Saturday, March 22, 2014

Batter up

Baseball in Australia.

Who would have thought I would be watching a Major League Baseball game in Australia?  I didn't even know that many people even liked baseball in Australia.

MLB had decided that the opening series for the season would be held in Sydney.  The Dodgers vs the Diamondbacks!  I've loved baseball since I was an university, so I quickly bought tickets as soon as they became available.  They weren't cheap.... not cheap at all.  This would be a disaster I thought. With ticket prices like this, no one will go and the entire experiment will be a disaster.

It turns out I was completely wrong.

Whether it was merely the novelty of having the MLB in Sydney or if instead it was because Australia was full of secretive baseball tragics, it was a full house (I would late find out that all three games of the series were well attended and the entire endeavour was a great success).

I had a great time watching the game.  Seeing the SCG completely transformed into a baseball diamond was also something which I felt glad to witness.  One of my last memories of sitting in the members' stand was watching the cricket, so it was a bizarre image to see a baseball game happening directly in front of it.  It was one of those strange moments in life that may never happen again, but I'm glad I was able to be part of it, even if it's just so that I can tell people one day that "I was there!"

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

I've been incredibly lucky over the years with the people I've met.  I've been able to make amazing friends from all over the world and I feel very fortunate the opportunity.  They've all been lovely people, but I do also believe that knowing so many different people from different places and cultures has helped me to develop as a person and given me a far broader outlook on life and people more generally.

There are massive drawbacks though.  With so many of my friends having only been in Sydney short term (or having been people I met when I was myself traveling), it's meant that my friends often leave (or I do anyways).  It can be tough to grow close to people and then find yourself completely alone as they go home.

So, with this all in mind, I was very excited to be welcoming old friends back to Sydney!  Christian, Corinne and Phil were friends I met during my masters program and were from Switzerland.  They were all traveling through Australia again and had managed to time their trips to coincide not only with one another, but also with New Years Eve.

New Years Eve in Sydney is a great time.  The weather is warm and the city is still experiencing the "holiday mood" that grips Sydney for a good two to three months.  I managed to find a spot for all of us to watch the fireworks that evening.

Seeing my friends all again was incredibly special.  We talked about old times and reminisced about our studies, but we also talked about what was happening going forward in our lives too.  Too often, you can discovery that old friends were merely friends during that a particular time of you life.  It's a joy when you find old friends who you are able to interact with as though no time had passed at all.

We found ourselves an amazing secluded spot in the middle of the city to have our picnic and to enjoy the fireworks.  The new construction on Barangaroo had started, so this was a secret little location that few knew about.
We were able to get amazing views of the fireworks completely unobstructed and without having to pay any exorbitant prices.
Sometimes everything just seems to work out perfectly.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Pretentious and impractical

The development of Canberra since I left has been surprising.  There have been an incredible number of hotels and apartment complexes that have been built and I cannot completely understand why there is a need for so many of them.  Even with the population growth that has happened in Canberra over the last few years, there still doesn't really seem to be the people necessary to fill all of these places.

Canberra still feels empty.

Driving around the town, walking around the town... there doesn't feel like there has been any increase in activity or density.  The traffic hasn't gotten any worse either (not that there ever was any traffic).

Even when I reached my hotel, I was a little bit shocked by the pointlessness of it all.  Everything looked nice, but even here there were numerous examples of design for design's sake without any real function or purpose.  In the bathroom for instance, the designers had decided against a sink and opted instead for a flat piece of metal like in a "fancy cafe".  It may have looked nice (arguably), but it was just a perfect example of missing the point.  This was a hotel where people lived (albeit briefly), and I needed a sink.

I didn't even bother to take any photos.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Easily pleased

It turns out I'm very easily pleased.

My mood can be immediately improved by simple things such as the result of a football game.

I was still in a pretty upbeat mood following the grand final win by the Hawthorn Hawks.

This happy mood became something tangible for me when I got to take hold of the premiership cup!

I had never been this close to the cup before!  Getting the opportunity to actually hold it was something special.  It made me feel like a little kid again, filled with the excitement that comes with seeing your team and celebrating the wins with friends at school.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Those are balls

I have a lot of friends who live in or who are from Adelaide.

