Sunday, May 29, 2011

Portland, Oregon

I think I'm in love with Portland. Considering marrying an American so I can live there one day. Let me tell you why.

In Champaign when I was planning my trip I had organised a Couch Surfing host. She didn't reply to my emails for about two weeks and then three days before I got to Portland she changed her mind on me. Most of the hostels were booked out. I was stranded. I was told about the 'last resort' groups on the website where people sometimes help out in situations like this. Serafin was my rescuer.

The whole way on the bus to his house I considered turning him down and staying in a really shitty hostel or paying through my nose to stay in a hotel. I was freaking out about going to a stranger's house. I thought about how I've been trying to push myself outside my comfort zone and experience new things so I ignored the voices in my head. I'm so glad I did.

On the bus I spoke to a guy who recommended things to do and held eye contact for way too long and a guy who has lived in seven different countries due to his job training dogs. Apparently they're now training dogs to smell terrorists. I asked him what terrorists smell like which made several people around us chuckle. He didn't seem to get it and proceeded to explain to me that the dogs smell the weapons or something. Weird guy. He told me which stop to get off though so that was nice of him.

Serafin welcomed me into his house and made me feel completely at home. He lives in South East Portland in the suburbs in a small house with seven others, most of whom are also couch surfers. I slept in Serafin's room which was actually the garage transformed into a gypsy room to accommodate Serafin, Josh, Danielle and any couch surfers who stumble through the house.

Serafin works at a fancy restaurant downtown as a server and also as a drag queen and is concentrating on learning to ice skate. He wants to be famous one day but hasn't worked out what for yet. He was unbelievably welcoming and generous. Unfortunately I didn't get to spend much time with him because he was working so much. I would have loved to see him perform on Sunday night but I left for San Francisco that morning. Danielle would greet me in the morning with stories of trances and practices of shaman tribes from all over the world. She had an amazing view of the world and her place in it in terms of other selves and dream states. She also played the didgeridoo on a PVC pipe. I come all the way to the other side of the world to stay with an American who plays the didgeridoo. She was very musical and creative and would often break out into beat boxing. Josh was a new addition to the house. He had travelled all over South America and had some cool stories to tell. He was interested in philosophy and I would often come home to find him in the middle of a passionate debate about politics or ethics with Jordan. I learnt about his love for ice cream and how the quality of it impacts his impression of a city. Jordan works as a chef at the same restaurant as Serafin. He was always enthusiastic to recommend places for me to go and things to see. He told me stories about traveling across America and how it's different every time. Shane was a cook in a cafe downtown too. He partied hard and got up early to work his arse off all day but always had a smile on his face. In fact they all worked hard and partied even harder. Javier works as an executive chef. We became friends when we realised that he was a Libran and I'm a Gemini (they get along well). He was always keen for a drink and sharing his favourite artists with me. He's good at giving hugs. Ben also lived there but I didn't talk to/see him much. Luke is Serafin's cat. When I say cat I mean more of a cat/dog hybrid thing. He came when you called him, always wanted attention and loved being spanked on his bum (or "tookus" as Serafin said). I normally don't like cats but Luke was pretty cool and I spent a fair amount of time spanking the cat in the living room (how freakin' dirty does that sound?).

So my first day in Portland I went downtown and visited Powell's book store which is the largest bookstore in the world. I spent half an hour reading a book while leaning on the shelves before I got hungry and left. I grabbed a burger and ice cream before hopping on a street car to go to a 21+ event at OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry). Unfortunately I got lost and by the time I worked out where I was and where I had to go I would I knew I wouldn't make it in time so I headed back to the house. I sat on the couch and watched The Living Wake with Javier, Danielle and Luke.

Thursday morning Josh and I went to Council Crest, the highest point in Portland. It had an amazing view as well as the hill itself being beautiful and covered in lush green forest. The main attraction though, was the point at the top. If you stood on the gold dot in the middle of the cobblestoned circle your voice echoed, yet if you stood one or two steps to the side of it your voiced sounded normal. I thought it meant it echoed to the people around you so I was yelling "COOOO-EH!" but it only echoes to yourself and therefore I probably sounded like an idiot.

During the hike up to Council Crest. I'm unfit. It was a struggle.

The view from the top.

Josh and I parted ways downtown as he went off to play racket ball and I was heading to a street fair that happened on the last Thursday of every month. They had closed off several blocks to allow stalls and street performers and cafes and breweries and galleries to open for the public. Imagine Fremantle markets but with more people in mismatched clothing and more dogs. And more rain. I walked up and down a bit watching the people and exploring the stalls. One girl who was selling portraits was hoola-hooping to get people's attention. According to guy I bought dinner from, she had been doing it for about four hours non stop.

