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An American reminisces after living in Australia for a year.
1. How to “go green”

In America, going green means you make Instagram posts about recycling and follow “Wake up America” accounts on Twitter. In Australia, going green isn’t a social fad — it’s a way of life that’s completely normal. We didn’t have a clothes dryer in our apartment in Australia, there was only air-conditioning in one room, and everyone rode their bikes everywhere even though it took them longer to get there than driving would.

2. How to eat

I didn’t see one restaurant menu in Australia that wasn’t loaded with avocado, pumpkin, fresh fruit, and tons of other delicious things that weren’t fried. And the steak in Queensland is to die for. I know you can find these things in America, but they typically are in more expensive / exclusive restaurants (and aren’t anywhere in Indiana, where I’m from).

My favorite dish at the Coffee Club, a large breakfast chain in Australia, was toasted sourdough with feta and sliced avocado, drizzled in balsamic. Not quite IHOP. Maybe Australia has its own problems with obesity, but I’d rather overeat on these foods than at Taco Bell.

3. How to drink

When I first got to Australia and realized alcohol was expensive, and happy hour / drink specials were rare, I was disappointed. Then I realized Australians are so good at drinking (seriously, I don’t think hangovers exist in that country) that for their own safety, drinks are expensive at all times. There’s no socially unacceptable time to drink in Australia. Which is great, but the cheapest beer in pubs is typically $6-$8 (cases are rarely cheaper than $40 in a “bottle shop”), and if you find spirits for under $10 per drink, it’s a steal.

One of my favorite bars, Waxy’s Irish Pub, had a $3 Budweiser special on Sundays; however, if you didn’t get there before 10pm, they’d run out of beer after your first round. Weirdly enough, though, wine is cheap in Australia.

4. How to take vacation time

Or should I say, how to secure adequate time to take a vacation. Not two weeks, but four to six weeks paid vacation. Enough time to actually go somewhere.

One of my good friends in Australia is currently in the middle of his six weeks’ paid vacation to Europe that he goes on annually. I went to Wisconsin for five days last week, so 50% of my vacation time for the year is already used. Vacation time may seem unimportant in America, but it’s a valued part of Australian culture that Aussies take full advantage of.

5. How to attend “Uni”

College, but not the American way. For one, you don’t have to go. It’s just not that big of a deal. And if you do, it’s common to enroll after a gap year of traveling out of high school. Uni is also cheaper in Australia — my public relations degree would have cost me $22,000 (total) at Bond University, the school down the street from my apartment in Australia. I had a full ride to the University of Indianapolis, and still have more than $22,000 in student loans because of the cost of living, eating, buying books, breathing, etc, on top of the ridiculous interest on student loans and the whole “I had to defer my student loans after my unpaid internship that gained me nothing” issue.

Furthermore, neither of my managers at my Australian job had degrees — they were in their positions because they were the most experienced, and the best at those jobs.

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It’s Saturday, and two women are dusting the skulls. Sun streams through afternoon clouds. Rain patters on the red dirt road. The sky is at once bright prisms and dark stratus swirls, and the duality is raw and promising. The women bend over shelves of bones inside the tin-roofed memorial site, pausing occasionally to look out over Rwanda’s rolling hills.

Down the road, the church choir is rehearsing, a gospel harmony streaming out of a brick-walled house. I pause on the roadway to listen.

“Keza?” an old man asks me, stopping alongside to adjust his knee-high rubber boots. Beautiful, no?

“Keza,” I agree. Beautiful.

We stand for a minute longer, the man and I, and he begins to murmur along with the hymn. As the music concludes, he extends his hand.

“Amahoro. Murakaza neza Kibeho,” he offers. Peace. Welcome to Kibeho.

* * *

I have lived here, in Kibeho, a rural town in southern Rwanda, for the past ten months. In some ways I belong. In many, I remain an outsider. I am a guest in a beautiful and layered community, one that I have come to very much admire.

