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See also Suzanne's letter, dated 5 May 2008 (PDF).
9 September 2007
As life would have it, in a strange wonderful twist of fate, we are currently in Canberra, Australia, for a year or so while Paul (my husband) works on a project for the Aussie attorney general. I've been here for about six weeks now. We are renting a new furnished apartment very centrally located in downtown Canberra. Canberra is the capital of the country so there are a lot of museums, galleries and events to check out. I think the biggest adjustment, so far, has been the difference in seasons. I landed in late June - the middle of winter. We just celebrated the first day of spring, September 1st (no relation to the sun's position, apparently); and the daffodils are blooming! It takes a bit of getting used to - I've decided that as long as I don't think about the actual month I'm ok. We've met some interesting, friendly people and are looking forward to this adventure. Paul has business in Adelaide at the end of the month so we'll be off to do some exploring. I plan to tag along on his travels :)
17 October 2007
I've been fortunate to meet several delightful women through a knitting group I joined and, in turn, a watercolor group I was introduced to. A couple of the women have taken me "under their wing", shown me around and explained life in Australia. I find the Aussies to be very outgoing and favorably inclined towards Americans. John Howard, the prime minister, has just "called" the election for November 24th. I'm very interested to see how it all transpires and feel fortunate that we're here to experience the process. Now the campaigning begins - my new friends are already complaining about the next six weeks - the only time dedicated to electioneering! I tell them we should be so lucky in the US where the campaigns are interminable. We hear very little about American candidates etc on the news here. (Our CNN is based out of London, the BBC is from Hong Kong.) The Aussies are also extremely well traveled and well informed. They're continually off-to or returning-from Spain or Iceland or China and have all been to the United States 3-4 times. They talk about how the advent of the 747 back in the 1970s liberated them from this island. I never considered that impact. They certainly don't seem to have ever looked back! I find the small population has interesting repercussions. The selection of products in stores, while of good quality, is quite limited from what we are used to. There are two brands of deodorant, for example, and not much variety in shampoo or toothpaste. Not that we need 30 different kinds in the United States, but I'm learning to buy what I see when I see it because I'm not going to find something else in another store. They do, in good English tradition, have LOTS of delicious different kinds of "sweets" and "biscuits" ... but no Halloween! I must say I miss that.
The Anglican church I'm attending had their annual "fete" last weekend - similar to a lovely old fashioned country fair with cakes, flowers, "sweets" tables, marmalades, books etc. When I offered to make something for the sweets table, I was told they needed "white Christmas", "coconut ice", "jellies", "hedgehog" and "brownies". Guess what I made?! I've now learned that "white Christmas" is a marshmallow concoction (that sold very well), "coconut ice" is VERY sweet (but popular), "jellies" (flavored gelatin) are delicious but tricky - still not sure what "hedgehog" is.... The Aussies are very progressive and up-to-date - every sweet package for sale (except mine) had a list of ingredients printed on it (by the donor) for people with nut or gluten allergies. I was impressed.
The seasons are proving to be tricky. I am a gardener but being "down under" is seasonally challenging. It's mid October - the trees are in bloom and birds are now nesting. Lots of pansies and petunias, no pumpkins! Since the Aussies have no other holidays between now and December, Christmas decorations are already in the stores. (I thought the United States was bad.) Christmas cards show Santa waterskiing in Sydney Harbour, and everyone is planning a trip to the beach! (We're going to a resort in Vanuatu - formerly the New Hebrides). And, as Australia is so close to the hole in the ozone, people are very careful to bring (and wear!) a hat with them if they're going to be outside. The daily UV index is mentioned in the weather report. All in all, so far, so good! I'm really grateful for this opportunity - challenging to be so very flexible at this stage of our lives, but great fun too. The Aussies make adjusting easy as they are consummate world travelers and as a result, very adept at being multi cultural.
11 November 2007
We went driving north of Canberra over the weekend. The attached gives you an idea of the size and beauty of this county - reminds me a bit of the "big sky" of Montana. The purple carpets of flowers are wonderful but an invasive weed known as "Salvation Jane", though no one can explain the name, and it's very toxic to horses. Hamilton Hume was an early explorer in Australia - this view is from the front door of his old home.
My path just crossed that of Aussie Michael Marginson, Class of 2004 (??) here in Canberra. He was recently at AES for 3 years. We sing in the Australian National University Choral Society (SCUNA) together - talk about a small world! I've told him about this alumni website - perhaps he'll connect.
Best regards and "Good -an-ya" (literally "good on you")