First off, here's what Craig and I look like these days.
I've been having the best time, y'all! I haven't been in town for two whole weekends; I love getting out of Sydney...leaving Sydney might be my favourite part of being here at all. Oh, and my other favourite part is the Sydneysider who's been taking skywriting classes.
Skywriting has got to be a dying art, right? And, if no one says anything else about me when I die, I want people to say I was always charmed by practitioners of the dead and dying arts.
I visited Canberra last weekend, and here is a picture of Canberra's most striking claim to fame
...wait for it... that's right, it's the largest aluminum structure in the Southern Hemisphere! It may not seem that impressive, but compared to Canberra's other great glory**, it's pretty fantastic. It's atop the Parliament building, I think, which is a pretty neat building anyway. It was designed with this huge grassy lawn that goes up to the top of it, and it was intended as a symbol of democracy. Anyone and everyone could walk onto the Parliament building; Paul remembers rolling down the hill during school field trips to the capital. However, in a post-9/11 ironic twist, everyone is now barred from the the lawn--to protect democracy from terrorism. I find it pretty hard to believe that Kevin Rudd's chipmunk adorability could inspire violent ire.
**It's also got the largest gathering of polite public servants in the Southern Hemisphere.
Part of visiting Canberra was to see if I liked it enough to try to go to school there. Everyone in Sydney says it's approximately the most boring place in the world. But people in Sydney haven't visited Marietta, GA, now have they? Turns out, Canberra's fine. It's quiet and smells like eucalyptus. It's dry and people grow a lot of native flora. It's got a big man-made lake and some national buildings of dubiously attractive structure. There's a nice coffee shop and some ok bars. It's not as convenient as Sydney is, and I have gotten awful accustomed to the convenience of this city. But hey, there's arty stuff and I think, because I would be studying, it would be ok. It's got the best research resources in the country. And I'd still only be a three-hour bus ride from Sydney.
Paul and I visited the campus of ANU, my prospective school. It's a large, quiet, flat sprawling campus, perfect for riding a bike around. We did almost everything there is to do in Canberra: we rambled through the overwhelming and large National Museum, we spent some time at the National Film and Sound Archive. I saw some lovely wartime advertisements about how the Australian ladies were filling the gap left by the men--and how cute do they look on the job!! Women are ticklish, it turns out. I've said this before, I know, I know, but once more-- Australia seriously knows how to put together a museum. I mean, every single one I've been to, every exhibition, even little ones, has been well-researched and well-presented and fascinating. At the National Gallery, I got to see an original Jules Cheret poster and a bunch of Picasso and Daumier--wicked.
Since we've been in Sydney, I have felt the significant lack of large swathes of Atlanta's population. There are relatively few Jews in Sydney, mostly just concentrated around Bondi, which also–incongruously–features a high concentration of surfer dudes and is, therefore, best avoided at all times. There are almost no African-Americans! What's with that??! I'm such a card. But, and pay attention, because here is where I get to the point-- there are no Ethiopians in Sydney. Which is to say, there are no Ethiopian restaurants in Sydney, and as many of you know, I used to regularly force any number of y'all to go to Meskerem with me. I can't believe I never held a Nijaween there. Anyway, I've been doing without my usual fornightly fix of Ethiopian food, but no more! Canberra is home to the only Ethiopian restaurant this side of Uluru, and luckily my pal Paul indulged me in this craving. He invited his housemate, Taneesha, and some of their friends out, and we had a lovely dinner. The whole weekend was kind of bittersweet, as I won't get to see Paul for awhile now. He's moving back to Geneva this month, but at least I have an excuse to go to Geneva!
And Melbourne this past weekend was wonderful! We enjoyed vegan Tom Yum soup at our favourite Melbourne joint, and we also visited a donation-only restaurant called "Lentil As Anything." A really wonderful concept, where you pay what you can for good vegetarian (or if you're Australian, vego) food. A Slow Food Farmers' Market rounded out a delicious weekend. Look at all these apple varieties!
But Melbourne's not just about food: we also visited the beautiful State Library of Victoria, featuring an enormous dome-shaped hushed and still reading room, with balconies full of books surrounded by exhibitions focussed on the evolution of the book. The exhibit started with an original leaf from a Gutenberg Bible and an original publication by William Morris and the Kelmscot Press. I love the printed page, the smell of books, the beauty of words, words, words, black as night on the creaminess of a clean page; the richness of my life is forever indebted to their work, and I was very excited to see that even this lonely, isolated and distant place has such evidence of our civilisation's history on display for all.
The exhibition even had a section on artists' books, which are such evolved artforms you can't quite call them books sometimes. In fact, the book-arts are quite developed in Australia; I've been to two state libraries that featured exhibitions on them, and another exhibition put on by an art gallery.
And Melbourne. Everyone loves Melbourne, it's got loads of street art, and everyone's fashionable. It's got trams, the streets are made of diamonds and everyone's pretty. I've got to say, Melbourne is a damn charming city, though–even the car parks are attractive.
The hardware stores are hip; though not as hip as a certain Ace Hardware during the summer months of...2006, was it?
And the sunsets are beautiful.
Now we're back in Sydney. And I still want Ethiopian food; lucky for me, Craig and I have just figured how to make Ethiopian berbere, Misir Wot, Gomen Wot, Kik Alicha, and an awesome Vegan Tom Yum Soup!!