We’re on Day 6 here- according to O, our self-appointed timekeeper- and just shaking off the jet lag and “vacation syndrome” of our arrival. Our first week has been a rush of new and novel sights and experiences. I am a bit overwhelmed, so just made a list-thing for this post.
Here are some things we picked up on (in no particular order):
- It’s hot, but not like “hot-hot”- It’s Summer here. Maybe 95º midday and humid- comparable to NC high-Summer weather. We adjusted to it well, despite coming here straight from snow and ice. The new upstairs neighbors are French-Canadian and German, coming here after living in Scotland for some time. They are melting. We are frolicking. We did get a bit pinked-up after walking around for a few hours without protection… evidently, the sun is much closer or stronger or something here. Sunscreen is important. Otherwise, you’ll be sizzled to a crisp.
- My hair and skin are LIVING for This Climate- I am not ashamed to indulge in some vanity here. The Greek in me is flourishing under this heat and humidity. How about hair that curls in the right way and skin that glows and gets clearer every day? I’ll take that over winter-itchy redness and frizzy flatness any day.
- Everything Wonderful Grows Easily Here– Merv took us to his house and we marveled at his garden. In it, we saw: Mango, Avocado, Papaya, Oranges, Lemons, Pineapples, Jabuticaba, Passion Fruit, Coffee, Macadamias, Pink Lady Apples, and all sorts of amazing vegetables and herbs like Tomatoes, Silver beet, beans, etc, that grow year-round. Merv’s wife, Margaret, asked at our inability to grow such things. My heart also tsks. It really is a shame.
- This City Smells Good. Like, Really, REALLY Good- Brisbane is an urban zone, but there are many wild spaces that are home to native plants, and those imported from East and Southeast Asia. The refreshing vapor of eucalyptus mingles with soothing hibiscus to neutralize a lot of the traffic and other city odors (odours). Also- there are many smaller markets here that offer an abundance of fresh fruits. These get overripe fast in the hot heat and emit a gorgeous aroma that reminds me of an episode of Star Trek I saw as a kid, with my dad. I am wooed by the thickness of the nectar and want to just roll around in the produce aisle and … oh… sorry, forgot myself for a moment there.
- Englishes Are Different- I realize that I am entering graduate-level courses in an area where the spelling and grammar rules that have been banged into my head by countless well-intentioned (American) English teachers no longer apply. While not illiterate, I am definitely behind the game. I may just add an extra “u” to everything and hope for the best.
- Fake Vodka– this is a liquid that is packaged in a “vodka” bottle and sold alongside actual vodka. It has a similar proof rating, but is a bit less than half the price. Here’s the rub- it isn’t vodka, which you probably guessed by the word “fake.” The guy at the store warned me away from it, saying that it’s basically fortified wine (think Mad Dog 40/40 or Wild Irish Rose) that kids buy to make mixed drinks with at teenage parties. The drinking age here is 18, so that makes a lot of sense. For us grown-ups who prefer not lose major organ function all at once, this is a terrible thing. A terrible thing, indeed. I am happy the friendly shopkeep stopped me from making a terrible, terrible mistake.
- The Term “Reluctant American” exists– this is a person from the States who is not super-eager to announce that to the world. They dodge around it and prefer to spend time in the company of anyone other than more Americans. I can see how this person exists… especially with US politics standing as they do at the moment.
- *Note: Flyer photographed in West End, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. 9,485 miles away from Washington, DC, USA. Yeesh…
- Casual Nudity is Casual- it is completely common to see people from all walks of life in little to no clothing, just out in public everywhere. Shoes are especially forgone, but also shirts and pants. I have seen more people in their underwear here, just chatting outside with neighbors or whatever, than I have since my mid-twenties. Changing out of bathing suits into street clothes while standing at the edge of the water is cool, too. I wonder why we even bother with suits (or swimming costumes, as they call them here) at all.
- Native Trees Don’t Shed Leaves, but Rather Bark– it only appears that every eucalyptus is blighted. In fact, the trees regenerate in Summer, as opposed to our Winter dormancy, and slough off big sheets of bark so they can grow. Like a snake shedding its skin. Which is an awesome metaphor, until you start thinking about snakes.
- Snakes!!- I have not seen any snakes so far, but I believe it is not far off. The community center/drop-in-childcare building had multiple signs warning visitors to watch for snakes. Why? Oh, you know, because they found AN EXTREMELY VENOMOUS SNAKE ON THE PLAYGROUND! … but, you know, no biggie. They put up a sign.
- Australians Are Waaaay Laid Back- As evidenced by shoeless nudity and snake casualness. But really- my limited experience shows me that terms like “no worries” and “well done” are not only common vernacular, but also a way of life. These phrases are used in professional and casual conversation and are indicative of a supportive and chill existence. You just can’t get all that worked up here, it seems. Maybe because of the heat.
- Animals Are Cute, Birds Are Terrifying- Kangaroos and koalas, as it turns out, are not as huggable as I need them to be. They are pretty standoffish, actually. Whatever. Possums are cuuuute… but also not interested in my snuggles- or even in being photographed. I have several shots of darkened treetops to attest to their diva behavior. There are turtles and creepy eel-fish things in the pond on my university campus that are interested in eating fingers (so I imagine), and the birds are creepy (like ALL BIRDS EVERYWHERE are). A bird called “noisy miner” sounds like a squeaky wheelbarrow, magpies and crows attack people’s heads during swooping season, bush turkeys are city turkeys that tear up gardens and do not give a whit about you trying to stop them, ibis are relatively harmless but will steal your lunch, and a flock of cockatoos is the most terrifying thing that ever darkened the sky with their white feathers of doom. I have no photos because I do not want to die. Birds are scary. AND BATS!!!- I almost forgot about the bats. There are flying foxes here. Which are pretty much the size of foxes. With huge, leathery wings. The biggest I have personally seen had about a four foot span. Yeah- like, the size of my younger child. But, you know- it’s whatever.
- There is a Fake Beach, on the River, in the Middle of the City!!!– South Bank is an open-access pool/faux-beach area on the bank of the river. Visitors can cool off, sun themselves, and grab a drink at one of the overpriced bars nearby. There are lifeguards on duty, despite the water being only 5’ at the deepest. As evening falls, underwater light turn the entire place lavender and you can see the reflected lights of the city all around you. It is a dreamer’s paradise!
Which reminds me, we promised the boys we’d be back at South Bank this evening. I need to go find my “swimming costume” …
… or not.