Sunday, September 14, 2008

Beautiful Birds of Canberra!

I have a previous post of my last weekend in Canberra, so check that out. But here are the beautiful birds I saw mostly around Canberra which was wonderful for birds, but also around Australia!


Beautiful swam family - with babies!

I will miss the beautiful birds!

Last Pictures of Canberra

Hi! Long time no write... I wanted to post pictures of the last weekend in Canberra - the one I wrote about. Fun times.

Feeding beautiful birds at the Aviary!

Bird brain!

Lovely view of Canberra and ANU from hike.

Kangaroo! We saw tons around dusk. Yum, dinner.

My research group - Steve, me, and Daniel.

Daniel and Karen.

The kids - Kyler, Saskia, and Nancy. :-).

Me and the new one - Katrien!

Steve's parents - Dad Keith and Mom Ruth.

Steve and Anneke at their house - our farewell dinner.

On my bike ride - at Parliament (with grass on top), view of Old Parliament, Lake Burley-Griffin, War Memorial.

Flag on top of Parliament

View of the lake and Cook Memorial Fountain and downtown/ANU.

View from Parliament - War Memorial and Mt. Ainslie. :-).

I will miss my home there - I had a fabulous "summer"!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Try some Roo, Pavlova, and Anzac biscuits

These are all classic Australian foods. Well, not sure kangaroo is classic - Steve says it's only be available the last 5 years. But here is the only place you can get it. So, Wednesday morning we decided not to go for my paper deadline - we just didn't have the numbers. That was both good and bad - a lot less stressful, but it would've been awesome if everything had come together and we could've made it. But I'm really proud of us - I've gotten so much done here on the project, and Steve and Daniel have been so helpful. Being here has been really good for my research. So, it's not like the project hasn't progressed heaps. And we have all these ideas for how to make it better. So it's all good. So since that decision (on 5 hours of sleep after staying up implementing a new idea), I've done very little work. But I needed to take a break, and take care of some things. It was good.

So I booked my flight back from New Zealand - through Fiji! I get 3+ days there, then fly back to Sydney where I have 24 hours and then fly home! That is Sept 5 when I fly back to Austin. And I can't tell you how excited I am already - so excited. So READY TO GO HOME! That's all I've been thinking lately. I just need some home. But yeah. But I was also looking up all these possible companies to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef with! That should be fun. I leave Wednesday the 13th and I'll have limited internet until I basically get back to Austin. Crazy. I hope I can enjoy these trips and not just feel far away from home. I'll make it, though. But Thursday was pretty relaxing - met and chatted with 2 friends - one a girl from the program visiting Canberra - she's awesome. Her name is Dawn. Then Nancy. And got a massage Thursday night - treated myself, although it was sorta one of those "painful" deep-tissue massages, not very relaxing. Not good ambience either. So have to wait until I get home to get a good massage :-). But did come home and cook myself kangaroo skewers! There were good - different meat and you have to cook it quick at high heat so it doesn't get chewy. But it's good!

Friday morning played hooky from work and went swimming with Nancy (oh yeah - did a 10K run again Thursday morning and it felt great woohoo!). Then we took a couple of buses up to Federation Square and went to a walk-in bird aviary where you feed all these beautiful hand-reared (friendly) birds. Brightly-colored parrots that are gorgeous. Fun times :-). And it was a nice sunny day, so nice to be out. Felt good to feel birds land on my head again! And they had Coby's (bird we had when I was growing up)! It was fun. Then worked for the afternoon. Sort of invited myself along to hang out with Daniel and his girlfriend Karen that night, and had a lot of fun! Even though we didn't go see a crazy band or do anything Canberran, it was fun to just hang with friends and chat. We talked about everything - school, life, religion. Fun! And Daniel cooked an awesome meal - made homemade foccacia bread which was awesome. And spaghetti with special tomato-basil-anchovie-olive sauce which was awesome. And red wine from his collection. And then he made homemade pudding (which we discovered isn't like US pudding because you bake it and it's cake-like!) with lemon sauce and sides of many gelatos :-). Awesome - felt like I was treated wonderfully! Yay for friends.