Street food at the fair.

Some guys were selling finger paintings that they drew then and there claiming it was 'non-art' or something witty. I only left because I was dressed inappropriately for the wind and rain. While waiting at the bus stop I met an Australian guy (who's surprised?) and chatted for a while. He was working on a film called Gone and had a few days off to enjoy the city. You should watch the film when it comes out because then you can say you're friends with/related to someone who met the director/someone who worked with Amanda Seyfried (who is apparently "very cool and down to earth") while she's on screen. It's practically the same as meeting her.

On the bus on the way home, someone had left a parcel on the seat in front of me. After realising that it wasn't going to blow up another passenger and I went through it. I took the beer and gas mask and the other guy gave the dirty clothes to the bus driver. When I got back to the house, Javier took the gas mask and Danielle and I drank the beer while we watched stand up comedy on Netflix. After Javier worked out that I am a Gemini he asked me if I wanted to go to a bar, I said yes which apparently he knew I was going to say because I'm a Gemini. We went to a bar near by called Rock Side of The Moon. It had just opened and we were given the grand tour upon entering. It was a very strange place. They played music videos that ranged from Pink Floyd to Metalica and also allowed karaoke in between songs. The owner sang Because I Got High by Afroman before a punter absolutely butchered I Want To Hold Your Hand by The Beatles which prompted Javier and me to have a shot and leave after quoting The Living Wake to the clueless guy at the bar. We sat in the kitchen watching Die Antwoord and Das Racist video clips before going to bed.

Friday morning I had an email from a couch surfer recommending a place that made authentic Australian meat pies. I was intrigued. Jordan came with me to experience the magic of a meat pie. They were three times the price and way better quality. As in, meat pies are supposed to be made with offal and the shit meat, not the best part of the beef. It took me a while to realise that's what was different about it, but it's probably the closest thing to a meat pie here. So I recommend going if anyone is feeling homesick/wants to try an Aussie pie.

When Jordan went to work I went to the art gallery which had free admission after 5pm on the last Friday of every month. There were some pretty cool exhibits in there. My favourite was the beautiful black white photography from the 50s and 60s. The photography exhibition was my fave at the Chicago Institute of Art too.

When I got back to the house Shane, Matt (a guy they met on the bus and became friends with) and Danielle were heading to Sutton's (CS friend who lives around the corner) house for some homemade mead. It was pretty freakin' good mead. Once that was gone we moved onto the homemade red wine which they had put too much yeast in so it was like red wine champagne. Very interesting. Needless to say we all got pretty drunk. More people turned up and more alcohol was consumed. Nishant (Sutton's couch surfer who had ridden his bike from Seattle and wanted to stop for a few days due to the bad weather) rocked some point and joined the party. When everyone had left, Javier and I took control of the iPod in the kitchen and loudly sang along to I Will Follow You into the Dark by Death Cab, before stealing more wine/champagne and heading home. Shane and Matt returned from a rave and joined us while listening to music on the couch. At about 3am all three of us forcefully told Javier to go to bed who had turned into a sad five year old. Shane, Matt and I stayed up until the sun came up swapping stories of accidents and scars.

I knew I had plans the next day, but couldn't get out of bed in time. I woke up to Sutton standing over my bed telling me to get up because it was now midday - the time we had arranged to meet to go out. I dragged myself to the shower and met Sutton back at her house with Danielle and Nishant to go to Saturday Market. I was in a world of pain. I love markets and tried to enjoy it, but honestly I wanted to go back to bed. I couldn't decide if I was going to throw up or not and my head felt like it was in a vice. Bleurgh. I pushed through the pain anyway. We met some other couch surfers and went to Hawthorne, a hipster/hippy area with cool shops, cafe's and thrift stores.

Crazed car parked in the suburban streets of Hawthorne.

Sutton bought some pants while I sat on the pavement outside because I was too overwhelmed by all the stuff in World of Vintage. Yeah, that hungover. I bought some Jamaican Ginger Beer (terrible) and we headed to a park to enjoy the sun. Despite the ginger beer tasting like pond water, I felt better and joined Sutton and Nishant playing catch.


Me recovering from The Hangover.


The three of us being trees (my tree collapsed due to laughter)

Sutton, Nishant and I hung out at Serafin's place while we waited for Danielle to make us crepes before we went to a party.

Planking while waiting for crepes.

