iSherriWilson

The story of my life…

A Long Way Home. Literally.

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First of all, it would be wrong of me to conclude this series of blog posts related to our trip to Australia without mentioning that Jenni was not only never late, in Australia she was often early! If you know Jenni and her penchant for operating on “Jenni time” you would understand how truly impressive this was. If you knew me and how I am horribly frustrated when I’m not on time, you’d understand how much I appreciated that! That’s just one of the reasons I was really excited for her when her global upgrade certificate got approved and she’d been moved up to business class for the journey home. Having flown over there in coach, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, let alone my best friend! And she totally deserved it for not keeping me waiting. Ever!

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So the day started with a quick breakfast in Jenni’s room before our cab arrived. We got to the airport pretty quickly and Jenni found out she was number two on the list for upgrades. There were two seats available. After passing through security, I went scouting to find the Delta lounge. They apparently operate through the New Zealand airline lounge and I was turned away because only those sitting in business or first class are able to enjoy their comfort and amenities. I wandered aimlessly back to the terminal and picked up a few more packs of Tim Tams, you know, for the family… Jenni also got denied entrance to the lounge, since her upgrade wasn’t yet official, she was technically still in coach with me.

Our flight from Sydney was delayed because the inbound flight couldn’t land due to fog. We went over to the gate to wait. Not long after we got there they kicked everyone out. Apparently they do this so they can check passports as people enter the gate area. Jenni and I went to get a drink and when we got back we went through passport control and then found a place to wait.

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Jenni finally got her upgrade and was even subtle about how excited she was. Once boarding began I lost sight of her but I quickly found her again when I took my seat. There’s a little window in the bulkhead. So the rest of us can see how much fun it is up there, I suppose.

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My seat was on the aisle in economy comfort. On the flight out I was in a regular coach seat but by the window. It’s kind of hard to tell the difference between the economy seat and economy comfort. To be frank, there isn’t anything comfortable about it! But it was definitely better to be on the aisle in a flight that lasts over 10 hours. The girl next to me had an inflatable seat cushion and an inflatable foot rest. I’m totally going to google those, she slept like a baby…

I got up to check on Jenni and she was all settled in.

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My plan to avoid jet lag was to stay awake for the first seven hours and then try to sleep the rest of the way. I started by watching Only Lovers Left Alive. Two thumbs up. It was entertaining. Tilda Swinson was great and her vampire husband was hot.

Jenni had told me that shortly after boarding she’d made her dinner selection. She was having a sushi appetizer

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And the shrimp with soba noodles.

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They brought our dinner out. I asked the flight attendant what my options were. She said beef or spaghetti. I asked what kind of beef. She gave me a blank look, peeled the top off of one and said “it’s just beef”. I took the beef. She was right it was just beef. Cubes of beef swimming in a lumpy gravy with what may have been couscous and green beans and a mushy orange substance that may or may not have been carrots. The green beans were the only things I was sure of so I ate those.

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I also ordered a glass of wine. I asked what the wine selection was. I was told I had two choices, red or white. Red wine in coach is poured from a box.

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I noticed the bar trolley in business had actual glass bottles. And more than one kind. It’s too bad Jenni doesn’t drink…

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The next movie I watched was Veronica Mars. Very cute. I wasn’t feeling terribly sleepy yet so I took some of my nighttime cold medicine and turned on a movie about Wolverine of the X men. I must have gotten all caught up in it and missed my sleep window because when it was over I was wide awake and ready for another movie. I decided to watch the original X Men movie. it looked like it was going to be a long day, so why not make it an X Men Marathon?

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When it was over I turned the TV off and really tried to sleep. A few minutes later they turned all the lights on and the flight attendants came down the aisle with their boxes of wine. They also provided a snack which was a bag with a sandwich and an apple. I actually got stuck with the vegan bag because the dad and his daughter next to me were vegans and somehow I got associated with them. I slammed down another glass of red wine and then tried again to get some sleep. It didn’t work so I watched another X Men movie.

