Friday, March 11, 2005

C - It Makes Cents

I discovered yesterday why Sydney is the cleanest city I’ve ever visited.

Yesterday, as I was walking home through Darling Harbour, there was a woman walking about 20 meters (yeah that’s right, I’ve succumb to the metric system, just like the rest of the rational thinking world) ahead of me. I watched as she stopped and looked over her shoulder at something that had caught her eye on the ground. She then proceeded to backtrack a few steps, stop, dig through her purse to locate a kleenex, and then bend down to pick up a nasty, used plastic plate someone had tossed on the ground.

She walked past me, backtracking another 10 meters to find a garbage can to discard the plate that was never hers to begin with. Watching this at the same time I was walking, I almost literally fell down (I came this close to running into a pole). This woman went out of her way to throw someone else’s garbage away. She obviously didn’t have to, but she did it anyway. It’s that kind of attitude that keeps this city immaculate.

Jeff and I had commented before on how there’s a shortage of garbage cans around the city. Seriously, there’s like one every four or five blocks. We didn’t understand how a city with so few garbage cans could be so clean. Now we know.

It’s also as if the city planners made some sort of deal with the inhabitants. Listen, they said, garbage cans are kind of ugly and smelly, we can all agree on that. How about we keep the streets of Sydney looking nicer by putting fewer garbage cans out there, and in return, you be willing to walk an extra couple blocks to throw something away, or just hold onto your garbage until you reach a can. Ok? And the citizens of Sydney all gave a collective and enthusiastic Ok!

Be quiet, that’s how I like it to play out in my head. And yes, I am aware that I’ve just spent a significant amount of time in this entry talking about garbage.

To make up for the rubbish ranting I’ll give you all a little fun fact about an Australian animal, the wombat.

Apparently, when the wombat feels threatened or senses an imminent attack it quickly digs a hole and buries its head and torso, leaving only its butt exposed. The skin of the wombat’s butt is so tough that it can withstand almost any attack from predators. They can go on for hours, just batting at the wombat’s butt, to no avail. That wombat will just patiently wait down in the hole until the predator gives up and walks away, at which point I imagine the wombat emerges from the hole and does a little “My bum saved the day” victory dance.

Is this not the BEST defence mechanism you have ever heard of? I think it’s brilliant and hilarious at the same time. How would that translate in human terms?


High school years and fighting with my Mom were hard enough. I doubt digging a hole and sticking my butt up at her would have made things much better. A funny thought though, nonetheless.

I mention the wombat fact because it just so happens Jeff bought me one. No worries, it’s just a stuffed animal. I was having a lot of trouble sleeping without Fluffy.

Yes, that’s right, for those of you who possibly could not know by now, I have a teddy bear named Fluffy who I have slept with almost every night of my 23 years on this earth. After careful consideration I decided to leave Fluffy back in Chicago with my parents (who promised he could stay in their room, but it has recently come to my attention that he was put back in my room on my bed, all by himself…Dad, how could you let that happen!). I didn’t want to take Fluffy and risk losing him, because I really can’t imagine what I would do without him. No, I am not being overdramatic for comedic purposes, he really IS this important to me.

After so many years with Fluffy, I’ve had a hard time adjusting to sleep without him. So, Jeff surprised me with the arrival of Rumper. Rumper is an appropriate name for a wombat, given what you’ve all just learned, don’t you think? He’s a welcome addition to my life in Sydney, he’s really helped me sleep, and he’s got remarkably neat handwriting for a wombat.

But, and let me be very clear on this, I do not in any way want people to be confused on where my loyalty lies. Fluffy will always be number one. No one will ever take that spot; remember when Fluffet tried and failed? Enough said.

Tuesday night Nick and I ventured to a Democrats Abroad meeting. I had seen their float in the Mardi Gra parade and it caught my eye so I went on their website and saw that their monthly meet up was at a nearby pub so Nick and I decided to drop in and check it out.

Democrats Abroad was initially formed about a year before the 2004 Presidential Election to organize and get American citizens that were living in Australia registered to vote on absentee ballots. I guess I never stopped to think that there were organizations like this one out there. I figured that if you were living abroad, it was your own responsibility to get your vote in. Nice, of course, to discover I was quite wrong.

The meeting started out with some clips of the Daily Show, which I miss a great deal, and then they launched into a debriefing of the Mardi Gra parade. They were happy to have us sit in, and it was interesting to listen to these people who had a strange mix of American/Australian accents. Who knows how long some of them have been living in Sydney.

A couple were even from Chicago which is always fun and we chuckled together at a few jokes about Alan Keyes.

The main thing on the agenda was to discuss planning an event for Howard Dean. He’s coming to Sydney in April to visit his daughter who’s studying abroad at one of the universities here. Although he’s coming purely for holiday purposes, he promised to do one event while in Sydney. So, Democrats Abroad is trying to orchestrate something, and Nick, Jeff and I would like to volunteer our time in any way.

Yes that’s right Kasey and Dave, I’m back on the Dean wagon. And quite honestly, how could I stay away after the scene we saw with the crazy lady back during the primaries. “They were targeting me with 9/11! They’ve been after me for years! That’s my birthday!” Oh that lady was nuts, but breakfast at Pancake Café afterwards was all the more delicious.

Honestly, I do like a lot of what Howard Dean has to say, and I admire his passion, it’s something you don’t see a lot of these days in the political realm. It seems nowadays people are punished for any extreme emotion they show. Politicians must not only try to woo those in the center, but must also strike a perfect balance between charismatic and dignified. That’s quite a burden, especially when, as humans, we’re rarely in the middle emotionally. But I digress.

