Still chillin' in Melbourne

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

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Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Today is a special kind of day, I walked into the spacious Redmond Barry Reading Room at the Queen Victoria Library and there was no snaking queue for the 60 minute PC's. It's been a quiet day so far I noticed while I was reading on the grass out front and there weren't the usual groups of people eating and chatting away. I like to read in public but I don't have the best concentration so I enjoyed the quiet but did do a bit of people watching towards the sidewalk. I like sitting on the library lawn and I don't know if it's just Melbourne or the grass in the middle of the city that makes it seem much less hectic than your regular city feel. I think that has a lot to do with Melbourne's size and general feeling. Plus it's sunny and warm today!
I moved out of the bedroom I was staying in in the Fitzroy house and slept on the couch upstairs for about 5 nights. Actually it was a futon but a very comfortable one and since there is the great balcony off of the living room, and also the big screen TV, I quite liked crashing there, not to mention it was rent-free. Shael, a Canadian, who rode his bike across a large expanse of China was back from the adventure, and conveniently Georgia, a Brisbane girl who lives in the house, was off to Senegal for a month for her mining job. So about two days ago I moved my stuff into her room, and was even more happy to have my own space again and a very comfortable bed with clean sheets! Leave it to girls to set you up right. When she gets back I will have around 10 days left in Melbourne with no official place to stay. Maybe I can crash on the couch again, but that's yet to be seen.
The pictures I've had posted in this blog are from a while ago, maybe a month or even a month and a half ago. There was a CouchSurfing Festival in Melbourne which was a week long schedule of various events where people  get together, locals and travelers alike, to meet new people, share the city, friendships, and the desire to travel.  I shyly admit that the week saved me a bit. Everyone says that to travel alone you are bound to meet heaps of new people, which I do believe. But it's not always easy, especially to go beyond just 'meeting people', to 'knowing people well enough to hang out'. So with events on all week I had the chance to hang out with a good group of people a reapeted number of times and make some new friends. A lot of them live in St. Kilda, the neighborhood where I hang out a lot when it's beach weather (which hasn't been lately). A lot of travellers flock to the area but it's hard to get cheap accomodation and a job. I tried. Then decided to be happy that Georgia, even though I would miss her, was leaving and gracious enough to rent me her room so I wouldn't have to worry about finding a new, cheap place with decent people.
The CouchSurfing Festival events that I attended were:
The kick-off graffiti party at Soft Belly Bar. It was a lot more fun than I thought it would be as I had reservations that 'graffiti parties' were basically a theme for frat-parties so guys could write on your, er, shirt. Even though it was a good ice-breaker theme, I quietly discarded the shirt after a couple of weeks at the bottom of the dirty laundry pile. First time I met a lot of people I would hang out with again.
Free Hug Event. It's nothing more and nothing less than the title implies, which throws a lot of people off. I had to psyche myself up a bit to not only hug, but confidently encourage hugging strangers. Actually I take it back it was more then just free hugs, because I reckon it got myself, and other people thinking or feeling something. Like 'oh I hope none of these people try to hug me, damn I'm spotted... uh- hesitate- reluctantly hug- walk away and softly smile.' Well hopefully. While I'm not especially quiet or reserved (although it's been harder and easier to be while traveling on my own) I just went for it, hugging any stranger who would accept. It made me smile, and I got some cute pictures. Afterwards there was a game of Lawn Bowls at the St. Kilda Lawn Bowl Club, a post-swanky hang out that is now inhabited with a new breed of younger, but still of a certian class, 20-somethings. It's basically Bocce Ball, and despite my history of lawn games on my grandparent's back yard I was horrible.
Scavenger Hunt: This took place on what was probably the 2nd hottest day ever in Melbourne (I'll get to #1 later). In groups of four we were meant to find answers to questions that were posed all around the city. Good thing we had a super-motivated girl in our group who basically took us around to as many answers as possible. It was too hot to care and when we had to find a brewery to collect a coaster, we were all excited to drink a cold pint and sit in some air-conditioning. Unfortunately we spend 40 minutes walking around looking for the place, but boy did that $8 pint taste good. The scavenger-hunt idea reminded me of when I was a kid my parents would go on 'Road Ralley's' going from bar to bar, hopefully accomplishing something besides getting tipsy! Sounds like fun though, even though I've never officially been on one, people these days just do pub-crawls where they get really drunk at a set list of bars. That reminds me St. Patty's Day is coming up, and Chicago is the best place to be for that. I don't even think they celebrate it here, damn.
