Monday, April 27, 2009

ERs and phone cards

“Back to the hospital today, eh?” I asked Mel, focusing on the nutella-covered toast in my hand.

“Yeah, 12pm appointment. Hopefully it won’t be as long today as yesterday.” She responds.

Instead of trekking the mile, as we did 3 times yesterday, we opt for a cheap cap. “GBH” I tell the driver, and he looks at me quizzically. “CBH” Mel corrects me. “The base hospital?” asks the driver, and our response is an in unison “yes”.

I never do get names right.

We arrive at the hospital and head up to the first floor, where Mel checks in, taking a number from an automated machine. “I feel like I’m at a deli”, she exclaims.

I head downstairs with a 500 minute calling card that she obtained yesterday, and has graciously offered to let me use in the meantime. I find a bank of pay phones (my gosh, how long has it been since I’ve used a legit pay phone?) and try to figure out how to work this calling card. I sigh inwardly as I realize that I only have a $2 coin, which means I’ll be losing $1.50 because it doesn’t return change.

Later, I’ll realize it was worth every nickel of that $2 coin. (Oz doesn’t have pennies.)

I punch in the familiar number, hearing the phone ring 4 times, and the answering machine pick up. Doing a mental calculation in my head, I figure it can’t be much past 10:30pm on Sunday night, so I roll my eyes at her call screening. I know she’s sitting on the sofa with the TV volume turned down to see if the caller left a message.

“Pick up, it’s me. Helllllo? Pick up!” I say in my much-hated recording voice.

“Hello?” I hear her say, clearly unsure who is on my end of the phone.

“Heeeeeeeeeeeey!” I say emphatically, incredibly overjoyed that at this connection. I still hear my southern accent, despite the fact that we’ve been in Australia for a month and a half.

“Who is this?”

“Your daughter! Who else?”

“Jeannie! Is that you?”

And thus begins a 20 minute phone call to my mom and brother, followed up with a brief 10 minute phone call to my sister.

How it heals my heart, my heart which has been so homesick as of late. These voices! I haven’t heard these voices, unless you count the pathetic Skype attempts, in far too long. The voices that persisted throughout my childhood, into my teenage years, and now my twenties. These voices that I undoubtedly wish to continue far into my future, lavishing hope and joy and love into my life on a frequent basis.

I wander back upstairs into the waiting room to find Walt reading a book. “Hey!” I say to him, “Is Mel in with the doctor?” He responds with a yes, and we start chatting about random topics.

“You are so happy!” He says to me, “It’s contagious!”

I try to explain how the conversation with my family was like a much needed illegal drug - like ecstasy, I suppose - heightening my happiness infinitely, while possibly coming down later with an increased longing for them. As I try to direct the conversation to a new topic, he stops me, saying he wants to hear more about these phone calls.

“Do it. Go call YOUR family! Get some happiness of your own!” I laugh at him.

He tells me that all the phone numbers he knows, except 1, are in his cell phone, back at the hotel. He occasionally looks a bit preoccupied, and I think he’s pondering the phone call I know he wants to make.

Finally, I give him the calling card and he heads downstairs himself, to find his own little piece of earth-bound heaven. Little do I know that about 30 minutes later, I’ll be blessed, even more, with two brief conversations with those that he was able to reach.

I look at Mel as she comes out of the doctor’s office, sunnies on despite the indoor fluorescence. “You really need to call Mim” I tell her, convinced that it will cure her homesick heart to talk to her sister. “I know.”

Later, as we stride down the street towards Macca’s for a late lunch, I wonder aloud, “Why in the heck have we not bought calling cards before?” and vow to try to make more time in the future for calling home when phones are nearby.

Americans, we miss the hell out of you.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Letters Home

Dear US of A,

I'd like to take this time, early on a Sunday morning, to tell you that I miss you, in all your arrogant glory.

It's taken a while, you see, because your influence is everywhere. Plus, Aussies speak English, so the cultural shock is significantly less. In addition, there are a lot of Aussie traditions, such as a lack of wastefulness, that I find intelligent, globally-minded, and therefore embrace.

You could certainly learn a thing from these laid-back people in regard to philosophies of life.

So, I've missed little things about you, particularly Chickfila's sweet tea and chicken nuggets, but overall, you've been out of my mind for some time.

But here we are.

