A Travellerspoint blog

How it Ends: The return, some lessons, some love letters

The Return

We've been back in the U.S. for about a week now, settling into our new time zone, season, and reality!

We're tremendously grateful to have had smooth and safe travels. We bid farewell to our apartment and neighborhood, had a final beach day, a tearful farewell with Joan, and then stayed at the Sydney airport before departing.
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Farewell apartment!

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Farewell beach!

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Farewell Auntie Joanie - love you!!

The upside of traveling internationally in a pandemic is the lack of crowds, lines, or waiting! But the scene at the Sydney airport was surreal. There were only about a dozen travelers in the international terminal.
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Oscar playing with his cars outside Sydney's international terminal

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The handful of international flights leaving Sydney the day we did...

Getting on the plane in Sydney was a weighty moment. Oscar was extremely upset about leaving, and it felt like crossing a point of no return because the borders to Australia remain quite firmly closed; even citizens are struggling to get home.

But, once the wheels were in motion, we just had to focus on staying safe and keeping the kids occupied. I have so much gratitude for the patient and gracious flight attendants who helped us settle in on the flight...and brought Justin and me two bottles of wine each.

There were probably about 20 people on our flight from Sydney to SFO.
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Cozy together en route to California

We arrived in San Francisco and spent a night at the airport. We were able to rest and meet up with a friend of mine from grad school for an outdoor / socially distanced walk and meal. It was quite special to see a familiar face as soon as we arrived back in the U.S.!
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I also was pleasantly surprised by the COVID protocols at the airport, hotel, and restaurant we visited; everything seemed quite well managed.
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We did not allow the kids out from under this plastic shield in the airport :)

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Super Dad

Our flight to Chicago was also sparsely populated (maybe about 1/3 full). We're now quarantining in a new home we've rented and are getting settled before starting work or seeing anyone.

Some Reflections

So this brings me to a little reflection on the last ~11 months. It has been difficult being far away from family and friends, but has also been among the happiest and most fulfilling times in my life.

I've learned...

...to be better at embracing uncertainty - 3 weeks before we landed in Sydney, we didn't have visas, flights, or a place to live. It all worked out quite well. Good practice for life with COVID!

...that every day of your life is your real life - Our situation in Australia certainly wasn't sustainable long term (I can't be on paid maternity leave forever!) But it was still real. Nothing made that more apparent than seeing our kids grow and change during our time there. Living a different reality, even if temporarily, made me more observant and present. That was such a gift.

...the joy of less stuff - For almost a year, we have lived with so much less - fewer clothes, books, toys, or other belongings. We saw Oscar be incredibly imaginative with what he had on hand, using toilet paper rolls as didgeridoos and cardboard boxes as ferry boats:) I am still reeling from the amount of things we had stored here in Chicago....time to de-clutter!

And now, some love letters...

Love letter #1: to Sydney and Australia

For this, I'll borrow form from one of the kids new favorite books (courtesy of Auntie Joanie)
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I love Australia because...

The people are so friendly... I have lived in some really wonderful neighborhoods, but I have never felt so much a part of a community as we did in Sydney. I just found people to be so open and unpretentious (despite many being quite cosmopolitan). This seems to play out at a macro level too - Australians were really rooting for each other through various ups and downs of COVID, e.g., drag queens and Bondi lifeguards showing up to welcome Melburnians on the first flights back to Sydney.

The natural environment is so extraordinary... it sounds hokey, but I feel as though the environment in Sydney (maybe all of Australia) gets under your skin. There is just something special about it. Australians talk about indigenous people as "traditional custodians of the land." Maybe there is something about it being so lovingly cared for through millennia. I already miss the way the gum trees look on the horizon, the distinctive bird calls, the many forms the water takes depending on the sky...

Civil society really seems to have its priorities in order... - COVID made apparent the benefits of investing in a coordinated health system. Australia also has an excellent and inexpensive higher education system. And excellent infrastructure (see previous posts re: public restrooms and BBQs). Also, fewer guns. Google just about any "quality of life" index or variant thereof, and Australia will be near the top.

