I just got back to Brisbane after an incredible weekend spent with Nicola in Sydney. My profound apologies for neglecting to write yet again. I have no valid excuse except trying to make progress on my assignments and having an ear infection. 😦 Sickness seems to enjoy my company these days. The feeling is not mutual. Still, modern medicine works miracles and illness did not in any way detract from the entirely undeserved relaxation that I experienced this weekend. It was great to get off campus for a while and not think about work…a vacation I did not really earn because I have not begun writing my major assignment for history yet. Still I do not regret taking the break. I’m hoping it will make working easier.

Just to back-track a little, Wednesday night (before I left for Sydney) I attended an EXCELLENT capoeira class in West End. It was fantastic and I can’t wait for university classes to be over so I can go to that class more. I left feeling really good! The trade off was that I had to leave Spanish early, which I don’t like doing, but I will be doing again this week so I can get some capoeira in before I go to Melbourne for the Mid-Semester Break. That will be Thursday night. I have lots to do before then.

So, to jump into this weekend: I took a taxi to Brisbane Airport early Friday morning. The cab driver was really interesting. He had worked in the oil industry for thirty or forty years, but got tired of it and now owns real estate and a cab service as a retirement hobby. He drives cabs a couple of days per week to keep himself active. He told me all about how oil was actually a renewable source and you could make more by farming algae or krill or something like that. He told me about all the known natural depostits of oil in Canada and how bogus it is that oil was used as an excuse to send troops to Iraq because you can’t actually own oil wells in Iraq due to the absence of Western-style ownership laws, and because we don’t get a large percentage of our oil from Iraq anyway. He did most of the talking and some of the things he said made me cringe, (the word "civilized" was overused,) but it was interesting to listen to someone who had made his life from the oil industry, and I learned a few things. It made the ride to the airport less boring anyway.

My plane left from the international terminal, so I had to go through international security. Still it left on time with no problems and before I knew it I was in Sydney. I hopped on the train to Central Station and Nicola met me in Railway Square. It was SO good to see her. She looked fantastic, as funky as ever, and from that second onward the good times didn’t stop. We walked around her university before catching the bus to Newtown. UTS is a pretty cool place–I’ve been told that it was designed to prevent students from gathering in large groups because it was built during an era when student protest culture was very powerful. Newtown is a really lively area of Sydney with a notable student presence and a thriving gay culture. Nix lives above an adult book store, but it’s not really a sketchy area at all. Her house is nice and there was enough room for me to bunk with her. We relaxed in her room a while before deciding to go to Circular Quay and walk through the Botanical Gardens and see the Opera House. I wasn’t going to put out much effort to go to see the famous landmarks because I knew I’d see them eventually, but Nix insisted that I couldn’t come to Sydney without seeing the Opera House so I went along happily. It is beautiful. As Nicola pointed out, these things are famous for a reason. It truly is a breathtaking building. You don’t get the effect really from pictures, you have to go see it. I’ll put up pictures anyway. 

The sun was setting as we dawdled around the Opera House and we were just debating going around to Darling Harbour when we realized that we had planned to pick up some groceries at the supermarket so we could have some breakfasty foods. We headed to the Broadway Shops and picked up breakfast and dinner foods, planning to have lunch out, and we retired to Nicola’s house to put things away before going out to dinner. We were celebrating the first night in Sydney but also Nix had these two vouchers for a cute little cafe/restaurant kind of thing near her house. We ate a really nice meal for two dollars a piece, then rented Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead to watch before we went to sleep.

The next morning Nicola had to work and I arranged to meet Amanda for lunch in the city. I got to Railway Square alright and Amanda took me to see the Paddington Markets. It was really big and had absolutely everything you could want there. We ended up walking by Darling Harbour which is really touristy but also very pretty and then we ended up meeting Nix after she got out of work early. We went to Max Brenner for delicious hot chocolates even though the day ended up being about 30C!!! It was HOT, but I liked it. After walking around David Jones shopping for a while, we all called it a long but satisfying day. Nix and I walked around a tiny bit more but packed it in before too long and decided to have another quiet night. We had tomato soup on the roof of Nicola’s apartment and had a movie marathon and a chat session. Just for the record, if ever you are tempted to watch the movie Maybe Baby, be not fooled by the apparently stellar cast. Although it was two hours of Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, Mr. Bean’s Rowan Atkinson, and it’s in the comedy section, it is not funny and is a two hours of my life I dearly want back. Our night was redeemed by When Harry Met Sally and Garden State. We went to bed really late but had an excellent time snacking on yogurt and really catching up with each other.

