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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1 Comment

  1. Mom said,

    Megs,
    I am loving your life from afar – i really need to see the “haircut” – talk to the roommate or else I will call her personally! Boston to Sydney – I MISS YOU TONS!

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