Friday, July 30, 2010

That’s all I Canberra

ycockatu01 What the Aussies lack in pronouncing of syllables in their words – they make up with over the top down under hospitality. After our charmed respite in Sydney I figured things couldn’t get much better and I was wrong. People went out of their way to be hospitable to us at every turn during our stay in the capital city Canberra.

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Sara and I got in on a Sunday and weren’t slated to start working for real at Radford College until Thursday (we did visit a few classes on Monday to introduce ourselves to the staff and visited a couple classes to get the lay of the land) so we had a few days to explore the sprawling park like city. Where Sydney piled up tall against its harbor – Canberra spreads out in a radius from the parliamentary building, embassies intermixed with residences and forested parkland. The place is a biker or runners paradise and I took full advantage of the fact borrowing our friend and host, teacher and former NPR commentary star – Daniel Ferri’s mountain bike. Dan’s a re-planted Yankee (Chicagoan really) who now teaches at Radford (this all fits together eventually – trust me.)

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Anyway – Canberra is nothing like Sydney – in fact it is for the birds. Birds like I’ve never seen in the wild before – parrots – cockatoos – magpies – ravens – swans – crazy looking pigeons with hats on, not to mention the bushy tailed possum that stared us down from a tree during an evening walk or the giant fruit bats with three foot wingspans who darted out from the shrubbery during that same constitutional. Add the kangaroos and rabbits I saw while biking and you’d have thought we were in a wildlife refuge – not the capital city of a whole country the size of the United States.

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As for hospitality – on day one we went to the National Museum – the equivalent of our Smithsonian where we wandered about for an enjoyable couple of hours. The walk there was about an hour and a half and we were a bit tuckered out so we asked the lady at the info booth if she could help us obtain a taxi. She said she’s be more than happy to call but as she picked up the phone an older woman behind us poked her head out and said – never mind – I’ll drop them by. So our new friend Marjorie drove us home from the museum – giving us an impromptu tour of the embassies and a view of the gate to the prime minister’s house. In fact everywhere we went – museums – memorials – just walking on the streets – folks couldn’t have gone out of their way enough for us. This was certainly southern hospitality to the nth degree! Oh yeah – did mention that the bus drivers were just as likely to tell you to skip the fare as not?

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So what’s up with the dropping of syllables in their words though? Canberra is pronounced Can-bra, Melbourne is Melb’n etc etc. Nobody could give me any explanations other than – that’s the way we do it mate. Of course this ruins the pun in my title but, keep on treating your visitors like you treated us and that’s good enough for me.

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