The worldwide Augustana College experience

Drowned Rats and Sun-dried Tomatoes

I met Rob, a Chicago native, in the Sydney airport Friday morning.  As we stood in line to exchange currency, I learned that Rob had just quit his job at a large banking firm in Chicago to travel Australia for two months.  It turns out that Rob, who is about to turn 40, recently realized life is too short to spend every day “being miserable” working relentless hours in an unforgiving market. With his backpack and savings but without a plan, Rob was ready for adventure. My encounter with Rob was a refreshing reminder to enjoy life and my next two months in Sydney.

It’s now been 1 week since setting foot in the southern hemisphere and much has happened.  The following is a brief overview–

Day 1:  None of my luggage arrived in Sydney. I was not concerned, perhaps slightly frustrated but confident it would be delivered the next day along with Simon’s missing surfboard.

We spent the first day meeting our CAPA liaisons and exploring the area around our apartment complex. We are a 10-20 minute bus commute to the city.  Initially, Sydney reminded me of San Diego.  It has that sunny city feel–where there is a lot of laid back energy, big buildings, and shopping.  I guess I was also expecting to see blond surfers strolling the streets like many do in Southern California. This is where I was wrong.  Sydney is extremely diverse; the stereotypical Australian (surfer meets crocodile hunter) is a rare occurrence. You’re much more likely to meet Asians with Australian accents.

Courtney and I did some grocery shopping. We thought a $4.99 half gallon of milk was expensive until we just happened to stumble into “Liquour Land” and noticed a fifth of vodka priced at $35.99…we’re sticking to cereal…

I have got to remember to walk/run on the left side of the road.  On elevators you stand on the left and pass on the right.  It sounds like a simple concept, but it’s interesting how you’re geared to move to the right. Needless to say I have had an ample amount of awkward run-ins and numerous close calls with cars (drive on the left) while running–the crosswalks and streets however, are convenently marked “look right” or “look left.”

Day 2:  Saturday morning I woke up ready to conquer the streets of Sydney and master the public transportation system.  I explored The Rocks region and scoped out my internship site.  This part of the city is considered the historical district and located next to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House.  I have a beautiful and peaceful place to work.  Still no luggage…and definitely wasn’t able to master public transportation yet….

Day 3:  After many phone calls Sunday morning, it seems as though the last place my bags can be tracked is back in Chicago.  Now I am officially frustrated, but determined to not let this ruin my day at the beach.  Twenty five of us headed out to Bondi (pronounced bond-eye) and had a blast.  The beach was packed with people–families, skilled surfers, surfer wannabes, and topless chicks covered the sand and soaked up the sun. Cafes, shops, and smoothie stands parallel the coast.  Though the food is pricey, it is also fresh and delicious. The waves were bigger than I expected…ha…it was great …I/we got washed up and tossed around a few times.  One wave, which I didn’t see coming, hit me so hard that it knocked my messy bun off the top of my head and stole my hair tie.  I felt and looked like a drowned rat after my brawl with the ocean. Court said she felt more like a sun dried tomato.

Since my luggage still hasn’t arrived, Court and I decided to do some shopping.  We finally made it back to our complex around 730 happy and hungry.  Though exhausted, our ambitious selves decided to find China town to try some “authentic” cuisine at a restaurant recommended in my “Sydney Top 10″ book.  We waited for the bus for 35 minutes, got lost, wandered in the rain, but finally found the restaurant which unfortunately closed 10 minutes earlier. Ha. By this time we were weak from hunger and settled for the next open place.  All Court wanted was some sweet n sour chicken, but she ended up with about 7 pounds of chicken with skin on  covered with peppers and chives. I thought this was hilarious until my beef and vegetable plate arrived.  I had 7 pounds of the most unaesthetically pleasing beef you would/could ever see in your life.  Both ravenous, we devoured as much as we could and tried not to think about it. We both still get squeamish talking about it now. Ha.

We ended up lost in the rain on the way home. We were both kind of slap happy and couldn’t find the bus stop for the life of us.  Court’s feet were swollen and I ended up peeing my pants because I was laughing so hard.  This too was funny since these are the only pants I own at the moment other than the sweats I wore on the plane.  We took a cab home. It was a great day.

Day 4:  After more CAPA orientation we tried kangaroo and emu pizza.  I like the emu better–it had a bbq flavor to it and was not as greasy as the kangaroo.  After some more shopping, Court, Rob, and I got lost…again. Ha. We finally got off a random bus when we spotted a Subway.  Cheap sandwiches…yes! After dinner we asked this nice gentleman where we were and where we needed to go to get home.  Kindly, he said he was heading in our direction and offered to escort us to our bus stop.  However, the man was approximately 6’5 (no joke) and probably had the longest and fastest stride of every business man in Sydney.  I struggled keeping up with him.  Court and Rob were about 10 meters behind us literally jogging every few steps to stay with us.  He was asking me about Obama and the U.S. economy but I could not focus because I was giggling out loud listening to Rob and Court behind us running and commenting about the pace.