BUT - I'm not naive about the challenges in Australia, among them...

...environmental degradation and reliance on extractive industries (though the government is investing in renewable energy).

...relationship with (/dependence on) China (a recent headline: Australia-China ties are at their lowest point in history, former ambassador says)

...racism and open wounds of European settlement. There are many indigenous people still alive today who were part of the "stolen generations" - indigenous children forcibly taken from their families...this continued to the 1970s! Much reconciliation has happened for indigenous Australians, but much remains to be done.

Love Letter #2: to my kids
In case you two ever read this all the way to the end one day: our time here was about so much, but for me above all it was about our family, the time I had with you, and our experiences together. I have written about meltdowns and low moments, but those are all just normal ways of being a little person in a big world, especially when your parents undertake big adventures. Know that you are amazing.

She'll be right
This expression, according to my expert sources, is a frequently used idiom in Australian and New Zealand culture that expresses the belief that "whatever is wrong will right itself with time" My American Survival Guide to Australia ended on this point, so it seems fitting for me to do so too. We are obviously returning to the U.S. at a time that is uncertain, but increasingly hopeful, so we'll trust that she'll be right!

Thanks for joining us on the journey, and thanks especially to those who welcomed us, befriended us, and supported us!

Posted by Bredwardz 18:38 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Week 42: The Hedonism Plan

Am I the only one who felt like the last week was about a month long?! Didn't think so.

The U.S. election was big news here. Media coverage was extensive (more than usual, I'm told) and everyone was asking me about it. Justin remarked that I seemed surprisingly placid about it all. I think it's because I was mentally prepared for going home without a clear outcome, so was actually pleasantly surprised. Plus, I've had the immediate need to focus on getting two small children across the world. Thankfully Zadie's again been a big help with packing ...
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Meanwhile Justin and I have kept ourselves fortified while preparing for the trip...
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...Vegemite and one of our favorite beers, which uses a blend of US and Aussie hops

We're now tremendously relieved about the election outcome. But we're anxious about the rising COVID counts across the U.S. and especially in Illinois. In light of the latter, we'll be quarantining upon our return, and hunkered down after that. By contrast, Australia has had only a trickle of cases across the whole country. We've therefore decided to seize the day while we can, and have been executing what I've dubbed "the hedomism plan" (to be swiftly followed by the "austerity plan").

The hedonism plan takes into consideration making the most of lots of "lasts" (for a while): last playgroup, last music lesson, last date night, last pub lunch, last beach outings, last rounds of golf (though I'm not *too* bummed about a break from those...) and perhaps most regrettably: last sunny Friday afternoon wines at the playground...
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Park, playgroup, and pubs...farewell!

The farewells have been a bit draining, but I am appreciating the many positive and supportive vibes we're getting from teachers, neighbors, publicans*, etc.

*a pub owner

In addition to our commitment to the hedonism plan, we've ticked off some remaining bucket list items, including a few more ocean pools - more below!

Highlights from our last full week in Sydney, 2020:

Date night at Barangaroo and the Rocks: we had a lovely dinner in the Barangaroo area, a more recent development with a strip of great restaurants which are all outdoor but protected against the elements (thankfully because it was pouring rain). Given the hedonism plan, the night carried on to the Rocks. We caught fireworks over the Opera House and Circular Key, so yeah...truly going out with a bang - heh heh.
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Van Gogh Live: I joined Joan and a friend at this immersive art installation on Van Gogh's work. Last art exhibit (for a while) - Check!
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Burnt Orange - Joanie generously treated us to breakfast at Burnt Orange, a lovely and historic spot on the water surrounded by Bushland. As you can see below, Oscar stuck faithfully to the hedonism plan.
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Blue Mountains "grand canyon" bushwalk: I hadn't done a hike in the Blue Mountains yet, so I was so excited when Joan proposed this beautiful one. There are several canyons in the Blue Mountains, but this is the only one that's accessible via a walking track. There were spectacular views at the top, lovely rainforest, and striking rock formations. The hike was of course followed by a last post-hike lunch / local cider at a restaurant (for a while).
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Farewell sausage sizzle with neighbor "mates": one of our neighbors had all the kids over for a little farewell gathering. Adhering to our plan, I brought champagne. Our hostess had the brilliant idea to have us bring the kids' pajamas, and after dinner she had a bath and story ready so all I had to do was get them home and into bed. It was particularly awesome because Justin was out for work farewell drinks.
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Bondi Icebergs - We went back to to the Bondi icebergs restaurant for lunch with Joan on the day the election results were announced. It all aligned well with the objectives of the hedonism plan...
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Little Bay and Shelley Beach outings: we made our way back to two of our favorite beaches. Zadie loved floating in the swimming ring - at one point I swear I caught her leaning back with her arms behind her head going, "ahhh." After we got out, she grabbed the floatie and was trying to drag it back to the water. Girlfriend has definitely lived the majority of her life Down Under!

