Category: On travel


Happy World Penguin Day!

By Midge Raymond,

One thing I’m celebrating on World Penguin Day is having met my seventh species of penguin: the little penguin. Ever since meeting four species of penguins in Antarctica, I’ve become a little obsessed: Next I went to Argentina to volunteer with the University of Washington’s Penguin Sentinels, counting the Magellanic penguins of Punto Tombo. On more recent visit to the Galápagos Islands, I was able to see the elusive and endangered Galápagos penguin. And last year, one of the best things about visiting Australia as part of the My Last Continent tour was meeting my seventh species.

The little penguin is also called the “fairy penguin” in Australia, and in New Zealand it’s known as the “blue penguin” or “white-flippered penguin.”

All names fit this little bird, as it is no more than a foot tall, and its feathers are a lovely bluish-gray and white. These penguins appear in several places in Australia, one of them being Manly, where you can see signs like this on the sidewalks, alongside indicators for bikes and pedestrians:

little-penguin

The little penguins forage at sea all day and come ashore when darkness falls. One of the best places to see them is the (terribly touristy) Penguin Parade on Phillip Island, which is a two-hour journey from Melbourne and completely worth it, especially if you can ignore the other tourists (some of whom are respectful, far too many of whom are noisy, take photos (which aren’t allowed), and otherwise flaunt the rules of the park and disturb the birds).

Once it gets dark, no photos or videos are allowed, but on a daylight walk we glimpsed this little penguin, near the natural and man-made burrows created to provide nesting opportunities for them.

Years ago, the little penguins’ numbers here on Phillip Island decreased dramatically when a bridge was built and humans began inhabiting and vacationing on the island, bringing foxes, dogs, and other predators, including traffic; even now, many penguins are run over by cars. Foxes have now been eliminated, and while the birds’ numbers are still down in Australia, we can hope the conservation efforts pay off. One effort is the building of nests for them; below, you can just barely see a little penguin inside one of these man-made burrows.

The little penguins are adorable to watch. After the sun sets, they come in from the water in “rafts” — groups from five to ten penguins to dozens — because there is safety in numbers, and they shake off the water and waddle up the sand to the scrubby brush where they have their nests. Perhaps because they’re so small, they always look as though they’re walking in a huge hurry, as if being chased. (If you do visit Phillip Island, sit tight and wait until the crowds disperse and until the rangers tell you at least three times that it’s time to go. This is when it gets quiet and peaceful, and you can hear nothing but the sounds of the penguins scuttling to their nests and calling to their mates.)

Another place to see the little penguins is much closer to Melbourne is the breakwater at St. Kilda, where the penguins come to shore every night after sunset. Guides are there to enforce similar rules (no photography, no approaching the penguins), and it’s about a half-hour away from downtown Melbourne by bus or light rail.

To celebrate World Penguin Day, here are a few links where you can learn more and support conservation efforts for penguins around the world:

UW Penguin Sentinels

Oceanites

The Penguin Counters

Wishing you a very happy World Penguin Day!

Announcing the short story collection Forgetting English

By John Yunker,

“Raymond’s prose often lights up the poetry-circuits of the brain…”   — The Seattle Times

I’m pleased to announce that Ashland Creek Press has published the third edition of Midge’s Raymond’s award-winning short story collection, Forgetting English.

In this new, expanded edition of her prize-winning collection, which includes a reading group guide, Midge Raymond stretches the boundaries of place as she explores the indelible imprint of home upon the self and the ways in which new frontiers both defy and confirm who we are.

The characters who inhabit these stories travel for business or for pleasure, sometimes out of duty and sometimes in search of freedom, and each encounters the unexpected. From a biologist navigating the stark, icy moonscape of Antarctica to a businesswoman seeking refuge in the lonely islands of the South Pacific, the characters in these stories abandon their native landscapes—only to find that, once separated from the ordinary, they must confront new interpretations of whom they really are, and who they’re meant to be.

Forgetting English won the Spokane Prize for Short Fiction. Here’s what two reviewers had to say:

“Raymond has quiet, unrelenting control over the writing; each story is compelling and thrives because each detail and line of dialogue reveals just a little more about the characters and the evocative settings.” —The Rumpus

“All of her stories are heartbreakingly honest … I wouldn’t be surprised if she started getting compared to Alice Munro or Jhumpa Lahiri.” — Seattle Books Examiner

Learn more.

