Spring is in the air

It’s spring here in Australia, and with spring comes flowers. Not that there aren’t some things (trees, bushes and flowers) blooming in winter, but now, there are more. And one of the latest areas for spring blossoms to come to Australia seems to be the capital, Canberra, which is in a ‘cool climate’ according to the winemakers. Cool, not cold, according to anyone who has spent any time in Canada.

And so even though it is a bit behind Wagga, this past weekend was the middle of Floriade, a month-long flower festival in Canberra, celebrating, it seems, tulips. We went, sort of by mistake.

A few weeks ago, we decided to plan a trip to the capital. We haven’t been there together in a while, and there were a couple of attractions we wanted to take in; Lisa wanted to go to the Handmade Markets (something like the One of a Kind markets in Canada) and Dan wanted to see the Abstract Expressionism show at the National Gallery.  And we wanted to take our bikes and cycle around Lake Burley Griffin and Ginninderra Lake.  Little did we know that these inauspicious plans put us in the city on same weekend as Floriade, the Murrumbateman wine show and moveable feast, the Labour Day long weekend, and footy finals.

Every good festival needs a king and queen. These two were crowned at Floriade.

So, how did all these things go together for us? Driving to Canberra, we stopped at a couple of wineries in Murrumbateman, a small town about 28 km north of Canberra that is the heart of what is referred to as the Canberra Wine District. Murrumbateman gets hosed on this because there aren’t actually any wineries in Canberra and none of the other towns nearby with wineries (Hall, Gundaroo, Lake George) make plonk of the quality found in Murrumbateman (arguably the best shiraz and riesling in the country).  Not knowing that there was a wine event on, we were lucky that we went to Helm and Eden Road on Friday to beat the crowds. On the way home on Sunday, we stopped at Clonakilla and it was crazy…maybe 10 people tasting, which is about 10 more than normal! So even though we didn’t get to the Murrumbateman wine show this year, we are thinking we might work it into our schedule for next year. We’ll have to book accommodation well in advance though, because (as the locals mentioned to us) there aren’t many good places to stay or eat there;  it’s just too close to Canberra.

All these people rushed to Floriade in the morning so they could watch footy in the afternoon.

Footy finals…well, we don’t know enough about AFL or NRL to care, but we did see a lot of people wearing team colours. And, a really great beer store we went to (Plonk – a REALLY GREAT beer store) was having a sale on Sydney and Hawthorn beers (the two teams playing in the AFL finals on Saturday). Other than that, we listened to a bit of the NRL final on the radio while driving home on Sunday evening, but determined that sport on the radio works best when 1) it is a slow sport and 2) you know at least the basics of the sport. It was entertaining in a weird ‘let’s listen to a whole new world of sports lingo clichés’ way, but we have no idea what happened. Other than some guy bit another player’s ear.

The fact that it was a long weekend was just a bonus that we realized after the hotel, restaurants and cat sitter were booked, as we were planning on getting home late Sunday. This gave us a day at home to catch up on chores, do some gardening and go biking.

This water dragon wasn’t too interested in footy; he was tanning at the botanic garden.

In the end, we pretty much did just what we had originally planned: the show at the National was a bit disappointing…not bad, but we’ve seen so many good and great exhibitions of these artists (Pollock, Krasner, Rothko, Guston, etc) that this one, of works owned by the National Gallery of Australia, was just OK. But we did tour the Aboriginal galleries (had been closed when Dan was there a few months ago) and they are pretty spectacular, definitely worth seeing. Handmade Markets were fine…Dan didn’t hate them as much as he thought (and as much as the woman running the Eden Road cellar door said he would) because there were people selling interesting food. He also got some really funky beer glasses. The third thing on our list (the cycling) got scuttled by the weather – the forecast was so horrible we didn’t even take them. In the end, it wasn’t really bad, but quite rainy on Friday and both Saturday and Sunday mornings were pretty frosty.

