahoo! have given it good reviews, but they can also not spell, so you shouldn't take them seriously.). And if you have a hope of spicy food, you will have been seriously misplaced in your hope. My Seafood and Vegetable Claypot, one of the most expensive items on the menu, was adequate at best. A blind, olfactorily deprived person could have prepared the boiling claypot – it was not horrid, but it was mediocre. There were vegetables and seafood, as one might presume. Samosas, which ordered as starter, were ice in the middle. It took 7.3 years to get second glass of wine (which one needs when one has had icy samosas which have sat on one’s table uneaten for 30 minutes). Meal took two hours, and not in a pleasant Italian way. Thank God, I had a book to read, although am sure I looked a right git.

One additional problem I have with the world is with the way that restaurant staff sometimes treat individual diners. This will be fodder for a future rant, but I suppose I can save rant for later.

To console self after disgruntled dinner, have ordered London Crumble and large milk from room service. They have also brought me an apple and a piece of chocolate.

I love Hilton properties!

Moving on.

Saturday, 24 March, morning time
(see below for explanation of time confusion)

Decision: Adelaide is my favourite city on this trip.

Virgin Blue experience yesterday much less traumatic than Sunday flight. However, flight was late due to ill passenger on previous flight. Hope was not sitting in her seat on the way to Adelaide. Will not think of this. Collected at airport by Driver. This is my first time to have descended escalator to find someone with my surname on a sign awaiting my arrival. Ought to have worn sunglasses and perhaps subtle headscarf so as to appear more glamorous. Visited two universities (and also had second Driver!) and attempted to pull intelligent and observant conversation out of insufficiently caffeinated brain. At least I have a nice smile. And a generally good personality.

Adelaide has less severe drought (although there are water restrictions and there is a drought definitely) and the city is greener than Canberra, Sydney or Melbourne. Am not sure of my prior awareness of the fact that, similar to Tornado Season or Hurricane Season – and perhaps Duck Season – in Louisiana, there is actually a Fire Season in dry places in the world! This is interesting. It is good to notice what different things there are to worry about in different locales.

Yesterday, the rain came with me to Adelaide and it rained all afternoon. Once I managed to get inside and out of completely drenched clothes and heels, this was marvelous. Prior to this, while amusing in a way, I had been slightly concerned about the health of my new cute heels, which are, after all, only less than two weeks old since they were part of my jetlagged shopping expedition finds.

Unfortunately, I am unable to recommend the Mercure Grosvenor Hotel as a suitable lodging. Since my room was located on the second floor, down several shady turns of halls, THROUGH a door and stairwell of what was obviously another building, and down some even dodgier hallways, smelling strongly of paint, dust, and humankind in general – ick (let us keep in mind that I was hauling, in addition to my attire and electrical equipment, at least 20 lbs. of brochures), this displeased me. I did not bathe there and am now waiting for my room at my new hotel to be ready so as to remove myself from current membership status amongst The Great Unwashed. After mentally steeling myself from skin crawling sensation (this could have been less my psychic fortitude than pure exhaustion), I did manage to pass out for a two-hour nap in the rainy afternoon, and that was lovely.

At darkish, ventured out in search of food. Turned wrong way down main street (directional skills impaired by dodgy hallway traversing and solely rain-washed hair), it began to rain. Walked approx. 15 minutes in wrong direction, partly not wanting to turn around and walk back past a loiterer dressed in black gangsta clothes, but finally was forced to as it was spitting down pretty fairly by that point. Managed to locate really yummy Thai place – Mekong Thai Restaurant – and had enjoyable seafood Phad Thai noodles (mussels, squid, prawns, plus tofu since I requested it), followed by dessert of palm seeds and coconut milk with basil in it. Could not taste basil, but it was an interesting concoction – v. good before sleep. V. attentive service, magnanimous variety, and magazines for sole diners (such as moi).

This morning, was up literally at crack of dawn to move to Hilton. Hoorah! As well, this fitted neatly into plan to breakfast at Central Market, since market is RIGHT BEHIND hotel! Much amusement has been afforded various male handlers of my luggage this morning. Had best taxi driver, Jonas, who told me that I ought to go and see The Old Gumtree on my expedition to Glenelg (beach) this afternoon. This is where The Proclamation was signed, in 1939 I think, and is where Adelaide history begins. Adelaide is the only planned city in Australia (although I thought Canberra claimed that, too, but could be wrong) and is set out on fantabulous grid system – grids make me happy. As well, this is the only Free City in Australia (not settled by convicts).

Interesting thing about roofs in Oz, which have maybe forgotten to mention before – there are very few shingled houses here. Most roofs are slate, or terra cotta tiles, or corrugated tin. Roof lines are diversely textured and make for a lovely compliment to unique blends of architecture.

Here is another mind-stretching fact about Adelaide… it is in a different time zone from Sydney and Melbourne. Okay, fair enough. But the time difference is HALF an hour behind! Do What? Tonight is Daylight Savings Time and they are falling back an hour. Hoorah for more sleep!

Am sitting in Central Market amusing self with: people-watching; food and flat white (yummy coffee) consumption; postcard writing; playing on computer like complete American; and IFSS: Intriguing-Food Sight-Seeing. Have consumed half of delectable Russian Omelette accompanied by three Russian salads. One salad is made of beet root. It took me about 10 minutes to overcome marvel at Russian omelette possessing texture of pancake – thought, ‘Wow! They must do something really interesting to make the egg so fluffy on the bottom’. This was, in fact, because there WAS a pancake underneath the omelette. I should drink more coffee now.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Winds-day and Thirst-day

9.35pm – Wednesday 21 March
Poor Judith. I have just phoned my mama at 5am her time – tee hee hee. Was just so excited to get internet back that couldn’t contain self. She was admirably coherent and as per her generally talkative nature very well suited to have a chat. And much more cordial than I would have been were some idiotte to phone me in the middle of the night.

5.04pm – Thursday 22 March
Wow – an inside fair today! And there was much rejoicing in my head. Got no sunburn (although left arm slightly pink from taxi ride). Have scheduled rest time between fair and dinner event this evening. This involves a 1 hour commute both ways, which is slightly silly, and I ought to be packing for 9am flight tomorrow… instead, am blogging. Yes. Always logical is Amrie.

Fair today had over 2,000 students and it was, needless to say, quite tiring, although it is quite energising to be in an active environment rather than a dead one. Obviously.

New plants noticed: hibiscuses (or is that hibisci?) – they are massive trees like crepe myrtle size! Birds of Paradise. And, maybe mentioned earlier in blog that there are thousands of species of eucalyptus – there is one that smells just like citronella, esp. after it rains (it rained on Tuesday, which was very much needed. And it looks like it never rained at all.). It is like walking through lemon air, not just catching a little whiff from one little citronella plant.

Melbourne is in the State of Victoria. Everyone may know this already. However, license plates amuse me in an interested sort of way – some license plates say, ‘Garden State’ (in the US, New Jersey is the Garden State, if memory serves well. This is also a v. good film. And an excellent soundtrack.); some plates say, ‘On the Move’ and this writing is slanty so as to look moving, I suppose; some plates say, ‘The Place to Be’ and this is encouraging as it is good to be in the place where you are, as opposed to being somewhere else. Queensland license plates say, ‘The Sunshine State’ (Florida has this distinction in the US).

