Saturday, January 31, 2015

Palestine Plays Jordan In The Asia Cup In Melbourne

As Australians, we take for granted the opportunity of watching our national team play any number of world sports, on a world stage. But for Palestinians, the prospect of watching their team compete in a championship of any kind...well, I admit, I cannot even imagine the pride!

FIFA is one of the only world bodies in the world to recognise Palestine as it's own entity - the UN is still in battles about doing the same. Which meant that this strip of highly contested land and it's people were able to represent in the Asia Cup, played in Australia for the past month.

I went along to the Palestine v Jordan game when I was home in Melbourne last, to soak in the energy, joy and sheer unadulterated pride these Arabs had for their team, and identity.

Walking into the ground, which was played at AAMI Stadium, labelled Melbourne Rectangular Stadium for this tournament, was electric. There were groups of people gathering, music playing, cheering and dancing. Families all decked out in their flag and their colours.

The stadium was not full, by any stretch, but what it lacked in bums on seats, it made up for in voice and song, and atmosphere.

The two sides, only distinguishable by a star on the Jordanian flag, stood and honoured their national song - the Palestinians each standing, facing their flag, hands on heart.

The game kicked off, under the blazing sinking Melbourne summer sun. The Jordanians too strong, kicking away to a 4-0 lead.

But then the single Palestine goal happened, and the place erupted. The emotional was contagious, and you could not help but raise to your feet and cheer for this young side, faced with such adversity just to be there.

Jordan scored another goal, to take the match 5-1, but really the notion of humanity was the winner on this night. Sport bring people together.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Filling In The Gaps Time Has Washed Away - The New Acropolis Museum In Athens

Dreamed for the crowds to Athens of the 2004 Olympics, the New Acropolis Museum replaces the very old and tired looking one up on the hill. Building started in 2003, but was not complete until 2007. The transfer of the artifacts from the Acropolis took some time, and the Museum actually opened in 2009. It looks pretty out of place, as the big, shiny and modern building at the bottom of the hill. But the content, and the curation make it well worth the visit.

The site itself is built upon the archaeological remains of life in the area long ago, and thus the entrance and the lower ground of the Museum display these below foot. Glassed floors, and open spaces around the paths to the doors, let you peer down into old walls and rooms, reminding you of the age of Ancient Greece.

Once you have entered, and paid admission, you then walk through the floors in a designated route, to allow you the process as if you are seeing the Acropolis on the hill - but this time, with all the ancient trimmings reconstructed.

The first spacious section is the Gallery of the Slopes, displays artifacts excavated from the ascent up the hill to the Parthenon. Plus you can see more of the excavated spaces below your feet, through the glass floor.

Up the stairs is the Archaic Gallery, a room filled with natural light, and dotted with ancient, restored statues. Whilst I was there, there was a guided tour for a school group, who was pointing out the different features of some of the statues that had been restored of their colours and details - overhearing some of this made me take closer looks at each of the painted idols and gods. The colours are brilliant. The displays are informative, in that some are not fully repainted, so you can see the differences between restoration and time wear.

The top floor is impressive for it's incredible views of Athens all around, almost as much as for it's exhibit content. The floor to ceiling windows allows for spectacular views, on a 360 degree scale as you take in the artifacts inside.

This floor has the Parthenon Gallery. Here is the space that truly fills in the gaps your imagination and the efforts of time, the elements and the deliberate removal has had on your vision of the detail of the Parthenon up on the hill. The frieze, which runs around the top of the great monument - all 115 blocks of it - are displayed here, in order as they were intended. Human figures to deities, and animals such as horses, are all depicted. As you walk around this to-scale model, some of the stone is original, but not many, you get a sense of what the Parthenon was like. It nothing short of impressive!

On you way down from the top floor, in the middle of the building, is an alcove with the Caryatids of Erechtheion. Well, five of them, with the sixth standing in London at the British Museum. Many of these have now been restored, although when I was there one of the lady's was shrouded in cloth as work continued in bringing her back to some of her former beauty and glory. Seeing the detail and shapes within the marble dress is really amazing.

The Museum visit complemented the time I spent up the hill taking in the ancient iconic ruins of Athens, and indeed Ancient Greek civilisation, piecing it all together, to complete the picture of what it all once was.

jouljet Notes:
Serious Tip: Go for the shade break in the heat of the day, at the very least, but I recommend going after you have visited the Acropolis on the hill, for context. Also, sit and watch the video of the imagined reconstruction of the Parthenon to really put the pieces together for you.
Cost: 5 Euro! Crazy cheap!
Time Spent: I probably spent over an hour to an hour and a half in here walking around, taking in all the details.
Quirky Tip: My most memorable vision within the gallery is a women's face, in marble, that looks like the sculpture has been crying black tears. She is so captivating! These tears are actually remnants of the dyes used in the colouring of her statue. There are many more treasures of enchantment to be found within the faces and scenes played out within the Museum, if you look out for them!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Blue Domes Of Santorini

They really are everywhere - domes in brilliant blue, doted all over the island.

