Monday Trip to Caloundra (again) but this time with letterboxing!

I love Mondays.

Mondays in the past involved getting up early and heading to work. When I lived in Minnesota and worked at the university, I would have meetings to look forward to (ha! who in their right mind looks forward to meetings?), student advising appointments scheduled, presentations to plan, and class prep to work on. When I moved to Iowa, I would wake up very early and drive to teach classes at 7am or 8am at area high schools or at Hawkeye or at Wartburg. And I would have spent most of my weekend grading papers, reading drafts, and doing class prep. I don’t think I enjoyed Mondays that much.

This past week, I spent Thursday through Sunday grading journals, commenting on 40 rough drafts, and prepping my classes for this week. I went to sleep on Sunday night with a headache from staring at my computer screen the day before for 10 hours straight, but then Monday was here. I was up early to do my online office hours, record my weekly video for my classes, reply to a couple emails, and grade one last draft that had come in late, but by 10:45am I had my swimsuit on under my shorts and t-shirt, towels and a book in a beach bag, some snacks and water packed, and hopped in the car to head up toward the Sunshine Coast for some quality time on the beach.

We’ve been to Caloundra before, and we loved Dicky Beach with the S.S. Dicky in ruins on the shoreline, but this time was different.

First: school holidays
This week marks the beginning of the two week school holiday. Schools go year round here, and at the end of each term students (and teachers, I imagine) are rewarded with a two week holiday. I figured that the beach would be a bit busier than it was the last time we had visited. And it was, but it really wasn’t that packed. Families were camped out on the beach with their pails and shovels, umbrellas, snacks, and surfboards. Teens were taking lifeguarding classes on the beach and were running into the water with their surfboards tucked under their arms ready to “rescue” their partner who was flailing about pretending to be in distress. But with all those people, it was quiet. The surf was loud and muffled any noises that might have been coming from the people around us. I put down by towel, lay down on my stomach, closed my eyes, and it was like I was the only one on the beach. After a while, I decided that the best thing to do would be to get in the water, get good and wet, and then come back and lay down. This involved some maneuvering.

To be completely honest, I was not wearing my full swim suit as I said I was earlier in this post. I was only wearing my swim suit top. This meant that I had to do what Aussies all over the country do: I had to somehow put my swimsuit bottoms on without letting the surf instructors next to me or the teen girls on blankets about 10 yards behind me notice. Not that they would have batted an eye at all since this is what everyone seems to do.

So I wrapped my towel around my waist, stood up, and proceeded to put on my bottoms without letting the breeze catch the towel and give, as Dan loves to refer to it, a “FREE SHOW! FREE SHOW!” to the rest of the beach.  5 second later, I was fully dressed and ready to hop in the ocean.

Dan had been in for about a half an hour already, so when I walked down to the water, he was just coming up for air after diving into yet another fantastic wave. So we let the waves crash into us for a while before I headed back to my towel and my book. I didn’t make it very far though because I was sound asleep after attempting to read the first 5 pages of the chapter. I can’t remember the last time I’ve fallen asleep on the beach.

I absolutely love Mondays.

Second: letterboxing*.
Last week while driving around Toowoomba, I found myself explaining what letterboxing is to the couple we were traveling with. They asked if there were any letterboxes near us because they were curious about what kind of clues are provided. So I opened up the app on my phone and checked. I had done this long before I even arrived in Australia, but I hadn’t gone back after we arrived. And I was shocked. There were at least 6 letterboxes in places we had already visited including Caloundra. I remembered reading the list of Australian letterboxes, but that was before I really knew the names of places near Brisbane.

So this trip to Caloundra involved hitting two letterboxes. One was located in a park at the start of Steve Irwin Way (he’s the Crocodile Hunter and he has an entire scenic highway named in his memory – that highway also has the Australia Zoo on it, which is a fantastic zoo but also costs an arm and a leg – something like $75 per person. We’re saving that for when we have family visit), and the second was in a park in the city of Caloundra. We did one box before the beach and one box after the beach.  One thing I will say about letterboxing in Australia is that it’s a little creepy to be walking through the woods/rainforest or digging around in underbrush to find a box. We had a 3-4 foot long lizard cross our path at the first letterbox (we did take a picture, but the lizard is too hard to see in it), and we had to avoid it as we kept walking down the path. 

Today as Dan and I were drinking coffee and making plans for this week, I said, “I feel so refreshed and happy. Mondays away make all the difference.” And they do. We all need at least one day off to rest and explore our surroundings. I’m so glad we take Mondays for ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong – I was sad to leave my friends and family, sad to leave my full-time job, sad to leave the familiar – but these Mondays and this move around the world has really shown me that I needed a break. After a year of teaching overload and overcommitting myself, I’m happy for this break. I think back to the move we made 8 years ago from Minnesota to Iowa, and I realise that I was in the same boat. I had been teaching on top of working a full-time job, and I was overcommitted professionally. Quitting my job and moving helped me refocus. And here I am again, loving Mondays.

-C

*Letterboxing – if you don’t know what letterboxing entails, check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letterboxing_(hobby) and http://www.letterboxing.org/ and http://www.atlasquest.com/. Also check out your phone’s app store if you want to see the apps available to help you find boxes while away from your computer.

