Saturday, August 30, 2008

(Biodegradable) Soapbox

WARNING: What follows is a bit of a tirade on some American habits of which I am also guilty, but being me, I prefer to crticize than examine my own beahvior. Please proceed with a caution and read with a grain of salt!

They say you can't go home again. Of course you can! All you need are frequent flyer miles and the ability to plan way ahead so you can use the one seat every 5 flights that Qantas gives to American mileage holders. That, or a gig where you can get your work to pick up some of the expensive fare. I did both of those things and thus, found myself starting this blog on top of the world...or at least the Northern hemisphere.

I'm finally finishing from OZ, as I had trouble writing this particular blog.I'm very behind so dont be upset if there is a bit of a flurry of activity here in the coming days. Mum cautioned me that if you can't say something nice, just shut it's been a challenge to write about the week on the Cape with the collection of neuroses known as the Cardozo/ Rosenblut clan.

Surely, I jest-- at least a little- but I did want to organise my thoughts to demonstrate the reverse culture shock I experienced. Oftentimes, we see so much more clearly from afar, and much of what I knew nipped at my soul about the US has become clearer, and a bit more annoying, upon my return.

I was back stateside for a bit over a fortnight (see, I can still speak Aussie) and I have to admit I noticed things from an ex-pat perspective, even whilst enjoying treats and cuisines I've missed while abroad.

Now, me being me, there is the possibility that what follows could sound, um, critical. That's because, well, it is. There is an over-arching American sensibility that I have always had a vague notion of, but now that I've taken a step away, I can see more clearly. I understand more viscerally now why America is often viewed disparagingly around the world. I'm not speaking of our Imperialistic tendencies or the acts of our government, problematic to be sure. And do keep in mind that my visit occurred mostly prior to the Palin of America, so these thoughts pre-date her, though she's not helping to be sure. Rather, I am speaking of a general attitude of entitlement and self-absorbtion, even while claiming to be concerned about the world at large. I'll give some examples.

Australians don't generally buy into Political Correctness and because of its small population any subculture is noticably quieter about their beliefs. So while there are enviro-hippies and fascist recyclers, most people just go about their daily business. But because Australia is the driest inhabited continent on Easrth, there are environmental norms in place that even the most die-hard Liberal (which is what the Conservative party here is called) practices without a thought. I've previously mentioned the dual-flush toilet. Now I can't prove that John Howard and other Bush-lite politicos like him always use the 1/2 flush appropriately, it is true that every toilet is equipped, from the diviest bar to the most-hovel-like flat. (To be fair, I did just learn that the dual-flush toilet is an Aussie invention, so there is some degree of national pride in installing them everywhere.)

Additionally, every outlet has an on-off switch, so you can stop power being sent to a power point when there is nothing drawing on that power. Further, in a grocery store here, you don't see quite the breadth of packaging options, either. If a parent wants a convenient snack size of cheerios or crackers, they buy a large box of them and put the snack size amount they want in a tupperware (easy to find since all take-away food is package in recyclable plastic containers as opposed to styrofoam!) These are but a few examples of what Oz is doing to reduce it's carbon footprint and water usage from a nation that uses much less than the US. I don't have to spell out that many in the states consume conspicuously, even while shaking their heads at the horrors of Ike or Katrina or deadly storms around the world and wish there was something they could do to help, yet still refuse to reduce their own impact if it inconvieniences them.

I'll climb down carefully off of my soapbox now (and recycle it, of course) even as Adi is shaking his head, I'm sure, at my hypocrisy. And he's right. I sometimes let the water run when I do the dishes (though I am trying to soap them beforehand) and I regularly use paper napkins as opposed to cloth. If we had a dishwasher, I'd resist rinsing them off prior to putting them in the machine but its a non-issue in our cozy, air-con-less flat. I guess the point Im making is that in Oz, people are more environmental inadvertently, without it becoming a soap box, simply because that's how it's done and the option to do otherwise isn't available.

And being away and then back in the states made it more clear to me just how entitled we all (I mean Americans, not ncessarily any of you in particular) feel we are to these tiny convieniences, be they power plugs you don't have to bend down to use, toilets that don't require a thought process or small amounts of items that come in larger sizes too.Also disposable water bottles, excessive use of air-conditioning (do I need to bring a jacket to a movie theatre?), etc. etc.

And now Ms. Palin is on the scene to make sure the world knows that we are entitled, dammit, because we're Americans and even the girls can shoot guns!

More specific details and photos about the trip itself to follow after you've all had a chance to mock my hypocrisy!

But to be fair, I do want to let you all know that I've contributed over $100 to off-set the carbon footprint of my flights to and from the states, at This is one of the highest rated non-profit carbon off-set organizations, so check it out. If you're going to use a/c and water bottles, this can alleviate a little guilt.

Did I mention that it was good to be home, to see the fam and friends and eat good Mexican food? I will next time, I promise!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

August Skiing

The beauty of Boulder's unique location near numerous great ski mountains just over the Continental Divide means that Keystone usually open in October and A-Basin is slush-covered (and open to skiers) often till the 4th of July.

