In Conclusion . . .

May 29, 2006 at 4:20 am (Uncategorized)

I'm home now. I've been home for about two weeks and back to work for one. Everything is just the way I remember it and that's fine with me since by the time I got home I was done with travelling and novelties around every corner. I have also had a pretty easy time of not talking about Australia 24/7. I definitely don't want to be THAT GIRL who won't shut up about it and luckily I haven't really wanted to talk about it. I guess I just figure no one here would really understand anyway. 

Coming back from Perth kicked off my journey home. I got back into Sydney at 7pm and arranged a place to stay for my last night in Australia. As I was going about making my bed in that last hostel I was also talking to Carmella, one of my roommates. She is Swiss (the German speaking variety) and was really nice. I also started talking to another roommate, a girl from Italy, who highly recommended Pompei. Then Carmella invited me to go out with her and Nanu, another one of my roommates who was British. The Italian girl was going to bed, so she didn't come with.

First we went down to Scubar (seconds away from where we were staying). The last time I was at Scubar was on our magical mystery tour (pub crawl). It wwas two for one cocktail night which I had not planned on, but I was ok with it. Nothing else was happening there, so after a while we set off for Star Bar. Funny part: I find out that Carmella and Nanu are both 30 and they thought I was 30 as well. HA! I guess I matured a little more than I thought while I was in Sydney . . .   

So then we were at Star Bar. I still have not come to a solid conclusion on whether that place is sketchy or not. I had one last Toohey's New and shed a few tears saying goodbye to my favorite beer in the world (thus far). Nanu had this horribly annoying guy on her so when he went to get her a drink, I dragged her upstairs to the dancefloor. The night gets pretty fuzzzy from there on out. I will say that I managed to lose my blue glasses at some point which makes me a little bit upset, but thankfully I had another pair and I'm writing it off as an offering to the Gods of the outback. Or at least the Gods of beer. And two for one cocktails.

I managed to not wake up in time to take a shower the next morning. This means that I got to the airport and smelled a little like fecal matter and sour beer. Yay for making the 23 hour journey across the earth completely filthy. I amused myself on the plane watching Memoirs of a Geisha, A History of Violence, and Walk the Line. I was gross when I got home.

So now I'm just assessing my experience. Taking a walk around it, checking out every angle, and trying to come up with a way to package it and tie it up with a bow. This could take a while.

The one thing that I have come to realize is that the experience abroad opened my eyes to a lot of things that I had not seen before, especially about cultural differences and deciding who belongs/who doesn't. I have a newfound sense of respect and sensitivity for those who struggle with living outside of their home culture. I didn't think I had missed America at all but as soon as I got home I relaxed a lot and realized how much more comfortable I am here than I was in Australia. It was absolutely the most emotional four months of my life and it opened me up a lot. That is all I have come up with so far, and I don't expect that I will be able to identify all of the changes myself.

On a lighter note, I think I met more international people in Australia than actual Australians. I met and spoke with people from Switzerland, England, Taiwan, Thailand, Hungary, India, Canada (have a drink with me, eh?), Japan, France, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Rwanda, and Kuwait. Off the top of my head.

So far I miss: too many things to name.

I got a kitten and in memory of Australia his second of four names is Milo (Seamus Milo Hesse Jimmyjams). Just another way for me to say, yeah Australia, you're in my heart now.

So that's about it for this trip. I'm going to go be bored at Starbucks now.

Good luck to everyone who hasn't come home yet and have safe journeys. I don't think the adjustment to being back here was as weird as everyone said it would be, so don't worry, it just sucks a little bit. 

Hope to hear from you all soon. 

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Party On, Perth

May 13, 2006 at 7:21 pm (Uncategorized)

I think I might have a winner for favorite Australian city. Perth rocked.

The day that I got there it was still early. I spent the day roaming the city and getting my bearings (my sense of direction has been less than reliable as of late). I also realized quickly that I needed a solid plan for the following two days or else I would just get eaten up by indecision. I wrote out a schedule for myself, complete with vital information such as phone numbers and street names, and followed it at all times. It was a little too organized for me, but it maximized my time in Western Australia.

Day two: An early alarm and I was out the door at 9am. I had a weird experience on the train, perfectly awkward in every way. When my stop came up I stood at the door and waited for it to open. It didn't. I didn't get the door figured out in time (there was a plastic patch that you had to press to let it know you wanted out) so I had to go another stop and backtrack. After that, things went a little more smoothly. I got on the bus at Warwick Interchange and managed to get off at just the right stop to land me at the Aquarium of Western Australia!

The aquarium looks really small, but you can't see more than a quarter of it from the outside. Inside, your path is marked for you. The starting point is one of Australia's biggest tanks and the underwater walkway that you get to see everything through. They had the biggest stingrays I've ever seen. I have a video of them being fed that is currently sitting on my camera until I get my bookie out and learn how to put it on my computer. They also had lots of sharks and a couple of fair-size sea turtles. I was completely mesmerized.

