Rachel Down Under!

Rain, rain go away!

Posted in Australia, Sydney by rssmith218 on October 7, 2010

Could I be any wetter? What a rainy weekend here in Australia! And what bad luck to have three full days of rain for the long weekend!

Yes, Monday was Labour Day in my great state of New South Wales, exactly one month after Labor Day in the United States. Other states in Australia are even further behind (or ahead, depends on your perspective) the US Labor Day; Victoria, Tasmania, and Western Australia take time off in March to celebrate, while Queensland and the Northern Territory enjoy Labour Day in May. However, in both Australia and in the United States, Labour/Labor Day is a celebration of the same idea; in both countries it is a day to commemorate the social and economic achievements of workers during the organized labor movement of the 1850s and notably the eight-hour day movement, a movement which fought for working days with eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest.

Happily, my schedule here in Australia allows me to fulfill this ideal on almost a daily basis, but I was still glad to have the day off, and despite the rain, I enjoyed a lovely long weekend. Here are some weekend highlights:

1. Sydney Morning Herald Growers Markets

October is the month of Crave Sydney’s International Food Festival, a “month long celebration of Sydney’s obsession with food” with “extraordinary food experiences in unique Sydney locations”. Unfortunately, I didn’t find out about this festival in time to get tickets (free!) to some of the more exciting events, for example, to Breakfast on the Bridge, a huge picnic on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Photo taken from the Events NSW Flikr page.

How cool would that have been? Instead, Aisha and I ventured to the Sydney Morning Herald Growers Markets, where we enjoyed a great farmers market, drank delicious chai lattes, and experienced some “barbecue madness” as we watched chefs compete in a barbecue competition.

We also received free bags! Where does Aisha’s shirt end and her bag begin?

2. Cockatoo Island

The largest island in Sydney Harbour, Cockatoo Island is likely also one of the creepiest. It may have just been the rain, but the empty buildings, dark underground tunnels, and abandoned industrial equipment also contributed to the extraordinarily creepy setting.

Cockatoo Island has a dark, albeit interesting past; in the 1840s, the island was chosen as the sight of a new penal establishment, and convicts were put to work in the construction of the island’s prison barracks, guardhouses, and importantly, a dock. The island remained a prison for many years, but the dock was gradually adopted by the military, and Cockatoo Island developed into a bustling Navy shipyard. Not only was the first Australian steel warship built on the island, but during World War II, Cockatoo Island became the major shipyard and repair facility for ships in the South West Pacific.

Today, the island is eerily empty and it is hard to imagine that it was once a busy shipyard or even a prison. Come join Aisha and I on a quick tour of the island and you will see what I mean:

First, the prison barracks! Stark, isn’t it?

We then explored a series of abandoned shipyard buildings, which were again cool but creepy:

Here is the drawing office,

the timber drying store,

and my favorite, the latrine, which, according to its sign, “has few historical associations and little aesthetic value.” Got to love the Aussie humor!

Probably the scariest part of the island were the underground tunnels, shown below, that, aside from being dark and long, also had audio equipment installed playing mixtures of horror music and yelling in German.

Spooky. And yet, one person who isn’t afraid of Cockatoo Island is Hugh Jackman.  He loves Cockatoo Island so much that he both filmed portions of X-Men Origins: Wolverine on the island, and also used the island as the site of an exclusive movie preview. Here he is arriving to the film preview via flying fox; looks like the island is bringing out his adventurous side.

Wish I could say the same for me- I was pretty happy to board the ferry and get back to civilization!

3. Manly Jazz Festival

On Monday, the sun finally came out for a couple of hours, just in time for my volunteer shift at the Manly Jazz Festival!

Here’s the stage where I worked!

Prior to the “hot jazz”, Aisha and I met up to explore the “cool surf” at Shelly Beach in Manly. Manly is so beautiful, I can’t wait to explore it further in the coming weeks!

That’s Shelly Beach on the other side of the water!

Aisha searches for seashells on the seashore

Look at these cool shells!

Again, another great week in Sydney. The weather is starting to warm up and as I prepare my experiment for the field season, I can feel that summer is truly on its way!


4 Responses

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  1. Lenore said, on October 7, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    Send me some sea shells!
    Are there really no Cubs fans in Australia who can get you to stop wearing that Milton Bradley shirt? You wouldn’t make it three blocks in ChiTown in that thing!

    Thanks for the update!

  2. Thomas said, on October 7, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    Is it still raining? I hadn’t noticed.

    Cockatoo island seems like an even SCARIER version of shutter island! Except that Leo>Hugh any day of the week.

  3. john shabosky said, on October 9, 2010 at 3:37 am

    hey rachel!

    i was looking through old emails and found your update message that reminded me that you had a blog! looks like australia is as awesome as it sounds, cockatoo island looks creeptastic — nice job going on a rainy day to maximize creepiness haha i am now going to read the rest of the blog because i am bored at work.

    ps. the cubs shirt really disappoints me. if you don’t put on a sox shirt we no longer can be friends.

  4. Sunny Reed said, on October 22, 2010 at 8:28 am

    Love the Cubs shirt! Your photos are terrific and the commentary great. Larry and I are enjoying the views and getting to know your new friends. Glad you heard a good concert too! sunny

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