Saturday, March 31, 2012

quicko: ginger beer and other matters

It seems I've never mentioned ginger beer, which, in over 3 years blogging, is clearly a terrible oversight.  Ginger beer is much loved in Australia, and it is pretty delicious.  I think possibly I would have assumed it was fictional (butterbeer is, isn't it?) had I read about it in, say, Lord of the Rings, much as I did with Turkish delight in The Chronicles of Narnia, but it turns out it's not.  It's a carbonated (non-alcoholic) beverage along the lines of root beer, only ginger flavored.  I don't know how to really describe tastes in words (see pathetic attempts at A.1. sauce), but yeah.  You should try it.

There's also the thickshake.  I could have sworn I mentioned it before, but possibly all I said was that milkshakes here aren't the same.  If you want an American milkshake in Australia you've got to call it a thickshake ("milkshakes" are more or less chocolate milk) ... and say a quick prayer to go with it.

And then, back on that ginger note, have I also really gone 3 years without mentioning that "ginger" is Australian (and British) for redhead?  I thought I surely must have, but blogger's search option begs to differ.  Possibly it's playing a joke on me, but I didn't think it had that big a sense of humor.  Anyway, "ginger" means red hair -- something else that stumped me throughout years of British literature.  I think I thought it was blonde ... or sunkissed ... or just read right over and never paid any attention, then wondered why I had trouble keeping track of that auburn-haired character who I could have sworn died two chapters back ...

Friday, March 30, 2012

quicko: CWAA

Country Women's Association of Australia.  No idea what they do or why, but the name also came up on the taping of TGIF and my Australia friend had to explain the acronym to me.  You can do your own research here, if you can be bothered.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

quicko: john williamson

Last Friday I went to a taping of the Australian radio comedy show Thank God It's Friday (not to be confused with the Australian television comedy show Thank God You're Here).  It was (shockingly) quite funny, and also featured the music of Australian songwriter John Williamson.

I'm not entirely sure how big a name he is, but I figure you can judge that he fell somewhere between the categories of everyone knowing the words to his song (they did, something about a big red, but not the chewing gum) and me actually having to pay to see him (I didn't).  So reasonably but not atrociously famous, which is pretty much how Australians like it.  If that.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

quicko: how would you like that burger?

Evidently Americans are unique in asking how they'd like their burgers done.  To us, it seems obvious that someone should check if we want it rare, medium rare, medium, medium well or burnt, just like we'd like to be asked what kind of bread we'd like it on, what kind of dressing should be on our salad, if it should be on the salad or on the side, what two additional sides we'd like, if we'd like an appetizer, if we'd like dessert and if we've had a nice day.  Australians just want a burger.  Now.

Furthermore, I had never realized that the message about the dangers of eating raw or undercooked meat increasing the risks of airborne illnesses was also specifically American.  Potentially these two concepts are linked.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

quicko: lavar burton

There was a Big Bang Theory episode lately which featured not only a reference to but also a cameo of "television's Lavar Burton," which I realized with excitement most of my Australian friends had utterly no hope of getting.  What else is one's blog for but to enlighten one's sadly-lacking-into-knowledge-of-American-children's-television-personalities friends?  Precious little.

And so, without further ado, Lavar Burton was the host of Reading Rainbow.  Surely you've heard of Reading Rainbow?  It wasn't quite Sesame Street or Mister Rogers, but it was a worthy competitor.  It introduced kids to tons of different books and always featured three children giving their reviews of different books.  Lavar was a household name, though it wasn't until I saw his named printed on the Big Bang credits that I realized it was a "v" and not an "m" in the middle, but nemervind.  Lavar is a legend, and his cameo was fantastic.

Monday, March 26, 2012

quicko: hire

As in, to hire a car.  Or a movie.  Or anything else you'd normally rent.

Also used as an adjective:  "a hire car."

Odd, I know.  But it makes them happy.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

quicko: left right right left

I was recently talking with an Australian about what things make more sense in America vs. Australia, and he insisted that Australians had it right when it came to driving.  Here's why:

Most people are right-handed.
Cars were originally all manual.*
The wheel, he argued, requires more strength/control than the gears.
If you drive on the left (as you do in Australia), the wheel is on the right.
Hence, the right hand in Australia can be on the wheel, and the left on the gears.
Thus, for the majority of the driving population, it makes more sense to have the wheel on the right side of the car and drive on the left side of the road.

If only I could drive a manual I'd know if I agreed or not.

