Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Melbourne (Pronounced Mel Bun)

It's New Years Eve Eve here in Australia. And it's amazing how many places close down for pretty much the entire week of Christmas - New Years. We've tried to visit a market in Adelaide, a few restaurants in Melbourne, and boxing day (Dec. 26) forget about it...

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.
Talk about a better socioeconomic system, right? But the grass is always greener on the other side... Australian's will have their fare share of problems to talk about in terms of their own country. Everyone here is very up-to-date on current issues, compared with America, and Australian's are a lot more water conscious. They have to be with the frequent droughts that occur. I've also noticed the architecture being extremely different, specifically in residential neighborhoods. Brick and cement houses are very common and the roofs are made of metal (either tin or aluminum) or terra cotta.

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...

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Our flight to Adelaide was a piece of cake compared with the time warp from Boston to Sydney. The flight took us just under two hours but we were at the airport about 3 hours ahead of time. That's due to our brains still operating on east coast time (it's proving very difficult to break that). Elisha and I are routinely waking up anywhere between 4:30am - 6:00am. This morning I amazingly didn't arise until 7:30ish...but also didn't get to sleep until about 3:00am. That's traveling for you... you can always sleep when you get back home.

The past couple of days have been great. December 26th here is a national holiday called "Boxing Day". Hardly anything was open but luckily we arrived at our hostel without much of a problem. Originally we had canceled it and planned to stay with my friend James whom I met traveling Europe this summer. James, however, typed his mobile number wrong by mistake and we were unable to reach him until later that night. We ended up meeting him the following day; all works out in the end.

Here's an outline of what we did since arriving in Adelaide:

December 26:
  • Flight arrives at 11:45am, we arrive at our hostel around 2:00pm.
  • Immediately upon arrival, we are told there is a soccer match about to be played (our hostel versus a neighboring hostel). I quickly change and gear up for my international debut.
  • I play soccer in the scorching heat for about an hour with other travelers from Ireland, England, Germany, Australia, Hungary, Switzerland and The States (me). Probably a few other countries as well. Our hostel won 2-1 and I was very proud of my performance.
  • We made a trip to the supermarket later that night and made a delicious meal that consisted of rotini, cream sauce, chicken, salad, and some veges.
  • We met some great people at the hostel and talked with them for a few hours that night. Overall, a much better hostel experience than in Sydney.
December 27:
  • We had an early breakfast (7am) and walked around what we thought was the royal botanic gardens. We've seen some extremely colorful, noisy, and exotic birds already on this trip.
  • James met us at our hostel around noon. We walked around Adelaide and James bought a few things from the city. The after-Christmas sales were crazy and everyone was out shopping yesterday.
  • A friend of James met up with us and we all drove together to the real Adelaide botanic gardens. We sat there and talked about Australian and American life, told some stories, and listened to each other's funny accents. Elisha and I hadn't laughed that much since before we arrived in Australia. Great blokes.
  • We drove to where James is living: showered, took a nap, and had some dinner.
  • We went to another friend's house and we stayed there for about 4 hours total. It is great knowing a local anywhere you go and being able to have a real cultural experience. We had some drinks with our new Australian friends and it was just a very cool thing being in a foreign country and playing games with 15 Australians (all our age).
  • We went to a pub and were very tired by this point. Elisha, James and I took a taxi home around 2:30 (hopefully we are over jet-lag now, but only time will tell).
Today James is going to a music festival so Elisha and I are just going to explore the city and hang out at his place until he returns. Tomorrow night we hop on a bus to Melbourne to explore an even more southern part of Australia. Then it's flying up north after the new years.


A tree at the royal botanic gardens


At the Adelaide Botanic Gardens


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

a LONG trip to Syndey

Well, we made it! Our flight departed a bit late from Logan... and this caused us to almost miss our flight from San Francisco to Sydney. Technically, we did miss it. Elisha and I had accepted the fact that we were spending the night in San Francisco, when suddenly a flight attendant from United Airlines informed us that our flight had yet to board (due to technical problems). We arrived at our gate about 90 minutes after it was scheduled to leave, yet we still made it! Somehow these things always seem to work out for me..

So after 3 hours in Logan Airport, 6 hours flying to San Francisco, 2 hours in that airport, another 14 hours flying to Sydney... we have arrived at our hostel and have just begun to explore the city. No pictures in this entry, as we have literally left our hostel 1 hour ago and come to the public library to use free internet.

Happy Holidays and we hope that everyone is doing well back home. We miss you, but not the snow!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Going Down Under!

The time has come for me to travel once again. This time, however, I'm not doing it alone! My girlfriend, Elisha, will be backpacking with me through Australia for 4 weeks. We leave tomorrow (hopefully we will...all of this damn snow!) at 5:41PM. We arrive in San Francisco at 9:28 PM (West Coast time) and board our second flight which goes directly to Sydney, Australia. We arrive in Sydney at 8:05AM Wednesday (Sydney time). You have probably noticed the clocks on the right side of my blog, showing East Coast time and New South Wales time.

Some interesting facts:

  • Sydney time is 16 hours ahead of Boston time
  • In terms of land area, Australia is the 6th largest country in the world (Russia, China, Canada, U.S., Brazil are larger). It is slightly smaller than the U.S. contiguous 48 states.
  • Australia has a population of just over 21 million people. (New York City alone has over 8 million...)
  • Government type is: federal parliamentary democracy
Anyway, this blog will most likely not be as comprehensive as the last Europe blog as I will no longer be by myself and needing to write to keep me sane. I'll have Elisha this time who I think will be a phenominal traveling partner :)

Elisha and I outside after the massive storm, Dec. 22, the day we leave!

More updates after we arrive.