As a newcomer to Sydney, I’m often asked: How do you like the city? And what do you think of Australia?
Usually I bumble through a few odd observations — I’m fascinated by all the neighborhood butcher shops, for example — but lately I’ve found myself telling people that Australia strikes me as a place that’s far more complicated than it presents itself to be. Sydney in particular sometimes reminds me of an actress with perfect posture and English diction on a Broadway stage, who gets spotted at a bar after the show, sitting in a corner and speaking another language.
That may not be quite right (I’m new, remember?) but two locations come to mind: John Howard’s office near the top floor of a gleaming tower in downtown Sydney, and a hot, small gym in Sydney’s western suburbs where the children of South Sudanese refugees play basketball, drawing American scouts.
I spent a fair amount of time in both places reporting stories for this week’s rollout of our expanded Australia coverage, and I kept wondering what they revealed about my new home.
As an American meeting Mr. Howard for the first time, I was impressed to find the former prime minister’s office so unassuming, without the heavy security found with former leaders in other countries. The walls and shelves held casual portraits of Mr. Howard with presidents. The views of Sydney from his office above the 50th floor were worth ogling.
At one point, we were both standing by a window admiring the sun-splashed harbor as Mr. Howard explained that he’d grown up in Sydney and always loved the place. I asked what he loved most (Sydney’s cricket oval, he said) and what he worries about now, for his city and country. He paused for a good while, then answered.
“Jobs,” he said.
Though he described himself as an optimist, he couldn’t see how Australia would be able to create enough employment for the next generations coming up. He seemed to think the country was at or near capacity, and backed the new restrictions on immigration proposed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that would make it harder for foreigners to work in Australia and for long-time residents to become citizens.
The gym in Blacktown pointed to a different dynamic. My story on the boys of the Savannah Pride, a basketball program run by and for South Sudanese immigrants, focused on the opportunities created by a new group of Australians.
Henry Makeny, the main player I profiled, is about to receive a scholarship to play basketball at an elite American high school, and then probably college. His sister is a lab technician at a Sydney hospital; his brother is studying communications at a local university. Every time I traveled to the western Sydney neighborhoods where Makeny can usually be found, I noticed just how international the train became the further out it went. That was also the case for the businesses around each stop the train made.
Here, in the west, jobs were being made as much as they were being fretted over, and the sounds and smells were nothing like the towers and cafes near Mr. Howard’s office.
Both of these locations, of course, represent Sydney. And Australia. But how and when do they interact — or do they ever? What does the separation between white elite Australia and the rest of this country mean for Australia’s future?
Tell us how you think about these two very different worlds, and how they get to know each other, if and when they do. Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Better yet, if you’re a New York Times subscriber, and we hope you are or will be soon, join our new NYT Australia Facebook group, where we’ll be talking this through, along with other issues that matter to Australia.
One more bit of guidance: you can find all our Australia stories on our Australia page, including coverage of Mr. Turnbull’s meeting with President Trump in New York.
Now, here are a few other stories that struck me this week, followed by a selection of your stories about Darwin — and podcast recommendations from Australia’s most famous chef.
I’m just going to assume you already read our stories this week about the Australia-U.S. alliance and the gray market riches being made by Chinese students selling Australian products back to China. But did you catch our story from the magazine asking: Is China the world’s next colonial power?
The Ivanka Mystery
Who really is Ivanka Trump and what will she do in the Trump White House? This ambitious profile written by a triumvirate of talented Timeswomen revealed so much and still left me wanting to know more. This Op-Ed on women and work is also worth reading, and discussing.
Wash Your Hair, Please
For several days last week, the most read story on the entire New York Times site guided readers through how to wash their hair. Seriously.
Oh, the Darwin love! Our call for your stories about the Top End yielded dozens of heartfelt observations. Rather than just providing snippets here, we’ve published a whole batch of submissions that show a range of experiences and emotions. I also selected my personal favorite. We’ll do this kind of thing again for other cities, so stay tuned.
…And We Recommend
Put on your headphones, people.
Our launch this week included an event with Sam Sifton, The Times’s food editor, talking about cuisine and authenticity with Ben Shewry, the chef behind Attica in Melbourne, and before they went on stage, Ben was telling me about his non-food obsessions, including podcasts. Thinking of all of you, I asked him for recommendations.
The Mitchen: A food podcast out of Sydney. Shewry’s take: “They’re really opinionated and they swear really often.”
US Modernist Radio: Deep thoughts on mid-century Modernism. Shewry’s take: “These guys are absolute experts. It’s beautifully put together too.”
Pinheadz: Pinball wizards, united. Shewry’s take: “Pinball was another one of my obsessions. It’s very American.”
If you’re not in the mood for listening, watch the video of Sam and Ben’s discussion or check out our latest guide to the latest releases on Netflix in Australia. I’m still deeply enmeshed in “13 Reasons Why.”
Subscribers: Head to our Facebook group to talk about what you’re watching.