Dinner tonight is at the bay, which am looking forward to as have not gotten to see water in Melbourne other than Yarra River so far. However, saw water elsewhere...

Yesterday, though, went on group outing (for fair, of course) to Geelong, which is about an hour south of Melbourne. It is the second largest city in Victoria, but is pretty cosy. There are two campuses of Deakin Uni in Geelong: the one with the winery is Waurn Ponds and the Waterfront campus is ON THE WATER! As one might assume. Sadly, the wine course at Waurn Ponds is being discontinued, which is really a sad thing. The course sounded really interesting involving botany and viticulture. The Waterfront campus is mainly housed in former wool storage houses on the bayfront. As it contains the School of Architecture, the renovation of this space is absol. amazing. Brick walls, diagonal skylight windows along entire length of warehouse space to get southern light only, original wooden floors, and the kicker – sea views on one side. I want to go back to school and be an architect!

Must pack now and be sensible. Third taxi ride of day one hour from now.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

A few days

10.48 am – Wednesday 21 March

Have lost group of other participants in today’s fair as they went to get coffee and I don’t know where as didn’t follow closely enough – tee hee hee. So am having tea and continuing to be vexed by computer problems.

Between Monday morning and Monday evening, the Holiday Inn Melbourne Airport network decided that it no longer allows logging into remote sites (incl. Skype, Google, VPN for my work email). So pretty much all I can do is read the news or perhaps go shopping (oh, probably not since one would have to login to those sites, too, no doubt). It seems completely unreasonable for me to have to pay $1.00 to phone the ISP help desk for the internet problems of the HIMA. It seems further unreasonable that the 24-hour help desk does not return phone calls.

I shall never stay at the HIMA again for these reasons and for a couple of significant others, namely: 1) unreasonable reservation policy preventing ANY alterations, despite the fact that this presumably claims to cater to business travellers; 2) dippy front desk staff who are most unhelpful; and 3) room service – I think deliberately – sending up a Warm Cajun Chicken Caesar Salad instead of the Mediterranean Salad which was ordered. Another rant now follows.

Firstly, exactly how similar do these two menu items sound? Not really so much. Secondly, having returned to the hotel after all day of visiting uni people and schmoozing, meat wasn’t really what I wanted at 10pm, this being my reason for ordering a completely vegetarian salad. Thirdly, it is my opinion that they sent that item up since it was $16 + $4 tray charge being from the Room Service menu instead of the $12.50 + $0 tray charge for the ordered item, it being from the less expensive and smaller proportioned options. Fourthly, the salad was at my door (on the eighth floor we might recall) within, no lie!, 2 minutes of my order – this is alarmingly rapid, esp. considering that there was warm chicken involved. One likes to at least have the illusion of food being freshly prepared, even if one did not want warm meat in the first place. Fifthly, WHAT is the deal with oregano being considered a Cajun spice?

Perhaps all of this whinging is result of my Pomerisationheh heh heh to E. (The term Pom is frequently used by Aussies in reference to Brits, the usual adjectival accompaniment being whinging. There has been extensive discussion involving claims of racism, but this really only adds to the appropriateness of the term.) Really, I am having a lovely time, although at this point am bordering on Fairly Droopy.

Monday, spent day standing in sunshine (no. not a spot of shade in my area), so now have blistered backs of arms, primarily at the top, which is more tender skin area. Additionally, I was not previously aware of the potential for elbows to burn; this has fortunately not been very severe. My red neck from last week is peeling. My plan is to go to Adelaide beach on Saturday and try to recover some semblance of colour uniformity before having to appear in public in lovely pink sleeveless dress on two weeks Saturday. Have balked at recent suggestion that ‘those places that spray you don’t look so bad…’ Such a statement really does not make me excited at the prospect.

Monday evening, lovely dinner at partner university (such a really excellent restaurant – not normal catered food at all! Salmon with asparagus is a far cry from Chicken Cordon Bleu. Wine from one of the universities own wineries is also slightly exotic. I mean, the vineyards at UEA are just so small, you know.). And although did textually berate fellow American in earlier post, she is nice in her own quirky way and we have gotten along fine, which is good since we spent entire day together yesterday.

Tuesday, met American and her students for lunch – slightly concerning student behaviour in relation to intercultural idiocy after their arrival, but perhaps they are learning something. Naturally, the intercultural idiocy involved threats involving police and litigation, etc. Then, both of us visited Deakin Uni – Burwood campus yesterday afternoon, before being escorted to reception at another uni last evening in the city centre. Lovely views of the city at sunset.

Today, into city early for uni transport to Deakin Uni – Geelong (which is in another city about an hour south-ish of Melbourne). Failed to locate wi-fi in vicinity of pick-up location, but am going to try to cope for another two days as will be at hotel in Adelaide on Friday, which will perhaps be more sensible. (although, have heard rumour of coffee shop close to Southern Cross station with FREE wi-fi and may attempt to caffeinate self later so as to score some bandwidth.)

Bloody Americans

10.27pm – Monday 19 March

So, is it just me or is it just Americans who so frequently seem to feel the need to fall into one of two extreme camps with regard to their nationality? One: disavowing their country of origin as quickly as possible to new acquaintances when off national soil; or Two: finding it appropriate (despite it flouting flag etiquette with which I am aware) to don entire outfits consisting of randomly dismembered national banner particles and looking like a Bedazzling adventure gone terribly awry.

Although it will seem that I am indulging in compatriot bashing, I am not. This is merely my observation, albeit not entirely non-judgmental. I must say that I am quite tired of the monotony of listening to people who have such an inferiority complex about where they are from that they cannot refrain from denigrating and disavowing their country within thirty minutes of arriving into a new group. Why can’t one just either a) be normal and a positive representative for their country or b) keep entirely to polite conversation, which upon intial acquaintance should not involve religion or politics, esp. if one is not sufficiently informed to discuss it intelligently. For the record: hysterically and over-eagerly shaming and disclaiming your country to garner acceptance with does not constitute intelligent discussion. If one has problems with national decisions, one may certainly voice them, ideally naming situations or circumstances in which one may feel (with one's in-depth knowledge of policy, secret intelligence and so forth) an issue of national or international importance might have been handled better. Please give specific examples in discussion.

For example, one might say, for example, ‘It is my opinion that practices at Guantanamo have not adhered to internationally acceptable civilised procedure. Perhaps some different decisions could have been made and maybe justice could have been met in another way.’ (Perhaps one could go ahead here and insert one’s opinion on how, procedurally, they might have differed from the powers that put this unfortunate situation in place. Perhaps one might want to suggest exactly how they would have dealt with someone like David Hicks were they in charge of US national security issues.) Or, in another situation, one might opine, ‘The US population’s mass disregard for environmental frugality is an unfortunate quandary.’ (Here might be a good time to list recent California laws – light bulb manufacturing being a critical one – and how this does or does not affect individual liberties.) It is another matter altogether to claim that, ‘George Bush is the single most evil person on the planet.’

This is good that you are aware that George Bush is the President of your nation and that he is apparently seen as a powerful individual on the planet. However, as flattering as this is to Mr. Bush’s Diabolical Omnipotence, I question the logic that leads one to this conclusion. Let us pretend for a minute that the US President is, in fact, able to control the entire planet.
Let us pretend for a minute that the US President is, oh, so much more than a mere figurehead at all. And, above all, let us pretend that the existential state of being elected to the most diabolical position of worldwide omnipotence (wow. are we talking about Brain here?) endows the person existing as such with absolute infallibility. Yes, you go ahead with your arm-chair quarterbacking. It is really helping! I think things will be so much better now that we have your opinion influencing the world!