So the cycling got replaced with Floriade and a trip to the botanical gardens. Floriade…whatever, you’ve seen one tulip, you’ve seen them all (think  “Ottawa Tulip Festival” but on a smaller scale).  The botanical gardens, however, were a treat. Lisa had been here before and knew that it was a great place for bird-spotting and to check out the native plants. We stumbled upon the 2pm tour group and the guide (after spotting Lisa’s binoculars and bird book) offered to show us a few hard-to-spot species. How exciting! We were able to add the tawny frogmouth and satin bowerbird to the list, as well as a male and a female gang-gang cockatoo flying overhead. GL – if you’re reading this – we’ll do our best to spot the frogmouth on your next visit; we now know the location of the tree where they nest.

Frogmouths are very good at hiding in trees…this is the male, who sits on the nest during the day. The female was a branch or two away and even harder to spot.

While the gang-gang and the frogmouth are both interesting (especially the latter…see photo), the bowerbird is a cool story worth telling.  They make bowers, these nest-like items on the ground (not their nests, which are in a tree) to attract a female. Basically a pile of sticks, that always faces north/south (unless it is a bowerbird in a different part of the country which does an east/west bower) around which they place blue things. Yes, whatever blue things they can find. So the gardens had to replace the blue ribbons they used to mark trails with yellow ribbons, because the bird who moved into the park kept stealing them for mating purposes. Unfortunately, both the bird and the bower were too well concealed for a good photo.

So, that’s a bit of how we spent a long weekend; next post, we’ll cover some of the culinary aspect of it…wallaby, plonk (2 versions), restaurants, etc…

Posted in birds, Canberra, festivals, footy, labour day weekend, market, wine | Leave a comment

Our home in the hills

We’ve written a few posts about our new house, but none of them have said anything about what part of the city we live in, so now seems like a good time to introduce you to our suburb.

First, in a mini version of How to Speak Australian, suburb is an actual Australia Post designation of where people live in their city.  In Edmonton, we lived in Terwillegar; that was a neighbourhood and our mailing address was still Edmonton and designated by a very precise postal code. In Wagga, we live in Bourkelands; this is a suburb ‘in’ Wagga, as opposed to a suburb ‘of’ Wagga, which is what a place like Sherwood Park or St Albert would be in relation to Edmonton. So our mailing address is Bourkelands, but the postal code is less precise – the 2650 one covers hundreds of square kilometres, whereas our T6R 3H8 code in Edmonton covered the south side of Terwillegar Blvd in the 2-block stretch between Town Centre Boulevard and Thibault Way.

Welcome to the ‘hood…

And then, to make it more complicated, we actually live in Hilltops. Hilltops is a neighbourhood (or according to the real estate sign an ‘estate’) in Bourkelands. Which is in Wagga Wagga.  But not a suburb… Confusing. There seems, often, to be multiple uses of names.  Just over the hill from us (or down, because we are at the top) is Glenoak. But they were just told by the government that they can’t call it Glenoak, because there is a Glenoak somewhere else in New South Wales. Instead, they will be calling it Glenoak Estate, a neighbourhood in the already existing suburb of Springvale. Which to us seems like part of Tatton…which is part of Wagga…all in the 2650 postal code…as are many little towns around here… ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…good thing the posties get to ride cool little motorcycles, otherwise who would want to do such a confusing job?

We don’t have vineyards on hour hills, but we do have wattle and kangaroos.

Now, to make it more confusing, there is another part of the state (NSW) called Hilltops. It is the wine and stonefruit growing region about 100 km north of us, situated around the lovely little town of Young (the cherry capital of NSW, which we’ve written about before).  Unfortunately, our little Hilltops isn’t a wine region, but we do hope that our neighbourhood is good for growing some citrus and veggies, and maybe some day we will branch out to cherries and apricots. But for now, as we drink those wonderful Grove Estates nebbiolos and Ballinaclash viogniers, and the stunning Clonakilla Hilltops shiraz (Clonakilla, one of the best wineries in the country, is in Canberra, not too far from Young and sources some grapes from Grove) we can pretend that the geographic designation on the bottle is our backyard.

