Tuesday, June 30, 2009

quicko: nanna

While I recognize some Americans call their grandmothers "Nanna," it's a much more commonly used term to refer to grandmothers in general in Australia. Furthermore, it's used in several other contexts as well. For instance, a "nanny state" would be a government that's overly strict on its citizens (in terms of enforcing laws about, say, smoking and drinking). A "nanna nap" is an afternoon nap and "nanna pants" are unsexy underwear of the sort oft-favored by grandmothers and Bridget Jones.

Monday, June 29, 2009

quicko: to tip

I must admit, I was shocked and appalled with myself the other day. When I was in Grand Rapids with Holly, we stopped in at Steak 'n Shake (things you won't see in Australia, part two!) for a late-night dessert and, after we paid, I watched Holly walk back to the table. Thinking she'd left something, I half followed her until I figured out what was going on: she was, as every American does, leaving a tip! And I'd completely forgotten! And I've even been a waitress!! Thankfully it wasn't too late for me to leave my 15% as well, but I was absolutely shocked and appalled that I had come so close to neglecting to leave a tip. I guess I have been away too long!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

quicko: please do not press hash

The pound key AKA "hash" in Australia. Clearly we eat potatoes differently.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

quicko: haircuts

So today I got my hair trimmed. It, besides being an excellent example of the "got passive," cost $15, with (a fully generous) tip. I thought this was exceedingly normal and just right. Australians, do you agree?

Friday, June 26, 2009

quicko: coppers

America is full of police. I know there's a thousand too many speed cameras in Sydney, but there are so many police lurking around every corner in their conquering quest to catch every last speeder in Ohio. Or perhaps they've not read mX and don't realize how many other curious capers require their capricious coverage?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

quicko: what's the same?

(cast in order of appearance)

Payless Shoes.
Pizza Hut.

Why is this list so depressing?

(Don't answer, please. That was rhetorical.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

quicko: must ... have ... car ...

I'm so spoiled here. But, after just having spent the last 18 months on public transportation, it's about time.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

quicko: 24 hours

America is a 24 hour sort of place. It caters to the "I-just-got-off-the-plane-I-must-get-Graeter's-now" state of mind perfectly. Thank goodness.

(Yes, it was delicious, thanks for asking.)

quicko: things you'll never see in australia, part one

I'm so sorry, guys, I tried to take a picture (and by tried, I do mean I pulled an emergency u-ie to chase it, but it got away through the back exit of the movie theatre ...) because I didn't think you'd believe me, but today I saw a van with a smiling (winking!) man called "Mr. Rooter" painted on the side.

Still don't believe me? There really is a website: www.mrrooter.com, for all your plumbing needs.

Monday, June 22, 2009

quicko: accents

They're definitely one of the most obvious signs you've changed territorial gears, and wow, they did hit me when I came back. Very, hmm, American.

And, just for the record for all the Aussies who are convinced I sound very American: you may be right, but, gosh, you should hear the gang over here. Come visit if you don't believe me!

quicko: driving in michigan

For the Australian visiting Michigan (there surely cannot be an abundance of these ...), I think three things would stand out on the roads:

--roadkill (there is an abundance of this),
--speed humps (not bumps, humps) and
--that which is odd even to the Ohioan, that elusive Michigan left (wherein you must drive past the intersection, pull a u-ie to the left, and then turn right when you get to where you originally had hoped to turn left).

Sunday, June 21, 2009

quicko: there's none of the enemy left, right?

I caught myself at the airport actually: standing on the left on the escalator. I haven't gone to the wrong side of the car yet, but I know it's coming. Thank goodness I didn't drive there.

PS: Brownie points to anyone who correctly pegs the musical this title's taken from. Here's a hint: We not only came, but we won, too! One, two! One, two!

quicko: tim tams

How could I forget? Of course Australia has a national dish!!

Friday, June 19, 2009

quicko: welcome to america

I'm back in the United States for the next three weeks, so we're going to take this time to reflect on things from the opposite angle, or something like that. Actually I think we'll (imperial we here) just make it up as we go along, how's that? Oh, right, we suppose you're already used to that.