Signs just outside Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, begin directing you to Kibeho, “The Holy Land.” As you get off the bus in town, a signpost orients you to the memorial site where victims of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide rest. Small painted markers point down to the valley spring where visions of the Virgin Mary occurred. Hand-lettered notices advertise cell phone credit, bus ticket sales, and chapatti at the local canteen. Up the hill, a banner declares the opening of a Catholic hotel, where portraits of Jesus, and, a little higher up, Rwanda’s President Kagame, decorate the walls.

Kibeho is a place of spiritual visions, of genocide memorial, of fields of cabbage, and a new bus line, and home to a little girl that, yesterday, learned to walk. It is also the site of a massacre, the Kibeho Massacre, which occurred in April 1995. Here, soldiers of the Royal Patriotic Front, the army President Kagame commanded and which brought a celebrated end to the 1994 genocide amidst international inaction, killed a contested 330 to 4,000 people.

I am an outsider, and as such my job is often first to listen and to learn. Each time I am told a new story, I realize how much I don’t know. I couldn’t possibly know.

There are no signs for that.

Walking about Kibeho, I often am reminded about the selectivity we use in recounting our stories and pasts. Where I am from, in the United States, dialogue on race and religion is often punctuated by conspicuous quiet. While events may pass concretely, their legacies stretch into the present, malleable by the language — and silence — with which we pass them on.

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12 Signs you’ve been in China too long

1. You greet people by saying, “Have you eaten yet?”

A typical Chinese way to say hi is “Chi le mei?” which means, “Have you eaten yet?” Like “How are you?” in English, this is a question not really requiring a literal answer. So often you’ll tell someone you’ve already eaten over the roar of your growling, empty stomach.

2. You consider it a compliment when a Chinese person remarks that you’ve gained weight, and you catch yourself saying the same thing to others.

In traditional Chinese culture, the chubbier a person is, the more prosperous and healthy he or she is deemed to be. So a comment about your weight, especially coming from elderly Chinese, is not meant to tell you to lay off the fatty pork belly.

But in general, people in China can be pretty frank with comments about other people’s physical appearance. You know you’ve been in China too long when the first thing out of your mouth on seeing an old friend is an exclamation about his or her weight.

3. You break out your umbrella on sunny days to avoid getting tan.

People in China consider darker skin a sign of a peasant background, while lighter skin means high status in that you haven’t had to labor outside. As unfair as it is, women with darker skin are considered less attractive. Skin whitening products are a multi-billion-dollar industry in China. The latest trend to hit beachwear is the facekini, which is essentially a big sock you wear over your head with a few slits for your eyes, nose, and mouth.

4. You know how to gracefully drink tea with the leaves floating around in your cup.

For people in China, drinking tea made in teabag form is akin to drinking instant coffee in the US. It just doesn’t cut it once you’ve had the real thing. You’ve learned how to drink tea with loose leaves floating around without choking on them or being forced to chew them down. You know it’s all in the way you use your teeth as a strainer. And you know that yellowed teeth are an unfortunate byproduct of your tea snobbery.

5. You’re no longer color blind.

Red denotes good luck, fortune, and happiness in China. Traditional Chinese wedding outfits are red. Red envelopes are used to give out money during Chinese New Year. You know that people in China don’t shy away from wearing red during holidays or celebrations.

You also know white is the color of mourning and death, and you avoid wearing white in your hair as it means a relative has passed away. You know there are all kinds of exceptions (brides in China now wear Western-style white gowns), but you do your best to be color sensitive, especially when there are elderly Chinese in the mix.

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12 signs you’re from Newfoundland

1. You rarely refer to yourself as Canadian.

Your first inclination is to say you’re from Newfoundland, even if no one knows what you’re talking about. Yes, we’re Canadian, but we’re not that Canadian. We have a different culture and don’t fit the regular Canadian stereotypes.

2. You’ve gotten drunk in a shed.

Not much to say about this one. Maybe it isn’t exactly a point of pride, but it’s true.