We finally arrived in LA and I hadn’t had any sleep at all. I realized as we landed that I only had 30 minutes to make it through customs, find my bag, drop my bag off, and go through security to catch my flight. Jenni was one of the first off, so I texted her goodbye and made my way down to Customs. There was a flight from Japan that had arrived at the same time we did, so they held us up at the top of the escalator since they didn’t have enough room for everyone from both flights to go through at once. Thankfully, they let those of us with the Global Pass go through and I zipped through customs in less than 5 minutes. That’s when things broke down. I had to wait for my bag to arrive so I could pick it up and drop it back off. Jenni’s bag was the first one off the plane. I texted her to let her know, but she’d been placed in a holding pen. My bag was one of the last to arrive. I grabbed it and ran to the exit but then got held up in line waiting for everyone else to declare whatever it was they were declaring.

I finally made it through and dropped my bag right outside the customs area but then I was outside of security and had to go upstairs and wait in anther line. For some reason my TSA pre check had not been included on the printed ticket they’d given me, so I had to wait in line, and then remove my Uggs and laptop. By the time I’d made it through my flight had left. The worst part was that I’d been upgraded to first class for the flight to Atlanta and the flight to DC and was counting on that for some quality napping.

I decided I’d have better luck getting rebooked in the Delta Lounge. But that’s because I forgot how busy the LAX Delta Lounge is. I’m sure that’s why the agent working there didn’t care that I was hot and tired! She said I’d already been rebooked on Alaska Airlines. I asked if I was going to be upgraded and she said I was on the list but that it would never happen. I asked her to check if there were any other routes to DC that I could take where I would be upgraded. She said first class was full on every route. She told me I would need to walk through the tunnel to get to Alaska and that I should leave by 11:30. It was already 11 so I decided to head over because I had a seat request card and needed to check in at the gate to get my seat assignment . Jenni was still in the holding pen.

When I got to Alaska and asked about the upgrade, she laughed at me. Then I asked if I could have a window seat. She said they were out. I sat down to wait for boarding to begin. Jenni finally made it out of the holding pen and went to the Delta lounge to pass the time.

My flight finally boarded. The entire row next to me was empty. I asked the flight attendant if I could move. She said she’d already promised the seat to  little girl two rows up because she was in a window seat with no window. She offered me that seat. Good enough!

As soon as I settled in my new seat, the plane fired up and we pulled away from the gate. The middle seat in my row was empty so I stretched out and put on my sleep mask. Next thing I knew we were landing. Can’t wait to do it all again…

 

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Back to Sydney

Brisbane is an amazing place with incredible weather! Jenni and I hated to leave, but had to make our way back to Sydney before heading back to the states. Before we could go, Jenni had to do another radio interview and I needed to stock up on cold medicine. Many picked us up at the villa to drive us back into the city.

We dropped off Jen at ABC radio and Mandy and I went to Cole’s to pick up my supplies.

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The cold medicine was critical since the day before I’d stopped at the IGA and was tricked into buying some sort of herbal remedy that included licorice and horseradish and had absolutely no effect on my terrible plague. Afterwards we went to the Smith Family office to meet up with Julie who would drop us off at the airport.

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She kept our bags at the office while we walked over to the West End for a quick lunch. I had the Thai Chicken Ball which was basically a big ball of minced chicken cooked with a lot of delicious spices. If you ever see one, I highly recommend it!

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Julie dropped us at the airport. Our bags were underweight (whew) and we dropped them off and headed to our gate. Jenni VERY kindly took the middle seat so I could take the short way. I leaned my head against the side of the plane and closes my eyes. When I opened them again we were in Sydney! And just in time for a beautiful sunset!

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We decided to take the train into the city instead of a taxi. After all, we are masters of public transportation. We only had to go three stops to the Central Station.

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We left on the Pitt Street side, which was easy to remember since my PTA office is on Pitt Street as well!

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Our hotel was a lovely two bedroom apartment in the heart of Chinatown. Sadly I was too sick to enjoy it so Jenni and I picked up some food at Coles and called it a night.

