Friday, July 18, 2014

When You Come Back. . .

"When you come back," they say, "bring your family."

". . . Take a holiday afterwards."

". . . Stay for three weeks next time."

Like it's a foregone conclusion that this was just my first trip to Australia. 

Maybe they're right.

I am worn out and ready to return home. I miss my family, my routine, and my US team. 

But it has been such a productive trip that I really hope that they are right. I will bring a little bit of Vanguard Investments Australia back with me and I'll feel more equpped to advocate for my colleagues on the other side of the earth.

Those voices on the other end of the line have faces for me now, and personalities and private jokes to go with them. 

 And I think I should take their advice. When I come back, I'll stay longer, bring my family, and take a vacation.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Week two

My mom misses my posts, so I thought I should tell you what I've been doing, even though it has not been much.

Monday was a very long day - I stayed at the office until 8 and discovered that the lights go out automatically around 7. I had a lot of meetings that day and could not finish all of my follow up items from each of them. I also felt the demands of my team in Malvern.

On Tuesday I went to a fun Women In Leadership event at lunch. It was called ETFs Demystified, and I learned a little bit more about the business. It was a good session. Tuesday night I went out for my first dinner with my colleagues. We went to a very nice place called The Deanery, and I had some delicious Tazmanian fish.

Today I went to lunch with a couple of women from IT. I didn't know them very well, so it was awfully nice of them to want to go out with me. I really enjoyed getting to know them and feel like we have a better foundation for the next time we work on something together. One was from India and the other lived in Melbourne her whole life. I felt like we had a lot in common.

I did a little shopping after work and bought myself a necklace made by a local artist.

Maybe I'll wear it tomorrow.

I continue to have a lot of productive meetings and feel as though I've made another connection, learned something new, or accomplished something I couldn't have done over the phone. It has been a very worthwhile trip. 

The adrenaline has worn off, though. It's that point of the trip where it's somewhat normal to work out of the Melbourne office, yet I know there are only two days left and I can only do so much more.

One thing I'll definitely do is transport a whole bunch of Tim Tams back to my coworkers in the US.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Loch Ard Gorge

I couldn't imagine anything more amazing than the Twelve Apostles, but Loch Ard Gorge, the site of a fateful shipwreck, was raw and fierce in its beauty. 

I could not get enough of the towering cliffs of stone, layers carved intricately by the elements.

I've had that shockingly awed feeling before, but not since visiting Yosemite. Those of you who've been there know what I mean.

It was a place that was powerful and spiritual and full of history.

Wonderful and ancient and delicate even in the forces of nature that continue to change it in front of our eyes.

The Twelve Apostles

We stopped for a one hour lunch in a little town along the way. I didn't waste any more time inside than I had to and took my veggie burger and biscuit out to eat out on the expansive beach.

Perfect waves crashed on the shore.

There was a little harbor that I didn't have time to walk up to and check out.

Next, we headed to the Twelve Apostles. The wind, salt, and sea have been shaping these limestone rocks for centuries.

It was cold and wet, but look how happy I am! 

The cliffs were stunning.

If not entirely safe.

I was sad to leave, but glad I made it back to the bus on time. The driver almost left two people behind!

Great Ocean Road

Today I took a tour of a beautiful scenic drive called Great Ocean Road. The bus stopped at several places for photographs, each one more captivating than the last.

We were allowed to go down to the beach at Urquhart Bluffs. 

The toffee colored sand was fine and soft. I wanted to dig a hole and build a sand castle right there in the dead of Australia winter. Good thing Andrew wasn't with me or we probably would have abandoned the tour and done just that.

We were traveling west, and it was high tide the whole way.

I had a good seat on the coach and could see the ocean during part of the drive. There was almost always a rainbow over the sea, sometimes short and vibrant, sometimes long and faint, and once, an enormous double arc that I didn't even attempt to capture with my camera.

Is that why they call it Oz?


One section of the museum upstairs was dedicated to the history of Melbourne. It was really interesting! One exhibit that I found particularly fascination was about a big insane asylum. It contained the daily rations, a letter from the disgruntled brother of a released inmate, and description of life there, including the blue plates that were marked "Lunatic Asylum" so the residents never forgot it.

On a more pleasant note, I enjoyed walking through these model homes and hearing the stories of their owners. It was exactly the kind of museum I would bring Sam and Caroline, so it felt kind of funny to be there without them.

I decided to take the free tram that circles the city to get back. I picked it up alright, but down at the docklands, it started to turn around and come back the way it came. I hopped off because I didn't want to go all the way back around town. I was a little bothered by a long walk back (should've just figured out how to get another non-free tram back) until I saw a rainbow on my way over the bridge. Can you see it here?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Monotremes and Marsupials

Time for a lunch break at the museum. The veggie pasty is hot, so I'm eating the ice cream first. :-)
This morning I visited the ground floor of the museum, exploring the geological, zoological, and aboriginal sections.

There was a neat exhibition with local animals, even an extinct Tazmanian tiger. Maybe I should have named this blog kangaroo fortnight. . . Here I am with another kangaroo.

I didn't take any photos of First Peoples section, but I may have enjoyed that the most. Imagine a culture 2000 generations old. Refreshed now, I think I'll find out what's upstairs.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Vic Market

The first thing I did today was book my tour tomorrow! I can't wait to tell you about it.

Next up was some shopping. I walked up to the Queen Victoria Market. It was enormous!

I purchased a few surprises and then some stuff for the kids: stuffed wombat and boomerang for Sam and a koala for Caroline. Then on to the sports paraphernalia. Jersey for a friend, and then much debate over hats, err, caps as they call them. Chris asked for a Demons cap, but I liked the Hawks better, and the vendor in his Hawks poncho was quite convincing. 

