Monthly Archives: October 2012

On the Move

Today, 27th of September, we have another change of address.  We are subletting an apartment in Bronte.  It is a close walk to the beach, really on the border of Waverly and Bronte.

Espresso, Kitchen

Getting My Caffeine Fix!

The owner is an American from Boston.  He is at the apartment when we arrive which was good since he showed me how to use his espresso machine.  Yay!!!!  I won’t have to go in search of a café for my morning caffeine fix.  There it is… in the far corner.

Studio in Bronte

Home till we go to New Zealand

I don’t hear a Bostonian accent and it turns out he has been here for 15 years.  However he has American mayo, mustard and hot sauce in the fridge so he still hangs on to some American customs.  Mayo here is nauseatingly sweet, as is the tartar sauce. I am liking this place already.  The studio is nice and airy with pretty much everything that you could need.

Bill is going to Cambodia and I am immediately jealous.  But what am I saying?  I was there and I am now in Australia all in one year.  And New Zealand is next.  I think how fortunate I have been.  This year has been truly chockfull of incredible experiences.

AlleywayWe also have a cat.  Though he doesn’t technically belong to the apartment since it’s Bill’s girlfriend’s cat who lives two apartments down the hall.  But he visits… a lot.

Cat

Meet Sox

And fancies himself as the local “Don”

Cat

Overseeing His Territory

You can’t see it in this photo but we can see the ocean from here.  

The day is spent unpacking and making myself at home and when I wake up the next day I am ready to become Lidia The Explorer once more!  I am dropped off not far from the Circular Quay where the impressive Sydney Opera is.  I choose to come back to this area since I am familiar with it.  Tomorrow I will be more adventurous.   Besides, I needed a place to meet someone who I have been emailing with, Dianne.  I belong to a travel group on-line called The Travelzine.  We have GTG (get-together) with local people from the group when someone visits.  It is really a lovely set of people.

Already I am enjoying the walk.  I like to walk leisurely and capture familiar scenes from unfamiliar viewpoints.

Train Tracks

Train Tracks from Above

It is around 10 am and the city looks almost deserted.  This is a city that sometimes makes you wonder if it really is inhabited.

Street

I am spotting a yacht I wouldn’t mind being on.

Yacht

I forgo the water and head inland where I will meet with my Travelzine friends.  The easiest and most recognizable place is the Customs House which is a library now.  Makes me smile that the street has a reminder as to where to look before you cross.  My mind adds “You, clueless visitor, do not cross before looking both ways or else you will be run over.”

But it would  be hard to be run over here ‘cause drivers are -as a rule- super courteous towards pedestrians.

There’s a bird roaming around the street.  Nobody pays any head to it.  I figure this is Aussie’s equivalent of pigeons.  I’ll have to find out what they call it.   The photo isn’t a good one –the darn thing would not pose- but I think I will easily be able to capture a good one on other walks.    Sydney is starting to bloom.  Keep forgetting that it’s spring.  This is a reminder for me.  Flowers

I get to the Customs House. A local meeting point and a building you will see in more of my posts.  Customs House, Sydney, Australia

Though I was going to avoid the harbor, it beckons and after I find my new friends Dianne and Murray we head to the water for a drink and a chat.  After a few hours I say good-bye and head out to do some more exploring.

These stairs try to guide me back up to land.  Stairs  But I do not climb them and am rewarded with the image of this duck, calmly swimming in the harbor among ferries, yachts, and others.    Duck

I am feeling a bit tired.  The bus pass comes out.  Bus PassYou can buy these bus passes in most newspaper stands.  Handy to have since some buses are “pre-paid only”.

Once back in my neighborhood I am reminded by this sign that though we speak the same language I may actually need (considering the accent and the slang) a dictionary to translate some things.

Do Not Queue

Translation: Do Not Block the Intersection!

 Tomorrow I am taking a sightseeing double-decker bus and expanding my horizon.  

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Categories: Australia, Bronte, Customs House, Sydney Harbor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Out On The Farm

We drive about an hour to Peat’s Ridge where Dean’s sister lives.  It will be our home until the weekend.  I don’t see much along the way since it’s pretty dark outside.  We arrive late night but Simone has waited up for us even when she has to wake up quite early to prepare Lily (her horse) and herself and go off to compete the next day.

