21 October 2008

Bats, Chess, and Waves like I have never seen...

I can't believe it's been so long since we've updated the blog--over a week, far too long. Apologies all around.

But, you won't regret checking back, wizard people--we have some seriously cool stuff for you. First off, we visited the Royal Botanical Gardens a few weeks ago, right around sunset. The Botanical Gardens have become a roosting spot for the endangered flying fox bat! And, when I say roosting spot, friends, what I really mean to say is that the trees are heavy-laden all day. Around sunset, they start waking up and flying around the park.

1. I have never seen bats so big, or so many.

There are now so many bats that they are harming the trees; the Gardens' staff are having to encourage them to roost elsewhere. As you can see, the batted trees have no leaves. Apparently the bats are also in such high numbers they have reached plague proportions, and the Gardens are concerned a bat epidemic could take hold.

They are so graceful and huge...it seems like they can fly better than birds. They soar like kites, they glide on the air. They are beautiful.

Of course, when they are just waking up, half-asleep, flapping their wings, and upside down, they are cute. Adorable really. This one in particular seemed just a little flirty. I think he winked at me.

2. I have never seen chess played as a group, on a huge scale, in a public park...for free.

This picture below is mostly for my delightfully nerdy nephew, who is obsessed with chess, despite his remarkably young age. He's only five!! Almost six. I'm never surprised by how much I love the kid, but I am often speechless at how much I really like him. His personality is sweet, caring, outgoing, and completely dorky. He's such a wonderful kid. And I know he'll get a kick out of these chess pieces, nearly as tall as his sister.

On the same day, we went to the Hyde Park Barracks. It's free to walk about the courtyard and costs money to get in to the exhibition; since it was a fine day, we chose to just walk around the courtyard. I'm so glad we did, because we found Australia's monument to the Irish famine.

3. I have never seen monuments more beautiful, more abstractly expressive, than monuments to the Irish famine.

I've seen two so far; the one in Dublin nearly had me in tears. The Australian monument, even more abstract than Dublin's, affected me no differently. It is an amazing site-specific sculpture that cannot be shown in images alone. You have to walk around and in it to see all the symbols and resonances. The Irish Famine, as an event, must be credited with launching amazing, powerful, artistic monuments. These monuments are nothing like the ubiquitous phallic obelisks so often dedicated to the dead white men in the dustbin of history... these monuments are sublime. They make the fact that Australia took hundreds of Irish refugees real...the fact that those refugees often faced a life no more plentiful, no less hungry, once they got to this strange land of reversal.

3. I have never in my life seen waves so big, so violent, so fast and rough. I have never seen waves that break only when forced against the shore, a surfer ride a wave directly onto the sandy beach.

Last weekend, we went to Bondi Beach, pronounced Bond-eye. For the first time we understood why Bondi is one of the world's best surfing beaches. The Chloe Byron Memorial Longboard Championship was going on; the surfers first formed a surfer's circle on the beach, pictured below, and then they went out and did it in the ocean. That was an astounding sight...a giant circle of people out in the ocean.

But, if you just want to go in the water and splash around, say, because you maybe don't know how to swim really, and you harbour a deep, gripping fear of water which has haunted you since before you can remember...Bondi is not for you. At least it wasn't this past weekend.

After the sea slapped me in the face with sand and sea spray, after I got knocked over, after the current dragged me down the beach on my ass, after fighting a current so strong I could literally feel it pulling my feet from underneath me, I decided it was time for lunch. Craig decided it was time to pretend he's a possum.

Sculpture by the Sea was also happening this week; it's a 3.5k walk between Bondi and Tamarama, and they've got heaps of outdoor sculptures along the walk.

Quick colloquial aside: They say "heaps" here to mean "tons," "many," "very," "expensive," and a number of other terms. Examples:

We have heaps of buckwheat kernels. (tons)
I've been there heaps of times. (many)
That place is heaps nice. (very)
Living at Bondi is heaps. (expensive)

Ooh! Blog Participation: what strange things sayings have you heard from English speakers on your travels??

Anyway, we didn't see too many of the sculptures, because the ocean had just mugged us, so we were tired. But what we did see...was amazing.

You had to pay $10 to get the guide that tells you the name of this sculpture, who it's by, and what it means, so basically I'm saying that I don't know what it means...or who it's by...or the name of it.

Still looks pretty cool, though, right?


  1. Bats are cool. One time I found one on a tree outside the student center.

    Waves are also cool and they are way more fun than no waves. Bu then it is what I am used to at a beach.

  2. I thought of another weird way Aussies use the word "heaps." They use it to mean "a lot." Like, instead of saying, "Thanks a lot," they say, "Thanks heaps."

    Doesn't that just feel weird?

    Jeremy, you're right: waves are far more fun than no waves.

    But dying a cold watery death as your throat fills with dread and saltwater, fighting thrashing against the giant bastard that is the Pacific Ocean is far less fun than gentle waves. That's all I'm saying.