Christmas Island

The very first time I heard the name Christmas Island many years ago, my imagination painted a beautiful picture of a colourful, vibrant place with the Christmas spirit. Later I read that Captain William Mynors of the Royal Mary vessel, named the island when he sailed past it on Christmas Day, in 1643

This Island was a detention centre for refugees and asylum seekers from 2001 until 2018 when the centre was closed. The detention centre was found to be inadequate in terms of size, amenity, and security. Several protests staged by the inmates of the detention centre demanding adequate facilities didn’t impress the relevant authority.

Recently I came across an article in a local paper which caught my attention as the writer described Christmas Island as a “Crab Island”. Its geographic isolation and history of minimal human disturbance has led to a growth of dense forests and has become a habitat for several small creatures.  A variety of crab population exists in this island, the red crab, in particular, draws a lot of attention from the public. These crabs are purely land-based crabs. The red crab in Christmas Island is noted for its visual and impressive migration once a year. The red crabs spread over the land area in a spectacular fashion. Imagine around 50 Million red crabs migrating from the dense forests to the sea through the land during the breeding season and then returning to the forest in reverse migration after finishing their business.

The current red crab population in millions outnumber the human population of a few thousand in the island. The crab population is declining in recent years with an influx of yellow ants. An exploding population of the yellow crazy ant, accidentally introduced to Christmas Island and Australia from Africa is causing the ecological damage. These ants raid crab burrows in the forest in large numbers and kill them.

Red Crab Migration Video

My vegetable garden and the uninvited guest

I wonder whether you ever tried to grow a vegetable garden in your backyard. If you haven’t, I like to share my story with you. It was a decision we made last year, and after much deliberation decided to grow tomatoes and eggplants for a start. When we visited the local garden centre for advice, the staff provided us with the necessary information, the choice of seedlings, soil, manure, vegetation, etc. We bought a few seedlings for our pilot project.

Most of our backyard is cemented, except for a few yards along the fence which was overgrown with weeds. My husband cleared the bush and prepared the soil for tomato and eggplant seedlings. It took him a few days for the clean-up and afterward, with the help of his friend, laid a water pipeline along the fence for the vegetable garden.

Our backyard fence is in an elevated position about two feet above the ground level. The tomato and eggplant seedlings were planted at the appropriate distance apart with plenty of sunlight. Watering at regular intervals, with the automated pipeline system made all the difference to the smooth and steady growth of the seedlings. The eggplants flowered, drooped and fell to the ground without any fruits. After a few weeks, we saw the fruiting of flowers in the tomato plants. As the tomatoes grew bigger, my early morning routine was to count the tomatoes. My headcount was eight on a particular day, and I was delighted with a big lush red tomato which was ripe and ready to eat.

I told my girls that I would harvest the tomatoes the next day. Temptation running high, I looked at the red lush tomato that night to make sure it was there. Next day, I woke up very early in the morning with the excitement of harvesting tomatoes from my own garden. I reached for the big ripe tomato, but alas it wasn’t there. My husband and children said they hadn’t been near the plant. Walking across the garden I noticed a half-eaten red tomato and few green tomatoes on the ground. I knew at once who the culprit was. A friend, in the neighbourhood, had a complaint before that possums ate all her rose petals and vegetables in the garden.

I was disappointed and said that I had to find a way to deal with the possum in the garden.

“Mum, you can’t get rid of the possum”, said my daughter. “Besides, a possum will not be able to go to the market to buy tomatoes. Let him enjoy the fruit and leave him alone”.

After an hour I plucked the remaining tomatoes and put them in a prominent spot for the possum to eat if he decided to return the next day. The possum never returned to taste the tomatoes I laid on the ground. Perhaps, he thought the tomatoes were poisoned. A week later, a heavy downpour washed off everything.

Soon after one night as we returned home by car, something dashed across our car towards a tree. I looked at my daughter and said that I have never seen a big rat in my life. She said that it was not a rat, but a possum. Two big eyes sparkled right into the headlight and the agile possum climbed the tree in a flash. It was complete darkness and my visibility was limited to the car headlight, but the possum being nocturnal animal scaled the entire horizon ahead.

