Sunday, 22 April 2012

One Minute You're Lying Seductively On A Bearskin Rug, The Next You're Letting Yourself Be Handcuffed To The Bed Of A Travel Lodge Whilst Being Doused In Whipped Cream.

So naturally, as I assume is typical protocol for all paupers, I have spent my first few days in Sydney visiting the various art galleries, state libraries, and other museum type places that I can manage to get in for free. Unfortunately, I have yet to achieve the level of maturity necessary when it comes to nude photographs and am still stuck in the phase of laughing, turning red and uncomfortably averting my gaze whenever I am faced with one. This is incredibly difficult to do when the entire gallery is made up of such portraits and a member of staff has chosen to, despite the look on my face, latch herself onto my arm (evidently under the impression that I require assistance) and escort me around the entire exhibition. I didn't want to appear immature (or, God forbid, ignorant about art) so I feigned interest as she talked me through several portraits, each subject as naked as the last, and each appearing in an increasingly unorthodox position. I'm all one for good art, but at the end of the day, pornography's pornography. I left shortly after she finished telling me, in a tone far too casual considering the subject matter, that most of the models in the photos were not professional but simply people who had called into the shop, which further fueled my theory that nude portraits are the gateway drug, if you will, of the pornography world. One minute you're lying seductively on a bearskin rug, and the next you're letting yourself be handcuffed to the bed of a TravelLodge whilst having whipped cream licked off you by the boy down the road who works in the chip shop. An interesting career choice, I'm sure, but in the end it's not one that made my maybe list.

Speaking of careers, given that it has been almost a year since I completed my degree, I'm starting to wonder how much longer I can answer the question, 'so what do you do for a living?' with, 'well, actually, I've only just graduated...' and then trailing off into what I consider to be an impressive silence.  I have started to wonder whether I'll ever have a job where I can comfortably afford to use internet without having to sneak into a library and use the public computers. I don't really mind, but in the past few weeks I have both been signed up to the Ted Baker mailing list and had an e-mail from "the FBI" as a result of putting my e-mail address in public computers. It is worrying, but somewhat refreshing, to know that the FBI have finally ceased with the formalities and are now using phrases such as, 'you get me?' I actually felt mocked the other day in the street after a CashForGold (or Australia's equivalent) representative stopped me in the street. 'Sick of all that unwanted gold?' asked the leaflet he was holding. What gave me away? Was it the shorts that I have been wearing for a week or the dry CornFlakes I am eating for dinner? And even if I was rich, I doubt any gold I had would fall into the category of unwanted. I could finally fulfill my If-I-Won-The-Lottery dream of spending my days riding around on a gold horse with gold reigns in a suit made of gold. (Thinking about it, I'm not entirely sure I could pull this image off, but it would be nice to have the option).

Sydney has also introduced me to a few more 'cultural delights' such as the Harbour Bridge (equally as boring to look at in real life as it in on a photograph) and the Sydney Opera House (likewise). I have actually started to resent the Opera House somewhat after I kept getting lost and somehow ending up there, and then upon finally deciding it must be fate and going to explore, I was asked to leave as I didn't have any shoes on. The reason I was barefoot is an upsetting story that, unfortunately, no longer involves shoes, but does involve me using my flipflops as a pillow after being forced to sleep in the Greyhound bus station over night because I didn't realise the date and missed my bus, and then leaving my flipflops behind (accidentally, obviously). By this point in my travels, and indeed my life in general, this type of mishap is not unprecedented, but it was uncomfortable nonetheless and I was unable to move my neck for the several days that followed. Thankfully, it was not raining, which it has taken to doing a lot in Sydney recently. If there is a country somewhere in the world that has quicker changing weather than Australia, I would be surprised to learn about it. The other morning I got a horrendous sunburn whilst sitting in the park, and then by the afternoon I was hurrying around Sydney's back alleys trying to find refuge, which came in the form of a Thai restaurant. It seemed the safest option given that one side housed a pawn shop and the other a seedy looking Thai 'massage parlour'. As in most Western countries, restaurants serving 'authentic cuisine' also usually serve chips and coke, but not this place. I almost had a genuine culture shock as I sat down and realised with a panic that there were no knives and forks, but I was about to be forced to eat my meal with my arch nemesis - chopsticks. In my 21 years of life, I have never figured out how people eat with these things. It took me the best part of 40 minutes to eat a plate of rice, and even then I had to use four chopsticks clamped together to fashion a kind of scoop. After many failed attempts to pick up a piece of pork, I eventually resorted to just stabbing angrily at my plate in the hopes of spearing a prize. On top of my chopstick related dilemma, the waiter had placed several unfamiliar dishes in front of me, brought in various different bowls and cups. Just as I was about to pour what I thought was sauce on my rice, I noticed a woman at the next table gesturing wildly over at me. She pulled her own 'sauce' towards her and started dipping her fingers in it, which I thought was odd behaviour until I realised that it was for cleaning your hands with. I spent the next five minutes pointing to various things on my table whilst she mimed out their functions. I was particularly confused about the teapot (something I finally recognised) as there were no cups, but apparently it is customary in Thailand to drink tea out of a bowl... I finally managed to work my way through my meal though, my new friend beaming proudly at me across the room, and for a while I felt like a genuine Thai diner - until I had to spend ten minutes trying to explain to the waiter that I wanted to pay, which was a whole new fiasco altogether. Naturally.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The Only Way I Would Pay $195 For A Haircut Would Be If It Was Nibbled Off By Pedigree Kittens

