Upon arriving in Australia we were greeted by a driver who was much like whoever has taken us to our first hotel in any country; an opinionated talker. He let loose when he found out that we might have political philosophies that lean toward the right. He harangued the Aussie Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, whose answer to everything in our driver’s mind was to throw money at the problem. Our driver compared him to Barack Obama, describing them as two peas in a pod. He then lambasted the U.S. – a place he had visited many times. He accused us of going wobbly. He said we made a mistake by not making English the national language way back when, and questioned why we had everything in “Mexican” also. Welcome to Australia.
Sydney, the largest city, has become identified worldwide by its Opera House. Since its completion in 1973, you rarely see a visual of Sydney or Australia that does not include the iconic image. We could see it from our hotel window and my wife, an opera fan, squealed like a bobby-soxer upon first glance. It is hard not to be captivated by it. The name is somewhat of a misnomer as it has six venues including a concert hall, Opera Theater, and multiple others. It is much larger in person than one would think.
We mostly like to engage the locals wherever we go like the Italian waiter from Sicily or the housekeeping supervisor from Mauritius, but sometimes we run into fellow Americans. We took a cruise around the Sydney Harbor, the largest in the world. The boat was filled mostly with seniors from Adelaide, but we sat down next to a young couple (20’s) from Illinois. For the next two hours we viewed the beautiful harbor and engaged them in talk. It turns out they were both pilots. She flew for a regional airline and he is an Air Force F-15E pilot. She had surprised him with the trip from their current home base of Raleigh, North Carolina, as he is about to ship out to Afghanistan. The flabbergasting thing was the fighter pilot, someone with some of the highest skills in the world, was fascinated how I could turn out a column every week. He thought that was just such a monumental achievement he wished he also could do.
Australia requires all people over 18 to vote. It is not a right or a privilege, it is a requirement. They seem to be very proud of this system that they instituted in 1924, but it seems a little awkward to me.