So my sister takes me to her place of employment. It’s winter break, and unlike in the United States, Australians just take off for a couple weeks through the holidays. The few people at the office the fam and I get to meet. My sister reminds us to behave, to be gracious and introduce ourselves if, for some reason, she forgets an employee’s name since she’s still relatively new there, and to keep our hands to ourselves. She did not explicitly tell me to not talk politics. Her mistake.
Everything goes smoothly. Pleasantries exchanged hither and thither. We occupy ourselves without breaking anything while she chats with a colleague about some issue. And then we go to leave. On our way out, we bid adieu to the temporary receptionist.
“Oh, I remember you. You’re the BBC sister,” says she–barely concealed scorn in her voice. My sister told her colleagues that I’d be doing U.S. election coverage for the BBC. Unlike in the U.S. where no one watches the BBC so my little foray into punditry went unnoticed, in Australia, everyone watches the BBC. So while I’ve never met her co-workers, they’ve “met” me because the TVs were on all day at work and my mug was there, too, with my politics on full display.
“Yes, we had our TVs on everywhere and saw you.” She didn’t say it like it was a good thing. Time to change the topic.
Why aren’t you on vacation?
“I’m taking my five weeks [Australia’s only rival for labor cushiness is France] altogether.”
How nice. Where are you going?
“Iran and Syria.”
My face couldn’t hide my shock.
“Oh, it’s safe,” she assured me. “The travel company wouldn’t take us if it wasn’t safe. It’s not like they’ll take us to the border of Iraq or anything.”
Now, if I had more restraint, I would have just let that little slice of silly go, but I didn’t have much restraint and I didn’t like her attitude to begin with. I could feel my sister’s anxiety rise next to me. She psychically sent signals screaming, “DON’T SAY ANYTHING! DON’T SAY ANYTHING! LET IT GO!” I ignored them and smiled grandly at the receptionist.
I think you’d be safer in Iraq, actually.
The receptionist launched. “It’s not like I’m stupid. I’ve been to Libya and it was wonderful. Syria and Iran are beautiful countries. It’s perfectly safe.”
My sister interceded,”I hope you have a wonderful time! We better get going we have a long day ahead of us.”
Before this infernal woman ever talked about the loveliness of the Islamic dictatorships in question, I disliked her. I don’t like that I sometimes dislike people without any evidence to dislike them–or no conscious evidence. Maybe it was her hauteur, her territorial set, her mouth turned in a curled snarl. I don’t know. But I do know that there are some people that I inexplicably like immediately and some I don’t and that it rarely feels rational and it rarely changes with more actual evidence.
I spent some time thinking about the exchange because it bothered me that I allowed this woman to affect my blood pressure. The foundation of my irritation was the woman’s determined moral equivalence. She clearly thought I was a close-minded rube while she was an open-minded woman of the world. She had been to these places and the countries weren’t evil. They were misunderstood. Not only that, but democracy is overrated. It’s so annoying how Westerners, Americans especially, think their way is a better way. Who are they to decide what’s better for other people?
And you know what I think? I think America and Western countries are objectively better, you moron. In Iran this week, guys were stoned to death for supposedly committing adultery. Iran is the country that hangs supposedly gay, underage men. Syria is the country clandestinely building nuclear bombs and then blaming Israel for “planting evidence.” Iran and Syria support and arm Hamas and Hezbollah whose explicit goal is to destroy Israel.
If there is a way that these regimes is misunderstood, it’s by the useful idiots who want to minimize the risk they present to the human ideals of liberty, self-determination and life. A Westerner may be safe in Cuba, Iran, Syria, Libya, China, Saudi Arabia or elsewhere in dictatorial states, but their own people aren’t. That would be a major difference between a smug secretary enjoying her five week vacation in thug states. She can go home when she wants, how she wants, with whom she wants and believe how she wants. The citizens in the backward nations of Syria and Iran have no such luxury. That she can’t see this demonstrates a callous disregard for her fellow man and contempt for her own freedom that has been bought and continues to be paid for with blood and treasure.
