Day 6: Saturday 27th July

We are able to stretch out on the large comfy beds and have a peaceful and restful night. It’s been all quiet outside in the corridor-so no problems again it appears.
We receive an early morning call at 7.00am shower and pack and are down to breakfast by 8.00am. If it’s possible, breakfast is better and has more choice than at the YMCA. The only negative is that there isn’t a Chef d’Oeuf who cooks eggs or omelettes to order.
All are down on time and ‘tuck in’ with relish. As I look at Mr Walters returning with his third plateful from the buffet, I am reminded of my old friend and mentor Robert Evans, who at such times would say “If it’s free, the more you eat the more you save!” Mr Walters was clearly set on saving a lot.
The students all seem happy, if a little tired-it seems to be proving more difficult to adjust to the different time zones than on previous tours.
I do a health check of those who appeared to be a little under the weather 24 hours earlier. Tom Wedlake’s ankle is improving and his stomach is a little more settled. “I’ll be fine” he tells me. Shane Harris also appears to be walking more freely. Max Harris’s grazes are quite superficial and clearing up nicely. Morgan Curtis’s toes are still a concern, but he tells me they have improved and that “I’ll be fine.” I tell him to make sure he informs us if the situation changes for the worse and he feels he needs some treatment.
The girls are also generally improving. Rachael Williams and Bethan Rees both say their stomach and throat respectively are improving. Brittany Jenkins says she feels better in terms of her cold and flu symptoms, but when she had woken up her eyelid was shut and crusty. She clearly has an eye infection and we will take her to the chemist later to see if they can give something to treat it. Yvie Powe had received a blow on the wrist playing yesterday and it was giving her a little pain which might be improved with some strapping.
Otherwise, tiredness aside, everyone appears in good health and more importantly good spirits.
Molly Kabia and Jayde Anderson are obviously still tired. They share a table with Elaine Tucker. Jayde looks at Molly and asks “Where’s Elaine?” Now I know Elaine’s small, but she’s not invisible.
Molly then went to put milk on her cereal-she didn’t know which one to use without her mum there to help her. There you are Diane, she can’t do without you.
After breakfast Molly says to Jayde “Let’s go to Seven/eleven-a chain of Newsagents, “Don’t mention that.” Jayde says “Lots of people were killed then.”
The cases are down and stored by 9.00am. A coach is to pick us up at 3.00pm and transfer us to Mater Maria by 4.00pm, so we have 4-5 hours to see the sights.
Mr Long, as has become his role, establishes where we are and considers the options. It is only about a third of a mile from the hotel to Circular Quay and the ‘Rocks’ area which is one of the major tourist attractions of Sydney.
We set off to walk there with Mr Long leading the way. We walk 100 metres and turn left on to George Street, which is the main Street in Sydney.
Almost immediately, we see a chemist and go inside with Brittany, Rachael and Yvie. The chemist looks at Brittanyand says he can give her some anti-biotic eye drops. Rachael has some liquid Gaviscon as her tablet version isn’t working and Yvie has a wrist strapping.
We pay the $77 (£50) from the contingency fund and catch up with the rest of the group at the ‘Rocks’. They can have until 2.00pm to wander around the area that is famous for its cafes, shops and cultural experiences. All around there are street entertainers and Vendors. These include Aborigines dancing or playing their didgeridoos.
Staff and students take the opportunity to do some ‘retail therapy’. I find a cafe and sit outside-the weather is sunny with a little cloud and cool, but at 18C, it’s hard to believe that it’s mid-winter. Later in the day, the forecast predicts temperatures will be 22C tomorrow and that Sydney is on target to have its warmest July on record-we may have had our fair share of monsoonal rain in Hong Kong, but things have started well weather-wise in Sydney.
I spend my time updating the diary-something I enjoy much more than shopping and sightseeing!! While I’m doing so, I purchase two cups of tea ($9 about £3 each) and a bowl of fruit salad and yoghurt with a mango smoothie for lunch ($22 or £15). In Hong Kong, prices for food had been relatively inexpensive and most students left Hong Kongwith unused dollars. The prices here are a clear indication that things will be more expensive in Australiaand we will need to warn the students to manage their money wisely – I hope it’s not too late!! The good news that as they are hosted for 10 days they will have less meals to purchase.
