Hyde Park, November 2014
Crossing the globe is a disruptive thing to do. Not only does daytime become nighttime and autumn spring; cars come from the right instead of the left and the buildings have thirty floors instead of three. Some of them even have walls full of plants. Dealing with all of that is not easy when you´ve barely slept for an unknown amount of days.
My ticket here was booked last Wednesday. I left on Friday without much of a plan. The goal: making a video and doing some writing for the Young Peoples Media Coalition on the World Parks Congress that starts in two days. I´d tried to raise funds for this for a few months but the definite ´yes´ came a week ago.
The flight was long but smooth, and I arrived on the central station of Sydney around nine on Saturday evening. Having turned the wrong way, I could not find any hostel, and I decided to take the train somewhere else. Rido, a strong funny army guy with a thick southern accent took me to another station and bought me a cab to a beach with several hostels. All were full. A group of surfers called every hostel in town for me, only to find out that all of them were fully booked. It was two O´clock at night when I had made several new friends and got an offer to sleep on a floor in a hostel room. It was soft. After waking up at six, I followed two roommates to their homeless friend, spent a sunny hour with them on the street, then went to find a proper place to stay and left to check out the city. I got buried by sand on Bondi Beach and arrived at a festival that had just ended in Newtown, but still the day was lots of fun.
For what I´ve witnessed of it, Sydney is a tall western city with spacious parks containing tropical trees and exotic birds. The inner city even has Ravens. Don´t think I ever saw those before. But as John Travolta once said before elaborating on the Royale with Cheese, it´s those little differences that make it interesting.
Consider the pedestrian lights. You always wait for at least a bit. You hear a peew like from a children´s lightgun which means it turned green. It makes me laugh all the time. But there´s no time for that, because after the peew, there are about five seconds, literally, before it starts blinking red, then another five before it stops blinking, and the cars can drive again. You see people run all the time. I wonder how the elderly people do it. The fact that cars come from the right is confusing, but it gets really mindboggling once you hit a bifurcation or a crossroads. Nowadays, I just keep looking in all possible directions at once to avoid being hit by a car. This left/right issue expresses itself also when walking on the street. People want to cross you at the same place where you want to cross them. It took me a while of causing irritation to realise that. Then, when I was doing it right, I noticed that I´m not the only one doing it wrong, and you can easily pick out the foreigners by looking at their street side tendency. I started to suspect the Aussies from deliberately forcing us to walk on our own side of the road as a way of education, possibly with a slight nationalistic flavour.
Another difference with what I know of Europe, is peoples condition. Most persons I see here, but especially the men, are in extremely good shape. All walk with their broad shoulders pulled backwards. As if it´s a nation of rugby players. I´ve been wondering how come this difference is so visible. My so far untested theories are: 1) they work out, 2) there are more people in the army, or doing other physically challenging work, 3) it´s genetic, but I doubt that because it´s a multicultural thing and 4) hormones in meat 5) they aren´t actual muscles, but it´s a held back pose and 6) they´re all wearing body armour. And not only do the people look good, they also behave far more nicely when you speak to them on the street.
Another thing that strikes me – I´ve been taking pictures of them – are the road signs here in Aussiland. Many of them are written in large friendly letters, and they do not just say what you cannot do, they always try to give it a positive twist to the message. Commonly, they do that by giving a good reason for the rule. For example: “ please do not park here, because the fire truck needs to be able to pass 24/7.” or “please hug the trees but do not climb them”. Awesome communication.
There are colonial buildings among the skyscrapers, but none of them seem more than 200 years old. The difference is visible in the low amount of detail in the ornaments. By the space that surrounds these buildings, you can see that they are well respected parts of the urban landscape. All statues have a written note on when they were “erected”. It especially suits the obelisk on Hyde park with an anti-aids-campaign condom on it. 1875.
Trees are bigger, people are stronger and happier, buildings are greater. There is an air of simple consciousness around. In a way, it feels as if everything more advanced here. But Sydney also has a young Disney vibe which makes me wonder: how deep are these trees´ roots, how strong the skyscrapers´ foundations? What is the motivation for these people´s good shape and happy smile? Maybe I should admit that the Aussies are simply more ahead than Europeans in many things. Perhaps intricate little European details and differences have made us lag behind on the big developers. Or perhaps it´s just my initial enthusiasm, and will I soon discover darker parts. Anyway, it´s not important, for now I´ll just enjoy the Aussi flow.