After many tearful goodbyes in Brisbane, the ASC had one last adventure together: taking on the iconic city of Sydney, Australia. And what an experience it was! Some people think that if they’ve seen one city, they’ve seen them all, but that is totally not the case. Sydney was vastly different from the home I had found in Brisbane the last few months. I am partial to Brisbane of course, but I’m a bit biased. In comparison, Sydney had a much more historic feel to it, and it also seemed reminiscent of a more European city or a city that I would find in the U.S., depending on which part I was in. Though I was excited for one last chance to explore, another part of me was ready to just head home after saying goodbye to all the people I cared about in Brisbane. I was tired of being displaced and wanted that settled feeling of routine and familiarity in my life again.
Our trip to Sydney was certainly a whirlwind; we all gathered one last time at CHC at 4:30am in order to take a bus to the Brisbane airport to catch our flight to Sydney.
I was an emotional mess on the way there, of course. The flight was quick and easy, a little less than 2 hours long; after traveling all the way to Australia from the US, though, any flight seems fairly simple if it is under 13 hours 😉
We arrived early, dropped our things at our hostel, took in the beautiful view from the rooftop (YHAs notoriously have AMAZING views of the cities that you are staying in), and hurried off to morning tea at a cute little tea parlor called “Tea Cosy.” I will miss having periodic morning and afternoon teas now that I’m back in the US; constant snacking is definitely a lifestyle habit that I would like to keep! 🙂
From there, we took a tour around some of the more historic parts of Sydney in The Rocks. It was a cold day, and I felt it to my toes — I was definitely missing my Queensland weather!! On top of that, the majority of the three days that we were there were quite rainy as well. After 21 years, I have come to find that I simply cannot tolerate the cold. Give me the beach and some sunshine!
After touring around Sydney, that evening the group went to Newtown Mission, a church and missions organization that reaches out to the struggling and disenfranchised population in the city there. I was volunteered to give my testimony during the brief service that night, which was my second time speaking in a chapel service since being in Australia. It was a bit challenging as I was tired, emotionally drained, and ravenous after being walked around the city all day, and the church was less structured than I am used to so I was a bit put on the spot when I started speaking. Hopefully the congregation was able to glean something from my muddled speaking! I am certainly not a pastor. But as I have been learning throughout my time abroad, God doesn’t call the competent, but He does call the willing. We then served food to the congregation and fellowshipped with them after.
The next day, we started out the morning by going to St. Mary’s Cathedral. I absolutely ADORE old churches and cathedrals; there is something almost other-worldly about stepping foot in the reverent, hushed sanctuary and drinking in the ornate structure that
was so intricately and intentionally planned from the artwork on the walls to the stained glass windows to the space at the altar. In churches like that, I always think of the thousands who have worshipped there before or experienced life-changing revelations within its walls throughout the years. What an incredible experience. Then we ventured to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, where we got a tour of the Aboriginal art pieces housed there. Such beautiful work!
After the gallery, we were released for some free time until 2pm the next day. With just over 24 hours of exploration time in our hands, we all hurried off to see what we could of this expansive city. Sydney is ENORMOUS. Most of the ASCers ended up taking a ferry out to Watson’s Bay, a beautiful trail with a great overlook of the city and views of the bay, leading in the end to Macquarie Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse in Australia. The skies looked a bit ominous when we set off, and by the time we arrived at our destination we were thoroughly drenched. Even if I had had an umbrella (which I didn’t), I imagine I would’ve had much the same outcome. But even soaking wet, it was so worth the memories.
After arriving at the lighthouse, we hurried to catch the bus to the iconic Bondi Beach. If I’m being honest, I don’t know much about this beach, other than the fact that it’s iconic for some reason. Nonetheless, it goes without saying that I had to make a stop there while in Sydney. I have to say that in comparison to some of the other beaches I had been to in Australia, it felt like a bit of a letdown; it was a bit smaller and less impressive than I expected. Other than that, it was lovely. When the sun started to set, we were able to get a few pretty photos despite the overcast day.
Despite the exhaustion that was kicking in after the long day, that evening I went out with my friends Allie, Tarian, and Emily to explore the city more. We were there during Vivid Sydney, where a lot of the major buildings are lit up across the city in addition to different displays and boats in the harbor. Once again, the rain bucketed down on us, but the sights were still stunning nonetheless. Seeing Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge all lit up was BEAUTIFUL; I swear, the more I see of Australia, the more I fall in love with it. I am just obsessed with this country.
The next morning Lauren and I ventured to Starbucks for coffee (a major Aussie faux paux, I know!! Sorry to all of my Aussie friends whose sensibilities are offended even by the mere idea of stooping to the level of Starbucks coffee — we couldn’t help ourselves!),
and then headed to the markets downtown to buy some last minute gifts and souvenirs. It was a beautiful morning. We then trekked to the Harbour Bridge to walk and take in more views of the city. After, we met up with the rest of the ASC to ferry over to Manly Beach. I was dead tired at this point (I think most of us were), but I pushed myself to try to enjoy this last afternoon in Oz. From there, we went up to Shelly Point, a pretty and secluded lookout area.
Once we finished up sightseeing for the afternoon, the ASC had a final debriefing session before parting ways for the final time before flying out the next morning. It was an evening of exhausting emotional heaviness and sad goodbyes. At this point, I have had enough goodbyes to last me through to the end of my life, but I know that inevitably life will bring many, many more. And I don’t know if I will ever be ready to accept them. But I will give it my best shot, with the hope in my heart that they will end up not truly being goodbyes, but “see you later”s.
And so that’s where my Australian adventures end. For now, that is. Thank you all for following along on this journey with me! What a journey it’s been. Life can be crazy, hey? But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
P.S. Look out for some more thought-provoking and insightful reflective post(s) about my semester in the near future. They will be likely significantly less interesting than past posts, because it will literally just be me throwing out sappy nostalgic thoughts about better times and wistful comments about wanderlust and my gypsy soul, yadda yadda. I’m sorry for depressing you in advance.