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Australia - 'England-upon-Mediterranean'?

One thing I often say when I am describing my impressions of Australia, is that it's kind of like 'England-upon-Mediterranean'. By that I mean that it feels kind of like England - the buildings, the language, the shops, the queues, and so on - but it's sunny! And there's good food and wine :-) The state assembly building is classic 'Empire English' architecture, but there are palm trees in front of it. You can do barbecues in the middle of 'Winter'. And they celebrate Christmas on the beach :-)

It's more than that though: other things happen that remind me I'm on a different continent altogether - I see a black and white bird and I think it's a magpie, but it let's out a melodious squawk and fans its tail feathers and it's most definitely not a magpie! The trees and plants are nearly all different, even an ant I saw yesterday at the bus stop looked different to any I've seen before. The sky is blue, the night sky is full of stars and you can see the clouds drifting off over a large land mass inland.

Talking of bus stops, another difference here (though this is somewhat like UK), is that the bus drivers are friendly. They say good morning to you, or 'G'day mate', when you get on the bus, and of course people respond; many people getting off the bus will call out "Thank you driver!", or some variety of that. People in shops, or wherever, are helpful and friendly, and will try to help you out.

OK it ain't perfect, no doubt if I lived here I would meet grumpy Aussies, and encounter dense bureaucrats as there are anywhere. But generally Australians do a good job of making a nice social environment to spend time in.

One thing that was not so nice was the Friday-night-when-everyone-is-pissed experience in town. That also reminded me of the UK but not in a good way. Anyone who has lived in the UK will surely know that feeling when you are going home late at night and there are loads of noisy drunk people around; of course most of them are just having a good time, but I've seen too many fights and problems happen in those situations to ever feel at ease - unless I'm drunk enough myself of course! :-P

Anyway, generally it's very nice here and, as they say 'No worries!' :-)

Brisbane, Internet studies, malls

I’m feeling a bit lost without my camera, which is interesting as it says something about how important pictures have become for my blogging. For most of my posts, the process is like this: I load pictures (of a blogmeet, a place I’ve been, food I’ve eaten...) onto my computer, delete the ones that are no good, then do a simultaneous process of choosing which ones to use for a blog post and how I will tie them together with words... So now, without pictures, I have change my way of writing posts.

Anyway, I’m still very busy so I’ll just do little stream-of-consciousness thing :-)

I’m in Brisbane right now - attending the OII Summer Doctoral Programme, hosted by the Creative Industries Faculty at Queensland University of Technology (QUT): basically, 30 PhD students from various disciplines who study the internet have been brought together, we are given seminars by luminaries from Internet Studies and explain our PhDs to each other. In other words, it’s perfect for me and I am thanking my lucky stars (maybe the Southern Cross? :-P) for being here. It’s tiring, but good.

Talking about lucky stars, the reason I don’t have a camera is that WW’s car was broken into and her bag stolen; and then I was loaned a camera to come here, but the card decided to die on me...

Brisbane is very nice! The public transport is great (the buses have their own roads!), people are friendly and helpful (though the Australians tend to mumble/swallow their words a bit - which I find difficult to follow), food is good, and you can even get a decent curry laksa! Another thing that struck me is that there are many local public libraries, and there was even one in a mall that I went to yesterday. Now that strikes me as a useful function for a mall! There was also a Post Office in the mall. I don’t think that happens in Malaysia: I think that every mall should be required to fund some public services too - they could have a post office, a health clinic, a police station (may be more complicated), a library, a children’s crèche, an arts centre... Not all of these necessarily, but at least a couple. When you think of it - all that money is spent on malls and for what? So people can spend money and give profits to (mostly) big shop owners and property developers. Not to say there isn’t a social benefit in that too, but malls have become such an important focus of life that is almost completely dedicated to one narrow realm of our social life - the buying of material goods.

I’m here for one more week and will try to update more frequently.

Air Asia eXperience

How was my Air Asia eXperience? To check in and get on the plane was OK - the usual minimal service and bus-station-like experience of the LCCT. Though I must say the international departures lounge now has many more shops than before - and it almost feels like a real airport.

The flight was much cheaper than the cheapest MAS flight, about RM1700 cheaper. The ‘Brisbane’ flight lands in Gold Coast Coolangatta airport, which is about one hour from Brisbane, but there’s a Malaysian/Australian company called AAExpress that runs a bus service that will pick you up at the airport and take you to Brisbane for AUD38.

So money-wise, it’s great value and I can’t complain there. But I do have two major grouses.

The seats are pretty minimal, narrow, and don’t lean back very much - OK it’s budget travel... but there is no footrest! Maybe it’s just because I have shorter legs or something, but I find that a footrest can make so much difference and surely they can’t cost a lot to have! It’s rare even to find a bus without them now.

And the second problem is the food - I booked a ‘Vegetarian meal’ and this is what I got...
air asia meal nasi lemak

yep, like one scoop of rice and a few spoonfuls of some (admittedly tasty) fake meat-type thing. Oh, and a bottle of water. It’s really not enough - and they only serve one meal in an eight hour flight. I mean, I would be fine with paying more to get a proper meal! Some fruit, bread roll, whatever... shame! :-(
air asia meal nasi lemak

And because they spend so much time giving people change, etc, it takes ages to serve.

Anyway; something I would recommend is that it’s probably well worth paying in advance for the entertainment (i.e. films, etc.) - if you’re saving RM1,000+ on the flight, might as well allow yourself RM30 or less to avoid spending the whole flight staring at a map with the plane’s flight track... And bring a pillow and blanket.