Well the good news is: I am typing this from our apartment. And I’m not choking on cigarette smoke.
We came back today, after leaving all the windows wide open for 48 hrs, after having the furniture and carpet steam cleaned, and after arming ourselves with an ionizer (air purifier). I was honestly pretty nervous about coming back. I woke up feeling like today was a big presentation for school, or my first day at a new job or something. On the one hand, I reeeeally wanted to be able to cook my own food and not have to agonize at each meal over spending $30 for something really not enough. I wanted to be able to unpack my clothes from the suitcase (and do some laundry!). I wanted to be a little further outside of the big city, where the 3 of us kind of stick out like sore thumbs in the morning as we squeeze past the army of businessmen and women dressed head to toe in black, bustling to work, on our way to breakfast in the Queen Victoria Building (that mall with the stained glass ceiling). One cafe in the QVB quickly became “our place” because Daniel can order a reasonably sized breakfast sandwich there for about $9, a latte for $4, and if we pay $5 more we can get another large side of eggs and some baked beans that Naomi and I can split, along with bits from his sandwich. That’s still about $20 for a breakfast that’s juuust enough for us, but it’s at least not paying for a bunch of other stuff we don’t want, like $8 for an entire breakfast sandwich for Naomi, when she’ll just ignore the bread and all the other stuff on the sandwich but the egg anyway. (We realized this morning that we’ve actually become “regulars” there, and neither of us has ever been a regular anywhere in our whole life. But when the cook came out to double check that we didn’t want baked beans today (we skipped them today, as opposed to the last 3 mornings), we were kind of awestruck that they’d remembered us, especially with the long line of customers at the counter. But I guess when you have a somewhat unique order, and you order it every day around the same time for 4 days, they start to remember you.)
So anyway, I will sort of miss that cafe. But not enough to make me go back and pay $20 for it if I don’t have to. I’m thrilled that tomorrow morning I get to finally make some oatmeal again!
So on the one hand I was excited to move back in here to the apartment. One of my favorite things about this place is the sound of the parrots who live in a palm tree next door to us. They fly around, flashing their bright red and green and blue, and calling the most beautiful, tropical-sounding call. It really makes me feel like I am in another country. And I adore the gardens of the house below us. We are allowed to peek over the wall because we’re on the 3rd story, but inside the walls are exquisitely manicured little lawns, trees and paths. Another house beyond it reminds me of an elegant hobbit hole, because all the windows are circular, and they kind of grow up out of the house under smoothly curving eaves. And of course there is The View, with all the ferries waltzing across the sapphire harbor, and the cars and trains zipping along the bridge.
But then, on the other hand, the last time I’d been in our apartment I’d wanted to grab my sleeping child and run out of the place screaming because it smelled so bad. And a few of you had told me some horror stories of failing to get smoke smells out of apartments, so I was pretty worried that all the steam cleaning and airing out and ionizing wouldn’t really do any good, and then what would we do? I was pretty nervous. And I knew that even if things went great that first day, I’d best wait a few days to see if the smell really was really gone, or if it had just temporarily been overpowered by the detergent in the steam cleaning fluid or something.
And I still am kind of holding my breath, but …so far so good. We walked in this morning and the place actually didn’t even smell neutral – it smelled wonderful! All the steam cleaning detergent probably did that, but still – nice! Now that we’ve closed the windows up for several hours and run the ionizer, it still smells fine. I’m so relieved! I don’t smell cigarettes, and I can actually feel very comfortable here.
And there are so many things I am falling in love with.
I can walk 5 minutes from my front door and get on either a ferry or a train, which will take me almost anywhere in Sydney – the zoo, the grocery store, downtown, the beach, you name it – in about 20 minutes. And it’s a gorgeous ride. Naomi doesn’t have to be strapped into a car seat, I don’t have to deal with traffic or people cutting me off – it’s really pleasant.
A few doors over from us is a private boys’ school called St Aloysius’ College. Through the glass I can see this gorgeous life-sized bronze statue. I haven’t gotten a real good look yet, but it’s sort of like a Pieta, except it’s not Mary holding Jesus, it’s a man (I’m guessing it’s St Aloysius). It stirs my soul, and I feel so lucky to get to look at it when I walk anywhere.
Walking home from the ferry landing, we always pass this cool tree:
I’m not sure if you can tell from the picture or not, but it’s basically growing out of this wall, climbing down about 10 feet of it with its roots. Awesome.
The prime minister of Australia lives down the street from us. At least whenever he’s in Sydney. I ran past his house today. Rumor is, we live in the safest neighborhood in Sydney.
In the grocery store, they say “capsicum” instead of sweet pepper. Fun, huh.
The groceries are all normal size, not super sized like in the US. When you buy a container of yogurt or a package of chicken breasts or a loaf of bread, it’s smaller, and it just makes you want to eat normal-sized portions of it. I’m not sure how to explain it, but it’s true. Even the dumpsters are smaller – on my run today, it must have been trash day because all the neighborhood had their trash cans dragged out to the curb and each one seemed not much bigger than about what Naomi would comfortably fit inside, standing up. And that’s just how people live here – smaller. And it’s just kind of nice.
There are lots of other, little, things too, that aren’t very interesting to mention – the cute grocery store nearby, all the great-looking cafes a couple blocks away that we want to try, the park with the awesome playground.
But of course, then there are the things that are just … weird. I know – to be culturally sensitive I should say “different,” so you can sub that word in if it makes you feel better.
All the door knobs in our apartment are level with my chest, as is the top of our refrigerator. Well, that’s an exaggeration. The fridge is about up to my arm pits, when you include the freezer, and about as wide as me. So that’s not bad: we have friends in Europe with a dorm fridge for their 3-bedroom house. And as for the door knobs, I guess we won’t have any problems with Naomi opening doors she’s not supposed to because they’re all waaaay above her head.
I mentioned that our apartment building has an elevator, which is nice. But it sort of reminds me of a little old man who’s not quite on his game anymore after all these years: whenever the elevator arrives, you’re never sure whether he will be lined up evenly with the floor, or whether he will be 2 or 5 or 10 inches above or below it, causing you to have to take a big step and do some maneuvering with the stroller. He’s not exactly precise. But he tries. Plus he never responds the first time you push the button telling him which floor to go to. I still haven’t yet figured out what he’s looking for – I know one push isn’t enough, and sometimes two isn’t enough either. It seems like you have to wait a few seconds, at least, between pushes, but I’m not sure. Twice now I’ve gotten in on the ground floor, pushed “3” (twice), and then been mysteriously taken up to some other floor like 7 or 5, because someone else had called for it and the elevator decided to introduce me to a neighbor rather than deposit me on my own floor. He keeps me guessing. I suppose he’s trying to teach me to respect my elders.