Sunday, 31 July 2011

A trip to Kings Park

This morning I had a trip to Kngs Park to look at the Botanical Gardens.  I took the number 30 bus and then had about a mile's walk from the bus station to the Botanical Gardens.  I had planned to sketch some of the plants to use in my Pattern & Meaning class, but the weather precluded it.    It was showery and breezy, so instead I took some photos and looked in detail at the plants.  There were well laid out beds of Australian native flora, with helpful details provided on information boards.  I focussed on looking at eucalyptus and banksia.  There are many varieties of each plant. 

Forgotton the name of this one

Black kangaroo paw

Banksia flower
I had been drawing honkey nuts, which I thought were the seedheads of the eucalyptus.  Apparently they are Marri tree seedheads.  The seedheads were called honkey nuts because in colonial times, they were used as balls to play hockey.  And boy scouts would drill a hole through the bottom of the nut, emerging through the mouth of the seedhead, for use as a woggle!  Marri is a bloodwood tree and exudes blood red gum, particularly if stressed or damaged.  The aboriginals used the gum and seeds as medicine to cure stomach upsets, and soaked the flowers in water to dissolve the nectar to make a sweet drink.  The flowers must be saturated in nectar because I saw blossoms in a sheltered corner absolutely covered with bees.  Also a thrush-like bird flew in about 6 feet from me and was feeding on the bees. 
My sketch of honkey nuts

Having done some more research, I have discovered that Marri was categorised as Eucalyptus calophyllal until the 1990s, then the plant classification people changed its name by placing it in the genus Corymbia, with other bloodwoods, which is a primitive group of eucalypts.  Makes me wonder whether this is an older form of eucalyptus, and therefore less evolved. 

The early settlers called it Red Gum but an early Conservator of Forests changed the name to the Aboriginal name, Marri, in order to avoid confusion with the River Red Gum which is a different form of ecualyptus.

There were many beautiful forms of eucalyptus.  I was struck by one of the largest forms, which had dramatic flower heads opening.  The flower pod was like an egg cup with a perfectly fitting pointed hat on top and as the flower pushes off the cap, the pod splits horizontally and pops off demonstrating a shock of filament petals in brilliant pink.  Absolutely stunning. 

Eucalyptus macrocarpa
I took the free bus from the Botanical Gardens back to the bus station, and then back home.  I was a really good student, and spent the afternoon doing my Visual Inquiry art and reading homework, when I would much rather have been downloading the photos I had taken, and sketching from them.  I made Jim a cake while he was out on his bike watching Sunday afternoon football at the local ground.  It's now evening, and I keep losing wifi, possibly because of the intermittent rain affecting reception. 

The local buses have much more interesting seating fabric than in London.  The moquette is bright and busy.  This is a picture for my friend Lisa.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Shopping and homework

We had a good trip into Perth today.  Jim and I started by getting soaked walking to the bus stop, but when sheltering under a willow tree at the bus stop, I was looking at the rain running off the willow leaves, and started thinking about my Pattern and Meaning homework.  I could see how the willow fronds could be used in various tessellated designs. 

We spent a small fortune in an IT shop.  We were having problems using Word on the laptop, because we did not have the Product Key, I think because we were still using a "free sample" and had only just exhausted the number of free log-ons we could get.  So we have had to buy the most recent version, 2011, to upgrade from the 2007 version.  But at least it will mean I can do my essays at home, and also my presentation on powerpoint. 
Perth is a combination of the old and the new.

Jim found the YHA hostel in Perth and got the application form as membership gives considerable discounts on train travel.  I suspect he is researching his next route, as he spent some time in Dymocks bookshop consulting various maps and being quite sniffy about how few maps went out as far as Esperence.  Why would he be looking at Esperence and Kalgoorlie unless he had an ulterior motive!  He ended up buying a book map that covered the southern half of Western Australia.  Let's see what the next tour comprises!

While we were out, Jim and I had a cup of tea each, and a muffin, and a honey/almond slice.  This cost $15 (about £10).  And it was only a cup, not even a pot each!  And these prices seem normal here!  You don't often see anything much cheaper.  The only thing I have learned, is that a carton of milk is about $1.20 compared to $3.90 for a take-away tea at college.  And while we were having tea, I was looking at the insert in the paper, advertising the mining industry in WA, and thinking about how to use the pages that gave pictures of mining, and wondering what tessellated willow in gold would look when drawn over it.  The link being that trees are cut down for the mining of ore, so the gold willow would represent the trees that are lost, for the gold that is gained.

Then we returned home and I had a very happy afternoon doing my Visual Images homework. Jim went out on his bike to stay out of the way.  I had the chance to get my new paint set in operation and spent time pattern-makingwith 25 random items.  I hope this time the tutor thinks what I have done fits the specification, unlike last time.  So I was sensible enough to do the homework that has been worrying me, before I did the homework on tessellations that I had clearly planned in my mind.  I did the tesselations while watching Harry Potter on the television.  All in all, we had a good day.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Pattern and meaning class, followed by IT irritations

Jim and I set off to class this morning, and noticed that the overnight rain had raised the level of the river, so that brackish water was flooding the grass beside Salter Point Parade.  On the news last night it said the recent rain was expected to increase the distance between high water level and low water level - to 70cm between the two!  I think this is a lot less than in the UK, and is certainly a lot smaller than where we used to live in Grays on the Thames.  Within a couple of minutes of me photographing Jim on the front, it was throwing it down with rain, and I was soaked all morning in class.

The river has flooded beyond the normal tideline

I had a lovely time in the pattern & meaning class.  I had prepared my silkscreen, so was all ready to go when class started.  We were using devore and discharge techniques today.  I tried out 3 different discharge samples, on green, red and blue fabric.  Each fabric discharged its colour in a different way, and they were all quite successful.  My two devore samples were more variable.  These fabrics were denim with a spandex content, and a white cotton with a spandex content.  Photos show all 5 samples while still wet. 

As you can see, the blue fabric discharged to yellow, the green discharged to pale grey, and the red to pink.  The white and denim fabrics have nearly fallen apart because the design isolates some areas. 
I am still astonished by some of the prices of the food.  Since I've been here I've only eaten two packets of chocolate - an ordinary pack of M&Ms is $2 (about £1.30, UK price about 70p), and a packet of crisps - 45g - was $2.40 (about £1.60, UK price about £1).  It will certainly restrict how much junk food I eat. 

When I got home, I went online to print some homework reading, to prepare for a written assignment.  When I switched on the computer, it asked for a 25 digit product code, which I've never had, and as usual I clicked "proceed".  This time it has restricted functionality on the computer, and Word does not work at all.  Then I tried to print the homework and it won't send printing to the printer.  Neither Jim nor I can work out the problem: we don't have the code number and there are no automatic instructions to sort it out.  I have a nasty feeling this is going to be an expensive problem to fix.  So Jim and I might end up with another trip to an IT shop which always ends up with some serious expenditure.  At least Jim and I have funds available, but I feel really sorry for younger exchange students living on a government loan when this type of things happens. 

So I can't do my artist research, can't do my written homework, and now feel too tense and upset to be creative for my art homework.  Let's see what transpires in the morning.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Feeling a bit happier today

Jim and I went off together today, to buy a printer for use at home.  We discovered b/w copies are 11c per sheet, and colour are $1.13 at uni.  A printer costs about $48!  I'm going to need quite a few colour copies on my art course, so buying a printer will be worth it.  Mind you, a full spare set of print colours is $69, so we spent quite a lot of money.  Once the printer had been purchased and we were on our way back to uni, my hero carried the printer, had lunch with me, and then he carried the awkward package back home on the No 30 bus.

I had a good session in my Private Lives and Public Issues class.  Beforehand I had to do a shedload of reading, 3 articles of about 15 pages each which each gave a different description/slant on a public/private aspect of individual or group lives.  But more importantly I plucked up courage to ask the librarian how to look up journals and articles, which was completely defeating me.  The kind librarian demonstrated it for me and I picked it up immediately.  I just learn better from demonstration, rather than reading the instructions on the Libguide (which she mentioned at the end).  So that's one skill learned! 

