Friday, June 30, 2006

Chips, Lemonade, and Vegemite...

I'm sure I will insult many Aussies, but who cares? One of the first things I noticed about Australia was how it was similar to the U.S. Sure, they have a bit of an accent, and their dollar isn't worth as much, oh, and they drive on the wrong side of the road, but for the most part, I felt at home: until it came time to eat.

Just to say that I did it, I bought and ate some Crocodile and Kangaroo meat. Nothing out of the ordinary. At one of our lunches during the conference they offered cappers. To me, I saw what looked exactly like onion rings. I was not alone. Most people thought that is what they were. One bite in and it was clear that we were mistaken. It was squid, what they told me they called cappers. Yum.

Fortunately, I was ready for restaurants. If I wanted French fries, I just had to ask for chips. That one everybody knows thanks to fish and chips. While out with one of the blokes from Australia, I asked him about calling them chips.

Me: "So, if I want fries, I ask for chips. I get that. But what do you ask for if you want chips? Fries?"

Him: "Well, you just say that you want...uh...they are called chips, too."

Me: "So how do you know what you are getting?"

Him: "Uh...I guess I'd ask for potato chips."

Me: "But aren't fries also made of potatoes?"

At that point, it was clear that the conversation was going nowhere.

I was even more confused when I ordered a drink from a restaurant. I was getting a bit burned out on soda, so I decided to get lemonade. The guy next to me had one with a slice of lime floating in it, and it looked good. When the waitress came, I asked for lemonade. She came back minutes later with Sprite.

Me: "Excuse me, I ordered the lemonade, this is Sprite."

Her: "Ya, I know."

Me: "So, can I get the lemonade?"

Her: "You just did."

Me: "Where?"

Her: "In your hand."

Me: "But this is Sprite."

Her: "I know."

Again, I figured that conversation had run its course. After the Aussies at my table stopped laughing they told me that in Australia, lemonade is Sprite, or its equivalent. It turns out that I must order a "lemon and lime" to get what I thought was lemonade. Since Sprite is lemon-lime, I was a bit taken back on that one, but if they drive on the wrong side of the road, why would I expect them to get their drinks right?

This morning for breakfast I decided to try the local favorite known as Vegemite. A local had told me that Vegemite was discovered as a by-product of beer. After they would dump out the beer from the barrels, there was a yeast build-up on the sides. They'd gather it up and spread it on bread. Since that time, it's become a major marketable product. Why didn't I think of that? I have leftover salty ice when I make ice cream. I could sell that just as easily.



I had tried Vegemite before, a decade ago, when offered some by a foreign exchange student I knew. I remember that I didn't like it and we made fun of her for liking it. This time I wanted to give it a fair shot, so I put it on some fresh toast.

Vegemite bite

Vegemite bite

Vegemite on toast

Vegemite on toast

So, how does it taste? Picture a product with the main ingredient yeast, but tastes like pure salt. I believe the story of how Vegemite came about, who else but drunken slobs would eat that stuff a on a regular basis? I'm beginning to think there might be hope for my leftover salty ice business.

I did pose for this pic, but this reaction to Vegemite is genuine:

Vegemite reaction


From what I understand, my reaction was not uncommon. Well, I didn't throw up, so I guess it was. I suppose that if I want to start my Saltalicous Ice Company (yes, I’ve already named it), then I’d have to relocate to Sydney.

Perhaps they call it "down under" because that's where all the guests hide the food they are served; down under the table...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Down Under Customs…

The flight to Sydney from Honolulu is about 12 hours long. I had just graduated and had dinner with my family, and in the same suit, I boarded my flight.

Oddly enough, the only flight I could catch from Honolulu to Sydney and back was Air Canada. “Welcome to Air Canada, eh. We hope you enjoy your flight this day, eh. My name is Captain Ray, eh. We’re on our way, eh. We could lay by the bay, eh. Or make things out of clay, eh. We just may, eh. What do you say, eh?”

I was so tired that I fell asleep after the first drink service and woke up when we only had 3 hours left. I said to myself, “Self, this was just about the easiest flight you have ever had.” If only there was some wood on the plane to knock on (besides my head).

As soon as we landed, we were told to stay in our seats and not even unbuckle our seatbelts. Then, the flight attendants opened up all the overhead bins and some special Australian inspection squad sprayed some white aerosol stuff on the luggage. One guy began to get up and everyone on the plane yelled at him to sit down. If you don’t sit there while you get that junk sprayed all over, then the inspector may ask to start all over. And they mean it.

Once that was over, I made my way to customs. My problems were just beginning.

I had planned on meeting some of my associates from Japan in the baggage claim, as they were to arrive within an hour after me. So, after I got my luggage, I parked it by the baggage claim that their flight was using. After about an hour had passed, I figured that they must have gone on without me. I thought I might check my e-mail and see if I had the wrong flight info. I pulled out my laptop only to see that the price of internet was far too much for my blood.