The party was great. Free beer, live music and a hipster dance party. So much fun. Eight of us got in Sutton's car (three in the trunk) to head back. Sutton, Siemon (a CS friend) drank beer on the roof of the house and enjoyed the stars. Siemon and I chatted about the awesomeness of couch surfing and Portland. When we climbed down because it got really cold, Sutton kidnapped me and took me to a tree in a park which we drunkenly climbed.

Siemon joined us with more beer. While sitting in the tree we realised how drunk we were and freaked out a bit about climbing down. It's okay, none of us died. I went to bed at 4am, got up at 6am and left for San Francisco.

Being drunk in a tree.

Before I left Seattle someone told me that Portland was trying to be like Seattle but failed. I was somewhat reluctant after that description. Siemon thinks Seattle is trying to be Portland. Honestly, I think Portland is cooler and completely different to Seattle. It's a city with a small town vibe. Danielle told me that if you're the weird kid in school, you move to Portland. People say "keep Porltand weird" and at first I didn't feel 'weird' enough. But really it's just a place where everyone is welcome. On the last night Nishant commented that he felt older than everyone else there. I felt like age didn't matter. Everyone was there together to enjoy themselves. Siemon said it's 'where students come to retire.' It's filled with young people who have finished university and are working and living pay-check-to-pay-check and hanging out. I'm bad at describing vibes but it was laid back and friendly and by far my favourite place so far. I felt welcome and completely at home where ever I went. Everyone was super friendly and happy to chat (especially on the bus) and I stayed with the most amazing people.

I felt sadder leaving Portland than I did leaving Champaign even though I was only there for four nights. I think this is directly related to couch surfing (and possibly also only having two hours of sleep). If I'm allowed one douchey life tip it would be to sign up for couch surfing. Drop what you're doing now (actually, finish reading my blog first) and sign up. Travellers start surfing or just meet members where ever you are. And people at home start hosting! You will meet beautiful people with amazing stories to tell. If you do your research it's safe and there is no reason you should be in any danger. I love that it is based on trusting strangers to open their homes and lives up to you. It far outweighs the free accommodation. I guarantee you will have an amazing time as part of this community.

I just had a brainwave. I could totally go back to Portland after London because my US tourist visa will still be valid. Done.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Seattle, Washington

Seattle is really fucking cool and I wish I was on exchange there rather than Illinois (possibly going to say that about everywhere). The city is super hilly which means you get awesome views of the city and suburbs while travelling around on public transport. So much nicer than Illinois which is flatter than a prepubescent girl's chest. There's also heaps of trees in the city centre which I love. Any city covered in trees wins my vote.

I stayed in Dave's house (a friend from Perth) near the University District which is a cool area. His house used to be a frat hangout so it's disgusting, but I like it. People constantly make jokes about the likelihood of catching diseases while living there. He lives with nine other people, all Americans apart from Will (was on the San Diego trip I did) who's on exchange from London. I slept on one of the amazingly comfortable couches in the living room. It's the kind of couch that feels like it's going to swallow you when you sit down. I forgot how much I love couches.

I had a touristy day on Friday so I went downtown to Pike Place Market which my Lonely Planet guide told me was a must.

The markets were really cool and really busy because it was a beautiful day. I spent a few hours walking around, looking at all the shops and stalls and taking advantage of the free samples. I walked passed the world's first Starbucks which had a huge line of people to buy a coffee from there, despite it being no different to the regular Starbucks half a block away.

Buskers outside the first Starbucks

While in line to buy a slice of gourmet pizza for lunch, the man behind me entertained some kids. He had a parrot on his shoulder which made doorbell, cat and explosion noises. About four people asked me for directions which I thought meant I must have looked like a local. I asked the worker in a second hand book store for directions and he sung his response to me, which was funny and mildly embarrassing. I found what I was looking for: the gum wall. It's supposedly the second most unhygienic tourist attraction in the world (I didn't think to ask what the first is). It's exactly what it sounds like. Thousands of people have stuck their used gum to the wall.

Next I walked several blocks to the Columbia Tower, a 74 story building in the financial district with an amazing view of the city for only $5 compared to the popular tourist attraction, The Space Needle, which had a giant line, was only half the height and costs $16.

I went to the Space Needle anyway because theres a park around the building which was cool. There was a museum and an aquarium but I didn't bother with those. I sat in the sun by a fountain that played music and poured out smoke.

I got the monorail back to downtown instead of walking. I just wanted to say I've ridden the monorail. I went back to Dave's where intense drinking commenced before heading out to a Laser Daft Punk show. Apparently you lie on your back, stare at the laser patterns projected on the ceiling while they blast loud music at you. So we all got pretty drunk and excited. We bounced up to the ticket booth only to discover that that night's show was Laser Gaga and not Daft Punk. We laughed about it for days. The actual, definite Daft Punk show was on Sunday night but we didn't end up going because everyone else had uni work to do.

