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.

No comments: