Thursday, March 23, 2006

Australian Adventure

Australia! The dream vacation of a lifetime was ours for our 45th anniversary. I can hear the groaning now....Why waste a trip like that on two old coots? Well, these old coots rode horseback through the rain forest and snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef with the sting rays on the very day of our 45th. The horse back instructors had asked who were considered expert riders and which losers were novices. Since I fall into the novice class (but hopefully not off the horse) I raised my hand and was sent to the group on the left. Now, I happen to know that left means sinister in Latin, so I was looking for some sort of plot. Alas! It came from my expert rider husband. Off he galloped with my asthma rescue inhaler in his pocket (because I am not to be trusted with important things) and I dutifully followed the group into the humidity laden rain forest sans inhaler. Nobody had mentioned that this trail ride would include riding through a river with moss covered stones lining the bottom. We had to lift our feet with our hands behind our shanks to keep our shoes dry....which is no easy feat when you have accumulated an extra 30 pounds over the years! Having come through with flying colors (okay, dragging colors), I was pleased to make the husband proud of my tenacity. Next, we headed for a luncheon ship that opened in the forward deck to allow people to descend stairs right to the floor of the ocean .... the sting rays were delighted to see us. I really think it must have been the buckets of fish pieces that the crew dumped overboard to assure compliance of these giant creatures. The countryside is beautiful and the ocean is a color not known to me before this adventure. Azure blue with aqua patches.... Sumptuous.
The evening dinner at a kangaroo and koala farm was not to be missed. We were given handfuls of grain for the roos. I held out my hand and a kangaroo "reached out and touched someone"! She firmly grabbed my forearm with claws that appeared to be about six inches long, but I am known to exaggerate.... just a wee bit. About this time, a Joey popped his head out of her pouch and started munching on the grass below. Did you know that a roo can have two different babies in her pouch at one time with two different gestational ages? One can be similar to "Failure to Launch" and one can be very young and tiny. My first thought was that perhaps her different formulas were not just for early and late pregnancy, but instead vanilla and chocolate. The guide quickly relieved me of my happy thought. Well, I had thought it made lovely sense.
While in Cairn, we stayed at a five star hotel (way too good for our hearty peasant stock) which we enjoyed immensely, and they held a genuine Aboriginal dinner with entertainment....I didn't understand it, but it was different (as long as they don't eat white people). We were all given didgeridoos and I can blow it, since I played a euphonium in my high school band. (I don't want to hear any mutterings about how many years ago that was ... you never lose your pucker! ) The company who had paid for our trip, also paid for really great souvenirs and shipped them directly to us. Who am I to complain? The didgeridoo resides in our den and is quite a conversation piece. Our four days in Sydney were also at a five star hotel and I reveled in the great service.... that is never going to come my way again. We toured the opal factory and the opera house, but did not climb the bridge over the harbor. (This is the point, at which, old age puts in a good word for avoiding any such complaints as a heart attack or stroke.) We did go on a catamaran for an evening dinner cruise, but I had not used any
ScopeDerm Patches and could not eat due to motion sickness --- but I was a great sport and didn't barf on anyone.
We were given three seats on Quantas Airlines for the fourteen hour trip home, so we could take turns curling up for naps and that was a Godsend! The highlight of the trip was when boarding the plane for LA, one of the side evacuation doors refused to lock shut. The ground crew came aboard, took the innards out of the door, screwed it shut and taped it with duct tape for the whole fourteen hour ride home. For those of you who have ever had misgivings.... duct tape is truly the handyman's secret weapon!
My picture shows me on one of our harbor cruises in a genuine Australian woolen sweater (they confiscate your MasterCard until you fork over the money for a sweater).
So, if you get the opportunity ... go to Australia, because as my darling husband said of our 50th anniversary... "I cannot top that" and he didn't even try.

Friday, March 3, 2006

Why blame the feds for a local problem?

I wish I could find a way to make this blog red, white and blue. Something is really nagging at my innards and has been eating at me ever since last summer: specifically, ever since Katrina roared ashore in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. who or what has incurred my mental wrath?
The powerful press and media of The United States have managed to make an act of God into a blame game and are making up our minds for us with their inaccurate reporting. True, the whole hurricane was a disaster from the time it made it's way across the tip of Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico. Naturally, Florida was ready and equipped to contend with whatever catagory the storm became, but was fortunately spared the worst of the storm. As Katrina blew her way aross the Gulf, I worried and most of America worried about New Orleans, perched precariously below sea level at the mouth of the Mississippi. The winds blew, the sea raged and the waters inundated the city. Was anyone surprised? If we all have known for years that this city would flood in the event of Catagory 3 or larger hurricane, why are we all acting as though we were caught unaware? Blame must be assigned whenever something happens that we cannot get our minds around. The media have spent seven months trying to pin the tail on the top of the pyramid and work downward. The pictures during the storm, immediately after and continuing to this day are totally unbelieveable --- but there is no direction for the massive clean-up necessary. The displaced residents may never be back in New Orleans and I for one believe that despite the fact that it is an historical city, it should never be rebuilt! The figure put on the recovery is $200,000. for every person affected and what do we have to show for that money?
Why are we spending so much time trying to figure out what to do? Why are the networks trying to make a natural disaster into a political football? If we all knew that it could happen, why didn't the citizens of New Orleans have a personal plan for evacuation? Do modern day people think that someone other than themselves will be responsible for saving their skins? Katrina was wandering about in the Gulf, getting stronger and stronger and the Weather Service began to warn that this storm was going to get really nasty. What word did individuals not understand? Why didn't people with cars, trucks, busses , motorcycles or bicycles get themselves out of town to the safety of higher ground? Why didn't the mayor use those empty school busses to transport his citizens to safety, instead of letting the busses sit and be flooded in the heart of town? Why didn't the govenor ask the federal government to be prepared for disaster assistance the minute Katrina's backside was out of sight? For many months, all we have heard is that President Bush and FEMA failed to take care of this catastrophy. I understand that the federal government cannot go into a state until the govenor of that state has asked for help. But, here we are ---embroiled in the "blame game" and the mold, stentch and filth remain and are growing bigger every day. Couldn't the govenor call together a group of people to plan for the clean-up of the state, the relocation of the parts of New Orleans most likely to flood again in a hurricane and check the official accounting of the emergency funds allocated for this work? Can't we stop kicking this football around and get down to business before the next hurricane season? Is Marti Gras more important than getting this show on the road? Americans would pour into the area to help clean things up, if only the local, state and federal officials would pick up the reins and decide on a plan of attack. New Orleans and the Gulf coast need to get started on a clean-up before the next natural or terrorist disaster is upon us. People of New Orleans --- don't go back! Stay where you are and stay safe.