I miss my haven, my huge, chilly room snuggled in the darkness of a windowless existence.
I miss utter solitude.
I miss being able to find a Starbucks or other coffee shop 50 feet from me at any given time.
I miss high speed wi-fi.
I miss cheap books.
I miss seeing sunrises as I leave the gym at 630 or 7am.
I miss my closet, my seemingly infinite shoes and clothes, my style. These clothes I've brought into Australia are utilitarian! Trendy, they are not.
I miss my Liberty Mutualmobile.
I miss shopping at Forever 21 and Urban: cheap clothing, beautiful clothing.
I miss iPhone, like whoa.

The people, my favorites. I miss them. The good thing is that, thanks to Al Gore, I am able to keep in touch with them on a regular basis. I can't imagine life without the internet. But, I miss quiet conversations in dark bedrooms, or loud and rambunctious ones on back porches. I miss singing around bonfires and eating various foods just to be in the presence of someone important. I miss expressions and tone as conversation is had; I miss hugs and laughs more than anything.

I hope you miss me, dear homeland of mine.

We'll reunite soon enough, I think. Until then, take good care of my loved ones and possessions.

In the meantime, please don't change your breading recipe for the chicken nuggets again, CFA.

Thanks.

Love Eternally,

Jeanne

P/S I should add that this letter was inspired by Carolina's always humourous letters to inanimate objects. Shout out!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Recapping the last 2 weeks...

It’s Wednesday, 9:05pm, and we are currently in: Darwin.

We have done so much since the last time we blogged, so here is a quick run down for you, our avid readers:

Pictures are at - http://picasaweb.google.com/Jeanners21

The Great Ocean Road:
This is arguably one of the most beautiful scenic drives in Australia. It runs between Melbourne and Adelaide along the Pacific coast. It’s carved into the cliffside/mountainside, through the beautiful fir tree forests. The road is true to its name, in that the ocean is never too far from your gazing eyes.

The only stop we made along the GOR was at the ’12 Apostles.’ Our host, Veronica, in Sydney told us that we should stop there, with the caveat that there are actually only 10 apostles left. Mel’s friend, Chalis, said there were actually only 8, while Lonely Planet (our guidebook, our Bible) said there were 6. We never quite determined exactly how many there were, but they were beautiful.

That evening, we stayed in a city called Mt. Gambier, along the Great Ocean road. We happened upon this town rather randomly, but were extremely delighted to find that it had 4 attractions that were rather incredible:
The Blue Lake: most lakes are blue, so we thought, but this lake proved to be bright azure. There is reportedly no explanation for its color. It reflected the sky more beautifully than the sky itself.
Mount Schank: the volcanic cone crater, which we hiked up numerous stairs to reach.
Tantanoola Cave: a limestone cave filled with stalagmites and stalactites
Umpherston Sinkhole: an old cave which collapsed upon itself, resulting in a beautiful sinkhole. Apparently, they feed opossums there at night, but we didn’t witness (or desire to witness) this. It was really beautiful, with its bright green foliage and two impish chinese boys running and playing hide and seek throughout it.

We arrived into Adelaide the night before Easter, only to find out that the city practically shuts down on Sunday and Easter Monday. We were, however, stoked to finish our Lent fasts, diving into both red meat and desserts as quickly as possible. On Monday, we set out with the intention of finding the renowned local horse race; however, we got lost along the way and instead discovered Hahndorf, a small german town just outside of Adelaide. We spent Easter Monday wandering through this jewel of a town, eating bratwurst, chocolate, and the most amazing cupcakes you’d ever see.

In North Adelaide, we stumbled across a quaint little hotel, Prince’s Hotel. It is an old colonial style house that was converted into a hotel some time ago. We were taken in by its beauty, and the ability to purchase fast, wireless internet. It wasn’t until the first night, when we had to cross the darkened hallway to reach the bathroom, that we got a bit spooked by the size of the house and the fact that we seemed to be the only guests. The hotelier was extremely wonderful, assisting us to no end when Walt misplaced his wallet.

Our last day in Adie was my 28th birthday. We tried and tried to set up sky diving and/or hot air ballooning, but they were just too pricey and too difficult to accomplish. So I settled for the next best thing: spa day. My roots were showing significantly through my Mary Jane red hair, so I set out to find a hairdresser who might dye my hair back to my natural color. She did, and she did it well. She’s no Shelby, but she got the color right and cut it very well. We then headed downtown for a pedicure, which we convinced Walter to join. Vanessa did a fantastic job, and after a month of walking around Australia, my feet felt womanly again.

