Aud vs. Australia: the Blue Mountains

You guys – after nearly 3 years, I got to see the Blue Mountains.

FINALLY!

There has always been something stopping me from getting there – mostly because I wanted to go with Joel the first time I went, and our schedules, the weather, money, and someone with a car just never lined up. But last weekend, the stars aligned. I bought some active wear (active wear!), we woke up before dawn, and set out with our friend Rob, his flatmate Eloise and her pal Oxanna to see Empress Falls in the Blue Mountains National Park.

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6:00AM. SO cold. SO sleepy. But the early bird beats the tour busses.
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We reached the trail around 8:30AM. It was a brisk 7*C. 

After a traffic free, two and half hour drive, we reached the mountains. It felt cold. It felt like actual winter cold, with real frost in the air. So that was exciting. It was less exciting that I was wearing super thin, stretchy active wear pants and that didn’t do a thing to keep me warm unless I was moving in them (clever girl, active wear).

We parked the car and set out to begin our 3.5 km trail. I was too excited to get to the first look out to take many pictures, but I did see some killer rocks, and a pair of underpants in a tree (nature!).

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rocks!

Eloise and Oxanna and I had never been to the mountains, so when we reached the first look out, there were collective OOooOooOOo’s and AAAaaaAAAhhHhHhhs. It was incredible. All the photos I’ve seen, all the movies they’ve been featured in, nothing does them justice. And seeing the bright white cockatoo’s flying against the green trees was beautiful. It’s like looking down at a masterpiece.

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OOoOoOooo
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AhhHHhHhHhhh
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AAAaaAaaHhhHhhh
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camera frenz
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I love how spindly the gum trees look against the greenery
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fence/schmence
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so majestic

We continued down, down the trail, down the trail steps, down the rickety wooden stairs, down the slick, narrow, metal stairs, and we finally got to a valley that looked straight out of Ferngully. Or even Jurrassic Park. All rock walls and hanging plants and waterfalls and boulders.

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staring up at the rock wall above us was almost dizzying

And there we got our first look at Empress Falls.

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don’t let those little stairs fool you – walking up them is no treat.

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It was absolutely beautiful down in the valley. We were down far enough for the sun to barely touch us, and we were surrounded by so many trees and water falls that it felt like walking in a rain forest. I felt like I couldn’t take enough videos or pictures, like I was trying to memorise the entire scene with my camera. It’s just beautiful. Also I kept waiting for a dinosaur to jump out at me.

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People ab-sail these falls. People die. People are ballsy for no reason.

 

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So Ferngully
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I imagine this would be a cool place to swim in summer. If I wasn’t terrified of everything living inside it. And if this place weren’t crawling with tourists in warm weather.

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It was so still and quiet. Since we made it there so early, there weren’t many people around besides us. All you could hear was the waterfall and the birds. No planes, no cars, no people, no phones buzzing. Everything smelled wet and Earthy. I felt the cold air settling in my lungs. It was phenomenal.

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poignant photos of pheet
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this is a playground that 9 year old Audrey would’ve died for
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RAPIDZ
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Jabba the Rock
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Joel taught me how to use my long exposure setting (i.e. the one good photo taken all day)
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An artist prepares. Also disobeys the perimeter markers. #rebel

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the tiniest spider in all Australia
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I love finding love locks

Joel and Rob spent a lot of time getting photos of the waterfall.

Like, A LOT of time.

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so there was a lot of time for reflection and chill

At one point I took out my book, sat on a rock and read a couple of chapters. Totes felt one with the world and nature — sitting outside in the almost sun, listening to the waterfall, breathing in the pure mountain air, wearing my active wear— and I was nearly overwhelmed by how lucky I was to experience all this splendour and solitude and how I should do this more often, when I realised my butt was frozen to the cold rock and I almost pulled a muscle when I extricated myself from it. And then I slipped on the moss when I got down and nearly fell in the water.

Maybe I’m not 100% ready for nature.

