A Farewell to Oz

4
Jan
2015

Well, this is it. I am leaving Australia finally, after a 54 day adventure. I am very glad I came to Australia, I have met a lot of nice people and seen a lot of things. But overall, I am leaving with the impression of a place that is more similar to the United States than just about any other country in the world, with the possible exception of Canada. I think the reason a lot of Americans love Australia so much is because it is a “safe” and familiar destination, with not a lot to culturally challenge them. The language is much the same. The food is much the same. The people are much the same, even in their city and suburb and farm varieties. They can tell themselves (because of the distance and the few variables) that they are traveling to a foreign land, and feel self-satisfied at their own sense of adventure, but it is just not a culturally challenging place for us. In very many ways, the country could just be a few extra states tacked on to the US’ 50, and no one would much notice the difference. In fact, I would argue that the differences between, say, New York and New Orleans are far greater than the differences between the Great Plains and Queensland.

There are of course things I did not get to see that I would like to, and perhaps I will come back someday. The Great Barrier Reef of course, and New Zealand, which is just a stone’s throw from here. I made a couple of great friends here and got to know some people I already knew a lot better than I had before. I saw some spectacular landscapes and had some really excellent coffee. I learned some fun slang and saw a variety of ways people live here. I danced and I drank and I ate. And the mere fact of coming here has shrunken the psychological distance (if not the actual distance), making a return that much more possible. Goodbye Oz, and thanks for everything. It was a good trip.

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Tropical Fruits

1
Jan
2015

I have been on the Gold Coast and in Lismore the last couple of days. Our friend Jason flew up from Sydney to meet Nick and I, and we attended Australia’s most massive gay dance party, Tropical Fruits. It was a lot of fun, held at the Lismore Showgrounds (what we would call a fairground). There were three different dance floors each playing different music (although none of it fantastic, I wish there had been some more pop). There was a cabaret tent with drag shows, some of which were really wonderful. There were tents and tents with chill-out spaces, places to hang out and drink and relax and…other things. There was some surprisingly good food at concessions, most particularly some Yemeni chicken wrap thingy I had which was super delicious. At midnight was a spectacular fireworks show (which I assume is what accounted for much of the exorbitant cost of the event). I was also surprised and happy to see a nice variety of people there, all ages and a fair number of lesbians. It could have been more racially diverse I suppose, but this is Australia after all. Overall it was a very good time, and I am happy we came here to celebrate the new year. I still don’t have much in the way of bandwidth, so photos and videos will have to wait.

Here and there in Queensland

30
Dec
2014

The past few days have seen Nick and I bid farewell to his sister Kerry and head off visit to his brother Mark near Beaudesert (where I saw my first kangaroo and wallaby). Yesterday we made our way to the Gold Coast by way of some really beautiful parks and tropical rainforest. In particular, we went to a place called Natural Bridge in Springbrook park that was spectacular. I took some photos and videos which I will upload in the next few days as I am alas without fast internet at the moment. In a short while I will head out to pick up our friend Jason at the airport, as he decided last minute to join us for the NYE party tonight.

Brizzie in the rain

27
Dec
2014

It has been raining almost non-stop since arriving in Brisbane, and my friend Nick has been sick and so understandably not much up for anything except lying around. Fortunately Nick’s sister Kerry and her husband Peter (who we are staying with) took me on a little walking tour of Brisbane yesterday, and despite the rain I found it all very charming. In particular, we saw a pedestrian core of streets and shops in the cbd not unlike other such projects around the world, but quite nicely done, and then meandered across the bridge, down through an area called South Bank, across a pedestrian/bike bridge and over to the City Botanic Gardens. It was raining the whole time, but it was still quite nice and we had much of it to ourselves for that reason, and we stopped in a couple of places for coffee and food along the way. Overall it gave me a very nice impression of Brisbane, and of Kerry and Peter our hosts, who are really lovely people. The rain, alas, continues its relentless drive this morning, I am not sure what we (or I, if Nick continues to feel sick) will be doing today, perhaps the museum. We had been planning on exploring some national parks and other sites in the region, but I may have to leave those adventures for another visit.

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To Brizzie by cah

26
Dec
2014

Yesterday Nick and I said goodbye to most of his family and got in the car to head to Brisbane to see another sister of Nick’s and her family who were not able to be with us in Kingsthorpe. Since Nick does not have a license, I agreed to drive us around while up here, in a car we are borrowing from his brother. I was a little worried since the last time I drove on this side of the road (in the UK in 2004) I pretty much destroyed the left side of the vehicle. But it is actually a lot easier to drive in Australia. Despite it being on the left, the roads are very much like the US, wide and new. We made it to Brisbane with very little trouble and had a really lovely afternoon of drinks and snacks with the family here. I will say one thing for this part of Australia, it is much hotter and higher humidity than the south. I am sweating like a pig.

