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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Beautiful Brisbane

Before I left Tonga to come to Brisbane, I read the book, "In a Sunburnt Country" by Bill Bryson. The book, which I thoroughly enjoyed, starts with the premise that most Americans don't know very much about Australia. It didn't take me long to realize that I was one of those Americans who didn't know much about this amazing country.
Brisbane is a beautiful vibrant city, clean, modern with many outdoor activities. It's the capital of Queensland and at least so far, the state has lived up to its nickname as "The Sunshine State". The city is built along the river and it has many parks and outdoor cafes. It's a great town for walking.

The train system here is very efficient. You can get just about anywhere on a short train ride. Each day I've tried to explore a different part of the city. The South Bank area, which is where the photo of the skyline above was taken, has been my favorite area so far. In addition to the man-made beach, there is a walk through a tropical rain forest and a good collection of museums and restaurants.

Today I'm downtown. I just went to Starbucks. My first visit in more than a year. The first day I was here I went shopping at K-Mart. K-Mart has never been my favorite store, but I felt like a kid in a candy store with so much stuff I wanted to buy. Things you just can't get in Tonga. I had a similar experience at the grocery store. I've also made it to Target but so far have avoided all of the typical American fast-food establishments like KFC, Subway and McDonalds.

One of the big attractions in downtown Brisbane is the Treasury Casino, pictured below. It is in one of the oldest buildings in Brisbane and has been well preserved. The slots are mostly one and two cent machines, so you won't lose a lot without really trying.

My hotel room has a TV which is also a treat. I've been without TV for the past year and I've enjoyed watching not just the news, but also the entertainment shows. Here in Australia, we have 6o Minutes, The Today Show, GMA, Meet the Press, Idol, Smarter than a 5th grader, Supermodel and Deal or No Deal. The difference is that all of these shows are Australian versions of the ones we have in the USA. There are also a few shows from the US like NCIS and Beverly Hills 90210 but most shows are pretty much targeted to the Australian audience.

Of course there are differences. I had to take a picture of this sign.

I saw it and had to wonder, what is a theatre nurse? Is that a nurse who acts? As it turns out, theatre is where a surgeon "performs" surgery. They don't call it an operating room or OR, it's called theatre. Hopefully the surgeons all deliver outstanding performances in the hospital theatre.

I remarked to a friend of mine that I could live in Brisbane. I like it that much. However, I also have to remember that this is the first "real" city I've seen in a year. After living in a developing country for the past year, I wonder if I would have the same impression of Brisbane if I was fresh out of the USA. I think I would.

I've been particularly impressed with how eco-friendly this area is and how aware the residents are of the importance of preserving the enviroment. There is a campaign going on here now to urge residents to stop drinking bottled water and to drink the tap water instead. In taste tests, more Australians can't tell the difference between the tap water and bottled water. (I've also been drinking the tap water, and it tastes fine.) According to the campaign, if you buy just one bottle of water, you could re-fill it every day for a year from the tap and you would still come out ahead and you help preserve the enviroment.

I'm only visiting Brisbane this trip but I'm anxious to see more of Australia. Hopefully next year I'll be able to make it back and see more of this country. While it is nice to be "down under" for a while, I'm also looking forward to getting back to Tonga.



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