After half a summer of blistering heat, it was finally time to switch hemispheres. I journeyed south from Thailand to Australia and traded in the hectic metropolis of Bangkok for the friendly harbor city of Sydney. Upon exiting the plane I immediately felt at home – the language was my own, the city reminded me of Chicago, and I was finally able to purchase that chai tea latte I had been craving for a month and a half. Though the locals complained of the brisk winter weather (they have obviously never lived through a Chicago winter), I was happy as a clam to finally be experiencing sweater weather. As a Sydney winter is the equivalent of a Chicago fall, I felt a bit like I was cheating the system by getting to enjoy my favorite season two months ahead of schedule.
I started working the very first morning after my arrival by attending a scheduled meeting at the Australian Museum. It is the oldest museum in Australia and specializes in anthropology and natural history. The museum’s collection is made up of about half Aboriginal remains and half Pacific Islander remains – all of which are readily offered for repatriation. Later in the week I visited a much smaller case study in the city, the Shellshear Museum. An institution of physical anthropology and comparative anatomy connected to the University of Sydney, this museum varies greatly from the first because it is hardly ever seen by the public and is primarily used for teaching purposes. The main factor that both museums – and all others across Australia – have in common is the fact that no Aboriginal remains are on display.
The rest of my stay in Sydney was spent exploring the city and any surrounding areas I had time to visit. Though I could have used the public transportation, I preferred to walk everywhere. Every day I averaged around 5 miles of walking and saw everything from Paddington Market to Chinatown to The Rocks. While at The Rocks – the historic district of Sydney – I wandered around the local market and was able to purchase an American classic that I had been craving all summer: corn on the cob. The following afternoon I took a bus with a friend out to Bondi beach – the most famous beach in the area – and walked the scenic route down the coast until the sun set behind the clouds.
Throughout the week I took many walks around the multiple harbors that give the city its character and was treated to breathtaking views of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. On one of my last evenings I marveled at St. Mary’s Cathedral (the church of greatest length in all of Australia), visited the Art Gallery of New South Wales to view the works of famous Australian and New Zealand artists, meandered through the breathtaking botanical gardens, then made my way to the end of the peninsula that offers the best view of the harbor right as the sun was setting behind the opera house. For dinner that night I met up with a friend from Northwestern who is studying abroad in Sydney this semester. I could not stay too late though, because early the next morning I was picked for a daylong guided hiking/sightseeing tour into the Blue Mountains about two hours outside of the city. It was a great way to conclude my time in Australia – breathtaking scenery, challenging hikes, and a wonderful group of young travelers to experience it with.