Monday, 28 April 2014

Anzac Day 2014 in Hong Kong

What date is ANZAC day?

A. 28 April
B. 25 April 
C. 25 March
D. 26 January
E. None of the above

You can’t become Australian without knowing the answer. It was one of the questions that had me thumbing through the answer booklet, during my on-line Australian citizenship practice test...

I was excited to attend my first ANZAC Day ceremony, as an Australian citizen. Luckily jet lag worked in our favour, as we were in Hong Kong on a stop over.  We were up bright eyed and bushy tailed, at the crack of dawn.

What is ANZAC day? 
ANZAC Day marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War.

It was a typical dreary, slightly muggy, Hong Kong day as we gathered at the Cenotaph. The tall buildings of Central emerge statuesque in the half light of dawn, towering above the small monument below. The flags on the shine are limp and lifeless. 

The top of the IFC building remains steadfastly hidden in mist and clouds through out the ceremony. A light sprinkling of rain adds to the sombre atmosphere. 

We stood in silence, taking in the scene, umbrellas up, waiting, happy that our 48 hour stop over allowed us this opportunity to participate. Representatives in military uniform, looked serious, heads bowed together, as if discussing some tactical move.  Or maybe Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, Chief of Navy is giving a quick check on numbers for Grappas, the traditional Gunfire Breakfast which follows.

Phil Waugh and Leonie Drew, Co-Heads of the Australian International School, are also locked in a briefing session. For a dawn service there are a good number of students present. The kids are in school uniform looking smart with clean pressed shirts, courtesy of the Helpers that many AISHK families will employ to assist with domestic duties. Two students stand amongst the dignitaries, ready to lay the school’s wreath. 

Later on, the School will conduct it’s own Anzac Day Memorial ceremony for all pupils out on it’s synthetic turf playing fields at Kowloon Tong. 

At the same time the school has 13 students from years 9 & 10 in Turkey, taking part in the Anzac Day ceremony in Gallipoli. That is one memorable school field trip! You can read more about it here

It feels a million years ago that we were living in Hong Kong, with our kids attending this wonderful school.

The small crowd, perhaps only three to five deep in places, grows and waits. The participants are for most part dressed in business suits, this is no National Holiday, unlike back home. We are a largely ex-pat crowd of Australians and New Zealanders. Many would not dream of missing the Anzac Day service ‘lest we forget’ either the Anzacs, or the Homeland. 

A trio of Consulate-Generals and other dignitaries appear along with a smattering of tourists, a couple of Turks, and a man in a kilt, playing the bagpipes very insistently!

What does ANZAC stand for?
ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The soldiers in those forces quickly became known as Anzacs, and the pride they took in that name endures to this day. 
A few members of the crowd are wearing family medals. Some are war veterans themselves. 

To find out why is this day special to Australians click here?
Although the Gallipoli campaign failed in its military objectives, the Australian and New Zealand actions during the campaign left a powerful legacy. The creation of what became known as the “Anzac legend” became an important part of the identity of both nations, shaping the ways they viewed both their past and their future.

The Consul-General of Turkey Mr Haldun Tekneci read out a statement by Turkish Leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and the following moving reading
Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives,
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly nation
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us
where they lie side by side here in this country of ours.
You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears;
Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are at peace.
After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well
Ataturk, 1934

Early commemorations
The 25th of April was officially named Anzac Day in 1916. Next year will be the 100th ANZAC day. 
Many Australian’s have a trip to Gallipoli on their bucket list, but if you’re not yet confirmed as registered, forget it for next year. The ballot was massively over subscribed for 2015.

What does it mean today?
Australians all over the world recognise 25 April as an occasion of national remembrance for all Australians killed in military operations. which can take two forms; a Dawn service and our major cities and towns will also hold an Anzac Parade held later in the day.
The Dawn Service has its origins in a military routine which is still followed by the Australian Army today. During battle, the half-light of dawn was one of the most favoured times for an attack. Today our service includes the presence of a chaplain, the Rev Desmond Cox from St John’s Anglican Cathedral, who reads the Anzac Prayer. 
A lone bugler from the Hong Kong Police Band plays the Last Post, we have a one minute silence and conclude with Reveille, the bugler’s call to wake up. Looking up we see a small lone bugler hardly visible over the towering balcony. 

Lest we Forget

Linking with thanks to the hosts with Our World Tuesday

Friday, 25 April 2014

Wandering in Washington

Wandering in Washington Part One…

Our daughter choose Washington, when we offered her a weekend 
anywhere you like in America’. 

