Five things I like about Melbourne

When we first announced to our friends that we’d be moving to Melbourne, most of them commented on the terrible weather in Melbourne. It always rain here apparently, and is constantly dreary and cold. There were also tales of Melbourne experiencing four seasons in one day. It would be sunny in the morning, hot by midday, windy and cold by afternoon and raining that same night. Sounds terrible, doesn’t it?

Funny thing is, in my two years of living here, I could only remember a few days of really bad weather. I remember a day when it was really pouring rain and hubby commented that if the same thing happened in the Philippines, work and school would have been cancelled already. Then there were the odd days of crazy, howling winds and the occasional hailstorm. On the other hand, perhaps coming from a tropical country regularly visited by typhoons every year may have something to do with my higher tolerance for rain. After all, even the worst storm here didn’t even compare to the ones we get in the Philippines.

A little rain is always good for the flowers and the dams, what with the stricter water restrictions nowadays. Besides, as the photos I took during our lunch break today illustrate, Melbourne does get its fair share of good weather too!

Here’s a short list of what else I like about living here, in commemoration of Melbourne’s foundation day yesterday:

  1. Public transport – Buses, trains and trams all use a common ticket, called a MetCard, which is convenient and easy to understand. As long as you have the proper ticket for a zone, you could use just one ticket to transfer between the three different modes of transport available.
  2. CBD layout – When I first saw the layout for the city’s CBD, I knew that the possibility of me getting lost in some unfamiliar street is slim. It’s easy because it’s laid out in a grid! It may look unnatural but to people like me who are just hopeless with a map, it’s a dream to navigate!
  3. Cultural mix – People from all walks of life from different countries come here to work, live or play. Catering to all these people has made the city a venue for a truly eclectic mix of restaurants, cultural events and entertainment.
  4. Community size – Melbourne is the second-largest city in Australia, home to approximately 3.7 million people. It’s big enough to host big events but is still small enough to have affordable suburbs that aren’t too far from the city. I use the word ‘affordable’ here loosely – for the same amount of money, you could purchase a home in a suburb closer the city than in, say, Sydney.
  5. Proximity to the coast – I lived in a city near the bay in Manila and saw the coast everyday on my way to and from work. I didn’t realise I’ve missed seeing the coast until I moved to Melbourne, where I could visit the beach anytime and be reminded of the Philippines.
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Published in: on August 31, 2006 at 12:20 pm  Comments (7)  

Re-organisation

I’ve been reading and posting at the Filipino Australian Exchange again lately. It’s been a while since I’ve looked in there to help out. After reading at some posts, I realised that some of the posts Raquel and I have on this blog may actually help those Pinoys seeking to migrate to Australia. Or, at the very least, give them an insight as to what life is like as a migrant here in Australia.

So, I tried looking at our blog for information on migrating to Australia and only then did I realise that those posts are jumbled up with our other non-migration-related posts. Sure, if you had the patience, you will read the posts you are interested in, eventually.

I figured I need to add a new page on the site specifically aimed at would-be migrants looking for relevant posts on this blog. I’m thinking of listing the relevant posts’ titles and a short summary on that page.

It’s not up yet though. I’m still quite busy at work and at home. I’ll try adding such a page this weekend. So, if you come back, say Sunday, hopefully the “Migrating to Australia?” page (working title only) will be up by then.

Published in: on August 30, 2006 at 12:53 pm  Comments (2)  

Kiddie Buskers

While having a walk along Collins Street during our lunch break the other day, Raquel and I happened upon the cutest buskers ever. There were these two kids playing small violins in synch.

It was such an “Awww” moment. They’re violin playing wasn’t bad at all, to boot. I couldn’t help but give the pair a gold coin for their efforts.

I was only worried that they didn’t have a guardian with them. I looked around and I saw him. Probably their father or uncle. He was sitting on a nearby metal bench watching over them. I knew he must be their guardian and not just some stalking creep because he was holding the other violin case. Good to know that someone was watching over the girls.

