Posts Tagged fraternity

Highs and Lows Come and Go

On our 30/40 World Tour, we would typically book our accommodation before we arrived in a new location. However, on the Oz Experience bus tour, we didn’t have much downtime to do research online. Because of the mechanical problems, we usually arrived at our hotel/hostel late and were so excited to have a bed for stretched out sleep. (Sleeping on a bus can get a bit cramped.) We also had to wake up early to cover the mileage the next morning, so neither the evenings or mornings gave us much time to surf.

Melbourne

Ms. HalfEmpty & Mr. HalfFull in downtown Melbourne

Everyone else on the bus tour had a reservation in Melbourne – even the backpacker teenagers! (I wonder if their moms booked it.) So Squatter made the rounds through Melbourne dropping people off at their various hostels. After my two nights on the tour, I knew I wanted a nicer place to stay. So we got off at the last stop and started walking toward St. Kilda.

We were tired and hungry at this point, which is not a great combo for a traveler with no idea where she is going and a heavy pack on her back. I don’t do so well with the unknown, especially under those circumstances. Mr. HalfFull often reminds me to live my way into the answers and embrace the unknown. But it’s so hard! I like to have a plan and direction.

Our goal was to find a restaurant with free wifi where we could eat and book a hotel like hobos with all our luggage. Even though we traveled light, I still found it a little embarrassing to have so much stuff at a nice restaurant. But they were super gracious at Phamish café and didn’t seem to mind. We were “phamished” so we ordered the sampler appetizer, which turned out to be a huge platter with all sorts of foodie deliciousness. It was quite a contrast from eating powdered eggs.

We didn’t find a lot of reasonable accommodation options in St. Kilda. There were a couple of fancy hotels, but they were rather pricey. I was leery of sketchy places after our last two nights, but reluctantly I consented to a hostel called The Coffee Place. I think its name and color scheme was the only reason I thought it might be okay.

When we arrived, I wasn’t so sure. It was basically run by kids playing video games. In other words, it could have been a frat house. I’m too old for this!

We went up to our room by climbing several flights of stairs. The door wasn’t secure like a front door; it was more like a lightweight bedroom door. Inside everything was clean, but very sparse. There was almost no furniture aside from the bed. However, there was one small built-in shelf with a coffee maker – after all, it was The Coffee Palace.

After seeing the room, I lost it. This was no palace. The tears streamed down my cheeks. There was really nothing wrong with the room; it was fully functional, clean, and spacious. I think I was just exhausted from the bus tour; I didn’t get my afternoon naps or sleep-in time in the mornings! Plus, I was an introvert on a bus full of people for three days. I was drained from all the interaction. I guess six weeks of being on the move left me feeling rather half empty – maybe even completely empty.

Phamish cafe

Ms. HalfEmpty enjoying cappuccino at Phamish café

We enjoyed Phamish café so much that we went back there for breakfast the next morning. I had a cappuccino and internet time…I was back baby! Plus, we were staying at The Coffee Palace for two nights, so I wasn’t lugging my bag around this time, and knew where I would be sleeping that night.

Mr. HalfFull loves sports; I become a football widow during the NFL season. We actually got married on a bye weekend for his football team! He also loves college basketball, and once again goes missing during March Madness. So he was super excited to have the opportunity to witness Aussie rules football in person.

It was game day, so we walked to the train station and were surprised that there were no ticket kiosks. A person on the platform informed us that you could buy tickets on the train. This seemed strange to us, but obviously we knew nothing about public transportation in Melbourne. So we boarded the train and found the ticket machine. We soon learned that the ticket machine only takes coins. What does an ATM not give you? Coins!

So we had no coins and couldn’t buy tickets; I felt like a fugitive. Hopefully, they would let us play the dumb American card. We really did have the best of intentions!

Melbourne Cricket Ground

Mr. HalfFull looking for tickets outside the Melbourne Cricket Ground

Finally, we arrived downtown at the enormous stadium that seats over 100,000 people. We were about to engage in some more illegal activity. We didn’t have tickets and were scouring the crowd outside the stadium looking for scalpers. We knew the game was a huge local rivalry between Carlton and Collingwood and thus, was sold out.

We didn’t find the shady people Mr. HalfFull was seeking, so we headed to the club ticket counter. The woman informed us that indeed the game was sold out, but she told us to look for scalpers and warned us not to pay more than face value. An employee advised us to seek out scalpers! Is scalping not illegal in Melbourne?

