Sydney Take 1
Locations: Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House, Botanic Gardens, Art Gallery of New South Wales, various parks and grocery stores
Discoveries: Vending machines, ice cream trucks, the future (this requires a brief explanation. I was walking out of the hostel and saw a girl sitting on the stairs with ear phones in talking to what looked like a piece of paper. I realized it was an iPad and she was using Skype. The thought baffled me that she could just carry this piece of technology around with her and talk to whoever it was that was probably halfway across the world), Woolworths (grocery store)
Difficulties: Remembering to greet and respond to others in English instead of Samoan, adapting to air conditioning (but really, there’s no such thing as a comfortable temperature, especially if more than one person is involved)
Food: Cheese, almonds, cheesecake, sandwiches, pasta, crackers, tea, meat pies, burritos (which weren’t as good as I was hoping they would be. Oh well, that means it will just be that much better when I get to Qdoba or Big City in a year!)
Other notes: I ended up on a photo adventure with two older men who happened to be photographing the Sydney Opera House at the same time I was – just after 6 in the morning. They were very knowledgeable tour guides, and they even bought me breakfast and invited me to dinner. To be continued...
Locations: Federation Square, free tourist shuttle, free city circle tram, Australian Center for the Moving Image, Art Gallery of Victoria (both the international and the Australian buildings), Queen Victoria Market, bookshops, hostel rooftop, Target Center
Discoveries: Free wi-fi, Target, local fruit and vegetable marketsj, ALDI’s (which I think is roughly the Australian equivalent of Costco, but the stores are much smaller – at least in the big cities where space is limited)
Difficulties: Laundry, cooling down. I hit summer in Melbourne (and Canberra) and temperatures reached up to 40 Celsius, or over 100 Farenheit
Food: Falafel, peaches, blackberries, strawberries, yogurt, granola, sangria, hummus
Other notes: New Year’s Eve – I went with one of the girls from my hostel room to watch the fireworks in Federation Square. Fireworks came from the city skyline, the stadium, and a couple other places. The big show was when one of the buildings that had been shooting off fireworks caught on fire. It was only a small fire, and we waited to watch it for about 20 minutes after fireworks ended. The first response was a news helicopter. Fire trucks followed closely thereafter, but the fire was at the top of a tower, so it wasn’t exactly reachable, and eventually it just burned itself out.
The two girls in my room who I hung out with a bit kept giving me crap about having both a backpack and a suitcase for only 2 ½ weeks in Australia, when they were both topping 3 months and had managed to pack in one backpack only. I would like to point out that their backpacks were at least twice as large as mine is and packed beyond bursting. And, I pointed this out several times, but it didn’t seem to have quite the rationalizing power for them as it did for me, I had to bring chocolate back for about half the people in my village. That’s not going to fit on top of all the stuff I brought with me to Australia inside a backpack that’s designed for short camping trips. Again, I would just like to point out that this was much more convincing to me than it was to them.
I did laundry in a machine for the first time in over a year. Everything came out of the dryer nice and toasty (not that I needed it at 36 Celsius by 9 in the morning), and super soft. It looked great until I got to the new sweatpants I had bought while in Sydney. I purchased them because they were long pants (Sydney was cold), but lightweight, so I could still potentially use them in Samoa. I held them up, and there was definitely something wrong. I put them on, and they were at least 4 inches shorter. I would like to blame this on not having done laundry using a washer and dryer in over a year, but I think I had this problem many times in the States too. It turned out OK, they were fairly successfully converted to capris with some handy scissorwork on my part back in Samoa.
Locations: National Library, National Portrait Gallery, movie theater, some shopping center
Discoveries: Movie theatres (they’re ridiculously hard to find if you’re used to looking for a ginormous megaplex – they don’t look the same from the outside when they’re buried in a city), another Target, more wi-fi
Difficulties: Canberra was the only place I could not find my way around with a map. The two main parts of the city are set up as circles, so many of the streets go around in rings and intersect in weird ways, and I just could not follow it. I also attempted to donate blood at a mobile station set up in the city center, but was told it would be too much trouble because I was only in Australia for vacation. I tried. And to top it all off, wi-fi is fairly scarce in Canberra. At least the free kind is.
Food: Doritos, popcorn, pasties, Breadtop (a chain that specializes in all kinds of bread, rolls, muffins, cookies, and other baked goods. Basically, Heaven), more peaches, more yogurt
Other notes: I went to see Sherlock Holmes 2 in theatres because a movie theatre was fairly high on my list of things to do. Magik Cinema is acceptable, but it’s not quite a great movie experience. This was a great movie experience. And to top it off, I saw a preview for the Hunger Games!
Sydney Take 2
Locations: State Library of New South Wales, Hyde Park, Sydney City Library, Blue Mountains, various parks and shopping areas
Discoveries: More Wi-fi, another Target (in case you haven’t noticed, Target is my Mecca), free movies twice a day at the hostel (I watched Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Red Dog (Australian movie, very cute), Captain America, X-Men First Class, and Harry Potter 7.2)
Difficulties: I was on tour overload by this point. I returned to Sydney wondering how to face five more days of museums, galleries, parks, local markets, and everything else I had been doing for what was beginning to feel like eternity, so this time around, I tended to wander more, window shop a bit more (shopping on vacation isn’t as fun when you’re in Peace Corps. I would look at a store, decide I either couldn’t or wouldn’t wear whatever it was in Samoa, or it would disintegrate within a week, and completely pass the store over). It kinda turned into a lazy vacation at this point, hence all the movie watching I think.
Food: more cheesecake, more peaches and yogurt, Berry Weetbix Bites, focaccia sandwiches, pizza, “lemonade,” gelato, and delicious Chinese food, including prawns (gasp!)
Other notes: I reunited with my two photo adventure buddies for a home-cooked dinner. The dinner party consisted of them, their wives, and myself. The one hosting us all has a Chinese background, so he made us a superb Chinese meal. It consisted of cabbage soup as the appetizer, three entrees of chicken, fish, and prawns, split between us all, and dessert of cut up fruit, cookies, and chocolate. I have never had prawns before in my life. Coming from Colorado, a state with a noticeable lack of oceanfront areas, seafood never really had a role in my diet. It wasn’t until I came to Samoa that seafood even really entered my vocabulary, not to mention my menu. I was wary of the prawns because they looked like shrimp, which have tried on a few occasions, most of them now in the distant past, and I distinctly remember spitting the shrimp out after two bites. But I’m working on my food flexibility, and I told myself I could get through at least one bite, and then one bite turned into two, which turned into an entire serving. I just couldn’t think too much about how the prawns looked, because doing so tended to trigger my “disgusting” reflex. Additionally, I got all the leftovers from the dinner (the rest of the prawns and chicken, the fruit from dessert, and the rest of the two wine bottles). I managed to finish it all in my three days left in Australia. Did I mention yet that the food was excellent?
My very last afternoon in Australia, I treated myself to a mani-pedi at one of the several spas around Sydney. As soon as I sat down in the special chair they put you in when you get a pedicure, I just melted. It was bliss. The 45 minutes it took to finish both the manicure and pedicure were way too short. And, I managed not to do major damage to the paint job until I got back to Samoa. Even now, I would only consider it minor damage. That’s impressive.