. For those of you who don't know, Arran is my brother. "Yeah....I think I know the guy your talking about." He asked me if I was married, if I had kids, if I didn't get to see the kids because my wife had them, what I did for work, what I did at Honda, how much I got paid per car......you name it. Made for some funny moments. Ahhh the curiosity of a 6 year old. Loved it. Everyone was waiting for us at the restaurant and I felt a little bad that they had delayed on my account, but they were all extremely gracious, as if it was nothing. We sat down, said our hellos, and caught up over a monsterous feast. We talked, ate and drank wine for hours. It was a welcoming and a half. Waddling back to the car, bellies full we made our way back to the family home. Now coming to Sydney this first time was to give me a chance to see a few of the many family tree branches that were there. I had made arrangements with a friend from Germany, Tessa to travel the east coast of Australia together for 6 weeks. She had asked me for some travel help because her english wasn't the greatest and she had not really travelled much before on her own. I wanted to come and spend time with the family before all this traveling stuff came into play. During my time in Sydney, the days I wasn't going out with family, I tried to get planning for the trip done, seeing as she was relying on me to come up with a plan. Coming up with a plan for a country of this size is not exactly easy, but I like to take on challenges like this
. It worked out quite well my timing while in town. I got to join my cousins Alex and Gabriella on their first days of school for the year. The morning of, I decided to get up early with them and join along on the ride to school. We walked them to the entrance of the school, where 100s of children were running around in their school uniforms. I felt a little out of place since neither of them were my children, but it was all good. I was just nervous that someone was going to wonder who the heck is this bearded guy standing at the entrance to the school yard. I am sure it had a few mothers wondering. Luckily....no police were called. :) One day when everyone was gone to either school or work, I was sitting in the backyard at Levon and Agatha's place trying to do some planning. I remember it was super hot around these days, and you could only be outside for short periods of time. I was walking around the yard with my ipod doing my audio logs of my trip, as per norm. But then....there it was. A big yellow snake in the grass, maybe 1 meter in front of me. I froze because I didn't want to scare it. I walked backwards as though I was in slow motion rewind. Now I wasn't screaming like a little girl or anything, but snakes are not exactly my favorite. And with the numerous numbers of spiders, snakes, crocs, and other poisionous things in this country, I figured its best to play it safer than sorry. To make matters worse...the snakes mouth was wide open, and looked as though it was ready to attack
. I looked around in the yard to see what I could find to defend myself if need be. I found a toy tennis racket that belong to Alex. As I picked it up, I noticed that the snake was being extremely still, as if getting ready to pounce. I put some distance between me and it and decided to take a chance. I threw the tennis racket at the snake as hard as I could....but missed! The racket bounced no more than 2 inches from its head, and this thing didn't even flinch?! I don't get it. I must have looked like a little kid had any of the neighbours been watching. Body tense, slightly turned to the side incase I needed to run. I am sure someone was watching from their window having a good laugh at me. That was when I noticed that this snake was not moving at all. It took me another five minutes or so, and three or four other items being thrown at it to finally make my approach. And you know what?! It was a plastic snake toy that belonged to Gabby. Jeeez.....I gave myself a minor heart attack.....for a toy! I guess that goes to show that I over think some situations. When The fam. came home....I told them my account with the extremely poisionous plastic snake in the backyard, and it got some good laughs from all. I don't blame them. Time to get Gabby some new toys!! Even though I had been in Australia for over a week, my body was still not adjusted to the time change. It wasn't exactly a few hour time difference from Europe, were are talking biggest time difference you can go. So late at night I would usually still be wound up, and decided to go for some late night bike rides
. I would usually go off exploring the suburb of Ryde at 12 am, and some how conquer 25 kms per night. It was tough because I wasn't quite used to the heat, but it was some good practice for the hard trekking I had ahead in Tazmania. Sydney is also a great city to get out on the bike too with all the bike paths around the city. I found some good paths that ran parallel to freeways and would allow me to go for kilometers without stopping. I would use the time to clear my head. Even though traveling is a positive adventure, I still have my head full of descisions and plans that are constantly popping up. I swear my mind wants to explode at times from the pressures of travel. I am not complaining, but simply reminding you all that there is more to it all than just the icing on the cake. Now another branch of the family I went to stay with during the visit to Syd., was Levon parents, Lydia and Khachig. Staying at the same place was Levon's sister Grace and her husband Matthew and their two children Rebecca and Jessica. I was invited to come and spend a night with them at their home, which I was very much looking forward too. When I arrived, the two girls were a little shy with me at first, but that changed quickly. They had just come home from school, and in the intense summer heat were carrying around a squirt bottle to stay cool. We had a few minor water fights, played red light green light and within the hour, they were jumping all over me and it felt like I had known them for ever
