A Travellerspoint blog

September's Ups and Downs

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Yet another month has come to pass and this time with a slight sigh of relief. September was somewhat of a yo-yo month with some great 'ups' and some disappointing 'downs'. If anything though, it started and ended with a bang, all thanks to our lovely flatmates Scott and Adrienn!

On the first (Sun)day of the month, Scott and his lovely Hungarian girlfriend Adrienn joined us on a road-trip to Litchfield National Park. There is a lot to be said about this beautiful little outing, so for now I will leave you to marvel at this group picture of us until I have the time to dedicate a separate blog post to this wonderful day:

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Scott, Adrienn and us

Ben and I caught some kind of stomach bug, which entirely messed up the following weekend. We are still not entirely sure where it came from, but I have an inkling that it was passed on to me by one of my little rascals at school. Sharing is caring, right? ;) There is nothing more annoying than spending your sick days actually being sick though, even more so when it takes you a while to recover!

Then, a week later, we got into a rather nasty dispute with our house-mate Kate, which messed up another one of our weekends. We have experienced some "trouble" with her over the past and this dispute was bound to happen at some point. I won't go into details, but some really horrible things were thrown at us, before she finally admitted that she had been behaving in such a nasty way to make herself feel better and because she knew it would hurt us. An apology followed, but it is needless to say that the atmosphere in the flat changed. Or at least for us.

Possibly due to that and the usual germs thrown at me by my little angels at school, I fell ill again two weeks later! My glands were the size of bloody ping-pong balls and I had to battle a very high fever, accompanied by throbbing head aches. These kept me home for almost a week... again. I truly hope this won't turn into some sort of recurring pattern and the sick-days will stay at bay!

In between all that unpleasantness, we really tried to make the most of what Darwin had on offer for us that month. It kept us busy and away from the apartment, which is something we both needed. First up, was another free movie at the Waterfront, this time featuring the sequel to 'Happy Feet'. Neither of us enjoyed the first movie, but surprisingly, this one wasn't all that bad. Then again, all free movies are pretty damn awesome :)

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"Happy Feet 2" at the Waterfront

Adrienn celebrated her birthday on the 18th of September. We weren't quite sure what to get her, so we bought her some chocolate cupcakes. We had to be creative in hiding them, in the first place to keep them undetected from her until the right day and in second place to keep them from melting into a sticky mess. And so we hid them in the spare fridge in the laundry room, with her birthday card to ensure she knew it was for her, with another note hung up on her door to lead her to her treat. It was well worth the fuss as she was happily surprised :)

It just so happened that I was not called into work that day, so I was able to accompany her to Casuarina shopping centre and get some of the things she had been wishing to get for the kitchen; she is an avid baker. In the evening, joined by Ben and Scott, we all went out for a celebratory dinner at a Sushi restaurant and then ended the evening at Cold Rock. I have no idea how it remained unknown to me until now, but in hindsight that was maybe a good thing. Cold Rock is an ice-cream parlour that not only offers a wide range of flavours, but also allows you to add mix-ins:

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Cold Rock

And yes, you can have anything mixed in with your ice-cream, from chocolate bars, to fruit and nuts, sweets, and other weird accompaniments. They lay the scooped ice-cream on an ice-cold metal chopping board, add your chosen mixtures and then bash away at it with some metal scoop thingie until it creates a personalised 'Cold Rock'. Scott is the master of strange combinations and had peanut butter and milo ice-cream mixed with mango, some chocolates, and some sweets. We are by no means as adventurous as him, but it was definitely a fun experience! Best birthday celebration ever! :D

During one of our last weekends, we attended a free concert at the Darwin Railway Sports and Social Club (quite a mouthful). The Club was hosting a free event introducing Darwin's three newest and hottest acts to the music scene. With its location a handy 10 minute walk from our flat, it was silly to miss out, so we went along. For some stupid reason it took us an hour to actually find the place, but we were happy we did not give up. Unfortunately, we did end up missing the first band, but the remaining two were really good! We are really getting a taste for all those free events!