The view from our front porch, out to the uni in the distance.

So what are our Hilltops like? First off, it is in the far south of Wagga, pretty much as far south as you can go before people start calling it something else (not sure what that would be though).  Central Wagga is about 8 km north of here and CSU (where we work) is another 8 km from there. On a normal day, the commute, by car, is 20 minutes – 10 into town, 10 back out; cycling, it takes Dan 36 minutes to ride to work – 18 to central, 18 more to the office.  People here think we are crazy…many seem to have the European mentality that this is a long way (even though on a national scale, Australians think nothing of distance).  But for us, compared to Edmonton where we lived the same distance from work but it took at least 45 minutes one way, sometimes over an hour depending on traffic, this is nothing. And hey, on an average day we might see a kangaroo or two (either near our house or on campus…central Wagga is a bit less marsupial); an array of wading birds like egrets, herons and spoonbills; a couple dozen ducks; some kites and kestrels; and probably at least one kookaburra.  And this is not to mention the ubiquitous parrots, cockatoos and galahs, and paddocks full of sheep and horses and, recently, some really cute calves.  It is a pretty enjoyable commute.  (Dan edit: even moreso on a bicycle, where you not only see these things but hear them, despite the killer magpies).

Another view from our porch, this is a fairly typical morning in the park across the street from us. Or maybe this was afternoon…they are there a lot!

As described in the name of the neighbourhood, we are in the hilly section of the south end of Wagga. This, for one thing, provides us with some pretty spectacular views. We can see for miles to the north, out over the city and to the uni. And these hills also provide us entertainment: there’s roos in them there hills! Hundreds of them it seems. Many days, they come down to graze in the park across the street from us; days they don’t come here, we can easily find them on the hillsides around our house, either just by looking from our back yard or wandering 5 minutes up into the bush.  And that bush also has given us a new hobby – one day when out on a roo walk, we realized that this was an ideal spot for biking.  But our bikes weren’t up to the rough trails, so we toddled on down to Kidsons and bought some mountain bikes. Fat tyres and front suspension are great for playing in the hills here and in other spots around Wagga (Pomi, the local mountain bike park, got the best of us last week…but maybe we shouldn’t have attempted it on our second day of riding!).

Dan calls this his new roo hunter. And we did have a pretty close encounter with one a couple days ago on this very track! He also had a couple close encounters with trees out at Pomigalarna Park on Sunday.

So that’s an intro to Hilltops. It’s a great place…if it weren’t for the internet issues (we’ll get to that in an upcoming post).

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between their joke and smiles

Continuing on the theme of the last post, we have to say that Japan is a bit of a strange place. We’re not trying to be disrespectful to the people, because were actually very nice and helpful…we were pretty much illiterates there, and managed to function by the good graces of people understanding our gestures and pointing. But, that said, there’s some weird shit going on there!

Right from the start, we knew it would be odd. First, the people actually cue very formally for the shuttle from the airport. Very formally! In lines, in order of the next bus. Lisa (and Becky who was travelling with us) loved this in an OCD librarian way. Dan had to be told to get in the proper line. But then, as our bus was pulling away from the curb, the people loading the luggage actually bowed. We’re not sure if they were acknowledging us or the bus.

Tokyo is a very tidy city. There was no garbage on the streets, despite the fact that it is almost impossible to find a garbage bin. There are no bins because they removed them after the sarin gas attacks a few years ago. But the Japanese people just seem to keep it clean somehow. To take tidiness to an extreme, at the Meiji Shrine there was actually a guy sweeping a few fallen leaves off the gravel footpath. It seemed a bit much…

Our visit to this shrine was part of a day-long bus tour we took. It also stopped at the Tokyo Tour, a Japanase replica of the Eiffel Tour.

