Final Thoughts and Reflections

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November 30th, 2014

Denver, Colorado

After living in Australia for over four months, there are many things I have learned. To start, there are a few areas where the Australian way of doing things seems more sensible than how we do it in the United States. Although both the US and Australia care about energy consumption, there are minor changes that Australians have done that the US can learn from. On the power outlets, there is an on/off switch. You can leave all your appliances plugged in and simply turn off the power flow when they’re not in use to save energy. There are also energy ratings on the appliances themselves that help consumers choose the most energy efficient unit. Along with energy, there are a few other areas where Australians demonstrate concern for the environment. In the Adelaide central business district, free bike rental is available to encourage people to use this alternate mode of transportation rather than drive. Limiting wasteful water use is also taken into consideration. All of the toilets have two flush options so that you don’t use more water than what’s needed.

While these environmental conservation practices are important, I especially appreciate the priorities that are commonly seen in the life of many Australians. In the US, I think that our population as a whole places too much emphasis on our paychecks.  On the other hand, in Australia there seems to be more emphasis on being able to enjoy life and have a good time than make a certain amount of money. For example, the atmosphere is more laid back compared to the high-stress environment of many US cities. Almost all the stores close at five and don’t even open on Sundays in order to allow employees to go home for dinner and spend more time with families. Little things such as outdoor public drinking fountains and good quality public transportation take some of the stress off of people’s daily lives. Even the higher education system is set up so participants can pay for university at an affordable price that won’t cause massive loans and debt. Also, if student loans are taken out, I’ve been told that you are not required to pay them until you start making a certain amount of money; once you reach that level, you begin making payments. This system seems like it would help prevent massive debt right out of college that’s caused by student loans, which is a widespread issue in the US.

Besides the different priorities, there are a few small, everyday things that I appreciate. For instance the food seems healthier overall. From my experience, there aren’t as many chemicals and additives in the food. This is most likely the result of different food regulations. Food prices are also easier to work with Down Under. Tax is included in all the prices, so when something is labeled four dollars, you actually pay four dollars at checkout. I have become very used to this system due to my time overseas, and I wish the US set prices the same way, where the tax is included in the shelf price. In some areas such as this, I prefer the Australian way of doing things.

Along with recognizing policies that our nation could learn from, I have also observed some of the ways in which my lifestyle and desires have evolved. For starters, I find myself more inclined to walk or bike to my destination. Walking was my main mode of transportation in Australia, aside from buses for longer journeys. I’ve come to appreciate the reflection time you give yourself by walking, and I have found that I can get along quite well without a car, especially for shorter trips. In addition to my transportation methods, my eating habits have also changed. While I have always enjoyed a wide variety of food from different cultures, potlucks with other international students have caused me to start cooking more foreign foods, or at least plan to cook them.

Aside from my everyday habits that have changed, my desire to travel has increased substantially as a result of my semester abroad. I have become friends with people from many different countries and backgrounds. These past four months have included some of the best experiences of my life, and many of the adventures were the result of spending time with people from other parts of the world who grew up in different cultural backgrounds. Meeting all of my friends and living in Australia has made me interested in the cultures and lifestyles of others across the globe. Now I have a long list of countries that I want to visit at some point in my life. Circumnavigating the globe as a result of my flights to and from Australia has made me realize how small the world is and how easy it can be to fly to other countries. This observation just increases my longing to see more of the world.

In addition to new long-term goals of visiting many other countries and seeing some of my international friends, my everyday habits and priorities have been affected. To start, I want to make a conscious effort to be more hospitable. When I visited Melbourne for the first time for the national parkour gathering, I stayed at the home of one of the locals with a few other people from Adelaide. While the parkour jams during the day were amazing, it was also heaps of fun hanging out with everyone back at the house after the day’s activities. I know that if I had been staying in a hostel or hotel, I would not have had as much fun as I did. Since I have experienced firsthand how much a friendly host can improve a trip, I want to extend that same generosity to others whenever I have people visit.

On top of being more hospitable, I want to be more laid back in my everyday life. In the US, it seems that many people are constantly stressed out, often over things they have no control over. Although I recognize that I need to take charge of my actions, I also know that mistakes happen and that it is often better to go with the flow and learn from your mistakes rather than stressing over the past. Life is too short to dwell on past mistakes or worry about the future. Instead, I find that it can be peaceful and satisfying to enjoy the ‘here’ and ‘now’. Along those lines, to help me enjoy the present, I want to be more adventurous and stay busy. I did so much in Australia such as scuba diving, surfing, shark diving, and rogaining. If I had told myself ‘I’ll do it some other time’, I know I would have regretted missing those opportunities. A main reason I enjoyed my exchange program so much was all these awesome activities I did while I was overseas. Now that I’m back in the States, I have no intention on letting up on the fun activities.

