The First Weekend

Posted by on August 8, 2011

We’re here! We landed in Sydney about 10 am on Friday morning. We were able to find a taxi with a car seat pretty easily (apparently lots of taxis here have one). The weather was beautiful – sunny and clear, although the days are noticeably shorter than what we’ve been used to lately (since it is after all winter here). Needless to say, there have been a lot of highs and lows the last 3 days.

It was a tiring 24 hrs of travel, but Naomi did great. She only slept about 6 hrs on the plane (compared to her usual 12/night), so things were a bit dicey on the flight and the following day.

Naomi, sleeping on the plane.

Now however I think she’s pretty caught up on sleep and really seems to be doing better overcoming her jet lag than any of the rest of us. Here are the standings, at present:

Friday night sleep –

Naomi: 8:00 pm – 6:00 am (+ 3 hr midday nap) = 13 hrs
Daniel: 9:30 pm – 6:00 am = 8.5 hrs
Katie: 9:30 pm – 2:30 am (+ 1.5 hr midday nap) = 6.5 hrs

Saturday night sleep –

Naomi: 7:30 – 5:30 (+ 3 hr midday nap) = 13 hrs
Daniel: 8:00 – 4:30 = 8.5 hrs
Katie: 8:00 – 4:30 = 8.5 hrs

Grand Total –

Naomi: 26 hrs
Daniel: 17 hrs
Katie: 15 hrs

So, as you can see, Naomi is clearly winning. But I must admit… we don’t really mind. If you don’t know how much more tolerable an overtired 32-year-old is compared to an overtired 1-year-old, then I’m not going to try to explain it to you.

We stayed at a hotel the first night, since we needed to get in touch with a realtor to pick up our apartment key. We didn’t actually get over to the apartment itself that day because of other things that needed doing that day. We spent an hour or so that first day figuring out how to make calls from the company cell phone here in Sydney, and it reminded me afresh what it feels like to be a nomad in a foreign place – it’s so hard to remember that feeling when we’re home, in our own culture, where we know lots of people and know how to get the things we need. It’s easy to not notice little subtleties like that in our daily life, and it can be a bit unnerving when suddenly the grounds for that confident familiarity are gone. It made me feel very tiny.

After dragging Naomi out of napping dreamland (ugh! Jet lag is such a drag but especially hard to watch your little kiddos struggle with it), we decided to go outside to enjoy the beautiful afternoon. Our hotel is in Darling Harbour (love that name), quite near the water. We walked a few blocks and arrived at a great little waterfront area (it reminded me of Seaport Village in San Diego) with lots of restaurants lined up opposite the water, which were beginning to fill up with the Friday night happy-hour-after-work crowd. All the restaurants were laughably expensive (Sydney is expensive in general and these places were on the waterfront to boot), so we went to Subway – still $7 for a 6-inch but better than anything else. We ate on a bench by the water and had a great time.

Naomi & Daniel at King Street Wharf in Darling Harbour.

Naomi enjoyed interacting with the seagulls and some other little kids there. Then she insisted that I take her into one of the restaurants so we could watch people, then watch a game of Aussie style football on TV (“Ball! Ball! Yayyyyy! Happy!”), and pretend to play some video games. It was starting to get dark by then, so we headed back to the hotel and were all in bed by about 9 or so.

Positively delirious with jet lag, we made it til about 2:30 am before Naomi came in bed with us; I didn’t go back to sleep after that but Naomi and Daniel did – til about 6am. Not bad for the first day of jet lag!

Saturday morning, after getting dressed, we got downstairs and walked a short distance before realizing that, hard as it may be to believe, the $35/person hotel buffet was probably our best bet for breakfast. Hello, sticker shock. Did I mention I’m looking forward to having my own kitchen and cooking our meals? Not that other places were charging more than that, but it was something like $8 for a muffin, versus $35 for whatever-you-want-nourishing-options, and with a toddler’s precarious food moods, I didn’t want to risk $8 on a muffin that there was an 80% chance of her refusing.

Let me tell you a couple of the delights our $70 bought us, so I feel a bit better about the $70:

Daniel tried a piece of honeycomb. For real. He thought it was chewy, but good. I thought it was too sweet, but I don’t like sweets so don’t mind me.

There was a gorgeous spread of fruit purees, surrounding an enormous dish of plain yogurt – bright gold mango, bright green kiwi dotted with black seeds, pale yellow pineapple, deep red raspberry, bitty pieces of apple. Perfect for our miniature yogurt-lover.

Except she decided she only wanted fruit. Grapes, actually. Or, as she calls them, “Beeps.”