After the half hour I spent in the tunnel, I went upstairs to see the Western Australian/Indian Ocean sealife. I hated Finding Nemo so I was not particularly excited for the clown fish, but then they turned out to be a lot smaller and cuter than I had realized. One of them was even playing hide-and-seek. I also saw a picture of a box jellyfish (one of the deadliest creatures in the world) but was disappointed that they did not have a live specimen ready for my inspection. Booooooo.

The rest of the visit was pretty standard. Touch-pool. Seals. Fighting my way through throngs of eight-year-olds. All the normal aquarium stuff. I said goodbye to my new friends (I was especially fond of the pineapple fish) around lunch time- right on schedule.

After the best fish n' chips I tasted on the lost continent I was back on the bus. My hostel was very close to the train station so I stopped there to change and to upload pictures. Then I got back on the train, this time en route to Fremantle.

Lonely Planet talked Fremantle up a fair bit in the 'Around Perth' section. I don't really think that they did it justice. Practically the entire town was old buildings, which is impressive for Australia. You get used to that sort of thing in Boston, but Australia is such a new country that most cities have historical parts or little chunks here and there and the rest is all newer stuff. It was immediately clear to me from the train window that this would not be the case in Fremantle and it was awesome. I took a nice slow walk after I got off the train and saw a lot of town by the time I arrived at Little Creatures, a local brewery, for beers and dinner. I had mussels, a Bright Ale and an Amber Ale. It was goooooodddd.

The nice waiter at Little Creatures gave me a map that made it easy to find the historic Fremantle Prison. I got up to the main gate just as the sun was setting and purchased one ticket for the torchlight tour. It sounded good on the website and in Lonely Planet, and it was. Also, it was absolutely terrifying. The "torches" turned out to be flashlights. Tiny ones. There were 'surprises' along the way that made me jump out of my skin. There were about 25 other people on the tour so I just sandwiched myself in the middle of the group and tried to focus on the history.

Walking back to the hostel from the train I was still a little bit freaked out. The hostel that I was staying at was an old converted army barracks, built in 1896 only 40 years after the prison was built. I started thinking about all of the ghosts and creepies that could potentially be stored in that building, or in my room even and just started hoping that my one roommate had not moved out that morning.

Day three: I started my last day in Perth at King's Park which was a lot like Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens. It was a lot bigger than I expected and there was no tree-top walk (damn you, Lonely Planet) so I did what I could before noon. Then I grabbed a bite on my way to the Perth mint. The mint was really cool. I got a short tour about the history of the place and then got to take a look in the rooms where the coins are minted (through glass) and finally got to see a gold pouring where they made a gold bar. Photos were not allowed inside the mint (security purposes) which was a little bit disappointing.

Then I got on the train for one last trip. I got off at Cottesloe and was heading in the direction of the beach when I met a guy and a girl from Osaka. They were looking for the beach as well so we went together. It wasn't hard to find and we arrived a good half an hour before the sunset started. I got to touch the Indian Ocean and actually wished that I had brought my bathing suit. The three of us sat on the beach and talked about America/Australia/Japan. Sunset was spectacular.

We headed back to Perth and the guy took off to meet up with a friend. Noriko and I went off to find food. We had been talking about sushi for a while, so we found a food court that was entirely Asian food and had a pleasant meal before retiring back to our respective hostels. We were going to have a drink first, but she was jet-lagged and I had to pack so we said our good-byes.

The next morning I got out bright and early and once again found myself sitting in the airport on my way back to Sydney and my last night in Australia.

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Melbun

May 9, 2006 at 7:08 am (Uncategorized)

About two hours after my last post I proceeded to lose my wallet. There could be no worse tragedy when you’re traveling in another country, but don’t panic just yet, my passport wasn’t in there. My license was, but I have an extra copy of that (pshhh), the big loss was my debit/credit cards.

The story is that I managed to just leave it on the tram (93% sure about that) and Peter said there was a chance that someone would turn it in, so we went about making phone calls. Nothing. Right when I was starting to fear the worst I got an email from Mel Loe (my boss in Sydney) saying that a man named Phil Johnson had my wallet. Yes! I love you Phil Johnson! However, over the next three days Peter and I called Mr. Johnson like it was our job and every single time the call just went straight to voicemail. This continued until Monday and then I started to panic again since Tuesday morning I would leave for Perth. We worked out an alternate plan so that my Mom and Pete came through big time to make sure that I had cash-money for my trip, but what about my wallet, Phil Johnson???? Huh???? I do not love him anymore.

At the airport this morning I was checking my email and I had another message from Mel Loe. Now the police have my wallet. I guess that’s good news since Phil Johnson cannot operate a cell phone, but it was a little late. No matter, eventually my wallet will be home with me again. Melbourne is a really cool city. Denise and I did a fair amount of walking around on that first day and we basically got to know the main streets (in and around the CBD). With Peter, we had a guide/host that dreams are made of. Except for the first night in his room when he kept the window open and we didn’t have any blankets and I got extra sick (I already had a cold). I can’t blame Peter though because he’s a polar bear.

