10.22pm - Meals On Wheels
Trip Start Jan 07, 2010
77Trip End Dec 13, 2010
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I've said it before and I’ll say it again – the worst thing about travelling? Travelling. I’ve been up since just gone six this morning, and I’ve only just arrived at my destination. Still, there’s no shower like the shower you have one bus, one taxi, three planes and a new time zone later.
Fiji so far seems nice enough – couldn’t really see much of it on arriving because it was dark and I was running around Nadi Airport worrying about my outbound flight to Suva – my flight from Sydney was inexplicably 30 minutes late taking off, even though they’d long since closed the doors, which had me drumming my fingers impatiently on the seats when we arrived, since everyone was standing up waiting to go and nothing was happening for a good ten minutes after
But before I get ahead of myself and start thinking about my flight back to Nadi, I should catch you up on the rest of my time in Melbourne. Now, it’s no secret that I adored Adelaide – it’s large enough to be interesting and small enough to be quaint, and has a thoroughly laidback air. It’s also widely mocked in Australia, apparently, and seen as being a bit backward. That alone would be enough to make me root for it as an underdog, but happily I loved it before I even found that out.
The Great Ocean Road isn’t really his strong point, but since he spends most of his time in the city centre (when he’s not roaming the Malkiewicz acreage on horseback, anyway), my tour guide came into his own as we chugged slowly around the various districts of Melbourne.
"Here is just one of our many lovely parks," he announced pointedly as we passed, well, a lovely park. I nodded very seriously. (Adelaide has a lot of parks, for which I had professed a fondness over the weekend.)
“This is St Kilda, where there is a nice beach and lots of shops and restaurants,” came next. (I had also professed a fondness for Glenelg.)
“And that is Luna Park,” he added, almost as an afterthought. I sat bolt upright and fumbled for my camera.
“Holy shit, it’s even scarier than the one in Sydney!” I cried excitedly.
Other exciting sights of the Mal-bourne tour included the sunset view of the Yarra River, a massive and inexplicable sculpture of a purse, and the university campus where J is currently studying for his masters. It was very interesting, though it must be said that his main thoughts on tourist information seem to be denigrating the bits that don’t meet with his approval rather
Since I couldn’t stalk Justin all the time, I also got up to some other things on my own around Melbs. My solo adventures included a trip to the Melbourne Aquarium, which was fantastic, even better than the one in Sydney in my opinion. I was initially attracted to the fact that they have king and gentoo penguins there, but seeing them penned up was a sobering experience. It’s a funny old thing – humans are tactile, and we use touch as a way to create intimacy and trust. But we frequently forget that wild animals don’t feel the same way. People want to pet the dingoes because they look like dogs, and petting a penguin seemed fine to me way back when, but having seen them in the wild (and in such numbers), unconcerned by humans but in no way seeking their attention or approval, it seemed pretty fucked up to watch the usually dignified kings practically falling over themselves to get at their keepers come feeding time. The gentoos
But aside from my penguin issues, the aquarium is a jolly good time, and let’s face it, we can’t all go to Antarctica and look at the millions toddling around there, so it’s nice to be able to educate people who wouldn’t ordinarily get the chance to see them. What’s better, after all – a few tamed or trained animals cavorting in a zoo, or people trampling the countryside in their millions to see them in the wild, creating pollution and potentially irreparably damaging the ecosystem? Or even more disturbing – people not caring at all about anything more foreign than their own pet goldfish, and remaining entirely unconcerned at the thought of these animals disappearing slowly but surely from the face of the earth? Human beings have already caused massive amounts of damage – what’s the solution to trying to fix it? I don’t know, do you?
Mind you, if you think the humble aquarium’s got me waxing lyrical (and let’s face it, this is not really a serious place, when you can also touch a shark’s egg and overhear multiple – MULTIPLE – conversations in which people point out the types of jellyfish they or their acquaintances have been stung by), that’s nothing compared to the other place I visited – the Immigration Museum. Australia started life as the land of the Aborigine, but when white Europeans arrived, we embraced the idea of terra nullius – no man’s land. And what better to do with a land that belonged to nobody than fill it up with people? Over the years, millions of people have migrated to Australia from all over the world, but chiefly the UK, so as an English person who is always vaguely on the lookout for somewhere groovy to live that’s not England, I found it fascinating to see some of the reasons other people had for hammering on Australia’s door and asking to come in. Some of those reasons were horrifying, of course – tales of asylum seekers and refugees, war-displaced families, Jews fleeing the Nazis and more besides. And Australia has not always done itself proud in such situations – for years, they operated a pretty racist policy that kept out anyone who was not a white European and preferably anyone who wasn’t
The whole museum is thoroughly interesting, but the best exhibit is probably the interview room, where you can choose to listen to the interviews of nine applicants from immigrants hoping to get various visas to move to or stay in Australia, over three time periods. What’s really interesting is that they’ve obviously told some of the actors to appear fairly odious or sympathetic, and although you can recommend whether you would approve or reject their application, the unseen interviewer makes the final decision. So you see an unpleasant but white and middle class English couple get approved, and a shy Chinese woman who only wants to stay with her Australian-born husband and children get rejected and sent back to China in the 1920s. You are even faced with a nicely topical Iraqi asylum seeker in the present day. My favourite thing about it was that the same actors were reused, so I watched happily as the same
But it wasn’t all thinking weighty thoughts in Melbourne. Allow me to also throw in the fact that I went for a wander around the laneways (cute little backstreets full of boutiques and tiny cafés) and I found a shop called Babushkas that sold nothing but Russian dolls. Thousands of them. Russian dolls painted like Barack Obama, Russian dolls painted like Vladimir Putin (that makes sense, I suppose), big Russian dolls, teeny Russian dolls, as many Russian dolls as you could ever want or need in a lifetime. It was TOP. I was utterly delighted with it. I wanted to buy hundreds of Russian dolls but reluctantly acknowledged that this would be ludicrous on every level. Still, a shop that sold only Russian dolls. Doesn’t it boggle the mind? How can you possibly make a living doing that? There was a magic shop two doors down (a proper one, selling spells and everything) and even that was nothing compared to the Russian doll shop. Sbasyba for the memories, Babushkas.