Tuesday, 21 January 2014

"Heroes Get Remembered... but Legends Never Die"

Entry #5, my most late night post to date, and I don’t even know where to begin.  Let’s start off in reference to my last post… I figured out what type of bird Tom is!  Of all the exotic species I had sought after, it turns out the damn thing is just an Australian Raven (black crow).  Give it a listen though, the little bugger sounds creepily like someone dry heaving in high pitch. And it goes on for, I'm not even kidding, hours at a time outside my window. Gross.

So we’ll start with Thursday… spent the whole day in a sales workshop at a hotel across the street from the office. 6 hours of presentations I sat through and maybe half of them actually pertained in some way to what I do for a living. Nonetheless, always good to know the other side of the Sherpas business. The whole Australian/New Zealand team made it out for drinks and dinner afterwards at a place called the Chophouse.  Ironically, I have spent many evenings the the Chophouse in Atlanta… yet the one here had absolutely nothing to do with the Atlanta Braves.  I had the lamb chops, which were exquisite, and managed to polish off at least two bottles of wine before deciding my best move was to take the train home before the werewolves came out at midnight.

Friday was far more extreme… yet another company event, but this one much more celebratory.  All fifty of us hopped on a bus together and headed over the Paddington Bowling Club, or “Paddo Bowls,” as the locals would call it, around noon.  Now let me start by saying this is not your traditional Lebowski-style bowling, but rather LAWN bowling, which strikes me as an extremely aristocratic version of Bocce Ball.  You throw the jack (small ball) out onto a 40-yard-long, finely manicured lawn and then each of the two teams proceeds to roll half a dozen “bowls” each to see who can get closest to wherever it lands.  Here’s the catch: unlike Bocce Balls, the lawn bowls are lopsided and oval-shaped, with one side being weighted heavier than the other so you have to “play the curve” in order to hit your target.  Sunscreen is mandatory since the UV rays here are essentially the same as the planet Mercury.  In order to keep the players cool during the competition though, a seemingly endless amount of ice cold beer and cider is catered out to the teams during gameplay… needless to say we were a better team when we started than when we finished - 5 hours later, somewhere between 3rd and 8th place. The people I work with here are awesome, I've decided.

After lawn bowls we headed to Surry Hills, one of the trendy “going out” districts here, for a happy hour - as if we needed it - and dinner. Things got sloppy quickly and, as the sun started to set, we rallied a group to yet another bar where I shamelessly hit on some Australian girls, before I realized I was over it and dipped out with Zac to a late night poker game with a crew of ex-patriot Americans he’s friends with.  It was refreshing to hang with a group that all spoke the same U.S. tongue I did, for once.  2AM came around and, only a few Glenlivets down and merely $20 behind, I called it a night and stumbled out to the streets on a mission to find a Döner Kebab shop that could satiate my 4th meal cravings.  I came up empty-handed, called a cab, and made my way home to make a pot of pasta (which I didn’t remember but discovered in the sink the next morning).

Queue my first real Australian hangover on Saturday.  I had only one task prepared for this weekend, which seemed easy enough, yet it turned out to be the most mind-numbing 5 hour journey I’ve embarked on here yet: a trip to IKEA.

So I scored a mattress and a bed in the first week here, but have since been living out of suitcases in a tiny bedroom with a three door closet containing only hanger bars but no shelving… there’s literally no shelves, drawers, or anywhere to store anything aside from the ground.  Underwear, shorts, shoes, you name it.  For the few of you that have lived with me (I can be a bit “territorial” with where I toss my shit), this is a nightmare. I thus set out on a journey to pick up some organizational essentials, which the Swedes are ever so good at, and a desk, which I’d already picked out online and would fit perfectly between my bed and wall, serving as a dual-purpose nightstand.  The closest Ikea is in Tempe, Australia, which is a 45-minute train ride and then still another mile from the station.  After pounding two vitamin waters, inhaling a banana, and building a thorough shopping list, I embarked on this journey with the hopes of easily acquiring all I needed and making it back home before dark.