I want to be proactive. As Jeff mentioned in his recent blog entry, we’ve had a few negative encounters with people simply because we’re American. It upsets me, but rather than screaming, compounding the problem and threatening to reinforce negative stereotypes they already hold about Americans, I’m trying to get involved. Perhaps if just a handful of Australians come to see Howard Dean speak it will dispel some of the myths they carry with them about Americans. Overgeneralizations of any kind are dangerous in my opinion. I don’t want people living in other countries to think we all love Bush, just as much as I don’t want them thinking we all hate him. I want them to understand that, just like their own country, ours is filled with diverse opinions.

A lesson in breaking down my own weird stereotypes that I wasn’t even aware I was harbouring:

Jeff and I were taking a walk on Bondi Beach, one of the first few weeks we were in Sydney. He was walking a little bit ahead of me, and I of course was doing some major people watching.

I saw this young Asian boy writing Chinese characters into the sand. I looked carefully at the artful way in which he carved out the symbols with a stick he had found. The slow and graceful turns, the twisting lines – I started to imagine what the symbols stood for. It had to be something beautiful, something profound and wise beyond this boy’s years.

Just then a slightly older Asian girl (presumably his older sister) walked up to view the boy’s work. She read it carefully and then smacked the boy in the arm and started chasing him as he ran away laughing. A wave came up and washed the writing away, along with the strange misconceptions I had unconsciously been holding onto.

They were just like any other little kids, playing on the beach. Humans are humans and siblings will invariably write something mean about a sister or brother out in the sand just to tease them, because that’s what we love to do.

It’s Friday and I’m looking forward to a great weekend. Plans as of right now: dancing and prancing until sunrise then Pancakes on the Rocks (the best breakfast place ever!)


P.S. Ask Liz or Missy to tell you what I learned about Australia this past week


At 6:13 AM, Blogger Amy Boyd said...

Poor Howard Dean...It's amazing how the press can spin something? Don't know if you heard but there was a Federal Judge killed in Chicago. It's been a huge story, and for days all you heard on CNN/FOX was Matt Hale . Yesterday we found out it he had nothing to do with it. It's frustrating.
Your speaking of pancakes reminds me... there's this guy I know, I met him in LA... He thinks he helps me by putting all his dishes in the sink...anyway, he promised to come over for my b-day and make me breakfast burritos?
Have a great weekend!! Love & miss you!

At 6:49 AM, Blogger Amy Boyd said...

You got me thinking...Did you see the beginning of the Oscars. Chris Rock hosted... had a entire Bush thing. About Bush reapplying for a job. He compared it to a regular person working at the Gap. I thought the funniest one was if you worked at the Gap and told the company that Banana Republic had toxic tank tops. held conferences, invaded, etc... to find out that Banana Republic didn't even sell tank tops. I'll see if I can send the transcript to your e-mail. You and Jeff would enjoy!

At 11:27 AM, Blogger Kasey said...

The first mention of me on Mary's blog, a moment to be treasured!!! Especially after the wave came and washed away my last writing in the sand:) Anyway I saw that crazy lady on CSPAN2 sometime this past summer, she pretty much had the same rant,she was at something put on by NADER, who probably understood everything she was saying.

At 3:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fluffy was also very upset that he had no Mary smells in my room - He is patiently waiting for your return - I have not told him that Mom and I are going for a visit - His teeth are very sharp - I caught him with a Dean button pined on him - He was saying something about going to Washington ????

At 3:11 PM, Blogger Praying4You said...

I guess that I should no longer pay attention to what a teddy bear says to me... HE asked to be returned to HIS room upstairs with all the familiar scents. Actually, It makes scents, don't you think?

At 9:48 PM, Blogger KickinKangaroo said...

May may,
I had the worst nightmare about you the other night. You came back from Australia with no feet. I felt such pain inside just watching you. But every time I looked over at you you were either laughing or making someone else laugh. You seemed so happy. All of a sudden I noticed this Beautiful engagement ring on your finger and I had such an overwelming sence of love for Jeff. You told everyone you were engaged and you were beaming. Then we all went outside and you put on these little stilt feet and we all played a very slow game of basketball. I think you should be the first woman president. I love you more every day. Julie

At 9:46 AM, Anonymous Jay said...

Mary Kay -
i am so excited to post today!! Eric and i ran into one of his friends Friday nite... one of his friends who spent a year living in Sydney!! He started telling me all sorts of things he wanted me to tell you to do. i took out a pen and paper and wrote some of them down... So here goes. Pardon me if you have already heard and/or done some of these things, but i am so excited to share them with you!! First, he said to go to Coogi Beach. Apparently a very beautiful place. Also, Jackson's on George is supposed to be really fun. i guess it is a bar on the 5th floor of a building. The last thing i wrote down sounded the coolest. Apparently, if you go to the University of Sydney on the St. John's campus, you can go to the top of the bell tower and the guy in charge will let you up there to take in the view for awhile. He said it is at Camperdown & Missendan and it is the most romantic spot in all of Sydney. The view is great and the guy will leave you all alone in there to take it in for awhile. Also a great photo op, according to this guy. We didn't have much time to talk to him, so this all i got! i hope you either get to do some of this or have already done it! i also hope it is accurate info - you know me, my listening skills aren't highly developed!
i love you and think of you all the time!! (oh, and i think i was in Good News the year of 'i am a C. i am a C-H.' Because i remember singing that song!!)
Love you, Love, Jay

At 10:31 PM, Anonymous human pheromone said...

can i get more info?


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