Saturday, April 29, 2017

Australia. The End.

I haven’t written a blog for the past few days because how could I possibly follow up with anything exciting after the reef trip?  Maybe it was the slight ear problem, or maybe it is because I am homesick, but after Wednesday (the reef day) I was ready to head home.  I had done all the exciting things I went there to do and was out of energy.  I think I was also dreading the next few days because I knew getting home would not be nearly as fun as starting the trip. 

Thursday was a good day, but Syd and I were so exhausted that we did not do anything too exciting.  The first half of the day consisted of us lounging around the hostel.  Because most of the travelers at the hostel are out on day trips, it was a very quiet and relaxing morning.  I was able to get caught up on blogging and communicate with my parents and Nick.  Syd and I left after lunch to meander around the town of Cairns, mainly shopping and scoping out our restaurant of choice for dinner.  The whole trip I had been wanting a good seafood meal, and we decided to go for it in Cairns.

 We found a fancy restaurant located on the marina called, “Tha Fish.”  No, that was not a typo; the restaurant is actually “Tha Fish.”  I can honestly say I have never been to a restaurant where waiters fill up your glass after every drink.  They also placed napkins on our laps and set the table right in front of us.  It was definitely too fancy for our running shorts and tennis shoes attire, but the staff could not have treated us any better.  We should have felt out of place, but we didn’t.  This wraps up the Aussie spirit perfectly.  They are always friendly and happy to help.  I have heard that the Midwest is friendly.  Australia takes that mentality to a whole new level.  Anyway, Syd and I ended up ordering the exact same meal, even down to the wine choice.  Neither one of us regretted it either.  It was hands down the best baked Salmon I have ever had.  That meal was certainly the highlight of Thursday. 

The low point was when Syd and I realized we paid $30 each for transportation to the Marina on Wednesday, when we could have walked there from our hostel. To explain further, we were exploring Cairns earlier in the day and just happened to come across the marina that our boat tour docked on.  It was a 20 min walk from our hostel.  You win some, you lose some.  I will be sure to Google Map it next time.  The irony is that was probably the only activity we did not Google map.

Friday and today (Saturday) have been the most boring travel days.  Yesterday we left Cairns on a flight back to Sydney.  From Sydney we caught a train to our accommodation for the evening.  Syd had booked us a night at an AirBnB house outside the city a little ways.  She had stayed there before and knew it would be a good place; the only problem is that it takes an hour to get there.  I will always be amazed by how big the city is.  By the time we made it to the house it was about 4 p.m.  We were both exhausted and ready for a chill night; first we needed food.  The AirBnB is just around the corner from a neighborhood in Sydney known as Little Italy.  Naturally we took advantage of the location and found a great little café with authentic Italian dishes.  We enjoyed pasta and reflected on the highs and lows of our trip.  It was a little bittersweet, as I was sad to be leaving her, but excited to head back home.  I took comfort in the fact that it would not be another year and a half before I see her again.  She is planning on being home for the holidays, fingers crossed!  We found gelato on the way back and finished the evening watching Moana.

That brings me to today or technically still yesterday.  I am not sure how to relate to it.  I left for the airport around 8:30 a.m. Saturday (Sydney time) for my flight back to the states.  To save you the math, it was 6:30 p.m. Friday (Indiana time).  As I am typing it is almost 6 p.m. on Saturday.  I am still at Dallas.  As soon as we landed I turned on my data to find an email stating that my flight to Indy had been cancelled.  Welcome back to the states.  Something about coming back to America, I never seem to arrive to good news.  As soon as we got off the flight from World Tour, the Boston Bombings happened, I mean within minutes.  When I arrived home after South America, my luggage never showed up, the airlines had lost it.  This time my flight had been cancelled.

I spent a couple hours believing that I would have to be here in the airport until tomorrow morning. The airlines had so kindly rebooked me to a flight set to leave at 7a.m.  I had too many feelings and not enough prayers.  Honestly it was not the worst solution; given I had been sitting on a plane for 16 hours with little to no sleep, listening to the guy behind me lose his guts several times due to turbulence, I had no patience to wait another 15 hours sitting in an airport chair bored to death.  By the grace of God I was able to rebook that for a flight to Cincinnati later tonight.  Nick volunteered, although it would not have taken much sweet talking, to pick me up in Cincinnati around midnight tonight when I land.  So as of now, this is where my trip stands.  Hopefully all goes well and I will be sleeping in my own bed tonight in my new apartment that I had to leave so quickly.  If it does not though, I will be frustrated, probably mad, and upset.  That is how tired I am of public transportation right now.  It is always a rush to sit and wait.  All those feelings aside, I know this is just a part of it.  I still love traveling.  I still hate the inconveniences, but it is still worth it.  