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Three Sheets to the Wind

We also went to see a special screening of an unreleased movie about the Dalai Lama entitled "Road to Peace". The movie followed the Dalai Lama's throughout his visit to the UK in 2008: behind the scenes, during his interviews and talks, whilst interacting with the people he met along his way, and showing an unusual insight into the man. It was a lovely viewing, in an old little theatre in the centre of town and we very much enjoyed it. If you are interested, you can watch the trailer for it here: Road to Peace Trailer

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Road to Peace

And then, on our last day of the month, we were woken up with a jolt by the sound of... rain! The last time we experienced rain was when we had our week's stop-over in Brisbane, around the end of May, so imagine our surprise! It was 7.30 in the morning, on a Sunday, but we were too excited to let it go by, so we sat on our balcony watching the rain pour down from the skies like never before. It was a reminder of what was awaiting us in a few week's time and even though it ruined our plans of having a day at the markets, we loved it. Never did we see rain come down so steadily for three hours upon end: the streets were temporarily flooded, the swimming pool was overflowing and the water was seeping into our balcony. It was a surreal experience for us!

The rest of the day was spent at home, rather ordinarily, until we got some shocking news that the office of our South African mother-charity STAESA (mother-charity to our non-profit organisation Akwaaba Africa: www.akwaabaafrica.org) got broken into. Every piece of equipment was stolen, every computer, every printer, scanner, telephone, even most of the furniture! It was heart breaking news, especially as without any computers, STAESA could not do its work and they were worried sick about the volunteers that were relying on e-mail communication to get in touch with them across the world. Luckily, Simon, our dear friend, had a laptop he could work on from home, but other than that the situation was miserable. The bank refused to give them a loan and we could not stand by without helping. And so we decided to donate half of our savings to STAESA so that they could buy themselves some second hand computers to continue their beautiful work. It was a no-brainer; and there is no way we would have spent that money on anything as important and meaningful anyway, but it does mean we have to make do with a lot less in the months to come. It seemed as though this was yet another disappointing weekend, until Scott and Adrienn out of the blue saved the day. They invited us to join them for dinner, together with Kate. On the menu: a finger-licking delicious home-cooked Sunday roast! And what's more, we all went back to Cold Rock for dessert afterwards. What a lovely end to a slightly crazy month!

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Scott's master piece: Roast Dinner

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Best flatmates in the world! ;)

So yes, some disappointments, some heart aches, but also some great memories were made this month. Luckily for us - and hopefully for you too, as you will be having to read about it - October has some amazingness in store for us which we have been looking forward to for a really long time! Stay tuned!
Much love and take care xxx

Posted by Fat Face 23:10 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Darwin Waterfront

Hello again.

I thought I would give Emilie a little break from having to write, and do something myself for a change. For me writing is a physically painful process, so this post will mostly be pictures.

We went down to the Waterfront yesterday. It's a really beautiful little place there. We usually go in the evenings once every few weeks when they have a free movie playing, but haven't been down during the day in months, so since we had the free day we thought it would be a good idea. Walking through the main street in Darwin city centre at 4pm on a Saturday, we were surprised that the place was so empty. It was like this in Brisbane too when we were there, it would be busy during the day but then as soon as it hit 5pm everybody would rush home, all the shops would close and it would be really quiet, which was quite strange. Maybe it was because it was the Winter though.

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As this place relies heavily on tourism, things are starting to slow down now that we are getting closer to the "build up" and the wet season, which is why there are fewer people around. And anyway, why would you be in the city centre when you could relax and go for a swim at the waterfront? It is a nice place to relax and read a book, so we had brought along our e-reader to read together. Yes, we are quite sad and even share books, but I like it.

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There are hotels and restaurants surrounding a bit of water closed off from the sea. There are barriers in place (apparently, although I really should check) which stop anything from getting in, which is nice as you can swim without having to worry about crocodiles (or sharks, stingrays, box jellyfish etc.). We never actually got round to reading, instead spending ages trying to take a good picture of the two of us. We're a little bit obsessed with our new camera, and taking the pictures was pretty good but not many turned out well. It's quite hard to balance the camera on our food container to take pictures at just the right angle ;) Here are some of the better ones:

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This is the good thing about writing blog posts myself, Emilie would never let me post that picture of her, but when she finds out it will be too late!
[edit: I should not have let Emilie read this before posting as I have now been ordered to put in these two nice pictures below. I think I look like a hillbilly! Cringe!]