The first day (rain) we slept late while Pete was at class and then made it into the city around 5pm. A hearty meal at a diner-type place on Elizabeth Street and then we were off to Melbourne Town Hall. The annual comedy festival was going on in the city so Peter had suggested we find something to see. There were only about a billion choices of stand-up acts and the like. We picked one called “Damien Callinan has Spaznuts”. It was part stand-up routine, part one-man play, and then partially interactive. Peter was handed a sperm donor cup the size of a cookie jar on our way in as part of the routine and when that finally came into play, Damien called him “bucket-boy” and I almost died. I have to say I was a little bit uncomfortable for the portion of the show where Damien was running around onstage in boxer-briefs, but overall it was really funny. I was relieved because there were so many shows that it seemed possible to pick one that would not be funny, but we done good.

After that we made a stop at Dizzy’s, Pete’s favorite jazz club. We were the youngest ones there but the music was good and it felt nice to be out of the wind/rain/cold. They played some Sinatra and the like, and the singer had a really nice, smooth voice. He actually started putting me to sleep so during their first break we took off.

The second day started a little bit earlier. We made it into the city by 2pm for a footy game. Pete tried to make me eat a meat pie but I was not having any of it. Denise and I quickly caught on to the game (it’s really just a free-for-all) and it was not as painful as I had expected. I don’t know that I would go again, but it was an interesting experience, especially seeing how into it all of the Aussies were. Also, the St. Kilda team’s theme song is ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’ with one minor change: they sing ‘oh how I want to be in St. Kilda’ instead of ‘oh how I want to be in that number’. That part was kind of painful.

Since Pete and I are actually a married couple, we made dinner that night. Pete cooked chicken sausages while I tried my hand at homemade macaroni and cheese. It was actually Ok, but I started to feel sick during it so Pete and Denise went out that night without me. I’m kind of sad that I did not get a taste of the Melbourne night-life but I really just needed to go to bed and kick my cold in the ass before it got too out of hand.

Denise left early that morning, which was strange because I did not see her go and we had been joined at the hip for a week. Cold turkey. Hard as it was, I lived, and Pete took me to St. Kilda (land of the saints) to see the beach-side market. Strangely enough, we got there and there were only a handful of tents set up while the rest of the marked off spaces were empty. Pete was disappointed. We tried to make up for it by getting some sushi/noodles which seemed to settle him down some. Then we took the tram into the city and went into the Anzac Shrine of Remembrance. I was a little surprised that it would be free since it was so nice inside, but Pete pointed out that it might be inappropriate to stop veterans at the door and demand a fee. Always thinking that Axtman.

More flopping around the city ensued, a trip to Southbank to kill some time. Southbank is a shopping center/food court situated on the river. We had a coffee and talked about sports for nearly two hours before moving on to our final destination. Pete and some guys he knows had been planning on going to see this blues act, so we headed off to The Corner and got inside just as the show started. The guy’s name is Geoff Achison and he is crazy good with that guitar. I don’t know that much about the guitar, but he was shredding it. I was in pain watching him at a couple of points. His band was awesome too, except I’m not sure that he needs the two female backup singers that maybe sang one line in every song. Now Geoff is off to America to promote his new CD, so maybe we’ll catch up with him there.

On my last day in Melbourne Pete was nice enough to help me get my 60+ pounds of luggage up to the tram and into the city. We dropped it all off at All Nations backpacker hotel and then ran off to hit the museums. We did the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and the Melbourne Museum. Both were interesting and free. Then we had a very decent Mexican meal at Taco Bill’s. It was pricey, but it killed that craving. We also hit the James Squire Brew House and had a classy beer after dinner. I had a coupon for a free beer back at the hostel and I owed Pete a pot so we stopped there and then Pete took me down to the river. He was going to try to have his way with me, but I saw through his game and insisted we just watch the Crown Casino pyrotechnic show from the bridge. These pillars just started spitting fire at 8pm, it was pretty awesome.

Then we said our short and sad goodbyes. I went back to All Nations to make sure all of my stuff was in order for Perth. That seems like forever ago, but it was just last night. I’m writing this after my first day in Perth and I have to say that so far I don’t know which I like better, Melbourne or Perth. Neither can be compared to Sydney, that has already been established, but they are in strong competition with each other and I still have two more days here. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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A Travel Story

May 4, 2006 at 7:48 am (Uncategorized)

Two days in the Jolly Swagman were a little rough. Nice hostel, but if you put me and Denise McIsaac in King's Cross for more that a couple of hours then bad things are bound to happen. To all of you who left Sydney before us, never do that again. We need people to keep us in check. Denise went so far as to be a complete backseat driver when we were in a cab the other night and told the driver that he was "mean" for not letting someone cut in front of him. While this might have been true, the complete silence from the front seat was a little bit terrifying. Eeeep.

I'm sure this post is going to be completely incomprehensible. I haven't really been sleeping much in the past couple of days. Leaving Sydney went a lot faster than I had expected, probably because we were constantly on the move.

Moving into the Jolly Swagman involved three trips up four flights of stairs for me. Denise did about the same. Thankfully, I mailed a lot of that stuff home (to the tune of A$198) so it's better now, but Denise is not so lucky. That girl has managed to drag around over 100 pounds of stuff in the last few days. We found that out when they weighed her bag at the airport this morning and she got charged a hefty sum for going over the allowed 20 kilos.