3. You identify with townies or baymen.

Townies are from town, the capital city, St. John’s. Baymen are pretty much everyone else.

As a bayman, you’re taught that townies are lazy. As a townie, you see baymen as backward. Either way, it’s all a bit of a laugh. Even if you’ve lived in St. John’s for 10 years, you’ll always be a bayman.

4. Sometimes, “skeet” is just the best descriptive word you can find.

Skeets are everywhere, but they’re hard to describe to people not from Newfoundland. They’re kind of like rednecks, but with their own special spin. Newfoundlanders know skeets when they see (or hear) them.

“Skeet” can describe the way a person dresses, talks, acts — pretty much any manner of things. We might not know how to define such an all-encompassing word, but we all can agree on who is or isn’t a skeet, and their level of skeety-ness.

5. You get defensive and prideful around other Canadians.

The first day I arrived in Korea, I met a girl from Vancouver who referred to Newfoundland as “the butt of Canada’s joke.” You might have certain ideas about us, and we have conflicting feelings about how to respond. We want to prove all the negative stereotypes wrong while also maintaining our unique spirit and culture.

We’ll bring up home more often than other Canadians, because we feel it makes us special. What’s the harm in that?

6. Weather is not just small talk.

And not just to the elderly. St. John’s has the toughest climate of any city in Canada, according to the climate index. Nice days are so rare that they feel like a special gift.

7. You get a bit confused when someone mentions the west coast.

We’re on an island, remember, so it’s best to specify whether you mean western Newfoundland or western Canada. Western Canada is pretty much half a world away to us — Western Europe is a shorter flight.

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10 signs you’re from Kansas City

1. You’re fiercely loyal to local ‘que and know your way around a grill.


Whether you claim allegiance to BBQ powerhouses Gates and Jack Stack, Missouri-side Arthur Bryant’s, Kansas-side Oklahoma Joe’s, or (my favorite) small-fry LC’s, you think of them when anyone mentions barbecue. Roll out the smoker and soak those wood chips — hot dogs and hamburgers just won’t cut it.

2. You’ve grown accustomed to crappy sports teams.


KC sports fans can’t catch a break. Anyone will tell you when we last won the big one: 1985. We beat our cross-state baseball rivals in what was dubbed the I-70 Series. But the Royals, god love them, haven’t made it to the postseason since.

And the Chiefs, who were competitive in the heady days of the early NFL and flirted with postseason success in recent years, have had an even longer drought. We won Super Bowl IV, more than four decades ago. Len Dawson, quarterback for our one Super Bowl win against the Vikings in 1969, covers sports for Channel 9 and still calls games on 101 The Fox — we’re all secretly hoping we can pull one out before he retires. 

3. You know the Timberwolf is the most terrifying rollercoaster in the world.

It’s made of wood and goes way faster than any wooden machine should, jostling you around on the way up the big hill and rattling your teeth in your skull on the way down. You start to understand why people thought Model Ts would kill everyone. When not safely enveloped in plastic, steel, and fiberglass, anything that goes faster than 10mph feels like a death trap.

4. You’ve downed a Skyscraper Soda…and lived to tell about it.

Winstead’s — KC’s diner staple decked in ’40s pinks and blue-greens with chrome finishings — makes the Skyscraper Soda in a GIANT GLASS VASE. Piled high with vanilla and chocolate ice cream and topped off with soda, it’s practically a rite of childhood to split one with your siblings/cousins/neighbors, dueling with long-handled diner spoons and jockeying for position with the doubled-up long straws so you can gorge yourself until you want to puke. 

5. You have a picture of you with the giant shuttlecocks.


Yes: 20ft-high replicas of white-feathered shuttlecocks dot the lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. It’s said that the sculptors were drawn to feathers because of the local Native American heritage, but designed the shuttlecocks because from above, the museum grounds resemble a badminton lawn. Everyone has a picture of themselves next to one, behind one, even jumping in front of one. They’re a magnet for area brides, so during the summer watch out or you could photobomb a wedding party.