Dan’s opinion of Tokyo is that it is a city where you can get, or do, anything…if you think of it, some Japanese entrepreneur or company has beat you to it and it will be available. This, however, is something that no westerner could ever think of – at the Tokyo tower, you could buy souvenir dried cuttlefish. ‘Nuff said…

One of our apprehensions about this trip was that we would have a hard time communicating. And yes, not many people speak English, but that is dealt with by most restaurants displaying wax food.

Yes, wax food effigies outside of restaurants, beckoning you in to try their real counterparts. Most didn’t look very appealing, but the real thing was usually fantastic. And often, those real things were almost the most bizarre things you could imagine. Or not imagine. We ate things that we had no idea what they were going to be, and often still didn’t know what they were until hours or even days later (thanks Natalya for the dango on the Mt Fuji trip – it was divine!). And there were things that we (well, Dan mostly) ate that we might wish we didn’t know what they were (raw horse!). There are probably things that we (well, Dan mostly) ate that we still don’t know what it was. Such as things from these bins:

Pickled swimmy things. Or not swimmy. The Tsukiji fish market is a cornucopia of odd and wonderful things from the sea. The items above were from a stall on the touristy edge of the market, and tame compared the still-live critters that we saw floundering (and trouting and mulleting and prawning and frogging!) around in eskies.

And then, in the same touristy area, there were vendors who just sold silly foodstuffs that weren’t fishy but uniquely Japanese:
Dan couldn’t resist the egg on a stick! Where else but Japan would you get that?

And who could resist pickles on a stick? Actually, we both did, because there was so much other amazing street food. Like…

whatever the hell these things were… they probably swam once, or did whatever shellfish and crustaceans do. Or if you were a bit more peckish, someone would hand you:

a whole grilled octopus to eat, by hand, as you wandered the streets and alleys of the market. While Dan did sample some of these water-based items, both raw and cooked (not live…though there were Japanese people there swallowing things that still looked to be squirming) Lisa (and Dan too) opted for the more palatable choice of

extremely yummy pork buns. Wagga (most of Australia? most of Canada?) doesn’t have a good street food culture and that is a shame, because it can be wonderful! These little gems were under 100 yen a piece and both filling and delicious.

But enough about the food.  To finish off, we have to point out that Japanese culture is an odd blend of modern (these are the people who are at the forefront of technology), traditional, and silly. And nowhere was this combination more obvious than in an amusement place – sort of like an arcade…or the lucky dip alley at the Ganmain show but more hi-tech…where there was what we affectionately dubbed Taiko Wars. Something like RockBand or GuitarHero for taiko drums. Well, not something like…exactly like…

Posted in cultural differences, food, japan, travel | 1 Comment

Comode (Oh!) Dragon

Japan is a bit of a strange place – raw seafood, bowing, etc… – but nowhere is that more obvious than in the toilet.  So for a quick entry, written on our last night in Tokyo, here’s a bit of fun before we get to the really interesting and more broadly appealing stories about our trip.

No, we didn’t fly here in first-class and these aren’t the controls for pod seats on the plane.

We’ve often complained that our toilets in Wagga are a bit chilly. Well, modern Japanese technology has come up with a solution for that with the heated toilet seat. The toilet seat in our hotel room is heated. Among other things. It has a variety of functions for ‘post-bodily-function’ cleansing and it makes noise.  Yes, noise.

These seats, that cost between 160000 and 500000 yen ($2000 – $5000) are something that most Japanese households have. Because Japanese apartments are small and have rice-paper walls, sometimes (according to our tour guide today) papa-san might want a bit of privacy to he can turn on the ‘flushing sound’ feature so no one can hear him do his business.

These things (what the Japanese call ‘washlets’) have a huge range of features, with some even having a “Powerful Deodorizer” function. It all seems too hi-tech for us, and we have to admit that we just used them in the old-fashioned Aussie/Canadian way.

