Monday, December 15, 2008

Week Sixteen

I have some very bad news for all of you loyal blog readers: Due to travel, this will be the last 12,767 Kilometers entry of 2008. Yes, my blog is joining me on a 2-week hiatus, as I will likely have limited-to-no access to a computer. I know. It'll be rough. But try and spend time with your families instead, and if that makes you even more bored, watch Chrismukkah reruns on iTunes. That's what I would do!

Well, Tuesday was my last official day at B-M and my wonderful colleagues gave me two 30-packs of Diet Coke as a farewell gift. While I would have prefered to have been remembered for my contributions to new business, excellent client service or creative ideas for 2009 PR plans, apparently my legacy will instead be the 16-20 Diet Cokes I consumed on an average week. Obviously I will be missed.

The job search, however, has officially begun and I can't say I've had much luck thus far. One of you valued readers suggested I should look for job opportunities as a blogger, a form of new media that is becoming increasingly utilized by corporations, organizations and people with way too much time on their hands. Unfortunately, blog jobs in Australia are hard to come by. There are more than 53,000 jobs advertised on CareerOne and more than 146,000 on Seek, yet zero jobs for blogging here in Australia. Here are some of the results from several keyword searches:
"blogger": 0 jobs
"blogging": 6 jobs
"investor relations": 7 job
"corporate communications": 41 jobs
"wood machinist": 37 jobs
"plumber": 198
"fork lift": 1,259 jobs

Now you see what I'm up against. If I were a professional fork lift operator my week would be filled with job interviews (and booze), but alas I am not. While there are zero jobs available for professional blogging, there are also zero employment opportunities for "crocodile wrestler", "kangaroo boxer" and "professional didgeridoo musician", three keyword searches I was sure would dominate the available job ops, meaning jobs are in fact difficult to come by here in Australia. I've had some promising conversations with several influencers from the sector, but won't get my hopes up until I sign a contract. Regardless, I am going on holiday in less than three days!!

I'll be taking a break (from doing nothing) to travel from Cairns to Surfer's Paradise, stopping in Airlie Beach, Long Island, Rockhampton and Fraser Island on the way. Rumor has it Contiki tours are filled with mischief, but I'm sure my tour will be angelic and productive. I'll be spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day sailing through the Whitsundays, and am pretty stoked to say the least. I get back to Melbourne on New Year's Eve, where I still don't know what I'm doing to ring in the new year.

As we're approaching the end of another year I figured I might as well give the customary "Best of" awards to some of the most important, memorable or personal favorite highlights of 2008:

Best Soft Drink of 2008: Diet Coke
Best Diet Coke of 2008: Diet Coke with Lime
Best Purchase of 2008: ZipCar membership
Worst Purchase of 2008: tie between NYSE:EYE and a $119 Brooks Brothers tie I lost before wearing.
Best Decision of 2008: $20 on lucky number 8
Worst Decision of 2008: to wear a white blazer to a Hawaian Punch Party
Best Day of 2008: July 30th: the move from San Francisco
Worst Football Team of 2008: Syracuse
Worst Musician of 2008: Gabriella Cilmi
Best Color of 2008: Aqua Blue
Worst Haircut of 2008: my current haircut
Best 3C1W of 2008: 3C1W2
Worst City of 2008: Washington D.C. - why would anyone live there?
Overall Best Thing of 2008: All of the wonderful and diverse new people I met this year from Long Island to San Diego and as far away as Europe, Asia, South America and of course Australia.

It's been a great year filled with wonderful memories to last a lifetime. Here's hoping to an even better 2009. Happy holidays!! Sixteen weeks down, 36 to go...??

Week Sixteen Summary:
Weather: more pouring rain and wind
New observation: we should probably do something to help re-stimulate the economy...
New activity(ies): Santa Lucia at the Swedish Church
New food: Aussie pizza, Aussie eggs benedict
New word(s): the loo (toilet), fairy floss (cotton candy)
New people: More Swedes - they just keeping. It's like they're escaping a war-torn country...
What I miss: College football bowl season, direct deposit, my Mastercard, my Christmas tree, New Year's at the Gravity Room, the pre-global downturn economy

Monday, December 8, 2008

Week Fifteen

Apparently we are living in an economic downturn. Now I know what you're all saying: "That's blasphemous, Don. My equity portfolio is fantastic, my property value is steadily increasing and my job couldn't be more secure." Well, it's true. And while we can't rely on news sources, financial analysts or economic data to inform us of the global downturn, we can rely on Don's blog to give us the cold hard facts. And kids, it ain't pretty out there.

