Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Monday, March 30, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
It seems that for the last three years Western Australia has been trialing daylight savings to see if the people want to keep it, and now it has come time to vote.
It's not as clear cut as you may think. Businesses aren't necessarily in favor, as it puts them three hours behind Sydney time, and it's a bit frustrating to keep in contact at, say, 4 pm in Perth as everyone in Sydney's already gone home. Just how precisely they've dealt with managing a 17 or so hour time difference to New York, London and Paris for the last century or two but grow queasy with a 3 hour one to Sydney evidently is not an issue these businesses have felt necessary to raise.
There's also the trouble of the children. They don't, you see, like to go to bed when it's light out. Ah, well, they'll grow out of it.
Everyone else seems to like daylight savings time, though, for reasons the rest of us have known and loved for ages. Perhaps Western Australia will soon catch up, but I'm afraid we'll have to wait an extra hour to find out.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
And, before I get too far, I must point out that Whale Rider is from New Zealand, not Australia. Ah, well, close enough.
It's actually a very deep (ha), thought-provoking film (which naturally you could determine simply as I termed it a "film") about a native people group in New Zealand, narrated by a young girl. She was, I've been told, nominated for an Oscar for her performance, which was really quite good. It's a good film if you want to feel slightly disjointed and talk intelligently about Important Things.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
"Half of young Australians have visited Asia in the past three to four years. Next popular has been the Pacific (32 percent), Europe (29 percent) and the Americas (24 percent)."
Half! Of young Australians! In Asia! In the last three to four years! Not just an adventuresome handful, not middle aged people with money to travel, not just their own continent and not just sometime before in life. Half of young Australians have visited Asia in the past three to four years. I told you they travel!
I really don't think it's a pack of journalistic lies. Maybe one or two, but all in all my experience here has really born this out. Almost everyone has been to Asia, most several times. Thailand, Fiji and Vietnam are all popular destinations, though Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia certainly have their fair share of guests as well.
And not only that, most people I meet have been to America, or at least think they have. LA and Vegas obviously don't count, though most people haven't quite realized this yet. I'm a bit more lenient with them if they've made it to New York as well, though of course they only actually qualify if they've hit Boston or the Midwest.
If they've been to America, though, they've lived in Europe, probably London. This is lovely and amusing to chat about, but it still floors me what a shockingly high percentage of Australians will have lived at least a year or more of their lives abroad. Sure, you could say I'm one to talk, but I don't represent anything remotely resembling an American majority, unless you're talking about the fact that I'm female. But most Australians live abroad for even more than a year. Like three or five or eight or nine. And they tend to come back. To teach English.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
So, I stopped in Coles and bought anything orange I could find -- cantalope, persimmons, bbq chips, ginger bears (don't bother asking) and orange Tic Tacs. I was really quite proud of myself. (I'd also bought a bag of gummy goodies that unfortunately came with yellow and green gummies as well. Thankfully I took care of that problem before it got out of hand!)
Imagine then my disbelief and immense frustration when I discovered that it was not the Tic Tacs that were glaringly golden, but the container! "Oh, traitorous country!" I howled in shock. A few Australians looked on, perplexed with my ignorance.
"Silly Kim," they said. "Tic Tacs have always been white. Didn't you know that? Hadn't you bought Tic Tacs before?"
"No!" I declared, adamently sticking to my guns, "they come in orange -- and green, and white!"
"Hmm," they said. "No, no, that's really not so. They've always been white."
"Have not!" I continued. "They definitely come in orange."
Sometimes I get tripped up remembering exactly what things are like back home, but not this time. My Grandma used to feed me orange Tic Tacs by the dozen (well, okay, she kept them in a drawer in her kitchen, but she always made sure I knew where they were). That was beside the point, though. Tic Tacs have always come in orange. Everyone knows that, and I told them so.
The Australians hemmed and hawed. Clearly, Kim had lost her mind. Unless ... "Perhaps, well, you're a year or two older than us, maybe they used to," they finally managed.
It was the first time anyone'd played the age card on me. I saw it, and raised my ace.
"In America, they make orange Tic Tacs." Lincoln was the 16th President, Albany is the capital of New York and the July Fourth was in 1776, too. Maybe they didn't know it, but I did. And set them straight I did. "I'm positive it's the Tic Tacs themselves," I finished smugly.
Clearly defeated, they gave up the fight. "Maybe in America," they agreed, in tones that indicated you could clearly expect just about anything from a country capable of mass producing squeezable cheese.
But the next day I found myself backtracking. Was I right? Surely those had been orange flavored Tic Tacs Grandma and I used to snack on? Surely I hadn't imagined the whole color? What if they really had been white all along and I'd spent years laboring under the false impression the orange and mint flavors were different, when, in actual fact, they were one in the white same? A dark fear seized hold of me.
I turned to my American co-worker for support.
"Tic Tacs come in orange, right?" I started.
"Of course they do!" she insisted, insulted I'd even bring it up as questionable. "Everyone knows that."