Daniel unfortunately didn’t notice the little sign describing his choice of frittata as having salmon in it, so he was turned off frittata for good. More for me.

There is not enough brie cheese in this world. But the hotel put in a good effort to remedy this problem at the buffet. Loved it.

We enjoyed watching Naomi try lychee for the first time, although when she realized they weren’t grapes she quickly lost interest.

Naomi decided to put a hold on her grape addiction long enough to take a few bites of congee, which I believe is like oatmeal made out of rice. All I know is it was served in the Japanese food section and it looked more like oatmeal than anything else there. And there was dried coconut, dried pear bits and raisins to mix in, which probably canceled out any of the Japanese-ness that might have been left in it after having been displayed next to a vat of baked beans.

After breakfast we decided to go out and explore while pretending to actually try and accomplish important errands. We found Queen Victoria Plaza, whose beauty you might understand when I tell you it is a mall but it has a stained glass ceiling.

Queen Victoria Plaza

Next we found Paddy’s Market, which we’d heard is where locals buy their food for “normal” prices. It was like an outdoor Asian market (only it was indoor), and we had a great time checking it out and buying some fruits and veggies at admittedly very normal prices, even from our point of view. And the produce was really beautiful – I don’t know if I’ve ever seen carrots that were deeper orange, or fatter or more perfect than the ones in the bottom of my fridge right now. In fact, my lunch yesterday was one of these huge carrots with peanut butter on it, and if you know me I don’t usually skimp on lunch (of course I still had a $35 breakfast buffet in my tummy). I have to get used to reading prices as per kilogram, though, rather than per pound. It’ll be fun to go back there and experiment with new Asian vegetables like the million shapes/sizes/colors of mushrooms, or purple yams or different green beans I didn’t recognize.


Perusing Paddy's Market.

Paddy’s Market doesn’t sell all types of groceries, only fresh produce, but there was a grocery store nearby where we picked up some other things to help us get through the first few days. You know, things we can’t live without like RAISINS (the addiction normally in force when Naomi is not being distracted by grapes). But don’t forget to call them sultanas, or the grocer won’t know what you’re talking about (nor will the second grocer he asks for help).

We came back to the hotel, packed up, checked out, and headed by taxi (exorbitant amount of luggage, in tow) over to our apartment, arriving in the early afternoon.

Naomi & I, in our new kitchen, surrounded by luggage.

Now when I say “exorbitant,” you may retort, “You’re moving! Of course you’ll have lots of luggage!” But since my husband prides himself on packing light, let me defend his reputation by explaining that not ALL of this luggage is ours. Two of the (extra-large) pieces belong to Daniel’s company.  In fact, when we arrived in Brisbane (en route to Sydney), airline security informed me that one of them – that big “bench” Naomi is perched on in the photo – contained firearms. Really?? I was honestly a bit taken aback at first, since Daniel and a co-worker had packed it so… maybe it did? They knew it was firearms because it was a hard-shell locked box. Hm. Okay. We got a pretty suspicious and thorough going-through of our luggage, especially that piece, by a customs officer who managed to look even more like Daniel Craig, the most recent 007 actor than my Daniel does. (And he also looked like Daniel’s Uncle Don, somehow). Of course, when 007 opened the big, suspicious-looking case of “firearms,” I think he was slightly surprised to find that it was almost completely filled with diapers (plus a few pieces of scuba gear nestled in between).

The real Daniel Craig. Or is it Daniel Peckham?

Back to our apartment. An immediate perk we’re thrilled with is that you can get from the street all the way to our front door on the 3rd floor without having to lift a stroller (due to ramps and an elevator). And our neighborhood is amazing. Kirribilli is apparently kind of known as an upper-end part of Sydney, especially when it comes to residential areas. And it is lovely. But then you see our apartment building and you kind of go, “Oh.” It’s a pretty hideous red brick square, poking straight up into the sky by about 7 stories, ugly as all get-out. I guess that means it’s the best place in Kirribilli to live, because then you are inside of it looking out at all this loveliness, rather than outside of it looking at how ugly it is.

When I walked in the door to our unit, two somewhat opposite things hit me at once and I’m still not entirely sure which was more overwhelming. On the one hand, I noticed the view out of the living room window and it was far more incredible than I ever imagined – right in front of our apartment is the harbor with the Opera House directly across from us and the harbor bridge arching up just to our right. The sun was out and with all the sailboats making little white foamy zig-zags across the blue water it almost took my breath away.