This week the economic crisis hit Don. With little warning, I was informed I would be one of several casualties at a firm I truly enjoyed working for, and to add salt to the wound, I would be missing the company Christmas party as well. I thought that getting rejected by the same girl three times in four days encapsulated a rough week, but Burson-Marsteller helped to put things in perspective. I say this with some sincerity.

Getting the axe at B-M has forced me, albeit at an inopportune time, to reevaluate why I came to this country and what I wanted to get out of this experience. Honestly, I can't say I came to Australia to further my career. I did join B-M to enhance my PR knowledge and global perspective, which I believed would ultimately enhance my skills in PR. More than that, however, I came here to further my personal knowledge and perspective. I wanted to pursue a common dream to live and work abroad, to meet new people, to interact with people from a different culture, to find out how they got to where they are, and as a result to learn more about myself and the direction I want to take my life. Obviously, I wanted to do this while investing in, contributing to and impacting a company that reciprocated its investment in me.

Now I can't really complain about the company decision to downsize the Australia office. B-M gave me an opportunity to live and work here for 15 weeks and introduced me to some truly amazing people, which makes missing the Christmas party hurt that much more as I won't get the chance to meet the rest of the talented crew. Every unique skill is an asset and B-M is filled with well-traveled, highly-experienced, creative minds - individuals every PR guy strives to surround himself with. Sadly, I feel I am leaving as an Incomplete.

But, what's done is done and the decision has forced me to determine whether it's time to go home or find something new. And I decided I don't want to go home. Well... not yet.

I do miss the States, my friends and my love/hate relationship with my mother, but I haven't seen Australia, and according to Lonely Planet and Google Maps, there's a lot of Australia to see. Apparently the Whitsunday Islands are half-way decent, and even though I watched a National Geographic special on the Great Barrier Reef, one or two people believe it is also worth taking a look at in person. So, I booked my package to check it all out. I'll be spending Christmas on the north-east coast, which will be about 22,000 times hotter than the Christmases of Jasmine, Kate and Bob combined.

No company Christmas party this year, though that only puts me at the same level as an EDS employee or Hasidic Jew. I suppose Christmas in Cairns will be just as lovely. I'll miss spending the holidays in the O.C. but I'll be home soon enough.

Well there you have it. The global downturn has sunk below the equator. And you know it's bad when it even jeopardizes PR professionals in Australia, whose PR talent pool is shallower than an Orange County housewife. Really, Burson-Marsteller is no different than General Motors, Goldman Sachs or any other U.S.-based multinational corporation (except the government's not exactly jumping to bail our industry out). It is the product of a failed U.S.-powered global economy that has had a domino effect on the entire planet. Thousands of Australians are finding themselves in similar positions, yet most of them have families and mortgage payments. I'm lucky in the sense that I have my health, my friends and an iPod with 28 Christmas songs to hopefully get me a little cheerier in this time of great change. Fifteen weeks down, 37 to go...??

Week Fifteen Summary:
Weather: bright, hot and sunny with pouring rain
New observation: we should probably do something to help re-stimulate the economy...
New activity(ies): lawn bowling, The Belgian Beer Garden
New food: Australian Domino's
New word(s): "No chicken salt for my chips? I'm devo!" ("No Lawry's seasoned salt for my french fries? I'm devastated!")
New people: A 157-year-old lawn bowling instructor
What I miss: Starbucks Gingerbread Latte, Fox Soccer Channel, Chrismukkah, Hamburger Helper, Zatarain's Dirty Rice, ZipCar

Monday, December 1, 2008

Week Fourteen

(picture at left = Don's Mo Watch Day 27)

Today is the first day of December, my favorite month of the entire year. December is the only reason we put up with those first 11 crappy months (especially June a.k.a. "The Worst Month EVER". No offense to you Geminis or Cancers out there, but June is so boring that they had to stick the College World Series on ESPN every day just to get through the boring month with slightly less boredom.) December, however, is the bestest month there is and I'm starting it the same way I did on the first day of November: with a freshly-shaven face, a dissipating hangover and no idea where I put my phone. The difference between my November 1 and my December 1 is that I've also started the day listening to two-hours worth of Christmas music.

Now as all of my former or current roommates can attest to, I love Christmas music. I heart it. Christmas music is part of the joy of December, and unless you are Jewish or a terrorist, you should love Christmas music too. Even Communists love Christmas music! And for all of you Unitarians out there, there are thousands of great non-traditional Christmas songs, from Elvis' Blue Christmas to The Pretenders' 2000 Miles, and every Mexican (Feliz Navidad), Hawaiian (Meli Kalikimaka) or Punk (Oi to the World) Xmas song in between.

