Remembering Canberra Year One

When I read Ka Uro’s February 28 blog post titled Life Abroad is not all Roses, this part reminded me of the time I was forced to move to Canberra way back in 2001:

Ang bansag nga namin sa kanya “Bulok”, kasi wala kang maririnig sa kanya kundi ang salitang “bulok”. “Bulok naman dito sa New Zealand, malungkot. Sa amin marami kang mahihiraman ng VCD, DVD, video games. Dito walang Jollibee, walang MegaMall, etc. etc. … bulok ang New Zealand.”

Like “Bulok’s” comments about New Zealand, I was thinking that there wasn’t much to Canberra during my first few weeks living there. I just came from living in Sydney for three months where it was all so metropolitan.

I was over three months without a client in Sydney at the time and most of my fellow Filipino acquaintances working for the same Australian IT consulting firm I belong to were sent packing back to the Philippines because they couldn’t get a client after three months. You can say that I really didn’t have a choice and I was reluctant to move to Canberra. I had myself thinking of intentionally doing bad in interviews I was going to have in Canberra. Of course I couldn’t do that. I tried my best with each interview.

I didn’t get the first couple of jobs I interviewed for. And when I thought I actually did bad in an interview (I was even convincing the manager that I wasn’t at all qualified for the ASP web developer position they had on offer), I got the job. I guess they were pretty desperate. I dunno. Anyway, it was just as well. I’d rather leave Sydney to go to Canberra than leave Australia altogether.

Since they were in a hurry for me to start working, I wasn’t able to bring all I had with me on my move to Canberra. I had to return to Sydney the next weekend to pack and bring over the rest of my stuff.

I arrived in Canberra on the evening of the day before I start working at the hospital via interstate train. My account manager picked me up at the train station at Kensington and drove me to the suburb of Phillip where I was to live.

During the ride, I couldn’t help but notice the gloominess of all that was around me. It wasn’t that late and it seemed that everybody was already asleep. I was also not used to seeing houses having all lights turned off during the night. Back in the Philippines, people tend to leave at least one light turned on (to ward off burglars I suppose). Right there and then, I realised how much I was going to miss Sydney. I thought then, there wasn’t anything in Canberra.

When I got to the apartment, I felt that it was in the middle of nowhere. It was a compound of townhouse apartments in the middle of the bush. That’s what I thought at the time, at least.

After a few days, I was able to get hold of a map of Canberra and its suburbs. I was able to explore the surrounding area. I realised that I needed a car but since I couldn’t afford one at the time (and I didn’t have an Australian drivers’ licence), I bought a bike instead. I was not pleased to discover that shops close a lot earlier in Canberra than in Sydney (which still has most shops closing early). There really wasn’t a lot of places to go to specially at night.

Raquel was still in the Philippines at the time and my friends were all in Sydney. It was pretty lonely and boring at the beginning. Later on, I found ways to pass the time with activities like starting my own webcomic Lovarian Adventures, watching a lot of DVD and videos, playing PC network games like Counter-strike and Unreal Tournament, and surfing the web.

I eventually got used to Canberra and its slowness of pace and tranquility and serenity. I actually began to like it. All those years I lived in Canberra, I kept on thinking about returning to a big city like Sydney. I missed city life with its crowded streets and late-closing shops and cool events.

Me with my drawing book on Commonwealth Ave Bridge above Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra.

Now that we’re here in Melbourne, Raquel and I realised that we in fact miss living in Canberra. We miss the fact that with a car, we can get almost anywhere around Canberra all within half-an-hour’s drive. We miss the wide open roads and space. We miss the peace and quiet. We miss the people who seem to be more friendly than those who live in either Sydney or Melbourne.

Maybe it’s just a case of the grass being greener but we now think that maybe when we retire, we could return to Canberra, our home away from home in Australia, to live the rest of our lives there.

Oh and before I end this, I just realised something. I originally came from the Philippines. In Canberra, I lived in the suburb of Phillip. And now In Melbourne, I live in the City of Port Phillip. Coincidence or something more mysterious?

Published in: on March 9, 2005 at 11:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Relax, see a movie

We finally got to watch Constantine last night. Being a big comics fan, Gabriel almost always watches movies adapted from comics. He has dragged me to Spiderman, X-men, Daredevil and recently, Elecktra. Elecktra was a big disappointment with heaps of plot holes and not too much good acting so I was expecting more of the same with Constantine.

Fortunately, although Constantine is not really an innovative movie, it is at least entertaining. The story wasn’t overly complex nor innovative at least it’s not shot full of holes. The acting is acceptable (although Keanu Reeves has this mostly wooden expression all throughout the movie) with Rachel Weisz and Tilda Swanson (as Gabriel) giving good performances.

Now, we normally watch movies during weekends. It’s convenient for us since we normally hang out at the mall till about closing time (5pm) and then take in a movie afterwards. Then it’s off to dinner and grocery-shopping before going home. Unfortunately, movie ticket prices at full price costs about $14-$16 apiece except on Tuesdays. On Tuesdays, ticket prices for any movie at any show time are discounted. The prices on Tuesday showings used to be $9.50, discounted but not at all cheap. Recently though, movie theatres announced that Tuesday tickets would be sold at $5. Now that’s cheap! Which was why we rushed to the Jam Factory‘s Village cinema last night to watch Constantine.

People from all walks of life queuing to take advantage of $5 movie tickets

Going to the cinema straight after work reminded me of the times when we were still in the Philippines. We’d usually go to Glorietta to take in a movie after work, having dinner beforehand or munching on a burger while watching movie. Dubbed the cheapest form of entertainment (aside from television I suppose), movie watching has been and still is a national past-time there. I remember when I was still attending university, my friends and I would usually find our way to a movie house between classes. There was this one time when we did a (sort of) movie marathon, watching Father of the Bride and Silence of the Lambs with only 10 minutes between showings.

I’ve also been to a lot of good movies I won’t normally watch or was not even aware of simply because I’ve already seen all the other ones being shown at that time. Bini-binggo kumbaga. Failing that, we could also shell out money to watch a movie for the 2nd, 3rd or for others, even a 4th time if the movie is particularly good or because they’d be watching the same movie with different sets of friends. Or if you don’t have anything better to do, you could just stay in the cinema after one session in order to watch the next one. Unlike the way theatres are run abroad, cinemas in the Philippines are only cleaned at the end of the day, not after every show. Which is why, there won’t be anybody hassling you out of the cinema after a session – there would only be an intermission where music is played and the lights are up and if you don’t mind the wait, you could stay in your seat to wait for the next show. Heck, you could even get into the theatre in the middle of the show, watch it till the end and watch the other half in the next session!

Not that that system is a particularly good one. Aside for the fact that ticket prices are cheaper there, I think I prefer the way it’s done here with clean theatres and minimal interruptions during the show. Hooray for $5 Tuesday flicks!

Published in: on March 9, 2005 at 12:40 pm  Leave a Comment