Last Friday was the day of that marked our 2-week settlement in Perth. But we are still in the adjustment phase, where we compare everything here with what we used to have back home. From what I’ve learned in my settlement course 2 years a go when I moved to Scotland, normally the first phase of the adjustment is to resent all the changes. Nothing is good enough compares to what we used to have. It’s normal, because people don’t like change.
So naturally, I hate the taste of Perth’s tap water. On the first days, we actually wondered if we are allowed to drink directly from tap and chose to stick with bottled water. The taste is really awful compares to what we have in Scotland, even worse than London (and London’s water, I am told, is recycled 7 times!) – and when we carefully brought the subject up, everyone agrees. Perth’s drinking water comes from two supplies, the groundwater and the hills, which varies in time (read this link for more detail, especially the ‘What is in Perth’s Drinking Water?” section) , while in Scotland we receive our tap water from surface water sources (streams, rivers, lochs, and reservoirs). That’s why the water tastes different. But after two weeks I actually can swallow the water from the tap, using a filter, of course.
After being spoiled in UK with their very simple, logical signage system, I easily get frustrated with what I have been experiencing. Oooh… simple, mundane things, like a signage in the department store that points a direction to toilet, unless when I follow the direction, I reach the point where I face three different ways and no additional arrow that shows which direction I should take. Or like today; I had to queued for 25 minutes at the post shop only to weigh my mails and buy stamps, then glued them onto each mails. I then went to the post box right at the door at the shop, but there is small note attached to its lid saying “display only” (why? Does AustPost receive a lot of question about how a mailbox looks like so they need to produce a mock-up?). Err… ok, so where is the real post box? I was helplessly wandering around the post shop and the reception area, no staff to ask as everyone was too busy, but still couldn’t find that bloody giant red box. I gave up, and thought I might spot one somewhere on my way home. I stepped outside the building, and there it was, with all its glory, big, red post box, 10 metres away from the post shop, hidden behind gigantic pillars. Why can’t someone draw a direction to say “nearest post box is situated outside the main entrance”? Mind you, when our local post office back in Aberdeen (and by local I mean there is only one counter, one assistant, and the room is almost as big as its mailbox) was about to be moved to a new place less than 100 metres across the street, the news had been circulated for about a month, and about 2 weeks before it was closed there was a big street sign directing people where the new post office would be. And just in case we’re too daft to make a U-turn and walk for about 100 metres and get lost, the new post office has even a bigger sign telling us that they are there now. Simple, clear, and most importantly, logical. And even though the old post office has been closed weeks a go, the sign is still there, just in case some locals have missed the information. On the day before we left Aberdeen, I went to the new post office, it still has its sign indicating its presence there. There is no way people can get lost.
And the complaints continue. Luxury brands cost at least £100 more than in UK or Europe. No Zara. No Marks&Spencer or Next (did they forget Australia when they invade Asia?). Surprisingly there is Burberry, though. My prepaid Optus can’t receive text messages from Indonesia and although the customer service and the technical assistant were very helpful, they can’t find out why. Our Sky back in UK cost 3 times cheaper than Foxtel package. For some reason, there’s a shopping arcade in the city centre called London Court, built in 1937 but mimicking 15th century Tudor architecture, where they sell tacky gifts and other stuff from London (why?). And one TV anchor actually said bollocks in 6AM show (to be fair, she actually said “bUllocks” as it’s the title of Karl Kruszelnicki’s book “Never Mind the Bullocks, Here’s The Science” – only one letter different from Sex Pistol’s album Never Mind The Bollocks). It’s a strange place, indeed.
