Rock on, Sydney!
I had just gotten off the bus and it was around 7:00PM, and as usual, night had already fallen. I had to meet Martin in a few minutes for drinks with him and his friends but was finding myself getting constantly distracted by the ever so interesting goings-on of the city, which seem to increase ten-fold as the sun goes down.
The lady to my left (who was on the bus with me not two minutes prior) bent over and picked up a bag which was laying up against the bus stop wall (at least, I’m pretty sure she did). She folded back the paper and chomped down on the huge sandwich within. I zoomed past a guy playing the Brady Bunch theme song with a spoon on a series of beer bottles hanging from a stand with string. Pure genius. I gave him 50 cents. The cacophony of languages spoken by seemingly every imaginable race blended together to create a vibrant and gyrating hum which was complimented by the neon signs on every street corner and hanging from the overhang of every store.
A man preached about the lord in the middle of the sidewalk and a woman handed me a flier for a gym membership.
And it was cold. Sydney gets bloody cold in the evening and we aren’t even into full on winter yet. With red cheeks, I looked for the pub. The meeting point was an old Irish pub just past the monorail station (a legacy from the Olympic games held in Sydney). Bingo.
And thus, the night was spent catching up with Martin, meeting his girlfriend and friends and listening to some girl tell me about her dreams (something along the lines of her being a man and going on a murder spree…”I’m sorry, why are you talking to me again?”). It was great. To avoid missing the last bus, I had to leave around midnight and eventually found my way home. Sydney’s public transport system is awesome and I have been taking full advantage of the unlimited travel pass card for $32 AUD which entitles you to (unlimited, duh) travel on all buses, trains, and ferries in the “Red Zone”. I’m not sure to where, exactly, the red zone extends, but seeing as I haven’t stepped out of it yet, it seems fairly extensive.
And so…yeah. I’ve been wandering around the city for the past week, taking in all it has to offer while spending very, very little. I’m staying with friends so I’m saving about $25 bucks a night and with that, people watching is usually free (unless it’s in a strip joint, mind you).
A highlight of my stay was going out with Lucy, Lou, Angie and Skelly (my friend Michelle’s friends from her year studying here and with whom I had gone out plenty when I came to visit Michelle a few years ago). We all ended up getting pretty well spirited and I woke up the next day in Lucy’s living room to her room mate towering over me asking if it was my alarm that had been going off for 20 minutes (my earplugs, combined with a rough night prior, seem to make me not hear my alarm). She had to go all the way downstairs to turn it off. Without much ado, I stumbled down to the Olympic Torch Passing, starting at the Sydney Opera House and spent the rest of the day wandering around the harbor.
I also got to see a huge boulder lowered onto a car in front of the Opera House in the name of “art”. Cool, huh? I took plenty of pictures.
The food festival was cool too. My new “roommates” and I checked it out and spent the night at Manly Beach drinking and checking out live bands (one of which was probably one of the most embarrassingly horrible bands ever to play on stage).
And yesterday, I got back from a three day stint in the “Blue Mountains”, which is a national park about 100k from Sydney. Beautiful canyons and cliffs nestled in dry rainforests make it a pretty enjoyable place to spend a few days hiking around and relaxing – not to mention an excellent opportunity to break in my new boots. Oh yeah, did I tell you about that? I finally got my new ones shipped to me. I had destroyed my first pair after hiking all around New Zealand for a month and a half and after taking them back, they shipped me a brand-spanking-new pair to Lucy’s place in Sydney. So now no one believes that I hiked in New Zealand, given the impeccable condition of my boots, (“430 kilometers…riiiiighhhht”).
I met some pretty interesting people while there including a girl I had met in New Zealand about 2 months ago. While I walked down the street, I passed a girl who quickly stopped and yelled, “HEY! You were on the Rees-Dart track in NZ!”. Yup, I was. We subsequently had an awkward 5 minute chat about nothing, seeing as we didn’t really know each other and had nothing to talk about. It’s a small world, eh? I also met a girl on the track with whom I ended up walking back to the bus station to catch the last bus of the evening. She explained to me how she had quit smoking a two weeks prior and was surprised at how easy it was after the first week.
“I think that after the first week, your body gets over the physical dependence and it’s just getting used to the psychological aspect of quitting”, she declared.
“I don’t know”, I replied. “My mom quit over 10 years ago and says she still gets an occasional craving if she gets a whiff of smoke in a restaurant. It’s a constant battle you have to deal with your whole life, but it’s a decision you make, you know?”.
So let’s fast forward about an hour to the pub. She had invited me out for a drink, and I’m not one to turn down the chance for a free beer.
In the middle some random chatting, she pulls out a cigarette and lights it up.
“Oh, this is the one I’m allowed a day. I cut it a little shorter, so it’s my mini-cigarette”, she explained.
I was impressed. Not many people alive (or dead) can pull off the process of quitting smoking while continuing to smoke cigarettes. What this girl was pulling off was a revolutionary confounding of modern day western logic. I smiled to myself when she pulled out her second “daily cigarette” not 20 minutes later. This girl should write a book!
So now I’m back in Sydney. I greeted my return to my friends house with a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, all the rage since one opened up in downtown Sydney. The line was only 20 minutes and I figured it was as good a way as any to make the housemates forget that I was living on their couch.
It worked. And with only three days to go before my departure to China, I’m more excited than ever. I’m really going to miss Australia and really like it a lot. I can remember some guy telling me back home that he thought it was basically a “boring US”, which was totally wrong in my opinion. Indeed, as American and advanced western culture in general spreads, big cities and western countries are starting to converge in mannerisms and appearance, but when you look past that, the differences really do open up and become clearer. Not to mention the fact that you have some of the most incredible and diverse scenery in the world at your disposal when you devote enough time to see the country thoroughly (which I didn’t). I hope I get to come back here and do another trip around the east or west coast sometime in my life. It would only be fair to see it right, and with perhaps a bit more cash to splash.