Archives for the month of: December, 2013
Long Beach Skyline

I’m in Long Beach, California, but did I really leave Australia? Even though I see people driving on the right side of the road and hear American accents, it doesn’t feel much different! Palm trees line the streets, glistening new buildings dot the skyline, and beachwear is the order of the day.

Actually, Long Beach is my home town, but this Long Beach is different from the one I remember from the late 1970’s. Over the last 30 years, the city has transformed itself. The decaying downtown of my childhood has given way to fancy restaurants and trendy cafes. Entire sections of the city have been torn down and completely replaced by sleek modern architecture and landscaping (which I suspect is the reason it reminds me of Australia). Long Beach is no longer the sleepy and depressed place that I left.

Riding around town, I’m struck by its cultural vibrancy. Buildings once dedicated to manufacturing are now art galleries, music venues, and live performance stages. Like Paris and Berlin, Long Beach has even elevated the simple bicycle post into art. 

Coffee Cup in Front of a Cafe

Ice Cream Cone
for an Ice Cream Shop

Palm Tree Bicycle Posts
add Style to Hair Salon

Dine at a Diner
with Bicycle Post
A Guitar
for a Music Store
A Surf Board: SoCal
Beach Culture
A Bicyclist
Highlights the Many Bike Lanes
in Long Beach
Stretching
in Front of a Fitness Studio
A Dog Treat
Welcomes Dogs to a Wash Salon

Vegetables in
Front of a Vegan Restaurant
Dragonfly Compliments
an Asian Restaurant

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Sunrise Over the Pacific

The bronzed Aussie, the shimmering ocean, and the inviting beaches are images that I’ll carry away from Australia. Yet, the thing that makes me envious of Australia is its apparent lack of economic disparity among its citizens. While the gap between rich and poor Americans keeps growing, Australia is still relatively egalitarian. Australians enjoy a high standard of living, relatively low taxes, and a social safety net that Americans can only dream of.

Australians may complain that their country is becoming less equal; however, the statistics don’t bear it out. And although Australia’s huge investment in infrastructure, social programs, and health care may be cause for alarm among some economists, there is no doubt Australia’s commitment has paid off in terms of an improved standard of living for all of its citizens. It’s this commitment toward shared responsibility that stands in sharp contrast to America’s lassez-faire approach, which leaves thousands homeless, without work and health care.  

In addition, Australia has also done pretty well toward breeding tolerance and diversity. There is no anti-foreigner political party in Australia, unlike most of Europe and large factions within the Republican Party in the US. This generous Aussie spirit toward immigrants may be one reason enterprising young people flock to Australia adding to its economic prosperity, an advantage America traditionally enjoyed. 

An Echidea, a rare Monotreme
That’s Native to Australia
Angry Bird



I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. We spent ours in Sydney. Unfortunately, while the rest of Australia basked under sunny skies, Sydney was overcast and rainy. Not the typical Australian Christmas that I was hoping for.  

In the small town of Tarringtona few hours’ drive west of Melbourne, hay has become an art form. Tarrington is located in a beautiful region that I visited a few years ago on my way to Ballarat. Farming and wine are mainstays of the region, and tourism has never been big. However, Tarrington is quickly becoming a sort of art destination, especially during the Christmas season when the locals use bales of hay to create quirky Christmas decorations, which are placed outside their homes and farms. Each year the hay bales become more elaborate, and each year more people visit. 

Darling Harbor
Sydney

As an inhabitant of the northern hemisphere, I find the Australian Christmas all a bit strange, and it brings home how really distinct Australia is to the rest of the world. During the Christmas season, the days are long, and the weather is hot. Yesterday, the temperature in Sydney was 36° C (96° F).

All this hot weather got me to thinking. I try to imagine how an Australian child reconciles the season’s decorations featuring snow and ice with the actuality of summer heat.

A couple of days ago, I watched an episode of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, a TV series set in Australia during the 1920’s. In this episode, the characters celebrate Christmas in July by traveling to the Australian Alps to have a white Christmas. That seems like a lot of trouble. However, it illustrates how much of a hold the traditional image of Christmas has on Australians.








It was very disappointing to discover that the bats at Sydney’s Botanic Garden are no more. One of my fondest memories of Sydney was seeing these large creatures known as the grey-headed flying foxes roost in a small corner of the Garden. Wandering through their habitat and seeing them hang from the trees made me realize that I was truly in an exotic environment.

Under Australian law, the bats are classified as a threatened species. Nevertheless, the authorities thought it more important to protect some of the Botanic Garden’s palm trees, which are mostly introduced and not threatened, rather than set aside a portion of the Garden for the bats. The bats needed this refuge since their natural coastal habitats have been destroyed by urban development.  

So the “eviction” of the 22,000 bats came as a surprise when I visited the Garden this morning. It reminded me of Brisbane’s decision not to rebuild its unique Mangrove Boardwalk

The Botanic Garden’s new palm plantings, where the bats once lived, was pretty but seemed stark and sterile.








It was very disappointing to discover that the bats at Sydney’s Botanic Garden are no more. One of my fondest memories of Sydney was seeing these large creatures known as the grey-headed flying foxes roost in a small corner of the Garden. Wandering through their habitat and seeing them hang from the trees made me realize that I was truly in an exotic environment.

Under Australian law, the bats are classified as a threatened species. Nevertheless, the authorities thought it more important to protect some of the Botanic Garden’s palm trees, which are mostly introduced and not threatened, rather than set aside a portion of the Garden for the bats. The bats needed this refuge since their natural coastal habitats have been destroyed by urban development.  

