Friendship Bark

‘See you out in the world sometime.’ That’s what they say when they leave Australia.


An Englishman, a Mexican, two Kiwis, two Americans, an Aussie, a Malaysian, an Israeli, and a German walk into a bar and…

It goes in waves. Within a month’s time, I’ll have said goodbye to six friends. They’re off around the globe – either back to their home countries, or off to try out a different one for a while. Then off once more – back here, to somewhere else, to their homeland. Some are boomerangs: they come back to Australia for visits, or perhaps decades from now to retire. Who’s to say where we will all go, when we will see each other again, or where.

Friend Replacement Policy

I’ve been almost four years here in Australia. It happens, and happens again: friends come, they go, they mingle into my friend group, they leave after a while. Months or years – either way, they’re off on adventures. I’ve done it myself a fair few times: first London, Chicago, later, Wellington. Some friends of mine, the ones who stay put, make threatening remarks about people leaving. ‘I have a friend replacement policy,’ said one Wellington denizen. ‘When you leave you have to find me a new friend to take your place.’ Others take a more dour view: ‘Let me know exactly when you’re leaving so I can start to distance myself,’ a pal says. After all, there’s only so many times you can say farewell before you wonder: why be friends with these people at all, if they’re just going to leave you behind?

Generation Travel

Maybe I’m doing it to myself. After all, since I left the U.S. I’ve made a majority of friends through a travel website (CouchSurfing). Before that, you can trace a few Chicago buddies to an expat networking group (EuroCircle), or friends-of-friends from a university student organisation (International Illini). But it’s not just those on one-year working holiday visas. When I first moved to Melbourne, a closeknit friend group dissolved when everyone left, returning to France or the U.S. – even one of the Australians went off to Hong Kong. I was close to another Australian when I first arrived. She’s gone, too – back in Western Australia the last few years. Look at my high school friend group: I can count on one hand the friends still in Illinois; even less in their hometowns. Minnesota, California, Virginia, Colorado by way of Arizona. Is it our generation more mobile? Is it the American tendency to move counties or states? Everyone else’s to move countries? Perhaps it’s that we’re in our twenties and thirties, taking advantage of the time to be in many places.

Don’t Stop Believing…

I can never bring myself to stop making friends with someone just because I know they’re going to leave. For one thing, who knows if anyone will stay? The Australians leave Melbourne just as often. And eventually, I see everyone again: The American who moved to France (whom I met in New Zealand), well, we’ll be at the same friend’s wedding in Washington, DC. The Swede I met in Chicago? We saw each other when I was visiting Wellington and he was on his honeymoon. A Swiss guy I overlapped with in Illinois for a few months has become one of most frequent travel companions (we’re up to seven countries now). The Australians who left – to Perth and to Hong Kong – we always catch up when they’re in town. I spent the first six months of the year hanging out with an American I’d met in Wellington 3.5 years ago; we reconnected in Melbourne and became fast friends.

Moar Friends

The benefit of having a wide range of acquaintances (and, surprise, being an colossal extrovert) means I never lack for friends. The American friend I just mentioned went home last month; shortly after I made a new Brazilian friend I see just as much. The Swede left Chicago? Fine – I made a new pal out of a Québécois guy. When friends leave, it opens you up to new ones. If my American and Australian girlfriends had stayed in Melbourne, would I have befriended my wonderful Israeli and Mexican ones — or would I not have had the chance? And as I said, you’ll see all your friends again someday. We met travelling, or one or the other of us went off to travel. Travellers are travellers.

Friendship Bark

But still: the bark has been cut. It might heal, but there’s a scar underneath. Never again will the friend group be intact; never again will you live in the same city simultaneously. Your friend group adjusts, shifts to fill the gap almost immediately. But every now and then, you’ll be struck. Where’s M.? Where’s R.? Where’s B. or O. or C. or D.? Or any of the J.s?

They’re gone.

Just as you are to the friends you left before, and the friends you’ll leave in future.


Filed under Australia, friends

On Turning 33

An up-and-coming starlet poses for a spread in GQ magazine

An up-and-coming starlet poses for a spread in Vanity Fair magazine

The most important part of turning thirty three is being able to have a ‘Dirty Tree and a Turd’ birthday at an Irish pub. To that end, I’ve wasted no time since turning the palindromic age on Bastille Day — and when puttering around the wide world o’ the webs, I discovered that good old Lord Byron had a thing or two to say about becoming my age, way back in 1821.

IV. Satiric

On my thirty-third Birthday

January 22, 1821

Through life’s road, so dim and dirty,
I have dragg’d to three and thirty.
What have these years left to me?
Nothing–except thirty-three.

