Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Colorful Bliss

Last year during the Adelaide Fringe Festival I heard some people talk about the amazing experience  they had visiting Amococo. Unfortunately, I never got my act together enough to visit what was being called a strange and sensual world. However, it wasn't until I saw the surreal photos from the inside of the monumental sculpture that I realized I had missed something spectacular.
So a couple of weeks ago when I saw a similar structure sitting in the middle of  Perth, I knew I was being offered a second chance at an art experience that promised to combine light, sound and architectural form.
The plastic sculpture, Levity III, which stood in the center of Forest Plaza was designed by Alan Parkinson. From the outside it resembled an inflatable tent, but it is one of several luminaria--"a dazzling maze of winding paths and soaring domes." Shoeless visitors are invited to move though the inflated plastic tunnels and chambers as they experience saturated and subtle hues not found in everyday life. 

My free visit to Levity III occurred on a hot spring afternoon. The temperatures inside the structure were warm, but for me this enhanced the experience, not only because of the additional stimulation of the senses, but also because it helped keep the crowds away. For nearly an hour I explored my environment in a light that appeared liquid in nature. It constantly blended, radiated, resonated, and transformed my surroundings. The calming effect of the structure was unlike anything I have experienced and I eventually had to pull myself away or risk severe dehydration.
Outside in the harsh sunlight I reflected on how while my friends and family--thousands of miles across the sea--were preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving, I was thankful that I had a second chance for such an amazing experience.
Levity III left Perth this weekend, but the tour will continue in 2011, starting with Sydney. So, if you get a chance, be sure to check out an amazing piece of interactive art.

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Picture Is Worth...

This week's PhotoHunt theme is written.
The giant boulders at Ubirr Rock, in the Northern Territory of Australia, are decorated with Aboriginal rock art. Some of the paintings are believed to have been painted by the first people of the creation eras. Other of the painting, such as the one above, are more recent.
The red spindly figure, Mabuyu, represents a story that warns against stealing. Bill Neidiia has written the story that demonstrates morality and the consequences of stealing.
“Mabuyu was dragging his catch on a string after a fishing expedition when a greedy person cut the string and stole his fish. That night, Mabuyu waited until the thieves had eaten his fish and were camped inside their cave near the East Alligator River. Then he blocked the cave with a huge rockNext morning they never came out. Because they pinched it they got punished. Kids, ladies and men all dead-finished."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

No Hubba Bubba Here

The SA blue gum is one of South Australia’s best known trees. The local indigenous tree is a medium-sized and reaches up to 30 meters in height. During the first five to ten years the tree quickly grows upward, then it slowly develops a broad, dense canopy. The bark is retained on the lower trunk but the upper trunk and branches are bare and grayish in color. The adult leaves are oval shaped and about 200 mm long. SA blue gums usually boast flowers during the autumn and winter.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

You May Call It Cheek, Butt I Know Better

With the current trend of snout-to-tail cuisine it isn’t uncommon to find unusual animal parts--tail, cheek, belly, brains, and bone marrow--showing up in gourmet grocery stores and on menus everywhere. For that reason I wasn’t surprised to learn that my father had some crab cheeks in the freezer. In fact, my mouth began to water as I remembered the yummy halibut cheeks we cooked up last year. However, when I saw the palm sized medallions I couldn’t help but wonder who was the butt of this unusual joke. Unless the meat before me was harvested from a King Kong sized crab there was no way we were about to eat crab cheeks. Then it dawned on me that they were not crab cheeks, but rather a crab’s cheek, and that we were about to prepare a meal of crab butt.

I guess this Alaskan delicacy, which slowly is making its way to the lower 48 states, can’t exactly market itself as butt, and tail would probably leave consumers envisioning something lobster like. So crab cheek, though perhaps a bit misleading, is the perfect name for that part of the crab that was previously left out of the kitchen.
Poached in a simple wine sauce our meal exceeded expectations. The meat was not the dense morsels that I associate with crab knuckles and legs. Instead, it was delicate and flakey, with a sweet and subtle flavor. I am not sure texture and flavor of the crustacean’s tail-end will be enough to win over leg-lovers. However, I do see a following among those who prefer a less messy, hassle free dining experience.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Juicy Peddler

 This week's PhotoHunt theme is juicy.
On a Saturday morning at the Victor Harbor Market this peddler will spin your choice of ingredients into a juicy beverage.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Cruise With Temptation

