Sunday, April 26, 2009


Yesterday was ANZAC Day -- one of the biggest holiday's celebrated in Australia. And lots for us to learn and find out about. Many shops are closed, while others open only at lunchtime (except for outlets like Starbucks Coffee which was doing a roaring trade in the city in the morning). According to the Australian War Memorial website, ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, and the day marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War.

Slade had an ANZAC Day ceremony at school on Friday, and Kai also learned about ANZAC Day, including doing a march around the school play area saluting children in the other classes! Slade got to make ANZAC biscuits -- a crunchie type of biscuit. Kai got given ANZAC biscuits at school. We also had some shop bought ones that come in special packaging.

April 25 is a special day for Australians as a day to remember soldiers who had died in war. The website states:
"In 1915 Australian and New Zealand soliders formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula to open the way to the Black Sea for the allied navies. The plan was to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul), the capital of the Ottoman Empire and an ally of Germany. They landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Turkish defenders. What had been planned as a bold stroke to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915 the allied forces were evacuated after both sides had suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. Over 8,000 Australian soldiers were killed."

ANZAC Day was officially named in 1916 and marked by a wide variety of ceremonies and services in Australia, a march through London, and a sports day in the Australian camp in Egypt.

All states observed some form of public holiday on ANZAC Day from 1927. In subsequent years the meaning of the day was broadened to include Australians killed in all military operations in which Australia has been involved.

Commemorative services are held at dawn -- the time of the original landing -- and later in the day marches are held.

The turnout at the march was quite amazing -- and with all the marching bands and other groups, it reminded me of the American marches that I saw when I was there. There was lots of flag waving, and children and adults alike enjoying the march. It was really moving watching the people marching -- there were representatives from all sorts of regiments and divisions, some elderly people walking, in wheelchairs, in taxis and on golf carts, and adults and children wearing medals that belonged to relatives.

We had gone into the city on the train -- it was fun for the kids, parking in the city is expensive and it saved having to drive around amongst the throngs of people. After the march we walked across the Brisbane River to South Bank which is a wonderful area that was established when the World Expo was held in Brisbane. It has a fantastic man-made swimming area for the kids -- with sand beaches, water sprays, and a pebbled river-like area that's also great for playing. Slade had such fun building a wall of stones across the river!

After bumping into one of Slade's good friends we stayed at South Bank a little longer than we had planned, but we eventually persuaded the kids to head back to the nearest station and get the train back out of the city. We had parked at a really convenient station about five or 10 minutes from our house so it was fortunately a quick drive back home. We were all exhausted, but really enjoyed the experience of our first ANZAC Day in Australia.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Fun in the Holidays

The kids were back to school on Tuesday, and I was able to get into a better routine of doing my work in the day instead of after they went to bed! My efforts at getting to bed earlier have been a little more successful as a result!

But before the holidays ended we got up to lots more fun.

Having to go into the city for an appointment with Phillip, we decided to use the opportunity to look at the Queensland Museum. Phillip dropped us off and fetched us later, which meant that we saved on the generally high cost of parking in the city. It was a fun afternoon. We deliberately didn't go into the Sciencentre which we've heard is really great because we want to do that with Phillip. We still had fun for a couple of hours though -- a dinosaur display was most enjoyed by both the kids.

Another day we went to the Downfall Creek Bushlands Centre which is based at a park in the north western part of the city. Seems like a really great area so it was quite a nice drive, especially once we started to go away from the city. It was quite hilly terrain and very green. We definitely need to consider heading out that way with Phillip sometime to see what else we can find in that area. Anyway, the Brisbane City Council had organised an educational event for kids. It was free of charge and such a wonderful outing for the kids. They were shown different animals that could be found in the reserve -- including a bearded dragon and other types of lizards, snakes, a bandicoot (which is very similar to the bilby I mentioned in my Easter post), a squirrel glider, a tree frog and a tawny frogmouth (a bird that looks rather like an owl).

