A few weeks ago, I posted about the smoke from the bushfires and how it had affected Sydney. Thick, choking air, our home smelling of smoke if we dared to open a window… that was everyday life. These before and after photos of Balmoral Beach show, in some small way, the devastating impact of the fires.
But in Sydney we are comparatively lucky.
Jack and I haven’t lost our home and everything in it. We haven’t had to pack up and move to safety at short notice. Sometimes we can still see that the sky is blue underneath all of the smoke. We can (mostly) still breathe. Our streets aren’t littered with the charred carcasses of animals that were burnt alive whilst trying to flee.
Whilst I can’t tell you what it is like to be living in areas that are worse affected, I can tell you what it is like to live in Sydney and watch the country you love struggle, choke and burn.
You can smell smoke in the air most days. Sometimes it’s choking, sometimes it’s a faint whiff, but it’s always there.
People of all ages wear protective masks to try prevent more toxic air getting into their lungs. Public transport looks like a scene from an apocalyptic film.
The sun looks ominous and red, especially in the early evening when the smoke in the air really starts to thicken.
The heat feels oppressive. Sydney reached 45 degrees the other day. You find yourself wishing for rain, a thought that as an English woman I’ve never had before but find myself having most days. Checking the weather forecast and seeing nothing but sunshine and scorching temperatures is anxiety inducing.
Monday night was the first rain we have had in months. It was a short but sweet shower, but it was rain. Jack and I tried to work out exactly when it last rained here, but we couldn’t remember.
The window ledges and balconies of our apartment are dirty with a layer of black ash and dust. I clean them regularly but it’s back a few days later.
Days out are different. No one wants to be outside for long. The sea is murky, chunks of ash visible in the water. Golden sands are now flecked black.
Every day life is lost in a haze of smoke.
And then you speak to other people and realise the impact of the fires on their lives.
My family from Canberra spent New Year’s Eve with us not knowing if they would be able to make it home due to heavy smoke meaning extensive road closures. My cousin moved to New Zealand a few days ago and had to head to the airport early because road closures meant they might not have been able to make their flight otherwise. They have friends who have been stuck in places like Batemans Bay and know people who have lost homes or have come close to losing their home.
There is a lot of anger, pain and worry in Australia right now. People are angry at politicians for not acting quick enough when these fires started months ago and for jetting off to Hawaii during a national crisis. People are worried for their family, their friends, the future of their country. There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight and people are scared.
But at the same time, there is a lot of hope. Nowhere on earth is demonstrating people power as much as Australia right now. Just look at Celeste Barber and how much money her actions have raised. Look at the donation drop off points filled with volunteers and much needed donations. Look at the countless Australian businesses donating ALL profits to places like the Rural Fire Service and The Red Cross. And finally, look at the firefighters, most of them volunteers, working tirelessly to save the country they love from further destruction.
Make no mistake, it is a sad, sad time here in Australia right now and we need all the help we can get. The country is burning. We are praying for rain. We are looking to the world for help.
Don’t look away, however distressing the images may seem. Reach out, donate, help. Australia needs you.
If you want to follow more of my Aussie journey, follow me on Instagram at @jesskitchingwrites
For a comprehensive list of charities and organisations accepting donations including the Rural Fire Service and Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, click here