Saturday, January 29, 2011

Update from The States

Central and Eastern United States is currently experiencing a pretty intense blizzard, with a severe weather warning for tonight. It's currently snowing and raining and blowing a gale. I can hear the wind howling through the gaps in the doors in my building. My classes have been cancelled which is just as well because I was planning on skipping them anyway, due to this awesome flu thing I've got.

I spent Sunday afternoon and all of Monday in bed either freezing cold, covered in sweat or both. The worst bit was not being able to sleep in my super comfy bed and have Mum to make me a cup of tea and vegemite on toast, but I took Codral and codeine and attempted to sleep through most of it. My fever has stopped but I still have a cough, runny nose and a raspy voice. I managed to leave my room to do my washing today so I must be feeling better, considering I struggled to get out of bed to pee or put on another layer of clothing yesterday. A friend went the doctor and was told she could have mono so I googled the symptoms out of curiousity (even though I promised myself I would stop doing that after I kept convincing myself that I had cancer). I didn't have a sore throat or nausea and they left out the symptom where it felt like I was dying. So I don't think I have mono.

Up until my Flu of Death I realised I've become acclimatized to the cold. Zero degrees is a nice day and anything between -5 and 0 is bearable. I never thought I'd hear myself say that either. And I LIKE winter. It so weird seeing photos of friends in Perth on facebook wearing shorts and singlets and dresses. I've forgotten what hot weather is. I love it.

Last Thursday we went to another International meeting and met some students from Illinois who studied abroad last year which was good. Then we went to Papa Del's which is a pizza place that does Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza. The piece I had was cold, but it was still pretty damn good. And much better than the hot slice of normal pizza I had. We then went to Murphy's which is a pub that all the students go to on Thursday nights. I spent most of the night with an English guy, a Brazilian, a Chilean, a Taiwanese and a Turkish guy. I soon learnt how quickly I pick up English accents. I can't help it!

Friday night, Martin (from Austria) had a party in his apartment. We played beer pong and met some local Americans, including a girl who had studied in Melbourne and wanted to talk about Australia. We moved on to Murphy's and then to someone's house which was insanely cool. Think of the kind of run down, mis-matched house I would like. Like that. With a giant map of the world on the wall. And big open rooms with pale green walls.

I've decided that my film class is by far my favourite. It's easy but still challenging enough to keep me interested. It's made me remember how much I loved studying films. The creative writing class is considerably harder than I thought it would be. Pieces we write have to be work shopped by the whole class which is insanely intimidating, especially when we're writing about really personal things. Most of my class is really well read. And it sounds like mostly American Literature of which I have read next to nothing. I guess that's another reason I prefer the film class; American Cinema is something I am quite familiar with. I still skip a lot of psych classes (we watched 49up in the last one I went to!) but I'm going to make more of an effort after the snowpocalypse.

I used to think I was fairly good with names and faces. Okay at the very least. I am not. I'd go as far as to say I'm quite bad. I've already tagged two people as someone else (as in I got four names wrong) in photos and last week I introduced myself to someone who had added me on facebook a couple of weeks ago. In my defense I've been adding several people a day, and it's often after Drunk Sian has met them, but its still a little embarrassing and somewhat rude.

I have a busy week ahead of me, including going to Chicago for the weekend so I'll have lots more to report soon, rather than just updates on my bodily functions.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bogan Day in Champerzz

The Australia Day festivities kicked off with the beginning of the triple j hottest 100 countdown at 7pm on the 25th in Champaign. Up until Monday I didn't really have any plans and genuinely intended to stay in my room, stream the countdown and skype with Lloyd all night. But then I was invited to a countdown party hosted by one of the Australian exchange students, Allan, who has already been here for a semester.

I wore my wife beater and flanno and put a flag tattoo on my face like any good patriot (something I don't do for Australia day when I'm in Australia). We took the left over tattoos to the party and soon everyone had at least one on their face too. Allan's apartment was packed with exchange students from all over world and we had everyone yelling out "Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!" every now and again which was fun. Most of the time it was too noisy to hear what the songs were which was a little distressing at times but not as much as when the internet cut out during the top 20.

Fellow Australian, Jess, who lives in Sherman Hall too.

Chris won the non existent competition of wearing the most Australia stuff. I was somewhat disappointed that there weren't more wife beaters and flannos. And by that I mean more than mine.

Allan had trekked to Savoy (a suburb/town of Illinois south of Champaign) and bought Coopers Red and Green (and also TEDs) which had me pretty damn excited as I drink Coopers at home and had sort of figured I wouldn't see it for a while. We had a deal that whenever certain artists got a song in the we had to have a shot. I had Yeasayer so when number thirty started playing, Allan was at my side with a shot of something gross and brown which I took like a total girl. I attempted to get him back with Australian hip hop songs in general, but he somehow managed to disappear every time I heard the horrible tunes of Bliss N Eso or Hilltop Hoods.


We even had a BBQ for sangers but there was something not quite right about it.

I met lots of new people. A few Australians who have been in Champaign for a semester already and lots of English people which had me being all LETS BE FRIENDS SO I WON'T BE COMPLETELY ALONE AND ISOLATED ALL OVER AGAIN WHEN I GET TO LONDON IN JULY.