Saturday was low-key. Just went shopping in Canberra Center (mall) for last minute things - had to replace my rain jacket because it was sort of stolen when I stored it behind a wall for 10 minutes while I ran around the neighborhood and came back and it was gone. This was because I was hot at the end of my 10K... Sad, but anyway, not a big deal. Got a present for Steve to thank him for everything, and did some shopping for niece and nephews. Sorta fun. Weird to think of lasts, though... Anyway, was then picked up by Daniel and we all went over and met Steve for a short hike up a hill near his house. And you guessed it - more neat views of Canberra! We hiked at dusk and it was a chilly day, but there were roos everywhere!!! Took some pictures - they are awesome. Cute when they hop, but not something to mess with. Had nice chats with Steve's Dad Keith again too who came on the hike, as did Nancy who loves Steve's kids. Then we all went to Steve's house and had a nice sumptuous evening there! Had Turkish bread and beetroot and eggplant dips for appetizer. Plus plenty of wine. Good conversation too. Then dinner included yummy pumpkin soup, then more roo over a bed of lettuce and red marinated capsicums and roasted potatoes. Tasty. More wine, and champagne in there. Then dessert was pavlova, an Australian dessert, and traditional Filipino flan. Apparently one uses egg white and the other eggs yolks :-). So pavlova is sort of a light meringue with a hardened sugary crust. And it had kiwi FRUIT, passionfruit and strawberrys laying on top. Then the flan had a caramelized sugary top which was decadent! And then Steve later served squares of yummy dark chocolate and brought out some scotch! Crazy decadent! It was a great night - loved talking to everyone - had fun. I talked to Steve's Mom and Dad a lot about living in different parts of the world and travel. Fun :-). Great night!

Oh yeah - I had a homemade Anzac biscuit (kinda like oatmeal cookie) which is also an Australian classic at school on Friday. To tie in the name :-).

So today was Sunday - last weekend day in Canberra! Sorta sad. I took it easy. For some reason I keep waking up around 7:30am (no matter if I went to bed at 2:30am) and not being able to go back to sleep :-(. So I've been napping a lot because I'm tired. But... did go on a 40K bike ride today! That was my goal, and though it was a really cold, windy day (in the high 30s) and difficult, I made the distance! It was fun, although could've been less challenging and more enjoyable for my last ride here... but oh well. Went all the way around the lake again, and then a bit more to make it 40K (my next tri distance). I did stop off at Parliament to take some pictures that I wanted. Saw some crazy heavy black clouds come across the area. And the wind - God it was bad today. Riding into it made everything difficult. And I was tired and got a stomach ache 1/2 way through the ride. But I made it! All the way round, and back through my neighborhood home :-). Go me. I was so tired when I got home. Ate something and took hot shower to warm up then promptly fell asleep on the couch :-). So taking it easy tonight but still feeling good about my exercise. Only 2 days of exercise left! Running and swimming it is...

So I convinced Steve and Daniel to take me to the close-ish winery tomorrow afternoon, so that should be fun! My last adventure out of Canberra... And then exciting travel! Will probably post some pictures still, but otherwise this might be my last blog for awhile. G'day and cheers!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

My Beautiful Canberra

So, because I'm now off of paper deadline and can sleep and think and not be so stressed (literally I was waking up early because of stress), I can do normal people things again like organize pictures! Just to give you an idea - Tuesday night I stayed up until 3:30am working to get a new thing implemented to see if we could go for the paper - if the results of that would be good enough. And in the morning at our decision meeting, we decided we wouldn't be going for the paper. Mixed blessing... But I was really glad to get some just life-stuff taken care of yesterday after the stress was lifted! And went for a very satisfying 10K run this morning! Was proud :-). And treated myself to a massage today :-).

Oh - don't have a picture of it yet, but on my way home I always see a sign that cracks me up - It says "Drink & Drive. It's A Crime." :-).

