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The Journey Begins

” A Journey of thousand miles begins with a single step” – Chinese Proverb.

Our first trip to the United States was in April 2017 to see our daughter in New York and travel around. My first visit to the 9/11 site reminded me of the destruction and demolition happening around the world. Loss of valuable innocent victims, loss of a large number of fire servicemen in the neighbouring fire service station and the destruction of twin towers -the land mark of New York City, are signs of evil forces in existence in the world.

With a heavy heart, we went to a nearby cafe. I could see beautiful red tulips in full bloom at a distance, which I caught in my cell phone. Nature brings out her best in creating beautiful flowers and creatures. Plants, animals, and birds blend well with nature and are at home in their environment. Humans are disoriented and do not blend with nature, but are endowed with creative powers to create their own environment. It’s sad to note that this creative power is used ruthlessly to destroy the beauty of mother nature.

Okra (Ladies’ fingers) Curry

When we were growing up, the vegetable “Okra” was a favourite dish in our household. My grandfather said that each okra seed was packed with nutrients equivalent to an egg. I am not sure whether there is any scientific proof of this statement. Sometime, we ate young tender okras fresh from the garden at my grandfather’s request. Plenty of okra plants grew in the backyard, and tender ones plucked at the right time. If they are left too long in the tree, the okra pods become hard and inedible. Okras can be dried and seeds planted in fertile soil at the appropriate season.

I buy okras from Harris Farm. Pick okra that is fresh, firm to touch and green without blemish spots. Wash the okra pod well in water and dry thoroughly with a paper towel. Slicing okra just before cooking inhibits the release of a slimy substance from the inside of the pods. Using a sharp knife, cut off the pointy end of the okra and then slice into smaller pieces.

Ingredients:

  • Okra pods – 400 gm
  • Long Green Chillies – 3
  • Small Red Thai Chillies – 2
  • Medium size onion -1
  • Water – 200 cc
  • Curry Leaves – few sprigs
  • Coconut milk – 4 table spoon
  • Lemon or lime – 1/2
  • Salt to taste

Method:

Slice the okras into small pieces and put them into a pan. Cut both red and green chillies to small parts and chop the onion. Transfer okra, chilli and onion mixture into a pot cover it with 200 ml water and cook in slow fire. Once the okra is cooked, add the coconut milk and curry leaves and let it simmer for a few minutes. Add salt to taste, remove from fire and squeeze in the lemon juice.

Points to Note:

  • Evaporated milk or Soy Milk can be used instead of coconut milk.
  • Optional -half tea spoon turmeric powder can be added before adding milk to the curry.
  • If chillies are hot, you can reduce the quantity to 2 long green chillies and 1 small red chilli.

Green Square Underground Library

I first heard about Green Square library while watching a documentary on the top 10, 2019 Architectural buildings in Australia. The underground library in Green Square received rave reviews from the judging panel. The unique structure, room space, natural lighting, proximity to station and buses, shops, etc. makes the library an attractive place to visit. As 90% of Green Square’s residents live in apartments, the underground library is an ingenious use of limited space.

Green Square station is along the railway line to Domestic and International airports in Sydney. As I came out of Green Square station, I saw the triangular shaped glass pavilion and walked around it once, viewing the building at various angles, wondering where the library was. Once I entered the building, I realised the pavilion provides the entrance into the underground library. A flight of steps downwards leads to the main library. A circular sunken garden in the centre adds novelty. I walked pass the sunken garden, observing the glass walls, which lets in light. A courteous member of staff asked if she could be of help. Perhaps my wonderings and photo snapping surprised her?

The walls are draped with vertical book shelves with attractive and popular titles. One section has rooms available for group study free of charge for two hours a day, but you have to book it. Records show that there are about 40,000 books in this library. Children are attracted to adorable reading nooks within the bookshelves.

A series of circular skylights on the ground floor, dot the plaza and light the library floor below. The amphitheatre that filled the sunken void at the end of the Library was quiet except for a few people having a discussion in the middle and a little girl who walked up and down the steps countless times clasping her father’s hand tightly.

A separate six-storey glass tower has a double-height reading room, computer lab, music room and bookable community space.

