Thursday, August 31, 2006

More Good News, Bad News

I realize that, of late, this blog has basically been me complaining about just about everything. I admit to feeling slightly bad about that since you, my Devoted Readers, come here to laugh at me not listen to bitch. That said, it is my blog and I’m grumpy (or as Hubby pronounces it PMS) and want to vent. So I thank you in advance for being wonderful friends and not giving up on me. I promise to bring back the funny. Just not today.

Remember all the way back to July when I swore they weren’t going to move us out of this damn hostel until we were good and ready to move into our own home? How I was sick and tired of all this moving? Well, the evil meanies here at Kenya-traz™ didn’t read my blog (how rude!), and (even more rudely) didn’t get the memo about the blog. They’re kicking us out in about a week. Evidently there is a conference or something going on here on campus and they want our room to house their guests. We’re their guests, dammit!!

In theory we have an apartment to move into. Barring anything unforeseen we should be signing a lease in a day or so for a rather nice 4-bedroom apartment not far from here. Which sounds lovely, doesn’t it? It would except that all of our things are still baking in a container in Delhi. Plus, this being my life, I’m sure something will go wrong and we won’t get the apartment.

Which brings us to our good news. Hubby came home early for lunch today to show me my passport with its lovely Kenyan visa. Yay! This is good news since it means that we can start the paperwork to get our stuff moved from India to here. Best of all I should have my own bed, books and other necessities in about a month or so. I distinctly remember that life in India got much better once we had our things around us and am pinning my hopes on the same being true here.

But that’s still a month away.

Let’s recap: Our visa is here. Our things should be here in about a month. And our hosts are kicking us out of our temporary digs in less than two weeks. Yup, that just about sums it up.

Isn’t life just dandy? Really freaking dandy.

PS: I realize that this entire episode of Blog was very whingey and pouty not to mention self-indulgent. I just needed to get it off my chest. I promise to bring you something more cheerful tomorrow or at least the day after that.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Random Aussie Comments

Here are few things that didn’t fit into any one blog entry but were still silly and important enough to share with you…

Growing up, whenever we traveled my Mum (aka merthyr) would bug me to keep a travel diary; she thought it would be something nice for me to look back on in the future. It wasn’t that I didn’t think that it wouldn’t be interesting; it was more that it required effort and horribly nightmarish things like that. Needless to say I never got much beyond day one or two of any travel journal. Fast-forward a few years and here I am blogging about my travels. I even went out and bought a gorgeous leather-bound notebook so that I’d have something to write in when my computer wasn’t available. So, Mum, it’s a little late but here’s the travel journal you wanted me to keep. I call it Blog!

This is one that needs feedback on please: Is it OK to wake up or nudge your neighbor on a plane if he or she is snoring? (I’m hoping for a yes on this one, please!)

This is a picture of a semi-typical Aussie Burger. See the weird purple looking layer in there? Well that is what makes this burger special – beetroot. Yup, the Australians put beet on their burgers. Other popular toppings include fried egg, pineapple and bacon. At least two of those are things that I don’t generally consume let alone put on my yummy cheeseburgers. Aussies are weird people. I will say this though, I had two Aussie burgers while in the Land of Oz and they were pretty good. The pineapple (which I don’t normally even like) and the beet add this really interesting sweet taste to the burger. Seriously, go try it at home!

Australian champagne is both good and, evidently rather inexpensive. Every single cocktail party that Hubby and I attended (and there were about three each week), gave us a choice of red or white wine, beer, something called non-alcoholic that confused me greatly, and champagne. I swear to you that I drank so much champers over those two weeks that even I was thinking I had almost OD’ed on this, my favorite of all bubbly beverages.

Lest you think I’m a total AA attending alckie (and we’ll pretend for a moment that you don’t already think so): One day I read on the menu that the restaurant we were at had lemonade. Realizing that I had a sudden craving for something nice and sweet I ordered one with vodka on the side. (Ok so this is only sort of a non-alcholic story. My bad.) Do you know what they brought me? They produced for me a glass of 7-Up. It would seem that 7-Up is referred to as lemonade here in the Land Down Under. If you would like actual lemonade to drink you need to request some old fashioned lemonade. A translation book from Aussie to English wouldn’t be totally uncalled for on future journeys.

Australians have such cool words in their regular vocabulary (Chook! Cooee!!!!!). Next time you’re stressed out or just want to relax with a smile on your face, I recommend you say the following town and city names in any sort of order you wish just for the fun of it. (I realize that Didgeridoo isn’t a place name but I just adore the sound of this word. DIDGER IIII DOOOOOO!)


Australian men are hot. Nope no story here, I just wanted to share my opinion on the incredible hotness of Aussie boys.

And on that note, I will end today’s episode of Blog with traditional Australian call to arms:

Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Birthday Time!

