Day 75: Australia!

Trip Start Sep 02, 2007
1
65
92
Trip End Dec 25, 2007


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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oy, Oy, Oy! Aussie! Oy! Aussie! Oy! Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oy, Oy, Oy! I was, of course, up very early this morning to catch as much of the harbor as I could. Evidently I fell asleep again shortly after I'd awoken, however, because my next conscious thought was something along the lines of "oh geez, it's after six." I hurried up onto the bow and was just in time, the cliffs outlining the Sydney harbor were just coming into view with the ethereal mirage of the cityscape forming behind them. Although evidently I wasn't just in time for everything; there had been a pod of dolphins swimming with the boat not fifteen minutes before I got there. Lovely. There were too many people up there already and it was only six thirty; I was struck by the number of people who'd turned up for the entrance to Sydney Harbor when they had been much to tired for Aukland. I was disappointed in everybody, actually. I could understand the Aussies being there for this one and no other, but what was so special about this one? The opera house? So it's beautiful, but is it enough to get half the ship up two or three or in some cases four or five hours earlier than usual? Apparently.

I caught myself feeling like this was sort of my space, that I'd earned with my dedication to it. I know very well I have no right to think that, but I will admit that it had passed through my mind and did not go entirely unheeded. The harbor was beautiful, and there was a buzz of excited conversation that I (at first grudgingly) appreciated. Then suddenly, around the corner, came the first view of the opera house, its white sails spiking above the curving hillside of the land in front of it. It was a certain "oh wow it does exist" moment for me. And right behind it followed the harbor bridge, sweeping from right behind the opera house and over into the colorful suburbs of North Sydney. I can't express how beautiful it was, the awe carried from one end of the ship to the other by the alternating cheers and silence. There is no better way to see the opera house for the first time than by sea, the way it was designed to be seen. We passed by it to a fanfare of cheers and congratulations and then on under the bridge and into Darling Harbor faster than I could keep track.

After we had crossed under the bridge, a noisy bird caught my attention. It was flying towards us and I almost took a picture of it but figured we'd be seeing tons of seagulls and would have ample opportunity for every kind of picture we could possibly want of them. (Mine? Mine?) It wasn't until after it had come and was on its way to going that I realized it wasn't a seagull. It was a cockatoo. And I didn't take a picture! Aaarrgh! As we pulled into Darling Harbor, more and more mobile phones started coming out and the chatter reached its excitement high. There were figures on the docks and balconies of buildings, waving frantically and yelling. People on board were picking out their families and calling to them. I was suddenly terribly homesick thinking of how many people were coming home or at least had someone waiting for them. It wouldn't be until July that that would happen for me. I began to realize that I really am ready for the end of this semester and the chance to see my family again.

Finally we were docked. And all before breakfast. I ate early and then went downstairs to get checked through immigration - this time they came on board and took each of us through immigration and actually stamped our passports for once - and met Jonathan and Liz, who had just gotten up, in fact dragged themselves out of bed for immigration. I couldn't believe they had missed the sailing but what really got to me was that they didn't mind. I still don't understand how something as fleeting and routine as sleep can possibly be a priority as some of the once-in-a-lifetime experiences we are getting, not the least of which is seeing the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge in sunrise light with early morning clouds clinging to them as you round the last curve in the harbor in a boat, on the bow of which you are standing with friends from all over the world. How can sleep compare to that? Yet another of the many questions in this life I will never be able to answer.

