Sunday 21 July 2013

Long weekend travels to Canberra - March 8th, 9th and 10th!

The long weekend in March had us heading to Canberra. Brad and I had never been and a colleague suggested that it would be a good place to check out as we can drive there relatively easily and an extended weekend would be enough time to see the city. The day before heading out, I went to War Horse with a colleague and her husband. A quick dinner and the musical was a nice opportunity to spend time with Anastasia and to met her hubby! It was a busy week of visits into the city with the Suzuki Market on Wednesday and War Horse on Thursday before hitting the road on Friday for the long weekend.

Canberra is uniquely laid out, planned as the capital city of Australia, and the weekend we visited happened to be its 100th birthday. We left after school on Friday and arrived to our hostel late so just went to bed then got up the next day and found out what people meant when they said what a quiet city Canberra is! Incidentally, all museums and public spaces celebrating Australia are free in Canberra - a good way to celebrate the spaces and get people to check them out!

Our first walk took us to the National Gallery which was really excellent, with a great collection of international, national and indigenous art. The series of paintings about Ned Kelly was a highlight for Hana as she has been learning about Ned Kelly in school. Ned Kelly was a bushwrangler who is either considered a hero or a dirty thief – dependant upon who you talk to! He was first in trouble with the law at age 14 and hanged at 26 for robbery and murder. His homemade armour is a well-known image and the series of paintings in the National Gallery documented Kelly’s rise to notoriety, trial and death.


After the National Gallery, we took a look through the National Portrait Gallery and headed to Canberra Glassworks and booked into a glass tile session the following day. After a very late lunch, we headed back to the hostel then headed to watch the Canberra Brumbies (rugby union) vs. Sydney Waratahs. Heading to the game, we were hoping to run into a couple on exchange from Red Deer. Sheila and Adam are living in Cooma for the year and are just over an hour out of Cooma. We had spoken earlier that day about getting together (deciding to go out to their place for our third night) and hopefully meeting up at the game, if we could find each other. As it turned out, Sheila and Adam were sitting IN FRONT OF US at the game so we had a good laugh and a bit of a visit during the game.


Sunday in Canberra brought us to the War Museum which was really well done and very interesting. Brad and Hana joined a tour while Eoin and I eased into it a bit. Eoin was pretty uneasy with all the war memorabilia but he and I were able to pick up with a kids’ program there and he began to find it interesting. We spent a couple of hours after that completing a scavenger hunt together and met back up with Hana and Brad to go through some of the exhibit together. The displays were about the basics of war – uniforms, items used in battle, food, etc. through to battle plans, fighter planes and a helicopter. The National War Museum is also home to sculptures and memorials of soldiers who represented Australia in peace keeping missions as well. To see and begin to understand the scope of war and conflict as discussed in the museum had a real impact on us.

After going to the War Museum, we headed to Cooma and arrived at Sheila and Adam’s place for dinner. We had a great feast and a fantastic visit. The kids were really happy to have a “foster” auntie and uncle to visit with here. We were sad to go the next morning – both the kids and I had tears. We find, while here, that those relationships that feel most like home are great to develop but also leave us feeling the most sad when we have to say goodbye and continue on our travels.


After leaving Cooma, we returned to Canberra for another wander around through some of the spaces we had missed over the previous two days, made glass tiles at the Glassworks studio, stopped at the Parliament buildings for Eoin to do a handstand and found a lookout we were told to go to so we could see Canberra's layout before heading out of town and back to Melbourne!

Monday 18 March 2013

Markets, beach, sea stars, and LITTLE dots of colour...

