If there’s one memory in my life I’ll never forget, it’s trapping a cat-sized blackbird in a plastic storage bin. When someone says they’ve been to Australia, you wouldn’t expect them to talk so intently about the birds. “How were the people?” someone might ask, not “what were the birds like?” Even my strangest of friends never pondered the idea that Australia has the most outlandish collection of winged animals.
It was my first day down under that I realized I was thoroughly under prepared. My study abroad clan gathered for lunch on the Harbor Lawn overlooking the Sydney Opera house. A quaint picnic seemed harmless and relaxing, or so we’d thought. When we were approached by a bird with the face of a dinosaur, you’d of thought someone was getting stabbed. These fearless birds are casually known as the “bin chicken”, “trash vulture”, and my personal favorite, the “winged waste lizard”. Formally they go by the Australian White Ibis, but you’d never hear a local utter those words. After our first encounter, I began to warm up to the idea of being near them.
With the bin chicken and myself on okay terms, I thought I’d spend the rest of my holiday subconsciously ignoring all flying creatures. It couldn’t have been more than a few days before my expectations were once again shook. As a splurge of the trip, my friends and I decided to grab lunch at a restaurant along the Darlinghurst harbor. The gorgeous view and aroma of the kitchen gave us no choice but to fork over far too much money. While we were sitting under an umbrella and chatting about our classes at the University of Sydney, we each slowing began directing our attention overhead.
Now seagulls aren’t anything new to me, nor were they to any of my mates, but these seagulls seemed like they’d just snorted a line of coke while also experiencing a severe case of the munchies. They were promptly attacking tables that had been left unattended, as well as tables that were still attended. I shit you not, I leaned back in my seat and suddenly had a side helping of seagull. Absolutely no fear resided in their eyes. They knew I was an easy target. As they dived down from the umbrellas, you’d have thought they’d been fasting for months.
One weekend, a couple friends and I decided to attend a surf camp. Here we stayed in bunk beds, learned how to surf, and met the most amazing people. More importantly I was taught that “fuck marry kill” is instead called “shoot shag marry”. None of these things really pertain to my next point, but I just felt like you needed to know.
Our surf instructors, and take this with a grain of salt, were kind of like camp counselors. They taught us how to surf by comparing standing up on a surf board with kicking your ex-boyfriend in the head. They also begged our massive group of college-aged kids to not have sex in the “pristine toilets”. Camp was definitely good-weird, and far more fun than expected. Aside from the actual surfing, my most vivid memory is from, you guessed it, a bird. Trapping them was something that apparently happened a lot.
Below you’ll see a video of two surf instructors gloating over capturing a massive blackbird.
(video available in desktop view)
Talk about a culture shock!