Wednesday, June 29, 2011

You Call THIS Cold?!

I've still got to post the blogs I wrote about how cold in gets in Europe.   To answer Aussie questions such as "My girlfriend and I were thinking of going to Europe in February, during the off season, to save money.  Do you think I need to buy a coat?"

Uh yeah.

This past Saturday, 9AM.  It was in the 70s by mid-morning,
In the meantime, we've experienced bit of a cold snap here ourselves.  The week we moved, the first week of June, the Brisbane area experienced its coldest June day since 1916.

Let me repeat.  Brisbane recently experienced its coldest June day since 1916.

It was nippy.  For shorts and a T-shirt.  Probably only the low 50s F.  (12C.)

I was getting a little worried until I picked the children up at school and one of the teachers told me that this was the coldest she can EVER remember it being during the daytime.  Oh, I thought, if this is the WORST they're gonna throw at me, I'll be fine.

But a frigid 60s in the early morning.  The goalie got to wear sweats!

12C is the coldest it has been in June since 1916.

That same day, it was the Thursday after we moved I remember, was also gray and cloudy.  Which meant that our solar water heating system only allowed us one shower.

But which also means that such a day is so rare here that you CAN rely on solar power to heat your water.

What a concept.

Late May.  More danger from sun than cold.
Sure, we had a couple of nights the week after where the temperatures dipped into the 40s F.  (5C).  But nothing that a couple of blankets and a small heater in the living room in the morning wouldn't cover.

I read that the average Brissie household uses those heaters an average of 12 days a year.


In the meantime, most days are crisp and clear.  Blue skies like Europe only dreams about.  And in the low 20C (70sF). 


Really folks, I tell them, THIS is the type of SUMMER WEATHER Europe is DYING for.

My friend from Moscow gets homesick in the winter here, because it reminds her of summer back home.

I'd forgotten what it was like to see the sky - by the way it is BLUE here, not gray - almost EVERY DAY.  With an almost constant 12 hours of daylight year round.

What a difference it makes.

May 1.  Anything to keep the sun off!

I've promised not to complain about the heat when it does arrives in summer.  (Although I have a blog about that too!)

I  look up at the bright blue sky and know I will never take these beautiful winter days for granted. 

Even if I am wearing a long-sleeved cotton sweater at 21C (low 70s F)!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Effect of Moving on a Marriage

Last morning at the townhouse.
"My husband is moving us into our new home as we speak,"  I told the woman at the service counter.

"On his own?!" she asked.  "How the heck is that going to work?"
"I decided I'd had enough of the packing and cleaning, the organizing and time management.  And I've been doing it for the both of us - and an increasing number of children - as we moved from East Coast USA to Arizona, from Arizona to Europe, from France to Germany and then from Europe to Australia.  I'm done.  I'm tired.  It's his turn this time."

"Uh yeah, but HOW is he going to manage it?" she insisted.

Homemade pizza in the new kitchen.

And it's true.  Damon had absolutely no idea how to start packing.  I ended up helping the night before after all, or it all would have still been sitting out, waiting to be put into boxes, to be done 'while the movers were there.'

Obviously no idea of how LONG it takes to pack.  And of how quickly two 20 olds can move heavy objects.

On the other end, he had no idea of WHERE things were once we got to our new home.

"Did you remember to put the childrens' school uniforms where we could find them tomorrow morning?" I asked.


Never mind that I had had an idea of where everything was even as we moved across oceans, continents and hemispheres.

He'd lost track of it all moving down the street.

Look Ma, pizza!

And the cleaning.  Yes, guys, here's the update.  Someone HAS been cleaning all those homes you move out of for you.  INCLUDING the oven, the fridge, the lighting, the blinds, the garage, and....yes, it DOES take longer than 1 to 2 hours.

It took Damon an extra week AFTER we'd moved out - going in when he wasn't working - to do it.

All of which meant that moving IN to the new place wasn't happening.  Good thing dark blue school uniforms hide the dirt well.


And it meant that the only person who had learned a lesson from me making him do it this time was, you guessed it, me.  I am going to suffer either way if I don't do it myself.  And he honestly didn't notice a difference between the well-though out, organized way I had always done things and the haphazard way in which he finally managed to get things done.

Unpacking the Barbies in Ryan's room.

Honestly,  back in Germany when I was explaining the difficulty of packing and organizing for an autumn in Germany, things we would need there versus things we could ship on the boat and things we needed in Australia right away and needed to take with us on the plane, the only ones who truly understood it were the Germans.  Most of who would never have bothered to attempt it. 

Lynne's husband, Thomas, just looked at it all and suggested labelling each pile with a different colour marker to make things easier.

If I'd had know him any better I would have kissed him on the mouth.  Who ever said German efficiency couldn't be sexy?!

Nutella too.

My husband has many other good points, but will never appreciate that side of me.  I've learned to do it for myself though and not for anyone else.  After lots of tears.  (Funny enough, it was Lynne who talked me down off of the hypothetical ledge - or at least away from the divorce lawyer's door - during the final hours of leaving Altdorf.)

It could be worse though, as the woman at the service counter reminded me.

"We're moving next week too." she told me.  "My husband spent four hours last night trying all the extra keys we had in our kitchen drawer on every lock he could find.  In the end, he found one key that fit the door to the storage area.  He was very pleased with himself and considered it time well spent."

Pool for summer.  Trampoline for winter.

I remember the American Army engineer who wouldn't have been able to fit the items they picked up from our home in Germany into the back of his SUV without his wife's guidance.

