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Australia 5

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[Copied from it’s original location on Facebook]

Hi friends!

This is it – my last Australia note.  I still can’t believe the whole experience is over – I’m writing this now from my room at home, all the way back in California.  Here and there feel very far away (and they certainly are).  As per the usual pattern, see my album “Australia 5” for pictures.

Work was a race to the finish, but as you know from my last note, it ended in success.  My now-public project – implementing draggable directions in the Google Maps API – is live for all to use!  I finished coding the entire thing on Monday of my last week, and it took until Friday to get everything ready for the blog post announcement.  I feel really lucky to have been able to implement such a cool feature (at least in my opinion), and see it all the way through to release.

Also on a work-related note, I finally took some pictures of the office – (hopefully) nothing I’m not allowed to post.  I think they give a good sense of what the office is like.  I miss it already!

And as far as activities… I’ll pick up where I left off last time.  The end of my third-to-last week was also the end of Abdulla’s and Jim’s internships, so on Friday we had a big dinner and drinks with them and their respective groups at the Pyrmont Bridge Hotel (PBH), the local pub near the office (and across the street from our apartment!).  Saturday afternoon was low-key – I went shopping at the craft markets by The Rocks (right by where the harbour bridge meets Sydney).  On Saturday night Dave and I had a fancy night on the town – we started with dinner at Rockpool, a restaurant with one of the more famous chefs in Sydney (can’t remember his name now though), and then went to see a modern Aboriginal dance performance at the opera house.  Beautiful though it may be on the outside, the inside of the opera house isn’t so spectacular; its nice and all, but you can tell it comes from the 1970s everything-is-concrete era.  Sunday morning Dave and I went back to Bills, a familiar brunch spot in Darlinghurst.

On Thursday of the following week our team had an outing to the Lindt chocolate cafe on Darling Harbour.  I ordered the one dairy-free item on the menu: a soy chai latte.  Interestingly, my order was the only one that got a “good choice” comment from the cashier.  It certainly was a good chai :-).

On Friday I embarked on a little private vacation – I left work early to catch a flight up to the Great Barrier Reef for some snorkeling, relaxation, and summer weather (Cairns and Port Douglas were a good 30C (86F), and humid – a nice contrast to Sydney, which rarely broke 70F during my time there)!  Friday evening I had dinner by the beach in Cairns and walked along the shore.  That night I stayed in a youth hostel – and learned my lesson about doing so.  Previously I’d stayed in a youth hostel with Kay, Abdulla, and Jim we went to Fraser Island – and that experience was fine.  But this time, by myself, I didn’t feel nearly as comfortable and spent the whole night worrying (unnecessarily) that my roommates would steal my stuff.  Also, I’m pretty sure the guy I shared a bunk bed with started masturbating at one point… all in all I slept about 2 hours and had a miserable night.  Next time I’ll fork over the extra money and get my own room (and some sleep).

Early Saturday morning I got picked up by Silversonic, a snorkeling/diving trip company, and drove up to Port Douglas for some snorkeling (about 70km north of Cairns).  From Port Douglas we took 1.5 hour boat ride out to Agincourt Reef, and visited three amazing snorkeling sites: Three Sisters, Nursery Bommie, and Turtle Bay.  Nursery Bommie was definitely my favorite spot – its a single large rock / coral formation with literally tens of thousands of fish swimming around it.  Fish of a certain type all seem to swim around together in a big pack – I have one particular memory of a group of thousands of tiny red and purple fish, forming a beautiful red/purple haze.  The coral on this particular formation was really nice too – soft and waving, some bits with great color.  I found this video on youtube that gives the gist of what it was like (skip to 4:50 though):  At Turtle Bay I got to see a giant sea turtle, as well as a fish dubbed Old Greg – he’s a humphead fish with a jaw so big it needs an oil pouch on its forehead to keep itself afloat!  Here’s what Old Greg looked like, more or less: (“Wanna see my upstairs mixup?”) As is typical for me, I started getting sea sick on the boat – but luckily the boat staff had a great trick for curing sea sickness that totally worked!  They wrapped a little cold towel around my neck and gave me some ice cubes to suck on.  I felt better in minutes.  A good trick if you’re ever in a similar situation!

