Breaking it Down From Down Under *ohhh* :)

25 May

It’s week 1 and I am in stage 1 of culture shock: noticing and appreciating differences between American and Australian culture. I’m very much in my honeymoon stage of my Aussie trip, and I dread the inevitable tears that will come with stage 2. Until then, let me tell you how AMAZING this place is.
I’ve gotta say: I must be the luckiest traveler in the world! I have absolutely NO jetlag, and I’m not just saying that. I had the insane luck to have been seated next to NO ONE, so I was able to stretch out the entire flight across 3 seats. Basically, I slept on and off for the entire flight (14 hours). I know, I know. I rock :-DDD haha.
Immediately as I arrived in Sydney, I realized several distinct aspects of Australian culture that the American culture lacks. Perhaps the most prominent of these is what I will call social interception. Here, Aussies see inept Americans trying to navigate the bus systems and they step up and start up a conversation with the hopeless vagabond, rather than to make a mental note to avoid eye contact, which would give away that they had been eavesdropping. In fact, just as I got to Sydney’s airport, a lady just started up a conversation with me, before I had even opened my mouth. I was waiting for my bus to come, and she waiting for hers. After I had spoken, she immediately knew I was American and we started talking about my trip and what I wanted to do while I was here. She gave me some of the coolest advice, the coolest being that I should go to Port Douglas for my scuba diving training and excursions. I’m very excited her opinion matched mine, because Port Douglas will land me right in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef, and this, is where all of the colorful fish you see in Finding Nemo, etc. famous in Australia swims about! She even gave me her email if I had any more questions! What a lovely blessing!
Secondly, I noticed Sydney is CLEAN. I’m talking air-wise, water wise (holy crap their water is the tastiest tap water in the WORLD!) AND taste wise. You have no idea how many metropolitan cities I have visited that is ridden with sex and trash, from crumbled up newspaper tumbleweeding across intersections to big boobed prostitutes littering the streets and alleys. I am very happy to say that Sydney is void of all the filth I am accustomed to seeing in large cities. I feel as if I have stumbled upon a small bit of my unattainable Utopia. Instead of filth, I noticed Sydney was ridden with salons (especially for hair and massages), art museums, and very flexible trees (haha). Curiously, it is “fall” here, and while there are some trees which have shed themselves of their leaves – now gathered under our feet as we walk – the majority of trees do not shed their leaves. It is very warm here for what my American upbringing has educated me to be “fall verging on winter”, but what really raises the eyebrow is why the Maple decides to check out anyway.

Food is very expensive here! But I rock and only spent 30 bucks at the grocery store todayJ . I had my first Kebab EVAR, and let me tell you somethinkkkk: It. Was. Delicious! Not *necessarily* strictly Aussie cuisine, but they made it their own by smothering it with their famous BBQ sauce. My taste buds approve wholeheartedlyJ .

On the second day, we went on a half-day bus tour of Sydney and I got some really stellar shots of the city. If you ever hit Sydney in the future, I recommend going to the following sites (among many others I’m sure I’ll be sharing in future blogs, including hidden gems, I hope. But for the touristy sites, here we go!):

–Miss Macquerie’s Point (she was the governor’s wife, and her “point” was the view of the Opera House and Sydney bridge. Before all of modern Sydney was built and colonized, she would sit at her “point“ on her designated chair and gaze

–The Rocks (tons of art museums, cafes and a lovely view of Darling Harbor)

–Bondi beach (right afterwards, it started pouring, so our timing was impeccable. They’re going through a drought right now though [have been for years apparently], so their showers literally only last a couple of minutes at best) at the harbor)

–These gorgeous cliffs near Vercluse (which is reminiscent of Beverly Hills, apparently).

Another thing I have noticed about Sydney is that life here requires a mindful and healthy lifestyle. I have never felt fatter in any other culture. Everyone is stick thin here and eats half the amount that I do, and worst of all, I feel like I’m eating way less than normal. In the same way, I love that the culture here is so driven by feeding your body only the best. I admire the Australian culture for its commitment to quality over quantity. While Australia is the 2nd fattest country in the world, I clearly don’t see any of that here in Sydney.

I’ve decided I don’t like big city life in general. One of my goals coming here to Sydney was to try to get a better idea for what kind of setting I envision myself growing old in. I’m definitely more of a smaller city gal. Big city life is expensive, wasteful and to be completely honest, it robs me of my right to be happy. I feel robotic and hopeless in the city when I’m alone.

Another thing you must do while in Sydney is try one of Harry’s famous meat pies! They are delicious! They serve the pie with some mashed potatoes and mashed peas with gravy on top! It was original and quite the charmer for those taste buds of mine. What totally surprised me was how filling they were. The pie itself was only about as big as a coaster, but (probably due to all of those carbs!) my hunger pangs were nothing but infatuated by it.

