Tagged in: Sydney

Ten Things I Hate About Australia (In No Particular Order)

1. Beer Does Not Come in Pints.
The Pint unarguably is the proper and correct serving size. It’s impossible to feel cool ordering a schooner and having a tiny little girly glass.

2. Assigned Seats in Movie Theaters.
I can see no earthly reason for this, aside from pissing me off by slowing down the lines.

3. Book Prices are Ridiculously Jacked-up.
Prices in general seem high even for a San Franciscan, but books seem disproportionately pricey. The latest fluctuations of the dollar and Australian dollar have helped somewhat, but this poor reader is still out of luck. First stop when I get stateside: Powell’s.

4. High Hippie Density.
Maybe its something to do with the prevalence of surfers and backpackers who populate Bondi, but it seems like there are quite a few unnecessarily dreadlocked individuals. I can barely walk down the street some days without wanting to retch a little from the patchouli stink.

5. Coffee is more complex than it needs to be.

6. High Douchebag Density.
This is actually a much bigger problem than the hippies. I see alot of bling and hat-tilts in the male population. Others have written more extensively on the geopolitical ramifications of this topic, to which I have to add only: Amen, brother.

7. High Deadly Animal Density.
Sydney is an urban area, and encroachments from angry mother nature are rae. But I can never forget about all the thousands of animals and plants out there who are plotting my death.

8. They Only Speak English in the Loosest Sense of the Word.
Australia’s unique linguistic heritage has created a hodge-podge of unlikely names and words that just sound weird to my American ears. Coupled with a racial incliniation to shorten/infantilize every word they come across, it can become inscrutable. For example: breakfast is often “shortened” to breakie. But you’ll notice that they both have the same number of syllables (2) and are therefore the same length. Same for “football/footy” An Australian friend introduced himself as “John, but you can call me John-Oh for short.” He lengthened his name for short.

9. Disappointing Scarcity of Kangaroos.
Despite having signs like this:
dsc02483There weren’t that many kangaroos hopping around. I expected the people to ride them to work in the morning and store their valuables in the safety of their pouches. Imagine my dismay when I learned that not only was this not true, they don’t box or rap either. And upon my return to the United States and the inevitable debriefing of my family and friends I find that they tend to be more disappointed with the things I didn’t see (Kangaroos and the Outback) than the awesome things I did see.

10. It’s Too Big and Too Beautiful.
And I had to leave it.


2L Dispatch: The Ugly American

I’ve noticed a trend developing in my classes here in Sydney (all of which have an international law focus). In the early parts of class, the Professor and/or another student will speak of the U.S. in less-than-flattering terms. It’s no surprise considering that in any discussion about WTO intellectual property requirements, the United States is the elephant in the room and it would be absurd to talk about international agreements without mentioning the driving force behind them. Nor am I shocked to discover that the rest of the world does not look as favorably on America as America looks on herself.

The most splenetic vitriol usually spews from other students, and not form the Professors. I picked my previous graduate degree up in Cape Town, and what I’ve been noticing is a continuation of the trend that began there. What’s interesting to me is to watch the reactions of the class after I make my first comment or ask my first question and my American accent alerts them that they have an Imperialist in their midst. I tend to be the lone American voice despite the high numbers of international students in my UNSW classes. The demographics skew more toward the Asian and European, with a lonely Canadian being the only refugee from North America. Sometimes I agree with a point and sometimes I disagree. Generally, the my contrarian streak prompts a rise in patriotism whenever I’m away from home, usually in an inverse relation that involves a complicated calculus factoring in time away from home, distance from America, number of pints consumed, and level of discourse (serious or just law students doing what law students do best- argue). Suffice it to say that I’m never more Pro-America than when I’m surrounded by classmates who are clearly anti-.

I tell them to hate the Game, not the Playa.

And it’s not like the realization that there is a U.S. citizen in the House slows down the haters. But usually after I make my nationality known people tend to glance at me as they are making their points. Perhaps they want to make sure that I’m not about to fly into a jingo-istic rage and demonstrate a Washington Consensus to  dropkick them or put a Toby Keith-ian “boot up their ass.”

I won’t, of course. But it’s amusing to see them glancing at me out of the corner of their eyes as they comment. This even applies to Professors. I’ve noticed a few sidelong glances from my International Contexts of IP Law prof as she discussed the strong hand of the U.S. Trade Representative.

