Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Finale

Hello cyberspace. This is my final address from Perth, Australia.

Much is said while preparing for a time spent abroad regarding such a trip as a life changing experience. In many ways it is. However, I think there is a heavy misconception as to what this actually entails.

This isn't the reason I came to Australia, but I came here wanting to, for lack of a better term, change myself. I had this vision of myself as meek and, while perhaps an enjoyable presence, either unwilling or unable to make the necessary moves by which to arrive at a place where I find myself satisfied (seems to go along the idea of desire). This semester, I was going to become something I've never been: hyper-assertive, a taker, etc. I was going to do this simply by traveling to the other side of the world. By making such a trek, I would change. This made sense to me.

The Curse of the Bambino once made sense to me too.

Here's what I've come to. You don't change by saying you're going to change. In fact, I don't think the biggest control freak in the world can control their change by way of throwing themselves half a world away (though an interesting question is if this belief is only shaped by the lack of assertiveness referenced above, but given the principles of subjective existence I am going to keep going with this). There's too many x-factors. You throw yourself into the chaos and the only order you can arrive at is the result of reaction. You don't forge yourself into something. Instead, you get a bunch of experiences and stories. You lose yourself and re-find yourself. Only now you know yourself so very well that the change is a big ol' bump in confidence. But the you you find is still the you you lost.

So no, I did not become hyper-assertive Adam, nor did I arrive at much of an answer as to how to get to satisfaction (and fathom that it's impossible, but hold out hope that this is a good thing).

However, I did:


watch the sun rise over the outback,


interact with the wildlife of Australia (unpictured, I also watched a kangaroo and an emu [the country's two national emblems][emus are my least favorite animal of all time] get in a fight over food),


get to know a culture,


got to know some people of said culture and began to wonder about the chicken-egg dynamic of that relationship,


and drank mocha and ate pies.

It was all awesome. I'll miss Australia. It is time to go home.

G'day.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

This isn't the one more post mentioned in the entry below. Just thought it should be included for the semester.

Originally Published in the Sandwich Enterprise, April 2009

"At Home in Australia"

It is a borderline rite of passage that the young adult comes to lament their homeland. The hearty majority of human organisms find themselves, by the age of twenty, deeply longing to break away from their past and all that it entails, and the most logical way by which to do so is generally perceived as the abandonment of the site of upbringing.

This is true even on beautiful Cape Cod, as its youthful emigrants often speak of the slowness and boredom brought on by the peninsula, particularly outside the summer season. I know this because I experienced this and often heard and made the very same complaints while breaking from the Cape three years ago.

Having spent a month now living, studying, and loving life half an hour outside of Perth, Western Australia’s capital, I have developed quite a strong appreciation for my original home. This is not a result of homesickness and a longing to return to the familiar. Instead, this is because I am coming to realize how similar the Cape and Australia actually are.

Cape Cod is a fascinating region. Or, as they may say down here, “We live in a bloody wicked place” (note the shared incorrect use of the term wicked, though I grant that us northeasterners are certainly more keen to use it as an adverb than an adjective).

I understand that the United States and Australia are cousins historically and share a Western base philosophy. However, the Cape’s likeness to the land down under is much more concrete. I see it first in the beach lifestyle. Both areas can be defined more by what they allow for leisure than by what they accomplish in productivity. On Cape Cod and in Australia, the populations are proudly willing to pack themselves away and indulge in a day at the water’s feet ignoring the calls of life left behind. More tangibly, the shared affinities for surfing, snorkeling, fishing, and sunsets are clear similarities.

Along similar lines, the love of the land is a shared trait despite existence in entirely different quadrants of the world. Australians, perhaps as a result of the world’s pollution creating a hole in the ozone directly overhead, are quite conscious about maintaining a clean environment. And why shouldn’t they be? The country is a beautiful one with incredible images to turn the head at every available locale, just like the Cape. Cape Codders and Aussies are both quite likely to take advantage of the beautiful geography they’ve been gifted with. And despite their American status, it is evident that Cape residents do care quite a bit about the land. Take the CapeWind argument, for instance. The greatest controversy on the peninsula in the last few years features adversaries on either side whose primary concern it is to keep the Cape and Islands beautiful, albeit while arguing from entirely different mindsets.

The attitudes of the people from the two spots are also comparable. Comparing the personalities of the Cape to everything past the canal does present a very sharp contrast. Sure, you’re going to find your grouch cashiering at Staples or the occasional bad attitude at the body shop, but our peninsula is far more laid back and pleasant than Worcester, Boston, or even Rhode Island. Aussies are world famous for their happy-go-lucky attitude, and I am grateful to have been brought up in an area that similarly values play as at least equal to work and is happy to go with the pace of the day rather than attempting to control it.

I currently only have a couple more guaranteed months as a Cape resident, and until about a month ago, this excited me profusely. However, I have come to see how valuable it is to live in a region that simply enjoys the thrills and beauty of living life. While it was likely inevitable that I would at least temporarily swear off the Cape, I am happy to realize the fortune we all have in experiencing it day by day.

Blog

I would really really really like to do a blog entry that is about a night out and all its absurdities, a "Fear and Loathing Down Under" type of thing. However, I have relatives that read this and would love to run for public office some day, so I am going to just do a quick tale that highlights one scene from last Saturday night.

"How'd we get ourselves into this again?" Josh asked.

"I don't know," I said. "Boredom?"

"Yeah but, it was so organic. Just out of nowhere pub crawl. No discussion even, it just happened."

"What's that noise?"

"What?" Organs blasted from somewhere. "Oh. That noise. Damn." Deep ominous organs that could only be enveloped within a cold Saturday night.

We were nearing Clancy's and our minds were not quite clear. We turned the corner on the outskirts of Fremantle's main strip and the pub sat before us just down the street, on the left. Directly opposite on the other side of the street stood in gray stone a large church, medieval in its appearance. It was not the church you see built in American suburbia today, red bricked and inviting. This was a church that could only have developed more than a century ago in order to set straight a penal colony that happened to play home to a prison ranked amongst the most notorious in the history of the British Empire. This was the kind of church that exemplifies why people don't go to church anymore. The church was horrifying.

"That explains it," Josh said.

"Quick," I said. "At once, we must move to the bar."

"No," he said. "Let's go in." Josh took a few steps towards the church, whose sounds permeated throughout a night laced in sin, across the street to a crowded bar and around the corner past the young women whose skirts were more revealing than some bikinis. In spite of the noise, the church was dark. No lights shone from within and no lights shone on it.

"No," I said as Josh took a couple more steps. "No, no." I turned on my heels to begin following him. "We can't go in," I said.

"Nonsense! How could we not?"

We began nearing the threatening building and the deep cries of the organ and of all the souls in purgatory drowned out my complaints. Suddenly, on a particularly long and melodramatic note from inside, a massive light flashed in front of the church, lighting it in its entirety.

Josh and I turned to one another and without a word turned away and made our way to Clancy's.

----------------------------------------

Also, this week, I watched my American friend Mike play didgeridoo in the city and make a bunch of money and be commended by Indigenous people for his prowess on the instrument. There was something very cool about that and I enjoyed it immensely.

One more blog post to come before this thing undergoes some major changes and becomes a means by which for me to talk about things other than travelling.

Cheers!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Bucket List

The movie referenced in the title above stars Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. This blog post, on the contrary, stars only the written voice of yours truly and is not about the stuff I intend to do before I die but rather about the stuff I intend to do in my last three weeks in Australia. Yes, it is strange to see that typed out before me, but this semester is very much so nearing its completion and in three weeks I will board a plane and travel to Boston via Sydney, LA, and Phoenix, the exact reverse of my trip here. Meanwhile, I have only one exam remaining on the schoolwork tracker, meaning that I essentially have copious amounts of free time. This is good, because there are things left to be done.

I aim to visit the Fremantle Prison within the next week or so. This prison was home to convicts for nearly 150 years, closing in the early 90s, and was for some time considered one of the most ominous prisons in the British Empire (which, I hear, the sun never set on). Being in a country that was, if we allow ourselves to marginalize the marginalized, founded as a penal colony, it seems quite prudent that I spend some money to go to jail.

Riding a camel has been a priority for a couple of months now and I've been very slow to act upon this desire. However, there is said to be quite a petting zoo within striking distance by public transportation wherein a camel ride is quite doable. Hence, I will do it. I also understand that in this petting zoo I can feed kangaroos. This sounds like a worthy type of thing to put myself towards.

