Monday, November 28, 2005

Where the kiwi has flown #2 - a vignette of Cali

I wrote this over four years ago, when I first lived in Cali, Colombia.

A flash of light silhouettes Cerro de las Tres Cruces, the hill flanking the west of the city, topped with three huge crosses, a South American Golgotha. There it is again, another brilliant flash illuminating the cloud-strewn sky. But there is no thunder, no sound at all except for the low growl of the ubiquitous beaten up yellow taxis streaming by on the street below. I gaze up at the sky above my rooftop haven - the half moon and early stars are bright and clear. A fresh breeze cools my skin, still slightly sweat-sticky from the heat of the day. I scan the skyline of my adopted city, the endless houselights of the plains to the south, the skyscrapers closer by, the drug-money-funded apartment blocks dwarfing the decrepit colonial villa, now empty and easily corroborating the rumours of murder and cannibalism sometime in its hazy history. The Cristo Rey, a huge statue of Christ on a hill to the south-west, religiously lit up, stands with arms raised in beatification towards the three crosses. And the silent surreal Andean lightening storm continues capturing its snapshots of Santiago de Cali.

Where the kiwi has flown #1 - tsunami diving


Thursday, November 24, 2005

American style education

"[Australian] Federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson wants specialised graduate school universities, with more public funding directed to regional and outer-suburban universities. The Opposition has accused the Government of trying to force universities down the path of an American-style, two-tier higher education system" (ABC news online).

Why does Australia always feel the need to copy the USA? Is the American system such a good thing? What happens to "regional and outer-suburban universities"? Would they, as Nelson seems to want, become undergraduate teaching only (public funding = teaching), with no research component? How could this possibly be good for regional Australia? What happens when all the academics who actually want to do research move to the cities or overseas?

I don't know, but my gut feeling is it's not a good thing. Maybe if I was at one of the sandstone universities, destined to become a specialised graduate school, I would feel differently. Maybe I need to move back to Berkeley.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

dog's arse

Melbourne, Saturday.

Me: "Ooh that's funny, look, the dog is sitting down and dragging herself along by her front legs, how cute".

Random dude sitting at table: "That's not cute. She's got worms and is itching her arse on the carpet. That's disgusting".



Sunday, November 20, 2005

big city

It's too late. I've already turned into a country bumpkin. 2am Friday night, me: "ooh, look how light the sky is, is that because of all the city lights?". My companion: "yes".

The first thing that struck me about Melbourne was how so many of the suburbs are named after AFL teams*. Also, the city is huge - it took me just over 3 hours to get to the outskirts from the town I live in, but almost another hour to get to where I was going - my sister's ex-boyfriend's house. I got there around 8pm, took my sister to the airport at 11pm, left there some time after midnight and got back to the city at 1am. [speaking of ex-boyfriends, totally unrelated, but you know how I have an ex-boyfriend who married one of my best friends, well I got the news on Friday that she had the baby... they didn't name it after me, but then it's a boy, so I guess that's OK].

I was staying with someone I've never met before (the fiancé of an Aussie friend I met in Berkeley), but I knew everything would be fine when he offered me a beer within 5 seconds of me walking in the door. We then went out dancing and I ended up going to bed at 5am. Crazy.

The next day I went to the Queen Victoria markets and bought random stuff - food, shoes, picture frames, soap and candles. Then late afternoon I went and met the very lovely Another Outspoken Female and we had a glass of wine or two, chatted away, and tried to figure out whose blog we'd found each other on. It's a slightly surreal experience meeting someone you've only known online - it's a bit like when they make a movie of a book, and the characters aren't quite as you'd imagined.

On Sunday I headed out to St Kilda (named after yet another AFL team) and after spending an hour finding a parking spot, walked along the beach and browsed the stalls and had a lovely roast pumpkin salad for lunch before driving back.

All in all it was a lovely first taste of Melbourne - and I'm planning on going back in a fortnight, which is exceedingly exciting.


* yes, yes, I know the history of AFL and why so many teams originated in Melbourne, but I suspect the majority of my readers don't really care, and if they do, they can go google it themselves

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Yay, I'm going to Melbourne tomorrow. I've only ever been in the airport and the airport hotel there, so it'll all be completely new! Things to do: buy a map book of Melbourne. I know where the motorway to Melbourne starts, and I figure I just follow that until I hit Melbourne (or the ocean, in which case I've gone too far). It's a 3-hour drive.

Hot 'n' Spicy Kiwi (my Bangkok-based sister) is in Melbourne on business. She flies back out just after midnight on Friday. She's catching up with old friends on Friday after work so I'll crash that party and then take her to the airport. And then I have Saturday and Sunday to explore Melbourne!

Any Melbourne readers - 1. what are the must do things and 2. email me if you want to meet up!

I'm missing my work Christmas party (tomorrow) so I'll miss out on a bit of socialising but a) who the hell has their Christmas party in the middle of November? and b) they're roasting a goat on a spit, and I'm not too keen on that - I know no one is going to force me to eat it, but I don't even particularly want to see it.

