Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Warning: this post contains several pages of random, incessant babbling. I apologize. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
This past week, two of my fellow P and O residents and I went and met with an Aussie rules footy coach who wants to help set us all up on an American team, lovingly referred to as the “Yankaroos.” This man, Tony, was short, built like a tank, and a truly intimidating character with a handshake that would make a silverback gorilla wince. These guys don’t mess around when it comes to footy! Despite his rather terrifying demeanor, he gave us a true Australian welcome and treated us to some beer and rowdy talk about the many intricate and beautiful aspects of footy, as well took us to a 19 and under footy game. It is blatantly apparent that this guy used to be a stud player who still eats, sleeps, and breaths Aussie rules footy.
After the game (which was not only thoroughly entertaining, but also quite impressive), We got the chance to kick around the lopsided, oversized ball that is used in footy and run around the pitch. The field is absolutely gigantic!!! Apparently it can hold 2 and a half American football fields within it. Due to this impressive statistic, and the fact that the game consists of 4 separate 30 minute quarters, the midfielders are said to run anywhere between 15 and 18 kilometers per game. Add some ruthless body slams and tackles in there and that’s one heck of a beating on your body! Sign me up! I can’t wait to start playing.
Another day trip we made was to the local Saturday market, where fruit, veggies, street performers, neat little trinkets, and many completely useless but nevertheless entertaining objects are plentiful (I’ll post some sweet pictures soon). Afterwards, we meandered over to a Didgeridoo Shop, where we received a free lesson on the strange but beautiful instrument. The shop owner was the prototypical Australian hippie, rocking waist long dreads, a laid back ‘tude, and working in an incense laden shop that was playing soft, hypnotizing aboriginal music. But MAN, this guy could absolutely tear it up on the Didgi. He showed us some cool tricks (including how to howl like a dog while playing and imitate the sounds of kangaroos hopping across the bush. AWESOME) and put on a pretty incredible mini performance for us. I’m considering investing in a didgeridoo to accompany the 70 dollar guitar I’ve had my eye on in a local music shop.
In other news, my classes thus far appear to be relatively laid back and interesting. I’ve managed my schedule so that my Tuesdays and Thursdays are a massive marathon of lectures, seminars, and tutorials, but I have no class on Monday and Wednesday so it’s definitely worth it! More to come once I have more experience with the new Australian education system.
One last positive note: our group of residents at the P and O have continued to bond and grow closer, with movie night (toy story 3), game night (we are obsessed with a game called 500 which is very similar to bid spades/bridge, I feel like I’m right back at home with bridgemaster Mark Jansa!), community dinners, massive games of football in the park, and group trips to the beach for skim boarding.
Life is fantastic down under, Australia is stunningly beautiful, the people are so so so friendly, and I’m having a blast adjusting to this magical place!
If you want to send me mail/postcards to remind me that you love me, here’s the address:
19 Mouat Street
P & O Hotel
Fremantle, Western Australia
P.S. I witnessed my first school (pack? Group? Whatever) of playful dolphins at our lovely backyard beach!
P.P.S. I’ve discovered a phenomenal sanctuary RIGHT next door to our hotel: a basketball court!!!!!!! Today I got the chance to break a sweat playing some pick up hoops with some fellow Notre Damers and had a blast; there’s one less thing to miss from the states!
A couple more Aussie Slang terms that I’ve picked up on:
Ridgy-didge : New, innovative, original, genuine
How are you GOING?–What’s up/How are you DOING? (throws me off every time)
No Drama- No Worries
Thursday, July 22, 2010
As part of our orientation, we participated in “an amazing race” around Perth, the capital of Western Australia. Perth is about 30 minutes north of Fremantle by train. Our group went to the train station yesterday and all got a “smartpass” which makes utilizing the nearby train super quick, easy, and painless. Hopefully I’ll be able to take advantage of it and make many a trip up to Perth while I’m here. Anyways, we were given a set of clues, tasks, and missions to complete all dealing with main sites, attractions, and areas around Perth. We were lucky to be blessed with more stellar Australian weather; so far I’ve been incredibly lucky because even though it is winter here, every day has been a consistent and beautiful 60-65 degrees with no signs of clouds, rain, or yuckiness. It was a blast getting to know other people from different residence halls (my residence hall, The P and O hotel, houses mainly students from a school in Minnesota called St. Johns-St. Bens, while the other two residence halls consist mainly of people from University of Portland and Notre Dame). Seeing and experiencing Perth for the first time was also quite cool, I look forward to getting to know the area better and spending more time there. Our guide was a hilarious Australian student named Nina who not only gave us an inside look at Perth, Uni, studies, bars, life, and Aussie culture, sayings, and mannerisms, but also gave us many helpful hints in our navigations around Perth and treated us all to some serious post-race hydration in the form of pitchers of beer. One of the many insights into Australian life she told us is that minimum wage here hovers around 15-16 bucks per hour and that most places often exceed that (imagine raking in 20 bucks an hour for flipping stinkin burgers!!!). Unfortunately, this makes it no biggie for a local Australian to justify spending such outrageous amounts of cash on everyday items and groceries and the like, whereas us poor American’s struggle to keep up! After exploring Freo and checking out food, groceries, and local trinkets, everyone here has noticed that everything here is almost twice as expensive as it is in the states! Alcohol is even worse and reaches an unthinkable price level; I’ve begun assuming that they infuse beer with some kind of liquid gold to inflate its price to absurd levels (try 55+ dollars for a 24 pack of Corona, yikes). The bars are no better, with many of my fellow travelers dropping over 40 dollars per night (at 10 dollars a drink that’s not entirely uncommon). Thankfully, I have managed to steer clear of wallet depleting drinking habits thus far.
