Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Australia Style

We drove up to the Hunter Valley on Christmas morning. It's a lot like Napa 20 years ago before it was as crowded and pretentious and with much cooler wildlife. No, they did not just put up this sign because it is insanely cute. We saw a dead wombat about 20 feet from the sign. If only he'd gone a little farther to the wombat crosswalk...

Roses are grown at the end of rows of vines because they're in the same family as the grapes and serve as an early warning sign if soil conditions are beginning to deteriorate.

This is our gang sampling some organic wine...This man purchased another vineyard first and tried to convert it, but he quickly determined that the chemicals in the land would take 250 years+ to bleach out, purchased another vineyard, and started over. It took him four years in the second location to make a harvest. It makes me nervous just hearing about other people doing risky things like that. Next to Eric are Kate and Dan, from the UK. Behind them are Stefanie and Jake from Destin, Florida, USA, followed by Anna (Russia) and Reza (Iran, although in Australia for the past 22 years). We're a pretty diverse crowd, but wine helps everyone to get along.

I went walking in the woods one morning for 1.5 hours, and this guy hopped along side me for a while. He'd hop a few feet, and I'd walk to catch him, and then he'd hop a little farther. More threatening were the many brightly coloured spiders whose webs I walked through. Bugs are big here, like ones you might see in an amusement park ride.

These are some of the kangaroos who ate in our yard each evening about dusk. There were probably 15 around the house throughout the evening. It's really cool to watch them graze. They keep their tails flat on the ground for balance as they lean forward to eat, then they slide their tail along the ground between their legs, lifting their little rumps in the air, until they can take a little hop forward, using their tail for extra propulsion. They just kind of slink around like that until they're ready to go, and then they hop off into the forest. Kangaroos are much like deer in that they hide in the shade of the forest all day, coming out to eat in the morning and at dusk. (We were never awake to see them in the morning...) Kangaroos are also similar to deer in that they also like to commit suicide on the highway.

This is the 3-bedroom house where we stayed. It's about 6,000 times nicer than where we live. I thought I'd never get Eric out of the shower. You could turn around in it without hitting the walls. We spent most of our time out on the big porch drinking wine, playing cards, and looking out for kangaroos. By the time we headed home, my liver was crying for help...We came home along the coast, and I'm proud to say that I drove most of the way. It's not enough that they have to drive on the wrong side of the road, but they also throw in a roundabout every 50 feet. Sheesh.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


The first picture above is from this week's Consulting "meeting" over tea at the Queen Victoria Building. From the Tea room's website:

Imported by the East India Company, the first samples of tea reached England between 1652 and 1654. By the middle of the 18th century, tea had quickly proven popular enough to replace ale as the English national drink.
Prior to the 17th century, the English had two main meals - breakfast and dinner. It was Anna, 7th Duchess of Bedford, who first invited her friends to join her for an additional afternoon meal of bread and butter sandwiches, small cakes and, of course, tea. Later, made popular by Queen Victoria, afternoon tea developed into an indulgent cuisine of wafer-thin crust less sandwiches typically of cucumber, smoked salmon and cheddar cheese, fancy cakes and regional British savouries and pastries such as Welsh rarebit, Scottish scones and English crumpets.
Two distinct forms of tea services evolved: ‘low’ and ‘high’ tea. Low tea, enjoyed in the low or early part of the afternoon, was served in aristocratic homes and featured gourmet titbits with emphasis being on the presentation and conversation. The working class originated high tea. Not having the means of two main meals each day they combined afternoon tea with the evening meal, serving meats, breads and cakes with hot tea at the end of the day.
I was surprised to hear that high tea originated with the working class. I had always associated it with the wealthy, but it makes sense that they couldn't just insert an extra meal in their day. This was quite clearly high tea as I almost had to be rolled back to the office.
The other picture above was taken at the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron's restaurant just before our last race of the Spring Series. Eric is about to eat a bacon and egg roll, one of his favourite discoveries in Australia. He has one every Friday at work and has been telling me about it for months, so we decided we'd both get one to fuel us for the final race. I had thought a bacon and egg roll would be some kind of wrap, but it's actually a large dinner roll or like a deli hamburger bun. The eggs are fried, which gets quite messy, and the bacon is more like a large slice of seasoned ham. The closest thing to what Americans think of as bacon is called crispy bacon here. You slather the whole mess with BBQ sauce, which I think it delightful. I've been trying to figure out how to get BBQ sauce into breakfast for years...Of course, if this was an American invention, it would also involve cheese.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


I went to Canberra for work on Thursday - slowly seeing Australia one business trip at a time! For you non-Aussies, Canberra is our nation's capital, located in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), our state that was designed specifically to house the capital when the Commonwealth was formed in 1901 (Canberra was not complete until 1913). I like the fact that this is somewhat similar to the creation of Washington, DC in the US.

