Two Yanks Downunder

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

Monday, August 28, 2006

On(ward) Donner, On(ward) Tasha!

16 August 2006 (Don's rendition of the 16th of August - Yes, class, it is a review, there will be a test on Monday)

Don’s last full day in Fremantle was to be a busy one. Errands were first on the agenda since Christine and Natasha from UNDA were going to drop by for an early dinner. However, just when Don was preparing to leave the residence for the grocery store, the bell rang. Christine had dropped by at that moment to drop off her contribution for the evenings feast, her creation being the dessert Pavlova.

(Giant chess board on the main square in downtown Fremantle):

This treat was invented by an Australian chef in the early 20th century to honor the visiting Russian prima ballerina of that name and has been a noted feature in Oz since then. Wendy came downstairs to chat with her a bit, but for some reason Christine felt that she needed to get into the office. This was understandable, but Don tried nonetheless to convince her to come in for a few minutes, saying that he would telephone her office and let her mates know that Chris was having an “episode” and would be in a bit later after she calmed down. In spite of the mirth ensuing from this quip, no minds were changed and Chris soon disappeared saying that she would be by after work.

Don and Wendy made the rounds of their errands acquiring everything except a bottle of wine. They came by the Sail & Anchor Bottle Shop about 10 minutes prior to it’s scheduled opening and decided not to hang around but to return home with the heavily laden shopping bags.

After a quick lunch, Don did most all of his packing for the next days travels, or rather refined some of the preliminary packing from the night before. Wendy worked on her Thursday class preparations and then in mid afternoon they both went over to the P & O to meet up with a group of students.

Today was to feature a visit to the local Fremantle lawn bowling club for those interested in this unique sport. Wendy had made arrangements with the club contact person, Bryan, to bring over two groups of interested CSB and SJU students, but the rain on Tuesday had necessitated canceling the event for that day.

Some of those on the list for Wednesday were waiting outside the P & O by the Orient Bar with some of their mates who were not going along. After lingering about for a few others who were scheduled for that day, Don went over to attempt a round up of the missing. Instead of locating those who had signed up, he managed to convince Zach and Tom to go along, but somehow Tudor got left out. Laura, Maggie, Katie and Bethany thus outnumbered their SJU counterparts, a rather rare occurrence to date in their OZ adventures.

After a pleasant walk through town we all arrived at the lawn bowling club. A few of the members helped our students select the appropriate bowling balls for their size and then all of us went over to the playing area. They were divided into two teams of three with Laura, Maggie and Bethany on one side and Katie, Zach and Tom comprising their opponents.

To commence play, one player on each team rolls a small white ball down a marked line in the grass. After it comes to a rest, then the team members alternate rolling much larger balls towards this small now stationary ball. The rules of engagement were not clear, but it seemed that having the larger balls stop in close proximity to the smaller one was a good thing.

The veteran players instructing our students and observing could usually tell almost immediately what was a good roll and what would be significantly off course. Zach and Tom got themselves each a mug of beer to sip on during play and seemed to be really enjoying things. Katie remarked how she was just putting too much effort into her rolling of the bowling ball and therefore not getting close at all. She was getting all too familiar with the gutters that lined the perpendicular edges of the field, in contrast to the gutters in American bowling that run parallel on the sides of the lane. The other team was more quiet and determined and was quickly picking up on more of the physical finesse of the rolling techniques. Of course, they lacked any SJU teammates and were not having any beer.

Don and Wendy had to leave mid way through the lesson to see about picking up the UNDA car they had reserved to take Don to the airport early the next morning. However, when they got to the security office, Kathy was away so they decided to check back later on. So, it was back to the Henry Street residence to prepare dinner for our soon to arrive guests.

Again, Wendy took control of the kitchen and Don took care of cleaning up the place and putting out the place settings, silverware, and other accoutrement for the meal. Wendy prepared a chicken stroganoff with noodles and an accompanying dish of green beans and mushrooms. There was also bread and then for dessert Christine’s Pavlova and the last of Don’s shortbread.

Our guests arrived on time and Natasha did us all the honor of bringing along a fine bottle of red wine. With the wine for starters, conversation soon flowed freely. Although Don wondered how his female guests would get an accurate picture of the usual Don and Wendy kitchen dynamics since she was doing all the visible work while Don’s lot was to converse and occasionally offer to help!

We discovered by stealth conversational tactics necessary in intercultural communications a great deal about Natasha’s immediate future plans. Unlike many young Americans, she was not interested in world domination or absolute power in the business sphere, but was planning to continue to travel.

She was taking vacation the following week to go to Uluru with a friend from Melbourne (who has a young child and whose partner is a musician in a well known group in OZ. They would wind up in Darwin for some concerts and sightseeing, all much anticipated by Tasha (sounds like Tasha’r’ to American ears) as she encouraged us to address her. She showed us some photos of a fairly recent trip she had taken with a friend to Indochina, seeing amazing sights in Vietnam and Laos in both urban and rural conditions. A brave and adventurous traveler!

Christine has also traveled much in Asia and lived in Japan for several years. She said that she would eagerly return if the opportunity presented itself and Wendy remarked that if she was offered the directorship of the CSB SJU Japan program she would contact Chris about going along as her assistant director and an agreement was made on the spot or is it spot on!

The dining experience was quite tasty as Wendy had done most excellent food preparation and presentation. The most excellent Pavlova followed and the last of Don’s shortbread made an appearance as well so that Tasha could try it. Don failed to find the time to make a batch to leave behind with Wendy as he had planned to do, so this was the bitter end of his baking or the sweet finish to look at it another way.

The pleasant and enjoyable evening filled with good conversation, laughter and ample food and wine came to an earlier end than it would have on another evening. With Don facing a 5:45 a.m. flight from Perth, our guests did not want to stay too late and arguments to the contrary were not accepted. Hopefully Wendy will be able to build upon this time to create more opportunites to socialize with Chris and Tasha, two clever and welcoming folks who made our time in Fremantle that much more pleasant.

So, after the departure of our guests, Don handled the lion share of the clean up and dishes which was only fair given Wendy’s amazing creative efforts that provided the bulk of our tasty feast. Meanwhile, she made use of her time on the computer to get ready for tomorrow and to catch up with important e-mail both foreign and domestic. Then they both went over to the UNDA security office and checked out the Hyundai for the trip to the airport. The compact car did fit nicely into the Henry Street residence courtyard and was easier to handle than the Toyota from Bayswater rental even though or perhaps because of the fact that it was a standard shift.

With all that needed to be done, bed time was not until after 11:00 p.m. It would be a short night as Don set his alarm for 3:00 a.m. with the intention of leaving for the airport by 4:15 a.m. This was the first time the alarm had been set on this clock in a real world situation, as opposed to a drill. Would it go off on time or would someone miss their flight and go into high anxiety? Find out in the next thrilling installment of 2yanksdownunder!


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