Sunday, January 31, 2010

quicko: reception

What Australians call the front desk -- the area where you are greeted by an employee behind a desk when you first walk into a company.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

quicko: colleges

The concept of "college" is very different in Australia and America. Australian colleges are not nearly of the same caliber as universities and not do grant bachelor's degrees. For example, the school I work at as an ESL teacher is called a "college." Thus, many American colleges, like Calvin, for example, would be considered universities here.

photos: surfin' safari!!

Surfing at Manly last night!!

Friday, January 29, 2010

quicko: call me on ...

0412 345 678. As opposed to "at." Also, note how mobile (i.e., cell) phone numbers are normally typed. Business numbers are generally printed 9999 1234, with the, say, initial "02" for Sydney being omitted as it is understood (it's like an area code).

quicko: $20 ... or else!

I just learned that there's an old Australian law still on the rulebooks that stipulates you may not go out in public without ID and a minimum of $20 cash. Goodness knows it's a good idea, but I had no idea I'd broken the law so often.*

*Note, dear officers or father reading this, I actually rarely if ever have. I do keep that emergency stash stashed away. Though occasionally it has dwindled slightly in the face of very beautiful artwork.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

quicko: car names

Australian men tell me they don't name cars because it's girly. I, however, have it on extremely good authority that very masculine American males name their cars. Not only do they name cars, they also have been known to dedicate entire facebook albums to pictures of cars with the appropriate name (for example, Lola) under every single picture.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

quicko: green? gold? blue? red? white?

Today was Australia Day, which is generally celebrated like a low-key Fourth of July: bar-b-ques in the backyard, but not so much of that patriotic hubbub of parades and excessive fireworks and wearing patriotic colors. I decked out in a decidedly green top, but no one even noticed my efforts. Alas. Maybe next year.

Monday, January 25, 2010

quicko: headspace

An Australian compound noun that annoys me no end. Kind of like mindset, but almost always used as an excuse Americans have no equivalent for (much like "can't be bothered). As in, "I just haven't got enough headspace to deal with that problem," or "I'm not in the right headspace to have this conversation."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

one of those days

I had one of those really off days today. One of those days where nothing's really going wrong, but nothing's really going right, either.

It started off well enough; I got up and out of the house by 1 pm, which really is saying something for me. I called my family and talked for the entire duration of my epic public transport quest and was even in a decent mood when I realized the Glebe markets must be every Saturday, not Sunday.

Glebe is a cool place. It reminds me of Camden; it's just quintessentially bohemian, without being overly poetic, which would annoy me. There's lots of cute (if bohemian can be so described) cafes and the buildings are well settled, which means they're old but have charm and still look nice. It's a more colorful place than most, and has more used bookstores than most, and I have absolutely no unpleasant memories associated with it, which also helps. It's safe different.

And so I had a lovely afternoon, eating a BLAT served by a Turkish guy who should have been in my elementary class, but eventually managed to understand what a credit card was, bless his cotton socks. I tipped him extra for his achievement.

Then I strolled two doors down to a cozy coffeeshop and had a cup of tea. All was still well. I don't quite know when the tide turned, but it hadn't turned yet.

Next came Oedipus. Oedipus Loves You, to be exact, and frankly ought to have been a telling enough title to scare me away sooner. It was a modern interpretation, part of the Sydney Festival, and very, for lack of a more polite word, modern.

Now the Sydney Festival is something I am definitely all for; I think it's absolutely fantastic, and full of great theater, music and general revelry. I've been sorry I haven't been to more shows in years past, and I was adamant I wouldn't miss out this year, seeing as I've actually got all of January in Sydney. The first show I thought I'd go to was an avant garde interpretation of Hamlet, but I gave when I realized it had not only closed, but was also performed entirely in German. Before you gasp in too much understanding here, I should point out that I have also performed in a play entirely in German, so am perhaps not the last person you'd expect to attend such a tragedy (obviously no pun intended). However, Biedermann und die Brandstifter was years ago, and I never entirely understood the other characters' lines even then. I decided to give Hamlet a miss.

Smoke and Mirrors looked intriguing, too, as did an Indian musical show featuring performers in human-size boxes, but both had sold out, so I decided as I am generally fond of Greek theater in small doses I might give the no-intermission Oedipus a try.

