Tuesday, November 11, 2008

In Flanders' (tropical) Fields ...

An Aboriginal woman and her child watch during a moment of silence in Darwin's Remembrance Day ceremonies on Nov. 11, 2008.

DARWIN, Northern Territory (Nov. 11, 2008) — Today is Remembrance Day (Veterans Day in the United States), so my big activity planned on what was designed as a light day was to attend memorial ceremonies on the Esplanade.

So I headed out to the memorial to participate, only to find no one there. It turns out I was at the World War II memorial and the ceremonies were at the World War I memorial about 1 km up the road. Luckily, I heard the sound of taps on a bugle wafting down the road and hustled over just in time to catch the end of the ceremony.

Below: The ceremonial laying of poppies on Darwin's Cenotaph.

I put a poppy on my lapel, then spoke with a couple Aussie Vietnam Vets, whose participation in that war is often forgotten on our side of the Pacific. I snapped a few pictures and then retreated to the well air-conditioned mall for a Chinese food lunch.

Below: Plaques commemorating the defense of Darwin during World War II, including the contribution of the sunken USS Peary.

Prior to the ceremony I got a haircut at the local barber shop. The barber’s name was Gerry and he was born in Greece. Strangely, there was another American in the next chair getting his hair cut. He operates a small resort on a minor Indonesian island, but is closed for the summer so he’s staying down in Darwin. Probably a good idea, with the hostility some Indonesian radicals are showing right now after the execution of the Bali bombers.

Seeing as I needed a shave, I had Gerry handle that while I was there — especially since the whole package (including tip) was only about $20 USD with the exchange rate. Getting shaved by another person is fairly relaxing if you can get thoughts of Sweeney Todd or "Eastern Promises" out of your head.

I just got back from enjoying the pool, seeing as this is the only hotel on my trip that has one (although the hostel in Alice Springs has a hot tub). It was one of the few unheated pools I’ve been in that I did not need to take time to get used to the water temperature — and it was a salt-water pool to boot! After a quick swim, I sat reading on a deckchair, conscious of the really loud booming to the west. Luckily , I cleared out before the rain started.

Tomorrow I catch the Ghan train to Alice Springs, from which I'm off to Uluru and the real outback. I'll be incommunicado for a couple days. As for now, I'm off to eat some kangaroo!

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