So, life goes on, there are ups and downs. But more and more I do feel like I'm figuring myself out (which never will cease) and that's fun. Here's to figuring life out bit by bit! And getting a bit lost along the way :-). But... to pretty pictures!

Classic! Be aware of wombats :-).

On top of Baroomba Rocks after hiking up - beautiful views of Canberra from afar! Above our heads :-). This is mentor Steve, his son Kyler, and I.

Same location, Kyler, me, and friend Nancy from Connecticut.

Canberra over the green hills :-).

This is Lake Burley Griffin - I'm bike riding :-). This is a beautiful bell tower called The Carillion on the lake.

Also the lake, with Telestra tower - my daily icon and way to orient myself - in the distance. Love this run/bike path!

Geyser fountain on Lake Burley Griffin - part of Captain Cook Memorial. Pretty :-).

View across river of Parliamentary region - old parliament is white building in front, and then the new parliament has metal towers over it with flag.

Parliament up close!

I love this picture for some reason. It has Australia's seal - with Kangaroo and Emu, and the flag on the right.

Neat view of old parliament from new parliament - and you can see across lake the corridor of the War Memorial and Mt. Ainslie which I climbed!

Same general picture - me in front with my bike. And I was taking pictures at dusk and it started to rain - can you see it on my jacket? Fun times.

That's it for now! I want to do a "pictures of birds" post sometime soon too. But I'm getting ready for my last weekend in Canberra, then 3 weeks of travel, then home. Crazy! Time's gone by fast, but I can't wait to come home. Cheers.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

I Reckon I'm Keen on Meat Pies :-)

So I have to update you on the last week and a half! Sorry I haven't already. Here are the highlights: going to showing of films that won a short film festival in Melbourne this year, making friends at Biology's happy hour and going to a bar with them and dancing swing to a live band, going to a "Save Tassie (Tasmania) Animals" fundraising live music event, going to the Sunday Market and National Gallery (art), then this weekend - going to a CS happy hour then a Margarita Party, going to a very fancy Turkish restaurant for dinner then to the Dark Knight movie, and going on a 6K run with triathletes, then brunch, then an AFL (Australian football) game today! So many fun things... :-). I finally have friends in Canberra!

So a word on the weather - it's still cold here. When I get up and go running or biking outside around 8am the grass is frosty/icy. Crazy! But it's beautiful when it's sunny, which it mostly has been lately. And I'm getting more and more used to it - don't need as many layers when I do go out :-). The other morning I saw hot air balloons over Canberra in the early morning - very neat! Still enjoying my exercise :-).

I've been busy lately because I might be going for a paper deadline on Friday - we aren't entirely sure if our overhead is low enough yet, but it's exciting! We are really proud of the project and how it's turning out. So fun stuff. Yay for research going well and being excited about it. I've been working every weekday evening... So yes, I do work a lot!

And I've really had some good conversations lately with people. Learning about the world, feeling worldly. Trying to open my eyes past America which seems sort of generally full of itself and I've been realizing lately how PC we are about things - how worried we are about people's feelings or maybe just being sued over things. Example - my Chinese roommate was talking about how their PE classes in high school give grades based on how fast you can run a distance - faster you run it, higher the grade. My immediate reaction was "That's so unfair", except that it's not - it's just rating people's physical ability whereas most classes rate mental ability. But he did mention China loves ranking everyone on everything - and they are sorta brutal about it :-). But here it's normal for people to live in another country for at least a year, so they are more worldly, or maybe that's just the people I interact with, but I enjoy it. But then there's also this juxtaposition about really being home and comfortable and finding how to be most yourself versus being the nomad and having experiences and traveling the world. There's time for both, but I more and more feel like I need some time with the former for awhile because I've definitely had the latter! And it's a challenge for me - by myself... I'm tired.

