Archive for » March, 2011 «

Chinese New Year: the Year of the Rabbit

Kickoff at Belmore Park

Culturally, Sydney reminds us in many ways of London and major cities in the U.S. You can find most of the same stores here and the standard of living is pretty much on par. One of the most noticeable differences, though, is the significant Asian influence – it is to a degree that you’re unlikely to find in those cities. Even outside of the sprawling Chinatown district, East and Southeast Asian restaurants seem to outnumber the others. It’s hard to walk more than a block or two without seeing a Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Korean or Japanese establishment, and many of the stores and bars are of Asian influence as well.

It’s no surprise then that Chinese New Year is a big event here, and since we live on the edge of Chinatown it was essentially unavoidable. The festivities started even before the official kickoff, with small entourages of dragons and drums occasionally passing by on the streets. The official kickoff was in Belmore Park on January 28th and included food, drinks, music and other attractions.

They made rabbits out of all sorts of things

This being the Year of the Rabbit, rabbit statues and rabbit-themed things could be found all over the place, ranging from the normal to the strange to the downright creepy. There also were a variety of activities and giveaways at the kickoff: at one point I was wandering around with a stick of incense, unsure of how to properly dispose of it without accidentally committing some sort of egregious cultural faux pas.

We managed to make our way back without causing too much trouble and ended our New Year activities for the evening and the weekend. The celebration was a week long, culminating in a big parade the following weekend and, you guessed it, fireworks!

One of many Chinese Dragons

The following weekend, we ventured out to secure a spot along the parade route, which took over a significant portion of George Street before continuing through the rest of Chinatown. The parade was well done and included a variety of acts from all over eastern Asia. Though the relationship has had its ups and downs, Chinese-Australian relations have historically been mostly positive, in part due to China being Australia’s largest trading partner and Australia’s significant natural resource exports to the country.

Leftover Floats: Year of the Pig!

The floats were quite elaborate and were interspersed between lots of performers, although we suspect that they started to run out of ideas once they started rolling out all of the floats from previous years: “Hey, we’ve got these things that are just lying around for the next decade, why not throw them in too?” I couldn’t include pictures of them all, so here’s a shot of the pig, the patron animal of mine and Kristen’s birth year.

We could definitely tell when the parade was near the end though, because they really started to run out of ideas at that point. Basically, anything that looked like a rabbit was a valid candidate for being paraded down the street. As a result, I will conclude this edition of “Life with Kristen and Ryan” with a game: Name That Cartoon Rabbit! First correct answer in the comments wins a prize, local pickup only 🙂

 

Name That Cartoon Rabbit!

Australia Day: Celebrating the arrival of the First Fleet

Me and Kristen and an opera house

Australia has a number of national public holidays, some of which you may celebrate (New Years Day, Christmas Day) and some you may not (Anzac Day, Boxing Day). There are also state holidays that may happen at different times on the year (or not at all) depending on what state you happen to be in. One of the most popular holidays is Australia Day, held annually on January 26th to celebrate the arrival in Sydney Cove of the First Fleet. Sailing from Great Britain and containing close to 1,500 people (including 778 convicts), the 11 ships reached Botany Bay between January 18-20, 1788.

Teaching the Aussies American football

Of course, depending on your perspective, the landing of the First Fleet might not be something that merits celebrating. Due to the negative impact of this event on the indigenous Australians (Aborigines), the day has also been called Invasion Day and Survival Day, among others. This hasn’t really caught on (I suppose it would be a bit difficult to market), but protests and demonstrations occur most years.

Nonetheless, Australia Day is like Independence Day in the United States, a day of picnics, drinks, music, festivities and fireworks, all of which we planned to take part in. We started the day with a picnic in Rushcutters Bay Park, near the Potts Point neighborhood of Sydney. Assuming that they would be difficult to find in Australia, I packed a black and yellow American football alongside my Terrible Towels for occasions just like this.

Australia Day bands in The Rocks

After spending a few hours at Rushcutters trying to teach the Aussies how to throw a football, we worked our way over to The Rocks, one of the historic areas of Sydney, to meet up with Kristen’s classmates and see a couple of the bands. From there we walked to Darling Harbour and Cockle Bay for dinner and the fireworks. During dinner the bar was televising a cricket game between the UK and Australia, so with the help of one of Kristen’s classmates, I now understand the game (more or less).

Australia Day Fireworks at Darling Harbour

As in the States, the night ended with fireworks, always a crowd-pleaser here in Australia. I think there were a variety of fireworks shows all over the city, but we opted for the ones in Darling Harbour, which are nice and close to our apartment. And, as you might expect, they offered some nice opportunities for yours truly to work on his night photography skills. I unfortunately didn’t have a particularly ideal vantage point, but I think I was able to get a few decent shots… you be the judge.

With Kristen's classmates and one extra

We stopped for a group picture on the way out… see if you can figure out which one isn’t part of our group 🙂