The nation’s capital was a great choice...

28,000 college students live within one mile of Georgetown!
She had initially been interested to study at Georgetown University for her semester abroad with Melbourne University, but the courses didn’t match her exchange requirements. However, it is an option for a post graduate exchange. So one of the first things we did, was to take the ten minute taxi ride from our hotel at Dupoint Circle*, to the lively student area of Georgetown to check it out!

We were starving that morning and with no hotel breakfast on offer with our bargain room rate, and only a sandwich on board the train the previous night, we weren’t walking anywhere without some decent food, or so we thought!

Peacock Cafe desserts were delicious!
We’re not exactly foodies, but we do all enjoy a good restaurant and we set out with high expectations to find one of Georgetown’s finest brunch spots. With over 100 restaurants and speciality food stores within one square mile, we had difficulty choosing! We turned as we always do, to my trusty Trip Advisor, for a solution. We choose Peacock Cafe* one of those ‘must go to’ eateries in Georgetown, but we had an hour to wait before it opened.

Note to self: check opening hours before promising everyone a brilliant breakfast…

With rumbling tummy’s we set off and were easily charmed into distraction, by the delights of Georgetown’s waterfront area. The town’s rich history, goes way back to America’s early days, when Georgetown was a major port for tobacco, grains, whiskey, furs, timber and eventually coal. 

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, Georgetown.
We strolled along the waterfront park at the Potomac River enjoying the perfect Spring day, a far cry from the snow we’d left behind in New England. The river was the main transportation route between Cumberland, Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay but waterfalls made the boat transport impossible. So some clever Engineers created the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (C & O), that runs parallel to the river. 

The C & O Canal was real pretty and we enjoyed watching the water gushing into one of the 74 lift locks that exist between Georgetown and Cumberland which is some 190m (610 feet) higher… The canal operated until 1924 and was designated a National Historic Park in 1971.

After our lunch had given us some energy to pound the streets some more, we head up O, P or N street NW towards the University - don’t you think they could have come up with some more imaginative names? Anyone got some good suggestions? Although I must admit the grid system of numbers and letters does make it easy to find your way around. 

The houses in this area are absolutely gorgeous and we walked passed several of the Kennedy houses which they lived in between 1946 and 1964 when Jackie moved out after security issues force her to leave (Tour buses often parking outside her front door at 3017 N Street - yep that would freak me out too!)

Townhouses for sale c $4,000 000
If we had a spare four million (which we don’t) this would be a fun place to buy a town house, although everyone says the humidity is horrible in summer…hard to imagine in April with the town was bursting into spring with cheery bulbs blooming along the streets. 

New York University is pretty much under lock and key and gaining access without an NYU pass, is near on impossible. So for a lot of our daughter’s buildings we’d had to admire from outside. Georgetown by contrast was refreshingly open. We seemed to be able to move relatively easily amongst the sport fields and into the student residences area. We liked it, it had a nice feel, although the conversation inevitably turned to where else in the world she could choose.

‘How about France - INSEAD or the Sorbonne? You could use your French!’ 

We’d lived in Belgium when the kids were growing up and all the kids went to the local French schools. They switched to learn Chinese when we were in Hong Kong, but her heart remained with a love of the French language. 

Georgetown college buildings
Or Switzerland or London? 
'London??? Since when do they speak French in London, we have been gone a long time…'
'What about Canada?’

Can’t you go to Brazil, then we can all come and visit when the World Cup is on?’ My son offered unhelpfully!

These kids have a good life, it is relatively common for Australian college students to take a semester overseas and certainly many Aussie kids expect to finish their education with at least one, maybe two degrees and probably a whole load of stamps in the passport!

‘If you go to Georgetown, we’ll come back to visit, we like it here’, 
I said admiring the charming streets and houses.

Georgetown University was founded as the first Roman catholic (Jesuit) University in the nation (1789)

Back down in the main drag of Wisconsin Avenue, we spot some great looking stores. Like Sephora. This is what happens when your friends also travel a lot you get e-mails like this:

“Heard you were in the States? Any chance you can pick me up some of the following?

So we’re in Sephora, looking for the foundation in a medium, what a brilliant shop. But the men are outside with those can you ‘hurry up’ faces that men perfect, without saying anything and you know the clock is ticking…

Time to ditch the men and have some mother daughter bonding. 
Let’s go and buy some skinny jeans’ 

I suggest. Guaranteed to see the boys disappearing for the hills…

We stop off at Serendipity, not necessarily the best plan before hitting the jean store, but it was one of those 'must try before you die,' things for one of their famous Oreo frozen chocolates to share. 