It is not my intention to make a political statement here in support of a political side or other. It is my intention to b---- about bloody people who cannot just act normal or have a normal discussion over dinner. Let us not try to demand that others (in a totally separate topic, btw) join your conversation by demanding consensus on the second quotation above (I mean, how American is that!? smirk.).

Let me see, can I think of anyone who would be a contender against the Diabolically Omnipotent Mr. Bush? Hmmm… let’s see. How about Robert Mugabe? (There is actually discuss at the moment in Australia about how the Aussie cricket team playing in Zimbabwe is currying favour and actually in a way supporting Mugabe) How about people who kidnap children from villages and teach them to become killing machines in an exceptionally horrid Stockholm Syndrome? How about looking at any newspaper in the world? Is the D.O.M.B. really the worst individual you can think of? How about instead of distancing yourself from your country and building up stereotypes from within, you try to be an ambassador of goodwill and make an intelligent effort to be a person instead of a vituperative being spouting more foulness into the world. I think we have quite enough already, thank you.

Perhaps readers of other national origins might join this discussion to confess whether they fall into the camp of disavowing their country when in international company or maybe they just got a Bedazzler and are busily embossing flag remnants with jewels and planning to drape them over their bodies. B and I had a sort of discussion concerning issues relating to the first camp once, comparing S. Africa origins to US and getting sh*£ for it, but B doesn’t seem to me to be hysterical – he just lost the accent and the issue doesn’t need to be addressed every time he meets someone new. Or maybe he really does leave the table sometimes to go off and bash his countrymen to random persons at the fruit machine instead of following the brightly coloured lights to riches and fame as we assume he is.

And my final inquiry of the day is: Would sunscreen count as a work expense?

Sunday, 18 March 2007

You can smell eucalyptus trees when the wind blows.

Apparently, today was end of the Grand Prix Weekend. Heard screaming car noises when got off bus in town as echoing through downtown area, but instead of trying to locate origins, meandered down Southbank Promenade to find food and also managed to find Arts Market at end closest to theatres. Self-control (and exhaustion brought about by hunger) allowed me to merely look and touch the yarn without making any purchases. Made up for this disgustingly mature behaviour after lunch at Blue Train Café by having double waffle cone from Trampoline – sesame ice cream is FANTABULOUS!

Lunch involved no beetroot but rather salmon pasta with sundried tomatoes, asparagus and parmesan. Lovely Shiraz Cabernet with cherry flavours. Water served in clear glass bottle (tap water) with rubber swing stopper – like a Grolsh bottle. Think this is good idea – so’s you can drink all the water you want and out of a cool bottle. I am so easily influenced. Blue Train Café is upstairs with nice breezy balcony, food is good, service leaves a bit to the imagination. Order was taken by normal person, but everything brought to my table was thrown at me by sulky lip-pierced guy with those little wisps of hair 'casually' drifting across face. This annoyed me.

Sat on bench next to Yarra River, which runs though Melbourne (this was surprise as thought there was only ocean water here) and read until two people felt need to sit at other end of my bench despite there being loads of other benches. In addition to trains and busses, there are trolleys and trams in Melbourne – we shall see if can figure this out.

Highway into city from airport is eight to ten lane and smooth the whole way. Landscape quite brown away from the city, but greener as you get closer in. Although was not moved to tears by the sight, there was Ferrari display inside Crown Towers. They were very red, very pretty, and very well-guarded by Chubb security :) Crown Towers is part of massive complex with hotel, casino, designer shopping and posh restaurants along the river.

More disjointedness

Roight. So it is now 1042am Sunday. Flight was 20 minutes late departing, so shall be utterly famished by time get to Melbourne (esp. as nothing is complimentary on VirginBlue. Nothing. Well, unless you want to count the lifevest with light and whistle under your seat.).

Anyhoo, glad decided to take taxi rather than train to airport, because, in addition to interesting conversation with Chinese driver re: politics in Australia and how unfortunate historical situation is esp. in comparison with European and US, utter chaos reigned when got to departures terminal. So there were just hundreds of people standing in vague queues of unmarked purpose everywhere and a poor VB employee (just one) running back and forth screaming for people needing to be on flights departing within the next 10 minutes – the airport will not allow them to have bullhorns: for some safety reason, no doubt, despite the horrific damage this poor girl is doing to her voice. She should make a good piano bar singer in a few years. Passengers kindly help each other to know what to do, as every wave of people entering the terminal quickly take on frantic confused look and start meandering in 3-step vacillating movements left and right.

So, upon entering the Commonwealth of Chaos, one eventually discovers that one must dodge through the queue to get to the little check-in machines to get boarding pass first and then join queue to drop bags. Very friendly employees (once you reach end of snaking poles-and-straps holding you in place) and was not even charged for overweight baggage! (Definitely glad took second large suitcase to HI-Sydney Airport last evening to leave until return next Monday, so as to only have one to manoeuvre.) Security v. simple once again in refreshing sort of way. Airport has built runway jetties out similar to Vancouver – this is interesting. Actually good leg-room for budget airline, and my knitting needles were inspected and approved as they are bamboo. Clever guy said, 'You've done your research, now, haven't you?' I simpered back that, yes, indeed I had... whatevah.

My recommendation is definitely to fly Qantas rather than VirginBlue if option presents itself, as it is only slightly more expensive (if at all).

Yesterday’s excursions were quite successful and am proud of bravery in taking so many busses this week and not doing too badly, although did manage to get stuck in rain shower of Florida/Louisiana proportions – thought had done good thing in getting on bus from Circular Quay just as drips began, but as bus turned off sooner than anticipated, I debarked in the middle of nowhere (well, not really, just by Fox Studios and the rugby stadium), no bus shelter, walked to bus shelter going opposite direction to find it was only for school (grrr), but then figured it out by the time was soaked through, caught correct bus (back across street), and then it stopped raining. Naturally.

As had been searching for place to eat since brunch time, stopped and had lovely sidewalk sit-down ‘gourmet’ burger at place called Fellini’s, close to Potts Point. Now, some individuals with whom some of us are acquainted would be reviled at the notion of ‘gourmet’ being attached to this cunning concoction – burger with egg and beetroot (hee hee) and barbeque sauce! Coriander and such mixed into burger itself – it was sooooo good! Had nice Shiraz from SE to go with it and read newspaper about new Marilyn FBI files, which seem to be causing a gooddeal of excitement.

However, what makes me joyful (well, among many things) is yarn (wool)! But perhaps we should go in a sort of order of yesterday.

Began day by walking to Oxford Street, which is reputedly red-light district at night but with cunning shops in daytime, but saw nothing shady in the part I walked down. Lots of boutiquey places. Bought some classic Australian children’s books: Cuddlepie and Snugglepot and The Muddle-headed Wombat (this character looks rather like Paddington Bear). And made way further down to Paddington Market.

This market is on Saturdays only and caters more to local people than market in The Rocks, by Harbour Bridge. Artists, vintage clothing, boutique clothing, coffees and teas, glassmakers, organic cosmetics, incense, food, wine, fresh flowers, and even a couple of little girls – one of whom played the violin and the other who was just drawing or something, with a puppet screen behind them. V. cute. One merchant was selling Shu-shu children’s shoes – the tiniest little differently coloured shoes with designs or plain – the table sitting there with tiny leather shoes lined up was just so precious, but she rathered I not take a photo. It made me think of some fairy tale setting in my imagination (cannot think of exactly it) involving a shoemaker.

