Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sydney @ night

The other night Brian & I were able to do a couple of distinctly Sydney-esque activities & it was kinda fun. A little background first …
I work in a very central place in downtown Sydney (or Sydney CBD as it’s called … oh, central business district … Aussies love their nicknames but also their acronyms). Our next door neighbour is Parliament House, which is the state legislature. All sorts of interesting things go on there. Quite often there are protests & rallies, etc. and there can be packs of reporters milling around when interesting things happen. I’ve found Australian politics to be quite interesting, particularly lately.
Soon after I started working here the premier had to step down over a privitization scheme, which brought the hordes of reporters to the sidewalk in front of our buildings, so it kind of caught my radar. Three days after the new premier came into power there was a bit of a scandal in his party to shake things up a bit again.
This is perhaps one of the funnier incidents of political shenanigans I have ever heard about. Brian almost choked on his chai latte while reading about this one in the local coffee shop. Here is a link, but be warned it’s a bit graphic, as they don’t hold much back here journalistically speaking, but it is also frickin’ hilarious!,22049,24327251-5001021,00.html

For those of you who read it … comparatively, Canadian politicians are a bit boring … no!?!

So anyway, my interest in politics peaked & wanting to get to know my neighbours a bit better, I signed Brian & I up for this class called “A little night sitting” from 5 - 7 pm. It was an intro to the New South Wales political system, including a tour of the Upper & Lower house (they have 2, kind of like Parliament & the Senate in Ottawa), a Q& A with a couple of politicians & a tasty selection of biscuits (cookies, in Canadian).
The talk on the political system was a bit dry, but it is interesting to note that when Australians vote they don’t just tick off one person, they can rate the candidates, i.e. You put a 1 by the lesser of two evils, a 2 by the more evil of 2 evils & a 3 by the guy with the nose hair, etc. I can’t imagine how long it takes to count the votes as it’s not just who has the most votes, but who has the highest ratings. Oh, & also you have to vote or pay a fine … it’s mandatory! Everyone over 18 is registered to vote & if you don’t, you have to pay. Interesting idea …
We then went over the Upper House, as they were in session. They were discussing some legislation to do with fences. “Hedge rage” was mentioned & Robert Frost was quoted (good fences make good neighbours … or something like that), so it was kind of interesting. Then we went over to the Lower House where they were discussing adoption legislation in a much drier way.
After that we got to ask a couple of politicians questions. One of the guys was a back bencher in the opposition so he had many snarky comments about the government … it seemed a bit petty after a while actually ... so that was familiar politically anyway.

We wrapped up with a raid on the remaining cookies & Brian & I headed over to Hyde Park where they were having a Night Noodle market. They had all sorts of booths set up with different types of Asian cuisine. They had big lanterns & lights in the trees, wandering drums & a Chinese dragon. It was packed, but we were able to find a couple of free chairs to enjoy our Thai noodles & a Himalayan plate of noodley goodness. There was an organic ice cream booth that we visited too … fig, honey & pistachio ice cream rocks, by the way!

All in all a good evening … There is always something going on in the city & quite often I’m tempted, but then think … ugh, that means a later train, late getting home & I have to work early again the next day, bitch, bitch, etc, etc… It’s good that Brian makes the trip out for these things or I probably would talk myself out of them. It’s actually made me think about how little of this stuff I do when I’m home in Canada. There’s always stuff going on in Vancouver, but I always have a million excuses why I never go … perhaps this will change when I get back!?! I hope so …

Friday, October 10, 2008

A little homesick

A couple of weeks ago a co-worker of mine asked me if I was homesick. I actually had to think about it for a second ... um, actually, no. There was no time to think about home, too many new things taking my time & brainpower. I asked Brian the same question & he felt the same way.
Perhaps it's that we're settling in a bit or we just missed a few major events at home, but it's kind of hitting me now ... there's some people I really miss.
On October 2nd it was Brian's Mom's birthday. I happen to be pretty lucky in the mother-in-law department. Marie is the peace keeper, the wisdom & the heart of the family. Hopefully, you had a good birthday ... we miss you & love you lots!
In an interesting coincidence my sister's husband also celebrates his birthday on the same day. He's up in chilly Flin Flon right now ... loving every minute of it though, no doubt. Happy birthday Brent ... hope you had a good one too!
On October 9th it was a very special day for our favourite 3 year-old (Wow, I can't believe he's 3 already!). A giant Happy Birthday to the big little man Dylan. For those of you who haven't met our nephew (Brian's sister's son) he is a firecracker ! He has an infectious smile and endless energy. It is impossible not to jump up & do some Happy Feet with him when he gets going. His last two birthday parties were at a place called Wonderland in Abbotsford. They have rides & games & all sorts of flashing lights & noise, etc ... talk about kiddie Nirvana. We will certainly miss this year's party & watching Dylan tearing around & whooping with glee. I'd also be interested to see how much cake to face smearing will be going on ... he certainly improved from 1 to 2! Enjoy your day Dylan, we'll be thinking of you ... lots of imaginary hugs & kisses from Auntie F & Unca Brian!
Also & this one really got me ... we got a letter in the mail from the wonderful couple looking after our bulldog, Mojah. It included some pictures ... *sigh* Oh, we miss that silly girl so much!

