home is wherever I’m with you

One of my personal nerd-thrills is reading literature set in the city in which I’m currently living. If anyone’s read Matt Ruff’s questionable book Fool on the Hill, for example, you should know that as far as I’m concerned, scenes featuring fairies traipsing around the Thurston Avenue bridge are totally worth the sacrifice of viable plot continuity. In the same vein, it gave my tiny weirdo heart a shiver when I heard the rumor that Lolita was based in Ithaca.

For what it’s worth, Brisbane has inspired its own bevy of awesome (and less than awesome) stories set right here by the river. David Malouf’s Johnno, for instance, describes the strange, gleeful grunge of the city in the 1940s by calling it a “permanent shantytown.” Meanwhile, the narrator in Nick Earls’ 48 Shades of Brown talks about walking the same route to the local Coles that I do every Monday afternoon. Even though Brisbane is a small-ish city, and maybe not as internationally renowned as Sydney or Melbourne, books set here serve to capture its unique, unapologetic spirit in a way I can certainly relate to.

One aspect that has emerged, without fail, in every single book I’ve read about Brisbane? The share-house. The iconic “Queenslander” is a mark of leisure and pride about twenty years too late: like pro footballers gone slightly to seed, scads of them sprawl sweating on stilts along the river. These houses tend to have too many rooms to be practical for modern families, so, naturally, they get converted to share-houses and get leased to everyone’s favorite vagrants: twentysomethings!

twenty-something (my roommate Evan) in his natural environment.

twenty-something (my roommate Evan) in his natural environment.

John Birmingham’s fantastic, darkly hysterical book He Died with a Felafel in his Hand perfectly portrays the easygoing nature of these share-houses. Roommates move in, roommates move out, leases involve a complicated transaction that may or may not require a blood signature, and the hot water always lasts for about five minutes. My house is (tragically) not on stilts, but with ten bedrooms, it definitely embodies that same spirit of vague insanity.

For the most part, I’ve had a great experience living here. It’s inexpensive, includes internet, and is a decent walking distance from uni, grocery stores, and the all-important late-night kebab shop. Although there are ten bedrooms, we have unofficially divided into Upstairs and Downstairs, so it never feels all that crowded. For a good example of the differences between Upstairs and Downstairs, one needs only to look at the kitchens:

So hip!

So hip!

(They have a fruit bowl, for godssakes! Show-offs.)

Squalor.

Squalor.

Luckily, since I feel most comfortable in semi-horrifying environments, squalor suits me just fine.

hi, Mom.

hi, Mom.

There are, of course, downsides to every living situation, and the good old basement is no exception. One of my roommates, for instance, is distractingly fond of smoking indoors almost every night. This wouldn’t be that much of a problem, as I think my olfactory organs stopped being receptive to the scent of marijuana after living in Dickson freshman year, but he then, without fail, gets the munchies and feels the need to cook at three in the morning. Again, not a problem on a Friday night, but on the Wednesday before an exam is due? I am less amenable to being awoken by the sound of crashing pans and mad giggling from three metres away.

There’s also the related problem of munchie-food-stealing. A few weeks ago, I made a huge lentil soup using basically my entire grocery budget for the week. “All right!” I thought to myself as I stuck the pot in the refrigerator. “Dinner for a whole week! Look at me, graduating from instant porridge for dinner.”

That night, I woke to the sound of crashing pots and pans. A sudden, terrible truth struck me. I flung open my door accusingly, giving Chris the stink-eye, but he scurried back to his room before I could catch him out. As soon as I shut the door again, I heard him return. This charade repeated itself about four times before I finally gave up in despair. Sure enough, in the morning the lentils were gone. Curse you, guileless pot munchies!

He does supply me with an unquestioning source of jasmine rice, though, so I’ve decided to pick my battles.

A more persistent problem lately has been the vermin. While cockroaches are always a little unpleasant and geckos are just sort of odd, they’re all pretty manageable. Even the huntsman spiders are more awesome (apart from one terrible incident in the shower involving a shampoo bottle, a clinging passenger, and MY FACE) than horrifying.

I want to name her Shelob, but my roommates are sticking by Evan II.

I want to name her Shelob, but my roommates are sticking by Evan II.

