Fallon and I came to Sydney in March of this year hoping and praying that it was going to be the place for us. We’d already had failed attempts to kick start our Australian life together in Newcastle and in Armidale, and our dream of exploring the country together was hanging on by a thread. What little savings we’d had when Fallon had touched down were long gone, and if we’re being honest, our relationship was in a pretty terrible place as a result of the stress.
We spent our first few weeks In the city house-sitting for my friend Anthony while he and his girlfriend were off in Laos and came precariously close to breaking up in a tense few weeks in the big smoke. The strain of living on a very tight budget (we were living on my $400 fortnightly Newstart payment) and spending every waking hour together due to having no jobs and no money pushed us to the very brink of going our separate ways.
But Sydney proved to be the right tonic for us. After talking our way through our rocky patch, Fallon and I both found ourselves stumbling into jobs almost immediately. By the time our two week house-sitting stint was up, Fallon had already worked a handful of days temping in various offices around the city and I’d lined up a job working in a call centre.
We’d arranged to stay a month or two with an old friend from my University days, and St. Leonards on the North Shore was going to become our base of operations to save some money and find a place of our own. As it turns out, we never did get that place of our own – and for the remainder of the year Fallon, Grant, and I become house-mates and drinking buddies.
We came to Sydney hoping it would be the right place for us and, nine months later, we left it having been treated very well by the city. Fallon found a wonderful job working at Macquarie University and despite my doubts about the call center job, I left it yesterday was a lot of fond memories and the door open for a return should I ever breeze through again. I took to sales a lot better than I’d ever have imagined and made a lot of friends in the process.
I don’t think I’m out of line in saying that we fell in love with Sydney – from its iconic scenery to its warm climate to its multicultural foods. I’ll always remember our Harbour Bridge runs, my first competitive run, karaoke nights at the Shark Hotel, the thrill of finally having spending money, and a slew of other fun nights and days in the big smoke. Sydney was home to me, and while I’m excited to finally be back on the road – I will miss my apartment in St Leonards, my workplace, and the friends we made during our time there.
But enough retrospective sappiness – we’re here in beautiful Christchurch and about to embark on our first day of exploring New Zealand. Fallon’s asleep above me in her bunk at the quaint Kiwi Basecamp and we’re planning to eat a light breakfast before kicking on to Adrenaline Forest later today for some flying foxes, rope swings, and other adventurous stuff.
The last thirty six hours have been a flurry of packing, goodbyes, and last minute errands. Amidst all of the excitement of finally arriving at our destination after months of planning and saving, it figured that we’d both be slightly panicked at the eleventh hour as we tried to sync iPods, post things home, and see everybody who needed to be seen. While I’ll be back in Sydney for a few days between Fiji and South Korea, Fallon’s journey downunder is over now.
Due to a system glitch at work, my final week of employment didn’t feature a single phone call. In fact, it barely featured any meaningful work of any kind. Without the ability to even log on to a computer, I spent my last three days doing floor support and coaching a few of my former team members. I also wrote a bunch of Christmas cards and spent a lot of time dinking around on my iPhone. Best last week of work ever.
Thursday rolled around with me handing out contact details and snapping photos of my friends and co-workers. I never would have thought working in a call centre would have been for me, and while the work was sometimes tedious, the cool people I worked with meant that it was a rare day that I actively dreaded going to work. That’s about as close as I’ll ever get to loving a job. I’m allergic to work.
My farewell drinks were a suitably drunken affair. We started the evening at the Madison (right by Central Station). The Maddo, as its affectionately known at work, is the site of nightly post work drinks and it was no different on my final day in town. $8 happy hour cocktails certainly helped to move things along.
Dinner was had at the recently refurbished and re-opened Strawberry Hills Hotel, which really has stepped its game up. At the start of the year it was the kind of dingy pub relic in which you’d expect to find lecherous old men perched precariously on stools blowing their pensions on the pokies – but it’s now a glitzier venue with an open air roof-top dining area and all of the bells and whistles. Their $15 dinner menu is simple, but surprisingly good. I had a delicious chicken burger with lemon aioli. My good friend Toni continually informed me that eating is cheating when out on a bender, but I didn’t much fancy spending my final day in Australia hugging the porcelain.
After dinner at the Strawberry Hills I met up with my mate Brendan back at the Madison. I met Brendan earlier this year when Fallon and I were taking Spanish classes at The Spanish Cat, but hadn’t seen him since our final lesson. It was actually a surprise that he came along – but as the night would prove, we make a pretty decent drinking team.
With happy hour’s end rapidly approaching Brendan made an executive decision and purchased six Long Island Ice Teas. That’s three each for those playing at home.
We were soon joined by my house-mate Grant, my best friend Dave, and a few others including Popee, Toni, Carlton, and Alex. The beers (and Long Island iced teas) began to flow and soon it really was a party. We hung out at the Madison chatting and drinking and soon decided it was time to move on to our next venue.
That venue would be the Shark Hotel, and we hopped a cab over to the backpacker hot-spot for a bit of late night karaoke. I’ve got a lot of affection for the Shark Hotel. When Fallon and I first arrived in Sydney it’s $10 buffet and cheap drinks were a Godsend, and we spent every Thursday night there with a few friends just unwinding and rediscovering our social feet.
On this particular Thursday night the place was packed to the gills, but that didn’t stop us from queuing up a few songs and belting them out. I performed my signature version of Electric Six’s ‘Gay Bar’ with lewd backing from my three companions; Dave belted out Minnie the Moocher; and Brendan even got in on the act with his rendition of The Killers’ Mr. Brightside.
We had a few beers and, with a lot of coercing and begging on my part, even managed to convince one of the bar staff to let us do tequila shots despite the establishment apparently not allowing shots. What is the world coming to when a foursome of drunken revelers can’t do a harmless tequila slammer!?
We could have stayed at the Shark Hotel a lot longer, but the line to sing was far too long for our tastes and we ventured off in search of a Korean singing room or noraebang. My usual selection, a little place above BBQ City was closed, so we managed to find another one whose name escapes me. The two young Korean guys on duty there were friendly though, and plied us with dried squid and shrimp crackers for the duration of our stay there.
My memory of the noraebang is hazy. I couldn’t even tell you what songs I sang – although photographic evidence suggests that Wonderwall, Naïve, and I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing were belted out at some point. I remember there being beer. I remember shelling out $20 for a box of soju and grimacing my way through it. I vaguely remember harassing every Korean in the joint to inform them that I was moving back there in January.
In fact, much to my hungover embarrassment, I even remember harassing Koreans in the street about it. Good times.
By this point it was 1.30 and we were all to a point of drunk that required food, but my quest to find us a good Korean BBQ place were to no avail – and we settled on a greasy burger from Hungry Jack’s (Burger King to my friends abroad) before calling it a night.
Fallon informs me I was particularly proud of my Soju scent when I got home, and that I insisted on attempting to sleep using my suitcase as a pillow. All I remember is waking up on the couch at 7am with Fallon asking why I hadn’t gotten into our bed, and spending my last day in Sydney feeling very sorry for myself: the mark of a good farewell if ever I saw one.
And so, after a three hour flight and a bit of stumbling around trying to find a place to eat that was open after midnight, Fallon and I are ready for our first day of exploring New Zealand.
Farewell Sydney and thanks for all of the fantastic memories. I’ll catch you briefly in 2011 and then again in 2012. Stay beautiful!