Morning comes and I wake to the most tranquil of settings.   It is quiet.  Really quiet.  It is so conducive to just relaxing.  I make my morning tea and with my cuppa (Aussie speak for a cup of tea) I open the door and go towards the gate I opened last night in pitch darkness.

Wisteria gives a touch of color along the fence which I thought was lavender (though I have a green thumb I would not be able to identify most plants).  Fortunately Marty, Simone’s boyfriend, knows them all and later helped me name them.  I cut a branch filled with flowers and put it in and I sit with my Mac on the porch to catch up with friends.

I’ve been told to go up the hill for a good walk.  

I think it’s because I love to travel so much that I have a slight fascination towards paths.  So this one is calling to me.  Off I go.  

More flowers along the way which Marty would identify as  Gymea Lilies  You have to look up for these since the flower blooms at the end of a long stalk.  

These two horses held my attention.  I was curious about the patch on the white one’s eyes.  I watched them interact.  It looked as if the brown one was looking after the white one.  He didn’t leave her side.  Later, Simone would tell me that one was blind in one eye and that the brown one was 30 years old, pretty ancient for a horse.  They are the best of buddies and are always close to each other.  

I was going to take a right at the end of the road and go to a Tough Mudder competition that was being held in the area but decided to go back to the house.  Why would anyone want to stress their body to that limit is beyond my comprehension.

As I return the old tree -it is bigger than the house itself- commands my attention.  

Marty comes home.  Simone comes home.  She’s placed third in the dressage competition and scored really well on the other.  Dean comes home.  Dinner in front of the TV and catching Big Brother Australia.  I might be hooked.

Today, Monday, Sept. 26 we are going to Terrigal.

It is a charming village.  The bay is filled with boats.  

This combination of a Sea Rescue and a boat named Dream Catcher attracted me.  Perhaps Sea Rescue is rescuing a dream that may have escaped the Dream Catcher?  Don’t shoot me… I spin tales from very little.  

We go grab a bite to eat at the kiosk on the beach.  Today’s menu is Fish and Chips (French Fries to Americans).    

As I eat I look up, and wonder why these pelicans have chosen to pose on an electrical pole as opposed to the lovely tree they have right next to it.   Up close the bird’s eye looks almost painted on.

 

The sun is coming down so off to Coles it is to get stuff to cook dinner with.   Simone’s son is coming to dinner.

The next day I learn that two little foals have been born that morning and I am taken to see them.  They’re in a field with their two moms.  One of the mares is colicky which can be dangerous for her so she is closely monitored by her owners and vet. The other mare, Gypsy, is in the middle of the field with her brown and white foal.  She sees us at the fence and comes halfway and stands there staring at us and then calmly turns around and goes back to the foal.  She has given us a warning and expects to stay away.  Mothers of all types are immensely protective of their offspring.   What a treat it was to see this.

The rest of the days before we relocate to Bronte, I spend the day relaxing, working around the house, and sharing meals and TV time with Marty and Simone at night.  Really enjoying being part of their daily life.

Categories: Australia, Peats Ridge, Sydney, Terrigal | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Bye, Bye Bondi

It’s Saturday, September 22.  Tonight we head over to Dean’s sister’s house in Peats Ridge.  So today I pack in the morning so that I can have the rest of the day to say good-bye to Bondi Beach.  It has truly been wonderful to be at a beach in an apartment where I got to know my neighbors and surroundings and live a bit as a local.

I was going to do the Coastal Walk once again but decide to stay close to home.  It is the weekend and the weather is still beautiful so the people are out and about the beach.

The grass along the beach is also packed with people enjoying the sun.  Perhaps these are the people who do not consider sand between the toes as enjoyable or romantic but still want to be at the beach. I can’t resist some of the graffiti walls and as I pass I photograph.  

I cross the street into Bondi and am fascinated by the mosaic benches.  No one seems to notice them or care.  No one is even sitting on them.  I just photograph them and do not listen to them beckoning for me to sit down since I have barely started my exploration today. 

