Sunday, January 13, 2008

Byron Bay

Yesterday we decided at 9 am that we needed to explore another part of the coast, so we headed south to the New South Wales border. Once we got to Tweed Heads, I saw a sign indicating that it was only another 67 km to Byron Bay, a place I knew little about, but which has been frequently recommended by friends. With both V. and Will snoring comfortably in their seats, I decided to go for it. And I'm glad I did! The drive was spectacular through verdant hills that sit below craggy mountain ranges. Byron Bay itself is gorgeous. There are mountains on one side and a peninsula topped by a beautiful lighthouse on the other. The town is full of galleries and caf├ęs, but it didn't feel as upscale as Noosa on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. We spent about three hours there before turning back, but we will definitely return many times. Check out our photos in the newest album in my gallery (upper right).

King of Cool

I was finally able to manage uploading a video to YouTube today. It's one from last October, when V's friend from England, "Auntie Jules," came for a visit while I was in America. It was taken at a Coffee Club in Surfers Paradise.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Going to the Doctor

Although we have taken our son to the doctor twice since we arrived in Australia last June, I hadn't been a patient here until this morning.  We are currently covered only by the government's Medicare program, to which every Australian resident is entitled.  This provides basic coverage for nearly everything medically necessary, as well as hospital expenses, as long as you can put up with longer wait times for some sorts of surgeries and a more limited choice of medical care.  We plan to enrol in a private supplemental plan as well, but our total health care costs will still be much lower than what we paid back in the States. 

Anyway, seeing a doctor here for something routine is much easier than what we faced back in Atlanta.  I needed a general check-up, and a particular prescription refilled, so we called on Wednesday to the clinic where my son has been to schedule an appointment.  It turned out that all sorts of appointments were available that afternoon, the next day, and today, so we picked one that was easy for me this morning.  Back in the States, I might have waited 4-6 weeks before I could see my physician for a similar visit.  When I showed up to the clinic, I filled out a brief health history and showed the receptionist my Medicare card.  I was charged $62 for the visit because that clinic charges "private" fees, but we will get about half of that reimbursed from the local Medicare office.  While I waited in the reception, I noticed that an assistant was putting a sign outside on the sidewalk announcing "Doctor Open." I can't remember a time when I saw a physician trying to snag passers-by in the U.S.

The doctor, who also sees my son because pediatricians are more of a speciality here, was quite nice and generally thorough. He asked me a few questions, took my blood pressure, and gave me a referral sheet so that I can get lab tests done and a new prescription for my old complaint.  I didn't have to wait in a tiny room before seeing him, and he wasn't more than 5 minutes late for the appointment.  He told me that I didn't need a prostate exam until I was 50 (they start at 40 y.o. back in the States), but I had one just over a year ago anyway.  There was no other physical exam.  I didn't feel rushed, but the appointment was over in about 10 minutes.

I immediately crossed the street to a chemist at the corner and got my prescription filled in five minutes (again, at heavily subsided price because of the Medicare coverage).  I can get my lab tests done any morning without an appointment at a place near our home--again, paid for by Medicare.

In sum, it feels so much easier to get proper medical treatment here.  My comparison, of course, is to what we had in Atlanta, so it could be just as easy in other parts of America or the rest of the world.  V. has remarked that the doctors here aren't as thorough as their counterparts in the States, but she thinks that's because they aren't as concerned about medico-legal liability here.  If the U.S. is looking for some new ideas about how to get universal health coverage, I recommend that the next administration consider what Australia is providing with Medicare.  There are some definite problems here, but they mostly have to do with a critical shortage of doctors and nurses as a result of overly restrictive university admissions about a decade ago.  I, for one, am a happy, healthy camper.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I Think It's Rather Exciting Here

From, my main source of weather information, comes today's and tomorrow's forecast for Brisbane:
Dull with a little rain, moderate to fresh SE winds.
I beg your pardon?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

