G’day. This week I traveled a bit more than usual. On Wednesday, I had the chance to go see the Australia national team (uniquely named the Socceroos) take on Uzbekistan in a World Cup Qualifier. It was definitely a cool experience watching a soccer match in their Olympic Stadium, the same stadium that many of the 2000 Olympic events took place, especially track and field. Just being in the Olympic Village was nice, but actually seeing a World Cup Qualifier (which Australia sealed their place in the World Cup with their 2-0 win) was great.
I think it’s very interesting to look at attendance for sporting events in the US compared to other countries. The US seems to have a massive following of sports, college and pros, compared to many countries. For example, the World Cup Qualifier, the match that seals Australia’s fate to the world’s biggest event, only drew about 59,000 people. This is only about 70 percent capacity. Remember that this is in Sydney (a city of around 4 million) and is one of their top 3 sports. Now compare this to an Iowa football game. Kinnick holds 70,000 people, and pretty much every game in the last 5 years has been sold out. This is Iowa City, a city of less than 100,000 people. Even games against the lower teams like UNI or NIU draw that many people, over 10,000 more people than this soccer match. Even Iowa State can draw almost 50,000 people to Jack Tryce Stadium (if they give out a lot of free tickets and have fireworks after the game). The amount of enthusiasm for college sports (and professional sports) just amazes me.
On Friday morning I took the train down to Central Coast to visit a friend that I had met last semester in Iowa. She was an exchange at Iowa from the same University I go to here. She had even come to see my home, so it was cool to see her home too. We went to a zoo in the area, so I finally got to see (and feed) some kangaroos and saw a lot of the other animals too. I liked the Tasmanian Devils. They look like innocent little dogs, but I’ve heard that will tear your face off if you get close to them.
On Saturday morning, I took the train down to Sydney and then over to the Blue Mountains. Traveling alone is always a good experience. It’s a great way to meet people, since you are forced to reach out. Hostels are also perfect for meeting people. I am always amazed by how open and friendly travelers are. Just this weekend I met many people, including people from London, Canada, Denmark, and Columbia. I even got the email address of the couple in London, so I have a place to stay when I go back there. I had an interesting conversation with the girls from Denmark and learned a lot about their country. For example, one of Copenhagen’s biggest minorities (if not the biggest) is Muslims. And they get paid to go to college. From talking to them, I find that there is no urgency to get into college. The one girl has been in Australia for 8 months just traveling. She is going back soon, and she will try to work for a while and save up money to go to South America for a year. She said eventually she will go to college, but just doesn’t want to now.
It’s definitely a different attitude than Americans and similar to Australians. As Americans, we graduate high school and go straight to college and finish up as soon as possible. Then after college we get a job and work right away. Americans are all about work, work, work. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s a reason why the US is one of the most powerful countries in the world and has high living standards. Along with this is the vacation days I talked about long ago. The average US job has around 10-12 vacation days per year. In France, it’s more around 30 days per year, at least. That’s 4 weeks more of vacation per year. A full month less of working per person. It’s a different lifestyle. Work doesn’t control their lives like it does to many people in the US. When you have 30 days of vacation per year, it seems so much more flexible and less controlling of your life. I guess that it makes your job and enjoying it all the more important in the US.
The Blue Mountains were fun to go into. It’s definitely not like the Rocky Mountains; it’s more valleys and rain forests. I go there around noon on Saturday, searched around and found a hostel, then went off hiking for the day. I had never seen fog that thick before. There was a popular landmark near my hostel, but I never really got a good view of it because of the fog. The views would have been great at this spot, but it was always foggy there. I went on a long hike (took about 4 hours to do the whole hike), and really enjoyed it. It was through a big rain forest and had some cool waterfalls along the way. Going to the zoo the day before hiking was a bad idea. After seeing all these venemous snakes, spiders, and other animals, it’s hard not to feel like they are everywhere in the wild. So of course I am looking around all the time for animals that could kill me. Fortunately, I never saw anything that could kill me (at least, I think). I finally got all the way around to the bottom of the big landmark I had talked about, called the Three Sisters. They have something called the Giant Staircase that leads back up to the lookout point. They aren’t kidding when they say “giant”. 900 stairs doesn’t look like much on paper, but climbing them definitely is a lot. It took me about 40 minutes to walk all the way up without stopping for too long. To give you a good idea of both the fog and the distance I climbed, I started out around the treeline. After climbing up the stairs, I couldn’t even see the tops of the trees because of the fog.
After spending the night in the hostel (probably the nicest hostel I’ve been in), I headed to Wentworth Falls for more hiking. Wentworth falls was the nicest hiking area I’ve been to. Pretty much there are big plateaus (not exactly sure if that’s what you’d call them), and you can either walk on top, in the middle, or go all the way to the bottom in the rain forest. I chose the middle one since that was the medium difficulty. You follow these cliffs all the way around and see many waterfalls coming down from the top. Really nice views. Overall it was a great weekend for a good price. The trip to the mountains, including train ticket, food, hostel, and entertainment, was only about US$45. Really good for a weekend away.
I’m heading to New Zealand on Sunday, so I might not be posting for a few weeks after this. Hopefully I’ll bring back some nice pictures and stories. I hope everyone has a great few weeks and that no more snow comes your way!