My birthday night ended with the most delicious and luxurious meal I have ever eaten. We ate at Gaucho’s Argentinean steakhouse. We started with a bottle of cabernet, perfectly ripened black olives, and toasted garlic bread. We split two large filet mignon (one seasoned with garlic, lemon and sea salt; the other with chimichurri sauce and lemon) which were accompanied by fantastically fried potatoes (with sea salt, again). For dessert, we ordered the chocolate menage-trois: flourless chocolate cake, 3 chocolate truffles, and chocolate bavois; our waiter also served us complimentary port to sufficiently finish off the meal. The chocolate truffle was unanimously the best - the ultimate statement - resulting in the quote of the evening: “You see, I could live inside a chocolate truffle.”

It was an incredible way to bring in my 28th year, despite being so far from my beloved family and friends. I have MW to thank for such brilliance. Skydiving and hot air ballooning will come later.

I won’t share with you the horrors we ran into with Groovy Grape, the company which was supposed to usher us into the Outback for our 3 day tour there. Instead, we ended up on a 20 hour Greyhound bus ride to Alice Springs. Our arrival in Alice Springs on the 16th was met by Tony and Becky, who are friends of Ellie’s (Mel’s college roommate) that live there and work at Yirara college (a secondary school for indigenous children, sponsored by the Lutheran church).

We spent the first evening with them, doing all we could to stay awake long enough to eat Macca’s chips and then a pub dinner with them in downtown Alice Springs.

Our 3 day tour left at 6:30 am the next morning from Alice Springs with Jess from the Rock tour. Jess rolled up in a 21 passenger van, filled to the brim with mostly girls, and a trailer behind pulling luggage and swags.

Little did we know what a swag was at that point.

We drove 6 hours to King’s Canyon, where we completed a 7 KM hike through this beautiful creation. The first section of the hike was a killer climb up endless steps with a backpack strapped to our backs. It was worth it, to see the canyon on one side and the gorge on the other. We hiked around this canyon, with Jess pointing out different plants and sites along the way. We arrived at the Garden of Eden, where we would have swam if it had not been overcast and chilly. We opted instead to put our feet into the water, cleaning off our dusty feet. That day, we also saw wild horses, a wild kangaroo, and a wild dingo. We were also momentarily tricked into believing there was such thing as a pygmy koala which lived in the ghost gum tree. Jess soon confessed it was similar to one of the toy koala clips that had lived on our ceiling fans in Orlando for the last 6 months of our time there.

At sunset, we settled down into our joint campsite. If you know me, you’ll know that camping in the bush was not my idea of fun. No toilets?! I couldn’t believe I agreed to this, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought. We ate chile con carne, roasted potatoes curry vegetables, bread and had Toohey’s beer by the campfire that night. We put off our bathroom break as long as possible, but as you know, with beer it usually isn’t that long. Mel and I wandered out into the woods with a roll of TP and a flashlight, and about 45 minutes later, after we heard Walt and some of the girls from our trip calling to us, we headed back in. We realized, during the longest bathroom break ever, that we should just stand out in the wilderness, along the road, staring up at the sky (hoping for breaks in the clouds) and conversing over serious matters until we had to go to the bathroom a 2nd, and then 3rd, time. We realized, again, that after drinking beer, those times tend to come quickly.

Eventually, we did make it back to the campfire and we all crashed rather quickly. Sometime in the middle of the night, Mel was gracious enough to wake me up, as the sky had cleared and we were able to see the stars now.

The first time I really saw the stars was in Bermagui, along the coast between Sydney and Melbourne. We were driving along this deserted road, with no light in sight, when we pulled off on this dark forest road for a look at the sky. It was stunning. We heard something in the woods and jumped in the car, stirring up dust as we sped out of there. They say that I was the only one who was scared by the noise, but they got in the car pretty fast, too :) Then, just before we arrived into the town of Bermagui, we stopped again on a deserted bridge and turned off all the lights. The stars are nothing less than stunning when our manmade structures and lights do not block them.

