Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Oh you little devil.

And now that we’ve enjoyed that little interlude, back to episodes in patting animals.  (seriously it really is all we do here.)

Alyssa wanted to take a trip to a ‘different’ part of Australia and we decided on heading to Tasmania.  (<--wishing it was really like that) Mostly there was this sweet Tasmanian devil conservation park we wanted to check out. 

There is just one tiny issue with Tassie that was going to become apparent.  We were going to have to drive.  Since we’ve come here, I’ve tried to avoid it.  I mean, driving on the opposite (note: not wrong) side of the road messes with your head a little bit. The public transport in Victoria pretty much gets us anywhere we want to go (even if the schedule takes some getting used to) so, I haven’t had to try it.  But since Tasmania is quaint, and has like…a bus….we thought we’ll just rent a car! 

I’m going to give a shout out to Tasmania right now for the fact that it’s like driving in farmland Connecticut.  Basically no one else is on the road, and it’s a good introduction into driving on the opposite side of the road.  Even though I had to constantly remind myself at stop lights “STAY TO THE LEFT!”  

"To the left, to the left..."

"Everybody drive your cars on the left" ~Beyonce

I will give the Devil Sanctuary credit, for what it lacked in ambiance, it made up for in awesome experience.  First of all, we got to feed (terrifying) kangaroos.  I think something I should confess at this point, is even though I really like cuddling animals, I am pretty much terrified of everything.  Here’s something they don’t teach you in the states, kangaroos have CLAWS.

Big.  Effing.  Claws.
One time I went to Japan.  In Japan, I went to Nara.  At Nara there is the worlds biggest buddah located inside a deer park.  But this story is not about the worlds biggest buddah and best spiritual experience of my life.  No, this story is about the deer.  In Nara Deer Park, you can feed the adorable little deer some deer crackers.  Then you have this conversation:

Oh joy!  They are eating out of my hands.  I am communing with nature!  (Is it due to my indian princess name of Leaping Deer?  PROBABLY!)  Oh wait, that deer is getting a little bit frisky.  Sorry, deer, I don’t have any more crackers for you, silly!  Oh god, why isnt’ that stopping you??  WHY ARE YOU BITING ME?  Enter in me punching a deer in the face until it let go of my body.

So really, it’s a story of how I punched a deer in the face.

Why isn't this at the entrance...?

I surrender.

Japan, so helpful about other things, neglected to put the ‘dangerous deer’ signs until AFTER the deer section of the park.  I am still completely traumatized by hoof-stock.  

So while feeding the kangaroos, I was having ptsd style flashbacks about getting bitten by a deer in Japan.  You will notice that I am making a fist.  Ready to punch a kangaroo?  Who knows.  Thankfully, the deer were mostly nice and I didn’t have to resort to punching animals out of pure unadulterated terror.  

I may punch this kangaroo at any moment.

Next, (and much less frightening for me) we got to see devils eating.  And for those of you who don’t know much about them, they are scavengers.  But unlike some scavengers you might think of in the states (like a vulture) they eat everything.  I mean ev-er-y-thing.  Bones, meat, hair, cartilage, the whole enchilada.  (or wallaby if you’d prefer because that’s what they’re eating). 

Just in case you don’t believe me, here’s a video.  And if you’re squeamish or anything, don’t watch. 

Yeah.  Those are BONES crunching you hear.  Epic.

As you can hear the guy (craig, as we would later come to learn) explaining, these little guys have a very sad epidemic in the wild, a face cancer that’s contagious.  And since these little guys come together to eat and often get in scraps while trying to devour dead animals, they cancer spreads devil to devil.  Anyway, if you’re looking for a good cause to get behind, keep that one in mind.

Digression over.

Although the video above demonstrates how awesome they are at eating, it doesn’t really give you the noises that earn them their name.  Here you go.  You’re welcome.

More disturbing than a devil eating (you look at them and say okay, that's a carnivore) is watching the quolls eat.  Here’s a picture of a quoll.

Oh, goodness! You sure can little one!
 Awww, it’s like an Australian squirrel!  It’s so cute and fuzzy!  Look at your little face.

