With another Thanksgiving eaten and crossed off the calendar, I find myself once again torn. Torn between the new country I am exploring and a slight guilty homesickness of leaving my family to handle the stuffing on there own once again. Last year, I was cautiously sipping Octopus Soup in my tiny flat in Germany with a chinese and french girl. This year found me soaking up the Australian sun on Manly beach.
Another trip abroad, a brand new continent, a brand new culture and of course the COAST!!! So if you didnt know I am just passing through the continent down under. I arrived in Sydney the 22 Nov after my 14 hour flight over the Pacific. On the brink of Spring, Sydney is in full bloom, green everywhere, beautiful purple trees and of course palms.
Shaking the jet lag, Marco (my crazy German friend who has studying here in Sydney since Feb) and the rest of his German friends took me out that very first night to an gorgeous bar. The Opera Bar is located directly next to the Opera House, with a terrace overlooking the harbor to the Harbor Bridge.
While Marco has been busy studying for his last exam, that has left me to explore the city one on one. Just me and Sydney. I have taken a bus tour hitting all of the hotspots of the Harbor Bridge, the Rocks, the Opera House, the main shopping lane of St. George's street, the Queen Victora Building (QVB, huge shopping mall) Hyde Park, the Sydney port for the Australian Navy, Kings Cross and the Red Light District, Darling Harbor, Bondi Beach and Manly Beach. Marco has not been the only one that is busy.
So after traveling 8,000 miles, what have I learned in my short six days. Its no secret that the English first came to Australia by bringing ships of convicts to 'imprision' on this large island. However, I truly believe the English lost on this idea, choosing to stay on the rainy island. The English influence on Sydney is hard to miss, many places are named after places in England for example Oxford Street, Liverpool Street, Hyde Park and Kings Cross. This commonwealth state is still truly connected to its mother land.
A few more things I found interesting during my tour of the city was a particular statue of Queen Victoria. It sits near the QVB, the City Hall on Georges Street in the middle of the city. This depictation of Queen Victoria originated in Ireland where it stood at Blarney Castle of many years only to be taken down and buried unknown for 35 years in a small Irish village. The Australian found it and asked the Irish if they would donate it to the City of Sydney.
I also spent a lot of time in the Australian National Maritime Museum, dedicated the Australians' respect for shipping, sailing, and love of the sea. Here is home of the boat which was sailed by Kay Cootee, the first person to solo circumvent the globe. She spent 189 days alone at sea. Another interesting story which came from the museum was of a German who kayaked from Ülm, Germany to the northern shore of Australia. The seven year kayaker sailed along the coasts stopping in small villages along the way. This museum was a reminder of Australia's necessity for the ocean and is best summed up in a quote from the museum exhibit called 'Watermarks'. Like a watermark into paper, water seeps into our memory and culture, our sense of place and identity. Watermarks is a celebration of Australians' love affair with water: as swimmers, surfers, rowers, sailors and voyagers across oceans and dreams. It celebrates the diversity of Australian people and places, in pools, rivers, harbors, beaches, reefs and oceans. Australians have made their marek in the world of watersports, and we elevate these champions to national heros. Many Australian traditions have evoloved through aquatic clubs, carnivals, regattas and celebrations. All are the stuff of legens in our collective memory.
This somewhat wet impression of Sydney can also translate into a wild side too. Yes, literally WILD and no not just of the crazy night life. Australia is home to some of the most exotic, unique and some times deadly animals, marine life, birds and insects in the world. And the city is not spared. I have experienced the 3 inch long flying, black, big, digusting, creepy cockroach to come flying into the room, as well as watching tv with a rather large bird and then the beautiful and colorful parrot looking birds, Marco's roommate fed honey to. While I have not yet seen a Kangeroo, I am sure its only a matter of time.
In the hours before dawn tomorrow, Marco and I will leave Sydney to rest for two weeks and head north to meet my French friend Adrien in Cairns, the Great Barrier, Fraser Island, Whitsunday then to Brisbane and everything inbetween. Leaving Adrien in Brisbane, we then head south with a few hour stop in Sydney then off to Melbourne.
Sydney has a familarity to it. Maybe its the brillant mix of British and American life that draws me to feel quite comfortable here. But this feeling also begs for the question of what really is Australian identity? What is it to be an Australian? What sets them apart from Americans or from the British? I have three more weeks to find out and I will let you....so stay tuned.