Trippy Tuesday

Posted by Katrina at 9:46 am on Thursday, May 22, 2008
Filed under Australia,General,Melbourne

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.

First, Liam: n27904471_32194745_7700.jpg 

His bizarro twin: n27904471_32194719_9895.jpg

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:

 n27904471_32194736_4934.jpg  n27904471_32194739_5846.jpg

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:

n27904471_32194757_1551.jpg  n27904471_32194759_2216.jpg n27904471_32194761_2875.jpg n27904471_32194762_3212.jpg

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.

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Kissing Families.

Posted by Brandon at 6:10 am on Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Filed under Australia,Melbourne

I don’t know why I haven’t mentioned this until now, but I have a few relatively distant relatives here in Melbourne, Australia.  My grandma’s cousins, who lived across the street from her growing up in Italy, settled in Australia after World War II.  They’ve lived in Melbourne ever since.

When my grandma’s cousins, my Zia Maria and Zia Teresina, found out I was studying at Victoria University, they jumped at the opportunity to be the hospitable Italian women I imagined them to be.  So far, Casey and I (I got to bring a friend) have gone to Zia Maria’s house twice for dinner.  Both times the meals were pretty elaborate.  This past Sunday she made homemade gnocchi bolognese, veal cutlets, potatoes, salad, and cake.  It was absolutely delicious.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.  You know yours is, too.

After Zia Maria found out I had my gross stomach virus incident earlier in the semester, she made it VERY clear that if I was in that situation again, she’d be here to take me to the doctor.  It’s really comforting to know that I have family so close by, even if they’re my 4th cousins (or something really distant of that nature).  Hopefully I’ll see them before I have to leave Australia!  They’ve been a big part of my Melbourne experience.

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Down on the Farm

Posted by Katrina at 1:09 pm on Friday, May 16, 2008
Filed under Australia,Melbourne

So as you may have read on Brandon’s blog, this past weekend we took a little roadtrip out to good ol’ Swan Hill. Even though I’d never been there before, it gives you the feeling like you’ve known the place all your life. I think it was the way Liam’s family took us in so graciously and generously that did it.

Whenever you go to someone’s hometown it’s like chiseling a little bit away at another layer of them that you couldn’t get to before.  I guess since I’d only known Liam in the context of Melbourne, I had him pegged as a city boy. But it was really curious to see the dusty country roads he’s driven on, the trees he’s climbed as a kid. I mean, the kid had a pet kangaroo that was fed with a bottle and slept in a pillowcase hung from a doorknob.

 Anyway, start of the trip:


A long car ride is always do-able when you have good friends and Britney Spears’s greatest hits. Not to mention some pretty fantastic scenery:

n27906457_32164908_8206.jpg  n27906457_32164903_7137.jpg  n27906457_32164909_8437.jpg

So we get to Liam’s, and we’re greeted by two of his (many) dogs, a home-cooked meal and tons of questions from his parents. Wouldn’t have had it any other way. After we digested, Liam’s dad took us out in the “triton,” which is their big, bad Australian country truck, and we went spotlighting. We were all a little dubious about what this even meant, but we soon learned it meant heading out into a field in the pitchest black the sky has to offer, and using a gigantic flashlight’s beam to find kangaroos. And kangaroos we did find. I felt pretty satisfied with myself after the trip to Healseville, but nothing, and I mean nothing,beats chasing kangaroos around a field in a truck.

After that bit of exhileration, we took some time to relax before bed. Now, I’ve been in some cozy rooms before, but Liam’s living room takes the cake: wood-burning stove, hand-quilted crafts galore, multiple couches and recliners. And my favorite, platypus coasters:


Of course we got Liam to break out the baby pictures.


The next day we went into the town of Swan Hill and hung out with a giant fish.


And we also went down to the Murray River, which (according to Liam) was at a lot lower than it has been in the past because of the drought.

 s27906457_32164922_1544.jpg   s27906457_32164927_2863.jpg

 All of Australia is really into water conservation, but I didn’t really realize how important it is until I saw the state of Swan Hill. Everything just looks bone dry and brittle. Liam’s dad is really up on his info about conservation and sustainability because of everything they’ve had to go through with the water situation.