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Beware of Random Man on the Street Interviews

Day 3 in Brisbane was a short workday, which was a good thing since I apparently caught the plague or some sort of really bad head cold. We hiked across the 10 lushly landscaped acres from our villa to enjoy breakfast in the hotel restaurant. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but the breakfast buffet in Australia is very hearty. In addition to eggs (scrambled and poached) there is spaghetti, veal shanks, sausages in dark gravy, bacon, and roasted tomatoes. I settled for bacon and eggs. Jenni had her usual.

We walked over to the roundtable discussion. The room was packed with key education stakeholders from the Queensland area as well as a couple of researchers and representatives from the national government. Because of my sudden and unexpected illness I was without any makeup, devoid of contacts, and sneezing and hacking into my growing mound of tissues. In spite of my disease, we all had a very rich discussion!

Afterwards, our friend Carmel agreed to give us a lift to the city. We had a lovely ride in and she dropped us off in the west end.

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We visited a few quirky shops and then grabbed one of the best meals of the trip at a little bistro called Chop Chop Chang. I enjoyed it very much in spite of the giant planet of the apes art (that movie totally freaks me out!)

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I was determined not to let the horrible head cold ruin our trip. so we walked to the Cultural Center and bought tickets to Le Noir, the dark side of cirque.

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With a few hours to kill, we strolled through the South Shore to buy some souvenirs. On our way we were stopped by two guys with a camera and microphone. They asked if they could interview us for a show they were doing on computer repairs. We said sure!

The first question they asked us was how long we had been using computers. We said about 25 or 30 years. Then they asked us if we ever had any problems using computers. We said no, we were very good at it. They asked if we’d ever had a virus because of our computer use. We both said no, we’ve got Macs. Then they asked if we’d had any viruses before we started using Macs. We said maybe, it was a long time ago but that was one of the reason we switched, to avoid the Macs. Then they asked if we ever let our partners know we’d had a virus. I suddenly realized they weren’t talking about “computers” at all! Jenni asked what they meant by computer partners. They said, you know when someone puts their USB in our drive. Jenni was involved in some lengthy discussion about why she didn’t really think it was necessary to tell her partner but I leaned in and said absolutely, I would absolutely tell my partner about my “virus”.

They thanked us for our time and we walked off. I told Jen I didn’t think they were talking about computers. She insisted I have a dirty mind. Whatever! I just hope my Australian friends who view the edited version on the Aussie style Trigger Happy TV show realize we had no idea what they were actually talking about!

We found a little candy shop and Jen stopped in to top off her supply.

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She wouldn’t try the Witchitie Grubs so I bought a couple. For the record, they are quite tasty and unlike anything I imagine a real grub would taste like. Then we found the public beach on the river.

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And walked through the rain forest…

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to the Nepalese Temple.

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The sangria of the day was grapefruit and lychee at Ole, a local tapas bar.

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We went back to the cultural center so we could be on time for the show. I had an onion and cheese pastie for dinner while we waited. Jenni adjusted the heat, which caused the entire thing to glow bright red. It’s a Christmas miracle we didn’t get kicked out or burn the place down!

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The seats we had for the show were in the center and only about 8 rows back. The only seats better were on the actual stage and the last time I scored seats on the stage it was for the Woolley Mammoth production of Allow Us To Present and they lynched a man in front of us. This was much more enjoyable. I loved the DJ in the booth above the back of the stage. Very Zoolander. Plus he played excellent music.

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The show was amazing. My favorite part was the roller skating couple. I never should have stopped taking lessons! Jenni liked the couple suspended by ribbons. The show was fantastic! I’d have taken pictures for you, but I didn’t want to distract any of the performers who could have plunged to their deaths at any moment.

Lucky for us, our bus arrived shortly after the show ended. We had a very chatty bus driver. Thankfully Jenni sat up front and kept him company, because I couldn’t hear a word he was saying. Turns out neither did she, but they both enjoyed their conversation nonetheless and we made it back to the villa safe and sound!

 

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Rats the Size of Small Children

On our second day of Brisbane training, I finally got to try vegemite. Let’s just say I prefer Tim Tams and leave it at that.

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Our second day of training focused on action team planning to help the participants begin planning how they could put into place some of the strategies they’d learned the day before. They spent a lot of time brainstorming barriers to family engagement and then strategies for overcoming those barriers.

