Thursday, February 5, 2009


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.



    Gimme 100 for OBWAT.

  2. dude.

    i had mayonnaise yesterday too. what the fuck.

    (i didnt think it was gross, either)

    -Dan Rose.

  3. Shmads,
    I'm so glad to hear that you're loving things already. Remember to hug some koalas (but don't let them bite you). I can't wait to read more of your adventures.