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More poignant photos of pheet (also, slippery moss)

Eventually the photographers packed up and we all continued down the trail the next waterfall, Sylvia Falls.

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great rock walls
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and more greenery
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and this gorgeous stack of waterfall

I could have stared at this waterfall all day. It was beautiful. We got there right as the afternoon sun was hitting the rocks perfectly — it was hazy and glittery and very much dreamy.

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dat sun
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my favourite

The sun was also casting amazing light on the trees above us. At this point the tip of my nose and my finger tips were insanely cold (yassss winter cold) and all I wanted to do was take a nap in that sun. But I liked the look of the highlighted gum trees and the dark shadows where the light didn’t touch. Yeah, I had Mufasa’s voice in my head the whole time.

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Love
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Love more

After spending some more time with Sylvia, the moment I had been dreading since we made plans to go to the mountains finally came. It was time… to hike back up to the car.

I’m woefully out of shape. Like, I have the cardiovascular endurance of a 700lb diabetic smoker who’s been bed-ridden for years. It’s baffling to the doctors I work with, who think I must be asthmatic to get excruciatingly, painfully winded with even moderate exertion, but really, I’m just horrifically unfit. Climbing stairs makes me winded, and the slightest incline makes my thighs hurt. And with every step I took going down on the initial journey, I knew that would be one more step going up on the return. So I said a little prayer to the active wear Gods and started followed the rest of my team up the first set of stairs.

I quickly realised Eloise was behind me. I let her pass in front of me, saying “I’m going to be really slow, you won’t want to get caught behind me.”

“Oh that’s ok, I’m really slow too!”

“Nope, you have no idea how slow I’ll be.”

And it was true. Just climbing the short bit of rock stairs between Sylvia Falls and Empress Falls left me gasping and pretending to video the guys ab-sailing so I could catch my breath. Joel hung back with me and pushed me up parts of the stairs, and stopped with me whenever I started seeing stars and needed to stop. I was trying to be positive, trying to feel the inspiration of my active wear and JUST PUSH THROUGH IT! NO PAIN NO GAIN! HUSTLE GETS MUSCLE! INSPIRATIONAL PHRASE but all that kept running through my head was Sam telling Frodo that they needed to save the elfish bread for the return trip home and Frodo looking at him and being all “yeah, we aren’t making it home.” I was quite certain I would die, even as people twice my age were bounding up the stairs and that asshole fitness jock passed us jogging — again.

It took me about 20, maybe 30 hours mins longer to make the walk back to the car. I couldn’t breathe deep enough. My heart was straining from beating so fast, my lungs felt like steel wool, my ribs all felt cracked, my throat and nose were killing me, my head was splitting, and my arms and legs were spaghetti. My face was beet red and I was ready to collapse. At one point I tasted blood (I swear!). It was actually pretty scary. My chest and throat hurts just thinking about it.

But, I survived. And we made our way to the Conservatory Hut to have breakfast. And milkshakes. Because after facing death in the face, you get a milkshake.

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Hello pal (did you come to signal my death? Contrary to popular belief, I survived)
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Milkshake frenz
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Breakfast of Champions. We all ordered simple breakfasts, but the waitress brought us all GIANT BREAKFAST PLATTER. I ate almost all of it, and killed that milkshake. #yolo

We picked up some take away coffees and made our way to the car. I was warm, happy, and snug in the backseat, but too full of caffeine and adrenaline to sleep. When we got home, though, I was instantly so tired I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I slept for 2.5 hours and woke up feeling like I got hit by a truck.

I’ve been sick all week as a result of my cold-weather-over-exertion and resulting sinus/chest infection, but shit. It was absolutely gorgeous and I would do all again next weekend.

Except this time, I’d hire a helicopter to save me from the hike back.

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Goodbye Mountains. Thank you for not killing me.

Verdict: +10, will mountain again. Must get in shape, or I will die.

Onwards to the next adventure!