  

I’m hungry and consider eating at one of the fish places on the beach but decide to go further into the town itself. I pass Gertrude and Alice  that seems to be a café but basically has books outside for sale.  I continue and then make a U-turn.  Has been a while since I’ve heard the name Gertrude.  I imagine very prim and proper women having tea around an inviting fireplace when I read it.  Need to investigate this place. People are having coffee and I smell food.  I go in and it is in fact a café and bookstore.  It’s cozy and I’m digging the vibe inside.

Once done I go back home where I will wait to be picked up and head to our next home: Peats Ridge which is about 45 minutes from town. After getting into the apartment and checking all is ready to move I go outside and as the sun goes down I bid Bondi Beach farewell.

Categories: Australia, Bondi Beach, Sydney | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Switching to Tourist Mode

Today, Friday, September 21, I am going to be a tourist!  First I do the usual: open the door and assess the weather.  It’s early still and brrrr… it’s a bit nippy.

Perhaps that is why the beach is still mostly unpopulated.

Bondi Park is practically deserted.

By the time Dean wakes up the breeze has let up a bit and it is not too cold.  We head out to the bus.   He’s bought me a Bus Pass that makes me feel like a local again.  Never mind that I don’t know where the bus stop is or what bus to take.   This outing will help me familiarize myself with the routes.  We stop at the Circular Quay (which I would have pronounced “kwa” with a long “a” and is actually pronounced “kee”) where the Sydney Opera House is.

The Harbor Bridge greets us.  

I had wanted to do the bridge climb tour where they take you on top of this beautiful bridge.  Was willing to pay the $223 until I saw how high up they go and how windy it could be.  Uh, no thank you!  Ah, but what a view they must get (one that I would not be able to see with my eyes shut!) 

Just in case the sight of this Sydney icon isn’t enough of a recognizable and welcome sight there is a big sign welcoming you to The Opera House.

Didn’t realize that the tiles form a pattern that makes it even more beautiful up close.  1,056,006 glossy white and matte cream tiles!

Across the harbor is Luna Park, an amusement park that immediately brought Coney Island in New York to mind. 

The light is changing and giving the Opera House a different hue.  It’s as impressive up close as it is from a distance.   

One photo of me just to prove I really was here and then we are off toward dinner.  On the way we will see the Opera House from another angle.  But first I glance at the Harbor (Harbour written in Aussie) Bridge once more as the sun goes down.  

People at happy hour don’t seem to give it a second glance while the birds seem to stop and stare.  

And then here, in all its glory, is the Sydney landmark from the other side.

Dinner was at an Italian restaurant, Zia Pina Pizzeria, in The Rocks, a historic area of Sydney’s city center.

We don’t roam much since we have to get back to the Bondi Pavilion to see I Want to Sleep With Tom Stoppard.    My first independent theater outing in Sydney.  I much enjoyed it.  At intermission there’s a large balcony (the theater is on the second floor) from where you can gaze at the beach.

We walk back home.  It’s gotten cold but I am getting to like the fresh breeze on my face and it makes a nice warm bed so much more inviting.

Categories: Australia, Bondi Beach, Bondi Park, Bondi Pavilion, Circular Quay, Luna Park, Sydney, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Come And Say G’day!

I wake up to an absolutely perfect weather on Thursday, 20th September (as they state the day first and month afterwards around here) almost like Sydney proving me wrong to have said that bad weather is the norm here.  I can’t believe it’s been a week since I left Los Angeles and 5 full days of being here.  First time that I go out in short sleeve and don’t even bother to take a jacket.  The sun is up.  The surfers are out. The park is full already at 9:00 am.

I am determined to get my coffee fix today.  Head out to the cleaners first.  Want to take advantage of the sunny sky and take a photo of my two favorite buildings.   Though I have my trusty camera hanging from my shoulder I am almost feeling like a local.  Until, that is, I go into the cleaners.  Name?  That’s easy.  Telephone?  Uh, don’t remember.  Do you need one? The Asian looks up, sighs, says yes, sighs again and then says he needs a phone number in case something goes wrong.  Now I’m really confident in leaving my clothes.  So I give him a number, he seems satisfied and I proceed to walk up the hill into the residential area.

