Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Walking through the Grocery store.

We were walking through the grocery store the other day and I spotted green seedless grapes. I got excited, not that I was going to buy any, but I could. Then I noticed the price: $15.99 a Kilo. The grapes were imported from the USA.

They don't celebrated Halloween here but they do sell pumpkins- however all their pumpkins look like gourds.(yellowish greenish on the outside) The second time we were in a grocery store I notices a stand that had "Halloween Pumpkins". They were bright orange like I was used to. Guess how much they were, just guess. . . nope, wrong. They were $22.95. I'm assuming they were imported as well.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Happy Halloween!

We went everywhere trying to find a bit of candy corn but they just don't celebrate Halloween here. So we got some sugar and syrup and made our own carmel apples. Yummy. Also strange was that we couldn't find corn syrup anywhere, and come to think of it I never saw any maple syrup either, just honey and sugar cane syrup. We were going to get out today but the weather is a little gloomy. Not sure if I should dress up as an American or a plasterer's assistant tonight.

I've been thinking about how non PC, sexist, and racist this place is. I'm not saying the states is great, it's certainly not perfect, but I feel like it's much better than we give it credit. For instance, yesterday mark the plasterer and Shirley were talking about wwoofers and how blokes can stay in any old shed, but girls need a proper room in house. Yvonne's son calls everything he doesn't like "gay" as do his friends, and I think the only reason racism is not a big problem here, like Ireland, is that there are no non-whites here. Immigration is so strict because they want an all white Australia, as they say. If there was a large minority population here I'd expect there to be some conflicts of interests. The Korean girls wouldn't adopt non-asian kids becasue they wouldn't want them to be different, and if they adopted a chinese child they'd say it was korean. The U.S. is a damn accepting place.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


So, Yvonne's ex-lover, their second son, and his grandmother were over for dinner tonight. Somehow September 11th came up, oh yeah, their first son lives just twenty kilos from where the "plane" crashed in Pennsylvania. I muttered that there is no proof that a plane crashed in PA and they all agreed with me! I went on to mention the loose change film and they say sure, it's sold on DVD down at the corner store! These Ausi's know more about what's actually going on in the States than we do.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

It's been one month

Well, we've been gone for one month now and are both amazed that we still have two more months of wwoofing before we even leave Australia. Intense. I could sure go for some apple cider...

Friday, October 27, 2006


The Tele is always on here, and with only one common room and no bedroom in the house it's very distracting. Such a contrast to Marcus'! I have to go outside to get any time to myself or study Japanese.

Oh, Americans, they're all ax murderers

Well, we're in Launceston for the next couple of weeks. The family we're staying with is very nice. There is another guy here redoing their gardens and two Korean girls that generally keep house, and Alison and I who have been assisting Thomas the Builder and Marky the Plasterer in renovating her mother's house which is right next door. The "good christian Korean girls" Have me and Sam, the gardener, banished to the grandmother's house while it is being renovated. Oh, the Lord works in mysterious ways. Early mornings for us men anyhow. The builders are actually very nice and funny guys, a bit different from your typical American construction worker. Oh yeah, she has a 16 year old daughter, and an 18 year old son who often has friends over. It's a noisey crowded house, but it's all good energy. Yvonne collects chinese antiques, as per this stool I really like. There's also a photo of the great view and my new friend.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


More studio work today, the drum and basket are nearly done. Yesterday we were here all day, shoveling horse shit mixed with straw and a roadkill kangaroo into their garden. While I saw more shit working for Parks and Rec down at the sewage treatment plant, it was not flavored with the distinct aroma of steamy rotting flesh, kangaroo or otherwise. After four hours of that we were both ready to collapse. That's when the children found us, made me jump them on the trampoline, push them on the big swing in the north paddock, and watch them on the big net. After dinner, the kids needed to stay inside and my stomach became the trampoline. I nearly puked. Needless to say it has been very hard to get time to write or study our Japanese, and as nice as Marcus is, I'm ready to leave for the overworking.

Just thought I'd add a shot of our leaky caravan.

Can you technology and modern living with environmental consciousness?

I keep thinking about our goals on this trip:
Researching sustainable living in communities with the intentions of merging different ways of life with modern lifestyles in order to decrease our negative affects on our environment and our society.

