Saturday, November 25, 2006


I am constantly making comparisons between Australian and Canada. Sometimes my observations could be deemed overly judgmental and so I generally keep them to myself. Like the other day while I was riding one of the city buses I noticed a number of kids get on in their school uniforms. It isn’t the norm for me to be riding a bus at that time of day but I have seen school kids on the trains. In that case though they are most likely high school age and much older than these bus kids. The train kids are loud and noisy as they flirt with and tease one another but they are generally well behaved although I have seen the occasional leftover sandwich get thrown at a head.

But the bus kids, I would guess, were about 7 or 8 years old. A few of them perhaps even younger. They were running through the aisles, jumping on the seats and swinging on the poles. I can’t be certain that this is normal post school bus riding behaviour. But the bus driver just seemed to ignore it which leads me to believe it was nothing out of the ordinary.

So this all of course leads my judgmental mind to scream why are these young kids allowed to ride these buses unsupervised? You see here in Australia, at least within the urban areas, there are no official school buses. Children use public transit as a means of traveling to and from school. I recall from my school bus riding day bus patrols who yelled if your hand snuck its way into the aisle.

I can’t understand how if children are always riding the bus in this way that countless injuries are not occurring on a daily basis throughout the city. It would only take one dire injury for the city to be outraged at the lack of responsidiblity and foresight on the part of the Brisbane City Transportation authority. And if this is the case why don't the authorities have some foresight?

So the score on the safe school bus transportation issue. Canada 1 Australia 0

Other recent judgmental observations of note:
Enacting water conservation tactics before running into the worst drought on record. Canada 1 Australia 0
Having a midweek day of celebration where everyone plays hooky from work to watch a horse race while eating and drinking excessively. Canada 0 Australia 1.
Ability to sit on a patio and enjoy a cold beer 12 months of the year. Canada 0 Australia 1.
Tim Tams. Canada 0. Australia 1.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Christmas, Cricket and Campus

Today I headed into the city and was greeted by a 100 foot Christmas tree shimmering in the midday light. It caught be completely off guard that Christmas really is only a month away. Somehow standing in 30 degree heat with the sun piercing my skin staring at this gaudy display just seemed to wrong.

Christmas in the City

I am so glad that in not too long I will be landing in the cool crispness that is December in Ontario. I am officially putting in a request for a blow out snow storm while I am home. Who would have thought that I would be writing this but I actually miss snow. I have even been dreaming about it lately.

The other thing I noticed while strolling around downtown was that the Poms have arrived. Poms are the ‘affectionate’ name for the English down here. The tourists have arrived in flocks to watch the first match/series/game (whatever you call a sporting event that drags on for five days) of the Ashes. For those that don’t know, and I wish I was one of them, the Ashes is cricket. I am already sick of hearing about the silly thing and it hasn’t even started. Apparently they play these game things all over Australia for the next two months. Another reason I am happy to be escaping to the land of ice and snow.

But the thing I really noticed about these packs of visitors is that you could totally tell they were English. Even before they spoke. It wasn’t that they dressed differently. And despite the jokes they don’t really look paler than the average Austrlian who doesn’t spend their days at the beach and instead works for a living. There was just a certain something about English guys. I can’t quite identify it. But I’ll let you know if I do…..

I then headed to campus and took some time to enjoy the beauty of the campus without having stress about when my next assignment is due. I really do feel lucky to go to such a photogenic campus.

The arches of centre court

Campus lake where I eat my lunch most days

Ducks are amusing until they start attacking me for my lunch

Jacaranda Trees
These were much more impressive a few weeks ago
when they were completely ablaze in purple

My transportation to school

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Lifestyle Choices

I have been thinking lately about lifestyles and particularly the type of lifestyle I want to lead. I recently discovered the show Men in Trees and became even more intrigued when I learned that the show is filmed in Squamish, BC. A few months ago Chris and I came across our dream home located just outside of Squamish while daydreaming over It was a cozy white cottage, big yard, wide verandah and mountain views. The type of place that bordered on rundown, but we could see the potential. A coat of paint and some of ChrisÂ’s handyman skills would have made dramatic improvments.

For about a millisecond we entertained the idea of not moving to Vancouver but instead to Squamish or some other little mountain town. A place where culture is conversation at the local with the barflies.

So lately I have been wondering what type of life I want to lead. Do I need all those Starbuck's coffees, fluorescent lit bookstores filled with glossy best sellers, a wide variety of ethnic restaurants, stadium seating movie theatres and shopping malls filled with all the latest fashions. There was a time in my life when as a newly graduated professional I couldn’t imagine any other way of life. But in recent years my perspective has dramatically shifted.

Many city dwellers live for the weekend when they can jet off into the mountains for a few days of clean aired serenity. But what if that were your life? The city would always be there for a weekend binge of hustle, bustle and culture.

I have been thinking back on our time spent living in Fernie. Likely because Elmo certainly has that Fernie feel. Rugged men walking about in flannel jackets. Train tracks running through town along the main road. And of course 360 degree views of stunning mountains.

What shocked me the most is that while living in Fernie it didn’t take me that long to become accustomed to small town life. The coffee shops were cozy and stocked with delicious blends of fair trade beans. The library provided ample reading material and when in need there was also delivery by Amazon. The local theatre only had two screens but the Tuesday nights were cheap and the popcorn perfectly buttered. The restaurant options weren’t lacking either. The omelet I have ever eaten was the light fluffy concoction I sampled at the Blue Toque.

