Settling In

Trip Start Nov 21, 2008
Trip End Mar 31, 2010

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Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Friday, December 26, 2008

Hello family and friends, I'm back at the request of my Aunt Laurie, who told me I better update!
I've been here for about 25 days so far. I've done lots of touristy things within Melbourne, but I've also had the luxury of living at a very relaxed pace and enjoying my semi-permanent vacation. For a while I was feeling a bit stressed about the fact that I felt I needed to come up with amazing things to do everyday, because after all I had waited and planned for so long to get here that I should be doing great stuff every second, right? Well it turns out that stressing about anything isn't as fun as doing nothing so I blended my time by biking between different neighborhoods, hanging out with people from all over the world, and occasionally indulging in a touristy attraction. I've really enjoyed becoming familiar with the city and the neighborhoods that surround it. The city's character starts to emerge and Melbourne's is quite charming.

A couple of weekends ago I attended a weekend long music festival called 'Meredith'. This was sort of a grass roots festival that had gained some popularity over the years but was mainly reserved for the long-standing Meredith fans who it seemed planned and went every year like a journey back to the religious land. MGMT was headlining, they are huge in Australia, and I like them a lot, plus why turn down a ticket to a sold out music festival? Well maybe I should have because it was the worst weather Melbourne has seen in years. It literally rained hard non-stop the entire time. I went with a girl Sacha who was nice enough to drive us in her Mom's car, which we ended up sitting in for a good majority of the time, and which became completely caked in mud. MGMT was a good show but overall so frickin muddy and rainy, yuck!

As I was saying before I was staying in a house in Caulfield, a jewish neighborhood with not much going on. It was about a 10 minute bike ride to the sea side neighborhood of St. Kilda which is cute with many boutiques and bakeries along the water. I spent a couple of days hanging out there, always enjoying the weather, even when it was a bit chilly. One particular day when I was bumming over something to do my Mom had sent me a nice e-mail with all of these ideas. One of them was the Botanical Gardens in St. Kilda. I rode my bike 5 minutes away from the library where I was hanging out and found hundreds of roses and tropical foliage.
At first it didn't seem that enrapturing but then I remembered that this was quite literally life telling me to "Stop and smell the roses!"

Then I realized that I'm so lucky to be here, with basically no obligations, and enjoying small and large joys is exactly what I've set out after. After the Gardens I decided to enjoy another of life's joys- cakes!
I grabbed a sweet coffee desert and latte at a bakery on busy Acland street in St. Kilda, but pigeons annoyed me the entire time. I didn't take any pictures of them. Also the flies here are incredibly annoying and don't leave you alone simply because you swat at them.
Sometimes it seems unsettling that so many areas of interest, wherever you go, are 'of interest' because of shopping, which I really couldn't care less about right now. Yes sometimes I feel the pull on my purse-strings to buy, buy, consume! but I try to resist, because in the end it's just more shit I have to carry. I did buy myself a couple of small Christmas presents today on Boxing Day when all the stores have big sales. Mostly I was just replacing stuff I've misplaced (okay, lost). Living out of a backpack presents some interesting situations- when I can't find something within 5 minutes I know with certainty that it's lost. Also it's easy to accumulate things here and there and I suspect that every time I move locations I'll know exactly how much I have, because I will feel it on my back.
It was nice staying in the backpacker house because I got to meet a lot of people from all over the place.
Actually since I've been here I've spent time with Australians, Irish, English, Canadian, French, Swedish, Asian, and Italian folks.
Not too bad for a mere month. Anyways I was always hanging out with the kids from the house, especially one nice guy Pontus.
One night we cooked green curry chicken and chocolate mousse for desert. I appreciated the way cooking made me feel at home. Small comforts when you're so far from home are nice! Mom said I should take pictures of every place I stayed so here's some funny ones of the backpacker house (usually dirty from all the drinking and partying that went on there but surprisingly it got cleaned almost every day.)
I moved out of the house in Caulfield and into a bedroom in a beautiful antique house in Fitzroy a very cool, bohemian, hippie, yuppie, part of town.

There's tons of cool bars, restaurants, and shops that I'm excited to investigate. How I love quirky neighborhoods! Also I got a job. Yes I'm gainfully employed, but I still don't have too much responsibility since I'm only working about 20 hours a week. I am a server at a really high end Steak and Crab house. It's fine dining so every task is super specific to meet the standards of customers with expensive tastes. Although the food is really good and the prices rather high, the service aspect of it is still pretty relaxed so I just have to get in the groove of the place and I think I'll do really good. The kitchen cooks a staff meal every night for everyone at 5 and all the free coffee (which is really latte's) you want. Of course I'm all about free food and drink! The hourly wage is much higher but there aren't as many tips, it's still a good wage though to keep me from feeling like I'm quickly spending my saved money. I have to pay a really high backpacker tax that I only get back once I leave the country, so in a way I guess it's like a savings account, one which I wish I didn't have to have.
On to Christmas. It wasn't feeling like Christmastime at all, and all the kids who were traveling felt the same. There's lots of people from England here, since Australia is part of the commonwealth there's lots of traveling between the two. They understand that without the cold weather the holiday season seems almost like a practical joke.
But it's not and on Christmas Day I was lucky enough to be invited to my friend Bryce's family celebration. There were a couple of other kids who came and were quickly adopted into the very welcoming family.
They had the traditional tree and an excellent dinner. The first round consisted of huge Prawns (popular here) that I usually wouldn't be caught eating, but my inner foodie urged me to try the seafood since we were so close to the coast, it's not quite the same stock you get in the Midwest. I'm glad I did, it was good! The main course consisted of all the traditional dishes, which I was so glad for (Comfort food!) and excellent deserts and drinks to follow. It was a really nice day filled with family, food, and friends. And it did feel like Christmas after all.
Next up is New Years, which my friend Bryce was so nice to buy me and some other friends tickets to this great New Years party. Unfortunately I have to work on that night but I'm going to try to get out a little early so I can still make it to the party and see the fireworks at midnight.

Here's some observations I've made, although in the end Australia is very similar to North America, just with better weather-
Instead of "How you doing?" they say "How you going?"
"Lots of" or "tons" is "Heaps"
Hook turns -when a car has to get in the furthest left lane to make a right turn. These even confuse Australians.
"I Reckon" is a perfectly acceptable phrase and in no way conveys the redneck connotation it usually carries in the states.
There is no "Ketchup" it's "Tomato Paste" and not all that popular
I ate Pudding (English, and more like a soggy cake) and Pavlova (Australian made out of whipped eggs and fruit), excellent desserts at the Christmas dinner that I've never had before.
If you order a coffee it is assumed you want a latte. There's also a bunch of other coffee terms that are different- short black (espresso), flat white, etc. I'm still figuring them out.
Pots are small glasses of beer, and Schooners are a bit bigger. Which makes me wonder who drinks less than a pint? Come on Aussies!
That's all I've got for right now, except for the fact that 'heaps' of people don't know where Michigan is on the map. Funny because while I couldn't point out lots of countries, much less states of other countries on the map, it's humbling when you realize that not everyone knows where the heck you're from. Slowly wiping out that American idea that we are the the most important the world over. We are pretty rockin' though!

I hope everyone back home had a really nice Christmas.
Lots of Love,
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Where I stayed
Caulfield & Fitzroy
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