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Monday, March 16, 2009
Sunday, March 15, 2009
So, if you think of America, consider the soil. It's really, really fertile and amazing for growing crops. I didn't realize this, but my friend pointed out that part of Indiana has actually got the most fertile soil in the world. Her idea is that (again, this is the condensed version!) the ease with which Americans grew crops led to ideas such as the ability to control nature, and, if so, then surely we could control everything else. She pointed out how surprised and frustrated Americans are when the weather doesn't cooperate -- in little daily matters, but also in big ones, like Hurricane Katrina. Americans tend to think we've got the ability to reckon with nature.
Australians, on the other hand, reckon that nature is nature and best left well respected. The land here is not friendly -- the vast, vast majority of it is very arid, dry and untameable. There are dangerous creatures, plants and seas. Australians know they won't win, and they don't try to beat nature. This leads to a more carefree attitude -- if you know you won't win, you don't have to get so bent out of shape trying to.
And it's interesting, too, to consider a population map of each country. Americans are spread out all over our continent -- from sea to shining sea, if you will. Australians are gathered in small, dense pockets almost exculsively along the perimeter of their immensely vast island.
Americans favor a hearty "this land is your land/this land is my land" approach to both nature and life. Go back to that sea to shining sea idea again. My friend pointed out that if you set it ("America the Beautiful") against the classic Australian "In a Sunburnt Country," the opposing images are deeply striking. Americans picture "purple mountains' majesty" and "amber waves of grain," while Australians see "ragged mountain ranges" and a "pitiless blue sky."
Take a look for yourself:
America the Beautiful
By Katharine Lee Bates
O beautiful, for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.
O beautiful, for pilgrim feet
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev'ry flaw;
Confirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law!
O beautiful, for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness, and ev'ry gain divine!
O beautiful, for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years,
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea!
by Dorothea Mackeller
The love of field and coppice
Of green and shaded lanes,
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins.
Strong love of grey-blue distance,
Brown streams and soft, dim skies
I know, but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of drought and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!
The stark white ring-barked forests,
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon,
Green tangle of the brushes
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops,
And ferns the warm dark soil.
Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When, sick at heart, around us
We see the cattle die
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady soaking rain.
Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the rainbow gold,
For flood and fire and famine
She pays us back threefold.
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze…
An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand
though Earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.
Interesting, isn't it?
Saturday, March 14, 2009
When people say they're from Sydney, they mean it.
Maybe they live 30 or even 60 minutes away from the city center, but they really still do live in Sydney. Sure, it's a suburb, but their suburbs are really more like districts of a larger city. Sure, they get their own convenience stores and maybe a post code, but not much more. The people still work in the city and catch its buses. They still really live in Sydney.
I'm not sure if that quite makes sense until you live it, but it actually does . Perhaps it's also worth noting that relatively few people live in the heart of Sydney. It's mostly office buildings as opposed to residences, though there are some. And some exceptionally overcrowded high rises.
But everyone really lives in the "suburbs" of Sydney. It's weird. But true.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
I'm not sure if it's used quite so profusely in the rest of Australian life, but I'm certainly never surprised to hear it creep out.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Monday, March 9, 2009
First, it was so nice to finally be at one of these productions where I could actually hear! The wind wasn't bad at all, so it was just the regular ocean sounds that the actors had to project over. That they were generally able to do.
Second, the script itself is so ... intriguing. I mean, it's not often you have to choose whether or not to sleep with a tyrannical dictator in order to save your brother's life. Occasional, of course, but not quite weekly.
Third, everything else (i.e., costumes, set (or lack thereof), props (or lackthereof), lighting, stage managing, directing, acting, audience reactions, etc.) was blah. Nothing bad, nothing outstanding, nothing interesting. It all went off without a hitch, but there weren't so many possible snags from what I could tell. I was glad I went, glad I could understand the text so well having only read it once, moderately interested in the script -- and that was that.
A nice evening, tra la.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Marti Gras is also not so much a festival of mask and dance as it is a huge, raucous parade of gay and lesbian celebration. It's one of, if not the, biggest annual events in Sydney and the city goes crazy with color and charisma.
Friday, March 6, 2009
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
"Duo opts to grin and beer it" (two guys doing something with beer ... which is more or less an accurate summary of Australian culture)
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Monday, March 2, 2009
Are they having an identity crisis? Do they think they're Canadians? That he'll just drum up some foreign policy after shooting (make that mounting ...) the lone moose in the zoo?
Or perhaps it's the ski kind of lodge. You know, so he can draft economic stimulus packages after experiencing a real downhill ride of his own.
Whatever it is, it's home for Mr. Rudd. No wonder he keeps a spare place in Kirribilli.
But would you really have read this if I just said "yeah, some shark swam by"?
That's what I thought.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
It was a beautiful land, full of Beaches and Boards and Bronzed Boys. (Bronzed, of course, not in the literal sense. This is all sounding rather fairy-tale-like and I do want to make sure you don't get the wrong idea about them. They were definitely flesh and bone.)