From Paddington, dropped stuff at hotel and headed toward York Street for venture into wool shop. And she was happy for quite a while! Feel was sensible in purchases and should be commended for this.

Market at The Rocks is very nice as well, but absol. rammed with tourists. Additional activity yesterday rendered by St. Patrick’s Day (or as Keith referred to St. Guinness Day) – never seen so many people in absurd amounts of green.... must put comp up for landing now. Flight was only 1 hour, although 1h30m had been set aside on my booking. Could this signify Aussie planning ahead for delays? hmmm...

2.23pm – arrived in sunny Melbourne, settled into 8th floor room and watched half of bad Aussie surfer movie, so now think should go in search of sustenance. After figure out how to get into city… there are no trains from a’port – grrrr.

Much cooler here, so no need for me to have worried about not having overly summery clothes for trip :)

Saturday, 17 March 2007

Sydney Bridge b-day!

8.01 am (it is Sunday here)

Thousands of people are now migrating toward the Sydney Bridge at the moment. 200,000 are expected to walk across the bridge today in celebration of its 75th birthday. My plan, though, is to go the opposite direction toward the airport as am flying to Melbourne this morning.

Maybe can write more when get to airport…

Friday, 16 March 2007

Like A Herd of Turtles little knitted jumpers, we venture forth.

WoolWorks listings -- two shops will be investigated today and have also begun strategic planning for Melbourne and Adelaide as well

There is a famous Aussie knitter, Prudence Mapstone, site: KnotJustKnitting

And this is just a neat blog, SistahCraft and has links on the side for Knitting Addiction Help -- tee hee
12.25 pm – Friday 16 March

Sydney is getting ready for St. Paddy’s Day, although I don’t know if they will be turning the Harbour green….

Cannot believe it is Friday already, and also feel that it could not have come sooner as am still pretty tired and don’t think another day of frantic running would have done any good for my poor feet. Have been worried that the fact my bag was empty meant that my marbles were lost. But this is apparently okay, so we will proceed. Students met today told me that it took them about a week to get over the jetlag – so will not be insanely concerned by the fact that I tend to crash out between 7.30 and 8 every night. No need for hypochondria.

In a bit of better mood than last night after return from 15 hour day :) Mood did get slightly worse when discovered that maids had thoughtfully removed my second half of my banana… but this was deemed small inconvenience after taking my vitamins.

Now, to resume observations and descriptions from the mind of Bonnie Blue: firstly, to talk plants – there are lots of familiar plants growing wild (which is not unusual really except for the vast distance away from other habitats). Lantana, cannas, oleanders, bougainvillea, the occasional crepe myrtle, red bottle-brush plants (although those may not be native to Louisiana – might be the Master Gardners who I house-sat for that have given me this skewed awareness), There are apparently hundreds of varieties of eucalyptus tree, and also a similarly confusing number of types of tea tree! Who knew? Naturally, loads of palms and pampas grasses and spiky Florida-type things. Pine trees are wispier and have massive cones.

There are these interesting pines which remind me of Monkey Puzzles, but are cone-shaped – they are Norfolk Island Pines. These are from (shockingly) Norfolk Island. And the reason we should know about Norfolk Island is that this is where Spencer Christian (mutineer from The Bounty) settled. Was pleased to be able to say that was aware of The Mutiny on the Bounty as my Daddy had me watch it when was impressionable youngster :) This made me less of the clueless American.

Tuesday Trip to Newcastle (or actually in Newcastle, since already described trip up sort of) was interesting. This was one of the first locations settled by convicts (actually maybe the first) and is also still the largest coal exporting port in the world! There were masses of boats sitting out off the coast waiting to be allowed into port. Coal comes from the Hunter Valley, I think. Newcastle is lovely city, smaller, but amazingly gorgeous beaches and fantastic waves. There was a surfing event there, which is being held in the gap between professional event in Queensland a couple weeks ago and professional event in Melbourne two weeks from now. So may have seen famous surfers but had no idea of this, and so life goes on. N. is apparently unusual in its preserving coastal areas for residential properties and much of that is established family homes rather than apartment blocks and unfortunate developments that spoil the view. Close call catching train back (Aussies are pretty lax about worrying about precise times), but made it – thank God, as I was about to collapse.

Oooh, and Newcastle was also a WOOL port in the past. Have been informed of existence of local wools… !

Wednesday spent back in Sydney at Macquarie Uni and then took bus back into city so as to ride over The Bridge! Naturally seated on wrong side of bus and have sad photos of Opera House through bridge railings flashing past. But it was still fun. There was a small amusement as bus pulled into lay-by off the freeway and parked behind two other busses. Then all the drivers switched places after about 5 minutes and then bus proceeded into city. Quelle confusion.

Canberra was very different colour (dusty) than Sydney (green) in that is much drier (due to drought) and vegetation is kind of like Central Texas summertime (but prob. no cacti), having to make do in sandy/rocky soil. Sydney and along the coast during first part of flight, much much greener and as soon as you get past Sydney limits, the ground starts this wavy hill texture covered with trees and with rivers heading to the sea. This gradually turns to mountains, with cliffs along much wider rivers and the weirdest thing is that in a cloudless sky below the plane, there are massive pillows of solid cloud (that is an oxymoron if ever I saw one) nestled between mountains and which do not extend higher than the tops of the mountains. Most of trip is over green mountains and then land flattens toward farmland as approach Canberra. Immediately past mountains is still green, but gets dustier the closer to Canberra you get. And it was certainly hotter sitting in the sun yesterday than walking in Sydney – felt like vexed crispy cactus plant. Today, feel like cooked-until-tender cactus plant, but we shan’t dwell… There are road signs with a little hopping silhouette warning motorist to slow for next 4km due to kangaroos – tee hee hee. Saw no roos, though.

Am maintaining my approachable aura, apparently. Have provided assistance of various types to at least one person a day since Honolulu – ranging from helping children find way out of airport to informing Phillipine lady of which train to take from Redfern station and when to debark (and who has grand plans of visiting me in Norwich when she visits UK at undetermined date in future). It is a good thing to be helpful. There ought to be more helpfulness in people so as to give good energy into the world.

And then sometimes, approachableness serves no purpose per se, but may provide one with amusing conversation during boring walk through airport and on train – met CompSci PhD candidate named Peter with daughter named Katharine (sp?) who is moving to Melbourne sometime between April and July to begin research post. Conversation began with his noticing red V inescapable at a glance and horror that I reached burned state in 32*C sunshine whilst ‘working’; was amused by my attempting to sell Norwich as prime destination for students; also likes Yes, Minister, and quoted it several times, but which I have shamefully never seen.

Have noticed that Aussies like their cars quite a bit – not, perhaps, as much as Americans. There is good public transport here in my easily-amazed Yank opinion even though every single native I have met whinges about how horrid it is and how sorry they are that I had to use it. And did you know (according to rail service propaganda sign) that one 8-car train removes 2000 cars from the road? Of course, there are small issues that could deter public usage, such as the recent rail haltage which left commuters underground – no water, no toilets and in locked cars nonetheless – for THREE hours! One person had a fit – a medical one, not one of pique. That was the evening that I headed back to hotel early and am quite glad, although think ‘delay’ was on different line.

