Sunday, December 11, 2011

Hey Girl, listen to these sonic vibrations

First of all, everyone needs to watch Drive. If not because it's an amazing film, then because Ryan Gosling is in it and we all know we'd happily watch him watching paint dry, given the opportunity. Preferably shirtless. Added bonus is the synth-tastic soundtrack, reminiscent of Blade Runner's. Most of the actual album is filled with a whole lot of eerie notes that could have been made by someone leaning on the keyboard and not realising, but there's some good'ns in there too.

I suggest you acquire it legally, or illegally like I did and enjoy while perusing the myriad of "Hey Girl" tumblrs and Is Ryan Gosling Cuter Than A Puppy?

Update on me that doesn't involve wasting time on the internet: I can feel my brain cells committing suicide out of boredom during my work week, but I still enjoy the pay check and the freedom of being able to buy things because I can and not convince myself I don't need it because I'm saving for something or rather. The contract has been extended to the end of January and possibly to the end of March which is somewhat terrifying. Although, I listen to Harry Potter audio books in the car so I almost look forward to going to work now. It's just a whole lot harder to get out once I park. I worked the Tuesday of that mad storm; it was complete chaos and by late afternoon we wanted to join the hysterically crying babies after all the abuse we had to deal with. I'm going to apply for a writing internship/exchange thing in Europe for next year and I finally bought an iPhone. Perth still frustrates me, I don't like the way it makes me super lazy and lame - I still want to live somewhere else. I haven't got around to doing any more exercise than that time I chased the dog around the table for fifteen minutes. 

Please, Santa?

Bintang AND Ed Hardy?! 
Straight to the top of my wishlist.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I can haz gormay burger?

Dear Gourmet Burger Places,

Movember has recently become a fun way of raising money and awareness for prostate cancer research. Men of varying ages attempt to grow a mustache for sponsorship by friends and family, whether they can or not. As someone who fits into that 'friends and family' category with a newly disposable income and an irrational fear of being diagnosed with cancer (even types I'm unlikely to get) I was more than happy to donate fifty of my hard earned dollars, of which actual tears went into to creating, to encourage my friend Lloyd to sport a filthy mo.

I previously thought it was great that burger places such as Jus Burgers and Grill'd gave away one free meal a day to guys with a hairy top lip during the month of November. Yes! Encourage the charitable behaviour! However, it recently occurred to me that this is a little unfair. While my male counterparts get lazier (don't shave their top lip for thirty days, which also gives them #hipstercred) they get many free, unbelievably delicious burgers. However, I part with a few hours worth of my pay plus I have to buy my burgers? Do you not think more people will donate money, if you gave the free burgers to the people giving away their money? Redirect the positive reinforcement, people!

C'mon, can I just have one free burger? I craved them big time while I was away and whinged to anyone who would listen. Sure I can afford to buy one but everything tastes better when it's free.


P.S. I swear I'm not saying this because I'm a woman and there's no Ovarian Cancer equivalent. I just want a free burger.

Customs/Quarantine Inspection Queue Officer

"Sian, this job sounds terrible. Why the hell are you doing it?"

Seemed to be a common theme among my friends' reactions to hearing about the job in the customs hall that my dad had lined up for me (he also works at the airport). So with dread I drove to the international airport at 5pm last Thursday, ready to start my night shift that would go through to 6am on Friday morning. I felt a bit like "those who can, do and those who can't, teach." As in "those who travel, do and those who can't watch other people walk through customs." Whenever I saw a plane taking off, I remember desperately wishing I was on it, not caring where it was going. Also, something about taking a job my dad had arranged for me seemed to be the last bit of individual decision making before my complete loss of independence since returning home.

After introducing myself ("How did you find this position?" Me: " Dad works here...Trevor Sugars?") to the Duty Manager, I was given a warmer high visibility jacket and promptly introduced to everyone else in the office or anyone we walked passed during my first shift. I was to be working with Jacinta, a familiar looking girl who went to MLC (a Perth girls' school). Halfway through the night I realised I had played netball against her during high school. During my first five shifts, I saw someone I knew coming through arrivals every night, with the degree of closeness getting smaller every time. It's wonderful to be back in tiny, tiny Perth.

Our job is basically to be a glorified, highly paid fence post. We manage the queue before people get into the queue to go through quarantine or customs. We also tell people to get their declaration cards out and put their passports away (if they want). That's it. That's all we have to do for twelve hours at a time. Managing the queue involves controlling how long it is and taking the abuse when we make people walk too far, or wait too long, which is often. As my first week was during CHOGM, many people, while waiting in the embarrassingly long line, commented that CHOGM put Perth on the map. I beg to differ; Perth's terrible international arrivals hall puts us on the map. It's as if the person who designed it has never been to any other airports and failed to realise that yes, even in Perth, the arrivals hall gets very busy. Generally during the middle of the day and night there are about four or five big flights that land at the same time or within ten minutes of each other which means that sometimes there are over one thousand tired, grumpy, jetlagged people in the arrivals hall, after they have had their passports stamped with immigration and collected their luggage. We end up making them stand  in a line that has tripled on itself like a coiled up snake, before they walk through a gap in the wall to join a line that is doubled on itself to have their declaration cards checked for a second time. This means they may either need to stand in another line that is doubled on itself for quarantine, or walk straight out the door. Many people have to wait over an hour to be told they can walk out and don't have to have their bags checked. Hint for avoiding this: don't arrange an international flight that lands in Perth for a few hours either side of midnight or early afternoon, if you can. And don't fly through Dubai, those flights take forever to clear.

