Friday, 15 August 2008

Adelaide designed by a Malaysian?

Why not? Afterall, William Light, the surveyor who laid out the city, was born in Malaysia (then Malaya). The story is that the mother was a Malayan. Of course, the father was the famous Francis Light, was also infamous for his indiscretions in the bedroom. So William Light was not pure Anglo breed and this became a contentious issue for Governor Hindmarsh of South Australia who, of course was pure Anglo and hence considered himself more qualified to decide the fate of the City of Adelaide so gave William hell when it came to allocating resources for the surveys.

Can you imagine what George Town or KL would be like today if the Imperial powers had kept William back in Malaya? Well, look for yourself. Adelaide is 45% parks surrounding the original city. I walked through the entire eastern section of the city, walking through the parks, starting from the hotel to the racecourse and then working my way up to Rundle Street, the National Wine Center, Botanic Gardens, crossing the Torren’s River, moving through the Archery Club, then west to the Adelaide University Oval and back down King William Street, going off towards Hingley Steet (the “seedy” part of the city), down to the Central Market, had Vietnamese Beef Noodles for lunch in Chinatown, some shopping for nuts and then back to the hotel. Took me about 5 hours.

The verdict? Beautiful green green grass, nicely manicured, great chilly weather, easy to walk, crossing the major roads not a big problem with the pedestrain refuge in the middle of the road, non-threatening (you can see far into the distance without any hidden corners).

But this is apparently the good side of the city. In the parks on the west side, homeless people (including disenfranchised indigenous people) have made the parks their home.

Weather still wet and cold. Will be going to the hills later this afternoon. And back to home sweat home tomorrow night. I am sure tons of work waiting on my desk. Sorry you guys in Penang. I have been ignoring some of your sms and emails.

Met this little guy on my walk. He (she?) got a mate in the hollow in that tree trunk. He wasn't very bothered as I walked closer and closer. What U looking at Mate? I don't think they are parrots but they are all over the parks. Little noise-makers too.

This is the National Wine Center of Australia, located on the edge of the Botanic Garden. I was quite shocked to discover that it belongs to the Adelaide University. Yes, wine is big industry in South Australia and of course there's much research and teaching about vineyards and wine-making in the university. The other day at Mawson Lake I was equally amaze that the school office had bottles and bottles of beer and crates of wine, all waiting for the next function. And I learnt about the "bottle shop", not a place o buy bottles but a specialty shop to buy wine.

These old buildings are classified as "Local Heritage Place" which has very minimum protection but they cost a bundle. Something like that in the city cost around AUD400,000 (that's more than a million ringgit). Tiny place with two bedrooms, a living area and a kitchen.

Ah, here's the green at last. Can you imagine this right at the edge of the city. Walk straight down and you hit the city. (click on the picture for larger view). On the right is Rundle Street.

This is the olive grove near the race course. See the green? And yes, there were olive fruits on the branches. I thought of taking some but didn't know whether I would end up in jail.

Can you imagine green grass as far as the eye can see? And all neatly trimmed and no rubbish in sight (of course, go to the city streets and you can find rubbish on the streets, but not that much).

This was taken at the Carrington Street (see the houses on the left) near the race course.
So, what you think? We can do it in Penang?

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Actively Learning

This is Patrick Jame's office at Mawson Lake Campus. He has another one just like this, except smaller at the City East Campus. Very minimalist. He sits at the round table. Australian (and US and UK) universities are known for not having a big-bottom pyramid for staffing. Just a few super efficient admin staff can run the whole school.

Monday 11 Aug 2008, 9.52 pm

Spent the day at Mawson Lake Campus which is 15 or 20 minutes outside the city. It’s an old campus, more than 50 years, surrounded by new middle income “compact” housing which have were built with some sustainable development principles. All houses have rain-water harvesting and there are separate pipes for the clean and recycled water. The recycled water comes from sewerage treatment facilities which are pumped into underground aquifiers for storage and supplied to houses for watering the gardens through purple pipes. But they found out that the water stored in the aquifiers was too salty for the plants so that had to be fixed and the recyled water became more expensive then the clean water. So they are still learning. No solar panels for the homes yet.

I spent the whole day on the Mawson Lake Campus with Prof. Patrick James (Head of School of Natural and Built Environment) including attending a lecture for the course “Sustainable Development : Global Perspectives”, attending a tutorial conducted by Patrick and later in the evening attending a workshop on experiential learning conducted by Martin Jenkins from the Active Learning Centre at the University of Gloucestershire, UK. I first met Patrick last year when he came to USM with the Aussie students and also gave a demonstration of his teaching methods, e.g. teaching about the formation of mountains using bananas.

