sarahblack: (Glance)
I can't believe I'll be in Iceland in a few days. It's kind of surreal. Also I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand I am so excited to see my family and get back to my gym, but on the other hand... I don't have a job to go to. I don't really know what I'll do with myself with no job and no school to occupy my time.

Could someone just pay me to go to the gym and to the swimming pool? That would be optimal. Maybe I could trick rich people who are out of shape into paying me for going to the gym for them?

Anyway, Narrabri is becoming unbearably hot. It's not quite there yet, but I have a feeling that this is a good time to leave. I will miss my grandmother and Lindsay. Being at their house is always such a wonderful experience. Happily, I will see them in Iceland before too long.

Christmas this year is going to be an epic family celebration. All of my family members who live in Australia will be there! But I'm getting ahead of myself. Christmas is still more than a month away.

Icelandic friends! Maybe I will be seeing you soon? There must be some excuse to party coming up...

Depending on internet access, this might be my last post from Australia. So I guess I'll see you guys on the flip side. Ciao!

Yay Obama!

Nov. 7th, 2012 08:40 pm
sarahblack: (Default)
Yay Obama! Congratulations to my American friends and to the rest of us! I'm so relieved!

In other news, I'm back in Narrabri and my day to day life is full of thrashing wheat (don't ask) and playing Scrabble. I love Scrabble. That's all for now, as my grandmother's internet connection is being weird due to some thunder storms. They're not even that close! Silly internet.

The weather has been hot hot hot, but everyone is hoping for rain rain rain. I even went swimming today in the unheated Narrabri pool and it was such a relief!

Anyway, back to my Scrabble game...
sarahblack: (Bertie Wooster)
It has been decided! Þorri and I are returning to Narrabri next Friday. It will be an interesting cross-country journey involving a bus and two trains. We'll have to leave Byron Bay on Thursday because one of the trains is an overnight train! It will be lovely to see my grandmother and Lindsay again. (As well as my grandmother's wonderful collection of books!)

As I mentioned in my very brief previous post, the stay in Byron Bay has been a dream come true so far. We could have been luckier with the weather, but I'm definitely not complaining. We've has some amazing sunny days.

However, I haven't told you guys a thing about Sydney! This post will be novel length if I try to go into all the details, so I'm just going to post a few pictures along with a few comments.

Sydney )

Last Monday Þorri and I flew to Byron Bay. We've been spending time with Lindsay's daughter's family as we are crashing at their place. But like I said in my last post, we've also been able to take a trip to Currumbin Sanctuary (Australian animal "zoo"), walk to the most Easterly part of Australia, and hang around the beach for a bit.

Pictures! )

Tomorrow we're going to have a day of pampering at a spa and then we're going to the Lounge Cinema to see Looper. I'm really excited! I haven't had a full body massage since I was here in 2006! The Lounge Cinema is a treat as well. You sort of lie around instead of sitting! It's so comfy.

P.S. I totally recommend The Iron Lady. Fantastic film! Meryl Streep is a genius.
sarahblack: (Haaapppeee Audrey)
There really is nothing quite like staying with my grandmother and Lindsay in their house in the Middle Of Nowhere, Australia.

You never know when some interesting animal might decide to pop over for a visit. My grandmother likes to feed the goana lizards that live in the neighbourhood, and they will come up to the porch and practically eat right from out of her hand.

S5005555_


Animal invasions and other things )

In the evenings, before dinner, a glass of bubbly with some strawberries thrown in is not an uncommon sight. (Beers, or even glasses of Gin and Tonic can sometimes be spotted by the keen observer.)

Avid readers will find themselves in paradise. Books full of murder mysteries, politics, history, Australian wildlife, Icelandic geography, famous literature, short stories, poetry, photographs and anything you could possibly want to read about, abound.

Would-be farmers would be happy here. Last week we were invited to go with Lindsay to the University of Sydney Plant Breeding Institute to observe the annual Field Day. This consisted of eating delicious barbecued food and looking at a lot of wheat. We heard Lindsay give a talk on the history of the different wheat species that the University of Sydney has been involved in breeding, and heard about a lot of different research projects that Ph.D. students are working on. Wheat is being made to need less water, resist disease, resist heat, become more nutritious and generally do whatever we want it to do. It's fascinating!