After the snorkeling trip I went to the youth hostel I’d booked in Port Douglas, and asked if there was any way I could upgrade to a private room.  Lucky for me they had exactly one left!  So I paid the extra $65 and ended up with a fantastic private room with my own bathroom – exactly what I needed at that point, being wet, frazzled, and running on 2 hours of sleep.  I was so happy that I spent my first 10 minutes in the room smiling and taking pictures of it!  After showering and eating dinner at the hostel’s little restaurant, I went back to my room and slept for 11 hours

Sunday was an aimless wandering day.  I went to the weekly markets in Port Douglas and ate a small coconut: first they drill a hole and give you a straw to drink the milk, then they chop it in half, grind up the fleshy inside, and add banana and honey – delicious!  I wandered around the town a bit, eating lunch and lounging on the beach – until it started raining like crazy!  I essentially got a hot shower standing there on the beach, foolish me without my raincoat.  Tired of being wet, I found my way back to the hostel, changed into some dry clothes and started making my way back to the airport.  By midnight I was home in Sydney.

The next and final week was marked by all kinds of small closing events.  Kay went back to the US on Sunday, and on Monday I moved the rest of our things out of the apartment.  Tuesday was the official end of our lease on the apartment, and I moved into a hotel downtown.  I also gave my closing tech talk at work that day, conveniently timed since I’d just finished coding draggable directions the day before!  Wednesday evening Dave and I had our last dinner together :-(.  On Thursday I had my going away dinner/drinks at the PBH, much like Abdulla and Jim had two weeks before; my whole team and all the remaining interns came for one last hurrah.  Friday was my last day, and the exciting public release of my project.  I definitely got to end on a high note, which was nice.  That night I ended up eating dinner with Lennard, an intern from the Netherlands, and various other people from work.  Saturday was my last full day in Australia, and I decided to visit Taronga Zoo – one of the few big tourist attractions I hadn’t managed to do.  I randomly bumped into a bunch of the remaining interns while I was there, and ended up eating dinner with Lennard and his two roommates (Katsuya and Ivan, also Google interns) at Chat Thai, one of the more popular/trendy Thai restaurants.

Going home on Sunday was difficult.  Before I went to the airport I found myself sitting in the park mentally making my last goodbyes to Australia.  It really was such a wonderful 12 weeks.  I think I’d managed to convince myself that the day I’d go home was so far away that it’d never really arrive; so when it finally did, it was more of a shock to my system than I’d anticipated.  The flight home was surprisingly quick and easy – 12.5 hours sitting in an exit row with tons of leg room, and before I knew it I was home.  Its still a bit jarring.

I’ll close with my last shreds of Australia-isms.  If you ask for a “cuppa”, you’re asking for a cup of tea.  “Kumera” is the word for sweet potato.  Instead of asking “How are you doing?”, people ask “How you going?”; I still find that one odd – how are you going??  Another weird one is that the subject “math” is called “maths”.  There’s no such thing as “math”.  You can have maths class, or be good at maths.

Despite all this wonderful time in Australia, I never managed to pick up an accent.  But I have found myself accidentally using a few of the Australian terms I’ve mentioned in past notes.  The other day I used “heaps” instead of “lots”, which surprised me.  I started saying “zed” instead of “zee”, just because everyone in Australia expected “zed”.  I also still feel like “basil” should be pronounced rhyming with “as” instead of “bays” – somehow that just sounds more correct now.  So I guess they’ve (at least temporarily) left their verbal mark on me :-).

And that’s it!  Thanks for reading along these past 3 months!  I really, really appreciated reading all your comments on past notes – they helped me feel less far away.  Hopefully I’ll see many of you soon :-).


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