28 July 2008

Bateux Jouets! French for Boy Toats!

The National Maritime Museum in Sydney is holding a free exhibition of vintage French and German Toy Boats; Craig and I went to it yesterday. It was so cool to see all these tiny boats that actually floated and (amazingly) went all on their own, using a rubber band, steam, or wet battery for power. Some of these were just little wooden boats with little sails, but some were 2 ft. long and made of sheet metal. They have hardwood decks, guns that actually shoot blanks, life rafts, torpedoes that can actually be shot off! It's amazing to see the skill that went into making these boats on such a miniature scale, especially when you consider these were mass-produced toys. Well, they were produced in artisan factories, but still. Large scale production of incredible craftsmanship.

We had a blast. Craig looks pouty, but it's just because I made him sit in the girl's spot.

We didn't get to see much of the Maritime Museum's regular collection, but we'll definitely go back, because what we did see...was awesome.

Example: some crazy Australian traveled over something like 3 continents on a bike and in a boat. When he was on land, he rode the bike with the boat attached. Coolest vehicle ever.

The Australians are really proud of their contribution to the World Wars, and considering they were so far away from danger, it really is amazing they went at all. Oh, right, sure they were under the crown and were required by the monarchy to serve. And then the monarchy pretty much ditched them with no support whatsoever when the Japanese tried to attack Australia. Which led to them becoming their own damn country, thank you.

Where was I? Right, they are very proud of their contribution, so there are lots of memorials to the ANZAC brigade; the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps. The ANZAC memorial, pictured below, is in the beautiful Hyde Park. Also, the bridge behind Craig in the post about Glebe is the ANZAC bridge. It flies the Australian flag at one end and the New Zealand flag at the other, and it's the longest cable-stayed bridge in the world! Of course, there are also the inimitable ANZAC biscuits–delicious, oatie, wattle-seeded cookies. What's wattle seed, you ask? I'm so glad. Why, they are seeds that lend the biscuits "the unique flavour of the Australian bush." Lovely.

The ANZAC memorial:

The ANZAC bridge:

I finally got around to taking some pictures of our place today; I know you're excited.

Our bedroom is pretty big, and it gets really bright in the daytime

We have two wardrobes, with plenty of storage space on top. The ceiling is really nice and high.

This space is going to be a shared office for me, Craig and our housemate. We're working on it...

Behind this stuff is where Sarah has partitioned her room, but she hasn't let us see it yet, because she's straightening up.

This is our living area downstairs

And our eating area

This is our kitchen

Sarah is crazy for Post-It notes, but it's a far nicer kitchen than anywhere else we've seen in our budget.

That's the tour for now; if you want to see anything in detail, you gotta come down under!!

25 July 2008

I love the whole world, too.

Thanks to the lovely and brilliant Judith, for sending me this amazing video. It's a Discovery Channel ad, and you all know I'm not usually the sort who gushes over advertisements. Especially when those advertisements are for TV channels.

But this one made me cry. It made me joyous that I'm here, and broken-hearted to be so far away.

A few people have asked, so for those of you that wish to show (in parcel form) how much you love us:

Craig and/or Nija
643 Elizabeth St.
Waterloo NSW 2017

Craig and I miss you all, and we love you. As well as, of course, the whole wide world.

Thanks, Judith.

24 July 2008

'Ello, Black Magic...

When I was about to move here, I read up a lot on Australia, and I learned all kinds of terrifying information on the wildlife here. I read about killer spiders and jellyfish, poisonous snakes that jump out of trees and the ravenous rabbit population.

None of that prepared me for how wild this country truly is. Examples follow.

1. I was in the Cole's Shopping Village with my housemate. This is basically a giant grocery store, like Kroger. The two of us are walking along, and this 65 year old man walks directly between us, and says to me, "'Ello, Black Magic." Can you believe it??! I mean, it's one thing to be hit on by an old Australian man, but the racist pick-up line is truly rare.

It's so amazing, because I've never been called Black in the States, of course. Here, Aboriginal people are called Black. And even though I'm Indian, everyone just assumes I'm Aboriginal because I'm darker than most Aboriginals. Most Aboriginals are only half-Aboriginal or less, so they're not as dark as a 100% Indian beauty like me. So, here, I'm Black....Black Magic, no less.

But, it's not just a racist thing to be called Black here. An Aboriginal friend of ours, BJ, was the first person to tell me I was Black here. I was asking about the rough area of town, which is of course, predominantly Aboriginal. He said the area wasn't bad, and that it has a bad reputation because people have a lot of racist ideas. Then he said, "But you've definitely got nothing to worry about because you're Black." I said, "Ummm, well actually, I'm Indian. Well, my parents are both Indian." And he said, "Yeah, that's the same as Aboriginal. You're Black."