Still no luggage. I’d say I was pissed, but won’t because in Australia, if you are “pissed” it means drunk.  Thankfully the girls on the trip are extremely helpful and keep lending different outfits.  I am trying to convince myself that this no clothes experience is good for me.  Material things shouldn’t matter that much anyway, right?  Hmm…

Day 5 (Tuesday):  I work with astro-phisists! How cool is that? The observatory is a small museum/planetarium.  Therefore my co-workers are astronomers–extremely intelligent, kind, and intriguing people.  My two supervisors were not in today, so I spent the day making hover crafts with children and discussing the distance between stars and the transit of Venus.  I also accompanied two tours and spotted Venus, a star, the sun, and people climbing the Harbour bridge through a telescope.  I can tell this job is going to expose me to a lot of science–I am secretly excited about it.   When else am I going to get to hang out with a bunch of astro-phisists?

For the record…we only have 8 planets in our solar system…Pluto was tossed a few years back.

Day 6: I intended to start my day by stopping at the McDonald’s downtown since they have free wifi.  I am terribly behind with emails and blogging.  Tomi was kind enough to let me borrow her black flats.  However, my size 7s struggled  fitting into her petite size 6 shoe.  After wearing heels yesterday, I figured flats would give enormous relief and didn’t anticipate the size difference to be such an issue.  After walking 2 blocks my feet were killing me.  After 4 blocks my left ankle was literally bleeding.  After 5 blocks I removed both shoes and scampered through the streets of Sydney barefooted and looking ridiculous. I ducked into the first shoe store and purchased a decent pair of black, semi dressy sandals (another positive working with astro-phisists…they can careless about your shoes).

I met my supervisors–Geoff and Toner–both extremely welcoming and very kind.  At this point I am under the impression that I will be helping plan the Festival of the Stars event that takes place in July and the upcoming Valentine’s day celebration.

After work, I was lost long enough to be late for my first CAPA class.  I don’t understand why I am struggling with public transportation system so much…for gosh sakes, how hard is it to read a map?  I have no complaints about being raised in central Illinois;  However, I don’t believe my years in small town Sherman or my few shopping extravaganzas on Michigan avenue fully prepared for living in the city.

At 915, I finally ate dinner.  There is a small, affordable Italian restaurant near the Meriton.  Pasta always makes me feel better.  As I was indulging, I splattered sauce on my white dress shirt that I purchased yesterday.  Ha. I have since washed it…definitely stained. You just got to laugh.

Still no luggage.

Day 7:  Ed, a co worker is a captivating cat.  Though not an astrophysist, he is a 28 year old working on  his Masters in Economics at Sydney University. He spent 15 years in Chile growing up.  I spent the morning talking to him.  I enjoy people.  After work he walked me (finally not lost) to Paddy’s market–a large, inexpensive shopping area in China town.  The shops sell a lot of junk/souvenirs.  However, if you sort through some of it you can find some sweet deals.  As this small, oriental shop was closing, I purchased a cute turquoise sundress.  It was one of those last minute purchases you are hesitant about, but then fork over the cash because, well, you just do.  After I left, I regretted my decision and quickly popped back in to return the dress.  Why was I buying a sundress when I don’t even have a pair of khaki pants or a pair of jeans? Kate, what are you doing? Well, the oriental couple definitely didn’t understand my predicament–”What the hell?” spouted the confused man. “No no….leave leave.” Slightly startled, I abruptly left with my cute, turquoise dress.

I was startled again when returning to the apartment–this time with a pleasant surprise!  Court and and Rob were shouting that one of my bags arrived! Yes! Though it is the smaller of the two, I was overly excited and extremely more hopeful that the bigger one would be arriving soon.

A large group of us hit up a bar/club in Northern Sydney later that night that was full of 18 surfer wannabes. Ha. It was a good time, but we (the girls) were definitely wearing too much clothing.  When Will Smith–Fresh Prince of Bel Air–came on, we all let loose. I love America.

Day 8:  I received a “real” project at work. I am designing a brochure for the Observatory that serves as a self-tour and highlights some history.  I am not creating a marketing pamphlet, but rather informing visitors of the “must see” attractions in the museum, briefly explaining the science/history behind each of these exhibitions, and then directing them to it.  To accomplish this task, I will need to thoroughly understand each display so I can pick what I feel is the most interesting then write about it in laymen’s terms.  I like that I have the opportunity to mix science with business. I get to learn a lot and think creatively.

After work I caught the ferry across the harbour to Manly Beach.  The 30 minute ride is relaxing and beautiful.  I loved it. I was in one of those moods where I just wanted to read a book and soak up the surroundings.  Finally, I didn’t feel lost and wasn’t in a hurry.  Manly is smaller than Bondi and a lot less populated. Sitting on a bench on the beach with my cup of coffee , my book, and the ocean breeze was the perfect way to wrap up week one in Sydney, Australia.

One Response to “Drowned Rats and Sun-dried Tomatoes”

  1. great post hope to see some additional comments next Wednesday…chao ;)

Leave a Reply