I don’t think Tom and I underestimated how much work moving abroad and setting up a new life would be. However, we underestimated how much work doing so would be without the things we were used to, like knowing how to navigate local public transportation, having a car, or even just knowing where to go for what.
Recent time-consuming conundrums: Where should one get their eyes checked? Where does one get a Tax ID? Where can one print one single sheet of paper and then scan it? Where do we buy furniture that isn’t IKEA? When do the stores close? Oh now? But we just took two buses and a train to get here and it’s only 5:50PM.
Our first three weeks were spent busing, training, Ubering, and walking around Sydney, house hunting and trying to get our bearings with a few beer, wine, and meat pie breaks in between. We were having a good time getting things done – ticking checkmarks off a never-ending to-do list – but we ended each day with a long commute back to Airbnbs, first in Newtown and then in Elizabeth Bay, and slept fitfully in humidity until the blinding sun or someone taking out dozens of glass bottles woke us up. We had unwittingly thrown ourselves into a grueling schedule of “getting our shit together…in Australia.” How foolish of us.
It was never meant to be a vacation, moving here, but a change of pace. And soon enough Tom will start a new job and my days will slow down, mostly because it’ll just be me, staying put. Puttering. But can you blame us if we’d thought the first few weeks would be a bit more leisurely before real life set in?
Eventually, we got what we wanted, much of it thanks to an airy two-bedroom Airbnb in North Bondi, owned by a man whose profile photo seemed to embody all that “laid back” implied. (And laid back he was. When we inquired about extending our stay and paying him $455AUD in cash, he said, ‘Let’s just call it $400,” and turned up a few days later, tanned from his days as a volunteer Surf Rescue member, to collect the cash. He was awesome and we wanted to be his friend, but didn’t know how to give him cash while asking for his friendship.)
It wasn’t that our to-do list was done by the time we arrived in Bondi, it was just that the beach and life by it has a way of muting all the noise from a mental to-do list. The people saunter or surf or swim. Tourists abound, but not in frightening droves. Everyone is there to relax and enjoy. Even the dogs seem more chilled out. We very nearly turned into beach bums and considered surfing lessons, but just two and a half days in, clouds rolled in. It began to drizzle. And then pour.
For three days straight it was too wet, too cold to go to the beach. At first we cursed our luck, but then we remembered where we were, and why we were there. We read a few books and when the rain let up, took a few walks, appreciating the drama of clouds rolling over black waves versus a simple blanket of blue on blue. We strolled down the famed coastal walk from Bondi to Bronte without the usual hoards of people and when it poured, went to the local butcher for steaks to cook on a cosy night in.
In keeping pace with life by the beach, even the clouds moved out more slowly than I thought usual, but by our second weekend, the sun returned from whatever it was doing. It peeked out shyly at first and then, as though it suddenly remembered who it was, boldly.
By the time we left, Bondi Beach was just as we’d found it: buzzing and baking under the sun, but in our memory, no less beautiful in the rain.
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