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Today was a bucket list day.  Diving and snorkeling The Great Barrier Reef was incredible, one of the coolest experiences I have ever had.  I have so many words and so many feelings; I guess I have to start somewhere. 

Syd and I booked a boat tour with Seastar cruises earlier this week.  After some quick research we found this tour in particular went to a Michaelmas Cay and Hastings Reef.  Michaelmas Cay is a very popular destination with reef goers.  It is fairly close to the shore and features a small sandy island, good for families and little ones.  Hastings Reef is a little more exclusive for a few reasons that I will not go into, but our tour was the only boat there during the afternoon.  This made for a better experience, given there were only about 30 people on our boat. 

Maybe I should start at the beginning.  Our boat left from a marina just outside Cairns around 8 p.m.  It was a good hour to get out to Michaelmas Cay, but I did not realize it because the crew kept me busy filling out paperwork.  I made the decision beforehand that I wanted to do an introductory dive.  No experience was necessary and I thought what better place to try it than The Great Barrier Reef.  After the paperwork, the other divers and I had a training course on certain skills and knowledge that were required before getting in the water.  It was quite intimidating as our instructor explained all the risks, but he seemed confident so I just went with it.  There were six of us doing introductory dives and we were split into two groups of three. 

Because I was in the second dive group, I had a few minutes to snorkel upon arrival at the first destination, Michaelmas Cay.  Syd was only snorkeling so she left immediately with a group on a snorkeling tour.  I had to stay close to the boat so I couldn’t actually see the reef yet, but there were a few curious fish circling the boat.  I will never forget the feeling I had when I saw the colorful tropical fish swim a couple feet from my face for the first time.  I was in their home.
After a few minutes the crew summoned me and the other two in my dive group to get us ready.  We already had on our stinger suits, required for all snorkelers and divers.  I actually did not mind having the suit on.  It held everything in place and gave me a peace of mind.  The suits are designed to cover all parts of the skin, complete with little mittens and a hood, to protect from any type of jellyfish or other venomous sea life.  I sat on the steps while they strapped all the additional equipment in place required for diving.

When it was time to enter the water my heart started racing.  This was the moment of truth, the last chance to chicken out, because once I entered the water there was no refund.  I jumped successfully and swam over to a rope attached to the bottom of the reef.  The rope is where we practiced the skills we learned onboard.  We had to master the skills before actually diving.  I had one moment of panic the entire day, and it happened here.  We had to intentionally remove our oxygen mask thing (no idea what it is really called), throw it to the side, find it, empty it of water, and then breath through it again.  It is a necessary skill to know in the case I would be diving and happen to lose it somehow.  During the skill I did not feel like I had enough oxygen so I panicked and headed two feet up to the surface.  The psychology of it all was scary.  I knew I was fine while training because I can always reach the surface, but what would happen if I panicked during the dive?  Probably nothing life threatening because there were plenty of trained professionals around, but I didn’t want to be that person.

I collected my thoughts while the instructor was training with another guy in my group and said a little prayer.  My next turn up went much smoother.  I was able to breathe better and concentrate.  Once all three of us had gotten the skills down, it was time for the dive.  The first couple minutes were slightly terrifying if I am being honest.  Since it was an introductory dive we weren’t required to swim on our own; we held onto the instructor as he led us.  That was a good thing because I was busy trying to get the hang of breathing under water.  It is more of a mental challenge than anything.  Once I got a handle on it, the realization was quite amazing.  I was swimming with the fishes of the Great Barrier Reef.  I was an intruder in their home.  It was a little scary at first until I realized they were not fazed by me.  They went about their lives, not even bothering to move for us.  We meandered along for about twenty minutes, drifting in and out of underwater valleys in the coral.  We floated horizontal to the peaceful sandy seabed. The instructor got us up close to giant clams and small sea anemones that Nemo lives in.  He pointed out tiny, colorful fish hiding in the coral from bigger predators.  I saw starfish, coral, and other colorful creatures.  I could go on and on.  Everything you see in the movies and documentaries is true, and I found myself face to face with it all.

