Monday, July 12, 2010

Another winter in the Land of Oz

As we shiver away in our drafty house here in Brissy, we thought we would bring you up to date on the latest in our lives. Things have settled down considerably after a wild few months of travel. I wrapped up the last of the field work for my current projects with a trip to Cooktown and Kowanyama in early June, which means plenty of data to analyze and papers to write, but more importantly more time at home with Laura and Edie. Outside of our Tassie trip, this last trip may have been the best of the lot. We worked in rainforest streams along the coast between Cairns and Cooktown. Absolutely beautiful countryside, and looks the same way it probably did many thousands of years ago. Of course, crocs are particularly threatening in those waters because, due to the Great Dividing Range running so close to the coast, you are never far from the sea, so we had to be on our guard at all times. We managed to get up close and personal with a cassowary that came wandering into the grounds of the motel where we were staying. These impressive birds are under threat from human activity, most notably vehicle strikes, which has led to the strange phenomenon of speed bumps in the rainforest.

I also made a brief clandestine trip back to Canada in June - I was interviewing for a faculty position at Acadia University in Wolfville. There were only three people interviewed so I had a decent shot, but it wasn't meant to be. I found out last week that they had given it to someone else. Although it was a pretty awful trip (only 3.5 days home, 2 days in the air) and it was disappointing to come so close to a great job so close to home, it was a good experience, and hopefully I'll get the next one that comes up. My original goal was just to get an interview, considering it was a pretty high profile position (tenure track, Canada Research Chair), so it bodes well for future applications.

The chilly weather here has slowed down our hiking schedule but we've still managed to do plenty of fun things, including a visit to the Science Center (yes, dinosaurs are cool), lots of market days, baking, and our now-weekly get-togethers with our friend Steph. When we tell Edie that Steph is coming over she immediately says "party!" - it's fair to say that Steph is a fan favorite. We've also started going for night walks. Since it gets dark here just before 6 pm we can take Edie out for a walk before she goes to bed. She loves getting bundled up in her stroller and holding her flashlight to look for possums and echidnas (which we would never see this time of year, but that shouldn't stop her!).

Edie's rapidly expanding vocabulary continues to impress. She greeted the moon the other morning when I opened the curtains after she woke up at 5:30 am, and she's taken to piling plenty of toys and other trinkets into her bed before she goes to sleep. Just when we think she can't get any cuter, she surprises us again.

It's also election campaign time here, with Australia's first female prime minister, Julia Gillard (recently annointed after dumping formerly unstoppable Kevin Rudd with an overnight party insider coup) going against opposition leader Tony Abbott. They present very polarized viewpoints, so it should be a good race. Of course, both are promising a tougher stance on asylum seekers that regularly arrive on Australia's shores, mostly from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. Even though these "boat people" represent a small fraction of the number of illegal immigrants in the country - the vast majority are people who came legally and overstayed their visas - they are an easy target for any politician that wishes to cater to a fraction of the population that has mild xenophobia. Undoubtedly it's a difficult issue, but unfortunately it's one that pokes at our base emotions.

That's all for now. We'll enjoy these cool won't be long before we're sweating it out again. Enjoy the pics.

Winter 2010