34 hours later I was in Australia. 15 flights and two weeks later, and I was back. It’s out of my mental reach to think about how one’s concept of time changes when time zones and jet lag seem to blur all of the boundaries.
This trip was semi-last-minute. When she was visiting me from Seattle, Stephanie and I briefly mentioned spending New Years Even in Australia. A few months later, and we made it happen!
Upon arrival in Sydney, we immediately went to the Great Barrier Reef where we saw turtles and hundreds of different species of fish and coral.
We then returned to Sydney, where we relaxed over drinks and indeed caught the fireworks from a ferry, after some confusion about where to go and how to get there.
We had to forego passes to an outdoor picnic, but ended up having dinner closer to where our ferry departed, which to our surprise also had 9pm fireworks.
For me, it was mostly a piqued curiosity about how people celebrate New Years Eve — at Manly Wharf, it seemed to be about the family — reservations for dinner had long-been made, families lining the boardwalk and the pier in celebration.
The year was off to a good start! Climbing a bridge in Sydney, going on a walking tour, seeing the Opera house, salsa dancing, having my first Servas homestay with Margaret and John, going on marvelous hikes in some of Australia’s national parks and seeing kangaroos with them.
I initially could not find Margaret and John’s address, which I had erroneously copied onto my phone from the directory …
I was then reunited with Stephanie for a rainy day in Auckland and a wonderful dinner with Servas host Liz and her friends and then more intimately between us three girls for a wine night, again filled with wonderful conversation.
With Liz, Stephanie and I learned a lot about New Zealand, including how well they cultivate work-life balance, overall valuing quality of life, which is not limited to human life.
The following day we were off to Queenstown, which, after a mistake with the dates scheduling our Milford Sound tour, we went on a wine and cheese cruise that evening, which was really lovely.
I survived driving on the left side of the road for the first time in my life, which proved my ability to do so — but not without a few mistakes — the hardest part was remembering that the blinkers were on the right handle instead of the left!
We returned to our BnB at Jack’s Point, which was wonderful, surrounded by unscathed nature, which was complemented by our time at Milford’s Sound, which UNESCO rightfully declared a World Heritage Sight.
Stephanie and I parted ways, I heading to Wellington where I spent my last days in New Zealand walking along the board ward, going on a walking tour and exploring the beautiful views from Mount Victoria, where I met some Spanish tourists with whom I had dinner and great conversation with – a lovely way to end the trip indeed!
Best food had: Tim tams – amazing!
Best thing done: Bridge Climb! – I thought it would be underwhelming, but everything about the experience was really lovely
Favorite City: If I had to choose — I would live under water with the fishes at the Barrier Reef!
Interesting things learned:
- On the plane, a guy telling me how the US was a prisoner colony and how Australia was founded directly after the US gained independence as a result of them looking for another piece of land where to place the prisoners. The British began to send people over in ships, which took 9 months at the time, often bringing women into the country who were pregnant “from the voyage” — it took until 1990 for the country to level out the gender gap, and in between, taught these people how to face adversity, in a land where the seasons were reversed and a land that is not so fertile (perhaps why the food is so heavily proceessed/portion sizes are relatively larger too?)
- The spirit of Australia, according to him, is not one of competition, but one of collaboration — dating back to the times when they had to collaboratively look for food. When the British refused to eat “dirty” oysters and that was all they had. They are the only country with ex-felons one their bills and less judgmental because of it.
