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Well, as crazy as it seems, it’s been one year since we arrived in the Land Down Under! I took this photo at the airport in Toronto on May 3’23, loaded down with as much luggage as we could get away with on the plane to keep us going until our shipping container arrived:

2023 is pretty much a blur. Actually, thus far into 2024 is too. So many new experiences – sometimes it still feels like we’re on vacation! This week we did sort of have a vacation (at least the retired person in the household did :)). I had to go to Sydney for a conference – my conference speaking debut (pronounced “dayboo” here) in Australia, at the Australasian Society for the Study of Brain Impairment (no, not mine, yet anyway…):

Back in Canada, I always knew so many people at conferences, but here I’m starting from scratch and I was even nervous for a bit! But my new Aussie colleagues were amazing in welcoming me. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the world famous Drs. Lyn Turkstra and McKay Sohlberg for guiding me into the world of research and publication. It’s because of the textbook and article they invited me to co-write with them that I already have peeps down here who know me, and when they came up to tell me how incredibly helpful they’ve found these publications, I so wished Lyn and McKay were there so I could hug them! My talk was very well received and I’ve already been invited to speak at another university and might have an international research project brewing across a few countries. How lucky am I!

So Hugh came with me to Sydney. We arrived on Wednesday evening and immediately found our live music fix! We were staying in the part of Sydney called The Rocks (fabulous area – can walk everywhere or hop on ferries, trams, etc. in no time) and after a great meal at a brew pub in the area, we were heading back to the hotel when the sound of live music caught our attention. It was coming from the Orient Hotel and not only was there a fabulous singer/guitar player (wish we’d caught his name, he was incredible), they were replaying the Winnipeg-Colorado hockey game – I don’t think I’ve seen hockey (called ice hockey here) in a bar anywhere here!


We saw this shoe store on the way back and its claim to fame is:

Really? So in Sydney, having shoes designed in Canada is a big draw, who knew!

This was the sight outside our hotel on Thursday morning – it definitely looked and felt like Canadian fall (correction, autumn) this week:

Thursday morning we went to the Opera House. The weather was pretty much miserable the entire time we were in Sydney – cold (18C) and rainy. But we did get pockets of sun occasionally:

The co-location of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge makes for beautiful views in every which direction:


And they really work hard to keep birds off any elevated flat surface in the area – spikes and wires on top of everything:

Some photos from inside the Opera House:

I didn’t realise that 2023 was its 50th anniversary! There’s quite the story behind the design and build of the Opera House. Our tour guide had been a student of Peter Hall’s, so he had lots of knowledge to draw from. We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the two big halls, but it was interesting to note that the largest hall is the home of the symphony and the opera and ballet were pushed out to the next largest hall – yet it’s still called the Opera House, not the Symphony House :). It’s really a magnificent structure. It was also interesting that a lot of the good acoustic features in the concert hall were only just installed during Covid.

Perhaps my favourite interior-of-the-Opera-House photo is the sink in the public toilets (see, there’s that obsession popping up again…) – it’s gorgeous and the water flows perfectly down the gap against the wall:

On Friday, Hugh took the hop on hop off ferry to travel from Darling Harbour out to Manly Beach and back and along the way got a couple great photos of the Opera House:

There are about 1,000,000 ceramic tiles on the shells and in the 50 years since they were handmade and installed, only about 11,000 of them have had to be replaced!

The cruise ship terminal is right here as well, pretty much in between the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. It’s weird seeing such a large boat in the middle of the city, especially once it started backing up:


On Thursday, Hugh went out to Bondi Beach and took a photo and video of the iconic pool/ocean:


Some other photos from Hugh that I can’t speak to because I was busy working while he was vacationing:

This is a great art installation, sort of a memorial to times past, near the entrance to the Botanic Gardens:

And then this huge Mountain Fig tree was just nearby:

If I were to have an artsy side, I would comment on the plethora of roots it’s sent out, trying to avoid the fate of the stones in the prior photo, that have been halted by the concrete curb (“kerb” in Oz):

Deep thoughts 🙂

Sydney’s downtown is a gorgeous mix of new office buildings and original/refurbished building. A lot of the old buildings have been turned into amazing malls full of little shops – I would love to see how they look at Christmas! I tried to get some photos of the interior but none of them remotely did the beauty justice. This is one of the entrances to the Queen Victoria Building (QVB) and then some street music (violin and sax, how awesome!) at another one of the entrances:


We saw this musical duo while we were walking back from the Banksy Exhibit on Saturday evening. What a creative genius he is, and very sneaky! Just love a lot of the statements he makes with his graffiti art:

Now he just needs to embark on work that displays some solutions to all the problems.

