Two Yanks Downunder

A blog about the experiences of two Americans on their first visit to the fabulous continent of Australia

Monday, July 31, 2006

Perth and Re-Perth

Saturday was the only free day for our students before the upcoming Monday start of classes and so we decided to take a break ourselves. It was supposed to be rainy again so of course we decided to get out of the apartment and go sightseeing in the nearby major city of Perth. Of the approximately 2 million people who live in Western Australia (which is three times the size of Texas) about 80% live in the greater Perth metro area. Since we are not acquainted with any of these people, they would not know to stop us.

If you are a regular reader, you might recall that we went to Perth on Wednesday on an outing organized by UNDA for all of the International and Study Abroad students. Having been given an overview of things to see and do in town, and armed with a Multi-Rider "card" (with about 10 prepaid train or bus fares) left by the previous CSB SJU program directors, we made the 10:30 a.m. train and were in the downtown area within 30 minutes.

A very short walk from the Perth train station is a well designed square with a few important cultural centers (all with free admissions BTW) in view of each other, and this is where we planned to concentrate our time. Also, only two blocks away is the community of Northbridge, which is comparable to the Uptown district in Minneapolis, trendy shops, restaurants, dives, bars, discos, clubs etc. The same place that our students have been warned against frequenting, and where some will invariably wind up in pursuit of more adventurous night life than Fremantle has to offer.

Our first stop was the Art Gallery of Western Australia which had three main exhibits going.

However, the musuem information desk said the one with recent works by indigenous Aboriginals was closed for that day since new security systems were being installed. I think they just said that to us and would open it back up right after we left, Wendy told me not to say that to them and this time I listened to her. Anyway, we got to see some of these works by looking over an open balcony on the upper floor since the paintings were leaning against the wall and resting on the floor making them very visible. There were really neat greeting cards in the museum store with amazing quotes and I wanted to buy some, but since they were $4.50 each, someone talked me out of it.

Next we decided to walk over to Northbridge and get some lunch. There were lots of places to choose from, but typically several were closed even though their signs indicated that they should have been open. A couple that sounded tempting were actually out of business, so we settled on a Japanese place and would end up being served a veritable feast for much less than we would have paid in the Twin Cities.

This was unusual as most dining out seems to be more expensive than in the U.S. I know that photographs were taken and will probably wind up in e-mail to Victoria who seems to want to read about the trip through our dining adventures.

Afterwards, we visited PICA (Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts).

This gallery contained some different works, some were 15 minute videos submitted to show what the filmmakers typical day was like. One work was pretty much nothing but young people smoking reefer, eating and sleeping. There was an exhibit where the artist had used a saw and or scissors to carve out interesting patterns into books as if they were blocks of wood. Experimental short films were on display and one showed all of these plants opening up and moving like you may have seen in stop action fast forward films. Only these plants all had numerous forms of eyes, it was very strange, creepy and amazing.

Wendy is going to try to acquire this work for SJU CSB and if she is successful, many more folks will get to see it. (Wendy adds the plants are all found in central park and animation is affixed to the otherwise familiar forms. The video is called Sixes last by Arvind Palep.)

Next up was the Western Australian Musuem which focused on the geological natural history land and various lifeforms on the Australian continent. The natural history exhibits were great and we got to identify a few birds that we had seen in our various travels. There are also an amazing number of tiny little crabs native to West Australia and we will have fun looking for these (on the beach).

Even more interesting was a special exhibit on Aboriginals and their experiences since the arrival of Europeans. When we were leaving, exit and entry being through a large revolving door, a small Asian kid tried to stop our departure by refusing to leave the doorway area and wedging his foot betweent the floor and the opposite door from the one which I was pushing. He must have been nearly superhuman since I could only budge the door with difficulty and could not figure out what was happening until Wendy pointed out the situation. Eventually he let us go and we did not have to pay a toll, which made me wonder what was going on?

We then went over to the train station area where there are a few square blocks devoted to shopping and where vehicle traffic is forbidden, much like the old Mall Germaine in St. Cloud. At an outdoor cafe, Wendy bought a double dip gelato Italian ice cream cone, and then we did some window shopping. We then caught the train back home and after viewing a sunset at the roundhouse near the end of our street, we made a dinner of leftovers before Wendy resumed work on her Senior Seminar ethics course that she will begin teaching on Monday afternoon, and I watched some Australian rules football on the TV.

Surprisingly, on Sunday when we bought the newspaper, we found out that we must have had a way more boring time in Perth than just about anyone else! The Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, had been in Perth for a Liberal Party meeting and protestors had mobbed his vehicle and inflicted minor damage. Also, two other groups of protestors, those for Israel and those for Lebanon had clashed elsewhere in the city and police had to step in.

On Sunday, we noticed that MN was under a prolonged intense heat wave with horrible humidity and dew points in the 70s! Try and use up our allotment of that weather before I return, OK guys?

Wendy spent lots of time on her course syllabus Sunday morning and then after lunch we did some errands. At the local weekend market Don made his first impulse buy since arriving in OZ two weeks ago!

A local artist was selling these toys called a Floonie. They are a colored oblong clay or play dough like substance that you can push and pull to form a face with any number of characteristics to show your mood! Little tufts of hair adorn the top of the creature and you can purchase a few accessories such as a hat. Depending on their color, they have different names and Don bought a "Haiku" to bring back to MN for use around the office. Shared use that is, so office mates can indulge themselves as well.

After purchase, Don remembered that a dry sense of humor is the prevalent one in OZ and so inquired of the seller "Are they any special Floonie excise taxes that I will have to pay at customs upon leaving Australia and entering the U.S.?" This completely flummoxed the woman until Wendy intervened and let her know that I was trying to be funny at which point she replied with a slight smile that there were none that she was aware of.

At the markets, Wendy focused on more practical acquisitions like bread, fresh vegetables and fruits for our meals and then did some looking around at various crafts and jewelry for sale. We saw several of our students at the market, I interrupted Patrick while he was using his digital camera saying in a mock official voice "Hey, there's no photos allowed here!"

Also, later on Sunday, we attended evening mass at UNDA with our students. This is the mass where lots of local parishoners attend to arrange homestay opportunities for our students and other interested International students. Fr. Gregg anounced this and at the supper afterwards our group was signing up for homestays and lots of connections were being made. I asked some of our group if they were going out afterwards, but they said they had homework to do for Wendy's class on Monday! It turns out that groups of them had also gone to Perth over the weekend and some had also gone to the beach, where a few waded in the Indian Ocean, which was evidently quite, quite cold.

We plan to surprise the students by having them over to the apartment after their first Wendy class Monday for cake and ice cream. Plans are to celebrate all the student birthdays in a given month in this way, so we will see how it works out with the July group this afternoon. Wendy made one cake and we purchased ice cream and several toppings, but we may have to go and buy a cake to make sure that all of their intake needs are covered!


At 1:40 AM, Anonymous min said...

There is a floonie website but you can't order them on the Internet. Too bad.


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