Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"Yes" is the answer to everything

In Tonga the common answer to everything is "io", which sounds sometimes like "yo" or sometimes like "ee-yo", depending on the emphasis and the situation. "Io" means "yes". So walking down the street when people greet each other, the answer to the greeter is usually a short "io" (sounding like "yo"). When people are talking or telling stories the listeners usually interrupt or end with "io, io" (sounding like ee-yo, ee-yo). Or in church when the congregation agrees with what the pastor is saying, or during long prayers, you'll hear men saying "io", sounding like a long, loud, low-toned "yooooo". I always wanted to try this one out, since it's always tongan men who do this, I wonder what they'd think of a white girl doing it. And when you ask Tongans anything in a yes or no form, they'll almost always answer yes. Yes it's okay to eat that, yes it's safe to swim there, yes there are no sharks (but there are), yes you can wear whatever you want in town, yes I'll come to work tomorrow (and then never show up), yes, yes, yes. So we have to think about how we word questions here, to make sure we get an answer and not just a yes. Or if not a verbal yes, we'll get a non-verbal yes to those types of questions. Here raising your eyebrows means "yes". So you can have a whole conversation with someone who just answers by raising their eyebrows, which can be frustrating after awhile when you're the only one talking. So please forgive Brett and I if we come back and start raising our eyebrows at you during conversations, we're not crazy, just acting a little Tongan. Hopefully this trait won't come up in job interviews. You could look at a deeper side of saying yes to everything - as in it will open up more experiences, etc. or that Tongans are just lazy and take the easiest way out everytime. They'd rather just raise an eyebrow than have to say a short "io". But another side to that is that they also just want to please everyone, especially on such small islands you can't really have big disagreements.

Some other news in Peace Corps Tonga, our country director is leaving this fall, he's taking the country director job in Gambia. We wish him the best, and will miss him, now there will be all new American staff here. We also had a friend in our group decide to leave early, we wish him the best back home and know he's enjoying the food and hot showers there! Now our group has 19 volunteers left, and so does the group before us.

We've been enjoying some of the best sunsets this week, the weather has been clear so we've been able to see Kao and Tofua volcanoes very clearly, and the sun is setting right behind Kao. And I've spotted some humpback whales, right in our backyard!! I saw one breach right in front of Kao, and some more playing in the water, I could see it all from our living room! Here are a few photos of the sunsets, and the eight little puppies here. There are also more new photos on the link to the left.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Packing List for Tonga Group 75 volunteers

It's getting closer to the time the new group of volunteers will arrive here Oct. 8th, so they should all be getting their invites within the next week or so. So we thought we'd post our recommended packing list we put together:

- Bring one backpack for everyday use, or for girls a shoulder bag
- Consider bringing a good travel backpack, something you would use it backpack across Europe in, it makes travel a lot easier.
- For secondary bags we suggest rolling duffel bags, they tend to hold up well
- Use up to the allocated weight for plane travel if possible, don’t try to pack too light

- mix of t-shirts and button down short-sleeved shirts (around 7 - 10). Make sure they all have sleeves that cover your armpits, and lightweight material. Have at least one black shirt.
- Tank tops - some white basic tanks, and some thicker strapped tanks for wearing at home, or tourist areas
- 5 - 6 Skirts that are below the knees, you’ll be able to buy the wrap-around skirts here
- Capris and pants - 1-2 capris that are below the knees. And one or two pairs of jeans or khakis for winter.
- Swimsuit - 2, you can wear them in tourist areas, or when swimming in local areas underneath shorts and shirt.
- Swimming - bring 1 shirt to swim in, and board shorts at or below the knees
- 1 rain jacket
- Sweater/sweatshirt, bring two for winter, and one or two long-sleeved shirts
- Underwear - enough for 1 ½ weeks or so, and comfortable bras that you can wear in hot weather
- Shoes - three pairs of sandals that are very comfortable and sturdy. Bring at least one pair of flip-flops, and one pair of strap-on sandals. Tennis shoes if you run.
- Jewelry - necklaces, earrings, etc, it’s something you can wear to feel more like yourself
- make-up - many girls don’t wear make-up here, I brought mine and am glad I did, another thing to make you feel more like yourself if you wear make-up back home.
- hairdryer - if you have one that converts to 240 voltage it’s worth bringing it and it’s nice to have when the weather gets cold
- tampons - they don’t sell them here! Bring enough for at least through training and then have more mailed
- razors, bring a few, you can buy cheap ones here as well

