Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mad about Vlad

One of my friends and I share a strange crush/fascination with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Okay, so maybe his politics can be a bit shady, but you've got to admit that he's one cool dude. Just look at the pictures! He drives race cars, rides a motorcycle, scuba dives, expresses interest in science, plays piano, and snuggles puppies.

(link via Kris)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Another year of soccer

One of the first things I did when I moved to Melbourne was to join a soccer team. Last year's team was a lot of fun, but also a bit on the Bad News Bears side- several players had never played organized soccer before, and we weren't the best at actually getting 11 people to show up for an early Sunday morning game. Our old coach (yes, rec sports here have coaches and practice- it's crazy) resigned right before the new season started due to work commitments and things were looking a little bit bleak for the Port Melbourne Sharks. However, as the season began, we ended up getting an awesome new coach and recruiting a few new players from the US, Canada, and England, and well as an Australian who is actually good (no offense but women's soccer is definitely not Australia's forte). We even got new uniforms so we didn't have to wear hand-me-downs from the men's team that were the size of circus tents (although I do miss the old Pinkles pink). We were good, but more importantly, we were fun, so playing this season improved my social life as well as my fitness. We won our last game on Sunday and finished at the top of the league.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ten years later

September 11th will never more be just another date on the calendar. For Americans of my generation, it's the event that stunned us, burned forever in our memories the way that our parents recall exactly what they were doing when they found out that John F Kennedy was shot, or our grandparents remember Pearl Harbor. Ten years ago, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Nicaragua, listening to the radio in the morning while I got ready for the day. I heard something on the news about all airports in the United States being closed, and knew right away something bad was happening. I turned on the TV and CNN en EspaƱol was broadcasting live from New York, where the first plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. At this point, it was unclear if it was just a freak accident or something more sinister. Moments later, the second plane hit and everyone's worst fears were confirmed.

I spent the rest of the day watching the news, trying to figure out what had happened, and worrying about my friends in New York City and my father, who travels frequently (I knew one of the planes had left from Boston). The town where I lived only had one phone, and I did manage to get in touch with my parents. The next day, I headed into the city to get together with my Peace Corps friends to share information we were getting from back home, and to just be together- it was a strange time to be living overseas, and everything felt a bit confusing and surreal, as I'm sure it would have no matter where you were located. "Dark days ahead" was the message my friend Courtney received in an email from her uncle.

On this anniversary, I'm living overseas again, on the outside looking in, partly spared the inundation of 9-11 reflections and commentaries sure to be taking over the headlines and airways back home. Praise for the bravery and kindness of ordinary people caught in a nightmare, derision for those who used the tragedy for political or personal gain, over the top rah-rah nevar forget! patriotism, and callous cynicism of those who claim we had it coming. I suppose I still haven't sorted out my own feeling on the subject, other than sympathy for those who died and their families, and a vague wish that the feeling of unity and goodwill that rose up out of the aftermath could have lasted longer than it did.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

What I've been up to lately

- Watching Deadwood. I love a good Western.

- Reading...just finished Runaway, a book of short stories by Alice Munro, all set in Canada, all featuring women. Some I really enjoyed, some left me a feeling a bit empty.

- Listening...Big Boi (a.k.a 1/2 of Outkast) is touring to promote his recent album and I went to the Melbourne show last weekend- super fun! He took the stage with another lead rapper, a DJ, a guitarist, and two trumpeters dressed in matching Adidas jumpsuits and played a few of his new songs and a lot of older Outkast tracks.

- Hosting! Kris and Rodd came down to Sydney a couple of weeks ago for a weekend visit. Kris already provided a detailed account but I will cover the highlights:

We attended a Rubik's Cube Tournament (as spectators, not participants). As one would expect, the majority of the contestants were nerdy boys, most of them teenagers. We caught the blindfold round...the time starts when the contestants receive a scrambled cube. They look at it, try to memorize the pattern and the required moves, and when they're ready, the blindfold goes on and they attempt to solve the cube from memory. Holy shit, right? There were a couple of kids who finished in under 40 seconds, which was pretty amazing. I had no idea such a competition existed.

We took a jaunt down to one of my favorite spots in Victoria, the Mornington Peninsula. We drank wine at a winery, beer at a brewery, and ate cheese at a cheesery. And we spent the night in a lighthouse keeper's cottage! It was windy. And then we played Settlers of Catan by the fire as we drank our wine purchases. I had a great time, and now I guess I owe them a trip up to Sydney.