Happy 8th Birthday
To my Wonderful Nephew!!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

I’m Bored. Please Amuse Me.

I’m bored. There are a myriad of things I could be doing right now but I don’t feel like it. I suppose one could say that I’m in the doldrums but that sounds really pretentious so I won’t go there. (Of course it also sounds like somewhere the main character in “The Phantom Tollbooth” visited but I could just be projecting.) The truth of the matter is that I could escape from my semi-self-imposed boredom but I can’t get up the energy or desire to do so.

So here are the things I could and probably should be doing: finishing knitting my project that I’ve been working on the for last 8 months, writing the rest of the Australia blogs I have started but can’t be arsed to finish, I could read the book I started on Saturday night while Hubby ignored me in favour of the FFL Draft, I could work on my book that you, my Devoted Readers don’t know about, I could even clean the apartment. Or, in a moment of TMI for all of you, I could get out of bed, shower, and get dressed. But none of these things sound remotely interesting.

Were you guys interested I could tell you the fate the apartment we want and the hostel room we don’t. (The latter is in our lives for the foreseeable future and the latter is still iffy due to the fact that we’re not sure we can trust our landlord-to-be.) I could even share the details on the HUGE bug I killed last week. There are even photos of the killing process so that I’d have proof. But downloading the pictures and describing the flying insects scariness sounds like it might take too much effort.

If there were any energy powerful enough to get me to be creative, I would blog about the results of last night’s Emmys. But I haven’t seen them yet and based on what I’ve read (and can't be troubled to link to), I simply can’t get over my anger at 24 winning for Best Drama. I should note, for the sake of fairness or some such crap, that Conan was, by all reports, quite amusing. Hopefully I’ll know more tonight when the re-air the show for those of us in Kenya who didn’t want to wake up at 4 a.m.

Rather than show any effort to write a blog that you wonderfully Devoted Readers might actually read and comment about its hilarity, brilliance and insightfulness, I finally elected to write about the tedium in my life. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my ennui and will all write comments to break me out of my dreary melancholy.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Kidnapping Isn’t Always Bad

If meeting the girls on Sunday was the number one best part of going to Australia then Monday was definitely a close second. Monday was the day the EC Ladies and I were bound for Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary so I could pet a real live, incredibly cute, totally snuggly, and all around wonderful Koala. Oh, and I also had plans to kidnap him, name him Wawa Bob, and bring him home. But more on phase two of the day later.

Since some people have to work (a concept I’m not entirely grasping is more important than spending time with me) only four of us would be going to Lone Pine: Lois, Storm, Minnow, and myself. I prepared for the day by grabbing a large knapsack, dumping everything out of it, and leaving the hotel room. I needed to make sure that Bob would have plenty of room to move around and breathe.

Lois picked me up at the crack of dawn: 9:00 a.m. and we headed out to meet Storm and Minnow at the former’s home nearer to Brisbane. Once the team was all in place we piled into the car and headed off for what I began to refer to as Koala Land™.

I should point out that the sanctuary had tonnes of birds, kangaroos (kangas!), wombats, snakes, and other indigenous animals for us to see, touch, and feed. But the Koalas (or Wawas) were my favorite by far. People had been warning me that they would smell, urinate on me, claw me, or worse. The haters were all wrong. The Koalas loved me and several approached me to be part of my kidnapping plan. Really. I swear!

Upon entering Lone Pine, our first series of stops was to see the aviary of birds that lined the path. Minnow could tell you better than I what types they were but they were all really pretty. Their plumage was so colorful they looked like beautiful flying cartoon characters. My favorite two from this batch was the one that actually said hello to us and the kookaburra. The latter was mostly because I enjoyed singing that old campfire song about the kookaburra sitting in the old gum tree. (It’s in your head now isn’t it?)

And then it happened: I turned my head a little to the left and saw it: my very first Koala. I immediately ran over (pushing several stupidly gawking children out of the way) and, ignoring the fact that he was half asleep, started talking to my sweet Wawa. “Hi sweetie. How is my baby? Are you going to come with me? Yes you do because you love your Typ0 Mommy!”

Those of you Devoted Readers who know me well know that this is not only exactly what I said but can probably imagine the baby-talk voice I said it all in. Not once, mind you, but every single time I met up with a new batch of the cute, cuddly teddy bears. As Ladies can attest, I scared and traumatized several tourists who witnessed these Koala conversations.

The highlight of the day was soon to follow as we found the pavilion where Koala pictures were being taken. Hubby, upon seeing these pictures, was quite put out that he had been unable to join us as he thought the Koala handler was very pretty.

The Koala I hugged was named Brumby and he flat out told me that he wanted to come home with me. Sadly, the Sanctuary erased all video proof of this conversation for reasons they wouldn’t share with us. (I suspect that they didn’t want people to discover that their animals talked or that they were so willing to escape with gorgeous, talented, brilliant, and modest tourists like myself.)