I left at about 3:30am because the internet had cut out again and I was getting anxious about what songs I was missing. For me, Australia Day IS the hottest 100 and the party had died down anyway. I got home just in time to hear the end of Pendulum's ABC Theme (which I voted for) and to chat to Lloyd who was still listening. I'm pretty happy with the list; I voted for number one, two and three (I think? I can never remember what I ended up voting for). Actually I think all the songs I voted for made the top 100, which I'm not sure has ever happened to me before. Go me!

I don't know if it was because I was alone in my room at 4:30am and not surrounded by drunk bogans in the middle of summer but I felt strange when the countdown finished. I had a few moments of "aw I miss people" when I couldn't comment on songs that got in with close friends or text people to ask what they thought as the list was announced. Maybe it was because thats probably the last countdown I will follow for a while. Still it was fun and worth the struggle of getting out of bed for the quiz in my first class after 4 hours of sleep.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Meet Me in St Louis

This weekend I went to St Louis with about 38 other international students. We had a convoy of 7 cars and drove south west to St Louis, Missouri. Our car was driven by Martin (from Austria) and had Chris (from Woolongong), Kai, Liza and Kristy (from Sydney) and Clare (from Korea) as passengers. We stopped off in Springfield for Lame Touristy Photos, had a snow ball fight, Maccas for lunch and made various Simpsons jokes. We got to St Louis at about 3pm and spent close to an hour driving around town trying to find the Budweiser Brewery. Two iPhones with google maps and a GPS and we still got lost. We made it in time for the last tour at 4pm which was actually pretty boring. But it was free and we got soft drinks (sampled beer for the 21 year olds) and pretzels at the end.

Our hotel was really nice and not like the shitty backpacker's dorm room that I was expecting. I shared a room with Jess and her boyfriend, Nick (also from Sydney) and Kristy. We went to dinner at a bar/restaurant that I've forgotten the name of. While waiting the ludicrously long time for our food we made friends with Daniel who was playing Pub Golf for his friend's 30th birthday. Among various drunken ramblings, he promised to come to Champaign and do the Fat Sandwhich Fat Man Challenge which involves eating an impossibly large sub in less than fifteen minutes. We've promised to watch him fail.

We had a Hotel Party before the 21 year olds went out to a club around the corner. We drank budweiser, had shots from Plastic Red Cups, played Never Have I Ever and Korean drinking games and continued the partied to the wee small hours of the morning. This morning, while nursing a hangover, people kept telling me stuff I'd said or done to which I replied with "Oh really? Sorry!" most of the time. But what kind of night would it be if Drunk Sian hadn't said or done some things she shouldn't have? A sober night, I guess.

St Louis is famous for the arch which is next to the river in town. As I learnt from studying perception in psychology, the arch is as tall as it is wide, but looks a lot taller. Unfortunately it was snowing a lot this morning so we couldn't go and look at it properly but we had a good view from our hotel.

We drove back to Springfield, with me focusing on not vomiting and listening to my iPod on full blast in attempt to drown out the terrible music on the radio, and went to Hooters for lunch. Hooters is pretty fucking tacky and the food was pretty bad. I had this insane greasey burger which was probably the worst thing I could have had for my hangover. Some of the girls had impressive racks (as you would expect) but some of them were very disappointing and made me wonder why they were working at a place that was all about boobs. They pretty much all had way too much makeup on and super styled hair. Think Jim Beam girls at uni and festivals. They were really friendly though and the girl serving us called everyone 'hun' or 'sweetie'. We also watched the end of a football game on TV, Chicago Bears vs.....someone else. I don't understand American Football but it was incredibly boring to watch. There seemed to be way more standing around doing nothing and replying the last bit of action than actually playing football. Like cricket. And the Bears lost.

I made some more friends, had a great time and now I can tick St Louis off my list of Places I Didn't Plan To Go To But Did.

Get Your Jealousy On

I just bought a ticket to Coachella, a massive music festival in California in April. It goes for three days over the weekend and is out in the desert in woop woop nowhere. I was so bummed about missing festivals in Perth because I'm here or I was saving money before I left but this pretty much makes up for any festival that I'm going to miss in future too.

Check out the lineup if you need another reason to be jealous of me (the first is because I'm Somewhere Other Than Perth). A little bit of wee came out when I read it.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fighting Illini

I just got back from an Ice Hockey game, Illinois vs Wisconsin. I realise I have extremely little experience of watching live sport matches (pretty much just netball games, St Mary's stuff and a baseball match in Korea at which Yuki's uncle got us drunk), but this was insane. When the Wisconsin team entered the ice rink, the crowd booed. Each team player was introduced and the crowd would yell "YOU SUCK!" after each guest's name was announced. When Illinois scored a goal the crowd would cheer for a bit and then point and yell at the Wisconsin goalie and yell "IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT!" and then Rock and Roll by Gary Glitter would play and the crowd would yell "HEY! YOU SUCK!" again. I have some videos of this on facebook if you want to have a look.

My friend and I were commenting on the complete lack of sportsman ship after the game. No one boos in Australia and the likelihood of being kicked out of the complex is probably high after such behaviour. Right? Like I said, I have no idea. It was so unnerving that they didn't seem to support their own team, but put all their energy into taunting the guests. It would be horrible to play an away game! They even booed the guy who re-iced the rink in between thirds when he missed the last strip.

There was also this blond guy (most likely Completely Crazy) who was leading the taunting and also yelled several things along the lines of "THAT'S WHY THEY CALL YOU FUDGEPACKER!" He was scary. I wonder if he realised that most of the people around him were laughing at him.

