30 August 2009

the silence of sydney

My first reaction to Sydney was that it felt just like the States. I had expected it to be less commercial/more European or more Asian or somehow different. But, aside from incredible Asian food courts and slightly more British/formal English, Sydney (and much of Australia) felt a lot like California. Except instead of black, white, Asian, Latino and Native American, the demographics felt more like mostly white, with groups of east Asian, south Asian, southeast Asian and a tiny smattering of African.

What did catch me by surprise was how quiet it was. We walked around Sydney's CBD (central business district) from early morning until late afternoon, and no one was blabbering on their cell phones (like they do incessantly in the U.S.).

Instead, people in suits were walking along, silent. As were younger, hipper types. Even students and teenagers were not blabbing away into their cell phones. Maybe I'm turning into a crotchety old woman, but man, would I love it if people in the States didn't have a cell phone/hands-free device glued on their faces constantly.

My friend later explained that talking minutes were quite expensive in Australia, and people would give you looks if you spoke too loudly on your cell phone in public. (Will those people please come to the States and teach the people here some manners? Maybe the first step is to get rid of those unlimited minutes...)

My partner and I were in a museum a few days ago, for example, and a woman was sitting in the hallway, yelling into her cell phone, "And I'm about to tell you something very confidential." My partner and I wanted to laugh-- yeah, "you" and the entire museum. (Turns out it wasn't that juicy anyway: some guy was getting surgery. Not quite as interesting if she'd said she was a spy for the Moldovan government or something like that.)

Imagine instead a world where people had conversations with loved ones in person, the old-fashioned way, or corresponded via handwritten letters, if not in the same city. Ahh, the good old days.

I'm thinking I'd like to blow up my cell phone. Yes, they're great for emergencies and if you're running late and so on, but I love being unreachable when I'm out. If I'm meeting a friend, then I'm busy and can't talk.

Which is why I usually leave my cell phone at home. My partner isn't usually too pleased when he calls me from home and hears my phone ringing in the next room, but that's the price of freedom. Do you think I'm crazy? Do you love your cell phone? Could you live without it?

But I digress. Ahem, sorry. Back to Sydney. It also reminded me of Montreal. It was a clean, attractive city, and it made me think of what New York might be like if it was transported to San Diego-- perfect weather year-round, more laid back and a little slower, but still very cosmopolitan. But anyway, what do I know? I'm no Sydney expert. These are just first impressions.

Now, some visuals. I'll start with the opera house (of course).

Here is the front of the opera house, a view rarely seen in the promotional material:

I was surprised at how solid the opera house was. I had expected it to be made of some kind of airy fiberglass material, for some reason. Instead, it was solid concrete covered in shiny white tiles. It's quite a feat that the "sails" look so light.

Here's Darling Harbour Bridge. It makes me want to watch "Finding Nemo" again.

Darling Harbour (day):

And night:

The first bird we saw when we arrived in the Darling Harbour area:

The architecture reminded me of New Orleans in some areas:

And New York in others:

And lastly, some random art (which always make cities so much nicer to live in and explore):

Next up: Melbourne, my favorite city in Australia so far (due largely to the awesome couchsurfers we stayed with).

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