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The State We’re In » 2005» July

Archive for July, 2005

Civil War

Tuesday, July 5th, 2005

As long as John is intent on starting a war, I should point out that, as with Iraq II, the motives for John’s have been misrepresented. In my defense, the conversation at the Opera House went more like:

“Matt, wanna get a picture here?”
“Nah, there are a ton of people swarming the steps now, it’s ok.”
“You sure? How will you remember Sydney without a picture of you at the Opera House.”
“I don’t need a picture to prove I was here, that’s not really why I travel.”

If that still makes me an arrogant ass or a travel snob, oh well, I stand by it. And I still don’t think it justified John cutting me out of all the group photos for the rest of the day.

Secondly, John’s actions at the bar occured on the night of the 3rd, so if John was infused with anything prompting him to make <i>extremely</i> questionable decisions concerning the locals, it certainly wasn’t “the domineering spirit of The Fourth Of July.” Whatever it was, at least it didn’t stop him from demanding to see this poor girl’s license. If she hadn’t proven to him that she was indeed 20, I think Joe and I would have had an apoplectic John on our hands when the girl’s father came to pick her up at midnight. (Louis had gone home earlier, after John’s girl attempted to hook him up with her 15 year old friend. Seriously, 15 year olds at bars, not cool) As it was, I think it still may have scared some sense into the kid. On second thought, probably not.

On a less antagonistic note: We’d all like to see some more comments up here. We’d love to know who’s actually reading this.

“Travel only with thy equals or thy betters; if there are none, travel alone.” -The Dhammapada

Monday, July 4th, 2005

Well, John managed to finally get me in front of the computer screen to write an entry…Here goes.
I start with a quote not because thats how I usually do things (in fact, its deffinantly not my style…), but because I am deathly afraid of the comparisons that will be made between this work and the others on this site. So if those of you out there who know me think all of this is a little highfalutin, that would be the reason why.
This entry is coming to you from the internet cafe next door to our hostel (”The Maze Hostel”, which would more appropriatly be named “The Shitty But Yet Somehow Still Highly Rated On The Internet Hostel With Bathrooms That Compare Favorably Only To Those Whose Foundations Include A Large Collection Facility Containing A Even Larger Amount Of …..” and so on) here in Sydney. After finding this place on the internet, and paying for four nights up front, we are now stuck. Luckily we have been incredibly busy the entire time we’ve been here in Sydney, so our exposure to the pestilence that is our hostel has been minimal.
Despite the motivation for a quote, I could not imagine a better sentiment for my feelings of the trip thus far. The group that ended up falling together for this trip couldnot be any better. With each day I find I respect each one of my travel mates more (they are also a lot of fun to get drunk with). Anyway, enough drivel…
My mind has been going through a slow but exciting process for the last few days. Memories of my study abroad time here in Sydney have slowly been surfacing through the wreckage that was once my brain. As these memories have come to light, I have been dragging our little cadre on increasingly more random and farfetched adventures through the back alleys of what is once again becoming one of my favorite cities in the world.
Sydney is a place that has it all, and we’ve found most of it. After getting up at 5 in the morning on Saterday to get our flight out of Auckland, a nap was the first priority once we were all checked in here in Oz Land. Then it was right out on the town to enjoy an evening of rugby followed by a night of carrousing. The second NZ All Blacks vs. the British and Irish Lions game was quickly followed by a match between the Australian Wallabies and the French Tri-colors.
While we were all jazzed up for the NZ-Lions game, we felt the second match was of less interest. Just to keep our attention peaked we decided a little additional motivation would be a good idea. Thus Matt, John and I (not Louis, since he’s smart…) found ourselves in possesion of little slips of paper that would be good for $60 each if the heavy underdog Tri-colors pulled out a victory. Besides motivating us to match the game, this allowed us to drink away our sorrows for the rest of the night as the Tri-colors sucked as much as Pentagon empoyees slurping down Freedom Toast.
The next day was filled with all the predictable big city activities which Matt covered so well in his earlier post. We got a little of everything, from a street fair to a nuclear power aircraft carrier.
Today was again dominatedby my obsession with reliving my study abroad days (if I laid down on a couch and worked all this out I’m sure it would be much scarrier and not nearly as much fun…). So off to the Bondi-Coogee cliff walk it was. This runs down the coast of the city between the country’s two most famous beaches. The walk varries from a hundred feet above the beakers to right down on the sand of the incredible Sydney sand. This was followed by a few of the world famous Flavors of Northern India Spicy Potatoe Balls (a addiction I have yet to kick even after not exercizing it for 2 years! Even heroin ain’t that good). To round out another day on the wrong side of the globe we went for a sunset ferry ride accross the Sydney harbor and yet again John did his best to get us beat up (need it be said that having Matt’s 200+ pounds with us everywhere we go is the only thing that has kept us from various calcium related injuries?). Then it was back to our shithole hostel for a nice dinner washed down with G+Ts.
Ahhhhhhhhhh, another day in paradise…

