Wednesday, September 30, 2009

quicko: frocks

For ages I thought a couple people I knew were being linguistically suave show-offs by making references to "frocks" when "dresses" clearly would have done. After continued reference by the linguistically suave and intermittent reference by the less linguistically suave, I came to realize that, perhaps, Australians simply use the word frock more frivolously.

A frock

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

market day

I believe that, to some children, "market day" refers to a time when their mothers gather them into a small, boisterous flock and whisk them through rows of potatoes, carrots and apples. In my family, it was a time when our mother gathered us into a small, boisterous flock and whisked up through rows of cardboard boxes stuffed with frozen corn, eggrolls and chicken gems.

Market Day, you see, was the name given to an organization that supplied reasonably priced foods to mothers of school-aged children. The food was pre-ordered and then delivered to the cafeterias of local schools for pick-up between the hours of 5 and 6 pm. It really was a lovely arrangement (and provided a near endless supply of packing materials for Christmas presents: "oh, look! More French toast sticks! Just what I ... oh, look, there's six pairs of socks in here!"), though I can't help feeling it didn't fully embody the full market day experience.

Markets are really something America just doesn't do. Shopping malls, yes. Department stores, yes. Outdoor plazas, outlet malls, one-stop-shops, yes. But markets, no. Sure, there's Boston Market, but I think even they'd agree that's pushing things way farther than they were ever meant to go.

I don't remember what country I first went to a market in, but I remember being highly disappointed. I'd pictured picturesque rows of fresh produce, perhaps some bread, maybe some fish -- all very natural sorts of things. I'd envisioned brightly colored cloths, some soaps and homemade frocks. What I got were rows of tacky hair clips, baby gadgets and punk t-shirts. Flea markets, you see, America does do, and that was what I'd walked into and then out of.

I was disenchanted with markets for quite some time, figuring none of them were quite what they were cracked up to be. I traveled to various countries and checked out various markets with varying degrees of success. The Moroccan one probably came closest to authenticity for me, particularly when I found myself in the back streets of Marrakech. There might have been flies on the figs, but it fit my idea of a marketplace.

Marrakech, amazing as it was, was much too exotic to be home for me. After a bit more globe bopping, I ended up in Sydney (a notch or two up the cosmopolitan scale). I didn't have huge expectations regarding its markets, but I was curious enough to want to go.

Paddy's market was the one I heard the most about, and with good reason. It was huge. There was a plethora of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and seafood, and nuts and chocolate. And that was just the food. It was enclosed, inside a humongous building, and there were many sections. Some were tackier than others, but the food alone was enough for me to credit it as a genuine market. I was impressed.

Then there were the Manly markets. They remain among my favorites. It's not that they're huge or even that they have food (they don't), but that they are not tacky. It's hard to find classy markets, but the Manly ones are the closest I've come. They're really like a mini, outdoor, beachy craft fair. There's some amazing artwork, some homemade clothing and a handful of similar goods. There's a Frenchman (perhaps his name is Pierre) who sells stunning photographs he's taken around the world, but I can't bring myself to buy something I persuade myself I could have created myself. I save my spending for the artwork I know definitively I could not produce, and have been pleased as punch with all my purchases: a vividly pink and orange dress, four beautiful beach scenes and a darling acrylic of a baby elephant. And I still want to buy a large picture display of Sydney memorabilia mixed with mirrors, but am saving up the cash for a flight and a surfboard first. Oh, yes, and rent, too.

The Circular Quay markets are quite similar to the Manly ones, and a bit bigger. I've enjoyed my time near them, though it's always seemed rushed. The Kirribilli markets, though, I've walked through often enough to be decently familiar with. They are, I find, a good mix of the artsy and the not-as-artsy. They are decently big in size (the whole of the area under the bridge, plus a good bit in the nearby park as well), and supply both food and goods. Of the food, they supply not only "to be prepared" food, but also "pre-prepared" food, ready to eat on the go. And it's not just greasy carnival food; most of it is a cultural experience -- Turkish, Japanese, Russian, etc. And what's more, the Kirribilli markets are right next door to my church's own fair trade markets (which, granted, are by far the smallest of the lot). They don't run as regularly as others, but make up for it with zest, heart and (this is by far the most winning attribute) free cupcakes.