After buying some Kanga food, we headed off to the kangaroo enclosures for some more Marsupial close encounters. Before we could reach the kangas; however, some hungry emus who wanted to taste the pellets we had brought for their kangaroo friends stopped us. One of them tried to eat Storm and then moved on Lois’s camera when we wouldn’t give them all of our food.

Finally freed from the greedy emus, we finally got to meet the playful kangaroos that lived in the large enclosure. Most of the large bouncing rats were lazy but we were able to see a few bouncing around which was quite amazing. Although I had seen videos of them doing this very thing before, it was very different to see it in person. Damn but Australia has the world’s cutest animals!

I couldn’t believe how soft the kangaroos and wallabies were. We quickly discovered that they liked to be scratched just behind the ears or on their necks. The four of us fed easily over a dozen and more still were looking at us with sad eyes. But since they were too lazy to get up off their hindquarters to come over and get some pellets, they were out of luck.

After our kanga adventures, we spent some time gazing lovingly at the overgrown hamsters that the locals refer to as wallabies. This sojourn of cute and snuggly animals was not to last long for Lois soon headed to see the snakes. Do I even need to tell you that I wasn’t there for that very brief portion of the day’s adventures? While Minnow and Storm watched Lois have a snake wrap itself around her, I headed off for a nice shady bench and some snake-free reading time.

Our glorious day of viewing the world’s most beautiful animals ended back at Storm’s house where we sat down to a feast of beetroot topped Aussie Burgers. After a quick but naughty chat online with Storm’s boyfriend Stray, we realized that the hour was growing late: it was time to leave. We shared a group hug and a group bounce before finally setting off back toward Surfer’s Paradise where I was staying.

The two days I spent with my lovely friends from ECFans were, bar none, the best I spent in Australia. Sure there were wine tours (plural), shopping, fancy dinners, and schmoozing yet to come but nothing ever quite reached the amazing high of meeting these wonderful women. Before my trip we had Ayla to bind us together – now we have wonderful memories of stolen Pavlova, kidnapped Koalas, and giddy champagne induced giggles to bind us.

PS: For those of you wondering if I ever got my Koala, I can neither confirm nor deny any kidnapping allegations. Let’s just say that I will soon be receiving a rather large shipment of Eucalypts leaves in the near future.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Pleased to Meet You

Our first Sunday in Gold Coast had finally arrived. Hubby may have flown all the way to Australia for a couple of stupid conferences but I was here for a completely different reason. I was going to finally get to meet some of the girls from EC Fans. Imagine if you will a young girl on Christmas morning excited to the point of bouncing around and squealing with anticipation at opening the gifts that Santa had brought. Well, that was me on Sunday morning.

I was waiting outside of our hotel for GirlyMum to arrive to pick me up. The plan was that we would drive to the nearby Cascade Gardens and meet up with the rest of the gang for a daylong picnic. I was slightly dubious that it would last all day as I was being picked up at 9:30 in the morning. I needn’t have worried, as I didn’t get home until almost dusk.

GM finally arrived with her two incredibly cute and well behaved daughters sitting in the backseat of her car. We awkwardly re-introduced ourselves using our real (aka non internet) names and hugged before heading off for the long three-minute drive to the Gardens.

Surprisingly we were the first to arrive. With the help of GM’s daughters we snagged the last available picnic table and started setting out the feast that GM had brought to feed us all. After a few minutes, we noticed a young woman dressed all in black looking around the park and then rather dejectedly turning around to head back to the car park. After a few beats we both realized that this had to be Ace!

I ran over and rather embarrassedly asked the girl about to climb atop a black motorcycle, “Are you Ace?” I sincerely hoped I was right. She turned to me with a grin and a yes. After another round of intros and hugs she and I headed back over the to picnic table ‘o food. In case you were wondering the motorcycle dude was not her boyfriend as I had surmised, but rather her father. Oops!

About a half hour later our group grew yet again as Storm, Lois and Minnow all climbed out of Lois’ blue rental car. The bouncing, hugging, introductions and giggling started up for a third time as the early birds greeted our three newcomers. The EC Summer Meeting was officially underway.

To honor the occasion, GM popped open (the first) bottle of bubbly and we toasted everything from Jean Auel (who we had to thank for brining us together) to friends who couldn’t be with us. Due to her new tongue stud, Ace decided to forgo the champers on the first round and joined the toast with some diet Coke. (Ok there was probably another reason she skipped the Champagne but this way I get to show a picture of her brand new tongue piercing! Tres cool!)

We must have terrified the poor old couple sitting at the table next to us as we joked about Jondalar’s many talents, Harley’s ego, my obsession with the world’s cutest animal: the Koala bear, and more. The poor dears finally left and we were finally able to really let go and be ourselves. That, I should point out, in my case meant being a good, demure and well-behaved young lady. No really, I am. I swear!

