by Sandy Masayko
This is the second post in a series Sandy will be doing from Australia
After traveling for about 30 hours I landed in Sydney on Friday morning, made it through customs, and I am now enjoying hot summer weather and a little culture shock. The culture is not shocking in big ways: everyone speaks English, of course, and the people are a diverse group like you’d see in an American city. People are friendly and polite. But the sound of the language is different, the spelling too, as well as some vocabulary.
ATMs are everywhere so it’s easy to get cash just like in the states. The money is organized in a dollar system with the paper bills increasing in size to reflect greater values. There are no paper dollars, instead one and two dollar coins. Pennies have been eliminated. The smallest coin is 5 cents. Payment amounts are rounded up or down to deal with the missing pennies. Right now the Australian dollar is worth about $0.75 US, so I mentally calculate percentages to see what things “really” cost.
Since I am here to look at issues around disability, I decided to test out accessibility on public transportation by lugging my 40-pound suitcase, duffel bag and backpack on the train from the airport. (Normally I travel much lighter, but I am bringing books for my Australian colleagues.) Despite my burdens, it was easy to travel on the train from the airport and change to another line because of the “lifts” (known in the US as elevators), curb cuts and seating set aside for people with special needs: age, disability, or other issue. The biggest accessibility challenge was getting up to my hotel, located on a hill in North Sydney with 12 steps leading up to the entrance. As I hauled the suitcase up the steps an Australian woman my age came to my rescue to assist me.
The next few days are vacation for me, and a chance to catch up with my son, who lives in Sydney. I will travel to a section of Sydney called Parramatta on Sunday to be close to Northcott, the first center I will be visiting in Australia.