After hanging around Sydney, I began to wonder what else is out there.

From: Jeff Nyveen
To: my friends and family
Date: Friday, January 7, 2000 11:13am
Subject: Still in Limbo

Ladies and gentlemen, Jeff has *fixed* his iBook. This afternoon, I locked my door, grinded my teeth, and sacrificed 4 hours of my Australian vacation to yell at and disassemble my computer. Turns out that it was the extra RAM that MacMall installed for free. I should have raised my eyebrows the second they said it was free. I will be sending MacMall a gratuitously nasty e-mail immediately.

What a pleasure it is to be finally using a computer that doesn't crash. Of course, without the extra RAM my iBook is very iSlow, but at least it doesn't crash anymore. Incidentally, Apple just announced that their next OS, Mac OS X, is supposed to be crash-proof.

Yesterday, I got in touch with the university about summer housing, and it seems a bit pricey. $50 a night, but it's for a single room with a phone line, and three meals a day are included. Might be a nice total package, but I think it might be more affordable and more fun to get a room with the bare necessities and find my own food at restaurants and supermarkets. I had enough cafeteria food in my four years at USC.

I had dinner with Felicia's roommate Janet last night, and we talked for a bit about our travels. Turns out she and Felicia have been travelling all over Japan and Southeast Asia, and they have been in Australia for two months. When I mentioned that I was looking for work, she suggested fruit-picking or laboring in the city. Apparently, it's pretty lucrative. I'm going to look into that today, along with temporary office work. I guess my plan is to find work in Sydney, either picking tomatoes, using a temp agency, or waiting tables in Bondi for a few weeks, saving up money so I can spend the last week or two of my vacation travelling up the coast and/or visiting Melbourne, Adelaide, Tasmania, and New Zealand. I'm going to Fox Studios Australia (where they filmed the new Star Wars movies) tomorrow. Maybe I'll get lucky and find a job there.

Janet also suggested selling my ticket home and staying in Australia for the full year that my visa allows. Apparently, Working Holiday visas, the type that I have, may only be used to visit Australia once. So it might be smart to take advantage of it now.

I'm back in a double room with Wade. Last night, we talked a bit about how airlines book their flights. I told him how much I paid for mine, and he told me that I had been screwed. He gave me several tips on how to visit Australia much more cheaply the next time around. I wasn't feeling too well last night, so I munched on a bag of Roasted Chicken-flavored Lay's potato chips and turned in early.

I woke up this morning and realized that I got some serious color on my face from only an hour or so at Bondi Beach. I guess they weren't joking when they said Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. A Fijian tourist was shot/stabbed (reports vary) and killed (that part is definite) this morning in King's Cross.

This afternoon, I took the ferry from Sydney Harbour to Manly Beach. It looks a lot like Huntington Beach in Southern California, but the weather wasn't so great so all I really did was eat lunch and people-watch. My advice: eat before you go. If not, the flies will eat more of your lunch than you do. It was unbelievable. I got some chicken, fried potato, and baked pumpkin at a restaurant, and I spent more time waving away flies than I did chewing. Who needs the outback when you have all the flies you'll ever need at Manly Beach.

More oddities:
-Australian money can't be ripped.

-People are looking at me funny when I wear my Hobart Baseball cap. Hobart is a city in Tasmania, and there sure as hell isn't baseball in Tasmania.

-There is a small town in northwestern Australia called Broome, not too far from Lake Disappointment (probably only funny to friends who know my friend Matt
Steve: While brushing my teeth this evening, I conducted a little experiment in the sink. Turns out that free-standing water will spiral down a drain clockwise in Australia.

Until next time,


Very nasty food and horrible service.

At Zia Pina, this is Jennifer, a Canadian traveller and one of the first people I met in Australia. She tried stripping for the first time in Sydney and loved it, and supported her travels around Australia by stripping in every city. Looks like she's enjoying the pasta.

From: Jeff Nyveen
To: my friends and family
Date: Saturday, January 8, 2000 7:55pm
Subject: Eureka!

I found a place to live and I got a job!

Went to the Coogee (KOO-jee) Beach Hotel last night. Really cool place. One of Felicia's friends, Owen, suggested that I just move in with Felicia and Janet for the time being, and they said it wouldn't be a problem. Their place is in Darlinghurst, which is just across the street from King's Cross, so I'll be keeping my eyes and ears open for a new place. I'm gonna get out of this part of town as soon as I can. Last night, I watched a guy get his ass kicked on the street while chowing down with Wade and Karin at a Thai restaurant down the street.