I pass a school which has a mural on its wall which I love.  

The houses on my way up are distinct, with colorful glass panels.  

I find a little café in the hill away from the coast.  After all, one can only take so much of the beach, right???

I usually smile a lot and say hi to just about everyone that crosses by.  Finding that most here avert their eyes when crossing, rarely say hi when eyes meet and don’t smile much.  Once engaging in a conversation they are charming and really quite helpful but to get to that point is not effortless.  Paul Hogan of Crocodile Dundee fame made it sound that everyone was pretty much open and overly friendly.  Remember the “I’ll slip another shrimp on the barbie for ya” commercial from the mid-eighties?  Or does this mean I am such a product of mass media that I believed?  By the way, for the Aussies it would have been prawn instead of shrimp.  Shrimp was replaced when they did the campaign so as not to confuse Americans.

I head to the Coastal Walk, which I know will keep me on track and help me not get lost.  I find a park way up on a hill with wonderful views.

I sit on a swing.

Find a bench.

I lay on a bench.  I’m starting to get really good at this chilling thing.

Back on the Coastal Walk, I stop a million times to take photos for myself and of others.   “Want a photo of both of you together?”  “Yes please!” was interchanged a lot.

 

 

 

      

I find that the scenery quiets me, makes me contemplative.

  It seems to have the same effect on birds.  🙂

  How could it not?

As I head back down I pass the Bondi Icebergs, a local club.  The swimming pool, where the waves crash into, fascinates me and scares me at the same time.  They have a pretty cool restaurant.  If you show your non-resident of the area document you can go in and eat.

I am getting closer to home now.  Pass some really colorful graffiti.

 And something that reminds me that humans are very similar around the world:  we all like to bend the rules at times. A lone surfer running towards the beach and stopping to assess the waves.

 

As I spot the apartment on the horizon a sort of possessive feeling comes over me, and start thinking of Bondi Beach as mine.

 

Categories: Australia, Bondi Beach, Coastal Walk, Sydney | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

No Jetlag and No “Nasties”

Monday morning, September 17, and I awake extremely proud of my body not going into jet lag mode at all.  Never mind that the only time I have experienced it was when I flew back to Los Angeles from Hong Kong.  Hopefully I am not jinxing myself and I truly have escaped it.

I haven’t figured out this Telsa broadband stick thing so I am again with no connection.  This is becoming a recurring theme.  So today, after I eat a yoghurt –which by the way, made me laugh out loud when in the nutritional info it stated Nasties: 0%- will head out to the café that has Internet.  It’s either Aussie’s great sense of humor or “Nasties” is their equivalent of “Other”.  I am trying to go as organic as possible and this yoghurt is divine.  I notice that there is an abundance of organic and gluten-free products in the market.

I pass Bondi Park which is right in front of the apartment.   Love the artsy sea serpent kids play on.  

I arrive at Speedos Café, order a very healthy egg white scramble and a not so healthy toast.  They have Internet but as much as I tried I could not connect.  The girl who is serving me asks me where I’m from.  So I tell her and she proceeds to start talking to me in Spanish.  I was a bit surprised.  She tells me she’s from Medellín, Colombia, and that, contrary to what I thought, there are tons of Latinos (according to her, mostly Chilean, Colombian, and Brazilian) in Australia.  She tells me life is hard here and if it weren’t for the fact that she has an Aussie fiancée she would be heading back to her country.  In fact, it was another Aussie that fell in love with her in another part of the world and brought her here.  She’s been here 4 years.  She sings three times a week in a Cuban restaurant.  I seem to be getting people’s life story every time I engage in a conversation and loving it.  People are fascinating.  Their lives are so interesting even when they don’t see it as such.

She tells me of a local food market to buy stuff for tonight’s dinner.  In this short block, up the hill overlooking the ocean is where the locals are.  Ion and Tony’s Market will be my go to grocery store for as long as I’m here.  Filled with organic products and pretty much stocked with anything I need.  The owners are Greek.  One tells me that he went to Hawaii and was disappointed.  He much prefers the Greek Islands where he is from.  How could he not?  He did say the shopping was better than in Sydney.  Cheaper, much cheaper, as well.

