My boss ate alpaca... and other weekend adventures

17 July 2011
Another weekend, gone and passed. But unlike the rest, this one brings with it a mix of emotions… It’s our last weekend as a group in Sydney; We’ll be spending next weekend in Cairns and the weekend after that, my group will be on a flight headed across the world, destination: home. I, on the other hand, will be spending a night at my family friend’s home before my week trek across Australia.

I’m writing this sitting at Max Brenner’s Chocolate Bar (sitting at the window seat to be exact… obviously), a café style restaurant featuring everything chocolate. The one I’m at is in the mall’s food court, just below the movie theater. It’s the first place we came after dropping off our belongings on our first day in Sydney. It was our first breakfast, a breakfast I ate with the nine other program participants, all strangers at the time. Four weeks later, here I am again at the café of heaven.

My sixth sense presented itself in full force Friday: I didn’t pack lunch for work. No reason behind it, just didn’t feel like doing so. Figured I could come back to the apartment during my lunch break (work is only two train stops away from where I live) or splurge on a Thai lunch. (Asian food is apparently fantastic in Australia. I have yet, however, to testify the claim.) Regardless, neither plan (home or Thai lunch) was put into action. Half my co-workers were out sick, leaving only seven of us present. And so, as a little treat, our boss decided to take us out for lunch. Such luck! After discovering the bar she had in mind for lunch was full, we ventured over to a lovely Italian restaurant. And a plate of gnocchi later and a conversation about how my boss ate alpaca in Peru and how some woman chopped off her husband’s private parts, I was sufficiently full.

My family friends went out of town this weekend, giving me a free Shabbat to organize for myself. It was perfect, in its own way, as it gave me the opportunity to try out Kabbalat Shabbat services at the Central Synagogue, a fifteen minute walk from my apartment. Services were interesting… the shul is divided with men sitting in the seats below and women in the upper balcony, the orthodox style of separation among the sexes. (The purpose being to encourage full focus on the prayer rather than the stud sitting a few rows down. Except, from where I sat, the range of beautiful Jewish boys on the first level were clearly visible. I guess the separation just meant I couldn’t start conversation with my potential future husbands sitting just below. Oy.) As is the case in most synagogue services, more men were present than women. Interestingly, the attendees ranged from, what I assume were, conservative/ traditional to orthodox (men in black hats and untamed beards and women wearing their sheitels [for those that follow the orthodox tenants, women are required to cover their hair unless within the private confines of their own home. Or around other women. Simply, a woman’s hair is reserved for her husband.]. An all male choir, along with the Rabbi, led the service. I’m not a fan of choirs in synagogue settings, although the melody of their voices does add a beautiful touch to the tunes of the songs. I just find that a choir kills the beauty of audience participation, in a way making it so that audience participation isn’t as necessary for the flow of the service. Kabbalat Shabbat services are my favorite… There was no way I was going to pass up an opportunity to sing along, although I did sense I was one of the only females doing so.

I met up with Katie and Keli for dinner at Bondi Pizza & Bar, an incredible Italian restaurant located in the mall (in fact, opposite the Max Brenner’s I’m sitting in right now). Australians don’t believe in fast food (for the most part, although you do find your occasional McDonald’s and Hungry Jack’s [Australian form of Burger King]. But pizza isn’t a food court order- it’s a sit down meal. So European of Australia!) I cleared my plate clean… for both my margherita pizza (with an added topping of kalamata olives) and our shared dessert (brownies rolled in some intricate form of dough and sugar dosed in nutella and vanilla ice cream).

We met up with the boys after dinner (to complete our family) and headed towards Town Hall. Out for drinks… it’s become my new favorite activity. It’s the most wonderful thing being able to go out for a glass of wine. And happy hour in Australia lasts until well into the night on weekends. It’s great.

Katie, Keli and I left early… 11.30? Oh, it was bedtime.

The family (minus Keli) out for drinks during the week.
The morning began with an early date with the gym. I hadn’t been all week… my reunion with the elliptical had never felt so good. Keli had decided to get her tattoo that Saturday morning. Katie and I accompanied Keli, acting as the loyal sidekicks and fan photographers. The tattoo parlor was near the beach… we walked around the shops for a little while we waited for Keli’s appointment.

I spent the afternoon with my roommate, Marissa, at Paddington Market, a crafts market only open on Saturdays and located in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Sydney. A fortune teller (or hand reader… not sure of the official title) stopped me while at the market, rambling on as to why she was a better and more qualified hand reader (oh, and apparently government accredited) than the other “bastards” (her words, not mine!) reading hands. I got stuck in the conversation for a few minutes, but was finally able to fit in a “Sorry, I have no money” remark, thankfully causing the elderly woman to retreat. Probably in search of another innocent passerby to yap off to. After Paddington Market, Marissa and I walked over and spent some time in Centennial Park. It always strikes me to find a large park in the middle of a lively city. I grew up in Florida where the beach is as close as you get to a park. Which, I say, probably explains my fascination. But still… peace and quiet among skyscrapers and bustle. It’s phenomenal.

Centennial Park
After returning from Paddington, I dropped my camera off in my apartment and met up with Katie, Doug and Erika for drinks at the Sydney Tower. I ordered a Pineapple Vodlka this time… only $8 unlike the $18 mixed drink I had ordered the last time I was in the bar.

As per usual, Katie, Keli and I ventured to Darling Harbour for our 8:30 pm gelato and fireworks ritual. It was slightly emotional given that it would be the last firework show we would see over the harbor (we’ll be out of town next weekend and the program will be finished the weekend following).

The family (Katie, Keli, Alex, Doug and I) took a trip to the Sydney Olympic Stadium for the rugby game: Australia (Quantas Wallabies) v. Samoa.   The game was on a two hour time limit- perfect as I lost my focus after an hour… turned to food (chips [french fries] and A MAGNUM ICE CREAM [my token of Israel in ice cream form]) instead. Keli and I went to the mall after the game for a little Max Brenner’s date and a Cole’s grocery shopping trip. 

I’m nervous to enter my fifth week in Sydney; It means I only have two weeks left on my program, a program I finally feel comfortable on in a location I’ve at last become adjusted to. I always have, and still do, recommended an abroad experience for all, but a summer experience only leaves you with a taste of a life abroad. It’s a six-week peek into what should be a semester long stay. Six weeks only provides a glimpse into a foreign culture, a different way of life. I would say, however, that you grasp a better concept of the differences in culture as a six week intern than as a six week student. As an intern, you’re ingrained in everyday work life… the real life of a real citizen.

But whatever the case, it saddens me to see my program slowly nearing the end. I’ve got three weeks left in Australia, two weeks left in Sydney. It's scary how fast time goes by...

The view outside my window once I got home. Stunning.


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