Saturday, May 18, 2013Again, Sam will narrate our experiences while Eric interjects his comments in italics.
Our flight out of Singapore left at 2:00am on Saturday, May 18. Luckily we had seats in the first row of our section, which meant that we had plenty of leg room and no annoying people in front of us jamming their seats all the way back. I immediately laid down on Eric’s lap (my usual sleeping position) and passed out. This made me stay up about 2 seconds longer than I normally would have. I was barely able to keep my eyes open walking onto the plane.
I was probably able to sleep about four of the six hours of the flight, which at least was more than the flight the night before. I heard some babies making some noise, but for the most part I was able to sleep through the flight.
Filling in our entrance customs forms, and checking the box for “permanent migration to Australia” was certainly surreal! Once we arrived at the airport we approached the customs desk cautiously, as we’ve done for the past seven months, knowing that plenty might/could go wrong.
Especially considering that we had Australian visas that we haven’t used in over a year, and of course so much to lose if for whatever reason we wouldn’t be allowed in. I think Sam was a little more worried than I was, but dealing with customs always sucks.
To our pleasant surprise, our customs agent was a jokester, who after he saw that we were migrating permanently said sarcastically “Really?? Why?? Have you ever been here before?” He seemed like a normal Australian surfer guy who just happened to have a customs uniform on.
We were not accustomed to customs agents joking around and so were speechless for a half a second before he smiled at us and said with his nice thick Australian accent “Welcome Home!” He caused us both to smile and certainly made us a little less miserable from our lack of sleep the last few days.
Grabbing our stuff from baggage claim and catching a cab was all very uneventful, which was a welcome change from the past two months of chaotic India. There was no one in line at all which made things much easier as pushing our luggage cart that had a busted wheel along with holding my coffee was no easy task.
Our taxi driver was a very chatty Turkish guy who told us how much he loved Sydney and we compared notes about Turkey with him. The Australian accent, nice taxi (ok it was probably average on the scale of western taxis, but remember, we had just spent months riding rickshaws), and beautiful weather outside made us feel more and more happy to finally arrive at our destination. I am sure he took us on a little bit of a joyride because we were new to the area, but it was okay. You can take the guy out of Turkey, but you can’t take the Turkey out of the guy.
We had decided to try to couchsurf during our initial days in Sydney. I think we have explained couchsurfing before, but it’s basically a way to crash at a stranger’s house for free. Some of you may be freaked out by that, but we have enjoyed our experiences doing this.
An Australian girl named Lucy reached out to us and offered us her couch, so we had the taxi take us to her apartment in Coogee Beach. Coogee is an area south of the downtown (what Australians refer to as “CBD” which stands for Central Business District), and has its own laid-back beach vibe about the area. This is exactly the type of area that we were looking for to live in.
Our host Lucy walked us down to the beach (only about 500 meters from her apartment!) and took us to one of the beachfront restaurants where we all had a beer (an afternoon welcome beer) and some food. We are now fully on the metric system so we have to get up on meters, kilograms, etc. My head is kind of spinning from all of this.
From our seat on the top terrace we watched the sunset across the ocean.
The next couple of days we spent hanging out with Lucy and Hank (Lucy’s flatmate), catching up on sleep, getting some laundry done (sidenote: it is not common for Australians to have clothes dryers- many have washers and then hang laundry outside to dry… one of the perks of having a constantly warm and sunny climate), and exploring a bit of the Coogee area. The lack of dryers is not cool at all.
But mostly our priority was to find some kind of temporary furnished housing to start off in. Since we liked the Coogee area from as far as we could tell, we decided to spend the majority of our time searching on GumTree, which is a free listing website very similar to CraigsList in the states. It is a much nicer, organized version of Craigslist. It also does not have all the personal ads on there for casual hook-ups and those things. If that is your thing, then don’t visit GumTree.
By Tuesday (four days after arriving) we moved into a boarding house in Coogee. We rented a large room that has a large bed, desk, arm chair, countertop, fridge and clothes rack. It has all the essentials, but is not the biggest room in the world. I am constantly in Sam’s way in this room, mainly because I like to take up a lot of space.
The bathroom and kitchen facilities are shared with about a dozen other rooms in the house. The setup here reminds me of the college flat I stayed in while doing my semester abroad in Glasgow. This is not a good thing.
Most people who are staying here seem to be undergrad students at the local universities, which is apparent with the way that there are always a pile of dirty dishes clogging up the sink and the bathrooms littered with wet towels or sandy wetsuits…. looks like we are still living the hostel lifestyle to some extent. Some of you know that there are few things in this world that I hate more than people not doing their dishes. I hate every last person at this house because of that. Minus this one guy Dan I met who is around our age, has a job, and seems like a responsible adult. I don’t necessarily blame these kids because I was a real knucklehead when I was in college (and still am), but the fact they don’t do dishes makes me want to smash plates over their heads.
Despite the fact that we are sharing our house with a bunch of slobs, it has everything we need, is literally 100 meters from the beach, and is the best deal we could find considering we needed something furnished. Rents here are established per week, and we are paying $300 a week for our place here (with a one month commitment), which is actually a good deal compared to the other available places were looking at. It is pretty cheap for Sydney, and is in a great location so I can’t complain too much.
