This post has been a long time coming. I think I struggle with time here because life moves so quickly. I can hardly believe June is right around the corner, including my final internship project and after that, I head back to the US (something I hope doesn’t come too quickly. I love it here.)
To back track though, I recently returned from 2 weeks backpacking – first in Central Australia then in the south island of New Zealand. And before backpacking, I continued interning and working at a local pub while making Sydney feel more and more like home each day. I also volunteered at Sydney Fashion Week, an event hosted across the city sponsored by Mercedes Benz.
My first week of spring break, the internship program went to Central Australia to visit Aboriginal workplaces. Stepping off the plane in Uluru was one of the most mind-boggling moments of my life. To go from the urban bustle of Sydney to the flatlands of red desert after a 2 hour plane ride was almost more of a culture shock than coming from Boston to Sydney. However, this transition kick started my understanding and the emphasis on the trip of the contrast between Australian society and the country’s traditional, Aboriginal communities.
Over a week period, the internship group traveled from Uluru to King’s Canyon to Alice Springs. We stayed in a variety of hostels, ate and listened to live entertainment at adjoining pubs, hiked and observed our surroundings with a critical eye. I found the natural environment of Central Australia stunning but was consistently confused about how Aboriginal culture was depicted in order to seemingly atone for their mistreatment in the past. For example, Aboriginal dot paintings, their main form of art, are sold by high-end galleries as well as on the side of the road by the Aboriginals themselves. In each gallery, I couldn’t help but inquire about what percentage (if not all) of the proceeds from selling Aboriginal dot art went to the actual artists. They need the profits more than a gallery does. Ultimately, I felt like much of the culture of Central Australia hinged on putting a glass box around the Aboriginals. Many work related relationships between Australians and Aboriginals seemed forced and glorified aspects of their culture (like the dot art) seemed to me a backwards way for atoning for past wrongs. I was searching for meaningful partnerships between Australians and Aboriginals versus capitalizing on Aboriginal art for profit and cultural esteem.
After Central Australia, I headed to New Zealand to do a week of backpacking along the south island. After an adventure of a first day in Wellington, the tip of the north island, because of hurricane conditions and a not so confident ferry, I finally made it to my first stop – Abel Tasman. Below, I will rehash my stops and the places, events, people, stories that made each one shine bright:
We stayed at a motor lodge whose adjoining pub served a mean vegetarian curry for just $5 (its easy to please backpackers!). The national park, of which the town is named after, was also stunning and hikes gave way to vast, ocean scape views, which were enhanced by the misty weather.
We stayed at Basel’s hostel, which was a funky hippie house run by two, aging surfer dudes with wit and two cats. Even though it rained heavily while we were there, I had one of my favorite nights cooking a big meal with fellow backpacker friends. Fajitas, couscous, guacamole and chocolate cake was too good to be true after cheap eats and endless PB&J’s, as was card games and laughter. A 32-year-old woman named, Debbie, told me the reason she was backpacking was because she woke up on her 30th birthday and panicked. She hadn’t had enough of those “meaningful, stupid living moments” she called it that people need to be happy. So she decided to take 2 years at her corporate job to make money to afford to first backpack and then travel around on her brother’s sailboat.
We stayed here for two nights at the base of the famous glacier. Celebrating Easter in Franz Josef meant a pizza party hosted by the hostel pub and a DJ that left us dancing in our double-layered sweatshirts until the early morning. I was able to kayak around the glacier at sunset as well which was an unbelievable experience.
Reaching here signaled that civilization (and the adventure capital of the world, Queenstown) had arrived. A hike overlooking the seaside town at sunset was great preparation for a relaxed evening at Cinema Paradiso, a local movie theatre that replaces traditional seats with couches and even vintage cars to get cozy in. The movie was stopped at a halfway time where homemade cookies could be purchased for $3 a piece off the oven racks themselves.
This final, New Zealand destination has a special place in my heart. I oddly felt right at home in Queenstown as soon as I arrived there. Despite the cold, it’s beauty and endless array of activities made the tiny town seem like a metropolis. I ate a famous Fergburger, went paragliding, luged and watched fellow friends free fall for 9 seconds while doing the Nevis bungee jump. I can’t say I met any Queenstown “locals” because the community is ever changing and from a variety of different places across the world.
Although I came home just two weeks ago, the traveling has continued. I headed to Jervis Bay this past weekend with my fellow Arcadia folk to “recharge.” We camped, ate well, surfed and listened to traditional Aboriginal stories around the campfire. My favorite was about a lizard that carried the love of his life, a red octopus, back to the sea. We came home Sunday night exhausted but content.
With my time whittling away, the interning, traveling and bucket list endeavors will continue as I work on my final internship project and spend time with the people I have met and care a great deal about. I also promise to write and share more frequently, especially anecdotes that make Sydney eternal to me.