While JP and I were in Sydney during our trip down under, I had four days on my own while he attended meetings and made presentations (translation: he made money, I spent it). We absolutely loved the city–it was clean, felt safe, and the people were very friendly. In fact, one of my favorite aspects of Sydney was the people who lived and visited there, and the diversity was fantastic–I heard accents from all over the world, saw shops and restaurants with any kind of food you could want, visited a colorful gay-friendly section of town (in fact, the whole city is very tolerant) and there seemed to be something for everyone to do and enjoy.
One of my favorite things to do as I took walks and visited sites was to note when a couple was taking photos of each other, and to offer (with gestures, in case they didn’t speak much English, which was often the case) to use their camera to snap off a few of them together. I was never turned down, and sometimes my accent or the circumstance would prompt them to strike up a conversation. I even got to take the pictures of a couple who had just been married that morning; the photos I took were the first of them together as husband and wife. Invariably, the cameras they offered were digital, and I’d have them check the photo to make sure they liked it before we parted. For some reason, my favorite part of the procedure was watching them huddle around the little screen, grinning and laughing at their images in front of some Sydney landmark. And, every once in a while, someone would reciprocate and ask if I’d like them to take a photo of me with my camera in return. That’s how I got this one of me in the Chinese Friendship Garden, hiding behind a rock:
And this one, in the same Garden, trying to be One with the Portal:
I spent about three hours in this garden, created by Sydney’s Chinese Sister City (can’t remember the name) and gifted to Sydney in honor of Australia’s bicentennial. Every rock, every plant, every structure, every vista was placed deliberately to create a harmonious, peaceful, fascinating experience. I loved this mysterious-looking spot:
But my favorite photo-taking moment was outside of the Sydney Opera House, where I approached a couple with my usual offer. The husband, a tallish, middle-aged man, said in perfect American-accented English, “I am Chinese,” and then, along with his friendly, smiling wife, proceeded to spout off several phrases in their native tongue that I of course didn’t understand. Instead of letting me take the camera, the wife grabbed my arm and pulled me up the steps as her husband shooed us and gestured for us to stand together. He took a couple of pictures of us, then the wife hurried down the steps, took the camera, and shoved her husband up the steps, talking a mile a minute. He stood next to me while his wife shot a few photos. “She say,” he began, gesturing with his open palm arcing across his face, “you beautiful!” I laughed and thanked them both, and made my offer again, this time reaching out for their camera. I recognized “xie xie” (pronounced shay-shay) as Chinese for “thank you,” as they posed together. When I finished, they checked their images, laughing and enthusiastically thanking me–the moment was such a happy one that I held out my camera to them, and pointed to myself and asked if they’d photograph me. The husband took the camera and his wife grabbed my arm again, laughing and insisting on being in the photo with me. Isn’t that perfect?
I had a spring in my step the whole rest of the day. I was beautiful!