It wasn't a CouchSurfing event but I joined a small group of CS'ers to sit outside the Neil Young concert with several bottles of  wine, socializing more than listening to "She Rides a Harley Davidson" wafting through the air.
I think at that point I took a couple days off from the festivities.
I re-appeared at a book release party for a travel-writer who wrote a book about his CouchSurfing tour of the globe. It's the only book I've ever had signed by an author and while it's really not the most intriguing or well written book I've ever read, I now feel compelled to spend $15 shipping it home so I can keep it as a souvenier.
There was a CS Potluck dinner that I attended with some of the people I had gone surfing with earlier in the day. I think that was my 2nd attempt at surfing, and the fact that I even attempted at this beach is pretty daring. I think I'll stick to waves that don't make you feel like you got stuck inside the wash cycle. People brought dishes from their home countries, but all I brought was a cake (It was someone's b-day so a friend and I just stopped at the supermarket after surfing) and a 750ml (which is a 5th) of Jack Daniels. Everyone decided the Jack was decidedly American enough to count.
Then there was the 'farewell picnic' the next day in a very cool park a couple of neighborhoods away. I biked there and did bring some American-fare to share: peanut butter and banana sandwiches made into bite-sized pieces.
So that was the week-long festival and it was really fun. The following week was a festival in St. Kilda where they had a huge set-up on the streets of St. Kilda with lots of music stages, vendors, and people milling around. The big act was the iconic 80's Aussie band "The Angels". All I can say about that is that they definitely looked like they were from the 80's as in old, caked with make-up, with over-the-top theatrics to keep everyone interested. I think the Aussie's really loved it though.
I attended the Ani Difranco concert and it was really wonderful. It's the 4th time I've seen her, and  I still love her more and more every time! She played three new songs, one of them about Obama being elected president and it did make me proud. The rest of the world has so much more hope and respect for American's now. You can feel the relief, even this far from home.
I got a new job at a Cafe. It seems that's really the most popular job for travellers. It's nice as well because they always feed you, it's usually cash-in-hand (read: under-the-table), and you don't work nights or weekends. Sweet!
I keep asking people at both my jobs to help me learn how to make coffee. And not just the drip kind, they don't even have that here.
Several Saturday's ago it was supposed to be about 40d C. That's really hot. We decided to go surfing early in the day so we could avoid driving in the non-air-conditioned car during the hottest time of the day. We didn't think it would get above 40 and were sorry that we didn't heed our own advice. So there I am in the backseat of a land-rover driving back to the city around 3pm, the hottest time of the day. It's not just hot, it's so hot that I have to keep the windows rolled up with about an inch of space at the top because the wind coming in is so hot it's unbearable. The inch was necessary because like I said there was no AC in the car, and then we broke down, twice. It got up to 46 degrees Celcius, or 115 Fahrenheit, that day which was the hottest day ever recorded in Melbourne's history, and the day that hot wind spread acres and acres of bushfire across Victoria creating the most devastating fires in Australia's history. It was a crazy day. The sky was filled with a haze that wasn't clouds but smoke from the fire. Though the fires didn't get very close to the city you could see the smoke hanging low in the city sky a week after.
I've been in Melbourne the entire time so far, and I'm starting to grow roots. Well I figure since I've finally made friends it's time to up and leave them all behind and start again. Well that's definitely not my goal but it's bound to end up like that when you move around. I may end up meeting up with some Canadian girls later on but for now I booked 20 days in New Zealand. I leave Melbourne April 7th and arrive in Auckland. I spend a couple days there hanging out and then join a Kiwi Experience Bus Tour. It takes me from the North to the South Island through Auckland, Wellington, Nelson, Franz Josef, Queenstown, and Christchurch. There are activities, most of which include walking, or tramping as the Kiwi's would call it. There are also some seperate activities I will do on my own like hike the Franz Josef Glacier, go to Milford Sound rated the most beautiful place in NZ, and who knows what other outdoorsy adventure things I'll get into. You can hop on and off the bus at your discretion so I will take a couple of days to check out all of the larger cities. Then I will fly from Christchurch to Sydney.
I'm hoping to make a little of money from now until then. It's 6 weeks away, but I'm very excited to go!

I hope everyone back home and scattered around the US is well and happy.
Love, Beth
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