After coming home from town, we meandered around the farm for a while. The sun came out and turned everything golden instead of the muted gray that had been lingering around. Beautiful:

   n27906457_32164940_6581.jpg  n27906457_32164937_5707.jpg  n27906457_32164939_6276.jpg 


We also checked out some scenic foresty locations. This one especially reminds me of Peter Pan:

n27906457_32164933_4558.jpg n27906457_32164934_4853.jpg  n27906457_32164932_4252.jpg

On the way home, since the streets were pretty much deserted, Liam agreed to give Tracy, me and Casey a lesson on stick shift! That was good fun, let me tell you. My past experiences with manuel have only involved a quad (or ATV) my brothers picked out, snow, and stalling every time I tried to start the thing. So when I got it first try, I was supremely pleased with myself. Likewise, Tracy and Casey did as well. Achievements all around.

Later, we also saw a baby lamb 20 minutes after it had been born. Disgusting fact: after the baby is born, the mother licks the placenta off of it in order for her body to create an enzyme or nutrient that nourishes the baby when it feeds. Yeah, I’m glad I didn’t see that part. But look! Cute!


That evening, Liam’s aunt and uncle came over and we had a long, lively BBQ dinner. Points of discussion: climate change, Vegemite (which Liam’s dad stuck on a spoon and made me taste-BLECH), American elections, accents and much, much more. It was like a mini Thanksgiving.

I hadn’t really thought about the feeling I get from being with my family in a while. I was always aware of missing my parents and my brothers and my big family parties (I have like, 40 cousins altogether). It kind of just fades into a dull miss; it’s not something I feel at every second, but I’m usually conscious of it. But being with Liam’s family was one of those rare times when I think, “Wow, they’re on the other side of the world right now.” And I miss them pretty badly.

But enough sap. I only have a few more weeks left here, and being sad is a waste of time.

Stuff coming up to look forward to:

-being done with classes

-trip up north to Cairns in early June (white water rafting anyone? or bunji jumping?)

-New Zealand!! on the way home.

First I just have to get through the massive black cloud that is having four final papers due in early June.

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Feels Like Home.

Posted by Brandon at 1:00 am on Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Filed under Australia,Melbourne

I’d first like to preface this entry by saying:  Yes, I do realize both this post and my previous one’s titles contain the words “feel” and “like.”  They just happen to accurately describe what’s going on in my head, OK?

With that said, I can move onto the heart and soul of this update.  This past weekend, Katie, Tracy, Casey, Liam, and myself all went on a magical 5-hour journey to Liam’s farm.

Our trip began with a woundrous, Britney-Spears’-greatest-hits-filled sing-along, as well as a stop at McDonald’s, as every important voyage should.  Because we weren’t able to hit the road until 4pm on Friday (we all had class), our main objecitve was to make sure Liam didn’t fall asleep at the wheel.  Thankfully, we achieved our goal and no lives were lost.

We arrived at Liam’s home town a little after 8:30pm on Friday.  He gave us the grand tour of his household, and we got to meet his mom, dad, and brother.  We were greeted with an amazing home-cooked meal, something I haven’t had in quite some time, a hug from Liam’s mom, and a handshake from his dad.  But don’t be deceived; although they live on a farm, these people are NOT country.  His parents both at one point lived in Melbourne, so they’re not what you’d expect for people living in a rural location.

After a delicious meal, Liam’s dad asked us if we wanted to go “spotlighting.”  I had no idea what this meant, but I was soon to find out.  The six of us squeezed into a 5-passenger truck (but not without some trouble closing the door).  We brought along with us a really strong, large flashlight-type device.  At first we just drove around the farm a little, seeing what the property was like.  Liam’s dad shone the flashlight on the arid land, showing us where crops once existed before the drought.

Then we hit the road.  We drove into wide open fields in search of kangaroo.  In the beginning we had absolutely no luck, and then I heard Liam shout, “Dad!  Look, there’s one!”  His dad FLOORED it.  Now, in traditional “spotlighting”, the kangaroos are shot.  I was grateful we were only chasing them.  Nevertheless, it was easily one of the most exhilarating things I’ve done in Australia.  Being out in the wild and watching kangaroos in their natural habitat is something I imagine very few Americans get to experience.  These animals are absolutely beautiful.