This week we checked out the Suzuki Night Market which, on the weekend is known as the Queen Victoria Market. Over the summer months, it runs every Wednesday and is a little more “foody” and a little more “arty” to fit the Melbourne scene! We took advantage of the heat (if you can do that?!?) and headed for the downtown core once school was finished for the day. The atmosphere was festive with bands on stage, buskers doing their thing, food, wine, and any number of goods for sale… We all had something different for supper – Sheena had Mongolian chicken with salad and a delicious glass of white wine, Brad had kebab, Eoin had a strange, potato spiral-thing on a stick and Hana had some bbq ribs. The three of Ukranian persuasion finished off with some perogies (I am told they were delish!) and after wandering around, picking up a few things (buckwheat husk pillow, t-shirty-top-thing), we caved and had some gelato. And let’s not get too emotional about this… that gelato was pretty much as close to heaven as any thing, person or being could be. And did I mention that the LEMON gelato was to die for?!?... because it was.

As the week drew to a close, the kids had their activities… Eoin has started back up with his trampoline and trains for that on Thursdays and Saturday mornings while Hana dances on Tuesday and Fridays for a couple of hours. Also a part of the mix is footy (as it is fondly called – also known as Aussie Rules or AFL) for Eoin in the next couple of weeks and rockband for Hana through the music program at the school. Because we head to a more southern part of Melbourne for Eoin’s trampoline on a Saturday, we spent this weekend investigating a bit further afield, checking out Red Hill Market which runs monthly and which happened to be on this weekend. Hana and I picked up some meat pies for lunch and when Brad returned with Eoin, we made a scenic stop at Arthur Head overlooking the Mornington Penninsula and ate our lunch overlooking the ocean and stretches of beach. Once finished, we got into the car and ended up in Dromana (we try to check out a different beach each time we go) and spent the day alternating between soaking in the sun, staying out of the sun and swimming in the ocean. The water was refreshing and we had the luck of finding a couple of sea stars which Hana found new homes for while Eoin combed the beach looking for others that may have washed up. We headed home to chill and veg out before bed…


Sunday, we took in a little more market outside the National Gallery of Victoria and went to an art exhibit featuring Neo-Impressionists (basically, pointallist painters… I didn’t know either…). We were lucky to catch a free tour that provided a lot of insight and allowed the kids to really see what the work was about. We were headed to St. Kilda afterwards to have a walk at the beach and to get some fish and chips but the tram was out of commission so after wandering to an Italian place we like on the other side of the station, only to find it closed, we headed home and had supper there, tired from a busy weekend and roasting in the heat that is still hanging on despite all Aussies telling us how unusual the heat is for this time of year (we are still getting heat in the mid-30s).

Making the most of Melbourne and discovering Phillip Island

This was an awesome week! On Wednesday (Feb. 20th), we went to a performance of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at the Sidney Myer Bowl, an outdoor amphitheatre, in the heart of Melbourne. It was a beautiful night – Brad had packed an awesome supper and we took the train from the station near my school. There was a great festival-type atmosphere and the performance as the sun set, with the temperature in the low 30s and 10,000 Melbournians all around us making the most of the weather and the opportunity to kick back in such a beautiful setting really brought home how lucky we are to be here and to be a part of the life of this great city! I think I fell in love with Melbourne that night.

The weekend brought our first exchangee get-together in Inverloch on Phillip Island. On Friday after school, we hit the road, stopping to pick up a fellow exchangee from Vancouver, grabbing supper and heading to Inverloch, to an informal drinks-and-appie style get-together hosted by a family who had been on exchange previously. There, we met Leith and Jamie (science and art teachers) and their kids Seth (8) and Caleb (10). Leith and Jamie had volunteered to billet us for the weekend so we headed to their place and, while the kids played, we heard of Leith and Jamie’s adventures kayaking between the islands east of Vancouver Island. They had great stories of their month of living out of their kayak, their tent and off the land and sea…

Saturday was a busy day that began by meeting up with everyone at the local info centre/sea museum and then taking a bus (driven by one of our hosts, Peter) to a beach scavenger hunt at Eagle’s Nest (Bunurong), lunch in a nearby town (happened to see them feeding the pelicans and a stingray that happened by) and then we went to a koala sanctuary… The koalas (who usually sleep for 20 hours/day) were extremely active – fighting, moving about, taking over the boardwalk (one guy was captured by the ole burlap-bag-over-the-head-trick and carted off, the bag flailing! Given that the temperatures that day were in the mid-30s, the staff were surprised at all the activity. Additionally, we saw an echidna snuffling through the grass looking for bugs and ants, and in the fields beyond the sanctuary, a kangaroo was hopping about and a couple of his buddies soon joined him!

