Wednesday, March 31, 2010

quick: to source

In Australian English, along the lines of "to find" or "to acquire" or even "to acquire information about." For instance, can any Australians reading source some furniture for Kim? Her flatmate is moving out and she just might be sitting and sleeping on the floor ...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

quicko: that's okay

Or "that's alright" -- both are suitable phrases to be used in place of "you're welcome" in Australia. Generally used when the speaker considers the service rendered to have been minimal or relatively inconsequential.

Monday, March 29, 2010

quicko: frigid fridges

This post has less to do with the temperatures of fridges than the fact that they don't come included in apartments. Okay, it actually has nothing to do with their temperature and everything to do with the fact that they don't come included in apartments. I just like the alliteration. So sue me.

Can you believe it though? Fridges are not part of Australian apartments. Neither are washing machines. Most come with roofs, but it's a good idea to check all the rooms, just to be sure.

quicko: meant to

In Australian English, you're meant to use "meant to" for "supposed to." It tells how things should work -- "you're meant to take off the foil before putting it in the microwave" -- or what you're socially obligated to do -- "you're not meant to talk with food in your mouth" -- or what you're legally obligated to do -- "you were meant to stop at that light." Also used in such situations as "you're not actually meant to take an alpaca surfing."

Saturday, March 27, 2010

quicko: birthday (and other) cards

Like everything else, ridiculously expensive. Well, more in the $5-$7 range than the $2-$4. But worth it, of course.

Happy birthday, Steven!! I love you!!

Friday, March 26, 2010

quicko: got to see a man about a horse

So I've never exactly understood this one (who knows, maybe we use it, too?) but it's something I've heard most often Friday afternoons at the pub. It's a euphemism for men going to the bathroom; I'm going play it safe and suggest it's along the lines of a woman going to "powder her nose." There's something else with iguanas? Lizards? but I don't quite remember how it goes. Sorry. Guess your homework's to hang out down the pub until you hear it firsthand.

quicko: lemonade

Is not lemonade. It's really more like Sprite, what with being carbonated and all. They just haven't got real lemonade. Or iced tea. Or apple cider. And cranberry juice is a relatively new thing. If only I liked it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

quicko: coast-dwellers

Okay, I haven't got an official source for this, but word on the street (and I think it's relatively accurate) is that 85% of Australians (all 20+ million of them) live on the coast. Pretty cool, hey?

(Most of the middle is really rather uninhabitable, so it's most by default.)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

quicko: a day in the life

It was one of those days that started absolutely brilliantly. I had to get up early, but I found my favorite white dress to wear and I waltzed to work feeling alarmingly charming.

Obviously by noon my dress had met the BBQ sauce, and by the time I left work I was running 15 minutes late. Fairly normal, really, but my mood turned sour when I learned there were 8 minutes (8! I was late!) to wait for my train, which would then need 6 minutes to get me to Wynyard, where I would require another 4 to meet my bus, which would have already left. It was also about this time that I realized I rather desperately required a restroom, but, thankfully, I have had ample practice holding it (See, for example, 12 years of public education, a trip to Bryce Canyon at age 12 with no clean facilities for 3 days and 15 minute teaching breaks that just don't quite cut it. But I digress.). I turned in disgust and crossed the street to catch a bus. Amazingly, one came almost immediately and I hopped on it, then made the fatal mistake of daydreaming until I realized we'd just passed my stop. Knowing I was then closer to Circular Quay than Wynyard, I stayed on and got off at Circular Quay -- just in time to see the train I should have been on go past.

That was when my mood turned really foul and I had to remind myself that saying nasty things under my breath is not the best way of dealing with such situations. I haven't worked out is, but that was beside the point. I'd missed my train. Thankfully another came shortly thereafter and took me to the bus after the bus I would have caught if I'd got on the train I could have gotten on in the first place. Not that I'm bitter.

I finally made it, thirty minutes late, slightly disheveled and in desperate need of a restroom. But at least I still felt pretty.

Monday, March 22, 2010

quicko: no flag on the mailbox

It really didn't dawn on me until just recently that Sydney mailboxes don't have flags. What's more, you can't send mail out of them. You've got to find a red post box and deposit your letters there. Now, I've done this many, many times in Sydney -- entirely without thinking about it -- and yet the realization didn't actually hit me until today, when I had to go a whole two blocks and across a street out of my way to deposit my letter. Which, when I thought about it, was roughly the same distance I'd have to walk at home to get to my mailbox from my house. But that's beside the point entirely.

quicko: how much are those birdies in the window?