Then Owen told me about the Internet cafe he has been working at for the last few weeks. It's called Internet Bakpak Travel, and coincidentally, it's across the street from the hostel that I'm staying in now. He said they needed someone pretty badly. I went in this morning, submitted my resume, and my first day is Monday. It's part-time, and my job is to play on the Internet all day, change the CD every hour, and sell the occasional tour package. I'm going to pursue real work, via the temp agency, next week.

The trick is now seeing if I can extend my stay in Australia for another month or two or six. For all the things I want to see and do, two months just doesn't seem like enough time, especially if I only get to do this once.

I went to lunch with Jennifer today at the Rocks, a few trendy city blocks with shops, cafes, and restaurants near Sydney Harbour. We went to a cozy little Italian restaurant called Zia Pina and had one of the worst dining experiences of our lives. The restaurant manager welcomed us and stuffed us into a corner table like cattle. Our waitress took our drink order and returned with two warm, flat, shot-sized glasses of Coke. When we got a pizza and lasagna and decided to split them. The pizza was greasy and tasteless, and I'm pretty sure Chef Boyardee made the lasagna. Our mango cheesecake dessert didn't have any mango in it and was frozen solid. I tried to get the manager's attention to complain each time he walked by, but he was noticeably avoiding us. When he finally brought the check, I told him that the lasagna tasted like dog food, the cheesecake was inedible, and stormed out of there. I couldn't leave him with a lousy tip because tipping isn't even a custom here in Australia. Darn. I didn't get a chance to go to Fox Studios today but plan to do so tomorrow with Jennifer.

I was approached on the street today by somebody who actually *went* to Hobart in New York. His name was Matt, and he asked me if I played lacrosse. Turns out he came down here to be with a girl, it didn't work out, he got stuck here, and he kinda learned to like the place. Then, while riding the train on the way home, a *local* asked *me* for directions. And I gave him *correct* directions. At least I think I did.

Watched a family set up speakers, an amp, and two microphones on the way to the Internet cafe. Apparently, Jesus will save King's Cross.

Until next time,


From: Jeff Nyveen
To: my friends and family
Date: Sunday, January 9, 2000 7:12pm

Last night, I drank more than I ever have in my life. Yes, Mel, even more than *that* time. Owen and Felicia took me out to a casino/pool bar, and I can't even remember how many VB's I had. We sat next to an old, very drunk English guy who was very flexible. His legs were twisted together like they were crossed twice. Owen and I spent some time asking him how he did it. Then we went to the arcade and I beat his ass at Daytona 500 by a carlength. On the way home, we spotted a cool little karaoke dive called Juju's, and some girl was singing "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" by U2. We'll be hitting that place next week. Owen is turning out to be a really cool guy.

I crashed on the floor of Felicia's place last night and then woke up early this morning to carry my three very heavy bags three blocks from the hostel. Two locals actually offered to help me carry my stuff. How often does that happen at home? I need to go shopping for a sleeping bag today (the floor was not very soft). Tonight, I'll be going in for some training at the Internet place, and then I think Felicia wants to drink again. She is a monster.

Turns out I can change my tickets to a 3-month, 6-month, or 12-month stay for a reasonable fee. I'll keep you all posted.

Until next time,


From: Jeff Nyveen
To: my friends and family
Date: Monday, January 10, 2000 9:22pm
Subject: Beetroot Burgers and Aborigine Junkies

Had a burger for lunch today. My first good burger in a while. Hungry Jack's isn't cutting it. Unless otherwise specified, the burgers here come with "beetroot," or beets for you uncultured Americans. In fact, at McDonald's they serve a McOz, which is like a Big Mac but with beetroot and egg. Also tried ginger beer. Tastes like Windex.

Spent the larger part of yesterday afternoon trying to figure out why they charge $2.41 for floss and $6.77 for laundry detergent at the supermarket if there are no pennies here. I asked the cashier. He smiled and said that he had never really thought about it.

Met my first American tourist yesterday. There are almost no Americans here, probably because they can't get working visas like us Canadians can. I've met about 6 people from Vancouver, 1 from Edmonton, and 1 from Toronto. Tons of Canadians. Sometimes it feels like I never left home. This neighborhood is all tourists, mostly from Canada, England, Germany, and Holland. I need to get out of King's Cross, not only so I can avoid seeing homeless Aborigines shooting up heroin on the sidewalk on my way to breakfast, but also to meet some real Australians. I'm keeping my eyes and ears open for a place.

