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Notes for Sydney

Australia is DIFFERENT!

It was a warning for me before I flew to Sydney. I knew it and carefully prepared myself for many bizarre experiences in Australia. But even getting myself ready for the vast differences in culture, nature and people of Sydney, I have still quite got it yet and what I mean by “it” here is mostly about my feelings. Living in a new country is not only about the challenge in how you can perceive and adapt to a new reality and culture but also about your freshly developed emotions which will often conflict with your past intimate sensibility.

Notes for Sydney will be my records of a peculiar Sydney through the eye of an Asian boy influenced by American culture. And it is for you, too. If you are also a stranger to Sydney, send me your notes for any unexceptional experience while living in this city.

Note 1: Christmas

Once I travelled to Strathfield. There is a little square near the train/bus stop in front of the plaza where they usually build a giant Christmas tree (of course, a fake plastic one). I was standing there, wearing a t-shirt, and watching the worker hang the star upon the top of the tree under the direct sunlight and 30 celsius degree heat of summer.

Although I have never lived in any western country or never been a Christian, all my ideas about Christmas were influenced by Hollywood movies and American music. They shaped many ideas in me about the family spirit of Christmas, which shared a similarity to the soul of Tet (Lunar New Year) in my country. Like the series of movies, Home Alone, a lonely and left-behind kid only wishes and craves for the warmth of family in the cold and snowy days was my earliest memory about Christmas when I was a kid watching them on HBO. Or listening to the cosy and mellow voice of Dean Martin or Bill Cosby, you can easily sense the feelings of a white Christmas.

But there was no “Jingle bell” playing around on that Strathfied’s square or any white snow falling on a summer Christmas. Instead, there were intense songs from the cicada, frenzied, calling for love.

Note 2: Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year or Tet is a major spring festival of many East Asia countries and people. It shares the same spirit of family gatherings with Christmas, and here in Sydney, they also share the same spirit.

The festival usually happens in the mid-summer in Sydney with the heat and dry weather of sunny days and continues with a whole week of rains and thunderstorms. It is the opposite feeling from the cold and humid spring I went through for more than 25 years in my country. It creates more nostalgia for the spring festival when everyone dresses up in pretty winter clothes and traditional festive foods.

Fortunately, Sydney has a large Vietnamese community. You can easily find some traditional Vietnamese cuisines and enjoy the vibrant festive atmosphere in Bankstown or Cabramatta. However, it is one missing thing, which is the frisky music of Lunar New Year that was annoyingly playing everywhere (unlike any cosy songs from western countries). Still, you can only listen to the symphony of cicadas in Sydney here.

Note 3: Thursday blower

Sydney welcomes me by the irritating noise of a leaf blower waking me up after days of jetlag on a Thursday morning in Autumn. It might be familiar to western countries, but it was my first encounter with these awful machines. As a weekly cleaning service from the building manager, I know I have to suffer them at least once a week. And then during the city lockdowns, nobody could escape from it as everyone was stuck inside working or studying at home (yes, they still could go out to clear the leaves while you could not leave your room). It was common to hear the blowing over someone at a zoom meeting.

This is why I can understand that even the locals can not stand that irritating sound. Some people even question whether they intentionally make the blower so loud as an iconical sound while there are more advanced technologies to reduce the sound of vacuum cleaners.

Can we use another friendly and gentle method to clean just these falling “leaves”? Until then, I have to run away every Thursday with these leaf blowers screaming over my ears and realise that even the cicada’s melody is much better.


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