But - about new activities! Last Tuesday - The film festival was interesting. 2 sessions, each just over an hour. Very interesting shorts. Some abstract and artsy and hard to get. Some poignant stories. I liked the ones more that were sort of people dramas with character development of course :-). One about Papua New Guinea aunties sitting around chewing betelnut and getting "high" on it :-). One that was just 5 minutes of people on a subway - a lady falling asleep on this random guy's shoulder :-). One poignant one about an aboriginal man's whole village getting massacred. A hilarious one about "pigeon men" - these macho guys who raise coops of pigeons and love their birds! One cute cartoon about a panda in a polar bear world. My favorite was actually called "The Funk". The summary says "Jack woke up in a Funk one day. No one really knows how it started." It was done in black and white with stop photography - stringing photographs together to show characters moving. It was actually really cool. And it was about this married businessman who wakes up one morning and just realizes his life is empty and he just goes through his routine everyday with no depth or joy, so he's in a funk. I enjoyed it for some reason. And I ended up drinking free wine during the break and talking to a very odd buy interesting Australian woman. Very nice - of course had to ask my impression of Australia. But even though she'd met a lot of cool Americans, she said, she never really wanted to visit America. I've heard that a lot down here... Something about our sort of shallow and busy culture... It's interesting. Plus, really, for 1/2 way around the world, the American culture is not so different from here.

So then last Friday - I had friends! I met a friendly CS grad student Tim who mostly grew up in New Zealand, but we got to talking aobut live music. And Friday there was a Biology happy hour on that a ton of people go to, so he invited me along. So I met some of his friends, and then we all went to dinner at the Noodle House. I got the traditional Malaysian Laksa - a curry noodle soup plus meat dish. Tasty :-). Then we headed to see this really neat band, but they had just finished when we got to the park (half walking half driving). So, we went to a seedy wooden bar where an older sort of honkey-tonk band was playing. It was loads of fun :-). There was a bit of an older crowd, but the fast music was hoping. Tim, the friend I met, belonged to a group that did swing dance, and they were all there, so I ended up swing dancing (me = poorly) with him and 2 other friends of his. It was fun to be dancing again though! And hanging with people - in the scene again :-).

Last Saturday I went on a nice long bike ride around the WHOLE lake this time! Although going west involved going on a freeway for a bit which wasn't the most fun, but overall I enjoyed my 35K bike! Yay! And then later I went to see that cool band we tried to see Friday night... They are called Andi and George - you can check them out on myspace. They are local. And Andi is this amazing singer and George is a percussion stoner :-). But the whole band actually has like 12+ people in it. They just jam - people jump in and play guitar or rap or sing or play saxaphone or the didgeridoo or more drums or whatever with whatever song! Very diverse and fun. But I actually liked their practiced songs better than them just making something up. But I saw 3 bands at this benefit before them - 2 of them I really enjoyed. So it was an all day event raising money for Tassie - Tasmania - animals. It was in a park - live music all day. And it was mostly hippies there and signs all over about global warming and save the animals, etc. They were selling curry dishes and cake in the back - all donated or homemade. I got some homemade Chai and some mulled wine - pretty tasty. And during the last 2 bands - no one sat - we all just got up and danced the whole time! So it was super fun. I saw some of Tim's friends there at the end of the night and hung with them. But it was fun to just go and hear music. Reminded me of Ryan...

Sunday I slept in then went with Nancy, my young friend, to the Sunday markets. It was really fun to wander around and sample all the exotic foods again :-). And then we went in the back and had some Ethiopian food from a food stall! Pretty good, although I think it had an Indian bent to it - there were some curry dishes... But tasty :-). And we wandered around and bought some neat cards of Australian scenes. I bought a magnet and bookmark that reminded me of Canberra. And some neat earrings :-). So, just fun. Then I ended up biking to the National Gallery because it was recommended to me. Spent less than an hour there, but it was fun. Saw a very famous Pollock painting calling "Blue Poles" that Australia bought. And then I liked the Aboriginal art - lots of painted wooden poles. Then went up to the Parliament area to take some pictures. It was closing so couldn't go inside sadly, but took some neat photos outside, but then it started to rain! and I had to run home biking in the rain at dusk. Of course when I got home it wasn't raining :-). But fun day!

