A day in Brisbane.
24, 1994 21:11
Queensland :: 12 AUG 94
The flag flies at half-mast today. Whether someone died or it's a day
of mourning for some Australian historical tragedy, I don't know. Sometimes
I wonder whether flags shouldn't fly at half-mast every day, given the
ongoing tragedies in Rwanda, Timor, Cambodia and under the bridges of
Brisbane, or Vancouver.
A bedraggled and unwashed bipedal koala solicits donations to save the
endangered fuzzball. The large bucket that once held 10 gallons of Thousand
Island dressing, seems a supreme effort of optimism. The donations trickle
in. I don't recall flags flying low for the latest extinction; they would
do so daily if such ever became the custom.
Why should the death of a fallen President receive more note than the
fate of the condor or the tiger or the green turtle or some unclassified
Between festival events, I observe the city and its people. Fashion,
mannerisms, speech patterns. Something so simple as the Australian pronunciation
of the word "no" challenges me as I unsuccessfully form again
and again the impossible roll of phonemes following the initial 'n.' Not
being a linguist, I'm not certain I can describe the pronunciation of
it. I obviously can't reproduce it with any consistency. Certainly, there
appears to be no long 'o' sound at all. Instead it begins something like
"naaah" but rolls quickly into a sort of "eewww" as
in "cue." The difficulty in reproducing that sound is that the
roll occurs subtly and over a finite but brief period of time. In that
time all kinds of delightful vowels intercede.
Every accent seems to contain its giveaway. A New Yorker says "Caawwfee"
when ordering java. The quintessential Canadian ends statements with "eh?"
The dead giveaway of an Australian is "naaeww." Of course, when
you point this out to a local they'll deny it and in so doing prove the
point: "naaeeww I don...hmm, guess I duuheww."
The skipping koala returns and playfully swings the near-empty bucket.
Few will donate paper notes, the smallest denomination here being $5.
There will be no pennies in the bucket either as none have been minted
this year. Coins come as 5¢, 10¢, 20¢, 50¢, $1 and
$2. I'm often amazed to pull from my pocket $10 or more in change. The
little old ladies' coin purse might contain a small fortune here, but
she might not be able to carry it. The coins, particularly the 50¢
and 20¢ pieces, are large and heavy.
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