The thing about Australia is, due to its size, you often find yourself in tiny towns with a population of three and a 'corner shop' that is a 6km bushwalk away. It's also pretty much a guarantee that these towns will be home to the worst hostels, all cockroach infested and bedbug ridden due to a lack of competition. Fortunately, as they are in the middle of nowhere, these hostels make extra effort to ensure you are entertained during your stay. Unfortunately, these entertainments include such events as the Queensland Feline Association Two Day Cat Spectacular. Unless every single cat I have ever owned (and there have been a lot - preparation for eventual life of a cat lady and all that) has been incredibly mundane, then I cannot imagine a feline doing anything that can be considered even exciting, let alone spectacular, and definitely not for two days straight. I think the most impressive thing my first cat ever did was accept a life in which Kezia and I would dress him up in a frock (matching bonnet of course included), swing him around by his arms, and then push his ears back so he looked not unlike a bald eagle. I like to think he enjoyed his life. Well, before my mother mercilessly ran him over. Obviously.

Partly because it's exciting (but mainly because I can't afford the $2 booking fee), I have stopped booking hostels in advance and have instead taken to hopping off the Greyhound bus in whatever town I land in and beginning a search for somewhere to sleep on foot. This led to me one day the other week hopping on a random bus to join a tour on a camping and canoe trip in Noosa. This would all have been well and good had there not just been a cyclone further up the coast, thus ensuring that it poured down (and I mean poured) for three days non-stop. Thankfully, the camp had a 'things to do when it's raining' list. This included a Make You Own Digeridoo class (I don't think the guy was too impressed when I suggested the middle of a kitchen roll), a Paint Your Own Boomarang class (apparently not a euphamism), and, worryingly, a Make Your Own Emu Caller. I don't know about anyone else, but the last thing I would be want to do if I saw an emu would be to call it to me, but, you know, Australians... Whilst I was in this camp, I somehow managed to offend someone of every nationality in four days. For future reference, refrain from asking a group of Canadians if they are American and do not make "this camp looks like Auschwitz" jokes to a German. For all my efforts, I'm not doing the Brit abroad reputation much good. Still, at least I'm faring better than the Scots. I heard a Scottish girl the other day say to her parents, "it's our Easter in Australia on Sunday! When's yours?" Oh, the shame. She was also telling her mum (yes, I was eavesdropping, hostels can get boring), that she'd just got a haircut for $195. $195! The only way I would ever pay that much for a haircut would be if it was nibbled off by pedigree kittens, of the Queensland Feline Association no less.

I think you can tell a lot about a hostel from the first couple of seconds you are in the room. If there is nothing on the floor, then it probably means there are insects and no one wants to put anything down. If there is stuff everywhere, then there probably aren't any insects, but there will be by the time you leave. Sometimes you have to make quick life and death decisions. For example, a hostel I stayed in last week had bunk beds that were literally just two beds, balanced on top of each other. Take the bottom bunk and risk death during the night if the person on top collapses onto you, or take the top bunk and risk the guilt of killing the person below you? In the end, I decided that it would be unfortunate, but if someone had to sacraficed in order to prolong my own life, then so be it. One of the best hostels I stayed in was in Byron Bay (I stayed there three nights and then reluctantly moved to a cheaper one down the road). Byron Bay is pretty much the marajuana centre of the East Coast, and as such everyone in my dorm room would get up in the morning, get stoned, and then make pancakes by the thousand and insist I join them for breakfast. This continued all day, every day. Every time I went back to the hostel - regardless of the time of day - they would be either making pancakes, eating pancakes, or about to finish their weed and then make some pancakes. It was amazing. I didn't have to buy food for four days and have since learnt that the secret to food budgetting is to bunk with stoners.

The good news is that my tan has been officially upgraded to that of a bronzed Goddess. The bad news is that, for some unknown reason, my left arm is the only part of my anatomy to achieve such status, leaving my right arm, both my legs, and my face with some catching up to do as they are still a pasty white. I'm getting some sunbathing done now though as it is free and there's only so many times I can hover around the local market stalls without buying anything. My lack of financial stability has also led me to indulge myself in a lot more reading, prompting a homeless person in Brisbane to call me a 'bookworm' before shamelessly asking me for money. Obviously she didn't hold it against me though as she wasted no time in pulling me into a very warm embrace when I gave her a dollar. It wasn't just a quick hug either, no no. It was a full-on, many limbed, lingering (both the embrace and the smell she left behind) snuggle. I can't imagine which part of my 'take my money and leave' facial expression she took to mean 'please, hold me against your bosom', but I have since learnt that she is not the only person in Brisbane (homeless or otherwise) to be overly affectionate. The bar beneath my hostel regularly sported naked waitresses - I never thought I would feel over dressed primarily because I was wearing underwear, but I suppose that's just the kind of place Brisbane is. It did have lots of interesting things to do though - within my first day I had visited the Brisbane museum (to buy some water), the Gallery of Modern Art (to go for a wee), and the Brisbane Public Library (to use the free internet). In Byron Bay, things are a lot more laid back and relaxed. (Probably because everyone's stoned). They have a really amazing lighthouse that I've been to on more than one occasion, and the other day I even saw a whale. Well, I think it was a whale. It was either that or the Dawn French of the dolphin world.