But one afternoon we were sitting at the balcony in our temporary apartment, drinking wine and having our dinner, looking at the fabulous view of the dusty parking building across the street, I realise that we couldn’t do this often in Aberdeen. No, not looking at the parking lot, but sitting outside. When we’re lucky we could get some sun once in a blue moon, but normally even in summer the temperature is below 15C, so we could have barbeque wearing cardigans, and definitely we don’t need fans to keep us cool. There were too many occasions I was trapped in horrible weather wearing extremely inappropriate outfit in Scotland, because I misjudged what I saw outside my window before I left home. In here, it’s easy. Just put some dress and sandals, plus sunglasses, and we’re ready to go. We don’t need to think whether our boots’ heels are too sharp and they will be too slippery for walking in snow. We don’t need to think whether our tights or jumpers are warm enough to walk outside but cool enough to get into the shops. We don’t need to think whether we need to carry our brolly, gloves, or scarf today. We don’t need to think which jacket to put on, waterproof, windproof, light, wool, or all the above.
And because the weather is human friendly, everywhere we go we can sit at the table outside the restaurants. Something that almost doesn’t exist in Scotland. Just the slight hint of sunshine was enough to make everybody sit at the beer gardens, pretending talking about how beautiful today was. The talk can continue until the year after that, because everyone would remember the day they finally could put their sunglasses on even though it’s rather gray, or the day they wore their shorts, even thought it’s rather chilly. Perth, however, can be a wee bit too hot, like last weekend when the temperature reached 39C. It’s too hot to do anything, so we opted to watch movie, and eat a lot of ice cream. But other than that, we’ve been enjoying the sun, trying to remember when the last time we’ve had something like this back home.
Then I also just realised that I have been busy eating Asian food since I got here 2 weeks a go, and hardly had Western meal at all. There are Vietnamese restaurants everywhere, which doesn’t exist in Aberdeen. And loads and loads Japanese restaurants as well, which almost doesn’t exist in Aberdeen. I’ve been eating fresh Vietnamese spring rolls and sushi almost everyday! And of course, there are many Indonesian restaurants all over the city too. There is actually one next to our apartment now, but it’s ghastly, so I wouldn’t go back there again. Good butchers are everywhere; there is some English butcher which even sells black pudding and square sausages, although I haven’t found out about those which sell haggis yet. But we’re more keen on the Continental/Italian butchers which also have their shops filled with imported pastas and olive oils from Italy, and rows of marinated, pre-preparation pastry wrapping, or kebabbing meats which look so yummy. Or German butchers which provide German-style bratwursts, wieners, sulze, fleischkase, weisswurst and so on. The city also is filled with a lot of good restaurants. After great experience with Fraser’s early this month, we want to try Star Anise for dinner tonight, but it’s fully booked until God knows when, since it’s one of the best restaurants in Perth, so we’ll try some other time, before or after Jackson’s. I wonder if Perth has Michelin-star restaurants?
So the weather is fantastic, the food is great, the water – well, not great but I can live with it – and the people are very friendly (there must be something in the sun, people here smile quite a lot, not cold like in Sydney). The alcohol is more expensive but I take it as a good sign to not drink too much. I’ve also started making friends, which I must admit is much easier here than in Aberdeen. Plus we will get a lot more visitors than we did in Aberdeen. Only a few days after we arrived, our Dutch friend who lives in Jakarta came over and we spent Saturday afternoon in a bar, which, as he describes, is like Dragonfly without a roof. Next month a friend from Sydney will come and visit us. Another 3 friends have spoken about their plan to come to Perth in February. Another has mentioned April. And of course, as usual, I have been bugging the girls to come as well, hopefully sometimes before our friends in Canberra leave for Pohnpei. I also painfully take note that there is almost no fat people here. Seems like everybody was born with 6-pack abs and toned arms. Well, it’s only an observation in Cottesloe beach in one afternoon, but it’s shocking enough to make me mentally kick myself in the butt to go back to gym and start working out, especially because everywhere I look, there are people carrying surboards, or jogging on the streets, or just like the lady who has been helped me out to find our house, having her gym bag ready in her car everyday.
Looks like life here can be as sweet as non-fat cupcakes!