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.