The central part of the city, which houses Parliament and the Australian National Musuem (pictures above) is built around a lake and is very pretty. Everything is very green, and there are rolling hills in the distance. However, everything is really far apart. It took us about 30 minutes by taxi to get from one office to another, which seems outrageous in comparison to the Sydney CBD, where most things are a 5-10 minute walk away.
At the airport, I was trying to suck down the last of my water when the x-ray attendant told me I could just bring it through. Her response to my surprise was, "This isn't America." I told her, "I know -- it's like a free country!" I don't have to take off my shoes, take off my suit jacket, or get rid of my water. On the downside, they don't check my identification, and if I travel with a laptop, I still have to take it out of the bag.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Happy Christmas PreVisor!

Last week was pretty eventful for me. I made my third trip to Melbourne on Tuesday, and then flew to Perth on Wednesday. Air travel here is completely different from US air travel. For example, I arrived at the Melbourne airport at 4:18 on Tuesday and was in my seat on the plane by 4:30! So many people do day trips that you can check in for both the departing and returning flights simultaneously. Then you just whiz through security (with your shoes on) and onto the flight. No one arrives early at the airport. Alarmingly, no one has ever checked any of my identification. I check in at an automated kiosk, and they don't ask to see anything at security or at the gate. They do, however, check your boarding pass as you are entering the tunnel to the plane and then again as you get on the plane to give you directions to your seat, as if you may have gotten misdirected somewhere in the tunnel or as if you couldn't figure out that 22B is probably behind row 21 and between 22A and 22C. I guess there is some room for error as they generally board from both the front and rear of the plane, and those boarding from the rear have to walk out on the tarmac and up some stairs to reach the airplane. Australians are already used to what the future state of travel in the US is -- all in-flight entertainment or refreshment requires a swipe of the credit card, and most fares do not include luggage since business travel is almost never overnight (unless you are going to Perth, a 5-hour flight away).
Perth is a lovely city. It reminded me a lot of Pensacola. The CBD is really small and overlooks some kind of inlet. The main sight to see is the new belltower housing the Swan Bells, which we heard was quite contentious given that many residents felt the $15 million should have been spent on roads, transit, schools, etc. ( As transportation costs rise, it is becoming less profitable to export the output from the mines that are the main reason Perth exists. That may be why the cost of the belltower was so hotly debated. The pace is much slower in Perth than in Sydney, perhaps even slower now that their economy is sagging. The beach is about a 30-min drive away in Freemantle. Kate and I tried to get there by taxi for dinner on Thursday, but clearly we got out of the cab too soon and could still only see inland waterways. We had an amazing seafood feast, though, and talked to some people from Michigan who are returning this week to snow. Ha.
Kate and I had to get up at 4:20 am on Friday morning to make our return flight from Perth. I got stuck in the elevator of our dodgy hotel at 4:35 am but took a moment to realise my predicament due to the sleep in my eyes. I had to call Kate on my mobile to ask her to please let me out. The man at the front desk was unconcerned that had I been traveling alone, I might yet be in the elevator.
The hotel was not somewhere anyone from PreVisor in the US ever would have been asked to stay. I was afraid to walk on the carpet without shoes on, my lamp didn't have a light bulb and the overhead light was too dim to read by, and the couch actually collapsed when I tried to sit on it. While I love Australia, the slight dinginess of things wears on me sometimes. Eric and I were watching television the other night, and one of the characters walked into a big, bright, beautiful American grocery store. I felt such a craving just to wander up and down slick linoleum aisles with a cart whose wheels actually rolled. All four wheels on the shopping carts here spin freely, making steering a real challenge. The tape we bought to wrap Christmas presents barely works, our sheets shed blue fuzz over the entire house, the can opener we bought doesn't open cans; I really could go on and on. It doesn't help that the sub-standard goods we buy cost more than the quality goods we could get in the US. Anyway, enough wingeing.
We arrived back in Sydney at noon and sped to the PreVisor Christmas party aboard the Penguin. It was a nice afternoon of BBQ and drinks out on Sydney harbour, followed by more drinks at a nice bar in The Rocks, the original area where Sydney was settled, right next to Circular Quay, where we work and where the Opera House is. Like any Christmas party, some people got too drunk to stand and amused the rest of us by saying and doing inappropriate things. You will note that it is referred to as a Christmas party here, while it is referred to as the holiday party in the US. Australians aren't too concerned with being politically correct. It was Eric's birthday, so our few friends who are not associated with my work stopped by, and then Eric and I split off to go see his Austrian friend who is visiting from the US at another bar up the road.
Saturday we went sailing (of course; one of us was painfully hungover), and Sunday we met up with some friends for surfing in the morning, cleaned up our little yard in the afternoon, and then went skateboarding in Sydney Park in the evening. As we were making our way home from the park, switching off who got to use the skateboard, Eric noticed a posting for patio furniture on the gate of a house. We got a nice faux-wrought iron patio set for $50! Trust me, that's the bargain of the century in a country where a soda costs $3. Now if it will just stop raining, we can eat in our back garden.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Our fellow Americans, Stefanie and Jake, hosted a Thanksgiving party on Sunday, complete with the biggest turkey I've ever seen. Non-Americans were tasked with bringing salad, rolls, etc as they found most of the menu items perplexing. Sadly, I failed at some of my assigned dishes due to technical difficulties, like Australia not having Karo syrup for pecan pie or french fried onion rings for green bean casserole. Fortunately, what Australia does have is liquor stores that are open on Sunday. Despite the three bottles of champagne and two bottles of wine that we started with for eight people, a supply run was needed mid-afternoon. True indulgence; these people are getting the feel for Thanksgiving already.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Breaking up is hard to do...