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Low moments:

Cockroach encounter - I found a massive cockroach scurrying across our bathroom vanity the other night. Gross and a little startling, but nothing a thong (flip flop) couldn't handle. I actually appreciate these insect encounters, as they keep things real despite the pristine veneer of this apartment complex.

**Special Feature - Sydney's Top 10 Ocean Pools**

I am pleased to report that I have swam in 9 out of 10 of Sydney's top rock pools, as ranked by this list (Note: I may have chosen this list based on the number I'd already been to...)

I was planning to get to the 10th this week, and was a bit bummed it fell through. But I have decided it's good to leave one out of the mix so I have an important and concrete reason to return to Sydney ;)

My love and fascination for rock pools started when I first cracked open "Lonely Planet Australia" and found some stunning photos; it has only been deepened by my little tour.

In recognition of this amazing accomplishment, I got an official photo taken with Australia's top life guards:
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(ok actually Joan just asked these two volunteer dudes if they would take a pic with me, but still, my boy Jacob gave an official "surf's up" so I feel pretty honored)

Note - some of these photos below have been previously featured, but I love seeing them all together!

1. BRONTE BATHS - I swam here at sunrise in mid-winter with my neighbour Emma just as COVID restrictions lifted
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2. FAIRY BOWER POOL, MANLY - Oscar and I swam here on an early fall day right before we went into lock down
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3. MAHON POOL, MAROUBRA - I went here on a random weekday afternoon when I just needed a moment to myself. It is by far the most "wild" of the rock pools I went in, as it is very exposed to the surf. I got tossed around a bit and it was a little frightening but also exhilarating. And cold.
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4. BONDI ICEBERGS - probably the most famous rock pool and rightfully so! Such stunning scenery and a nice facility.
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5. BILGOLA ROCKPOOL - other than the surf a the Mahon pool, this felt like most intrepid rock pool entry, as there were blue bottles visible in the water (and warned by the life guards, see below). I assumed that these were lethal (because it's Australia!). But my mates Jake and Jacob assured me they would just sting a bit. A lady getting out of the pool showed me where they were and warned me to steer clear because they hurt A LOT. Erring on the side of caution, I swam behind a dude for a lap there and back and was relieved to get out unscathed.
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6. MCIVER'S BATHS, COOGEE - failed to get a photo here! But this is a really special one for ladies only. Very close to Wylie's baths (below) and views just as amazing.

7. WYLIE'S BATHS, COOGEE - have actually been here a few times including with the kids. It's featured in one of Oscar's kids books so he was particularly excited.
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8. NORTH CURL CURL ROCKPOOL - Joanie and I had done a walk near here months ago but had to rush through due to COVID restrictions. It was wonderful to go back and do this spectacular track followed by the rock pool, which was actually Joan's first! Being a Queenslander, she was a little intimated by the less-than-balmy temps, but admitted it was quite lovely.
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9. MALABAR OCEAN POOL - the other winter sunrise swim that neighbour Emma and I did.
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As for Cronulla rock pool, see you next time :)

Posted by Bredwardz 04:37 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Week 41: The Beginning of the End + All the small things

We are now less than 3 weeks away from our return to the U.S. (we land in Chicago on November 13). I'd be lying if I said we aren't feeling a lot of trepidation due to COVID and who knows what else we may face.

