Monday, March 30, 2009

What a weekend!

We had the most wonderful day on Saturday. We had splurged a little to make use of a special for Queensland residents that allows entry into three theme parks -- Warner Brothers Movie World, Wet n Wild and Seaworld -- for about the same price as a single entry ticket. And we can go as many times as we like from the time we bought them until the end of June! Needless to say these tickets are going to keep us busy.

For our first visit we decided to go to Movie World. It was a fantastic day. We arrived at about 11 (the rides only open at 10.30) and left shortly before being ushered out by the security guard at about 5.30pm. The kids had such a ball. The only disappointment for Kai was that she was too little for some of the really scary rides. In fact, the roller coaster in the kid's section was seriously enough for me, but she really wanted to know why she couldn't go on the huge Superman rollercoaster and another ride. She has to grow about another 40cm for both of those so it's not even like she nearly qualifies! She'll certainly be doing those with her dad, and not her mom!

The park had a great variety of things -- a few shows including a stunt driver one. But we didn't attend any of those as the kids were really far too busy going from ride to ride. A great bonus of having these tickets was that we could just opt to do some of the things next time.

The area catering mainly for the younger children had a great variety of activities: Little taxis to drive, bumper cars, a train, cages that swung around, rides that swung sideways or went up and down and a merry go round.

Apart from the shows, a number of movie characters were around and they did a parade through the park. And there were also some of the props around including the actual Bat mobile used in the movie, as well as Speed Racer!

Although it wasn't too hot, the kids still enjoyed some time playing in the water. Kai didn't spend too much time in there as the lure of the roller coaster was far to strong. Slade jumped and ran around for ages, trying to catch and kick the water squirting up from the ground.

Kai and Phillip went on the Wild West ride which is not in the children's section of the park. Kai absolutely loved it!

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Australia is known for it's regulations. In some ways I quite like this. I like to know that people are generally quite likely to obey the law because there is a high possibility of getting caught if you do not, and there will be consequences. I must admit to feeling a little terrified when I saw the police out and about. Am rather nervous about being caught doing something wrong (especially when I might not be aware that it's wrong)!

I find it quite an experience to see all the information out about regarding rules. The first package that arrived for us in the post had been opened and had a brochure added to it by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service and a notice that stated the parcel had been opened for inspection, but that nothing had been removed. The brochure told us all about what can't be mailed to Australia. The tips that they provide include the following:
* Don't send prohibited food, plant material or animal products
* Don't pack items in egg cartons, wooden boxes or cardboard boxes that have been used to hold food
* Don't pack with straw or dried plant material
* Thoroughly clean all footwear, sporting, fishing and camping equipment to remove soil, seeds or plant material
You are then advised to take into account that items sent for special occasions could be withheld and you should ask your family and friends to think about alternative gifts.
On the dodgy items list are: ornaments made with straw, seeds and conifer sprigs; fresh and dried flowers; hardboiled eggs (oooh, can you imagine!), painted eggshells and straw or hay (for Easter!) and pumpkins and corn husk dolls (Halloween).
Incidentally you could be fined $60,000 for breaching Australia's quarantine laws.

One of the newsletters from Slade's school talks has a notice from the local police about driving issues around the school. The school parking area, including the area where parents can drop off their kids without parking, are public property and as such as regulated by the police. We regularly have police members on duty in that area, making sure that parents don't park for any length of time in the 'stop, drop and go' zone and so on. Of course, with driving one of the worries here is that you lose points in addition to having to pay a fine, if you get caught doing something wrong. You get 12 points over a 3 year period. If you lose all 12, you can get some concessions, for example, if you need to drive children to school or drive for work etc. Nevertheless, it's a bit of a scary thought to end up in that situation. The warnings from the police in the school newsletter reminded us about the double white lines and no right turn signs at one entrance to the school parking area. We were warned that the penalty for crossing double white lines is $135 and 3 points, while the penalty for disobeying parking signs is $30.

An advert in my local newspaper asks: "What are you really throwing away when you litter?" and encourages us to spend our money on something better than litter fines. Effective from 1 January 2009 these are the penalties for littering: $200 for general littering, $300 for littering from a vehicle and $400 for dangerous littering. Of course, I really needed to know what might qualify as dangerous littering, and thanks to google I found that it includes things like sharps (syringe needles generally used by the druggies) and glass. Apparently the kind of litter found on Brisbane's streets includes cigarette butts (described as over 50% of all litter collected), chewing gum, plastic bags, drink containers, food containers and wrappers.

Talking about regulations, I've found that Kai's school has extensive policies. Of course, these things are important, but I have to admit to being astounded when I received a notice inviting parents to review a list of eight policies, which were just the ones to be reviewed that month. So if we have about the same number for even just 8 months of the, that's a whole lot of policies. Recent policies under review included: child protection, cleaning policy, dental policy, excursion policy, infant feeding policy, nutrition policy, orientation policy for staff and social justice policy.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I'm Back!

And intending to be around a little more than I have been recently!

I have noticed some really amazing things that are provided by the government in Australia. I guess it is more noticeable having come from South Africa, where there are so many people with nothing, and especially having worked in communities with people who have very little. In the area where the Woza Moya organization operates outside Ixopo, I’ve seen families who don’t know where their next meal is going to come from. I’ve seen a man from Cato Manor collect chicken bones from people’s plates after a luncheon to be able to go home and make chicken soup. There really is so much need in South Africa.

Although there are organizations that assist homeless people, for example, in Australia, the need here is certainly not as great. With my background I guess it really strikes me how much the government does and the kinds of things that are (and can be) priorities here.

It is noticeable looking through my local newspaper and seeing some of the offers and specials that I could take advantage of courtesy of the government:

 I can save up to $250 on my energy and water bills by using the ClimateSmart service which involves a licenced electrician visiting my home and installing a wireless energy monitor. This is initiated by the Queensland Government. I have to pay $50 but Brisbane City Council residents get the cash back. There are four adverts for this in this week’s local paper.
 I can attend a free business workshop organized by the Department of Tourism, Regional Development and Industry on how to strengthen my business.
 I can get a subsidized microdot kit for $30. Microdots are high-tech ways to protect household valuables. They are invisible to the naked eye and are easily applied to deter theft and help identify stolen goods.
 I can dispose of unwanted household items – such as furniture, fridges, stoves, carpet, bath and laundry tubs, wood products etc – by putting them on the kerbside in front of my home and having them collected for free by the Brisbane City Council.
 I can attend a display at local shopping centres about how tolls will be calculated automatically as I pass under a tolling point. There will be no more stopping to pay tolls from July.
 As a Brisbane resident over 14 years I can attend free personal safety seminars that are designed to increase my confidence and ease any concerns I may have about crime affecting me. I would also have the opportunity to discuss any personal safety issues or questions with internationally-renowned experts.

Thinking about different priorities, it also struck me this week that even the criminals here have different priorities! I walked passed a local pharmacy the other morning and saw that there was police tape across the entrance. My local newspaper contained a short article about what had happened there: Three robbers struck at the pharmacy last Friday morning. They were armed with a fire extinguisher, which they used to spray a customer with powder. And what were they after at the pharmacy? Not the takings from the till, but rather drugs: Pseudoephedrine, which is used to manufacture illicit drugs. Thanks to google, I found that a pharmacy association here has warned that offenders are finding an increasing number of ways to extract pseudoephedrine content from various prepared medications. Pseudo-runners have also created strong networks around Australia to enable substantial quantities of the product to be purchased and diverted to methamphetamine manufacture, according to the association.