VII

February 25, 2006 at 1:14 pm (Uncategorized)

Some days, a job is a job, and other days, a job is something that you don’t get paid to do so people make it easy on you. I had one of those days Wednesday.

Usually I am confined to the archives with Lynda all day on Wednesday. This week I had special permission to do otherwise. I went to Merchant’s House at nine and got in a quick hour of searching for labels to put together with professional photos of artefacts that appear in the museum. Then it was off to Circular Quay to meet with a couple of Japanese business-women. The woman from our office, Catherine, had arranged this outing to sell the idea of the Aboriginal Cultural Cruise to the two of them, and we were just along for the ride.

The boat showed up with it’s entirely Aboriginal crew including the captain, Shane, who also provided the running commentary once we got out to sea. He described the harbour as it was called and used by the Cadigal people (the name of the tribe) who inhabited the area when the first settlers arrived. Dawes point, where one end of the bridge is located, was occupied by settlers, but tribes from all over returned during the same season every year despite this. The settlers finally found out that the area beyond the point is the deepest in the harbour and is therefore the best for fishing at certain times of the year. On another point, the settlers found 12 ft. high shells that they crushed and used as an ingredient in mortar. They wiped out all of them, but they were eventually replaced with bigger shells: the shell shaped roof of the Sydney Opera House.

The day was full of fun facts like these. There were other no-so-fun-facts about the genocide that went on as well, but the entire story was presented from an Aboriginal standpoint and that is a big part of their story. It’s actually amazing to be here and get to learn about all of this stuff, because Australia is quite a bit behind America as far as race politics go. Until 1967, Australian Aboriginals did not even have citizenship and were categorized/had the same legal rights as the native flora and fauna.

Once the history lesson was over, we docked the boat on Clark island. We walked around the entire perimeter in 15 minutes (including a trip up to the highest point on the island) and when we got back to the place we started we stopped. A few minutes later a low hum was audible; coming from an inner part of the island. A man stepped out from behind a rock, dressed entirely in Aboriginal dance clothing, and right behind him was another man dressed similarly and playing the didgeridoo. They did 4 or 5 dances for us (one of which the Japanese women were asked to participate in) and then we all (including them) got back on the boat. The one who had done most of the dancing, Terry, explained to us that the dances they had done were dances that they used to teach their children about their culture and the world around them.

The cruise adventure was a lovely start to the morning. After eating lunch on the harbour (I love it), I headed up to Foreshore House to the archives. Lynda seemed to be a little bit more organized than she has in the past so we went straight to the library. The building has 6 floors. The library is on floor 5 and so is her office. The 3rd floor is being remodeled at the moment, but Lynda finally got some storage space there, so the first task was to move everything that we had put in the ‘sump pump’ room on the 1st floor up to the new space on the 3rd. Since they are renovating the floor, the main elevator will not stop there unless someone on the 3rd calls it. In fact, to get to the 3rd floor there is only one elevator that will take you there. I can see that all of this information is about to get confusing, so here’s the short version: Me + 1 tiny trolley for the boxes on 3 different elevators each trip. Multiply this by 6 trips from the sump pump room and at least another 4 from the library and you would have been looking at one sweaty girl last Wednesday afternoon.

I had Thursday off because of an unexpected switch in my work schedule. I spent most of the day wishing I were asleep because I still have to have a conversation with my roommate about the snooze button.

Friday morning I managed to get up at a respectable hour. Denise, Kristine and myself walked up to the train station and had lunch in the city. When we were sitting down to eat, I heard a gruff voice behind me say, “Look at you! You’re gorgeous! Where are all the guys?”. At first I thought that it was someone we knew, but I did not turn around. The two of them were sitting across from me, and by the look on their faces I quickly figured out that turning around would be bad news, so I focused all of my attention on my spaghetti. The man behind me said a few more half-coherent things before suddenly taking off. When he was gone I got the full description and apparently we had been in the presence of none other than a real live Australian pirate. I think that says it all.

From there we split up. Kristine and Denise went to cash a check and I went in search of an establishment where someone would be kind enough to attack my head with a very sharp pair of scissors. The place that I found accepted walk-ins, but still could not make room for me for another two hours. The atmosphere reminded me a lot of my hairdressers at home so I decided it would be worth the wait. In the meantime, I walked around North Sydney. I found myself a coffee, and even more exciting, an 8 oz. french press that is going to save me an incredible amount of money. I returned to the stylist a little earlier than expected, in the hopes that they would be able to take me sooner, and I was right.

