Hello Again, Sydney

One Sydney-sider's experiences moving back to Sydney after a long absence overseas.

Monday, October 30, 2006


God I missed them! Daylight savings started yesterday (or finished - I can never remember when we're spending and when we're saving), which means that it's still bright when I get home and I can look out the bus window and see the jacaranda trees in bloom everywhere. It's also that feeling that you've got time in the evenings again, even if you have to get up an hour earlier. Best of all though are the memories triggered by the heat: an afternoon of fielding at cricket, a lazy afternoon at the pub, or even just sweating it out on public transport. That first hot breeze of the season is just as evocative as any aroma or snatch of music.

One of the crappiest things about living in Bogota was the absence of seasons, the constant drizzly weather, and every cab driver talking about invierno and verano like there was actually a difference. There wasn't. And although this probably reads like more Sydney vs Bogota talk, I've actually been feeling much more mellow lately about the whole thing. Coming to the conclusion that it doesn't matter where you live as long as you're in a good place energy-wise.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Morning train

Say hello to the people on my morning train. On second thoughts, don't - that kind of behaviour could freak people out. Instead I'll give you a quick tour.

First there's the blonde woman who always gets off at Ashfield. We get on together at Town Hall, and I notice she could catch a slightly earlier train but doesn't. This is probably because our train is the best I have ever seen in Sydney - there's a little screen in the cabin that tells you the next stop, and the seats are comfy and upholstered with clean fabric. The train before ours has scungy, cold, plastic-covered seats. Still, I would like to ask the woman why she doesn't catch the earlier one.

Next there's an older guy with a big lump on his forehead. He gets off at my stop and today I saw him reading and looking around the cabin and I felt a strange kinship with him. I tried, without much conviction, to sneak a peek at his book. Perhaps we're very similar, except for the lump on his head. What the hell is it, anyway? That's what I'd like to ask him.

Then there's an Indian woman who gets on at Redfern and always sits in the single seat at the front of the cabin. I can sense her disappointment when someone else is sitting in her spot. Sometimes she reads what looks like poetry in a foreign alphabet, printed on individual sheets of paper. Maybe they're letters. That's what I'd like to ask her about.

When one of them isn't there, I wonder if they're sick or on holidays. Do they wonder the same when I'm not there? In a way they are like people in my office who I never talk to.

So there it is: the morning train. Say goodbye.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Sad statto, happy statto

We received a call last night from a Deakin University poll on the happiness of Australians. On a scale of zero to ten, how happy are you? They've obviously thought about it, since it starts at zero rather than one - much better for statistics (though just once I'd like to see a Spinal-Tap-like poll that goes to eleven).

They ask you how satisfied you are with your quality of life, with your house, with the government etc, and you tell them some numbers. There was some other stuff too, like:

"Has anything happened to make you happy or sad recently?"
"Did it make you happy or sad?"
"I'm afraid I can only tick one or the other."

And then, the rather profound,

"Do you feel safe?"
"What do you mean by safe?"
"Just ... safe."

Well, I don't know. There could be a terrorist lurking in the recycling shed downstairs I guess, or worse, this could be a bogus survey to extract vital information from gullible householders. Ha ha! Push the big red paranoia button, baby. It's easy to wonder what you're getting poked and prodded for in a post-post-whatever world.

Indeed, I would never have answered these questions back in Colombia. A simple "Usted tiene el numero equivocado," would have done it. Though when I imagine how an average Colombian would answer, the numbers probably aren't that different. In fact, last time I remember a poll like this coming out, Colombia appeared at number 2 (two) in the world. And Australia? Number 139 (one hundred and thirty fucking nine)!

Rather than question the relevance of such an index, may I humbly suggest that next time they run the survey in Australia, they tell people that it's a competition. Then I'm sure we'd do a lot better.

Monday, October 09, 2006

One man's trash is another man's blog entry

One thing that has blown me away here is the quantity of furniture people throw away. Every month or so the council does a clean up, and at the bottom of our cul-de-sac, a mountain looms: old mattresses, sofas, refrigerators, cupboards etc. On the way to work I see it too, almost every Monday (snaps below). It’s actually a bit obscene, when you think about all these products people must be buying. Piece of crap indeed. But half the time the things aren’t even broken. We rescued a computer chair from the pile last weekend, in perfect condition (apart from that odd smell).

It’s a big change, coming from a city where people went around collecting cardboard and stole manhole and drain covers to sell for scrap metal. Sydney would be the reciclador’s dream.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Aussie Swastikas

Great day out at Parklife. Personal highlights were Krafty Kuts, Ian Pooley, James Taylor and Coldcut. In fact, Coldcut was the turning point of the day for me - he was the first DJ I really connected with. I'd just been over to watch Peter Hook, and although he got full marks for energy, his set wasn't working. He spun Anarchy in the UK, and it totally killed the dancefloor. I think the kids of today are too busy maintaining their physiques to care much about maintaining the rage (more about that later).

Anyway, on comes Coldcut, the massive screens above his head showing images of passing galaxies, and the words "YOU ARE HERE". Slowly it zooms in on earth, then Australia, Sydney, Centennial Park, the crowd, cheering. And from there on, the visuals were as much a part of the show as the sounds. They had an MC too. "This is not the old school, or the new school, but the true school," he said. It's such an obvious concept to mix images with sounds, but so few DJ's are doing it. And sure, the political stuff also went over a lot of people's heads, but this is a better way forwards. All available forms of resistance, and all that. My old boss, Nick, would have loved it, I'm certain.

I was feeling positively geriatric in amongst the very young crowd. I'm old enough not to care now, but if I were 18 again, I'd be stressing out big time about my body. These days the guys are as subject to body-image pressures as the girls, if the heavily-muscled torsos on display are any indication. There were also a lot of Southern Cross tattoos around. I thought they might be a tribute to the Aussie cricket team, until a friend explained they had something to do with the racial tensions that have been simmering recently. Since then I've noticed them around in odd places - yesterday on someones backpack going up the escalators (the enthralling visual world of the commuter). Is this the Australian version of the Swastika?