The Architecture of Living, Australia, 2012

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Kangeroos 2012

Presenting at Rocket U2U Conference in Sydney 2012

Presenting at Rocket U2U Conference in Sydney 2012

In 2012 I attended the Rocket Software user conference in Sydney, where I spoke on the HTML5 web language and mobile development (and I handed out small rubber-squishy mobile “bugs”). After the conference I stayed over a week to visit some old friends, Rakesh and his wife Neelu and Mickey and his wife Lanie (who’d immigrated to Australia). I also took time to drive across the states of Victoria and New South Wales in search of quartz crystals (a renewed childhood hobby — in Australia dark smoky quartz, purple amethyst and golden citrine quartz can be found in the sand and rock of riverbeds).

My old friend  Rakesh, who I visited in Sydney after the 2012 conference, I first met in 1990 in Paris while working for Schlumberger – he arrived in Paris after me so I helped him adjust to life there when he transferred in. He, his wife and his brother reciprocated in 1992 by taking me on a driving tour of the golden triangle tourist circuit of northern India – we visited Delhi, the Taj Mahal in Agra (a bit too white for my tastes), and Jaipur, with its fantastical Palace of the Winds (Hawa Mahal).

Palace of the Winds

Palace of the Winds, Jaipur, ‘built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh,  designed by Lal Chand Ustad in the form of the crown of Krishna, the Hindu god . . . has 953 small windows decorated with intricate latticework to allow the royal ladies to observe everyday street life without being seen, since they had to observe strict “purdah” (face cover).’

During that long ago trip across India, Rakesh took me to visit the second floor flat of a cousin of theirs who lives in the desert of Rajasthan – I will never forget his livingroom as it was outside in a shaded courtyard, as was his kitchen – only the bathroom and bedrooms were indoors, because of the heat and lack of air conditioning.

Note this 2nd floor flat in the desert of Rajasthan, India, has an outdoor courtyard livingroom and kitchen. Only the bath and bedrooms are indoors.

Note this 2nd floor flat in the desert of Rajasthan, India, has an outdoor courtyard livingroom and kitchen. Only the bath and bedrooms are indoors.

After a couple of years in Paris, Rakesh returned to his native country of India, then migrated with his wife Neelu to Sydney, Australia, where Rakesh took a database administration job with Macquarie Bank (which opened its new “green” building on the Sydney Harbor in 2010).

MacQuarie Bank, Sydney - ecological building with no fixed places to sit for any of its employees. Get to work early and you can grab a nice view of Sydney Harbor.

The MacQuarie office building by the Sydney Harbor emphases open spaces and new ways of working – it has many green features and no fixed places to sit for any of its employees. Get to work early, get your things from your locker, and you can grab the best available seat for a marvelous view of Sydney Harbor.

Working for Macquarie, Rakesh flew to New York and San Francisco on business, and both times we managed to see each other.

Frances with Rakesh and my grandson Andrew, 2009, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

Frances with Rakesh and my grandson Andrew, 2009, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

So on this trip to Australia many years later, I made a point to look Rakesh up, to find out how things were going in his life. He gave me a great welcome in that flat of his in the Sydney suburbs, a flat with the world’s steepest driveway.

Me at 3 sisters park, 2012

Me at 3 Sisters overlook, 2012

The next day we took a drive to a park in the Blue Mountains to see The Three Sisters rock formation. On the way Rakesh talked about his kids and his career with the bank. Both his kids have excelled at their studies, and he believes they will have good careers. We discussed our own career arcs, from Paris to opposite ends of the world. Who knew where our jobs would take us next.

My high school friends Mickey and Lanie, now retired on a horse ranch in Australia

My high school friends Mickey and Lanie, now retired on a horse ranch in Australia

My other old friend living near Sydney is Mickey, and his wife Lanie, high school buddies of mine, back in the early seventies, back in the days of the hippies. Yes we were “long hairs” and into rock and all the related stuff of that era.We used to spend hours arguing whether we could trust that the world actually existed – he was pro and I was against.

