Adventures From a Land Under the Land Down Under
by Cat Richert

Greeting from West Virginia…otherwise known as Tasmania.
Not only is the 200-mile wide island-state about the same size as West Virginia, but it also has an equivalent reputation here in Australia. Due to size and convict history, Tassie is the brunt of numerous mainland jokes regarding the island’s limited gene pool and sketchy past. “They’re all inbred, you know,” some Aussies told me before I left. Tasmania is so detached from the mainland psyche that, in an ironic series of events during the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Tasmania was not included on the original Olympic medals bearing a map of the country.
“Pooh to that,” I said and off I went regardless. I was overwhelmed to find that, although the twisting roads are lonely and prone to some truly gruesome roadkill disasters (kangaroo for dinner, anyone?), it is one of the most remarkably beautiful places I’ve ever visited. Tassie is often compared to New Zealand, with its towering snow covered mountains and old-growth rainforests.
But I suppose that this sort of beauty is not unusual in Australia. I’ve been utterly overwhelmed by how many breathtaking sights can be seen in only one day of driving. In fact, I could spend the rest of my word space going on about how perfect Australia is: how easy-going and kind Aussies are, how they spend more time outside than we do, how being with family and friends is paramount in daily life, and how gosh-darn happy and confident these people seem to be as a result. Ahhh. How easy it is to glorify a country you don’t really know.
Instead, I’d like explain some of the more interesting — and perhaps lesser known — Aussie inventions. No, no. There will be no talk of Vegemite, Aussie Rule Football and the Croc Hunter. Everyone knows about that.
The Double-Flush Toilet: Has it ever occurred to you that, when you pee, a lot of water is used to get just a little bladder full of liquid down the toilet? Well, it certainly did to some brilliant Aussie. It’s so simple, I can’t even stand it: when you pee, you press the half-flush button and only half the amount of water is used. Anything larger or more copious takes a hit from the full-flush button. These contraptions are in almost every Aussie home I’ve visited, every dodgy hostel and pub I’ve patroned. Who needs an environmental movement when these toilets are saving liters, gallons, heaps of water every year?
The Ute: In America, they are more commonly known as El Caminos…you know, the ones that look like a car in the front, and a truck in the back, commonly found in a turd-colored shade of brown and haven’t been mass produced in the U.S. since 1975. These veritable mullets of the automotive world are Australia’s sexiest cars. They are rolling, sleek, colorful and fully-equipped, and come from some of the world’s most respectable car factories. Given Tasmania’s reputation, one would think that most utes would be found there, and certainly, there are a few. But it’s more common to see them cruising the streets of Melbourne’s Fitzroy and Sydney’s Bondi Beach on Friday night. I overheard this conversation between two young woman about what ute they prefer their guy to drive:

Aussie Girl 1: “The new Holden model is best to make out in.”
Aussie Girl 2: “Yeah, but I’d never bring a bloke home to mum in that one. I reckon the Ford is more conservative.”


The Tim-Tam: Anyone who knows me, even barely knows me, also know that I have a massive sweet tooth. Thus, it was not surprising that my chocolate radar immediately picked up strong, irresistible signals from these “biscuits” called Tim-Tams. Simply constructed, they consist of chocolate crème (there’s caramel praline and hazelnut as well) layered between two plain sugar cookies. Then, the entire creation is dipped in chocolate (white, dark or milk). That’s it, that’s all. There’s something inexplicably euphoric about them. Since Tim-Tams are as commonly found in an Aussie pantry as Vegemite, almost all Aussie kids have created new and exciting ways to eat them. My personal favorite involves biting off both ends of the Tim Tam, dipping it in your hot cup of tea, sucking the tea through the cookie and stuffing the entire thing in your mouth before it melts in all it’s chocolately glory.
Most Aussies I meet are shocked that none of the above can be found in America. I’m shocked I won’t be able to find them in America. I suppose I’m a bit sad, too. Australia is, in many ways, much like the U.S., but it has been the tiny differences in speech and culture that have made my trip incredibly interesting. As I said, it’s easy to idealize a place you are visiting and the temptation to recreate these ideals and memories once back in America will be an even harder to resist. But, at least in the first few months of my return, I’m bound to give it a go. So, if you find me, gooey and forlorn after another one of my “Tea and Oreo” experiments or driving down East Lorain in the most god-awful vehicle you’ve ever seen, please don’t make fun.

April 19
April 26

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