Wednesday, June 30, 2010

quicko: the world cup

Is (or was) a bigger deal here than in the U.S. It wasn't crazy huge (Boston gets considerably more hyped up at Red Sox World Series times), but much more noticeable than I ever remember it having been. The Australian team is called the Socceroos, which I think is cool enough they shouldn't have to do much more than show up. Which is mostly about what they did.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

quicko: political update

So I'm really probably the last person you should ask about politics, but even I can't help hearing a bit of the buzz surrounding the very hasty recent shift of power. A few of the comments I've heard include:

  • Kevin Rudd was really stabbed in the back. He was ousted by the very people who put him in power because he lost favor with them. He'd wanted the job for ages, teared up when he gave his official speech and Australians, in their love of the underdog, feel for him. They see cruel ads ripping off his situation (his picture with "dumped recently?" ads for dating services, for example) and are suitably scandalized.

  • Australians elect a party, not a person. This is technically true, but in actual practice at the last election, the people elected "Kevin 07."

  • The fact that Australia has its first female PM gets mixed reviews. Some say it's a step in the right direction for women; others that it's actually a bit of a step backwards, particularly if she loses the next election, because the people (see previous point) didn't actually elect her. She was forced upon them, and does not actually reflect Australia's choices. If she loses, things'll look even worse for women.

  • No one seems to like Tony Abbott, who is the guy fairly likely to go up against Julia Gillard at the next election. At least, no one seems like his personality. Some agree with his politics.

  • Australians are on a first-name basis with their politicians. Americans tend to use last names -- Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Obama -- whereas Australians talk about Kevin, Julia and Tony. Occasionally they'll throw in "Howard" with John (the PM before Rudd), but only because John's name is so common.

Monday, June 28, 2010

quicko: clinkers

These are a very famous Australian _______. There is some debate as to whether they are "lollies" (i.e., candy) or not since they contain 60% chocolate and 40% non-chocolate edible entities of a colorful nature. (Despite them having the appearance of less chocolate, they actually have more, as they measure based on density and the not-chocolate part is actually quite airy.) Thus, they might more accurately be termed "sweets" or "confectionery."

Also, when you eat them, you are supposed to play the guessing game, wherein you must announced if your color will be green, pink or yellow before you bite into it. If you're right (which I was tonight 100% accuracy on 4 green Clinkers), you win! Yay Kim!!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

quicko: un-slap happy

Australians don't know the phrase "slap-happy"! We totally were tonight but no one understood. It loses something in the translation, too. Silly, slap-happy Australians!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

please call for service

When I first started work as a teacher I thought learning to work the copier would be my greatest challenge. I have a horrible history with copiers, mostly revolving around midnight copying stints in the library the night before a paper was due. I had, you see, a wonderful 5-step plan for writing any and every paper in college. First, I compiled a list of resources I needed (preferably full-text from J-Stor; when it failed, books currently checked in). Second, I scheduled a trip to the library. Step two was always the most traumatic part. I love libraries generally -- cozy nooks full of other-worldly fiction or Bill Bryson tales of faraway places -- but there is something about research libraries that sends me running. I'm pretty sure it's the copiers.

I'd get to the library and painfully plow through the bizarre system my college used. (In four years, I never figured it out. All I can say definitively is that it was not Dewey Decimal, which was what my elementary school used.) Eventually I tended to locate another student in my class and find myself combing shelves in roughly the right neck of the PZ's. I'd gather up any book that looked vaguely related to, say, 17th century English actresses and cart the stash to the coin-operated copier.

About this time, I'd wander down to a different floor of the library, where I could usually find a drowsy librarian to remind me that, actually, we'd been through this before and now you could use a copy card to swipe through the machine and, for just $5, $10 or $25 I could buy my very own. Or, I could dig through my wallet and find the one the I'd bought last time and forgotten about.

