Friday, February 22, 2013

Aussie Sports: or, Creative New Ways to Kill Yourself

So before we left for Australia, I had grand dreams of how I would spend my time. In one vision, I would put on the running shoes last discarded after a particularly mediocre season of junior high cross country and transform myself into a runner worthy of a Nike commercial. I saw myself effortlessly logging mile after beautifully tanned mile in front of iconic Sydney backdrops--the opera house, perhaps, or maybe Bondi beach. In a later iteration of this same fantasy I would cross-train as a swimmer, executing perfect flip turns that I learned in 4th-grade swim class. I would sculpt my arms until Michelle Obama became jealous. The Aussies might even invite me to join their olympic team.

In actuality, my weekly exercise routine has involved running one kilometer, once a week, and then furiously patting myself on the back for enduring the immense effort that it required (I'm sure all of my friends back home training for marathons are immensely impressed). Today I upped the ante further by deciding to make my aquatic dreams come true. Now, Australia does fit one of its stereotypes in that everyone here seems to be an amazing swimmer, and pools occupy some of the choicest real estate in the city. There are lane pools by the ocean, should you choose to practice some saltwater swimming. The gorgeous facilities from the Sydney Olympics are open to the public. Even our neighborhood pool is stunning, surrounded by a lush park complete with lily pads and wild cockatoos. I bought goggles, just to feel official about it. Now, I recall being a fairly strong swimmer when I was ten years old, even if I never could execute the butterfly stroke properly. At 28, it seems, my lung capacity is no longer what it was, and I called it good at one and one-half laps. "Good start," I told myself. "It's only up from here!" After a final cool down of more furious back-patting, I stretched out in the grass with a good novel.

So failed exercise program aside, I thought this would be an appropriate time as any to unveil all the crazy sports we've discovered in Australia.

Sports we have encountered thus far:

1) UNDERWATER HOCKEY. Dear readers, our grand reveal is finally here! Nod put together a fantastic video from some of the games we watched at the Australian National Underwater Hockey Competition, so I'll let you take a look-see first.

Hobart: National Underwater Hockey Championships from Nodair Razi on Vimeo.

So as best we understand, here is how it works: 2 teams, 6 players each. The puck is a piece of rubber coated lead that weighs 2-3 pounds. The two teams push it back and forth on the bottom of the pool using short sticks like field hockey players, holding their breath as long as they can and only coming up to breathe through a short snorkel when they can afford to slip away from the play. Crazy fact: most of the really good players we talked to can hold their breath for up to 3 minutes at rest. In play, most only last about 30-45 seconds because it's so brutal to be doing that kind of activity in an anaerobic state. We had mad respect for their skills after spending a week with them.

In order to watch the sport, you really need to climb in the pool with them. A few players let Nod, Huub, and I borrow a few pairs of snorkels and fins so we could get in on the action.

2. On a related note, we also discovered that there is underwater rugby, underwater american football , and underwater wrestling ("Water polo is for suckers," our fearless leader told us, using a more anatomically graphic term. "I mean, you can breathe. Where's the challenge in that?") By the way, returning to Underwater Hockey again for just a moment, the public schools in Tasmania actually have underwater hockey as a class. This is a serious commitment to the art of pushing around a hockey puck while holding your breath for insane amounts of time.

3. For the pescatarians, there's spear fishing (on Sunday saw a group of spear fishers walking back from the beach with harpoons in hand, like it's no big deal) and rock fishing, which turns out to be the deadliest of all Australian sports (seriously, I'm giving you all youtube gold here). Rock fishing, just to clarify, involves standing on rocks near the ocean and casting a line with a hook, just like it sounds. Nothing that seems to scary, only it's that the fishermen basically let themselves get pounded with waves and just hope that they won't get swept out to sea and dashed against the rocks.

Huub, Nod and I went exploring around some rocks at Coogee Beach where we met some rock fishermen. As we were chatting with them, a huge wave crashed over the rocks and soaked Huub--that was before we realized what kind of sport rock fishing is like.

On Sunday we were actually at the same spot where that video of rock fishing was taken, albeit at a much lower tide. Two fishermen were there and caught a small shark (again, no big deal for the Aussies--just a small shark. whatever.)

