Friday, 22 February 2013

Moving Into UniLodge

Hello friends and family!

After a long series of airplane trips, I made it to Sydney, Australia. The last flight through Air New Zealand was great. They were quick and efficient, the seating was comfortable (something that was definitely missing from the overnight flight) and the food was amazing! We had salmon, mashed potatoes and peas for lunch with a macaroni salad and creamy cookie ice cream for dessert. They gave the passengers water as well as their complimentary drinks, they provided headsets, pillows and blankets for free, and before landing they even gave us hard candy to help our ears deal with the pressure changes. Kudos to them!

Lord of the Rings is a huge draw in New Zealand, and the airport has created this section of Moria-like Dwarven columns complete with epic choral music for Middle-earth fans.

Bilbo finally arrives at Auckland Airport

Morning at Auckland Airport.

I arrived at the airport and lined up for customs. We were told to be very careful about bringing in food or animal products, and any airplane food had to be left behind. Australia is very concerned about invasive species, and we even had to declare any soil on our shoes. When it was my turn, I declared the pasta, instant noodles and tea I'd brought. I mentioned the chocolate too, but apparently that doesn't count.

Our baggage came right away and we passed into the bright and pretty Arrivals section of the airport, which looks like it's worth exploring. I should have looked for a pay phone, but I was feeling sweaty and tired and I desperately wanted to get to my lodging, so I went past that section and went outside to find the taxi queue. 

Taxi area at Sydney International Airport

The balmy air hit me like a wave outside. The temperature was 26 degrees and it was very humid. A taxi driver helped me load up my stuff and we set off at an incredible pace through the highways and heavy traffic in Sydney. On the way I chatted with the driver a bit, and he told me that Sydney is becoming a very expensive place because of all the immigration and new development. We saw many condos being built. It reminded me of Vancouver, except not as neat-looking. There were quite a few empty warehouses and businesses covered with graffiti and soot, then there were incredible strips of green with beautiful trees and new buildings. They seem to exist side-by-side.

The driver pointed out the University of Sydney campus, which is just across the street from UniLodge and probably only a few minutes walk through absolutely beautiful parkland with palm trees and shady lawns. I saw a lot of students relaxing on the grass and I asked about poisonous spiders. There are some apparently, and also ants. I will have to be careful when I sit there.

We got to the residence and Google Earth does not do it justice. It is older, but the ground floor is gorgeous black glass and it reminds me of a hotel. The lobby is huge and again is very like a hotel, with armchairs, coffee tables and several elevators near the reception desk. Everything is well-kept. The staff at the desk were helpful and gave me the forms I needed as well as answering my initial questions. They accepted my bank cheque for the first two weeks' rent (hurray!) and gave me a trolley to bring my stuff to my room, which is in the far corner of the fourth floor.

Wardrobe and staircase in my room

My kitchenette after shopping
My room is empty of personal effects of course, but it is very nice with the same spiral staircase I saw in the online picture, a kitchenette that is larger than I first thought and a tiny living room with tall windows and a flat-screen TV. I also have a wardrobe, a small table and chair and a small armchair. The bathroom has doors like a closet and is covered with industrial tile, but it has a low-flush toilet and a shower curtain.

My bedroom is nice and roomy, with a low ceiling. There is a giant beam running along the length of the room overhead so you have to duck to get around it. I have put my alarm clock on it. There is no furniture except for the bed, and the weirdest thing is, the bed is on wheels and rolls around a lot when you get into it. I have to try not to move too much, or else my bed will go shooting across the room. It has potential as a ride, I think. 

The Beam across my bedroom

Next comes the hassle. I was told that phone cards were available in the shopping mall across the street. I went and bought one, only to be unable to use it in my room. I went downstairs and asked for help. I tried again. I went downstairs and bought a different card from a shop the counter staff indicated. It didn't work and I had to go back to the counter staff. After several more trips I was exasperated and worried that Mom would be freaking out because I hadn't phoned. Finally however one of the reception staff came with me to my room and helped me figure out the card. She seems very nice, and I am incredibly grateful to her for actually taking the time to help me.

Sydney seems like a beautiful city. There are lots of big trees everywhere, some of which are gum trees, and the buildings are really big. There are many old townhouses painted in bright colors sporting Victorian-era wrought iron. From my windows, I can see a new apartment building, a tree-lined avenue, an old stone bank and some tall buildings with businesses in them. There is also a red brick building that looks like a church which has a rooftop garden on it.

Anyway, I went shopping that night and bought all the stuff for my bed from Kmart (saving about $40 by not buying it from the residence), plus some towels, dish soap and food. It took a long time to make up my bed, so I ended up having my granola for supper late while watching Star Trek Voyager. (I have yet to find an Australian program on the TV.) Then I went to bed listening to all the noisy activity of a big city on Friday night. Good thing I have earplugs!

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