RYLA Down Under

31 01 2006

What? Trip to Sydney & RYLA Sydney: The full story!, When? 12 Jan – 27 Jan 06
Story by Yap Mei Han

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Finally I have had the chance to sit down and write about my Sydney trip. I have got back three weeks ago and life has been busy since then. Chinese New Year was literally two days away after I touched down in KL. Lots of things to do and also working really hard to put myself back into reality after an awesome of 14 days in paradise – SYDNEY!! I have heard so much about Sydney since I was little. From the Opera House to Harbour Bridge to the lovely koala bears and to Nicole Kidman. Everything seems perfect in this lovely and sunny island called Sydney. Sydney has also been voted as one of the best cities in the world. They don’t called it d-best for nothing basically!!

I left Malaysia on OS 01 at 4.00 am on 12JAN06. The plane took off late and hence everything was delayed. At approximately 5.30 pm I arrived Kingford Smith Airport. Rotarian Howard greeted me at the arrival hall with a big and friendly smile. He offered to carry the bag for me and we left the airport. He paid AUD19 for the parking and I reckoned he has waited for 2.5 hours for me. His house is approximately 30 minutes by car from the airport. I have a pleasant ride and got to see the bustling city life. Traffic in Sydney is busy but not as bad as KL. We arrived in Manly beach where Howard’s house is. It was so beautiful and clean. The beach seems to be so inviting and the breeze was gentle as it stroke my face. Howard’s wife, Wendy greeted me as we entered. The house is so English, exactly like those houses that I saw in movies. The kitchen and the garaj were painted the striking blue. The living hall was in maroon colour. The toilet is big and clean. I settled down for a short while before dinner is served. I had chicken and vegetables for my first dinner. Just some tips [Aussies love wines and they love having it for tea time or dinner]. Due to the time differences, I was wide awaked on the first night and dosed off only at 2 am.

The next morning was a nice and enjoying day. Howard took me to the BCD for some shopping. We went to the Queen Victoria Bulding and Darling Harbour. We had Japanese food for lunch. In the evening, I met up with President Jim and Valerie for a Thai dinner. It was a good chatty session. For the first time, I had 3 glasses of white wine. Hm…. very impressive!!

The next morning, 14JAN06 is where the RYLA programme begins. Rtn Allan took me and another delegate, Aparna to Vision Valley. Aparna is a Sri Lankan born but grew up in Sydney. The programme lasted for 1 week ending on the following Friday. Throughout the one week, we were taught on leadership, team work and was given few live simulations.The first three days of the programme involved lots of reading, writing and listening skills. We had several educational talks which surprisingly really interesting with topics ranging from career advancement to new skills on meditation! The speakers who came and talked to us were all experts and leaders in their field.

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The first night saw us facing an exercise session which turned out to be super duper fun as we learnt how to do bush dance. I enjoyed it so much that I wish we could have another session the next day. The music was so enlightening and joyful. The session went on for 3 hours where we later adjourned for supper. I guess I must have lost few kilos ‘cos I ran and kicked so much!!
I also learned how to play boules. It’s a replica of bowling where two teams will compete against each other. This game requires the person to throw the ball as close as possible to the target (it can be a piece of wood, or a card etc). The winning point will be judged on the distance of each ball from the target.

On the afternoon of Monday, we were sent out to do the physical challenge where I chose to do the high ropes, low ropes and prussicking. The high ropes activity has given me so much of satisfaction and restored my confidence. Not only we need to climb the tree and pull ourselves through the ropes, we got to perform a flying fox from a tree, at least ten meters from the ground. On Tuesday night, we had a formal dinner with our Rotarians. After that, the floor was opened for dancing and we witnessed some really cool dances like the vampire and John Travolta wannabe in action.

Thursday afternoon was a cool down period for us where we had few indoor activities. On Friday, after a quick morning exercise, we did drumming and I had sore palms due to excessive energy used in hitting the drum. Before we leave, all the participants were awarded with their certificate and a pin. Rtn Howard came and picked us up after that. On the way back, he showed me the place where he always sails. It was so beautiful. The ocean was full with sailing boat and just looks like a paper ship from far. I realised how different Aussies and Malaysian. They enjoy quality life style with a string of good hobbies. They love sailing, rugby, beaches activities, tennis, golf and sailing. That very moment, I told myself that I got back to Malaysia, I must at least be able to improve my lifestyle and promise to get rid all the bad habits such as late nights, sucking up on coffee and of course no more lazying around. Most importantly is to do more EXERCISE!! When the evening arrived, I was totally exhaused and went to bed early. The RYLA programme was truly tiring ‘cos I have been waking up at 7 am every morning and go to bed at past midnight only.

The next morning, I met up with Jane, Lucy and Keiko. These are the lovely friends that I got to know at the RYLA. We went around the BCD and visited the Australian Museum. Later, we visited an art gallery called The Soho. Keiko took a friend with her, Aya who is an exchange student from Japan. She is leaving Sydney in July. We went over the Wooloomoollo for the famous meat pie by Harry Cafe de Wheel. It is indeed the best meat pie ever. The sauce tasted very nice and one piece can lasts you for a meal. From there, we walked over to the Domain. The park was full with people, which I reckon at least 10,000 people were there. They have a jazz festival on that day. We walked across the park and got over to the Sydney Tower. We got free admission since Jane’s BF works there. We went up for a sky view and then got down for a short video screen. The day ended at around 10 pm where I rushed back to Manly Beach by ferry.