But first. I flew through LAX today, and would just like to issue a general apology to any visitor to the U.S. who has to go through there. (Citizens could do with one, too, but I feel a particular need to assure the weary traveler that it is an abyssmal representation of our country. I am sorry.)

I've never liked LAX but today it struck me, again, as disorganized, hot and bothered and tacky. The employees seem to be handpicked off ... well, I can't think of any polite way to put it, so I'm going to do what my mother taught me and not say anything at all if I can't say anything nice. Except that they just didn't seem like the sort of people I'd want to be entrusting with issues of national security at one of the biggest international airports in the country. But maybe that's just me.

LAX is so unprofessional. You can never find someone official when you need help, but there always seems to be an inordinately large number of (un?)official people barking orders and you and directing wary strangers to elevators that refuse to open. You can't really tell if they're supposed to be there or not, or if they're going to ask you for a donation when they go, though you'd consider making one if they were going to put it into their personal dental fund.

It's not particularly clean, either.

And that pretty much sums it up. I say head for San Francisco if you've got to stop in California; otherwise, hold out for Chicago's O'Hare (I think I'm now eligible to be a qualified tour guide of the nation's airports) where it actually operates like a first world establishment. It's, much like my high school, big, bright, open and mall-like. There are artistically painted benches and murals on the walls. It gives off a more cultured vibe (as opposed to the huddles masses vibe, which, however patriotic it may sound, is not at all attractive in real life) and is entirely more professional. But really, what more could any traveler want than its magical toilets?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

quicko: the day that doesn't end

Have you ever traveled transpacifically? Let me just say, the pacific (with a little p, people, that was intentional) part breaks down somewhere around, oh, New Zealand if you're coming from Australia. It is a ridiculously long journey at the best of times and downright depressing during anything less.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

unhappy little vegemite

So I promised my flatmate ages and ages ago when I first moved in that sometime before I moved out I would try Vegemite as a cultural experience. I knew I wouldn't like it, but thought it important to get to know my new home's customs. Back then that promise was ages and ages away from coming due, and the thought did not trouble me on a daily basis. Until today. (I'm moving out tomorrow.)

You see, I really am a gal of my word; I surely earn some sort of kudos for bringing up the impending doom, don't you think?

When I first set out for Australia I was given many warnings and pieces of advice, some more helpful than others. Avoid the box jellyfish and crocodiles were of course handy ones, shower in sunscreen every morning proved a tad more difficult in actuality. But every American I encountered who'd tried it gave me the same chilling words of caution: whatever you do, don't let them fool you into eating Vegemite!

Having already experienced Marmite one fateful day in England, I needed no second bidding. Clearly a brown substance sold in a small jar, spread on toast and ending in -ite was not something to be trifled with. The last time (I still remember it clearly) I'd nearly gagged to death in the upstairs Oak Hill kitchen. Thank goodness it was a place of prayer or I'm not sure what would have become of me.

Basically, Marmite is pure salt in brown clothing. Vegemite, I knew, would be worse. No one, after all, had even bothered to tell me to avoid Marmite, and it had clearly nearly killed me.

It's not that I don't like salt. I do. I even like a bit more than I probably should if we're sprinkling it on steak or fries. Two keys there: steak (not toast) and sprinkling (not slathering).

Before I proceed, I should explain that Vegemite is really a national dish of sorts. They haven't got so much in the way of national dishes in Australia. (The other day a friend asked a group of Australians about national dishes and a girl answered immediately, "Oh, you mean Thai?")

It's not entirely true that Thai's the only national dish. I mean, there is pavlova and ANZAC biscuits, both of which are delicious desserts, but also hotly contested by Kiwis. Beetroot on burgers jumps to mind as authentically Australian. (As does the first time I encountered it and was informed that I simply had to have beetroot. After first ascertaining that this was the same substance I simply called "beets," I became rather distraught. For, good and green as Australians are, I hadn't figured on all of them being vegetarian. Then they explained that they ate beef burgers, too, they just also happened to put beetroot on top of them. Sweet relief!)

