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We flew from San Francisco to Los Angles to Brisbane, leaving around 4pm local time on a Thursday and arriving around 6am in the morning local time on a Saturday. No Friday for us, sadly. We headed straight to the hotel, which we’d booked online.

Our hotel was sort of a cross between a Holiday Inn and a family-run business, but the proprietor, Tom, let us check in immediately, and even gave us rooms! I have to say, after 20 hours or so of travel, a shower was incredibly welcome. Tom also provided us with breakfast, which he cooked himself. He told us he did everything but clean the rooms at the place, and indeed we saw him running around quite a bit as we sat and ate. And let me tell you–the Australians do bacon properly! Mmm. And I highly recommend the Airport 85 Motel in Ascot if you’re passing through Brisbane!

Laura had posted several comments here about things to do in Brisbane, and the one that caught my eye first was the Koala Sanctuary, mostly because I wanted to see a bit of Australia in the one day we had, even if that bit was not in the wild. Along with two of the members of our group, V and D, and equipped with maps and directions and good cheer from Tom, we set out.

Now, Brisbane has a large river running through it, and the first step on our trip was to take the City Cat ferry–a very civilized way to travel. The day we were there was part of, or the first day of, the Riverfire Festival, so there were plenty of people headed into town with us. The ferry jetted along, and each time it stopped, swallows would alight on the two front guide poles, only to take off and ride the air currents in front of the boat as we moved. Along the way, we got some excellent views of the city skyline. Much more fun than a city bus!

From the downtown, we took a bus out to the suburb where the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary sat. We were expecting not much more than koalas, and were pleasantly surprised–it was very zoo-like, with many different animals. Lots of birds of all sorts, some huge fruit bats, wombats, wallabys, and of course, many, many koalas. We saw some very baby ones that could barely hold onto mom, and plenty of others. We even got to pet one (very wiry, not-quite soft hair) at one of the feeding demonstrations. We looked in vain for an echidna, which was supposed to be inside the wombat pen, but never saw one. As we were leaving, the guy at the exit told us that in the 10+ years he’d worked there, he’d never seen one of the echidnas either. Not to be, I guess.

My favorite bird was big black parrot–when he saw me, he came scurrying out of the back corner of his cage, all the way to the front. Once there, he started head-bobbing and displaying the red feathers on the underside of his tail for me. I think he liked me! Or maybe just the pink shirt I was wearing. Either way, he followed me across the front of the cage and back, and head-bobbed back at me when I did it to him. All with the constant red tail flashes. It was pretty cool. I had a new boyfriend for the day!

There were huge iguana-like lizards running around, and wild turkeys and peacocks wandering the grounds. Check out the Australian wild turkey–they have their tails on the wrong way! One turkey was dragging dead leaves and other plant material across several paths and down some stairs to his large bird pile of nesting material. He lost most of the material along the way, thereby just leaving a long tail, but that didn’t deter him from trying!

They had a reptile house which I braved, clutching John all the while. The people who designed the reptile house were very thoughtful–it was U-shaped, with snakes along the outer walls and frogs and lizards on the inner walls. This meant that I never, ever had to turn my back on a snake-for which I am very grateful. They had desert death adders, some tree snakes, and a taipan, the most deadly snake in the world. Now, cobras look mean to me, but the taipan looks truly evil. (You can google your own damn snakes–I’m not linking to them!) And while most reptile houses I’ve been in (which, I’ll admit, are few and far between) don’t have much in them that moves, nearly every snake in that place was in the process of moving somewhere else in it’s cage! Not a happy set of moments for me! But I made it in and out with little fuss, no tears, and only a few whimpers. Although after we exited, one of the big iguana-like lizards rustled the underbrush and about gave me a heart attack!

We also saw Tasmanian devils, dingos (very dog-like), cassowaries (those suckers have big front claws and can be mean!) and turtles along the way to and among all the koala enclosures. Our favorite part, by far, though, was the kangaroos–for a $1AUS or so, we bought some kangaroo feed and fed them for about an hour. We even had some moms with little joeys sticking out of their pouches! One mom had a tiny baby, with only three feet and a head sticking out. I managed to feed her some before the bigger males crowded her out. The baby pulled his head back in and she was left with just three legs sticking out of her pouch–very comical! There were also emus, which John was able to get close to but I wasn’t. We found a wallaby that must have been very old–he moved incredibly slowly and it took probably over five minutes for him to eat just a couple pieces of food out of John’s hand, but he was very stately about it all.