. In fact, last visit to Australia, Grace was pregnant with Rebecca. Lydia had made a huge meal for us, and was always going above and beyond her call of duty to feed and make me feel right at home. See this is Armenian culture. Not to say that other cultures aren't the same, but Lydia is my grand fathers niece. In many families, people don't even have a connection wit these kinds of relatives. In our family, that is the equivalent of being my direct aunty. It was always hard to explain to people all my family connections here. I would tell people I am staying at my aunt and uncles house for dinner. They would ask, "Weren't you just there the other day??" "No, that was my other aunt and uncle" I would have to explain. Some people even thought I went as far as to do ancestrey research before going on this trip. Nope. We are just a tight knit group. I love my family, and I love their loving nature. At night time, after the dinner, we were sitting around the dinner table getting caught up with the adults and filling them up with travel stories, while the younger two became restless...wanting some attention. I pulled out the laptop and started showing them pictures, which led to the girls making a video on my webcam of us goofing around. And at somepoint during all the goofing around, Rebecca snuck away and made a card for me and left it on my pillow in the room I was to be sleeping in. It read : To Matt (my 3rd cousin) From Rebecca, on the inside in big letters, We Love you! and coated in Canadian maple leafs. Too sweet I tell ya, it just made your heart want to melt. I wanted to give both the girls a big hug and a bachig (armenian for kiss), but they wanted none of it. I am a boy remember.....I got cooties. I woke up early enough in the morning to see the girls one more time and sneak off some last minute pictures with them in their school uniforms. They showed me their two rabbits and we goofed around outside until Rebecca had to go to school, so I decided to join her on he walk to school since it was to be the last time I would see her for several weeks
. After the short walk to the school, I gave her a big hug to say good bye. As I started to walk away, I got roughly 80 meters down the street and Rebecca came running back down to the sidewalk and yelled at me. " MATT!!!!" I thought something was wrong, or she had forgotten something at home. " Do you know how to get home?????" I've been all around this confusing planet and some how managed to do so without getting too lost. It was sweet that she wanted to make sure on the 2 blocks home, I wouldn't lose my way. I smiled....gave her a big thumbs up and told her I should be fine. I mean come on....how cute is that? Now most of you may have already forgotten the situation that recently took place in Egypt earlier this year. This hit close to home since I still have close family there, and was concerned for their well being. But to add to the stress of it all, several of my aunts and uncles from Sydney were there visiting their parents. My aunts Maro and Therese had returned home for their dad's 80th birthday, and Therese's husband Dick and two daughters , Araxi and Mariana were there as well. It was nerve racking to know that so much family was there during that wild time, but fortunately they made it out safely and the ones living there were ok. But still in Sydney was Maro's children, and I ended up going out with her oldest Lillian, and her youngest Yervant. Last time I saw them and their sister Rosy, they were somewhere around the 12, 9 and 6. Now, they were fully driving cars and coming to pick me up, a change and a half
. They picked me up at Levon and Agathas place, and we went out for a drive and grabbed some pizzas to go and sit down by the water and stare at the harbour bridge and the opera house. We had 11 years to catch up on. Although we met for only the one night, I could tell that there was some good times to be had together in the future. That chapter comes later in this story.....I'm not going to get ahead of myself now. Anyways, this was just a quick taste of my first visit while in town.....I am sure that I forgot some good stories, but if they come to me, I will be sure to add them in my next sydney entry. Sorry again for the delay and thank for being patient with me as always people. Take care for now.
Arriving in Sydney airport after a quick 1 hour flight from Melbourne, I collected my bag and large box containing my bike. As I turned around, my cousin Levon and his youngest, Alex greeted me with a big hug. It had been 11 years since I had last seen Levon, and had many fond memories with him and his wife Agatha in both Australia and US when they temporarily lived there. I had still not yet met their children so I was also looking forward to their new additions as well. Convientently it was Agatha's birthday party the day of my arrival. Gabriella the oldest daughter , Agatha and the rest of her family were waiting for us at the restaurant so we quickly dropped off my bike at the family home and made our way to join them. The four of them had visited my family back home in Canada that summer, but unfortunately since I was on the road, I missed them. During the ride from the airport, Alex was cute in the car. You could tell he was clearly excited to see me with the 1001 questions he had for me. He was asking me if I knew Arran