Monday, March 29, 2010

First Day in Aus

The plane trip from LA was really good. Qantas, business class, is truly elegant. The first thing I noticed was the clamshell like seats. More about that later.

But I need to back track just a bit. Just as they were getting ready to start boarding, the woman at the desk mentioned that they were really strict about carry ons. Not only did they have to fit inside the metal frame with ease, they also had to weigh less than 15 pounds. Well, I was pretty sure mine did not. I have my laptop with me which, while wonderful, is pretty heavy. I also was carrying 4 books, the charger for the laptop, a tape player to listen to my chorus music, my iPod touch, a big container of almonds and all of my medicines and supplements, in original containers, which I had been told was the way to carry them in preparation for entry into foreign countries. Sure enough, my carry on weighed 22 pounds. So they told me I would have to check it. Since I was reluctant to be separated from my medicines, they gave me another bag to put them in, but in the process, I spilled half of the almonds all over the floor right in front of the entry to the boarding ramp. Sigh. And I forgot to remove my itinerary, so lots of other people had copies, but I didn't.

But then I got on the plane and discovered there was plenty of room in business class for my carry on. And, it surely didn't matter whether the weight was in the cabin or in the luggage area, so I don't really see the point. Luckily, my suitcase and my carry on were some of the earliest pieces off of the plane, so there was no harm done.

But, back to the airplane. On the seat were the usual pillow and blanket, but we also were soon handed a pair of pajamas and an overnight kit. And we were offered dinner. Since I had already eaten - it was, after all, nearly midnight, I only had a light snack, but the food looked pretty good - the lady next to me had salmon. And the stewards were great - Daniel 1 and Daniel 2. lol.

But the best part was the seat. I still don't understand the controls, but if you pushed the right buttons long enough, the seat could be set to be nearly flat. It wasn't a nice cushy mattress, but it was a heck of a lot better than trying to sleep sitting up. I actually got a decent night's sleep. I went to sleep at around 1:30 LA time, which was something like 5:30 pm Brisbane time (I could be off an hour or two, because I didn't switch my watch from Alaska time until they gave us Brisbane time). I only managed to sleep until about 2:30 am Brisbane time, but that is still a good long time. So adjusting today hasn't been hard at all.

Breakfast on the plane was pretty standard, but the servers were exceptionally considerate. I understand why people are willing to pay for first class and business class. You get treated like a human.

Going through customs was a snap. They weren't completely happy about the almonds, and I would have thrown them out if they had asked, but they didn't, so I didn't. Finding the correct bus to the B & B was a bit more difficult and I became aware, again, that my carry and suitcase together were pretty heavy. But, once the bus came, the driver drove me right to the B & B, Cream Gables.

Cream Gables is really lovely. I am in a suite apartment, with a bedroom, a sitting area, and my own bathroom. Since I got here in time for breakfast, I got to meet the other guests - Gail is from Toronto, and there are three women from Japan - one adult English teacher and two teenagers, who are learning English. We had a lovely breakfast, but I only had tea, since I had already eaten breakfast once at 4:30 am.

Cream Gables comes complete with Anne the proprietress, who is great at not only cooking breakfast, but also in making sure we all understand how to get around Brisbane. And Cream Gables comes complete with a cat.

So, after breakfast and map and bus lessons, which lasted until nearly noon, I was finally off. And I made my first mistake. Instead of buying a region 2 bus pass, I only got a region 1 pass - so I would have been restricted to just the downtown area. But my plan was to go into the city and get a camera, and then ride the CityCat for most of the rest of the afternoon. Once I got into the city, though, I was ready for lunch, so I stopped at a food court. Not the best food in the world, but it was OK. And I did find a camera store and I got the camera I wanted to get back in Fairbanks - the black version, not red. So far, it seems pretty good, but I have been too busy to really do much with it yet.