We ended up spending nearly the entire day at the LPKS, loving every minute of it. What with the festival, our plan had been to then take a bus back towards the South Bank, where Laura had suggested good food and shopping, but when we returned to downtown later than our initial plan, we found millions of people all converging on the riverbank. Part of the Riverfire festival was F18 and stunt plane theatrics followed by fireworks, and people were lining up for the show. We were all pretty tired and a bit jetlagged, and the huge crowds were very off-putting. Instead of South Bank, we took the City Cat (very empty going upriver away from the show) back to our area of town. While underway, we actually got an amazing view of some of the stunt plane acrobatics, so we did enjoy a bit of the festival!

We happened to have picked a hotel nearby some famous horse racetrack, and as we headed towards the hotel, many people were heading the opposite direction, most of them dressed up as if they were leaving the Kentucky derby–hats and all! And most of the women were barefoot, carrying their shoes. I can’t walk in heels all day, and apparently the average Brisbane woman who attends horse races can’t either! We thought they were heading for the festival, or a wedding or something (we’d passed a reception at a restaurant just after getting off the ferry), but our waitress, when we did find a restaurant, told us they were all coming from the races.

After a great dinner, it was back to the hotel to collapse, since we’d been walking all day and had more traveling to do. John, in true boy fashion, turned on the TV for a bit and we were entertained by both some Australian-rules football and some cricket. Neither made much sense to me, but I’ll admit my brain was pretty fuzzy at that point! I have no idea if he ever made sense of it, but I passed out fast asleep pretty soon after getting in bed!

All in all, I think we barely scratched the surface of Brisbane, let alone Australia, but I loved it and I can’t wait to go back someday. Thanks again, Laura, for those suggestions–we had a fan-tabulous day!!


Fun thing one: Birthdays!

We’re entering that time of year when the birthdays pile up. Greg was a week ago, Rae and Cara were this past weekend, and upcoming over the next two-three months are Amy, Ella (who will go from my favorite 1-year old to my favorite 2-year old!), Nate, Shelly, John and all sorts of other people.

Makes sense when you think about it–9 months after Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine’s Day!!

We had dinner at Greg’s sister’s house for his birthday last Monday night.

Saturday was Rae’s party, with a private catered chef and vodka infusions and everything. Super classy, and tons of fun, though it always reminds me when we hang out with her and Aaron about things like that that John and I are definitely in a lower tax bracket. Still, nice to enjoy it for an evening, and mixed berry vodka infusion is amazingly good!

Cara’s party was Sunday, with sushi followed by seeing a local cover band at a local bar. The two guys in the bad were really good, and really funny. They’ll be playing at James and Cara’s wedding, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them again. Not quite in the same league as Rae’s party, but Cara’s was very familiar and fun.

Now I’m trying to come up with some fun things to send Amy for her birthday this Friday, other than what she’s asked for. It’s always nice to have some surprises, don’t you think? Any ideas on small, light weight stuff that a person living on their own for the first time could use?

Fun thing two: Vacations!

Man, tons of people are taking vacations at this time of year. Elizabeth and Matt went off on their honeymoon (well, yes, more than a vacation, but still), and Sydney and her boy went to New York and Puerto Rico–I didn’t even get to see her in between her trips, but I’m hoping to catch up with her before we leave soon! James and Cara were up in the Pacific Northwest, and Nate and Shelly are about to head off to Greece.

And where are John and I going? Well, two weeks from Thursday, we leave for 2-3 weeks involving sun, sand, and diving. Here’s a hint: We’re not going to Australia, but we’ll have two 24-hour layovers in Brisbane on the way there and back. Any suggestions for places to eat, things to do, sights to see?

From there we’re off to Papua New Guinea–the last frontier in diving, theoretically. Everyone we’ve ever talked to has said it’s the best diving we’ll ever do. We’ll be at a very remote resort for a handful of days, then 11 days on a luxurious live aboard, diving to our heart’s content. At the resort, we’ll have access to the world’s best “muck diving”–diving to see all the little creatures that live in the silt at the bottom–plus skull caves, amazing hikes, and all sorts of cool birds and animals and fish. My goals, above water, to see a bird of paradise and an echidna–my dad has never even met anyone who’s seen a PNG echidna, so I want to try!

It should be an amazing vacation, full of as much relaxation or as much go-go-go diving as we want it to be. I can’t wait, and there’s still more than two weeks to go!!

Oh well, I’ve got some birthdays between now and then to tide me over. 🙂

We are, as of sometime yesterday, officially empty nesters.

