Archive for December, 2009

From Sydney with love

These are the words buzzing in my head after we came back. This city is…let’s just say that if Europe would be half a globe closer to this place, I wouldn’t have any hesitation in picking this one as my home. I kept saying ever since I came that it would be impossible to try and describe it, simply because there are so many things which this palce awakens in me. But I will do my best to do just that.
First of all, I don’t mean to offend any people I met here in Brissie, but Sydney is so much more on so many other levels than Brisbane. It’s huuuge and it has .. lot of sea! I know it sound kind of stupid, but a good part of the city is composed by gulfs and beaches. Check Wiki for more geographical details. And people here knew to make the most of this fortunate situation. There are so many nice landscapes to discover. I was actually telling S. that is not really fair how some cities or countries get it all: beaches, mountains, cristal clear waters and so on.
Yeah..so what did I see? Well..Opera House of course. The glimpse of it just took a genuine „Woaaa“ out of me. It’s exactly as in all the postcards you see. Simply impressive through it’s architecture and location. Now..you will notice that taking pictures of it from the ground level is not an easy job. 😀
Neeeext: the Royal Botanical Gardens. Almost two centuries old. They are located close to the Opera House and are a gorgeous and relaxing walk. So many types of trees, lot of ficus (from the several species we saw there, S. re-named some 🙂 ). I always tought this country is friendly. Now I have the proof: in this place, where one doesn’t have to pay an entrance fee, they invite you to walk on the grass. There are indicators saying just that! Really!
The other really cool thing we saw was the Darling Harbor and the Pyrmonth Bridge, a very touristicky and commercial area, but again..extremly impressive through its immenseness. I kept thinking while on the bridge how would it be to climb over the fence and spread your wings and just go! Fly razor close to all the boats and water (producing the Coanda effect, hihi!), go between the 60 levels high skyscrapers, make people go „Wow!“ Just imagining this made me get the goose-bumps.
Also in this region we got to witness a nice band playing some cool blues in a bar. I got to hear „Let love rule“ sang by a funky blondie.
Chinatown – unimpressive. Just lot of funny talking people and strange looking (and tasting probably too) food. And also lot of odors. Not the nicest ones.. But went away fast. I kept connecting this region with scenes from an action movie, because looking up I could always see some obscure windows making my imagination go wild!
Now…there was a tiny inconvenient: the weather. S. thought Sydney is a very English city. I would agree..in terms of the weather. It was raining 2/3 days. A small, annoying rain which was not making the clothes wet, but just moisty. So we tried to overcome this by going to the aquarium. Sharks, turtles, dugongs and some cool anemonnas. The useful thing I got left with ist hat now I can make the difference between a male and a female shark..
The third day we had luck with some smiley sun so we got up to the 260m high tower to get the incredible panorama. It was breathtaking! As everything else in this city. Go there! Go!

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Have a merry one!

My dear friends and readers,

Even if I am so far away from almost everyone I know and love, it still feels a bit like Christmas to me. I have S. and a bunch of nice people I will spend this nice holiday with. So it’s all good. 🙂
I wanted to wish you all a peaceful and serene holiday with the people you most love! Merry Christmas! Craciun fericit!

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It’s jungle out there

I thought of reporting some funny incident from this morning.
Because the bio-garbage is outside in the backyard I had to get there to throw away the apple leftovers. Just after I put the slippers on, a small (15cm long) lizard just crossed my path. I screamed..actually I squeaked.:) Then I said to myself “Pfiu, just a harmless lizard!” Then..I got attacked by a pair of buttlerflies. Quite cute thse ones, but rather aggressive. I think I was on their mating way. I hmmed and moved on to the bin. But there..what do you know? There was a strange lizard / snake just getting its portion of sun. I found it disturbing because I couldn’t make up my mind what it was: moving like a snake, but it had legs. I guess I am just a bloody ignorant when it comes to all these species we don’t have in Europe. 🙂
So I started to sing “It’s jungle out there”..

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Tonight we went to Mount Coot-Tha. This is – as the name says – a higher region located in Brisbane, where you can have a bird’s eye view of the city. By night is very charming. You can see all the pretty lights from down-town and if your eyes are good and no clouds are on the sky, also the Southern Cross and other constellations. I hanged a picture for this.

