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18 February 2017 / leggypeggy

Celebrating the multicultural aspects of Australia

carving a squash

An expert carves a patty-pan squash as part of a Chengdu cultural display. An already carved squash is on the left at the front and a watermelon is on the right

Following on from yesterday’s uplifting reblog about a Muslim woman who was shown much kindness by a stranger, I’m pleased to share another good-news story. This one is about this weekend’s 21st annual Multicultural Festival in Canberra.

We’ve seen this festival grow and grow since it’s first outing in 1996, and have watched scores of cultural performances, learned about differing cultures, and eaten all sorts of interesting and tasty cuisines.

Egyptian stall at multicultural festical, Canberra

Had to visit the Egyptian stall

Usually we try to attend as a group so we can buy plate after plate of food to sample and share—it’s the best way to try up to 10 different dishes—but today it was just Poor John and me.

We set out early (11am) to be sure to get a parking place. I have a secret selection of spots that are hidden away and free of charge on weekends, and sure enough there was one waiting for us. No, don’t expect me to tell you where it is, but it is on the edge of downtown and only two streets away from the start of the festival action.

cooking Iranian chicken kebabs

Industrial quantities of Iranian kebabs on the barbecue. The seasoning was sensational

We started with a shared plate of Iranian food—saffron rice with chunks of chicken and lamb kebab pieces. Oh my, these were so perfectly seasoned that I could have eaten another plate on the spot, but we thought we had to spread around our custom and challenge our taste buds.

As we enjoyed our Iranian food, another couple sat down next to us and we were immediately tempted by their plate of Czech potato pancake, which looked like a giant hash brown. With all it’s buttery goodness, it was as good as it looked. The server kindly cut our share in half.

Polish national dress/costumes

We loved the colour and intricacies of the Polish costumes. Aren’t the kids gorgeous?

Macedonian dancers

The Macedonian dancers have a quick practice

Before indulging in yet another course, we figured it was time to explore the stalls and check out some performances. There were about a dozen stages with activities taking place on about half of them. We saw acts (musicians, dancers and/or singers) from Tonga, China, Poland, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Macedonia and Indonesia.

Pounding spices, Jordan

At the Jordanian stall, I forgot to ask what she was pounding

We also visited embassy and country-info stalls for the USA (to sample homemade lemonade), Zambia, Palestine, Jordan, China, Ethiopia (for a sip of their local coffee) and Egypt, which just happens to be where Poor John and I met all those years ago.

Couldn’t resist having our picture taken at the Filipino stall. If we’re lucky, we might win the trip to the Philippines they are giving away. Fingers crossed.

Competition for the Philippines

Could we win?

Our last stop was at the main Tibetan food stall. We visited them on our way in, only to learn that the steamed momos (their delicious vegetarian and/or meat dumplings) wouldn’t be ready for quite some time.

We first had momos in Tibet in 2011 and then again in the north of India in 2013 (in Mussoorie). We’ve had them a few times since, but the Tibetan and Mussoorie ones were the best. Today’s were pretty darn good too. I could have gone for a second plate, but just didn’t have room. The chilli–soy sauce was a perfect addition.

Planning to revisit the festival tomorrow. Just have to wait until I feel hungry again. I’m thinking I need a German sausage, a Thai or Indian curry, and maybe a South American empanada.

P.S. Sorry I didn’t take pictures of the actual food on plates. Too keen to eat. Maybe tomorrow.

Peruvian musicians—Inkamarka

Peruvian musicians—Inkamarka—entertained for almost an hour

17 February 2017 / leggypeggy


For many years, I’ve lived and travelled in Muslim countries and known countless Muslims. I’ve always been welcomed and treated with courtesy and respect. I don’t know where this encounter occurred (country or city) but I am so gratified to learn that people are making an effort to get to know and accept Muslims as they find them. Please read down to the last paragraph where the author recognises that sometimes our opinions are shaped by misinformation.

P.S. This is the first time I have ever reblogged someone else’s post.

Hijabi Online

The bus was empty so I decided to sit on the lower deck, at the front, there was only one other passenger on the bus who sat in front of me, a few minutes went by and I noticed that she kept turning back and looking at me. Every time I smiled, she would quickly look away, as funny as it seems she was not very good at disguising it. I didn’t mind the starting it was normal I know some people do it out of curiosity, because they feel sorry for me and others do it out of ignorance, but whatever the reason it didn’t bother me. The glances kept exchanging back and forth throughout the entire journey.