Seriously, folks, this place is out of control. I may never understand it...

2. There's this one stretch of lebanese restaurants in our neighborhood; most of them are really good. But right next to this stretch of restaurants, there's this room. This room is always closed up during the day, and its windows are always curtained. But at night, you can sometimes get a glimpse through the doorway. This room is about the bleakest thing I have ever seen. At night, this room always has a few old Lebanese or possibly Turkish men in it. They are not having a social party. Some of them are drinking tea all alone; we have not seen any tea-making facilities. Once in a while, two of the old men will be quietly talking. It is lit only by fluorescent lights, there are a few folding card tables and folding chairs in it. There is no TV. There is nothing on the walls save a poster of Cyndi Lauper. We think there may be a microwave. This room has no readily understandable purpose. Why would old men go to this room?

So what have we learned today? Even a place as similar to America as Australia has already presented its share of really odd situations to me. Did you know Australia just stole the title of World's Fattest Country from America? I think it was probably me and Craig being here that tipped the scales...

23 July 2008

Cockatoo Island

On Sunday, Craig and I went to Cockatoo Island, which is Sydney's largest island. The island was originally used as a prison. The barracks where the convicts were kept are still on the island; they were built by the convicts themselves.

Eventually it became clear that the convicts were living in seriously inhumane conditions, so the prison was moved to Darlinghurst. After that, the Australian government, in a move that can only be described as...inscrutable, decided to turn the inhumane prison into a boarding school for wayward girls. Interesting development, no? Also, there was a school for wayward boys on a boat tethered to the island. I don't want to shock your pristine sensibilities, but it is a matter of historical fact that there were many inappropriate meetings between the boys and girls. Surely, hindsight is 20/20, but anyone could have seen that coming, right?

Later, the island became a shipyard and much of Australia's wartime shipbuilding went on at Cockatoo Island. Then the island was closed to the public until 2007; now it's an art venue for the Biennale. There's a free ferry from Sydney Harbour to Cockatoo Island–I love how much free stuff this city puts together.

Amazingly, most of the giant ship building equipment and old buildings are still there, so the whole island looks like industrial art. It's amazing...

Most of the art on Cockatoo Island was video installation stuff, but honestly we found the industrial stuff much more interesting.

22 July 2008

Out with the Pope, in with the Vote!

Hello again, lovely readers! I can tell you all miss me by the truly excellent emails I've been getting–thank you. I have gotten a truly thought-provoking discussion on the consequences of a completely dark and terrifying Batman movie, and not one person wrote me all pissed off about spoiling the movie...I knew you all really loved us.

Down here, the Pope has delightfully departed, though not without his requisite patronizing of Aboriginals and sexual abuse victims. Of course, I couldn't ask Sydneysiders to have a better response to the whole irritating event than this:

Actually, during World Youth Day, the police were given "special powers" to "detain and remove" anyone who "annoyed" the Youths. Including wearing "offensive" t-shirts. Of course, the civil liberties folks here quickly took that to task and got the special powers overturned, due to the limitations on free speech (snap!) So Iemma (NSW's Premier) suffered a little extra mud on his face. Brilliant. We then saw tons of people wearing shirts that said, "Fuck the Pope. With a condom." Now friends, this is not my particular brand of subtle humor, but worth noting regardless.

I was a little concerned when I heard about the cops here being given special powers to defend the ears and eyes of Mr. Pope's entourage. But then I saw the cop cars here. They are adorable! Little lime green fuel-efficient four-doors with blue and white checks! They would make the best rain boots. Look how cute:

Craig and I have been doing our fair share of sightseeing lately, still just in South Sydney. We like to call it the South Syde. So that we can pretend, for the first times in our lives, that we keeps it real.

First off, we hit Glebe; it's pronounced "gleeb," and it's one of the first neighborhoods founded in Sydney. In fact, Sydney's first Reverend was given it as a piece of churchland (which is called, shockingly enough, a glebe), so it was the home of Sydney's first church. Actually, just this very kind of uninspired naming is a bit of an illness in Australia. Everything just gets named for what it very obviously is: the Harbour Bridge actually does bridge the harbour! The Opera House frequently houses Operas. It's a little boring, honestly. They need some ATL-style naming talent here...like "Stone Mountain." Now that was clever.