Audrey vs. Australia: Chinese Garden of Friendship

As I mentioned in my last post – I’m doing Australia in a series of posts called Audrey vs. Australia. LOOK OUT! And my first stop was basically in my backyard – a 15 minute walk from our apartment took us to the gorgeous Chinese Garden of Friendship, right in Darling Harbour.

I’ve walked past the Garden more times than I count, but Saturday marked the first time I’ve been behind the walls. It’s $6 for adult admission, and it’s $6 of beauty, zen, and most importantly, big ass, majestic lizards. The garden is filled with peaceful rivers, lakes, waterfalls, and lagoons; is drowning in greenery; is glowing with flowers and lanterns; and dotted with intricately designed pavilions and secret pathways where you can have a sit or explore. It’s an interesting juxtaposition of traditional zen and bustling city, and I had a blast. Will definitely add “Chinese Garden of Zen” to my future dream house plans.

It was a bit cold, and too late into autumn to see the garden in bloom, but it was still absolutely lovely. I can only imagine how lush and beautiful it looks in spring and summer. Or when it’s raining. Ah man.

Let’s take a tour:

 

 

 

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The majestic Bin Chicken beckons you in
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The entrance to the garden – a fun bonsai farm.
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views through the pavilion
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I love red lanterns
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walk way of zen
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lagoon of zen
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Actual Photographer
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I am a rat. Zodia-graphically. The Garden had all the Chinese zodiac animals hidden around the place. I almost found them all.

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lily pads and sculptures and willow trees, oh my!
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waterfall!
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A stranger offered to take our photo. And she didn’t steal my camera. Friendship forever.
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Love Graffiti Bamboo Forest
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1 of 1 billion flower pics
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more zodiac sculptures
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2 of 1 billion flower pics
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SUN BERRIES
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I want this print on a dress.
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top of the falls, and the Rising Jade Pavilion
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I love this reflection
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It’s my faaavourite
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Fake Photographer
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raise the red lantern
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Rising Jade, for my mom – she had jade plants all around the house when I was growing up.
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3 of 1 billion flower pics
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my lily pads and sculptures and lagoon (featuring casino construction in the background)
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4 of 1 billion flower pics
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Twin Pavilion – named for it’s joined roof and benches
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There were SO MANY lizards. I took about 700 photos. In fact, this blog was almost called “Chinese Garden of LIZARDS”
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fantastic details inside the Twin Pavilion. I’m buying all the red lanterns this year.
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East views
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Willow trees = best trees
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baby falls

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I love a good stone stair case – and the Gardens did not disappoint. It’s basically the closest I’ll get to rock climbing.
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I also love this handsome face
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View of the aptly named Grand Pavilion
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More gorgeous details in the Grand Pavilion
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dat ceiling lantern
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Views to the west
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the red-pink flowers were the best
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Forest garden
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RABBIT
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LIZARD (seriously – I had to restrain myself from only posting lizard photos. Be thankful I stopped myself at 2.)
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no trolls were found
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babble babble
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more bamboo islands
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views to the west
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DUCK
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FEEEEESH – we got there right after feeding time, and it was literally a frenzy. These suckers were huuuuge.
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exit with zen
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good bye!

I had a pretty stressful Friday, which bled into Saturday morning, and I was surprised that wandering around the Garden all morning absolutely took my mind off of it. As we left, I felt happy, relaxed, and like I wanted to go right back in. I’m not one who is normally fixed by zen gardens, and I didn’t even realise it, but it actually worked. Triumph!

+10, would definitely venture again.