After the koala sanctuary we went on a GORGEOUS hike (or deathmarch from hell (due to the heat)... you call it) through the blazing afternoon sun. The 7km hike took about 2.5 hours (so not really that bad length-wise) and brought us along the coast as we walked the sea cliffs. About halfway, the trail brought us to the beach and we had a splash and a cooldown in the ocean before heading along. As we came near the end of our walk, a few of us were lucky to see a troop of kangaroos (kangaroo lingo for herd) bouncing along, stopping as they came over the rise to check us out. We stopped and watched as they bent down and looked up, playing a game of hide and seek with us for a few minutes before hopping off!

Our meeting at the pub at the end of our walk was a welcome chance to have a beverage and some snacks before getting back on the bus and heading back to our billets’ homes to clean up before meeting up again for dinner with all the hosts and exchangees. We were certainly a tired group after our full day but the laughs and tips offered by our hosts for proper ways to speak “Aussie” were helpful and SOME of us left with prizes!

The next day, our surf lesson became paddle boarding as the usually-predictable surf didn’t get the memo for the morning! After an interesting start with some high-level dives and belly-flops into the water/off the boards, we began our 2hr trek along the beach, keeping eyes open for stingrays as they often come out and swim under the boards, looking for a visit…

The weekend wrapped-up with lunch and good-byes. Our hosts in Inverloch were extremely generous and we left the weekend richer for the time we spent with new friends and deepened friendships that developed.

Sunday 17 March 2013

Stopwork Action, Melbourne Rebels and a hang-about weekend...

This weekend was pretty low-key after an interesting week.

February 14th brought stop-work action by Victoria’s public school teachers. The result of this for us meant the kids stayed home as only one teacher at their school did not take strike action while about 15 teachers were at my school (it is not mandatory to be a part of the union here). Those teachers who were at school supervised the two classes-worth of year 7s who came to school.

At first count, when the year 7s at school assembled, there were 37 students so I thought – how easy is that today?!?! Just one class of kids to supervise! When I said that I was surprised that there was only one class, everyone was horrified – no way – that is two classes – are you out of your mind??? I didn’t get it – that was clearly just one class! Then I thought – hold on a minute – this is not Alberta where classes in the mid-thirties (or higher) is quite normal, this is Australia where the largest class size is 26… So, we split the group into two, found five more kids who hadn’t been in the proper place for attendance and added them into the mix, and then we split the day and took time with our charges!

There was a great turnout for the teacher rally for those who did strike and their slogan and posters were fantastic – no love for Ted (premier) – appropriately timed to coincide with Valentine’s Day! There was a lot to love about the teachers’ passion and resolve! Rotating strikes are now planned for second term while the 38 hour workweek is ongoing resulting in no PD or extra-curricular events occurring beyond the regular workday. This is reeking havoc with Brad subbing as there is just no work at the moment as sub time is required for those on PD, etc but without that happening there is no need for a sub…

On Friday we went to the Melbourne Rebels home opener match for rugby. We had great seats, the kids moved up to the front and had a blast doing that and the Rebels (after a pretty sleepy start) won it pretty decisively. After the game, the whole team came out and signed autographs, took time to chat and get photos taken with fans. The kids were thrilled! Eoin, especially, was on cloud nine with rave reviews continuing all weekend!

Saturday was a day at the beach and Sunday was spent with the kids having time with friends – Hana going to a buddy’s place and Eoin having his friend to play. A pretty low-key weekend but worth it!