The markets I've just visited for the first time, however, are the Glebe markets. Glebe is an artistic area of town to begin with, and its markets were no exception. I loved them.

Aside from the fact that they are located next to one of the more amazing chocolate shops in Sydney, they are what I'd think of when I think of markets. They reminded me of the Camden markets in London -- a bit more avant garde than most, and very colorful. What more could you want in a market? Food, I suppose, but being as there was, as aforementioned, already chocolate next door, I was perfectly willing to let that detail slide.

I think the best way to describe the Glebe markets is to point out that I was on the lookout for suitable attire for two possible parties, one Olde England and one Arabian Nights, and I found an ample supply of suitable attire for either, including those puffy, see-through Arabian pants. Granted, they only had them in red, but how often do you find puffy, see-through Arabian pants when you're not even wholeheartedly searching for them? Perhaps things have worked out differently for you, but I can tell you it doesn't happen to me every other day.

I was also excited at one point to find what I thought would make a fabulous magic carpet (every Arabian princess needs her prop, after all) and was set to inquire as to its price when my friend pointed out that, actually, it wasn't for sale, but for people who'd purchased chai to sit on as they sipped. Oh, well, there were some cushion covers that also looked more than able to double as magic carpets, should the need arise.

The clothes at the Glebe markets were rare finds as well -- no two pieces alike, and most extremely, for lack of a better word, cool. They looked like clothes you'd see on my always-artistically-fashionable friend, and I made a mental note to return when I needed a new piece to enhance my wardrobe.

One thing I did find was a little ceramic sugar bowl, which was serendipitous as I was having friends over that evening and had nothing to put my sugar in, save the bag it came in, which, I have heard, is not the most spiffing of options. Particularly as it's the off-brand.

There were so many other unusual and beautiful finds. My friend bought a lovely, intricately cut silhouette of a willow and kites blowing in the wind over a laundry line and children dancing. There was jewelry by the score, old books converted into blank books, purses painted like pianos and more. We browsed systematically for an hour or so, so as not to miss anything, then bade the market farewell.

But not for long. I hear market day comes again soon.

quicko: double double

Toil and tr--, oops, wrong blog! What I meant here was simply that, when giving phone numbers here, people don't say "nine - one - one," but instead "nine - double one." You're supposed to realize this means 911. (This also sheds massive light on the whole "double oh - seven" thing. I naively assumed it was suave lingo specially made for a fictional character, having no idea that it was simply very ordinary British/Australian English.) Similarly, they can also use "triple" if a digit appears three consecutive times, a feat Australian phone numbers manage disarmingly more often than American ones.

Oh, and 911 is not 911. It's 000. (Which is, of course, "triple oh." Seriously.)

quicko: rostered days off

This concept floors me because I don't think Americans have an equivalent, or if we do, we don't discuss it in public. Basically what it means is that, in some jobs, people have a day that is scheduled off -- get this -- because they regularly work a half hour overtime and it adds up. Come again?!!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

quicko: tea towels

I think we'd just call them hand towels or dish towels or dish cloths; here they get their own special function!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

quicko: coat of meal

Australians are fond of pointing out that they are one of very few countries who actually eat the animals on their coat of arms: the kangaroo and the emu.

Friday, September 25, 2009

quicko: diversity

Although Australia is quite diverse, America has a significantly higher percentage of people from an African background. There just are not very many people of African descent around. (And no, I didn't hear of a single Martin Luther King Day celebration here ... perhaps I should organize one, Mom, seeing how successfully I've repeatedly pulled it off at home :) )

Thursday, September 24, 2009

monopoly money

Myth: Australians use monopoly money.