There were a couple of guys with vuvuzelas and even a guy with a trumpet, making lots of noise. The game started with the national anthem which was taken very seriously. There was no drunken slurring, swaying and forgetting the words like Australians do. Everyone stood up, hats and hoods off, faced the flag above the score board, hand on heart and stood in solemn silence as Someone or Other sang the Star Spangled Banner. Then they played that song from the beginning of Space Jam (I know it has other origins, but it always makes me think of that movie) and they were off!

It's somewhat unsurprising given the taunting Wisconsin had to endure, that Illinois won by a lot. Nine to one was the final score, I think? It was pretty exciting to experience and it was only $6!

There is a definite fashion trend in Urbana Champaign of wearing as much orange (the school colour) as humanly possible. People wear hoodies, shirts, caps, rugby jersies, trackpants (sweatpants), scarves, beanies, ear muffs, rain coats...pretty much any form of clothing comes in orange with Illinois written on it somewhere. There are a number of stores around town that sell this paraphernalia and some of the stuff you can get is ridiculous. Here is a list of some of the items I found in the bookstore today, while I bought my shirts and hoody:
  • Pet accessories
  • umbrellas
  • earrings (I was actually tempted to buy a pair and put one in my one ear that shows, but they were quite expensive) and other jewelry
  • stationary
  • chocolate bars!
  • number plates
  • baby clothes
  • shirts that say "Illinois Mom/Dad/Grandpa etc"
  • snuggies!
  • floor mats and the list goes on...
The school spirit is unbelievable here. I really can't imagine anything like this happening at UWA, even during uni games.

In other news, today was the coldest day of winter at a mild -25 degrees. I just happened to choose today to spend a whole lot of time waiting at bus stops while I couldn't feel my legs and it hurt to breathe in through my nose. My friend Kai reckons his nose hairs froze when he breathed in. To the hockey game I wore two pairs of merino wool socks, docs, thermals, my thickest jeans, a cotton singlet, Illinois t-shirt, merino wool long sleeve shirt, Illinois hoody, Michelin Man jacket, scarf, hipster beanie and merino wool gloves. I was still cold. We put off going outside to walk the five minutes back to my hall for some time, and for good reason. It. Was. Cold. Outside. I came inside and stood in front of my heater on full blast defrosting for a while before taking any of my layers off.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I dropped Dyke Class 101

Sam, I know its offensive and politically incorrect and wrong. But most people, okay maybe not most but I know that a lot of people reading this think of lesbians when they see Gender Studies. We know its offensive and politically incorrect and wrong but we do it anyway. It's like when someone says they're from Germany we think 'Hitler, Hitler, Hitler, Hitler, beer, Hitler, Hitler.'

I should point out that I'm straight and have nothing against lesbians or gay people or bisexuals or trisexuals. It's like Brian from Queer as Folk says "if I'm not sucking your cock it's none of your business that I'm gay". I think that goes the other way too. Unless I'm interested in you or you're interested in me, I don't care what or who turns you on. I could say that one of my best friends is gay, therefore it's okay for me to massively generalise about the students of an entire course of study, but we all know that's hollow reasoning. And really, I said it because it's a little bit funny. I'm sorry if I offended anyone else. I'm not promising I won't do it again, though.

So I dropped ... that class ... and picked up CW 208: Creative Nonfiction Writing. I didn't drop it because of anything to do with the stereotypes, I dropped it because the teacher treated us like idiots, the content didn't seem that fascinating and it gave me three 9am starts a week. CW 208 is basically about writing about yourself. So maybe I can pick up some skills and get my blog unbanned by facebook. The teacher could be described as a Complete Wanker; he sits in the corner and talks about stuff he's written and all the literary amazingness he's read in this low, drawling voice. I was half expecting him to hit on the girl sitting next to him. But the class is only twice a week and I feel I could write about myself with little effort (I'm just THAT interesting!). Oh and I found hipsters! What a surprise that they're in a class that teaches you to write about yourself.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

But Mommy, I don't want to go to school today. I want to stay home and bake cookies with you!

So I started classes yesterday. I finally got approval for the important units from UWA last night, I'm still waiting on a reply for one of my electives, but it doesn't really matter as much. It's frustrating that they'll send me one email with very little information in it and then I reply straight away and have to wait at least a day and half for another reply when I've already started and the bookstore is running out of the secondhand textbooks. Anyhoo! I'm almost there.

Yesterday afternoon I had two classes.
PSYC250: Psychology of Personality
This is big class and so far seems a little bit simple and feels like I've already learnt most of the content in Social Psych. I was keen to drop it (despite the painful ordeal of having to get more units approved from UWA) but now I think I will stick with it because some of my other classes seem a bit full on, so it will be good to have this one to breeze through. Even if it is a little bit like cheating - no one here knows that though. The lecturer is animated and cracks some decent jokes so thats good (including showing us this), even if he does mumble a whole lot and I often lose the second half of his sentence. Whatever, I've learnt the content already.

