Surprisingly, I wasn’t jet-lagged at all. I fell right asleep and woke up promptly around 7am. The hotel provided this complimentary breakfast (which I guess wasn’t actually complimentary, since we did pay the hotel for the rooms …). It seems that when it comes to food, Australians are big on this thing called GI, short for glycemic index . It’s like an extra thing added to the nutrition facts of foods. Apparently, low GI is good and conversely, high GI is not so good. From Wikipedia:
The Glycemic index (also glycaemic index) or GI is a measure of the effects of carbohydrates on blood glucose levels. Carbohydrates that break down rapidly during digestion releasing glucose rapidly into the bloodstream have a high GI; carbohydrates that break down slowly, releasing glucose gradually into the bloodstream, have a low GI. For most people, foods with a low GI have significant health benefits.
Anyways, breakfast amounted to a bunch of fruit for me – peaches, pineapple, rockmelon (Australian for cantaloupe), honeydew, grapes, orange juice. I think the taste buds on my tongue felt numb after, but what can I say, I love fruit. And if it’s all you can eat, I’ll eat all the fruit I can get. I tried some vegemite (this salty black/brown yeast extract Australians add to their toast) and I actually kind of like it, even though most of my friends thought it was gross. I feel that one’s liking for vegemite is acquired. Then it was off to the dumb orientation. I feel that overall, the orientation was just a huge excuse to get UC students drunk/partying. I mean seriously, the first event is a cocktail night. There would only be like four hours of orientation total over the three days. And where are we situated? In the middle of the red-light district. Just do the math. Plus EAP drags us all the way to Sydney the beginning of February when most Uni’s don’t even start until start of March. Some highlights from the orientation:
• (somewhat taken out of context) the EAP director said: “Australian government pay you about $5000 per baby”. A ton of guys laughed pretty hard at that. She meant it in the sense that Australian government is more supportive of certain things like maternity/paternity leave.
• the Australian accent that two of the Australia EAP personnel had. It’s just so fun to listen to and I really want to learn it! It’s kind of British but harder to follow. I always find myself asking Australian people I’m conversing with to repeat what they’re saying.
• Australian slang: (pissed: drunk; fags: cigarettes; root: sex; chemist: drug store; yum cha: dim sum; musk sticks: kind of candy; dim sims: a dish in dim sum; tim tams: this chocolate cracker snack; esky: ice chest/cooler; ta: thank you; china plate: your domestic partner)
Then we took a bus to this harbor-area called the Circular Quay. It’s where the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge are located. Gotta go to the touristy places. It was hot. Sun just beating down on you, but good thing there was a bit of wind. You know that hole in the earth’s ozone that we keep hearing about? Apparently that hole is right over Australia. King of sucks doesn’t it? That the world’s contribution to pollution hurts the Australians more than it does other countries? As a consequence, the Australians have the highest incidence of skin cancer. Gotta wear sunscreen when you’re in Australia! Anyhow, the Sydney Opera House is gorgeous. The Harbor Bridge? Not so much. In fact it looks kind of ugly. I could look at the Opera House for hours. It’s so different from all the buildings you’ve ever seen before. The white domes even have scales! I thought it was all just one cohesive white shell but you can see that it is composed of a ton of smaller white squares connected together.
Then we went on a cruise around the Sydney harbor. And guess what there was on the cruise? More booze! Lame. It wasn’t a special cruise for UC students. There is this company (Captain Cook Cruises) that has a monopoly over all the ferry services in the area. I wonder how they control price gouging … Anyways, ferries are more than just for seeing what’s around the harbor. They’re used to transport people from South Sydney to North Sydney and such because the attractions are spread throughout the Sydney area. And there are like six different docks from which you can go onto different ferries and go to different suburbs of Sydney. From the ship, the sights were pretty good, just touring the different parts of Sydney. The gales of wind were darn strong. Blew my hat right off my head, but luckily not into the ocean. There were battleships docked close to the shore that basically looked like toy battleships but much larger in that they had that grey/green’ish tint. All I took away from this is that the Sydney area is BIG. There are a lot of places that you can see.
Then a couple of us walked over the Sydney Aquarium. Too bad I didn’t bring my Berkeley ID with me on the trip. Deprived me of a concession ticket! Darn it. Could’ve saved A$10. Note to self, always bring a college ID to get free discounts. And even more so in Australia, where there are concession prices for like everything! Zoos, museums, … shoot I think some Subway stores even has concessions! The hands-down highlight of the aquarium were the dugongs! I thought they were spelled dewgongs from Pokemon. Dugongs are these huge, grey, seal-like creatures. They’re bigger than seals though and I think they’re vegetarian? I’m not sure. There was this huge tank where the dugongs resided and we got to through these tunnels under the tank and look up at the dugongs. We watched them feed on lettuce. I even got to see dugong poop (verb and noun)! That was immensely hilarious to watch. Watching it come out and disintegrate …okay that’s enough.
I even got to see sharks! In another large tank like the dugongs were in. There were so many sharks … I wonder how they all don’t start killing each other. I was impressed by the size of some of the manta rays. They were enormous! Probably around a meter in diameter. That large. And the way they swam was cool. They just flapped around like you imagine a rug would fly in Aladdin. Then there was this large shy turtle. I could not quite get a good picture of it but I was in awe nonetheless.
We ate a food court by Darlington Harbour, which has a theatre with the largest IMAX screen in theatres. Imagine watching the Dark Knight there, which they were playing by the way. They were also showing this animated film called “Fly me to the Moon”. Darlington Harbour was a happening place, right next to the water and bustling with people. About 15 times more packed than nights at Huntington Beach or Seal Beach. Everybody was so well dressed, though girls more so than guys. It was as if everybody and their mother decided to suddenly go to prom. All the women were in formal black dresses and men were in a button-up shirt.
All of us felt ridiculously underdressed. At first we thought that Aussies just had a huge desire to be fashionable and dress-up on Saturday nights. And while that may be true, it might also be because most clubs won’t let women in unless they’re wearing the proper attire. The dress codes are less strict for men.
And if we thought Darlington Harbour was happening, the Kings Cross was happening x100. Clubs were jam-packed and there were so many people on certain streets that it was kind of hard to walk. Like at Darlington, all the women were in black dresses and many of the guys in button-up shirts. It was pretty crazy. Aussies like to have their fun. I guess it doesn’t hurt either that Kings Cross is like party central.