I don't think the birds are for sale!

But, they did stop by my window this morning. It's almost like having a pet cockatoo -- that I don't have to feed or clean up after!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

update: double double

Without going into too much gory detail, my phone number has a double digit in it. Also, Australian phone numbers are sometimes divided up into XXXX YYY ZZZ (American ones are immensely more predictable, always coming out in the familiar (XXX) YYY-ZZZZ format. Australian ones also manage XXXX YYYY or, occasionally, (XX) YYYY ZZZZ, or, really, any format they feel like.)

In any event, this unfortunate double digit throws me off tremendously. Normally I simply state my phone number the normal (i.e., American) way and all's well and good, except the cat's out of the bag regarding my nationality, but, really, what with the accent and all, it was the second I opened my mouth anyway. But, at times, I like to maintain the shred of an illusion for reasons best known to myself. Which was why, tonight, I left a message on an acquaintance's answering machine that stated my phone number as XXXX ZZZ YYY instead of XXXX YYY ZZZ. Two years I have had this number, and I actually think I know it pretty well, but try to say "double 5" instead of "five five" and suddenly I've completely botched it up.

Sigh. Guess the explanatory text message kind of killed the illusion.

quicko: baby elephant

The stork brought Sydney a very big present earlier this month! He had a rough start, but seems to be doing alright now.

(Photos are from Bonnie -- I hope you don't mind I've nicked them!!)

in which fair kim undertakes unfair quest

I don't really go on quests all that often. I'm not exactly a questing sort -- I'm not a huge fan of the great outdoors, lonely journeys or even, if it comes down to it, artfully shaped goblets. But yesterday was different. Yesterday there was no ice cream.

Perhaps you do not appreciate how grave a situation this was. I come from a country flowing with coke and ice cream. A city with, as far as I ever knew, more ice cream places than bars. And a house with two freezers full of ice cream. To not have ice cream is a tragedy of epic proportions.

Generally I seem to cope fairly well, considering, but yesterday was the end of summer. It was hot. And, I was going to start a pre-Hawaii-get-ready-bikini diet the next day. I needed ice cream.

Specifically, I thought I'd like Ben & Jerry's. A few had actually just opened in Sydney, and I knew I could count on Ben. However, I'd left my quest until rather late in the day (I told you I'm not really much of a quester) and had run out of time to make it to Manly. Neutral Bay had to suffice.

I don't think this is actually standard questing protocol (being a girl, I'm not exactly standard questing material either), but I started by asking my flatmate for directions. She said I could find some up the road a bit, in a place I fairly distinctly remembered there being a gelatissimo. Now, gelatissimos are all very well in their own rite, but really, they are not ice creameries. I wanted something thick and creamy, not smooth and slightly shiny. Still she insisted there were a couple places, so I decided to give it a try.

May I just take a brief minute here to point out that, while Australia does many foods well -- raisin toast, Tim Tams and Max Brenner chocolate spring to mind -- ice cream is not its forte. (Neither's Mexican food, but that's another story.) Not ice cream in parlors, not ice cream in stores. It's a bit hit or miss, but the hits are really rather rare and never out and out amazing.

Coming from the city of Graeter's, I do know amazing ice cream when I find it. I used to work at a place called Ritter's, which wasn't bad at all, but closed because it had too much competition: a couple Graeter's, a handful of UDFs, a Carvallo's, the Cone, a Dairy Queen or two, a TCBY, a few Steak 'n Shakes and some Coldstones. Not to mention two grocery stores a stone's throw away that carried entire aisles of Homemade, Edy's, Breyer's, Sara Lee, Graeter's and who knows how many off brands. All that to say, I think I know good ice cream when I find it.

And, unfortunately, good ice cream was not what I was finding. I found the gelatissimo, but, well, it still wasn't ice cream. I allowed myself to be distracted by nearby greeting cards (clearly this was not, like others, a quest to the death), and even used the opportunity to ask the salesgirl if she knew of an ice cream place nearby. She suggested a frozen yogurt place a few shops down, so I gave it a try (TCBY would have sufficed), but was discouraged to find it featured only fruity flavors.