There was also an opportunity to walk through the park to see the types of areas where we could find the wildlife that we had just seen (tame versions of) close up -- somewhat fortunately for the moms we didn't find anything apart from a few bugs! Then it was back to the centre where the children got given clay and various seeds, leaves and sticks and were able to make their own clay creations. What an entertaining two hours for the children and amazing that this was all for free. We ate our picnic lunch in the park afterwards and the children spent time playing on a great jungle gym.

We also spent a few hours at the Wynnum Park where we've been a couple of times before. The whales that squirt water had been fenced off and are apparently being repaired, but the kids enjoyed the jungle gym, and then had a really fun time going down this slide into the huge wading pool.

Back at school on Tuesday, Slade was appointed as the representative for his class -- they call it a pod rep. And is now a member of the Student Council.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Before we arrived in Australia one person said to me that Melbourne, with extreme changes in weather, had cold and somewhat miserable weather for about nine months of the year. Brisbane, on the other hand, was almost unbearably hot and humid for about three months of the year. During that time it was best to spend as much time as possible in a swimming pool or in an airconditioned shopping mall.

When I arrived here at the beginning of December it certainly was HOT. That is definitely HOT in capital letters. The sun here feels very penetrating and we spent a lot of time indoors. Unless you have a covered pool (shade cloth or sails, as they are called, are sometimes used to cover pools) you can't be in it in the middle of the day because the sun really is just too hot.

For the last three months that I was in South Africa we'd had lots of rain. There would be a couple of hottish days, and then three or four days of rain and cool temperatures. There was no such thing in Brisbane during the first three months or so that we were here. Even now I can count on one hand the number of days that I've worn a jersey (jumper in Aussie lingo).

When I walked through the shops in February (still thinking that this was a good way to get away from the heat), I was amazed to see jackets, long sleeve pyjamas, long sleeve shirts, long pants. In fact, the only things with short sleeves were on the sale racks.

Having come from Durban, I'm beginning to wonder how well prepared we are for this Brisbane winter, or whether we need to start accumulating some winter woolies. It really hit me in the shops this week when I saw lots of beanies, boot slippers, wooly scarves and gloves. I stood there looking at them wondering whether these are things we're going to need to stock up on, or whether they're just there for those who are travelling to cooler climes.

A friend who moved here over a year ago said that they used the fireplace in their home every evening during winter. However, someone I've met here who is from New Zealand scoffed at the thought of it even being slightly cold!

Well, I thought it would be fun to do some internet surfing. One site describes the winter weather as mild and very pleasant with sunny winter days that are an average of about 17C.

Another site has the following average temperatures:
Dec/Jan/Feb -- Max 29.20C; Min 20.40C
Mar/Apr/May -- Max 25.80C; Min 16.40C
Jun/Jul/Aug -- Max 21.20C; Min 10.10C
Sep/Oct/Nov -- Max 16.00C; Min 15.60C

Just for fun, I thought it was worth looking at the records for high and low temperatures. The highest max recorded is 39.6 which was recorded in December 1981. The lowest min of 0.6C was recorded in June 1971 and August 1994.

So how do the temperatures in Brisbane compare to Durban? Well, the highest recorded temperature that I could find for Durban was 40C in October, the lowest 3C, in July and August. Average temperatures range from a maximum of 28C in summer to 23C in winter and a minimum of 21C in summer to a minimum of 11C in winter. So it seems that the temperatures really are quite similar.

The website lists the weather as one of the best things about living in Brisbane. This is what they have to say about the weather: "Winter, what winter? –well, yes there are about 8 weeks of cold nights and early mornings when we don a scarf and fluff up the doona [that is, a duvet]. But, seriously, Brisbane’s winter is nothing but divine. Compared to half of Australia that suffers arctic winds, frosts and icy roads, Brisbane’s temperatures let us thaw out in the winter sun. Plus, ask anyone from countries that see snow and they’ll scoff at our idea of ‘cold’."

