From a Land Under the Land Down Under
by Cat Richert
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 islands limited gene
pool and sketchy past. Theyre 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
Ive 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.
Ive 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 dont
Instead, Id 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. Its so simple, I cant 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 Ive visited, every dodgy hostel and pub Ive 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
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 havent
been mass produced in the U.S. since 1975. These veritable mullets
of the automotive world are Australias sexiest cars. They
are rolling, sleek, colorful and fully-equipped, and come from some
of the worlds most respectable car factories. Given Tasmanias
reputation, one would think that most utes would be found there,
and certainly, there are a few. But its more common to see
them cruising the streets of Melbournes Fitzroy and Sydneys
Bondi Beach on Friday night. I overheard this conversation between
two young woman about what ute they prefer their guy to drive:
Girl 1: The new Holden model is best to make out in.
Aussie Girl 2: Yeah, but Id 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 (theres caramel praline
and hazelnut as well) layered between two plain sugar cookies. Then,
the entire creation is dipped in chocolate (white, dark or milk).
Thats it, thats all. Theres 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 its chocolately glory.
Most Aussies I meet are shocked that none of the above can be found
in America. Im shocked I wont be able to find them in
America. I suppose Im 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, its 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, Im 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 youve ever seen, please dont make