In case you haven’t seen this video, taken at an aquarium in the USA, here’s a Beluga whale trying to get his point across to some kids. I think their mother might be partly responsible for their shrieking – at the very start of the vid, she says “Ooooh, he’s coming for you!”, but I think he’s really just saying “Hey, guys!” and wondering what all the fuss is about.
Also, it’s a bit boring up to 45 seconds, so please stick with it (or fast forward if you’re in a hurry).
It’s the week leading up to Valentine’s Day and, whatever your status or your take on the whole festival, it’s a good chance to think about what we love. Whether that’s people, furry friends, places, foods, languages, brands, weather, hobbies, or even shoes. Or weird stuff, like those people on My Strange Addiction who love eating the synthetic filling in couches or love their car (as in, really love their car) or love their teddy bears as if they were children. (If you don’t believe me, you can check out the stories on the show’s website here.)
Anyways, this week I’ll be posting about some of the things that I love. Today, it’s the incomparable Humans of New York.
It’s more than a blog and a book and a community – I’d say that it’s a public service. When I first encountered it, I was hooked. With a snap and a few lines from someone out and about in NYC, you get an incredible insight into their life – sometimes sad, sometimes funny, sometimes hopeful, sometimes heartbreaking. For a fanatical people-watcher like me, it’s gold.
Brandon Stanton is the man behind the Humans (well, technically he’s behind the camera in front of the Humans). What started as a ‘photographic census’ of NYC grew into a hugely popular blog and it’s now even bigger thanks to Facebook (the page has almost 3 million likes). There’s also a book of HONY photos and quotes that you can buy.
These are just a selection of some of my recent favourites. If you are on Facebook, I strongly suggest that you get on board with Humans of New York. You can also check out the book here and the blog here. I LOVE IT!
I like things with faces. Animals, people, watches – those kinds of things. Nothing strange about that, I’m sure. But I really like spotting unexpected things with faces – in nature, or on inanimate objects like doors or street signs or pieces of toast.
Many years ago, I found a photography book made up entirely of images of faces in unexpected places and I was excited to know that there was at least one other person who shared my interest. And now, thanks to Facebook, I know that there are at least 63,976 people around the world who also like things with faces. Because there’s a Facebook page called Things with Faces. Their tag line is Admit it, you see a face. And it’s a very good page to look at if you need a giggle.
And finally, one of my favourites.
If you’re on Facebook, I strongly suggest that you check out the Things with Faces page. (Oh, and while you’re there, you might want to like the EverydaySparks page too!) If you’re not on Facebook, you can always google ‘things with faces’ to find similar collections of pics. And when you’re out and about, remember to keep alert – THEY ARE ALWAYS WATCHING.
On Saturday night, a wonderful tradition continued for me here in Sydney. Actually, I think I have written about it here before, but that was a while back, so I’m sure it’s ok if I tell you about it again. It all started almost six years ago, when my eldest niece turned eight. Given that her birthday is in December, I gave her a combined birthday-Christmas present of a Roar and Snore adventure at Taronga Zoo.
(If you’re not familiar with Taronga Zoo, it’s in a fabulous location with some of the best views in Sydney (especially if you’re a giraffe) and they have a really strong commitment to ensuring that the animals are well looked after – which makes for some large enclosures and interesting activities.)
Anyways, last weekend it was finally the turn of the youngest of the three sisters in the family to head off for our overnight excursion to the zoo. LG was super excited about it – I know that for sure because she had written I AM SO EXCITED! on the gift voucher in giant letters. She had also started a countdown on her calendar and her whiteboard some time before we were due to go and had written a long list of things that she needed to pack in her bag – she’s an organised gal, alright.
And so we headed off to the zoo on Saturday evening in perfect weather. Arriving around sunset, we settled into our glamping accommodation – the large ‘tents’ have wooden floors, nice beds (with electric blankets) and two layers of zipped material doors to keep the pesky possums out. Over drinks and nibbles we had a close encounter with some new friends – including a snake, blue tongue lizard, leaf insect and a few others. And then after dinner, we went on a fantastic night tour of the zoo, when a lot of the boring daytime animals become very active creatures indeed.
