3 February 2016

Thoughts from a bus: looking back on the trip so far

Ok I admit it, typing, let alone starting my first blog on a bus is not what I’d pictured for this trip. I’d always imagined spending hours in central park warmed by the speckled spotlights of sunlight or atop a lookout perilously perched in the sky, a physical metaphor for the self-reflective juices swirling around me right now. But no, instead I’m on a bus bound for DC, where I’m quietly excited to be spending the next two and a bit months as part of the Industry Placement Program.

To be honest though, this behaviour is perfectly quintessential of the past 10 days I’ve spent in the US. Over this amazing week and a bit I’ve hopped through Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, spent one night in an airport terminal, feasted on the plethora of fast food outlets and indulged myself in the immensely different culture here in the US. Yes, to me, if I had to describe the US in one word it would be visceral. A nation so full of overwhelming and enthralling icons everywhere you go. The place where I watched my first ever Broadway show, muscled in amongst hundreds to see the NYE ball drop, queued for hours in Disneyland, packed my suitcases sky-high with boxing day sale items and awed at the might of the Golden Gate bridge. These memories will stay with me forever and I have a feeling there are plenty more to come.

I don’t know if it’s just me but coming here to a country where the cities dwarf Sydney at their emptiest and tower above the streets in concrete majesty has drawn me to appreciate the little things accompanying the main attractions in our trips. Experiences like spotting squirrels in Central Park, listening to the unique stories of our many, many Uber drivers, finding out what ‘Xing’ (Cross-sing) means on Venice Beach, getting a photo with everyone’s favourite Wookie and trying out those refill soda fountains have shed a more personal light for me on what the US is like.

I'm not obsessed with squirrels...we just don't have many in Australia!
The people who have accompanied me on this trip have however been the glue that has kept me going through the countless hours of lost sleep, misread maps and overestimated food portions. From Chris, the man with a thousand connections (and snapchat stories) setting us up at the Peninsula New York and even getting us onto a Times Square Billboard to Bowrun tirelessly attempting to get his ‘scarf right’ while taking that perfect Profile Picture to Benedict, the wise cracking, incredibly skilled plane-sleeper and everyone else who have joined us on our adventures, I’d just like to say thank you for being such amazing people, friends and intrepid explorers with me.

All these morsels of insight have, over the past week and a bit, colluded into a collage of menagerie, one still swirling atop my pool of consciousness, and one which I’m still unable to process and perhaps won’t be able to for a while after this whirlwind of a holiday. But as things settle down and the bus heads closer to DC, I do admit finding myself being drawn back to the allure and lustre of the routine, an inexplicable feeling I can’t explain, only characterised by my ardent desire to expunge my suitcases of their contents and sort everything into wardrobes and proper cabinets, my inner neat-freak finally revealing itself after days of travelling in the same clothes.

Looking ahead, I do find my mind often wandering, pondering over what kind of experiences I’ll have at my placement, the types of teachers I’ll meet in class and the stories of my fellow students on campus. Thoughts aside, DC sounds absolutely amazing and I’m definitely looking forward to it!

Edward Chang
Current student at the University of Sydney 
and participant in the Industry Placement Program in Washington DC

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