Mid 2019, I was dealing with anxiety. There were many changes happening at work that I felt isolated and uncertain of my future in the company. I had a feeling I have reached a plateau in my career and that perhaps that is all there is to it. I was already in the middle of pondering my exit when a new manager came along. Curious, I held on to see what this means for our team and I’m glad that I did. The new manager revived my dying enthusiasm and arranged something that I never thought would ever happen again; returning to Australia that is. On 29th November, I flew to Sydney for a business trip that involved meeting my teammates and some barbecue and wine.
I was dubious of getting my visa approved considering I only had less than two weeks to process it. Thankfully, it was granted just after 11 days of my application. I flew to Sydney via Qantas on the 29th of November and for the first time I’d been given an exit row seat. This means more leg room, and that the safety of other passengers rests on my five-foot one frame (it was a safe flight so we didn’t have to put that to the test, thank lord).
In the first few hours of the journey I struggled to get some shuteye because my seat mate, a tall Aussie guy and the flight attendant were busy talking in what felt like another language as their accents were too thick, I couldn’t grasp a thing. And here I thought I was already used to listening to Australians. When at last, they’ve grown tired of each other, I twisted and turned on my seat, trying to find a comfortable position so I could sleep, but to no avail. I was also coughing the entire flight making things all the more difficult. I was sitting by the window and wanted so bad to rest my legs on top of this compartment like thingy in front of my seat, I don’t know what to call it but click here to see a photo (the image is not mine so I just linked it). But it had a sign saying not to put a bag on it, so I assumed that also goes for legs.
We landed safely on Sydney airport Saturday morning. For the first time in my life, I had something to declare so it took me a while to pass through airport checkpoints. Australia is quite strict about what you bring to their country so if you have live animals, plant material, animal products, and certain food products, it is best to declare them. I only brought a box of dried mangoes for my colleagues, some of my friends said I didn’t have to declare it. But when you’ve watched Qantas flight-safety video in which they keep telling you to “just declare it” on repeat, you’d be programmed to indeed, just declare it.
They have separate queues for people with something to declare and that’s where I went. But whenever I say I got dried mangoes they don’t make a fuss and just let me through.
By the time I got myself a sim card, all the texts that I had been receiving from the shuttle driver have started to come through. I met him after exiting the airport. I booked a shared transfer from the airport to CBD via Klook but to my surprise, I was the only passenger.
Westend Backpacker Hostel
I wouldn’t check in at the hotel that the company arranged for me until the next day, hence, I booked an overnight stay at Westend Backpacker Hostel. When I entered through the glass door, I looked up and saw the challenge ahead.
A man from the top of the stairs caught me contemplating about my fate and decided to save the day. He helped me with my luggage and when I said my thanks, he said no worries and patted me on the head, and I was like.
It was too early to check in, the receptionist — who is so pretty and tall she could pass for a Victoria Secret model — told me that I could store my bag in their luggage room while waiting. I used the elevator to the 6th floor, found the luggage room, and recoiled at the chaos waiting inside the room.
I went downstairs to kill time and had to cringe at yet another disappointment. One of the reasons I booked my stay in this hostel is because it looked good on photos, but in person it was completely different. Don’t take my word for it, just look at this side by side photos of the common area. The left photo is what you can see from Agoda, the right photo is what I took.
It seems like Australia hasn’t caught up yet on trendy and charming hostels that are popular in Asia. Despite this, the place is fully booked that you can’t do an early check in. I think the appeal is that it is on CBD but not overly expensive. Also, it has an open kitchen equipped with cooking utensils. Guests are free to use this kitchen to make their own food and I saw a lot of them there looking like they were having a cook off of some sort.
I made myself comfortable on one of the huge couches, covered my head with pashmina, and slept to recover from that red-eye flight. I was in and out of sleep as I heard people talking in different languages, walking, eating their breakfast. I was too sleep-deprived to care.
Finally, it was time to check in, the model-esque receptionist gave me a key to the all-female dorm with 6 beds. It was in disarray as could be expected in dorm rooms. The latch of the sliding door of the bathroom was broken so I was a bit concerned. But then again, it’s an all-female dorm, what’s the worst that could happen.
I had a little chat with a curly haired woman occupying one of the upper bunk beds. I can’t remember now which country she came from only that she speaks Spanish. She had two big luggage and had been traveling in Australia for a while now. She asked if I’m catholic, to which I said yes, then she shared her unfavorable opinion of the current pope. Apparently, he is too political for her taste. I disagree but I knew better than to go into a debate that involves religion.
I let out a cough, which I had been suffering from for a week and she had a suggestion about it.