Friday, October 3, 2008

My hero!

Be prepared for a frightening adventure tale ... one with thrills, chills & as always, an embarrassing moment or two!
It all started last night as I was waiting on the curb at the train station for Brian to come pick me up. If you've read previous entries, you know about The Commute. I do walk to the train station in the morning, but Brian picks me up in the car at night. I usually don't get home until around 6:50 pm, so it's dark already & I'm pretty hungry & grumpy, so a walk home is sort of off the table at that point.
Anyway, so I'm standing there waiting & looking at the time on my cell phone ... hmm ... Brian's a bit late, that's unusual (actually, that's not sarcasm, he's been pretty punctual lately). By this time most of the commuters who got off the train with me have already been picked up, however, there's still a car or 2 parked at the curb waiting. I look up after a couple of blasts of the horn to see the Berry mobile (the white station wagon that is ours to use while we're here) pull up to the end of the line of cars, angled a little out on to the road. Hmm ... As I open the door to get in I'm saying:
"Brian, you don't have to honk at the car in front of us to move, I'm getting right in ... how rude, nag, nag, etc."
Silence from the driver's side.
I start to curl myself into the passenger seat as I shut the door & I hear a quiet:
"You don't want to be in the car right now"
Now let's be honest here, for anyone who's been in a relationship for over 15 years, over 7 of those married to the other person, your first thought is ... Oh no, you farted in the car ... couldn't you have waited, *sigh*. Right!?! OK, if not, well, I guess we're just kind of gross.
Anyway, as I'm sniffing the air and thinking the car actually smells really pleasant, I look over at Brian. He has a sheen of sweat on his forehead, which isn't too odd as it was 35 degrees out earlier that day & still quite warm. However, combined with the frozen rictus of a grin, white knuckle grip on the steering wheel & the glassy-eyed gaze dead ahead I became a bit worried. I followed Brian's stare & directly in front of Brian's eyes on the windshield is the biggest spider I have ever seen in real life ...
I should stop here and mention that we have been having car/spider issues for a while now. Apparently, since spiders like warm dry spaces, cars are ideal places for spiders to live. We had spotted one or two seemingly living in the side mirrors of our car. We would see them running over the roof of the car & up and down the windows every now and then as we would be driving. My heart would skip a beat or two, but they seemed harmless through the glass. We are taking a road trip to Canberra this weekend though so we thought we'd wash the car & our hitchhikers would have to find another home, as we were sure we wouldn't be getting gas money out of them.
Back to the car, where I'm frozen with fear. I look at this gigantor of a spider & terror trickles down my spine as I realize the spider is INSIDE the car, literally having a stare down with my husband. I actually don't even remember getting out of the car as I watch Brian roll the car a little forward out of the lane of traffic, as the car in front of us moves up a bit. Honestly, I have no idea how he has the presence of mind to actually drive in this situation. Then he seemingly calmly gets out & meets me on the curb.
Brian says:" So I got the car washed today, looks nice, huh?"
Stephanie, giggles hysterically ...
B.: "Yeah, I was driving here and about a block or 2 from home He (meaning the impossibly large Huntsman "the Australian tarantula" spider, check the bottom right-hind side of the spider chart in an earlier post for a visual, currently sitting alone in our car) crawled up from the dashboard & stopped directly in front of my face ... I could see his fangs, his beady eyes ... I think he's pissed."
S.:"aack ... aack ..."
Brian:"Yeah, he's really pissed. What should we do?"
At this point there were a few commuters still standing around waiting for rides & must have thought it very odd to see two people standing, staring horrified into their car, instead of driving away to the Curry House for a well-earned Friday night dinner. To be honest, I didn't much care about them at that point ...
Not to sound boastful but I'm actually usually a pretty quick thinker. In a library school management class we took this personality test that labelled me a problem-solver & most of the time that's pretty accurate. I have to admit though, in this situation, ... nothing. Standing there giggling, while shaking my hands (as you children's librarians might put it ... shaking your sillies out) and kind of hopping up & down ... yeah, not my proudest moment. OK, deep breath ...
S. babbles: "Well, I'm not getting back in that car until He's gone ... what should we do ... hmm, we need a bowl to cover him ... I don't seem to have one in my purse, teehee, who carries a bowl in their purse, teehee ... Oh, I know ... I'll go back in the station & ask the ticket counter guy if he has something."
B., quite cool-headed, but doing his share of giggling:"Hey, there's an oil funnel oil in the car, we could use that ... do you have anything to cover the bottom of the funnel?"
S., frantically searching purse: "Yes, here's the printed instructions for our road trip tomorrow. Well, here you go ... good luck!"
We continue to stand there & stare at the car as we realize the next train has let out & more commuters are pouring out on to the street getting rides home, etc. Perfect, now there's an audience of Australians watching silly Canadians watching their car. Despite this, my brave knight Brian draws a deep breath & opens the passenger side of the car & gets in. He sits for a moment gathering courage and figuring out how to smoothly place the funnel on the window without first hitting the dashboard and alerting the spider to our conspiracy.
Brian makes his move ... I run to the front of the car to make sure the spider is indeed trapped in the funnel. He's there & if we thought he was pissed before, well, now he's downright furious. He's kind of hurling himself at the sides of the funnel & then he starts to crawl towards the hole at the top of the funnel as Brian's slipping the paper under it to cover the big opening. I can no longer watch as the sillies overtake me again & I'm flapping my hands like, er, well, someone flapping their hands. Anyway, Brian jumps out of the car asking for another piece of paper to cover the top hole. Even though there is no way that big of a spider could fit through the hole, we're both thinking perhaps his fangs could fit, or he has super-spider power & can squeeze himself through the hole (well, maybe only I was thinking that, but it seemed valid at the time).
I was able to find a small brochure for Floriade (the botanical garden show we're seeing this weekend in Canberra: ) in my purse & flung it at Brian while skipping away, unsure of the Houdini-like characteristics of this spider. Taking a moment to look sheepishly at the woman and smiling over at us, Brian walked confidently across the street to deposit our nemesis in some bushes. Quickly retrieving the funnel & papers, he ran back across the street & jumped in the car. After repeated assurance that the spider did indeed end up on the other side of the street I got in. Shaking with relief & laughter, we sped away.
S.:" I bet he's going to wait until next Tuesday when you pick me up at the station & leap under our car like Robert DeNiro in Cape Fear & follow us home"
B.: "There's actually lot of white station wagons around, I think we're safe"
S: "Let's just hope he didn't get our license plate, *phew* ... Now let's get some curry, my big brave man!"