AudPodge vs. Australia

The building I work in has a balcony with a view of the ANZAC Bridge, and yesterday I spent my lunch break up there. It was one of those days where the sun was perfect, the humidity was perfect, the temperature was perfect, the breeze was perfect, and the pollen count was awful (can’t win ’em all). Continue reading “AudPodge vs. Australia”

Hodge Podge – Wednesday

We had a hot one today, folks – so hot that I went to work simply so I could have air conditioning (that’s serious) even though I really wanted to stay home and smother myself in aloe (my sunburn still really, really hurts). Continue reading “Hodge Podge – Wednesday”

Beach burns

When I was nearly 13, my mom let me go to the pool with my friend Pam – and no chaperone. I was pumped. Going to the pool without an adult meant I was officially an adult. She lectured me about being on the look out for creepy older men and about putting on sunscreen EVERYWHERE and I was all “fuck that, I’m getting a tan,” and as I packed my backpack with a comic book and a towel and my rainbow striped hat and 2 boxes of Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies, I purposely didn’t bring the sunscreen. My friend Pam was Italian and naturally bronze and I wanted to look just like her. Continue reading “Beach burns”

On the Road Again (or, for the first time)

I remember my very first time on the open road. I turned 15 and 9 months – the state of Maryland’s minimum age for obtaining your learner’s permit – and scored my learner’s permit on the first try. Continue reading “On the Road Again (or, for the first time)”

On Visas and Anniversaries

Yesterday, we got the big news we’ve been waiting for since… basically the moment in 2013 that we decided to live together.

I GOT MY VISA!

All the stress, all the worry, all the paperwork, all the days off from work to stand in line at various government agencies and all the thousands of dollars spent, and it all came through. And in possibly a year (not the 2 years I originally thought) I’ll be granted a Permanent Residency – and we’ll never have to worry about my visa status EVER. AGAIN. The fact that we don’t have to worry about it anymore has brought so much relief – but the idea that now we have more security, it makes planning for the future so much easier.

Like, it’s not insane to think about buying a car, now. And I can arrange for my books to be shipped here. And maybe we can get a pet. You know – the important things in life.

I thought that there would be a lot more pomp and circumstance when I found out – with all the effort that went into getting the visa, I was at least hoping for a kangaroo holding to deliver the visa in the form of a bronzed plaque and a hand full of balloons saying WELCOME!! Instead, it arrived in an innocuous email that I at first thought was asking me for more information. Ah well, however it happened, I’m glad that it did. We thought we were going to have to wait until July at least – if not December, before we found out. And that we found out Monday when our third anniversary was on Saturday – that’s just sweet timing.

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Also it gave us another excuse to celebrate with cake. And that’s basically why I do everything in life – for the possibility of cake.

So happy days – happy visa-ing, and happy anniversaring. Joel, there’s no one I could ever imagine doing this with… every day, you show me that I made the right decision. Thank you for always going above and beyond, for listening, for counselling, for making the best punch drunk chicken this side of the meridian, for always knowing. I love you more than I love sweatpants. Even if you do love Suspect Zero more than you love me.

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How quickly we forget

Remember last summer when every. single. post. I wrote had at least half a paragraph complaining about the summer heat? Did you miss it? You did? Fabulous. Because it’s coming back full force.

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It got pretty warm this week. And not just “wow, it was pretty hot in the afternoon!” but more, warm all day, and sleeping with the fans on warm. I had a little bit of warning, at least. Last weekend, all anyone could talk about was how it’d be 40*C/100*F on Friday. It was whispered around the trade show I was working, in ominous tones like the heat was an advancing army and everyone should prepare for an invasion.

All week at work we geared up for it, counting down the days with “oh, yeah, it was warm today. Friday’s just going to be worse!” and “Just wait til Friday! 45 degrees!” and “Have you planned what you’ll wear? Make sure it’s breathable. It’s going to be a hot one on Friday.” and “Has everyone bought a water bottle? It’s going to be really hot on Friday.” mind you, I work in an air conditioned office with very little manual labor. But when I woke up Friday morning to a balmy room and my hair plastered to my cheek, I knew the invasion had begun, and the weather was going to suck.

Walking to the bathroom made me sweat. I ran a shower and wondered what was even the point – I’d just need 3 more before bed. Getting dressed made me sweat. I was sweaty and cranky and it was 21*C/70*F before 8 AM.