I've had a good session on my Pattern and Meaning homework.  I've been thinking about what I want to work on.  I am interested in my personal experience in Australia as an exchange student and want to produce work that will reinforce positive memories my my time here.  I want to represent my father in my work because it is his money that is funding it.  He and I  was/am interested in plants and gardens, and he would have been interested in the native plants of Australia.  He had Alzheimers disease at the end of his life and had some trying behaviour.  I want to remember him positively in my work, acknowledging his positive attributes - growing plans, supporting the education of others.  With my work, I want to provoke an emotional response - positivity and affection, tinged with sadness and regret.  The contemporary issues are around portraying the frustrations of mental illness positively.  How to link positive memories and interests to something that is so emotionally sapping to the families?  Something around collective memory - memories of my Dad, memories of joy and growth for me from my time here.  I want to remember him positively - yet so much of his life and his memories were negative - so how do I celebrate his life and make positive memories from it?  By focussing on plants and high colour?  Without being too overt about memories?  Something that makes this project about the individual?  This is not a group mourning project or about a big national tragedy (Aids quilts and Twin Tower memorials).  It is about the impact of Alzheimers on an individual.  It has the potential to make me quite uncomfortable, but I like controversial art and part of liking controversy is about dealing with uncomfortable realities. 

I've also done some good prep on my first print silkscreen.  I drew some eucalyptus seed heads and made them up into a screen print.  I have prepared my screen and exposed the image onto the screen, which is a set of processes that are done by the technician back at UH.  Makes you much more aware of how time consuming it is, when you do it yourself. 

And one other thing, on his way home, Jim saw dolphins in the Canning River just outside our flat.  We had been told of them,but still did not quite believe we would see them.  And today Jim did!  He said they were definitely chasing something because of the speed and movement.  I presume it was dolphin dinner.  We would not see this in London.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

I think I'm going to need to raise my game.

I've been looking at my Unit Outlines and don't know whether to feel scared or pleased.  Every module seems to have about 4 different assessments that take place at different points during the semester.  It is much more clearly defined than I am used to at Herts and the workload seems much higher. 

So, just looking at just looking at one module, Visual Inquiry - Reconsidering Traditions and Concepts, work in progress assessment only, we are expected to:

experiment with traditional ideas to produce new outcomes;
visualise ideas through thinking, drawing and research into concepts and ideas;
reflect on and respond to critical discussion about our outcomes; and
articulate a meaningful context for contemporary visual language through selective research. 

To pass the unit, I need to present all required work; complete all home research projects; pass core assessments; and attend and present my work on time for formal assessments and exams. 

I need to demonstrate Quality, Quantity, and Development of ideas.  Evidence of testing ideas in various ways; relevant documentation of testing; critical engagement; innovation; interest in idea.  And, quality and quantity of research of relevant artists and thematic research.  This is only one assessment!

We have:

work in progress assessment on 29 August - Value 25% (core assessment)
Written outcome assessment on 19 September - value 20%
Self directed research project on 31 October - Value 45% (core assessment)
Ongoing Assessment on 31 October - Value 20%

So positives are that I know when I am being assessed and what for, and the criteria are clearly listed on the course outline. 

What is making me uncomfortable is the stated expectation of volume of work (compared to my experience at Herts) and the fact that I misunderstood the requirements of the work that I submitted yesterday and the tutor was distinctly under-impressed.  Another factor is that I have this volume of work for 4 modules, and I'm only used to studying for two. 

But think positive - I decided to study abroad because I wanted a different experience.  I'm certainly getting that.  And I'm certainly getting my money's worth in workload!

Monday, 25 July 2011

Not such a good day, today.

I spent the morning finishing off my A1 pattern of knots and went off to class.  We all had to put our work on the wall for display and discussion.  Most other people had done much smaller drawings than me, and we had extended discussion of what they had drawn.  When it came to mine (as usual very different to everyone else's) the tutor asked why I had drawn the way I had - which because I missed the first class, I had done because she had said "draw knot patterns with depth, scale and variation".  Then she asked whether I had done much observational drawing, as this was what was required.  I have done observational drawing, but when she gave me the instructions, this was not what she said.  So I felt a bit woeful. 

Then we had a session on analysis of some obscure reading which I found really difficult.  Next time, I will make notes about my views, and take them with me to class.  It was about pattern in domesticity, that referred to Penelope and her weaving; Freud, and Sleeping Beauty!  And the points the article was trying to make was that pattern is found in visual images, movement and thought processes.  But all dressed up in a fancy, obsure manner. 

The final part of the session was setting the "imaginative drawing" exercise.  You create your own list of 20 objects, are given another 6 objects by the tutor, and pick a word at random from a dictionary.  You use your random word to influence how you draw every object, and all the objects need to be drawn together to make a pattern.  My random word is "mooring"..  Depending on how I get on, I might put a photo of the finished drawing on the blog tomorrow. 

I was really glad to get home, have dinner with Jim, look at my postcards from Lisa, and use the computer in the warmth of our own home.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

A busy weekend

We have had considerable frustrations with mobile wifi.  We started off with a Vivifi device, produced I think for Optus.  However, the sales assistant did not tell us there are pockets of non-reception for this device in Perth.  On consultation with other people, these are not pockets, they are huge black holes of non-reception in the Perth area.  So having messed around with it for a week, we took it back to the supplier, and were advised to buy a Telstra mobile wifi, "which has much greater coverage as it's been around for much longer".  I wish they had said this in the first place.

So we bought this, spent ages charging it, struggled to access the Customer Service (!) number to get it registered, (I became considerably grumpy), Jim maintained good humour and persistence, and eventually Jim succeeded in getting everything to connect.  I'm so glad he's here.  So we have internet access at home, and I can update my blog in the evenings, when I'm reflecting on my day and planning the next.

Yesterday I started my drawing homework - knots on A1 paper.  Because of the size of the paper, it takes a considerable amount of time to do each one, and I'm meant to do 4(!) by tomorrow.  I think I can get the 3rd one completed tomorrow morning,  before I go to class.  However I've been a good student today and looked at the Textile DVDs as well as drawing.  I'm using my student diary extensively because I'm sure that if I don't plan when to do which homework, I'm going to end up falling behind.

On Saturday, Jim and I went to a 60th birthday party.  I am a distant cousin of Ian James, related via my Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Doreen.  It was a 60th party with an asian theme.  It was the first time Jim and I have been to Australian style entertaining.  The invitation said "bring a dish of asian food".  We debated this for some time - hot or cold, what does "asian" mean here?  (indian or chinese?), how to transport suitable food on public transport?  In the end we decided to ignore the instructions and keep to what I knew I could do - make a cake!  Our friends in England know this is within my comfort zone.  So then I had to trial the oven part of the Baby Belling tabletop stove, and buy a new cake tin - two things that can be a disaster to any cakemaker.  But worries were allayed.  I made a Victoria sandwich, which looked ok when finished, and could be transported in the loaf tin in which it was cooked, could be served cold, and had no sauce to spill while travelling by public transport.

The party was lovely.  Ian had a chinese outfit and stunning false moustache and beard.  Susie and his daughters looked absolutely amazing in close fitting chinese dresses with mandarin collar.  Lovely bright colours, beautifully woven, accentuating just how slim and fit they were.  Lots of people were there, a variety of friends, family and colleagues.  The food brought by all sorts of people was wonderful.  We tried all sorts of spring rolls, rice, bread, dahl, duck pancakes, and various forms of chicken and beef.  It all made my usual savoury cooking look very pedestrian!  Once we had eaten our fill, Susie did a speech for Ian - centred around his name - I for Ingenity, A (I've forgotton) and N for Non-conformist.  He is obviously held in great affection by his family, and I agreed that the characteristics described are admirable.  Then his daughters and a couple of guitarists entertained us by live singing.  They were great - and have a lot more nerve than me.  Just before the end of the singing, the people who had offered us a lift home, said they were ready to make a move, so Jim and I stood up to make tracks which upset the flow of the songs, which was unfortunate and I hope we did not offend.  It was a lovely celebration.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Have I bitten off more than I can chew?