Also, would like to commend sensibility of internal flying experience. There is no hysteria over liquids; people can accompany loved ones to gate area; just general calm. AND when is the last time you were offered a complimentary cocktail or glass of lovely Australian vintage on a domestic flight? (Do I hear crickets chirping?) As if this weren’t enough, both of my flights yesterday involved a SNACK – 7.40am = muffin, dried apricots, water and another beverage; 7.30pm = six crackers/biscuits, nacho sauce and, although this doesn’t exactly match gastronomically, a chunk of camembert, water and vino (well, my choice was vino) – and the pm flight was a 30-minute flight! V. acceptable, I must say.

This afternoon, have grand plan (after silly meeting which is not scheduled to end til 4pm) of taking ferry to Manley and having lovely dinner there in beach front establishment of some sort. V. pleased to have week travel pass as provides ability to toodle. And we all know how much I enjoy toodling!

Things I must do:
* locate wedding pressie of exotic Oz origin, but which is practical and useful. At this point neither a boomerang nor a kangaroo skin is not in the top 10, but…
* locate wool merchant selling yarn of local origins
* find local markets for tomorrow excursion
* determine plan for tomorrow as last day ‘in’ Sydney
* buy more bananas
* sleep

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Little Miss Knackered Sunshine

After so proudly writing to my mama about how good I have been in staying out of the sun and attempting to prevent skin cancer, my table at an exchange fair today was IN THE FLIPPING SUN! And I was sat at this table from, oh, 11am to 2.30pm (this being the best time to make Amrie look like over-poached egg and add a nice red V to her chest. And also to bring out the red-neck. tee hee hee). This situation slightly annoys me and I cannot decide whether one ought to try to add more skin surface area colour outside the V, or whether to see if it will fade in time for the wedding... Oooooh, how vexing. Why did the French people get a tent? grrrrr...

And to top it off, my Chicken and Prawn Nasi Goreng has dark meat in it and parts that look bouncy attached to the dark chicken pieces. My nose is crumpled in additional vexation.

Other than these small items, having good time. Blisters are healing slowly. Am not drinking enough water. Flew to Canberra for the day today (on 7.40 am flight and returned on the 7.30pm -- this adding to my already knackered, poached-egg style mental state) and it is really lovely. V. much drier than Sydney -- they have been in drought for 5 years! Note for future: if staying at Holiday Inn Potts Point, not recommended to use airport shuttle. Was going to leave fates to the trains this a.m. (despite a horrid tangle involving commuters last night stuck underground for 3 hours...), but concierge suggested that I might ought to consider the shuttle. Now, most people would think 'Hmm. Shuttle goes to airport, so this is good.' and most of those people would assume that this means 'direct', even in an indirect interpretation of a route. One does not generally think of 'direct' symbolising driving further into town from the airport (shuttle driver turning off Pour Some Sugar on Me -- which I was rather enjoying -- and vociferously and vigourously talking into his radio in an language with a lot of glottal throat sounds), parking outside a dodgy hostel and sitting there for 15 minutes. Fortunately, there were 5 other people in the shuttle and we did eventually head to the airport, but this was also vexing today.

Anyhoo, am now v. v. tired and must collapse self into bed. Have crashed out well before 10pm every night so far. Also, still vexed at this dark chicken meat...

Perhaps tomorrow, shall write more and also more coherently and informatively.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Bonnie Blue Down Under

Well, this is the beginning of the adventure (rawther, this is what I have so far):

Friday started slightly earlier than my custom. Toodled along Bluebell Road in the icky mist at 3.15 am, collected luggage and then sat underneath the overhang at the Climatic Research Centre and waited for bus (slight nervousness as bus was late and was beginning to think that was supposed to catch it from elsewhere, but it eventually arrived). Slept most of way to Heathrow and woke up approx. 4 minutes before arrival (clever internal clock).

Air Canada makes you check yourself in at a little computer screen (this concluded after 5 minutes of wandering around Section D). After being instructed to turn passport upside down for verification of my person in the machine, delivered baggage to counter person. Who gave me varying information regarding the presence/absence/next-day-existence of my flight and told me what a wonderful time she had had in County Galway, Ireland when she lived there as well as commentary on Knock Airport :) Following inquiry from myself regarding my short time in Vancouver and concern about customs procedures, herself and another helpful lady confused me even further, resulting in my plan to just go with the flow and whatever. This is generally a good plan…

Exciting 3 ½ hours past security in Heathrow. Second time I have been requested to remove jewellery (slightly stupid in my opinion), but managed to skirt around the random ‘please have your shoes x-rayed for further discomfort and inconvenience’ section by not making eye contact with the guy selecting people and appearing really interested in Perfume World on the opposite side.

For some reason, have developed habit of being unable to correctly read seat numbers and so had to be asked to move by some vexed French people (sorry! gaaaah!). Ended up next to v. charming gentleman, Mr. D. Saxon, from Vancouver (originally born in Yorkshire and family still there, although he has lived in Canada for 27 years and was returning from mother’s 80th birthday celebration), so moving was actually good – except that conversation prevented my staring from my window seat at the landscape during either take-off or for the next four hours.

Developed fairly severe crick in neck from turning to left. Discussion topics included: the travesty of UK car rentals; extreme lack of road signs in Britain; how unfortunate his childhood locale has become; nutritional horrors of British food, esp. breakfast; his travels from Dubai to Australia to Asia to Mexico; the climate; energy usage; his 13 year old daughter; knitting; his 16 year old son; his wife; their dog; American’s lack of knowledge of their own country; and, naturally, American lack of knowledge of the world; British media; British television; television in general; how silly Europeans are to be alarmed by guns in US and Canada, when there is such significant violence person-on-person in Britain; pros and cons of the pub culture; rugby v. footie; places to eat in Vancouver when I return in September; and many other exciting and intriguing topics J V. fun person to sit next to.

Although, whilst I personally enjoyed visiting, the woman in front of him felt the need to turn around about 30 minutes into the flight and ask him to keep it down (sour old cow); we were both rather vindicated when later in the flight a group of boisterous mid-twenties guys were shouting and interrupting her reading. She did not, however, ask them to keep it down (shrew).

This flight, similar to January, took us over Arctic and was v. interesting to look at amazing canyons and fissures and tracks of ice flows.

Arrival in Vancouver (v. nice airport, btw) involved fast-walking to customs; then re-direction to US Customs (? whatever); then ‘collection’ of baggage - quotation used here since only one bag came through the connecting flight re-claim area (and that 15 minutes prior to flight departure); then second US customs checkpoint; then re-checking of baggage onto conveyor belt (all four of preceding locations within twenty feet of each other – terrific goat-roping waste of energy and not contributing to security in any way I can tell); then the joy of re-entering secure area, along with 150 other people, and from which vantage point was able to spy second suitcase (containing all of my work clothes) on arrivals carousel on bottom floor; exit from security (successful) at 5 mins prior to flight departure; helpful airport people, though, were walkie-talkie-ing to flight so it wouldn’t leave without myself and about 20 others trying to do this ridiculous change-over; then ran a mile to flight and collapsed into lovely emergency exit row seat – fabulous to have some leg room for exquisitely long flight.

