Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Food

Food is always a subject of interest when in a foreign country and while the food here is certainly not that different from the food in the US, there area few notable things. One is that there is Asian food EVERYWHERE and this makes me very happy. I'm not talking about Chinese food like you know it either. I'm talking Asian noodle houses with Thai,Vietnamese, Malaysian....
My new favorite thing is Laksa, a spicy noodle soup in coconut curry broth with fried tofu puffs. I don't remember ever seeing it in the states, but I've had it in just about every noodle house around. Mmmmm......

Not surprisingly, the one thing we don't have so much of here is Mexican food. Our American neighbors warned us not to eat at any of the "Mexican" restaurants around because the food is terrible and certainly not like anything from Mexico. But we stumbled on a new place that had only been open for a couple months so we thought we'd give it a go. We each ordered burritos, bean and chicken respectively, and we were quite surprised to find that each of our burritos had a distinctly curried flavor. Now I for one LOVE curry, but it was unexpected in a burrito. Brian's chicken was actually covered in curry sauce and I think the flavor in mine was coming from the beans. The place was right next door to an Indian restaurant.....come to think of it, the window to the kitchen was on the wall shared with the Indian place....

This isn't related to food but I realized yesterday that the Australian accent has stopped sounding so foreign and unique, and now I spend less time listening to accents (which I quite enjoy) and actually listen to what people are saying :) Not that I wasn't listening before of course, its just less novel now.

Oh, and I'm off on a field trip this weekend to the Snowy Mountains (you could watch the Man from Snowy River this weekend and pretend you're there with me!). There is a major hydroelectric plant there and we are going to have a look at the human ecological interactions happening there. Should be fun. Photos and stories to come....

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Potluck

We had a very nice potluck this week as a going away party for the Japanese family in our apartment building. He finished studying and they are going home so we had a potluck in the back yard to say farewell. It was really the first time that we were able to get together with all of our neighbors and a couple we met for the first time. Here are a some photos of the event, one of the adults and one of the kids in the building.





We got to try foods from all over and Brian got to try kangaroo and thought it was quite good. We brought a bottle of Australian mead and that was lots of fun to share. And its a great conversation piece as we make mead back home in the US.

I mentioned before that our apartment building is quite a multicultural place with families from all over the world. There is a Korean family who feed the possums almost every night. The possums here are different from the ones in the US though. These are really cute and fluffy. I just happen to have a photo!



So there is a running joke that the Korean family feeds the possums every evening, but the Brazilian guy a couple doors down keeps saying that when it gets fat enough, he'll be eating it!

Rotary Scholars

The chair of the district 9710 scholarship committee organized a dinner the other day for all of the scholars studying at the ANU to finally meet each other. The others are from Japan, England, and Korea, and there is another American who was working for the state department in DC before coming here. They are ALL studying international relations because apparently, this is the place to be for that field. I hear that all of the best researches and professors worldwide in international affairs are actively recruited to come here.

Actually, the university is well known for its environmental activities as well and for having what is probably the "greenest" campus in Australia. And it is perennially regarded as Australia's best university. So I feel like I chose the right place in terms of the best program; its blending of social and environmental sciences is quite unique (and the major reason I decided to come here). I am meeting great people in my field and learning so much!

So, anyway it was great to meet the other scholars but I am definitely the oldest by a couple years :) Ah well, with age comes wisdom right?

Also, the local district has funding this year to offer an outgoing ambassadorial scholarship for the first time in quite a few years. So, I'm actively telling all of my friends on campus that they should apply!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Boating and Bushwalking

Last weekend was quite a full weekend and I've been recovering from it ever since! Saturday morning I spent at Lake Burley Griffin helping out the Canberra Sunrise Rotarians at Dragon Boating. Picture long boats with an ornately carved dragons head at the bow and a tail in the stern and 12-18 paddlers lining both sides of the boat plus a drummer to keep time for the strokes and a helmsman. Rotarians were responsible for timekeeping in the 200 meter race so I spent the morning with a stopwatch and lots of anticipation! It's tiring to be constantly waiting for the gunshot to signal the start of the race, and then hoping that all of the timekeepers start at the same time....not very high tech timekeeping. But it was fun and a nice way to spend some with the local Rotarians. And by the time we had perfected our technique, our shift was over.

