In January I started renting a room in a converted warehouse in Newtown. I had six weeks until I had to be back in Melbourne for fashion week and wanted to spend that time doing yoga in the sunshine by the beach eating wonderful food. Sydney was so much more than that.
I lived with a man who played the congas and knew everyone in the Hispanic community in the Inner Western Suburbs. His Brazilian girlfriend was my age and I completely fell in love with her the first night we went out to The Townie to play pool when she yelled at a guy on the street for not composting his sauerkraut correctly.
Once a week we’d drive up to the Hawkesbury River to stay at a little old timber house with stained glass windows that had a hammock and a swing out the back. Jamilla and I would spend hours jumping from the rocks and swimming in the river. At sunset the three of us would kayak around and talk about setting up a projector so we could watch old movies from the water.
My days were filled with the excitement of new things and new people. My new found soul sister referred to everyone as her friend. I quickly found out how loosely she threw that term around, from the midnight Filipino busker to someone she had met once at the beach. Her outgoing nature inspired me every day and I learnt to be more trusting and less scared of new people and new situations.
We set challenges for ourselves: Could we walk from Newtown to Bondi Beach and home again? Could we survive on just $20 a week? Could we take our clothes off and swim in the harbor without anyone noticing? Whether we could or not, our hearts sang when we were together and we made plans to make memories all over the world.
Sometimes you see someone and you know you have a connection- your minds are parallel and you just fit. Three days before I left Sydney I met another person who I knew would forever be a part of my life. He lived in a house on the corner of a street with bars on the windows and we met when Jamilla stuck her arms through them when we were walking past. I started to make my escape while she called out to me “It’s ok! My friend lives here!”
A boy came to the window wearing tight black jeans, a hat and a long, dangly earring in one ear. We could only stay for an hour but decided to go on an adventure the next day. When he suggested we drive to the national park Jamilla had been telling me about for a month, I could just feel the stars aligning. We made last minute plans to borrow a car from her housemate, bought a plethora of fruit from a market on the highway and he played guitar and sang from the backseat for almost the entire two-hour drive.
We spent the day swimming in the ocean, digging in the sand like kids, laying on warm rocks in the sunshine and filling our bellies with fruit and dolmades. That night we stayed up until the sunrise, discussing life and religion and the world we live in and figuring out all our obscure connections.
It's funny when people so new to your life seem to understand you better than people who you've spent years calling friends. Sydney was a time for grief and growth and rebirth. I needed time to be alone with myself and I needed to meet incredible people who would inspire and love me- in every state- and that's exactly what I was given.