More on Hot Air Ballooning
Sunday, 28 December 2014 19:29

Reader of my blogs Barbara saw my piece on the lunacy of hot air ballooning above Kenya's Masai River, with crocodiles below waiting patiently for their lunch to fall from the sky. Well, as Barbara's photo attests, hot air balloons DO fall from the skies on the Masai. Barbara writes, 'Saw your entry for the Hot Air balloon in the Kenyan Mara. Well just to let you know, we took THAT balloon flight and crashed just short of the Mara River - fortunately as we would have otherwise crossed into Tanzania without our passports and created a diplomatic nightmare. We survived the crash landing and the Nile crocodiles and went on to watch 5 wilderbeast crossings.' And this from me: Somehow, I think falling into the River would be a worse fate than entering Tanzania minus visas. 

 
The bad -- and the really good
Tuesday, 07 October 2014 11:37

So, Pope Francis believes the present situation in the Middle East is the start of World War III. The Pope's comment should give us serious pause, because he wouldn't have said it without having given the matter careful thought, and taken wise counsel. Nevertheless, he did say it, which makes things all the more scary. The good news is that more of the world's population is starting to stand up to, and confront, the ruthless extremists in Iraq and Syria, including tens of thousands of Indian muslims, who plan to travel to the Middle East to fight IS and to give aid. For folk like me who have experienced clinical depression, it is important at times like this that we use proven techniques to avoid slipping back into our personal abyss. Which brings me to a wonderful presentation given to teachers and staff at School yeterday, the first day back for teachers post-holidays. South-Australian born speaker-entrepreneur-magician Vinh Giang, whose parents arrived from Vietnam by boat, was absolutely brilliant. The 27-year-old kept 200 no-nonsense adults spellbound for goodness knows how long as he presented and taught magic, and delivered motivational advice. I'll write no more, except to urge you to watch the first video clip on www.vinhgiang.com.au. Vinh was South Australia's Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2013. It aint hard to tell why.    

 
A Christmas Experience
Sunday, 28 December 2014 19:05

Don't get me wrong; I adore visiting the Philippines. And if things go wrong, they usually do so because I make poor decisions. On this two-week Christmas visit Arjay and I had four goals: 1. Inspect a recommended car and, if all was good, buy it to keep at our home here; 2. Meet our architects to resolve a planning issue with the house we are building; 3. Catch up with my old fundraising friend Frank and his partner Grace for coffee; 4. Drive the equivalent of Melbourne to Sydney to spend Christmas with Arjay's family (14 in the house). Okay? All good so far. We gathered family members for the trip and set off at 9am. The car is a Mitsubishi Galant Super Saloon -- very different to the former Australian Galant -- this one much like the Ford LTD limo which James forced me to buy in 1998 after we'd gone to a Ford dealer to DOWN-size our Pajero to a Ford Lazer! Four new (non-fake) tyres were required on the Galant ($95 each), plus we were told another $370 was needed for new wishbone thingies in the front wheel housings. Shit happens! The next notable event was the LONG drive. First, we got caught up in a traffic jam caused by 500 movie makers with umbrellas blocking a major arterial leading out of Manila. Then, once we got into mountains, it was disconcerting to find kids holding one end of long ropes; the other ends tied to trees on the opposite side of the road. As we approached, the children pulled both ropes tight at waist and knee height, respectfully; the sign fastened between top and bottom ropes demanding cash. First, I thought of the car's side mirrors being smashed by the ropes, then I thought of the kids holding the ropes being sucked into the side of the car as we blasted our way through. I called their bluff! Two days into the drive, at 8.40pm on Christmas Eve, we arrived at the ferry terminal, the final five kms drive to which was spent driving past no fewer than 700 stationary lorries parked end-to-end on our side of the road -- obviously having days if not weeks to wait to catch a ferry. At 8.40am on Christmas Day, I crawled from our car to ask an official if any of the 70 waiting cars would board a ferry this day or the next. Buses loaded with holiday makers had spent the night streaming past the waiting cars onto ferries in some pre-determined pecking order. The official said we'd board between ten and twelve, but what he didn't say was whether that meant am or pm, or which day. The situation was looking hopeless, with a hot sun beating down and officials loitering about smoking and making light banter among themselves. Our car's registration number was written on the huge blackboard on list No.2 at No.29, whatever that meant. I've never before spent Christmas Day watching hot and weary fellow travellers wandering helpless around a scorching concrete apron with resigned and forlorn looks on their faces. I was also wondering how long it would be before hoards of otherwise gentle and compliant Filipinos might rise up and revolt, en masse. Meanwhile, the Toblerone chocolate for the Christmas fondu in the stinking hot boot must have been well and truly melted, like my spirits. I didn't dare to look. At 2.40pm -- 30 hours after arriving at the terminal -- and having paid fares, fees and levies at no fewer than six separate windows (fees starting at $1 -- seemingly hardly worth the bother!) -- we got waved through, and we drove our car onto the ferry. TWO hours later -- I repeat, 30 hours after arriving at the terminal -- the ferry left dock. Half way to our destination island -- the Philippines has 7,000 Islands at low tide: choose one, any one -- the massive ferry was rolling around in enormous seas such that all I could think of was the Galant down below slipping and sliding backwards, forwards or sideways into the lorries parked just inches around her. We arrived at Arjay's parents' place at 9pm on Christmas Day -- the least pleasant Christmas Day of my life. But, I hope YOU had a Merry Christmas. PS. The Toblerone came good after several hours in the fridge! PPS. The back left tyre on the car went flat after experiencing sharp metal bits on the floor of the ferry; total cost to have a patch fitted, etc etc: $7.00. PPPS. Our return trip to Manila is delayed due to rough seas and yet further by news today of a (new) typhoon expected early tomorrow. (Remember, Arjay's parents' house is smack level with and just inches from the Pacific Ocean.) A new thought strikes me: it's Sunday 28 Dec.: will I make my flight home on Saturday?

 
Things you get for Christmas
Thursday, 02 October 2014 12:39

According to the Bureau of Statistics:
- 31 Australians have died watering Christmas trees with the fairy lights on
- 19 have died eating Christmas decorations they thought were chocolate
- four have broken an arm while pulling apart Christmas crackers
- 101 have had to have Christmas toys surgically removed from their feet
- 18 have suffered serious burns pulling on a new sweater while smoking
- 142 have been injured after not removing all of the pins from a new shirt
- 543 have gone to hospital after trying to open a beer bottle using teeth
- three people die each year testing a 9v battery using their tongue
- 58 have been injured after using a sharp knife instead of a screwdriver
- eight have cracked open their skull on toilet seats vomiting Christmas pudding

 
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