When we got back to Liam’s house, we were so tired that we felt as if we’d been chasing the kangaroos by foot rather than by car.  We relaxed in Liam’s living room for a little while, and watched Friends (yeah, I know, a quality “Australian” program).  Liam’s mom brought out a dish of candy and said goodnight.  We finally climbed into our respective beds and fell fast asleep.

For a little while I had forgotten I was on a farm.  And then our deep slumber was interrupted by Liam’s sheep herding dogs early in the morning.  Yeah, he has SHEEP HERDING DOGS.  This is so unusual for me, but equally amazing.  We got ourselves out of bed and took a 45-minute-ride into Swan Hill, the town closest to Liam’s house.  The town itself is really pretty.  It kind of reminds me of a small Long Island suburb.  But then again, I tend to relate everything to my hometown.  I think it’s some subconscious desire to feel at home.  That’s kind of deep.  Anyway, we stopped at a store so Liam and his sister could pick up a mother’s day present for his mom, and then found a cafe to eat breakfast at.  Afterward, we drove past Liam’s high school, which I decided was entirely too pretty to be a high school.  We also saw the river, a big fish (of which I failed to understand its significance) and a historical area, all of which were stunning.

(Liam’s high school)

We drove back up to Liam’s house and he took us to the river closer to him.  It was so pretty, even though the water level was really low.  It’s kind of sad to see such an important natural resource diminish like that.  Liam’s dad has a really great outlook, though:  “What can you do?  You change.  You adapt.”  Smart man.

Later that evening Liam’s extended family came over and we had a big barbecue.  It was, yet again, wonderful to have a home cooked meal.  And this one was a feast.  We answered a lot of conversations about ourselves and our hometowns, and soon got to talking about more serious things, like American politics.  It was interesting to hear an Australian perspective.  I’m kind of ashamed about the fact that these people knew so much about our presidential race, and yet I can’t even name the current Australian prime minister.  But anyway, it was a real great conversation.  The meal was seemingly never ending, but it finally wound down, and we got our stuffed bodies into bed.

The next morning was Mother’s Day!  I didn’t even occur to me until we got to Liam’s house that we might be intruding.  To help counter this fact, we went ahead and bought pancake mix, eggs, and bacon.  We woke up early and cooked Liam’s family a big meal to thank them for being so hospitable toward us over the weekend.  Soon after that we packed up our things and were once again on the road.

Getting back to the village was mildly depressing.  The entire weekend was a small taste of home.  Don’t get me wrong; I am not for one second ready to leave this place.  But being with a family is a warmth that isn’t easily forgotten.  Hopefully we can return back to Liam’s farm before leaving.  I feel as if I’ve acquired new family members after this weekend, and I want to be able to say good bye.

That’s all for now.  Until next time, peace, love, and congratulations on finishing up the semester all you New Paltzians.

P.S.  I don’t mean toot my own horn, but I love these pictures so I wanted to include them:

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A day with Dife, Casey and some roos

Posted by Katrina at 9:55 am on Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Filed under Australia,Melbourne

Be fore-warned: this is a long one, folks. Read at your own risk of developing ADD 

 So before I get to today (which was A+), let’s travel back to say, September of this past year:

I’m sitting in Professor Miraldi’s Muckraking class on one of the first few days of the fall semester.  It’s hot, even for September, and I’m waving what was probably the syllabus in an effort to facillitate some ventillation in the stuffy, third-floor room. Miraldi is up at the front of the room, energetic as usual despite the heat, when he asks a question of the guy sitting behind me.

Being lazy, I don’t bother  turning around and continue to fan myself until something peaks my ears’ interest: the accent coming from the guy behind me is unmistakably Australian. (Keep in mind, this was right after I had decided I was definitely going to study in Australia. I may have even picked up the application that day, who knows.) I turn around slightly to get a peak at the foreigner: pretty friendly looking. I decide I’ll try and talk to him sometime about Australia.

“And what’s your name again?” asks Miraldi.