Having secured said card, I'd trudge back up to the lonely copier and introduce it to my first book. I'd want something simple, like a copy of a page, but from the introduction onwards things would go from bad to worse. I'd position the book, close the lid and press the magic button. Out would come the top half of two consecutive pages. I'd open the lid, rotate the book 90 degrees and try again. Out would come 75% of the page I wanted, with the missing quarter being the most vital. I'd pull the book up to what I judged to be sufficient enough to cut off the top margin and try again. This time, however, I wouldn't have pulled the lid down with the requisite vigor, and the shadowy margins of the middle of the page would obscure 10% of the side of text. I'd hold it down harder the next time and try again, only to learn that in the process I'd shifted the book and had again lost the bottom quarter of text. I'd realign, push down properly and find that all was present and legible except for the last line of text, at which point I'd give up and copy the line down by hand.

And that would be the first source.

Tears, sweat, blood, $200 and two hours later I'd call campus safety to give me a ride back to my dorm where I'd finish steps 3, 4 and 5 (skimming the sources for relevant quotes, typing the quotes into my computer and writing a paper around these quotes) before turning in it at 9 am.

Some people lose their fortunes gambling. I lost mine adjusting the copier.

So you see, my experiences with copiers revolved painfully around coins, cards and getting the pages to print right. Never did I imagine I'd soon be responsible for repairing a machine I could barely operate.

At my work (which happens to be in a school), there are many, many people who need to print many, many things, usually simultaneously. I understand that this must be a serious strain on our poor copier (it has what I think could be termed a "weak constitution" at the best of times), but I am of the school of thought that copiers are machines and machines are supposed to be above all that getting tired and throwing hissy fits nonsense. Someone evidently forgot to tell ours that.

I've started a log of the copier's More Significant Misdeeds. I'm the only one who updates it, but it makes me feel better. I don't write down the normal stuff -- when it gets a paper jam, or runs out of toner, or gets another paper jam, or forgets a job, or gets a paper jam in a different place, or takes paper from the wrong tray, or doesn't realize the document feeder is closed, or prints blanks because it didn't take the paper, or gets another paper jam -- just the big stuff. Like when you've asked it to print 4 classes' worth of reports and it suddenly got so overloaded it had a silent panic attack and fainted.

We've tried all sorts of methods. My favorite is the Soothing, which consists of me standing next to the copier and massaging it gently while cooing softly about how very much I'd like to throw it out the window. (Copiers, like dogs, only understand your tone of voice. They have no idea if they're actually being insulted.) Occasionally this works and all is soon right with the world, except for 4 reportless classes. Generally it doesn't.

When gentle cooing fails, it is time for the drastic method of Pulling the Plug, which is every bit as dreadful as it sounds. You have to squeeze into the tiny corner between the copier and the table and bend over while half balanced on the table in a maneuver I'm sure they don't usually teach in yoga, but really should. Assuming you manage to achieve this position, you then must hold it for 30 seconds, which is the amount of time Bujae, our resident computer fix-it specialist, says is requisite for the copier to properly feel the consequences of its guilty actions. Bujae also doesn't wear skirts to work while he teaches machines moral lessons.

30 seconds later, you re-plug the machine and straighten up. Then you wait five minutes for the copier to decide whether or not it wants to remember the sixteen jobs you'd sent to it prior to its meltdown. Generally it doesn't, so you send them through again, only to find that, in its renewed zeal for life, it has printed them all twice.

Which has exhausted it so grievously it faints again. Which means it is time to call William. For the third time this week.

William is a short middle aged man who always looks slightly preoccupied. His appearance doesn't exactly invite the utmost confidence and I've never heard him say anything, but he's got the tools and certainly has a better chance of taming the beast than we do. He's got a mustache.

I understand that not everyone is on a first-name basis with their copier fix-it man, but with William, shucks. We're thinking of calling him Billy.

Friday, June 25, 2010

quicko: the cutest baby in the southern hemisphere

Look at our new Bible study baby!! Isn't he adorable?? His name is Ethan and we think we just might keep him!!

And, for a daily quicko, "bub" is "baby" down under -- just like "mum" is "mom." So, you have mums and bubs ... frolicking in a creche (nursery) ... changing nappies (diapers) ... pushing prams (strollers) ... sucking on dummies (pacifiers).

Thursday, June 24, 2010

news flash!!!

This morning started like most Thursday mornings -- entirely too early, and running slightly late. I managed to make it in time for my 8:30 class in one piece, though, and emerged relatively unscathed -- to learn that, in the 90 minutes I'd spent in an academic bubble, Australia had gone and got itself a new Prime Minister.

