Swagman #3 – American Alien – Sydney, Australia

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Swagman #3 – American Alien Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

After spending a week at a hostel in Sydney's Central Business District, Joe met a Swedish girl who told him that she was moving out of her apartment in Ultimo, beside Darling Harbor. So as she moved out, he moved in. This is where we headed after I arrived at the airport.

"There's three other roommates," he told me. "There's an Australian guy named Brenton, but he's never there. I think he bartends somewhere. Then there's a French girl, but she's leaving in a few days. I don't know her name."

Meanwhile they've been living together for a week.

"Then there is a Japanese girl named Aki. She's really nice, but doesn't speak English very well. So if you talk to her and she starts laughing a lot, it means she doesn't understand you. I think she's leaving in a few weeks too."

"Sounds good," I said.
"Nobody likes the landlord, but I don't think he's so bad. It's just that he's always around. His office is in the apartment, so don't be surprised if he just walks through the room sometimes. I told him you were moving in, and he was ok with it. If we split the cost it's only $90 each a week."

We arrived at the apartment around 9:00 and Aki greeted us at the door. She asked me something, I answered, and she giggled maniacally. I repeated, and she nodded. All was well. Joe pointed to his room.

"You can throw your stuff in there, that's our room."

The room is a decent size, with two dressers, a closet, and a mattress on the floor. One mattress.

"Oh yeah," he yelled to me. "We have to share a bed." Then he let out a deep cough that sounded like it emptied something thick from his lungs. "Sorry," he continued. "I've been sick."

Joe and George
Lunch at Circular Quay with Joe. The Harbor Bridge can be seen reflected in the window.

We walked down to a bar called Scruffy Murphy's and he ordered us each a burger and a schooner of Victoria Bitter. There he got me up to date on what he's been doing, which basically involved a lot of sleeping since, and he reminded me with another cough, he's been sick. But he has taken the RSA course, which is required for anyone who wants to serve alcohol, and he suggested I do the same.

"I've put my resume out to three places, but I haven't heard anything yet," he told me. When I asked if he had followed up with of the places he looked shocked.

And so we spent the night on a mattress on the floor, sharing blankets. Joe threw me a winter hat and a scarf as I laid down. "It gets really cold at night," he informed me. Growing up we shared a bedroom, and I did want to bond with him on this trip, but this wasn't exactly what I had in mind. But $90 a week is rather enticing, and would probably wind up being cheaper than hostels any way.

The next day I was up at 7:30 so I walked down to the Central Business District again and into the nearest internet cafe. I pounded out the first two entries to this travelogue and then emailed everyone I knew to let them know that I was alive, and worse, sharing a cold bed with my brother. Then I did some wandering, bought some groceries, and a pillow (I spent the first night using a towel). With everything weighing me down I decided to head back to the apartment, and of course had no idea how to get back to it. I knew if I saw it I would remember it so I just wandered around, through Darling Harbor and up into Ultimo. I was almost killed every time I crossed the street. Growing up in America it has become instinct to look left when you step off of the sidewalk, so imagine your surprise when you hear what sounds like instant death as a horn blaring, tire screeching car zips past you from the right. In what must be an act of compassion or a result of numerous traffic accidents most Sydney corners have "Look Right" or "Look Left" messages painted on the concrete.

With my shoulders threatening to flare up and dislocate I set down my bags, walked into a nearby cafe and directly into the warm arms of Australian hospitality. I asked the woman behind the counter if she knew where Quarry Street was, and within seconds three of the workers were poring over a map trying to find it while a customer was on her laptop doing the same. After they reached an agreement one of the women walked me back out the street and explained the way to me in great detail. I was home within minutes, and Joe ripped into my groceries before they even made it to the refrigerator. "You didn't get any mayo," he stated.

View of Sydney
View of Sydney Harbor from Pylon

We spent the rest of the day walking up to the Rocks, which in a country as large as Australia bears the impressive significance of being the location of the original Sydney town settlement over 200 years ago. The area has been photographed so many times it almost feels as though you've stepping into a postcard. We ate at Circular Quay (pronounced 'Key' of course) with a brilliant view of the Harbor Bridge and the Opera House. We climbed to the top of the Pylon in the bridge for a birds-eye of the city as the sun went down. It was breathtaking, both the sight and the fact that we had just eaten a hearty lunch and immediately climbed hundreds of steps to reach the top. And it could be utterly romantic, although it's hard to feel that way when you're standing with your brother and you share a bed.

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