The moral equivalence crowd can move to and rot in these despotic regimes they so aggrandize. It would be better than destroying their own countries from within.
Cross-posted at RightWingNews
I’m recovered, mostly, from New Years. I know. I know. I’ve been a lazy blogger. I’m still on vacation and don’t expect to lose the vacation state of mind for at least a week after getting back home. I get on the plane tomorrow and am struggling to decide how to handle the trans-Pacific flight. Before I was flying during the night so I took drugs, knocked myself out and woke up with an hour or two to spare–just enough time to pull myself together, turn down hideous (and I mean hideous) food, and read a bit before getting off the plane. This time, I’ll be flying during the day Sydney time. Should I knock myself out anyway? Should I go to sleep halfway through the flight? I don’t know. And what will the kids want to do? I don’t know that either.
I touched a Koala Bear. Yes. I. Did. It was soft and gray and relatively tame. Koalas are as easy going as they look, I learned, unless one male is around another male and then they get vicious. They’re territorial. I like territorial males. They sleep most of the time and wake up briefly to eat. And they rarely leave the tree they perch in unless they get hungry again or want to have sex (the euphemistic “find a mate”). No wonder Koalas have been my favorite animal. They’re cuter than sloths but not much more active.
We also fed Wallabees, but the kids thought they were kangaroos and don’t you dare tell them any different. I have pictures. There were dingos and ostriches and and crocodiles and strangely, cows, at the nature center.
Our last hurrah in Sydney will be to go to the Sydney Opera House to watch Madame Butterfly. The Botanical Gardens are across the street and I hope to get some good pictures. My memory card is full and I’ll have to spend some time fooling with my camera. I wish I just had another memory card, but then I’d be afraid I’d lose it. Gah. It’s a pain being in my head.
Being so far away and disconnected to time has been nice. I know bad things are happening. Life marches on no matter if you’re sidelined by bliss or misery. Time changes and melds to our experiences. That can make it rush by too fast and too fleeting when blissed. It can make it crawl by when miserable. Either way, time ticks away. And life is too short.
I have more pictures to bore you with, but I don’t know if I’ll have time to put them up. Maybe when I get back, then a whole bunch of other real life things like work and school crash back in. Of course, there are the New Years resolutions. Mine are utterly predictable so I won’t list them. I’ll put everything on a dream board when I get back, so I can visualize what I want. I think I’ll make a goal list again. I do it every few years, stumble across them later and am often surprised at how many are fulfilled. Lots to accomplish in 2009. If this year is any indication, the year will be gone in a blink.
I really should know better than to drink seven glasses of champagne in a row–even if it’s good champagne. I should, but I don’t. So for all you people out there killing time ’til you go to the party or hanging out and getting drunk this very instant, consider your ways people. Tomorrow is a headache.
Since I can’t think very clearly, I thought I’d upload some more Sydney pictures. New Years here was a blast. We were at a friend’s apartment with a lovely balcony overlooking the harbor, the bridge and downtown. People partied on all sides and the apartment high rises were filled with revelers hooting and hollering. Sydney has two fireworks showings: one at 9 p.m. for the families and then one at midnight for the n’er do wells–which would be everyone. We watched both. The 9 p.m. was merely a teaser. The midnight blasts were far cooler with incredible fireworks coming off the sides of the Sydney Harbor Bridge. The theme was creativity (last year was love) and there were fireworks that looked like flowers blooming. It was all synchronized. Plus, there were launchers off the top of four or five Sydney sky scrapers that added to the display. Impressive.
The day before we were at the beach. It was gorgeous. It’s beautiful today, but no one is out and about. If they’re like me, they’re trying to not move too much or look at bright lights, either. I have an urge to take a nap and just might do that. I’m still in my p.j.s and it’s the afternoon, so why not?