This middle of the night reminder, in the middle of the Outback bush, with no ambient light, was incredible. It was probably 3 or 4 in the morning and we were the only 3 who were awake to witness this grandeur. You can see so many shooting stars that you would never see in the city. They are tiny, they are great, and they are all beautiful.

Sadly for Mel, she realized that by waking me up, she was now obligated to accompany me back into the bush for a mid-night bathroom break. #4. Geez.

...

Because you are tired of reading, and I am tired of writing, I'll continue this recap soon :)

Monday, April 13, 2009

RPats and His Brooding Glossies

"Gran Torino doesn't start for another hour and a half. Let's go to Borders."

[I should interject here that Gran Torino is a fabulous movie. Truly. Despite the fact that it wins the prize for most racial slurs in one movie. These slurs actually characterize and enhance the movie, despite the understandable shock you might feel until you see it in context...)

We walk into Borders next door, heading straight to the magazines. Little did we know this section would inspire a glorious new creation that we fondly refer to as RPats. Yes, we stole Carolina's nickname for Rob Pattinson, to differentiate our version of him from the Real Rob Pattinson.

Or maybe not.

Me: "Hugh Jackman is on the cover of SEX!"

Walt: Jeanne, I'm pretty sure that's SFX, not sex."

Me: Well, what do they expect me to think when his head looks like it's covering up the bottom of the E! And look at Wolverine! It's a logical jump, you know."

I find two magazines with Hugh Jackman gracing the cover - one as X-Men's Wolverine and another as himself, but still touting the movie, which is set to Premiere in Australia on April 29th. Or maybe the 30th. Either way, you can be certain that we'll be in the midnight showing of the movie, due to Walt's love of all things Xmen and my adoration for Mr. Jackman.

I look to Mel and ask her if she thinks that the GQ that Rob Pattinson debuted on in Carolina's video blog to us ("Oh my gosh!") is still out. I think she sent that video with that magazine at least a month ago.

We get lucky. There is one copy left.

I debate for a while between the Hugh Jackman magazines, since they are both over 10AUD, and end up getting SFX, as well as the RPats GQ. Wally discovers on the way home that it's a Science Fiction Magazine, hence SFX.

I sit on the tram, heading back to the hostel, thumbing through the GQ magazine, blinded by RPats' brooding glossies. The article itself promises to be interesting, as Rpats comes across as oddly-entertaining (and typically drunk?) individual.

Me: "Oh my gosh. No way."

I begin to read aloud, on this midnight tram through downtown Melbourne, to Mel and Walt this incredible story contained within the article.

I promise to God that this story is in the article, and I'm not exaggerating a single bit.

Apparently, Rpats only recently came across a microwave. For the first time, ever. In an LA hotel room, of all places. The article claims that he's been going to grocery stores, constantly and incessantly scanning the shelves for anything microwavable.

OH MY GOSH.

If Rpats were from Africa, or Hells' Kitchen, or the Outback, then I could understand and truly appreciate his admiration for such an invention.

This man is an ACTOR who has grown up in Britain, who has been on many sets, and, I assume, numerous hotel rooms.

And he's never seen a microwave?

There are other ridiculous stories in this article, as well, which only emphasize my opinion that RPats is ridiculously ignorant. Or Ignorantly Ridiculous.

Or a liar. But the article begins by stating that Rpats has no capacity to lie (honestly.)

Pretty soon, we have created our own Rpats, based on this article.

And his personality is very in tune with the microwave story.

Wally is driving us down the Great Ocean Road as we discuss this article further. He describes, in great detail, the voice he pictures RPats having.

There is a character in the movie Australia who is an old drunk guy in the bar of Darwin. One of his lines is "She's no lady, Ivan. She just drove a mob of cattle across the Never Never! She deserves a drink like any man."

(Click that link for a video clip of the character/actor.)

Walt has thus determined that Rpats accent is very similar to this (I think this is what he thinks of when he thinks British), except younger and a bit less drunk.

And as we continue across the great Victorian state, he acclaims (in this accent):
"I've been sewing all my clothing together, in an attempt to make an enormous parachute. I say, Wolvie, How tall is your house?!"

To explain the Wolverine/Jackman reference would waste even more of your precious time - which you won't forgive me for - so just understand that he's talking to Hugh Jackman, but he calls him Wolverine. Despite the fact that Hugh has corrected him multiple times.