Once I got to work, I didn’t go back outside. We had a temperature update seemingly every 10 minutes. And the mercury just never stopped climbing. At one point, it was 43*/109*F, and that was when the a/c at work flat out stopped. At that moment, I thought of my bus route home: the first bust I catch comes from Coogee beach. It’s been awesome – reliably on time and not always crowded – until this week, when the beach crowd showed up. Wednesday and Thursday I had to wait 35-50 minutes for a bus that wasn’t loaded to the gills with teenagers in wet swim suits making all the bus seats damp. That’s a long time to wait in the boiling sun. So faced with possibility of literally roasting in the crazy heat for an hour, I decided to catch a cab home. I sat with the back seat a/c vents pointed right at me, and I was home in 30 mins, not 90. Best $30 I’ve ever spent.

As I walked up the stairs in my building and toward our apartment door, I could feel the temperature rising. It was like our place was generating a heat shield and I had to pass through it to gain entrance. I walked through the thick wall of humidity and into our hot, hot, air conditioning-less apartment and saw Joel sweating and sitting in front of a fan that was just blowing hot air back at him I knew… this summer’s going to be so hot. Especially after being so spoiled by autumn and winter and this blessedly extra long, unseasonably cool spring.

I had little hope that the temps would actually drop over night like the weather channel predicted, but we woke up to grey skies and low temps, and for that I am forever thankful. One day was enough. But shit. Friday was a grim reminder that the death of summer is almost here. Soon it’ll be mid December and 108*F will be the norm. Summer is stretching its legs and crawling slowly back into my life, to take residence and make me a sweaty monster until April.

Oh boy.

Time for frozen wash cloths and cool showers and terrible summer allergies and hanging out in the tub filled with cold water and standing wet in front of the fan to feel the chill. Time for scheduling activities for when you’re least likely to suffer heat stroke. Time to once again feel waht it’s like to stand in a puddle of my own sweat. Time to put away EVERY item of winter clothing and EVERY blanket because looking at them will make you sweat. Time to shave my legs everyday, because pants will no longer be an option.

But, in the essence of positivity, it’s also the time for hanging out at the beach, two weeks off for Christmas, eating dinner outside, picnics, coffee in the park, and daylight until almost 9 PM and being able to do 4 loads of laundry in a day because everything dries in like, an hour.

I mean, regardless of the nice things summer brings, chances are still pretty high that I’ll burst into flames or wilt away in a dehydrated mess.

But… we live in hope.

Eat it up: China Town

Last weekend was the first beautiful warm summer-like weekend of spring. It was exactly warm enough to go without a jacket, but not so hot that I became a sweaty pig beast. So Joel and I took a field trip to China Town for a project we’re working on. And I pretended I was a photographer behind Joel, who actually is a photographer. Ok, I was really just there for the food, because China Town has some of the best eats in Sydney. So let’s begin!