We could have put in a photo of an actual traditional Japanese toilet, or the great hand-drawn instructional picture our tour guide had, but this one, stolen from the web, was just too good not to use! You really have to click on it to enlarge and see the last image.

But as much as we sometimes think that Aussie toilets are a bit lo-tech (heat the damn things!), we are glad our Japanese hotel had modern toilets rather than traditional Japanese-style ones. These are odd things that are becoming less common (hey, who needs a hole in the floor when you can have the controls to a starship?) but are still [too] easy to find in public places like airports, train stations, etc. Our friend FFG, who gets off on doing leg workouts, would probably love these, but most people prefer to sit on a warm ring with a calming flushing sound around them.

The transition from the hole to a Western-style throne must have been a bit of a challenge, because these instructions are quite common in toilets with modern facilities.

Unlike a lot of European countries, the Japanese still have segregated toilets. But there is no gender equality, as the men don’t have this baby holder in theirs!

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Hello kitty!

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When we moved here, we thought being in Australia would open up a new area of the world for international travel. We’ve gone to Europe a lot, because it was easy to get to from Canada. We thought Asia would be closer to Australia. So here we are on our first trip…and oddly we have figured out that Tokyo was closer to Edmonton than it is to Wagga. But we’re on our way to Japan! Will be posting silly pics all week.

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Profapalooza – Part 1

In an earlier post Dan mentioned that Lisa was traveling the country like a rock star and unable to keep up with posting blogs. Now, while some would argue that this was an accurate status update (she is a pretty hot ticket, after all), he was actually referring to her tendency to hit the capital cities while ignoring the rest of the country. This, after all, is how the rock stars do it; a tour here almost always includes Sydney and Melbourne, sometimes Brissy and Adelaide, rarely Perth. Hobart? No so much. Interestingly, this also defines Lisa’s work-related travel schedule; hmm… she always wanted to travel alongside Metallica. Maybe there’s something she’s not telling us…

Love this building! Very different from the Parliament buildings in Canada, but an intriguing design. Inside is a hall with marble and wood from various parts of the country. Oh yes – and a great gift shop.

In the past six months or more Lisa has visited most of Australia’s capital cities. All of these trips have been for work, but Lisa is also very good at squeezing in some shopping, dining, museuming (is that a word?) and other down-time activities around the edges of a crazy work week. Her Oz tour (Hmm… Profapalooza needs a cool t-shirt; perhaps our next contest?) started shortly after our arrival. Stop 1 was Canberra, which is just a short (2.5 hour) drive from Wagga. This is also a regular shopping work haven for Lisa, as she’s been appointed to the Australian Research Council this year. Her first trip included lunch at Parliament following a tour of the Parliamentary Library (yes, the politicos were in the house having lunch and yes, they serve meals on their very own special china! Very cool — at least for geek librarian types). Regular readers may even remember that Lisa had a real rock star moment on this trip — a live (20 minute!) interview on ABC radio!

A true rock star moment! Note that the ABC’s call number is 666; who knew that Iron Maiden owned a radio station in Australia?

Melbourne became stop 2 on the national tour, visiting the state library, meeting with staff at RMIT, meeting with a colleague at Deakin, and other cool prof-like activities. Of course, this included a major shoe-shopping excursion to Sole Devotion. Yes, Lisa does have some work-life balance (“work hard, play hard… especially if that involves Fluevogs”). We had been to Sydney a couple of times before we moved, but Melbourne was new territory – and it reminded us of Toronto (the street cars helped, as did the little alleys with cafes). The city is also home to some fabulous restaurants, including Movida Aqui and Cumulus, Inc. — two favourites that we will visit again, for sure.