4. For those who like to keep their food and water sports separated, you can always choose to row in a surf boat instead. Surf boats, the story goes, were used by lifeguards to rescue ocean swimmers in a time before inflatable rafts and motorized rescue boats were around. Crews of up to four men would get into this narrow canoe and barrel into the waves head on, off to save the swimmer in distress. Now, they do it just for fun. One of Nod's co-workers competes in surf boat, and was the first to show us videos of how the waves can crush the boats or launch all the rowers sky-high. His favorite seat is in the front of the boat, he says, because that's where you get the most air when you get catapulted from your seat.

5. Actually, it turns out that lifeguards have invented all sorts of different sports for themselves--which is a great idea, if you think about it. But so in addition to surf boat, there's an entire sport called "Surf Lifesaving." It's sort of a lifesaver's olympics, involving beach sprints, inflatable boat races, first aid competitions, a sort of piggy-back race called "the Chariot", and relay swims. For the future lifeguards, kids can join training teams where they become "nippers." Nod and I happened to plan a Saturday beach outing to Curl Curl Beach (Sydney definitely wins for the coolest place names of any city I've been to) a few weeks ago, only to discover that the nippers had taken over the entire beach for a day of their lifesaver's olympics. They were pretty adorable. And each of them could totally destroy me in any sort of swim competition.

6. For those who don't prefer the water, there are always equestrian sports. We've already talked about polocrosse before, where riders and horses charge at one another with lacrosse nets. It turns out that dressage is also popular, whereas I first heard about it when Mitt Romney's horse Rafalca competed in dressage in the olympics, much to Stephen Colbert's amusement. and mine.

7. But the greatest sport that we've found here is also the most gentle, true to our soft-underbelly Wazi natures. Revered by geriatrics and inebriated picnic goers alike, we bring you: lawn bowling! Yes, yes, I know many of you have discovered it before. Nod and I have only ever played it once with some friends at park near our house in Washington, DC, at which time Nod famously declared that this game was "for the birds," as our bocce balls ricocheted in unpredictable directions  from unseen lumps and divots in the ground. But the true glorious nature of this game was revealed to us when we first eyed the Lawn Bowling Club of Clovelly Beach. This humble club, full of old Italian and Greek men in sky-blue trousers with elastic bands, is sitting on what is easily a nine quadrillion dollar property. Cliffs on three sides. The pacific ocean, in all its glory. Waves crashing beneath us. Perfectly manicured turf. All the lawn bowling you could squeeze into 3 hours for a mere $12. Drinks were $6. Long story short: we'll be there every Wednesday from now until someone drags us away in April.

Super Focus Face is required for this sport.

Nod beat us all, of course. If you look closely, you can see that the bowling lawn is on top of seaside cliffs. Spectacular.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Post Script to the Spider

Vindication! All of my spider concerns are validated. Last night's trash can rustling was, indeed, the a sign of mortal peril.

Naturally, I had refused to get back in bed until the contents of the trash can had been inspected, preferably by someone other than myself. When Nod finally agreed to move the trash can to the hallway to alleviate my concerns, THIS is what crawled out.

The horror! The horror! (H. took an endearing look at the creature and said, "Aw, he's just a juvenile.")

Anyway, my dear readers. Beware of rustling trash cans, for they may hold huntsmen spiders after all.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sounds of Music

Dear loved ones,

I'm writing today from the zen retreat of my bedroom in Sydney, where the sky itself is pouring down rain in hysterical fits and making me feel quite fortunate indeed that I don't actually have to leave the house today. Instead, I could--in entirely good conscience--spend the entire day drinking homemade chai (kitchen success #1 of our trip so far), watching The Newsroom (has anyone else seen this new HBO show? It's like a TV version of Good Night and Good Luck, or like The Daily Show, only you get to stick your nose into the fictional production team's love triangles. The pilot episode alone is worth watching), reading my third Barbara Kingsolver novel this week (Lacuna and Poisonwood Bible were both excellent), and only then contemplating French verb structures or Middle Eastern politics.

