First things first: it doesn't seem as though pictures will be posted for a while because the computers in the mall aren't formatted for America cameras or flash drives. There is WI-FI in the hotel, but it is terribly expensive (we haven't found it free anywhere yet). I may see if we can pool our resources together and get a day's worth of WI-FI because there are quite a few of us who want to post pictures.
We arrived in Sydney yesterday morning and after checking into our hotel we went to the Cathedral of St. Mary. After touring around the magnificent gothic structure, we sat outside on some side steps and prayed the rosary. Afterwards we spent a quite evening simply settling in.
Sydney is a beautiful city with wide streets, open parks, and wide sidewalks. The people are very friendly and seem genuinely happy to be hosting the World Youth Day 2008.
This morning we went to Mass in the Cathedral of St. Mary in Sydney. George Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, celebrated the Mass and greeted pilgrims aftewards. I was able to introduce myself and one of our boys took a picture, for which I returned the favor.
After Mass we went up to Circular Quay and took a ferry to the zoo, which is one of the finest zoos in the world housing some 3,000 creatures.
Well prior to our departure from the U.S., I said to Bishop Lucas, "Bishop, if I don't see a platypus after being in Australia for two weeks, I'm not going home." I don't remember if he had a response or not but today it wasn't looking good.
Now, I've been fascinated by the platypus since I was a boy and my aunt watched a nature program about them. I've never seen one before and have always wanted too.
There were two places in the zoo that were supposed to house a platypus, but after three visits to the sites no platypus was found. The signs at the exhibits said the platypus was shy and often went "upstairs" to an area unaccesible to the public.
Just before we left the zoo without having seen a platypus one of the boys I was with insisted that we go to the office and speak with a zoo employee. He said something like this to her very politely:
"This man travelled over 9,800 miles to come to Sydney and really wants to see a platypus. He's been to the exibit three times now and hasn't seen one and has to leave now becuase his group is leaving. Is there any way he can see a platypus?"
Now, he tried to get me to speak with a zoo employee several times throughout the afternoon, thinking that if I asked they just might actually take me "upstairs." I frowned on the idea, but he insisted repeatedly and so I gave in.
The zoo employee very kindly called someone who works with mammals and explained that there was someone "very keen" on seeing a platypus.
After the telephone conversation, she told us to go back to the platypus house and check the dark section of the tank because the platypus liked to rest in the dark waters after eating.
We went back - rather skeptical - and to my great surprise and delight there was the platypus! It was rather small but I'm still very happy to have seen it! I suppose now I have to go back to Illinois ;)
Tomorrow a large group of us will be traveling to the Blue Mountains for a day of "bush walking," aka, hiking.