Right, so I’ve been pretty slack with the blog posting lately, but that’s because I was out of town, and then before that, we blew out our monthly bandwidth allotment and had to chill netless for a week. Yuck !
Anyway, I was in Sydney for a little over four days for training, and I figure if you subtract the time I spent in training or at the hotel, that left me about 17 hours to “See Australia”. Right-o.
— arrive airport (it’s 3.5 hours from Wellington to Sydney, FYI — not bad ! And there are airline price wars looming courtesy of Virgin, so you can get there and back for NZ$350 or so). Sydney from the air sprawls. Tall buildings; suburbs for miles; could be any big city, really. I try to get excited about being here — it’s my very first time in Australia, after all. But it just feels like I’ve been shipped to some other city for work. Yawn. Could be Baltimore or Philly or anywhere.
— discover the hotel is in “North Sydney”, meaning, on the other side of the famous Sydney Harbor Bridge, meaning the airport hotel shuttles don’t go there. A taxi would be somewhere around AU$40 (the NZ dollar currently buys AU$0.84), which I know Datacom would pay for, but…
— get complicated instructions from the guy at the booth near the shuttle bus stops on how to get a bus to get me somewhere close, maybe.
— fall back on what I know and take the train. It costs AU$11.80 and drops me three or four blocks from the hotel, which I successfully find in the dark. The train, BTW, goes over the bridge (of course), affording a lovely view of the very tall office buildings on both sides of the harbor. North Sydney is the IT district, and all the buildings have big-ass neon signs around their tops: Cisco, Novell, etc.
— check in, to be given note from co-worker (three others were sent a day eariler to go to a different class) informing me he’ll be at a place whose name is not in the phone book and which the woman at the desk has never heard of, and to call him on his cell if I want to join him there.
— discover that because my employer doesn’t always pay its bills on time, Vodaphone has not turned on global roaming as requested, and my cell phone is now just a very bulky digital timepiece. Attempts to dial out from the hotel room phone fail.
— Co-worker returns from pub and tells me when they’ve been meeting for breakfast and catching the train in the morning.
— hook up with co-workers for breakfast and work. The PeopleSoft building is two stops north, in Chatswood, a mid-scale shopping and office suburb. There are a half-dozen malls and shopping centers which my (male) coworkers head off to for the second half of the lunch break (yes, I go too — not much else to do, really).
— politely turn down co-workers offers to pick up scalped ticket to Namibia v. Argentina in Gosford (you did know the rugby World Cup is on, right ?) in the evening. Because my attendance wasn’t confirmed until a couple of days prior, they’d already bought tickets & I didn’t want to go and sit by myself on the other side of the stadium, so…
— head into Sydney to see if I can shake this “I’m in Baltimore” feeling. Fetch up in The Rocks, which is one of the older parts of the city, with lots of nifty old warehouses and barracks and the like, mostly converted into upscale restaurants. There are galleries (aside: those opals are expensive.) and stuff, and a gorgeous view of the Opera House on the other side of the inlet. The Opera House is beautiful, and I start to shake Baltimore and start thinking I may be somewhere Nifty. See the Sydney equivalent of Philly’s brownstones or Boston’s brick townhouses — the architecture is… different. Not too different, but definitely noticable.
— get a digeridoo lesson from Dari and Cameron at DigiWorks; also get a case of ferret shock at the pretty pretty artwork. Learn that the digeridoo until 50 or so years ago was only really played in the North, and that they are naturally hollowed out by termites. Learn to recognize the four major regional art styles, and how that whole “circular breathing” thing is really done (talk about patting your head and rubbing your tummy…)
— discover that I’ve gotten used to the scale of Wellington and bite off rather more than I can chew attempting to walk to Darling Harbor the Long Way. It got me a neat view of the underside of the Harbor Bridge, though. There’s a tour you can take where you climb it at night, and I got to see the little group’s ghostly headlamps, as it wound its way along the catwalks high above, all of them roped together. Also got to see some no doubt outrageously expensive apartments along the converted wharves (they each had a slip for a launch).