I want to jump off a cliff again. In order to do so, though, I am banking on this weather getting better. It is cold here in Australia these days as the seasons march towards winter. Jeans and sweatshirts are the usual attire. At night, when outdoors, I shiver.

I want to go to the aquarium to see fish. I want to go to the casino to throw money down the drain and enjoy every second of it.

There are said to be some sweet museums in the area. The art museum is supposed to be pretty cool, the Freo Maritime Museum is said to be one of the more distinctive spots of the city and has a shipwreck gallery, and the history museum also seems muy caliente. I was thinking of a better word than cool. Muy caliente is the opposite of cool. Literally and figuratively, perhaps, unless you think it is cool (figuratively), in which case I can't really dispute that due to the subjectivity of the phrase. In a literal sense, though, muy caliente and cool deeply oppose each other and would give each other the middle finger if placed opposite one another in a jousting arena. I will get to each of these museums before I leave.

Finally, I wish to visit the grave of Bon Scott, the original lead singer for AC/DC. I don't like AC/DC very much. However, a quick scan of Wikipedia tells me that when East Coast Australians travel the country, they make a point of ending their trek by visiting said grave. Bon Scott was a favorite son of Freo (via Scotland and Melbourne), doing great things with his early life such as being a delinquent that nobody thought was a good person. Then he made some of that rock n roll music and people loved him. Then he partied to hardy and died in London one night. After that, he was buried and now has a grave. I'll visit this grave in one of my final days here to pay homage to the Australian tradition of doing so.

On my last day, I'll go to Little Creatures and watch the sun go down over the harbour and perhaps order a pizza. Pizza is a great thing and this is recognized universally.

Then it'll be good bye to the Commonwealth of Australia and hello to a demanding two days (though technically one thanks to time zones) of travel and the United States of America. Common means common and wealth means wheel. Somehow this comes out to "for the good of all," although I think if you just kept it as wealth and didn't go to wheel, that would make a whole lot more sense. I learned this from good ol' Janice Dudley, my Australian Government lecturer. She believes thoroughly in creating a Bill of Rights for Australia and breaking away from the Monarch, and she also thinks men are awful beings while women are the greatest beings. Except for the Queen. She thinks the Queen is a slut.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hm...

text/writer/fault line/author/story

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Quick Word

In a week wherein I have done little more than homework and my social life has consisted primarily of taking trips across the street to the service station to acquire junk food in hopes of a break from said homework, I would like to take a moment to express the excitement I feel from 12 timezones away as a result of both the Boston Bruins and the Boston Celtics and their respective playoff runs. They have resulted in a beard. It is still a weak one but it is the best I've ever had. Baby steps. I will be awaking at 7 in the morning to watch both games tomorrow if the website I have found is to be believed with regards to workability. It must be some kind of energy in Boston at the moment to be extending this far.

Anyway, here is the expression of excitement promised above: YAHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Leftdate Rightdate Downdate Update

Hello again to all. Here I am preparing a blog entry. In this blog entry I will speak of some of the things I have been up to of late.

ANZAC (Australia New Zealand Army Corps) Day was approximately 2 weeks ago (this converts to 2 American weeks ago). What happens is at dawn across the Commonwealth of Australia, the people of the various cities get together solemnly in parks and listen to speeches and watch wreaths be placed on monuments. It is like Veteran's Day, only Aussies tend to take it seriously. It was a bit of a cultural experience, as they say, to watch Perthlings honor their fallen soldiers after an all-nighter and amidst a beautiful sunrise.

By the end of that day I began to feel very run down and that manifested within the next couple days as legitimate sickness. I had another cultural excursion when I visited a hospital to get me some drugs. Note: It was very similar to an American hospital. I had tonselitis but not the kind where they cut stuff out of your throat. It was the kind where you swallow antibiotics for a week and then feel better. This happened and I was glad it did. I enjoyed being sick, as I watched several movies, drank tea frequently, and got out of having to give a presentation (though I had to give it yesterday anyway). However, it was a week essentially spent in my room which is really a waste of time while traveling and hence I am glad it's over. In any case it recharged me.

IFSA is a pretty expensive program to travel with and I am always keen to be hatin' on the man, but after this past weekend I have nothing but gratitude, as we have very much gotten what we paid for. Last weekend, the 6 of us at Murdoch as well as our 3 peripheral characters at UWA took off down south to Margaret River which is WA's surfing capital of the world. We went there for rock climbing and abseiling and spelunking and cave exploring though. It was an incredible time wherein I had to push myself to do things that made my knees sort of weak and that made me happy while also providing shots of adrenaline that tend to excite given their nature. We stayed in an incredible lodge where I used a Queen size bed (I took advantage of this by sleeping diagonally) and at night we played Jenga. Margaret River, 3 hours south of Perth, seems reeeeeeaaaaaaally cool (I do think an exploration of it could easily result in my declaring it my favorite spot I've been to so far) and I think I'll make an effort to get down there without guides and for a longer period of time before leaving.

My workload is starting to overwhelm a bit. This weekend I have to make a movie. I have a paper due next Friday. The movie isn't due until June 1 but after I shoot this weekend there is a ton of work that will go into it even still. I also do not yet have my lines down for a bloody play I am in in 13 days. I have a test a week from Tuesday and I have an exam on June 3. Actually now that I've typed that all out it's not that bad. The paper is the stupid part though there is a lot of info. on the topic I am doing so that is good. The good news is that the June 3 exam is the end of schoolwork and my junior year for me. This will leave me with 12 days to have fun and enjoy my final days in Australia after schoolwork has died before I return to the United States of America and the H1N1 Continent.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Faithful Readers, I Now Return To My Blogging Duties

I apologize for leaving you all hanging and toiling in misery and self-loathing for the last 20 days. I now return to the blogosphere, where I shall resume my Messianic duties.

As prophecised in my last entry, I spent ten days in the northwestern Australian outback. While I could go with a run down of day-to-day operations, which seems soooooooo February, I think I will instead attack this behemoth in a style akin to the great and noble David Letterman.

Top Ten Things Learned in the Australian Outback

10. Never Go On A Date With A Dolphin
Before we shot inward to the red dirt of the outback, we drove along the red dirt of the Indian Ocean coastline. Along the way, we stopped at Monkey Mia, home to several trillion dolphins. Early in the morning, dolphins gather along the beach to be fed fish by their homo sapien friends (and descendants, if you're a flaming liberal heathen). Of the several hundred touristeers (that is tourists who volunteer, only doesn't sound as good as voluntourists), approximately 8 were chosen to do the feeding. The dolphins played very nice while the fish were in their hands, but then they shocked me and I should hope several others in licking their chops and booking it back out to sea. Not even a kiss on the cheek. The ol' dine n' dash. No good. I have crossed all dolphins off my list of potential suitors.

9. I Love Technology
I tried to deny that I did but I do. The first five or so days without digital access to the world proved easy enough, but certainly by day 7 I was starting to feel a bit disconnected and perhaps even a bit anxious. I attribute some of this to the fact that I was very out of the loop with regards to the Boston Red Sox, who just played and swept one of the more entertaining regular season series I've ever seen by the way against the New York Yankees, but regardless, if such feelings are common it does not bode well for the human race from a Wall-E/The Matrix/Terminator perspective.

8. Kangaroos Are Idiots
As a result of my summer '06 deer incident, I've neither sympathy nor patience for any living organism that thinks it's a good idea to run into a swerving car. As a result, the facts that we ran over more than one on this trip (read: 2) and that our tour guide, Barry, claims to have probably run over at least 300 in his driving career receive a disinterested "meh" from me.

7. The Australian Outback Is Amazing Looking. And Will Put You Right To Sleep.
It's a beautiful and obviously massive stretch of land. If you put on the right songs at sundown, you can have a surreal experience. But after that trip, where I would estimate 25 university students spent about 80% of their travel time dead asleep, I'd wager you wouldn't last 20 minutes.
video

6. The Stromatolite War Cometh
At one of the places we stayed, we were introduced to Stanley, who represented the Stromatolite Empire. While Stanley acted as a gracious host in giving us a tour of his people's breeding grounds (he told me exactly what they were but upon my realizing their true plans I decided I no longer cared for what they were, valued, or wanted, as our former President taught me to do) but made several cheeky comments with regards to the human race and its "wasteful" ways. Also, Stanley told us that his people have been around a lot longer than us and the picture below made it quite evident that they intend to come back to dominance.
Nonetheless, we stuck around on Stanley's pier, as we were treated to quite a nice sunset.