Now Sunday was the really exhausting day...our friends were going rock climbing at Booroomba Rocks in nearby Namadgi National Park. So we got a lift with them so that we could spend the day hiking while they were climbing. We planned a route ourselves the night before and then confirmed with the ranger at the visitor center in the morning that it would be a good hike. Our friends left us at the visitor center to walk to meet them at the rocks and we took off on the 13 kilometer adventure up to the top of Mount Tennent at 4537 feet (1383 meters) and then down the other side. We started early enough so the day was cool and the hike to the top was quite easy really, except for the last kilometer which was STEEP, and hot by then. We were plodding on up to the fire tower at the top and as we round the last corner I see a friend from uni and some others I know from my courses! How funny that we have only a handful of friends here and yet we run into one at the top of mountain with no one else in sight! Had lunch at the top and then made our way down the other side which started off easily enough, but soon we were in open bushland in the blazing sun for several kilometers. That part was flat but it was close to 100 degrees and very tiring by that point. The sun here is noticeably hotter. By the time we got to the last kilometer we were just about out of water and had another stretch of uphill to reach the car park where our friends car was. Needless to say, we were very happy to get there and our muscles have been recovering ever since. Feeling fine now, but postponing further bushwalking for cooler days.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Special Delivery

There was a knock on the door the other evening and I open it to see a delivery man with a giant potted plant in his arms...it was this beautiful peace lily from Jan, Heather, and Teagan (my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and baby niece.) So thoughtful! And what's funny is that I had just said to Brian a few days before that the apartment really needed some plants!



News from the land where swans are black, mammals lay eggs, and trees keep their leaves but lose their bark.

So much to tell as the first two weeks of uni have flown by and we’ve passed the one month mark of our stay already! A note about the title of this post…it’s referring to a quote that early explorers made about Australia and what a strange land it can be. A photo of a black swan follows, the stringybark eucalyptus sheds its bark, and of course, the platypus lays eggs.



School is going well now that I have all of my courses worked out. I’m taking four which is a bit of a heavy load but I would really like to finish the year with a masters if at all possible. That means I’m taking three courses now and the fourth is an independent research project. Next semester I’ll be taking two courses and the other two will be research units for a total of eight courses over two semesters. I’m now enrolled in Environmental Policy and Planning, Water Resource Management, Human Ecology (study of the sustainability of human interactions with the environment) and an independent research project which is still coming together. I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed coming back to the university after five years away, having to get accustomed to a new system, similar of course, but still with a much different assessment system and I would say, higher expectations of it’s students. That of course could be a function of this being postgraduate work, but even the upper level undergraduates here are expected to take on independent research.

I really like my department which is the School of Resources, Environment, and Society. We have morning tea together every Wednesday at 10:45 a.m. and most lecturers will even let their students out a bit early from classes scheduled until eleven, as morning tea is rather sacred. Yesterday, there was an all day outing for new students in the department to see some of the sights around Canberra and meet some environmental professionals working in the field. Here is a photo from the top of Mount Ainslie of me with three of my office mates. Did I mention that I also have my own office space? It’s a large room that has a number of desks and computers in it, but it’s very spacious and I don’t know what I would do without it! I spend a lot of time there between classes and on my days off (unfortunately.) Liz is enrolled in the same program as I am and we have a lot in common. We’ve had no trouble making Australian friends and in fact spend very little time with the Americans that we do know.


Kim, Jenn, Liz, and Deazy

Here's a photo of the view behind us, Parliamentary Triangle, which is essentially the center of the city, without us in the way.



On another note, I went to the local Rotaract meeting this week. Rotaract is a Rotary sponsored service club for young people ages 18 to 30. I was planning on looking them up once I got settled in but they had a booth on campus during orientation week and I happened to run into them there. As we were introducing ourselves at the beginning of the meeting, I said my name and that I was a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar from District 6630 in Cleveland, Ohio and I heard a squeal and a clap from across the aisle and a girl says, “I was on a Rotary youth exchange there!” When we got to talk after the meeting I found out that she lived in Warren, Ohio for a year in 2002. How funny is that? She loved the experience and has just recently found Rotaract and is happy to be able to be involved with Rotary since she feels they gave her so much. Small world.

Mob of Kangaroos

Had a lovely ride around Lake Burley Griffin today. Here is a photo of a nice view of one small part of the large, meandering lake.



Every time we leave the house we see something new and exciting. Lots of birds and I won't bore you with all of the photos I have taken of the various types, but it is certainly worth a photo when we see a mob of kangaroos in the distance. This photo was taken at some distance of the mob (yes, that's the technical term) of grey kangaroos on the Royal Canberra Golf Course. We estimate no less than forty or fifty, though you can't see them all here.