Unfortunately, we could not get on the same plane. Denise left at 8:15am and I left at 9:15am. When I got on the plane I continued reading my book (thanks for the suggestion, Caroline, The Alchemy of Desire is really good so far) but only until take-off. After that, I folded myself over in the brace position and I was out for the rest of the flight. I woke up after they announced that we were starting our descent and heard some guy ask, "Is she still alive over there?" to the man sitting next to me. I hope I wasn't snoring . . . although if he asked that I probably just looked floppy and dead.

So far, our adventures in Melbourne have been short but good. Now we are just in an internet place . . . waiting to eat dinner before we get our stuff out of the lockers we stored them in. Then we get to travel up to Pete's which might be a little painful, especially for the one who likes to pack everything she owns. I hear rumors of a footy game tomorrow night . . . and the desk guy at the Swagman (or Jolly Swaggerfuckers as Denise started calling it when we were drinking the other night) told us about a chocolate lover's tour that runs on Saturdays, so maybe we'll check it out. More likely, I'll just let Pete drag this sleepy, wilted body around while I try to take decent pictures.

Send emails. I will check them when I get to Perth (if not before then).

Home is not so far away now.

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Farewell, Sydney

May 1, 2006 at 7:17 am (Uncategorized)

My last real week in Sydney was a bit insane. Last weekend (a long one) was spent partially preparing for finals and partially wondering where the last three months went. 

As Tuesday was Anzac Day (a day to commemorate Australian and New Zealand veterans) we decided to see what it was all about. It is the only day in Australia that it is legal to gamble on a game called Two-Up. It is played by tossing two coins (traditionally pennies, but Australia doesn't have them anymore) into the air after betting on which side both will land on, heads or tails. If they each land on a different one they are tossed again.

Caroline, Kristine and I went to the Australian Hotel in the Rocks after dinner. It was recommended by a guy I worked (past tense!) with at SHFA who goes there every year for the Two-Up. It was insane. Everyone was wasted and standing around waving 50 or 100 dollar bills to gamble with. The actual game was run by two guys dressed as sailors and a massive crowd was gathered around their stage when we showed up. Once it quieted down (and we had enjoyed a couple of Beez Neez) we went over to catch some of the action. Caroline had some guy give her five bucks and instruct her on what to do. In the end, she won ten. Overall, a satisfying experience.

Finals went well . . . I think. I did a good job on my six-page anthropology paper, so I hope that the same will go for the essays that the test required. Art history went well too and I never have to go to PELA ever again, so I'm happy.

Wednesday night I went out to drinks and dinner with people from work. First, drinks at the Observer with Lynda (archivist), James (keeper of my sanity), and the rest of the foreshore house crew. Becky (fellow intern), Mel (supervisor), Catherine (Events manager?), Janet (I have no idea what she does), and Justin (new guy, also the one who recommended the Australian for Anzac) eventually showed up. I got a crash-course in cricket from Justin and didn't buy a single beer myself. The crowd thinned out leaving Becky, Mel, Catherine and myself to walk up to the Australian for dinner. I ate kangaroo pizza (soooooo good) and had kangaroo stuck in my teeth for hours afterward. They also presented us with little parting gifts from around the Rocks. They were so relaxed and it was nice to get to know them a little better as we all shared beer, wine, pizza, and stories.

I just couldn't stay away from them though. Friday night they had a get-together for drinks in the Merchant's House courtyard. This one was even bigger and livelier than Wednesday. It capped the experience off nicely, and I managed to keep it together when I said my goodbyes.

Saturday night was Caroline, Jamie, Kelsey, Ashley and Nina's last night. We all went to dinner at a restaurant in Circular Quay (nachooooosssss) and then to Ship Inn across the street for drinks. Most of the girls turned in early, so Denise, Ashley and I went to the Orient. We toasted Ashley's last night (and last Australian bar) with shots of tequila (ick) and made sure we danced like it was our job. At the end of the night when we were leaving the bar Denise got stopped on the street.

"Hey, are you from South America?" this guy asked.

"No, but my Mom is." Denise is too nice, so she got roped into a conversation. Meanwhile, the guys friend starts telling me that he's from Kuwait and that this clearly makes us cousins because of Bush and the oil companies. Riiiiight. At this point, a car whizzed by a little too close to the curb and the man talking to Denise insisted that I step closer to the group. "If anything happened to you I would kill myself," he said. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Yeah, mmhmmm. Before we finally managed to run away and find a cab we found out that Denise's new friend was named Mohammed Ali (he showed her his license) and that he thought Germany was in America. Boy do we get the winners. 

Saying goodbye sucks.

Nina left yesterday. Thankfully, she did not cry in front of me. Now, the room is quiet and the TV remains off (it deserves a break after 3 months of continuous abuse). I love it.

This morning, Denise and I did the unthinkable and got out of bed at 5am. We were on the train by 5:50 and made it to the gates of the botanical gardens by 6am. Unfortunately, the gardens don't open until 7am so we missed out on the actual sunrise at 6:30. We were in by 6:50 and practically ran down to Mrs. Macquarie's chair. It was gorgeous. We had a perfectly clear morning and I ended up filling the memory card in my camera by 8am. The flying foxes were out in full force, and when I say full force I mean there were hundreds of them.