I soon learnt that flights from Denpasar, Bali are filled with unattractive, drunk and rude passengers and are most likely to complain. I've never been a fan of people who think going to Bali counts as travelling (it's basically an international extension of Perth) but after being abused by these people at 4am because they "bet the Queen didn't have to wait in this line" I've given up all respect for them. And, no, she damn well didn't have to wait. When you're head of the Commonwealth you'll be picked up airside and won't have to bother with immigration and customs either. Sometimes when I haven't checked the flight screen to see where the flight is coming from I quickly work out they're from Bali by spotting the Bintang singlets, missing teeth, braided hair, sunburned skin and new, glistening, hideous tattoos. I quite like some tattoos and occasionally toy with the idea of getting one myself, but I certainly wouldn't get inked in Indonesia. Especially after hearing about all the people who have done so and returned with HIV. Huge numbers of passengers from Bali (especially flying with Garuda) have new tattoos and I shudder to think how many of those have contracted the virus out of stupidity [boganinity].

**EDIT: My darling mother has requested that I ad in a few sentences explaining that I too have been to Bali (I was 8, it doesn't count) and I too had braided hair (okay, I really wanted that). It's practically un-Australian if you live in Perth and haven't been to Bali at least once. And yes, I am aware that "normal" people (ie. some of my friends) holiday there as well. And it's okay for people to have less money and only be able to afford certain holiday destinations. That's fine, of course. But the majority of people coming from Denpasar are still fat and rude.

At least one person on every flight tries to convince us that they have already handed in their declaration card and attempt to walk past us. We tell them that they can't go any further without the card and can you please look in your passport because I know "the lady up there" (first customs officer marking their card for quarantine or customs) definitely gave it back to you. They look insulted in a how-dare-you-tell-me-what-I-have-or-don't-have-how-would-you-know-anyway and then they are surprised and embarrassed and apologetic to discover that "the lady up there" did in fact give it back to them. I love it. Every time. It's like performing a magic trick.

Jacinta and I became delirious by our third shift and started making up stories about/perving on the customs guys. We were in the mindset that if we didn't laugh, we'd cry, which seems to be a theme with my life of late. I have since switched to day shifts which is so much worse due to a five hour gap of no flights coming in or going out of the international airport. We (I now work with Matthew, from Ireland, here on a working visa) also have to liaise with the volunteers, or gold coats. The gold coats have been doing our job on their own for the past ten years and then the airport hired us to come in so they can guarantee that someone will be manning the flights at all times.The gold coats, being old retirees, who by nature are afraid of change and see us as their replacement, have taken this as a great insult and taken it upon themselves to be rude to us. I was going to explain an incident (or "teething tension" as my recruitment consultant referred to it) that happened with them on Monday but I came across sounding more immature than they did following the incident. So ask me about it, if you really want to. Or not, whatever. Basically young paid workers and old volunteers don't mix, especially when I've been running on five hours of sleep and working for twelve. The mis-communication resulted with me in hysterical tears and wondering why I didn't just stick it out in London. It's all sorted now, though.

Last week, Dave, the friend I stayed with in Seattle, asked me how I was coping with being back home. I realised I had almost forgotten about being away and said "all the hate in my life is now devoted to this job." Which I guess could be a good thing, but it's also pretty depressing. This was before the gold coats incident too. Thank Christ, I get paid buttloads.

I still can't get over how much I get paid for the little amount of work I do. I work four days on, four days off and make about $1000 (after tax) every week. It's absurd. I was working my arse off in London and made shit all - oh yeah, that's why I didn't stick it out. I have so much money, I'm not sure what to do with it. I've forgotten how to spend money on things I don't need. I am planning on buying an iPhone/Android at some point, though. Even though that's half "travelling alone with a smartphone would be so much easier" and "I just fucking want one."

With the amount I get paid, I don't care that Dad got me this job and I almost don't care that I'm living in Perth. I can look at a plane taking off and not immediately wish I was on it - what if it was going to Bali?! Considering the $500 transfer every week, I'm slowly paying off the disgusting amount of debt I am in to my parents. The airport is just trialing this position up til New Year's (oh yeah, I'm working Christmas Day and New Year's Eve/Day) but I don't want to keep doing this if it is turned into a permanent thing. I'm thinking more seriously about moving to Melbourne next year, instead of travelling around Europe/America again, even if Moving to Melbourne is more cliched than Living in London. But who knows, I change my mind more often than my underwear sometimes.