The day continued as we ate the once kidnapped Pavlova that Lois had saved from the clutches of an evil hotel maid. We also nibbled on cheese, crackers, chips, dips, incredibly yummy and addictive Cheesy-Mites and Tim Tams. GM had kindly provided enough food to feed the entire park of picnic-ers. Thank goodness we didn’t have to share with any of them!

For the most part we were good about calling each other by our real names but occasionally a Typ0, GM or minnow would slip out. This of course happened more frequently the more champagne we drank and the more sugary Pavlova we ate. We also tried to climb trees, run off the annoying stork-like birds who kept trying to eat our food, discuss why each of us was or wasn’t good at scrabble, and even snuck in a few minutes to write post cards to those people who couldn’t make it for the Meet. Despite the many hours we were there the day literally flew by.

Evidently some of the local ladybugs got into the second bottle of champagne that GM opened. Naughty little buggies!

We even had a theme song for the day that the ladies kindly sang for me. It’s a real song and it’s called the Vegemite Song:

We're happy little Vegemites
As bright as bright can be.

We all enjoy our Vegemite

For breakfast, lunch, and tea.

Our mother says we're growing stronger every single week.
Because we love our Vegemite.

We all adore our Vegemite.

It puts a rose in every cheek!
And people call me weird…

I could honestly go on for pages and pages about everything we talked about and my very favorable impressions of these amazing ladies. This day of giggling, laughing and making friends was the single best part of my entire trip to Australia. From now on whenever I think of “The Land Down Under” I won’t be humming a song by Men at Work (ok maybe a little), I’ll be smiling and reflecting back on a perfect day spent with five other wonderful women and the memories we made together.

Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!
Oy! Oy! Oy!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

When Good Airlines Go Bad

It’s amazing how different airline personnel can be, whether we’re talking about different airlines or even the same airline but at different airports. Take the KLM staff in Amsterdam for example. We’ve dealt with this airline in several different countries and not had problems but their local staff in Amsterdam is beyond rude. Have a problem and need them to fix it? Hell no! It’s your own damn fault and had better have a darned good idea on how to rectify the situation yourself before you go and ask one of the kind blonde women behind the blue counter for assistance.

You’d prefer a more recent example? Fine. When we were getting ready to visit the Down Under we attempted to check-in online only to be told (after hours of trying) that Emirates online service was down that day. Ok not a problem. After all, despite the problems we had encountered at the Nairobi airport in the past, this time we were flying on a great airline and who are always wonderfully smooth running. Dang we were naïve; we should have remembered that the airport always trumps the airline.

The two people on duty there were busy checking in an A340 Airbus full of passengers eager to get the heck out of Dodge and wing their way to Cloud City (aka Dubai). Moving at a pace that even the snails thought was rather slow we edged our way closer to the check-in counter. By the time it was our turn to obtain boarding passes, Hubby and I had already had four fights, made up five times (an extra kiss never hurt anybody, thank you), found a cure for bird flu, and cobbled ourselves a pretty cool plan for world peace. (It involved kissing too!)

Once at the counter, we discovered that not only could the brilliant Emirates employee not provide us with boarding passes but also that she could barely figure out how to check our luggage in. We should have taken this as a sign of things to come. We were directed to sit in a corner with other Losers Without Passes (like Doctors Without Borders but less into healing and more into wreaking vengeance upon incompetent Emirates employees). We all watched as dozens of people in line after us walked away with passes and made their way toward the boarding area.

Hubby glowered at them menacingly for 30 minutes at which time they succumbed to his evil powers and called him over for ticketing. More stern and angry looks got us seats together on the first flight. We then politely asked for exit rows seats on our next flight. “Sure. No problem!”

You’d think we would have learned to stop being so darned naïve. Not only were the seats they gave us NOT in exit rows, they were directly behind an exit row filled with screaming babies. Flying out of Nairobi is just so much fun… or something.

All this, you see, is in direct contrast to the amazing service we received from Qantas last Friday as we departed Cairns for Brisbane.

The briskly moving line at the Domestic terminal quickly steered us to the good-looking Australian girl behind counter number five. We handed Aussie Lady our ID, tickets, and frequent flyer cards and smiled tiredly at her. After a few minutes of keying information into her computer she turned to me. “Where is your ticket for Brisbane to Sydney?” Say what?!

First of all, that wasn’t even the flight we were checking in for. And second of all: HUH?! She explained that it looked like someone had inadvertently torn it off already. (Picture, if you will, me starting to have a nervous breakdown as the tears started to well up and I looked fearfully at Hubby.) She verified that Hubby’s ticket hadn’t been kidnapped (doesn’t that just figure!), and smiled at us reassuringly.

Taking our tickets in hand, she jogged over to the ticketing counter a few yards behind us. Meanwhile at the check-in counter, Hubby and I were contemplating my new Aussie life since I was about to be stuck in Brisbane for the foreseeable future. Good Lord, I was going to have to get a job!

