Farewell, Australia, Farewell.

19 06 2010

So I’ve been plagued with a sense of guilt since my return, at not having posted about my final week(s) in Melbourne. I also have been coming across every piece of paper upon which I scribbled illegible notes of things I needed to blog about, which keeps reminding me that my entries were incomplete. So here I sit, in the midst of piles of pages, back in the good old US of A, nostalgically reminiscing about my final days down under…

The penultimate week at Newman consisted of a variety of exciting cultural experiences. Wednesday night I went to dinner and drinks with a lovely girl I met at Newman- Therese. I had a delicious meal of NACHOS, which temporarily satiated my Mexican foodlust. After a stroll back through the chilly autumn air, we attended a Newman College wine tasting. I felt very worldly as between each delicate sip, we were told of French and Argentinian soil, pH levels, robust noses, and citrus bouquets. The evening only confirmed even more for me the fact that I love red wine.

Thursday was the last formal dinner of the year, a bittersweet occasion indeed. I was caught off guard as we sat down at high table and suddenly everyone in the dining hall began banging on the wooden tables. I didn’t know what else to do but join in. It was quite the ruckus. Then from the side of the hall, the soccer team entered to cheers and smiles from everyone in the room. They had won the soccer championship that week, and what I was witnessing was called a “bang in,” a cacophonous acknowledgement of their great success.

Luke & I went out that evening, as Luke was determined to show me some of the best of Melbourne bars. This night was by far one of the most fun of the trip. We first made our way to The Croft Institute, a wacky, eerie, mad-scientist lab kind of feel. Getting there was probably the creepier part though. We wandered through spraypaint-laden alleyways, past garbage cans and sputtering streetlights (I feel like I’m typing the lyrics to “Memory” from ‘Cats’ right now…maybe I am…) No signs, no real evidence that we were going anywhere but on our way to a mugging. Luke insisted we keep going, and lo and behold- it was provided. The Croft Institute- with bleached tile walls, scattered neon green lighting, an old chemistry sink smack dab in the middle, and people taking shots out of syringes. It was bizarre, but boy, was it cool. After a drink there, we made our way to the Emerald Peacock- an ornately decorated, shimmering display of oriental furniture, rugs, and art. The walls were all painted the most beautiful shades of turquoise, green, and teal. Upstairs led us to an outdoor patio, overlooking Swanston Street- gorgeous. I was so impressed by the thematic continuity in each bar that we entered. I wonder if DC has anything like those bars. If so, I need to stop trolling freaking Clarendon Grille & Spider Kelly’s… What have I been thinking.

Friday morning I borrowed Renae’s bike & ventured out into the crazy traffic to attend lectures with Luke. After nearly being run over countless times, we made it safely to our destination, and sat through 3 fascinating hours (seriously, fascinating) of lectures on stalkers/stalking and threateners/threats. The doctors giving the lectures had the most captivating stories about patients they had encountered with all sorts of issues, stories about crimes that might have been prevented, & generally interesting insights into the brains of troubled individuals. It was like hearing about much less gruesome, real-life Silence of the Lambs kind of stories.

That night we watched the Collingwood v. Geelong game at a pub with Luke’s friends Matt & Olivia. I devoured a massive parma (oh man do I miss those parmas) and sat uncomfortably on a wooden stool as poor Collingwood got a pants-down thrashing from the Cats. The morale was low between Luke and me, but we eased our spirits over Tim Tams & youtube videos at Olivia’s house following the game.

Saturday Luke & I ventured to the MELBOURNE ZOO. At last- one of the things I had been anticipating for so long. Now you Americans can all stop asking- YES, I saw a kangaroo. YES, I saw a koala. And yes, oh yes, I saw a wombat for the first time in my life. I wanted to tackle it into the ground and hug it for the rest of time. Unfortunately, there was a thick glass pane between us, and even if there hadn’t been, the little wombat probably would have clawed my face off with its massive burrow-digging nails. But holy crap, that is a cute animal. I feel as though Australia’s animals (apart from all the deadly, I-want-to-murder-you animals) are so much cuter than ours. We have freaking squirrels and our possums are ugly as hell.

Australian Possum

I’m freaking adorable! Love me! Look at my little pink nose!

North American Possum

YOU LOOK AT MY LITTLE PINK NOSE ONE MORE TIME & I KILL YOU.

As I browsed the gift shop on our way out, Luke comes strolling up to me with a 10x life size stuffed kangaroo, yelling out “GRAE I WANT THE KANGAROO” in a crap American accent. I don’t know if that joke will ever get old for him, but people were looking at me with horror/empathy as he placed it in front of me. One kid turned to me and said “are you really gonna buy that?” I pretty much just power walked away as Luke lost it in a fit of laughter.