Time was now running out and I lacked the necessary motivation to meander side streets in search of my treasure (besides, I told you I wasn't that fond of the great outdoors), so I set my sights on that beacon of hope masquerading as the grocery store Coles.

Displaying real presence of mind (maybe I should take up this questing thing after all), I realized well before reaching my grail that it would really be rendered useless without a trusty spoon. Thankfully I just happened to be passing a Subway, which I knew from my extensive American quests would be sure to supply a stalwart quester with a lovely white plastic spoon. It wasn't. Thank goodness there was an Oporto's next door.

Displaying an even greater presence of mind, I requested two spoons. You never know when one will break, leaving you with a miniature spoon head stuck in a mound of delicious ice cream, while you try desperately to think of another way of eating it. I believe I once had to resort to a pen in my purse, but had vowed never to repeat that experience. The Oporto's cashier, though, rose grandly to the occasion (when she noticed me three minutes ater I entered the store) and gave me two without batting an eyelash. Oh, sweet success!

The end was then in sight and I triumphantly strode promptly to the very back of Coles, where they hide their miniature range of ice cream. Clearly, they are ashamed of it, which they really should be because there was absolutely nothing to be proud of. Obviously I needed a small tub, of the pint size or thereabouts, and, if I wanted to pay less than $7 for this minor of requests, I had but one (one!) choice of brand. Thankfully it was Sara Lee, which raised my spirits considerably, but even Sara had less than half a dozen flavors and I was really only moderately torn between three. Generally being desperately torn between six or seven, this was a new experience for me, and I was able to settle almost immediately on cappuccino. (Chocolate and toffee crunch weren't really putting up much of a fight. Where was the peanut butter crunch? The s'more swirl? The cookies 'n cream? The mocha chip? The, oh ecstasy, blackraspberry chip? No where in sight, that's where.)

Cappuccino in hand, then, I bought it and proceeded across the street to wait for my bus, which was fortunately rather late, thus allowing me ample time to eat entirely more than I needed. This was good, though, because when I arrived at church two people immediately suggested I stash the ice cream in the freezer. Which I did. Which is where it remains to this day, as the kitchen got locked up before I remembered to go back and get it.

Just call me Donna Quixote.

Friday, March 19, 2010

quicko: australian accents

I don't know if you've really thought about this much (I hadn't), but there are different accents within Australia. The Sydney/Melbourne one is the same the most standard, but the differences actually lie a bit more in "country" v. "city" than "state" v. "state." A more country accent -- very "Ocker" (i.e., very heavily Australian) -- is more what people might make fun of and is quite drawn out and thick. Otherwise, people might acquire accents based on their family background -- i.e., if their parents are native Korean speakers, their accent might reflect that -- or educational status -- i.e., an "educated Australian" accent might be something an American could mistake for closer to British.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

quicko: selection criteria

When applying for a "real" job in Australia, there is an incredibly intense list of "Selection Criteria." These include "Essential" and "Desirable" qualities and qualifications, the answers to which must be provided in a thoroughly thought-out, typed document that accompanies the resume and cover letter. And you thought applying for jobs in America was painful!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

update: st. who day?

One more note: my Australian co-workers, bless their cotton socks, fell into one of two categories. Either they had no idea it was St. Patrick's Day OR they wore vibrant teal in an attempt to avoid the pinches they'd heard were coming. One managed to find herself in a green, nearly-shamrock printed top, but everyone else was woefully off-hue. Poor dears. You could tell they'd tried so hard.

quicko: st. who day?

First off, if anyone says anything about the Bengals or Cincinnati ... I will simply not deign to finish this sentence.

Second, the title is appropriate. Australians are vaguely aware of St. Patrick and his day, but not being Irish at heart (they make fun of Irish people -- they're the brunt of many Australian jokes, actually) they do not feel his day nearly as much as Americans.

Third, happy St. Patrick's Day!

(Mom, no need to save the corned beef and cabbage for me. But if you catch a leprechaun I'd be delighted if you kept him.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

quicko: health insurance

Does not come with your job, but rather your citizenship. Lovely idea for Australians; tricky for Americans masquerading as Australians.