This rain is a soothing response to the fact that last night was the worst ever, thanks to the plethora of Australian flying/biting/stinging/crawling creatures and all of the noises that they make. In fact, the noises of Australian nature are such a part of our daily lives that I've been meaning to write an entire blog post about them. The fact that they were responsible for me sleeping only 4 hours last night makes me ravenous for revenge.

Our lives in Newtown are marked by noisiness. All sorts of noises. A veritable cacophony through our windows, and not the usual urban noise of police sirens and night life that you might expect. Then again, Newtown is never what you expect: last week I saw a man with a 6" blonde mohawk street luging on a skateboard down the sidewalk with a snake around his shoulders. When I told H. about it, he shrugged and said, "Oh ya, that's Dan. You'll see him around sometimes."

But the real source of the noise comes from the fact that we live next to a park. Living next to a park is generally great, in that there are these hundred-year-old fig trees shading the house and lots of natural light flowing in through our windows. What's not great about it: 1) the flocks of noisy birds that take residence there and 2) the random people that sometimes stroll through.

But so here's roughly how the last week progressed:

Saturday morning, 6:30 am: a man in the park holds a private concert for an audience of himself and all the neighbors within earshot. On the set list: Ke$ha, Beyonce, and Nicki Manaj. To be fair, he had a great voice. "Ha ha," I thought. "What a charming quirk of Newtown life!" and tried to ignore the fact that it was 6:30 in the morning, and that he sang for an entire hour.

Sunday morning, 4:45 am: Kookaburras. Really loud Kookaburras. A huge flock of them up in the trees, clamoring away for twenty minutes before mysteriously falling silent again. Actually, they do this every day, twice a day: at 4:45 am, and again at 6:30 pm. When they get started in the evening, it actually becomes so loud that I can't do any work until they're finished. If you think I'm exaggerating, listen to what they sound like and then multiply that by 200 Kookaburras. It's intense.

Monday morning 6:30 am: Ke$ha man is back for another hour-long set, picking up right where the Kookaburras left off. Today he tries out some new numbers, including some Ella Fitzgerald and Lady Gaga. "Oh boy," I think. "I hope he doesn't plan to come back every single morning." Still, I whistle along a little bit.

Tuesday morning, 6:00 am: Ke$ha is back.

Wednesday morning, 6:30: Ke$ha is still there. "Go the &*#@ away," I grumble.

Thursday morning, 7:00 am: Cockatoos! Loads of Cockatoos up in the trees, making a sound like a screaming toddler. Now, I used to be among those many Americans who think that Cockatoos would be charming pets. "So pretty!" I thought. "How exotic!" In Sydney, wild Cockatoos exist in abundance  and are about as charming as the crows that get into your garbage bins and strew empty bags of chips around your yard. In fact, Cockatoos often get into the trash themselves. They are still very pretty, I admit, but I think I've definitely scratched them off of my List of Future Pets. (Still on that list: potbelly pig, teacup pig, boxer dog, lovebirds, a persian cat, koi fish, beta fish, a wombat (does anyone know if they can be domesticated?), and a chinchilla.)

Friday morning, 7:30 am: I forgot to mention that we also live beneath the flight path to Sydney's Airport, and that the city mows the lawn of the park every Friday morning at dawn. Guess I'm awake now!

But all of these noises, with the exception of Ke$ha's repeated performances beneath our window, are pretty charming for the sheer fact that we get to wake up to sounds of nature. Not the neighbor's stereo system, not ambulances, not the sound of screaming children (only Cockatoos imitating the sound of screaming children, which on second thought, I'm not sure is a big step up).

But last night it was nature that kept us up all night. Now, Australians feel pretty comfortable living in a little closer proximity to nature than most Americans I know. In Sydney, most stores and houses don't have any air conditioning or central heat. If it's warm, you open a window. If it's cold, close them again. I have to say that I'm really growing to appreciate this. There's nothing more uncomfortable in Washington, DC summers than sweltering on your 100 degree morning commute, being plunged into sub-arctic temperatures at your desk, and then entering back into the jungle swamp heat on your return home. Wool sweaters and tank tops should not occupy the same part of my closet, but it becomes a necessity with all of that artificial air conditioning.