Both babies were in their nest on Tuesday evening, but Wednesday morning, one was gone, and the other had flown by the evening. I think the nest simply wasn’t big enough for them to stick around any longer.

(Although, did you know hummingbirds weave spiderwebs into and around their nests to hold them together but allow for expansion as the babies grow? So cool!) (I googled.)

We’re both hoping they made it through their first flights safely, and have found food and shelter to replace the cozy accommodations Mama and Nest had made. I’m sad to see them go, but maybe she’ll come back and next next year?

The two hummingbird babies, days before fledging

Here’s the nest with the two little beaks pointing out of it (one at about 12:00 and the other at about 1:00). They cheep away like mad while mom’s out hunting down sustenance, except when we or our neighbor walk in and out of the walkway. I love seeing them when I leave in the morning, and returning to see them in the evening.

baby hummingbird beaks

Remember how we have a hummingbird nest right outside our door?

Well, MommaBird hadn’t been around in awhile, or at least not when I was coming and going from home, so I was a bit concerned.

And then, yesterday, as I was leaving the house, two little hummingbird baby heads were poking out of the nest to greet me.

So awesome, and a lovely start to a kick-ass Friday that ended with 21 people in an awesome scuba class (good lord that was tiring) followed by a home-cooked meal from Cara!

I know I haven’t been posting much, and sort of trivial things, but it’s because I’ve been figuring out how to deal with what I’ve been feeling–I figured working through it in my head was a lot better than rambling on forever here.

Also, I’ve been working on a paper a lot lately, so I’ve kind of not felt like writing anything else.

So, the truth is, I felt for awhile there like I was two people, one very happy and one not so happy.

I was given some advice awhile back–that I could choose to dwell and be unhappy and let things get to me, or I could move on and get over them and be happy with the way things were. Difficult advice to follow, to be sure, but I decided it was worth a shot.

So that is what I’ve been working on for the last month. I’ve really begun to feel like I can just be happy with myself and my life and my family and my friends and everything recently. But I also felt like if I tried to blog about it before I was ready, it’d come out all negative, which would defeat the purpose.

Now, though, I think I’m ready to go back to writing. And definitely ready to go back to being happy and self-confident and self-loving!

So here are some of the happy moments in the last month or so:

I got to help with an Advanced scuba class awhile back that Sydney took, and it was great to work with our staff and her. Plus, we had some cool dives. On our night dive, an otter came and hunted by the light of our lights. Sydney also found an octopus, which I’m hoping the otter did NOT find! I also saw my first eel, a monkey-faced eel, down in Carmel on the boat dive, which was pretty cool.

I threw myself a kick-ass enchilada birthday party, somewhat delayed to make room for the advanced class, and the weekend Sydney had her birthday party, and stuff going on at John’s work. We heated our little apartment up to toasty levels with three burners and the stove going, but it was an awesome evening.

I did a big presentation for my department, and it went well. I made it through the talk, answered all the questions fully (I hope), and was told afterwards by people that it was clear and concise and I did a good job.

I got to spend part of the past weekend with the lovely Julie and her adorable girl Ella, and even got a smile and a hug from her by the end of the day. (Specifically Ella, but Julie did smile and hug me, too!) There’s nothing quite like a baby’s smile to make all right with the world. Plus, it was great to hang out with Julie and her family! Now to just wait for the third member of her family to come visit…

And last, there’s a hummingbird nest in the bushes by our front door. The poor thing keeps dive bombing us whenever we come or go, and if we had another door, we’d use it. But in the meantime, it’s pretty cool to watch her, and I can’t wait for little hummingbird babies!

See, now how can life be dark and dreary when I’ve got all that going on?

Life has been scattered lately. So has my brain.

We’re making massaman curry chicken for dinner. I’m super excited. And hungry.

Easter was lovely. Good time with family, and lovely to see my grandparents doing well. Of course, after the left, things got even livelier–liar’s dice and lots of wine were involved. Lovely.

Not so lovely: I’ve been wondering if things don’t work for me in experiments because they just don’t, or because I’m not good at this whole science thing. Other people can make similar experiments work, so I’m starting to feel it’s just me. And I already feel like I suck at science, so this isn’t helping.

On a positive note, though, I got dismissed from being on a jury last week because the case involved disputed scientific evidence of the sort that I am familiar with. Neither the defense nor the prosecution wanted me. I’m guessing one side thought I’d agree with the evidence, and the other side thought I’d agree with the dispute. So apparently this science thing is somewhat worth it. And thankfully I won’t miss two weeks of work!

