Christmas and beyond in Ozland

I’m here in my apartment, it’s 10am. My coffee, with beans freshly roasted from Gnome cafรฉ in Surry, is beside me in my beloved Pantone 624 mug. I believe the colour is called ‘Minty Pine’. That’s nice. The sun is shining. It’s going to be a healthy 32ยบC today, but for now a cool breeze is meeting me where I sit on the couch by the open window, listening to the traffic and the birds – and the distant planes coming and going at the airport, relieved finally of their overnight curfew. The cicadas are in full orchestra, buzzing at first slowly, then getting faster until at last they let out a steady hum, like a crowd clapping for an encore at the Opera House. I feel really lucky to be here right now. Life in Sydney has become mostly normal as my six month anniversary of being here approaches, and though I have not settled in to a routine on this summer break yet, I have nevertheless ‘settled’, so these moments of self-aware gratitude are welcome.

This past Christmas was fantastic. I missed partying in Parry Village with the snowbird family and friends, but I was still surrounded by palm trees and loved ones, so I can’t complain. The Poole family graciously welcomed myself and my visiting nomad to celebrate Christmas with them. It was a wonderful day, a full house of lovely people and amazing food, flowing wine, pups, prezzies and enough cheer to make us all forget how drizzly and dreary it was outside. A rare day of grey that didn’t seem to bother any of us. Who could mind the rain on Christmas when stuffing our faces with spot prawns, duck, ham, smoked salmon and caviar? Or a dessert salmagundi of chocolate cheesecake, passionfruit pavlova, Faroese rice pudding, ginger biscuits and figgy pudding with rum sauce? There’d be plenty of time for the beach in the coming summer months.

We were also spoiled with packages in the mail, and I would be remiss if I didn’t thank mom and dad, grandma and grandpa, Nick and Robin (and Sean and Danielle!), Mary and Mike (and Laura!), Kahlin and aunt Janice for brightening my/our Christmas season with snail mail! โค

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Thank you to Aaron’s family for sending us this amazing gourmet food package, which sustained us in the grocery department for quite awhile!

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A veritable smorgasbord at the Poole house for Christmas!

In fact, the next two and a half weeks were spent playing tour-guide and tourist with Aaron around Sydney and beyond. We more than made up for the lack of sun at Christmas with trips to Coogee and Palm Beach, Shark Bay, Jervis Bay and Canberra, and lots of walking around Kensington, Circular Quay, Surry Hills and Newtown in between. One afternoon we hit up the fish markets, and sat on the pier eating fresh oysters and fried fish, trying to ignore the jealous eyes of gulls and those prehistoric looking ibis‘. After that we got Starbucks and people-watched at Darling Harbour, but something felt wrong there. Starbucks doesn’t belong here in the land down under, in the land of boutique coffee shops and independent cafรฉs, where even the worst coffee is still probably better than most that we find at home. So we rubbished the remains and meandered home for another evening spent with friends, this time Josh and Jono.

We were also able to return the hospitality we’ve been given by helping out some friends from back home for a few days. Janelle Thiessen and her boyfriend Brandon, while here on a short stopover from NZ to home, had the bad luck to have all their ID stolen while taking a swim in Bondi (watch out, peeps!), and were forced to stay in Sydney until their new passports could be processed. For whatever reason, I did not take even one photo with them (?!), but suffice it to say that it was really great to be able to spend a bit of time with them, while they made the best of an unplanned situation, and left us some fantastic cookies. Worth it! ๐Ÿ™‚ This also means, friends, that my apartment is now prepped and ready for hosting guests. Hint hint!

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Sydney CBD view from The Gap, before Shark Bay Beach with friend Stu

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Careel Bay/Pittwater Harbour, before catching a fab dinner with Jade and Alex at Cranky Fins in Palm Beach

We grabbed brunch and dinner with many other friends throughout Aaron’s stay here, caught a flick at the outdoor Moonlight Cinema with Holly and Mitch, and spent a particularly memorable New Year’s Eve with my friend Carol, her boyfriend Tom and a small mรฉlange of friends from all over. Carol’s apartment building has a killer rooftop view of the city and the Harbour Bridge, so we watched the fireworks from there and partied until I started falling asleep sitting up. Oh the joys of my late twenties…

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Sydney NYE fireworks from Carol’s rooftop!

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Aaron, Mitch and Holly reclining pre-show for Moonlight Cinema

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Not a bad way to spend an evening

We also caught a Bonobo concert at the opera house which was celestial. Then we rented a car and headed south – in this country that means it gets cooler, not warmer – just a few hours though, to Jervis Bay. On the way we took a detour into Kiama to grab a coffee with an old friend of mine from home. Austin took us around the charming town of Kiama for a bit, and then we made our way to JB to hang with some of the fine folks I met the last time I was down there. A wicked BBQ at Green Patch in Booderee National Park was had, where we were joined by some kangaroos, a wallaby, ducks and a cheeky kookaburra or two. The next day we drove a windy, gum-tree-lined, beautiful but sometimes eerily deserted three hours to Canberra, and were given the grand “Georgia’s Favourite Places Tour” of the small, land-locked capital city. Like any good law student, I made sure we went to the High Court, of course, and Aaron was even able to meet up with a long lost friend he met while travelling Europe a couple years ago.

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Bonobo at the Opera House

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‘Roos at Green Patch beach in Booderee National Park!

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Back at Murray’s Beach, still not very sunny, though! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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Park paths

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Myself, Aaron and Georgia at the High Court of Australia, Canberra

By the time we arrived back in Sydney, it was only a couple days before a tearful goodbye at the airport, until the next time. Long distance is always hard, especially in those few days right after departure. I am so fortunate to have a wonderful group of friends here now, though, and I have not felt neglected. A day of chick flicks and cookie-eating is all the wallowing I allowed myself.

One thing I love is that Aaron and I both cannot resist book shops, and we found a fair few in our amblings. My to-read stack is high again, but I must be good while I still have an essay due from my summer course back in early December. I’m on the job hunt, as well, certain I will find something, not certain I will necessarily find my dream job… In the end, though, uni begins again in March and I am trying to ready my mind (and spirit) for round two of year one. This long break will be sure to leave me refreshed and caught up on sleep, and more acquainted with this wonderful place in which I currently live.

I have a few other blog posts cooking in me melon, which will have to wait. For now, the rest of the photos from my holidays are up on Flickr (linked at the top), and my sincere apologies to those to whom I owe emails, I have not forgotten you! And, Happy New Year to you all! May 2014 expand your mind and horizons, teach us all more about love, and maybe give us a little adventure, too.

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