My sailing career is nearly at an end. Almost every Saturday since the beginning of August, Eric and I have raced out on Sydney Harbour. 20 December is the last race of the Spring Series, and our captains anticipated that we would continue racing in the Summer Series through the end of April. But I just can't take it any longer -- I lack the thirst for blood required for serious racing, and I'm too sensitive to bear the constant screaming. I start dreading each week's race on Friday afternoon and wake up miserable each Saturday. Further, there's something about a compulsory activity every Saturday that just makes it feel like a 6-day work week. Eric and I have just arrived in Australia, and we have a big country to explore, which is tough to do with only one day off per week.

Despite all of that, it's tough to say goodbye. Our captains are really disappointed, and they're such nice people before we start the race and as soon as we cross the finish line. I really wish it had worked out better. I feel so sad letting them down and admitting that this just isn't for me. They blame their high crew turnover on the youth of the people they're able to pull from the online sign-up, but I don't think the realise that there are other contributing issues. If I loved racing, maybe I'd be excited to hit the water every Saturday. I hope that some day I can think of sailing without feeling anxious again, but for now, I guess I can just be grateful that I've had another interesting experience.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Blue Mountains

This weekend's sailing race didn't count for any points, so Eric and I bailed and drove up to the Blue Mountains Friday after work. We stayed in Blackheath at a cute little guest house with four or five rooms attached to a restaurant, in abundance in the Blue Mountains as they were once the respite of Englishmen escaping the Sydney heat.

Friday night we ate at the local hotel/pub. All of the old hotels are now pubs it seems, although some of them do still rent the rooms upstairs. There's one in every little town, or every few blocks in Sydney, and they're always The Local, where the townspeople gather to drink together. And then generally serve traditional British pub fare, which varies in quality (but not in grease content - always high).

Saturday morning we went into Katoomba (you have the love the place names here -- all are either British or Aboriginee) for breakfast and to see the famous Three Sisters rock formation. Katoomba is the most crowded, touristy area in the Blue Mountains, and it was raining a bit, so we drove on to Lithgow. I've only driven one other time, for about five minutes, so clearly it was best that I give it another shot on the winding mountains in the rain. Horrifying. Worst of all, I was pulled over for a random breathalyzer and couldn't recite my address correctly. I hadn't had anything to drink except coffee, but what is it that makes us instantly feel like we're going to be found guilty?

Later in the afternoon, Eric and I did the Grand Canyon hike back in Blackheath. It was 30 minutes down into a deep valley, 30 minutes trek along a tropical stream with weird crawdads and oversized palms, and then an hour back up to the top. When we arrived back at the top of the moutain, we were in the midst of a cloud. You could only see about 15 feet for the mist. Very cool.

Saturday night we made like Australians and ate at the local Chinese restaurant. Asian food is always the safest bet here.

