Posts made in June, 2012

Venice: Locals Laughing In My Face

Posted on Jun 21, 2012 in Travel | 0 comments

I’ve had locals laugh in my face twice now.

The first time was my virgin attempt at the Italian language.  I’d heard the waitress at the coffee stand use a delicious ‘Grrraaat-zi’ at the end of every order and thought I’d give it a go with the girl behind the counter at the public transport desk after we bought our tickets.  It’s nerve-wracking speaking another language you don’t actually know anything about.  Personally, it all has to do with accents.  I love rolling my rr’s.  It’s a huge source of disappointment to me that English has no rrr-rolling, hence why I’m trying to learn Spanish.  Any opportunity I have to roll my rr’s, I take; I just love how it feels on the tongue.  You feel like a bit of a nuff doing it in Australia though, like “Look how cool I am, I can say the word with the proper accent.” So I usually don’t.  The question is, once you’re actually in the country and clearly a foreigner, how hard are you allowed to roll your rr’s???  What about the lyrical Italian lilt that peppers every word, as if it is being picked up then dropped back down again?  Do you say the word casually like you’re a pro or make eye contact, smile as you say it and intone slightly up at the end as if asking a question; “I’m a stupid tourist, is this how I say this basic simple word in your language?”

I end up opting for the casual, full rrr-rolling version.  Mistake.  After speaking in a heavily Australian-accented English for the past 3 minutes, I was clearly a novice.  Possibly my slight breathlessness at actually speaking another language to a local in another country gave it away as well.  I was rewarded with a smirk and then an outright laugh on eye contact and walked away blushing.

The second local laughing at me was worse though.  I’m almost too embarrassed to tell this story but it’s possible my life purpose is to serve as a warning to others, so here goes.  We were in San Marco Square, the main tourist attraction in Venice, when I approached three young people in orange ‘San Marco’ shirts and asked them the way to Doge’s Palace; the second most famous tourist attraction in Venice. Now I’m curious to know, Australian readers, how you pronounced ‘Doge’s’ in your head.  Possibly some of you who took History class in school know the right way to pronounce it.  I’ll give you a hint.  It’s not ‘Doe-g-z’ with an ‘o’ like ‘throwes’, a hard-g and ‘z’ sound for the s.  “Doagz…” The three Italians stared at me for a second, confused.  So I made that classic foreigner faux pas of repeating your stupidity in a slightly louder tone.  ““do-jshes?” the girl finally asked with a beautiful soft d and g.

Of all the Asians attempting star jumps in front of St Mark’s Basilica, the Americans yelling their questions at retailers and the Russians buying gaudy hats and t-shirts saying ‘San Marco’, I was the stupidest tourist in that square.  And there were a lot of tourists in that square.  The two boys could barely contain their laughter as the girl pointed in the right direction and I slunk off with Kendyl, face burning from more than just the summer heat.

I blame the Australian education system.  I am a Neanderthal.

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Posted on Jun 19, 2012 in Travel | 0 comments

We’ve not been in Venice 3 hours before we’re standing atop a cobblestone bridge, licking melon and lemon gelato, watching a tanned Italian in an open white shirt drive his polished boat under our feet.   He blows us a kiss before disappearing down the canal, his little dog turning circles on the driver’s seat.

Oh Italy.

I’m in love with every 40-something Italian water taxi driver.  They are seriously gorgeous in their polished wood and white boats, tanned skin and salt and pepper hair.  I tried to take a photo of one but he was shy…

Our second night here we wind through back streets, away from the main streets to Campo San Margherita, where we’ve heard the young people hang out.  Trinket stores thin out, hotels turn into residences and the noise in the air quiets to nothing.  We pick our way alone through a maze of cobblestone streets, stopping occasionally to take photos of classic Venice spaces; old wells lit under a curving stone staircase, wrought iron gates next to flower boxes of bright pink geraniums or a gondola resting underneath a little bridge.

Campo San Margherita provides a delicious 10 euro, two course meal and spritz; an orange alcoholic beverage had for ‘aperitif’  (pre-dinner drinks) that we tried twice before confirming that it does indeed taste like Methylated spirits mixed with Fanta.  Young student locals are sitting around the square in little groups, chatting as the sun goes down.  After our three days of partying and meeting randoms in Dubai, Venice feels very sleepy and demure.  With reluctance we purchase a gelato (1.30 euro!) and begin the meander home.