I passed out that night and didn't wake up until 1pm the next day. Eventually Dave and I got our shit together and walked to the street fair which was on The Ave (University Ave, affectionately shortened by locals) a few blocks from Dave's house. They had closed off eight blocks worth of the street and covered it with the usual arts and crafts, jewelry, clothes, food carts, street performers etc etc. We walked slowly down the street, stopping to collect as many free samples as we could (including mint flavoured water which tasted exactly like the flavour you have when you drink water after chewing gum) and to chat to Dave's friends we met on the street. After grabbing some lunch we discovered the Frandy Bar cart. It sold deep fried candy bars. I've ALWAYS wanted to try one. So we had a deep fried Milky Way (actually it was a Mars Bar, but they're called Milky Ways here). It liked the melted chocolate bar bit, but I dunno how I feel about the deep friedness. On top of my hangover it probably wasn't the best choice. It was touch and go for a while.

I napped on the couch before we started drinking again. We went to Serena's (UK) house who was also turning 21 the next day. Then we went to another of Dave's friend's houses where we watched them play Beer Pong while I turned 21 at midnight. Then we went to the bars with Josh (Aus) and Suzie (Ireland). I got free drinks because it was my birthday - something which should definitely be universal.

Sunday was off to another slow start. Dave and I went to Fremont, a suburb of Seattle which had a cool micro-brewery (more free beer) and then Uneedaburger (we did need a burger) which made an amazing burger that included coriander (or cilantro - took me way too long to realise they're the same thing) and tempura lemons.

Birthday linner (lunch + dinner)

Then more drinking while sitting on swallowing couches before heading to an Irish pub for more free beer. I was pretty drunk when we got home (thanks to Dave buying me Tequila shots) and passed out before I could eat my Top Ramen (closest thing to Mi Goreng - a staple in that house).

Dave had class on Monday so I went to Capitol Hill - a cool area of Seattle with shops and bars. I walked around for a bit and then had Pho (Vietnamese Noodle Soup) for lunch. The staff were super rude (asked me what I wanted before I sat down) and I really didn't want to tip. But I did anyway. They'd better enjoy those extra two dollars. I went to a cafe that was "inspired by Starbucks" but cooler. Mainly because it had a bar as well. And wasn't Starbucks. Stayed there for a few hours with my laptop trying to find somewhere to stay in Portland.

Monday night in Dave's house is called Rossi Mondays. Carlo Rossi is similar to goon except it comes in a gallon glass jug and has way more corn syrup in it (tastes like juice, easy to skull). Rossi Mondays means you buy a couple of jugs, invite a bunch of people over and pass the jugs around until there's no wine left. I spent the night teaching a recently graduated high school senior the one card trick I know (she couldn't do it) and she taught me how to shuffle cards like a pro (I still can't do it).

Thomas, a casuality of Rossi Mondays.

The ratio of people to wine was too high so we didn't get exceptionally drunk but it was still fun. Dave and I played a drinking game with Sam, one of his American house mates, before heading out to a bar because he realised it was my birthday the day before. He bought me a shot of something that tasted like toothpaste and was called something that sounded like Rumplestiltskin.

On Tuesday I had big plans to check out a Nick Cave exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum. Unfortunately it was closed. So I explored the near by Pioneer Square, the oldest part of Seattle with some beautiful buildings.

There are some crazy people down there. There was a patch of grass filled with bums yelling gibberish at each other. Then I got the bus and went back to Fremont to explore more. I visited the Lenin statue. A guy found the statue in Soviet Russia amongst a whole lot of rubble and thought it would be worth a lot back in The States. So he mortgaged his house to bring it back and put it in Fremont for sale for $100, 000. It's still for sale and now a popular tourist attraction.

Then for lunch I had a Cuban Roast Sandwich which (whichwhichwhichwhich) was easily the best sandwich I have ever eaten. Cured pork shoulder, camerilised onions, lettuce, jalepinos and some kind of amazing sauce.

Before heading home I visited the Troll Under the Bridge, a huge statue...under the bridge. It was designed by community artists to add to the artistic feel of the suburb.

I got the wrong bus home, got lost and waited for Dave and his house mates to pick me up. When they did we went to Gas Works Park. A hill of grass that has an amazing view of the surrounding river, city and suburbs. It used to be an oil/gas refinery place but was shut down. The bronze refinery structures are still there and actually look really cool contrasting against the bright green grass.

