All posts filed under: Environment

magpie sitting on pack

Leader of the Pack

“Hey, little dudes! How’s it goin’?” My magpie welcoming party always assembles the same way: one sharp-eyed individual — The same one each time? Who can say? — leaves its fellows, takes to the air, and swoops low over the grass to bank and land with breathtaking pizzaz just in front of me: By the time its relatives have spied my approach and joined the party, the first arrival has usually burst into that ecstatic warble that is such a familiar presence in the Australian landscape, rural and urban, beginning before dawn and continuing at irregular intervals till the sun goes down or even later: The tribe takes up position. There are always at least a dozen, usually several more, and several of these will herald my return with an infectious and oft-repeated eruption of glorious song, puffing out their chests till they seem set to explode, tilting back their heads, pointing their formidable beaks at the sky as they sing. It’s the largest group I’ve ever observed — “our” magpies at home form a tight family …

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A Korean Flashback #2: I Was a Rice-Paddy Spider Man

The spiders were everywhere over there. When westerners talk about Korea as a destination or somewhere they lived and taught for a year or two, they often lose me pretty fast as they rave about the food or K-pop or the high-tech wonderlands to be found in the big cities. Well, I disliked the food, and Busan, the second-biggest city, just an hour or so from where I lived, will stay with me more for its decaying maze of hillside alleys and the really rather squalid seafood markets on its waterfront than any technological buzz it might have had. (Don’t get me started on the music.) Flashy, cutting-edge, Korea undoubtedly exists, but it was the half-made Korea, the good-enough Korea of the countryside, coast and city fringes that I spent most of my time in. Sometimes I wonder if I would have loved the country more if I’d been stationed in bustling Seoul with its mix of the gleaming-new and the mothball-antiquated, its countless options for diversion on weekends, holidays and before and after work. Certainly I would have been …

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Back Among the Mangroves

As a kid living in a village-like Bayside suburb on the outskirts of Brisbane — one store/post office, a one-teacher school, around 80 houses, many of which were essentially remnant fishing shacks from the early days of the settlement — I was often subjected to jokes about the place from classmates at my “elite” Brisbane high school. I was much smarter in those days, and won a partial scholarship, the only way my parents could have afforded to send me there. I was mingling, generally uncomfortably, with the offspring of lawyers, doctors, graziers, but when I fled each afternoon I hightailed it with relief back to the mud, mangroves and — as the alliterative putdowns went — mosquitoes of our home on the edge of Moreton Bay.

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Korea: Flashbacks & Farewells

Hey, all, and welcome to a bright new year of blogging — and perhaps other stuff, if that’s your thing. I hope 2014 is a productive and rewarding year for you, and many thanks to readers who’ve been sticking with me on TGTW for my last couple of years in Korea, and in some cases, longer! Well, this time tomorrow I should be gazing out an aeroplane window at lovely blue ocean — hopefully below the plane. I’m excited about catching up with friends and family I haven’t seen for two years, and enjoying a few weeks of Brisbane beauty, not to mention hot weather, sand, good food and coffee, and revisiting some favourite haunts with my camera before I have to move on again.

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The Road, the Trail & How They Ended

So, my last weekend in Korea. Spent the week lugging boxes to school — five so far — and slipping out to the post office when nobody was looking (nobody’s ever looking) to cocoon them in (free!) tape and throw more money at the very nice lady behind the desk. The only drama was on Thursday when I realised I’d boxed up my Swiss Army knife with my apartment keys attached, and had to run back down there. Just in time, the very nice lady handed me a box-cutter with a weary smile. This is a busy time of year at the post office in Korea. Anyway, another flashback to an Autumn walk. I had plenty of un-posted ones to choose from, but this one is a nice mix of things I loved and hated about walking in Korea…

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The Jangyu Chainsaw Massacre

One man alone can be pretty dumb sometimes, but for real bona fide stupidity, there ain’t nothin’ can beat teamwork ~ Edward Abbey Hey, people. A brief interruption to scheduled programming, and the ongoing/interminable Upstate Saga, so I can spit out a bit of rage before it burns a hole somewhere painful. I’ll have the next American chapter — a far happier affair — out in a couple of days. Have a great weekend, and don’t forget to hug your favourite tree!

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Down the Dirty River

I’ve been in Korea a couple of months now, and inevitably much of the novelty has gone. But I still get surprised quite frequently. The “pagan” bonfire was one example — falling down the drain was another — and there was a quaintly bizarre incident on my coastal walk last week that made me go, “You’re not in Sandgate anymore, Goat.” That story soon. Tonight I want to talk about my local river.