Serendipity frozen chocolate to share
I hate to think how many calories are in that. I’m sure they would have told us, most everywhere you go the calories are written on the menu - not a bad idea bit sometimes it’s best not to know!

We head into a jeans store…
'Have you any skinny jeans for fat people?'

'Of course Lady, what size you after?'

'About two sizes bigger than before I had the frozen Oreo chocolate at Serendipity.'

'Come this way…'

Gotta love Americans and America

This is the life!!!
I LOVE Georgetown, can’t wait to see the rest of Washing DC tomorrow!

Linking with Alphabe Thursday
W is for Wandering in Washington

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

If it's Monday it must be New England!

It snowed last week.
Whilst the locals are well over their long cold winter, 
for those of us visiting from Australia, this was exciting.
We don't ever wake to snow on the ground in Melbourne!

There was not a humongous amount of snow,
no huge deluge that would stop us from getting places,
but a pretty amount, a light frosting 
that made everything in New England look beautiful.
A chilly start to the day

We are in the States visiting my daughter on exchange at NYU and were driving to my Uncle and Aunt's house in Litchfield, North Western Connecticut.
The town is a two and a half drive from New York city.
The drive was an experience for me at the wheel!

We wanted to show our son life out of New York city
We loved the quaint main streets and village greens
of the small towns along the way,
with the American Flags fluttering.
Each town we drove through we said
"wow - that's pretty!"

We said that a lot!
The houses got bigger and bigger, as we drove through the scenic hills 
and valleys there were more and more pretty churches and houses.
... and a few power lines!

We visited 'The Lure of the Litchfield Hills,' 
a newly opened exhibit at the Litchfield museum on Colonial Revival. 

Litchfield is often described as the quintessential New England town,
 and it was fascinating to learn more about the town 
and the immaculate homes with white paint and black shutters. 
These are not a product of the colonial era, but a late 19th and early 20th century movement known as colonial revival.

We also went to the Tapping Reeve House and Law School 
America's first law school.

Hats off to the Litchfield Historical Society for both these wonderful museums.

The next day with the snow had gone, we called in at Woodstock, 
the sleepy arty town close to where we were staying. 
Famous for in the 1969's refusing a permit for the Woodstock festival
Which is why the festival ended up at Bethal Woods...

Two of our children have ended up at Woodstock boarding school 
in the foothills of the Himalayas, India
and so I was gathering material for a future Woodstock blog
Do you do this on holiday,
Plan your days out around potential blog posts?!

Woodstock, NY famous for lending it's name to the Woodstock festival

We then drove nearly 60 miles
to the site of the actual Woodstock festival at Bethal Woods
for The Story of the 60's museum.

A chance conversation over lunch with a couple of employees
 and a remark that this was the most expensive tourist attraction
we'd been to, so it better be good,
led to a personal guided tour by Glenn
that will be one of the highlights of our entire trip!
The multimedia permanent exhibit includes 20 films, 5 interactive productions, text panels and artifacts

Glenn was at the original festival as a food vendor, 

although his job finished early after they ran out of food after a day and a half,
We loved hearing Glenn's stories!
He brought the original festival to light 
and explained to us about the upcoming season of concerts.

Thanks Glenn - our visit turned out to be great value!

Downstairs we found a exhibit America Meets The Beatles!
A celebration of the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ arrival in the U.S. in 1964.
I liked the above photos of the Beatles going by train to Washington,as we were just rushing to catch the train to Washington ourselves!
Unfortunately no-one told us that getting back to New York was going to be a nightmare trip, DH missed the train!
New York in the distance - from the car park waiting to get through the Lincoln tunnel

So that was New England, next stop Washington DC!
I hope you have enjoyed joining me on my if it's Monday it must be New England, whistle stop tour of America
I hope you can join me again soon to find out what Washington was like!

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thank you to all the hosts

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Thank you Sally

Monday, 21 April 2014

Silent Sunday

Victory - FDR style!

There is none so brave as a Wren,
faced with lugging her increasingly weighty, 
shopping-stuffed suitcases 
through the crowded New York subway,
when her DH announces 
that he doesn’t much fancy driving in Manhattan…

It’s OK, I’ll drive! 
So here I am, 
white knuckled at the wheel leaving town.