Tonight I plan to sit on my butt and do nothing.

Until next time,


A waste of time.

From: Jeff Nyveen
To: my friends and family
Date: Tuesday, January 11, 2000 8:05pm
Subject: What Next?

Last night, Owen told me that Robert, the boss at the Internet place I'm going to work at, thought I was too passive and quiet. That probably doesn't come as much of a surprise to a lot of you who have spent a lot of time with me and told me to my face that I am too passive and quiet, but I wasn't expecting that from Robert. I thought that he was looking for someone who was good with the Internet and a good troubleshooter with computers (I should have a degree for what my iBook has put me through), but I was wrong. Apparently he's looking for someone who's loud and flamboyant, and God knows I'm not like that. I should have known that the job wasn't for me when Owen told me that the "loser" I was replacing brought "lots of U2 crap" to play while he was working. While I haven't been formally fired, I have a feeling it's not gonna work out. I train again with Robert tonight, so it should be interesting to see what happens. I'm supposed to open the place myself tomorrow morning.

Today, I went with Felicia to Fox Studios Australia, about a 30 minute walk from here. Everyone told us it wasn't worth the money, and boy were they right. There just wasn't really anything to see or do. I thought I would see lots of Star Wars stuff (the most recent one was shot here), but the only Star Wars I experienced was the "Imperial March" over the speakers with my cafe latte and blueberry muffin. The "Simpsons Down Under" skit, which we waited 20 minutes for, was idiotic. Some guy dressed as Homer Simpson came out and did a stupid dance, then they raised a big screen TV and showed a Simpsons episode, and that was it. The "Titanic Experience" tour, which we waited 40 minutes for, was just as bad. They crammed us all in a room, bolted the doors, sprayed us with water, and started screaming that the ship was sinking. Then the Titanic theme played, the lights went one, the doors opened, and they thanked us for coming. The "Hall of Cool Stuff," which was supposed to have props and sets used in Fox movies, was just filled with replicas and models. I know for a fact that the cigarette box spy camera from True Lies was fake because I saw the real prop at Universal Studios in Hollywood not too long ago. The highlight of the afternoon was probably petting the goats, lambs, and pigs just outside the set of Babe. The place is definitely geared for kids, almost like Disneyland without the rides.

On the way home, I stopped at Cafe 191 on very gay Oxford Street, and had a yummy chicken sandwich. Then bought some toilet paper and returned to my fly-infested shithole apartment. I just finished doing laundry for the first time since my arrival. There's no dryer and no clothespins for the clothes lines up on the roof, so I have my wet underwear hanging all over the apartment. Felicia and Janet have gone to work at their respective restaurants.

Now I'm sitting on the roof of the apartment building, looking at the gray skyline of Sydney, drinking the apple-blackcurrant juice that I got from the mini-mart, wondering what to do next.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have spent more time worrying about myself than I have enjoying myself, wondering where I would sleep or where I could get a job. I've been running around the city, taking buses and trains to addresses I can't find, making phone calls that can't be returned since I have no phone. I have little to show for all my efforts, and my funds are slowly depleting.

At the same time, the clock is ticking. I am scheduled to return home on March 1. Sure, I could extend my trip to settle and find real work in Sydney, but I don't want to get too comfortable here. I want to see what's outside of Sydney. Perhaps I would be better off leaving immediately to travel up and down the coast, seeing Tasmania, Melbourne, Cairns, and who knows what else. Maybe even New Zealand. Leaving immediately would be more expensive, but it would allow me to see and experience what I came for much more quickly. Felicia has already offered to hold onto some of my stuff if I decide to leave for a few weeks. Feedback would be appreciated on this.

Until next time,


From: Jeff Nyveen
To: my friends and family
Date: Wednesday, January 12, 2000 2:54pm
Subject: I'm Famous!

Last week, my brother graciously offered to catalog all of my Aussie e-mails on a web page, and he just informed me that Netsurfer Digest, the magazine he works for, has a write-up on them! Go to:

Look under the Travel section and you'll see it. It's also a good place to go if you didn't catch my first few e-mails and need to get up to speed. Thanks for all the feedback. I spent $2.50 downloading it all. The best feedback was probably my mother's, who suggested that I do all my travelling and touring now and decide afterwards, after seeing everything, if and where I should settle down for the longer term.

