Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Employed at Last

Attention angry mobs of unemployed Australians:


There really aren't herds of unemployed Australians, so I don't feel bad for making that joke.  Who's laughing about shipping away their prisoners now, huh, UK?

Yes, folks, I have gained employment.  And as an added bonus: It's in my chosen field and utilizes my Master's Degree!

I am so, so pleased and eternally grateful.

I am a temporary resident of Australia, and it seemed like I was only getting nibbles of interest from applications for temporary jobs.  So, I focused my search exclusively on temporary jobs at the three universities in town.

I won't mention which university I will be working at, or my exact job title, lest my superiors find this blog and witness my affinity for using words like "barftastic" and "craptacular" and immediately render me unemployable.  But you better trust and believe, this job is the bomb.  Dot com.

I'm a little hesitant to admit just how many jobs I applied to and interviewed for in total, in case it makes me look like a neo maxi zoom dweebie for not being able to get a job immediately in a good economy.  In my defence, though, I was being very picky, and had a quite narrow job search.  Gaining employment after ten weeks + 1 day after landing in this country (where I have no education or work experience and zero contacts) isn't too shabby, right?

Like I eluded to earlier it's a temp job, for one year.  I will be covering for someone out on maternity leave.  I want to start that fetus a college fund or something because if it wasn't for his/her existence I would not have this amazing job opportunity.  I love that frickin' fetus.  I wish it all the best in its birth and subsequent life.

This job really came up at the perfect time.  I was starting to panic big time about my situation (Did I go to grad school for nothing?  Will I have to dance for dollars to pay my student loans?  Are there even BBW strippers?)  Also, the stupid TV network stopped playing Jeopardy! every day which was my main intellectual outlet.  It's sad but true.  Home girl needs to get out of the house!

(Side note: I cannot deal with Alex Trebek sans moustache.  Grow it back, dude, you're killing me!)

I would like to take this opportunity to send out boat loads of good karma to the other people who applied/interviewed for this job but lost out to me.  I know that awful, crushing feeling of getting your hopes shattered but I'm sure there's something just as awesome out there waiting for you somewhere else.  You never know, you might wind up on an exotic new continent, working the job of your dreams with the most supportive partner ever in the near future.  You'd be lucky to be as fortunate as I.

For the past few weeks I had "upgraded" my status from Job Searching to Officially Unemployed.  I won't start the job for a few more weeks, so in the meantime I'm not sure what I'll identify myself as.  I can tell you one thing I won't identify with, though!  Desperate and poor.

Because poverty doesn't look good on me.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Labour Free Weekend in the Rainforest

Another long weekend, another opportunity to travel somewhere fab!

This time it was Labour Day (yes, with a U) which is celebrated on May 1 in most of the world and the first Monday in September in the USA.  For whatever reason it's celebrated the first Monday in May down here.  Whatever, a day off is awesome regardless of when it is (says she who is unemployed)!

Queensland, the state in which Brisbane and we reside, is huge and there's lots to explore within it so yet again we stayed within the state.  Australia is made up of 6 states, 1 territory that looks just like a state, several territories nobody seems to know/care about and one Washington, DC-esque I-don't-fully-understand-what-this-is area.  One of these days we'll branch out and see some place else besides the Sunshine State, but for now we stay in our own back yard, this time in Lamington National Park.

We have been doing nothing but beaches so far and I was feeling very bored with the idea of exploring yet another amazingly beautiful tropical beach.  What else is there in Australia?  I asked myself.  Hinterlands is the answer to that question.  Hinterlands, from what I can ascertain, means Not Beach.  Or, if you want to get all scientific, the area behind a coast.  Somewhere between the ocean and the classic Aussie outback.  Basically, the bush.

This being a national park there is very limited choices for where to stay, so we had a whopping 2 options.  I briefly considered camping but it is now autumn here in the southern hemisphere, so in the mountains it can get legit cold at night.  Tenting in our paltry camping gear is not recommended at this time of year, so O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat it is!

We rented a car, declined the extra $20 per day insurance (this information will come in handy later) and drove there bright and early Saturday morning.  Along the way Martin noticed something dead in the ditch.  Something big.  Could it be the elusive kangaroo that we have been dying to see?  I could not live with myself not knowing, so we swung the car around to have another look.

Dang, it's too far from the road to get a good look, and there's too much traffic on the road to pull over and see.  If we are to solve this case there's only one way to do it, and that's get out of the car, run down the ditch and have a look for ourselves.  All this for the slight possibility of seeing a dead kangaroo!  Psycho?  Totally.  Am I psycho enough to go for it?  You betcha!

WARNING: This picture, being roadkill, isn't pretty.  If you've got a super weak stomach I suggest you scroll past this picture without looking at it.  But really, it's not bad.
I'm giving you a chance to bail if you want.


I'm warning you.

Last chance!


Ok, here it is, a dead marsupial - that is missing its head:

What. The. Hell. Happened to that things head?!  It was gone, literally gone.  Not picked clean by predators, not detached from its body.  It was GONE!


