Monday, November 2, 2009


Sydney's got a GREAT restaurant scene and my friends can attest that these words mean a lot coming from my mouth. When you grow up in New Orleans, it's inevitable to become a food snob. Just thinking about dressed po-boys and crawfish etouffee at the Galley, Jacq-imo's rabbit tenderloin, and Galatoire's crabmeat au gratin makes me homesick. And even if you don't love heavy, rich food, the service spoils you so that you can make rash decisions (like choose not to frequent a restaurant for 20 years if say, a waitress over pours your sweet tea and you have to mix the drink again to get your sugar:tea ratio just as you would like. I may be related to one such person.)

Although the food is great here, the service isn't always set to the same standard as tipping is optional. I found it very difficult when I first arrived to get a straight answer on how much to tip -- "It depends on the service," or "however much you like." This was frustrating as both a customer and a waitress. And it begged the question -- how much does tipping count? Because Americans are very prone here to overcompensate for their 'American-ness.'

For example, I was at brunch with two American friends, a girlfriend visiting from Denver and a girl that recently moved to Sydney from Jackson Hole. We ordered shortly after sitting down. Only after an hour of salivating over other tables' meals, mumbling under our breaths whilst trying to make light of our hunger pangs, and dealing with an absent and unapologetic server, did we confront him about our lost food. Indeed it was lost, he had forgotten our order which he haphazardly admitted. He continued to put off our inquiries and kept over-promising the food delivery which took roughly another half hour. We had already threatened to leave at that point -- really, our food was already being spit at in the kitchen so what did we have to lose? -- but, we continued to wait somewhat patiently and joke with the waiter so not to be perceived as 'those obnoxious Americans.' He didn't get a tip from us, but in the end we waited an hour and a half for eggs and toast without calling a manager or throwing a fit. Job well done, some might say. Or maybe this whinging online is just my way of showing my true 'American-ness.'

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sydney's Red Dawn

Nearly 2 weeks ago, I woke up in Sydney to an eerie, red sky. Along my walk to the CBD, the sky was a reddish gray, dust particles flew everywhere and a "cloud" had descended on Sydney with a foreboding permanence about it, as if to show us what life could be like in a very polluted Sydney.

The truth is that New South Wales was hit by the most massive dust storm it's experienced in 60 years. Similar storms are typical in Australia's interior but rarely travel this far east. With eight years of drought and record temperatures that had baked outback soils dry, the outback's topsoil was easy to transport. Some estimate that nearly 1 million tons of topsoil were deposited in the Pacific Ocean as a result of the storm.

One of the bigger questions raised has been regarding the dust's toxicity. Australia conducts nuclear testing and uranium mining in its vast, desolate interior. Although pollution levels significantly increased following the storm, scientists have argued that the dust won't pose health concerns as it came from a variety of places, any levels of uranium would have been diluted, etc. It's not a hugely comforting thought, however, it's an eye opener that we're all part of one big ecosystem. The damage from the storm is still being assessed. This will take a toll on Australia's agriculture, yet there are predictions the "dusting" of the sea and ocean could have positive effects. Here are some pictures from that morning found on the Sydney Morning Herald's site.

Monday, September 21, 2009

"You Can Run Around Australia"

Running in a new place whether you're on vacation, just moved or running an unfamiliar route, enables you to see things you often miss when traveling by car. It's one of my favorite ways to explore a new city. There are great running and walking tracks all along Sydney's coast which makes it easy to sometimes lose yourself and feel like you're in a small town instead of a thriving city of 6 million. The recent races I've run in help put Sydney's population in perspective. The City2Surf 14K last month had a record 75,000 people registered, starting in the city and ending at Bondi Beach. The winner crossed the finish line before I even started the race! This last race pictured here is from the Sydney Running Festival which has a distance for everyone. There was a marathon, half-marathon, 9K and 4K. My flatmate even had a chance to ride his bike alongside racers in wheelchairs. The highlight -- the Sydney Harbour Bridge is closed for the race for everyone to run across. Wish I could claim I did the marathon but I ran the 9K, a gorgeous run through the city with a course that weaves through the Botanic Gardens and a finish line that all racers cross in front of the Opera House. Running across the bridge was amazing. The only downside is I miss the beer trucks and bananas on race day....