Fact: Monopoly uses Australian money.

Myth: Pocket change is roughly somewhere between 24 cents and $2.03.

Fact: Pocket change is upwards of $5.

Myth: There are no green Australian bills.

Fact: There are, they're just the $100s, so most of us don't see them all too often.

Myth: The bigger the coin, the greater the value.

Fact: The $2 is the greatest value of coin, yet it's smaller than the $1 coin.

Myth: $1 coins are weird.

Fact: $1 coins are amazing. Particularly when you have lots of them.

Myth: Australians have pennies.

Fact: They don't. Seriously, they took them out of the system long before I arrived. Now everything is rounded to the nearest 5 cent. This is all well and good for government strategies and everything, but it makes balancing your checkbook an absolute nightmare.

Myth: Checks are cool.

Fact: Checks are uncool. In fact, nobody except Americans uses checks.

Myth: Checks are free.

Fact: Your nasty bank will charge you about $1 extra every time you write one. (Well, assuming you give it to someone who then deposits it. Even the nasty bank isn't so nosy as to keep tabs on your private correspondence with the trash can.)

Myth: It's relatively easy to walk into a bank, say, "hey, could I get an extra register?" and walk out with one 30 seconds later.

Fact: You'd be better off trying to get all the money out of the vault.

Myth: You can withdraw money from your own account for free.

Fact: If you go into the bank and ask them to give you your money, they will charge you a service fee. It does not matter if you could have withdrawn the money from the ATM, but only came in so that you could get the money in different denominations in order to take cool photographs of it. The bank will not understand this.

Myth: You should get monthly statements from your bank regarding your account.

Fact: You're lucky to see one once a quarter.

Myth: Kim's favorite bill is the $5, because it's pink.

Fact: I actually like the $10 best, because it has the coolest assortment of colors. (Blue, green and yellow.) The $5 is a close second, and $35 is my favorite amount of money to have because it's the most colorful.

Myth: Only Americans call bills "bucks."

Fact: Australians so love the term so much they apply it not only to their bills, but also their bachelor parties.

Myth: If you owe a friend money, you give them cash.

Fact: If you owe a friend money, they give you their BSB code and you electronically transfer your funds from your netbank account.

Myth: It's nice to put money in the offering at church.

Fact: It's much more convenient and hassle-free to simply transfer funds online, unless you're an American and write those quaint little, what were they called again?

Myth: Church dinners are free.

Fact: Church dinners cost $4.

Myth: Parties are free.

Fact: Parties are free, as long as you bring your own meat, drinks and $5 to pitch in for the rest.

Myth: Taxes are hard.

Fact: Taxes are actually pretty easy to do.

Myth: They'll throw you in jail if you do your taxes wrong.

Fact: There's a lovely little caveat at the beginning of the taxes that insures that as long as you're doing everything as honestly as possible, they won't so much as charge you extra interest if you inadvertently mess the bejeebers out of your taxes.

Myth: The tax office help line staff are nice.

Fact: Who are we kidding? They made me cry.

Myth: You can survive in Australia without cash.

Fact: You need way more cash here than you do in America. First off, things are more expensive. Second, though, there are many, many places that just don't take cash. For example, coffeeshops. Or, there's some situations where you could pay cash, but they'll charge you and extra arm and a leg for it, like taxis.

Myth: You can survive in Australia as long as you've got big bills.

Fact: Although you might need them, too, what you really usually need are smaller ones, for things like a sandwich, a bus ticket or a Big Issue.

Myth: Only despicable cheapskates with no friends don't tip.

Fact: Only despicable cheapskates with no friends don't tip. Neither do Australians. Hmmm.

Myth: Australians like to be polite to cashiers by handing them exact change as often as possible, or at least getting the cents evened up.

Fact: Americans like to be polite to cashiers by handing them exact change as often as possible, or at least getting the cents evened up. Australians could care less.

Myth: You can only get cash from banks and ATMs.

