Sunday, October 25, 2009

Aussies are Nice

Aussies are so nice! We ask for help all the time: at our presentations, at the hotels, in the mall, on the street, in the stores. Trust me, we are help-asking pests, and everyone goes above and beyond to help us out.

A very nice example. Somehow, (I think because we presented 5 days in a row, each day in a different town or city) Nancy and I lost our heads in Canberra. I realized this morning that I left my beloved presenting dress in the closet in our hotel room in Canberra. Nancy left her wallet (!) on the plane to Tasmania. Well, I haven't hunted down my dress yet, but Nancy called the airline, and they had her wallet all safe and sound and waiting for her. Though I love my country, I wonder if a wallet filled with money and credit cards would have made it's way unharmed to the lost and found, and if it had, if the finder would have been willing to ship it anywhere at all to return it. It is just a perfect example of how friendly, helpful and great the Aussies are!

Now cross your fingers that I get my dress back.


Jim, Nancy and I have been so excited to get to Tasmania, partly because everyone keeps telling us how wonderful it is, and partly to meet Nella Pickup, who helped make our entire trip possible.

Well, all of the stories are true! We are actually staying with Nella and her husband, Richard, and we love them both. They have made us completely welcome in their home (which Nella's father and Richard built themselves, by the way). Yesterday, Sunday, our first full day in Tasmania, Nella and Richard had planned quite a treat.

The morning began with breakfast, and I had porridge. It is so delicious! No wonder the Baby Bear was pissed that Goldilocks ate his up. Then we drove out toward Cradle Mountain to see Tasmanian Devils. Before we got there, we stopped off in a little town for morning tea. We had pumpkin scones with cream, which were also delicious. And we had another very multicultural experience! This little restaurant where we ate was Scottish. So while we had tea and scones, a gentleman was playing bagpipes. Then another gentleman got up and played a sort of Japanese flute. Outside the restaurant was a man with an alpaca. The man let me pet Rosina (the alpaca) who was lovely, and she made the funniest sound. Now I know what alpacas sound like. Anyway, it was all very strange and wonderful.

We got to Cradle Mountain, had a quick lunch, and went to see the Tassie Devils. I'm here to tell you that they are entirely misrepresented. First of all, they are totally cute. (I'll post pictures later.) Second of all, they don't attack people. They are mostly scavengers. We even got to pet one! That was a really unusual privilege. However, the refuge had one that was predisposed to be a bit nicer, and then has been hand-reared and has spent lots and lots of time with humans. He was very, very soft.

The Tasmanian Devils are in deep trouble. As a result of inbreeding (they exist ONLY on Tasmania, and Tasmania is not a large island), they have developed a cancer. The cancer is on their face. When they fight and bite each other's faces, cancer cells graft to the teeth, and when the Devil bites another Devil, he/she kind of injects the cancer into the bitee. In the last 13 years, 75% of Devils have died from this cancer. If things go the way they are going now, they could be extinct in 12 years or so. So there are a few refuges that are breeding healthy Devils and then releasing them into the wild, trying to widen the gene pool. It's really sad.

On the way home, we stopped at a delicious chocolate shop for afternoon tea. This chocolate shop was fantastic! Not only did it have chocolate, it had a cafe, and a museum, and gardens and everything. It was, of course, delicious. I bought some chocolate to take back home to the U.S. Whether it gets there without me eating it is another matter entirely. Their dark chocolate was particularly heavenly. I forget the name of the owners -- I'll put it in later when I have wifi on my laptop and can have my stuff around me.

Eagle-eyes Jim spotted an echidna on the highway as we were driving home. Kudos to Richard who pulled over so we could go look at it. It tried to burrow down and hide, but only succeeded in hiding it's face. It kind of reminded me of Sterling, who hides her face in my armpit at the vet, believing that she can't see the vet, so the vet must not be able to see her. :) Anyway, the echidna, even without a face, was so cute, and it's spikes are really, really big. This evening we plan to poke around Nella and Richard's property at dusk, looking for a wombat.

Back at Nella and Richard's, we had a very homey evening in. After a decadent meal of lamb and tiramisu, we watched Bones and Castle on TV and ironed.

We are so, so glad that we have extra days in Tasmania. We are in love.

The Nation's Capitol

We had half of a free day in Canberra the day after our presentation, and we decided to go see the capitol part of Canberra. We took the bus, but got off too early. So we had a 20 minute walk, then, to the "official" area. At this point, we were running out of time, so we only had about 20 minutes to walk around, which wasn't even near enough. But we saw the beautiful national library, and Parliament in the distance. Ah, well.