- mix of t-shirts 5-6 (dark colors are good)
- 3-4 short sleeve button-up shirts, light weight if possible
- 1-2 long sleeve shirts for the colder weather
- 1 pair of jeans for cold nights or for vacation
- 1 pair of Khakis for cold nights or rainy days
- 3 pairs of shorts, light weight if possible
- 1-2 belts, try to find cloth belts, they work the best, leather does not hold up
- 1-2 pairs of board shorts or swimming trunks
- 1-2 quick dry shirts for swimming or casual wear (Target has cheap nice shirts)
- 1 rain jacket
- 1-2 sweatshirts or fleeces for cold weather or overseas travel
- 8-10 pairs of boxers or underwear
- 3-4 pairs of socks
- 1 pair of running shoes ( good for exercising and for vacation in NZ or Australia)
- 1 pair of good flip flops
- 1 pair of strap on sandals for walking on reefs or walking in the bush
- electric shaver/trimmer, no hot water to shave with unless you boil, electric shavers work good
(guys, remember not to bring any baggy cloths, you will most likely loose 1-2 inches in your waist.
-don’t worry about bringing jackets, if its really cold you can wear a sweatshirt and wear your rain coat over that, it works good.
-good set of knifes and good filet knife
- one good frying pan, the ones they sell here are cheap
- measuring cups and measuring spoons
- can opener
- coffee perculater or French press if you’re a coffee drinker, and your favorite coffee.
- water bottles - sigg or nalgene type water bottles, you’ll be using them a lot!
- some food that you’ll miss - candy, granola bars, pasta mixes that you can make once you get to site, spices/seasonings or get them sent later in the mail.
- Hanging basket 3 tier for food

Bathroom: (bring enough with you for three month to last through training)
- supply of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash/soap. You can buy some stuff here that you get in the states like suave, but if you prefer certain brands bring that along.
- toothpaste - You can get expired crest here and some asian brands, we get most of ours sent in the mail.
- toothbrushes, bring a few extra, and bring toothbrush covers, you can also buy covers here.
- contacts - if you wear them, bring as much contact solution as you can, we brought six bottles and have had more sent in the mail, you can not buy it here.
- towels - you can buy them here, but bring one to start with

- Alarm clock
- wrist watch, timex makes nice rubber ones (Target)
- 2 pairs of sunglasses, things break easy
- knife or leatherman, good for fixing things
- duct-tape
- games - bring whatever games you can, that are good with a few people or with many, and easy to learn
- computer - yes, bring one! It’s great for watching DVD’s, typing up emails before getting to internet, storing photos, etc. Most people will end up somewhere with electricity. Chances are your computer will break here, bring a dry sack for your computer to be stored in when not using, this will increase its life here.
- hard drive - many volunteers bring hard drives to exchange movies and photos
- digital camera, underwater bag is also a good idea for your camera
- books - bring a few to start, but the peace corps libraries in each island group also have a lot of books
- hammock!!! - very glad we brought one, it’s the only furniture in our living room! Also good for camping.
- tent - good idea if you’re planning on camping at all.
- sleeping bag - lightweight, cheap sleeping bag, we got fleece ones at target
- 1 set of bed sheets - not as easy to find here
- good flashlights, hand-held and a headlamp is a very good idea, easy to use when biking
- I-pod, we brought ours along with a circle speaker
- Photos from back home - we brought an album with photos of family and friends, it’s fun to show the Tongans, and for decorating once you get to site.
- Presents - for homestay families. Some good ideas - women like perfume, give gifts that have to do with your hometown or state - postcards, calendars, food, etc. Bring stuff for little kids - toys, coloring books, etc. you’ll probably have kids at your homestay. Don’t waste too much space though on these gifts.
- adaptors - bring a couple of adaptors - Tonga is the same as Australia. You probably won’t need converters - most computers will convert the voltage, and you can get surge protectors here.
- Snorkeling - bring decent quality masks and snorkel, and flippers if you have room, if not you can usually find flippers here.
- Rechargeable batteries, if you have things that use AA or AAA consider bringing rechargeables
- Good pens, maybe one notebook for writing home or journaling
- Small sewing kit, clothes will get worn, buttons will fall off, etc.
- A couple months supply of multivitamins (the health office also has some available, not sure what kind)
- pop-up laundry bin or laundry bag, or stuff sack
- Things you’ll have supplied by peace corps- any kind of medical needs, sunscreen, bug spray, bike helmet, kerosene lantern, FM/AM radio, mosquito net for your bed, and a peace corps tonga cookbook

If you can’t fit all this into your bags, don’t be alarmed, you’ll be able to find some of these things here in Tonga, just bring what you think you need and it will all work out, don’t stress over packing! You can also have things shipped over anytime when you realize what you need. Volunteers are more than willing to help you find the things you need once you get here, just ask.

