Sunday, May 30, 2010

Who Is Knocking At My Door?

I awoke to the wind pounding at my door.  Mother Nature is announcing that winter has arrived.  However, it is not as though its arrival has not been expected.  Over the past few months the days have slowly become shorter and the temperatures have dropped. The gums trees have shed their skin, leaving bare trunks draped in strings of bark.  The vibrant colored leaves of the few deciduous trees are now brown litter on the sidewalks and, as I walk the streets of Adelaide, the crunch of my footsteps releases the earthy smell of their decomposing matter.

As I prepare to face my third winter here in Adelaide, I know that it will be very different from my winters back in Albuquerque.  Morning temperatures may occasionally near the freezing mark, but I will never find frost on my windows.   The day time temperatures will never require more than a light jacket, so my wool winter coat will remain in the closet.  Since snow is unheard of in these parts, the only blanket of white outside my doorstep will be on those few calm days when there is no wind, and the bay becomes engulfed by low-lying clouds.  However, those days will be few and most days I will find myself battling the Antarctic wind.  This wind is ferocious and it turns the bay into a tumultuous body of water.  The lulling sound of the calm summer waters is replaced by the pounding of thunderous waves crashing into the shore.  It is during the winter months that Mother Nature finds her voice and allows herself to be heard.
With the fast moving winds--the squalls--of the south come the rains.  The winter rains of Adelaide are unpredictable in form.  They may come as a drizzle, shower or down pour, but they are the defining element of the South Australian winter.  Unlike New Mexico, winter in Australia is not a season of hibernation.  Instead, it is during the shortest months of the year, below the darkened skies, that life returns to the drought ridden country.  It is when the clouds mask the sun and the first drop of rain begin to fall that the dusty and dry landscape once again becomes lush and green.  With just the smallest amount of precipitation, plants that had withered and ceased to grow during the hot summer months instantly come back to life.  The bright greens of the plants, trees and grasses are speckled with vibrant colored flowers.  The contrast of the stark grey sky with the myriad hues remind me of spring; but the constant cut of the antarctic wind keeps me in the present.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Horse Of Course

This week's PhotoHunt theme is memorial.

This memorial is for the horses which took part in the Great War from 1914-1918.  It is located in Adelaide's Central Business District on the corner of East Terrace and Botanic Road.  It was enveiled January 30, 1923.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It's Party Time

I never really thought about a party having significant cultural differences.  I've always viewed a party as just a group of people getting together either to celebrate and/or socialize.  More often than not food, drink and music are included.  Of course, you expect these aspects of the party to have cultural variations, but you would think that the act of getting together would be pretty much the same.  My life as an expat has taught me that this is not necessarily true and that the act of getting together is  defined by cultures.  
Back in New Mexico at most parties, with exception of the occasional pot luck and family gatherings, the host and/or hostess provide everything.  At least this is how it happened in my circle of friends.  There were occasions when an exceptionally large get together took place when perhaps others would be asked to bring along a dish or two.  Those people were known for their cooking, and they would be able to provide a dish that not only fit in with the theme, but was scrumptious to the palate.  Guests would often bring an adult beverage or two which weren't meant to be served but rather to be put on a back shelf and enjoyed at a later date.  As I reflect back on these gatherings I realize that there was a bit of competition and a bit of the "Hostess with the Mostess" but over all they were very enjoyable events.  In fact, while in Spain I missed these gatherings.  
My Spanish friends never hosted at home--at least not for guest that were not family members.  Our parties/celebrations were held in bars.  A set menu would be arranged and we would all pay individually.  There was always plenty of food and drink, and the events would last for hours on end.  However, at Christmas time it sure got expensive!
When we arrived in Australia, we expected our party scene to be more like what we were used to in New Mexico.  We anxiously awaited an invitation to our first Australian Barbie.  The invitation may have been long in coming, but last summer we were finally had a first hand look at a party Down Under style.  I have to admit I was a bit taken back when the invitation included a request to bring our own main (meat for the barbie), a side to share, beverages, and chairs--I had to resist asking if they wanted me to bring the kitchen sink.  It turns out this is pretty common for parties in Australia.  A system that overall seems to work well, though it is a bit cumbersome when you rely on public transportation to reach the destination.  Of course, being the control freak foodie that I am, even when we have people over, even in Australia, I resort to my cultural roots and have my guests bring an adult beverage. 

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Monthly Mojo

This week's PhotoHunt theme is monthly.

