Travels in Oz

I'm off - for 6 months of adventure (er, research) in Australia.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I'm in Perth. Yay.

Hello from Perth, a city that appears to be one giant suburb. When I was first planning my trip to Australia, I thought I would split the six months between Sydney and Perth. Then I discovered how nice Sydney is, I made friends, I found a place to settle in - and my time in the west kept getting shorter and shorter. Now, I'm hoping to fit three months of research into about ten days. It means spending eleven hours a day in the library, and filling my weekend with back to back interviews, all of which leaves little time to sightsee. But that's actually alright, since there doesn't seem to be much to Perth. I went for a run yesterday next to the river, which was nice, and passed a bizarre tower that houses (randomly) the 18th century bells from London's St. Martin's in the Fields. It's apparently the biggest musical instrument in the world - a challenge if I ever heard one. Surely we can come up with something larger; a giant kazoo perhaps? There's also a big park that's worth a wander around, and as the airport shuttle bus driver told me, one street with good bars and cafes. And that's about it.

Still, it's probably too early to judge, especially since I've spent the vast majority of the last two days huddled over a microfilm machine in the state library. For the interviews I'm doing this weekend, I'll have a chance to get out of the city and see a bit of the surrounding area, which is supposed to be beautiful. (Of course, this also means renting a car and driving on the left-hand side of the road for the first time - please pray for me.) I got a glimpse of the countryside on the flight, and the views were really amazing. Perth is right next to the Indian Ocean, and is surrounded by farmland, but further east there is really nothing - just miles and miles of red and brown emptiness, with gigantic mud holes appearing periodically. It was strangely very pretty.

In other news, last weekend in Sydney was tons of fun, starting with a double feature on Friday with Ellena. Actually, we were just going to see one movie - a French film called Hidden - but it was a little too obscure for us. In fact, after it ended about half the audience lingered in the lobby reading the reviews and chatting to each other in a vain attampt to figure out just exactly what it was about. Ellena declared that she didn't like the move and felt she hadn't gotten her money's worth. The only way to even the score was to sneak into another movie. Well, her logic made sense at the time, and in any case she had already barreled into the next theater, so we ended up seeing some British comedy about a guy who swims the English Channel. It was pretty lame, but whatever, it was free.

On Saturday night, it was off to Paramatta with Andrew to see a band from New York, Living Colour. They haven't toured for 13 years, and were fantastic, but the show ended late and we had to sprint for the last train, or else risk a hundred dollar cab ride into the city from the suburbs. We just caught the train as it was about to pull out of the station, making us feel victorious in a Chariots of Fire sort of way. The next evening I headed over the Nadine and Emilie's house for another evening of music, but of a somewhat more kitschy variety: the Eurovision song contest! (Jealous, Wendy?) Americans sadly don't get to experience Eurovision, which was started in 1945 by a philanthropist who wanted to repair the discord of the Second World War by bringing the nations of Europe together in song. It's a beautiful idea, but over the years has devolved into perhaps the cheesiest spectacle ever created. To give you an idea, it's where ABBA got its start. But I absolutely love it. Where else can you see bleached blondes from Moldova wearing gold lamme jumpsuits sing about true love while pyrotechnics explode in the background? This year Finland won in a bit of an upset - their entry was a death metal band that wore monster masks and costumes with caps and wings. Unorthodox, yes, but they certainly expanded my understanding of Finnish culture. And really, isn't that what Eurovision is all about?


  • At 2:10 AM, Blogger Miss Adventure said…

    I just saw Cache too. but dubbed into italian, which I don't think enhanced or detracted from the effect of boring me out of my skull. then I had to download some cartoons to set myeself to rights.

    can't wait to have you bak in the normal hemisphere, even if still gazillions of miles away.

  • At 9:20 AM, Anonymous Wendy said…

    Jealous doesn't even begin to describe it! Was this years contest good....or Estonia good? Basically, I'm just insanely jealous of your whole life right now! I'm living vicariously through you. I love microfiche!

  • At 9:21 PM, Blogger I'm Sunburnt said…

    Sadly, I think very few things in our life will ever be Estonia good again. But it was pretty close! By the way, who doesn't love microfiche?

    And props to Miss Adventure, since I can't imagine sitting through that movie again, let alone dubbed in Italian. Was it a comment on France in Algeria? Family torment? Blame, loss, loveless marriage? Ah well, who cares.

  • At 4:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    sweet jesus, you saw living colour? that's rad as all get out. again you're a step closer to one of my icons than i am, like the time you met the guy from rage against the machine.
    seriously, those guys are some of the most talented musicians that ever happened. i've got some of their shows i pulled off the interweb, but have never seen them live. colour me green with envy.
    so the other thing is, there's an album that came out last year that you need to buy. in australia, please. iron & wine is the band, woman king is the album. the name of the second song on the album is jezebel. need i say more?
    peace be with you.
    - johnny


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