Moments before I fainted, Aussie Lady returned to us. She explained that she had noted in the computer system what had happened with the missing ticket. All we needed to do was go to a ticketing agent in Brisbane before we left and they’d give us a new ticket voucher and we wouldn’t have any problems. She even wrote these instructions onto the ticket envelope so we wouldn’t forget.

The moral of this story is that we’re naming our first-born child after Aussie Lady (not that we know her name), and we love the Qantas staff in Cairns. Oh and the next time Hubby tries to leave me behind in a foreign country, he’s going make sure that there are no kind hearted Qantas staff on hand to bail me out.

Post Script: On our way home we had to fly through Syndey and bug the local Emirates staff there for boarding passes. A woman at the information counter saw we had no baggage (it had been checked through already courtesy of the ever wonderful Qantas staff) and called us over. Dealing simultaneously with us and three other sets of passengers she stayed calm and sweet to all of us. Not only that but she hooked us up with exit row seats giving the seats we were supposed to get to a rude couple that pushed in front of us.

Emirates staff in Sydney: we love you!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

He Blogged. She Blogged.

Typ0: My desire to sleep in on Saturday was shot down by two things: the Australian sun and the completely useless venetian blinds hanging in the window of our bedroom. The damn things block out exactly zero sunlight which forced me awake somewhere around dawn. Which, I should point out, wouldn’t have been so bad except that the beach floodlights were on all night and illuminated my half of the room beautifully. I like my bedroom to be dark when I sleep – I know I’m such a freak. Arrrgh!

Hubby: Not like that quieted the snoring last night …

Typ0: Shortly after Hubby returned from registering for the conference (nice bag but way less cool than the one from Cairns), we restarted our debate about where to go for the day. Hubby, being a 12-year-old boy at heart, wanted to go to Wet and Wild Water World, the local water park. He kept referring to it as Monde D’eau and was determined that we not miss an opportunity to spend what was left of the day freezing our swimsuits off on the water slides. Admittedly, the park did advertise that all the water was warmed year ‘round and had at least one cool sounding laze around the lagoon type ride that sounded fun for lazy Typ0s.

Hubby: Monde D’eau! Monde D’eau!!

Typ0: Thank you for making my point for me, Sweetie.

After changing into the cute new swimsuits we bought back in Canada in June, we grabbed a beach towel, sunscreen, and money and headed out for Monde D’eau. As we neared the park, we were uncertain if it was even open because it looked virtually deserted. It turned out that the park was open; there simply weren’t a lot of people there since it was Australian winter and what not. The good news was that as we had killed half the day doing nothing, the park was due to close in a few hours so we got in for half price.

Hubby: Sweet!

Typ0: The bad news, however, was that the one ride I wanted to go on, the Lazy River, was closed for the winter. Further proof that God hates me. Yay. Other bad news for your out of shape Blogger B!tch was that every single waterslide was really high up and required that we walk up a zillion flights of stairs in order to enjoy the wet and wild fun.

Hubby: WEEeeeeeeeeeee!!!!

Typ0: Despite the stairways from hell the slides themselves were wicked ass cool. Due to the slightly out of season date, not all of the rides were even open. But we made a point of going on every single one that was! Oh and on the good news front, there were literally no line-ups. Once you made up your mind to climb up to a slide there were no bratty or annoying kids standing in the way of your fun.

Hubby: Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!

Typ0: Exactly. On several of the rides we found ourselves screaming with equal parts fear and glee as the rafts we were on turned so high along the slide walls we thought we were going to flip over.

Hubby: Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

Typ0: For half price plus the locker fee we spent less than $50 AUD which was a really good deal. Both Hubby and I agreed that if we lived in the area, we would totally have a seasons pass so we could come frequently.

Hubby: Weeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

FernGully: The Aussie Edition

On Thursday, whilst Hubby toiled the day away hard at work at the conference, I elected to go touristing. This meant making my way to the local rainforest and the tourist village of Kuranda. The forest has existed since long before Cairns became such a popular tourist Mecca. But that hasn’t stopped the locals from making it a modern marvel of fun and picture taking.

We drove from the hotel toward the undulating hills that border Cairns. Drawing ever nearer to our destination, I wondered in a rather Canuckian way if skiing would have possible had their been snow on the ground. I looked again at the hills and laughed at my whimsy ‘cause only a good slalom skier would have been able to negotiate around those thickly treed knolls.

There are three ways up the mountain to Kuranda – car, train or SkyRail. The latter is an ingenious gondola ride up and over the rainforest canopy. I had signed up to ascend on the SkyRail and come back on the train. A good idea I felt, as it would allow me to nap on the way home without fear of missing too much.

