Saturday, October 31, 2009

quicko: HAPPY halloween

And yet another point Australians tend to mess up miserably: they don't realize that Halloween costumes don't have to be spooky, but that HAPPY ones are also just as acceptable. I've tried explaining this to Australians, but to no avail. They nod and smile to placate me, but, really, they just don't buy it. It's our little joke, they nod surreptitiously to each other, we know Halloween has to be scary, but, well, let's just humor the American.

quicko: hallowhen?

The other thing Australians can never keep straight is when precisely Halloween falls. As they're not nearly as big into it as we are, the exact day generally eludes them. Today's as a good as guess as any, and several tend to favor it.

Friday, October 30, 2009

quicko: _______ nifty united states

I thought the number of U.S. states was common knowledge, but it turns out it's not. Though guesses tend to be close (usually even within 2 states either way), no one seems quite sure. Evidently no one thought to tell the Australians that there's really only one number that rhymes with "nifty."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

quicko: hats off to australia ...

... for putting hats on!

Because of the UV rays, Australians are really big on putting on hats and sunglasses when they go outside. Australian schoolchildren, in fact, are required to wear headgear at any point when they venture outside.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

quicko: buckley's chance

i.e., not a chance.

I know there's a story in this about a man named Buckley, but, not being Australian, I've got Buckley's chance of getting the story right.

Monday, October 26, 2009

quicko: dunny

AKA toilet.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

pink attack

I like pink. I know I've shocked most of you right there, but it's true. I like pink -- pink tops, pink pants, pink thongs of the Australian variety, pink thongs of the American variety, pink blankets, pink phones, pink flowers, pink artwork, pink beach towels, pink watermelon and pink ice cream. The one pink thing I don't like is pink eye.

In and of itself, there are far worse illnesses. Headaches, stomachaches and earaches are all far, far worse. Even upper respiratory tract infections, as I learned last year, have the potential to wreak lots more havoc, and it's definitely trumped by sore throats, cramps and colds.

Perhaps that's why, then, I didn't realize what I had at first. It came about when my brother was visiting, and I was pretty sure my contacts were just a wee bit drier than usual when they woke me up about 6 am. (6 am, I should point out, is not a time I like to be woken up by anything. Please do not try it.) When drops didn't do the trick, I staggered to the bathroom, removed them and tried to go back to bed. Unfortunately, it hurt to close my eyes.

Oddly enough, it also hurt to have them open. But, seeing as it was still only 6:06 am, I was sleepy enough to suck it up and snoozed off, until my eyes woke me up again at 7 am. (7 am, I should also point out, is another time I do not like to be woken up by anything. Please do not try it either.) I'm not usually one to give up on sleep, but at this point it proved impossible. Fortunately, Andrew's jet lag was such that he was also waking up earlier than he ever normally would (being a college student, 7 am was much closer to his normal bedtime) so we set off.

It didn't take me long to notice that, no matter what I did regarding drops or glasses, my left eye was still quite itchy. Call me crazy (as it seems many are wont to do, regardless of circumstances), but it itched worse when I looked up at anything, or rode buses. I have no idea why.

For the rest of the day I figured it was an odd, one-off thing and that surely any second now it would stop itching. And sometimes it did. Generally just long enough for me to think all was well again.

Imagine then my dismay when the very next morning I received another 6 am wake-up call. This time there was no mucking about with drops first -- I ran straight to the bathroom to rip out the -- oh. I'd never put them back in. This was odd. This was seriously strange. My eyes did not have contacts in them; why then were they unhappy? Puzzled, I drizzled drops in them anyway (force of habit they'd acquired?) and dozed off again until 7.

Day two of the itchy eyes led to more open complaint. Various friends suggested various possibilities; one gave me some eye drops, other were sure it was hay fever. Having never developed hay fever before, I remained doubtful. It wasn't until my flatmate suggested pink eye that the penny dropped.

It was still Sunday at this point, but the next day I had to take Andrew to the airport at some extremely unearthly hour of the morning (it was before 6 am). I don't know how many of you have had to say goodbye to a brother at 7 am on a Monday morning with pink eye when he's flying to the other side of the world and you suddenly realize you're absolutely alone in Australia with no family of any kind anywhere closer than California, but it's not a particularly pleasant experience. Which was how, early Monday morning, I found myself standing in the Wynyard chemist's bawling my eyes out and trying to explain that, yes, I really had pink eye, and no, it wasn't because I was crying, and what I really needed to know was whether to go to a doctor's or an optometrist's. The girl recommended the doctor's, but looked like she thought a psychiatrist might be more to the point. I blew my nose and left.