“Dife,” says the guy behind me. It must be some cool Aussie name, I think. The class continues.

Fast forward a week or so: Professor Good decides to hold Press in America outside under the shade, the kind of rare treat no high school teacher would bestow upon their students. Dife’s also in this class. Today’s the day, I decide, to sidle up to him and propose a chat about his hometown. Dife takes my number and I tell him to call me when he has a few minutes to spare.

Few days later, I get a text message from an unknown number: “Heyya Kt…wucha up to this evening?” (or something to that extent) This has to be Dife, I think, but let me make sure: “Hey…this is Dife right?”

And now for the point of the story, the text message I get back: “Ha, well you can call me that if you like….but my name’s Dave.

If you’re not cottoning on, try saying “Dave” with an Australian accent. Go on, most likely no one’s in the room with you. Try it. SEE? Dife.

So goes my first experience with a real Australian accent. Yes, it was utterly embarassing. (Even more so when Dave showed up to my friend’s art show and because I’d told everyone about it, was greeted as “Oh yeah, Dife!”)

So it turns out that Dave was studying in New Paltz for a bit, and he was from the school I was to attend in Melbourne. Now that I’m here we really haven’t seen each other all that much. But today however, he was kind enough to escort Casey and I to Healseville, an animal sanctuary an hour outside Melbourne. And yes, I FINALLY saw a kangaroo.

To start things off: the drive there was actually really pretty. I always thought Victoria was pretty much flat for some reason, but nope!

Dife himself:


This is a dingo. Maybe it ate your baby. (Seinfeld, anyone?) Anyway, it made me miss my pups.


Drumroll please: here come the kangaroos! I thought its top paws looked weird at first, but dismissed it. Then Casey pointed out that those paws actually didn’t belong to the big kangaroo, but to the little joey she carried in her pouch!

n27906457_32151300_81.jpg n27906457_32151301_377.jpg

Next come the wallabees. They little guys were really skittish, but the older ones let you get right up in their business and pet them.

My new best bud:




Dife lends him a hand    


Casey goes in for the awkward hug you give relatives you don’t know at family reunions you don’t want to be at:


Next we had the wombat and the tasmanian devil. The first one was totally passed out in his little cave shelter thing. Wouldn’t you be? Look how nice it looks in there!


The devil was running amock behind the glass-enclosed pen, so it was hard to get a good shot of him (or her?) but here he/she/it is:


It felt good to talk to an Australian who’s been to America, especially one who studied at New Paltz. Kind of put us on the same footing. We talked about classes and internships and writing, which made me feel better about my studies–not just here–but in general. I told Dave how I’m kind of intimidated by writing as a career, and I really felt like he understood. We both agree it’s about finding your voice, your style, and cultivating it.

I told you this would be long. And I’m not even procrastinating anything right now.

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Long time, no post

Posted by Katrina at 12:22 am on Sunday, May 4, 2008
Filed under Australia,Melbourne

Sorry about that. I haven’t been fufilling my bloggerly duties lately. School has been swamping up my internet use, but it’s all paying off. I got my first paper back yesterday and did well. Thing is, they use a numbers scale of 0-100, but it’s extremely rare for someone to get above an 85. (What my teacher actually said was, “Don’t expect anything above 80.”)

I always hate it when teachers preface assignments with the whole “I don’t give out any A’s” schpeel. How’s that supposed to make students feel? But apparently, anything over 85% is saved for the rare geniuses that emerge from time to time.

Anywho, I’ve still been out and about, but unfortunately, my camera hasn’t been. The battery was really dead for a few weeks, and I kept forgetting to charge it. So some of the pictures you’ll see in here are courtesy of Ms. Tracy Soren, dear friend and beloved suitemate.

A few weeks ago I attended my first (and hopefully not last) footy game! You may have read about it in Brandon’s blog. It was pretty spectacular. Not the same as going to a Met’s game in August, but still a great experience. It took me half the game to latch onto the rules, but once I did I was pretty into it.

n27906457_32133615_30.jpg Insane crowds outside the Telstra Dome

n27906457_32133619_1128.jpg  The Western Bulldogs! (VU sponsors them, so we are obligated to be fans.)

  n27906457_32133620_1408.jpg Casey and I

The crowds were intense. It all may have been a little much for Brandon.