Now I'm at the Melbourne Museum, taking a break from all that walking and mooching the free a WiFi.

Time to go check it out.

Well Deserved Night Out

Another very productive day at the office in spite of my painfully slow internet connection. I still connect to the network in the US, so I have to sit there and watch the computer chug through, trying to read my email, download documents, and load web pages. I did not know how reliant I had become on lightning fast internet connections and get frustrated that I can never get caught up with my email.

Anyway, there was a farewell for another American coworker who was heading back to the states after nine weeks here. Imagine nine weeks! I was invited to join the celebration even though I had nothing to do with her during her stay. It felt good to get out and relax with many of the folks I've met.

Then Rachael took me out to dinner at a Noodle restaurant. The queue was very long, but we were willing to eat outside, so not too bad. Here's my delicious soup.

A little embarrassed that I could not deal with chopsticks, even after a lesson, but oh well. We did a little shopping in Chinatown and I bought a Totoro for Caroline.

Tomorrow: the weekend!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Alleyways Walk

So, the last post was really from yesterday. I couldn't post it last night because I ran out of WiFi! I feel like a teenager. Too many devices hooked up at once, long videoconferences with Lansdale, and too many times I just left it running. So I'm all charged up now and smarter about my usage.

Tonight I went for a walk through the alleys, arcades, and lane ways. It was neat even though some of the arcades were closed for the evening. Some of the alleys had canopies and awnings that almost touched.

I found a neat coin purse sculpture.

And ended up at St. Paul's cathedral, which I think is just beautiful.

On the way back, I detoured through Federation Sq, and found a path down by the Yarra River. It took me back across a footbridge that had tons of padlocks attached to it. I'll find out tomorrow what that's all about.

Kangaroo for Lunch

Sorry, animal lovers. I decided I should try kangaroo while I was here and the opportunity came up today, so I seized it. We went to the appropriately named Meat and Wine for lunch and I ordered the rather expensive kangaroo, medium please, even though they recommended it at medium rare.

It was a very long lunch. But not because of my entree, I hope! There is no tipping, so I guess not so much incentive to get the food out there faster and so we sat and chatted. It was nice.

Oh and I learned that I do NOT like English mustard. It sounded so safe on the long list of mustards, but burned like wasabi and my eyes watered.

I had a couple of meetings when I got back to the office. Thankfully I didn't stand anyone up and stayed pretty late to catch up on things in two different time zones. Not done yet, either. Calls at 9 and 10 my time with the  US. 

Hope to post something more interesting tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Skydeck at Night

I always remember loving tall buildings and especially like to visit one at the beginning of a trip to get the perspective of the city. Chris has indulged me on this many times, but I think he kind of likes skyscrapers, too. Last night I had a lot more energy and grabbed a quick dinner at the apartment before heading out to the highest public vantage point in the Southern Hemisphere. 

The Eureka tower is really close to he apartment and the office so it only took me a few minutes to get there and a quick elevator ride to the top. Here's my office building from the Skydeck.

It's a big city and seems to go on and on. The Yarra River:

Federation Square:

Of course I went on the terrace like a crazy person, in spite of the warning.

No joke! I was pretty wind blown after that.

The best part was that I bought a two day pass, so with any luck I can sneak over there again after work or during lunch to see the city again in daylight or at dusk. I bought a few post cards which I hope to mail from here.

Finally, a palm tree for my Sam.

Other than that adventure, it's been a lot of work. A call again last night and two tonight. And a 6:30 am with my team in the US that was very helpful.

Monday, July 7, 2014

First Day at the Office!

Sorry I didn't post yesterday. I knew part of this trip would be continuing my somewhat workaholic lifestyle, and that was certainly true on my first Monday in Melbourne. I was beat last night and could not do much more than eat, snooze, and read my book while staying up late enough to get in some calls (Google Hangouts with Chris and Sam and daily conference call with the IT scrum master) with the East coast.

The day started out early as they all have so far. I toss and turn a lot between 3 and 6. Yesterday I went for my first early morning run in the city. Kelly told me about the Tan Track which goes around the Royal Botanical gardens. She said I would be safe even on a short winter day's morning, and like everything else, Kelly was right. :-) it was the perfect length to run around (2.61 miles according to the Nike Running app) and we'll lit. There were a lot of Aussies out running in shorts and Tshirts or walking their dogs in heavy coats. But my favorite was an American drill sergeant barking out commands to his fit recruits, who dutifully counted out their jumping jacks.

A short walk to the office and I was recognized right away at reception. The crew there were so welcoming and friendly, introducing me to everyone and showing me around the office. I had a couple of really productive meetings; I think we can accomplish twice as much in person as on the phone. Really. So great to meet people I have talked to over and over again. We went to a nice place for coffee, where no one blinked an eye when I ordered my coffee properly (flat white). I guess that's good, but I was so proud of myself, having never heard these coffee description till Sunday. (Thank you, Ewa).

Lunch was more rushed, but supplemented by some fresh fruit that is always in the office. Imagine that! And I put my orange peels into the compost rather than the landfill.

Wiide awake and feeling great on Day 2!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Penguins Were Late!

But well with the wait! My new friends Ewa and Ewa Malinowska were kind enough to take me on a wonderful day of Aussie nature watching. 

After lunch, we had a nice lunch by the fireplace in the town of Cowes on Phillip Island. Then we visited the Nobbies. At this moment, I'd say that was my favorite part. It was so beautiful and such a great day for wandering about on boardwalks by the sea.

Then, we headed to the main event: The Penguin Parade. It truly was a parade of these cute Little Penguins, the smallest species of penguin. 

They came out at dusk and made their way up the hill to their burrows. 

After watching them come ashore, we walked up the boardwalks among them, listening to the trilling noises they made. 

Best day yet.