Walking into the Seymour Centre, my immediate thought was that I'd clearly missed a memo on clothing: many of the crowd were decked out in red, black and white (incidentally my high school colors, though I doubt they realized that). I surveyed my own purple-and-jeans ensemble in the bathroom mirrors and decided they'd just have to live with it. Anyway, there was no time, let alone money, to shop before the show.

As the curtain was going up, I was reminded that perhaps they're been some note before I purchased online tickets warning me of nudity on stage. I had not been warned I was about to encounter (this was truly a first for me) a naked man with no penis. Either that or they had incredible costuming going on, but I'm not too sure where else they could have stashed it. Gosh, the things you never knew about the Sphinx.

Most of the rest of the play was clothed, and it was very well done. Edgy, but perhaps you'd gotten that idea already. There were several key songs throughout, and a very intriguing interpretation of Oedipus' family as a contemporary dysfunctional one in children's pools and bar-b-ques and counseling, etc. Oh, and Irish accents.

I think the most fascinating part were the two large screens above the set. One had a live video feed looking on a bed (also viewed through the third window of the set from the traditional side view). The other had a live video feed of images that reflected the on-stage action: a techie was on-stage the whole time, mimicking the action with photo cut-outs of the actors, lyrics of the music being sung, cards with psychological disorders written on them, etc. It was quite fascinating.

The script was intelligent and witty, though the horror of the actual events is bleak enough to make you desperately want to burst out into a chorus of Godspell's "God Save the People!" At least that was the effect it had on me.

By the time noose-laced Jocasta and Oedipus, who was overtly wiping stage blood from his eyes to be able to see the audience, took their bows, I was ready to get back out into the fresh air and sunshine. Thank goodness it doesn't get dark early this time of year.

After that I set about trying to find a good location for my upcoming birthday party. I've been working on this for weeks now, with limited success. Part of the problem is everywhere wants to charge me for the privilege of bringing them business. The other part of the problem is I'm inviting friends from both sides of Sydney. The south-of-harbor dwellers favor pubs on the south side of the city center, while the northerners prefer classy bars in the CBD. I have to admit, I'd side with the northerners if I had my druthers, but, frankly, I'm after numbers this year. That and I need a place that doesn't mind fancy dress, as we're coming with definite costumes in tow.

To this end, I made a visit to Bar Cleveland this evening. Bar Cleveland is on Cleveland Street, which happened to be the same street Oedipus was on. So, I thought, nothing to it, I'd just take a merry little jaunt from one to the other and see what there was to see.

Again, I was thankful that it doesn't get dark early this time of year.

I can't figure out if it's actually a bad area of town or if my imagination was just running wild, but I was definitely imagining the worst as I meandered my way cautiously down Cleveland. The shops were looking distinctly shabbier than they had in Glebe (which maintained a different sort of character), and people seemed to be giving me more sideways glances than usual. Or maybe that's how I was looking at them.

By the time I made it to the Bar, I was feeling distinctly shaken, which possibly accounts for the man mistaking my accent (here was another first) for Irish or Scottish. I took a quick look at the room, then headed immediately north. I passed a motley bus stop crew moseying to their feet and I glanced at the bus number and destination. 303, Circular Quay. I needed no more -- I hopped onto my saving bus, reassured in the knowledge that it'd take me back into familiar territory. And so it did. Minutes later we passed Wentworth (my breathing had gotten distinctly more regular when I knew we'd passed Central), and I breathed a sigh of relief. Although I hadn't been lost at all the whole time, I now was on claimable turf. My workplace whizzed by, and I felt even better, finally departing at Circular Quay.

Here I set about trying to find other, more northern-esque, places to host a party. Nothing struck me particularly favorably, and I was exhausted from having hiked half the city. Fed up with myself for not being able to find the pubs I was looking for in the Rocks (it's such a small area, I couldn't figure how I'd misplaced a few), I collapsed on a bench and tried to cry. I couldn't.

After awhile I gave up and hiked back to Wynyard, where I had the comfort of knowing my bus was coming, if nothing else. Come it did, and I got on to see a red, black and white duo I'd noticed pre-Oed. All I really wanted to do at this point, though, was to sit somewhere friendly and read Harry Potter.

I got off at Maisy's, my favorite (well, it's the only) 24 hour place in my neck of the woods and asked the waiter if I could please sit upstairs.

"No," he said flatly, clearly not understanding my need for a bit of emotional space.

"Oh," I said flatly, taking the seat he'd indicated at the lonely spot for people who meander in by themselves, this time trying not to cry.