A rainbow colour installation decorates a wall in the library. It’s quite eye-catching, and the picture is on display at a few public places. I scaled the six -storey glass tower and the entire library once and couldn’t find this artwork. Later I bumped into one of the Librarians and asked about it. He smiled at me and said that most of the discarded books have been carefully wrapped in bright colour papers and stacked neatly on shelves in the tower’s reading room. This installation provides the backdrop for the colourful artwork. I retraced my steps and found the tower and captured the bright artwork on one side of the wall. It’s a casual space with armchairs and bean bags and provides a great view of the plaza.  

The Green square library is for the whole community; read, relax and enjoy the peace and harmony of the underground environment both inside and out. It accommodates people of all age groups, from infants to seniors. A dedicated section inside the library is available for small children to read, play and create. Although very young children, accompanied by their parents visit the library, a few hours I spent there I heard no crying.

Architects Stewart Hollenstein with Stewart Architecture won the global design competition for the Library. The land that was once a swamp has been converted into a stunning and functional building, using sophisticated engineering techniques. The glass pavilion on the plaza with a cosy café is prominent and livelier than the six-storey glass tower in the middle, which has only one room at every level. I spent about three hours roaming in and out of the library, scanned through a book by “Deepak Chopra” and finished my day with a cup of “Chai latte” at the Library’s café.  Finally, when I stepped out of the glass pavilion café on the ground floor, I saw a beautiful Christmas tree with colourful, dainty decorations. It looked majestic, bringing the Christmas spirit to all those in the neighbourhood.

Museum Discovery Centre

The Museums Discovery Centre is a collaboration between the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Australian Museum and Sydney Living Museums. It’s a storage centre for the treasures of the state collection and is located at 172 Showground Road, Castlehill, New South Wales.

I visited the Museum Centre last weekend with my husband. As it was Sunday, not many people were around, and the canteen was closed. The Museum operated with a skeleton staff. Outside, the sun was hot and weather humid, but inside it was cooling. Unlike other Museums which are in the heart of major cities, this centre is located about 33km from Sydney CBD by road. The surrounding looked green and welcoming. The exhibits are placed widely apart on three different levels and subdivided into six stores.

Store 1: This store displays the masterful creation of the world’s best designers. Chairs, vases, bowls, teapots, and silverware are some of the exhibits on display. Many items date back to the 19th century.

Store 2: Many innovative technologies that changed the lives of humanity are contained here. Telephones, clocks, radios, printing machines, engines, etc. to name a few. Change that occurred from the Industrial age to the present day is housed here.

Store 3: Variety of transport engines are parked here. It includes Cobb & Co -mail and passenger coach, wheat wagon, cars, bicycles, fire engine, an array of aircraft, cable tram, and a Yacht. Bikes are mounted high on the wall. Planes dangling from the ceiling look like huge toys.

Store 4:  This store is a home for a multitude of objects collected and used by Scientists both in the field and in the lab. A Sabre tooth tiger model on display is scary and provides an eerie atmosphere at the entrance to this store. It’s made from the skins of three African lions and a goat. Many items on display in this store are scientific specimens and instruments.

Store 5: Many domestic appliances and toys are exhibited here. Some of the cooking implements on display appear to be rustic and ancient.

Store 6: The structural model of a few buildings is on display here. Many architectural elements rescued from historic and beautiful buildings are housed here. A carved timber window cornice from Drummoyne House is on display. This massive cornice over 5 metres in length was part of a large stone mansion that belonged to a wealthy merchant and trader William Wright. The cornice had taken two years to complete, and the design based on the “foliage, flowers and fruit surrounding Drummoyne House.”

The tour gave me a glimpse of the Australian past.  I was impressed with the model display of a golden nugget,” Welcome Stranger,” that was found in Moliagul Victoria in 1869. Store 3 has many samples of doll dresses, hats, and a variety of shoes.

Museums showcase a Nation’s history, tradition, people, lifestyle, and culture. In his travel classics “Down Under “the author Bill Bryson reflects, “Personally, I think Australians ought to be extremely proud that from the most awkwardly unpropitious beginnings, in a remote and challenging place, they created a prosperous and dynamic society.

https://maas.museum/museums-discovery-centre/

General admission opening hours are on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the admission is free.

The Museum centre is closed on Monday and Tuesday.

Group tours to the Collection galleries are available from Wednesday to Friday. The admission fee is $ 10 per person, with a minimum of 8 people. Behind the scene, group tours are available from Wednesday to Friday for $ 20 per person.