Most of these pictures are taken with a very old Sony Cybershot 7.2 MP. I still like the camera even though the newer ones have better control. My camera ran out of batteries halfway through the New Years party and so I used the iPhone Night Camera app. It works remarkably well. I’d highly recommend downloading it for your iPhone.
There is no sense of being far away in Australia. McDonald’s and Burger Kings are everywhere. Since I ate at both, the food is remarkable–it tastes exactly as nasty as it does in America. Their standards are amazing. They even hire the same pimply kids here.
Sydney is a notoriously agnostic city by all accounts. So some enterprising Christian decided to take the fireworks theme and remind everyone about who the Creator really is. It was fun guessing what the sky-writer was trying to say. The phrase was “The Creator Is Jesus”.
It’s not a night of fireworks without sparklers! Taken with the iPhone.
I’ve been through Hell, Michigan. Now, I can say I went to Tribulation Point. It was a lot more beautiful than one would imagine. Lush forests, the ocean, sandy beach and a coral reef out there somewhere combines to make a fairly lovely trial, if one must have one.
That was two days ago. Today, after getting some LED light therapy (more about that in another post some time), we drove an hour to Long Beach, NSW, Australia. I’ve been struggling to decide which American city Sydney most reminds me of and have finally concluded that Sydney is most like San Diego, California. It has the city and the harbor, but it also has these steep foothills and mountains with homes built up the sides. There are relaxed little border beach towns and then big skyscrapers representing the biggest businesses you can think of downtown in the city. Where San Diego has the perfect weather–warm during the day, dry, and cool at night. Sydney has humidity and a cold, dreary winter. Otherwise, Sydney is a lot like San Diego and San Diego is one of my favorite American cities.
The weather turned out perfect today. We’ve felt a bit Eeyorish–with clouds seemingly following us wherever we go. The same thing happened today, momentarily, and I looked at the gathering clouds with suspicion, thinking that maybe the Sydney landscape viewed us much like the White Mountain viewed Gandalf. Alas, no. The clouds passed and a breezy, lovely beach day ensued.
I saw a real, live burquini today. Yes. I. Did. I took a picture of the woman who swam in a carefree manner even if she labored under layers of clothing in the surf. The menfolk arrived later, surrounded by Western, sinful women in real, live bikinis. Very difficult to be a strict Muslim and do something as simple as going swimming in the ocean. For that reason alone, Islam could not be my religion nor Amishness.
Speaking of conservative religions… I have never gone on the record about this before, but I will now: I’m glad for my Puritanical heritage. Puritans and their whole “cleanliness is next to godliness” obsession were sooooo right. One great thing about Americans is their nearly universal compulsion to be clean. Personal hygiene is imperative. Most days, while walking through my American life, I take clean people for granted. Not anymore. Sharing public transportation–like say tour buses and say, plane cabins–with people from Europe, Asia, and Australia has taught me to have an attitude of gratitude for my American compatriots. It is a problem, fellow world travelers, when you stink at 9:00 a.m. while getting ON the bus before hiking the jungle. If you’re not going to shower, at least wear some deodorant.
Stinky people would not dissuade me from loving this part of the world, though. Port Douglas and Cairn, Australia are a couple of my favorite places. I’m reminded of Key West and Florida in general there. The vibe is laid back and optimistic and friendly. I really wish we had longer in the area. It was so beautiful. I’ll put up some pictures tomorrow.
Yes, I know about Israel and the war. No, I don’t want to think about it. That’s wrong, I know. The whole Middle East is suffering. Here’s my nutshell opinion: Israel needs to deal, once and for all, with the Palestinians. A decisive winner and loser needs to be named. The winner should be Israel. They should stop pulling punches and utterly defeat their enemies. That means it will be messy because the Palestinians fight among families, put rocket launchers in neighborhoods, and don’t care if their own children die–except to use as propaganda. They are cowards and tools of the greater Arab world and they are too stupid to realize that the only way the rest of the Muslim world loves them is as a way to torment Israel. Nothing more. It needs to stop. I hope a decisive Israeli victory will end this. The chronic misery produced by the terrorism and pot shots makes life a perpetual trauma.
