Live, from Down Under!


SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA- So I’ve been in Sydney for a few days now, and I’m just now starting to get acclimated to the time change. I’m currently 15 hours ahead of EST, which means that while I type these words at 10:37 a.m. in a comfy leather chair on the second level of Ampersand on Crown in Surry Hills, everyone back at home is getting home from work, ordering pizza, or preparing to prepare for a night out on the town. My first few days in Oz have been discombobulating, to say the least, but I’ll try to make some sense out of my initial thoughts and experiences in 1000 words or less.

First off, I’ve found the majority of Aussie stereotypes to be spot on- from leathery skinned, single-toothed outback-hat wearing blokes ambling down George Street  to “no worries, mate” quickly becoming a staple of my everyday interactions, to the Savile Row-suited magistrate crossing the street with a docket of legal paraphernalia decked out in an ill-fitting blond wig, everywhere I look I find things classically Australian- though there’s certainly a degree of confirmation bias in any observations one makes in their first few days in a foreign country. Brush past these surface differences though, and Sydney is just like NYC or London, albeit with a California surfer’s mentality- however I suppose it’s to be expected that most anglophile mega-cities across the globe share a certain degree of homogeneity. 

I’m currently staying in the Base Backpacker’s Hostel located on the aforementioned George Street, in the Darling Harbour(“Dolling Hobba”) section of downtown Sydney. It’s got everything one would want in a hostel- a bar next door, comfy lounge chairs on the ground floor, kitchenette, loads of young travelers from across the globe wandering in and out, easy access to all of the touristy sights. However, I would equate the location to staying on a Wall Street that doesn’t sleep…the neighborhood is packed with young men briskly walking down the streets in important-looking suits and the upper-middle working class of Sydney commuting to and from work. Needless to say, I haven’t spent much time in my “home” neighborhood and have been busy walking around the more obscure parts of the city that are more representative of the picture of Australia we all have in our minds…my favorite finds so far being the quaint but trendy neighborhood of Surry Hills (where I am right now), and the Royal Botanic Gardens. 

The Gardens are a surreal plot of greenery located directly next to the Central Business District (CBD), which is the local term for what we’d refer to at home as Downtown Sydney. One of the most apparent differences from any other park is the unique flora and fauna you encounter, the most startling of which is what I’ve dubbed the “WTF Bird” (see below), for my snap reaction upon having one of these critters sneak up behind me while sitting on a park bench. Sydney is filled with plants and animals that are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, what I now know is a result of tens of thousands of years of evolution independent from any other continent. However, one familiar scent is the omnipotent jacaranda tree, currently in full bloom. Though I’m no expert, I recognize this tree (or variations thereof) from back home, notably over the last few weeks of the spring semester in Villanova, PA and it has always been a signal that winter is over- after all, it is springtime in Sydney.

The Royal Botanic Gardens eventually run up to Sydney Harbor, at the end of which is the iconic Opera House. At the risk of sounding judgmental and spoiled, I found the actual Opera House structure to be somewhat underwhelming when viewed up close- while it is quite an imposing structure when viewed with the whole of the landscape, as an individual edifice I found it to be somewhat lacking. The western edge of the promenade on which the Opera House abuts offers a stunning view of the Harbour Bridge, especially in the late afternoon when the sun begins to set. It’s a view eerily reminiscent of the Brooklyn Bridge from the northern edge of the South Street Seaport in NYC, or of the Golden Gate Bridge from the beaches of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. 

All this being said, I am very much enjoying Sydney as a city- it has a very laid-back vibe with an alternative bent and the people are incredibly friendly. I have yet to interact with a Sydneysider who hasn’t taken the opportunity to showcase their wry wit. While it’s going to be at least another week before I can really say I have a handle on this place, I don’t plan on spending all that much time here. It’s a massive, cosmopolitan city, one where I could certainly see myself living. However I came to Australia in search of things a tad more obscure, and it’s almost time to plan my next step. There’s still so much to see here, and much more that I’ve done which I can write about (including my trip to the zoo!), but I think I’ll call it quits for now. A man can only nurse a long black with a single sugar for so long before even the liberal social pressures of our friends down under dictate that it’s time to make room for the burgeoning brunch crowd…

Note: it’s going to take me some time to get the layout & style of this blog up and running, so any suggestions on how it looks from the other end would be most appreciated.