Busy, busy!

There are many of you to whom I owe an individual response, and I apologise for my tardiness, however, my excuse is that I have very little time on the computer and as a result am very behind with my correspondence. Hopefully that will be remedied in the next week or so, as Peter has ordered a new lap-top for my use. I am very much looking forward to that. I really need it to get into some of my work as well as for the more pleasurable use of keeping in touch with you all.

After my initial slow start and moanings about having nothing to do, I need to report that I am now fully over-committed and my life has become so hectic I haven’t had a chance to do any sewing this week at all.

My work at Hanna continues three mornings a week and that is most enjoyable. Last week I was also there on Monday (the Labor Day holiday) for Hannafest, their annual carnival. Peter and I worked on the hot dog stall and I also registered people for the lucky door prize. I had been told I was to work on the Cake Walk, which I thought would be interesting, but another lady had taken that role. I tried hard to win some cakes myself, but was unsuccessful. The Cake Walk is like a baked goods form of musical chairs. You buy a ticket, then walk around a circle of numbers until the music stops. A number is then drawn and I you happen to be on that number, you get a cake. As I said, I had no luck at all. However, I did have more success in the multi-draw raffle. I won a $10 gift certificate for a bakery (ironic, considering my complaints about the local bread!), and free shoe hire at one of the Bowling Alleys. We gave those vouchers to Peg and Dave’s kids.

Since Peter and I had both volunteered at the Hannafest, we were offered free places in the Spanish classes run at the Centre. We thought that sounded like a good offer, so we started this week and will continue lessons each Tuesday and Thursday night for the next 6 weeks. So far we can ask what day of the week it is, and make a response. We are not fast learners!

I also had made enquiries about joining the local group of Sweet Adelines – the female version of barber shop quartets. I had my first session with them on Monday and will continue with that activity each Monday night. They are really wonderful women, and I am very excited about being part of their group. They sing four-part harmony with no accompaniment, and are really serious about their music. At the same time, it is really fun, and they are the warmest group of people you could hope to meet. One woman came to pick me up so I wouldn’t get lost, and everyone came and greeted me. I even met a woman whose daughter-in-law comes from Toowoomba, so that was pretty amazing. Her daughter-in-law is Ken Imeson’s daughter. I know of him, although I have never met him myself. I have volunteered to be part of the Church choir also, and they started practice this week and meet every Wednesday night. They are another lovely group of people and I had a very pleasant time getting to know them. Are you counting? That’s Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday that I am out!!! (or lunes, martes, miercoles, and jueves for the Spanish speaking people.) This Friday night we also were also booked to go to another picnic for Peter’s workgroup, but it was cancelled at the last minute because of a storm. It was nice to spend a minute at home!

On Wednesday, I went along to the Psychology Department colloquium which was presented by Ian Neath on “A Functional Approach to Memory”. It was scintillating in the way that only cognitive psychology collloquia can be, and I was very impressed when Ian made reference to the Tehan and Humphrey’s model. I gave a silent “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!” cheer and punched the sky under the table.

Peter had spotted a notice for a research meeting to be conducted by the Counselling and Guidance group on Thursday (jueves), so I decided to go along to that. They were also offering free pizza, so it seemed hard to resist. All the faculty members outlined their areas of research and there were a couple of people whose topics were quite interesting to me, so I made myself known to them and have already made an informal arrangement with one professor who is working on career research, to analyse some data he has collected and hopefully co-author a paper and conference presentation with him. As I am still “an illegal alien” for work purposes, this will all be for the love of research, but it may lead to something later, and will certainly be another interesting addition to my resume. Another professor is doing research on career decision making with Asian students and I have an appointment to talk with him about getting into that with him. And I still have another appointment with Howard Weiss of the Org Psych department to talk about joining in with his project, so it seems as though I might also have my days very full. I really need my computer!!!!

Last weekend was a long weekend so we decided to venture a little further afield, and headed up to the Dunes at Lake Michigan and Michigan City. Despite the fact that it was only the start of September, the main event in Michigan City that day was the Oktoberfest. We wandered through the craft and food stalls and I was intrigued by one particular offering – “elephant ears”. Always willing to try the local speciality (at least once) Peter and I decided to share one of these creations. This proved to be a good choice as the two of us had great difficulty finishing off the several kilos of donut batter and icing sugar that make up this particular delight.

Both the Lake Michigan Dunes and Michigan City are still in Indiana, so we decided to travel the extra 5 miles to go across the border into the state of Michigan, just so we could notch up another state each. I have now visited 19 states, and Peter 21. After 3 minutes in Michigan (I’m sorry Robert and Pam, I’m sure it warrants longer than that, and we will do it proper justice in the near future), we went back to check out the Lake. You could certainly be forgiven for thinking that you had come across the ocean! It is huge, and there were sandy beaches, sea gulls, waves, beach volley ball courts – everything but the salt.

For the first time since we have been here, the weather was actually quite chilly, and it was far too cold to swim (probably not for the Swiss, they would have been swimming in a flash), but we enjoyed a walk along the beach and out along the breakwater to the lighthouse. The skylines of Gary and Chicago could be seen along the coast. It looked like the view back to Surfers Paradise from Burleigh. The Dunes which are preserved in a National Park area were also very beautiful and quite unexpected so many hours from the coast.

Yesterday we decided to continue the beach theme and travelled the short distance up to a town called Monticello (Peter bought me a lovely jacket for my birthday in one of the shops there). Monticello is on a wide part of Tippecanoe River which are called Lakes Freeman and Shaffer, and has a resort called Indiana Beach. It was interesting to me that Lake Michigan had seemed to be more like a beach, but the area they call Indiana Beach, is really made up of lakes. It is certainly not the sort of place you would go to get away from it all. Every inch of lake frontage is taken up with holiday houses or guest houses. We could not find anywhere to get public access at all, except at the boat ramp. It was pretty quiet yesterday, but I imagine in the Summer vacation time, it would be positively teeming with happy campers.

On Tuesday I sat for the written part of my drivers test and passed! I am very relieved as I was not at all confident I would be able to remember how far to park from a fire hydrant and all those other pesky details. My driving test is a couple of weeks away, but I am reasonably confident of that. I am quite comfortable driving on the right now, and think I can do most things – except for reverse parking. I find that hard enough when I’m sitting on the right hand side of the car, let alone trying it from the other side. Peter still has to do his test. As always, he is very confident. We’ll see!

This afternoon, we have a formal welcome from the president of the university. It seems like a visit to the queen! We have to meet in the car park across the road from “the big house” and a bus will take us up to the house, where we will be presented as new faculty. Our welcome session runs from 2.30 till 3. Then we will be bussed back to our cars and our otherwise menial lives. It’s a big place and everything is on such a grander scale than in Toowoomba. On Friday a new building project was announced – a new nanotechnology centre worth $100 million. A substantial part of that money came from donations by private benefactors. One man donated $30 million. I imagine he might be in the run for naming rights. He already has his name on the golf complex.

I am still missing everyone. I am determined to make the most of this time away, but I still long to be with you all. Keep emailing me, even if I don’t reply promptly. Hopefully that will be better in the next week or so.