One week(end) in Brisbane

So I’ve survived a week of what will become the longest continuous period that I will be away from Singapore in my 32 years of life.

When I tell people who have ever been to Brisbane that I would be based there for the next 2 years, I get one of two responses: (1) Brisbane is a beautiful city; or (2) Brisbane has lovely weather. Both are true–the latter at least for now, because I am also usually also told that it will get quite hot in the summer.

I’m slowly working out a routine for the weekdays: wake-up meditation, having a cold breakfast of bread (mmm, my favourite??) and milk with assorted raisins; talking a nice 30-min walk to the office and getting in by eight; dragging my introverted soul to lunch with other post-docs and grad students at the roof garden, with a takeaway from the cafeteria in hand; knocking off at four or five, either to go jogging (which purportedly releases the feel-good chemicals that help to cope with the emotional strains of being away from home) or to go shopping for groceries; cooking (or doing my best at what is supposed to be cooking) dinner; taking the single bath of the day (too cold for too many!) before Skype-ing the wife; meditation again; and then finally going to bed.

Between regular exercise, twice a day sitting in meditation, and frequent visits to the nearest Asian eatery, I should survive, psychologically. As for scientifically, well, that’s for another day.

Yesterday’s (Saturday) trip down to the city centre was also a good break from the weekday routine. I finally bought and tried out the Go! card which is the equivalent of Singapore’s EZ-link card. After today, I have newfound confidence to be venturing out to a new suburb every weekend.

I took a bus to Fortitude Valley, with a mini-Chinatown street, on the advice of a housemate. (The true Chinatown, I was told, is in Sunnybank.) And I now understand why enclaves such as Chinatowns sprout up in many cities in the world: because there is a demand for this sense of security offered by seeing familiar hieroglyphs on advertisement boards and familiar products on shop shelves when in a foreign place. Interestingly enough, however, there were additional jolts of happiness from smelling Indian briyani and seeing the word “Malaysia-” as well as “Singapore-“, testament to how I am really Southeast Asian and not just from any other part of Asia, even while I am ethnically Chinese.

There were also a few (Caucasians) looking homeless or destitute on the streets.

Although it was drizzling, I decided to take a walk along Ann Street back westwards to Brisbane City Centre proper.

Along the way this 20-ish Australian dude walking past me suddenly jabbed his index finger towards me and yelled, “Catch’ya later!”

I don’t think I showed any expression but just walked on. About 10 seconds later when it finally registered in my brain what had happened, I briefly entertained the thought of going back to punch his nose in.

I also took the next available opportunity to check my reflection for any wardrobe malfunctions. OK, maybe I looked like a dork with hiking socks sticking out against my legs below my windbreaker and berms. Hey, both pairs of ankle socks I had were drying on the clothesline. Or maybe, for some obscure reason, he thought it would impress the girl that was walking together with him.

In my wanderings, I happened to pass by two book stores that were top on the search results when I was just briefly Googling “Brisbane bookstores” for the heck of it while having lunch. There were no “nature” sections, only “gardening” and “animals”.

"Australian Native Plants" & "Birdscaping Australian Gardens"

Two books of professional interest.

Apparently, there are more people who yell at other people on the streets. A group of kids at an open-air bar on a second storey were randomly calling out to pedestrians below. Because I had just popped in and out of Target to buy a laundry basket, I had to endure a “hey, the guy with the laundry basket!”

There was a crowd gathering at Brisbane Square. I didn’t think much of it until I was waiting at a bus stop along Adelaide Street. After a while, I could sense that something was up. No vehicles had passed. My fellow would-be commuters were a little fidgety and got up now-and-then to look down the street, from where an occasional chorus of shouts could be heard.

It turned out that there was a small protest march going on, and it was moving slowly up the street. Realizing that this means the buses would be indefinitely delayed, and I would be better off walking all the way home, I sighed internally. It was bad timing to have bought a laundry basket.

Some Singaporeans might immediately laud the benefits of how public protests are banned back home. Right now I am at best neutral towards such statements. It was a small, peaceful event; in fact, I walked right through it to get away from it. Along the way I got a close look at their banners which showed that it had something to do with an Imam Hussein, and about oppression, etc.. They held up both palms every few steps in semblance of a prayer, punctuated by slogan-shouting. Some of the protesters were in Islamic garb. There were at best 100 to 200 participants, and all they seemed to want to do was to get their message across.

It took me 50 min to walk back, and true to my judgment, no bus passed me until back at Dutton Park, which means that I managed to avoid spending money to get back home in the same amount of time, but without the exercise.

Staying positive!

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