So I guess, being from South Africa, we might need to get a little prepared (especially considering we don't have a heater in the house), put the electric blanket on the bed and perhaps even invest in a hat, scarf and gloves.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Easter Bilby

Some parents debate about whether to tell their children about the Tooth Fairy or the Tooth Mouse, but as far as I was aware there was never any question about who hid away the Easter eggs. It was always the Easter Bunny. That is, until I spent my first Easter in Australia. Here the Easter Bunny has serious competition from the Easter Bilby, and for really serious reasons.

Well, firstly for those of you who (like me until I arrived in Australia) have little idea of what a bilby is…
Here is some info thanks to the Australian Bilby Appreciation Society
 The bilby is a member of the bandicoot family.
 They are marsupials – the pouch opens backwards so as not to be filled with dirt while digging.
 The bilby measures up to 55cm in length (body only) with a tail up to 29cm long. Adult males weigh up to 2.5kg and females about half that.
 Bilbies have very soft fur that is mainly blue grey, with some fawn. The belly is white and the tail is black with a white crest at the end and a naked spur-like tip.
 Bilbies have poor eyesight, but their hearing and smelling senses are very good.
 They live in spiraling burrows which they dig up to 2 metres deep.
 Bilbies are truly nocturnal, emerging from their burrows at least an hour after dusk and retreating at least an hour before dawn. A full moon, strong wind or heavy rain can keep bilbies in their burrows all night.
 Bilbies are omnivorous, eating seeds, spiders, insects and their larvae, bulbs, fruit, fungi and small animals.

The campaign to replace the Easter bunny with the Bilby has a really serious side to it. Firstly, it is hoped that the campaign will raise public awareness of the endangered Australian species. An author of children’s books Rose-Marie Dusting published a book called Billy the Aussie Easter Bilby in 1979 and donated a percentage of the sales of her books to bilby conservation. Bilbies were found in about 70% of mainland Australia, but are now extinct in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. There are about 600 bilbies left in Queensland.

One expert recently quoted in the media stated that the bilby needed our protection because it is hopeless at escaping danger. The expert said bilbies try to frighten their attackers by wiggling their bottoms and waving their black tipped tail. "Let's just say it's been unsuccessful against foxes and cats," the article states.

The other side to the Easter Bilby campaign is that rabbits were introduced to Australia and have caused damage to the native environment. So, while there is the Bilby Appreciation Society, there’s also the Foundation for Rabbit-Free Australia. Their website states: “Very young children are indoctrinated with the concept that bunnies are nice soft fluffy creatures whereas in reality they are Australia’s greatest environmental feral pest and cause enormous damage to the arid zone.”

The rabbit problem in Australia is a serious one. The foundation says that they are an invasive pest, having been introduced by the early English settlers for hunting, and cost Australia’s primary production millions of dollars a year. A total of 24 wild European rabbits introduced in 1859 produced 10 billion rabbits by the 1920s! Rabbits compete with similar sized native animals for shelter and food and can prevent the regeneration of native trees and shrubs. In 2007, 121 native plant species were considered to be threatened by rabbits.

However, newspapers reported after this Easter that the bilby campaign has lost momentum, although there are still funds being raised through the sale of chocolate bilbies, as well as other products and other means. "Bilby fatigue as rabbits win the Easter chocolate war" read one headline. Interestingly though, a website that held a poll asking Easter Bunny or Easter Bilby had 108 voters, 57% in favour of the bunny and 43% in favour of the bilby. That's pretty close!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter Weekend

A couple that we met in Australia arrived in Brisbane three years ago and told us recently that they continue to be amazed at how much there is to do here. We have so many things on our 'to do' list and it is one of the things that I have so enjoyed here in Australia. We just never run out of things to do. In fact, I actually get quite impatient thinking about some of the things that we still haven't had a chance to do and see since we've arrived. There just never seems to be enough time!

