Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Land of the Tasmanian Devil

This past week I made a small trip to Tasmania to see my friend Ella. After only getting 2 hours sleep I boarded a plane, which seemed like ages ago since I was last on one, and flew to Hobart. Ella hired a car and picked me up at the airport. We went to Salamanca Square and had lunch at a launderette turned café. The square was very cute and had a few art galleries and restaurants. After stuffing my face we made our way to Ella’s hometown in Burnie. You hear tons of things about Tassie, jokingly of course, how its full of bogans and incest and some wonder why you would want to go. I found Tassie to be absolutely beautiful and a breath of fresh air. It’s not very populated and really spread out with tons of farms, small towns and vineyards. I asked Ella if it’s very common to have a farm and she said it was. Her parents have a farm, her uncle has a farm and a couple of aunts have a farm and most of her friends have a farm. Its crazy really but makes Tassie a really green and beautiful place.

The next day we went to her grandparents’ house for some lunch. They were some of the sweetest people I’ve met and so welcoming. Then we were off to see one of her family’s horse race, which was an entirely new experience for me. It was really exciting and it was everything that I’ve heard about the races, well except no big hats for the women. After the races, we went to their farm where they keep most of their horses. We went into some of the paddocks and I met some of their horses, such as Super, Jimmy Becket, Kade One Nut and many others. I believe it was Super who started eating Ella’s jacket and actually ripping the fir off the hood. She told me that one time a horse actually unzipped her jacket completely, so this must be a common theme. After the farm we went back to her house and her mom made a delicious fish dinner for us. Her dad brought up a couple bottles of very nice wine from his cellar, which was very very tasty. After cleaning up, Ella and I rugged up and went wallaby hunting in her backyard. It was so cool seeing these animals that look like kangaroos hopping around, you could even hear them hopping with a big thud every time they landed on the ground. I got so excited I actually started hopping with them. Yes, I’m a dork.

After a good nights sleep, Ella and I headed off for a small road trip to her uncles farm in Smithton. On our way we stopped along a beautiful beach called Boats Harbor and then drove to Stanley. In Stanley they have this mountain, which I guess is technically a volcano, that they call The Nut. We hiked to the top and walked around for a bit trying to stand up right in the strong winds. Since this was right on the coast, we had a perfect view of the endless ocean on one side and miles of greenery and farms on the other. What a beautiful contrast. We headed back down to the main strip and had a wonderful lunch in small café before making our way to Smithton. Before we arrived to her uncles, I decided to get a haircut. Because of the strong winds from The Nut, my hair was extremely tangly and the lady got so bluntly frustrated with my hair and after drowning it in conditioner and trying her luck with a comb, Ella ran to the car to get my brush so I could brush it out for her, which only took a minute for me to do. We arrived at her uncle’s farm, where they farm wagyu cattle, a delicacy in Japan, and had some wagyu steak for dinner. It was very tender and full of flavor. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to venture out to his island (he actually owns two islands) so we went to the local basketball game instead before heading off for bed.

The next day Ella and I made her Uncle blueberry pancakes and set off to Sisters Beach where we had lunch with her Aunt, a woman with a lot of personality and bling bling. She was so nice and so much fun to talk to. Everyone in her family has been so welcoming to me and one day I hope I can return the favor to Ella. After saying our goodbyes, we went to Anvers Chocolate Factory and had free tasting of delicious truffles and fudges. Then we went to Ghost Rock Vineyard where we tasted some wine before sitting down on the outside patio enjoying a glass of pinot noir and an antipasto platter. The weather was beautiful this day and the sun was shining without a cloud in the sky. It was a perfect ending to a nice visit with Ella in Tasmania. She dropped me off at the airport in Launceston where I caught my flight home back to Melbourne.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Crazy Rain Storms in Melbourne

Yesterday I think I got a little taste of the winter the Aussies speak of. We were kindly invited to my friend Sophie’s sister’s engagement party (Emily and Jesse are the bride and groom to be). The theme was Mad Hatters Tea Party, which is part of the overall theme of Alice in Wonderland Wedding. We were to all show up with crazy hats and enjoy some tea, cakes, champagne and other munchies. After purchasing a kids flower hat from the one and only IKEA, I was all set for the party and ready to test out my sweet tooth. Emily loves to bake, and might I add, absolutely fabulous at it. She made from scratch different types of cupcakes with different frostings, fillings and cakes. She also made other small cakes bearing phrases such as “eat me” to go well with the theme. There were also colored candies in the champagne glasses, which made your drink turn that particular color. Just everything was absolutely amazing and beautiful, besides the storm outside. Brennan and I still had to work that evening so we had to leave early and caught a train to the city. Well little did we know of the adventure we were about to embark on. We had to get off the train early because of flooding. No more trains were going into the city so we had to join the hundreds of people and try to catch trams into the city. We were the smarter of the hundreds and decided to walk to the stop before this one so that we would be able to get on easier…and bonus get seats. After the tram was crammed with people, we went as far as we could before we had to get off and wait for another tram to take us to St. Kilda, where we could get on yet another tram into the city. After waiting in the rain for trams we finally made it to the city. It was chaotic. There were emergency vehicles sounding their alarms down the streets and drenched people squeezing into any shelter they could. I kept calling work to update them on my whereabouts because this journey took quite some time and I was running late. Once we arrived in the city I had to catch another tram to get me home so I could quickly change and rush off to work. Around Flemington you can see the damage of the storm. There were leaves and branches of trees just covering the sidewalks from the huge down pore. I finally made it to work and quickly got the low down on what was going on 2 hours after I was supposed to be there. Luckily some others showed up late and there was understanding for my major tardiness…and as my friend Branden would say…I was a late loser.

