an afternoon at the sydney harbour

Sunday, April 21, 2019


A roll of clouds blanketed the sky when I arrived at the Sydney Harbour. I leaned against a railing and found myself lost amidst a beautiful view.

The sound of birds, the chatter of strangers, the rumbling of gentle waves. My eyes went to the ships as they glided to and fro. Boats and ferries, pacing like watch guards, moving from one end of the bay to the other.

Center of the scenic, overcast view is where the Harbour Bridge stood, a majestic metal arc elegantly sitting in its rightful throne. To the Opera House a few feet from where I stood, I whispered, "You must get tired of this already."


The Sydney Harbour was as exquisite as I remembered it. At a glance, it was beautiful—more so when the sun shone and its light graced the waters. But far away, there are details you can see. Such as the ferris wheel across the bridge. Two flags were perched on the arch's peak. A row of buildings bordered the far right-hand side. Copper roofs, white-brown walls, almost perfectly lined like members of a choir. Their gaps made way for city streets, while from their balconies you'd see the famous Port Jackson view.

I strolled along the bay, walking down towards the port. I walked past tourist crowds and an array of stalls and gift shops. Once I found a shaded area, I spotted a bench and decided to sit down. A few minutes later, a woman approached. Dark skinned, braided hair, and brown eyes glancing at me politely.

She smiled silently at the sight of ferries departing from the port. As she took a seat next to me, two other women with similar features walked over too. A group of children followed suit.

"You can take my seat if you'd like!" I said to one of the women, halfway to standing up to offer them the bench.

"That's okay!" one of them responded, with a joyous tone and the widest grin. Her smile reached her eyes. "We can share!" she finally said.

After saying that, she sat behind me on the other side of the bench. She sported a short afro, and a red football jacket, with the word "UGANDA" in big, yellow letters across her back.

The children were chatting and scrambled all around us—almost impossible for them to calmly sit down. When I asked the lady who sat beside me if they were a school group, she answered no, that they were just family. She spoke very little words, although by asking, I did learn that they were from Uganda, now living in Canberra and spending some family time in Sydney.

In the middle of my question, a gust of wind blew a strand of hair onto my face. The lady, still with a doe-eyed smile, reflexively lifted her hand and helped me brush my hair away. It was the smallest interaction, but a custom we don't commonly see. One of the many things city life doesn't prompt me to think of, is the fostering, caregiving nature of the ways in which African women show their affection.

A moment later, one of the children took a seat next to me—now to my left, while the woman was on my right. I realised now the kids were in matching grey tracksuits. Examining their faces, nearly all of them had looked identical.

The girl who sat next to me, her hair crafted into braided pigtails, couldn't have been older than 7 years old. Her big brown eyes looked into mine, but much like the woman, she offered no words. Even as I said "hi," she replied by smiling at me sincerely.

Seagulls flew over our heads, and we just sat like that for a short moment. The three of us gazed at the enchanting Harbour Bridge, while the noise of passersby softly filled the scene. When another horn was sounded from the ships, the kids quickly turned to see where it had came from.

Seconds later, one of the boys sat beside her. I waved at him, but he didn't seem to notice. Seeing this, the girl tapped his elbow. She told him, "She said hi to you!" in the tone of a rather loud whisper.

When he still didn't budge, she finally smiled my way. Her voice soft and innocent as how most kids spoke when they are shy, and she said, "This is my brother, Sam."

The girl still didn't tell me her name, and at this point, Sam was the only name I'd gotten. I turned back to the woman and said, "These are a lot of kids to handle!" We both giggled at the thought.

"They're quadruplets," she said. I raised my eyebrows as I then realised there were five children in total. She must've seen my reaction, because she continued to giggle some more. "Yes, so four, and one big one," she explained.

Not long after, the woman in the red jacket suggested they be on their way. They were headed for the Opera House, and still had numerous other things to see. Sam was now standing beside me, looking out into the bay. "I want to eat sharks!" he said. The lady and I found it amusing, and I replied, "Well, you can't eat sharks."

"Yes I can!" he said in a cheeky tone. The words sounded so natural coming from a child just told they couldn't do something.

"You're not gonna follow us?" one of the quadruplets asked me.

"No, I'm heading that way!" I pointed to an opposite direction.

The women smiled and said goodbye, and minutes later, they'd already left. I stayed seated after they were gone, thinking about our short exchange. I was reminded by the children's innocence—how unfazed they were about the world outside of their own.

"I want to ride that boat!"

"Where do we go next?"

"Look at that fish!"

"Can we please get ice cream?"

It must've been lifetimes since my world was once that small. Lifetimes since I knew so little of it.

A few hours earlier, the Notre Dame had gone up in flames. And when the whole world watched and the whole of Paris trembled, a group of five Ugandan children exploring Sydney simply had no clue.

How fortunate it is, I thought, that these children would have almost no idea.

They wouldn't have known about cathedrals that catch fire. Or towers that fall down. Planes that crash. Things that explode. Guns that take lives, they simply wouldn't know.

They safely inhabit their little worlds. And at that moment, that world was the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The pack of seagulls flying over their heads. The massive, beautiful boats, gliding to and fro.

Hours later, I was sitting under an oak tree. In my hands were a journal, a pen, and across the waters, the Opera House was staring right at me. I let myself write. I let myself breathe. I let myself think, just enough to keep me sane.

Ping! my phone buzzed. A person wanted my work on something. Two notifications from a recent Tweet this morning. "Where are you now, then?" my mother had texted me. Another group chat message appeared seconds after.

Click.

I locked it and my world suddenly shrunk. Instead I was immersed, lost again amidst the sound of birds. The chatter of strangers. The distant calls of ships. In all that noise I'd never felt more silent.

Hours earlier, the Notre Dame had caught fire. A week before, a man was shot in his neighbourhood. Relentlessly, the world just turns. Unpredictable, unforgiving, both good and bad simultaneously.

It must've been a lifetime since my world was ever small. As I grew older, it seemed to have expanded beyond belief. But that afternoon, I pulled it inward. Relearning stillness in one of the most crowded areas of Sydney.

On that afternoon, my world dwindled and closed. At that moment, my world was the Sydney Harbour. The branches of the oak tree shielding me from the sun. The toddler nearby, chasing birds that eventually flew away. The rustling of leaves, like a gentle whisper. The singing sound from a street musician, faintly from a distance, like a long-forgotten melody.

I had given up on begging for time to stop. On aimlessly wishing for a world different than this. So I did nothing, but sit under an oak tree. What was happening beyond that?

How fortunate am I, that I never did find out.

---

Some reflective musings gathered from a short day trip I recently took to Sydney.

May your weeks be lovely, and your days be ever so bright.

Thanks for reading, and for stopping by.












2 comments

  1. I never liked Sydney.
    The dark and narrow streets filled with people to the brim
    But the way you describe it makes me want to revisit, and perhaps
    gain a different view from the same sight
    Maybe I'll need a guide to see the beauty,
    maybe I'll just hold on to your words

    The innocence of a child
    The wonder and awe they experience everyday
    The irony is for one to appreciate innocence is to first lose it
    With the state of the world today,
    The song 'sleeping child' comes to mind
    It comes down to those who lost their innocence to protect those who hasn't

    And I am glad you were able to relax and just be in the moment
    There are times where not caring is bliss
    God bless your soul. 5

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love how you worded this. Simple as that. x

    Hannah / Words & Latte

    ReplyDelete

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