Fortunately, commuting to the CBD means that I do have good, rapid access to medical professionals. I found a doctor's office across the street and made an appointment for 45 minutes later. Fortunately, commuting to the CBD means that I also have good, rapid access to chocolate cupcakes. I found a cupcake shop two shops down and made an appointment, effective immediately, during which I managed to finish three chocolate cupcakes and more or less stop crying. Then I hiked the two shops' length back to the doctor.

The doctor quickly confirmed that I wasn't pregnant, a smoker, an alcoholic, a drug dealer or a prostitute, recommended a vaccine for cervical cancer (or would that be against?), and informed me that, yes, I had pink eye. Though to be precise, at this point it was probably closer to salmon eye, after the yellow drops she'd drenched it in.

Doctored up, I rose from the examining table (why I had to lay down is another mystery) and marched back to the chemist's, this time with prescription in hand to prove I had a genuine malady. The girls eyed me suspiciously, but the pharmacist, who I hadn't met on my last trip in, was kindly and offered a long series of recommendations regarding the application of the drug, the only one of which really sunk in was the idea that it ought to live in the refrigerator as much as possible.

I paid the pharmacist, and off I trotted to run errands at the bank, the travel agency and a coffeeshop (one always needs to fall back and regroup after such mornings; honestly, an extra two or three coffeeshops stops wouldn't have hurt) before making it to work by noon. There I promptly deposited my eye drops in the fridge, and wrote myself a note I hoped no one happened to read and take the wrong way, seeing as it ran something to the effect of: "KIM! don't forget (insert picture of eyeball here) in fridge!!!"

My work colleagues, incidentally, are used to me having trouble with my eyes; I seem to have regular difficulties with styes. The upshot of this is that I now know how to treat them all by myself (lots of heated pressure; 15 minutes 4 times a day, ideally, to nip one in the bud); the downside is that that means I often apply just-boiled teabags to my eyes during every possible break at work. So even if they noticed the note, perhaps they wouldn't think too much of it.

Over the next week and a half, I continued to apply my eye drops regularly, and refrigerate them in the meantimes, and thankfully my eye stopped itching almost immediately, and looked significantly better soon after, too. All was finally well and white, though I bided my time until several days after the symptoms cleared up to risk the contacts again.

I'd thrown out my mascara, but left my drops stashed in the back of the fridge, just in case.

And just in case turned out to be one the smartest moments of my life, if by smartest you mean "saved me $70."

Because what to my wondering right eye should appear, the very next week, but red lines all in there! This time my left eye was fine, but there was no doubt about it; the right had (despite having received just as many medicated drops as the left) taken it upon itself to keep things nice and even and therefore developed its own special case of pink eye.

This time I was more frustrated than anything, but I started my day at work by calling a pharmacist.

"Hi there, um, I just had pink e--er, conjunctivitis, and I'm was on this medicine, ciph-er-a-"

"Ciprofloxacin, yes."

"Yes! And I used it and it worked, but it was like, well, I started it August 31, and now I've come down with pink e--er, conjunctivitis in the other eye, but I've had it in the fridge the whole time, do you think I can still use it again now?"

"Yes, it should be fine. Ciprofloxacin is good for a month, so you've got until September 30. I'd throw it away after that, though."

"Oh, perfect, thanks so much!"

And thus a man I'd never even met made my day at 8:25 in the morning.

And this time, when the drops were over, and the itching gone, and the pink lines vanished, I scoured my place. I washed every piece of cloth I could find, cleaned the bathroom sink twice, threw out all the contact cases I could find (oddly enough, when I went back to the chemist's to buy a new one, they didn't have any for sale. "Oh, here," the one girl said to the other, "this is a sample one. Just let her have it."), pitched another mascara and all my eyeshadow and suddenly began having nightmares about The Velveteen Rabbit.

Like I said, there are far worse illnesses you could have from a purely medical point of view. But anything that racks up $100 in one go-round (thanks again to the nameless pharmacist for saving me a substantial part off the second) and even contemplates messing with my stuffed animal is nothing to be trifled with.

