Life in the Red Light District

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February 25th 2007
Published: August 7th 2007
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My first six weeks in Sydney were all a bit of a blur..... I moved out of the hostel that Megan and I had stayed at in the city centre - it was clean but huge (one of the few hundred bed types), busy and full of 18-21 year olds.... all fine but I was starting to feel a bit like grandma ;0) So after a quick flick through my guide book it was off to Kings Cross - Sydney's red light district and, as it turned out, home for the next 3 months. As red light districts go (and that's not to say I'm an expert!) it seemed a bit tame... the main street has a few strip clubs, sex shops and, at almost any time of day or night, girls on the street looking for 'business'. But there were always people around and something going on so it never felt unsafe... even wondering back from a bar in the very weeeee hours!

A week after Megan left for home Delis (another friend from Welly) was in town and we caught up over coffee down by the Opera House..... it wasn't quite a repeat of the sunny afternoon I'd spent with Megan, more a grey drizzly day of the type I'd expect at home, but it was great to see another familiar face and catch up on some more gossip! Apart from that the days of my first month or so were pretty much taken up with job hunting (albeit somewhat half heartedly to start with :o)), interspersed with topping up my tan on the beach at Bondi or Coogee, lazing in the Botanical Gardens and generally taking life easy. Days ended with a rendezvous back at the hostel - we developed a group of us 'long termers' over those first few weeks... Sarah, an English girl who arrived in the hostel on the same day as me, Paul and Martin, two English guys (plus all of Martins builder mates who became regulars) and Dee and Milou - the Irish and Dutch girls who were working in the hostel. A few weeks later we were joined by Jess and Jane, two English girls who came for a few days and stayed for a bit longer... several months in Jane's case, another English Paul and a group of 5 lads that quickly became known as 'Team Irish'. Others came and went... Ben, the American fireman, Terry another English guy and endless more Irish. Evenings involved the odd beer or three in one of the Cross's drinking holes - the Sports bar, where I somehow managed to get worse not better at pool, an Irish bar (Paul stripping in the bar one night stands out...) or World Bar if we fancied dancing to the wee hours. Occasionally we broke the habit and ventured into town though... drinking games at the hostel followed by clubbing at Chinese Laundry or Cargo (which at one point really started to feel like a second home..), wondering around at 6am trying to work out where the next drink was going to come from and watching Martin and Scuba Steve jump off the footbridge into Darling Harbour (I nominated myself the clothes holder)!! After a while going to bed after 5am seemed to feel quite normal ;0)

Alas eventually the bubble had to burst and I had the shock of my life when I finally rejoined the rat race in December. It'd been about 9 months since I'd last worked in Wellington and ohhhh did I feel it over those first few weeks. I think the hardest thing was having to sit still for 8 hours a day - I must have set a new record for the number of coffee, water and toilet breaks a person could squeeze into the day! And actually having to do stuff??! What's that all about?! To begin with my days involved much watching of the clock and wondering whether I could get away with a quick snooze under my desk..... but I soon accepted that partying till 4am and getting up for work again at 8am isn't something I can do too many nights of the week ;0) The good thing about working though - I finally got to meet some Australians! In fact I was the only foreigner in the office... and it seemed the perfect target for cricket jibes :o)

Soon enough it was Xmas... and time for another road trip! Last year I'd had an amazing Xmas and New Year away with the girls from Welly, so this year the Sydney members of that trip (i.e. me, Pam and Rachel ) opted to do a bit of a repeat, this time to a place called Port Stephens which is a few hours north of Sydney. I got the bus up and was dropped off at Nelson Bay - the main town in the area it's a small place full of cafes and little gift shops. The girls picked me up in the car and we headed of to home for the next few days, the YHA in Anna Bay. The owners were lovely - when we woke up on Xmas day we all had a small box of Belgian chocolates left for us outside our door! The best part though was taking long leisurely walks along the most beautiful beaches - empty compared to the ones in Sydney and just my kind of thing. A few families with kids and dogs played in the surf, fishermen stood waiting for a bite with cool boxes of beer close to hand, and I just enjoyed the blue sky, coastal scenery and being away from the city.

