Here we are, over half way through the trip. Good times! On Sunday we went to Mass at St Patrick's Cathedral. It's an impressive, no, imposing place. The architecture is Gothic Revival, and while you all know I like me some goth, this place makes Blessed Sacrament look like a bright and airy space. (Well, it is for a Gothic church, but that's another discussion). The exterior is black stone with tan spires and roof. Don't think I've ever seen a black stone church before. The interior is all narrow nave, high arches, dark wood and gilding. It's beautiful but somber.
The acoustic was wonderful, although whenever I opened my mouth to sing Ruby elbowed me and told me to be quiet. Wow, I'm looking forward to adolescence. We went to the 9:30 Mass so that we could get to Max's swim meet, and there was only a cantor rather than a whole choir. He had a beautiful voice, although it was a bit of a disconnect to hear him go from singing perfect round vowels and diction to announcing the hymns with a flat vowel Aussie twang. They must have a pretty good choir, though. Their bulletin listed the music for all the Masses, and the later Masses used Mass parts by Victoria and a closing piece by Couperin. In my experience, you don't sing Couperin unless you know what you're doing. We won't likely make it back to Mass there next Sunday, although it would be cool to hear the choir.
Monday's big event was the Super Bowl. It was broadcast live at 10am. We made a big pot of chili w/ guacamole, shredded cheese and cornbread (Yum, Heidi!) for lunch, which we ate during the 2nd half. My brother-in-law takes Super Bowl Monday off from work every year, and he spent the whole game sending text messages to one of the kids one the swim team, keeping him updated on the score while he was in school. According to my sister, if you asked 10 people on the streets of Melbourne if they knew what the Super Bowl was, fewer than 5 would know, which makes Kevin and young Harry the exceptions, not the rule. Most of us were honorary New Orleans fans, so we liked the outcome. We missed the commercials, though. They didn't broadcast the US commercials, so instead we watched quite a few bits advertising life insurance, then long stretches showing highlights of previously played games accompanied by music. You guys sure got to watch a lot of commercials, especially towards the end of the game. Sorry we missed them!
Tuesday we practiced with the bus system, riding the 301 into town to the Fitzroy district. It was fun to poke around in the little shops and restaurants. Got some great pictures, then spent the afternoon by the pool at Chez Halson. Wednesday we got bolder and went by bus and tram to the Melbourne Zoo. It's one of the oldest zoos in the world. It's set up with naturalistic exhibits, but the emphasis is on creatures from the southern hemisphere. My son needs to write an article for his class newspaper as homework while he's here. He hasn't come up with anything yet, and I kept suggesting potential topics as we went along. Like, how about the Philippine water crocodile that's an endangered species, and the Melbourne Zoo is part of an international effort to preserve the species. Maybe the Woodland Park Zoo is part of the same effort, which would give the story a local angle. He didn't like that one.
Then I read aloud the sign by the pen holding Mary the wombat, who was rescued from the fires that burned throughout the states of Victoria and New South Wales this time last year. That topic was also a nonstarter for the school paper, although we've heard a lot about the fires since we've been here. Last Sunday was the one-year anniversary of Black Saturday, when 173 people died in the fires. The sermon at church last Sunday was in part a commemoration of Black Saturday, and we've heard mention of the fires on news stories over the last few days. You can really feel the strength of the shared group memories. Heidi says they only thing that affected them was that they could see ash raining down into their yard, which is probably closer than I'd want them to be to something that horrible.
Both of our tourist days have been somewhat limited by the 35C temperatures. (XC x 2 + 30 = YF; X = 35....do the math). We've been saved by the pool here at Chez Halson. Last night the kids went for a swim after dinner, practicing with their boogie boards for the beach today. The grown-ups sat by the pool sipping wine and watching the fruit bats fly over the backyard. Every night they fly over on their way to the Botanical Garden in Kew. Not a bad way to live....