Wow, I cant believe how quickly the last month has
flown by. I have settled into my Australian lifestyle
pretty well by now, although I am working so much it
has been difficult at times to find time to play!
Christmas and New Years were decidedly fun and
entertaining; which was quite a nice surprise. SO,
for those of you who are interested in hearing about
life in Sydney (well, my life in Sydney) please read
on.

I have settled into my new jobs rather well. I am
quite confident about waiting tables now (working on
the floor as it is known at the Sheraton), which is
still a hilarious fact to me. I can carry multiple
plates simultaneously, pop bottles of champagne, make
espresso, schmooze guests (alright, I think I hand
well-honed schmoozing technique before I became a
waitress) and my biceps are developing nicely. The
tips aren't bad either (although Aussies are way more
stingy than Americans!) and I have met quite a few
lovely people at work (although I wasnt here the
night Nicole Kidman ate here after the premiere of her
movie Cold Mountain Dammit!!!!!!!). This includes
a little old lady who I served on Christmas Eve, who
promptly invited me to her family home for Christmas
lunch when she heard that I had nowhere to go! I
declined at first (a little weird, even for me,
right?) but she insisted that there would be many
people there and most of them my age, so I'd fit
right in (she didn't know me, so one can't blame her
for making such an assumption, right?).

So, off I went in the blazing heat (SO strange) and I
had quite a fun time! There were four generations of
family present including Gramps who declared that
they should have a strange English girl for Christmas
dinner every year from now on, because I was simply
lovely as he put it (yes, he was old; and the older
the person, especially if male, the greater the
possibility of finding me delightful, or so I've found
to be the case in the past.) The family's hospitality
truly stunned me when they presented me with 3 wrapped
gifts from under the tree; including a Limoges gravy
boat (yeah, that will carry well in my backpack!), a
hand-painted Christmas tree ornament with my name, and
a basket of perfumed candles. Well, blow me down if
they didn't get me drunk too! I went straight to work
from the lunch, and the hand was a little unsteady
pouring champagne for a few hours, and Anita was ever
more gregarious, complete with Santa hat and tipsy
smile. We had carolers in the hotel, which sang
requests for the guests at their respective tables;
it was all so beautiful it was all I could do to stop
myself from hugging them all and openly weeping.
God, I'm emotional.

Boxing Day was highlighted with a trip to the premiere
of Return of the King; and I can honestly say it is
one of the best movies I have ever experienced
(experienced because you can't watch Lord of the
Rings
, you are there with the characters). An
absolute work of genius, I highly recommend it to all
of you! I cried, shouted, hollered, cheered and
clapped so much, everyone within a 5 row radius knew
me by my first name by the credits.

New Year's Eve in Sydney was incredible. I managed to
beg, plead, cavort and bribe my way out of working
(I'm sorry; but how often will I be in Sydney on NY's
Eve?? I rest my case.) and headed for the botanical
gardens with people from the house. I say people
from the house because, since I'm hardly there, I
haven't really developed any friendships with any of
them, and haven't felt cheated as a result; they are a
unique bunch of young, drinking, travelers (No, not
like me at all!) My friend, Andreas, flew to Cairns
on 30 Dec so I was missing his presence muchly. He
was bummed to leave; apparently there wasn't much
going on up north, whilst Sydney was jammed with
activity. We lay out in the sun for the best part of
the day, in an excellent spot right on the harbor with
a magnificent view of the bridge and opera house. The
fireworks were spectacular, especially the second set
(yeah, two sets!! London eat your heart out!) at
midnight. The only interruptions were one of my
drunken housemates screaming and crying into her
mobile to her ex-boyfriend that she still loved him,
and then another couple from the house who decided
that the stroke of midnight was the perfect
opportunity to start a loud brawl. Yes, a perfect
start to a New Year. I walked home alone,
contemplating a rewarding, successful and
adventure-filled (well, duh!) 2004. Hopefully, with
more of you guys in it , I miss you!!!!

Lets see, What else fun to share? OH - perhaps my
biggest news is that I will shortly have a new partner
in crime! My oldest friend on the planet, in fact,
Giovanna from the UK is flying to Australia at the end
of January. Yeah!!! Funnily enough, whilst we were
inseparable from the ages of about 7 to 12, we lost
touch after that, and have only spent a day together
since as adults!! (well, we got along famously for the
day, and still have a surprising amount in common, so
I can't wait for her to come out and join me!) We are
flying to New Zealand together on the 3rd of February
for a whole month of the alpine, thermal, beach,
nature and adventure wonders of Lord of the Rings
country a camping tour of both islands with a focus
on hiking and biking. I can't wait. I miss the
wilderness and being in such a busy city as Sydney is
taking its toll on my love of the great outdoors.(oh,
Alaska!! love to all of you out there braving the
winter!) After New Zealand, we are flying on to
Melbourne and then driving on to the Red Center of the
country. Major heat!

Not that I haven't been enjoying the great outdoors
here. Sydney does boast some great long walks; and I
have been exploring on my days off of late. I have
walked several coastal walks, all the way from the
northern suburb of Watson's bay, famous for its
suicide-popular site known affectionately as the Gap
a spectacular set of cliffs plummeting straight down
to the Pacific Ocean and coast as far as the eye can
see; to Bondi Beach and beyond to Coogee. Of course,
I have stopped to swim and sunbathe along the way and
have started to really love the coastline here. The
real estate is simply incredible, people sure have
money here. Each beach tends to have rock pools that
let you swim free of the dreaded waves and sharks
(yup, still a little wary) so I love those for a
refreshing dip. But mostly, I have really started to
treasure my afternoons of solitude, breathing the
fresh sea air and contemplating the present and
future.
Being here in Sydney has been SUCH a learning
experience. Although, there are things that I will
always associate with Sydney that I never thought I
would: the thousands of giant bats I see each night
flying overhead to Moore Park as I walk home, hearing
a multitude of Eastern European languages every day on
the public bus system, Australian words for espresso
coffees (Flat white, short black, long black), Tooheys
Beer, and the list keeps growing. I now feel that I
could handle setting up from scratch in any major
city. And I know that by the end of the year, I will
be forced to do just that, stateside. Right now, I am
looking to Seattle to call home come next fall.

For now, there is more work, fun, sun, mountains and
good times to look forward to. And not to forget,
ALASKA by May!!!!!!!

I just want to end this letter by mentioning my
gratitude for all of your wonderful and comforting
words and comments to me recently. I do not feel
alone because of your amazing emails. Keep 'em
coming!

Love to you all and best wishes for 2004

Anita


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