I am happy to report, though, that I am now entirely back in the pink of health.

the biggies

So for ages now I've been meaning to write about what I see as the biggest cultural differences between Australia and the U.S. Obviously there are more than these (see my previous 500 entries), but my extensive academic essay writing experience leads me to select three major contenders (and describe them before proceeding): city life, university life, relational life and vacation.

First off, city life. I'm not sure if this is really the best way to put it, but what I mean is that most Australians live in the major cities here: Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide, Darwin and Hobart. Some live in other cities, such as Coff's Harbour, Cairns, Geelong, Wollongong or Newcastle, but the vast majority of these cities are located on the coast and the vast interior of Australia is entirely unpopulated. We're talking huge farms the size of American states, and not really anybody in between. If you fly over the U.S. at night, you see lots of little lights all across the country. Not so in Australia; lots of little lights all along the coast, but very few in the middle.

To give you more of an idea, Australia has approximately 21 million people (the U.S. has more like 304 million). Of these, roughly 4.2 million are in Sydney, 3.8 million are in Melbourne, 1.8 million are in Brisbane and 1.6 million are in Perth (the national capital of Canberra, I was shocked to find, has less than 350,000), which means roughly 54% of Australians live in one of the four biggest cities, and most of the others aren't too terribly far away. Imagine if over half of Americans lived in New York, LA, Chicago and Houston and the other half was scattered down the eastern seaboard, with one big city in California (i.e., Perth).

It does bear mentioning, of course, that the biggest city, Sydney, is still smaller than the U.S.'s fourth biggest, Houston, so the idea of big city life is significantly different than what, say, a New Yorker might imagine. However, it is still true that the majority of Australians live in a big city, and they therefore approach life in a different way to, say, many Midwesterners.

Like many big cities, Australia's are quite cosmopolitan in terms of both their residents and their mindsets. There is a huge Asian population in Australia, and by Asian I don't just mean Chinese, Japanese and Korean. There are lots of people from Korea and Japan especially, but also from Malaysia, Indonesia (it's actually one of Australia's closest neighbors), Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Nepal, India and many others. There are also lots of people from the Pacific Islands -- Samoa, Fiji and the Philippines spring to mind. Moving farther afield, though, many Australian residents come from Brazil, Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Germany and nearly any nation you can name. Closer to home, Australia also has a substantial Aboriginal community. And then there's the native English-speaking ex-pats: Kiwis, South Africans, Americans, Canadians and Brits. There are so many Brits here they've acquired their own, semi-derogatory nickname: Poms.

But not only is Australia a huge melting pot, it is also quite globally minded. Things like foreign policy (Australian and U.S.), Fair Trade products, recycling, the environment, global warming, saving energy, saving water and human rights are hot topics that get a lot of press and conversation time. Of course, many Americans are also very concerned about these matters, but the scope of concern is more widespread in Australia.

Secondly, university life is, especially for a 20something, one of the most significant differences between the U.S. and Australia. To be American about it, I'd say we have it and they don't. This isn't strictly, true, of course, but it's not too far off the mark. Before I proceed, let me point out that I do recognize the statistic that only 25% of Americans go to college (they call it university here), but, to compare apples to apples, let's just think about middle-class, suburban America, where the vast majority of my classmates all attended college, and middle-class, urban Australia, where a lot of high school students left to attend college.

And that's the first difference: a lot of Australian high school students attend college, but a lot don't. A lot go to TAFE, which clearly stands for something important, though I don't know what. From what I can tell, it's a bit like a vocation school at the level of a community college. It's where you go to learn trades, but it's completely acceptable and parents are quite happy if their children decide to go there. Some others presumably enter the workforce straightaway, which is also a happy alternative for everyone.

But of those who do go to university, very few actually move away from home. There's four pretty major universities in Sydney (Sydney University, Macquarie University, University of New South Wales and University of Technology, Sydney) and, unless you have particular career aspirations not supported by one of these, most students will continue living with their parents until they graduate, and, even then, they are likely to stay in the same city. By that point, most are getting antsy to move out, but it'd still be common to stay another year or two until you get your feet on the ground, financially.