'The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself'
Just follow the ambulance my family said, just in case we need it!
Now I learnt to drive navigating Swindon's Magic Roundabout
I am used to driving in Melbourne and Hong Kong. 
I have driven on the go as-fast-as-you-like autobahns in Germany, 
and even coped with the priorité à droite system in Belgium, 
but driving in New York is pretty, pretty crazy!

'When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike, 
you do not wait until he has struck to crush him'
Thank goodness for our GPS, a complete bargain at $14.95 a day. 
We turned it on and we were off...

Once, that is, 
we worked out what a ‘on’ and ‘off ramp’ was, 
then, there was no stopping me...

I’m proud to say I only got “tooted’ at once - hooray.
'Oh look Mum the GPS says you've crashed into the park!'
We were off to visit my Uncle and Aunt in Connecticut,
I haven't been there for a while. 
Well, not since they moved into their 'new' house, thirty years ago.

However as soon as we were upstate New York, 
we were pleased we’d driven,
especially as the beautiful warm spring weather turned into heavy rain…
Back to the white knuckle driving conditions...

You must do the things you think you cannot do.

Following the pink line!
Through wildly waving windscreen wipers, 
(which I hit every time I wanted to indicate 
 - everything is back to front for an Brit/Aussie, 
just in case you thought I was totally hopeless.)
we could see the city becoming countryside.
Ahead were majestic mountains, lakes and towns 
and pretty New England cottages in the 
rolling pastoral farmland of Dutchess County.
The region was home to the Vanderbilts and 
Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and is rich in history.

We were heading to the Hudson Valley/Catskills region 
and specifically, to the old town of Rhinebeck,
recommended as a great place 
to stop and explore, thanks Liz!

Beekman Arms - America's oldest inn, built in 1766
From Rhinebeck it's a short drive to 
Franklin D Roosevelt's 
Presidential Library and Museum.
We needed something indoors (to be dry!)
and we couldn't have picked better. 
We thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon
 at the estate in Hyde Park.

FDR Museum
Poor FDR and Eleanor seen here below relaxing in their garden, 
a little sodden outside the Presidential library.
We enjoyed learning more about their lives, 
we got a real sense of the depths of Great Depression, 
FDR's personal struggles,
the New Deal and World War Two. 

We felt by the end of our visit,
 we'd really got to know both of them a little better through their lives.
 They both had some great quotes...

Women are like teabags. 
We don't know our true strength until we are in hot water!
FRD and Eleanor in the grounds at Hyde Park
Here is FRD's private study, 
it is not a recreation, it is his actual study.

The museum had many interactive exhibits 
which we all enjoyed, even our teenage son.
It can't be easy suddenly going from the baby of the family 
to Chief Bell Boy, with his older sisters off exploring the world.

We were glad we had him with us
You have no idea how many times he carried the suitcases, 
or we lost the keys between picking them up at the front desk of a hotel, 
and arriving at the lift or outside the room!
It got to be such a joke.

'You're a worry,' he would say, 
'When can I put you Guys in a home?!'
'After we've stopped paying for such nice holidays' we replied!!

Chief Bell Boy relaxes at the FDR Museum!
Fast forward to the end of our trip to Connecticut,
we're in a rush to get back into New York 
By this time I am no longer driving
Everyone decided that it was better if I didn't...


No one mentioned that getting back onto Manhattan for Easter weekend 
is like sixty million cars all queued up for one tiny parking lot.
It took us four hours to get through the Lincoln tunnel.

There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still.
Lincoln Bridge at a standstill Easter weekend
We had no time to drop the suitcases off at our return New York hotel, 
we have a train to catch to Washington DC.
DH drops me and Bell Boy off close to Madison Square Gardens,
We leg it through the people.
Me clearing the way in the tide of humanity 
'Excuse me, Excuse me' 
in my best British accent
Yep in a crisis, become very British!

American's always love a British accent 
(well maybe not if they are talking about who 
burned down the original Capital Building, 
or we are side swiping everyone with our trundle suitcases 
but worth a try, and we have a train to catch)

Bell Boy brings up the rear, suitcases wobbling precariously behind him
We just make it onto the train, 
meeting up with daughter No 2 at Penn Station
DH misses the train...  

When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.
Well that was exciting... I could go on, but FDR reminds me:

Be sincere; be brief; be seated.
Can I leave you with one last quote from Eleanor Roosevelt
who was an impressive First Lady with a great sense of humour?
This me laugh although it doesn't quite fit with anything! 
I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. 
But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: 
no good in a bed, but fine up against a wall.
Linking with Alphabe Thursday 
V is for Victory!