Here are some of my favorites, both original and remake, that I would encourage you all to listen to to get in the Christmas spirit:

1: Christmas Wrapping, Waitresses
2: Last Christmas, Jimmy Eat World
3: The Christmas Song, Raveonettes
4: Someday at Christmas, Remy Zero
5: Donde Esta Santa Claus, Augie Rios
6: I Won't Be Home For Christmas, Blink 182
7: 2000 Miles, Coldplay
8: Maybe This Christmas, Ron Sexsmith
9: Christmastime, Smashing Pumpkins
10: Christmas by the Phone, Good Charlotte
11: Carol of the Meows, Guster
12: Christmas, U2
13: River, Travis
14: Christmas Song, Dave Matthews
15: Christmas Time in the 909, Greenbrier Lane

(picture at right = Don's Mo Watch Day 29)

Well Saturday was the Movember Gala Parté, the culmination of four weeks' worth of moustache-growing for more than 12,000 Australian men. During the month of November, Mo Bros grew their facial hair to raise millions of dollars for male depression and prostate cancer. Thank you to everyone who supported me, whether financially or through motivational tactics such as calling me names or laughing while pointing your finger at my lip. I'm not sure what I would have done without such amazing support. With your help, you have enabled me to cross off another thing to try and ultimately fail at on my "100 Things to Try and Ultimately Fail at" list (see picture at left).

(pictures below = Movember Parté)

Well, the Syracuse football team finished the season 3-9 and without a bowl bid, head football coach, decent quarterback, defense, fan base or well-known recruit. Luckily, the end of football season means it's the beginning of basketball season, and so far so good for the Orange. In the past week SU beat three pretty good teams - Florida, Kansas and Virginia, and are sitting pretty at 6-0.

Next week is Burson-Marsteller Melbourne's annual Christmas party, where times have been tough and budgets have been cut. As a result, our Christmas party this year will involve chips and lawn bowling. But who needs steak dinners and wine when you've got good company... and a couple slabs of beer? Seriously, it's the greatest month ever and the holiday spirit is upon us. Send me your address and I'll even send you, my valued reader, a Christmas card. And Happy Kwanzaa Jasmine!!! :) Fourteen weeks down, 38 to go.

Week Fourteen Summary:
Weather: a few showers but mostly a beautiful week
New observation: Asians may lose moustache-growing contests but we would be champions in calculcus contests
New activity(ies): Australian Thanksgiving, Movember Parte
New food: pumpkin pie with sweetner
New word(s): Avos in the Arvo (Guacamole in the afternoon)
New people: A Columbian who thinks she's American and two Canadians who wish they were American; and a blue man from Kentucky
What I miss: the Christmas tree in Union Square, the Wall Street Journal, my Gerry McNamara Syracuse jersey, my moustache

Monday, November 24, 2008

Week Thirteen

Thursday is Thanksgiving, the tastiest day of the year for Americans. I'll be celebrating with Swedes, Canadians, Australians and a Colombian at a potluck event. It won't be quite the same without the full day off and football in the background, but there will be tons of food and I plan to bring my A-Game in eating virtually all of it. In the Spirit of Thanksgiving, I have created my own list of the top-10 things I am thankful for:

1) Diet Coke
2) my retarded friends
3) my mum and all of her motherly wisdom
4) Caffeine free Diet Coke
5) Diet Coke with Vanilla
6) the current Australia:U.S. dollar exchange rate
7) having a roof over my head
8) Kanye West's new album
9) Mexican food, and
10) God.

I love you all!! Especially you, Diet Coke with Vanilla. I would trade any of my friends for you on any given day.

So yesterday was the Australian Idol Grand Final, the biggest day of the year for Australians aged 11 to 11.5. Nearly two million (about 10 percent of the entire Australian population) watched or attended the live event, held at the Sydney Opera House. Thousands of tears were shed, mostly by my flatmate, when Wes Carr, the pretty blonde from Bondi, won a recording contract, Mazda 2 and instant Australian fame. Though I attempted to boycott the show due to the controversy surrounding the departure of my beloved Brooke Addamo, the only looker in the entire top 24, I did watch the Final in its entirety. I have to say, it was pretty cool.