I walk back to the meeting point by around 1315 and no-one is there yet – a good sign they must have plenty of things to do. They start arriving from around 1340 and many have ‘shopped out’. Rhys Cherry has all his presents sorted – I won’t give Peter and Kath any clues here. Tom Wallace has bought himself an Australian rugby top for $60. “A great purchase at £30, Sir” he tells me. “I think it’s closer to £45” I say. Oh well, he still thinks he has a bargain. Nia Devonald and Emma Kieft tell me they haven’t had long enough and there is still lots to see and do. Clearly they are following their mums, Dawn and Theresa. I tell them not to worry as we will be back here on Tuesday morning for the jet boating and their hosts may bring them here tomorrow anyway.
All are back by 1400 on time, punctuality is fantastic with the group and clearly they are all aware of the needs of others.
As I looked around, there has clearly been lots of spending on presents. There were lots of UGG bags around and Georgia Davies was really pleased because she had paid £110 for a pair that would have cost £160 back in Swansea.
Whilst shopping, Molly had gone to given money to a busker in the ‘Rocks’. However she threw the money too hard, missed his music case and the money landed in the harbour.
We make the short walk back to the hotel it’s noticeable as we walk up George Street that there is much less congestion than in the UK. Sydney is a city with the population of 4.5 million and yet traffic on the main street flows freely and there is ample room for us to walk safely as a group on the pavement. One thing we note is that when you come to a road crossing no one crosses until the green light is shown, even when there is no traffic around. It must be an offence to do so.
As we get back to the hotel, Alycia Carpanini sees that there’s no traffic coming and strolls across the road, a taxi comes around the corner and blows its horn loudly at Alycia. There’s no chance it would knock her down, but I think it emphasises that ‘jaywalking’ as they’d call it in the US, is against the law.
When we get to the Menzies, we collect our bags and wait for our transport which is due at 1445. The décor and architecture is fantastic. It was built 150 years ago and the two lower floors reflect that with large and spacious rooms with high ceilings that are used as restaurants, reception, ballrooms, function rooms etc. Above that the hotel has built upwards more recently and the architecture is more modern and less spectacular. This reflects the architecture of most of the buildings in the CBD area. Ground and first floors are impressive and have been built onto more recently and with more modern design. I have always said that Sydneyis the favourite city I have visited and this view has been reinforced by this experience of its architecture and just as importantly by the lack of congestion and litter on its main streets and pavements.
The coach is on time and is of its normal standard. We pack and depart the hotel at 1500 and are timed to arrive at the school by 1600. En route, I talk to the group about the likely challenges and experiences over the next 10 days whilst they are being hosted. I tell them of a Maori proverb that we had been told whilst in New Zealand on the 2003 tour.
“If you were to ask me, what are the three most important things in the world? I would reply – it is people, it is people, it is people.”
It is something that has resonated with me ever since. Material possessions and wealth pale in comparison to relationships. If you gain the respect of those you are to meet over the next 10 days, you will feel an inner sense of achievement that will be of greater value to you than any coming as a result of personal pleasure.
We are a little early at 1545 and as we travel up the school drive, it looks deserted – I drop a clanger by saying “Don’t worry, they are probably all still in the lessons”, “It’s Saturday Sir!” was the retort from the other 52 on the bus. Well I had said in the run up to the tour that you don’t know the weekends from the weekdays while we are away. It’s a pity I’m the only one who’s unaware that it is Saturday today. We may hear more of this in the future.
Within minutes Mr. Mike Hagan, the tour manager at Mater Maria is there and soon afterwards so are all of our hosts. Billets and hosts pair up and depart together. For some it is a reunion with students they had hosted when Mater Maria visited us last September and there was much hugging. When all the students had departed, an UGG bag was left by the coach. When we look inside, it contains a purse – Jayde Anderson – no comment!! We take it for safekeeping.
We go to our hotel for some well deserved downtime. I have my 3 phones with me – but good news, no calls from home or Australia.
We enjoy an evening at our hotel watching the Super 15’s semi final. The Chiefs defeat the Crusaders by a point.
Mr. Lewis’ cousin Kim Lennard meets us. Mr. Lewis had never met him before and had only found out about him when he had researched his family tree about 3 years ago. Kim had flown from Albury which is 3 hours outside Melbourne to meet him.

Of course, all the staff were in bed and tucked up nice and early!!


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