It's okay, I change my dacks at least once a day, that wasn't a comment on low standards of personal hygiene.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


So I changed it. Technically, I came up with 'Whatever, Fred' because this was my author name on blogger, but I was pretty proud of it so I adopted it for a more public domain. I was trying to think of blog names that sum up my apathetic, sarcastic, lazy and judgmental nature and this just seemed the best and makes me the least depressed (runner up was 'A Lack of Interest'). My best friend in primary school's grandfather (got it?) used to call me Fred (because he couldn't pronounce Sian), in case you were wondering where I got it from.

Sam, whose parents I stayed with in Chile, came up with the new URL. I said I'd mention whoever came up with the name and here I am, mentioning Sam. I like it. Much easier to remember than, anyway. It's also true. Because I have been known, on occasion, to do things.

After a few nights of judging the people who pass through the customs hall, I realised how fantastic I am at it and thought about what job I could get that requires people to be judged all the time. Realising I already have a blog, I decided to make it more obvious that this is one of my strengths, and toyed with the idea of renaming it 'The Judgmentalist' but decided that just sounds like a critique of the TV show The Mentalist. I know nothing about that show (the guy solves crimes with his mind? Because normally crimes are solved with your knees, right?) and abandoned the idea.

And yes, the picture in the title is Van Gogh's Almond Blossom.

Possibly going to stop linking every post to facebook because I don't have a whole lot of exciting things to write about in Perth. Come check for yourself every now and again. Please. If you want.

Sometime in the near future I'll write about my wonderfully depressing but disgustingly highly paid new job and the new intensified hate I have for people who travel to Bali.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pimp My Blog

This thang needs revamping now that I am no longer in England or even abroad. Suggestions encouraged. Something witty, but not so witty that it's lame. Anything with the words "musings," "ideas", "thoughts" etc will be rejected. Best blog name wins an honourable mention and the knowledge that they came up with the name for a moderately popular blog among my friends and family.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Last Week in London and First Weeks Back in Perth

So Daniel and I moved into Phoenix Hostel in Marylebone for seven nights to sort out where we were going to live. The hostel was filled with people just like us; homeless, unemployed and spending all day on their laptops trying to find someone to pay them to do things so they could afford their own roof over their head. There were three beds to a bunk and the showers stunk. By the second or third day, I gave up.

Daniel on his bed. One metre above mine. Don't let the smile fool you into thinking we were happy.

"I think I'm just going to go home," I said to Daniel as we discovered our hangovers from the middle and top bunk beds.
"Yeah?" Came his muffled response through the mattress above me.
"Yeah, I think so." I felt thoroughly crap and it had nothing to do with cotton mouth or my churning stomach. And that was pretty much it. I met with Mum and Dad later that day, they thought it was "for the best" and started booking me a flight home for that weekend. I said I wanted to stay until the end of the week as my friend, Sutton, from Portland was coming to London and it was unlikely I'd see her again.

Until Sutton got there, Daniel and I spent our days drinking in parks (and once hung out with a roadie for various heavy metal bands, who told us filthy/hilarious stories) and eating £2.50 Meal Deals from Tesco, singing "I hate my life, I hate my life" to the tune of the wedding march and wondering how it all turned to shit so quickly. Daniel's life, in particular, did a stark 180 turn. I couldn't go in to details before because he was suspended from Burberry but has since been let go. Basically, he had been given his dream promotion in China, we all got kicked out of Pepys, he made a joke to burn Burberry down after not being allowed one day off work, was put on paid suspension and then fired. Absurd. I'm pretty sure if I had made a joke to one of my managers at Sacred about burning the place down they would have handed me some matches.

Mimosas and card games.

And then Sutton was there. We talked about Portland and I showed her Brick Lane, Camden Markets and Regent's Park where we continued our tradition (if you've only done it once before, can it be a tradition?) of drinking in trees. We discussed our plans of me marrying her friend Javier so I could live in America/Portland (he's going to wear a purple tux and I'm going to wear the mirror ball suit from The Mighty Boosh, Sutton will be my maid of honour and Daniel my flower girl; it's going to a stunning event) and her marrying my friend Andrew Sutton so she can be called Sutton Sutton.

Sutton in a tree.
Doing the Pockets Dance in Brick Lane.

And then I stayed with Giulio, one of my CS hosts when I first got to London. I didn't want to go home, but I was sick of the waiting around and I couldn't be bothered with the upcoming twenty nine hour transit back to Perth. On my second last day in London, I had breakfast with Daniel in Bethnal Green (he has since returned home to Vancouver) and then we parted ways on the Central Line. That night I went out in Brixton with Giulio and his friends. I sat outside Hootenanny, a local reggae/Creole venue, and thought how I was going to miss these cool bars and the casual lifestyle of going out for a couple of drinks. It seems like so much less effort in London. I woke up early on Sunday morning after Giulio's kitten spent most of the night crawling across my chest and made my way to Heathrow, very glad it would be the last time I had to cart all my belongings on public transport.