So creepy!  Where did the head go?!  I stuck around for a picture and then high tailed it out of there.  I had a ways to get back to the car and this thing had gone reverse Lord of the Flies so I was not about to stick around and gawk.

I'm not entirely sure if this thing actually was a kangaroo, though.  The legs and tail make me think yes, but it was a strange medium size and there are other small kangaroo-looking marsupials that live in this area.  I got a kick out of being able to tell my first kangaroo experience story via decapitated roadkill, but honestly I question if this was a kangaroo at all.

But why did it have no head?  Another question to haunt me for all of my days.

We continued up the twisty, scenic mountain road to get to our resort.  We stopped at an alpaca farm along the way, which made me realize I don't know if it's pronounced al-pack-uh or al-pock-uh.  I thought they were lamas at first, so it's a good thing I don't hold a degree in mammalian biology.

As we got to the resort Martin (the driver) was gawking at the flora and fauna and promptly ran our car right in to a pole.


"Ran in to" makes it sound a lot worse than it was.  He idled into it, so it was a slight love tap at the very most.  We had to ask ourselves if it had really even happened.  So we got out to check the bumper/headlight and found this gigantic, huge scratch along the side of the bumper:

Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.  Remember how I mentioned earlier we declined the $20 extra per day insurance?  This is the part of the story where that becomes important.  Had we sprung for the extra insurance our liability would be max $300, regardless of how much damage we did to the car.  Without it, as we were, our liability could be as high as $3,000.  Before we picked up the car we did a quick glance around it, nothing too thorough, and hadn't noticed it then.

Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.

We did our best to buff out the damage with a freaking sock soaked in bottled water, which - if you can believe it - did jack shit.  There was nothing we could do about it now but kick back, try to relax and hope that scratch was there before we got the car.  Also on the docket: Try and save as much money as possible at this ungodly expensive place in case we have to shell out thousands in rental car repairs.

As I mentioned in my Asia travel blog, Martin is a huge bird nerd.  This place is renowned for its bird life so you can about imagine the exciting times that lie ahead of us on this trip!  One such bird-centric activity was a Birds of Prey show, which featured various types of raptors (these not these, unfortunately).  I did the show for Martin's sake but it was actually really interesting!  Check out this awesome barn owl picture Martin caught with his iPhone:

This owl flew right by my head and it was completely silent.  Crazy cool.  I have never seen an owl in the wild before (is that weird?) or a lot of the birds featured in the show.  A lot of them had been injured and rehabilitated and are a threatened species, so I didn't feel too bad about them having to live in captivity.  Though it's not like I've ever met a zoo I didn't love.

For a few bucks you could buy a tray of bird food and feed some of the local "wild" bird life, who were so tame they'd eat right out of your hands.  So of course we had to do that.

Bright and early the next morning (6:45 a.m. to be horrifyingly exact) we participated in our third bird-related activity in a 12-hour period and went on a guided bird walk around the resort grounds.  It wasn't really bird watching (or "birding" as it's called by the elderly nerds who love to do it) but we did look at birds, feed birds, and learn about birds for an hour.  It was edge of your seat entertainment, for sure.

It's worth a mention here that this resort was, surprising to me, actually not filled exclusively with old people.  There were young couples like ourselves, families with kids and of course, plenty of blue hairs.  Besides bird stuff, a major draw of the resort is access to hiking trails so nature lovers, as well as the geriatric infirm, can find something to love here.

Before embarking on a hiking trip of our own we had breakfast, where I had my first encounter with an Australian delicacy:

What is Vegemite, you ask?  Well, it's like Marmite, if that helps you any, which British people love.  And I have roughly zero idea what both of them really are.  The interwebz tell me that Vegemite is a "dark brown food paste" (yum yum!) made from yeast extract.  Marmite seems to be no different.  It is the waste product left over from brewing beer.  Now that's good eatin'!

These packages are super shallow and contain very little Vegemite so my fat Nutella-eating ass grabbed 2 so I could slather it on my bread real nice and thick.  Yeah, big mistake.  This stuff is salty.  Like, gag-me-with-a-spoon salty.  Once I scraped 99% of it off it was ready to eat and palatable.  To make it really delicious I think you need to use the old trick my dad does with peanut butter on toast: Add 75% butter, 25% spread for a perfect ratio.  Also, like peanut butter and various Norwegian sandwich toppings, it is important to grow up with it so you think it's ZOMG so delicious even when it really isn't.

After breakfast (and maaaaaybe a post-breakfast nap) we headed out into the forest for a day of hiking.  Before we even got off the main road, look what we ran into!

A big-ass snake!  I only screamed a little bit and that's because I was excited to see it, not because I was scared.  It didn't move the whole time we watched it so I thought it could be dead, but it wasn't.  It was just sunning itself.  This thing wasn't even in the forest, so imagine the creepy crawly stuff that actually lies within!

