Tuesday, 6 March 2012

First night out

After getting back from the Mardi Gras and leaving my soaked clothes to dry (which doesn’t take long in this hot climate) I heard that people from the hostel where going on a night out.  The venue was the Kings X (cross) Hotel.  I have read that a lot of drinking venues in the city are actually hotels as well.  I think having a night club as a hotel is both a great and terrible idea.  It’s great because going from your room to the club could not be easier; this is also very convenient if you pull someone.  However if you have no intention of clubbing then you will be staying in the world’s nosiest hotel.
I was quite excited about my first night out in Sydney.  I waited under the whiteboard (whilst using one of the computers) until some people who looked like they were going on a night out showed up.  I tagged along with them and headed off to the Kings X Hotel.  On the way I heard that this place had 6 floors, each with a different theme.  After we got in it wasn’t long until we got separated.  I decided to have a look at each floor.  As far as I can remember there was the main bar, the retro bar (which was empty), the games bar (with pool tables), the balcony bar (which was awesome but very crowded), the live music bar (which was $10 to get in) and the dance / rave bar.  I met up with the guys a few minutes later on the stairs; they were discussing what they were going to do that night and which floor they were going to hang around on.  After a quick conversation they scattered off with two of them going downstairs and one of them going upstairs.  I was left on my own like they didn’t even know I was there, this was humiliating.  I was in two minds about just calling it a night but I had paid $10 to get in and this was my first night, plus the club was pretty awesome.  So I thought “fuck it, I will find some other people”.  I looked through the floors until I saw a group of German and Finnish girls who I recognised.  They weren’t from my hostel but I saw them chatting to the group of guys from my hostel who had left me.  I went up to them and asked one of them if they had seen the guys, I was not interested in finding the guys again I just said that to start the conversation.  The girl I spoke to said that they hadn’t seen them but I could hang out with them instead.  I spent a good few hours going from floor to floor with his group and I had a great night overall.  I had to leave before they did because jetlag was catching up with me but overall I met a bunch of really cool people and managed to salvage a good night out. 

Mardi Gras

I knew that the Mardi Gras carnival was soon, but it didn’t realize it was actually tonight! I got talking to the guy on the reception desk who informed me that people from the hostel were meeting up and going to see Mardi Gras at around 6:30.  He also pointed at a white board near the front door and said that every night when the hostel were going on a night out the time people should meet up and the venue will be written on the board.  Hanging around underneath the whiteboard at the prompted time might be a good way for me to meet people in the hostel.
I had a few hours until Mardi Gras so I went food shopping.  I haven’t eaten a decent meal since I got here and I was starting to feel it.  I went onto the internet to find what Australia’s equivalent to Tesco or Sainsbury’s was.  I actually did a bit of shopping the first night I got here at a local convenience store and got completely ripped off.  So I definitely didn’t want to go back there again.
On the internet I googled Australian supermarket and I quickly found what I think is Australia’s biggest, and I was very surprised.  It’s Woolworth’s!  They didn’t go bankrupt in the UK they just emigrated to Australia*.  
(*This is almost certainly not true)