Again, good seat mate – lady named Seema, originally from Pakistan and who now lives in Toronto. Excellent chat with her for couple of hours before we both kind of ‘slept’ after our meals. Flight landed in Honolulu; forced off of plane with all carry-ons and into terminal (although not allowed to remain in waiting area for 15 minutes for some daft reason). Airport is open! It was humid and warmish, but it had rained and was breezy. 9.45pm local time, but 8.30am in UK (I think) on the Saturday morning, approaching 30 hours of travelling time for my poor brain. Allowed back in waiting area and then finally onto plane, whereupon, were served sad little snack and after re-outfitting myself in eye cover, blanket (Air Canada likes to keep you frigid) and earplugs, promptly passed out again. Woke 4am Sydney time and stayed awake for rest of trip to 6.20am arrival.

Australia is exceedingly concerned about customs and foreign items entering their country. After arrival at the gate, we all had to stay in seats while cabin crew opened overhead bins and sprayed something in throughout the entire plane (this leads me to great concern for persons with perhaps a respiratory sensitivity or allergies). While whatever this nonsense was settled into our lungs and belongings, we had to sit there for 5 minutes before being allowed to deplane. Immigration v. smooth, lots of small sniffing doggies everywhere wearing little maroon uniforms. Following this, stood next to incorrect baggage carousel for about 15 minutes before realising was supposed to be in entirely different section altogether. Sniffy dogs all over the place here as well, and one dog located banana in an elderly lady’s bag and got to play fetch with it as reward. By the time I got to correct area, it wasn’t terribly exciting, as my clothing bag had apparently not been rescued in time by Vancouver ground people (although they did give it a good try) and was still there on a short holiday. Customs rather more intensive, similar to security checkpoints, but I was fortunate in only having some chocolate and so was allowed through without having my bags searched.

Figured out train (hoorah!), bought week-long pass for red and green zones, and dragged self to hotel. No room in the inn (the Holiday, that is), and was directed to shopping centre for purpose of acquiring clothing for appointments yesterday. And ridiculous things like shampoo, contact solution, brush, etc. So much fun. Esp. when one’s brain slightly delayed-reactionish due to something approaching 48 hours without real rest J Have lovely red Chinese-type top, black trousers, new underpants, blue and white striped pyjamas with hyper flower design and two pairs of shoes (one for pending wedding requirements). Also bought some milk, because at this point, well, I needed some! (Air Canada’s milk leaves a great deal to be desired.)

Room finally ready upon return, bathed and drank milk out of carton, talked to E so’s he could be jealous of gorgeous weather and temperatures, and passed out about 4pm. Woke only to eat and talk on Skype a bit more and returned to sleep – this seems to have prevented jet lag, so quite pleased with that.

At moment (Tuesday morning, 8.48am), am on three-hour train to Newcastle for a visit to University of Newcastle. Have managed to spill coffee on gift wrapped item for colleague, but other than that fairly good trip. …until 59 seconds ago, when realised was supposed to change trains here in Gosford to get to Newcastle as my train was returning to Sydney (all the people getting on were turning the seats back around to face the other direction)! Moral: It is good to talk to little elderly ladies :) Dear me – heart pounding, as that would have been ridiculous event. Fortunately, they pointed me to train on opposite platform! Whew – breathe. Breathe…

Yesterday, visited the University of Technology Sydney (which is a very modern and glass architecture urban campus -- kind of similar to UEA in some of its design) and then had late afternoon to toodle down to Darling Harbour and do a little relaxed investigating of area around Chinatown (the whole time I thought I was actually IN Chinatown, not realising was just walking the perimeter until heading back to station for train back to hotel – grrrr. However, this gives me a place to go back to on Friday afternoon and/or Saturday.). There is a really larger multi-national Asian population here than I expected. V. interesting.

Saw bizarre birds (although no kookaburras). City feels quite comfortable. Attire extremely relaxed. School uniforms – some are normal plaid skirt/white blouse combos and then some are these little shirt-waisted dresses (kind of like little housemaid outfits – not seedy ones, but ones in old movies) People quite friendly.

Architecture I would attempt to define as Victorian Colonial, but have no idea if this is just stupid. Older buildings lovely, but in a stern and purposeful sort of way, not grand and elegant. In the older sections of town, there are terraced houses, but they just look blockier than in UK and quite similar to, say, St. Thomas or something like. Colourful stuccos, quite a few with balconies. Away from the city centre, there are a good deal more detached houses and there is a lot of green throughout the city. It is approaching autumn, but to me weather feels like California – not too humid, breezy from the ocean and perfect temperature. GORgeous flowers and lots of tropical trees, too. How do pigeons get everywhere on this planet? Seagulls are smaller here than the steroid-ones in Cardiff.

Today’s train ride has shown rocky, mountainish (this is a step-down from ‘mountainous’ in classification) landscape, really interesting smooth-barked twisty trees (maybe these are eucalyptus?) and these weird black nesty-looking things in some trees. Do not look like bird nests, but more like some sort of horrid insect. Have gone over quite a few waterways as well and seen lots of marinas. Trains are quite clean, although lack of tables is a little disappointing.

In the tourist shops, there are kangaroo skins for sale. You can also eat kangaroo – there are apparently a lot of them and they are farmed for meat. Trains have three levels on them and seat backs can be moved to face direction of train. Stand/walk/drive to left and pass on right. Clouds are up in sky at ‘normal’ height to me. If you ask for a coffee, people look blank; if you say ‘just plain brewed coffee with milk’ they look at you like you asked for a kilo of crack (I know this from my frequent requests for kilos, you know) – if one wants a regular coffee, one requests a ‘flat white’ and one gets a cappuccino, basically. They are really quite lovelier than plain coffee anyway J

OH MY GOSH – I think I just saw a small kangaroo out the train window!!!!! I may faint now. Okay will stop writing now and make self dizzy and sickly trying to see everything out of window. Or maybe it was a dingo; at least I don’t have a baby… hahahaha. (‘Maybe a dingo ate your baby…?!?!?’ for those of you who may miss this reference and become concerned for my mental health. Again.)

[At this point, I must retire to read myself to sleep, as it is now nearly 9pm. Only returned from Newcastle at 8, complete with my new friends: 3 blisters on left heel. Posting previously composed item and locating a few amusing links has wearied me. More tomorrow :0]

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Gabriel Albano

AND..... Maurizio and Kath's baby has arrived (yesterday) at 7 lbs. and his name is Gabriel!

Maurizio was so shocked this morning when I called him, as he had no idea how I found out. But the news had first gone to Japan (to Hiroko, who was online yesterday when he first got home) and then to me this morning :) Tee hee hee -- the wonders of technology! Which then proceeded to drop me and my mama's conversation no fewer than 5 times during 45 minutes today... grrrrr.

Crazy people and trips

Crazy people not encountered on actual trip of holiday sort or in chemically induced state (caffeine does not count).

Yes, v. pleased with self for successful deduction of origin of anonymous package :) Merci beaucoup, Matthew :)

Find myself in quandry of intellectual awareness of need to sleep and absolute inability to do so. At least am not grinding teeth in display of tension, but brain refuses to stop spinning around making sure that everything has been thought of and worrying about falling asleep so soundly and missing 4am coach. Have set three alarms on my phone for extraordinarily loud tone at 15 minute intervals, beginning at 2.15am, so likelihood of above happening v. slim indeed. So why won't brain cooperate? Have drunk nearly all milk so as not to waste valuable dairy products (leaving small amount for 2.15am tea) and consumed half 300g bag of dried cranberries, (intended for sustenance on coach ride and absurdly long wait at Heathrow before flight). Now, I shall probably have to indulge in some sort of chocolate nourishment from duty free.