Monday, March 15, 2010

quicko: (lack of) work ethic, part 2

So the other day I overheard two co-workers talking.

"You stay so late," commented the first.

It was 4:38 pm.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

an afternoon in the park

It was when they started talking about smoking spaghetti that I decided it was time to call it a day. Not that it hadn't been fun -- it had -- but seeing as I really had very few contributions I could make on the subject of smoking anything, let alone spaghetti, I figured everyone'd be happier if I left before airing my views on the subject.

It wasn't even that I don't have rather bohemian friends who are into Virginia Woolf, excessive piercings and a bit more marijuana than could really be considered medicinal; it's just that these weren't my friends. They were borrowed afternoon chums, and nice enough ones at that, but I'm much more prepared to overlook a tendency to extreme fashion and a cult-like dependency on bicycles in my own friends, most of whom don't suffer from either tendency. I do, however, draw the line at disproportionate facial fur. That just isn't necessary on anyone, and I don't care how close we are.

Danny is perhaps my most bohemian friend, and thankfully he's shaved his head completely. (Forced to chose between two extremes, this is most definitely the appropriate course of action.) Although he majored in something appalling normal (business, from memory), he's a poet at heart. We met in a course on Sherlock Holmes and have been intimate friends ever since, or so he told me when we met a year later and I had no idea what his name was.

We meet up randomly and talk Oscar Wilde and photography and Korea and London and Paris and tea and writing and phases and farming in Vietnam and what relics they'll put in museums about us in a couple hundred years. We've chatted at bonfires and bakeries, but the most memorable was when he surprised me by popping by my dorm at 3 am. He'd called about two, woken up all my roommates (I was just going to let the phone go) and wondered if I'd be up if he came in an hour. Seeing as I already was, I said sure. Seeing as my roommates were already up, they decided to make muffins and make sure I stayed safe. (We went to a Christian college.)

And so, you see, I handle bohemianism quite enthusiastically in my own poetic pals; it's just when I meet people for the first time on a lovely Sunday afternoon I'm a bit taken aback to hear the gory details of their recent bouts with social anxiety disorder and their unwillingness to take linguistic lessons from American professors (which was, they said, almost as great as their unwillingness to take sex tips from virgins). And that was before we moved into atheism, illegal drugs and spaghetti.

Before that was great, though. Being unconventional sorts (sorry, did I forget to mention that?), we played a game of unconventional soccer: big ball soccer. We played with a huge exercise ball and kicked it from one end of the field to the other. Most of us also being what I would take to be rather unathletic types as well, the field was not particularly big nor the competition particularly fierce. I think the end zones were designated with somebody's sneakers, or scarves, or some such ensembular accoutrement. (Being in jeans and a nondescript black tank top myself, I felt conspicuously normal. Mentioning that I lived in Cremorne didn't exactly have the effect of endearing myself any, unless possibly they saw me as a project to mold. But really I got the impression they were too busy forgetting to shave to care too terribly much.)

The rules of big ball were not terribly complex. They consisted primarily of knowing which way you were supposed to send the ball. Pretty much anything else went, though, or at least I think it did. They weren't the sort to get too miffed even if you did mess up. Or go the wrong way. Or whatever.

Oh, except the one other rule that everyone had to have a big ball name, much like my Thai students all insist on calling themselves a strange and generally inappropriate word never heretofore considered a name. Seeing as a new player was given exactly ten seconds to come up with one, I promptly settled on Running Water, which I stole shamelessly from another friend's childhood game of Cowboys and Indians. Ten seconds doesn't give you much time to contemplate these matter closely. Emo and Pyrex were among the other players, so I figured I hadn't gone too far awry.

Play was constantly shuffled and reshuffled as players came and went and teams turned woefully uneven. But yeah, whatever. I generally hung back on defense, mostly because it required less running. But no one was too bothered about running, really. Eventually someone always went after the ball, unless a small passing child claimed it, and when that happened we just called half time and left it.

Play resumed, occasionally interrupted by small dogs or players making their goodbyes, but eventually we made it to the end, winning We-Don't-Know to We-Don't-Know. It was fantastic.

