Saturday, March 28, 2009

Flowers for Patty Campbell, Master Gardener

Here are just a few examples of the different trees and flowers here during early fall in Wollongong.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

St. Patrick's Day in Oz

You'd think that in a country where drinking is...a national pastime and seems to be competitively, that St. Patrick's Day is...just another day. Ok, I'm joking! It is as big a deal here as in the US, much bigger than it is in Ireland.

To paraphrase Lloyd Bridges in Airplane, "I guess I picked the wrong country to stop drinking in."

Actually, I did go to Dicey Riley's one of the local Irish Pubs right after work at 4:30 and as you can see from the pictures, it was hopping! Someone I ride with on the train walks by there in the morning and said it was opened for business and the St. Patrick's Day crowd was starting! I had a couple of Guinness and went straight home on my usual train. I did go to my usual local pub, The Charles Hotel, but it was a typical weekday night. The usual 3 or 4 people playing the ponies and dogs were there but nothing green.

There was a group of young adults heading up the tracks and I asked if I could take their picture for my blog. They were already feeling pretty good and one young lady was already so gone, I was worried if she would fall onto the tracks. Reminded me of Melbourne Cup Days where so many people dressed up (similar to our version of Easter) and went to the local racetrack to booze it up, watch the local ponies then attempt to watch the Cup on the big screen. Most had to be carried home and apparently is great entertainment if you're riding the train at the right time or drive along the track as they have to cross this main road to get to the train station. Lots of fun!

Keep in touch, read and comment. I really do appreciate it.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Lost Weekend

The pictures above are of some signs I find funny. Being illegal to Shoot at or over the Australian Hydrographic building? The 'over' part must be a carryover from notices on their ships. Plus co-worker Josh trying to find the building for the Visually Impaired? I don't see it either. I guess we need to get an exam. Also, just one of the unusual blossoms I see on the way to the train I thought I'd share.

Now, onto the title of this entry:

I know it's been a while since I've written anything about my exciting life and times in the Land of Oz, but after I describe last weekend, you may understand and give me a little sympathy (or disgust).

Friday night started off in a fairly manner. I rushed home since I now have to stay until 5:00 thereby missing the first hour and a half of Lingerie night at the Charles. On Thursday and Friday nights from 4:00 to 7:00, a service provides a model to serve drinks. They wear lingerie but lose the top after a short time. For some reason the place is packed, most likely because of the 3 B's guys like: Beer, Boobs and Buddies. Aussies do not tip! In fact, some people think it an insult if you tip them. This wonderful feature is slowly changing however, but in the case of these (usually) women who wait on us Thursday and Friday nights, tipping is expected but not necessarily done. In fact, when I tip, those who sit with me give me a bad time. I probably am setting a bad precedent.

But last weekend started off supercharged. I ran into Mark from the flat next door who was already there and having a good time. It's unusual as the drink driving level here is 0.05! 2 regular beers in an hour and you're over the limit. Naturally, most people are very cautious, especially Mark. He's the same age as I am and a high school teacher for Marine Biology and Chemistry. He's a great guy and was feeling great that night.

After the show, he offered to drive me back and while I asked him if he was ok to drive, he said he was...really. It's only about 4 blocks and on the way he invited me over for something to eat. I had some homemade chicken soup I said I'd heat up and bring over, but before I could do that, Mark showed up with an Esky full of beer, 4 meat pies (chicken) and a great mood! He was on fire!

I warmed the soup, popped the pies in the oven and started to work on the Esky with him. Btw, Esky is Aussie for Eskimo Cooler which I find so funny and a perfect example of how they shorten words and add an 'ie' at the end of words. After a couple of beers, I decided to pull out a bottle of Shiraz which Mark likes. It was a very one, Galway Vintage 2006 for my wine loving friends. I'm keeping a wine journal with my notes on Aussie wine as suggested by Craig Sweet and Mike Renslow, the Wine Doctor.