After the dive we had about 40 minutes left to join the rest of the group in snorkeling.  After a quick break, I found a figure that looked to be Syd and swam out to join her.  As amazing as the dive was, I was glad to have a chance to snorkel with her.  Snorkeling was just as cool as the dive but in different ways.  It was great to be able to do both.  Before we left the Cay, the crew served us lunch.  We had close to another hour on the boat and it was a good thing because I needed the rest.  The dive instructor came around and asked if we would be interested in a second dive.  Hastings Reef is a little different because it is less sandy and rockier than Michaelmas Cay.  He said this would be a better overall dive than the last one, and we would be able to swim on our own.  I was a little bit on the fence for a couple reasons, the main reason being that my left ear was uncomfortable during the first dive and I did not want to push it.  I really wanted to dive again though because I figured I could enjoy it more since I had gotten the hang of it.  I decided to go for it and before I knew it, I was in the water ready to begin my second dive. 
We followed the rope down to the reef wall.  Before we made it to the reef, I found myself surrounded by turquoise blue water, clearer than I have ever seen before.  Looking back this is a situation I might have been scared by, but I wasn’t.  It was more peaceful than anything.  The deeper we went the more my ear hurt, but I was not going to let that ruin my dive.  The feeling of swimming and breathing on my own underwater through the canyons and valleys of marine life is indescribable.  I began to feel like a part of it all.  My euphoria quickly came to a halt when I felt my ear pop.  I remember feeling it and thinking to myself, “That can’t be good.”  I finished the dive, but I immediately knew something wasn’t right. 

When I got back to the boat it felt like there was a ton of water in my ear.  I went to the toilet to try to get it out, but instead of water, it was blood. Not a ton, just enough to know something was definitely not right.  Oddly enough I never really panicked.  I asked a crew member and they did not seem too concerned but mentioned I might want to get it checked out before getting on a plane.  So that is exactly what I did when we got back to the hostel.   I heisted for a few minutes, trying to access the situation.  Was it really bad enough that I needed to see a doctor?  Was I making it out to be something it wasn’t?  The pain had eased some, but my ear still felt muffled.  Syd and I decided it was worth a peace of mind if nothing else so we headed to a 24 hour quick care clinic, Australian style. I was more concerned about not making it home, than the condition of my ear because I knew most likely it was not serious.

At the clinic, I was told upon arrival it would be an hour and a half wait.  Only one hour and $75 later I was leaving the clinic, paid up, with a prescription in hand.  The diagnosis, I had punctured my central eardrum.  It was not the best news, but it is something I am still able to fly with.  This is fairly common with divers.  It can heal on its own in 4-8 weeks.  The main concern is infection so the doctor gave me some antibiotics, recommended I check in with a doctor in the states, and sent me on my way.  Easy enough.  The experience with Australian healthcare makes me dislike American healthcare that much more.  It was cheap, quick, and hassle free.

Despite the ear damage, I have nothing bad to say about my experiences today on the reef.  It was still incredible and I would still do it again.  I love that I was able to share the experience with Syd; it is something we will always remember.  I probably should have paid more attention to the ear pain, but I honestly thought it was a part of diving.  The situation is no one’s fault really, just a risk that comes with it.  High risk, high reward.  I am happy too, that nothing more serious happened.  I learned today to not give up just because something is scary, listen to your body, and be thankful for good health because it can be gone in an instant.  I continue to be blessed even in unfortunate events.

Sydney to Cairns, Australia Travel Days Can Be Exciting

Today has been mainly a travel day.  Neither one of us really minded because of how busy our last few days have been.  Even though it was a travel day we still had a few memorable moments.

Our plane left at noon so we had plenty of time to get packed up and find breakfast somewhere.  Our hostel was located just outside the neighborhood of Surry Hills, so we decided to walk towards the center to find a café.  It is Anzac day, which is the Australian equivalent of Veteran’s day in America.  Quickly we noticed the lack of activity in the city, especially for 8 am on a week day.  Eventually we found the perfect little place, FourAteFive, with seating just outside on the street.  Here we enjoyed a toast and poached egg brunch with a lovely cup of coffee; one of my favorite meals of the trip so far.

