Big Question Marks

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Illegal alien.... no more!

I (Dayle) was just greeted with such fantastic news that I had to share- the Australian government has just approved my second visa! So I'm no longer an illegal alien anymore, on an endless "bridging visa." It's good to know that my 3 months (oh sorry, 88 days!) of slaving away at fruit picking and tomato sorting, my $400 or so for the application and the medical checkup (you know, to see if I am bringing a deadly disease into the country a year after I already would have infected people from Victoria to Queensland and back), and my unpaid hours of boredom sitting in the Health Services waiting rooms have paid off! The gracious Aussie government has kindly assured me (for only $223!) that my eyes are just as bad as they always were, I'm still the same height and weight I've been for ages, and also had me go for two pee-in-a-cup tests (ew) AND a chest xray. Hey, at least I got an afternoon off work. Hallelujah, the doctor must have checked off "Normal", instead of "Abnormal", in the question about the patient's intelligence on Form 26A! I've got myself another year in the country- maybe I'll go pick some pears to celebrate.... uhhh, or maybe not. Adrian's another story though-- maybe they've figured out he really is an alien. Fingers crossed he gets his visa soon...

In other news, we had a happy Easter (hope all of you did too!) eating chocolate eggs on the beach, and camping out along the Great Ocean Road again. We watched a 360-degree lightning show at Johanna Beach (where we'd camped about a month ago and fell in love with the spot) and soaked our hiking boots on a beach hike alongside what we're pretty sure were at least 15-foot waves. Crazy! It was a gorgeous scorcher of a weekend, though now it's been pouring really cold rain for days in the city.

We also watched some of the Rip Curl Pro Surfing Competition at Bells Beach, where the surfing girls got a little festive and tossed a big chocolate egg around while surfing some waves. And we've learned that eating hot cross buns is the major Aussie/Kiwi Easter tradition this time of year (think Easter, the cross, etc)-- and it's really the only time of year you can get them here. Crazy!

And then there was my own Easter treat- quitting my overworking, underappreciated office job. I even copied my resignation letter straight off the web to hand in. Liberation! And Adrian's got an exciting gig in a CBD bank tower, to start next week. So as he's going all corporate, I'm on my countdown to the 4th of April, my last day. I've got a few plans up my sleeve but will reveal more as the time comes. For now, I'm almost on vacation--Yippee!
(Oh yeah, and we're buying ourselves a "Take Me To Your Dealer" poster to celebrate!)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The 1st Rule of MLB is -- You Don't Talk About MLB!

I was on my way to a snazzy office building in the CBD (central business district), to drop off some paper work to my 'handler'. Nothing big, just business forms and such, the usual paperwork anyone goes through when signing up with a temp agency. Like most days in downtown Melbourne, it gets hot and bright, so naturally I have my water and my Jays Cap on, pushing through the crowded streets.
In heat this bad no one smiles, it's all looks that cows make when they're cooped up in a pen. Blank stares, slow blinking, anything to save energy really.
You relish the time you have to stop at the intersection while the lights are changing, take a swig of warmer-than-pee water that was ice cold when you left the house. It's in these weird moments time crawls by, giving you what seems like eons to glance around and realize that you're the only one glancing around, studying all those jack-arsed faces - looking forward, slack mouths, blinking slowly, and trying to save energy.

On my return glance across the street is where I saw him, staring right into my eyes. It's the intrusive stare, the kind you first look away from but peek back to see if they've caught you. Yup, you're caught, next it's confusion; "Why me? Is he staring at me?! Maybe he's looking at someone behind me!".
The last thing you want is to be stopped by some crazy in the street that pulls you aside to preach about Mother Mia the Moon Goddess - especially in this heat. So you stare ahead like the others, focus on the walk light. But he's there, staring. Determined to make eye contact again, you can see him just out of the corner of your eye, staring you down like a mean old bull.

It's just before the light changes that I get the guts to look him in the eye with all the machismo I can muster.
Finally I clue into what's going on. Melbourne city dwellers hate wearing baseball caps. With all the heat baking my brain I wonder how I could've missed it. Looking over all those blank faces you'll never see one baseball cap - let alone an MLB cap.
The sea of colliding people stream toward each other from opposite sides of the street, bringing with it the staring dude-- wearing an Oakland A's cap, the green one with a bright yellow 'A'. A giant smile cuts across his face, mine too, our unspoken 'secret handshake'. Before the two sides meld, we both exchange a quick nod, then we're lost in a fury of people pushing, crossing, you have to keep up or be lost in the mess. On the other side safe, I look back briefly - nothing.
And for the 6 blocks I can't stop smiling.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Hangin' at the Grand Prix

Melbourne Grand Prix
Originally uploaded by bigquestionmarks.
Last weekend we both worked at the Melbourne Formula1 Grand Prix- both for the cash as well as well as for the experience. At $99 a ticket, there wasn't much chance we'd be going as fans, anyway!

For two kids who aren't much into cars, it was actually still really cool. Adrian was the guardian of the corporate box for CAT, where he schmoozed and hobnobbed and ate lots of free food, and watched bits of the race where he could. Dayle was placed right on the Grandstand, checking tickets (and busting people who tried to sneak through), and getting to run to the track once in a while to watch. She was ecstatic to find she was right between the start and finish lines!

