12 January 2008

Good to be Home

My Niece, KamiAfter nearly 4 months out of the country, I arrived home just in time for Christmas. As much as I enjoy traveling to new countries, tasting new foods, and experiencing new cultures, there's nothing that makes me happier than finally coming home...

My travel companionI even had Chris to keep me company on the long flight home, since he had met me in Australia. I have to say, everything from flight delays and long layovers, to filing lost luggage claims after being awake for nearly 24 hours, is significantly more tolerable when you're traveling with someone you love.

Me, searching for arrowheadsWe spent Christmas day at my parents' farm in Farmington, Missouri. It was nice to spend time with the family after so many months away. After lunch, a few of us went searching for old Indian arrowheads in a nearby farmer's field that had recently been plowed for the first time in 100 years. My brother and sister had found more than 50 arrowheads and 300+ pieces of arrowhead in recent weeks. I found nothing.

My dad & brother, searching for arrowheadsSince I had taken two weeks off in Australia, I had a little work to do between Christmas and New Year. It was only a few short days, working from home, spending my lunch breaks with Chris (his photo studio is only a few blocks away). I even convinced him to play hookey with me one afternoon so we could catch the matinee show at the cinema.

A few days later we celebrated Christmas a second time, this time with my in-laws, and then spent New Year's Eve with some good friends we hadn't seen in a while. By the time the new year began, I had completely recovered from the intense work and travel schedule of 2007. I'm now refreshed, re-energized and ready to take on the world in 2008.

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05 January 2008

Taste of the Australian Bush

Old ADI SiteAfter more than 10 days in Australia, I was disappointed that we hadn't seen any kangaroos in the wild. I was determined to find one but was quickly running out of time and out of ideas...

I reached out to one of the Aussies I had met in Beijing, the mayor of a Shire Grey Kangaroonear Sydney, to see if he had any ideas. As it happens, he knew the mayor of a town called Penrith, where there were almost 4000 acres of former defense land practically overrun with kangaroos. He made a few calls and got Chris and me a private tour.

Red KangarooIn Australia, millions of fast-breeding kangaroos are culled each year, just to keep the population under control. However, there was a huge uproar from the local community at the thought of harming a single kangaroo in the protected bushland of the old ADI site.

Joey in the BushIn the end, the development company that bought the land agreed to an expensive sterilization and maintenance program which would allow the kangaroos to live out their natural lives. Since then, there have been seasons so dry that the the land couldn't support all the kangaroos and the company had to initiate supplemental feeding programs.

EmuIt was a rare treat to get access to this beautiful bushland. In the 30 minutes we spent driving around, we saw at least 30-40 Red and Grey kangaroos and joeys, and 4 emus. It's a shame the community is trying to block public access to the big portion of land that will be turned over to the state as a nature reserve.

EmuI should admit that my experience in the old ADI bushland wasn't my first taste of wild kangaroos. The night before, Chris and I had dined on kangaroo and emu at an unconventional restaurant in Melbourne specializing in The perfect dessertgourmet bush tucker. It turned out to be a great restaurant with too many interesting dishes to try in one meal.

KangarooAlthough kangaroo was on the menu all over Australia, the Tjanabi restaurant in Melbourne was the only one we found that knew how to cook it carefully enough to avoid drying out the extremely lean meat.

Even when cooked properly, kangaroo has too strong of a wild game flavor for me, a bit like venison. I preferred the emu.

Coat of Arms of AustraliaThose of you heartbroken at the thought of eating Skippy, or appalled that Chris and I could eat our way through the Australian Coat of Arms, will be happy to know that I don't plan to make it a habit.
Of all the lovable and cuddly creatures that found their way to my plate in 2007, Rudolph is the only one I still crave.

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01 January 2008

Visiting Melbourne

MelbourneAlthough it rained quite a bit while we were in Melbourne, most days it was sunny long enough for us to take an afternoon stroll through a flower garden or park, or sit outside for lunch...

MelbourneThere were also a number of museums and galleries around town, most of which were free. We really enjoyed the NGV art museum.

Most of all, we loved the food in Melbourne. Unlike in Sydney, where we had to do a lot of research and go out of our way to find any decent food, great food seemed to be everywhere in Melbourne.

One afternoon, we happened upon a lovely street full of interesting little European-style cafes, with outdoor seating under a canopy. The next day for lunch, we found a small Greek restaurant that served freshly prepared dishes that were as unusual as they were delicious.

MelbourneOne evening for dinner, based on a recommendation from a colleague, we tried an unexpectedly good Italian place. The dining room was small, and it looked like it hadn't been redecorated in at least 50 years. There were no menus, only a chalkboard on the wall with a list of dishes in Italian, with no descriptions or prices. However, the food was amazing...and cheap!

Click here for more pictures of Melbourne.


---Here are a few of our favorite restaurants in Australia---

MELBOURNE

Greek Restaurant in MelbournePure South. Interesting natural ingredients, sourced from Tasmania. Unbelievably fresh oysters and perfectly cooked fish.

Waiters Restaurant. Unexpectedly great, cheap food.

Tsindos Greek Restaurant. Delicious food, interesting menu.

For a light lunch, try one of the many cafes on Degraves Street near the Flinders train station.

SYDNEY
Shiki Japanese Restaurant. Excellent fresh sushi.

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