After a puzzling hour at the train station-ticketing counter, a group of us were shuttled to the SkyRail depot to begin our adventure. The smallish gondolas seat up to six people but the operators didn’t pack them up which allowed couples to ascend on their own. A sweet elderly couple (he from Tasmania or Tassie and she from Adelaide) saw that I was on my own and invited me to join them.

I learned during the first leg of the trip that the SkyRail had actually been privately built in the last decade or two. I forget exactly when but Tassie Guy claimed it was in the 80’s sometime. Or so he thought. Whoever did erect it did an amazing job. We climbed high and higher over the trees allowing us a bird’s eye view of both Cairns and the amazing eco-culture beneath us.

Unlike at Green Island the day before, Man and the local government (aka The Man) did interfere with the forest here to a certain degree. I spotted several trees that had been trimmed back to allow for the smooth passage of the SkyRail gondolas. Still others had inexplicably died into a beautiful silvery maze of braches.

The ride up to the town of Kuranda was done in three separate states and took a good 45 minutes to an hour. At each junction, we were able to disembark from our gondola to explore the rainforest firsthand along guided paths. At the second stop, we were also able to get some rather nice pictures of the 300-meter high Barron Falls. Sadly, since this was not the rainy season we didn’t get a terribly roaring falls to view but it was still very pretty. It brought to mind the rather picturesque one we saw in Mauritius at Christmas.

The nice couple opted not to join me for the final walk so I enjoyed a solitary ride up to Kuranda while sprawled across the gondola’s plastic seats.

Kuranda turned out to be a total tourist trap of a town – but in a good way. Small shops selling everything from boomerangs and didgeridoos (damn I love that word!) to magnets and opals dotted my path along the cobblestone streets. Eager tourists were flocking to these stores like bees to tchotchke heaven.

I was under strict instructions from the Aussie EC Crew™ not to buy anything. “No true Aussie would buy anything there,” I had been told rather sternly. I was one of the few people going home seemingly empty-handed. Yes, seemingly. I can hope that the Ladies will forgive me for, after an invigorating pint of cider I did buy a cute kanga-shaped magnet for the fridge. But nothing else - I swear!

A relaxing river cruise, Koala kidnapping… err… petting center, and butterfly sanctuary are all available once you arrive in Kuranda. I avoided the Koalas since I was due to visit a similar park in a few days with the Ladies. (*bounce*) All in all, I spent a rather relaxing day up there enjoying the typical and awesome Aussie hospitality. Plus, unlike the day before, I didn’t get seasick!

The ride down took a rather pleasant hour and a half, most of which I spent napping. I woke up long enough to see another waterfall and oogle a few Aussie tourists but that was it. I’ll say this for Cairns – everyone walks everywhere and it’s exhausting. I was more than ready for that fresh air nap as we headed back to town down the hills. I dreamt that I was a local Australian girl with my very own Koala for a pet and Kangaroo for transportation. *sigh*

Life is good mate!

PS with Irony: According to IMDB (the coolest place on the Internet), the rainforest depicted in the movie FernGully was actually based on rainforests here in Australia. Go fig!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Great Barrier Sea Sickness

Wednesday was the day Hubby and I were due to be bound for the Great Barrier Reef. The day dawned darkly; clouds loomed over Cairns in ominous warning of what was to come. The rain and wind soon took up battle for which would ruin everyone’s day the most. Although the rains had ceased by the time we lined up to board our boat to the Reef, the wind had yet to cede the competition.

Poetry about the nastiness of the day aside, I have come to a new conclusion that I need to share with you, my Dedicated Readers. I no longer hate airplanes. I loathe and detest boats. I hate the way they pitch from side to side: the waves battering the sides of the ship, the ever present wind whispering just loudly enough to mock any thought you may have had of your stomach settling down for so much as a minute. I’m nauseas again just typing this.

It was with great relief on the part of everyone but Sea Legs Hubby that the boat docked at Green Island. The small island was made by nature over the last eon or so and adopted by the Aussie government over the last few decades or so as an eco-tourist trap. This pit stop along the Outer Barrier was our afternoon destination.

Due to the frigid water and the freezing air temperatures, Hubby and I skipped the chance to snorkel with the tropical fishes and catch pneumonia. Instead, we hopped aboard a glass-bottomed boat to view the fish from the comfort of a dry, wooden bench. Due to the incredibly low tides we were unable to see all that many fish. The suckerfish; however, really seemed to like Hubby as it kept clinging to the glass under his sandaled feet.

Not wanting to miss out entirely on the ocean experience, Hubby and I then made our way over the beach where the snorkelers were wishing that they had joined us rather than opting for goggles and flippers. After shucking our shoes on the beach Hubby managed to get out almost to knee deep when he realized that my tender tootsies weren’t up to the task of traversing the coral-lined sand that edged the water. Luckily his sense of gallantry was not put to the test as the skies suddenly opened up and began spitting on us.