At lease this is a goal of mine, but I am struck by something strange as we continue this journey. I am not sure exactly what it is but I will try to describe it. I guess the questions that are raised are: Can you combine environmental consciousness with technology? Is the only solution (for creating a healthy environment for children, families and individuals) to isolate them from TV, internet, and the out side world as a whole?
I bring up these questions because the last two places that we have stayed at have given us this impression in some form or another. Mainly at Marcus' place. His kids go to a small school that encourages the families not to own a television. They are encouraged to entertain themselves by other means that are therefore more beneficial to their development. That sounds like a brilliant idea, but is it really. These children are completely sheltered from the outside world. They have no children in their neighbourhood because they don’t have a neighbourhood. They don't get some social ques because their exposor is limited. The strange part is that their parents pride themselves on this disconnect from technology or 'staying off the national grid', however they have a TV in their bedroom facing their bed. When we ask about internet access Marcus vaguely describe access in some far away place that we might be able to get too or we could go to the city and pay for it. It turns out that he has it in his office that exits in a shed about 20 feet away. So he made it seem impossible and gave us disapproving looks. But if you think about it his business excels because of internet access and Maree's work depends on it. They are hiding it from their children and from us because they think it is better with out it. Marcus also creates sculpture about it base on his lack of knowledge of technology. I find it really confusing and still hold onto the idea that we can find a balance with technology and out environment. We don't have to choose one or the other.

What We Think Of America

I'm reading a very interesting book here at Marcus' - "What We Think Of America" A collection of essays published by Granta 77, 2002 and edited by Ian Jack. It's so interesting to hear how people think of us, speaking with no pretense. In a strange way I wish I knew how Americans though about everyone else, but I guess that's the point, we don't care to think of them. Two excerpts:

"[America] is the only country whose citizenship is an act of faith" (p.49)

[In reference to 9/11] "They say themselves that they have been expelled from their Eden. How strange that they should ever have thought they had a right to one" (p.54)

If you want to end war you have to sing with feeling

Everyone emails me wanting to know how I feel. I feel ok, cold most of the time, often disgusted. With Alison here we can laugh about our woes rather than cry alone, which is good. How's the trip going? Well, the bush is bushier than we thought, the accomodation is much less than we expected, and the work is about the same as we expected. It's hard to tell sometimes when to stop working. The work for the people we stay with never ends, and we could help them dawn to dusk. Sometimes we feel guilty about stopping after four or five hours, but we have to, as an anthropologist must remain removed from the people he or she studies. It's part of the work stay agreement. I'm excited about getting to Japan and staying in one place for a month or two and being in control of my own time. It would be nice to have a weekend off. I'm not excited about it being winter in Japan when we get there. We are both disappointed in how American Australia is (no matter how much they say they don't like us) and are looking into shortening our time in Japan so we can go to India for two months, provided we find a place to stay. I miss everyone, particularly October in New England, leaves, apple cider, and food with flavor. I'm irritated at how hard it is to get anything out here - you can't walk to anything. Getting info from the travel agency is a huge chore. I wish I had a warm had, but am glad I was finally able to get some long johns.

I started feeling tired the other day. Not just exhausted or sleep deprived, I am those things too, but tired. Tired of being here, tired of traveling, and a little homesick, or just in need of a base.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Luney River, TS, OZ

Wow, It could be worse, at least, that's what Alison says. I think we saw a wombat by our mud hut door tonight, although it could have been a wallaby, or one large carnivorous reptile. The toilet has two and a hale walls, and really is just a hole in the ground, but hey there is toilet paper. Anders said that in the deep south you either want to be here, or everywhere else told you to leave.

We had a long talk with Jane the other night and I hammered out a few tunes on the piano. We talked about ceramics and crafts in general. It was nice to feel more connected to these people. I am beginning to understand why they live like this. The weather for this weekend is going to be crap so Anders said he'd just take Monday off to get in some boating time. It's about really being in control of your time and destiny, no one tells these people what to do.