Who does that!? With no election! Just immediately, a quickie little in-house vote and, voila, welcome to the first female Prime Minister of Australia. Forget the ad campaigns, forget the fundraisers, forget the speeches, forget the debates, forget the banners, forget the articles, forget the rallies, forget the promises -- heck, forget the voters!

Clearly I don't have a very deep understanding of Australian politics, but from what I gather whichever political party is in office can change its leader (i.e., the PM) more or less at will. Thus, the former PM Kevin Rudd's party held a little powwow about 9 this morning and decided that, really, they'd rather Julia Gillard take over. Evidently people tend to prefer her to the leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott, but it doesn't seem like that's saying too much. Why exactly it was so important to oust KRudd so quickly is a bit unclear to me, but clearly it couldn't have waited till after lunch.

Not there was any scandal; Australians just don't like to mess around once they make up their minds evidently. Whenever else you call him, you certainly couldn't have called KRudd a lame duck. Though, gosh, I don't remember any new policies from about 9:15 onward ... perhaps he was going a bit soft.

And so now, yes, Australia has a brand new Prime Minister. Julia Gillard is a woman and has hair dyed an appalling shade of red. I really know very little else about her -- but seeing as I didn't even know her name before 10 this morning, I think I'm making good progress.

And who knows? Maybe now KRudd needs a few more friends -- he can still find me on Facebook if he likes.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

quicko: a sticky beak

AKA a squiz, or a quick look. I don't know for sure, but I've got a sneaking suspicion it could be rhyming slang for "peek."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

quicko: rugs

AKA blankets. See also rugged up.

Monday, June 21, 2010

to pee or not to pee

To pee or not to pee? It is a question to which Melissa's puppy and I constantly reach alternative decisions about when we greet each other.

Phoebe (said puppy) is as cute as cute can be, though hasn't quite mastered the fine art of bladder control. But who cares? That's what puppies do, and I'm not the one cleaning up the mess.

Long into our evening together, though, Melissa and I had managed to go through a fast food feast, ample quantities of tea and a movie when we realized we'd also made it through all the toilet paper. Fortunately she lives next to a BP. Which might just go on record as the last time "fortunately" and "BP" ever are found within the same sentence.

It was getting late, but we were pretty sure BPs were some of the few establishments in Sydney that stay open past 5 pm. So, we donned our coats, left the puppy behind and ventured out in the parking lot.

The lights were on, but the door was locked. So was the other door. Then I looked up and saw the cashier waving me over. We walked to where she was and realized that our coats were handy as all our interactions were going to be restricted, jail-like, to what we could communicate through the Plexiglas. Thankfully our needs weren't too elaborate.

"Er, are you open?" we asked.

She nodded.

"Can we, um, buy things from in there?"

She nodded.

"Okay," we said, uncertain as to how precisely we were going to get our products, while visions of toilet paper races from college danced in my head.

Perhaps you were not so fortunate as to experience toilet paper races at college. They were the sort of after-midnight affairs where everyone had had a bit more sugar than entirely necessary from Steak 'n' Shake and suddenly thought it would be a great idea to hold a competition of feeding toilet paper into the central vacuum holes at either end of the hallway and see which side used up an entire roll fastest. The vacuum was quite good and it generally took only a matter of seconds, possibly stretching to a minute. These things had to happen relatively quickly, or at any rate before the Resident Director found out. We were quite adept so he rarely found out during the event, but the cleaners tended to inform him the next day when the vacuums ceased to work. Really, they spoiled all the fun.

But in any event, the point is that, in toilet paper races, the paper product in question is fed, one square at a time, through a fairly small area. I envisioned a similar scene in front of me, and struggled to come up with a satisfactory plan for re-wrapping the paper so that it wouldn't have to return home in a huddled heap. Granted, it probably would have done the trick, but it struck me as significantly less sanitary than the usual method. Being American, I am quite concerned about germs, and even more particular about toilet-related germs. Not that this convinces me to clean my toilet much more frequently than whenever I'm expecting guests, but that's hardly the point: sanitary bathroom procedures are.

"We'd like some toilet paper," we finally told the cashier. She nodded and went off to find some.