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More Wilson Wedding Pictures

top: Gorgeous bride and me at the reception, center: Steve and Rachelle in the park after just getting hitched!

It's a bit hard to tell but one of the bridesmaids tasked many of us with creating "Congratulations!" using our bodies. I was the letter G -- very difficult without Photoshop. Wish you could see the "!" in this photo. He was upside down and decapitated.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Vegemite vs. Peanut Butter

Peanut Butter is loved worldwide. Vegemite hasn't been adopted beyond Australia except for NZ which has a close rival product. Peanut Butter is made from ground, roasted peanuts. Vegemite's core ingredient is brewer's yeast extract i.e. the stuff left over in the bottom of the canister from beer manufacturing.

Net: there's no real contest between these two spreads. Had I not been tricked into eating some Vegemite on a cheese roll by my flatmate Danielle, I wouldn't even be able to talk knowledgeably about this. As it stands, she's been trying to convert me by serving me crackers and cheese with just the slightest coating of vegemite (cheese softens the bitter, salty taste). For now Vegemite has more intrigue than palatability. Danielle may win this one in the end, but I think it's safe to say I won't be buying a jar anytime soon.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The New Mrs. Wilson!

As a traveler, it's easy to form fast friendships with people you encounter along the way. Relationships often move at warp speed and you find the person you met an hour ago while having a beer is now inviting you to stay with them at their home in another country. Rachelle aka "Skittle" was one of the great friends I met in Galway, and our friendship was cemented over a roadtrip through northern Ireland. Since then we've kept in touch and she generously gave me a place to stay for 3 weeks when I first arrived in Sydney. Steve-O, her fiancee, is a great match for Rachelle which I can say with confidence after spending time with them in various outings and having been their former flattie.

Steve and Rachelle tied the knot this weekend, resulting in eruptions of laughter and tears. Rachelle was a gorgeous bride and was radiant through the whole day. We thought she may cry down the aisle (as happened in the rehearsal) but she exuded warmth, confidence and happiness the entire day. I've been to several weddings recently with a mix of traditional and less formal ceremonies and want to note the importance of a grand entrance. The anticipation is palpable as all eyes are focused on the bride as she emerges in white. Often it's the first time that all have seen her in this beautiful gown and emotions are running high given the promises/vows that are about to be exchanged. I teared up. So did many others but what I find most telling and often missed by the focus on the bride is the groom's reaction. Steve went from nervous and excited to confident and relaxed with Rachelle by his side. The ceremony was in a park so it could have been a slight bout with hay fever but I think he may have also become a little emotional.

Weather was gorgeous, food was fabulous, the guests had a wonderful time and as always happens, the night seemed to end too quickly. Steve and Rachelle had an equally dramatic exit with a ferried water taxi that picked them up at the reception and took them to the lovely Park Hyatt overlooking Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House. They're in Vegas now before chilling on the beaches in Hawaii. May they have a wonderful honeymoon!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Natro Down Under

After two months of jumping into this adventure, I couldn't think of a more appropriate title than "she'll be right." It's Aussie slang that's used quite often to mean "don't worry, mate" totally indicative of the Aussie "no worries" mentality that things will work out in the end. At various times during the past two months, it's been a reassurance to myself that this jump to the other side of the world may have ups and downs, but it will be a rich experience. Living in the present isn't always easy, yet approaching my life in Australia with this attitude has eased my transition to Sydney.

I also hope that "she'll be right" has quite literal meaning for my parents as they've been more nervous than me about this move. Don't worry, mum and dad. You've done a wonderful job teaching me to appreciate life and work hard for what I want. This time around, I'm a smarter traveler...and visitors are welcome if you feel the need to check in.