16/26 New Things Challenge: Watch a Softball Game

There seems to be a lot of sports in Australia that just don’t get any attention at home and that’s most likely due to the crappy weather at home. On this trip I have seen beach volleyball, baseball, AFL and the latest one I have been introduced to ‘Softball’

Previously I had never seen a softball game nor did I understand how you would play softball.  I assume it is like baseball and rounders merged together? Luckily I got to find out when I went to watch my friend Monica play with her team the Syndal softball club at the Waverley Women’s Sports Centre at Jells Park. (That’s in the leafy suburbs of Melbourne.)

As well being a day for ball games, the day was also a fundraiser for Breast Cancer Awareness, so as well as watching softball we also got to fill our faces with pink cupcakes, pink sweets and brownies whilst petting Monica’s dog with aptly dyed pink hair and Ash’s pet unicorn Jerome. And you can’t get much pinker than Jerome.

Monica Softball
Go Mon, Go!

Now I couldn’t really compare softball to baseball, because I don’t know how to play baseball either despite their being a baseball club 100m from where I live in Melbourne. (I really must go check that out). But I do understand how to play rounders and here’s what I learnt:

1) The ball must be hit within a certain, triangular shaped zone, if it is not hit in that zone it is a foul ball.  If you hit a foul ball it will be counted as a strike, but only for the first two strikes. You can’t go out for hitting a foul ball (unless someone catches it).

2) The whole team doesn’t go out if you manage to catch the ball with one hand! I’m sure many children’s hands have taken a beaten because of this rule during school P.E lessons. Catching the opposing team’s ball in two hands whilst playing rounders meant that person was out, in one hand and their whole team was out and you were the hero of that P.E lesson! No such easy victory in softball I’m afraid.

3) It looks cooler than rounders. For starters you’re not having to make do with an old cricket ball, instead you have a much larger, unique softball. You’re also not hitting the ball with a wooden stick! Proper balls means big bats!Big bats and balls means helmets. 

softball
Me, Sar, Rocky, Ash and Jerome supporting the Syndal Softball Club!

 

So I  got to understand the rules of softball better, eat cake and sausages in slices of bread (such an Aussie thing) get further afield from Melbourne and see how the Aussie locals spends their Sunday in burbs off Melbourne! Oh and we helped raise money for a good cause! A good day.

16 down, just a few more to go….

15/26 New Things Challenge: Take a closer look at the Sun

This is kinda one of those convenient, on the spot new things. Basically I saw something, I realised I hadn’t done it, so I queued up and I did it.

Last year at the Greenwich Observatory I got to see the moon and that was pretty awesome. So last month when I was walking around the stunningly beautiful Sydney Harbour and I spotted a man with a big telescope (not quite as big as the one in Greenwich) offering to show people an up close look at the Sun, I knew it was something not to be missed.

Seeing the sun up close was pretty cool, once your eyes adjusted you were able to see a lot of detail such as sun spots on the Sun and also the solar flares coming off of it. Not that I fully understand what sun spots are, but still nice to see.

sydney harbor

If you’re ever in Sydney Harbour I recommend you walk round to the side where the MCA is and find this man and his telescope.  Also I didn’t go blind from staring at the sun for so long, so win!

14/26 New Things Challenge: Try a new sport (barefoot bowling)

In Australia, bowls isn’t just a sport for old people, who knew?!

Barefoot bowls is actually a pretty popular sport for all people in Melbourne, so much so that bowl clubs come equipped with a bar and BBQs all around the rinks. So you can eat, drink and not have to wear shoes outside all at the same time – sounds pretty good!

I decided to organise a birthday trip to my local barefoot bowls club – North Fitzroy Bowls Club.

Despite that dreading feeling I had that no one would turn up and that I’d be bowling for one, I really enjoyed my afternoon at the club once everyone did arrive and we started playing! For a mere 15 dollars each you can play bowls for 2 hours, no wonder it is so popular.

Within our group only one person had ever played before. No one else knew how to play, in fact everyone else thought we were meeting to play ten pin bowling and not bowls. Needless to say we were pretty shockingly awful at the game.

bowling_badAfter a quick intro from a member of staff who explained the object of the game was to bowl the bowls towards the tiny orange ball in the centre, we had a practise round and soon realised we would need to combine our two rinks and instead play over one large rink to give us more room for wayward balls.

After a few games of playing ‘properly’, we put our own spin on the game, including bowling in the challenging positions of standing on one leg, facing backwards and crossing the bowls.

barefoot bowling melbourne

Needless to say everyone else at the bowls club were bowled* over at this take on the game and the mad skills required.

BOWLS COLLAGE

*pun intended

Another one done!

