Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Happy Easter

More often than not we are a few days off in celebrating Easter. It makes sense only to the Catholic and Orthodox churches, they commemorate the same event but cannot agree on a common day. This was one of the most important parts in the big picture of planning this whole trip. I had to find a way for us to be in a place with a Romanian Church. It's not just the Easter day, but the whole time leading up to it, the Palm Sunday, the Holy Week, the Black Friday. We decided on Sydney and it was a great choice! It was good to be welcomed with open arms by the St. Mary Romanian Orthodox Church and we met some great people. It was the first time this year that we heard somebody (other than us) speak Romanian, it was the first time in six months that we could get to a regular service, it was both a little weird and familiar in the same time. It was great, it couldn't have been better. Thank you!

We stayed in a smaller, fancy suburb, North Bondi, just a couple of minutes walk from a fantastic beach. Bondi Beach, surprisingly, is really great, despite being famous, crowded and urban. The weather was good the first few days, then the signs of fall started to show. A couple of days of colder, windy weather plus a couple of rainy days, and suddenly the beach is not the tanning and bathing attraction, just the beautiful site good for a stroll.
We liked Sydney. Interesting is that we spent very little time in it. The Opera is as good or even better than I would have expected. We saw it twice, once for a regular tour and then for a Shakespeare play one evening. We walked through part of the Botanical Gardens, we visited the Australian Museum, the Aquarium and the (catholic) St. Mary Church. Along the way we walked some of the busier streets. Besides that, we passed through various quarters on our way back and forth to the Romanian Church, we used the public transportation and even rented a car for the Easter night service (we got home at 4 am!). That was the easy part. The harder one, especially for me, was to relax and do nothing.
Waking up very early or late in the morning, I read countless hours, occasionally watched TV, or I took a walk by the ocean. We made trips to the supermarket a couple of times and just that. The Internet connection has been a pain, despite paying a lot for it, so it was much easier than anyone would imagine to stay away from the computer.

