July 30, 2011

Pictures of Down Unda'


Mist over a field, as part of the the view during my morning run

Three Crocodiles, Sunning Themselves in a Nature Sanctuary close to Canungra

OMG, OMG, OMG, Koalas are so cute! It doesn't matter what they do - even when they defecate, people just say "oooh! aaah!". They're like stuffed animals when they munch, slowly and carefully climb trees and open and close their little palms. Ridiculously cute.

I'm petting a thoroughly unimpressed Kangaroo!


A Cassowary in the Sanctuary - a mean looking and dangerous bird

Some type of White Bird on a branch

Bundaberg (Australian Rum) and Coke, in a can! A cheap and delicious treat after a long 10 days at xxx

A little bit of down time in the airport after returning from Brisbane and on our way to Sydney. Time for a visit to my sister who lives in the Blue Mountains around Sydney!

July 20, 2011

007's Brother's Email


Man my life is so boring. My life isn't that exciting, but let me see if I can spin a narrative which makes it sound as cool as your lives.

Early on Monday morning, I boarded a small JetBlue aircraft. The air in Manhattan was thick, as if it was anticipating the rough terrain ahead. As my little plane pulled up on the tarmac at my destination, I realized I was stepping into a place few had gone to before: Pittsburgh. The name itself is synonymous with adventure and the unknown.

I rushed into my little taxi, swerved onto the crazy streets full of traffic and arrived at my client's office. I was working in the business that runs this town. Some say it's reach touches every person in this place, forgotten by the rest of civilization. It affects the lowly street sellers and the fat-cat politicians. It's what makes the world go round. It's... health insurance.

Monday morning was crazy, the minute I arrived, I rushed into a steering committee meeting. Sweating bullets, I reported our progress to the senior clients. These men in dark suits run the firm, and some say this whole town. Two members of my team were down and sick I said, so progress was slow. But we now knew how to attack the problem. We would focus, I said, on two key customer segments. Retirees and small business. The client went ballistic. What about medium businesses they asked? Isn't there demand in that segment? Aren't we leaving money on the table? No, we told them, it would just be too expensive. The IRRs wouldn't make sense.

After a full day of meetings, I retired to my small shabby hotel. It was called the Renaissance, and tended by a nice guy called Tommy. I could hear the bustle of streets below... Would I ever make it out of Pittsburgh alive?

007 - that explains why you haven't been returning my phone calls.

Hope all is well!

[007 in Africa's Brother]

007's Sister's Email

Hi all,

I'm currently staying at a YHA in Pitwater about 90 minutes out of Sydney (I have a week off between terms). It's heart-meltinglybeautiful-- a crystalline bay, gamboling wallabies, bickering magpies,soft warm breezes, a crackling fireplace, lazy hammocks, all set in anold sprawling house which dates back to the 1930s. There are stainglass windows that never get a ray of light. And piles of halffinished knitting abandoned on the worn leather couches of the livingroom. Only two others are here: an old man from the South Coast onrespite from caring for his wife (who has MS), and a sustainablefarmer who comes here every year to get away from things for a while.We've all come alone. At nighttime we play our favourite jazz albumsand discuss science, philosophy. Amiable company.

I have already been on two runs and had two naps. I've reacquainted myself with the physiology of the kidney (hello!). I leave tomorrow.

007's Email

Hey Dad and All,

Thanks for the news! It sounds like a nice vacation and I’ve very jealous...

Well after about 25 hours of travelling ([007's sister], my hat’s off to you for doing that twice a year or more), I arrived in Brisbane and met up with my group. We travelled to xxx a few days after that.

I basically work in a small, overheated portioned room with about 30 other civilians (or “hippies” as we are called here) from the US and Australia. It’s sometimes hard to hear ourselves in here as there are a number of other groups behind other partitions that are significantly louder than us. The building is rigged with a jungle of multicolored live wires, and holds buckets collecting water from the leaky roof - it's quite a run-down site to see. It makes me feel like I am in a humid bunker during the second World War.
 The food is actually quite good and incredibly fattening (fried potatoes, pasta with bacon, rice, chocolate pudding, chicken, pork, lamb, steak, a few pieces of whitish lettuce). You wouldn’t believe it but I actually walk or run in the morning to get rid of the calories (OK I did that twice, but still). The mist hanging on the long stretches of land is beautiful and I’ve seen lots of Kookabaras and hear their eerie laughing and cackling sounds. We sometimes hold our meetings in large tents made from a thin material that looks like plastic ponchos, or outside in the cool, sunny air of the Australian winter. It can be quite distracting as I see new flora and fauna around me... such as large black and white birds, and gnarled dry trees.