But back to the national symbolism of Vegemite. I don't exactly know any of the surely intruiging history, but I am aware of a rather amusing ad campaign in which the general public is repeatedly asked how they like their Vegemite. They then are shown all the creative and crazy ways other true blue Aussies like theirs, whether it be "the Streaker" style, in a pizza shape, or anything in between. (Those two clearly being the only two I can actually remember. It is a cute campaign, though, don't get me wrong.)

And so the eve came for me to wield the Vegemite toast. My flatmate duly toasted and buttered the bread, then spread a few grainy dabs of Vegemite on top. To be fair, there wasn't a ton on my "Streaker" style toast, but, if my memory of Marmite served me correctly (and there really is little doubt on the matter), it would be more than enough to provoke culinary mayhem in my mouth. I was prepared, as would be any sane citizen, with a hot cup of tea.

Similarly to the time I recently jumped off a tree branch into a crater lake of somewhat unknown depth, it took me a few false starts to get up the gumption to chew and swallow. Finally I bit the bullet, taking care to avoid any streak of Vegemite on the first bite. So far, so good. The second bite was not so good. In fact, it went rather downhill. It had Vegemite on it.

But take heart, gentle readers, you see I am still here to tell you about the ordeal! All was not lost! Do remove your hands from your frightened eyes and continue reading with caution!

It was not so good, that is true. But, I managed to maintain a steady air flow to the lungs and my tongue did not automatically lull. I braved a third bite, to similar effect. A fourth and a fifth, and, please understand, I did not like the Vegemite, but it was actually better than Marmite! Now, again, this is saying exceptionally little, but as regards my physical wellbeing on that deep, dark night, it was not as adversely affected as it could have been. Far from well, of course, but not quite keeled over. Will wonders never cease!

And, yes, I finished that whole piece of Vegemite toast. (I hasten to add that there was thankfully no Vegemite on the final third of the toast, which was the only bit I was actually able to enjoy.) It was an epic effort, let me assure you, but in the end it was done. I came, I saw, I conquered. I was ridiculously proud of myself (coming from a girl who'd been known to spew the hot salt water she was supposed to gargle with for sore throats all across the bathroom, this really was an accomplishment).

And I will never eat Vegemite again.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

quicko: the big issue

This is my favorite magazine in Australia.
Actually, it's the only magazine I get, but that's really beside the point. It's a great one.

The Big Issue is sold by (I had to look this up to make sure I put it right) "people experiencing homelessness and/or long-term unemployment" and it's a way for them to earn a bit of cash (half the cover price of $5 per magazine) and "positively change their lives."

I won't say it's The Atlantic Monthly (not that I actually read it, though I feel guilty for not, which surely must count for something?), but it's much better than the magazines you pass at the grocery store in terms of content, and, obviously, social impact. Plus, you meet lots of friendly people selling the issues, have reading material for the bus and, well, everybody's happy!

Monday, June 15, 2009

quicko: power points

AKA outlets. I suppose they must have been called such long before the advent of PowerPoint with capital letters and no space (yes, I am a copyeditor, but how could you tell?), but I do a double take every time someone asks about a power point for their laptop. Surely they need an outlet first?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

quicko: the death penalty

Doesn't exist in Australia, at least not literally.

quicko: COLD!

Maybe I've mentioned this before, but can I just point out again that it gets COLD in Sydney?? No, I'm not talking snowy, subzero temperatures; I'm talking a nip in the air outside ... and twice the nip inside. Yes, it is colder inside my flat right now than outside ... it is winter and the door is open in order to warm the place up!! This is because Australians do not have central heating, at least not in this part of the country. Sydney homes also do not have air conditiong (or, as they say, air con, which sounds oddly avaitory to me), but that's another story.

It's like my American co-worker said the other day: where we come from, this constitutes a state of emergency. When things are this broken, we fix them! Men in coveralls are called, and they come and they conquer! Sure, we might be out a few bucks, but at least we don't turn blue inside our own apartments!! Brrrrr!!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

quicko: scissors-paper-rock

Not rock-paper-scissors. Throws me every time.