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Friday night noodle markets! So much dim sum and booths selling everything you can think of.
Friday night noodle markets! So much dim sum and booths selling everything you can think of.
Fun fact: the Ceremonial Gate was dedicated in 1980 to officially declare the China Town area.
Fun fact: the Ceremonial Gate was dedicated in 1980 to officially declare the China Town area.
mmm, steamy.
mmm, steamy.
This guy is here every night, spreading the good word of Jesus by hula hooping and decorating people with leis.
This guy is here every night, spreading the good word of Jesus by hula hooping and decorating people with leis.
We happened upon the YouTube Fan Fest red carpet. The only name I recognized from the marquee was Jenna Marbles, and that was only because Cara mentioned to me earlier that day that Jenna was in town. I'm clueless when it comes to YouTube.
We happened upon the YouTube Fan Fest red carpet. The only name I recognized from the marquee was Jenna Marbles, and that was only because Cara mentioned to me earlier that day that Jenna was in town. I’m clueless when it comes to YouTube.
shadow people
shadow people
The entrance to Kimber Lane, with the "Between Two Worlds" installation peeking out.
The entrance to Kimber Lane, with the “Between Two Worlds” installation peeking out.
"Between Two Worlds" - representing the path between our world and the spirit world. I want some of these spirit creatures for our apartment.
“Between Two Worlds” – representing the path between our world and the spirit world. I want some of these spirit creatures for our apartment.
Char Kway Teow - noodles with eggs, prawns, cockles, Chinese sausage and fresh bean sprouts. And enough spices to clear your sinuses for days. So good.
For dinner, we decided on Malaysian street food at Hawker. First up: Char Kway Teow – noodles with eggs, prawns, cockles, Chinese sausage and fresh bean sprouts. And enough spices to clear your sinuses for days. So good.
ice milk tea and our platter of Lor Bak -  five-spice pork rolls, prawn cakes and fried tofu. I never knew how good fried tofu could be.
ice milk tea and our platter of Lor Bak – five-spice pork rolls, prawn cakes and fried tofu. I never knew how good fried tofu could be. I thought tofu was for hip, early 90’s yuppies. But deep fry it and it’s good enough for chubby 30 something admins as well.
Siu Yuk - roasted pork belly with 5 spice rub and crispy crackling. This is what my roasted pork belly was supposed to look like. Whoops! Melt in your mouth pork, and crunchy crackling, with a perfect cucumber and rice complement. Textures forever.
Siu Yuk – roasted pork belly with 5 spice rub and crispy crackling. This is what my roasted pork belly was supposed to look like. Whoops! Melt in your mouth pork, and crunchy crackling, with a perfect cucumber and rice complement. Textures forever.

After dinner, we rolled ourselves home, catching a glimpse of a meth head shouting at cops as we walked to the bus (dinner and a show!). And on Saturday morning, we returned to see more. We walked to the Chinese Garden of Friendship, and almost went in, but it was the first warm, beautiful day of spring and that meant the Garden was a tourist trap. No thanks.

So calm
So calm
So zen
So zen
So photo
So photo

Fun fact: I took a photo here in 2012

I know, what a super cool fun fact!
I know, what a super cool fun fact!

Then we stood in line for about 20 minutes to get the infamous Emperors Cream Puffs – fresh, hot (like scalding hot), bite sized puff pastry filled with vanilla custard for $.35 each. They’re served from a tiny window, and you’d walk right past it if there wasn’t a giant line (but there’s always a line), they only take cash, and you’re not allowed to take photos of the Tim Burton like machine that fills the puff pastry tins and takes them through the fryer. I’d wait in line any day to get these babies. And I see why people by 20 at a time.

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We walked around Market City and Paddy’s Markets, a huge flea market style set up in a large brick warehouse. They sell everything from $1 underwear to knock off Michael Kohrs bags to fresh produce and seafood.

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This is from the internets – I didn’t take one of Market City. Plus there’s a lot of construction happening around it now, so it wasn’t very photogenic. /excuses
Actually, I didn't get any photos of Market City because I was in a food coma from Pepper Lunch and it's chicken curry delish. The food is served in a super hot skillet and continues to cook while you eat. So, so, good.
Then there was food coma from Pepper Lunch and it’s chicken curry delish. The food is served in a super hot skillet and continues to cook while you eat. So, so, good.

But after all that lunching and all that walking around, we got to the real reason why I love China Town: N2 Extreme Gelato. It’s not nearly as good as Gelato Messina, but it’s a lot more fun.

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Simpsons on your menu board? TAKE MY MONEY

Saturday’s adventure was vanilla bean gelato with white chocolate fudge chunks, almonds, coconut shavings, and a syringe of white chocolate sauce.

I'd do it all over again.
I’d do it all over again.

