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Australia 3

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[Copied from it’s original location on Facebook]

Hi again!

Hard to believe my time here is more than half way over… it has definitely started flying by. Like with past notes, see the accompanying album “Australia 3” for pictures.

Work and weekdays keep rolling along as usual. Kay and I have gotten a bit more adventurous with our cooking, with dishes including mushroom risotto and a cashew chicken stir fry. My project at work continues to move on-schedule, though the pressure is building as the end of the internship starts to creep closer. It’ll definitely be nice to show you all what I’ve been working on, once it releases. Project aside, the social scene of work continues to go well. The intern population here has exploded – Lennard from the Netherlands, Katsuya from Melbourne/Japan, Ivan from Bulgaria, Julian from Canberra, Andy from Sydney, and more continue to trickle in. Things within my group are going well too; six of us left work at 1pm this past Thursday to go watch Inception, and my tech lead and I went out for drinks!

And that leads right into the first weekend since my last note. My tech lead Susannah, Kay, Abdulla, and I went out for drinks after work on a Friday. I had a really large, delicious pear cider and everyone else split a bottle of wine. The original plan had been to then go make dinner at our apartment, but being as tipsy as we were at that point, we opted for takeout. After dinner, Kay, Abdulla, Jim and I went to Shady Pines, a “Melbourne style” pub near Oxford street (read: cute small hipster bar) and proceeded to drink even more. All in all a good night.

Saturday was relatively low-key, but started on a high note. On our way out that morning, Kay and I saw a shooting for Australia’s Next Top Model!! Several model-y women were posing for photographers in the display window of a department store, with the AusNTM logo pasted on the side. The only people who stopped to look were us – me being quasi-starstruck and excited – and some horny guys making comments and jokes about the models. Afterward, Kay and I met up with her work friend Andy, his girlfriend, his housemate, and Jim for lunch at a farmer’s market. I bought a gluten-free dairy-free brownie, which is a guaranteed win in my book. That night would have been more exciting, but I accidentally food poisoned myself with some bad frozen chicken tenders and ended up spending the night watching Daria and hoping I wouldn’t throw up :-P.

Sunday was decidedly better. Jim and I went on a whale watching cruise and saw a lot of whales (this is apparently the season for them, the Humpback whales are migrating north to New Guinea and go right by Sydney). Check out my album “A Whale Is Fine Too” and my more recent videos. We saw a crazy amount of breaching, which is when whales jump out of the water – the video “Flying Whales 2” has 5 breaches in 35 seconds! The whales were definitely very playful… or they were trying to scare us away, and failing. Either way, very entertaining.

On the way back, a stranger sitting behind me randomly started talking to me. We talked for the last 15 minutes of the ride back to Sydney, exchanged names, and parted ways. I didn’t really think anything of it at the time. The next day he friended me on facebook – he actually remembered how to spell my name! – and asked if I was interested in getting drinks sometime. Even though this obviously sounds like a date in the making, I still wasn’t sure; he didn’t seem gay at all, maybe he was just a really friendly straight guy? On Wednesday we met up for dinner, drinks, and.. I found out it was definitely a date after all. And that’s how I met David.

Let me introduce David. David is 26, works at Macquarie Bank in Sydney, and is working part-time on a masters in finance. He grew up in Newcastle, went to University of Newcastle, and has lived overseas in France and Shanghai. He speaks fluent Mandarin, so he can appreciate all those dirty sayings some of you have taught me over the years (thanks Jasmin). He’s about 6′ tall, brown hair, blue eyes, and handsome. We’re having a good time together :-).

The day after our first date, Google had a Gayglers event (Gayglers = Gay Googlers). A bunch of us went out for dinner and drinks – and Abdulla came along too (no, he’s not gay). The highlight of the night was Abdulla getting semi-beaten up by one of our coworkers (see “Australia 3” for a wonderful picture of Abdulla getting fake strangled). Good times were had by all… except, possibly, Abdulla.