We have, however, recently developed a bit of a rodent issue. Now, keep in mind that this is me we’re talking about. I wanted to be a vet from the age of four to eighteen (stupid organic chemistry). I often talk to my dog on Skype. I haven’t eaten an animal since I was ten, and I gave up milk and eggs two years ago. I am the sort of irritating neo-hippie that takes cockroaches outside and sets them free. I am perfectly happy to let a few rat sightings slide.

But when I found a live mouse inside my box of Sultana Bran two mornings ago, I knew something had to be done. I stopped squalling and let Chris lay down some traps. That night, when I heard the telltale rustling, I listened, teeth gritted, for the inevitable snap.

Instead, though, there was silence. Suspicious, I poked my head out and let out a manly squeal. Sitting by the trap was the largest rat I have ever seen in person, and I have been on a New York City subway train. It was the size of my Jack Russell when she was a puppy. It probably could have successfully wrestled a small possum.

It squatted by one of the traps, nonchalantly reaching its paw into the peanut butter. As my shriek died away, it looked up, unconcernedly licking its paw, and gave me the Nod. “What are you going to do, Kathleen?” I saw in its gaze. “Whack me with the 2-by-4 sitting by the table for this very purpose? You don’t have the guts.

I thought about it. I really did. It would be so easy–the board was right there. One quick smack and our grain would be safe for another day.

But as our beady eyes met, I knew I just couldn’t do it. I had a guinea pig once, but more than that, I felt a connection. We both had bellies to fill. We both had an affinity for Coles Super Chunky Peanut Butter ™. We were both strangers in an unforgiving foreign land. And I felt, somehow, that this would satisfy him: that after surviving this encounter, he would retreat back into his hole, content with no longer ruining my hard-won cereals.

I gave it the Nod back and went back into my room, genuinely hoping that the peanut butter snack would not be his last.

The next morning, there was a giant hole chewed in my bag of rice.

Morals of the story: vegans are useless, I’m setting the traps better tonight, and the rats will always win.

–kj

(Blog title from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ irresistibly cheery Home, to keep you warm on these increasingly cool nights! …if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, that is.)

Frodo, Don’t Wear the Ring

It’s getting to the point in the academic year wherein I become slightly overwhelmed by the sheer number of assignments that all of my professors have seen fit to throw upon me. Thus, the relative blog-silence over the last few weeks. Not that this is a really negative thing, but it seems like every time I sit down to write an entry, my housemates are shouting for me to make them “American-style giant pretzels” or the ever-memorable vegan lemon cookies. In return, they teach me snappy Ozzie slang like “looking a bit suss” and “charging into the city.” Tip for would-be exchangers: living in a sharehouse with ten other people guarantees you good times, but zero productivity. Ah well.

Anyhow, I intend to increase my blog volume soon, but do have to get through two research papers first. Instead of my musings on small-talk and classes, I would like to briefly present you with My Mid-Semester Break: New Zealand by Campervan.

Before I got to Australia, I was unaware of the rivalry between Ozzies and Kiwis. As far as I knew, it was kind of like Northern California and Southern California: SoCal has the pretty people, but Norcal has the mountains. Tourists divide up accordingly. But after watching approximately a frillion hours of Flight of the Conchords (warning for brief rude hand gestures) with my flatmates, I’ve determined that what I once thought was an affable relationship appears to be a bit more virulent.

Regardless of the debate about how to pronounce the word “better,” even Ozzies can agree: New Zealand is beautiful.

Our loyal steed at the base of Arthur Pass

Our loyal steed at the base of Arthur Pass

Just like any mode of travel, going about in a Campervan for eight days has its advantages and disadvantages. Advantage: you can stop anywhere to snap photos of diversity-minded landmarks!

International relations at its finest

International relations at its finest

Disadvantage: the roads in New Zealand are incredibly windy. Also, narrow. Also, everyone drives on the left.

I spent most of my passenger-time with my eyes shut.

I spent most of my passenger-time with my eyes shut.

Advantage: easy, impromptu landscape shots!

Looking strangely triumphant near Te Anau

Looking strangely triumphant near Te Anau

Disadvantage: your legs begin to atrophy from constantly pressing a pedal, so that even a 6 km hike (at which the below photo was taken) leaves you feeling winded and whiny.

Do you reckon the gold at the end of this rainbow has to be declared at Customs?

Do you reckon the gold at the end of this rainbow has to be declared at Customs?