Once a month I make a pilgrimage across Adelaide to Chile Mojo.  The small shop on Magil is a mecca for those needing a chile fix.  I am not talking about prepared food, but rather all types of Mexican and Tex-Mex products.  It is here where I am able to make sure my cupboard remains stocked with the ingredients I hold closest to my heart--my soul food.  
As a native New Mexican, one of the hardest parts of living the life of an expat is finding quality ingredients to make Mexican and/or New Mexican food.  Of course, thanks to globalization and Old El Paso, some of the staples like jalapeños (fresh and pickled), beans, taco shells, tortillas, and fresh cilantro, are easily found.  Some of the more exotic ingredients--fresh tomatillos, jicama, and flor de calabaza--are sprouting up at the market. I've learned that hot banana peppers can be substituted for green chile, but forget trying to use them for rellenos.   With all of these ingredients at hand I am able to create a tasty meal and to satisfy a craving, but still there is something missing.  It is as though I can fill a small void in my life, but not the longing. 
This is where Chile Mojo comes into play.  The owners, a wonderful Australian/US couple, have done an amazing job at bringing hundreds of nearly impossible to find ingredients to Australia.  Their shelves are filled with all kinds of Mexican and Tex-Mex products including canned chiles, dried chiles, pre-made salsas, mole, taco shells, canned tomatillos, hominy, dried beans, spices, blue corn masa and hot sauces.  
Thanks to these ingredients I'm once again able to take my cultural heritage in the kitchen beyond Taco Tuesday.  I am no longer confined to serving pseudo green chile, but am given the choice of "red or green?"  I am able to celebrate the arrival of fall with Chiles en Nogada and home-made Mole.  My freezer is stocked with red chile for those cold winter nights.  It is thanks to Chile Mojo that I am able to make my "new home" in Adelaide "mi casa." 
If you are an Adelaide local be sure to stop in to Chile Mojo for your chile fix.  Their "wall of flame" is a must see.  Other Australians are now able to shop online at Chile Mojo's new web page.

Address: 381 Magill Road, St. Morris SA 5068
Phone: 08-8333 1931
Store Hours:
Tuesday - Friday, 10am - 5.30pm
Saturday, 10am - 4pm
Sunday and Monday, closed

Thursday, May 20, 2010


About a month ago I had the opportunity to attend my first Roller Derby.  I wasn't really sure what I was getting myself into, but it turned out to be an entertaining afternoon.
I did a short read-up about the sport before I headed out to the bout.  I learned that Roller Derby has historical roots that date back to the 1940's when it became well-known in the United States.  Over the next thirty years its popularity continued to grow.  However, in the late 1970's and early 1980's the sport essentially died out.
With the new millennium, Roller Derby was reborn in Austin, Texas.  By 2006, the grass-roots movement--whose focus included athleticism, community, sisterhood, and sassiness--had gone global.  There are currently over 500 amateur all-female, co-ed, or male leagues across the world.  
Roller Derby didn't arrive in Adelaide until 2007 when the ADRD (Adelaide Roller Derby was formed).  In 2008 the ADRD launched its inaugural season of flat-track Roller Derby with just two teams.  Over the past two years, the league has continued to grow and currently there are four teams: the Wild Hearses, the Salty Dolls, the Road Train Rollers, and the Mile Die Club.
I attended the 2010 season opener between the Salty Dolls and the Wild Hearses.  There was a record crowd with nearly 2,000 spectators.  The track was set up in one of exhibition buildings at the Showgrounds. This meant that there was limited seating in a couple of portable bleachers. Fortunately, many people came prepared with their own seats--hey, there were even a few bean bags around.  Other people just sat on the concrete slab.  Some chose to sit extremely close to the track which, unfortunately, is not a proper banked track but rather an oval that has been delineated by a cord taped to the ground.  Spectators were warned of the danger of sitting too close, but some seemed to enjoy the added thrill of being in the line of fire.  So, needless to say, there were a couple of incidents where the skaters landed on the crowd--though the biggest casualty seemed to be the spilled beer.