Stop 3 on the tour was Perth in February. This was a formal ALIA accreditation visit to assess another uni, along with a visit with a colleague at Curtin University – this time, a close friend of ours who moved from U of Alberta in the exact same week (!) that we moved from Canada. The fates were aligned on that one… resulting in a great dining and site-seeing companion for the future! And Perth is a really interesting city; there are beaches, different birds and lots to explore in the surrounding area. We’ll definitely be back. On the flight there (from Sydney) Lisa was even reminded of Canada, as the plane was filled with young burly men heading to the mines (in Edmonton, that would be the oil fields). She was also introduced to Weis bars (mmm…mango/cream ice cream bars!) on the Qantas flight — just a free little treat at the halfway point on the journey.

The view from MAD’s condo looking at the Perth CBD

She also thought it was quite funny that the Aussies were really gearing up for the flight (it’s about 5 hours), bringing along pillows, picnic baskets with food for a week, and other gear that one might expect to find on a long-haul international flight. For someone who used to fly for 4 hours to Toronto as the first leg of her journeys — and who now needs to fly for 13+ hours to get to her home country — Lisa found this all quite amusing.

Watch this space for part 2 of Lisa’s Oz tour. Up next? Adelaide and Brisbane!

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A new world record

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Well at least a new Ganmain record. But not set by Dan.

It is late winter here in the Riverina and that means the agricultural shows are starting again. We made our second visit to the mother of all shows, the Ganmain show. Once again, Dan competed in the pie eating contest and set a new PB – last years time was 3 min, 2 seconds and this year he hoovered down 3 pies in just 2:15.

But the dude beside him in the photo is a pie-eating freak: the former Ganmain pie eating record (set last year) was 1:30; this guy smashed it by somehow swallowing all 3 pies in 57 seconds!!!!!!!
Dan does hold a record though, as the only Canadian to have competed in this competition twice (this was the third year it has been held, do he can pretty much be sure of that). He isn’t the only Canadian to compete though…that story will come out soon.

Posted in pie, shows, small town culture | Tagged | 1 Comment

How to speak Australian, Part 5

Snag: We often see people fishing in Lake Albert or in the Murrumbidgee River, and like any other closed water fishers, one of the big annoyances for them will be getting their hook snagged on a submerged branch. This is, of course, nowhere near as bad as the perils that face the open-water ‘rock fishers’ on the NSW coast…if you care to know more about that lmgtfy…survival of the fittest…but we do regularly see people fighting with…nothing. Just the branch of a gum tree that has fallen off and is causing havoc in the inland fishing waters of NSW. But that has nothing to do with this definition of ‘snag’.

Does this look appetizing? No…not to Lisa either, who refuses to try one. But it is the Saturday lunch of choice for the hundreds of Waggans.

We probably explained ‘sanga’ in a previous HTSA post…these are what you buy at Bunnings on a Saturday, or at any local event – a thin sausage (this ‘thin’ distinction is very important, as you will see later) on a slice of white bread. Sort of like what you get at those charity hot dog sales outside the grocery stores in North America. But in NA, they call that (horrible) thing that they wrap in a bun a wiener. Here, that thing that gets wrapped in a slice of white bread is a sausage or, in some people’s terms, a snag. We’re not sure how common this word is. We don’t discuss sausages with people that often, so it isn’t something that would just come up. But one day recently we were at Blake Street Country Meats, our favourite butcher shop (we love living in place where there are real butcher shops…and of the dozen or so in town, we prefer Blake Street [and they love Lisa…when we want a special cut like the fillet steaks the good restaurants sell, she just loiters until Kerry comes out and asks “what can I get you love?”!]), looking for something for dinner and decided on some coconut curry sausages (these aren’t your normal Aussie snag…this is an award-winning sausage maker…but then pretty much every butcher in NSW displays a sign that they won some award, just like all the bakers have won an award for their pies) and the bloke at the counter said “just the snags?” We both quickly processed the fact that we aren’t in a country that speaks English any more (Dan was having flashbacks to trying to buy croissants in Paris!) and just said “Yes”, paid our $3, and went to the car. Where we immediately and simultaneously exclaimed “he said snags!” and praised ourselves that we knew what it meant.