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The morning after this (Sun 30th) we were woken up by incredibly heavy rainfall. I have never been so pleased to see the rain before. It has been four months without a single drop, and I was starting to go a little bit mad. I know that some people – like Emilie - don't like to go a long time without seeing the sun, but that never bothered me very much - but not seeing any rain for ages is something I can't get used to. It's quite clear who is the English person in our relationship ;)

People have told us that the rain here is very heavy when it comes, but I refused to believe them, thinking that as we have lived in Glasgow for 5 years we know quite well what heavy rain is. So now I have to concede that I was wrong, because this tropical rainstorm was quite impressive! After only a short storm the pool was full to overflowing and the balcony was flooded. The wind was very strong and there was quite a bit of lightning too. What an exciting start to the morning! It has both of us looking forward to the storms that we will see in the wet season.

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See you later,
Ben

Posted by Fat Face 21:37 Archived in Australia Comments (3)

Origami Cranes and World Pictures

- Bedroom Crafts.

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As promised in our previous blog post, we are dedicating a whole page to the home-made crafts that are now adorning our bedroom. Most of our projects are ongoing and will change as time moves on, but since we are pretty content with how they look at the moment, we can show you some pictures. We will make sure to keep you updated if any other big changes occur!

Recap: During the months of August and September, we have been keeping ourselves busy indoors by creating a more homely feel for our bedroom. It is hard to decorate a space when you are unsure as to how long you will be living there for, so the idea was to create as much of the decorations ourselves. Not only does it lead to both unique and personal "art" but it also meant that we were able to save our money for things that mattered more. We have had to part with possessions more often than we can remember, so keeping things simple will surely benefit us in the long run.

I had envisaged creating an origami mobile to hang above our bed, but due to the positioning of the fan we had to create a garland instead. You really don't want to get anything tangled in those giant blades! For days, we created paper cranes of different sizes and the result is absolutely beautiful, even if we say so ourselves :)

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Paper Crane Garland

To save costs and to add some colour to the room, we recycled the paper from travel brochures - Ben's brilliant idea. And when we run out, we simply requested some more from the travel agencies. In this way no two cranes ever turn out the same!

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Paper Crane Up Close!

Next, our room could not have been complete without a map of the world. An easy fix, you might think, but alas... Not a single shop in Darwin sells big laminated maps of the world! I found this very hard to believe, but was told that most people buy them online from other Australian states, or bring in a picture and have it blown up and printed to the right size. Oh, and the picture was not allowed to be plagiarised or taken from the internet, so you had to create your own. Such a hassle! Ultimately, our cheapest and easiest option was to have a map shipped all the way from a shop in England! How ridiculous is that? This country can be so backward at times! Anyway, the map we purchased online is somewhat smaller than the maps we had in our flat in Glasgow, so we decided to personalise it a little:

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Map of the World

As you can see, we bought an oversized canvas, onto which we attached our beloved world map, and then used the free canvas space to feature a collection of miscellaneous travel items, i.e. flight tickets, coins and bank notes, post-cards, etc. This is likely to be a temporary decoration, as we were hoping to one day fill in the blank canvas space with some handwritten or painted travel quotes, place-names or even travel anecdotes. We shall see.

Around our canvas, we collected pictures from our travels. We have pictures from our travels around Europe, Canada, Ghana, New Zealand and Australia and we will be sure to add some more as we continue to discover the world together. It is really great and we find ourselves spending a lot of time staring at them and reliving memories. And with the map safely attached onto a canvas, we were able to pin all our travel destinations, which makes it look super sophisticated. Obviously, there are many places we cannot pin, such as the many places we visited in New Zealand (there wouldn't be a blank space on the country's surface!) or the areas we visited in Luxembourg (hey, it's already an achievement that we managed to push one pin into that tiny space!), but other than that, we managed to pin the majority of places.

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Places we pinned in Canada: Toronto, Montreal, Niagara Falls

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Places we pinned in Europe.

Ah, there is still so much for us to discover in the world! ;) At first, we were thinking of connecting the pinned locations to the corresponding pictures with some colourful piece of string, but we have yet to figure out a way to do that without crowding the area. For now, we are pretty pleased with the outcome and all of the above has kept us happy and busy! Not only is our room now a lot more aesthetically pleasing, it has turned into a real sanctuary - a comforting and cosy haven away from the frustrations of everyday life.