The last things I remember were getting annoyed that Londoners don't move along the carriage (or help) when someone has a lot of luggage, talking to a bogan Australian from country Victoria and helping an American couple find their terminal.

The flight from London to Singapore was uneventful. I had an eleven hour stop over in Changi, which was the middle of the night on London time. I watched the last four episodes of Doctor Who, two of Parks and Recreation and then passed out in my chair. The flight from Singapore to Perth was fine until two hours before landing the exit sign and warning signal flashed consistently until we landed. The pilot assured us that it was a minor malfunction and apologised for the disturbance. Then we went through some moderate turbulence - which made the man sitting in front of me scream. Twice. I considered leaning over and asking him if he thought we were going to crash but thought better of it/couldn't be bothered undoing my seat belt and untangling myself from my nest of blankets and pillows.

For the first week in Perth, I was severely jetlagged but didn't try that hard to get over it. Which generally resulted in me staying up until 4:30am and crying at some point. I had to set an alarm for 12pm on Mum's birthday, 5am London time, which was a struggle.

It didn't take long before being away for nine months felt like a dream. Like an Alice in Wonderland kind of thing. Nothing has changed in Perth although the fridge seems smaller, my bed is tiny and not as comfortable as I remember and everyone had broad accents for my first couple of days back. I had to ask Mum if people were actually bogans because I couldn't tell. The bird outside my window still makes the sound of small children being murdered just before dawn and the crazy bag lady still gets the 443 bus and walks home from Davallia Road (although she has upgraded to a red wheely bag from the green Woolworths bag). Every now and again I remember standing on the tube in London or walking down the street in San Francisco and think "Oh yeah...I was away. I went places."

My dog, Bobbi, is just as adorable as ever. I still enjoy rousing her from sleep to smother her with attention.

My sister, Steph, came over for Mum's birthday and to organise her wedding. A jetlagged, miserable twenty one year old mixed with Bridezilla is not a wonderful experience and I don't recommend trying it, but we survived with some minor bumps along the way. Steph has a venue, a dress and the bridesmaid dresses sorted. While shopping for the latter she asked me what I wanted to wear, thinking "well, I usually don't like wearing exactly the same thing as three other people," but decided to keep my mouth shut and mumble something along the lines of "I'm not sure yet." The chosen dress is nice, though. You'll like it, too.

Me, Catsanus and Mum at Indiana Teahouse in Cottesloe for Mum's birthday/everyone else's birthday on Mum's side of the family.
My new...cousin, Helix.
(How are you related to your cousin's child? Great Aunt? Great Second Cousin?)

A few days later I pulled my room apart and threw out a whole lot of crap. Thinking that I had lived without it for nine months, I can live without it now and how the hell did I gather so much junk anyway?! I also took five bags of clothes and shoes to the Good Sammy's bins. I ripped down all my posters and photos and kept my walls bare apart from the posters I actually paid for and a few postcards I collected in Berlin. It felt good. A few hours later I was watching TV (which I think is pretty crap now) with Mum and suddenly said "I want my stuff back." I also dyed my hair brown. Maybe I went a little bit nuts.

I surprised my friends by organising "group skype dates" and then showing up to their houses. Their screams/open, gaping mouths were thoroughly entertaining.

Dad has since got me a job working in the customs hall at the airport. It's going to be mind numbingly boring (twelve hour shifts, four days on, four days off) but it is amazing pay. The plan was to stay and work in Perth until Catsanus' wedding but I'm thinking (as of twenty seven minutes ago) that I might move to Melbourne early next year. It's not that I hate Perth that much, I'm just over it. I don't like driving down the street thinking "oh hey, I remember going to that park with Grandma when I was six." I want to be somewhere new. I want to be somewhere that I want to be, rather than working to like where I am. That and I can't decide where I want to go travelling next.

I like being home with a fridge full of food and enjoying Mum's amazing cooking and not worrying about how much money I'm spending on general living expenses while I work out what I want to do, but it's hard to stay positive/entertained when all my friends are busy with university/work. I guess it will get better when I start working too. Even if I will be a zombie.

I've spent the rest of my time watching Adam Scott in whatever TV show I can find and trying to motivate myself to exercise (I almost got there then it started raining). I miss my independence. I miss being whoever I want to be. I miss London and I miss goofing around with Daniel.

This came across as way more depressing than I intended. I'm okay, really. I think.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


While travelling with Mum and Dad, the plan was to follow them to Sweden and stay in Uppsala with Lloyd or maybe travel on my own for a bit while they galavanted around Scandinavia with their friends. Unfortunately, last minute flights from Amsterdam to Stockholm were too expensive (Ryanair was booked out) so I was sent to Berlin for two weeks until they got there. How horrible for me.

