Two Yanks Downunder

A blog about the experiences of two Americans on their first visit to the fabulous continent of Australia

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Four for Six: Wright On! Brothers

Don here (finally) to let you know that we were basically both ill Friday August 4th through Monday August 7th. Whatever we had manifested mainly in fatigue and lethargy, both well known as being very condusive to relationship volatility, except that it turned out they undercut the potential conflicts by their very definition. That was a good thing since we spent lots and lots of this time together doing very little except hanging around the apartment, sleeping, and doing the occassional necessary errands.

Consequently, we had to cancel the arrangements that we had made to borrow a car from the University of Notre Dame and travel south of here to see the incredible forests and the sweeping south coast of southwestern Australia. We thought that we might pick up the car just for Sunday to make a short day trip, but by the time we got ready to do this, we felt completely exhausted and had to give up on the idea. Our illness was maddeningly deceptive in that we would feel fine for about one or two hours and think that it was behind us only to suddenly feel completely and totally exhausted and have to take to bed (in Don's case) or log on to the computer and try to force out some work (in Wendy's case) before giving up and taking a nap. Wendy had to teach her class on Monday afternoon and made arrangements for four of them to come over to the house on Wednesday for a dinner with us.

By Tuesday we were actually really a lot better and finally got out there around town for some serious shopping and errands. We made a last minute invite to Christine Sullivan from UNDA to come over for dinner that very night and she accepted. She has done a lot to make things go smoothly for us and for our students and we wanted to have a chance to get to know her a bit better and thank her for all her efforts. Wendy made a nice lamb curry which was accompanied by basmati rice, a mixed greens salad and some good Australian red wine. Christine is an avid sports enthusiast and answered a bunch of our questions about Australian Rules Football and gave the best description of the game of cricket that we have heard. Cricket actually made sense after what she told us!

On Wednesday, Don did his long planned "big buy" in Australia. We went across the street to Bodkin's Boots and Don purchased a pair of Blundstones, those funky boots he wears much of the year with the loops on the top on both the front and back that make them easy to put on and remove. Next it was over the the gocery store to get supplies for the days main event.

That evening our first small group of students were to come over for dinner, we went by our favorite "bottle shop" or liquor store, The Sail and Anchor. There, our man Clint has provided a lot of help selecting wines and beers to serve guests and for ourselves, and we put ourselves in his hands once again. We acquired four different kinds of unique Australian beers and a couple of wines for the upcoming dinner. We knew that the students would be terrified since they would not have us outnumbered by many and so we thought that we could serve up some foods that were not their usual fare to really throw them for a loop. A cunning plan, well though out and implemented with precision.

When Zach, Marc, Dan and Jaya arrived, they had brought along a bottle of wine for us which was totally outstanding. I got out four frosted mugs and offered them beer from our recently acquired selection. They were familiar with one of the kinds, but were eager to try the other three so we split those with them one after another and got feedback about the taste and preferences. Once they were relaxed and conversational, we guided them over to the dinner table. How would the tastes of young central Minnesotans (with very specific likes and dislikes) fare when colliding head on with the unexpected and different kitchen creations of Don and Wendy? We would soon find out!

We served them noodles with a chicken stroganoff that Wendy had prepared slowly over the course of the afternoon so that the flavors would have a chance to mix nicely. Accompanying the main course were baked Aussie potatoes, a mixed green salad, and green beans. We finished with a plate of chocolates and shortbread for dessert. Conversation was fluid and we learned that Dan is a licensed pilot, having taken time away from St. Johns and attended school in North Dakota to acquire his skills. Marc is preparing to take a trip to Singapore with one of his UNDA business classes that he is looking forward to. Zach is making Australian friends at the local pubs and since his last name is Swan he introduces himself that way. The Swan River is nearby and so the fact that that is also his surname makes him very easy for the locals to remember. He is looking into getting a part time job at one of the local businesses to fuel some of the traveleing he hopes to do after the semester ends. Jaya is taking psychology classes here at UNDA and is a dietetics major at CSB, her family lives overseas in Europe and so she is an experienced traveler. It is early in the term, everyone seems to be doing well although the nature of classes here is quite a bit different and they are still getting used to those features of UNDA. The evening seemed quite a success and we will have our next group over on Tuesday August 15.

Thursday moring around 9:00 a.m. we got a call from Tony Fairhead letting us know that a U.S. naval vessel was sailing into Fremantle harbor at that very moment. We quickly grabbed our things and headed out to the train station a few blocks away. Before we even got there, we could see a massive aircraft carrier slowly sailing into port with hundreds of sailors and officers dressed in black uniforms lining the perimeter of the craft, it was the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk, named after the location where the Wright Brothers made the first flight back over 100 years ago. The ship would be here for four days and it was possible that some of our students would get a chance to tour the Kitty Hawk!

That afternoon, we saw many sailors (men and women) and officers in their neat distinct black uniforms about town. We stopped and spoke to a group of four young men. Wendy asked if there were any of them who did not want to take shore leave, because I had speculated that out of a crew of about 5,000, there were probably a few malcontents who just loved the ship and did not leave it. The sailors said that practically everyone wanted shore leave, but NOT during the first 24 hours, since they were required to wear their uniforms at those times, but not for the three other days. We asked where they were from and then wished them well, hoped that they would be safe and thanked them for all that they are doing for the rest of us and our country. It is rumored that they are part of the Afghanisan and Iraq campaign and so we decided that we would not write anything about this visit until after the ship departed.

We spent time meeting with the Student Life Office at UNDA and then Sue Wade specifically to let them know that our students were interested in any tours of the Kitty Hawk that might be arranged. At that time, it was known that perhaps a small group would be able to go, so we were thinking that we could arrange a lottery to select winners from those of our group who were interested. All was up in the air, but our interest was known to the folks that had their ear to the ground.
(And luckily all who wanted to go, got the opportunity to tour the ship while it was in harbor).


At 11:04 PM, Anonymous min said...

I'm glad you're in one of them. We see so little of you.

At 5:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don and Wendy,

I am SO impressed at how faithfully you've been updating your blog! The pictures are fantastic and the stories are great, of course:) I look forward to hearing more when you get back to work, Don! See you soon,

Nicole A.


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