It was raining pretty hard today so we worked inside most of the time. Jane was going to do some house cleaning so we were instructed to peel some apples for stewing and then move own to cleaning out the kitchen drawers. Now, these people save everything as is evident in the cabinets, but there is no particular organizational scheme to it so things seem to get lost in the fold. The top drawers were filled with and array of silverware, kitchen utensils, plastic bags, gum bands, old receipts, dried up pens, wrapping paper, odd bits of string, and half empty packs of batteries. I was half expecting to find a head or small stash of bones. Stuck to the bottoms of these drawers was all manor of green and brown goo and grime, dust - but not your normal dust, thick, heavy, chunky dust - and the feathery carcasses of dead moths. We wiped these all out, returned their mismatched contents, and slid them back into their docks. The next row of drawers held some canned food goods, spices, bagged grains, more chunky dust, and more dead moths. We began to notice the state of the food. Some still sealed in its original containers, some in old peanut butter jars, some wrapped in bags, and some just half open. Of particular interest was a disc of petrified figs, a box of sushi seaweed turned terrarium, and a nearly empty box of solid pancake mix. As I was scrubbing out the bottom of one drawer I thought I saw something move. Yes, there it is again, it's a, oh, my god, a small maggoty worm. Squish and out it went. The final row had much deeper drawers with tall bottles of soy and chili sauce and large glass jars of grains. In one drawer something bad had happened. With the large items removed it was clear a pack of ramen noodles had at some point busted. The bottom of the drawer was thick with dust and debris, and teaming with maggots. They were everywhere, then we saw them in the bagged grain. Anders was home by now and making tea in the kitchen, too. Poor Alison could only stare at them, then forced herself to dispatch them in plane sight of Anders. He said Nothing...

Later at lunch Jane had over her cleaning friend Lyne and they finally brought it up. "We've just never seen anyone as dark as you, Alison, there's no black people here and all the Aborigines are white." Excuse me? "Well, they don't keep their color, over the years it fades." You mean they breed with Caucasians? "Well yes, but it happens naturally too." Anders thinks this is bullshit. So you mean Aborigines, the second oldest race on earth, just started losing their color coincidently at the same time as the brits started sending convicts here? And didn't the white settlers kill all of the tasmanian Aborigines anyway?

Quick reflection

As I am checking prices of plane tickets and catching up with emails and messages I happened upon this in an email from my friend Dan.

". . . its this whole idea of being between. Between the place
you're from and the place you're going. Or between the life you were living
and whatever will end up being your life. . . Just the physical remove from
all the details of life provides a new perspective. Anyway, I like the
freedom of self involved in travel. Somehow, there's new light shed on every
choice you have in front of you. . ."

I am only beginning to grasp the full extent of the idea. The freedom of choice. Being able to go anywhere and do anything. It is up to us at the moment to change our destinations. Each day gives us more confidence in ourselves and in our actions which in turn allows us to take each step with more determination.

Lune River, Tasi

Studio work to Family Life

Here in Allens Rivulet we are working with Marcus Tatton. He came to RISD as a guest critic. I am attaching his website- so check it out. He works primarily with large timbers that he finds in the bush. I really appreciate his work for it's rawness, it's character and for not trying to be something else. His work is large and small, made with chainsaws, gouges, drills,and a 1/2 wooden bandsaw. He also welds without gloves. He just does what he has to do to provide for his family. He works about 4-5 days a week, comes home at 6 to have dinner with his family.- Maree (his wife) and 3 daughters -Elsa 8, Emille 5 and Jorgena 1. Maree works 2 days a week and makes it home by 6 also. The kids go to a school that encourage the parents not to own a television. These kids manage to entertain themselves with out TV, movies, or video games. They actually play!!!!. And their parents take time every day to play with them. It is a refreshing sight. They garden, knit, draw, play the piano and much more. All of this is accomplished without a nanny. You might think the children are socially awkward going to a school that is so small, but they aren't, then are just really wholesome children. Very refreshing.

Hobart and beyond

We finally have time and internet access ( trust me we are paying dearly for this time to connect with the outside world) We are currently in Hobart trying to run errands. However Hobart does not make it easy. Most places are closed although their voice mail says their open. Very frustrating. We have found a warm place to work on the internet. The time we've spent so far in Tasmania has been frustrating but beneficial.