We went “fun diving” this past weekend with James, Cara and Sydney. We saw a thornback ray. The conditions weren’t great, but the ray was awesome. Plus hanging out with the three of them was awesome.

We’ve got a scuba class next week, and I’m super excited. Sydney is taking it, and I think I’m going to be allowed to carry gear, and hence be a useful member of the staff, so it should be awesome. And if involves boat dives! Whee!

I’ve managed to get rid of most of the tension and pain in my shoulders and back. Now I’m just working on making my muscles strong enough to do normal everyday things.

For the first time in about three months, I don’t have a doctor appointment tomorrow morning. So excited. And starting next week, I only have two a week instead of three!

I’m allowed to bike again, and Elizabeth and I went out this past weekend. It was freakishly hot, but well worth it. We got in a good 15-20 miles, and had a blast. There are plans for a repeat this coming weekend!

My mom, too, is doing really well. No further complications from surgery, energy recovering, doing well. We keep getting favorable reports from John’s mom, which are much appreciated. And I get to see my mom with my own eyes in just over a month. Sweet!

On the flip side, John’s grandmother went into the hospital with lung problems again recently. It didn’t look good, to the point where we were ready to pick up and fly home, but thankfully she too is recovering and back at home.

I still miss my bunny, but it’s getting easier every day. I’m starting to even think of doing something with his cage. John has vetoed that “something” being filling it with a new bunny. Bah. Though I really appreciate all the condolences.

Randomness of the brain: Sometimes helpful. Sometimes not.

Last week, on one of the days John had off, I left work somewhat early and we went out to one of the bayland parks for a walk. Since my activity involving shoulders is so restricted, walking is about my only form of exercise. I’m feeling slothful.

Anyways, we’ve been going out to the park, walking and bird watching. Yes, I apparently am my parent’s daughter, seeing as how I’ve finally admitted an interesting in figuring out what bird I’m looking at and putting it on a “life list”.

Plus, it’s been fun to just walk with John, to catch up and meander and be together.

So last week when we were out there, we’d walked about two miles around the outer park loop and had four ahead of us. It was freakishly windy, so instead we turned back to redo the two we’d already done. There were a lot of little estuaries, most of which were mud as we walked out, but were slowly filling as the tide came in on our way back.

And then, there it was.

A snake.

A big snake.

And no, I’m not exaggerating. John says 3 feet, at least. Brown. Trying to swim across one of the estuaries.

Away from us, at least. Right up until it gave up and came back to the bank that we were on.

I spotted it, and John immediately put the binoculars to good use. He joked about a diamond pattern. Funny guy. Hmpf. (My dad, the snake expert, says it was probably a gopher snake. He was much more excited to hear about it than I was to see it.)

In true form, I froze, but mostly just did that. A bit of shaking, a bit of tear-welling, a bit of jumping at rustling bushes, and a bit of keeping an eye in all directions. But mostly I just stood there. No binoculars for me, but no extreme panic.

I spent the rest of the walk back to the car with one eye in all directions at all possible times, and was a bit jumpy, plus I was pretty thankful to be back safely in the car, but I thought it was good progress.

So apparently, even if I didn’t see a sea snake in Fiji to test out my “okay-ness” with it, the therapy worked at least a bit.

There’s probably more therapy in my future, as I wasn’t entirely okay with the situation, and I still don’t know what I’d do if I came face-to-face with a snake instead of being 40 feet away.

And as I just jumped at the NHL Stanley Cup commercial with a snake in it, and as one of the dive sites in Papua New Guinea is called the “Snake Pit”? Some work still needed, clearly.

Yeah, I don’t think I’ll be doing that dive, mmkay?

A hummingbird serenaded me today from a tree just outside the parking garage. Lovely.

Each time I’ve talked to my parents lately, it’s been frigidly cold, possibly snowing. I don’t miss that about Iowa.

I am, to be sure, a cold-blooded person. I require external sources of warmth to maintain my body heat, since clearly my metabolism isn’t up to the job. Bah.

That said, when my sister Amy posts a pic of herself making a snow angel in beautiful new foot-deep snow on Faceb**k, and my mom sends me an email about how the sun dogs were out this morning, and I think of how nice it is to play in the snow for a bit before heading inside to sit by the fire and thaw, then I miss Iowa.

Just a teeny tiny bit, but enough.

However, it’s only worth it when you can play outside or stay wrapped up inside. The moment you actually have to go about your daily life, it’s not quite so fun. Alas.


May 2018
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