Adelaide, South Australia… the City of Churches.  I had only 36 hours in this place but my schedule was jam-packed!

I settled into what I can only refer to as the Canadian equivalent of “no-tell motel” accommodations.  Shabby.  No chic.  Its patron, a well-past-middle-aged woman, was pinched and terse.  I even tried to throw some Canadian-prairie-girl charm her way, but nothing could penetrate that harsh, sphincter-tight veneer. The one redeeming factor of this motel (and its owner for that matter) was that it is nestled in the boutique area of Hyde Park; close to shops, restaurants and cafes.  I have to believe that this is the only reason that this motel is the accommodation of choice for the plant breeders and agronomists.

Plant breeders and agronomists in Australia are an interesting lot; not unlike many of their aggie Canadian counterparts.  I had the distinction of being only woman amongst this crew as we made our way to the Hyde Park Hotel for dinner and a few pints.  These blokes were at times loud and opinionated, but I found them to have a humourous and healthy cynicism towards life and work.  They were witty, quick to tease and laugh – overall a really charming bunch that made me feel right at home (even as the lone ‘Sheila’ in the group).  We dined on seafood and lamb, exchanging animated quips on topics ranging from plant breeding techniques/strategies to politics to the finer points of cricket (admittedly, I am still a bit lost on this latter bit).  I was introduced to common Australian expressions such as “nick off!” and “its your shout!”.  ‘Its your shout’ resounded regularly… and I kept up with these chaps – beer after beer, glass of wine after glass of wine.  Then I topped all that off with two fingers of Talisker for good measure.  Oy.

The Pulse Breeding Australia meetings were held at the University of Adelaide, Waite Campus.  Needless to say, after a night of over-imbibing, my liver and my brain were both a bit sluggish the morning of the meetings. Despite this, the germplasm enhancement meetings at the Plant Research Centre were very enlightening.  I was the social science ‘thorn’ amongst the scientist/plant breeder ‘roses’; but quite happy to sit quietly and observe.

The Plant Research Centre (photos below) is headquarters to South Australia’s Research and Development Institute (SARDI).  It is a stunning facility, built several years ago for the wee cost of $30M AUS (rumoured, not verified – seems to me like it would have been more than that – can you verify @Atomeclectic?).  The greenhouses are situated on the top floor while the labs, phytotron, and other resources and facilities are below deck; the entire structure appears to be cut into the side of a rolling hill. 

My last night in Adelaide found me exploring new parts of the city, enjoying a wonderful sushi dinner in the good company of F of PBA and B of GRDC.  I had met up with and interviewed B at the Crop Updates meetings in Perth the previous week and we arranged to meet this week for dinner in Adelaide.  It was so good to sit down with these ladies, in less formal surroundings, and chat about family, travel and work.  The evening was finished off with all of us enjoying flat whites and gellato at a nearby coffee shop. What a great way to end my short stay in Adelaide.

Highlights of this leg of the journey: Good fun with plant breeders and agronomists. Seeing a world centre of excellence in ag research and development (University of Adelaide’s Waite Campus and all of its facilities)

Lowlights: Crappy internet connections at shabby, crap motel (thank you Plant Research Centre for letting me tap into your wireless). Missing the festivities of the Adelaide Film Festival and the Adelaide Fringe Festival both, of which, were on while I was there.  The slight hangover wasn’t that great either – but worth it… what the heck, the ‘hangover’ will go under “highlights”!

Crack a beeah! Write a paper!

February 27, 2011

Sunday in Australia. And I plan to work. I know, I know… Crazy. But there is so much to do before I leave Perth on Tuesday morning! The next leg of my journey (Adelaide and Canberra) will leave me with very little time to write. My friend and colleague, A (an import from Ottawa), who is currently here in Oceania writing up her PhD dissertation at the University of Sydney, commented on my work schedule:

“We will not have you North Americans importing your workaholism nonsense here, thank you very much! When in ‘straaya… crack a beeah and chill out ;)” [I’d have to say that A appears to be quite comfortably embedded in Australian culture.]

No worries, says I! I have cracked many a ‘beeahs’ whilst here. I, too, have taken note of the laid back approach to work and life in Australia. And as A says, “Working and cracking a beeah is not mutually exclusive [in ‘straaya]. In fact, the two often go together…”

Ah, “The Tao of A”! [thanks for the packing tips, too, A]

I am comfortably settled into my work space on the deck-patio-lanai (whatever they call it here) and am ready to buckle down. First on the agenda is to finish up that ‘creatives’ chapter for the ISRN book.

Chicago MLA style of referencing is the bane of my existence. I am an ardent, path-dependent MLA-er (and probably not the most accurate one at that). Where DOES the damnable date go? One source says this, one source says that. Arrgggggg!

The current task at hand is my least favourite of all academic-type tasks. It’s a necessary evil, though.  Mind you, the environment that I get to work in here in Perth is amazing! This is the last day before classes start at UWA. Students have been trickling onto campus and to Trinity College all week. The residence is nearly busting at the seams! Today, the music is blaring and there is a volleyball net and paddling pool set up in the quad. Let the frivolities begin!

By the way, the students have been incredible. Charming, polite, respectful. And I think that I have found a prospective son-in-law in the bunch. Steven is 24 years old, from Bunbury, WA, and works part-time in Trinity’s admin department. He is tall, handsome, athletic and is in third year medicine. He hopes to become a pediatrician.

