Spin the Globe with Justin Butner

A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.

Catwalks and Quesadillas

One by one the models walked the length of the catwalk, pausing, striding, showing off the new fashions. For a student final project show, the caliber of designs was remarkably high. Overall the students at TAFE seemed to have put a lot of work in to make sure that the pieces going out on display were ready for the task. And after an hour of posing, the lights came up and my friend came out from backstage.

From the show, a few people I had met already and I linked up with a collection of models* and other students to head out to lunch at a Mexican restaurant. Much to my surprise, the caliber of Mexican food was decent, rivaling Chipotle on taste (slight edge Chipotle) and not remotely on price (about twice the cost here). Also surprising was the realization of just how much Spanish has become a part of the culture back in the states, at least when it comes to food. One patron opted to go for the polo, which confused me until he pointed to the chicken.

My inexperience with looking at American English as an outsider was highlighted again as Luke asked me to teach him some American. Cathy and Evie had previously requested the same. And I realized that while I can point to a few clichéd phrases representing other countries, I didn’t know where to look within the states. And so Luke parroted “I’ll use my credit card.” And much to his credit, on his own added “Oh never mind, my daddy’s going to pay for it” in a perfect California accent.

And over burritos and quesadillas we all discussed many of the same questions that I’ve been answering daily. I may take Cathy and Evie’s suggestion to get a shirt to point to. “I’m Justin. I’m from Washington DC. I’m here for a year. I want to see much of the country.” I don’t yet mind the same questions because I try to really think about the answers and analyze if they are still true each time. And I try to have some fun with it as well. As far as Ashley – the formerly South African now gymnastics coach, model, and designer of accoutrements – knows, I’m here because I killed my landlord and got on the first plane out of the country.

And I asked the same questions in response. Are you native? Sydney? Do you like it here? What do I need to do while I’m here? What do you do? Do you like it? If you could travel, where would you go?

Over time I think I’ll work on new responses to the standard questions. Or at least practice coming up with the best elevator speech possible. And I will develop new questions to ask in response. I suppose the questions I’m asking don’t matter as much as the genuine interest behind them. And that I can generally guarantee. The people I’ve been meeting are all interesting and the backstories everyone has represent a broad spectrum.

From the restaurant we took an excursion to a shoe shop (with waist-high tranny boots in the window), a pub where we shared a purple slushee, stories, accents, and discomforting thoughts (heights, chewing on fabric, a friend’s father on a nude beach, and long voice mail greetings each cover one of the pub crowd), the Queen Victoria Building to see awesome clocks, a spiral staircase to nowhere, and a giant Christmas tree, and then back to goodbyes at TAFE just before the next show.

And as I walked away with invitations to a fire-spinning night and to rock climbing and abseiling (repelling) at a local camp with new stories and a full belly, I breathed in the city air. It was cool and stale and glorious.

* One of the models could pass as my sister’s sister. It was strangely comforting to be hanging out in a group that included a girl who looked like Renee. There was a slight sense of comfort to have my sister with me again, sort of.

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This entry was posted on November 25, 2011 by in Australia, NSW (Sydney).

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