Winery and Chocolate Factory in Western Australia

When we were on holiday in Perth, my husband’s cousin, who lives in Perth, took us to a Chocolate Factory and Winery.

Swan Valley is well known for its excellent wineries. We visited Sandalford Wines, which was established in 1840 and is said to have advanced viticultural practices and a splendid winemaking team. The Sandalford brand enjoys a reputation for quality, and visitors are welcomed for wine tastings, for meals in the elegant restaurant and a guided tour of the winery process.

We parked the car in the allocated spaces and sat under the shade of grape trees whose branches went above in a criss-cross fashion. As it was early morning, the weather was cold and the breeze chilling, but the environment divine and peaceful.

As we were talking about the beauty of the place, I heard someone saying, “Your blouse looks very pretty.”

I turned around, and a lady with a twinkle in her eyes remarked, “Did you buy your blouse at Target”?

I said, “Yes” and realized that she was wearing the same orange floral blouse that I was wearing. I was glad that nobody thought that it was the corporate uniform for the winery.

Beautiful roses at the entrance provide a spectacular view of the winery. We strolled around the garden and marched into the fertile vineyard. At a distance, it looked like armed soldiers neatly lined up in their green uniform ready for their morning drill.

Shortly afterward, we joined the guided tour within the building. A video showed a short history of the winery, process and the storage of wine in barrels and bottles and finally wine tasting. As we had planned to visit a chocolate factory, we didn’t dine at their restaurant, but the food looked like the “Master Chef” dishes.

Our next stopover at the Margaret River Chocolate Company was a mouth-watering experience. It was full of many blends and a variety of chocolates in different shapes and colours. All packed neatly and arranged in shelves to attract customers. Its unique combination of smooth, European-style chocolate is made from raw ingredient cacao beans. The chocolates that we tasted just melted in our mouth had a rich aromatic flavour.

Finally, we went to the nearby beach. The sky was bright and blue, and the water cool enough to wet our feet. Standing on the shore with white sand and waves under the feet was therapeutic. The vast ocean reminds us of how small we are when compared to its mighty power. We saw a person holding a kite right in the middle of the sea. Whatever he was standing on was wavering on the water, and he was struggling with the kite which was moving in every direction with the wind. It was an exciting sight to watch the battle between two forces, the waves and the wind. But the kite-holder was the master of the situation, trying everything in his power to control nature’s forces.

Train Journey

Shankar could hear his mother calling his name loud and clear. It was about eight in the morning, and he could see the beautiful reflection of sunlight on his glass window. He had to catch the 8.30 train to be on time for school at 9.00 am.

As he jumped out of his bed in a hurry, Lucky leaped with a shriek when Shankar stepped on his tail.

He patted the dog tenderly and said,” Sorry, Lucky, I’d forgotten that you were sleeping under my bed last night.”

Shankar brushed his teeth, showered and after eating his breakfast, left home by 8.15 to reach the railway station. His mother had given him the exact train fare to school. On his way to the station, he met two other friends, Gopal and Raju. Gopal stopped at a sweet shop, and Shankar couldn’t take his eyes off the colourful bottles full of multicoloured sweets. He took the train fare from his pocket and bought sweets to his heart content.

Once they reached the station, Shankar realised that he didn’t have enough money for the train fare, neither did his two friends. All three decided that they were going to travel without the train ticket. The train was going at high speed, and all you could hear were passengers talking, people listening to music and a baby crying at the far end of that carriage.

Suddenly there was an uproar at the far end. You could hear people ruffling their pockets, looking in their wallets and handbags for their tickets. Ticket checkers have boarded the train. The three boys didn’t know what to do. In a flash, they hid under the seats at three different places.

Shankar hid under the seats completely. Suddenly Shankar felt a soft fur close to his body. To his astonishment, Lucky was also travelling on the same train. Lucky was licking Shankar’s face and wagging his tail.

Now the ticket checker Ram has reached where Shankar was hiding. He was checking the tickets of every single passenger. Ram was a dedicated, honest man. As he came near Shankar, he saw the dog’s tail. Shankar was dragged out and as he didn’t have the ticket nor the money he was escorted out from the train.

Shankar was handed over to the Station Master by Ram. The Station Master was shocked to see Ram with the little boy Shankar.

“You have been very harsh to this little boy,” said the Station Master. “How can you treat your son like this?