After a not long and certainly not strenuous hike we came upon this awesome sight:

Moran Falls, which as you can see is very pretty.  I'm pretty sure I haven't seen a waterfall this big in real life before.

We then hiked up a huge incline to Moonlight Crag, where there is a lookout point onto a [former] volcanic valley.

This hike was not so easy, it actually sucked really, really bad, especially because the whole trail was out in the blazing sun with no canopy to keep you in cool shade.  Views were beautiful but I recommend you have at least some modicum of physical fitness before embarking on this hike.  And not be a super lazy complainer, such as myself.

On the way back home we ran into some pademelons, which are adorable little marsupials that look like mini kangaroos.  After seeing the size of those, and the size of the roadkill dead in the ditch, I'm pretty sure what I saw dead was, in fact, a kangaroo.  So I will tell my grandchildren about my first run in with a kangaroo in Australia, and I will traumatize them mercilessly, like I will no doubt have done already to their parents.

We debated about coming clean to the car rental company, about the huge scratch on the front bumper.  No way in hell were we going to mention the run in with the pole, but ultimately we decided to come clean about what we found.  If we were going to have to pay up big time we'd rather know about it immediately, rather than wait by the phone endlessly for weeks, or worse yet notice a huge charge on our credit card.

So we confess the gigantic scratch on the front bumper that we may or may not have caused and await our punishment.  The car rental guy picks up the paperwork - which we had with us all along - and points out the clearly marked area of the car that indicates the scratch was there before we got the car.  We're off the hook!  Our finances won't be ruined by a hideous blue Ford Taurus after all!

The perfect resolution to a perfect weekend getaway.  

Monday, May 7, 2012

We No Speak Americano

You'd think that the English language spoken in one country is the same English spoken in another country, wouldn't you?

Well, yeah, you're right.  But that doesn't stop the Australians from saying some really crazy stuff that, to the untrained foreign ear, makes no friggin' sense.

I have compiled a short list of words/phrases that have been Australian-ized, along with their northern hemispheric translations.

"arvo" = afternoon
What am I doing this arvo?  Oh, the usual, just putting another shrimp on the barbie, then taking a nap.  Also, putting two words together to form a whole other word, like afternoon.

"ashume, capshule" = assume, capsule
For some reason some words get an unnecessary sh sound added to them.  They're still spelled the regular way but pronounced more....lispy.

"ta" = thank you
In Scotland they liked to say thank you by saying "cheers" (which I liked, made me feel like I was having a round at the pub in the middle of the day), but "ta" just confuses me.  It's not short for anything that I can see, if it were it'd be "th".

"How ya goin'?" = how are you?
I might be mistaken on the translation of this one.  Are they asking "how ya doing" or "how is it going"?  I do not know.  Whenever asked this question I stumble around it and quickly reply "Uhh...good!  And you?"  I'm not sure if it's proper etiquette to get all Joey Tribbiani and ask "How you goin'?" in reply.

"doona" = dyne (på norsk)  
This is a translation into Norwegian, because I don't think the Ikea (the authority on all international home goods nomenclature) translation of "comforter" quite does the trick.  Here's what I mean:

A dyne is painstakingly stuffed into a cover sheet that's sewn together on three sides.  Comforters, and the Americans who love them, do not have the time or patience for this task.  They'd rather use a comforter with a non-removable cover that just never gets washed.

Dyne, pronounced dee-nuh is remarkably similar to "doona".  But doona sounds funnier.

"sheila" = woman
Any woman is a sheila.

"See that sheila over there?  Her name is Sheila."

I wonder who the Original Sheila was, since the rest of us females have to live in her shadow forever more.

"bottle-o, fish-o" = bottle shop, fish shop
Apparently if you put -o at the end of a word it indicates that that item is sold there, which makes me wonder of a brothel is called a whore-o.

"toe-mah-toe" = tomato
This one isn't so surprising, as [I think] the entire non-American English speaking word pronounces it toe-mah-toe.  The reason I bring it up is because of big, awkward me and my pronunciation of it.  When I ask for tomato sauce (ketchup is too fancy a term, you see) I feel like I sound like a garish brute.  American English can just be so....indelicate.

But I clearly have a Yank accent so I feel like an even bigger jackass by saying toe-mah-toe, which is obviously unnatural and is falsely put on by me.  So I rush through the word so you can't understand much more than the beginning toe and the end toe.

"Could I get some toe*cough*toe sauce, please?"

Yes, because that's the best solution in this case!

Who puts this much thought into communicating the word tomato?  It's brought a surprising amount of stress to my life because, clearly, I have no life!

A lot of the Australian-ized (oops, make that Australian-ised) English seems to be a form of shortening words.  Because saying two syllables (ar-vo) instead of three (af-ter-noon) means you'll have so much extra time on your hands!

So much extra time, in fact, that you'll be able to fill up your eskie (cooler) with stubbies (beer bottles) and partake in the national past time:

Worth noting: shrimp are called prawns here.