The third day, we started out at 8:00am and headed to the Sydney Olympic Stadium for a quick bit. We saw the outside of the Opening Ceremony stadium and drove through the grounds (which are still very well maintained). There were a ton of poles outside the Opening Ceremonies stadium with the names of every volunteer that helped out during the 2000 Olympics. It was super cool to find that there were two Ashmores among the thousands of volunteers! I knew my family was cool ;-D haha

Afterwards, we headed to Featherdale Wildlife Park, where we got to interact with some of Australia’s native animals! I got to experience a koala and a kangy up close and personal! My favorite part hands down had to be when the emus went on this mad run around the rink, however. Several times I was sure they would run me over! They were hilarious and quite amazing! I adore emus J .

Next stop: the Blue Mountains. I have decided to rename the mountains (since they aren’t even technically mountains, according to geologists, who call them a plateau, and they aren’t really blue… silly refraction) the “Broccoli Mountains”, because DARN IT it looks like a bunch of broccoli (and I was hungry when inspiration hit haha J ). We had lunch in a small town called Leura. Their food is so expensive here: 10 bucks easy, 15 usually and 25 is also pretty normal. It’s insane. I went to a grocery store and got a deli sandwich for 5.50 insteadJ . I also don’t understand why meat is so expensive! A ham sandwich (with only 3 slices on it) was 6 bucks, but the chicken schnitzel sandwich with lettuce and mayo was 5.50, and a chicken schnitzel is a thick breaded chicken breast (two of them, actually). It makes no sense to me! But I’m not complaining: I totally got more protein for less. Yes, this was a nice high of my day haha.

Anyway, so afterwards we hiked all the way down and back up again, and because I was cheap I hadn’t consumed any liquids, and so I was VERY happy for some water when we got back to the top. Only about 5 gals chickened out for the ascent back up and took a 10 dollar gondola ride back up, but I was persistently cheap and wanting to lose weight, so red-faced and all, I tackled the “Broccoli Mountains” (ahem, Blue, sorry :-DDD) with loads of “picture stops” and embarrassingly loud panting.

I’m noticing more and more that Australia’s modern-day culture is most defined by that of other countries. England, America and some Asian countries are prominent influences here. I’m definitely not saying this is disappointing at all. In fact, I find it a strength of Australia, to take what they love from other countries, instead of being stubborn and producing a knock-off so they can call it their own. I’m totally not saying Australia doesn’t produce their own originals themselves, either (Hello? Uggs!). They’ve got the whole package, really. Australia has a lot to offer the world, and they realize they don’t have to keep up with the Joneses to do so.

The fourth and final day of my first week here in Sydney, I went to Hillsong church with Lacy (a friend on the trip). The service was super energetic and sensationalistic (it has to because it’s broadcasted) and the sermon was trite and felt shallow, but I had a nice time and I think I‘ll probably go to this church while I‘m here. I’m not sure if I felt the way that I did about the sermon was due to the fact that my spirituality is suffering right now or if the sermon was really just more of a show than genuine and of substance. I know this past semester I was so busy with work and trying to establish a social life that I didn’t have as much time for my God and felt a bit drained because of it. Sometimes I feel like I’m being so cynical when I call something God-related sensationalistic just because I don’t feel the same fervor. I wish simply dancing or being silly would provoke that kind of spiritual giddiness within me, but it doesn’t seem to stand up to a good rational and intellectual discussion of Christianity. I’ve decided this isn’t a bad thing, however.

Afterwards, I was lame and watched TV for about 4 hours (America’s Next Top Model was on, ironically! And here I am, in Australia haha), but I promise my day was fantastic J . The good stuff came in the evening when I met my Australian friend for the first time. We tried to get into the Museum of Modern Art, but because we had *stellar* timing, we got there the minute they decided to close haha! So instead, we decided to walk around Circular Quay and walked around the Opera House and such. We had dinner shortly afterwards and drove around Sydney a bit as well, just chatting. Twas lovely.

As far as my taste buds are concerned, holy CRAP. Have you ever heard of Italian mayonnaise? ITS AMAZING! haha They serve it with “chips” over here (which we call French fries). Oh snap. Seriously. It’s the greatest thing evaaar. It tasted like a mixture between creamy salad dressing and real mayonnaise (none of that silly Miracle Whip nonsense :-DDD), and it my taste buds have never been happier with me. They also don’t use ketchup over here. Instead, it’s this “tomato basil” stuff, and it’s also delicious (though Italian mayonnaise pones it in the face like 17 times haha).

One thing I’ve also noticed about Australia that I find curious is that there are like zero trashcans over here! It’s ridiculous! And the trash cans that I do see are super teeny tiny. I wonder if this is a reflection of my own waste production and if America as a whole is just a bunch of pigs living over a pigsty. haha

And that was my lovely 1st week! Whoop! Now on to heaps more!

Til then, tootaloo!

Lilli :^]

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