Knights is one of the many butchers in town. We shop there frequently, but it isn’t our butcher of choice. We like their deli though, which has an amazing cheese selection. And our favorite butcher isn’t very photogenic so we just used this picture.

But what we don’t actually know is: just what is a ‘snag’. In the early days, before we started shopping pretty much exclusively at Blake Street, Dan was in Kooringal Butcher (near where we lived, and still a good butcher but not our first choice), looking at the sausage selection. They had two types in the cooler that looked the same but one was thin and one was thick. So he asked what the difference was. And the guy at the counter said “one’s thin, one’s thick.” That’s it… so he bought the thick ones and had a hell of a time cooking them on the barbie. Since then, we stick with thin, regardless of where we buy them. The thin ones are good for sizzling, the thick probably better for…not sure why anyone would buy them!

Anyway, the point of this story is that regional Australia takes its sausages/snags very seriously, and if you are planning a sausage party you have to know if you like it thin or thick.

Posted in Australia, barbecue, food, sausage, sausage sanga, wagga | Leave a comment

Hometown Glory

We’ve been a bit lazy (busy?) about blogging recently, so had to ask for some help. This is a guest post by Wagga’s newest Canadian. Her own blog is beckyquarterly.wordpress.com. How many other cities of 65000 in Australia can claim to have two Canadian expats blogging about moving there? Probably none, but if anyone knows of one, I think we’ll have to go there and meet up for a pint! Now, here’s Becky…

——

I’m going to pretend that this blog post is not incredibly overdue. I’m going to pretend that instead of being here for a month, I’ve been here a week. Or maybe I’ll pretend that it took me weeks to explore Wagga and figure out what I really wanted my guest blog post to be about. Yes, let’s go with that. It took me a month to find just the right material for this blog post. You’re welcome.

So, how this blog post came to be. Lisa supervised my research project back when I was a grad student in Canada. When I graduated I started working as a librarian and Lisa began asking me when I was going to start my PhD. If you’ve met Lisa, you know that you can only hold out so long against her. She convinced me that not only should I leave my job and go back to school, but that I should move to Wagga to do it. And here I am.

Now, normally I get the, “You’re moving where?” when I tell people about my new hometown. Part of it is the name (no one believes a town is really called Wagga Wagga) but part of it is because it’s so far inland. I expect this from people who don’t know Australia or who live in big cities in Australia and think that big cities are the only place to live. But the thing that really interests me is the number of people from Wagga (Waggans? Dan, you’ll have to help me out here [Dan edit: that’s what I call them/us, but not usually in public and when I do say it publicly I get laughed at] ) who apologize for this lovely town. Now, I’m a big city girl, but I appreciate what this town has to offer.

The Civic Centre
The art gallery in the Civic Centre

I live in central Wagga and I wish I could convey to you what it feels like to walk out your front door and be surrounded by lovely brick houses with wrap-around verandas and gardens that would set most Canadians’ hearts aflutter. (They’ve got roses and irises blooming right now – and it’s the dead of winter. This is a magical land.) But it’s easy to focus on vegetation, scenery and wildlife when people take a look at inland Australia. I wanted to talk about what Wagganites (no, couldn’t be) have built. And since I don’t feel right about taking pictures of people’s private homes and posting them on the Interwebs, I get to show you some of Wagga’s public buildings.

Wagga is working at revitalizing its buildings and streets. One of the nicest things they’ve built recently is the civic centre. It’s the town hall, the art gallery, the theatre and the library all rolled into one lovely building. It’s right in the centre of town and next to a pond with an amphitheatre. They have the farmers’ market on the lawn. Across the street they have a park with an eternal flame that memorializes the wars that Waggians (hmm) have participated in. I would consider this the heart of Wagga.

