Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Week 6 Already

It is Week 6 of the semester yet it feels like things just got going. My life has been study study study lately. The joys of academia. I had forgotten how much I thrive under the pressures of the student life. And being on a campus again makes me smile smile smile. With its setting right on the Brisbane river and massive sandstone buildings surrounding the Great Court (my fav spot to to sit and waste time between classes) I think it might be in the running for one of the prettiest campuses I have seen. See what I am talking about and go here to take a virtual tour.

My commute to school is a little over an hour but it is made a little easier on those days my train connects with a ferry rather than a bus. Plying along the river, gliding under bridges, watching the sun sparkle on the buildings it hardly feels like commuting at all.

So life is good. The only thing that is missing is that great feeling of commraderie I had with my fellow Indys back at UofT. It was always comforting to wander into the common room and find someone to commiserate with about our latest on slaught of assignments. We were war buddies. I've met loads of people in my classes but since my classes are made up of people from many many programs we often only see one another for a few hours a week. Hardly the stuff upon which life long friendships are formed. That Indy spirit is clearly lacking but I am managing. Plus with an invite to a party this week things might be achanging

And I can't complain too much. I have the world's most amazing guy in my life,who now that his assignment away is done, I get to come home to every night. Not too shabby.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Wednesday was the citywide public holiday for the Ekka (think Brisbane’s version of the CNE). With no work for Chris, my classes cancelled and neither of us interested in battling the crowds at the show we decided it was time for another installment of Adventures in Southeast Queensland

We decided to head back to a place we had both been before, Stradbroke Island. But this time we would do it public transit style. And with perfectly connecting buses and ferries public transit was never so efficient. A twenty minute water taxi ride followed by a 25 minute bus ride around the island and we were at Point Lookout, the more touristy of the three little villages on the island. And rightfully so, with its dramatic cliffs, sheltered beaches and café after café it is an easy spot to waste an afternoon.

Stradbroke Island Scenery

We mainly wandered along the road that hugs the cliff edge stopping for a fish and chips lunch at a small takeaway and a drink at the local. After that it was time for a nap in the shady soft grass behind one of the beaches followed by ice cream.

Can you find a Chris in this picture???

There he is!

Rejuvenated we walked the board walk of the Blue Gorge which is essentially a narrow cove where the waves rush in at forceful strength and the cliff faces are adorned by multitudes of vegetation

I was mesmerized by the flora on the island. Tall grasses, leafy palms. Everything so rugged and hardy but tropical and lush at the same time.

Happily admiring the view

Then to top off our little stroll we happened upon a kangaroo munching on some grass.

Completely unfazed by our presence

Then we hurried back to catch the bus back to the ferry dock. The drive back afforded views of a tangerine and mauve sky as the sun set over the mainland. A little reversion of the typical view out over the ocean. What is it about sunsets? I saw dozens of spectacular shows on the pacific coast of Nicaragua and Costa Rica during my time in Central America but they just never seem to lose their appeal. I suppose it is something to do with their daily occurrence yet somehow it is rare that I even notice them in the bustle of my everyday life. It is only in those rare moments that we step outside the routine that we get to truly enjoy those common wonders all around us.

That is just what I love about travel. For lack of a less clichéd way to write it, it is the way it makes you look at everyday things in a different light. And I had another thought while cruising along in that over crowded bus, memories of those congested chicken buses all too fresh in my mind. Travel by public transit, while sometimes inconvenient and uncomfortable, gives me a sense of connectedness with those around me. I watched as others I recognized from the journey over to the island boarded the bus, happy, tired and a little sunburnt just as we were, and it made the day feel just a little more special.

The Vitals:
Two Return Ferry Tickets: $27.00
Fish and Chips for Two: $20.00
Enjoying a chocolate ice cream while glimpsing a school of dolphins playing in the waves: Priceless

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Tales From an Apple Convert

So I have joined the masses with their ipods. A nano to be exact and I love it! It is so shiny, and white and fits right in my pocket. Apparently all that poo-pooing of people with their silly white headphones was really just deep seeded envy. Suddenly every aspect of my life must have a playlist soundtrack. Commuting to school, studying, hanging out the laundry. The fun never stops.

And then there is the joy of the podcast. I am currently working my way through CBC's Definititely Not the Opera before I move onto exploring the other treats on offer on the CBC website.

To think three months ago living in Nicaragua I stared at my friend with a perplexed look when the word 'podcast' escaped her lips. A pod-what???? Good god, I have come a long way. Now here I am off to school, macbook in my bag and silly white head phones in my ears.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Johnny Lion's Bad Day

One of the more memorable books from my childhood was Johnny Lion's Bad Day. It is about a sick day confined in bed and the bad red medicine gives Johnny terrible nightmares. Over time, in the Pinksen house, Johnny Lion's Bad Day evolved to describe that day when the universe metaphorically kicks your ass and you feel you would have been better served to stay in bed, build a little fort and wait for the bad karma or whatever it is to pass.

