Friday, September 27, 2002

Eating Maltesers and listening to arias

It’s officially hot now. Only a month into spring, and the temperature is crawling up to 30. Well, I just have two more days of it left, then I’m off to Tassie for a week, where it should get down to 7 degrees at night.

Meanwhile, though, I’ve been sweltering here in Brisbane, doing little more than moving from home to class to library to home, and back through the circuit again. It’s midterm season, but we only had one midterm, and four papers, all due on the same day. So I haven’t been getting out much.

Except on the weekend. My weekends have been spectacular. Beck and Paul took me up to Hervey Bay with them a couple of weeks ago, where they were going to visit some friends. Their friends have some lovely little cottages behind their house where we stayed—there were three beds in my room, and I somehow managed to select the one with the thinnest mattress. Go figure.

On the way up to Hervey Bay, we drove by the Big Pineapple. The Big Pineapple is a big pineapple, in the middle of a whole lot of pineapple plantations. That’s it. However, I did learn how pineapples grow! It was an amusing experience. Beck had warned me in advance that when she (who is from Adelaide, down south, and had never seen pineapples growing) first drove by the fields with Paul, she didn’t believe him when he told her they were pineapples. She was sure they grew on trees. He hasn’t stopped making fun of her since then.

I, for my part, would certainly have believed that they grow on trees. Paul said maybe it’s a gender thing. So I called my boyfriend, and asked him if he knew how pineapples grow. I believe his response was something like, “Oh sure, haven’t you ever tried to grow one?”

No, I’m afraid I haven’t.

At any rate, Hervey Bay was beautiful. We stayed right next to the beach, and I walked on the sand, tried to snorkel (but the visibility was nil, from a recent storm), and went whale watching. Hervey Bay is famous for its whales, and I was a little disappointed when I found out all they have are humpbacks and the occasional dolphin. After Santa Barbara, where I’ve seen blue whales and whole schools of porpoises, this sounded a bit tame.

But what the local marine mammal population lacks in diversity, it makes up for in enthusiasm and friendliness. My mind was simply boggled by how close these whales got to us. They were literally sidling up to the boat and inspecting us through the windows.

The whale watching was on Sunday. To get back in time for class on Monday, I had to catch a train at one in the morning, arriving in Brisbane at 6, running home for a shower, and back to school. Very exciting stuff. It actually would have been fun but the train smelled like a nursing home—I can’t explain how or why, but it did. And I was tired.

Anyway, papers, papers, and more papers.

And then, Sydney! Last weekend I hopped on a plane down to visit my friend Charles, and had a simply spectacular time. It was relaxing and pleasant, and involved a trip to the Blue Mountains, an opera, and lots of wandering around the city.

The Blue Mountains are so named due to the eucalyptus oils seeping into the air around them. The touristy bit was undergoing construction, and there were lots and lots of Japanese tourists around, but once we got away from all that it was lovely. We took the “Giant Staircase” down to the bottom of the mountain. “Giant Staircase” doesn’t sound that impressive, but you might be surprised. It just went on and on. At the top there was a warning “For Strong Walkers Only”. Charles looked at me, and said “Are you a strong walker?” After a moment’s consideration, I replied, “I’m a persistent walker.” He nodded. “Me too.”

So we went all the way to the bottom, not because either of us is in particularly wonderful shape, but because our pride would not let us do otherwise. Once at the bottom, we walked over to a tram that went back up to the top. Let it be here recorded that I would have climbed back up the staircase, but Charles was not too fond of the idea. Though in retrospect, I’m glad he made us take the tram.

That night we watched “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” which I’ve read, and tried out for a part in with Morgie last year (neither of us made it) and been wanting to see for a while. It’s really quite good. Pleasantly existential, but not exactly gripping action, so you kind of have to force yourself to pay close attention.

The next day was the opera! We saw “Carmen” in the famous Sydney Opera House, and it was lovely. Eating Maltesers and listening to arias is good fun. Carmen was depressing, though. Carmen is a bad bad woman, and Don Jose is a silly silly man. Also anything set in Spain and sung in French is inevitably a bit odd.

That night we played lots and lots of pool, in a place that had a huge fish tank next to the pool tables, and good music.

And then I came home, finished all my papers, and turned them in. At the moment I’m packing for Tasmania, where I will have a brief and blessed respite from the Queensland heat.

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