Family & Friends,

If I hear Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi! one more time, I think I will shoot myself... (any of you who saw the Olympics or were there will know what I mean...unless of course you are an Aussie yourself.)

Once again, I am writing to let you know my whereabouts and what I have been up to. When I last left you, I was in Byron Bay (learning to surf) and was about to head to Sydney.

Well, I have been in Sydney ever since soaking up the spirit of the Olympics and joining in on some of the various parties around town.

Due to my good friend Trip having his aunt and uncle (the Macaulays) living in Sydney, I was offered a warm welcome (and bed) in a City in which budget backpacking hostels during the Olympics were going for triple the normal price. The Macaulays and their son Rob were wonderful hosts and really showed great Australian Hospitality. Hopefully one day, I can return the favor.

I arrived in Sydney on the Friday of the Opening Ceremony and convinced Rob we should go down to Olympic Park and see if we could get into the O.C. at the last minute. Despite scalpers looking for A$1400 for a ticket, we only had to wait 10 minutes into the ceremony before a few late arrivers just wanted to get rid of their spare unused tickets. Needless to say, we both got in and didn't pay anywhere near the price the scalpers wanted. Oi! Oi! Oi!

The opening was great and imaginative. The costumes, props, music were all wonderful. Even that little girl - Nikki Webster who flew in the air in her dream was liked by all.

Despite what one might have heard in the news, there were plenty of tickets to be gotten at the last moment. Matter of fact, that was probably the only issue I could find during the games. Many of the events that I went to were supposedly sold out but when I got there, there were hundreds (whole blocks) of empty seats. I think the newspapers blamed it on the Olympic Organizing Com. who held tickets for themselves until the last minute. Anyway, that allowed us common folk (I am no longer a corporate folk - Oi! Oi! Oi!) to get tickets.

I managed to get tickets to the following events: Archery, Beach Volleyball, Whitewater Kayaking, Gymnastics, Athletics, Synchronized Swimming, and finally Diving. All of them were great to attend and feel the Olympic Spirit. However, one stood out, and that was Beach Volleyball. Held on Bondi Beach (I think Australia's most famous beach), the crowd and the atmosphere there was incredible. Being that it was about 85F, sunny, with cool sea breeze, the weather couldn't have been more perfect. A DJ played music which really got the crowd cheering without regard for which country was competing.

One of my more memorable moments came when I stopped by the NBC Today Show studio which was broadcasting the morning show in America. Not only did I get pictures of the hosts - Katie and Matt, but I got to meet Misty Hyman and take my picture with her and her GOLD medal. The medal she had just won hours before in the 200M Butterfly upset over Susie O'Neil - the local favorite. In addition, that evening I also got pictures of Alonzo Morningstar (Miami Heat) and Jack Welch (CEO NBC). Then the very next evening, I was in a pub when Stuart Welsh (Australia Silver Medalist in Rowing) walked in with his friends. Not only did we joke around but he even let me put his Silver medal around my neck. Talk about a Kodak moment!! (All pictures are posted on my website.)

To this day, I am still amazed at how I managed to get invited to go sailing on Sydney Harbor. I think in the end, we figured out that it was about 7 friends of friends that connected us to the owners. It went something like this: My friend Trip's cousin Rob who's friends with Gus who's wife Ali has a cousin who's former boyfriend now has a new friend who's other friend and their parents own the boat. You got that?? Neither do I. Anyway, we were picked up down at the docks and spent the whole day out in the harbor drinking beer and watching the Olympic sailing. What a great way to view it!

Out of the 2 weeks, I did learn one useless but amazing fact about the games. Remember the swimmer Eric the Eel who finished laps behind all the others?? He actually would have been a medal contestant in the 1932 Olympics with his time. Now that amazes me. Either the swimming has gotten 10X better or the drugs back then weren't any good.

My stay in Sydney was not all Olympics, I did manage to get out to the Blue Mountains when my gracious hosts offered to take me. The mountains are actually a series of canyons separated by high plateaus. The "Three Sisters" and Echo point are probably what most people associate with them. The "sisters" are actually a trio of towering rocks with the rock below slowly crumbling. The Aboriginal legend says they are 3 beautiful women who were turned to stone by their father to protect them from a neighboring warring tribe. However, during the ensuing fight, the father was killed and so they remain.... Hey it sounds pretty feasible to me. Oi! Oi! Oi!