I walked around downtown a bit, but I really wasn't quite ready to go shopping, so I decided that taking the CityCats up and down the river would be just the right amount of interest, with not too great of expenditure of energy - I wasn't sure how long I would last with the time zone change. The CityCats are catamarans that ply the waters of the river - similar to buses, only on the water instead. And now, I needed that region 2 pass. Had I purchased it earlier, when I first took the bus into the downtown area, that fare would have been good for the whole day, but since I had mistakenly only purchased a region 1 fare, I had to buy another ticket. But it was worth it. I spent the rest of the afternoon riding up and down the river. The day, which started out rainy, turned out to be nice, so there was no problem with the weather.

And, in addition to the native Brisbanites, there were quite a few tourists, so I could ask weird questions, without seeming too odd: why is it called the Story Bridge? Where was the original prison located? Unfortunately, though, I didn't find anyone with answers. Guess I will have to look in the guide book. I talked with a German family for quite a while (got to practice my German a bit) and a Russian woman (English), eavesdropped on some French people (understood only enough to know it was French), and heard several other languages I didn't know.

But, by 5:00, I was tired, so I decided to head back. It took me a while to figure out where to get the bus. Monday isn't an especially good day for eating out here, so I picked up dinner from the grocery story next door (interestingly, an IGA).

Called Arnold and Gail Wisseman. I will see them Wednesday morning for a drive out to the Gold Coast. Should be fun. Tomorrow, I may try to go out to Moreton Island. Need to make reservations now.

Pictures to follow, if I manage to figure out how to upload. Still working on trying to figure out the cell phone. 0410 941 076.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Second Leg

Hanging out in LA now. LA has got to be the one of the worst organized airports I have been in. I came in on Alaska Airlines and there was no information on how to get to Qantas. I had to ask multiple times - then went to the wrong place first. Flights to Sydney and Melbourne are in a different building from my flight to Brisbane. Ugh. Even the humongous Dallas-Fort Worth beats this.

I got through the beginning of the story about Fantine - up until she is in the hospital dying and Javert tells about finding "Jean Valjean". I hate the part about Fantine's teeth. Isn't it odd that that seems so much more disgusting than the prostitution. I don't really think it is, though - I just think I am insensitive to prostitution, because it is a common problem, one that I can't think about all the time or I would feel bad constantly. Selling teeth is a novel ugliness.

I get to fly business class on the next leg - LAX to BNE.


I am in Seattle with oodles of time, so I am going to experiment with doing both the blog thing and Facebook.

Here is what I wrote on Facebook:

Packing. The cats are helping. They are making sure that everything is suitably covered in cat hair. It is still snowy here and chilly, although it has been above freezing. It is hard to wrap my mind around temperatures in the 70s and 80s. The problem is, it is beginning to be fall in Australia and it should be cooling off slightly. How cool? What if I don't bring the "right" clothes. I guess I could just buy new ones. I need new clothes, anyway. I am down nearly 80 pounds now and have given away some clothes already, but still have 2 more laundry baskets full to give away.

Camera. I wanted to buy a new pocket camera. My digital SLR is just too cumbersome and I have disliked the zoom lens ever since I bought it. It just doesn't zoom enough for my purposes. But a stronger zoom would be a) way too expensive and b) way too big and even more cumbersome. I hate to go off to Australia without a camera, but the only store with the camera I want doesn't have the exact version that I wanted. I was going to get a Canon Powershot SX200IS. I really want a good zooming capability. But the store only had the red version. Now, I know the color of the camera isn't really important, but I just don't like the reddish color. Ugh. What to do?

Off to get a hair cut. Still not really started on packing.

Tons of other stuff to do, too. I don't think I will get everything done. Sigh.

And now, an update:
I am in Seattle with oodles of time (4 hours), so I think I will write a bit.

On the plane down, I listened to Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. It is the April selection for our book group and I hadn't gotten very far with the reading, so I decided to buy the audio version and listen to it at odd moments on this trip.