S5005580


On Saturdays a market springs up alongside the river in Narrabri - perfect for bargain-hunters. This weekend Þorri and I went with my grandmother to have a look. There was a man with an ice cream machine! He put scoops of vanilla ice cream inside, along with a scoop of raspberries or strawberries or whatever kind of berry that you wanted, and out of the machine came perfect berry flavoured soft serve ice cream! I want one of those machines.

I bought honey from a nice lady who first tried to get me to taste all the different kinds of honey she had for sale, and Þorri bought a lovely straw hat. (No-one tried to make him taste all the hats first.) My grandmother bought some beautiful flowers.

Life in the country is definitely something special. Plenty of animals and plants to keep you company, books to read, naps to take, bubbly to drink and all kinds of activities to keep you occupied.

For example, tomorrow me and Þorri have been invited to see the cotton crops get planted. I've never seen anything like that. (Iceland is not exactly famous for its agriculture.) Apparently there will be huge machines involved. I just hope my hey fever doesn't give me too much trouble.
sarahblack: (Glam Christina)
Right now I'm in Prague! I'm safe and sound at a couch surfer's place, and I've been having a blast ever since Greece.

I spent an amazing day in Venice last Sunday - You will not believe the weather I got! At first it was cloudy, then it was sunny and nice, then it was cloudy again but with the added bonus of ominous thunder. A few random rain drops encouraged people to find shelter. Then it hailed for 15 seconds. After that it was like the heavens opened and all the water from everywhere just came pouring down in magnificent windy gushes! I got it on video... It was the most amazing rain I have ever seen.

During the 20 minute downpour I stayed put along with most of the crowd, enjoying the shelter, taking pictures and smiling at the craziness of nature. A few brave souls fought their way through the storm with umbrellas or ponchos as weapons. The occasional free spirit ran through the square with bare feet and bare chests - embracing the rain like an old friend.

Once it stopped raining the clouds lingered and a fantastic lightening storm entertained the crowd which was waiting for the next boat to the train station. I have never seen so much lightening! It was like a firework display!

When I arrived at the train station the clouds were disappearing and a rainbow could be seen in the distance. Through the train windows I observed the most stunning sunset I have seen in a long time.

But other than the weather - Venice was beautiful. I walked around, looked at bridges and beautiful buildings, enjoyed art at the Academie fine art museum and ate some delicious Italian food.

I didn't spend the night in Venice because my host lived about an hour and a half away from the city. It was a sleepy little town, and the view from his balcony was amazing. I liked being able to see a less urban side of Italy.

After Venice I visited Vienna. Oh, Vienna! It totally captured my heart. Especially Schonbrunn palace. My mother always talks about that place, and I completely understand why! It's amazingly beautiful. But I thought it was especially fun to visit it because of the history. My friend Sigrún lent my her DVDs with the Sissi movies - they're all about the Austrian empress called Sissi and her life. Very romantic! While I was touring the palace there were so many references to her and her life. Very cool.

While I was in Vienna I tasted genuine Vienersnitzel (yum!), Sacher cake from the Sacher hotel (double yum!), went to see the Hundertwasser house, the Karlskirche, the Belvedere palace, the Donau river, and generally walked around and appreciated the city. It was amazing. ♥

Anyway, I just got to Prague and I'm staying with a bunch of other surfers with a super nice host in a huge apartment in the centre of the city. The view from here is crazy amazing. I can't believe this is my life!
sarahblack: (Yatta says Hiro)
I got back to Cuzco last night after spending four days hiking the Inca Trail.

It was really really really difficult. I can not stress this enough. However, we were incredibly lucky with the weather, the food was ridiculously good, and the company was pleasant. The guides, the cooks and the porters were amazing - a credit to G-adventures and to Peru.