Well, I guess the last thing I will mention that was memorable was the fireworks display on Sydney Harbor during the closing ceremony. With a budget the same as the New Years display, the fireworks companies around the world donated 2 for 1 which I now believe ended up being the largest fireworks display ever in the world. My vantage point was near the waters edge with the Bridge and the Opera House in the background. We were able to watch the Closing on a large screen TV's set out on barges in the harbor and then watch the display live as it was set off. Words can't describe it other than AWESOME!!

Now you are all probably wondering which was better -Atlanta or Sydney?? Well..... I'm not going to touch that subject.

After a 12 hour bus ride, I am currently in Melbourne staying with Campbell (a colleague of my good friend Susan Evans). From here I will travel along the Great Ocean Road (Australia's equivalent to US1 Hwy in California) towards the Red Wine region of Coonawarra. From there I will be flying on to New Zealand.

Until the next time, take care and OI! OI! OI!


ps. In the spirit of the Olympics and Humor, I am attaching some actual questions posted on the website. The answers were added later.

Q: Does it ever get windy in Australia? I have never seen it rain on TV, so how do the plants grow? (UK)
A: Upwards, out of the ground, like the person who asked this question, who themselves will need watering if their IQ drops anylower...

Q: Will I be able to see kangaroos in the street? (USA)
A: Depends on how much beer you've consumed...

Q: Which direction should I drive - Perth to Darwin or Darwin to Perth -to avoid driving with the sun in my eyes? (Germany)
A: Excellent question, considering that the Olympics are being held in Sydney.

Q: I want to walk from Perth to Sydney - can I follow the railroad tracks? (Sweden)
A: Sure, it's only three thousand miles, so you'll need to have started about a year ago to get there in time for this October...

Q: Is it safe to run around in the bushes in Australia? (Sweden)
A: And accomplish what?

Q: It is imperative that I find the names and addresses of places to contact for a stuffed porpoise. (Italy)
A: I'm not touching this one...

Q: My client wants to take a steel pooper-scooper into Australia. Will you let her in? (South Africa)
A: Why? We do have toilet paper here...

Q: Can I bring cutlery into Australia? (UK)
A: Why bother? Use your fingers like the rest of us...

Q: Do you have perfume in Australia? (France)
A: No. Everybody stinks.

Q: Do tents exist in Australia? (Germany)
A: Yes, but only in sporting supply stores, peoples' garages, and most national parks...

Q: Can I wear high heels in Australia? (UK)
A: This HAS to have been asked by a blonde...

Q: Can you tell me the regions in Tasmania where the female population is smaller than the male population? (Italy)
A: Yes. Gay nightclubs.

Q: Do you celebrate Christmas in Australia? (France)
A: Yes. At Christmas.

Q: Can I drive to the Great Barrier Reef? (Germany)
A: Sure, if your vehicle is amphibious.

Q: Are there killer bees in Australia? (Germany)
A: Not yet, but we'll see what we can do when you get here.

Q: Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Australia? (USA)
A: What's this guy smoking, and where do I get some?

Q: Are there supermarkets in Sydney and is milk available all year round? (Germany)
A: Another blonde?

Q: Please send a list of all doctors in Australia who can dispense rattlesnake serum. (USA)
A: I love this one...there are no rattlesnakes in Australia.

Q: Which direction is North in Australia? (USA)
A: Face North and you should be about right.

Q: Can you send me the Vienna Boys' Choir schedule? (USA)
A: Americans have long had considerable trouble distinguishing between Austria and Australia.

Q: I have a question about a famous animal in Australia, but I forget its name. It's a kind of bear and lives in trees. (USA)

Q: Are there places in Australia where you can make love outdoors? (Italy)
A: Yes. Outdoors.

Q: Will I be able to speak English most places I go? (USA)
A: Yes, but you'll have to learn it first.


copyright © 2003 by Michael E. Hopkins - all rights reserved
revised NOVEMBER 2008