My days generally run from 6:00 am (time I wake up) to about 9:30 pm (time I go to bed), and that’s a perfect schedule for me!

Looking forward to seeing [007's Sister] in about a week,
007 in Africa

Email From Mum and Dad

Hola las muchachas et el muchacho,

Bonjour from rue Vendome!

We have just spent a week out of contact at Argentiere in the Colin's chalet. I was able to read a quarter of Middlemarch due to the absolute absence of any Internet or phone connection. (It turns out that for ATT to allow international roaming one needs three months or more of active contract, so I have been as though on the dark side of the moon. It's actually quite nice.)

The hiking was arduous and quite difficult but I'm sure did us both a lot of good. We spent the week with Jim and Elizabeth and Penny. Neither Elizabeth nor Penny did any real hiking but fortunately Jim is a serious hiker, and Maman pretty much kept up with us (or in fact, went down the mountains a lot faster than me! The weather was mostly OK but there was one day of heavy rain and a second when the mountains were shrouded in cloud so we hiked in the mist. We also went up the Aiguille du Midi, around 3,800 metres (12,000 ft) and admired the Mer de Glace with hundreds of Japanese tourists, then hiked across the mountain to the glacier. (007's Brother) will remember our traversée of the Mer de Glace about 10 years ago. Then yesterday we returned to Lyon via Megève, which I had never visited; a bit too expensive and ostentatious even for me!

This morning I put Penny back on the train for London, and Maman and I have spent the day doing the washing. Tomorrow we go and spend the day with Maman's godmother in the country, about 1 1/2 hours from here, then Tuesday we leave to spend time with the Martins in Dordogne.

Thinking of you, wish you were here,

Lots of love,
Maman and Dad.

July 18, 2011

Sights from my Misty, Early Morning Run

A Kookaburra Saying Hello At Breakfast

From Wikipedia

Kookaburras (genus Dacelo) are large to very large (total length 28–42 cm/11–17 in) terrestrial kingfishers native to Australia and New Guinea, the name a loanword from Wiradjuri guuguubarra, which is onomatopoeic of its call. The single member of the genus Clytoceyx, though commonly referred to as the Shovel-billed Kookaburra, is not treated in this article.

Kookaburras are best known for their unmistakable call, which sounds uncannily like loud, echoing human laughter — good-natured, but rather hysterical, merriment in the case of the renowned Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae); and maniacal cackling in the case of the slightly smaller Blue-winged Kookaburra (D. leachii).

July 16, 2011

Sunset Over Brisbane

Looks Just LiKe Burger Kings


In the last two months, I've been to Los Angeles for vacation for 5 days, Kenya for work for 10 days, and NY over a weekend. I haven’t had time or the energy to update my blog, but here’s a little information on my trip to Australia.

6 hours from DC to LA.
14 hours from LA to Sydney and 1.5 hours from Sydney to Brisbane.

Brutal - makes me appreciate what my sister goes through to come visit us from Sydney twice a year.

Having finally collected our luggage in Brisbane, we arrive, exhausted, at the hotel at 10 am, only to be told that hotel check-in is at 2 pm. Sigh... The bunch of us (9 that arrived that day + 2 that had arrived a day before) pile our identical black suitcases and beige backpacks in a room and go to lunch at JoJo's, an Italian- inspired restaurant (but with curries and Thai food to boot). The inside is gaudy with modern, blue, neon, wire lighting and colored, life-sized status of Louis Armstrong and what looks to be Josephine Baker.

Then we split up and go on our merry way, some of us going to the water and other just strolling around the city. Brisbane is a bustling city with tall skyscrapers. Not terribly charming in terms of city landscape but the people seem diverse (in terms of nationalities, there's a good mix of Asians and Australians). It's really weird because I recognize at least 50 percent of the stores there - there seem to be a lot of chains, and most of them American: Target. (note the dot at the end, indicating that it's a little different from our Target), Starbucks, Body Shop (that one is British), 7/11, Ann Taylor Loft, Guess, etc... It's a little sad actually how chains seemed to be obliterating local businesses.

The next day, I go to the countryside for two days of preparation and briefing.  It looks remarkably like LA with its one-level cottage houses, palm trees, eccentric beach bums. But it's very hilly. There’s beautiful morning light.

That day, I learn Australian Military Slang:

Choco: part-time soldiers, reservists
Rockshow: a poorly managed group
Gumy and Goffers: junk food and soda
Have a durie: have a cigarette
Furphy: a tall story, a lie
Pouge (or POG): someone not involved in combat
Rat Pack: a ration pack, for 24 hours
Numpty: an individual who just doesn't get it