Fact: You can get cash out from grocery stores -- which is, I'm pretty sure, how most people get a lot of their cash.

Myth: You can make a deposit into any ATM, as long as you've got a deposit envelope.

Fact: You can only make a deposit into a "deposit ATM," and good luck finding one of them.

Myth: You can go to a bank.

Fact: You can go to a bank every third Tuesday and most Thursdays between the hours of 10:06 and 11:42 am, but not on public holidays, or the 5th Thursday of the month, or any day within 48 hours of a equinox.

Myth: You can get in and out of a bank in roughly under 20 minutes.

Fact: You can get in an out of a bank in roughly under half a day.

Myth: You can't counterfeit Australian money.

Fact: Goodness, you think I've tried?

Myth: Gambling is illegal.

Fact: Gambling is legal.

Myth: You can't rip Australian money.

Fact: I held this myth very closely for a year and a half, frequently offering a $5 to American friends and insisting that they'd be unable to damage it. And so they were until I passed it around six strapping Americans and suddenly Jess was holding two pieces of a $5 bill. Generally speaking, though, you can't. It doesn't crumple particularly well, either, but easily survives a spin in the washing machine. This is surfer money, people!

Myth: $2.20 for a can of coke is ridiculous!

Fact: $2.20 for a can of coke is normal.

Myth: $3.00 for a candy bar is outrageous!

Fact: $3.00 for a candy bar is normal.

Myth: $9.00 for a slice of cheesecake is only acceptable if you're getting a Chocolate Oreo Mudslide Cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory and someone else is buying.

Fact: $9.00 for an average slice of plain vanilla cheesecake with a perfunctory dollop of vanilla ice cream and no chocolate is normal.

Myth: Kim has never had her paws on $600 AU.

Fact: Wanna bet?

quicko: no burger king hats

Being as it's "Hungry Jack" here, the crowns just don't exist. I mean, really then, why bother going?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

quicko: parliament house

There is a Parliament House in Sydney. I know this is true because I went there today. It's quite a fancy building with lots of rooms for various to-dos of a high browish nature. I, for example, went for a book launch. I passed a room of people eating steak. There was a huge, room-size fountain in the middle of a foyer area. You had to go through security before you could get in, and once you did, a woman at a desk directed you towards the room of your particular function. There were pictures of Parliamentarians, though I still have no idea precisely what they do there. Hobnob, I'd assume.

life on mars

I'm rather used to waking up petrified. Trains whistling in the nearby field were the staple cause when I was younger, but nightmares generally do the job these days. And the "dear-goodness-I-think-I-accidentally-poisoned-myself" routine makes a causal appearance from time to time as well. (This week's instance involved kitchen cleaning fluids, which really provides yet another compelling strike against domesticity.)

So, no, waking up petrified is not unusual. What was different this time is that I actually had a pretty justifiable cause. You tell me you wouldn't panic if you woke up in a foreign country on the other side of the world from all your family and discovered that at 6:30 am the sky and air outside was vivid reddish orange. And not only that, everything was still and calm except for ambulance sirens.

Coming straight from a Bible study on spiritual warfare, one my initial reactions (there were multiple, simultaneous ones) was: belt of truth, belt of truth, I knew I should have read my Bible before going to bed! Has Jesus come and not taken me? Where are the other Christians? Is it this red in America, too? I almost called my family, half to see if they were still there and half to see if they were seeing red, too. It was about this point it struck me that if they, too, were seeing red, that would definitely mean God was up to something rather weighty (when is He not, come to think of it?), and that this would really show His greatness and glory in all the earth, and in some ways I was quite eager for this to be the case. In others, I was quite eager for those eye drops I'm on for conjunctivitis to have been backfiring in very bizarre ways. (I ruled this out, however, when I realized that everything in my room was still its normal hue.)

It was somewhere in the midst of this panicking that, thankfully, other, evidently slightly more meteorlogically aware individuals, had rushed out with cameras to capture the images. I wish I had, too, but, I was staying safely scared to death in bed, thank you very much.