5. Emus Are Hilarious
In a laugh-at kind of way.


4. Aussie Flies Are Annoying
I suppose that would go without saying. However, flies here are certainly a bit more aggressive than I'm used to back in Massachusetts. They don't just buzz around you. They bounce into you over and over and over like the ultimate little brother that thinks it's funny and impressive to do so (sorry Dan, no offense. Think more when you were destroying the Lego sets, that's my point). I'd noticed this even just in Perth. Up north, there are about 20 of them per square foot. I don't even think that's an exaggeration. Yes, I spent much of the trip wearing a fly net.

3. Stuff Looks Cooler Red
I am now the proud owner of an authentic Bruins Outback Edition hat. It's neat, I think.

2. Karijini National Park Is The Most Beautiful Place I Have Seen and Likely Will For A Good Long Time
This was a part of the trip that I was certainly happy to take on but it was also a part that I was not overtly looking forward to. I suppose this is a good thing, as its sneaking under the radar to become the best aspect of my Australian experience thus far is better than if it had had to fulfill expectations, but in retrospect, I was stupid. Karijini is a huge area of land that is best denoted for its gigantic natural gorges. These gorges offer several trails to be hiked at varying levels of difficulty. Some of the stuff we passed along was pretty legitimately difficult hiking, though nobody died or lost any limbs which was a good thing. At the bottom of many of these gorges lie beautiful pools and waterfalls with water much cleaner and refreshing than you'd find in any swimming pool. I think my lasting image of the trip, arguably (see number 1 for its main competition), involved me leaning against smooth black rock walls while wading in a pool and looking upwards to warm sun seeping past the red upper edges of either side of the gorge; I did not get a picture of this. Perhaps it's better that way. Here is a picture from Karijini, though, taken while I was not in water and therefore my camera was not at risk of destruction.
Also, waterfalls feel good on your back.

And last but not least, coming in at number 1 and sounding much dodgier (dodgy=sketchy) than it actually is...

The Number One Thing I learned in the Australian Outback: When A Middle Aged Australian Stranger Thousands of Miles From His and Your Home Asks You To Walk Across the Bush To Party With Him and His Friends Who Are Away On A Camping Trip In An Area Surrounded By Sixty Square Miles Of Nothing, You Damn Well Get Off Your Ass and Do It.
While sitting around the campfire and enjoying a few drinks after dinner on an early night of the trip, a man came rustling from the woods behind us. Colby introduced himself to us as a man from Perth and, after striking up some casual conversation, asked if anybody would like to wander across the bushland to enjoy the night (again sounding fairly dodgy...) with him and his three friends, who were enjoying a week of mateship away from home. Most of our crew, save for two of our more adventurous who jumped right on the opportunity, were at first reluctant. They went with Colby and it was not long before we heard them belting out sing along songs from across the way. A short while later, Colby returned. He had brought his harmonica, and he played us some songs. Then we all sort of sat quietly for a few moments. Realizing the futility of the night if no other avenue were taken, I announced that it was time to get to Colby's. Upon arrival, we were quick to learn that Colby played the role of the goofy guy whose friends keep around for entertainment value (I don't think this is as demeaning a role as it probably reads). This was made particularly apparent when they all started to yell at Colby when he tried to take out his harmonica, saying things like, "I thought we sent you over there with that thing hey!" Nonetheless, Colby was very excited, and it is, as referenced above, arguable that my lasting image of the trip and my trip to Australia at large is Colby standing at the head of the deck with a beer in one hand and his harmonica in the other, his head cocked back and his arms spread wide and high, shouting lyrics to a great many songs at the top of his lungs while his friends sat around the table wondering how they'd come to be surrounded by ten or fifteen American university students. His friends included one aging fellow who seemed unwilling to discuss anything but politics unless he was busy singing along to Bob Dylan songs, a skeevy-looking fellow in the corner who I don't think I heard talk once, and a monstrous, monstrous fellow who likely stood about six-foot-seven and must have weighed two-hundred-eighty pounds and wore an AFL jersey. The last of the listed provided indirectly a particularly comical moment when he stood up, as it resulted in a friend of mine saying in seeming bewilderment, "You're a monster!" The night, as would be expected, became absurd quickly. As we entered the early morning, some friends rolled upon the ground while I went off and hit golfballs into the desolate northwestern Australian wilderness.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Halfway

This week marks the halfway point, which is interesting because it means that if you looked at my trip on a timeline, I will never be further from home.

As such, I thought I'd do a two-part halfway type of thing.

Part One: Things I Miss
Thus far, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Perth. There have been patches of homesickness here and there but they've become easy to fight off. It's like the chicken pox. The first one was tough to fight off but now when it comes it's nothing. Body just goes "SCREW" and it leaves. Having said that, there are definite things that I hold especially close from home that I already can't wait to get back to.

1. The Boston Red Sox
Now, I realize that I'm as separated from them as you all are what with opening day still a good six hours and seventeen minutes away (I will have the audio running myself...first Murdoch all-nighter). However, you've all gotten to enjoy, consciously or not, an amazing part of the baseball season, and that is March and the buzz and the anticipation of its beauty forthcoming. I will greatly miss living five minutes down the road during game day. This might be my favorite part of the Emmanuel school year, at least on campus. On game days, I'd often sneak out to Dunkin Donuts around six just to get a sense of the buzz in the Fenway area.

2. Dunkin Donuts
Coffee here is way better. I don't care, I can't wait for my first Dunkin iced coffee. I must save enough money so as to be able to enjoy one right off the plane in June.

3. Fort Awesome USA
Oh what a place to spend a night! It is not only a fort, but it is awesome. And based on pictures I've seen, it's been every bit as awesome this semester. I greatly anticipate my return to Ft. Awesome at some point within my first week of being home. A time will be had, and I imagine it to be a good one.

4. The Ol' Dylan
Ah yes, it is always the case that when I'm off to school for a semester that the dog is right up there on my missed list, and still he sits there when I am separated by so much. Dylan has, since my departure, acquired a companion, in the form of my mother's prized shih tsu, Franquie, and I can only imagine it being the oddest of couples. I anticipate seeing the interaction between these two.


5. Driving
Even if I found someone who'd let me try it, driving on the opposite side of the road would be quite a conundrum for me and so I likely wouldn't try it. My friend Jess won't give me her car despite two months of nagging, so it probably won't happen anyway.

6. The Boston Globe
Only because it looks like it won't exist anymore by the time I'm back. Heh. Good call on career choice, self.

7. The Jean Yawkey Center Front Desk
This is a weird one and one I could not have foreseen. But that job was a fun job through which I met quite a number of new people last semester, and I reckon I anticipate returning to it in the fall.

8. Friends and family
Yeee.

Part Two: Things I Like
There is much greatness here. If everything was great, there'd be no great. Nonetheless, the level of great is through the roof. So while not everything is great, I'd call the greatness concentration quite palpable. Like orange juice with a really thick pulp.

1. Fremantle
Freo is my favorite thing here, I think. It is a little port city a ten minute bus ride from me and about twenty-five minutes outside Perth. There are neat shops, and very interesting people that are always around. For instance, I'd many times seen the same punk rock mohawked fellow in a kilt around the town. Yesterday for the first time, I saw him playing bagpipes in front of a good sized crowd. There is also somebody who looks like he's out of Shakespearian times that I'd seen a few times looking strange on the streets before he served me a beer at Little Creatures. Little Creatures is a terrific brewery that sits right on the water. When I chose to come to Australia, one of the thoughts I kept coming back to was that I'd spend time sitting on a harbor drinking beer and spending time with people, or perhaps on my own with a journal. Granted, I was reading The Rum Diaries at the time. Nonetheless, Little Creatures has allowed for this to happen a few times. Also, Freo is home to the Fremantle Markets on weekends. There is an extensive series of shops and food in a big dome right at the foot of the city. To exhibit some of my personal geekiness, I would liken entering the markets to entering a town in a video game whence coming off the world map. There are lots of other neat things in Freo I have not yet seen but do intend to in the next 2.25 months.

2. Warm Weather
I will be pining for snow by November, but this past winter sucked and I was very happy to escape it. There has been exactly one not-so-nice day since I've been here. Climate-wise, I'd consider Perth borderline perfect.

3. Oi
Oi is a quintessential Australian term. I do not say it and would not dare, given said quintessentiality and the fact that I do not encompass it. However, hearing it is quite delightful.

