Monday, May 7, 2012

Australian 102

Boy has time gotten away from me!  It's been two months since my last post, and I can't honestly say that I've been busy, simply lazy.  We've done a few exciting things in the last couple of months, but I'm mostly looking forward to our trip to Europe at the end of May.  We leave just about 3 weeks from today...  In the meantime...the answers to the pop quiz from last time.  I hope none of you have been anxiously awaiting your scores.  

1.  Arvo = Afternoon.  I couldn't tell you where it came from, but that is what it means.

2.  Rock Melon = canteloupe.  

3.  McOz = A Macca's (McDonald's - there's another one for you!) burger with beet root on it.  Yuck.

4.  Capsicum = Bell peppers.  I can't tell you how many times this one has thrown me off.

5.  Coriander = Cilantro.  This one has also thrown me off on a fairly regular basis.

6.  Rubbish tip = The trash dump.  I haven't had a whole lot of use for this one, so I'm not entirely sure why I learned it.

7.  Prawn = big shrimp.

8.  Shrimp = little shrimp (like bay shrimp).

9.  Lollies = candy.

10.  Chewie = Chewing gum

11.  Softie = Soft drink, soda, etc.

12.  Rocket = Arugula

13.  Chook = Chicken

14.  Blockie = Going around the block.  As in, I missed the turn, I'll just chuck a blockie (see number 15 for chuck).

15.  Chuck (As in chuck a sickie) = To do something.  Chuck a blockie = go around the block.  Chuck a sickie = take a sick day from work.

16.  Chemist = Pharmacy

17.  Lift = Elevator

18.  Tomato Sauce (No, it's not ketchup) = A ketchup looking sauce that tends to be more water and less sweet.  Ketchup is a rarity here.

19.  Fanny = Female genitalia.  Please don't ever tell anyone you are going to carry your "fanny pack" here.  If you do in fact feel the need to wear one of these, please call it a "bum pack."

20.  Foot path = Sidewalk.

21.  Thongs = Flip flops.

22.  Jag = Luck out.  As in, I jagged that parking spot.

23.  Ripped = Really good.  Will also be used in the form ripper, or that's a ripper.

24.  Ranger (also known as a Bluie) = A red head.  Short for Orangutan.  Yes, it's offensive, but even the zoos here have gotten on board with it and on one day a year offer any red heads free admission.

25.  Main = Entree.  Entree = Appetizer.  Don't confuse them.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Speaking Australian 101

Now that I've been here 6 weeks (how did that happen?!), I've decided to share the list of Australian to American translations I've collected.  There are of course the simple ones that most people know - bin is trash can, when you want the check at a restaurant you ask for the bill, that kind of thing.  However there are essentially 4 basic rules you can follow if you want to learn to speak Australian (or at least understand it when traveling here). 

Rule 1: Australians shorten everything and add an "O" to the end.  It's taken me a while, but I can generally figure out what they're talking about if I just drop the O and think for a second about what words could be shortened to that particular single syllable.  For instance, rego (drop the "o", you're left with "reg") short for car registration.  

Rule 2:  Sometimes things are both named after something else AND shortened.  Such as eskie.  Short for Eskimo which is an ice chest.  If that's the case, don't even both trying to figure it out, because it won't make any sense anyway.  You just have to pick these up as you go along. 

Rule 3: Some things are just called something else all together.  Again, you pretty much have to learn these as you go, but make sure you don't use the wrong word (or pronounce it with a flat "A" sound) or you won't be understood. Example:  Wheelie Bin = the green garbage can that you wheel out to the street every week so that your trash (rubbish) gets picked up.

Rule 4:  This is not a judgement in any way, but political correctness is basically non-existent as far as I can tell, so if you think at first instinct that something is potentially off color, you're probably right.

So, without further ado - a pop quiz.  Here is the list of things I have collected so far.  See how many you can get.  The correct answers will be supplied in the next post.

