Today I saw a bit of Sydney. My travel buddy's family (well, a chunk of it) is here, and they all met for lunch. I went along because despite knowing him for 15 years at this point, I've never met a single member of his family. I could never tell if it was just horrble scheduling luck, or whether he was actively trying to ensure we never met, or whether it was just unconscious habit on his part to keep facets of his lives separate.
In any case, several of his aunts and uncles and cousins and his grandmother arranged for all of us to meet at a dim sum restaurant in northwestern Sydney. We drove there carefully. Yesterday I got to drive, and he snickered at my continual mistaking of the windshield wiper controls for the indicator controls (they're flipped left/right due to the gear shift also being on the other side, I suppose). I did manage not to hit anything, or to turn into an oncoming lane, so moral victory. Anyway, today he drove since we'd be heading into the City (as all the signs call it). We reached our nav destination according to Google Maps, and it left us in the middle of an enormous intersection. He knew it was in a shopping center, so as we circled around again we saw a shopping center - Carlingford Village. We pulled into the parking area, and he checked his phone. "This can't be it. It doesn't look right."
"What? We're in the parking area!"
"Yeah, this isn't it." He started up again and pulled out. Sure enough, literally half a block later was a whole different shopping center named Carlingford Court. "Yep, this looks more like it."
"How does it look more like it? Did you see the reataurant?"
"Nah. You'll see." We got out of the car and headed into the (smaller, older, chintzier) mall. "Oh yeah, this is totally it, this looks way more Chinky."
"Ah, I see, incorrect Chinkiness?"
"Yeah, that other place wasn't nearly Chinky enough."
(In case it's not clear, he and his family are Chinese).
So we went to Fortune House Seafood Dim Sum. I met several members of his family, we had a good time for an hour and a half or so, and then we headed out. We went from there to another suburb of Sydney, and tooled around residential areas for a bit before pulling into a small neighborhood shops (what we in the US call a strip mall). "What're we doing here?"
"Wow, the supermarket is still here. So's the news agent."
"So after school and on weekends, I used to come here to buy Toobz and Cornettos and stuff and then head over to the park to feed the magpies."
"Holy shit, this is where you lived when you were a kid?"
"I don't know, man. I just find it fascinating that you came from somewhere."
"I went to mine too. It was just as if everyone had swelled." We laughed at the Grosse Point Blank reference, then went in, bought some snackfood and ice cream, and drove the two blocks to the local park. It was a gorgeous winter Sydney day - blue skies, breezy, maybe 60 degrees F - and had ice cream and threw snack chips at the magpies.
After that, we drove past his house, then to the station area he hung out in with friends, then to his school. After that, we headed into Sydney proper and drove to Rose Bay, a wealthy neighborhood on the Harbor, and looked at boats and seaplanes. I read a plaque which explained that aviation had come to Sydney right there, because initially it was all flying boats.
Today was all about his nostalgia trip. It was fun to come along and watch him realize that despite 25 years, most of the places he remembered were still there. Tomorrow we have off - we'll probably go back to the Australian Botanic Garden near here since we didn't manage to see much of it on Friday. Monday I start flying with the local instructors.