4. Not Having to Care About Schoolwork
It doesn't effect my GPA. That rules.

5. Laid Back Attitude
Everyone you meet in Australia is extremely...chill. For lack of a better term. No offense to the term. Really, it's a compliment to it. It's the only one that works here. You just have to say hey to about anyone and boom, there's a friendship. You try that on the T in Boston and awkward stares are best case scenario.

6. Animals Everywhere
Sometimes there are lizards. The other night actually I was chilling out in my room with the door open and the flat door also open and I looked up and there was a possum chilling out by my trash can. I said "YOU'RE A POSSUM" and he ran off, unfortunately.

7. Kangaroo
Different from 6, because here I reference deliciousness. I'm told it's very touristy to eat it. This doesn't bother me.

There's a lot more but I'm very hungry and wish to cook dinner. So yes, I suppose there's a conflict of emotions. I look forward to my return but because it is on a set date that is set, I will enjoy every second I have to experience until then.

I kick off the second half on Friday with a ten day excursion to the Northwest, first traveling up the coast for quite a ways before heading inland and experiencing the famous Aussie outback (read: not steakhouse). That'll be excellent; I will give a recap of the trip upon my return.

Cheers.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Fremantle v Western, 29/03/09

It isn't entirely uncommon that people note their surprise in hearing what a sports fan I am, and some friends even find it odd or perplexing. I very much enjoy sport (and believe that within twenty years it will be studied in universities as a humanity) for a number of reasons that would be very difficult to explain outright. I think an example is the best thing I'd be able to muster, and I've recently had such an experience that likely serves adequate to chart my enjoyment of sport, or really, all public competition (see: politics, which ironically is probably every bit detachment and escapist competition that sport is). Sunday I went to opening day for the Fremantle Football Club (they were the Fremantle Dockers before a lawsuit v Pants) of the Australian Football League. Still, everyone knows them at the Dockers. Their logo is an anchor, and the news and whatnot still say Dockers. Good, pants be damned, I say in this one. Essentially the same argument as MLB vs Cape League over team names, but a bit more inter-disciplinary. Anyway, it proved to be quite an experience. I will document it here.



Fremantle hosted the Western (in reference to Western Melbourne, Victoria) Bulldogs yesterday at the Subiaco Dome, home to both the small market upstart Dockers and the posh West Coast Eagles, who are quite a bit more popular around the region. Market comparison between Freo and West Coast (read: not Western. West Coast is team they share the Subi with, Western is team they played this night. Slightly confusing.) might be San Francisco to Oakland. Freo finished last season third from the league's cellar. Western (now we're on the Bulldogs, the night's opponent) meanwhile is an interesting case. Apparently they're small market. However, the fan base they do have is rabid. I sat near a supporter tonight and he was loud, though very friendly. They also came in third place last year, putting them into the current manifestation of the upper echelon. They had a lot of fans traveling from Melbourne. I'd probably say the Medlbourne team seriously gave the host Perth team a run for their money crowd-wise, perhaps 60-40, the advantage to the Dockers.



I arrived at the game early by virtue of extremely convenient public transportation timing. I thoroughly enjoyed my trek on the train and bus though. It starts when you get to the first stop and see a few people in the purple, or whatever the team color is. Then with each stop it begins to fill up. Stop by stop you're surrounded in it, the sea that a fanbase represents. When it gets big enough they even say nation. By the time you get there you're a unit, everybody is getting off at that stop and you're all making your way in one direction as a single entity. It's especially interesting on Opening Day. It's been a long summer in football, basketball, hockey and footy (AFL terms) terms, winter in baseball, etc. There's an anticipation, even for a team like Freo, of wonder and hope. It sounds stupid, but it's new. The whole thing is new, and sometimes it turns out to be an epic and great narrative like the Red Sox gave the Yankees and history in 2004, or the greatest ever told, like the Giants gave the Patriots in the early days of 2008. You get plenty of just good stories too. Like the Rays last year. Or the Celtics. Or individual stories like Jon Lester's cancer comeback or Josh Hamilton's comeback from cancer-causing agents (though what isn't?). And players that are superstars by the end of the season that nobody's heard of now. Or just spectacular single games in the long season. For a new fan, there's the adventure of discovering the game. And for the old, the experience of coming back to it.

I got there with plenty of time to take care of the essentials of arrival at any new ballpark. I walked around the outside and felt the hustle and bustle of getting around and getting in. I bumped into people (literally and not at all figuratively) and walked through security guard checkpoints. I also got a feel for the stadium on the inside. They all tend to be the same. Concrete and dim but hosting an enjoyable atmosphere. This was the same at the Subiaco Dome. You can stick with it for only so long before it becomes logical to check out the seats.

IFSA set us up pretty well this time. I found the printing for my section and moved through and out this designated tunnel. Immediately, the grass struck me. This is especially neat for a person seeing the given sports' field the first time, however, it is always a great image regardless. To arrive at the site of the battle. The Fenway green, the footy field, massive and oval in its span and quite green itself, the Colliseum in Roman days. Crazy people, I'd reckon. I followed the bleachers to my seat. I kept following it. Usually I don't realize where the numbers on the ticket are particularly taking me until I've gotten there. Like buried treasure, X marks the spot. When I look up, I realize how the seats are. I mean, you can look at the maps online or on the program, but there's no actually knowing how the view will work for you until you get there. And it's definitely the case that view is secondary to atmosphere and crowd, too. The seats IFSA got us were second row and just off behind a set of goals. They proved quite solid.



This period of time in a match invokes some serious emotion. There is a building anticipation even as the stadium is still mostly empty. There is music blasting. Oftentimes the music is bad (though I always commend the Red Sox on their selection, they do pretty well) but you still get into it while you watch the players warming up well before game time. They are joking around with each other and you get to see them at the most personal you likely will that night. And it's the anticipation and excitement of the game, and in Sunday's case the season, to come. It's much more pure than the typical "GETTING PUMPED" feeling. It's just excitement and the understanding that you are in for a spectacle. I'd imagine that many people have fallen in love during this portion of an athletic experience.

Before the rest of the IFSA folk came along, I participated in another excellent aspect of game attendance: I got to know the neighbors. Seated to my left were a middle-aged man and his nephew who'd just flown in from Melbourne, a Bulldogs fan. The uncle was a West Coast Eagles fan and had no investment in the match but to protect his sister's son from being assaulted by Freo fans. The youthful Bulldogs fan was already yelling obscenities in a very loud voice during warmups. The uncle gave his nephew a lot of guff, which was fun to watch. I suppose that that's the Aussie way, I've picked up on. The more you're made fun of, the more they like you, and these guys were family. But anyway, the older fellow, who played the game non-professionally in his youth, was great. He helped me understand what I didn't already about the game and taught me things to yell and how to act and react throughout the game.

The park continued to fill over the next hour and a half, getting louder and louder and then louder still as the original loudness's coming on required that everybody up their voices a bit. The game started at 4:10, and around 3:55 the buzz of an incoming game was taking over the park. By the time we got to 4:09, the players had taken the field and the umpires were preparing to get the game started. The Oval was loud in the last few moments of the offseason until the ball was bounced and both game and season were on.

It's something to see a sport live for the first time. It gives you something that TV and Youtube can't, and that's a really up-close understanding of not just the workings and physicality of the game but also the tactics and strategy. Footy is an interesting game. I'd liken it to several of the American/American-known variety, but it's totally unique...In any case, I'll give it a try. It has the violence of football (American), the constant movement of soccer, the reliance on finding wide-open space of hockey, and a scoring system not totally unlike Quidditch, minus a snitch and quite different so not really like it at all. Two teams fight over a ball, when they have it they can advance it by hand-balling it (essentially volleying it) or punting it. Like lacrosse, you are true to your position, meaning the guys up front can't go back and vise versa. You can run with the ball, but if tackled, it's a turnover. Turnovers otherwise come as a result of poor volleying or strips. It's a turnover-centric game, like Ultimate. At the end of the field, there are four poles in a line. The middle poles, if the ball is kicked through, get you six points. The two outer sets get you one point. That's all I'll say for the game's technical aspects.

There was excitement in the air as Freo got out to a fast 13-0 start, including the first goal of the team's top prospect and most highly-touted draft pick, the 18 year old Stephen Hill, which started Freo's season scoring and his own career-spanning narrative. The nephew-Bulldogs-to-my-left fellow was yelling things such as "Rubbish! Unacceptable, Dogs!" However, this fell apart. By the end of the first quarter, Western was on top by a wide margin. I suppose I just skipped a big part of the story, but that's part of what I love about sport too. You lose yourself to it. It's very organic. It's like the grass and the pitch consume you body and mind entire and time goes out the window and it's the game, just the game, that takes you to later hours. Anyway, by half-time, the Bulldogs were up by 41, and their fans were the only ones making noise.

