Friday, May 20, 2011

Walk Safely to school day Sydney

Walking is not something kids like to do. My kids are no exception. In Holland this wouldn't be an issue because children cycle to school and get enough exercise.

It's different in Sydney unfortunately. Sydney is not a cycle friendly city. It's fine for people (mostly men in the thirties and forties) who don't mind hills and don't care to be run over by non-bike-friendly car owners. But the average child (and parent!) does mind. As a result, a large number of SUV's block the streets around the school every morning and afternoon and our children get more and more lazy.

To promote a healthy lifestyle and to get kids out of the car, the Pedestrian Council of Australia has introduced a special 'walk safely to school day'. According to the website:
"Around a third of the car trips made in Sydney are less than 3 km and more than half are less than 5 km.  Some of these can easily be done on foot given walking one kilometre at a comfortable pace takes 15 minutes!"
We fall in the less than 3km category with two steep hills. We live quite near to the school and with the kids it takes me about 20 minutes to get there. Without the kids who stop every two seconds to look at something, it takes me about 10 minutes. No more excuses to use the car in the morning. Let's keep those feet moving!  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

La Nina gone!

This morning, I read the best news ever in the Sydney Morning Herald. La Nina is - almost - gone! After a few months of very unpredictable weather, the forecasters now confirmed that the weather pattern will return to 'neutral'. We've had a summer with very extreme weather and lots of rain. Hopefully this will now change.

It was not too difficult for the forecasters to 'predict' a change in the weather pattern as we've had blue skies and no rain for the past two weeks. Today they finally felt confident enough to break the good news to the public. I suggest the government gives all Australians a day off to celebrate!  

Read the full article: A turn for the better as La Nina fades away. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Winter in Sydney

I'm fed up with the winter. The trouble is that winter in Sydney is quite complex. In the Netherlands it is much easier to endure. When you wake up in the morning you know it will be another cold day and you prepare for that by putting on a lot of warm clothes.

In Sydney it's also cold but not the whole time. It can be really nice and sunny or freezing cold depending on the time of day and the weather.

The Australian winter officially lasts from 1 June till 31 August. We are now half way and luckily the coldest period is already behind us. In August the average temperature is 17.7 degrees compared to 16.2 in July. At night, the temperature drops to eight degrees.

The past few weeks the temperature was a little below average. One night it was almost below zero which is very unusual (and cold!).

Our house only has a small gas heater in the kitchen. The rest of the house, including the bed rooms, is not heated. As I write this, I'm wearing a coat to give you an idea how cold it is.

So far we have never had the heater on during the day. A few hours in the morning and in the evenings. Somehow it doesn't feel right to turn the heater on when the sun shines.

We are not the only ones with a badly heated house. Everyone complains. "Sydneysiders" believe they live in a warm country and when they build a new home they forget to install proper heating. "Uhhhh, why do we need that?"

In the city you see a great variety of winter clothes. Some people exaggerate and seem to think they live on the North pole wearing woolen hats and gloves. Others wear shorts and thongs as if it's mid summer.

It is not easy to put on the right clothes and a mistake is easily made. One day I went for a walk along the beach wearing a winter coat and three layers of jumpers while people were sunbathing in bikinis and shorts. Ouch.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

We have a new prime minister

To my surprise, I read in the newspaper this morning that 'we' are likely to have a new prime minister today. I just came back from tennis, and I hear on the radio that the current prime minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, has stepped down. He will be replaced by Julia (nice name!) Gillard. This is an historical event as it is the first time Australia has a female prime minister. She is not married, no kids and she was born in the UK.

Could this have something to do with the World Cup soccer? This morning, Australia beat Serbia with 2-1. Despite winning the match, they are out of the tournament because Germany beat Ghana. Only a few hours later, the prime minister (a man) has to step down to be replaced by a women. That's more than a coincidence..

I don't understand Australian politics. This makes a move to a new country always interesting because you learn a lot of new things. Australia is a western country and at first sight there are not much difference between the countries. But the longer I live here, the more differences I see.

In the Netherlands, a political party does not have the right to replace its prime minister. I don't have a clue how that works here. I guess it's time for an online fast course Australian politics.

Thirty seconds and a Google search later I know the answer. According to the website of the “Parliamentary Education Office” ( the prime minister of Australia is member of the parliament. He is chosen by the party (or parties) with the most seats. And yes, this party can vote against the prime minister and replace him or her by another candidate. This explains what happened today.

I like Kevin Rudd, he seems to be a very friendly person. I think it's a shame he has to go to make room for Julia Gillard. The things that I notice most about her are her heavy voice, strong Australian accent (I'm not sure what to make of her accent because she is originally from the UK), her big nose and red hair. Sorry, but for the time being she does not get my vote.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Its dark outside ..

I don't want to sound depressed but I guess I suffer from the "dark days before Christmas syndrome". This is not surprising because the days in Sydney are extremely short this week. Today it was already pitch dark at 4.50 p.m. Its also raining. Yes, enough reason to feel very depressed.

I remember how lovely it is to be in Holland right now where the sun sets around 10 p.m. Even in December in Sydney, when its summer, it won't stay light that long. This is definitely something I miss.

From now on the days will become longer again. Luckily I can see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. In December, the sun will set at eight p.m. This doesn't make the days as long as in Holland but it gets close.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dutch soccer in Sydney

Last night the Dutch played against Denmark. We watched the match in the Holland House in Darling Harbour.  It - almost - felt as if I was back in Holland. Lot's of orange and of course the Dutch food specialities 'bitterballen' and 'kroketten' and Grolsch beer. 

The Holland House is located next to the Fifa Fan Fest area. I can't help to feel sorry for the people who try to organise such a big event in a country where the majority of the people is NOT interested in soccer.  The average Australian likes rugby or cricket, not soccer. The main supporters are the immigrants from Europe (Italians, Greeks, British, etc.). The fact that Australia lost it's first match big time (0-4) does not help a lot, I guess.


This weekend we visited Canberra. We didn't really know what to expect but as a newcomer to the country we felt we had to go to the Australian Capital to know what it is really like. We went this weekend on a very short two day trip. It's 300 kilometers South West from Sydney and the road is not very exiting. It's just one straight line and you hardly pass any towns. The trip took us a little more than four hours because we took the tourist route in an -unsuccesfull - attempt to make the drive a little bit more adventurous.

The city itself is not very attractive. There is a big lake which is nice. Despite a few attempts we were not able to find a city centre. The other thing was that we didn't see a lot of people. Because of the long weekend many people must have left the town to visit friends and family elsewhere.

The best thing about going to Canberra are the museums. We visited the National Museum of Australia on day one and Questacon, a technology centre for kids, on day two. The kids loved it and so did we.

I don't think it is worthwile to stay in Canberra for a long time. But a short visit to see the museums is definitely worth it.

The National Museum of Australia