We attended a baptism for Luke’s friend James’ child, stopped by the afterparty for a bit and had a tasty dinner of pumpkin soup (aka butternut squash) and lasagna. Later I ventured out into the city with Tom the Kiwi & a few Newmanites for some adult beverages. Luke and his friend Missy met up with us later, and long story short- I decided that night never ever to drink Bundy again. Two nights of drinking Bundy did it for me. I don’t know if they have some sort of superhero tolerance or what up in Queensland, but that liquor gave me hangovers that felt like armageddon.

The next day was pretty unproductive. I think I skyped with my family and that was it. HA

Monday I ventured out to Luke’s mum’s house by bus, and helped her work on her birthday invitations. After about 5 hours on the computer, I made my way to another nearby suburb to rendezvous with Luke. He had bought tickets for a Whitley concert, and I was more than stoked. I don’t know why Whitley hasn’t made it big here in the States. He’s so freaking good. I recommend him highly, so check him out on iTunes if you want some good new music.

The following morning I realized that my check card was MISSING. Ugh. I was so perturbed. There is nothing more inconvenient than losing an essential item whilst in a foreign country. I spent the next day checking the places I had been that weekend to see if I had left it anywhere, but to no avail. I cancelled it before there were any fraudulent charges, so that was a plus. That night Luke and I attended a talk on Jesuit spirituality which was pretty fascinating. I hadn’t known much about the Jesuits before staying at Newman. Here in the States I think they have a bit of a different reputation for being outrageous libs, but I don’t think it’s the case in Aus.

A lot of nights I would sit by the fountain in the quad of Newman. It was such a peaceful spot, and I was able to do a lot of reflecting there. It was also an ideal smoking spot, on the off chance that I dabbled in a cig, but that’s neither here nor there. Directly above me, past the gotchic spires of Newman College, past the branches of the eucalyptus trees- the Southern Cross. I developed a love affair with the Southern Cross during my time in Australia. It’s such a lovely constellation, and so easily identifiable. It was my constant companion on nights when I was unable to sleep, or nights when I could have slept, but chose to sit outside anyway. As I’d gaze dreamily up into the Australian night sky, bats would swoop in and out of the branches of the trees. Over the sound of the trickling water of the fountain, they’d chirp to one another. Well, I take that back. Chirp is far too pleasant a word for their noise. I’d describe it more as a hoarse squawk. Sometimes it sounded as though small children were being attacked. Perhaps not the most romantic soundtrack to autumn stargazing, but somehow I got used to it. One of the things I miss most is sitting by that fountain each night, enraptured by the goings on overhead…

A couple other things I became extremely attached to: cappuccino and muffins. There was a little cafe a couple blocks from Newman that had the most delicious muffins I have ever encountered. I had a sort of game that I’d play that I entitled “Can Grae wake up early enough to make it to the cafe before all the chocolate muffins are gone?” I generally lost the game. But the beauty of it was that their other muffins were also amazing…white chocolate raspberry, banana nut, apple cinammon… AH MY MOUTH WATERS AT THE VERY THOUGHT. It was sort of a “when you lose, you still win” kind of game- like beer pong. But we all know I really, really don’t like losing in beer pong. But I digress.

Fresh cream & parmas were also two of my obsessions during my stay. I seriously am making myself so hungry right now. I need to stop.

…but you should probably know what a parma looks like.

I realized that I needed another installation of the Aussie-American Dictionary.

Australian-American Dictionary Vol. II

chewy (n.)- gum.

“Hey Grae, can I get a piece of chewy?” “No Luke, get your own.”

FF (fun fact): They don’t have orbit gum over there. That blew my mind. I’m not sure why.

thong (n.)- flip-flop.

No comment on that one. I think it speaks for itself.

“Doona” (n.)- comforter or quilt.

This one confused the crap out of me for the longest time. I thought Luke was speaking gibberish.

Milo (n.)- Nesquick. Can be put in milk, coffee (to make a mocha), or even eaten in spoonfuls.

Powdery chocolate. So strange.

“No wuckers” (idiomatic)- No worries, no fuss. Derived from “no f*&%ing worries” -> “no wucking furries” -> “no wuckers.”

Ocker (adj.)- a term for an Australian who generally is rough around the edges, uncultured, or from the country. Generally a thick, outback kind of accent that stands out from the accent of the cities.

Specialist (n.)- weirdo, crackhead.

TimTams (n.)- delicious cookies. Sort of like the Aussie equivalent of the Oreo, but a lot tastier.

Povo (adj.)- shortening of the word “poverty,” means poor, dilapidated, broke.