As I went up the hill I spotted a turquoise, art deco building.  Don’t have my big camera with me but think I will come back and take a better photo of it.  

At night we went to pick up some things left behind in another apartment in Bondi Junction and go to a supermarket.  It must have been around 10:00 pm and the streets were pretty much empty.  It started drizzling giving the town a bit of a haunted look.  Went to Coles, the bigger supermarket here though it isn’t as big as the ones we have in the States.  In the mall there is a K-Mart. 

Sydney showed its true colors on Tuesday.  The morning was extremely overcast and very much on the cold side giving me the perfect excuse to do absolutely nothing productive or otherwise.  I gazed at the beach, the park.  Read. Wrote. And once again gazed at the horizon.   I can now go online and after a quick look and wonderful chat with a few friends I, believe it or not, disconnect.  The weather improved but I was so into my inactivity that all I managed was to visit the market and cook a quick spaghetti.  Then at night we headed out to the beach for a gelato but the place was closed (again, it was after 10:00) so settled for something called Paddle Pop.  I don’t like chocolate but have been on this strange binge of craving for it.  Somehow this ice cream popsicle tasted specially good walking the coastal walk and hearing a very feisty ocean crash its waves against the coast.  It’s cold, almost deserted, and just eerily beautiful.  It was actually quite magical.  Another perfect ending to the day.  

 As we walk there’s a police car in the middle of the street and as we look to where they are looking there is this guy propped upright against a side mirror of a car, effectively in another world –either dead or very asleep.  They shine their flashlights on him.  He doesn’t budge.  We wait to see if he’s alive.  He wakes. We leave.  When we pass the place again cops and drunk are gone.  I ask what probably happened and am told that the cops probably took him home.  Certainly am not in LA where he would have probably spent the night in jail.

Wednesday allows me to do something I haven’t done in many, many years.  I do a wash and hang my clothes on the clothesline.  Washes I’ve done before (though maybe not for $4).  Hang clothes on a clothesline, nope.  Today is sunny and I can’t help but smile as I see wetsuits on it.  Must be surfers in the building.  And then, when I ponder what to do with the undies I laugh when I see bras and panties on the line.  So I proceed to hang mine up and to weave stories from the clothes others have hanged up.  I wonder if the same is done with mine.

It’s sunny outside and in two hours time they are dry.  I bury my face in the clothes and inhale.  There’s a scent that the clothes get when left to dry in open air, under the sun, in an unpolluted environment that just can’t be reproduced commercially. 

Tonight we are going to the screening of Graham, a short shot and edited by Dean. It will be screened at the Ritz, an old theater probably built in the ‘40’s.  It has an art deco feel to it.  It’s heritage listed as they say here.  Landmark Building as we say in America. Pretty.  Unfortunately, the film is actually being screened in the new addition so I didn’t get to see the old main theater. Couldn’t help but compare the ones in LA to the one here.  If it weren’t for the people’s accent, the whole set up -presentation, thank you, etc.- is pretty much the same.  The only thing is that in our screenings I almost always know most of the people so mingling comes more naturally to me at home. 

It’s almost 10:00 pm by the time we finish chatting and socializing a bit.  Most everything is starting to close but we are hungry so cross the street to El Bulli, a Spanish tapas restaurant that is still serving food.  Music piped in is Colombian (a cumbia), there’s tequila prominently displayed on the bar, some of the actors are sipping margaritas, the tapas menu is very limited and when it arrived it was a bit of a hodgepodge of countries.  They had a dish of Albóndigas de Paella.  Paella shaped in a ball and fried.  Fun, original and tasty.  I got spicy empanadas.  Both were good but not quite Spanish tapas.  Oh, and I still can’t get over sticker shock.  $35 for two itsy bitsy plates, no drinks.  Fulfilling nonetheless.

Back to the car that will get us back to our flat (apartment for us) on the beach, in no time.  