We had to be in Chatswood at 9am to participate in a survey on emails as a form of communication. It was kind of fun, especially since we had been up for 4 hours at that point and were practically speaking in tongues. We walked away with 40 dollars apiece for less that an hours worth of questions and 'email donations'. Yes, we had to pick emails that we had written to forward to Dr. Judith Bishop for the study. We also had to read one of them aloud, as we would if we were talking to the person we wrote it too which was a little difficult. The doctor kindly explained to me what the research would do to help her company, but that was hours ago and I was delirious, so if I ever remember I'll add it in here. 

When we got back to glenferrie it was time to pack. Packing sucks almost as much as goodbyes. Tomorrow morning we are off to the Jolly Swagman for two nights. My ticket to the ballet is for Wednesday night and then Thursday morning Denise and I go to Melbourne (brace yourself, Peter). Denise has to go home on the 7th, but I'll be there until the 9th. Then it's off to Perth for three days! I cannot wait. I will be back in Sydney the night of the 12th so that I can get on a plane and go home the 13th. 

Good luck with classes everyone. Keep updating, I've been enjoying all of your stories. Talk to all of you once I get home!

P.S. Peter- break out the dutchie.  

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An Easter Story

April 16, 2006 at 10:27 am (Uncategorized)

Easter in Sydney seems to be a pretty big deal. At work last week we all took a tea break to eat hot crossed buns in the middle of the workday. They also have a big Royal Easter Show (more like a fair than a show). My Easter was doomed to be a lonely one since most people went away and the ones who were here had other plans.

As a solution I went where I go everytime I need some downtime: the Botanical Gardens. I'm not even sure anymore how many times I've been there anymore, but it was beautiful today and probably one of the least crowded places in Sydney.

I started out by finding the horde of cockatoos that we had seen when we went on the Aboriginal tour of the gardens with Clarence. They were out in full force and there was a whole group of people taking pictures and feeding them. I was doing the same when I got charged by one that was not very well-kempt and possibly the crazy one of the group. Simultaneously, this guy sitting on a bench a ways away started trying to get my attention, so I finished taking photos and started on my way down to Mrs. Macquarie's Chair (one of the most scenic spots in the city). The guy got up from the bench and followed me for a while, mumbling something about how the birds had the hots for me . . . creepy. I guess weirdos hanging out in the park is true everywhere, even at 2pm.

I got some OK pictures of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge before continuing to wander around the lower gardens. Finally, I decided that I had not seen the last of the cockatoos, so I went back and ate some chocolate bunny while I waited for them to come down from the trees again.

What lured them this time was a group of people with birdseed. I tried to get them to come to me with a little grass, but they were not tricked. A lady saw me trying that on them and she gave me some of her birdseed, which was so nice of her. Then she went one step further and made sure that she took a good picture of me holding the cockatoo (see My Sydney Photos). It was amazing. The cockatoo kept looking at me after the seed was gone and he was on me for a long time. However, he also decided he was too cool to stand on my sleeve so I have some scratches on my arm . . . and now I probably have bird rabies or something.

That was the extent of my Easter adventures . . . a pretty productive one if you ask me.

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Adventures of a Wine-O

April 10, 2006 at 12:54 pm (Uncategorized)

This past weekend we had our trip to the Hunter Valley which is wine country if you are in New South Wales. Which I am.

A 2.5 hour trip north started off the day; as everyone on the tiny bus gently snoozed in anticipation of the depressants to come. Or maybe it was just that we all got up at 7:30am on a Saturday and watched Beau eat a bacon and egg sandwich for half an hour before we were finally off.

Once we got there, we started at McGuigan's- the first of four vineyards. Before any bottles were cracked we had our cheese tasting. We had five different cheeses and were all slowly chewing as the woman explained in graphic detail about the molds on cheeses. All of them were really good (we tried 5) but I still don't like Brie. There was another cheese that, during maturation, is scrubbed once every three days to remove the mold. That one was reaaaallllyyy good.

Moving onto the wine. I don't know what I expected but we tried an average of 10 wines at every vineyard. Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Port, Rose, dessert wines, it was all over the board. I have to say, by the third vineyard I was pretty nauseous. I also don't even know the name of the last one we were at. The second was Brokenwood and the third was Mount Pleasant. The last one specialized in liquers, so we tried three reds and three whites before we got to taste the good stuff. We had their version of Bailey's and a couple of other ones that I don't even remember because I was terrified of the Chili Schnapps that would be the finale. I survived, and it was crazy. They infuse their Butterscotch Schnapps with chilis so that it is sweet, but extremely spicy. I threw it straight back (on the suggestion of the bartender) and my throat was burning for a while.

It was a nice day. We had good weather and it was interesting . . . but I'm officially a beer girl. I thought that the experience might open me up to the world of wine, but all it really did was convince me that I don't really like it. Especially dessert wine. Eeeeck.