Now I openly pride myself as what I like to call a "power consumer," always able to find the best deal on the best stuff, that somehow comes together in a tasteful manner.  So therefore Ikea, to me, is both a curse and a blessing, elevating my heart rate to 90 beats per minute from the second I walk in and maintaining stress-level midnight as I make my way through the gallery and into the warehouse.  “Is this a good bargain?” “Will that fit?” “Can I even drill into the wall where I’d like to mount this thing?”  I filled up two whole Ikea bags (y’all know how big those things are) before I even made it to the self-service area and then went in for the desk which, in theory, seemed like something I could carry flat-packed under one arm. Haha… yeah right!  Maybe if I had Kevin Durant’s wingspan, I could have walked more than 20 steps at a time without having to set this bitch down.  It was a SIXTY-FIVE POUND BOX that was four feet long.  It quickly dawned on me that I had two options… either go ahead and purchase the two huge bags of stuff that I had meticulously picked out over the last 2 hours and go home deskless. Or bail on the riff-raff, and carry home the desk I had truly come for, which clearly required both arms.  “I simply can’t do this,” I thought, “but if I come back later...I can just make two trips and get everything home alright.” The other side of my conscience reminded me that, having to take the bus back home, that would be an additional 3-hour round trip back to Ikea!

It was right then, in the midst of all those “I can’ts” that I remembered that one scene in the Sandlot, where Babe Ruth appears before Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez, and poetically says, “Heroes get remembered… but legends never die. Follow your heart, kid.” I found a yellow Ikea dolley nearby that I could use to actually maneuver, albeit haphazardly, the desk around with one arm.  Then approached the first slightly shady employee I could find and asked him how hard it would be to just straight up walk out of the store with one.  He then walked me over to the registers, which made me kinda nervous, but I knew I could play the estranged foreigner card if need be, and he showed me the rack where you could LEGALLY purchase the same dollies for $20… challenge accepted!  I’d be carrying 50lbs worth of home goods in two bags over one arm and then toting around 65lbs more of flat-packed hardwoods with the other.  World’s Strongest Man style. I can honestly say, I looked like a damn idiot having to take three separate trips to load all my stuff onto the bus, which was still a quarter-mile walk to the stop with rubber legs.  But finally getting home with all I came for was epicly rewarding.  Legitimately, I wish I’d taken a picture of all the things I’d carried from point A to point B because it’s far more than any sane human should ever consider moving by his or herself.  Also, I splurged on the meatballs while I was there… you really have no choice. I had the meat sweats for the next 2 hours. The 95 degree heat didn't help. Ikea rant over.

Bedroom stage 2... the tiger-striped blanket I found on discount from a going-out-of-business sale at a textiles shop down the road to hold me over the first 2 weeks. Thank God I have a real comforter now and I can freely donate it to Mike Tyson.

After making it back late Saturday afternoon, I was beat.  All I wanted to do was shut myself in, since my roommates had both taken off for Melbourne this weekend and I had the place to myself, and put together all the stuff I’d purchased in an effort to make my room feel like home… but that’s not what legends do.  My buddy Marty, the only true Sydney local I’d met before moving here while at a sales conference out in San Fran, invited me out to Clovelly Beach, South of my place in Bondi, where he lived, for a two-man pub crawl.  His girlfriend was out for the night, and he promised to show me some of the glory of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.  I took a shower and acquiesced without second thought… after all, I needed a break.

Marty picked me up in his Jeep Liberty (the American-ness of it cracked me up, despite the driver-side being shotgun) and we cruised over to his place, just a 15-minute stroll to the South Beaches, where we snagged a 6-pack and caught up in his apartment watching cricket.  We joked about how, back in October, I had mentioned halfheartedly that I might be considering a job in Australia and, despite how farfetched it seemed at the time, here we both were... only a few miles away from each other. After the sun set, he and I walked down to Clovelly beach, a very deep inlet with only limited sand and mostly surrounded by concrete.  Nonetheless, it seemed like it would have been a real happening spot in the summer when the tide was up.  Full moon, like the brightest I’d seen since I’d been here, was spilling down across the waters.  In the words of Brandon Boyd, “the sky resembles a backlit canopy, with holes punched in it.” As the moonlight reflected and refracted over the slow ebbs of the docile night waves, I realized how smart I was to have come out that night.

Despite the low-lighting, I snapped some meaningful shots of the reflection, only my phone can't find them now... this never would have happened with my iPhone. Just saying.