1.  Arvo
2.  Rock Melon
3.  McOz
4.  Capsicum
5.  Coriander
6.  Rubbish tip
7.  Prawn
8.  Shrimp
9.  Lollies
10.  Chewie
11.  Softie
12.  Rocket
13.  Chook
14.  Blockie
15.  Chuck (As in chuck a sickie)
16.  Chemist
17.  Lift
18.  Tomato Sauce (No, it's not ketchup)
19.  Fanny
20.  Foot path
21.  Thongs
22.  Jag
23.  Ripped
24.  Ranger (also known as a Bluie)
25.  Main

Good Luck!


Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Lay Chronicles, Abridged

In an effort to keep from completely boring anyone who reads my blog, I have decided to give you all the abridged version of the last month...

The Outback:  Took 15 hours to drive from Darwin to Alice Springs.  Saw no kangaroos but fed Wallabees.  Got up, drove 4 hours to Ayers Rock.  Raining.  Drove to see Ayers Rock anyway.  Lots of gigantic flys.  Not normal flys.  Ones you have to slap to get them off of you.  Drove to see the Olgas.  Still Raining.  Had Kangaroo, Crocodile, Emu and Beef for dinner and stayed in Lost Camel hotel.  Woke up, drove to see Ayers Rock at Sunrise.  Raining.  Had camel burgers for lunch (who knew they had camels in Australia?).  Drove 8 hours to Coober Pedy.  Stayed in hotel 25 meters underground.  Cool, but creepy in the dark.  Woke up, did opal mine tour, drove 8 hours to Adelaide.

Adelaide:  Stayed with our friend Adam.  Met lots more friends from Nando’s Adelaide days.  Went wine tasting in Barossa Valley.  Yum!  Went to Mt. Lofty and Cleland WildlifePark.  Got to feed kangaroos, pet koalas and saw real live Tasmanian Devils.

Week 1 in Melbourne:  Arrived in Melbourne on January 19, a week after leaving Darwin.  Picked up the keys to our house and then spent a few days staying at Jasmine and Brad’s.  Bought our second car.  Went to the Australian Open.  Twice.  Got to see Jokovich vs. Ferrer in the semi-finals from corporate box seats.  Nando’s excitement levels?  Priceless. 

Weeks 2 – 4 in Melbourne:  A blur of setting up life activities.  Insurance, grocery shopping, endless numbers of boxes to unpack, horrific green furniture from Nando’s bachelor days that necessitated several shopping trips.  Lots of fun times with family and friends.

Ovi, zonked out after playing
Week 5 in Melbourne:  This was a good week.  We are almost into real life now and we added our first addition to the Lay family, a 9 week old Moodle (Maltese x Poodle) named Ovechkin “Ovi” Lay (named for Nando’s favorite hockey player, Alex Ovechkin)!  I am sure that future Lay Chronicles will revolve heavily around Ovi’s adventures in addition to our own.  We can't get enough of his cute little bunny hopping run or those big puppy dog eyes. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012


January 10 -12

A month after leaving Seattle, we landed in Darwin, Australia at 4:30 in the morning.  Nando's parents graciously picked us up at that awful hour and took us home where we promptly crashed for 7 or 8 hours.  My last thought before falling asleep was, "wow...I'm not leaving."

When we finally did wake up, we immediately set about starting our new life in Australia.  Which it turns out involves as many lines and and as much bureaucracy as it does in the states.   We went to the medicare office where I was informed I had to wait a couple of days for immigration to tell them I was actually in the country and then we tried to transfer the ownership of our new (to us) car and the Motor Vehicle Registration office was closed at 4 pm.  Ah, the sweet familiarity of government.

Joss Paper.  Photo from Wikipedia
Wednesday was for family.  We woke up early to have a small ceremony to remember Nando's ancestors.  We set out an offering of food, tea and rum for them and then we folded gold and silver joss paper into little origami boats that we burned.  They tradition is meant to ensure that our ancestors have good things in the afterlife.  I really enjoyed seeing how Nando and his family respect and acknowledge where they came from because knowing my history has always been important to me as well.   It was a neat experience and a tradition I look forward to continuing in our family.  
I got to meet the aunties and Nando's Grandma on Wednesday night.  They were great fun and I was thrilled to find out that I share a love of motorcycles with one of his aunts.  Now if only I can convince Nando that his aunt owning a motorcycle is enough of a reason for me to have one...

