I’m pretty proud of myself for sticking to the resolution I made a few weeks ago: that I would take advantage of Melbourne on my days off. Being that Brandon, Casey and I all have off on Tuesdays, it’s usually our outing day, and it’s normally a pretty good time. This past Tuesday, though, weird stuff kept happening. Strange surprises kept popping up that may or may not lead to two of your favorite American bloggers appearing on Australian news sometime soon… (Don’t worry, we weren’t arrested/doing anything illegal, I swear.)
Casey, Brandon, Liam and I all took an early tram in with the idea of going to the Queen Victoria Market and hitting up the Melbourne Museum. We’d all been to the market in March, but squeezing between souvenier-hungry crowds in 100-degree weather is actually perilous, so we didn’t last long that time. This trip was much more pleasant. I was able to score some sweet t-shirts for some friends, and I tried lamb for the second time in my life and actually liked it for the first time.
First odd event of the day: we’re walking to the museum, and up ahead I see a guy wearing the same hoodie as Liam…and he’s also wearing a similar messanger bag…and he has scruffy black hair…and dark jeans. I swear it was Liam three minutes in the future. So of course being the mature, 20-somethings we are, we dodgily ran to catch up with him. Brandon managed to snag a photo.
Onto the museum. The exhibit we went to see was called Drugs: A Social History. Looking it up online, it looked decent, but when we got there it was rather boring. Lots of non-exciting reading about side-effects, and even less about the sub-cultures formed around drugs, which is the interesting part. (I’m thinking the 60′s, Hunter S. Thompson’s writing, etc.) I was feeling grumpy and bored when this guy came in with a TV camera and huge light set which enabled me to take some Peter Pan photos on a blank wall:
But, quirky event numero dos occurred when a pretty lady with a microphone asked us if we wanted to be on SBS (think NBC in America) news! What. Of COURSE we wanted to be on TV! (Casey’s excluded in that statement.) She interviewed us seperately. Brandon went first, but it was too hard to hear what she was asking him, and I was too busy cracking jokes to Liam and Casey that I didn’t really think about the fact that I would have to be answering the same questions in a few minutes……on camera. So, naturally, when it was my turn to answer the sizzling, “So what did you think of the exhibition?” I tripped and fumbled over my words so badly that I essentially gave up and said “Oh my God I am BABBLING.” Andddd upon starting over….did practically the same thing. My one shot at Australian fame, and I blew it. Good thing I don’t have a TV and don’t have to re-live my own personal catastrophe.
After the museum we ended up in a cathedral right off Swanston Street. The name is escaping me, but it was a really interesting experience. I don’t believe in the Catholic church as a system of belief, but I think churches in themselves can be really beautiful. What made this one particularly interesting was the fact that down at the end of the aisle, where all the holy practices are conducted, sat a huge hunk of machinary. I think it was a crane or a lift of some sort. Whatever it was, I found it so curious. It looked like an alien that got lost or something.
The occupation of this thing in a space that’s considered sacred by so many people held me so captive for some reason. At first I thought it looked really unnatural and grotesque. Then the more I sat there looking at it, the more sense it made to me; it looked strange at first because it was so obviously man-made, and churches usually have auras of being more other-wordly. But then I though that the church and the actual religion itself are also constructions of humans, and the machinery began to look more at home in the space.
Few other pics I took in the cathedral:
Around the corner was this Opal store that Casey had a coupon for “a bag of rough opals” for, and after walking through a shady alley-way with a lot of sick graffiti, we found it.
So we walk into the place, and it’s really bright… and completely empty. We kind of just stood there for 30 seconds to a minute before a man in his late 50′s or 60′s came out, and without any introduction of any sort, said, “Let me show you how you refine opals!”
O..kay. We didn’t really have anywhere to be, so we watched and made small talk as he finely sanded a rough opal to a beautiful pearl color.
He had a ton of enthusiasm. Almost TOO much enthusiasm. He was crazy. about. opals. For some reason, (let’s say paranoia) I started constructing images of brutal torture in my head: him sticking our fingers in the sander, one by one…him conking each of us out with a huge slab of opal…Then he said, “Now I’ll show you my creatures!”
Excuse me, creatures? My imagination switched into high gear as he lead us into a darker room full of glass cages behind which were sitting various reptiles and insects. The kind of insects that kill.
“You know black widows you guys have back in the US?” he asked with a grin. “Well we have redbacks. Enough venom in this little guy to paralyze you on the spot!” I just stared at him. Then when he turned around to take out his scorpion (it was “tame”) I snuck a quick, wide-eyed peak at the others. Liam shot me a skeptical grimmace, and Casey and Brandon were slowly backing up.
After we were shown a python (named–you guessed it–Opal) and some lizard thing, we headed back into the light. After the owner went into the back room to grab something, I discovered I wasn’t the only one concocting psycho worse-case situations in her head. Brandon: “I know! I thought he was showing us the spiders so he could torture us with them later!”
In the end, it turns out that he was just super-friendly and passionate, and, once I realized he wasn’t going to kill us, I found him completely intruiging. He’s made millions in the mining of Opals all over Australia, and somehow, managed to avoid becoming a snob…though he made no secret about how much each of the Opals spread before us was worth. An opal literally the size of a pea carried a weight of several hundred dollars. IIII know. But some of them were amazing. Each piece of this one is worth thousands. I love it when nature does stuff like this. Blows my mind.
Before we left, the owner let us dig through his rough opal “mine” (a table with bits and pieces on it) for some scrap souveniers. Not quite the same as actually mining…but then again I’ve never been so who knows.
I feel like each part of this day was its own chapter in a weird story book. Maybe some day I’ll write the expanded version and market it to kids or something.
In other news, I bought my ticket to New Zealand today! Eight days of Lord of the Rings land, baby. We’re gonna rent a car and do sight-seeing that way.
Roughly a little over three weeks left in Australia. Yikes McGee.