Brisbane bound

23
Dec
2014

Well, I am leaving Sydney, although I will be back for a couple of days before leaving Australia. I will be heading north to spend Xmas with my friend Nick and his family, and explore Brisbane, The Gold Coast, Toowoomba and other unpronounceable places. (Speaking of which, my friend Nick tells me we might get as far inland as Upper Bumbuggera ;)). For NYE, we will be attending some huge gay dance party called Tropical Fruits in a place called Lismore. Oh, and I have agreed to drive Nick’s brother’s car for part of our time up there. Although it is legal, the last time I drove on this side of the road was in England with my niece Sarah a few years back, and we pretty much trashed the entire left side of the car. But I am hopeful we will not have a repeat of that as the roads are quite a bit wider here. Fingers crossed.  Stay tuned for dispatches from bogan country.

Sydney in Pictures

20
Dec
2014

Sydney is a beautiful city, most especially in the nooks and crannies and natural beauty of the place. For the most part, I think the city is at its best when it stays at a smaller scale. With some notable exceptions, the much larger developments of blocks of high rise apartment buildings, casinos, and some newer districts are pretty bland. Sydney is at its most beautiful in the older neighborhoods, and along the winding coastline.  Below is a collection of photos I have taken over the past couple of weeks.

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Random Oz notes

17
Dec
2014

– They eat more beets (which they call beetroot) here than any other country I have ever seen.

– Despite their great love of coffee, they do not use (or offer) coffee sleeves for the sometimes unpleasantly hot to go (take away) cups they serve it in.

UV warnings are ALWAYS off the charts, in the extreme range. Perhaps we are directly beneath a large hole in the ozone layer. Or maybe other countries don’t take skin cancer as seriously.

– There are lots of food courts here.

– Sydney is a great city for walking around in, there are many lovely neighborhoods.

– People must have coffee often before lunch, I am constantly asked in restaurants if I would like a coffee before food. And not just any drink first, specifically coffee.

– Burger King is called Hungry Jack’s here. Apparently when they came to Australia, the name was already taken. I still won’t set foot in this or any other fast food establishment (while sober, anyway).

– They use short post codes, here only 4 digits to our 5.

– This will not surprise a lot of people, but Australia is very white, a little Asian, and not much else.

– People walk how they drive, on the left. This is pretty much true of all the left side countries I have been in.

– This last one is hard to put my finger on exactly, but people (in general, not everyone) seem a bit more reserved than other countries I have been in. They are less likely to volunteer information or help, less likely to go out of their way for anyone. They are not rude by any stretch, just not very effusive. I am still trying to put my finger on exactly what it is, stay tuned for a much longer blog post on this subject as I put my thoughts about it more in order.

hj

It can happen anywere

15
Dec
2014

It is pretty much a cliché to say, but still bears repeating: bad things can (and do) happen anywhere. Here I am, at the other end of the world, in Sydney, Australia. A place that consistently ranks as one of the safest in the world, especially compared to other cities of similar size. And yet, yesterday it was all kinds of mayhem here, although thankfully not in my area and I was mostly unaffected. Still, if it had been but one day earlier, I was walking right by the location of the crisis. It could have happened to any of us if the timing was right (or wrong). I feel horribly for what the hostages must have gone through, all at the hands of one madman. And the poor souls killed in the crossfire during the rescue attempt after being held for all those hours. Total security and safety is (and has always been) an illusion, yet people are willing to inflict all kinds of horror and curtail all kinds of liberty and civil rights in an attempt to gain it. This has been one of the greatest tragedies of the post 9/11 period. For all the abuses of the state, all the laws passed by government, all the torture of suspected terrorists, and all the wars fought, safety remains elusive. And in the efforts, we have lost so very much in the way of freedom and community.

The only good thing to come out of all of this was a small bit of human kindness, amplified by Twitter via the hashtag #illridewithyou. People reaching out to those Muslims who might be afraid to be in public places (because they would be falsely blamed for the actions of a single madman), or on public transit, and offering to stand by them as a form of solidarity and protection.

Lost in the ginger rain

11
Dec
2014

– Coincidentally, a bunch of my new Melbourne friends were in town (separately) today. I hung out during the day with Andrew, and then we met up with Troy and Bradley for dinner and drinks.

– Andrew and I went to go see an exhibit here called Red Hot Down Under, at a gallery just a few short steps from where I am staying in Sydney. I gather from the exhibit and talking with people and various cultural references that ginger (or redhead) phobia/teasing/hate is a real thing here and in the UK and New Zealand. It all strikes me as very odd because I don’t remember seeing anything like this level of disdain in the US with regard to this group. If anything, gingers are (in the gay community at least) objects of desire, at least among certain people.

– It was raining non-stop today, and by the end of the day I was really over it. The weather in Sydney has been pretty shitty since I got back.

– I was excited to see from the tracking online that my passport with Brazilian visa was delivered to my friend Nick’s place. But he did not receive it, there is no sign of it, and so it seems that the Australian postal service has somehow lost it. They were supposed to get a signature, so I am not sure how this happened, but I have launched an inquiry. Ugh.

– Australia is turning out to be much more expensive than I thought it would be. I have to really start being more careful.

gingers