But the other quirk is that while we rely on the breeze through the open window to keep us cool, very few windows seem to have screens on them. So leaves and flies and spiders and mosquitos come and go as they please, keeping the house just a bit more intimately tied to the natural world around them. At first, we cowered in fear of nightly mosquito attacks. But summer is slowly fading into fall, and there seem to be fewer mosquitos around than when we first arrived. Also, they invented this amazing plug-in device here that sends out odorless, magical "Mosquito, Be Gone!" vibes into the air. I've never seen these in the U.S., so I can only assume that they're horribly cancerous. But we've actually grown so cocky about the lack of mosquitos in the house lately that we decided to give our lung cancer a break and go without its magical protection.

How foolish we were. So our downfall last night began with a single mosquito, hoping for a midnight snack and a chance to get out of the rain. Now, I really don't mind a few mosquito bites. No big deal. It's the fact that mosquitos seem to love hovering right in your ear for no good reason at all than to torture you and leave you thrashing around in your blankets, swinging punches in the air and vowing that you will stop at nothing to kill that mosquito, so help you God. This is how we spent our time from approximately midnight until 2:30 in the morning, dozing off to sleep in brief moments of retreat, only to jump back into battle as soon as that high-pitched whine tickled our ears once more.

It was just then, waiting in the dark for the moquito to return, when I heard it: a distinct rustling sound inside the trashcan, which is next to my bed, which is mere inches from my head. I felt my stomach drop. The rustling returned, the papers inside the trashcan shifting around as something unmistakably animal moved inside. There was only one possible candidate, something so large that it would make that kind of noise: a Huntsman Spider.

I froze and dove to the other side of the bed, as far from the rustling trashcan as possible. I cowered, pulling the sheet over my head and suffocating in the heat because I had heard an Aussie joke before that the only time Huntsman Spiders are really creepy is when they run across your face at night. They were probably only trying to scare me, but I wasn't taking any chances. I looked to Nod for some assistance, but he had just managed to fall asleep after a long war with the mosquito (now probably too full from snacking on us to be bothered again), and he had to wake up at 5am for a long shift at work.

It was an hour before I heard any more sounds from the trashcan, but by then, I was prepared: I constructed an entire pillow fort barrier between me and the spider, a downy Great Wall of China that would serve as a first line of defense should the spider sense my fear and come lurking my way. I carefully checked to make sure that my toes and head were completely tucked inside the shroud of the sheet, leaving no opportunity for attack on a different front. Not surprisingly, it was really uncomfortable to sleep in this position, but the dangers were too great. I was even starting to doze off a bit when Nod lifted his head to point out that 1) I was pushing him off the bed and 2) making everything 1,000 degrees by trapping myself beneath the sheets. I pled my case--there must be a Huntsmen in there!--to which he simply rolled over and went back to sleep. I was on my own. Advancing back toward the trashcan with one pillow before me like a shield, I crept back as close as I could dare and fell back to sleep, exhausted. Until Ke$ha, the Kookaburras, lawn mowers and airplanes all greeted me with a joyful chorus only two hours later. The mighty Wazi's, brought low by a single malicious mosquito and one rustling trashcan!

In other news, life is going well: we had our first official sushi-making night with Huub and H. last night, celebrated Valentine's Day in French class with our teacher giving David a big kiss on his bald head ("Why do you think they call it French kissing?" she asks. "It's our national pastime!"), and made plans to go to the beach again this weekend. Our home in Newtown is absolutely wonderful, and we love living with Ms. A and her son H. Last Friday, for instance, Ms. A. and I split a bottle of wine while laughing and talking at her kitchen table for nearly five hours, and last night, Huub and Nod played a few hours of Wii with H. after eating our sushi feast together. It's homey and lovely and warm, and I couldn't be happier about it.

Until next time-

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Wazis & Tazis: the Trip Begins

As promised, dear friends, I now bring you the second installment of: "Wazis & Tazis." Next time, I think we'll finally get around to explaining what in the world underwater hockey is all about... I'll just let the suspense stay with you for a few more days.