I’ve also been trying to make the most of my weekends and head into the city during the day to check out everything Melbs has to offer. We went to the Melbourne Museum, which was beautiful, but we didn’t have enough time to see it all. Oh, also every time we get out of the Flinders Street station, some kind of wacko street performer has managed to garner the attention of at least 100 people in Federation Square. Like this guy.


They’re never too great, but we always stop for some reason.

This past Tuesday, me, Brandon and Tracy went to the Victoria College of Arts to see Liam’s film debut! His class had all been given the assignment to make a one-minute movie with a Super8 camera. I was so impressed. As we were walking to the theatre, Liam turned to me and said, “You know, when I was younger I told myself I would live here someday. And here I am.” I really admire him for that.

Tracy took this beautiful photo as we walked past the Yarra River in search of some noodles. That’s professional quality right there, that is.


On the walk back along the river, we started to notice a lot of police cars with their lights flashing. I didn’t really think too much of it, but as we neared the main intersection, we knew something was going on. Hundreds of people were crowded into the middle of the intersection, and parked taxi cabs lined two of the four streets leading into it. It was a protest.



The sign the man is holding says “Stop killing taxi drivers.” The night before, a 23 year-old Indian taxi driver was the victim of a stabbing, and all the drivers in the city had rallied to show the need for better saftey precautions in cabs. It went on for hours, and it caused tons of traffic. But more power to them if it results in anything positive.

 School ends when May does, and I’m really looking forward to it because in June we’re planning on travelling up to the tropical North. MMM warm weather. It’s been so cold here lately, and I REALLY didn’t bargain for that. Que sera. In the meantime, I have crazy amounts of homework to do (in June I have three 6-10 pagers due all on the same day.)  However, the weekends are going to be reserved for fun times–next weekend we’re taking a trip into the country to stay at Liam’s house, and the next we’re going to Phillip Island to see the little penguins! So cute.

I promise, more blogs to come, more often!

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Feel Like Rain.

Posted by Brandon at 2:25 am on Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Filed under Australia,Melbourne

Melbourne, as well as much of Victoria, has been suffering from what appears to be a pretty serious drought over the past several years.  Thus, the rain this past weekend was widely appreciated.  Except for the fact that it ruined my plans to have a picnic in the botanical gardens.

My friends Leanne and Nicole from home,  who happen to be studying at Deakin University in Melbourne, met up with my friends and I from the Student Village at Flinder’s Street Station in the city, and we had all of these great intentions to have a sunny, warm, picnic-y day.  I even bought salads to share, and I don’t often share food.  But I guess it’s more important for Melbourne to stop having a drought than for me to eat a meal outside.

We then stumbled upon an outdoor festival dedicated to the fact that the Olympics are going to take place in Beijing, China.  There were so many people there in support of the event.  But again, it was too cold and rainy for us to thoroughly enjoy the situation.  We stuck around for a little, ate some food, watched some performances, and decided on a new game plan.

Instead we thought it would be fun to go to a nearby casino.  I figured it sounded like a fresh idea, even though I don’t gamble.  A game that involves potentially losing money just isn’t fun to me.  I’m also really bad at poker and such.  Exhibit A:  I once bet all of my money on a pair of two’s and was surprised when I lost.  However, Tracy forgot her ID, and couldn’t get into the casino.  I personally think it was a blessing in disguise; I probably would have left the casino bankrupt.

We finally decided to just go to a local coffee shop and chat.  We thought it would be a bright idea to enjoy our warm beverages in the outside dining area.  Unfortunately, this thought process occurred in between rain clouds.  Of course it started raining again, and we had to rethink our seating strategy.  We moved underneath a pavilion so the rain couldn’t hit us, and the employees moved these portable heaters next to us.  It kind of reminded me of drinking hot chocolate during a snow storm.  Except we weren’t drinking hot chocolate and it wasn’t snowing, but you get the idea.

