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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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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