An Aussie Christmas

It should come as no surprise that Christmas is one of my favorite favourite times of year.  Therefore, I was unsure how it would be “celebrated” here especially after hearing that they don’t go big.  Well, apparently someone didn’t let the city of Melbourne know this.  They pulled out all of the big decorations and even provided a festive map so that you could find all of the decorations easily around the city.  Well done Melbourne.  Well done.

More updates to come from May due to our recent trip along the coast.  Until then, you’ll have to just enjoy these holiday pictures.  I tried to add captions to tell you more about them.

Sydney, a Derby, and Christmas

Hey look everyone.  Its an update.

Sorry for the lack of any type of posts or pictures, at least for those non-facebook followers.  May headed back to the states for a wedding leaving me alone in Melbourne to fend for myself for 3 weeks.  That basically meant that all of my survival skills went to trying to cook a meal that didn’t kill me and therefore updates would be a luxury.  But now that I’m here to give you an update, it just means it is going to be very random.  You’ve been warned.

Sydney

Thanks to work, I was sent to Sydney for a week to complete training.  While many would view this as a great way to sight see, I ran into two problems:  weather and work.  Work is the obvious one since I would be in a meeting room all day, every day during the week so I would be left with little time in the evenings to venture out.  The weather was the worst the first two days thanks to a storm that rolled in.  And by storm, I mean super ultra monsoon of rain.

However, when it subsided, myself and a colleague made our way out.  The primary stopping point would be the Opera House (of course) but prior to that we had 3 minor stops that are of interest to point out.  The first is Home Thai, a spot for dinner one night that I thought was fantastic.  For the price and quality it really hit the spot and I’d offer others to try it out if nearby that section of Sydney.  The second is Baxter Inn, a bar that one would never find if they did not know where to look.  If you can’t find a whiskey here to enjoy then I believe you might never find a whiskey.  Finally, my crocodile burger at Blackbird Cafe.  This was lucked upon as the weather was turning poor that evening and we needed food prior to returning to the hotel to end the night.  I’ve had alligator before not crocodile.  I can’t quite explain the taste as it was different from many other things.  The texture could only be described as what you find in a vegetarian burger patty.  That will turn many of you off from it but I would easily order it again as it was quite tasty.

Now of course there was the Opera House.  I’d have to say that sitting in front of this beautiful structure with the Harbour Bridge occupying the other portion of my view was magnificent.  I could have easily sat here all night just looking around at the lights and sounds of Sydney.  I’d describe it more but it wouldn’t do it justice.  Of course, neither do my pictures as my smartphone’s camera was pretty bad as well.  I might have at least one reasonable picture in the group but don’t get your hopes up.  May is the one with the legit camera phone.

Melbourne Derby

We moved from AFL and Rugby and now we are on to the Football Federation Australia A-League.  That means soccer to the normal Americans.  Thanks to friends here in Melbourne, we were treated (by paying our way) to the Melbourne Derby between Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City FC.  This game lived up to the “hype” as it was a scoring bonanza.  While the quality of play was not exactly “A” league material, we did get to see loaner David Villa in action as well as get a taste of the Melbourne Victory fans.  The fans were really into the game from start to finish and made me long to sit in their section just to partake in the soccer h0oligan festivities.  Hey look, I think they are trying to start a riot fire again.

Christmas in October?

And finally, its Christmas time in October.  In the states, we would always complain about the Christmas season edging earlier and earlier with each passing year, but we’ve never reached the early saturation of October.  I see this more as a byproduct of no large holidays to push the season out.  In the US, we have Halloween and Thanksgiving.  That’s not the same here.  One thing to note in the pictures below is the cost of the Christmas tree in the picture.  At that price, I can guarantee that we will not be getting that one.  If that’s the normal prices, then I’ll be wandering the streets with a hatchet and eyes searching for a reasonable tree.

Vegemite, enough said

Vegemite, enough said

I had originally thought about writing a post on our first AFL Grand Final experience, but the game was a blowout so that will have to wait for another year.  Instead, I bring you something better than the Grand Final and potentially better than gold itself.

It’s May trying Vegemite for the first time.

For those unaware, Vegemite is a food paste that seems to be the de facto standard for known Australian food by those outside of this continent.  It is made from yeast extract which should tell you enough to determine if you would actually eat it or not.  However, May did not get to choose if she wanted to eat it or not because I determined that for her.

