Australia / Peace Corps / People / Photography / Travel

100 Hours in Sydney

Leaving Indonesia after almost a year of Peace Corps was more needed than I could’ve imagined. Right before parting, I was feeling rather irritable at everything here, mostly the food, the rain, the mold and the motorcycles—one, which crashed into me while I rode my bike the day before my trip. (I’m fine, it was very minor.)

This is not unusual. Every month I find myself reaching a limit of dealing with all the differences and mostly, the isolation. Reaching that limit, and thus the irritability, indicates it’s time for a break—usually with a trip into Surabaya—but for the first time it was to a place outside of Indonesia.

The advantage of traveling to a developed country: getting to use the awesome free Wi-Fi during a long layover and Skyping with your mom and aunt 13 time zones away.

The disadvantage of not leaving Indonesia in almost a year: technology moves fast and now airplanes use iPads. (A lady looked at me as if I were a Luddite when she helped me get an iPad on here…and it didn’t help that later I took this picture.)

The journey was very long. One bus ride, 2 taxis, 3 plane rides and 4 time zones later, I finally arrived at my destination: Sydney, Australia.

After a short train ride, I met my friend, Fer, in the city near a payphone, which weirdly, I actually used. Together, we walked down Oxford Street in the early Saturday morning, as I acclimated to the chilly air. Beautiful people jogged by agilely. Barely any cars passed down the wide streets. Tiny raindrops landed on the asphalt.

It was just below 70 degrees Fahrenheit and I was dying. A direct result of what being in 90-degree weather year around will do to you, but aside from that, it was surprisingly easy to fall back into my self outside Peace Corps. This alternate self that fits with this friend from another life, in a place where faded memories are rekindled and new stories are born.

My first days in Sydney were sleepless. Upon arrival—after no sleep throughout the previous two days no less—Fer proposed that we volunteer at the Sydney Mardi Gras Parade. In Ecuadorian slang, we have a term for certain friends: acolite. This means the friend is willing and happy to accompany you in anything and everything, and Fer and I are this for each other. It wasn’t a question of whether I would do it, it was a question of: how will I do this with no sleep?

So only a few short hours after landing, we ventured off to manage parade floats in a huge event in downtown Sydney from 1pm until midnight.

My volunteering crew. The single straight guy in the middle.

Any place with David Guetta lyrics painted in bright colors is the right place for me.

Fer and I rocking our (ugly) orange volunteer Tshirts and halos (which can’t be seen).

One of the floats I was in charge of, and appropriately, their motto was “Music is Love.”

The crowd.

On our walk home.

The street art on Fer’s street.

Volunteering in this parade earned us tickets to the Mardi Gras Parade After Party, which would have been outrageously expensive otherwise. This party began at midnight, but because I was in desperate need to sleep, we returned home and I slept until Fer awoke me with wine and Shakira. After this, the party was a blur of distinct ambiances, loud electronic music, masses of people pulsating to invigorating beats, and one “award-winning” pizza at 5 in the morning…which brings me to all the things I ate.

When Peace Corps Volunteers are released from their site, they go on a rampage for food, seeking it out and appreciating it at a level only other PCVs could understand. Let me put it this way: I was in Sydney for four days and I can’t even remember how many times I ate. It was glorious to have access to a variety of food that isn’t rice and man, did I take advantage of it.

Yea, I ate that.

Fulfilling our ritual of eating Vietnamese food after a long night. It was comforting to find the same bad music and decor as all the other Vietnamese establishments we once loved.

Waffles at Max Brenner.

Amazing coffee with melted chocolate.

Calamari in Sydney Harbour

We had to fight off all these birds from attacking the above.

Mojitos in Darling Harbour

I wanted to keep this bill because I liked that camel, but I had to use it for a good cause. (And by “good cause” I mean the above.)

Churros-flavored ice cream…so not what I wanted, but you have to eat today what you won’t get to eat tomorrow.

In between meals, I saw some sights too and they were nearly as good as the food.

Yea…that happened…I licked the Sydney Opera House.

The second day in Sydney, Fer and I took a public bus to Bondi Beach and I couldn’t help comparing the stark differences between public transportation in Australia versus Indonesia’s. Both are equally efficient, but both have a completely different feel. (You can debate this for Indonesian transportation, but I always get to where I need to go, and that’s what I call efficient.)

Australia is so perfect and clean. Its aesthetically pleasing constructions meld seamlessly into one another like neatly composed sentences, and in between, famously emphatic monuments stand out like exclamation points on a verbose page.

I couldn’t help viewing the city as a giant theme park, and its transportation was comparable to the trains and shuttles you would find in Disney World, taking you from place to place. (Sydney even rhymes with Disney!)

Beautiful people got on the bus, beautiful people got out. Women dressed in the most stylish clothes chatted on their iPhones, unconcerned for their safety or how much skin could be seen. Happy families laughed and talked, pushing strollers or carrying children on their shoulders. No men smoked nor polluted our shared oxygen. No strangers mounted the buses to ask for money or invade the sonic space with the terrible sounds I refuse to call songs. Instead, a bleach blond boy entered the bus, tugging his surfboard, his wet suit ready to feel the waves.

(This song wouldn’t stop playing in my head.)

I felt bad about this, but after living in Ecuador, New Orleans and now, Indonesia, I couldn’t take Sydney seriously. It was as if I’d stepped into a perfect little world designed by Apple. There was too much order—and I’m conditioned to chaos.

Fer assured me that, beneath the surface, there are many problems in Australia—and I’m sure that there are. No place can be totally “perfect,” but that’s the only side of Sydney I saw.

Surfers at Bondi Beach

Swimming pool in the ocean…crazy!

Rules at Bondi Beach (that people actually follow!) Can Indonesia please adopt this, especially in beaches and buses?

The worthwhile result of following the rules.

Street Art in Bondi Beach

Probably my favorite picture from Australia – Friendship in Bondi Beach – What else could you ask from life?

My second favorite picture.

One World

Coogee Coastal Walk – Sydney

Fer messing around with my camera as we walked through Coogee Coastal Walk

The view from what we ended up calling the “Rock of Wisdom.”

We sat on this rock for awhile and people kept asking us to take pictures of them…and then someone offered to return the favor.

A really cool model of Sydney encased in the floor of the Sydney’s Customs House.

The Sydney Opera House


The Sydney Harbour Bridge – People actually climb to the top of it with harnesses, which is AWESOME.

Taking a ferry ride around the Sydney Harbour

Sunset at Mrs Macquaries Point – Sydney


I like to think I can control all of the lights in Sydney.

7 thoughts on “100 Hours in Sydney

  1. Though your pictures take a long time to load with the internet here, they turned out awesome! The food ones hurt my stomach, but I’m glad you included them and the bit that everyone knows all too well of missing good food!

    • yea the pics are ridiculously large…and yea…food! We will have to console ourselves with chocolate lava cake and cookies and cream ice cream in Bondowoso.

  2. Beautiful pictures !!! Love and miss you always……. who’s the guy in the last pic, that’s not Fer, is it? Take care and God bless!!!!

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