Saturday, May 24, 2008

Ob la di Ob la dah, Life Goes On

Hello friends,
Must start this entry with 2 apologies and a quick reminder to post your comments (especially the positive ones!). One apology is for my reticence of late. I've been busy at work (and on facebook, I admit it) organising simulated patients (SPs) for the upcoming end of semester exams (OSCEs), and haven't had much time to organise my thoughts (And yes, I am well aware of the affected Aussie spelling I'm using.) The second apology is in advance for the wordiness that is to follow. You may have had a vacation from my musings but I certainly haven't, so without further ado, here are some of my recent experiences.

Last week I had a work trip down to Gippsland. This is the country, or as they say here, "the bush". Saw my first roadkill 'roo and plenty of warning signs for both Kangas and Wombat Xings but none of the live version of either. It's about a 2 hour drive each way and I was going to the rural campus to meet with their simulation guru who let me watch some of the work she was doing in her spiffy center. It was a nice change of pace and a good contact not to mention a fun little road trip.

One of the things I noticed on the way was the contrast between the two types of street and town names. They tend towards the continental on one extreme (Pakenham, Windsor & Churchill) to what I can only assume are bastardizations of Aboriginal languages (Kooyang, Oroong and my favorite, Koo Wee Rup) . Colorado does much the same thing with Boulder and Pearl vs. Arapahoe and Laramie, though it also has the odd Spanish influence thrown in, the most infamous example being my neighborhood's main thoroughfare- Table Mesa (directly translated it means table table).

Speaking of language, I'm starting to pick up some Aussie. I regularly say "How ya going?" to colleagues when we pass in the corridor and today I asked more than one person what they had ON for the weekend. I haven't quite started using some exclamations I love, like "brilliant" to mean perfect and "gorgeous" to describe someone who is a great person...the true definition of beauty from the inside out, I suppose. I'm learning to abbreviate everything though. One of my SPs is named Barry and I wrote his name down as Baz, which is a popular nickname, without any prompting.

In other developments, we've had a few interesting moments with our neighbours (yup, spelling it that way on purpose). The popular soap of the same name is filmed here in Melbourne so I thought we were destined for our neighbours to become good friends. It says so in the theme song every night at 6:30 PM! Two weeks ago, exhausted after a long week and Adi's regular Friday night gig, we came home and crawled into bed. No sooner had we turned out the light then the folks across the hall came home, apparently bringing everyone in St. Kilda with them. They aren't smokers but apparently some friends were, so they kept going up and down the stairs for a smoke, making absolutely no effort to be quiet (am I turning into the bitter old lady neighbour or what? But at least when I was a young partier living in communal areas, I made a semblance of an attempt to be quiet even when drunk!) They left their door wide open and their (bad, no less) music was pumping out into the street. Considering that we live in a big family neighborhood (and by that, I mean a neighborhood with big families!) I would normally assume that one of these responsible parents would call the authorities. It dawned on me when no such call was made that the members of these large families don't call anyone on a Friday night! Oy!

Then, last week, as we carried Adi's keyboard (and by "we" I mean "he") upstairs, we ran into a neighbour going 'round and inviting people to her and her bf's flat. She made it sound like the whole building would be there so Adi and I reluctantly went downstairs and found the only other person she'd cajoled into joining them was Adrian, a nice single guy who lives below us. Along with him and the residents there was one non-Goathlandser (our street name) there and he quickly made Adi and I feel uncomfortable. He was captivated by my "cool accent"- the first Aussie I've met who was- most of them have the opportunity to hear Americans every time they turn on the radio, the tv or go to the movies. He asked where I was from and after a few times of insisting that yes, I really was from New York he said, "but what about all the- wait, I don't want to be anti-seminiteic", or something along those lines. Then he looked at Adi and said, "You're not Jewish are you mate?" to which Adi said, "as a matter of fact, yes, I am Jewish." You can imagine the relaxed feeling in the room at this point. Luckily the drunken genius said "oh, ok then, I won't say what I was going to say then," and looked at us as though we should appreciate this restraint. An awkward silence soon followed so I pointed out that in our neighborhood, its a pretty good guess that someone was Jewish. I guess we just tricked him by not wearing the right costume. My feeling is if you're going to be anti-semitic, you should at least learn how to pronounce "anti-semitic!"