As we sat in the bleachers--we were given early entrance and able to pick choice seats since we prepaid for our tickets--we were treated to a pre-game Rockabilly Band.  During that time several of the skaters were out on the floor warming up.  What amazed me the most was the interaction between the teams.  Even though the girls were about to compete against each other there was a sense of camaraderie between the woman on both teams.
The actual game got under way with a very theatrical entrance by each team.  Once the actual skating started I was worried that I would have problems following the rules.  Fortunately, there were announcers explained the rules and gave very detailed explanations of what was going on out on the field.  I'm not sure if that happens at all bouts or just in Adelaide since the sport is so new.  Whatever the case I was glad to have the added oral cues.  The following is a brief summary of Roller Derby for those of you who are newbies like me.
The bout consists of two 30 minute periods.  These periods are divided into several jams--which here in Adelaide are modified and last 90 seconds.  During the jam, 5 players from each team (1 pivot, 3 blockers, 1 jammer) skate the oval track.  The configuration of the team is: pivots out front (to set the pace), followed by the blockers, and finally the jammers.  At the beginning of the play, the pivots and blockers begin to skate the rink in a close pack.  The jammers, who start after the rest of the pack, must work her way through the pack passing all blockers.  The first jammer through the pack is declared the leader and thus is able to call off the jam anytime she wants.  Once a complete circuit is made jammers begin to score points by lapping opposing team members.  The goal of the rest of the team is to stop the opposing jammer from scoring  and to aide their jammer by knocking their opponents down.  However, blocking must be done strategically and penalties can be issued for blocking illegally, engaging in a fight, or unsporting behavior. 
Overall, the fast moving sport was easy to watch and, of course the theatrics of it all kept things entertaining.  I have to say thanks to Suzer and Sally for allowing me tag-a-long on their outing.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Half Way There

This week's PhotoHunter theme is half.
Kimba is located half way across Australia between the east and west coast.  At least it would be if you were to fly like a crow.  We passed through the town of 800 on our drive from Perth to Adelaide.
Originally, this "half way" point was located on the lands inhabited by the Pangkala.  It is an area that has many springs, soakages and rock-holes that provided the Aboriginals with sufficient water during their seasonal forays from the coast.
In 1839 John Eyre skirted the area during his exploration of Australia.   In 1870's Kimba was opened up to pastoral lease holders.  In the 1900's, because of the overseas demand for wheat, local farmers opened the last of the Mallee lands for agriculture.  In 1915, as the number of new settlers in the area grew, the township of Kimba was proclaimed. Kimba is an Aboriginal word meaning bushfire--the process that was used to clear the area of scrub to make way for agricultural development.  Today Kimba continues to play an important role in the wheat industry.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Duke(esa)s of Burque

Our Christmas 2009 Road Trip was winding down and we were slowly working our way back to Adelaide.  We knew the coastal route was not an option because of the crowds, so we were trying our luck inland.  We decided to give the Mt. Bangor State Park a try.  We figured that with no water around, we wouldn't have a problem finding a camp spot.  The biggest draw back would be the several miles of dirt road we would have drive.  In fact, according to the map the whole mountain seemed to be traversed by dirt roads--more than average for a State Park.  No worries, that is why we had a 4wd.
We followed the unsealed road that crossed the plains towards the small mountain range.  From a distance the pine forests looked inviting, and with 4 camping areas listed in the park we were feeling optimistic.  Alas, our enthusiasm quickly faded when we pulled into the first campground and were greeted by dozens of off road and all terrain vehicles.  We sighed simultaneously, knowing we would not be calling this park home for the night.  A few days later, I was reminded that there was a time in my life when the scene at Mt. Bangor would have had me pitching the tent and hitching a ride.
It was the early 80's and the idea of a weekend trip to the mountains with my good buddy and her mother was not on my bucket list.  In fact, I was trying to convince Kyna that we should tell her Mom  we were staying at my house and we could really stay unsupervised at her place. Ahhhhh, the life, times and lies of teenagers.  However, when the promise of unlimited use of a hot rod dune buggy became part of the deal, I quickly changed my mind about getting up close and personal with the great outdoors.
I don't remember much of our weekend in the central mountains of New Mexico.  There were no long walks amongst the fragrant pine trees, nor sitting on a peak looking at the valley below.  All I can recall is the dirt that we stirred up as we raced along the dirt road in the open framed vehicle.  You would think that after a couple of hours boredom would have set in, but we kept at it for 2 days straight.  I suppose we felt empowered being behind the wheel, since neither of us had our drivers license yet.  With our hair blowing in the wind, up and down the dirt road we went. And the never-ending screams and yells of "push the pedal to the metal" filled the air.      
Unfortunately, our fun could not last forever, and late Sunday afternoon it came to an end. And it wasn't because it was time to pack up and head home.  Instead, what in our minds was "impossible" occurred.  As Kyna rounded a corner at a high speed, she lost control of the vehicle.  We left the dirt track and headed straight for a pole.   Since the vehicle had been modified to be as lightweight as possible, the impact caused the front of the car to go straight up into the air.  Time moved in slow motion and it seemed as if I sat there forever in a confused state.  It wasn't until I looked over at Kyna and saw blood at on her face that I began to panic.  Then panic turned to full blown fear when she looked at her leg and began to yell "I can see my bone, I can see my bone."
I quickly unfastened my seatbelt, jumped from the buggy and began to run down the road towards where her mother was.  I have no idea if the shrieks from my mouth were due to the pain I felt in my knees or the fear I felt in my heart.  I ran for what felt like the distance of a marathon but it was more like a few blocks.  Ms. Miller met me on the road before I reached the cabin.  I explained what had happened and we headed back up the road.  When we reached the dune buggy we were shocked to find it empty.  I knew we both had on our seat belts and that Kyna had not been thrown out of the vehicle;  yet, she was no longer in the driver's seat.  We were searching everywhere, including  under the car, when we heard a call from a nearby cabin. 
An ancient, little lady stood in the doorway beckoning for us to come.  She had not witnessed the accident--her lack of eyesight would have made that impossible.  However, she had heard the commotion and been the first on the scene.  She had moved Kyna into her house to clean her up and give her some aspirin with what Kyna recalls as the dirtiest cup of water she had ever seen.  With the injuries under control we loaded into the car and headed to the big city.  We made the trip back to Albuquerque in record time.  At the hospital Kyna received several stiches on her leg and above her right eye. I was luckier.  I just had a chipped kneecap and was only subjected to a leg brace.
Over time I had forgotten about this story.  And it was not our short trip through Mt. Bangor that brought it back to mind.  Instead the memory resurfaced when we got home and there was a picture of the dune buggy on my facebook wall.  In our "discussion" about the picture, Kyna hails me as her hero for running for help with a chipped kneecap.  The truth is, the only reason I was able to run was that I wanted to get as far away as possible so I didn't have to look at her bone!