Sidney Crosby, you have been officially bumped to second place. [I might be in trouble when Tanya reads this! Are you groaning and rolling your eyes yet, my girl?]

Anyway, must return to Chicago-style drudgeries… Perhaps I will run the risk of minor inaccuracies in referencing by washing the task down with a beeah or two.

‘Cause that’s the way work is done in ‘straaya!



Fremantle, the only place that you can see Italy from Australia…

February 26, 2011

The quaint, bustling city of Fremantle is situated west of Perth on the juncture of the Swan River and the Indian Ocean. This Australian landmark boasts a prison (long since retired from it’s original purpose and now a tourist attraction), several markets, a university (Notre Dame), and is home to Bon Scott of ACDC fame. Although I had just been there, I had to return today. I just had to see this place in the light of day having only experienced parts of it at night with Siddique and his wife, Almaz when they took me for dinner last evening.

By ferry, I made my way from the Barrack Street Jetties at Bell Tower to Freemantle. Once there, I wound my way through the quaint little streets lined with shops, galleries and restaurants marveling at the monochromatic, yet ornately embellished, colonial architecture. I then stopped to enjoy an iced coffee on Fremantle’s infamous cafe street. Market Street is a strip lined with numerous coffee shops. With today’s temperature of +38, the Street was sparsely populated, relatively speaking anyway. I assumed that most folks had opted for a day at the beach or were patronizing the local pubs or the boutique brewery, Little Creatures, down at the Harbour. Not a bad idea, I had thought to myself. I mentally added that to my checklist of things to see.

As it turned out, I didn’t get to the brewery, per se, but I did get a ‘beeah’ down at the Fishing Boat Harbour. I stopped at Kailis where Siddique, Almaz and I stopped, post-meal, for gellato last night. The sea birds, seagulls (whatever they are) are the most aggressive, nasty wing-ed things I have ever come upon. As soon as a table was abandoned, they descended upon it in flocks tearing through the leftover bits like ravenous wolves, clucking and cawing in a most annoying manner. It was really quite a display. Despite the odd gull-terruption, my ‘sit’ at Kailis was lovely and the small table beneath the umbrella near the water provided a welcome respite from the smothering heat. I also managed to get some journalling done.

Later, on my way to the Esplanade to grab a cab back to Trinity, I made a pit-stop near the commemorative statue of Bon Scott to take yet another touristy photo shot. In the scope of my camera lens was this scruffy, young jewellery street vendor. Fine boned, tall, deeply tan and dressed shabbily in fatigues, the young man was most congenial even though he kept his head bent diligently over his work for the most part. He asked where I was from and I didn’t immediately catch his accent.

“Canada,” I responded. That got his attention.

“You?” I asked.

“Italy!” The young man grinned proudly. Then, “You-a know Montreal?”, he queried. With that, we launched into the pleasantries of Canada; it’s expansive geography and its glorious landscapes.

Wanting to make a deal, and sensing my capacity for long-winded conversations, ‘Italy’ finally waved a hand towards the neatly organized collection of beaded wares laid out on a 20 x 10 square foot expanse of tarp. Obligingly, I checked out the massive display but honed in on some Maori carvings. ‘Italy’ explained the significance of the symbols, and appeared to be quite enlightened about the Maori culture and history. He apologized, however, for forgetting the meaning of one particular symbol – the whale tail.

‘Italy’ slapped his forehead in frustration. “Ah! I forget theees!”. Then, gesturing widely with hands the size of platters, he said: “Look-a lady, I don’ wanna giv-a you any of-a da crap so-a I think-a it’s betta you Google it.” He gave me wide grin.

Charmed, I picked up a shark tooth necklace for Hayden (on his wish list), passed ‘Italy’ a twenty and was on my way.

Postscript: To the Maori, the whale tail symbolizes wisdom and long life. I Googled it. *grin*

Highlight of the day: ‘Italy’ in Australia

Lowlight (minor, really) of the day: slight sunburn and the behaviour of nasty, carnivorous-like seagulls.

Can you spot ‘Italy’ below?


Random (and not necessarily ag-related) observations at Crop Updates 2011

February 24, 2011

At the Pioneer Hibred booth in the exhibitors area, the company hosted it’s version of the jelly-bean-jar-count. Not using jelly beans, of course. The jar in question must have contained hundreds of thousands of canola seeds. I didn’t even wager a guess. I felt a little sorry for the bloke that had to count all those little suckers though. Presumably there’s an app for that. ;0)

I am slowly growing accustomed to the heat and humidity here. However, dressing for the Australian elements and sitting in cool, air-conditioned conference rooms doesn’t quite mesh. I find myself regularly popping out to the front terrace at the Burswood to ‘warm up’. Dress in layers, Cami!

On a VERY unrelated note, the bathrooms, connected to the Burswood conference facilities, were not as impressive as I thought they would be. An observation that I made of this bathroom and others in Australia, though, is that the facilities are ‘genderized’. They aren’t marked “men” and “women”. Rather, they are labeled “male” and “female”. I was most interested, upon entering the “female” bathroom at the Burswood, to find a unique dispenser aptly called a ‘Vanity Bar’ (see photo below). Quite classy and a far cry from some of the banged up and abused tampon/condom dispensers you find in public washrooms at home in Canada (especially along Highway #7). Look at these options, ladies… deodorant, perfume, vanity packs of hairpins, etc and LIPGLOSS…