Boarding the 14-hour flight to Sydney, Australia, a flurry of butterflies filled my belly. Though I’d been daydreaming about this trip for some time, it only now felt real. Stepping off this plane in Australia would put me farther than ever before from my family, friends, and community in San Francisco. However, the knowledge that I’d be welcomed into a network of Burners in Australia and New Zealand made the start of my journey much less intimidating, the gap between our continents that much smaller.
Maid Marian and I had crafted a tight itinerary for our travels abroad and had a lot to accomplish in a short amount of time. Our first mission was to connect with the movers and shakers behind the upcoming OzBurn Seed 2010, Australia’s first Regional Burn that will take place in June, 2010. Over the past several months, I’d shared countless conversations and emails with Burning Man Australian Regional Contact Robin and local community organizers Phil Smart and King Richard about the work they were doing to nurture the growth of the Burning Man community in Australia. Though I knew that the work they were doing was significant, from my desk in San Francisco—and without a background in Australian culture—I had a limited frame of reference through which to understand their experiences. By visiting them in Australia and connecting with the local Burning Man community, I hoped to gain the perspective I needed to comprehend what their contributions meant to the international Burning Man Regional Network.
And Visions of Kangaroos and Koalas Danced in My Head
We were welcomed to Australia by Sam and Nicolle, a couple I’d met while performing in the Playa Gospel Choir at Burning Man. They fed us a delicious breakfast at their home in Sydney, replete with the Australian staple,Vegemite on toast. Though I know that part of experiencing a culture is experiencing their food, some stones are better left unturned.
Though I was far from San Francisco, Sam and Nicolle’s hospitality made me feel immediately at ease. Not only were they so wonderfully hospitable, but Sydney felt at once like every city I’d ever been to, and every place I’d ever loved. Sydney’s Circular Quay is at once like Chicago’s Grant Park and Navy Pier. It’s houses are like those of New Orleans. It’s general atmosphere reminiscent of the seaside towns on the Italian Riviera—grand promenades and well-oiled, sunbathing bodies sparkle on beaches by blue waters. At Glebe Market, local artists display their latest designs, weaving a kaleidoscopic tapestry of the most exquisite colors and textures. My little fashionista heart was in heaven. Like my San Francisco friends, Sydney ladies and gentlemen also take their fashion seriously and I saw reflections of myself in the striped and polka-dot clad Australians.
I Swear I Told Them Not to Throw a Parade
Our first afternoon, we set out to see The Sun Chasers, a solar-powered Sydney jazz quartet, play in a Surry Hill park. The scene was pretty laid back until, all of the sudden, hoards of musicians—instruments blaring—descended upon the crowd and formed an impromptu marching band ensemble with the Sun Chasers. Quicker than we could say “Sweet As,” we’d been swept up in a full-on parade! We marched down the hills of “The Harbor City” with the Sun Chasers’ brigade, dancing our hearts out and bringing beaming smiles to the faces of everyone we passed. It was pure street theater at its finest!
We were 7, 416 miles from San Francisco and over 8,000 miles from Black Rock City and, yet, I felt right at home.