Thursday, May 31, 2007

I'd like that one, over there

As I said earlier, trying to imitate an Adelaide accent is even harder than trying to do some sort of "Crocodile Dundee" accent, mainly because I can't get the 'a' sound down without sounding incredibly ridiculous. The worst (for me) is the word pastie, which is like a meat or veggie-filled turnover (or as the Aussies would say, a veg-filled turnover). Since it's not a decoration worn by a stripper, it's not pronounced "pay-stie" as I first thought, but neither is it "pasty" with short a (like in path). It's p-ah-stie, which when I say my tongue goes to the back of my mouth and it comes out all quavery, like I'm imitating a 19th century upper-class British grandmother. And of course, I can't say it without bursting out laughing. It's not exactly appropriate to walk into a bakery, order something in the manner of an effete British noble, and then burst out laughing, so I'm in a bit of a tight spot, since they're a fairly common part of an Australian diet. If you're not a fan of the gelatinous meat-filled pie, pasties are the way to go, since they're generally filled with actual recognizable vegetables and pieces of meat. When I'm with another Australian, I let them do the ordering. If I'm on my own, I generally end up pointing.
At the hostel we play the radio during the day, and it's on a popular music station. Unfortunately, they seem to play the same 4 songs over and over again. All by Kylie Minogue. It's no use changing stations because ALL stations play the same thing. Yes, I know she is the only world famous pop singer to come out of Australia. But please, couldn't they mix it up a little, with something more interesting, like, say, N'Sync, or perhaps a TV commercial jingle?

* * *

I read in the paper yesterday that the Dutch people who produce 'Big Brother' (If you're my mother, the show is about people who have to live with each other for months on end and have their lives videotaped and shown to millions) are planning a show called 'Big Donor' where three people compete for a kidney from a terminally ill woman. At the end, people vote on who should get the kidney, though the woman has the final say. Not quite sure what to say, except ethical considerations aside, is it even legal? Even the Netherlands must have laws against something like this, or perhaps there's an international law?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

G'day G'day

After almost three months in Australia, I'm getting accustomed to hearing Australian accents all the time. When I speak myself, I am quite conscious of my own American accent, especially the hardness of my Rs. I haven't picked up much of an Aussie accent, though my "g'day" has gotten pretty good. (Strangely enough though, when I'm watching television, it will sometimes take me quite awhile before I'm aware that the speaker is British or American. It seems that there's some sort of commonality to the TV news anchor or documentary narrator that spans all dialects of English.) The accent in Adelaide is a bit different from the standard Australian accent, it's formally called "cultivated Australian" and is much closer to British English. There are two other dialects, "broad" (think the Crocodile Hunter, RIP) and "standard" (think Nicole Kidman). For example, in Adelaide the word "rather" rhymes with how we pronounce "father", as do all words with a short a in the middle, like chance, path etc. People on the east coast say chance and rather the same way we do, except more nasally. Adelaidians claim it's because they were settled by second sons of wealthy British elites and pious German protestants instead of filthy convicts or Irish (which I guess would explain the huge preponderance of Anglican and Lutheran churches--there's literally almost a church on every corner in town). My guess is they preserved it over time for the pure snob factor. (no, actually people in Adelaide are very nice and friendly--though where did your father go to school again?). Another difference is elsewhere in Australia people say 'haitch' for the letter 'h', which in Adelaide might get you shot. Same goes with 'yous.'

Though also, some 's'es get pronounced as 'sh', for example assume becomes ashume etc. Occasionally, some one will say schedule like shedule. And of course, no one pronounces their Rs unless at the beginning of the word. Also, words like 'mate' and day get more of an 'ai' pronunciation, though less of that in Adelaide than in other parts of Australia. Which makes the Adelaide accent much harder to pick up, because it's actually more of a cross between an English and an Australian accent. I suppose English people might be better at imitating it though.

Do you speak English? pt. 2

I went to a deli the other day, the kind where they assemble a sandwich per your instruction from behind a glass counter. First, I had to choose my type of bread. They had a bread that vaguely looked whole wheat, so I asked for the wheat bread. "Okay," said the woman, and she grabbed what looked like (to me) white bread. "No no--can I have that bread?" I pointed at the wheat bread.
"Oh, you mean the oat bread." she said. Things went along okay, as I remembered to pronounce the t in chicken fillet (rhymes with millet in Australian, not ballet). But then we got to the cheese section, and things became difficult. None of the cheeses looked terribly appealing, but there was an orange cheddar type cheese, so I asked for cheddar. The woman began to put this waxy white cheese on my sandwich.
"No wait--I want the orange one instead, what's that called" I said.
"Oh, you mean the Old English" she replied, giving me a bemused look. Next I asked for green bell pepper, and she stared at me like she had no clue what I was talking about. Finally, after more gesturing and pointing on my part, she said, "Oh, you mean the capsicum."