On the whole, I can tell that I have learned a lot and grown from my experience in Australia. I am grateful beyond words for all the amazing people I met there who made my trip some of the best months of my life. I will never forget this adventure and all that I have been through. It’s been one heck of a journey and I appreciate all of your support. Thanks for reading this blog, and I wish everyone the best.

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Signing out for good,

Michelle

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Last Week in Oz Recap + How to Speak Australian 4

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November 25th, 2014

Denver, Colorado

I did a lot of minor activities in my last week in Australia, so I’ll just give the lowdown in this post.

My last exam was in the afternoon on Saturday, November 15th. On Sunday, I attended a barbeque hosted by the UniSA Climbing Club. My last Australian BBQ reminded me of how much I learned at the first BBQ I attended. First off, it’s called a barbie, not a BBQ. This word is a classic example of the Australian tendency to shorten words and add –ie to the end. However, when people try to mimic Australians by saying the phrase “throw a shrimp on the barbie”, “barbie” is the only word of that saying that is actually accurate Australian lingo. As I have been informed at both my first BBQ and my last BBQ, it’s not shrimp, its prawns. This seems to be the same as the English terminology, so I’m guessing that the use of the word “prawn” rather than “shrimp” reflects some of the British influence on Australian English. Furthermore, it was explained that you throw snags on the barbie, not prawns. A snag is an Australian nickname for a sausage. This probably came from a snag referring to a morsel of food or a light meal, according to British dialect. I generally see Aussies eat two to three snags at a barbecue, which supports the notion that the term snag previously referred to just a morsel of food.

Finally, after the BBQ which included slacklines and a primitive zipline, some of us threw our climbing gear in the boot and headed up to a nearby crag. When someone first told me that they had their gear in the boot, I was extremely confused until I realized that they were referring to the trunk of a car. This term really did not make much sense, ad I never got a clear answer from my friends on why the trunk is called the boot in Australia. Anyway, a group of us did end up going climbing that arvo. Arvo is a shorthand term for afternoon. Australians like to abbreviate a lot of words, but out of all of the abbreviations I’ve heard this one makes the most sense to me. While some of the other shorthand terms they use only eliminate one syllable, it is actually noticeably faster to say arvo rather than afternoon. I wouldn’t mind using this phrase in the US, except I would have to go through the trouble of explaining what it means for each person who hears it. All in all, the barbie was a good time, and I enjoyed being able to hanging out with some of my local climbing friends and get one last outdoor session in before flying back to the States.

Next, on Monday I went climbing with my roommate Andrea at an indoor climbing gym.  It had been quite a few years since she had done any rock climbing, but we found some easier routes and I told her to give it a go. This is an Aussie phrase that I hear a lot, especially when I’m training with my local rock climber or parkour friends. It just means “try it” or give it a shot”, but “give it a go” is by far the most commonly used expression in Australia. I think part of the phrase’s popularity is due to its informality, since Australian social interactions are generally casual and laid back. After Andrea’s safety class, we took turns doing various climbs until we were both wiped out. It was a lot of fun, and I also got to see local climber friends that I hadn’t seen in over a month. One of them was the first person to climb with me at the indoor gym, and also the first person to introduce me to choccies. That is shorthand for FruChocs, a very popular Australian snack. It’s basically chewy peach and apricot fruit centers covered in a layer of milk chocolate. Their flavor is so well-liked that there are also many desserts based on it, such as cheesecake and ice cream. I personally didn’t think they were anything special.

Although I did get to see a lot of climber friends at the BBQ and the indoor climbing gym, I did miss one of my buddies John, who I’ve heard many people call Johnno. While we may shorten people’s names and add an e sound to the end, such as Daniel and Jonathon becoming Danny and Johnny, in Australian they abbreviate the name and add o so the names become Danno and Johnno. I was somewhat surprised by this, since Australians tend to add an e ending when they shorten other words such as breakfast and barbecue. My thinking is that people like to add a different ending to abbreviated names to differentiate them from ordinary words.

When we left the climbing gym, the staff said ta to us. It’s a phrase that I’ve heard a few times, and it just means thank you. From talking to locals, I learned that a lot of people start using the word when they are very young. Many young children have a problem making the th- sound, so a lot of them are taught to say ta when they are thankful for something. It makes sense to make it easier for little kids to show proper manners and not feel challenged with pronunciation, and word follows the common Aussie behavior of shortening words.

