Saturday, March 1, 2014

Opposite Land!

Hello from Australia! I'm in my lovely room in Perth via AirBnB. It's about 100 degrees out, and I've just retreated from the blazing antipodean sun for the afternoon.

Not Very Opposite-y
Bill Bryson observed that it was happily disconcerting to fly all the way around the world, only to end up in a place that feels profoundly familiar, and he's right. The only way you can tell Perth isn't an especially nice part of San Diego is that there are no Mexicans. (I don't mean to be flip: a fish taco and a frozen margarita would compliment this place most excellently.) The sun is crisp, the streets are wide, the cars are new and clean, and everyone is relaxed and tanned. The only way I stand out is having skin the color of boiled Irish cabbage.

So far, most of my time has been taken up with errands. I picked up my advertisement-festooned campervan and drove its giant, roaring bulk across town (staying dutifully on the left), and then promptly went out and bought a cheap hybrid bicycle that suits the small city much better. I haven't seen much of the country yet, and sadly, no pictures. This evening, I plan to step out for my first bit of recreation, and I'll bring my camera. But:

First Impressions
  • You know how old ladies dress in cartoons? Starchy floral dresses, cardigans, knee socks, and orthopedic shoes? American old ladies wear, like, track suits. But Australian old ladies dress like "Old Ladies." It's comforting.
  • The women here wear really excellent shoes. I was under the impression that people lived in flip-flops, but I'mma have to step up my footwear game.
  • My guesthouse is near Perth's Chinatown, but it's the most clean, organized Chinatown I've ever been in. I saw a guy pushing what looked like a bagger lawnmower along the sidewalk. It was a vacuum cleaner. Carol Follett would be proud.
  • A lot of people drive these sweet El Camino looking things and I totally want one.

  • Despite looking and feeling like SoCal, there's a strong pedestrian presence in the city's downtown. I spent nearly an hour getting hopelessly lost in a maze of plazas and malls looking for the stupid cell-phone store, and it was a constant crowd. Unfortunately, most of the walking areas are shopping malls, so despite the good people-watching, the cultural offerings are a bit bland.
  • Everything is very functional. Whenever I've needed something, the people who helped me were friendly and knowledgeable. In fact, the only problems I've had with my arrival have come from 1. Fucking Verizon and 2. Fucking Bank of America.
  • Even though it's summertime, Australia is so much closer to the equator than the US that the sun sets relatively early--7:30ish. 
  • Because so many of the trees are varieties of eucalyptus, the whole place smells as though it's been gently deodorized. 
  • I've seen only a couple of things that are unmistakably Australian: a few rainbow lorikeets,

  • This doesn't seem like the kind of thing you should be able to see on a city bike path.
    • and the occasional Aboriginal Australian. I'd heard that Aborigines were often pretty down-and-out, and while they do make up a decent part of the homeless population, most of the native people I've seen have dressed and appeared just like other Australians, which is nice.
    But how was your flight!?!
    Long. Emirates is pretty swanky; the food was universally tasty, and the selection of movies, music, and info on the seat-screens was great. (I enjoyed dozing off to the soothing image of clouds passing underneath us via a live camera feed from beneath the aircraft.) However, the best part of the flight was something the airline had no control over: on one of my longest nighttime legs, I had an entire 3-seat row all to myself, so I could lie across the seats and sleep.

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