It did occur to me that I could check Facebook to see what the worldwide reaction was (and, clearly, it was the option many people chose). If you've got to die (or live in red-tinted world), I reasoned, you might as well do it with dignity. For that reason I opted to wait it out until 8:15, at which time I could reasoned I could test the "where are the Christians?" theory as my Bible study leader was due to stop by and pick up a notebook he'd accidentally left.

Imagine then my relief to hear a very normal knock on the door somewhere after eight. The sky had actually pallored significantly by then (I'd been keeping a sleepy eye on it at irregular intervals -- 6:30 not, mind you, being my peak hour, particularly on my morning off; actually how I'd woken then remains a bit of a mystery as I'm generally quite capable of sleeping through a vast array of meteorological phenomena. I think perhaps it had more to do with my body's built-in "this might be a fun moment to panic" feature than anything.) but I was still quite relieved to see Adam alive and in the non-resurrected flesh (though, presumably had he been resurrected he'd have had less of a pressing need to get his notebook back) who assured me that yes, the red was spectacular and that actually it was caused by dust. I pretended that of course that was a very obvious explanation I understood perfectly, then went promptly to the internet to sort things out properly.

I had by now decided resolve was no longer necessary and immediately reverted to Facebook, where I quickly got the latest atmospheric updates, not to mention amusing atmospheric quips (which are not, I hasten to add, quips you come by every day).

In short, there was a huge dust storm in Sydney and this dust happened to look red when the sun was at about the 6 to 7 am angle, then gradually (I could have told you this from my sleepy, irregular optical observations) got more yellow and then more normal by work time. It caused any number of visibility problems, particularly concerning all forms of transportation, but relatively few major dramas, apart from a few asthmatics who experienced more respiratory trouble than usual, and the 470 extra phone calls received by the fire department.

news alert!

I woke up this morning not sure what cosmic battles were waging or whether something had gone woefully wrong with my eye drops.

photo credit:

more information:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

quicko: where'd you get your license?

In a Cornflakes packet?

The above is a common taunt voiced loudly at other drivers when one would like question the validation of their vehicular abilities.

Monday, September 21, 2009

quicko: wigs on its judges ...

... and thongs on its toes, Australia shall have justice wherever it goes!

It's true: the judges here really do wear those amazingly old-fashioned fake ringlet-ed masses of hair. Why, I do not know, but wear them they do.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

quicko: more bus bloopers

So I've recently found two more Things That Can Go Wrong on a Bus:

1. You can press the button to make the bus stop -- and nothing happens. Usually a little blue sign's supposed to light up to show that the button has been adequately pushed, but sometimes it doesn't. I'm not talking about the times when it's a pale light and you think it hasn't been lighted but it really has; I'm talking about the times when regardless of which button you press anywhere on the bus absolutely nothing happens. Now, in my experience, the driver generally does stop anyway, but it's anyone's guess as to if he will the time you need to get off.

2. This is a more subtle, yet possibly quite damaging, note: you can get hit in the face (neck, arm, etc. depending on height) by a person waiting for a bus who decides to vociferously flag it down precisely at the instant you walk past them. Alarming, really.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

quicko: arrr, mateys!

Ahoy! Today be international talk like a pirate day! And that includes Australia, huzzah! Arrrr!

Friday, September 18, 2009

quicko: the grand tour

I'm not quite as sure on this point as I have been on others, but in general it seems that one thing Americans almost always do upon entering a friend's house for the first time is to either request or be automatically given "the grand tour." Although it may happen some here, it doesn't seem as prevalent or automatic a gesture as in America. Thoughts, anyone?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

quicko: betting

Australian culture's really big on betting -- horse racing, greyhound racing, the pokies, etc. It's much more prevalent (and legal) here than it is in America.