CINE/ENGL 273: American Cinema since 1950
I love this class. We watch a film and then do readings and discuss it. Yesterday evening we watched Singing in the Rain. I can't believe it has taken me, a film fan, 20 years to watch it! If you haven't seen it I highly recommend this when you're feeling a bit low. I can feel it becoming one of my Cheer Me Up films. The class is small and today we all introduced ourselves. A lot of my classmates come from small towns in Illinois that don't have movie theatres, which I found really interesting and so different to Australian suburban life. I like the teacher too, he's really passionate about film and has some interesting things to say. If it weren't for the wedding ring on his left hand I'd be sure he was totally gay due to the flambouyant hand gestures he makes. There is a guy in my class who looks like a cross between Michael Moore and the coach from Cool Runnings. Basically he's fat, sits in the corner and chews gum while he regales to the class his opinionated views on films. He's annoying.

Today I had my three other classes.
HIST/GWS 286: US Gender History since 1877
I thought this was going to be Dyke Class 101. But there were only two obvious lesbians as far as I could tell. One of whom actually said her passion is Feminism and dressed/looked like a man. I'm not super keen on this course but it looks interesting and it studies the context of films with feminist themes so that's better than pouring over a textbook and being lectured at all semester, I guess.
Oh also, I introduced myself to the teacher at the beginning of class and she said my name properly and then fifteen minutes later when she called the roll she said "Sean" or actually maybe it was "Sharn", I couldn't tell with the accent, even though she remembered what I looked like and where I was sitting. Idiot.

PSYC 245: Industrial Org Psych
I have to do this one to complete my double psychology major at UWA. It looks boring. Today we talking about how important work (as in getting paid to do something) and the benefits of loving your job. Eugh.

PSYC361: The Psychology of Aging
I stood outside the door, scoffing a turkey sandwhich and latte for about ten minutes before I asked the guy standing next to me if I was in the right place. We soon realised the class had already started so we awkwardly walked in and stood by the door, not wanting to do the crotch/arse to face walk past the people already sitting. It seems okay. A bit simple, but I assume it will get better.

So they're the five courses I'm doing. Most exchange students are told to do four but UWA says I have to five to maintain a fulltime status by their standards. I ordered my textbooks at the U of I Bookstore and it was going to cost me over $300, I think. Actually that wasn't all my textbooks, just the ones I knew I'd be taking courses for. A friend just told me about looking on and I just found all my text books for about $220. So most of them are supposedly coming within the next two weeks.

I feel a bit inundated with homework already (just readings at this point) but I also have a bit of a cold so everything seems like a big deal at the moment (hellooo, Codral!). A few people have asked me if I find the accent annoying yet and the answer is no. There was a moment in my CINE/ENGL class yesterday where we all had to read out a passage in unison (about plagiarism, Mr Possibly Gay wanted to make sure we all knew it) and I struggled not to say it in an American accent. I think it was because I couldn't hear my own voice but could hear the American girl sitting next to me really clearly. It was weird. After sitting in discussions with American students for a couple of hours this morning I noticed I had a bit of twang when I spoke but don't worry it will be gone by the time I get home/I'll probably pick up an English accent in Pommyland anyway.

I was going to say I no longer get super excited about the snow, but I was pretty happy to see that it had snowed last night because it looked somewhat ugly when it all melted and turned to dirty slush. I don't walk around with a stupid grin on my face anymore. Well, actually I guess it's possible, it's generally too cold to tell what my face is doing.

The town is really busy now because everyone is back from winter break. It was weird to wake up on Tuesday morning to people constantly walking around my building when I was used to feeling like one of the 12 students on campus. I like it though. Particularly walking around. It feels safer. And more like the campus town university that I applied to.

I'm currently sitting in this really cool cafe that I found, opposite the Psych building. It's called Espresso Royale and has hand painted tables and eclectic art (which I think is done by students) on the walls. They use the logical size names of small, medium and large unlike Starbucks which is all about Tall, Grande and Whatever the Ginourmous One is called. They all sound like Large to me. There is also an abundance of choices of tea and coffee flavours and they had a special today where any sized latte was $2.25. Supersize me, bitch!

I'm yet to befriend/find hipsters in Champaign and I have to admit I miss them already (my friends like Australian hip hop and How I Met Your Mother. Hi guys, if you're reading this. No judgement or anything...). So I've made it my long term goal (screw grades or anything of cultural/travelling significance) to find and make friends with hipsters. Most Americans dress pretty Preppy-ish/all the same so it's not looking good so far. Pretty much all girls have long hair and its common to wear ugg boots out. A couple of the international students might be the way to go judging by footwear, facial hair and horn rimmed glasses. The Outlook Is Not Good but every now and again I spot a Potential Hipster in the street and it motivates me to continue my quest. I'm lame, whatever.

Oh and from my last post: I finally got my heater fixed about seven hours after I made the maintenance request. Three different people came into my room, commented on how cold it was (thanks Captain Obvious), did exactly what I was doing to try and get it to work and then said someone would come to fix it eventually. It was a cold fifteen hours as I had to stay in room to wait for everyone to come in...and tell me that it was cold. The guy who did fix it, Temperature Control, said the thermostat was broken and fixed it about six minutes. Ten minutes into having the heat back on I was stripping off the layers and walking around in my underwear again. Normality was restored.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Girl Who Cried Maintenance

I've been living in my room in Sherman Hall for six days now. The heater has stopped working three times. The first two times it happened I made a maintenance request on the housing website and when the Heater Man came up to my room it had started working again and I felt like an idiot. So when it stopped working the third time I didn't do anything and slept in all my clothes (it's currently 13 degrees in my room) with a scarf and a hoody with the hood up, thinking it would start working again. It hasn't. Today I have a headache and just want to sleep in my room so I really freakin' need the heater. I reluctantly made another request for maintenance at noon today as it hadn't been working for 12 hours. It's now 2pm and I'm still wearing three jumpers, thermals, trackpants and thick socks inside. I think they've given up on me. I'm going to go downstairs and harass the Useless Guy at the front desk soon.