Though the name lacks creativity, Glebe is a beautiful little neighborhood, not least because it houses the lovably small, the gloriously ambitious Gleebooks – easily the best bookstore we've found yet. They're going to host David Sedaris and David Rakoff there in the next few months. I only had to move across the world to see NY's finest writers in a small, intimate venue. Ridiculous. Some of Sydney's earliest, largest, and most gorgeous mansions are in Glebe; it's got an Inman Park feel, but the amazing thing is every street either leads to water or to the city, creating the perfect mix of natural and citified beauty. Illustrated below:

Ignore the girl yapping in the foreground, and kindly note the Sydney skyline.

Then, a short walk down Glebe's main road takes you to the Bay. In a place like Sydney, taking amazing photos of natural beauty almost feels too easy. I cannot believe I live here. It's astounding.

Ways Australians are not like us:

1. They have no concept of safety. In Glebe, there's a public footpath next to the bay, with a ladder ostensibly placed so as to make hopeful suicides more successful. There is no signage, no rail, no information whatsoever about who is supposed to use this ladder and who is not. Anyone can just climb down. And I mean anyone:

2. As we all know, corporations have decided that certain colours denote certain foods. Example: Cheeze flavoured things are often in bright orange packaging. Barbecue flavoured things are often in red packaging. This is so without even reading the package, we can tell the chips in this bag are either cheezy or barbecue...y. Now, we all know that there is often no truly defensible reason for these associations between colour and flavor. But the whole concept comes into bizarrely sharp focus here, because the colour green here, my friends...

The colour green means...Wait for it...


I know! It's crazy! Who even wants to eat chicken flavoured potato chips? Why green? It's a graphic design/gastronomic confusion for the ages!!

Well, I was intending to post some pictures of our cute little place and our lovely housemate, but she's currently suffering from some pretty severe throat illness. I don't think she's up for taking pictures. Patience pays, friends.

Now, finally...the moment you've been waiting for: we are unveiling our top five favorite blog title suggestions. There's a poll at the top right of our blog – let the voting begin!

Coming soon: Craig and Nija's Wild Adventures on Cockatoo Island!

21 July 2008

If there was any doubt...

My email address hasn't changed, so if you emailed me a month ago and it seemed to work, it still should. However, if you want to be cutting-edge, you can write to me at craig [at] student.unsw.edu.au, but that's awfully long. The following still work and all go to the same place, so I probably won't even notice which one you use: cmj {at} wrek.org, krg /at/ gatech.edu, duckwalkkrg :at: gmail.com. (Please replace "at" and the weird punctuation in those addresses with @.)


16 July 2008

RIP Jim Gordon

Good evening from SYD!

We've had a great day--got a lot of stuff done. Mostly errands, but it felt really good. Why does accumulating possessions make you feel like you're building a home for yourself?

A certain killer designer (and teacher of mine) once told me about some other designer (who is really well-known in the skate-culture design world) who ended up at the age of 35 feeling like he never grew up because he had no decent possessions and no roots due to years of following skate culture. Why do we need our stuff to show our age?

Ah, well...existential questions later, I suppose.

1. started building the IKEA furniture--awesome.
2. got electrician to fix the stove, which was a Pyrrhic victory: it turns out it wasn't really broken, we just didn't know how to work it. He replaced a valve anyway, but I think he was just trying to make us not feel like idiots.
3. figured out that our water heater is spewing massive amounts of steaming hot water under our back porch. Awesome for the electric bill. Hopefully we'll get that sorted soon.
4. got a space heater and a cheap quilt!

And oh yeah. We just saw The Dark Knight. hahahahaha!

15 July 2008

Wicked Pope-tastic!

Oh, right, and Sydney has officially been taken over by "pilgrims." It's weird and kind of funny and very annoying. My IKEA delivery was two hours late because of all the traffic and bus route changes and general crusading. Yesterday at Circular Quay, there were tons of pilgrims dressed up and waving flags and singing. Here's what Sydney tourists look like these days.

14 July 2008

We've moved in!

Ahhh. Finally, we're starting to settle in. We've just moved into a lovely place with lovely young lady named Sarah, and a lovely fat cat named Alvin. We really like Alvin. We think he likes us; already, he has treated us to the kind of cat-hilarity we never tire of.

Here's the story: on Sunday night, we went to the IKEA to purchase furniture and sundries. We bought this clever little laundry hamper that has a cloth fold-over top (to hide my dirty undies, of course). So we had set up the hamper, and we're waiting on the larger furniture to be delivered. Alvin comes into our room last night, starts sniffing at our stuff. He's playing with our suitcases and crawling under the bed--really cute. Then he decides to jump onto our hamper. Naturally, he jumps up, the cloth cover gives way, and Alvin falls (flump!) into our hamper and onto our dirty clothes. He freaks, jumps out of the hamper and leaves the room in a flurry of white and black. Comedy genius.