But also fondly recall the trio of German men, a son, a father and an uncle, who came to pick up the kitchen at our old place in Altdorf.  Also family of engineers, they brought their own tools and had the entire set efficiently dismantled and in the car within an hour.

A yard to play footie in!

Such men do exist.

Problem is I think they expect a warm meal at lunchtime.
(Photos of our home since I obviously haven't taken very many yet!)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Miley Cyrus

Ryan and Andrew and I went to a rock concert on Tuesday.

Rock as in Joan Jett or Pat Benatar. 

Never mind that the audience was mostly compiled of prepubescent and teenage girls raised on Hannah Montana.

This wasn't Disney.

And you know what, Miley Cyrus can REALLY ROCK!

Okay, I was kinda wondering why her Daddy didn't insist she wear clothes for the first act.  Was she so excited to be in Australia that she forgot to get dressed?!

But the 7 year old girls in front of us didn't seem to mind all the crotch-grabbing (aka Madonna) and hip gyrating, and she DID know how to move, so why let it bother me?!

And you could actually SEE her lose about 10 pounds throughout the course of the evening.  "Looking a little bit hippy, isn't she?" remarked my beloved husband on seeing some of the photos taken early on.  Wake up world, THIS is what s fit 18 year old looks like.  THIS is what all the 40 and 50 year olds are starving themselves into scarecrows for to emulate. 

I'm fairly sure the guitarist she did some of her solos with felt like asking her Daddy to have a talk with her about boundaries though. 

The music was good.  Miley can sing - the comparison to Joan Jett kept coming to mind, especially when she did a "I Love Rock and Roll" cover.  And the costumes too.  Pat Benatar.

The show was amazing.  Think Madonna.  Although the hip-hop dancers weren't half as good as those on 'So You Think You Can Dance."

And you can see where her music is going.  She DOES hang out with Ozzie Osbourne, doesn't she?

The opening act was a cute guy from Australia.  Whose cover of Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel" really brought down the house.  Nice accent too.  And some good stuff of his own.  So why was I so concerned with the fact that he looked so uncomfortable in those tight pants?!

I guess maybe I am getting old. ER anyway.  Too many worries, too many comparisons, instead of just living the moment.

What it all comes down to is that the moment was good.  Miley's got a voice; she can belt it out.  She's got a beat, she's got a message and she knows how to move.

We had floor seats just 14 rows and center away from the action.  Andrew stood on his chair and Ryan sang along.  Good quality family entertainment if you can handle the volume.  (Damon, however, would have been appalled.  Not EVERY mature male wants to watch a teenage girl prance about half naked on a stage, no matter how good her voice is!  Especially once he has a daughter of his own.  We're getting him tickets for Billy Ray, if Daddy ever does decide to come to town!)

Hannah Montana may be in reruns, but I really DO look forward to what Miley continues to come up with in the next few decades.

Now, who's coming to the Nick Jonas concert with me?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Haiti, Caribbean Princess

"Is Haiti a boy or a girl?"

This from Matthew on our way out to the car yesterday.

Ryan's sketch of  a small wooden statue I brought back from Hait.
"Haiti is an island in the Caribbean near the USA and where Mommy and Daddy met, honey."

"Yes," obviously sensing - and trying to circumvent - another lecture on people less fortunate than ourselves and our obligation to love and respect them, "but is it a boy or a girl?"

Matthew didn't get his answer.  Because I was seriously thinking about it and seriously not liking my conclusion.

You see, Haiti SHOULD be a man.  I mean, all that violence and bloodshed, all the poverty and need.  I don't want to dump this all on a woman.

Great, Haiti as a big welfare Momma.  Her children on crack and smack, in gangs and in jail.  That's what I need to be seeing in my mind's eye.

But this morning I woke up thinking about it again.  And realised that, yes, Haiti truly is a woman. 

Anacaona is also revered in the Dominican Republic, Haiti's neighbour on the shared island of Dominica.
She's a Native American princess.  Ravaged by France.  Wed to Africa, in a brutal forced marriage turned love affair.  She gets her strength from a unique flavour of Africa blended with Caribbean-French and a memory, still cherished in story and song, of Anacaona, the last Taino Indian Princess, who met Columbus when he "discovered" the New World, and who fought for freedom from colonial oppression, who fought for the right of her people to survive.

And who lost. 

1492, for those of you not from the New World, and the Native Americans in Haiti were wiped out by war and disease within two decades.  Hence the need for slaves, and the brutal history of the Middle Passage, the trade of slaves from Africa to run sugar plantations in Haiti in order to make rum for Europe.

I like to think of Haiti as a "paper bag princess, " after a children's story by the same name written by Robert Munsch.  In it the princess, whose kingdom has been leveled by a dragon who has also kidnapped her intended prince, uses her wit to outsmart the dragon and free her beloved.  Dressed in a paper bag.  When her prince - still carrying his tennis racket - snubs her for her poor attire, the princess doesn't end up marrying him after all.

She knows her true self worth comes from more than what she is wearing. 

(Hmm.  Might the dragon be France - or Europe - and the prince be the neglect of the modern world?  Or should I be leaving you to draw that conclusion yourself?!)

Fairy tale endings are harder to find in real life than in childrens' books.  Robert Munsch never did specify HOW the princess managed to circumnavigate the globe on her own, in a paper bag.

Haiti's unique blend of African, French and Caribbean.
But I like to think of Anacaona and her noble African prince. Even if he is only a figment of my imagination, a symbol of multiple proud African cultures treated with less worth than animals.

I  imagine the two of them, looking down on their beloved island

Isn't it nice to imagine a fairy tale ending for Haiti, a modern-day, paper-bag, Caribbean princess?