Therefore, on to the wonderful video.  Enjoy.

Post video comments from May included,

Oh……oh……No!  Why would you eat that?

And

Oh…..my……that was absolutely terrible

Here is another youtube video with some people having a similar response.  Or a kids specific one if you think that would be funnier.

As a result of May’s new found “respect” for this Australian, I believe I need to post the following on ebay or gumtree:

For Sale

One opened, slightly used jar of Vegemite.

No price tag needed as we are gladly giving this “treasure” away as long as it leaves our apartment. I’m sure there is someone out there that would find a way to put its contents to good use.

Introduction to Sydney

Introduction to Sydney

FYI, I’m making this post at the threatrequest of May.  I think its mainly because she enjoyed the story too much, not sure if others would too.

This past week, I had to travel to Sydney for a work related conference.  I’ll stop with any boring work reference now and head straight into the true story.  The trip was meant to be quick travel as I was flying out on Tuesday evening and returning Wednesday evening after the conference.  I arrived on time for my departing Sydney flight so that I could take the very last seat on the plane.  I assumed my flight position which means I connected my noise cancellation headphones and started the evening’s movie, The Dark Knight Rises, on my tablet.   We took off and everything was great.

Upon our decent, I started to think that it was interesting that I was able to finish so much of my movie before we landed.  Maybe the flight was longer than I actually thought it was.  Being the last one off the plane, I was able to give the typical head nod to the flight attendants as I de-boarded.  One of the flight attendants even made an effort to say “Sorry for the evening and I hope your night gets better.”  I thought initially that this was weird, but continued to exit the plane.  Upon entering the terminal, I saw a very large line of people at the airline’s customer service desk.  I thought “Well that’s weird, I guess we were late and many people had missed their connection in Melbourne.”  But thing something really hit me.  “Wait a minute, this isn’t the Melbourne airport.”  I was back in the Sydney airport.  Apparently, we had flown to Melbourne, circled a few times, and then returned to Sydney due to the heavy fog in the Melbourne area.

You may now laugh at my stupidity for not realizingrealising that this took place on my flight.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.

When I was finally mentally capable of understanding what took place, I joined the other passengers in the line and waited to determine my fate for the evening.  Being the last passenger on the plane, this took awhile for me.  Finally, I reached the desk and discovered I was booked on a flight the following morning at 6:30AM.  I’d be put up in a hotel for the evening and could return home the following morning.  The shuttle service for this particular hotel had stopped running for the night (11:00PM+) so I would need to take a taxi which was not reimbursed.  Joy!

I connected with some random strangers from the flight and we shared the cab ride.  This is where the story starts to go down hill as the cab driver had never heard of the hotel and was dependent on us to look it up from our phones.  When we actually pulled up to the hotel, I traded glances with the other passenger in the backseat.  From the exterior, this was probably going to be the worst hotel I’ve ever stayed in.  Inside, the remaining passengers were waiting to receive their hotel keys and end their terrible evening.

I’m not going to lie.  About 4-5 different passengers returned to the front desk 5-6 times after being given their key because either A) The key would not work on the room or B) There was already someone staying in the room.  My key at least worked the first time, but that might have been my punishment upon looking inside.  Keep in mind that I’m not a hotel snob like some people we know.  I have very low standards and can usually get by no matter what.

This.  Was.  Different.

This was a hotel that would have been perfect for any cliched horror movie scene.  Maybe I should have taken pictures but I’m certain that upon viewing the photos, we all would have found evidence of ghosts in the background or something like that.  I setup my suitcase near the door as I was unable to lock the door.  Hopefully my would-be intruder would hit this and wake me or I’d go quietly into the night.  I refused to sleep under the covers for a plethora of health code violations.  Instead, I slept on top of the covers and pulled the cover from the extra bed onto me.  Only 4 hours until I could leave for the airport.

In the morning, I took the earliest shuttle possible back to the airport because anything was better than this hotel.  While waiting for it to depart, one of the passengers commented “This neighborhood is very interesting.  There are houses all around here.”  Another passenger quickly responded, “those aren’t houses, they are brothels.”  We all laughed and then continued to laugh when I quipped “I bet they have better rooms.”

I did finally make it back to Melbourne Thursday morning but only after being delayed….again….by fog.  Funny that after living in SF for many years, I had to travel to another country to finally have fog cause me delays.  Hopefully the next trip to Sydney will not result in the same horrific, wild ride.  Below you will find two pictures showing how the fog scene looked in Melbourne on the day I was meant to return.

