Saturday, April 25, 2015

Lest We Forget....My Pop

Nan and Pop
I have photo's and posts half written to share about our Germany trip and homecoming, but while I don't normally get too into seasonal blog writing, this morning nags at me that I have something to share.

Today marks 100 years since Australia landed at Gallipoli. Like all Australian school children, I learnt about Australia's contribution to the wars, and I was taught to show respect on Anzac day. Celebrating in school ceremonies, coming together with family to watch the parade on TV, even watching it in person once or twice and getting caught up in the excitement of waving to the marching veterans, or waving my little Australian flag.

I'm an Aussie. Oi Oi Oi.

I remember having a fascination with my Pops contribution to WWII. He was one of those romantic people the songs were sung about, just like those stately gentleman that marched past each year with their heads held high, occasionally with a little grandchild capering at their feet. I couldn't imagine anything more exciting, a moment to be so proud of, to watch my Pop march past on Anzac Day.

My Pop never marched. Not once that I know of anyway, although who knows what happened before I was born. 

With my mind inflamed with stories of heroism and sacrifice, the next time we visited Nan and Pop in school holidays I promptey asked to see his medals and hear stories from him. With a suddenness that came as a shock, I was hustled away quickly to a different room, and told I couldn't ask Pop about the war. There were to be no questions. It was explained that Pop didn't like to talk about the war, it wasn't something exciting for him as it was for me. It was a life changing experience that never left him, and was a big part of who he was. 

Donkey Races in leisure time

Pop never marched in the parades. We didn't watch the march with him on TV either. I was told he watched the march by himself each year, and locked himself away in privacy to relive his memories with no one but himself. But every year at Anzac day I would think of my Pop, the stories of heroism and sacrifice no longer seemed exciting. Instead they seemed dark and intimidating. I'm sure the older generation of my family that grew up with Pop have their own memories. Maybe there was a time when he could talk about it. Maybe he was OK to talk about it with his wife and children. But certainly for me it became the elephant in the room, a period of Australian history I was fascinated in but could never ask about.

"Someday no-one will march there at all".

My pop died back in 2002. He made it long enough to come to my wedding, and cuddle my little baby. It means so much to me that he was at my wedding, the only one of my Grandparents that was. 

I didn't expect anything from my Pops (and Nan's residual) will. They had 5 kids, so many grand kids, and modest assets. It would never occur to me that there would be something for me. But my Pop left me a set of his miniatures. I've gotten them out and told my stories of Pop many times over the years. I've let Miss 14 take them to school (under strict security instructions) at this time of year for show and tell when she was younger. 

Somehow it's so very special to me that my Pop remembered my fascination, and while he couldn't indulge it in his lifetime, he wanted to indulge it in his death.

Lest We Forget Pop.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Our Whirlwind Stopover in Dubai

Bhurj Kalifa - Tallest Building in the world

 Last night was our first night on our whirlwind adventure. It's 4am here in Dubai as I write, but I woke up at 2am after falling into bed almost delirious at 8pm and couldn't get back to sleep again. (Edit finished putting pictures on this post a day and a half later, so there's a bit of a time lag!)

We flew with Emirates, and although my experience for comparison is slim, I thought they were fantastic. The food was good, the in flight entertainment free with plenty of movies,games and TV shows, and my seat width and leg room not too bad for Economy! We did have a bit of a problem with my lunch when the flight hostess promised to return with a beef main then promptly deleted me from her memory. Eventually when they returned with drinks I was able to query my meal and she more than made up for it by offering a business class salmon (which I don't eat but the husband was devastated he didn't have the foresight to trade meals with me).

Dubai has been long on my wish list of places to visit, I've heard so many wonderful things and as an Australian/Lebonese household Dubai seems like a good place to be given there are so many Aussie expats here. Curiously, I found myself being ignored by the airport workers in favour of other men. Other than the hosts, the workers were all men, and even though Husband thinks I am being paranoid I found myself being ignored completely until the steady trickle of male travelers with enquiries ran out, although there was initially only one person ahead of me five others turned up and were assisted ahead of me.

Here in Dubai women wearing Burqas and Niqabs are far more common than in Australia, as was a more traditional style of male Arab dress. I asked the Husband why it was that most traditionally dressed women wore black and the traditionally dressed men wore white but he couldn't answer that - definitely a question for my mother in law when I get back. 

We would have loved to have taken some tours and seen the desert here in Dubai but with only one jet lagged night to enjoy here we just weren't able to do justice to what Dubai has to offer. Instead we stayed at the Sofitel Dubai Downtown, as it is so close to the Dubai Mall we were able to walk there in a loooooong covered glass walkway with moving travellators. Thursday-Sunday the Dubai Mall shuts at Midnight, and I was shocked to see how PACKED it was. Think the weekend before Christmas in Australia. That kind of packed.