Suddenly, a security guard asked to see my papers. He looked at them and wished me a good day. A few minutes later I decided to just leave and wait on the other side of baggage claim. That’s where customs decided to give me special treatment.

When he asked to see my papers, the security guard made a note on my paper which I failed to notice. On my way out he escorted me off to the side. There he went through everything I owned with extreme precision. He even went so far as to ask me if my garments were clean, because they looked so old and yellow with age.

They call it “down under” because when you come in the country, they inspect you everywhere - even “down under.” I was half expecting a body cavity search. By the end, I felt like the guy should at least offer me breakfast. We got so acquainted I’m expecting a Christmas card next year. By now he knows more about me than my mother, my bishop and the Easter Bunny combined.

While inspecting me from didjeridoo to didjeridon’t, he asked me other questions. “What is the name of the mate you were planning on meeting?”

Since I had never actually met him at that point, I couldn’t remember. I guessed the most familiar sounding Japanese name I could think of. “What does he look like?” I couldn’t tell him. He checked the list, no match on the name.

“What is your business here?” I told him I was with the LDS Church. He hadn’t heard of it. So I tried the Mormon Church. Nothing. How about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints?

“Well, which one is it? Are you just making these churches up?” That didn’t help. “Can you show me a business card?” I didn’t have one yet.

“What hotel are you staying in?” I didn’t know. “What city?” I assumed it was Sydney.

“So, let me get this straight: you flew to a foreign country to meet another foreigner whom you have never seen nor met, have no paperwork or way to contact or recognize him. You don’t know where he is taking you when you meet and have no other transportation here, right?” That about summed it up.

This is the same conversation that I had about, oh, 20 times with about 6 other security personnel. I kept telling them that if they’d let me check my e-mail, I could get the name of my contact and probably some other information. They refused, as they didn’t want me making any contact.

After a stalemate of about 3 hours of repetitious queries, I was escorted to a free internet station in the airport. I was able to get the name of my contact. It turns out he got through only 20 minutes after I arrived. That was four hours prior to that point in time.

The bloke asked me how much money I had. I didn’t think it was his business. So I asked, “How much do you want me to have?”

“I’m not asking for money. Can you get around?”

“I have enough for what I need.”

“Ok, good luck getting around.”

Once he let me go, I e-mailed Miakawa (my contact) and got the hotel name, took a taxi and finally things started to go right. I was looking forward to checking in and getting out of the same suit that I had been wearing for 48 hours...minus the intimate inspection at customs.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


So, ya, it finally happened. I graduated. I don’t know if I’ll go to get an advanced degree. I know that I am feeling very done with school.

MiniMe and Me at graduation

MiniMe and Me at graduation

Commencement was pretty standard. I was able to get some honor tassels from Upsilon Pi Epsilon (UPE), but I had to wear the tie tack I got from Phi Kappa Phi as they wanted me to buy my honor stuff. The program failed to mention my UPE membership. Still, I felt smart enough as it did say that I was Magna Cum Laude.

There was only one person in my school that had Suma Cum Laude. He deserved it. Then I looked through the schools that were graduating with me. There were a few Suma’s. Before long I noticed what their majors were. If I hadn’t graduated from “Exercise and sports” with a 3.9 or higher I’d be worried. And the sad part, most of that class didn’t even have a 3.5 or higher!

It was funny how worried the administration was about the graduates and their family. It was heavily emphasized that we were to be stone silent the entire time. This is part of the letter that was sent out:

Dear Graduate:

As you know, graduation is a special time when we come together to honor your achievement and to honor you as University Alumni.
During past Graduation Services, we have experienced problems with some graduates, family members and friends behaving in ways that detract from the honor, dignity, and reverence, of this solemn service. Such actions and distractions are also inappropriate and contrary to enjoying the Spirit that accompanies the Lord’s Special Witness who will be in attendance with us.
However, the following behaviors are not appropriate for the solemnity of this occasion:
  • Gestures, swaggers (I assume that "strutting" is OK then), and other demonstrative actions on the part of the graduates when their name is read and as they walk across the stage to be awarded their diploma
  • Screaming, yelling or chanting graduates’ names
  • Overzealous applause designed to draw attention of others
  • Kazoos, party horns, or any other noise maker
  • Posters, signs or any other obstruction; and,
  • Any conduct inappropriate for an LDS chapel.

I was tempted to swagger and/or bring my lucky kazoo, but some dreams must never come to pass.

There was one part where people cheered and President Shumway stood there silently, with a stern look on his face. I felt like I was in some primary class.

Afterwards, I made my way out toward the gauntlet of instructors. Once I cleared that traffic jam, I found my family in my section. I got covered in leis. One particularly bulky item was my Ramen simen lei from my bro-in-law. At least I know I won’t starve in Guam.

