Saturday, May 27, 2017

Sneaking into winter

It seems like there are a lot of words about seasons here on my blog lately. But I really like the fact that everything is upside down in Australia, and we're heading into winter. On Facebook, old friends from my old neighborhood are celebrating the last day of school, and the onset of summer. But here the days are getting dark, and the trees are really losing their leaves. A couple of mornings in a row as we've headed off to the bus stop we've seen a local possum hanging out in the top of a stripped down tree. And in the park, while the grass will stay green all year, the deciduous trees are losing their green very quickly.

The semester ended for me at the university. Thursday was my last day of teaching. I have lots of grading to do (they call it "marking" here). But then I'll slide into full time research for a long time. Which is good. While I have a lot of projects ongoing, my pipeline of submitted papers is drying up. Time to write a few more drafts. How boring.

Oranges are in season. Last week we bought a batch of perfect delicious fresh ripe oranges. They tasted like Christmas. And the gas heater in the fireplace is on, making the living room cozy and warm. I'm wearing fuzzy socks and a warm housecoat. It's a perfect time of year to snuggle up with hot chocolate and a novel or two. Or a few.

Nearly June.

So very fun to be living in the Southern Hemisphere. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Reading old posts

I've been browsing my blog archives, reminding myself of the lovely chaos that has been life since I started this blog in 2008, nearly ten years ago. Wow. Really ten years? That's kind of sad and sobering.

In any case, Blogger told me that I had 29 unpublished drafts of posts, the earliest from 2010. I looked back over some of those posts, and most were just little things I began but never finished, including several awesome titles that never developed accompanying text. (Like "Going places" and "Through a glass darkly".) Some of the draft posts were more complete, but never published for various reasons, reasons such as the topic at hand was a little too private to post on a public blog (family planning and my parents), or my thoughts were too scattered or too controversial and might affect my position at G.O.D University (religious issues).

I really liked the following post, though, from June 2015. At the time, I was worried about moving and starting a new life in a new country. And change. Change is scary.

But reading this old post, and knowing that almost two years later I still swim in the same sea of lovely chaos and worries about the future and attempted optimism, every day, I think that maybe the change was not so huge. Sure the seasons are completely swapped around, and the living arrangements are entirely different. But we're pretty much still the same, that me then, and this me now.


Friday, June 19, 2015, Mountain West, USA

Little things that keep me up

There are scars on my lungs. No sign of disease, but scars on my lungs. You would never know it, unless you took a picture of the inside of my lungs. And why would you want to take such a picture? Someone wanted a picture for a visa application, along with a police report from every country we've lived in over the last ten years, and my entire life work history. I didn't tell them about the time I taught piano lessons to the neighbor girls for ten dollars per week when I was in high school. Do you think that will be a problem? Why would I have scars on my lungs?

This could be a pretty good life right here, summertime. Hollyhocks starting to bloom. Raspberries turning from white to pale pink to dark red to black juicy ripeness. Mountain breezes sweeping out of the canyons late at night. What am I doing, swapping this life for an unknown life? In the unknown life, I will have to lead the group, and train the students, and bring in grant money, and walk and talk as though I am Senior and Intelligent and a Leader. Some days I don't feel like a Leader. Not even a leader. But then the next day, the guy in G.O.D.'s grants office refuses to budge on my financial request. Refuses! Because he is made of refuse! And I get really, really, unnaturally angry. Thank goodness I am leaving! I can get angry at the grants office people somewhere else. Important to spread the angry around the world.

And speaking of grants, I received preliminary reports on the grant proposal I wrote for Australia. The grant was sent to four external reviewers, and now I get to respond to their assessments. I haven't ever been able to respond like that in the US. But the assessments were extremely positive! Extremely positive! They think I can be Senior and Intelligent and a Leader. They know nothing of my fatigue and inability to get that one result I've been working on for the last month. And I won't tell them. I won't tell them about how sometimes, lately, I find myself just staring at the wall and wondering what in the world am I doing? I shake it off, and I remind myself to keep writing. And I'll fake it and be fine. Panicked underneath, but fine.

In my ice skating lessons, I am learning to skate forward on one foot, and then without switching feet, to turn my whole body and continue skating backwards. I have learned that the only way to do this move is to start by pushing off as hard as I can, to go as fast as I can, with my leg bent as deeply as I can. And then somewhere with the speed and the muscles and the pure fear of death coursing through my body, I twist, and it happens, and I'm skating backwards on my left foot. And I'm awesome! Did you know that I'm awesome? Nothing says awesome like a one foot turn. Especially on the left foot. Inside edge.

The new job is like learning to twist from forwards to backwards on one foot. You just need to push into it, as hard as you possibly dare, and bend that leg as deeply as you can, and then go for it! Go for the turn! And suddenly you're skating backwards, on one foot, because you were already awesome. Already awesome.


Monday, May 1, 2017

Flat Stanley's visit to Melbourne, Australia

Stanley's Trip Report.

Date: 1 May, 2017
City and State: Melbourne, Victoria

Dear Diary,

I, Flat Stanley, have been having a lovely visit to Melbourne, Australia. I left Oregon where the weather was cold and rainy, and spring was just beginning to arrive, and then spent a very very long time in an envelope making my way across the Pacific Ocean to the Southern Hemisphere. Because of the long journey, I'm getting back to Oregon later than all my friends. But believe me, it was worth the trip.