And well, that's that! Notice the awesome pictures? Credit goes to Ben and his wonderful new camera! It takes extraordinary pictures and we are so pleased with it. It has been a while since Ben has been on the look-out for a digital addition to his beloved film camera and it just so happened that our flatmate Scott knew exactly where to get the best deals from. It seems a little extravagant, but when you love travelling as much as we do, a good quality camera is something to cherish. And the difference with my cheap little device is astounding! Yeay! :) So, hopefully this means that we will be able to get some good shots of the apartment for you as well, so that we can give you a virtual tour in the near future!

Take care and be well, xxx

Posted by Fat Face 08:52 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Market Marathon

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With such a gorgeous mild climate, Darwin is the ideal place to hold markets. During the dry season, there are no less than five markets held every week, each one boasting its own magical atmosphere. For weeks, we have been wanting to organise a 'market marathon', but something always came in the way, so we had to spread it out onto two weekends! At long last, we finally got around to attending them all and I finally got around to writing it all up - yeay!

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Mindil Market

The market bonanza starts and finishes with Mindil Beach Sunset Market, held every Thursday and every Sunday evening during the dry season. Both evenings are similar, although the stalls might be set up differently and there might be different entertainment on. We generally tend to spend our Thursdays blobbing at home, looking forward to the weekend, so we have only been out to explore it once. And marking the end of your weekend with a visit to Mindil on Sunday night is after all wonderful.

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Sunset Beach Entertainment

The gem of all the markets, Mindil Market without a doubt steals the show. It is a tourist magnet and the beautiful sunsets on the beach are a lovely bonus. Because of its location by the beach, there is more space to roam around and there is a nice separation between food and artefact stalls. This market will always hold a special place in our hearts as it was our first introduction to life in Darwin, having attended in on our very first night in the Northern Territory.

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Palmerston Market

On Friday evenings, Palmerston holds its own market. Palmerston is growing and it is predicted that it will one day outrun Darwin in size. That being said, most Darwinites look down on "Palmy" and it is a bit of a black sheep. We were therefore not too sure what to expect. As soon as Ben returned from work and got changed, we headed out. The drive was surprisingly short and we found the market without any hassle. At first glance, Palmerston market seemed a lot quieter than the other markets, but we immediately fell for its community stalls and laid back charm. Because of its central location, the surrounding supermarkets, local stores and library remain open throughout the market times and it gives you a real sense of what Palmy is really like. While we were there, the market was organising a talent competition showcasing the local children:

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Talent Show

It was great to see the community come together to support their friends. It made it stand out as a "family market". What threw us off a little was the deafening sound of the bats at nightfall - a shrieking noise, which we couldn't quite get used to. Other than that, it was a lovely quiet market!

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Parap Market

Every Saturday morning, come rain or shine, Parap village organises a massive market, right on our very doorstep. Not only is it one of the most adored markets of the Northern Territory, but it is also a luxury to roll out of bed and head out to aroma of cooked meals, fresh fruit and vegetables, and the hustle and bustle of tourists and buskers. Parap is known as the 'upmarket' market, mainly due to the fact that most of the hotels arrange special busses for their clients to attend it. The prices can therefore be a little higher, the passages a little more crowded and the salespeople a little more business focussed, but other than that it's pure brilliant.

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Parap Market Street View

Ben and I have created our own little Parap market tradition. Once we have had a massive lie-in until about midday, we roll out of bed, have a bite to eat and head out for our weekly smoothie. There are several stalls that offer smoothies, juices and other beverages, but we have our favourite one. Stacked with berries of every different kind, it is the best thirst-quencher on a hot Saturday afternoon and it is something we really look forward to.

"Offering the finest tropical flavours and true Territory atmosphere, the Parap Village Markets run every Saturday all year round" - NT newspaper

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Rapid Creek Market

On Sunday mornings, from as early as 5am, restaurant owners and culinary fanatics are ready to head out to Rapid Creek Market. This is far from being the most cosy of markets and it lacks the holiday appeal and holiday atmosphere that the other markets boast. And that is why most people merely attend it for its vast array of fresh fruit and vegetable stalls. The selection of exotic foods is huge and if anyone quizzed us about all the names and origins, we would have been in for an epic fail - so many unknown things!