We walked all the way around the stadium with no luck. Mr. HalfFull didn’t seem so half full and resigned himself to the fact that we weren’t getting into the game. Then he spotted a guy with long hair, facial hair, tattoos, and rings on every finger. He looked like the type of guy you didn’t want to fight. Mr. HalfFull thought he might be a scalper. We hung around to listen to his conversation and learned that he too was looking for tickets.

Stadium Family

Ms. HalfEmpty in the MCG stadium with the side of the family who supports the Carlton Blues

Our chances seemed pretty much exhausted when I overheard the conversation of a family nearby. They were talking about how it was too bad that “those two” couldn’t come. What? Two tickets?

So I butted into their circle and asked if they had two extra tickets. They did, but they were tickets for children. Bummer!

Stadium Family

Mr. HalfFull with the other brother who's a fan of the Collingwood Magpies

We started walking away when they said, “But we aren’t going to use them, so you’re welcome to try. Just walk in with us and be our kids for the day! There’s no harm in trying.” I didn’t know what the penalty was for using the wrong age-group ticket, but we had already ridden the train illegally, so what the heck! Weren’t the Australians descendants of criminals anyway? (Kids, this is why they tell you not to smoke because it’s just a gateway to more and more.)

The tickets worked and we all got in! The introvert had accosted strangers in a foreign country to fulfill Mr. HalfFull’s dream. It was amazing.

Inside MCG

Watching Aussie football inside MCG stadium

The stadium was huge and circular, unlike our oblong stadiums. It was impressive to watch these super fit athletes play with no padding. There was a lot of leg to tantalize the ladies. Plus, there were no big bellies like in the NFL. Even the referees were super fit.

The family we sat with explained the rules to us; they were so much fun. We tried to pay them for the tickets and buy them beers, but they didn’t want anything. They even emailed us a few days later to ask if we wanted to grab “a pot.” After looking that up online, I learned that it’s beer, not tea.

Meat Pie

Sampling meat pie at the stadium

We knew that meat pies are an Aussie football stadium staple. Even after our disappointment with pies in Sydney, we tried the stadium fare. It was okay. I guess they can’t make them like the flaky pastries in New Zealand because it needs to be self-contained and more spill-proof for the stadium.

Red Stitch Theater

Ms. HalfEmpty at Red Stitch Theater

That evening we had tickets to see a play called My Romantic History at Red Stitch theater. It was a super cute playhouse. Much of the play took place in the bathroom and the set consisted of three bathroom stalls. That brought our live theater count to six on the 30/40 World Tour.

Mr. HalfFull got his football and I got my theater. It was a good day all around, especially considering the tears the night before.

  • Do you make reservations before you arrive or wing it?
  • How do you handle the unknown? Are you able to relax and let things unfold?
  • Did you have a breaking point while traveling? What helped you get over it?
  • Have you broken the rules while traveling?
  • If you are not normally a sports fan, do you still think it would be interesting to witness in a foreign country?
  • Have you been surprised by the kindness of strangers?

Related:  All posts in the 30/40 World Tour series

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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Cultural Immersion Training!

Mr. HalfFull is back in grad school getting his second Master’s degree.  Since he is a student again, we are eligible for great student pricing on flights from STA Travel.  Perusing the brochures, it’s obvious their packages are geared toward the younger party crowd.  Not wanting to be caught unprepared, we decided cultural immersion training was in order.

Old School Movie Poster

I don't recall seeing this cultural documentary at Sundance

As luck would have it, one of my little brother’s best friends from high school is an officer in a fraternity at Mr. HalfFull’s university.  This young man has persistently invited my 40-year-old husband to pledge all year.  Obviously he’s seen Old School too many times, and wanted a Blue of his own.  Serendipitously, we were invited to the fraternity’s last party of the school year, at a time when we needed cultural immersion.  Things were falling into place!

Whilst dressing for this workout-themed soirée, I saw Mr. HalfFull donning his beloved Super Chargers headband, and began to have serious reservations.  But like usual, I allowed Mr. HalfFull’s enthusiasm and convoluted logic regarding the cultural value of this event to overcome me (much like our wedding, but that’s a story for another day).  Somehow, I don’t recall this part of the heroine’s journey.

Shockingly, after 20 years on the party circuit, this was Mr. HalfFull’s first official frat party ever.  Somehow he’d never set foot in a fraternity house and was overly excited to finally experience these foreign people with their strange customs and rituals.

At my alma mater, all the fraternities were grouped together along the same street on campus.  But this frat house was in a suburban single family neighborhood.  Those poor neighbors!