After buying food at Woolworth’s I met up with people from the hostel bound for Mardi Gras.  During the walk into town the weather quickly turned from cloudy to rainy.  I really wasn’t expecting rain in Sydney, I had it in my mind that it only rains in the UK and everywhere else in the world enjoys never ending sunshine.  We got to a point along the route of thecarnival only to find that the streets where already packed full of people.  Some people were even standing on boxes to get a view.  As for us the only way we could see thatcarnival was via a big tv screen mounted high up on a street corner.  It was weird seeing what was happening on the street just behind me through a tv screen in front of me.  Thecarnival kicked off with the “dykes on bikes” where loads of lesbian and gay motorcyclists drove slowly along the route making as much noise as possible.  After they past there was a long gap until the rest of thecarnival caught up, I think there was some sort of delay.  By this point the rain was getting heavier, one of the people I was with kindly shared her umbrella with me but it didn’t stop me from getting soaked.  Everyone around had umbrellas and they were just bouncing and dripping water onto me.  The umbrellas also kept blocking the tv screens.  I had to keep moving my head in order to see the tv screen.  After nearly an hour I felt like I had seen enough of Mardi Gras, I was soaked through and thecarnival was becoming a bit boring.  It was just the same thing over and over again.  A lorry would drive by with a DJ and some amps blaring out music followed by some people in fancy dress waving and occasionally doing a cart wheel.  Some parts of thecarnival felt more like a demonstration than acarnival with people walking by with signs saying the law needs to be changed or saying “God doesn’t make mistakes” referring to the whole religion vs homosexuality debate.  Overall Mardi Gras was alright, but I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I hadn’t got soaked and if I could have actually see it in person.

Not a great view.

This is not my phone; this is my phone's Australian cousin

Today I walked into Sydney on a mission to get an Australian sim card for my phone!  I needed to get an aussie sim because using my UK sim was costing me a lot of money.  I spoke to my UK phone provider last night to change my sim from contract to pay and go, this way I can keep my number without having to pay £20+ per month for a sim I was not using.  This seemed like a good idea and the phone company agreed with me but there was one small problem.  They can only change my contract when my sim card is in the UK!  So basically to change my contract I have to mail my sim card back to the UK, get someone to put my sim into a phone and then turn the phone on before anything can be changed.  I think this is stupid, I bet if I asked them to upgrade my contract or something that involved me paying them more money they would have found a way of doing that whilst my sim was in Australia.
After a bit of research and the recommendation from the girl in the estate agent across the road I had decided on an aussie sim provider and I found that they had a shop in downtown Sydney that was within walking distance.
As I walked into the city I saw the rainbow flags of gay pride hanging off some balconies, there was even a guy with a stand giving them out.  I had heard that the Mardi Gras carnival was coming to town soon.  I had noticed a few guys eyeing me up on the walk into Sydney, for some reason gay men seem to be attracted to me, though I am not gay myself.
I reached the phone shop where I was greeted by a tall sales guy, I told him what I was after and he talked me through some of the deals and offers they had.  I found one that suited me well although he said that I would get a better price if I bought it online.  One other thing I went to enquire about was if my phone would accept an aussie sim card.  This involved turning my phone off, putting a test sim card into it and turning it on again.  At this point I was in a very chatty mood, I haven’t really spoken much since I got here and I had a lot of words built up, I was telling him about my UK phone provider making me mail my sim card back to the UK amongst other stuff.  The conversation was going great until the sales guy looked down and saw the welcome message on my phone.  I can’t believe I had forgotten about that welcome message again!  I apologised and said that “uh sorry, one of my mates put that in and I don’t know how to change it”.  He didn’t seem too bothered though.
I left the shop knowing what sim I was going to get.  I really need to get that sim asap so I can start chasing apartments and job vacancies.  I need to change that welcome message also.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Martin's Place

I arrived at a pedestrianised street called Martin’s Place, It looked like a normal street from the map but it was a steep downhill boulevard of marble and massive buildings.  It seemed all of Australia’s banks have a ridiculously big and expensive looking buildings on Martin’s Place.  The bank I was going to was slightly different, instead of a massive glass skyscraper they had a huge grand looking building made of giant bricks and columns.

This photo doesn't do Martin's Place justice, all around me are huge builds

Are those columns just for show?