The woman who did my hair is called Jo. She was incredibly nice and kept the conversation going the whole time (nothing worse than not having anything to say to a hairdresser). She gave me a lot of tips on what to do during my stay here. She also helped clear up a couple of points of confusion that I was still having with the language. The grand finale was when we were talking about humour and I asked if she had seen ‘The Office’ (bbc version, of course). She got on the phone to ask her husband for the correct information so that she could point me to a podcast called “The Ricky Gervais Show” right after she unveiled one of the better haircuts I’ve ever had. Tipping is not mandatory for anything here, but after a thoroughly satisfying experience I felt justified in giving her something.

The day went very quickly after that appointment. I went back to Glenferrie to get changed and then at 5 headed out with Ashley and Kristine to hit the Greenwood for free champagne (friday is ladies night from 5-7). Ashley had a friend from high school who was in the area, so eventually we met up with him as well. Kristine and I left the two of them and moved on to the Metropolis bar, where it was too early for anyone to be there doing anything. We had a couple of drinks anyway and then decided to have a dance, even though no one was on the floor. Sooooo fun. We got pizza on the way home and we were still in bed by 11.

Tonight I was going to go out with Denise and Kristine, I got ready and everything, but then I pulled out at the last minute. I need some sleep, which might sound strange after the early turn-in last night, but I am awake for about an hour right in the middle of my sleep cycle EVERY NIGHT when Nina comes home/gets up/is on the phone. Yes, she was on the phone at 3:30 the other night. The weekend will not end without a conversation.

I hope you are all doing well at school / work / abroad.

Stay in touch.

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Solitary Weekend

February 18, 2006 at 11:00 am (Uncategorized)

Everyone went on a surfing trip this weekend, so I am alone. I didn’t go because they wanted the money for this trip right when I got here and I wasn’t sure that I could do it, but I would probably have been too freaked out anyway.

Yesterday I got a library card.

Today I got up, ready, and out in time for lunch. Sadly, I had my first big mac today. I’ve never had one in the states and I don’t know what possessed me to try one here. It was so-so. Then I made my way into The Rocks where the street that I work on during the week was transformed into the weekend market. I did some shopping, and then from there it was on to the Museum of Sydney. The main exhibit right now is on Bondi, the famous beach. After I was done taking that all in, I headed down Pitt street through a big shopping district. I went into a shoe store that had 4 FLOORS. It was amazing. Continuing on, I found a movie theater. A ticket cost $15.50 but I sprung for it and saw Brokeback Mountain. I’ve never been to a movie alone before, but I am almost positive that there were two other girls there alone as well, so we had our own little corner of lonesome theater. I liked the movie a lot.

After that, it was 6pm and time to find some food. Feeling like my adventures for the day were over, I just went back to Kirribilli and got a pizza. So now that I’ve worn myself out i think it’s early to bed and maybe the beach tomorrow.

Goodnight.

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How Are You Going?

February 16, 2006 at 11:06 am (Uncategorized)

For a while, I had myself tricked into thinking that people were asking, “How are you doing?”. Then I realized that I only thought they were saying that because that is what I would expect them to say. In reality, they all ask how are you going. My first thought is that in America things ‘go’ and people ‘are’. Then, with the help of a good friend Kristine, I realized that in most other languages, if you ask ‘how are you’ it literally translates to ‘how are you going’. For example, in French you say ‘comment allez vous?’ and that literally means, ‘how are you going’. So maybe these Australians are onto something.
Yesterday was not so swell. On Wednesdays I am in the main building (Foreshore House) with Lynda working on archiving tasks. That was great last week, but this week it was really painful. She was in a meeting all morning so I was by myself in the archive library. I seriously rearranged the entire library to get things the way that she wanted it (it took me 3 hours) and when she finally got back she didn’t say a word about it. She is really unorganized and unfocused which makes getting directions from her pretty difficult. She is nice enough to me, but not as nice as the people in Merchant’s House, where my office is. Becs (the woman who watches over me when I’m there) is always making me go on ‘tea breaks’ and finding things for me to do that are at least relevant to what I want to be doing if not interesting as well. Lynda, on the other hand, is obsessed with finding things for me to do, but it’s always in the interest of what they can do to use the extra body. I realize that if I were in the States doing an internship that Lynda would probably be one of the better people to have because she is at least nice to me, but in comparison to Becs and everyone at Merchant’s House, Wednesdays with Lynda suck. And to top it off, when they finally found something for me to do it was 4:55pm and I didn’t get to leave until 5:30. The one good thing that did happen was that when I got off the elevator downstairs I almost ran over a little old lady. She was stooped over, tiny, and A NUN. I don’t think I’ve ever physically seen a nun before, so that was exciting.