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Besides attending a BBQ and going climbing, I took a trip to Sydney for a few days just to see the sights. Arriving at my hostel, I was greeted with the typical Australian greeting of “How you going?” For many foreigners, the Australian stereotypical greeting is “G’Day mate!” However, I never actually heard that phrase while in the country, and apparently its usage is somewhat uncommon. Instead, “how you going” is an expression I might take home with me, as I’ve already caught myself using it without thinking. Additionally, after my hostel room key stopped working when I left it near my phone, I had to visit the reception desk to get it re-magnetized. The staff was really cool and said no worries and immediately fixed it. I bring this up because “no worries” is another really prevalent phrase that I’ve heard a lot during my time down under. Australians say this all the time. It basically means “it’s fine”, “it’s all good”, or something else along those lines. While people in the US may use a variety of these equivalent phrases, “no worries” is by far the most common response in those situations.

Anyway, Sydney was amazing, and I spent my full day there touring, seeing sights such as the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. In the evening, I made a trip to the AAPES parkour facility. It ended up being an adventure in itself trying to find the facility, since my phone chose to stop accessing mobile networks halfway through the bus trip. At least I was left with an interesting story to tell the locals, who simply said “good onya” since I eventually found the gym. Good onya means “well done” or “good for you.” It’s commonly used as a simple response or casual positive feedback, similar to Americans saying “nice”, “cool”, or “good job”. All in all, I had a blast exploring Sydney and meeting a few of the local parkour athletes at their gym.

Finally, one of the last things I did in Adelaide before flying back was a pie night with some of the parkour crew as a sort of goodbye get-together for me. I tried to ask what ingredients I could buy, but two of my friends who were looking up the recipes insisted that it was their shout; I ended up bringing some left over brown sugar anyway, since I needed to use it up as I was flying out the next night. A shout is commonly used when at bars or pubs to refer to a round of drinks; for example, a friend might say that it’s your shout, or your turn to buy the round of drinks. Anyway, my buddies were on top of things and got the recipes together and made two pies. The rest of us hung out in the backyard, and helped clean the dishes later since we didn’t cook. That’s when I got teased when throwing away the rubbish, making the mistake of asking for the location of the trash can. The Australians almost never use the word trash, and my friends initially looked at me in confusion before realizing that I was asking for what they call the rubbish bin. Most Australians do understand that I am talking about rubbish or garbage when I mention trash, but it seems like that word is extremely uncommon. In any case, the pies turned out quite good, especially considering that they had to be vegan and gluten free. It ended up being a great night, albeit a little sad due to all the goodbyes.

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That’s most of what I did in my last week in Australia, and I was sorry to see my time there come to a close. I’ve just now returned to Colorado, and I’ll put up one more post reflecting on all I’ve learned during my exchange. Stay tuned!

Cheers,

Michelle

Trip to the South Australian Museum

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November 23rd, 2014

Adelaide, Australia

On Friday, I finally visited the South Australian Museum. I went through all the exhibits, and some of them reminded me of the fact that the museum was Australian, not American. These little differences that I noticed just made the trip more enjoyable.

One of the first exhibits I visited was the Mawson exhibit. The gallery focused on the accomplishments of Sir Douglas Mawson, a geologist, explorer, and academic. In particular, the museum highlighted his participation in the British Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition (BANZARE) from 1929-1931. A tour guide pointed out a model of the hut where Mawson and his team lived.

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Going more in depth than the exhibit, a tour guide explained how Mawson was forced to cut his sled in half in order to make it back to base after he lost the last member of his team. The guide also provided an additional detail; when Mawson finally made it back to camp and took off his gear, the layer of skin on the soles of his feet also peeled off with his socks. I couldn’t imagine how gruesome and painful that would have been.

The last thing I saw in that exhibit was a large block of ice from Antarctica. I was really amused by how fascinated everyone was by the ice. Granted, it was from another continent, but to me it was just ice. However, I suppose that most Australians have never seen snow in person, let alone huge blocks of ice, so this must have been a novel thing for them.

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Another unique exhibit I went through displayed fossils and minerals, including some opalized dinosaur bones. According to a passing local, opalized animal fossils are only found in Australia. That fact made me very appreciative of the gallery, since I knew I would not be able to see anything like it back home. The exhibit showcased a opalized skeleton of a plesiosaur, which happened to be the finest known opalized skeleton on Earth. Another major piece was the opalized backbone of an ichthyosaur.

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After the fossil and minerals display, I wandered through a few more exhibits including the showcase on Australian animals. Although the variety of wildlife was interesting, the coolest part of this area was hearing a story from a local regarding a bird called a brolga. The legend is that the richest and most powerful man in the world went to a show and fell in love with a girl who was dancing. However, the girl was so busy dancing that she didn’t notice the rich man, and he became mad that she didn’t return his love. To punish her, he turned the girl into a graceful brolga, pictured below.