Advantage: you can drive yourself to the world’s first bungy jumping bridge and not have to pay the $30 concession!

Like a fish on a hook.

Like a fish on a hook.

Disadvantage: though Christchurch is charming, it is very hard to find petrol stations amidst all the Alice in Wonderland-esque architecture.

IMAG0081

Advantage: if you trick out your Campervan, you can even take a trip to Antarctica!

Ithaca prepared me well.

Ithaca prepared me well.

Disadvantage: Riding on the Hagglund at the Christchurch Antarctica Centre will just remind you that the above dream will have to remain a fantasy.

Sadly, our van did not come with floating capabilities.

Sadly, our van did not come with floating capabilities.

Advantage: well, at the end of the day, you’re in New Zealand. And adventure (along with many ill-used Lord of the Rings references) awaits!

Franz Josef glacier, just BEGGING to be trekked.

Franz Josef glacier, waiting to be trekked.

–kj

AND MY AXE.

AND MY AXE.

(Today’s blog post title comes from Flight of the Conchords’s “Frodo (Rejected Lord of the Rings Demo)”, because they are my favorite New Zealand export–apart from kiwifruits and Karl Urban, of course.)

trade baby blues for wide-eyed browns

I don’t consider myself an easily-offended person. I know, I know, as a big angry feminist it’s practically my job to get offended, but most days I really can’t be bothered getting up in arms over things that, in the long run, really won’t be that big of a deal. This is especially true when it applies to insults specifically aimed at me or things I represent. Never before have I gotten a lot of flak for being an American, but now all I hear about my “heritage” has to do with the second Bush administration or the overuse of the word “awesome.” (I won’t plead guilty to the former, but I certainly will to the latter.)

But there are a few things which, under normal circumstances, I will get on my righteous-anger high horse about. The pejorative use of the word “retard,” for instance, particularly by anyone over the age of ten, will get me eye-rolling so fast I’m surprised my contacts don’t fall out. Big bro-types mocking angry feminists, too, though to a lesser degree: it’s just too easy to do the mocking in return, and then we all have a nice group man-hug and go out for kebabs. And, finally, and perhaps most viscerally: the use of the word “gay” as a synonym for “stupid.”

It makes me crazy. I don’t care how “reclaimed” it’s gotten by the gay community; it’s still being used by the general U.S. population as a casually homophobic slur. Somewhat unexpectedly, I’m a pretty conflict-aversive person–much more likely to just give someone the stink-eye if they tick me off rather than get the flaming sword out (no pun intended)–but back in the States, I have actually been known to start mini-lectures. As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve gotten pretty spoiled: I’m so used to my bubble of queers-and-allies that now when someone says “They don’t have avocado? That’s so gay!” I just get confused as to what the deli has to do with dudes liking dudes.

Gratuitous tourist shot

Gratuitous tourist shot

Sometimes here, though, things get a bit awkward. I don’t have my comforting little group of people who actually watch The L Word to fall back on, so when people say “That’s so gay” I’m never quite sure as to whether I should step up and say something. And people do say it. They say it a lot, as well as tossing around the word “fag” as a general insult. Now, I don’t really have any connections to the LGBTQ community here, but somehow, when my painfully-straight roommate assures me that “Everyone says fag, okay, I don’t mean anything offensive,” I’m not quite convinced. For me, “fag” connotes homophobia, plain and simple. In other words, I see it as a form of violence, and it gets my blood up fast.

But who knows? Maybe it is something that’s just not a big deal anymore. This weekend, I was lounging around at a friend’s, eating Indian food and talking about music, when he said, “Yeah, it’d be a bit gay of me to go to a concert alone.” My first thought was “Only if you’re going to a k.d. lang show, I guess.” After he noticed my slightly confused expression (I thought we’d been talking about Muse), we started to discuss the concept of “political correctness,” and how it’s really not regarded with aplomb in Australia (particularly in Queensland). I casually mentioned how most of my friends are queer- or queer ally-identified, and his eyes widened.

“Woah,” he said, looking around as if he thought the wrath of Neil Patrick Harris was about to kick the door down. “That–people don’t say queer here.”

“Really?” I said. “But it’s been, like, reclaimed by the gay community in the States. Most people don’t find it offensive.”

Then I kind of wanted to punch my hypocritical self in the face. (Instead, I had another samosa. But it was eaten with a healthy side dish of humble pie.)