The flight was uneventful, but enjoyable.  During takeoff we flew past downtown Sydney and right before landing we flew along the coast.  I did not expect there to be mountains right on the coast, but there were and it was beautiful.  They aren’t the kind of rocky mountains you might see on the west coast, more like the mountains in Hawaii covered with lush green vegetation that is a rainforest.   Honestly the land reminds me of the landscapes in Jurassic Park.  If we had more time in Cairns we have heard there are some amazing tours into the rainforest.  Maybe next time.

As we got off the flight we immediately noticed a difference in weather.  It was no longer a pleasant 75 and sunny; it was a hot and muggy 80.  I mean we are 1,500 miles closer to the Equator so we should have expected it.  It feels more like Indiana summers; it will take a bit to get used to, especially since our hostel room does not have air conditioning. 

We made it to our hostel, The Traveler’s Oasis, via shuttle bus, which consisted of a really dopey van with a cranky driver.  Despite that experience, this hostel seems to be great.  Everyone here is happy.  I could make lots of friends here if I really wanted to.  Simple tasks like filling up my water, going to the toilet, and walking through the kitchen warrant a conversation or a friendly hello.  It is not that I don’t want to talk; it just requires a lot of extra energy that I am lacking at this point.  We have met a few people from the states, so it has been nice to hear their stories.  When booking a room, most places allow you to choose a male or female dorm.  Traveler’s Oasis only has mixed dorms.  As a consequence, Syd and I have two dudes sleeping in our room.  This is the first time I’ve experienced this.  They are really nice guys, it is just different than I am used to and they make our room smell.  Silly boys.

Despite my frustration with hostel life, it is crazy how quickly I can snap back into it.  Once I got back into my routine and accepted that I will not have any personal space until I get home, my metal state improved dramatically.  Traveling is awesome, and it is also hard work.  The awesome most always outweighs the hard work; at the end of the day it is always worth it.  While I am enjoying this trip more than any of my travels thus far, I still have bouts of missing home, mainly the people and comfort.  I love it though, because when I get bored with the routines of working every day back home, I can think about Australia, and South America, and World Tour, and be reminded of why I do what I do.  I work so that I can live a life most people in this world cannot.  I am so incredibly blessed by the big man upstairs it does not seem fair. This realization makes everything worth it. 

After we were settled into the hostel we headed towards the main drag of Cairns to find some dinner.  Hot and hungry, we settled on an Irish Pub that had patio seating and AFL (Australian Football League) airing on a big screen outside.  As it turns out, Anzac day is a huge day for AFL.  Think of it like the NFL games on Thanksgiving Day in America.  While Syd and I ate, we tried our best to understand the sport.  It seems so much more exciting than NFL because of the lack of rules and fast pace of the game.   Speaking to the friendliness of this place we chatted with a few new friends while eating.  We met a Patriot’s fan from Boston.  I told her jokingly, “I will be nice to you, but we can’t be friends”.  She was with a guy from New Zealand who was wearing a Chicago Blackhawks hat.  I asked if he was a fan, and he said, “Well honestly I just thought it was a cool hat.  It is a baseball team in Chicago, right?”  Facepalm.  

After dinner we walked down to the boardwalk and explored the city before calling it a night back at the hostel.  It seems like a cool little town with plenty to offer to the many travelers that come through.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Taronga Zoo and Manly Beach, Australia

Today (Monday) was our last full day in Sydney, and it was definitely a full day! We started bright and early headed out from the hostel to get breakfast.  Surprisingly, we both got a good night’s sleep, but no amount of sleep could have made up for the fact that we walked so much the day before.  Both of us decided to take it a little easier today.  It sounded like a good idea at the time.

With the guidance of Syd, we found a nice café, guaranteed to have a quality cup of coffee.  I say with the guidance of Syd because she has been a barista on and off for the past year while living in New Zealand and Australia.  It has been fun because we realized we both have the same passion for coffee, and I don’t mean just drinking it.  I love learning about local coffee culture while comparing it to that of the world, but I digress. 