It is not uncommon to see dolphins swimming in the waters around Glenelg. On a cool fall morning last year I headed out on Temptation Cruises hoping to get a closer view of the magnificent animal. I am not much of a water lover, so I skipped the opportunity to swim with the dolphins, though there were a couple of brave souls that took to the waters. The cruise was a success and in the 3.5 hours that I was aboard the 58ft catamaran I saw over a dozen different dolphins

Most of our sighting were of bottlenose dolphins. Some of the mammals were on their own and others were in pods. The color of the bottlenose dolphin varies considerably, but generally this type of dolphin is light to slate grey. In our waters these animals can grow up to 2.8 meters long and weigh as much as 270 kilograms. The South Australian bottlenose dolphin’s diet primarily consist of fish and squid. They eat approximately 8 kilogram each day. They generally hunt individually, but when a food source is found pods will work together. I am glad that I did not resist Temptation, a memory that will last a lifetime.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mt Crawford

A couple of weeks ago our hopes of spending the day on the trail were washed out by torrential spring time rains. Instead, we decided to spend the day driving the back country roads, exploring the Adelaide Hills area. To our surprise, less than an hour from town we came across Mount Crawford Forest Reserve, a wooded area that offered a variety of hiking trails and several camping areas. We decided that, weather cooperating, we would return the following weekend to camp and do some additional exploring.
Mother Nature was on our side and the following weekend we headed for the hills. We decided to try our luck at Rocky Paddock, a fairly large campground nestled amongst an old pine plantation. When we arrived there were a couple of other campers nestled amongst the rocky outcrops. We headed to one of the more secluded edges and pitched our tent. We could only hope that no one would come along while we were out on the trail and set up camp right next to us. Once we had our territory staked out we hit the trail. 
The land, which was bought in 1909, has been used as eucalyptus and pine plantations since 1914. Currently 70,000 tons of timber is harvested annually from the area.  A variety of trails and tracks allow visitors to meander through a varied of landscape of eucalyptus, pine and native bush. Of course, since the trails traverse plantations, the tree groves are in different stages of the logging process. During our 5 hour loop we were treated to a walk amongst baby pine trees and some lumbering giants, as well as offered an opportunity to first handedly observe the destructive nature of the logging industry. The highlight of the day was our climb of Little Mount Crawford, where the land around the 525 meter peak has been left in its native state.
Mount Crawford Reserve is the perfect place for a day-trip or an overnighter. In addition to three camping areas that offer basic facilities there are numerous picnicking areas. However, visitors need to be aware that camping is only permitted from April through November, and there are strict fire restrictions. For more information about the area visit http://www.forestry.sa.gov.au/crawford.stm.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Will I Be Driven To Drink?

When Lily and I became partners in the Teacher Exchange Program we spent some time via e-mail and telephone calls describing our job and homes. I tried my best to inform her of what the work expectations would be, and I even went as far as having my position changed from a regular classroom teacher to a pullout Spanish Language Teacher. I figured the demand and pressure would be less, and this would allow Lily to better enjoy her time in the States. I assumed that as a professional, that she would ensure I knew all I needed to about her position, to help in my transition and smooth year.
After my arrival in Murcia and the discovery of the wonderful artwork in her house I should have suspected that perhaps she hadn't been completely forthcoming. 
I was shocked to discover that she had somehow managed to forget to mention that the town I was to teach in had suffered a major earthquake the previous year. Now this would not have changed my decision to participate in the program. After all, I had already survived an earth shaking moment in Mexico City. However, the fact that the local school had been completely destroyed and  classes were being held in temporary structures may have made me think twice about what I was committing to.
I learned of the situation as we drove to Burra. My new compañeros explained that the school was now divided into two parts. The older students, those that I would mainly be working with, were taught in a building on the outskirts of town. The building, normally used for storage, had been graciously lent to the public school district by the private school that owned it. All I could think was that a private school's warehouse couldn't be that bad, or could it? What I envisioned didn't prepare me for the decrepit building that stood amongst the fruit orchards. From the outside the dilapidated building looked better suited for destruction than education. The inside wasn't much better. I was beginning to wonder about Lily's real motivation for her participation in the Teacher Exchange Program.