A bit of blog business: is it possible to delete just one comment after it's been posted? I had to remove all comments from my ozone hole post because someone posted my actual name, and I'm paranoid enough that I don't want my real name on my blog anywhere.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

5 flights

1. 31 Oct: San Francisco to Los Angeles. Lowlights: checking in 4 bags, having to slightly rearrange the contents to stay within weight limits. Luckily I had a friend with me to help me get everything from the car to the check-in counter. I was only charged $80 excess baggage, so not too bad. Highlights: circling over San Francisco on a sunny afternoon - wonderful views from Golden Gate Park to Embarcadero and across the bay, including the bridges.

2. 31 Oct: Los Angeles to Auckland. Lowlights: long and boring wait in LAX. Customs confiscating my maracas in Auckland. Highlights: upgrade to Business class (on airpoints) - within five minutes of boarding I had a glass of champagne in my hand and the seat set to massage. The only downside was that I was so comfortable (Sky Bed!) that I actually slept really well and only got to watch one movie.

3. 2 Nov: Auckland to Wellington. Lowlights: being in economy after business class. Highlights: the Gay Maitre D' meeting me at Auckland international, walking with me to the domestic terminal, and buying me a coffee. And then the Editter and my cousin meeting me in Wellington.

4. 3 Nov: Wellington to Sydney. Lowlights: leaving Wellington so soon. Check in woman saying: "where on earth is this town you're flying to?" American tourgroup on the transfer bus in Sydney. Highlights: not being charged anything extra for overweight luggage. Customs in Sydney wanting to go through my bag but they couldn't really be bothered, and I was one of the last people in line, so they just let me through in the end. I was so relieved, as I was worried for my precious Colombian tolo (indigineous flute).

5. 3 Nov: Sydney to Regional Australia. Lowlights: customs officer saying "what's it like living in this town you're flying to?", implying it might not be somewhere one would choose to live. Qantas losing my sleeping bag. Highlights: being taken straight off the plane to a wine and cheese evening.


Friday, November 11, 2005

ozone hole

And now for something completely different...

I heard on the Js (TripleJ that is) yesterday that the ozone hole this year was the size of three Australias. That's a pretty big hole. So I decided to look into it (it's a hole, after all).

From talking to my Northern Hemisphere friends, I discovered that many people don't even know the ozone hole exists, or what exactly it is. In fact, it's a thinning of the ozone layer over Antarctica, occurring roughly between September and November each year (actually, I hadn't realised it's a seasonal occurrence...). It was first discovered in 1985. The 2005 ozone hole was one of the deepest and largest recorded.

The hole in the ozone layer is caused by CFCs in the atmosphere, produced largely in the USA and Europe (being the most populous countries). Thanks guys!

The ozone hole allows more UV-B to reach the surface of the earth. As a result, Australia has the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world (and I'm sure NZ isn't far behind). UV-B also affects phytoplankton (and therefore fish population), the DNA of marine bacteria, the larvae of starfish and urchins, and ocean chemistry.

Although emissions of CFCs has pretty ceased, the effects continue. This is just one example of humans killing ourselves and the environment in the name of progress. All our energy production and many other technologies come at a cost, mostly to the environment and often to ourselves too.

So next time you turn on the the airconditioning or the heater (depending on which hemisphere you're in), consider setting it a little less extreme. I like knowing there is a layer of ozone between the sun and me.


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Playing grown up

Yesterday, I:
1. Signed up for a flat (photos will of course be posted at some stage)
2. Bought a car (red 2001 Mitsubishi Mirage)
3. Bought a bed, mattress, tallboy, bedside tables, sofabed, bookcase and blanket box

This also means I signed up for thousands of dollars of debt.

Today I moved into the flat and took delivery of the furniture. I've been driving the car since Monday.

I still need to get a fridge, washing machine, phone, kitchen stuff and all the other miscellaneous stuff that one needs (like bedding). And then eventually I'll get a TV and more furniture. But in the meantime, I'm pretty much ready for visitors!

I'm really happy with my wee flat, it's in a cul-de-sac only a few blocks from town (snd no, that doesn't make it the outskirts of this town), I've been told it's just about the nicest part of this town. Two bedrooms, decent sized kitchen and living room, and a bit of garden with a clothesline! No bath, but that's the only downside I've noticed so far. The best thing is it's only AU$560 a month, which seems damn cheap to me considering my last place in the US cost US$800 a month for just a room in a house.

I'm really happy with my wee car too, it's red which means it goes fast.

And work is so far pretty awesome too. Nice people, beautiful campus. And I don't have to teach until February, although I do have a subject to write.

All in all I think I made the right decision in coming here. Sure, it's small town and it's hot (and gonna get hotter) and I'd forgotten how much I hate sticky Australian flies, but I think it will be just fine.


Friday, November 04, 2005


I made it to Regional Australia. I have nowhere to live and have no idea what I'm doing, but apart from that everything's great.

I'm still in culture shock, though, I think.