Now..there are some more pictures from our trip to the Stradbroke Island – pretty easy to identify.
The rest of three are..lamps. Today, because of a rain shower, we took shelter in the Mathematics building. There we discovered a funky room which designed as study place for students. Very interesting furniture, especially lamps which made the subject of the pictures presented here.

Tomorrow will probably be the last day I am going to the office, because on the 24th I have to bake the apple pie for Orphan’s Christmas. This is a special Christmas that 20 or so “orphan” people will celebrate together, because their mommy and daddy are far far away. Thanks to the initiative of Thomas and Wilsooooooon ( 🙂 ) and the courtesy of Jenny, whom I haven’t met yet, we will all have a place to enjoy Christmas together..and a pool. Yey! More details are to come, but this is pretty much what is expecting us on the 25th of December, in the year of grace 2009.

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Stradbroke Island

It’s been a long time since I posted here. Back to any of my homes, people have started preparing for Christmas, buying presents, setting up the tree, etc. I miss that. But I’m not doing too bad either. 🙂
In this spirit, we went yesterday to the Stradbroke Island. It’s maybe two hours trip from place to place. Not that is so far away from Brisbane, we had to change one bus, one train (to Cleveland), one ferry (to Dunwich) and another bus to Lookout Point on the island.
This island is quite big (see the Wikipedia link) and is full of..nothing. There are actually two areas where people are concentrated: Lookout Point and Amity Point.
Arrrrghh! I don’t feel like giving all these geographical details about the place. The idea is that there is so much wild life there, is so quiet, just a few surfers or fishermen or backpackers. And the beaches!!!! Mmmmm… People back home have asked me “How’s the beach, how’s the ocean?” Well.. they are just perfect! On the eastern part of the island it’s the Main Beach which is…HUGE. Wide and incredibly long. Out of curiosity I checked last night on Google Maps and it’s never ending! It goes on for miles and miles. And yesterday I was actually tempted to walk for as long as I can along this beach hoping I would reach its end. Glad I didn’t do it. 🙂
What else? You will see from the pictures, the landscape is simply breath-taking. Some regions with very steep and beautifully carved shores. We were able to spot dolphins playing in the water, just a few tenths of meters in the open. It’s just impossible to describe how it feels to see animals in their natural habitat. Given the fact that most of the tourists are hypnotized by the Great Barrier, not many of them stop on this island. And that is great because it gave me the opportunity to breathe and enjoy the wilderness in all its splendor.

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I stayed low for some time because there is nothing to say. On Friday evening – Saturday morning S. arrived. I was pissed at Brisbane public transport because there is no connection with the airport after 8 pm. The only ways to get there are either by bus shuttle – which you have to book 3-4 days in advance – or by cab, having to pay at least 40$. Madness I tell you! From public transport point of view, Brisbane sucks! They go on assuming you have a car… Grrrr!
Well…but I was rewarded with a smile after all this trouble. 🙂
Then..Saturday..party at a fellow PhD student.
Sunday…walking through 35°C and lots of people in the city center. I actually discovered a very good ice-cream from Hungry Jack’s (Australian Burger King): is glazed in chocolate. Yummy!
Today was disappointment time when checking work results. Bleah!
What is funny is that I got to count the Christmas parties. There are no more than 4 we are going to go to. And, of course, all of them not Christmasy like, but with barbecue and beer by the lake or pool. Yabba dabba doo!

I gotta say..I do miss snow and cold, but I know I know..one always wishes for what they don’t have that is why I bought myself a new swimming suit. 😀

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I am not in the mood for writing – in 28h S. will be here 🙂 , but I promised to myself I will keep track of things. And it’s more like a moral duty to put down the few notes I made immediately after the boat-trip. Notes on the people I shared this experience with, because for me was nothing like I expected.
So, beside me, there were another 31 people on board of the New Horizon. The ones I remember are:
– the Swedish couple: quiet and nice. They were looking like they had been there from the beginning of the Universe. People you can rely on, calm, tender and warm. Simon – red headed, short curly hair. She – simple, harmonious.