When I was reading the book, I couldn't get the movie out of my mind and I couldn't get into the story about the bishop. It was interesting, but I didn't understand how it related to all of the characters I remember from the movie. But now that I am further into the book and getting to know how that plays into the background, I am in awe. This is a rambling tale to be sure, but the details are so evocative that I am getting more and more glad to just sit back and let them build up.

I just listened to the part where he declares that each person is like one or more animals in character. He is specifically talking about Javert, but, of course, I immediately speculate about what animal(s) I am like and what animals the people in my family are like. I would like to think that I am like some of my "talisman" animals: the tiger, the sea otter, the puffin. But I don't have the ferociousness of the tiger or the colorfulness of the puffin. And the sea otters seem to be more social than I am. It is funny that I can't pinpoint any of my own animal characteristics. Ah! Well! Let's see. Analytical, talkative, self-centered. Maybe I am a parrot.

Off to find some lunch.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

An American Classroom - for Shaun

Background (for anyone reading this who isn't Shaun): I am a substitute teacher and am interested in many different aspects of education. For these particular blog entries, I was interested in the physical configuration of a particular classroom in the United States. The classroom is a 6th grade classroom in Fairbanks, Alaska. In this school district, most of the 6th grades are housed in the elementary schools, along with the Kindergarten through 5th grades.

At the time that the following pictures were taken, the school was celebrating "Graph around the School" week. During this week, each class thought of something they could graph on a bulletin board. Then they posted questions for each of the grade levels pertaining to these graphs. Students circulate around the halls and answer the questions for their particular grade level.

So here it goes. First a few of the graphing pictures. Captions are under the pictures.

Fast Food Restaurant Decisions
The graph on the left shows foods preferred by the students. The graph in the center shows the time of day for maximum sales. The graph on the right shows preparation time (pizza is at the bottom).

Heart Rates: Relaxed vs. Accelerated

How Far Can You Ride a Bike in 5 Minutes?
Students rode bicycles for 5 minutes.

Number of Animals in Alaska
The students graphed the number of animals of particular species that are estimated to be present in Alaska. This was done in connection with an art project, so you also see the decorated animals (not realistically colored).

Awesome Airplanes
The students made standard style paper airplanes and graphed the distances the paper airplanes flew.

How Many Steps Do You Take?
The students wore pedometers for 24 hours and graphed how many steps they took in a day. They also did computations on how many steps they should take for better fitness.

Countdown to Australia

I've still got a lot to do before the big trip, but I wanted to test out a few things before I leave. I have been trying to decide if I would blog the trip or just write notes on Facebook and I have decided to try out the blogging. If it is too cumbersome, I will just stick to notes on Facebook.

I leave for Australia early Saturday morning. Fairbanks, Seattle, Los Angeles, then Brisbane. I will lose a day in there somewhere, skipping over Sunday, I think.

A general outline of the trip:
Brisbane: 29 March - 1 April
Staying at B & B: Cream Gables in New Farm. Meeting with Gail Wissemann, if she is available. Getting used to time zone change. Possibly trip to Moreton Island, if I can figure out how to do it.

Sydney: 1 April - 5 April
Staying at Y Hotel Hyde Park. Meeting with Judith Ridge for dinner and WICKED! Harbor cruise, zoo, book store, botanical gardens.

Melbourne: 5 April - 9 April
Staying at Ibis Hotel, 15-22 Therry. RPG Convention with Shaun Hately; tram tour with Shaun - and geocaching.
Bus to visit Gunter and Sigrid Weller, 2 1/2 hours SE of Melbourne for lunch. Back to Melbourne to see Mamma Mia.
Train to Blackburn to visit Lara McDonald and children and tour the Dandelong Ranges; craft shops and tea.

Adelaide: 9 April - 13 April
Staying with Sandy Horne!!!! Impose on her hospitality. Tour of Kangaroo Island 11 April.

Head Home: 13 April
Arrive in Los Angeles BEFORE I leave Brisbane. The joys of crossing the International Date Line.