My Inca Trail Adventures )

Today I'm just going to relax and run some errands. Tomorrow my Amazon adventure begins. I'm ridiculously excited about that. ♥
sarahblack: (Oops)
I've made it to Auckland in one piece! I'm at my hostel right now, but I have to wait a few hours before I can check in. The flight was actually great! (A good thing, since it was 11 hours.) I'm so glad that I'm flying Air New Zealand again when I go to LA. They have a really funny flight security video, great entertainment system, super friendly and helpful staff, and a lot of free refreshments. The food wasn't half bad either - for airplane food.

My last days in Japan were spent in the company of Snaevar and his family. It was a lovely relaxing time for the most part. They took such good care of me. ♥

I did try to do some tourist stuff on my own on Saturday. It didn't go as well as I would have hoped. The major annoyance was the rain. It was pouring! But I suppose I was bound to get one really rainy day. But I managed to have a look at Yasukuni shrine and the museum. I was very interested, but I got the feeling I would have benefited from more knowledge of history to fully appreciate the museum. I didn't quite like how they glossed over the warcrimes committed in Nanjing. They barely had a paragraph about it!

After the museum I went to the Toshimaen Garden Spa onsen. I was in the water for maybe two minutes when I decided to move to a different area of the spa. This was a bad decision. I tried to step on the bottom step in the pool, but the bottom step wasn't there! So I kind of stumbled forward and the front of my right leg (a bit below the knee) hit the edge of the next step. This edge was sharp enough to leave me bleeding. The wound is not that big, but it's a little deeper than a superficial flesh wound.

The employees helped me stop the bleeding, get the area sterilized and bandaged up. They also gave me a refund, since I couldn't really stick around the onsen after getting hurt like that.

So that was fun.

But yesterday was better. The weather was back to being sunny and warm, and I went with Snaevar, Riya and Elin to the Tokyo Aquarium. It was so cool! Especially the tuna tank. Tuna fish are enormous! I also got to pet a little shark. Very awesome.

We didn't stay for very long since we wanted to get some lunch (mmm, gyoza), and then I needed to pack and get to the airport! But I'm very glad we went. It was so pretty around the Aquarium, and I always love watching the fish swim. ♥
sarahblack: (Glance)
Last night I tried Chinese karaoke! I think it is similar to Japanese karaoke from what people have told me. It's very different from Icelandic karaoke in any case.

First you go to a 'KTV' place. (That's what the Chinese call karaoke places.) Inside you are greeted by an army of employees who help you get to a karaoke room of the appropriate size for your group. The help mainly consists of them following you around, showing you which elevators to go to, and bowing a lot. Every time you walk past an employee they bow! (I thought that was more of a Japanese thing? Oh, well.)

The karaoke room is a private room with a comfortable couch, a table, a big flatscreen TV, and a karaoke machine which has pretty much any song you can think of. (Unless you are a hipster, in which case you would be disappointed if your songs did somehow wind up in a karaoke machine.) The karaoke machine allows you to set up a playlist of songs. Once that is done it's just a matter of passing the microphones around and singing all your troubles away!

If you want to eat or drink while you sing, you can go to the miniature supermarket situated right outside your door and choose from the wide selection. You can even order a fruit platter to be sent to your room! When I went and picked up a couple of Breezers, I had barely touched the bottles before an employee showed up with a basket for me to place them in. He then followed me around the store until I was ready to pay - holding the basket for me the entire time! So weird.

I had a really excellent time. It was nice to be able to dress up a little. I miss putting on make-up every now and then!

Today was a bit more sombre. Halla went with me to the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall where I was able to familiarise myself with this particularly harrowing part of Nanjing history. I find it to be so strange that I know so much about the holocaust in Europe during WWII, but I'd only been peripherally aware that any atrocoties at all had been committed by the Japanese in China.

Apparently, there are still those who mean to say that the Nanjing Massacre has been grossly exaggerated and that the Japanese soldiers were honourable in their behaviour.

This makes me sad. The amount of evidence and witness statements that give credence to what actually happened is staggering. In one very tall room of the museum there were shelves that reached from the floor to the ceiling - full of binders with witness statements. Every shelf contained three rows of binders. It was a really sad and overwhelming sight. I won't even talk about the skeletal remains of people buried in mass graves. Mass graves are just about the most depressing things I can think of.