Adi, Adrian and I all shifted uncomfortably in our seats as the conversation moved on. Then drunken idiot guy started marveling over my accent again. He tried to imitate me, laughing and saying "New Yawk. You gawt it. F-in' N- word." This is actually NOT how I think I sound given that the last phrase in particular isn't one I frequently invoke, and I was ready to bring the visit to a fast conclusion when he started telling me how great it is that in NY, they have zero tolerance and how if you steal a candy bar you can go to prison for 20 years. I told him I was unaware of this, but that I would try to see if I could find a lawyer to verify this information. Lawyers....? Before he had a chance to start speaking pejoratively about Asians, we decided to call it a night. As we stood up to go, Adrian almost hit his head on the ceiling, jumping up quickly, so thrilled was he to have an out from this impromptu gathering.

So, I guess not everyone in Melbourne has good neighbours. Luckily this is the first such blatant anti-semitism I have witnessed and other than walking quickly past the door of these people now (and we fault them only for not calling their stupid friend out for being an idiot), no permanent harm has been done. In fact, I feel we've now bonded a bit more with Adrian, in the same way hostages might after sharing a traumatic experience together.

Home is not the only place where I've found ignorance however. As I prepare for the upcoming OSCEs by recruiting SPs to portray a variety of roles, I was shocked when reading one encounter yesterday. The character is a black woman, which is a challenge in and of itself as all of my SPs are white. Beyond this, however, is the name. What did the case-writer decide to call this black character? JEMIMAH BLACK . Why not give the Irish character Cirrhosis and make the single mom suspected of child abuse reside in a trailer park while you're at it?

For the most part, though, work is going really well. I'm busy and there is much work to be done in terms of "training" the case-writers (obviously) as well as some of the medical faculty as to the educational possibilities SPs provide. But the folks in my department as well as in the office I share are all really fun and nice and I'm staying out of most of the politics thus far.

Free time is good too...went to Vic Market last week finally. This is the standard market/ wharf/ mercado..whatever you want to call it, most cities I've travelled to have at least one. A place selling cheap stuff in open air stalls alongside fresh produce. Adi's dad used to have a stall selling ladies "unmentionables" so Adi enjoys returning to his youth every now and then, recalling his days of hawking dad's wares and making change for customers. Here are some photos...the donuts are his favorite treat on offer at the market and he'd been talking about them for weeks prior to our going there!

At Vic Market with Adi enjoying the famous donuts.

This is me at the market:

And here's a relative of my Terra...for those out of the loop, that's my Highlander Hybrid that I miss every time I get into May-Z. Here, it's called a Klugger (they say "Klu" like Clue, I say Klugg like chug like gas chugger since it's not a hybrid!)

And these just make me giggle when I see them in the store!


Amy Kopkin said...

Sounds like things are going well apart from having to educate yet another country about diversity issues. I'm in Georgia right now doing dress fittings and invitations and all things nuptual. It's kind of fun and surreal all at the same time. Since I'm wearing my mom's dress, I hadn't been in a bridal store until I got here. It's a very weird ritual with all of these daughters and moms. It's funny how much time people feel they need to plan a wedding. Some of these people aren't getting married until next year! Is it starting to get colder? Boulder has had a few May snows, but on the whole, we are starting to get good enough weather to leave the tomato starts outside during the day. Boulder Creek fest is this weekend. I'll cheer on a duck for you!

Cheryl said...

I find your neighbor's comment horrid. Does ignorance know no bounds? Seriously, you and Adi should've decked the guy, but I'm impressed you took the high road instead.

And those Rice Bubbles crack me up. Even with the name change I'm glad to see the little freaky kids on the box still say, "Snap! Crackle! Pop!"