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

There's Been Something Spiritual About This Test Series

This Test series here in Australia, against India, has been about so much more than just cricket.

I first read the devastating news of Phil Hughes' fatal injury when I was at work - one of my sister's actually sent me through a message just as I started reading about it, to check I was aware - and watched and waited like the rest of the worldwide cricket family with hope. I was glued to the feeds of news and updates for the 2 days. And then when the news came through of the 25 year old's death I needed to step away. I got back out to work, to do something meaningful. To remind myself of all that is really important in the world.

I watched our great captain Clarke work through his grief, lead his team, and support the Hughes family. I watched through a live stream, the funeral from country NSW, and teared up at the love and strength shown in Clarkie's eulogy. Never have I been so proud of a sporting figure.

Work had me out of contact and out of touch for the first day of the Adelaide Test, the first day of cricket since the abandoned match that took Hughes' life. I was flying home, on my way to Adelaide, to join MY cricket family.

It has been a little tough for me to feel the full weight of the emotion of it all, I think because of what I do, where I work, and what I hear about every day. But seeing the shrine of bats and flowers and messages out the front of Adelaide Oval, and in front of the photo of Phil Hughes brought it home for me.

The final stands of the RADelaide Test, with the impossible victory that Australia pulled off in the closing session...felt magical. Something spiritual was going on, something special. Whether we believe that Phil was looking down, or whether we just acknowledge that this playing group were playing more to honour their fallen mate than just for the mere game, it felt very different to any other win I have been present for. It was emotional. Meaningful.

I watched the rest of the series from home on a respite for the rescheduled Brisbane test, from grabs from the TV at work during the Melbourne test, and then again on a respite break just now for the Sydney test. Australia have taken the series 2-0, with 2 draws being the last results. Many significant cricket aspects went on this series - the Clarke injury, the newly crowned captaincy for Smith, the incredible form of Smith, Warner's grit, Johnson's unstoppable bowling, Dhoni's retirement, Kohli's form and captaincy...but there was a greater, more serious theme.

The collective draw of breath and fear that rippled through the ground, and screens, when the very first bouncer hit a batsman on the helmet. And each time someone reached 63. These were painful reminders of the tragic loss.

Images from the Summer like Smith's first hundred, in Adelaide, when he raised his bat to the sky, standing by the 408 painted on the ground. The whole team managing to gather together in winning jubilation, again, just above that 408 on the ground at the Adelaide Oval. Warner's hundred in Sydney, when he went to ground and kissed the pitch where Hughes had fallen. These will be lasting memories from this emotional Summer. Far greater than the series score.

Vale Phillip Hughes. Forever Young.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Another Christmas, Plus A NYE, on Nauru

Plotting out our work schedule when we first got this new contract started, our team had dismayed at the prospect of being on island for the Christmas and NYE double within a rotation. Being away from home across the holiday period is always a bit strange, and tough on family. But I had done it last year and knew what we were in for, and with some forewarning, my family had our family gathering a weekend early at home.

The thing is, Nauru LOVES Christmas. They go all out! Decorations galore - and the lit up houses and businesses are worth accidentally doing a lap on the bus around the island. So pretty!

On Christmas morning, our team gathered early together for a breakfast in the Mess, and Secret Santa exchanges, before heading to work.

I managed to score a role to accompany clients to church for the morning, which was a pretty special experience. I definitely have never attended church on Christmas Day before, and as an an atheist, totally went for the amazing singing.

But it was so meaningful to see people so very into the spirit of Christmas, and finding such solace from their faith. I am, as always, in awe of the hope, courage, and support faith brings people.

This church pictured was not that one I went to, but one of the one's on the excursion on the day.

The week in between flew by, with our usual working schedule, and before I knew it it was time to figure out plans for NYE.

In the end, a couple of us headed down to the beautifully lit O-Dn Hotel. We had a couple of beers here, before getting some takeaways and heading down to the beach in front of the hotel.

Our little gathering sat at the waters edge in a haphazard circle in the sand, with the moon shining above us, lighting the shore, the pier and the cantilevers nearby. The moon had a spooky and magical ring around it, which seemed to make the night even more special.

We saw in the countdown at midnight, and then delighted in the local fireworks coming from the main road.

So many of my key, meaningful experiences over this rotation I cannot share, for several reasons. Needless to say, it was a Christmas build up and New Year Eve countdown to remember, with some really amazing people. Some very special memories that will have to remain my very own.

Our theme for the New Year's wishes seemed to naturally be "New Year, new start!" Such hope for this year, 2015, for change and humanity. May it be a happy one ahead, for all!

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Looking Down On Fira

From the top of the caldera along the edge of the island of Santorini, this view looking back on the village of Fira is pretty spectacular.
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