It was then that we sat on the grass and I began shuffling cards, mostly because it's my favorite not-so-subtle way of indicating I'd be up for a game, if anyone else is. Either no one else was, or else they thought it was an odd neurotic tick I had. I don't know for sure, but I'm inclined to think it was the latter. I'd have fit in so much better if it were. Even if I didn't know a thing about smoking spaghetti.

quicko: the coles cake

This is an absolute staple of Australian society. When there's a goodbye party at work, there's a Coles cake. When there's a post-surf barbeque, there's a Coles cake. When there's a Bible study birthday, there's a Coles cake. Coles cakes are different from, say, Kroger cakes. They're not nearly as big for starters (guess that was a given, really), and they're circular. They're not bundt cakes, though; they're chocolate. Very solid chocolate, actually. They're not bad for their price and capability to feed a small crowd in very short order (plus, they're always immediately available), but they're not exactly scrumptious. They do the job, though, and I've even been known to purchase one on occasion.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

quicko: dugongs

I've been looking into this a bit (okay, I visited wikipedia once) and I'm not sure if they're really the same or not (I'm inclined to think not?) but an Australian recently insisted to me that he'd never heard of manatees, but, upon seeing a picture, that they were what he called dugongs. I had never heard of dugongs. Any marine biologists out there to comment?

quicko: nursing

I was talking with a friend about his recent visit to see his brand new baby niece when he remarked that he spent most of his time nursing the baby.

"Nursing?" I asked.

"Yeah, nursing," he said, and I had the distinct impression he saw nothing unusual about this.

"Nursing?" I asked again, trying to place the emphasis somewhat differently.

"Yeah," he said, basking in the throes of first-niece-hood.

Thankfully I am now astute enough to realize when something's gone a bit haywire in the translation.

"I think we have different definitions of nursing," I said.

"Huh? What's it mean to you?" he asked.

"It's, uh, how a mother feeds her baby," I said, emphasizing "mother."

"What?! No!" he exclaimed. "Will they back you up on this?" he asked immediately, indicating the other Americans, both of whom happened to be male.

"Of course," I said. "Ask them."

"Guys," he said, "what's 'nursing' mean?"

The squirmed a bit, clearly unsure of the best way to answer.

"Well, er, it's -- um, how much information did you need?" said one.

The second jumped to his rescue. "It's breastfeeding," he announced.

"What!? No!" countered my Australian friend. "It's just looking after a baby -- you know, holding it and all."

"No, it's not," insisted the Americans, the first breathing a sigh of relief. "Gosh, and we thought you wanted us to go into the birds and the bees! Well, um, when two people love each other very much ..."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

quicko: doona

Also known as a comforter. Took me ages to realize it was "doona," not "duner."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

quicko: chops

AKA abilities/strengths. As in, "he's got chops." Or, "watch what you say around Kim or she'll immortalize every blemish in your character -- and she's got chops at that."

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

quicko: assuming you've got issues

Australians have got ISSues, man! They cannot say the word "issue" to save their lives. Either that or they've got all strange lisps that manifest themselves only in very specific circumstances; namely, when saying "issues" or "assume." How this developed I have no idea, but I for one take issue with Australian issues.

quicko: t-shirts

So I might need a bit of help on this one, Americans, but I was always under the impression that a "t-shirt" was one of those standard, "I walked 10 miles for the March of Dimes" unattractive cotton numbers. Other shirts with short sleeves but from, say, The Gap, would be considered "shirts," right? Not here. Those are all t-shirts, and a shirt shirt is collared and buttoned ... I think.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

if you play your cards right

There are, in life the world over, the right sort of people and the wrong sort of people. You can tell the difference because the right sort play cards. They're also likely to love Taboo and have good grammar, but that's beside the point for now.

I grew up in a family where learning to shuffle was a seven-year-old rite of passage (forever indebted to Aunt Heidi), and I could beat my grandmother by the time I was eight. Not that that was particularly saying much (she tended to get rather discombobulated rather often), but I did manage to beat Aunt Ruthie by the time I was twelve, which was. She wasn't the sort who believed in letting kids win just to keep them happy.

Canasta was our game of choice, and I soon developed a nasty reputation as a "dirty" player in the line of the legendary Judy "101-ways-to-cheat-at-canasta" Franchak, though I insist I never cheat if I can help it. You show me your cards, though, what am I supposed to do? Blink?

