Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Australian for...

Back in September, after spending a year traveling through countries where English was not the common language (or barely even spoken at all) we found ourselves in comfortable, familiar Perth.

Street signs were in English. Maps were in English. Supermarket food labels were in English. Everyone spoke English.

It was almost too easy.

But over the next three months we were reminded of how difficult it must be to learn English as a second language!

See, Australian English follows standard British English for the most part, which meant that we American English speakers had to mentally translate at least one word per conversation. The most obvious example we noted was their rampant use of "fortnight," which we finally understood to mean "every two weeks." We also had to remove those pesky extra "u's" when reading newspapers.

the language of humor (errr...  "humour") is universal though 

But unlike the British, the Aussies shorten everything - so "mosquitos" are "mozzys," "breakfast" is "brekky," "spaghetti bolognese" is "spag bol"... and of course "Patrick" was "Pat" for three months.

And on top of this, like any country, each region within Australia also has its own accents and slang. It was fun hearing different dialects and learning new words as we traveled from Perth to Adelaide, then north to Darwin, and finally south to Melbourne and Tasmania (err... "Tassie").

Food words were the most challenging at first. We'd watched enough Wallace and Gromit episodes to know that "biscuits" were cookies. But because we worked on farms, we quickly had to learn that to pick some "silverbeet" for dinner meant to cut some chard. "Coriander" translated to cilantro, a "capsicum" is a red pepper, those "rockmelon seeds" we planted in Swan Valley would turn into cantaloupe, "aubergines" are eggplants, and our first WWOOF host's favorite food was "sultanas," also known as raisins. (Oh, don't forget to use a "serviette" to wipe your mouth while you eat!)

"strong & bitey"
equaled "DELICIOUS"
(note the appropriate use of the letter "u")

Speaking of farms, "chooks" are chickens. Ever seen a chicken in real life? "Chook" is so much more descriptive! (However, if you go out at night to check on the chooks, don't forget your "jumper" (sweatshirt/sweater), and never wear "thongs" (flip-flops) into the "bush" (forest) where the chooks roam!)

For the record, it's "prawns on the barbie..." Never, ever call them "shrimp." Them's fighting words.

Oh, and apropos of nothing (particularly not farms), "fairyfloss" is cotton candy - it's so perfect!

While we were learning this new language we also learned that Aussies love to imbibe. So if you visit, don't ask for a "beer," ask for a "Stubby" - a 375ml bottle of beer (much, much on beer here).

(and make sure it's served in a "Stubby holder")

And if you're on a budget, which we were, expect to drink a lot of "plonk" (cheap wine)... which we did.

(especially on those three-day train trips)

Slang was the most fun to learn. If you "stuffed {something} up" you $%&*ed it up; if you were "stuffed" you were $%&*ed. "Check ya's" meant "see you later," and "good on ya" either meant "good job" or "thanks" for doing something (for example, pouring more wine... err, I mean coffee... for someone). "Chalk and cheese" was like "oil and water," as in "Sue and her brother are chalk and cheese - Sue drives a '75 Ford F250 and her brother drives a brand new townie ute."

Many more differences between Australian English and American English are explained in this short video. We still use a lot of these words in our daily conversations, even as we start to learn Hawaiian slang, even as we try desperately to hold onto our Canadian accents, even as we occasionally throw out a "namaste" or a "sabaidee" because they are so fun to say. Foreign words, even when poorly pronounced on our part, remind us of good times in great places.

'K den (our Hawaiian slang word of the day), enough for now. To our Australia family - what words are missing from our list? To our fellow travelers - what's your favorite word or phrase that you picked up in another country?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Habitat Global Village build #2: West Hawaii!

Our Cambodia Habitat for Humanity Global Village build was one of our favorite volunteer experiences. Because we had raised so much for that build, we almost had enough to fund an additional solo GV build for one of us. The running joke was always to build in Hawaii on our way back to the mainland... Haha, right?

One day in November I checked the GV schedule, sent an email, and within a day I was officially invited to join Team Cocores in Kona for their January build. And within a week or so, I'd raised the final few dollars to participate. Haha, indeed!

everything is awesome!
everything is cool when you're part of a team!

I've already sung Habitat's praises and explained our Cambodia build in depth, so I will keep this one brief. Each GV build is different; perhaps the one consistent thing is not knowing exactly what you will be doing on the build when you sign up. For this week-long build on Kona, our team of 14 helped with drywall and exterior finish work on this house:


Very soon, Kahealani will be able to move into this home with her family. Throughout the week this lovely mom shared her positive energy, excitement, smiles, and gratitude with the group. It was a pleasure and privilege to work alongside her as well as the West Hawaii Habitat construction crew and Team Cocores.

prime time

we spent a lot of time looking like the dancing Charlie Brown kids

a rare quiet moment on the construction site

Kahealani and Elsa

This home is part of an ongoing Habitat West Hawaii initiative to improve homes that were provided to native islanders about 40 years ago. These homes are now in need of repair, and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands has limited loans available for upkeep. Habitat West Hawaii helps out by refurbishing homes to make them safer and healthier for residents. Read more here...

almost after - painted and almost trimmed

It wasn't all caulk, primer and paint though.  As with the Cambodia build, Team Cocores had opportunities throughout the week to experience the local culture and true Hawaiian hospitality.

lunches at Aunty Gwen's
(a local Habitat supporter who welcomes
GV teams into her home with open arms)

a tiki guard at Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park

sunset lu'au at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott
(we clean up nice)

Polynesian fire dancing at Te 'E'a O Te Turama Hula Halau

The team also enjoyed beautiful beaches, whale watching, Volcano National Park, and night snorkeling with manta rays (I skipped this one - Patrick and I are going to do the dive later).

volunteering is HARD!