Until we came to a stop where she picked up her bag and stoop up, to my surprise she turned facing towards me and slipped a folded note into my hands…

View original post 844 more words

1 February 2017 / leggypeggy

Memories of a life lost too soon

Jules Hoyle Austin in his 20s

Dad in his 20s

Today marks a sad anniversary—50 years ago today my father was killed in a car accident in Omaha Nebraska. He was 45 years old and on his way to pick up my mother at the hairdresser’s.

There was freezing rain and he hit a tree in Elmwood Park. Workmen in the park thought they saw him try to miss hitting a dog. Maybe he had a heart attack. We’ll never know. I no longer remember how we knew the police officer at the scene, but he was stunned to learn that dad had died on the way to the hospital. He had seemed alert and stable at the scene.

If rescue squads (as they were then called in the US) had been as sophisticated and well equipped as they are now, the outcome might have been different. Essentially dad died of shock and a ruptured pancreas or spleen. Unbelievable that I can’t remember which organ it was.

The hairdresser’s place was only a few blocks from the scene of the accident. When my mother heard the sirens, she said, ‘I hope that’s not why he’s late.’

Dad left behind a wife and four daughters, and whole life ahead.

The day had been full of promise.

It was the first day of his last semester of university to earn a degree in engineering. He’d been studying part-time for seven or eight years, and doing that around his full-time job as the civilian pilot for the US Army Corps of Engineers and later as the private pilot for the Central National Insurance Company of Omaha.

It was also the day he would take delivery of a new plane (a Queen Air 88) for the company—a plane he’d chosen after months of research, testing and deliberation.

While I’ve written this post to mark the half century since his death, I also wanted to share, especially with my sisters who are all younger than me, a bit of history about dad and airplanes.

On the evening of Thursday, 18 December 1952, dad crashed a DC-3 at Stapleton Airport in Denver Colorado.

Not surprisingly, it made front-page news in the next day’s The Denver Post. Here’s the article.

Denver Post 19 Dec 1952

The Denver Post’s front page, 19 December 1952

Four in crash of plane here escape safely
Puzzled investigators launched a probe Friday into the crash of a twin-engined transport plane from which four persons escaped just seconds before it caught fire at Stapleton airfield Thursday night.

One of the passengers was Brig. Gen. C.H. Chorpening, assistant chief for civil works in the office of the U.S. corps of engineers in Washington D.C.

Like the other three, he jumped from the plane after it skidded to a jolting stop that ended a 100-mile-an-hour takeoff attempt. None of the four was seriously injured.

The others were civilian employees of the corps of engineers—Pilot J.H. Austin of Omaha, Neb.; Copilot N.H. Hansen, also of Omaha; and George Beard, an engineer from Washington.

Treated for bruises
Chorpening and the two crew members were treated for minor cuts and bruises at Fitzsimons Army hospital and released. Beard did not require medical treatment.

The plane, a DC-3 owned by the corps of engineers, was sent here from Omaha Thursday afternoon to pick up Chorpening, who was on a routine inspection of civil engineer projects.

Chorpening said the craft was only a few feet off the runway when it suddenly went out of control and piled up in a wheat field on airport property. The time was 6:32 p.m.

The plane went up in flames shortly after the four got out.

The pilot could not explain the accident. He said the plane reached a ground speed of about 100 miles an hour when it veered sharply and crashed at the south end of the field.

Inquiry ordered
The investigation was ordered by the civil aeronautics administration. AC Goddard, CAA safety agent, said Friday the cause of the crash was ‘a total mystery.’

‘The pilot doesn’t know, which means that a physical inspection of the wreckage will have to determine what happened,’ he said.

Both engines were torn from the plane and thrown twenty feet in front of the fuselage. The pilot’s compartment was caved in and the entire plane swept by flames.

Six companies of firemen from the Stapleton fire department had the blaze under control in about fifteen minutes.

Less than two hours after the crash. Chorpening and his crew left Denver on a commercial flight to Omaha. The general had come here from the west coast by commercial plane.

DC-3 on fire

The plane was destroyed

The 19 December evening edition of the Omaha World Herald also carried an item, which had additional details.

Plane burns but 4 escape: Army engineer general shaken in crash
Four men, one a high ranking general in Army Engineers, narrowly escaped death Thursday night when a plane from Omaha crashed and burst into flames at the Denver municipal airport.

Brig. Gen. Claude H. Chorpening of Washington, assistant chief of engineers in charge of civil works, escaped with a wrenched left shoulder, bruises and cuts.

George L. Beard of Washington, chief of the planning and development division in the office of the Chief of Army Engineers, came out of the flaming plane almost unscathed. He is a civilian.

