Monday, July 27, 2009

Side Note.

Alright guys. It's getting difficult to read your comments because you comment on random blogs (especially you, Uncle Ed) so it's hard for me to find them.

Each blog entry has a comment area assigned to it. So if you want to comment about a specific blog, you need to post it on that particular blog's comment section. What you need to do is go to the blog, scroll down to the bottom of that particular blog and click on "1 comments" or "2 comments" or whatever it says. The "# comments" font is small, so you older folks may need to put some glasses on.

Also, since I blog sporadically, you may want to subscribe to my blog so that you know when I post a new one instead of checking every day. You need a google, yahoo, or aim account, so if you have any of these email addresses, you can click on "Follow" on the right hand side of my blog. The hip, younger generation (including Karen) + my technologically savvy father has already done this, so if you have any questions, ask them.

Right now, my housemate and I are snuggled next to the heater listening to Michael Jackson albums. It is freezing here... I had to buy a pair of slippers for the first time in life.

Here is a complimentary picture... and remember, comment in the correct place!

(Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne Museum (cube) and the city of Melbourne. [Carlton Gardens, Fitzroy])

Sunday, July 26, 2009

B6: Getting Settled

(St. Patrick's Cathedral, I think, and Federation Square. [Flinders St., Melbourne])


Orientation went well. Every exchange student sat down with an academic advisor and they personally helped advised, enroll, and register us for our classes. I guess the administraters here in Australia actually do some adminstrating… what a concept. Anyways, I went to a bunch of the optional orientation presentations and found them incredibly helpful and lively. Even the handbooks have a much lighter tone, talking about drinking and living life. I felt very welcome druing my Welcome Week.

(My student ID (concession card) and planner (diary).)

My friend and I went to a movie (at the concession stand they served beer, fudge, and popcorn)and decided to see an authentic Australian movie instead of “Harry Potter”. I picked “Wake in Fright” after multiple recommendations from the ticketer and other random Aussies. Here are the specs of the movie:
- Setting: Australian Outback (in a small mining town)
- Characters: John Grant, an educated school teacher who is looking to fly to Sydney to meet his girlfriend during one of his vacations.
- Plot: There was none. All he did was drink, gamble away all his money and hunt kangaroos. He never even got around to seeing his girlfriend. The disclaimer at the end of the movie explained that the kangaroo hunting scenes were from an actual kangaroo hunt. They wanted to show the brutality of such an activity and it made me cringe at every crack of the rifle.
- Soundtrack: Didgereedoo background music.
- Production: I don’t think a tripod was used. Lots of quick, random flashbacks.
After the movie, my friend leaned over and said “Well, that was very Australian” and I must agree. Reviews said it was “One of the greatest films to be made in the country” (Garry Maddox, Sydney Morning Herald). I really enjoyed the movie and it proved to be an excellent way to be introduced to the Australian way of life: drink and offer other people drinks.

This week has been incredibly busy. There were a couple more bar nights and I after one of the nights out, I found myself at the Crown Casino with the New Yoka again. The guys at my table were playing Michael Jackson on their iPhone speakers and constantly made fun of eachother (especially me, after I lost my money). I stopped using my free gym pass because the lady pushed so incredibly hard for me to get a membership… she doesn’t understand that I only want the free 7 days. Today I signed up for a gym membership through school. I’ve spent the other nights walking around trying the deserts in the city and drooling over the cakes in the window shops.
(Cakes from Brunetti. [Lygon St., Carlton])

I moved out of the hostel (after saying goodbye to the French girls) and moved into my flat. My house mate is very helpful and has already driven me to look at some beds and do grocery shopping. Tomorrow we are going to buy tickets for the Melbourne Storm vs. the Sydney Swans rugby game next week in the brand new stadium. We also hope to make it over to the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) for an Aussie League Football match (the stadium holds over 110,000 people). I have found a bed through gumtree (Australia’s version of craigslist) and am in the process of getting it to my place.

This week I start classes (eek!) and am going to look into joining some clubs. My housemate said all the clubs only go to bars and drink, so hopefully I can find one that actually does an activity. I’m looking at an indoor soccer league with my housemate. I am also working on getting some research done with a professor here at my university (uni) in the field of text mining. Text mining is a technology that will (someday) be able to “read” through heaps of documents and sort them according to topic. I’ll let you know more about it when I learn a little bit more.