The only good thing about work on a Wednesday is that there is this funny guy who works in Lynda’s department. His name is James and he just graduated from ‘Uni’. Whatever his job is (seems to just be IT stuff) he doesn’t dress up like all of the other people. He seems cool, and I get this feeling from him that tells me he might be an Australian Ethan Bennett. But not as cool, obviously.

James was responsible for a somewhat funny, but confusing moment at work yesterday. Everyone had gathered around the computer to help decide what should be written on a banner and when they decided and Peter typed it up, the computer told him that he spelled a word wrong. He went to retype it and people dictated the word to him, but it was what he put the first time and it was still spelled incorrectly. Then James reminded him that the computer employs an American spellchecker (and you would be astonished at how many words are spelled differently here). He muttered something else that I didn’t hear, but everyone else did and chuckled, looking at me nervously. He then turned around and said, “sorry, no offense,”. I have no idea what he said, but I know it was at my expense. This sounds bad, but all of the material they gave me on culture shock and differences tell me that Australians only pick on you if they like you, and they are always joking. Being that James and I have spoken a few times and it has never been uncomfortable or bad, I’m going to take his taunting in the best possible way.

Australians have some pretty different sayings. They say ‘I reckon’ a lot. They say ‘heaps’ instead of ‘tons’. They say ‘no worries’ instead of ‘no problem’. Never, though, has translation been more confusing or upsetting than tonight on my way to class. Subway tickets have a magnetic strip on them, so when you get to the train station, you put the ticket in the slot on the side and it spits it out on top. You don’t just do this when you get on the train, you do it when you get off the train as well. Usually, while the ticket is being read the digital screen just says “reading” followed by ” good til _____”.

When I put my ticket in the machine after I got off the train tonight the digital screen, with a red flare comparable to the fires of hell, read “ticket captured”. I panicked immediately. I thought, what can I do to appease you, machine? Would you like a sandwich? $50? My firstborn? WHAT?? Before my mental freakout could continue, however, the ticket was spit out. I don’t know if the machine was just trying to mess with my head or what. Maybe it was just taunting me because it has grown fond of me in these past three weeks, who knows.

For that last story, you can blame my roommate who has been standing here handing me Strawberry Schnapps for the past half an hour.

Everyone leaves tomorrow night to go on their surfing trip. I will be here, in Kirribilli, alone. My plans are:

1. Visit museums

2. Read “In a Sunburned Country”

3. Go to the beach

4. Something artistic?

5. Finish my anthropology project/miscellaneous homework

We’ll see how much of that gets doing.

Have a good weekend everyone. And Peter, I’m going to need to see you in my office.

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Uneventful Monday

February 13, 2006 at 11:11 am (Uncategorized)

Yesterday I did nothing. I did not feel the need to write that I did nothing, hence no post.

Today I barely did anything, but I did more than yesterday so woohoo for that. In my Art History class we went to the Art Gallery of New South Wales. It was short, but nice to see and we go back in two weeks to see some other stuff that we didn’t see today. I feel very cultured.

At work I didn’t do much. I did start writing my letter to Lonely Planet about the Rocks Discovery Museum and everyone was as nice as usual, but that was it.

The one thing that really has hit me in the past few days is how weird I feel whenever I talk. After two weeks, I am used to all of the foreign phrases and lingo that I hear, but I feel increasingly awkward when I talk. Everytime I go to order something or ask a question I always end up second guessing myself. Something about the way people look at you when you talk and they hear the American accent is just really off-putting. It has made me think about how I look at foreigners back home and wonder if I have that same look on my face. I have to assume it’s something that I will get over eventually, especially once I feel more comfortable asking things.

Aside from the onset of culture shock, this week promises to be pretty quiet. Valentine’s Day will be silently tucked between the obligations of school and work, as is only right.

So happy Valentine’s day, everyone, and keep it real.

Ha.

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TODAY I TOUCHED A KOALA

February 11, 2006 at 10:16 am (Uncategorized)

It just about made my life, but maybe I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here. I’ll start at the beginning.