No Digital cameras in those days, but thanks to Kyna for the scanned photo.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Mistaken Mom

This week's PhotoHunt theme is Mom

Last winter (July) as we were headed to Coober Pedy I saw this Emu Mom and her chicks.  Well, at least at the time I thought it was a mom.  I have since learned that once the female emu lays the eggs (the number of eggs depends on climatic conditions) the male takes over.  He will incubate the eggs for about 8 weeks.  During that time, he hardly leaves the nest and does not eat much.  Once the chicks are born they will stay with their father for about 18 months.  You can find out more about Emus on my post over here.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

CSI Mitotera Style

My Comadre was a real trooper.  In just three days we saw the major sights featured on the Sydney Explorer, both the red and blue lines.  However, rather than traveling from stop to stop on the double decker bus, we had covered the route by foot.  It was at our final visit to our hotel in Darling Harbour, when Eileen let me know that enough was enough.   She couldn't face the final walk to the train station and/or shared public transportation to the airport.  It was time for a taxi.  In reality the price would be about the same whether we took a taxi or train, since traffic would be light on a Sunday evening.
The Bell Hop called us a cab and within a few minutes we were on our way.  The trip was quick and uneventful, or at least it was until we reached the airport exit. Just past the airport exit the traffic suddenly came to a complete stand still.  The driver attempted a back door operation, but no matter which direction he turned we were greeted with gridlock.  The driver could not provide us with an explanation for the  traffic jam, and he expressed his own frustration in a mother tongue monologue. Fortunately, we had plenty of time with over 4 hours until our flight.  However, many people around us did not have such leeway.  We were surrounded by people jumping from cars, pulling suitcases from the boot, and running down the street.  After about thirty minutes of inching forward we hit a queue escape--a side route that allowed cars to turn around and return in the direction they had just come from.  It was here that our driver announced that our trip with him was over;  we could reach the airport by walking through the parking garage while he made his escape back to the city.
We followed the directions that our driver had provided, but unfortunately we arrived at the wrong terminal.  A smiling lady at the information desk informed us that we could not take the short cut through the breeze way since the second story level of the building  was the scene of an un-discloseable crime.  Once again we were faced with trudging across a parking lot, though we didn't seem to mind as we were busy speculating about the nature of the second-story crime.
When we arrived at our terminal we were sent upstairs to check in.  As we stepped off the escalator we couldn't believe the scene around us.  The center of the terminal was blocked off with tape.  Within the perimeter there were several people investigating a crime scene.  Or at least that is what we assumed, since there were several people wearing jumpers that said Forensic Services.  It was at this point that our interest seriously peaked.  Instead of frantically running to the check-in counter, so we could get out of the danger area as soon as possible, the "mitotera" in us honed in, prompting us to find out what had happened.
We began by taking a seat  as close to the crime scene as possible so that we could assess what lay before us.  We quickly noted that that there were several yellow numbered markers spread across the floor.  Obviously these were of importance, since a number of photographers were busy snapping away.  There was also a  screened off area that hid who knew what from the public's eye.  After a few moments of sitting and observing, we discovered that there were several people checking in at the counter across the hall from us.  From where we stood, it appeared that the location of the other counter provided a better location for checking out the action.  We decided that if we returned back to the ground level and went up the other side we would have a better chance of figuring out what was going on.
Trudging around with suitcases in tow no longer seemed to be an issue and we eagerly jumped to our feet.  When we arrived on the other side of the terminal we found that not only did we have an unobstructed view, but we literally stood just a few meters away from the crime scene.  From our new vantage point, we quickly saw that next to many of the yellow markers there were pools of blood. We now knew that something major had gone down--but we just didn't know what.  I could only hope that if it involved a death, the corpse was long gone.