Also a good discount is offered on Chaco's website for sandals, 50% off for Peace Corps volunteers.

If you have any questions, feel free to email us.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Chasing Bacon

You would think living next to the ocean here in Tonga would have its benefits and it does, most of the time. One thing that tends to bring it down is our pig problem. Yes, there in a pig problem. On average my usual day consists of getting up, getting ready for school and taking my 1 mile walk to school. Most days this process goes fine but somedays it is trumped by a pig problem. Depending on what they pigs are doing or what they have done it can sometimes make me late for school or even stop me from making it to school at all. Let me explain. At times my house is completly surrounded by pigs- big ones, small ones, some with no ears and some with interesting colors. Some nights I wake up to the sound of rushing water, at first I think to myself, "Is it raining?", no its not, its the pigs. They have gotten into the water tank outside, which Kate and I get all our drinking water from. The pigs have figured out how to turn on the nozzle on the tank....yes we have smart pigs in Tonga. As I rush outside to turn off the nozzle on the tank I tend to run into a couple of pigs that are enjoying the water by taking a cool bath in it. This is not the only thing the pigs tend to get into. I find them uprooting the grass in our yard and making large mud pits. Normally I would be fine with this except most of the time they tend to make these pits in front of my door. I don't know about you but after it rains I'm not big on getting my feet all muddy. They also have been known to get into our city water pipes. This water is generally used for showering and dishes, it is not drinkable. The pigs have been so interested in these pipes before that they have bitten them and caused the pipes to burst and I have had to call the city water works to come and stop the 10 foot stream of water gushing through the air. It is also impossible to grow any types of vegetables in our yard because once they sprout above ground the pigs have their way with them. Being frustrate with all the mischief of these pigs I occassionally throw rocks at them to keep them away from the water tank or chase them to keep them away from the city water pipes. In doing so some of the pigs started to recognise me and whenever they saw me coming down the gravel road or out of the house they would run the other way as fast as they could. There was even one pig who would see me from a distance and immediatly run away making a ear piercing scream as it went...I guess I must have terrified them too much with the rock throwing and chasing. Kate always laughs when I tell her that.

Now you may ask why all this is important. Well the other day my neighbor informed me that his pigs have been getting into to many things about our yards and he was sending them to his brothers place on an island south of ours. Well, hearing this news I not only rejoyced, I offered to help him catch the pigs and get them caged for the 1 hour boat ride to the island where they will be going. After strapping my shoes on and doing some light stretching I headed outside to round up these menacing pigs. While walking around the yard with my neighbors son we notice 4 little pigs enjoying the sun about 50 yards away. He decides that I should take the left flank and he the right. As we make our way slowly towards the pigs we feel as if we have covered some good ground and that we will be able to take on these 4 piglets. But, suddenly one of the 4 gets a glimps of what we are up to and then takes off. The other 3 piglets seeing what is happening also take off behind them. Having no choice my neighbors son and I take off after the pigs, we chase them down the gravel road and past the yard fence, once we think we have them cornered the pigs fool us and find a path under the fence and are able to escape. Exhausted and sweaty we decide to take another route to this pig catching plan. After thinking it over we decide to use a small fenced in area used for chickens. This fenced area also has a swing door that we can use to shut the pigs in. Once we get the fence cage into place we tie a rope around the gate door, sort of a switch to pull so as the pigs walk into the fenced area we can shut the door from a short distance away. Once we have placed food in the cage we quietly sit 20 feet away from the cage and wait for the pigs to arrive. Slowly one by one they arrive taking the bait and we one by one catch the pigs and get them crated up for the boat ride. As I stood there looking at the pigs in the cages I couldn't help but think how they had drove me crazy the past couple months but now I had had the last laugh.


Monday, August 17, 2009

A little story about airports

After our last trip and spending more time in different airports I realized we haven't written much about airports or flying here in Tonga.