Lord Byron

The footnotes to his poem include the following gem:

 “To-morrow is my birthday–that is to say, at twelve o’ the clock, midnight; i.e. in twelve minutes I shall have completed thirty and three years of age!!! and I go to my bed with a heaviness of heart at having lived so long, and to so little purpose. * * * It is three minutes past twelve–”Tis the middle of night by the castle clock,’ and I am now thirty-three!– 
‘Eheu, fugaces, Posthume, Posthume,
Labuntur anni;’–
[Alas, O Posthumus, the fleeting years slip away -Horace]
but I don’t regret them so much for what I have done, as for what I might have done.”
–Extracts from a Diary, January 21, 1821, Letters, 1901, v. 182.

Poor Byron. Mad, bad, and upset about turning an okay age.

Me? After months of musings upon it, I made the leap and treated myself to a visit to the salon.

My post on Facebook to show my new hair

My post on Facebook to show my new hair

Will I still have magenta hair when I raise a pint of Guinness at my ‘Dirty Tree and a Turd’ party? Jury’s out. I did find out from a friend, though, that in Switzerland when one turns a double number like 33, it’s time to toast with a ‘Schnaps-Zahl.’







Filed under birthday

A Theresa By Any Other Name

Although Americans, Kiwis, Aussies, and Brits are supposed to speak the same language, sometimes our pronunciations get us into trouble. To wit, a phonecall I had a few months ago with an Australian company:

Me: I’d like to speak to Cam, please.
Him: Cam?
Me: Yes, Cam.
Him: We don’t have any Cams who work here.
Me: Really? You don’t have a Cam?
Him: No, we don’t have anyone by that name.
Me: Cam? Your owner — Cam Smith?
Him: [in an incredibly strong Aussie accent] Oh, Cayyyyyym. Oi theuaught ewe seid Keeeeeeeeeeeem.

Kim. He thought I was asking for Kim, not Cam. So I guess the next time I call, I’ll need to try to say it the Aussie way: Cayyyum? Ceiiiim? I’m not sure how to fit that many vowels into my mouth. (Australians are famous in linguistic circles for employing not just the usual English diphthong — mashing together two vowel sounds at once — but the perilous triphthong. Even spelling it is hard.)

Sometimes I just can’t hear the difference between names, or we don’t differentiate in my American dialect. For me, the names ‘Greg’ and ‘Craig’ rhyme. Kiwis are aghast at this butchering of very different names with very different vowels. Same with ‘Erin’ and ‘Aaron’. To me, they’re pronounced the same. Australians, however, pronounce them with a subtle difference — which goes to show that they’re actually acknowledging the incredible variation in the two names’ spelling. (Plus, it helps let people know if you’re talking about the female Erin or the male Aaron.)

For me, my coworker Josey’s name is pronounced ‘Jo-zee’. She says it the way it’s spelled: ‘Jo-see’, with a soft ‘s’. (Or, if we’re being all linguistic here, an unvoiced rather than a voiced sound.) Then you have a name like ‘Megan’. To Americans, it’s ‘Meh-gan.’ Kiwis and Aussies say ‘Mea-gan’, with a long ‘e’. That’s why, when I lived in Wellington, it was easy to audibly differentiate between my Kiwi or American Megans.

My name, of course, is pronounced in the U.S. as ‘Tir-ee-sa.’ It is, after all, spelled with an ‘s’. But in the rest of the English-speaking world — and beyond — it’s pronounced with a ‘z’ at the end. The middle syllable changes as well, becoming ‘Tir-ey-za.’ For people who didn’t grow up speaking English, I’m a little more lenient. I just think to myself in a condescending manner: “It’s okay. They can barely speak the language.” (Not really.) But for those who are native Anglophones? Who can pronounce it right, but don’t? My wrath knows no bounds. I remember constantly correcting my British friends when I studied abroad in Wales. “It’s ‘Theresa’ with an ‘s’,” I’d cry. “Sa-sa-sa-sa-sa!” It’s not just that they’re not pronouncing it correctly — it’s that I don’t always know when people are trying to get my attention. I don’t respond to ‘Tir-ey-za’ because that’s not my name.

I mean, look, I realise that sometimes people have ingrained ways of pronouncing names. I’m never going to be able to say my French friend Amandine’s name the way actual French people do, and I don’t pronounce my own boyfriend’s name the authentic German way. (Sorry, honey.) But those are different languages. When two people are native speakers of the same language, but different dialects, I’m torn. Do I try to say it as closely as possible to the way the person says it themselves; or say it my own dialect because otherwise it would be an affectation?

