Monday, July 31, 2006

This city is different

It was pretty amazing taking off from Avalon Airport at six yesterday morning, and seeing my home from so high up in the air that the CBD just looked tiny.

The sunrise was amazing. For ages, while the land was still pretty dark, I was trying to work out whether I was looking at clouds or trees covering the land. Was sure we should've been way, way to high up to see trees, but didn't think we'd be anywhere near that high above the clouds. They seemed to just sit on top of the land in patches.

We landed in Sydney at about 7:15.
When my train to Central Station arrived I got a big surprise, because the windows were right down at the same level as the plantform, as though the whole train had been rammed into the ground, or the platform had been built way to high. Then I had a proper look at the train and realised that it was actually a double-decker train, and I'd been looking at the windows of the bottom deck. When you get on you can either go upstairs or downstairs. All very nice, but someone had spewed on the floor.
When I arrived in the CBD I found my way to the backpackers where I'm staying, which is in Chinatown. There were a lot of noisy drunk people around the city, and there was a lot of garbage, and it smelled yuck. Reminded me a bit of Melbourne, but perhaps a nightmare version of Melbourne. After I'd locked my big backpack and my computer in my cupboard at the backpackers I went out to explore. Ended up walking around Cockle Bay and being overwhelmed by the amount and size of the hotels there. It looked unAustralian - whatever that means. Was also overwhelmed by how big, tall and crammed together the buildings of Sydney's CBD are compared to Melbourne's. It's like the buildings just form one great big solid block of city. The fact that the roads just go all over the place (the roads in Melbourne are in a grid) was really annoying and disorienting as well, and it's really weird how there's so many bridges going all over the place. There's road and railway bridges going right over outdoor shopping centres! It all feels pretty chaotic. Apparently when D.H. Lawrence visited Australia in the '20s, he wrote,

'There was the vast town of Sydney. And it didn't seem to be real, it seemed to be sprinkled on the surface of a darkness into which it never penetrated.' (Kangaroo)
I think I understand something of what he meant now. The city seems kind of fake, like it can't really be serious. It doesn't really seem like it's meant for people to live in.
I decided to try and find the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House by following the coast. A lot of the rock that Sydney's built on seems to have been cut into terraces, which remind me a lot of the big concrete walls in Shaun Tan's The Lost Thing.

I ended up finding the Bridge and then finding my way back to Chinatown.
After I had lunch I decided to try and find Glebe, because I was wanting to visit Cafe Church in the evening. By this time I was starting to get used to the city, and know my way around a bit better. I eventually found my way to Glebe, and I actually really liked it there. One of the first things I saw in Glebe was this big park where people play soccer, which has a lot of fig trees around the edge and a really old bridge going through the middle, for trams to go over. There was some familiar-looking street art on the bridge.

When I'd found where Cafe Church was I caught the tram back into town. I was surprised to find that there wasn't a ticket machine like we have in Melbourne, but a tram conductor selling and validating tickets. I can hardly remember when we had tram conductors in Melbourne, but it seems like it would be a more enjoyable job being a tram conductor, and giving people their tickets, rather than only having the unpleasant task of checking whether people have tickets and fining them if they don't. It would be a lot easier to not seem nasty.
Hung around Cockle Bay until it was time to go to Cafe Church. There are a lot of water features around the city, particularly around Cockle Bay. I suppose water's a pretty important part of this place, seeing as the harbour goes right through the city.

At Cafe Church we had a look at some of Henri Nouwen's ideas about silence as a spiritual discipline. Had already been thinking about the fact that I'd hardly spoken to anybody all day, until I'd come to church, and I thought about how much that contrasts with the big, noisy, chaotic city I'm currently in the heart of. So while I'm here, I think that one thing I'll try to to do is keep enjoying being quiet.


Trav said...

Their cool pics, i remember the lost thing was cool. (but not cool enough to read again)

Christop said...

You didn;t even read it properly when you did read it! You read the words, but you barely looked at the pictures!