*Calling a manual "a stick" is very American.  Australians giggle nervously when you use this term, much as they do when you talk about your friend Randy.  Much as you do when they talk casually about their thongs.  Though if you really want to silence an Australian, just whip out the phrase "fanny pack."  They'll be so shocked they'll immediately cease and desist all aforementioned giggling.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

quicko: bread

Australians all claim American bread -- regular, normal bread bread -- is sweet.  Sweet!  As if!!  Raisin bread, sure.  Cinnamon toast, sure.  Whole wheat multi-grain bread?  Crazy Australians.

Friday, March 23, 2012

quicko: condiment capers

A1 is one of those condiments that's not the first one you realize is off when you go overseas -- you realize it, it just takes longer because, well, most of us don't have steak every night -- but I thought I ought to give you a list of some of the major ones I noticed pretty quickly too:

--Sugar.  American sugar comes from high fructose corn syrup, while Australian sugar comes from sugar cane.  According to every Australian I've ever discussed this way, Australian sugar is way less bad for you.  I'm used to it now, though I have my doubts about which tastes better ...

--Pepper.  As in salt and pepper.  (A distinction only necessary for the Americans, as the Australians would call the other peppers "capsicums."  Very odd, I know.  Shhh.)  It's just different here.  American pepper is much better.

--Ketchup.  Radically different from Australian "tomato sauce."  Also way better.  Australians again claim it's too sweet, but what would they know with their sugar caned sugar?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

quicko: A1

A1 is an absolute (absolute) American staple.  Like right up there with peanut butter and ketchup.  Every household has a jar of A1, and every restaurant stocks it in epic proportions.  Australians, though, have never heard of it.  It's hard to explain.  The closest I can say is it's kind of like Australian brown sauce, but way better.  A little thinner, a little tangy-ier, a little sweeter, a little zestier, a lot better ... It's just a given where steaks are concerned, and I've wished for it every single steak I've had in Australia.  Until now!  I finally have my own A1 ("A-one" not "Al" sauce, as my high school friend famously grew up thinking it was called) that I will share -- in small quantities -- with select friends who happen to be with me when we're having steak.  The rest of you riffraff can find your own!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

quicko: commonwealth

I meant to give Commonwealth bank a plug here a couple weeks ago, so here it finally is.  Commonwealth has the best customer service of any I've experienced in Australia.  For awhile their ads have been featuring black and white scenes of women swooning only to be lovingly swept up by their friendly neighborhood Commonwealth banker, and I must admit to being rather taken with the ads.  What came as an absolute shock was that they were actually true.

Now, I haven't actually practiced my swooning at the bank (though goodness knows pretty much everywhere else), but every time I've gone in -- particularly recently -- there has been someone at the entrance to greet me, ask after my day (how sweet and American of them!) and earnestly seek to see how they can be of assistance to their valued customer.  And then they fix whatever my problem is!  Quickly!  It's amazing.

Not only that, their phone has only the requisite amount of auto-prompting before it realizes it cannot help and transfers me to a (available 24/7) person!!  Will wonders never cease!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

photo: good morning, world

quicko: only in america

A church in a mall.  Even I had to see it to believe it.

Monday, March 19, 2012

quicko: a dollar store

So I might have mentioned about American dollar stores once or twice before -- the funny (hysterical!) thing about them being that everything is (gasp!) a dollar.  Such a novel concept.

Did I mention I love America?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

quicko: tea time

American waitresses don't know what to do when you ask for tea.  Because they're unsure of what you're looking for, they bring you everything they think you could possibly need (except water that has boiled ... generally it's quite hot, but rarely actually close to having boiled):  a huge assortment of tea bags, some half and half or cream (or milk, if you actually thought to ask for it), possibly a lemon slice or two, possibly honey, and a spoon.  There's usually sugar (and Equal and that other thing in the pink packet) already on the table.  It's usually a pretty horrible cup of tea, but, bless them, they're trying awfully hard.  Here's my cousin Lindsey and I enjoying our cuppas together.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

quicko: st. patrick's day green

One more thing!  I forgot to mention that, really, kelly green is the green of St. Patrick's Day.  So many Australians upon hearing of St. Patrick's Day's green requirement think they can get away with anything roughly in the neighborhood of green -- teal, aqua, turquoise, navy blue -- but this is not so.  While you could argue a hunter or forest green through to a lime, if you really want to get it right you need to wear GREEN green.  Clover green, you know?  And lots of it -- an entirely green shirt would be most appropriate, as would a green dress, as would lots of green trimmings, er, accessories.  Green pants would be fantastic.  It's your own call where underwear is concerned, but, well, better safe than sorry is  a good rule of thumb to go by.  What doesn't count is green writing on your shirt, a smidge of off-green in a belt or tilting a blue piece of jewelry in the sun.  Neither (nice try) do green eyes.  Be green and proud, for Patrick's sake!!

quicko: happy st. patrick's day!

