Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tuesday treks

Tuesday started with the blowhole at Kiama.

Then a trip inland around very narrow and windy roads to the Minnamurra Rainforest Reserve. It contains several distinct types of rainforest in one small area.

We were fascinated by the small leaf fig vines, which apparently surround a host tree and swallow it up until you have this.

It was a good hike along an amazingly constructed trail

and at the end was this waterfall.

I know, it's not Multnomah or Silver Falls, but this IS Australia!
This trail is well-known for lyre bird sightings, but several groups of schoolchildren pretty much nixed this possibility. Nothing like a nature trail and bird-watching with fifty screaming kids. But we did, in one quiet moment, see a lyre bird heading up a stream bed, which was slightly thrilling.

Then, on more narrow and even windier road (that's wind with a long i, not short) to the Barren Grounds Nature Reserve. Another hike, only shorter and flatter.
This view from Illawarra Lookout goes all the way to the sea. The lake to the far left is where Ben lives.

Then we drove and drove until I got whiny from doing all the driving. We were on a pretty remote road (one of several where we ended up backtracking on this day) so Jeff took a turn at the wheel. After about twenty minutes of breathless, white-knuckled gripping of the seat, I had a funny thought.

You must have been having a cow when I was driving in Sydney.
I laughed and laughed and praised him for his remarkable restraint.
Now we have both survived each other's driving on the wrong side of the road.
In the Hyundai Getz that Jeff calls a bucket of bolts.
And we're still traveling on.

We got to Batemans Bay that night and managed to find a fish and chips shop that was still open. My new strategy is to not buy dinner for myself, but to mooch off Jeff's plate. Or paper.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday tracks

Jeff said, "Why do New Zealanders call it a trek and Aussies call it a track?"
Um. Trek is what you do.
Track is what you do it on.
The joys of semantics and accents.

Yesterday, we...
walked on the beach and got wet feet in some tide pools

conversed with a cockatoo or two...
(The signs said "Please do not feed the wild animals)

Ate a hamburger with beetroot on it.
(Jeff, in one of his worst nightmares)
It was large but not delicious...

Ate the worst meaty pie I have ever had...
only some got stolen by a cheeky kookaburra, which made all the heartburn kind of worth it...
(note the gravy on his beak in the second picture)

Paddled up the Kangaroo River in a canoe
and back down again...

Whereupon, the camera ran out of battery power.
Then, we climbed a mountain that overlooked the river.
It was very steep and rocky and beautiful.
But you'll have to take my word for it.

If you ever get to the Royal National Park just south of Sydney, DO NOT EAT AT THE FOOD KIOSK BY THE VISTOR'S CENTRE!
You'll thank me later.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


...the joys of being related.
As a child, I had no contact with the only grandparent who was still alive, who had been estranged from my Mum for years. My Dad had a bevy of siblings who we didn't see very often but who were part of a very rare group: people who adore me just because I exist. We moved to New Zealand when I was eleven, which essentially removed us from all extended family.
Almost ever since our marriage, Jeff and I have lived away from our parents and siblings. I have only had extended contact with my sister's children three times. So, while I have taken to role of Nana with gusto, I've never really had the chance to be one of those wonderful creatures.
An aunty.
The one who grew up with your mother and knows all of her foibles.
Who spoils you just because you are.

Now, I have Phoenix.
Who called me "hey" for the first few hours of our visit.
Hey, come with me.
Hey, are you done in the shower yet?

Who loves the animal book and chocolates that I bestowed on his little person.
The Spiderman-glow-in-the-dark shirt and Snuggle Puppy book not so much.
Then I graduated to "aunty."
Hey, Aunty Sue, can I have a cuddle?
He said, when we were talking about Anne, who he calls Gigi, "I love Gigi."
"Gigi loves you too, Phoenix."

Last night, before he went to bed, he came up to me and said, "I love you Aunty Sue."
While I suspect he was trying to delay the inevitable bedtime, I melted.
"I love you too, Phoenix."
How good is that?