Marty and I ventured back up a few hundred yards from the beach to the Clovelly Hotel Bar, which was unexpectedly a happening joint, grabbed some dinner and a few pints littered with intermittent tequila shots, before doing some astute people-watching and then climbing the hill back up to his place.  We talked work for awhile, as he holds a similar pro-Google job to mine, but managed to polish off a bottle of Jim Beam before the night caught me and I felt immediately inclined to catch a cab home.

I had promised Marty I’d go play touch rugby with he and his mates on Sunday afternoon but, after waking up Sunday nursing a 3-day hangover and a bad thumb (which I clearly sprained or fractured trying to ride a Ripstick down my hallway with a beer-in-hand 2 nights before leaving Atlanta), I decided it was better to wait until next week.

It still hasn’t caught up to me that Sydney is my home now.  I think about it now and then, when I try and rationalize decisions or decide to “take my time” rather than forcing myself out every night in order to not miss anything, as most people do on vacations or studies abroad… but it’s slowly starting to sink in.  And it’s a comfortable feeling: the complacency of knowing I can take my time to slowly get to know this place, build new friendships, and always be able to come back to whatever I didn’t get enough of the first time around.  As for now though, this trip seems to be just a vacation.  I’ll be back in Atlanta the first weekend of February for my final goodbye’s and then it’s truly “Bon Voyage America” and “G’Day Australia.”

Today it kinda rained... first non-beautiful day in Sydney since I've been here. And the Niners lost this morning.

But hey, without the sour, the sweet is never as sweet....

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Wake Up Magpie

Fourth entry. 6:30 AM this morning and there’s a bird screaming outside my window.  Now when I say “screaming,” I’m not applying the verb in lieu of “calling” or “singing” …I mean this bird literally sounds like a small child YELLING outside my window.  The noise comes in a pattern of three: short cry, short cry, long loud wail. Repeat.  I’ve been searching on YouTube for the better part of 15 minutes now trying to find a species to match the creepy, crying baby ghostbird I heard all morning, but to no avail.  My roommates say it’s a magpie.  Someone at the office suggested a barking owl.  I’m convinced (based on no justifiable parameters whatsoever), that it is in fact a toucan.  So the first night in my new place, and theres a toucan living outside my window.  His name is Tom, in case you were wondering.  Both because Toucan Tom is a cool-sounding alliteration and also because he’s by far the most annoying thing I’ve heard since that Talking Tom Cat was released as an app on the iPhone.

While we’re on the subject of flying animals (yes it’s my blog and I get to dictate the subjects at my own discretion), let’s talk about bats.  When I studied in Valencia, the Liga football club was called Los Murciélagos… leading me to believe that bats were commonplace in Mediterranean Spain.  Yet I never saw one.  Down under, however, the bloody things are everywhere!  About 7pm every evening, heaps of them start cruising around the city, by the tens.  Apparently, you get rabies almost instantly if one touches you. I sure am glad that’s a mandatory shot every couple years in the States.

Yesterday (Monday) morning, I was up at 7 to watch the 2nd half of the 49ers game before checkout.  It dawned on me that American football will forever be extremely inconvenient.  I could really get used to this waking up early thing though… I made use of my time and went on a run this morning since I had 2 hours to kill before catching the train.  I’m now afraid to turn down any sort of incline due the possibility that I’ll end up having to hike back up a mountain like last weekend.  I came back around 7:45 and, despite showering, I didn’t stop sweating until 9:30, well after I'd arrived at work.  I had to wipe my head down with paper towels in the men's room before I took a seat at my desk this morning. Welcome to Australia, they said. Well this is the hottest damn January I can remember.

If you're wondering about work, send me a message on Facebook or something. That's not what these entries are for. Not yet at least (I make the rules, remember). Same shit, different continent -- actually that's not true at all but I really wanted it to be in here somewhere. There’s no ping-pong table at the Sydney office.  Boo-hoo, right?  But seriously, I really enjoyed my three-set match after lunch every day.  On a larger scale, the Australian Open is in session right now.  I had thought it was hosted here in Sydney and was hoping to get a grounds pass this weekend, but alas I realized it’s actually in Melbourne.  Both Cam and Sanam are flying there this weekend to attend.