Melissa and I rock with laughter, clearly.

As you would, had you heard it.

This quote begins an entire collection, which we are expanding as we speak. Anytime that there is a ridiculous question, topic of conversation, or thought, one of us (usually Walt or Mel) assume the old-timey British accent and make a ridiculous statement. I've noticed that they can tend to revolve around 'new' inventions. New to RPats, that is.

Here is another example:
"I hear that they store sea animals in this wondrous contraption called an "aquarium". I've been thinking of installing one in my attic! Though I don't know where to get the water... But I might have my roof removed and simply collect the rain!"

We've also sent Rpats fishing for koala bears, writing to Nasa for a space pencil to connect the star dots, and pondering the fact that an orange is both a color AND a fruit.

I must admit that I'm a bit concerned at the potential of meeting Rob Pattinson some day. I'm not entirely sure that I WANT to now, because I worry that his accent and his personality will be disappointing.

RPats, welcome to Enlightenment in Australia. Meet MJW.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Manly Beach Video

While in Sydney, we found the infamous Manly Beach. As mentioned in previous blogs, you will now formally meet both Cap'n Crunch and Colorado...

video

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Guide us, O Hugh.

We are in Melbourne, staying at Urban Central Backpackers, southwest of the city centre. The weather in Melbourne has been fairly capricious. It started out grey and drizzly yesterday morning, after we stepped off the Spirit of Tasmania ferry. By the end of the day, the weather was crisp and cool and sunny with pretty blue skies.

We drank tea and vanilla chai and ate cheese toasties (the cute Ozzie name for grilled cheese sandwiches) in a small cafe, before trekking to the Ian Potter Museum, a collection of Australian and aboriginal art. I took several photos of paintings and artwork that we found interesting, which I'll try to upload later. We also tried to visit the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, a new, trendy cinema/museum for film.

They had set pieces from the Baz Luhrmann film Australia (which we're kind of obsessed with) and other Australian films, but it cost $15 to view them and we didn't think it was worth it so we passed. But Jeanne did cast one backward, longing glance at the Centre, in hopes that Hugh Jackman might appear in all his Drovah glory. (See Baz Luhrmann's Australia movie for further info).

By the way, we've universally decided that Hugh Jackman is a good omen for our travels in Australia. Any appearance by him--weather in an ad, billboard, or poster--has been followed by an amazing cultural experience.

When we were hopelessly searching for a decent but cheap meal in Cole's Bay, a remote village on the fringe of Freycinet National Park, we were stunned to discover a photo of Hugh splayed on the front cover of a newspaper, with big bold leaders reading: "How I Got My Hot Body." Jeanne's jaw dropped. "I'm so buying that."

And directly behind Hugh, gleaming in the sunset, lay a charming little Italian restaurant.

We ended up eating a beautiful meal there, splitting a gloriously steaming pot of chamomile tea, and the best veggie pizza EVER, complete with onions, mushrooms, green peppers, feta cheese, and of course yummy olives. I'm convinced that the vegetables and fruit in Tasmania are the freshest around.... I was continually amazed at the quality and freshness of the vegetables while we were there. Even a funny old man watched our pizza arrive from the kitchen and he gave us a thumbs up, clearly appreciating our culinary experience as much as we were about to.

The second Hugh Jackman omen was when we arrived in the Melbourne city centre. We've been kind of reserved toward Melbourne, since we loved Sydney so much. But the large, bright flashing advertisement for "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" as we arrived near Federation Square was cause for some excitement. Comic book nerd/enthusiasts Walt and me are thrilled, and future Jeanne Jackman is of course squealing with joy and delight from the backseat.

The third Hugh Jackman omen was when we arrived at our hostel. A large bus was parked in front of the hostel wiith a gargantuan advertisement for "Australia" emblazoned on all sides. A massive Hugh Jackman making out with Nicole Kidman (sorry, Jeanne) greeted us.

Hugh Jackman? A good omen, indeed.

For this hostel is way cooler than any other hostel we've stayed at so far. It's actually a sweet place to hang out. There's a bar downstairs with a lounge area, pool tables, foosball, TVs, an Internet cafe, a kitchen always lively and active. We walked in there and people have their ingredients spread out and it's like Food Network in there.

We are impressed.

They have free BBQs, pizza nights, gyro nights and all kinds of cheap, yummy food options. I am a fan.

