Thursday, October 30, 2008

Day One, Melbourne: Looking Around and Getting Kicked

I arrived in Melbourne on Wednesday of this week and made it (sweatily) to my host's apartment by noon. I am staying in Melbourne's Central Business District (CBD), which makes it very easy to go anywhere I'd like to go via public transit. It's spring here and so the weather was balmy compared to Chicago's fall cooling-down temps.

After a couple of hours of unpacking and settling in, I decided to go for a walk to get oriented and take a look at people in general. It turns out that the CBD is pretty walkable, and is organized into major streets and laneways. The laneways are what we Americans might term side streets or alleys, but they often have more restaurants, bars and interesting shops---you just need to know where to look, it seems. Restaurants are very diverse, which reflects Melbourne's diversity in turn. Lots of sushi joints (where the sushi is pre-made and displayed in a deli case), Italian places, Korean, Thai, sidewalk cafes, coffee shops, and some American style places---they have Burger King here, but it's called Hungry Jack's. I think they also have McDonald's...although that's what's on the sign, I think it's called Macca's by regular people. There's a lot of abbreviation in Aussie-speak, so obviously there are times when my lipreading skills go out the window! There are definitely quite a few nicer places to eat since a lot of finance and other sorts of business go on in Melbourne.

So I basically wandered around for a while, noticing that there are a lot of slopes...gentle hills. Also, architectural access tends to vary. Sidewalks do have textured stripes in different places for bling orientation, somewhat like Seoul but not as consistent. Many older buildings are really interesting to look at, lots of ornamentation and material that reminds me a bit of Gallaudet University's old buildings, but is still a bit different. I will be posting pictures soon to show this.

Not long after I got back to the apartment, my host Justin came home and we went off to the opening of a Russian film festival called Russian Resurrection, where we saw "The Vanished Empire," aka "Born in the USSR." Very, very good movie! There are also, apparently, lots of Russians in the Melbourne area as well. Afterwards there was a vodka reception in the lobby (one of the sponsors was Stolichnaya). We started mingling a bit and then we figured out that some traditional Russian folk dancing was about to happen because a man and three women came out in folk gear. The three women were holding a sort of arch together in a row.

Here's where things got funny. We waited and waited for the dancing to start, but it was delayed because a singer was supposed to sing for us. So she sang, and then I realized I needed to use the restroom, which was down the stairs beyond the performance area. I went off and then as I came back, the performance was ready to begin. I had to somehow walk around the ring of the crowd to get to my spot on the other side...and as I did so, the music started and the women began Russian-dance-kicking their way around the circle BEHIND ME, which I didn't know until just as I reached my spot, I got kicked in the side! Not very hard, but a definite bump, which of course was funnier than hell. (I did manage to get out of the way to safety after that and plan to stay a safe distance from folk dancers in the future.)

At this point the jet lag was kicking in and we were hungry, so we left, grabbed some Greek food, and headed home to bed. Feminist disability and Deaf stuff was set to start the next day...

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