Saturday, January 5, 2013

Delightful Down Under

Welcome, friends, to our blog posts from far yonder. We miss you all so much already.

Today is our fourth day in Sydney, and there's already so much to tell. First: top five reasons why I love Sydney already.

1. I'm writing this post from a sunny little balcony off of our room, with gentle sea breezes on my face and a cup of nescafe in hand. This is how to start the day off right!

2. Nary a power suit in sight! Aussies seem to be all about hippie fashion, and I am a-okay with that. For those who know about my Project Runway celebrity crush, be prepared for some Anya-style outfits  and haircuts to follow.

3. Water everywhere. We spent the last few days walking along Darling harbor, Middle Harbor, Manly beach, and will probably make our way down to the opera house later this evening. Everywhere you turn, there are sailboats and gorgeous vistas with sparkling water. The full-sun, bright blue skies help with that, too.

4. I keep debating what the best geographic analogy is to Sydney. Does the all-day sun remind me most of Cairo? Does the laid-back atmosphere take me back to backpacking in Spain? In the end, Sydney reminds me most of Southern California, where my family has so many roots. The beach-city vibe, the eucalyptus trees, a sprinkle of hippie spirit, warm sun and cool breezes...if we ever do come back from Sydney, this might convince me to set my sights on California for our next move.

5. FOOD. Nod and I realized we're going to need to set a restaurant budget fast. Vietnamese, Japanese,  Malaysian, Portuguese, Greek...there are as many immigrant communities in Sydney as there are countries in the world, it seems, and all of them have delicious restaurants to visit. We had already decided that we were going to eat our way through SE Asia later this spring, but I think we'll go ahead and get started nomming now!

Not everything is perfectly sunshine and roses, however. The #1 drawback to Sydney? The twenty-some different species of horribly poisonous spiders and snakes, some of which enjoy lurking in cities as much as the outback.

Two days ago, I woke up in morning sunburned from a day of exploring Sydney on foot. I had spent the night dreaming in a cold sweat about all the particularly nasty types of siders endemic to Sydney itself. The airport even had signs up warning travelers against the dreaded funnel-web spider, advising us "If you see it, leg it!" (We aren't sure yet if "leg it" means to stomp on it or run away screaming, but I've already decided on the latter as my main strategy of self-defense). The next night I dreamt about a poisonous snake coming to attack me (luckily this dream snake was eaten by a bear just in time). Nod's boss helpfully explained to us yesterday that if someone gets bitten by a snake, it's best to go ahead and start CPR because they'll eventually go into cardiac arrest from the venom, but if you can just keep them breathing for, say, the twenty hours it takes for the venom to break down in their system, they should be ok. Helpful advice to live by.

So we've rented a little room in a shared house in Petersham, a quiet, residential, and artistically-graffitied neighborhood 15 minutes west of downtown Sydney. The room fell a little short of expectations, but we've decided to embrace its particular quirks as "charming characteristics" and make it our own as best we can for the next 18 days, when we'll take a short trip to Tasmania. So we're overlooking the Marilyn Monroe cardboard cut-out gracing the front window, the faint smell of mildew from the bedroom corner, and the fact that there appear to be at least 10 different residents all coming and going from this house, none of whom we ever get a chance to properly introduce ourselves to. We're embracing instead the two adorable pitbulls living in back, the view of a eucalyptus tree through our bedroom window, and the lovely balcony that overlooks what appears to be an abandoned chicken coop in the neighbor's yard. There's a delightful array of different kinds of birds chirping in the Eucalyptus tree outside our window. Even though we're living right beneath the flight path to Sydney's airport, it's a surprisingly quiet and tranquil city.

In fact, in nearly every way, Sydney is a very opposite cultural experience to DC, and I think the beaches are to thank for that. For example: while DC's streets are filled with navy suits and two-inch heels, we counted three people walking barefoot in Sydney's bohemian Newtown neighborhood. Tattoos, dreadlocks, and nose rings whisk me back to the grunge aesthetic of the 1990s, and no one seems to be in a rush anywhere. The city is refreshingly quiet--no noisy traffic with honking and sirens, no music blaring in grocery stores, and even the metro runs soundlessly. Our ears are enjoying the rest.

We gave ourselves a "full-on" (we're practicing our Aussie phrases) introduction to Sydney life in the last few days, exploring by foot, metro, and bus all the different neighborhoods on the west side of downtown so far. We've spent a day at the picturesque Manly Beach, signed me up for French classes twice a week, and randomly attended our first Aussie bbq with a bunch of world-class competitive sailors (all very friendly) with Nod's Dutch co-worker. It is here that I confess that I ate kangaroo kebabs last night. Yes, it was delicious. No, I am not proud to have eaten an adorable animal. It still breaks my heart a little bit to think about it.

Today is our last free day before Nod starts work tomorrow, so let me sign off here so we can spend one more carefree day in the sun. Pictures to come soon!


  1. She was so delicious! But now it's just so unbearably sad. Never again!