I have just completed my first week's worth of timetable.  I'm feeling a little apprehensive about the sheer volume of work.  Every class seems to have background reading and subsequent tasks that need a lot of preparation outside class time.  In my History of Art & Design tutorial, we discovered one of our assessments will be a presentation to class.  No problem in itself, but you need to create the question yourself, and frame the structure of your argument, about the theme or issue you are tracking through art style history.  In our tutorials, we are meant to listen to 2 student presentations a week, from the middle of August.  I would prefer to get mine done early on, but we don't get more advice on how to structure the question until 2 weeks time.  I've also got to learn how to use powerpoint in a modern version (I last used this about 10 years ago!).  Oh dear ...

In Reconsidering Traditions, I need to prepare my knot drawings and read background (very heavy) material by Monday afternoon.  In my Pattern & Meaning class I need to prepare my silkscreen; prepare my designs; and put designs on silkscreen by Wednesday.   I think I have done everything required for Private Lives Public Issues on Thursday.  And I have a class every day.  We don't yet have IT access at home so all my online reading needs to be done at uni, which is a nuisance. 

I think we are going to have to get broadband at home so I can read/work there.  I'm starting to feel the pressure.  I hope I can keep up.  Anyway, off now to clean and emulse my silkscreen so that will be one item off the list!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Pattern and Meaning class

What a wonderful session this morning!  Our tutor Kelsey is obviously a pattern freak - she sparkled all the way through the lecture, showing some inspirational examples and applications of pattern. 

We had an introductory session in the print workshop.  Things are quite to different to my class at Herts.  There are 2 print tables - 8 metres long with plenty of space around the tables; and one 8m non-print table. The Curtin print tables have a tacky coating applied to them every year by the print technicians, and this tacky coat remains in place all year.  Fabric (any type) is manually pressed down for working, and peeled off when dry.  We were very clearly instructed NOT to get paper stuck to the tacky coating as this is incredibly difficult to get off and spoils the table for the rest of the year.  There is a wheeled print screen holder to which extra large screens can be attached, with a mechanical squeejee so that 60" wide fabric can be repeat printed down the entire 8m table length.

Herts has 3 x 4m tables, to which students apply gum arabic, allow to dry, iron cotton fabric onto it, allow print to dry, remove fabric and clean the table, every time they use it.

We had an introduction to the materials and processes.  The colour carrying media for print is called extender, whereas I would call it binder in the UK.  I assume it is the same substance.  In the UK the technical name is SF20, in Aus it is called hydrotex aquabase.  We were shown substances to alter the effect of the extender - puff; metallic and hicover - I have used puff before (puffs up when heat treated), hicover I think is what the UK would call opaque, used on dark fabrics; and metallic I've not used.  The range of colours here is different.  In the UK, we buy small phials of about 12 different pigments, which you can blend in the binder or by layering.  In Aus, we only have cyan, magenta, yellow and black, and are expected to mix our own colours (like a colour copier using CMYK).  This will push my colour blending skills.

We have to pay a $120 materials fee for this class (and another $120 for my Defining Traditions design class).  Today, as part of the materials kit, we were given a 12" metal framed silkscreen and an 8" wooden squeejee.  We did some trials with hand cut stencils.  We used lithopaper for the stencils (I've used newsprint before) and the lithopaper has slightly more body and is less absorbent so is better if you want to do several prints in quick succession from the one stencil. 

If you want to work on bigger screens, you have to sign out the screen and squeejee from the technicians.  It sounds as if there have been problems with sloppy use and disappearance in the past, so kit is now issued/ returned and controlled heavily.

Today we were shown how to emulse and expose silkscreens. In the UK, students have prepared their images, and give them to the technicians for preparation 3 days in advance of required use.  This has caused difficulties.  However because we have to do it ourselves here, it makes it very clear why so much notice is required. 

Here students book out the coating emulsion with the technicians.  You make sure your screen is superclear (oil from your fingerprints will spoil the fixing) and scrub the screen with a scourer to rough up the individual silk fibres so the coating gets a good grip.  Dry thoroughly (otherwise coating won't stick). Go into darkroom and use coating trough to coat front and rear of silkscreen twice.  Then after 2 wet pulls each side, do one dry pull each side.  Put on drying rack and allow to dry throughly, in the dark. 

We were advised to get good dark copies of designs.  In the UK we would use acetates quite often, but here, because they have a new lamp for exposing, it is SO bright that acetates can give slight grey stripes.  In the UK the lamp is below the exposing glass where you position the silkscreen, and is encased in a lightproof box. Stick the images as required on the flat side of the silkscreen and expose.  In Aus, you stick the images as required onto the silkscreen and position on the glass, and close the lightproof cover and use the vacuum device to pressure fix the screen to the glass.  Then the glass is rotated 90 degrees to face the wall mounted exposing light, you press the starter button and leave the room quickly because the light is dangerously bright.  Once the required time has elapsed, students return to the room, remove their screens, and thoroughly wash off unexposed residue using high pressure water. Then the screen needs to dry thoroughly before you can use it. We were told to talk to the tutor in the workshop before doing this work, as it is noisy and you need to ask permission before doing this during someone's class.  Classes are booked for 4 days a week, so there is only Fridays when you can be sure of not disturbing a class. 

It is quite apparent that there are many ways in which you can wreck the image on your silkscreen before you even start printing.   Quite different to my class at Herts where the screen preparation is done for you.

Instead of using acetates, we were advised to create our images, photocopy them, then oil the paper slightly which makes it translucent, and use this to expose images for our silkscreens.  This was a bit surprising for me, but I'll give it a try.  I would think the oiled paper will mark the exposing glass, so I will have to get used to cleaning that as well!

So for next class, I need to create some images, make up some stencils and emulse and expose a screen.  This is where it starts to get more pressured than at Herts.  At Curtin I'm doing 4 modules, as I am full time.  Every module has homework defined by the tutor!  I'm used to being part time at Herts, doing 2 modules and spending as much time as I like on my homework (as directed by me!)  - although I worked 2 days a week.  Now I'm dancing much more to the tutor's tune.

I need to identify a theme to work to in Pattern and Meaning.  I think I am going to draw lots of Australian plants - this might seem a pedestrian theme, much worked before.  But the way things are linking up in my mind are that emotion and memory are often evident in my work.  This links with my Australian year because it is my Dad's money that is funding my studies, he was a keen gardener, he had Alzheimer's disease and lost his memory; so working with plants that he would have loved, utilising them in different patterns, and thinking about my Dad when I work them, might conceptalise itself in the way that I use them.  And I want to firmly imprint in my memory the time, the joy and the learning that I have here; the brightness of the light, the trueness of colour and hue; the gratitude that I feel for the funding that he provided; and the accuracy of observation of the native plants around me.  I hope this fits with what Kelsey expects.

Public Issues, Private Lives

This was my first session in the above class.  We were shown a film about Martin Geurre, an man who went away to war and returned years later to his family, and there is a big debate about whether he really is the man he says he is.  He is accepted until he requests the profits from his land during his absence, then the questions start.  We were asked to debate portrayal of what is deemed to be public and private and how this impacts on all parties.  What interested me is who was prepared to lie, what roles were deemed acceptable for which people and when the question of actual identity started to be raised - ie over money and property.  I found the film quite dreary but the debate afterwards was really interesting.  It had some interesting applications to what I have seen in my own life. 