More reasons Australians are not like us (this might become an ongoing segment of the blog and one day, podcast)...

1. Their houses almost never have built-in closets. They just build square rooms, and then you have to buy wardrobes to store your clothes in. Built-in closets are a new-fangled thing here, I think they even call them American-style closets. WTF??

2. They don't have comforters here. They have thin blankets made of velour or cotton or wool, but if you want a thick blanket, you have to buy a quilt. Like a wool quilt. And then you have to buy a separate cover for it. They have polyester ones, but they're not as warm and just as expensive, so you basically have to buy wool. At least it'll biodegrade, I guess. The thing is, a cheap bed-in-a-bag in the States would cost you about $50, and you'd get a fairly warm comforter in it. But they just don't have those here. So you have to drop about $109 on a quilt that will last your whole life.

3. They have crazy birds. That walk around like they are totally normal birds. In the street.

Some things are really hard here, and take a lot of figuring out. We're kind of wearing ourselves thin, just with the small stuff. Purchasing a space heater is really hard. First off, we have no idea where to get a decent one, and then once we figure out where to get one, we can't find the place, and then we find another place and of course by then it's 5:30pm and everything has closed for the night. Try again later.

I've started applying for jobs, mostly part-time. I want to work at the food co-op, it seems like a great way to get connected to the community. Craig has started going to weekly meetings with his team, and doing a lot of orientations to various labs and equipment. I've started researching Master's programs in Media and Communications.

Oh! Right! We took a Harbor Cruise yesterday, with the International Student Services. We went from Darling Point around the harbor and back to Circular Quay. It was really beautiful and freezing cold, and I've put a ton of pictures up on the Picasa page. It seems every picture of the Opera House I've ever seen has been only from one or two angles...in the public interest, I've put up as many different views of the big, beautiful, floating structure as I can get.

Update on the blog title suggestions:

From our long-lost buddy Jonny, who didn't even realize we'd moved away until this very weekend:

"just remember, socialists do it from the bottom up, and you guys are down near the bottom. so do it. from the bottom up. i'll come up with a good name soon for your blogcast. that's my thing that i do. wait a minute, maybe i just did. from the bottom up."

I think that's it for now, friends...

12 July 2008

"Biennale": French for "Beer is now $7"

It's been awhile since you've had an update on what we're doing, dear readers, but please don't think I'm unaware of my negligence. We've just been doing so much!

Sydney is currently holding its Biennale, an big fat contemporary art exhibition held in several venues all over Sydney and spanning three months. The exhibition is even spilling off the mainland, onto Cockatoo Island, and it includes all kinds of art, from outdoor installations to installations carved into museum walls, and of course all kinds of media.

On Tuesday, we saw the Museum of Contemporary Art's exhibition; it was three floors, and I thought it was a very restrained exhibit. They could have put a lot more art into those three floors, but they did a good job of keeping it simple and showing most things in a really striking way. There's a huge controversy right now over Maurizio Cattelan's Novecento, a taxidermied horse hanging from the ceiling of the MCA. Novecento is a difficult piece to look at, strange to see a horse so immobilized. And I had never thought about the fact that we rarely see the underside of a horse's feet; you could see where the horseshoes had been nailed in. Unnerving.

One of my favorite pieces involved, shockingly, type. It's by Natascha Sadr Haghighian; it's called "I can't work like this." She essentially hammered thousands of nails into the museum wall; the craft involved is pretty outstanding. She made sure to hammer all the nails perfectly around the letters. Up close, you could really see how exacting her hammer was in order to get the center of the a, e, and o so tidy. The s is unbelievable.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself with all three floors of the exhibit, but by the end, Craig was pretty sure he couldn't take in any more. Colin had completely checked out; he kept asking me to summarize what all the art meant. Doof.

On Friday, Craig and I decided to check out the local food scene in Sydney. I found about 5 local, organic food coops, so we thought we'd check out the one in Newtown since we needed to buy some sheets there anyway--for our shiny new exciting place!!! It's called Alfafa House, and it's Sydney's most successful coop. We joined up; such a bargain, we couldn't say no. It was only $20 for the both of us (and our new housemate Sarah, too) for life. Now, now, before you get jealous, it's way smaller than Sevananda and doesn't even have a hot food bar. But so far, it's the best we've got. We also get a 10% discount at the other coops around Sydney just for being members of this one. It's nice to feel connected to something here: I can say, "I'm a member." Flippin' awesome.