This morning, Jeanne and I went downstairs to check out the free breakfast that they provide here. There were stacks of bread for toast, a few canisters of cereal and milk and orange juice. We made some toast and sat at one of the tables. There were bowls with large heapings of butter, marmalade and Nutella.

Nutella is the one food item America unfortunately remains completely unaware of. I first became aware of this foreign breakfast tradition of putting Nutella on toast when I studied abroad in Austria 6 years ago. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Nutella is chocolate hazelnut spread. It goes well with bread, pretzels, strawberries, anything you can think of. It's portable chocolate fondue. And It's basically a thinly veiled excuse to slather chocolate frosting on bread and call it breakfast.

I slathered some butter and marmalade on one slice, then proceeded to lump a whole bunch of nutella on another slice of bread.

As we sat there eating our toast, Jeanne commented, "I can't believe this hasn't caught on in America."

Then we realized that in fast food culture where the portions are twice as big as they should be anyway and where every meal seems to be accompanied by fries and a Coke, this probably would only add to the problem.

I eyed my Nutella toast, and took a huge bite of it.

With a dawn of realization, I realized what I had eaten. Jeanne watched my eyes widen in shock and disgust. I was paralyzed by this awful taste in my mouth.

"What?" Jeanne asked.

"Feh - ee -- eye," I tried to garble out, my mouth full of toast.

"What?" she asked, puzzled.

"Fesh -- ee -- MY." I said, trying to enunciate. I was afraid that the more I moved my mouth, the more I would taste it.

"I don't understand what you're saying. What?"

"FESH. EE . MY."

"What are you saying?"

Vegemite. That awful, salty yeasty by-product of beer making that for some unknown, godforsaken reason, Aussies love to slather on their toast.

And it was IN MY MOUTH.

Giving up on trying to tell Jeanne what the heck what was going on, I made a mad dash for the kitchen. People were swarming all around me, carrying dishes, taking out trash, toasting more bread. It seemed like I was running the gauntlet, with every obstacle impeding me from reaching my desired goal: the trash can.

Unfortunately, people were hovering around the trash and social etiquette prevented me from barfing into the trash can. I grabbed a paper towel and tried to discreetly remove the awfulness from my mouth.

I refilled my glass of orange juice, desperately trying to swish out the horrific taste from my mouth.

I return to the table, where I heard a snatch of conversation of Jeanne laughing and trying to explain to the British girl next to us what had happened to me. "...she thought it was Nutella." Jeanne later told me the Brit had interpreted what I had been futilely trying to say earlier: "Vegemite."

Australia, I love you. You give us Hugh Jackman as a kind of fortuitous sage, guiding our path to the best of all Australia has to offer.

But you also gave me Vegemite. And dear Vegemite, how do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways....

I bet if there were a picture of Hugh Jackman on that bowl of Vegemite, it would have magically turned into Nutella.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Hot Jacket Potatoes!

It's 10am, Saturday morning. We think it's April the 4th, but nobody really knows.

We're currently in Hobart, Tasmania. Tasmania is an isolated little island just south of Melbourne. We took a ferry, overnight, from Port Melbourne. The ferry ride was amazing. We considered asking the Captain if he would turn off the running lights so that we could see the stars without any light whatsoever, but we couldn't find his cabin.

We've been here a few days, in Tazzie, This is our last day in the main city, Hobart, and we are fully planning to make our own little Farmers Market venture overseas, while our friends are fast asleep in the States on Friday night.

We head down to the market, which is located in the Salamanca part of town. It's a breezy day and Hobart cannot decide whether it wants to be warm or cold. Later on, we'll find out that Tazzie/Ozzie is reportedly directly beneath the hole in the ozone layer - this is what a local tells us, so I cannot verify its validity. The sun comes out and I feel like my 3 layers are far too many; the sun goes in and I wish I had my hooded jacket.

We've only got the general direction of the market in mind. Mel and I are walking a few steps behind Walter, trying to figure out the best, and warmest, path to the Market. We get behind a couple, roughly our age, dressed in outfits I might describe as work out clothes. I look at Mel, "They are headed to the market, let's follow them." She gives them a once-over and nods her agreement. At the next corner, though, we run into a few older couples. "Wait, maybe we should follow THEM." She says back to me. I glance over them and insist on following the first couple.