As a side note, I recently learned that any and all forms of card games are illegal in Thailand. I happened to learn this just after teaching my students euchre.

quicko: to shout

v., to treat; or n., to buy a round of a drinks, a meal, etc. for everyone else (drinks) or someone else (meal, etc.). Common collocations: "my shout," "I'll shout you this one" or "Are you sure it isn't your shout?"

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

quicko: no hamsters

It seems that in Australia not only are you not allowed to own a turtle, they have also gone to the extreme of making the fuzzy, furry little fluffballs of hamsters contraband. What will they do away with next? Small children?

Monday, September 14, 2009

quicko: devoed

Pronounced "dev-ode," this is Australian slang for devastated. As in, man, your surf board broke in two. Devoed.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

quicko: grommets

Contrary to popular belief, grommets (aka grommies) actually do exist, though also not (to the best of my knowledge) in the fossil record. Although the term is used in American (and British, etc.) surf culture as well, it came out of the Australian surf culture of the 1970s and is an affectionate term for young surfers, under 18 or so. Though older surfers may give grommies a hard time, they actually care for them considerably more than they let on and many grommies look up to older surfers in their tribe when they can't find role models elsewhere in life. Grommies tend to be rather ragamuffin-y, grungy, medium-long-haired miscreants, as well as excellent surfers, having begun so young. Man-grommets share similar characteristics, but have surpassed the age requirement without disentangling themselves from the rowdy behaviors often associated with young grommets.

quicko: the yowie

The yowie is a great Australian beast, half-man, half-ape (or something like that), that roams the regions, intermittently allowing himself to be sighted by tens of thousands of ingenious people, although not simultaneously. They tell many tales of various kinds of yowies (they range in size) who are generally harmless, though enjoy playing the odd practical joke on passing humans. They do not exist the fossil record, though rumor has it that lone surfers occasionally turn into yowies if they fail to shower for months on end.

quicko: drop bears

Drop bears are large, frightening, carnivorous koalas who live high in eucalyptus trees and drop down to attack unsuspecting travelers. They are highly dangerous, and also highly illusory.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

quicko: cuddlepot and snugglepie

You're probably better off just referring to wikipedia here, but I thought I should at least mention these classic characters of Australian childhood -- they are gumnut babies who live and find adventure (fleeing, for instance, the evil banksia) in the Australian bush. They were created by author May Gibbs, who, incidentally, lived in Neutral Bay -- practically next door to your favorite blogger!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

quicko: pantyhose

I rather amused my friends the other night by lamenting the fact I'd got a run in my pantyhose -- they call them stockings, which rather amuses me.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

quicko: fall frenzy

As we come into the American fall, minds turn once again most naturally to s'mores and hayrides, bonfires and cornmazes. None of these things are particularly prevalent (if known at all) in Australia. Furthermore, they haven't got apple cider (or rather they do, but it's alcoholic) or apple caramel dip, and I'm highly suspicious that perhaps they haven't got apple chips, either.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

quicko: tim tam slam

Maybe this isn't making global headlines, but I think it ought to at least earn prime real estate in, say, national papers. Or maybe local ones. Or really at least a mention on my blog. Extra, extra!! Read all about it! Kim consumed her first successful Tim Tam Slam today. It came after many failed attempts, but, heroic taster that she is, she persevered ever onwards and can finally report a true sucking success.

What is, you may ask, a Tim Tam Slam? Recall if you will a Tim Tam -- that quintessential piece of Australian culture, the chocolate bar covered in chocolate -- and then bite off two diagonally opposing end pieces, then dip one end in tea and then suck (or sock, if you're British and so prefer) and, voila, a Tim Tam Slam! It's a straw made completely of chocolate, and it is a force to be reckoned with -- particularly when it melts and falls completely apart in your now-sticky hands, but that's another story altogether. Then there is no recourse left besides the instantaneous devour, which, I might add, is not wholly without merit.

quicko: convict culture

Okay, so it's not so prevalent any more in the literal sense, but the convict history really does (Australians assure me of this) shape and influence the Australian psyche. It's therefore one of rebellion, of not wanting to submit to anyone or anything. It's the tall puppy (this is how they put it) gets shot down. Hence, though their history has its own abysmally bleak moments, it doesn't have slavery in the American 18th/19th century sense. And today, it's more a sense of unity, solidarity and recycling. You'd never expect it, and, yep, they may lie, cheat and steal, but at least they've gone green.

quicko: food stamps

Not a term Australians know. I'm sure they have some sort of equivalent, but I'm not quite sure what the term is.