My breath was already taken away by the second thing I noticed when I stepped inside: the overwhelming smell of cigarette smoke. We thought the apartment had been listed as non-smoking but obviously the last tenant had smoked A LOT. We put Naomi down for her nap because she was way overdue, but I really struggled with that because her room smelled so bad. I didn’t want to leave her window open while she napped because – another surprise – there were no screens on her window and, being 3 floors up, I was not about to risk this being the day she learns how to climb out of her pack and play and manages to climb out the window. Did I mention that the blinds didn’t really make the room dark so we cut up a big cardboard moving box we found in there, and strung it up over the window. With that and the ugly pink and purple beaded and tasseled pillows on the faded floral quilt on the bed, and the heavy stench of cigarettes, that room was looking pretty ghetto. But she obviously didn’t mind, and was fast asleep in seconds.

With Naomi down, we opened the rest of the windows in the apartment as wide as we could, and there are a lot of windows. And it was quite breezy. This all bodes well for clearing out a bad smell right? Wrong. Four hours later that stupid apartment smelled as wretched as before.

I’ll also add that the reason we waited til Naomi was asleep to open all the windows is that NONE of the windows have screens. Or bars. And we’re on the 3rd floor. I’m sure they would spoil the view, but it really makes me uncomfortable to have a toddler who loves to climb in a 3rd-story apartment with low, unprotected windows. I think we might just lock the windows and put a broomstick down in the window sill to prevent them from being opened, and just never open them. Oddly enough the balcony is wonderfully safe. It has glass walls which is perfect because then Naomi can see through them, but there are no openings wide enough to be a danger for her.

I went to go lie down for a nap, but when I lay on the bed (which had no sheets, blankets or comforter, and remember it’s pretty cold here now), the smoke smell was so strong that I couldn’t breathe. I was so angry, there was NO way I was going to sleep. I went out into the living room and told Daniel something had to be done. So we spent the next 3 hrs trying to get in touch with his boss in the US, so that she could get us another night at the hotel and also set in motion some solutions to the problem, like talking to the landlady, buying an air purifier or perhaps even buying some new furniture. However, by now it was 10 pm on Friday night in the US, so this failed.

This was a pretty stressful few hours. I was glad Jenn had suggested bringing some pictures and icons from home, because I got out a photo Daniel had taken of the crucifix at our home church (which nourishes my soul), and literally held it in my hands for the next few hours. I was trying not to push Daniel too hard to deal with all of this exactly the way I thought it needed to be dealt with, but I also just wanted to run into Naomi’s room, grab her, and run out of this gross smelling place. I went in there once briefly in the middle of her nap, and the smell was so strong it was hard to walk back out again but I knew she needed the nap and the smell wouldn’t do too much damage in a couple of hours. Eventually, staying close to Jesus through all of it helped me to calm down enough that I tried to take a nap, or at least close my eyes. I listened to a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery, which was at least more restful than pacing the floor like I had been doing.

Me, not napping - bundled up because it's so cold from all the windows being open to try and air out the bad smell. You can see the Sydney Bridge in the background, and Daniel's new "office" set up on the table out on the balcony.

See? If you just step out onto the balcony where there is no whiff of cigarettes, this place is truly amazing. The walled gardens and unique architecture of the houses just below and to the right are another of my favorite parts of this place.

In the end, Naomi woke from her nap, we pulled together a few things, called a taxi, and drove back to the hotel. Where we’ve been ever since. There is more to write, but I’ll stop here for now. Thanks for all your prayers and encouraging emails! It’s truly wonderful to hear from each of you.

9 Responses to The First Weekend

  1. Katie Elliott

    oh katie, it sounds like you guys have had quite the adventure already! i will be praying for you guys that your apartment situation gets worked out, how stressful. you’re right, a gorgeous view from that balcony! what a fun time for you guys to have a few months in sydney! thinking of you!

  2. Nana

    What an amazing mixture of beauty and crud. I can SO feel for you with the nasty smell. Praying for resolution of the crud.

    love you much and kisses to Naomi, Nana

  3. Andria Guerrero

    Hi Katie! Loved reading this update on what’s going on for you guys. I will be praying for the apartment situation. That would be SO hard to be there and with your child, can’t even imagine. Cigarette smell gives me a headache, especially the “old” smoke stench…yuck! Praying that it all gets resolved and you can start enoying your advetures Down Under!

  4. Diane Petersen

    Your blog brought up a memory of mine from my Australia days. A non-smoking room means they remove the ash trays…..voila, a non smoking room. It’s like being in the non-peeing part of the pool. It doesn’t really mean much.

  5. Sher Takahashi

    Wow, Wow, I can’t wait to get there. What an amazing view from your apartment. Wow!!
    Hi Naomi are you having fun? Can’t wait to see you.
    I hate smokers apart.ments it’s hard to get the smell out. Hope it all works out

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