Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Harbour Bridge Walk

With this past Saturday being the last in April, I took a quick train north for the monthly Kirribilli Markets. A friend of mine from class, who lives just a few minutes from Kirribilli in North Sydney, met me for a browse through a few hundreds stalls of clothes, crafts and food.

Though she had to leave for soccer practice (she’s on the Sydney Uni team), I hung around and explored Kirribilli, from the main restaurant row to Luna Park and through the residential parts along the water.

It was cool seeing the opposite side of the Opera House.

Then an American friend, Jeff, met me at Milson’s Point so we could walk across the Harbour Bridge back to Circular Quay. The Harbour Bridge Climb, which takes you to the very top, costs up to $300, but a simple walk on the pedestrian path doesn’t cost a thing.

The views are still pretty good.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Best Spot I’ve Ever Had a Matzo Sandwich

The best spot I ever had a sandwich was a remote ledge on the Barrenjoey Head in Palm Beach. But this overlook in Manly was pretty spectacular as well. Here’s to the last day of Passover and the return of bread, rice and legumes to our residential college kitchen!

Sydney finally saw some sun this weekend after two solid weeks of rain. My friend Sarah and I took advantage of this by taking a ferry to Manly, which is probably Sydney’s most famous beach after Bondi.

We only stopped briefly at the beach because we were headed on a coastal walk around the peninsula. The walk took us to Shelly Beach before leading us uphill to said fantastic sandwich spot.

Then it was more of a bushwalk until we reached North Head Scenic Dr.

This point of Sydney Harbour National Park near the North Fort Artillery Museum has an incredible view of the whole city. But where haven’t I gone with a good view? Sydney just has too many. Sarah and I kept turning to each other, smiling and saying, “We live here.”

And after beautiful days like this one, it gets harder to consider living anywhere else.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

ANZAC Day Part 3

Once I’d gotten a few hours’ sleep following the dawn service, I was ready for another Anzac Day event. I didn’t make it to the traditional Anzac March in the city center that morning, but I figured the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders march would be better to attend anyway. I’m taking an Indigenous Australia class here, which discusses the mis- and under-representation of the Aboriginal community.

The Aboriginal march began at The Block in Redfern. Redfern is an inner-city neighborhood in Sydney with a large population of Aboriginal people, and unfortunately it is also poorer and associated with crime. Redfern was the site of riots in 2004. It’s also conveniently the closest train station to my house. I know to be careful walking back at night, but I’ve never felt unsafe during the times I’ve been there.

Anyway, I was glad to go to a positive event in Redfern associated with pride and tradition. Many carried Aboriginal and Torres Strait flags.

These two girls were cute imitating martial arts moves with their flags.

Something striking about the event was the media presence. I’d have to say there was one reporter or photographer for every actual participant. It’s great that the press was covering the event, but it was sad how few people from the wider community attended. Of course many had already been to the dawn service and the parade and at this point were getting drunk before the rugby game. But still.

Just for fun, here's an Aboriginal hip hop song that I gave a presentation and wrote an essay on a few weeks ago. The video for the song features the guys driving through Redfern.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

ANZAC Day Part 2

Dawn isn’t something I see very often. The hours between 2 and 6 in them morning are usually off limits for me. But today, my dedication to the exploring Australia cause possessed me to set an alarm for 3:10 a.m. to go to the ANZAC Day dawn service at the Sydney Cenotaph.

I walked to the bus stop where two old ladies were sitting. I bet they’d be fun to talk to. After 10 minutes of waiting for the bus, I spoke up. “Well, I guess I coulda gotten a little more sleep.” The women told me they never went to bed. Instead they stayed up watching “Cape Fear” and whatever else was on. They each had sprigs of rosemary, which I had read was important to Anzac day. They couldn’t tell me why exactly rosemary was significant, but they said poppies were important too. The one woman broke off a piece for me and the other offered me a pin.

They joked about bringing a flask to the service. I told them, “Oh, no, I’m going to get in trouble with you two.” The one responded, “It’s good to get into trouble now and then,” and said something about it making life worthwhile.
Another ten minutes passed and they started to complain about the bus being late.
“I’m starting to lose my sense of humor.”
“This is absolutely ridiculous. The paper said it was supposed to be here. We rang up to check and they said it’d be here.”