Nothing else really happened over the weekend . . . but today I got to go to the Australian Museum for part of my work-day. They sent me to check out an exhibit on pearls. I stupidly assumed that there couldn't be too much to see, but they had about five good sized rooms devoted to the exhibit. It went through every different kind of mollusk that produces pearls and all the details of what they look like, complete with actual examples. They also had a lot of historical references and looked at the history of pearls in society, mostly through paintings and artefacts. I learned some interesting things . . . for example, the queen conch sometimes produces pearls but this is unusual for a gastropod since their anatomy does not make it easy for something to get lodged in the right place. Also, the largest pearl ever found was inside a giant clam and weighed 14 pounds. Last, since mollusks evolved about 500 million years ago, they have been able to find fossil pearls that are between 210-230 million years old. It was a great exhibit and I am highly recommending it to all of my fellow travelers.

That's it for now . . . more paper-writing to be done this week and hopefully some flight-booking as well.  

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Pubbin’ Not Clubbin’

April 2, 2006 at 1:39 am (Uncategorized)

Yesterday was interesting. There are countless suburbs outside of Sydney and we got to see one: Glebe. The thing about Sydney is that unlike New York or L.A., most people are not crazy enough and property is too expensive to live in the city. There really is not a residential area or even many apartment buildings to be found in the City Centre. For this reason, everyone lives in the area around the city and many of the suburbs are awesome. Living in Kirribilli is not a good example of a suburb because it is extraordinarily expensive and there isn't anything to do. Going out to the city on the weekends is usually our first instinct, however it's also more expensive and so I have started my campaign to make us see more of the suburbs, starting with Glebe.

When I first suggested to Denise that we wander down there her response was, "What? Bleeb?". I told her that according to someone I work with (who lives there) it would be worth a visit for food at least, so we gathered Nina and Julia and the four of us went down there.

We took a bus, which is unusual for us. I had a nice (confusing) conversation with the bus driver when I was trying to find out whether Glebe was part of the red zone or if we had to pay extra. When the communication breakdown was resolved (I did not have to pay extra) we were on our way down George Street. Usually, I walk down George St so it was very strange to see all of the buildings that had become so familiar to me whiz by as the bus careened toward Town Hall. It was actually a very short ride; apparently Glebe is right on the border of the City Centre.

When we stepped off the bus we were a little unsure of what to do, having never been in the area, so we just started walking down the main street. After just a few minutes we were pleasantly surprised by the weekend market that was set up on one of the Public School lawns. We went in to browse, but it was late in the day so most of the stalls were closing up. Also on the main street were some neat shops and a couple of used book stores that we went into.

When it came time to find something for dinner, none of us wanted to make a decision. We settled on the "Mores Cafe" which was pretty good. A lot of Italian choices, but also some Turkish Pides. The cake that we shared for dessert was called 'hot chocolate' something-or-other, but it was really a lava cake and it was amazing. When I asked Nina why she wasn't going to have any she told me that she doesn't like chocolate. This fact may seem trivial, but it explains a lot. I have been throwing the hershey kisses that my Mom sent for Valentine's Day at her for the last month and she always throws them back or gives them to Denise. I thought she was just mad that I was throwing them at her, but now the truth has finally come out.

After dinner, the real adventure started. We took the bus back to the city, specifically into The Rocks. Starting at the north end, furthest from Circular Quay, we were on a mission to explore and have at least one drink at all of the pubs we passed. We probably could have stayed in Glebe and had some experience with the pubs there, however this is something that I have been wanting to do in The Rocks for the past month. Walking by all of these pubs on my way to work piqued my interest and it was just time to go.

First we went into the bar at the Mercantile Hotel. It was a clean little place and there were a couple of different screens showing rugby or footy games (I still don't know how to tell what sort of game is going on). We had a drink, but the live music wasn't going yet and the crowd was mostly interested in the games, so we finished up and left. It's not fair to say that the pub was bad though, because it was still early and we were still sober.

Next we stopped at The Observer, the reputed hang-out of "Chopper". We all got another drink (I got an Amber Ale this time instead of Toohey's New) and sat down to listen to the music. Although we looked everywhere and did not find Chopper, the guy playing his guitar looked like he should have been in a biker gang. He kind of sounded like it too, which was strange when he played a cover of 'Wonderwall'.

By far the most amazing thing that happened at The Observer was in the bathroom. Nina and I found a dispenser for pheremone wipes! The box that came out was labeled "Wipe On Sex Appeal" and had a warning stating, "can trigger powerful responses; use with caution". We brought it out to the bar where I hurriedly tore into it and wiped it all over Denise before she could object. She grabbed the wipe from me (this thing was like a moist towelette that you would use at a barbeque or something) and wiped it in my hair. Within 30 seconds we were all covered in pheremone. I didn't turn around to look, but Denise says that the guy at the table behind us was losing it watching us wipe that nastiness all over each other.