I quit my job this morning. Robert, my boss, seemed to take it pretty well. The last three backpackers he hired all flaked out on him after a few days, so I felt kinda bad doing it to him again. I thought he would blow up and start throwing shit around, but he was pretty cool. He actually smiled. Either he was actually glad to get rid of my passive ass or he was doing his best to keep a lid on the rage boiling up inside.

My next job is to start looking at tours and bus fares up and down the east coast and finding a package that fits my budget and time frame. Felicia has a friend who works at a travel agency, and she said that it might be a good idea to go see him so that I don't get screwed around. I'll probably stick around Sydney till this weekend so I can join Owen and the gang for karaoke Friday night.

I did some more exploring in King's Cross this afternoon, walking down Roslyn St. I was offered drugs 3 times in 50 yards.

Troy: Reserve #2 for me.

Until next time,


A view of the AMP Tower from the Darling Harbour bridge.
(photo by Stu)

Ticket to go to the top.

A view of downtown Sydney from the AMP Tower.

From: Jeff Nyveen
To: my friends and family
Date: Thursday, January 13, 2000 8:50pm
Subject: My Busy Day

Woke up this morning to discover that, along with flies, this apartment is infested with ants. They were all over the kitchen counter, also saw them crawling in and out of my iBook.

I put on my jeans, which were still wet from the wash. Wet jeans are not comfortable, but I have discovered that without a dryer, clothespins, or space to hang your clothes, the only way to dry clothes is to wear them. Tonight I will change into some of my other wet clothes, probably my khaki shorts and a green shirt.

I went with Felicia to Janet's work, a cafe called Cascade's on William St. Decided to try something different and ordered a three egg omelet with cheese, chicken, and tomatoes, a concoction that almost made me vomit. Chicken and eggs are not meant to be together.

Then we went to go see Chris, Felicia's travel agent friend. We reviewed several tour packages for the coast and central Australia. With the time I have left, I'll be able to see almost all of the cool stuff that I wanted to see. I haven't looked at all of the literature Chris gave me, but I already have a rough idea of what I want to do. First, I'll travel up the coast from Sydney to Cairns (pronounced KAYNZ), then take a flight to Darwin and explore Kakadu, the rainforest Crocodile Dundee was filmed in. Then I take a long bus ride down the center of the continent to Ayers Rock, continuing on to Adelaide, Melbourne, and maybe take a ferry or short flight to Tasmania for a few days. Then I'm on the bus to Canberra and then back to Sydney. All of this should take about 6 weeks. I'm pretty lucky that I decided to leave when I did. If I had waited any longer, I wouldn't have had enough time to do anything. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like I'll be able to enjoy New Zealand. I can't seem to fit it into my schedule or my budget.

After that, Felicia and I went to the downtown sky needle they call AMP Tower. It was a pretty clear day, and we had a nice view of the Harbour, downtown Sydney, and the residential suburbs surrounding the city. King's Cross doesn't look half bad from up there.

Then we went to the Harbour to relax and have something to drink. Felicia had a VB, I had a flat white. I'm turning into quite the coffee drinker. Then off to Darling Harbour, on the other side of downtown Sydney, where we watched a 3D Imax movie about the Galapagos. The movie was pretty good, the 3D effects were amazing. I would love to see a real movie like that in the theater (never got a chance to see Jaws 3 or Friday the 13th).

Full day planned for tomorrow. First, I'd like to go in to see Chris to book all of my tours, so that I can leave Sydney on Monday. Then I'm off to mthe Australian tax office to get my tax number (just in case I decide to settle and find some legal work during my travels), then off to SegaWorld to play all the video games I can handle all day long for $25.

Jennifer, my Edmontonian stripper friend, has left for Melbourne. She plans to strip there, and before she left, she asked me what stage name she should use (she didn't want to use Chesty Blonde anymore). I suggested Trixy.

More Sydney oddities:
-There's no regular coffee here. No Folgers or Columbia House. It's all tall blacks, flat whites, and cappucinos. Furthermore, there are no sugar packets. Sugar for your tall blacks comes in Pixie-Stick-looking straw-like thingies.

-Instead of pharmacists in pharmacies, there are "chemists" in stores along almost every street. Dentist and surgeon signs can be found in front of people's homes.
Until next time,


Not a very good value. A lot of the games were broken, and all the others had huge lines of people waiting to play them.

