Have you ever tried to explain the word “should” to someone? Especially a someone who has English as their second language?
It was on my second night in Sydney, sitting in the courtyard of the Blue Parrot (the hostel I was staying in) surrounded by mostly French people, and a handful of British, Canadian and American tourists that I found myself struggling to explain the word “should” to my new French friend Quentin (or Con, for those of us who would only ever butcher the French language).
The kid was adorable; almost 22 years old and determined to speak as much English as he could before starting a new job on the Central Coast of New South Wales, with a sweet face of someone even younger than he was. Con was one of the many new friends I made at the Blue Parrot over the few days that I stayed there, which was certainly one of the things that made my short stay so memorable. After all, I’m an incredibly social person, so any chance to have someone to talk to I leap at.
I’m not sure if my definition – in collaboration with one of the Canadian dudes – was a great representation of “should”, but Con seemed satisfied when I mumbled that “should is like saying that it would be a good idea if you did”.
The Blue Parrot is a great place to stay. It’s a small hostel in Potts Point, near Kings Cross, owned by two sisters and staffed by backpackers who are staying or have stayed in the hostel at one point. It was still a new experience for me, having not stayed in a hostel before, but it felt like living in a big share house, like I live in here in Brisbane. Everyone was kind, and most were up for a chat, and despite being one of the only Australians (usually the only one hanging around for a chat) I felt like I was a tourist there too. After all, I was there for travel, adventure, new experience and new friends, and Sydney was completely new to me.
It’s funny, because despite the fact that I know how social I am, I still consider myself a shy person, yet here I was, diving into completely unfamiliar territory, in a city I had never been, with people I had never met (most, speaking in languages I didn’t understand). I had done this on purpose because I wanted to get out of my comfort zone. So instead of staying in a room alone, I shared with 9 other people; instead of staying in my room I came down and chatted with everyone outside. I said “hello” to strangers and made up small talk to make other people feel comfortable.
On my first day in Sydney, I was immediately aware of the strange feeling of eerie familiarity. I had never seen this city past the inside of the domestic terminal, or a quick drive through two years ago, but I understood the language, the accents were the same, the trains were easy to navigate yet I had no concept of where I was and HOLY SHIT THEY HAVE DOUBLE DECKER TRAINS!!! Why did no one tell me about the double decker trains?! They’re awesome (for a nerd-burger like myself). I easily got myself to the hostel without getting lost or panicked, and upon check-in, discussed with Sasha (one of the owners) all of the places I could walk to from Potts Point. So with a map in hand and a backpack on my back, I set off on my first adventure.
This was an adventure filled with touristy stuff, but I loved it anyway. After being very excited by the abundance of toy poodles in Potts Point (squee!) I walked to the Botanical Gardens and walked along the waterline to get this fantastic view of the iconic Sydney Opera House;
A lovely stranger volunteered to take my photo here, and in return I took hers and marvelled at how she naturally posed like some sort of print model (as you can see, grinning is my go-to move).
I continued to walk along the waterline until I got to the Opera House and sat on the highest step, just taking it all in. I was in Sydney. I made it. It felt surreal.
I’m not sure if you’d remember, but one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to visit Sydney, and that was a fact I couldn’t help but think of, and grin excitedly about so very often on that day. After having my rest at the top of the steps and going up to touch the tiles that make up the wings of the structure itself, I sat at the bar overlooking the Harbour Bridge and enjoyed a mineral water while I contemplated the rest of my day.
I wandered through Circular Quay, stopping for some dairy-free chocolate gelato (props to any company who can achieve this – a rare treat, but SO delicious!) and over to the Museum of Contemporary Art I had been eyeing from my view at the Opera House. (Something to know about me: I’m not great with art. I usually get bored in galleries, especially if the art is old. But I give it a go mainly because one of my closest friends in the world, Lisa, is an artist who can explain the feelings that art evokes for her in a way that makes it sound so damn sexy.) I really liked this place. The art was so unusual, humorous and I connected to it for the first time in my life. I found it interesting, intriguing and even laughed out loud at a few of them (to be fair, there were a lot of penises). I think that I connected to these pieces possibly because I’m growing as a person, and possibly because they were created by people around my age living in the same time as I am. Either way, it was a fantastic experience.
That night I got to meet everyone in the hostel and we all went out for a drink and a dance at World Bar, which played music that I mostly knew and loved (ie, It was released in my lifetime, and a lot of it was played on Triple J, mostly about 7 years ago). I danced for a big part of the night, and felt like I was among friends. It really was a fantastic introduction.