Friday, June 12, 2009

quicko: crow eaters

I haven't quite figured out why, but I've been told that South Australians (those from the state of South Australia, capital: Adelaide) are called crow eaters. I'm told it's not exactly a compliment. I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

quicko: downtown

Living outside of cosmopolitan Cincinnati, I have to say it never once occurred to me to pack up and head into the city for a night of luxury in a hotel 30 minutes away from my own comfy bed. Sydneysiders, though, clearly have more creativity, or possibly disposable cash. They do it with surprising vigor, they make a day of it and have a ball while I'm curled up under a blanket with a book. Guess they're not in Cincinnati anymore.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

quicko: slices

My flatmate was doing some baking the other day when I happily observed, "oh, you're making bar cookies!"

"No," she said suspiciously. "I'm making slices."

I took a closer look at the cookbook picture. "No," I asserted. "Definitely bar cookies."

"You don't eat them in a bar," she countered.

"It's not where you eat them, it's the shape!" I explained, slightly flummoxed that there could be such concern over such otherwise amicable sweets.

"But what about these?" she asked, leafing through the cookbook to a page that showed triangularly shaped bar cookies.

"Triangularly shaped bar cookies," I announced. "And they look very good."

Monday, June 8, 2009

quicko: the one day everyone is a monarchist

Today -- the Queen's "Birthday."

Which is not to say it is the anniversary of the day on which the Queen was born (that fell in April), but that it is the day selected to celebrate her birthday because there were already (this is a true story) enough public holidays in April and they wanted to space them out.

quicko: euchre

After having failed miserably at finding Bostonians or Californians who could handle a euchre deck properly, I come to the other side of the planet and discover Upside-Downers who know a renege from a bad play, a right bower from a left, and when to throw their cards in after a stopper, even if they're a wee bit unsure of that milking the cow thing. Which leaves me convinced it is a Midwestern game at heart, but surprisingly well adapted to life down under. We're out of the barn, guys, we've won!!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

quicko: the kiwi accent

As aforementioned (ages ago, if you've been keeping track), Australians regard New Zealand more or less as Americans regard Canada. However, while Americans have basically one linguistic recourse for deep jibes, eh, the Australians have more. "Fush and chups" is the standard ("fish and chips"), though "fairy" for "ferry" gets its fair share of play, too. My favorite, though, happens to be hearing tales of woe regarding the unfortunate "dick" of the surfboard. ("deck")

quicko: shoes

Two notes on shoes:

First, Melbourne is the place to go to buy them.

Second, flip flops are called thongs. Why they named their shoes after racy underwear is a bit beyond me, but, well, I suppose you can't call them unadventurous.

Friday, June 5, 2009

quicko: bad apples

I am getting so frustrated here. You go to the grocery store -- the GROCERY store, where, presumably, there are groceries -- to look for apples and what do you find? Like three varieties. Well, maybe five, but I don't count the sour ones because surely everyone admits they're rather nasty with peanut butter. It's one row! One row of apples! And not a long row, either, a short row! Apples are supposed to be fruits you can find in abundance -- particularly in fall, of all seasons! But alas. I must settle for these two slightly tart Pink Ladies. Where are my Golden Delicious?!?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

quicko: the aussie dollar

Is doing well!! Finally it's on the rise!!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

quicko: biros

"Biro" is a brand name of ballpoint pen, used colloquially in Australia for "pen," much as we use "Saran wrap" for "plastic film," "Kleenex" for "facial tissues" and "Band-Aids" for, well, "Band-Aids."

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

quicko: the opera house extravaganza

One of the coolest highlights of the month is that the Opera House has gotten dressed. It's funny, you never realize how naked a building is until you see it fully clothed, and, wow, the Opera House scrubs up chic. It's covered in beautiful changing swirls of color projected onto its entire exterior as part of a modern art project -- cool colors, warm colors, circles, flashes, it's gorgeous. (Apologies the photo's so bad ... it was this or nothing, folks ...)