But this has left August and September ski-less in my personal history. That is, until a couple of weekends ago, when August fell to the sound of my carving turns.

On the last day of July, 8 of us drove the 5+ hours out to and then up the Great Alpine Road, ending at the hamlet of Dinner Plain, a small resort community about 14 K from Mt. Hotham.

Early Friday morning, 7 of us took off for the mountain, leaving Adi to enjoy the flat screen and tend to the fire.

The first shock was of the sticker variety...after spending $350 last season for a season pass for 5 mountains, I spent $237 (AU) for 2 days of ski hire and lift tickets. OUCH. No wonder Adi stayed home!

Given the cost, I was ready to hit the slopes. One of the beauties, as my Colorado friends can attest, of having a season pass, is the luxury of being a fair weather skier. Last winter, for example, Kim and I bailed on a day of skiing after 3 runs because the light was too flat. Thus, I haven't put up with white out, blizzarding conditions for well over a decade. Until last weekend.

The conditions at Mt. Hotham, to put it mildly, were atrocious. Visibility was literally zero...i couldn't see my friend Mel when she was just over an arm's length away. We got soaked ont he chairlift from the wet, slushy snow and when we got off, it was tough to determine where the edge of the cliffs were. The snow felt pretty good beneath my feet, albeit a bit heavy and wet, but who knows if that was true. It was the kind of day you could enjoy if you already love to ski; harder, I think, to learn to love to do so.

While Mel and Mark and I navigated the mountain- skiing a variety of different runs- I think- Jeni, Hanna and Alon took a beginner class and Kopel braved his way on a board. I finally figured out on the map where the treed runs were so I led Mark and Mel over there so we could at least have a boundary to break up the whiteness.

It was a fun day and while I didn't ski anything super difficult, not seeing it...on an unfamiliar mountain no less, was tiring. We reconvened with our beginner friends and sat in the lodge to dry out a bit before catching our bus back to our gorgeous house in Dinner Plain.

Adi had made us cookies and they were warm from the oven when we walked in and we devoured them. Meanwhile I set to work re-heating the 2 huge lasagnas I'd made which took longer than expected so all were excited when they were finally warm. At dinner, Hanna and Jeni announced their plans to hit the spa rather than the slopes the next day and our group of die hards was down to five. Well, that's what we thought- Alon had fallen asleep at the table so it was difficult to ascertain his plans for the next day.

Sure enough, Sunday morning the 5 die hards woke (admittedly a bit too leisurely for my taste...) and headed back to the hill. The weather in DP was perfect looking- blue sky and sunny, but alas, such was not the case just a bit higher up. We spent another day struggling with visibility but I had studied the map the previous night (turning into my father I fear) and knew where to go to find trees. We had a great day going all over the mountain and Adi even met up with us for lunch.

It wasn't the greatest skiing I've ever done; aside form visibility, the snow was definitely wetter than Colorado's. I didn't have all my proper equipment (you'll see my looking like a tourist in my puffy jacket) and the lifts were a bit slow. I also didn't love the layout of the resort, which is apprantly more bare bones than some of the higher end resorts here (more A-Basin than Vail). But the mountain goes over the Great Alpine Road so on occasion we had to pop out of our skis to cross the highway.

Nevertheless, it was a great weekend. It was fun to see snow and even more fun to watch my friends who have spent little time in the snow seeing the beauty it offers. My favorite thing was the gum lieu of evergreens, these trees look like regular deciduous trees, but they dont lose their leaves, resulting in heavy, snow covered branches bending towards the ground as they groan with the weight fo the snow. But they dont break and the leaves don't come off. These were the trees we skied through and it was a funny sight to see, after being used to more Christmas tree looking things in North America.

It was a great gorup as well. we had fun doing everything from daring Alon to lie in the snow in his bathers (that's short for swimming costume!) to eating a few great meals. We had a bit of excitements when Kopel had to have petrol delivered since he'd made it up the mountain on fumes and even more of a climactic end the next morning when he realised he'd left his door open and thus had a dead battery. It was nice to get out of the city and be in a really posh house with no wireless. And it was fun to enjoy the upstairs double shower with a view of the trees.

I'd do it again and perhaps we will next year...though maybe then we can go in September to clear my calendar of months with no skiing.

Finally, I need to revise my last blog- Australia was united in 1901, not after World War I..but still, the country is in diapers!

Now, enjoy so ski trip photos...

Waiting for the bus the first morning...that's
Hanna, Jeni, Mark, Me and Daniel
The view from our deck of the funny snowgum trees

The girls (Hanna, Jeni, Me and Mel) are sleepy
But not as sleepy as Alon (we haven't had dessert yet!)

Day 2- at the bus stop, this time with equipment

Some of the boys in the tub

Alon takes a dare (for $$ of course)

After another yummy dinner

Jumping Daniel's car
A good weekend had by all