Sarcasm is a good thing

18 June 2011
My body clock won precedence over my phone alarm this morning. Which is fine as 8 am allowed me enough time to gather my senses and pinch myself slightly to remind myself that yes, I am in Sydney, Australia.  

We had been instructed to meet in the lobby at 9:45 this morning. My roommates had gone ahead to grab breakfast. (Food in Australia is ridiculously expensive. A bagel, for example, is $AUD7.) I still needed time to finish getting ready so I headed downstairs at 9:40, pleased with myself for making it out of the apartment on time. It turned out that our meeting was actually set for 11 rather than the expected 10, so I spent my free hour at the mall, purchasing toiletries and a few breakfast items to nosh on prior our meeting.

Our program orientation ran smoothly. Sophia, the internship coordinator for the Education Abroad Network, provided a generalized spiel of the expectations we should set for our internships, what the company’s expect out of us and prepared us for the culture shock of the Australian workplace. We’ve been warned to expect sarcasm within a few minutes of meeting our supervisors. Here, sarcasm means they like you. It's really great then that I don’t get sarcasm at all.   

Following our orientation, I, along with a friend, paid the mall’s grocery store a visit. The store is enormous and to my surprise, includes half an aisle of a kosher section (directly adjacent to the international section and bordering the British section). So yes, I now have three kosher chicken thighs “chilling” in my apartment’s freezer.

Interestingly, I found that Australian’s lack “excuse me” from their language, or their grocery store lingo at least. Australians just wait behind you until you’ve moved out of the way. But not in an aggressive, hurry up, you’re irritating me, JUST MOVE, sort of way. They’re actually patient. And friendly. And calm. Nothing at all like grocery shopping in Florida or DC. I wasn’t sure if I appreciated their passive demeanor or if it slightly hassled me, making me feel that I needed to hurry and move aside to let the person through.

My friend who I had gone grocery shopping with needed a sim card for her phone so we lugged our grocery bags to Vodafone (the same cell phone store I had been to yesterday). The same guy who had guided me through purchasing a sim card and setting a month plan, recognized me and laughed at me as I waited patiently, guarding my grocery bags that lined the bench.  It was cute.

I returned to my apartment, storing my groceries into their respective locations. I then took a look into our cutlery and dish drawers; Specks of short brown hairs were stuck to a few of the plates, there was dirt in the cutlery drawer and more hair in the microwave. Within seconds, my whole silverware, dish and utensil collection was lunged directly into our dishwasher.

My roommates had left the apartment, on their own grocery adventure. And so my friend Zoe popped in, and together we planned to take an afternoon adventure. We headed to the transportation center, conveniently located directly beneath our apartment building. You think the New York subway system is confusing… at least there are signs. Sydney transportation wins the award for confusion. Far and beyond. Thankfully, the man working at the security desk helped the two of us and Zoe and I were able to buy our first bus ticket. A round trip ticket headed to Bondi Beach.

Unlike buses in DC, Aussie buses don’t include signs to announce stop locations. You either know where you’re getting off, or you play tourist and ask your driver to alert you upon arrival at at your desired destination. We took the latter plan, which worked nicely as we got off precisely where the water met the shopping area.

My first thought, upon seeing the beach, was how similar it looked to the South of France. I’m not sure how to explain it, but the strip of homes lining the water had a touch of a European feel to it. And the sand… so unlike the sand strips in Florida. It extended for quite a distance from the ocean and the sand seemed so pure and clean. Zoe and I ambled along the shore, eventually stopping at an ex- soldier restaurant and bar. I ordered a glass of white wine (I felt like such a grown up). At one point, the lights dimmed. Zoe turned to me and whispered quietly, “Are they closing?” “Please stand for our veterans' memorial,” boomed a rough voice over the room’s speaker system. And so we stood, paying our respects to those who had served and those who had fallen in wars Australia has fought for. My first night out ordering drinks, my first time riding Australian transportation without our group leader and a true, Australian cultural event. What a fantastic adventure Bondi Beach turned out to be.

We went out this evening, starting our antics at a bar close to our apartment and then heading to King’s Cross, the party, club (and somewhat sketchy) scene in the city. (In DC terms, King's Cross would probably be most similar to Adams Morgan.) I think the majority of girls seemed to think their shirts doubled as dresses. And by girls, well some of them were girls. Plenty of them were grown women. None of the bars and clubs had covers… they expect you to buy drinks and not show up too hammered.

We ended up walking back almost to our building. Zoe and I decided to catch a cab after 45 minutes of walking. It saved us an additional 25 minute walk. And now in bed, at 5:10 am. I had won over the jet lag battle during the day, but I’m now not sure how my bed time today will affect me tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s my last free day before beginning my internship on Monday. I want to continue exploring the city tomorrow afternoon. And meet a kangaroo. Because it’s probably a little ridiculous that I’ve been here for two days and the closest I’ve gotten to a kangaroo is the one that a few people in my group had for dinner.

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