So the “eviction” of the 22,000 bats came as a surprise when I visited the Garden this morning. It reminded me of Brisbane’s decision not to rebuild its unique Mangrove Boardwalk

The Botanic Garden’s new palm plantings, where the bats once lived, was pretty but seemed stark and sterile.

Jester, Pirate, Spiderman?
Digging Machine with Christmas Tree

Forlorn Santa

Put some tinsel on a digging machine and you got yourself a float for the Christmas parade. Pirates, Spiderman, and Court Jester on a Christmas float. Why not! Such is the Christmas parade in Kingscote, Kangaroo Island. What the parade lacked in sophistication was made up for in enthusiasm. Watching from our hotel balcony, you couldn’t help but smile at the ad hoc mixture of costumes and participants parading down the street as 45 km/h winds and rains tried to dampen the holiday spirit. It all seemed fitting on our last full day on Kangaroo Island.  

I Just Arrived. How was I to Know?

Our visit to KI started out spectacularly promising. We saw dolphins swimming offshore, found an idyllic beach with clear turquoise water, and discovered a wonderful restaurant by the shore– all within an hour of landing. Unfortunately, nothing lived up to that first impression. The swarms of flies and hot weather made the visit miserable until the winds and rain provided some relief from the pesky insects on the last day. (Though it didn’t provide the best sightseeing weather.) KI can be summed up in what I said on the beach, “A fly went in my mouth. I spit it out, and it was still alive.”

Jester, Pirate, Spiderman?
Digging Machine with Christmas Tree

Forlorn Santa

Put some tinsel on a digging machine and you got yourself a float for the Christmas parade. Pirates, Spiderman, and Court Jester on a Christmas float. Why not! Such is the Christmas parade in Kingscote, Kangaroo Island. What the parade lacked in sophistication was made up for in enthusiasm. Watching from our hotel balcony, you couldn’t help but smile at the ad hoc mixture of costumes and participants parading down the street as 45 km/h winds and rains tried to dampen the holiday spirit. It all seemed fitting on our last full day on Kangaroo Island.  

I Just Arrived. How was I to Know?

Our visit to KI started out spectacularly promising. We saw dolphins swimming offshore, found an idyllic beach with clear turquoise water, and discovered a wonderful restaurant by the shore– all within an hour of landing. Unfortunately, nothing lived up to that first impression. The swarms of flies and hot weather made the visit miserable until the winds and rain provided some relief from the pesky insects on the last day. (Though it didn’t provide the best sightseeing weather.) KI can be summed up in what I said on the beach, “A fly went in my mouth. I spit it out, and it was still alive.”

Along the River Torrens
Adelaide

Adina Hotel (Btm Left)
at Victoria Square













My heart sank as I glanced out the airplane window. We were landing in Adelaide and the arid landscape reminded me of central California. (I’ve had enough of central California to last a lifetime.) The taxi ride to the hotel confirmed my initial impression. Instead of the lively pedestrian-filled sidewalks of Melbourne and Sydney, the streets of Adelaide appeared empty. We drove past sprawling suburbs of cookie-cutter houses and strip malls. It appeared that our time in Adelaide would be pretty drab.

Two Galahs


However, things turned around when we reached our hotel, a former treasury building that manages to combine modern design without sacrificing architectural significance. The rooms are so large you can get lost in them, and there’s a gorgeous garden courtyard with a beautiful fountain.

Adelaide is an easily navigable city with next to no traffic jams, and a city center where everything is within easy walking distance of everything else. Moreover, there’s a beautiful green belt of parkland beside the River Torrens that runs right through the middle of the city where you can enjoy the outdoors. Here, I saw flocks of Galahs (a type of cockatoo with a rose-pink head and neck) roosting in the trees.

Enjoying Rundle Mall
Adelaide
Another Person Enjoying Rundle Mall














However, what I like most about Adelaide was its unpretentious and laid-back character. Although I wouldn’t fly halfway around the world just to visit Adelaide, the city was refreshing after all the attitude of Sydney and Melbourne.

Dangerous Birds of Bodega Bay

Dangerous Birds
of Adelaide

Along the River Torrens
Adelaide

Adina Hotel (Btm Left)
at Victoria Square













My heart sank as I glanced out the airplane window. We were landing in Adelaide and the arid landscape reminded me of central California. (I’ve had enough of central California to last a lifetime.) The taxi ride to the hotel confirmed my initial impression. Instead of the lively pedestrian-filled sidewalks of Melbourne and Sydney, the streets of Adelaide appeared empty. We drove past sprawling suburbs of cookie-cutter houses and strip malls. It appeared that our time in Adelaide would be pretty drab.

Two Galahs


However, things turned around when we reached our hotel, a former treasury building that manages to combine modern design without sacrificing architectural significance. The rooms are so large you can get lost in them, and there’s a gorgeous garden courtyard with a beautiful fountain.

Adelaide is an easily navigable city with next to no traffic jams, and a city center where everything is within easy walking distance of everything else. Moreover, there’s a beautiful green belt of parkland beside the River Torrens that runs right through the middle of the city where you can enjoy the outdoors. Here, I saw flocks of Galahs (a type of cockatoo with a rose-pink head and neck) roosting in the trees.

Enjoying Rundle Mall
Adelaide
Another Person Enjoying Rundle Mall














However, what I like most about Adelaide was its unpretentious and laid-back character. Although I wouldn’t fly halfway around the world just to visit Adelaide, the city was refreshing after all the attitude of Sydney and Melbourne.

Dangerous Birds of Bodega Bay

Dangerous Birds
of Adelaide