So Seattle was awesome and I wish I was there for longer (also going to say that about everywhere). The Ave had an awesome vibe filled with bars and eats and thrift stores and American Apparels/Urban Outfitters. I definitely preferred it to Green St in Champaign. The public transport was always filled with interesting people. Including a woman who had a small fluffy dog in a t shirt which she called her baby. I felt sorry for the dog. It was fun to stay in a house with American students rather than a house with Australian travelers. Dave was a gracious host who always made sure I was comfortable and happy with the plans. It was great to see a familiar face again too. Currently seething with jealousy that Dave and his house mates are at a music festival called Sasquatch. I wish I could have gone to a concert as Dave was telling me about them and they sound pretty awesome. I guess I'll just have to go back there to see more.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Vancouver, B.C, Canada

I caught the bus to Vancouver from Seattle on Monday morning. I got to my hostel, SameSun, mid afternoon. I was knackered. It was also raining, which is apparently the norm for Vancouver. I showered and decided to hang around the hostel and chill out and go exploring the next day. I was in a six bed room with four Australian guys who all seem to be here looking for work. One of them is even from Mandurah. On the last night there were three of us from Perth in one room.

While I was chilling out in the common room a group of new workers at the hostel were talking in a group behind me. They were all Australian. I didn't want to talk to them. I wanted to get away from them. The Australian accent is annoying. So I went up to my room (with the other Aussies - there's no escape!) finished my last blog post before having the cheap dinner special and a few beers in the restaurant/bar downstairs. I was pretty excited to be able to buy my own beer again and the damn bar wench didn't even ask me for ID! I guess I don't look underage while travelling on my own. I watched a movie and went to bed early. And I heard they were pretty relaxed about ID's in Canada, anyway. The window in our room was wide open, which I loved for fresh air purposes, but boy was the street outside fucking noisy!

Tuesday morning I enjoyed the free breakfast downstairs in the restaurant (toast! I had toast!) with some Germans and the Mandurah guy from my room before I went out exploring. One of the workers announced that night's activities and pronounced 'out' as 'oot' and I nearly choked on my toast. I knew Canadians said that but wow, they sound retarded when they do. How the hell do they get 'oot' from 'out?'

Tuesday was unbelievably good weather so I decided to walk to Stanley Park which I thought was going to be like King's Park. It was more like this awesome hybrid between King's Park and Nanga, although you can't camp. Non Perth readers will just have to come to WA to know what I'm talking about. Or google it. I had an insane headache which I think was a combination of my antibiotics dehydrating me and not wearing sunglasses on a sunny day, so by the time I was at the park I was reluctant to go further, but I'm glad I did.

The view looking back towards the city from a bench where I made a headache induced pit stop on my way to Stanley Park.

I walked along the touristy/jogger's trails before I got bored of the gravel and followed a jogger off the beaten track. It was really cool forest. It reminded me of Fern Gully. I soon lost him as he was running and I was stopping to smell the roses/trying not to get my Doc's exceptionally muddy.

I realised I was lost. Fuck it, I thought, keep going, I'm bound to find the gravel track again. I didn't. I went deeper and deeper into the woods and the track I was following seemed to disappear and reappear in weird unrelated spots. I freaked out a little bit. Then I walked passed a used condom. People have come here before, I thought (sorry, couldn't resist). Kept walking, freaked out when I realised no one knew I was here and I had no one to call. So I walked back the way I came and welcomed the sight of the boring gravel again. I walked further, feeling peckish, in the direction of a restaurant.

Yay gravel track!

I had an encounter with a raccoon. It walked towards me when I crouched down which was cool. I had an urge to reach out and pat it; I later saw a sign warning about rabies so I'm glad I didn't. I also saw white swans, geese things and their chicks, turtles sunning on a log in the middle of The Lost Lagoon and while napping under a tree in the sun I woke up to a black squirrel staring at me from a branch two metres directly above my head.

Isn't he/she adorabubble?

On my way home I stopped at Starbucks to satisfy major caffeine cravings. So I spent most of the afternoon sitting in the sun, drinking iced lattes, reading street papers and watching the people walking passed. I occurred to me that I didn't have to be anywhere or do anything. After the week I'd had in Champaign, it was a relief. I wished a possibly homeless guy happy birthday as he had a sparkling party hat on and said he was "marvelous because it's [his] birthday." I bought real ginger beer from Whole Foods and loved Canada little bit more for it.

