Wednesday, July 26

Another excursion - Oxford, United Kingdom
visited Jul 25, 2006
The excursion to oxford was similar to last year but not bad I think. We started by going punting, which was fun, even though we had 4 punts tied together, and my class just happened to have the kind of children who are attracted to the bottom of rivers... Still, no one actually fell in, and I got to do some punting, which wasn´t easy (probably cos of the 4 punts tied together), but fun nonetheless. At least I didn´t fall in! Then we walked past christchrch (look, that´s where harry potter was filmed!) and then up to the pitt rivers museum, which is a wonderland of quirky objects from all over the world, with the real live shrunken heads the prime exhibit. It is actually one room of the natural history museum, but one room that is crammed from floor to ceiling(and the ceiling is about 3 stories high) with display cases so close together you can barely walk between them, and each case is stuffed with bizarre things, and under the display cases are drawers, also stuffed with bizarre things. It´s fun really!

Sunday, July 23

Boiling hot - Cold Ash, United Kingdom
visited Jul 22, 2006
England isn't supposed to boil. not even in mid-summer. It's been over 30 degrees every day this week, and the kids have been impossible in the hot classrooms - particularly in the afternoons. My room is on the corner on the top floor, which means that 2 walls are actually roof (I have to duck to get to the edge of my room). I'm also on the western side, which doesn't help. And my 2 windows only open about 3 centimetres each, presumably to prevent me throwing myself out of them when things get too much. It all adds up to quite an effective sauna. Not pleasant. Just as well I don't have any time to spend in there! Except now, on the weekend. And today, thankfully, it has been cool and rainy. Such a relief! Off now to either watch a quiet dvd, or to find someone who wants to wander down to the pub for a similarly quiet lemonade...

Monday, July 17

Another excursion - Bath, United Kingdom
visited Jul 16, 2006
I volunteered to go to bath with the Kids and Teens this week. Kate was going anyway, as the weekend excursions are run by the AOs, and I decided it would be nice to have a free trip to bath. We had a sightseeing bus ride around, but my headphones were so bad I didn't really here much of the pre-recorded commentary, which was sad, and then there was an hour of messing about before we went to the Roman Baths, which would have been lovely if they weren't so incredibly crowded. After that we finally got our promised shopping time, but we had about an hour in total, half of which Kate and I spent finding ourselves lunch, as they had run out of packed lunches. Luckily the school reimburses us for them! It was very hot and sunny, and I'm a bit sunburnt, despite the many layers of sunscreen. I can burn on this side of the world, it seems. It just takes a little longer!

Saturday, July 15

Survived Week 1 - Cold Ash, United Kingdom
visited Jul 14, 2006
Very, Very grateful for fridays here. I have the whole weekend off, unless I volunteer for an excursion, which I do, as it's free travel and a free trip to the shops, which are hard to come by around here.

Thursday, July 13

Week 1 Excursion - London, United Kingdom
visited Jul 12, 2006
Our first excursion for the summer was to London, where my teaching partner David and I first shepherded our 18 kids from Westminster Abbey to the London Eye, then waited the required hour to go up in that overgrown ferris wheel, before having a rather pleasant river cruise to the Tower Bridge and back (at least as pleasant as anything can be when accompanied by 112 kids aged 7-13). I still don't like london, but it is a nicer place when someone else pays for it all.

Saturday, July 8

Downe House - Cold Ash, United Kingdom
visited Jul 7, 2006
Finally made it to the Lines summer school at Downe House. More about the lovely, long, frustrating journey later (thanks AGAIN british rail...) The program here is Intensive But Fun (as we are told everytime we walk past one of the million Lines Languages banners that are up all over the school), so I'm working 12-16 hour days mostly, but I get weekends sort of free, apart from sunday evening placement testing, and having to sit with kids if I turn up to meals, which I will, cos sitting with kids for the 10 mins they take to eat, then sitting with teachers for an hour over post-prandial coffee is preferable to starving! and, of course, I seem to have spent all of today either sorting out the displays in my classroom, or fiddling with my students' blog ( - have a look!) or entering my test scores for the week, or something. And tomorrow I'm accompanying kids to Bath, but voluntarily, so I don't have to spend the whole day with them, and it's basically a free trip to a shop, with a tour of Bath and the Roman Baths thrown in. I'll write here when I can, but as I'm doing little but teaching, I will probably write more posts in the next month to my Serious Blog instead ( Oh, and as you may have already surmised, the trip to israel syria and lebanon is currently on hold until we see whathappens to the region. More about our Plan B later.