I said I’d be happy to share a cab with them, but they weren’t interested. “No, love, we’ll just go back home if the bus doesn’t come. We’re getting tired.”

A group of students who had come from a night of barhopping joined us at the stop.
“I don’t think the bus is coming,” one of the women said. “We’ve been waiting for 40 minutes. It's absolutely ridiculous.”
The bus came five minutes later but was so full it didn’t even bother to stop.
“Absolutely ridiculous. Let’s go.”
I told them I’d pay for the cab if they wanted to come.
“It’s not about the money, dear. We’re just cranky at this point.”
“Yeah, we’re going to call and complain.”
“First person who picks up, we’ll let em have it.”

So the women left and the group of kids hailed a cab. There were four of them so they couldn’t fit me in their taxi, but they decided to split up so I wouldn’t have to pay the whole fare myself. During the ride I learned they went Sydney Uni with me.

We arrived at Martin Place just after 4 a.m. The street was packed and there was no way to get anywhere we might see anything so we just listened. The MC introduced Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and other important attendees. The service began with a hymn and a prayer. A general gave a speech, which was followed by more hymns.

Rain started to fall and everyone’s umbrellas went up. Now I really had no chance of seeing the band or choir up front. The service closed with the New Zealand and Australian national anthems, which I had never heard before. Listening to thousands of people sing the anthems just before sunrise was a great experience.

My new friends, who had been up all night, offered me to join them on their ride back to campus, but I decided to stick around for a little since I hadn’t actually seen anything during the service. As people cleared out, I moved toward the cenotaph monument where some were laying wreaths and flowers.

I watched the bagpipe players play.

And pitied the journalists who got stuck with the Anzac story — the same story written every year, which bonus! has a 7 a.m. deadline. It was amusing to watch them fight for quotes from the oldest veterans.

I decided to walk back as the sun came up. It was a good idea until I was 15 minutes away and contemplating how comfortable it would be to curl up on that curb. I finally made it back in bed just after 6:30 and slept until 10.

My final Anzac Day story will have to wait for another post.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Today is a public holiday for ANZAC Day, which honors members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. April 25 marks the anniversary of the battle of Gallipoli during WWI.

Thought I’d share photos of the ANZAC Bridge taken back when the sun used to shine in Sydney. (We’ve had 14 days of rain now.)

More ANZAC Day photos and stories to come.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Balmoral Lifestyle

I’ve made it a mission to explore areas of Sydney outside the tourist/uni student bubble. I have a list of neighborhoods still to check out. But with autumn rain clouds hanging overhead for more than a week, not to mention a few thousand words worth of research papers due, it’s been harder to get out these days. Finally on Sunday, I set aside a few rainless hours to visit Balmoral, an area of North Sydney brought to my attention by Not Quite Nigella.

I noticed a few things about Balmoral (pronounced BAL-moral, not bal-MORALE, as I originally wanted to call it). First, everyone smells like coconut. Second, everyone has kids under age five or is pregnant. The area is beautiful and so are the people, their modern houses and snazzily dressed kids.

I wandered through the hilly residential streets with my friend Becca, admiring the homes and thinking of Malibu. We eventually found our way to The Esplanade on Hunter’s Bay. As per Not Quite Nigella’s recommendation, we stopped at the Bather’s Pavilion Kiosk to grab a snack, which we ate on the small headland park, surrounded by young couples and their kids.

Ah, the Balmoral lifestyle.

In town we saw several children’s clothing and maternity wear shops. Becca and I stopped in a few home stores to look at kitchen gadgets and gourmet non-perishables.

I decided Balmoral would be a fantastic place to get married, buy a house (like this one) and then make tarts and babies for the next few years. Of course, I’d have to find that coconut scent everyone was wearing.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sydney Birdies

I’ve been big on birds here. Part of it is that so many exotic looking birds are quite common in Sydney. The other reason is they’re easy to get up close and photograph. (Sometimes too close.)

These photos are from a trip to Featherdale Wildlife Park, but I’ve seen them all in the wild, and by wild, I mean public parks in Sydney. Up top is the crimson rosella, followed by an inquisitive rainbow lorikeet.

Cockatoos are more common than the others around the Sydney CBD (central business district). They’ve got a loud squawk and of course, their natural habitat seems to be the trees just outside my window every morning.