This morning:
I love church. Do you love church?
Then Gigi called.
"Do you know who this is, Phoenix?"
"It's Aunty Susan!"

Phoenix and Lorenzo.
Beautiful babies.

We're here

Traveling is stressful.
I do not think that this is an overstatement.
Consider this:
The day before we left, I discovered that I had booked the wrong starting date for our rental car, so I had to rebook the whole thing at a higher price.
I realized that we still did not have assigned seats on our Delta flight to Sydney, so had to make several calls to remedy that.
I got a letter from our insurance company telling me that I had forgotten to pay my car insurance.
I had to fight with Verizon to renew our internet at a reasonable price.
Note to self: remember that threatening to cancel works much better than being reasonable.
Then, our flight to Oakland was delayed.
And our flight to LAX was delayed.
Which was no big deal,except that I was worried the whole day that we would be so late getting to LAX that we would have trouble making our Sydney flight.
Then I couldn't get the WiFi to work at LAX and I couldn't get through to my nephew, Ben, to see if he was expecting us on Saturday.

One fourteen-hour flight later, we land at Sydney airport.
What a bustling, cosmopolitan place it is.
Check out this gorgeous creature,an employee of Emirates Air.

About fifteen women in these uniforms, all exotic beauties of different nationalities, stood in line next to us at Customs.
Didn't I feel dowdy?
So we finally figure out the pay phones, the currency, and the car rental, got hold of Ben, and we were on our way.
Picture me driving on the wrong side of the road, with a manual transmission, in a bustling city that is completely strange to me.
With Jeff navigating.
Yes, you read that right.
Jeff is refusing to drive.
He is also a hopeless navigator.
Although, to his credit, after an hour or so of wrong turns and backtracking, he got better.
I have only turned into the wrong side of the road about four times so far, and only in small roads.
And it was all worth it.
We are here with Ben and Le'ah and their two boys, Phoenix and Lorenzo.

We took a much-needed shower, had fish and chips for lunch by the lake in a very blustery wind, and visited a Buddhist temple.

These were part of a flock of very aggressive seagulls who stalked us for our chips.

Sydney is recovering from a dust-storm that covered thousands of square miles in red dirt. Apparently it went all the way up the coast to Brisbane and even over to New Zealand.

The wind is still fierce but the sky is blue and clear.

Till tomorrow.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

We're off.... see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of

We have a laptop, courtesy of Chris, so hopefully I can keep you up to date on our adventure.

Cuddling koalas
and catching kangaroos.

See ya!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The exercise of civil unrest

“To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.”
Abraham Lincoln.

The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then.
Thomas Jefferson.

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
Elie Wiesel.

“Who can protest an injustice but does not is an accomplice to the act”
The Talmud.

The real guarantee of freedom is an equilibrium of social forces in conflict, not the triumph of any one force.
Max Eastman.

Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels -- men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, we may never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.
Dwight. D. Eisenhower.

To silence criticism is to silence freedom.
Sidney Hook.

We are reluctant to admit that we owe our liberties to men of a type that today we hate and fear -- unruly men, disturbers of the peace, men who resent and denounce what Whitman called 'the insolence of elected persons' -- in a word, free men.
Gerald W. Johnson.

The voice of protest, of warning, of appeal is never more needed than when the clamor of fife and drum, echoed by the press and too often by the pulpit, is bidding all men fall in and keep step and obey in silence the tyrannous word of command. Then, more than ever, it is the duty of the good citizen not to be silent.

Charles Eliot Norton.

As long as men are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost and science can never regress.
J.Robert Oppenheimer.

Irreverence is the champion of liberty and its only sure defense.
Mark Twain.

" does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds..."
Samuel Adams

The inherent right in the people to reform their government, I do not deny; and they have another right, and that is to resist unconstitutional laws without overturning the government.
Daniel Webster.