Now this was service. Who ever said Australian service isn't up to snuff? You simply tell the cashier what you want and she goes and gets it for you -- like the general stores from Anne of Green Gables' times. I turned to Melissa.

"But how will she know which one you want?" I asked. "Which brand? How many rolls? How many plies? Scented or not? Design or no design? The choices!"

Being slightly more pragmatic, Melissa responded that, it being a BP and an Australia BP at that, the choices were likely to be a bit more limited than I was imagining. I don't know for sure that she was right (oddly enough I haven't been back to BP to check their sanitary supplies), but before long it transpired that our cashier had returned with a four-pack of fairly standard toilet tissue. Seeing as there were only wadded up napkins in the bottom of my purse as an alternative, we were adequately impressed. Still, though, remained the mystery of how to receive the purchase. The cashier looked supremely unflustered regarding this dilemma. She merely placed the toilet paper down and stared at us.

We stared back. Then she gestured down to our right and what to our wondering eyes did appear, but an opening in the counter with our purchase in there! It was one of those ingenious little devices like our drive-through pharmacy back home uses that allows you to obtain your goods without actually moving a muscle. Presumably drive-through pharmacies were not the first to use such devices, but they are my most salient point of reference.

From there, well, the rest is history. We purchased our toilet paper and hurried home to be greeted most energetically by Phoebe, who promptly peed on the floor.

Aye, there's the rub.

quicko: PNG

In common parlance here, it's not Proctor & Gamble. Any guesses? Any guesses? I'll give you a hint: it's a country. An island country. Full of untranslated languages. Your church probably supports a missionary there. It can also be a vacation/work/mission trip destination. Did you get it yet? Papua New Guinea.

Bet they don't have discount days at Kings Island.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

photos: cronulla

quicko: donut or not, here i come!

At breakfast yesterday I made a most alarming discovery: donuts, like cupcakes, are not considered breakfast food, and are therefore relegated safely to the world of post-lunch cuisines. They never feature in brunches. Having always considered donuts the epitome of breakfasts, I was taken aback, but even more so when I was informed that, furthermore, cake and donuts are also considered too much (too heavy) to have for dessert. They are eaten primarily at a meal utterly non-existent in America: the afternoon tea. (Eating a meal entitled a beverage still strikes me as bizarre in and of itself.) However, the even greater woe is that even Australians do not have afternoon tea as a matter of course; it's more a pleasant, occasional weekend treat. Which means (have you yet spotted the dilemma?): you can't get cake every day.

Where is Marie Antoinette when you need her?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

photos: breakfast on the harbour

So this is what mornings look like! No wonder other people like them.

quicko: standard issue nation

America is, of course, utterly spoiled for choice. Australia has a fair amount, too, as long as we're not talking ice cream, brands of peanut butter or pretzels. However, it amazes me how many normal household items seem to be standard issue: the red vacuum cleaner, the red bucket for mopping the floor, a blue-handled mop and the omni-present glass water pitchers. They're the same in many households, and I have a strong suspicion that there are no more than three major vacuum contenders in the country. (Standard issue blue pictured above.)

Friday, June 18, 2010

quicko: lost my business

So as much as I love Max Brenner chocolate, I'd like to reiterate that they have consistently terrible service. And not only them -- quite frankly, most retailers I've come across. Take the other day for example. I would have been an easy sell -- a chocolate marketer's dream! -- all I wanted was one milk hot chocolate with crunchy waffle balls to go before my ferry, which left in twelve minutes. (Max Brenner, FYI, is situated approximately an 18-second walk away from the ferry ticket gates.) I ordered and specified this to the cashier. To his credit, he both smiled and spoke enough English to understand me on my first attempt; however, he also shook his head and told me that, really, that could not guarantee it would be ready in less than 15 minutes. One cup of hot chocolate! From a shop that specializes in hot chocolate! And is in a busy, time-oriented location that presumably has lent itself to similar situations in the past. But no. No sale for them. No chocolate for Kim. No happy camper for the people next to me on the ferry. I was distressed for days until I made it back and got myself a peanut butter iced chockie to soothe my shattered nerves.

