This morning I pretended to be a local down here in Sydney. While Sarah went off to class I took a stroll down to the MacQuarie Center Mall. It is huge and it has all kinds of stores. It has some of the usual suspects like Target and The Big W (which I suspect is shart for Walmart because it features low prices.) There are also all kinds of shoe stores, a Mac store that goes by the name "The Byte Place," camera stores, c
lothing shops and lots of food court type restaurants. They even have a Happy Jack food stand that looks suspiciously like a Burger King!
What I noticed right off was the prices. Everything seems to run about 175% of the prices back home. A paperback book, for example, runs about $18.00. A bottle of soda which goes for $1.49 - 1.69 at home goes for $2.69 - 2.80 here. Needless to say, I have been careful
with my money. You can get some bargains, but you have to look for them and there is no rhyme or reason, t least not at first glance.
Sarah said going to the movies cost $18.00 for adults and students, with a discount, pay only $12.00. We ate out last night at a decent restaurant. Most meals were over $20.00. We had a burger and a wrap, both with fries and it cost us $31.00. The interesting thing about restaurants here is that there is no tipping. The tip is built into the price. There isn't any tax either. So the price is pretty much the price everywhere you go. One of the guide books I read said that tipping is optional but that most people don't expect it. It is often given for exceptional service.
Another thing that is hard to get used to is the fact that everything is reversed whe
n it comes to driving and walking down here. The driver sits on the right side of the car. We had a good laugh over this when my friend, Neil, picked us up at the airport. I went around to get in the car and was about to hop in the passenger seat when I almost fell over to see the steering wheel and foot pedals. Neil politely suggested I go around to the other side. It took a little getting used to but since I am not planning on driving, I think it will be alright.
This business of going to the opposite side applies to walking as well. Only instead o
f bearing to the right, you move to the left on stairways and sidewalks. Sarah says you can tell the Americans because they are always bumping into people b y being on the wrong side.
This whole adventure got me thinking about our faith and its customs and traditions. Some of the things we say, do and believe are foreign to the culture outside the church or synagogue. When someone new comes to our church or synagogue they are bound to have a little difficulty adjusting to the way we do things. We need to remember to practice hospitality to make them feel welcome. I have Sarah here and she is serving as my guide. Without her I could probably manage but it would definitely take a little longer. I'd like to think that we can be t
he guides, the helpers, the friends who walk with those who come our way. It will be a blessing to them and to our whole community.
P.S. I am working on uploading a few pictures of MacQuarie University in Sydney. Sarah will be here until the second week of December. The first few will show or friend Neil.
He is a journalist here in Sydney and the nephew of Dr. John Brooks. Dr. Brooks was the pastor of the church Lori and I grew up in and a mentor to both of us. We used to hear all about Neil and he came to visit us back in 1979 and again in 1983.