After nine days of waiting for the Indian consulate to return our passports, we finally have them and it's our last day in Sydney. It turns out this will probably be the longest we'll be in a single place for the entire trip (bar maybe Istanbul). It's been an amazing two weeks here, but we're ready to head on to the next grand adventure.
I spent the last two weeks showing Whitney all of the sights of my misspent youth and introducing her to many of my Australian friends. We explored Sydney largely on foot, which was a welcome relief after South Africa where walking anywhere was essentially gambling with your life (an exaggeration, but still). It's funny to me how different the attitude to walking around the city is here. Everything is basically within 30 minutes walk and yet people take cabs/buses/trains to cover much of it. The New Yorker in me was pleased to be able to hoof it all over town, and it meant Whitney got a great understanding of the different neighborhoods.
Some of the highlights of our time here included:
- Catching up with lots of family friends (Grant/Jon, my dad and Dan's friends, plus Cathy, my mom's high school friend who was an exchange student from Australia).
- Seeing all the great beaches. We went to Palm Beach, which is sort of like the Hamptons of Sydney. All the fancy Sydneysiders have vacation homes up there. There were fewer hipsters than in Hamptons, but the cocktails were just as expensive. We went to Bondi, the requisite stop for any stay in Sydney. We were at Manly, which is one of my favorites. In particular we enjoyed the lifeguards classically blunt announcements over the megaphone "There are swarms of blue bottle jelly fish coming into the area. The stings are extremely painful and there's nothing we can do for you."
- Lots of fun dinners with friends from high school. It's been great to introduce Whitney to them after all these years. I swear a few believed that I had made up this "girlfriend" I spoke about every time I visited prior. My friend Alex took us to a beautiful dinner on the wharf as an engagement present, which was a real treat. We're hoping that some of them will be able to make it over for the wedding.
- Great debates about the difference between Australian and American societies. It's pretty incredible how there's so little poverty here. From a macroeconomic perspective, the relative equality here makes sense. The taxes are high, the minimum wage is REALLY high, the safety net is strong. You can get away with a lot of that when your economy has been pretty robust for 25 years, but it will be interesting if (when) the slowdown comes here. The consensus was from an individual's pocketbook perspective, you'd rather be American, but if you were engineering a society from scratch, you'd probably go more along the lines of Australia. Obviously there's a lot more nuance to that, but that's what debates with good wine are for.
We're off to Melbourne tomorrow. Hoping to go to the Australian Open while we're there (remember, local sports event is a goal).
And since I realize most of these posts are terribly dull without a photo or two, here is a photo of the full moon over the cathedral in Sydney. The last full moon we had was when we were riding bikes along the beach in Knysna at night. Who knows where we will be for the next one?