The pond outside the Civic Centre. The building on the right is the Library and behind the Library you can see the Theatre.
The entrance to the park across from the Civic Centre and the eternal flame

Now, I’m concentrating on a small area of Wagga. But this is the area that I go to on a regular basis; it’s just outside my door. So don’t take this as all Wagganies (uh, probably not) have to offer, but these are some of my favourites. Close to the Civic Centre, past the Police Station, you reach Church Street. Church Street is aptly named. Three of the cities oldest and loveliest churches are on this street: the Presbyterian, Anglian and Catholic churches. This street is out of the way but a lovely find if you decide to go down it. Not only will you find the churches, but it ends at the beach. The beach is on the Murrumbidgee River, a large river that meanders its way across a large section of New South Wales. Wagga built up around the river (and, apparently, the horse racing track, the Murrumbidgee Turf Club). The churches, as well as the river, are lovely to behold.

St. Michael’s Cathedral Catholic Church

St. John’s Anglican Church

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church

And that’s an introduction to my new hometown. And what a charming hometown it is.

Posted in architecture, churches, civic centre, farmers market, Murrumbidgee, Riverina, Uncategorized, wagga, wagga wagga | 2 Comments

hazy shade of winter

This is what mornings look like in Wagga Wagga winter winter.

Throughout July, winter has presented us with fog. Warm ground + cold air = fog. Or maybe it is Cool ground + warming air. Not sure what causes it, but most mornings this past month we drove to work in an eerily beautiful haze. That has changed…

This week, it hasn’t been getting as warm during the day (only around 12, instead of the 15 or so earlier in the month) and the mornings have been crisp and cool. Some might even say cold.  Three days in a row, Dan has had do scrape frost of the windshield of the car. Just the front…by the time he has been leaving at about 7:40, the sun has melted the rest of it.  But, you ask, why are you scraping ice from the car? Don’t you have a garage?

We didn’t get rid of all our winter items when we moved – we did ditch the big ice scraper but the little one from Eddie Bauer has come in handy for this thick layer of frost. And of course, we do need gloves some mornings.

Well, yes, we do, but we are also car-sitting for friends who spend part of the year in Wagga and part in Canmore, Alberta, and their car is in the garage right now. And the other half of the garage is taken up with bicycles, lawnmower, general post-move disarray. So the car we use daily sits in the driveway. And gets frosty at night.

Inside, it is usually warm and toasty though.  Lisa has been away a lot, and Dan doesn’t even leave the heat on most nights. He thinks that we probably used more electricity in the 48 hours that Lisa was home last weekend than in the entire previous week. But last night, after awaking the previous morning to a 10 degree house, he did leave the heat on. He turned off some zones, so only part of the house was heating, so he wouldn’t get too hot. Because here’s the weird thing about our heater: remember a few posts ago when we were discussing the bad wiring of the thermostat. Well, turns out it isn’t really a thermostat. It is officially called a ‘remote’.

Lester likes to hang out in the bathrooms and watch us shower in the morning. But for some reason, Australians don’t heat the bathrooms, so this morning he took the bath mat from in front of the shower stall and ‘rugged up’.

It is wired remote, fixed to the wall, but it is just a controller. It isn’t the actual thermostat, so unlike what we are used to in other (as in ‘normal’) places, when we set a temperature on that unit it isn’t actually at that unit that the temperature is getting measured. The temperature sensor is on the actual heating unit, which is in the ceiling above the garage!  So we set the temperature for 18 degrees and the heat goes on, and stays on until the empty space above the garage gets that warm. Which, since we moved in, is never. Inside of house gets up in the low 20s…and would get hotter if we didn’t turn it off, using the ‘remote’.  Which would make more sense if it was actually a remote that you could carry from room to room, rather than one fixed to a wall.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Australians just don’t understand heating. And at least the worst it gets is just a little below 0 a few times each year…we don’t miss Edmonton’s -40 winters. And while this reverse cycle heating and cooling unit might have its quirks, this summer we will be glad it isn’t a swamp cooler like in the rental house.

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