NOOOOOOO!!!!!  WHAT THE WHAT?  That’s like if you had a baby and it was a cannibal.  (well, maybe not....)  But something that innocent looking should not seeking out meat and crunching on bones.

Since Craig was pretty much running the show here today, he also was in charge of the bird show.  The birds were all rescues, which was cool, and mostly they were all raptors, which makes me less scared than those of the seed eating variety.  (I have no idea why, don’t try to figure out how my brain works…..)  We also met Kermit.

 Kermit is a frog mouth. 

Hi Kermit.

Kermit lives in a tree in the sanctuary.  Kermit can’t fly so he literally just hangs out on his branch in the sanctuary all day long.  And you can totally pat him because Kermit does not care.  Kermit likes a nice pat.

Imagine if you will, the softest thing you have ever touched.  Multiply that by a cloud and add in a unicorn for good measure.  That’s how soft Kermit is.

I want to make him my new, living hat. 
I am literally saying in this picture, OHMYGOD SO SOFT.  I could have sat there and patted him forever.  Or put him in my backpack and taken him home.  He’s like an owl but better.  There, I said it.

After the sanctuary, we decided to check out the sites in Tasmania.  Since it was stormy, it was hard to go on a walk, so we just stopped at the sites that we could get to with a 5 minute return, if not shorter.  Tasmiania is breath taking.  Pictures don’t do it justice, but here’s a few anyway.

The Southern Ocean

Pirates Cove, not just for Mini Golf

The Blowhole

Devil's Kitchen

The Tasman Arch

Aight Rain, you're not so bad. 

We headed back to the hotel, actually found a restaurant that Alyssa could eat at, and then called it a night.

The next day we had all the greatest intentions of heading to Mount Wellington to survey Hobart.  But the GPS decided to send us up a private mountain road, (that read ‘no access to mount wellington’, thanks stupid gps) and after like an hour of driving around the hills of the Hobart surrounds, we just headed to the Cadbury factory.

The Cadbury factory does not do tours.  It does a video.  This is completely okay by me because when you enter they give you a giant candy bar and I also like sitting down. Then they give you MORE free candy while you’re watching the movie.  And if you say you like white chocolate (like me) you get more still.  (oh, I hear you out there, stop hating on white chocolate, it’s good.)  After that, they let you in the factory store where you can buy candy for ½ price.  So we ended up with a bag full of candy.  No big deal.  I will have candy for all eternity!

I ate them in the wrappers.
Since this was ‘indulgent day’ we hit up a cheese factory, and then some wineries.  Things I have learned about Alyssa:  Alyssa does not drink wine like I drink wine.  I drink mostly all wines.  Alyssa like sweet whites.  Things I should pay attention to.  So basically I went wine tasting.  It’s cool.  I did buy some wine for the trip home.  This to be important later.

We tried to find something to eat, got a snack and then headed back to the airport.  The adorable airport in the CAPTIAL city of Tasmania has you all walking out on the tarmac, and being a cute little airport (TINIER than TF Green in Lil Rhody)  

Uh, thank you?
Now, think back to like…the early 90’s.  And you’re taking a flight, or meeting someone at the airport.  And you could go to the gate.  Or sit with them until their flight comes.  That’s pretty much interstate travel here in Australia.  Now at the vineyard, they told me I could bring the wine as my carryon.  Read it again:  Carry.  On.  So naturally, as a US citizen who has done most of her traveling post new flight laws, this is baffling.  You cannot bring anything over 3 oz of liquid on a US flight.  So of course I had to check this once we went to the airport at the check in counter as well.  Again, the employee from Jetstar confirmed that yes, traveling interstate I can bring wine as a carry on.

So from here we head over to ‘security’.  Alyssa goes through first (and you get to leave your shoes and coat on and EVERYTHING) and I’m next.  The security officer looks in my bag and sees the wine.

Officer:  What’s this?
Me: (nervously) It’s a few bottles of wine….
Officer:  You can’t bring this on the plane.
Me: (Stammering)  B-b-but, the woman at the Jetstar desk said I could….
Officer: Well I’m telling you, you can’t.