Halftime is a good thing because it counteracts what I just described. It's a moment to break away from the consumption of the game and go get something to eat or shake yourself back into reality and have a casual conversation. It serves the same purpose of comic relief and it is a good thing for doing so.

The teams came back from the half and the Dockers started playing well. They were outhustling and out-thinking Western and it was showing on the field even before it started to show on the scoreboard. Then, as these things tend to, it started showing on the scoreboard. They went on a run, scoring frequently. Before long, they had brought their deficit from 41 to 16, prompting loud strong words from my Western-supporting neighbor and lots of noise from the Freo fans. The goal that brought it to sixteen created a stadium-wide wave of purple as the fans jumped from their seats in a roar.

And that was the height of it. That was all there was to celebrate for Dockers fans. In the fourth quarter it fell apart entirely. Western scored frequently at will, their fans began singing songs, and they won by 60. Freo fans hurried out of their own stadium quietly while the Bulldogs were able to celebrate nationalistically on enemy turf. The sea of purple swept out the Oval and through the streets with quiet and humble smiles on their faces. Hey, they were there, and they still wore their hats and their jerseys and their scarves with pride. Hey, they saw their team play on opening day. Hey, it was silly to think they'd end up atop the standings this year anyway (and somewhere in the back of their head a voice is telling them it was only the first game anyway and there were positives to be taken) but at least it's back. The game is back. The players are back. The Dockers are back. And the sea makes its way onto the buses and the trains and it splits up more and more as the routes get further and further away from the stadium until the sea is a sea no more.

So what have I described here? A blowout wherein a good team destroyed a bad team. And still what? An experience that I will always hold close to me. Like I said, I cannot with ease describe exactly what it is I love about sport. But when I am near it, I know that I am taking in an experience that is much more meaningful than muscle-heads in silly costumes trying to assert testosteronal dominance. No, it's something more than that. It's the smells and the sights and the sounds and the rise of the wave when things are going good and the looks exchanged when things are going bad. It's all that there is to the game and what the game is to the community and what all the games are to the world at large. Whatever the reasons are for my affinity for sport, it is through footy and the Dockers that I've been able to realize it once more and for this I understand it, even if I can't describe it, all the more.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

O Bunbury Town

I spent parts of 5 days, all of 3 days, and 4 nights in the town of Bunbury last week. It is a major industrial city by WA standards. This is a bit of hyperbole on its own, but it is worth noting that a town (Cape residents or visitors think Hyannis-sized) whose suburbs total 100,000 residents is considered one of the biggest cities in the state. It is for reasons such as this that Perth is considered the most isolated city in the world.

Bunbury was neat. Seeing dolphins was a priority for my friend Marissa and certainly a point of interest for myself. However, on the day we set out to see dolphins, we were struck by the worst rain that our humble host, Leon Kneebone, described as the most he's seen in years. We still went to a dolphin museum and drank coffee, but there were no dolphin sightings. I should see them, though, in a few weeks when I set out for the outback and the great Northwest.



This is Back Beach in Bunbury, located in the back of the beach. We went there on a cold day by Aussie standards but it proved to be a nice experience. The water was very fun - some of the waves were massive and most were at least good for a bump around. There were also some really cool areas on the beach. For some reason I became transfixed with this spot, a little inlet into a jetty that waves crashed into save for said inlet, which drew the water in. I took several pictures of this.




We also climbed a look out tower and were, thus, able to look out at the town below us. Bunbury is slow, as may be gathered by its aforementioned small size in spite of its city status. First I thought Sydney was slow, but I hadn't seen anything until I saw Perth, and then I thought Perth was slow, and then I realized I didn't know slow until I saw Bunbury. And I still don't know slow because in a few weeks I'll be rolling through small towns built upon red sand with a general store and a pub and a few houses. That'll be slow.








After spending days seeing the town and going to the beach, nights were spent watching movies and relaxing and enjoying living in a house with a family. There was barbecue to be eaten and relaxing to be done and dogs to share existence with, which is always a positive experience. We watched a great Aussie TV series on DVD (I was shocked to find they exist at last) called Summer Heights High that I first thought would be very gimmicky and potentially dumb because it features one guy playing three different characters in a Mockumentary about an Aussie high school. However, it is very well done and actually gets a little bit heavy while remaining hilarious throughout. There was only one season as it was cancelled for its edginess and it's only 8 episodes so if you're looking for something to do and watch and have 4 hours to kill I definitely recommend watching it online.


I call this one Kneebone and The Orb.


Bowser

and


Tara


Leon's father, henceforth Papa Kneebone, distills his own burboun and it is delicious.


We returned back to Perth Saturday evening. This was a strange experience. It felt like coming home. It was bizarre and a bit surreal for the place I had spent months and months waiting to visit had come already to feel like home. It was a good thing and I liked it.

I leave you with the Bunbury town anthem, written by a remarkable individual. Fare thee well until next time.

O Bunbury Town O Bunbury Town
Well I've been up and I've been down
And when I get to Bunbury Town
I shall not ever wear a frown

Monday, March 16, 2009

I DONT WANNA PUT A STINKIN TITLE

At instances, I am struck with a sudden sense of awareness. Where everything flashes forward in front of me. Suddenly the paths taken are quite clear and there could be no other path because I have ended up where I am and that is the only place I could have ended up therefore. Sometimes such a rush puts me at great unease but other times it leaves me in a state of religious-like awe, and when I think about the fact that I am living life for a few months on the total opposite side of the world, slowly assimilating to a new culture that is definitively different from the one I know in the northeast of the United States, I am struck with such awe.

I don't have much to talk about this week. There was the Ultimate tournament. It was fun, I think. It was 2 days ago and my body is still in massive pain from the amount of frisbee played in 37C degree weather. It hurts to breathe. Team Happy Pig went 2-2, good for third place. In our last game, we were down 7-1 and came back and won to claim third place. That was cool. It was like the Celtics-Lakers game 4 last year in the finals. There was a part in that game where the Lakers faces went from: "Hey now, we're okay, we'll be fine, just a few points," to, even though the C's did not quite yet have the lead, "We're doomed." And by the time it was tied again it was all over. Our comeback was an immediate one, wherein we went from down 7-1 to up 8-7 at halftime. I had one play of significance during the turning of the tide wherein we turned it over just outside our endzone and they had an opportunity for a quick point and my guy got free from me for a second but I caught up to him and as the disc was coming to him I slapped it out of the air and felt good about myself, as a childhood brought up on youth soccer and little league will create a situation wherein athletic success yields self-confidence. Not really. But sort of.

There were two teams at the tournament, Sublime A and Sublime O, that borderline turned me off Ultimate though. They had been training since October for this tournament and had a monopoly on the tournament what with two teams. O is the B team. I tried asking the significance of the O and one of the A people gave me a dirty look and said, "That's a Sublime guys thing." Which leads me to the next point: They were all kind of assholes. They called fouls frequently and if you called a foul they'd argue it with shouts and took a sport that's supposed to be about fun and made it uber-macho-competitive and no fun at all. They were both extremely good teams, but they did not stand for what I consider Ultimate to be about. Made me miss SUC a bit, to be honest. SUC shall do anything but suck (har har har) this coming summer.

I in no way deserve to be on a break right now with 12 days off of classes. I have done one assignment thus far and it was quite a fun time. It feels too easy so far. I hope I am not trapped later. I am heading down south today for a few days. That'll be neat.

I think for next week I'll try and put up some photos. I have bought batteries and should be able to take pictures now. Maybe I'll do something real neat for next week's blog entry. Of the week. Adam's Weekly Blog Entry of the Week Which Displays a Strong Appreciation for Redundancy and Repetitiveness and Redundancy and Repetitiveness and Redundancy and Repetitiveness and Redundancy and Repetitiveness and Redundancy and Repetitiveness.

I hear it's getting warm in Boston. That's one of my favorite times in the city, when it starts to thaw and you can walk around it and everything smells good and baseball's in the air. I'll miss baseball quite a bit. These feelings border on homesickness but they aren't quite sad ones. Mostly it's just an appreciation for what and all thart is back there even as I enjoy myself here and continue to consider where I am and how I got here.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Bloggin' It Up

A large aspect of a semester abroad, at least I am told, is personal development, learning life lessons, etc. I have thus far learned one life lesson and it is this: If a pack of rowdy ten year olds do it, you have to too.