Thankfully a minute later a couple at a back table got up and I asked the same waiter if I could please take that seat. He acquiesced.

I took a seat and he brought me my drink, but by that point I had tears streaming down my face. Realizing he'd perhaps been overharsh in my seating arrangements, he sympathetically brought me some extra napkins and patted me on the shoulder. I had the impression I'd now be allowed to stay as long as I liked, so I made excellent headway in Harry and had got as much of the mascara stains off as was going to be possible by the time I left. I tipped him extra, too.

And now it's the end of one of those days. I've seen Oedipus Rex on stage and finished a Harry Potter book, all in one evening. I desperately hope I dream absolutely nothing.

quicko: cotton socks

I'm not entirely sure if this is an Australianism or an idiosyncrasy of a co-worker, but much along the lines of "oh, bless your heart" is "God bless your cotton socks."

Saturday, January 23, 2010

quicko: speeches

Speeches are a huge deal at significant (i.e., 21st, 40th, etc.) parties. I haven't actually heard any yet, but people are always talking about them -- "oh, I really don't want to have speeches at mine," being the most common sentiment.

quicko: royal no longer in residence

Sorry to be a bit slow on the uptake, but I didn't get to read my Monday mX until Wednesday this week, and then didn't get it to the blog till now, but Prince William was in Sydney Monday and Tuesday this week. From what I can tell, absolutely nothing eventful happened. Sorry.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

quicko: "doctor" who?

My American friend and I have been talking and we can't work out how you become a doctor in Australia, but from what we can tell, it's a heck of a lot easier than it is in America. We've both encountered a handful "doctors" who we just don't think went through the same, grueling study-for-a-bazillion-years-then-do-the-torture-known-as-residency-etc-etc-etc before getting their white coats. Australians have convoluted ways of explaining it, but take it from us: they are not all really doctors just because they say they are.* What they are, we do not know, but we think they might be nurses. Possibly of a glorified variety. Or possibly with a community college associate honors online degree.**

*This is not to say that all of them aren't. There are some that go through the rigorous rigmarole they're supposed to. This is in no way directed at that appropriate sort of doctor. Kudos to those who make it; we are very grateful. It's those sketchy I've-done-something-medical-and-they-gave-me-a-title ones we're concerned about.

**Call me old-fashioned, but I think medicine is one of those subjects you just can't grasp (ha. ha. ha.) online.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

quicko: cupboards

What would you call this? A wardrobe, I'd answer in American. Slightly murky territory, though, is what I'd call it down under. Though you find cupboards in kitchen, they also pop up in rather unexpected places, like bedrooms. The lines between cupboards, wardrobes and closets are rather hazy in Australia, actually. I'm not entirely sure the Australians have shared their definitions clearly even amongst themselves.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

quicko: cots, cribs and bassinets

I think we've got similar ideas as far as bassinets go, but what Americans call a crib seems to be what Australians call a cot. Not sure what Australians call what Americans call a cot -- a spare bed for unliked relatives perhaps? As for them, Australians don't know what to make of the word crib.

quicko: sharpies

Australians are patently unsure what these are. Seeing as it's an American doing the talking, though, they get quite nervous as they've tended to jump to the conclusion that sharpies are something dangerous -- like knives or warrior scissors. Learning they are felt-tip pens comes as something of a relief.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

useful tips: 101 ways to love your overseas friend or family member

#1. Care packages. Letters. Postcards. Phone calls. Skypes. Emails. Texts.

#2. Come and visit when she makes it anywhere in your home country. She's traveled a long way just to get there; you can manage the rest.

#3. Figure out the time difference on your own and simply say "can I call at 8 pm your time?" instead of waiting for her to mangle the math.

#4. Save a box of Girl Scout cookies in the freezer for her.

#5. Send pictures she can sticky tack up on the walls.

#6. Pray for her.

#7. Comment on her blog ... positively.

#8. Secretly deposit money into her bank account.

#9. Forgive her when she accidentally stands up your skype date.

#10. Come visit.

#11 - 100. Repeat #1-10 nine times.