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14 signs you’re from Glasgow

1. You regard Edinburgh as part of England.

The animosity between Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, and its capital, Edinburgh, runs deep along the M8 motorway connecting the two. Glaswegians are suspicious of the capital dwellers’ accents, lack of hospitality, and salt and sauce and snobbery, and deep down we regard the city as part of the Auld Enemy, England.

2. You feel a surge of pride when the city’s grim crime statistics are reported.

Civic pride takes perverse forms in Glasgow. The city has undergone a huge amount of regeneration in the last few decades, although its reputation as a hotbed of violent crime has not diminished. Curiously, while Glaswegians enjoy a new-found identify as sophisticated urbanites, there’s an underlying machismo that seeks to retain the hardman status.

Whenever the latest crime statistics are published, I find myself checking to see if Glasgow is still level with Moscow. Think of it as a masochistic alternative to checking the football scores.

3. “Being baltic” doesn’t mean hailing from northeastern Europe.

It means it’s very cold. And this is usually the case during the 50 weeks of the year when it isn’t summer. Glasgow’s rich vernacular, or “patter,” means almost any phrase in the English language will have an alternative meaning.

4. You take your top off when the temperature soars above 15˚C.

For those two magical weeks of the year when Glasgow isn’t baltic, half the city phones in sick to enjoy this novelty weather event. Streams of skinny bone-white Glaswegian men beeline to the city’s parks to catch, if not some rays, then perhaps a mild cold and declare, “It’s pure roastin’ man. Taps aff” (i.e., “The weather is rather clement; we should remove our tops”).

5. “Yer maw” is an appropriate response at any juncture in a conversation.

No further explanation required. You either know it or you don’t.

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matadornetwork:

If you’re a born-and-raised Maine kid like me, you’ve probably found that Maine is an incredibly difficult place to ditch. You’ve most likely spent time shuffling through our state’s assortment of “things”: You’ve done the “Bar Harbor thing.” You’ve done the “working as a raft guide up at the Forks thing.” You’ve done the “living above your Mom’s garage and hanging out with the group of three random kids from high school who are still here thing.”

Now you’ve completed your stint at the “Portland thing.”

2. Mediocre street performers

The guy in the L.L. Bean barn jacket who robotically shakes a Bible at you outside of Planned Parenthood every Friday. Plus the guy who sits behind him with a sign that reads: “Shut up!” (Bless his heart.)

The breakdancers who kill it to Prince outside of MECA every First Friday, usually shirtless no matter the season. (Sexy. Don’t ever stop.)

All the “fire breathers” down at Tommy’s Park kind-of twirling batons around but mostly just sitting cross-legged on the ground comparing face tattoos.

That huge steel-drum band that congregates on a random side street, blocks your car in, and forces you to listen to steel-drum music on a random Tuesday.

3. Parking bans

A parking ban is when everyone in the entire city of Portland has to move their car out of the downtown area and into tiny-as-fuck designated parking lots scattered around, miles away from anywhere you would possibly want to be (e.g., way, way down on Commercial Street next to a dark lumberyard).

These are great because 1) gunning into the last spot at some random daycare center in the West End fuels your competitive side. And 2) the entire city basically throws up its arms and decides to completely shut down. So everyone can congregate at Geno’s, drink snakebites, and discuss the outcome of The Wire again. And 3) you have to retrieve your car by 7am the next morning. So way before sunrise, the streets fill with snowsuited-up zombies carrying shovels.

It’s a community experience.

4. Portland’s singular strip club

PT’s-way-out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-fucking-Showclub. PT, who are you and when will you bring topless females to actual downtown Portland? Why must we drive all the way out to big-box-store and one-star-hotel land? Do you know how weird it is to have your cab driver exit his vehicle and enter a strip club with you? Fix this, please.

5. ’90s Night at Bull Feeney’s

Every Thursday night in the Old Port an onslaught of bros stampede the upstairs bar at Bull Feeney’s to sing all the words to Barenaked Ladies’ “One Week” and drunkenly stick up for Eddie Vedder.