13/26 New Things Challenge: Take a Spanish Lesson

One of the things on my much larger  to do list in life is to visit South America. I would really love to be able to speak Spanish whilst there. Unfortunately the only Spanish I know I learnt as a child from an episode of Rainbow I watched, repeatedly.

Having rewatched (half of) the episode I am not too sure what I liked so much about it as all the characters are really annoying. Probs just watching it for the rainbow…

Anyway luckily for me my housemate Felix (the same Felix I cooked an awesome Paella for) is a fluent Spanish speaking Australian who was more than happy to teach me the basics.

I received a breakdown from him of some key verbs and some guidance on sentence structure and after 30 minutes I was speaking sentences, albeit very, very, painfully slowly.

Felix kindly wrote all this information down for me so I could take it on my holiday to Sydney and learn it whilst chilling at the beach – the perfect place to catch up on my Spanish pronouns!

spanish lesson

Too bad I suck at packing and ending up leaving it behind.

(Note to self: I’ve realised I actually haven’t learnt any more Spanish since receiving this lesson last month, must do better. Muchas Gracias)

13 down!

12/26 New Things Challenge: Read a book in 24 hours

tea

I have a long list of books I know I should read and want to read. So I gave myself the task of reading one of those books I’ve been meaning to read in 24 hours.

My book of choice was ‘Slaughterhouse Five’ by Kurt Vonnegut which I have been wanting to read ever since I saw it on  a banned books reading list published by Shortlist Magazine. Earlier this year I read The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence; a pretty good book once you get into it. In it the main character starts his own Kurt Vonegut book club! Which brought Vonnegut to the top of my reading list.

Now I had no idea how long Slaughterhouse Five is, so I was pleasantly pleased (and relieved) to find it was a pretty slim size when I plucked it from the library shelf.

The next 24 hours consisted of me reading whenever I could – on the tram, on my lunch break, at the gym on the recumbent bike looking like a douche, but mostly in my bed with tea.

I don’t want to give a book review, but I will say I did enjoy the book which reflects Vonnegut’s own  personal experiences during WW2 by mixing it with some alien abduction and time travel. (Yep, it’s as odd as it sounds). It’s written as more of a commentary rather than a story and I am sure a lot of the satire went over my head but I appreciated the parts I did grasp and Vonnegut’s unique style.

All in all a pleasant, tiring, 24 hours and I am keen to read some more of  Vonnegut’s work. So it goes.

 

11/26 New Things Challenge: Take a Tai Chi Class

Perhaps you remember that in my Bubble Soccer post I mentioned how some form of activity normally makes me feel better when I have a hangover, well Tai Chi doesn’t work…

tai chi

I decided to take a free Tai Chi class on the morning after the night before. Cycling there probably my third mistake. My second was not getting enough sleep. I don’t know what it is but the older I get the more concerned I am about getting exactly 8 hours sleep, (or at least 7.5). Even if I feel fine when I wake up on less hours sleep I am convinced that I will  become tired at any given moment. My first mistake was too many mojitos the night before.

My first thought when I arrived at the class in the park was ‘I am the youngest person here’, which is quite fitting as this is a post about completing a list of new things before I turn 26 in order to make me feel better about getting older. My second thought was that it was a really beautiful day. It really was quite lovely.

tai chi in parkThe class was taught by an elderly, Asian man who had remarkable balance and poise putting everyone, especially me who was about 40 years younger than him, to shame. I found Tai chi very slow, and perhaps if I was not hungover I would have enjoyed it more and found it more relaxing. But all I could focus on was how tired I was and how much of a headache I had and how it was getting pretty damn hot.

I ended up staying for most of the class but called it a day when they started on level 4 Tai Chi, which required more focus than I could muster to remember the sequence of movements.

Would I give Tai Chi another go? Yeah, why not.

Would I do Tai Chi on a hangover? Nooo.

12 down, almost half way there!

10/26 New Things Challenge: Take part in a Zombie Shuffle

brains_not_war

What do we want? BRAINS!

When do want it? BRAINS!

This is what I chanted last month during Melbourne’s zombie shuffle around the streets of Melbourne’s CBD with thousands of the undead!

This annual event is Melbourne’s “biggest gathering of the undead” who stop traffic, line up tourists and drip blood all the way from Treasury Gardens to Alexandria Park!

So many tourists taking pictures!
So many tourists taking pictures!

One of the things I’m finding quite challenging with these 26 new challenges is finding people to come with me to things.

For some reason not everyone wants to spend their free time visiting toilets or squirting fake blood on their clothes and face and traipsing round the city in 30+ degree heat. And TBH the idea of the zombie walk wouldn’t normally appeal to me if I had not been doing this challenge. But I’m really glad I am because I really enjoyed it, even Sarah who I managed to persuade to come with me admitted it was even better than she thought it would be!