I finally went grocery shopping last night.  I discovered an Aldi just a few blocks down the hill inside a mall complex and, while the prices are still outrageously gouged, they crush the competition by 30-40% I’d say.  In true tourist fashion, I took my rollaway suitcase down the hill and packed it up with groceries to tote back to our place.  I even thought it was a laughable idea at first but by the time I made it home, I was convinced I was a genius.  $70 worth of groceries packed into a hard shell suitcase... so what if I’m not from around here?  Have fun carrying 20lbs of food in both arms for half a mile, you locals.  I had to go to separate store for Sriracha hot sauce and Ranch dressing… at least I found them though.  I’ll may just survive here.

Couple things I’ve picked up on since I moved in here yesterday:
  • Not often do you see dryers down here… hanging your wet clothes up is standard.
  • Nobody knows about ceiling fans. I can’t imagine a world without them, yet I’m in one.
  • Not only are grills (barbies) allowed on porches, they are on every porch and are used for cooking at least 3-4 times per week.
  • Colonies of spiders can just pop up out of nowhere. Fortunately we’re on the 6th floor.
  • There aren’t nearly as many dogs here as in Atlanta… pets seem to be an afterthought.
  • A bedroom with one electrical outlet is perfectly suitable.
  • If you’re a 20-something-year-old male, and it’s not work hours, you’re wearing a tank top.
  • People eat kangaroo. Like you can just buy it. Like at the grocery store. Like for real.
  • The light switches for the bathrooms are usually located out in the hallway (i.e. never shower at night unless you trust your roomies)

I apologize in advance to all my friends who have visited third-world countries.  I’ll admit, it’s not quite Little House on the Prairie, but it’s not the Meriton Hotel I was at last week either.  No worries though, I’d trade the accommodations for two cool roommates ten times out of ten.

Here’s the pretty little “corporate” apartment I left when I checked out yesterday morning:

And here’s what I’m looking at now as I type this (pretty solid, eh?):

For kickers, here’s a view of the Eastern Suburbs from our living room at 6pm:

Thanasi Kokkinakis is my new favorite tennis player.  At age 17, he is 570th in the world and just won his first-round match in five sets, which sets him up to play Nadal next week.  Imagine being 17-years-old and playing the top-ranked player in the world... in anything.  No matter that I just moved halfway across the world, this kid makes me feel like I need to DO something with my life!

Yeah… maybe tomorrow.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Footed on Steady Ground

Third entry. Sunday night... what a weekend it was!  I've probably spent more than 1/3rd of my time here in Sydney on a laptop, hunting for places to live and, more importantly, people that I can live with comfortably for the next 6-12 months.  As I mentioned in my last post, I met two very cruisey (that means "easy-going" here) dudes Friday night at a place about three blocks where I'm staying that I was really excited about potentially rooming with.  New York City and San Fran can cry all they want to, but the rent here starts at about $1300/month, with roommates, and runs up to $2000 anywhere within 15 minutes of downtown Sydney.  Needless to say it's been a hard search.

Based on the post they had thrown up on Gumtree (the Aussie version of Craigslist here), these two guys, aged 26 and 27, stated that they were looking for someone who could "be a part of the home, and not just another person in the house" ...which I thought was spot-on for what I was hoping but not expecting to find, and left me very excited to check the place out.  They had a 3-bedroom, 6th story flat on the hill above Bondi Junction, the very last train station between the city and the beach. That means its a 15-minute train ride to work or a 12-minute bus ride to the beach. The perfect medium. I walked in, made some intros, and within a few minutes we were all drinking a beer together in the living room discussing my transition and their experiences living in Sydney.  Both guys are native-born Australians from Canberra.  That's actually the capital of Australia, half way between Sydney and Melbourne... I had no idea it existed at the time, which gave them both an SMH laugh... Bloody Americans, right?