As expected the coffee at this cafe was wonderful, very similar to some of the coffee I had in South America.  That always makes me happy.  Fueled up, we headed to the train station to catch a ride to Circular Quay where we eventually boarded a ferry to the Taronga Zoo.  Now our first impressions were that it would take us most of the morning to see everything the zoo had to offer.  That was before we were told it is among the world’s biggest zoos. We had plans to leave the zoo after lunch and head to Manly Beach, another popular beach on Sydney’s north shore.  Five hours later we finally made it through all the exhibits at the zoo.  It was exhausting but worth it.  Not only did we get to see all kinds of exotic new animals (or new to us), the entire zoo had some of the best views of Sydney’s skyline.  The perfect 75 degree and sunny weather didn’t hurt either as the animals seemed to be pretty active. Memorable moments at the zoo included Syd and I getting lost around every corner (no exaggeration), observing sleeping koalas, a Komodo dragon feeding, lounging kangaroos, playful chimps and gorillas, and a free seal show.  Despite the fact that we kept getting lost, Taronga Zoo has to be one of the best zoos in the world.  It has so many opportunities to get up close and personal to the animals. We entered an exhibit for rainforest birds and while face to face with one, it started raining on us via sprinklers.  Talk about an authentic experience.

We spent quite a bit of extra time at the zoo so that meant we lost a few hours at Manly Beach. Plus we lost an extra hour because we missed a ferry by seconds.  We watched it pull out of the wharf as we were entering the gate.  Frustrating to say the least, but there are much worse things that could have happened.  We didn’t actually get to Manly until 4 o’clock p.m.  Given the amount of beach exploring we did a few days ago, neither one of us seemed to mind.  Manly is the stereotypical tourist beach town, and I loved it.  We explored the area a little before ordering ice cream cones and frolicking on the beach.  Actually, not much frolicking happened due to how tired we were, but still a great time.  We hung out and people watched, mainly admiring the surfers until almost dark.  I was pretty much reaching my limit, in that I was dead energy wise, so Syd and I decided to get some dinner before heading back to the city.  This gave us a chance to refuel and enjoy Manly a bit longer.  We stopped at an authentic Thai place that fit our mood and appetite perfectly.  We caught a ferry back to the city and enjoyed the night skyline all the way back.  That put us back at the hostel around 8 p.m., enough time to shower, pack up, and relax before bed.  I was so tired when we got back I tried using my Opal Card, normally used for public transportation in Sydney, to swipe in the main door of the hostel.  It didn’t work, so I proceeded to tell the receptionist about it.  To my embarrassment, he kindly pointed out I was using my Opal Card instead of the Hostel keycard.  At least Syd got a laugh out of it.  Our plans to take it easier today did not exactly pan out, but I am not mad about it.  There is always time to sleep later.

Tomorrow we fly out around noon to head to Cairns, the jumping point of the Great Barrier Reef.  We will be in Cairns until Friday when we fly back to Sydney.  I leave from Sydney to head home on Saturday. It is crazy to think how quickly the first leg of the trip has gone, but I know Syd and I both made the best of it, no matter how tiring it has been.  We feel as if our time in Sydney was our chance to be tourists, and have already declared that our next few days in Cairns will be our beach bummin’ days.  I am looking forward to it.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Walking the City Sydney, Australia

In contrast to yesterday, Syd and I packed today full with just about as much as we could possibly do.  We left the house one last time and began the day around 10:30 a.m.  Unfortunately, Syd’s house sitting duties were over so we had to move on to other accommodations.  A rather long bus ride later we dropped our luggage off at our hostel and began walking.  Most everything we saw was by foot, so it is not surprising that we finished the day having walked 12 miles.  Exhausting, but worth it.  The weather certainly helped as it was 75 and sunny the whole time.  What more could we ask for?
In short here is a list of things we saw: Royal Botanic Gardens, Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair (a lookout point in the Sydney Harbor), Sydney Opera House (again, it never gets old), Hyde Park, Paddy’s Market, all of Darling Harbor including the Sydney Convention Center, Queen Victoria Building, and St. Mary’s Cathedral.  I don’t have a bad thing to say about any of them.  In fact I could say a ton of great things about all of them, but there is no time for that.