#101. Don't forget her.

quicko: balancing act

I know I've touched on this before, but if you thought Americans were bad at balancing checkbooks -- phew, you should meet the Australians! They haven't got a clue what it even means. If asked, they get very hazy expressions on their faces that clearly indicate they vaguely remember once hearing a similar collocation in a movie eons ago, but have not yet placed either the movie or the meaning of the phrase. A few minutes later you'll give up in despair. "Never mind," you'll say. "It's an American thing."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

quicko: freckles

As you may have recently read, freckles are a form of Australian junk food. They are also among the best candy in the world to put on gingerbread houses because they are both colorful and delicious. They are chocolate circles covered in sprinkles (here called hundreds and thousands). Hungry yet? I am.

Friday, January 15, 2010

take me out with the crowd

Awhile ago my friend Bec suggested we see a movie. I agreed, despite being one of the few people on the planet who really is only a smidge more than ambivalent when it comes to movies. (I am not, however, as ambivalent as my mother, who once replied, "but why would we need that?" when I asked if she had money before going into a Blockbuster. She thought it was like the library, where you get to borrow DVDs for free.)

At the time Bec had mentioned that it was an outdoor cinema, which I found rather enticing, though I didn't really contemplate matters too closely. I suggested a few upcoming titles that looked comedic and let her make the final selection. The lot fell on tonight.

This morning I was, as usual, in a tremendous rush to get out the door. I managed to check when and where we were supposed to meet, and grab a few nibblies for my contribution to the Not Dying of Hunger During the Movie fund. I'd checked the website and found that the movie was called Whatever Works, and sounded just as obscure as I'd remembered it looking a few weeks back. Then I had no more time to think about it as I spent a busy afternoon drilling the fact that every sentence must have a subject and a verb into the heads of my darling elementary English students. (And, yes, I was rushed to get to my afternoon class. I am always rushed, regardless of what time I start work. I simply require five minutes more than whatever the allotted time, be it twenty minutes or four hours.)

By the time I got to the pub after work I was ready to plop in one place for the remainder of the night and would have quite happily read Harry Potter until an interesting conversation crept close to me. I checked the time, though, and realized it was time to skedaddle to the movie.

So skedaddle I did, through the gorgeous Hyde Park, where I was momentarily fascinated by tree branches that had grown sideways -- in opposite directions -- over a long and wide path in order to provide an archway of covering all the way down. Australia has really got the most obliging flora.

I soon found Bec waiting, as most my friends are wont to find themselves, and we tripped merrily along towards the outdoor theater. No sooner had we descended a nearby flight of stairs did she run eagerly up to a be-suited man I immediately took be another acquaintance of hers, so pleased she looked to see him.

"I heard about you guys! So you really are here!" she exclaimed, which led me to reevaluate my assessment of the situation. I noticed another, similarly suited man, who promptly took Bec's arm and led her into the car. Ever the vigilantly prudent female traveler, I immediately hopped in after her.

"I feel underdressed," I said. "But where are they taking us?"

"It's a free shuttle service," she quickly explained. "They're promoting the Toyota hybrid cars."

"That's great!" I said, as the hatted man I decided looked like a Joe came to his door. "Will they both come with us?"

"You girls sound like you're having fun back there," he announced. "Is it comfortable?"

We assured him that it was, and all of us spent the next four and a half minutes supremely happy. Joe informed us of all the incredible features of the lovely hybrid, and we listened gamely along. He told us that the car was priced roughly in the ballpark of my annual salary, and so we said the cost of the free shuttle was really more doable for us, but thanked him for the ride. He tipped his hat, and drove off in a burst of technical and ecological wonder. I felt much more awake already.

Finding ourselves practically at the entrance to our evening festivities, Bec took it upon herself to explain the precedings to me. First we would get our bags and tickets checked; then we would reserve our seats. Somewhere along the way we would be given free Lindt chocolate, and possibly some newspapers. I'd unfortunately gotten lost at the seat reservation part.

"So, er, have they got like plots designated or something?" I asked, thinking indistinctly of a map I'd seen for stalls at the markets the weekend prior.

"No, they're real seats," she said. "We just take these stickers, write our names on them and reserve them. Then we can go have a picnic in the grass."

And she was exactly right. We got our bags and tickets checked, then walked down red carpet into the realm of Free Lindt and Newspapers. Then I realized that I'd gotten much more than I'd bargained for. A much better bargain.

