Please note: The days blur together, so everything I am writing about does not necessarily happen in chronological order.
There are five people who have worked at the front desk of my hotel since I arrived: a brunette female Australian, a blonde female Australian, a male Australian, a female Thai, and a male Indian. The lady from Thailand is the only one I know the name of, Pao. Each of these people know me very well. This is because I must have asked each one a dozen questions since arrival.
The first question was directed to both Australian women. "How do I use the elevator?" First off, it's called a lift here, like in Europe. In order to work it you must slide your room key through a slot before pressing any buttons. My room's electricity works in a similar way. You must insert the key into a slot by the door to turn on all electricity for the room. You must also individually flip on and off outlets. With this system, all electricity for my room is turned off whenever I am not presently in my room.
After a period of time inside on my first day here, I grew sleepy. My goal was to stay awake until 9:00pm. To the Australian man at the front desk, I asked for information about interesting places within walking distance to keep me preoccupied and awake all day. He got out a map and gave me directions to Luna Park, the beach, and Acland Street.
Luna Park is a one hundred year old amusement park in St. Kilda. The face of it smiles, menacingly inviting you to enter within it's clown-like mouth. A slight fear of clowns might make me a bit biased on the scariness of the park, admittedly. The artwork of the park consists mainly of mosaics and collages giving a warped and colorful atmosphere.
Behind Luna Park stretches the ocean. At this time of year the water is too cold to swim in, but the sand is warm and welcoming. Dogs run next to their owners, kids race on scooters along curved and raised paths, and people lay, spread out in the sun. In some parts of the beach, rocks and boulders crowd into protected habitats for penguins, Eudyptula minor. These penguins are quite small, amout the size of a stuffed animal. There are rat like creatures as well, but the penguins distracted me from any interest in rats. The first time I wandered near the rocks it was mid-afternoon, and I was not aware of the penguins until I saw signs explaining why flash photography was not allowed. There were none out that afternoon, but I decided to come by again in the evening, as the sign suggested they would be out at that time.
St. Kilda is warm during the day, but chillier than expected at night. I arrived at 7:30pm and shivered in the setting sun with dozens of other hopefuls from around the world. Respresentatives of Earthcare, a group charged with the protection of the penguins, walked around the edges, reminding people of rules and answering questions. Near 9:00pm, the first penguin was spotted. It was high on the rocks, and had seemingly appeared from nowhere. All around, it's companions followed. As soon as you would concentrate on one bird, another would call attention to itself where none had been standing just a moment before. The no flash photography rule was understandable, but frustrating. Neither my ipad nor my camera have night vision. I prayed that someone elses flash would mistakenly go off so I could sneak in a lit picture simultaneously. No such luck.
^The blurry dark picture is a penguin!^
Nearby Luna Park and the beach is Acland street. This is just one street that lasts for several blocks. There are two grocery stores, three mobile phone stores, approximately six banks, and countless shopping and eating facilities. This is backpacker central. Each restaurant seems tageted to specific nationalities. Due to the fact that my hotel only has one small fridge, I have had to eat out a lot! My favorite places so far are Grill'd, a healthy American food restaurant, Zombie Burger, an apocalypse themed American restaurant, and Veggied Out, a small vegetable curry counter.
With the help of the brunette Austalian lady at the hotel, I was able to easily find all phone stores and banks along Acland Street. I went to each facility and spent the majority of a day comparing what closest met my needs. The phone store I settled on was filled with people like me, traveling from other countries and trying to orient themselves within Australia. It took a few hours of waiting, but I was able to buy the cheapest phone possible, capible of texts and calls, nothing else. It was only slightly below quality of the first cell phone I ever owned. I chose a monthly prepay sevice with an excess of minutes for the first month. After getiting my phone and stopping quickly for some Chocolate Mint Gelato, I set up an Australian bank account and headed back to the hotel.
^Please only call my Australian Number for emergencies. I am still primarily communicating through the internet and plan to the entire time in Australia.^
With the assistance of the Indian and Australian men at the hotel, I was able to figure out how to navigate the town quite well. Pao, the Thai lady, spent nearly an hour printing out directions to places I needed to go and explaining the public transportation systems of Melbourne thoroughly. These were only a handful of questions I have asked, and every single question they have taken more time and effort to explain than I would ever expect.