On inspection trip
The pilot, Jules Austin, 5118 Leavenworth Street, and the acting co-pilot, Norman Hansen, 1811 North Forty-eighth Avenue, also got out safely. Mr Hansen normally is the plane’s engineer, but as a licensed pilot fills in as co-pilot on occasion.

The plane, a C-47 transport assigned to the Missouri River Division of the Army Engineers here, had gone to Denver to take General Chorpening on an inspection trip of the Army Engineers projects in South Dakota. He had come from the Pacific Northwest, where he had toured projects under construction in that area.

The accident occurred about 7 o’clock just after take-off when the plane was about 10 feet in the air.

Looped on ground
General Chorpening said the plane shuddered violently, then dropped its left wing sharply. The wing tripped on the ground, he said, and the impact flung the plane over to the right side. It looped on the ground and came to rest off the runway.

The outside of the plane started burning, and flames broke out in the compartment that separated the cabin from the pilot’s compartment.

General Chorpening’s seat to which we was bound by his safety belt, was broken from its fastenings and flung the length of the cabin.

General Chorpening and Mr Beard freed themselves and felt their way in the darkness to the rear door, where they jumped to safety.

Continues trip
‘When we hit the ground we started pedaling as fast as we could go,’ he said. ‘The tanks were what we were afraid of. It was a miracle they didn’t explode.’

Mr Austin and Mr Hansen climbed out through escape hatches in the pilot’s compartment.

General Chorpening, who was given emergency treatment at Fitzsimons General Hospital, came to Omaha by commercial airline Friday and left on his inspection trip north by rail. Mr Beard returned to Washington.

Cause of the crash was being studied Friday at Denver.

And a bit more of the story
Norm, the co-pilot on that trip, had more stories about that day and the aftermath.

For starters, he said General Chorpening and Beard actually managed to lower the stairs so managed to walk from the plane rather than jump. I know this is true because in one of the photos, you can see the stairs are down.

Once back to earth, the general asked dad and Norm if they would go back into the then burning plane to retrieve his dress hat which he’d forgotten to grab. They declined.

I can’t find the outcome of the investigation online, but my best recollection from Norm and my mother was that much of the blame was placed on an air traffic controller who had allowed a plane to takeoff across and in front of dad just moments before he took off. The officials surmised that had created a wind squall that hit dad’s plane.

Norm had a different view. He said General Chorpening thought the world of my dad and that Chorpening’s take on the cause of the accident was that ‘the earth swung out of its orbit and hit the plane.’

Jules Hoyle Austin

Not long after, the Army Corps of Engineers bought the shell of another DC-3.

Dad, Norm and Harry Hildeburn, dad’s usual co-pilot, refurbished the interior of that plane to make it an executive aircraft, which seated 21 and had a galley kitchen, sofas, easy chairs, card tables, curtains, pot plants and magazine racks. Oh how, I remember that plane. One day I’ll do a post on it.

Footnote: When the Army Corps of Engineers sold that DC-3 in 1960–61, Harry retired to his home state of Oregon. Norm went on to fly for others, and Dad went to work for Central National. Harry died in 1977, and Norm died in 2011 at age 87. We corresponded for years. What a trio they were. I’ll try to share more stories about them.

Another footnote: Remember I said dad died on the first day of his last semester in university? In a wonderful and heartwarming gesture, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (then called Omaha University) awarded dad’s degree posthumously to my mother.

25 January 2017 / leggypeggy

When did tolerance get thrown out the window?

multicultural billboard, Australia

The sign welcomes people to the Canberra Theatre

The word ‘cornucopia’ has always reminded me of an American Thanksgiving with its groaning tables of food, sincere goodwill and heartfelt hospitality being extended to all. My mother taught us that no one is to be left out at Thanksgiving.

Sadly, this week delivered a different kind of ‘cornucopia’ in both America and Australia. This particular show of ‘bounty’ was marked by bigotry, threats and intolerance.

I admit that I was not surprised by President Trump’s announcement today to restrict access to the US for refugees and some visa holders from seven mostly Muslim nations: Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

While it’s not a necessarily a sign of intolerance, it is what he threatened to do. I now wonder how it might affect our elder daughter, who was born in Syria in the 1980s. Luckily she has an Australian passport and no Syrian passport—a daughter of a diplomat.

For now, I won’t go into further comments about the days ahead in the USA.

But I digress.

What concerns me most this week is the bad behaviour being shown by a small group of Australians that have objected to a billboard that promotes Australia Day.

The bad behaviour started last week when a billboard went up in Melbourne. It depicted two Muslim girls celebrating Australia Day and waving Australia flags. The problem seemed to be that they were wearing headscarves (hijabs).

