Saturday, May 10, 2008

Some Aus-bservations

We finally had a mellow weekend last week which means I can post some general thoughts and observations I've made about life here in Melbourne.

My driving is coming along well..unless it's an empty road at night, I generally remember to stay on the left side. It did occur to me that when I get myself a bike, I'll have to remember to change my hand signals too. But for the most part, my commute is now as annoying as any other, though its rarely more than 30 minutes.

One of the things I drive past daily are a number of pubs. When I think back to my time living in London, I fondly remember the pub lifestyle. Nothing seems quite as British as an establishment with wooden floors and dark greens and reds inside, complete with a name containing two unrelated nouns ('the elephant and whistle' or 'the pauper and wheelbarrow' or 'the lion and chainsaw'). I never worked out where the random nouns came from, but they had a very distinctly queen-like feel.

I expected a similar type of pub here in the southern Commonwealth. While there is an English pub in St. Kilda, the Aussie "pub" is a different breed. Just about every town- which is a smaller distinction than suburb- has it's own and they all seem to be similar.

They are generally called the name of the town + hotel, such as the Notting Hill Hotel or The Balaclava Hotel. Indeed, they are former hotels but now the only people sleeping here are the aging patrons who arrive to start drinking cheap spirits early in the day and end up passing out on their table in the dark corners by midafternoon. The upstairs generally has boarded up windows, though occasionally an air/ con unit or a window box with long-dead flowers is spotted. The mustard brown exterior paint is often peeling and they all have the name of one of the two "pokies" brands prominently displayed. Pokies are the video poker machines that are rampant here (a recent news report suggested that lower middle class Sydneyites spend more than 70 % of their disposable income on these machines!) Just about all of them have drive through "bottle shops" (aka liquor stores) attached and usually a fenced in outoor area where you can see the smokers sucking down a cig as they toss back another drink in another wasted day. I find them, as you might have guessed, quite depressing.

In other news, my verbiage is gaining some aussie-isms every day. I now regularly greet my coworkers with "How ya going" instead of "How ya doing?" I've resigned myself to the fact that neither idiom is grammatically correct and the Oz version doesn't even sound strange coming out of my mouth any more! With my "chips" the other night, not only didn't I ask for Ketchup to accompany them, when asking for 'tomato sauce', I said 'tomahto' instead! And I am always excited to eat my brekkie after working out.

I have been utilising (see the "s"!) the gym a bit and even have a trainer, a former female wrestler! Gladiators here I come.

And I've been getting involved in the community. I spent this past week volunteering at the St. Kilda Film Festival which shows the top 100 Australian shorts as well as prizewinning short films from around the world. The opening night was apparently awash with local celebs but I only recognized one, a guy from Underbelly (which we are way behind on!)

I'm also taking part in a 4 week training course to prepare me to mentor a young teen. Whilst the training is a bit tedious given that I could have written it, I'm excited about having a connection to a local kid.

Work is going really well and they haven't revoked my visa yet, so all is good.

We're having brunch at our house for mother's day tomorrow...will think of all of you mum's out there...have a good one!

1 comment:

Jennifer B. Saunders said...

I was remembering how we used to carpool to driver's ed but they never did teach us how to drive on the left side of the road! I've tried it once - in India but only for 1km and at 11pm at night. I would imagine it could take some getting used to.

I'm glad to see all is well and it sounds like life is good.