So it would seem that small town life is where I would like to head. The only thing lacking is a fulfilling career. The two local female characters in Men in Trees are a barmaid and a ‘hospitality’ worker (the subtle way of making the town prostitute into a more quirky lovable character a la Pretty Woman). The star is a self-help writer who has the flexibility to work in her cozy room in the inn. So unless I magically become a best selling author in the next year I am really not sure what career options are held for me in a small town. Of course Chris with his marketable electrician skills can relocate anywhere and find himself satisfied with the work prospects.

So while I can dream I don’t think small town living is anywhere in my immediate future. At least not until the pesky student loans are a thing of the past.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Reflections on a First Semester

The Good

My Program
– I have finally found something I am truly interested in. And I am so excited for the opportunities that this program is going to open up for me. Admittedly I am a little anxious about narrowing down those options. Shortly I will have to choose my courses for next semester which means picking areas of focus. Decisions like this tend to be the most unsettling as it means shutting the door on some of those many exciting opportunities.

My Relationship – These past months have arguably been the first time in three years that Chris and I have lived a real life together. Not living in the Rocky ‘middle of nowhere’ Mountains in a room the size of a shoebox. Not traveling throughout Central America. But actually doing all those mundane things that regular life offers. Living a real life with someone means dealing with the entire package. For the past months that has meant dealing with family related issues. Chris has quite a large family consisting of four siblings and eleven nieces and nephews. So the dramas tend be plentiful and as Colleen is the matriarch of the family all the dramas tend to collude in our kitchen over many cups of tea. From illness to unexpected pregnancies to general disagreements. Some days they all seemed to take place ten feet from my study room.
But even more, real life has a way of illuminating all of those nasty flaws in both individuals. Chris saw me at my teary eyed, stressed out worst during the end of semester craziness and yet he didn’t run screaming in the opposite direction. He instead learned how best to deal with my episodes. It is scary allowing someone to see you at your worst. But it is comforting to know that they will love despite it and that you love them even more for their understanding.

The Bad

Dealing with Realities – I have known for sometime that my traveling days are behind me for awhile. But still everyday the reality of it seemed to sink in a little deeper and the frustration of it would hit me over again. I have been planning trips for as long as I can remember. From the change jar that I collaged back in Junior High with a pictures ripped from travel brouchures right up until the most recent six months in Central America. The next big trip was always what I had to look forward to. Sure, there is the upcoming Spanish studying trip to Guatemala in January. But in my mind that is more about study than pleasure. Plus it is previously chartered territory requiring very little planning The truth must be faced. For all intents and purposes the travel evangelist is on hiatus.

My Social Life – Or lack of really. I met many people in my classes but sadly the click just wasn’t there with any of them. It was fine to chat about school related stuff and to rehash the mundane things we did on the weekend but it never went any futher than that. It is difficult to get to know people on a deeper level when you only see them two or three hours a week. I suppose I could have made a bit more of an effort but there really wasn’t anyone who interested me enough to share a coffee with. But I am still hopeful for next semester...

The Ugly

My Hair – About two months ago I dained to clip a coupon and ventured forth to the local hair salon. Thinking I would make a bit of a change I requested a just above the shoulder cut. Twenty minutes later I left with a chin length mullet. I got a better haircut in Guatemala where the ladies are known for their shelf like layers and I didn’t even speak the same language as the stylist. It is only now….two months later….that enough inches have regrown that I have the courage to leave the house without twenty-something bobby pins holding all the hacked off layers in place. Word to the wise, hair salons accepting coupons are likely not the ideal choice for your next haircut.

My Eyes – So it turns out I am allergic to something. Some random chemical in some random clothing detergent that is. We don’t even know what brand it was because by the time three weeks had passed and I discovered that Colleen had switched detergents the box was long gone. Yes, three weeks it took to diagnose my problem including a trip to the doctor who was utterly unhelpful. Whatever the chemical, it caused me to develop unattractive itchy flaky patches of skin around my knees, elbows and hips. But even worse was the itchy watery bloodshot eyes of proportions normally seen on drug addicts and drunk guys sitting on street corners. For three weeks until we identified the cause and two more weeks of healing I endured the embarrassment of flaming red eyes. Needless to say wearing contacts was not even attempted. Things are good now….I just have to hope not to randomly run into this mysterious chemical again.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Smell of Completion

I am officially completed the first semester of my masters. Only two more to go. But before that there is three months of summer vacation ahead.

My brain is bubbling over with thoughts that I have been pushing down in order to make room for more pertainent matters like remembering the effects of trade restrictions on small open economies with floating exchange rates. But I hope to do much more writing and reflection in the coming days as I attempt to relax and recover from the stress.

But in the meantime these are some pictures of a trip I made to the Australia Zoo recently. Chris and I recently played tour guide to his visiting cousin (by marriage) from France. Well he did most of the touring. I mostly studied but I was dragged out for this one excursion. Just one thing....Koalas are freakin' adorable.

At the Wings in Flight Show


Feeding Time

All Full Up


Just Freakin' Adorable

The Requisite 'Petting the Kangaroo' Shot