When I got off the plane yesterday I had to go through customs then gather my bags onto a luggage cart and go through “quarantine” because I had packed medications. It sounded quite serious but thankfully they just xrayed my bags once more and sent me through to the lobby of the airport. I scanned the area with heavy eyes for the international students desk, all the while observing the masses. People-watching. It was immediately clear that this was the land of the Asians. I’m not passing judgment, just simply stating a truth. Makes sense, really – I guess this is far closer to Asia than America is. While I’m on the topic, I would like to mention I’ve passed by millions of nom-worthy Asian restaurants while walking around: Dim sum, sushi, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian….They all look so delicious. But I feel reluctant to try them until I get a recommendation from a native because I don’t want to mess around with the Asian food. When I do decide to try it, I want to be sure I’m getting the best food for the best deal. And besides, there are too many choices – I need some direction first.
But back to the airport…The guy at the desk advised me to buy a shuttle ticket as it would be the cheapest and most direct way to my hostel. I got to chatting with the girl in line behind me (my first new friend!) and found out she was a student at Emory University. Hayley, as I came to know her, started name dropping friends from her Israel trip a few months back who are in the Jewish sorority at UGA. It was comforting to be chatting with someone from home (and a fellow Jew!) but awfully ironic seeing as how if I wanted to make friends from Emory I could have just stayed in Atlanta. Haha, oh well. We couldn’t exchange contact info because neither of us had any yet, but we said we were sure we would see each other again and parted ways.
The shuttle was great – for 15 Australian dollars I got delivered right to the door of my hostel, leaving me to carry my unwieldy bags for only about 15 feet in total. I had a few hours until check in so I stowed my bags in the lockers and went a-walking. I walked down (or up?) Broadway street towards campus. It was a straight shot and took no more than 15 minutes. I decided that since I would be spending so much time there, I might as well get familiar with the layout. I haven’t been inside any of the buildings on campus yet but they are incredibly impressive from the outside: gothic, like Hogwarts, with lots of grassy quads. No students yet, but hey, it was a Saturday during winter break, what else could I expect?
I also walked to Broadway Shopping Center, an indoor mall with stores like Kmart and Target. I talked to the guy in the cell phone store for a good half hour before purchasing my very own pre-paid mobile phone. Yay! Now I can call people about accommodation and give new friends my number. Grabbed a quick bite to eat (at this point it was about 12:30 pm) in the food court where they had choices like Indian curry and Vietnamese bubble tea. My kind of foodcourt. I walked back to my hostel and checked in. The people at the front, who I now know as Lindsey and Adam, offered me an upgrade for only 5 more AUD. So now I’m in a four person room and I get breakfast every morning. I must say, this hostel is great. It’s like living in the dorms again but nicer. I like the communal atmosphere wherein everyone makes their own food in the industrial-sized kitchen and sits at the big tables to eat, all the while quietly conversing among themselves. I have two roommates (and one empty bed). Lydia is from Perth, another Australian city, and she is here trying to get a job as a print-maker. I’m not too sure what that means but it must be cool cause everything she does is cool. She wears only black and gray, and she has more than one pair of really cool black, leather boots. She must be older than me (upon learning my age, she aptly commented, “wow, that’s brave of you coming her all by yourself”). My other roommate is from Korea. Her English is not very good but from what I understand she’s here to see if she wants to go to school here for music calligraphy (?), and to improve her English.
I knew I would be ridiculously jet-lagged but taking a nap was absolutely forbidden so I made a deal with myself that I could go to sleep after the sun went down and only then. By the way, at this point, my eyes had become a red, swollen, itchy mess and I was forced to remove my contacts almost immediately after putting them in. Needless to say, I fell asleep promptly by 7pm. And oh, what a glorious sleep it was! I woke up around midnight to Lydia putting on makeup to go out and I think I mumbled something about how I had to go back to sleep to prevent jet lag. I also woke up around 4 am, when she came back in, but I easily fell back asleep until about 7:30 am, at which point I could no longer fight it: I was awake for good.
I got dressed and got my free breakfast then planned my day in my head: inspection of 3 Creek St, find Jane Ross or Russell or whatever building on campus, walk north to see the harbor, and groceries.
Before getting into this 3 Creek Street business I should mention I was contacted before leaving Amurrica by a girl named Charlie from UPenn who was an exchange student here last semester about moving into her vacant room. I told her I couldn’t say yes or no until seeing the place so she gave me a contact number. I called Colin, the house manager, yesterday and he said I could stop by today, so I did. The house is located in a “suburb” called Forest Lodge, which is right near Glebe, the artsy/bohemian area of the city. The 2-story terraced houses (think: New Orleans crossed with San Francisco) line the streets, which are accented by lush greenery. Even though it’s supposedly winter here, there are tropical plants blooming all over the place. Plus it’s really not all that cold. Today was about 63. And overcast. Everyone dresses like it’s 30 degrees out and they wear a lot of black and dark colors. Maybe this will change when it gets warmer. I must stick out cause I don’t look nearly as “European” as everyone else.
Colin showed me the place and I stayed for about an hour, discussing house things and general Aussie things. Now, the house is not exactly fancy and I still wouldn’t have my own room (I would be sharing with a French girl), but the atmosphere and location and price seem right. It’s an international house – there’s a German guy named Thomas, an Australian dancer from Cairns, and a Korean male hairdresser, among others. Colin’s companion, Magdelena, sports the most endearing Polish accent. When I got there she was most preoccupied calling in her kitty from outside using a combination of clicking, shushing, and shrieking. I’m going to go back tomorrow to meet the French girl and make some final decisions. Since it’s the first place I looked, though, I feel it’s necessary that I see at least one other place too. The problem is lack of internet. I may or may not go to McDonalds (“Mackers”) to see about some free internet in a bit.
Since starting this post, I went to a Thai restaurant for lunch as per recommendation by Lindsey. It was so legit, I didn’t even recognize some of the ingredients in my vegetable/tofu/coconut sauce dish. I also went to the grocery store, which was overwhelming to say the least, but I needed to get food there so I could stop spending so much money buying my meals. Oh yeah, and I walked to the harbor. It was a straight shot up George Street. As I walked, the area became increasingly more reminiscent of Times Square, souvenir stores and all. The Sydney Opera House was just as it looks in photos, and all of a sudden, I felt extremely lucky to be sitting there looking at it, even among the swarms of tourists.
Tomorrow I have two “Welcome” sessions at uni. Exciting!
Note: It is now Monday morning and I am sitting in a McDonalds across the street from my hostel. I hit the f-ing jackpot – free, unlimited internet! YESSSSS!! Oh, and they are playing Glee’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” in here.