Okay, gotta get to bed. I’ll work on more pictures tomorrow. Tomorrow night, we’ll be watching the fireworks ringing in the New Year over Sydney. From what I’ve been told, they are the best in the world. We’ll just see about that. America knows her some fireworks. Fourth of July has always been my spectacle to judge all other spectacles. The Chinese did their over-the-top Olympics ceremony deal, but that was more than a little creepy–what with the million
robots I mean people working together as the Borg. I’m all for teamwork, but it’s a fine line before you’re the collective. But I digress. The Sydney fireworks will be something to behold, no doubt, and no tribulation at that.
I kept expecting the gorillas to emerge from the mist but they never did. Wrong continent. Australia has crocodiles, not gorillas. It also has, like it’s allies the Americans, red necks. In this case, these Australian red neck people decided to frolic in the river next to the sign warning against frolicking lest one get eaten by a crocodile. Pondering such stupidity, I wondered out loud, “What do you say about people who get eaten by crocodiles next to the sign saying ‘don’t swim with the crocodiles’ at their funeral?” You certainly don’t feel sorry for them. My sister joked, “You say, ‘She died doing what she loved’.” And what’s that? Being stupid? So, we cross one little tributary on our way to the Denaine Rain Forest and I see a crocodile sitting near the edge. We cross the next one and Red Neck Ma and Pa and puppy are hanging out in the water splashing around.
Rain Forests are, generally, overrated. That is to say, once you’ve been one foot into one, you’ve seen what it looks like one yard or one hundred yards into one. Basically, there are ferns, trees, palms, more trees, more palms, birds that are singing, and butterflies, and loads and loads of bugs. My college biology teacher would be chagrined at my nonchalance. It was beautiful. That’s true. Lush, steamy, buggy, and dangerous looking, rain forests seem best enjoyed with copious netting and a machete. (Notice I didn’t mention bringing a 6, 9, and 11 year old who whined “how long until we go?” and “where are the tigers?” Seriously. These three things are extraneous to rain forest enjoyment.)
The novel thing about this rain forest is its proximity to the beach. According to my sister, this is the only place in the world where the rainforest goes all the way to the beach and ocean. And it does. I got great pictures which I’ll share with you at risk of being like that relative we all tolerate. How boring is it to look at other people’s pictures? Too bad. Besides, you should thank me. You could be looking at Blogojevich’s hair. I should get some sort of prize.
After getting carsick riding in the back seat to and through the rain forest, we came back and hiked into the Mossman Gorge. Now that’s something you need to see, if you come this direction. It is Aborigine territory. The Mossman River runs through the Gorge. There are huge boulders, a set of rapids, and soft shelled, very huge turtles that are shy. They didn’t come out. Still, it was beautiful. Next time, I’ll bring a picnic lunch.
Today we were supposed to go out on the Great Barrier Reef. 25 knot winds and my queasy stomach said no. Tomorrow should be better. I’ll let you know.
Hi All! Well, I’ve figured out this much: my WordPress problem must be a Firefox problem, because the back end of my blog works fine in Safari. Go figure.
Today, we’re in Port Douglas. Flew up here yesterday. I’m finally sleeping better and used to the time change–although it’s been okay. The weather here is balmy and hot. Possibly tropical, certainly at least sub-Tropical. There is a rainforest that we might visit and huge hills–I’m not sure if they qualify as mountains. The beaches are gorgeous with tan, fine sand. It’s surreal, though. There are vast stretches of these gorgeous beaches with no one swimming. Sharks.
Tonight we went to a restaurant called the Pizza Shack and the food was excellent. I highly recommend the place if you’re in town. Get the garlic bread and the peking duck roles.
Tomorrow, we’ll be going to see the Great Barrier Reef. I’ll take pictures. It will be an all day affair with 400 people on one boat. Should be smelly considering the heat.