On Friday we had a couple of orientations with the other international students so I sat through lots of boring presentations about stuff I had to know months ago and met lots of people. The contacts in my hunk of crap phone have multiplied. I met some more Australians and we've pretty much stuck together since then, which is good and bad. There's Chris from Woolongong (exactly a year older than me!) and Jess (lives in Sherman too), Liza, Kristy and Kai from Sydney. We also met Martin from Austria who's always keen to go out and do something. Rob and Chris nicknamed him The Godfather because he's in charge of organising social stuff. There are 25 Austrians here on exchange and they get annoyed with us because Americans (and other exchange students) think they're from Australia. I also met my French neighbour properly and her friends. They're from Lille in France and are all studying Engineering. Her English isn't very good but she's friendly and we can still chat a bit.

The Australians and I went to a pub on Friday night and Kristy, who's 21, bought us pitchers of beer. We were asked for ID halfway through the first one and we all froze, making it super obvious. Then Kai said "we don't have it on us...we're not from around here..." and the guy left us alone. We're pretty sure he knew we're underage though.

Last night we went to two different bars and were stamped with a big black U on our left hands so the barwenches knew we weren't 21 (also referred to by us as a Loser Stamp). We still drank and made sure our sleeves were covering our hands. The second bar we went to, called Clybourne's, was more of a club and played an insane amount of African American beats. With a whole lot of dancing and grinding. The music was pretty much like playing Girl Talk's (a mash up DJ) latest album in full but with the original songs. So I actually knew most of the songs. Or I knew 3 or 4 lines from each song, anyway.

Yesterday we went to Walmart which was pretty exciting. As in, I actually said "I'm so excited about Walmart" several times before we got there. In hindsight it probably wasn't worth the hype. Although I did buy quite a lot of stuff for very very very cheap.

Settling in is going well. I have a small group of friends now. The town is slowly filling up and I'm looking forward to making American friends when classes start and meeting more people in my hall when they move in. I'm not over the novelty of snow (or squirrels!) and I'm pretty excited about the forecasted snow for tomorrow and Tuesday. I've had to change my face wash to something with more moisturising stuff in it because my face gets so dry from the cold. I still get a shock at how cold it is every time I walk outside, even though I can see the snow and everyone else walking around looking like eskimos and am wearing everything I brought with me. I'm still jetlagged but I'm learning to deal with it (also Starbucks is fucking cheap ($3.73 for a tall double shot latte) and just down the road from me/I now have instant coffee in my room). I've decided to opt out of my Meal Plan because it's cheaper if I eat in town/cup-o-noodles in my room/I have to walk for ages in the cold to get to the nearest dining hall. Still having problems with UWA units so I'm going to have to ring them tonight which is a pain the bum.

Right, I'm off to find the Heater Man. And defrost in the lift.

Okay, so no one's come up because it's Sunday (duh Sian) and I'm now on the Emergency Maintenance List. The hallways are so nice and warm. I want to be nice and warm.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

United States of Everything Is Slightly Different

  • The light switches go up to turn them on. Which Dad tells me is the origin of giving the thumbs up.
  • The taps turn the other way.
  • You have to be 21 to drink, 19 to get into pubs (in Champaign) and 18 to buy cigarettes.
  • If you're under age and sitting in a bar with people who are drinking and there is an alcoholic drink within arms reach of you, you can get a fine for underage drinking.
  • The showers only have one tap and one level of pressure. In my hall, anyway.
  • People refer to each other as Ma'am, Miss or Sir.
  • The cheese is orange.
  • A foot long at subway is just over $5. In fact all food is unbelievably cheap.
  • The date is written backwards. I was born on 05/22/1990.
  • If you lose your phone and ring and ask around for a lost mobile phone, people won't know what you're talking about. It's a cell phone.
  • It's a course not a unit.
  • The people who work at McDonalds are not pimply fourteen year olds. They're middle aged balding men and sassy black women who are probably struggling to provide for their family.
  • The ten cent coin (dime) is smaller than the five cent coin (nickel).
  • The barwench will probably think you're asking her to get a boob out if you ask for a jug. It's called a pitcher.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Day and A Bit in Champaign

I got to Champaign yesterday afternoon and was in my room by about 4:30pm. When I got off the bus that took me from Chicago I was too lazy to get my map out and work out which way to go to Sherman Hall, so I asked the guy standing next to me. Calvin is now my First Champaign Friend. I'm his Australian Friend With Red Hair Who Was Lost (more people comment on the colour of my hair here than in Australia. Including a guy at the mall who thought I was Irish. I laughed and said no. He asked if I was offended because of the colour of my hair). It turned out he was walking in the same direction as me so he walked me to the door which was cool.

I have a single room which is in this hallway kind of thing that has two other single rooms in it. The three of us share a toilet, shower and two sinks. The hall door is lockable as well as our own bedrooms, so its pretty good. I'm a week early before the official move in date so the hall is deserted. Although this afternoon I did meet my neighbour who is in the room directly opposite mine and will share my sink. Her name is Pauline and she's from France. Her family was with her and I was getting ready to power nap so I didn't get a chance to chat more than introductions, but I will make an effort later.

