Australia was, I imagined, a country of loud personalities and fried foods and people on nude beaches around every corner. I pictured lots of snake skin and khaki and cowboy hats. Basically, like, 22,906,400 people who looked and acted like Steve Irwin.
I realize that my preconceived ideas were wildly and inappropriately stereotypical and probably, somehow, racist, but one can't help one's subconscious ideas. Anyway, Australians may be that way in the summer, but we went in basically the dead of winter where no was went to a nude anything and I saw more parkas than park ranger outfits.
We spent the first week in Sydney, where my dad used to live. He doesn't know anyone anymore (it has been more than 25 years since he was there) but he did know his way around pretty well. Sydney was very different from what I expected; I was mostly impressed with the vastness of the city. It spread all along the harbor, across the Harbor bridge (the one we are in front of above [AKA the "coathanger"]) and to the other side of the water. It seems endlessly long, though it isn't very wide in depth--most of the structures are very near the water. It was a unique, huge city. Everything was very modern and somehow, cutting edge or new age, you could say. It threw me for a loop, somehow I didn't think of Sydney as one of the fastest progressing cities in the world, but in my experience--it is. That could be (in part, sorry I'm being racist again) because of all the Asian people that live there. I swear, I actually felt like I was in China more than Australia most of the time we spent downtown. There was a huge Chinatown that we explored one day, but the Chinese ethnic influence is almost overwhelming in Sydney, which is something I had no idea about previous to visiting there. While in Sydney we wandered around a lot, awestruck, went to a symphony (that's right, in the opera house), attended a museum and played giant chess, met a hairless Egyptian cat, fed wild Ibis on the street and walked through miles of gorgeous gardens. It was a lovely (wet [it rained basically every day]) time for us.
Anyway, here is your picture, word, and experience:
Okay okay I know I choose weird pictures for this over-all descriptive thing, but I can't help but think of Australia in its entirety when I look at this picture of me on a pole. Firstly, we spent so much time waiting for this train every morning. It took us into the city since we were staying at a beautiful house in the suburbs, and it was about a forty five minute ride every morning and then on the way back, too. We all read our books (I think I read eight books on my trips this summer) and were just glad to be in the heat. Which, yes, reminds me of the other reason I love this picture: look at how ridiculous I am dressed. In my head while I was packing for a 5-week long summer vacation to exotic places, I thought, "Oh, Australia! Maybe I will pack one jacket and then nothing but summery tank tops and bikinis." Big mistake. So basically every day I wore every piece of clothing I had, just in layers. We had to buy some sweaters and things (from Cotton On, I kid you not) and I wore thermals and two pairs of socks. I was a fool, but look at how much fun I am having despite the weather, the bad wardrobe, and the waiting. Australia was just a whole lot of fun, and that's how I always want to remember it.
Sigh, now the word. This is SO DIFFICULT, why did I ever start this pattern. My word for Australia would have to be "Ripper". Seriously. It basically means "great", which is not a strong adjective in itself but really it all comes together because of why I chose it. So much of what defines this country is the people. They are laid back, helpful, very kind and friendly to everyone. Their slang and accent are a piece of a culture that they take pride in. There's a competition between areas of the country, they're concerned about the environment, they enjoy a good beer on a Friday and overall, they are unique and don't really give a dunny what other people think. I loved hearing people use words I'd never heard before--it made everything else just seem to belong to them, like they owned a ripper country that I could never understand.
Everything I write feels like a tangent. Okay, the experience. Again, it's hard to pick just one thing that really sums up the whole trip, but I would have to say that the trip to Straddie was my favorite part. There was a moment as I was sitting on a rock, looking out on the blue blue ocean. I was thinking how vast everything was, and how little I had touched of it. I was squinting out into the blue to see whales, a new thing for me, and I saw them flipping in and out of the water and splashing right near this little boat and I thought, "Why do they do that?" It looked like such a manifestation of freedom, a celebration of grandeur that only whales could communicate and understand. Even though that little boat was in his ocean, the whale was declaring that there was enough room for the both of them. Watching whales was so amazing, it is something that I have always wanted to do. The Carters took us there and we had such fun, it must be amazing to live so closely among these miracles of nature.
That's me with Utopia the koala.
If you ever go to Australia, pretend you've had Vegemite so they don't force feed you (it's really salty, just say that). Also, bring your own S'mores ingredients. Watch out on the roads for a) cars in the wrong lane and b) crossing marsupials. Bring an umbrella and you'll have a Sweet As time.