I am no longer a virgin Aussie lecturer. Today, in fact, I did it twice--once at 10 am in front of 250 students, and the second time at noon in front of another 90. And, surprise, surprise…it felt just like giving a lecture back in the States. The students laughed when I made stupid jokes, looked bored when I expected them to be, asked questions and responded to mine, and even started packing up their belongings at the same precise moment (just before the last three words of my lecture). Interestingly, the first student to introduce himself to me was an American undergrad from my old alma mater, USC (the one in Los Angeles), who is doing an honors thesis with a prof I knew well back in my grad school days. By the way, that class with 90+ students is titled Behavioural Neuroscience (like that spelling, my American readers?!). When I asked how many students were taking it because they were interested in neuroscience, nearly everyone raised their hands. Incredible!
At home we are now the proud owners of a Toyota Yaris. Thanks to a comment to this blog by Eric H., I thought we should give Toyota a try before I bought a Honda. And I liked what I saw! Our little car is a brilliant cherry red. Other “middle-aged” men buy a fancy sports car during their mid-life crises, but I decided to go with a nice starter car usually marketed to university students. A couple of cool things about buying a car in Australia--the financing included the option of buying comprehensive insurance from two different independent vendors. The insurance itself was about half the price of what I paid in the U.S. for the same thing, and includes a $400 deductible. In addition, the dealership took care of the registration with the state government (something that doesn’t happen in Georgia, for example). There was no pressure to buy an extended warranty or add options that I wasn’t interested in. And, I got a loan with no problem--me, with absolutely no credit history in Australia.
A few other observations about our new life here: (1) The major television networks spend most of their prime time hours broadcasting U.S. television shows, particularly those involving crime, such as “NCIS,” all three “CIS” shows, “SUV”, “Numbers,” etc. It’s no wonder that many Australians are scared of visiting the U.S., thinking they will be violently attacked as soon as they leave the airport. (2) Batteries are expensive. I bought two packs of two “D” batteries for Will’s music machine, and they were nearly $10 each. (3) The newspapers and television news are terribly sensationalist and biased, except for the ABC (the BBC of Australia), even compared with U.S. media. It doesn’t help that several major news outlets are part of Murdoch’s empire. (4) Some Australians really do say, “G’day, Mate!” It’s happened to me about every other day, and I nearly cracked up each time. (5) Most of the wines we have bought, including the mid-priced ones, have screw-tops instead of corks. And they’re good! (6) Both the private and public school kids wear uniforms, and some look like they’re from a 19th Century costume drama. One high school girl I saw the other day looked like an extra from “A Room With a View.” (7) Paper towels are about half the width of the ones in the U.S. (8) Three-wheeled “prams” (strollers) are all the rage here. We got one ourselves last weekend. (9) The weather forecast is usually focused on the next 24 hours, and maybe not even tomorrow. It’s rare to see anyone talk about the next 5-7 days. Thus, I was surprised to see that it was raining this morning because I hadn’t checked the weather yesterday. (10) And even though I lectured for about 3 hours today in front of a total of 340 students, not one mobile phone went off the entire time. How cool is that?