11/04/2008 - 11/11/2008 80 °F
Dawn and I arrived safely in Australia and have been walking all over the city. We are staying in the south-central part of town in a hostel currently, but both are working to find places to live (and sleep in a real bed). We arrived last Thursday morning at 7am after a 15.5 hour flight. Dawn made me sit in the middle, of course, so I got to make friends with a fairly large Australian man on the trip down.
Our first day was really just an attempt to stay awake and shake loose the jet lag. Australia is 16 hours ahead of EST, so it was an effort to jump immediately into their time frame. I had heard that staying in the sunlight helps, so we walked from our hostel to the Sydney Opera house and the parks surrounding it (google has it as a 3 km walk to the Opera house). The parks are very nice and the city seems pretty clean. There are some really tall buildings next to the harbor so it definitely has the feel of a big city. The streets get really busy when work lets out, but it seems like a lot of people are tourists the rest of the time (there are a lot of backpacking hostels around us).
We are right around the corner from Chinatown, which would explain why I feel like I've seen more Asians than anything else. We went and had Chinese two nights ago and Dawn had some super spicy Thai food Sunday (if I thought it was spicy, I don't even know how Dawn was able to eat it). It doesn't seem like we've run into a whole lot of Australians, but I'm assuming that is because we are hanging out with the people we meet at the hostel (which are all travelers from out of the country). Mostly British, but we've also met people from Denmark, Ireland, and America. When we have met an Australian, they are very nice and patient as we try to adjust to how things work down here.
One of the biggest changes has been dealing with the money. Tax is almost always included in the price, so you know exactly how much everything costs. There are no 1 cent coins, but there are also no 1 dollar bills either (just $1 and $2 dollar coins). This means I need pants with deeper pockets because I am constantly losing the change when I sit down. The also don't have a quarter, they have a 20 cent coin. It is not expected to tip here either. When you order a beer (schooner for Dawn, pint for Mike) and it costs 6.90 and you give them $7, the bartender hunts you down to give you back the 10 cents. It's easier to just take it back because they get confused when you tell them to keep the change. So far I have seen few waitresses in bars, you have to walk to the bar for each of your beers.
There are a couple other differences, like you drive on the left side of the road. This also applies to several other things that take getting used to. People like to walk on the left side of the sidewalk, the escalator you use is on the left, and you have to look right instead of left when crossing the street. Unfortunately I have not been able to confirm that the toilets flush the reverse way here. They are in the midst of a large drought so all toilets flush like they do in an airplane (all the water get sucked out, no swirling). I’ll keep you posted once I find a swirling toilet.
We went to the zoo Saturday. They had a large section dedicated to Australian animals. When you walk through the kangaroo paddock, there is nothing separating you from the wallabies and kangaroos. They also do this cool thing where every 30 minutes you can go and hear the gorilla keeper, or lion keeper, or elephant keeper talk about their animals. They usually feed and exercise the animals during that period as well so they are very active. The lion cage was especially creepy because you walk a little underground to the lion enclosure so the lions are at eye level. They knew they were about to be feed, and you can appreciate how ferocious these animals can be when you stare them in the face when they are about to eat. The largest silverback gorilla also came right up to the glass. It’s pretty intimidating to see a 500 lb gorilla two feet away. I’m sure Dawn will be posting the pictures shortly.
I’ll try to update this more frequently once we get situated, but right now I am still paying for internet by the minute so I’ll only connect to synch up with work and check my email.
We miss you all!