My room is pretty small but it's okay. I have plenty of draw/wardrobe space, a lofted bed, a desk with extra table top space that slides away, a mini fridge, a microwave and a heater of which the lowest setting is too hot to leave on for more than twenty minutes at a time. Americans certainly know about heating. I've since worked out that its a perfect temperature if I have the window open a little, which lets in the minus ten degree breeze and mixes with the super enthusiastic heater. I also have a view of the carpark and sorrounding buildings from my fourth story room. I took this photo at about 11:30pm tonight, I think it looks way prettier at night and reminds me of the Swedish movie Let the Right One In. At least it did when I was staring at it last night at 4am with insane jetlag.

My room didn't have any bedding so when I got here yesterday I planned to go to Walmart and buy some but it was too far away, the bus timetable was too hard to work out, it was getting dark and I knew my jetlag was about to kick in so I just slept in all my clothes (it was actually okay) and used my Michelin Man jacket as a pillow (it wasn't so okay).

Today I spent the day with Rob from UWA (no, not Mead). He's been in America for two weeks so is considerably more confident getting around than I am/actually knows his way around Champaign. We went to a shopping centre (or mall, I guess) and bought bedding and a kettle and a hunk of crap phone for $10. I thought I had an insanely good pre-paid deal but it turns out I have to pay for receiving texts (and probably calls too) which explains why it was so cheap. I'm not saying don't text or call, but if you can do it on facebook or skype that would be preferable (217 979 0845 is my number, by the way). We also checked in with the International Student Services Something-or-Other, opened bank accounts and got our student cards which gets us into buildings and means we can ride the bus for free (we can also use it as a bank card on campus). And ate Taco Bell, which is pretty much as gross as you think it would be.

Considerably more productive than my previous days which have involved sleeping and travelling. Well I guess that's pretty productive actually, but this felt more productive. And less like balls. I've since made my bed (and slept in it too) and decorated my room a bit:

If you've been following my blog from the beginning you may have noticed the absence of a mirror, or reflective ah-LOO-mi-num surface. It's okay. There are two half length mirrors in the hall over the sinks. If I step back far enough I can see most of my body and the back from the mirror behind me. You can relax now.

We went out tonight to a bar (such a typical American bar with wooden walls and chairs, green hanging lamps and The Game playing on TVs) and were going to meet up with Calvin and his friends but we went out too early and crashed before they left their frat (FRAT BOYZ). It was super annoying sitting in a bar with beer SO CLOSE BUT SO FAR AWAY. In Champaign they let you into bars when you're 19 (although we weren't ID'd) and if you're with a group of 21 year olds, apparently they let others buy you drinks as long as you don't get too loud and rowdy (as Rob pointed out, "there's not much point drinking then, is there?"). So maybe it won't be too bad without a fake ID. Although it would still be a lot better with one. Rob ordered a 'jug of Coke' which the barwench didn't understand (they're called picthers here). She probably thought he was asking her to get a boob out.

This morning when I was getting dressed, Gary the Painter came into my hall to finish painting the room next to mine and we chatted for a bit about Australia and travelling around The States. He asked how I was coping with all the water when I said I was from Western Australia which got me super confused until I realised he was talking about the floods in Queensland. He said the winter here has been considerably worse than previous years (Rob and I were walking around for about twenty minutes today (I think it was minus 9), waiting for our bus to the mall and I couldn't feel my face/my ears hurt. A balaclava would have been a good idea, Mum.). Gary the Painter also said that if I ever want to to go to New Mexico I should let him know and he'll contact his sister and I can stay with her. Apparently she's a "real mover and a shaker." I'm not saying I would take him up on his offer but that was the kind of hospitality I was expecting. It made me smile, despite having been awake since 4am.

My address is 0460A Sherman Hall, 909 S. Fifth St MC-490, Champaign, IL, 61820. Send me some snail mail love. Also I just saw a sign next to the elevator warning about the illegalness of downloading torrents, which is highly depressing so I may ask for some DVD's when I finish Mad Men Season 4 and Family Guy Whatever I Have. Also annoying because I downloaded Black Swan last night/this morning at 4am (really good, watch it) and it only took about half an hour. That's just mean, having a connection that fast but not allowing torrents!

Tomorrow Rob and I are going to the Health Centre (which is the building you can see from my window) to submit our immunization forms and have a blood test to screen for Tuberculosis. I'm also going to buy some groceries so I have actual food to eat before my Meal Plan starts this weekend and a cup so I can make tea.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sian Actually Meets Uncle Sam


  • 3 planes and a bus
  • A fair amount of turbulence and screaming children
  • Very little sleep
  • 20 hours of crappy inflight entertainment (including a documentary about the dangers of blizzards during calving season in Montana)
  • One Frankie magazine
  • 6 emotional plane letters (I’m sure the woman next to me thought I was retarded as I was sobbing and smiling at the same time and then kept opening letters that made me start crying all over again)
  • 3 and a half inflight meals (oh god, no wonder I'm hungry)
  • One extremely flamboyant American flight attendant
  • 17666km
  • Thirty something hours of travel/stop overs and one lost day (what fucking day is it??)
  • Four time zones
  • Two comments from customs officers about liking my hair now more than in my passport photo (long, dark brown, curly) and one from a shuttle bus driver saying he was helping me despite having red hair
  • One tender tragus piercing from having my headphones in for so long,

I made it to Chicago. I think it was about -1 degree when I landed. That’s quite cold. Especially when you can’t find your hotel shuttle bus and keep walking up and down the terminals trying to find it/someone who actually knows what I’m talking about to give me the right directions. I’m aware it gets colder, don’t worry. Actually considering I was only wearing crappy uniqlo leggings under my jeans and a singlet, cashmere jumper and op shop cardy I was pretty warm. There’s bits of snow on the side of the roads and the roads themselves are icy white but other than that it’s not very exciting.