Americans celebrate St. Patrick's way (WAY) more than Australians.  To show the Australian readership what I mean, I've taken a few pictures to illustrate.  The first is the St. Patrick's Day card section at K-mart, the second is the free St. Patrick's Day cookies at the airport (okay, they're all gone but one, but that's because people took them!) and the rest are the St. Patrick's Day bagpipe parade (okay, even I'm going "what the ...!" about that!) also at the airport.  Enjoy, and hope your St. Patrick's Day was more festive than mine!


Friday, March 16, 2012

quicko: cider

My Australian friends are always surprised to learn that cider does not have to be alcoholic.  (I, for one, was surprised to learn that it could be.)  American cider is one of my favorite drinks (hot chocolate and root beers floats give it a pretty good run for its money, though) and can be served cold or hot.  Both versions are fantastic.  Cold apple cider is generally a fall beverage, served at bonfires along with s'mores.  Hot apple cider is more of a winter drink, particularly a month or two either side of Christmas.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

quicko: morning light

When I was back in America, I was struck by how late in the morning it was dark -- definitely still dark until 7:30 am.  While the time zones and latitude and daylight savings and such all obviously make a difference, I am pretty sure that it is generally darker later in the morning in America than in Sydney.  Which I think is why I actually prefer it to be dark in the morning -- early sunlight always feels like a slap in the face to me, and I much prefer for there to be an hour or so of darkness on my way to work before I have to deal with the day at hand.  It's what I grew up with, and much easier to reconcile, in my opinion.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

quicko: funerals

Americans and Australians do death differently.  I've only been to one Australian funeral, but it was a much faster, smaller affair than any American funeral I've ever been to.

American funeral proceedings just involve so much more.  First, there are usually a couple of viewings.  These take place approximately the day before and/or the day of the funeral and usually last about 2 hours apiece.  There are usually about 1-3 viewings.

Then, the funeral itself is usually in a church and is about an hour long, though sometimes longer if there are several eulogies.

The funeral is followed by a trek to the cemetery where all the cars put on little purple flags and drive slowly through the town to the cemetery for the committal service.

Then, there is usually a meal at the church, and possibly additional meals that day or the next for the family.

There are tons of flowers and donations, and the thank you notes for these are often written in the following days, along with other family business that needs to be attended to.

All in all, a funeral easily takes up an exhausting and emotionally draining week or more for the family and close friends, and 1-4 hours of time for most of the non-related guests.  Church families, though, are very good about feeding the immediate (and extended) family, and generally looking after them through difficult times.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

quicko: customer service

Let me give you an example of how good American customer service is.

I was at the LA airport the other day and feeling a bit peckish so I asked a girl at a burger joint there how much the cookies (about three times the size of any I've ever seen in Australia, where they'd be priced about $3 regardless) were.

"Too much," she told me.

"How much is too much?" I asked.

"$2.35," she said.  "Plus they don't taste that good.  If you want something sweet, I'd go to the coffee place next door, their stuff is way better."

So I went next door and got a scone.  As I sat there eating it a guy came by mopping the floor.  He stopped by me and I thought he was going to ask me to move aside so he could mop.  He wasn't, though.  I had to ask him to repeat himself to make sure I had heard correctly.

"Would you like a cup of water?" was what he was actually saying.  "I know those scones are a bit dry."

And he brought me a glass of water.

And every other person I met working in restaurants smiled at me and treated me like, gosh, I don't know, a customer?

I love America.

Monday, March 12, 2012

quicko: differences

I like to think I've come to a point now where I'm reasonably able to take a step back from both American and Australian cultures and pick elements of both that I like and both that I dislike.  I've never been known as the most unbiased of individuals, though, so here's my very subjective opinion on various matters:

--I prefer the Australian system of quoting prices with tax included.  It is a pain to go back to having to add it in.
--I also think they're really on to something with the whole dollar coin and no penny.  Makes way more sense.
--However, Americans charge way less tax, which is of course highly preferable.
--Tipping.  Okay, Australians, you win.  I'm with you.  I think waiters and waitresses should be paid decently ($14 an hour to start!  Man, you do pay well!).  However, Australians, I am also convinced that you must suck it up and ACTUALLY TIP (15%!) when you are in America!
--American customer service (airlines, particularly United, excepted) is way better in general.
--American accents really do exist.  And they really can be egregious.
--Australian food courts are much healthier -- more sushi, salads, juices, multi-cultural cusine; less McDonalds, Wendy's, Arby's (delicious though it is!) and greasy such places.
--Australian portion sizes really are healthier.  Though American ones definitely give you your money's worth, which is far more than I can say for Australian ones.
--The on/off switches Australians have on their "power points" (aka outlets) I'm undecided about.  They do seem potentially safer, yet they're a bit of a pain.  Hmmm.
--The system of labeling floors for elevators is odd in Australia (and Europe).  The American way (starting with, are you sitting down?, the number 1) makes way more sense.
--The Australian (and European) system of dates going dd-mm-yyyy does actually make more sense.
--But ... I don't care how much sense Metric makes, I'm an Imperial girl all the way.  5,280 feet in a mile, 1,760 yards in a mile, 8 ounces in a cup, 2 cups in a pint, 2 pints in a quart, 4 quarts in a gallon.  0 degrees is REALLY cold, 100 is really hot, 32 is freezing, 212 is boiling, 98.6 is normal for a person, what could be simpler?  Honestly!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

quicko: airport accentendals

This isn't highly scientific, but I have a theory that, at airports, you tend to hear the accents of the city you're in at any one time.  Thus, in LA, you'll hear passengers with American accents, and in Sydney you'll hear passengers with Australian accents -- despite the exact same people being on the flight and getting on and off in the same places.  No idea how this works, but I'm convinced it does.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Friday, March 9, 2012

quicko: waratahs

Do you know what a waratah is?  Don't worry, neither does spellcheck.

There's quite a famous sports team around here called the Waratahs (I think they play rugby, but I'm perpetually forgetting if it's union or league, and getting it wrong is generally only vaguely less than a capital offense), so I took it to be some sort of ferocious animal, roughly along the lines of a mythical cheetah.  I'm not quite sure where I got that from, aside from the last three letters.  But vicious, mythical cheetahs waratahs were in my mind.

Until I asked a Waratahs supporter precisely what a waratah was, recognizing that possibly it wasn't a cheetah, but thinking certainly then along the lines of a puma or bobcat and, on the off chance, another name for an eagle.

Imagine then my surprise to be told, in utter disgust I didn't know this previously, "the state flower of the state you've been living in the past four years!"

I've enclosed a picture here.  It looks a bit ferocious in the middle, hey?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

quicko: class

Instead of saying "there were 484 in my (graduating) class," an Australian would say "year" or "grade."  "Class" would generally refer to one room with one teacher and a group of students -- so 484 in one would be ridiculously huge (outside of a freshman lecture hall ... which wouldn't be called "freshman" here ...).

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

news flash: australian gentleman!?

Will oxymorons never cease!  Might I point out I just had, in a moment of chivalry triumphant, my car door opened for me by a male Australian.

Let's not focus on the fact that it was the back door, leaving shotgun free for him.

quicko: show bags

Australian catch-all term for what I'd consider "goodie bags."  Our church particularly favors "show bags" for, say, kids' activities or bags of freebies you're given at the carols under the bridge.  The term comes from the Royal Easter Show bags as far as I can tell, and I wouldn't really use it outside of that event ... which evidently goes to show I still err far more on the side of American!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

quicko: dockets and coupons

Although I understand it in context, I'd never think to use the word "docket" for "receipt" at the grocery store.  Australians, it seems, would.  There evidently are a few nuances based on personal preference here (some say "dockets" are more for Coles/Woolworths than, say, David Jones or Myer), but I've heard it spoken and seen it written here in reference to receipts.

Furthermore, "coupons" are not known as such -- linguistically or really the clipping variety.  No one here clips coupons -- I don't think there are any to clip.  Possibly some, but it's so uncommon my Australian friends weren't really sure which word to use.  "Voucher" kept coming to mind for them -- a word I, incidentally, detest -- but that's more along the lines of a "gift certificate," which is patently not a coupon.

Monday, March 5, 2012

quicko: renaissance festivals

It seems I alluded to this in December of 2009, but I'd like to make it slightly more official now:  there aren't Renaissance Festivals in Australia.  They simply don't have them.  How tragic is that?!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

review: photo exhibit

There's a really amazing photography exhibit on at the Australian Museum.  I went this weekend, and had lots of favorites.  I tried to make a Top Ten list, but I ended up with a Top Ten plus Four Extras list.  Here you go:

1.  The Paper Clip Suitor -- a birdie suitor who had picked up a pink paperclip and was offering it as a love gift to his lady birdie.  ("And you even got a pink one!")

2.  Family Tree -- a mother cheetah and about six cubs all in various states of play, jump, scowl, etc on an African tree.

