Merry Christmas!


I don’t usually write Christmas cards, and, well, this isn’t exactly a card, is it? Nonetheless, I figure it’s about time I got used to doing it, you know, being 21 and all that jazz now. So here goes.

As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m in Sydney at the moment. Dad spent a year’s worth of points at the Hilton to have me here from last Saturday until Friday night. Since I hate flying, I figured I’d take the train (XPT Sydney) up, which was an interesting ride. It was kinda similar to riding on Amtrak, just with no WiFi and power outlets. It was definitely a good way to learn just how big of a country Australia is. The scenery was pretty much just open fields with cows and some trees for the majority of the ride, but it was nice. Food was like what you’d get on an airplane in economy. Seats and leg room were much better than a plane though. Photos from the train live here.

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So what have I been up to here? Being a tourist. Well, being a tourist on a tight budget would be more accurate. Some of the museums here are free, others are not – and they don’t take student IDs from overseas either (bastards). My first full day here involved taking the ferry to Manly on the recommendation of some work colleagues, and it was definitely a nice ride, despite being $14.40 for a return ticket (that’s what they call round-trip here). Of course, I was the idiot that didn’t wear sunscreen and got a decent sunburn from my walk around the coastline in Manly. Oh well. Beautiful view.

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Prior to Manly, I did go see the Sydney Opera House as well. Nice building. Smaller than expected though. Not really much to see in reality. Circular Quay was nice, and I’ll likely go back there tonight if the rain lets up. More photos from day one here.

Day two in Sydney was spent primarily at The Art Gallery of New South Wales (or Art Gallery NSW for short), which was free (yay!). It felt smaller than the NGV (no doubt because it was only one building), but I enjoyed it a bit more. It had its fair share of funky art, like any other art gallery in the world, but for the most part had a very nice collection. The architecture on the main level was beautiful.

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After the art gallery, it was off to check out QVB, or the Queen Victoria Building, which is right across from the hotel I’m at (which apparently is also the Sydney headquarters of a certain fruit technology company). QVB was a very nice, very busy, and very expensive building. I didn’t buy anything as there were no shops that interested me and I wasn’t there to shop anyway. It’s a lovely old building that you can either quickly pass through or spend a number of hours shopping in. Day two photos are here.

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Day three started with a nice long walk over to Darling Harbour. I originally planned to see the Powerhouse Museum (not free, but worth it), but came across the Chinese Garden of Friendship first, which I was intending to see at some point anyway. It’s a small, but very nice garden with plenty of semi-hidden paths located just about right in the center of the harbour, which the towering buildings over the fences reminded you of. I spent an hour or so taking a bajillion photos.

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And now back to our previously scheduled programming. Locating the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney is easy. It’s tall, and has a huge sign. Figuring out how to walk to it is a little more tricky. But, the walk did offer plenty of opportunities to see what is left of the Sydney Monorail, which I enjoyed. As for the museum itself, go see it. It’s huge, it’s awesome, and it’s worth the $12 to get in. In a nutshell, it’s Sydney’s technology museum. Train buffs, you’ll like the train right as you walk in. Computer geeks, head down to the bottom floor. Elevator enthusiasts, take the lift up to four, drool over the fact it’s a glass lift that lets you see all of the machinery (it’s a KONE Monospace) and then ride it a few times. You can see the day three photos here.

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So, that brings me to day four, or now, which is Christmas Day. Well, it’s raining right now, and most places are closed anyway, so I have no idea what I’ll do today besides write this not-Christmas-card-card. I’m halfway through my time here in Australia now, and I have been enjoying it. Melbourne’s size is comparable to Philly, and it’s equally easy to get around. The weather has a mind of its own, but it sure beats the cold, crappy weather back home at the moment. Work flip-flops between hell on earth and enjoyable, but that has made for a good experience. I guess I’m officially a tram enthusiast now. I can’t really think of much else to talk about. Google’s made it easy to stay in touch with mom and dad back in the US with the free calling to US numbers (hopefully that continues into next year). The hotel internet’s been fast enough to allow for Facetime as well. Do I miss being back home?

In some ways, yes. I’m used to being away from home at this point. I’ve been living on campus at Drexel (university for those of you here in Oz) for four years now. Yes, Oz is a hell of a lot farther away, but I would come back if given the opportunity. Save for the extra “u”s in a couple words and driving on the “wrong” side of the road, it’s not too much different. I have no idea how the hell the government here works though. And even though sales tax (GST) is higher here (10% vs 6-8%), I do like that it’s just included automatically in the price of things. It annoys the hell out of me that the price you’re shown in the US usually isn’t the real/final price for something. Public Transport is about the same, just more modern (save for the train I took to Sydney).

So, to wrap up, yeah, I’m away from family for Christmas this year, which some will argue is the point of the Christmas, but as I was reminded by Timehop at breakfast (brekkie), I worked on Christmas last year. Call me a terrible person, but to me, meh. When it comes to Christmas, I can take it or leave it really. Does that mean I think you shouldn’t spend it with family? No. If you can, do it. I’m well aware that in a couple years, I have no idea if I’ll be able to. Up until this year, I’ve always been home for Christmas because I either had school off or work off (or in the case of last year, a shortened day). By all means, spend the day with family and/or friends. The weather here looks like it’s going to suck for the day, so I may end up spending it with anime. Yes, I’ll admit that. Glamorous, no? I’m well aware that Christmas is celebrated differently in different parts of the world. I’m equally aware not everyone celebrates it either.

But, to you and your family, I do wish you a Merry Christmas (or as they say here in Australia, a Joyous Festive Season!) Now turn off your computer/tablet/phone/Glass and go spend time with your family and/or friends. If you can’t, call them, then see beginning of previous sentence.