Sydney's Oxford street

Sydney's Oxford street

Despite this moment of cultural epiphany, I still can’t quite quash the urge to slap a rainbow sticker on my door and start meaningfully singing an Adam Lambert song every time my flatmates call each other “homos.” They are watching The L Word with me next week, though, so I guess a little compromise is never a bad thing.

–kj

Right outside Coogee in Sydney

Right outside Coogee in Sydney

(Today’s blog title comes from Fall Out Boy’s sha-mazing song G.I.N.A.S.F.S., which, most appropriately, stands for “Gay Is Not A Synonym for Stupid.” Preach it, pop-punkers.)

sick of the things that I do when I’m nervous (like cleaning the oven or checking my tires)

Upon hearing of my first intentions to study in Australia, my friends and family would inevitably reply with one of two responses: either “Australia’s beautiful–if you don’t get killed by the ocean or the dirt!” or “No one in Australia worries about anything! They’re all so laid-back, it’s great.”

Well, having lived here for almost a month and only sustaining one near-death experience so far (from Australia’s most deadly predator–a car speeding through a red light), I must agree with both the first and the second statements. Australia is beautiful, and Brisbane in particular. Perhaps I’m romanticizing it because it’s still the tail end of the summer and the air smells like ripe fruit and honeysuckle, but every day I walk outside, glance around, and just feel incredibly content. The city of Brisbane lies comfortably tucked along the meandering Brisbane River, with neighborhoods nestled in its lush curves and ferries meandering from one district to the next. Even the central business district at its most hustle and bustle still seems constantly in a state of half-lidded pleasure. The whole place gives you space to breathe.

View from a ferry on the Brisbane River

View from a ferry on the Brisbane River

That said, sometimes the Australian mentality of “she’ll be right, mate” seems a little disconcerting. Chatting to my classmates, I’m often startled by how many people casually mention that they’ve failed multiple classes. “Yeah, well, you know,” a boy named Scott told me. “I was taking advanced genetics, and it’s not like they curve it.” Half-turning away from me, he added over his shoulder, “But this class seems a little easier.” After Cornell’s constant tension, it’s a different kind of stress. It seems like the sort of thing that can really sneak up on you.

Lord Byron's favorite hangout spot

Lord Byron's favorite hangout spot

Nothing reinforced this casual attitude toward unfortunate events better, however, than a few weeks ago at Byron Bay. I had gone down to Byron, famous for its great surfing, hippie sensibilities, and Fern Gully-inspiring rainforests, with my German flatmate Lena and a few of our friends.

Just add some 3-D glasses, and we'd be extras in Avatar.

Just add some 3-D glasses, and we'd be extras in Avatar.

Despite the intermittent rain, we had a lovely, relaxed weekend–until, on Saturday night, our shuttle driver turned to us and asked, “Did you hear about the earthquake in Chile?”

“No,” we said, shocked. With no public access to Internet, news of things like this traveled to us purely by word of mouth. “Oh my God, that’s awful.”

“Yeah,” the driver said. “It was almost a 9 on the magnitude scale.”

“God,” I said again, for lack of anything better. “That’s–that’s really tragic.”

“Yeah,” the driver said. Waving us goodbye, he added, “Oh, and apparently there’s a tsunami heading this way.”

“Wait, what?” we exclaimed. “How–how big is it? Are we–is everything okay?”

He shrugged. “Well, there’s nothing we can do about it now. Might as well go have a good Saturday night.”

“Because it could be our last!” someone else in the group chirped. Everyone chuckled, but I couldn’t help but feel a knot of anxiety twist itself into my stomach. I tried to go out with the others, but a loop kept playing in my mind: the recent destruction in Haiti, my relatives in Chile, and the tsunami that occurred off the coast of South Asia in 2004. Byron Bay, as it happens, is the most easterly point in Australia. If a big wave hit anywhere, it was going to hit us first.

I couldn’t concentrate on what the group was doing, so I begged off early and meandered back to the hostel. On the way, I asked a friendly purveyor of vegan hot dogs what he thought was going to happen. He laughed at me, handing me back my change. “Doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “My house is high up on a hill.”

Our hostel, meanwhile, was two hundred metres from the beach. I was struck anew by the vision of a solid wave of water. Trying to assure myself, I said, “But the locals–they aren’t worried, right? No one seems that worried.”

