Yesterday I got up and got ready and called my parents. Dad wasn't home, but Mom was, and she said it is snowing in North Carolina! It's going to be so mind-blowing to get back to cold weather after all the sweating I have been doing for 3 months. I was picked up by Bert's daughter Michelle and her husband Grant outside of my hotel. The street was full of people lined up to audition for something that looked like American Idol for Asia. It was chaos, but once we found the other person we were picking up, we got loaded into the car and on our way. I sat in the back with Ann, who was from Italy. She had been in Australia about as long as me, but had only been to Brisbane and Sydney. She told me she came to Australia for two reasons- independence and a boy. But she said that the boy was now out of the picture, so she was still trying to find her place in Australia. I almost feel like I am bragging when people ask where I've been and I rattle off the 15-20 places in Australia I've managed to explore in 3 months. But they asked, and it's not like I'm going to leave anything out to save their feelings or something.
We drove to a marina outside of the city and approached a lively group of Aussies standing around consuming beer. Michelle introduced Ann and I, but we didn't get anyone's names. They continued talking to one another as we waited for Bert. Finally, a sighting of Bert's boat as he came around the corner. We carried our various eskies and cloths bags with food and alcohol to the boat and climbed aboard. we had to hold on and walk along the side of the boat to board, and I had a quick greeting as I came past Bert, who is a cute little old man with a white mustache and not much hair. We all got aboard, I took a quick tour of the ship, then was asked if I wanted something to drink. "Do you have water?" I said. Grant and Andrew looked at each other. "...Or beer?" I said, sensing that asking for water was not the correct thing to be doing. "Beer we can do," they said, and brought me a bottle. I accepted and so began the day long consumption of alcohol. I talked with the boys throughout the trip, who weren't actually boys, but all about 10 years older than me, who were various cousins of Michelle. I really admired their relationship, but they are all only about 2 years apart in age total from oldest to youngest, so they grew up together, unlike my relationship with my cousins, with me being the oldest on both sides, and the next oldest only turning 18 this year. But I'm sure soon enough we can be out on Sydney Harbour knocking back bottle after bottle of beer... well, not quite, but once everyone is grown, there can still be potential for good times to be had. I was given an impromptu tour of the harbour as Bert boated around. I took some great shots of the opera house and bridge, and learned about the prison out in the middle of the harbour. Michelle began feeling sick in the very choppy water of the harbour, so we went back upstream to dock for lunch. We anchored in a quiet area and had lunch. All the "kids" tried their hands at fishing, but the entire day, no one caught a single thing. It could be because of the inventive bate they were using, like salami, bread, and cheese. I did have some funny interactions with some of the guys. I was asked how we felt about Barack Obama (I always expect politics to come up eventually, especially when alcohol is involved). I told him that, overall, we like him a lot more than our last guy. He seemed confused and said he liked Clinton. I said, "Have you missed the past eight years? And the two wars you guys are also involved in?" He laughed, and said, "Oh yea, George W Bush. But Clinton is cool. I liked Clinton." I said, "Yeah, he was entertaining." I also got a wedding proposal before the night was over- later in the evening, while my wine glass was being refilled for some unknown number of times, the glass was filled to the top, but there was still a swig of wine in the bottle. "Go ahead and finish it," one of the cousins says. So I took the bottle and drank the last sip. "Oh, man, will you marry me?" he gasps.
We had to drop Michelle and Grant and Ann back off around 5:30, but the party was still not over. We boated back to our anchor spot and spent another 2 hours drinking and talking. It was a great day with amazing weather. Sydney has been rainy the past few days, so we were lucky with the weather. We helped Bert pack up the boat and unload all the trash, then waited for him to row back from his ship. I hugged all the cousins goodbye. I got in the car with Bert and we drove to a suburb outside of Sydney where he lives. The house is very nice, and I have my own little room. We ate leftovers from lunch for dinner, which was fine with me, my head still swimming from all the alcohol and probably dehydration of drinking very little actual water all day. We talked and watched TV a little while before bed.
This morning, I slept until around 8:30, then got up and ready and called my parents. I caught them both this time, and talked about 30 minutes. I ate breakfast then walked up the double hills to the bus stop Bert had pointed to me last night. I thought I remembered the name of the town he told me to go to, but I googled just in case to check and make sure I hadn't twisted it up in my tipsy head last night. I got on the bus once it arrived around 11 and asked about the rate to Hornsby. "This bus goes to Turramurra," the bus driver says, kind of grumpily. "Ok, the rate to there then." I said. I suspected I would have to take another train or bus to Hornsby from there, so I sat down, ready for an adventure. Sure enough, Turramurra was a train station, and their was a train going to Hornsby. So I bought a ticket, and since the train wasn't due for 25 minutes, I went to the post office down the street and mailed my opal ring to be repaired for free. It has become shaky from the setting, so I hope it gets there, and eventually makes it's way back to me. Anyway, I successfully boarded my train and made it to Hornsby. After a brief tour of one side of the town, I discovered that the other side of the bridge in the train station leads to a mall. I spent the day in the mall, shopping my heart out for Christmas. I got lots of cool stuff, including some prizes for Mom's class for when I visit them and talk about Australia. I got a train back to Turramurra around 3pm, then got a bus back to Fox Valley. Bus drivers were all kind of grumpy today, and I didn't get any free rides like I did in Adelaide, but it was still a good day. Tomorrow I will venture even farther down the train line to Sydney and spend my last day in the city, shopping again. It really makes me happy to buy stuff for people and imagine how happy they will be to receive it.