Freshly Leid Graduate

Freshly Leid Graduate

I went back to my house, packed, cleaned and left for good. Since I was flying out that night, I didn’t bother changing. Also, everything I owned was crammed into various boxes and suitcases, so I had no idea where my regular clothes was anyway. I looked a bit odd wandering around the beach with my family in a suit.

By the end of that very long day, I was dropped off at the airport for my flight to Sydney. Still in the same suit that I began my mission in, I disembarked my student life and entered the professional realm.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Frequent Flyer...

So, I've been busy trying to finalize my last few days here in Hawaii. You never realize just how much stuff you have until you start to move it around.

I was thinking about how much travel I have ahead of me. It's fair to say that I'll be eating a lot of airplane peanuts and watching movies that didn't do well in the theaters. (Well, airlines don't offer peanuts because of the 6 people in the world that peanuts kill, but you get the idea.)

  • In one week: I'll be in Sydney, Australia
  • In two weeks: I'll be in Kona, Hawaii
  • In three weeks: I'll be in Mesa, Arizona
  • In four weeks: I'll be in Tamuning, Guam
  • In five weeks: I'll be insane.

Phew! Don't get me wrong, I like traveling and all. But that is quite an itinerary. You'll never guess which airline I'm taking from Honolulu to Sydney and back. Air Canada. Who knew?

And I didn't even start to mention all of the travel within Micronesia that I'll do. I'm glad I'm going to Micronesia and not Macronesia. I don't think my biological clock could take it. I'm sure I'll have frequent flier miles coming out of my ears.

My sister and brother-in-law and I went to Washington D.C. together last year. We both originally planned out trips separately, but since we were going at the same time, we decided to go together. Just before I bought my tickets, my sister called and told me to save my money. She said that her husband had extra frequent flyer miles and they'd give them to me. It was a gift horse; I didn't look in the mouth. As soon as I told them about my new job in Guam, the first thing my sister told me was that they were expecting me to give them my frequent flyer miles to replace the ones they gave me for D.C. I didn't complain. After all, I'm planning on asking for the Christmas gifts I gave them back. I guess that's the way we do it in our family...

Saturday, June 10, 2006

With Great Honor...

IS Dept and Grads

IS Department and Graduates

The direct translation of Magna Cum Laude is actually "with great praise," but the intent is to mean "with great honor." And that is what I will be graduating with. Unfortunately, I only get the certificate. There will be no special tassel or addition to my robe for it. I guess I'll have to paint a smiley face on the top of my hat or something to stand out at graduation.

Tonight we had a banquet for all of the graduating School Of Computing students. Each student in attendance was introduced and a bit about them was told. Since there were not that many in attendance, it was not too overwhelming.

I never received an email that asked me to tell a bit about myself, so Don Colton (the IS chair) had to wing it. He said some nice things about me. I think it went well. He did leave out the fact that I was his favorite student, but I'll let that slide.

It's all getting very real now. The past few weeks have been coming upon me fast. Before I know it, it will all be a memory. As much as I had moments where I wanted nothing more than to leave, I know I will miss it here.

There is one thing I won't miss. The grades. Only Magna Cum Laude? What about Summa Cum Laude? I want to be "with highest honor." If it wasn't for the stupid "A-" I'd have a much higher GPA. Pfft. For that, I'm leaving as of this month and never spending another dollar on tuition here again.

Accepting Award

Accepting Award


I hate it that foods like Lasagna can make such great leftovers while Chinese food makes for such horrible leftovers. Why is that?

Not very profound, I know. But it's something that I've sadly been pondering over lately. And that is further proof that my heart is just not in school anymore. I can't focus on school because I don't care. I suppose it's starting to show.

In less than 2 weeks, I'll be in Sydney. A week later, Arizona. A week after that, Guam. With the anxiety of finding a place to live, adjusting to a new job and all of the related factors, my mind needs a that's why I'd rather ponder why Chinese food makes such horrible leftovers.

Friday, June 02, 2006

How Not To Rob A Bank...

I just had to pass on this gem to you.

In Tokyo, a Japanese man thought of a perfect idea for robbing a bank. Ask the employees how. Who would know better how to rob a bank than those on the inside? So, that he did.

The employee didn't think it wise to give the dude any pointers. The would-be robber was asked to leave. He agreed.

On the way out, the employee escorting him noticed a knife sticking out of his pocket. But wait...what was that...blood? Ya, he also cut himself in his leg with the knife he had in his pocket.

That was the final straw. According to a police spokesman, "He didn't brandish the knife at anyone... but he injured himself in the leg." (Giggles likely ensued.)

So, rather than just leaving, he was awarded with an arrest for illegal possesion of a weapon.

I think this guy should have watched Ocean's 11 (new or old), or 12. Or Heat. Or Bandits. Maybe The Itallian Job (again, either one), or The Mask. Well, heck. PeeWee Herman's Big Adventure - why not? Just about anything would have been better than what he planned on.

I found the full story here.