And then I got home and passed out in a diabetic stupor for the next few hours. /champion

So there you have it, Audrey Eats Her Way Through China Town. I love it. Next time, we’ll have to do some actual shopping and maybe hit up a sketchy karaoke bar. It’s a fun area, and as I always forget, super close to our neighborhood. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go run about 600 miles I didn’t run last weekend to work off the 16,000 calories I consumed in that 24 hour period. Or maybe I’ll just think about running 600 miles. I might just order some pork belly instead. mmmm…

xo

A Year in Review

September 3rd brought about my one year anniversary of living in Sydney with Joel. We celebrated with Netflix, champagne and sweatpants.

One of Joel's customers gave a bottle of bubbly. Free champagne is the best champagne.
One of Joel’s customers gave a bottle of bubbly. Free champagne is the best champagne.

Like every milestone that’s passed since I’ve been here, it’s still a little hard to believe that it happened. Like, how did all the holidays pass, all the seasons change, and all the shit that’s happened happen when I only got here like, 2 days ago?

Moving overseas was a huge process, and in the excitement of it all, I underestimated every step of it. I knew I’d miss my friends and family, but I didn’t know how devastatingly I’d miss them or how much I’d kick myself for not calling them every day when I was back in the States. I knew living in a new country would be an adjustment, but I didn’t account for the little things, for the crushing despair I’d feel from not being able to do a walk around Target when I’m feeling down, or for having to stand in the grocery store Googling “what is this ingredient called in Australia” or having a question about dinner and not being able to call my mom for advice. It didn’t occur to me that I’d feel like such an outsider in a first world, english speaking country, and I didn’t think about how feeling like an outsider would make it harder to make friends. I didn’t know how helpless and frustrated and angry I would feel when I’d hear about being able to do nothing about problems back home. I didn’t think about how scary it would be to count every dollar in my budget because I can’t just borrow $50 from my parents anymore. And I really didn’t think about the “hey, only I can talk shit about my family, ok?” reaction I’d get when I’d hear shit talk about the States and American policies – that was the most surprising.

So this year has been the biggest adjustment I’ve ever gone through. But, I can’t think of an adjustment that has been more important or more necessary. And for all the internal challenges I’ve faced this year, my support system has been incredible. I’ve met some great people through Joel and through work, and my parents been there for me, offering me endless support and turning a blind eye to me buying American TV shows through their Amazon prime (they also gave me a gift of temporarily taking over my student loan payments, which I’ll never be able to thank them enough for). My friends have never been more than a message or an impromptu Skype session away, which I’ve never been more thankful for.

I’ve also had a constant source of support and friendship and general badassery here, and it was from one aspect of my life that I knew I never had to worry about: Joel. For the first time ever, I feel like I have a partner. I have someone who isn’t just invested in me, but who is invested in us. I hadn’t realized it before I moved here, but I had always had him as my number one priority in life. Since being in Sydney, though, our life together has become the number one priority. And it’s been an eye opening experience. It’s our money and our problems and our home and our holidays and our life. He’s helped me to be more conscious of my spending, to be healthier, to be more patient and supportive of myself, and to let go of situations I have no control over. Of course, we’ve had our stumbling moments, but now, it feels effortless. I wake up every morning feel grateful that the universe knocked us together.

A whole year. Damn. It took a lot longer than I expected, but I feel like Sydney is becoming my home. I’ve met some great people, I know how to get around town more, I know what to expect from the seasons (i.e. how to dress and live during summer when you don’t have air conditioning), I have cheat sheets for the metric system, I’m determined to learn how to drive, I’m going to hit the beach way more, and life here doesn’t feel so lonely anymore. At the end of every month, I learn a few more lessons about living here. My visa is finally finished and turned in, and I’m employed full time. Basically, I finally feel ready to worry less and do more.

Time flies. At jet speeds. And it feels like so much has happened, even if it doesn’t look like it. Because all the things that happened were little. I realized the value of a dollar. The value of a phone call or even a text message to loved ones. The values of patience and consideration. The value of putting myself in someone else’s shoes. The value of eating healthier and moving more. The value in dropping bad habits. The value of letting go and forgiving. All these little realizations all added up to something huge: I finally grew up.

Happy anniversary, Sydney. Thanks for everything. xo

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