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Australia 1

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[Copied from it’s original location on Facebook]

Hi everyone!

As a lot of people seem to do when they go abroad, I figured I’d write an occasional note to keep people updated with what’s going on. So this will hopefully be the first in a series =). Check out my album “Australia 1” for pictures.

Here’s a broader summary of things so far:

I started work at Google a week ago, and am working on Google Maps (my first choice – yay!) The office is spectacular – I unfortunately can’t take or post any pictures of the inside, but I will say its very themed. All the conference rooms have a different style; there’s an aquarium themed room, a park room with grassy carpet and picnic benches instead of tables and chairs, a “down under” room where there’s a copy of all the furniture hanging from the ceiling, a room covered in tons of trippy emoticons, and more. There’s even a relaxation area that’s like a combination of a library and a forest – there’s fake trees supporting hammocks, and bookshelves full of semi-relevant books (like “Search Algorithm Optimization for Dummies”). Like all the Google offices, there’s a free cafe that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner during the week. I’ve generally been coming in for breakfast, but leaving before dinner (dinner doesn’t start until 7, which makes for a rather long work day). The food is wonderful, and there’s even a surprising amount of gluten-free options! The cafe has gluten-free bread and soy milk, and the kitchenettes always seem to have at least one gluten-free dairy-free snack (they sometimes have GF DF cookies that are so popular with everyone that they disappear almost instantly). In lieu of a Google dinner, my apartment-mate Kay and I have been learning to cook via our various dinner experiments. Our menu is slowly but steadily expanding past pasta dishes =).

Kay is another intern from the US, but not just any random accidental coworker – she’s from Palo Alto, went to Menlo, her father is a Stanford professor who was my research adviser last summer (!), and to top it off, my dad and her dad went to grad school together and knew each other way back when. So its been a long intertwining of our families, now with the two of us kids sharing an apartment and a job. We also have a third apartment-mate, Steven, who was supposed to arrive yesterday. However, for reasons we haven’t quite figured out, he’s not coming until later… more details to come when more is known.

My first week was unusual in a few ways, but a lot of fun. Tuesday was my birthday, and Google got me a cake! Kay got me a birthday card and all the interns signed it =). That night a bunch of us went out for Korean BBQ to celebrate. Overall a fantastic birthday.

Thursday was the Engineering Operations Regatta – Google took us engineers out onto Sydney Harbour for a day of drinking, sail boat racing, and relaxation. After boarding a yacht that docked next to the Google office, we split off into sail boat racing teams. We had 2 initial races with 7 boats, and then a final race with the best 7 teams from the two heats. Each sail boat had about 8 of us (a single team all with same-colored Google regatta hats), and 2 skippers who actually knew how to sail. None of us engineers knew anything about sailing, but we followed orders and managed to do okay – our team got 2nd place in the first heat, qualified for the final race, and ended up getting 5th. The rest of the afternoon consisted of eating and drinking. This was definitely an unusual occurrence (we don’t go sailing and drinking every Thursday), but lucky for me to catch an event like this on my first week! Oh Google =).

I’m now wrapping up my first full (and busy) weekend. On Friday night Kay and I hosted a little intern dinner party – two other interns (Abdulla from Melbourne, and Jim from Canada) came over and we made beef stew =). On Saturday, the four of us went to a farmer’s market and then took a bus to Bondi beach. We did a 5k walk down the coast, to Bronte beach where we ate lunch, and then to Coogee beach where we took a bus back home. Bronte beach was my favorite – the weather was perfect when we were there, and it was incredibly charming, secluded, uncrowded, and paradise-like. My new profile picture is me at Bronte beach =). Overall a wonderful afternoon.

Saturday night was all kinds of interesting, exciting, disappointing, and wonderful. After dinner, the same four of us (me, Kay, Abdulla, and Jim) went down to Oxford street (the Sydney gay zone) for some night life. Kay, Abdulla, and Jim went to a few pubs that aren’t quite as gay-focused, and I went to my first gay pub. Hard to believe that after living near San Francisco for so long, I’d still never been to a gay bar. Anyway, it was an experience. After sitting down at the bar and awkwardly drinking by myself for a few minutes, the bartender (thankfully) asked me and the guy sitting next to me if we knew each other. This of course prompted an introduction, which lead to about 2 hours of talking. His name was Michael, a 21 year old from Liverpool who had just arrived in Sydney less than a week ago. He had the strongest accent you ever heard, and the cutest face you’ve ever seen. This guy was so hot that the bartender was giving him free drinks. At the same time, he was clearly lacking in other ways; he dropped out of school at 17, was recently fired from his job at a coffee shop in Liverpool, and didn’t seem too sharp. Anyway, I learned a lot about him.

After a lot of talking, he told me that he recently ended a big relationship and didn’t want to start anything new in Australia because he won’t be here for long and blah blah blah…. anyway, though it might have been the truth, the point is that it very clearly wasn’t going to go farther than chatting at the pub. And that was pretty much the end of that. So, though this was a let down, I’ve been thinking of it in retrospect as a personal win – I actually went to a gay bar by myself, met a (hot) guy, and had a good time! So it wasn’t really so bad – I’ll have better luck next time =).

Sunday was more low-key. Kay and I went swimming, ate lunch, and walked to The Rocks (by the harbour bridge) for some wedges, which are basically thick french fries that they serve with sweet chili sauce.

We still don’t have internet in our apartment, and I’ve been going into Google after hours when I need an internet fix. Luckily the office is only a 10 minute walk from our apartment, so it isn’t too bad. I’m writing this note off-line at home, and will post it when I’m at work tomorrow… with any luck, we’ll have internet set up in the next day or two.

I’ll close with a few things I’ve found surprising about Australia:
1) There’s an amazing level of gluten-free awareness here. The prevalence and quality of options here is much better than in the US! Even at the small local supermarket next to our apartment, they carry a variety of gluten-free breads (which taste much better than the stuff in the US), gluten-free pasta, and gluten-free soups. Part of it is just that they’re much more proactive about labeling things as gluten-free; many things that could potentially contain gluten (like soups, sausages, etc) will be explicitly labeled as gluten-free on the packaging. Anyway, its made it much easier than expected for me to find things I can safely eat :-).

2) Pubs here are all hotels. There was some law once upon a time that if you sell alcohol, you also have to provide services to let people sleep there. So every pub is called a hotel, and has a few rooms upstairs available. Of course, the main focus is the pub downstairs.

3) Burger King is called Hungry Jack’s. For complicated reasons, Burger King ended up with restaurants in Australia with both names, but found that the Australian public liked the name Hungry Jack’s better and kept it that way.

Hope you’re all having amazing summers!! Until next time =),


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