Monday I actually met my goal of running a full 10K! Was very proud :-). Fun times!

So worked the week. Fast forward to Friday - we had a happy hour at the CS department, and Steve brought champagne for his paper getting a big award, so that was awesome. Met some neat people again, and had some interesting conversations. Then worked a bit more, then headed to a friend's Margarita Party - Mexican theme in Australia, crazy! This is the guy who Nancy rents her room from - he's an American but been getting his PhD here for hte last 3 years. He's really nice. So I knew no one (Nancy is out of town), but met cool people and had some interesting conversations! And had tasty Mexican food/drink - good tequila and sangria! But I met this really cool girl Katie from the US (Atlanta), but had been living here a year and a half and really liked it here. But she was my kind of girl - a triathlete! And gregarious, so invited me to go do a 6K run with her and her triathlon group this morning - Sunday. That was awesome! But anyway - she was cool. Connected with her on the whole "finding where you most feel yourself", and being older with all your friends settled and having kids, with you not, and of course the triathlon stuff. So felt like I could really be friends with her if I stayed here, which is a nice feeling - meeting people like you! So even though I was tired, met some really nice people.

Saturday - worked the day (went in to work). Still getting closer to the paper deadline... And then got picked up and went to a very fancy nice restaurant - one of my "going away" dinners with mentor Steve, his wife, grad student Daniel and his girlfriend. Restaurant was a nice Turkish (my favorite) place called Ottoman. Had a moment where I got really homesick - like wanted my guy around for a very nice dinner. I've had that several times this weekend - really enjoying being around very cool new people here versus really missing home and my people. But anyway - we had wonderful food! For entrees (which actually means starters here), we got a plate of different spreads and bread, marinated mushrooms, special dolma with fish, and a lamb-eggplant dish. Then we got 4 mains - another eggplant-lamb dish (which was wonderful - both were), then a king fish skewer dish, a chicken skewer dish, and duck :-). All very good. And salads. And we started with a bottle of champagne, then had a bottle of Australian shiraz with the meal. No shortage of decadence! All very nice! And then we got desserts - a big range from chocolate, custard-pie, orange cake, sorbet, and I got a poached pear with apricots and figs :-). Oh my God, good rich food :-). Was overwhelmed with it all and it was super fun. Nice company. And Steve picked mine up on ANU's tab! So nice! It was expensive too... And then Daniel, Karen and I went to see the Dark Knight movie on the big screen! Wow, was that intense. Great movie, but so much in there - felt like I missed some things. But Heath did do a fabulous job. Maybe I need to see it again to take it all in :-). But I was glad to go with friends to see it!

Got home late and today had to get up early to go running with friend Katie! She picked me up in her new car. We went to the lake area, and met some of her friends. Then ran - together - a 6K. It was a nice track, and fun to run with her and chat - reminded me of Maria and I missed runs with her! But was glad to be with people instead of just running by myself. Although I couldn't run as much as I was used to because it wasn't by myself. Oddly I felt like I could've run more - 6K is short to me now! But was glad to go. Then we took off - went back to her house to shower up and met a bunch of her triathlete friends at brunch! I just got a regular omelette with ham, mushrooms, and cheese. But the company was fun - nice blokes. Heaps of fun. We discussed how they believe Americans don't have good senses of humor - here they are drier and more used to sarcasm :-). And then we went to the AFL game together - Katie and her friends had tickets sitting on the grass, and I split off and found Steve and his mates and kids to sit on seats with them. It was actually a beautiful and relatively warm day! After eating a meat pie (w tomato sauce) and sitting with the sun beating down on us, I was actually quite warm and felt like taking a nap! Watched some of the game - Sydney Swans (red) versus Melbourne Bulldogs (blue). Sydney scored 4 goals in a row right in the first few minutes, which was exciting. But after that... Bulldogs dominated! They were better and ended up winning by like 20 points. But I had fun just hanging out and chatting with Steve's friends. And had fun kicking the footie around on the field after the game. But was ready to come home - busy weekend! And ended up indeed taking a nap when I got home. Nice to relax a bit! :-).