Traveling here is a lot different than traveling in the US or other modern countries. Most local people take the ferries between islands, there's only one airline in the country so it's a monopoly and prices are much higher than they should be. It's cheaper to fly from the main island to Samoa, another country, than it is to fly from our island group of Ha'apai to the main island. But we'll see how local travel changes since the ferry went down a few weeks ago. We could already see some changes when we flew back to Ha'apai on Saturday. The flight was completely full and there was a TON of luggage and boxes being shipped up instead of shipping on the ferry.

From Ha'apai there are usually two flights a day, except on Sundays. There are three planes in Tonga, a big one that holds about 40 and has overhead compartments, a medium plane that holds 18 and you can't stand up in the aisle with one seat on each side, and a small plane that holds about 6 people. We usually end up on the medium plane, the big one only comes a couple of times a week. When you get to the airport here there's a little check-in counter and a waiting area with chairs. You check in by telling them your name and they check on their hand-written list, then hand write a ticket for you, no checking ID or anything like that. Every single time we've flown they've had my name wrong on their list, so after a few minutes of them looking over the list I end up looking then pointing to a name similar to mine. I've flown a couple times under Kate Alison, they changed my last name to a common palangi (white person) first name! Usually it's just letters that get mixed up.

Then they check your luggage, no security screening or anything. You can take anything on board with you. A lot of times people have boxes packed full of cooked food. Tongans usually travel in boxes taped shut and marked with their name instead of regular suitcases. And almost everytime we've flown out from Ha'apai people approach us asking us to carry a box or package to someone who's waiting for it at the main island airport. Nothing like the "don't leave your bags unattended or accept packages from strangers" back home in the airports. I think about three times we've carried random packages with us to give to people at the main island airport. One time they said it was a woven mat, another time it was some kind of tongan medicine, probably a plant, and another time we just had no idea what was in the box. But it's the easiest way to get something quickly to someone on the main island, and people are always willing to help out and carry something on the plane for someone else.

The planes are safe here, we've been assured and been told by another peace corps who was a former pilot and is now working with the ministry of aviation. But the ride is always interesting. The runway on our island runs from east to west, the entire length of the island so on each side it drops off to the ocean. Taking off, the pilot brings the plane to the very end of the runway on one side, then guns the engines while we sit in place. You can feel the plane bouncing beneath you, ready to go. Then they let go of the brakes and the plane darts forward, crazily moving side to side a little until it becomes airborn. It reminds me of those little wind-up toys where you role the wheels in place, then let go and it speeds forward. It think it's partly because the runway is short in Ha'apai and they need all the speed they can get to take off. It's funny watching the tourist's reactions though. Then once the plane is airborn, it starts making all sorts of noises. Sometimes the medium plane makes so much noise, and high-pitched, that I almost want to cover my ears. At the same time, the pilot or co-pilot comes on the intercom making announcements about our height or to have our seatbelts on or whatever, you can never hear them. The only plane that has flight attendents is the big plane.

Then landing on the main island, Tongatapu, is always turbulent and a rough landing. The way the winds come through where the airport is just always make it rougher. When we came back from Australia the winds were so strong that the plane was tilted at a huge angle, we thought we were circling high above, but then we hit the runway, almost while the plane was still tilted! I like landing in Ha'apai though. Before landing you can always see our village and a lot of the reefs. Then the plane comes in really low over the reef, it looks like you're going to land in the water then all of a sudden the runway and land appear at the last second. So that's what it's like to fly here.

The new group of volunteers is coming here soon, October 8th, so a lot of them should be getting invites soon. It's crazy that it was about a year ago now that we recieved our invitations! We'll be posting our recommended packing list soon on our blog, we're excited to have the new group here and we'll be seeing a lot of them here for training!

Friday, August 14, 2009


We turned down an offer to go ‘roo hunting in the outback, danced our butts off in the streets of Brisbane, and watched the sunset behind the Opera House and more on our trip to the land down under.

Our vacation to Brisbane, Australia wasn’t actually a vacation - Peace Corps flew Brett for medical reasons, everything turned out fine so we ended up with more free time than we thought we’d have. The place Peace Corps put us up at while medical evaluations were done was pretty nice - hot shower, access to a full kitchen and satellite TV, and a nice room at the hospital lodge. The funny thing was that it kinda felt like a retirement home - all the people we saw were older, they had a “night out” dinner option, and a puzzle area in the hallway! But it worked good for us, and was close to a train station into the main part of the city. We bought a week long train pass which worked out great, we could use it on trains, buses or the water ferries on the river. The weather was really nice almost the whole time we were in Australia - sunny blue skies, where it felt hot in the sun but cold in the shade or if there was a breeze. You can really see why they call Queensland the Sunshine State. And it just rained part of one day in Sydney.

