June 19th, 2017
My first morning in Canberra, I woke up super refreshed and ready for the day. My client site was just around the corner from the hotel so I got ready and left at 7:15 and arrived just before 7:30.
On my short walk, I noticed that there was an embassy across the street that was flying a blue and white striped flag, but it wasn’t windy so it was laying down on the flag pole. I looked around for a sign and just underneath it read URUGUAYAN EMBASSY TO AUSTRALIA. Ha! My father was born in Uruguay and its not a very big place, but the one embassy this far in to the city happened to be that one!
Also, to my absolute shock and awe, I saw a real kangaroo hop down the street in front of me. I thought it was a deer at first but then it hopped high and long. I could not believe it! It was so fast that I didn’t even have a prayer to get my camera out in time. By far the coolest thing I had seen in Australia so far.
When I arrived at work, I got some funny looks as I was in regular business attire and a small jacket. Everyone else I passed on the way and everyone inside were bundled up to the nines with heavy coats, hats, gloves, scarves, you name it. It was only about 9C outside which is just about 48F. Not a bad morning but a little chilly. This is winter for Aussies so I found it funny that they thought I was underdressed!
I had an excellent first morning with my students and we broke for tea at 10:30. I love morning tea. I am going to make sure that I bring this back to HQ in DC. We had coffee, a selection of tea available, and delicious scones with jam and cream. I was in heaven.
We went back to work and it seemed like just a moment before it was time for lunch. They have a small cafeteria onsite so we all went down to enjoy lunch together. Salads, sandwiches, and a hot food bar with the sweetest staff you can imagine! It was just what I wanted. I chose the roast pork and potatoes the first day, chicken and pineapple curry on Tuesday, honey and ginger roasted chicken on Wednesday and a chicken parma schnitty on Thursday! (I’ll get to the wonders of schnitty later on 😊 )
The afternoon was just as good as the morning, and we broke for tea again at 2:30. They sure know how to break up the workday! This time it was coffee, tea, and a fruit platter which my waistline thanked me for.
I had been invited out to dinner with some of the students who had flown in from various parts of Australia for the course and we agreed to meet at 5:30. The course ended for the day at 4, so I had just enough time to hop in an Uber and get to the Australian War Memorial while I had an hour left of daylight. I had heard so much about it and it was absolutely worth going.
The memorial is a little more centered in Canberra and it was gorgeous weather when I arrived to the top of the hill where it sits. The temperature had risen to 15C or about 60F and it was nice and sunny. The center of the museum is absolutely stunning, with an outdoor reflecting pool and the Roll of Honour which surrounds the top and has the name of the 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war over the last century.
I was advised at the front desk to move briskly through since I only had an hour and, armed with a map, I made my way around. The museum is beautifully designed and very thoughtful in how it was put together. There were a few sections: WWI, WWII, and Modern Conflicts. With only an hour, I decided to focus on the World Wars and got to see them from the perspective of Australia and their involvement which was a really neat point of view. There was an entire area on aircrafts and old planes hung up on the ceilings. Tons of artifacts and exhibits showed old Nazi and Japanese items that had been preserved. There were videos projected in certain spots, a voiceover track with audio of bombings and stories from the wars playing softly if you wanted to listen to them. I really enjoyed what I had time to see although I could have spent hours and hours there if I had the chance.
Even though I only had an hour to look around, I actually came at a perfect time as there is a Last Post Ceremony that happens at the small reflecting pool at the close of the museum each day. The sun was just setting and the scene was just lovely. There were a few school groups on a tour of the museum and they had lined the reflecting pool politely to watch the ceremony. I found a spot at the top of the stairs near the Roll of Honour and had a nice view. While I waited for the Last Post to begin, I spent some time looking at the names of the fallen etched in to the wall. There were small, bright, crimson poppy flowers tucked in next to each name, and the effect of seeing all of them together was stunning.
