Thursday, September 25, 2008

A New Country, A New Sport

You really know you're in a foreign country when the sport being played on TV makes no sense and looks completely weird and strange to you and you have trouble even figuring out which way both teams are going! The past few weeks have been a lot of that confusion for me, as the AFL Footy season playoffs have been underway. "Footy" is the Aussie-rules version of American football, but it really looks nothing like the NFL or CFL football that we know and love in NA. Jon and Celeste (the couple I live with) are die-hard fans, so I've basically had no choice but to learn the rules, cheer for the "right" teams, and devote my evenings to watching footy. And I'm not really complaining at all. Footy is a fast, intense sport with very little stoppage of play, lots of bone-crushing hits, and impressive athletic grandeur. The guys wear tight little shorts and jerseys that would never fly in professional leagues at home, but are a total hit in Australia. Here's a little clip to give you a feel for Aussie-rules footy.

With the grand final being played on Saturday, I'm sure I'll see a whole new side of Aussie life. We're heading to a local pub to watch the game, and I'm pretty sure all eyes will be glued to the screen across Australia at noon on Saturday. Australians take their footy quite seriously.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Trouble with Oz...

After being in Australia for nearly two months, I thought I owed it to you all to dispel any notions that this tropical island is a complete oasis and paradise on earth. Yes, the beaches are amazing, the winters are warm, the summers are hot, the people are charming and the animals are cute. I’ll even go as far as saying that the Aussie lifestyle is extremely appealing and that the most used and favorite expression “No worries, mate!” is the life moto of the majority of people. The patriot in me is constantly comparing, looking for ways that Canada (and yes, even the US! Sorry Mom!) holds its own against the idyllic continental island that is Aussie. And so, with this in mind, I am happy to inform you that I have come up with a list of “troubles” with Oz to share with you…

1. They speak English. This might sound like it should be a positive, but hear me out. The trouble is that Australians speak what I like to call a “dialect” of English. Do you know what the word “ta” means? How about “chook”? If I were to invite you to evening tea, would you come with an appetite, or with the expectation of some tea and cookies? It is in these basic conversations that I often find myself confused, processing words 2 minutes after they have been spoken, and asking someone to repeat a sentence 5 times before I understand. Speaking English may be more of a liability because the full on slang that Aussies throw at me leaves me with a blank, bewildered expression most of the time.

2. Rat tails. Need I say more? They’re popular here. Worn with pride. Even dyed quite often. I don’t know if North America missed the memo, but as far as I know, rat tails went out of style at the beginning of the 90’s and they haven’t been welcomed back since.

3. Paying $3.30 for a black coffee. The economists out there may call this inflation but we have another word for this in Canada- robbery. Across the board, everything here is shockingly expensive. I like to tell myself that when I say no to buying a cookie it is out of self-discipline, but the reality is that a $5 sugar rush is just way too expensive for a student budget around here!

4. Lack of competitive college sports. All humor and sarcasm aside here, this is one of the major downfalls of Australian universities. My life has been consumed with nail-biting, sweat-producing, heart-wrenching feats of athletic prowess through The Ohio State University. And I’m talking purely from a spectator point of view here. There are no Saturday morning tailgates, no F Michigan t-shirts, not even a glimpse of any type of a band or cheerleading squad. No one wears a shirt that says “Curtin University SOCCER” or “CU BASKETBALL” on it. I have learned, however, that if you show up at lunch time to the far corner of the rec center basement, you may find a rowdy game of basketball being played between some of the faculty members. I guess this will have to do.

5. Vanishing Sidewalks. I started noticing this when I was out jogging and suddenly found myself no longer on the sidewalk, but forced onto the road where cars were coming at me from the instinctually opposite direction than they should’ve been coming from. Slight safety hazard. The river and ocean jogging paths make up for it, but within the city, Perth is not a very jogger-friendly place.

6. Moving from Ohio, USA (Unlimited Surplus of Amenities) to Perth, WA (Wait Awhile) has shown me that I am a spoiled brat. In Perth, the people say that they have to “Wait Awhile” before they get what the rest of the world had last year. I am so used to having everything that I want available when I want it, that it has actually been a shocker to not be able to get certain items or to walk up to the grocery store and find that it is closed! We don’t realize how blessed we are with material things in North America! The bratty side of me complains about all this, but I know that it is good for me to get a small taste of what it is like to not have all things readily available on a whim. The realities of situations in Third World countries are so incomprehensible for me.

You can probably see by the superficiality of this list that these aren’t real problems, but they drive home a simple point in my mind. Australia is awesome, great, enjoyable, fun but…it isn’t home. I am loving the adventure of this country but I have also come to realize that North America is where my heart is.