The inside of the building was just as grand as the outside, the inside was a huge open space of decorated columns and Victorian no expensive spared styling.  The marbles floors were as clean and shiny as a surgeon’s scalpel.  I learnt that the building is classed as an important heritage building and is at the same level as The White House.  Unfortunately this being the inside of a bank photography was not permitted. 
Seeing a bank with such a grand building made me slightly worried when I was giving them all my money to look after.  Were they going to look after my money or just spend it on polishing up their priceless marble floors?
I opened and transferred money into the account in the UK but I had to have an appointment with my new bank account advisor to verify my identity and to proof that I actually existed, only then would my account be unlocked.
My bank advisor was a very friendly woman, she felt more like a friendly old neighbour than someone who worked in a bank.  Although she did push a sale or two on me during the appointment.  She said that when my parents move to Australia they should open up a bank account with her.  I found it funny that she already knew more about my parent’s future plans than I do.  She also pushed for me to take out home insurance and she did the classic old salesperson trick of turning a large sum of money into a small one by saying “well it is only a few dollars a day”.  But who could blame her?  At the end of the day she was a business woman, and a very friendly one.
Everything was going great until she tried to send me a confirmation message to my mobile.  My phone had no signal when it should have had signal.  So I turned it off and on again and laid it down on the desk to boot up.  When my phone boots up a welcome message is displayed, now this would normally be fine but the welcome message on my phone is very offensive.  I must have been messing around with my phone settings one evening many years ago and I thought it would be funny to change the welcome message.  Instead of saying “Welcome” or “Hello” my phones says “Fuck you”.  I only remembered this after we were both watching my phone boot up and the offensive message came up.  I quickly grabbed my phone and said “uh, hold on, let me just check if that message has come through”.  I am not sure if she read the message, but she was still happy and friendly like before, despite being told to fuck off by my mobile phone.
After I left the bank I headed back to the hostel.  I had a great morning, and I felt like I had judged everything too quickly.  The hostel made sense now, it was just a place to sleep, eat and wash.  It was just a base for me to go out and live in this amazing city.


The walk into Sydney

I woke up this morning feeling pretty miserable, I just did not like where I was at all.  I got up at about 7:30 as breakfast was running between 7:30 and 9:30.  This morning I had an appointment at a bank in Sydney to open up my aussie bank account.
I was quite excited about the idea of free breakfast, I was expected some cheerful chef to be in the kitchen cooking up scrambled egg and sausages for everyone and you could have as many as you want.  The actually free breakfast wasn’t anything like this.  Instead I came downstairs to find 2 boxes of cereal, some cartons of milk, some stacks of bread and some jam.  There was a sign blue tacked onto the wall saying this was breakfast.
Naturally I was disappointed by the lack of scrabbled egg and sausages but what I think was worse was the atmosphere in the room.  It was that kind of atmosphere where you enter a room where there has just been a massive argument.  Everyone had a face like thunder and seemed only interested in eating and sodding off up to their rooms.
After breakfast I packed up my bank stuff and left the house of sorrows to head towards Sydney.  Since I arrived last night when it was dark this was actually the first time I could see Australia in the light, and it was awesome.  The architecture was amazing; all the buildings look like they haven’t changed since the 1800s.  Many of the houses I walked past had this Victorian era look about them and they put new modern houses to shame.  It is the attraction to detail and the brass work that make them so fascinating.  The number of trees and bushes growing on the streets was also amazing.  It was like something out of Jumanji (Robin Williams film).  All around me I could hear sounds of exotic bird, the kind of sounds I have only heard whilst watching David Attenborourgh or when I went to the zoo.  It was all amazing.

After walking down some streets a gap in the trees emerged and I saw Sydney’s iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House.  To see these for the first time in real life was just inspiring.

There they are!

After walking down a steep hill downtown Sydney came into sight and it too was also an amazing sight.  I knew Sydney was a big city but I wasn’t expected anything on this scale.  The city came into view so suddenly; it felt like there was a distinct line from where the suburbs stopped and downtown Sydney started.  One thing I noticed when I got into the city has how clean Sydney was.  There was just no litter anywhere, and it wasn’t like there were a million bins scattered around either, it was just tidy and clean and makes Manchester (where I am from) look filthy.  The bad mood I had from the morning and night before had completely gone.  I felt like “this is why I am fucking here!”

I bet you are glad you are not here Vicki :P