Some students do live on campus, but residential housing is primarily for the country kids (ones who quite possibly have been attending a boarding school in one of the major cities for all of high school anyway) or those few who have ventured from their home city.
Americans, on the other hand, move out at 18 and immediately bond with a floor full of other 18 year olds who are similarly simultaneously thrilled to be living in freedom and utterly terrified. This very regularly leads to the very fast development of several very close, lasting friendships, and very many not-as-close and not-as-lasting-but-still significant friendships. It also leads to a tremendous amount of school spirit and pride. Americans are fanatical about their schools -- they're a huge part of our identity and we tend to be quite proud of them, even long after we graduate. We wear the appropriate sweatshirts, scour the alumni magazines for news of acquaintances' marriages, bring them up in conversation, give large sums of money to them, visit on homecoming days and encourage our children to attend what is clearly the best school in the country. Australians don't really go in for all this. Sure, they usually remember which school (excuse me, university) they attended, but they don't spend too much time trying to network with their professor's friends or looking up other alum when they move to foreign countries.

By differing relational life, I'm sure I could expand in any number of directions, but primarily what I meant was that Australians don't mind getting to what most Americans to be fairly deep territory pretty fast when it comes to Those Topics We Don't Discuss, i.e., politics and religion. Americans can be the fastest of friends for years and never broach the subject of politics -- quite possibly because they fear they may have differing viewpoints, but quite possibly because they just see it as a personal thing, and they don't want to make anyone, much less their friend, feel uncomfortable. Not so with Australians. Pretty much as soon as they spot my accent, they assume it's fair game to ask who I voted for (you are old enough to vote, right?). I've literally had conversations where people have asked my voting preferences before finding out my name. But if strangers can ask, so much can acquaintances and friends, often in public, and often in the midst of an anti-American conversation.

Regarding religion, I'm actually referring to other Christians. In American churches, things tend to be rather surface-y for quite some time, until you've been around long enough to go on a retreat. A retreat is sacred among American Christians. A retreat is where you bond. A retreat is where everything comes out. A retreat is where you bring the Kleenex, the life stories and the testimonies. Australian churches are different. Here you get asked your testimony before your name. Don't fall asleep during the sermon; you're likely to be asked just how you found it afterwards. You'd better be ready to give an account; it's not God asking, yet, but the other Christians!

Finally, vacation (holiday, here) is another distinguishing factor between Americans and Australians. Americans take a very bad rap abroad for their lack of travel and culture, particularly in Australia, a country where everyone travels immensely. I was talking to a friend yesterday who casually mentioned that her family always went on vacation to Fiji each year. When I expressed surprised, she was confused: it was only a four hour flight. Similarly, I recently heard a sermon where the speaker was talking about cutting back: maybe instead of taking that dream vacation to Europe, families should content themselves with a mere three weeks in Queensland (a state in northern Australia) instead.

The main reason Australians can afford to travel so much is that all employees get 20 days of paid annual leave each year. It's just what they do. They are shocked and appalled (I can tell half of them just plain don't believe me) to learn that Americans only get 2 weeks a year to begin with. They then understand that a week in the summer and a week at Christmas might make sense, but they still can't shake the idea that that's really just plain torture, and surely another first world country wouldn't be indulging in it. They're sure there's some mistake, some catch or glitch, but can't quite pinpoint what it is, so they just go back to ranting against the uncultured American.

Those, then, are the biggest differences I see between Americans and Australians. It's hard to stay out of the fray sometimes, and I tend to defend Australians when talking to Americans and Americans when talking to Australians. I can see both sides of lots of things, though happen to prefer certain aspects of each. Particularly those 20 days off.

Friday, October 23, 2009

quicko: the shalphin

So I missed the actual event, but as soon as I walked into the Christian surfers I was greeted with a rousing "KIMMY!" followed by a very loud, rapid discussion concerning The Shark. Since they were all talking at once it was a bit difficult to piece together exactly what happened, but it seems that someone saw something that looked like fins and someone screamed and lots of someones swam and they all paddled in as fast their little surf fins would carry them, except one who was left behind wondering where everyone was. Everyone made it safely back and no one seemed to have actually seen anything conclusive. Descriptions of the creature ranged ("it was clearly a dolphin" -- "yeah, so why were you paddling so fast then?"), and in the end a compromise was reached by referring to it as the shalphin.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

killer kiwi in a cup

The last time I explicitly remember ordering a kiwi beverage was in Southern Spain, or possibly Northern Morocco, and it was fantastic. I didn't know what was in it, and I didn't ask, but when the opportunity again presented itself, albeit in a slightly less exotic locale, I seized it. Lemon and lime soda with kiwi syrup was how the waitress described it, and, though I knew this was different from the previous concoction, it still rang fond enough bells I was eager to give it a try.