Monday, May 21, 2007

pie floater

I finally had a pie floater, South Australia's main specialty dish. It consists of a meat pie floating in a bowl of pea soup sprinkled with a liberal serving of ketchup (hence the name, pie floater). It's a dish sold from carts on the street, generally at night for people leaving the bar who want a late night snack. Generally I think the later it is and more inebriated you are, the better a pie floater tastes. The cart has a selection of different types of meat pies (steak and kidney, steak and mushroom, chunky beef, etc.) and then a big vat of pea soup. You pick your pie, and then the woman ladles out a bowl of soup and places the pie on top. We got our pie floater to go, which isn't the best idea, because by the time the we got home the pie was completely soggy.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Grapes of Wrath redux

which, fyi, in South Australia is pronounced more like "the grapes of wroth"

Anyways, here are some pictures from the grape harvest: Top left: me in action (or is it inaction?) Top right: putting grapes on the truck
2nd row:me with my kill.
Next: the farmhouse
Below: the vineyard
Bottom: a row of grapes

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Do you speak English?

The other day I went to the supermarket to buy ingredients to make sushi. It was a couple of minutes before closing, and instead of searching the aisles for the rice, I thought it would be faster to ask. I walked up to an attendent and said, "excuse me, where can I find the rice."
she responded with a blank look. "what?" she said.
"um, do you know where the rice is?" I replied.
Again, she stared at me blankly, this time with a bit of panic. "what?" she said.
I was beginning to feel a bit desperate. Rice is a fairly simple word, and I couldn't think of any other way to say it. I tried agian, slowly, and as clearly as possible: "RICE."
Again, she looked at me blankly. "I don't know what you're saying."
Feeling very foolish, I tried to describe it. "Um, it's white, and you eat it in a bowl, with chopsticks" I mimed eating a bowl of rice, hoping no one else in the store was watching. I hadn't expected to have to do this in an English speaking country.
"Oh, RICE" she said, pronouncing it more like "Ray-uce" "I don't know where that is."

Saturday, May 12, 2007

here we come a hosteling....

So, a few things have happened since I wrote my last post. First of all, I have got a second part time job working as a receptionist in a youth hostel. I've been working for about two weeks, and it's a pretty fun job, though it manages to be both laid back and hectic at the same time. Most things are pretty straightforward, and it's gotten easier as I've learned the ropes. And of course, the number of weird requests I've gotten has decreased with each shift. My first shift was the hardest, with people coming in and asking for all sorts of things not covered in my training, like if they could take showers here (they did pay for them). Now people mainly just ask the same questions (where's the nearest....) or if they can have change for the washing machine. The hostel is in the middle of Adelaide (Adelaide "city" is a square mile of mainly commercial buildings, what we would call a down town. Everything else, what we'd call neighborhoods, are called suburbs. So even though I live a 10 minute walk from central Adelaide, I say I live in the suburbs. Confusingly, they also call the suburbs "suburbs" though they have fewer of those because there's less urban sprawl. Not that Aussies don't like the same sort of picket fence/McMansion houses we do, there's just fewer of them to sprawl out.) But anyways, that's a bit of a digression. My hostel is in the Northwestern half, kind of on youth hostel row. It's the area of town that was fairly seedy and is now getting funky/trendy with young people. It's still a mixture of mattress and auto shops, cheap cafes, strip clubs and hipster bars (there's some sort of strip place I walk past that lists its hours from 10-6pm. can't figure out the exact clientele they're catering to.) According to google earth, it's almost exactly 2 miles from my house, and I tend to walk there because the bus schedule doesn't really work for me, I can either get there half an hour early or 5 minutes late, neither of which is desirable. But it's a nice walk and it's a way to get some exercise so I don't mind.
The hostel is run by a Swiss woman probably 5 years older than me who has married an Australian. She's nice, although I'm a little bit intimidated by her, mainly because after my first shift, she listed off about 20 things I'd done wrong, and then at the end she said, "well, not too bad for the first day." Though seriously, when not telling me what I'd done wrong she is very friendly, as are the people staying at the hostel. Many of them are Swiss (does she advertise? is there some sort of secret Swiss guidebook?) There are also lots of people from the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands and Germany, as well as a few Italians, French, and Canadians (though no French Canadians). There have been relatively few Americans, though I did manage to offend several of the Canadians by asking them if they were American. There was one guy from Oregon though, who was from Eugene.
I don't have much occasion to use my Chinese, though I did get to take a booking in French. It was rather pitiful. However, I managed to get her credit card number if not exactly her name ( unless it's Bulamerv...). But anyways, have to go and deal with some laundry. I'll try to update more often in the future.