The weekend was hella hot- we're told quite unusual for March in Melbourne- Friday and Sunday were the worst, wearing thick uniform shirts (to quote Adrian: "I now know what it must feel like to wear a burqa") and sweating like crazy in the 40-degree heat. At least it was sunny! We saw many a drunk sunburned Aussie hiding in the little scattered patches of shade. Dayle actually had a zombie scare (and had begun comtemplating climbing the grandstand frame) when a dude in an orange t-shirt did a loping zigzag shuffle, hands out front, right towards her gate, and then promptly tripped on the first step and fell on his face. She realized then with relief he wasn't a brain-thirsty zombie, he just had a few too many VB's. Phew!

The crowd was really all for Ferrari- maybe it's all about the name?- and there were fans in red everywhere (or perhaps because Kimi Raikkonen won the race here last year). Lots of people wore flags as capes (quite the Aussie sporting tradition it seems) and there were even a few gladiators (check out our pics on Flickr). The band Kiss was closing the weekend, so on Sunday there were also many weird-looking people in black and silver, limping around the grounds of Albert Park in their moonboots.

But the coolest part was the noise- even while wearing earplugs there was something exciting about the vrooming engines on these machines. If you had to take a earplug out, even for a few seconds, the Formula Ones would rattle the teeth. Insane! We were told by some fans that the cars go 300 km/h or so... just unbelievable! (Especially since we have a van which barely does 100 km/h!). We also watched the V8 cars racing, an Aussie tradition of Ford vs. Holden (the big car manufacturer over here, which we heard is going to make a go for it in North America). There were also some miniature-- but super-fast-- races by the "Aussie Racing Cars", that were so tiny the driver's head was seen where the back seat would be, in these little rounded cars. Cute! (No pictures of those but they're probably online somewhere) Then it was the usual fighter-jet shows and people drinking lots of beer that seems to come with such events... that about sums it up.

Word on the street is that the Melbourne Grand Prix continues to lose tons of money and might not be here past 2010 (it came here from Adelaide just a little over a decade ago). Kind of sad, since there's a cool track for it around a lake and people get pretty excited about it. We didn't even realize there's a Grand Prix in Montreal, but when we're back we definitely want to go! Sure, it's terrible for the environment, the blue clouds of exhaust, but there's something so cool about these terrible beasts vrooming around a track with fire coming out the sides. There were even these handheld TVs you could rent for the weekend (called Kangaroo TV I think) which looked like PS3's but fed you live camera footage of each racing team, in the pits and in the cars, aerial views on the track and so on. You could eavesdrop on whoever you want and actually follow what's on when it's too fast to keep up. Pretty cool!

Now we're working on recovering our hearing and are heading out for some camping along the Great Ocean Road. There's a big surfing competition on at Bells Beach, so we plan to hit that, just chill out a bit and eat chocolate eggs on the beach. Happy Easter everyone and thanks for reading! Hope you all have a wonderful weekend! xoxox, D&A "?"

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Salty Tales from a Pirate Techno Party

First and Foremost -- Sorry for not updating last week, yes we're still alive, BARELY!

It was a long week of cold, rainy days that reminded us that the image Australians like to uphold about their country can be quite the "furphy"- that's Aussie for a tall tale. Like most travelers arriving to the promised land of sunny beaches, surfing, and scorching desert wasteland, we didn't think to pack a few warm sweaters... let alone a pair of slippers. But even the locals were saying it's usually a lot warmer in February in Melbourne (though we don't believe much of what they say anymore). Cold or not, when we received a last-minute invitation to board a pirate-themed birthday party/booze cruise on a boat, we couldn't turn down an opportunity for silly summer Saturday night fun such as this...

After a quick trip to The Reject Shop (the aptly-named dollar store downtown), we were outfitted with classy eye patch/sword/hook get-ups. We raced down to the port, where our pirate boat was scheduled to take off at 6:30pm on Saturday evening. Unfortunately, the sad news came that we weren't partying aboard a proper pirate schooner, it was just your typical harbour-cruising boat. And our group was surprisingly difficult to find- you figure, "ah, just look for a crowd dressed as pirates". OH NO... in Melbourne, pirate-chic has seen a rapid rise in popularity, and everyone around us was dressed like a pirate in one way or another (damn you, puffy shirt!).

Eventually we did find our party, and it was a pretty cool thing that people (in a country which doesn't 'do' Halloween) were keen on dressing up for a theme party. After managing to avoid the $10 cover charge to hop on, we were ushered up the plank for some swashbuckling fun- or so we thought. We were still tied to the dock when the sun set- around 8:00- and when we finally did set off, it was too cold to enjoy the sights outside. Like good pirates, the passengers set to work keeping warm with a steady flow of overpriced bourbon and Coke. (Rum what??) There were plenty of good photo moments, a fake-moustache fashion show courtesy of a fellow pirate who had brought a collection along (Adrian makes a fabulous Freddie Mercury, while Dayle was a not-so-convincing Colonel Sanders) and heaps more "ARRRRRRRR's", and then some squirrelly guy wearing a very un-pirate-like flowered muu-muu (and claiming to be the DJ) decided to flood the boat with the brain-numbing techno music they seem to love here. And that was about the time when we and our Irish friends Claire and Aidan realized our doom.

Watching the lights on the city skyscrapers go by, so near yet so far away, it dawned on us that the idea of hopping on board a pirate party had been so exciting it hadn't even occurred to us that it could possibly suck-- and we'd have no way of escaping. As our boat circled the industrial boatyards with their parked cars sitting with trunks open by the water (get on your cement shoes!), the techno got louder and louder. All we could do was yell across our table to each other and count down the minutes until midnight, when our boat was due to land. We can only imagine how much fun it must have been in the real pirate days, to be trapped on a boat on the high seas, full of unwashed scalawags and scurvy. You know, back before Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley made it cool.

Hopefully our moustaches took the party up 2 notches.