Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Australia Day in Metz

This past weekend I took a short three day trip to Metz, a city of epic proportions compared to Toucy (really somewhere around 350,000 people). I went to visit some friends from home and see the city since I've never been there before. It was a great trip. It was so nice to hang out with native English speakers and be in a city where you can go out for lunch on a Sunday. Friday and Sunday where normal days that I spent just catching up with people and doing a little sight seeing. Saturday was a whole 'nother story...

I was lucky enough to be able to stay with my friend Liz's family for free both nights I was in Metz. Liz is an English assistant in Metz but lives with a French family and takes care of the three boys when she's not in school. The kids were awesome. The 7 year old beat me at chess 3 out of 4 times, the 4 year old dressed up in a Spiderman costume for my first night there, and Saturday morning I woke up on the couch with the 2 year old standing three feet away just staring at me. I played with them a little bit too as they wanted to show me all their toys they got for Christmas. The whole family left on Sunday before I did to go skiing in the nearby mountains and the boys really wanted me to come. I'm sure Liz takes excellent care of the kids, but boys will be boys.

Ok, now about Saturday. I met most of Liz's friends during my stay and they all seemed cool, but a couple of them just really pushed my stereotypical ideas to the limit. For example, Liz's closest friend there is Elli, an Australian girl from Perth. There is another Australian girl in Metz as well and because of these two it was decided that Saturday we would celebrate Australia Day (by the way, I'm not making this holiday up). Australia Day celebrates the arrival of the first shipload of convicts to the new British colony by Captain Sterling. It's the official national holiday of Australia. It's celebrated like any country's national holiday, with typical foods, traditions, and copious amounts of alcohol. Australia really takes it a step up, however. First of all, if you think Americans are racist you should really meet Australians. The girls I met last weekend only deepened that impression I was given when visiting Australia personally. They strongly dislike any type of foreigner, and I'm sure the irony there is quite obvious (the Aboriginals actually call Australia Day "Invasion Day"). I think Australia just takes general nationalism to flat out chauvinism. I mean, they really think their country is the best in the world. Granted I love America but I'm more than willing to point out the flaws myself. I was reassured that Australia has none.

As for drinking, let me just give you an example of the Australian drinking culture. One of the girls on Saturday started drinking at 11 am, passed out on the bathroom floor by 3 pm, only to wake up an hour and a half later, throw up, and continue drinking. I've seen some pretty crazy drinking episodes before but I consider that a problem. When I was in Australia I heard these types of stories quite often, and they aren't told with shame and humiliation, but pride. Again, if you think Americans have drinking problems, take a look at Australia.

Another thing I want to point out is the typical Australian food we had on Saturday. Unfortunately there was no kangaroo burgers. And I know it's not my place to knock on Australia seeing as I come from a land where foreigners consider the national foods to be the hot dog and the hamburger (both of which were invented by immigrants, by the way), but there is seriously something lacking in Australia. One food was "Faerie Bread" which is just white bread spread with butter and sprinkles, like the kind you find on cupcakes. I think "unimaginative" would be the best word here. On Friday night Liz and I were put in charge of making a desert called "Pavlova," which was sugar and whipped egg whites baked in the oven. It tasted pretty good but how can you go wrong with baked sugar and eggs?

One last Australian Day tradition is to wear only your bathing suit all day, which makes complete sense if you are actually in Australia right now where it's summer and the lows are in the 80s. It makes absolutely no sense, however, in Metz where the temperate was at least 30 degrees with flurries of snow. But the Australians wore their swimsuits nonetheless, even when we went outside on the main square by the cathedral to play frisbee. It was actually really fun because I can't remember the last time I played frisbee. Well that is, until the cops came and told us to leave, but even being told off by the cops was entertaining.

So this weekend wasn't so much about the city of Metz as it was about friends and Australia Day, which is just as well because I had a good time. Australia Day was an interesting experience and I think the one thing I really got out of it is that I could never be good friends with an Australian, at least not the typical Australian, because their worldview is just so different. Who would have thought two Western, anglophone cultures could be so different?

I put up some pictures of Metz and those will probably be the only pictures until I get back from Holland. I leave in a week and half to spend one week there and I can't wait! Until next time.

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