That same night, we went to a party at what will soon be our new house, and we had a great time. We met a lot of really fun and smart Aussies. It was our first time feeling truly welcomed to our new home.

Oh, and we also went to an outdoor Coffee/Tea/Chocolate Festival and watched some free movies at the Sydney Opera House. The fact that this city holds outdoor festivals in the middle of winter tells you something about the Australian mindset. They think: Winter? Screw winter! I laugh in winter's face! I fart in its general direction! Its mother was a hamster! Something about elderberries!

I love how mild winter is here. I truly love it.

Once again, from Jeremy Varner, suggestions for blog/podcast titles. Soon, I'll make a list of Craig and my favorite five, and then the voting will begin!!

1) The Quest for Unlimited Energy

2) Hot Sexy Solar Energy

3) WTF Mate!

4) Throw Another Shrimp on the Solar Barbie

5) krg+n*, Australian for ________________
You could fill in the blank with just about anything; Awesome, Badass, Energy Geniuses, etc.

6) Two Extra Armies Each Turn!
which is a RISK reference, and a mighty good one.

Don't Believe the Skype

Hi everyone, just a bit of clarification on the Skype issue. Nija and I pay AUS$5/month for 4000 minutes (66.67 hours) of Skype talk over our cellphone. For that $5 we also get some mobile internet access and other fancy features. I wanted to point out that our Skype use is not unlimited and not free for us (when we do it over the cellphone) but it is horrendously cheap and, since we pay a fixed price for a fixed amount of minutes, the more minutes we use, the better. We can't possibly talk for 66.67 hours a month (ie 2 hours a day) but, if we did, our cellphone Skype service would cost a mere 0.125 cents per minute. But again, we also get other features for that five bucks, so actually the Skype is even cheaper.

And just like you, if we use the computer version of Skype, it's free free free.

So my point is and was: don't hesitate to call us anytime, especially if it's with Skype!

All our love,

10 July 2008

Endless Opportunities for A2S Content

Hey everyone,
Just two quick note for all our friends & family: we now have two new ways to enjoy atlanta to sydney content, i.e. talking to us or looking at our pictures.

ITEM THE FIRST: We now have a fancy-as-hell phone that lets us talk on Skype(tm) even when we're not in front of the computer. If you want to get in touch with us via Skype(tm), then click on the link to go get yourself an account and let us know what your name is and we'll do the same for you. In case you don't know, Skype(tm) is a free service that lets you make free "phone" calls over the internet, even from, say, the US to Australia. Also, if you're interested in what our new phone number is (mine or Nija's) then drop us a line. Those Skype calls, by the way, are not free for us, but they can cost us as little as .125 cents(AUS)/minute, assuming we use all 4000 minutes of our Skype time a month. Of course, when we use the computer to talk on Skype, it's free, but we don't have a headset as of yet. So either way, get crackin'!

ITEM THE NUMBER TWO: We started putting our photos up on Picasa(tm). We know that some of its features aren't as advanced as those boasted by, say, the flickrs of the world, but we have essentially limitless space on Picasa(tm) and it supports easy-as-pie uploads directly from iPhoto. If you don't care what we use to show you pretty pictures of the Sydney Opera House, et al, then shimmy on over to Picasa(tm). Otherwise, consult your conscience and get back to us.

We hope you're all doing well and look forward to hearing from you. All our love.


08 July 2008

The Tasman Sea and Other Oddities

Sydney can often feel a lot like America, but it's just different enough to make you feel crazy. Everything here works on bureaucracy, they need so many forms just to let you spend money. It's wild.

For instance, suppose to you want to have a cellphone in the States. Now, of course, they want to get you into a contract as soon as possible. In fact, if you go in and say, "Hello, I'd like to get on a two-year contract with your company," you are not walking out of that store without a phone. And possibly a free Bluetooth friend.

Here, on the other hand, you need to show them proof that you're going to be here for awhile, a bank statement, and a passport, as well as proof of some sort of income. At least. Like they have to make sure you'll be able to pay for it or something. They don't let you just put down a credit card and get rolling. Yesterday we walked in to Three (a mobile company) and were all ready to buy a contract and get locked in. They told us to go get bank statements and come back. WTF??!

