Monday, February 15, 2010

Time spent in rainy Sydney

My trip to Sydney started on a swank new airliner, V Australia. The 777 was huge, as expected, but it also had a bar and colored accent lighting which changed color all through the flight depending on if the passengers were supposed to be eating or sleeping. We landed in Sydney at about 6am, and the sun was out and bright by the time I got through customs.

I ended up renting a car since it would be hours before I could check in to the backpacker where I was going to stay. After driving around Sydney a bit I drove to Canberra for a day. Canberra is Australia's capital, and much closer to Sydney than any other major city. But it's still a 3 hour drive, and my feet were aching from the lack of cruise control. The countryside changed quite a bit on the trip though, starting out very lush and tree covered, and slowly becoming the more arid bush I was expecting. I passed a massive grassland basin that was supposed to be a lake, but it didn't look like one had been there within the last few years. Overall the countryside was quite beautiful, green, and tree covered. And despite koala and kanagroo crossing signs, I didn't see any critters on my way to Canberra.

A constant feature of the first five days of my Australian week was plenty of rain. And that was true for Canberra as well. The second day was mostly dry fortunately, but the first night rained pretty constantly. I drove around the Australian National University, saw some of the monuments from the car, and drove past the various embassies.

Canberra is not very big, maybe 400,000 people, and its city center is fairly small. But the skyline is dominated by the massive flag mast above the Parliament building. The flag itself is bigger than a double decker London bus, and it rises a few hundred meters in the air on a four pronged mast. Inside the Parliament they have a very old copy of the Magna Carta on display for some reason. A friend on facebook informed me this was actually a copy made in the 1200s, but it still looked old and impressive to me. In both Canberra and in Sydney, they had large impressive ANZAC monuments to the armed services of Australia and New Zealand in the world wars and more recent times. I'll upload some pictures of Canberra and Sydney in the next couple days, but there isn't time to do so tonight.

The thing I found most striking about Canberra was how similar to America the city felt. The people were warm and helpful, and the city itself very much felt like Denver, aside from the lack of mountains, and all the Aussie national monuments. Sydney felt very familiar as well. More so than the other places I've been, I really didn't feel like I had left home.

I'll write about Sydney in a couple days. I hope everyone is enjoying the snow back home. The weather here in New Zealand has been pretty constantly pleasant, with a little mist / light rain most days, but not really enough to replenish our water supply. It's been a very relaxing trip though, but more to come later.

Friday, February 12, 2010

New York and San Fran backpost

Yay for a backlog! Getting online in Sydney and Auckland was a bit difficult and rather expensive. I'll write a few posts over the next couple days summing up the trip so far. But today is my first day living in Coromandel, which is a nice secluded peninsula about an hour east of Auckland. My porch has a view of the sea, the sound of cicadas, and a nice climate in the 70s. But more on here later.

I went to New York for a few days about a week before setting off to the other side of the world, and had a blast with Colin and Nora. They are totally awesome hosts, and made me feel right at home in the chilly City. I've been to a lot of places in the country, but strangely never made it to NYC. It was surprisingly more friendly and accommodating than I was expecting. In fact, I felt kind of neglected until my very last day for never having been insulted or scolded by a New Yorker. Fortunately, a guy at the airport made my trip complete as I was rushing through La Guardia trying to make it to San Francisco.

Turning off my alarm can be tricky some times, but rarely has it failed me a spectacularly as when I had to fly to SFO. Instead of waking up almost 3 hours before I had to fly, I woke up an hour and 15 minutes before my plane was supposed to take off. Thank god I had mostly packed the night before, but I was still pretty freaked out and rushing to get out ASAP. Colin helped me get cash for the taxi, and the guy showed up within 10 minutes. I got to La Guardia about 45 minutes before takeoff. There was a small line at ticketing, and after a small explanation and panicked looks, they New Yorkers all let me jump ahead so I could get checked in before the cut off. 10 of em were very understanding, until I got to the last guy, who gave me a lecture on not screwing everyone due to my lack of planning. I was pretty speechless, but hardly concerned about him, and actually surprised at how rationable and reasonable his rant turned out to be. I made that plane just fine in the end, as well as all my other trips to NZ.

But aside from the windy teens at night and low 20s during the day, New York was fun and convenient (though definitely not cheap.) We went to the Upright Citizens Brigade, which is improv comedy down near NYU. I got to catch up with my cousin Chris back in Astoria (Queens) who I hadn't seen in 10-15 years. He's every part the genuine New Yorker now, and seems to very much enjoy his new home.

There's a few pictures up on Facebook from New York, including a decent one of me at Rockefeller Center, and one of Chris, his girl, Colin, Nora and I in Astoria. Another hilight was going to the incredibly old McSorleys Ale House which was visited by Abe Lincoln, apparently. I have a feeling the lamp over the bar hadn't been cleaned since his visit either. Their two pints of dark were sorely needed on a blustery cold day, and listening to the raucous Irishmen and pubbers was also pretty awesome.

After a quick connecting flight in completely frozen over Minneapolis (5 degrees, woo) I headed to San Francisco to visit with Aunt Kathy for a few days right before heading to Sydney. Fortunately, I had been to San Fran several times recently, because this time I caught some kind of stomach virus and was pretty much non-functional for a couple days. It was very nice to visit with her, but also quite frustrating that I had no energy and could barely eat for pretty much my entire time there. No worries though, everything worked out in the end, and by the time I got to Sydney I was back to normal.

But that's a story for another day. Cheers!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Last day in the US for a while

It's finally time to head to the other side of the world. This time tomorrow, I'll be over the Pacific Ocean, ready to spend a week in Sydney Australia before heading on to Auckland. I'll be arriving in New Zealand on February 11th, and I plan on staying there for about a year.

My first couple months will be at a sustainable living community about an hour by ferry from Auckland. Check it out! http://www.earthwisevalley.org . I'll be farming, taking care of animals, and maintaining the rain forest surrounding the community. It'll be fairly secluded, but they should have Internet access so I can do updates on occasion. We'll also be taking day trips around New Zealand a few times per week, and even a week long trip somewhere at least once while I'm there.

The goal is to completely change my routine for a little while in a fun and exciting way. I hope to pick up plenty of new skills I wouldn't gain in the US as easily. If things turn out to be really awesome, I may stay there longer than a couple months. But either way, once I'm done I plan on moving to Wellington to see what living in New Zealand as a normal person is like.

This blog will hopefully be updated every week or two. I'll try to update whenever I have some interesting pictures, or a story to share. In the meantime, you know how to reach me, or can leave a comment here if you don't.

Cheers!
-John