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Archive for June, 2010

I was originally going to lump this subject in with the previous post. But as I continued to write, I realized how disrespectful that would have been. I use the term “housemates” literally, but also it includes those who spent as much time in the Retro house as they did in their own house. My housemates during my time in Australia have perhaps made the biggest impact while studying abroad.

Housemates + Extended Family

The biggest question I asked myself during my time here has been, “What would it have been like if I lived somewhere else?” Living closer to the to city would have been more convenient to get down town. Living in the residence hall would have presented a better opportunity to meet more people. There were times when I felt as if I made the wrong decision. Yet as I reflect, I see living in the Retro house was the best thing to happen to me.

Cinco De Mayo

Living with a group of strangers is a crapshoot. Watch any reality TV show or get a new roommate off Craig’s list and unpredictability ensues. The new roommate equation is this: craziness of stranger + size of accommodation = level of living success. With seven very distinct personalities, in a house that isn’t exactly huge, I had dubious original thoughts.

However, it only took a few short days living together to see how special this semester was going to be. We bonded quickly regardless of age, sex, political thoughts, or body odor. For one semester at Deakin our lives were intertwined.

We slept under one roof, we shared a tiny kitchen without anyone loosing fingers, we occasionally agreed on movies, we laughed with (and at) each other, we saw each other at our best and worst, and we came together to form a terrific group that unites under one name: The Autobots.

The quote of the semester came last week as our group started to disband. “Autobots… let’s roll out one last time.”

It’s sad to say good-bye to friends made during a semester abroad. It is an emotion harder defined to say good-bye to the people that I have shared nearly every Australian experience with. Whether it was exploring the city, sitting in the living room playing Warcraft III, giving me inspiration for the blog, or catching some rays, there was always a roommate there. I came to Melbourne from a fairly small family, and five months later, I leave with six new siblings.

The First Supper

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Today, as the title suggests, is my last day in Melbourne, Australia. This is also my last week for officially blogging for ODU. I cannot wait to wake up tomorrow and start my Queensland expedition. I am ripe with anticipation. At the same time, saying farewell the place I’ve grown so accustomed to is never easy.

Last week I wrote a good-bye letter the #75 Tram. However, I unjustly left out a few other aspects of my everyday Melbourne life I took for granted. So on this final day, I wish to formally bid adieu to the following:

The Walk To/From Deakin

Four days a week I made this trek that was too short to tram and too long to walk. My daily plans revolved around the walk. I refused to make the walk more than once a day. Therefore, the entire day’s school-related activities fell between the walk to and from Deakin Uni.

The Bottle-O

This local “convenient store” is situated just a few short steps away from the house. Being most convenient on the weekend (or after a long day of classes), our house became valued customers. I once thought their prices to be heinous, only to realize they have some of the most average prices in Australia.

Deakin YMCA

Surprisingly, this gym reminded me of home. Going to the gym provided a comfortable routine in my life. What’s more, seeing the majority of patrons concentrate on the bench press/bicep curls, gave a feeling just like any American gym. While I won’t miss paying $22 every two weeks for a membership, I will miss the friendly staff that took the time to almost remember my name.

The Nightrider

This late-night bus is the awkward cousin of the tram. Businessmen ride the tram with their briefcases and parents take it with their children for a day in the city. The tram is respectable. The Nightrider, which operates until 5am on the weekends, is not.

Typical Nightrider rides consist of, but are not limited to, 16 year-olds trying to pawn (allegedly) recently bought boxes of wine, Dr. Phil-esque relationship discussions, sharing of Hungry Jack’s or Maccas fries, or big group sing-alongs.

Even with all of the outrageous antics of the Nightrider, there is always one given, making it home safe and sound.

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I strongly believe packing/moving is the worst invention in the world. The notion even trumps algebra and stubbing a toe. I am unfit for packing. I have no sense of climate change, pack too many socks and not enough boxers, and always leave my favorite shirt behind. To make the situation even more confusing, this time I am packing two suitcases going two very separate directions.

Suitcase one, my biggest piece of luggage, is U.S.A. bound. Rather than lugging around my box on wheels throughout my travels, I decided to send it home. As an added bonus, it is cheaper to send the suitcase home instead of paying for all of those checked baggage fees.

Suitcase one is being shipped via the Australia Post’s sea mail. Sea mail is hilarious and great. I’m pretty sure beloved suitcase will be traveling on a Titanic sized ship, and will go to the bow, and will sing “My heart will go on” in a near perfect bravado. Soon I will drop suitcase one at the post office, and in 2-3 months, hopefully see it on my front doorstep.

Suitcase two is more of a duffle bag. The duffle bag will be accompanying me to Queensland and so on. While the bag is going to be filled predominantly with shorts and t-shirts, that does not make the job any easier. At the time, I always believe that I am packing my best clothes. Upon arrival, I look in my bag to find nothing but ill-fitting pants and horrendous shirts that could double as a picnic tablecloth.