You don't have to tip here, because everyone gets a decent wage. Meal prices, of course, reflect the included gratuity. That all seems to make sense. But wait! there's more! You order and pay at the counter almost everywhere, even the nice places with cloth napkins. They don't bring the check to your table. Every bar is a brightly-lit sports bar with poker machines, and no one asks you to run a tab. We have only found one bar where you can actually sit at the bar. It's painful and weird.

And the restrooms! First off, they have no idea what restrooms are. I have quickly had to get over my Puritanical hatred of the word "toilet." Secondly, if you need to use a restaurant's toilet, you often have to walk through the kitchen, go out the back door, walk down a dimly-lit alley, and around a corner to a small toilet room at the back of the building. It's unnerving. Sometimes, the toilet room has a lock on the outside of the door, which for me at least, means I'm not using the toilet room at that particular restaurant.

It's a lot of little tiny things that really make you feel you're far from home. And then there's that one big thing: the Pacific Ocean. Craig saw and stepped into it for the first time in his life yesterday. Technically, it was the Tasman Sea, but I think it counts.

As you can see, even though it's winter here, it's not cold enough to keep Craig from doing his traditional ancestral jig. What a doof, right?

We also met Colin yesterday, another American student going to UNSW. He's fun and it was really nice to talk to someone else. You all know I love Craig, but his Barack Obama impression gets tiring after awhile. You know what I'm talking about.

We're working on putting all our Sydney pictures up on Picasa. Maybe I'll even put some terrible video on YouTube of people playing hiphop didgeridoo. That's right, Craig and Stefan – that's a didgeri-don't!

Here is Jeremy's contribution for the blog title:

"So I was trying to come up with a good blog name using the penal colony theme, however I can't seem to bend the right words to my will. My best idea so far is, "Maybe Penal Colonies Are Better Upside Down." I'll try to come up with something else."

The competition has started, and it's getting heated, folks. Throw your title-hat in the ring!

OMG, y'all! We were so excited to move out of Georgia; we thought never again will we have to listen to "Sweet Home Alabama." We thrilled to the prospect of only being forced to listen to the BeeGees and Kylie Minogue. It's awful, we thought, but a different kind of awful, and thus an easier, newer kind of awful.

We were wrong. We have heard not only "Sweet Home Alabama" (twice), but we have also heard "Georgia on my Mind" and "Midnight train to Georgia." These last two were especially heinous, because they were sung by Aussies. Smooth as the thrashing, rocky shores of the Tasman freaking sea. til later...

04 July 2008

Blog Title Ideas

Here are the first ideas we've gotten, all from Stefan:

1. Kangaroos in the top paddock

He says it "means something similar his elevator doesn't stop at all the floors. I know that y'alls elevators are fully functioning, but I like the phrase anyway."

2. Different Flushes
some kind of play on down under?

3. New South Tales
Stefan didn't seem excited about this one.

Chime in, folks, I know I've got some good punners out there! We need a better title, and how!

though rain falls...

It's our first rainy day in Sydney, and it's a weird rain at that. It'll pour for fifteen minutes, clear up, drizzle for another 10, clear up, storm like all hell for another 15, and then get all bright and happy for a solid half-hour before the skies tear open again. Like some inane child's temper tantrums, all day.

This is how Sydney looks from our hotel on this rainy morning:

Craig had an appointment this morning with the University Health Services about his foot, and they said he strained it and that he walks on the outside of his feet. They basically told him to buy some insoles and stop walking so goddamn much for a minute. We got him some insoles today, and he's already feeling better!

We know that you guys have been hearing a lot of whining about how expensive this place is, and how all the rent is too high, and we're tired and exhausted and whatnot. So, we thought now that we've got a place, we'll go ahead and tell you all the things that we really love about this shiny new city we're in.

So here you are, a short, sometimes illustrated, list...

1. There are birds here that sound just like our cat Cinco when she's upset. When she wants to go outside and we wouldn't let her, she would make this low sort of howl, and somehow, for some mysterious reason, these birds' calls sound exactly the same. It's wild, and it reminds us of home, and when we hear the birds, we imagine that Cinco's telling us that things will be allright. Which makes us sound crazy, but hell. We're upside down, mate!

2. Australia only gets about 5 non-cable channels, which is about the same as Atlanta if you are like me and refuse to consider the CW, CBS, myATL, and Peachtree TV.

We only get three of the five channels in our hotel room, and all of them are completely vapid. They spend hours talking about Kylie Minogue and any other Australian who has done anything anywhere. Anyway, the delightful thing is that the morning shows here spend nearly every morning making fun of World Youth Day and the Pope. For those in the dark, World Youth Day is actually an entire week (snap!) when the Pope visits some place that he, in all his pointy-hatted wisdom, deems ready for conversion. This year--SYDNEY!

