Sunday, November 25, 2007


Howard out! Satay in!

There's been discussion of the Australian elections in the UK papers I read online as well, in many cases providing clearer overviews of the issues more than you see in the (Murdoch-owned) Australian newspapers. Marieke Hardy's mum had a novel way of campaigning.

The level of political debate Down Under is just as "abrasive"/"robust"/misogynistic as ever: John Howard will hopefully be knocked out of his local seat by his leading rival, TV star Maxine McKew.
When Ms McKew appeared on giant screens around the Wentworth Hotel ballroom,
filmed being feted by the Labor faithful at her Bennelong function, loud boos
rang out. Some Young Liberals abused the Labor candidate, one yelling "get a
facelift, you slag".
Good on her for sticking it out and rising above it - the same with Julia Gillard, the shadow Deputy PM who was abused as being "deliberately barren" for not having had children. Firstly, there's no call for that kind of prurient leering. It may be deeply sad for her - you don't know what suffering people might have gone through if they want a child and can't have one. Whatever the reason, it's a private matter and not remotely in the public interest. Finally, I'm just pointing out that there is no way anybody would say that to a male politician without kids.

One of the most interesting people I've met is Dario, an Italian radio presenter travelling around the world without ever flying. You don't meet many Italian travellers, especially not compared to Brits and Germans - it seems to be a real cultural difference - but this modern day Marco Polo keeps a blog (in Italian) discussing the joys of travel, and sharing some amazing photography, with his former listeners back home. I never imagined visiting Uzbekistan until he showed me some of the pictures he'd taken there.

Apart from the excitement of chatting with fellow travellers, I've been enjoying the Chinatown markets, with their rumbling trolleys of goods charging through, hopefuls gurning optimistically from racks off knock-off watches, wallets, sunglasses and suitcases "Chip-chip sir, chip-chip madam, for you very good price!"

This evening I brought a Dutch guy and a fellow English girl to try a locals-only satay stand that I'd walked past earlier (I didn't want to be the only Westerner in the entire place). They have plates full of kebabs, five or six unidentifiable lumps of foodstuff on a skewer. You select the ones you'd like, and they're dunked into boiling broth for a couple of minutes, then doused with a dark brown sauce. It contained a few crushed peanuts, a little chilli and perhaps even an edge of ginger, but basically it was just a rich gravy. Poor Jaap, on the other hand, was given a fiery hot chilli oil on top of his sauce - maybe as a kind of macho challenge? I definitely got the milder end of deal. We enjoyed their iced tea - very cold, milky and sweet, possibly with condensed milk. It was 1.50 ringgit a cup - that's about 20p in UK money, or 50 cents in Australian.

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