Yet again, it’s been forever since my last post, and yet again, SO much has happened. For one, we moved! We didn’t go far – in fact we stayed in the same building – but our landlady made noises about selling our original place so we decided to move on our own terms rather than at a week’s notice. So, my tradition of living at at least one different address every year since I was 14 lives on. Man, does moving suck. I can’t even imagine how painful it would have been if we’d had to pack everything up in tidy boxes– running it down on the elevator was bad enough. And I almost died when the hubs insisted that we could move our couch ourselves. But now, with it comfortably two weeks in the rearview, I’m happy in our new place…and dreading our next move.
A little over a month ago the Labor Party got together and decided to kick out the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, due to a lack of confidence in his leadership abilities. This saddened me mainly because he’s such a geek in a funny, non-threatening kind of way. I mean, he probably would have bothered me more if his decisions had any real impact on my life, but as an outsider with no stake in how Australia is perceived by the rest of the world I found him highly entertaining. Case in point, this AMAZING Chasers video, which highlights KRudd’s uber-geeky, esoteric manner of speaking (in stark contrast to Barack Obama). Watch this and the above caption will make a lot more sense.
So KRudd was replaced by Julia Gillard, a redhead (“ranga”) who had been his loyal deputy and then apparently stabbed him in the back at the last second when she saw an opening. I liked her as his deputy, and in theory I think it’s awesome that Australia has their first female PM, but her ascendancy sort of revealed the ugly underbelly of politics and made her look like a bit of a snake.
So now there’s a new election (they aren’t regularly scheduled here, but more at the strategic whim of the Prime Minister), and now that Gillard’s in the spotlight we’re constantly exposed to her very weird (apparently bogan) accent, and, on a more shallow level, I find myself very distracted by her chin/neck situation. She’s a lot more robotic (and less spunky) than I’d imagined; she sort of has these talking points that she harps on ad nauseam but doesn’t seem capable of thinking on her feet. Two examples are her emphasis on “not a big Australia, but a sustainable Australia” and her over-reliance on the slogan “Move forward.” It’s like she doesn’t know when it’s overkill. To revisit the hilarious Chasers once more, see this great ad for “Julia Gillard GPS”:
Hilariously, the leader of the “Liberal Party” (in American terms, they’re actually what we’d consider conservative), Tony Abbott, is kind of even more wooden and unlikeable. The two main takeaways are that he’s 1) a notorious misogynist (I haven’t quite identified what’s at the root of that reputation, other than that he’s very Catholic and vehemently opposed to birth control, abortions, basically anything else that would allow a woman to have control over her own body), and 2) super into triathlons. Every day there’s new footage of him going out for 5am bike rides, and the above picture shows him emerging from a triathlon swim in all his budgie smuggler glory. He’s also regarded as somewhat of a loose cannon not unlike John McCain, in that he’ll say controversial things that tend to offend people. I actually find that refreshing at times in this age of talking points and canned soundbites, but there’s also kind of a fine line between a maverick and an asshole.
For any Aussies out there, please don’t be offended by my musings, as obviously I’m not particularly well-informed, nor am I intimately familiar with the Aussie political process. I do enjoy politics, though, and it’s been really cool getting to observe how campaigns and elections work in another country without having to fret about how it will actually affect my life. Two years ago when I was teaching Poli Sci at Berkeley and asking my students to consider the pros and cons of Australia’s mandatory voting system, I never in a million years thought I’d get to see it for myself firsthand.
Oh an one more thing: I’m not sure how seriously Australians take these elections, either, given that the only debate of the election had to be rescheduled because it was set to go up against MasterChef, and they knew no one would watch. I won’t harp on it, but I STILL don’t get the allure of MasterChef compared to Top Chef, where the cooks are genuinely skilled. Clearly I’m in the minority as pretty much every other expat blogger has written a post extolling MC’s virtues, but whatever.
Meanwhile, I’ve been training for City2Surf, a 14km (~9 miles) road race that goes from Hyde Park in the CBD through the Eastern Suburbs and finishes up at Bondi. Each weekend for the past few months I’ve trained with a running group from the gym, and I’ve augmented that with lots of cardio while also trying to go easy on my creaky knees. (Oh yeah, along the way I was also diagnosed with arthritis and told I have “the left knee of a 50 year-old.” Fun times!) It’s been a really nice way to sort of make the winter pass by faster, while also helping me appreciate that winter really isn’t bad at all, considering I was out running in shorts and a t-shirt every Sunday.
The race is happening this Sunday, and as it’s the 40th anniversary they’ve allowed for more entrants than ever before — apparently more than 70,000 people, which will make it the largest race in the entire world. Therefore I’m not quite sure I’ll actually get to run at my top pace, but I think it will be an amazing atmosphere and will be hopefully be a nice way to work our way into spring. Supposedly lots of bands play music along the route – last year apparently Metallica was in town and played from the roof of a bar in Double Bay! – and people get decked out in wacky costumes similar to Bay to Breakers in San Francisco.
I’ll be running with one of the hubs’ co-workers, and the hubs himself has been tasked as our official photographer (how fortunate that we live within five minutes of the race route). So I guess that’s the next “box to tick” with regard to settling into our Aussie lives. Let’s hope the race is fair dinkum, or whatever. Next up: a work holiday to Bali in early September. I mean, could I get any more Aussie?