My American friend Grace, from Illinois, is currently studying in Berlin and said I could stay on her couch while I was there. She met me at Oppelner Strasse train station in Kreuzberg and we walked the few blocks back to her apartment. I was amazed and jealous to discover that she had a huge room, in fact even her bathroom was bigger than my bedroom at Pepys (it had a couch in it!) and she paid €360 per month when I paid £460. I was liking Berlin already.

That night, in between catching up on Illinois gossip and telling me about the Kreuzberg area (and how much I was about to fall in love with Berlin) we ate some of the delicious food around the corner from her flat and drank Club Mate and vodka. Grace raved about the Club Mate, an energy drink made from a Brazilian tea, and I was skeptical about how it would taste. But I have to say, I really liked it, and I still crave it. It basically tastes like fizzy apple juice and is popular with young people in Berlin, both on its own and with alcohol. That night we went out with two of Grace's friends in Kottbusser Tor, where we danced all night in a club above a Kaiser's (supermarket) that used to be a doctor's office.

The English don't know the meaning of Jacket Potato.
Grace, Ilona, Megan and some Australian guy photobombing.

The next day, I went to Maur Park with Megan, who is originally from California. Maur Park is basically a huge flea market. People set up stalls with unwanted clothes, shoes, bags and crafts. There was also delicious food, beer gartens and lots of people in cool Berlin fashion with their dogs. I was so overwhelmed by the awesomeness of everything that it took me a while to buy anything. We started the day with freshly squeezed orange and pomegranate juice, had some bizarre mix of delicious Turkish vegetables for lunch and had pommes (chips/fries) with beer in the afternoon while it rained. Megan bought an entire wardrobe of new clothes, while I walked away with a blouse, flouro orange and pink jumper (Megan: "I think I owned something like that when I was six.") and an army green jacket, which made me feel very Berlin.

We left the park as everyone was packing up and headed back to Kottbusser Tor for a few quiet drinks. We found a hookah bar and decided to sit there with a few beers and apple flavoured shisha. After we were significantly relaxed we walked down the road to a Mexican restaurant. Megan, being from California was skeptical about the quality of Mexican food made by Germans. "We have actual Mexicans making it in California," she said. I managed to convince her to try it anyway.

Our foot long burritos were on our plates for all of four and half minutes before they had disappeared. We inhaled them. Ten minutes later we had paid the bill and were sitting on a stoop on the street wondering what had just happened. We had eaten the best Mexican ever, was all we could think about. You know it's good Mexican when a Californian approves.

Walking around Kottbusser Tor in search of a quiet, cosy Irish type pub we stumbled upon a dive bar called 'Red Rose'. This was one of the weirdest, coolest, scariest and most intriguing bars I have ever been to. I remember thinking it was like being in a David Lynch film. In fact we both noted that it was like we were extras in some one else's story. The bar was decorated with cherubs and tinsel around the bar, a collection of gnomes and an ugly witch figurine above the toilet door, a fish tank in the window and the ceiling was covered in that green army bunker lattice stuff. There was a transvestite, who looked more like Pop-Eye than a woman, frisking a guy who hadn't paid his tab, a morbidly obese man-child in a red jumper hanging around the bar and a woman who genuinely looked like the cat lady from The Simpsons wearing an awesome leather cap while playing the pokies in the back. Meanwhile, Echoes by Pink Floyd was playing loudly over the top of everything. Echoes is a pretty spooky song to start with, but whenever I here it, it reminds me of Dad playing it through our record player (yes, I said record player) with all the lights in the house off and made us sit in silence and listen to it for the full twenty minutes. It's an amazing song, and I remember thinking that even when I was scared we were all about to be absorbed into Pink Floyd Void, but I still get the heebie-jeebies when I hear it now. Especially when I wasn't sure if Pop-Eye was about to come and frisk me too. Once we'd finished our beer (and the one guy who spoke English had approached us and requested we dance for/with them) we decided leave, unable to take any more stimulation for the day.

The next day Grace and Megan left for a conference in The Netherlands and I was in Berlin on my own. I wish I could say I had adventures like this everyday but in reality I did some modest exploring of the streets and slept a whole lot (Grace's bed was very comfortable). I visited the East Side Gallery (very cool) and Karl Marx Allee (very boring) and ate a Currywurst (eh).

Grace lived just down the road from an amazing park filled with people having picnics and drinking and smoking weed and making music and reading books and being all I LIVE IN BERLIN LOOK HOW AWESOME MY LIFE IS. So I went down there a few times and watched people. I watched a middle age woman approach two young guys and ask if she could share their weed, in English (why didn't I think of that, damnit!). While telling them about her life she proceeded to smoke the rest of their joint and then yelled at people walking past, complimenting them on their clothes.

