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