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During the tea break, they added suggestions to our list of sightseeing options for our final afternoon in Brisbane.

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They worked really hard throughout the day.

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I think we went through a small forest of chart paper.

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But our final reviews were worth it!

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At the end of the day, our friend Mandy offered to drop us at the Queen Street Mall so we could get out of our room villa. We found some lovely arcades.

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After we picked up a few souvenirs for our friends back home, we emerged to find it had become dark. The casino was lit up like it was the Emerald City.

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We strolled through to see what it looked like on the inside, but kept our money for more shopping!

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Having heard that the South Shore had some great restaurants, we walked across the river

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And past the free public dance lessons in the park.

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It was Latin dance night and the instructor had a fantastic Spanish accent.

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We strolled over to Greystone for dinner and ordered a trio of dips, and a delicious platter with salami, sun-dried tomatoes, bread, pistachios, french bread, and basaltic vinaigrette. I also tried a south Australian Cabernet Merlot which was delicious.

Jenni and I made our way back to the cultural center to catch a bus back to Roberston Gardens.

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Did I mention it’s pretty far out from the city? The bus we usually take only stops a couple of times on its way out, but it also only runs once an hour. We found out bus 120 also stopped at the QEII Hospital and ran much more frequently. Nobody told us it had about 50 stops before ours. It took a while.

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Thankfully the bus driver pointed our stop out to us so we wouldn’t miss it.

 

We jumped off and began the half mile trek back to our villa. I was huffing it up the hill on the side closest to the road, Jenni was on the side by the fence. Most of the time, I concentrated on where I was walking. I didn’t want to trip on a sidewalk crack and sprain anything. However, at one point I looked up and glanced over at Jenni. That’s when I saw the giant rat stalking us along the top of the fence. At first I thought maybe it was a Tasmanian Devil, which freaked me out because I remembered their name meant ‘flesh lover”, but I realized it was brown and all of the Tasmanian Devils I’ve seen are black. It was as big as a 5 to 7-year-old child with a long skinny tale and big shiny teeth.

I tried not to panic and to encourage Jenni to pick up the pace. She kept asking why. I was trying to keep an eye on the giant rat and not tip him off that I had spotted him in case he realized I was on to him and tried to rush us. I was also trying to walk as quickly as possible without tripping over any cracks or reinjuring my ankle. Eventually I told Jenni to look over at the fence. As if he’d heard me the giant rat ducked down and hid from her. She took off running anyhow. When I reminded her I was injured and still recovering from my sprained ankle which slowed me down, she pointed out that Hudson needs his mother. My friends Mandy and Jeanette both think it was probably a possum, but if it was, it was the biggest, hungriest, ugliest possum that ever existed. I’m just glad we survived.

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Training Action Teams in Brisbane

Jenni and I had two days of training set up in Brisbane. Our day got off to an exciting start when Jenni’s flat iron blew up.

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Our first day of training focused on assessing school cultures and climates. We set up the room with our usual supplies: chart paper, pipe cleaners, feathers, die cut hands and feet, glitter, and googly eyes.

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Our participants really seemed to enjoy it and made some really creative mixed media visions of family engagement.

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One team used their pipe cleaners to create glasses for their googly eyes.

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Another team turned their chart paper into a boat with families, teachers, and community members hanging from it, trying to get on board!

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One team used the leftover pipe cleaners and feathers to make a mini me for Jenni and I.

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At the end of the day, many of the participants who had traveled in from other places and were staying in their own room villa met us for a dinner in the hotel restaurant. I sat at one table and Jenni sat at the other. I’m sure her table was nice but mine was super fun! I was sitting in between a group from Darwin, which is in the far northern territories and over four hours away by plane. Also at my table was Anne, a former catholic school teacher/public school teacher. This was lucky for me because the topic for the #ozptchat was #studentwellness and she had some terrific ideas!

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We had a lovely time before Jenni and I returned to our room villa to prepare for the next day.