Such was my realization last Saturday as I stood at the edge of a cliff about forty or forty-five feet above water. Having already easily conquered the twenty-five foot plunge, it seemed natural to move up a bit. However, staring over said edge created feelings of uneasiness and terror that I was not quite familiar with and my mates, Josh and F. Yves, and I seemed poised to perhaps not attempt the conquer.

Enter the wee-folk. As we were exchanging uneasy glances, strong sounds of whooping and yipping and yapping came upon us and as we turned around we saw a massive herd of pre-teens jumping the fence to the cliff and without hesitation they ran to the edge and threw themselves off in a series of backflips and body contortions just like that. Again I shared glances with my fellow weary travelers but in this instance they were glances of an unwillingness to be so mightily shown up by humans half our age and size and so we jumped and it was spectacular.

On the way back I drank a liter and a half of iced coffee and that created sleeping problems that night, unfortunate as I was due awake at 7:30 AM to experience a day at Rottnest Island.

Rotto, as it's known, was a very neat place indeed with lots of things such as sand, trees, water, and oxygen. In truth, I don't much know how to describe the island...it is a small island about half an hour off the coast of Freo. Its circumfrence is about fifteen miles and in our day we covered it all by bike. This was mighty exhausting. There were a few stops, all for snorkling purposes. Snorkling was neat and I saw a few really neat looking fish, some of whom likely could have passed for characters in Finding Nemo despite the fact that the great film takes place on a coast opposite the one I have claimed as my own. There was also a part on the journey wherein we stopped to buy water. Also, we found one beach that was extremely secluded and off the bike path and we went down there to hang out and as it turned out there was a four foot snake that also wanted to hang out with us. Leon Kneebone, an Australian friend who we like to keep around, full of wisdom and knowledge, told us the snake may be very poisonous or it might be the not-poison kind. This was also the beach wherein my cell phone went for a swim and I am now enjoying a life liberated from what has become a limb.

I don't know...when it comes to Rotto my memories are more strongly connected to what I saw as opposed to what I did, and some of the sights were just incredible. Standing at the edge of a reef-cliff overlooking turquoise water that runs to the horizon until making a seamless transition into the blue sky and watching it all in front of me is what I'll remember most about that neat little place. Also, dolphin sightings were neat. Oh, and I also strongly recall having an incredible pizza craving all day that was satisfied upon returning before I passed out for twelve hours. I think I'll say neat again here. Neat.

My first spring break is approaching. I thought it'd be a bit boring given the fact that most of my American friends are heading off to the Great Barrier Reef or New Zealand and I really just can't afford any crazy treks like that, but turns out it'll be pretty great. I have my Ultimate tournament on the Sunday, have found an Irish pub to spend St. Patty's Day at, and will be spending the mid-week traveling south with the Kneebone and friend Marissa (should probably do a blog entry just to introduce the cast at some point) to Leon's hometown of Bunburry, which will involve seeing some neat beaches and lots of dolphins and also a train that has a store on it that sells coffee and pies. It should be a fun week.

I bought myself real food this week! No more isntant noodles etc. Steak and such is much preferable.

Yesterday there was a Crabfest half an hour south in Mandurah and I attended. Not too much going on really but it was cool to see a new place and there was some value to eating a crab at the Crabfest and Dylan bought two very small swords so that was intriguing. What else at the Crabfest...good ice cream I suppose. Hm, I guess there really wasn't much there. A band played the Power Rangers song.

Then I went out to Perth city at night to Northbridge which is the nightlife capital of the area but also considered extremely sketchy (I guess they go hand-in-hand). Great night, awesome time, will go back. I went to the bed while the sun was waking up, which was neat.

Evidently we have a new dog at home.

Now a riddle: What has 8 legs and spins a web?

Stay tuned for the answer!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ultimate, North of Perth, Classes

I suppose I've begun to reach the point of routine, which certainly isn't a bad thing. While order is slightly frowned upon within the vacuum of studying abroad, I am well aware that a semester, a beast in and of itself, is bound to develop a sense of rhythm and that is why weeks fly by and so much happens within 3-4 months but it seems like it spanned much less time. And so, routine is welcome not because it will kill time but because it will provide the backbone by which many, many more tales will span.

Ultimate has taken on a much greater role than I could have foreseen in my time in Perth thus far. Two Mondays ago I went out to play a pickup game (and busted my lip and knee open in the process, but that's beside the point) and got a good workout and some fun. I did the same this past Monday. Afterwards, one of the fellows who runs it approached me asking if I'd like to play on an area team, which would consist of practices on Thursday, competing for a chance to go to Nationals on March 15, which is right in my first study break --- this sentence is in danger of getting out of control but allow me to boast that in Australia, they like to do school for 4 weeks, 1 week off, school for 4 weeks, 1 week off, school for 4 weeks, 1 week off, finals --- when the majority of my friends will be spread out across Oceania and I'll be stuck in Perth with, until now, little to do, and the chance to brew my own beer. All of this sounded appealing, including the Thursday practices as Thursday is a pretty slow day around campus and I liked the concept of having something to do after getting out of my longest day of classes, so I jumped on.

An hour ago marked the conclusion of my first practice. I've been playing Ultimate for about 4 years now but never with much seriousness behind it and have never had a practice. It is a ridiculous workout. I am exhausted. I could fall asleep fairly easily right now. Perhaps I will shortly. My head also hurts. However, I'd like to think it will get me into great shape, and everyone I'm playing with seems pretty awesome. Also, I'd have quite a tale to tell upon return if I went to the Australian Nationals for Ultimate. So wish us luck for March 15.

What else...Ah, Sunday was a great time. I was taken around the Perth area by a friend of a friend from Emmanuel, Cindy and Alyssa, respectively. I at last saw King's Park, which I think is likely the nicest park I have ever seen. It is certainly better than anything I've seen in Boston. It has a few cleared areas, including a really neat bridge that looks out over the Perth skyline (and is about level with it, as the park is quite raised) and the Swan River, but most of it is bush and really neat. I was also shown some really cool areas a bit north of the city, including a park called Pingaroo where I saw about 30 kangaroos chilling out. Some were eating flowers at memorial sites. Cindy mentioned that most people leave plastic flowers for that reason, and that seems reasonable, as they were feasting on what they could find. I also was introduced to a really cool harbour plaza that I can't remember the name of, but it was quite neat. It was a good day with much to see and enjoy.

I have a terrible sunburn, though it's at last starting to tan, from a day at the beach last Saturday. Actually, it's not even the burn that's really so bad as it was the awkward pattern resultant of an extremely lazy sunscreen session.

Friday night was odd. I enjoyed it. That is all.

My classes are pretty enjoyable. My government class I am warming up to, likely because it's mostly theory at this stage. I suppose it's probably bound to become pretty dry at some point, though. Until then, I'll enjoy it. My other two classes are awesome. Screen and sound, which I originally thought was primarily screenwriting, is really cool and teaching me everything about moviemaking. It's already changed the way I watch movies. By the end of the semester I will have made a one minute movie, no dialogue allowed, and I already have some neat ideas. It will constitute 90% of my grade. I've enlisted the ol' Bradford to provide the score and I think what I'm aiming for will be right up his alley. Once completed, I will likely put that movie on my --- prepare for cheap plug --- NEW BLOG so if you wish to see it you can then. I am also already enjoying my acting class quite a bit. I read a fairly large part today for a decent sized play and the character was an intellectual jackass and it was a lot of fun; I got quite into it. Acting's something I've wanted to explore since high school and have never really given myself the opportunity so at last I am. My grade in that class will depend on my acting in a 10 minute play. So once again, I've really done quite well with classes, especially considering the 4 day weekend that comes out of them.

I think that's about it. On Tuesday, I had a great night in which I danced on a table, got in a fight with a barstool, and declared with vigor my plans for world domination (though I realize in retrospect that this is every great villain's downfall).

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Today

Ah yes so well today.

Today was unfortunately my first bout with homesickness. I'd felt tinges of missing home prior to today but prior to today I was able to sort of filibuster and then overpoweringly defeat the beast with good times and general excitement. Today I lost that control and there was a bit of an all-out homesick type of feeling. I'm a bit disappointed that it only took 2-3 weeks, though I believe that that's roughly normal.

