I’m in Sydney. And I’ve had my faith in humanity (which I lost very briefly) restored by a delightful Christian Lebanese taxi driver and shoes made from recycled materials.
Sydney and I have a complex relationship. I lived here for 5 years. Of my time in this city I have some very happy memories but also some very sad ones. This is a stunningly beautiful place, but it can be tough. It felt like a rat race in 1998 when I moved here, but by crikey, it feels even more like one now. Has it changed? Have I? Or have we both?
I spent the first day or so back here – some would say misguidedly – in the middle of the CBD shopping. Having been told that the new Westfield has the most amazing food hall, I headed in that direction.
Four hours later, having wound my way around close to one hundred stores in just two very large shopping centres, I was well and truly experiencing sensory overload. They say we’re exposed to over 3000 marketing messages a day, it felt like my experience exceeded that by far. BUY BUY BUY BUY BUY. Every single store designed to lure you in. But the weird thing was that in the middle of it all, the majority of retail assistants simply didn’t seem to care.
I went in search of shoes and found myself in Camper in the Queen Victoria building. Spotting a pair I liked the look of, I asked the girls where they were made. In China, they replied. Not having an issue with the fact that product is made in China but possibly the process, I asked about Camper’s sustainability practices. They had no idea. Their website couldn’t tell me anything either. So no shoes from Camper. Having somewhat over ambitiously arrived with only a carry-on sized bag, I went in search of a fold down, extra bag. Cue Crumpler. Again, made in China. Again, no idea how. Beside Crumpler is a clothing store called Alastair Chung. Full of sumptious cashmere clothes and horn jewellery on sale. ‘It’s on sale’, a voice said from behind me. Turning to ask the woman where the horn is from, she replied slightly crossly ‘I don’t know.’ Then thinking about it for a nano-second longer, she said ‘All over’. Oh good.
With my whole food salad leaking beetroot juice tucked under my arm, I headed back to Bec’s home in Greenwich. As I sat on the train, frowning, I suggested to the Universe that I could really, really, do with something to restore my faith in humankind.
Fifteen minutes later, I was sitting at the table feeling very grateful for my privileged position of being on holiday in Sydney eating scrumptious food staying with beloved friends and yet still feeling almost acutely disenchanted with the human race. But – and let me assure you I’m aware of the irony here – I was determined to find some gorgeous new shoes, I let my fingers do the walking and with wry amusement discovered a store just up the road. 106 Alexander – has a passion for a design and a philosophy for sustainability. I could see from their website that they stock Terra Plana, shoes made from recycled materials by a company which is committed to sustainability. A quick phone called confirmed they had the particular shoes I was after (heavens knows why I wasn’t this strategic in the first place) in my size.
Twenty minutes later, I bundled my self and my suitcase (I was changing accommodation and heading to Bondi) into a cab and zipped into Crow’s Nest to collect the shoes. The taxi driver, determining that I was going further afield than the shoe shop agreed to wait without charging me and as we talked on the way to Bondi, he told me his story. A Christian Lebanese man, his wife comes from the north of Lebanon, he himself, hails from further south. He would love to go back as his father is old, but he says it is not safe. I mentioned that my Aunt’s brother-in-law is from Lebanon and recently she and my Uncle visited them and walked through the ancient Cedars.
“I went back there” he said “some years ago when it was safe and visited the Cedars for the first time. I’d never been up north before. And the very first thing that came into my head when I saw them was if there is a God this is where he lives. Nature.”
And just like that, my faith in humanity was restored.
Yes, I was pleased to get new shoes, knowing they were produced with sustainability in mind. But it was hearing someone speak from his heart, of the beauty of nature, that touched mine.