Art is a Feeling

I parked my little blue Miata outside of a massive house with plentiful gardens, in a no parking zone. I was running in to pick up my entire family so that I could head out to Australia.

The entrance of the house led to a spacious room with dark wood floors and a giant orange painting flagged by two brown leather chairs. The work extended out into a shrine-like formation and was almost luminescent. I put my arms out like I wanted to hug it.

Beyond the room my mom and I found a secret door with a tiny flight of stairs leading to an unknown space. I wanted to explore the rest of the art so badly, but had to battle myself into leaving to ensure the car wasn’t towed and that I didn’t miss my flight.

The last piece I saw existed in smaller entrance/exit room. It was a mirror, cut into segments, suspended with string over another mirror cut in a similar way. The two faced each other, suspended in space, creating a fractal of distortion. Whoever came up with this concept was a genius. I wished it were my idea, and wanted to use the concept in my next instillation of a migraine, mirrors would be the ideal thing to represent the visual cortex’s inability to piece reality together.

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When I was showering and remembered a few pieces of dreams, I was delighted to realize that the mirror idea was actually mine, less so to discover I had a slight cold. I made some miso/ toast and my flat mate invited me to come sit in the sun where girls were tanning in bikinis.

I realized I had forgotten the bike tour, had missed it by several hours, and was disappointed. This made me glad I was sick, because I probably wouldn’t have been up for it anyway.

I had no desire to become tan or drink margaritas, so I went to my room to study neuroscience, start a painting, and blow my nose.

The Ranch

Wednesday night is a wasted night on campus. My flatmates, or at least the three of us that weren’t expressly invited anyplace, creeped around 39 and 57 before landing up at 39, where we were welcomed warmly, and played the following game:

We didn’t want to stop, but we had to go to “The Ranch” for “Hump Day.” My new and slightly less new Aussie pals and I piled into a tiny shuttle, sitting on one another’s laps and singing songs.

Sandra lost her phone, so those of us who were not wasted (3/22) had everyone quiet down and look for it. By the time we got to The Ranch the Nokia was still lost, and I was scolded: “M you have to stop dancing for one fucking moment, we have to find my phone!” – Someone else cheered: “Never stop dancing!”

I was a sucker and paid $4 for a nasty cocktail. I learned last time to wear ear plugs when around Candice and dance floors, and was not sorry about having learned my lesson. The two of us like to be the first ones on the dinky platform stages that abound and everyone else around spills vodka on my left sleeve.

I had had enough fun by 11:00 pm, and was walking out when I saw my new friend Sophie in line for the bar. She invited me to chat outside, and introduced me to her cool looking friend who made eye contact like he knew what I knew, and it was our secret.

As I waited to order a beer I thought about how much $5 is and how I could be studying for the GRE.

My previously mentioned umbrella-friend was offering to buy me a beer when Candice cut in line with some sort of golden ticket. I took this as my opportunity to sneak away and left to wait for the giant shuttle to take me back home.

Ask Us Anything!

At orientations and informative sessions people just want to help you. In the past two days, I’ve heard phrases like: “Just ask the RA/lifeguard/student adviser if you have any questions or concerns about ANYTHING, I mean ANYTHING!”

“Student counseling services, how may I help you?” – “Hi, Can I borrow like, 5 dollars to cover bus fare?”

I Forgot to Take my Camera to This Dream

My family were sitting on our old green couch, which was somewhat revived, we were all going to sleep. I left to sit with Kristen (BFF), watching the sunset reflect off the lake that the living room melted into. The pink was almost violent in its saturation, demanding that we stare in awe. Kristen pointed out that the lake looked like melted chocolate under the energetic sunset from our angle, and wondered what it looked like from above the clouds or outer space. I wondered what it would be like with a different type of perception completely unknown to me, or as nothing.

We began flying in a helicopter, during an earthquake. It seemed the shaking worked its way up through the atmosphere and created and odd sensation of gravity. As it turned out, an older man was telling us his story of a perilous flight, and we were transported to his memory.

Driving through San Francisco, the city streets became winding highways  edged by tall rock walls. Apartment complexes replaced the rocks and mirrored them in structure – tall buildings on either side, where each door was nearly square and could fit a small car. The doors were stacked with varying placement, and each was a different bright color. Looking into a few of the open doors I saw modern design like one sees in architecture magazines, I was taken by a stainless steel bunk bed and thought that this is how college dorms should be.