So, one of the morning shows got hold of the gift bag that "pilgrims" get.

Slimy Morning Show guy #1: Ah! A flashlight! What do you suppose that's for, eh?

Slimy Morning Show guy #2: Oh, I don't know, mate, safety purposes?

Slimy Morning Show guy #1: Oh, probably to see the light, eh?

Slimy Morning Show guy #1 and #2: Hahaha!

And they spent the whole morning like this. It was great. And apparently, it made quite compelling television because I watched for at least an hour.

It seems like even the advertising for World Youth Day is sort of making fun of it, too. Brilliant. Check out this bus ad: it's a joke Stefan would make.

3. Now even though we aren't going to live in Surry Hills (or at least not yet), we did really like the neighborhood. It's got great views of the city, and we found a seriously crappy bar that had a lovely beer garden in the back. So, as long as you sit in the heated garden, you're apples, as they say. This one's for Joe, Judith, and all the Valdosta boys: the beer garden offers "Chicken Valdostana." Wonder what that means, right?

One problem: most restaurants, cafes, and bars here seem to be ridiculously well-lit. Almost painfully so. They haven't learned how classy a small, ugly place can look if you just take some of the light away. On the good side, everything in this city is remarkably clean. You can almost never find a trash can, but there's also almost never any trash on the street. They seem to think trash cans make a place dirtier, but I know if there weren't trash cans everywhere in the States, people would just litter. ** do people not litter here? I don't understand these people **

4. Craig's campus is really beautiful. Clean, green, big and quiet. It even has a sundial that is approximately correct! Craig's adviser and team folks all seem wonderful and really clever.

5. Random people have been inordinately nice to us here. The baristas at the internet cafe (from which I send this long far cry across the dry strange tubes of our interweb) have been so caring and kind and helpful. Sam has offered to take us around in her car to beaches and stuff once we're settled. Our cab driver yesterday offered to help us move and give us extra chairs he doesn't need anymore. We were looking at a map and some guy who was just walking by stopped and said, "You guys need help? You lost? Can I point you in the right direction?" People have been amazing.

6. As tired as we are of walking, we are thrilled that you can really walk almost anywhere in this city, because there are public footpaths all over the place. Our studio in Newtown is fairly close to two train stations.

7. Now that we've definitely got a place to stay, we're feeling a lot more relaxed and excited to be here. It's going to be expensive and hard; we've never lived in such close quarters before. But it's an adventure we've wanted for a long time, and we know we're lucky to have the opportunity at all.

Who likes to rock the party?

We got the studio!! We've set down a deposit and everything, so Craig and I will definitely not be homeless. For the interval between now and July 19th (our moving day) we've managed to find a cheaper hotel that even has free internet. Thanks to everyone who offered website suggestions, internet search help, general kind words and morale boosting, and sent their hopeful thoughts our way. Thanks especially to the families. We are so lucky to have all of you in our lives.

Last night, we looked at a share-house in Surry Hills, because we'd made the appointment before we knew that we'd gotten the studio. Surry Hills is closer to the city than Newtown, but also a little rougher. Think Surry Hills is to Newtown as East Atlanta is to Decatur. That's right, I rocked my GRE. (my GRE!!) Yeah, you know me.

Anyway, the share house would have been really nice. Much bigger room than the studio, on the top floor, higher ceiling, a sort of balcony with a big giant window, huge shared kitchen. It would have even been a little cheaper. The bad news: there was only one bathroom, and if we moved in, there would be 5 people in the house. Rough. My lovely sister offered to mail me 100 Charmin toilet-seat covers if we ended up living there, which would have been much appreciated.

I was worried about not having control over temperature outside of our room...like at two in the morning when I need to use the...ahem...restroom, it would really suck if outside our room was freezing.

At the studio, we'd have way less space, we'd be living beneath someone else, and it would be more expensive, but we'd have control over everything.

After much discussion, pro-and-con lists, and thinking about it until we were exhausted, we decided that if they let us change the bed in the room to make more efficient space, we would take the room over the studio.

In the end, they decided they'd like just one roommate instead of two, so we didn't have to make that choice after all. Most of the people we've talked to about it (baristas and bartenders) have told us that we should steer clear of a house with so many people anyway. Bound to have problems.

Having our own place will be nice, at least we'll be able to do everything just the way we want. And we've got another appointment for a share house tomorrow--this one's only got one girl living there. We made this appointment before we got the studio, too, and we figure if it's nice enough we may have to make the same decision...