Once we composed ourselves, we moved on to the Orient. We have been there before, but Denise wanted to check out the 3rd floor. There is a dance floor up there that we had been unaware of on our last visit. The floor didn't open until 10pm (yup, still early), so we had a drink downstairs and watched another guy play the guitar. It wasn't long before ten o' clock came and Denise was off like lightning. On the third floor the bar was nearly deserted so Nina, Denise and I had a shot called 'squashed bug'. I have to assume that the name comes from the fact that the first liquid is green, but then the bartender put a little bit of kahlua in that sat on top and last was a red liquid that created a small dot of red on top of the kahlua. The shape of that dot actually could have been a squashed bug. In any event, it was a good one. I didn't have very high hopes for the dance floor; most of the music that we have come upon since we've been here has been disappointing. I am officially impressed though . . . the DJ played some good stuff- best of all, he played 'golddigger'.

We danced for the better part of an hour before I decided to catch the last ferry back to Kirribilli. Julia went with me since she lives up in North Sydney (doing a homestay) and she didn't want to miss the train. The last I saw of Nina and Denise was when they were waving goodbye to us as we walked down the stairs. It's 11am and Nina still isn't home. I haven't been across the hall yet to check on Denise, but who knows what they got up to.

Overall, I think I am more into the pub scene than the club scene. I have just been horrified/felt out of place whenever we have been out to an actual club, but the pubs were all very relaxed. Hopefully, I will get the chance to explore more of them, maybe even some suburban pubs!

Til then, I have to start my final research paper for Anthropology. I looked up the due date yesterday and was a little alarmed to find out that it's due a week from this tuesday . . .yikes. So now, it's off to the library scene for me.

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A Fast One

March 31, 2006 at 1:15 pm (Uncategorized)

This week was insane. First of all, I was at my internship for 28 hours instead of the usual 20. I did not hate this as much as I thought I would, in fact, it was nice to be so busy. It took my mind off being sick (I am finally over all of that as of yesterday).

I picked this week to do extra hours because Lynda, the archivist I work with, was having the week from hell. She was supposed to have use of the 3rd floor at Foreshore House (currently empty but soon to be leased out) for the next three months to get the entire library full of documents, pictures, slides, etc. into the computer. The company decided to speed up the process of leasing the place out, so now she only has two weeks (last week and this coming week). Also happening this week was the Heritage Prize awards ceremony, so she was losing it. I did my best to help keep her sane . . . I helped with a little bit of the data entry but mostly I finished the powerpoint presentation for the awards ceremony and tackled the design/printing/assembly of the nametags for all of the guests. The ceremony happened this morning and it went pretty well, especially considering that Lynda is the only person in charge of putting it together and she has no background in events management.

So those are the boring details of my work life. What really happened this week is that I learned some interesting things. First of all, I did not know that the curve of the southern Australian coast is called "The Great Australian Bite". James told me this at work on Wednesday. Another priceless piece of information from Mr. Shepherd: There is this well-known Australian guy named "Chopper". Or that's his nickname I should say. Anyway, there was a movie about him starring Eric Bana. He claims to have killed 19 people (drug dealers mostly) but no one can prove that. He spent all but 13 months between the ages of 20 and 38 in prison. In prison, he was going to be killed by some of the drug-dealers friends but the guards didn't believe him so they would not transfer him. To make them believe him he cut off his own ears. Since he has been out of prison he has written a children's book called "Hooky the Cripple" and recorded a CD titled "Criminal Record". His main hang-out is The Observer, a pub near where I work, and tomorrow night we are going to go check it out and see if we can't get a glimpse of the Chopper himself.

I also learned this week that the child who called me a ghost last week had a reason. There are two ghosts in the building I work in. One is a little girl, which is kind of creepy. The other one is a man who dislikes all of the Pub Tour guides and gets upset if Janet stays too late at work. They used to make the house feel weird, like people weren't welcome, but then they brought in Uncle Max, an Aboriginal elder, to do a smoking ceremony and ever since the ghosts have been more behaved. I heard all of this from Janet, but I haven't seen/felt/worried about a ghost since I got there.

Also this week (today specifically) was our class trip to the Royal Botanical Gardens. We got a tour from Clarence, an Aboriginal man, who gave us that perspective on the garden. He showed us a lot of the native plants and gave us their Aboriginal uses. We even got to eat some real bush tucker (berries). Clarence also said that women don't play the didgeridoo because it's phallic and if they did play it they couldn't have babies. Suneeti (our anthropology teacher) told us that if a woman hears the call of a Kookaburra that they are or will be pregnant, so I guess the next time I hear that call I'll just grab myself a didgeridoo and I'll be cured.

Another interesting thing about Clarence is that his cousin is Shane, who was the boat captain when I went on the Aboriginal Cultural Cruise. I like both of them, but I think I like Clarence more because he was funny and very informative. Also, he showed us how to make bush bandaids and he demonstrated on my finger. He took a leaf from the nearest bush and put it on my pretend cut. Then, he grabbed a very thick thread from a spiderweb and wrapped it around the leaf, binding it to my finger. He didn't tie it or anything, the web was sticky enough, and it stayed on for half an hour until I took it off. It was pretty cool.