Today was just one of those days for me. To start I made my way to the train station to await my 10:30 train into the city. But the strangest thing greeted me. The train heading away from the city was driving on the wrong tracks. I thought to myself "how strange, I wonder if that is a sign of things to come" If only I had realized.

My train ended up being 24 minutes late which would still allow me just enough time to connect with a bus to get to uni....provided there were no further delays But as it turned out I was not to be so lucky.

But first, a little background on how ticketing works on the Brisbane Public Transit System. On the trains things work on a honour/fear of getting a hefty fine system where occasionally ticket inspectors will board the train asking to see all tickets. Failure to produce on means an one the spot $150 fine. Then there are also occasionally inspectors at the exits of the stations. Not one to play the game of inspector russian roulette I always buy a ticket when I can. Unfortunately my station was recently vandalized and it is no longer possible to buy a ticket there. So instead I purchase my ticket at my destination.

Generally this little system works well. All inspectors before have understood when I say "I got on at Wynnum" and politely remind me to buy my ticket when I get off. But today was a different story. Today it was not a Queensland Rail employee but a Police Officer who requested to see my ticket when I disembarked the train. As I tried to explain the situation to him he refused to listen and instead proceeded to demand my identification and write me a ticket. The more I tried to explain the angrier he became. He ranted on about how he was a police officer and did I know what it meant to be in trouble with the police. He threatened to send me to court and berated me for being a foreigner and not following Australia's rules.

Lucky for me his partner was a little more understanding and while all this was going on went to confirm my story with the ticketing office. He returned, informed his partner and I was allowed to leave but with no even a hint of apology for the huge inconvenience they had just caused me. The inconvenience of having missed the bus to campus and hence missing my class since on request of the professor we are not to enter the lecture hall late as it is quite disruptive.

It was just as well since the entire thing had given me an absolutely pounding headache.

But the whole experience has just given me new understanding of innocent people who end up in confrontations with the police. Things really can escalate quickly when the police jump to conclusions and refuse to allow a person to explain their situation.

On a loosely related note I recently watched "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt" a three part documentary about four boys in Western Australia who 8 years after the death of a teenager were convicted with his murder but not without much controversy and questions about police conduct and missing evidence. It certainly has me questioning the judicial system here in Australia.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Hey Mr. Tamborine Man Play a Song for Me

As previously mentioned student life will be putting a serious damper on my traveling for at least the next year and a half (we won't even mention the looming student debt) So Chris and I have decided to scratch our proverbial travel itch in locales closer to home. So we are proud to introduce a little feature we will be calling "Travels in Southeast Queensland" until at least we can determine a more thrilling and creative name.

Our first adventure brought us to Mount Tamborine in the Gold Coast Hinterland. Now for two people who spent 9 months living in the Canadian Rockies we naturally greet any place here in Australia with the word 'Mount' in the name with a certain grain of skepticism. The 'mount' is actually more of a plateau about 600 metres above sea level.

About halfway up we stopped to check out Ceder Creek Falls. It was a more than leisurely 15 minutes walk along the creek to the falls which cascaded into a series of rock pools. Well maybe cascaded is a slight exageration. There is a serious drought here in Southeast Queensland at the moment. But they were still lovely and we had the area all to ourselves so it was a serene spot to soak up a few winter rays

As we continued to climb to the plateau the vegetation quickly changed from dray lowland Gum trees to thicker lush rainforest brimming with ferns and orchards.

We were delighted to discover that the area was ripe with wineries. At least a dozen all in the vicinity of the town of Mt. Tamborine. We chose Tamboire Estates winery at random and ventured in for a little tasty taste. For $4 AUD each we were able to sample seven of the wines. Our hostess was quite enthusiastic to share the wineries flavours. Often I had barely put my empty glass on the counter when she was topping me up with a new variety. Not sure if she was trying to turn over her tasters as quickly as possible or if she was mearely enthusiastic but someone should really tell the lady to sloooooow down.

Barren vines at Tamborine Estates and the signs point us in the right direction

After pounding back the samples we decided so food was necessary so we opted for a cozy pub lunch at the local. We opted for the patio in order to make the most of the sunny, crisp winter day but with the inside boasting wooden benches lined with cushions along side a stone fireplace it was certainly the type of place I would love to return to on a cool winter's night.

Trip Stats:
Tastings at the Tamborine Estate (inclusive of one tiny wine glass) - $7.00 AUD
Pub lunch - $34.00 AUD
Realizing there are gems waiting to be found practically in our backyard - Priceless