I learned quickly to hold my cards close, literally and metaphorically, and not to ask my mother why she hadn't laid down those three kings yet. Before long my reputation had expanded to a hold-everything-till-the-last-minute-and-keep-em-guessing-possibly-to-the-extent-of-pulling-a-concealed-hand type. Eventually my aunts decided we should branch out into pinochle.

Pinochle was possibly even more fun than canasta (after a decade it was time for a change), and left me not only better equipped to deal (pun intended) with euchre later on, but also taught deep spiritual truths, the most common one of which was to "rise like Lazarus." Everyone "rose like Lazarus," but particularly Aunt Ruthie and whoever her partner happened to be. Preferably me.

In case you're unfamiliar with the history of Lazarus, he died (overdose of late night pinochle I heard) and was risen from the dead several days later by Jesus, just like a card player who is in the negatives is expected to, though generally divine intervention was not provided. And so, you see, we learned our Bible, too. (Aunt Ruthie was also a pastor. A pastor, who, incidentally, thought it would be highly amusing to name her daughter Naomi. And so she did.)

By the time I made it to high school, I knew how to seize the moment when cards were involved and spent the better part of my lunch periods playing endless games of euchre, almost all of which I distinctly remember winning. The gang I played with were the nerds and real masters -- not only of euchre, but also of carving out time and places to play. In class, out of class, in lunch, at graduation, it didn't matter. A handful of us showed up at our five year reunion and, upon realizing we had still not become cool, immediately whipped out our safety net of Bicycles.

(Sorry, guys, if you see this. I'm sure you're both infinitely cool by now. I, unfortunately, am not.)

Real card players are, I am happy to report, the same the world over. I knew euchre and it's big sister 500 were popular in Australia (see the sexy shuffling at Thanksgiving) and I'd naturally seized every opportunity to play.

This weekend I was having a bit of a moment when somehow, I can't possibly imagine how, the subject turned to cards. There is, I find, hardly anything more appropriately distracting than a good game of cards. Of course, it's even better if it's the competition being distracted, but that's beside the point for now, too.

"So do you want to play?" I asked my friend Adam.

"Sure," he said.

"Now?" I asked.

"We've got time to get one in before the evening session starts, don't you think?"

And that was when I knew I'd found a true card shark: one who lets nothing, not even evening worship services on a church retreat, get in the way of a good hand or two of 500.

"Great!" I squealed. "That means we only need to find two more! Cards, anyone?"

Unfortunately we were surrounded by Christians clearly unfamiliar with the deeper meaning of Lazarus, but Adam knew of another sure to be in (and sure enough, when we found Laurie he was nonchalantly holding his own deck when we ran up, breathless, and desperate to play) and we managed to find one more true shark as well.

"Do you want to play cards?" I asked Sarah.

"Sure!" she said.

"Now?" I asked.

"Yeah!" she said, and I knew I'd found a kindred spirit.

And we four all skipped merrily along.

Now it is inevitably the destiny of card sharks to be hustled away from their comfy, out of the way table the moment they've dealt and realized they have one of their best hands ever. No sooner had I spotted two Jacks had the kitchen staffer come along and shooed us out. Thankfully card sharks are also resourceful sorts. We soon found a new, slightly more obtrusive, but comfy spot to redeal. No sooner had we lost two hands did they start to pray in the next room. We looked guiltily at each other, then quickly bowed our heads. The singing started and we again looked guiltily at each other, cocking eyebrows as we showed our true colors and silently decided to finish the hand. There are, after all, priorities in life.

We skulked into the back row and, I am proud to say, did not once during the songs or sharing so much as shuffle. Immediately afterwards though I turned to Laurie. (In my experience, the people who actually own the cards that pop out of nowhere are the most likely to be the truest sharks.)

"So, we're still playing, right?"

The game lasted till 2.

Oh, and I won everything in the second go-round, except the very last game of Go Fish.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

kitsch and creatures

I have a new friend, and his name is Max. He's a bit smaller and greener than most my other friends, but we get along just fine if by "get along" you mean randomly surprise each other in the kitchen and then go running and screaming the other way.