The Dubai Mall is all kinds of amazing. There was an ice skating rink, an aquarium, movie theatre, and hundreds of high end stores. From that perspective the Dubai Mall was definitely out of our league. I wouldn't spend that kind of money on shoes, handbags or clothes for myself at home so I won't spend it on holidays. But we didn't find the food particularly expensive. We loved a kids toystore we came across, there were staff and kids everywhere, playing with ball games, remote control toys, flying hovercraft through the air, it was incredible.It would take forever to drag the kids out of there, I think mine would be happy to spend a few hours just playing and exploring.

The Aquarium IN the Dubai Mall
 There was also a great Kidzania area, filled with children's boutiques, a theme park (Sega World), and an area where kids could dress up in the uniform of the career of their choice and role play. We didn't spend heaps of money in Dubai (breakdown below) mostly because for us there wasn't much to spend it on. We would have loved to see the desert and do a few tours but there just wasn't time.

Terminal 3 Metro Station in Dubai
 Instead of catching a taxi or organising transfers between the airport and the hotel (which we were quoted 70 AED for a taxi, or $28au), we ended up catching the Metro (train system). Our tickets cost 8AED each way per person. (or $3.20au) The signage was very similar to Sydney,and we had no problem reading anything. We had our first awkward moment fairly quickly, as we moved through the busy carriages looking for seats. At the end of the train we lots  of seats available and we st to relax for the 30 minute train journey. As I looked around, wondering why none of the men standing only a metre away wanted to sit down, I noticed there were only women sitting. This was curious as in previous carriages (and the train is actually just made up of several long open carriages, you don't have to open doors like in Australia) the seats were packed and the rare women I noticed was standing. I realised then from all the pink signage that in all our fluster of using a strange train system that we'd sat in the women's carriage, and that the Husband would be fined 100AED if he was seen! He quickly moved half a metre away to stand next to me just over the line in the unisex section, but it was a surprise to both of us. I couldn't decide if I thought it was sexist/discriminatory or respectful that women had their own carriage, but since they had plenty of seats and the unisex section was packed I'm going to run with respectful. 

The only thing that took us a while to figure out with the Metro system in Dubai was how to work out which platform we needed to be on. As it turns out, instead of numbering their platforms as we do in Australia, they actually name them according to the last station on the train line for that line. So you just need to look at the map, work out which direction you are travelling, and go to the platform with the name of the last station.

Our so tall Hotel - Sofitel Downtown Dubai
Our next awkward moment was at the hotel, when we tried to tip the young man that took our bag to our room. We aren't seasoned tippers, but our 2010 holiday in America taught us to tip the bag boy,so it was a little embarrassing to be offering the note and having him ignoring it.

In general we found Dubai to be super clean, and ultra modern, all white and silver. It was beautiful, and some of the buildings, the airport,the mall, the Metro stations, we thought were a little space stationy.

Bhurj Kalifa/Dubai Mall Metro Station

All up in Dubai, we spent just under $100au which converted to 250AED. I didn't find it as expensive as I'd thought, but admittedly we didn't buy much by way of souvenirs.

In Dubai money, here is our breakdown:

32 Metro Tickets to and from the airport
20 for the worlds most expensive lip gloss,but I was desperate. I was super annoyed to see one for 8 at the airport later
5 for a postcard and stamp to send to the kidlets
15 for a spoon to add to my mothers collection
161 for dinner for 2 with soft drinks
13.5 for snacks at the airport to take on the plane

 So our whirlwind stay in Dubai is over, except for a small stopover on the way home (3 hours), and today we find ourselves in Munich, day tripping off to Rothenberg,  the town known for being the most German of German towns. 

Hoping the Sydney Autumn is not quite as crisp as the Munich Spring!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Auf Weidersehn!

Time flies but we are finally packing our bags for our trip to Germany! The Husband is lucky enough to work for a German company, and every year members from all over the world congregate in an industrial type area called Schwabisch Gmund for their annual sales conference. Husband is not in sales, but he is a technician and on the merits of this he has been invited to attend and to take the opportunity to learn from the German onsite techs while he is there. It's his second trip, but as I was pregnant with Sebastian, and had tiny 7 month old Lorelei that I couldn't bear to abandon, he went solo for his last visit. 
When the news came he was invited again, I jumped on that Soul Train and invited myself along. He has the 3 day conference, but we have stretched out to 10 days and will be whirlwinding our way through Dubai, Munich, Stuttgart, and just as a little treat for me while he is at work, Paris.


I'm not sure which part I'm most excited about, but I think Paris might be it. I'm terrified about navigating my way around a strange country with a foreign language on my own, I can't even navigate in Sydney, but I can't let this opportuinity pass me by. We probably couldn't have afforded to trip if we tried to do it as a family or even as a couple, but since the Husbands airfares are paid by work and I've picked up some extra paid work (hello Easter Show!) to help pay for mine, we've been able to make it happen.

Wish me luck, and if I manage to find free wifi I'll be sharing lots of jealousy inducing photos as we travel.