Saturday, September 27, 2008

Not just the home of great bands anymore

I didn’t give much thought to Australian slang before I got here, and when I did, I was, I’ll admit, a little smug. After all, I’ve been here before; I lived in the UK for a long time, which has plenty of slang overlap with Australia; I know several Australians; and blah blah blah blah. I figured I had it sussed (see, UK slang!).

Well, I hadn’t been in Canberra more than three hours before I came across “Manchester”. Known to me previously only as a northern English industrial city (home to some of the best bands of all time), I was completely confused by seeing it on signs in several of the stores I walked into; as in the supermarket: “Dish soap; paper towels; mops and brooms; Manchester.” And it kept happening: ads on TV: “50% off kitchenware, hardware, Manchester!” Billboards: “Canberra’s biggest selection of Manchester!” But I could never find a sign for it in close proximity to any actual object; it was always dangling from a ceiling or hanging in a window. I kept pointing it out to DP: “There it is again! What the $#!% is Manchester?”

I couldn’t bring myself to walk up to a random salesperson and ask them, and none of the Australians I know live in Canberra. And even if they did, and I could manage to call them up out of the blue and say, “Hey, I’m in Australia! How are you? By the way, what the $#!% is Manchester?”, it took four days for my phone to get hooked up. The internet took even longer, so I couldn’t even look it up and conceal my ignorance from the world. The few minutes I could snatch at internet cafes had, shockingly, to be devoted to more important things, like answering work emails.

But at last I have had a free moment to find an online Australian slang dictionary and I am here to tell you that “Manchester” is Australian slang for linens—you know, sheets, towels, that sort of thing. When I told DP the answer he looked at me blankly and then the light of illumination spread across his face. “Because that’s where all the cotton mills were!” he exclaimed.

Of course.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My week so far, let me tell you about it

The last time I posted, I was sitting in an internet cafe. Since then, I have successfully gotten myself back online from home. And by "home" I mean a new apartment, still chock full of unpacked boxes, on one of which my computer is currently sitting. I, meanwhile, am sitting on a milk crate. (Actually, a milk crate with a boppy on top, because unpadded milk crate is rough on the old tuckus after a while.) Since Sunday, here is a selection of some of the other things I have done:

1. Unpacked at least 75% of the boxes that have arrived from various points of the compass, including the whole kitchen, whole bathroom and all my clothes.

2. Participated in a three-hour conference call for work that kept me up until 11pm, when jet lag has had me asleep before 9 every night.

3. Found Thai basil for sale and used it to make fried rice that I loved but that DP and Miss B both found "too spicy!".

4. Eaten lunch at the Canberra Centre food court every day, because we currently have almost no furniture and I thought we should treat ourselves by eating one meal a day that doesn't involve sitting on the floor.

5. Bought a kitchen table and chairs.

6. Found out the international dialing code for calling out of Australia and remembered to call my sister-in-law for her birthday at a time that would not wake her out of a sound sleep.

7. Bought a phone that dials all the numbers on the first try.

8. Opened a bank account and put some money in it.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

When in doubt, talk about the weather

I'm pretty sure that sometime around today is the first day of spring in the southern hemisphere. I had heard from afar that Canberra had 'proper' winter, and when my husband DP came here for a visit in the middle of August (ie mid-winter), it snowed on his first day. To get my head around the whole reversed seasons concept, I've been mentally adjusting everything by six months (thus, mid-August in Canberra = mid-February in Boston--okay, maybe not that bad, but just as a rough guide...).

Are you confused yet?

Having gone through these mental machinations, I was expecting it to be at least somewhat cool when we arrived. Instead, the temperature has been hovering around 70 since we got here two days ago, with blue skies and brilliant sunshine. Okay, there is a stiff breeze from time to time, and I've been carrying around (and occasionally wearing) a light sweatshirt. But mid-March in Boston? Not even close.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Generally, I'm not a fan of globalization, but there is something to be said for finding a Thomas the Tank Engine mini-carousel in a shopping centre 10,000 miles from where he originated, at a moment when your four-year-old really needs to be entertained, and her parents are so jetlagged they can barely remember how to cross the street.

Yes, we've arrived.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The adventure begins

The Question
Can an unreconstructed Bostonian (several years of living elsewhere notwithstanding) find Season Five of The Office, drama-free ice hockey, a toddler playgroup that doesn't resemble Lord of the Flies, and a secure supply line of avocadoes in Canberra, Australia?

The Answer
Watch this space.
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