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...