We kicked off the next weekend with yet another stew dinner at the apartment on Friday night. This time we also had Lennard, a new intern from the Netherlands, and Eddy, who works on Kay’s team (docs). On Saturday I spent the day with David. We first went to North Sydney to see some aboriginal rock carvings, and then walked around Milson’s Point (where the Harbour Bridge meets the north shore). We saw Admiralty House (the NSW governor’s house) and Kirribilli House (the Australian PM’s house), which were surprisingly unguarded – they have a not-so-intimidating wooden fence, a gate, and a lone security guard. I was somehow expecting something more like the White House… it was far from it. Another thing I found surprising: the Prime Minister’s house is here in Sydney, but the capital is 3.5 hours away in Canberra. Go figure.

On the way back to Sydney, we stopped at Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair. It’s basically a big rock in the Sydney Botanical Gardens that has a particularly nice view of the opera house and the bridge. David and I had dinner at a Japanese restaurant, and grabbed drinks at a bar that features ping pong tables. Sunday was relatively low-key; Jim, Abdulla, and I went to the Sydney Aroma Festival (a.k.a. coffee festival) and wandered around, enjoying the various coffee, tea, and snack booths.

The next week at work saw a big influx of interns, and on Tuesday we all went out for Mexican food. Though the food was fine, I’m starting to miss real Mexican food from back home… as you can imagine, the quality and selection of Mexican food is nothing like California (however, the quality and selection of Thai food here is unbeatable). This is one thing I’ve learned: Mexican food is to the U.S. as Thai food is to Australia. Popular, plentiful, and delicious.

Friday of the next weekend (this past weekend) started off with a delicous Thai dinner with the whole intern gang, and ended up at a karaoke bar called Ding Dong Dang with me, David, Kay, Abdulla, and Jim. I thoroughly embarassed / proved myself by singing good portions of Britney Spears songs with my eyes covered… it was a great night, and there are some pretty horrible pictures of it all floating around Facebook.

Saturday morning David and I went out for brunch, and Saturday evening Jim and I went to see an AFL (Australian Football League) game at the Sydney Olympic Stadium (from the 2000 games). AFL, a.k.a. “footy”, is definitely an interesting game and very much unlike American football or soccer. The game is played on a large circular field, with goal posts at each end of the field. They play with a large, oblong rugby ball, which you have to dribble every 15 meters. They mostly avoid running with the ball, however, and instead kick it from player to player. Better yet, they tackle each other all the time and don’t wear any padding whatsoever. I saw a player get elbowed hard in the face, get up, and keep playing. Its a very exciting game to watch; since they’re kicking the ball around so much, its constantly being intercepted by the other team. The game we saw featured the Sydney Swans (who aren’t so good) versus the Geelong Cats (ranked #2). Unsurprisingly, the Cats slaughtered the Swans.

Sunday featured yet more Australian sports. David and I went to North Sydney to play lawn bowls with David’s friend Simmo. Lawn bowls is decidedly an old person sport – you get 8 tries to roll a ball as close as possible to a target ball, and the person with the closest ball wins. More importantly, the game is traditionally played while drinking, which made for a very fun – and very Australian – afternoon. Afterward, David, Simmo, and I took the train back to Sydney and met Simmo’s fiance, Tash, for dinner at an Uyghur restaurant. I’d never had Uyghur food before, but unsurprisingly its a lot like Chinese except with less sauce.

This week has been moving along as usual, and today Kay, Abdulla, Jim, and I leave for Fraser Island! We leave tonight after work and come back Sunday night. It should be a lot of fun… you’ll hear all about it in the next note :-).

I’ll finish up with another few interesting Australian things.
– The word “Tuesday” ends up sounding like “Chyewsday”, and a lot of words with “th” end up sounding more like “f” (like “healfy”).
– “Bogan” is the word for an Australian hillbilly. According to David, many people from Newcastle (where he’s from) are bogans.
– I was surprised to find out that Kangaroo hunting is perfectly legal (I thought it’d be protected), and I’ve even had Kangaroo in the Google cafeteria twice! It’s quite gamey.
– Australia has a fine for not voting – $200! Thanks to that, Australian elections have a 99.9% voter turnout. I make you a bet we could get that kind of turnout in the US if we fined people $20. Better yet, just give every voter a free hamburger.

Until next time!


PS: Three cheers for overturning Prop 8!! Here’s hoping it lasts!

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