Tuesday night I went to a CouchSurfing meeting at a cafe a few blocks from the hostel. I met some cool people over pitchers of Canadian beer. Most of them were living in Vancouver for about a year to work and save up to travel more. It made me wish I was there for longer. I met a Callum-like (even wearing a scarf) German guy (sorry non Perth friends, I can't explain it - you have to know him) who was impressed that I knew the answer to "Whats the difference between Canada and a tub of yoghurt?" (Yoghurt has more culture). I explained that it's because that's what people say about Perth. He loved that. Although he thought I meant all of Australia. He was a dickhead. Only Perth people are allowed to complain about Perth. Especially if you've never been there, douchebag. I thought it was particularly lame that he made that joke about a country he had chosen to travel to. Dana, a kiwi girl, backed me up. She was cool. We talked about 'finding yourself' while you go travelling and how important it is rah rah rah. I said I felt like I've gone backwards in my quest to which she said sometimes that's the way it happens. I made friends with Emily, a German girl, who has already requested to crash on my couch in London later this year. I went to an Irish pub with Dana, a Dutch guy, a French guy and two Canadian girls. They were all late in their twenties/early thirties and kept referring to me as a baby which pissed me off after a while. But it was cool to meet some locals and seasoned travelers.

In the Irish pub.

I nearly got locked out of the hostel - how lame is that they have a curfew?! And went straight to bed in my already dark and quiet room. Wednesday morning I had breakfast with the Mandurah guy and Sasha, a guy from Croatia, who told these amazing travel stories. He had lived in minus 40 degree winter in Lapland, swum with Killer Wales in Norway and scuba dived in shark infested waters in the Galapagos. He said it was like being in a David Attenborough documentary. He looked up from the bottom of the ocean and all he could see were hundreds of hammerhead sharks swimming above him. Amazing. On the way home they passed a bay where two pilot whales were swimming so they jumped in the water to swim with them. Five minutes later the captain of the boat said "Oi guys, you should come back to the boat now," in a casual voice. Once they were out of the water they saw a tiger shark sweep into the bay and rip apart the two whales. It was a blood bath minutes after they had been in the water. Mandurah (his name is Adam, but I like calling him Mandurah) and I listened in awe.

Wednesday I went exploring in Gastown with Mandurah. We had lunch and a pint in an Irish pub and then we went to the lookout thing which had an amazing view of the city and surrounding mountains.

That night we drank in the bar in the hostel and watched the Canucks playoff game (hockey), which I'm guessing is one of the most Canadian things to do. Just short of pouring maple syrup on yourself and pashing a moose.

It was strange to watch with a bunch of international people who were getting into the game as if they had been following the team their whole life. It was pretty exciting and for a while I wished I gave a shit about sport just to be part of something like that. I soon changed my mind when the second biggest cheers from the crowd happened when the players started punching each other. Eugh. At about half time some guys who worked for Molson beer came to our table with a video camera and gave us free beer. It was pretty awesome. Oh and the Canucks won, 7 to 3.

I'm faking that excitement. Slash I was drunk.

I was super hungover on Thursday so I spent the day sleeping in the sun in the park after I checked out. Oh and I forgot to pay my tab from the night before and didn't pay in the morning. Totally got away with it. I've always wanted to do a runner, even though that was a semi accidental runner.

Fatty in the park.

I've never been able to tell the difference between American and Canadian accents but I'm proud to say I can now. The Canadian accent is kind of softer than an American accent. I like it. Not a fan of the "oot" and "eh" though. Vancouver is supposed to be one the best cities to live in the world and I can see why. It had a cool vibe. I like vibes. I definitely wish I was there for longer than three nights. Staying with people who were working there was interesting. I'd love to go back some time and see more of the country and do some outdoorsy stuff.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Obligatory Summing Up Post

Things I have noticed:
  • Americans like hoodies, sandwiches, moccasins and short shorts (like I-can-see-your-cervix short)
  • Americans genuinely and seriously say "I know, right?" and "right" as a comprehension check thing while you're talking. I thought they were being rude at first, but they're not. Consequently, I now say "right" a fair bit. Americans - we make fun of you by saying "I know, riiiii-eeeet?" in a high pitched, winy voice. I know you don't sound like that.
  • All tampons come with applicators. Do American girls not know where their vagina is?
Mix of Americans, English and Australians after dinner in downtown Champaign on the last weekend. We're standing on the back of the boys' ute.

To my neighbours who are possibly not reading this:
  • I'm sorry for all the times you heard me throwing up (hangover, allergic reaction to antibiotics) in our bathroom.
  • I'm sorry I made the shower tiles pink with my hair dye.
  • I'm sorry for the times I walked out of my room in my underwear while you were talking to your friends in the hall.
  • Pauline - I used your hand soap every day, which I guess you're away of because you left it when you moved out before me.
  • Daisy - I'm sorry I kept elbowing the wall in between our rooms. I forget how long my arms are sometimes.
  • I wish we had hung out more often than to say "hi" whenever we crossed paths in the hall.
My shitty camera couldn't capture the true pinkness. Trust me, they were pink.