We went along once, an hour before closing time and it was definitely a surreal experience. You feel as though you have entered a different world, so strong is the fusion of Asian, African and Mediterranean people. It's amazing! And apparently there is a "monsoon" version of this market during the wet season! * excitement *

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Nightcliff Market

Once you have picked up your fresh produce for the week at Rapid Creek market, you can head over to Nightcliff Market, also held on Sundays. It is often compared to Parap market as it boasts a similar scene, yet without the pretence and the hoards of tourists. We thought the comparison was justified because as soon as you walk into the market scene, the atmosphere is more laid back and more community-oriented.

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Most people that attend it seem to know each other and like the market at Palmerston, it feels more "genuine", more Australian. And the prices seemed slightly cheaper as well. Because of the strong sense of community, there seemed to be some different stalls from local Nightcliff residents, which was a nice change. You do after a while get to know all the different sales-persons and so anyone setting up a new stall brings along some new excitement.

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And then on Sunday night, it's back to Mindil Beach Market. There is in fact one more market in Coolalinga, but because it is described as a "rural" market and we have never encountered the area on our many drives around, we have a notion of it being somewhere out in the bush. And as I am writing this, I am realising how stupid it is that we never even 'Googled' it, so I just checked and... yes, it's definitely rural! Oh well, that makes me feel slightly less guilty for ignoring it.

Anyway, all the different stands are similar across all markets. The food stands sell anything from fresh organic produce, cooked up Asian, Greek, Mexican, Italian or 'ordinary' meals, to the usual juices and smoothies, as well as things like pancakes, churros, ice-cream, etc. The variation of the remaining stands is vast and a little bit of everything is sold: flowers and plants, jewellery and clothing, aboriginal and local art, books and postcards, homeopathic remedies, handcrafted items as well as plastic junk and knock-off brands, and so on. There are also a few stands offering genuine Thai massages and foot cleansing sessions. The ones that stand out are those offering something unique, such as the ones below:

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Aboriginal Art & Artefacts

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Coconut Watches & Coconut Candle Holders

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Kangaroo Leather

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"Croc, Stock and Barra" - anything crocodile and barramundi fish related!

And with that, of course, come the "crocodile rolls" - anyone fancy a bite?
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And with that, it is now official: we have visited every single market around Darwin and it can safely be said that our marathon was a success! It was a great experience going to each and one of them and sniffing up their individual atmospheres. Once the wet season comes, we will have to say goodbye to some of them until next year, so hopefully we will continue to enjoy them as we do. We are so lucky to have them so close to us and it does give Darwin that extra special quality. So let's raise our glass to the wonder of markets - may they be around for many more centuries to come!

[ Read more about the markets here and an amazing article here ]

Take care,
xxx

Posted by Fat Face 04:03 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

August - Month of the Arts

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August has gone by in a flash and it has been a lovely month. We have been keeping ourselves busy as much as we could, both inside and outside. Looking back on these past 31 days, there was a definite recurring 'arts' theme to the month: from movie-screenings to water festivals and lots of crafts. And as a result, we have a lot to tell you about! [Exciting news: the outdoor furniture at last arrived and so we have been able to enjoy reading books on the terrace. Now we are waiting for Scott to order a TV cabinet and then our home will at last be complete. And when that moment comes, I will of course follow up with a detailed picture-tour!]

Movies, Moments and More

In less than a month we experienced no less than three free movie screenings - all of them outdoors - and we went to the (normal) cinema twice - making use of the two discount vouchers we kindly received from Ben's boss Kirsty. And to think that we had not been to the movies in such a long time... Wow! I think we have had enough of a fix to keep us going for a while!

We started the month, by watching the latest Batman movie entitled 'Dark Knight Rises'. We did not think it was as psychological and dark as the previous movie, but it was action-packed and exciting, which made for a very nice evening!

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Dark Knight Rises (latest Batman movie)

A few weeks later, the Deckchair Cinema was hosting a science event which involved a free screening of the documentary 'Earth' in celebration of Science Week. Scott joined us and we all experienced our first visit to this iconic cinema. The cinema screen is lit up by nothing more than the stars, which watch over you from above and everyone is seated on deckchairs, which make it very comfortable. The movie could best be described as a shortened version of the BBC's Planet Earth series and it was possibly the best movie to watch in this magical setting. We loved it!