“I had been sick for the past few days too and I cured myself. I ate those super spicy cup noodles from the Asian store across the street and that fixed me right up. You better buy one of those. If it gets bad at night, just go to the kitchen, there’s hot water in there, then eat the spicy noodles, it will give you relief,” she said.
Now I don’t even know if there’s some scientific truth to her claims, but I didn’t follow her advice, not because I thought she was lying, but because midnight snacking is not my thing. I do intermittent fasting, been at it for a year now.
I kinda regretted not listening to her though because I barked the entire night.
On my first visit to Australia in 2017, I went to some of the must-see spots in CBD such as the Darling Harbour, The Rocks, Chinatown, Taronga Zoo, and the one place that could easily tell your folks back home that indeed you are in Oz, the Sydney Opera House. I was thinking of going to Bondi beach, but laziness got the best of me. I decided to just go back to the Sydney Opera House to take some photos, so you know, I have something to show the people back home I am indeed back to Oz, lol.
My Opal card is still working, I just had to top up so I could use it for public transport. I took a bus to Darling Harbour and from there, went on foot to get to the Sydney Opera.
The Royal Botanic Garden
Next to the opera is a botanical garden, which I discovered accidentally as I was taking some photos. I went over to check it out and saw this small table on the side of the gate manned by a guard. I wondered if I had to buy a ticket to get inside, so I stood by the gate to observe people. When I saw that they just entered through the gates freely, I followed suit.
A quick wiki read says that it is one of the most historic botanical institutions in Australia. It was opened in 1816, sitting on a 29-hectare of land. It has four major areas: Lower Gardens, Middle Gardens, Palace Gardens, and the Bennlong precinct. I only saw a small portion of the park as the sun was already setting when I went there. It was beautiful and a perfect spot to chill.
The next day I checked out and took the train to North Ryde. I went to Meriton Suites Chatswood, thinking that that’s where the company booked my stay. Wrong. They booked me on Meriton Suites North Ryde. So, this is where my adventure happened and by adventure, I mean I walked from the North Ryde train station to Meriton Suites with my big luggage for 1 and half hour. See the Google Maps screenshot below for reference. Took me longer than 45 minutes with the luggage.
Yes, I could have taken the train, yes, I could have taken an Uber, but I had to be the moron who walked that distance for no logical reason at all. You see, sometimes I am not very smart, lol. This is when I found out that many roads and streets in North Ryde have too many slopes. I spent an hour either pushing my luggage up the hilly sidewalk or chasing my luggage when going down the slope. I hope Google Maps’ street camera wasn’t making rounds during that time lest there would be a capture of this silly woman with a luggage on their street view images (well at least my face will be blurred).
Why did I do it? All I could remember is that I told myself I had already started it, might as well finish it. Totally unreasonable and not something you should try, kids.
When at last I reached Meriton, it was already past 11. I realized that Meriton Chatswood may be farther in location from our office than Meriton North Ryde, but easier for me to get to work. Meriton Chatswood is a mere 3-minute walk to Chatswood train station, which is just a station away from North Ryde. From North Ryde station, it only takes about 8 minutes of walk to the office, easy peasy.
But with Meriton North Ryde, I’d have to walk for an hour (which I already did). The easy way is to take an Uber, which is a more expensive option than taking the train. So if there is a competition between Meriton Chatswood and Meriton North Ryde for the most convenient way to get to the office, the former wins.
The benefit of staying at Meriton North Ryde is that it sits across a mall called, McQuarie Park. That’s where I went for lunch while waiting for check-in time.
I was in Sydney for 4 days to meet my stakeholders. During that time, I had been made aware of the raging bushfire that the city was experiencing since November. Bushfire is a common phenomenon in Australia due to their dry and hot climate during summer season. The recent incident, however, was one of their worsts yet and it was not contained until the 12th of January. By then, many homes have already been destroyed, and thousands of wildlife animals had been either injured or killed. For weeks, the air smelled of burnt wood. It was worse when I was around CBD area, people had to wear face masks.
Sometimes, if you hold on for just a little bit, you may get what you want. I didn’t think this business trip would ever happen again because in 2018, they cancelled the plan to send me and my former fellow Manila writer to Australia. There’s the budget restrictions to consider and also, the team is bigger now than when I first started in this company. So many things have changed, people have come and go, and I’ve reached the point when I thought there is nothing more to do.
It is much easier for me to let go than to wait. This time, however, I’m glad that I held on. And it is not just because I went back to Australia, it’s because I have finally found a team that truly appreciates me.
You will get to know some of them in my next post about Adelaide.