Active learning is catching on in the universities and UniSA is pushing for greater emphasis on teaching and learning. I found out that peer review for promotion of lecturers includes professors sitting in on the lectures to evaluate the lecturer applying for the promotion. Unlike in USM (and probably all the other universities in Malaysia), all you have to do is to list all the courses you “teach”. I am quite a small celebrity here because of my “Constructivist” book and my involvement with the International Field Study programme. But I am learning and picking up ideas which I can use back home.

Why so much emphasis on teaching and learning? One reason (not the only reason of course) is that it’s big money for the universities especially for its international students who they can charge full fees. Most Australian universities rely on attracting international students to supplement its budget. Just walk around Rundle Street and you will see swamps of a Asian students. The number of students from China alone has jumped from less than 200 to more than 2000. I read in the local papers that is creating another set of problems when the foreign students decide to stay and have difficulties getting jobs because of poor command of English and don’t have the skills to network and present themselves to prospective employers.

Had a guided tour around the campus and saw some interesting Ph.D. research including a biological filter to clean up rain water as it flows into the wetlands, a permeable pavement which stores rain water in underground tanks which are then pumped up using solar energy to water the garden. I found out that Adelaide has banned the watering of gardens except in summer and even then only on certain weekends. I think its because South Australia has had little rain in the last few years. Also visited some of their facilities including a very cool planeterium and their GRID-enabled lecture-cum-conference room. They have a post-graduate diploma which is conducted jointly by 5 Australian universities and they use the GRID teleconferencing facilities to conduct lectures. Each university offer two courses and students register with one of the universities (and get their diploma from that university). Lectures are conducted by specialists from each university. So it not only makes for more efficient use of limited expertise but reduces carbon emissions too. The software to run the teleconferencing over the Internet is open source but the five cameras, three ceiling projectors and other hardware cost about $50,000 (Aussie).

Actively learning. Met this three students who were bird-watching. Actually counting and identifying bird species at the Mawson Lake Campus. In the background (the brown grass) is the wetland.

In our walk through campus we encountered a lady showing these small animals to a group of high school students. They have a programme called First Degree (or something like that) where the university brings groups of students from high schools which have never seen a single of its students getting into university. Hopefully the programme will inspire the students to aim higher. The little snake in my hands is called a Children's Python. No, its not a phython for kids. It just happens the guy who discovered the snake named it after himself. Sorry, my eyes are almost shut because of the direct glare from the sun. Photographer : Patrick James

Monday, 11 August 2008

Kanga dinner

Sunday 10th Aug, 10.46 pm (Starwars on public TV, everything else is about Beijing 2008)

Wanted to go cycling along the linear park but weather again refused to listen to me. It was wet, bright sunshine, wet again, then just gloomy, then sunny and then showers … and cold whole day. Saw on the news just now that Melbourne had snow today. Lucky fellas.

So, I decided to go to Port Adelaide either by bus or train. I kept walking further and further until I decided to go into the train station and take the train. When I got to the gate, I saw on the screen the train was scheduled to leave at 10.15 am. It was 10.14 am. I asked the guys manning the gates whether I could make it to the train. First he said yes, then he looked at the train and said it was already pulling out. So, back up to the street for the bus. Another guy also missed the train so we both waited for the bus. After more than 20 minutes, the other started queuing to get on a bus but according the signboard it wasn’t the bus to take. So I asked him and he said yes and so I happily got on board (it was cold and rain was blowing into the bus shelter). After some time, that other guy got off and went, oh oh, are we there already? And then the bus stopped at a bus interchange (West Lake shopping centre) and everybody got out. Oh oh again, this doesn’t look like an old Port. So I went up to the driver and talked to him, showed him the map and told him where I was headed. He said, “well, I am not going to Port Adelaide” … oops, I went in my head. But he said the bus will get very close to the Port and I could walk from there. So, I said OK and we set off. (Note, the driver patiently talked to me before driving off again). When we got to the spot which I was supposed to get off, the driver asked whether I was in a hurry. I said, “no”. Well, then, he said he was going all the way up to Largs Bay and then he will make a U-turn and change the bus route number and will be driving through Port Adelaide on his trip back to the city. I said OK, let’s see the sights. And I chatted with him for a while. From the shopping centre until we U-turned and headed for Port Adelaide I was the only passenger

This was an issue which we talked about yesterday evening. Adelaide Metro is doing a great job encouraging people to travel by public transport and many are switching. But there certain times when certain routes have practically no passenger. On the other hand, during peak hours like 5 pm, some people had to wait 30 minutes and 5 trams before they could get on.

