Thursday, July 30, 2009

80,000 RYANAIR PASSENGERS WOULD ‘STAND’ FOR A FREE FARE

66% of 120,000 passengers vote for free standing flights in online poll
Ryanair, the World’s favourite airline, today (22nd July) announced that over 80,000 (66%) passengers voting in an online poll over the past two weeks said they would stand on short one hour flights if it meant that their fare would be free.
Over 120,000 passengers voted in the poll with 72,000 (60%) agreeing that airline passengers should have a choice of standing on short flights as they already do on buses, trains and underground transport while a minority of 50,000 (42%) said they would stand if they could pay 50% less than seated passengers.
Question
Yes
No
  1. If it meant your fare was free would you stand on a one hour flight?
66%
34%
  1. If it meant your fare was half that of a seated passenger would you stand on a one hour flight?
42%
58%
  1. Do you think passengers should have a choice of standing on short flights as they currently do on trains, buses and underground transport?
60%
40%
Ryanair’s Stephen McNamara said:
“Ryanair offers passengers the guaranteed lowest fares and we are pleased that 60% of participants in our online poll agree that people should be given the choice to travel fare free on short flights by standing if they want to. With 120,000 passengers voting and 80,000 saying they would stand on board Ryanair will continue to explore the concept of ‘fare free standing’ flights with Boeing and the relevant aviation authorities in the US and EU”.


Would you be willing to stand for an hour flight? Post a comment and tell us what you think.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Democracy in Bhutan



Bhutan is a country I have often dreamed of going to. With a measure and preference for Gross National Happiness as opposed to Gross National Product, the country has always piqued my interest and appealed to my idealism. With the introduction of democracy is this all about to change? This short film explores that question.

What do you think? Will democracy help or hinder the 'last Shangri-La'?

Monday, July 27, 2009

First Week Back Home

Well, I've been home for exactly one week and I've lived to tell about the experience.

Coming home after such a long time away is a bit of a surreal experience. The relationships with old friends and my family have been crammed into two week periods once every year two years for the last 11 years. It is now strange that when I see someone I can take my time. I don't need to feel rushed to hurry and catch up because I won't see them again for an extended period. We can meet for a coffee tomorrow, next week or heck, even next month!

It is also a bit anti-climatic, this moving back home. Traveling for six months and then saying goodbye to Australia, my friends and family there and packing up my life for the past five years was so harried, exciting and stressful (not to mention hoping that my husband, who got out of hospital a mere week before I left, will cope without me around). Then suddenly, hmm, it's all over. I'm here and not going anywhere for a while. I see people and I don't have anything exciting to report. I don't live in Australia, soon I'm going to be looking for a job and a house and settling into that routine. I'm not living out of my backpack and my next big trip isn't planned until sometime next year. Like I said, it all feels like a bit of a comedown.

To balance out the comedown, there are little pleasures, not as story-worthy as world travels, but fulfilling nonetheless: I watched my cousin who I've known since the day he was born dance with his beautiful new wife, I got to share stories with my neighbor who's known me since I was born, I've got to know my oldest niece as a real person and I am gaining a new appreciation of the place where I was raised. For the time being, these little pleasures are going to have to sustain me.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Home Sweet Home

Well, I've been back in my hometown for the sum total of five days and so far, so good. My niece has been here (she lives in Oregon), so it has been great to spend some time with her. Everything looks to me much the same as it ever has. The houses are still nestled in between large oak and pine trees, old people still drive slowly causing traffic jams and people still chatter incessantly when you go in to buy an ice cream or half a gallon of milk. Downtown Chico is still brimming with independent shops, though there are probably more empty now than I've ever seen. Must be the 'GFC'. So far I haven't really caught up with any old friends, I've been spending lots of time with the family.

I'd really forgotten how friendly people are here and in the States in general. Walking through the airport and killing time during my layover, people smiled at me for no reason and that was in L.A.! That's not to say that they're not friendly in Australia, because they are, but it's a different kind of friendly. Here shopkeepers and clerks tell you all about themselves and want to hear all about you. It's funny, I read an article about a Polish girl visiting Australia and she couldn't believe how open people were there. Imagine what she would think if she visited Northern California! It took me ten minutes to get away from the 7-11 checkout because the girl was so busy talking to me.

It's hotter than Hades here, so we've been spending as much time in the water as possible. Two sets of neighbors have pools. I have decided that I am a big fan of the after-dinner-swim; when you crawl into bed I'm nice and cool and even need to put a blanket over me. Tomorrow I'm going to 'the river' (don't ask me which one because I have got no idea, but I'll get back to you with that one) with my brother and niece. Long sessions spent in cool water is the only sensible thing to do when it's 105 degrees outside (that's 40 degrees Celsius).