Until then,

Mikey Doo

(Sandridge Bridge. Looking at the north side of the Yarra River. [Melbourne])

(Crown Casino. Where my money is. Looking at the north side of the Yarra. [Melbourne])

(Pasta night at the nunnery. It was free. [The Nunnery Accommodation])

(Apparently, my friend likes gelato more than I do. [Lygon St., Carlton])

(Australian wildlife. Actually, they are just pigeons. [Carlton Gardens])

(These Triple Choc are timtam knockoffs. Tim tams are delicious. The Tiny Bears were gross and that milk doesn't need to be refrigerated! [Lygon St., Carlton])

Sunday, July 19, 2009

B5: Melbourne Exploring

("All [buildings] are Victorian-era and sweeping staircases and ornate stained-glass windows are the norm." - Excerpt from Lonely Planet [The Nunnery])


I am currently staying at the Nunnery Hostel. I was a little disgusted at first… sharing a room with11 other people. Now I love it. For only $30 AUD a night, I enjoy complimentary breakfast (Brekkie), the company of tons of Melbourne Uni students, and a great staff (they call themselves “the nuns”, but I don’t know if they are actually nuns). We had pancakes, Australian style, which were more like Crepes. Even the French girls were surprised. The place is so homie, that one of the ladies has been staying for six (6!) months.

I share a room with six other French girls, and a guy and girl from Holland. Most of them are frantically looking for housing, bustling in and out of the hostel. They are incredibly friendly, always inviting me to lunch or out on the town. Last night a group of us went out.

(My hostel room. It was scary at first, but now I like living here. [The Nunnery])

We first went to dinner at a little Asian restaurant and we talked a good while about culture (sports, drinking, geography, compulsory language requirements in America, housing, you name it). Everyone was very talkative and there were never really any awkward moments. The most interesting things we talked about were the “Typical American” tendencies.

The French and Holland students observed that “Typical Americans”:
-… don’t always act like they do on the OC, Sweet 16, or Desperate Housewives (Uncle Ed’s favorite shows).
-… like, use the words “like” and “um” too much. (Ex: “Like, we went to this place, and like, um, had some fun, like, lots of fun.”)
-… are immature about drinking. Since the rest of the world can drink at 16 (like Holland), it is surprising for other cultures to see us American kids (under 21) running around like banshees drinking their brains out here in Australia.
-… don’t take the driving privilege as seriously as other countries. The fact that we can drive before drinking seems backwards to them.
-… only play the “typical American drinking game with the big red cups and white rims and ball” (beer pong). They don’t think it’s that great.
-… are pretty clueless about the world around us, like languages, capitals of countries, politics, etc.

Grandma Sevilla: I wear the phase-2 leather jacket you gave me every day because it’s the only way that I don’t look like a “Typical American”.

We went to a club called the “Night Cat”. It was salsa night… what a coincidence. I watched the insane moves of all the other salsa dancers and even had a couple dances myself. Outside the dance floor, I got in an argument with a Texas exchange student about the 3-count salsa tempo. I had a lot of fun but I’ve decided that I’m going to need to repeat the “Beginning Salsa” course or have Auntie Chrissy re-teach me.

Anyways, these last couple of days I have just done some housekeeping stuff (paperwork for the apartment, opening a bank account, buying a new cell phone [after putting my old one in the wash]), and looking for research opportunities. I even “exercised” my right to a free seven day gym trial. Everything is in Kilos so I have to walk around the gym with my phone so that I can convert all the weights. I put on too much weight on the decline bench and had to have a local pull the bar off my neck. A couple days ago, I even went for a swim, but had trouble because they circle swim on the left side of the line (Auntie Amy, it drove me crazy)!

It’s hard living out here and I get lonely. All your comments are a little gut-wrenching, but I love hearing from you all. Keep the comments coming. I miss you all.

Tomorrow is Orientation for study abroad students. Hopefully I get my Metlink Train, Tram, Bus, Subway card!

