Fall report

Last modified date

We are missing the beautiful Spring display in Toowoomba, but are certainly not totally deprived. We are being treated instead to the spectacular display of fall colours. Each day more trees take on a different shade of red, purple, pink, orange, yellow or brown.

It is something that Queenslanders do not really see – certainly not on this scale. This show should continue for another couple of weeks before the “fall” starts in earnest, and the trees drop their millions of leaves. The crop of soy beans at our back door has been harvested over the past few days, so we have also been watching that with much interest.

Americans are very enthusiastic decorators, festooning and adorning their gardens and houses for all occasions. American flags are still very evident everywhere following the hijacks, but here around the university, they are now being overtaken with Purdue Boilermaker (the football team) flags and bunting. (For those who are interested, the Boilermakers have won all four of their games so far. We now have managed to get tickets for a match at the end of this month. We couldn’t miss the cultural experience.) However, apart from stars and stripes and Purdue Pete and trains, elaborate Halloween decorations are also competing for space on cars and houses and apparel.

There are ghosts and pumpkins, black cats and witches at every turn. The supermarkets have huge stocks of pumpkins – large ones for making Jack o’Lanterns and smaller ones for pumpkin pies. We drove home late the other night and were dazzled by all the ghost and pumpkin lights on many houses and in spectacular garden displays. Some have combined the themes with harvest and thanksgiving as well. The result is still more pumpkins and lots of corn. I have a decoration consisting of three ears of coloured Indian corn, so am feeling quite festive. I don’t have any Halloween decorations, but I have stocked up on chocolate bars in case we are visited by trick-or-treaters. There are not many children in the apartment complex, but maybe some of the neighbourhood kids will visit. If not, Peter and I will just have to eat the chocolate ourselves!

Things are really unchanged here since military action in Afghanistan commenced on Sunday (we heard just after we got home from Mass where we were praying for peace). According to media reports, the action has 90-95% support from the American public, but I know that many people share my disappointment and dismay that such retaliatory action was always seen as inevitable. I am pleased at least that some weeks have passed since the WTC attacks, which has allowed some of the emotion to be guided by reason. I am also pleased that the American leaders understand the need to attempt to restore even a small portion of the humanitarian aid which has been halted over the past weeks. That intervening time has also enabled more stringent security measures to be put into place here, which will hopefully reduce the impact of any further attacks which may be directed on targets here in America. It’s pretty much wait and see, but the level of concern here in Lafayette appears to be low. Topics of discussion are football and other upcoming events, not the “war” or terrorist threats. However, the media are filled with it – some discussion informative, other stories quite tacky.

We are continuing to get out and about as much as possible. The weekend before last we were pleased to meet up with friends who now live in Champaign, Illinois, only about 2 hours from us. Cathy and Harry Gunn were living in Flagstaff, Arizona, when we stayed with them on our last visit in 1998. Peter had met Cathy at a conference and had arranged to visit her and her colleagues at the University of Arizona. Cathy and Harry were extraordinarily friendly and hospitable on that visit, and invited us to spend a weekend with them so they could show us around the Grand Canyon. We thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated their hospitality and were delighted that we would be able to catch up with them again. We met for lunch at a restaurant half way between Champaign and Lafayette, but they are planning to come across and spend a weekend with us in the next few weeks. We are also hoping to see you both, Genny and Murray, as soon as you catch your breath from your South American spree. I look forward to getting your reports.

We have only a week or so left of Spanish classes. Peter has really enjoyed it and has learned all the computer jargon words in Spanish so now I really have no idea what he’s talking about most of the time. We have met a very nice couple at the classes. He is a high school teacher (and uses Apple computers and has heard of Cliff Richard – what a completely delightful nerd!!!) and she works for a women’s community service agency. They are a lot better at Spanish than us, and enjoy laughing at our Austro-Spanglish attempts at pronunciation. Peter is such a champion, though! Last week, Kimber arranged a bingo competition. We all had to write down words that we knew on a bingo sheet and she called out words until someone got a line. Peter won, and now we have two movie tickets to see “Chocolat” – in Spanish! I’m glad that I’ve seen it in English so I will at least have some idea what it’s all about. From memory, I don’t think there’s much discussion in the movie of operating systems and email servers, so Peter may have a hard time picking up much of the vocab.

Last Saturday there was a home football game and we had some difficulty negotiating police road blocks to get out of our street but we tried an alternate route so that we could drive back up to the north of the state for an Amish festival at Middlebury. It was great, and we enjoyed wandering through the various craft displays and sampling some of the foods. We bought a basket (you know how short of those I am, Fay), a little wooden carving, and a gift for Judith (I hope you like it, Judith). After visiting the Amish festival we decided we would drive the short distance into South Bend (a city in the north of Indiana) and visit their famous university, Notre Dame. As we got closer to the university, we realised that they also had a home game that afternoon, so we soon found ourselves in slow moving traffic which was headed for various parking lots. We got out of that as soon as we could and decided to try again some other day. On Sunday afternoon we drove down to Indianapolis. We have had our first sub-freezing temperatures so decided it was time to go and get some warm gear for Peter. We bought a fantastic jacket that he should be able to use on his next polar expedition, and some gloves and a beanie. Indy is quite a beautiful city and we enjoyed wandering its streets for a while.

Monday was Columbus Day and today is also part of the students’ fall break. Peter had no classes but went in uni to catch up on some work. I also went in to get some books from the library. It’s certainly a quieter place when there are no students there.

An interesting (but incomplete) fact about Purdue: Did you know that the first and last men to walk on the moon were graduates of Purdue? I know Neil Armstrong was the first, but I don’t have any idea who the last guy was, and the Purdue brochure where I found this little gem didn’t include that piece of information. If anyone knows who he was, I would be pleased to hear from you.