Internet access here is kind of tricky, in that it either costs $5 an hour from our hotel, or occasionally works for free thanks to the kind soul in a nearby apartment with an unsecured wifi access point. Because of both the spotty connectivity and the fact that this kind soul is paying for metered access, I've opted to not upload the pictures I've taken thus far. I think Tuesday we move from our downtown Sydney hotel to a much nicer one on the beach, courtesy of D's new employers. I'm led to believe that wifi at the nicer hotel will be of a more "unlimited" nature, which hopefully should allow for better access then. The Internet withdrawal is actually worse than the jetlag was. We are apparently pretty hard-core connectivity addicts.
I've spent too much time and money over the last two days trying to get my iPhone up and connected to both the phone network and the data network, all of which has been entirely fruitless thus far. It SHOULD work, though, so I suspect that something got botched when I unlocked it. On the plus side, the really nice guy at Telstra broke the rules and gave me a returned Nokia and charger so that I could use the pre-paid SIM for which I had already paid, activated, and funded with enough money to get me data access for my entire stay. I'm incredibly indebted to this fine young man because I would have either wasted the heaps of money I had already spent, or had to waste heaps more buying a phone in order to not feel like I had wasted it.
We spent most of the day yesterday playing tourists, spending heaps of cash on the Sydney Aquarium and the Sydney Animal World. (Or something like that; I' a bit sketchy on the name, and I can't look it up from here.) The aquarium had some really impressive habitats filled with the largest fish I had ever seen. I tried again and again to capture them with my camera, but they always came out looking like just fish; the enormous magesty of them was completely lost, so I ultimately gave up. I didn't get many good pics of fish but I did get some good surrepticious shots of people and kids looking at them. At the animal park there were wallabies (no hoofs), wombats, koalas and a veritable cornucopia of rodents that this rodent-lover would love to be able to smuggle home. Practically every exhibit we came to drew a 'ooh, let's get some of THOSE' from one or both of us. One of the advertised perks of the place was that you could pet a koala, but as it turns out, it cost extra to do so, so D opted not to pet one. (Though tomorrow we are going to the Torranga(?) Zoo, where one of the advertised perks is being able to pet a koala, so I guess we'll see.)
Speaking of costing extra: Sydney is bloody expensive. The exchange rate now between American dollars and Australian dollars is now pretty close to negligible, easing the mental calculations before purchases -- but straining our wallets. Depending upon where you are, a small bottled soft drink ranges from $4-$6. Last night I popped down to a nearby convenience store, leaving with two quart-size bottles of water, two small bottles of juice, six twenty-oz-size soft drinks, and two Girl-Scout-Cookie-box-sized packs of biscuits, totalling (apparently 'totalling' has two 'l's here) $46.50. Taking into account both the 'package deal' and D's student discount, our entry fees into both the aqaurium and the animal place was over $80 a person. Youch.
To my eternal shame, we've been playing the stereotypical Americans, eating an alarming percentage of our food from the nearby McDonald's and Hungry Jack's franchises. In my defense, it's (relatively) cheap, only one of us is currently bringing in money, and the fast food here is (thus far, anyway) way better than in the states. 'Hungry Jack' is what they call Burger King here, which makes me wonder whether Jack in the Box is going to say 'screw the disdain for monarchy' and co-opt the 'King' name since Burger King already took 'Jack.' This morning I had an 'Aussie Breky' from Hungry Jack, which is, essentially, a Sausage Biscuit with Egg, except disassembled and with an extra egg. The flavor of the sausage startled me a mite bit; it's not the familiar maple-y 'breakfast sausage' flavor to which I'm accustomed. It was, instead, a bit like salisbury steak. And very delicious. (They do have Sausage Biscuits with Egg, but I wanted to say 'Aussie Breky.')
After wandering through the aquarium for awhile, we were amused to realize that we were both reading all the information displays in our heads with Aussie accents. This, combined with the fact that I'm not really noticing any Aussie accents anymore, has me worried that I'm walking around doing a bad Crocodile Hunter impression. Actually, now that I think about it, I'm even more worried. I was just asked for directions by a couple of cute Japanese touristas who looked incredulous when I told them that I don't actually know how to get them where they're going, and that I'm not actually from here. I would really like to be, though.
11:45 am, Sunday:
Just had a 10-minute conversation with an American couple enthralled by my OLPC. I'm pretty good at giving people the sales spiel now, which is unfortunate since the only place they can be acquired is eBay. I think they would have done well to have some in the wild before ending the Give One Get One promotion, because the number of people that see mine in action and want to get one for their kids is staggering. Anyway, I better go back to my hotel and see whether I can get online and post this. I've spent the last hour sitting at the Australian version of Starbucks, called 'Gloria Jean's Coffees' ("Escape the daily grind.™"), which I'd feel kind of silly about if it weren't across the street from an Actual Starbucks. Bloody Americans, always expanding, trying to take over the whole world...