Kookaburras also have an interesting call. They’re often called “laughing kookaburras” because, well, I’m sure you can put two and two together. You can listen to their laugh track here.

I might as well throw in this GQ shot of what I think is a noisy miner at Hunter’s Bay yesterday.

And one more seagull photo to add to the collection.

Monday, April 14, 2008


I used the word “heaps” the other day and thought I’d mention a few more words and phrases I hear often.

Good on ya - I like this. It’s a positive, congratulatory ‘way to go’ sorta phrase. Expect me to come back using it.

Can’t be bothered - People say this one a lot when they’re talking about being lazy. “I have the book in my room, but I can’t be bothered going upstairs.” It’s not something you would never hear in the States, but definitely a phrase that comes up often here.

No worries - The Aussie cliché, I suppose. People say it in the States these days too, but it’s still common here. For me this seems more like the Australian way of life than just a phrase.

Mate - Speaking of clichés...But yes, everyone is mates in Oz. We took a cab with an Australian guy once and between him and the driver, they must have said “mate” at least nine times. It makes everyone sound extra friendly.

Nice - I find some people say “nice” where Americans would more often say “good.” We use it most often when we’re analyzing the day’s meal. “This curry is nice,” “The cake is nice today,” etc.

Sweet as - (Not to be confused with “sweet ass.”) This is actually more from New Zealand, but some people have picked it up here. It’s basically “awesome,” “cool,” or “sweet.” I don’t know why they say “as” because they never follow it with a comparison to anything. This bugs a friend of mine who always wants to know “Sweet as what?” If you ever hear me say this, I am clearly trying too hard. I hope it never happens.

Doona - I learned this week that this is a duvet or quilt. It’s a trademark that people use generally now, like Kleenex, Band-Aid, Frisbee, etc.

Bogan - A bogan is a lower class Australian usually from a rural or poorer area. It was first explained to me as someone from the country, a “hick,” but I learned at our house’s Bogans and Billionaires Party that it’s a little different from American white trash. Short rugby shorts, high socks, flip-flops thongs, flannel, Ugg boots, black jeans, wifebeater shirts, cigarettes and cheap beer seem to be key to the bogan lifestyle. People use “bogan” in a general sense too when they don’t dress up, like when my neighbor goes down to dinner in a mismatched t-shirt and shorts with Uggs because she can’t be bothered to change.

A lot of words are just shortened versions of English words. I find a lot of them endearing.

Sunnies - sunglasses
Swimmers, Bathers - swimsuit
Lollies - candies
Arvo- This one means afternoon. I’m not sure where they get the V, but oh well.
Derro - Maybe not so endearing, this is a homeless person, i.e. derelict. Often also an “alco.”
Bikies - This is hilarious because it's what they call bikers, like rough and tough guys on Harleys. But how cute does it make them sound?

One example of making a word longer rather than shorter, is sprinkles. I'd expect them to be called "sprinkies" or "sprinko," but they actually call them "hundreds and thousands." Charming, if not too poly-syllabic.

And no, they don’t say “crikey,” so don’t even ask.

Belated Spring Break Post

I had one final adventure over the school holiday, which I never got around to sharing. Our Aussie friend Paul took three American friends and I to his family home in Tascott about 50 miles from Sydney Uni. He was a great tour guide. I happened to mention that I swam in waterfalls once in Los Angeles so we made a short detour to check out Somersby Falls in Brisbane Water National Park.

He drove us by the popular Avoca Beach before taking us to his preferred Copacabana Beach. That’s right, Copacabana isn’t just for Rio anymore. We could have used the Brazilian sun though because it was a bit too cool for swimming.

Paul then took us a little further north to Terrigal, where we climbed this massive hill for a great lookout before a break at a local beer garden.

It was a nice town on the water with some great looking houses in the hills.

After our long day, we cooked up some beef and chicken fajitas, whose leftovers I added to scrambled eggs the next morning and quesadillas for lunch.

School resumed the next day, and I've been wishing for break again ever since.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Putting the 'Study' in Study Abroad

My parents can be assured that the lack of blog entries recently means school has picked up and I’ve been trying to be productive. I’ve had heaps of reading and papers to do since Easter Break ended. (“Heaps” is definitely an Aussie phrase. I hung out with a group of college kids who said it all the time, as in “That’s heaps cool” and “I was heaps drunk.”)