Owen and Felicia with Sonic the Hedgehog at Sega World.

Oxford St., a short walk from King's Cross.

Owen on Oxford St. Cool guy. He got me a job.

One of the more interesting displays on Oxford St.

Not sure what this thing is, but they were all over the place.

From: Jeff Nyveen
To: my friends and family
Date: Saturday, January 15, 2000 5:44pm
Subject: No Regrets

Went to SegaWorld yesterday afternoon. I got a picture of Owen and Felicia with Sonic the Hedgehog. We played a few games and got on a few rides, but mthere were lines for everything and it got old after while. I played a game called Indy 500, which was pretty kick-ass.

Then I went back to Eva's to play cards with total strangers. Met a girl named Victoria, who is "not from London but very close to it." I told her I was "not from Houston but very close to it." She also wanted to travel up the coast by bus, so I might run into her again.

This morning, while eating my Bubbles (the Australian counterpart to Rice Krispies) and reading Who (the Australian counterpart to People Magazine), I discovered that my future wife, Sarah Michelle Gellar, was at the Sydney Opera House for New Years. It's fate, I tell you. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman were also there, in one of the boats in the Harbour. By the way, Sydney's New Years fireworks were voted the best in the world.

Then I went across the street to Oz Experience, supposedly the best local touring company and travel agency. Their tours are exclusively for backpackers and tourists like me. The buses are full, rowdy, and adventurous. The bus driver is the tour director, stopping at all of the touristy sites, giving us a bit of history along the way. Other local companies, like Greyhound and McCafferty's, offer plain old bus rides without any special stops or touring.

I booked a tour up the coast to Cairns, and left the rest of my trip open for the time being. There's so much I want to do, and so many different ways of doing it, that I decided that I'll just book it as I go. If I really like Oz Experience, I'll just stick with them for the rest of my trip around the country.

I leave Monday morning at 8:50am. Should take a few weeks just to get to Cairns. I'm considering extending my trip a month so I can visit Tasmania and New Zealand, making my return to Houston some time in April. No Regrets. That's my slogan for my Australia trip. Sure, I'll be taking a large chunk out of my life savings to have all this fun, but if life savings aren't for crazy trips to Australia, I don't know what they're for.

I will definitely be e-mailing less frequently while I'm on the road, since I'm not sure where I'll be able to stop to dial in with my iBook. Finding a phone line to use in Sydney was difficult enough, and finding a phone line in the outback will be even tougher.

Decided to treat myself this afternoon to a yummy chicken sandwich at Cafe 191 on Oxford St. I'm sitting next to some deck doors which are wide open, with the sun streaming in and a cool breeze blowing across my table. I'm sipping an ice cold Coke, which came out of a bottle, so it tastes fresher somehow. All the waiters are prancing around me in tight black tank tops, and they're playing a techno remix of Celine Dion's "Your Heart Will Go On."

Thanks to the posting of my letters in Netsurfer Digest, I've been getting e-mail from total strangers. I got a couple from people who have moved here from the US and one yesterday from a Sydney taxi driver who carts backpackers like me around Sydney all day long. He told me that experiencing Sydney through the eyes of a foreigner is refreshing, and that I should submit my letters to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Leslie: The Contiki tours are very expensive, more than double the price of what I'm looking at now...

More oddities:
-There are no entrances or exits, only a "Way In" and a "Way Out." Furthermore, restaurants don't have "pick-up" or "take-out" orders, only "take away."

-Cockatiels (I think that's what they are) fly around free in Sydney.
Until next time,


From: Jeff Nyveen
To: my friends and family
Date: Sat, 15 Jan 2000 22:15:23 -0400
Subject: Itinerary

For those who are interested, here's the trip I'm taking up the coast:

Turns out that Victoria, the girl "not from London but very close to it" that I met playing cards is on the same bus as me.

Jim: Although he never got a chance to verify it, Jennifer and I both came to the conclusion that Wade is definitely gay. No snakes, crocs, or sharks yet, but that's what this trip up the coast if for. And no, I haven't sampled any of the local whores yet. I must admit, with my desire to see and do as much as I can while I'm here, I've been tempted... Of the 40 or 50 prostitutes I've seen, there are maybe 1 or 2 that I'd consider doable. And the rates are very reasonable. I'll keep you posted.

Until next time,


Jennifer (Canadian), me, and Karin (Swiss-German) at the hostel the day before hopping on my bus up the east coast.
(photo by Wade)

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