We successfully stalk this couple all the way to the market, and Mel insists that we're going to run into the older couples later. "They just went a different way, I'm sure. This thing is probably enormous."

We'd later find out that she was right: this market is massive.

We walk amongst the first few rows of the market, seeing odd and creepy dolls for sale, whole loaves of bread, silk dresses and much more. Lovely, just lovely, except we want food. Mel and Walt stop at a fudge stand for free samples and I groan inwardly. 8 more days, I tell myself. And I thank Jesus. They saunter down the pathway towards me, our minds refocused on breakfast.

Mel and I have previously discussed whether Ozzie has baked potatoes, because chips (fries) and mashed seem to be the only options at the place we eat. We both see the sign, HOT BAKED SPUDS, at the same time and instantly internally decide that's what we are eating. We head directly towards a happy old man (I swear to you, all these Aussies are so HAPPY. And FRIENDLY!) who is behind the stand. "Are you selling baked potatoes?!" I ask him, grinning ear to ear. He says yes, of course, and so Mel and I decide to split one. We ask for bacon on the side (mind you that their bacon is much more like ham than American Bacon) and so he piles an entire cup down the side of the baked potato. Mel and I are in heaven. "You best be careful, splitting this thing. I've seen people rolling around in the grass, fighting each other for the final bites." I smile back at him and say, "Don't you worry, we'll probably be back." Wally gets in line for a cappucino and Mel and I eat our little bit of American-homemade heaven in the park. Wally walks up with a bratwurst in his hand. So much for the idea of breakfast, I laugh to myself.

We head back towards the market after our eating adventures. I jump in line for a cappucino and Mel orders an afforgato. This is an espresso with a scoop of ice cream thrown on top just for luck. She swears to bring this invention back to the states, whenever we might end up there again. Wally stops at the record stand, as Mel and I head directly back to the olive stand. We meant to make it to the Olive Growers Grove yesterday, but got tied up south of Hobart. We both eat a green olive, which was marinated in nothing less than God's nectar, and close our eyes in intense appreciation. While we both want to buy some of these delectable treats, we remember that we are going to head to the Grove on the way out of town this afternoon, so we abstain for now. We will later be extremely disappointed to find out that they are not open on Saturdays.

We find Walter looking through the Beatles records and then head further south.

"HOT JACKET POTATOES!" I exclaim, reading a sign I see on the side of one of the food trailers. My exclamation sounded like "Holy Crap!" or "Good Golly Miss Molly!" and so Walt and Mel run with it, saying Hot Jacket Potatoes as loud as they can. They deem it Pudgy Cannon's new slogan. "Hot Jacket Potatoes, I'm thirsty!" They crack me up.

We find coconut ice (coconut candy cubes that look like ice cubes) and Fairy Floss (aka Cotton Candy). We walk by the stand for Grandewe Cheesery, only to have the guy behind the stand call out to us, as we met him yesterday. We walk by the Persian food stand and Walter makes eye contact with the cook. "Hey, man, how's it goin?" He yells towards the cook, who recognizes us from dinner and coffee at his diner a few nights before. "We fit in so well here, already knowing the locals..." Walter laughs.

I walk past an Asian guy. He looks like an incredibly wise 30-something year old Chinese guy. His hair is either dreadlocked or dirty, but it's piled into this regal messy bun on top of his head. I nudge Melissa and say, "Oh my Gosh, that is Sonny in a few years." She later finds him on the ground, playing some sort of Chinese musical instrument, and she snaps a picture of him. "Future Sonny." She laughs at me. We're gonna upload that somewhere.

We keep walking and are astounded at the different musicians playing for coins (they have up to $2 coins here) on the sidewalks. There is a 4 string quartet of young 20-somethings; a vibrant group of hippy-trendy 20-somethings playing all sorts of odd things (Mel could probably tell you more), a band that I would deem Mexican from their clothing, but Spanish or Mediterranean from their music; Chinese Future Sonny and his Chinese Pal playing something really awesome; and several other groups. They fascinated us.

We also found the world's smallest pancakes (I think they were about the size of a mini-muffin top). I passed a guy eating raspberries out of a plastic cup with creme on top and I say, mostly to myself, "Did you see that guy's RASPBERRIES." Mel and Walt bellow their laughter as Walter uses his gay (or womanly, as he once tried to call it) voice to say "Did you see that GUY'S RASPBERRIESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS" They carry on for a good 10 feet before they go off on some other random tangent. They crack me up.

