Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sydney weekend

Friday night, we met up with friends at our favourite neighbourhood pizza place. The weird pizzas here are finally growing on me. Australians don't feel constrained by our traditional American pizza toppings. You can (and should) try a tandoori chicken pizza. The place appears to be run by actual Italians, so I certainly wouldn't question their judgement. (FYI - judgement is spelled with that extra "e" here, the way it should be) Across the street from our pizza joint is a bottle shop, so we can run over and buy fresh beers as needed. The pizza place, like most restaurants, is BYO. They'll even provide glasses and a bottle opener. After stuffing ourselves with pizza, we walked up the street to Sydney Park and hiked up the highest hill in the city that offers an amazing view. I should state that I jog up this hill regularly, so it's not THAT high. Sydney is just really flat.

On Saturday Eric went sailing as usual, so I set off into the city. I hit the (free) Art Gallery of NSW first, arriving at the same time as a bus of Asian tourists. I'll never understand the compulsion to take a picture of every piece of art in the museum. As I was texting Eric about how ridiculous it was, a nice Asian girl asked me to take her picture. She was standing against the wall with a giant grin, and I asked her whether she was hoping for her picture with the large painting to the right or the four small paintings to the left. She didn't care; it was obviously all about the art. Not that my purposes for visiting the museum were all that high-minded. Secretly, I was there to finally purchase the bracelet I've been lusting after since we had girls' night at the Monet exhibit. (Check out Zoe Bonbon, the French jewlery maker: http://www.zoebonbon.com/beads_bracelet/bracelets_boules_paillettes-c-10_38.html?osCsid=1bd8e0f0ac07e539d7d98c204a78f65c I got one in bright orange!)

From there, I moved on to the (free) State Library of NSW to see the Bondi Jitterbug exhibit before it closed. Check out the really cool pictures of people doing bizarre things at Bondi beach back in the 1930's: http://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/events/exhibitions/2008/jitterbug/index.html. The exhibit included movies of the surf life saving clubs wearing their crazy beanies doing maneuvers on the beach and people surfing on giant wooden boards.

After a nice chicken pannini and a flat white at a cafe, I spent an hour wandering around the Rocks Markets. Each weekend, open air markets are open in neighbourhoods all over Sydney. The Rocks area is the original Sydney settlement and a short walk around Circular Quay from the Opera House, so it's a bit touristy, particularly when a cruise ship is docked in Circular Quay (which is most of the time in summer).

Next, I treated myself to a movie in the nice cinema at Circular Quay. It's amazing that you can actually get used to paying $15 to see a matinee. I saw The Reader, which was sufficiently depressing to lead me to wander around the Botanic Gardens in the drizzle for an hour. Even in the nasty weather, there was a wedding every 65 feet. You couldn't throw a rock without hitting a bride. All of the bats in the park were getting ready for the evening, stretching their wings to try to dry them before setting off. Pretty cute.

Sunday, Eric and I drove down the coast until we found a beach with decent surf. I'm trying to legitimately catch waves instead of just riding the whitewash, and it's really frustrating. Waves go so much faster when you catch them at the top, and I can't seem to pop up to standing when my board is moving Mach 5.

We had time for a quick shower and a bite to eat when we got home from the beach before heading to The Domain for Tropfest, the largest short film festival in the world. We brought a couple of bottles of wine and met up with friends who told us that the event typically attracts about 100,000 people. It was a lovely evening to lay on a blanket in the park, and some of the shorts were really good.

It's amazing how a really active weekend like this one leaves you feeling more replenished sometimes than laying about.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Surfboard repair

Tuesday night I met Eric down in Cronulla for our regular after-work surf. However, we were getting a little taste of winter after two weeks of the hottest weather we've seen in Sydney. It was really windy, freezing, and raining, and the waves were huge. Eric found us a little cove that was a bit more protected, and we decided to give it a go. Eric and I both took off on the first wave and COLLIDED. We untangled ourselves and continued surfing for about 30 minutes until I was exhausted with getting tumbled. It was just too rough. There were some nice serene moments in the interim, though, staring out to sea through the rain. Getting the crap beat out of me in the rain still looks good compared to work. Anyway, when we got back to the car, we started examining the damage we'd done to each other. It was extensive! At least we did it to each other and not some Bra Boy. To make a short story much longer than it needed to be, Eric wanted me to be sure I let Dad know that the kayak repair skills he taught Eric in Minneapolis are coming in handy -- turns out surfboard repair is pretty similar!
Wednesday I had to fly down to Melbourne for work. The fires have been all over the news, but I didn't realise just how close to the city they are. I didn't see any smoke until we were well into our descent. The client I was meeting with has lived in Melbourne her entire life and was talking about how each place we hear about on the news is somewhere she and her family have memories. Her partner owns a holiday home in that area, and he's been allowing displaced people to stay there. On the flight home, the flight attendants were collecting donations for the families who've lost their homes, which the airline was matching. That's pretty amazing in these tough financial times.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Random notes

I’ve thought of it many times but kept forgetting to share this on the blog. For the Obama inauguration, our Irish Chairman sponsored breakfast for everyone who wanted to come in and watch the events on our projector in the boardroom. Over half of the office turned up, and I don’t think it was just for the Egg Mc Muffins! The amazing thing is that we couldn’t have had an event like that in our office in Minneapolis. In fact, all of the political discussions that went on in the office throughout the US election would have been banned under HR guidelines in the US. Outside of our office, Obama-mania was every bit as pervasive. From the election to the inauguration, Obama’s face was on the front page more times than I can count, and you heard people talking about him in the street everywhere you went. You still see lots of Obama bumper stickers, t-shirts, and posters, and a house near us prints out his speeches and pastes them to the side of their house.

On another random note, we read in all of the books before we came about Australians’ tendency to shorten words, but we didn’t realise how often that crept into daily speech. A few examples that we hear all the time:

Mc Donald’s = Maccers
Hols = holidays
Brekky = breakfast
Sunnies = sunglasses
Arvo = afternoon
Convo = conversation
Salvos = Salvation Army
Doco = document
Ute = SUV
Milko = milkman
Postie = postman
Fireie = fireman

One of my coworkers, whose last name is Chaplin, is known as Chapo to all of his friends.

Since I love all that is “cute,” I find all of this quite endearing.