Before long though, four guys spill out of a laneway into the street, greeting us with “Ciao Bella!” before bounding up ahead.  They turn into a side street to knock on a door where pop music is blasting out of an upstairs window and we keep walking by, regretting not having struck up a conversation in order to be invited to the party.

Life’s too short for regrets though and we’re in Europe!  No one knows who we are and we’ve nothing to lose.  So, nervously, we turn back to where the guys disappeared deciding that if they’re still hanging around the front of the entrance we’ll ask them where the party is and if not, it was a sign that tonight was meant for beauty sleep instead.  Until we actually walk back a block, hear their voices and realize they’re coming back down the laneway to our street! We stop awkwardly, both turning away, me lounging against the wall, and reach automatically for our phones to pretend we’re not stalking them, hearts beating. (We’d make such great spies!).  They practically collide into us, confused for a second until I ask “Where’s the party?” and we’re all on the same page.  Or at least speaking the same language, which isn’t hard as they speak about five.  We’re invited back to Campo San Margherita for some Sambrouka under the statue, which apparently is as wild as Venice gets on a Tuesday night and make it home by 2am.  Win. 😀

Euro 2012 Football (soccer) match we stumbled across in a one of the squares .  

Lots of locals yelling at the screen!


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Posted on Jun 18, 2012 in Travel | 0 comments

“Travelling Faux Pas #1, DUBAI: Asking the taxi driver how long the current President is in term for.  Turns out he’s more a King / Ruler sort of thing…”

This particular taxi was pink, complete with a female driver in a pink abaya.  Welcome to the religious conservatism underpinning the majestic shrine to capitalism’s power that is Dubai; what else could turn a desert into an epicenter of the world in just a couple of decades?  This juxtaposition of traditional Muslim culture with modern Western ideals never quite disappears during our three days here; black hijabs mingle with Brazilian bikinis on the beach and the mall is filled with clothes you’re not actually allowed to wear to the mall.  The appropriateness of my clothing was a constant a thread of stress I was glad to leave behind this morning. 

Our driver is Sri Lankan, talkative and has (I cringe to say it about the only female taxi driver I’ve ever had) zero sense of direction.   She moved to Dubai a few years ago for the better pay and lifestyle than her previous work in Indonesia.  I heard later they live in large dorm style rooms and are bussed in and out every day. Taxi drivers are at the bottom of the food chain here, with each nationality typically taking a rung on the ladder; Indonesians and Sri Lankans drive taxis, Philippinos and Latinos work in retail and restaurants, other Arabs and Westerners work in construction and private enterprise with local Emirates rounding out the pyramid at the top with cushy Government jobs at four times the pay rate of everyone else.  They can’t be fired and get a “marriage bonus” as well as a home loan as part of the deal (provided they marry another Emirate of course).  Local Emirates only make up 10% of the population; meaning that literally 9 out of every 10 people you meet are foreigners.  Probably more, as the locals consider themselves something akin to royalty, keeping to themselves in large mansions outside the city.  All other nationalities are basically ‘hired help’ to build the sprawling wonder of business and architecture that is tax-free Dubai.

That’s nothing a bikini can’t solve though and I managed to convince one of the Emirate locals to take me for a spin on his jet ski at Basrati bar our first afternoon here.  Zipping around in the heat, making jumps off the wake of party boats, a big hazy sun ruling over the tall buildings either side of the water, which stretches out to the horizon… I could definitely get use to Dubai!  Especially if I can have as many apple shishas as I want.  Can’t think of any way to describe these except (mum and dad close your eyes) a fancy bong.  Very relaxing.

We’re staying at Kendyl’s friend’s friend’s sister’s apartment (which is just the best thing about travelling, basic strangers extending their hospitality – amazing!).  It has a pool and a gym so I get to work on my tan; only 8 days til Croatia Yacht Week and my skin currently reflects the sun!  We do Friday brunch, Dubai mall, a couple of pool parties and see the tallest building in the world.   It’s really tall.

