Do You Remember?

“Do you remember when we first met, I sure do…”

I haven’t posted in weeks and am now going to post thrice in one night. I need to learn to spread these out a little bit more, huh? I can’t resist writing about this because I feel that it is an incredibly important part of my experience here in Australia and also helps to explain my disregard for Recollections of a Wanderer over the past month…

I do not want to come home.

Up until my Spring break vacation to Cairns and the Gold Coast I had spent far too much of my time trying to connect back with my life in the States and looking past my time in Australia towards my return to Cincinnati and Louisville. It wasn’t that I was actively waiting to go home and wanted to leave Melbourne but simply that I was incredibly excited for the things I would have waiting for me when I got home. I no longer have that feeling. My excitement to return hinged primarily on the attachment I felt to the life I had in the States and now that I no longer have that attachment I also no longer have that excitement. It just so happens that those two were also main motivators (alongside wanting it for my own recollection) in the consistent and detailed posting of this blog.

It is impossible to identify the singular moment when I found myself not wanting to go home because it happened in stages of disillusionment with my life in the States and increasing feelings of belonging to my study abroad experience. I guess it all started when I made the choice to not do anymore serious travels here in Australia. I was running out of money due to unforeseen expenses and realized that I had already done more traveling than I had ever hoped to. I had explored New Zealand with The Group for two inexplicably amazing weeks, traveled across half the continent of Australia to see Kangaroo Island, Uluru, Port Douglas, and Sydney with my parents, driven The Great Ocean Road with some of my best friends here in Melbourne, learned to dive in Cairns while making friends from all over the world, and was reunited with a long lost friend in the Gold Coast. I am in no place to say that I haven’t seen enough of Australia and I just came to the realization that no matter how much travel I did there was always going to be something that I didn’t do or see. Not knowing where to draw the line, I took my relative unfamiliarity with Melbourne and its surroundings as a sign that I needed to take my remaining time in Australia to truly discover everything that the city had to offer.

With a new determination to get to know Melbourne and the weight of travel expenses off of my shoulders, the past few weeks I have been going all out in an attempt to enjoy as much of the city as I can before I leave. Concerts, nights out, food. You name it and I have been ‘splurging’ a bit more. This has definitely made my time here more enjoyable and I have noticeably become closer with people since doing so. Instead of being preoccupied with saving money to dive with sharks I have been spending more Tuesdays out at the Hawthorn. Rather than worry about the cost of a plane ticket to Darwin I will be visiting the Victoria Markets on the regular. Concerts and sporting events have taken the place of nights in hostels and day trips to the beaches and mountains surrounding Melbourne have become my new addiction. I have 50 days to explore as many hole in the wall pubs and uniquely Melbourne events as I can and I plan to use each day as best I can. So here’s to exploring a city with some of the best people you could ever find. However excitement over the opportunities I have here in Australia is nothing new for me. So how do explain this changed perception of my return?

I don’t want to come home because I am no longer under the influence of distance causing my heart to grow fonder. Over the past month or so I have been reminded in many ways of the reasons why I chose to leave my life in the States in pursuit of something completely new and unknown. Maybe I just took too much onto my plate. Maybe I just cared too much. I am excited about senior year and have no doubt that it will be a great experience but the year hasn’t even started yet and it is proving to be quite the stressor. My ‘school’ here in Australia has been more like a vacation than anything and it will have been a full 8 months without taking a serious class by the time I start back at Bellarmine. That definitely has me stressed out and while right now I can just kind of chuckle and say “I am so fucked” the reality of it is that I will be going from two incredible extremes; my joke of a class schedule at Swinburne and a semester full of nothing but senior level economics and business courses. That hanging over my head has me worried but the more immediate responsibilities of preparing Knights’ and Hillel for the coming semester is also proving to be difficult. I definitely underestimated the difficulty of trying to step into a situation I have been absent from for 6 months and all the unreturned emails and unanswered questions has reminded me why I wanted to step out in the first place. My front row seat on the roller coaster of finding a place to live next year also has me sick to my stomach. And I love roller coasters. But my determination to explore Melbourne and stress about the responsibilities waiting me when I return aren’t enough to cause me to not want to come home.

