In A Sunburnt Country

As I write this, it is 3:06 am, yesterday. Before I left, a student's mother gave me the Bill Bryson travelogue about Australia In A Sunburned Country (thank you Katie B!) which I began reading shortly before taking off out of O'Hare and am now half way through. Mr. Bryson says "For me there was no January 4. None at all. Where it went exactly I couldn't tell you. All I know is for one twenty-four-hour period in the history of earth, it appears I had no being." For me, that day is October 8th. Sorry, Nora.

The flight from ORD to LAX and from LAX to Sydney and from Sydney to Canberra was as uneventful as a four hour + fourteen hour + four hour layover in Sydney + one hour flight - one entire day could be. When we passed through customs in Sydney the Soprano (Katherine) in the group was asked "Why Canberra?" This question was echoed by our cab driver a few hours ago as well as several other locals whom we ran into today.

For those of you who don't know - the main purpose of this journey is as a member of the chamber music group Trio Chicago and Friends (not sure if I'm a "friend" or not - I think so). Trio Chicago goes on approximately four trips a year as "Cultural Ambassadors" to foreign countries. In the past, these countries have included (but are not limited to) Botswana, Paraguay, Sudan, Thailand, and China. Australia is by far the most Western country the group has been to and I'm not quite sure what we can offer that the Syndey Opera House can't, but I am trying not to question too loudly. The group has a regular (and highly accomplished) flutist that could not make this trip and that's where I come in. We are in Canberra to start with because it is the capital of Australia (who knew?) and the location of the American Embassy. We will be here for four days, during which time we will play at the Ambassador's residence, conduct a workshop for students, and play a public concert of American classical pieces (Candide, Porgy and Bess, Caravan, etc.)

So, that's why WE are in Canberra. The why of the locals asking about Canberra is a little more complicated... Canberra is a young city. Somewhere around the turn of the last century it was decided that Canberra would become the capital city. They started with a blank slate, and eventually picked a student of Frank Lloyd Wright (Walter Burley Griffin) to design the city (nevermind the fact that his wife did most of the heavy lifting and that Griffin ended up leaving waaaay before the project was completed). The result is a city compared a lot to Washington D.C., but with even more green space and not all that much else to it. It's just not a tourist trap. In fact, it is so not a tourist trap that everyone seems to need to apologize for it.

Thus far, Canberra has seemed very nice. We are in an open-up-and-say-awesome hotel (glassed in marble shower anyone?) very near all the big buildings. Following check-in and a shower, we located a local micro-brewery that had a fabulous stout and respectable fish and chips. Tomorrow I look forward to a day of sight-seeing, and I've been all but guaranteed that I will see kangaroos (!!!!!!!!!!!) The internet is very expensive here, but I will do my best to keep you all posted.