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Finally, one of the last exhibits I visited was the Pacific cultures gallery. This showcase included a lot of artifacts from Papua New Guinea. Some of these included native weapons and decorated skulls. According to a tour guide, the exhibit had only opened recently, as it was previously covered by a black cloth. The reason was that native tribesmen were initially very uncomfortable with the idea of outsiders seeing their dead ancestors. However, the museum caretakers were able to work out some agreement with the natives from the Pacific cultures, allowing the decorated skulls to be put on display. Hearing about these complications with the exhibit made me more appreciative of the opportunity I had to see some of these tribal artifacts. I chose not to take any photos, due to the sensitive nature of the display.

All in all, the museum was extremely interesting, and it was refreshing to explore exhibits that I would not have seen in any museum back in the States. I had a lot of fun finally doing a typical tourist activity before I fly home on Monday night.

My next to last post will cover a final set of Australian language, so stay tuned!

Until next time,

Michelle

Australian Cultural Symbols

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November 21st, 2014

Adelaide, Australia

Just like any country, Australia has many cultural symbols. After living in the country for over four months, here are ten of the main symbols I have come across.

Kangaroo

When people think of Australian animals, most would probably picture a koala or kangaroo. Kangaroos, commonly known as ‘roos’, are very common in Australia, and most species are endemic to the country. Some species populations are healthy enough to support hunting, although there are very strict regulations with the priority being the conservation of the animal. The marsupial cannot move backwards, and its inclusion on the Australian coat of arms as a national icon represents the idea of the country always moving forwards and advancing.

Emu

The emu is the national bird of Australia and is unique to the continent. It is one of the two animals included on the Australian coat of arms. Similar to the kangaroo, emus have difficulty moving backwards and their presence on the coat of arms also represents Australia always moving forward.

Opal

Opals are the national gemstone of Australia. Over 96% of the world’s opals are mined in this country. Even so, not many Australians actually wear opals, and the stones are usually exported or sold at tourist shops. I’ve heard multiple warnings to be wary of your source when buying an opal, since it can be hard to distinguish between imitation gems and the real thing.

Southern Cross

This cluster of stars is one of the most visible constellations in the Southern Hemisphere. It is included on the Australian National Flag, and it represents Australia’s geographic location. While the Union Jack on the flag pays tribute to the colonizing British, it is the Southern Cross that actually represents Australia.

Golden Wattle

This has long been recognized as Australia’s floral symbol, similar to the concept of state flowers in the US. It’s found in many parts of the country, including the woodland and open scrub. It’s green and gold colors are the same as the colors used to represent Australia in sports. The plant is also included in the Australian coat of arms.

Vegemite

The food is very dear to many Australians. In one way, it sets them apart from visitors since very few outsiders like Vegemite. As one local told me, for many Australians Vegemite is one of the first salty food they have which leads to a love for the spread that dates back to early childhood. On the other hand, many foreigners grew up something vastly different than Vegemite that satisfied their primal craving for salt. Thus, if someone is very fond of Vegemite, you can almost guarantee that the individual is from the land down under.

Peace sign/ V sign

While this is a harmless gesture in the United States, a peace sign has a much different meaning in Australia when you do it with your palm facing in. It is basically the equivalent of giving someone the middle finger. Apparently in 1992, President George Bush visited Australia and tried to flash the peace sign, but gave the insulting V sign instead with his palm was facing in. However, this sign is somewhat old and people more commonly use the finger in certain situations.

Sitting in the front of a taxi

In the US, it is very common for people to hop into the backseat of a taxi. However, in Australian this can be considered rude. Australians are very keen on equality and dislike categorizing people based on their class or social status. Sitting in the back of a taxi as a single occupant makes it seem like you are being chauffeured and makes conservation difficult. In a way, sitting in the back is like saying you are too good to talk to a simple taxi driver.

Sydney Harbor Bridge

This is one of the most iconic landmarks in Australia, and it is commonly referred to as the “coathanger” by locals due to its shape. In 1988, it was named an “International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark” by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The landmark is also the world’s largest steel arch bridge. A picture of this bridge alongside the Sydney Opera House is a common choice for Australian postcards.

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ANZAC Day

This day is celebrated on April 25th and commemorates the day when the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landed at Gallipoli during WWI in 1915. In the present day, the holiday is used to remember all the soldiers who lost their lives fighting for Australia in WWI and subsequent wars. There are many war memorials in different cities across Australia, and special ceremonies are often held there on ANZAC Day. Additionally, many roads and highways bear the label ANZAC.