** I wrote that last night. People of facebook will know that it's snowing now. I've been awake since 5am and its now 10am. It's been snowing non-stop and its pretty freakin' awesome. And puuuuuurty. While trying to sleep this morning/watching Mad Men I kept getting up and looking out the window to look and grin like an idiot.

There is a reason that my hotel is only $47 a night. It’s crap. It’s so crap it doesn’t even have a bible in the night stand. The shower tap seems to no longer exist, so the water goes straight to the bath spout but there is no bath plug. So I had a makeshift shower/flannel situation going which left the sink filled with red water (from my hair, not because I couldn’t handle the lack of shower) because that plug is broken too. As long as the bed doesn’t burst into flames it’ll be okay. I guess.

** The bed didn't burst into flames but I slept on and off due to jetlag. I've been awake for five hours now and I'm feeling pretty sleepy again. The free coffee in the lobby (with non-dairy creamer (actually rank)) will keep me going until my bus arrives. I was so hungry last night that I was dreaming about the free hot buttered toast and freshly fried eggs we would be getting in the continental breakfast. I "showered", got dressed and came down stairs to a plate of semi-stale sugar covered mini donuts. I ate four.

On the flight from LA to Chicago the guy sitting next to me recognised me from the previous flight from Sydney to LA. We had a mutual groan about the long distance traveling and then I added in that I came from Perth beforehand and feel like I’ve been awake for a week. We chatted for a while before both passing out for the majority of the flight. He lives in Chicago and works as a Psychiatrist. What are the chances?! He was also super gay (and fat and black - my first black friend?) and I’m pretty sure he had manicured nails. When we landed he said “Welcome to Chicago” in that sweet saccharine voice that could easily be followed by “honey” or "sweetie." He made me feel less shit about being on my own.

The flight from Sydney wasn’t tooooooo bad. The first half went really quickly so I thought the rest would as well. But it didn’t. I was warned about Americans not being able to understand my accent and I’ve already experienced it. I got tea when I asked for coffee and orange juice when I asked for water and the flight attendant didn’t give me one of the immigration forms I needed even though I told him I needed it, which meant I spent twice as long in the immigration line as I should have, all the while stressing about making my connecting flight in 2 hours.

On the Jetstar flight I spent more time trying to work out which way to put my head and where to put my feet over my docs and ridiculous hand luggage (which is looking a bit battered and had to be rearranged so it wasn’t carrying so much weight and would survive) rather than doing anything that resembled sleep. About an hour and half before landing we had some pretty intense turbulence even thought the pilot said it was going to be smooth (Lies! All lies!). A guy down the back yelled out “tur-bu-lence” in the tone of voice that I imagine was followed by double thumbs up.

I had a bit of freak out/teary moment sitting in Sydney airport, watching all the families and couples and friends while I tried not to fall asleep before my boarding call. It just suddenly hit me that I’m doing this alone. You guys all crapped on about how brave I am to do this in my plane letters and I think that’s one of the reasons I started crying. I honestly didn’t think about the braveness level required. I just did it. And then I realised “holy fucking shit this is scary and I want a hug from everyone all at once."

Before boarding in Perth, Dad I were wondering at what point it would start to feel real. This is what we came up with:

  1. When I first hear the American Accent. Heard it on the plane the whole way over. Still didn't hit home. Maybe it's because I like the accent, even if they can't understand me. I go between thinking its all kinda normal (just like the movies!) and having this strange desire to copy their pronunciation. Don't worry, I won't. I know y'all stop talking to me if I do.
  2. When I walk out of the airport and realise how cold it is. Yeah that was a pretty good 'ohmygod' moment. And also seeing the bare trees along the highway on the way to my hotel. It seemed very American.
  3. When I forget to tip someone and they chase me down the street. I didn't tip the shuttle bus driver, mainly because I wasn't sure if I was supposed to and also because I didn't have any DOLLA BILLS. Pretty much not tipping anyone from here now haha.
I'm currently sitting in the lobby of the hotel waiting for the shuttle bus that will take me back to the airport where I'll catch my bus to Champaign. I'll be in my room this afternoon WITH AN ACTUAL SHOWER YES! The TV is on and I keep hearing this "cha-ching!" noise in an ad which makes me miss my phone (that was my ring tone.) Hope you're enjoying my phone, Murray.

So far Uncle Sam has been a little unwelcoming (mainly thanks to the retarded flight attendant and the TOP QUALITY bathroom at the O'hare Garden Hotel). But I'm sure we'll get to know each other over the next seven months. We'll find stuff in common and he'll learn that I'm actually pretty cool (right, guysshhh?), I'll teach him the magic of sarcasm and dangers of drop bears, he'll introduce me to some awesome people and I'll start to feel more at home.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Last Post from Perth

I'm currently sitting around waiting for Steph to call from Queensland to have a Last Chat before I leave. I'm all packed (quite possibly over Jetstar's 20kg baggage limit, I could be certain if our scales were less dodgy/my bag wasn't so bulky so I could see past it to the display screen), organised all the last minute things that I should have done weeks ago and I have updated my iPod with Sufjan Stevens so I can listen to 'Chicago' when I land.