I am in such a state of panic now that I’m not even paying attention.  I am thinking, is it too late to get our checked bags back to put the wine in?  Can I get another bag to check?  Will the bottles break, they’re just in a bag…?  Shawn, who is behind me, notices the officer and says

Shawn: Not unless we share it with you, right?
Officer: BINGO! 

I start laughing, and I’m like mister, you almost gave me a heart attack!!  (and truthfully my heart is pounding in my chest at this point.)  I had to explain to him, there’s no joking with airport security in the states. 

I like that it’s like a different world down here, where traveling within the country is so relaxed and calm.  It’s quite a change, but a pleasant one, so for anyone who visits us and does any traveling through Australia, know you can leave your little quart sized baggies at home, at least while you’re with us.

Even though it was only a quick two day trip, I cannot wait to go back to Tassie.  It’s quite and peaceful there, and the people are so very laid back.  There’s a penal colony there I’d like to take my dad to, which now sounds like I want to imprison him.  Well…it’s true he DID just spend several weeks in Antigua without me, so maybe I do afterall….

Next episode:  wrapping up with Alyssa, penguins and tour guides, and oh yeah, that ghost I saw.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Guest Blogger: Shawn!

Well, isn't this a treat?  Today we've got a guest blogger, my husband Shawn.  We have likened this situation to Family Circus Cartoons where little Billy takes over for his Dad.  And now that I've compared my blog to a Family Circus cartoon....I think it's definately time to hand this over to Shawn:

I am fairly confident in my assumption that not a lot of you dear readers who come to this blog have ever played a lot of Fantasy Sports. No I am not talking about Unicorn Horseshoes or the like, but the yearly male obsession (and sometimes female) of combining sports, numerous stats and overly complicated math formulas, all coming together to form into the new age pissing contest.  Doesn’t fit me at all right?
                Right, so the point is that this genre has helped produced one of my favorite (and easiest to write) styles. This is the almighty list of list, and in most cases a top 10 best list. Pretty simple to understand, I write lists, with tens things each, you then read them.
                As today, Monday, August 20th 2012 is the 1st of what will be many anniversaries with my beautiful wife, your down under blogger Devon,  have themed these lists around her. Some, of course have nothing to do with anything really, but that’s just because sometimes I can’t even form complete sentences let alone a whole list. Onward then.
                Devon’s Top 10 Favorite Sports Athletes (at least from my perspective in no particular order)
1.       Eli Manning
2.       Peyton Manning
3.       Cooper Manning
4.       Tom Brady
5.       Dhani Jones
6.       Felix Pie
7.       Nick Markakis
8.       Reggie Miller
9.       Baby Daisuke
10.   Albert Pooooooholes (Spelled Phonetically)

What is fun to note is that I have thrown in someone who absolutely is NOT a favorite of my wife’s. It’s like the old Sesame Street segment “One of these things is not like the other."

These were always super hard as a kid…. ok they are super hard now, forget age at all. I mean who would have guessed that the guy in the upper right hand corner is not a ukelele owning hipster and is in fact doing the wrong thing? We all learned in school, pretending to be something you’re not is wrong. I mean the skullcap does its best to hide the truth, but let's look closer shall we. Notice the Abercrombie and Fitch shirt?? How about the  Orangy- Brown covered walls…does he honestly look like he knows that colors Pantone number?? Didn’t think so. The other 3 are clear. Who shoots themselves playing a ukulele in black and white? Whose artistic expression is verse through a stunning interpretation of deconstructed ukulele? And the third guy is clearly in his old room back at mom’s house and pushing 30 (don’t judge he’s saving money to produce his indie film based on a struggling actor whose latest role is about a down on his luck writer, writing a screen play about of a penniless ukelele player...also thanks mom for letting me live at home after college)