However, thinking back on it now, it does feel uncomfortably like forced child labour to Raquel and me. And the guardian was actually some task master. Hmm. Maybe I can turn that into a short story or comics script. Nobody steal this idea, okay?

Anyway, I wanted to post about this a couple of days ago but I was just too darn busy with work in the office and other priorities.

Published in: on August 29, 2006 at 11:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

I’m Sketching in the Train

I admit that I’m not the kind of person who sketches real-life stuff a lot. I’m more of a cartoonist than a fine-artist. I occassionally draw stuff from the real world though when I don’t have a camera and I needed it for reference in future comic projects. Anyway, I have this small A6-sized sketch pad with me always so that I can sketch anytime I feel like it.

I’ve been doing a lot of sketching while on the train ride to or from work. But just for kicks, I tried drawing the people around me inside the train. The first person I tried was a (possibly Asian) lady two seats away to the left of me reading a newspaper. She was pretty still so I whipped out my mechanical pencil and started sketching. The result is the thumbnail on the right. Click it for a larger view.

I wasn’t too satisfied with the first try so I looked around for somebody else to sketch. One seat in front of me was an old lady doing some crossword puzzles, if I recall correctly. Like the other lady, she was pretty still, too. Probably too intent on the crossword puzzles. I had to rubber neck a bit because the person in front of me kept blocking my view of the old lady. The result is the thumbnail on the left. Click it for a larger view.

All the time, I was just afraid that I’d get caught. I know that what I’m doing isn’t bad but people may not take too nicely to being stared at. Then there’s this old bloke sitting across the aisle on my left that might be looking at what I’m doing. I was also afraid he’d dob me in.

Anyway, when I got home, I also added some colour to the old lady sketch using Photoshop 7. I usually use Painter for colouring nowadays but I decided to try Photoshop this time after reading about another way to utilise the brush tools on the Internet. The result is the thumbnail on the right. Click it for a larger view.

There you go. Some sketches. I should sketch outdoors more often. Theses sketches gave me a different kind of satisfaction after I finished sketching the subjects.

Published in: on August 26, 2006 at 9:00 pm  Comments (5)  

In another place and time

Have you ever wondered what your life would have been now if you changed one thing in your past? What if you went out with that boy whom you refused because you don’t see a future with him? What if you went to another school, or took up another profession? What if you applied and got accepted to that job you forgot to apply to? What if you moved to that city you’ve always been dreamt of living in? What if?

If you saw the movie Sliding Doors, this concept of modifying one event in your life changing everything else is not a new concept. In that movie, the events in a woman’s life depended upon her catching a train home. We see both sides of the story – one in which she got on the train and went home a little earlier and another where the doors close on her. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s worth renting.

At times when hubby and I walk on our way home, we sometimes have these sort of discussions. What could have happened if we both changed careers, for example? He’s an engineering graduate now but has toyed with the idea of studying computer science, even considering a shift in studies in his second year at uni. I, on the other hand, would have taken up journalism had career prospects been plentiful (and better paying).

In that alternate reality, Geejay would have graduated earlier than he did and may have been one of the numerous IT professionals recruited to work in America before the Y2k bust. He might have stayed there afterwards, making a new life for himself. On the other hand, I might have been a stereo-typical journalist who goes where the stories are, living out of a suitcase on a caffeine and nicotine induced high. In a worst case scenario, I may not even be among the living anymore, already a part of a statistic of murdered journalists in the Philippines.

There would have been little chance we could have met in that reality too and so we would be with different partners now or maybe still be searching for that special someone. We may have never moved to Australia on our own, may never even have crossed paths at all. This blog would never have come into existence – hubby may have created his own blog in a different name but I’m too lazy to have bothered at all. Palabok.com would surely be a totally different site, with entirely new content, possibly a food blog. And yes, you, dear reader, would not be where you are now reading about another place and time in someone else’s life.