So here is the story of our journey's beginnings to Tasmania--Tazi, for short. Our trip began with a motley crew of characters:

  • Huub, a 20-something Dutch physio student with deadpan humor,  a wicked technique to crack your first rib (didn't know that could crack, did you?), and a kindness that made all the underwater hockey girls swoon at his feet. My tummy is also happy to report that he and Nod are amazing cooking partners, and have been making Thai food together several times a week since we've been back from Tasmania. Yum. 
  • Dani is a pretty blonde Australian physio student who goes kangaroo hunting on weekends and who thrills us with stories of near brushes with poisonous spiders and snakes on her property west of Sydney. I should clarify--she doesn't find these stories thrilling ("Don't you have spiders in America, too?" she asks, confused why we keep checking in our shoes for Huntsmen spiders. Because spiders in America aren't the size of our face, that's why.) She also plays the full-contact sport of horseback polocross in her free time. Yes, horses and people charging into one another with lacrosse nets ("Heaps of people die playing polocross," she informs us matter of factly). Not to be messed with. We also have to give Dani credit for introducing us to Australia's greatest gift yet: Tim Tam cookies. We plan to eat at least one box in every flavor so that we can accurately report back as to which type is the very most delicious of them all. 
  • Nod's boss, who we'll refer to here as the "Fearless Leader." The Fearless Leader is a masterful physio and flew us all to Tasmania for free to assist him at the underwater hockey competition, so we have to give him props. But the Fearless Leader also has a number of quirks, like his penchant for Australian square dancing, or the way he breeds pythons at his house. He also has an inexhaustible supply of dirty jokes that he is quick to tell staff and patients alike. Most of his jokes revolve around copulation or bodily functions somehow, but blondes, chiropractors, and neurosurgeons are all also fair game for his one-liners. Unfortunately (fortunately?) I don't think any are probably fit for print here, but suffice it to say that my inner feminist and guardian-of-all-things-that-should-remain-politically-correct-and-dignified was ready to burn a few bras after the week was done. And those were only for the jokes that we understood through his accent--there was one about spoons and forks that we never did quite catch the punchline to, though we had an idea of where that was one was headed. All the same, most of the time was spent in good fun--all of us sharing a bottle of wine together after a day of work, playing cards on the deck of the boat, barbecuing french toast for what we affectionately called "brekkie on the deckie." 
  • Nod was part of the team to provide physio support, and he swiftly struck up a deep and abiding bromance with Huub--a bromance further cemented this weekend when we had Huub over for a sleepover at our new house, complete with a Thai dinner, Wii tennis, and an afternoon of bowling. In fact, all four of us all formed a tight bond during this week of round-the-clock company on the boat and poolside. Nod, Huub, and Dani would regularly stay up until 1 in the morning teaching each other newer and better ways to crack each other's backs or hips. We tried to show off the best of our American slang ("That's cray cray," we'd say. "Dude, this will melt your face.") They feigned a polite interest, but mostly they just thought it was funny that we said "gotcha" so often in conversation and that we ate peanut butter on everything. 
  • My job in Tasmania was to provide general support--running errands, keeping patients' paperwork straight, getting more supplies, making sure all the physios had what they needed. The Fearless Leader had also assumed that I, as the resident dutiful wife aboard the ship, would also be the resident cook, laundry girl, and dishwasher. The dishes and laundry I didn't mind so much--after all, I was basically getting a free vacation for a week in Tasmania, and my Arabic research skills couldn't be put to much use at an underwater hockey competition. Folding the team's underwear wasn't exactly what I had in mind, but I wasn't one to shy away from a challenge. But my complete disinterest in cooking anything more complex than ramen meant that I lasted all of 6 minutes in the boat's kitchen before I turned in my apron, leaving a pile of misshapen vegetables and burned onions in my wake. Instead, I got to apply my carefully cultivated research assistant skills to the task, tabulating our achievements for the week. For example: over the course of five days, the team completed 363 treatments, averaging 72.6 per day. It's not really my work to take credit for, but I do feel pretty proud of our team (Official Slogans, emblazoned on our polos and hats: "Power of the Pelvis." "No problems, Only Solutions." "Physiotherapy Survivor.") Oh, we looked really good. And by the look on the patient's face, you know we did good, too.