When I returned to Bellarmine at the beginning of January to say final goodbyes and watch my last few basketball games, I was hit with a very hard reality that life in the States would indeed go on without me. I always knew it would but to witness it was an eye opener for me. As I flew across the Pacific and began my life in Australia I was still being bombarded by communication from the States and this continued throughout my travels in New Zealand. Not to sound like an egotistical asshole, but it felt good. I felt like even though we were leading completely separate lives that I was still attached to the people I call my friends and family by a mutual interest in each other’s lives. But as soon as it was no longer the cool thing for people to miss Ben that interest stopped. Activity on this site dropped drastically and was only kept afloat by increasing numbers of posts and my own desire to have it further on down the road. I was under the false impression that the more you all knew about my life here the more interested you would be so I put incredible effort into giving as many details posts as I could justify. I went through the same experience when I left for Bellarmine almost three years ago. I struggled during the first semester of college not in the aspect of involving myself on campus but with not feeling connected with the lives of my high school best friends. Call it what you will, but I guess I just expected us to be exception to the typical “you always fall apart from your high school friends” rather than the norm. Thats not to say that I still don’t love and miss them and consider them some of my best friends but it just is meant that the level of communication that we had was disappointing to me. And the same thing has happened here. I honestly don’t know what I was expecting but it wasn’t what happened. I wasn’t expecting to Facebook and Skype for the entire six months I was here but eventually the incredible amount of “Skype soon!” messages and lack of actual Skype calls became a bit disheartening. I recognize that it is a two way street and of course I am bias to my own efforts but I just got the feeling that communication always had an ulterior motive. Whether it was kissing ass to a new President or to cuss and discuss housing, I couldn’t get over the idea that people’s “missing you” was more “I want something from you” than it was genuine effort to catch up on my life down unda. Some people who I considered my best friends at Bellarmine didn’t initiate a single conversation while others started to talk to me more than they do when I am actually in Louisville. Rather than try and understand it or go against what was evidently a natural tendency, I have just accepted it. I used to be terrified of the idea of being forgotten and not feeling attached to life back in the States but now I embrace it. If people want to talk to me and hear about whats going on in my life than they will find a way to do so and I’m not going to forsake my time in Australia to do it for them. It is almost like a natural selection and it has definitely opened my eyes about some of the people I am close with. Call me selfish or hypocritical if you want but I am tired of trying to talk to my friends and feeling like I am annoying them. Its a terrible feeling to have. One definite drawback to realizing that it is no longer cool to miss me is the conflict it poses when it suddenly becomes cool again as my return comes closer. After this post that may not happen at all, but I suppose that wouldn’t be so bad. It’d spare me the choice of whether to just forget the fact that you’ve just ignored me for the past six months or call you out on being either a terrible friend or terrible communicator. I need to stop thinking.

I meant every word that I just wrote to you and hope that you can begin to understand where I am coming from. But before you go getting offended take note that I never said I do not miss you. In fact, missing you is my motivation for writing this post in the first place. Because I miss you terribly and the feeling that it isn’t mutual is nearly unbearable. So please don’t take the above as an attack but rather an observation of someone who just had to get it off their chest and don’t take me not wanting to come back to the States personally. If you can, try to think about a time where you were excited for something while simultaneously dreading the circumstances in which that something would take place. If successful, you will know how I feel right now and subsequently also understand how confusing that mix of emotions can be. I am hopeful that this is just a phase that I will move out of as my return draws nearer but until then I hope you can respect the fact that I have no desire to end my time in Australia in order to return to the States.

Until next time, whenever and wherever that may be.

