Thursday, April 5, 2007

travel log part 1

it is good to be in sydney. over the last 36 hours and 1,000 km, we've had a wonderful time traveling. isaac was patient and relatively still in the car, and he only asked 16 times if we were in sydney yet (this started on the outskirts of melbourne). we stopped in wodonga for a delicious, homemade morning tea of scones, jam and cream and a short but sweet visit with grandma and georgie and two of geoff's cousins - shari and kelly. shari has 3-month old twin boys and kelly has two girls, age three and one. as always, it is encouraging to see four generations in one room.

late afternoon, we pulled into canberra - the well-planned and organized capital city of australia. we stayed in walking distance of the parliment house in the area of government buidlings such as the high court and national museum. the visitors center informed us we were staying in a very hip part of town. three blocks from our unit was a delightful street of cafes, restaurants and boutiques. after considering several tempting options, we enjoyed dinner at a mexican restaurant and it was quite good.

this morning, we rose early (especially since we all went to bed at 8 p.m.). geoff and i heard isaac in the other room with kath say "grandma, is it a beautiful day?" this at 6:15 a.m. we had breakfast at a sidewalk cafe - croissants and quiches - and isaac asked if we were in paris. afterward, we went up to parliment house for a free tour. the tour guide was exceptionally good and i learned so much of the government structure and of the design of the building.

this building was just completed in 1988. the architects planned it in such a way that all entrances (including the prime minister's at the back) are equal in stature and the building itself is below ground in order that it does not stand any above any other - this is so australian. it was fantastic to see this laudable characteristic of australian culture - equality and fairness at all costs - manifest in the design of such a significant building. the interior managed to be stunning and understated at the same time. the lobby was comprised of marble from rome, portugal and belgium. the "great room" - for balls and such - was made of native lumber and it was glorious. the tour guide informed us that anyone can rent this grand space - in the heart of the parliment building - for events such as weddding receptions or high school formals. this is the space they entertain visiting dignitaries and heads of state. again, the persistent egalitarianism of this culture. it was impressive to tour the seat of legislation and even more so to be told that 98.6% of australians vote (it is compulsory), but still, that's astounding to american ears.

our remaining trip between canberrra and sydney only took 2 1/2 hours. the remarkable part of this trip was the transformation of the landscape as we moved northeast through new south wales. because of this unprecented drought (seven years running), the state of victoria looked devastating. we passed hundreds of kilometers of barren pasture, brown and suffering. the paddocks were marked with dry creek beds that looked like scars across the land. dead gum trees were scattered like carcasses. it was terrible to behold. but as we crossed the great dividing range, the hills opened up to such fresh and vivid green it hurt our eyes. it was as if we were in a different country all togther. it's not that new south wales hasn't also suffered from the effects of the drought, it was just so dramatically different. as a visitor, i felt a bit like i was passing through a funeral of someone i didn't know. i was humbled by the sense of mourning i felt, but i can't claim any attachment to the land, any right to be sad. we just continue to hope the weather changes as they predict the end of el nino's grip on this place.

it is good to be in sydney. tonight we enjoyed the famous biryani of chris' mum and sat around the table as a family and had a laugh.

see our photos on the flickr site.

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