Imagine then my great excitement when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a huge (finally something sized appropriately for its price!), sparkling, bubbling neon green drink. It, contrary to possible assumption here, did not look like a science experiment gone wrong. In fact, it most closely resembled a lava lamp and my friend Melissa and I stared at it awe as we waited to see the pretty blobs move. After a few minutes during which nothing particularly out of the ordinary happened I broke down and tried some.

It was at this time that any possible relation to the exotic kiwi juice, or indeed to any kiwi plant, or indeed to any naturally occurring liquid, ceased to exist. I was bombarded with messages from whichever biological system it is that transports issues of taste from one's tongue to brain. The overriding one went along the extremely eloquent lines of "YUCK!" but competing messages included "she wasn't joking about the SYRUP" and "is this liquid or is it slushie or is it undiluted green sugar concentrate?" along with the red flag "BANANA ALERT! BANANA ALERT! BANANA ALERT!" (I don't happen to like bananas, but perhaps you picked up on that.)

"Mmm," I said in reply to the details of Melissa's recent weekend away at a monastery, partly to show I was still listening and partly as I couldn't manage anything more eloquent myself. She took this as a signal to plow onward, and before I knew it we'd solved most the major problems of the universe, finished her mocha and managed three polite sips (give this girl a prize!) of killer kiwi in a cup.

"Melissa," I finally said, "I know it looks so cool, but I just don't like my kiwi drink."

"Oh no," she said, "but it looked so pretty!"

"I know," I sighed.

"You could ask if they'd exchange it," she suggested.

This was really what I'd been hoping all along, but it felt disloyal somehow to suggest it myself. A betrayal of my new-found kiwi drink, you know.

I hemmed. "Do you think so?"

"Give it a try," she said.

I fidgeted, toying with the idea of getting a Lovely Cup of Tea.

"Go on," she coaxed, and my arm was twisted. Off I marched the counter, which was staffed by two people, neither of whom happened to notice me until my waitress walked by and directed their attention.

"Yes?" asked the guy, who was approximately my age, but approximately 85% less fluent.

"Um," I said shyly, gesturing to the emerald exuberance I'd brought up with me, "I'm sorry, but I'm afraid I don't like my drink at all. I'm sure you made it fine and everything, it's just that I really don't like it."

The guy was consolatory, but firm. "We cannot give new drink," he decreed.

"Er, yeah, I was just wondering if maybe I could exchange it. Like for a tea?"

"No," he said. "Once you get, no take back. It like beer, when you open, we no take back. This same."

"You're sure?" I pressed. "The boring old tea is less expensive than the kiwi extravaganza. Less expensive," I repeated, in case he hadn't understood.

"No," he said. "I sorry."

Shyness had evaporated into irked resignation. "Okay," I said, "I'd like the tea still."

"Okay," he said, "but we charge ..."

"Yes, yes, I understand that part," I said. "English breakfast with milk and sugar."

By the time I made it back to Melissa, I was mumbling something that sounded a lot like some shops sure wouldn't be hurt by taking a hint from Starbucks and customers always being right in America. She'd overheard the situation and was consolatory, and tactfully did not mention that it never made anyone look better to rant about how much better their country is when traveling abroad.

My tea arrived shortly, sans sugar and quite weak. I borrowed the extra sugars from Melissa's mocha, but was too spent to argue the weak tea point. We chatted until we'd solved all the remaining world ills (except, of course, for shoddy service, which shall, I'm afraid, remain as long as the earth and the no-need-to-tip-in-Australia protocols endure).

We got up to pay, and the guy quoted me the price of the kiwi extravaganza. Grumpily honest, mostly because the monastery conversation had led us down significantly spiritual paths and I didn't want them to think a Christian couldn't be trusted to pay even a bum bill, I reminded him that, actually, I owed the price of the tea on top of it.

"No, no," he said. "It okay. I call manager. He say you just must pay for one drink." He smiled in a way that clearly meant he was relived, that all along he hadn't wanted to charge me, but that it wasn't his position to decide, but that the manager had risen to the occasion, and now we could all leave happy.