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Congratulations Class of 2012

“In the City of the Falls, high upon a hill
Stands Alma Mater Bellarmine the pride of Louisville
Her scarlet, silver colors true, shine brightly in the sun
And warm our hearts and memories, your daughters and your sons
The hopes and dreams and values born in our Kentucky home
Will stir our hearts and minds and lives wherever we may roam
And as we grow, dear Bellarmine, in the love of truth
Alma Mater Bellarmine, so grows our love for you.”

Well, you all did it. Despite your best efforts to not become big boys and girls, you all are now officially almni of Bellarmine University. The word congratulations cannot truly encompass how proud I am of you all. I am going to miss you terribly and campus will not be the same without you. I don’t know what is more disturbing, the thought that you won’t be there next year or that I am going to be a senior. Which one is more disturbing for you? These past three years have flown by and I am so happy that you were a part of it. From introducing me to Bellarmine and getting me involved to celebrating a NCAA Division II National Championship together I cannot think of a better group of people to have spent the past three years with. You all made Bellarmine a special place and my life there would be totally different had you not been there. Good luck and don’t do anything that I wouldn’t do twice! Don’t be a stranger, okay?

CONGRATULATIONS!

My Life is Now

“This is your time here to do what you will do…”

So much for keeping this thing up to date, eh? I’m not going to apologize for my lack of posts here but I do hope to become more consistent here on out. I know those may just be empty words at the moment but I do truly enjoy writing on this blog so I hope to get better at it.

It has been just over three weeks since I got back from my Spring Break vacation and life here has been simply fantastic. I did have an awkward moment where I realized I had paid much less of my housing than I had originally thought and that forced me to make a decision about how I wanted to spend my last two months here in Australia. Basically, I could live like a hermit with no social life so that I could travel when school was out or I could give up the idea of jetting off to an exotic beach and live it up in Melbourne with concerts, footy matches, and crazy nights. I opted for the latter as I have already done a significant amount of traveling here and in a way feel like I have yet to truly experience the city that I have been living in for the past four months.

THE VACATION HANGOVER… and a presentation partner from hell

The week that I got back from break was pretty laid back. Everyone’s wallet was still in a mild state of shock, there was school work that was due, and we were all pretty buggered from the vacations. I myself had a presentation due that Wednesday that proved to be much more work than I had intended. See, I had made sure to make it very clear to my group that I would be out of town for ten days just before we were to present. My group partner Brian and I had gotten all of our work done and turned into the group weeks before I left so that we could iron out the paper and presentation before as well. Unfortunately all it takes is one oblivious fuck waiting to do his entire portion of the assignment until after I have left to make all of that work completely pointless. When I arrived back from the airport I checked my email and saw that I had nearly thirty unread messages about how to format the paper, what the presentation should be, and so on. Even if I hadn’t just had the worst travel experience of my life I would have been upset by this because it meant rather than not having to work on the project like I had planned I would need to spend the next 48 hours trying to fix said oblivious fuck’s version of the paper. In an ironic twist the only one of us who was truly concerned about our grade was the oblivious fuck which actually made the presentation on Wednesday incredibly enjoyable. His complete lack of presentation skills aside, the kid was so nervous and worried about our grade that he could barely even sit down before we went and afterwards spent the entire class shaking. I thought it was absolutely hysterical as it was his fault we had to do everything so last minute anyways. Karma was on my side that day. With the presentation out of the way and no classes on Thursday or Friday, I set off determined to enjoy the weekend. The usual Thursday and Friday shenanigans took place but on Saturday we did something a little bit different when Elliot, Stephen, and myself joined Kiwi and Steve when they went to celebrate a friend’s birthday at a bar across town. The night started earlier than it should have and unfortunately Stephen wasn’t allowed to enter the bar so him and Elliot left while the rest of us partied the night away. It was a interesting night complete with pool, spontaneous crying, beer spitting, and failure to roll cigarettes (the cigs were NOT mine). After almost getting hit trying to hail a taxi we returned to our humble UniLodge abode and tried to find our missing friends. Sunday I slept in late and then ventured out to the Glenferrie Road Festival that was happening down the block. When I left it was a bright sunny day and by the time I left it was dark clouds and rain. Melbourne is worse about its weather than Ohio is. The festival was actually really cool aside from the creepy life-size Smurfs that were dancing on a stage. I ran into the girls and Kiwi where Kiwi brought to my attention that we had all made a deal the night before to go on a weeklong bender so I better rest up for. *facepalm* We grabbed some chorizo sausages and smoothies before heading back out of the weather.