Categories: Australia, Bondi Beach, Bondi Park, Coastal Walk, Sydney | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

My Rested Body Awakes

Last I left you I was going to bed with full intention to write…

But when I get under the covers, slightly tired as I am, the only thing that I could possibly accomplish is sleep.  4:30 pm and I am gone into a land of slumber.  So deeply am I asleep that I barely hear the loud knock on the door three hours later.   Tonight I will sleep well.  Besides, there is no better lullaby than the sound of crashing waves. And I did.  I wake Sunday morning, September 16, at 9:00 am completely refreshed and ready to go out and explore.  The day is miraculously mild and sunny.  What a treat it is to set off on foot toward the beach, camera in hand.  People are already out.  I forgot it’s Sunday.  No wonder the little park in front of the apartment has been so packed.

I walk down the steps onto to the beach and after opening the gate to the beach I am already snapping away.   

    This is a surfer’s paradise.

 Love how they made a little salt water kiddie pool next to the beach.  Don’t know if it is so in the rest of Sydney but the people here seem to be quite body conscious.  Women and men are thin and athletic.  On the beach there’s a lot of sunbathing and surfing going on. I walk along the beach and realize there is an “official” coastal walk/road filled with locals running, walking, chilling.  Populated as well by tourists.  I can hear so many languages spoken but –curiously so- no Spanish.  All sorts and types of people pass by but somehow hardly any look like me.  I am starting to feel like an actual minority.  Funny how in a land that speaks my language I am feeling a bit out-of-place.  Yet, as soon as I write this I realize I am so at ease in this beach town. I think it could turn out that I have been a beach bum at heart all along!

 

 

The views are really gorgeous. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The water is the most beautiful blue.   All shades of it.

The walk offers a lot of other type of views too…  some are quirky like these ants painted on a house container wall.     Some are imposing as these rocks along the way.   Some infuse you with total tranquility as this lonely bench and kite… Some sculptures as well, framed by the crashing waves. Ahhhh… what visual overload this walk has been.     I follow it up to Tamarama Beach and go a little further before turning around.       I stop on the way back and have a salad.  The place is not a fancy one; my grilled chicken salad is $18 AUD, nonetheless.  The exchange rate is $1 AUD =$1.01 USD, however I have done an exchange in a Foreign Exchange place and got only $81 AUD for my $100 USD.  Later I would learn that going into a bank they give you a better rate and charge only a nominal fee for it.

As I leave, before I cross the street, I hear it:  Spanish, albeit from Spain. I head out to the supermarket, which is a relatively small one, and buy enough for snacks for the week (fruit and yogurt) and dinner tonight.

I pass a Chocolatería San Churro. That caught my attention. It is manned by Asians and on the wall they state that while eating a churro “you indulge in an experience in one of the oldest chocolate cultures in Europe.”  I’ve been in Los Angeles so long that I have associated churros solely with Mexico, forgetting the late nights or early mornings (depending on how you see it) -while in Madrid, Spain- of dipping a churro in a chocolate so thick you could make it stand in it.  I resist and do not stop and have one, even when the sign above the door says bienvenida, making it a welcoming sign catering exclusively to the female gender.

I get home and one of the neighbors is outside and, after I smile and say hello he immediately starts talking to me.  Australians will not go out of their way to start a conversation but are innately friendly if you do.  He started talking about the area and how a small one-bedroom with a kitchenette, like the one I’m staying at would go for $700,000 and his, a two-bedroom for about a million plus.  So real estate prices are almost as high as in New York!  He, his girlfriend, and baby boy are English and moving to the Canary Islands in a few weeks to be closer to the grandparents.  He said that in the Canary Islands they could buy a house while here everything is pretty much out of their price range.  Fortunately they have an Internet business which they can run from anywhere in the world.

I cook a bit with the door wide open listening to the sounds of people packing up and leaving.  It is getting breezy and cold but the day has been truly perfect.

As I cut up some vegetables and find my bearings I marvel at the fact that I have been two days without an Internet connection.  I could have and should have stopped at the café close to home and sat there a while but was on the lazy side and didn’t.  I have one of those connection sticks I installed this morning but it didn’t work.  I miss Facebook and being able to use Skype, however, I am doing things that I probably would not be doing if I were online.  By tomorrow I’ll have it and am hoping that I won’t be whittling time in front of a computer when there is the whole of Sydney to discover.