More updates to come soon!

Cheers,

Michelle

Aussie Book + How to Speak Australian 3

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November 3rd, 2014

Adelaide, Australia

Even with the end of the semester rapidly approaching now that lectures are over, I managed to squeeze in time to read. This past week, I finished a classic Aussie book that one of my local friends recommended to me. The title is Tomorrow, When the War Began. I could immediately tell that it was written by an Australian, not an American author. Before I talk about my experience with the book, I will give you some background (spoiler alert!).

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The story starts with Ellie, the protagonist, organizing a camping trip into the bush with six of her friends. The teenagers depart and enjoy a normal week of camping, but come back to find their homes abandoned, dogs and livestock dead, and all the adults gone. With no one to give them guidance, they go around their city and try to figure out what has happened, and when they start to realize they have been invaded, they try to deny it. Once the group accepts that an invasion has really taken place, they continue to investigate and understand the situation. During this time, one of them recovers from a minor gunshot wound and the teenagers work out a plan of action. While part of the group heads into town for reconnaissance, the rest of the teenagers strike back and destroy a bridge on the main road, a road that the enemy is heavily dependent on for supplies and movement of troops. However, the excitement and pride in damaging the road dwindles when the bridge crew returns to camp to find that one of the girls in the reconnaissance crew, Corrie, has been shot in the back. The story ends with Corrie’s boyfriend Kevin driving the wounded girl to the hospital in town controlled by the invaders, hoping that the two of them will be treated well and can avoid giving up the rest of their friends.

From reading this novel and discussing it with my friend, I discovered quite a few Aussie slang words and learned the context in which they are used. In the very first paragraph, I saw the phrase ‘rack off’! Through examining the context of its use and asking a local friend about the word, I learned it is similar to the American phrase ‘piss off’ meaning go away or get out of here. A rack is slang for a motor-bike, so telling someone to rack off is like saying ‘get on your bike and go’. I haven’t heard this term much when spending time with my Aussie friends, which I suppose, is a good sign that they enjoy my company.

The next few words I learned seem to be used more in the country than in the city, which is probably why I haven’t heard them very often. First, the word ‘dunny’ is another word for toilet, specifically an outhouse or other kinds of outdoor toilets. The term is derived from an older word ‘dunnakin’ which refers to a privy. Primarily, the word is used to distinguish between flushing and non-flushing toilets, which is most likely the reason I haven’t heard it much since I live in the city. Even when I was in the country for rogaining competitions, the word toilet was used since the outdoor facilities had a manual pump for flushing.

The other country word is ‘chook’. I had never heard this term before, so when it came up in the novel I asked my friend about its meaning and learned that a chook is a domesticated chicken. She had been raised in the country, and the word seemed so commonplace to her that she was confused, thinking I was asking about an alternate meaning of the word. Even after telling me that chooks are chickens, she still seemed surprised that the word was slang to me, and not part of my every-day language. Now that I think about it, I don’t remember seeing the word chicken in the novel, just the word chook. This heavy use of the term would explain why my friend was so surprised that I had to ask for a translation.

Another word I had to ask about was ‘jackarooing’. A character in the story mentioned jackarooing before he got smart, put on a collar and tie, and became an insurance agent. To me, this meant nothing until I learned that the term means living as an apprentice on a sheep station. Since many of the teenagers, including Ellie, were rural kids, it made sense that this seemed to be a lifestyle they were familiar with.

Finally, another word that I saw a lot in the book was ‘keen’. I’ve actually heard this word a lot and it seems to be very common throughout Australia as I’ve heard people use it everywhere from Adelaide, to Cairns, to Melbourne. Keen means interested. For example, if someone asked me to go rock climbing, I would say that I’m keen. I might also say that I am keen to visit New Zealand, although I won’t get the chance to unless I make a return trip to this part of the world. The prevalence of this word in the novel as well as on the streets demonstrates how integrated it is in Aussie language. Along with the word heaps, I will probably have included keen in my everyday language by the time I fly home.

Apart from Aussie lingo, I learned that camping and bushwalking can be popular activities among Australian youths, especially those who live in rural areas. In the story, it was implied that Ellie and her friends had gone camping numerous times. The main difference was that this was the first time they would camp without adults. The teens also had a lot of camp gear such as tents and stoves, and were familiar with how to build campfires. In reality, while it seems like few city kids in Australia go camping regularly, quite a few of my friends who are from a rural or suburban background have gone on many bushwalking and camping trips. In this case, I suppose the relationship between the frequencies of camping and hiking trips to the amount of time you spend in the city is similar to how it is at home.