The 3rd photo above is poignant in Australia as violence against women seems much higher here than in Canada. In the first 4 months of 2024, 26 women have been killed by their partners or former partners. Even in little Yeppoon last weekend, our state MP Brittany Lauga was drugged and assaulted. Another multi-faceted problem with no quick solution. Well, I do have one, but it probably wouldn’t be considered acceptable.

In much lighter news, after leaving the Banksy Exhibit, we went to the Theatre Royal to watch one of our all-time favourite shows:

We’ve watched the movie a million times (including at a particularly memorable Hallowe’en party organised by Kevin K and Cathy a few years ago, where Ray G truly outdid himself as Frank N Furter…) and we saw a live version at Theatre Aquarius about 10 years ago. This production in Sydney was SPECTACULAR. It’s the 50th anniversary of the original Australian premiere on April 19, 1974. The cast was out of this world. And this version definitely had a higher debauchery rating than the one we saw in Hamilton 🙂

Two hours of laughter, dancing, and singing – a terrific way to end our mini vacation in Sydney!

But the night before, we had an amazing dinner out with my cousin Edward and his partner Andrew. They’ve lived in Sydney since 2010 and the last time we saw them was just before they moved. Oh man, did we ever have a great time catching up! Andrew picked a very cool “un-authentic” Indian restaurant (that’s how Pinky-Ji promotes itself) and we had their tasting menu, which included I don’t know how many courses and was super delicious (we even tried ceviche and liked it!). And our waiter kindly took a photo of us before we left:

We will definitely return to Sydney and hang out with Edward and Andrew again!

I guess I should get back to the title of this week’s blog. These are 3 things we see A LOT of here that we didn’t back in Canada. The moustache is very popular everywhere we’ve been in Australia. Lots of beards too, but beards had made a comeback in Canada as well. I just don’t remember moustaches alone being so popular in Canada. And then there’s the mighty mullet. A friend of mine at the conference said they’ve come back into style and that definitely seems to be the case. The version is a bit different from the original mullet in that the sides above the ears are trimmed or shaved really short, so the contrast from the sides to the back is even bigger than it was in the 80’s. I see so many young boys with this haircut as well as full grown men. And if you watch any form of rugby on TV, it seems to be the haircut of choice for the male players (Google “rugby mullet” and you’ll experience the horror for yourselves – I can’t in good conscience link it here). Please tell me it’s not coming into fashion in Canada too!

And the last item is frozen fries. You absolutely can not get fresh cut fries here. This despite the potatoes here being of superior quality. At first we thought it was just a Yeppoon thing and that when we got to the big cities, they’d have fresh cut fries. No. We’ve now been to Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney and there is not a fresh cut fry to be seen anywhere. This was even raised for discussion in a local Facebook group where someone was reminiscing about decades past when you used to be able to get fresh cut fries. Another person said they’d heard you could still get them in the UK and I know they are served in any decent chippy in Canada, so why are they not available in Australia??

All right, I’ll wrap up with photos of a common bird here – the Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo. This link is from the Australian Museum (I often link to their articles on Australian wildlife) and little did we know, that museum is in Sydney and Hugh got to visit it this week – lots of cool stuff including massive dinosaurs, apparently (I wouldn’t know – did I mention I was working?). Anyway, these cockatoos are EVERYWHERE here, but they have been surprisingly difficult to catch on film. Well, we nabbed them in Sydney! If I wanted a multi-decade commitment to a creature other than Hugh, I would totally get a pet cockatoo, they just crack me up!

Well, after one year of weekly posts, I was going to tell you today that I’ll start just writing fortnightly (that’s Aussie for every 2 weeks). But I know I have something fun to report on next weekend, so maybe I’ll just say that my posts might not always be every week going forward. Because the past year has been such a blur, I don’t want to risk telling you about something that I’ve already told you about and just forgot. So stay tuned, dear Readers, and I’ll try to keep you educated and entertained with just the new stuff!

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