When I arrived in Australia, I noticed that many leaves were falling to the ground. I had forgotten: when it is spring in Oregon, it is autumn in Australia. In June and July when it is warm in Oregon, it will be dark and cold and winter in Australia. Upside down seasons!

Here is a picture of me with some cool looking mushrooms, standing in fallen autumn leaves.

The first thing we did when I arrived was head to the market. There is a lot of shopping in the Central Business District of Melbourne. We went into the Central Station to shop. Here is a picture of me with the big clock in the station. This clock opens up and plays Waltzing Matilda once every hour. (In case you didn't know, Waltzing Matilda is an Australian song.)

There's an old historic tower near the central station, too. When they built the shopping around it, they just put it inside a huge glass ceiling. Now you can look at the building without getting wet.

Ok. Shopping is kind of boring. What I really wanted to see were Australian animals. They have all kinds of weird animals in Australia. So our next stop was the Melbourne zoo.

We took the tram to get there. Melbourne is famous for its trams. Here is a picture of me on the tram heading to the zoo.

At the zoo, the first thing we saw were the koalas. Here is a picture of me with a koala. Koalas live in eucalyptus trees. They pretty much just sleep in trees all day, and eat leaves and poop otherwise. Sounds like a good life to me. Except the part about eating leaves. Yuck.

Here's a better picture of the koala, sleeping.

Australia has lots of really big and pretty birds, too, like these red-tailed black cockatoos. These big black parrots live about as long as humans do. They make their nests in burned out eucalyptus trees.

Did you notice how both koalas and cockatoos live in eucalyptus trees? Eucalyptus trees grow wild in Australia. But sometimes people cut them down to make a lot of toilet paper. The zoo doesn't think it's a good idea to turn koala and cockatoo houses into toilet paper. Would you like it if someone turned your house into toilet paper? To remind people not to buy toilet paper made out of animal houses, the zoo had funny signs all over. Like this one:

And they had a giant toilet paper roll. I bet none of the other Flat Stanleys got their pictures taken with a giant toilet paper roll.

Next stop: kangaroos and emus. Kangaroos are big jumping mammals that carry their babies, called joeys, in pouches. They live all over Australia. You can see them out in the fields outside the city at dusk.

Emus are the second largest birds in the world (after ostriches). They also live wild in Australia, although my host family tells me they haven't seen as many wild emus as wild kangaroos. In the zoo, the emus and kangaroos were hanging out together. Here we all are together.

And a little closer shot of just the animals:

Next, I really really wanted to see a platypus. A platypus lives in the water. It has the body like an otter, flippers, a tail like a beaver, and a beak like a duck. And it is a mammal, but it lays eggs. What!? Oh, and the male platypus even has a poisonous spur on its back foot. When the English people first arrived in Australia, they told everybody back home about the crazy platypus, and their friends and family didn't believe such an animal really existed! They thought there could be no such thing as an otter with a duck bill. Surely it was just a joke!

Anyway, I saw a platypus, and it is not a joke. I did get a picture with a platypus, but the platypus was swimming pretty fast, and it was dark inside the platypus home. In this picture, you can just see me and the platypus's beak. It really is a duck bill, I promise.

Final stop at the zoo: the butterfly house. In the butterfly house, butterflies from all over Australia flutter around and even land on people.

After seeing all the Australian animals in the zoo, we were pretty tired. We headed home on a tram again, passing the Queen Victoria Market, where people buy and sell all kinds of stuff. But remember how shopping is kind of boring? We decided not to get off the tram to check out the market. I did take a picture of the outside, though.

Do you see that sign with a 60 in a circle? That's what a speed limit sign looks like in Melbourne. And be careful! The 60 means you can only go 60 kilometers per hour. That's about 40 miles per hour. If you go 60 miles per hour on the road next to the market, you will have to pay a lot of money for a speeding ticket!

We stopped next on the south bank of the Yarra River. The Yarra River is the river that runs through Melbourne. There were a lot of people out walking along the river, because it was such a lovely autumn day. There were also non-people out, I guess kind of like me.
We could see the city skyline from the river. Melbourne is such a beautiful city. In this picture you can see the orange coloured Flinders street train station, and the spires of St Peter's cathedral, and other buildings. Notice that I spelled coloured with a "u" in the middle. They do that here.

We stopped very briefly at Federation Square, which is the central square near the river and just across the street from Flinders Street Station. There wasn't anything big going on, but they sometimes have shows and things in the square. The buildings you see include the Australian Centre of the Moving Image (a museum all about movies), an art museum, and a cafe. It's a lovely square. And did you notice how I spelled Centre? They spell it that way here.

Final stop: One of the most famous buildings in Melbourne: The Shrine of Remembrance. During World War I, over 100 years ago, many Australians left Australia to fight, and many many young people were killed far away from home in places like Turkey. Their families were so sad that they built a beautiful building, called the Shrine of Remembrance, to help them remember how much they loved their families, and how sad it was to fight wars. This is a picture of me at the Shrine at sunset.
And looking back at the city from the Shrine:

I had such a lovely time in Australia. I hope I can come back soon, next time with my good pal Jake and his family. There are a lot more things to see and do!