Monday, September 7, 2009

quicko: who wants to be my neighbor?

Australians don't know Mister Rogers. This shocks and appalls me. I was prepared to have to teach my students, but not my co-workers and friends. It's disturbing: an entire country with no Land of Make-Believe! Oh, please, won't you be my neighbor?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

plug: i've died and gone back to calvin ...

I just discovered this blog, and it's priceless.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

quicko: to not split

To split or not to split. Bills, that is. And Australian restaurants overwhelmingly pick the wrong answer. They refuse to split them, leaving you high and dry with nothing but two useless credit cards. And, what's worse, they get away with it! They have something akin to a monopoly as there are hardly any restaurants you can go where they will split bills, the unfortunate customer (who is, in a shocking twist of fate, always wrong in this country) no option but to cough up cash or find herself up a very steep creek.

Friday, September 4, 2009

quicko: beer o'clock

Has now made it into dictionaries, thanks to Australia.

Furthermore, beer o'clock occurs not only at the pub or bars, but also at work. Seriously. Australian employers will bring beer into the office on Friday afternoons and, when the work's (mostly) done, the party begins!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

quicko: A1

They don't have it here, which is unfortunate because they do actually have steak. They have stuff they refer to as steak sauce, but it just doesn't cut it, particularly in terms of zing. A1 has, as I'm sure you can happily attest, just the right amount of zing.

It also is the source of one my favorite stories about a friend from high school who, upon ordering steak at a pre-homecoming dinner, proceeded to ask for the owl sauce. It took us all a moment to realize she meant the A1.

And, bless her heart, she also invited me to a pool party once whereupon I proceeded to lose a contact in her pool. Ever the considerate hostess, her mother immediately offered that I take one of her daughter's contacts -- they were, after all, disposable.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

quicko: dates

I know I've already mentioned this, but it's a particularly sore spot today. You see, today in Australia is 2/9/09 and 2/9/09 is my birthday. But it's not my birthday because it's really 9/2/09, which is my brother's birthday. I'd always been so happy that mine was the 2/9 one and not the 9/2 one because I thought 2/9 looked way cooler. And now I come here and they goof it all up and ruin my birthday in the process. Andrew, I hope you appreciate the sacrifices I make for you here!!

the saga continues

I thought Beaky and I were onto a fairly regular routine of evening bops at the glass, but this morning I found our relationship had progressed to an even higher level: he has, it appears, taken it upon himself to serve as my personal alarm clock as well. I awoke this morning to him rushing repeatedly headlong into the window.

But that wasn't all. Oh no, not at all. It seems that we are now also engaged in synchronized movement. That is, I looked up from the bathroom sink rather abruptly (having momentarily forgotten that Beaky also likes crashing into the bathroom window as well) and then walked at precisely the same time as he flew so that we then met again face to face two and a half seconds later.

I sat down at my desk and he sat down opposite on the windowsill and looked at me expectantly. I, having given him all my advice yesterday, found myself rather at a loss for words. But who saved the day? Brainy! It seems that Beaky has deemed her suitable enough to be presented to me now and she, with a merry long coo of welcome, suddenly besat herself on the sill next to Beaky. They were clearly both quite pleased with themselves and suddenly I realized that there were now two kookaburras gazing expectantly at me. I still had nothing profound to impart to them, but I assured them they were welcome to stay and watch me send my emails. They evidently found this amusing for awhile, but after a few minutes gave up and flew off to find funnier friends.

