Hello Again, Sydney

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

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Great Race

If there were a points system for bad karma, one item you might find near the bottom, among the minor misdemeanours is ... running for the train when you don't actually know it's coming.

I don't mean where you hear the whistle and dash across the platform to elegantly slip between the closing doors; I mean when you're merely approaching the station and you respond to that feeling that maybe the train is coming. You begin to walk faster -- shuffle-step, step-shuffle -- and the people around you suspect that maybe you know the timetable better than they do. Involuntarily they start shuffling too. And soon you've got barely restrained commuter panic on your hands with people walking Olympic style, bursting through turnstiles and dashing up stairs. And you're actually puffing and sweating when you get to the platform and see ... the train is not even there yet. Sorry to say this but Sydney is the kind of city that makes you do it.

On my morning commute I've started seeing one middle-aged lady quite frequently. She lives in my street, gets on at my bus stop and catches the same train as me. I notice her because of the way she hurries all the time. In fact she looks like she might be Latin American and if she did come from somewhere like Bogota -- where you don't run for the bus because there is no timetable, and no specific bus stop -- I figure she can't have always been like this. I want to stop her and ask, when did it begin? Or even better, I'd like to get some footage of how she walked whenever she first arrived and put it next to some current footage as a kind of 'before' and 'after'. And I want to vow that if Lesly ever ends up hurrying around like that then we will leave this city immediately.

I haven't seen many of the morning train people lately, but I saw 'the man with the lump on his head' this morning, and he is now 'the man who used to have a lump on his head'. That's right, it's gone, with not so much as a band-aid to mark the spot. How? There's another question I will never have the answer to.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Axioms of Leisure

In Sydney, the quantity and quality of amenities at your disposal is inversely proportional to the time you have available to enjoy them.

It's been a while since I lived in an area with so much well-kept green space. Indeed, if you blindfolded me outside my apartment building, spun me around a few times then sent me on my way, I would have more chance of tripping over in a nature reserve, falling into a pool or getting hit by a golf ball than I would of getting run over by a car, which is pretty impressive when you think about it. However, when it comes to actually doing these things, I'm a tad short on time.

Despite being surrounded by golf courses, it seems the only way you can get on is during the working week, or as a member (read $$$) on the weekends. It's moments like these when I really miss my three-day-a-week job in Colombia, and the Tuesday morning golf games with Max at the public course out on Calle 80.

The pool in our building has been handy, and is an option for a quick dip after work. We've been through the nature reserve next door a few times too, and I'm planning on doing some volunteer gardening work there next year to get to know the native flora a bit better. The beaches are nearby as well, of course. This weekend we went for a barbecue at Coogee, and I did a bit of body surfing. The sea rules -- even just floating in it is enough to make you feel well again.

But as far as consistent exercise goes, it's a bit tricky. The best I've done so far is jogging in the morning. Running along the beach in front of a rising sun is ... well, words don't really cover it. If only you didn't have to get up at 5:30am to do it! Until I get a job closer to the city I think the main exercise I do will be walking through the backstreets of Auburn on the way to work, which as I will show in a later post, also has its upside.

On a completely different note, Lesly has posted five little-known facts about herself, among them that she once shook Fidel Castro's hand! Six degrees of separation my arse; with the Internet, surely it's < five.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Santa Claus vs Niño Dios

This is the battle at our place right now, and the beliefs of my son could be at stake.

In case you didn’t know, el Niño Dios is the baby Jesus of the pesebre – the nativity scene – which is still a very popular Christmas decoration in Colombia. Just like Santa, he brings with him hope, joy, world peace and most importantly … lots of presents. I am still a little unclear how a baby is meant to carry all those heavy gifts. Santa Claus, on the other hand, has his sleigh and flying reindeer, and comes down the these-days-non-existent chimney -- obvious.

Actually, I don’t particularly care which my son ends up believing in; neither strikes me as a particularly relevant to what we do these days. I do admire Lesly for her patience invoking “Niño Dios” to our son every time he says “Santa Claus”, although in a Sydney awash with jingle bells and white beards, she doesn’t stand much of a chance. She's not religious btw, just keen on our son getting a Colombian christmas too.

What this means in practical terms is that instead of the knock-down drag-out I falsely promised at the start of this entry, we'll end up with some kind of festive hybrid: look out for a cradle on the back of the sleigh, or Santa crashing through the thatched roof of the pesebre.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Losing it

It's been almost five months now since we arrived in Sydney and my Spanish shows it. Mainly it's the accent. The muscles in my mouth are now accustomed to drawled-out mono and duosyllables as opposed to the staccato diminutives and trilled rs of un cigarillo y un roncito. When we call Colombia on Skype (hugs, big hugs for this technology) Lesly says I sound like a kid. And I'm definitely having trouble with vocabulary recall -- feel like a drunk groping around for the right verb at times.

We're still speaking Spanish at home but it's not enough to stretch me, and I'm reading as much literature in Spanish as possible, but of course it's not the same. Makes you realise that it's quite hard work to learn and maintain another language and I take my hat off to any polyglots out there. (Polyglots, a horrible-sounding word -- surely invented by someone who only spoke one language. Multilingual?)

Anyway, here's another exercise that might help, and something I've wanted to do for a while -- my stab at translating Cortázar's "Instrucciones para llorar". Julio, please forgive me.

Instructions for crying

Leaving to one side the motives, let us attend to the correct way of crying, understanding by this something that is neither scandalous, nor insults the smile with its parallel and clumsy likeness. An average and ordinary cry consists of a general contraction of the face and a spasmodic sound accompanied by tears and mucus, the latter at the end. In fact, the crying stops in the moment when you blow your nose forcibly.

To begin, direct the imagination towards yourself, or if this proves impossible for having contracted the habit of believing in an exterior world, think of a duck covered in ants, or in those gulfs of the Magallanes straights, in which no one enters, ever.

Once it begins, the face is covered with decorum using both hands with the palms facing inwards. Children will cry with the sleeve of their shirt against the face, and by preference in a corner of the room. Average duration of cry, three minutes.