Well, this weekend started with us heading to a festival at Redcliffe which is on the bay north of Brisbane. We thought that it would be nice to head out there as we hadn't been to that area since arriving here. It was a nice drive, although there was lots of traffic (people heading towards the Sunshine Coast for Easter). We parked at a showground in the area and then took a bus to the bay where the festival was held.

There was lots to see and do -- quite a few fleamarket type stalls which we didn't spend too much time looking at. Also some rides for the children -- they chose to go on the Titanic slide!

Then there was sand sculpturing on the beach -- this amazing dolphin was there for everyone else to try and copy! Phillip, Slade and Kai are hiding behind the pile of sand towards the water from the dolphin.

Camel rides on the beach!

Then on Saturday it was off to Seaworld where we could use the Queensland 150 year celebration tickets. What a wonderful day. Kai was most disappointed at not being able to do the corkscrew roller coaster! Phillip can't wait for her to get taller so that he'll have someone to do the scary rides with. There were quite a few shows, an aquarium, ray reef, shark tank, polar bears, lots of rides and a monorail. We didn't get to see everything, but it was so great having tickets that enable us to go as many times as we like until the end of June. We're able to go back again and see the things that we missed out on.

I captured these pelicans at Seaworld, but we were really intrigued to see pelicans sitting on street lamps over the road on our way to the Redcliffe festival the previous day. Such a big bird perched on a lamp post!

Loved these shots of a dolphin that came up really close to us while we were standing at the fence near their tank.

On Monday we headed out to the trains in Ipswich. This time around they had the Toyland Express theme. There was a conductor who told stories, the children made toy trains out of wood and there was a wonderful play area with big and small trains, huge teddy bears and dolls houses.

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Speaking the Lingo

We've still got a lot to learn as far as the Australian lingo goes, but it doesn't take long to learn the different terms used for things and the different ways that people speak here.

Firstly, everyone says Yip. I guess that's kind of in place of Ja. Although it's also used by some people throughout a conversation almost as if they are acknowledging what you're saying. Then there's 'mate' which is regularly used to address anyone at any time. Another word commonly used when referring especially to children is buddy.

Other words that we've got to know:
Barbies, of course!
Bickie or bikkie for biscuit
Brekkie or brekky for breakfast
Cuppa -- tea or coffee, or a tea break
Lolly -- any kind of sweet
Ice block -- ice cream on a stick
Snag -- a sausage
Fairy bread -- a kids treat made of buttered white bread cut into triangles and sprinkled with hundreds and thousands
Fairy floss -- candy floss
Good onya -- good on you or well done
Dinkum -- genuine, true or truthful -- as in fair dinkum
Doona -- duvet or quilt
Jumper -- jersey
Esky -- cool box
Sunnies -- sunglasses
Swimmers -- swimming costume
Thongs -- slip slops
Tradie -- tradesperson
Hoon -- hooligan, especially those who drive dangerously or very fast
No worries -- don't worry, you're welcome etc
Pokies -- poker machines
Ute -- bakkie
Rashie -- lycra top to give protection from the sun
Removalist -- removal company

At my local library recently I came across a book called Australian Slang which is really an entertaining read. It states the following in the introduction: "Australians do speak English, of course. But to many tourists (and even some locals), Australian English has only tenuous links with the mother tongue. Our speech is peppered with words and phrases whose arcane meanings are understood only by the initiated."

It also mentions that one of the features of Australian slang is to abbreviate words and add 'o' or 'ie' to the end. And so, barbeque becomes barbie, workers compensation becomes compo, afternoon becomes arvo.

There were some words that I'd heard and some that are generally associated with Australia:
* Billabong -- a waterhole, especially one that only receives water during the wet season
* Billy, billy can -- container, often a tin can, used for boiling water, making tea or cooking over a fire
*Boomerang -- an Aboriginal throwing stick used for hunting animals and designed to return to the thrower; also used to refer to anything that returns, such as a cheque that bounces!
* Bris-Vegas refers to Brisbane and the common opinion that Brisbane is a dull city
* Budgie smugglers -- speedos!
* Jumbuck -- sheep
* Matilda-- role of personal belongings carried by a swagman
* Youse -- plural of you -- as in 'what are youse doing later?'