He laughed again, patting me on the back. “S’all right, sweetheart,” he said. “Even if something were going to happen, nobody ’round these parts would move an inch.”

As you can imagine, this did not have the calming effect he was perhaps intending.

In the end, the so-called “tsunami” only increased the water level by about two metres. Lena, Jan, Nicole and I watched the swell come in with the rest of the Byron-ers, feeling the sun on our faces and eating a picnic lunch. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if disaster had struck. The residents of Santiago hadn’t been prepared for their tragedy, and even if the Byron tsunami actually had been life-threatening, all the worrying I had done wouldn’t have made a difference either way. In the end, I guess all the cliches ring true: you really don’t know which moment will be your last.

IMAG0118

Easier said than done. When it comes down to it, I’m a paradoxically optimistic worrier. I like to evaluate all the possible options for what could go wrong, but then imagine that the best of all possible worst-case scenarios will happen to me. Maybe, with time, I’ll learn to just deal with impending crises the Australian way: with a shrug, a laugh, and a vegan hot dog.

–KJ

(Today’s blog post title from the very appropriate Motion City Soundtrack song, Everything is Alright.)

life’s too short for me to stop

Swag! Or, as the venerable Michael Scott would say, “Stuff We All Get.” Much like Michael Scott on that particular episode of The Office, I am helpless to resist signing up for various shady promotions in exchange for a cool light-up keychain, free cherry cordial or (if I’m lucky) lip balm with a reminder to always use protection written on the side. Every year at Cornell’s Clubfest, I brace myself.

“Okay, Jercich,” I mumble as I stagger into Barton Hall, feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of eager faces slavering at the thought of my e-mail address, “You already have extracurriculars. Just grab the Starburst and get out of there.”

Naturally, this never happens. As a consequence, my inbox is regularly deluged with e-mails from various dance troupes, cooking clubs, and the occasional juggling society, all encouraging me (and the rest of the suckers who put their names down) to come to their first General Body meeting. I knew that Market Day, University of Queensland’s own version of Clubfest, was going to be no different.

Tricking poor shlubs like me into thinking we can tango for $2.

Tricking poor shlubs like me into thinking we can tango for $2.

The strangest thing for me about studying abroad has been feeling like a freshman all over again, for better or for worse. On one hand, everything’s fresh and interesting: I haven’t developed the disaffected nonchalance of an upperclasswoman yet, so I approach every new class with boundless enthusiasm. The same goes for extracurriculars. Unlike at Cornell, I have no commitments yet, so I’m free to flit about to every booth that tickles my fancy. Despite the fact that many clubs require a one-time registration fee (anywhere from $2 to $330), I still managed to get my name on a handful of listserves.

I'm still not sure what these ladies were there for, but extra peacocks are never a BAD thing.

I'm still not sure what these ladies were there for, but extra peacocks are never a BAD thing.

Another part of feeling like a freshman, of course, is the constant, vague worry that I’ve made a mistake in leaving my comfort zone to come halfway across the world. I keep trying to remind myself that I didn’t exactly settle into Cornell right away, and that it took at least a few months to really make good friends. Still, it’s hard to keep from making a giant eager face every time someone sits down next to me. As Cosmo loves to tell me, there’s supposedly nothing less attractive than being desperate, but I still find that my general strategy (basically announcing to people that I think they’re awesome) hasn’t led me too astray.

Luckily, the kind folks at UQ recognize the plight of tiny frightened exchange students, and have started several clubs to rectify the matter. QUEST, a society for students who have studied abroad in any context, is absolutely fantastic. They target both domestic and international students, so we avoid the lethal trap of just sticking with other Americans. Plus, they host weekly pub nights (which, much to my delight, include karaoke) and various trips around the city, all of which are great ways to make connections with people who understand how daunting a new environment can be. Another organization, Mates@UQ, works to put together trips outside the city for great discounts. Basically, I get to learn how to surf for obscenely low prices, so there is no bad there.

I didn't end up joining this anime club, but it was a struggle.  Check out that cosplay action!

I didn't end up joining this anime club, but it was a struggle. Check out that cosplay action!

