Melbourne: It’s pronounced “Melbin,” not “Melborn”

So, for my whole life, I’ve always pronounced Melbourne as Mel-born. Maybe it’s an American thing, or maybe I’ve just been uneducated on the subject for 22 years. After arriving in Melbourne though, I quickly learned that the city is pronounced Mel-bin. It really makes no sense to me, but I can’t say much about it coming from a culture that pronounces food and good with completely different vowel sounds.

The morning after Sasha’s party, we woke early for another busy day ahead. One of the guests had accidentally made off with my phone that night, so Sasha’s gorgeous friends Jeremy and Nadine drove me to that friend’s place to retrieve it. On the way, they gave me a tour of the outskirts of Bendigo, and even stopped to show me the local university and student residences.

Because I was still dying to see a kangaroo, they even took me to a bush (meaning wooded area) where a pack/heard/gaggle of them dwell. We parked the car and walked into their domain and I got to see real, wild kangaroos for the very first time. So cute. And the joeys? Forgetaboutit.

bendigo_3bendigo_4

Those two dropped me back off at Sasha’s parents’, who live nearby, where I had brekkie with the fam and caught up since the last time we’d seen each other in New York. Sasha’s adorable mom give me Vegemite to try and I’ve got to be honest, I hated it. So salty and brown and thick and…uhh, just not my thing. But I’m happy I tried it!

I would have loved to spend more time with Sasha’s folks, but we had to rush to the train station to catch an express to Melbourne. Sasha’s boyfriend had prepared a group outing to the footy (Australian football, quite distinct from American football and European/Latin football a.k.a soccer), and we needed to get good seats.

The two-hour train ride through the country flew by quickly, and before I knew it, we were pulling up to Melbourne’s train station. The stadium was a short walk away. We stopped to get food first, and drop off our bags at the hostel where Sasha and I were staying the night, then headed to the stadium.

melbourne_3

Aussie football  is intense. It has the aggressiveness of rugby and American football (lots of running into each other and tackling), the cardio of soccer (dedicated sprints from one end of the field to the other), and the past-paced nature and high scoring frequency of basketball.   The fans reminded me of any other sports fans: loud, passionate, spirited. Lots of drinks were passed around ring the game and it seems like Aussies like stadium food just as much as Americans do.  I had a great time, but halfway through the jet lag really hit me and I felt completely exhausted.

Sasha and I bid adieu to her comrades and made our way back to the hostel for sleep. On the way we popped by a few Melbourne landmarks including the beautiful Flinders Street Station and lively Federation Square, and open area with seats and a big LED screen for public media broadcasts.

(Sorry for the suuuper crappy photos, but I’m including them here anyway.)

meblourne_1melbourne_2

Overall, my first impressions of Melbourne were all good. The city reminded me of Chicago or Portland, maybe (two cities I’ve never been to, so really this is all speculation) in that it is big city element with tall skyscrapers and people in suits with briefcases, but mixed throughout is art and very down-to-earth type people. It’s the kind of city that feels expansive, but at the same time feels like you could run into someone you know any minute.

On day one in Melbin, I didn’t experience enough to make a full diagnosis of my feelings toward the city, but Sasha and I had a big day ahead the next day and I couldn’t wait to see more.

Hellooooooo from Bendigo!

Greetings from the other side of the world!

Initial thoughts — it doesn’t feel like I’m on the other side of the world.

Australia is so westernized that it feels like I’m in a U.S. city I’ve just never visited before but people talk funny and drive on the wrong side of the road. Oz in a nutshell.

Okay, well there are a few more differences than that. Here are my initial observations:

  1. Drive-thru bottle-os are a thing. These are open-air liquor stores where people can pull up, tell the teller what they want, then pick up the order and pay. Alcohol on demand. Not a common occurrence in the States!
  2. Shoes = optional.
  3. Some people are very friendly. Some people are very weird.
  4.  Some people are strikingly beautiful. Some people are very weird.
  5. There are distinct Aussie accents based on geographical regions. Generally, the more country, the thicker the accent.
  6. Most houses are one story. No upstairs, no basement. A second level is a commodity for the well-to-do.
  7. It’s hot. Even in the winter.

Does that paint enough of a picture? Probably not but that’s okay. That’s what photos are for!

bendigo_1

I arrived at the Melbourne airport Friday night where my beautiful friend Sasha picked me up from and drove us two hours back to her house. Unfortunately it was too dark  to see much off the highway on the way, though I was yearning to see some kangaroos.

Sasha lives in a quaint city outside Melbourne called Bendigo. At first glance, it seemed very similar to small-town (well, mid-sized-town) America: a bustling Main Street, plenty of mom and pop shops and cafés, a local park, bars, theaters, pharmacies, etc., and then residential areas surrounding downtown. Sasha lives in a spacious one-story home with a big back yard. Though she lives with roommates, she still has two spare guest bedrooms — enough for me and my stuff!

I passed out early that night after a quick take-out dinner, but I needed to sleep off the jet lag to prepare for the days ahead. It still didn’t feel like I was in another country that first night, but I knew the realization would sink in shortly.

The next day, Sasha was preparing to have guests over for her birthday party that night. I got a chance to see everyday Bendigo as she and I ran around town running errands and picking up goodies. We went to a shopping mall where I got a party dress and cute shoes (the first of many pairs of shoes), then to a Walmart-type store for party decorations and a punch bowl, then to the chemist to pick up a prescription, then to a discount store for party lights.

Meanwhile, we stopped to get lunch with Sasha’s darling friends Jeremy and Nadine at an eclectic, hippyish café in downtown. I got my first Australian cappuccino — delish — and had a go at the Aussie version of nachos.

Later we headed back to Sasha’s to prepare for the night’s festivities. Slowly her friends trickled in and one-by-one I got to meet the gorgeous Aussie youth. (Wait that sounds weird — they’re not children, just, like, young adults you know?)   And as the bottles popped, we got more and more in the party spirit and had an awesome time. I even taught her friends good ‘ol American Flip Cup 😉

Photos courtesy of Sasha and her friends.

Later we headed a bar that is pretty much a staple for the kids in Bendigo and I got my first Australian night out. Turns out, partying in Oz is not much different from  partying in the U.S. Who would thunk?

We stayed out for a few hours but headed home before it got too, too late. After a busy day and eventful night, I finally felt like I was in Australia. But just, the western part….

Needless to say, I slept well.