Hope you like the pictures!
A whole store dedicated to “blokes”.
Barack Obama is hugely popular and being invoked to sell stuff people don’t need. Hmmmm…..
Nerd chic is hawt in Australian. Actually, everyone is cool and relaxed from what I can see.
Lots of signs encouraging protecting the environment and protesting just about everything.
Very beautiful punctuation to the harbor.
I thought this looked like a sailing ship.
Sydney, Australia is quite simply gorgeous.
Birds sing. Trees blow in the breeze. It’s in the low 80s. There’s water everywhere. Stunning! The little town, Rozelle, reminds me a bit of San Fransisco, a bit of Grand Haven, Michigan, and a bit of some vague European city with the twisty-turned streets, brick everywhere and crammed together business and housing. It feels familiar enough that I don’t feel like a tourist, but I look like one. I have my Superman backpack (they’ve run out of them, but this is the style, and they work great!) and a camera in my hand and I don’t give a hot damn that I look like a nerd.
Finished up the book Twilight (The Twilight Saga, Book 1)
on the trip. Yes, it’s good. Nothing that’s going to give you extra I.Q. points, mind you, but a great story with interesting characters and all the angst of adolescence on full display. Some reviewer here in Sydney said the book was just like Harry Potter. I’m wondering what sad planet of I-didn’t-read-the-book he was from. Whatever. The book is entirely different in tone, setting, and focus. Where Harry Potter is epic good-evil with a dash of growing pains thrown in, Twilight is a “first love/true love” story with vampires thrown in. Sheesh! Sometimes, I think I should be a book reviewer. Anyway, it was good enough that I’m finishing the series, maybe while I’m here. We’ll see how much time I have to read.
Tomorrow the ferry and Mandalay Beach. I expect to fry like a marooned baby seal. I don’t exactly intend to fry, mind you. I have the sunscreen and cover-ups, etc., but Australia has a monstrous ozone hole over the continent, no doubt created by the tiny Australian population using excess resources and being big, fat, wasteful consumers since they are a Western Democracy. Or, it’s the Chinese fault, kinda like it’s Detroit’s fault that all parts Toronto are polluted, or rather, it used to be Detroit’s fault back when they had factories, back in the olden days. Anyway, there’s a big ozone hole and it’s easy to get burned. I’ll do what I can to prevent that. Don’t want to prematurely age. Too late, I have kids. Comes with the territory.
Strange thing about technology: I’m in America. I’m in Sydney. My Twitter and blogging friends are so ass-backward body-clock wise, it’s like I’m home. And so, in a weird way, technology plays along with the normal-seeming yet strange sensation of being 14 hours off my body clock’s time.
I’ll be updating, if I can get the Australian data network to work, on Twitter with pics and all. Hope you’re having a great break, if you’re on one.
I read this article and had to share it. The political incorrectness is delicious:
The mayor of an Australian outback mining town has come under fire for urging unattractive women to move in, assuring them they will find a man because there is a shortage of women.
John Moloney, mayor of Mount Isa in northwestern Queensland, told a newspaper his town was a place for “ugly ducklings to flourish into beautiful swans” and called on the “beauty-disadvantaged” to flock there.
In the face of outrage over his remarks, Moloney stood by his comments, saying he did not mean to cause offence but wanted to highlight the gender imbalance in the remote town of some 25,000 people.
“Well I said beauty disadvantaged,” he told national radio. “Now beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty can be a good set of teeth, beauty is nice wavy hair. Beauty can be blue eyes or green eyes.
“There is such a thing as disposition, temperament, manners, general attractiveness, attitude and demeanour, all those things tend to make a person attractive.”
My, my. So, in a place that’s like Alaska–remote and male-dominated–the mayor is asking the ugly women, “beauty disadvantaged” (snort), to move on out where they’ll have a chance. Oftentimes, it tends to be the butch women who like braving the butch climes. I don’t see what everyone is upset about.
Cross-posted at RightWingNews.com