So, beer then wine (which is just fine) and we went to work on that bottle with a little cheese and salami while waiting for the chicken dishes to cook. We ate half the pies and all the soup and soon it was after midnight. It was great having a yarn as they say, with Mark and he got up to go home. Immediately he came back in a panic looking for his keys. Nope! No keys here. He said he'd left the front window open so could get in.

I went out with him to see if I could help in any way. He grabbed a milk crate and it was still a bit of a stretch to get up to the window so I put myself between the crate and the window, put my hands on my knees and told him to use my back as a step. That was fine until he just stood there and started to bounce slightly laughing. I said "If you were female and Asian, I'd be paying big bucks for this!" Of course, I was thinking that I hoped I wouldn't be paying big bucks to the Doctor. All was fine however.

Since we're in the midst of the dreaded Quarterlies, which is a massive volume calculating job for 2 of the world's largest mining companies, things at work are hectic. So, in my less than firing on all cylinders shape, went into the office for a few hours. Since these sites are in Western Australia and they're 2 hours behind us, not much was going on in the morning. I decided to take a long lunch and before I ate, went to the Thai Massage place and had a 40 minute workout, and it was. Some guy really worked my back over and it felt great! Onto a relaxed meal then back to the office to monitor activity on my projects.

Obviously Saturday night was pretty quiet and I went back to the office for a few hour Sunday. When I got back home, Mark was there working on changing a tire on his daughter's car. I helped again and then they all were going to the Towardgi Beach Hotel to listen to Sunday Afternoon Blues. It's only a few blocks away and I should go more often as the music is very good. We had a few and some snacks. It was a good time and that feeling of maybe one more drink when I got home was in the back of my mind, but I did resist as the memory of Friday night (and especially Saturday morning) were still lingering.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Rotary and Australian Citizenship

Rotary and Australian Citizenship

Fall has hit the Illawarra, at least that's what the locals are saying. There is a slight chill in the breeze and my coworker, Brett the Younger said he can smell the change. I don't know how the locals can stand it, only in the low to mid 70's. I'm sure I'll see parkas and wollen scarves out soon.

Last Wednesday, I was invited to a weekly Rotary meeting. One of my coworkers who is a great guy, a Land Surveyor, is very active in Rotary and had invited me to a BBQ (in Australia?) earlier and has been trying to persuade me to join. They are a great bunch of people so I decided to see what a regular meeting was like. That night was a special night, and anything from ordinary.

They have their meetings at the Illawarra Leagues Club which has a casino, bars, restaurant, dance floors and meeting rooms. “Clubs” in Australia are similar to Fraternal organizations such as Elks, Eagles, Moose, etc. however in most cases, I don’t think they’re part of a National group. Most appear to be fairly localized, often surrounding themselves with a local sports team or university. There are clubs such as the Returned Soldier’s Club that must be a part of the Veteran’s group I’d imagine.

Also in Australia, when you see a ‘Hotel,’ it most likely means a bar that has a few token rooms to let (rent) in order to be able to sell booze. Similar to Washington State requiring a certain percentage of food sales to booze sales in order to maintain a class “H” license to sell hard liquor. Most likely some carryover from the ‘blue laws’ of a former Puritan era. More research is needed and I’m on task, but enough of that for now.

The Rotary was hosting a swearing in ceremony for new citizens of Australia. An official from Immigration in Sydney came down to perform his official function and actually it was a very good ceremony. Very touching and I’m sure the new citizens felt very welcomed. As at least 25% of the current population of just barely 21 million are foreign born, there really isn’t much if any, bad feelings about foreigners and immigrants as can be found elsewhere throughout some parts of the world.

One thing in the Official’s speech that move me was describing all the different countries that were being represented that night. Germany, the Netherlands, Philippines, USA, about 12 people became Australians that night. The Official said these new citizens are not asked to leave their heritage behind, but to incorporate it into Australia’s culture as they learn to be Australians. Australia isn’t a melting pot but more of a tapestry that makes this a strong, resilient nation of citizens. For some reason, that sounded very good to me.

No, I’m not going Aussie on you. I just thought it was a beautiful expression of respect for people around the world who come from different cultures.

I’m not going Rotarian either, lol.