A Granny in Jamaica

Some sad news for those of you who know my wife, V. Her grandmother died on Christmas Day. She would have turned 97 next month. Because it's nearly impossible for V. to attend the memorial service in Jamaica (one of the problems of living in Australia), she wrote a few words that her brother will read aloud at the service. They appear below this picture of V. and her grandmother.
Grandma, as I knew her, seemed to be a bundle of contradictions. She was at once fierce and gently loving, spirited and laid back, enthralled with education and learning but also more interested in playing bridge than reading, both worldly and a homebody, accepting of others' shortcomings and yet quick to judge, hopeful and pessimistic, just as comfortable in fine clothes, well-presented as in old shorts and a worn top. She was NOT the type of granny of the picture books, in a rocking chair, wispy white hair, reserved, deferential, knitting. She was a character, given to dramatic turns of phrase and larger than life, more likely to be working with a machete in the bush with the men and talking loudly whilst making deals on cows and land. It is remarkable how much influence she has had in my life given the few short years she took care of me, the distance between us and all too infrequent visits through my childhood and adulthood. I attribute this to her larger than life, gregarious personality- .She provided such an important part of the foundation to my sense of self and inner world, for which I shall always be grateful. She taught me to read, to persist, to grab life by the horns and wrestle it. She was a woman before her time - born in the early years of the 20th century, she lived boldly- her version of feminism, self- belief and conviction. The legacy she left me was built more on a hearty cackle than a quiet chuckle.
I can easily capture memories of her through the years. Grandma at the sewing machine in the pink room praising me for threading a needle, proudly wearing the latest fashion and smoothing down her hair, talking Jamaican politics and avidly reading the Gleaner, listening to the cricket on the radio, inadvertently sitting on her glasses, which had just been purchased, explaining how childbirth was a series of ripples in a pool, carefully choosing a ring with me and mum for my graduation from high school, sharing bridge techniques and recounting stories at high velocity. More recently at her 90th birthday, she hosted a party for 20 people chatting with everyone with great verve and I have a photo of her laying on the bed- with her legs stretched up above her head, touching her toes. She was as I said remarkable, not an average granny at all.
She would say of anyone who outlived all her peers, "that would be lonely and pitiful....let them go for heaven's sake." I'm sure she would have seen her passing as a merciful release to allow her to join the plentiful people she left such an impression on over the years and especially her own mother. I hope she knew just how much of her lives on in us. As I watch her great grandchild William play in the warm climate of Australia, palm trees and bougainvillea in a tropical land faraway, I can so easily feel her presence in me as I try a build on the foundation she gave to me in the next generation.
Quite simply, I always felt she loved me and I loved her. I will miss her but feel like she has always been close to my heart despite the distance between our lives.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

I Miss Our Cats

 The unknown creator of this video definitely knows cats.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A Walk in the Rainforest

The Trail
Originally uploaded by The Prof
Between the rain showers, we managed to drive up to Maleny last Saturday. Maleny is a small town that sits atop the Blackall Range, with excellent views of the Sunshine Coast and the Glass House Mountains. Because of the much heavier rainfalls that it receives, the entire area is a brilliant green right now, with rolling hills speckled with grazing cows and horses. We drove along the winding road to the Baroon Pocket Dam in beautiful surroundings similar to pastoral England. The highlight of our little trip was going to the Mary Cairncross Reserve, which contains one of "the best remaining subtropical rainforests in Australia." Will had an excellent time running along the approximately 2 km trek through thickets of strangling fig trees, ferns, and gums. At the end of the walk we looked out over the Glass House Mountains. We later found a man selling avocados from the trees in his yard. It was all so perfect!

Click here to see more of the trip.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

I’ve discovered that I need a routine. During the past week or so, our sleeping habits have gotten all out of whack. We haven’t been able to shop at the normal times. We haven’t seen anyone else. And I haven’t been blogging. Tomorrow I return to a nearly normal schedule, so perhaps finally I will be able to resume my regular blogging (and reading others’ blogs).

New Year’s Eve was quiet, but noisy. Australians seem especially crazy about big fireworks displays. We had the huge Riverfire display in Brisbane back in September. Then there were Christmas fireworks that lasted several nights. And last night there was a display at 9:00 (the family show) and another at midnight. We can see all these displays quite well from our upstairs veranda, so that’s where I was last night. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of a build up on the television networks for the midnight countdown. Here in Queensland they showed us the Sydney and Melbourne displays on tape delay (they have D.S.T. down there). Will and V. somehow slept through all the noise, including the loud shouts from the party next door.

Oh, since I have become a self-designated Master Water Watcher, I should let you know that we have had showers nearly every day for a week, and they are forecast to continue for yet another. We may finally get some relief from the drought.