Glorious day today! And the thing about glorious days is that it brings the nutters outside as well :) Bussed into city this morning (had day out of office as travel preparation and 'rest' day, the latter of which is obviously NOT happening) to run some errands; after writing some cards in Starbucks to go with packages which should have been sent long ago (but which posting depended oddly enough on being paid first), watched people while finishing grande coffee in manner of leisured person able to spend weekday as one pleases.

Until I noticed an elderly little man across Gentleman's Walk from the Starbucks (in questionable state of cleanliness and quite tatty), dancing around to music emanating from small tape player (with attached extra speakers set on two stacks of six plastic boxes) -- with HAND PUPPETS (in equal state of tattiness and questionable cleanliness). One puppet was a dog and the other was a duck. The duck appeared to be wearing a hat. At this point, my attitude lost its calm and sophistcated aloofness and turned instead to infantile staring through window at this spectacle (and I texted some people in my amusement). Periodically, Dancing Man would stop and rub his nose with one or other of the hand puppets (justifying prejudice against his state of cleanliness). The whole thing was just rawther alarming. Dawn, E and Steffi replied that they told me not to leave Cardiff and E got large laugh out of saying this is just 'Normal for Norfolk'. Wish terrifically that had picture of this scene (although it wouldn't do justice), and had brought camera with me with great plans for taking photo of city walls from upper deck of bus as entered city centre. Had perfect seat on bus (the front left aisle up top and no one else up there to make me feel self-conscious for being goofy and taking pictures). Gorgeous day... and no bloody battery (it was being recharged overnight for upcoming venture). V. vexed with this situation. So bought some yarn. Although this was actually one of my errands as is part of a project... really!

Had to leave town and Dancing Man to devices sadly. Since had day-pass for bus, decided to de-bark (i love that word) on Unthank Road as there are some interesting shops there, and on way in had seen intriguing looking dress which would never wear but looked fun anyhoo in window of charity shop. Emerged from charity shop with brand new £44 pair of Gap summery trousers (with tags still on, £5) and nice Laura Ashley black dress (also summery -- reasons for this being that only have wintery clothes in Norwich and am going to summer locale for next two and a half weeks) and some books (d'accord).

Returned home again, home again, jiggetty jig. Threw remaining items into bag to check and repaired to office to meet quickly with Mark, collect suitcase of materials, and deliver both bags to security lodge on campus (to vexation of aggrieved man who didn't think that was a good idea, although it was allowed because 'Pete' or someone told me it was okay the other day, since security is not going to want to be roused to let me into The Registry at 3.30am, now are they?). Walked down by body of water -- not sure if it is lake or river -- on The Broad, which is on my walk home and sat in sunshine on fallen tree. Saw no hedgehogs in crisis, but did see some slugs. Ewww.

Made it home and am completely ready for trip and not tired at all, although have now spent approximately 4 hours pretending to be :)

Plan for trip is as follows
may not have will or ability to blog until I am in Sunday, 11 March):
3.30 am -- collect luggage from security
4.05 am -- coach from UEA
8.30 am -- arrive Heathrow
1.30 pm -- fly to Vancouver
3.45 pm -- arrive Vancouver (local time)
5.00 pm -- fly to Sydney
6.20 am -- arrive Sydney (without having a 10 March at all -- this whole concept amuses and thrills me for some reason)
6.30 am -- figure out how the heck to get on local time so as to work productively :)

V. excited about first work trip and hope I get back into the swing of recruiting. Hopefully, being so close to a beach will help!

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Hedgehog crisis!

Seriously! There is a hedgehog crisis due to the exceptionally warm winter this year. Hedgehogs are coming out of hibernation early (who knew they hibernate! how cute!) but are at risk of starving to death because their food sources, namely slugs, etc. are not around yet due to a few frosts. So, if you see a hedgehog in crisis in your garden, you are supposed to make a Crisis Transport for it (this involves box with shredded newspaper and a hotwater bottle wrapped in a towel) and take it to your nearest Hedgehog Rescue Centre (an example of this being Prickly Ball Farm in Torquay, which was featured on the morning news). Another way you can help is by setting up a Feeding Station in your garden: dry cat food bowl and water bowl set underneath box with two-inch or so high openings cut into sides. Have looked for hedgehogs in crisis on way to and from work today, but to no avail.

Returned home this evening to find book, The Meaning of Tingo and other extraordinary words from around the world, anonymously mailed to me. However, my sleuthing skills allow me to formulate a suspicion of responsible party using the following:
* Welsh postmark (Post Brenhinol);
* Request from Steffi for address last week (but no post from Steffi);
* Penmanship definitely not Steffi's, but appears more male in style;
* Certain bookish person recommended title several months ago;
* Image of man knitting on page 37, referencing Finnish palindrome:
neulo taas niin saat oluen, which means 'to knit again, so that you will get a beer.'

My psychic reading is that anonymous gifting comes from v. tall person who runs absurd distances regardless of weather, also is a Lemony Snicket fan, as well as having (mostly) hidden fetish for felines with questionable morals. Indubitably a moody Pisces since had birthday involving v. large number last week. V. kind person for sending me a book of more words! Hoorah! THANK YOU! (this will go with me on plane on Friday. more about pending journey tomorrow... IF internet is cooperative.)

Tuesday, 6 March 2007


Now, we all know that Amrie loves her calcium.

BUT, she does not like little crunchy calcium bits in the bottom of her tea cup. She will be investing in a nifty little fine-mesh strainer, she thinks, when she returns from her diverting journey.

Story on the news tonight re: a woman weighing 42 stone. The expert interviewed from the Obesity Awareness Solutions Trust (which, if you switch the letters around, makes the acronym OATS. And if you could add 'The', could spell 'toast' -- tee hee hee), said that obesity is a very complex issue. It is so exceedingly complex that this statement has left me confused. As has the video of the 42-stone woman eating her lunch, which included a large plate of sliced (and, no doubt, buttered) bread.

Sunday, 4 March 2007

a walk to work

Several items have been inquired after regarding what UEA's campus looks like and the overall impression that I have of it. Now that I am on my second dose of over-the-counter paracetamol and my second dose of drugs from the good old US of A (with handy warning that may be habit forming -- let us hope there will be no need for THAT! Although brain suddenly feels a bit loopy, but in a good way. Not in a 'I just had four shots of espresso and am going to climb four flights of stairs' sort of way. That is unpleasant.), I feel it is acceptable for me to sort through some lovely pictures taken of campus this week and explain myself, or at least part of my daily routine.

Firstly, depart house approx. 8.45 am. Turn right out of crunchy gravel drive (have noticed security benefits of having gravel surrounding house, even though live in v. safe area), walk up hill to steps and down steps to South Park Ave. Down Bluebell Road, cross and enter Broad of campus. Here is a picture accidentally taken of v. dignified man who had been serenly walking in front of me until his hat blew off. I am taking short-cut down dirt path instead of going on paved path which winds to right. This cuts off about 4.3 seconds of walking time. V. useful.