I was introduced to the 5 teachers I would be working with. They each had their own classroom. However, due to a lack of space I was left "classroomless". Not ideal for the language teacher who needed lots of visuals and manipulatives to aid in the process of language learning. I quickly reflected on the roving language teachers back in the States, lugging their gear from room to room in a cart; I figured I could work something out. However, my optimism quickly dwindled as I was shown what would be my storage space in the lounge--a bottom shelf of a bookshelf that was already home to a couple of bottles of booze. I couldn't help but wonder if they were left by Lily or the tool necessary for my survivial.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

New Zealand Fur Seal

New Zealand fur seals are found in Australia, New Zealand and some sub-Antarctic islands. This guy was seen on Kangaroo Island-- home to over 30,000 of the eared seals. 
The New Zealand fur seal is distinguished from Australian fur seals by their smaller size and darker coloration. The bulls can reach up to 2.5 meters in length and weigh between 120-180 kilograms. The cows are much smaller and do not exceed 1.5 meters in length and they weigh between 35-50 kilograms.
New Zealand Fur seals feed mainly on squid and octopus during the summer months, and fish during the winter. Occasionally they will supplement their diet with small birds. Fur seals feed over vast distances and females are often away from the colony for several days before returning to feed their pups.
Fur seals were hunted in the early 1800's for their dense fur coats and blubber. An estimated 1.5 million of the animals were killed between 1792 and 1948. Today New Zealand fur seals are a protected animal though they remain on the list of Vulnerable Species.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

No Back Scratcher Needed

This week's PhotoHunt theme is itchy.
High in the Peruvian mountains at Abra La Raya Pass locals sell their colorful handwoven wears. I found the alpaca wool used in the textiles to be very soft and not at all itchy.

Friday, November 12, 2010

SA Wave

The bright sun called me to the balcony, but whether or not I would open the doors was yet to be decided. The gentle rolling in waves from the northwest suggested I might be able to sit outside for my morning coffee. Sure enough, as I opened the doors I was greeted with a warm breeze. 
As I stood and took in the beauty around me I noted that the bike path and beaches were relatively empty. I knew that it wouldn't be long until the scene before me filled with people.  A smile came to my lips as I imagined the dozens of walkers, runners, rollerbladers and cyclist cruising the urban trail all at their own speed. I easily envisioned each of them frantically waving their hand in a sweeping motion across their faces. From my vantage point this simple motion would appear to be a friendly gesture--perhaps the result of the hormonal surge driven by the arrival of spring--but for those who have walked the urban jungle there is the understanding that this is not a symbol of friendship or love. Instead, it is a gesture that attempts to ward off the evil creatures that the warm winds bring in from the bush. The battle between human and the australian fly will have begun. 
It seems so unfair that the warm winds of the north beckon us to revel outdoors, and at the same time they torture us by bringing the pesky bush fly to our urban setting. Oh, how I loath the little creature that continuously attempts to crawl into my mouth, ears and nose. Waves, salutes, and swats seem to have no effect on the irritating pests; in fact, the only way to be rid of them seems to be by adding them to one's diet and ingesting them whole. Fortunately, for now I will be granted respite from the unpleasant critters swarming the streets below since it appears that bush flies are afraid of heights. However, I know there is a battle awaiting me once I step out into the urban jungle.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lest We Forget

Today I was once again reminded of the armistice which ended the First World War. At 11 am my pilates class observed a minute of silence in memory of those who died or suffered in all wars and armed conflicts. 
In my travels across Australia I have yet to visit a town, no matter how small or isolated, that did not have some type of commemorative war memorial. However, it is each November 11th when I watch those around me--whether it be in a pilates class, at the botanical garden, or on an airplane--that I am reminded of just how seriously Australians take remembering those who have sacrificed their lives.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo is one of Australia's best known parrot. Its white plumage is highlighted by  distinctive yellow crest and the underside of its wings are tinged yellow.
This naturally curious birds is found in a variety of timbered habitats throughout northern, eastern and southwestern part of the continent. They are tend to avoid arid inland areas with few trees.    
The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo's diet consist of berries, seeds, nuts and roots. Feeding normally takes place in small to large groups, with one or more member of the group watching for danger from a nearby perch. Each day the flock returns to the same area until the food supply is exhausted.  When not feeding, the birds will bite off smaller branches and leaves from trees. However, these items are not eaten, but rather an activity to help keep the bill trimmed and from growing too large. 
Near urban areas the species is often considered a pest  because they can be destructive to timber structures and many people find their distinctive raucous call annoying. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

