Hero or Villain?

The weather in Sydney was awful. I wandered into the Maritime Museum and walked through a fascinating exhibit about William Bligh. Each item and story presented the argument that he was a hero and one that showed he was a villain. We even got to vote at the end. Was he a hero or a villain? I also explored the inside of the Sydney Opera House.

Days 451-453

I had a busy couple of days in Sydney and decided to take a day to rest and write. It was cold and raining outside, which is why I tried to do lots of stuff the previous two days before. I called the company that I had a walking tour with the following day to see if it would still occur because the weather forecast showed the wind, rain, and cold would continue. They assured me that the tour would go on.

However, the next morning, I got a call saying, “Remember how you called the other day asking about the rain…” It turns out the other person who was signed up canceled because of the rain, so they rescheduled. 

I had a hard time sleeping in the Airbnb because the mattress was extremely hard, and I could feel coils through it. I finally caved and messaged the owner, asking if they had a mattress pad. They operate a few units in the complex, so they brought me a new mattress, to my surprise. 

I cooked breakfast and decided I needed to go out and explore, even in the rain. I had already wasted a day, and my time was running out in Sydney. I grabbed my umbrella and started walking to the Maritime Museum.

It was pouring rain, and the wind made my umbrella of little use. The neighborhood was charming, with shops inside older buildings. I was cold and soaking wet by the time I arrived at the museum. 

I wandered around, and there was a large section about William Bligh. A giant sign read, “Hero or Villian?’ Intrigued, I walked into the area. 

It was well put together. Each picture and story had a yellow plaque saying Bligh was a hero, explaining why, and a red plaque describing why he was a villain. I thought, “That’s how our society should work. Show both sides.” Too often in America, people will say they support a political candidate because they oppose the other. That’s a terrible reason to support someone. 

Each plaque had a short and to-the-point description supporting their case of whether Bligh was a hero or a villain. The hero and villain signs had the same sentences if it was just fact. For example, both opening signs read, “Mentored by Cook, Bligh was at the forefront of Pacific exploration with every prospect of a glittering career when he was given command of an expedition to Tahiti, to collect and transplant breadfruit plants to the West Indies.”

However, the opening sign for the “villain” case read, “William Bligh is still regarded as one of the most controversial naval officers of his day. What should have been a simple mission became the stuff of legend when aggravated and abused beyond endurance, the crew mutinied against Bligh. History repeated itself years later when, as governor of New South Wales, the colony’s troops mutinied against his leadership. Tenacity and determination to overcome all opposition were hallmarks of Bligh’s life that earned him loathing.”

The opening sign supporting the case that Bligh was a hero read, “William Bligh is still regarded as one of the most accomplished naval officers of his day. What should have been a simple mission became the stuff of legend when, following a mutiny aboard the Bounty, Bligh and part of the crew were cast adrift in an open boat. Bligh’s no-nonsense approach later rewarded him with the governorship of New South Wales.”

This is exactly what our news media does to us. One station paints a politician out as the hero while another paints out a villain. The problem is most people only listen to one side. 

There was a telescope in a case with a yellow plaque that read, “This telescope helped Bligh see what was ahead.” The red plaque read, “But he never really saw what was coming.” Another section had a yellow sign, “Bligh bought the best silver for his family.” The red sign read, “But was he ever home to use it?” 

I loved this approach, and I was fascinated by how much you can change the impression of history based on someone’s opinion. 

The mutiny was interesting, and I found myself torn on whether Bligh was a hero or a villain. At the end of the exhibit, there was an opportunity to vote by adding a plastic chip to one of several buckets: 

  • Mostly Villain
  • Villain
  • Neutral, he was a man of his time
  • Mostly Hero
  • Hero

The buckets were transparent, so we could see how people were voting. The buckets were all pretty even, but there seemed to be a bit more in the neutral bucket. 

The moral of the story is that we can all learn the same facts and come to different conclusions. It all depends on our own life experiences. 

It was pouring rain outside with the wind causing the rain to go sideways. There was a bridge near the museum that connected other parts of the city. It was adorned with many different flags. I walked a few minutes to catch the ferry and hopped on. 

The ferry ride provided great views of the Sydney harbor and the bridge. The rain and gray skies made the city have a completely different vibe than the blue-sky days. 

I got off at the Opera House stop and went inside to see about tours. I lucked out, and a tour was just beginning. The Opera House is so iconic; it was hard to believe that I was there. The ceilings were works of art with jagged points all around. 

The tour guide told us that a Danish man, Jørn Utzon, designed the Opera House after winning an international design competition in 1957. He was relatively unknown and was only 38 years old. Unfortunately, Utzon was way over schedule and over budget. In 1966, seven years into the construction, a new political party got power and ousted him. 

Another architect, Peter Hall, had to design the inside because Utzon took his designs and drawings with him. The citizens protested and wanted Utzon back, but the city stuck with Hall. Utzon left Australia and never saw the finished product in person. 

The Opera House opened in 1973 and has a total of six theaters. In 2002, Utzon published design principles to be used for future modifications. In 2003, Utzon was awarded the Pritzker Prize for Architecture, which he accepted. In 2007, the Sydney Opera House was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

During the tour, we had the opportunity to sit in a theater where some people set up for a concert. I really wished that I bought a ticket for a show in the beautiful building. 

When the tour was complete, I walked outside, and it was pouring rain. My umbrella was no match against the wind, soaking my shoes and the lower half of my jeans. 

I walked to a café and walked in to warm up. I ordered a dessert and coffee. The storm was intense, and every time someone opened the nearby door, I felt the cold air. I couldn’t seem to get warm, likely because of my wet clothes. 

I kept walking until I noticed a happy hour special at a restaurant. I walked inside and ordered a drink and oysters. The rain ceased, and I was able to continue walking around. I made a stop at the Hard Rock Café so I could get a shot glass that I collect. When the rain started to pour again, I found places to duck under and wait it out a bit. 

The next day, I was signed up for a hike in the Blue Mountains. The weather forecast said it would rain all day, and it was only 50°F (10°C). The mountain was even colder because of the elevation. 

I wasn’t feeling well and felt exhausted. I seldom miss a tour if I’m already signed up and have paid. However, it was through Airbnb Experiences, and the $50 that I paid was being donated anyway. I decided not to go on the tour. 

I spent the day writing and watched the storm that lasted the entire day. I am a little sad that I never got to see the Blue Mountains, but I drove close to where they are and saw other mountains around Australia. I also didn’t mind leaving a few things unseen because it would give me a reason to go back one day. 

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Throughout her wild 3-week journey backpacking 220+ miles in the California Sierra Mountains, Christy encountered freezing temperatures, pelting hail storms, and losing her way, but found trail family, incredible views, and experiences that would change her life forever. Hiking up and over ten different mountain passes gave Christy a lot of time to think about why her nine-year marriage was falling apart, gave her the chance to truly embody her individualism, time to make new friends, and the strength she would need on and off the trail. Her life could never again be the same.
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