Things I will miss:
  • Espresso Royale's $5 Goats Cheese and Pesto sandwich
  • the staff at Espresso Royale on Wright St
  • Espresso Royale
  • squirrels
  • the lift in the Sherman with the old school buttons
  • the glitch in the system that allowed me to eat at dining halls for free
  • Thursday nights at Murphy's
  • the weather - everyone said it would snow again but it didn't! I want snow, damnit!
Liza, me, Kristy, Steven (UK) and Felipe (Chile) in the dining hall on Kristy's last night.

Things I will not miss:
  • the strange smell in the Sherman trash rooms
  • the useless guy on the front desk at Sherman
  • my iCard which only lets me into the building once every four swipes
  • the limited options of places to go out
  • spending more time waiting for the lifts than it takes to walk up the stairs
Jack (US), Ian (US), Lindsay (US), Steve (US), Tom (US), me, Sylvia (US), Grace (US) and Mish (AUS) during (?) Girl Talk.

I've actually been planning this post in my head since...before I left Perth. Imagining what I would say and what not. Now that it's appropriate for me to actually write it, I've been putting it off, feeling a bit reluctant to post. I'm not going to write what people expect after exchange semesters, or indeed what it seems like most other people have thought of their time in Champaign. If you've been reading my blog from the beginning I guess you're not surprised to know that I haven't had the greatest time. I'm not referring to losing my ID and spending a night in the Greyhound Station. I mean generally exchange didn't live up to my expectations. I didn't have a shit time, just not as much fun as I thought I would. I can't remember what I was expecting now, though.

Claire (Korea) and I sit on Steven's roommate's bed on our last Friday night.

I used to I think I'm really open minded but I'm slowly realising that I don't think I am. I have a certain idea about how something will be (like how you imagine what your holiday will be life before you leave home) and then when it doesn't meet my expectations I get really frustrated. Sometimes. I just thought about Japan then and I'm pretty sure the time I had wasn't what I expected but I had buckets of fun. So now I've confused myself. And you, probably.

Me, Liza, Alex (US) and Jess on Green St outside Murphy's after Korean dinner and drinking games.

I've already expressed my dislike (extreme hate) for Sherman and how much better I think I would have enjoyed myself if I was living somewhere else. I think also, I've realised I can't live on my own. I go a bit nuts being on own for too long. Even if it's just Mum telling me off for being hungover again, I feel like I need to live with other people. I wish I lived in Urbana. That's where the cool people seem to live.

Claire (Korea), Mag (Singapore), Dana (Korea), Andie (Austria), Jess, Kai, Kristy, Liza and moi at Pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) night.

I definitely don't think one semester is long enough. I feel like I've just settled in, remembered which buses go where, finally memorised my student number, made the beginnings of some awesome friendships and I have to pack up and leave. I would have applied to stay for a year if I could, but this being my last semester, I didn't have a choice. Having said that, I don't know if I could stay in central Illinois for an entire year. I kind of wish I had applied to go somewhere else.

Annie (Korea), me and Steven (UK) at Kam's - the most disgusting bar on campus.

I think maybe one of the reasons I feel a bit "eh" about this semester is that I feel like I haven't been myself. I'm not sure how that happened. I was talking to Steven (UK) a couple of weeks ago about how the first time I met him I was joking about and acting out the retarded pterodactyl (assorted family memebers: it's better if you don't know what that is) and how weird he thought I was because of that. I (vaguely) remember that and thinking I should tone it down. I just never really toned it back up again. That's how I was in Perth with my friends. I was drunk, loud and comfortable making obscene jokes to a group of people. I guess I wasn't sure how to behave otherwise, so I just....didn't. I've also drunk significantly less here than I did in Perth. I think? That seems silly to write it down, but I think it's true. It also seems silly for exchange. Isn't that the point of studying abroad? I guess it's related to being underage. If we were out I generally waited for someone else to get up and get a drink instead of asking them to get me one whenever I wanted (which would have been at least twice as fast as they were drinking, most of the time). Much slower drinking that way. Only six more days and I can buy my own! Maybe I drank just as often, but rarely got as drunk as I did? I don't know. Maybe I'm thinking about it too much now. Isn't that the point of a blog though?

Thinking deeply on the school's Alma Mater ('nourishing mother') statue.

