A tale of a full weekend

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about my Oz experiences, and quite a lot has happened. Settle back: this one’s big.

(The first set of paragraphs is about an event at a Catholic church, and is unlikely to make much sense to anyone who isn’t Catholic.)

On Friday evening I went the Church of Saint Charles Boromeo in Ryde (not too far from the UEC office in North Ryde) where they were having what they refer to as an Activate evening. This is in preparation for World Youth Day 2008, which will be held in Sydney. This will entail the Pope coming to Sydney, along with about 500 000 young people from around the world. The WYD (which is three days actually) involves music, personal testimonial, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and a series of catecheses (lectures or talks on aspects of the faith) given by various Bishops, Cardinals and the Pope. The Activate evening was an attempt to provide a taste of that by squeezing those events into 90 minutes.

The first person I met when I arrived was Fr Paul, the parish priest, who made me exceedingly welcome. He was delighted to hear I was from so far away, and made sure I was seated with people he introduced me to – in general he made a good experience an even better one. I was most appreciative.

There was some good music presented by a group of musicians (including those from the North Ryde church I went to two weeks ago). The 100 odd people who were there really got into it and joined in. One of the auxiliary archbishops of Sydney presented a very moving catechesis on the Holy Spirit, which really spoke to me. There was a testimonial from a young woman who had attended the WYD in Rome in 2003, which was also a powerful tale. This was being held in the church hall, which is a few steps from the church itself, and towards the end of the evening we trooped out to the church for a few minutes of Exposition. While we did so St Charles Boromeo’s group of youngsters provided the music – about 12 kids, none older than 13, all playing clarinets, flutes, violins or trumpets. They were very good – they did “Power of Your Love” as well, and it sounded brilliant. Astounding for a group that young, and beautiful music. The brief period of Exposition was also deeply moving, especially as Fr Paul explained in detail what he was doing and what it was all about – all things I knew already, but presented in an excellent style.

In all, I had a very pleasant evening, and I’ve been inspired to try and organise a similar event back home. We won’t have a WYD on the way, obviously, but an evening of some youth-oriented music, a catechesis or two and a small period of Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament would be magical, particularly if many youths from the various parishes were to attend. I’m definitely going to try and do something about it, based on the great experience I had.

I woke up at about 11am on Saturday, which did little for my plans of going out early to Circular Quay, wander around the park that I was at last weekend, and then go to the zoo (On an island in the harbour). Instead I went to Darling Harbour, which is what the V&A waterfront at Cape Town wanted to be but didn’t quite get right. Darling Harbour is absolutely fantastic – a large area in a rough semicircle around the harbour with a shopping centre on one side, studded with restaurants that overlook the harbour. (here’s a map) I had fresh fish at an outdoors fast foody place for lunch – Tasmanian Salmon, which was gorgeous. The Sydney Convention Centre takes up a large amount of real-estate as well, with bars and restaurants lining the rest of the area all the way around the side, interspersed with the Sydney Aquarium and wildlife park. The other side of the harbour has the Australian Maritime Museum, and set back from the water is a large park and all sorts of walkways beside a large elaborate long water feature. Truly a fantastic place.

I wondered around there for most of the afternoon, then popped into the Powerhouse museum (which I did a few weekends ago) to finish it off – entry is free after 4pm. I still didn’t finish though, so I must return. I did most of my travelling that day by monorail, which is a great way to get around the area, as it has a stop near my flat, and goes into the city (near the QVB building I’ve mentioned before) and also goes to Darling Harbour. My stop is Hay Street, on this map. It’s quite quick and very convenient.

I returned to Darling Harbour that evening after supper, to see what the night life was like. I decided to skip the hour long queue to get into a popular-looking nightclub, and I found Nirvana: a Lindt shop. I made my way inside and had a Lindt ice cream sundae – with dark Lindt choc ice cream, Lindt hazelnut chocolate ice cream and Lindt choc on top, with Lindt choc sauce. That was one of the tastiest things I’ve ever eaten. After I digested that, and walked it off, I found a nearby bar and continued my aim of sampling local beers, while I gazed over the harbour at night and watched the night-life – truly an awesome place. I have many photos, and I’ll publish some of them soon.

I returned to Darling Harbour on Sunday, but this time to the Maritime Museum, which I found enthralling .I bought a ticket which enabled me to go aboard a retired Destroyer (HMAS Vampire), a retired sub (HMAS Onslow) an 1850’s sailing cargo vessel (the James Craig) and an incredibly accurate, functional recreation of James Cook’s vessel HMS Endeavour. I spent hours looking at those ships – this kind of thing really fascinates me. The destroyer and the Endeavour would have to be my favourites – truly fascinating and captivating. In all, I had a great day there, again with tons of photos. It really is a fascinating place to spend probably too much time.

I finished my weekend by going to the church in Ryde I went to on Friday night, as Fr Paul, the parish priest, assured me there was a music group at the 6pm Mass and they were quite good. Obviously I would have gone to church anyhow, but I picked that one for the group – imagine my surprise when they didn’t show up! Fr Paul was also surprised – he knew nothing about them not coming, and had to lead the music himself, acapello. It’s a good thing he can sing…

He also surprised me greatly by welcoming all visitors, “especially Kim, who has come all the way from Durban”. I thought that was quite a nice touch.

This evening I’m off to dinner with the friends I met a few weekends ago and some of their friends, at a Thai place in Neutral Bay. That should be quite enjoyable as well. I’ll try not to take so long between posts next time, and save you all a massive read…

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