Port Adelaide – emmh, seems very quiet, very few people around. But I love the Fisherman’s Wharf which has been turned into a Sunday market for small businesses to sell all sorts of used or old stuff (collectibles). Say, don’t throw those old dresses or biscuit tins. Could get you a fortune one day. The Maritime Museum was also fun (but very Anglo-oriented; seems like nobody else except the Europeans came by boat). I enjoyed sitting the passenger compartment of the boats and listening the audio of readings of the journals of passengers from more than 150 years ago. Hey, who knows, 150 years from now some people will be googling to read my impressions of Adelaide.

After Port Adelaide, I took another bus back and was given the scenic route. You can buy a multi-trip ticket at $27.80 for ten trips. When you boarding, the machine stamps a time on it and you can use that for 2 hours.

Wanted to go to the Central Market to buy some gourment kangaroo meat to cook for dinner. Forgot that is close on Sunday. So ended up in a supermarket and bought some kanga sausage instead. How was it? Not bad, but not very special. Maybe I will try the kanga steak one day. But hey, eating kanga meat is good for the environment. That’s what is says on the packaging. Kangaroos don’t produce so much methane gas compared to cows and its hooves don’t disturb so much of the top soil. And it is also 98% fat free!

Look what I managed to pack into the bag. Actually, the cashier did the packing. But look at the amount of individual packaging as well. All that for AUD40.10. $1.39 for the purple bag.

At the Fisherman's Wharf in Port Adelaide. Don't throw those old stuff away, you could make a fortune in future.

That's my gourment Kanga sausage, cooked at my service apartment last night

Updated this in the Mawson Lake Campus of UniSA. The WiFI seems more stable here
11 Aug 2008 , 2.44 pm

The Old Gum Tree

This is where the proclamation for South Australia was made more than 150 years ago.

There’s this old gum tree which was where the proclaimation was made for the colonisation of South Australia. I saw it in the tourist flyers and tried to walk to it thinking I would be seeing a very old tree. I couldn’t find it but today when I mentioned to Steve and Rick I found out that it actually a dead tree. We went to take a look it anyway, on the where to (another) Steve’s house up in the hills to celebrate his completion of his Ph.D. The second Steve is already 57 and he spent about 8 years part-time working on his thesis while teaching full time at UniSA. Met a few interesting people, a couple promoting cycling and another who’s wife is from Seremban and doing a lot of work on sustainability. The old gum tree is at Glenelg which is the original site for Adelaide. It’s really interesting learning about a Brit who kidnapped rich underage heiresses, married them and ended up in jail and they consider him the father of South Australia. It seems that when he was in jail he wrote some letters promoting the systematic colonisation of South Australia. And this guy Edward didn’t even get to set foot on public.

Matthew, left, at our first meeting and briefing for the 20 students going to Penang next month.

Had dinner at Matthew’s place last night. Hey, did I say I brought the stork with me? His wife Jenny went into labour on the morning I arrived in Adelaide. And they were actually planning to drive me around that morning. So our schedule is all upside down but we will manage.

With old friends Rick and Steve on the left and Hillary (above)
Below is the Glenelg beach and jetty.
Got a chance to explore the Central Market further and discovered that there’s a lot more than I thought. Found a shop selling kangaroo meat. Maybe one of these nights I wll buy some and throw it in the oven for dinner.

Monday Patrick James, the Head of School of Natural and Built Environmental will show me Mawson Lake campus and has asked me to sit in on a meeting on active learning with their consultant from Gloucestershire. Looking forward to that.

Written on 9th Aug 2008

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Freezing my butt off at the bottom of the World

What? Flying off again? Yeah, my carbon emission is terrible this year.

Been here since early Sunday morning and I just crept straight into bed ‘cos I couldn’t find the heater. Later discovered the air-conditioner is also the heater. Early morning it is about 5 or 6 degrees Celsius so that is darn cold. During the day it's about 12 degrees. Oh, where am I? On a big island called Oz, in a city with 29 parks covering 49% of the land area, founded by a guy name William, brother of (actually, SON of) Francis, who “founded” Penang. Right! Am in Adelaide, sister to George Town.