Cheers (idiomatic)- can be used for a variety of things- “thanks” “yes” “sounds good” “seeya”

Full on (adj.)- extreme, intense. “That haircut is pretty full on.”

Flat out (adj)- really busy. “Sorry mate, I can’t get together tonight. I’m flat out.”

Good on ya (idiomatic)- Good for you. Well done.

How you going/How are you going? (idiomatic)- What’s up?

Good value (idiomatic)- top quality. Used to describe people, food, etc.

Get stuck into (imperative idiomatic)- drink up or get involved in something.

Gorgeous (adj.)- Used as an adjective to describe a good person, or something/someone endearing/lovely. Not having to do with physical appearance necessarily.

Burger (n.)- Not necessarily a beef burger. Can consist of chicken. CONFUSING, I SAY.

Biscuit (n.)- cookie.

Arvo (n.)- slang for afternoon.

I think that’s about all I can remember at this point! There were so many new words and phrases constantly being thrown at me. Sometimes it felt like people were speaking a different language. After some time, words would begin to catch on and feel normal to use. I’ve let some of them slip since I’ve been back and gotten some grief from my friends about it. “What are you Australian now, Grae?” Ha. I actually had a nightmare at one point that I would return to the States and that my friends would accuse me of attempting to be Australian. I don’t want to use the term prophetic, but…

My last week in Melbourne flew by before I knew it. On Tuesday, L & I had another bit of a verbal scuffle, so I don’t think we went out that night, ha. On Wednesday night Luke & I met up with his dad for dinner along Lygon Street. He was a hilarious and sweet man, chock full of fascinating stories about politicians, Australian media, and Luke baby stories. I had an amazing filet mignon. BUT GAH I NEED TO STOP THINKING ABOUT THE FOOD. ANYWAY.

Thursday I wandered around the city alone, visited the strikingly beautiful Shrine of Remembrance (think WWI/WWII memorial in DC). I legitimately had goosebumps as I walked up to it. I took some really lovely pictures as the sun went down over the city. I was already beginning to grieve my loss of Melbourne…

Who’s a pretty little city? That’s right, you are, Melbourne!

Friday I slept in, and lazed the day away in between attempting to begin packing. In the evening we went over to L’s mum’s for fish and chips, and I tearfully (shh they didn’t know) said goodbye to his fam. Such fabulous people. That night Luke took me to Bennett’s Lane Jazz Club where we saw the musicians Yvette Johansen & Trio. It was a relaxing and pleasant evening, and the group was quite talented. I felt a little like a poser sitting around at a jazz club when I know hardly anything about it, but I enjoyed it thoroughly nonetheless. I felt as though I had culture oozing out my ears/ that I should maybe take up the jazz flute.

a picture someone took of me that night. nbd.

Saturday yielded a fantastic brunch of eggs benedict (can you tell that I’m hungry?) with some of Luke’s friends. Afterwards L & Normo kicked the footy around Princess Park adjacent to Newman. I can’t say that I kicked it, because my attempts were so utterly pathetic, it doesn’t warrant much elaboration. I did some laundry, did some packing, then we strolled to the local pub to watch the Collingwood game. Guess what I ate at the pub? Can anyone guess? If you guessed PARMA, you’d be correct. You don’t get anything for a correct guess though, because that’s pretty much all I ate over my final days in Melbourne. After the pub, we went to a local hard rock/heavy metal bar and saw L’s friend’s band called BARBARION play. They are just as ridiculous as their name. I’ve already posted pictures on fb, so I don’t think I need to explain much. I couldn’t stop laughing at the absurdity of the whole gig. We also were ENTIRELY out of place in our normal clothing, since everyone around us was clad in plaid kilts, safety pins, denim, or black leather and sporting mohawks. I’m not sure if that’s how mohawk is spelled, but at this point I’m not caring.

After the concert, a group of us went back to The Toff at Curtin House- one of the places at which I spent significant time playing NZ drinking games with Newmanites during my stay. 🙂 After a few drinks, and after POS had seriously insulted a tattooed nurse who was hitting on him, we picked up some quick McD’s and walked all the way to the casino. Circa 3:30 AM, this is. The casino was a sight to behold, I will admit, but I’m not much of the gambling type. Also my eyes were burning with sleepiness, and delirium was fast overtaking my red bull vodkas. I spent A DOLLAR at the slot machines, and proudly made it last a full 30 minutes. Go me. L ventured his hand at black jack and poker, but not one of us managed to win big. I got yelled at for taking a picture inside of the casino, which was pretty hardcore.