But now I'm getting ahead of myself. The trip began not in Tasmania, but the night before our flight from Sydney. We were all on the same early morning flight, and the airport is virtually next door to the Fearless Leader's home. Rather than try to meet at the airport in the morning, we were all invited to stay in his home the night before so that we could leave together shortly after dawn. So we shuffled into the Fearless Leader's house and spread out on sleeping bags, couches, and air mattresses on the living room floor, already feeling a bit like we were on a strange kind of Scout trip.

Before we went to sleep, we were treated to a short tour of the house. Here was the bathroom, here was the home office, and here was the cage with two 3-foot pythons. Oh, did he mention they would eventually grow to 3 meters? They love to eat frozen mice, but later they'll eat whole rabbits. Interesting how they will reflexively strike at any movement in front of them, even if they're asleep. No, they don't bite their prey, they crush it to death. Ha, be careful if you ever put them around your shoulders! They'll start curling around your neck. We hope to breed them someday, but they would just eat each other if you put them in the same cage right now. Lovely, aren't they?

One of his family members emerged just then and locked eyes with Dani. "Dani, you aren't afraid of snakes, are you?" We all shuddered and kept our toes safely tucked inside our sleeping bags all night, hoping and praying no one in the family would think pythons loose in the house would be a hilarious practical joke. Luckily, we all emerged in the morning with fingers and toes intact.

We left at dawn for a two hour flight down to the southern Australian island of Tasmania. Tasmania is green, mountainous, gorgeous. Little fairy penguins and enormous seals play in the waters off the shoreline. Whales migrate nearby during the spring shortly after they give birth to calves (meaning: baby whales in the water. Sadly, they were all gone by the time we arrived). Tasmania, we also learned, is, um, roughly shaped like a lady's nether region (cue: more jokes). Only 600,000 people live on the entire island, half of them in the main city of Hobart. (Another fact: the humble Hobart recently made the Lonely Planet's list of cities to see in 2013. Which sort of makes us Hobart know, we went there before it was cool. Right? Does that count?) Hobart was absolutely charming--hip small businesses that somehow were neither quaint nor gentrified, local without being rustic, modern without looking out of place. All of these ringed the gorgeous harbor and Derwent river, which Nod has posted some really beautiful pictures of. The city also felt really peaceful and clean away from the bustle of Sydney. Rocking the sleep on board the Odalisque... we were sad to leave at the end of the week, for sure. 

More on Tasmania: Tasmania was one of the main sites where Britain sent convicts to do forced labor for the empire (apparently they used to offload their unwanted poor on the American colonies, and only switched to Australia after the U.S. declared independence). We didn't have time to take much of a peek at the old penal colonies, but as our landlord Ms. A. says, "You can really feel the spirits of the convicts around you in Tasmania. That is, if you're into that sort of thing." I'm not entirely sure if I'm necessarily into feeling spirits of prisoner ghosts. But since so much of the island is preserved into national parks and uninhabited, it's not hard to look around at the mountains, wilderness, and oceans that surround you and imagine how desolate it must have felt to prisoners arriving from London.  On a day off, we borrowed a car and drove halfway across the island to a beach in a state park. There were no other people, no buildings in sight, no sounds except the waves, and nothing on the horizon but jagged rocks. We felt like we had reached the end of the earth. 

More pressing than ancient history: Tasmania was devastated this summer by horrific wildfires that burned up houses and hillsides, destroying 200 houses and leaving scores of people homeless. Even now, new fires are starting that need to be put out again. Hobart escaped the worst, though it has had fires in the past. As we drove through the island, the destruction stared back at us. Trees, charred black. Leaves curled up red from a nearby blaze. A tottering chimney, all that was left of a home. Tents pitched on the lawn of a local church, homeless families eating meals on the picnic benches. Small patches of vibrant green, wet and sore in the middle of so many ashes: a home, saved.

It was humbling, to see all of this, to have been spared it ourselves. And still more disasters: while we admired the beautiful sunsets in Hobart, torrential rains flooded Queensland and parts of New South Wales back on the Australian mainland. We watched the news as families scrambled to their roofs, everyone caught off guard at how quickly the waters rose. This week the waters have receded, leaving mud a meter deep running through the streets and houses. Again, we say our prayers. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

To be a kid again...

Good morning friends!

