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


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


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, 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


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.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

So Long Sandwich

You are boring but not evil. And you generally look pretty neat.

Pictures of Sandwich on Superbowl Sunday, the day before I flee the country.