By Johnny Bartz
It was a corker of a flight to the land down under, except for the person in front of me who opened their lunch and the baby who spit the dummy (thank God for earplugs!). I rocked up in Brisbane two days later, on a quest to check out a Ph.D. programme and experience the Australian lifestyle.
Most of the blokes and sheilas at the hostel were from Germany or England, there on year-long holiday. Turns out it’s pretty easy to get a holiday work visa, so my mates just wandered city to city, job to job. I wish I could take holiday that long.
I was at the pool with my mates in the afternoon when the sheila from the hostel came in asking if anyone needed labor. Freddie was about out of bread, so he said ‘Bonzer’ and raced up the apples and pears as fast as his plates of meat could carry him so he could dog on the bone with his potential employer. Funny how those blokes are always trying to make a crust — drives all us job searchers marbles and conkers that wages are so high and one can literally sit in the pool to get work.
Driving around town — or should I say riding in vans around town — was a bit unnerving as it seemed we would ram a bus at every right turn. Navigation on foot in the city was especially difficult, considering the Brisbane River meanders through. I of course had no map. Luckily I could grab the CityCat ferry service or just ride around on the bus. I was sure not to spit on the bus, as prominent signs inform that drivers have DNA kits to aid the prosecution of spitters. (Is spitting on the bus a thing these days?)
I lobbed-in at the Uni, happy as Larry to meet with a sheila from my prospective programme. After a great yabber, I explored the lay of the land. The main quad was oddly familiar, and ‘science land’ was even off in the Never Never of the campus. At one point I was a bit lost, and while walking along the ponds I almost tripped over a goanna. Galahs and cockies laughed at me in the trees, but nonetheless the Australian wildlife had me away with the pixies. Queensland has it all — koalas, roos with joeys, not to mention the crocks and the Great Barrier Reef at the top end.
I went around town with my champs to get free WiFi and air-con at the public library, followed by a walk along the river. Freddie was sure to wear his sunblock so he didn’t epitomize an English stereotype. We got hungry, but tucker and drog are expensive through the roof. So instead of scabbin’ off a friend, we found a cheap kebab place and grocery store, ensuring we didn’t starve to death or break the bank.
When I was ready to splurge, I grabbed a feed at the Pancake Manor in downtown Brizzie. The 24-hour restaurant features giant plates of pancakes, among other tasty things. Buttermilk, chocolate, blueberries, cherries, strawberries, banana, caramel — name your favourite, and you can have it on a pancake. But real Aussies have sweet potato fries dipped in mayonnaise and paprika.
I was a bit dismayed that Brisvegas didn’t have a real beach, so I went down to Gold Coast with a couple of sheilas. At the Gold Coast Aquatic Center we tanned, and swam with the national swimmers and triathlon teams. Good thing I didn’t forget my bathers!
That night I wasn’t about to drink with the flies, so Christoph and I split a box of white plonk and sat outside. “Fair Dinkum, mate — are those flying foxes?” The bloody huge bats with a wingspan of more than one meter circled over our heads as we sat under the stars. Soon enough we were off, after another tinny or two, trompin’ along to the Valley with roadies to find the bangin’ beats. I didn’t give myself away as a Yank by asking for a pitcher of beer — only jugs of amber fluid for me!
Rummaging about was all good fun, but I couldn’t partake on the final rite of passage of renting a vee-dub and driving through the Outback. My mates carried all the water, petrol and provisions needed for the journey, which primarily consisted of carrots bought at one dollar per kilogram. I bade ‘hooroo’ to my comrades and to Oz. But she’ll be apples, it’s London to a brick that I’ll be back.
Johnny reckons there’s a pot load of Strine phrases he missed, and he’d be stoked to hear your favourite. Email him at [email protected]