I have been in Sydney since Thursday, but unable to update you all on the goings-on due to a stupid mistake on my part: not bringing a 3-prong adapter to Australia. I finally found one today in downtown Sydney, which caters more to tourists who also forget these little details. Now I am connected to the internet and have no excuse not to write.
okay so.. man where do I start? Well, Sydney is lovely. Be prepared for my vocabulary to change a bit because everyone uses British words here and it’s rubbing off on me. It’s absolutely amazing and I can’t think of a better city to live in. It’s always sunny and beautiful, it’s friendly, it’s clean, it’s safe, it’s diverse, it’s full of gorgeous waterfront views… it’s no wonder so many people choose to live here. I spent the first few days here at the Wesley Institute with the other people from the ASC (that stands for australian studies centre… that is the group of people i’m studying abroad with from the states) doing orientation. This was a neat opportunity to learn about the program from our directors and get acclimated to some things right away. It was fun getting to know the others from the program, and they’re all really cool people. There’s 35 of us, from all over the USA. My housemates, for example, are from Seattle and Iowa… so we pretty much cover the span. Their names are Christina and Heather and they’re both really cool.
There are many things to learn early on, like the Aussie lingo (tooootally different… but they have sweet words like dodgy and musely and servo) and the incredibly confusing bus system. But there are lots of exciting things to discover. We spent the weekend mostly exploring our immediate suburb of Petersham and Leichhardt as well, which is the nearby Italian district of Sydney. Our host mom’s best friend Sharon took us on a bike ride from our house to our school, which is a half an hour ride that I’ll do a few times a week to and from school because it winds around a gorgeous section of the bay called Five Dock bay. There are tons of cute coffee shops and a great park across the street. If we want to go to the opera house/harbour bridge area, it’s just a quick 20 min. bus ride into town. From there, we can easily take a ferry to Manly beach any time we want. It’s a great place to live.
Aussies are incredibly friendly, just as I hoped they’d be. They’ve got a funny sense of humor that we are all still getting used to, which is too hard to describe early on but i’ll take a stab at it later. Our host mom is the coolest lady. Her name is Roslyn and she is in her early 50’s with three kids. Their names are Jessica (25), Felicity (23 i think) and Denning (21). Roslyn is a school counselor with a calm spirit about her and a tranquility and hospitality that makes her the ideal host parent. Her voice sounds a lot like Emma Roberts’ (the lady from Stranger than fiction) if you add the Aussie lilt to it. I could just listen to her talk all day. She is a fabulous cook and always making amazing homemade things like vegetable soup and muffins and tea. Her best friend Sharon is always around and they’ve been friends since high school. She’s a school counselor too, and being around the two of them together is like living in a sitcom. They’re a hilarious pair. sharon is energetic and spunky, always on the go and with a great sense of humor. You never know what she might say and Roslyn says she needs 3 friends to keep up with her. Like most Aussies, she’s also got all kinds of animal attack survival stories, including a poisonous stingray attack and a spider bite that was very serious. She talked about these like they were bee stings, with a smile and “oh, yeah… well…” kind of ease. Felicity and Denning are really fun to hang out with and we’ve had a great time with that. Today we checked out one of Felicity’s paintings, which was a painted sculpture of Jesus on display in Darling Harbour. This is a very big opportunity for her and we all went out to see it and support her work. She’s very talented. Denning is a music student at our school which is cool. He’s very easy to get along with and promised to introduce us to all of his friends so that we can make some Aussie acquaintances.
This weekend Sydney has been upside down for World Youth Day. This happens every 3 years and brings in Christian “pilgrims” as they have been called from all over the world. Sydney is hosting the event this year and it is the biggest thing to happen since the 2000 Olympics. The theme of the event this year is the power of the Holy Spirit, and of course this sparked some interest for me. The Pope has been here all week, and this is his first time in Australia, and the first time a pope has been here for over 15 years. Naturally the city is chaos with hundreds of thousands of people walking around in their pilgrim gear, so we’d avoided the city until this morning. Their final event was a mass in a horse racing stadium, which the pope was to preside over. Our program gave us free tickets so we headed over. There were 400,000 people in the stadium from every country imaginable. This is the biggest gathering ever to take place Down Under – even bigger than any ceremony at the olympics. Heather and I happened to be in the right place at the right time and were stopped at an area where the pope motorcade… or dare I say… the “Pope-mobile” drove past. We got some sweet pictures of this which i’ll post as soon as I can. The mass was really cool and it was neat because the pope gave this message about receiving the baptism of the holy spirit, right on and straight from Acts. I hadn’t realized that the Catholic church was experiencing this kind of revival which is awesome. It was a cool morning. Then we went to see the harbour bridge and the opera house for the first time, which of course is just as beautiful if not more than every picture I had seen. We also hung out in darling harbour which is another beautiful well-known section of the city and had a starbucks while we people-watched. It was a long and busy day but full of once-in-a-lifetime kind of moments.
I have so much more to tell but I’m going long. hopefully i’ve caught up and now they’ll be shorter. Thanks for all of your continued prayers and support but know that I’m doing well and having the time of my life!