But, we decided it's the right time for me to get back to work and for us to see family. Thankfully, most of the logistics are sorted out, so we are now trying to focus on enjoying our remaining time here and on the positive aspects of our return. We are indebted to the many family and friends who are helping us out practically, mentally, and emotionally, with the transition!

One recent thrill is that Joan made her way back to Sydney! It's been so wonderful to have her as our neighbor again. It felt a little surreal at first, as I had mentally prepared for not seeing her before we left. What a joy to have her 'round for dinner, to pop over to hers for a "cuppa," and to have my bushwalking buddy back! Now we are hoping that she'll be able to return to her family for the holidays.

I think I've noted previously that we've been surprised by how familiar Sydney feels. But there are still lots of little things about daily life that are just a tad different. Here's a completely incomplete list of some of the small things we've noticed about life down under...

> Paper size - Anyone who has lived in Europe will be familiar with this one...A4 paper is just different enough to, say, cut off your signature on a lease agreement printed in the U.S....

>Clothes lines: Aussies seem to hang their washing up much more than at home (perhaps owing to the greater abundance of sunshine?!) The "Hills Hoist" is a clothesline that is considered an Aussie icon (and not just according to that Wikipedia link...) How charming is it to have a clothesline, of all things, be a national icon?!

>Kilojoules - most food items are labeled in kilojoules rather than (kilo)calories as in the U.S. This mean I get to divide whatever number I see on a bag by 4, which feels great.

> Backing into parking spaces - I swear I see many more people back into parking spaces here. Seems like such a power move!

>Power Points - speaking of power, the outlets look like this....gotta remember to pop that sucker on or you aren't getting toast. Also, they are called power points.
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>Viewer warnings - many shows / movies include a disclaimer for aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people that images, voices or names of an Indigenous Australian who has died will be featured. This is in recognition of indigenous customs.
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>G'Day - yes, people really do say it. Even in receipts from online grocery orders.
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Highlights this week...

Oscar's bday bash - Oscar's birthday is coming up on the 28th of October, so last weekend we had a small, Wiggles themed celebration with his neighborhood "mates." Another perk of having Joan back in Sydney: her baking skills and fully equipped kitchen.
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Cremorne Point walk + lunch at Mosman Rowers club - the walk to Cremorne point was on my "pram friendly walks" bucket list. It was yet another lovely vantage point of Sydney harbor with a nice playground. The Rowers club is a long-standing venue in one of Sydney's poshest areas. It's right across from a ferry stop, so the scenery was of great interest to Oscar.

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Shelley and Manly Beaches - we'd been to Shelley beach, but in the frigid depths of Sydney winter. It was great to experience it in its full, sunny glory. After a swim and lunch, the kids both fell asleep in the stroller so we got to walk all along Manly beach. The swells were so high that the beach was closed to swimmers, but that made it extra cool to watch the surfers.
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Carabita park - Justin took the kids down the Paramatta river to this lovely green space and playground.
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Low Moments...

Dishwasher fail (but also: triumph ) - we seem to have bad juju when it comes to dishwashers in Australia. The dishwasher in the first apartment was out of commission for several weeks. And our latest one broke recently too. A repair person informed us that it was an issue with the latch not securing, and we'd need a new part. So we did what any sane person would do: rig a system of household implements (specifically: iron, flip flop, broom and stick) to keep the damn thing closed. Yes, we could have just washed the dishes, but, I ask: who's in charge, us or the machine?

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Posted by Bredwardz 04:50 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Week: Cult-chah

To binge on cultural experiences while we can, we recently went to the theater and an art gallery. And for months now, we've been trying to absorb Aussie culture from the confines of our living room, due to the restrictions of both COVID and young children.

Riding on this theme, I bring you this very special edition of Bredwardz Down Under, covering ALL of Australian culture!