While the Cambodia GV build will probably always be my favorite, I'm glad I had the opportunity to experience a build in West Hawaii. The island pace was definitely challenging to this former IT project manager but I enjoyed the overall team energy and I was able to go at my own high-strung speed most of the time so it all worked out.

Half of the group was 25 or younger, and afternoons of 'N Sync blaring from the radio were also a challenge - I'm sooooo old school New Kids on the Block!  Seriously, though, during the week I had some really interesting conversations with "the kids," and I was impressed that they chose to spend their winter breaks or limited vacation time with Habitat for Humanity. I hope they all keep it up, either with Habitat or some other worthwhile organizations.

we're the kids in America, whoa - oh!
(note: only 8 of these were "the kids" - sorry, Ann!)

West Hawaii Habitat currently builds all over the island and also has a ReStore for all your home needs. If you'd like to donate, volunteer, or otherwise support this affiliate, please check out their web site!

To see what Global Village builds are coming up, check the Habitat International schedule here. They're super fun and I highly recommend the experience to anyone looking to travel and make a difference!

(p.s. HUGE thanks to all my donors who helped make this happen!)

How to kill 11 days on Oahu without spending a single minute in Waikiki.

Back in November when we agreed to skip New Zealand and head homeward from Melbourne, we discussed the possibility of a stopover in Hawaii for a few months. And by "discussed," I mean that one of us made a vague suggestion and we both immediately decided it was a brilliant plan... We may not be tropical island people, but we're most definitely not Maryland-in-winter people. We booked our flight to Honolulu that evening.

Hawaii is really expensive. Really, really expensive.  We had farm plans set up for the Big Island but nothing for Honolulu. A few weeks before our flight I emailed an old friend who lives on Oahu to see if she knew of anyone who needed a housesitter over the holidays. Her reply? "Yes - we do!"

XO, karma. We owe you so very big these days.

We arrived on the island the morning of the afternoon we left Melbourne (time travel is weird!), settled into their gorgeous, enormous '70s-style condo and waited for the cat to come out and say hello.

We waited, and waited.

And waited.

With Mr. B in constant hiding we were forced to find other ways to entertain ourselves, so we tooled around the island to see what we could see. This included...

visiting North Shore, brah

hiking Koko Head on Christmas morning

hiking the Makapu'u Trail on Christmas afternoon

whalewatching and flower powering along Ka Iwi State Scenic Shoreline
(not pictured: whale)

admiring sea blowholes from the spray at Makapu'u

checking out northern views from the lighthouse

appreciating waterfall #1 of 3 along the Ka'au Crater hike
(we had to boulder up waterfalls #2 and 3)

wowing at beautiful Ka'au Crater

resting at the top of the Lanakai Pillbox hike

wandering around an art exhibit at Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden
(this artist was 12 years old)

enjoying the Ho'omaluhia Botanical Gardens
(where we finally started to feel Lost)

meandering through the Koko Crater Botanic Gardens
(the Americas section, brah)

visiting Pearl Harbor monuments...

... and seeing miniature displays of planes mistakenly lined in rows

See? Absolutely zero minutes in Waikiki. The closest we got was Chinatown one weekend for the market. It was perfect.

Our friends returned from their trip and we were able to see a few more things over the next few days, such as...

super cool to see you!

the peaceful and gorgeous Chinese cemetery

amazing My Rang Sa Buddhist Temple

... and BUFORD!
so nice to see you too, after a whole freaking week

On an unrelated note, Hawaii sunsets are unreal. Just unreal.

there are about 87 more photos of this one

and 53 more of this one

and so on...

... and so forth...

... and so fifth

Food notes: we mostly ate in because we had a lovely kitchen at our disposal. But we did make it out for some treats...
  • poke from Tanioka's - a bit out of the way but totally worth the drive!
sesame, spicy ahi tuna, tofu and crab
(not pictured: crispy ahi tuna roll and some spam sushi rolls)
  • Zippy's, a Hawaiian institution famous for bento, Portugeuse bean soup, and fried chicken
so we tried all three
  • our homemade Christmas dinner of Hawaiian spicy chicken, roasted veggies and of course, pineapple
not bad for packaged spice mix!
  • Whole Foods for a completely overwhelming experience (the bar/restaurant outside - is that really necessary?)
decisions, decisions...
  • of course no visit to Hawaii is complete without a stop at a local Kona Brewing Company
Castaway IPA and Fire Rock Pale Ale for the win
  • and one night Patrick took the Pepsi challenge with Hawaiian and Oregonian beer
Deschutes won... but not by much
  • and appropos of nothing, Lisa's amazing lasagne

Lodging notes: housesitting in an awesome '70s condo decked out with a pool, hot tub and sauna for 11 days is the way to go, brah.

After almost a month of being tourists, we were ready to be productive again. Next stop: Kona for a little voluntourism, farming, and seven whole days apart! Whatever will we do...?