Kristen, Leah and I walked into a green door and were greeted with a party of unknown Swedish relatives. I walked into one the of least crowded areas and met a very pregnant woman with sandy blond hair in a pony tail, a green shirt, and an open face. We shook hands and then she pulled me into one of the biggest hugs possible, picking me up and carrying me around as I thought: “Wow, its nice to be loved by a mom.”

Goon

Pt 1: Slow Motion Filter

Sometimes I am obstructed from my self-imposed plans by the people around me. Recently, it took the form of Sandra saying she would make fajitas.

I went with her to “Woolworths,” (I shop at Woolworths, with my own paper – flavor!). I bought one bell pepper, and it cost $6. I didn’t realize that’s what $16 a kilogram meant, but bell peppers are called “capsicums” in Australia, which totally makes it worth it.

The trip to the grocery store turned into going on Sandra’s errands for four hours, and listening to her stories of so-and-so calling her a slut when in fact she is not a slut, and in that way she is rather like Ann Bohlin.

It was a slow motion filter on personal efficiency, but I happily bought a little Peace Lily, a piece of poster board, and some incense to get the nast out of my carpet-cleaner-room. In the end the fajitas were delicious.

Pt 2: Goon

I had made hot chocolate and was heading into the cold to check internet when my flatmates invited me to play doubles at “Water Pong.” It was a good three games, and ended up being followed by a party at 57, catty-corner to our apartment.

“Punch” was being ladled out of a bucket by the host of 57, an international relations masters candidate from South Africa who was aggressive in his benevolence. I kept fighting my way to the ipod and turning down the volume, then ended up djing.

I chatted with some nice Aussies who call the village: “Little America,” and mentioned that I’d like to find an apartment in the city and get more integrated into Aussie culture. They said Aussie culture is saying: “Cunt” a lot and paying twice as much for hard liquor.

 I’ve been hearing a lot about: “Goon” and its turns out to be the Aussie word for “Cardboard Wine.” The big thing in the village is to walk around with a plastic jug that’s half orange juice and half goon. After a while the crowd thinned out and people were wondering where the host had gone. I found him at my house, selling drugs to my flatmates.

I closed my door and was brushing my teeth, and Mr. 57 took that as an invitation. “That’s pure flirtation” he informed my flatmates then he looked in my closet and put on my jacket. Naturally I would end up being good village-friends with Mr. 57.

A (German?) fellow had also ended up in our flat and was informing Jake that the girl he was with liked him. He impressed us with his knowledge of geography, talked close to the faces of others, and asked the same questions repeatedly. He told me that while he was downstairs making Facebook friends with Matt, that Matt said he loved me and never wanted me to leave.

 

Fake Winter

After a night in the City with a heap of American and Australian acquaintances, a conversation with a pair os Swedish/Brittish pirates in a 7/11, and a night-bus back to the Uni with my flatmate who got kicked out of the club, I woke up at 9:00 am. Six hours of sleep is not too bad but it’s bad enough.

When I called Joanna about the bike tour I thought I was missing she informed me it was next Sunday. I mediated and made breakfast. When I looked to my pre-loaded internet pages on neuroanatomy I found them blank. I napped until noon.

When I woke up I was going to be productive again, but then got invited to the city with  Liz,  Michelle, and Mary-Kate. We were hungry when we arrived so we stopped at a pub just outside the station. I got a VB and some fries for $10 and we all bonded over one thing or another. We got three pitchers or “jugs” as they’re called in Australia, over the course of several hours. I bought the last one, totaling another $10, making the unit cost per beer about $3.33.

Micelle and Liz were invited to a dinner and we headed back to the train station. There was a 27 minute wait so I left my pals and picked a direction to walk.

I stopped to take a picture, and a 67 year old Czech man reversed his path to talk to me. “Australia is shit.” The man proclaimed.

He told me his life story: He has been here 21 years, the beer is not good, he divorced his wife two months ago, just retired his gynecology practice, and used to teach physics. He began talking about Einstein and World War II, and how he was always trained to think Americans were the enemy, but he thought I was a “smart person” and not the enemy.

My phone alarm went off and I said I had to catch the train. He thanked me for my time.

It might be fake winter, but tonight the real winter smells make me believe what the season is talking about, and not feel so bad about letting the day pass so quickly.

Water Pong

Arriving at unit 49 one day, I was informed we have a new roommate, who is also American. We all groaned. When he met us he also seemed disappointed, and we discovered he is a bio-major baseball-player named Matt. After some time hanging out together I realize he is a practitioner of ironic sarcasm and we’re going to get along great.