It was busier and more awesome than this photo makes it seem.

One night I went to a CouchSurfing meeting, determined to meet some people I could hang out with. I met an American guy who looked like John Hamm (from Mad Men), so I told him he looked like John Hamm (from Mad Men). Then I spoke to an Israeli girl who was unbelievably patronising to me for liking America.

"America? You liked it?"
"Yeah, absoloutely loved it."
"Wow. You're the first person I've met to say anything positive about America."
"Uh..well, I guess, a lot of people hold a pretty ridiculous stereotype about Americans and think they're all fat, stupid and ignorant. No one I met was like that. I made some amazing friends."
"Well, you have fun there," she said as she patted me on the head.

I turned away from her and spoke to an Australian girl sitting on my right about leaving home and travelling and not being that fussed about going home. Before too long, the Israeli girl had piped up again.

"It's a shame about Australians."
"Why, what do you mean?"
"Well, when I was busking in Paris, I met this Australian guy who was going to meet me the next day and busk with me. So I went to the park we were going to meet up in and he never showed up."
"Is that it?"
" that a shame about all Australians...or a shame about that one guy?"
"Uh...yeah... I suppose..."

I'm usually not one to defend Australians all that much, but this girl was a moron and I was tempted to get all patriotic on her. I decided to ignore her instead. She was quite similar to a lot of people I've met in London/the small amount of Europe I've seen. There have been quite a few people who think they're pretty damn amazing because they're travelling Europe. You're not. At all. You're doing exactly the same thing as everyone else at some point in their twenties. Stop it.

(I realise it might come across that I feel that way because I'm writing about my experiences. I don't. I just like travelling and writing and thankfully the two go together quite well. I'm aware that I'm average.)

I watched this 3D street art being painted over three of four days, as I walked past on my way to the train station.

So I also went op shopping a few times. The op shops/thrift stores in Berlin are ah-mazing. I went to one in Alexanderplatz called Humana Project which had a whole floor of cardigans. How was I supposed to go back to London, knowing that this place existed?! And I met the Pope, too.

The Pope approaches.
The Pope is totally in one of those cars. Woo...

The next Saturday night I met up with Alex, another friend from Illinois and her friend, Anna. We had dinner a few train stops away from Oppelner Strasse at an amazing Indian restaurant and then went to Alexanderplatz for a bottle of wine. On the train on the way there were a group of drunkish German guys asking us to throw some rubbish in the plastic bin there were carrying with them. Whenever someone threw an empty bottle or a used train ticket in (who am I kidding, no one in Berlin buys train tickets!) they would cheer maniacally. Alex and I asked Anna (from Berlin) what they were chanting about once they had moved down the carriage. She said they were yelling something about "cleaning up Germany" and wasn't sure if they meant environmentally or racially. I know it's a faux pas to mention Nazis in Germany and I don't want to make a big deal about it, but I thought it was fascinating anyway.

Alex, Anna and moi.

I met Alex and Anna at Maur Park the next day (yeah I liked it that much), we walked around, ate an amazing vegetarian burger and enjoyed the atmosphere before they had to leave as Alex had a train to catch back to Limburgerhof where she was working as an intern. I walked around a bit on my own, bought a beer and a slice of some kind of delicious pie and watched the Bearpit Karaoke. Unfortunately it wasn't on the the first time I was there with Megan because it was raining, but this Sunday had beautiful weather so everyone had gathered at the amphitheater to watch strangers sing. In fact, the weather was so beautiful that I gave up after about five performances and had to retreat back to the shade.

And then I was back with Mum and Dad, telling them about how laid back Berlin is and hearing about their adventures in Sweden and Norway. We went on a walking tour of the city which was really good. It was great to see all the landmarks that my year 10 history teacher, Mrs Wright, had told me about and even to feel proud that I already knew some of the quirky stories that our guide told us. That evening we sat by a canal in a beergarten, drank beer, ate pizza and watched the people and boats amble by.

The boat is called 'Adele', in case you can't see. Mum got ridiculously excited and demanded that I take a photo.

The next day we visited Tacheles, a once Jewish Department Store, Nazi prison and now houses an artist's collective threatened with eviction (thankyou Wikipedia!). Walking in, the first thing to attack your senses is the immense layered graffiti on the walls and banisters and steps and everything.

The next is the distinct smell of piss. Wanting to look at as much as possible and take it all in but also to get it over and done with thanks to the dank aroma made for a strange artistic experience. After exploring the several floors of (let's be honest) somewhat shitty art I waited outside on the street for Mum and Dad. Were weren't allowed to take photos of the exhibitions but they were the kind of displays you look at and say "my three year old niece could have done that."

A tanned man walked towards me and stood way too close for comfort. Thinking he was going to say/ask something sleazy I leaned backwards but tried to act nonchalant.