Our last night here was spent doing the typical tourist desert Safari.  Dune driving, camel riding, a serenading tourist guide, the very worst belly dancer I’ve ever seen and a five minute black-out to gaze at the night sky.  Lying under the stars in an Arabian desert, I thought of all the friends and family back home under the same stars.  Then I got confused about whether they were the same stars…

On a final note, WHAT is this supposed to be for!?!?!  The logistics boggle my mind…

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How To Lose A Guy in 10 Seconds

Posted on Jun 14, 2012 in Me | 12 comments

Challenge: get rid of the guy you’re having a drink with.  As in, you want him to stand up within the next 2 minutes, walk away and never speak to you again.  What do you say?

I was presented this challenge last week by some uni friends.   I’m practically an expert in this subject.

Me: “I think you should go get a drink.”

Him: “You want me to go get you a drink?”

Me: “No, I want you to go get yourself a drink.  At the bar.  Over there.”

My very best attempt though at losing a guy in 10 seconds was a stomach-churning, memory-paralysing, god-awful 3 paragraph text message along the lines of “And here I was thinking… very worst I’ve ever been treated… usually you *insert derogatory term* regret… let’s save my time and your ego and pretend we never met… etc.”

Nothing like getting rejected, hungover at 8am in the morning to really bring out the best in you.  I cried all afternoon and sent an apology message to which he responded quite graciously. Haven’t heard from him since.   That’s probably cos he left to compete in the Olympics and it’s SUPER expensive to text from overseas. Yep.

The prize has to go to my buddy Myles though for the best way for a guy to forfeit a date with a girl.

Guy on arrival: “Oh, I didn’t realise we weren’t dressing up…”

-Your best ‘how to lose a guy (or girl) in 10 seconds’ stories please!??!-

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Posted on Jun 12, 2012 in Me | 3 comments

Jumped off a mountain last weekend.

Just want to confess that if judged by quantity of alcohol consumed, I’d had possibly one of my biggest nights ever the night before, crashing at Perrin’s at 4am for a fitful 4 hours of drunken, jeiger-interrupted sleep before being picked up by Johann at 8:30am.  On a scale of 1 to peak-condition-to-jump-off-a-cliff-for-the-first-time, I was sitting on a solid 2.  It’s a miracle I was standing vertically, let alone asking me to fly a glider in a specified direction.

It was a car full of blokes and me though, winding up a one-lane dirt road clinging to the edge of a mountain, so I kept my mouth shut for the sake of woman-kind’s reputation.  I’m a self-appointed ambassador for the ‘Anything Boys Can Do, Girls Can Do Better’ brigade and moments like that are crucial to our cause.

Fred, who took me on the tandem last time we were here, is driving.  He’s exactly what you always thought the hot young surfer every girl had a crush on in high school would grow up to be.  Energetic and friendly but totally chilled in a big-cat-I-could-take-your-head-off-in-one-bite sort of way.  Just the kind of guy you want around the first time you suspend yourself a few hundred metres in the air by a piece of plastic.

I just do what I’m told for the first few minutes without really thinking; run, run, run, brake slightly, sit, get comfortable, cross your legs.   I check I’ve still got hold of the brakes and notice the glider above; massive, yellow and red the sun winking in and out behind it.  I am dwarfed, just a tiny dot suspended under this magnificent wing.  Wind rushes past my ears, the only indication of how fast I’m actually going and I take a moment to look around.

There’s a funny sense of ownership I get whenever looking at an incredible view.  I feel like it’s mine, like I’m a part of it… in my mind, I’m sneaking through the tracks in the forest , finding a hidey-hole on the side of a cliff overlooking the beach or climbing a fence to get into the geometrically patterned field way behind the hill over there.  Like when you look at a map at the beginning of a fantasy book.  Who didn’t want to live in Neverland once you saw exactly how far away Hook’s Pirate Ship was to the Lost Boys’ Tavern…??

When paragliding, instead of looking at the map, you’ve fallen right into it.  You’re above the house with the smoking chimney and can see their dogs lounging on the back porch.  The geometrically shaped field is cabbages and there’s actually someone opening a gate to get in.  A slight tilt of the head brings the horizon into view; rolling hills and hidden spaces suggesting a hundred more worlds to observe, if you can only get there.  It’s Narnia, Enid Blyton and Gumby all rolled into one.

Officially addicted.  Definitely getting my full license sometime in the next few months overseas so I can jump of mountains all over the world.  Yeah.

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