Friday, September 04, 2015

Fairs & Flus

*This post is written in memory of Vivian Wusthoff - my grandma who passed away this week. I was trying to post this piece earlier because I knew how much she loved reading my blog. Sadly, she died before I could.*

It has been another month since my last post about my life here!

I can explain.

I had the plague flu for 2 weeks straightInfluenza B, probably. As the large numbers of people battled this really wretched plague flu in Brisbane this winter season, I became a statistic halfway through August. I battled a fever, hacking coughs, and overall horrible-ness for an inconsiderate amount of time. I was really frustrated with this, as I had two (TWO!) flu vaccines since last year. This particular Influenza B was taken out of the vaccines a few years ago and has seen a significant come-back over the last few months.

After two and a half weeks of struggling to breathe, I'm finally alive again.

The day before my plague flu came into full-blown awfulness, I went to a huge event in Brisbane called Ekka. Queensland's August Ekka (short for Exhibition, as Aussies love abbreviations) is a week-long fair that hosts carnival rides, shows, animal competitions, cabarets, art competitions, and lots of food exhibitions within an intimate fair grounds. The way I saw it was a cross between a US State Fair and/or a 4-H Showcase, with a bit of carnival flair added.

I was feeling overwhelmed with studies and felt like taking a solo romantic adventure morning walking through Ekka. I mostly spent my time in the animals sections, which truthfully was the only part I had planned on visiting in the festival, anyways. I got to hold a baby chick, feed some baby goats and sheep, and socialize with well-groomed puppy competitors. I also tied a free colorful balloon to my wrist as I walked along the grounds and ate a strawberry ice cream that was rich and delicious. It might have been strange to the other guests with small children to see a grown woman eagerly bouncing up and down for animal cuddles with a balloon strapped to her arm, but I refuse to apologize for anything.

I made my way through a exhibition of competitive fruit cakes, decorated cakes, jams, vegetable displays, and crocheted blankets (among other things). I was perplexed that these prized food competitions were displayed behind glassed shelves, and I wondered how we know which one was best when all we can do is gaze on the fruit cake like a vision of Mary in a slice of toast.

I was surprised how American everything felt there. The crowd seemed to be mostly farm and country folk as I made my way through the fairgrounds, and there were lots of people aimlessly wandering around the Ekka. There was one difference, though; there were not nearly enough heavily deep-fried foodstuffs on sale. Some of the food for sale even seemed healthy! I was alright with this.

I was starting to feel the drain of the plague flu as I explored the Ekka, and I ended up going home early to nap. I had seen the animals, and that was all I needed.

Once I was bedridden, my life became isolated in my bed for days. I did not want to give anyone my sickness, so I hid from my friends and classmates for a week. In a refreshing display of civilization, my client refused to let me work (neither in the office nor at home) while I battled my fever, saying that "we don't do that in this country". So, in the end, I found myself with little to nothing to do for a very long period of time. With little ability to read and work on assignments, I ended up watching an entire Australian show - including all of the show's seasons and two movies - called "Kath and Kim".

"Kath and Kim" was a show that ran for a few years here, and it reminds me of a strange mix of the "Beverley Hillbillies" and "Arrested Development". Essentially, the show focuses on a strange mother-daughter pair living near Melbourne, and their bogan (read as: hick/redneck/hillbilly) lifestyle. The show is always ridiculous, and you can never tell if the characters are from the 80's, 90's, or modern time. They eat short hot dogs (called "footy franks") regularly, and they are very hard to understand sometimes - at least for my NYC ears.

I found myself completely involved in their lives for a number of days, and learning a lot of little pieces about the Australian culture I hadn't already experienced. For example, I now understand that people are quoting the show when they say, "I feel it in me waters!"

The downside of my anthropological research in Australian bogan lifestyles was that it was the only human interaction I had for a week, and it started to mess with my communication/social skills a bit. It took a few days to get out of it once I was back in the outside world.

Now that I am better, I am stressed again with school and work, and I am currently trying to catch up with life. I doubt I'll be completely caught up until two weeks from now.

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