This morning all of us in the CAPA program woke up bright and early to meet our chartered bus at 8:20am. We were all there on time, but our fearless leader, Beau, was late. When he offered us all tablets that would help cure our hangovers and then took one himself I think we figured out the reason for his tardiness.

The first stop on our magical mystery tour was the Olympic Stadium that was built for the 2000 summer games in Sydney. Beau gave us a little bit of background on the site and before it was a world class Olympic park it was an industrial waste dump. The cost to convert it was in the billions, and you can tell. I would never have guessed any of that based on the way it looks now.

Back on the bus, we drove for another half an hour before reaching Featherdale Wildlife Park. We had an hour, which was more than enough to see all of the animals. It is one thing to be told that Australia’s wildlife is unique and strange, but it is another thing entirely to have it all right in your face. This would be the part of the trip when I nearly peed myself getting to touch the koalas. The one that I was petting was busy eating his lunch, and right after my picture was taken, he dropped his branch. He did the natural thing and just sat there reaching for it while the keeper scrambled to get it for him. I was considering helping him out, but I wasn’t sure if he would still eat it if I touched it, or if the keeper would want me to touch it. Yes, there are pictures of this on flickr. From there, we went into the part of the park where the kangaroos were just roaming around freely. I touched a couple of them too, but they were somehow less exciting. The rest of the animals were cool but only koalas and kangaroos were available for petting so they win.

Another hour on the bus and we finally reached Katoomba. We had lunch in town and then continued on to Echo Point where we got a view of the rock formation known as “Three Sisters”. Then back on the bus to get deeper into the Blue Mountains. The original plan had been for a 3 hour hike, but we did not have time for that. We had to cut it down to about an hour and a half. The walk down was really nice and we kept catching glances of the stream that would eventually become the waterfall at the end of our walk. After wading around in the pool at the bottom, we started the walk back up. Half of the trail was made up of stairs that were so steep they were practically on top of each other, creating a ladder effect. With this, I would like to add that I did laundry last night and instead of paying for the dryer, I left my clothes out to dry on hangers. None of my pants were dry this morning leaving me with no other option but to wear my jean skirt on our adventure today. It was not a problem until I realized that we were going back up the stairs and that everyone below me could see up my skirt. Yaaaaaay.

All of us were really happy to be back on the bus for the two hour ride home. We needed the rest after the last part of the hike. We watched a movie on the ride home called “The Castle”. Beau said it is a very well known Australian comedy that everyone here has seen, but I had never heard of it. It was pretty funny and made the ride back fly.

So yeah, I’m exhausted. Everyone is going to a kareoke bar, but I am sitting and staring at them in disbelief since I cannot imagine going out again today. I uploaded the pictures from earlier, and I am going to bed.

Goodnight.

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I Just Want To Know What You’re Doing With The Internet In The Shower

February 9, 2006 at 12:30 pm (Uncategorized)

When we went on the pub tour last Saturday this guy on the bus caught two words in a conversation that Kristine and I were having: ‘internet’ and ‘shower’. From then on, all he would ask was, “I just need to know, you can’t leave me hanging; that’s just mean. I’m just a cowboy, you can’t fuck with a cowboy.” His name was Simon, and no, we never told him what was going on with the internet in the shower.

I just thought of this because I have returned to my room from a two hour conversation with Kristine and she is definitely one of the best people I have met here. We have a lot in common and a lot to connect over. She’s good people, and hey, I made a friend!

Today was strange. I don’t know how I’m going to feel about Thursdays. I have work from 9am-1pm, which feels short after my long Wednesdays. Then I have the afternoon off until my PELA class (the one that goes along with my internship) at 6:15pm. I don’t get to eat until after that class, and the day is just so weird. Today was nice at work though. The girl that I go around with and help most of the time is named Becs (short for Rebecca) and I like her a lot. She’s probably 27 or something and she’s really nice. We did a lot of different things in the four hours that I was there, but the one that I liked best was when I got to type up a form for people who have a question at the museum and we can’t find the answer. Those are going to be sitting in the museum from now on and I really felt like I made a mark somehow. Silly, I know, but it’s something and I feel like there will be a lot more.

