Monday, December 8, 2008

Beach in November???

I got back from Melbourne on Wednesday morning and left for Mollymook on Friday afternoon. Mollymook is a small town on the east Australian coast (near Bateman’s Bay for those of you that want to look it up). The Americans on the project decided to have a beach weekend and rented a house. There were five us there in a four bedroom house (the house was sooooo cheap and soooo worth it). The house wasn’t right on the beach but you got the best views of the beach and the ocean. I’ve got some pictures below.

Saturday morning was a bit overcast and chilly so there was no beach time. However, on the upside, as we sat on the balcony, we got to whale watch. Yes, that’s right, the whales came right into our cove and put on a show. It was pretty cool. That night we went to one of the hotels for pre-dinner drinks (gosh, I’m beginning to sound like an alcoholic). At the hotel, we got another outstanding whale show. The hotel was cool enough to lend out binoculars to everyone to watch. Hopefully you can see the whales in the pictures. From there we went to Cupid’s winery for dinner. There are some pictures below again. The sunset was phenomenal – just absolutely gorgeous. The food was great (wouldn’t suggest the vineyard’s wine though). Definitely a great night hanging out with my American friends.

Oh – we also had a “No Aussie Talk” rule in place during the trip. We weren’t allowed to talk like Aussie’s. It was good fun hearing the American version of words all weekend. You might wonder what words I could be talking about. Well, take the word depot for example. We pronounce it de-po. They pronounce it dep-o. Just little things like that.

Notice it rained this weekend??

The Race That Stops the Nation!

I got back from the States on a Tuesday and on Saturday; I headed out to Melbourne for the Melbourne Cup. For those of you that don’t know, every spring in Melbourne, they have the Spring Carnival - essentially a week of horse races. It started in the 60’s when the race track wanted to find a way to get more women to attend the races. So they instituted a week of fashion shows and competitions. Each day at the race (there are four race days during the week) have a different theme and you want to dress differently for each one. On top of that, two states in Australia get the day of the Melbourne Cup off of work and it just so happens, I’m living in one of those states.

My friend Michelle and I got to Melbourne on Saturday and immediately get changed and head into the CBD for dinner and drinks (our flight was over an hour late and we flew Tiger Air – like Southwest but not as nice). We got into downtown just as the trains for Derby (pronounced Darby) Day were arriving. Everyone was dressed up with hats or fascinators and the men were in suits with bright ties and shirts. So fascinators – I got a couple of questions on this. Essentially, they’re lazy hats. They attach to your hair with combs or a headband. They’re typically made of flowers or feathers. They’re cheaper than hats and you don’t end up with hat head. We had dinner on the South Bank of the Yarra River and got to people watch. Then we went out and had a few drinks. We met a nice Australian that lives in the UK but was in town for work (the American accent – so easy to make friends)!

Sunday and Monday were full on shopping days. Neither Michelle or I had a fascinator so it was a mad dash to find one. On top of that Melbourne has GREAT shopping – a lot of stuff that you can’t find in Canberra or Sydney. Fascinators and hats are really expensive so we were trying to find ones that we liked but didn’t have to spend a ton of money on. Either way, I had a great time shopping.

Tuesday is Melbourne Cup day. “It’s the Race that stops a Nation.” There were over 100k people at this horse race. Michelle and I were smart enough though to buy tickets to a reserved section of the course so there were less people and we didn’t have to stand in line all day long to buy drinks or place bets. I bet on four races and won on two, but I won enough to cover the costs of the four bets. I can’t complain about that. We only ventured out of our reserved area a few times – most specifically for the actual Melbourne cup race. We found some elevated seats and watched the race. The horse favored to win was an American horse, so of course I bet on it. Unfortunately though, it came in near last. Quite a disappointment for everyone that bet on it. I got some pretty good shots of the horses.

Needless to say, after glasses and glasses of champers (aka champagne for my American friends), I was in a mood to go out afterwards. And the town gets crazy after the Melbourne Cup. There were people out everywhere. The atmosphere was amazing. Unfortunately though, Michelle and I had to catch a 7am flight so there wasn’t too much partying that night.

The Melbourne Cup is definitely one of my favorite Aussie experiences yet and if I’m here next November, I’m going again.

Oh – and it rained in Melbourne…I think you’ll see a pattern.

3 days to cross the Pacific and back

I haven’t blogged in awhile so I’m going to add entries based on my weekends over the last month and a half or so.

So as part of my package to come to Australia, I get to fly home every two months. In October, I decided to take advantage of the perk. I was having some issues with the yard guy and wanted to check in on the house and, well, I was a bit homesick. However, work wasn’t able, willing, whatever, to have me be gone for too terribly long. So I went home for three days. Yes you read that correctly – three days. I think I was traveling for 60 hours to be home for 72. But I got to fly business so it wasn’t all that bad.

My suitcase when I left weighted 7 kilos and it was my massive, biggest possible suitcase. I think I had a pair of jeans, three shirts, and some underwear. When I came home, I was over the weight limit! Yes, that’s how much I bought or brought back from home! You don’t appreciate the shopping alternatives you have at home until you decide to live overseas. Canberra shopping is limited, at best, and the quality of the clothing leaves a lot to be desired. So I think I did nothing but shop while I was home. You can’t say that I’m not trying to contribute to the stimulating the economy!

I also caught up with some friends while I was there. The old project I worked for was having a party on Thursday night and invited me to join them. It was fun getting to catch up with some old work people and getting to meet the newest team members. Then on Friday, about 15 of us went out for dinner and drinks.

I love living in Australia, but let me just tell you this – there is a serious difference between American men and Australian men. It’s called “The Tall Poppy” syndrome. Essentially, Australians are taught not to stand out too much in a crowd, to not be too different or better…don’t be the tall poppy. So what this means – men at bars, restaurants, the grocery store, will never approach you. They’ll look at you and smile, but never approach you. If you really want to talk to him, you have to go to him. But in the US, as my US friends know, American men have no shame! They’ll talk to everyone – it’s all about being the best in the room. I haven’t decided which approach I like best yet. You can clearly see this difference once you come back to the US. Was a bit of a culture shock.

I got back to Oz on a Tuesday and headed straight to work. I think because the trip was so short, I never really got on US time so acclimating back wasn’t that tough. It was a good trip, and I’m glad I went. I was pretty homesick prior to the trip, but afterwards, I came to appreciate what I have going on in Australia. That being said though – I’m very excited to go home for Christmas! More Shopping!!