Settling in to Sydney Life

As usual, I have tried to do too much all at once. I tend to get to a new place and think I need to see everything right NOW! I’ve slowed down a little here, but I have still been doing more than this old, tired body wants. I live close to “China Town” and really need to take advantage of one of the many “Thai Massage” studios there… that would probably help!

Sydney Skyline

Sydney Skyline

Someone asked me about the population of Sydney… the population would not seem unusual in any US city. They talk with a different accent… there’s a lot more “reckoning” going on than we do in the states; and men of all makes and models have called me “Love”! There are significantly more Muslims… or at least more that choose to wear traditional garb. There a lot of Asians… and in fast food places like McDonald’s, virtually ALL of the help is young Asians. There seem to be fewer black people… and I use the term “black” as “African American” doesn’t work and the black population seems to be a mix of those of native Australian decent and those of native African descent. At any rate, there seem to be fewer than we find in the states. But generally speaking, the Sydney population is fairly similar to that of any big city like New York or San Francisco. Just as I would on the streets of NYC or any other large US city, I hear many, MANY different languages being spoken. I just LOVE the diversity… something I miss terribly in my little city of Greenville, NC!

I live in a suburb just outside of Sydney. “Redfern” apparently had suffered from “urban blight” and was considered a “bad neighborhood” for a while, but it has been the beneficiary of a program of urban renewal that has paid off well. I live near a huge park that has tennis courts, a swimming pool (free for all to use), a large lawn for ball playing, workout “stations”, basketball courts… no soccer field, though! I watched a scene of what appeared to be a “Ghost Buster” like movie being shot at the basketball court. Three men dressed in “ghost buster” overalls with surprising similar “ghost busting” blasters on their backs had it out with the basketball players for some reason. I don’t know what the motivation for the shootout might have been. The crew was too busy to want to talk to a “looky-loo”. There is another big park with sculptures and fountains on the other side of Redfern, near where I grocery shop.

Redfern proper has a small downtown. It is about twice the size of Uptown Greenville… with at least 4 Thai restaurants within easy walking distance! It also hosts “The Martian Embassy” (maybe the basketball players were Martians?). I thought this was a bar, but apparently it is a store where you can find “Martian Embassy” tote bags and T-shirts. They are proud to announce that they have been in business for over a year now, so there must be a market for such! From my home it is just a short walk to either the Redfern rail station or the “Central” station. Central is slightly further away, but allows for a pleasant walk through the park. The train takes me to “Circular Quay” (pronounced “Key”) and several stops throughout “downtown” along the way. The ferries all leave from Circular Quay. I have bought a month pass for Sydney transportation, so I often end the day in Sydney by taking a ferry ride… to “wherever”. Great fun!

For my Greenville friends, Redfern has very much the same “feel” as Uptown Greenville. The store fronts would look quite at home on Evans Street. The tree-lined residential street I live on has more of a New Orleans feel… rows of colorful multistory houses with balconies festooned in wrought iron railings. The building I live in is four storied. I live on the ground floor, in the back of the building. The front is the office of the man of the house, a “Solicitor”, which is apparently a type of lawyer, but not one who can speak in front of a judge… that would be a “Barrister”. The “basement” (which walks out to beautiful garden on the back of the house) holds the kitchen, which I share with Naji, a New Zealand medical student; and Naji’s en-suite room. The top two floors are the private quarters of the family that I rent from. Very nice people!

They drive on the “wrong” side of the road here. It takes some getting used to. I use crosswalks when I cross the streets and wait for the lights, because I REALLY don’t know where the traffic is coming from on any given street corner. But it’s not just the road traffic that is affected! You are expected to WALK on the left side of the sidewalk, as well. At home for instance, when taking an escalator, you stand to the RIGHT and allow anyone in a crazy-hurry to pass you on the left. Just the opposite here. It takes getting used to!

And they speak ENGLISH! Weird! I’m used to spending my three months away in countries that don’t speak English. It’s strange to need to ask a question of a local and realize that I DON’T have to wrack my brain to figure out how to get my point across in sign language or the few words of the foreign language I usually manage to pick up (please, thank you, excuse me, bathroom?)… or hoping they speak English. Here I can just ASK! This is great, of course, but also more “intrusive”. There’s a certain portion of your brain that (no matter how hard you try NOT to) listens in to the conversation of the couple in the seat in front of you. You just can’t help it. In non-English speaking countries I get to turn that part of my brain “off”… and that permits a certain kind of relaxation you don’t get otherwise. It’s okay though, I’ll manage.

Opera HouseI took a great three-hour “free” walking tour of the city a few days ago. Of course, “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” and tips are expected. Still, I like the pay-what-you-believe-the-service-is-worth approach. It was a great tour, very informative and it gave me a good feel for the layout of the city.

I need to get out to the city zoo (a ferry ride away). I still haven’t seen a kangaroo, although I did see a sleepy koala on display at some tourist spot. And I am looking forward to getting out of the city at the end of October when I head up to the Great Barrier Reef area. I am excited to see the reef… back in my misspent youth I had thought I might want to become a marine biologist and study the Great Barrier Reef. I think that had a lot to do with a crush I had a Jacques Cousteau at the time, but still, I would like to see the reef while it is still somewhat viable. And I hope to enjoy the night sky better from there. It’s a bit hard to see many stars against the city lights. My skymap app tells me I was looking at the Southern Cross the other night but I could only see one of the stars!

It’s SPRING here! Deciduous trees are just budding out. Wisteria and azaleas are in bloom. People keep remarking how WARM it is… when it really feels a little chilly to me, but they are coming off of winter and I am coming off of a hot summer. Totally different perspectives!

As I say… life’s a trip!

Here’s a link to my Sydney photo albums (it opens in a new window):