Friday, January 18, 2013

Wazi's Down Under: Birthday Edition

Ta-da! It's the Wazi's Down Under: Birthday Edition, and it has been très magnifique to celebrate my birthday in as many time zones as possible. Nod's slightly odd work schedule--Wednesday's off, 15 hour days on Mondays and Fridays--also gave us some added incentives to celebrate throughout the week as his free time allowed.

So the birthday-down-under began on Wednesday, commemorating my last day on the planet as a 27-year-old. In retrospect, it will be a hard year to beat. It was the year my dear sweet pet fish Nebby came into my life (and also the same year he was "liberated" into the Potomac river after bravely battling some mysterious fish illness...with luck, he conquered the polluted waters, dodged the trash heaps, and is now enjoying retirement in the Florida Keys. At least, that's how I choose to imagine it.)

More importantly, it was the year when Nod and I got married, with all the excitement and joy that came with planning and celebrating at the wedding and our lives since then. I was also able to welcome three beautiful nieces into the world.
(Less profound, but no less delicious: I also drank no fewer than 18 eggnog lattes this holiday season, mastered the art of jalapeno cheese bread making, and acquired a lifelong and talented personal chef (ie, Nod), to make sure that I don't eat cereal and scrambled eggs into my 60s.)  Life wins, all around.

So how to celebrate the last day of such a momentous year? In epic fashion, of course. Nod had the day off, so we hopped onto a ferry to beautiful Manly Beach. 
(Side note number one: The name "Manly Beach" is just begging for a slogan contest. I invite all of you, our dear readers, to submit your suggestions below). 
(Side note number two: I'm going to steal some of Nod's photos off of his computer for this blog post. He'll probably be mortified since he hasn't edited them yet, so be sure to look at his photo uploads later and appreciate both his photography and post-production skillz).

Windblown on the Manly Ferry

Much less sunburned than I would be 3 hours later

When we arrived at the beach, we went in for a quick swim. Now, those of you who know Nod well know that he has a longstanding distrust of water...a distrust undoubtedly worsened by a particularly scarring memory of needing to wear a neon green speedo to his childhood swim classes. So rather than spend the day dodging waves, Nod suggested that we take a walk to nearby cliffs that mark the entrance to the Sydney harbor, where a former artillery base had been turned into a big national park. It sounded windswept and romantic, so I agreed. We put our clothes back on over our soggy, salty swimsuits and headed off.

Now, in all fairness, I think we were both picturing the national park to be a bit more garden-like, or thought that perhaps the walking path would at least sport a few nice, leafy trees to shade the way. Nope. When we got up to the park, we entered into a desiccated landscape of sand and scrub brush, with the sun so high overhead that there weren't even shadows to duck under. Sticky and sweaty, we did manage to find a "bubbler" (Aussie for a drinking fountain) and, about an hour later, emerged from the brush to the cliff's edge. The views were absolutely beautiful--and worth the hour long sun-beating we endured to get there.

(To be fair, I had it coming: when Nod and I first started dating we traveled to the Siwa oasis in the western part of Egypt. I had the brilliant idea to go on a nice little midday stroll, even though it was a) summer in the Saharan desert b) noon with a scorching hot sun and no clouds c) modesty required that I wear long sleeves and long pants and d) it was Ramadan, so it would be impolite to drink water in public. Nod's hot afternoon jaunt to the Sydney cliffs was certainly more pleasant!)

My actual birthday started out as appropriate as can be: in French class with David and Marilou. David and Marilou have been their charming selves in the past two weeks of French class. Marilou, it turns out, is so âgée that she grew up under the U.S. Occupation in the Philippines. (Trivia question at the end: when did the U.S. occupy the Philippines?) She likes to start each French class by reciting for me the American literature that she memorized in school as a child. Last week started with a rousing recital of "O Captain, My Captain!" On my birthday, I was treated to the opening lines of the Gettysburg Address. Pretty impressive memory, to be honest. These charming recitals nearly made up for the way she chose to correct me in front of the entire class about my incorrect verb choice for the verb "to wear." She even chatted me up after class about the Middle East, since she knows I'm studying that region. Turns out she traveled to Israel--before the 1967 war. Dang, lady.

Something birthday-magical must have been in the air that day, because David was suddenly flawlessly conjugating irregular verbs. We were even treated to a delightful French pop song (thankfully, with very easy vocabulary...when that vocabulary is printed out and I can read along, at least) for a class assignment.

But as charming as my morning with David and Marilou was, the best was still to come: a sunset cocktail cruise in the Sydney Harbour, a Christmas and Birthday gift courtesy of Mandy Paust. Those pictures are still on Nod's camera, so I'll save that story for another day.

I decided to spend my first full day of 28 as I would any other Friday (ie, Nod's long days at work) at a Bikram yoga studio. Too bad I hadn't looked at the weather report, which predicted a scorching 112 degrees--Sydney's hottest day ever on record. I could have done some yoga poses on the front lawn for free! It turns out that doing hot yoga in a studio that's 110 degrees when it's already 110 degrees outside is bad news. I emerged from class a bit wobbly and red-faced and decided that an afternoon at the pool was an infinitely wiser move. Right around 4pm, swollen black rain clouds crept in from the horizon and unloaded a downpour right on us, instantly cooling everything down by 20 degrees. Whew! Much better now.

So with that, Nod and I are now preparing for our next big move: to spend ten days in Hobart, Tasmania doing physio for underwater hockey teams during Australia's national competition. This trip promises more adventures than anything Sydney has held for us yet. We'll be living on a boat with Nod's co-workers, including 1 very fast-talking Aussie (I understand, oh, say, 45% of the words out of his mouth), 1 Dutch physio student, 1 young blonde Aussie who likes to shoot kangaroos on the weekends, Nod, and me, and all of us sporting "The Power of the Pelvis" t-shirts and learning what the heck underwater hockey is all about (We're planning a special blog post on Australia's crazy made up sports very soon). Ten days is a long. time. to spend on a boat, but the company promises to be absolutely delightful, and the whole trip feels very story-worthy. Hopefully we'll have enough internet access on the boat to blog about it during our time there.

Until then!

(Trivia answer: The U.S. first annexed (yes, annexed) the Philippines in 1899 and successfully fought off their attempts to re-establish independence during the Philippine-American war (1899-1902). We promised them self-government in 1916, then again in 1935, but only fully granted them independence in 1946. And who said the U.S. never colonized anyone?)

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