On Thursday morning we went to Aquascene bright and early.  Aquascene is a fish feeding sanctuary where you can hand feed fish, knee deep in water.  There are many kinds of fish and rays that hang out there and they have no fear of swimming around your ankles to get to the stale bread you're handing out.  More than anything, it tickles when they nibble at your skin to see if you're food.  You just have to be sure to shuffle in and out of the water to make sure that you don't step on any of the little guys.

Once the fish all had full bellies, we headed to the mango farm that Nando's family has owned and run since 1985.  Colton Park is 50 kilometers South of Darwin, and approximately 5 kilometers North of Hell if I use the temperature as a gauge.  From the second we arrived until the second we left, an hour later, I was dripping in sweat.  Not pretty, glistening, girl sweat either.  Full on, I just ran a marathon in 100 degree farenheit weather, sweat.  That said, it's a beautifully maintained farm with row after row of 18 different types of mango trees.  Nando's Dad drove me around the farm in his ute (utility vehicle) and pointed out each of the different types of trees occasionally getting out of the truck long enough to kick over one of the ant hills that had started to form under a tree.  After the tour, I got to drive the ute around the farm myself!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Riches to Rags

It’s surprising how quickly you can get accustomed to traveling in luxury only to have it bitch-slapped (sorry Mom, but I do think that’s a technical term) back into you that you really don’t deserve the lap of luxury when you arrive to check in for your budget flight.

Since leaving Rio we’ve been pretty spoiled by the airlines we’ve flown.  Not business or first class luxury or anything, but Etihad and Emirates are pretty impressive airlines even in economy class.  I would even go out on a limb and say that besides the seat size, the economy class amenities are commensurate with the kind of amenities you get on a business or first class domestic US flight.  We were served food and alcohol that we didn’t have to pay for (I know, right?!), the in flight entertainment system was free, there were foot rests for every seat (most excellent for those of us who can’t reach the ground otherwise) and there are power outlets for us electronic junkies who suffer from anxiety at the thought of our laptops, iPads, iPhones not making it through a flight fully charged.

Cut to Singapore airport, Terminal 1, JetStar check-in counter. 

JetStar agent:  “I’m sorry Mr. and Mrs. Lay, you aren’t allowed any checked baggage.” 
Me:  “Excuse me?  We have 6 bags we have been lugging around the world for the last month and on the last flight of our trip we aren’t allowed any checked baggage??”
JetStar agent:  “We’re happy to check your bags for $160 for 20 kilos.”
Me:  “So the 40 kilos of checked baggage that we have been allowed to check on every other airline is now going to cost us $320?”
JetStar agent:  “Yes ma’am; unless you can get 20 kilos of that into your carry on baggage.  Oh, and your carry on baggage is not to exceed 10 kilos.”
Me:  “So…what you’re saying is that I’m going to be paying exorbitant baggage fees if I have any interest in getting my luggage to Australia…?”
JetStar agent:  “Yes ma’am, that is correct.”

So $320 poorer, we have made it to the Qantas lounge and are awaiting our final flight of the epic journey.  I am very much looking forward to getting to Australia.  I haven’t even been there yet and it already feels like I’m almost home.

…The saga continues down under!

Spiced Pumpkin Salad, Maldivian Chicken Curry and Banana Fritters

January 7 – 8

It seems so unfair that I can completely drown my skin in 70 spf sunscreen and I still get burnt to a crisp while Nando puts a little sunscreen on and simply turns a nice golden brown.  I woke up yesterday with an absolutely burning hot rear end (finish this sentence before you judge) from the sunburn searing the skin along my bathing suit line.  That said, the whale sharks were worth not being able to sit much and the multiple applications of aloe vera.  Needless to say, it was overall a lazy day. 