“Duty comes first, Sir” Ram replied. “As an employee of this Railways, I have to do what I am expected to do. Even if it’s my own son if he has done something wrong, he needs to be punished.”

The Station Master paid the fine for Shankar and let him go. That night when Ram reached home, Shankar was fast asleep. His wife said that Shankar was weeping the whole time after he returned from school and had gone to sleep. Ram gently woke his son up and cradling him in his hands, took him to the dinner table. He taught his son the importance of honesty and that it’s a lifelong lesson that he should follow throughout his life. Ram said that he cared for his son very much and wanted his son to learn good habits at a young age.

Visit to the University of Sydney

This week I went to see my Dentist at the University of Sydney campus. It’s not any University in Sydney, but one of the oldest educational Institution established in Australia. Founded in 1850, it is Australia’s first university with sandstone buildings. When a person refers to Sydney University, he or she means the iconic University located in the heart of Sydney. 

Prominent Prime Ministers like Gough Whitlam, John Howard, and Malcolm Turnbull, who studied at this prestigious University brought radical changes to the face of Australia and put Australia at the forefront of world map. People from all over have begun to show interest in Australia and are very keen to make Australia their home.  Other famous alumni include heart transplant surgeon Victor Chang, author, and broadcaster Clive James, lawyer Michael Kirby, and Australian Aboriginal activist Charles Perkins.

Many have excelled in their chosen field in Science, Engineering and Information technology. Business School has established a name in the financial markets. Graduate employment is ranked highly for the University of Sydney students. 

The quadrangle at the University of Sydney is a splendid sandstone building located within the University campus. A symbolic Jacaranda tree which stood magnificently at the southern end of the quadrangle, captured the hearts of the University Community for many years. The unique purple flowers that draped the tree in Spring provided a beautiful backdrop for the memorable graduation photographs.

The building, great hall, clock tower and the lawn in the middle are all hallmark of English architecture — the Sydney University design based upon those of Oxford and Cambridge in the United Kingdom. The whole University campus is lying in a large area, sandwiched between Parramatta Road and City Road and beyond. Newly erected modern buildings have added to grandeur and splendour to old buildings.

Tourists visit this campus and take selfies with the buildings and lawn as back-drop.

I have captured a few photos of the buildings at a recent visit to the University.

Yanchep National Park, Perth

Yanchep National Park is situated about 42 km North of Perth. Its main attractions are the Crystal cave, Koala sanctuary, Kangaroo colonies, and bush walk trails.

You can stroll through a raised wooden walkway to get a glimpse of koalas in their natural habitat. We witnessed sleepy koalas perched in very high trees. I waited patiently to get a view of a koala that ate or moved. Nothing seemed to move. As they are nocturnal animals, these cuddly creatures sleep during the day. Their sheer innocence capture visitors and they try to monitor every movement in their video or capture the photos of these animals.

Kangaroos are a common sight in the lawn. You can watch them nearby in their natural habitat. They are everywhere in the manicured lawn, not at all intimidated by the human presence in their precinct. I was able to capture a  snoozing kangaroo closeby.

You can buy tickets for Crystal Cave tour from McNess House Visitor Centre within the National Park. It’s a good idea to purchase tickets for the Crystal Cave first and look around for Kangaroos and Koalas. The guided cave tour is at hourly intervals. Henry White first entered the Crystal Cave in 1903. The entrance to the cave remains the same since then. As you walk down the steps to the underground, you walk on the same footsteps to experience the cave. The tour takes about 45 minutes, and the tour guides provide valuable information about the geology of the cave. Some places are quite dark, and you encounter lots of stairs and a few narrow passages along the way. The waxy looking growths inside the cave are the results of slowly dripping water. Mildly acidic water mainly from rainfall percolates down dissolving calcium carbonate as it passes through limestone. Water leaves behind a small deposit which gradually builds up over a long period to unusual cave decorations of different shapes and forms. Stalactites (icicle-like deposit hanging from the roof of the cave) and stalagmites (icicle-like deposit rising from the floor of the cave) adorn the cave.

Stalactites

Yanchep tree adventure offers courses whereby you learn to climb and zip-line through trees. It’s the best way to enjoy bush-land it seems. Bookings are essential for this adventure.

During our walk, we encountered the unexpected. All of a sudden, a cloud of flies swarmed over us, buzzing and blinding us with their presence. We somehow managed to escape from the ordeal by jumping into our car and headed to the city.