Overall it was a gorgeous day, even if the weather didn’t reflect it.  It’s refreshing to know that, even when you’re across the world, sitting in a coffee shop talking with your friends can still be the best day ever.

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“Because a Moment can Become Eternity Depending on What it Contains.”

Posted by Brandon at 6:00 am on Saturday, April 26, 2008
Filed under Australia,Melbourne

My friends and I decided to keep a promise that we made to ourselves and do some touristy things around Melbourne.  First up:  the Melbourne Museum.

The area surrounding the museum is really beautiful.  It’s clean and the architecture is stunning.  It made us jump for joy (literally).

(Tracy, Natsumi and I jumping for joy).

The inside of the museum is massive.  There are several different sections, each of which could easily take two hours to see.  Originally, we planned on visiting the museum with the sole purpose of seeing the new Aboriginal art exhibit.  However, when we reached the museum, we realized there were a million other things we wanted to see in addition to the art exhibit.  So unfortunately, we spread our time a little too thin, and I didn’t end up seeing everything I wanted to.  But it’s okay; I will return.

We visited the sections dedicated to insects, marine life, the human body, and the human mind.  The insect and marine animal exhibits weren’t anything I haven’t seen before, but the human body/mind display was really interesting to me.  It went through the history of mental illnesses and people’s perceptions of them, as well as how they have been treated in the past.  I have no idea why this struck such a chord, but it really got to me.  People used to be treated like psychological disorders were their fault.   That’s really messed up.  If I had the words, I would elaborate on this issue.  But I think everybody should look at an exhibit like this one, even if it makes them feel a little uncomfortable.  I digress.  The museum closed right after I finished getting through the human mind section, so we were forced to leave.

Jump back to my friends and I being extreme tourists.  It turns out the Melbourne Museum is basically across the street from Little Italy.  Perfect.  For some reason we all forgot to eat a substantial amount of food before visiting the museum.  Hungry City, and I was the Mayor.  As soon as we walked onto the street, a man outside a restaurant warned us of other restaurants fooling us with gimmicks.  I’ve never really encountered a restaurant gimmick before, so I was kind of nervous.  Apparently some places in Little Italy give you “free food” that they end up charging you for.  Thankfully, the place at which we ate wasn’t about tricks.  After a delicious meal and good conversation, we said good bye to the city… but just for the night.  Because we obviously plan on going back often and reclaiming our touristy ways.

Before I end this post, I’d like to share with you a piece of artwork I saw at the museum.  For some reason when I  saw it I was like, “Woah.  That’s beautiful.”  I know, how insightful.  But really, take a look and enjoy.

Peace & love.

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City Love.

Posted by Brandon at 4:27 am on Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Filed under Australia,Melbourne

Nothing TOO exciting has occurred recently. Life has become pretty routine here in Melbourne, which is both good and bad at the same time. It’s nice to finally have a set schedule, but I miss the excitement and the adventure from our first couple of weeks here. I need to work on that; I need to find fun, cheap things to do nearby. Australia is a lot bigger than my bank account, though. Admit it, that was clever.

One exciting thing my friends and I did recently was attend an Australian Rules Footie game. Our university apparently sponsors a popular footie team (the name of which I can’t remember. Clearly I’m a die-hard fan), so we got free tickets! I love free things. Anyway, footie is a completely original sport — not soccer, not football, and not European handball. Consequently, the entire time I was utterly confused. The field is a lot more circular than other sports, which was different to see. It was really thrilling to just get away for a night, though.  And the fans here are so hardcore about their teams. Even the walk from the train station to the stadium was spellbinding because the streets were packed and full of life in anticipation of the big game. The seats of the stadium were more crammed full of people than any game I’ve ever been to.  It was truly electrifying.

My friends and I also recently visited the city of Melbourne again to meet up with Liam after one of his classes.  It was entertaining because a comedy festival happened to be taking place in the city that day.  There were crowds of people walking up and down the streets, and tons of sideshow acts going on at street corners.  We ended up walking around Brunswick Street aimlessly for a couple of hours.   It’s an artsy, indie area, which is something I haven’t seen yet in Australia.  We went in and out of shops wishing we had money to spend on overpriced, fancy articles of clothing.  Those price tags were high, but I’m pretty sure we ate dinner for the cheapest price I’ve paid here so far, and it was absolutely delicious.  It was a Vietnamese/Thai influenced restaurant.  And it was amazing.  If I could remember the name, I’d advise you to go.  Maybe it’ll come to me in another post.

