What do you love most about the city / town / place that you live in? What do you like the least about it? If you were mayor, what would be the most important problem you’d tackle? How would you tackle it?
I live in Sydney, Australia along with 4.5 million others. It is a vibrant, exciting city visited by millions of people ever year and home to the deepest natural harbour in the world. See my earlier post—Welcome to Sydney here for more information.
Working in mental health I love that Sydney’s specialists and hospitals are recognised on the world map as leaders in research in all areas. If help is needed it can be accessed—something that cannot be said for many places.
My biggest problem living in Sydney is the daily commute. Compared to other cities in the world, it is expensive—although now a little cheaper with the Opal card, time consuming and the buses are unreliable. I mostly use the trains which have improved recently however they are not yet at a level that encourages drivers to get off the road and catch the train. On average it takes me 1.5 hours to get to work on the train. If I leave for work early and leave work late I can drive the distance in half an hour—something I have begun doing a couple of days a week. During my usual hours however the drive will take a minimum of an hour so the extra stress isn’t worth it.
My only solution to this problem is to bring down the price of public transport, increase services and make sure they run on or close to time. Sydney trains has worked hard on this however the buses have far too few routes and buses often don’t show. Only last Sunday I needed to wait for 50 minutes for a bus that should have arrived 6 minutes after I did. If I had taken my alternate train/walk route I would have been home before the bus arrived.
These problems are not insurmountable and commuting would take less time in a smaller city. Smaller cities also have fewer resources something I am not interested in giving up. While 5 minutes to work may be great if I worked in an office or shop—in mental health physical distance can be a blessing in disguise as it gives time between work and home which helps me to wind down after a busy day. Having a view of Sydney Harbour to start and end my day isn’t hard to take either—something I don’t get on the days I choose to drive.
Yesterday on my daily commute to work, I had a life changing experience. This experience was also shared with a retired couple sitting next to me. I was minding my own business blogging away, when as the train arrived at Central—Sydney’s largest train station—my eyes were suddenly and for no reason diverted to the open doors. A large group of school children and teachers got on in an excited, orderly fashion. The older Australian woman who looked old for her years, gently guided one young lady who had the most intense smile and a pretty face to sit on the side seats with her. I wondered to myself, why she was singled out to sit with the teacher, when the others were allowed to sit in the upper carriages. The girl didn’t look like trouble and the teacher obviously trusted her as she left her bag with her while she tended to some of the other children.
Five minutes into the short journey we shared—all was revealed. The teacher was taking a photo of the young girl and a smaller, energetic male student who briefly sat with her. She began chatting to the retired couple and I. The students who all looked eastern European or Asian were from an Intensive Language School in Sydney’s south west and were on an excursion to walk over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, around Circular Quay and up the stairs to the Sydney Opera House all for the first time. Every student was a new arrival to Australia—the young girl sitting with the teacher, had in fact only been in Australia from Iran for 14 days. The teacher had kept her close to show her a good view of Sydney Harbour and the Opera House from the train.
The older couple and myself smiled at each other. We too were excited to be a part of this girls special moment. The teacher said she had been doing this excursion for 30 years and never tired of it. She loved working at the school helping these young children settle into and adjust to living in their new home—Australia.
The train moved closer to Milson’s Point station were the children would be getting off. The teacher prepared the girl by standing her in middle of the side train carriage where she could see out each of the side windows. She was excited. The teacher was directed to the left and she got her first ever glimpse of Sydney Harbour. It was a precious moment.
“Oh wow” she said quietly, as her smile become even bigger—something I didn’t think was possible. We told her to look out the other where she saw the Sydney Opera House in all her glory, the ferries and the busy beauty that is Sydney Harbour—that we all know and love. Her response was again even louder.
After the children and teachers got off the train, the couple and I began chatting about how special that moment was and how it gives a different perspective to immigration—kids coming to Australia and seeing things through their new fresh eyes.
It was a great way to start the working day.