While my flatmates bonded over hotboxing the room next door, I drew pictures of different anatomical regions of the brain, with descriptions of known functions. When I felt cold I washed my backpack in warm water (I spilled chile sauce all along the inside) and toweled off my sticky headphones and ipod.

The water was so nice I got in too. Because I was so clean and good looking, I decided to run some errands I had been putting off, and walked to the shopping centre where my new bank is to verify my address. Then I was overcome by anxiety and left.

When I got back I called Noah, figuring 1am at home (4pm Australian time) was not unreasonable. It had stopped raining and I still needed to check internet for the day, so I walked to the library. I realized I had forgotten my student Id with my login information.

It started raining again. An Aussie boy asked if I was going to the village and if I wanted to walk under his umbrella. I was enjoying our chat, but we got to my flat, so I gathered my ID and umbrella and walked back to the library to check my 54 Facebook notifications. Noah had written so many funny comments that I disturbed the peace in the library with laughter.

Pt 2

Sandra, a Boston gymnast of Greek descent with ADHD, called me. I had been wondering if she’s doing all right, having been abandoned by her flatmates, so I invited her to dinner. She showed up at the library and talked about the things she had bought.

Sandra questioned why I am not a big theatre person, since I seem so eclectic otherwise. Since this was about the 4th time she’s asked, I merely said: “Because theatre is uncool.” It was barely raining, but we still had umbrellas, so she sang a boisterous rendition of Rihanna’s “Umbrella” complete with a musical-theatre vocal affect, followed by something from Hair. Hair, she says, is an excellent musical. Sandra changed and came back wearing six inch heels holding a laptop with which to blast brostep, and vodka.

I made spaghetti and salad as Sandra tried to share her vodka with my flatmates, who were sipping whiskey through party straws. Sandra talked about being a “Vodka girl” and enlightened us on the properties of another favored liquor of hers called “Ouzo.” We each had several helpings of dinner to the soundtrack of Sandra counting calories.

Everyone went to a party at 69, which is the apartment I was accidentally given a key for on my first day here, and it was packed. There was a Woolworth’s shopping cart with a leopard print umbrella outside as decoration. Sandra announced that she is a “vodka girl” to those drinking other beverages, …”vodka and Ouzo, Ouzo is a Greek liquor that’s amazing.

Fellow student Mary Kate motioned to my thermos cup and said: “Nice!” so I offered her a sip of my hot chocolate and she said she was already drunk, I repeated: “would you like a sip of my hot chocolate?” Its a great joke to brink hot chocolate to a party.

Because of new rules set in place by management, drinking games were banned, so people at this party were playing: “Water Pong” which is: “not a drinking game, just sport.” I’ve never played pong (outside of a screen) either way and tried a couple of throws in between rounds, but was unsuccessful. Its difficult because the ping pong ball is so light, and the clear plastic cups (not the archetypal red plastic cups you were picturing) are also light.

Next to me Sandra was telling a German guy about how she’s a “Vodka girl,” I was glad to see she was making friends. I left the party then so I could have a skill-building montage at home, and come back to beat them all with my Water Pong skills. I had it to where I got the ball in about 60% of the time, right and left handed, and then went to sleep.

Water Under a Bridge on a Duck’s Back

Jeremy reached the bottom of the “U Curve” and wanted to see Harry Potter. When I heard this second hand I said: “Oh, well we should go then,” but put no further effort into it. One flatmate (#4), Liz from Boston, announced she would make us pasta, so after I checked internet in the rain I came home expecting a family dinner, but no one was home. I made a snack of miso with scallions, shitake mushrooms and chili sauce with toast and watched Australia’s Top Chef. which is unlike American reality TV because every contestant is polite and says nice things about their opponents. Then I went to sleep at 10:00 pm.

The next day I walked around in the rain, acquiring a student ID, adding money to the ID account, and printing out resumes. By the time we met up with Joanna, our moral support/activities adviser, I looked like I’d been swimming in my pea-coat.

Noticing the state of the students Joanna offered: “I know it seems depressing because there is no one here and its raining heaps, but it will get better.” She talked up some of the activities we can chose from this semester, saying she hates worms and is claustrophobic, but will take students on a tour of caves with glowworms and reckons it will be awesome.

She referenced my DJ skills and how I’m her “Indie Kid” of the semester. She questioned: “Why are you in Australia? Mostly I get big university blokes who want to meet a crocodile dundee” I told her it was an arbitrary decision and wondered if I had made the right choice.

Jeremy approached me after the meeting,  asking about how I was going to Sydney just then, so I invited her along. I had figured out a route beforehand, but she thought the bus would be cheaper than the train, so we deliberated over a new route. Sydney presented us with rain-shined architecture. We shared her umbrella and headed the wrong way on a free shuttle.