Ok actually it's going to pretty much be a list of stuff that we've enjoyed in our cultural immersions...

> Books - I studied English literature, but I don't recall reading any Australian authors (unless you count J.M. Coetzee, who is now an Australian citizen). The Australians can claim another Nobel prize winner though, Patrick White. I haven't read him yet, but Voss is on my list.

Across the sampling of Aussie authors I've read, I've been struck by 1) how sad many of the stories are, whether true or fictionalized, and 2) how saliently the landscape tends to feature (water, plants, desert, bush, etc.) I'm currently reading a memoir by a well-known Aussie novelist, Tim Winton. Here is a snippet from him that touches on both points: "much has been of the land's so-called melancholy [...] Often enough the melancholy felt by settlers and their descendants was entirely their own. But for far too long such sadness was also powered by radiant absences, by silence, by guilt and denial, and until quite recently by Commonwealth law. Still, it seems fair to admit that the land itself could be implacable. It did not readily admit interlopers." Fair enough.

Here are some of the books that have stood out the most to me...

The Secret River: an engrossing novel and a powerful depiction of the brutality of both 19th century London / the convict experience AND colonial / aboriginal interactions. Also (Justin notes) there is a movie adaptation, for the non-readers among you ;)

The Tall Man: a nonfiction account of police brutality in an aboriginal community. Published in 2009 but unfortunately very timely.

The Inland Sea: a very recent novel by a younger Australian writer. The author lives in NYC, but this book is very much of Sydney and environs. I was initially put off by the angst of this one, but ultimately found it a compelling story on the themes of climate change, colonialism, and sexism.

Dark Emu - this book by Aboriginal author Bruce Pascoe explores the many ways Australia's indigenous people were more agricultural and settled than colonial accounts recognize. Admittedly, I found a lot of the book quite dry (lots of details around different agricultural practices, architecture, etc.), but it's an important one and I learned a lot from it.

And in the children's genre, shout out to Mem Fox, who I didn't even know was Australian before being here. Perhaps the most Aussie of her books is Possum Magic. Fun side note: our occasional babysitter grew up in the same neighborhood as Mem Fox and has met her on numerous occasions. I really geeked out on this fact :)

Finally, I had to give an honorary mention to this one, in the "lighter literature" category...
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Backstory: I asked a librarian for an Australian author recommendation. She immediately pulled this one and gushed about it, so I didn't want to be rude and decline. Then on one of our beach trips I tossed it in my bag, and before I knew it I had to find out if those former high school sweethearts finally found their way back to each other (spoiler alert - YES!). While it wasn't exactly literary, there were a lot of (pop) cultural references. Also a lot of typos.

> Art - we haven't been able to do many museum visits (though did catch one, see below!) But, we watched a documentary series on Australian art by Hannah Gadsby (relatively well-known in the U.S. for her comedy performance, Nanette, on Netflix). Most salient tidbits for me were...

  • the degree to which early artists "european-ized" the Australian landscapes to make them more appealing / romantic
  • the influence of masculinity and pioneering in Australian art (quote from Gadsby: ''a bloke in a hat who is hell-bent on conquering our gum tree-infested landscape single-handedly'')
  • the way Australia's beaches and healthy, outdoors lifestyle started to feature prominently in the rise of modernist art (I believe this was post WWI)

> Cinema & TV - Australia has a surprisingly robust film and television industry, given its size. There are some Aussie movies that have gained international fame - among them, Crocodile Dundee, which seems like such a silly one, but apparently really did a lot to build interest in Australia globally. Netflix is widespread in Australia, and there is also a streaming service called Stan and the ABC app called iView, both of which have a large selection of Aussie movies and shows.

Movies picks...

The Castle - this is a classic Aussie comedy from the late 90s. It's got a bit of a Griswald family vibe to it, but it's ultimately more touching and earnest.

Picnic at Hanging Rock - I couldn't even bring myself to watch this, but it fit right into Justin's favorite genre of "creepy arty movies." Joking aside, this is considered one of the best Australian films. But, to quote Joan, be prepared to be "wigged out."