When my parents first arrived in Australia as young immigrants, they each independently chose Adelaide as their first city to live in.  It was actually in Adelaide that they first met and it was in Adelaide that they fell in love and eventually married.

I also remember that Adelaide was the destination of one of the better childhood holidays that my family had.

All of this combined to give make me feel some kind of connection to Adelaide.

When a group of friends all decided to congregate in Adelaide for the weekend, I decided to jump on a plane and to join them.  It had been years since I had been there and it was the first time I had the opportunity to go there as an adult, independent of reliance on other adults.

The event I attended was of no real consequence.  It went off without a hitch and it was good to catch up with my friends.

What was more of a shock was the day we had left in Adelaide to explore.

Three of us had decided to take the evening flights out of Adelaide so that we would have the whole of Monday to look around.  We really didn't find much.  Within a few hours we felt as though we had wandered around most of the city of Adelaide.  We walked through the main CBD, through the museum, through the gallery, around some of the shopping malls and then we aimless wandered up and down the streets.

The highlight was the giant steel balls in the middle of Rundle Mall.

There is absolutely nothing "wrong" with Adelaide.

It's a beautiful city (city feels a bit strong... town may be a more appropriate description).

It just felt to us that it was the type of place that needed a weekend and a car so that we could explore the Adelaide region itself.  Staying in the town itself didn't give us tourists anything to be excited about.

By 4:30pm, we were bored enough that we decided to go to the airport.

It had been nice to reconnect with my Adelaide roots, but I don't think I'll be rushing back.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Fleet Review

There had been a noticeable increase in the military presence and regalia in sydney.  Most people didn't pay too much attentionto the changes. This was Sydney after all. There were events happening all the time.  In Martin Place alone, there seem to be memorial services held every second week next to the cenotaph.  Working in the city also meant that you'd be occasionally buzzed by black hawk helicopters as exercises were conducted around the city towers.  Most Sydney events are usually ignored by the locals as well.  No one takes any notice until several weeks after the event at which point they complain that they would have "loved to have gone" had they known about it.  To be fair to them, most events aren't well promoted.

As time went by, it became clearer that something was different with this event.  The number of military personnel kept increasing.  The decorations began appearing.  The chatter began to spread that foreign dignitaries would be arriving.  The words "Fleet Review" began to circulate the city.

This was no ordinary Sydney event.

This was the "Fleet Review".  It was a gathering of warships from around the globe for a "review".... the purpose of which is entirely lost on me.  Apparently it is a big deal.

So big in fact that this was the biggest event in Sydney since the Olympics.

I was fortunate enough that I had a dear friend in Rachel who had managed to get tickets to actually go on some of the warships as they were docked in the harbour.

It was special and unexpected treat to be able to explore these modern warships.  We went on three ships, one from each of the US, the UK and Australia.  Each one of these ships was the culmination of decades of research and development.  They were the pride of their nations and we were wandering around them poking and prodding, touching things we probably shouldn't have and generally gawking at all of the "cool stuff".

It was interesting seeing the different attitudes of the different countries as well.  For the Americans, we were shown very little, the exterior of the ship and a limited amount of the insides.  Through the whole trip, the Americans guided us very carefully through only the most superficial parts... such as hall ways and sleeping quarters.

The Brits on the other hand didn't seem to care as they seemed to let people wander through large parts of the ship.  Kids were seated in front of their computers, people were pushing buttons, trying to make screens light up and work.  All the while, the British sailors stood by smiling and helping the children up so they could get their chocolate covered hands on the precious equipment.
I grew up as one of those kids who was fascinated with the military.  As I've grown older, my interest levels have waned.  However, events such as these still have the ability to reignite some of the old passions.  
These are rare and wonderful events.  I keep searching the world when traveling for sights and events that will capture my imagination, when very often it is the things that are immediately in front of me that make me truly amazed with the wonders of the world around us.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Meat and the fruit baby

I was happy to be invited to the baby celebrations of my dear friends in Sydney.  They were some of the first people I met and became friends with when I moved to Sydney and it was fantastic to be able to celebrate this milestone in their lives.