Once upon a time I was good at packing. When my sole responsibility was to pack my toy dinosaurs and fireworks, it was fun. There is a slight sense of lingering excitement as I clear out my room today. I know I will forget my lucky boxers, but I will only find out on the next part of my adventure.

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Facebook has recently come under a great amount of scrutiny. It seems like people either love it or hate it. I fall somewhere in the middle. Obviously, like 98% of my fellow college students, I waste a disgusting amount of time perusing “The Book.” Yet even with all of its shortcomings, Facebook has revolutionized studying abroad.

Before I ever left for Australia, I knew my roommates. By creepily stalking them on Facebook, I was able to make judgments of their character (luckily, most of the judgments were wrong). Facebook allowed us to get to know each other weeks before we ever met face-to-face. When we were finally all together, I already knew who liked John Mayer or The Simpsons, or who really wanted Facebook to change back to the old layout.

I am not a girl. I cannot extend my right arm while holding a camera and snap a perfect group photo. I do not own a purse. I hate adding extra bulk to my pants (reference “The Passport Wallet”). These facts plus more explain why lugging a camera around all the time is impossible.

One would think that I would be out of luck when it comes to having photos of the great times in Australia. One would be quite wrong. Having four girl roommates means having four cameras. And with the “tag” feature on Facebook, my time in Australia has been documented four times. If my science is correct, that makes the pictures 4D.

Pictures are also a great way to stay up to date with friends from home. When homesickness strikes with its powerful fists, I can live vicariously through some acquaintance’s new album.

Sadly, my time studying abroad is almost over. In the months here, I have made some great friends. Besides looking cooler, having all of my new friends on Facebook will make staying in touch one “like” click away. Of course no friend will be left behind with the obligatory “happy b-day” wall post.

I have made preliminary travel plans to visit some study abroad friends some day. And you better believe Facebook will be the primary source of communication for said travel plans. It is easy, familiar, and free.

There is a debate going on in the Facebook world about how it’s best utilized. Is it a digital soapbox to stand and complain about work/finals/relationships? Is it a battleground for who can post the best “text from last night?” Or is it an awesome place to stay connected with friends from around the world? I choose all of the above.

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You know you have been in Melbourne for too long

1. You have seen the promising start, anti-climatic finale, and had a favorite for Australia’s Got Talent.

2. It’s not a joke anymore when you say “Melbin,” “no worries,” or “how ya going.”

3. Jay-walking is not as life threatening, now knowing which way to look first.

4. “4 seasons in a day” is less baffling, but still just as every bit frustrating.

5. You think $7 for a pint is a steal.

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I write this having just completed my final exam of college. However, I must write a brief tirade of the ludicrousness that is Deakin final exams. I have previously noted that exams are located an hour and a half tram ride in to the city, rather than on campus. That is not the most frustrating part.

Let me paint a mental picture of the testing center in the convention center. Imagine one student at one desk, begin to pan out to see more students at more desks separated by equal distances, now play epic music and pan out further to what appears to be an infinite amount of students sitting at an infinite amount of desks, with supervisors scurrying up and down the isles, like a scene straight out of The Matrix.

Fortunately, I will never have to do that again. I am done and only six days away from the next part of my adventure. Unfortunately, other people have ended earlier and are already on their trek home.

Saying good-byes on this side of the hemisphere is different. When I was leaving to come to Australia I made my peace knowing I would see all of my friends shortly. The good-byes now are a little more difficult. Certainly there are friends that I hope to see again, there are some that I know I will see again, and there are others that I know I will never see again.

Exams are over and I am only a few short days away from relaxing on the beach. That is reason to celebrate. On the other hand, the friends I have made and grown with over the past six months are all going their separate ways. That leaves me heavyhearted. Happiness and sadness thrown in to the blender that if life, producing a salsa that can be delicious and colorful, or sometimes can have a bit too much onion.

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Dear #75 Tram,

Do you remember when we first met? I do. I will never forget that hot February morning. I had just taken a train from Sydney and arrived in Melbourne clueless. Trams were whizzing by left and right creating a blur of white and green. But one tram stood out like a beacon of light. I approached slowly, cautiously. Then you said “I will take you to Deakin, I will take you… home.”

Since that first day we have created quite a bond, haven’t we? You graciously pick me up and drop me off right next to my door step. We have literally spent days together counting the accumulated hours. Any time I want to go in to the city I know where you will be.

Yes, we’ve had our rough times. I have been frustrated when you are late. You take twice as long to get in to the city during the day. I sometimes forget to bring change to pay for you services. Your owners have fined my friends $170 for putting their feet on your already less than clean seats.

We also have our grand times. We’ve had adventures to find the best burger, to search the lesser known parts of the city, and to travel to the ends of nearly every suburb. On the weekends you transform into the party tram, taking my friends end I almost anywhere we need to go. And sometimes when I’m feeling lazy you take me to school, even if it is only a short walk downhill. A montage of our good times accompanied by the Turtle’s “So Happy Together” would be perfect.

Thank you Tram 75.