Also worth mentioning is the fact that my mom sent me what is probably the largest care package ever received by any study abroad student. Ever.  OK, that’s a slightly hyperbolic statement, but seriously, she went all out.  Two packages of Double Stuf Oreos, two packages of Rainbow Chips Deluxe cookies, two packages of cashews (what is this, Noah’s ark?  Just kidding.  That was lame), a 4lb container of my beloved Skippy peanut butter, three packages of Easter-variety Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, a box of Special K Bars, and a DVD.  Now I seem spoiled.  But it was a package for my birthday and Easter combined.  So don’t hate me.

Anyway, I think that’s all for now.  I’ve been moderately sick the past couple of days (what is going ON with my immune system?), but hopefully on Friday I’ll do something worthy of an update.  There are plans in the making.

Until then peace, love, and happy spring-time weather to everybody in… that… hemisphere.

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Posted by Katrina at 12:32 pm on Monday, April 14, 2008
Filed under Australia,Melbourne

I just thought I’d update to tell you guys about some movies I’ve seen recently. Why am I thinking this would be an interesting subject for the blog, you ask? Because, my friends, none of the movies I’ve recently seen have been American. How refreshing!

On my birthday my friend Liam and I went to see St. Trinian’s, which is British. We both fell for the poster: bright colors, fun fonts, cheeky-looking school girls. It was about some off the wall girl’s school that was in danger of bankruptcy should the aforementioned pupils leave it to the big, dumb grownups to take care of business! I never expected it to be a masterpiece, but the plot (which could have been concocted by a fourth grader) didn’t carry, and the editing (which could’ve been perfected by that fourth grader’s twin sibling) was all over the place. However, Liam and I were the only ones in the entire theater, so we vented our frustrations in voices louder than typically heard in a movie theater. Sometimes a bad movie can be so dismal that it’s fun.

Next was a rental watched in a dark room, a bunch of us squished onto the bed:Death at a Funeral.  Can’t you just smell the irony? It was another British one, but this one was really good. I have to admit, British humor sometimes fails me. But I’m starting to change my mind. Tracy and I were pretty much in guffaws throughout. It’s about–duh–a funeral, which sets the scene for a bunch of little mishaps that snowball together to ultimately explode into what was a surprisingly heartwarming climax. If you rent it, take note of Uncle Alfie, the grumpy old man. He was my favorite. I always love to see elderly actors embracing the roles of real nasty, grouchy, old people, because it shows they’ve got a real keen sense of humor. Which, now that I think about it, actually does quite a bit to combat ageism. But anyway.

Last (because it was the best) is The Black Balloon. Brandon, Casey and I were having a super-laid back, mopey weekend, and one of the reviews for this movie promised we’d “laugh as much as we cried,” or something to that extent. Obviously we were drawn in like moths on your computer screen at 2 am when you’re trying to write a blog….

Ah, killed it.

Anywho, the movie did just what it promised. And this one was 100% utterly Australian, which I didn’t know going into it. All Australian actors, Aussie slang, Aussie companies. Toni Collette (mom from Little Miss Sunshine) and supermodel Gemma Ward (mistress of Vogue as of late) were both in it, as well as others I didn’t recognize. It focused on a 15 year-old boy and how he deals with his family, specifically his 13 year-old, severely autistic brother. It was one of those films where you’re just crying and crying at the end because it’s happy and it’s sad and it’s beautiful all in one. And then you walk outside and feel a little lighter, even though it feels like now you can recognize and physically feel all of the universe’s magnitude and possibility pressing down on you from the sky.

Kinda like that…if you’re psychotically analytical of your emotions. Ahem. But yeah, try and find a way to see it eventually.

Oh, also, Brandon and I are going on our third day of the cleanse. He just IM’ed me with “I want Outback steakhouse cheese fries. What are your feelings?”

The cravings are supposed to go away tomorrow.

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