Samson & Delilah - a moving story about young aboriginal people on a journey for a better life.

Kenny - comedy about a port-a-potty operator. Sounds gross (and sometimes is) but quite hilarious and like the Castle, ultimately quite sweet.

Shows...

Kath & Kim - a mockumentary style show from the early 2000s. Hysterical. They tried to adapt a US version and it seems it didn't translate.

Mystery Road - an ABC cop show featuring an aboriginal detective. The plot lines and writing weren't very tight, but the scenery was often stunning and it gave some insight into the challenges Australia faces with "ice" (crystal meth) trafficking, especially in remote areas.

Stateless - I think this has gotten a fairly big audience in the US via Netflix; produced by Cate Blanchett, tells the story of the (real) refugee internment camps in Australia. Fascinating and troubling.

Hamish and Andy's Gap Year - two blokes doing ridiculous things all over the world. Great pandemic watching :)

Utopia - comedy about the (fictional) Nation Building Authority, a government branch charged with planning Australia's future. Does a great job satirizing bureaucracy and politics, some of the humor is uniquely Aussie, some of it universal.

Rosehaven - a sweet comedy about two quirky best friends leaving the "mainland" to return to a small town in Tasmania.

>Music aka, dispatch from Spotify - handing it over to Justin to weigh in here, as I exclusively listen to whining and Wiggles; he listens to adult Australian music to drown it all out. Here are his top picks...

  • Pond
  • King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
  • Psychedelic Porn Crumpets
  • Courtney Barnett
  • Tropical Fuck Storm (yes, actual name)

Cultural Highlights from recent weeks...

Room on the Broom at the Seymour Centre (University of Sydney) - Oscar and I had a really lovely outing with one of his "mates" from playgroup to see this children's book adapted for theater. We saw it the first weekend theaters were allowed to re-open in Sydney (at 50% capacity and face masks strongly encouraged). The show was very well done and Oscar especially liked the music.
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Art Gallery of New South Wales - I took the kids on an adventure to this beautiful (and free!) art gallery near the Botanic Gardens and Opera House. We visited the exhibit on 2020 award winners for national art prizes. I was particularly excited to see the winning piece for portraiture, because it featured Adam Goodes, a well- known indigenous Australian Rules Football player. We'd seen a great documentary about Goodes (The Australian Dream).

Beer and lawn bowls - for some lower-brow culture, we visited a brewery that opened in our neighborhood called White Bay Brewery. We also visited the local lawn bowls club for dinner. We didn't actually play, but the kids had a great time throwing balls around on the grass.
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Low Moments...

Art Gallery meltdown - alas, our adventure to the art gallery pushed us all too far; me and the kids all left in tears after a bird invaded our lunch :)

In the news

For a bright spot in the news cycle, I"m pleased to report that the koala drama in New South Wales has apparently subsided...
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Posted by Bredwardz 02:31 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Weeks 32-34: seeing the sights + in the news

There's been great news here on the COVID front: New South Wales recorded several days this past week with *zero* cases. That bodes well for loosening inter-state border restrictions. Devoted readers may have noticed that our dear friend Joan has not graced this blog for a few months now. She returned home to visit family in Queensland in July, and the border closed shortly thereafter. With minimal transmission of COVID here, we're crossing our fingers that borders will soon re-open fully (some parts of NSW are already open to Queensland, and the state of South Australia is supposed to open later this week).

Since the COVID "clusters" in Sydney seemed to have petered out, we ventured out some of the more touristy sights still on our list.

But, the news is not all jolly...there have been some dramatic and salacious headlines in the past few weeks - see below for more!

Since my last post, the blog comments section has been inundated with questions about what one *does* order here to get an American style coffee. It's always good to have a cultural ambassador for such questions. I have an American mom pal here who is married to an Aussie. She informed me that one orders a "tall black."

Finally, lest you think no golf has been played of late, please rest assured that your correspondent has been getting in his fair share now that the days are longer, the weather is warmer, and he's made some golf "mates"! He's been playing courses previously reported on, so no new dispatches for now, but stay tuned!

