Last night was spent traveling on a night bus (Greyhound Australia) from Adelaide to Melbourne. Our friend James was totally great; riding the shuttle with us to town, feeding us a ramen noodle type dish beforehand (me goreng it's called, and it's MUCH better), and taking us to a great Chinese place for chicken and dumplings before boarding. He even waited for us until we got on the bus right at 8:00PM. The Aussies in general are extremely considerate and polite people. Bus drivers, locals, the people at hostels and supermarkets... all overly nice.
The lifestyle is very care free here (like you said, dad). For example, it's not looked upon as wrong or uncommon to take a sick day (or vacation) from work. America allows 3 weeks of vacation and sick days combined, on average, whereas Australia allows 5 weeks. Our host Josh just took off 2 weeks of work and he is not looked upon any differently for doing so. I know my dad has a hard enough time as it is taking off one day of work even when feeling very ill. Also, healthcare is universal here, the wages are much higher (James gets paid $21/hr working at a supermarket) and college loans work much differently (much better).
- Nobody has to worry about getting hurt and not having insurance to cover the hospital expenses in Australia.
- There are 3 different types of pay at jobs in Australia: full time (same as America but with the longer vacation and sick time allowances), part time (less per hour, but still have sick time and vacation time), and casual (which is what James works as; not promised a certain amount of hours, no vacation or sick, but get paid a higher rate).
- College loans are apparently forgiven if the total debt is below $27,000 (I could be wrong, but James thinks that's the case) and best of all, students don't have to start paying off their loans 6 months after graduating from college, which they do back in The States. Instead, they will get placed into a job related to their field AND ONLY THEN will they start paying back their college loans.
A typical residential house in Adelaide, Australia.
The last thing I'll mention is that Elisha and I are currently "couchsurfing". Most of you have probably heard about this from me already, but couchsurfing is a social networking website that connects travelers to other travelers worldwide. How it works is that everyone makes a profile about themself, then finds other "couchsurfers" in the city they are traveling to. Melbourne alone has over 1000 couchsurfers who live there. Amherst has about 75 - 100. This year I've had one person from Pittsburgh and another person from California stay with me and my roommates. Now I am the guest (Elisha, too) instead of the host!
This is Amy and Josh, our couchsurfing hosts. Both are from Oregon and they moved to Melbourne in February of 2007.
We arrived in Melbourne at 7am this morning, took a commuter train to a suburb called Northcote, and walked a short distance to Amy and Josh's apartment. They greeted us warmly by making us a fruit salad and tea/coffee breakfast, showed us our air mattress / bedroom for the next 3 nights, and gave us a key for us to go in and out as we please. Elisha and I needed a bit of relaxing before venturing out for the day, so we took a seat on their couch and spent the next hour or so using the internet. Amy then came back from her friend's place and the three of us (Elisha, Amy and myself) went to the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria, a museum with aboriginee art among other things in the main city).
The National Gallery of Victoria, where we went today.
To wrap up, tonight Elisha and I are making diner at Amy and Josh's and then head down the street to where another friend of mine from Europe is playing music. His band is called the Lost Note Foundation (for a sample of his music you can check out his myspace page: http://www.myspace.com/lostnotefoundation) and he will be playing live tonight around 8:30. It will be good seeing another face that I met in Europe again.
Well, that will probably be the most comprehensive blog entry that you read during this Australian adventure. So I don't blame you if you stop reading after getting through with this! No no, I'll try keep up with this as I am only connected through most of you through this website for the next 3+ weeks. But in return, you must leave me more comments! Thanks to those of you who have already left them, but I expect more of the same from you as well as others! See you all soon, and how is the weather back home?
The weather here is pretty much...
Sunny, sunny and sunny - EVERYday! Knock on wood...