On the bus, we met the nicest lady named June. She is 81 years old, and told us stories of her life as we rode along. She's quite amazing. At age 20 in 1950, she decided to go to England, and took a 6-week trip on a ship to get there. After working there a couple of years, she took a ship to Canada, and worked in Toronto and Vancouver for a number of years. She's traveled the world and had a wonderful time, and I just thought she was fantastic.

The Mall

Canberra is definitely a driving city, so after our presentation in Canberra there were limited places for us to go. One of the places we could walk to was the mall. Actually, the mall was rather fascinating. First of all, we walked in the door and the mall was decorated for Christmas! I mean, the U.S. does Christmas early, but this seemed REALLY early (though it must be said that Australia doesn't have any major holidays between now and Christmas, so there's nothing to slow it down, like we have Halloween and Thanksgiving). Also, they had a nativity scene! In the mall! They would never have a nativity scene in a mall in the U.S.! We had our picture taken with it, which I will post later.

So the mall had all the normal things in it, but also quite a bit more. There was a butcher in the mall, two grocery stores, a place that sold fish, and all kinds of interesting things. It was so much more than a mall!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

We are in Canberra

Last night, after our lovely presentation in the Barossa Valley, we caught a flight to Canberra. We really haven't seen anything yet, as we arrived after dark, went to bed, woke up, and walked 5 blocks to the library.

However, we have had more adventures in hotels! Last night as we were getting ready for bed, Nancy said, "Boy, this room is going to be dark. I hope we can get to the bathroom in the dark." Well, the room had this big, round, fluorescent light in the ceiling. I turned it off, though my bedside light was still on, and pointed out to Nancy that the fluorescent light looked blue. "That's kinda weird," I said. But when we turned all the lights off, the fluorescent light glowed like a big, blue moon! I've never seen anything like it. It was brilliant and hilarious all at the same time! We may try to caputure the wonder of it on a video camera.

Nancy and I got quite the jolt of adrenaline this morning when I got up to use the bathroom, and Nancy sleepily asked what time it was. We both squinted at the clock (as neither of us had our contacts in or glasses on), and it was 6:55am. We had put in a wake-up call for 6:00am! You have never seen two people leap out of bed as quickly as us! We were ready in record time. Who needs coffee when you can just oversleep by an hour?

The crowd here in Canberra is fantastic. They are so fun and ready to laugh and participate! Also, they provided a GREAT tea: lemon squares, scones, and carrot cake. Yum.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Random Thoughts

Here are some random thoughts we've been collecting for the past few days:

- Here, massage is called bodywork, and bodywork on a car is called panel-beating (it sounds so violent!)

- When you are really busy, during the times that you might say you're running around like a chicken with it's head cut off, you say "flat out like a lizard drinking." Awesome.

- You can call really mean people a "nasty bag of weasels." We heard this first when someone was talking about politicians. :)

- Sadly, when I was eating breakfast on the beach on the Central Coast, I was subjected to older gentlemen walking on the beach in Speedos. Here, Speedos are called "budgie smugglers." How perfect is that? Speedos totally look like men smuggling parakeets! Ha!

- On the Central Coast, both Jim and Nancy were awakened by a beautiful but incredibly loud chorus of birds. This is called the "dawn chorus."


Okay, I'm a bit behind on my candy bars. Sorry. The third candy bar I tried was a Chokito, by Nestle. I had to laugh, because Chokito sounds so Mexican, and there is almost no Mexican culture in Australia. In fact, they've only just gotten their first Mexican restaurants in the big cities.

Anyway, the Chokito is "choc-coated caramel fudge with rice crisps." It was very, very good. I would have to say that I like the Picnic and Chokito equally, with Twirl following along behind.

More Pictures

Thanks to Nancy for sharing her pictures with me! This is the unique Paddington neighborhood in Sydney. I've never seen homes like this before. I was told that the neighborhood was in tough shape after World War 2, because everyone was fleeing the city for the suburbs. After a while, however, people wanted to move back to the city, so Paddington had a renaissance.
This is a picture of Douglas and Anthony. Anthony is the NSW state library who invited us to tea at his home. Douglas and Anthony are standing in front of their absolutely gorgeous house. They said that when they bought it, it needed serious help. It had been divided into 10 apartments. They have utterly transformed it. It's beautiful now!

This is the sign for The Domain, a park in Sydney. I thought this was one of the most clever and fun signs I've ever seen!

