Mikus had a fabulous costume party for his birthday... complete with green (chocolate) frog hunt in the local park and a rocket cake made by Oma. He (and we) had a great time, and with his rapidly developing capacity for speech, came upstairs in the evening after our last guests had left and said: "I've had such a lovely day!" So that's it - now he's three and the "terrible twos" are officially over. Yipee!

People in Latvia make pretty stereotypical assumptions about Australia. Most people assume the capital of Australia is Sydney, and pretty much everyone thinks that we have kangaroos jumping around in our back yards as a standard feature. When people ask me stupid questions about Oz, I usually go along with it. The girls in my singing group delight in my answers whenever there is a new girl joining our group who brings out the typical line of questioning: „Oh! You’re from Australia!! Wow! Did you have your own kangaroo??” Me: „Sure I did! It had a collar like a dog and we had to tie it up by the back fence so that it didn’t jump away! And koala bears sleeping in gum trees out the back...”

A few weekends ago we stayed for the weekend at the Grampians National Park (about 350 kms out of Melbourne), where this actually WAS the norm! For those of you who haven't been there, the landscape in the Grampians is pure exotic Aussie fare - I was just as amazed as the dopey European tourists. We would wake in the morning to cockatoos on the deck, and kangaroos grazing in the front yard. I wonder why we never made the trip out here while Jeremy and I were living in Melbourne. Although everything was parched and brown, the grass trees, huge mountainous rock formations and spectacular views over valleys and hillsides made for an amazing Aussie tourist experience. Bushfires are a constant threat here (a big one ripped through the area around two years ago) and the terrain seems so wild that there are times when you wonder how wise those ‘whiteys’ are, making homes in the area and imaging that they can tame a bit of that rugged wilderness.

While there – with Jeremy’s parents and brother Jamin, wife Julie and their son Luka – we celebrated my birthday, a classic meal at the Grampians hotel (love those pub meals that spill over the sides of the plate) and an ice cream cake for afters. Just perfect – especially the three eager young guys who helped me blow out the candles.

In Australia the sky is bigger. You are so aware of it. When you go outside at night your gaze is inevitably drawn upwards to the millions of sparkling diamonds - the crickets singing all around and that huge, expansive sky above.
The place I notice the sky the most is at Point Arkwright in Coolum. We've been coming here for ever, and a few weeks ago we had the delight of introducing the boys to our special spot. A week spent under that sky with good friends - eating fish and chips on the beach, poking around rock pools and seeing the tide come in.
At the Point the sea is wild, angry. The surfer boys stand on the dunes in the morning watching the swell. The waves surprise you with their ferocity and try to dump you in the shallows, the water foaming and bubbling effervescent, washing smooth the sand and bringing up broken shells and bits of driftwood.
I know a secret place amongst the rock pools where all the hermit crabs live. They're always there in multitudes, if you go at the right time when the tide is low. Around the back of a huge rock are some sheltered pools where they congregate - in stripey and patterned and conical shells. The boys were amazed to hold the shells in their hands and then feel the tickle of little claws, nipping and scrabbling to get back into the water.
At lunch time we would retreat to our shaded shack made of weatherboard and tin, in a little hollow just behind the dunes, with rainbow lorikeets screeching in the trees around. We walked back to the beach in bare feet over the gravel when it got cooler, to watch the sunsets and say goodnight to the foaming, pounding ocean and that incredible sky.


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