Something the other American students and I have noticed is how much less Australians talk about their schoolwork. In the States, it’s always a competition over who has more to do. We stress ourselves out by constantly talking about school and how busy we are.

I don’t think Australians work less than we do, in fact, the courses may require more effort to really do well. But I think it’s more personal for Australians and not as competitive. This probably has to do with the grading system, which is very different from home. It falls more along a bell curve than the inflated grades in the U.S. Here, you can pass with a 50 percent and 65 percent is a “credit.” Most people are pleased with a credit. A “distinction” is usually in the 75-85 percent range and isn’t given to everyone. A “high distinction” is very rare.

A paper I know would have easily gotten an A at Mizzou got a 13 out of 20 here, and everyone said my “credit” was great for a first paper. It definitely changes how you think about grades. It’s nice getting As all the time at home, but at least here I know my “distinction” really means something.

Anyway, time to get back to my next paper.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Can’t Get Enough Festivals

If it’s the weekend, there’s a festival in Darling Harbour. My first day in Sydney I watched the Chinese New Year Dragon Boat Races there. I stopped by the Indian Holi Festival not long ago and watched acrobatics at the Hoopla Festival over the long Easter weekend.

Most recently I went to the Greek Festival, which featured lots of dancing and lamb-eating. The Greeks seem to be people with a lot of pride. A majority wore blue and white T-shirts, jerseys or hats, if not the Greek flag itself.

I missed the Indonesian Festival in Darling Harbour this weekend, but coming Sunday is the Thailand Grand Festival. It’s fun always going to the same spot but seeing an entirely different collection of people each time. Being from Los Angeles and traveling often, I’m used to cosmopolitan cities. After spending a few years at school in Columbia, Missouri, it’s refreshing to be back in a place with large populations from so many different cultures.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Into the Bush

My next Easter Break adventure involved bushwalking in Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park, a 45-minute to an hour train ride north. After my daytrip to Palm Beach and Avalon, I felt ok exploring on my own and was looking forward to the 9km hike I’d plotted out. I know my aim is to “get lost,” but I also need to live to blog about it, so a planned route and map seemed in order.

Once I got there, I was very glad to be prepared as I was because the hike definitely took me out of my comfort zone. Ku-Ring-Gai covers almost 37,000 acres, and at least in the section where I started in Berowra, there weren’t any clearly marked trails with happy arrows or park ranger booths to keep you on the right track. For the first half-hour, I wasn’t even positive I was on the path I intended to be on. Looking back, I probably should have gone with a buddy, but I read too much Kerouac this summer and going alone seemed like a good idea.

Once I reached the creek at the bottom of the trail, I felt surer of where I was going. All I had to do was follow the creek for the next two hours.

Well, even that was easier said than done. The bush was very overgrown and the path became hard to follow at points. Huge spider webs loomed overhead and it always felt like one of these guys was on my arm.

I also ran into this four-foot-long goanna, which scared me out of my pants because I nearly stepped on it without looking.

At this point my shoulders were beginning to ache because of my backpack. Sure, I could have packed lighter, but how much would I regret it if I had left behind that beach towel that could’ve served as a blanket or been fashioned into a tent in the event I got lost in the bush and needed to spend the night before a rescue party found me? Exactly. So I flipped the backpack around to my front because I figure that’s where women are meant to bear loads about that size. Why fight evolution? It helped so I wore it that way except when I saw boats on the creek and felt self-conscious. Hey, who’s that weird girl pregnant with a backpack? And did she just pull out a sandwich?

Like I said, the trail was overgrown with fern and brush. Plus, there were several fallen trees and steep rocks to cross over. I later realized this might have to do with the fact that the Berowra Trail I took was temporarily closed to the public. When I reached the intersection with the Mt. Kuring-Gai Trail, I saw the trail I had come from had been fenced off. Who knew?

After I got to the second trail, I felt much more at ease because I knew I was going the right way and was ahead of schedule. (I attribute this to the fact that my “flight” response is much keener than my “fight” and I booked it through the tall brush and cobwebs.) The Mt. Kuring-Gai Trail was steeper but had wider, more worn paths so I thought less about potential creepy-crawlies around my ankles.

I finally made it up to the top where I found another great scenic sandwich spot. Then I walked down out of the park, through a residential area to the train stop one ahead of where I got off and was home in time for dinner.

Another day, ‘well Done.