This One Is For The Birds

In Spain we lived across from El Bosque, a lively bar that served cafe and anise to the viejos and politicos during the week and churros and chocolate to the church goers on Sunday. From my second story vantage point I could keep tabs on the coming and going of the who's who in Utrera. However, it was those that hung out at the roof top cantina that provided me the most entertainment.
Rain or shine, day or night dozens of pigeon would congregate on the slanted tile roof. For hours on end I would watch them feed, fight, fornicate and once in a while drop little presents on the unsuspecting patrons sitting on the patio below. However, the favorite pastime of the non-paying customers seemed to be just lazing around. Occasionally a loud noise would cause the masses to take to the air but it wouldn't take long for the birds to return to their lounging spot.
One sunny spring afternoon I was awakened from my afternoon siesta by a flurry of noise. The crystal blue sky was filed with a gyrating mass. Round and round the plaza the birds flew, filling the sacred Spanish rest hour with loud squawks. At first I was confused by the sudden movement. I had never seen the normally lethargic animals so agitated. I thought that perhaps a  cat had managed to invade their space. As I scanned the roof, a dark shadow of a large bird swept across the tiles. I knew what was about to happen. I shifted my gaze to the sky just in time to watch a large hawk, with extended talons, sweep down and snatch a pigeon mid-air. With its trophy secure the predator gracefully landed on the roof, where for the next hour it slowly devoured its prey. As I watched in awe, I couldn't help but wonder if had just witnessed a magical moment in the wild kingdom or a brutal massacre.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Map Kernow

Hundreds of Cornish miners dug shafts and tunnels with pick and and shovel to find the rich copper ore at Kapunda mine. The influence of these miners on the mining industry in SA was commemorated by a memorial built in 1988. 
The 7 meter (23 ft) statue depicts a Cornish miner clad for work--a resin hardened felt hat with a candle stuck on the brim, mallet, pick and spare tallow candles around his neck.
The memorial, known as Map Kernow or the Son of Cornwall, was built by Ben van Zetten and is regarded as one of Australia's Big Things. The original fiberglass statue was destroyed by fire in 2006, when a local teenager attempted to take a photo of the statue surrounded by a "ring of fire."  Unfortunately, accelerant splashed on the statues leg causing the actual statue to burn. Fortunately, the statue was well insured and on June 3, 2007 a new bronze statue was rededicated on the same site of the old one, just a year after the original was destroyed.  

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Staying Alive In The Bush

This week's photohunt theme is alive.

Since 1928 the dream of uniting medicine, aviation and radio have been used to keep people "alive" in the remote Australian outback.
The Australian Inland Mission Aerial Medical Service began with a single-engine airplane chartered from QANTAS. The service provided a sense of safety for the inhabitants of the remote areas of the continent as 2 doctors brought the only medical care to the area of almost 2 million square kilometers. 
The name of the operation was changed to the Flying Doctor Service in 1943, and within ten years, with the Queen's approval, Royal was added to to the title.
Today the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), operates with 53 fully instrumented aircraft from 21 bases across Australia. Each year the RFDS pilots fly the equivalent of 25 round trips to the moon, allowing doctors and nurses to care for nearly  270,00 patients. The dedication of this internationally recognized Australian Institution ensures that people across the continent are guaranteed quality health care.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


In the 1840's South Australia was languishing in the economic doldrums. Fortunately, sheep grazier Francis Dutton stumbled over some moss colored stones. An assay of the rocks (which took over 2 years to complete since they had to be sent to the UK) determined the find to of the highest grade of copper ore found any where in the world. Dutton and his partner quickly bought up the land and Kapunda, Australia's first mining town, was born.
Mining dominated the town for more than 30 years, and it is said that the million pounds worth of copper it produced saved South Australia from bankruptcy. When the mine closed in 1877, the town became the center for a thriving pastoral industry.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Things Legends Are Made Of

In the mid 1900's buck jumpers from across Australia were drawn to Marrabel, South Australia to try and tame the squealing and bucking Curio.
Curio, a three year old brumby mare, was mustered on Macumba station in the northern part of the state in 1945 and consigned to the town Marrabel.  
In 1947 the wild-eyed, squealing, bucking, strawberry roan became a feature of the Marrabel Rodeo. She had gained legend status as she quickly and easily disposed of some of the countries best rough-riders.  It wasn't until 1953 that Curio finally meet her match and Alan Woods managed to finally ride the tempestuous ball of fury for a full ten minutes.
The above statue is a tribute to Wood's famous ride. It was created in 1991 by Ben Van Zetten. The cold cast bronze monument measures 18 feet tall and weighs two tons. It can be seen in the Marrabel, SA.