Take my new acquaintance, Barton. In Australian English, it actually comes off sounding rather posh. They don’t use the letter ‘r’ here, so Aussies pronounce his name “Bah-ton.” It all sounds rather upperclass British. Whereas for me, with my American glottal stops, it comes out as “Bar-uhn.” (Don’t have a minor in Linguistics like yours truly? Try saying ‘The kitten with mittens ate a mountain of butter’. If you’re dropping the ‘t’ at any point, that’s a glottal stop.) The Australian way of pronunciation for poor Barton sounds much nicer. RaaaaatherBaaaaaaahton.

All I know is, Australians and Kiwis get really confused by how to spell ‘Tir-ee-sa.’ It’s not just the American “with-a-h-or-not”, it’s a full-on butchering of the spelling whenever I order chai to go or get a pizza.

From now on, I’m spelling it the way it’s written here:

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Filed under Australia, musings

Top Tips for Living in Melbourne

Just moved to Melbourne, or visiting for a while? Here are 25 facts that you should know from someone who’s been living here for several years.

Flinders station crossing

photo via Flickr Creative Commons


  1. City trains always leave from Platform 1
  2. The City Loop trains run the opposite way sometimes
  3. It’s pronounced ‘Burke’ Street, not ‘Boork’
  4. The Yarra River divides the city in to north and south
  5. People who live in Melbourne are Melburnians, not Melbournians or Melburnites
  6. Only Kiwis called Australia ‘Aussie’. In Australia, ‘Aussie’ is an Australian; ‘Oz’ or ‘Aus’ is the country
  7. Melburnians don’t use north/south when giving directions – they say to ‘go away from/towards the city’
  8. The city centre is known as the CBD (Central Business District)
  9. All of the main streets (Flinders/Collins/Bourke) have ‘Little’ versions running parallel to the north of their namesakes
  10. There is no train to the beach. The 96 tram goes to St. Kilda; the 109 to the lesser-used Port Melbourne. (Okay, okay, you can take the train to Brighton)
  11. Collins St. has two sides. The east is known as the ‘Paris end’ and has fancy shops like Chanel and Louis Vuitton. The western side doesn’t have as much development and used to be called the ‘Beirut end’
  12. ‘Down the coast’ means heading down to the GOR
  13. The GOR = the Great Ocean Road
  14. When people are taking about the beaches on the Mornington Peninsula, south of Melbourne, ‘back beaches’ face the ocean instead of Port Phillip Bay
  15. The MCG is a good acronym to know. It stands for ‘Melbourne Cricket Ground’
  16. They don’t only play cricket there — it’s also where you can catch an AFL match
  17. That’s also a good acronym to know. It stands for ‘Australian Football League’.
  18. Which means Aussie Rules Football.
  19. That’s referring to the rules, not that Australia is the best at football.
  20. You WILL have to pick an AFL team to support, or Melburnians will look askanse. As long as its not Collingwood, you’ll be fine.
  21. The Superbowl of AFL is known as the Grand Final. In the event of a tie, they don’t have overtime. The two teams don’t have a draw, either. They have to wait an entire week and play again. This happened in 2010, right after I moved here, but doesn’t occur often.
  22. Melburnians also enjoy ‘The Race That Stops The Nation’, aka the Melbourne Cup. The day of the horse race is a public holiday (day off) in Victoria.
  23. The whole buildup to Cup Day is known as the Spring Racing Carnival, with different races on the weekends leading up. Each has its own traditions – wear black and white on Stakes Day; Oaks Day is ladies’ day and for pastel dresses. Everyone wears hats and fascinators.
  24. If you don’t like the races, you can go to the Billycart Races in Northcote. People race homemade billycarts down a small hill.
  25. Above all, don’t say the ‘r’ in ‘Melbourne’ — it’s pronounced ‘Melb-in.’

What are YOUR top tips for life here?


Filed under Australia

Melbourne Goals

A girl’s gotta have goals, right? I have a list in my Evernote app with activities that I’d like to do in Melbourne. While I’ve crossed a few off, I have no one but myself to blame for not booking in to do the others.

So here I am, putting out publicly — these are things I really want to do. Let’s go do them!


  • Wonderballz @ Medibank Ice House
  • Bounce Inc. trampolining
  • Botanical Gardens punting
  • Canoeing the Yarra
  • Sailing on Port Phillip Bay
  • Rowing on the Yarra



Regional Victoria:


How about it? Would anyone like to help me complete one (or ten) of my To Dos?

Leave a comment

Filed under Australia

What Wearing a Hoopskirt Is Like

One of my dreams in life has always been to channel Gone With The Wind and wear an enormous hoopskirt.

That became reality last week during a four-day weekend in Wellington. One of my friends, Leimomi, just so happens to be a professional historical costume creator. So I got to model her 1850s muslin Raspberry Swirl gown, while she donned her 1860s Greek Key dress and 1860s Elliptical Hoopskirt.