It started early in the day, as I had to be up early for a class that I didn't know I had to be up early for until yesterday. I was up late last night so that wasn't a good combination. But it was after that class that things got a bit strange, as I was talking to my Government lecturer and she was saying how great it was to watch the election coverage and Obama's inauguration. And then when I mentioned that I was from Boston she told me that she had spent last month in Boston and couldn't stop talking about how great it was, mentioning several sites and alluding to the culture and whatnot.

But I was doing just fine for the rest of the day. Then I had a 3 hour class, which was a bit of a drag, and then I came back to the flat and was sitting around with my roommates and I really don't know what happened. I'm content enough, I suppose, to blame it on being overtired and having spent 5 hours in class today. But my heart area felt extremely heavy and I couldn't even look at my flatmates because I felt like such intense sadness must have shown in my face because it was consuming all of me. I just desperately missed home. I had to just get up and go to my room and I allowed myself to indulge in the feeling for a bit. I read a passage from All the Pretty Horses that I had the heavy, heavy misfortune of stumbling upon on the plane ride to this country (I always have terrible luck with things of that nature) (the book is terrific though and all should read if you have not already):

They were saddened that he was not coming back but they said that a man leaves much when he leaves his own country. They said that it was no accident of circumstance that a man be born in a certain country and not some other and they said that the weathers and seasons that form a land form also the inner fortunes of men in their generations and are passed on to their children and are not so easily come by otherwise.


At that point I questioned what I was allowing myself to do and I got myself out of the room and went to KMart and at last bought myself some pillows. Two, to be exact. After this purchase I felt much better about myself. The Marxist would likely argue that this has something to do with consumerism and arbitrary gratification, but I actually think it is more deeply connected to a suspicion that soon, hopefully, the crick that has developed in my neck over the last 2 weeks will be gone. I also think getting off-campus on my own for the first time was good, as it's generally something I enjoy doing in Boston. I also stumbled upon a newspaper page on the ground on the way back that had a big picture of the White House and that helped as well.

In addition, a well-timed phone call for some volleyball that never manifested but did result in some swimming in the pool that has recently been reopened (note: it was skinny dipping, turns out. And the question of how to deal with the security guards that came just to watch the skinny dipping but did not act and were subsequently also caught on camera.) and a couple episodes of 24 have me feeling significantly better and rather excited for what should be an action-packed 4 day weekend.

I don't know why I chose to share this but I felt like I should. Perhaps because if anybody else starts to feel homesick I can sympathize with what an intense, even overpowering, feeling it is. Also, likely because I think it best that I encourage all who have not yet done so to get pillows. The very thought of having pillows tonight brightened my mood tenfold. Finally, I think every good blog deserves a legendary and epic tale of adversity and vindication. Kidding, of course.

In other notes:

I have joined the Ultimate club and think I will thoroughly enjoy Monday nights at Murdoch with a disc and some good company.

I bloody love eating peanut butter out of the jar.

I am thoroughly enjoying, from quite afar, the A-Rod saga. I particularly enjoyed the 37 second pause in his press conference where he was trying so so so hard to force a tear before thanking (not apologizing to?) his teammates.

A job, I think I've at last decided, is a good idea and will keep me busy and introduce me to some people and I think I will go hunting for one tomorrow.

To end this on a positive note as is called for, here are some pictures.




Saturday, February 14, 2009

Stuff Going On Here

Happy Valentine's Day should be a question and not a greeting I reckon. I'll opt to present neither anywho and simply stop with that notion.

Well, life at Murdoch since last update is still quite neat. It's insane to me to think that I'm only half a month in. Still 4 months to go, which is longer than the 3.5 months of semester I am used to. Experiences will mount I am sure. However, thus far, I've already had plenty.

There's been a heat wave in Perth with temperatures reaching upwards of 40 degrees Celsius, roughly in the 110s F. It has made for plenty of time at the beach, aided by the fact that for some reason the pool is not yet open and won't be for a couple weeks. I've heard three reasons for this: some were caught smoking marijuana poolside, some were caught skinny dipping in the pool, and that the pool needs some piece that it doesn't yet have. I imagine the third is most likely but certainly not as entertaining.

I don't start classes until Tuesday, which will mark over 2 months since I've been in a classroom. While the break has been welcome, I'm excited to get back. Call me a nerd but the classroom is one of the places I feel most comfortable, plus I have terrific classes and they're only on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, none earlier than 11:30. I am taking Screen and Sound Production, Acting and Producing, and Australian Government and am quite excited.

I also have a number of writing projects going on right now that I'm quite excited about, including this blog. In addition I have two fiction stories with substance and legs, will be submitting something to the Boston Globe within a month or two, and have signed up to write for the student run magazine on campus, which should fulfill my father's desire that I have something published on this continent.

I continue to meet some excellent people. I've now met several Australians and multiple people from other countries as well as some neat Americans (it's interesting to note that just about every American I've met is very self-conscious about their Americanness; I actually find myself feeling the same way). I've made one friend who claims he can get me backstage to some concerts and will bring me to his friend's album release party which would be quite amazing. Even if it doesn't happen, the idea is exciting and that's half the battle or something to that effect anyway. I've also met two awesome Europeans who upon meeting seemed very suave and cool and all that jazz but after getting to know them I can vouch for their supreme goofiness and borderline dorkiness. Amazing what an accent can do for your image. They're very fun to hang out with, though. Not though. As a result.

Today was cool. I went on a bike tour in the Swan Valley, which is a bit outside of Perth and very, very rural. It is home to several vineyards and farms. The route being very scenic, I often found myself drifting off the road or into other people as I stared out at alpacas and sheep and vast vineyards and the mountains that once connected Australia to India and the red dirt and the awesome looking houses and the great number of images that just scream Australia. We stopped on the route at an awesome art house and cafe that, if it were closer, I would spend many hours at. I got an iced coffee. In Australia, coffee is very thick and iced coffee comes with vanilla ice cream. Apparently when Australians visit America they are shocked when they just receive cold coffee with ice. Funny I suppose.

Then we continued on to an olive oil factory where I learned how olive oil is made. Now I forget how. But the guy who ran it was pretty awesome and he had a cool dog. Also, his olives tasted delicious.

We biked back to our starting point and enjoyed a seven course meal with wine that resulted in supreme sleepiness and the nap I just awoke from. Next we went wine tasting and then to a chocolate factory. It was all a good time but, as indicated above, it put me right to sleep.

Quite a country they have down here. One thing that has me very interested in the early going from a political standpoint is the extent to which their Western base philosophy still allows for communal society. It nods to the notion of 'good capitalist' that is unfortunately not often seen in America and usually, as a result, dismissed as a myth. Australians, though, and with the exception of exactly one person I have met, hate discussing politics and moan and groan when they're brought up, so I will have to temper my enthusiasm.

Another thing I find interesting, but a bit shocking and perhaps even disappointing, is the amount of obvious racial tensions. The white people here say some things in generalization about the indigenous peoples that just would not fly in America. Like I said, it's a bit shocking and disappointing, but very interesting to observe, as I've grown up in an era where everybody is extremely careful with their words racially. To defend those of European descent here though, and with a tongue careful not to generalize, the heavy majority of Aboriginals, though not all, I have thus far encountered have been loud and foul, including one who threw her cigarette butt directly at my friend's bare shoulder. I hope to find that this is the minority, and again, I am very careful not to generalize (perhaps due to the aforementioned era?), but based on what I've heard, this is the majority. Sad to see, but I'll be interested in seeing what I can learn and gain from it.

Tonight, I will spend my Valentine's Day with some friends in Freo enjoying a beer or two and watching live music from a band that was extremely fun to watch last weekend. They're a cover band but they make every song they play very much their own with something of a blues base. The lead singer has an amazing voice and I think perhaps I'd make her my wife. Perhaps. P'haps, ho ho ho. Possibly not. Very talented singer is the main idea here, though, and all that need be taken away.

Yes, so I'd best get ready for that now. Just thought I'd get all ideas on non-paper before I forgot them.

Happy Valentine's Day?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Perthection

And now, settlement. I am in Perth, at last catching up with my thoughts of the last 10 months.

The transition to the Western Australian lifestyle was a bit more volatile than arrival in Sydney. This is perhaps due to the mindset of arrival in my new home away from home whereas Sydney was almost a vacation, a quick stop with no real future. I was a bit uneasy in moving in and associate this both with the aforementioned feeling of actually being here and the fact that as college life goes, I am not used to this. I have only studied in Boston, with easy access anywhere at any time and a serious sense of hustle and bustle. Murdoch is about twenty minutes outside of Perth city (I have not yet seen it) and ten from the harbor city of Fremantle (henceforth Freo). It is a very different lifestyle than I am used to as a student; in many ways, in fact, it is actually quite similar to Cape Cod I dare say. Probably a little bit more lively.