p.s. I know it got a little episodic there at the end, I’ll try and do better next time!

The Sydney Opera House, and Matt’s Travel Predilections

Monday, July 4th, 2005

I asked Matt if he wanted to get a picture of the four of us in front of Sydney’s most iconic (and played out?) edifice.
he said, and now I’m not even kidding, “a picture? nah…that’s not really why I travel.” In the inimitable words of Gob Bluth, “COME ON.”

While I see that I might be starting a war here, I should for the least admit that I may or may not have taken a buck-toothed native home from a bar last night.  I didn’t <i>want</i> to do it, but I suppose I was infused with the domineering spirit of The Fourth Of July.

Stars and Strips FOREVER, motherf**kers.

Sydney, Aus.

Bats are Bugs

Monday, July 4th, 2005

Joe has called dibs on the Sydney post, but I am exercising sovereignty over my birthday and recounting the festivities here:

After enjoying our first opportunity to sleep in since Fiji, we headed to tour downtown and see the opera house, which is much less white than it always seems in pictures. John and I agreed that it looks like a jumble of conquistador helmets left behind by a race of 250ft tall Spaniards. From the opera house we spotted a battleship coming into the harbor that we thought was flying the stars and stripes, but wasn’t. We debated its nationality for a good 30 minutes before deciding to follow the coastline through the botanical gardens towards the naval yard to get a better look. After a bit, we rounded a point and found not only the battleship, but an aircraft carrier bristling in the slanted tails of F/A-18s. We are the only country that flies F/A-18s, so that settled it. All told, there were 4 American ships in harbor. It looked like Bush may have been planning to make Australia the next US colony for a big Independence Day surprise.

On the walk back through the gardens, Joe regaled us with tales of giant bats terrorizing the skies of the gardens. Of course, none of us believed him until suddenly, there was a terrible roar all around us, and the sky was full with what looked like huge bats. (EDIT: “and the sky was full of what looked like giant bats.” Venerable Hunter S. Thompson didn’t blowhis brains out in front of his kids to be misquoted by some punk-ass twenty-somethings. -JF-) One nearly carried off Louis’s head. It weighed at least 20 pounds. Louis was a bit shaken up after that and wouldn’t even let Joe and I suspend him upside down in front of a tree full of hundreds of them for a photo op.

In the evening we went out to dinner in an area that Joe neglected to tell us was essentially Sydney’s red light district, and was crawling with sailors on shore leave. After dinner we were a little unnerved by the whole scene and all for heading back downtown on the double. All of us, that is, except Louis who suggested we “hook up with some Navy guys.” (Disclaimer: That quote is woefully out of context, but that hasn’t stopped us from making fun of Louis for his poor word choice all the same.) After getting back downtown we finished the evening with some barhopping that produced some spectacular stories I am not at liberty to put down here. The paragon of virtue I am, none of these stories involved me, I assure you. All in all, Sydney is a great place to kick off my 22nd year.

Happy 4th, and here’s to hoping Bush doesn’t replace O’Connor with a Tomas de Torquemada.

I Am Addicted to Diet Coke with Raspberry

Monday, July 4th, 2005

Some of you who know me may be tempted to ask, “But Matt, arent you the kid who drank 6 liters of diet pepsi in one night? Why is this most recent manifestation of your diet soda addiction noteworthy?” And I would reply with something to the effect of, “Diet Coke with Raspberry is no ordinary diet soda, so this is completely different.”