 Some of my favorite moments today probably came when we were exploring Darling Harbor.  It is less touristy than Circular Quay/ Sydney Harbor.  While there are still plenty of tourists, this area seems to be used more by locals.  There are endless restaurants, cafes, and shopping areas.  It was a great place to just hang out and be social, this means excellent people-watching.  The entire harbor is a refreshingly modern spin on most of the things I have seen in Sydney thus far. 

Paddy’s Market took me straight back to world tour days.  I will always love a good market. 

Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair was absolutely gorgeous, another one of those moments I cannot put into words.  Syd and I got in some sketching time here too.  Exciting stuff.
Hyde Park is basically a really big park.

Queen Victoria Building is a really old building with lots of character.  At some point it has been converted into a high end shopping center.  I found it to be pretty interesting.  I am not sure if the average joe would find the same interest though.

Probably the best thing about today was that it was all free.  Since we had a relatively low cost day we went out for a nice dinner at an authentic pizza place.  We both thought pizza sounded tasty so we googled good pizza in the city.  The internet led us to this place and it did not disappoint.  Well at first it did; we arrived at about 5:15 licking our chops and ready to stuff ourselves.  To our surprise the restaurant didn’t open until 6:00.  We had 45 minutes to spare.  Despite our dying hunger we made the most of it and walked a few blocks to a low-key pub.  Both of us relaxed on a sofa with our first Australian beers watching Rugby together.  Not a bad way to spend the extra time.  Back to dinner, the pizza was authentic, so much so, we felt as if we were back in Italy.  It was definitely worth the wait. 

We made our way back to the hostel to get settled in for the night.  I am reminded of my least favorite part about traveling; hostel life, and by that I mean sleeping in the same room and sharing bathroom facilities with strangers.  It can be less than ideal at times but I try to remember it is only temporary and it is also dirt cheap.  I really cannot complain about $20 a night.  The lack of privacy and convenience makes me appreciate home so much more.  It also reminds me how blessed I am to live such a comfortable life compared to most.

Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach, Australia

 It is hard to put the events of today into words.  As simply as I can put it, we relaxed all morning and walked the beach all afternoon.  Even as I type that, the day felt like so much more.
If there is one thing I have learned while traveling, it is to make the most of the time I have in each city.  There is always time to sleep when you get home.  I have never regretted packing a day full of sites to see and things to do.  Today I discovered that it is also ok to take a morning off and do absolutely nothing but drink coffee in good company.  Syd had a drawing class in the morning that lasted a few hours.  I was going to explore the neighborhood around the house we are staying in but I just never got around to it.  No regrets.

We left the house around 2:00 p.m. and took a bus to Coogee Beach, the starting point for our coastal beach walk.  We walked for about 4 hours, making our way through 5 or 6 beaches.  As we walked we continued to catch up on each other’s lives.  It seems it will take all week and then some considering it’s been a year and a half!  These beaches require pictures to even begin to describe; even then, pictures don’t do it justice.  The closest I can compare them to is the American West Coast.  The beginning of the walk had calmer waters with sandier beaches.  As we worked our way north, the coast became rockier, with bigger waves.  The color of the water continually changed into all spectrums of blue depending on the beach.  With it being a Saturday afternoon, the beaches were filled with local ‘Aussies’, enjoying their weekend ritual of beach-going.  There were some tourists as well, but nothing too overwhelming.  Surfing, sunbathing, swimming, volleyball, rugby, barbies (barbeque)… there were so many outdoor activities.  I felt like we were in scenes from a movie.  The weather and clouds combined with the natural scenery of the beaches made for a picture perfect atmosphere that did not quite seem real.  It was the type of afternoon that was filled with awe.  So many times I thought to myself, this cannot be real.  I can’t be here.  These are the moments that I find myself truly in awe of God and his creation.

We finished our coastal beach walk with Bondi Beach, one of Australia’s most famous beaches, just in time for dinner.  There was a decently priced grill a few blocks off the coast that stole our attention.  I ordered a burger and fry and a glass of rose wine, local to Southern Australia.  Simple, but it was one tasty meal.  After dinner, neither of us was quite ready to head back to the house so we sat on the beach for quite a while. We had the entire beach to ourselves.  It was dark, but something about being on the beach at night is even more relaxing than daytime.  