Anyway, I encourage you to read about this. It's just as important to remember these crimes as the ones committed by the Nazis in their concentration camps. (Interestingly, a Nazi was instrumental to providing aid to the victims of the Nanjing massacre.)

Tomorrow will be more cheerful. A bunch of us are going to a nearby lake to enjoy the cool water in the sun. It really does get quite hot during the day. I think it must have been over 30 degrees Celsius today! I tend to go around with a parasol to make sure I don't burn to a crisp - and I'm enjoying it thoroughly! If I could get away with using a parasol at home I would be endlessly happy.

It's interesting to see what the people here do to guard against the sun. The Chinese value fair skin and do not like to tan. Most make do with parasols, but today I saw women wearing oven mitts while driving their scooters! And one girl was wearing a welding mask to keep her face safe from the sunlight!

I think the best part about the weather here is the evening warmth. I barely have to put on a light sweater when I'm walking outside in the evenings. If it weren't for that, I could almost imagine that I'm back in Iceland when I'm walking along the quiet, deserted streets. (Chinese people seem to go home really early on weeknights.) No cars, no people... Just the trees, the streetlights and the stillness.

It's very peaceful.
sarahblack: (Tea? :D)
My first two days in Nanjing have been quite lovely. I've been able to rest up, catch up with my family via email and spend time with Halla. (I've also been able to get lost once, but Ash came to my rescue on his motorbike. Telephones are useful inventions. I highly recommend them!)

I really like travelling on the back of Ash's motorbike. My first night here he took me to the centre of town, and zooming around with the wind in my face was just what the doctor ordered! It really is quite ridiculous how hot it is here. The Icelander in me rebels at the idea of it being hot at night. But that's just how China rolls.

Speaking of the weather - Last night was my second night here, and I got to experience Chinese rain. It is not like Icelandic rain. For one thing, it is still hot while it rains. For another, the rain just comes pouring straight down from the sky and does not seem to come in a two for one special with wind that is designed to turn umbrellas inside out. So in China, umbrellas are useful! A lot of people use them in to guard themselves against the sun as well, so you can basically just go around with an open umbrella at all times without people thinking you are being silly.

Yesterday I got to explore Nanjing a little with Halla by my side. We went to an electronics market, and I had a hard time leaving it. I got a memory card (8GB SD card) for my camera and a 16 GB USB stick for just 2900 ISK! That is not a lot of money. (Like 23 USD.) I might go again and try to find a cheap tablet computer, but I'm not really sure. We also walked past the 1912 district which is full of restaurants and bars, went into a supermarket and got matching purses! (Soon we will not only have matching names and purses, but matching wardrobes, vocabularies and pet cacti.)

The supermarket had live fish in tanks, loose rice that you could buy by the pound (or whatever measuring unit they use here, I have no idea) and yeah - chicken feet.

I like the food so far. Of course, I am benefiting from Halla's research into where you can find edible food in the neighbourhood. She took me to a fantastic dumpling place that I would quite like to try again, and we went with her school friends to a place where we got a very delicious vegetable dish along with a slightly dubious chicken dish. It was a bit too spicy for me, and it was hard to tell which part of the chicken you were getting. There were organs and feet in there!

This morning Ash shared some of his breakfast with me. He had made bread from scratch and baked it with cheese, tomato sauce and black olives inside. It was just like a calzone! A very delicious start to my day. I swear, he just thrives on feeding people. (The first thing he did when I got to his place was feed me home made Syrian yogurt! So good!)

I went to class with Halla this afternoon. It was a very interesting class which consisted of watching a recent Indian movie (3 Idiots), with Chinese and English subtitles. The movie was great, and I'm thinking of going to class again next week when they are going to finish watching it. The film is three hours long, so the two hour class was not long enough to finish it in one go. I wish my University classes had included more Indian films.

We also went to the post office and to the travel agency to book train tickets to Shanghai. (4000 ISK for a return trip!)

We're thinking of going to see the Avengers at the cinema tonight. I'd quite like to do that so that I can experience a Chinese cinema, and not feel quite so out of the loop.

But first - dinner! Hopefully no chicken organs tonight.

P.S. No mosquito bites so far, although I have seen a bunch of them!

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Sarah Black

March 2015

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