"Hey, where are you from?"
"Australia." Oh God, why is he standing in my bubble.
"Oh cool. Why are you here?"
"I'm just travelling." He's going to ask me for sex.
"Nice, why are you here, though?"
"What? As in...right here?" Definitely being sleazy as hell.
"Oh. I'm waiting for my parents to come out of Tacheles."
"Ah okay, so you're here to study or party or travel?"
"Hey, you like keen and wade?"
"Do you like cocaine and weed?"
"Oh. Um. No, thanks, I'm right." Didn't I just say I was here with my parents?
"No? Maybe something else? Whatever you want, I can get it for you."
"Maybe later." Where the hell are Mum and Dad?
"You come back later?"
"Sure. I'll come back later."
"Okay, what time?"
"Yeah, look...I probably won't come back..."
"Okay, well when you do, I'll be here, whatever you want, I'll get it for you!"
"Okay!" Oh thank God, there's Mum and Dad...taking a photo of me being propositioned for drugs.

It felt like he was standing closer than that.

That night I went to a beergarten near where Mum and Dad were staying and decided that I only wanted to be in London so I could travel to other places. I had a new life plan that didn't involve crying over making sandwiches at 7:30am. I was going to find a semi decent, slightly higher paying job, save up and move to Berlin. Not full on move to, because that involves getting another working visa, saving up more money that I could in London and also learning German. I just want to go there on the three month tourist visa. Just be there. With my new inspiration for life abroad I enjoyed a few steins, pickles and pretzels with Mum and Dad before we parted ways and I left for the airport back to London early the next morning.

I really, really liked Berlin. It's so laid back and full of young people and creativity and liberal-ness. I liked that I could buy a decent beer for about €1 and drink it where ever I wanted (train included). Food was cheap and amazing and from all over the world. The train went all night on weekends (unlike the tube in London which stops at midnight every night. Absurd!). Even with the ridiculous German language around me, it was the kind of place that I want to be.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Space Cake and a Live Sex Show

After some worrying turbulence on the plane (the kind of drops that make you suddenly aware that you're in a tin can falling through the sky) and a taxi driver who ripped us off, we made it to our hotel room in Slotervaart, about a twenty minute tram ride from the city centre. A hotel room in which the glass shower wall was part of the dividing wall between the bedroom and bathroom. Bring on seeing your parents shower!

Not happy about being forced to stand by the filthiest tourist thing ever. Even if we are behind it.

I liked Amsterdam; it was very pretty (including the people) but I'd like to go there again sometime without Mum and Dad in tow, ifyouknowwhatimean. I have always made fun of people who go to Amsterdam with their parents. "What are you going to do? Eat space cake and see a live sex show with Mummy and Daddy?" While I made this joke to a few people, some of them actually said "yeah, I did" (that's kind of weird, but whatever) that's not quite what we did. There are actually other things to do. Who knew!

We got on a tram and walked around Dam Square a bit, were Dad was asked for directions, despite looking like the world's biggest tourist. I left Mum and Dad to continue being filthy tourists while I returned to the hotel room to sort out plans for Berlin and have olives for dinner.

No wonder no one knows where Perth is - the weather man stood in front of it the whole time.

The next day we did one of those hop on hop off canal boat tours. I was under the impression that we would actually be hopping on and off every now and again, but we spent the entire day on the canals. Just before we started the tour, Mum and Dad had to fuel their caffeine addiction so Dad and I headed off in the vague direction of where a cafe might be. He walked into a coffee shop (hint: they don't sell coffee), the smoke from which you could have gotten high by standing in the doorway, asked the completely baked guy behind the counter if they sold "take away coffee." The guy had a blank look on his face and was probably wondering if Dad was asking for a new blend he hadn't heard of. Meanwhile I was standing on the street halfway between wetting my pants with laughter and horrified that Dad had just done that. In his defense he said he knew it wasn't a cafe and just wanted to see what it was like inside. He then proceeded to say he gave the guy a chance to be "a real human and he failed." Meanwhile, we missed the boat because Mum and Dad needed their mid morning coffee so badly.

It was very peaceful on the canals, so peaceful that I had a little nap every now and again. Cruising past the city made me want to be a canal boat driver and live in a house boat with a floating garden. We went around some of the canals a few times and I felt like I could have done the audio commentary myself by the end of the day. Including the Dutch and German translations. Mum and my favourite line was "the canals are three metres deep. One metre water, one metre mud and one metre bikes."

That night we had a Dutch meal for dinner. Mine consisted of minced meat wrapped in bacon, with red cabbage sauerkraut and potato. We had Heineken beer, which true to some of my friends' words is way better in Europe than in Australia and America, even if the locals don't drink it.

New fave Van Gogh - he painted it when his nephew was born.

The next day we went to the Van Gogh (or Van Hoff) Museum which was pretty good but there were way too many people there. We finished our two day canal ticket which was a tad boring so I played Patience/Solitaire instead. We had Thai for dinner and the same argument that Dad and I always have about fashion. He says "it's bad" and I say "no, it's not." We continue discussing for a while longer but it rarely develops much more than that.