Friday, July 7

Half an hour in Sweden - Malmo, Sweden
visited Jul 6, 2006
We were up at 7, and on the bus by 25 past. Then another bus (a Grahundbus)to the airport in Malmo for our cheap Ryanair flight to London. I realise that half an hour in a country barely counts, but I think it should, so I am. After all, I spent some swedish crowns (albeit some that Kate had from the last time she had been there) and did notice some things. For example: Denmark, both from the air, and from the sea (as we crossed the marvelous bridge/tunnel that goes from Denmark to Sweden) is as flat as a carpet. Quite amazingly flat. And barely above the water level. I'm surprised the whole place doesn't get swamped at high tide. Sweden, on the other hand, was immediately noticeably different, as it had some texture and small rolling hills. Nothing high, of course, but just enough to make it different. So that's 46 countries, I think. :)

Thursday, July 6

Festival - Copenhagen, Denmark
visited Jul 5, 2006
After the last post, we spent most of Sunday wandering around the most famous bits of the city, including the Little Mermaid who sits on a rock near the port. We arrived back at the festival house to be told that there wouldn't be anyone to let us in at the squat where we were staying until about midnight. To our jetlagged selves, this sounded painful, but a nice woman showed us a mattress in the attic of the house here, and, despite the heat, we crashed for a few hours. When we finally got to the squat, we were shown a large concert room that was the designated sleeping area for festival people. It smelt of old beer and cigarettes, but the atmosphere was a little better up on the stage, so we set up there and crashed. As it turned out, we only had one night there, as the second day, we were told about two women who had offered their house for showers and maybe to sleep, but only to "nice" women (which we apparently are). As I was desperate for a shower (I hadn't had one since Korea, and this was our second day in compenhagen!), we turned up there quite late on monday evening, and ended up staying the night. It's a lovely little flat on the top floor, occupied by a Danish lesbian couple and their flatmate from Sweden. It's nice to be able to stay with and talk to some locals - the people at the squat didn't seem in the slightest interested in talking to us, and we sort of felt like intruders. It's much nicer in the flat, and we are very very grateful to the three women for hosting us! Our days have pretty much consisited of spending the morning wandering around Copenhagen, and the afternoon and evening at the festival. Kate has had fun showing me all her old haunts from her semester here in 2004, as well as the tourist sites of the city. Unfortunately it's been really hot, so our tolerance for wandering around is a little limited, but my overall impression is that Copenhagen is a very pleasant little city. As part of the festival we have been to workshops on Queer family, Queer Hair and a very exciting talk and film from Del LaGrace Volcano, which was unexpected. He is in the process of making another book of photos called "Femmes of Power" which sparked Kate's interest. After the workshop we spent some time talking to Del, along with some other people interested in being in the book. It looks like an exciting project! Also as part of the festival, we visited Christiania. This is a whole area of Copenhagen that was squatted about 30 years ago, that has declared itself an independent state. We visited the queer house there, which is actually just a theatre and organising space, but it's very nice to know it's there. We were also given a tour of christiana by one of the women from the house, which was nice, as we would never have seen all the intersting nooks and crannies of the area without it! On to England and Cold Ash tomorrow. I hope it is cooler there!

Monday, July 3

Made it! - Copenhagen, Denmark
visited Jul 2, 2006
I've been travelling for over 60 hours. I think itøs some sort of record for getting to europe. Of course, about 15 hours of it was spent in a 5 star luxury hotel, which seems to prevent too much sympathy coming my way. I think the night in Stansted airport more than makes up for that, even though I was lucky enough to score one of the very few sets of seats that didn't have arms to get in the way of lying down. I met kate in the baggage collection section of the airport here - our flights were so well timed! - and we negotiated our way by train to central, then, using my dodgy knowledge of a map I glanced at 4 days ago, plus a new map, we miraculously fonud our way to the Festival House, where we have been welcomed warmly, and offered a place to put our bags for the day, and some internet! Yay! Unfortunately, I managed to leave home without my European adaptor, so my computer is currently out of action, and I canøt get the several thousand words of blog entries I wrote while waiting in airports and on planes. They will be uploaded as soon as we find the adaptor Kate brought. We don't get to go to our accomodation until about 8pm tonight, by which time I think we will both be asleep on our feet, but we'll dig out the adaptor then. Korean airlines overall rates low on movies and entertainment (no individual tvs!), lowish on food, but absolutely top notch for the stopover. If I hadn't had that proper night's sleep, I would probably be a whole lot deader right now than I currently am. Have to go, Kate is dying to show me around Copenhagen! She's already at the markets that I can see out the window here, and I promised to catch up, after my internet fix. Oh, and this is the 45th country that I have visited in my life. Hey Dad: Beat you!