Sunday we hiked the Wentworth Falls/Valley of the Waters trail, another two-hour trek to the bottom of a valley. However, this time, we walked through a valley littered with scenic waterfalls and then climbed about a jillion metal stairs straight up a rock face to the top of the mountain. It was amazing how what you thought was the entire waterfall from below was really only the bottom part. Every ledge we crested showed more of the falls.

On the way home Sunday, we stopped at Terry and Julie's, the owners of the boat, for coffee. They have quite an estate perched on a ledge in the Blue Mountains. I can see why they decided to settle in Julie's home country instead of Terry's...They told us the horrifying story of when the bush (forest) fire passed right over their house, with huge fireballs coming up the side of the cliff. They assign volunteer firefighters to each house, and they make you stay on the premises. Crazy. Julie says one more fire, and she's moving into the city.
We were really struck all weekend by how lucky we are to live here. There are numerous beaches within 30 minutes of our house, we can drive to the mountains in about 1.5 hours, and the weather is beautiful almost every day. It's nice to hear Eric talk about how much he loves where we're living instead of how much he hates it.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Eric and I took our second of three surfing lessons today. While the water here is quite cold, you keep pretty warm with the constant paddling. The full body wetsuit helps, too. We obviously had a good time, because we're looking for boards to buy now.
Last Tuesday was Melbourne Cup. In Victoria, where Melbourne is, the day is a holiday. For the rest of Australia and New Zealand, it's an excuse to stop working and start drinking champagne at 2:30. This is definitely a country that takes its gambling seriously. We had several ways to bet on horses in our office. Between my four bets, I managed to win $30 and lose $40. But hey, I'm a winner! Fancy hats are part of the Melbourne Cup tradition, which is evident in the photo above.
The US presidential election was Wednesday Australia time. The entire office was following the progress online all day. When Obama's win was announced, it was the first time I really wished I was back in the United States. I was sad to be so far away on the day I was most proud to be an American. I wanted to be there celebrating with everyone else. At least I had the unique perspective of seeing the reaction of the international community here. I was congratulated all week long, even by strangers who just heard my accent. I think it would have been hard for expats everywhere if Mc Cain had won. The general stereotype of Americans is that of a bunch of ignorant rednecks who think their country is the only one on earth. While I don't think that has been totally erased, there's definitely a little more faith in us now. Now we just have to live up to it. Some of the other legislation that was passed definitely tells me that we still have a long way to go.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


The cats finally came home yesterday. Eric and I were there early, first in line to pick them up, despite a small delay. At 9:15 am, we were stopped for a random breathalyzer. Eric says this routinely occurs on his commute to work. You know you live in a country of alcholics when they stop you at 9:15 am and ask the question, "Have you had a drink in the last 15 minutes?"

Anyway, the cats spent yesterday settling in. Leroy made periodic juants out from under the bed, and both cats checked out the balcony. I'm trying to figure out if they can be trusted out there without leaping to their deaths. They have been through some recent trauma.
Last night, Eric and I met up with Anna and Reza and Stefanie and Jake at a Russian restaurant. Anna ordered some amazing appetizers (called entrees here), and vodka was consumed. It was a really good time, but now we're up and trying to get on the road out to Bondi for the Sculpture Walk with some friends, hopefully followed by brunch. My brain hurts. Now I know why Anna can consume so much alchohol and not feel hungover -- it must be the Russianness.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I did my first mini-biathalon tonight: 4 km run followed by a 300 m swim. Despite having awful weather, including unseasonably cool temperatures and rain, it was really enjoyable. As the stragglers at the rear, Kate and I met up with a Canadian girl who was also moderately lost and spent the race with her. We finished around 29 minutes, 2 minutes of which was spent convincing myself that my heart hadn't stopped when I jumped into the icy pool. Races are every Thursday evening for the next 20 weeks, and next week begins the free drinks and nibblies after the race. Everyone I talked to tonight was super friendly, so the social hour should be another good way to meet people.

As Kate and I were walking to the train station through The Domain, we saw the influx of bats from the Harbour that I've read about. It was just at dusk, and I happened to look up to see hundreds, maybe thousands, of huge bats flying overhead. Freaking awesome.

After I dropped Kate at Martin Place to catch her train, I continued on to Wynyard. Just in April I walked from Martin Place to Wynyard at about the same time in the evening, but I was a bit lost and a little scared that I wouldn't find my way. Now I'm confidently striding about Sydney CBD taking a look in a shop window here and there. It's almost inconceivable that that was just over 6 months ago, when Eric and I hadn't even started packing.