3.  Gobi Oasis -- an orange picture -- huge dunes reflected in a lake and very orange and vivid all over.

4.  In the Valley of Giants -- mountains on a blue sky with white clouds obscuring the top, but one of them you could see a bright red glow of a volcano beginning on the other side of the clouds.

5.  In the Flick of a Tail -- a close-up black and white of a giraffe's rump and tail in mid-flick.

6.  Taking Flight -- a muted orange and brown African land and creature-scape photo.

7.  Dawn Stars -- starfish in cliffy sort of rock formation in the swirling water with more rock formations in the background in the top third of the photo.

8.  Fading Beauty -- looked just like the Kenzo perfume flowers -- red flowers on a white out background.

9.  Tiny Warm Up -- a golden snub-nose monkey sitting with its little paws in front of it and looking adorable.

10.  Balancing Act -- a mountain goat in an acrobatic feat climbing up a cliff.

Honorable Mentions:

1.  Rachet-tail in the Rain -- a close-up of a red hummingbird approaching a green flower ... or possibly a green hummingbird approaching a red flower?

2.  Midnight Tern -- just beautiful colors of sky all melding together, with a tiny white bird in the top corner.

3.  Moonrise over Nuptse -- a vivid blue sky with vivid white rock formations and a white moon.

4.  Lion Among the Shoal -- a resplendent lionfish in front of a school of bland shoal.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

photos: reverse garbage

So I had so much fun on Thursday when I went to Reverse Garbage (and my friend Rachel was so impressed with my shiny new pink flag!) that we took an emergency trip back on Friday.  This time I had time for more photos:

Friday, March 2, 2012

quicko: town hall

So after over four years of living Sydney I finally managed to make it inside one of the major sites of the city:  Town Hall.  Usually I'm muttering unpleasant nothings about Town Hall, but that's only because I'm thinking of the train station and that is a generally repugnant topic.  Today, though, I'm talking about the actual Town Hall.

It turns out it's not particularly amazing inside, but it is moderately cool.  (Reverse Garbage is a tough act to follow.)  It's not really all that big, though I there was a conference on in the big main room so I only got to peer in through the side doors at it and couldn't take pictures.  I took pictures of what I could, though.

All in all, I'm glad I went.  Better late than never, hey?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

quicko: this is our city in summer

Such a cool day!!  I went to Reverse Garbage in Marrickville and found the Sydney banners I'd been looking for -- all up and down George Street and many other main streets in Sydney they always have banners hanging advertizing upcoming events, etc.  I love them and have wanted one for ages.  Today I finally made the trek and got one, er, two -- they're only $10 apiece, so it's a bargain!

Reverse Garbage itself is pretty cool -- I'd have loved to have spent more time there, but was pressed for time.  It's just got tons of, for lack of a better word, stuff.  Theatre stuff.  Recycling stuff.  Artsy stuff.  Really, really cool.

Anyway, here are the photos:

update: leap day

To further support my case about Leap Day being far more widely recognized in America, the results of my highly unofficial survey are in:

American Facebook Friends of Mine Who Posted About Leap Day:  8
Australian Facebook Friends of Mine Who Posted About Leap Day:  0

I rest my case.

PS -- Who knew you were supposed to wear blue and yellow for it??  But it must be true because two of my facebook friends said so -- I have my suspicions it's a Dutch Calvinist thing though, seeing as they were both from a particular, shall we say, pocket of society.

quicko: will holidays never cease

I have yet another installment in the "MAN Australians are ALWAYS traveling and don't even REALIZE it half the time!" series.  Ahem.

This is a true story. About a real friend of mine.  Who I am absolutely not making fun of.  Much.

I'll give it to you quick:  between now (March 1) and July (July!  2012!) this friend is going to:

--New Zealand (but it doesn't count because, well, it's just New Zealand)
--the U.K. (but it's kind of a family trip so it doesn't count)
--somewhere in southeast Asia (emergency family wedding, completely unplanned, certainly doesn't count)
--Bali (but for less than a week, so it obviously doesn't count)
--Cambodia (okay, maybe this one counts)

So, yeah, your math is the same as mine, right?  One holiday, hey?   In five months?  That's not bad, right?  One tiny trip to Cambodia.  That's not much.  Because Australians don't really travel that much.  In fact, they never get enough holidays.  And are atrociously overworked.  Which is why, frankly, I don't see why my friend hasn't started planning a PROPER holiday.  You know, a relaxing one of over ten days to a beautiful, seaside location without family members in a place that's not New Zealand.  Because otherwise it is so not a holiday.