Categories: Coastal Walk, Sydney, Tamarama Beach | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Not Friday the 13th…

It’s Thursday, September 13, 2012.  My friend is taking me to the airport.  I am thinking how fortunate that it isn’t a Friday the 13th or Tuesday the 13th.   The first is an unlucky day in my American culture, the other one is unlucky in my Latino culture.  I’m not superstitious but…  It occurs to me that the other thirteens on other days of the week must be unlucky in other parts of the world but for now I am giving thanks that it is neither Friday or Tuesday.   But is it really Thursday?  Yes, it is… just making sure that my travel day has actually arrived. I tend to be a bit compulsively insecure on my departure date.

As she talks to me about exchange rates and how to benefit from them, my mind wanders for I cannot seem to be able to grasp the concept she is so patiently explaining.  I could perhaps grasp it on a normal day but today all I can manage is to check my passport and my permanent resident card for the third time in a row. I say out loud –though not meaning to- that maybe I shouldn’t go.  But I’ve already paid my for my round trip, nonrefundable Qantas flight ($1,505.64), plus $20 for my seat assignment and for the Australian visa ($115) and for the New Zealand visa ($140), all for a grand total of $1780.64 which I would lose, so I think it best to go ahead.  She, with her humor puts me at ease once more.  Reality is that for the first time I am a bit hesitant.  So weird that being a long time traveler, I am concerned about going to Australia.  They speak English (well at least some sort of it) and even if I can’t understand the accent at times there is nothing a “What?” or “Could you repeat that?” can’t fix.  Perhaps it’s the length of this trip.  It will be even longer than my Asia trip.  Seven weeks of suspending my life-as-I-know-it and forming part of life there.  Is it the flight itself?  14 and ½ hours is only a bit more than my flight from Hong Kong.  Is it the weather?  I don’t like the cold and it will not be that warm yet.  Who knows?  But I do want to go.

As we park in front of the Tom Bradley International Terminal at the Los Angeles airport (LAX), we hug and I feel the warmth of true friendship.  “Contact me when you get there, okay?”  I like to have someone who cares and wants to be assured of the fact that I’m safe. Oh gosh… Internet.  I don’t think I’ll have it where I’m staying so the worrier –one that I thought was pretty much defunct- starts wondering how I will manage without it.  But as I walk into the terminal my wondering and hang-ups disappear.  It is here, at the beginning of a trip, in an airport, where I go into another mode.  I am happy here.  I am confident, assertive, in control.  I am now hearing in my head Helen Reddy singing “I am woman, hear me roar!” How appropriate that she is Australian born!

I check in and watch as the Qantas rep rips off about 3 of my tags from my Southeast Asia trip.  I see them go remembering what a wonderful, life-changing trip that was –forgive the cliché.   Two of the tags  are labeled Business (it was my suitcase that was labeled as such since, unfortunately, I had traveled coach).  The girl asks me about it.  I don’t want to explain but do tell her that unless she intends to upgrade me I am not flying business this time.  Oh well, it didn’t work.  No upgrade for me.  Not even remotely so; worth a try, however.  I am handed the economy boarding-pass and sent on my way.  At the gate the Ecuadorian that checks boarding passes says to me “Must be a mistake. You have an economy boarding-pass when you seem to be a first-class person.”  I’m sure he says it to all, but he made me smile.

I go to the cantina and have, of all things, a hot dog and do what I usually do, establish conversations with total strangers.  An impeccably dressed and stylish couple sits at the table next to me.   The man lovingly runs his fingers through his wife’s hair.  Well, it could actually be his lover and not his wife.  The place is packed so a man in a stocking-like wrap around his head asks if he can sit with them.  What a table of opposites.  They start talking and it turns out that he is headed to Auckland, New Zealand where he lives; they are headed to Fiji for two weeks.  I’m going to New Zealand as well as Australia and I’ve always wanted to go Fiji so I interject.  Turns out, the couple has been together for 25 years.  From North Carolina. High-school sweethearts.  And he still runs his fingers through her hair in public?  I want that! The other guy is traveling with his sister.  He tells me to prepare for very cold weather in New Zealand.  The couple tells me it’s been a dream of theirs for years to visit Fiji.  We all talk about Southeast Asia, the Islands, New Zealand and before we know it an hour has passed.   I go to my gate.