These are the beautiful jacaranda trees. They are bright purple, and we had never seen them before. Later, when we were in the Royal Botanical Gardens, we saw a park ranger. We asked her about the trees, and she told us they were jacarandas. After a brief pause, she said with disgust, "They are also noxious weeds that kill everything around them." Huh. Well.

Sydney Workshop

At our workshops, every participant was asked to bring a Teddy bear for Jim's story time demonstrations. We asked the group to pose with their Teddies! I couldn't get a wide enough shot, so I had to take three pictures to get the whole group!

We were lucky enough that the authors of "Unshelved," the public library comic strip ( gave us some of their merchandise to give away as door prizes. This is a picture of some of the Sydney winners with their t-shirts and comic books.
We had so much fun!


Finally, I'm able to upload pictures! These cover our whole trip so far. This first picture is of Nancy, myself and Jim in the Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney. You can see the Harbor Bridge in the background.

This is the Mitchell Reading Room in the New South Wales State Library. Isn't it gorgeous? It had beautiful stained glass, wooden bookshelves, and a real card catalogue!

In an earlier post I talked about our room in the Hyde Park Inn having a doorbell. Here it is!

This is a piece of art in The Doman, a park in Sydney. It didn't have a sign, so I call it "Dinosaur Egg in Tree." I think it's totally hilarious.

This is Anthony and Jim. Anthony is a librarian at the NSW State Library. He gave us a tour, and then invited us to tea at his home in Paddington. I mentioned this in an earlier post, but Jim is holding HIS book! NSW holds all of Jim's published books. He's so famous!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


We are now in Adelaide! Let me tell you, as Nancy said, "Our up time is our downtime." It's so true. We all crashed on the plane! It was hard to get off! We took a cab to our amazing hotel. It's so upscale that Nancy and I could hardly figure out how to use anything in our hotel room. We are feeling very "friends in low places"-like. For example, we couldn't figure out how to put the drain down in the bathroom sink. It doesn't push down, twist down, or anything else we can figure out! We had the same problem with turning off the shower knobs. I mean, how many shower knobs do you know that, when off, are vertical, with one pointing up and one pointing down? We couldn't even figure out how to take the lid off the coffee maker! Nancy ended up putting water in through the spout! I'm tellin' ya, we feel like total ding-dongs.

But we are also feeling very snazzy. We opened the closet doors, and the closet automatically lights up, like our clothes are movie stars!

We are currently presenting and having a blast. I was told that, in Adelaide, there are three chocolate shops all within a two minute walk of each other. I asked our handler, Veronica, if they are nearby, and she will show us so we (or at least I) can go insane with excitement!

Adelaide looks very different from Sydney. It's shorter -- not so many highrises, and the highrises they do have are much shorter. Also, the cultural district is absolutely gorgeous. All of this wonderful old architecture for the university, museum, state library and other buildings. It's just beautiful. I'm excited to have the late afternoon and evening to walk around.

Australian State Libraries

Okay, I'm going to admit that I haven't been to many state libraries in the U.S. So, what I think and assume is based on what I've heard, what little I know, and what Jim tells me. I think in the U.S. state libraries are repositories for information, very archival. They have librarians who help and oversee libraries throughout the state, provide grants, etc.

Well, all of that happens here, too, but the two state libraries we've seen so far -- in New South Wales and South Australia (Adelaide) -- are totally used by the public! I wish I had taken pictures. Both days were were at the State Library of NSW, the library was packed. I mean, every single seat was taken, people were sitting all over the floors, high schoolers and college students were working on group projects. And, except for young children, every age group was there: teens, college students, business people, adults, homeless people, etc.

Today, we are in the State Library of SA, and it's the same! Patrons were actually waiting outside the library for the doors to open, and the library is packed with the public.

Also, the libraries offer a lot for the general public: free wifi (this may not sound like much, but in Sydney, this was the ONLY place we found free wifi -- even the Starbucks charged), lots of seating and tables, tons of research material, internet access computers, and more.

Anyway, it's very cool, and very different, I think, from the role of the state libraries in the U.S.

Twitter Magic

I'd like to say that I saw the best use of Twitter while we were in New South Wales. If you'll take a look at an atlas, you'll see that the state is HUGE, and doesn't have too many large cities. Mylee, with the State Library, was one of our handlers, and attended both of our presentations, in both Sydney and at the Central Coast. Although we had 80 or 90 people at each presentation, you can imagine that still left a LOT of people who couldn't attend. During both presentations, Mylee kept up an on-going Twitter play-by-play for people to follow along with at home. She included links, let folks know what early literacy skill I was talking about, or what rhyme Jim was doing, or what song Nancy was singing. As I watched her, I was imagining myself following along from afar, and I was amazed.