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The Best of Brisbane

One has high expectations for any tour that bills itself as the best of anything.  Jen and I had booked tickets on the Best of Brisbane tour which was supposed to start promptly at 9:15. We hiked to the hotel restaurant for a quick breakfast before our taxi came and whisked us away to the city.

When we arrived in the transit station where we had to join the tour, we discovered that it was actually supposed to start at 8:30. In our defense, our tickets said 9:15 but the crusty old driver didn’t seem interested in our excuses. We all boarded the bus for the first part of the tour.

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Our first stop was the Old Windmill. It was never an actual windmill, but they call it that because of the shape. It’s one of only 2 buildings still standing from the convict era, because apparently they weren’t highly skilled or highly motivated to make long-lasting buildings. On the top is a big ball. They used to mark the 1:00 hour by dropping the ball and making a big racket. At least that’s what I thought he said. There was a lot of traffic and the rest of our tour group was crowded around him, so it’s hard to be sure.

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From there, he drove us around the city in the little bus. We stopped a couple of more times for interesting views of local churches and landmarks.We also stopped on Kangaroo Ridge to snap picture of the city from across the river.

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Our final stop was at the Breakfast Creek Hotel. It was the site of the first beer garden in Brisbane and has a public bar and a private bar. The public bar was for anyone to drop in, even after work in your dirtiest clothes.

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The private bar was for ladies and gentlemen and much fancier. Both are still in use today and the public bar is the only place in the city that still serves untapped beer each night at 7. The bartender announces the beer and then they open the tap and par-tay.

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The bus driver took us down to the river and we boarded a boat for the next part of the tour.

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The best part of the boar tour was the charming little tea break.

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Jenni and I both went up top for a while.

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But it got cold and windy so Jenni left and I was on my own.

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It was really interesting to see so many of the landmarks the bus driver had pointed out. The customs house, for example, only has one story showing at the street level, but from the water, it’s got three levels with big beautiful columns. Or maybe that was the Commisariat. Whatever, they were both nice!

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Eventually we reached our destination, the South Bank. We climbed off and queued up for the Wheel of Brisbane.

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There weren’t many people ahead of us, so Jenni and I got our own gondola. The wheel made four or five rotations and we saw some amazing views of the city.

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When we came down, we had 45 minutes to eat lunch before we had to board the bus again. We saw a cute little waffle shop with sidewalk tables so we decided to call it brunch. After we boarded the bus, we struck up a conversation with a lovely couple from Victoria. The woman worked as a social worker with aboriginal families, particularly helping aboriginal kids who’d been removed from their homes. She showed us some of the pictures she’d taken in the outback of women chopping up kangaroos and burning the hair off the hide and she cautioned us not to play the didgeridoo. Apparently women are NOT allowed and if they touch them its bad luck and they must be burned or purified or something. Eventually we arrived at the next stop the Lone Pine Koala Refuge.

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This is the largest Koala refuge in the universe. Or at least in Australia. they also have a lot of other animals. Like kangaroos.

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And emus.

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And dingoes. I wanted to scream “Dingoes ate my baby!” but couldn’t find a way to work it into any conversations.

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They had Tasmanian devils, which turns out actually exist! They are not cartoons, but they are quite unattractive and I find it hard to get excited about animals when the first line on the sign post is “from the scientific name Sarcophilus meaning ‘flesh lover'”. Apparently they are quite useful since they eat both fresh and rotting meat and consume the entire animal. But they aren’t very pretty.

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The kookaburra was super cute.

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The highlight was holding the koala. They are super cute and weigh about 10 or 12 pounds. My koala was Sharkey.

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You know who else likes koala bears? George R. R. Martin.

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Afternoon tea was a lamington and some mineral water. Lamingtons are not as good as Tim Tams.IMG_3812

We boarded the bus for one last stop, a trip to the peak of Mt Coot-Tha, the highest point in the city of Brisbane. It’s hard to believe it’s still in the city limits, but I guess it was about as far as our hotel so it does make sense. The view was breathtaking.

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From there we went back to the transit center where we started. It’s a good thing we were getting off there because right before we arrived we heard the bus driver say “dammit, there went my clutch” right before he blew through a red light, pulled up to the bus station and told us to get out.