Lastly, another topic that came up in the novel was possible reasons for invading Australia. At one point, the characters talk about why the enemy has chosen to attack Australia instead of another country. It is never stated who the invaders are, but it is mentioned how there are countries north of the continent that have a lot of people and very little land while Australia has an immense amount of land compared to the population. I hadn’t given much thought before to the topic of Australia’s low population density in a military sense, so I asked my friend if this was a concern at all for Australians. Taking a moment to think, she explained that having heaps of land did not really make Australia a more enticing political target. A large majority of the land is not arable and thus not conducive to supporting human life. In the story, a lot of the families in the rural community were not farmers, but raised sheep and cattle. It seems like in reality, Australia’s geography makes it a low priority military target. The land is unappealing since it is not arable, land-based attacks are not possible since it’s an island, and the isolation from other countries leads to the added challenge of easily moving large amounts of troops and supplies in and out of the country.

At the end of the day, reading Tomorrow, When the War Began and discussing it with my local friend gave me insights into Australian culture and politics. I heard more Aussie slang and learned about the cultural pastime of camping and bushwalking and its relationship to one’s lifestyle. The most enlightening part was discussing the geography of Australia and seeing how it could impact foreign military policies and action toward the country. The book itself was also an entertaining story and I plan to read the next one in the series, The Dead of the Night, before I leave Australia.

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Signing off,

Michelle

Weekend Surf Trip + How to Speak Australian 2

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October 30th, 2014

Adelaide, Australia

This past weekend I got to go surfing, something I’ve always wanted to do. With eleven other students, I went on a trip to Goolwa Beach organized by the Exchange Student Network of my university. We drove down Saturday morning, and arrived at the beach-side shack where we’d be staying. After less than two hours to get settled and relax, we were already putting on our thongs and heading down to the beach for our first surf lesson.

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(Just to clarify, to Australians, thongs are not underwear, but flip-flops. While the term flip-flops refer to the sound they make, the term thongs describes the rubber component on the sandal that passes between the first and second toes of the feet. Australians do understand the confusion that can occur when someone says they are wearing thongs, and are quick to clarify what they mean to prevent awkward misunderstandings.)

After going through a short safety briefing and practicing standing up on our boards in the sand, we went out and tried it in the waves. It was much harder than I expected, and I kept taking my hands off the board before I was standing solidly, causing me to fall a lot. However, I finally started getting the hang of it and was able to ride some waves all the way back to beach before we went back to the shack for a late lunch. It was only a few hours until we returned to the beach, recharged from the food. I went for a slightly bigger board for our next surf session, and I also got a lot better at standing up. Since I also worked on catching my own waves without help from the instructors, I ended up paddling a lot and I was pretty knackered by the end of the outing.

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(Knackered means tired, wiped out, exhausted, spent, or near death. I heard multiple Aussie friends use it after a long day of climbing or regaining. Supposedly a knacker is someone who renders horses who can no longer work, and that’s how the phrase came about and came to mean tired or spent. It seems to me like most people will still describe themselves as feeling tired and reserve the term knackered for when they’re especially exhausted.)

We all returned to the shack, craving a shower, food, and a nap. A couple of the others made a short trip to town to get booze since all they had was goon. (Goon is cheap wine that is packaged as a bag in a box. To drink, you tear away a perforated section to expose a plastic tap. This drink is popular because of how cheap it is, costing around $15 for 4-5 liters. I’ve noticed that it is especially common for uni students to buy goon since they often don’t have a lot of extra spending money.) During the surf trip, some of the other students started out drinking more palpable cider, saving the lower-quality goon for when they were already buzzed but still wanted to drink.

When our driver finally came back and started making everyone dinner, he and a girl from New Zealand started giving each other a hard time, although it was all in good fun. He referred to her as a kiwi, and the two of them went back and forth mocking each other until dinner was ready. (Kiwi is the Australian term for a New Zealander. A kiwi is a flightless bird native to New Zealand and is the country’s national symbol. New Zealanders generally take pride in being called a kiwi, which I noticed in the exchange between the Kiwi and the Aussie.)

After dinner, most of the group went out to a pub/club in a nearby town, including our driver and our surf instructor, who claimed that the more hungover you are in the morning, the better the surfing. Despite this advice, I stayed and got a lot of sleep so I could go out early the next morning and surf.

The next morning, I went out about an hour before our lesson at ten in my bathers and wetsuit and got more practice at catching my own waves and riding them in to shore. (Bathers is an Australian word for swimsuit. I’m assuming it comes from the idea that you bathe in the water while you’re swimming. In my opinion, it doesn’t actually make a lot of sense since when you are actually taking a bath, you don’t wear clothes.)