We are back from 9 days in Tazzie where we missed the torrential rain that hit Queensland and New South Wales (NSW). For those of you who don't know, Aussie has 6 states and 2 territories. We live in NSW while Queensland is just north in line with the Tropic of Capricorn. They can get pounded with storms and cyclones and heaps of sea foam as illustrated here.

Morning View

But alas, we are back from beautiful Tasmania and since those 9 days may go in the record books for the most strange and novel days of my life, we will try and blog about it piecemeal. Today's blog will be about our lodging, the Odalisque.

Looking past the true definition of the word, this 62 foot abalone boat was idyllic to spend 9 days on. Situated in the CBD (Aussies love to use abbrevs and slang whenever possible... CBD = Central Business District, aka downtown), on the most outwardly pier, we had unobstructed views south with the only landmass being Antarctica in front of us. Although there were no Emperor Penguins in Tazzie, we did see fairy penguins (although we did hear that the LGBT group found it offensive to call them fairy penguins, so the PC term now is 'little' penguins). There were also a lot of signs around alerting us to the presence of friendly Sammy the enormous Seal...sadly for Alissa, we never did spot him except in the hundreds of advertisements of his face plastering Hobart.

The Odalisque had 8 single bunks and 2 full sized beds downstairs that somehow doesn't exist in the 450+ photos I took! It was tight quarters with no windows but the sleeping was excellent! I was afraid of Alissa's stomach prior to the trip (packing bags before getting onto a plane or bus gets her close to the 20% mark of vom) but no motion sickness ensued for anyone.

Sunset on the Odalisque

The main cabin was gorgeous. We had a fridge, microwave, 4 top stove, full kitchenware and two massive round tables perfect for dinner and playing cards. Countless nights were spent watching the sunset over a glass of wine, playing Euchre, and shotgunning each other's pelvises (the pubic symphysis shotgun is the first step in unlocking the pelvis for you non-physio types).

Enjoying dinner
Around midnight on our first night while we were practicing physio on the huge lid of the abalone container (btw, for those of you looking for a lucrative career change, the owner of the boat usually goes on Abalone catches for 4 days, collecting 4.5 tons of abalone and selling it for $50/kilo. I'll let ya do the math!), a man came up to the side of the boat and whispered for us to come over. The night was perfectly still, which is highly unusual for Hobart since it resides in the roaring 40's. He pointed to the water and told us to look. He then flicked his water bottle and what ensued was unlike anything I had ever seen or thought was possible naturally...

As the water hit the surface, the sea quickly lit up in an incredibly vibrant phosphorescent green. Each droplet caused a kaleidoscope ripple effect that went out for 4-5 meters. I thought I was dreaming and had to do double, triple, quadruple takes. It was magical, like a green firecracker went off under the surface of the water that gently dissipated out. All four of us were fascinated and went inside to grab heaps of water to trickle throughout the pier. We spent the good part of an hour tossing water and waiting for the bioluminescent algae to 'recharge.' Huub and I ran to an exceptionally still part of the pier and threw a 5 meter rope into the water which made the sea erupt in green. Like 5 year olds, we giggled and shook our heads muttering, 'this is the coolest thing I have ever seen in my life!' while repeatedly fishing the rope out and throwing it back in... over and over and over again! I felt like a kid again, being completely enveloped in the moment without trying to analyze it. Oh, the joy of being so present and fascinated with life without the analytical mind at work. I aspire to regain that childlike awe, curiosity and fascination with our world.

I desperately wanted to capture it on film but even with a tripod and a low light lens, my camera's sensor was not sensitive enough since the night was pitch black. Some things are meant to be experienced rather than documented.

As the night came to an end, the Southern Cross dominated the sky, and you quickly realize why it's on the Australian flag. I learned that seafarers could quickly identify south with on a clear night sky. Draw a line through the long axis of the Southern Cross (center left of the photo with the long axis pointing to the upper right) to the upper right part of the photo. Then take the two indicator stars (the crane's arm point right to them) and draw a perpendicular line through their intersection. Now, where the long axis of the southern cross meets the perpendicular line from the indicator stars is due south. A thing of beauty... In my next life, I want to be an astronomer.