Rachel Down Under!

Have you planked yet?

Posted in Australia, Sydney by rssmith218 on May 19, 2011

Yep, the newest Aussie craze is “planking,” which, as the name suggests, basically involves laying face down (like a plank?) in unusual places and then taking photos of it. Seem a bit bizarre?  It did to me too, but planking is the newest fad that is sweeping Australia, New Zealand, and perhaps soon, the rest of the world?

Almost 190,000 people are already Facebook fans of planking. How can something so simple (and so strange) become so popular so quickly? Perhaps it is the seemingly endless number of places and objects that it is possible to “plank” that makes planking so appealing. Trees, telephone booths, the local tattoo parlour, even police cars, are all fair game for plankers.

Or maybe the fact that planking is so simple is its greatest appeal. Planking is a truly accessible “sport,” as anyone who can lie down for a nap can just as easily plank. I guess the challenge of planking is then to find ways to set yourself apart from all the mediocre plankers….what’s the most outrageous thing you can plank?

Not bad, eh?

I admit that I have yet to plank anything, although I will say that my workmates and I have spent plenty of time thinking of things to plank in the office. Here are just a few of our attempts….photo credits to Karina…..

Karina and Sarah planking!

Wait, is Lera planking Karina?

Even in the confines of the tiny postgrad room, the options for planking are endless! Although maybe we should all spend a bit less time planking and a bit more time working…..


Sounds of Sydney

Posted in Australia, Sydney by rssmith218 on May 19, 2011

Believe it or not, over a month has passed since I last left the sweet city of Sydney. Here in New South Wales, summer has quickly slipped into winter, and over the past few weeks, I have been doing my best to take advantage of this great city. My Sydney guidebook is faded and worn, but still I have insisted upon flipping through its pages in search of signature Sydney sights I may have missed in my earlier explorations.

Here are some highlights from my past month of Sydney adventures:

1. Brett Whitely Studio

Behind this unassuming doorway in the quiet neighborhood of Surry Hills lies the studio and gallery of Brett Whitely, one of Autralia’s most esteemed avant-garde artists. Whitely died in 1992, but his studio remains open to the public, with his work exhibited in the space below.

The current exhibition, Endlessnessism, centers on one main piece, Alchemy, a massive self-portrait that is spread over 18 panels.

Whitely’s work is so personal that it felt almost eerie to be wandering through the space where he worked, lived, and showed his pieces without him actually being there.

2. Hoopla Festival

Of the many Sydney festivals I have found myself at this year (Africa Festival, Portugese Festival, Chinese New Year Festival, Glebe Festival, Chinese Noodle Festival, Crave Food Festival, etc.), I have to say that the Hoopla Festival was perhaps the festival that I had the lowest expectations for, but surprisingly, it ended up being one of the festivals that I have enjoyed the most.

Set in Darling Harbour, the Hoopla festival is dedicated to Sydney’s circus and street performers, and we sat in on some great performances, such as this one….

Crazy stunts!

3. Powerhouse Museum

The Powerhouse Museum is Sydney’s museum of Science and Design. In comparison to other science and technology museums I have visited, the Powerhouse Museum was a bit confusing and disorganized, but they still had some cool exhibits, such as a Top Secret spy exhibit, an interactive climate change display, and my favorite, a Zero Gravity Space Lab, which had a real-life simulation of weightlessness…

4. Pott’s Point

Aisha and I spent a beautiful fall afternoon exploring Pott’s Point, a quiet neighborhood that overlooks the harbour. We wandered along streets lined with 19th century mansions, and enjoyed the view out over the Garden Island Navy Base and the Sydney skyline.

Pott’s Point is just one of many beautiful Sydney neighborhoods, and it was a lovely place for an afternoon walk!

5. Karaoke

Thomas shows off his karaoke skills at the Rege, a UNSW must-do! Don’t worry, I won’t post the video!

Love Your Swans

Posted in Australia, Sydney by rssmith218 on May 10, 2011

Who’s keen for a game of footy?

Wait, footy? Don’t you mean soccer? Rugby? Nope, I’m talking about Aussie Rules football, a hybrid of soccer, American football, and rugby, that will quickly have you on your feet and cheering! This promotional video says it all….

From this video, you can see that it was definitely worth the trek out to Sydney Olympic Park in Homebush, where, a couple of weeks ago, I joined thousands of other footy enthusiasts for my first Aussie Rules game.

On the train…..getting pumped for the game!

So what sets Aussie Rules apart from other footy sports?

First of all, unlike soccer, you are allowed to touch the ball with any part of your body, including your hands, and you are definitely allowed to tackle, which you can see here, if you dare….

Unlike American football, the game is free-flowing and play is continuous. Players must bounce the ball on the ground at least every 15 metres when running with the ball and if a player catches a ball that has been kicked, they, in turn, get a free kick, and are allowed to kick without any pressure from the opposite team.

Unlike rugby, where points are scored primarily by grounding the ball in the opponent’s end zone, in Aussie Rules, points are scored only by kicking the ball through the opponent’s goal.

Overall, Aussie Rules is a fast-paced, high-scoring, and aggressive game. It is easy to understand why the sport has so many devoted and exuberant fans.

We joined these fans in the red zone….

…..and you can see just how many fans showed up to cheer on the mighty Swans! SYD-NEY! SYD-NEY!

Check out these fans!

And while at an American football game you might enjoy a hotdog, burger, or a cold beer at halftime, what do you think you’ll be grabbing for a snack in Australia?

Meat pie, of course! (As well as the cold beer?) Yum!

We cheered the swans on to a close victory against the Essendon Bombers…

…which meant that we got to sing the Swan’s fight song! Cheer, cheer, the red and the white!

Love your swans!