Melissa stops at a wool shop and tries on a killer hat. It's only 15 AUD, which is about $10-$12 USD. I convince her it's a worthwhile purchase, since we're at Salamanca market, it's cheap, and she has no idea where her other hat is at the moment.

That's one thing that's driving me crazy. I have 4 bags and they all have 150 pockets, so I'm constantly losing something.

But anyway.

So she buys the wool hat, and later describes her newfound adoration for it.

"The bottom half of that guy's face is hot." She says to me out of the side of her mouth. I look at her like she's crazy - I'm pretty sure that's the oddest thing she's ever said, and she says many, many random things. "What! The bottom half?" "Well, he has on sunglasses." I look at her and explain that it's completely find to add the disclaimer... "That guy is hot. I can't see his face because of his glasses, but he seems hot." She laughs and we take off back towards the beginning of the market. We pass yet another book stand and start browsing. Mellie wants to find Grapes of Wrath; Walt and I just browse for anything good. I've talked Mel out of other books already because she asked me not to let her add any weight/reading material until she's finished some of the others.

But then.

I see Sidney Sheldon, IF TOMORROW COMES, which is my favorite book by him. It used to be my favorite fiction book entirely, because it's such a great story. I insist she buys it - it's only $2AUD. She agrees, but tells me that she will be duct taping the front cover. It has terrible 80s-style photography and illustration on the front.

I'm sure there are a few more stops along the way, that I'm forgetting, but these were the highlights of Salamanca.

Best market I've ever been to.

And apparently, contains the hottest guy in Hobart, at least from the bottom of his face.

Friday, April 3, 2009

It's a Beautiful Day

We bought this set of CDs, #1 Hits in Australia, somewhere along the Southern Coast on the way to Melbourne. We stopped for the restrooms and to get a ginger beer (similar to ginger ale in the states) at a tiny little gas station in the middle of nowhere because my stomach was feeling a bit queasy from all the hairpin turns.

Walt picks up the CD set and shows it to me. "Should we get this? I'm getting tired of the iPods." I glance over the CD titles and immediately consent. The titles include 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s songs, and random things I would never believe could ever hit #1. But I saw Beautiful Day by U2 and I knew we had to get it.

This is the same set of CDs that got Walt a 300AUD speeding ticket, by the way.

We're playing this song, Beautiful Day, as we drive out south of Hobart, Tasmania this morning. We're driving on the left side of the road on the edge of a steep cliff, overlooking the bay in Hobart. The weather is a bit cloudy and a bit chilly. But it's a beautiful day in my head.

This song makes me happy every time I hear it.

I would marry Bono for this song. He's pretty awesome anyway.

It consistently reminds me that even when my life isn't as great as it is now - read: happily unemployed, traversing the Ozzie lands with two amazing people, and generally having the time of my life - life is beautiful. In its own twisted and warped way, the hardest, most difficult times have an inner beauty that you can't appreciate until you have passed through.

Today? It's a beautiful day.


The heart is a bloom
Shoots up through the stony ground
There's no room
No space to rent in this town

You're out of luck
And the reason that you had to care
The traffic is stuck
And you're not moving anywhere

You thought you'd found a friend
To take you out of this place
Someone you could lend a hand
In return for grace

It's a beautiful day
Sky falls, you feel like
It's a beautiful day
Don't let it get away

You're on the road
But you've got no destination
You're in the mud
In the maze of her imagination

You love this town
Even if that doesn't ring true
You've been all over
And it's been all over you

It's a beautiful day
Don't let it get away
It's a beautiful day

Touch me
Take me to that other place
Teach me
I know I'm not a hopeless case

See the world in green and blue
See China right in front of you
See the canyons broken by cloud
See the tuna fleets clearing the sea out
See the Bedouin fires at night
See the oil fields at first light
And see the bird with a leaf in her mouth
After the flood all the colors came out

It was a beautiful day
Don't let it get away
Beautiful day

Touch me
Take me to that other place
Reach me
I know I'm not a hopeless case

What you don't have you don't need it now
What you don't know you can feel it somehow
What you don't have you don't need it now
Don't need it now
Was a beautiful day