Wow, barely even into the lists and I am already pretty fired up. Interestingly enough I have always had this innate ability to get WAY too excited for absolutely no reason. When I have reason to be excited, well sometimes…it’s the exact opposite. For those that witnessed my birthday at tiny house, I am still apologizing for not jumping out of my pants at swimming with a shark, stone-faced ftw.  Exsists though a medium that without fail gets me uber excited, and with draws the ire of my wife.
Top 10 Disney Channel Original Movies in order of how fired up I get.
1.       Jump In
2.       Going to the Mat
3.       Luck of the Irish
4.       Starstruck
5.       Lemonade Mouth
6.       Eddie’s Million dollar cook off
7.       Minutemen
8.       Motocrossed
9.       Hatching Pete
10.   Now you see it…

( Author’s note:  My favorite movie on here hands down is Luck of the Irish. Go see it now if you haven’t. Don’t even finish reading this, run out now, see it and come back, I’ll still be here. There don't you feel better.)

I don't think she understands...could she have been born without heartstrings too be tugged at??(alright in all fairness the roles here are reversed....she gets very emotional at certain movies, which is really cute. I on the other hand become a weepy pile only when Artax is taken by the Swamp of Sadness.....why are you so sad Artax....and I'm crying..see easy peasy)

I am fairly certain though that my knowledge of "the classics" is what escalated me to the forefront of all the suitors that would come to call on Devon. I mean she did graduate with a degree in film so it only makes sense that she would fall madly and unexplainably in love with a film connoisseur like myself. 

So Devon has made most of her blogs about the escapades of Australia. Apparently the general consensus is that all we do is look/pat/snuggle/photograph animals. It is a passion of ours, and as such we spend a good amount of time debating the wonders of australian animals

Top 10 Australian animals 

1. Wombat
2. Wombat
3. Wombat
4. Wombat
5. 2 Wombats ( Lower on the list because its hard to give equal affection to both)
6. Wombat
7. Wombat
8. Wombat
9. Wombat
10. Tasmanian Devils

Yeah I am sure you thought they would all be wombat, but you gotta give some love to the tazzy (for real, they need the love)  I really don't know how to explain this any better. You've seen the photos.

I am willing to testify that they are the cutest things ever.....well except for maybe.....

See what I almost did there. I thought about adding lots of pictures of Devon and I but lets be honest with each other. Much cuter in person anyway. Plus I think we have one total picture of us that one of the two of us doesn't look like a total goober.Besides you have plenty of blog reading time left before we leave Australia, I will make sure it is spent looking at me and her, doing stuff, looking awesome. your welcome.

Alright so while I like lists and all and this has been fun there is a specific reason that I wanted to hijack Devon's blog. 

Top to Reason's why I love Devon (Reverse style cause I am tricky)

10. Everything is fair game for a random song
9. All the little light bulb moments.....Friend-z eh?
8.Her sense of justice, or better yet willingness to stand up against  injustice
7.Having a great partner for Halloween costume duo's
6. Professor, Morgif, Reverend Duck, Lumpy and all the other Stuffy Crew
5.Her willingness to let me win every single video game (and letting me to use toadette)
4.Allowing me to be a huge dork, and not making me sleep on the couch for it
3.She's funny...i guess...sometimes...well to me at least
2.Her love of animals....most specifically our boys C&R...we miss you guys
1.Her ability to make always me happy....nobody does it better, ever....Happy anniversary muffin, first of a million together. All my love.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Dingoin' out of my mind.

There is something to be said about Australia's willingness to let you touch its' native animals at completely legitimate zoological establishments.  It's like the country got together and had a nice chat about it.  "Our animals are excellent and unique, right?  We should totally let people touch them"

Then they broke for tea and bikkies.  (Seriously, this is one of my favorite things about Australia...and maybe it was really me just breaking for tea and bikkies....)

Coming from years of volunteering at a zoo in the states and through our travels around zoos in the US, I can say that something that I always felt was lacking was animal encounter opportunities.  Honestly, who doesn't want to have a cuddle or some pats with an animal?  And guess what?  Seeing animals in captivity is one thing, but touching and having an experience with that animals is on an entirely different level. It makes you care more.  It means something.  Even if it's just with say...a bird.  A scary, scary bird.