I had a ‘tea break’ for about 15 minutes so i went down the street and got my first taste of what can only be heaven. The little specialty coffee shop down the way has a nice courtyard in the back where it’s cool. I sat there and had an iced coffee. Sounds normal, right? Wrong. They actually put ice cream in iced coffee here. Since this shop was the best ever, there was also whipped cream and sweet chocolate powder on top. It was devine.

Another big shocker is that I have been getting a lot of color really fast. Anyone who knows me knows that I am Casper’s human half-sister, but not any more. Tomorrow we’re hitting the beach and all that will be over.

Also up for this weekend: a trip to the Blue Mountains. Surely, the pictures from that will be amazing so check up on my flickr link anytime after Saturday. Also new on there today are pictures from work and one special one that I took at the harbour.

On a last note, I tore my heels up pretty bad last week wearing a new pair of shoes, and it was looking pretty gruesome for a while. Today I finally realized that I am not going to die, as the gaping holes in my feet have scabbed over. Up until now I was convinced that I was going to have to have my heels amputated and wooden blocks cut out to fit in the gaps. Amputation will not be necessary.

Love to everyone back home and wherever the hell the rest of you are.

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I Give Up

February 8, 2006 at 8:48 am (Uncategorized)

I have been trying to keep a travel journal for the better part of two weeks now, but I don’t think I’ve written in it for days. And before that I hadn’t written in it for days. However, I am on my computer all the time, so maybe this will keep me focused? We’ll see.

I am in Sydney. This is a city of pure trickery. You think you know what you want or what you’re getting, but you don’t. For example, I picked Australia because they speak English here. Unfortunately, they speak a dialect, and while that sounds extreme there is a major communication barrier. Today at my internship this guy came up and started talking to me, but there was also a jackhammer going in the background and the combination of the accent and the noise made it impossible to understand him. This also rolls over into ordering food. While grabbing a burger I managed to remember to ask them to hold the onions, however I could not have known to ask them to hold the beets.

This stuff could be frustrating, but I’ve been pretty laid back still. I’m constantly trying to figure out whether culture shock has hit me yet. Sure I have moments of pure astonishment, but it never really makes me upset. I tried the beet on the burger (eh) and I’m starting to pick up some of the vocabulary.

The city itself is beautiful. I live 50 yards down the street from the prime minister’s house, and if you turn the corner and walk a little further you can see the Sydney Opera House. Another lesser known landmark, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, touches the shore right near my lodge and there’s a little park underneath it where all the kids from my program went to drink one night (clearly what it was built for). It’s been somewhere between 70-90 degrees every day and not too humid. I haven’t been to the beach yet, but I think I’ll be braving it this weekend.

I think I am going to like both of my classes. I have an Art History class and an Anthropology class. Both just deal with each of these subjects within an Australian context, which is all new information to me. Fact for the day: the first group of colonists arrived on the continent in 1788. It doesn’t seem like that long ago from an American perspective, but since I’m working with a lot of the historical stuff here I get to see first hand how important all of the ‘heritage’ artifacts/buildings are.

Speaking of my internship, it’s awesome! I’m working for the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority. They are responsible for all of the heritage buildings, and most of the coast around the shore. My office is located in The Rocks, which is what the old-towny part of the city is called. I take the ferry to and from work most days, just a gorgeous five minute ride across the harbour, right between the bridge and the opera house. I also eat lunch sitting right on the harbour. Actual work . . . I spent most of today photo copying and running around on various errands. One of those errands was to go around town to photograph old buildings from the same perspective as some photos taken in the 70’s and 80’s so that they can be used in a power point presentation. The company is having an expo in about a week where each department showcases what they do and they are going to use the photos for that. Tomorrow I am going to my office to start drafting a letter to Lonely Planet about the new museum that just opened, called ‘The Rocks Discovery Museum’.

As for fun, last weekend we went on a pub crawl. It lasted 6 hours, 5 bars, and 7 drinks (for me at least). It was a fun time, but I felt like a moron not knowing what to do in a bar. I’ve also been to the Royal Botanical Gardens, which is unbelievable. Since Australia was cut off from the rest of the world for hundreds of thousands of years, they not only have strange species of animals (kangaroos, koalas, kookaburras) but a lot of strange flowers too. Eventually I will get around to the Aquarium and Zoo. This weekend we are going on a day trip up to the Blue Mountains to see Australia’s grand canyon and part of the ‘bush’.

Well, that seems like all of the catching up there is to do. I was at the office from 9-5 today, so I’m going to go kick off my shoes, light up a cigar and read the paper.

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