In addition to those social groups, I also decided to whip my poor Michelin Man physique back into shape by joining a sport, preferably one I’ve never tried before. One of the first things Australians ask when they meet you, along with your major and country of origin, is “What’s your sport?” Excepting an eleven-year foray into soccer in which I only played goalkeeper, I’ve never really been the athletic type. But I do love trying new things, so a sport I will get, Australians! Thus far, I’ve signed up for rugby union, handball, and canoeing, though I think handball (the European type, not the glorified four-square type) is going to win out. I went to a “come-n’-try” session last night with my flatmate and had a blast, so my hopes are high.

Going to class is easy when the walk looks like this.

Going to class is easy when the walk looks like this.

Classes are starting this week. I’m looking forward to really getting into the swing of things, and maybe making some new friends so I can shake off “freshman syndrome.” Only time, and my brand-new bag of informational pamphlets and poster-sized calendars, will tell.

–kj

(This entry’s title brought to you by one of my favorite ladyrockers, La Roux. Perfect pump-up music to get me in the mood to go do extraordinary things.)

all this sunshine’s making me dizzy

“Aw, look at all those seagulls,” I said, pointing out the dark shapes wheeling through the sky. It was a few days ago in Cairns, a seaside town in the north of Queensland whose main industries seem to be rooted in the traffic of questionable herbs (Mugwort?) and white-water rafting. My parents, who had accompanied me to Australia for a pre-orientation romp around the East Coast, cooed appreciatively. The night was warm, and our cheap plastic flip-flops made quiet shushing sounds as we ambled along the boardwalk, the hulk of the jungle-wreathed mountains looming in the distance. To our left, across the ocean, we could see a storm blowing in.

I squinted, holding my hand up to block out the soft glow of the streetlights. “Wait a minute,” I said. “Those aren’t seagulls. Those are bats.”

“What?” my mom exclaimed, throwing up both hands automatically, as if doing a fear-of-rabies-inspired impersonation of the first quarter of the YMCA dance. “But they’re huge!”

Huge they were, at least by weenie California insect-eating standards–which made sense, because as I found out from some locals later, these were no typical mosquito-chompers. These bats, the biggest of which had a wingspan of about a metre, apparently lived in the trees along the boardwalk and came out at night to scavenge fruit. I was enamored–my parents and the locals, less so. It seems that the general attitude toward the airborne pineapple-mongers is one of distaste and annoyance: it’s as if the raccoons who routinely break into my garage to eat my dog’s food have grown wings and a love for sitting in trees and shrieking at people. The analogy needs work, I admit, but I also have to admit that I’d be pretty enthusiastic about the raccoon scenario too. For the rest of the night, I couldn’t take my eyes off of them–my uptilted face and rapturous expression signs of just another tourist, too caught up in the romanticism of the picture to think about the actual consequences of what I saw.

One of the Frankland islands on the Great Barrier Reef

One of the Frankland islands on the Great Barrier Reef

Other things that have marked me as a tourist over the last week or so include, but are not limited to: the Chupa-Chup colored sunburn I got at the Great Barrier Reef, complete with markings for my Ray-Ban knockoffs; my father’s propensity to pair midcalf socks with a fanny pack; my willingness to pay a dollar for what basically amounts to kibble so that I can lure a comfortably lazy kangaroo into getting a scratch behind the ears; and the fact that try as I might, I can’t quite get over the novelty of two-dollar coins. I’m not saying being a tourist is necessarily a negative thing: when done in a sustainable, responsible manner, it can bring a lot of revenue into an otherwise isolated area. Plus, as the tourist herself, I have an excuse to go completely bonkers over things like the Fairy Penguin Parade (Can you blame me? They’re foot-high penguins) and the wallaby joeys’ heads I occasionally saw peeping out of their mother’s pouches on Churchill Island.

This wallaby has no joey, but I still want to be his best friend.

This wallaby has no joey, but I still want to be his best friend.

Baby penguin (note the fluffy), coming out of his burrow to survey his domain.

Baby penguin (note the fluffy), coming out of his burrow to survey his domain.

