Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

The Penguin Parade

December 10, 2009

        Besides announcing writing contests and workshops, a reader reminded me that I said I’d write more about our trip to Australia.  Remember to use your own life  in writing too, if you are a student, a teacher, or a writer. 

        The most amazing experience on our trip that we had was on Phillip Island. Located Southeast of Melbourne and North of Tasmania, it’s the home of the famous Penguin Parade, where at dusk, hundreds upon hundreds of little penguins come out from the sea to bed down for the night in their on-land burrows.

       People sit on bleachers on the beach while we wait for the small penguins to arrive. We’ve been told that penguins are creatures of habit. The first time they make their way from the water to their new burrow will be the path they use every single time from then on.

       When the penguins come up from the sea, a few seagulls swoop down and scare them off. They chase them back to the water, but more penguins arrive, enough to make a mass statement against the gulls!

       As the penguins waddle up the beach, several in a group, more and more clusters swim up from the sea. When they reach the bleachers, we observers quietly rise and walk behind our seats to a lighted board walk. There, we watch the penguins closely while they toddle up hill on the sand.

       We’ve been prepped ahead of time by a ranger. Everyone whispers; no photography at all is taken to disturb their natural habitat. All we hear are the ocean waves and now the penguins talking with each other.

       So how do penguins talk anyway? Chirp. Squeak. Mews. Donald-Duck-Quacks. A mixture of all of these sounds. And as they settle into their burrows, they can be heard in the hills. Dots of their white vests show throughout the blackness.

       Penguin sounds. Ocean waves. Only whispers among us.

       Darkness everywhere, with only lights from the fence illuminating the Penguin Parade, the experience feels spiritual. There is something special in the air and we all sense it.

       As I look on in awe, I wonder if we sent warring beings here, would the world have a better chance for peace?

       When it’s time for Bob and me to get back up the hill to meet the tour group at our van, we hike briskly in the same direction as the penguins on the board walk. They keep up to us, stride for wobble.

       At the top of the hill, the ranger announces a penguin must cross over to the other side of the blacktop to his home. She moves us behind a painted white line and she lifts up a gate for the penguin who is patiently waiting his turn to cross.

       With his quiet audience in place, he shuffles across and waits on the other side for the ranger to open this gate which she does. Next, she closes them both and people resume their own walks.

       Two separate worlds. One understanding.      

Writing Prompts:  1. Write about the best part a trip you took.   It can be visiting a neighboring town, a trip to the park, or an overnight camping trip.  What was that special moment for you?

2.  Write about a moment that was special between you and another person.  It could be you and a good friend, you and an animal, or you and a relative.  What made it wonderful?     Penguin Sounds

Of Wiles in Oz

November 23, 2009

Every geographic area has a language all of its own. Sometimes it’s an accent. Other times it’s a unique slang. Either way, communication may become muddled and amusing. On our first trip to Australia in 2005 for our son’s World Solar Challenge Race, we visited Kangaroo Island by way of ferry. Upon arriving, we met our tour guide and group in a van.
“Did you see any wiles, mate?” asked the guide.
Bob and I scratched our heads. We didn’t have our “wiles” about us at that moment.
“Excuse me?” I asked.
The guide repeated his question.
“Did you see any wiles?”
Again, Bob and I eyed each other. What now? Play charades?
Then it hit us. The guide was asking if we had seen any WHALES while we were on our ferry ride.

This time we noticed signs in Darwin. POKIES. Poker is a big game in Australia. With a British influence, Bob ate bangers (sausages) one day and I had fish and chips for lunch.
We hiked in the bush (Australian’s country’s wildlife area) and saw a willy willy. (dusty wind that spirals upward) Saw a kiwi (person from New Zealand) and ate a dog’s breakfast. (messy!)
Upon entering an early morning tour bus, the guide greeted us and said, “Don’t worry, we’ll stop for a bit of breaky soon.” (breakfast)
I took a picture of a kangaroo and with a “joey” in her pouch and she examined me closely for any signs of food for sharing. Alas, they don’t recommend feeding them, so I couldn’t give her anything at all. But she still did a thorough search.

Writing Exercise: What slang is prominent in your area? Are “your people” known for an accent? When I came from Wisconsin, I was teased here in California not only for my Midwestern drawl, but for my “Milwaukee-ease.” Later, I turned this type of slang into a humor article for a San Francisco newspaper.
1. List as many various slang words from your region as you can recall. You may begin this list today and continue it for awhile. Ask friends to help you! It might consist of phrases as well as words themselves.
2. What about the accent? Try and describe the accent and how it varies from other dialects you here.
3. Work your unique area into a short story, personal experience piece, poem or article. It can be humorous, serious, or a mixture of the two styles. Feel free to share any part of your dialect and slang. We’d love to hear the fun way the world communicates differently!

What to do on a Fourteen-Hour Airplane Trip

November 18, 2009

We’re back from Australia, where we traveled to see the World Solar Challenge because our son, Chris (we call him “Tofer”) was on the MIT team. (More about THIS part in a future blog.)

Today I’ll focus on the journey. Although airplanes and airports are usually no one’s favorite part of the travel experience, there are ways to make the plane trip go by more quickly.

The first fourteen hours weren’t so bad, even with a baby who screamed a few rows away.
After the first twenty minutes of solid wailing . . . while we were still on the ground in San Francisco, the young man seated between my husband and me said with a smile and a nod to the child, “Did you buy chance bring a roll of duct tape?”

I looked at my husband. We exchanged glances. We knew immediately this man’s line of work.

“You’re an engineer, aren’t you?” I said to him.

“Yeah, how’d you know?”

I didn’t tell him when Tofer was a kid I left him a roll of duct tape in his Christmas stocking. (Yes, he’s now an engineer.)

A few tips for a long flight:

1. Bring some new pacifiers. Crying baby? Stick one in the baby’s mouth for comfort. You may need one for yourself too. . .

2. Great reading material. While others may dread a long flight such as this, I LOOK FORWARD TO uninterrupted (well, mostly) reading time.

3. Soft, squishy ear plugs. (you know why)

4. A book reading light so you can keep reading while others are snoozing or watching the movie.

5. Post-it notes to mark up the book for places you really like and would like to “model” your own writing.

6. Paper and pen of course! All that reading will spark ideas or help you get unblocked on a previous project.

7. Give yourself freedom to daydream about ideas and projects while you have that pen and paper handy.

8. All of that reading works fine until your eyes burn and begin to ache. Then sleep. However, you may want to give yourself a dream intention. “I will dream of a creative idea to help my writing.” (or change the word “writing” to be something more specific)

9. On the trip home, I actually watched the movie because the movie was good. (Julie and Julia) Movies are a great way to learn and help your own storytelling abilities.

10. What is YOUR secret for surviving a long airplane ride? Feel free to share it here and with others you know when they tell you they will embark on a long trip.

Once we landed in Sydney, we had a few hours to wait and another few hours on a plane to Darwin. Those are the “tired hours.” Daydreaming and sleep are usually the only thing exhausted brains can handle at that point. But with excitement looming, who needs more?

Just like with the writing journey, our projects have a multitude of steps and ways to help get through the process. What works for one, might help another.

Books I read on this journey and in Australia: BEL CANTO by Ann Patchett, DAUGHTER OF FORTUNE by Isabel Allende, THE SHIPPING NEWS by E. ANNIE PROULX, MURDER ON THE EIFFEL TOWER by Claude Izner and TRACKS by Robyn Davidson.

The book I could not put down: BEL CANTO
Book I most looked forward to reading each night: TRACKS