Recall, if you will, that I currently live in Sydney, and Sydney is a cosmopolitan city world renowned most particularly for its harbor, bridge and Opera House. These three sights are amazing at the worst of times, but were all looking particularly stellar in the mid-summer evening. (The would be most definitely no dreaming.) Sydney also has a lovely modern skyline, and it too greeted us from another angle, while we were forced to contend with a park on the sides of the small peninsula not bordered by sparkling harbor waters. Throw in the middle of this a large movie screen and hundreds of seats, and you'll have a good idea of the scene that greeted us. I thought I'd likely survive.

The one thing that made me slightly nervous when finding seats, though, was that most of the best seats had already been reserved (which made me all the more grateful for Joe, seeing as we'd have gotten much worse seats without his handy shuttle service) and the screen was mostly horizontal and rather low to the ground. We'd be able to see it, I figured, but I wasn't sure how great the sightlines would be. Whatever works, though, I thought. Even if I can't see, the view at least is lovely.

After reserving our seats, Bec and I traipsed out of the ticketed area and found ourselves a lovely spot of grass for a picnic. She being much more culinarily inclined than I had provided us a deliciously nutritious dinner of sandwiches and fresh fruit. I contributed chips, freckles and gummy creatures.

We feasted and chatted, and eventually made our way back for the set-sun start of our evening's entertainment. We'd both decided we'd had a first-rate time already, regardless of the quality of the movie. The hoopla was certainly as impressive as the main event.

As we walked back in, I noticed the cinema's sponsors listed on the screen. Toyota had clearly done its job for the evening; Lindt and the Sun-Herald had contributed admirably as well.

"But Qantas," I said to Bec. "Now what have they done for us? Nothing! Surely we get a free flight?"

She didn't sound certain, but agreed it was a good idea.

"It would be an excellent PR move," I said. "I'm a bit disappointed they've let us down like this."

She thought perhaps the red carpet had gone a wee bit too much to my head, but I was soon distracted by movement over the water.

"Look," Bec said. "The screen's going up."

"Up!" I said, "that's fantastic! It goes up! Here I thought we'd have to watch the whole movie on the edge of our seats. This night just gets better and better!"

And it did. We watched, she in bemused curiosity and I in amazement, and soon we had an excellent view of a very sizable movie screen, if only we could keep ourselves from being distracted by the opera house. It was a monumental task, but thankfully we both proved more than up to it.

After a few quick photos and a few more freckles, we settled in for whatever would work. And work it did. I'm not sure how this movie had slipped off the cinematic radar (or perhaps it hadn't. Perhaps I had. I don't really know.), but it was really quite witty and clever. It had the whole audience laughing out loud on multiple occasions and stayed happy and light enough to suit its summer setting. Furthermore, it didn't rain.

As a Calvin grad, my internal discerner was working overtime, but I managed to wait until the credits rolled to go into too many verbal details. Joe was no where to be seen after the movie (we knew he was waiting with roses and champagne -- how was he to know I didn't drink? -- but had simply failed to find us in the massive crowd), though, so we had ample time to contemplate various relevant, and irrelevant, issues on our rather longer walk back to Bec's car.

By this time, we were both tickled pink (a cliche, we knew, but used it anyway) with the success of our evening: perfect weather, a beautiful setting, a fantastic picnic and a delightful movie. I had only one complaint: fun evenings are fun in actual practice, but incredibly boring to read about. And I did so want to write about the time. But who would want to read about it? Wouldn't my family and friends rather stories of my students' oddball antics? I'd had some real doozies. But alas, it seemed there was nothing at all to write home about. Thank goodness I took pictures.

quicko: how americans give directions

I didn't even know there was a difference here. It wasn't until I was on the phone with a friend trying to pinpoint where she was that I realized I was distressing her by using what I'd have considered, if anything, to be "boy" directions: I asked if she was north or south of Town Hall. Turns out the Aussie way is to refer to the "water" (i.e., harbor) side if you mean north, and otherwise if you mean south. To get the side of George Street, you should use the "Woolworth's side" or the "Town Hall side" depending if you mean east or west. And here I thought I was all on the ball, knowing my directions in the CBD. Never mind.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

quicko: hypothermia

Here's a not-so-fun fact: in Australia, more people get first stage hypothermia in the summer than the winter. Why? Because the temperature changes so dramatically so quickly. You can leave your house thinking you're setting out into a blisteringly muggy day, only to find yourself shivering in a bikini on the beach hours later after you've got caught in a downpour and lost tens of degrees. Chilling, isn't it?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

quicko: publishing banns

So it seems if you want to get married in Australia, it is a legal requirement that you publish your banns ahead of time. The traditional explanation seems to be that that would give a potential other spouse the opportunity to yell, "wait! he's already married to me!" The current explanation, though, is that it prevents Vegas-style weddings, thus rendering it legally impossible for an Australian to wake up accidentally married to, say, an American after a night of heavy drinking.

update: americans gone aussie?