Monday, July 20, 2009

V Australia

To get from Brisbane to Paradise, I flew V Australia. It's a relatively new airline and I just wanted to let you all know what I thought of it: I'm a big, fat fan! We got the fare for half of what we paid to fly to the States last time. The povvo class (economy) seats were about the same as any other airline, but the food was good. For dinner we had fabulous pasta, cheese and crackers, wine, salad and a bread roll and while the pasta was slightly overcooked, it actually tasted good. They kept feeding us throughout the flight, bringing around tasty snacks and water. The movie selection was good and the console was user friendly. They're not paying me for this review, but perhaps they should! I spent the flight sitting next to this lovely woman, Margaret, who is a woman travelling for the first time on her own since having children. I hope she enjoyed the flight as much as I did and that she's having a fabulous time in New York!

Well, now I'm home and it's good to be here. I slept twelve hours last night, but I'm still feeling pretty out of it. I suppose that's the way it's supposed to be. By tomorrow I hope to feel right as rain. The plan today? I'm going to take my niece thrift store shopping, have dinner with the whole fam-damly and go for a late night swim at the neighbor's pool. It's a good day to be me :)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Still in Aus

Well, my next post was supposed to be my goodbye to Australia. I was going to wax lyrical about how much I'll miss it, how difficult it is to leave my home for the past five years, etc., but life had other things in mind for me. Rohan sent me a text on Friday afternoon as I was heading into the city for my going away party saying 'Standby, I'm at the doctors with what I think is an appendicitis'. What?! He assured me there was nothing I could do for him, to stay out, have a beer and he'd get back to me.

It turns out that it was an appendicitis and that my weekend was to be spent in between the hospital and a friend's house in the city (much closer to the hospital than Wynnum). An operation was declared to be needed at 8:00am Saturday morning, but wasn't actually embarked upon until 9:00pm. Ahh, the public health system. This was my first real experience with the public health system in Australia. So, what do I think of it? The nursing staff are great and it's never too difficult to find one to administer pain killers or change a drip. Doctors are rarer than hens' teeth, which is not great. Ro was in a lot of pain and we were both very anxious on Saturday waiting for him to be operated on. Turns out it's a good thing they got to him when they did, his appendix was very inflamed. They probably shouldn't have left it in him as long as they did, but I guess there were other emergencies on hand.

When we walked out of the hospital (they let him out on Monday afternoon) the bill came to $0. Three nights in the hospital, meals, drinks and an emergency appendectomy and we weren't a penny out of pocket. There is something very comforting about this. No matter who you are, whether you have insurance or not, a high paying job and lots of money or not, you can get top notch emergency care. Everyone kept saying to us how lucky we were not to have this happen when we were in India or Nepal. That's true, but we're also lucky it didn't happen in the States where medical care costs a fortune and medical bills are high on the list of reasons that people go bankrupt. The public health system isn't perfect, but it works and it ensures that everyone has the peace of mind that in an emergency, they are looked after.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Amazing Choir sings 'Africa'



For the intro, just close your eyes and listen to it rain.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Weekend in Wynnum

3 July 2009 - 5 July 2009
Rather than pack up and head into the city or another suburb of Brisbane, we invited some of our friends round to Wynnum for the weekend. After all, the inlaws have a brilliant view of the bay and contrary to the beliefs of people who live closer to town, we have all you could really need out here: fish and chips shops, bottlos (places that sell alcohol), grocery stores. What more could you ask for?

So, begrudingly, our faraway friends made the lllloooong journey to Wynnum for a weekend away (it's not really that far, I'm just trying to make them feel better for whinging so much). The usual antics took place: too much drinking, a living room dance party and then too little sleep.

An unusual event took place, however. The sunrise streaming
into the room got us all out of bed really early. The night before there'd been talk of staying up until sunrise, but this did not
actually end up happening. Instead, we got up and watched it. Hmm, maybe we're getting old. . .



We got up, walked down along the bay. There we saw many of the things that make living on bay so nice: seagulls, pelicans, men going out fishing, families out sailing. We all fought
over the camera as it was all so picturesque. Instead of rattling on, I'll let the rest of this blog post be told in images.
















Friday, July 3, 2009

Wine Tasting in the Hunter Valley

25 June 2009
Driving from Singleton, New South Wales (NSW), towards the town of Pokolbin, the winter sun warms me in the passenger seat. Rohan and I plan to spend the day in the Hunter Valley, sampling some of the wines on offer there. As Australia’s oldest wine producing region – the first vineyard opened its doors in 1828 – and one of the most scenic, we're looking forward to a day of sampling some of the famous Shiraz and Semillon the area is so well known for.

The first few vineyards we pass show no sign of life. I suppose this must be the time of the year when the growers go on holidays, though I can’t imagine they’re aching to get away from such a beautiful place. As we pass a few more that are shut, we wonder if the day is going to be a bust.

Luckily we chance upon IronBark Hill Vineyard. We pull in and travel down the long driveway that is surrounded on both sides by barren grape vines that are backed up by mighty gum trees. We enter the tasting room – an airy, softly lit, earthy colored room – and are greeted with a friendly ‘hello’ from the unpretentious looking brunette woman behind the counter. The wine starts flowing.