Last weekend Peter was here. I would recount everything that happened, but he has already done that and so I will just refer you to his blog (the link is in my blogroll). We had a good time. He mentions the night that we went out to a bar in King's Cross which was the scene of one of the crazier things that has happened to me since I've been here. Peter left before us because he was "tired". When Denise, Nina, Kristine and I left we were wandering outside (a bit intoxicated) trying to get a cab. This guy with a really think Irish accent started asking me for directions back to "Paddy McGuires" as we were standing at a crosswalk. I pointed him in the best possible direction and he gave me a high five (behind the back). Instead of leaving though, he turned and said, "Wait! Here's a kiss from an Irishman," and planted one right on my cheek. I turned into a statue for those few seconds and when he was gone, turned around to see if everyone else had noticed what just happened. Completely dismayed, I wondered if he was a clean person and continued to cross the street.

I can't think of anything else that happened this week, although I'm certain there were other things. I can only assume that if I forgot them, they weren't worth writing anyway.

Word.

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Spring Break and Beyond

March 23, 2006 at 12:05 pm (Uncategorized)

Last week was my spring break and I was definitely broken. I managed a head cold, ear infections in both ears, conjunctivitis, and a bad reaction to some cough drops. Thankfully, I was visiting Brendan which made the situation much better. In total, I was in Brisbane for about five days. I spent the other part of my trip in Noosa, about an hour north of the city. We went to museums, got some good food, managed to catch a little bit of live music (and a lot of karaoke). We also tried gelati, went to the beach, and saw two movies (Match Point and Transamerica). Brisbane seems like a neat city and Noosa was a picturesque little town. Good coffee was available in both places- always a plus.

The strangest thing about break was the transition when I came back to Sydney. It was hard to believe that I would actually be coming back to this routine while I was still in Brisbane, but it seemed the closer I got to Kirribilli the gears in my mind all spun and clicked until I felt like I was coming home. I fear I have developed an attatchment to this place (which is not necessarily a good thing since Kirribilli is one of the most expensive suburbs of Sydney . . . even if I got back here some day I would not be able to afford to live a few feet down the street from John Howard).

This week I hit the ground running. I hadn’t been to my internship in two weeks because the week before vacation I was sick with a stomach bug. I had my share of menial tasks over the last four days . . . laminating . . . data entry . . . some dumb stuff with an excel spreadsheet. However, I also had the strangest encounters in my first couple of days back at work. I should say that due to the ear infections, which have not completely cleared out, I have some trouble hearing things. So I’ve been in my head a lot just listening to my own breathing and wondering if I have a fever. This has made me into a space cadet whenever I’m left alone for an extended period of time. It was in this state on Monday that I walked down the stairs in Merchant’s House to ask a question. I was met towards the bottom of the flight by a group of eight-year-olds who were on one of the learning adventure tours that comes through Merchant’s House. One of them looked up at me, raised his hand to point at me and screamed at the top of his lungs, “GHOOOOOOOSTTTTT!!!!!!!!!”. All of the little kids looked at me and I basically just kept walking and nervously pretended that I really was a ghost. I might add that my feelings were a little hurt since I thought my tan was coming along nicely.

Another day this week I spent a while in the museum, helping out. Usually, I make sure the water compartments in the air conditioners have been emptied and then windex some. As I was feeling particularly feverish on that day, I decided to take it easy and just keep the worker at the register company after I checked the AC’s. There is only one person working there all day so they get kind of lonely. We were having a grand old time (Ha) when Chris, another one of the ladies who works in the museum sometimes, came in to give the other woman a break. Chris and I have spoken before, so we proceeded to catch up a little. I told her I was sick and she started asking what I was doing for it. She recommended all of these herbal remedies (echinacea, watermelon-apparently good to help with decongestion, and thyme). She told me that she hasn’t been to a doctor in years, which impressed me. Then she kind of shouted, “Oh, I practice Reiki Healing, come here!”

She pulled me down to the end of the counter and instructed me to close my eyes and imagine a light shining above me. “I’ll keep watch,” she promised. I closed my eyes and I could feel her hands lightly brush my hair every now and again as she moved them around my head. “Hi there!” I heard her say and I opened my eyes to see a couple of people who had just walked in. I felt a little weird thinking that they might have seen what she was doing (which would have looked mighty strange to the un-enlightened) so I nervously waited until they had passed through the gift shop to the museum and announced that I should be moving on to my next task. Before I could go, Chris told me that there is sometimes a telepathic element to what she does, so she would continue to send me positive energy. She also said that when she was moving her hands around me she saw a couple of images: baseball, and a color that she couldn’t remember. That part made me think she might be a little wacky, but I have to say I was really creeped out ten minutes later when I was sitting at my computer and the main article on the wikipedia homepage was about an American/Chinese baseball rivalry.

Weee Hoooo. I had almost forgotten how spicy this internship can get. The real work that I did this week involved putting together a powerpoint presentation for the upcoming Heritage Prize awards. I thought my boss was going to do most of the work for it, but she ended up giving me all of the creative/content decisions. So basically, it’s my baby now and it will be continuously looping at the awards ceremony a week from tomorrow. I get to help out at that event as well; she suggested I take the company’s digital camera and be the photographer.

But that is more work for another week. Tomorrow the real party starts with the arrival of Peter William Axtman in the early afternoon. Oh yes, it’s going to be rambunctious.

Much love.

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