Monday, August 20, 2007

Birthday at the Cairns Cup

It was a full day of birthday celebrations. Starting with the races at the Cairns Cup. Apparently, Cairns hosts "Australia's Hottest Racing." Maybe they're refering to the temperature? The weather held out, not hot and didn't rain, but very grey, as the pictures will attest. The girls and I got a table and picniced and made $2 wagers on horses. The highlight of the event was definitely the "Fashions on the Field" event which gave away a trip to Guam as the prize. For as proud as we had been of our homemade fascinators, it seemed we were a bit out of our league for the competition.

After a nap and dinner, I ended up going out for drinks with my downstairs neighbors Rob and Monique. Great people. Lots of fun. Though most of those pictures didn't come out as I managed to turn off the flash and not realize it.

Birthday at the Cairns Cup

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Medicine vs Medicinal

Before I left for Australia, I went on a CVS shopping spree. I didn't want to get caught in oz without the medicines I know and love. Unfortunately, somehow I managed to not include cough medicine in that spree.

Last night I was starting to feel a bit of a tickle in my throat, so I went to the supermarket (I needed carpet cleaner as a result of an unfortunate yogurt accident that morning). And I discovered that the supermarket here only contains "Medicinal" products, not actual "Medicines". Thus I picked out some zinc/echinacea tablets some some antibacterial lozenges (I was curious) and hoped that that would stave off this cold. Unfortunately, at 1am, ~22kg of lead had filled my chest. And despite my best efforts the lozenges just weren't going to do it.

I then remembered there was a late night pharmacy in town. The concept of 24 hour doesn't really exist here. I looked it up in the phone book. They're open 7am to 11pm. I searched through neighboring districts, that was the best option. I had to wait 6 hours for cough syrup. Something so readily available at any time of the night in Porter Square was completely off limits in Cairns.

Thankfully, they do stock robitussin here, though the labels are a little different. I got the "Chesty Cough Forte" which contains "Mucolytic". And I'm feeling a bit better now, though, still a little sleepy.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Contact info

Just in case you need to find me. Here's my new address:

11/172 McLeod St
Cairns QLD 4870

(It takes roughly 2 weeks for mail to arrive from the US)

Cell phone: +61 438 632 855
(if dialed from the US, it's 011 61 438 632 855)

Birthday update and photos coming soon.

Monday, August 06, 2007

New apartment

Apartment is being cleaned as I type this. Plumber came this morning to fix the disposal (which they call just the insinkerator). Still no sign of the electrician. I'm softening on the idea of BCG just paying out the remainder of the contract on the internet.

Here are some pictures of the new place:

New apartment

Sunday, August 05, 2007


Up until this point, I've been mostly just fascinated with the differences in culture and tickled with the lack of 'r's in pronunciation. Last week, I finally moved into my new apartment. And in the process have been plagued with little issues. When I moved in the apartment had not been cleaned from the previous tenants. The previous tenants were my landlords. But I don't interface directly with them. I go through a rental agency. There were also little things, like one of the light bulbs was burnt out in a wall sconce, so the wall sconce was disassembled, but a new bulb had not been put in. And the disposal has something stuck in it. Just little things that are frustrating.

And the electrician has now stood me up twice to fix the lights. And the phone company cancelled my installation without telling me, then I found out I can't get broadband without a 24 month contract. This isn't a third world country. I'm not asking for something special. Isn't internet a god-given right?

And I'm getting tired of asking people to repeat themselves so I can figure out where to put the r's back in, or asking them to explain another slang term. It's just exhausting. I miss home. I miss touchdowns instead of tries. I miss right-turn-on-reds. I miss cell phones. I miss apartments. I miss prices being listed below the item in the supermarket. I miss commonwealths being states instead of nations.

Not that I don't enjoy it here. I really do love the experience. I don't regret it for a minute, I am just tired of introducing myself and immediately being asked if I'm Canadian, if I'm on holiday, what I do for the institute. I guess the honeymoon is over.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Australia's terrorist

Not sure how much news on Mohammed Haneef has made it over to the states. A quick search reveals a few AP articles. Which is a few more than made it on the treatment of indigenous people in the Northern Territory. I guess terrorism is always of interest in the US.

In brief, Dr. Haneef was working in a hospital on the Gold Coast. He attempted to board a plane for Bangalore on July 2nd to visit his wife and newborn daughter on a one-way ticket. His second cousins are suspects in the Glasgow terrorist attack, and as a result, he was detained in Brisbane for the better part of a month. The longest detainment in Australia without a trial in recent history. Charges were subsequently dropped on July 27 due to lack of evidence, but his visa was revoked, so he was required to leave the country on his release from prison.

What's interesting about the case, from my perspective, is the reaction of Australians to his detainment. People have been incredibly vocal about how he was mistreated by the justice system. There's been outrage at the use of the "dangerous terrorist" label to prolong his detainment without evidence. And, there's been a cry for more of the information to be shared with the general public. Sort of a "We're not saying you shouldn't detain him, but you won't tell us what you've got against him, so we think you've got nothing, so you should let him go." It seems so counter to the patent American acceptance of guilt by association of any terrorist suspect (or relative). Sure there's the ACLU, but there always feels like there's a majority of right-wingers around to roll their eyes at those crazy liberals because they don't understand national security.

The Australian outrage was then doubled when his visa was revoked, especially as this happened as it was unfolding that there was no evidence against him. My rudimentary understanding though is that this is totally within the rights of the Ministry of Immigration to do. Granted most of my knowledge is from this fantastic reality television show here called Border Security that features customs and immigrations officers doing their duty to protect Australia. The thing that struck me about this show is the incredible power that these people wield and the relatively low burden of proof necessary to confiscate property or revoke a visa and send some one back home. In both of the episodes I've seen, people have been sent back to their homes on suspicion that they were here to seek work. The suspicion is usually based on their inability to articulate their travel plans in Australia. And there is a harrowing correlation between skin color/ origin and the outcome of the inquiry. People from south east Asia get sent home, those from England are allowed in, even if they're carrying huge quantities of cash, have a criminal past and are claiming to be attending a wedding but have brought only a backpack with no details on the wedding in it. Using this as my metric, revoking Dr. Haneef's visa seems totally in order with common practice. People on visas do not have the rights of Australian citizens, they shouldn't expect to, and Aussie citizens shouldn't expect them to either. Especially if English is not their first language.

Dr. Haneef left Australia after lodging a review of his visa revocation with the High Court to be held next week. On Monday morning a poll of Australians through one of the big morning news shows showed that over 55% of Australians believed he should have his visa reinstated. However, on Tuesday, the Minister of Immigration provided some of the evidence he had viewed to determine the fate of Haneef's visa. This included a reference to a chat room conversation with his brother in India. This conversation included phrases like "Nothing has been found out about you" and to use your daughter's birth as an excuse to return to India. The same news program ran the poll again on Tuesday morning. When I saw the results, the percentage was then less than 15%.

The court of public opinion has ruled. Still, there is criticism on the "sloppy" way in which the Haneef case was handled and the lack of public disclosure. I believe that the political pressure (there's a Federal election on) from the public outcry pushed to have Haneef released sooner than prosecutors would have wanted. Australia's distrust in their own government, and their government's inability to supply evidence have allowed a suspected terrorist to roam free. And yet, I feel strangely proud of them. Maybe it's my liberal bent, but the people spoke, and the government listened. I'm not sure if the world is a safer place, as a result, but it says to me that there is a place where people stand up for the rights of others.

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