We wandered up toward the beach café and remained there only long enough to dry off and listen to an English woman flirt unsuccessfully with the Australian lifeguard who was lingering under the shelter.

This dreary day was, however, depressing Hubby so much that not even a plate of chips (fries) and gravy and a sausage roll could cheer him up. Seized by inspiration, and knowing that Hubby loves walking around somewhat aimlessly, I headed us in the direction of guided Eco-walk. [Hubby Edit: Please note that she did this only by accident] This wind-ridden tour took us around part of the island’s perimeter while we were told all sorts of cool factoids about the island and it came into being.

All of the flora and fauna on the island found its way there naturally. Whether they were seeds that floated there of their own accord or ones that arrived courtesy of one of the many birds (or rather, the bird’s digestive system) that called the Reef home, they all fought for space beneath the green canopy. Our guide explained that several plant varieties grew only during the monsoon season while others thrived during the drier weather.

The incredible variety of foliage the guide kept pointing out had me wishing that I had brought a notebook, or better yet, a waterproof tape recorder so that I could share his wisdom with you. One of tidbits I do remember is pretty cool, however, and has to with the coconut-like seeds that we kept seeing throughout our walk.

Although virtually inedible to humans, the Box Fruit is a useful thing to find when you’re starving on a deserted island. We were told that Aboriginals would use the unpalatable center of this seed to catch fish. They would spread it around in the shallow water where the fish swam and wait. The Box Fruit doesn’t kill the fish -- it simply and briefly de-oxygenates the water, stunning the fish temporarily. This allows the fisherdudes to select the victim they want, take it out of the water, and take it home to eat. The rest eventually shake off the effects and continue their daily swim. A perfect fish dinner without having to bait a hook. Cool, n’est ce pas?

With a half hour to kill before we had to reboard the Boat From Hell, we elected to mosey along the boardwalk that bordered the island. This turned into a curious adventure as Hubby decided that he was an eight year old and spent the entire time making car sounds (VROOM!) and racing along (VROOM!) instead of simply walking. This was fine except when he continued to do it in front of other people who were somewhat confused by his actions. But I couldn’t blame them really since I have been equally as confused by him for at least the last eleven or so years.

All in all, I wish our wonderful day at the Great Barrier Reef had never ended. But that has more to do with the bumpy ride back more than anything else…

Sunday, August 06, 2006

G’Day Mate!

After the world’s longest series of flights, Hubby and I are now in Aussie-land™. Hubby has already made several comments regarding how much Cairns is just like California so you know he likes it. For myself? Well, it ain’t half bad at that.

The warm weather means that coats aren’t necessary except at night and even then only if you’re a Californian who can’t stand even the slightest cool breeze from the ocean. Our hotel isn’t the fanciest in town but it is quite centrally located, as we’re only a short walk from the Convention Center, waterfront and main shopping areas. My current plan is to investigate at least the latter today once this blog is posted and I’ve enjoyed some lunch.

Lest you think I’ve been goofing off and not enjoying all Australia has to offer I post this picture from an Australian Rugby game Hubby and I watched upon our arrival yesterday. No, that’s not porn – that’s an official Rugby League game photo. If they had fun stuff like this back home I’d watch way more sports!

Naked men running around Rugby fields. Bookstores filled with romance novels. Good looking Australian men being… good looking Australian men. I realize we’ve been here less than a day but I’m really starting to like this place!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Come Fly With Me

Time flies when you’re stuck in solitary confinement. Thankfully the parole board here at Kenya-traz™ has elected to let me off for good behavior. That’s right, my wonderfully Devoted Readers, even as you read this your favorite Blogger B!tch (aka ME!) will be on her way to Aussie-land™.

I realize that I’m about to spend the next 15 billion hours on an airplane but I don’t even care. (I’m sure that by the time I blog about the trip I will once again hate flying again but for now it sounds like lovely way to travel.) Sitting around for hours on end in an airport while I wait for the next flight? Not a problem because I won’t be sitting around doing nothing…

D'oh! Hold on. You guys talk amongst yourselves while I try not to cry at the thought of being stuck in airplanes and airports with even less to do than I do here in Nairobi. *sob* Ok, i'm back...

So here are some things that you can look forward to reading about either during or after my two-week long furlough to Australia. The current itinerary includes petting (and hopefully kidnapping) a Koala, meeting several wickedly cool EC-Friends, visiting wineries, annoying Hubby by learning to speak with an Aussie accent, swimming along the Great Barrier Reef, eating an Oz Burger with beetroot, and one or two other surprises that you’ll just have to wait read about! Oh yeah, and attending all of Hubby’s lecturing while paying attention and not reading or napping while he talks.

So sit tight, write some comments for me to read when I get back, and I’ll be blogging again before you know it! ‘Onya!!