In the space of 24 hours I have had two very different American friends (one poet, one optometrist) write with regards to an "addy" or "addie" -- i.e., address. Did I teach you that here or is my new-found Aussie-ness rubbing off in ways I couldn't have imagined?!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

quicko: warming up sandwiches

I'm not sure if this is common protocol in the U.S., but in Australia it's often that case that, if you order a sandwich -- one that you see, right in the front of the refrigerated section, one that looks great, perfect just the way it is -- you will suddenly find it whisked away while you stand idly by wondering what's become of it. Surely it doesn't take 60 seconds to wrap a napkin around it? What could they be doing to it? Removing the mayonnaise? A stray hair? The saturated fats? Just when you've run out of ideas of what they could possibly be doing it to, it emerges, sizzling crisply. And that's when you realize: they took it and grilled it. Without asking! And there you have it: a hot sandwich when you wanted a cold one.

Monday, January 11, 2010

i bought a bug today

I bought a bug today and I've decided to name him Puddle. It sounds silly I know, but it really is so, I'm my own grandpa -- er, it sounds silly I know, but it suits him. Personality-wise. You don't know him like I know him.

And don't you dare pick on my bug, or I will beat you up.

I met him yesterday when my market friend Melissa and I went to the Kirribilli art and design markets. I was on a spending freeze and Not Buying Anything but Just Looking, because funds are Rather Tight until the paycheck after this one. And honestly, except for $180 on a Very Worthy Insect Cause, that's all I spent. Besides, I slept on it, so surely it doesn't count as spending money at the markets.

Melissa and I, incidentally, have been wildly successful at various markets. Between the two of us, we've gotten a fabulous dress, some perfect presents (sorry; they're classified), a gorgeous bag, an Arabian nights costume and now a fantastic piece of artwork each. And those are only the highlights.

But yesterday we passed an as-yet-unnamed piece of artwork that jumped out at both of us: a giant purple dragonfly. Now, I realize not everyone cares particularly for dragonflies. Before today I would have counted myself among those ranks. I have never considered myself a bug person. But this bug was no ordinary bug: he was a splash of vibrant color so winning you couldn't help but stop and smile. He's just so darn endearing.

And so we stopped, and smiled, and Melissa walked on and I looked back and smiled some more. And we walked through all the stalls and saw everything there was to see, and had lunch and chatted and eventually she caught a train home. I ran back to visit my new friend. He was very happy to see me. So was his artist, a friendly woman named Elaine. I explained that I loved him, but that I was Not Buying Anything and Just Looking because finances were Rather Tight and she understood and said I could come back and visit him at the moonlight markets on Friday if I wanted. I said I'd think about it.

And think about it I did. Elaine had given me her business card and so I checked out her website and found that she is a very talented artist with many other beautiful paintings, but I Restrained and Did Not Buy because, really, I am Very Good with Money.

But I left the "Other Artworks" tab open on my web browser and popped back to look at Puddle's red brother every chance I got. And then I slept on it and woke up on it and looked at the red brother again to make sure I still liked it. And then I went to work on it and talked with my friend Pamela on it and got to think on it some more. And I thought and I thought and I decided that, despite my mother's warning that his eyes might scare me at night, Puddle was meant to be with me.

Then I got extremely worried that maybe someone else thought Puddle was meant to be with them (which, obviously, was Not the Case) and I knew I couldn't delay any longer. Furthermore, I'd gotten off work earlier than usual and it was still light out and I felt lively and slightly stir-crazy, so I called Elaine and explained I'd encountered some Emergency Funds and, please, please tell me that Puddle was still safely unpurchased. Thankfully he was, and so I hopped on the next bus to North Balgowlah and met her in a church parking lot where she handed him over and explained that she was happy I'd have him and that no, she wouldn't miss him too much since she knew he'd be well-loved. I assured her he would be and Puddle and I grinned the whole bus ride back. At least I assume he was grinning beneath the two layers of garbage bags she'd carefully wrapped him in.