All doubts have left my mind.  It is Sydney where I want and need to be right now.

I go to the window seat I have been assigned after consulting with www.seatguru.com (a site that gives you seat recommendation on the aircraft you are flying) and start hoping that no one sits beside me, knowing that as tired as I am, the window and I will become one no matter what.  Don’t think there is much that can keep me awake until I feel a kick, and another, and another.  The child in back of me is sitting on a booster seat, which shortens the space between him and me.  I debate whether to say something or not.  Now, not having someone beside me is the least of my concerns.  So I turn and in the best of ways tell the parents that I know it’s hard to travel with a small child but could they possibly see to it to keep the kicking to a minimum?  To my surprise they are more than accommodating and understanding.  And now a woman is sitting in the aisle seat but no one is in the middle seat.  The doors close and we look at each other and go “Yes!”   The whole plane is packed to the max.  We are the only ones with an empty seat and my row partner can’t be more pleasant.  Ah, it’s going to be a good night.  Anyone hearing The Black Eyed Peas “I Gotta A Feeling”?

Nine hours later I awake.  The flight has been the best one yet.  Qantas crew has not been the most solicitous or charming –hope that is not indicative of the population- but they are definitely efficient.  Some turbulence at the beginning caused by a plane ahead of us -according to the co-pilot- and smooth from then on. The five hours that are left are interspersed with mini-chats with my row companion and listening to Aussie music and discovering that some singers that I actually have on my iPod (like Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu)  are Australians.

As we approach landing my heart starts beating faster.  No trepidation left, just excitement for a new adventure. I go through immigration and customs and frankly they are the friendliest of any of the countries I’ve been to (and there have been many).   For some reason going through immigration always causes me some anxiety.  And that’s without anything that should concern them or me.  So, thank you Australia for welcoming me so kindly.   You will be my home and home base for almost two months so I love that we start off in such good terms.

I left on a Thursday and today is Saturday, September 15.  I have lost a day that will take me almost two months to recuperate.  And I feel no sadness for it.  🙂

I enter the “other side” the place where I will reunite with someone dear to my heart and… there is no one there.  It becomes clear to me that I have changed dramatically through the years.  I am not troubled or annoyed or even worried.  As the minutes go by I chat with a couple that says there was a bad traffic jam as they headed for the airport and they offer to look after my bags as I get my coffee. I sit, open my Mac and was going to send a message, then look for a hotel if necessary but crisis averted as I see him arrive.  I am home for now.

Nothing seems foreign really.  The climate is as Los Angeles.  It’s sunny tending to be on the warm side.  Perfect weather.  Then I see the dark clouds and it starts raining for a little while.  Then the sun is once again out and it is beautiful and warm.  I am staying in Bondi Beach.  As we go through the corridor to the apartment, the beach lies ahead.  A park is right in front.   I am reminded in some way of Venice Beach in California.    It all seems so relaxed and laid back.  He goes to work and I am left to go explore.  I am wide-awake so choose to unpack.   I open the door and the beach feeling surrounds me.  The park is becoming crowded.  People sunbathing, some are alone, some with kids, some with friends and/or lovers.  The sounds of laughter, conversation, and even different languages pour into the room and, for some reason it comforts me.    I start getting tired.  3:30 pm here.  Since I don’t have Internet and my brain is a little fuzzy I can’t and don’t want to figure out what time it is in Los Angeles.  But I’m fading fast.  I take a shower to wake up, determined to stay up and suffer from no jetlag.  It has the opposite effect.  That bed is looking goooood…  No!  So I get dressed and open the door to head out to the café where I can get some caffeine and some Facebook time.  The park is now packed but it’s gotten really much colder.  So I take a step back, get undressed and crawl under the covers and start writing.  That ought to keep me awake, right?

Categories: Australia, Bondi Beach, Ramblings, Sydney | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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