Maybe even the weather takes this whole Melbourne vs Sydney rivalry serious.

Footy-ball

Saturday night, May and I were able to attend our first AFL or “footy” match.  AFL is the professional league for Aussie Rules Football which is quite cultish in this area of Australia.  You can think of it in the same realm as college football in the southeast but condensed to a much smaller area for the most part.  I caught a few matches on television when we first arrived and really took to it.  I just had to understand the rules first.

The sport itself, in my mind, is a combination of football, soccer, and rugby.  The basic premise is to score points by kicking the football through the middle uprights of the field.  That gives you 6 points.  If you hit it through the uprights on either side, then you are given 1 point.  For those not following that Madden style logic, the team with the most points at the end wins.  With teams of 18, your job is to work the ball down the field via kicks, running with it (and dribbling it, sort of), as well as handballing it.  This keeps the game in constant action until the end of each quarter, though we struggled to figure out if that was in 30 minute blocks or whenever the screaming horn decided to sound.  In other words, watch this video for a better depiction of an AFL game.

We chose this particular game as we wanted to check out the Melbourne Cricket Ground (a.k.a. The G).  The G stands as a marvel to behold upon entering due to its behemoth size.  To wrap your head around its size, the field of play, fence to fence, alone sits at 173.6 meters long (189.9 yards) and 148.3 meters wide (162.18 yards).  It can seat 100,024 people which ranks it as the 12th largest stadium in the world.  Its record for largest capacity is 130,000 so true capacity has some room to bend apparently.  I do find it quite funny that I’ve been to 3 of the top 20 largest stadiums in the world and 2 of those 3 were due to college football in the south.

Another big reason we chose this particular match was because it was between the bitter rivals:  Hawthorn Hawks and the Geelong Cats.  As one person from my office informed me, “think of it as the 49ers and the Seahawks”.  This statement was quite true as the game went on when one particular Cats player ever touched the ball as the chorus of boos would fill the stadium.  Apparently, he left the Hawks several seasons ago to join the Cats.  At least that was the version of the story I caught from the Cats’ fans sitting behind us.

To allow us to truly enjoy the game without having a particular team, May and I each decided to pick a team and enjoy the trash talk.  With her exhaustive research, May sided with the Cats due to their logo and better color choice than the opponent.  This left me with the Hawks and thankfully a W in the Win column at the end of the night, but it was stressful in the first half as Geelong took a nice lead.  The second half was a different story though.  Here’s a write up of the game to summarize it better than me.

All in all, it was a great time and we discovered many new things about Australia:

  • Having Lady Gaga one arena over and AFL on the same night made for some interesting combinations of people in close proximity
  • Watching a game live helps you understand it so much more than watching it on TV
  • The massive size of the G in person is amazing to see.  The field and the thought of running up and down it for 4 quarters makes me tired without taking a single step.
  • AFL club songs are interesting:  Hawks and Geelong.
  • You have probably read this entire post pronouncing Geelong incorrectly.  Don’t feel bad, we did too.
  • Pronouncing Geelong pails in comparison to Adidas.  It will take you half the commercial before you realize it.
  • And finally, whenever a bird poops on May it is the funniest thing you will ever see and will make your night at the G even more enjoyable.

Ice Bucket Challenge

I didn’t think this was going to be my first entry for this blog while in Melbourne, but any time is a good time to start I guess.

For those that are unaware of the craze sweeping the internet, the wiki entry for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a great place to start. Interesting to note that one theory states that this started in New Zealand.  The videos by RDJChris Pratt, and Bill Gates are some of my favorites.

This isn’t one of my typical charities, but the challenge seemed fun.  It’s just a shame that I missed my 24 hour deadline.  I hope my location and temperature make up for that little detail. Also, keep in mind that I had to ask the building manager to borrow a bucket and of course I had to explain why I needed it which prompted a laugh followed by “Of course I can provide a bucket for that.”  Entering the elevator lift on my way back to the apartment, a stranger looked at me and said “Ice Bucket Challenge?”

Enjoy the video and I can’t wait to see the videos from the people I challenged.

[youtube=www.youtube.com/watch?v=773eThBGliQ]

If you don’t want to dump a bucket of ice water on your head, then just donate to ALS!  In the end, everyone will benefit.