Already the tenth day back in Sydney. A different Sydney than the one I was in two months ago when I arrived Down Under. A more vivid Sydney, a fuller Sydney, a more surreal Sydney.
The first surreal image was one I had already seen on social media, but I wanted to see it for myself. Martin Place, the location of Lindt Chocolate Café, the scene of December 15th’s siege where three people lost their lives. I still don’t know what the hostage taker’s motive was, but that doesn’t matter at all. Wat does matter is the view of Martin Place in the days after. The view of that picture. Thousands of flowers, pictures, letters and other ways of showing showing support like the messages written in chalk on the boardwalk. Messages mainly containing the words “We are one but we are many” (refering to this song) or “#Illridewithyou”, the hashtag that went viral as a token of the solidarity and unity amongst the Aussies. A unity and solidarity that definitely smelled good…
Last Monday then, it was time for a work related flashback. Ivana, a former colleague whom I worked with on and during the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2010, is in Sydney for three weeks with her husband and we decided to meet up in Circular Quay. It was kind of surreal as well to meet a colleague at the other side of the world and sharing travel stories as well as work related stuff. Fun, nonetheless!
The most surreal thing remains the entire Christmas celebration though. Sitting in the sun in the afternoon with a glass of red wine or walking on the beach while temperatures rise above 25°C, that’s all perfectly normal for the time of the year as it’s summer Down Under. It’s just… It’s December, not July. There is Christmas decoration all over the city, while I’m walking around in a t-shirt and shorts. This doesn’t feel like December at all, definitely not like Christmas. Elena, Leni and I did the beach walk from Coogee Beach to Bronte Beach on December 25th. On Christmas Day, in the sun.. It’s weird to experience, but definitely a unique experience. We didn’t go all the way to Bondi though, as clouds were starting to block the sunlight, but we definitely have to go there somewhere in the next couple of days as Elena has to have been there at least once before she leaves ‘The Harbour City’.
Elena also delivered pretty much the best compliment I’ve been given since I arrived here in Australia. We left the apartment to go to Coogee and as we started walking, she said: “I’m really happy to be here with you guys. I knew it wouldn’t be like in Melbourne, but Fabian en Nick are great, Joy is nice, Axel is crazy, Leni is my wife and you… I can’t even start.. you’re like my favourite person in the world”. It’s a great feeling to know that people appreciate you and/or what you did, like me arranging everything for our apartment here in Sydney or me buying a jar of Nutella (everyone loves Nutella!). Something everyone showed again that evening when we opened our ‘Secret Santa’ gifts. My fellow roommates Elena, Joy, Leni, Axel, Fabian and Nick gave me a Christmas card with a message to thank me for everything I’ve done and to say that they will buy me dinner to thank me. They didn’t have to do this, but it’s pretty damn awesome that they do.
It’s really great to celebrate Christmas (and NYE in a few days) with friends here. Even if “friends” might be too big a term for people I’ve just met a little over two months ago, they really do feel like friends. It’s weird how everything goes and you get a really good bond with some people in such a short time.
The next day was again surreal: Boxing Day! For us Belgians it’s just “December 26th”, but here it’s the start of a period of sales. The sales aren’t that big though – it’s difficult to find something at a bigger discount than 30% – but that just might be because it’s just the first day of the sales and everybody is shopping on that same day. The shopping malls are so full that you have to queue to get in, or even queue when you are inside a shop but want to take the escalator to a different level. I’ve never experienced this before, it’s just crazy.
Sydney is different in December than it is during the rest of the year. There are also so much more people in the city, mainly tourists of course. The city really does seem sold out with the end of the year celebrations in sight. I doubt there’s any free spot left in any hostel, hotel, motel, apartment or any other place like that.
I am also very curious about New Year’s eve. We are all starting to stress a bit about finding the perfect spot to watch the fireworks in the harbour, but I’m sure we’ll find something. On Christmas Eve, we went on a party boat and that was kind of weird as the party started at 6pm and lasted only until 10pm. That’s just too early to go out and party. The Christmas party afterwards at Side Bar was better, that’s for sure. So on NYE the party boat will hopefully also be better, although it will then only start at 1.30 am, lasting until 6.30 am… It’s a sunrise party boat for a reason, but we will probably all be extremely tired after that, knowing that we will have been awake for around 24 hours or more by that time..
Ever since I arrived back in Sydney ten days ago, everything is weird and fun at the same time. Surreal in so many ways. But I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it for the world.
This being said… MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!!
You can celebrate it with this Aussie Christmas song if you want. A song that I got to know thanks to Aimee when I was in Tennant Creek during the Outback trip. A song about the six white kangaroos that pull Santa’s sleigh…