Most of the time, about a week and a half, we spent in Brisbane. I’ve been there before when I studied for a semester on the Sunshine Coast just north of Brisbane, I think it’s one of my favorite cities and Brett really liked it too. It didn’t seem like it had changed a whole lot since I’d been there years ago. I like it so much because it’s just set up really well - good transportation with trains going out along the coasts and all over town, buses, and new really nice river ferries that are all easy to use, lots of parks and gardens throughout the city with walking/running trails and swimming pools/lagoons, a main pedestrian street, lots of good restaurant areas, and the architecture and city just look nice and it’s clean. From what I’ve seen it seems like there are a lot of young families and college students/backpackers in Brisbane.
We did a lot of sightseeing in Brisbane. We went to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and walked around with kangaroos and fed them, you can get right next to them and pet them. Some of them had little joeys in their pouches, with just the little feet sticking out. Brett got to hold a koala for the first time for a photo session they do (photo above) - I’d already done it before. They’re one of my favorite animals, they look really cute in real life and are so lazy and sleepy all the time and curl up in balls in the trees. Their fur is more coarse than you’d think, and they do have really big claws. All the koalas there are kept in open cages - just areas blocked in with fake trees and eucalyptus leaves so you can get really close to them. We also went to Mt. Coot-tha, a hill that overlooks the entire city from a distance. And they had a temporary DaVinci display we got to see, showing examples of all his inventions, and we went through the free science museum all in the south bank area. South Bank in Brisbane was one of our favorite areas there - it's a big park along the riverfront with lots of little cafes, a swimming lagoon and sandy beach area, and close to lots of restaurants, we spent a lot of time there. On weekends there was a big art/street fair there. Across the bridge from South Bank there are botanical gardens we also explored on our last day there. And Queen Street is the main shopping street in Brisbane with lots of malls, stores and restaurants, and street musicians. There was also a film festival going on in that pedestrian mall while we were there. We found a cheap Internet place, a Target and grocery store- all the necessities on Queen Street. And since it had been quite awhile, we went to a movie at a mall near our lodge, the new Johnny Depp movie “Public Enemies”. It was nice to see a movie in the theaters again with popcorn, and not on our little laptop. Some of our favorite restaurants there were Beastie Burgers in South Bank, and Sitar (indian curry) in Fortitude Valley. I also had a lot of lattes and Brett had a lot of fruit smoothies, we don't get those in Ha'apai!

Another highlight in Brisbane was the “Dancing in the Streets” festival that happened to be going on the last weekend we were there. It was really fun, lots of people turned up for it at South Bank. They had six stages along South Bank with different types of dancing - disco, African, Salsa, Bolly-wood (Indian), hip-hop, club moves, and more. There were professional dancers at each stage, they’d do their moves and then show the crowd how to do a simple dance in that style. So it was funny to see all sorts of people in the crowd doing disco moves or African drum dancing. Brett and I ended up learning four different dances - salsa, bolly-wood, African, and a disco routine to “dancing queen”.

We also had some time to get out of Brisbane to Surfer’s Paradise on the Gold Coast for a day trip, and to Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast for one night. In Surfer's Paradise we hung around the main shopping/restaurant street and spent some time on the beach watching groups of people learning to surf. It's a very touristy town, well known for it's long stretch of beach and nightlife. And of course we had to get to the Sunshine Coast, where I spent a semester of college. It had changed a lot since I'd been there. We took the train up, about an hour and a half, and stayed at a little motel on the river area in Mooloolaba. We spent time on the beach, since we saw a lot of people swimming we decided to swim a bit too, but found out the water was icy freezing cold compared to Tonga! So we just hung out on the beach and walked around the shopping area and the wharf, it's a cute little beach town. And they have "singing sands" there, when you dig your feet into the sand on the beach it makes a high pitched kind of noise. While we were there we took a bus up to my old college campus - the University of the Sunshine Coast. It had changed a lot - there was a huge new building and a big bus transit station instead of the little wood hut we had. It was cool to see again and for Brett to see it, he had said he'd come visit me when I was there and he finally made it there.