This is a typical Australian winter - bright days but with heavy rain at times.  There was a tremendous downpour during class, but it only drizzled on the way home, and Jim did not get too wet coming to meet me at the bus stop.  Jim is back in his old habits - meeting me on my way home.  I managed to cross the world, find accommodation, find my way around in a strange area on the bus in the dark, but now he's here, he thinks it is his role to meet me at the bus stop, even if it is raining.  No wonder we are love's young dream!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

History of Art & Design

I started the History of Art & Design class yesterday.  It was an hour long lecture and I really enjoyed it.  The lecturer started by discussing key features of greek art and design, which challenged some western concepts of acceptable art and then linked the themes raised to examples of art by modern artists.  The recommended book is a heavy tome which costs $120, so I chose to borrow it from the library.  It was like carrying a concrete block in my rucksack.  As I walked across the campus after dark at 630pm, it occurred to me that if anyone tried to mug me, I could fell them with one swing of my rucksack.  I've heard of handbags feeling as if they contained a brick, but my rucksack felt more like a large sandbag!

Spent some time drawing a pomegranate from the tree outside out flat.  I'm really starting to enjoy drawing with the inktense pencils.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

A change of class

Yesterday I attended my first class - Cloth and the Body.  This was a very enjoyable experience, but when I went to the library afterwards to reflect on what I had done, and read the course outline in detail, I realised that it was a repeat of material I had covered in my studies at UH - the body project and Core Skills - fabric manipulation and dye/transfer print.  Cloth and the Body was a first year module that I had been advised to take by the course co-ordinators at Curtin, when I originally applied for Visual Inquiry - Reconsidering Traditions and Concepts.  So I have consulted with Tanya, the Student Exchange co-ordinator, was advised to talk to various people, and today have transferred to that class.

Unfortunately I have missed the first class (which was Monday afternoon) so I have some reading to catch up on, and some drawing homework to do.  I need to find some knots, and draw them in different scales and media, and then put them into patterns.  The reading is quite deep - refers patterns in domesticity; to Freud and greek mythology of Narcissus, Echo and Penelope.  Fortunately I studied greek lit for my O level, 33 years ago at school, so I could dredge it up from the depths of my memory!

Jim and I went shopping this morning.  We will start to eat different food.  Bananas are extremely expensive - $17 per kilo (about #6 per lb weight).  This is because there was a cyclone earlier this year which wiped out the crop.  I don't know whether they are importing from another supplier more distant, or the same supplier but resources are scarce - but I'm encouraging Jim to eat something cheaper!  However, papaya is about a quarter of the price (I like this and it's really expensive in England) so Jim will be eating this instead.  And asparagus is only about $4 for 8 spears.  Cauliflower is the cheapest of all $2 for an enormous one - but Jim flatly refused that (even worse than broccoli in his opinion!).

We are still having difficulty accessing wifi at home.  The mobile vivifi device definitely picks up signal, but all the places we could use it (our flat, the local cafe), are in an area of non-reception.  Jim will find the local library either today or tomorrow to check whether he can get free wifi access there if he joins the library, or if not, whether the vivifi will pick up there.  If the vivifi does not, I think we will be taking it back to the supplier.  This is a pity as Jim would find it helpful to use it at home when I am at class. 

Monday, 18 July 2011

A new take on plagiarism

I'd not come across self plagarism before.  But it was mentioned in class today.  Apparently this is where you resubmit your own work for assessment, when you have already used it for a previous assignment.  On the face of it, this sounds perfectly reasonable. 

But in the textiles arena, if you have made some fabric, eg print, during a print assignment, apparently you are not allowed to use it again for another assessment.  So this makes it sound as if you need to create new fabric if you subsequently want to use the fabric to create an object.  I think I would come unstuck here.  I have deliberately created large quantities of samples, which have been part of an assessment, with the intention of using them later on to make textile objects.  I've not done this so for a later assessment, but could easily have done so.

Apparently last year a fashion student was caught out when she used fabric she had used for a print assessment, to make some of her final degree show.  This was described as "a very grey area".  I'd like it to be very clear what is within the rules, and what is not!

Received first postcards from Lisa today.  Postcards 1-5 have not yet arrived, but 6-10 came all together.  Lisa said the birds were about talking/listening/communicating.  My interpretation was that they represented me and Jim, billing and cooing now we are reunited!

IT Irritations

This weekend Jim got stuck into sorting out wifi access for us at Salter Point.  I had already worked out that it will be expensive to rejoin the broadband access used by previous tenants.  I can use Curtin facilities, but Jim will be at the flat a lot of his own, so we need access there.  So Jim, having had extensive discussions on his 3 day train journey with other passengers, suggested we get a mobile wifi device.  I did not even know they existed.  So we went to Dick Smith, an IT shop, and ended up buying a vivifi device (that looks like a bar of soap!) that will create a little wifi hotspot for us to access.  All well and good until we got it home, unpacked and charged ... and still could not get wifi.  On ringing the helpline, it turns out Salter Point has some areas of non reception - and we are in one!  We walked up Salter Point, and discovered 5 doors up has perfect reception!  So rather than take it back for a refund immediately, Jim is going to go to the local cafe and see if it works there, so at least during the day he can take himself off for a cup of tea and spend an hour on the computer then.  What a nuisance!

A Sunday trip around Perth

Yesterday Jim and I decided to have a day out on the bus.  There is a route that does a 3 hour tour around the Perth area.  It is a bit like the Circle Line on London Underground, or a small version of the M25 route around London.  The route includes going past Curtin University and Fremantle (on the waterfront), and the whole route takes about 3 hours.  We had a bit of a walk to where we picked up the route (because my 30 bus does not run all the way to the university at the weekend), and it took about an hour to get to Fremantle. 

Fremantle appears to be an upmarket Perth day trip equivalent to Southend in relation to London.  Fremantle is a bustling coastal town, not far from Perth City Centre.  Jim and I spent a happy hour or so wandering around the Fremantle Markets - an undercover area with food and various commodity stalls.   Jim liked the way the fruit stalls had cut up various fruits so you could try before bought.  We found a fantastic bread stall and bought some wonderful sourdough bread.  Jim is increasingly disliking commercial white bread, and this sourdough was heavy, substantial and solid. Just the sort of thing a serious athlete likes.  You really know you've eaten it. 

Having had lunch, we got back on the bus (half hour service) and went around the Perth suburbs to the north.   We noticed that there are a far higher proportion of single storey dwellings than in Britain, and that the roofs had a much shallower pitch than in the UK.  We are not sure why this it - perhaps with a higher rainfall, the UK has a steeper pitch to drain water faster, or maybe it is related to the amount of air insulation in a steep pitch roof, or surface area to volume ratio?  The second part of the journey took a couple of hours and although the areas we went through varied in appearance, none of it appeared as rundown and deprived as some of the areas in which Jim and I have lived and worked.

When we got back to the original bus stop, we had a hour's walk back to Salter Point so got back feeling we had had extended time on our feet.  Jim is rebalancing his walking muscles, having spent 10 weeks cycling.

My Hero arrived in Perth

On Saturday my main plan was to meet up with Jim. He was arriving on the train at East Perth at 0930.  I set off early at 8am to meet him.  I took the bus to Perth bus station, walked to the train station and asked which platform for East Perth.  I was then told there were engineering works (sounds like London, except this time I am the customer, not the staff) and had  to walk back to the bus station for the replacement bus.  This took us 2 stops to the railway, then one stop on the train. 

A couple of minutes after I got there, the cross country train arrived, and I saw Jim peering out of the window, looking anxiously for me.  It was a delight to see him again - he'd lost a lot of weight since I last saw him on 1 May - very lean and mean.  It was so wonderful for us to be back together.  He said he had had the benefit of a free upgrade to a cabin every night, so many thanks to whoever it was looking after Jim!