When we arrived in Tasmania we checked in at "Hobart Sustainable Living". The conversations that took place were very helpful. Their organization strives to educate and encourage people to live more sustainable and environmentally conscious. They achieve these goals through state support and fund raising. We asked about the Tasmania Together that I mentioned in a previous blog. Their response was- that's a government organization and to show how much support they have the organization wasn't mentioned once in the last election. Very interesting. However I have realized that sustainable here is not about the organizations is about the way of life of the people. In Lune River and in Allens Rivulet ( close to Hobart) people are content with the way they are living. They aren't trying to get Cable TV or even a TV. They have no desire to change their composting toilets. They don't really have trash cans because they recycle or reuse everything. It's a way of life and they are happy.

I want a balance of modern conveniences and natural living. Both of the places that we have stayed are equally Environmentally conscious and sustainable, but the reason that I am more comfortable here in Allens Rivulet than Lune River is that it is about 3.5 steps up from shiting in a bucket in a wooden shack with no door. And we have to make friends with a lot less spiders.

I am not exaggerating. I am still enjoying my self but really wanting a balance.


Sitting in Solemenca Park, watching Hobartons. It's a couples city. I don't know what these people do, sitting around in the park. Some stay for hours, some minutes, Everyone sits, everyone meets someone. Ice-cream or a box of noodles, the Vietnamese Kitchen is just down the way. I went into a faery store with rows of pink skirts and pink hats and a dark hallway, gold stars glimmering on story-time. The grass is flat from my level, a vast bed with many sleepers. Sheets of wind cover us, an in between place. Airports, blankets, and bus stops. I will arrive someday.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Anti - Americanism

Had our fist brush with negitive steriotyping today while trying to find places to work in New South Wales in the form of the following email:

Hi Matthew,
After some bad experiences with American WWOOFers and excellent experience with those from almost everywhere else in the world, I am afraid that we are happy to host anyone but Americans.

Not your fault, just the way it's worked out!

I hope you find somewhere, and that you enjoy your stay.

Carol Flanagan

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Lune River, Tasi, OZ

We're in the deep south of Tasmania. Not much time to chat about it now but we'll have some good stories later when we get back to the city. After our posting stint in Sydney I just wanted to let everyone know were still alive.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


As a final note on leaving Sydney, I was struck by the number of beautiful people here, similar in a way to New York, but some how more so, perhaps because of the architecture. After thinking about it all week I decided that it's not that there are so many attractive people here as it is that there is an amazing lack of obese people. This is odd because they have all the McDonald's, KFC, and Hungry Jacks (Burger King) that we do, plus the meat pies.

Sustainable in Tasmania

As I am preparing for out trip to Hobart I have been doing a little research on Sustainability in Tasmania. I have found many websites that address this issue. Most of these websites mention in some way "Tasmania Together". Wondering what Tasmania Together is, I found myself on their website and very impressed with what I saw. I strongly recommend everyone that is interested to visit the site and explore!

For a little teaser:

About Tasmania Together

"“Together we will make Tasmania an icon for the rest of the world by creating a proud and confident society where our people live in harmony and prosperity.Â"

Tasmania Together is a pioneering project that allows the people of Tasmania to say what they want for their long-term social, economic and environmental future.

This is only the first two points of the description about Tasmania Together. It seems very idealistic and the effort is getting results in education, employment, nutrition, smoking and much, much more. Although some of the topics of improvments are probably debatable, this seems like a genuine effort of people getting together to make a difference in the place that they live. I have a few questions about this how they got all otheireinputut from the community. Does this actually represent the majority of Tasmanians? Although the US is a lot larger than Tasmania, do we have programs like this one that are achieving such results? I am researching to find out answers to these questions.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Australian Art

Amidst running several errands today, and both of us not feeling 100% we managed to make it to the Art Gallery of New south Wales, which is really more of a museum than a gallery. They had artwork from all over but mostly from Australia, we only looked at the 20th century, current, and aboriginal art. The 20th century was very surreal and the contemporary was very similar to what is going on elsewhere in the world, only I noticed a trend in using more realist techniques with abstraction. The Aboriginal was very interesting, very simple, but very powerful. Big images and totems too. I was somehow struck at a similarity between the paintings and the American Gee's Bend Quilts. You couldn't take photos or the paintings, but I found these images online as an example. The paintings at the gallery had something to do with the Dreaming, they were really mesmorizing, you could get lost in them. Well worth seeing.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Crime and Punishment

One of the amazing things about Sydney is how nice it is. I mean, when you're here you just feel nice, the people around you look nice, and there is an overall sense of security. We've been riding the bus system for five days now and have not confronted one crazy person. In fact we've only seen about three homeless people, and they seem nice too. Which got us thinking, is Sydney really that safe, or does it just seem safe because there are no dark people around and we are conditioned through stereotypes to think that dark people equal danger?

