“I’ve been to cities that never close down. From New York, to Rio and ‘Ole London Town. But no matter how far, or how wide I roam...I still call Australia, home”.
Yeah, cheesy but that song had always held true in the past as the plane approached Sydney Airport and this time was no different. Strangely, I am feeling more homesick at this moment than I had felt since leaving Sydney for Chicago. As Sam and I enter the airport, an air of familiarity sets in, and as I’ve done numerous times in the past, I grab my trusty backpack from the baggage collection. The queuing system at Sydney Airport Customs seems to get more elaborate every time I come back but somehow seems to remain efficient. Pity I can’t say the same for Sydney roads.
First stop is lunch with the family at my Aunt’s place, which could double as a karaoke crack house for all those karaoke addicts out there. Seriously, they have five wireless microphones and a karaoke machine that would put Ding Dong Dang’s to shame. You’ll find out what Ding Dong Dang’s is in a bit. My half brother, whom I haven’t seen in a year and is now only a month away from his third birthday, shows us how to work an iPhone and sings a rendition of Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby Baby’. "Are they suppose to be able to do that at that age" I ask no one in particular. I will spend the next two days singing the chorus in my head, not having ever heard the original
We head to Darlinghurst, where we will stay with our good friends Sara and Amo and get down to the serious business of catching up with friends. We spend the next 5 days hanging out at our favourite restaurants, watering holes, beaches and cafes. Sydney is in the grips of El Nina with above average rain fall and Spring had apparently been a real disappointment. It is warm and grey but the week improves with sunshine and beach weather. We hit Bondi Beach to hear the waves crashing on the shore and the visual sensation of cliffs surrounding Bondi is overwhelming. “I gave this up for snow and wind?”.
Too bad about the 8 months of bitterly cold weather
It had been just over a year since Sam and I had finished backpacking around South America after moving to the United States in June of 2009. We had taken a six month break from the Rat Race but with funds running out, we had decided to base ourselves in Chicago and rejoin the race. New York was too ‘hectic’ for us (maybe if we were younger) and San Francisco wasn’t a ‘real’ city, also being quite expensive. Chicago was a good mixture of city living, clean and not too hectic. Too bad about the 8 months of bitterly cold weather. We also had friends from Australia, Ray and Charissa, who had made our transition to Chicago so much more inviting (with their adorable son, Cal).
We drove from Tampa to Chicago in shorts and shirts over two days in an SUV with all our worldly belongings, only to arrive in jackets and boots to a snowy Christmas Eve. We both had no jobs and were on a three month ‘sink or swim’ budget. This had been the third time in my life I had quit my job, packed everything I owned into a backpack and started a new life. It was the second time for Sam so this was familiar territory for us. It was a great feeling to know that both of us could do that. We could trust in each other to do that for each other. Sam to move to Australia for me, and for me to move to the States for Sam. But that statement doesn’t seem to fit well with what it really meant for both of us. We didn’t do it for each other, but rather we both did it for us.
It is noon on Saturday and a slow gathering of friends start to trickle into the Nelson. Once my local watering hole, now the start of a Pub crawl spanning 10 pubs/bars over 12 hours to catch up with friends. We work our way through the familiar pubs and bars of Paddington and Woollahra, even walking past our old house. I take a quick peek at the house’s recycling bin to see whether the new tenants are worshippers of Bacchus. A few nice bottles of wine and, a healthy stack of imported beer bottles. Good to see.
"fuelled by a steady stream of booze, nothing will stop my us from belting out classics"
More familiar faces join the crawl and I catch up with friends from many circles. I catch up on gossip and tell a few tales of life in the States and talk about our coming trip to South East Asia. A few of the girls we met in Chicago join us, including Anna, who surprises us by dropping in. It’s comforting to know that even half a world away, Sam and I have wonderful friends and family that will always welcome us back (and of course try and convince us to stay whenever we visit).
Things get messy at the Light Brigade as we watch Australia lose to the Kiwis in the Rugby League Test match. We are at pub number eight (I think) and it’s time to move on. We make a quick appearance at Paddington Inn when a few die-hards decide that it’s time for Karaoke at Ding Dong Dang’s. None of us can really sing individually but collectively, and fuelled by a steady stream of booze, nothing will stop my us from belting out classics like “Don’t stop me now”, “Sweet Caroline”, “Delilah” and 'U can't touch this". I look to Craig and Mick, as they belt out another classic, remembering that they are the only two still standing (or rather singing and sitting) that were there from the first pub. It’s 1am and it’s time to pull the curtains on my creation.
I have this uneasy feeling of having to go to work the next day
We end our visit to Australia with an early thanksgiving meal. Sam and I had started the tradition four years ago with our friends and good to know we were still able to carry the tradition. I have this uneasy feeling of having to go to work the next day. I think I’m confusing it with the realization that I will once again be saying farewell to family and friends. The fact that I will now be travelling around South East Asia for three weeks doesn’t even enter my mind let alone ease the trepidation of leaving Sydney, again. I overcome this by concentrating on the work at hand, packing.
We say a final farewell to Amo and Sara who have been the best hosts (again). Especially to Amo, being such a trooper for giving up her bed for us and sleeping on the couch. My mum and Aunt see us off at the Airport and my mum is so accustomed to saying farewells to me that a quick hug and shove off is all I get (jokes).
Until next time Sydney...My chair reclines and I put on my headphones. ‘Inception’ does my head in and I can’t sleep.