Published in: on August 25, 2006 at 12:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Use That Strine in a Sentence

A reader of our blog asked if we could provide sentence usage samples of Australian slang. Okay, I’ll give it a go as it only seems fair. Now, for those of you reading this who are born Australian, please forgive my mediocre attempts at mimicking your Aussie speech patterns. I can only compose the sentences based on my still somewhat limited experience listening to other Aussies talk.

For kicks, I’ll have characters talking to one another while using Aussie slang. Again, I apologise if the sentences seem a bit contrived.

Stevo (nickname of Steve) and Macca (nickname of someone with a surname that has Mc/Mac in it like McDonald) bumped into each other outside the train station ten days from Christmas.

Stevo: “Oy! Macca, you bloody bastard!”

Macca: “Mate! So, how’s it going?”

Stevo: “I’m good, thanks. You?”

Macca: “I’m good. How’s Bronwyn?”

Stevo: “The wife’s still a bit crook but I’m taking her to hospital again this arvo.”

Macca: “I reckon she’ll be right. She’s a strong sheila.”

Stevo: “Yeah. She’s sworn off ciggies now.”

Macca: “Yeah. Yeah. Those fags will kill you.”

Stevo: “Hey, hang on. Don’t you have work today?”

Macca: “Oh, yeah. I chucked a sickie. I wanted to have a break, you know?”

Stevo: “Hahaha. No worries, mate. I won’t dob on ya.”

Macca: “Thanks, mate.”

Stevo: “So, what are you doing out here? If I were you, I’d be having a ripper of a time at home watching my best of footy DVD collection.”

Macca: “I had to return this dodgy Esky to the shops. I reckon it isn’t fair dinkum. I lost the docket though. Must’ve chucked it in the rubbish bin.”

Stevo: “You’ll be right. I had to exchange my boy’s daggy daks with no docket the other day because it was too small. No dramas.”

Macca: “I hope so. Otherwise, I’m stuffed.”

Stevo: “This time of year, I’m sure heaps of people will still buy it off you on eBay if it came to that.”

Macca: “Or I can just donate the bloody thing to the Salvos.”

Stevo: “Yeah. They’d be happy to get anything this Chrissie. I already gave away our old manchester and doona, a couple of old thongs and my gray sunnies.”

Macca: “The old Oakley one? That would’ve made for a grouse Chrissie prezzy. Even if they were used.”

Stevo: “Nothing I can do about it now.”

Macca: “I still haven’t decided on what to give my brother’s boys.”

Stevo: “Chokkies and lollies are bloody cheap these days.”

Macca: “Yeah. I might go with that at the end of the day. I don’t have heaps of cash on me to buy something dear.”

Stevo: “I take it you didn’t get your compo then?”

Macca: “Yeah, nah, yeah. My lawyer must’ve been mucking around. He said something’s wrong with my docos.”

Stevo: “That’s dodgy.”

Macca: “Bloody oath.”

Stevo: “Anyway, you wanna grab a brekkie?”

Macca: “Nah. I’m right. I already had a couple of bikkies and a cuppa at the milk bar back there.”

Stevo: “You sure? My shout. I won the scratchy just the other day.”

Macca: “Good on ya! But, hey, weren’t you whinging about not ever winning the scratchies and the pokies?”

Stevo: “Yeah. I’m just stoked I won when I did.”

Macca: “Ha! I’d be rapt, too, hey. I’ll have to let you go though. I still have an esky to return.”

Stevo: “No worries. I’ll just call you and we can have a barbie over the weekend.”

Macca: “Beauty. I’ll bring some tucker over.”

Stevo: “Bloody ripper. See ya then.”

Macca: “Right. See ya.”

As the two mates parted ways, a ute with an expired rego chucked a yewy by the side road almost hitting the pashing uni students. (I know this last bit was totally unnecessary.)