I win at Patience.

On Friday I bought myself a kebab, which I was happy to discover was way better than the English kebabs. I walked into the shop, which was called Doner Kebab, and asked for a doner kebab. They guy asked if I wanted beef or chicken. No, I want doner, I thought. Doesn't doner mean lamb in Australia? Whatever. It was good.

After a tour of the The Palace (it was aaiight, I guess) we sat in Dam Square and watched the gypsies busk. My parents left to look at churches and I met up with Bart, a couch surfing friend a had hung out with in New York. We talked about the New York CS gossip and how in Dutch there is a phrase to have a beer, sit outside and watch people. He asked me what it is English. I said it's just called having a beer.

Told you I'd put it on here, Bart.

I met up with Mum and Dad again for dinner and a stroll through the Red Light District, where I inhaled deeply. We walked passed the window of a slightly overweight prostitute who was casually scratching her hoo-ha. I have nothing against prostitutes or slightly overweight people and I'm no expert on prostitution (apart from an unhealthy obsession with Belle du Jour) but I'm fairly sure that's not the greatest sales pitch for yourself.

Red Light District

So the next morning we waited at the airport for me to board my plane to Berlin and Mum and Dad to head in the direction of Copenhagen. Dad gave me some money for my week without them and said that this also pays for a positive story, to which I replied "nuh-uh, I'm not a sellout."

It has been great to see Mum and Dad again after several months, and also to know that they haven't changed at all (why would they, I guess?). While it was infuriating to have tell you what the other says because you both mumble/don't listen to each other, I really do appreciate the free holiday and family time. Thanks, Moo-ma and Moo-pa.


Monday, September 19, 2011

The Parentals: Part 2

I'm keeping this post short as I seem to have fallen behind with the blogging. And it's a beautiful day in Berlin and I also want to have a nap. So it's going to be short (but probably not sweet).

After the luxury of my own double room in Crickhowell with my own bathroom, skylights and Egyptian Cotton sheets, the hotel in Aberystwyth was a bit on the shit side. The lift and the router were broken, I had to share a room with Mum and Dad in which the window didn't close properly so the wind whistled through it all night. We were even treated to a cold Hot Breakfast in the morning. Despite the university building which looked a bit like Hogwarts and Dad driving through castle ruins which are supposed to be walked through, there wasn't much to this seaside town. We had a view of the ocean which was the same colour as the sky (grey) and we suddenly realised why the British and Welsh holiday in the countryside rather than the beach.

Welsh Hogwarts

Shrewsbury is an English tudor town (think Shakespeare-esque buildings) close to the Welsh boarder. It was very pretty but like everywhere else we went, there seemed to be a shortage of people under forty. We had breakfast in the hotel (after sharing a room with Mum and Dad again - gah) which reminded me a little bit of a nursing home. Old couples staring silently at each other while they waited for the bacon and eggs to be cooked and the skin to fall of their faces. That was harsh, I'm sorry. But it honestly occurred to me as I tried to pour my tea as quietly as possible.

The only spot in our room that had reliable internet connection

While the 'rents went to a neighbouring town called Ironbridge (it had something to do with the Industrial Revolutions, whatever) I stayed in Shrewsbury, dyed my hair and chilled out on my own for a couple of hours. I thought about how much food I had been eating since travelling with Mum and Dad. I'm used eating twice a day-ish and only eating when I'm hungry. Mum and Dad eat at least three times a day. I couldn't keep up!

We visited the library which used to be the school that Charles Darwin attended. The top floor had the original benches from when the building was a school. There was something insanely cool about seeing evidence of kids from the 18th century scratching their names into the woodwork.

Looking out of the library window

Next stop was Conwy, Wales, a small town on the river where my Mum's cousin and his wife lived. We stayed with them for a few nights while they educated us about the local slate mining company and the times of high and low tide.

Dad, Mum, Christine and Chris

The view from their balcony (at high tide)

Conwy Castle which was actually pretty cool

Smallest house in Great Britain

Chris and Christine were very gracious hosts who gave me my own room and cooked us dinner and breakfast and showed us around Conwy and the neighbouring town, Llandudno. When we left Conwy, I spent most of the day sulking like a fifteen year old (for no particular reason) while Mum and Dad got out of the car to look at every river, bridge, tree, house or whatever. 

Trevor in Trevor

I lied, I did get out of the car to walk across this aqueduct in absurd winds

Back in England, we visited Warwick Castle which had been turned into a huge theme park and in my opinion took away from the awesomeness of being in castle where King Henry VIII lived (among the rest of the incestuous Royal family). The next day we flew out of Birmingham to Amsterdam.

I liked Wales, but I wouldn't want to spend any more time there. It was beautiful and green even if it was lacking people below retirement age and the most exciting thing seemed to be noticing that someone had misspelled a Welsh word on a street sign.