Today the last Italian moves out and there is some confusion it seems to whom will be moving in. From what I’ve heard there are a total of 4 people wanting 2 room vacancies. Some are expecting to sign contracts. And this has all come about through Dannie, my landlord, and her son Tony. They seem to have absolutely no communication with each other at all. We have one person saying one thing and the other something completely different. Its crazy how they can keep people renting this house out and bills (obviously excluding internet) being paid. Dannie can’t even remember when Hannah and I are supposed to pay rent. She called me yesterday asking for rent money when we had just paid a week ago for the month. Let’s keep the contracts in order peeps…I mean really.

Just seeing how this share house is being managed and experiencing the hospitality system really makes me realize how much order and organization I like to have in my life. I like to have rules and I like some things to be structured. I feel like for me, that makes life so easy and straightforward and there won’t be confusion. Now, I do like to be spontaneous, don’t get me wrong, but for things like renting and living with strangers and working efficiently, I need that structure.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Little Something About Flemington

I’m learning a lot about where I live at the moment. Flemington is full of ethnic food places and some cafes. There are a few pubs also located throughout and maybe one or two clothing stores. There seems to be quite a few car repair shops, which I find very odd to have so many in one area. But otherwise nothing too much or super exciting, just the necessitates that any suburb needs.

It seems that Australia is primarily full of private schools with typical school uniforms, just like the ones you see in the movies. They all have the matching jumpers with black shoes and white socks. Well, I think I live by a public school, because there are no school uniforms, and it’s what I would imagine schools to be like in inner cities in the USA. Now this could be my ignorance speaking and me being naïve, because lets face it, growing up in Colorado you don’t get tons of diversity. Well I’m sitting in McDonalds now, waiting for some people to get on skype and it’s about 3:30 in the afternoon. About 20 kids come in, all of them part of different ethnicity, hanging out inside. I can kind of already see the different cliques. I’ve spotted the “cool” crowd, the queen bee and her followers, the quiet ones and the ones who think they are straight up gangsters. As they are all basically sitting by my table, I can hear basically all of the conversations. Keep in mind these kids look like they are in middle school….maybe freshmen in high school but that would be the absolute oldest. One kid, who is part of the gangster crowd and seems to have a lot to say to everyone, is talking about how he is suspended and he doesn’t care because he’s never going back to school, and if he does he’s going to raise hell and devise a plan. And how his friend is going to jail for stealing an ipod and stabbing someone. This kid has the ipod that his friend stole and his sister just found out and is going to tell mom and is turning all dramatic about it. Later he says how he wants to get a haircut like Chris Brown because he gets all the ladies. Then this same group of boys and girls start talking about rape and to whom they lost their virginity to and saying very vulgar things about women losing their virginity that it blows my mind. If I didn’t hear the previous convos about stabbings and such, I might have the guts to say something…maybe. These kids are soooo young… And they were talking about junkies and how one night 6 guys jumped him for no reason and is going to get his revenge. Where the hell am I living and how do kids think they can speak this way?

I also found out that there were 2 separate occasions where people were attacked on the tram that I take on a daily basis to work and the city. Around 12:30am some nights ago, two drunks attacked one guy because he wouldn’t talk with them. This happened on the tram right around where my house is. Fabulous. Then the second occasion was some guy stole a girl’s purse early in the morning. She apparently chased after him and was tapped by his truck. I know things like this happen all over the world, but I feel like I’ve never heard of it so close to home before. It frightens me a bit but it’s definitely a learning experience. It has definitely made me a little more conscious about my surroundings and gave me a reality check that paradise is not always the safest place in the world. It’s just like in Uppsala, where I have never felt safer in my entire life and would feel completely fine walking home by myself late at night. But even then, you would find things in the newspaper about people getting attacked or stabbed, and that still blows my mind.

Now my intention was not to scare anyone….ahem…mom. It’s just something that I observed today and found interesting, frightening, worrisome and eye opening. Something I’m glad I’m aware of now but not too worried about where I’m afraid to leave my home.