"Really?" I asked, suddenly chagrined and immediately grateful. "Thanks."

And I tossed two bucks in the tip jar, and felt entirely better. Except for a slight taste of banana.

quicko: sanga

AKA sandwich. As in "what have you got on your sanga? Chicken? Roast beef? Marshmallow fluff?"

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

quicko: hospitals

I recently set foot in an Australian hospital for the first time and was actually very surprised -- the Sydney airport (which, granted, is a very nice airport) is much nicer than the Royal North Shore Hospital. It reminded me of the time I went to Buckingham Palace and thought, golly gee, Gaylen Byker* has got better grass than the Queen of England! I'd always thought of hospitals as rather sterile, excessively clean, preferably quite modern structures, but, although it seemed up to par, par seemed to be rather low (or would it be high? I'm no golfer) for the course. I think perhaps the private section is classier than the public (where I was), but I'd taken bright, sparkling white sheets and such for granted in first world hospitals.

*Calvin's president

Monday, October 19, 2009

quicko: coffee

Australians may be down on their apple cider, but they are up on their coffee. I don't even drink coffee, but I know better than to ask for one at a cafe. Long blacks, short whites, regular cappuccinos and skim lattes are the name of the game. Of course you can get a standard-issue-regular-old-run-of-the-mill coffee, but don't push your luck. You certainly won't win.

quicko: cider or not

Unfortunately, in Australia there is no apple cider. There's cider, the alcoholic beverage, but no cider, the sticky, sweet, fall beverage.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

quicko: larrikin

Australian slang for a rowdy, rambunctious troublemaker; generally under 30, generally male. A prankster, a trickster, a George and Fred Weasley sort.

quicko: economic system

Somebody asked in my business class last night if Australia is a capitalist or socialist country, which was a great question because I'd been trying to figure that out for myself. I was really surprised by the answer -- having always assumed that economic systems were more or less standard-issue per country and, like picking a side of the road to drive on, fairly inflexible (perhaps I should have studied economics a bit harder?) -- that the more blue collar sector of society was more socialist, but the more white collar sector of society was more capitalist. So there you have it -- a bit of both.

Friday, October 16, 2009

quicko: centrelink

I really haven't got a good handle on this, but basically it sounds to me like welfare for almost everybody without the stigma. It seems there's lots of free money for anyone who's not a full-time employee -- i.e., students (get paid while they're in school!!), people who don't make lots of money, people who are laid off, people who are fired, people who don't really like to work, people who are on holiday and need a bit of extra cash, etc. Evidently lots of people take it (why wouldn't you?!) and nobody thinks anything of it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

quicko: feedback

One of the words that bugs me the most here: feedback. People are constantly talking about feedback, getting feedback, giving feedback. I don't know, it's just annoying, don't you think? Sure, the concept is more or less noble, but couldn't we call it something else? "I got some really nice comments from the interviewer," or "I learned a bit about how to do my job better from my boss" or "I gave that lazy employee a piece of my mind!"

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

quicko: ID cards

I don't quite understand why and had never picked up on this before, but I was told today that Australians have a real aversion to ID cards -- it's kind of rude to ask to see one, outside a "getting carded" situation, particularly as regards employment or official things. I wasn't quite clear if it was because they'd show nationality or age or lack of trust that a person was who they said they were.

Monday, October 12, 2009

quicko: no? soap

I had the oddest surprise when I went to buy soap the other day. I can't figure out if this is some trend that I'm simply unaware of in America, or if it's a purely Australian quirk: basically, the idea is that soap is a bad buzzword and that, if you want to buy a product that will clean your skin, what you really want is a product that is soap-free or one that contains no traces of soap or even one that was produced in an entirely soap-free environment. How precisely you're to get clean, I'm not quite sure, but heaven forbid you actually use s-- go wash your mouth out with dirt!!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

quicko: the great seat sit

This is an ecumenical post, regarding expected decorum in Australian churches. It seems that, following the final song and subsequent benediction (which is more like a dismissal these days, it seems), everyone retakes their seats. Not for long, just about 30 to 60 seconds, unless of course they begin to engage in a lengthy conversation, which could push the time limit forward considerably.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

update: exchanging the rate

It's .91 AUS --> US now. If only I had any money to transfer over!