THE BENDER:

Monday was the start of the weeklong bender we had all agreed upon at the bar on Saturday. To kick start it off we went to the weekly trivia session at The Hawthorn that is just around the block from campus. We had a few drinks before heading out and then descended on the place determined to win the $100 bar tab that comes with first place. We might had one if Steve and I hadn’t been so distracted by the pool table (or if we knew anything about Australian sports) but alas we came in second to last place. Ironically this is the second best place to finish as we were rewarded with a bottle of wine. To drink the loss away, I suppose? It was my first time at trivia and it was great fun. Regardless of the result, hanging out with everyone and laughing at our horribly wrong answers was a perfect Monday night. Tuesday was the true party day. Since it was ANZAC day the next day there was no school so it was an absolutely massive night to go out. Everyone and their 15 year old siblings were out in the clubs and bars. The group pregame was held at Matt and I’s place but after an incredibly horrid venture out to the clubs we returned and just decided to play the game there, too. We definitely left way too late because by the time we got to the clubs all of the lines were stretched for at least a block. With no wait being less than two hours we just gave up and decided to return to my apartment to finish the night out. Wednesday was much more relaxed. Tuesday had gotten the best of all of us so we decided to take it easy, make pancakes, watch footy, and have a beer. By 2pm I was too hungry to wait for any more people to wake up and join. The decision that it was time for breakfast made, Kiwi, Steve, and I went to Woolworth’s to buy the fixings. It was positively fantastic. With more pancakes and bacon than we could possibly eat we sat down to watch the footy game. Kiwi was unknowingly the victim of a sick game of infectious-virus-hot-potato so he passed on the beer but Steve and I shared one over an ANZAC footy match. Great fun. Thursday was the day the bender ended. We were all just blown out, Kiwi had discovered that he was a victim of infectious-virus-hot-potato, and the clouds that had come during the Glenferrie Festival were still hovering over the city drenching all hope and happiness from the atmosphere. Actually to be honest I am not too sure what I did on Thursday or Friday of this week so we will just skip to Saturday, okay? Saturday morning I woke up and worked out before joining Kiwi and Stephen on an adventure to the Victoria Market. Now, this was my first time at the market which I am ashamed to admit so I was having quite an exciting time. Stephen’s Victoria Market cherry was popped that day as well and I think that Kiwi got a bit annoyed at us being so overly excited at food by the time the day was done. The plan was to grill out on Sunday so Kiwi and I grabbed three kilos of wings and I threw in some salami, limes, and steaks on top. When we returned to UniLodge we just hung out at my apartment and had a little party. The cookout on Sunday was probably one of the most unorganized things I have ever participated in. What was supposed to start at 1pm didn’t get going until 3pm and a combination of stubborn coals and poor lighting technique didn’t have us cooking until 4:30pm. I was starving by the time the wings started to come off the grill and they were absolutely delicious. Not quite like the wings back home but pretty damn close. The cookout was a great success once it got started and it was nice to just have time to sit around and talk with everyone. We also learned that Olle is a pyro.