I felt immediately comfortable hanging out with these two blokes, Cameron and Sanam, both working in the financial sector and, as we discussed our jobs, Cameron told me that he worked for a major beer distributor in Australia and that he had, literally, and UNLIMITED supply of beer on hand at all times.  In his words, he explained, "I'm not kidding mate, I bring home more beer here than we could ever realistically be able to drink through..."  I had to muster all the strength in my body to contain my excitement at this point (a shitty 6-pack here costs around $24.00) and not immediately burst out, "You wanna bet, my dude?!?" I kept my shit together and made a good impression, nonetheless, over the course of the hour that we all three hung out.  But I was the first potential tenant they had shown the place to, so they told me they would need to see the other appointments that had been made on Saturday and let me know the following afternoon. A move I would have probably made myself if I were them, despite the good vibes. I was buzzing when I left, purely on the chance that things might come together and fate would not only let me live in the exact area I targeted, but with two dudes that I could actually be long-term friends with.  The beer bonus would just be proof that God loves me and wants me to be happy.

So while sitting on my hands all morning Saturday, I managed to see a few more places, one a 5-bedroom townhouse downtown with ONE bathroom to share - you've got to be kidding me. I looked at my phone every ten minutes until finally, around 3pm, I got a call from Cam saying, "Hey mate, we saw a couple more people today and honestly... no comparison. We'd like you to move in if you're still interested."  I involuntarily did a massive Tiger Woods fist pump in the middle of the living room but completely maintained my composure as we discussed dates and details.  Less than 72 hours in and I've got an awesome spot to live (told you Dad!) on lock-down.  Best part is, I get to move out of this $215/night serviced apartment I've been staying in tomorrow morning and save the $1800 in cash it would have cost me to remain here throughout the week.

In celebration, I decided at about 7pm last night that I needed to close my laptop, get out of this apartment, and go do something fun outside the Junction. I had been discreetly introduced to a few Australian girls via Facebook from my friend Lauren back home and one of them invited me out to the first night of the month-long Sydney Festival, which was a free concert going on in the botanical gardens downtown.  I texted her to meet up and, with her phone about to die, she gave me a rough location and, as keenly as Liam Neeson in Taken, I asked her to detail what she and her friend were wearing, confident that my "very particular set of" Festival skills wouldn't let me down. I took the train there (with a pocket full of airplane mini-bottles duh) and managed to track them down within 15 minutes of my arrival.

Paula is a tall blonde from New Zealand, her friend Emma was of similar stature, and finally there was Karen, yet another Kiwi... but this one a short brunette.  Those of you that know me well can guess which one I spent most of the evening talking to, yeah?  It was a very lively scene in the gardens, very reminiscent of the free shows Centennial Park puts on from time to time.  Big screens, live music, everybody jamming out with blankets and coolers in tow. Couldn't have asked for a better first Saturday night in Australia.  However, one point I'd like to make is that, despite the stereotype of Australia being a few years behind the spearheading technology and infrastructure of us Americans, they are miles (or maybe I should say kilometers) ahead of us in the Port-a-Potty game.  I'm talking toilet trailers with lighting and ventilation, please have a look:

And yes, I WAS the creepy dude snapping a photo of people walking into the bathrooms, but keep in mind people this was a FREE concert.  I've paid $400+ dollars for festival tickets and had to sit in plastic poop saunas for years now. Where is this technology back home and why don't we give a shit about improving it? ...pun very intended.

Anyway I digress, I met a lot of cool new friends at Sydney Fest and made it home at a reasonable time... of course wide awake, yet again, at 7AM this morning.

Next issue: my soon-to-be new bedroom isn't furnished.  First step: I tracked down a very well-priced mattress today (Sunday) but it was on the other side of town, so I used my power-consumer skills and arranged online for a courier to come pick it up and deliver it with me for only $40.  It was a Pakistani guy who didn't wear deodorant but well worth the 20-minute drive breathing out of my mouth.  I'd bought linens the evening before so I'm pretty much all set for living at least one step ahead of the common backpacker this week.

I went on a (much flatter this time) run after lunch then headed over to my new crib to watch the end of the Packers/Colts game, attempting to explain to Cam/Sanam how American Football works in the process. Damn you Tom Brady. They repaid the favor when we flipped cricket on and, after somehow connecting our mutual man crushes for Leonardo DiCaprio, decided to watch Blood Diamond tonight after crushing dinner at a Ramen place down the street.  I know what you're thinking... yes, they serve Ramen at restaurants here, and it's glorious. If I could take that recipe back home, I'd be the happiest person eating the cheapest meals in Fulton County. I eventually, as in 20 minutes ago, came back to my last night at the Meriton Hotel. Oh how I'll miss this land of fresh towels and made beds.