Such hypocrisy. Good grief, nuns wear headscarves.

That said, some Australians complained that people/migrants don’t assimilate when they arrive here. Of course, when migrants try super-hard to fit in (such as the billboard image above), the complainers say it’s not enough.

Of course, no one checks whether the ‘targets of criticism’ are migrants or people who are third or fourth generation in Australia (which is often the case). It really doesn’t matter. I embraced Australia from the day I arrived. I suppose that my good fortune is that, until I speak in my American accent, I look to be a typical white Australian. Even after I speak, I am accepted as ‘belonging’ here. I wonder how it would be if I were black?

The agency that erected the billboard shown above was so bombarded with threats (including death and bomb) that they removed the sign. That prompted a groundswell of public support (yay Australia!). Crowd funding raised $130,000 in a couple of days and that has been spent on posting even more of the same billboard in other major cities.

I live in the ACT—Australian Capital Territory—which decided to post the image (using their own funds) on the neon sign over the government-owned Canberra Theatre (see above). They announced this on their Facebook page.

The reaction (although small) was vicious, threatening and downright illegal. There were suggestions that the theatre be bombed, blown up or set on fire. Most of the comments came from a splinter group of radicals. But the comments were enough for the government to remove the post from Facebook. This is so wrong. Thankfully, they have not removed the sign.

I don’t think I’ve ever shared a politician’s comments, but I was impressed by what Andrew Barr, our Chief Minister, had to say. He called the complainers racists and rednecks. He got it in one. Here’s a link to a main article.

Tomorrow is Australia Day—26 January. Many issues surround this day. It marks when white folks landed on the continent or, as many Indigenous people rightly say, when the white folks invaded. There is discussion, even arguments, about a best day to celebrate Australia Day. I’ll try to keep you posted and hope that bigotry dies down here.

In the meantime, Happy Australia Day!





17 January 2017 / leggypeggy

Elephants galore this time in India

elephants grazing

We’ve visited India three times in three years—mostly in search of wildlife—but the elephants have often managed to elude us.

I have to admit that on our first two trips, we saw elephants in a couple of national parks, but they were almost always specks on the horizon or shrouded by jungle. Should I say I’ve seen an elephant in the wild if all I’ve seen is a grey rump or a waving trunk or a flicking tail? I think not.

Of course, I’m not counting the working elephants we saw. These weren’t tourist elephants, but part of India’s parks and forestry department. The first ones we saw were on a mission to guide a roaming tiger back into its national park. The bottom line was to save the tiger’s life and the lives of any citizens who might get in the way.

We also saw a lone tusker in the distance in Rajaji National Park on the same day we saw three leopards. He moved so quickly I couldn’t get a photo, but he was huge.

elephant family

Mother with young tusker and baby

elephant family on move

Time to go

While I think of it, I’ll mention that most of India’s national parks no longer offer elephant rides as a way to let tourists look for tigers. And even when such rides were offered, we didn’t take them.

So I was pleased that this trip delivered elephants, elephants and more elephants, and virtually all of them in the wild.

Frankly, it was to be expected. Elephants seem to be more common in the south, and this trip focused on the south—from Bhopal in the middle to Kanyakumari, on the country’s most southern tip.

Our first encounter was in Tadoba National Park, where we saw two adults and a baby. But that was only just the beginning because the farther south we travelled the more elephants we saw.

elephant between trees

Every sighting was reassuring, especially when we saw the babies. These amazing beasts are considered endangered. Surveys indicate there are 35,000–40,000 Asian elephants left in the wild. About three-quarters of these are in India, with other populations spread across the many countries of southeast Asia and the subcontinent (although there aren’t any known to be in Pakistan).

Asian elephants are generally smaller than African elephants. They reach a shoulder height of 2 to 3.5 metres and weigh between 2000 to 5000 kilograms (up to 11,000 pounds). Females are usually smaller than males and have no or only small tusks.

elephant mother and baby

Grabbing a quick snack

Their appetites are huge. Adult elephants eat up to 150 kilograms of grasses, plants and trees per day. And they poop throughout the day. Anand always says the only way to know how old elephant dung is, is to stick your finger in. We didn’t need to know that much, but when we were walking, we saw what looked like a lot of fresh dung.

After Tadoba, our next elephant encounter was almost two weeks later in Nagarhole National Park. Then over the next two weeks we saw probably 50 elephants of all ages and in different settings. We saw an especially large herd in Periyar National Park, but I’ll write a separate post about all the wildlife there.