Some Facts about Possums:

Possum is one of the iconic faunas in Australia. It is illegal to relocate or kill a possum. Possums are territorial and it’s not easy to relocate them. Even if they are relocated, new possums will move into the vacant territory. The old possum may return to its original territory or may die in a new territory.

Mt Coot-tha Lookout, Brisbane, Queensland

Mt Coot-tha lookout offers a panoramic view of the Brisbane city and surroundings. The look-out has a restaurant, café, and gift shop and is a short distance from the City Centre.

The vantage point sits amidst a beautifully manicured garden. The telescope in the Observation desk provides beautiful views. It’s a fantastic place for a family outing on a weekend and to chill.

I hear it’s a great place for sunrises and full moons. There are a number of walking trails which we didn’t take as it was getting dark on the day of our tour. The place may be cold on a windy day and its sensible to wear appropriate clothing.

Another view from the top

Washington Memorials

Washington is full of Memorials for past presidents and powerful leaders. These monuments speak volumes about the character and tenacity of the leaders who shaped the destiny of the US and to some extent the world.

Well known and less-known facts about few US Presidents

George Washington – First President of the United States. The only president in American history to be elected by unanimous approval.  He was considered to be a man of great personal integrity, with a deep sense of duty, honour, and patriotism. The US was a small nation with 11 states and approximately 4 million people when Washington took office. He was so strong that he could crack walnut shells between his thumb and forefinger. The US now is a nation with 50 states and a current population of 328 million people.

Abraham Lincoln – The failures, defeats, and adversities of his early life were transmuted into a degree of intelligence. Lincoln had that rare trait to turn on more will power instead of quitting when the going was hard. We visited Lincoln’s memorial in the morning, soon after we reached the Union Station and again at dusk with a tour group. I was amazed by the number of people who visited this memorial. People from all walks of life made a pilgrimage to this site regularly.

Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln Memorial

Franklin Roosevelt/Eleanor Roosevelt – When Franklin Roosevelt contracted polio, it looked as though his political career was over. His legs were paralysed and never walked again. He was a fighter who never complained about his physical condition and worked hard to serve his country. It has been said that his wife Eleanor Roosevelt was his eyes and ears throughout his political career. People may have had Franklin Roosevelt’s picture on their wall, but Eleanor Roosevelt visited their homes to understand their problems.

Franklin Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt

Thomas Jefferson – He was a draftsman of the Declaration of Independence and the 3rd U.S President. He sold his collection of around 6,000 books to the Government to inaugurate the Library of Congress. The Library that stands today is a colossal treasure of rare and valuable books. The Library is the living proof of the intellectual capacity of a man that Jefferson was. I cannot imagine any single individual could have a collected so many books so long ago.

John Kennedy – Very charismatic leader, who had a vision for advancement in science, especially that Americans should land on the moon. His famous quote to the American people, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country”.

Martin Luther King – He said that “Shallow Understanding is worse than Misunderstanding”. He donated his Noble Peace Prize money to the Civil Rights movement. His famous freedom speech “I have a dream” had a powerful effect on people’s lives. As a Baptist Minister and Activist, he had delivered powerful speeches. Some of his famous quotes appear in the memorial.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Martin Luther King’s Memorial

I visited a few countries in Europe and Asia before I visited the US. The respect and homage people pay for their past presidents and leaders are not found anywhere in the world. Monuments in Washington are the testament of this fact.Visitors take pride in paying tribute to the leaders in large numbers, honour and remember them for the sacrifices they made to build this wonderful nation.

St. Anthony’s Church, Kochikade, Colombo, Sri Lanka

The bomb blasts that ripped through few churches, luxury hotels and a guest house in Sri Lanka, on Easter Sunday 21st April 2019 killed over 290 people and seriously injured many more.

One church, in particular, St Anthony’s Church in Kochikade, Colombo provided solace and guidance to millions of ordinary people over the years. Many people of different religious faith would have visited this church at least once in their lifetime.

Just a few yards away from this church is Sri Ponnambalavaneswarar temple (Lord Siva), Kochikade. Whenever I visited the Siva temple, I stopped over at St Anthony’s Church, lit a candle in the altar and knelt down and prayed for guidance in difficult times. I had no knowledge of any hymns or verses from the bible. My prayer would take as little as 10 or 15 minutes, but at the end of the prayer, calmness would rein over me.

