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

Sydney in all its Glory

I always liked the name Sydney. I don't know why. It strikes me as a wonderful sound.

We get to the airport, find a taxi, and head off to Bondi Beach (Bon-dye… I really don't understand why, though). The fare is abotu $100, which is standard. We've come from pretty cheap countries, though and the $100 is a bit grating. But it's a relief not to have to take a bus or anything. Our bags get heavier as we carry them longer.

The house we're going to live in houses at least four apartments. It's a light green, the only light green house on the entire street, but all five of us (and the taxi driver) are looking for the number. I think it was 126 or 128 or something of the sort. Possibly even 132. See, I wrote the address on the entrance cards, but I can't remember anything beyond North Bondi… something Parade. You'd think writing it down four times would count for something, but apparently it doesn't. When we locate it, we wave off the taxi driver (I think he was Indian… we liked him almost on the spot for some reason or another, and it was probably because he was Indian) with a smile.

We're in #2. It's a long, thin apartment with two bedrooms, one bathroom, one living room, and one kitchen. The hallway is as you enter, and it forms the entire left side of the apartment. On the right side is the kitchen, then the living room, then our room, then the bathroom. At the end of the hall is the parents' room.

It's a small, cozy apartment with couches so soft I can't sit on them properly without getting seriously worried for my back. The beds are just as soft, but there's only room for four, unless someone beds down on the couch. We would wish that fate on no one, so Mom takes the mattress off one of the box springs and asks me to lay down on it and see if it's sleepable.

It is. I'm convinced, later, that I have the best bed in the whole house, and I probably do. Even when Mom and Dad take the mattress off their own bed, they cannot beat the 2-by-4 slats I've got on my bed. It's absolutely fantastic, and I'm not being sarcastic when I say that.

The entire apartment is cream, except for the parents' room, which I think had a black or dark gray wall. The brightest room is the parents' room for most of the day— otherwise at about 12pm the kids' room starts losing light, and I turn the light on about 3 so I can read my books properly.

Books! The owner of this apartment has so many books it's astounding. He has the entire scholaristic collection of Shakespeare's work. He has some new books, a few Australian classics (I would have read them, but they were a series, and I didn't have time.), and there's always the book exchange as you go out to the beach, which is three minutes away, walking distance.

The first thing I do when we arrive is make a list. I know we're going to stop and rest here a while, and so I'm going to take advantage of it by reading High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby, Gulliver's Travels, by Jonathan Swift, The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold, and The Witch of Portobello, by Paulo Coelho.

Of course, it's also high time I finished Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens. I started it in late Feburary, and it's already April. 

I spent a lot of time reading in Sydney, since we mostly rested. I looked through the guidebook and many of the museums didn't interest us (police museum), the zoo didn't (it's funny how as you get older you start liking the zoo less), the churches/cathedrals (St. Mary and St. James, one with statues and the other with mosaics. We saw St. James, which was absolutely stunning, but not St. Mary), etc.

We knew the things that did interest us— Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbor, the botanical gardens, the aquarium. And so those were the things we went to see.

Getting to the center of Sydney, where all these things are, takes quite some time. I'd always either have my iPod with me (I was reading books off the iPod too… Faust, by Goethe, How to Read Literature Like a Professor, etc) or a book. Generally we only had to sit on one bus for a long time. We'd go past clothing stores, Apple Stores (we went into both), streets, parks, etc, and then we'd end up somewhere, and start walking toward Sydney Harbor.

It's huge. There's a bridge a ways away, with Sydney Opera House, and people take and take and take pictures. The order of the day is to take a tour, find a ballet to watch, and then go home. We take the tour, with a young man who looks very happy to be here, despite the fact that he doesn't like stairs.

(The stairs were some of the nicest stairs I've ever seen— minimum of height, very wide and long… you could take them two at a time with no trouble… maybe climbing them every day diminishes the awesomeness, but I distinctly remember some truly terrible steps, and these definitely were not it).

The Sydney Opera House is nicer up close, I think. You can see the tiled panels that make it 'sparkle,' and you can see the beams and how they're put together. It's beautiful inside, with beams of wood and beams of concrete and granite on the floors that matches the outside, and windows everywhere to let the light in (I love windows and light a lot).