Once paved section re-attained , the Broad is to my left (which has been posted previously, but which is just so lovely). In this photo are two ladies walking with their two dogs; closer to water is a flock of seagulls (hahahaha -- Flock of Seagulls). The amusing thing here is that one dog is a Corgi and the other a tall bulldog of some sort. Leg length was really funny to watch as tall dog lope-lope-loping along and Corgi's little legs manically working to keep up like small perambulatory sausage-roll :)

A little ways further, past some little woods, is a parking lot on left (where dignified man is walking) and the path continues slightly uphill into built-up part of campus, with some student housing (next photo) off to right. Wind blows rather fiercely along in here, sometimes making one walk in a drunken diagonal line if not paying attention. Bikers ring their bells if you are in their way. Walk to the left, pass on the right. It also drives me slightly mental that people do not move out of the way of either a) other pedestrians trying to pass or b) bikes. They just determinedly thud along in a three-wide row -- usually girls. Wide being descriptive in more than one way. These girls also generally have jeans so tight that they must walk in pigeon-toed manner. It makes one wonder if there will be a spate of female amputees in a decade or so, due to poor circulation. But enough of that for now.).

Walk through Mall-ish area and have taken photo here of favorite location (Waterstone's bookstore. This is kind of like having a Barnes and Noble on a campus in the US - v. nice! Note to self: need to go and reserve copy of HP7 for July.). Also in this area is: newagent, post office, two banks, a small grocery and the accomodation offices. The glass walkway above goes to the Students' Union, which is to the left. Students' Union has travel agent, coffee shop, pub (on bottom floor) and some other stuff that i don't know about but which produces loud music on Friday evenings.

My overall impression of the campus is rather of The Jetsons. This is not as common a cultural reference here in Britain and E has no idea what I am talking about. What makes it Jetson-like is that there are elevated walkways in the main centre of campus. There are no spaceships, but i still hear 'Whrrrrrr' sounds in my head when walking on them :) This view taken from entry to Vista, which is the staff and student dining facility, and where food is really good and fairly reasonably priced (jacket potato with filling and salad £1.90). There are better examples of walkway complexes, and I shall provide these sometime...

British people have an almost lurid attraction to sunshine (as moths to flame) when they can get it and immediately flock out to soak up as much as possible when it emerges. Being from a part of the world where we are utterly indifferent to sun, this slightly amuses me. This is lunchtime view from top of steps descending next to Waterstones (did I mention it is two stories?!?!) to where earlier photo was taken in morning. Glass building to left has open dining on bottom and first floors, coffee shop on first and Visa on top level. Edge of building to left by steps crowded with people is Students' Union. I think my building (The Registry) is the tallest one behind trees, immediately to right of glass building.

As it is not the most thrilling of architectural achievenments (although there are several buildings of architectural note on the campus -- perhaps a future blog topic). International Office is on third floor (again, that is 4th floor in US parlance), and this is the view from the window right by my desk (well, it is a bit turned and framed, but the other way is a parking lot next the SportsPark -- which is actually the largest sports complex on any university campus in the UK, I think). Is looking at same student residences which are by path through the Broad.

And this is all I got for the mo. People more used to the campus think it is funny that I think things are cool. They think it is concrete and boring.

Oooh, almost forgot! Saw laziest bunny in the world on Friday walk home -- he was lying on his belly, stretched out and eating grass. He let me take a picture but finally got gumption to move when tried to take less blurry by putting camera on ground :)


Have decided to spend Sunday in attempted recovery of small yet surprisingly (not really surprising as has been accumulating energy for a fit for some time) severe pinch in angry nerve between shoulder blades.

Yesterday, had beginning of entertaining venture into town, sensibly returned £49 pair of shoes which feared would make me fall over during walking activities as had found better and more stable pair for £40 anyhoo, and was only striken with sudden switchbutton-like stab in back whilst attempting to ascertain correct blue to match Cardiff Blues colours for certain scarf for certain Blues fan (what yarn? where? scarf? who? NARF!). Possibility of pending faint from pain caused me to set down shopping bag -- which, if we are to be perfectly honest did have 5 books inside, purchased for grand total of £1.25 at PDSA shop (hoorah! such a deal!) -- and do some quick breathing so as not to pass out and alarm nice yarn (wool) lady in Market. Gathered yarn (wool) and repaired self to Caffe Nero, as nearest place for sit-down and warm beverage; stood in absurdly long queue, unable to hold bags continuously; and finally snagged sofa next to upstairs window halfway through coffee when previous occupants left. Lovely view of Market Square.

Texted Sally (from office) and she and Sumiko met me in Caffe Nero. Foolishly made decision to have seconde obscenely large coffee out of 'social necessity' (v. v. foolish since had grande the first time and regular the second. C.N. puts two shots of espresso in each cup = dizziness), this only enhancing fear of fainting over next three hours, as had had no food. After caffeine consumption, talked them into going across Square to Earth from the Air exhibit. Are some new images since last saw it in London Dec. 2005, but I love looking at these images! Sorry for cutting off top of St. Margaret's Church -- as you can see, sky had cleared considerably by this point :)

After this, collected large piece of luggage from Jarrold's (Norwich department store -- luggage belongs to Intl. Office and was being repaired. It is needed to accompany me to Australia, therefore my collecting it.); luggage department is on third floor (fourth floor in US terms) and again felt threat of fainting as walked up stairs as was unable to locate lifts immediately. Notice tendency to breathe really quickly when feel faint and think this probably only compounds problems as could lead to hyperventilation and subsequent fainting, which is what one is trying to avoid in first place... hmm... a quandry. Lift fortunately located next luggage department for exit from store. Groped way back to correct bus stop (no mean feat itself for brain with no comprehension of bus organisation).

Debarked bus at shopping centre halfway home, where have noticed two intriguing charity shops previously (closed on Sundays) and managed to find bowl and grater to serve as utensils for later henna exercise. One of these shops also carries a mediocre selection of yarn (wool) which may come in handy in future.

Upon return home, managed to began work through quite a lot of laundry (not really out of the ordinary, but as am about to be gone for a month, it would not be civilised to return to stale bed linens), made self rice to help blood sugar return to normal and began henna activity. At approximately 11pm, result of five-hour herbal exertions pronounced 'radiant' by E. (not entirely sure if this was because camera allowed visual proof of glamourous appearance or that he was simply relieved by absence of plastic wrap around head punctuated by hair clips. This is no doubt what threw him off and allowed me to win at Yahoo dominoes. Do not fear, though; he recovered enough to beat me soundly and repeatedly at Yahoo WordRacer, which vexed me a great deal.). Am personally pleased with grey reduction in hair colour and except for ridiculous back spasm, feel like much younger person (ha). No doubt shall be forced to fight path through paparazzi on way to work until Friday departure.

Finally, lunar eclipse last night was spectacular! When the moon completely hidden and orange, it looked fake, like a malt ball suspended in the sky, or like those computer-generated comparisons of sizes in space so that we know how insignificant we all are in regards to 'life, the universe and everything'. My view was slightly different than E., B. and Co. as, as they so appropriately noted, I am 'in the middle of Norfolk nowhere' and there were also no clouds at all here :) Took some pictures of it, but it really just looks like a blurry moon in the sky and not like a maltball at all... see?

Am absol. convinced of kindred spirit relation with E.M. Delafield as writing style ext. similar to my own. Just this morning, have read terrifically amusing English-lady interpretation of American football game which was v. much like my account of first rugby game :) Wonder why if she wrote 40 books, there is only one title on the shelf at Waterstone's.