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February 28, 2014

My Adelaide with Karen Vered

Despite a distance of almost 20km separating her home in a converted North Adelaide dance studio and her work as Associate Professor at Flinders University Screen and Media Department, Karen Vered sees her Adelaide as an "elegant" place best experienced on two wheels.

  • Pictures: Josie Withers

“When you’ve been away and you fly back into Australia, the first thing you notice is the colour of the sky. There’s no sky like that anywhere else in the world.

“Adelaide is really elegant. It’s not a word you use to describe cities but I’ve travelled an awful lot, I’ve lived in a lot of places and when you come back – you notice the colour of the sky and then you get to Adelaide and it’s a 20 minute drive from the airport. You go past the Parklands, it’s so elegant. It’s just beautiful.

“I was a news videographer in San Diego and in Tuscon, Arizona. That was right out of uni and it was really, really hard and really, really sexist. It was a man’s world.

“But a woman out in the field can get into places that a man can’t. I used to be able to get across police lines. Police officers and firefighters were much more willing to let me in, and it was because of the way I spoke to them, it was because I asked.

“In the end it was very sexist and it was really hard to be a pioneer. I was exhausted and wasn’t getting the hours I wanted, so I packed it in and went overseas and travelled and did the thing that young people do. Then came back to the States and waitressed and went to art galleries and travelled more, eventually went back and studied some more and got my PhD in cinema and television.

“I came to Adelaide not intending to stay. I had finished my PhD… and this job came up at Flinders Uni and, you know, it practically had my name on it. I applied for the job, I had the interview – which was a video conference interview – and the next day they called me and offered me the job. I just though ‘oh no, what do I do?’

“At the time, in 1999, when you read the tourism books there was maybe just two pages on South Australia. I just thought – I’ll go, how bad can it be?”

“At the time, in 1998, when you read the tourism books there might be two pages on South Australia. I just thought ‘I’ll go, how bad can it be? If I don’t like it, I’ll leave’. But that’s really silly, because when you move across the world it costs you a lot and it’s not financial cost. It’s a different cost in terms of the severing and the uprooting, so you invest in making a life here emotionally.

“I love my job, I love my students. And that’s another lovely thing about Adelaide – my former students are working and I still get to see them around town and they have great jobs and they invite me to drinks and things. That wouldn’t happen in a bigger place.

“I’m from California, near San Francisco… I grew up in a place where there were no buses, I grew up on the edge of the rural – where the houses ended and the ranches started. We just rode bikes. That’s how you got some place as a kid.

“What I’d like to see in Adelaide is fewer cars, more one-way streets and bike lanes. Adelaide is set up for one-way streets – it’s already a grid. And what we need to have is safer cycling routes. I can’t get from North Adelaide to Flinders on a bike safely. It’s about 17km and I did it for about 6 months, but then I just stopped because it was too scary. There is no dedicated bike lane all the way down. The safest route to take has inconsistent provisions. Now I ride the bike for fun and for exercise.

“You can’t ride the bike all year round, so my exercise program would sort of dwindle in January and February – it’s just too hot. I took up swimming to fill the gaps. I train with the Masters at the Aquatic Centre – a great facility, and it’s so close to me.

“One of the great benefits of living in the city is I can walk to anything I need right here. When I bought this place, I thought that I could live here for the rest of my life – I could be a very old lady here. Everything is right within reach.”

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