The City-Life

We have only been in Sydney for four days and it feels as though We've been here for weeks. We have been busy seeing all the sights. The highlights are many but I will only talk about a few. First off the Zoo! We saw kangaroos and koala bears!!!!!! So cute. Of course the Opera house was Beautiful, that goes without saying. The Chinese Garden was very beautiful but also very surreal. We are sitting in a beautiful garden sipping tea but you can see the cars driving by on the motor way through the trees. The main interesting thing is that there was not one Chinese person working at the Chinese Garden. But you could pay to dress up in traditional clothing and walk around that garden and take pictures. So while you are enjoying the garden you see women walking around in traditional clothing, but they are all Caucasian. Very strange.

The night life

Shannon has been amazing and brings us along to dinners and outings. I know she doesn't go out this much normally but she is really allowing us to see what Sydney is like. I find It very interesting to 'hang out' with people to really get a feel for the differences in our cultures.

We had $5 steaks at a bar. We met some of Shannon's friends. By the end of the night we were at another bar where everyone was decked out in 80's gear. It looked like it was straight out of RISD. The next night Matthew was tired and called it an early night. On the other hand I went out and bar hopped with Shannon and friends. The strange things was that we first went to a hip hop type bar. This consisted of many Caucasian people wearing backpacks and caps slightly moving to Ausi and American hip hop. I knew hip hop went beyond American, but to see it was very strange. In the US it is very much about east coast- west coast beats. But if you don't have that rivalry what do you have? If you don't have the African American struggle that started it, what do you have? For me I had no context to put it in.

Last night I went to a house party with Shannon. Very much the same as in the US. Drunk people, drunken confrontations, music, conversations, and BBQ.

So yes I'm having fun. Lots of people with different accents!!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Ketchup Face, Part Two

Before I get into Ketchup face part two, I should better describe ketchup face part one. Back in LA Alison, Renita, and I were looking for a good place to get a cheap meal. In searching the internet we found a highly recommended African place and a cheap Gumbo place; we set out for he African, after all, it said you got to eat with your hands. Navigating La as a bit trickier at night, but we final got there only to discover that they were closed on Mondays. I took a quick look at the map and figured we were pretty close o the Gumbo Pot so we turned around and headed in that direction. Now, looking up these places online, getting lost, and going to closed restaurants all takes time, so when we got to the large Farmers Market Arcade that housed the Gumbo Pot and many other small eateries, it to as closed. The market, however, looked promising for another day. With nothing else around we were not so grudgingly forced into Johnny Rockets. It is now around 9:45PM and we haven't had anything to eat since noon so when our order of fries arrives I am very excited, grab a bottle of ketchup and shake vigorously. Sadly, I did not realize that to cap to the bottle wasn't really on, and I doused myself, the table, the seat next to me, and the window in a long thick gush of ketchup, most of which somehow landed in my ear and hair, or at least that's what it felt like. Needless to say I had dibs on the shower when we got back. In the confusion that followed our burgers arrived, and while Alison and Renita chomped away on theirs, I just looked at mine. This is not what I ordered! I wanted a boca burger and this is clearly a meat burger! I was about to complain when I looked over at Alison, and wait, what's this, she's halfway through a boca burger. We switched, and Renita was very nice and picked up the tab.