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MatadorU student Emma Thieme on what you’ll miss most about leaving Portland, Maine.

If you’re a born-and-raised Maine kid like me, you’ve probably found that Maine is an incredibly difficult place to ditch. You’ve most likely spent time shuffling through our state’s assortment of “things”: You’ve done the “Bar Harbor thing.” You’ve done the “working as a raft guide up at the Forks thing.” You’ve done the “living above your Mom’s garage and hanging out with the group of three random kids from high school who are still here thing.”

Now you’ve completed your stint at the “Portland thing.”

2. Mediocre street performers

The guy in the L.L. Bean barn jacket who robotically shakes a Bible at you outside of Planned Parenthood every Friday. Plus the guy who sits behind him with a sign that reads: “Shut up!” (Bless his heart.)

The breakdancers who kill it to Prince outside of MECA every First Friday, usually shirtless no matter the season. (Sexy. Don’t ever stop.)

All the “fire breathers” down at Tommy’s Park kind-of twirling batons around but mostly just sitting cross-legged on the ground comparing face tattoos.

That huge steel-drum band that congregates on a random side street, blocks your car in, and forces you to listen to steel-drum music on a random Tuesday.

3. Parking bans

A parking ban is when everyone in the entire city of Portland has to move their car out of the downtown area and into tiny-as-fuck designated parking lots scattered around, miles away from anywhere you would possibly want to be (e.g., way, way down on Commercial Street next to a dark lumberyard).

These are great because 1) gunning into the last spot at some random daycare center in the West End fuels your competitive side. And 2) the entire city basically throws up its arms and decides to completely shut down. So everyone can congregate at Geno’s, drink snakebites, and discuss the outcome of The Wire again. And 3) you have to retrieve your car by 7am the next morning. So way before sunrise, the streets fill with snowsuited-up zombies carrying shovels.

It’s a community experience.

4. Portland’s singular strip club

PT’s-way-out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-fucking-Showclub. PT, who are you and when will you bring topless females to actual downtown Portland? Why must we drive all the way out to big-box-store and one-star-hotel land? Do you know how weird it is to have your cab driver exit his vehicle and enter a strip club with you? Fix this, please.

5. ’90s Night at Bull Feeney’s

Every Thursday night in the Old Port an onslaught of bros stampede the upstairs bar at Bull Feeney’s to sing all the words to Barenaked Ladies’ “One Week” and drunkenly stick up for Eddie Vedder.

Keep reading

Confessions of a future yoga teacher

1. A lot of “yogis” annoy the shit out of me.

When a white guy in a dress shows up and he’s legally changed his name to “Krishna,” there is absolutely no way I am going to take him seriously.

2. Sanskrit trips me up.

I love learning Sanskrit. The words and phrases flow beautifully off the tongue in soft, rounded tones. But let’s be honest, when it comes time for me to teach a class, the phrase “awkward chair pose” is a lot more relatable to students than “utkatasana.”

3. I do not want to hear another Michael Franti song.

Mike, I understand. You “want to go where the summer never ends.” What a super breakthrough realization about yourself. “Everyone deserves music.” Again, totally with you. Really, really original stuff here.

But seriously, for the love of God, I do not want to hear another fucking song about how great sunshine is. I feel like I’m trapped at a New-Age sex party on Long Island and I don’t have a ride home.

4. The cost does not compute for me.

When a pair of flammable, skintight stretch pants costs 80 bucks and a 72”x24” piece of rubber costs 120, yoga starts to get just as elitist as downhill skiing.

5. I will never be a vegetarian.

I raise chickens. I hail from a family of hunters. I grow my own vegetables. I know how gross hot dogs are. I am not ignorant to the horror of factory farming. But sometimes after a weekend-long intensive of Vinyasa Flow, I want to eat a burger with three different animal products on it and I don’t want to watch you cry about it.

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