What am I doing here? Long story. Got the time? It goes back a long ways, to 1987 or thereabouts. That’s according to Steve Hamnett. He came to visit USM and it was fasting month so Hadi gave me 50 dollars (I think; big money then) and asked me for a favour by taking out Steve for lunch. And Steve still remembers the curry fish at the Minah Restaurant. And then he went back down under, sent me a copy of the Australian Planner with a thank you note. And then we met again in Shanghai in 2001 at the World Planning Schools Congress and then again in 2003 in Hanoi at the Asian Planning Schools Association Congress. And over… eh, can’t remember what was in my hand, probably beer, so over beer Steve said “Hey, I'm bringing a bunch of students to George Town in September”. And I made some quick calculations in my head. I don’t have to spend any money. My students don’t have spend any money. Great opportunity for my students to learn Aussie planning and practice their English. Hhm, looks like I can’t lose. So I said, “great I’ll put my students to work with your students”, you know show them around, learn from each other, nothing elaborate – no working paper, no MOU, no expectations, let’s just see how it works out. Well, I guess the Ozzies love it because they kept coming (ah, going) back to George Town. And my students loved it too. Oh yes, there were a few bumps, misunderstandings, unfulfilled expectations, stress … but bottomline, their International Field Study has become the gold standard for experiential learning at the University of South Australia (UniSA).

OK, so what am I doing here? Well, they kept sending me invitations until I thought, “either I take it” or they are not going to invite me anymore. So I said yes, when I was in Korea.

So, I am going to be here for two weeks until 16th Aug. Weather is not too cooperative though. Cold and wet. I am hoping that the weather clears so that I can borrow a free bicycle from the city council and cycle all the way to the beach about 14 km away. I think I can, I think I can.

What’s Adelaide like? It’s nice. Nice as in clean. Lot’s of buses around but took it once only ‘cos it's faster for me to walk than wait for the free bus. The free tram is also nice. Shopping is 5 minutes walk to Rundle Mall but the Ozzies are homey people. Shops and department stores close by 6 pm.

If you have been following my blog, you can guess what I hunt for food. First two days was awful but I am getting better at food hunting. Found a Chinese restaurant in China Town which is quite good. Had Vietnamese Noodles for lunch today but I suspect a lot of MSG in it. The salad at the campus cafeteria is excellent but gives me excessive gas. Tried spaghetti one night, big, expensive, quite good, but expensive.

Had an interesting conversation with a student leader this afternoon. Wanted to learn and import some of their ideas. Those of you with a finger on the pulse would already know that Ozzies students have generally become less political and less agitated on social and environmental issues. It seems that students are more concerned about getting that degree and earning enough money to pay for food and tuition. But the student leader I spoke to pointed out that these are all lifestyle choices and he’s quite unhappy most students don’t care about reducing waste and consumption. Not to mention lecturers with gas guzzling SUVs. Cars are big here - like 3.8 litres average. He put up notices inviting students wanting to go green to contact him. I was the only person who contacted him so far. But I told him all about my current craze to get students agitated in USM. Maybe he will start a White Coffin campaign in Adelaide.

A couple of fairies I encountered at the Sunday Market along Rundle Street the first morning I was here.

The Torrens River. Looks beautiful doesn't it?
Well there's sign saying it gets a lot of pollutants from around the area certain times of the year so they are experimenting with some biological filter. Don't swim in it!
There's a closed bike lane along the river which leads all the way to the beach 14 km away. I will try it this Sunday if weather is good.

All the leaves a gone. The building behind is University of Adelaide.

This was shot at the Central Market this morning after I attended the Environment Court at the adjacent building. The market doesn't open everyday but as you can see the produce are super fresh. It seems all the vegetables and fruits are from the local farms. Lots of eating stalls here too including a Malacca Shop selling laksa.

Hey look, you don't have to wrap all those sandwiches with plastic bags. (Pauline, show the USM canteen guys)

It's quite a big thing, bringing your own reusable bags for shopping. All the big supermarkets sell their own bags (about 99 cents each). I bought one on the first day which is also a chiller for $2 something.
It's not compulsory to use it (as in not compel by law) and some shops which will still give you plastic bags. But some shops like the Borders bookstore will charge 10 cents if you ask for a plastic bag. They claim to have reduced the use of plastic bags by 70%. The curious thing I notice is that people shopping at the Central Market bring their own bags but some still use alot of those plastic bags to put their produce into before putting them into the carry bags. Well, it's a start.