Now I don't have things entirely authoritatively from Max's point of view, but my guess is that he views me as something of a deranged giantess with a less than stellar vocabulary. Not that his vocabulary's that impressive, either, mind you. In fact, in the whole 3.6 seconds we've spent in each other's company, he has not managed one single syllable -- not one! I've managed to get in a least two dozen, though granted they don't vary too far from the "BAD LIZARD!! VERY BAD LIZARD!!! THIS IS MY KITCHEN, NOT YOURS!! BAD LIZARD!!" refrain. But hey, at least I'm communicating.

Max, as it turns out, is not my only kitchen companion. Oh no. I thought I had one flatmate, but either she's been getting up to some very strange procreation in the back bedroom or I actually have a couple hundred other small flatties. Max has, you see, given himself the role of Official Inviter of Vermin to Kim's Flat. He's doing a marvelously good job of it, too, so I'm afraid if you were after the role yourself it's simply not up for grabs. Terribly sorry.

Now the vast majority of these fie--er, friends, seem to be of a similar, exoskeletoned species typically known as ants. I too know them as ants, though I occasionally add a few adjectives in front of their brief nomenclature. Kind of like using their middle name to let them know they're in trouble, you know?

Like I said, I have just one flatmate and she is lovely, except for the fact that she cooks. Try as I might to convert her to the wonders of cereal and chocolate, she remains a devout cooker of dinner. I suppose she can't help it, really.

Unfortunately this habit of hers has helped Max greatly in his plot to lead in an influx of exoskeletoned species who think they own the place. I remind them that I myself am only renting, but they remain unswayed by my efforts. Pretty steady marchers, they are.

And so, after the advent of Max and his horde, I decided to scour the kitchen. (No sense making his job too easy, surely.) Which was a lovely idea, of course, excepting the unfortunate fact you may recall of my flatmate's little habit. The next day Max invited a cockroach.

Now I am all for hospitality, really, I am, but I personally think you ought to be the one the mail's directed to if you want to invite someone over, and I don't care what your title is. And as far as I know, no letters have come for Max, so I really think this behavior is a slight breach of tact. I tried to tell him so, but he ran away. Screaming.

As if the guests in the kitchen weren't enough, Max has also taken to inviting large leggy green creatures into my bathtub (they're fond of crumpling to die in the drain) and a host of flies into, of all places, my bedroom.

Now I do not like flies at the best of times (and, being American, would even be quite inclined to applaud their instant deaths), but this move I thought was just a bit too far over the line. Not only did Max invite them, you see, he also decided they should throw me a surprise party.

Again, I normally am quite fond of surprise parties; it's just that I prefer them to involve my friends, preferably of the human variety. Evidently I forgot to mention that to Max in our brief conversations, though. I really don't know where my priorities have gone.

So in any event, Max very kindly invited about a dozen large (he clearly spared no expense) flies to my room one night and positioned them all strategically on my window and curtains. They were evidently under strict orders not to move, for they flinched not a muscle for upwards of four hours. I was starting to go crazy, and really rather freaked out when it was time for bed. They still, you see, had not moved, but maintained intense stares that suddenly resembled a dozen small video cameras. Was Max in league with the CIA? The KGB? The pervert next door?

Needless to say I hardly slept a wink. The next morning I was still in one, from what I could tell un-photographed piece, and I told Max in no uncertain terms that the party was up. Unfortunately he seemed to have lost his military-like control over the flies and they spent the next three days buzzing around and dying in random tea cups.

Let's just say I won't be drinking out of the elephant cup any more. Haven't told my flatmate, though. Wouldn't want to put her off cooking.

Friday, March 5, 2010

quicko: bludge and mooch

Contrary to Quidditch and cats, these terms actually refer, in Australian slang, to doing nothing. One can also "bludge off" class or "mooch around," say, the shops.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

quicko: free show at the opera house

Was on Monday of this week. Did you see? Check it out here.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

quicko: lingo

I just couldn't pass up this gem in today's mX: in an article about what to name a very large number, one of the prefixes/names suggested was "hella." mX felt the need to clarify: "Hella is North Californian slang for 'very' or 'a lot of.'"

How good is that? And since when did North California get its own slang, let alone its own capitalization?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

quicko: only in america, they say

I was surrounded tonight. Utterly surrounded by Southern Hemispherers. Granted, only half were actually Australian, but they responded with fervent unanimity: only in America will a child ever be terrorized by dramatized readings of the book of Revelation.