And then I got him home and showed him to my flatmate, who thought he was a lovely hue, and her boyfriend, who remained I believe what would be best termed less than impressed. My flatmate agreed he could live in the living room if he wanted, but we couldn't find any suitable hangers, so I brought him into my room and rearranged the other artwork to make a special wall for him. And it's fantastic: I feel like I live in an art gallery now. With my very own purple bug watching out for me all night. What more could a girl want?

A name! Naturally he could not be called Purple Bug, or even The Purple Bug, forever, so I immediately set about skimming Book-a-Minute in hopes of being reminded of a favorite character. Failing that (he just isn't a Puck, Ariel or Huckleberry it seems) I wikipediaed a list of Narnia characters. And somewhere in the G's Puddle came to me. For several minutes it was a bit of a toss up between Puddle and Fledge (a noble Narnian horse formerly known as Strawberry), and even Shuffle was considered briefly, but in the end his eyes told me Puddle. And who am I to argue with a purple dragonfly's eyes?

And here we are now, Puddle and I. It's bedtime, but I know I'm safe. Puddle's here to watch me sleep, and reassure me if I have a bad dream. Unless, of course, it turns out his eyes scare me at night.

quicko: 10% fee

Can you believe this? I went to the post office today to mail some letters home. Realizing I had a surplus of the conveniently discounted-for-December local card-only stamps, I asked about using them for my international January cards. It took me a minute to actually understand what the lady was saying. What I understood was that they cost $2.10 (this is the cost of an international January card). Hence, I wanted to use four of my $ .50 stamps and buy one $ .10 stamp. She refused and said I needed to put five $ .50 stamps on. I couldn't understand why, seeing as the cost was only $2.10. Well, in and out of circles we went until finally I realized that there is a 10% charge when you use local stamps to mail something internationally. Is this not bizarre? And pricey, relatively speaking? Whatever it is, it is very un-American. Ah, that's it: it's Australian.

quicko: spiders

Are what we'd call floats.

I realize this might be confusing. Let me back up. Ahem.

If you go to a cafe and order a "spider," the friendly waitress will bring you a "float." Root beer would be pushing things (haven't got it), but Australians would most traditionally probably expect some sort of red soda, or, failing that, coke. They look delicious, though I must admit to being rather delinquent: I have yet to taste a spider. Of either variety.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

quicko: homely

Either the word has a different meaning here or no one knows how to use it properly, and I'm not entirely sure which it is. Australians use "homely" to mean what Americans mean by "homey." Hence, it is a compliment and not an insult, though it often takes a few seconds for me to remember this.

Friday, January 8, 2010

quicko: to do a nice dish

This is a turn of phrase I've noticed is used a lot more in Australia than America: when talking about a restaurant or a person who cooks, they are said "to do a nice _______." The verb is usually "to do" and the adjective is normally "nice," but could change depending on how exuberantly they wish to phrase their sentences. For example, "Oh, you should try that new Indian place. They do a really nice fish curry."

They do nice pancakes at Pancakes in the Rocks, hey?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

quicko: stand to sing

I noticed this in England as well and a pastor there told me it was biblical, but it still strikes me as strange: Australian Christians always stand up when they sing in church. No we've-sung-three-songs-time-to-sit-down-for-the-fourth here; it's full speed ahead to the grand finale!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

quicko: starting off in show biz

If you're Australian and you want to act, it seems you first must pay your dues on one of the two national soap operas: Neighbors or Home and Away. From these humble stages you can then advance to, hopefully, the glamor of Hollywood.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

quicko: starting off with monday

I'm not sure if this is a new trend or a tried and true Australian endeavor, but it's really rather annoying me: the calendars all seem to start with Monday. I understand it makes it easier to have the weekend all together at the end, but it throws my whole week off kilter. Weeks start on Sunday, for goodness sake!

Monday, January 4, 2010

quicko: australian baby names 2009

Different lists are slightly different, but the top five are something to this effect:



Other notably Australian top 100 names include:



And, for references that some will catch:

Hamish AND


And, for the fun of it:
Baby Girl (#85)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

quicko: birds on the balcony

My visitors today! They're supposed to be eating bread crumbs off my shoulder ...

Saturday, January 2, 2010

quicko: tea bags

I'm not sure why, but American tea bags take substantially longer than Australian (or British, for that matter) tea bags to brew. An Australian tea bag needs maybe 30 seconds before milk can enter the scene; an American one requires 3 to 5 minutes.

tales of a new year something

Several months back when I was buying Christmas plane tickets I resolved that seeing the Sydney Harbour Bridge fireworks at least once in my life was a high priority, so I bit the bullet and flew United, the only airline who financially supported such a decision.