– German people:
– she 1: black hair, big nose, on a quest for something around the globe after finishing her studies; a bit “I’ve been there, done that” kind of person, with a brownish tan.
– she 2: was actually Swiss, blond, easy going, 18, speaks French, English fluently, wants to become a doctor and go to Canada next year to visit a friend.
– she 3: nice smile, body, chestnut hair, naive
– she 4, 5: nothing special
– he + she 6 = love; Franziska – horrible horrible person with an always grumpy face. There is no trouble in Paradise, sweetie!
– she 7 – maybe 18, with a bandage wrapped around her swallowed left foot, always wining, drinks Cola light because of an “I’m fat” complex

– British couple: hairdresser + always drunk looking like guy. She: very friendly, bleached long hair, huge ring and necklace with amber, tattoo of a fairy around her ankle and another flower above her butt. I didn’t really understand if they were now living here or were just on holidays. He looked like an alcoholic, rather quiet though, with a tattoo on his right shoulder in the back (something tribal). His feet were dirty all the freakin’ time! I would say they were both around 25 years.

– Irish couple: her name I don’t know but it surely was something like Annabelle or Anne Marie. She simply looked like that. I liked her in the beginning. Curly blondish – dyed – hair, friendly. Then..things changed. I don’t know why. Just not my kind of person. She was putting on make-up for crying out loud! On the ship..in the middle of the ocean..gloss..mascara and some fancy thing for the eyebrows! Wtf? And her boyfriend was as stupid as a rock! Worse than two donkeys – as we would say in Romanian. He would always go “Fucking fucking fuck!”. But their accent was irresistible. Listening to them jabbing was like listening to Merry and Pippin from Lord of the Rings. 🙂

– another Irish chick: unimportant. Just that she was small, long eye lashed, very sharp face, had a ring with a green stone, green round earrings made of some textile. Was reading a very thick book treating it horribly.

– 4 Spanish people – 2 couples: I think the “he”s were brothers. One of them very hairy, curly, with cool sunglasses – John Lennon like, tattoo on the back of his shoulders. Did I mention he was hairy? 🙂 His girlfriend – Beavis look-a-like, with long face, lot of hair (they had to match, right?), without an ass, quiet. The other guy a bit less hairy, kind of like e cartoon character. His “she” was short but good looking, black straight hair, ALWAYS talking. They somehow pissed me off because of their inaccessibility. Whatever.

– German guy: Jonas. Looked like the base player from Limp Bizkit without the make up..meaning..a bit ridiculous. With a beard, but without mustache, a small pony tail, smoking a lot of Marlboro red. He had the attitude on a cool uncool guy, if you know what I mean.

– 2 British HOs: she 1 had a tattoo on the back, above the butt and one .. actually I should say two..on her butt cheeks, rather low positioned. She 2 – I pictured her as a sweet girl, but unfortunately she is not to become a sweet adult at all. Somehow they were the only ones quite attached to the crew, which I don’t think had anything else in mind than “drink & get laid”. They were all going “fuck off” and “shut the fuck up” at each other.

-2 guys – rather quiet. One of them was an angelic blond. Listening to music at their iPODs all the time, even though we had music on the ship.
I forgot the rest…

The crew: Skipper – fat, short, red hair … freaking everywhere, nothing like my dad; Dave and the guy with black hair and the guy who laughed all the time like an idiot – these were the ones caring about us, making the announcements, working on the ship, taking us with a smaller boot to the beach and so on. They were tooooooo damn talkative, sometimes even abusive, rather bad mannered, but in a strange way…fun.
Laura – the cook – French, a tattoo with some hebrew letters on the back of her neck, 2 piercings – one in the nose, one in the lower lip, 2 ankle bracelets. She cooked the most delicious fish on the first night on the ship. Came from France to have fun and make a living.

All in all, despite the colorful landscape, sometimes too noisy..it was worth! I slept extremely good in that tiny almost claustrophobic bed, had good food, got the chance to see how kinds behave in their world trips. This brings me to a regret I have. I’Ve never been in such a journey. Maybe it’s time to do so!

Oh..and something that would make a good motive for a tattoo are the most-used words by the crew: “Alright? Sweet! Happy days!” 🙂

Maybe I will put some pictures some other time. now I am really tired of all this writing.