My first day of work is tomorrow and, as much as I still have to ramble about, need to call it quits for tonight. Furthermore, the Panthers/49ers game airs at 5am tomorrow morning... and I plan on waking up early enough to at least catch the 4th quarter of it before I head to work.  In an effort to not create too many enemies, I'll keep quiet about who I'm rooting for.  Regardless, I hate both quarterbacks. This also means I'll probably be streaming the Broncos/Chargers game during my first few hours at the office on Monday... so much for a good first impression. More to come.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Left side, Strong side

Second entry. I wasn’t prepared to stay away nearly as late as I did tonight, but did it anyways. Oh well, the last Lord of the Rings is on, a welcomed upgrade to a cricket game I couldn’t understand last night. Oh, and I’m eating Tom Yum soup again… there’s simply too much Thai, Japanese, and Indian food on every corner here to ignore.

I woke up at 7:00am this morning wide awake, maybe that will be my new thing now -- never thought I’d see the day.  My first order of business was to go buy some toothpaste... I hate dirty mouths and I hadn’t had any since I arrived.  I literally rinsed my mouth out with hand sanitizer last night. Forgot to mention yesterday that the airport lost one of my three bags on the way here. Despite there being more than $1000 worth of merchandise inside (sunglasses, toiletries, cologne, keyboard, batteries, enough eCig flavors to put an entire kindergarten class into a Nicotine coma etc.), I was fairly happy that it worked out that way. I already looked like an incapable tourist trying to drag two full-sized suitcases, one roll-away, and a backpack down a busy sidewalk… It would have been frustratingly impossible had there been a fourth one to lug around.  Brushing my teeth after 48 hours was such a priority I did it in the street as I walked the pharmacy: rawdog, no water. They found my bag and had it shipped here by noon by the way.

The Aussie people are as a whole very nice and welcoming, albeit fitting true to the stereotype of responding to everything with “G’day”, “Cheers”, and “No worries mate.”  I ate cheap street sushi for breakfast, then spent the morning hours booking apartment viewings for the next few days here in city. The sooner I can opt-out of paying $200/night for this fancy serviced apartment the better.

I was getting stir crazy around noon, so I strapped on some Nikes and a Hawks jersey (bro move), and decided to go run through one of the local parks nearby. I relied on Google maps to make sure I wasn’t getting into anything over 3-4 miles and took off towards Cooper Park, which was the closest sizable patch of green to my place on Grafton Street.  What I DIDN’T count on was that Cooper Park is literally a valley, and while running downhill into the woods through cobblestone paths blasting Australian Top Hits on Spotify in my headphones might been awesomely invigorating (it’s mainly just Eminem and Pharrell btw), I was pretty sure my knees were about to explode as I tried to make it back UP the hill towards where I came from.  It was 85 degrees out and I had convinced myself that sweat and tears were slowly dissolving my contacts into my burning eyes as I tried to push myself back up this concrete mountain: a 40-degree incline on a street where every single house had to be engineered to include a basement. Google Maps doesn’t offer much of a topographical view to present problems like these, but I later found a nice tilted view of just how aggressive this dip was.

I came back with a heart rate of 120bpm, took yet another shower, and ventured out into the Junction, which is essentially a huge mall that stretches across four city blocks.  I rode up and down about fifteen escalators, not really sure what I was looking for, just genuinely intrigued with all the retail here… it’s like even the stores that we have in the States I find myself wandering into, just so I can weigh in on the subtle differences in what/how people buy stuff.  How does anyone afford anything here?  When I finally got to the top of this 6-story mall tower, I found a movie theatre and, for a split second, considered seeing a movie by myself.  It was at this point that a little light flickered on in my head and I realized, “Jared, you’re like 10 minutes from the beach… what the hell are you doing inside a mall right now?!”  So after 2 hours of wandering from store to store, I bought only some sunscreen, a jar of pickles (crucial), and made my way back to the apartment to throw on some beach gear.

For the majority of you that don’t know, Bondi Beach is the most well-known -- and also the most touristy -- beach in Sydney. Bus ride there was only about 12 minutes and my legs and back were already achy from that miserable run.  Once I stepped out onto the sidewalk, I was truly shocked though… it looked like a mile-long crescent ant hill full of backpackers, beach bums, and amateur surfers.