The night we spent in Mooloolaba we had kebabs for dinner then went to Omally's Pub where we used to go when I lived there. On the way in we started talking to a couple of Australian guys who were very excited to meet Americans, and after awhile they invited us to go 'roo hunting (yes, kangaroo) with them in the outback the next day. They were very serious too, it would've been quite the experience but we'd already planned to be back in Brisbane the next day for the dance festival.
The last three nights of our trip we spent in Sydney - Peace Corps would've flown us back a few days early since they couldn't do anything more with medical, but we decided to stay and take a few days of vacation in Sydney before returning. We found a good last-minute deal on a hotel right downtown near the Rocks area, and were able to walk everywhere from there. It was a lot more walking than Brisbane, and a lot of Sydney is on hills. It also felt like there were a lot more business professional people all dressed up, not as many families or college students. So we felt a little out of place in our casual clothes downtown. The first night we didn't get in until later, and went and walked down by the harbour bridge and opera house all lit up at night. The second day we did a lot of sightseeing - the main shopping street, Pitt Street, the free art museum in the park, and the botanical gardens with a view of the harbour bridge and opera house at sunset, and had a lasagna dinner at Darling Harbour with a nice view of downtown. Our last full day in Sydney was mostly shopping, getting groceries and things we can't get in Tonga. We also went to the barracks/history museum, and had burgers for dinner down by the harbour bridge. It was nice in both towns since I'd been there before I remembered some of the area and what sights to see. Overall we both liked the Brisbane area better than Sydney - the city itself is pretty and set up nice and is close to both the sunshine and gold coasts.
We flew back to Tonga last night, the flight into the main island here is always pretty turbulent, maybe something to do with the way the winds come through here or something. The wing on our side of the plane was turned way up, we thought we were still circling high above the island, then all of a sudden lights started appearing right next to the wing and we were on the ground, almost landing at a tilt! But we're back now, hopefully heading home to Ha'apai tomorrow.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Ferry goes down in Tonga

While we were checking Internet today in Brisbane we came across some very sad news back in Tonga, the Princess Ashika ferry sank late last night near Nomuka on it's way to Pangai and Vava'u. There were just over 80 passengers on board and right now the estimate is that half of those people drowned, mostly women and children who were sleeping in the middle compartment. There were lifeboats full of men only that made it to shore, they had been hanging out on deck and were able to jump off before the boat sank, we heard it went under water in only a couple minutes. We were able to get through to our Peace Corps friends Eric and Melanie today who live near where the ferry went down and got some updates from them on this. Some people from their island are among the missing, as well as a Japanese volunteer and a few tourists that were on board. It's so sad, it was a newer ferry and the main transportation for local Tongans going between island groups, and also the source of food/goods transportation. We were shocked and saddened to hear the news today, there will be lots of grieving and funerals in Tonga in the next week. Our thoughts and prayers are with those families.

Here is a link to the local news story on the ferry sinking:
And a New Zealand news story:

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Land of Oz - Brisbane

We made it to Brisbane after a day of travel on Thursday through Sydney. At the airport we ran into some of our US Navy friends on their way out on a military flight!

It feels good to be back to "civilization" once again - hot showers, good food, lots of transportation and people, etc. The lodge we're staying at is really nice with a little kitchen area and breakfast included, and very close to the city center and next door to the hospital Brett's being seen at. We went in for just a few hours on Friday to the hospital, and back again Monday morning for an MRI on his leg and follow-up after that but nothing serious so far. We spent our first full day after the hospital visit at Queen Street - the main pedestrian shopping area and South Bank- it's a really pretty area and I remember it from my college days here. There's a pretty, big park along the riverfront there with lots of restaurants, swimming lagoon, and walking areas, and we saw the DaVinci display through the cultural center/art museum - a traveling display of his inventions, and the science museum. We ate at a really good burger place there for dinner - Beastie Burgers.

Today we are down in Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast all day, took a train and a bus to get here, about 1 1/2 hours each way. Perfect sunny weather, but a little cool out. Not as cold as I thought it would be though. We sat on the beach and shopped around, and will find a restaurant for dinner and then head back to Brisbane tonight. We both bought a few things today - usually feel a little out of style when we get to big cities, it's interesting to see how styles are changing. Here all the girls are wearing skin tight pants or tights! But we're enjoying our little vacation here so far!