So, there you go. You probably won’t hear a lot of Aussies use these much strine slang in such a short span of time. I’m not even 100 percent sure I used all of the strine correctly but I think it’s close enough for this exercise.

To understand most of the words used above, refer to my previous entry about Australian Slang. That’s where the original request on “how to use the australian slangs in the way of talking” came from. Also, there are a lot of other more comprehensive Australian Strine Slang dictionaries on the web. All you need to do is Google it.

Published in: on August 24, 2006 at 12:14 pm  Comments (9)  

Quick Sketch of Me

The train ride from the city to our place takes roughly 48 minutes. In that span of time, I do one or a combination of the following things: I sleep (usually from Werribee to the city in the mornings), I read the newspaper (the free variety — as in MX), I read a book, I listen to music or podcasts or I draw.

On the ride home the other last night, I was in the mood to draw. I started with the usual character designs I needed for the lead character, Faith, in my comics submission to the graphic anthology project I’m a part of. Then, I thought that maybe I needed a new avatar for the forums and blogs I frequent. So, I started sketching a cartoonish version of myself. And that means, it didn’t really look exactly like me and I had no intention of making it an accurate depiction of my physical appearance.

The end sketch was a bit rough. Now I wished I polished it up a bit more before scanning it in the PC. Anyway, I added a bit of colour to it using Painter and the thumbnail you see with this post is the end result. I’ll need to either fix this up or just draw another one — a better one.

Well, that’s it. I’m thinking of posting more of my sketches here on the blog on a more regular basis now that I’m drawing more often again.

Published in: on August 23, 2006 at 12:39 pm  Comments (4)  

Puppy in training


One of our favourite TV shows is Border Security, a behind-the-scenes look at Australia’s immigration, customs and quarantine departments. To keep Australia’s flora and fauna free from pests and diseases, strict quarantine laws are in place. Numerous travellers featured on the show try to bring in food (either intentionally or not), narcotics and a variety of prohibited items.

Incoming travellers should declare any products with dairy/egg products, seeds, nuts, plants, animal products, live animals and all fresh fruits and vegetables. The customs officers are quite strict, with on-the-spot fines routinely issued. Drug moles, with their creative ways of concealing narcotics, are no match for customs officers who seem to have a sixth sense for spotting carriers a mile away. And if that’s not enough, they have trained detector dogs who sniff luggages for anything suspicious.

And speaking of detector dogs, hubby took photos of this cute detector puppy in training. We sighted him at our platform in Flinders station tonight. The lady who was in charge of him was gracious enough to let Geejay take a couple of photos and even made the puppy sit still during the shoot. Isn’t he just adorable with his vest emblazoned with the big L (for learner)? I’m certain he would have a bright future, with his movie-star looks and intelligence.

Published in: on August 22, 2006 at 10:14 pm  Comments (5)  

Please Stop Playing

Age must really be getting to me because here I am again with another rant that would make me look meaner than I really am. Still, I want to vent so…

There’s this busker who has taken a spot in a big intersection in the CBD. He sits on a stone bench at the corner of the intersection, a tambourine tied to his feet, Walkman head phones over his ears and a tin whistle in his hands.

Normally, I wouldn’t mind the sound of tin whistles (also knowns as pennywhistles, flageolets, or Irish whistles) due to their similarities to the recorder (another flute-like woodwind instrument) in sound. But these things can be pretty loud — in the screeching sense of the term.

It doesn’t help matters that the busker was playing the tin whistle with absolutely no regard for tune! He taps his feet to the beat of whatever music it is he’s listening to, thus making the tambourine ring out rhythmically. Okay, no problem there.