Friday, April 21, 2017

Sydney Harbor, Australia

I survived the flight and made it to Sydney!  The flight was fairly uneventful, although, it did not start out that way.   As I sat down in my seat to begin the long flight I immediately noticed three babies within a one seat radius of mine, one of whom was already throwing a whopper of a fit.  All I could think to myself was ‘Whyyyyy?’  After the initial shock of that, things went pretty well.  With the help of Nyquil and noise-canceling headphones, I was able to get a decent night’s sleep.  I slept for about ten hours and watched movies and TV shows the rest of the time, and ate.  The good thing about paying way too much for a flight around the world is that they take good care of you. 

We arrived in Sydney bright and early, and on time.  Sydney, my friend, has to work until 4:30 p.m. today so I will be on my own until then.  I was a little anxious about this for a few reasons.  First, I had little knowledge on how to get to the city from the airport.  Second, I had no place to store my luggage, which meant I would be wandering the city by myself with two bags for the day.  With a little bit of direction from Syd via iMessaging, I was able to take a train from the airport to a station near the coffee shop where she worked.  Once I got to the city, I found an ATM to get some cash and parked myself at a café to get my bearings.  I also NEEDED a good coffee.  Sadly, the coffee was less than stellar, but the experience gave me a few minutes to gather myself and form a plan for the day.  I honestly had no idea what to do, but after taking in the Harbor for a few minutes I was excited.  To understand my excitement better, it would be helpful to understand the last few weeks of my life.

Without going into too much detail, the last week of my life has been incredibly exciting, but along with that came stress, good stress.  Last Friday, Nick found out he had a job in Indy, we signed a lease on our new apartment, and he proposed, all within about 30 minutes.  It was truly a “Good Friday”.  The timing of everything was perfect, but also terrible.  All of our prayers for the last several months had been answered on one day; however, that brought about so much that had to be done before I left for Australia.  We were in Jasonville all weekend for Easter festivities, which was wonderful to be able to celebrate with family.  That only left a couple days to get moved into the apartment, at least partially.  The goal was to get enough stuff there so that Nick can live in Indy when he starts his job, which happens to be while I am on this trip.  On top of moving, I had to work Monday and Tuesday, plus get everything packed for my trip.  It was very hectic and the complete opposite of how I like to do things.  I need a plan, and I need organization.  It just was not possible in this case.  We survived though.  Nick got moved in, I got packed up, and I made it to the airport.

Ok back to my excitement about spending a whole day in Sydney by myself.  This was an opportunity to just be me for a day.  I sat along the harbor, sketched, photographed, and people-watched for hours.  I explored the Opera House and public space surrounding it.  I wandered into the nearby historic district, The Rock, and came across a Friday ‘Foodie’ Market.  I must have walked miles, which the only downside to that was the fact that I had 20+ pounds of luggage with me.  It was not as bad as I was expecting though, great exercise at least.  All in all, it was a refreshing day, which I enjoyed so much more than I was expecting to.   I had a chance to reconnect with God and myself after a crazy, hectic, exciting week.  I believe this experience speaks to the culture of the city.  It has been a great day because despite me knowing absolutely nothing when I arrived, the people were incredibly friendly.  I feel safer here than I have in most cities, including Indy at certain times.  It seems that everyone is willing to share space, hospitality, and kindness, especially to outsiders and visitors like me.

The afternoon rolled around and I got a message that Sydney got off work early.  So I met her right outside the café where she worked.  It had been a year and a half since I have seen her, so it was great to be reunited!  The rest of the day we wandered around, still with my bags, catching up and seeing more of the city.  We stopped for delicious milkshakes which served as an early dinner, before sitting at the harbor as the sun set.  As we sat and talked, we listened to street performers play popular cover songs.  Several times I had a surreal feeling that I was not actually sitting in Sydney, talking to my best friend, Sydney, and watching ferries come in and out of the harbor, as lights from the Opera House lit up the atmosphere.  It is one moment that will be hard to forget. 

Both of us exhausted, we began the trek back to her temporary home.  She is house-sitting for a couple that lives south, just outside the city.  It is quite a bus ride to get here from Sydney, but worth it.  We will be staying here (for free) for two nights before the owners return from vacation.  After that, we will be in hostels, which are still manageable and cheap.  The house-sit worked out perfect though.  It’s so nice to have my own space after such a long travel day.  Here’s to a relaxing shower and a full night’s sleep.