Reading over my last blog, written only a few months ago, I find it surprisingly difficult to identify with much of it.It's amazing how much one's opinions of a place can change, but that is the beauty of a blog in that it preserves what was felt at the time - the raw sentiment without any glossy retrospective make-over.When I arrived here I was definitely frustrated with Sydney, and I was clearly in a massive hurry to find my feet, but I managed pretty well and very quickly found myself embedded into the life of the city.The general obnoxiousness that I remember seeing everywhere at first seemed to slowly dissolve away; or maybe it was just that I got better at ignoring it.Whilst I still came across 'boguns' from time to time, who would come out with racist/sexist/ignorant remarks mixed in with the occasional 'fair dinkum', the majority of Ozzies I came to know were polite, generous and astonishingly friendly.In my experience, most Ozzies are humble folk, and will go beyond the call of duty and bend over backwards to help a stranger, and this makes Sydney an extremely welcoming city.
I don't know if people here realise just how well-off they are right now. The dollar is soaring, the country has a seemingly endless supply of natural resources to exploit, and its banking system is the darling of the western world.Everyone has money here - since people are actually paid properly for their jobs - but no-one is shoving it in your face, like in the UK.The standard of living and urban housing here is in a different league from that of London too; a quick walk around one of Sydney's 'rough' areas near Redfern provides a good demonstration - I'd happily live there!
So, the last three months have been great fun and hard work too.I have basically spent 50 hours per week at the Oyster Bar, leaving just a sprinkling of nocturnal hours to spend doing other things.I met a few nice people in my first few weeks in Sydney, but most of my best friends were from work.Many a late night was spent hanging out at a bar in Circular Quay: a soulless place (like most Sydney bars) set up for those working in hospitality, but one that, alas, ended up being my most frequented in the city!Two friends, Charlotte and Laura, especially stand out, and we spent a lot of time together outside of work and managed to find some other great bars in Glebe, Chippendale and Newtown too. I ended up staying at the Rooftop Travellers Lodge in Glebe for the first two months in the end - where I was living with two decent Canadian guys, Ben and James, who became good friends - mainly to save money, but also because I had found a really great one-bed flat in Chippendale to move into for the last month.This place was awesome, a real pad, with HD TV, playstation, open-plan kitchen, dining room and a balcony.Laura moved in for the first two weeks until my bro arrived, after which my bro and I had the place to ourselves for xmas and New Year.I was of course working on both of those days, but Andrew did manage to join me at the Oyster Bar for the latter.We were pretty spoilt, as hundreds of thousands of people lay strewn across the quay side all day trying to reserve a spot from which to watch the fireworks, Andrew just strolled on into the restaurant (which was $500 per head) and took his free seat opposite the harbour bridge, albeit a seat next to the bins out the back, but hey… that's where we all watched the fireworks from too.The display was obviously fantastic, as was the experience, but I couldn't help feeling that it wasn't as long or elaborate as I had expected.Still, I'm not complaining - who else comes to Sydney on a working holiday visa and manages to get free front row seats at the harbour for New Year 's Eve?In the end, watching the fireworks was one of the only touristy things I managed to do.I didn't climb the bridge nor the tower, nor did I go to any museums or galleries, all of which I feel a bit bad about; but there is still plenty of opportunity to do stuff like this in Melbourne I suppose. Andrew fared better in this respect though, as he had lots of free time to explore Sydney before we left.
The dollars poured in during my three months in Sydney.My outgoings were tiny, the wages and tips were very favourable at the Oyster Bar, and I also found myself a few regular students to teach privately in my spare time.I have never earned so much money; I was taking home about three times as much as I used to in London, net... and the best part of it was that I could claim all of the tax back too.Anyway, the upshot of this was that, in addition to covering all my costs of coming to Oz, I bought a car - my first ever car - a 1992 Mitsubishi Pajero 4x4 with a custom-built folding double bed in the back, plus a whole load of camping gear and a power inverter.The rego plate is inspired (CAK 00L) and there has just got to be a good nick-name there somewhere, I just can't think of it... 'to the cakmobile?!'.The car was very cheap for what it is, but is has done... brace yourselves... 390,000 km, which means that even for a 19-year-old car it is very well travelled. However, I had been throwing it about Sydney for several weeks with no issues to report, and all of the essentials worked very well.A friend of mine told me, however, that owning a car was just something that would cost you money from the very first day until the day you sold it... just a few days before we were about to leave Sydney, I gave the inside of the car a good clean and accidently left an interior light, which in turn drained the battery flat.This also blew a fuse, knocking out my central locking etc, and tipped the poor aging battery over the edge.I only discovered all of this the day before we were due to leave, so had to make some very quick phone calls.In the end we opted to join the NRMA in case little incidents like this happened in the outback somewhere.They discovered that not only was the battery a gonner, but the alternator had clearly not been well for some time and also needed replacing.Despite the expense, and the bad timing, I was very pleased that we had found all of this out before we left civilisation, especially since we had not yet had the conversation about joining the NRMA, and probably wouldn't have done until the car ran out of electricity without warning in the middle of the bush.Yes, it is fun owning a car, but I can't wait until the day when I am car-free again when I leave Oz next April.
After all of that palaver, and others, Andrew and I left bang on schedule on Monday 10th January 2011 to head out on our big adventure.The first port of call would be to a cottage in St.Albans, two hours out of Sydney, owned and generously offered up by my friends Jean-Paul and Lisa - the parents of one of my students, Max.After that it would be the Hunter Valley, then a turn southward towards south NSW coast Melbourne, Tasmania, the Great Ocean Road, Adelaide, possibly Uluru and definitely ending in Perth.Flights had also already been booked for me to go on to Indonesia next April, then the Philippines, to attend Emma and Simons' wedding, then Taiwan and the UK... but more on those adventures later.For now, it was time to start our Great Antipodean Road Trip!