I suppose that there is some expectation that I will react, if not with cartoon violence, than at least with a vigorous and spirited defense of my homeland. Sometimes I do. Sometimes, I agree with the criticism. I’ve never been a fan of knee-jerk reactions and my relationship with my country is a complicated one.

I get the feeling that this surprises some of my classmates. After a small group discussion about what it means to be [whatever Nationality you are], one woman told me that she thought it was strange that I listed negative aspects of the American character.  She didn’t list any for Australia. She said that wouldn’t be too wierd, because she knows that there are Americans who are critical of the government and culture. But she said she was taken aback by the fact that I also listed a number of positives. She would have been more comfortable with a binary state. I am an American who (circle one) Hates/Loves America! The fact that my feelings are more complex struck her as odd. When I asked why, she told me that her image of what an American is tends toward more rampant boosterism.

This is largely true. But it also largely untrue. We are large; we contain multitudes.

Exile in Bondi: First Impressions of Sydney

So I’m living in Sydney for a while. Been here a couple weeks and am starting to get a feel for the city, its contours and crannies. The city is only now getting back to normal I’m told. My arrival coincided with World Youth Day 2008, a gathering of young Catholics and their guitar-playing, slightly goateed youth group directors. Apparently there were over 200,000 attendees. My first glimpse of the Harbour Bridge was spoiled by the fact that it was covered with an endless line of them, marching in procession. They styled themselves Pilgrims and they swarmed the city for a few weeks.

A woman and several teens were looking around like they were lost and asked me if the bus I was waiting for went to Oxford Street. This was my second day there, and I didn’t have a clue where the place was, so I shrugged and apologized.

“I’m a stranger here myself. Sorry.” Hearing my American accent, she naturally assumed I was part of her group.

“Oh, are you a pilgrim, too?” she asked.

“Yes. Yes I am. Would you like me to tell you a story about a singing rooster while we wait for the bus?” I replied.

Judging by her horrified expression and the manner in which she gathered her charges up and moved on the next bus stop, I take it she wasn’t a Chaucer fan. Sadly, this is not the first time in my life a Canterbury Tales joke has fallen flat and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

The Pilgrims that were here for World Youth Day did an awful lot of singing, and marching while they were here. Things are a little quieter now that they’ve gone and it’s given me more of a chance to explore the city. So far, so good. The people are uniformly warm and friendly and the city is picturesque. I’m living in Bondi Beach, which looks about like this:

photo by betta design

It’s a happening place, with lots of young people and backpackers and whatnot. Outside the downtown CBD area, it has a relaxed sort of pace. There are many surfers, despite the testicle-shriveling combination of weather and water temperatures we’ve had lately. I would sooner sit on the couch and watch Endless Summer (I and II) than actually get in the water and try to surf myself. I’ve never been much a surfer, which is slightly odd because I have usually lived near a beach and I really like surfing movies. Point Break, In God’s Hands, North Shore, hell even Blue Crush. Yet I have only tried it once, and I somehow managed to get a jellyfish between the board and my stomach and it did what jellyfish do. I don’t even like to swim. Or lay out and get a tan.

And yet, I look being near beaches. Walking on them sometimes. Maybe. I am a complex man.

Sydney is expensive. The exchange rate isn’t doing me any favors and the price of everything seems to be slightly jacked up compared to what I’m used to paying in the U.S. (even in California). I’ve still managed to head out a few times. The level of joviality seems high, generally. People tend to sing and chant. Then again, the recent victory of the Wallabies over the hated Allblacks may have artifically inlfated the good cheer quotient. Rugby wins have that effect.

Single beers come in some amount less than a pint, which is disappointing. I was able to counsel one of my roommates against ordering a giant can of Foster’s, which they don’t even seem to have here. I went for a Cowaramup IPA which stood up admirably against my current favorite Sierra Nevada, and nicely demonstrated the Aussie knack for improbable combinations of letters acting as proper names.

Classes just started at UNSW, where I am studying for the semester. Like any nerd, I’ve been looking forward to the start of a new session. Having gone out of my way to avoid Australia-centric classes that won’t help out my overall law school goals (whatever they might end up being, I’m pretty sure Australian criminal litigator isn’t on the list of possible careers), I find myself faced with mostly International Affairs type classes. I am currently re-acquainting myself with the WTO and the other Bretton Woods organizations. It is just as much fun as it sounds.