The strangest part of the whole situation was that no one around us seemed interested.  There were a half dozen people in the check-in line and no one seemed curious about what was going on.  There was no rubber necking, finger pointing, photo snapping or even an explanation when we reached the desk.  The situation began to feel surreal, and I began to think that perhaps a film was being shot or maybe it was the site of a morbid public art exhibit.  Unfortunately, our inquisitive minds never pushed either of us to become extroverted enough to inquire what was going on.  It wasn't until we had checked in and were passing through security that we finally got the full scoop.  
It turns out that just a few hours before our arrival at the Sydney Airport there was a wild brawl between two groups of bikie gang members.  In the fight a man was bludgeoned to death by 15 men wielding the steel bollards that are used to separate passengers waiting to check in.  When we learned the details, we were ecstatic that we had not taken an earlier flight.  However, since the fight began on the "secure" side of security, it once again made me question airport security.  

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Blue Mountains

When we left the hotel early that morning we were greeted with a light frost on the ground. The piercing shriek of the strong wind that had kept us from sleep the night before had moved on, but it had left the feeling of a not so distant winter in its wake. The cold air, that made our breath visible, felt exhilarating on our skin. We were anxious to explore the Blue Mountains.
A short walk took us from the bitumen roads of the mountain town to a soft dirt path in the woods.  The forest was densely populated with Stringy Barks.  The tall spindly trees were draped with the outer layers of bark that had been shed during the heat of the summer.  At that time their trunks were left pink, as though burned by the sun.  Now, with winter around the corner, the trunks were gradually changing color as the trees put on their grey winter coats.

The recent storms had left the hiking trail littered with fallen leaves and bark.  Had it not been for the seasonal debris the sound of our footsteps would have been masked by the moss lined path.  However, each downward step not only broke the silence that surrounded us, but it also released a smell of decay.  The odor of the moist, decomposing matter returning to its earthly state, intermingled with the strong aromatic scent of the eucalyptus that hung thick in the air.  The two smells blended together exquisitely creating a natural perfume.
The solo sound of the crunch of the leaves was soon accompanied by the babbling of a small creek.  A soothing melody of the running water perfectly accompanied the rhythmic beat of our footsteps.  A perfectly created tune, that combined human and nature.
Slowly the dense forest opened to a broader alluvial plain flanked with grasses and heath.  We soon discovered that we wouldn't be following the river much further as it dramatically plunged off the edge of a cliff.

As we stood behind the fence looking at the scene before us, I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed by the enormity of what lay in front of me.  Huge towering red cliffs measuring hundreds of meters in height give way to steeply carved gorges, the floors of which are hidden by giant trees.
As we followed the exposed, elevated path around the cliff's rim I felt as though I were looking out across an expansive ocean.  It wasn't just the blue haze--the eucalyptus oil evaporating from the gum trees--but the way the oil-covered leaves glistened and moved in the sunlight.  The steady and constant ripple of the treetops mimicked the roll of a wave and it didn't take much imagination for the sway of the bush to become the swell of the ocean.  It was as though mother nature were transporting me to a distant time--to a harbor of long ago.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Swan Of A Different Color

This week's PhotoHunter theme is black.

I had never seen a Black Swan before moving to Australia.  The birds are found throughout the southeast and southwest regions of the continent.  Their preferred habitat is permanent fresh, brackish or salt water wetlands.  However, they can be found in flooded pastures and tidal mudflats.  When necessary, Black Swans will migrate to wetter areas.
The black feathered birds, have white flight feathers.  Their bright red bill has a white bar across the front.  They are a large bird and when mature they can measure between 110 and 142 cm (43-56 in) in length and weigh 3.7-9 kg (8,1-20 lbs.)  Its wing span is between 1.6 and  2 meters (5.3-6.5 ft).