Yours truely,

Stephen

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Ask any group of true Melbournians what their favorite burger is and you will most likely spark a debate more intense than Victorian Parliament budget discussions. Those lacking taste buds and class may say Grill’d, or even worse, Hungry Jack’s. Those that respect their mouth and have respect for their city will only have two possible responses. The question of who has the “best burger” in Melbourne is between Andrew’s Hamburgers and Danny’s Takeaway. Thus presenting the burger wars.

VS.

Round 1: The Venue Andrew’s is located in Albert Park, a quaint suburb that has the feel of small fishing town. Although it is just a few minutes from the city, I arrived feeling a million miles away. The service is nothing short of amazing. The staff is passionate about serving up the best burgers in a timely manner. Even better, the owner works along side his employees and manages to keep a giant smile during the lunch rush. Without any seats, however, finding a place to eat can be a challenge.

Danny’s sits in North Fitzroy, a hipster area with an eclectic ambience. Unlike Andrew’s, Danny’s has a handful of bar stools in order to enjoy the feast sitting. This burger joint is no-nonsense. Come in, order, take a seat, and try not to annoy anyone. Is a burger spot a place to make friends or a place to eat grilled meat?

Round 2: The Chips (fries) It is a well known fact burgers are best with chips. At each place, chips must be ordered separately. Andrew’s chips are rather expensive and fall on the stale side. And with no ketchup in sight, the cardboard sticks get in the way of the burger. Danny’s, on the other hand, serves up a dish of perfectly seasoned chips. What’s more, a never-ending bottle of cold ketchup sits only an arm’s length away.

Round 3: The Burger To make the judging fair I ordered the same type of burger at each place. This means ordering a burger with the lot. A bored farmer must have invented the lot. It consists of tomato, lettuce, onion, bacon, and egg. It has become a necessity on all burgers.

Danny’s burger was impressive. Less the burnt onions, the burger had it all: a modest size, a reasonable price, and toppings that complimented the patty. All in all, though, it could not stand up to its superior.

Danny’s Burger

Winner: Andrew’s Hamburgers Andrew’s burger serves up a TKO of flavor explodability. Each bite is as much an adventure as getting to the place. It is messy, it is monstrous, and it put me in a burger coma.

Andrew’s Burger

Eating the burger on a park bench in beautiful Albert Park is not to be missed. I came hungry, excited, and skeptical about the “best burger” in Melbourne. I left with grease on my pants, ketchup on my shirt, and a crazy combination of burger related intoxication/unconsciousness.

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For most students it’s actually just a few study days. Luckily for me, my first exam isn’t until next Monday. Along with getting ready for exams and finishing up my final assignments, I plan on using this week to check off my final Melbourne pursuits.

Streaking a footy game, boxing a kangaroo, hi-jacking a tram, watching Australia beat America in a friendly match of soccer: all things that will be left for my next time around Melbourne. Most of what I have left to do is not as exciting. I still have to take some pictures of the city, finish up college, try a few burgers, and soak up culture in a museum or two (blog foreshadowing!!!).

Staying abreast of all of my assignments/exams has become increasingly difficult. If senioritis is native to America then I must have a case of being-in-australia-as-a-fifth-year-seniorsclerosis. Each assignment takes twice as long as it has in the past. Studying on my computer has become “let me see how many other things I can do beside studying.” (Side note: I now have a flawless resume, logged a record number of hours on wikipedia, and received my Ph.D. from the University of Southern Minneapolis-Wichita Online.) I can, however, see the light at the end of the tunnel. If I can buckle down this week and put history facts in to my brain, I will soon be done.

This week is also the calm before the storm. Next week will be so chock-full of exams, going away parties, packing, planning and other various highs and lows, I will surely become nauseous on the emotional roller-coaster. As the days quickly pass, I am starting to realize how little time I have left in Melbourne…

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Streamlining my pants has become and obsession of mine. Each pocket becomes utilized in order to minimize bulk. Jacket pocket holds the cell phone. Right pocket holds the keys and chapstick. Left pocket holds the coins. Back pocket holds the wallet. There is little room for alteration.

But then there is the passport.

It is no new notion that pubs/clubs/bars require proper identification before admittance is allowed. Usually my state issued driver’s license has sufficed. However, in Australia, an American driver’s license is just not enough. It only takes one long tram ride in to the city and being told, “next time bring your passport” for the lesson to stick. Therefore, it has become necessary to bring my passport to ensure entrance in to said pubs/clubs/bars.

Adding a passport to delicate balance of pocket power did not work… at first. When a person’s back is against the wall, the human brain is capable of sensational feats. My brain traveled years back to show a glimpse of one the greatest inventions: a man who combined the passport with the essentials from the wallet. The Passport Wallet.


The Passport Wallet donning a metro card, debit card, and cash.

I have adopted this simple, sleek, and sophisticated look. My pockets are thinner than before. With The Passport Wallet nestled close to my heart in the shirt pocket, my buttocks again lay flat, as natural as a baby, correcting all spinal issues.

There are always going to be naysayers of The Passport Wallet. People say it’s not safe and easy to lose. I say the risk of losing my identity/money is not nearly as important as the risk of looking like a dunce with enlarged pockets.

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