Vagabonding Field Report: Going home- Perth, Western Australia
Cost:$37 a day
This isn’t a true reflection of expenses in Perth as I have been staying and eating with relatives. A large chunk of my costs are beer related and I am not a heavy drinker so expect to pay two to three times this much if you aren’t couch surfing and eating in.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?
On a beautiful, sunny day at Cottesloe beach a friend of mine pointed out the aircraft carrier ship USS Carl Vinson docked off the coast. This warship was the one that Osama Bin Laden’s body was brought to in the Arabian gulf, prior to being disposed of at sea. This man-made behemoth was a reminder that not all is well in other parts of the world and was in stark contrast to the calm and peaceful surroundings.
Describe a typical day.
After waking to the jarring squawk of an Australian raven I eat the breakfast of champions- Weet-bix and vegemite on toast. I go for a run in the morning before it gets too hot, after which I head to the beach with my little brother. We laze around in the heat, take the odd dip in the cool water and inevitably decide to buy exorbitantly priced ice creams, usually a Golden Gaytime or Rainbow Paddle Pop- the best Aussie ice creams usually have slightly homoerotic names. After the beach we seek out some glorious meat pies for lunch and head home. I’m usually pretty tired from all this hard work and require a nap in the afternoon. The night is spent catching up with old friends and family, preferably with some cold beer at my favorite pub- Little Creatures- in Fremantle.
Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local.
An old friend of mine threw some new Aussie slang at me when he referred to CUB’s during a chat about how wealthy Perth is right now due to a sustained mining boom. CUB’s is an acronym for “cashed-up bogans”. A bogan is essentially a derogatory term for an Australian version of a redneck or hill-billy and CUB’s refer to these bogan’s that have found themselves with a lot of money in recent times but still retain their rough ways. By rough ways I refer to things such as heavy drinking, displaying terrifyingly awful tattoos and the liberal use of the word c***t as a term of endearment.
We then discussed other Aussie slang and the fact that the vernacular has changed significantly over the years. For better or worse new slang evolves and the old dies away. A sampling of phrases found in Aussie slang phrase books that you are unlikely to hear uttered from anyone under the age of seventy are as follows:
Don’t come the raw prawn= don’t pull my leg
Technicolor yawn= vomiting
Streuth= damn it
Cripes= damn it
I could go on and on. New slang is always evolving so leave the slang phrase book at home.
Describe a challenge you faced.
I did all my growing up and went to university in Perth but I have been away for over four years now and have only briefly visited twice over this time period. Because of this I haven’t seen as much of my family and friends as I would have liked in recent times. This has to be the most challenging aspect of traveling and working abroad. It is particularly hard leaving elderly family members knowing that you may never see them again.
My grandad is 97 years old and was a pilot in World War II before becoming a commercial airline pilot and flying throughout the world. He and my Grandma lived in Jakarta, Beirut and Tehran at different times and his and my father’s tales of these distant lands were, in part, what inspired me to travel. During his career he achieved the unenviable record of being the first Australian pilot hijacked overseas when his plane from the south of Iran was taken by Iraqi drug smugglers. He flew them to Baghdad with a gun to his head and thankfully escaped unscathed. He is now very frail and has dementia. I know he has lived a long and incredible life, however it is still hard to leave knowing that it is more than likely I will never see him again.
What new lesson did you learn?
It’s impossible to return to a place after an extended time away and not see it in a different light. It’s easier to appreciate the good things in a place but any pitfalls become glaringly obvious. Perth is a lovely place and it has been great seeing my family and friends again but I have also thoroughly enjoyed the little things like old school ice creams (Rainbow Paddle Pop= best ice cream of all time), the abundance of bird life (never noticed this before) and the Aussie sense of humor. I loathe the overt racism towards the indigenous population that can be encountered at times and certainly don’t appreciate the fact that drunk young Aussie men love to punch each other in the face in pub brawls. Fortunately gun laws are strict so you are unlikely to be shot in the face. When I lived in Perth I was aware of these problems but incredibly they didn’t seem to bother me as much as they do today.
Coming ‘home’ has made me very aware of the fact that I am not ready or willing to move back any time soon. I feel a curious sense of displacement now and I don’t really feel that I have a set home anymore. I suppose home is anywhere you can surround yourself with the people you love in a place that holds your interest. Can you lose a sense of this when you vagabond? I can’t make up my mind whether I find this thought disconcerting or comforting.
Road trip in the USA to the grand canyon and beyond