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The next day, Rtn Bob and Pamela took me to the Blue Mountain. We left early in the morning as the journey takes around 2 hours. Bob is the secretary for the Rotary Club of Crows Nests. We stopped over for a break and we went into a Christmas shop. It was so fascinating and according to Pam, Blue Mountain celebrated X’mas twice a year, which is in July and December. We then stopped at the Echo Point to see the best view in Blue Mountain. We had our picnic there. Pam has a beautiful leather picnic bag and it was really a good lunch. We had salmon, salad, eggs etc. I promised that I will do picnicing when I’m back in Malaysia. Of course, later we went to see the famous Three Sisters at Katoomba. The weather was so hot and dry. I got tans immediately on my shoulders. The view was paranomic. The sisters were so beautiful. I went down to the gaint staircase and almost out of breath. It was steep and lots of stairs to climb…….. Bob and Pam took me for a ride on the skywalk and also the cable car down to the Katoomba Nines. It’s the steepest ride in the world. After spending 3 hours there, we left for the day. I spent overnight at Bob’s house. Again I was impressed by the house. They have got a garaj, two living halls and it’s so comfy. I wish I could own a house like this…… The kitchen overlook the garden and they have a nice BBQ corner outside the house. I have tuna, vegetable and rice for dinner. Later at night, I was busy doing my speech script for tomorrow talk at the Rotary Club meeting. The next day, on monday morning, Bob took me to see the koala and kangaroo. The koala smell so good as I step nearer to the animal for an upclose shoot. They smell like the ecalaptus oil. I took photos with the kangaroo and sheep. One sad thing is they don’t allow us to carry the koala to take photo. Later, butterflies was in my stomach as I need to give a talk at the Rotary meeting. I was nervous I haven’t been talking in the presence of many respected rotarians. My opening was bad but I surived!! After the meeting, Rtn Bill took me to his son’s house. There I met Mami, his daughter in-law, a very sweet looking Japanese lady. She took me out for half day shopping at the Chatswood. Me bought a big packet of nougat (aiyah! so hard to pronounce) When I asked the shop assistant, they goes “huh?? what”. So I gave them as many pronounciation as possible – “nugat, new-gat, nuggets, noogat”. Got lots of souvenir, koala bear key chains, boomerang, t-shirt. Yeah! I managed to get Shirley Temple’s Curly Top DVD and also a packet of damn expensive macadamian nuts. In the evening, Mami sent me to Rtn Bill’s office and I met his wife, Lydia. We went out for dinner, chinese food with Bill’s friend (can’t remember his name). We got so much of food left over. It was a good interaction for me. I’m quite glad I did well and managed to crack some conversation for the table. The night ended after that and Bill sent me back to Howard’s house. I haven’t got the chance to see Wendy for few days after I got back from the RYLA, you knowlah… got so many things to do, been running around over the past few days. So I took the initiative to join them for the tennis match live telecast from Melbourne. I was bit shy to do so. Worried I might interrupt others’ privacy but I’m glad I make the initiative to do it.

The next day, Tuesday was another busy day for me. Leave Manly by ferry at 8 am and got down at Circular Quay. The weather was cool and windy. I joined the guided tour at the Opera House which lasted for one hour. Priced at AUD21, I think it’s bit expensive but I got the life time experience to go into the theatre hall and the auditorium. I was in awe with the design and furniture setting in the main auditorium. Every equipment and furniture in the hall has its own purpose. The surround system is so strong that every corner in the room has a bounce back effect. Amazing!!! Then, I left the Opera house 50 minutes earlier to Cumber Road for my bridge climb. I took the wrong exit and went all the way up before coming down from the other side. Arrived just 20 minutes before the session starts, I checked-in with my internet confirmation and walked around in the hall. I saw lots of photos on the celebrity who had done the climb before. They are Nicole Kidman, Pierce Brosnan, Mary Kate & Ashley Olsen etc. Sharp at 12.05 pm, we were asked to go into the waiting room and do breath analysis. Shortly after that, we changed into the suit and was briefed on the safety rules. Nothing can be brought up to the bridge including watch and hair pin. With so much excitement, we waited for our turn. There were so many groups waiting to be departed and the interval time is 15 mins. As we moved away from the ground, nervousness and anxious came into my mind. Guided by Ariel, our handsome climb leader, he explained the history of the bridge on our way up to the bridge. After going through the tiny spaces sandwiched by the pipes and doing some catwalks, climbing steep leaders and small walkway, we managed to reached the summit. The view was fantastic. The breeze was cool and my hair was a disaster. The wind was strong and we stop at the summit to take few photos. We got to see Sydney at a higher point and things seem to be so perfect. After 1.5 hour on the bridge, we walked down slowly and returned to the arriving hall. It has been a good experience. After the climb, I rushed over to Darling Harbour to see the Sydney aquarium and need to mind for the time. I got to be back for dinner with Howard’s family at 7 pm. I meet Lucy (she went to India and just got back a day before). She was the participant for RYLA in Malaysia. She is so friendly and her boyfriend is so good looking. We have a big salmon fish for dinner. Emma, Lucy, Anabelle and everyone were present. The next day was bit quiet for me. It’s d-day I’m returning to KL. I didn’t make any plan. Was resting at home and busied packing my stuff. Wendy took me out for a quick shopping for another batch of souvenirs. At about 3 pm, Howard sent me off to the airport. I leave Sydney with one of the best experience ever in my life. I have had the privilege to enjoy the act of kindness from people who is not related to me. This trip has inspired me in many ways. I will use the goodness of it and channel to the right things.

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