MELBOURNE, Australia -- So here I am in the land down under, 9,463 miles away from America and eating vegemite sandwiches. My original assumption was that Oz was similar to the United States, but as the weeks pass, I realize the only thing in common is that both countries speak English! These Aussies lead a completely different lifestyle than a typical Richmonder.
We all have our typical associations of people, places and things: peanut butter and jelly, Jekyl and Hyde, 8:15 at Boatwright and Richmond. Since I have been here, I have added a few more associations to my book:
1. NBA and America. It is the most common topic of conversation when an Aussie establishes my American background.
"I love the NBA," they often say. Then ask, "do you watch it? What is your favorite team?"
2.Pennsylvania and Transylvania. Yes, that's correct. I have had quite a few people think that I live with the vampires. When I tell them I am from Pennsylvania, their eyes light up and they say, "Ah! You live with Dracula and the vampires?" It is heartbreaking to see their faces fall when I have to break the news that is Transylvania is not even located in the United States.
3. Surfing and the nuddy. If it is not obvious, to be in the nuddy means to be naked. I had my first adventure surfing a few weekends ago at the beaches in Torquay, and it was good fun! Once you learn the basics of catching a wave and positioning yourself on the board, it is a matter of repetition until you can stand up without thinking about it. After a long day of trying to surf in the 60 degree water and massaging my sore arms, all I wanted to do was bundle up in my purple, fleece blanket and watch the Olympics, but that was all but impossible because of the dozen or more Australian surfers dancing around naked in the corner.
Wide-eyed and in complete disbelief, another surfer reassured me that this was not uncommon, but a regular occurrence and more frequent when the weather warms up because riding the waves in the nuddy was a club favorite. Hm ...
It would be foolish of me not to describe the fashion style, not so much of the girls, but more so the blokes. I found that Australians can point out that I am an American even before I speak because of our different fashion, and the fact that they don't rock the North Face fleece, like us sepos do. (A little note about the term sepos: it is what the Aussies call Americans because we are like septic tanks, a.k.a. we are full of crap.
Oh, and please do not take this to heart because it is just a playful term!) The other day I had numerous Aussies and Europeans tell me I looked fancy because I was wearing a JCrew sweater vest! If only they went to Richmond...
Anyway, back to the dress code. I would have to say that American boys have it worse off in terms of fitting in with style because of two distinctions: skinny jeans and short shorts. Now, I know that skinny jeans are fashionable, but before I came to Melbourne, I associated skinny jeans with girls. Yes, girls here definitely wear skinny jeans, but blimey, so do the fellas. And when I say skinny, I would have to compare their legs to the size of my arms. No lie, I actually think that I have more muscle in my arms than a few of the guys' legs I have seen, and that is not saying much! It is also interesting to note that Australia has a larger obesity population than America; though living in the city and seeing this skinny-jean style daily, I have yet to see many obese people.
Another clothing item is the short shorts. It is only September, and the temperature is starting to creep up to the high 50s and low 60s, but the short shorts are emerging! These are not the khaki-style shorts, but colorful, bathing-suit-type material, above-the-knees shorts. In fact, they remind me of the shorts my father would have been found wearing in the '70s. This style distinction was a bit of a surprise at first, but after seven weeks, it is starting to grow on me. I can't fathom the day skinny jeans and short shorts reach the United States.
Australian dancing is another topic that must be discussed and kept in mind for those planning to venture Down Under anytime soon. Note to self: It is NOT lodge dancing, but rather no-touch dancing! In fact, if there is contact when you dance, it means that your partner plans to pick up with you, or, as known in the States, hooking up. It is amusing and rather easy to scan a dance floor and distinguish the Americans from Australians. It boggles Australians' minds when you describe the standard dance moves of Americans. Ah, if only they could witness a lodge party ...
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Well, it is crazy to think that it is mid-semester already, and spring break is approaching. There is little work to be done throughout the semester, but that is because they throw it all at you during mid-term and finals week. This means there are three to four assignments worth anywhere from 20 to 60 percent of your grade! I am bogged down with work at the moment, and will admit that I am more appreciative of Richmond in terms of the academic structure, registration process and sense of time.
It's humorous to think back to my first week of courses because I was extremely frazzled and overwhelmed. The staff at University of Melbourne send you from one place to the next, and after about 10 buildings, the receptionist at your current location says to you, "Oh, well it actually won't work out for you." Or "Oh, how silly of them to send you here because you need to go to this building off campus and then go back to the first building to stalk a professor and see if you can possibly get into that class, which is doubtful."
On the first day of classes, I ran around trying to add courses and become accustomed to the building locations on campus. At 2:15 p.m. on Monday, I arrived at my first class, and after five minutes of teaching, the professor realized the course was overfull because of the large amount of students sitting on the floor in the lecture hall. In a matter of seconds, the professor changed the time and location of the course and did not seem concerned if the change would conflict with students' schedules! About 20 or so kids left because they had class at the time the course was moved to. Of course, I was one of them, which did not help with my already stressful day.
Speaking of stressful, it looks like it is going to be a long week, and I must get back to my studies! More to come ...
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