I’m in Australia. Wow. Hard to believe that after 18-odd months of training (and not training) I have actually come all the way ’round to the other side of the world for a swim meet. I’m thrilled to be here and a little bit whacked out of my head from sleep deprivation; managed something like 5 hours on the plane from LA to Sydney. What time was that? Hard to say. My blog entries will reflect Sydney time while I’m here, by the way, which is GMT+11.
Sydney. Impressions. Sunny and warm; I’ve been walking around in a t-shirt and sandals all day. Reminds me of San Francisco, albeit with more clement weather. The city’s parks and squares are dotted with jacaranda trees, which are all in bloom. You can see them from half a mile away, their long trumpet-shaped flowers a vibrant cloud of electric lilac. Not so many pigeons as in the States or in Europe, possibly because the natives are giving them a run for their money; the Botanic Garden has flocks of very large white cockatoos with yellow crests, and in a couple of smaller parks I saw these huge black-and-white ibises being fed chunks of bread by the men on the benches. There’s a rather plain brownish-blackish bird, with a short pointy yellow beak and a yellow circle around its eye, that roosts in the rafters at the train station round the corner from our hotel. Sweet little chirping song, and it hops on the grass looking for bugs. Must identify it eventually, too. Public swimming pools all over the place—this is a nation of swimmers. Met my suitemates and a couple other TNYA swimmers at a particularly nice one this afternoon after I checked in with the Games: open-air, filtered saltwater, with a teak deck overlooking some part of…well, it was either the harbor or that huge bay immediately to the south of it. Botany Bay, I think. I’ve seen the arch of the Sydney Harbor Bridge peeking over the skyscrapers; I’ll get a much closer encounter with it on Friday. Still no Opera House sightings, but it’s plainly just a matter of time. This being the beginning of spring, all the office workers threw themselves out of doors at lunchtime; it seemed like half the town was jogging or swimming or playing soccer or rugby for a while. Many, many, many handsome men, although some have suggested that the presence of the Games may be affecting the data.
The hotel is in the Haymarket neighborhood, which clearly used to be much seedier than it is. Adult bookstores and gun shops with “we’ve moved” and “going out of business” signs in the windows; new Internet cafés and Starbuckses all over the place. Lots of Asian restaurants and shops. A shop that sells take-it-home-and-cook-it dim-sum two blocks from the hotel; given that we have a suite avec kitchen, I think I must investigate that further. One block has something like five different video game parlors, all crammed into one small zone—I haven’t seen any anywhere else in town. Keep walking north from the hotel and suddenly you’re in the business district. I’ve tried to link to a relevant map here, but thus far Whereis.com.au won’t let me do it. Shocking! So here’s a more general map of Sydney. We’re just west of the University.
I feel like I have ten million other things I should be writing about—the mingled excitement and anxiety about the coming races, how my teammates are faring—but I’m having trouble keeping my mind still long enough to articulate them. The plane trip was okay, all things considered. I saw Men in Black II twice: once on the American Airlines flight from JFK to LA, once on Qantas from LA to Sydney. Had to sit in the middle seat on the long leg of the trip, urrgh. There’s no ‘u’ in Qantas not because it’s some kind of Aboriginal term but because it’s an acronym: Queensland And Northern Territories Aerial Service. Got a few hours of sleep on the plane but when that dried up I watched movies. It’s really criminal how the airlines put the most boldly schlocky stuff (like…say…Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood) on only once you’ve been rendered most vulnerable to it by sleep deprivation. (What is this dreck? Because…it’s so beautiful! The mother…the daughter…the handsome fianc&eacute! Oh! Sniff. etc.) I’ve managed to keep myself more or less together today by walking around, talking to people, swimming 1500 meters (felt good, thanks); but I can hear a strange and hysterical little voice giggling somewhere in the back of my head and it’s getting louder. Sleep will be a good thing tonight.
Best to all and anybody who’s reading this. I’ll try to check in again in a day or two. Oh, and that whole food-poisoning thing was (as you probably surmised) without merit.