Sunday, August 25th, 2002:

Doo Meat Pie

… Which will become Saturday, August 24th as soon as I cross the international dateline. Neat, eh?

As mentioned in my last entry, the sudden stoppage in uploads ain’t my fault; my trusty iBook has developed some kind of glitch that prevents it from connecting to the Internet. So far the rest of its functions seem intact, so I’m able to at least compose my entries from high above the Pacific Ocean, that is until my battery runs out — this particular aircraft has no power jacks.

My bad experience at the Taronga Zoo was but the first thing to taint my otherwise five-star rating of Sydney. In terms of authentic Australian culture, the nearby (relatively; it’s a fourteen-hour drive) city of Melbourne seemed more like the real deal. It didn’t hurt a bit that I was flown in for free, spending just over an hour with gorgeous stewardesses and funky youngsters on Richard Branson’s rock and roll airline, Virgin Blue. Upon my arrival I was greeted by my ticket benefactors and immediately whisked away to the charming Mexican-flavoured adobe of Rusty Berther and family. After a tour of bohemian St. Kilda it was time for a gourmet dinner at the similarly bohemian loft of John Fleming and wife Judith. I fell asleep watching road videos of the Scaredies on tour in Canada — sorry boys, been there, done that!

The next morning I watched the down-under duo in action at a local radio station, then experienced another first class museum, and the first I’ve ever seen with an exhibit on human sexuality! I spent the afternoon gadget hunting up and down the Bourke Street Mall, marvelling at this country’s mobile culture all the way. Text messaging is huge here; I couldn’t walk four steps without seeing someone hammering away on the keypad of their mobile, which for me immediately demanded an explanation of why I could send SMSs to Canada but not locally to the Scaredies. The answer I got is that SMS transmission isn’t guaranteed internationally, at least not in Australia, which in turn begs the question: What’s the point? The ability to contact friends on the other side of the world for pennies is to me nothing short of miraculous, but the utility of said service goes way down when you can’t beat roaming charges and do the same with someone coming across town to pick you up. As the locals say, “Not happy, Jan!”

Technology did make my first footy experience that much richer. Rusty took me to the MCG, bringing with him a radio so’s I could listen to some colour commentary with the game. Aussie Rules football is an invention of cricket players, who as legend has it, drew up the rules in an afternoon for a sport that would keep them fit during their off-season. Their creation is as exciting to watch as it is popular, and much more agreeable to this hockey fan’s tastes than any North American version. On the way though the stadium after the game I met members of the Canadian footy team, in town for a world match that had transpired earlier in the week. I was invited to watch them play out their regular season at an outdoor community centre in Mississaugua; somehow I don’t think it would be quite as “full on”.

When I touched back down in Sydney the next day, I had to hoof it to get checked back into my hotel in time to load up on souvenirs at the big market across the street. Then I went back to Paddy Maguire’s Pub, and sat out the wait for a real outback burger with a pint of local stout. I could have bought some at the bottle shop — a counter at the pub where you can take home your favourite brew — but sorry friends, my suitcases are all full of vegemite.


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