Until then,

Mikey Doo

(Gelato on every corner. Ah! [Lygon Street, Carlton])

(The traffic, near my flat, into the city. The line is much longer than the picture will show. [Nicholson Street, Fitzroy])

(The fountain in Carlton Gardens. The iMax theatre, art gallery, and the Melbourne Museum are also in this park. [Victoria Street, Fitzroy])

(The rooftop fire escape of the nunnery. This is my third cup of tea today. [The Nunnery])

(Toitle trying to eat my Aussie Delight pizza. I can't decide if I like the pizza or the Aussie Delight Burger from the cafe around the corner better. Aussie just means "with eggs" and other breakfast foods. [Umbago Coffex, Brunswick St.]

Thursday, July 16, 2009

B4: Melbourne

(Picturesque Melbourne. [South Bank and Yarra River])


My travel book, “Lonely Planet”, raves about the things to do in Melbourne, like the bars, clubs, shopping at Victoria Market, visiting the bay, spending money etc. Well, I haven’t done any of that yet. I have looked for housing.

I arrived in Melbourne on Monday, stepped off the plane and said “Now what?”. I took a shuttle with some international students to my hostel. I chatted with some California kids until their designated stops.

Kids from New York, Mexico, and England were there as well. Before arriving at my hostel, the New Yorker (“New Yoka”) offered me his floor to sleep on. Because I am a cost efficient (cheap) guy, I obliged. We got the England girl’s number and headed to the New Yoka’s campus affiliated housing. Naturally, after his 14 hour flight, his frisking in the Sydney customs checkpoint, and his hour and a half flight to Melbourne, the New Yoka wanted to go out. The England girl laughed at us when we didn’t know what apple cider was (think apple + champagne + sugar + headache). We met some Bostonians and Aussies at the apartment complex and went to the pub. It was $10 per pitcher (pot) night.

The next day I met with a Berkeley (Go Bears!) friend from the Sydney Orientation because she didn’t have housing either. She helped me look for housing… actually, she did most of it for me. Our housing adventure took us all over Melbourne, from the Italian strip of Carlton, to the bar scene of Brunswick, from the lifeless Parkville, to the outskirts of Fitroy. We met students from the university (uni), adult professionals (employed), fiscal landlords, desperate homeowners, and even an exotic dancer. I finally found a place in Fitroy, half a block from Brunswick St with a local Aussie student from Wollongong. Lonely Planet says “Brunswick St is probably Melbourne’s liveliest street and where you’ll find some of the best food, weirdest shops, most interesting people and unique clothes.”

(The kitchen of the place. [Hanover St., Fitzroy])

Right now, I am living on Berkeley girl’s floor, avoiding her landlord. She hasn’t kicked me out yet, so I guess I’m still welcome. (Mom, don’t worry, I bought her dinner and groceries… I’m not overstaying my welcome).

Now I introduce a section called “I now know”.
I now know:
- … that everyone jaywalks in Australia despite the fact that none of the cars ever slow down.
-… that light beer is only 2% here.
-… that no one cares about baseball. Actually, when the England girl explained cricket, it seemed pretty simple. Cricket matches can last days! Literally.
-… that dryers are a HUGE convenience (I guess Australians hang their clothes on a rack).
-… that the 2 flush buttons are for conserving water.
-… that if I am lost, all I need to do is pull out a map and some random Aussie is bound to come over and help.
-… that some bathrooms are in the backyard in an outhouse (ew!)
-… that really good people are out there.
-… that walking the streets of a city is more enjoyable that using google earth.
-… that having a positive attitude can help make terrible situations (being homeless) less terrible.

That’s all for now.

Until then,

Mikey Doo

(The George Adams Gallery, I think. [Southbank])

(St. -----'s Cathedral. [Fitzroy])

(Michaela: I found the candy (lolly) shop! [Carlton])

(Me at the river. [Yarra River])

Sunday, July 12, 2009

B3: Sydney Exploring

(Anyone recognize this? [Sydney Opera House and Sydney Bridge])


So orientation is drawing to a close and I’ve met some friends going to the University of Melbourne with me (they all already have housing…). I’m dreading the chore of finding housing but it should be easier with my new “Vodafone” cell phone (mobile).