Sunday, July 2

Incheon Stll - Seoul, South Korea
visited Jul 1, 2006
So no free internet at Incheon Airport. I could have paid 3000 won ($4ish) for an hour, but I only have about half an hour, and I can't be bothered changing any money for it. On first impressions, Korea seems to be somewhere in between China and Japan. And I'm not just talking geographically. I went for a walk last night, and decided that korea smells similar to China, and the shops were very much like some I'd seen in the richer areas there (remembering that these are shops within a 2 minute walk of the Hyatt Regency, that seems reasonable!). Bowing is important here, as in Japan. The hotel person who led us to our shuttle bus last night bowed deeply to it as it pulled away from the curb. I still prefer both chinese and japanese food, but I've worked out why now. I don't like Kim Chi. I picked up a whole book on this korean staple (it's pretty much pickled vegetables, I think) in an airport bookshop half an hour ago, and read "once you have acquired a taste for it, your dinner table will never be complete without it". I think I'll just skip the acquiring process and live happily without it! I meant to take a photo of me all pink cheeked after my bath and wrapped in the fluffy white terry toweling bathrobe, but I forgot, so you'll just have to imagine it. Here are some pics of my hotel and the view from it instead. As you can see, something else that reminds me of china is the thick soupy smog, although it is also overcast (I think) today, which might not be helping. Boarding now.

Saturday, July 1

Leaving again... - Brisbane, Australia
visited Jun 30, 2006
Brisbane I know I keep leaving, but sometimes brisbane isn't such a bad place. During this last 4 months, I have discovered that I need to discover more about the nooks and crannies of the city (because I hadn't realised there were any) and have realised that I like water. I like the fact that Brisbane has a huge great river through it, and that in order to get just about anywhere, you need to cross it, or drive along it. The riverside expressway at sunset is a lovely sight (I promise that's not why I had the accident though), and from the air, the whole place is rather pretty. Flying to Hamilton last week, we did a loop right over the city, and, as there wasn't a cloud in the sky, and it was a wonderfully clear day, the river (and the skyscrapers) were all sparkling in the sun. It was fantastic! Pity I don't own a camera at the moment!

Incheon (The airport city next to Seoul) - Seoul, South Korea
visited Jun 30, 2006
I'm sitting in the Hyatt Regency Incheon, Not Using their internet. I'm too cheap to pay 20000won (whatever that means) for a day's access. Just as I was too cheap to pay US$10 an hour to use the inflight wireless internet (I had heard they had it now, but didn't really believe it!). So this will just have to wait until I next get a connection - hopefully in Stansted or Heathrow, where I think there might be free wireless. Finally got away from Brisbane - I should remember not to arrange such early flights when I don't have any family in town! The wonderful james came to my rescue, giving me half a lift to the airport. I still had to be on a train to Bowen Hills at 6am, but if I had caught the train the whole way, it would have been 5am. At the checkin, they told me their weren't any exit row seats left, and found my an aisle bulkhead instead - I wasn't looking forward to it. I was, however, directed to the reservations desk to make a reservation for an aisle seat for the next flight, and discovered a wonderful thing. Korean air reserves the exit row seats for people who go and specifically ask for them at a separate counter, and they easily changed my first flight to a window exit row. This system means that any spare seats on the plane end up in the exit rows, so there's extra space in all directions! I was most pleased, and the flight was rather pleasant. No individual tvs on this flight, and the drawback of the exit row seat was a small screen too far away to read subtitles, so I skipped the korean movie and read instead. I should have brought another book as carry on, as I've finished the first one. I hope I can find someone to swap with, as I dare say the next flight will have the same problems! I did get to watch the second movie - Failure to Launch. Yay. One moment of excitement - I happened to glance out the window just as we were flying over the chesterfields. I wouldn't have expected to see them, being just two small reefs and islands in the middle of the coral sea, inhabited only by birds, pretty much, but obviously we were in just the right spot. I last saw them in 1991 when we stopped there on praxis. I'm pretty sure it was the chesterfields, anyway! On arrival, I discovered that they don't make it too easy to work out where you are supposed to go for the Hyatt (I get free accomodation here because the flights don't meet up, which is nice), but managed anyway. I've explored the hotel, been for a walk down the street to a few shops that are nearby, had the set menu dinner (my opinion of korean food is improving slightly) and soaked in a deep hot bath. I'm now wrapped in the white terry bathrobe loungng in the armchair with my feet up, and I'm about to crawl into the king size bed and crash. get 10 hours sleep, have the buffet breakfast (which I've heard is very nice) and then take the free bus 2 minutes down the road to the airport at the nice civilised hour of 11.15 or so. Hopefully I'll feel relaxed and slept enough to survive the 24 hours after that - still dreading this night on the floor of stansted...