U…

U is for University. I studied at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa. Stellenbosch is a small town in the heart of the winelands about 35 minutes’ drive from Cape Town. The village (or dorp as it’s known in Afrikaans) has grown around and with the university over the years. It used to be a small village that became busy when the students were around and got really quiet during university holidays but it’s grown a great deal since I’ve studied there.

In the early ‘90’s when I was a student it still had a village-feel to it, or maybe it was just my perception as a young student (where your world only revolved around your immediate surroundings and goings-on). The campus is fairly concentrated and included some historical buildings. During my first three years (whilst boarding in a student residence – koshuis), I didn’t have a car and used to walk everywhere. It didn’t matter if it were lectures, shopping or socialising. There was always a constant stream of students walking to and around campus. In winter everyone was out with umbrellas. It must have been the fashion to have very colourful umbrellas at the time because I clearly remember bare trees and grey, rainy days devoid of much colour other than a vibrant sea of multi-coloured umbrellas going up the street. Reds, greens, yellows, blues, oranges, purples and many more. I used to love the colour it brought to otherwise dreary days.

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Part of the University of Stellenbosch (photo credit: Stellenbosch University)

My husband studied there as well but finished a few years before I started and our paths only crossed later. Today our son studies at the University of Western Australia. The cost of accommodation and living expenses in Perth forces most students to live at home while they’re studying. Luckily public transport is such that they can commute easily. Child No 2 studies music at WAAPA (Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts) which forms part of Edith Cowan University. There are four public universities in Perth and some smaller private ones as well. With two kids at uni at the moment I often think back fondly of my own carefree student days.

S…

S is for Stellenbosch, the winelands town rich in Cape Dutch history about 35 minutes’ drive from Cape Town where we used to live. My husband and I both went to university there, found work after finishing our studies and settled there. We met and got married in Stellenbosch and lived there for a number of years. S is also for Simonsberg, the mountain in Stellenbosch our house looked onto.

S also stands for the Swan river which snakes through Perth, Sorrento, our local beach, and sunset.

R…

R is for Robben Island (off Cape Town in South Africa) and Rottnest Island (off Perth in Western Australia).

Both islands are similar in size and distance from the mainland, and prisons were built and used on both at some stage in their history. Robben Island is situated in the cold Atlantic Ocean whereas Rottnest Island has the benefit of the warmer Indian Ocean that makes it an ideal tourist and holiday destination.

No private vehicles are allowed on the island which makes walking and cycling the main forms of transport. A short 40 minute trip away from Perth by ferry, it feels worlds away though once you set foot on the island with its unique charm and character.

 

Robben Island on the other hand, takes your breath away with its perfect view of Table Mountain and Cape Town. On a beautiful, clear Cape Town day nothing in the world beats that view. I wouldn’t be able to choose one above the other for natural beauty. Sadly I don’t have as many photos of Robben Island as I do of Rottnest Island, simply because I’ve only been there twice and didn’t spend as much time there as we do on Rottnest.

Q…

Q is for qualify.

I found myself in a bit of a quandary trying to come up with something for the letter Q, other than my photos of Quokkas and (brown) Quails, and then we had the most amazing experience the other night, watching the Australian Swimming Championships and Olympic Qualifiers on television that took place in Adelaide.

The daughter of friends of ours swam in the championship (as she did last year), but this year – being the year of the Rio Olympics – there was so much more at stake. (I apologise in advance if I get any of the technical details or terms wrong, I know only what I’ve learnt from the sidelines.) There were two heats earlier in the day and the fastest swimmers from those two heats would go through to the final. The winner and second person in the final would qualify for the Olympics, given that they swam under the Australian Olympic Qualifying time (which is faster than the Olympic Qualifying time).

Our friends’ daughter went to the same Perth primary school as our kids and along with her parents and other friends of the family we watched her swim at school swimming carnivals (galas). All the parents watched their kids proudly do their best and maybe get a podium finish. We would jump up and down and shout encouragement. And then Tam would dive in for her race and finish about half a pool’s length ahead of most of her competitors. I remember more than one relay race where her team was trailing and she’d dive in for the last leg about a third of the length of the pool behind the leaders, and end up in front so her team won the relay. She swam all the different strokes like a champion. It was poetry in motion and a beautiful thing to watch. We shouted as hard for her as we did for our own kids, got goose bumps and teared up while her own nerve racked parents were quietly biting their nails. A few of us jokingly said (about 7 or 8 years ago) that we had to book our tickets for Rio for 2016 to go and watch her there.

As outsiders we really had no idea how much training went into performances like hers, and that times were important, even at that young age. In the years since, we still have no idea how much sheer hard work, dedication, focus and sacrifice is involved to build a talent like hers to the point where she swims at the Olympic Qualifying meet.

At 17 she went into her heat as the Australian Junior Champion and qualified for the final with the third fastest time. The two swimmers faster than her were both Olympic swimmers. (When I say faster we’re talking about milliseconds.) Spare a thought for the fact that her main event is 400 metres freestyle, which is gruelling. She stepped up for the final and looked to be the first off the block. She stayed with the Olympic swimmer who swam in the lane next to her.