In spite of late night we got up early on Sunday and walked to Glebe after breakfast. We walked all theway down Glebe Point Road and saw the ANZAC Bridge before meeting Daniel for lunch. Daniel is a friend from Cairns High and he brought Andrew, one of his mates. The four of us scoped out a really nice fish place where we sat at an outside table in the gorgeous weather munching cheap calamari and sipping cold beer. Fish ‘n’ chips ‘n’ beer on a hot day: true blue Aussie. 

Before we knew it, hours had flown by and it was time to go. Daniel went to check out Andrew’s bike and Nix and I headed to Circular Quay to check out the Sunday markets that happen there every week. It was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, just lazing around the beautiful old area of The Rocks and looking at all the shiny, glittery merchandise. After scoping out the B&B where my mom and I will be staying in December, we had a coffee and headed back home where we made mac ‘n’ cheese with peas, hereafter dubbed Cheesy Peasy Pasta, and went out for a stroll in honor of the Spanish tradition. On our paseo we discovered that a truly giant used book store was open so we spent an hour exploring it, but didn’t buy anything. I found an anthro book from 1957 calling for all of us "ugly Americans" to embrace and acknowledge cultural difference around the world or the consequences would be dire. I almost bought it, but then decided that I didn’t need another book just now.

It was late when we finally got back but we tried to finish our movies anyway. There were two we hadn’t watched. The first one only lasted ten minutes before we decided not to waste any more time on crappy movies. That one was called Totally Awesome which we wanted to be a genuinely hillarious bad 90s movie, but turned out to be a 2006 parody of a bad 90s movie. Very disappointing, but we congratulated ourselves on our apparent skill at picking the worst movies in the entire store. We tried to recouperate with Back to the Future but were so tired that we stopped halfway through and went to bed.

There wasn’t much time the next morning to do anything much except go for coffee after breakfast and chat until I caught my cab to the airport. My flight left on time, I had lunch in the airport and I was back at college by 4pm. It was a great weekend, but the best part by far was just being with Nicola. After four years of almost never talking to each other, we were sisters again in a second. I think probably even moreso than before because we’ve grown up a lot so we are now sisters and extremely good friends. It’s hard to explain but I feel like I have never had conversations with Nix like we were able to have this weekend. Nicola was in Latvia last year and it was sort of a releif for both of us to be able to talk about our respective exchange experiences without the other one getting bored. Whenever a sentence started with "In Spain" or "In Latvia" we both knew the other one was not inwardly rolling their eyes but really genuinely interested in the story. This is the curse of exchange students–to bore their closest friends upon their return with stories from their immediate past in which their old friends have no part. Telling these stories is the only way we know to try to integrate our former lives and friends into the changed life we must now live…but our old friends don’t always understand. It isn’t their fault, it’s just that the people who get bored have not experienced that need to talk and try to force the person that our friends and family used to know into the space that our before version once filled…only the space and the twice-culture-shocked person are no longer the same shape.

With me it seems even more complex. I’m on exchange again amongst exchange students who will experience this reverse culture shock in the near future, but do notunderstand yet. When I got to Australia from Spain, the Spain anecdote vomit began. I heard myself staying "In Spain last semester" more than I thought I would be saying it and one day one of my exchange student friends said jokingly "Oh, no! Not Spain again!!!" I knew she was joking, finished my story making sure it was as short as possible and retreated into my thoughts. I couldn’t help being a little hurt and fought against the desire to tell my friend to just wait until she got back and started to understand how it feels. It would have done no good. She never would have said that if she knew how unfunny a joke it was. It was a slap in the face that made me appreciate anew just how much you learn from your exchange when you go home…This whole things happened months ago, but I still remember how alone I felt. Even current exchange students didn’t understand the need to talk, but Nicola did. For this reason alone the weekend was theraputic. The other excellent events and fun times were bonus material. I found in Nicola someone I could really talk to and I think Nix felt the same way. I could not have asked for a better weekend had I designed the whole thing myself.

Now I really must do some work on my History assignement. Australia’s changing attitudes toward the environment for the last 100 years calls for my attention. I have read much on the subject and the time has come to write something down…even if it’s crap that I’ll have to rewrite later. I’ll post Sydney pictures when I can. As always, thanks for reading.    


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