So, that's the story. No matter what happens with the house tomorrow, Craig and I at least have the studio, and that's a pretty good deal, considering Sydney's ridiculous housing situation.

We'll post pics of the place as soon as we do it up real nice for you all to come visit...

03 July 2008

The first few...

Ok, so we haven't had the easiest first days here in the SYD, but we have managed to click a few things that might interest you. Ah, but the good news first, right? We may have gotten a studio right in Newtown, for a reasonable price. It's not the biggest joint, but we'd have our own closet-sized kitchen and our own closet-sized bathroom. It's what IKEA was made for. There was an open inspection yesterday and there was only one other person looking at the place. Cross your fingers right now!!

And let the pics begin:

Our first sighting of public art. This does not bode well...

They told us Australia was big. We were not prepared. These are native Australian lilies; these are flowers we grow in pots, fellow Americans.

When the stalks are still small and young, i.e. the girth of, say, an average human's arm, you can boil them up and make a cake. You know-- lily cake.

And of course, the requisite pictures of the Harbor Bridge and the Opera House. Oh, like a great intake of breath, the Opera House; and yes, I know I've just contradicted myself. Give me a break, I've been upside down for 6 days now!

We just learned they show movies in the Opera House sometimes, so we might actually go inside it!

And finally, here is what we found in Newtown. This is how we knew it was home. Click on the picture and see all the details. It's beautiful. They've even made a map of the cool independent shops in Newtown--it's toward the right, on the cardgirl. Stenciltastic, friends.

And that's pretty much the whole of it for now. We're starting a flickr group to show you all the photos from Gentleman Jesse's last shows, from our goodbye party, and our last few days. We love you all.

01 July 2008

Free Wireless at the Apple Store . . . Wonder What the Rent's Like

Turns out the Sydney Apple Store has free wireless internet, and Nija is talking to the Geniuses about her iPod, which seems to have gone on the fritz somewhere above the Pacific Ocean. Now whenever she tries to use it it kind of makes a desperate clicking sound and a little frowny iPod shows up on the screen, with the URL for the Apple support people.

The Apple Store just opened in Sydney, and has nice digs a few blocks from the "Harbour", as they spell it, in the Central Business District. It's a really narrow slice of a building, three stories tall with a handsome glass facade, kind of like the one in New York. It's been utterly groaning with people both times we've come by. Today I'm happy to be able to sit down and surf the web for free, since we've had a shortage of both lately. Some time on the second day here my right foot gave out and I either pinched a nerve, pulled something, or got a hairline fracture in one of the bones. Hobbling around town has been pretty painful, even in my more supportive shoes, and right now I'm envying Jesse for that boot the podiatrists put him in a few weeks ago.

Most unfortunate of all has been the fact that we can't just take it easy right now. We were hoping we'd swoop into Sydney and find plenty of prime apartments ripe for the plucking, but the housing situation is much more grim. All our hopes of finding our own place for anything less than $1000 a month have been dashed (unless we want a 1.5-hour commute) and we very quickly dropped our standards so that now we're looking for a mere room in a shared house for a maximum of $1000/month. That seems so ridiculous when compared to our rent in Decatur that I prefer not to think about the two as comparable quantities.

We thought that the worst case scenario would be staying in our hotel for extra time: it's $600 per week. However, when we tried to rebook today, we were told there weren't any vacancies because the Pope is coming to town next week for World Youth Day, a big Catholic jamboree that's going to besiege the area around my university like a soul-savin' Freaknik or Lollapalooza. There are already horror stories circulating in the media of wild Catholic youths wantonly baptizing cars and dogs all hours of the night.

Anyway, we're in our current spot until Friday morning, when they'll chuck us out on our duffs. We've visited two places that were a little bit gross and we've got a few more appointments today and tomorrow. Cross your fingers for your remote friends and offer up a little whiskey to the gods of housing and hospitality and hopefully you'll hear good news soon from this hemisphere.

Aside from that particular struggle, things are well. The weather has been gorgeous here considering it's the first couple weeks of winter. Sydney is huge and gorgeous and the people have been nothing but helpful and friendly. Yesterday we went to lunch with my eventual adviser, Dr. Gavin Conibeer, and had a really excellent time. Like Dr. Cressler, Dr. Conibeer seems approachable and extremely humble in the face of tremendous achievement. I'm really optimistic about studying with him and his team.

We'll be sure to keep updating the blog, especially when we have finally settled down. We appreciate you all for your kind messages and we hope everyone is well. Again, we'll have pictures up soon.

All our love,