Maldivian Cooking Class
We did do a Maldivian cooking class in the afternoon with the Executive Chef and Executive Sous Chef of the Mirihi resort.  It was WONDERFUL!  The food was delicious and we learned all kinds of tips to making most delicious curry.  We made a spiced pumpkin salad, Maldivian and Sri Lankan chicken curry, lentil curry, pol roti (coconut bread) and banana fritters.  They were all awesome.

In the evening we enjoyed one last wine and dine dinner in the over the water restaurant that included some fabulous wines paired with 4 courses of food from around the world.

The Name on our Front Door
Today was a sad day.  We wistfully said goodbye to our little bungalow and started the long trek from Mirihi Island to Male to Sri Lanka to Singapore to Australia.  Goodbye Maldives.  We will miss you.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Whale Sharks and Manta Rays

January 5 - 6

Doing nothing is not Nando's forte.  When I first suggested that we spend 6 days in the Maldives he asked what we were going to do for 6 days.  The look on his face when I said, "nothing" told me that if I had any hope of staying in my over water paradise for any significant period of time, I better find some things to do and fast.

The first few days have been pretty lazy.  Just some snorkeling, sun bathing, a little diving, eating delicious food and quaffing yummy wine.  Today was activity day though.  We went out on a boat this morning and spent a good hour and a half just soaking up the sun before getting to the area where the whale sharks are supposed to hang out.  We were in luck!  We got to see 3 of them total.

The best part was definitely the fact that the water was so shallow, so we were able to follow them for a long time before we couldn't see them anymore.  On our last swim (we did a total of 4) we spent around half an hour swimming alongside one that was well over 30 feet long.  Unlike my whale shark viewing in the Philippines a few years ago, the water was so clear that we could see the entire thing - from wide open mouth to the tip of it's tail - at the same time.  They are much more impressive when you can see them in all their glory.

Not so fantastic, however, were the throngs of people jumping in from 10 different boats, all trying to chase the poor thing.  After being smacked in the face, pushed out of the way and just generally being jostled around for 10 minutes, we headed back to the boat knowing that we had already gotten the best view we were going to get.

The dolphins playing around our boat
Leaving the whale sharks hopefully in peace, we set out in search of manta rays!  Along the way we spotted several pods of dolphins and they even played around and under our boat so we got a great view of them.  When we got to the general area where the mantas hang out, we just jumped in the water hoping to see them.  After swimming for 5 or 10 minutes, we finally found a couple of them.  We followed one as it pushed against the amazingly strong current and then did somersaults in front of us.  I was excited to finally see mantas as it's one of the things I've always hoped to see diving.  Granted, we weren't diving, but hey, I can now officially say I've seen not only 1, but 3!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


*Hooray!  I finally got the photos uploaded to all the posts, for anyone who has any interest in going back and looking at them.  Of course, they are all on Facebook too, so many of you have probably already seen them.  :)
January 1 - 4

I can not even begin to describe how poorly I sleep on long travel days.  I will make it simple and just say that I don't sleep.  Period.  I managed to talk Nando into keeping our rental car for a few extra hours so I could sleep in, knowing that I would not be sleeping for somewhere around 30+ hours between leaving Pretoria and arriving in the Maldives.  It's amazing how well, "do you want a grouchy wife??" works to get a few extra hours of sleep.  That said, it may not work quite as well when we are no longer on our honeymoon.

After a 9 or 10 hour flight to Abu Dhabi, a 9 hour layover (overnight) in the Abu Dhabi airport, a 5 hour flight to Male, a 2 hour layover in the Male airport and then a 25 minute seaplane ride to South Ari Atoll, we finally made it to Mirihi Island Resort in the Maldives.  Honestly, they could have just named it Heaven and I don't think they would have missed the mark by much.  It is nothing short of incredible.

