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Reports

Wednesday, 10 July 2002
Nedlands --> Peppermint Grove, Perth, Australia

Today I had to appear in the radio studio of 6PR, one of the many AM-station that cover this region. The host insisted on having a chat with me. Therefore my hostess Donelle Toussaint offered to drive me to the Perth centre and also see how radio is made in the studio.
In the car that same radio station announced the worst storm of the year to hit Perth today, so I was expecting quite something. Outside it was rainy and very windy. I have never actually experienced a storm that is announced like that on the radio.

The talk show host Paul Murray, former editor for The Australian newspaper, was to a certain extent very intrigued by the powers of the Internet and my simple pursuit to travel and meet people. He even sent out my request for a lift towards the east on air.

When Donelle had driven me back to their home – now was that storm waiting for something; I noticed no difference with what I saw before- It was already time for me to pack my bags and get going to my next address.

I wasn't going that far again today, only to the next-door suburb Peppermint Grove, well known for its expensive mansions along the Swan River. Donelle dropped me off at the front door of my next hosting family and I thanked her for the inspiring time I had spent with her family.

It was Emma who opened the door for me and gave me a tour through her family house. I met up with her brother Nicolas and met her mother. When a bit later the father Rob appeared as he has an in-house computer consultant office (if I remember well) the entire family was complete. I soon noticed that they were all very friendly and open-minded and pretty soon I discovered that they were pulling me a leg first before I could crank a joke myself. Emma's mother Rhonda was funny and I enjoyed it when Emma told me that her mother is a quite a flirt to everybody, haha.

Emma was the lady who had invited me to stay for a day after reading about me on page two of the West Australian newspaper, just a few weeks ago. It announced my upcoming arrival in Perth and Emma immediately loved the idea of the use of the Internet to meet up with people and learn about and other cultures.

With her 19 years she is probably one the youngest hostess that has ever invited me.

"Let's go," she said, "let me show you the neighbourhood." That was great! However I was still expecting that worst-storm-of-the-year to hit Perth, we took of to explore Peppermint Grove (there are indeed some multi-million mansions here) and the coastline of Cottesloe. However the beach was closed because of the bad weather and the high surf, this crazy Dutchman had to touch the Indian Ocean again. The last time I did that was when I was travelling through South Africa.

Emma drove me around and showed me the interesting spots, the great views and "that's where we jump of the rocks in summer ". "But that is high," I said, recognizing that only a fool like me would jump off those cliffs.
"Yeah, and it is fun!"

I also had to see the southern town Fremantle (or as the Australians prefer to shorten everything: Freo). Emma told me some of the local history. Fremantle was named after Captain Fremantle who took possession of the Western Australian coast, then called New Holland (Ah! Dutch!), for Britain in 1829. The early British convicts stayed in Fremantle and the generals, officers and guards lived a bit more high-classed in Cottesloe and Peppermint Grove.

Later in time Fremantle ended up in becoming a big dump where you wouldn't go.

The 1987 America's Cup, a big yacht race, starting off in Fremantle made the city council insert millions of dollars to patch up Fremantle and to occupy the thousands of British and American visitors. Today's Fremantle centre is a vibrant mix of restored heritage buildings, contemporary architecture and public art, with Victoria Street's "Cappuccino Strip".

I much as I like Perth, that much I enjoyed the historical display of Fremantle.

At the Little Creatures brewery in Fremantle Emma treated me to a beer and we enjoyed the view on the windy fishing harbour outside. On the Cappuccino Strip we got ice cream for tonight's desert.

During the entire tour I had some good conversations with Emma, who is a science (wow) student at the Western Australian University in Perth. She told me about the nightlife in Perth and even recommended to take me out tonight!

"Do you think my family is strange?" she asked me.
"I think you are all a quite fun bunch of people," I answered.
"Yeah, we are all quite weird," she said.
Maybe that’s why I felt good in their company.


I was a bit disappointed by the exaggerated announcement of that big storm. I had experienced it and I had not really noticed anything spectacular. I learned that the people in Perth call anything that is rainy and windy a 'big storm'. Now stand on the beach in The Netherlands when it's windy and I will let you experience wind, haha!

Traditionally made pasta dough was hanging to dry in the kitchen when we got back and Nicolas helped me to connect to the Internet.

Nicolas and Emma had been following my tracks since they found out about me. Emma loved my reports about Magnetic Island and Nicolas had started reading my reps from my early start, fourteen months ago! Nicolas was very amazed by all my travels.

With all five of us around the dining table I enjoyed delicious hand-made pasta for dinner and loved the ice cream for dinner. After dinner Emma started calling around to her friends and announced that she was going to take me out in town tonight. Together with changing clothes, "doing the hair" and other women-stuff (haha) it took another hour to get fully ready to go out in Perth and I was looking forward to it, especially when you imagine that I haven't to a pub in a long while.

When the darkness had set in over Western Australia, Emma's mother picked up Emma's friends Kazz (short for Caroline) and Ant (short for Anthony) and drove us all to Steve's Hotel, a well-know establishment for uni-students. And as the winter holiday was at full strength, you can imagine that it was packed. Nicolas also showed up with some of his friends.

It was a place where it was to hot and noisy to stand inside and to wet (because of the rain) outside, so we basically found our spot somewhere there in the middle. I met up with different other friends of Emma and Nicolas and enjoyed the music.

For me there is a big difference with the Aussie way of a student's night out and the one I know from the Netherlands. I still have to get used to the fact that you are checked on ID in Australia (even when you are looking that old as me; I might cheat and really be 16) and to the fact that the pubs close here at midnight. For some real disco dancing you have to go to the clubs in the city.

But while overcoming those differences I enjoyed the atmosphere of this chock-a-block hang out for university students. This is where it all seems to happen on Wednesday nights. Nicolas told me to be here on a Thursday night and I'd be bored. There would be a totally different audience.

Emma introduced some of her uni friends with me and I noticed they weren't very surprised with my lifestyle. There was this very social vibe of 'hey cool, you travel, I study! Let's go dancing', an attitude I favour very much.


Around 12.30am we were all back at the house in Peppermint Grove, where we all hung around a bit more. Slowly everybody left as the night lingered.

I found a foldout couch bed well made up for me in the entertainment room. Nicolas had gone to bed and Emma and I got into deep conversations about life and futures and studies... and... and...

I was sitting on that king sizes couch bed and Emma was sitting on the pool table and we had those conversations that you can only have in the twilight zone of awakening and sleep (and perhaps add a few drinks). Talks that just seem to go on and on forever and which you don't want to end because that would ruin it all and then the sleep would just set in.

Emma told me how she wanted to broaden her science study in the future and how she is thinking about studying in Canada too, because of the different specialities that Canadian science studies seem to offer. Maybe I'll meet up with her again when I will be visiting Canada one day!

When we called it the night and went to sleep I had a wonderful sleep.

Those conversations we just shared had made Emma a good friend of mine - very fast!, someone I can share a certain (or uncertain) enthusiasm and creative thinking with. Maybe I should not enjoy those times too much, because I might miss them later again…

Good night Peppermint Grove!

Ramon.