Highlights...

Date Night at the Bondi Icebergs - the "Icebergs" is a swimming club located at Sydney's famous Bondi beach. My extensive research informs me that it "dates back to 1929 and owes its origin to the desire of a band of local life savers trying to maintain their fitness during the Winter months. [...] The Bondi Icebergs is the only licensed Winter Swimming Club in the world." There is an amazing rock pool (Google "Bondi icebergs aerial" for some spectacular images). More importantly for our purposes, there's a pub. It was quite sublime to watch the waves crashing into the pool at night. Afterwards we strolled through the streets around Bondi. Bondi is usually heaving with backpackers; it was still pretty lively compared to our usual Saturday nights, but we could imagine how much more bustling it would normally be.
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The Rocks / Botanic Gardens / Barangaroo Reserve - we did a big walk around one of Sydney's most historic neighborhoods - the Rocks (so named as a nod to the local sandstone by the convicts who lived there in early days), the historic Royal botanic gardens, and the Barangaroo reserve, a more recent urban re-development area. Like Bondi, the whole area was much quieter devoid of tourists. The lady at the information desk practically begged us to do a walking tour (we had to decline because #children). It was a little sad, but also rather nice to experience it all with more tranquility.
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BBQ at our local park - - we got together with some families we know from playgroup for that most Aussie of institutions: a BBQ. Alongside rock pools and clean public restrooms, public barbecue facilities rank in my top 3 favorite Australian infrastructure offerings. The grills, pictured below, are gas operated and are basically like hot plates - super easy to use and clean. Also, consuming alcohol in parks is very much NOT frowned upon here.
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Hawksbury River / Dangar Island - I've been eager to visit the Hawksbury River area since we'd seen a movie set there. The river is about an hour north of Sydney. The region played an important role in European settlement because it was used to transport food from the surrounding areas. We drove to a town called Brooklyn and caught a small ferry to Dangar Island. Dangar is a little jewel in the middle of the river. There are beautiful houses, but no roads or cars. People can call upon a golf cart run by the local council, and otherwise get around on foot, using wheelbarrows to transport their stuff from the wharf. There is a beach, walking trails along the island, and the best part: a lawn bowls club with great food and drinks adjacent to a playground. It was a fabulous day out!
Arriving at the wharf
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Dangar Island idyll: Dad watching lawn bowls, Oscar at the playground, Zadie with her sand buckets, mom with wine
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Kookaburra chilling on a sign indicating one of the ~4 "streets" on the island
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Low Moments...

Tape fail - we learned last week that we are going to lose a portion of our bond (deposit) on our last apartment. The tape we'd put on the tile to serve as various roads and runways for Oscar apparently permanently stained the tile. sigh. Justin described it as the "cost of doing business" with kids!!

About Australia

An important symbol of Australian culture that seems to be little known overseas is the Aboriginal Flag. It's very common to see the Aboriginal flag flying alongside the much more well known national flag. The Aboriginal flag has apparently been an official flag of Australia since 1995. It's a simple image of black, yellow, and red...
Black – represents the Aboriginal people of Australia.
Yellow circle – represents the Sun, the giver of life and protector.
Red – represents the red earth, the red ochre used in ceremonies and Aboriginal peoples’ spiritual relation to the land.
(source)

Here's an example of the flag flying at the art museum...
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In the News

The local headlines have been slaying me lately...this is the kind of news we came here expecting!!!!

Did you know prostitution is legal in Australia?? Gambling is also huge. Gotta fund those public BBQs somehow!
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IThe government of New South Wales has been nearly torn asunder over a koala protection policy. This is a great nation.
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Strange, deadly flora and fauna = just part of life
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Aussies are combating wanderlust...if you can't fly somewhere, fly nowhere
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And in case you're wondering about coverage of the U.S. in Australian news...
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But for more lighthearted news on Aussie / American relations, check out this story :)

Posted by Bredwardz 02:32 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

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