Ironically wearing an owl hat.
No?  No one else feels me on that one?  Birds are frightening.  AND LOOK AT THEM.  First off, they are very nearly forming a pack there on my arm.  Secondly, and if I remember my docent training correctly, birds are like sharks and are prone to feeding frenzies in which they are indiscriminate in their killing.*

Anyway, enough of my bird-terrors animal-loving, conservation rant.

Besides Healsville making you think twice about using too much toilet paper....

She works out.

...petting their animals is as. cool.  as.  all.  get.  out.  So when Alyssa booked her trip, the literal first thing I did (besides squeals of joy for a visitor from home) was immediately start planning our return trip to the Healsville Sanctuary for as many animal pats as the day would allow.

Weeks earlier through my zoo membership magazine, I learned that Healsville is now offering echidna pats.  Maybe some of you don't know what an enkidna is.  (unless you've played sonic and knuckles.  hint: he's not sonic.  sonic is the hedgehog.  and no, it's not the two tailed fox either.  it's the red guy.)

Natural habitat of the Echidna, note it's natural predator the...uh, robot fish?  And yes, this is actually what Australia looks like, ocean, palm trees and golden coins floating in the air.  Squint and you can see my apartment in the background.
To be fair, if you didn't know what an echidna was, blogger doesn't even seem to know what it is either, because it keeps encouraging me to change it to enchilada.  So get your learnin' caps on kids: An Echidna is one of the three egg laying mammals, along with platypus and me.  What?  You're trying to say laying eggs wouldn't be easier than live births?  All the incubation takes place outside of the body.  Count me in.  THIS IS GOING TO HAPPEN.

But I digress with dreams of being a dinosaur (I've got the t-rex arms down....)

When I called to book a formerly-baby-now-juvenile wombat encounter for Shawn and Alyssa, they informed me that they were only taking reservations for echidnas on the day of due to the fact that they tend to be the devon of animals temperamental.  So I just booked the wombats and figured we could book more on the day as time and desire would allow.

Thankfully this time around I had the super powers of SEABANDS!  which prevented me from feeling vomitious on the bus ride to Healsville.  And when we got there, we decided to book dingoes for all three of us AND put down for a tentative enchidna enounter for me and alyssa.

First we wandered around the saaaannnccctttuuuuuaarrrryyyy (say it like the hunchback) a bit while we waited for dingoes.  We ate some Vegemite sandwich and saw the bird show, and at the end there was a man of indigenous decent who threw boomerangs (I raised my hand when he asked who wanted the boomerang, but go figure, some adorable child got it, though originally he was looking for a blonde 30 year old) and played the didgeridoo.

 After that, it was time for dingoes.

Before we continue, I'm going to lay down some ground rules.
1) No "dingo ate my baby" jokes.  C'mon you guys are above that.  And besides, it really did eat her baby and babies eaten by wild animals is very sad.
2)  Seriously.  Get them out of your system before moving on.
3) I mean it.

okay? okay.  Everyone just thinks of dingoes as dogs.  But I can say, dingoes are NOT dogs.  They are more awesome than dogs.  They are like cats.  Here's some fun facts about dingoes.

Unlike dogs, dingoes are NOT food motivated and certainly don't do things just to please you.  They do things when they want and if they want.  (Yay!  Cat dogs!)

Unlike dogs, who can just move their paws up and down, dingoes can move their paws like we can move our hands, in all directions.  Making it tricky to keep them in an enclosure with a latch on it.

Because unlike some breeds of dogs....


The encounter started out by just sort of letting them get used to us and then we got to take photos by them.  At this point, the adorable dingoes started to give us kisses.  It was, hands down, so far my favorite animal encounter.  EVER. 

Pro Tip:  When you're in an animal encounter and someone asks you if you'd like to go again, don't look about your group like, oh that person would probably like another picture with the animal.  NO.  Immediately volunteer.  Then you get a picture of just you with the animal AND bonus, more kisses if you're with the dingoes.  That right there is worth any scorn from anyone who didn't speak up.