I got the train back to Sydney on Boxing day and spent the next few days alternating between the beach at Bondi and shopping, being surprised to see that shops were already pulling their Xmas decorations down and getting the Easter eggs out!!!! Xmas really didn't seem to be the big event here that it is at home... maybe its because at home its so blimmin cold that everyone just gets into the Xmas party spirit that much more. I aways think of Xmas as starting in November... that's when all the parties seem to start anyway! But here it just kind of passed by. New Year soon arrived though and NY in Sydney, well, it absolutely had to involve watching the fireworks! The grand plan had been to see them from the botanical gardens.... except the rest of the world had the same plan and by the time we'd finished making a picnic, generally faffing and got down there the queue just went on forever. So we went for plan B - Team Irish had found a spot down in front of the Opera House and we headed off to join them. Much waiting and consuming of a few beers followed.... we arrived at about 4pm but nothing really happened till the 'family' fireworks show at 9pm. After that it was a slippery slope to the main event - we were easily the 'liveliest' bunch there.... or perhaps that should be vocal! Between karaoke Deco (who could seemingly break into any song...) and Simon who led the group in various Irish songs no one else stood a chance!! At least we kept everyone around us entertained ;0) Midnight came and went - fireworks, many drunken antics, sparklers that the fun patrol came and confiscated, eventually all followed by a suitably evil hangover ;0) Alas I wasn't allowed to suffer mine in true New Years day form (i.e. vegging in front of the TV)...... but was forced out for more beers ;0) Paul, another friend from Welly, was in town for the day and I had to go on an all day pub crawl with him and his mates around the Rocks. Next day as I quietly sat in work nursing my hangover I swore my 'school night' drinking days were over.... that lasted till the following Sunday when I got a text from Steve, another mate from Welly, to say he was in town for the night with one of his mates and did I fancy a drink... a few bottles of wine, some whisky and not much sleep later it was another Monday morning, another hangover and I was starting to get a feeling of deja vu....not everyone I met in NZ was the bad influence alcoholic type but.....;0)

January was a month of leaving do's - Jane, Dee and Liz left town on a road trip to Melbourne and beyond, Sarah headed up to Cairns and Martin went back to England :0( I was sad to see them all go but I guess that's something I need to get used to traveling, plus I'll admit to being more than a little jealous. In a bid to not feel quite so guilty about all the partying though I made a bit of an effort to squeeze in some 'cultural stuff' ;0) First off there was Opera in the Park with Jo and her friends - part of the Summer Arts festival that happens in Sydney it was a good excuse to head down to the Domain with a picnic and vino and spend the evening chilling out to a production of Puccini's 'Tourandot'. I absolutely loved it and even better it was free! A few weeks later we were back in the Domain for Tropfest, the (free!) short film festival... some of the films had us killing ourselves laughing... other's left us looking at each other going 'huh??'.. but it was a good night and despite the threat from an increasingly grey sky it didn't rain! Other outings included the Chinese New Year parade in town (which we did watch in the rain) and going to see Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake with Pam.... a fantastic performance which had me on the Internet later trying to remember how the 'traditional' version went! I also finally made it out of the Cross. After what seemed like forever, but was probably only about 3 weeks of serious flat hunting, I swapped the sex shops and strip bars of Kings Cross for the restaurants and coffee shops of Surry Hills. There's seven of us in the house, currently a few Aussies with an Irish, Swedish, German and French girl to bring up the European balance! It's kind of like being in a hostel but with the added benefit of your own room... there's always someone to hang out with and chat to but you get a good nights sleep! About 6 weeks after I moved in we had a farewell BBQ for Aileen and Riley, two English housemates who were heading off to NZ.... at least we did once Chayton had gone on the internet to check local fire regulations and whether our makeshift BBQ would survive another visit from the fire brigade - apparently last time they had one the neighbors had called them after becoming rather concerned about the flames! You see the bbq needed cleaning, a task no one really fancied, so the boys came up with a diy alternative involving coals wedged between some bricks. After a bit of discussion we figured it would do the job and in true British form... except this time the Aussies were in charge of cooking... we finally ate at about 10pm!

Next up... more road trips, Sam visits from NZ and Ann visits from London!

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21st April 2007

Love the pics!
Love the pics Wendy! And sounds like you're having fun doing lots of different things in and around Sydney. How are you? Still working? The rat race here has been horrible, so busy and living with my parents with no car SUCKS! Also lost my work mobile within weeks of getting it...Calamity Jane strikes again! Did you catch up with Dee at all? Hope you're doing well - I'd stay out there if I were you! Say hi to the guys if you see them x x x

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