Since my first post, we have had several more community dinners and everyone is starting to gel and get to know each other which is great. I can already tell that the P and O is going to have a stellar atmosphere and group bond. Tomorrow is the last day of orientation and after a weekend of fun and frolic classes start!!! The education system and schooling style are completely different in Australia. From everything I’ve heard thus far from orientation meetings and chatting with local Aussies, this is what I’ve gathered: 1) very limited homework (yay!!!) 2) grades consist of three or four massively important essays and tests with limited assessments in between (meaning pop quizzes are rare but finals week stress exponentially increases) 3) Classes have unique meeting times (only once a week for super marathon sessions) 4) The grading scale completely differs from anything I’ve ever heard. They start with zero percent, and throughout the semester you gradually accumulate points. Finishing the semester with a percentage between 65 to 80 percent is considered very impressive. These percentages translate to several different grading categories: high distinction (super rare grade for nerdy smarty pants), distinction, credit, pass, and fail. Clearly they must have adopted this system after reading Harry Potter and the grading scale for O.W.L.S. (exceeds expectations, acceptable, troll, etc…).
Anyhoo, before I sign off here are some of the Australian slang terms I’ve picked up so far, much more to come once I start classes with a roomful of silly, chinwaggin’ Aussies:
Ankle Biter- Toddler/Small child
Timetable- schedule (schedule is pronounced sh-h-h-edule)
“My shout”- “I’ll buy this round of drinks”
To “root” on a team means you’re having sex with them, if they are your favorite team you either “go” for them or “barrack” them
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Welp, after two days of flying and franticly scrambling to reach multiple different terminals (LAX sucks), I have finally reached the spectacularly beautiful Australia. I was warmly greeted in Brisbane with a gorgeous Australian Sunrise, several baggage checks and quarantine questions, and a plethora of g’days from friendly looking Aussies. After arriving in Brisbane and getting all checked in for my flight to Fremantle, I experimented with the exquisite local cuisine (AKA Subway). Several important things to note here: 1) Burger King is known as Hungry Jacks and 2) Subways here offer guacamole with their subs (which I took full advantage of)!!! When I finally landed in Fremantle, I was met with a big sign that read “University of Notre Dame” (the uni I’ll be studying at while here). Needless to say, I felt pretty important. Anyways, I got the chance to meet and chew the fat with some other students who are studying abroad and staying at the P & O hotel, my residence hall while I’m here. If you want to know the truth, the P & O hotel rooms are about the size of a walk-in closet. They make Desmet rooms look like colossal dwellings fit for kings. That having been said, I am very lucky to have a room all to myself right next door to my other fellow GU traveler James. The P and O does have several super clutch things going for it: 1) our back yard is a beautiful beach with gorgeous sandy shores leading to a chilly but not unbearable Indian Ocean 2) our front yard is a massive, lush park with every kind of playground material one can imagine, and plenty of space to play soccer or other sports (rugby perhaps? Footy? Kangaroo catchers?) 3) there is a group kitchen that is humungous with every kind of grill, appliance, and other kitchenware thingymabobber (that’s the technical, scientific term) you could ever want. Once a week (including tonight), everyone in the residence hall gathers for a community dinner. All the people staying at the P and O hotel seem really nice, we’ve gotten the chance to know each other through orientation activities, joint kitchen duties and cooking, and going out and checking out Freo together. Today we went out and explored all over Fremantle, including several incredible beaches and we were treated to an unbelievable sunset (the pics on facebook don’t even come close to doing it justice, but you should still check em out). We have one more week of orientation activities (basically just all the safety bullcrapola and necessary information about the uni) before classes start, which will give us plenty of chances to get to know each other and Freo better. Classes here meet only once a week, with a 2 hour lecture period and a 1 hour tutorial period. Due to this somewhat bizarre schedule, I am fortunate enough to have my Wednesdays free of classes, leaving me with plenty of opportunities to explore Fremantle or take a train to Perth to adventure there. Well, I’m off to enjoy and partake in our first community dinner! Fremantle ROCKS!!!
If you’re at all interested in contacting me and telling how much you desperately miss me, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, skype me at paddy.jansa, or facebook me. Hopefully I’ll have a mailing address soon. If you want me to send you a postcard, send me your address!
P.S. It goes without saying, but the accents. Are. AMAZING! I can never get enough, I’m trying my best to catch on and adopt my own sweet Aussie accent.