 

 

The amazing Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

By Midge Raymond,

When we were in Australia this fall, we were thrilled to encounter this pair of Sulphur-crested cockatoos while walking around in Manly.

cockatoos

We were especially happy to see these birds in the wild after having previously met them only in fiction in Love and Ordinary Creatures, Gwyn Hyman Rubio’s gorgeous novel about a Sulphur-crested cockatoo named Caruso. In Gwyn’s novel, Caruso had been captured from the wild and sold as a pet (fortunately, this is no longer legal; the novel is set in the early 1990s when this was still happening to exotic birds); having the opportunity in Australia to watch them in their natural habitat, foraging for food, staying close to their mates, and cawing loudly wherever they go, was wonderful.

cockatoo

It also reminded us what an important book Love and Ordinary Creatures is, for giving voice to a species of animal that is so often misunderstood. Gwyn captures this helplessness, longing, and angst so well in this novel, a love story that transcends species.

Love and Ordinary Creatures was inspired by Gwyn’s own journey to Australia with her husband more than fifteen years ago.

We were eating lunch in a delicatessen when a young Australian woman with long, tanned legs and tousled blond hair pedaled up and stopped in front of the deli window. A Sulphur-crested Cockatoo was perched on the handlebars of her bike. Dismounting, she walked over to the parrot and learned toward him with puckered lips. Simultaneously, he lengthened his neck and raised his beak. Much to my amazement, they kissed— after which she came inside to pick up her order. While she was gone, the cockatoo kept his eyes on her. Not once did he look away. Not once did he try to fly off, even though his legs, I noticed, were untethered. A few minutes later, food in hand, the young woman left the deli, the cockatoo fluttering his wings and squawking with delight as she approached. “Now, that’s a bird in love,” I said to my husband when the two of them cycled off.

Learn more about Love and Ordinary Creatures here, and check out the novel’s book club kit for more insights.

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Dining well in Sydney, Australia, part three

By Midge Raymond,

When we needed to pick up some takeaway before a long hike from Sydney to Manly, we were thrilled to discover the all-vegan Iku Whole Food in downtown Sydney.

Iku Whole Food has several locations, and the one we went to was in the Westfield Mall on Pitt Street, upstairs in the food court.

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We were there early in the day and needed food that packed easily, so we didn’t try any of the delicious-looking soups or big salads on the menu.

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Instead, we got easy-to-travel-with wraps, which were wonderful — whole-wheat tortillas stuffed with brown rice, tofu, and veggies.

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We also got several raw desserts to go — the peanut butter and chocolate cookies were our favorites.

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It is so great to see a place like this — healthy, beautiful, and delicious vegan food — not only in general but especially in a shopping mall food court. Don’t miss this place for anything you need while traveling through Sydney.

  Category: On travel, Vegan
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Dining well in Sydney, Australia

By Midge Raymond,

Unfortunately, the new president-elect of the United States does not believe in climate change. The good news is that those of us who do can help the planet in so many ways — and eating plants is one of them.

Animal agriculture is responsible for nearly 20 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than all methods of transportation combined. (Learn more about why being an environmentalist means not eating animals or animal products.)

And the very good news is that there are, worldwide, so many incredibly delicious places to eat plant-based foods (saving the planet is delicious!). Among them is a place we discovered in Sydney, Australia — the all-vegan restaurant Bodhi is a great treasure, not only for Sydney but for the planet.

bodhi

We stopped in for a late lunch one beautiful afternoon, and we got a seat by the window to enjoy the warm air and lovely breezes. The restaurant’s lovely inside was empty thanks to the gorgeous day…

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…but the patio was bustling.

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Lunch at Bodhi is vegan yum cha, and the menu varies daily. We began with fried wontons, which were perfect: fried to perfection and served with a lovely dipping sauce.

fried-wonton

We followed the wontons with Australian field mushroom dumplings, also scrumptious.

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It was nearly impossible to choose among all the delicious offerings, but next we went for the spicy konyaku noodles with carrots. This was a cold dish and delectably spicy.

spicy-noodles

Next we had buns filled with “pork,” an old favorite of mine from when I used to live in Asia — but I haven’t had a vegan version and was thrilled to be able to enjoy them again. The buns are thick, soft, and slightly sweet, and the faux pork is tender and spicy.

bbq-buns

One of our favorite dishes was the fried tofu in rice noodle folds.

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And next (can you believe we are still eating at this point?), we sampled the tofu pockets with sprouts, mint, and carrots served with peanut sauce — these were terrific.

tofu-pocket

Finally, though there was so much more we’d have loved to try, we called it a day and ordered dessert — blueberry doughnuts. These are Asian-style doughnuts, which have a distinctive flavor and are not at all like the typical American doughnut — these are less sweet, from the bread to the filling (but the powdered sugar makes up for this).

blueberry-donut

Whenever you find yourself in Sydney, don’t miss this amazing restaurant; everything about it — the location, setting, and food — is just about perfect. It’s a beautiful place to be in the afternoon, and in the evening, with the garden lights and full bar, it’s even more festive.