But it is a slow lifestyle, really laid back, quiet, and relaxed, and I've warmed to it quickly. The first night here, my IFSA friends, who are all terrific by the way and as a continuation to my most recent entry, and I took the bus into Freo and enjoyed a Saturday night in what is considered the "heart of Western Australia." It is indeed a neat little city with a lively pub and restaurant scene, nice beaches, and a wide open green park. It is also home to Perth's hippy population, which has made for some interesting people-watching and, hopefully soon, some interesting people-meeting.

The best thing to happen thus far in Perth was to befriend an Australian, a roommate of my friend Josh. She is a very entertaining first year student and has ridden me of fears of not getting to know many Aussies. I should get plenty of opportunity to get to know some of Murdoch's domestic students, which is terrific. In fact, I'm heading out shortly to spend some time with a few. I certainly don't mean to make Sonia sound like a tool by which I can access a new world - she is great and I am happy to have made her aquaintance genuinely, as a human being before an Australian.

Yesterday was spent grocery shopping in the early going before experiencing Cottesloe Beach. In terms of pure scenery, I don't think I've seen quite an excellent beach. Vast, bright white sand sits at the foot of the Indian Ocean. Calm and fairly waveless compared to my Sydney experience, the beach's water is nonetheless fantastic and makes for great floating and swimming water. Meanwhile, the beach, while extremely crowded, is very relaxing; I laid for quite some time just enjoying the sun and Perth's atmosphere (though perhaps not literally; ozone holes are unfortunate). Just past the beach across the street is a busy and exciting restaurant and pub scene that we chose not to experience just yet but will certainly enjoy in the coming months.

credit for image to perthwatours.com, as I forgot to bring my camera.

As a brief aside, the Perth public transportation system, aside from its early shutdown, is fantastic and has a thing or two it could teach the rest of the world, particularly with regards to cleanliness and keeping its riders informed about the chosen mode of transportation's whereabouts.

I have a massive financial decision ahead of me already, and think I will be making it to the affirmative, resulting in my spending ten days enjoying Australia's northwest, where I will have the opportunity to camp out under the stars in the outback and to swim with dolphins. It just seems extremely worth it and I will forever regret not taking advantage of such an opportunity if I don't. If it costs me a beer a day then so be it; experience is the priority.

I think that's about all for today. Oh, I danced traditionally with an Aboriginal group on the last night in Sydney, that was neat. I was a kangaroo evading the vicious dingo and eating while I could. Good times.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Arrival

There are several reasons I will not declare immediate, unconditional love for the country & continent of Australia. For one, I've not yet been here 48 hours, so who knows what could happen. Also, I haven't been to Perth, where I'll be spending my semester, yet; I've only seen Sydney. They are, I am told, night and day. I think the equation would work out something like this: Sydney/Perth = (New York - 100 points of uptightness)/(San Diego - 100 points of uptightness). Third, I haven't started classes yet. Finally, I have spent the majority of my time surrounded by a large group of Americans (most of whom are terrific, don't get me wrong), so I haven't had much indulgence in the culture.

Having said that.

This place rules. Thoroughly.

Just being here is, perhaps, the greatest high I've felt in eons. In fact, all feelings of anxiety, nervousness, and even borderline sadness that I felt in my last few days at home seem, at this point, entirely laughable.

Much to say. Bear with me.

Upon arrival, I was a little bit shocked by the lack of culture shock. That's some fun with words right there. I had prepared myself to be immediately homesick upon arrival, or even upon the plane taking off. In fact, I even acknowledged this to be the stuff of self-fulfilling prophecy and let it persist. But when the plane took off from LA and the captain and flight attendant were speaking in Australian accents and there were Australian magazines in front of me, all bets were off. I was pumped out of my mind. And when the captain announced there'd be a one hour delay, I fell asleep, making homesickness upon departure an impossibility. And when I woke up, still pumped.

And when we landed and went through customs and left the airport and I started to see Sydney, all awesome. Actually, the initial seeing of Sydney is part 2 of reverse culture shock. I was surprised by the amount of familiar stores around. I expected McDonald's and the gas companies, but was surprised to see Electronics Boutique, Subway, and Woolworths (AND STAY OUT OF WOOLWORTHS) (100 points to whoever names the movie. Keep in mind the exchange rate). For a little while, given this and the fact that I was surrounded almost exclusively by Americans for the first few hours here, it almost just felt like I was spending my time just going to Florida perhaps. Even the beach, beautiful and fun though it was, was not something unfamiliar to me.

The first little kick of "This is Australia" came when a little colorful (and apparently quite common) bird landed in a tree a few feet to my left.

Oh, screw that story: a tangent. Way before that bird, there was Phone Guy. Phone guy. Phone guy was terrific. Phone guy gave us phones and extracted forty dollars worth of prepaid minutes from us. But he introduced himself to us by, tangently (a tangent within a tangent mind you), letting us know that Australians love to drink in large quantities. And that he did too. Then he gave us phones. I don't know. It was funny.

Yes so bird was first hit of Australia. Many speeches the last couple days that connect the entirety of the Australian existence today to its development as a penal colony. It kind of strikes me as a movie where the antagonist can blame all his problems on daddy leaving home. The difference is that those movies are no good. This place rules. So I'll buy their story. Especially since the result, apparently, is a love for Jerry Seinfeld.

I like this place.

I've met everyone from my group that is going to Murdoch or University of Western Australia. Good people, I like them. We sort of fell into a fairly immediate rapport and nobody offends anybody too much it doesn't seem. Granted, there have been no shenanigans yet and it's early. But it seems like a good group.


Today was sweet. We had to get up early, so that wasn't great. But we went into Sydney from our camp ground (an aside: we've had an orientation with no icebreakers with which to speak. I challenge you to find any such orientation of a similar nature.) to go to a zoo and a harbor cruise. On the way into the zoo, I saw the harbor from atop a hill. I was transfixed. That was the point of reckoning. Seeing the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge and the skyline all right there over beautifully blue water was incredible. Incredible. I knew I was here then and the feeling hasn't left me yet.

The zoo provided an excellent tour of various Australian animals. I saw all the big ones. Kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, Tasmanian devils, MAYBE THE DINGO ATE YOUR BABY, wombats, emus, crocodiles, name it. Plus, it was a zoo, so I also saw gorillas and tigers and elephants and all that good stuff.

And the harbor cruise. Sweet lord. I have had maybe four or five moments in my life where I am just totally and completely content as the person I am where I am with who I'm with doing what I'm doing and would go on doing such with such as such there forever and ever amen. This cruise was one of them. Fantastic. Three hours on a boat on the harbor. Yes. I don't have words for it and I'm sure it sounds a little blaz-e (I don't know how to put an accent over it...) but it ruled. It just did.

And so I came to a little bit of an idea in my head. Yes, I like to look at this trip as me subjecting myself to the chaos. But even such a thought requires that I'm allowing a little bit of order into my domain, and I have always been a little bit goal oriented, so here's the goal. Since the day of the death of the dial-up, life has been ruled by the computer and technology. The second life becomes the first. Existence is primarily behind a screen with little interludes into the big scary world. It lacks sincerity and screams of the need for instant gratification.

No more!

I want to have the external rule me. These developments in technology over the last ten years are terrific, without doubt. Even beneficial to mankind, I'd say. But it needs to be the second life. It can't dominate the first, and I will allow for it to do so no more. I want to do it all. I want to surf (and will tomorrow) and I want to rock climb and to kayak and to go to museums and to be moving and moving and moving and enjoying. And by the time I leave here, this will be what has happened to me. I will live a real life and it will be good. No more everything inside. I will exist in the external and take the bumps and the bruises and love it. Life behind a screen is going to be put back where it belongs.

Something strange is happening here. I've immensely enjoyed the beach the last 2 days. The beach has bored me on Cape Cod for years.

I ate a burger today with pineapple, cheese, beet, fried egg, and onions.

Mayonaise, until 2 days ago, was my greatest fear in the world. Fear. Not I didn't like it. It horrified me. Too jiggly, I thought. It tastes good. Call me a sellout. I like mayonaise.

Something very strange is happening here indeed.

Godspeed.