And finally, this entrepreneurial type who parked his pretzel cart right in the middle of the parade route. I couldn't find a quote for him.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Day 3: The Metro Incident

This incident merits its very own posting.
Or rant.
You decide.

Annie and Edwin met us at our hotel early Saturday morning. We ate breakfast at Burger King, which was enough to curdle the day if I had let it, but I maintained my cool.
Turns out, there was a Metro station right next to the Marriott, (only the Osbornes could have possibly missed it) so we caught it down to a stop fairly close to Freedom Plaza. One more little hop on the train and we were there. Only the train was so crowded with 9-12ers that I, along with several others, didn't make it out of the doors before they closed.
I was panicking. There were so many people and I didn't have my cell phone. I just KNEW that Jeff would be frantic, not knowing where I was.
Breathe, just breathe, I kept telling myself.
I told the others that my husband got off the train and they said,"Don't worry, we'll stick with you."
We got off at the next stop and caught the next train back to Freedom Plaza, my new friends reassuring me all the while that SURELY Jeff would be waiting for the train.
But was he?
No. He was not.
We searched all over that stupid station and they were not there.
I didn't know Annie's cell phone number, but when we finally came to the surface I borrowed a cell phone and got the number from Charlie.
He sounded a bit groggy. I figured out yesterday that it was only about 6am Pacific time when I called him.
Annie finally answered her phone about the sixth time that I called.
"Where are you?"
Trying not to sound hysterical.
"We're on Pennsylvania Avenue."
"But what about me? WHAT DID YOU THINK I WAS GOING TO DO?"
"Dad said you'd catch up with us."

I will leave the rest of that conversation to your imagination.
Let me just say that I was flabbergasted.
Really Jeff, really? You thought I would catch up to you? Really? And how was I going to do that, among the hundreds of thousands of people that were crowding Pennsylvania Avenue that day? Was there some unspoken agreement that if you lost me I would catch up to you?
I think not!
And then...
I had to TALK THEM INTO turning around and finding me.
If you can believe it.

My head still wants to spin around on my shoulders every time I think about it.
It will take some time before I come to terms with this husbandly shortcoming.
I may have to go visit the orangutans before I can be appeased.
Kangaroos and koalas may not do the trick.

The rest of Day 2

So, of course, Jeff was hungry.
Having missed most of breakfast.
So we paid a visit to Five Guys Hamburgers, where Jeff chowed down on hamburger and fries.
I ate a few fries.
Five dollar hamburgers DO NOT thrill me.

Then we decided to brave the Metro bus system to get back to the other Marriott, where we were due to attend a couple of Resistnet events.
We forgot that we were in the NE section of town and the other Marriott was in the NW section. So the bus actually took us further away from our destination. I don't think residents of DC walk very much, because every time we would ask directions or how long it would take us to walk, people would say "Oh, that will take you an hour, it's a LONG way." Then we would walk it anyway.

Miles later, we were at the Marriott for activism training.
I kid you not.
Here is (maybe) the new motto for all us resistance types.

Clever, is it not?
Later, at the Meet and Greet, we met lots of people who had come for the march. Some on a last-minute whim. Some on their own, knowing no one else. Lots of people from Texas. A very few from Oregon, who were making posters behind the curtains. Here is one of mine.

We stuck with our new Oregon friends

for the pro-troops rally outside the Walter Reid Memorial Hospital. We shared a taxi, six of us squished into the car with a crazy Middle-Eastern-type cab driver.
There have been anti-war demonstrators outside the hospital every Friday night for the last 300 weeks. Sometimes they are crass and unkind to veterans who pass them, so this was our chance to undo some of that.
It was great. There must have been three or four hundred people lining the four corners of the entrance, with banners and posters, and cars honking to show their support constantly. It was, of course, drizzling.

After hanging out at Union Station for a while, we caught the train back to the hotel, where we found a message that Annie and Edwin were on their way to march with us.

I have a little video of honking cars, but it's not uploading for me, so check back later. Maybe Bethany can show me how.