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A trip to heaven – Part 1

The trip to Whitsundays was by far the most reveling from this entire journey until now. There are really lot of things to say and I don’t know what to begin with.
To set a time and place reference, let me start by describing a bit these 3 days spent there. So, the Whitsundays is an archipelago of 74 islands at 1h flight north from Brisbane. They mark the beginning of the Great Barrier Reef on the south. What I did is tae the plane to Proserpine airport, spent the night in Airlie Beach and then next day at 3pm I took a boot for a 2 days and 2 night trip in this archipelago. We visited the Whitehaven Beach and did some snorkeling at some fancy coral areas. Whitehaven Beach facts: it was rated the 2nd coolest beach in the world (after some Caribbean beach, which didn’t really deserve its place because is artificial, so as far as Aussies are concerned – and also me – Whitehaven is the first beach in the world in a “coolness” hierarchy). What is particular about this beach is that its sand is 98% pure silica, which means that if you’d struggle a bit, you could really make glass bottles and stuff right there on the beach. 🙂 Basically the sand is very very fine glass. White, pure and almost blinding. Then..facts about snorkeling: we had to wear sting-proof suits, since now is the irukandji season. Even with those on, one didn’t really feel very safe, especially after finding out that these tiny jellyfishes (of the size of a nail) killed some people by stinging them in regions like feet or face, which you don’t cover with a suit. And just after I left, Shannon, my flat mate, told me she saw on TV a new such case which happened just around these islands. Pfiu! I guess that was close.
About the boat: it was a rather old fashioned wooden boat, capable of accommodating 32 people plus 5 crew members. We slept all-together, almost like sailors, in very tight spaces, but I have to admit I have never slept better since I came here. I don’t know why. Maybe I was tired, maybe it was the darkness..but it’s still weird if I come to thing about the tremendous noise of the generator. I will reserve the next post here to say things about the people I shared this trip with, because this chapter too is very interesting and intriguing and has made me come to some conclusions.

So, now getting to the philosophical part of the trip. I kept saying to myself when setting foot on that beach that God must’ve been a genius when creating that. I mean, even if you are not religious, is really impossible to treat such a miracle of nature with skepticism. You simply feel the need to relate to a bigger entity than yourself, because there is no way, no words in any language, no pictures of any cool photographers which would be able to capture the essence of being there and feeling that sand on your feet. So yes, when you are experiencing that, you feel that is bigger than you. Even having established this, I still had some futile attempts to immortalize the feeling. Pathetic, I know, but there was just so much I could do! The result..you will see in the pictures.

Then, the sailing between the islands is just for you. For you and the other mr. Hydes from your character. You have time to think, but curiously enough you don’t. And when you set foot on land again you are a bit annoyed, at least I was, when I realized that there had been so much things I could’ve settled in my head, but I simply didn’t find time to go through. And then..surprise! When you finally are home, in your bed, somehow things (those nasty things you wanted cleared) fall into their places. I haven’t figured out why or how this goes. A simple explanation would just be the relaxed mind you come back with…I guess.

Swimming with the funny colorful fishes is fascinating as one could imagine. If you float really still above a rich coral, they come quite close that you can stare in their fishy eyes. They are so calm! I kept thinking about Nemo. 🙂 Even though I haven’t seen any clown fishes (“Tell us something funny!” 🙂 ), I did spot some anemones dancing in the water. They are really cute! Again the feeling of snorkeling is very special. Even if you do it in a group, it’s still just you there, it’s still your own breath you hear..and if you do see some extravagant thing (even though if you ask me everything is like that) you are still the one to enjoy it most, because in most of the cases it’s hard to draw someone’s attention, unless they are really close.

Oh..and I was just about to forget. The sky. Beside the fact that is upside down…I mean, you can see Orion turned with 180° ..The sky is an impressive spectacle as well. There are no lights, which makes it 1000000000 times cooler to watch the stars than anywhere in the city or close to a city.

All in all..this is something someone should do at least once in their lives. It is a small glimpse from the immense world we are living in. I would say it is one of the best glimpses one can ever get. So, don’t spend money on other useless extravaganza, just go to the Great Barrier!

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This week has been a bit busy. From work point of view and also..personal stuff. That’s why I haven’t really posted anything anymore. I do have some new pictures, but now I am on my way to the airport. What do you mean what airport?! I already mentioned I will be going to the Whitsunday Islands this weekend. And from the Airlie Beach off for a 2 day cruise around these islands.
So..camera – check, passport – check, swimwear – check, hat – check, maps – check, tooth paste and brush – check, shower gel – check, towel – check, sun lotion – check, books – check..
Did I leave anything out? Wallet and cellphone – check.
Ok, so I guess I am ready to go.

I’ll see you guys one paradise later!

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