At the start of the lesson, before sending us out to the waves our instructor also gave us tips on how to turn so we could maintain speed while riding the wave. All of us then spent the last hours at the beach trying to improve our surfing technique and attempting turns into the waves. I found that my prior experience from longboarding and snowboarding helped a lot when I tried to turn, as I had no problems turning both on my toes and my heels. My main challenge was learning how to spot good waves and catch them, something you don’t have to do in longboarding or snowboarding. With all the practice we got that weekend, I was able to improve a lot and by the end of the trip  I could catch some of my own waves, turn, and ride across the wave all the way to the beach.

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After this final surf session, our group returned to the shack, packed our stuff, and headed back to Adelaide just in time to miss the storm that rolled in. All in all, it was an amazing weekend. I got to surf for the first time and got a lot of sun from the time in the ocean. On Monday when I returned to school, I had three separate people immediately comment on how tan I looked. Sadly it was only reflected in my face since I was wearing a wetsuit while surfing. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some more sun before I leave Australia, and maybe even go surfing again.

On a more random note, aside from the terms included in this post, here are a few more Australian terms that I’ve heard in my time here:

Bogan

This is a term used to describe someone who has an unsophisticated background or who demonstrates a lack of education and manners based on their clothing, attitude, speech, etc. Another common explanation is that the term is basically the Australian equivalent of what Americans call rednecks.

Daggy

Describing something as daggy means it’s out of fashion, not stylish, untidy, etc. I first heard the term while climbing, as one friend commented that climbers often wear daggy clothes. While my friend said it in an off-hand manner, it was easy to tell that this word could also be an insult.

Dodgy

I have a habit of using the word sketchy to describe things that are unreliable, potentially dangerous, or of low quality. In Australia, the locals use the term dodgy. For example, I hear people describe the weather as a bit dodgy, or say that a particular climbing route looks dodgy. The slang seems to come from the British usage of dodge to mean a scam or a plot. This makes me realize that although a large part of Aussie slang is unique to the country, there are also many words and phrases borrowed from the British.

Footy

Footy is most often used to refer to Australian Rules football. The use of the term can actually be confusing because footy can also be an abbreviation for soccer, known as football in most countries except for Australia, Canada, and the US. I have noticed that quite a few of my European friends are actually referring to soccer when they use the word footy. Thus, to avoid any possible confusion I always clarify which “footy” someone is talking about when they use the term.

That’s all I’ll include now. Until next time!

Michelle

Aussie Foods

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October 27th, 2014

Adelaide, Australia

After being in Australia for over three months, I’ve gotten to try a lot of the local foods and I like most of them. However, there are a few where it’s mostly like an acquired taste, to put it politely. Here’s a bunch of the foods that I’ve eaten:

WeetBix

Picture dry wheat cereal flakes compacted into bar form, and you have WeetBix. I had it plain the first time I tried it, and it was so dry that I immediately started coughing. I was then informed by some of my local friends that I needed to have it with milk. It was much better that way, as the bars broke apart and became more akin to regular cereal. However, WeetBix is quite bland on its own and needs extra flavoring such as brown sugar, cinnamon, or honey to make it more palpable.

Pavlova

This is meringue-based cake-like desert. It’s commonly topped with fresh fruit and/or whipped cream. I tried a few bites of a slice that my roommate brought home. It was pretty good, but my Aussie friends tell me that I have to eat a homemade one baked by someone’s mom in order to get the true experience.

Tim Tams

This is one of my favorite Aussie foods. I’ve heard rumors that there are certain shops where you can find them back in the states, but I’m packing some for home just in case. A Tim Tam is two crispy chocolate biscuits with chocolate crème in the middle, covered in a thin layer of milk chocolate. One of the classic ways to eat it is in a Tim Tam Slam, where it is usually accompanied by a hot drink such as hot chocolate or coffee. To perform a Tim Tam Slam, you nibble off the opposite corners of the biscuit, suck up the drink through the Tim Tam like a straw, and quickly eat the biscuit before it disintegrates in your fingers. The result is a mouthful of chocolaty bliss.

Kangaroo

Kangaroo is delicious. The flavor is somewhat gamey, but in a good way and still quite juicy. Sadly, my only kangaroo thus far has been kangaroo sausage, but I plan on trying some sort of steak or fillet before I leave Australia. While sausage is good, it’s just not the same as a steak.

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Violet Crumble

This is a common Australian candy bar. It is crunchy honeycomb covered in milk chocolate. I like almost all candy bars, but I was not very fond of this one. While the initial flavor was mediocre, I did not the weird aftertaste. I would not eat it again, even if someone was offering it to me for free (and that’s saying something).