Some new vocab for you: Cossie is short for swimming costume, which is what Aussies and Brits typically call a bathing suit. When I was instructed via email to race with a cossie under my shorts, I wasn't sure if that was some kind of rocket or what. And to rock up somewhere is to turn up there, as in, "I'm going to rock up to work around 10 am tomorrow after boot camp." Kate thought it was an American saying, which is funny. Apparently it was a really hip saying 7 or 8 years ago in Britain and Australia, but you still hear it multiple times a day.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sometimes I can't believe we live here...

Friday morning before work I went for a swim in one of the public pools in The Domain, a large park in downtown Sydney. It’s a heated outdoor saltwater pool overlooking the harbour. After a lovely swim, I walked to work through the Botanical Gardens and past the Opera House. I mean, seriously.

On Sunday, Eric and I did the Spit Bridge to Manly walk. It's about 9.5 km and skirts the edges of two peninsulas that overlook Sydney Harbour. Sometimes you're walking along the beach, sometimes you're hiking along a high cliff, and sometimes you're meandering through the bush. We saw giant lizards and tropical birds, as well more of the mysterious tree-bound dirt mounds that we saw in the Royal National Park. We're going to have to figure out what those are and how they stay aloft. When we got to the Manly end of the trail, we walked along the beach for a while and watched the surfers brave the cold water. Now we're looking into surf schools...

Sunday night, Kevin Rudd, the Australian Prime Minister, had a roundtable with random citizens, allowing them to ask unscripted questions about the economy. Since the current "crisis" began, he's been on television every night taking really tough questions from the reporters who aren't afraid to express the hostility and fear that many people feel right now. Eric and I are astounded with his accessibility and don't think the Australians even realise how unusual this is to some of us -- they just expect their elected officials to be directly accountable to them. I can't remember any US president, and certainly not the current one, opening himself up for regular television grilling.

Yesterday I stopped into the clinic near my office to make an appointment for an exam. In the US, I typically had to make an apppointment 4-6 weeks in advance. When the receptionist asked whether tomorrow morning or afternoon would be better, I almost fell over. I guess the people who say that universal health care would cause people to have to wait forever to get an appointment might be off! As usual, the Australians were amused by my surprise. They all think our health care system borders on barbaric anyway.

Last night was our second trapeze class. We now know three tricks: birdsnest, half angel, and mermaid. Today the tops of my feet are raw from wrapping them around the ropes. Don't let the clowns fool you -- circus work is hard!

At least we're building up the calluses, because tonight we're finally headed climbing for the first time in many months. Our local climbing gym is the largest in Australia with over 100 top ropes and 250 routes: I can't wait!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Grandma Bessie

When we visited Grandma Bessie in July, she made it clear that she felt like she'd done enough in this world and was ready to move on. I would say that she was right about having done enough, from freezing to a mule in Northern Minnesota to moving to Colorado with her mother and (gasp!) boyfriend, Franklin, during WWII to marrying that boyfriend (phew!) and building a home and a family with him on top of a hill in Wenatchee, Washington. She never stopped going. When we visited her this summer she was still volunteering at an old folks home, a category in which she never placed herself, even in her 80s, and running up ladders to trim trees or fix window blinds.
The first time I visited Grandma Bessie was just a few months after Eric and I started dating. She picked us a giant box of apricots and baked us a big bag of chocolate chip cookies to take on the drive home with us. During our drive to Yellowstone the next day, Eric and I ate nothing but apricots and cookies -- the first time I've ever had as many apricots as I wanted. What a treat!
When we got home, I sent her some pictures from our visit since her most recent picture of Eric had been his high school graduation photo from six years before. She wrote back, signing her name "Eric's Grandma Bessie." I think she wanted to be clear that while she thought I was a nice girl, I'd have to earn my way into the family. I knew I'd made it when one of the long letters she wrote us closed with, "Love to you both, Grandma Bessie." She wrote us a lot of nice, long letters, and every one was a treat to read...even the ones where she harassed us about having moved to Minnesota, a state she was glad to escape.
Although she was always concerned about her figure, Grandma Bessie seemed intent on ruining ours. Every Christmas, we received the most tremendous box of goodies you can imagine. Seriously, our freezer was full of baked goods to last us through Easter at least each year. Every time we went to visit, she made us amazing meals, all involving large quantities of butter. I'm still not impressed with liver, though...but she knew Eric loved it, and she loved Eric A LOT.
This is the first major family event we've missed because we're living on the other side of the world. We're probably going to miss a lot of weddings, funerals, births, and graduations over the next few years, so I guess this feeling of separation is something we'll have to get used to . That being said, I don't think anyone was excited about our move as we travelled around this summer as Grandma Bessie was. She loved to see new places, and she loved that we were off on an adventure.
There are just some people who you feel lucky to have known, and I think one of the little gifts I got from being with Eric was being adopted by Grandma Bessie. I never felt happier than when sitting on her porch staring out across the valley, listening to tell stories about the farm or building the house or driving through Alaska. I'm really sad that I won't get to visit her again, but when she told us she was ready to go this summer, I don't know why we wouldn't have assumed she'd get her way. She generally did.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Giant horse projections, oh my!

