Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sydney Downtown and a new South African Friend

The next day, I decided I would spend wandering the city. The interesting parts of Sydney's downtown are spanned by less than two kilometers of walking, and so when I awoke late in the day I took a brief shower and wandered down to Roy's. Roy's is a local pub with free internet and great (if slightly pricey) food. Ignoring the price though, it was enough breakfast for two. For about $12 US I had coffee and the best damn eggs benedict (with really fantastic Ham and perfectly poached eggs) that I've had in ages. After breakfast I headed into the city on Sydney's metro system, which spat me out in the heart of their downtown district on the waterfront.

From there I wandered, through parks and gardens, past fountains with brilliant rainbows made by misty water and minotaurs being defeated by naked greeks. Eventually I wandered my way to the Australian museum, which is a fantastic mix of science and lifestyle evangelism and history and culture.

The museum had some really incredible biology exhibits. One of the more intriguing ones was the skeletons exhibit, which spent a lot of time on the more obscure things about bones that we don't really consider. For example, check out this photo. It turns out that "unhinges it's jaw" is too simple a term to describe what a python does when it swallows food. A better expression might be "explodes it's whole friggin' head"

They also have a great mineral collection (though I think Perth's might be better), a really remarkable exhibit on dinosaurs and Austalian wildlife (ancient and modern), and an amazing exhibit on the indigenous people's of Australia and their struggle with the government over the past 100 years. It even spent a good deal of time talking about the criminal behaviour of the government that resulted in the programs that generated the lost children, which I'd only recently learned about through conversation with my mother. It was a really amazing exhibit.

The lifestyle evangelism came into play in a very meticulously created exhibit on climate change, and how humans must change their behaviour (by lowering our carbon footprints and transitioning as much as possible to renewable energy based on external sources like tide capture machines, hydroelectric dams and solar energy). It was very carefully worded, explaining how scientists might disagree on timing and severity but were still in the main convinced that the shifts in climate that are coming in the next few hundred years were primarily the result of human actions, and could be reigned in by us exercising restraint. It was actually a pretty cool exhibit, and did a decent job of talking about how we can become more responsible citizens both of our countries and of our planet.

In addition, it made use of some really badass technology that included microprojectors, recycled cardboard alternatives to drywall, and a giant, projector-based touch screen technology which let you play a "lead a country to ecological responsibility" game. Granted, the game was typical liberal bullshit, rewarding you for implementing programs that would waste money and resources, but the system itself was pretty badass, and I must say I'm tempted to build one when I get back home. If only I had time amidst the million other projects I want to start once I knock the dust from my boots and have a little free time again.

When I left the museum, I wandered across a few parks and into the Art Gallery of New South Wales, which turned out to be a pretty decent Art collection housed in a really gorgeous building.

The gallery spanned multiple floors and included art from Australians and international artists. The classical art was mainly paintings, even the best of which photograph poorly, so I'll have to apologize that my pictures are from the modern art selection, which I largely wandered with my normal squint and mutter. Still, that wall spanning "light" sculpture--made poetically of neon, was stunning and I thought my mom would appreciate it. And "innapropriate shapes" made me stop and give pause to a very real question: why do we look at those six images and assume the bottom three are the ones with flaws?

In any case, a few of the pieces were really quiet remarkable and not half bad, and it was over one such piece (a giant installation of concrete and rebar) that I struck up a conversation with a young South African lady.

She was a pretty, heavily-freckled bottle redhead in tight jeans and a top to match, and despite her obvious admiration for modern art, I couldn't resist starting a conversation. It turned out her name was Tashka. She was smart and well-traveled, a recent grad with a mother in Singapore and a father here in Sydney, and we told each other stories of places we'd been and eventually settled on getting together the next day and spending some additional time getting to know each other and the city. Here's hoping it works out well.

After we parted ways I walked down to Mrs. Macquaries Point, which affords one of the most remarkable views of the Opera house and the dual downtowns of Sydney. I was lucky enough to arrive just after the sun had gone down, and so I hung around for a time, first getting the requisit picture of myself. See there? Now I have proof that I've been to Australia, and seen one of the world's most iconic buildings.

After I had it though, I did manage to take a few somewhat more artistically valuable shots of the view.

On the way home, I stopped at a great little place on the warf called "Harry de wheels" which is a pie shop chain strewn throughout Sydney. Ironically the night before had involved viewing the last two thirds of "Sweeney Todd" and yet I wasn't thrown off at all. I wound up with a really great beef Pastie and mashed peas, and it made a delicious dinner, with a great Australian Lemonade called Solo (and sold as "Lemon Tang") thrown in, the whole dinner still cost less than $6, so the Australian food choices aren't all overpriced.

So that's my dinner, and a damn fine dinner it was, too. I'm going to learn to make these mashed peas when I get home, and Beth (and anyone else who makes a face when English peas are mentioned) will just have to avoid my house on certain nights of the week. No worries though, there's plenty of other good food for which I'm bringing home the passion, and I'm sure all and sundry will be more than happy to visit me on those nights.

1 comment:

Phil said...

Yeah, see the movie Rabbit-Proof Fence for more info on the treatment of the Stolen Generation of Aboriginal children (particularly those of mixed descent). It's pretty amazing, and hard to believe that it was actually gov't policy as recently as it was (late 60's, even into the early 70's in some places) and the extras after the movie are very informative...