But the whistle playing…! He’s listening to what must be this beautiful music over his head phones and he tries to keep up with the tune of it on his tin whistle. Forget that. He’s not even trying to keep up with the tune at all! It was like the sound of a twitter bird being tortured. Fast-paced high-pitched shrieks of pure noise accompanied by the sound of a beating tambourine. He’s giving tin whistlers everywhere a bad name. Imagine a wanna-be singer auditioning for Australian Idol singing out of tune whilst listening to his or her iPod. Only worse!

I’m don’t normally rant about performers who are mediocre in their chosen specialty. If I think an actor did bad, I normally just let it go. There’s this guitarist busker every morning in the Flinders Street subway who simply doesn’t have the voice for singing and I just ignore him. But the whistling busker? I couldn’t take.

Now I feel bad for thinking this, but I even considered telling him up front: “Could you please stop playing?” Yeah, I know it’s mean of me to think it, but that’s how much it annoys me. I know I should just be thankful that he’s at least doing something to earn money instead of just sitting on his bum and begging for it.

I’ve read somewhere that there was a plan to form a sort of committee to assess whether a busker would be given a busking licence in Melbourne depending on his or her level of skill. At the time, I couldn’t believe that they would think of doing this. What? There’d be auditions first before getting a busking licence? What would be considered good enough for the streets of Melbourne? I thought it was ridiculous and it would be unfair.

Instead of a committee, maybe there should just be a box where people can submit complaints regarding specific buskers. Get enough complaints and you get your licence to play in the CBD revoked. Those buskers who are mediocre performers probably wouldn’t get complaints as it will be too much of a hassle for the passers-by. But for the annoyingly poor performers, well, they might just be bad enough to push a few people to submit a complaint.

Okay. I’ve vented now.

I don’t really want the busker out of business. It’s his way of earning a living, after all. Goodness knows he might need the generous donations he gets from busking. In the end though, his “music playing” annoys me intensely. I might just have to avoid that intersection during lunch break in the future. Still, all the best to him. I hope somebody would be kind enough (or annoyed enough) to offer him free lessons in tin whistle playing though.

Published in: on August 22, 2006 at 12:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

To Write an Aussie Story

I’ve been racking my brain since yesterday to come up with an idea for a short story. The deadline for the short story contest is next week and I have yet to type a single word. It’s been a while since I wrote a short story and it was in Tagalog to boot.

Now, I have to come up with a good premise that would be appealing to a primarily Australian readership (not to mention, the judges). There is also the added challenge of writing the dialog in a convincing Australian style.

As an example, I could write a friendly conversation this way:

John: “Hey, Mark! How’re you doing?”
Mark: “John! Yeah, I’m fine.”
John: “So, this is your new car. Looks pretty slick, pal.”
Mark: “You think so? You wanna take her out for a spin?”
John: “For real? Cool! You’re the best, man!”

But, I think it would read more Australian if I write it this way:

John: ‘Oi, Mark! How’s it going?’
Mark: ‘John! I’m good, mate. Yourself?’
John: ‘I’m good. And this must be your new ride. Looks like a bloody beauty, mate.’
Mark: ‘You reckon? You wanna give her a go?’
John: ‘Fair dinkum? Awesome, mate. You legend!’

Okay, so maybe two Australians probably won’t speak exactly the way I wrote it down in the second version but the thing is, I will never know for sure. I’m not a native Australian speaker to begin with. The best I can do is observe and try to mimic their speech patterns. And that’s what I’m worried about. A true-blue Aussie would probably pick up that my version of the dialog isn’t “fair dinkum” at all. That’s why I’m thinking of just writing the way I’ve always wrote. That is, in a more American-slanted English.

Another way I’m thinking of getting around this problem with the speech pattern is to have the lead character a migrant or something. This way, I can write the story in first person and have the migrant narrate the whole thing. It will explain why the writing doesn’t follow Australian conventions except when actual Australian characters speak up in the story.

Well, this problem is actually further down the track. In the meantime, I must first think of a story to write. I wish I come up with something real soon.

Published in: on August 21, 2006 at 12:30 pm  Comments (4)