Having got all the Negative Nelly stuff out of the way I shall now do the Positive Polly bits. It has been cool to live on campus with everything so close and be in a town filled with uni students. Although (sorry more neg) I did get sick of walking in my tiny 2 or 3 block route to classes and back to Sherman again everyday. And people complained about going downtown or to Urbana because it's too far, when it's a twenty minute walk or one short bus trip. It puzzled me all semester. That's not a long way. I wish I had gone out/explored downtown Champaign more often and at least gone to downtown Urbana just once.

Pauline (France), my neighbour, and yours truly at the last Cosmo House party.

It's been really interesting to learn about Americans and how they're different to Australians/the other international students. Taking the creative writing class was really great for this because I got to read about eighteen true stories written by Americans every week. I still have a lot to learn, though.

Sally (UK) and I drinking shackers and dancing on tables at Red Lion.

To be honest, I think the most poignant thing I learnt is that Perth is actually pretty great and my friends and family at home are pretty amazing (that's the only sentimental thing I'm going to say, ever, so fucking enjoy it).

Allan (AUS), me and Talitha (UK) at Allan & Co's apartment.

I had a pretty insane last week in Champaign so I'm going to add it in. I had been sick since just after Coachella (April 17th) and it was making me miserable. I had an unbelievably sore throat and I couldn't breathe through my nose. I went to the doctor and was put on antibiotics even though she said it was a virus. The second day of being on antibiotics, I had an allergic reaction to them and spent a day with my head in the toilet. Actually, I woke up with a stiff neck too after spending all night with a fever so naturally, being the hypochondraic that I am (seriously, I could write a whole blog about my hypochondrias), I thought I had Meningicoccal Meningitis and the Sherman staff would find me dead in my bed in few days after my neighbours complained about the smell of my rotting body (seriously, this stuff crosses my mind every now and again). I called Mum and Dad through tears and said I wanted to come home; I didn't care about travelling or about going to London. I wanted to sit on our couch with the dog and stare at the Peppermint tree in our yard. I wanted to eat Mum's olives while I waited for kettle to boil. I wanted to stand at Dad's computer and ask him what he was doing because I was too bored to entertain myself [no one was on facebook]. I wanted to sleep in my purple room. I wanted to go out with my friends to my favourite bars and drink my favourite beer. I wanted a hug from Mum. I was a sick and stressed blubbering mess. After several shomits (shit + vomit) I had the sense to call the doctor. I was put on different antibiotics and recovered in a few days. After I sat my final exam which I barely studied for, thanks to the shomitting and blubbering mess-being, I went to Walmart to get some stuff for travelling. Waiting for the bus, I put my iPod on and Saturday Morning by Eels came on. Suddenly, I realised I had finished uni; I'm free. I was leaving Champaign the next day to go on my epic trip. I was all smiles. It wasn't even Saturday.

Me, Euling (AUS) and Chris (AUS).

I wish I could say leaving Champaign was this big emotional experience. But really it was just "eh." Obvz I'll miss the people but I think I'll miss the familiarity of the streets a bit too. I was excited to get away from Champaign, particularly after the last week I'd had. I'm currently sitting in my hostel in Vancouver, Canada. I know it's lame that I'm blogging instead of exploring when I'm only here for a few days but I got here a few hours ago and I'm knackered. So I'm lazing around tonight and then I will go exploring tomorrow. Coming from the Amtrak station to the hostel I thought about how exciting it was to be walking through a city on my own in a country I've never been to and where I don't know anyone. Having said that, this hostel seems to have more Australian guests and staff than people from any other country. I'm not used to hearing the accent on strangers and to be honest it's freaking me out. But more on Vancouver in my next post.

Charlotte's Mum, Lauren (UK), me and Charlotte (UK) at Red Lion on Mom's Weekend.

So exchange is over and I still can't believe how fast the semester went. It's strange to think about it now. It seems so far away already. It's strange to think that I probably won't see the people I spent most of my time with ever again. Dream-like strange. But it was great to meet and make friends with people from outside my Perth bubble who I otherwise wouldn't have.

Liza, Kristy, me and Jess on the quad.

I've met some amazing people from all over the world. This has definitely been the highlight of exchange. Language and possible cultural barriers aside we've been able to travel together, go out and celebrate nothing in particular and complain about classes. Liza, Kristy and I were talking about how weird it is that you're expected to make these amazing close friendships while on exchange, knowing that you're going to leave them in a few months and possibly never see them again. It's kind of a horrible thing to deliberately put yourself through. But worth it.

The Australian Group: Liza, Kristy, Jess, me and Kai.