But it's okay. I'll know they'll be back tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

sir beak the blunt

I've got a new pet, and his name is Sir Beak the Blunt.

He is a kookaburra, and he lives outside my window. His favorite hobby is bashing his head into my window as hard as he can, then flapping down slightly and trying again. My favorite hobby is watching.

It's amusing when he picks my window (he's coming in for it, in for it, in for WHAM!!), but even more amusing when he picks my neighbor's. In that case, I can't actually see the collision; I merely catch sight of a startled clump of tail feathers rapidly reversing from what appears to be a brick wall. Dear little Beaky.

He's got a lot of gumption. Rather low on grey matter, but he makes up for (well, some of) it in sheer tenacity. He tries, tries and tries again at that window. It hasn't given way yet, but one day, he clearly reasons, it will. It's merely a matter of time.

He is, you see, an Adventurer of the High Skies, boldly going where no kookaburra has gone before. He will eventually emerge victorious, the Magellan of the sky, but even grander for he seeks to navigate through the uncharted, not merely around it. His name will be truly great; his blunted beak a relic for generations to come.

Sometimes he wearies of his grand adventuring, though, and stops for a quick sit on my outer windowsill. I think he is hoping I will invite him for tea and meat, but if you've ever come to visit me, you'll know that my fridge is not exactly bursting with beef. It's not that I don't eat meat, it's more that I don't cook it myself. I don't think Beaky, unlike other houseguests I could name, would actually mind this distinction, but seeing as I don't keep it raw simply in case I get the bi-annual urge to bake, I really haven't got anything to offer him.

I am a sociable sort, though, so I like to engage him in conversation. It's generally, like his relationship with the window, rather one-sided, but I like to think it refreshes each of us. It goes something like this:

"Hello there, Beaky. You just can't beat that glass, can you? I know. It's awful, isn't it? But chin up, Beaky; perhaps one of these days you'll make it."

My brother was visiting recently and interjected that it would really be much easier for dear Beaky if I opened the window for him, but, really now, where's the fun in that? (Engineers are so practical.) He's got to get through it for himself or he just won't get no satisfaction now, will he?

No, I like things just the way they are, particularly now that I've realized the giant crashes I hear regularly are not actually intruders coming to murder me in my sleep, as I mistook his vociferous wallops for the first several times I heard them.

Now, you see, we are friends. We make deals: he won't frighten me in my sleep, and I won't frighten him in his. He won't watch me when I change my clothes, and I won't watch him when he changes his. (My window, as perhaps you've gathered, is not as yet blessed with curtains.)

Today as Beaky sat opposite me he grandly spread his feathers, puffing himself up in what I believe he took to be intimidation. (Sometimes he forgets that we're friends.) I smiled back, which only annoyed him as fear and trembling were the reactions he sought. He consoled himself with a particularly undignified bash into the glass. This time I laughed outright.

Now, you mustn't think I'm mean to Beaky. (You'd laugh, too, if it happened to your kookaburra.) I offer him lots of good advice. For instance, I tell him that he'd really have a much easier time with screens and that the glass really won't give way, but that I'll be back the same time tomorrow if he'd like to try again. A friend in need, after all, is a friend indeed.

My flatmate tells me Beaky has got himself another friend, too, and one with a few more feathers in her cap than I. I'm not jealous, though. In fact, I've decided to name her, too: Lady Brain the Blunt. I think Beaky and Brainy'll suit each other admirably, though I'm not quite sure they'll be getting any "Proud parents of an honors chick" stickers to adorn their nest. But who really needs prestigious progeny when one has a window to wipe out in?

quicko: pink eye

When I tell people I've got pink eye, they look at me strangely here, and not just because they think I'm contagious (I'm not, unless you'd like to borrow the mascara I just threw out). "Is that a real disease?" they ask, thinking I've made it up because I like the color pink. I have to explain that yes, it is, it's conjunctivitis, at which point they actually all tend to perk up much more than I've ever seen an American perk up when told their friend has pink eye.