Overnight, we heard some roaring and some snoring (not from within our tent, I swear) and then it was an early start for breakfast before heading off for more behind-the-scenes interactions. Feeding the tall and frankly bizarre-looking giraffes their carrot breakfast was an incredible experience – some people even got a bit of a slurp from their loooong blue tongues. And then a close-up look (while staying dry) at the leopard seal being trained – amazing stuff. After that, we said goodbye to our new friends (humans and animals) and then spent the morning wandering around the zoo.
One of the highlights (which I wish I could’ve captured better, but it was actually pretty scary at the time) happened when we were checking out the chimps on our early morning tour. The guide was telling us about the male boss chimp and, right on cue, he came to the front of the enclosure (you can hear her in the video advising not to make eye contact). He was right up at the glass and started tapping on the ground in front of us. The guide suggested that we could tap back at him.
And then he went a little bit nuts and hurled his large self at full pace right up against the glass and ran towards us. Thankfully, the $10k per pane extra-thick glass did its thing – but it definitely woke us up first thing in the morning!
I really can’t recommend this experience highly enough – for adults and kids alike – especially as a great gift idea for visitors or people who might be tricky to buy for around Christmas-time… If you’re interested (and you really should be, according to LG, her sisters and me), you can find out more at the Roar and Snore website here.
I’m not sure if you’ve heard of parkrun – I hadn’t heard of them until I read an article in the local paper last week about one starting in our area. Such a cool idea – I’ll let the parkrun people explain it: parkrun organise free, weekly, 5km timed runs around the world. They are open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in. These events take place in pleasant parkland surroundings and we encourage people of every ability to take part; from those taking their first steps in running to Olympians; from juniors to those with more experience; we welcome you all.
Sounds pretty good, yes? And when they launched a parkrun at Balmoral Beach in Sydney, a picturesque part of the world not far from where I live, I thought I would go along and see what it was all about. As an aside, I haven’t been running for over 12 months after being scared off by a couple of big injuries in quick succession. And I wanted to avoid going back to the physio’s torture chamber and putting on those horrific communal short shorts (which I wrote about here last year).
Saturday was a lovely day in Sydney and I arrived at Balmoral about 10 minutes before the 7am start. There were an assortment of people there – almost all of them looking like super fit and fast runners, sponsored by major sporting brands. I started to suspect that the parkrun promise – encouraging people of all abilities to take part – had not quite reached glamorous Balmoral.
I skirted the edges of the group, still thinking I could skulk away and get a coffee and just watch them, but then summoned up the courage to speak to a volunteer in a fluoro green vest. Meg was a parkrunner from Curl Curl on Sydney’s northern beaches and had come to help out with the first ever Mosman parkrun. She assured me that there would be lots of ‘normal’ people there, even some walkers, but as we looked around the group, I think we both doubted whether that was true. Then I saw some people with prams and a few older ladies and thought I might as well give it a go.
And so I did. I ran the whole way – more of a shuffle than a run, mostly – and when I was tempted to walk, the words of my Camino buddy Shane rang in my head: DO NOT STOP. And so I didn’t. The atmosphere was lovely and there were lots of smiles and high fives from the 102 runners – the fastest ran past like a blur and finished in half the time it took me, but I was very happy just to get to the end and find the earlier finishers hanging around to clap and cheer the slower peeps.
So, that was a great start to Saturday morning – exercising (for free!) in a beautiful place with nice people – and all done before 8am. Everyone was nodding and smiling and looking forward to building this little community that had just formed.
Now I don’t want to get political, but this story has since taken a bad turn. By yesterday, Mosman Council had squashed the new parkrun community like a bug – cancelling the Balmoral run because of blah blah blah. An annoying setback, but hopefully the organisers will be able to come up with a different route that doesn’t upset the precious people and lets the parkrun community thrive. If only so I can try and beat my first run time and feel like an Olympian with a new PB!