You see, Coca Cola is piloting their raspberry flavor line in New Zealand right now. It is going to replace Coke with Lime. I know this because I researched it on the internet, desperately seeking news that it would be available anywhere outside of New Zealand. I didn’t find any, which was tragic, because only 3 days away from the Kiwis it has become evident that this is a craving that mere Diet Coke, Pepsi Max, or Regal Diet Cola can never satisfy. I hope my withdrawal is quick and painless.

“I must uneasy make lest too light winning/make the prize light.” -The Tempest I.ii

Saturday, July 2nd, 2005

Frustration is such a dastardly word. It is not nearly as bad as, say, disappointment, anger, misery or failure, but a dastardly word all the same. Frustration is the feeling which creeps up on you from behind when you realize that sometimes there is a far better solution to your problems than can be readily offered to you because your achievement of your goals is blocked by stupidity, callousness, inefficiency, or in our case, a seven hundred acre glacier.

While our time in New Zealand has been flecked with myriad trivial frustrations, finding that your hostel offers free internet access only during their busiest hours of the day, that a particularly desirable rafting excursion carries a $450 price tag, that a lone police-man with a radar gun and a ticket pad waits on the country’s single stretch of straight-to-the-horizon desert road, that your booking for a private four bed hostel room has been “lost” by management who, instead, have placed you in a six-person room with a mute Japanese student and a Consumptive Dutch work-transfer applicant, these trifles seem to be mere ripples in the calm teal waters of Milford Sound. Well, perhaps that’s a bit of a falsity. The Sound itself is one of the great natural gems of the earth, but, like Prospero in the quote above, God has clearly seen fit to assure that the travelers who venture out to seek it appreciate it that much more for the journey. Frustration then, is embodied by the ten-hour 600km trip out and back, only to look at a map realizing that you have traveled no more than 50 km as the crow flies.

The onerous task of getting to the Sound was allayed only by the professed natural and unique beauty of New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park, a jagged and wrinkly frosting of glaciers and mountains coating the west coast of South Island. And this came to be true. Words and pictures can do little to do the Park justice. Mile-high peaks jut forth from pristinely calm, cold waters. Milford Sound, originally called Milford Haven by its discoverer (I only have “Vasco da Milford ????” written down in my notes. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t his name), was named because it offered respite from a hellacious rainstorm out in the Tasman Sea in 1780-something. And to this day that remains true. A large mountainous outcropping called Abel’s Rock protects the sound from the sea, and has since created several fascinating phenomena within. The preternaturally calm waters have created a 3m deep reservoir of fresh water which rests upon the sea in the Sound for many days following any rain shower. Rare black-speckled bottle nosed dolphins have migrated from out in the open seas to the calmer fresh waters in the Sound, and following them have come intrepid sea-kayakers who, drawn by the chance to play with the dolphins, all too often take their rickety fiberglass and plastic contraptions out beyond Abel’s Rock and into the 3-5m swells of the furious Tasman Sea beyond. It should come as no surprise that the voracious sea has developed quite an appetite for petulant sea-kayakers to the tune of several per year. Finally, there are the tourists who sally forth from lumbering coach buses onto the waiting sight-seeing cruises.

Meanwhile they were discussing the pressing philosophical issues of the day: the shocking differences between the McDonald’s restaurants in Auckland and Topeka, the quaint and floral characteristics of New Zealand’s plastic currency, and comparisons of their greenstone faux-Maori tribal necklaces. The four of us gushed at the 80m high glacial waterfalls (they gushed about the free coffee and tea below-decks), and asked one of our crew-members about the likelihood of spotting any yellow-banded penguins–the 2nd most rare species of bird in the world.

The views were spectacular, and the trip was once-in-a-lifetime. Can any one of us say that we regretted the trip? I doubt it. Despite its frustrations, our journey was such a success that we completely forgot about our 5 hour trip home. And that we had almost completely run out of gasoline.

Queenstown, NZ

Technical Difficulties

Friday, July 1st, 2005

In which Matt staum’s credit-card wielding powers temporarily elude him.
site is back and better than ever, and the braying from all of you farm animals can cease.

Auckland Int’l Airport, NZ