I love a sunburnt country: Saying goodbye to Sydney

Highly original title courtesy of this poem, which you should be reading right now.

My last weekend in Sydney was rather anticlimatic, actually.

I spent Friday night in the common room of my college, watching TV and chatting with friends.

Saturday, several of us went to the city to walk across the Harbour Bridge, because one of my American friends hadn’t done it yet. The trains were out of service due to trackwork, so we took a bus to Wynyard, then walked back across the bridge. We stopped for gelato at Milson’s Point, which was a very good decision. We then began the journey back to college, as it was quite cold and starting to rain. We caught one of the trackwork buses, which took FOREVER–at least 90 minutes, compared to the usual 45. We amused ourselves by drawing pictures on the foggy windows with our fingers, but lesson learned: never take a trackwork bus.

Once we got back to college, we gathered around the gas heater in the dining hall to warm up (yes, really), then enjoyed a delicious–especially by college standards–dinner and dessert. After dinner, most of my friends had homework or other commitments, and it was freezing cold and pouring outside, so I regretfully decided to stay in for the night. I bummed around the common room, talked to people, and tried to forget it was my last night in Australia. Eventually, I went to sleep.

The next morning I woke up and–guess what–still raining. I got soaked on the walk to the bus station, but the rain stopped by the time I got to the city and caught the airport train.

One of my other Sydney friends, who left a week before me, said it took a while for her to fully realise she was leaving. That was definitely not the case for me.

The view from Circular Quay station 26 February 2011.

As soon as the train left Circular Quay–the last place I’d see Sydney Harbour–I burst into tears. The harbour is my absolute  favourite part of the city, so leaving with no idea when I would see it again broke my heart.

The sobfest continued as the train passed through St. James, Museum, Central, Green Square, Mascot, and Domestic Airport. When I arrived at International Airport, I decided I should probably pull myself together. I checked my luggage, acquired a boarding pass, cleared customs and security, and made my wait to gate 9.

The city skyline from the international airport terminal.

Vera Bradley bags and North Face jackets: Yep, definitely at the USA-bound gate.

The flight was long, of course, clocking in at about 12 hours. To pass the time, I took advantage of Qantas’ excellent movie selection and also slept a little bit.

When I arrived at LAX–four hours before I left Sydney–I was greeted by Alex and James, two of my best friends at Mizzou. We spent the day cruising around L.A. It was fun to try In-N-Out Burger, see the other side of the Pacific, and enjoy one last adventure before heading home for real.

The next day, Alex took me to the airport and I got on a plane to St. Louis. As much as I loved SoCal, and as much as I loved Sydney, it felt great to be finally going home for real. Every time someone said “Flight 768 to St. Louis,” I smiled. I couldn’t believe it was really happening.

The flight was only about four hours long, but it felt much longer.

The sunset on the plane from LAX to STL.

The moon over Lambert Airport.

When I arrived at Lambert, I was greeted by my mom, dad, and sister. We definitely did one of those cheesy movie run-into-each-other’s-arms things. Then, because it was 10 p.m. and I’d only eaten one meal that day, we went to Ted Drewes for dinner.

Ted Drewes banana split = happiness.

I arrived home on Monday night. It’s now Thursday, and I still feel like I want to sleep forever.

I haven’t even gotten over the jet lag yet, but I’m already having Australia withdrawals. My family, in turn, is probably already sick of hearing about them.

At some point this week, I also realised I left a piece of my heart in Sydney–and I’m pretty sure no matter what I do to get it back, it will stubbornly refuse to budge.

This is probably the part where I should do some cheesy sentimental wrap-up about how amazing my time abroad was, how much fun I had, and how much I grew and changed as a result. Blah blah blah. But in the interest of not writing a study abroad brochure, I’ll just say all those things are true, and leave it at that.

I will, however, include a cheesy song: one that’s been running through my head all semester, and almost exactly captures my feelings toward the people I met, things I saw, and experiences I had in Sydney.

That’s it for this blog. Thanks to everyone who supported me with their advice, encouragement, and finances (that’s you, mom and dad) throughout the semester. If I know you, I look forward to a joyful reunion sometime this summer. If I don’t, make yourself known–I’d love to meet you!

One last thing, and this goes for all of y’all: if you’re thinking about embarking an adventure of your own, DO IT.

No excuses. None of this “I don’t have time/I can’t afford it/I’m too scared/I have responsibilities” nonsense. I couldn’t afford to go to Australia either. I was nervous too. I have responsibilities as well (Even college kids know what those things are, so hold the snarky comments, grown ups). But I went anyway, and it was the greatest experience of my life. Of. my. LIFE.

So whether you’re looking to move halfway around the world or just head out of state for a weekend, do it. You’ll be glad you did. And whatever you choose to do, I look forward to hearing all about it.

Okay, off you go. Stop reading about my adventures, and start making some of your own.

Until next time,


Some friends in front of the Sydney Opera House during the Vivid lights festival 28 May 2011.