I just thought it was an amazing use of Twitter. Everything Jim, Nancy and I do is available on our wikis, websites, etc., so anyone can access the information, but Mylee's Twitter use would allow someone to follow along almost in real time, and feel a part of it all. It was really cool.

Thanks to Sydney

Leg one of our trip is over. After our presentation in Erina yesterday, we drove back to Sydney and hopped on a plane to Adelaide.

But I'd like to take a moment to say thank you to New South Wales. Our fearless leaders/tour guides/cheuffers/babysitters -- Alex, Mylee, and Jo -- were absolutely amazing. We could not have been in better hands. All three were so welcoming, so organized, and, most importantly, so FUN! I feel like I've made new friends. I'd like to thank all three for indulging me in my chocolate obsession. Jo brought me an entire bag of Violet Crumble and two Freddo Frogs (which shall be reviewed later). And, as I think I wrote earlier, Alex taught Nancy and me about the Chocolate Tim-Tam Slam. So, thank you, Alex, Mylee and Jo! My home is yours any time you come to the U.S.!

Thanks also to all of our participants in Sydney and the Central Coast. I just love people who work with children, because they're usually willing to do anything! Thanks for attending and having fun, and being willing to throw paper balls at each other. :) Also, know that I soaked up all of the ideas, knowledge, and stories you shared with me. In fact, I've already shared some of your ideas and knowledge at our first presentation in Adelaide! You guys are absolutely amazing. I'm astounded at the work you do in your libraries, homes and community organizations, and the passion you bring to your work and to children. I have been so energized by meeting you all!

Love and kisses to you all. Please stay in touch!

Monday, October 19, 2009

We are in Erina.

Our first presentation was yesterday, and we had such a wonderful time! Mylee and Alexander had everything set up for us at the NSW State Library, and the crowd was a blast. I'm at a public library computer (how appropriate!), so I can't post pictures right now, but I will as soon as I have internet access on my own laptop.

As soon as we finished presenting, we hopped in the van to drive up to the Central Coast (we wanted to beat Sydney rush hour -- seems that's a universal problem). We are in the town of Erina, which is right on the ocean. It's gorgeous here. Last night we met a local librarian, Jo, for dinner at a Chinese restaurant. It was the most fun I've had in a long time. We laughed the entire time. Nancy and Jim had margaritas -- at the Chinese restaurant -- in Australia. It was a very multicultural experience.

We are in the middle of our presentation here (Nancy is presenting right now), and it's been wonderful, too. The people who work with children in Australia are an amazing bunch.

I've had more adventures with hotels. This morning when I went to take a shower, I couldn't get the glass door to slide open. I'm pushing and pulling at both ends, thinking, "How hard can this be?" Finally, I looked at the hinge and realized the door pushed in. Sigh...

After today's presentation we leave immediately to head back to Sydney, get on a plane, and fly to Adelaide. Again, as soon as I have wifi, I'll post lots of pictures.

Oh! And I don't want to forget a curse I learned: I hope your chocks turn into emus and kick your dunny door down. (Chocks are chickens, and a dunny is an outhouse.) This is my new favorite curse (not that I had many curses to begin with), and I plan to use it as often as possible.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


I had another candy bar today: Twirl. It's another Cadbury, and here's the description on the wrapper: "swirls and curls covered in Cadbury milk chocolate." The question is, of course, "swirls and curls" of what? I risked it anyway, and found that it's "swirls and curls" of chocolate, covered by chocolate! Delish!

A Day in Sydney

Warning: I'm haing trouble formatting these posts when I add pictures. This post is a bit out of order. Hopefully you can figure it out, and I'll work on it!

After the Botanical Gardens, we went to the New South Wales State Library (I know, are we big nerds or what?). Again, some background. I belong to a group called LIBEX, which facilitates librarian exchanges. Anthony, who works at the State Library, e-mailed me a while back to see if I wanted to exchange. I couldn't, but he invited us on a tour of the State Library while we were in Sydney. Of course, we took him up on it. One of the most fun things we discovered is that the State Library owns all of Jim's books! Here is a picture of Jim with his most recent book, at the State Library of New South Wales. How cool is that!