La Favorita, Alba, Italy

La Favorita, Alba, Italy

Mickey and I had only reconnected, after 35 years, over Facebook, the year before — we arranged to meet while on vacation in Italy, staying in a marvelous B and B called La Favorita in Alba, Northern Italy.

Mickey’s path to Australia was by way of a stint with an international accounting firm in Japan. Eventually he started his own computer-based training firm, invested his soul in that business for 20 years and finally sold it and retired to a horse farm north of Sydney.

He and Lanie had a marvelous house specially designed by a lake in a pleasant valley; they live with Russian hounds and horses, sheep, chickens and an Alpaca with an adorable face. The glass walls of their house slide open to create an airy open patio. They gladly shared this unique house with me as we talked of old times and pondered what the future held.

Mickey and Lanie's house, whose glass walls can be opened to create the same effect as Rakesh's cousin's flat in Rajasthan.

Mickey and Lanie’s house, whose glass walls can be opened to create the same effect as Rakesh’s cousin’s flat in Rajasthan.

In that beautiful place, we broached old subjects, and I conjectured the following answer to why life exists (momentarily conceding the argument to Mickey): God in his loneliness created life, in all the expanding universes, in all that is, to carry a message to everywhere — we are his cry in the dark, his note in a bottle. We are his “I exist. Please tell me you exist too.”

After visiting my friends and their families, I flew to Melbourne, rented a car, then proceeded to search for Mooralla dark crystals in the bushland north of Melbourne, rumored to be 6 to 20 feet underground. But I could never find the dig site as I drove in my rented Corolla through bad, flooded roads in the Australian bush (conveniently forgetting I had signed the rental form agreeing not to take the car offroad). I found only curious wallaby and easily spooked kangaroo, so I changed tactics and drove a thousand miles across Victoria and New South Wales all the way up to the Queensland border, where I heard crystals were abundant in the riverbeds.

wild wallabee near Mooralla

Look closely to see wallaby in the bush – they were more curious than the kangeroos

The beautiful drive to northern New South Wales would have been a lonely trip if not for Ms GPS — mounted on the windshield, she spoke to me with an Australian accent, giving me good directions, warning me of speed traps and nagging me every two hours that it was time to stop and stretch my legs. (I look forward to my next trip to Australia so I can talk with her again!)

Kangeroos near Grampions National Park

Kangaroos near Grampions National Park

Side Note – Australia has the best MacDonalds in the world – complete with onsite bakeries and lamb burgers.

McD introduces Lamb burgers - twice as tender as hamburgers! Their advertising slogan: Mary had a little lamb...fries and a shake.

McD introduces Lamb burgers – twice as tender as hamburgers! Their advertising slogan: Mary had a little lamb…fries and a coke.

Side Note – Australia has some of the prettiest birds in the world

White and Pink Cockatoos are common, and obnoxious birds. Then you have exotically painted Parrots, Parakeets and Lorakeets.

White and pink cockatoos are common, beautiful yet obnoxious birds with a horrific shriek, large claws and a sharp beak. Then you have exotically painted parrots, parakeets and lorakeets.

Side Note – North New South Wales, Australia has the most rustically artistic mailboxes in the world
Aussie Bender mailbox Aussie mailboxes Aussie milk jug mailbox

As far as my crystal hunting went — in the sand of a stream in Stannifer, I did find small citrine and columnar crystals that looked like miniature columns of marble from a tiny Italian palace, as well as jellybean quartz (points that have been weathered by the water and sand to look like crystal jellybeans).

Mooralla dark quartz and jellybean quartz

Dark quartz and jellybean quartz from Australia

Aussie miner - me - digging at Tingha sand mineAnd digging through the dump of a river sand mine in Tingha, I found a split point amethyst crystal the size of the end of my finger. When I hold it up to the light, the deep purple inside reminds me of the glass-stained windows of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. A Holy, royal color, set free by the parting of the halves.

Categories: foreign travel, rockhound, travel | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “The Architecture of Living, Australia, 2012

  1. Cyndy Harris

    What a fantastic trip. I’m so glad you could go. Australia is beautiful.

  2. Can we actually ‘know’ the universe? My God, it’s hard enough finding your way around Chinatown.
    Woody Allen

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