Now my only question is how to best define my relationship with Max: love-hate or on-again-off-again? In the meantime, you'll find me at San Churros.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

quicko: yous/youse

Obviously exceedingly poor grammar, but the Australian version of (shudder) y'all.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

photos: further thoughts on rainbows

Rainbows just abound in Sydney! The first one is right behind my flat; the other, Kirribilli. (See how aptly named this blog is?? See??)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

quicko: further thoughts on lorikeets

These four (one walked out of the picture, trust me) just happened to be moseying around my yard the other day -- as they do!! How could I not snap a quick photo?

Monday, June 14, 2010

quicko: the queen's birthday

Today just so happens to be the Queen's birthday in Australia, though, actually the Queen had her birthday back in April but, as you may recall, Australia has an abundance of public holidays in April and prefers to space them out. The Queen's birthday is one of these deemed most suitable to float where necessary in the year.

It also happens to be Flag Day in America, which really has, to the best of my knowledge, utterly no equivalent in Australia.

photos: sydney lights

Lately Sydney's had up an incredible display of lights which depicts its history on famous buildings along Macquarie Street. It's really magnificent -- enjoy!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

ready or knot

Most days my mornings go something like this: beautiful, peaceful, blissful sleep rudely interrupted by two Evil Alarms solely set on keeping me in a job, if getting me to work on time is the last thing they do. From there it's a blur of semi-consciousness that follows me through Facebook over breakfast to throwing on six outfits, to throwing off six outfits, to seeing Evil Alarm number 2 sitting stoically in the corner glaring the 4-minute too-fast time to throw me into a state of utmost panic before realizing that, while outfit number six and a half will have to suffice, nothing has been done about the Mane.

The Mane is really rather plentiful these days, which makes life difficult because it thinks it's got more clout. Who are we kidding? It does.

I stand and stare the mirror and the Mane stares back. This is my cue to utter my first vocalization of the day:

"What are we going to do with you?"

The Mane continues staring.

"Would you like to behave and be a good little Mane?"

The Mane shakes itself. Negative.

"Would you like to look presentable so the rest of the world can see you?"

Another no.

"Then I'm just going to have to put you up in a big, big clip."

This is what the Mane has been waiting for. It is its trump card. It knows it looks horrendous in big, big clips and that they will never last. It obliges me for a second, though, knowing it will soon get its way in the end. It nudges me toward the mirror and is immediately let down again. Vindictive little Mane.

Evil Alarm coughs loudly in the corner. This brings me back to square one.

"What are we going to do with you!?" I wail to the Mane.

It shrugs.

"Fine, you win," I say. "What do you want to do today?"

This is just what the Mane has been waiting to hear. It knows it's back in control. It is in cahoots with Evil Alarm. Though I'm yet to catch any cash actually changing hands, it's clearly true. You would cry too, ... oh, wait.

The Mane looks hopefully at the sink.

"What, you want water?" I ask.

It seems it does. I throw it upside down first as punishment for its rudeness, but then throw water on it as it begins to allow itself to waft a brief way into submission. Two seconds later it is throwing a fit again. I attack it with a little clip. It begs for more water. This goes on for thirty vigorous seconds until Evil Alarm nonchalantly gags itself in the corner.

"That's it, that's all the time we've got, we're going now, ready or not," I tell the Mane. "You're a disgrace, but I've got to bring you anyway. Hurry up now!"

We rush to de-gag Evil Alarm, who has now resorted to epileptic seizures of despair. It's really entirely too melodramatic for its own good.

I throw on my coat, unplug the little heater that-couldn't-but-tries-anyway and grab my bag. The coat, the bag, the Mane and I rush down the stairs, past the workmen fixing the stairs and up the hill to the bus stop. There we wait, breathless, on the other side of the street of the bus stop as 3 buses to the city drive past. When the little green light finally appears we tear across the street, root around manically for our buried bus ticket and attempt to flag down a bus that has no intention of stopping at our stop. Discouraged, we resort to checking the timetable, during which time another bus sails past, happily ignoring us. We turn around again and find it was the bus scheduled to come in 3 minutes that happened to be early and indisposed to put a damper on its own glorious on-timeness. The next bus doesn't come for 10 minutes. We sit down in despair and I begin to write a list of all the reasons the morning has been a disaster. This reminds me of a to-do list I need to write, which reminds me to write a list of people I need to buy cards for, which reminds me to write list of invitations I need to send, which reminds me to write list of friends in Sydney, which reminds me to write a list of Facebook status updates I could use, which reminds me to write a list of blogs I could write, which reminds me that I should look up and see if there is a bus. There isn't, but I'm out-listed for the moment and decide to simply sit back and be prepared for whenever the next bus does decide to show itself.

