Monday, February 21, 2011

Enrolment, the City, Fremantle Prison, and the Dianella room

Friday (Feb.18) was a loooooong day. First, enrolment (yes, I’m spelling that right, in Australian anyway) which seems to be a much more complicated process than strictly necessary. I’ll be taking 4 classes (the required full load):
Australian Culture, Myths and Realities;
Geographic Information Systems (a mapping class for geology stuff);
Geomorphology (how landscapes change);
and Peer-to-Peer Science Communication.
Not precisely sure what the comm class will be like, but it sounds like it’s right up my alley, and is one of the few comm classes I could fit into my schedule. Enrolment required no less than 7 steps, several of which were located FAR apart (probably like the distance from Hoko to the engineering building), which in this ~100*F heat got pretty miserable at times. I dallied at a few of my computer tasks just to languish in the air conditioning.
After I jumped dutifully through all the hoops, I checked out the campus bookstores for the first time (there’s an official one and a used store within 10 meters of one another). I was rather amused to find they have the exact same books we used in SedStrat and Petrology!
I then made my way back to the “city”; here, Perth more often refers to the specific “town”/neighborhood that comprises the downtown/business district area (aka, the city), though it is also used to describe the whole sprawling entirety of the 1.6 million people in the 100+ km vicinity. My hostel is in the city, about 6 blocks from the 2-square block shopping mall that is known as the Central Business District (CBD for short), which is right next to the central train station and bus depot. This area surrounding the CBD has rather lovely skyscrapers interspersed with romantic old one-story buildings, though the number of skyscrapers is few, much closer in number to Albuquerque’s downtown than to L.A.’s.
Back in the city, I visited the Chemist (= walk-in pharmacy) for some cough medicine. :/ This rather dry, racking cough is crouching in the back of my throat and sitting on my lungs, just *waiting* for me to stop drinking EmergenC  and tea like my life depended on it. Unfortunately the medicine didn’t come with a little measuring cup like at home, and I was definitely not capable of guesstimating 10-20 mL…. My nice friend Glen came to my rescue by eyeballing the measurement for me in a shot glass.  ^^;;  I also walked to the Asian supermarket for some laundry detergent (and a popsicle! :D to celebrate my money finally transferring to my Australian bank account), so all in all I walked at least 16 blocks, not including the hikes across campus. o_o
That was not the end of the day, however; after a brief nap and a shower, I went out (first time outside after dark! ^^;;) with a group of about 20 from my hostel to do a torch-light tour of Fremantle Prison. Fremantle is the town on the coast, west of the rest of Perth (though I’m sure I couldn’t tell you where one started and the other ended), and it’s easy to get to via a 30 minute train ride. So another 6 blocks to the train station…. Our group was this interesting mix of young and old, as well as quite the handful of nationalities. There were 4-5 British girls (my age-ish, already drunk), a Malaysian girl (going to UWA for post-grad, super nice), 2 Swiss girls (who spoke French the whole time), a young couple (from Scotland I think), 4 older ladies (the only one I talked to was Kiwi, on vacation while her son [a bit older than me] was here looking for work), 3-4 young men (at least one Brit and one Kiwi), another American (only 19, here to work for 3 months at an animal rehabilitation clinic), and Glen. It was pretty funny to watch us meander along, as between the drunks and the not-entirely-sure-where-we’re-going, we were a rather amorphous mass on the sidewalks. Fremantle seemed to definitely be a happening place on a Friday night…. Clubs and bars and restaurants all along the main road, all FILLED with people having a good time at 8pm. We went in search of some fish and chips (though the drunk Brit girls detoured to Hungry Jacks, which is what Burger King is called over here), and managed to find a tiny shop run by two Korean girls. We ended up being late for our tour and had to eat our fish and chips on the run a bit, not to mention we apparently had no idea how to actually get to the prison. >_< Thank god for Alice (the Malaysian girl) and her iPhone gps. We made it to the prison only 15 minutes late, were given little keychain flashlights (ie, “torches”), and joined another tour already in progress. Though she easily could have tried to go for a “spooky” feel, instead our tour guide was pretty hilarious; she poked marvelous fun at the clichés of “haunted” stories, with lots of recounts that started out like a ghost story and ended up a joke. There was also a decent amount of historical facts mixed in, so it was a nice balance of informative and fun. Two actors along the tour –one man in solitary confinement and one ghost of the only woman to be hung at the prison- added some interesting depth to the tour, if it was a tad bit of forced acting at times. Wonderfully, it was also a GORGEOUS night with a full moon. Unfortunately, my enjoyment began to be marred a bit by my aching feet; though my excellent new shoes have stood me in good stead in all my other city hiking this past week, the sheer amount of time spent pounding pavement on Friday began to catch up with me during the tour, and I was not disappointed when it ended. Getting back to the train station (at least 6 six blocks away, and I forgot to mention we had walked past the road to the Prison in search of the fish and chips, and so had walked even more through Fremantle….) was an exercise in perseverance. We finally made it back to the hostel just before midnight, where it was time to collapse in bed with the help of a bottle of frozen water at my feet (to alleviate both the soreness and the overheating… still like 85*F at night with nothing but a weak fan).
Saturday, I had to get up early once more to go view a room for rent. I got a taxi to the residence (if only because it was the easiest on my poor, already-worn-out-from-timetables-brain, and I can get the money reimbursed from UWA housing), and it was my first time in a car that steers on the right side! You get to sit up front in these taxis (the only other taxi I’ve been in was in Baltimore I think, and there’s definitely that metal cage in American taxis), and I chatted a bit with the nice Indian young man driving.
The house for rent is a in what looks like a fairly quiet, very middle class neighborhood, in the suburb of Dianella. This house is nowhere within walking distance of the trainline, though there is a bus not far that can take me to UWA in about an hour. The owner is an older man, very nice, who also lives in the townhouse and rents out the four extra rooms. I can have a single room in this house for only 130 per week (including utilities and internet) and move in next Thursday (just before my hostel reservation ends) and live there only until a room at another of his units in Mayland (close to the train) is available in a few weeks. I’ll be viewing the Maylands rooms tomorrow, and I’m really really really hoping it’s nice and what I need. The room in Dianella is good- clean, furnished, a single, safe, with access to a nice kitchen and clean bathroom- but it’s not really quite as nice as at Max’s house. It’s a little grungier, less convenient, but most of all, it’s just not home. And I have to pay $700 damn dollars to move in. It made me feel acutely homesick for the first time here.
The owner is really quite nice though (no bad vibes at all, and trust me, I was on high alert); he drove me to the bus depot/shopping mall nearby (but a bit far to walk). I did manage to get my mobile fixed at the store in the shopping mall (the sim card wasn’t registering properly; I’m glad I went in because it didn’t sound like a job I could have fixed over the phone), and then managed to figure out the right bus to take to get back to the CBD. 
Now time to nurse this cough…. Though it seems to be someone’s birthday everyone is celebrating out on the patio outside my window…. Loudly….. Good thing I’m a sound sleeper. ^^;

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