But before we got to Surf Camp, we had to ride a long, long way on Rickety Bus with Driver Dan. Driver Dan was a very nice man who let us play Grease and Shrek and Mamma Mia all in one trip and never once complained, not even when he couldn't see the road through Someone's long wavy hair that was having trouble getting Shrek in properly. Just the sort of man you want in a bus driver, really.
Six Teachers of English rode, then, quite merrily up to Surf Camp together, and what fun we had! We played all sorts of fun games. I liked the Dance to the Music!! game the best, but the others liked the Quiet Game, even though I won it, too! Kimmy is very, very good at all games, even the Quiet Game!
When we got to Surf Camp, we we tuckered little travelers. We couldn't find our cabins or beds or blankets or anything, but we were so sleepy we handed over $5 for blankets without so much as blinking. Or rather, it was more of one long blink.
We woke up under our blankets in bunk beds and found out we were all sharing a great big room of bunk beds with one Very Nasty Bathroom With No Lock and a Suspect Door. We were good little troupers, though, and kept a very watchful Guard for each other. We are friendly like that.
There wasn't so much to eat for breakfast, unless you really like sour milk and bread. Thankfully they were kind enough to leave us a bit of peanut butter.
After breakfast we got to experience the magical verb "to surf"!!
Despite what some people think, to surf does not happen in the water. No, no. To surf happens on the sand! In a circle! On Big Bad Board! It is very exciting!!
Helpful Outstanding Teacher Joel was our Helpful Outstanding Teacher. He taught us everything we needed to know about surfing on dry land and how to get Style. He said we could have whatever Style we wanted. His was Cool, but mine was Chicken Dance! It was very, very fun!
Then though we got a bit bored with the dry land business, fun as it was, so Helpful Outstanding Teacher finally let us try our Style in the Ocean! I was so excited! I love Ocean!
I went running into Ocean and forgot almost everything Helpful Oustanding Teacher Joel had said and just tried to stand up! First Big Bad Board decided to nosedive (just like Helpful Outstanding Teacher Joel had said he would!), but then he let me stand up! I was so excited I did Chicken Dance!
The whole first day went on in such a fashion, with Triple B sometimes nosediving and sometimes letting me surf, but both of us having fun, fun, fun in Ocean and neither of us thinking one iota about Hot, Hot Sun. Or if one of us did he certainly didn't mention it.
And it was evening, and it was morning, the second day.
Now Ocean is my friend. Ocean was very playful on day two, more playful than usual, but I did not mind because I love Ocean and he was only being playful. Big Bad Board on the other hand was downright trying.
In theory I like Big Bad Board, but in practice I could not believe how very mean he was. For instance, I did not see why it was necessary to jerk my ankle so aggressively or why it was occasionally so much fun to wallop me in the head. Doesn't everyone's mother tell them that no matter where else you hurt someone, you're not allowed to hurt them in the head? Evidently Big Bad Board's mother forgot that part.
She also seemed to have forgotten the part about not-driving-your-wings-into-other-people's-backsides-because-you-might-leave-nasty-bruises and the part about knocking-the-wind-out-of-people's-stomachs-isn't-very-gentlemanly and the leaving-horrific-scrapes-on-people's-sunburns-is-downright-nasty. I'm sure other than that she was a good mother, though.
Perhaps a more generous person would call him high-spirited, but I also found Triple B a very slippery creature. Not exactly in the realm of friction, but more in terms of attachment to his supposedly beloved Surfer. He seemed to see himself more as an extraneous ex-boyfriend trying desperately to increase the distance between us, where I had the idea that, despite the abuse, we should keep trying to make the relationship work. We both played our roles beautifully, with him ever-slipping out of my grasp, and me ever-so-tragically getting very beat up.
It's not that I didn't like Big Bad Board when we were in the shallow water. There he was quite docile and floated about precisely how he was supposed to and even let me sit down on him. (He seemed to forget that, actually, the whole idea was to stand up.) He was rather fond of pretending to be a boogie board, too, and had no qualms about dragging me by the desperately clutching hands all the way back to the shallows. Didn't he realize he was supposed to be a SurfBoard? Personally, I thought he was having a bit of an identity crisis, but was of course much too polite to suggest he see a professional. We had, after all, only just met.
If I buy a SurfBoard, though, I will most definitely a buy a Girl Board. I'm sure they'd be much more stable in a psychological sense.
Even though he was mean, I carried Triple B back and forth from Rickety Bus Number Two every day, although I am ashamed to admit I lost my cool the last day and told him I thought he needed to lose several pounds before I would have much more to do with him. He was so ashamed he let Sweet Surfer Helper Girl carry him back instead. I was okay with that.
And then it was time to go. I did a quick Chicken Dance!! of victory, waved goodbye to my good friend Ocean and new friend Helpful Outstanding Teacher Joel (though I couldn't find him, so I'm not sure he saw), hopped on Rickety Bus with my Teachers of English Friends and we all lived happily ever after. Even Triple B.