To ready myself, I adjust my coat and bag, and pull out my bus ticket so it's ready to go. I fidget and wait and try to look busy and unconcerned for the remaining 90 seconds until a bus finally pulls up and decides, quite generously, to stop. I get on, insert my ticket, and hearing a series of loud beeps, realize it expired yesterday. I frantically tear the inside of my bag apart, pulling out a water bottle, a book, a magazine, a deck of cards, a camera, a pair of sunglasses, a pair of back-up glasses, three used Kleenex and some spare Tylenol before finding my wallet at the bottom. Trying not to drop everything, I locate the new bus pass in my wallet, insert it, throw everything else back in the bag and rush as fast as I can to the back of the bus, where I spend the remainder of the trip putting everything back where it goes in my bag and relocating the ticket so it can be used for the train.

The train is, miraculously, only 1 minute away from departing when I arrive, so I dash madly down through the crowd and jump on in the nick of time, to have 6 more minutes of calm before the storm. These I generally use to fall back and regroup and text to let someone know I'm running just a wee bit later than intended. Then I generally decide it's a reasonable time to go through and delete old text messages, which keeps me at least looking socially suave and sophisticated until I reach Museum and the final mad dash of the morning begins.

I rush into work, wait for the lift and emerge, mostly unscathed, in the staffroom.

"Kim!" someone calls. "Your hair looks gorgeous! How in the world do you get it to look so lovely?"

quicko: fathers' day

Today's Fathers' Day in America, though in Australia it's not until the first Sunday of September, when we have Labor Day, which they have in early March, which is when the Brits have Mothers' Day, which we have in mid-May, which is also when the Australians have it.

So, really, it's all about the same, right?

Happy Fathers' Day, Dad!! I love you!!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

quicko: taboo

We also pronounce this word differently. And emu, when I come to think of it.

Friday, June 11, 2010

quicko: games

I feel like I've already mentioned this, but I couldn't find where, so here goes:

Australians have their own versions of games -- not just Monopoly, but Trivial Pursuit, etc. They become Australia themed and have many sudden references to those elusive "Northern Hemisphere" places.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

quicko: wrath

Sorry, guys, I've got nothing tonight. The only difference I can spot between Aussies and Yanks is that we pronounce "wrath" differently. Otherwise, we're identical.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

update: bus bloopers

So you thought you'd heard everything that could go wrong on a bus? How about the driver accidentally closing the doors on you? I was just walking onto a 20 when he did. Fortunately, they don't actually hurt, and, in any event, he realized it immediately and reopened the doors. Then I asked if he was going down Elizabeth Street, which happens to be one of the more major roads in Sydney. No, he wasn't, he said, I'd want a number 30. Having frequently gotten the 20 and 30 confused myself I noted then that he must have come from Neutral Bay, since I knew one of them did, while the other went down Elizabeth. This confused him even more, but suddenly light dawned.

"Oh, you want Elizabeth Street?" he asked.

"Yes," I said. "Near Goulburn."

"Oh, yes, I go there," he said.

Perhaps I shouldn't wear my boots in public quite so much with such a short skirt. Oh well.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

news flash: who could be my friend?!

So after years of waiting patiently for Hamish Blake to accept my Facebook friend request (it was still pending, last I saw), I now get a suggestion that who should I be friends with? Guess. No, really: Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister of Australia. Evidently we have two friends in common, and Facebook is sure he'd love to know the ins and outs of my life.

It's a small world, after all ...

Monday, June 7, 2010

quicko: rain, rain, go away

In the throes of finally remembering to write an actual article, I completely forgot I always give a quicko in the meantime ... so here goes Monday, from Tuesday.