Friday, October 9, 2009

quicko: hydrogen peroxide

I can't figure out if you can get this here under a different name, but I haven't managed to. Not really sure what Australians do if they scrape their skin or drop an earring on the ground or want to dye a strand of their hair an unseemly color. Presumably they book a trip to America.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

quicko: tax time

In Australia is October 31. Not April 15. Gives a whole new (albeit it rather appropriate) meaning to Halloween.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

update: max brenner

Has raised its prices!! Not probably enough to stand out to the casual observer, but certainly to the true connoisseur -- 50 cents here, 50 cents there, it's appalling! The whole overhead menu has had to be redone to accommodate these changes, and I mentioned this to the guy at the cash register. He said, yes, but they like to call it "upgrading."

quicko: study camps

An oxymoron? Maybe, but Australians actually do them. Or, to be more precise, Christian Australians run them. They're camps where high schoolers come for a week to (get this) study. Generally they're studying for their HSCs (is my acronym right?) -- which are kind of akin to end-of-year exams meet SATs. Roughly. But anyway, on these camps, kids come and study and eat and sleep and play and maybe learn about God. And I don't know for sure, but my impression is they're more academic and less camp -- not so much packing the toilet paper for the nature hikes, from what I can tell. But maybe, who knows. Academic jungles can be pretty rough, too.

Monday, October 5, 2009

quicko: fairy bread

I haven't actually encountered this myself yet (I hear it often makes appearances at children's birthday parties), but the basic concept is white bread buttered, topped with sprinkles (which, incidentally, are rather aptly called "hundreds and thousands") and cut into triangles. Sounds pretty good, hey?

news alert: time change

For anyone planning to contact Australia in the near future, don't forget that Sydney has had time change this weekend. This means that we're now 15 hours U.S. EST (16 off U.S. Central Time, 17 off U.S. Mountain Time and 18 off U.S. Pacific Time). In a few weeks when the U.S. switches, we'll be 16 hours off U.S. EST (add an hour accordingly for the other time zones).

quicko: the big bulletin-blind bind

I don't know if it's just my church or if it's protocol here, but there's no bulletins. (Lutherans, don't faint.) You come and have no idea what is going to happen next, or when you're likely to be able to sit or blow your nose, or if the sermon (aka "the talk") is the halftime show or the grand finale. There is a often an "order of service" slide at the beginning of the PowerPoint presentation to give you a semblance of a clue, but it flashes up for a brief moment and then is gone. Holding on to and referring back to the order (particularly during the sermon) is impossible, much less checking off the elements as they pass.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

quicko: how good is "how good is"

While we might bandy this about from time to time in the States, the phrase "how good is _______?" (usually with great emphasis on either the "how" or the "good") is in wide circulation here. As in, how good is Pancakes in the Rocks? How good are thunderstorms? How good was Friday night? How good is Kim's super-cool blog?

update: bus bloopers

And, just when you think nothing more can go wrong on a bus, it can suddenly decide that the route it always takes, every day, many, many times per day, is no longer the one it wishes to follow and that, actually, seeing as it's nearly midnight, there's no real need to go all the way to the end of the route, is there? No, surely not. It'll just drop everyone off 15 minutes shy of where they wanted to go and leave them to catch a cab home. They will now, however, be left high and dry. Oh, no. It'll be a drizzly night; high and damp's more like it.

Friday, October 2, 2009

quicko: food courts

You'd think America'd win this hands down, but actually I have to give the prize to Australia. Their food courts are amazing. You've probably got a token McDonalds or such nearby, but instead of finding it swamped in the midst of Pizza Hut, Burger King, Arby's (not that there's anything wrong with Arby's!), Wendy's, Hardee's, KFC and Subway, it is instead surrounded by Thai, Indian, Japanese, another Thai, a healthy choice sandwich shop, Nando's (specializing in chicken ... and sauce), a crepe place, a pasta place, another Thai and maybe a Gloria Jeans (coffeeshop). The only problem is deciding where to go!

update: themed parties

And within 24 hours of writing this post I overheard a girl on the bus say of a party, "the theme is British comedy stars." How could I have forgotten that one?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

quicko: themed parties

Not having Halloween per se, Australians desperately need excuses to dress up and strut their stuff in sleazy costumes. Hence, nearly every Australian party tends to have a theme. From 60s to gangsters to tigers to rockers and legends each party is unique. Heaven forbid you have a bare party!