I have been all over Sydney these past 2 days. On Friday night, I went out to the bars. Drinks were at a special for $3.50 for a beer and certain mixed drinks. There weren’t any American beers, but I took a liking to “Toohey’s Dry”. Most of the time, we talked about meeting one of the girls at her university (uni) in Tasmania for some backpacking through the Tasmanian outback (Kimmy, I’ll be on the lookout for some Tasmanian Devils). Hopefully, we all take her up on that offer. Afterward we went to a nightclub… unfortunately it was “CEO Night” so I was a little underdressed. Thanks to some Aussies that we met walking along the street, we were able to bypass the huge line to get in. We hung out, danced for a little while, then made our way back to the hotel.

As part of orientation we took a cruise along Sydney Harbor and saw the Opera House (you may have heard of it), Sydney bridge and all the islands off the coast of Sydney. They had some spectacular views and we even saw some crazy guy jump off one of the islands into the shark infested, freezing waters. We had lunch down in the marketplace where a bunch of street booths were up and selling food, paintings, aussie artifacts, and wine. We passed on the wine tasting… I think it’s an acquired taste (a taste that I have yet to acquire). I bought a gyro, Australian style.

(Something that I was tempted to buy at the outdoor marketplace... Maggie, don't look!)

Saturday night, after orientation, my roommate and some friends bought some Dis2overy passes for 2 passes at the aquarium and/or the sky tower. The aquarium had some dugongs and some of the biggest manta rays and sharks I have ever seen. I posted a picture with someone in it so that you can get a comparison. We saw the sky tower, but unfortunately, the pictures didn’t come out so well.

(I call this the "manta-shark". [Sydney Aquarium])

I’m sitting in McDonalds using their free WiFi (since everyone else charges an arm and a leg for internet) waiting for a friend so that we can go to the Royal Botanical Gardens.

Tomorrow I fly to Melbourne and start looking for housing (eek!). I know you are all wishing me luck.

Until then,

Mikey Doo

(Look closely for the "toitle". [Woolloomooloo Bay])

(I call these "Dino Birds"... Anyone know their real name?)

(Some flowers for mom with Sydney Harbor in the background. [Royal Botanical Gardens])

(The Sky Tower is on the left and it overlooks all of Sydney. [Sydney Harbor])

Thursday, July 9, 2009

B2: Touchdown in Australia


I have arrived in Sydney, Australia.

We had some tailwind on the way down, so it only took 13 and a half hours. When filling out my customs card, I was saved by the Aussie lady sitting next to me who informed me that Sour Patch Gummies didn’t count as foreign foods. She laughed she when she explained that she had just saved me hours with the customs agents and even gave me her card just in case I had any other trouble while in Australia. I’m so grateful that she decided to help my poor, lost soul.

Once off the plane, I walked through the rain in my sandals and jeans to the trolley station and figured out how to get to my hotel. I spent the day walking the blocks around my hotel. There are lots of Asians (and Asian restaurants) in this part of town. I bought Subway (I know, how foreign, right?) and discovered that the $27 power transformer I bought is unnecessary. I dropped in on the St Mary’s Cathedral, which contained more tourists than praying individuals. The city is beautiful… take a look at the pictures I have posted.

Here are my observations: Rugby is fascinating and cricket is confusing and all they talk about is the field (pitch). I played with the toilet that has 2 flush buttons for a good 15 minutes. For those of you who are wondering, it flushes neither clockwise or counterclockwise. Water flows from the back, then the front, then disappears. Jaywalking is very difficult because Australians drive on the left side of the road and on the ground at every intersection it says “Look right”. Alcohol is very important in this country, as is evident by the 6 different kinds of beers (schooners) stocked in my fridge or by the fact that coming off the plane, I was directed into a room full of liquor. I also ran (literally) into some weird bird. I found his friends nesting in a palm tree squawking incredibly loudly and nobody else seemed as bothered as I did. Everyone has a huge heart here and all are quick to explain their knowledge of surfing in Australia. We’ll see how the coming weeks go.

Tomorrow is Orientation and then I head out to Melbourne. I’ll let you know if I acquire an Australian accent.

Until then,

Mikey Doo

Monday, July 6, 2009

B1: Taking Off Tomorrow.


Here is a test blog.

My day has consisted of creating lists for packing, quadruple checking my passport and visa verifications, spending time with Alexandra, getting ready for dinner with Kimmy and watching baseball for the last time.

Getting ready for the experience of a life time.

Until then,

Mikey Doo