As it turns out, our setup is pretty perfect, we have all the facilities we need, our own privacy, fantastic free Wi-Fi (which is another thing we’ve been told is more rare here in Oz), less than a block away from the major bus lines, and of course the location so close to the beach. Being back in the world of Wi-Fi is unreal. I have already been downloading new music, tv shows, and movies to catch-up on everything. I am beyond excited for internet being 100% back in my life.
After moving into our new place (and unpacking!!) our next mission was to find a gym. Travelling for over seven months with no access to our traditional gyms has taken its toll on us, and we were eager to get back into the grove of a regular gym routine. Once again, sticker shock on Oz prices. There is a nice and relatively new gym two buildings down from our apartment which offers a great range of classes and has impressive equipment. It is super expensive though. And I’m not even going to tell you how much it is for a month membership because you might judge us, but luckily we still have a bit of funds left and kicking ourselves back into shape is a priority remember. Your jaws would hit the floor if you knew how much it cost. It is very nice so we have that going for us.
Eric’s birthday was May 19, which fell on the day after we arrived to Sydney. Because we were a bit preoccupied with finding housing, plus living on someone’s couch for the time being, we decided to postpone a day of celebration until later in the week when we were a bit more settled. (Though don’t worry, we did have drinks with Lucy and Hank the night of his actual birthday.) I turned 32 years old which is not exciting at all. Birthdays all feel the same at this point so I don’t really care about celebrating it at all.
So the following Wednesday, May 22, we allocated it as Eric’s unofficial birthday. We had a solid breakfast of bacon (finally!) eggs, toast, coffee, and I even attempted to make pancakes. Which turned out to be pathetic. Eric got in some NBA watching at the neighborhood sports bar, we started our Game of Thrones season 3 marathon watching, and had a nice Thai dinner at a nearby
restaurant. The day involved a whole lot of chilling which is exactly what I wanted. Sports gambling is legal here so I was able to bet on the game which was exciting. You can bet on sports at like every bar in Australia which is awesome. That could be some trouble come football season, haha.
It rained for a few days of our first week, which gave us an opportunity to catch up on administrative tasks like filing for a tax ID number, registering for Medicare, updating our resume, and exploring bank/phone options. We’ve also taken a few shopping trips, mostly to Bondi Junction which is only a 20 minute bus ride away and basically is a huge shopping center. We hit Kmart and Target first, and as a side note, we were very surprised and confused by what we found here. The Target we found here is much smaller and significantly more expensive than the ones we have at home. Kmart on the other hand is surprisingly clean and stocked with a huge selection of quality stuff. It feels like we are inside a Target from back home
instead of a store we associate with dirty sticky floors with half stocked shelves tucked away in sketchy neighborhoods. Our first week of shopping included getting a few clothes replacements for the same three shirts we’ve each been wearing for the past seven months, and boring household things like plastic drawers, trash bags, towels, hangers (again, I feel like I’m moving into college, except this time I know what I need instead of blinding buying everything that looks useful). I have had enough shopping for the next three months. I think shopping is terrible, but it is something that Sam loves. I lose this battle as we end up staying out for quite some time shopping.
So besides getting in some much needed gym time and stocking up on some basics, we’ve been spending our first week in Sydney resting and exploring the Coogee area (otherwise referred to as part of the greater “Eastern Suburbs”). I have been doing a lot of sleeping and chilling which was much needed after India. I needed a vacation from my vacation if that makes any sense.
Coogee Beach is a long white sand beach surrounded by cliffs with parks around it’s border and a large promenade that is ideal for running, strolling and people watching. The park directly beside the beach has a ton of outdoor grill/BBQ setups, and despite the temperature there is always an abundance of people out and about. People are always outside enjoying the weather where it’s BBQ’ing, walking, running, etc. It is nice to see and with the fall/winter weather being 60 to 70+ degrees every day you see why they do it.
It seems everyone here has some sort of cute small dog and/or a baby in a stroller. Everyone here seems fit and they take turns jogging along the beach front. The main streets around the beach have a great selection of restaurants, many of them with outdoor seating and ocean views, of which we have tried many. We have found our closest neighborhood grocery store, Woolworth’s, only a block or so away, and often referred to as “Wooly’s” be the locals. Directly across the street from our apartment is a rugby field, called the “Coogee Oval”
which at any time may have professional or local rugby players holding practice or having a match. It seems like every Saturday from 10 or 11 am to about 5 pm there are games going non-stop which we can watch from the porch of our boarding house. Everyone here is crazy about rugby and Australian Rules Football.
People watching on a warm day by the beach promenade, especially on a weekend when everyone comes out of the woodworks, will make you think you’re in a movie set of the quintessential Australian beach-suburb. People in Australia are extremely fit and good looking. Both women and men I’m not ashamed to say it. It is extra motivation to hit the gym hard when you see what everyone looks like here.
We’ve stumbled across this entertaining website that actually describes the character of different neighborhoods
of the large cities of Australia called CityHobo. This is what it has to say about Coogee
. This website is pretty accurate with it’s description of Coogee and other areas as well. I really enjoy how for each place they compare it to a pair of shoes which really helps you understand more about the place. It at least helps me out. Basically Coogee is a perfect beach area with beautiful scenery surrounding it and we couldn’t have picked a much better spot than this for the time being.