Why Australians Convert Cars to LPG

One of the jolliest and sweetest men I have ever had the pleasure of knowing met me at the baggage claim in Perth. Jim, husband of Glenys and SERVAS host, ushered me out to his Holden Commodore and popped the trunk. It was both empty, and nearly half full… retrofitted with a 20 gallon, metal LPG (liquid petroleum gas) tank. Guess how many kilometers they can drive on one tank…— 900 km!   It sounds like heaps, but the math works out similarly if one had a 20 gallons of petrol. Benefits of LPG, however, are that it’s half-price as compared to gasoline and doubles your engine life. Incredible, no?

Where I spent the last half of my Tuesday evening in Sydney...

Where I spent the last half of my Tuesday evening in Sydney…

Ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself. I wouldn’t have floated happily into Perth if it weren’t for Kris in Sydney. Another CS gem — this music obsessed man is off on a India/Middle East/U.S. trip in just a few weeks. We spent an awesome evening swilling local brew, enjoying pretty fantastic meals at a local restaurant, swapping non-stop banter and stories, and of course listening to tunes. He’s a bonafide freelance writer whose coolest upcoming gig is covering a music festival in New York for RedBull. Needless to say our frolicking made my 4:45 airplane alarm feel especially early.

Throughout the night and on the plane the next day I jotted down Aussie-isms and other observations that kept cropping up. My vocab lesson included…

  • at the shops” – used in place of “out shopping” or “at the store.” As in “Mum’s out at the shops.”

  • shorts” – used when discussing films, as in “I’ve seen the shorts” aka previews.

  • went pear shaped” – didn’t work out/was a disaster — used to explain an undesirable outcome, as in “We planned to be there on Friday, but things really went pear shaped when we got a flat tire.”

  • that’s not on” – as in “not happening” – used both literally and figuratively. You could say about a child wanting to play with the fine china, “Oh, that’s not on.” You could also say a cancelled BBQ or party is “not on.”

  • Sultana Bran” – a cereal known state-side as Raisin Bran

  • wattle” – sounds like movements of a chubby creature, but this is a tree with awesome, delicate, pinnate leaves!

  • that’s alright” – used in place of “You’re welcome.” Me: “Oh, thank you so much!” Aussie: “That’s alright.” Weird!

  • Thank you” – said in place of “Please.” A cashier might say, “twenty dollars, thank you.” At the bank the teller said to me, “Your surname, thank you.”

On the cultural side of things, I am loving the accent. The automatic voice on the train says, “Dohs ah closing. Please stahnd clee-ah.” It was hilarious to hear the chipper Aussie pronunciation and intonation coming out of a goth teen with enormous platform boots. And I’ve been in just a few tomayto/tomahto, baysil/bahsil, orAYgano/orehGAHno battles. Other observations:

  • Similar awesomeness can be found on Sydney streets!

    Similar awesomeness can be found on Sydney streets!

    Mullet Madness — this is one hairdo that always had its tentacles entangled in some part of the world… Argentina a decade ago, Australia now… So far I’ve witnessed some spectacular effort put into this eye-catching hairstyle.

  • Chatty Cathy — even with a significant line (“queue”), my bank teller in a Sydney branch took her sweet time asking me about my life, giving me advice on cell-phones, and thinking through shopping suggestions for yours truly. I felt pretty awkward about it, but in my experience so far that’s how things are done. Guess people are in less of a hurry here!

  • Standard Swill – One of the basic beer brands — the Budsweiser down undah — is Toohey. If one only heard the name but never saw written, you might think it was one of the basic brands in neighboring New Zealand — Tui, named for a bird instead of an Irishman. And for the record, Fosters is not Australian for beer anymore than Boone’s Farm is American for wine. A few decades ago people did drink it, but it’s been insinuated they’ve since developed taste buds.

  • So cute!

    So hobbitly adorable!

    Time Travel? – While the Lord of the Rings wasn’t filmed here, certainly a piece of governmental nomenclature makes it feel a bit Hobbit-y. Their land division equivalent to an American county is called a “shire.” Trash cans, road signs and the like all advertise their owners: “Swan Shire,” “Blue Mountains Shire,” “Capel Shire.” Cute!

  • Kanga and Roo — While I ate my first kangaroo the day I arrived, hanging out the the forest of the Blue Mountains limited my wildlife sightings to birds. I’ll admit to being pretty delighted upon seeing a small “mob” of the bouncing marsupials out the train window on my way down to Sydney. The backdrop made it all feel truly authentic — not savannah like I’d imagined, but a vacant lot between two suburban homes with lots of trees and greenery about. Pound for pound (and in terms of pesky behavior) they seem to be equivalent to deer.

  • Sunburnt Roofs — so many building materials — and therefore built components – are red. Red tile roofs are prolific. Red brick houses are common. Many dwellings are molded into the unique Australian style (Federation for you googlers) with an inset gable to vent heat and a wrap-around porch/veranda to keep the intense sun off the windows. I am loving it!

  • How friendly is that?!

    How friendly is that?!

    Polite Company — I’ve found Australians to be incredibly friendly, and I adore the irony in being told by (chatty) strangers in Sydney how city people tend not to be gregarious! Imagine my surprise, then, in such a polite society, observing that the subtitles on the default program on the personal airline screens of my domestic flight were full of f-bombs! This was juxtaposed by my seat partner — Luke — a young business traveler who was so outgoing that he offered me an earbud to watch  How I Met Your Mother with him on his laptop after thoroughly entertaining me during our 30 minute tarmac delay.

  • Cafeteria milk, right? Half and half? Nope - iced coffee!

    Cafeteria milk, right? Half and half? Nope – iced coffee!

    Wax-On! – an entire cooler of a relatively small neighborhood grocery store was filled with the same waxed cartons Americans use to contain orange juice. The same variety of sizes were on offer, but these cartons claimed to be iced coffee. Basically frappucino by the gallon and at half the cost, I suppose. Wow.

  • Sticker Shock — the absolute lowest dollar amount you can spend on 22 cigarettes at Penrith’s mainstream grocery store (Woolworth’s) is $12. I’m terribly pleased I don’t smoke, not just for my wallet’s sake…

  • Tweet Tweet — You haven’t heard the last of Australian-bird-amazement from me. Perth has these stopped-in-my-tracks pink and grey parrots everywhere! And “28s” – a bright green parrot with a yellow ring around its neck and a black head. And the crows have the most ridiculous call… a trifecta of a quacking duck, meowing kitten, and a disappointed sports fan. Have a listen.

So. Perth. This generally-dry outpost in Western Australia reminds me so much of home. The dry, late summer countryside felt just like scenes from my childhood. A giant Liebherr workshop was on the main road coming from the airport — just like the one on Highway 59 south of Gillette that I passed each day on my way to the coal mine. The first rain of the fall came on my second day, making for an adventurous morning run. I really enjoyed listening to Jim’s answers to questions a bit different than what I’d asked and playing Bananagrams with Glenys. I felt even more at home after meeting their son and daughter-in-law. She’s from Spearfish — a short drive from my hometown, and both were wearing matching Black-Hills-Gold rings with the trademark leaves I’d recognize anywhere.

I finished off my time in Perth with a job interview of sorts. I wasn’t planning on looking for work until I’d sussed out which Western Australia community I wanted to live in, but this sort of fell into my lap. The wheels of fate are turning! ♣

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