Monday, March 1, 2010

quicko: a pumpkin at noon

Evidently in Australia the witching hour's not midnight but midday: the classic pinch and the punch for the first of the month ends at noon. And no one thought to tell me in two whole years. And yet this, the first time I remembered on my own, came sixteen precious minutes too late. Just wait till next month!!

the customer's occasionally right

I know Americans are spoiled. We only pay $1 at the dollar store, we get friendly and attentive service at restaurants, and there's always free refills. Oh, and we're always right.

Everybody knows it: the customer is always right. And, frankly, not only are the customers right, they're also well worth bending over backwards to be nice to. Otherwise they might sue.

Obviously I know this isn't always the case. I know some store employees are bad, or unhelpful, or downright mean, but by and large, even the high school kid working at Meijer over the summer is going to turn pretty friendly pretty fast if you ask him for help finding funnels. And if he doesn't, there's a manager around. And a comment card. And a hotline. And poof! goes the weasel.

It's similar in Italy: you walk down a street are immediately told seven different times that you're the most beautiful woman in the world, and invited in to sample some jewelry, ceramics or dinner. Overkill, maybe, but you can't say it's not flattering. And who wouldn't rather buy from someone who compliments instead of scowls at them?

Now don't get me wrong: Australians are friendly. I generally like them a lot. But they do have their moments, and, in my experience, these moments often coincide precisely with occasions when the Australian in question should be most inclined to help. These moments never cease to amaze, and trouble, me.

You rather expect to run into the rude bus driver, but the nasty librarian? I've met her. She was ready to pack up at two minutes' to closing (note the Australian work ethic) when I ran in, needing a book. She assisted me in wordlessly, yet sneered just loud enough to be heard to a friend waiting for her about the gall of patrons who come just before closing and how very sorry she was but it seemed, seeing as she'd been detained, that she could not make her ferry and would be late to her next engagement, due to the thoughtlessness of certain individuals. She handed me back my book with an icy stare and I departed quickly, feeling hurt and guilty, not even consoled by my beautiful harbor.

Just the other day I wandered into Payless, looking for some cheap (ha!) shoes. No one said hello. No one offered to help. This was okay; I found what I needed on my own just fine. (Payless isn't exactly the sort of store you get lost in.) In fact, I was successful enough to find two somethings I was interested in. I poked around until I found a salesclerk at the cash register. She was busy doing Important Sales Clerk Things, but pulled herself away to glance up at me.

"Hi, I was just wondering if you have a buy-one-get-one-half-off deal on?" I asked.

"No," she said, and promptly looked down again.

"Er, okay, do you know when you might have it on again?" I asked, figuring I could wait a bit for my shoes if need be.

Clearly this was the wrong question to have asked. She eyed me as if I'd casually walked up and asked for Coca-Cola's secret recipe and bin Laden's current whereabouts.

"No," she said, with a look that suggested I'd better either buy something or get out, because I was clearly wasting her time.

Cowed, I put the shoes back and rushed across the street to the friendly cupcake factory, where the staff was not entirely fluent, but friendly.

In fact, I have been treated outright rudely, overly abruptly or entirely ignored by not only bus drivers, a librarian and a shoes salesgirl, but also optometrists, convenience store workers, a real estate agent, waiters, a cafe worker, a taxi line operator, a purse saleswoman, Max Brenner staff, a pharmacy salesclerk, the Australian equivalent of the IRS, Target salespeople and even, in a great twist of fate, a Starbucks barista. All, in short, people who should be helping me.

"Don't you realize I'm your customer!?" I want to lecture. "You're supposed to treat me well! I have the buying power! You're going to lose my business! And furthermore, I have a blog!! You're going to be blacklisted!! It's not just me, my mother won't shop at your store anymore either!!" Occasionally when I am feeling particularly confident and brassy I do manage to mention that I am taking my business elsewhere, but generally ruin the effect by dissolving in a sea of tears just outside the shop. At least four rude salesfolk have managed to reduce me to tears since I've come -- two years ago.

Which leads me to conclude that Australians really do have thicker skin than Americans. They're not so into beating around the bush and keeping things sickly sweet just to make everyone smile. They're a bit more used to hearing "no." And they are not, contrary to popular opinion, always right.