One of the first things we did was to get Jim a Smartrider card.  My bus fares as a tertiary student are heavily discounted and we were interested to see how much Jim's fares would be.  Unfortunately although he is 73 and old enough to be a senior, as he is not an Australian citizen, he is not entitled to the seniors rate.  So his fares seem to be about $2.10 compared to my 60/85 cents (weekday/weekend) rate.  But it is still a lot cheaper than in the UK.  I think a bus fare (outside London) to our local town is #3.50 single, (c$5) for a non-concession fare.  However, Jim is determined that he will do most of our food shopping by travelling by bike, and using his panniers - ie for free!.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Reading widely

As usual on my travels, I am starting to read biographies of people of the area.  So far I've read John Passmore's "Semi Detached Australian" about the childhood and life of an Australian academic 1930s-2000; Norma Sims "Apprentice in Black Stockings" about the training years of an Australian nurse in the 1950s; and am half way through Eric Hedley Hayward's "No Free Kicks" which is the story of the family of an Aboriginal man and tells a lot about the treatment of indigeneous people from the 1920s to 2000 and his family obsession with Aussie Rules football.  The best read so far is No Free Kicks, even if I'm not terribly interested in footy!  The books I have chosen give a good spread of people's experience in the 20th century. 

I came across Eric Hayward's book because he was one of the speakers at one of the welcome meetings. I found Eric to be a good speaker. At every introduction meeting chaired by the top university professors, there is an acknowledgement of the indigeneous people and their contribution and prior ownership of the land on which we are located.  I'd be interested to find out what triggered this, when it started and what the audience make of it.  I expect I will find this out when I start my class 'Private Lives and Public Issues'.    We don't do anything like this in the UK, and the nearest we get to it  in meetings at my workplace, was the safety announcement, explaining the fire exits. 

On a more light-hearted note, this morning I was walking to the bus stop when two ladies came out of a house and jumped into their car.  Nothing of great significance, except they jumped into a Thunderbird car, with the registration R GO.  So the two ladies really could say "Thunderbirds are Go"!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Jim has boarded the train

Jim rang me yesterday to confirm he was on the train in Sydney, and would be with me in Perth by Saturday, having had a train ride across Australia.  He said he had found his seat reservation and it looked like the seat reclined quite well, as there was plenty of space in front for the leg rest to elevate.  Better than on economy plane seats.

He rang me again a bit later, to tell me he had shown his ticket to the ticket inspector, and a few minutes later the inspector had returned, confirmed Jim's name was MacTaggart, and asked whether he would like a free upgrade to a cabin for the first overnight part of the trip!  Jim accepted with delight! 

I think someone's looking after Jim.  Thank you.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

A potential hiccup

Yesterday I had my first little worry about whether everything was going to be ok.  I went to an induction session at the School of Design & Art (SODA).  I was informed that I needed to provide original transcript of my first year results, and evidence of my portfolio.  I have not brought this with me, and immediately thought I'd missed some details that I should have been aware of.  I went home and checked all my documentation, including Letter of Offer, which was meant to specify everything to bring with me.  No mention of this supporting documentation.  I compiled all the relevant papers that I had brought and went to SODA this morning, only to find no-one was available as it was a department training day. 

At this point, I had the sense to go to talk to Tanya, the Student Exchange administrator, who has dealt with all the liaison with University of Herts.  She was the still, small voice of calm that I needed.  Tanya confirmed to me that people on Student Exchange have had all their details pre-processed and that I did not need to supply this information.  Pleasingly, Tanya confirmed that she had already sent all my details to the person who I had been speaking to, but sent a polite e-mail that reconfirmed my acceptance to this person.  Hurrah for Tanya!

I've also spoken to Jim this morning. He is at the station in Sydney, ready to board the train for his 3 day journey to Perth.  He sounds much brighter and upbeat than before.  He's obviously got over his jetlag and has enjoyed the company of Rob and Sal.  It sounds as if he and Sal have been planning further international student exchanges for me!  They think the next boundary I should cross is to study in a foreign language, and as I did a little French at school, have been identifying French speaking destinations for me (or me and Jim).  Cambodia is their most extreme destination so far! 

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

There are not many photos here so far

There is a reason for the lack of photos.  My camera battery is out of charge.  I'm having a few problems recharging it.  My camera battery charger is a chunky, heavy charger, with a UK plug fitting extending from the rear of it - about 3"tall by 2"wide by 1.5" deep - ie taller than a normal UK plug.  I bought an Aussie adaptor - but the UK fitting is on the top of the adaptor, so my charger won't fit (unless I dig a hole in the wall above the plug socket!).  So I've found a Aussie to Europe adaptor, put that into the plug socket, then inserted a Europe to UK adaptor, and then the charger into that.  But the consequential problem is that the weight of the charger puts strain on each connection, and the whole set loses a connection somewhere and it is still not charging.  And to add to the problem, I've managed to get the Europe adaptor stuck onto the charger!  So I have no charge in my camera battery.  I think I will wait until Jim gets here, and see whether he can solve the problem, or at least get the Europe adaptor and charger apart. 

Until then, there will be no photos added to my blog!

Different levels of exchange experience

I've been thinking about different levels of student exchange experience.   Before I left the UK, various people said I was doing something really demanding.  Having arrived and settled in, I have concluded what I am doing pushes my boundaries, but in the greater scheme of things, is really quite small beer.  I am studying in a foreign country and have travelled alone.  But I am studying in my own language, and script.  There are other students from my home university.  My husband will be joining me soon. 

There are other students who are using English as a foreign language, and whose mother tongue has a different script, who are completely on their own with no-one from their own country to talk to when things get tough. 

Other students are doing more dramatic things than me. 

Monday, 11 July 2011

My Hero is on his way

Jim rang me a couple of hours ago.  He has arrived in Sydney, after his flight from Los Angeles.  He is staying with friends Rob and Sal for a couple of days.  He has got himself an Aussie sim card and we can now talk to each other for the first time in about 8 weeks.  Jim is spending a couple of days acclimatising and readjusting his body clock before taking the train to Perth.  He decided not to fly, as he wants to look out of the window and actually see the environment he is travelling through.  He leaves on Wednesday, and will arrive in Perth at 0930 on Saturday.  It will be lovely to see him again.

My second weekend in Perth

Yesterday was my second Sunday in Perth.  I took myself off on a trip to Perth to visit the museum again, partly because it was cold and definitely a day to stay indoors. 

On Saturday I had spent some of the day drawing the Bell Tower at the riverside.  This contains the bells from St Martins-in-the-Fields, London. It sounds as if an eccentric Australian businessman and bellringer was determined to obtain old bells from London, and negotiated a complex deal to take defective, unwanted bells from St Martins, retune them and hang them correctly in Perth (thereby removing the defects), and send enough ore from Perth to London, so the Whitechapel foundry could cast new, good bells for St Martins. 

I was sitting in front of the Tower, and my sketches were out of proportion, and kept extending beyond the page (this does not normally bother me, but the purpose of the sketch was the proportions!). As I travelled in to Perth by bus yesterday, the route skirted the Bell Tower from a fair distance, giving me different perspectives on the tower.  What I need to do to improve my images, is to do a series from different angles, so I will eventually get it right and convey the grace and elegance of the tower (singularly missing so far in my sketches) and the shapes of the copper sails.  On Saturday, I was just too close.

I went to the museum (nice and warm!) and looked around the section on animals from Australia.  They were very different to the UK!  A good section on mammals - I learned more about mammals that lay eggs (duckbilled platypus) and those that give birth to immature life forms (kangaroos and wallabies amongst others) as well as those that give birth to mature life forms (whales, dogs, gorillas and humans).  Apparently the higher mammals all have hair at some point in their life and suckle their young.   There were quite a few skeleton exhibitions of various animals, and this was reminiscent of the dinosaur collection at the Natural History museum in London, if a bit smaller in scale.  There was a beautiful butterfly collection, in a corridor with movement activated lighting, to minimise light damage to the display.