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'Earth' at the Deckchair Cinema

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Deckchair Cinema

On Saturday, we were then treated to another "Free Movie Under the Stars" event at the Darwin Waterfront. Every month during the dry season, a children's movie is shown on an inflatable screen, whilst everyone cuddles up on the grass with their blankets, pillows and picnic baskets. Last time, we saw 'Tintin' on the big screen and so this month, we were shown Puss in Boots (spin-off from the Shrek movies). We really liked it. Even though it is intentionally geared to a younger public, you would be surprised how many adults, backpackers and tourists turn up to them!

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'Puss in Boots' at the Waterfront

Not much later, we went to the "normal" cinema again to see 'The Bourne Legacy'. We had one more voucher to use at the cinema before the end of the month and so we invited our flatmate John along to enjoy it with. His mother-in-law was visiting at the time and he seemed happy to get away for an evening ;) It was a good movie, although for fans of the previous three Bourne movies, the fact that the main character Jason Bourne does not star in it, can be somewhat of a disappointment. If it were to be a separate movie, however, it would have definitely been a good one! Anyway, it was nice to go with John as he was nearing the end of his two week "holiday" period and due to head back out to the mines the following day. He works two weeks on and then has two weeks off, which means we do not get to see him all that often.

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The Bourne Legacy

And then three days later, as luck would have it, the Deckchair Cinema was hosting another free screening to mark the end of the Darwin Film Festival. Unfortunately, we only found out about this festival that same evening, so this was the only event we were a part of! The theme was "Black Screen Shorts" - a series of indigenous short films. The first two 10 minute movies 'Ralph' and 'Minnie Loves Junior' featured around Aboriginal children and were really adorable. The last was a 45 minute documentary, which as the title 'Jandamarra's War' revealed, was about the great revolutionary hero Jandamarra. You can read up about him on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jandamarra Not sure whether it had anything to do with the pillows we brought along for extra comfort, but Scott snoozed through most of it! Oh well... ;) We thought it was a pretty interesting night!

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Minnie Loves Junior

Arts and Crafts

Other than that, we have also been keeping ourselves busy indoors by creating a more homely feel for our bedroom. It is hard to decorate a space when you are unsure as to how long you will be living there for, so the idea was to create as much of the decorations ourselves. Not only does it lead to both unique and personal "art" but it also meant that we were able to save our money for things that mattered more. We have had to part with possessions more often than we can remember, so keeping things simple will surely benefit us in the long run.

Now, seen as I haven't yet posted anything about our apartment, I will save the pictures and detailed information on our crafty adventures for a separate blog post. That way, you get more blog posts and it also gives us some more time to finish of our projects! (as always, they are a work in progress)

Other...

All the above has kept us happy and busy. Add to this the weekly market-rituals, trips to Casuarina Square (shopping centre), the purchase of two little plants, and the compilation of our own recipe folder, and we can safely say that August was a great month.

Apart from that, we were also lucky enough to attend the Waterfront Water Party, which ended the great Darwin Festival. As mentioned before, we did not join in on any of the other events, mainly because we were a little clueless about what was going on, but it made a great Sunday afternoon.

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Darwin Water Party

Ben would probably argue that the best thing about this month was the acquisition of his beloved new netbook. Some of you may remember that the day after his job interview at UNO MS Ben had already bought himself a spanking sparkling new laptop, but unfortunately, their mutual love wasn't meant to be. Despite the laptop's greatest efforts to create a loving and trusting relationship, it just did not live up to Ben's expectations and they parted on good terms (read: he sold it online). For a few weeks, we were back to just using my laptop until Ben got over his heartache. In the end he settled for a cute little netbook. I may have threatened to make his life very uncomfortable if he ever decided to trade this one in as well, but so far there has been no need to follow up on my threats as he still seems very pleased with his new conquest! Let's hope it stays that way!

Anyway, that's it for now. I vaguely remember promising you more regular blog activity, but for some reason there seems to hardly be any free time when you are working. I do have a few more things lined up for you, so fear not: I will be back!

Take care and much love to you all,

Posted by Fat Face 03:49 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

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