Mirihi International Airport
From the moment we got here, I knew it was my kind of place.  We got off the boat that transported us the 100 feet from the "Mirihi International Airport" to the island itself and walked up a long wooden dock only to be handed a coconut with a straw coming out of it and asked to remove our shoes since most guests go only barefoot while they are here.  I haven't worn shoes in 3 days.

The resort is the only thing on the island.  There are 30 over the water bungalows and 6 beach bungalows - for a maximum of around 75 guests.  140 staff members live on the island to essentially cater to pretty much every whim of the guests.  We are in one of the over the water bungalows and we are spoiled with air conditioning, our own private deck with a staircase directly into a stunning underwater playground and a bathroom with floor to ceiling glass doors that look out over the water - no matter what we may need to be doing in there.  Lovely.

Since being here we have eaten absolutely delicious food, lazed on our deck, gone snorkeling and today Nando did his first open water scuba dive, much to my delight!  Last night we had the most amazing dinner on the deck of the over the water restaurant with floodlights illuminating the Indian Ocean beneath us.  Still to come before heading to Singapore are: a whale shark excursion, a Maldivian cooking class, a 4 course wine and dine dinner and plenty of just plain nothing...

Bonus Days

December 30 - 31

After seeing the Big 5, anything else is pretty much just a bonus.  Including any additional days in your trip.  We were fortunate enough to have basically two full bonus days and we were pretty lucky to see some cool things on those days.  Yesterday, after having a fairly disappointing first 3 hours (you can imagine how well it went over with me to see nothing between 4:30 am and 7:30 am) the morning was redeemed by a herd of zebra.  Yes, I said zebra.

We had all but given up on the morning and were headed back to the rest camp to have a shower and take a nap, when about a kilometer off the main road we happened upon a small group of zebra.  We didn't think anything of it at first until I noticed that one of the two babies in the group looked a little off - why was their red on a black and white animal?  It took a minute for us to realize it, but it was actually missing what looked to be a chunk out of it's left hindquarters.  After a slightly closer inspection we saw it wasn't really a chunk, but a huge piece of skin was hanging off of it and you could actually see the claw marks notched into the skin from where it had been attacked.  As we were watching, a hyena appeared across the field and sat watching - we presume to try and figure out exactly how injured the baby was.  Surprisingly enough, the lead zebra was having none of it.  He led the entire group across the road, directly in front of us, toward the hyena.  They moved slowly but surely and ended up scaring the hyena off.  We watched in awe as the hyena finally got up and slunk into the bushes in stare down defeat.

Finally leaving the still skittish zebras in peace, we continued on our journey back to the rest camp only to be slowed down by 7 or 8 cars on the side of the road.  We were unsure what they were looking at until an impala sprung through the clearing followed only seconds behind by a cheetah in full chase.  Sadly, we only saw it for a moment, but it was definitely an incredible sight.

This morning we began our journey out of Kruger and back to Pretoria to spend New Year's Eve there before heading to the Maldives tomorrow.  On the way out of the park, my tracker husband noticed a lioness walking along the turnoff road near the river.  We hurried to get onto the road and spent 15 minutes following her, taking photos.  She looked completely exhausted and pretty much just ignored us and everyone else who was following her.  She walked up onto the main road where we managed to get in front of her long enough to take one last picture before she turned and disappeared into the grass.

Still hyped up on the excitement of seeing the lioness, we pulled over to get pictures of some vervet monkeys that were playing in the trees and along the side of the road.  I'd been trying to get a good picture of one of their tiny babies all week and this was the perfect opportunity since there were lots of them in view.  Just as I had managed to focus on the nearest baby and it's mother, I heard a huge thunk against the car and pulled the camera away from my eye, only to be staring into the face of a vervet monkey that had jumped onto my window ledge and was just staring at me.  I screamed and froze as Nando went into immediate survival mode - shoving me toward the dashboard and telling me to roll up the window all while preparing to punch the monkey in the head if necessary.  Fortunately, my startled scream scared the monkey enough that Nando's martial arts skills were not needed in the end and I did manage to get my baby photo.