Last night was the opening gala for the horse installation in Erskineville, including horse and cart rides, booths about the history of horses in our village, and giant horse projections. Friends gathered at our house prior to the big event for champagne and nibblies, intrigued primarily by the opportunity to learn what giant horse projections might be. I mean, this was advertised as a family event. We almost missed the event all together given that we averaged one bottle of champagne consumed per person. It was really cool to see all of the different ways people made their horses. One person made a seahorse, which I thought was pretty clever. In terms of artistic ability, the horses ranged from "I beat this lump of clay with a hammer" to "I'm a professional artist." I'd say mine was at the 70th percentile. The evening as a whole was pure 90th percentile -- we had such a great time with everyone, and since people were still here at 2am, I'd assume they had a good time as well!

In other news of the bizarre, there are two circus schools within 2 km of our house. We definitely live in the coolest village in Sydney! Eric and I start flying trapeze school tomorrow. At the end of our nine-week course, we're expected to be able to create a routine and perform it in a show. Eric is winging a bit about the show; I think he's going to feign an allergy to lycra. Anyway, PreVisor had better be nice to me as I'll soon have a whole new set of marketable skills.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Mom, what's a bogan?

We had a very nice Labour Day camping trip, even though it rained considerably more than it was sunny. Our new tent stood up to the test, though. Our companions were all British, so it certainly didn't phase them. We even learned a new word: Bogan. This is Australian for Redneck, and there were plenty of examples riding mini-motobikes sporting mullets around the campground. Oh, and a "campground" here is basically someone's oversized backyard in the bush. Not quite what we're used to, but still somewhere to sit around a fire drinking beer.
Everything outdoors here is called "the bush." The Southern Highlands, the particular section of bush we visited, was lovely. Lots of smallish mountains covered in green meadows and gum (eucalyptus) trees. Most trees here are some variety of gum tree. They don't grow very close together, and their leaves are a kind of mossy green instead of the leafy green we're used to.
The first morning, Eric and I went for a stumble and came upon a large number of kangaroos - my first sighting of Australian wildlife outside of Taronga Zoo. They are everywhere, particularly in the morning and at dusk, essentially the Australian equivalent of deer. As wild animals, the are a little skittish, but they just hop a little ways away and then stare at you. In the picture above you can see a mom and joey, who probably couldn't get away very quickly, and a number of kangaroos hopping away in the background. These guys were smallish with fluffy ears, not the big red kangaroos that you typically see in pictures.
The gang also went further down the winding dirt road through the mountains to the Wombeyan Caves. In the picture above you can see the creepy door we had to put a token in to pass into the cave. It was a pretty standard cave, lots of bats, but it was a nice diversion from sitting under the tarp in the rain.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Two big events this week:

1. We received our nine boxes of "stuff." Now all 495 pounds of it are scattered around the house in little piles. It's like moving in all over again!

2. I visited the cats in quarantine for the first time. Leroy isn't doing very well. He didn't seem to respond to my being there at all, and he kept shaking. He seems totally distraught. He's been losing weight for the last year or so, and he's all bones now. I told his caretaker, Josh, that I was concerned that he'd be too freaked out to come out of his little hut to eat. When I called on Thursday, Josh had weighed them to make sure Leroy hadn't lost weight since coming in. I thought that was really nice of him. He's very patient with my calls, and I try not to take too much of his time...Otis, meanwhile, is still just too fat to groom his own butt. They get out 25 October, and I just want Leroy to make it long enough to be comfortable at home.

We're going camping this weekend, Labour Day, with two other couples and another guy. The last part of the drive we'll go on to get there is described here:

Sounds nice, huh? We're expecting rain, so we may do some exploration of the caves...or the vineyards. The website for the campground, which seems to be run by some very interesting people is here:

I recommend checking out the "Brian teaches horse riding" toward the bottom...We'll come back with some stories, I'm quite certain!