This is Bondi Beach and our apartment in the center of the picture

I've been waiting for Ileana to finish her series of posts about New Zealand. I finished mine a long time ago, two very lengthy descriptions of what we did and what we didn't do out there. I want to attach some pictures and that has been a challenge. We took a little over 3600 pictures in 19 days of New Zealand. I went through all of them, eliminated 800, but there are still too many. I have selected about 100 and at some point I will upload them along with my posts about NZ. But that is not the hardest part. We all loved it there, at least in the beginning. By the time we left, I didn't like it anymore, it was just OK and I couldn't even explain why. I was relieved to leave that place, and strangely during our couple of weeks in Hawaii, the negative sentiments about New Zealand just kept piling on. I even had a couple of nightmares, that we didn't go there yet and I would have to go. Or that somehow I made a mistake with the plane tickets and we will have to fly again to Christchurch. Horror! I would never go back there again. Just the thought of it gives me pains.
So what was it? Still trying to make sense of it. New Zealand, at least as seen by me in the South Island, is a great country, really beautiful, with very nice and charming people. Almost too perfect to be real, after a while what I made of it was just hills and clouds and fences. All sort of fences. Old people, nice, fit, trim and old. Yeah, old. The country is young, really young, it has really nothing to show besides what God gave it (and fences), but the people are old like they've been there since the beginning. They all look alike, dress alike and talk alike. The history consists of the story of some Polynesians eating birds until they finish them and a professor or two who were interested in nature. And then, they are really cheap. They count the digital channels on TV and advertise that with the motels. Some motels have 3 or 5, the generous ones have 7. They want you to pay for every year of your children's life in the holiday parks. They dismiss the 17 year old one as being adult. They count the megabytes of the Internet connection and make you pay for each one of them. Sometime twice. The lamb or the butter are expensive, almost to make you feel guilty that if you eat it in New Zealand they cannot export it to some other place in the world... Oh, I'm bad. I am sorry.
Here is a quote of what I wrote a month ago:
"Would you move here?" asks my pleasant, third age British neighbor. "NO WAY!" I answer categorically, without thinking for a moment. My answer is so abrupt, that I feel I need to explain. "It's so cold, we came here after a month in Thailand." I am in Dunedin in a holiday park, it's sunny and 21 degrees Celsius, clear skies, and we had really good weather so far. We've been in New Zealand for 15 days, it was good, but we are ready to move on, and for some reason I cannot clarify my feelings about this country."
Now that a few weeks passed my feelings are not good. But it's OK, it is reassuring in a way that we don't like every place that we visit because... I don't know, there must be something. Actually it seems that we like less and less of what we see. We have more to compare to, so we become more selective and more demanding. And we have different taste and like different things differently.
We must be the first family traveling around the world that ends up in Hawaii against their will. An extra $6000, 24 hours on planes, crossing the equator another couple of times and we spent 11 days on the Big Island and Oahu. It was the first time we went there and one of the few remaining states of the union that we had to see. From upstate New York, Hawaii sounds like a wonderful exotic destination. It's nice, but just that. None of us got excited about it, but we had a good moment here and there. The girls took three days to realize that our first hotel has an exit toward the ocean. They gave it a quick look and said "OK." They never even considered paying a visit to the pool. They could tell you all about a shelf of exchange books. The second hotel in upscale Waikiki was five minutes from the beach, so they never even considered going there. But we could all take a couple of hours to describe our fantastic hair cutting experience followed by a working visit to a real, old, traditional coffee plantation. We also liked the Volcano National Park and walking on the lava. The helicopter ride was OK, but none of us is looking forward to repeat the experience. The good news is that none of us have to ever repeat the experience. At least not on this trip. It was impressive and for some of us emotional to visit the Pearl Harbor site. We did it. Hawaii is "just" United States, with the good and bad part that is "just" home. The Walmart sells macadamia nuts and beach towels, and the grocery section is more expensive and less varied than in our little village in upstate New York. You can buy bread crumbles imported from Japan. Unfortunately the great beaches that you hear about are at best pathetic, the surf waves were absent and the traditional Hawaii stuff is only in the expensive "for the tourist" restaurants. I liked a suspended automatic train at a mall. Train in the mall! Ha, the Chinese are still far behind that. The bus on Oahu island is good. You can get a free transfer to a second bus in the price of one ticket. If you attempt to sell that transfer to another person you get 12 months in jail. Oh, how I missed that part about America! The land of the free, where anybody can end up in jail for any reason whatsoever. And they think that is normal and doesn't have anything to do with freedom.
It was disconcerting at first to see some vagabonds and beggars on the corners of the streets, asking for food or some money. I didn't know at first what they were doing, than I realized. These must be the homeless people! We haven't seen those in ages. I quickly learned to ignore them like all my fellow Americans. Still it was good to be home, even in Hawaii.
We've been on the road for six months. It is a good start. We are not yet getting scared that we have to go back. There are plenty more places to look forward to. Since New Zealand we got to take it slower, not seeing something new everyday and not even leaving our apartment some days. (OK, not me, but that's the idea). We are done with the aquariums. We are very selective about museums. We scratched off the possibility of going on the Great Ocean Road (by Melbourne), we just saw the best one in New Zealand so there is no point in repeating the experience. We never even considered going to the Blue Mountains (one major attraction by Sydney), we were in Himalaya and the Southern Alps and will see some other mountains later. It will be a long time until we'll be back in Sydney, but I loved this place and we had a great holiday. In the end that is the important part. Happy Easter!
(note: If you use this blog to get ideas for travel destinations, don't write off Hawaii or New Zealand, they are great places, you only get to criticize them after you've seen them. And enjoyed them.)

1 comment:

  1. Hristos a inviat!

    Ne-am gandit mult azi la voi (de Izvorul Tamaduirii am botezat-o pe Ileana)

    Toate cele bune.
    Noi 5


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