We even saw elephants on the side of the road (not in a national park) as we travelled from the state of Karnataka to Kerala. We stopped and watched them for quite some time and then some knuckleheads came up behind us and got out of their vehicle. Needless to say, the elephants skedaddled and the knuckleheads were lucky they weren’t attacked.

elephant road sign

Elephants have right of way.

I felt bad about a young French couple we later met at the state border. They had taken a taxi from their hotel in Kerala and hoped to cross into Karnataka, where elephants are quite common. Turned out their taxi driver didn’t have an all-India travel permit, so could not cross the state line, and no other taxis were around.

So if you’re ever travelling by road in India, be sure the vehicle is allowed to cross state borders (although there is a plan to scrap the border regulations).

Update on the guy illegally parking in a disabled space
You may remember my rant about the guy who was parking in a disabled space at the gym. Once I had photographic evidence (of him striding away) I called the city’s hotline to report him, but a few weeks later he was still parking there.

So I called the hotline again and said I’d be calling every time I saw him. Haven’t seen him again. 🙂 But if I do, I’ll get an elephant to sit on his car. Maybe one of the fellows below.

tusker elephant

A tusker with a resident bird on his head

large tusker

Notice how much longer the tusks are on this fellow than the tusker just above

1 January 2017 / leggypeggy

Fill your new year with colour—welcome to 2017

Pink and orange house, India

Pink and orange in overdrive

When I was a young teenager, I was desperate to decorate my bedroom in pink and orange, with a splash of white. My mother was not even slightly impressed or cooperative. Not a chance, she said, or something like that.

I can’t remember what my sister, with whom I shared a room, said. I also can’t remember whether I wanted to do the job by painting the walls or by seeking out fabric to make bedspreads and pillow cases. Maybe I had a combo in mind. I do remember feeling very hard done by because I wasn’t allowed to do it.

News flash: My roommate/sister, Susan, has replied to this post. She said exactly what I hoped she’d say. Namely, that she’d have been happy with a pink and orange colour scheme in our bedroom. She’s a champ—as always. Thanks Suse.

Pink, orange, purple sari

A great colour combo for a sari—just saying

Sadly, Poor John is a fan of off-white paint, so most of the colour in our house is provided by furniture, curtains, rugs and artworks.

But when Libby wanted to paint her room blu-ple (blue purple), I said sure. I also said okay to her request for lemon yellow curtains, and then I bought her a doona cover that had both colours, plus a bit of green and white. The room looks great.

Funnily enough, this whole colour history came to mind this year as we travelled south through India.

Colourful India

Plenty of colours, including pink and orange

India has colour in overdrive. Your eyes are assaulted by colour. It’s in the clothes (especially the saris), the shoes, the jewellery, the billboards, the vehicles, the temples, the paint jobs on houses, and more.

And I have to say that the combination of pink and orange is everywhere.

I started to seek out pictures of this colour scheme about five days before the end of our seven-week trip. And while I have a sizeable collection of photos, I’m still cross with myself for all the pics I missed.

That said, I’m sharing some of the compelling evidence here that my mother should have seen so that she would caved in and said, of course, you can have a pink and orange room!

So which one is your favourite pic? And do you have a different favourite colour combination?

If you’re a fan of orange, you might also be a fan of carrots. Here’s a tasty roast carrot recipe on my cooking blog.

Clouds in India

Mother Nature seems to like the colour combination

Pink and orange sunset

Mother Nature’s handiwork

29 December 2016 / leggypeggy

A little levity in a sad week

fairy floss, cotton candy

So what do you call this sweet sugary treat?

Geez, this has been a rough week with too many tragic deaths. In just a few days, we’ve said sad farewells to George Michael, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. They’ve all been a big part of my life.

This year has been cruel. Some of you will have lost a special person in 2016 or perhaps a loved one’s life is still touch-and-go. They may not be famous, but their loss can be no less devastating. I send my condolences.

We can only hope that 2017 will be kinder to all of us. The other day, our local newspaper, The Canberra Times, had an appropriate editorial cartoon that summed up the year. It showed Santa and the Grim Reaper in the locker room. Santa is saying something along the lines of ‘You’ve had a busy year. Plan on taking any time off?’

With all this sadness, I thought a little levity might be in order before we say good riddance to 2016.

In India, it is common to see street vendors selling cotton candy or fairy floss—the name depends on where you live in the English-speaking world.

But I was delighted to learn that this sugary sweet has more interesting names in other cultures. In French, it’s called Father’s Beard. India goes one better and calls it Old Lady’s Hair. If you’ve seen a recent photo of me, you’ll agree the Indian name is the most accurate.

Do you know yet another clever name for this treat?