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Vegemite

Vegemite is one of those foods I predicted I wouldn’t like, and I was right. Apparently very few foreigners like vegemite, so it seems like something you need to grow up with. The spread is made from brewers’ yeast extract and it is very pungent, salty, and bitter. A common way to eat it is with buttered toast, which you top with a very thin layer of vegemite. The first time I tried it was plain, and I gave it a second shot with a bite of a friend’s prepared vegemite toast. I thought it was disgusting both ways. An Aussie friend said that vegemite and cheese go really well together, and that cheese makes the spread taste a lot better. I ended up giving vegemite one last chance and tried a friend’s cheesymite scroll (looks similar to a cinnamon roll, but not as delicious). While I still didn’t like it, it wasn’t as bad as the other times I tried vegemite. The cheese definitely helped mask the taste, but in my opinion adding vegemite to the bread ruined what would have been a perfectly good cheesy scroll.

Fairy Bread

This combination surprised me. It’s just sliced white sandwich bread with a layer of butter followed by a coating of sprinkles, often cut into triangles. I would never have thought to put sprinkles on bread. To me, they belong on cake or ice cream. It wasn’t bad, but there are so many other sweet treats that are way better so I probably wouldn’t buy it or prepare my own.

Meat Pie (and pie floater variety)

Meat pies are a staple in any café, bakery, gas station, or convenience store. There are many flavors, but the classic one is a plain beef pie. It’s pastry dough filled with mince (ground) meat and a savory sauce. The flavor reminds me of shepherds pie without the mashed potatoes and veggies. The meat pie often comes with tomato sauce (ketchup). I like the meat pie quite a lot, and it’s a fast tasty meal when you are on the go. Another variety of the meat pie is called a pie floater, which is an upside-down meat pie covered in split pea soup and topped with tomato sauce. I tried this iconic dish, but since I’m not a big fan of peas, I preferred the taste of the plain meat pie.

Meat Pies

Sausage Roll

Wherever meat pies are sold, you will almost always find sausage rolls. This is another classic Australian food and can easily be eaten on the go. It consists of a sort of meat paste, similar to the consistency of meatballs, wrapped in pastry dough and topped with tomato sauce. While a meat pie looks similar to a chicken pot pie, a sausage roll looks more like a log. The first one I had was too dry, but the second one I had at a popular bakery was moister and a lot better. Like the meat pie, the sausage roll is a good, cheap takeaway food and I enjoy it, especially when I’m starving and on the road.

Lamington

A lamington is another sweet treat Aussie treat that I really like. It is a square piece of sponge cake covered in a layer of milk chocolate then thoroughly coated with thinly shredded coconut. It’s really good, and I appreciate the fact that the coconut prevents your fingers from getting messy from the chocolate.

Sticky Date Pudding

It is extremely hard to decide whether sticky date pudding or Tim Tams is my favorite Australian dessert. During my trip to Flinders Range I had this dessert and it was amazing. It’s basically a sweet, dark, moist cake, commonly topped with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. Between sticky date pudding and Tim Tams, I think the pudding would be my top choice if it was prepared for me the way I had it in Flinders, but the Tim Tams are more convenient and nearly as delicious, and more suited to satisfy a chocolate craving.

AB

This dish isn’t so much an Australian dish as it is an iconic Adelaide dish. The legend goes that drunken university students went to a yiros shop and couldn’t decide between chips (fries) and yiros, so they got both and combined them. The result was the AB, which stands for abortion or after birth due to its appearance. It’s basically chips covered in yiros meat and topped with garlic sauce, tomato sauce, and either bbq sauce or sweet chili sauce. Although it sounds crazy, it tastes amazing even as you feel it clogging your arteries. Two shops, Blue & White Café and North Adelaide Burger Bar, have an intense rivalry over who has the best AB. My roommate and I tried both, and decided the North Adelaide Burger Bar makes the better dish. In the picture below, the one on the right is from the North Adelaide Burger Bar.

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All in all, I have tried food on both ends of the spectrum from absolutely disgusting to extremely delicious. I predicted that I wouldn’t like vegemite and I was right. However, I was surprised that I wasn’t a fan violet crumble, as I like almost all chocolate bars. On the other hand, I also thought that I wouldn’t like either meat pies or sausage rolls, and I enjoy both of them. Kangaroo is a food that I never thought I’d try, and I’m glad that I got the opportunity and liked it. Finally, I’m extremely excited to have found both Tim Tams and sticky date pudding, as they are some of the most delectable foods I’ve eaten in Australia.

I can’t wait to try more local cuisine. Maybe I’ll even get to sample emu or camel if I’m lucky.

Stay hungry and adventurous.

Michelle