It's been raining a lot in Sydney. So much in fact, that I let someone give me an umbrella. Generally I have utterly no use for umbrellas -- they're bulky, get in the way, hardly help all that much and, besides, I like being in the rain. But it's been so torrential lately I accepted an umbrella on Friday.

It's not a great umbrella -- I think either I was going to get it or the trash was --and generally I spend more time trying to keep it from flipping up than walking peacefully along under it. But it's been doing the job, trusty little thing.

Which brings me to my actual observation: Sydneysiders think "winter" means "rain." They accept chills and a bit of wind and puddles, but don't understand anything so intense as requiring central heating, much less snow. And, recalling how little they like rain in general, you can guess how little they like winter.

Me? I'm fairly ambivalent. Oh, look, it's a bit damp today. Oh, look, it's a bit dry today. Oh, look, who cares, I'm not going outside anyway. Welcome to winter.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


If asked, I'm usually trite and say my favorite day of the week is Friday. Then I start second guessing and thinking that really I probably actually prefer Saturdays since I don't have to work at all, but somehow there's a certain allure about Fridays. And somehow work is always better on a Friday, just for knowing that it won't endure all that much longer. My co-workers used to call them "Five Pill Fridays," operating on the assumption I couldn't possibly be so chipper without some sort of aid, but really all that happened was that they fed us biscuits at 10 am. Biscuits can go a long way, too, particularly when you have six of them.
I also find that certain days take on or off allure depending on what schedule you end up falling into. For instance, the years I had piano lessons most definitely led me away from preferring Tuesdays, but now that I've got Bible study then, I look forward to them. On the whole, though, Fridays through Sundays are pretty decent (as long as we're not counting mornings -- ever), and Mondays are inescapably drab. The rest of the week moseys along until we get to Thursdays.

Thursdays were nice enough before I came to Australia -- they were still almost Friday, still past the halfway point, still reasonably well behaved. Since moving here, though, they've taken on a whole new meaning, which can be summed up quite nicely in one little, dangerous word: shopping.

Now, I am not an obsessive shopper. I enjoy it, oh yes, and I am, if I do say so myself, quite good at it, but I am not as far gone as I could be. Which really is saying something, believe it or not. I go through spurts. Perhaps you could call me a bulimic shopper, though only, of course, in jest, as I have already pointed out that I am not obsessive. I am simply capable. Quite capable.

Generally my spurts revolve around a particular weakness -- art, jewelry or Victoria Secret underwear, for example. Generally they are relatively short-lived, if by short-lived you mean less than $200, which I do. Generally.

My most recent spurt occurred last Thursday and would be titled, if I had to title it, "Something to Wear Tomorrow." I don't really like laundry, you see.
I'd felt that I'd been waning lately in the aspect of color: I'd broke rank and started wearing neutrals to work. For three days in a row, which was entirely too serious to deal with any other way apart from shopping, in my opinion. So I set off to find something vivid.

It's amazing what you can find when you set off with such a goal in mind. I had, I assure you, no trouble fitting the bill, though I spent a wee bit more than I intended. One cannot be too constrained when shopping.
After obtaining my splash of vibrancy, my thoughts turned to my toes. They were, you see, cold.

Now what follow is really what I see as quite clear-cut logic. Bear with me if you will.

Toes cold; therefore, I am. No, no, just kidding. What I meant was: toes cold; therefore, buy high-heeled, knee-high shiny black boots. (Incidentally, have you ever thought about what order you place your adjectives in? Of course not. You do it naturally, just as you chose your verbs without a moment's hesitation, and apply articles in precisely the right position and never when unnecessary. It was not until I had to teach my students Order of Adjectives that I realized we do actually have an order for these things; you would, for example, rarely think to say "black shiny high-heeled knee-high boots" or, say, "brick yellow road," though of course my students might. But thankfully you think differently on many such matters.)

And hence, high-heeled, knee-high shiny black boots. Or, to be slightly more philosophical about it, high-heeled, knee-high shiny black boots are. And not only are, but also are in my possession. But really, all this was about Thursdays. Or have I lost you?