When we made it to the salon I was modeling for people with cool haircuts served us tea and biscuits, one of them stroking my hair to figure out what she would like to do with it.

Afterward we ate at a place called “Sugarcane” which had a modern interior with organic shaped light fixtures on pale gray walls, a tiled counter in different shades of green, and completely stainless steel kitchen (I’m mentioning this because I forgot my camera). I had a thai chili dish with perfectly fried eggplant for $12.

Sydney is unlike New York because if you look confused people go out of their way to help you rather than calling you an asshole. Our waiter pulled out his laptop to find the bar we were meeting Jeremy’s friends at in spite of the restaurant being busy. Between asking for directions from every passerby, despite my confidence, Jeremy complained about how she hates Macquaire and wants to transfer to U Sydney. I sympathized. She is trying to transfer and  Joanna is trying to convince her otherwise, using me as bait. That made me think: “Oh, well maybe I could transfer.”

U Syd has grassy lawns and “old-school” architecture in the heart of a city – tempting – but then Jeremy mentioned that there’s a $2,000 penalty from Butler for leaving the school you enrolled in, plus another couple thousand to enroll at another school late and secure housing. I didn’t realize anyone else was disappointed with Macquarie’s location or aesthetics, but by the 23rd or so time the point was reiterated I didn’t feel that way myself anymore.

 

Luckily, after Jeremy’s friends were found I ran into a few of my U Syd friends, and keeping with a tradition established during orientation, Shane Trujillo gave me 3/4 of the beer he didn’t like. I chatted with Grant, who is ironically fulfilling his American Studies major requirements while abroad.

Around 11:00 pm, when it was really getting fun and my friends were tearing up the dance floor we had to leave to catch the train. Or at least I thought that was the plan, Jeremy followed her friends to another bar. Once we got there and it was too loud I suggested we make sure we catch the train, which we didn’t do – we had missed the last one.

Jeremy hailed a cab to take us to Central Station, where apparently there was still one more train. She was on the phone so I paid the $14. I was taking in my surroundings to figure out how to get to platform 16 when Jeremy started running, I figured she knew where we were going and followed her – she didn’t know where she was going. We ran back the way we came and I couldn’t keep up so we missed the last train at by 3 minutes, and got a cab back to the city.

Through all of this she swore and said: “of course.” I was happy to be in a new city figuring things out. It could have been a lot worse, someone could have lost a tooth! However, losing a tooth is far from the worst thing that could happen, just ask me! Jeremy’s desire for flawlessness made me reflect on my own perfectionist tendencies and realize that I have become more accepting. It’s water under a bridge on a duck’s back. Back at the bar at just after 12:30, the friend I was staying with was having a nice time drinking so I hung around like a sleepy ghost, making friends with an International Relations major from Costa Rica. Everyone was daring me to do a shot, but its about $8 a shot in Aus. In the end I asked the bartender about vegan options and he gave me a shot of Tanqueray with peach and lychee while everyone else had something blue that fizzed. I was about to pay when I realized the bill was settled, and everyone was too drunk to realize I hadn’t pitched. Making change is too complicated with big bills, so I accepted the gift unwittingly bestowed upon me.

We left the bar, bought some pastries, warned a couple of drunk kids that the cops were after them, and went back to the cold dorms. My pal gave me her bed even though I should have been the one sleeping on the floor. She took her comforter and pillow and I slept under a sheet and my wet jacket (there are no heaters in Australian student housing). I woke up bolt upright at 9:00, realizing I had forgotten about an interview at the KIT Macquarie Brain Imaging Lab at 11:00, thanked my friend, and hurried back to the train station, where trains were running late due to wet weather. I had my flatmate look up the number to call to inform them I would be running late, but it was the wrong number. Then I arrived ten minutes early.

Riding the momentum of a good interview I found a coffee shop that was hiring, and had a nice cappuccino with a fern pattern, so if I get a job there hopefully I’ll learn that trick. The moral of this long winded fable is that its easy to ride momentum, you just have to do it in style.

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When you go to a foreign country you start a blog. Here are highlight pictures of orientation, which was jam-packed with fun activities and mediocre dining. In overview: If its not tea time its tea time, I was the only one who liked Vegemite, and Australia is known for its crazy flora and fauna (as my lil’ sibling puts it: “Wolfs? Oh yeah, we have that in Australia, except they are as big as cars and shoot darts from their mouths”).

 

 

Lady meets her spirit animal.