When we FINALLY made it home circa sunrise after a ride in a deathcab, I slept soundly, but dreaded the afternoon soon to come where I would have to depart Melbourne… I slept a bit late (surprise), so I hurriedly and furiously packed my bags & cleaned my room with the help of Tom. I was sad to leave my little den behind (even though it had no fridge), and even sadder when I took down the sign on my door that my flatmate had made for me- “It may not be black & white, but GRAY now lives here.”‘ A clever, sweet, yet utterly misspelled little sign it was. After a miniature photo shoot with Luke & Tom out front of the College, a depressed little Grae said her goodbyes to both Newman College & Dr. Luke. I’ve never felt so sad to leave a place (other than my own home) before.

Tom drove me to the Melbourne Airport where we encountered a series of luggage fiascos- the Qantas man told me “Well, your luggage is probably on its way to Perth right now, but let’s hope it’s not.” Long story short, it was re-routed before it got on that plane to Perth, and thank the GOOD LORD for that because I couldn’t handle being both check card-less and luggage-less in Sydney, Australia. I said my goodbyes to delightful Tom Everett, the Kiwi angel of Melbourne, and boarded my flight for Sydney.

Upon landing, I rendezvoused with the Davis family. I met Chris Davis at World Youth Day in Canada in 2002, and was seriously smitten. I had never met an Aussie before, and boy, was the novelty of that accent somethin’ else! 🙂 We stayed in touch for several years after Canada, and then met up with him and his family the first time I traveled to Australia with my fam. Our parents have stayed in touch since then, and they had generously offered to host me for several days before I departed back for the US. I felt like such a bum when I arrived at their home- overtired & exhausted from the previous night’s shenanigans, overtired & exhausted from the past month of irregular sleep schedules, an uncomfortable bed, and noisy bird-filled mornings. I slept for a good portion of my stay with them. I’m sure they were convinced that I was borderline in a coma until I’d sleepily wander out of my room at 2 in the afternoon. The bed was so deliciously comfortable and warm, I found it nearly impossible to pry my body from the doonas! And having a working, wonderful shower tempted me to spend half the afternoon inside it. On Monday evening Chris’ brother and wife came over, Anne cooked a wonderful dinner of beef ragu, and I gratefully and happily ate myself silly. On Tuesday, Chris & his sister took me out to dinner at Outback Steakhouse. I couldn’t believe that they had them there!! Too funny. I wonder if they’ll ever get an Outback Steakhouse in the Outback…

But it was so lovely staying with the Davises. Peter and Anne became essentially surrogate parents during my stay, and it was so comforting to be back in such a warm familial setting. I loved getting to see Chris’ sister Angie all grown up. She was absolutely gorgeous. But spending time with all of them made me that much more excited to see my own family again.

My third day there I decided to venture out to the city by train and accomplish some of the family-souvenir shopping I had hanging over my head, and to visit beautiful Circular Quay again. I met up with my friend Lance that evening, & caught up over drinks before meeting a coworker of his for Korean BBQ. Afterward, we wandered through the rain into Darling Harbour, flooding me with memories of my first time in Sydney. It is a bizarre  and wonderful feeling to be in a foreign country, and yet experience a rush of familiarity upon seeing it for the second time. The lights of the dozens of restaurants and bars reflected off the rain-rippled water, and music floated in the air from every direction. I bid farewell to my two Kiwi friends, and hopped in a cab back toward Eastwood. I spent the entire night packing up my things, sending out goodbye emails, and riddled with anxiety about the return trip.

Peter & Anne drove me to the Sydney Airport the following morning, and I won’t lie, I nearly lost it when saying goodbye to them. It was really heartbreaking for me. There were so many emotions swirling around inside of me, so many memories rushing over me, so much to which I was having to say goodbye. I wished for a moment that I could just fuse Australia and the United States together, so that I could always have both whenever I wanted. I wished that all the people I had seen or met could experience my country the way I had experienced theirs. That they could come to know and love America the way I had come to know and love Australia. I wished that I could explain or somehow vocalize all of the beauty with which I had been inundated, or that I could somehow express the gratitude furiously ebbing from the core of my very being. I wished that I could have made so many of those moments last forever- so that I might always be standing at the crest of that grassy hill in Kaikoura with tears in my eyes,  always be gazing out over sunset-bathed Melbourne from the solemn steps of the Shrine of Remembrance, always experiencing the adrenaline rush & the ecstatic success of riding the tram without a ticket, always breathing the intoxicating energy of Melbourne’s neon nightlife, always laughing with 10 different nationalities of people at one table, always kneeling in the Newman Chapel alone as I thanked God for all His blessings, always strolling alone along Circular Quay- so overcome with nostalgia and desperate love for a country that isn’t mine…

The fact is I’m going back. I don’t know when. But I know that beyond a shadow of a doubt that I’m not through with Australia, and I have a feeling that Australia’s not quite through with me. 🙂


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