THE GIRLFRIEND

The week of April 30th was a pretty big one around the apartment. It was finally beginning to sink in with everyone that school was quickly coming to an end so social life picked up a bit and the consequences of procrastination were beginning to lurk nearer and nearer. But procrastination be damned, Morgan was here! Morgan is my roommate Matt’s lovely girlfriend who came and visited us Melbournians for a few days beginning on the 30th. Matt hadn’t stopped talking about Morgan in the three months that we had been living together so I was very excited to finally get the opportunity to meet her. She was only here for a week and they would be in Sydney for part of that time so I didn’t get a whole lot of time to get to know her really well but it was still a great visit nonetheless. The beginning of the visit was understandably slow; a full day of flying and a 14 hour time change will do that to just about anyone. She rallied in the evening though and came out with us to trivia night at the Hawthorn. We were not nearly as successful as we were the week before and Morgan hit the wall about halfway through but it was still a good time. Tuesday was more interesting than any of us planned on it being. I was obligated to go to my Ethics class so that I could turn in a paper but while I was there I got a text from Matt that we had just gotten a new roommate named Fabio. At first I thought it was just a sick little joke he was playing on me but he insisted that it was not and upon my return to 322 I did indeed discover we had gotten a new roommate. I suppose worse things could have happened but this definitely put a kink in the lovely setup Matt and I had going in our apartment. Thankfully (sorry Matt) Fabio had been moved into the room on Matt’s side of the apartment so I was still more or less by myself but Fabio’s arrival was followed by a series of increasingly awkward situations. Do any of you know how awkward it is when a stranger tries to put their yogurt on your shelf in the fridge and because of said yogurt you cannot find your blackberry jelly for your peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Super awkward. Borderline infuriating in fact. But I digress. I did feel a bit bad for the guy though so I did what I could to include him in on the kitchen conversation Morgan and I were having but he was by no mean my priority. So while Fabio sat there awkwardly listening to our conversation Morgan and I did what we could to catch each other up on our lives until Matt came home. A frenzy of dinner, showers, and goon ensued before the three of us ascended to the next floor were Bronaugh was having the predrink. This was where the night took a turn. The predrink was a smashing success both literally and figuratively. By the time it was over there was a gaping hole in the wall next to the bathroom which someone had so eloquently labeled “glory hole” and I lost track of the smashing glasses about halfway through the night. Once we were all assured that we wouldn’t be the first ones inside the Hawthorn we set out for a night on the town. As far as the Hawthorn goes it was a great night which I was glad for because Morgan would only get to see one so it might as well be a good one. Wednesday went by without event as both Matt, Morgan, and myself were all anxiously waiting for Thursday to arrive. The two of them flew out for their little vacation to Sydney on Thursday morning and then that night I would be going to see City and Colour with Anna. I met her outside the Palais and we went to grab a few drinks before returning to watch the concert. I was a bit disappointed with the venue because it was all assigned seats and we didn’t get as good of tickets as I had originally thought but it was still a fantastic show. So fantastic that when we got back to my apartment I ended up buying tickets to see him again in July at Riverbend. We had a mini jam session and scheduling spree into the wee hours of the morning before calling it a night. Friday was spent cleaning up and preparing for the Cinco de Mayo celebrations that would be occurring on Saturday and I also managed to get a little bit of an essay written. It was either that or go to a house party that turned out to be not only an incredible bust but also sketchier than the ShapeUps the servers at Waffle House wear. Mmmm, Waffle House. Our celebration of Mexico’s independence on Saturday was a huge success. Complete with frozen margaritas and nachos, the day was quite exciting. There weren’t a lot of us but we made up for it. Since Spencer had left to go camping for the weekend we decided to sneak into his apartment with the help of one of his roommates. Initially we were just going to bring the 400 balloons we would be blowing up but then we decided we were starving so we brought nachos and we knew the nachos would make us thirsty so we would need drinks. In other words, we moved the party into Spencer’s apartment while he wasn’t there. The balloons got pretty tedious towards the end and it was just slightly awkward when his roommate came back while we were all still in there but we successfully filled his room and impatiently waited for his reaction upon his return. Matt and Morgan got back that night too so the party got a little bit of new life when they got back but it died down pretty quickly once the balloons and nachos were all gone. Sunday was more cleaning and I spent it all attempting but failing to get more work done on my essay. Morgan would be leaving early Monday morning so that night I said my final goodbyes and made tentative plans for a road trip to Boston sometime in the near future. Any takers?