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Monday Trip to Toowoomba (on a Tuesday)

toowoomba map

Last week instead of taking a trip on a Monday, we spent Tuesday and Wednesday in Toowoomba. This city is a rather large city and can be found at the top of a bluff overlooking the valley. It has gorgeous views, lower temperatures, and an amazing array of flowers throughout the city because they host an annual flower show.

This was really more of a work trip for Dan since we visited some church people in Ipswich and in Toowoomba, but I got to tag along, and I’m ever so glad I did.

Toowoomba is a beautiful place that I would love to visit again. It’s also one of those places that has a name I just love saying out loud: toowoomba, toowoomba, toowoomba.

-C

Monday Trip to Redcliffe – two weeks after the fact

redcliffe map

I wish I could say that I took more pictures when we took our Monday trip to Redcliffe, but in all honesty I didn’t see that much to photograph. Redcliffe is located on a peninsula about 10 minutes from where I live in Kallangur.

That peninsula pokes out into Morton Bay, and, therefore, there are beaches on all sides. However, these beaches feel like lake beaches: rockier sand, few waves, cloudier waters.

Beach at Redcliffe

We spent the day sitting on the beach reading, which was perfectly fine (although Dan prefers to swim and this was not the type of beach you really want to be swimming at).
sushi lunch in Redcliffe

One of the highlights of this trip was a visit to a little sushi place in Redcliffe that was quite popular.

Based on the line that wrapped around the building and down the block, next time we will have to check out the fish market in Scarborough on the north side of the penninsula.

-C

*I should have posted this on 9 September when we actually went to Redcliffe, but I got a little sidetracked by a stack of grading (meaning I had some grading to do and a post to make, so instead I did anything and everything I could to avoid posting and grading. My house was very clean that week).

Election Day 2013 – the most confusing post thus far

Today is Saturday. Today is also election day. Australians all over the country will be heading to their polling places to vote for their representatives up for election in the senate and the house.

But to be honest, I don’t really fully comprehend Australian politics.

Here is what I do know:

  1. Voting is compulsory. If you are an Australian citizen and are 18 or older, you are required to vote. If you don’t, they fine you.
  2. There are two major parties in Australian politics: The Labor Party and the Liberal Party. But the names confuse me. The Labor Party is basically the US Democratic Party. After living in Minnesota for so long where they refer to Democrats as the DFL party (democratic farmer labor), I guess I shouldn’t be surprised here. They believe in social justice, taxing businesses, and providing social programs for those in need. The Liberals are basically the Republican Party, but the idea of calling republicans liberals creates a stumbling block for me. They are for individual rights, fewer taxes for businesses, and added “incentives for individuals to help themselves, rather than imposing higher taxes to fund a broad social-welfare system, which [they reckon] stifles economic development.”  There is also The Green Party, which, interestingly enough, has a belief system aligned with their name. They are for a “clean economy, caring society, healthy environment.”
  3. The people do not elect the prime minister. Coming from the US, this is a hard one to wrap my mind around. I mean, Americans technically vote for a representative to the electoral college, but it still feels like you’re voting for the person himself/herself. People in Australia vote for their local/regional representative to the House of Representatives. Then the majority within the HoR gets to have their leader as prime minister.
  4. Elections are supposed to happen every three years, but they occur more often than that. Why? There are many reasons for this; however, recently there was a shake up because the party in control of the HoR is able to make changes and can decide to clean house whenever it wants. In June, Prime Minister Gillard’s supporters were not in the majority in the HoR, so there was a vote within that caucus, and she was ousted. (I should note that she was the first female prime minister in Australian history). Rudd took over (he’s been prime minister before) and declared the general election for today. Pollsters are predicting that he will lose today.
  5. Election campaigning only lasts from 30-60 days, which is really nice. We’ve only had one month of ads on tv and in our mailbox. There was also a campaign blackout the other night so there were no ads on tv at all.
  6. The government can be dissolved at any time by the Queen’s representative here in Australia – the Governor General. In 1975, the Governor General did just that.
  7. Your vote might not really go to the person you think it’s going to – this really confuses me. I’ve been consulting http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electoral_system_of_Australia#Preferential_voting and https://www.getup.org.au/campaigns/election-2013/make-your-vote-count/strange-senate-bedfellows and http://preferences.theglobalmail.org/ to try to understand what this is all about. I’m still not sure I get it.

For more information (or if you wish to be confused even more) see:

Based on my level of confusion, I’m guessing it’s probably a good thing that I can’t vote in this election.

-C

Monday Trip to Mt. Coot-tha Lookout and Botanical Garden

I’m a sucker for a good botanical garden. Last year I spent hours wandering the Brooklyn Botanical garden – once in the heat of summer and the other on a sleety, sloppy winter day – and each time it was perfect. It was the perfect escape from the city.

Monday’s trip was a great escape. It’s about a 40 minute drive from our northern suburb to Mt. Coot-tha in the south western part of greater Brisbane. We left the house around 10am to avoid the traffic.  We wandered, we had a lovely lunch at the cafe at the lookout, and we were home by 3pm.  It was the perfect way to start the week.