Instead of having a traditional baby shower, they decided to have a semi-combined event.  The girls would have their baby shower in one room while the guys would be outside having a BBQ.  Everyone got to have their fun and I got BBQ.  I was happy.

There was a ridiculous amount of food at the BBQ, but I was even more happy with Jimmy brought out the enormous tomahawk steaks.  I had never seen anything like these steaks before.  They seemed to belong more to a Flintstones episode than to real life.

Inside at the baby shower, the girls were having their fun.  The weird food theme of the BBQ had carried over to them as well, with a "fruit baby" being the star attraction.

Personally, I found the fruit baby slightly creepier than others and so I decided to go back outside to eat some of the enormous steaks.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Finals Fever

I never seem capable of expressing the extent of my love for AFL.

It elicits an emotional response from me that I never experience in anything else.  I think it's because it helps me to tap into my childhood feelings and memories more easily than anything else.  When I'm at game, I lose my usual calm and collected demeanor and I scream and curse with the angriest fans.  It's probably cathartic for me and it definitely helps me to relieve some stress.

Going to games that don't involve the Hawks are also usually better for me as it reduces my passion levels and lets me enjoy the spectacle of the game itself.

That is when there is actually a spectacle there to be enjoyed.

I went to the finals game between the Swans and the Blues.

It was possibly the worst finals game I have had the personal misfortune of attending.  The game was over after about 15 minutes as the Swans overwhelmed the Blues and the game died a slow death over the next two hours.

Thankfully, there was a group of Melbourne boys sitting in front of me.  They had flown up for the match to the support the Blues and the shift of the game against them led to a stream of abuse being hurled towards all the Swans fans in the area.  Most of the Swans fans laughed it all off as "banter", but the hatred in the eyes of the Melbourne boys spoke of this as being far more than a mere joke.

It made for excellent viewing.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Office jealousy

My old friend Kieran and I started off our careers together.

Back in those days, we were just kids wearing unfamiliar suits trying desperately to be useful without being annoying to those around us.  It was a fine line we walked and it wasn't always walked successfully.

We've both moved on from our first job and onto newer and brighter things.

However, to my immense jealousy, Kieran's move has included something far brighter than anything at my new job.

Kieran's office includes a staff recreation room that seemed to have been created from a university student's dreams.  There is an open bar and food available for anyone who wants it.  However it is the entertainment available that is truly unbelievable.
There was the race car simulators they had.

The pool tables.  The table tennis.  The foozeball.
Then there was the open bar and the endless supply of food.
All free of course.

The stale biscuits in my office pantry didn't seem to hold the same appeal.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Bracing mountain air

As part of my desire to see more of Australia, I had decided to actively begin focusing more of my travel locally.

Australia is a land of many wonders, but I had been clearly far too caught up in my own personal travel snobbery to fully appreciate what was there in front of me.

One place that I had not explored enough was the Blue Mountains.  I had been there previously a few years ago, but an injured knee had meant that I had been confined to the house whilst the others had went for their walks.

On a cold weekend, a group of friends and I gathered in cars and fought through the evening traffic to our destination in the mountains.  It was a surprisingly short drive and we were at our destination in under an a couple of hours.  It was dark when we arrived so there was no point in exploring at that stage.  We immediately began to enjoy ourselves and we woke with sore heads the next morning.

To clear our heads, we decided to go for a walk.

Only a short distance away, we found something incredible.
We hadn't seen any of our incredible surroundings on our trip in due to the darkness, so this morning reveal had taken us all by surprise.

We explored and we continued walking.  The scenery, all dense and green, was unexpected.  I still often think of Australia as a barren place due to my upbringing in the midst of the Australian drought, so I am continually amazed by the life that can often be found only a short distance away from barren hills and empty plains.
I need to see more of this country.  It is so unique and wonderful.  I pay it a disservice every time I ignore it.
Australians travel the globe far and wide to see and experience the natural wonders of our planet.  I love to travel and I would never discourage anyone from seeking out more, but there is a clear case to be made that there are incredible things to be seen only moments away from where we live.