September 30, 2006

Back!

whew! i'm back. it took two weeks, but i feel like i really got a sense of what australia (specifically new south wales and queensland) has to offer. some things i learned about or while in australia: :: sydney is most definitely a beautiful and mature international city. the harbor is gorgeous. it's clean and crisp and sophisticated. really unlike any harbor or wharf that i've ever seen in a big city. the opera house really is one of those architectural marvels that you need to see for yourself. the streets are bustling at waking hours, but strangely quiet on crisp sunday mornings. a coworker described it a few weeks ago as "a cleaner san francisco, fused with los angeles beach culture." i think that's very accurate, though i don't think it has the vibrancy and diversity of san francisco. it's casual and formal at the same time. oh, and the food is fantastic, as one would expect from such a modern city surrounded by eclectic nations of diverse tastes. some quick photos: :: australians, despite their insistence on being part of a "great beer-drinking nation," have no idea what good beer is. i tried nearly every australian beer that i could get my hands on, playing havoc on my weight (more on that later), and i found only two that were even worth thinking about drinking again. unlike other enthusiastic beer-consuming countries (belgium, ireland, germany...), australia's beers taste like ass. my theory is that australians adopt the american attitude of, "i'm gonna drink a lot of it, so might as well make sure it goes down easy." when i got to the country, i laughed about how no one there actually drank foster's. by the time i left i was wishing that i could find a foster's. :: i always thought lists like "the world's top 10 beaches" were stupid. i mean, what could be so spectacular? then i went to whitehaven beach in the whitsunday islands. i'll give you a few pictures, but suffice it to say that i will no longer doubt the worth of such lists (which mostly seem to include whitehaven). spectacular? incredible? a dream? the sand was supposedly silica, but it felt more like soft flour spread over 6 kilometers where the jungle met water. absolutely insane: :: i was reminded on this trip how loved and incredible of a city san francisco is. yeah, you read that right. EVERY australian who mentioned visiting the united states raved about how much he/she loved our own city by the bay. even our b&b owners in port douglas, who talked about how unimpressed they were by america ("i don't think people who live in new york are tough, i think they're stupid to live in a place so beastly," and "america's so BORING. except for little pockets, it all looks the same"), praised san francisco top to bottom. i don't know if they were correct, but they were certainly objective compared to americans. if nothing else: australians love san francisco. :: the great barrier reef sounds so cliche, but you're a fool if you don't go see it for yourself. i've never snorkeled before, but moments after overcoming the initial panic of "holy shit, i'm in the middle of the fucking ocean and these waves are enormous," i was able to calm down and take a look around. when you cross the water level, it's like dipping into a whole different world of brilliant colors and plentiful marine life. i'm hoping some of my underwater camera pictures come out, but i have a feeling that my wounded duck swimming technique might have left something to be desired. we'll see. but whether or not the photos come out, just know that it was one of the most remarkable sights of my life. go see it, you won't be disappointed. :: and lastly, i was reminded of how good it can actually feel to come home. yes my (new) room still looks like a disaster area, but it's slowly coming together and it's good to be in my own place. i'm not, by nature, a traveler. at some level, i find myself needing to emerge from my comfort zone just to immerse myself in a new and different place. my travel shyness means that i'm always a little relieved to come home to comfort, but it also means that i forever appreciate even short jaunts to new worlds. i'm lucky to have the means to travel. like our rain forest guide said on wednesday, "when you're heading home all you can think about is how nice it will be. but once you get home all you can think about is where to go to next." so where to next? i'm open for ideas :)

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