First, one must get out the hoopskirts in preparation:


It’s important to have the proper undergarmets. Leimomi has full sets of everything a proper lady should be wearing. Over bloomers (see the cute pink bows?), I wore a shift (you can see the straps under the corset). Then, the gorgeous hand-made corset was laced up. I also donned silk stockings and fairly period accurate shoes. The only thing modern was my underwear!


Here’s the corset from the back — note how the lacing is tied in the middle. Interesting, non?IMG_8685

Leimomi did my hair in loose braids and pinned in beautiful silk flowers.IMG_8684

Then it was time for the hoopskirt!IMG_8687
The only problem with a hoopskirt? Trying to get through doors…
Leimomi showed me how I needed to pick up one side so the hoops were diagonal — the only way to easily get through our smaller modern doors.


The next step is to put on a petticoat:IMG_8689

Followed by the bottom half of the dress.IMG_8692

Once the top part of the dress was put on, I was almost good to go (minus accessories).IMG_8698

Here’s what a hoopskirt looks like when you’re looking straight down. Interesting view, I must say!IMG_8691

I was quite enamored of how I looked in my ensemble.IMG_8709It was surprisingly easy and comfortable to wear a hoopskirt. It sits on your hips, not waist, and isn’t at all heavy. I was able to run around a park, sit on the grass, and prance about with ease. One of the interesting things for me is that the skirt is made not to touch the ground — that way, it doesn’t get dirty. I did get out of breath at one point, but that was because I was striding up a hill in a corset. I had to slow down and remind ourselves that we should be walking with “stately decorum”. (Yup, I said it out loud.)

The only time we had issues was trying to get into the car. Thankfully, after years of practice, Leimomi is a pro at driving a car in period attire.


I’m not so sure how it would have gone over had I worn my skirt like this back in the 1850s, but it’s how it worked when I was in the backseat. Saucy!IMG_8791

It was an absolute blast wearing a hoopskirt, and I hope that someday I’ll have my very own ensemble to wear whenever I feel like it.

Check out Leimomi’s favorite shots and pictures from our first location in a park.


Filed under New Zealand

Why I’m Quitting my GoodReads Challenge

Now, I read a lot. A considerable amount.

Check out my Booklist page and you’ll see that for the past few years, I’ve managed to read anywhere from 66–79 books. That’s an admirable number, if I do say so myself. I am never without a book or two on the go — sometimes reading as many as two or three simultaneously. (In that I’ll put down one, devour another, pick back up the original, start a third… and eventually finish the first. Especially if #1 is a bit dry.)

So why do I feel like crap about the amount I’m reading?
GoodReads’ Reading Challenge.



Halfway through last year, I set my Reading Challenge to be 90 books. I didn’t succeed. So I thought I’d lower my limit this year to something more attainable: a mere 80 books. I read 79 one year — surely 80 couldn’t be too hard?

Had I not finished Burial Rites last night, I would be a whopping four books behind schedule. How can I possibly catch up? I’d need to read a bunch of short books right in a row, that’s how. It’s just not going to happen.

I also need to stop comparing myself to my friend Anna, who has a GoodReads challenge. She’s read 41 books already this year. 41! For multiple reasons, I must come around to the realisation that I will never, ever read as many books as her (or my friend Jeni, or my mom…). For one thing, I spend a lot of time out’n’about. I watch tv and surf the web on my laptop quite a bit. And while I’m a fast reader, I’m just not as fast as some.

And that’s okay.

I’ve read 25 books this year, and we’re still at the start of May. I’m confident that I’ll clock in at my normal rate of around 70 a year. Indeed, if I switch my target goal down to 70, I’m actually one book ahead of schedule. That feels better, but it’s not enough.

Spending three weeks reading a massive tome will get me behind schedule — that is, if we’re only counting number of books read. But what about pages? I’ve already read 9,747 pages this year (not counting the books I haven’t finished yet). I’ve read ~24,000-32,000 the past three years. Pretty good, right?

I should be reading at my own pace — sometimes two or three at a time, sometimes devouring a book in a day. Having the Reading Challenge constantly looking over my shoulder, going, ‘Faster! Faster!’ isn’t helping. It’s just adding stress I don’t need.

So right after I hit ‘publish’ on this post, I’m doing two things: First, I’m taking my Reading Challenge widget off my Booklist page, and giving up the challenge. At the end of the year, I’ll still count the number of books I’ve read — but I won’t beat myself up if it’s not 80.

Secondly, I’m heading to the library. |
Two of my requested books are patiently waiting for me to enjoy them.




Filed under random