I'm Here to Help

“Yes, Jean Luc, I will do anything for you and the Federation,” I whispered as the tall captain brushed his hand lightly over my hair. I smiled as I welcomed him into my cabin. “If we have to appear to be married to fool the Ferengi I’m willing to play my part.”

“But Jodi,” he cautioned, his sexy English accent floating over me in a wave that melted my insides. “They are watching us very closely. This is not simply an undercover mission that we can leave behind when we are behind these doors. They have spies everywhere. You must be willing to commit.”

“Anything, Captain. You know that.”

As if to test me, he leaned in and swept me into his arms, his soft lips only inches from my own. Suddenly a loud alarm starting buzzing and we flew apart, startled. “Is it the Ferengi, Jean Luc?”

He looked at me hungrily, “No, Lieutenant, it’s time to wake up.”

“Sweetie, turn the damn alarm off and get up,” my husband said groggily. But what happened to Jean Luc I wanted to cry. Stupid alarm clock I thought as I leaned over to squint at the glowing red numbers. Stupid six in the morning I whined as I turned the alarm off.

As I prepared to turn back over Matthew quickly sprawled himself all over my side of the bed. “Fine, I didn’t want to snuggle anyways,” I muttered as I began to waddle toward the bathroom. “What’s the date?” I called out.

“Damn it I don’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn everyday Jodi, you do!” I heard in response. I waited for him to wake up an inch or two more. “It’s Tuesday the 4th.”

I closed the door to the bathroom in response and hopped into what I hoped would be a steaming shower. Hot water on demand, you see, is the ultimate gift from the gods and it wasn’t one I was ever willing to ignore. As I stood beneath the pounding spray I did some quick calculations in my head. If today was the 4th then I would have earned another half day of sick leave which would bring my total unused sick leave to one full day which would mean that I could call out sick!

I squealed gleefully as I finished my morning absolutions and practiced my sick voice. “Hi, Leslie, I can’t come in today because,” I paused trying to think of an excuse I hadn’t used in the last six months. Then I smiled that wickedly evil smile that every naughty child knows. If I called in the next 20 minutes he wouldn’t be there and I could leave a voice mail and I wouldn’t need an excuse. Just a few well-placed coughs and an offer that if he wanted to, he could call me. The last part is key, you see, because bosses never call if you tell them to; because they think you’re being sincere and don’t want to disturb your rest. Some people excel at working; I excelled at not working.

Just as I was about to make the call and return to my wonderful dream-state Hubby called out again. “Babe? Yeah, it isn’t the 4th today. Sorry, I don’t know what I was thinking. Today is the 3rd. If it was the fourth I’d have to give that lecture to the incoming grad students.”

I had stopped listening by that point. Not the 4th? But that meant that I wouldn’t earn my extra half-day off until tomorrow, which meant that I couldn’t call out which meant that I had to work today! I hated my husband at that point. I planned ways to have him killed as I pulled my jeans on and stared at my closet for sweater inspiration.

“Wear the blue one. You look cute in it,” he mumbled from the bed. He had good taste so I couldn’t hate him entirely. Maybe I’d just hate those horrible suffragette women who wanted to be able to work way back when. Yeah, I’ll hate them.

After a quick hunt for my purse, keys and other essential items, I wandered into the bedroom and gave Matthew a quick kiss goodbye on his cheek. In a last ditch attempt to demonstrate that I held no ill will about his falsely advising me of the date I turned the coffee maker on and ignored the lunch bag sitting next to it. If I was going to be forced to work on what could have been a day off then I was at least going out to lunch. And with that I was out the door and on my way to hell.

You may think that I hate my job. I don’t, I just resent the time it takes away from watching TV and doing nothing. If the not working gods had been watching over me today, watching TV, fast food and doing nothing would all have been on the to do list. Instead I had to drive the twenty minutes to work and hope that I could find a parking spot within a 5-mile radius of the front door of the building.

If it weren’t for NPR I would hate my drive to work. Luckily listening to the news helps relax me and keep my mind off the doom that was looming closer as the miles disappeared beneath my lead foot. Some people listen to music in the car, but that always makes me car dance and when you live in a small college town where everyone knows you and your car that can be dangerous.

The drive ended the same way it always did: at the private building that housed my company’s local offices. The company’s headquarters were miles away in Texas but our local branch was home to almost 500 souls, most of whom were, I assume, as miserable as I was. The giant teddy bear logo next to the front door was the only hint that this Fortune 500 Company existed hidden behind the suburban maze of side streets in this nondescript mid-western town. But that was the way that we liked it: we didn’t want people to find us.

We aren’t the CIA or the FBI: we’re way more important than that. We are the anonymous voices that you yell at without fear of retribution. We are the faceless geniuses who fix the problems that you claim we caused in the first place. We are Customer Service and we may not rule your world but we’ll keep you on hold for five minutes for the privilege of fixing it for you.