Thursdays in Australia are vital, you see, because Thursdays are the only day any sane person can shop. Of course, theoretically shops are open most days from 9-5, but unless you're chucking a sickie, these are rather inconvenient hours for working girls. Frankly, I think this is part of the reason why Australia allows so many sick days per year: very few people are actually sniffling, but they do need to find new trousers. Heaven forbid they have a commitment on Thursdays -- they'd never be clothed again.

But Thursdays the stores stay open -- past 5 o'clock!

In America, that last sentence would not warrant an exclamation. In England, it would not, either. Nor Spain, nor Korea, nor Japan, nor France, nor Canada, nor Brazil, nor Antarctica. In Australia, however, it would. In Australia, stores close at 5. Their employees go home at 5:01, and there is no hope of getting anything whatsoever past 4:57. Saturdays are no better -- and this coming not from the outback, but Sydney! The biggest city in the country!

And so, when I say that Thursday hours are worth exclamation points, I am quite sure you will agree. Stores stay open as late as 8, or even, in some cases, 9. It is amazing.

The trouble, though, is that, since shopping is confined exclusively to one night, it becomes a rare treat. And rare treats, unfortunately, tend to lead to lavish spending. Which brings us to my boots.
I didn't consider them lavish at the time -- I am not, as I said, obsessive -- though the next day when I suddenly remembered heels aren't exactly the footwear equivalent of a La-Z-Boy, I began to think I should have rethought the heel thing.

But how could I have? I was in a Thursdaze.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

update: undelicia delizia

I just wanted to update my blacklist: Delizia's.

Perhaps you'll recall awhile ago I painted a lavishly lovely picture of a quintessential cafe in the city -- well, that was all while Andy and Rosa (I finally learned their real names!) were there. They were amazing, but it's recently been sold and is now under new, much worse, management. While you could previously get 2 buttered pieces of raisin toast for $3.50 takeaway, I found one day not long ago the price had gone up to $4.00. I wasn't happy, but I was managing. Then, I tried again on Friday and found that it had shot up again -- to $4.50, but this time for one piece of toast.

While the setting is still the same and quite lovely, I no longer recommend it. Unless of course Andy and Rosa come back.

Friday, June 4, 2010

quicko: school

For Australians, "school" only refers to K-12.* Americans, consciously or not, use it to refer to any education whatsoever, right up through a Ph.D. This can be startling for Australians who could have sworn so-and-so was older than 18 to hear him suddenly speak of being in "school."

*Incidentally, the grades are referred to as "grade 9" instead of "ninth grade."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

quicko: she'll be 'right

The quintessential Australian answer for everything. It's similar to "no worries, mate" and can be applied to any person or situation, regardless of if the person or situation is female. The omnipresent "it's okay."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

quicko: time zones

I was shocked when, mere moments ago, I discovered that Australia's time zones are chopped up as per this diagram. I'm assuming the +11 refers to how far off Greenwich Mean Time the area is. Isn't it odd, though? If it's, say, midnight in Sydney (and the rest of New South Wales, Melbourne and Tasmania), it's 11 pm in Queensland, which is in exactly the same longitude, 11:30 pm in South Australia, which is farther west than virtually all of Queensland, 10:30 pm in the Northern Territories and 9 pm everywhere else. Is it just me or does this seem a bit more complicated than absolutely necessary?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

update: ecumenical extrapolations

So, as usually happens after writing at length on a given topic, I went to bed and woke up with a small series of new thoughts I had to jot down on the bus this morning. Ahem.

The first thing is that American Christians tend to be ashamed to admit to watching TV, whereas Australian Christians have no qualms about it, even going so far as to list it as a hobby and setting goals of taking up a show.

On a different note, Australian Christians are a lot better at remembering to actually pray at prayer meetings and Bible studies -- and not just for "prayer requests," but also for general Christian-y things that are vital, but tend to get forgotten: for God's kingdom to come, to better understand Scripture, to grow in knowledge and understanding of God and for God to be glorified.

And finally, I was convinced I'd written about money already, but either I did so in passing or on someone else's blog. Basically, the quick observation I had was that American churches rarely put out a "donation" basket when having church dinners -- which, incidentally, are often potlucks -- while Australian churches tend to. Australian churches also seem to be more likely to reimburse people for bringing, say, food for an event, whereas American churches usually expect members to contribute in these sorts of ways without reimbursement.