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We found our way to the proper platform and even managed to make a bus transfer, all of which was completed without proper signage. And by that I mean any signage at all.

We grabbed a quick dinner and trudged back to our room villa to prepare our materials for tomorrow’s training. Back to work in the morning. Wish you were here!

 

 

 

 

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Bye Bye Sydney, We’re Off to Brisbane

The second half of our international consulting gig involved a week in Brisbane. We had tickets to fly on Jetstar, a budget airline that’s somehow affiliated with Quantas.

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We caught an early cab to the airport. You can only check your bags 2 hours before the flight leaves, and they are pretty strict about the timing, so we found a bench to wait.

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When we finally got through, we had a quick breakfast and I found a plug to charge my laptop. When it was time for the plane to take off, I queued up, like you should. Jen eventually joined me, but when she saw we would be delayed, she sat down and struck up a conversation with another traveler. I think they were mocking those of us who were patiently standing in line, but I can’t be sure. When we boarded, we discovered Jen’s new friend was sitting at the end of our row. This worked out really well, cause Jen was pretty steamed about having to sit in the middle. Matthew was over 6 feet tall and didn’t complain at all about his lack of leg room.

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The flight was great fun. Jenni and I outlined the chapters for our new book and Matthew recorded the moment for the back of the book jacket.

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Turns out Matthew is a Kindergarten teacher from Hong Kong. He’s also great fun to travel with!

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Once we arrived, our hostess Julie and her husband Peter met us for the ride into town. They drove us through the city and far, far away to our hotel. Because it was so far from the city center, Julie kindly offered to drive us back into town and drop us at the Queen Street Mall. We strolled through the shops. Since I’d decided to remove my splint, I realized I could finally wear cute outfits again. One of the first shops we found was Target.

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The Targets in Australia are 100% nicer than the ones in the states! The clothes were adorable. I picked up a new dress and a couple of skirts. But I couldn’t wear those with my Chucks, right? Off we went to look for some comfy, flat boots. Along the way we stopped for a quick lunch and to check out some local street art.

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I found a pair of salmon colored Uggs and Jen got some in purple.  It started getting late and we knew it was a long way back to the hotel, so we took off for the Queen Street bus station. It took a while (because of the lack of adequate signage) but eventually we figured out we needed to be on Platform A3 to catch bus 135. We accessed the fare station and bought reload able cards. The bus stopped at the QEII Hospital and we walked the half mile to the hotel.

Our room villa was the furthest from the from doors of the “lushly landscaped 10 acre property” so we stopped at the hotel restaurant first. They were about the have a couple of VERY large parties so we got there just in time! I had the mussels and prawns which were bathing in a really dense tomato based sauce. Jenni had the lamb shanks, minus the mash. The large parties arrived and were VERY loud so we ate quickly and then trudged back to our room villa.

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Tomorrow we will see everything in Brisbane, so we decided to call it a night! Wish you were here!

 

 

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Making our Way to Manly

The final day of work in Sydney began with a brisk walk to the Smith Family office. The Smith Family is a children’s charity helping disadvantaged Australian children to get the most out of their education. We were joined by 3 policy advisors from the Office of the Federal Minister for Education and a few of his staff, as well as a representative from the NSW Department of Education. There were also several representatives from The Smith Family who joined us, including their CEO.

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The Minister’s rep immediately made his position clear when he began asking us how much family engagement was too much. It went downhill from there, but in spite of his anti-family engagement stance, Jenni and I enjoyed the conversation and the chance to talk about the family engagement assessment Jen developed. Our host Ian from School Industry Partnerships also chimed in about the current state of the Action Teams for Partnership operating in Australia. Jen and I took the opportunity to offer a cautionary note about the devastating effect that the loss of federal support has had in the US and encouraged them to continue to fund high quality programming. Finally, it was off to Manly!

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Ian kindly led us to the train station and helped us purchase tickets. We rode the train to Circular Quay and bought tickets for the Manly Ferry.

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We scored the front seat on the upper deck…

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and snapped a few photos as we pulled away from the city.