The flight really wasn't so bad. It started off with me in an aisle seat, and two empty seats the other direction. A couple hours in (we're talking a 14-hour trans-Pacific flight), a mother traveling with four children under the age of 9 begged to use the seats to put her 15-month-old to bed as the bassinet they'd booked had fallen through. I let them in and fell asleep some time later, waking up to find the mother and child had morphed into a young adult male. How precisely this took place I still have no idea.

In any event, by the time the plane landed, I had slept for the better part of three consecutive flights and was thankfully more awake than most people tend to be after a 30 hour journey. This was key, as it was New Year's Eve Day and my Sydney fireworks scheme required sustained energy throughout the day.

I hadn't quite finished unpacking when I realized if I wanted any semblance of cleanliness, it was time to hop to it before staking out a spot by the bridge. I texted a friend to say I'd be running a half hour late and unbelievably managed to arrive at exactly the amended time.

We met under the bridge (please don't ask which one), bought some water and walked a couple blocks down the street only to find that there was only one entrance to Bradfield Park, and that we had been traipsing in precisely the wrong direction. Please note, we were going in the right direction to actually get where we wanted to go; they had simply set up the bag check (check-for-no-alcohol-check, not leave-it-with-us-and-take-a-number-check)in the wrong spot.

After we made it in, we progressed west of the bridge and found The Perfect Spot, which I have named in an entirely non-satirical manner. It was really quite perfect: we had a decent-sized corner space all to ourselves, with an amazing view of the bridge. What more could we want? (Possibly slightly less slope, as it did get a little uncomfortable after six or seven hours, but the slope was necessary if we wanted the view. Which we unquestionably did. Hence, case closed: the spot was perfect.)

Around 2 pm another friend joined us and a fourth came just in time to learn 500 a bit later. And so we lounged the afternoon away, chatting, picnicking and playing cards.

The time passed remarkably quickly and before we knew it the 5 pm festivities were
underway. There were flyovers and a fire tugboat on the harbour, which was really pretty nifty.

We occasionally got up to meander around, find some food and sample coconut drinks, I discovered had been marked up by 200%, if you didn't count the decorative umbrella. I do, however, so I figure I broke just about even.

At 9 pm, the kids' fireworks lasted 8 minutes, and were nice despite being extremely brief. Afterwards, a few families left and the light parade began. The light parade was really a rather good idea: what will 1.25 million people do for three hours, after all? Watch decorated boats sail past on the harbour! Most were lined with lights, and one had a whale outlined on it. Others had beach themes, waves and life guard flags.

About this time I was starting to feel rather on the jet-lagged side of things, so reluctantly curled up for a slight snooze before the grand finale, leaving explicit instructions to be woken up at 11:30 and then once every 10 minutes until I was actually conscious. Thankfully I have amazing friends who function not only as humans, but snooze alarms as well.

About 11:55 they were telling me that it was really probably a good idea to open my eyes and think about standing up, and about 11:57:30 I agreed. We all stood waiting for the fireworks, and were certainly not disappointed: it was an absolutely amazing display shot from five vantage points (we could see two and a half quite well), and incredibly classy. The bridge display was all it was cracked up to be, particularly when magenta blasts came all the way down the walkway off the bridge, just parallel to where we were. It was like being inside a giant firework ourselves.

And then, 12 minutes later, it was over, happy New Year, Sydney! We hung around, taking the first photos of 2010, and then followed the crowd to the train station, where we arrived somewhere around 1 am.

Not actually needing a train myself, a friend and I cut through the crowd on the other side and eventually managed to find a bus stop, bus and, therefore, ride home. Thanks to him, I managed to make it safely and sanely back before 2 am, at which point I promptly crashed, only to wake up again at 7 am. Crazy jet lag!

Happy New Year!!

happy new year!!!

Friday, January 1, 2010

update: bogans

A supplementary definition: one who comes from the west (i.e., west of Parramatta) and is not very classy.

quicko: vocab lesson

Hoons, pl. n., wild young guys prevalent at large public gatherings; the sort who catcall, shout and stir up just a bit more trouble than they should. Generally lacking education. Not found in the singular. See also: lads, westies, hooligans.