- A lot of signs in Chinese and English – sign of incredible Chinese influence & foreign direct investment
- “Healthy disregard” for authority – given their history as prisoners
- Macadamia – at the time, the governor of Australia went to Hawaii where he was transferred and planted them there – now really well-known for being Hawaiian but actually Australian
- Ewing and the kangaroo are on the coat of arms because they can’t walk backwards and don’t want Australia to do so either
- They first thought it was uninhabited, but turns out aboriginals were living there for a time that is undetermined
- Initially, in part because the Aboriginals first thought the British were ancestors — ghosts from the past because of their pale skin. Torn between fear and respect — there was seemingly friendship and understanding, but they quickly turned into victims, killed by diseases they were not immune to. Aboriginals currently make up 1.5% of the Aussie population
- 75% of all of the new settlers were convicts
- England refused to send money for a hospital, so they focused on other means. Australians liked rum — so in exchange for money to build the hospital, the government began selling licenses which allowed individuals to sell rum to Australians – the hospital has since been referred to as the Rum Hospital
- Sydney has never been under heavy attack. Napoleon wanted to, but the British began to use a military base that was crucial for the success of this attack, so they did not succeed
- Australia: first to establish plastic money
- Can top up metro card at the supermarket – cap at $15 a day, no matter how far you travel around Sydney that day, not the case at the airport, as it’s privately owned
- 1965 construction of the Opera House paused, as the new government did not like how much money/time it was taking. They reduced the Danish architect’s budget (one who won the global contest for constructing the venue) by 100,000, but did not complete the structure for 15 years afterwards and for 1— million over budget
- Flying doctor – in Australia, the land is so vast and expansive that they have flying doctors that are sent off on planes and are equipt with just about everything needed to maybe even do a surgery!
- Barbecues and barbecuing is huge
- Bush fires are a problem, but some are started on purpose with the hopes to decrease the impact of ones in the future!
- Lyre bird, native to Australia – copies and memorizes all of the sounds made by its surroundings, flutes etc.
- Bush, beach, mountains all in once at national park Kuringai chase
- Oldest continual culture in the world – aboriginals in Australia
Best food had: Omelet at Jack’s Point
Best thing done: Driven on left side of road, Milford Sound
Favorite City: Queenstown for the nature, Wellington as a place I could potentially live in
Interesting things learned:
- Known for having: “4 seasons in one day”
- Very intense about customs – 1/2 of population died with arrival of Europeans / deforestation. Strictly won’t let you come in with produce / with dirty boots if you’ve been hiking in a risky place (fear of mouth and foot disease)
- There is barely no security for domestic flights — no need to take out liquids etc or to go through security — can just walk through to the plane. For this reason, it is standard to be present just one hour before a flight
- New Zealand has no large predators: no wolves, lions, snakes, etc. making it a great destination for hikers. They want to get rid of all of the species that are not native to the land by 2014 like possums (from Australia), rats, ferrets, and maybe even cats! – which is causing a division here
- “In Australia the animals will kill you, while in New Zealand, the earth will swallow you whole” due to the number of tsunamis, geysers, and earthquakes they have every year — what an incredibly resilient society!
- Use rubber in between concrete to absorb the shock from buildings from these natural disasters — the rubber then needs to be replaced every 30-40 years
- Birds first inhabited New Zealand
- 99.9 percent of all trees in New Zealand are evergreen
- In the year to June 2009, dairy products accounted for 21% ($9.1 billion) of total merchandise exports
- Free healthcare for all of New Zealand
- Shortage of houses – people selling it to foreigners instead of locals because they earn more
- New Zealanders love to shorten words: pressie – present; they “get it” from the Australians
- The Māori are theIndigenous population in New Zealand: Polynesian completely different from indigenous “aboriginal” Australians who are of African descent. They were the first people to inhabit this country about 800-1000 years ago before the Europeans 300-500 years ago.
- Māori were forced to not speak their native language after world war 2.
- Now, translating things official things into both languages – English and Māori, representative of the attempt at inclusivity by the government
- Māori chiefs often open conferences thanking ancestors for land
- Just now starting to accept “happy holidays” instead of Merry Christmas
- Here required to tell others about heritage when starting a new position in a job, makes people more accepting of other cultures
- She’ll be alright! – phrase said to promote optimism when things don’t go your way
- Get lots of cars from Japan because of very strict emissions in Japan, so they get new cars every 3 years
- 1970s – not many coffee shops in New Zealand, and is now the second most consumed beverage after tea
- “Centrist”: usually referring to a political party in New Zealand that generally appeals to the elderly — they are really against change: against immigration, young people, and anything that disrupts the status quo
- Wellington is progressive when it comes to transgender and gay rights
- Every Saturday, Wellington hosts a Saturday night food market, where they invite new restaurants from different cuisines that have opened to showcase their foods
- Common to order food and sit down for food — even at a relatively fancy restaurants