For eight laps she didn’t let her get away but both of them pulled away from the rest of the field. It didn’t take long to become clear who the top two swimmers would be, and then we edged even closer to the TV to see if they would both make it within the Australian Olympic Qualifying time. By the last lap we were up and out of our seats, jumping and shouting for her. She finished in a close second position, about a second within the Australian Qualifying time. We were beside ourselves. Tam qualified for the 2016 Olympics. She’s going to Rio!

She turned around to look at her time, not yet realising that she’d made it within the qualifying time until the winner next to her told her she’d made it. The camera zoomed in on her proud parents and then came back to show an interview with her and the winner. They’d both qualified for the Australian Olympic team. Tam said it was still hard for her to comprehend. All of us back in Perth were out of our skins with excitement and pride not only because she’d qualified for the Olympics but also for the poise, maturity, humility and graciousness in which she always conducts herself. Go Tam, we are right behind you all the way.

UWA West Coast Swimming Club

Photo credit: UWA West Coast Swimming Club

Sorry, little Quokkas and Quails, you’ve got pushed to the back seat.

P…

P is for Perth, Western Australia, (sometimes referred to as Perthadise) where we’ve lived for the past eleven years. I don’t go into the city very often and when I do it’s usually a quick purposeful trip not for leisure and I don’t take my camera along or think to take many photos. Most of my photos of Perth have been taken from Kings Park and show the change in the city since we’ve moved here.

Last year during the Perth International Arts Festival we went to see the Giants. Most of the streets in the CBD had been closed off and the people of Perth flocked there to watch this amazing show (I’ve used some of the photos in a previous photo challenge). I definitely had my camera with me that day!

P is also for picnic, something the people of Perth love to do in this outdoor lifestyle.

O…

O is for Osprey. We see Eastern Ospreys along our coastline every now and then. A couple of years ago I was lucky to see two together at Rottnest Island (19 kilometres off the coast of Perth), and one was feeding at the time. They were really high up in the tree so I had to zoom in quite a bit and the quality isn’t the best but the one that was feeding looks like a female to me, who then joined her male partner after she’d finished eating (and went to sit to his left). They had me rapt for about half an hour. I’ve included some of the best shots I got.

O is also for Oasis (we visited an ancient one while we lived in Dubai and it was very interesting but sadly I can’t find the photos), Orange (a beautiful city in country New South Wales where a lot of fruit is grown, about a three hour drive from both Canberra and Sydney where we went for my husband’s 50th birthday a couple of years ago), home made olive scrolls and of course: olives.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dinnertime

This week’s challenge asks us to share an image of a meal or one taken during dinner hour.

Perth’s climate and outdoor lifestyle makes it ideal for picnics and we especially enjoy doing it at the beach at dinnertime. There are always people out doing the same and playing cricket, footy (Australian football) or soccer. On a warm summer’s evening we often end up going for a swim at that time as well.

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Picnic at Sorrento beach on a warm summer’s evening

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Picnic food

The other night we went to the Night Noodle Markets at Perth’s newly completed Elizabeth Quay. It was a lovely evening, and packed with people (on a Tuesday night) out to enjoy the variety of foods for dinner.

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Perth during the Night Noodle Markets

M…

M is for Melbourne where I’ve been once, marathon (which my running-mad husband has done close to 100 of), marsupial (a mammal whose young are born incomplete and then carried in a pouch on the mother’s belly like kangaroos), Moreton Bay fig trees, the moon, and mosaics (which I’ve done some of and loved it but hardly find the time for nowadays).

M also stands for Magic Miles (the yacht my husband and his running mate joined as part of the Three Peaks Race in Tasmania in 2013.)

 

I’ve included a professional video of the highlights of the Magic Miles team’s Three Peaks Race in 2013, made by Nick Roden who went along on the yacht. It was an amazing experience, even for us as spectators. None of us had ever done or been involved with anything like it. The race brought sailors and runners together to form a magnificent team, and we got to meet some fantastic people. Some of my photos have been included in the video.

Coincidentally, the last leg of the Three Peaks Race is a run up and down Mount Wellington in Hobart.

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View from the top of Mount Wellington on an overcast and windy day

And finally, m is for mum!!

 

L…

L is for Lion, Lion’s Head and Laughing Kookaburra. We saw these lions on our last trip to Etosha National Park in 2014 on a rainy day. They were very relaxed and let us have a good, long look at them (I’ve used some of the photos in a previous photo challenge: here).

There is a song called: “Kookaburra sits in the Old Gum Tree” which is sung to the same melody as a song I grew up with in South Africa called “Tortelduifie sit in die Eikeboom” (Turtledove sits in the Oak Tree). I’ve included a video of Kookaburra sits in the Old Gum Tree:

L is also for limes, picked fresh from the garden and soon to become home made lime sorbet and lime cheese cake. I’ve since picked another bowl full but I’m running out of ideas what to make with them all. Any suggestions anyone?

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Limes from our garden

K…

K is for Kalahari, one of my favourite places. Even though the Kalahari is a large region, the part I refer to here is in Namibia, close to the border with Botswana. K is also for Kudu, an African antelope and Kameeldoring (the Camel Thorn Tree).

K also stands for Kings Park and Botanical Garden, which is one of the world’s largest inner city parks. Situated on the bank of the Swan river it provides sweeping views of Perth, the Swan and Canning rivers and the Darling ranges (Perth hills).

K is also for kangaroo and kalamata olives which  I love and grow in our garden.