First up is a delightfully tangy Semillon, the wine that the Hunter is best known for. We learn that Semillon is best drunk within the first few years or if your plan is to age it, ensure it’s left for six or more years because from about three to six years old, Semillon goes through a flat period. After that, it is more mature and loses it youthful zest, but is beautiful to drink. If only wine ever hung around our house long enough. . .

We hopped across the road from IronBark to Piggs Peake. Here the greeting wasn’t nearly as friendly. We'd clearly interrupted the man who serves wine, but we stick around anyway and try a Marsanne (mmmm), Verdelho, Shiraz and Vintage Port. Not many places make Vintage Port anymore the owner explains, but here they use an aged brandy and Shiraz grapes. I'm not mad about the port, but perhaps in a few years it'll be good drinking.

At Tempus Two, we enjoyed the view across green hills, billabongs, grape vines and gum trees, complemented by the gurgling fountains and bright sunshine. We sampled some unique wines here: a sparkling blush; light Tempranillo; and a rich Shiraz were my favorites.

At this point in the day, I wouldn't call myself sober. We'd been wine tasting for a couple of hours and I'm more than a few glasses in. Luckily the wineries offer water along with the wine, so that's keeping me from falling over. I know you can swish the wine around your mouth and spit it out, but that seems just plain wasteful.

Our next stop is Drayton Family Wines. Here there are a lot of wines on offer, but the only one worth mentioning is the 1999 Joseph Shiraz made up of hand-picked grapes (as opposed to machine picked) from 60 or 70 year old vines. What a nice drop! Of course at $70 a bottle, it would want to be!

We decided to walk to the next vineyard. Rohan was kind enough to offer to drive (he grudgingly accepts his role as the responsible one), but even he was feeling a bit tipsy, so the hope was that a walk would sober us both up. About a kilometre and a half away we came upon the Mount Pleasant Estate, where we had a few samples of wine and bought a beautiful bottle of Chardonnay.
The sun was sinking low, so we made our way back to our friend's house at Singleton. Such a lovely day though, if you're ever in the area, go have a look and a taste of the Hunter Valley!


Beautiful Blue Mountains

23 June 2009
I have lived in Australia for over five years and in all that time, I've never seen the Blue Mountains. Every tourist website and many Aussies talk about the lovely mountains and Rohan and I decided to remedy the fact that I had yet to see them.

We set off in the morning, probably not as early as I would've liked to, but we got going before noon, which is a bit of an accomplishment these days (sad, I know). With the croissants Auntie Lay picked up for as breakfast, we headed off on the two and a half hour drive to reach the Blue Mountains. And what a day! The sun was shining, the birds were chirping. Of course the day we leave Sydney, it decides to be sunny!


We stopped off at Wentworld Falls and had a walk around there. We unfortunately didn't have all day, so we just went for a couple of the shorter jaunts, but time permitting, would've loved to have done one of the four or five hour walks. To get the really good views of the falls, one of the longer walks are necessary, as they take you down lower. The short walks leave you on level with the falls, which is good, but I reckon falls are always best looked at from below.

After Wentworth, we went to Leura. From there we stopped off at the Three Sisters. There are several versions of the Legend of the Three Sisters, but the one I liked the best (and the one posted at the site) goes like this (borrowed from www.aussie-info.com):



Long ago in the Blue Mountains there lived three little Aboriginal sisters. They were Meenhi, Wimlah and Gunnedoo, whose Witch Doctor father was called Tyawan.

Only one creature was feared by all – the Bunyip who lived in a deep hole. When Tyawan had to pass the hole, he would leave his daughters safely on the cliff behind a rocky wall. One day, waving goodbye to his daughters, he descended the cliff steps. On top of the cliff a big centipede suddenly appeared and frightened Meehni, who threw a stone at it. The stone rolled over the cliff and crashed into the valley.

Birds, animals and fairies stopped till as the rocks behind the three sisters split open, leaving them on a thin ledge.

The angry Bunyip emerged to see the terrified sisters. In the valley, Tyawan saw the Bunyip close to his daughters, so he pointed his magic bone at the girls and turned them to stone. The Bunyip then chased Tyawan, who found himself trapped, so he changed himself into a Lyre Bird. Everyone was safe, but Tyawan had dropped his magic bone. After the Bunyip had gone, Tyawan searched and searched for his bone – and he is still searching.

The Three Sisters stand silently watching him from their ledge, hoping he will find the bone to turn them back to Aboriginal girls.

As you look at the Three Sisters, you can hear Tyawan – the Lyre Bird – calling his daughters as his search for the lost bone continues.
------
The sun was setting by the time we'd finished looking around the Three Sisters, so Rohan and I hit the road headed for Singleton, just near the Hunter Valley.