The Last Post Ceremony happens at the close of each day. It began with the Australian National Anthem and everyone sang it softly. Then a serviceman played a somber melody on the bagpipes which echoed throughout. There were a few chosen children from each school group that held wreaths of flowers to place along the reflecting pool in remembrance, as well as relatives of one of the fallen soldiers. After the flowers were placed, a serviceman told the story of one the fallen soldier who had fought in WWII. The ceremony ended with the Ode, short and somber, honoring all who have served their last post.
It really was a lovely way to end the visit. I went back outside to the front where the sun was almost set and took a few pictures of Canberra from the hill with Parliament House in the distance. There were TONS of cockatoos all around, enormous and very, very loud, that were entertaining to watch as I called for my Uber back to the hotel.
Back at the hotel, I dropped my work bag and changed my shoes (my poor feet were still in heels after standing for 13 hours!) and went back to meet my students for dinner. We had a few beers to start and then walked over to Kingston Foreshore, the area by the water I went with my colleague the first day, to pick a spot to eat. They were a super sweet and lively bunch which made dinner such a fun evening! We chose a Thai restaurant called Chong Co and had a few more beers and some really tasty food. The conversation quickly turned to how many weeks of vacation we all had (they get 6 standard with their jobs) and healthcare (of which they loved to poke fun at how much we had to pay) but it was truly all in good fun and I laughed and laughed the entire night!
We walked home in the “cold Australian winter” (it was about 5C outside, or 40F) and I made it back to my hotel happy and full.
Still no jet lag for me! “Wait until the second night”, they said.
June 20th, 2017
I slept beautifully Monday night and woke up refreshed on Tuesday. What was that they said about jet lag? Nothing for me!
Tuesday went similarly to Monday with an abundance of scones, a warm lunch, and fruit for tea in the afternoon. This was the end of my first course so my students hugged and smiled and said goodbye at the end of the day to catch their flights back to their various cities.
My colleague Nick invited me to dinner that evening with his partner, Ale, and their daughter Rafaela who had just turned one the weekend before. We agreed they would pop round my hotel at 6 and grab some dinner.
Between work and dinner, I caught up on some emails and watched an episode or two of MasterChef Australia (which is excellent), relaxed, and was ready to go.
Nick chose a restaurant in nearby Barton for dinner called Maddies at the Kinsgston Hotel, but more commonly known as the “Kingo”. It was a short drive but little Rafela and I became fast friends in the car. She is the same age as my niece, Eva, and was smiley and giggly just as Eva is.
We started with a few beers and Rafaela equally enjoyed eating the chips we had ordered and tossing them on the ground. But she was overall extremely well behaved and a lot of entertainment throughout the meal. There was a footy match on TV just over her shoulder so her eye was caught by the striking green of the grass on the screen, but throwing chips was even more fun!
Nick introduced me to the wonders of “schnitty”, or schnitzel, at the Kingo. Ale, his partner, is from Chile and she likened it to a milanesa which we eat all the time in Uruguay. I have had schnitzel many times in many countries but this was THE schnitzel, apparently! There are also a slew of different sauces to choose from. During this small lesson on Australian food, Nick also told me that Aussies shorten everything that they say—footy, shnitty, avo, Kingo… lots of examples during the evening. But the shnitty I wanted to order had the best name of all: the Chicky Chicky Parm Parm! It came with a salad and chips. And it was really, really, really good.
Rafaela, in her tiny, springy, pig tails, was smiling and laughing throughout the meal. At the end, she started to get a little restless so Nick popped her out of her chair and off she went! She is definitely mobile—able to walk and even toddle in to a run! The Kingo was a perfect spot for kids as it was a casual restaurant/bar with a fireplace, some couches, and lots of tables, so Rafaela was not in the way. She enjoyed being chased after and made a load of friends in her travels through the tables!
We made our way back home and Nick dropped me at my hotel. I was properly tired and tucked in to bed shortly after. I’d call that a great couple days in Canberra so far!