After that we immediately went over to the echidna encounter.  The echidna is another smart animal, because unlike stupid humans, it doesn't like to come out of it's burrow when it's stormy out. (side note: I need a burrow) Thankfully, this little girl was able to be coaxed out of her burrow for what was essentially some insectivore mash, aka mushed up insects and meat.  YURM!  She was completely adorable and since it was just me and Alyssa (with Shawn peering over the side of the enclosure...we were fast friends with the zoo encounter employee at this point) we got to spend lots of time with the little one.  Although they have spikes, they're still pretty soft and unlike say...a porcupine, they can't lose those spines.  I still owe Kendra an encounter with one for her birthday, so I'm excited to be able to do it again.

We ALSO spent some time in the wild bird enclosure where you get to hand feed birds.  And they fly around you and sit on you and really consider pecking out your eyes.  Generally, reliving it makes me feel nervous.

After that, we headed over to the wombat area where Shawn and Alyssa were going to have an encounter with the juvenile wombats.  I sat quietly watching the Tasmanian Devils run amok in their enclosure.  I'd like to say I had a nice chat with a docent that wandered in, but it wasn't a nice chat at all.  She was just complaining that it had been raining.  Another note to zoo volunteers, I'm not there to listen to you complain, so if you can't give me a fun fact about Tasmanian devils, please just keep on moving.

In closing, I present to you a really amazing montage.  Now, I know after seeing this you'll all be like, devon, whyyyyy did you give up on such a promising film career??!!  And then you will shed some tears for all that the world has lost.  (god, i miss my macintosh......)

*yeah, that is completely untrue.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

She's a Rainaic.

You've been holding back on me, United States.  All these years, you've been telling me lies and it's only just now that I've moved to Australia that I've been able to figure it out.

Let me give you a typical scenario:  it's the 4th of July.  It's RAINING (it does that) and oops, the fireworks are cancelled because you can't have fireworks in the rain.  I mean that's what they tell us right?  and you think one of two things:

1) "well naturally you can't have fireworks in the rain, how would you light the wicks?" (conveniently forgetting these things are all remote controlled now a days)
2) "well, naturally you can't have fireworks in the rain, how would you see the fireworks with all the clouds?" (conveniently forgetting CLOUDS ARE UP REALLY HIGH.)

but year after year, storm after storm, we believe that you simply cannot shoot off fireworks in the rain.  because that is what we've been told.

Well, prepare to have your world shattered as i present to you....fireworks.  IN THE RAIN!

okay, i'll let you in on a little secret.  I get it, US. Even though you CAN have fireworks in the rain, maybe it's not something that most people would really go for.  At least not in the winter.  It's cold.  And wet.  But it DOES make the fireworks look really neat.  So perhaps under a covering?  But in Australia's defense, they can really only shoot of fireworks in the winter, because in the summer, there's pretty much a total fire-ban because of all the wildfires.  Even though fireworks are awesome, burning down your entire countryside is decidedly not. 

Because Melbourne is tryin' real hard to get people on board with coming here in the wintertime (where it's really more like winter-light, than anything a new englander would be used to) they had a neat little thing at the docklands every Friday in July.  The docklands is a little baby waterfront, with some shops, a broken down ferris wheels (I make it sound so glam, right?) and some sick apartments.

View of the city from my future apartment

Since I had to work mostly every day while alyssa was here, i was trying to come up with night time activities (which are often few and far between if you're not planning on hitting up the pub)  So we thought this might be nice.  I hadn't really gotten to do much with Alyssa since she arrived on Thursday, but we did grab dinner in the city on Wednesday and she and Shawn hit up the zoo on Thursday while I was at work.  During the fireworks however, I'm not sure we assumed it would torrential downpour but with several umbrellas, we sort of made the most of it.  After all, if the street performers could withstand it without umbrellas (ellas ellas ellas), who am I to complain?

Hangin with Dame Edna.
Shawn warming himself like a hobo at a restaurant

After the fireworks, we headed to the casino for a nice dinner (an interesting journey in itself since they stopped running our tram, and upon taking another one had a bit of difficulty viewing the landmarks because the windows were so fogged up)  Dinner wasn't too bad, and the next day we were headed to Healesville Sanctuary for animal encounters.

waterlogged and starving

waiting for carbs.

*i cannot help that these videos only contain stereotypical Aussie songs.