Royal Botanic Gardens vs. Missouri Botanical Garden

A few weeks ago, I blogged about my first experience in the Royal Botanic Gardens.  I loved the place, and knew I’d be back.  Well, today, I went back.  My main goals were to find a couple of letterboxes and to explore the Art Gallery of New South Wales, which is conveniently located in The Domain section of the Gardens.  However, I couldn’t find either of the letterboxes and no indoor art gallery can hold my attention when it’s 75 degrees and sunny outside.  So I pretty much just ended up wandering around and getting lost in the Gardens.  In doing so, I drew some comparisons between the Royal Botanic Gardens and one my favourite places in St. Louis, the Missouri Botanical Garden. Let’s see how St. Louis’ (MoBot) and Sydney’s (let’s call it RBG) stack up.

Location:  MoBot is located in the lovely Tower Grove neighbourhood of St. Louis.  It’s surrounded by charming garden boutiques and old brick homes.  RBG occupies a large piece of land between the harbour and the city, providing a beautiful transition between the two areas.  It’s right next to the Sydney Opera House and a short walk from the trains, ferries, tourists, and cafes of Circular Quay.  MoBot gets points for being close to Ted Drewes, but it’s not walking distance.  Sydney wins this one.

History:  MoBot, founded in 1859, is America’s oldest botanical garden in continuous operation, according to its website.  RBG has quite a storied history, but it seems to have been in existence as a garden longer than MoBot has.  So based on age alone, Sydney wins this one.  Historical significance is debatable, but I’m pretty sure Sydney would win there too.

Size:  According to their respective websites, MoBot covers 79 acres (32 hectares) and RBG covers 74 acres (30 hectares).  RBG’s figure does not include The Domain (84 acres/34 hectares), a recreation area adjacent to and managed by the gardens used mostly for picnics, athletics, and informal sporting events.  I’d say the Domain isn’t exactly a botanical garden, so MoBot is a tiny bit larger.  St. Louis wins this one.

View:  The view from pretty much anywhere in MoBot is of, well, MoBot. There’s nothing wrong with that, since that’s what you’re probably there to see anyway.  But if you like a little extra scenery with your greenery, the view from RBG varies from Sydney Harbour to the buildings of the city to the Opera House.  Sydney wins this category hands down.

Food:  MoBot has an excellent cafe called Sassafrass.  It serves organic fair trade locally grown sustainable etc. food at reasonable prices.  RBG has several food options, from fancy restaurants to snack bars.  I got a delicious ham and cheese croissant at a snack bar in The Domain for $6.50, which isn’t too bad for a city in which nothing is reasonably priced.  Since I’ve only been to Sassafrass once and I’ve only been to one food service establishment in RBG, I’ll call this one a draw.

Arts:  MoBot hosts the yearly Whitaker Music Festival, along with some other stuff.  I’ve never been, but apparently it’s free, which is awesome. RBG hosts a yearly Shakespeare festival, along with some other stuff. I might go, but it’s not free, which isn’t awesome.  Let’s call this one a draw.

Price:  Regular admission to MoBot is $8 for adults who don’t live within St. Louis city or county (i.e. me).  Admission to RBG is free.  Yup.  Zero cents.  Sydney wins this one hands down.

Plants:  MoBot has plants.  RBG has plants.  But there are distinctions.  MoBot actually consists of several different types of gardens, including an English Garden, a children’s garden, and the ever popular Japanese Garden.  RBG has a few specialized gardens, including a rainforest area in which I encountered an intimidatingly large spider with an impressively huge web.  Most of the gardens, though, are a mixture of Australian and imported plants arranged in an aesthetically pleasing manner.  Personally, I prefer the more structured, curated layout of MoBot.  Both gardens are equally easy to get lost in–I’ve done it.  St. Louis wins this one.

FriendlinessSigns throughout RBG encourage visitors to walk on the grass, picnic on the lawns, and hug the trees.  MoBot will tolerate nothing of the sort.  From a visitor standpoint (as I’m not a plant or a garden caretaker), Sydney wins this one.

So which botanical garden do I prefer?  Sorry, St. Louis, but when I return to Missouri this summer, I’ll be settling for second best.  Are you taking notes, MoBot?

This post was inspired by the thoughtful city-to-city comparisons of St. Louis/Elsewhere, one of my favorite STL blogs.

Hello, 8-hour layover.

This is the first and probably the last time I’ll ever pay for WiFi, but I’m spending 8 hours in LAX.  Even I can’t read for that long, and I’m saving the sleeping for my flight. So I figured it was worth the $8.

So far I’ve taken an anticlimatic (I like them that way) flight from St. Louis to L.A., found my way to the international terminal (which is MUCH more difficult than it really should be), exchanged some American dollars for Australian ones (they’re so pretty!), devoured a $10 value (?) meal from the airport McDonald’s, and survived a TSA screening (they’re really not that bad, guys).

So yeah…only five more hours to go…then a 15 hour flight…THEN I’ll be in Sydney!