This church attracts more visitors on Tuesdays. Many miracles happened in this church as is the origin of the St Anthony’s church. My father used to say one of the leading business-man at the time became rich and famous as a result of his strong beliefs in St Anthony’s Church -it was the rags to riches story. Even students visit the church before a difficult exam to get the blessing.

The explosion has caused lots of damages to the building -collapsed ceilings and blown out windows besides killing worshippers. Our prayers and wishes are for the lost ones and their relatives. Hoping that the Church will be restored to its former glory in due course.

Kangaroo Point, Brisbane, Queensland

Kangaroo Point is a popular recreation spot, which is a 1.3 km suburb in a peninsula. The headquarters of the Queensland Maritime Defence was based at Kangaroo Point in 1883. After Federation, the Queensland Maritime Defence became part of Royal Australian Navy.

The Kangaroo Point Cliff features good rock -climbing and abseiling adventures.

Another prominent attraction is the Story Bridge which can be climbed with the authorised tourist groups. Kayaking iconic Brisbane River allows you to row under the Story Bridge and get a glimpse of the CBD.

Plenty of Parklands available for picnics and relaxation. It’s a great place to exercise, walk, cycle and dance. Bike paths are available in this area for public usage.

We visited this site on a weekend and the entire set up fascinated us. The whole community converged in the park mindful of individual activity:    Cyclists peddling away happily; People walking along walkway joyously, stopping over every now and then to enjoy the natural surroundings; It was a pleasant surprise to witness several couples dancing to music oblivious to the environment. A pleasant and harmonious environment prevailed in this area.

You can take part actively or watch passively the drama unfold in the park. The beautiful Brisbane river and blue sky provide scenery for the drama.The site on the Kangaroo Point gives an awesome view of Brisbane and the long stretch of the Brisbane River.

Operation Dynamo, The Underground Hospital and Dover Castle

Operation Dynamo: 

Last year, we were in London for a week in August to attend my nephew’s wedding. My 
cousins who attended the wedding made plans to visit Dover Castle and Canterbury  Cathedral. Although I have visited Dover Castle before on two occasions, I didn’t get the opportunity to visit the bunker and the hospital.

On our way to Dover, my cousin was talking about the bunker and the rescue operation undertaken by the Royal Navy. As we entered the underground tunnel below the castle, the sound and lighting effect in the background was so immerse, the exposure was like reliving the World War II. The war time sirens and emergency evacuation announcements relayed over the radio during the war seemed real.

“Operation Dynamo Rescue from Dunkirk” (Period 26 May to 4 June 1940) was to
evacuate British and Allied forces from Nazis Germany from the port of Dunkirk
in France to Dover Castle in Britain.

Distance between Dunkirk, France and Dover port is about 21 miles. German forces started shelling the allied forces on the beaches of port Dunkirk, when allied forces were
waiting to be rescued by the British Navy.

Captain Ramsey was the mastermind behind the “Operation Dynamo.” They rescued 
more than 330,000 troops from the German forces, roughly 85% of the allied forces.

A Plaque at the entrance to Operation Dynamo Tunnel

The Underground Hospital:

The underground hospital is basically a hospital ward which was used for the treatment of wounded troops of war. It’s in the tunnels beneath Dover Castle, close to “Operation Dynamo” tunnel.We experienced the sounds and atmosphere of the World War II hospital, with its operating theatre. Several rooms below showed the life of the doctors and nurses during this period.
One of the audio recordings said that at the height of war utmost secrecy and security was maintained throughout the hospital ward. People who played major roles in the hospital are dead now. They couldn’t get the exact information on the happenings in the hospital.

A Plaque at the entrance to The Underground Hospital

Dover Castle

Dover Castle is a medieval castle in Dover, Kent.
We limited our time to explore the castle and its surroundings. We climbed the spiral staircases and ascended to the roof of the castle, where we enjoyed a beautiful view across the entire grounds.

History of Dover Castle
The Great Tower – star attraction of the castle
Looking down from the top of Castle