After 24 hours of travel from Vietnam, we finally arrived in the land of buggies, nappies, lifts, rubbish, tills, and heaps of other words we had to get familiar with. Sadly, our four days in Sydney can be characterized in one way: wet. When we landed, we had a few hours of sun in which we promptly fell asleep in the park across from our apartment while listening to Serial. Then rain, rain, rain, rain, until we got in the cab to the airport to leave. Then, bright sunshine of course.
We stuffed our sightseeing into a few bouts of rain-ready outings. Our first stop was the free 12:00 tour at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, the longest church in Australia – a strange thing to be known for, but it also has an interesting history. The tour included details of the church’s founding in the nascent stage of Australia as a British penal colony in the early 1800s. It also include a tour of the crypt, which is not as creepy as it sounds: weddings and concerts are held there routinely. The floor of the crypt features seven beautifully crafted titles depicting each day of creation from Genesis. The main sanctuary is, of course, awash in religious art and symbolism; I enjoyed the front stained glass window which showed four female saints on one side and four male saints on the other, a surprising gesture of gender equality in a Catholic church. The church also had plenty of celtic influence in its design and another stained glass window devoted specifically to Irish saints. As we walked through the sanctuary, I was struck by an unexpected thought: the similarity, on the aesthetic level, of Catholicism and Buddhism. We spent much of our time in Thailand walking around huge, ornate temples filled with artwork, statues, and carvings depicting the story of Buddha. As we explored, I thought: This is just like that, on the surface at least. We’re just more familiar with this story than Buddha’s.
And speaking of Jesus, we went to Hillsong‘s Waterloo campus for church on Sunday evening. Loud, crowded, dark, exciting – it was everything we expected from our first Hillsong gathering. It was so good for my soul to be singing truth out loud with other believers. It’s often been difficult to be away from our faith community, and while one Sunday doesn’t fill that hole, it was encouraging and invigorating. The message helped us to consider what we are trusting God with in 2016, a year full of transition for us once again, and motivated Nate and I to have some good conversations about our deepest prayers for the upcoming year.
And speaking of Christian encouragement, we learned that a friend of ours from our home church, REUNION, was visiting Sydney as well! We hadn’t seen Andrew in years and had a great time hosting a taco night at our little studio apartment and talking about what our big, crazy God has done and is doing in our lives.
Our favorite spot in Sydney was probably Mrs. Macquarie’s Point, which gave us some great views of the harbor, opera house, and bridge. We walked through the Royal Botanic Gardens several times, mostly just running through the rain, but sometimes with only a light sprinkle where we got to enjoy the blossoms and trees. We also walked across the Sydney Harbor Bridge to Kiribilli and back, stopping at the quiet and empty Lady Gowrie’s Lookout for a different perspective of the harbor.
One of the most exciting things I did in Sydney was to get a haircut. Unless you have big, thick, beastly hair you may not be able to appreciate how therapeutic this can be after so many long, arduous battles trying to shampoo after active days. I feel free and light again – Raymond at Sas&Lou took great care of me!
Sydney was our first time back in an apartment of our own after over a month of tiny hotel rooms, and though it was rainy, we did love being back in a city where we spoke the language and familiar food surrounded us. It took us awhile to get used to looking right when we crossed the street, and to the loud, crazy tropical birds, but we could tell it was a city we will love returning to someday!