The Beginning of the End

On Monday May 6, 2012 I had a terrible realization. Sitting in my Australian Politics class I was finally struck with the fact that I only had two more weeks left of class here in Australia. I understand that my classes here have been anything but challenging or time consuming but I never expected the time to pass by this quickly. It seems like yesterday I was meeting Adrienne in the Gold Coast and a week ago I was hiking through the mountains of New Zealand. I was happy to discover I hadn’t been focusing on the time and had just been living life but was just hit with a feeling of finality that I haven’t quite been able to shake since. I went the next few days trying to get some work done and attempting to write this blog but just kept hitting a wall where I had no motivation to do either. After my IB class on Wednesday I went with Kiwi and Fabio (who had awkwardly heard my discussion about the movie with Matt and then shadowed his way into joining only to follow maladroitly and silently for the rest of the night) to see The Avengers and it was nothing short of fantastic. We grabbed a meal/ticket special from the food court in Melbourne Central and then laughed our asses off for the next two hours despite being in the very front row of the theatre. I have no doubt I will end up seeing that movie again before I leave here. Skip to Friday and we have arrived at a day that would prove to be more than many of us could handle. It was Spencer’s birthday (he had saved all of our balloons for this occasion) so I planned for Anna to come for a surprise visit since she would be unable to make it to the party that night. Steve met up with us once we were there and the four of us just sat and talked about cars until it was time for Anna to head back. Then a few of us all met up at my place to enjoy some quiet beers together. At some point YouTube was pulled up on a computer and it never went away. LEGO comedic reenactments, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and bleeding body parts had us all in pieces for a good hour. Except for Fabio, who just stood there silently like a creepy statue. It was this afternoon that I gave up on Fabio. Up until this point I could understand his behavior or at least sympathize with it. He had moved into an apartment that Matt and I had obviously developed a balance in, Morgan was here when he first arrived, most of the times we crossed paths it was in a bigger group or party situation, and to be completely honest he is just in a completely different part of his life/mindset than the rest of us are. But if there was ever a place or time to try and bridge that gap it was in your own apartment with a handful of guys who are just sitting around and talking. I offered him a beer and for him to come sit with us but instead he accepted the beer, went and returned the vacuum, stood their silently while he finished his beer, and then went to his room without a word. My effort to make him feel more welcome ended there. But a creepy Italian wasn’t going to ruin the night, we had a birthday to celebrate! Steve said he had some snags he had to cook so we went up to Kiwi’s room for a bit of a barbecue before heading to Spencer’s for the real party. This was a party in every sense of the word. I have never seen a UniLodge apartment so packed or so loud. The place was absolutely insane and it was so much fun that almost no one even thought about going out to the clubs or bars. Although Matt did bitch out early with a piece of pizza (you can redeem yourself at a later point, good sir) the rest of us went on until almost 4pm at which point a Maccas run as the only sensible thing to do. Shrapnel in hand the party descended on those poor McDonald employees like an army and we took up almost the entire restaurant once we had all gotten our food. Before we were all done though Rod managed to get himself kicked out by beginning a wrapper fight with the other end of the restaurant. At least it wasn’t chocolate cake. I took a completely undeserved break from life on Saturday and did practically nothing all day except to venture out to the grocery store for food. Sunday was almost the same as Saturday except for I began work on planning out all the small trips and events that I hope to do before my time here in Australia is done.

BOOM! there ya go. That is my life up until May 13, 2012. Its not the most detailed of posts but I pray you will forgive me of that.