The temperature in Champaign is currently -11 degrees Celsius and clear. When I arrive on Tuesday it will be -2 degrees with snow showers. Only sliiiiiiiiiightly colder than this week's run of over 30 degree days in Perth.

I have a mild hangover from Jen's 21st last night which seems appropriate to spend my last hours in Perth the same way I have spent so many before. I didn't steal the limelight for too long from the birthday girl and there were only a few tears (triggered by two of my closest friends, Murray and Alcohol). I guess people do love me because I have several plane letters. I'm sure it has nothing to do with my post demanding that people write them.

I'll be heading to the airport tonight after my Last Supper with mother dearest to board the Jetstar flight to Sydney at 11.45pm. A few friends are meeting me there for an intense send off. I have a five and a half hour stop over (which will be at 4am for me) in Sydney before changing airlines (United Airlines) and then flying to Chicago via LA with a two and a half hour stop over. When I get to Chicago (five hours after leaving Sydney due the time difference) I will stay in a hotel near the airport for one night to recuperate before getting a shuttle bus down to Champaign and moving into my SINGLE room in Sherman Hall.

Dad just worked out my budget properly (as in he didn't do it at work, with rough estimates of costs in between serving customers like I did) and I'm going to have to skimp like there's no tomorrow. Or rather like there are many, many tomorrows.

I still feel like this isn't really happening and tomorrow will be just the same; I'll lie in bed watching whatever the latest thing is that I've downloaded, Mum will whinge at me to empty the dishwasher, and I'll pretend not to have heard her, Dad will tell me all the major plot points of a book that I should read - so that there is no point in me actually reading it and then I'll go out and drink beer with Lloyd. And then continue to do that as normal. But it's really not like that. Now I'll be watching the fourth season of Mad Men in a different bed, will be eating in a dining hall at set times (no more of last nights curry for breakfast!) and therefore not be responsible for the dishes, will read whatever I want without knowing what happens beforehand and will have to skype to drink with Lloyd.

I'm excited and scared and nervous and a little bit apathetic about the whole situation. Really I just want to get on the plane and get there.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A list of things that have crossed my mind as my departure date has come speeding towards me

  • Oh God, it's too late to back out now.
  • It's double demerit points until I leave.
  • I'm quite excited about not seeing Perth Fashion for some time. Or bogans! Or listening to Australian hip hop!
  • I need more money.
  • Thinking about how much I'm going to miss certain friends, getting quite upset and stopping myself from thinking about it again.
  • Long term planning is really not my strong point.
  • This is going to be awesome fun.
  • I will miss Mum's cooking, even the meals that have at least three key ingredients missing which she replaces with whatever is in the fridge.
  • I actually have juuuuuust enough money. I want more.
  • Not really looking forward to the red eye flight to Sydney that starts my ridiculous trip to Champaign.
  • I'm going to have to find another amazing, cheap hairdresser or face the horror of Growing It Out. Eugh.
  • I should pack.
  • I am actually looking forward to being surrounded by the American Accent.
  • I will have to buy a kettle for my room because I can't go without regular access to tea for that long.
  • Somewhat wish I had continued on my quest to organise a fake ID. Must make friends with 21 year olds.
  • I may actually like summer a bit more than I would usually admit and I may miss it like everyone's been telling me I will, despite the fact that I love winter and can't wait to be wearing five layers and jeans and coats and boots and scarves.
  • How the hell has Sunday the 9th of January crept up so fast?!
  • Yay new friends. From somewhere other than Perth private schools.
  • I don't want to go back to school in a week.
  • I really am not looking forward to saying goodbye to everyone. I freaking hate goodbyes.
  • Thinking about things as "this is probably one of the last times I will do this". Such as; staring at the veggie garden while I eat last night's curry for breakfast, speeding through the back streets from Julia's house, watching Mum blink at me instead of finishing her sentences, using the pineapple knocker on Gemma's front door, attempting to open the side gate without ripping the skin up my arm (and failing), making sexually inappropriate jokes with Lloyd, and telling the dog to calm down when I come home after Mum and Dad have gone to bed (Bobbi's actually coming with me; she hates summer too).
  • I'm going to miss Hunk of Steve (my car).
  • I should pack.
  • What the hell am I going to do without Mum's olives?!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Adele's Thoughts on Exchange

Back in May when I first decided I wanted to go on exchange (about two weeks before the cut off date) I presented the idea to Mother Dearest who was initially somewhat unenthusiastic. This is what she said to me:

Adele: But aren't you scared to live in a country on your own for six months?
Me: Well yeah a bit. But if I never did anything because I was a little bit scared I'd sit in my room watching 30 Rock for the rest of my life. And, Mum, they're going to stop making episodes at some point.

Later on, once I'd already applied and the likelihood of me spending six months on my own in another country became more of a reality I started toying with the idea of staying in The States after semester and travelling for as long as my visa would allow me. Mother understood my desire to travel and was quite encouraging, apart from this:

Adele: You're not allowed to fall in love with an American and not come home. We've lost enough family members to America.