Together we made good use of our travelling gear and became Zombie Tourists!

zombie tourists

What made it so much fun was the very nice atmosphere. Perhaps reinforced by Rule No.1 of the Melbourne  Zombie Shuffle: NO DICKHEADS. Everyone was in high spirits despite being dead, with some people going all out on their outfits and makeup. Making ours looked like they had been thrown together that morning…

ZOMBIE Shuffle

It was also nice to see lots of families. All the kids there really seemed to get into it!

zombie families

When we finished the walk I was trying to google map our way home when I realised we were next to a place called ‘Quidditch Park! After a quick google I realised that the park is aptly named because of the large no. of Quidditch games that are played there. Thus I was enlightened to the world of Victoria Quidditch! Blog post on that coming soon….

victoria quidditch

8/26: See the World’s Smallest Penguins – Fairy Penguins!

Earlier this month I left Melbourne for the first time since arriving here to go on an awesome road trip to Phillip Island to see the smallest (and probably most cutest) penguins in the world – Fairy Penguins!

little penguin

Or the ‘Little Penguin’ as it is now called,  is the smallest of the world’s 17 penguin species and is the only species to breed on the Australian mainland. It stands approximately 33cm in height – that’s pretty much the same size as a loaf of bread!

Phillip Island is a few hours South of Melbourne, so I am very grateful to my favourite Melbourne mates – Monica and Ash, for offering  to drive us  British tourists there and showing us some great sights!

penguin road trips
Road Trip!

After a  quick stop off at Monica’s family home in leafy Lysterfield to see and pet the family pets  – 4 cats, 4 dogs, and some chooks (chickens), we were back on the road and soon making our way over the bridge to Phillip Island, holding our breath as we did so. Well all of us apart from Monica, who we all agreed should be exempt from holding her breath due to her important job of driving and not getting us killed.

Now the penguins don’t come out of the water until after sunset, but because the island is pretty much surrounded by beach there is plenty to do. We made our way down to the beach with Fish n chips (minus the malt vinegar – sort it out Australia!), where we relaxed, played some footy and splashed in the icy cold Southern Ocean!

beach

Come sunset it was back in the car to the Penguin Parade! Now the Penguin Parade is pretty pricey at $23.80 per adult, but when else are you going to see the world’s smallest penguins? It was also packed! There were hundreds of people like us eagerly awaiting to see the penguins waddle out the ocean and into their nests.

As the first raft of penguins bobbed their way to shore and started to emerge, everyone eagerly rushed forwards to catch a glimpse. We couldn’t see anything because of the sheer amount of people and this did make me question how disturbing this must be for the penguins as this many people trying to take sneaky , poor quality photos of them isn’t at all natural.

However as the evening went on, people started to disperse to follow groups of penguins on the land. We managed to get closer and closer to the shoreline and saw about 50 penguins return home. It was really cool to watch them surf the waves and waddle out of the ocean.  Little Penguins have knees, but they are ‘inside’ their body. On land this gives them an upright stance and they can only make short steps causing their body to move around. They looked pretty clumsy but nevertheless they overcame the waves, the rocks and the tourists to reach their nests!

phillip island

 

penguin 2

 

Fairy Penguins

On site there’s also a gift shop and some exhibitions on the penguins, including a look through a periscope into a penguin’s nest. A bit ‘big brother’ perhaps for the penguins, but it was cool for us to see the cute baby penguins nestling next to their mother.

All in all one of my all time favourite days in Australia so far.

[Penguin Photos taken from http://www.visitphillipisland.com ]

7/26 New Things Challenge: Drink a Pickleback

The other day I had my first Pickleback at swanky cocktail bar Lily Black’s , in Melbourne’s CBD, 12 Meyers Pl.

Now you may be wondering what a Pickleback actually is. For an accurate description I copied down two definitions which I sourced on the very reputable and accurate website urbandictionary.com.

Now guess which one is the one I tried…

PicklebackPickleback_2

 

LilyBlack’s had an impressive selection of different pickleback combinations you could try. I went for the ‘BEET IT’: Curzon Rum + Rosemary and Ginger Beetroot.

pickleback shots

 

Verdict: Although hating hard liquor shots (give me a jagerbomb anyday), I actually much preferred the shot of rum rather than the sharp, tangy, vinegar beetroot juice that followed afterwords stinging the back of my throat. Some people liken a pickleback to eating a burger, which I find somewhat offensive to good quality burgers.

Was it worth a try? Definitely, I’m keen to try another combo. Plus a nice easy one to put on my list.

DONE!