So, right when I'm about to leave (can't believe it!), I finally get friends and am doing fun things and getting used to this place. I really think I could enjoy living here, but also feel drawn to go back home and sort of settle down a bit. Plus, there is a difference between having friends, and just hanging with people who really KNOW you. And I think I need that again - to be surrounded by comfort for awhile. To be able to be myself for awhile. I'm definitely keen on going home. And it's not far off - a month now! I made my travel plans for going to Townsville to see the Great Barrier Reef - leaving Canberra Aug 13 - so soon! And then on to my 2 week New Zealand adventure. More adventures, but fun in store. So cheers for now!

(P.S.) One addendum - Australian houses have 2 "bathrooms" - the toilet is in a little room by itself, and the sink and shower are in another bathroom. Very amusing :-).

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Melbourne pics!

And, as the Sydney pictures were well liked - by popular demand - Melbourne pics :-). Again - I took 275 pictures down there and uploaded 183 to Snapfish, so email me if you want to see more than just these :-). Wonderful photos, if I do say so myself!

First off, an icon of the city - Flinders Street Station - the main railway station. Right down on the river :-).

I just liked this building - it's the old "Public Bath" house. If you see the black signs - left says "women" and right says "men" :-).

In Phoebe and Nick's neighborhood, but really all over because Melbourne is in the state of Victoria, Victorian house. See all the fruu-fruu scallops? Pretty!

Me, on a windy day on the Shrine of Remembrance (war memorial) overlooking the river and city. Suns in the wrong place :-).

Pretty picture of city across the Yarra River:

Phoebe will kill me for this, but here's a picture of Phoebe and Nick in Melbourne Central - a mall and train station :-). It's Friday night - time to celebrate shops being open!

To show a normal picture of Phoebe (albeit pregnant :-)), here's her and I with spears - on the edge of the Yarra river that goes through Melbourne.

Neat picture that night of river and back of Flinders Street Station with lights. This is the night I went to the Australian play, and we got an awesome Italian risotto dinner.

On the Great Ocean Road! The main icon are the 12 apostles - limestone rock formations coming out of the sea - although there are only 7 or so left. Although the sun is setting (sorta the wrong place), I liked this picture :-).

More majestic apostles:

Me, and another rock formation on the Great Ocean Road - London Bridge which is now separated from land :-).

And last, but certainly not least - one of my favorite signs on the road :-). The Great Ocean road is frequently driven by tourists who aren't from around here. How funny!

Too bad I couldn't get the "kangaroo around" sign photograph :-).

Well, that's it folks for now. Enjoy the pictures! I'm not traveling again for a few more weeks, although there are always pictures of homey Canberra.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sydney pics

Here are pictures of my Sydney adventures. I took over 400 and put 275 of those on Snapfish, so email me if you want to see more!

All but 1 of our State of Origin Rugby Game crew. Blue is for the New South Whales team!

The iconic Sydney opera house!

The awesome Sydney Harbor Bridge.

Both the bridge and opera house as seen from the Botanical Gardens.

Downtown Sydney!

At the majestic Blue Mountains, hiking! The iconic rock formation - Three Sisters.

Neat waterfall in the rainforests of Blue Mountains

Gorgeous Bronte Beach - Sydney is known for beaches :-).

Kept running up the coast, and got to the famous Bondi Beach. Beautiful sunny day!

And coming back down the coast - the beautiful beaches and inlets.

And the part you all wanted to see - Australian animals! Me petting soft, sweet Lucky, the koala:

My favorite - the wombats! Ah, so cute.

Getting huggy with the roo :-).

That was my adventure in Sydney! Soon I will share Melbourne pics with you. And I'll have to tell you about going to a film festival last night, but... not right now. Right now I'm in a funk and want to just stay that way. So, cheers for now.