Only minutes after the monkey incident, we came upon a group of cars waiting for an elephant crossing.  Apparently one of the cars had not read the material on not following or getting too close to elephants because they tried to go around the elephants and succeeded in irritating a young bull to the point of him charging them.  We were thankful to be far enough away to only be video taping and snapping photographs as fast as my finger could move rather than to be the ones being charged, but fortunately, despite their lunacy in trying to cut through a herd of elephants, they managed to get out of the way of the charging elephant and took off down the road while the elephants moved off into the trees.  We quickly got out of there while we could and before we knew it, we were at the gate and headed to Pretoria.

It was interesting that after 7 days in the park, I kept thinking that I was seeing animals.  I would say "oh!  An...oh...nevermind," when I realized that the elephant I was looking at was really only a tree.  The speed outside the park was a tad overwhelming as well.  We hadn't been over 50 km/hour in a week and instantly we were going 120.  It felt fast - although, that could be because our poor little baby blue, 1.2 liter, Chevy Spark was struggling to go over 110.  We weren't really willing to go less than 120 though, no matter how hard it was on the little Spark, once we saw the "hi-jacking hot spot" signs on the side of the road.  Nothing to keep you moving like a little fear of carjacking!

In Pretoria, we checked into the fabulous Sheraton Hotel and were put on the club level in a room with an absolutely amazing view of the Union Buildings, South Africa's White House equivalent.  The hotel gave us a lovely bottle of honeymoon champagne which we drank while ringing in the new year, watching the fireworks and the lightening light up the city.

The Big 5

December 29

Nando was absolutely determined to make sure that we saw all of the Big 5 up close and personal.  After seeing the lion on the side of the road, he was more than determined to make sure I got to see a leopard and a rhino from the front.  It actually stuns me at how good he is at picking the right road to drive down to see whatever it is he's gotten it into his head he's looking for.  In the late afternoon yesterday, after seeing the lion, we decided to go back out from the rest camp for one last quick drive.  Nando looked at me and said, "We're going to see a rhino."  He then took a left onto S100 and promptly drove straight to a rhino.  4 of the Big 5 now seen up close and personal. 

This morning, we got up at 4:30 am again (not an easy feat for me) and started out in the dark with only my husband's singular determination to find us a leopard as a guide. About 45 minutes out, on a road that we hadn't seen anyone else on, he suddenly pulled over and just said, "Leopard!"  I looked up the tree he was pointing at and sure enough, there, in a tree only a few feet off the road, was a leopard just waking up and starting its daily routine.  We spent half an hour photographing it, watching it groom itself and then watching it climb down the tree and saunter off into the distance without a single other car passing us by.  Big 5, up close and personal, accomplished!

In case it's not obvious by my couple of posts on Kruger, Nando is an exceptional spotter.  In all honesty, I probably would have left Kruger thinking that it didn't have anything other than the occasional elephant or giraffe if it weren't for him.  Fortunately, his eyesight is just about as good in the dark.

Tonight, we went for a night game drive and he continued his excellent spotting record by picking out hunting hyenas which kept running in and out of the bush chasing something, several spotted civets and even several hippos that had wandered out of the water to snack - all in the dark.

Leopard hunting impala
In addition to all of that, someone else in the safari truck picked out a leopard hiding under the bushes, hunting impala that were not too far away.  We sat and waited, hoping to see a kill, but unfortunately the spotlight was being run by my least favorite (and most embarrassing) kind of traveling American - the obnoxious idiot.

Obnoxious idiots are generally characterized by their complete inability to follow directions from locals, thinking they know best despite their lack of experience or knowledge of local custom or way of life - in this case meaning that the aforementioned obnoxious idiot ignored our guide's instructions to not shine the light on the leopard, only on the impala, or it wouldn't attack.  After about 15 minutes of the obnoxious idiot continuing to shine the light on the leopard - apparently to make sure it was still there - it disappeared into the bush and the impala all sighed a huge sigh of relief.  Needless to say, we were far more disappointed than the impala.