Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Settling Into Melbourne

I'm in Melbourne. I live in an apartment/hostel complex called Unilodge @ Melbourne. I have a single apartment and it costs a ridiculous amount. It's about A$961/month; I think that's more than what I normally pay at Berkeley ... Anyways, it's right across from Melbourne Uni and I suppose that I am paying for that convenience. Thank goodness I am only living there for a semester. The reason why I say it's both an apartment and hostel is that I do not have my own kitchen or bathroom, but I do have my own sink. The bathrooms (not co-ed) and kitchen are communal. It's like dorm life again with RA's here and the while shbang. There are a few differences, however. Most of the rooms are singles and there are only like three or four double rooms per floor. I wish I got a double. Double rooms are apparently only around A$1200 but they're way bigger! I think there are around 20 singles and 3-4 doubles per floor, so around 30 people per floor at unilodge. But unilodge is a huge building. 12 floors in all, and that's considering that in Australia, what we commonly call the first floor is actually the second floor and there's a ground floor. So I guess thirteen floors in all? Communal kitchens are a great idea because no person really needs their own kitchen. Most times, people don't even use it. And since everybody shares and eats in that room, it's a really easy place to meet people.

I arrived in Melbourne February 9th and that was pretty early compared to most people, since school does not even start until March 2nd. So for the first few weeks, unilodge was quite dead. Nobody had moved in. I was just there.

During those weeks, I honestly did not do that much. I ate out a lot because I did not know where were the best places to buy groceries. I often frequented the State Library because they had free WiFi there. The Victoria State Library is quite weird since it's a non-borrowing library. I mean isn't borrowing part of the definition of a library? Anyways, you can just use the stuff there, but you can't check anything out since apparently, some of the materials that they have there are very unique and they don't want to risk losing it. So on top of the non-borrowing aspect, they don't allow you to carry anything bigger than a small bag into or out of the library. This would be the prevent stealing. They have these 3-D metal outline of boxes and your bag had to fit inside it in order for you to get it. There are guards there and all. Pretty crazy. They also have locker rentals so you can put excess stuff that won't fit into that little metal outline. It's like A$1 for 6 hrs of locker rental so not a bad deal. All in all, the State Library is damn nice. Tall ceilings. Heaps of computers. A room for video games. Chess boards so you can play chess. Interesting things no less.

I was there really often because so many of my errands required the internet. I skyped with my parents, registered with the US consulate, got a pre-paid phone, applied for dorm housing back home for next semester, figured out which subjects (Australian lingo for what we commonly refer to as course; 'course' actually stands for your major, i.e. course of study), etc. Even got some of AMCAS application done there ... Figured out what things I needed to buy to get settled in.

I spent a good amount of money eating out, which I now regret. I mean I didn't eat at the five-star restaurants, but I checked out a ton of restaurants nonetheless. Other than that, it was a pretty uneventful few weeks. Doing things that I have to do, but not things that people love to do. It's all planning.

In general, I really like Melbourne. It reminds me a ton of SF. There are trams that people actually take for work-related reasons unlike those trolleys in SF. Weather isn't as ocean-esque. But there's a huge business district (called CBD - corporate business district), gorgeous buildings, heaps of people, but it still has a somewhat laid-back feel. I live pretty close to the main part of the city (about 5 minute walk), this central square that is considered downtown. Melbourne itself has a ton of suburbs and is darn huge. I can't even list all of the suburbs. And apparently, each of the suburbs have their own feel, but I have yet to experience it. Some ones are more rich/poor or densely populated with certain ethnicities. Some are not that safe. I feel overall, Melbourne is a very well-run city. It's pretty clean and they really give you all the tools to go out and have fun. The amount of public transportation is just massive. There are trams, buses, and then different kinds of trains - metropolitan and the V-line. People talk about how good the BART is, and don't get me wrong, it is good. But the amount of good/efficient public transportation Melbourne offers just puts Northern California to shame. The network is HUGE! I really don't know why the US jump on this public transportation bandwagon.

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