At the same time, though, I think it’s easy for tourists to get caught up in the shiny veneer of the industry, mindlessly chugging four-dollar lemonades and heedlessly disturbing the burrows of baby penguins to get the perfect shot of their (admittedly adorable) mugs. Sometimes, we get deceived into thinking that because we’ve paid for our excursions, everyone else is responsible for guaranteeing our good time. Again, reasonable to a degree, but the purchase of a Grayline bus ride and a park ticket doesn’t mean you get to clamber through delicate undergrowth or be rude to your fellow travelers. Hopefully, with the rise of the ecotourism industry, which wikipedia defines as “responsible travel…that strives to be low impact and (often) small scale…and purports to educate the traveler; provide funds for conservation; directly benefit the economic development and political empowerment of local communities; and foster respect for different cultures and for human rights,” such abusive behavior will decrease in the future.

The Mangrove River

The Mangrove River

Needless to say, although I’ve loved the opportunity to see Melbourne and Cairns, I’m looking forward to settling in at Brisbane for the long haul. I feel most secure when I’ve had the opportunity to really get to know a city, not just pop through and see its highlights, so University of Queensland orientation this week will be something of a relief.

That is no promise, however, that I will ever stop squealing at Australia’s marsupials. They’re koalas, guys, how could I?

–kj

Can't say I didn't warn you.

Can't say I didn't warn you.

(Title of this post comes from Melbourne-based band The Lucksmiths, with their lovely song T-Shirt Weather.)

get me away from here, I’m dyin’

Sometimes I’m afraid I’m setting myself up to be a bit of a habitual nomad.

As a native Californian, I’ve always enjoyed being sort of the “odd one out”: all of my friends at Cornell, save one, are children of Jersey and Boston and the like.  They don’t know what it’s like to have hundred and ten degree summers, when it’s so hot you feel like your skin is going to peel off like the husk of an orange, or to have never seen snow until you were fourteen years old. 

And when I go back to California, I can look pityingly at my mother, who hates the cold and has been known to put on an extra sweater in sixty-degree December rain. 

“Please, Mom,” I say condescendingly, “You think this is cold?  Try walking to class in negative fifteen degree weather when your nostrils are frozen shut.  That’s cold!”

I know, I know.  I want to punch myself in the face, too.

Luckily, I’ve learned that no one likes a snotty know-it-all (who knew?), so I’ve mostly cut it out with all the I’m-so-burdened-with-the-weight-of-my-knowledge crap.  I genuinely love new experiences, though, and I’m glad to be able to take my history with me wherever I go. 

I’m incredibly excited to go to Australia, but one of the downsides of attending an institution in the Southern hemisphere is that when all my friends are gallivanting off to their home schools or abroad, I’m still here endless gray California winter days.  I’ve been trying to psych myself up by Google-Imaging endless pictures of the Gold Coast and stalking my future housemates on Facebook, but it’s still hard to get e-mails from my best friend in Sevilla detailing his adventures while I blearily peer at my computer screen.  It’ll get better, I know, but it’s still a drag knowing I have another month of entertaining myself at home by watching Youtube videos  of Keyboard Cat  instead of parasailing or kangaroo-wrangling.

I’ve been also trying to temper my impatience by indulging in my favorite procrastination activity: Schedulizing! For all you non-Cornellians who have had the misfortune of stumbling upon this blog, Schedulizer is a gift from the Internet gods unto poor college students who can’t figure out their own timetables. Tragically, it doesn’t exist at University of Queensland, but it’s still fun to click through classes and get excited by the prospect of taking a class on Witchcraft and Demonology.

Despite the soul-crushing lack of Schedulizer, it’s still fairly easy to plan classes at UQ: most classes have one mandatory lecture and a set number of sections to attend per week, which makes tweaking your schedule pretty simple. Right now, I’m signed up for Intro to Australian Literature, Black Australian Literature, Myth and Magic in the Ancient World (ye gods!), Marine Field Science, and Women and Desire in Western Philosophy. Nerdily enough, one of the things I was most looking forward to about attending a new institution was the scope of classes available to me, and UQ did not disappoint. Greek gods, scuba diving, and Monique Wittig, oh my!

Only three and a half more weeks to go until I hop on that fourteen-hour flight from LAX to Melbourne! Hopefully when I get back to Ithaca next fall I won’t succumb to my inevitable been-there-done-that snootiness. I can just see it now:

“You think that’s a spider?” I’ll say, scoffing at the brown recluse skulking across my room. “Try a Huntsman, that’s a spider!”

I think it may be a lost cause.

Impatiently yours!

–KJ

(Today’s blog post title brought to you by the Belle & Sebastian song of the same name. Twee Scottish band of my heart, dear readers.)