Day 3 - Walking and Rain!
Thursday November 21
From our hotel we headed to an internet cafe to send an update and then made our way thru town to Hyde Park. Hyde Park was originally set aside as a public space in 1792 and used for the colonists earliest cricket matches and horse races. It was made into a park in 1810.
Right next to Hyde Park is St. Mary's Cathedral. It had just recently been cleaned up and retrofitted and restored. Beautiful! Just beautiful. Of course, we've never seen any of the old cathedrals in Europe but, this was pretty cool. I think it is about 150 years old and was rebuilt in 1870 because of a fire.
As we were leaving the Opera House it started to rain. We stepped into a gift shop and bought Beth a raincoat. Hopefully tomorrow the weather will clear up so we can go to Bondi Beach.
Americans Abroad - Chris' Observations
As I write this we are hearing about how Japan has followed Australia's lead in warning travelers to stay away from Australia. It's a little unsettling but we are still enjoying ourselves.
5:45 AM Friday
Thursday as we were walking around and shopping and sight seeing we had 3 separate conversations with different people about America. The first was with an Egyptian guy who was about 30 years old. When I first started to talk to him he was hurling some negative comments about George W. Then, since my video camera is basically ALWAYS in my hand, I pulled it up from behind the counter and rolled tape on the guy. He immediately got scared and started saying NICE things about George and even giving me a thumbs up. Basically the "old switcheroo". After talking some more he said that George needed to "slow down". Presumably talking about the situation in Iraq, Amir (that's what I will call him) is not happy with the United States policy of "policing the world". Essentially Amir thought we needed to keep to ourselves.
The next chat was with an Aussie guard at a museum. He was about 30 also and wanted to move to the West Coast, probably California. He said he had connections and friends and wanted to try to find a sponsor. I realized that because of the exchange rates that his Aussie Dollar was worth crap in America but he was also aware that in the States you can earn a higher wage. Beth thought he was gay. Me, I'm not so sure. Maybe "Bruce" just wanted to live in a society that was more liberal and accepting of his lifestyle. We spoke of the universal exchange rate, The McDonald's Value Meal. You can always judge how powerful your dollar is by finding out how much a Big Mac, Fries and Coke will set you back. Which was funny because he brought it up and I had been using this system since the time that I use to travel to Amsterdam on business. It was a validation of my system to find out that others used it as well. Basically Bruce was pleased with the idea of America.
Bruce also filled us in on another Australian tidbit. Many Aussies do not travel at all, even around their own country. Basically since their dollar is worthless in the rest of the world they can't afford to travel abroad and everything is SO far apart at home it is VERY expensive to travel by air because there are only 2 airlines to choose from. Imagine if it cost $400 to fly from LA to SFO and back. That is a common air fare between cities of approximately the same distance.
Our third conversation was with a pair of guys that worked at a Ski Shop. The Ski Shop in and of itself struck me as strange because it is basically summer here and yet they said that they do big business. We walked in and there were videos playing that were made in America. They were of snow boarders from Vale Colorado. Many of the companies represented were American companies and these guys said that many of the rich and elite travel to the states to ski.
These two guys, I'll call them Bill and Ted were from Australia and England respectively. We talked about tax rates, health care, travel costs, retirement bennies, and then vacation time. In Australia you get 4 weeks PAID vacation. Most people take 2 weeks at a time and then they get a boat load of sick days as well. Truth be told Bill and Ted told us that the sick days are usually spent at the beach and that many of the working class will take the paid vacation and find some spare work to make ends meet.
Americans have a reputation for being workaholics in the rest of the world. They can't see why we work 60 hour work weeks and then send our families on vacation without us. They think we are stupid. They are probably right.
Then Bill and Ted brought up foreign policy and George W. I reminded them that in America candidates never campaign on foreign issues, and that basically for the most part Americans don't care because we don't know. We tend to be so self absorbed that we don't ever think of the rest of the world unless a Princess dies in a car chase or it threatens to make our gas cost more. Speaking of gas prices. Both Australia and England have VERY high pump prices. I told them that if they wanted to pay less for gas it would probably cost them in more taxes to pay for the Stealth Bombers and Nuclear war heads.
Bill and Ted were also upset with America's policy of policing the world.
Then it dawned on me.
Everyone loves the American Dream but they are not able to see how to achieve the dream. Amir was tending shop doing nothing but selling American style goods. Oh yea, he was working in an honest to goodness 7-11. Bruce wanted to live in the Castro and be apart of the freedom that my Grandfather almost gave his life defending and fighting for in World War I. Bill and Ted want to be able to ski for relatively cheap and have American cars and gas prices to take their girlfriends out on dates to drive-ins. It seems to me that they want the trappings of America but they don't want to see it happen.
It kind of reminds me of Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men when he talks about how he does the job that the rest of us don't want to even know about and yet everyday we reap the benefits of what he is giving his life for.
I don't know what the answer to this observation is but I think we need to hold our politicians to a higher standard, and I have NO idea what that standard is.