When I got home I was watching the Sunday Arts programme on the tv.  There was a really interesting documentary about a glass blower, William (Bill) Morris.  It showed him diving, and rock climbing, which is how he gains inspiration for his truly amazing glass works.  He made an enlightening comment about his work.  "Years ago, when I was asked what I do, I said 'As an artist, I make things'.  Now, I say 'I look at things.  This is because the making is very secondary to what I do now.'  And at the end of the programme, it stated he had retired at 49, sold his furnaces and tools, and was spending the rest of his life 'looking at things'.   To my friend Lisa, does this sound familiar!?

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Further thoughts on conversations during International Induction

I  have been reflecting on some of the conversations I have had this week.  Some light-hearted, some very serious, arising from the session on similarities and differences between Australia and whereever home is, for you. 

The lecturer, Jim, made the observation that most countries have a national animal - often on their coat of arms.  For example, the UK has the lion and unicorn, China has the panda, and Australia has the kangaroo and emu.  He sagely observed that Australia is the only country that habitually eats its national animal!  China does not eat pandas, the UK does not eat lions (and unicorns are a mythical animal so we can't eat them) but Australia finds kangaroos and emus to be good eating! 

I have mentioned that Perth seems expensive to me as an international student.  However, another reason for the prices being high, could be because the main industry here is mining, which is a high earning workplace.  This would have parallels in Aberdeen in Scotland, where prices and the cost of living is high, supported by the oil field industry off the northeast coast.  Mining is the biggest industry here, followed by agriculture, particularly in the south west corner of Western Australia.  Finance follows quite a long way behind, and education for international students is another big earner in the city.  Apparently the student population accounts for about 2.1% of WA population, which seems quite a lot, especially when you consider that indigeneous Aboriginals are 2.3% of population.

At the bus station yesterday, I met a young man who I had talked to in one of the induction sessions.  He said that the most significant difference he found to his homeland, was that it was ok to be openly gay in Australia.  He came from Iran, was studying for a finance qualification, and spoke the most articulate English.  I was really impressed with his command of the language, when you consider it was not his mother tongue.  He said he had started learning English at primary school, and watched a lot of Hollywood movies, so his accent was slightly American.  He said that in Iran, because the country operated under Shariah law, homosexuality was an absolute sin and crime.  He said that the only way gay people can meet is on the internet, and even then, you don't really know who you are talking to, because the Shariah "police" frequent these places.  And if you and your partner are prosecuted, it is the absolute right of the Shariah judge to pronounce whatever sentence he wants, including the death penalty by any means deemed appropriate!  On the one hand, I found what he said very disturbing, but on the other, part of the reason I chose to study abroad, was to expand my knowledge of other cultures.  I'm certainly doing that.

I can see more similarities than differences in Australia, compared to England.  There is a lot on the news at present about the Carbon Tax.  There is a lot of opposition to the introduction of this tax and the full detail of the Bill is being broadcast today.  In England we have a big programme of environmentally friendly policies being introduced.  The rubbish collection in both countries promotes recycling. But the buildings that are occupied by other students and me seem to have ecological differences - in the UK we would have insulated houses, and double glazing.  In my flat, there is no double glazing, and more surprisingly, and there is no beading around the hinged windows, so you can see daylight through the crack (!).  I'm not sure whether this is poor finishing (yet the rest of the flat is well finished and immaculate), or if it is deemed to be normal ventilation in a very hot country.  It has been unseasonally cold for this region, with temperatures down to 5C at night.  Not cold by British standards, but I've been glad I brought a couple of cardigans - and have even worn them together in the evening.  It does seem strange to have the gas fire on in the evening, but to have gaps around the windows, as well as the ventilation bricks.

Another similarity during induction has been the equality policies.  It's not called that here - but there have been sessions on anti-bullying and harassment, and disability awareness and access.  There is a session next week for mature students and the potential issues they can have.  So it fits with my experience of considering the difficulties that different groups can have, and means of supporting them to successfully complete their education.  Same issues, different approach.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

The postcard project is going well

I've just had an e-mail from my friend Lisa, co-collaborator on the Postcard Project.  Lisa says both she and her son look forward to the post arriving to see what comes next in the series.  Ernest is a teenage musician - young, cool and trendy.  I have to say I am delighted and flattered that someone young and cool is interested in my drawings.  Lisa also said her post lady enjoys them too.  There is something really exciting about sending and receiving hand drawn things through the postage system.  It is quite different to e-mail.  It also makes me look much more carefully at ordinary things around me.  I've not yet received any from Lisa yet, but I had find somewhere to live, before she could post hers. 

At then end of my exchange year, I might suggest to Lisa, then Herts Uni, that we put together an art display to show both our postcard sets and see what response it gets in the UK, and whether it inspires more people to take the international option, or to do a postcard project. 

This morning I was on the bus, and saw two pelicans standing on a streetlamp on the riverside in Perth.  Just how strong must the lampposts be?  The lampposts were very tall, with an arm at the top, c2m long finishing with a very large bulbous area for the light.  Much bigger than I have seen in the UK.  And 2 huge pelicans were snuggled up together, surveying the river. 

Friday, 8 July 2011

A day trip to Fremantle

I've just got back to uni from a trip to Fremantle.  This was a coach trip for new international students to see the area around Perth.  First we went to Kings Park in Subiaco.  This is a viewpoint overlooking the Swan River and Canning River.  It was truly spectacular.  Huge, wide rivers.  I used to live right next to the River Thames, where it was a mile wide, but these rivers made that look small by comparison.  We could see the Bell Tower, which was gifted to Perth by the British Government after WWII to recognise the contribution of Australian forces.  We were also at the site of multiple Australian war memorials.  Richard, a photography student, commented that the light was different in Australia.  He has had to alter the shutter speed on his camera as the light is brighter than in the UK.  I am fortunate that my camera has autofocus so I don't need to fiddle about - the camera deals with the automatically.  But I am aware the light is brighter here.  I am constantly wearing sunglasses and sunhat, and we are approaching the depths of winter.

Then we moved on to Cottesloe - a lovely beach environment, with promenade.  This was like a small version of Frinton-on-Sea for those who know Essex. 

Finally we moved on to Fremantle, for lunch and most of us had fish and chips.  This area appears to have a several museums which I will find interesting on another trip, and a very clean harbour/marina area.   On the way back along the main road, I saw a postman delivering mail.  But the interesting thing was, he was riding a Post Office moped, on the pavement, putting post in people's postboxes which are situated at the boundary, but when the box was half way up the drive, he would ride across their garden on his bike!

The conversations I have had about college fees are very interesting and put UK fees into perspective.  Currently UK fees are #3,000 per year, for full time study.  They are increasing to up to c#9,000 soon.  As an exchange student from the UK, if I travel for one semester, I am charged full home fees, or if I travel for the whole year, I am charged half fees (illogical but true for some obscure government funding reason).  So financially, an exchange is a good deal for me. International students in the UK pay #8,000, considerably more than home students.

International students at Curtin, who are not on an exchange, pay $10,000 per semester!!  Quite a few are doing their whole degree, ie 3 years, studying at Curtin.  I spoke to a girl from Norway studying journalism, who said the government loan system there is similar to the one in the UK.  You can get a loan for fees, repaid once you graduate and are earning above a certain level.  But can you imagine ending up with $60,000 of debt (#40,000) !!  And that's just fees!  Not living costs!  No wonder nearly all international students have a part time job, and the induction lecture warned strongly against working more than 15 hours a week (20 hours is the max). 

Given what I've described above, it is unsurprising that most international students are studying "sensible" degrees which will increase employability and possibly salary.  The most popular are Business and Finance, Journalism, Environmental Studies and Public Health Administration. I have not met anyone else doing an arts subject (unsurprisingly).  I wonder what type of people I will meet on my course?