We walked up the cul-de-sac and couldn’t help but notice the house directly across the street from the fraternity.  We found ourselves staring into the eyes of the Virgin Mary (well, a statue of her) in the front yard illuminated by multi-color spotlights.  Naturally, this statue was pointed directly at the frat house.  Mr. HalfFull was excited to experience so much culture before even setting foot in the fraternity!

Six Person Beer Bong

Some sort of ancient fraternal team building exercise

Upon arrival, my brother’s friend introduced us to royalty — the fraternity president — who had a receiving line in kitchen en route to the thumping basement.  Our first cultural activity in the house was a six person beer bong.  I quickly realized Mr. HalfFull would not be the only one experiencing a first that night!  I found myself flanked by three tall African-American gentlemen, at least one of whom Mr. HalfFull thought he recognized from March Madness.  The chugging experience was not particularly to my liking; perhaps further investigation will be necessary in New Zealand or Australia.

Like any good frat house, this one had a game room complete with unfinished basement walls, a shelf full of empty beer and liquor bottles, and two long tables for flip cup and beer pong.  Upon entering this sacred chamber, Mr. HalfFull remarked, “I like what you’ve done with the place.”  I laughed, but the kids seemed confused.  To further class up the establishment, the brothers installed a stripper pole on the dance floor.  Guess which one of us nearly tore his bicep spinning around it with reckless abandon?

The sticky, humid, beer-soaked dance floor displayed a wild assortment of movement patterns.  Alcohol seemed to increase kinesthetic gyrations while decreasing balance, which may account for the women leaning heavily upon their dance partners.  I think the proper dance term is grinding; we witnessed this practice with guy/girl, girl/girl, and even a fair lady sandwiched between two gentlemen (perhaps she had less balance than the others — how noble of them to protect a damsel in distress!).  Mr. HalfFull just kept muttering, “That’s someone’s daughter!”

At one point, Mr. HalfFull left to refresh our libations, while I chatted with my little brother.  Emotionally scarred by his reserved sister intruding on his stomping grounds, he disappeared; so I went in search of Mr. HalfFull.  As I walked across the laser-lit dance floor, a brother asked me to dance.  I’m most familiar with the social dance etiquette of swing dancing where you rarely refuse a first dance with any guy.  You might not find him appealing, but it’s a friendly culture, and a dance is not so difficult to endure for a few minutes.  Plus, he could even turn out to be a good dancer.

Thus, I don’t really have much practice declining offers to dance.  But after witnessing the proximate dance technique around me, I knew I couldn’t say yes!  So I defensively pointed to my wedding ring and blurted, “I’m married.”  The look on this kid’s face was priceless.  Scared and confused, his eyes were screaming, “Who let the old people in?”  I was thinking, “Where’s my boy Blue?”

Up until this point, Mr. HalfFull was in favor of leaving our wedding rings at home this summer to reduce risk of loss.  However, this cultural immersion seems to have changed his mind about the utility of rings.  Lesson learned:  wedding rings are frat boy kryptonite!

Mr. HalfFull believes that nothing good can come from men dancing over the age of 25, with the exception of your wedding night.  But in the heat of all this cultural excitement, I found him grooving to Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream.  Not wanting to be left out of the fun, I joined him and practiced our newly acquired dance techniques.  Together, we belted, “You and I / We’ll be young forever.”  I guess anyone can feel young at a frat party!

IHOP at Night

International House of Pancakes is hallowed ground

Looking back, I learned that attitude can make all the difference when approaching novel situations.  Perhaps I need to keep this in mind as we travel the world.  But I’m still Ms. HalfEmpty, because someone has to contain Mr. HalfFull!  (After all, Blue dies in a pool of K-Y.)

To top off our night with the full cultural experience, Mr. HalfFull and I headed to IHOP.  It is international, after all.  We needed to debrief, and perhaps Harvest Grain ‘N Nut pancakes would further prepare us for the culinary adventures that lie ahead.  (Anthony Bourdain would not approve.)  We noticed that the hostess segregated patrons into three sections of the house.  For some strange reason, we were seated in what appeared to be the trouble maker section with all the boisterous kids.  Perhaps it was the headband.

Are we now prepared to party during our 30/40 World Tour?  I don’t know, but at least we got some practice under our belts.  Thankfully, the universe thinks I’m ready, and sent me next-day confirmation via fortune cookie:

Fortune Cookie

Half full fortune for Ms. HalfEmpty

The night life is for you.

  • How old is too old to attend a frat party?
  • Have you ever partaken in a beer bong ritual?
  • Would you travel around the world with your wedding ring?
  • Can anything good come from men dancing over age 25?
  • Which part of IHOP is international?
  • Do you believe in fortune cookies?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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