To sum up I highly recommend spending time with your significant other in a place where all you have to rely on is each other. It won't take long for you to remember exactly why you decided to hook up in the first place. I'm pretty lucky ... I live with my very own superhero!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Gangs in Australia

On our first weekend here, Brian and I took a trip to our first beach. It’s called Terrigal. It was a little cloudy and a bit cold, but the beach was lovely. It’s quite a long beach with sand like golden brown sugar (the best kind to make oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with, by the way). The beaches here don’t seem to collect as much debris as Vancouver beaches. There’s no driftwood & very little kelp that washes ashore, so they’re really almost pristine. We had a walk down the beach to where it ended at some rocks. We climbed over them (I only fell once on the slippery rocks … just like our first date where I fell on the rocks at English Bay in Vancouver & Brian doubling over with laughter, ah, yes, just like that … ). We came to another smaller beach called the Haven. It was where fishing & scuba diving boats came in. It was a nice sheltered area. This is where we saw the gang …

Right next to the spot where small boats were pulling ashore there were big pillars in the water with the largest pelicans I have ever seen perched on top. As we got closer the pelicans flew off the perches & landed on the beach. Moments later a small boat puttered onto the beach & disgorged a few enthusiastic sport fishermen. It turns out that is exactly what the pelicans were waiting for … We saw them slowly strutting along the beach, exuding cool confidence. I absolutely love this picture, especially the guy closest to the camera. The placement of his right foot adding an elegance to his bad-ass walk. (For some reason it reminded me of West Side Story, where you have the Sharks & the Jets … the oh-so tough gangs skipping around & using jazz-hands. ) You see their disdain for the fish carcass on the beach. They’re too cool for that … they only stop for fresh meat!

Apparently there is a filleting station on the shore & the birds perch up high & look for fishing boats to come in. They then alight on the beach & stalk over to the drain & wait for the fish blood & guts to come pouring out … yum!

It might seem silly but we got out of their way as they came along. I don’t know if you can tell the scale, but they went up to my waist in height. I’ll tell you that’s one gang I won’t be messing with!