It's official - Perth is an expensive city

It was on the news this morning - Perth is the 4th most expensive city in the world.  I was wondering if it was just me being hypersensitive about prices, as I am now a student, and have given up work after 30 years continuous employment.  But the news article confirmed my view - things cost a lot here.  I bought a cup of tea at university this morning (filled my water bottle at home, but forgot to bring it!) and a medium cup of tea is $4.10.  About 3 pounds sterling. (No pound key on university computer!). 

I had a conversation at the bus stop last night with some muslim students.  I asked whether there was a minimum wage here - and they thought it was about $16 per hour.  This would convert to about 11 pounds sterling, which is a lot more than the UK minimum wage, which I think is about 7 pounds.  I'm not up-to-date here, so if anyone knows, please let me know.  So it gives some perspective on how much things cost, although I'm not aware of average weekly wages here. 

Yesterday I was seeking a swimming pool.  I went back with Cali and Jodie to their house, and we looked at the swimming pool just around the corner from them.  Lovely pool.  50m(!) outdoor pool, all lane swimming - which was heated (I felt it) but was not giving off steam on a cold evening!  And an indoor 25m pool with lane swimming, and leisure pool for children.  But the journey home was not good.  I waited 15 minutes for the 98 circle bus, then got to the bus station with 8 minutes to my 30 bus.  This did not show and it is a 30 minute wait.  (And we've just been told not to wait at the bus stop in the dark!).  But there was a group of young muslim girls and we had a chat.  And then, about 20 minutes later (ie not to timetable) the 30 bus turned up and off I went home.  So had I taken the advice and waited at a university building, arriving a minute or two before the bus was due, I'd have missed the bus.  So all in all, it took about an hour to get home.  So this swimming pool won't suit me, because of travelling time. 

I have been told there are lots of pools with this level of facility, so I need to work my way around swimming pools by internet to find one. 

I'm off on a day trip now, to Fremantle.  Speak later.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Further thoughts on Safety and Security at Curtin

I went to the Student Expo today.  I had an interesting conversation with the lady who did the Security session yesterday.  I was interested to find out whether Curtin was perceived as a dangerous place, in comparison to the environment I have lived in in London.  She said the lecture was pitched at this level to make students aware what can happen if they make themselves vulnerable.  She said that very few people get mugged, but if they are, they will be, typically, small and slight, using an Ipod, with earpieces in both ears, and probably carrying an obvious laptop.  Anyone can access campus, and muggers are typically from some sort of deprived background.  So it is a fairly common pattern across the world.  If you make yourself vulnerable, and have attractive possessions, you will get mugged. 

Additionally she said the local newspapers would make a feature of this type of incident, and to her knowledge, some of the "facts" reported, were different to the situations that had been reported to her, as the Security Officer.  In the last week or so, the newspaper reported that 5 people had been assaulted.  She was aware of only 4, of whom only 1 had been assaulted by punching.  Only one had been ordered to hand over something valuable (laptop) and two girls together had been ordered to hand over their MacDonalds, which they did.  I think if I had had a MacDonalds, I would have paid them to take it away!?  Perhaps I am being flippant, but the 1-1 conversation did put it into perspective.  I think if you are just normally streetwise, you will be ok.

Half way through International Induction week

I have spent the last couple of days attending various briefing sessions.  Welcome to Australia was a hoot, with the lecturer, Jim, giving an excellent demonstration of Waltzing Matilda, and explaining what it meant - it is about a wandering unemployed man who steals a sheep, is caught, and ends up commiting suicide by drowning rather than being arrested!  We had an eye opening security lecture - Curtin appears to be very safe to me, but after 7pm the buses in the area are followed by security staff, and you can ask the local bus to set you down at the nearest point to your home, rather than getting off at the normal stop.  We were encouraged not to sit waiting for long periods at bus stops, but to wait in a building on campus and go to the stop just before the bus is due.  Perhaps the buses are more reliable than I am used to!  Also on campus, you are encouraged to request Security to escort you from your building to the accommodation block or bus stop after dark.  This would never happen in London, and I think we have a much higher crime rate.  We also were encouraged to think about things we found unusual in Australia - things like having trees and sculpture in the middle of the road (traffic calming) and alcohol being openly sold in shops (unusual to students from muslim countries).

This afternoon, after lectures finish, I am going back with Cali and Jodie, to investigate the swimming club opposite where they live. This would be 2 buses to get back to my place, but I think it is achievable.  Apparently the masters club swim Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.  I'd certainly like to get back to swimming twice a week.

Monday, 4 July 2011

International Induction day

This turned out to be an easy day.  Exchange students were told to report to the International office for 11am. There are c 120 exchange students, which surprised me, as we were so few.  I think there are many other types of student, but I suspect most foreign students are independently arranged, and so have to pay full fees, as opposed to the reduced fees we pay as we are matched to outgoing Australian students going to the UK.  I met up with most of the people from Herts, as well as people from the USA, Hungary, Japan, Sweden, and Scotland. 

Some students booked on the tour to the brewery and chocolate factory did not show.  I gather there had been some problems with overbooking of on-campus accommodation and quite a few students (including those from Herts) had been booked into local hostels and hotels, and some had elected to stay with family members if they had relations in Perth (one of the Herts girls did).  Some students appeared to have had a poor initial experience of accommodation in Perth, although I have been lucky and have no complaints.  But things appeared to be being sorted out.  Once of the Herts girls received an accommodation offer while we were at lunch, and it was of the type of accommodation that she had requested.  And a couple of years ago when I started at Herts, our accommodation was so overbooked that people on my course were in hotel accommodation for 3 months, and one person I met today was in this accommodation for the whole year! 

We were comparing prices UK/Aus.  Apparently some of our boys have already been out clubbing (not my scene!) and beer prices were $9-10 per pint! (c£6-7).  This seems extortionately expensive to me, but I know there is a UK campaign for minimum pricing per alcohol unit, so maybe our prices are very low compared to other countries.  And I have been told Aussie beer is weaker than in the UK.  Not a subject I know anything about, so this is just hearsay.  Also I've been told 20 cigarettes are $12 for 20 and I think the UK price is about £7, so aussie prices are a bit more expensive.  As I don't smoke or drink, I don't care how much they charge. 

I forgot to take my water bottle today.  Although cafe prices seem similar to London prices, there is a very good campaign here to reduce waste by recycling water bottles.  There are free water fountains in the circulating areas on campus, so you can refill your bottle for free.  I've not seen this in the UK, and I think it is a wonderful idea.  Healthy and free.  Especially given the summer temperatures seem to average 40 degrees - free water to keep you rehydrated.

Tomorrow's event starts at 0900 with "the big breakfast".  So I'll go to that and then see about going to a library induction. 

I've also been running around the internet to find a swimming club.  It's difficult to work out the precise locations but I think the nearest is Perth City SC.  It is a bit north of the railway station, and they swim on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and Saturday morning.  I would not fancy walking back to the bus station in the dark but I will investigate.  I might take a trip there on Saturday to find out what it is like.  Looks very competitive from the website, which I am not.  But I will keep an open mind.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

And today is Sunday

This is my first Sunday in Perth.  Having done a little research before I came here, I was expecting most places to be closed on Sundays, a bit like the UK 20 years ago.  So I planned to go to Perth Museum, then come back and do some drawing and knitting. 

However, when I got the bus into Perth, everything was open.  I went to the museum, which is directly north of the station.  I did a large circle of walking before I got there, having been convinced it was directly south of the station.  I wanted to see the gallery about WA Land and People, but this was closed for refurbishment.  So instead I went around the Discovery Centre and looked at the exhibits (alive and dead) of Australian fauna and implications of their being used as tradeable items and which ones were deadly or not.  Then I went to the section that dealt with minerals and crystals, and meteorites. 

Once I was tired I went out and got some lunch.  Then as all the shops were open, I went back to Woolworths and bought a couple of food items, so that I can build my store cupboard without feeling like a donkey carrying it all.