I'm not going to say any of the funny stories in the tour— it will give you an incentive to go to Sydney, but I'm going to tell you the causes for some of the funny stories, and then maybe you can figure it out:

-  Very little backstage space. There's very little backstage space. There's an elevator into which equipment is put in, and that goes up and down and back up again, but there's little room in the wings, where actors generally change, put on last-minute make-up. It's also where ballet dancers tend to leap off-stage to, if you've ever seen an exit leap off-stage, you know it's a bit cringey to hear a dull thump just a few seconds later.

- Very convoluted passageways. To get from one place to another without walking through the main halls and showing everyone your costume (if you've ever been in a recital of any sort), you have to take a few backstage ways. In the Sydney Opera House, they're so complicated, and there's so many of them, that actors and dancers generally have a guider to guide them around so that they don't miss any cues. 

- Very strict entrance times. If the performance starts at 6:30, and you're not there at 6:30, you're not getting in until intermission. Thus, for the use of presidents, ambassadors, royalty, and the tourists, there are TV screens outside the performance halls that show you exactly what is happening on stage. (That's right. Presidents, ambassadors, and royalty have gotten locked out. We were told very sternly not to be late. We weren't late.)

By the way, the presidents, ambassadors, and royalty getting locked out has nothing to do with the funny story. The funny story is about an actor performing in the piece that was happening on-stage. 

We took pictures everywhere, with the chair, without the chair, with people, without people… though the tiles on the Sydney Opera House are actually cream— white would be blinding, much like snow on a snowy day— they look white. And there's one tile missing which they haven't gotten around to replacing yet.

The nice young man said something about cleaning the Opera House, but I can't remember anything else about the tour save that there were children in it, and whereas the adults asked almost nothing, the children asked a series of questions that 'were really good questions! They're keeping me on my toes!'

Questions such as, "What happened to the usher who locked the actor out?" "How long was the architect of the Opera House not the leader of the project?" etc.

When the tour finished, we went to see how much the ballet would cost… it's way above our price range, with $65 a ticket, since all the 'bad' seats have sold out and all the 'good' seats are still remaining. (Perhaps 'cheap' and 'expensive' would be better words, but since the 'bad' seats are generally 'cheap,' and the 'good' seats are generally 'expensive…'). We looked through the booklet that listed the showings, realized that on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday Macbeth was also showing.

The tickets were much cheaper, and so we took tickets for Macbeth on Tuesday, at 6:30pm. 

Of course, this now meant that, with the scholarly editions of all of Shakespeare's works at home, I had to start reading Macbeth. Mom tried, but she couldn't get past Act 3— and she hadn't understood anything of what was going on before. Shakespeare gets harder to understand as it gets older. The language has changed so much… I took notes on every single scene so that I could concretely figure out what is going on. I finished the play literally seconds after everyone had already gone out the door, so the last scene had completely disappeared from my mind.

But we got to the Apple Store, and we looked around, and we downloaded songs, etc. (You see, though we had an hour on the bus, I wasn't about to carry Macbeth, and a notebook, and a pen. I was going to leave it at home, where it belonged.) Then we went to the Sydney Opera House, arrived on time, watched the play, enjoyed it (the witch was fantastic, though a bit creepy because she kept whining). The costumes were modern, due to wanting to 'modernize' the play. Thus Macbeth was wearing jeans and Lady Macbeth had a slit in her gown up to her thigh. Presumably modern costumes make the language easier to understand?

My favorite character was Lady Macbeth— she's absolutely fantastic.

At some point, either before or after the performance day, we also went to the aquarium. The main attraction here was the platypus, but of course the darling creature disappeared somewhere within the tank, and though we looked for it at two different times, for a long time both times, the platypus was nowhere to be found.

We saw sharks and fish and sea dragons instead, and they almost made up for it. There is a section of the aquarium where you walk down through the sea— the walls are painted, and as you go down things get darker and gloomier and there are more dead pirates around. You walk underneath the water, see the sharks swimming in endless loops around and above you, and then exit, using a different stairway. The pictures here are calm, and as you go upwards, mermaids 'assist' you to the surface. I liked the sharks. I'm not sure why, exactly, but I liked them.

We also walked through the Botanical Gardens. It was just a walk, to get from the Sydney Opera House to where we needed to go, but it was lovely to see grass and benches and trees and grass… it was just like a little green island in the middle of a city.

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