Hello everyone!

I am back in Sydney once again, after a nine-day adventure in Melbourne (it's about 600+ miles south of Sydney). I feel really wiped out after taking an overnight bus from Melbourne (12 hours) to get back here. I have a bit of a decision to make and I've fought myself all week over it.

Let's just say that Sydney is better. It has better beaches (topless!), gardens, and tourist sites. Melbourne is just a tad bit boring compared to the pulse of the city here in Sydney. However, Melbourne is friendlier and much more personal. I keep meeting Australians there that want to hang out and help me out. Let's just say that my mobile phone is loaded with 7 phone numbers from nine days in Melbourne. Additionally, Melbourne has a much better swing dance scene which is really important to me (and quite so happens to be the way I met most of the Aussies).

Let me talk a little about Australians. They are outgoing, direct and genuine. I love the genuine part. Much of this genuineness can be seen through the advertising. One good example is the cigarettes. At all the shops a big sign is up that says "Smoking kills." At home we get the surgeon general saying "smoking may be hazardous to yourself." Australians have commercials that graphically show you what can happen to someone in an accident when you drink and drive (it's kind of sick, but it makes its point). In Melbourne there's a big sign by the river that says something like "Don't throw your trash in the streets because it ends up in the sewers and pollutes your river. We have a big filter here to clean up the mess." You actually see people cleaning trash out of the river with large mechanical nets near the sign. There's a lot of advertising here stating direct common sense without politically correct BS. I LOVE IT.

Australians didn't know who the Crocodile Hunter was until 6 months ago. They still don't know his name is Steve Irwin. My Aussie friends say he's completely playing up the accent and nobody in this country really talks like that. There you go - Steve's an American celebrity and nothing over here.

After seeing two Australian cities, I'd still retain that there's nothing really exotic here. I wander to the parks very often just to see the exotic birds. They are not afraid of people at all. They want your food. I'm sure they're fed well. You don't need to leave the US to come here if you're just going to experience the cities. These cities are for the traveling tenderfoot. Everything American is here. Coca-cola, Burger King, McDonalds, Kmart, Starbucks, etc... Last night I was really p.o.'ed at the rest area on the way to Sydney when we stopped at a Mobil gas station and were surrounded by a Pizza Hut and a Best Western. Coke is the primary soft drink supplier and there's no Australian drinks (besides some beers and wines) that I found. I was optimistic with a lemonade drink I bought today, but its distributed by Pepsi.

I thought I was going to be restricted on my American showers ( I love long hot showers), but everywhere here has the same quality as at home. (In Europe in my experiences - there's usually a catch to a good shower)

Okay - enough analysis... what's Aussie Allen been up to:

I've been in Melbourne, Sydney's rival city. I stayed for a few days in this trendy beach area called St. Kilda. On my first night there I was feeling hungry and went seeking some nosh. The skies really looked amazing and trouble was definitely brewing. (Of course, it was the only time I didn't have my camera :) You don't have to guess what followed these amazing skies? A huge storm that knocked out half of the power in my part of the city. I ran for cover under a Natalie Merchant concert at a place called the Palias. I met an Aussie woman there that told me this was the worse rains she'd seen in over four years. Of course, the only shelter in sight besides the Natalie Merchant concert was McDonalds (and I did not come here to eat there!), so I stood my ground (while the Aussies paid 80 bucks a ticket to see her) and waited out the storm for a half hour. Welcome to Melbourne! The next day the paper headline read "Wild Storm Lashes City"

The second day was magnificent! I went down a place called South Gate to the river and felt instantly at home to the tunes of the big bands. After a couple of swing dances, word spread like wildfire that I was from Philadelphia and I had no trouble getting dances for the rest of the event. In fact, this whole event made my last week so interesting. I'll SKIP all the dancing stuff and describe it later to my swing friends! All I got say though was I met the 87 year old FRANKIE MANNING (one of the fathers of swing dancing for the laymen) this past weekend leading dance classes here in Melbourne (his last appearance here was in 1938) and asked him a couple questions. I went up to him treated him like any other human being:

"Hey Frankie, I'm from Philadelphia"
"Yeaaaah.... You're from just around tha cohnuh... he he he" (Me smiling)

"Frankie, did you ever have tendinitis?
"Yeah . . ."

That's all he said. I was hoping he'd have some advice for me on how he got rid of it, but he muttered nothing. We felt camaraderie. We both were grim. I didn't feel like talking any longer, so I left him alone somberly. For those of you that don't know, I'm cursed with tendinitis. It goes away/comes back over and over. I went out dancing 5 of the last 8 nights, so it's on it's way back at the moment.

There's a thousand other things that happened, but I have places to go and people to see (as you probably do too). Experiences are wonderful... okay, one more

I inadvertently had a date with an Aussie girl. Nell, short for Jenell, took my number and wrote me a nice text message on my mobile phone. I thought she was being nice and just trying to make me feel comfortable being here in Oz(Australia) by myself. The next day she called me twice and I should've known. She drove into the city and picked me up.

I kept thinking to myself. "Oh no she's acting funny. I just want to meet Australians. What have I done? I've been in the country for 8 days and don't even have a place to live yet."

I didn't shave that day and I looked like a scruff. I was dressed for adventuring, not dating. She was all into me and she wasn't really listening to what I was saying... I could tell. She had that nervous tension that you get when you're out on a first date with someone you like. I wasn't feeling it. She was telling me all these plans she had for us.

"I can't use this person, although she'd show me a lot of Australia and save me a lot of money..."
"Maybe we could be friends and do this stuff together"
"Look at her face... she'll never give up"
"Okay, how do I let her down?"
(I'm not telling you guys – by the way she is not my type)
After I delivered the painful news I could see the disappointment in her face as she talked.
Surprisingly, the rest of the evening went great. She still chased me for three more days sending me lovey-dovey text messages and trying to cling to me. Every attractive girl I talked to at dances she came over and touched me as she passed by. For those swing dancers who know what Balboa is, she got really really close!

That's not the end of any of my stories, but I've been typing for a hour and must stop for both our sakes!

Have a terrific week in the Northern Hemisphere!
Allen :)

Don't fear death so much, but rather an inadequate life - Bertald Brechf
Allen "Kanga" Rue - the Australian travelling extraordinaire