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Manly is a peninsula that overlooks the South Pacific Ocean. We walked through The Corso, a pedestrian mall with plenty of shops and restaurants.

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I picked up some fish and chips and Jen got a pita with lamb and we carried them over to a picnic area overlooking the beach. Have I told you how aggressive Australian seagulls are? We are so acclimated now we just bat them away and continue to eat!

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After lunch, we strolled along the beach walk…

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past Shelly Beach and up to the top of the lookout on the headland for some amazing views.

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We decided to skip the luggage museum in favor of returning to The Rocks for some site seeing and a little shopping. On the way back to the ferry we spotted a crocodile hunter enjoying his lunch.

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The ride back was even better than the ride over!

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The winds had picked up so Jenni stayed inside where it was warm.

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But the sun was slowly sinking behind the Harbor Bridge.

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The Rocks is a beautiful area next to the Harbor Bridge that I’m told was constructed entirely by convicts. It’s full of adorable shops and pubs. Sadly, we got there as most of the shops were closing.

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We strolled through and then walked back via the Queen Victoria Shops with a quick stop at Woolworths to stock up on Tim Tams before our flight to Brisbane tomorrow. We picked up some pie and headed back to our rooms to pack up!

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The Tim Tam Slam

Day two of our Sydney training started earlier. We hustled over to the training venue and set up all of our materials. My friend Jeanette, who just happened to be one of our participants, helped us out and recorded participant responses.

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We asked the participants to identify barriers to family engagement and then had them vote with stickers on which ones they should use to brainstorm solutions.

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We also took suggestions for sightseeing options.

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The day was a smashing success! Afterwards we said goodbye to our friends.

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And got photo bombed by our good friend Cheryl (a better job than the queen, by the way!)

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Then we dropped our bags at the hotel and headed out to explore the city. The first stop was the Queen Victoria Shops to pick up a charming little travel book tweed spotted the other day. We popped into Swatch and Jenni found a watch with sprinkles and one with polka dots. I bought a red one. We wandered out and walked through the Sydney Arcade.

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There is definitely no shortage of shopping options in Sydney!

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We decided to walk to Chinatown for dinner.

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The coconut milk was fantastic and so was the food.

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We took the long way back to the hotel but still didn’t see any kangaroo pizza.

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The evening ended with a Tim Tam Slam, like every evening should.

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Darling Harbor

After a quick breakfast (we both had the Jenni special) We loaded up and walked the five blocks to the training venue. Jen carried the giant post it pad, in spite of the gale force winds.

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We kicked off our training with a mixed media art activity and asked each table to construct a poster that illustrated their vision of what successful family engagement would look like. They had feathers, pipe cleaners, pom poms, foam hands and feet, googly eyes, and glitter.

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The results were impressive!

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And really intricate!

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We presented information about the CAFÉ Family Engagement Assessment and showed them pictures from American schools. In the afternoon we set up a data walk and the teams pulled apart the assessment data we had posted on the walls.

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At the end of the day, we were ready to explore more of Sydney, but Jen had to have a quick call with the radio station from Brisbane to prep for her interview next week.

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We decided the best place to take the call would be in Darling Harbor, near the shops! Also, we’d exceeded the data count on our portable hotspot and hoped to find some free wifi so I could get online as well! We walked across the bridge to the shops and the views were stunning!

I love Australia, but they sure are stingy with the free wifi! We walked from bar to bar inside the shopping mall, but none of them had wifi. The Hard Rock said they did, but they didn’t. Still we had to stop somewhere to take Jenni’s call, and the balcony at the Hard Rock was deserted with glorious views of the city skyline.

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After Jen’s call, we made a stop at the Dr Candy kiosk.

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We walked back across the bridge and stopped for dinner at Cockle Bay Wharf. We settled on the I’m Angus Steak House when we saw kangaroo on the menu.

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Frankly, the kangaroo was disappointing. First of all I’d really hoped to try it on a pizza. This was just grilled. Secondly, it just tasted like beef.

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After dinner we walked over to Woolworths to stock up on supplies. Big day planned for tomorrow!

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