One of the ideas I was toying with was getting a haircut in Melbourne since getting anyone in Hong Kong to cut my wavy-curly hair for a reasonable sum seems to be impossible. Thing is as I peeped into the salons on Elizabeth Street a lot of the hairdressers seemed to be of Asian persuasion. Nevertheless, since I didn’t have a big agenda on my last day, I popped into a cheerful looking parlour and booked a cut for the bargain price of $15. Later, I realised I had signed up for a cut at a hair and beauty school.

I was okay with that actually. I’ve always wanted to try a cut at a hairstyling school. The problem was they assigned me a very sleepy looking Indian girl, who I later realised had just come back from three months of maternity leave (no wonder she looked sleepy). Apart from her being a bit fuzzy either due to poor communication skills – she seemed to not quite grasp what we had discussed, and I wondered if we were having communication problems being both Indians, how she was going to survive Aussie accents – or just lack of sleep, she was also extremely slow. I ended up spending two hours there for a basic cut, shampoo and blow dry (and I had actually told her I didn’t want a blow dry). Turns out the haircut was nice, though once I washed it, I realised it looks better blowdried straight. Harumph. Oh well, maybe it will work out once it grows out a little and ceases to be Raja Ram Mohan Roy all over again.

Having spent two whole hours getting a haircut, I took the tram to the DFO Outlet mall on the South Bank. This was a good decision. So many nice shops. The discounted things were high-end discounted things and I was quite confused about where to start. Lots of nice clothes but I’d have to be very selective with my budget. I ended up focusing on the things I needed  really wanted : ankle boots and sunglasses. Landed up with a nice-looking if not perfectly comfortable (time will tell) pair of black ankle boots at a very good price. Ditto a pair of Bill Blass sunnies which are polarized.

Was exhausted when I got back so just vegged out and thought about where to go for dinner. Ended up getting a souvlaki wrap from Stalactites, a 24-hour Greek restaurant in the Greek district.  After some dithering, I decided to do take-out (honestly because it was cheaper). The wrap was nice, but I wish we had actually eaten there since I spotted a number of delectable looking things passing me by as I waited for my take-out.  Next door is a Turkish bakery with very enticing looking confectionary. Since I had some change, I ended up buying a marzipan chocolate (that turned out to be coconut filling).

Arriving back in Hong Kong, I was surprised to find that Hong Kong had somewhat waned for me in my week away at Melbourne. Normally, on the train, bus or taxi ride back home, I enjoy the vista of my city and feel a sense of gladness to be back, taking the edge of my regret at the end of travel. But this time, for the first time, it failed to move me. Something about the openness and friendliness of Australia had gotten under my skin in a way that surprised me.

Australian people, or at least the ones I encountered in Melbourne, are very friendly. They make eye contact, smile and even greet strangers, they make the odd bit of conversation, they say please and thank you unfailingly, qualities that are sorely lacking in Hong Kong. This is on top of the added ease of being in a land where people communicate in English. I know that there is racism in Australia but on the whole, I did not experience it.

Maybe it’s because I know I have to unhinge myself from Hong Kong that I am looking for ways to detach. But I have never been able to in the past. For the first time, I am able to see what a big deal not being the perpetual foreigner might be (even though I am always something of a foreigner even in India).

I just finished reading the Aboriginal chick lit book – Avoiding Mr Right by Anita Heiss – I picked up from the Koorie Heritage Trust and reliving my time in Melbourne’s streets. It’s interesting to look at the city through a slightly politicized lens, even more so because that politicized lens is via a chick lit novel. For example, the protagonist Peta is critical of Queen Victoria Market for being all about white people’s nostalgia. She is also critical of the typical Aussie souvenirs such as boomerangs for appropriating – badly – Aboriginal culture while giving nothing back to the people it came from. On the other hand, she is on board with the style and sass of Melbourne, and the whole story is shot through with romantic encounters – apparently Melbourne men are very flirty… well, I did experience some of that 😉 The book isn’t amazing but considering my research interest is chick lit, I’m interested in how the genre can be used to spread a political message .