So I'm having trouble figuring out how to format these blog posts once I enter in pictures, so this post may be a tad out of order. Today we went to the Royal Botanical Gardens, and it was absolutely gorgeous. It was also a tad disturbing. Let me set the stage: Last night Nancy was out on our hotel balcony and called me out to join her. She was watching what we at first thought was a big bird flying around. But no; we realized it was a bat. A huge bat. Fast forward to today. As we're walking along in the Botanical Gardens, Jim points up and we see, no joke, HUNDREDS of bats hanging in all the trees. Here is a picture:

It was cool, but also very creepy.

Okay, back to the beginning. We had such a fun day today! First, we walked down to Darling Harbor, which reminded me very much of Baltimore's Inner Harbor. We decided to go to the aquarium, which was wonderful. I think most exciting of all was seeing our first platypus. It is so much smaller than I thought! I kind of pictured them being the size of beavers, but they are much, much smaller. They only grow to be 50cm, or under 20 inches. They are just about the cutest things I've ever seen.

Then we had what will hopefully be our last truly American experience, and had McDonald's for lunch. But I also had McDonald's in Taiwan, so I justify this by saying I need to try McDonald's in each country I visit. Do you believe me?

Okay, back to Anthony and the State Library. Anthony lives in the historical neighborhood of Paddington, and invited us to tea. His home was absolutely gorgeous. Anthony and Douglas told us that when they bought it, it needed a lot of TLC. They must have really worked, because it's beautiful now. After tea, we managed to take the bus back to our hotel all by ourselves! We were quite proud.

Tomorrow is our first presentation. We are a bit nervous, and are anxious to get one under our belts. Immediately following tomorrow's presentation, we head up the coast for another. Hopefully I can update you then!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Candy Bar

Saturday night update: I just ate my first Australian candy bar! Here is the report: it's made by Cadbury, so I knew it should be pretty good. It's called the "Picnic." It's kind of like a Baby Ruth crossed with a Kit Kat crossed with a Nestle Crunch. It has peanuts, a wafer, caramel (hard, not soft), and rice crisps covered in chocolate. Very delicious.

We made it!

We've actually made it! At the moment, we are all a bit brain dead, so for this first post I'm just going to list a bunch of things that have happened and things that we've seen.

- The V Australia (the new Virgin airline) check-in desk at LAX was hilarious! It was all lighted in neon, and they were playing club music, and the staff were all dancing! I've never seen anything like it, and it was quite a welcome.

- When we were checking in, all of a sudden Nancy and I heard a scream, and there Jim was! We all jumped around and squealed like tween girls at a Miley Cyrus concert.

- V Australia was fantastic to fly. The flight crew was upbeat and nice, and each seat got a pillow, blanket, eye cover, and earplugs. We all had our own screen on the seatback in front of us, and you could chat seat to seat! I tried to chat with Jim, but he didn't have his reading glasses and couldn't see the little keyboard.

- I thought my butt was going to fall off after 14 hours in the air. Seriously.

- We arrived, and they did not confiscate the graham crackers I brought for a librarian in Tasmania.

- Alexander, a youth librarian (children's and teen) here in Sydney met us at the airport, and was so, so nice to us. I say that not because we thought he wouldn't be, but because we were so out of it that who knows if we were even making sense.

- Our hotel is great! Here are funny things:
1) Our room/suite has a doorbell!
2) Our beds have wheels. The first time I sat down on mine, it crashed into the door.
3) In the bathroom, we found (I'm not kidding) aromatherapy shower caps! Jim wonders if you're supposed to put one on your head and light it.
4) We took a short nap, and while I was laying in bed, I heard a doorbell, but couldn't think of anyone who would be at our door, so I ignored it. Then I heard, "Hello! Hello!" I hauled myself out of bed, wandered into our little kitchen (!), and there was a guy stocking the fridge. He froze like a deer in the headlights and said in a panic, "I rang the doorbell! I shouted hello!" I told him not to worry about, left him at the fridge and went back to bed. He's probably wondered who the heck the Americans are who don't care when people invade their room when they're sleeping.

- Alexander took us to lunch, and at the outdoor table we saw a bird called a lorikeet. They are like little parrots, and are the first thing that really made me feel like I was in another country. Apparently, however, they are pretty aggressive and will eat food right off your plate if you're eating outside! They are also very noisy.

- We randomly found a delicious French restaurant in Sydney that was delicious.

Now we need to go to bed.

Good night, Jim.
Good night, Nancy.
Good night, Shannon.