— relocate the train station and make my footsore way back to the hotel for a truly awful hotel-food dinner, brought up by a nice chick from Chicago who was doing the work-and-travel thing.
— watch Namibia finish getting their butts kicked by Argentina, although it took me nearly to the end of the game to figure out which team was which (silly me wasn’t expecting the Namibian team to be quite so thoroughly white. Shows you what I know about politics and sport in Southern Africa).
— Sydney harbor is lovely, by the way. It’s a lot more… inland than Wellington, if that makes any sense. It’s almost like a big river with lots of coves and inlets, with city and parks and stuff on the shores and boats of all sizes in the water.
— WEAR SHORT SLEEVES! AND BE WARM! OUTSIDE! IN THE SUN! For the first time in MONTHS!!! I can’t tell you how giddy I was to feel the start of summer — 75F !
— after class, go into Darling Harbor with the guys. Decide I don’t actually like Darling Harbor, although clearly everyone is supposed to. They took the whole inlet and walled it off with restaurants and malls and hotels. Seriously, as you’re approaching from the city, you just see this big wall. Inside around the water there’s pretty park, and a couple playgrounds, and a nifty swiveling bridge, and the Maritime Museum and water taxis and stuff. Nice, but so very very fake and closed in. The ibis were kinda neat, though. Most parks have pigeons, or maybe gulls. This one was positively lousy with ibis. Not every day you get mooched by ibis.
— pass by and read the menus of several rugby bars, seafood restaurants, Asian grills, and combinations of the above. Pick one that happens to have nachos on the menu and have dinner there, watching the last half of USA v. Figi and the first half of Italy v. Samoa. I have to say it’s a really… odd feeling to have the US be the underdogs in something. In anything. To have people rooting for us and hoping we’d win. To have a crowd cheering us. It’s just… weird. We almost had ’em, too, and it was really way closer than it should have been (yes, the poor underdog US almost won an upset over the powerhouse that is… Figi. The mind boggles.). It came down to one missed kick.
— zoom into town after class to try and catch Paddy’s Market (think Reading Terminal, with the same number of grocery stalls, fewer food stalls, and way more crafts/clothes/cheap electronics), which is supposed to stay open later on Thursday, but which is nonetheless in the process of closing down when I arrive. Note to anyone thinking of joining the Chamber of Commerce for a large city that gets a lot of business travelers: Realize that your business travelers are on expense accounts for their room and board, which frees up their own money to be spent on other stuff in your lovely city, but only on stuff that is available after business hours. Cities that close promptly at 5:30 do me no good. PS: Also, when you’re putting together those free booklets they have in racks of thousands in the airport, note the hours things are open. Thank you.
— realize that although the Market is unhelpfully closed, the outlet mall upstairs is open and full of sales. Vent some of my shopping frustration there.
— on the way back to the train station, stuff myself on Japanese food. Note that Sydney has a much larger Asian population than Wellington, but apart from them it is much, much whiter. Stare in fascination at the some two dozen different photo-booth machines upstairs from the restaurant, but don’t actually get photo taken due to a) lack of ten $1 coins, and b) intimidation.
— after class, train back to airport. Peruse duty-free. Arrive home. Learn the All Blacks beat Canada while I was in the air. (Quantas food is pretty uninspiring, BTW, although the free wine was a tasty Shiraz. If you have a choice, AirNZ is better.)
So there’s the incredibly long Sydney post. Huzzah !
I *did* make it back in time for Diwali (happy Indian New Year !), but didn’t get to see as much of it as I’d planned, on account of the fact that half of New Zealand was trying to stuff itself into Civic Square and the Town Hall. Oh well ! It was a beautiful beautiful day, and the weather’s gotten warm here, too, though still only in the 60s. Yay ! Spring !