I'm starting to get to know my way around Perth city centre now.  It seems very odd that Perth has c1.5m residents who are spread out across a vast area, whereas London has about 7m, crammed into a much smaller space.  Perth strikes me as a leafy suburb.  From the university literature, it made the east and north sides of Perth, seem old and run down.  This is not true by London standards.  And the city centre itself seems tiny, compared to the environment I have worked in.

Tomorrow I'm off to International Induction - a trip to the Feral Brewery and Chocolate Factory.  Should be fun!

Saturday, 2 July 2011

My first Saturday in Perth and comparisons with the UK

Today's plan was to find the local shops and then go on to Perth for some shopping.  The first part of the plan was not successful. 

I looked carefully at the local map before I went out and thought I knew where I was going.  I walked for about half an hour, and got to the place where I thought the shops were, but no joy, I could not find them.  The 30 bus approached, I wondered whether to get on, but decided not to, and to continue looking for the shops.  About 10 minutes later I decided I was not going to find them, looked at the timetable, carefully, and discovered the half hourly timetable I had been reading, was for weekdays, and the Saturday and Sunday 30 service was hourly.  As I sat at the bus stop, I read the bus map/timetable carefully, and realised that if I went to my usual stop, I could have a half hourly weekend service into Perth.  This is because there are two services that serve Salter Point to Perth - the 31 serves the eastern side of the housing estate and the 30 serves the west.  If I go to my usual stop, I can get one service on each side of the road, to go eastbound or westbound, and they run exactly half an hour apart.  It was only because I had 45 minutes to kill, that I realised this!  If in doubt, read the instructions!

I travelled into Perth and had a very successful shopping trip.  I bought some jeans (one size smaller than last time!) for $39 at a basic chain store.  This is c£26 which is slightly more than a similar chain store in the UK would charge.  The Borders bookshop appeared very expensive - typically $33 (£22) for an average paperback biography, whereas in the UK I would pay £7-11.  However, this was the only bookshop remaining in business.  Looks like Amazon has destroyed booksellers in Australia as well as the UK.  I saw two bookshops, both closing down, and bought 3 Australian biographies of the last 50 years for a total of $46 (60% discount).  I read this type of material in every country I visit, to get a handle on recent social history.

I have thought about why prices in Perth seem to be high.  I have read that Perth is the most isolated city in the world - huge distances to any other built up area.  So if everything has to be transported, it would account for some increased costs.  And I have noticed that lots of the fruit and veg is Australian (unlike the UK where we imports lots of stuff we can grow ourselves).  If so much produce is internally grown, I can see why Customs are so hot on preventing illegal/unintentional importation of fruit and veg, in order to protect their agriculture from pests and diseases.

I asked where to find an art shop, and someone gave me good directions to a proper art shop down a back alley, where I managed to get more watercolour paper postcards and a basic set of watercolour brushes.  Now I will be able to use my Inktense pencils and capture the wonderful colours around me.
Then I went to Woolworths (a grocery store here, not a general store as used to be in the UK) and picked up some more food.  This made me reflect on things I take for granted in the UK.  Now I am an exchange student, and don't run a car, I am restricted on what I can buy, by how much I can carry.  This may sound patently obvious but had not occurred to me previously.  All I wanted was vegetables, milk, flour, and tea.  But it was two bags full, and it was moderately heavy when combined with the books and jeans I had bought.  Fortunately I had planned my shopping to do the heavy stuff last (if you omit the unplanned book purchases!), was close to the bus station and staggered there, and collapsed onto the 30 bus.  Maybe this is why I am losing weight!!  Yippee!
When I got back, the sun came out and made the outlook from my window look great.  So I got out the pencils and water, and did a little postcard of the sky, wall, olives and roses, and washed into it with a brush.  My joy was complete. 

Now to cook dinner with all the heavy ingredients I have carried home!

Friday, 1 July 2011

Another successful day

My plan for the day was to do a circular tour on the bus - bus 30 to Curtin to explore the campus in more detail, then another bus to Perth city centre, then bus 30 back to the flat. 

I have discovered the walk to the bus stop is 12 minutes, half of which is uphill away from the riverfront.  As I have rushed up this several times now, my hamstrings are starting to feel very tight - as I am so unfit.  However on a positive note, my trousers are swinging on me like a marquee.  They have either stretched ... or maybe I've lost weight!  Don't have any scales, so I'm hoping it is the latter.

I thoroughly explored the campus - I can confidently find my way from the bus station to the Textile and Printmaking block, up to the library and Student Centre, to the bank and cafes.

Lovely lines and textures

and shapes and colours, on campus!

In the library I found the textile section and took out a book, to test whether my student card was working.  It took a bit of practice but I got there eventually.  You need to scan the barcode on the book, and I was scanning the publishers barcode, when it needed the university barcode!  And you need your student card password for everything.  You also need to regularly check a subsection "OCC" on the university computer when you take a book out.  The standard loan is for 6 weeks - but if anyone else requests the book, the library will recall the book, via OCC.  You are not sent an email, but are instructed to check OCC every week.  If you fail to return the book, you are fined. I have yet to find my way around the Curtin computer system but I expect I will get used to it.

The book I took out is Art Textiles of the World - Australia Volume 2.  What an ace book.  It shows the work of 12 Australian textile artists and the philosophy behind their works.  A must for all textile enthusiasts.

 Amy, at Westbank, was most helpful today.  I was wondering how to find out how much cash was left on the cash passport, when she told me the balance could not be read by ATMs.  I asked whether my Westbank cards had arrived, and they had not, so I said I could not draw cash.  Amy said she could draw cash from my account on my behalf, so we checked the balance.  No international transfer had been made, so she offered to check at 1pm and 3pm and ring me so I could come in to collect some cash once the transfer had been made.  At 1pm Amy rang, stated the transfer had gone through, and I was the proud (temporary) owner of $1000.  How's that for customer service!

I've been comparing prices with the UK.  The bus fares seem cheap, but most other things seem to be a similar price to London!  In an oriental restaurant, a one course sit down meal was $60 for 3 people.  We only had 2 x plain rice, 3 meat dishes and large bottle of water.  This equates to c£14 per head.  In one of the student cafes the main hot meal (chicken curry and rice) was $9-80 (c£6.50) and a medium bowl of salad was $7.40 (c£5).  This was the full price - you can buy a guild card, which I think is a discount card which entitles you to a discounted price of between 10-15%.  I'm not sure how much they cost, but I think is is around $50.  So if you are eating on site all the time for a whole year, and using it for your main meals, it would be a good deal, but for occasional use, not worth it.  I think we find out about Guild during International induction next week. 

By the time I got back to base, I was exhausted.  I saw Tangea and her husband Richard, and paid the bond.  I am very glad to have paid my bills without too much delay.

What makes you feel settled?

I am starting to feel much more settled.  I have the keys to my own place, and I have paid my first rent.  I have not yet paid the $1000 bond, but my landlady is ok to wait until I have drawn sufficient cash. 

I have opened a bank account and have arranged a transfer of a shedload of money to maintain me for the year.  However, the bank cards take a week to be issued, so I'm still waiting for them.  And as I did not have a permanent address when I opened the account, the cards will be sent to the Westbank branch at the University.  In the UK I had put money on a cash passport, but as a mature student going into off-campus accommodation, I did not put enough money on it.  I brought £200 - c$300 - in cash (fine) and £800 c$1200 on the cash passport (not enough).  People who live off-campus - typically mature students - will pay $500 per fortnight rent, and also need to provide $1000 bond money which is lodged with the Australian Government and is security for the letting.  So the amount I brought with me was sufficient for students living on-campus as it is cheaper.  But mature students usually like life a bit quieter than on-campus, so we have to look big and pay up! 

So I need to be economical until I get my bank cards!

The flat is very clean, light and airy - it is actually a granny flat to the side of the main house.  But I was quite surprised how much more settled I felt once I had unpacked, put my things on view, and bought some food and filled the cupboards.  Life is good.  I'm off out now, trialling more bus routes, and university facilities.