The view from the street was spectacular, so I snapped a photo, climbed down the windy steppes like Frodo descending Mordor, and strolled out onto the beach.  One of the things I’ve picked up on the last two days is that I have a bad habit of bumping into strangers when navigating sidewalks.  It wasn’t until I was descending onto the beach that I realized why: not only to these blokes drive on the left side of the road, human traffic seems to follow the same unwritten law… you go right and I go left as we pass, COMPLETELY counterintuitive to all the street conduct I’ve ever been exposed to. There's no way I'll ever own a car down here.

After people-watching for half an hour through my Blublockers on the beach, I joined a group of four British guys who were throwing a rugby ball around and we took turns chasing place kicks out into the waves.  Haven’t tossed one of those balls around in a few years, but it came back pretty quickly and they might have even been mildly impressed that I knew a thing or two about the sport as an American native.  I did, however, make it a point to throw a few long overhead spirals to the guys before I left, prompting them to ask me if I was a football quarterback in high school haha yeahhh right but thanks for the ego boost nonetheless.  I was beat and probably sunburned so I headed back to the bus and cruised back to my place to take my fourth shower of the day. After all, I had another evening appointment to look at another apartment with some guys in the area I was staying.

I won’t mention the dudes nor the place I looked at tonight, as I really think it could be an awesome fit and don’t want to risk jinxing anything.  Should hear back by tomorrow night.  I wandered the streets again after I left, remembering how many times I’d purposely gotten myself lost when I lived in Spain, sheerly on the rush of having to find my way home without a phone or a native tongue to rely on… my Smartphone had plenty of charge and everyone speaks english here, so those days are clearly over.

However, as I strolled back through the now relatively streets of the Eastern Suburbs, I did capture a certain sense of nostalgia… despite the few people here and there closing up shops around me, the streets had turned dark and I felt very alone. Not lonely, but alone… in the more tranquil sense of the word.  Like when you walk down the shoreline of the beach in the middle of the night and you’re dead convinced the moon is staring at you, and only at you. There's a strange comfort in that feeling, and I’m looking forward to many more like it.  Frodo destroyed the ring. That’s all for tonight.

Cheers mates!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

The Voyage of Discovery

11:47 PM. First entry. I’m on the couch in my rented apartment in the dark watching cricket in some gym shorts. My feet and eyes hurt, but weirdly I really dig it right now. Plane took off at 5:30 PM Tuesday night from Atlanta, one short layover, then landed at 7:00 AM on Thursday in Sydney… because that’s how time works apparently.  January 8th, therefore, didn’t exist. Literally lost somewhere across a dozen time zones and buried under the black waters of the Pacific, hopefully alongside the entire crew of Lost.  I was fortunate enough to sleep for 10 hours during the journey.  Ate some microwaved intercontinental TV dinner after we left LAX, then ordered a glass of white wine, chased it with a few Ambien, and remember telling the dude next to me, “See you in the morning” as I popped my headphones on and started watching We Are the Millers -- knowing full well I’d not make it through the whole thing.  I still wonder if they made it back across the border with that Winnebago full of weed. Some things are better left a mystery I guess. I woke up at 5AM and and it was barely dawn, the sun hadn’t yet peeked out over the horizon, but there was a soft orange glow breathing out over clouds and leaking into the sky.  I was on the eastern side of the place at this point, so I was lucky enough to see the sun poke it’s little nose out a few minutes later, when it did, the clouds lit up with dusty amber haze like a Southern field of cotton and clay. I thought about how many others had watched this same Pacific sunrise, perhaps my grandfather on his way out to Pearl Harbor one morning.  It was a warm feeling.  I didn’t trust my attention span and I sought to continue my sense of enlightenment, so I put on a TED talk about what home really means.  At some point shortly in I heard this quote and quickly tapped it into my iPhone:

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.” - Marcel Proust

How ‘bout them apples, yeah?  It’s been a long fifteen or so hours since we landed and, quite honestly, it still all feels too much like a dream.  I keep imagining a world where all the differences in geography and lifestyle aren’t ringing in my head like an ambulance siren.  I don't think I saw a single black person until well after lunchtime today.  Speaking of lunchtime, I went the first 9 hours without eating today, also completely unnoticed.  One of my goals in life has always been to enjoy the feeling of being hungry.  It would surely make for a healthier and cheaper lifestyle.  Based on how insanely expensive everything here is, I think I might just learn to.  A Totino’s pizza was $6.50 at the corner grocery, for example… I mean, it wasn’t actually Totino’s brand, but I know a 99-cent pizza when I see one.  I finally broke down and ate a late lunch with Zac at the nicest mall food court I’ve ever seen in my life today… there’s food everywhere here, and nothing costs less than $10.

As part of a new Google-friendly goal I have, I picked up a Nexus 4 Android phone from Zac at the Sherpas office today, pre-loaded and ready to go with some weird 11-digit phone number that doesn’t space out right.  By “right”, I of course mean American. That also means I’ve been carrying around two phones all day, which is dreadful, throws off my right pocket left pocket game that I’ve worked so hard to perfect these last few years.  I took saw an actual Koala bear today at Darling Harbor, just chilling at a wildlife preserve by the bay.  Only 10 hours into my Australian excursion, I of course Snapchatted it and, as I excitedly tapped every name in my phonebook, my Nexus decided to restart itself and all was lost.  We had already walked away at that point, and I was embarrassed at how butt hurt I was to have missed the opportunity to share having seen it… much more than I was excited that it happened in the first place. Social media is ruining us.

I’ve preemptively decided that I’d rather live closer to the city than to the beach for the first 6 months here.  It’ll be easier to find a sweet pad by the water in the winter anyways, once I’ve settled down.  I arranged for viewings at two different apartments today, coincidentally on the same street in Pyrmont by the harbor, a gorgeous 20-minute walk from the office.

The first guy I met boasted that he had a penthouse (would make for an easy transition, right?) but came down to meet me in the lobby in a wardrobe that looked as if it were purposely wrinkled.  His name was Chad, which an abysmal bro name to say the least, and told me he was born in Romania or something, but looked more if Dax Shephard were exposed to too much radiation.  We walked into his apartment and my first thought was that he was cooking some really foul-smelling dinner. Then, as we talked, he opened and stirred the pot he was cooking, and I realized that his dinner was something different, meaning his place just always smelled that way, like a gym sock stuffed with burnt toast.  My nightmare would be living in an apartment that smelled that bad long enough for it to not bother me, so I asked some bullshit questions, politely poked around for a few minutes, and made my way off.  Despite all the rusted furniture and dead plants, the rooftop patio he had was pretty noteworthy though. Second dude was named Sam. He was running late, so I sipped an overpriced bowl of Tom Yum soup on the patio of the Thai place downstairs as I watched the melt down over the terraced roofs of the quiet Pyrmont neighborhood.  When he came down to meet me, I called him Alex by mistake. Oh, my bad, it’s only been thirty-something hours since my body's been horizontal. Alex, I mean Sam, was a 29-year-old Korean guy who reminded me of Johnny Tran from The Fast and the Furious.  He had a third Italian roommate named Daniel who wasn’t there.  I can only be left to assume that Daniel’s last name is Torretto and he’s a spitting image of Vin Diesel. Considering how much Paul Walker and I have in common, we'd maybe make the perfect trio. Sam’s place was pretty legit: nice porch, bigger bedroom, seems like the well-disciplined type who lived on his computer.  But there was at least 40 liquor bottles stacked on the shelves in the living room that kinda threw me off.  At least I know he’s not a total square. Alex doesn’t have a car either and said he only takes cabs home when he goes out in the city, but walks everywhere and never relies on public transit outside of that. He mentioned it being part of some “1000 steps per day” routine he has.  I’m instantly jealous, but then I remember how much my ankles hurt, and consider how misshapen my feet would be if I tried to pull that off in high tops.  I do know that, regardless of what happens, I will be walking multiple miles per day from now on.

The best New Years Resolutions are the ones you have no control over.  I should exhibit some control on improving my grammar, for I’m subtly noticing as I type this that my entire life has been a run-on sentence.  Ain’t nobody got time for that tonight, though. That’s all I’ve got this round. Catch you blokes on the other side.