Many of the terms in the book I hadn't heard, but there are some really funny words, phrases and comments and some that are really bizarre:
* all froth and no beer meaning superficial, shallow or phoney
* banana bender -- person from Queensland, while the Banana City refers to Brisbane. However the book mentions that the term is playful rather than geographically precise as most Australian bananas are grown in New South Wales!
* a barbeque stopper is a topic, statement or announcement that is so exceptionally interesting, shocking or surprising that it would stop proceedings at a barbie!
* would bet on two flies crawling up a wall -- referring to a person who is obsessed with gambling
* I hope all your chooks [chickens] turn into emus and kick your dunny [a toilet, usually an outside toilet] down -- an Australian curse
* drop bear refers to an imaginary, vicious and carnivorous relative of the koala that drops from trees onto its unsuspecting victims. The book mentions that Aussies love to scare tourists and newcomers with this story!
* got his/her licence out of a Weet-Bix/Corn Flakes packet -- for anyone who seems unqualified to perform a task that normally requires a licence
* great Australian salute -- the action of waving one's hand in front of the face to get rid of flies!
* as nervous as a mother roo in a room full of pickpockets

Monday, April 6, 2009

Busy Weekend

We've had a really wonderful weekend. On Saturday we headed out to Ipswich to the Workshops Rail Museum where we had seen Thomas the Tank Engine and the Fat Controller in December.

This time around it was Bunny Eggventures and the children got an Easter egg from the Easter Bunny, went on the little train, got balloons and temporary tattoos, made an Easter hat and other craft, met some cute baby animals and generally played around on all the other train activities.

We are definitely making the most of our annual pass to the Rail Museum -- and we'll be heading out again next week as they have an experience called Toyland Express during the holidays. The highlight for Slade is that they can make their own train with wood, hammer and nails!

Saturday evening we went to the home of a family from SA. They are clients of Phillip's (first in SA, now here) and they arrived in Australia a short time after Phillip did. And Sunday we spent the afternoon, and into the evening, with another two families from SA. We'd met our hosts after arriving in Australia. They've been here 10 months and have two daughters slightly older than our two kids. Also there was the family that Phillip stayed with for a few days after he arrived in Australia -- their son works with Phillip.

It was a really great afternoon chatting and enjoying sushi, which Melony had made for us! The kids had a fantastic time playing with the girls and really enjoyed the trampoline in the back garden.

It was off to school this morning. A four day week this week, and Slade's last day of school for the term is Thursday. Kai will probably go to school for one or two days next week as she's really keen to go and play with her friends!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Camping at Mt Mee

We have decided to kit ourselves our with some camping gear so that we can get to see something of the area where we're living in an easy and affordable way. We're not quite sufficiently kitted out yet, but fortunately our friends Ben (who is from South Africa) and his wife Michelle (an Australian) have camping experience and more of the useful and necessary gadgets and equipment that we’ve had time to accumulate as yet.

A few weeks ago we headed off for an overnight visit to Mount Mee Forest Reserve, which is about 60km north of Brisbane at the northern end of the D’Aguilar Range. It adjoins the Brisbane Forest Park.

We stayed in the Archer campground which is easily accessed from the northern entrance to the reserve after going through Woodford town. The campground has toilets, but no showers -- however, Ben and Michelle had a camping shower so that wasn't a problem.

After getting our camp set up we spent some time in the nearby creek – Slade and Kai, together with Savannah had such fun climbing over the rocks and enjoying the cool water.

It was a wonderful evening, and Michelle had brought sparklers and marshmallows, both of which were great fun for the kids.

The scenery in the area is wonderful – rainforest, eucalypt forests, hoop pine plantations and delightful rocky creeks. Also monitors or leguaans roaming around that we had to keep a close eye on to prevent them getting into the food or the tents!