Fastforward to our second day in Sydney, the one where we went to the Opera house. That morning we got up decided to have a quick breakfast and see some sights. Unfortunately however, Shannon's family had recently moved to this condo and we couldn't find any bread anywhere, so we decided to get something while we were out. We took the bus into Circular Quay (pronounced key) and the wharfs, where there as a little food stand selling traditional Australian meat pies and sausage rolls. We got one of each and the man at the counter asked us if we wanted sauce. We looked at each other, then him, and said sure... I had forgotten from England that sauce is really ketchup. Fine. But the ketchup here comes in these strange containers, much like honey or single serving jam would in the states, only here the container has two adjacent chambers on the bottom instead of just one large bin and on the center of the lid there's a little protrusion that looks like a bird's beak. I figure this is a pull tab to get the lid off and squeeze he sides a little to get my finger nail in the beak. As it turns out the way to dispense the ketchup is to point the beak at your food and squeeze the sides of the container a bit. I sadly had the beak pointed at my face when I applied the lateral pressure. Again I had dibs on the shower, but this time we had a whole day of sight seeing first.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Sydney, OZ

We made it to Sydney! This city is so gorgeous, very similar to San Francisco. It is so international too, there are people from all over the world here, I could see myself living her for a couple years. We went by the Opera house and zoo the other day. It was so cute to see all the native Ausi animals like koalas, kangaroos, wallabis and enus, it was also good to see all the deadly snakes like the taipan, fierce snake, and death adder so at least we know what they look like... The Opera house was just stunning. You may think it's over rated or touristy but having come from a year of architecture school and knowing all the backstory to the struggle with the government and getting the right radius on he sails, to actually see it in person was beyond words. And on the ferry ride to the zoo you could see it from all sides on the water. Just amazing. But oh is it hot out here with no ozone layer. The kiwis were telling us that also since there is so much less industry down under that the air is much cleaner, which also lets more of the light through. I forgot my hat, but had an umbrella, I'm sure I looked like an idiot but that's ok.

The people we are staying with are so nice and absolutely enamored with Americans. I guess lot of people here would rather be in America. They say that America sets all the trends, especially in Design and Music so if you're in those fields it's very hard to pull ahead here in OZ and NZ. Everyone we've met has been so nice. If you even stop to look at a bus map someone will come over to help you out. We were lucky and got these week long travel passes that work on all the trains, busses, and ferries. I'd definitely recommend it, the Sydney public transit is very good.

Cultural Identifiers

So I was thinking about the people we stayed with in New Zealand. They weren't "good kiwis" as they put it, in fact they were Brits who had lived in England, Kenya, Germany, and Tanzania before coming to NZ. This got me thinking, how do you get to know someone else's culture, really? What separates them from Americans? What makes someone a "good kiwi"? But for us on this trip, we're moving about so much we don't really have the time to get to know anyone on an intimate level, so lets say you wanted to figure out what separates and kiwi from a Queenslander from a Yankee, could you do it in just three questions, and what would those questions be?

Macadamia Nuts

I have quite a good sense of the Macadamia nut industry now. For Four days we picked, husked, and shelled the nuts. The picking is by far the hardest because the trees are more like tall bushes than trees and you have to crane your neck to pull the nuts down, or stoop over to pick them up; a bit hard on the back, but you to get to climb up the trees to get at the top most nuts which is fun. The husking and shelling is all done by machine so all I had to do really was just make sure the machines kept running and picking out the bad nuts.

One day when we were shelling, Ginie, the woman we were staying with, says to me, "In the front of the ute there are some flexes, could you fetch them for me?" I had no idea what she was talking about but she pointed outside, so out I went. Now, she said in the front of so I figured the truck might be a good place to start, and lucky for me the only thing in the front of the truck were some extension cords, or flexes. Very funny.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Outside Auckland, NZ

Well, We made to our first destination safe and sound. After a plane, a bus, a train, and 14 hours in transit we arrived in Papakura to meet the Warrens. Out here it is beautiful, the trees are a bit different, but it is similar to spring in the US, very green though. We've been gathering nuts for two days - not bad work really, a little hard on the back though. The place we're staying uses rain water for drinking and bathing and swamp water for irrigation and toilets. Solar heated too. They've got chickens, sheep and a pig roaming about. Even after one day we were even more excited about our time in Japan when we will be in control of our own schedule and meals.

At times I do think this work exchange experience is very ideal, I get to climb really high into trees and pick nuts. There aren't many bugs around so I don't get bothered by much except the occasional nut that falls on my head. In general, although there are mild limitations to our stay, the experience is worth having. I'm very happy that Matthew are traveling together. Everything seems easier when someone else is with you.