We boarded a plane at the Sydney airport the day after the Education Abroad Program orientation ended. My final destination, Adelaide, lay an hour and a half south west of Sydney, in a more arid region closer to the Outback. The landscape is flat and very spread out with some high rises in the city center, but probably the same population size as Santa Barbara. The heat difference was apparent as the third drip of sweat ran down my butt-crack during the short walk between my plane and the Adelaide airport. Adelaide had that still dry heat that makes all your body parts stick together.
Most of my EAP friends moved into The Village in the city center or St. Mark’s in North Adelaide. The Village was like a student penitentiary that required a key to open any door in the complex and a strict visitor policy that mandated $60 charge for any overnight guest who must stay on the couch. St. Mark’s was like a dorm out of Harry Potter. The building looked like a castle and students had to wear special robes to meals that were served every day.
Both dorms consisted of international students and freshmen Aussies that came to Adelaide because they didn’t have a college in their hometown. Australians mainly don’t go away to college. Most live at home and go to the college in their cities. An Australian friend would later explain to me that Australian kids get more independence as they grow up and parents simply turn into friends and housemates. The laws also give Aussie kids more independence by letting them drink at 18 and have legal sex at 16, but homosexual sex cannot be done until the age of 18. That law makes about as much sense as eating vegemite, but that’s the way they roll.
I moved into a dated house in the suburb of Glenside with an Aussie girl named Amanda Kupke. Amanda came from a tiny agriculture town about an hour north of Adelaide. My dad is a farmer and I come from a redneck country town in NorCal, so we discovered we had a lot in common. Amanda said all her Aussie guy friends were anxious to meet me to hear my accent. I love Australia. My house is straight out of the ’70s, which reminds me of houses in I.V. I leave Glenside every day by public transportation to explore the city center.
Learning a new city isn’t hard when you have no car and are bus schedule challenged. I must have walked 25 miles in the first week. The foreigners mainly consist of Asians and Middle Easterners here, so being from California is a rather special thing, though it doesn’t make the disgruntled bus drivers any nicer when you’re lost. My UC Davis friend, Matt, and Indiana University friend, Ross, and I, became inseparable Adelaide pedestrians.
In our many travels and near misses with Aussie cars, we learned much about Australian culture on foot. We noted there were more cars here with roo-bars, an extra large bumper to help protect the car when hitting large kangaroos. As Ross observed, peeling out is a national pastime here, as the background noise of cars and even buses peeling out is always present and if there were more bicyclists, they’d be peeling out too. There are also an oddly high number of pedestrians with limps here and we realized when a car nearly clipped a woman on the leg with a limp, that all the gimps in OZ were created by the traffic. We dubbed the common limp the Adelaide Stride of Pride and perhaps when I finally get hit by a car and develop this walk, I will be accepted as a true Adelaide citizen. Good thing EAP made me buy health insurance.