Liz and Jonathan and I hung around the ship for quite a while, just hanging out and waiting for the chaos at the gangway to calm down. We were playing Nintendo Wii, actually. It was nice to just sit a little bit but it did start to get frustrating as it neared ten, and then eleven o'clock. Finally we made it off the ship and onto Australian soil, computers packed and cameras ready and already hungry. I don't need to describe the whole day, since it was almost entirely all the same thing: wandering aimlessly around the city. It was fun for a while as it always is but I'm getting really tired of the aimless part of wandering. We did find some cool souvenir shops and Jonathan got his Crocodile Dundee hat, which was his one condition on visiting Australia, and Liz got a sim card and I got a phone card. We fell upon a street performance that was just starting and stopped to watch, and soon were being called forward with a massive and growing crowd to form up around the "stage" and keep off the walkways so we didn't clog the space too much. The woman's name is Bendy Em and she is a body contortionist - apparently the only body contortionist in the world who does her show on the street live. She was really quite funny, and more of the show was in her personality than her contortion, but she was also really good. She did a couple of moves for us, putting her feet behind her head and such, and then proceeded to get two guys out of the audience and cram herself into a little glass box up on a stand in the middle of the street. The box was 16 inches along a side - what does that make it - 256 cubic inches? Okay that sounds like a lot, maybe it's wrong, but you'll see in the pictures that it's not very big. But well, neither was Em. It was pretty cool to see. She ended the show by asking directly for donations, which I thought was refreshing and spoke a lot for the business of live street theatre. We felt awful that none of us had a bit of money on us, since she was the first thing we'd run into since we got off the boat. We thought about asking her if we could buy her lunch but decided it would be kind of weird.

We wandered around some more and found a place to eat - we had fish and chips and the best chicken Caesar salad I've ever eaten in my life (and those of you that have eaten with me often enough know that's saying a lot). We sat there for a long time just spending time together and Liz got out her video camera and taped Jonathan and me doing funny quotes form Finding Nemo and generally goofing off. We were being really silly and it felt really good. Jonathan and I got into the sugar packets after a while (which could have something to do with how cranky we all were a couple of hours later after walking circles around the city) and we were there for about two hours before I finally dragged them both up and got us off again. We found a music store and I bought the soundtrack to The Secret Garden which I've been wanting for ages, especially since my computer ate the copy I had when my hard drive crashed a couple months ago. We also discovered a little mall that had a not-so-little Borders bookstore in it, and I finally managed to pry myself away to get to a phone, only to discover that I didn't know how to use it. I dialed every combination of international code and country code I could think of. Then I was so upset that I didn't even think to use my AT&T phone card from home and anyway I was out of coins for the pay phone. It was a frustrating afternoon and unfortunately just got worse from there. Jonathan and Liz wanted to go out for dinner, but I really wanted to be done spending money and wanted to go back to the ship before I bit somebody's head off (you all know how I am when I'm hungry and tired... sorry everyone). I'd already spent entirely too much money and it was just the first day and I hadn't bought souvenirs. I don't know where it goes. Honestly. If I tried to reconstruct it for you I couldn't tell you where the money went. Super frustrating.

So then we promptly got lost trying to get back or to find some free internet, because don't forget we're all carrying heavy laptops around all day and my shoulders are really starting to hurt, not to mention my feet. We tried every darn coffee shop for miles and nothing had a free connection we could link to. Finally we ran into this little noodle stand tucked back in some corner and at that point I was too grumpy to care about anything and just bought dinner, although I did buy the cheapest thing on the menu which turned out to be fried rice for $4.00 that was really good and plenty of food anyway. Well I felt a lot better after that and I played my soundtrack and felt even better and then we were all a little more amiable with each other and finally just headed back to the ship. We hadn't found any internet but I was frantic because I'd been at sea for four days but waiting for important academic emails so I finally just broke down and used some of my remaining minutes on the ship's satellite internet to check my email. Everything's fine and it was no big deal but I felt better. The biggest bother was that despite the fun I'd had (and only some at that) I really felt that I'd wasted the day. That didn't really change, I still feel like I wasted that day no matter what I try to tell myself, so that evening I really got down to some homework (well, blogs actually) and got everything organized so that I could get right to work on some of my research and get things posted quickly when I did find some internet. I felt bad that I was holed up in my room all night; Jonathan came by to see if I wanted to do anything and of course I did but I told him I'd come after him after I got some things done, then just never did because I finally got on a roll with some work. Finally. I probably have 60 hours of work due in the next week. No joke. And that's not counting the blogs, which I consider a priority since I actually get some real reward out of them. Geez. This working on vacation business, it's not easy!
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Comments

toyladyterri
toyladyterri on

Great pics!
Hi hon - doing some catching up with your blogs. I've read these but hadn't seen the pics. LOVE the opera house pic!!!!!! And the lighthouse - oh yeah! Love ya hon! Mom

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