Unlike the two-day American Idol Finale, which consists of performances from the final two contestants and an ultra-long voting recap show, the Australian Idol Grand Final has no voted-on performances and is not performed indoors - it is on a giant outdoor stage in front of the Sydney Opera House, filled with thousands of spectators and hundreds of fireworks over the Harbour. If I were 11 I would think it was the coolest thing south of South America/ north of Antarctica.

So less than a week after firing Greg Robinson, the Syracuse football team beat Notre Dame at Notre Dame in what many are calling the biggest upset of 2008. It was so bad and so embarrassing that Notre Dame fans threw snowballs at all of the players, which literally added injury to insult following a terrible loss for the Irish. Seriously, how do you lose to the worst college football team in the 139-year history of college football? Destiny's Child could probably beat the Syracuse Orange and the Fighting Irish can't. Good grief.

(picture at right = Don's Mo Watch Day 23)

Well, there are only six days left in the month of November, meaning there are only six days left to sponsor my moustache. It's getting a bit out of hand, as evidenced by the picture to the right. Luckily only six days until I can shave!! So unlucky week number 13 is almost in the books, meaning my one year here is one-quarter done. My thoughts are with all of you Californians recouping from the wild fires. We all love Bad Religion, but safe to say most Angelinos are getting a little sick of hearing "Los Angeles is Burning" for the fourth year in a row. The L.A. wildfires made headline news here in Australia, and I hope that all of you and your prized possessions are safe. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!! Thirteen weeks down, 39 to go.

Week Thirteen Summary:
Weather: cold, rainy, windy and hailing.
New observation: my office building has to be the oldest office building on the entire Southern Hemisphere
New activity(ies): Australian Idol Grand Final, The Order of Melbourne
New food: skewered lamb with coriander yogurt
New word(s): pronouncing "capsule" "capsholl", pronouncing "ketchup" "tomahto sauce"
New people: A 25-year-old who is pulling a Don: Quit her job on Friday and is moving to England with a one-way ticket, visa, suitcase and nothing else. Good luck :)
What I miss: Thanksgiving, pumpkin pie, limitless nighttime and weekend minutes, Shiner Bock, my own washer & dryer, American mayonnaise

Monday, November 17, 2008

Week Twelve

(picture at left = Don's Mo Watch Day 15)

Yesterday was November 16 (or 16 November as the wacky Australians would write it). For most Americans other than Cowboys/Redskins fans, the date held little importance. For two young women in suburbian San Antonio, T.x., however, November 16th is "Founder's Appreciation Day", the most important day in the history of their 29-year-old lives. "Founder's Appreciation Day" is a made-up holiday celebrating Megan Lehnhoff and Jamie Baker on the anniversary of their founding City Girl Society, an exclusive and somewhat questionable for-profit organization for young professional women in a small and un-diverse section of central Guadalupe County. Some of you may know that I do probono public relations for them, due in part to a drunken promise I made when they brainstormed the concept of City Girl Society one year ago.

During a trip to San Francisco on November 16, 2007, Lehnhoff and Baker came to me with the idea of City Girl Society, also known by its nonsensical acronym of CSG. I told them if they really went through with the ridiculous concept I would create their website and help with their public relations efforts. One year later, they have an official state-recognized corporation status, a bank account, six members, revenue and their first-ever Founder's Appreciation Day, proving America may in fact be the worst country in the world for allowing organizations like CSG to succeed while symbolic American institutions like General Motors, AIG and thousands of nonprofits fail. Congratulations to Baker, Lehnhoff and all of CSG however, for proving their husbands, their friends and the general public wrong.

Keeping with the "probono" spirit, Saturday was the second annual Rainbow Ball, a black tie event and fundraiser for the Ilhan Food Allergy Foundation. Approximately 800 people at $500 per seat attended the event, which benefits research and public education programs on the issues and causes of anaphylaxis for Australian children. Burson-Marsteller was a proud a partner of the Ilhan Foundation and I was fortunate enough to help lead the public relations efforts for the event and its fundraising initiatives. The Ilhan Foundation raised $1.7 million on the night, which is the equivalent of $1.71 million more than my friend Liz has in her checking account.

Other than the day after "Founder's Appreciation Day", the 17th of November also means it's Day 17 of Don's Mo Watch. Over the course of the past 17 days, I have been ridiculed, mocked, stared at, laughed at and mocked some more, but I'm proud to say that depending on the sunlight, I have arguably grown a half-moustache. So ha. Approximately 78.6% of survey participants didn't believe I could grow a moustache, so now who looks silly. The answer of course, is me, with a half a moustache. Thirteen days left to sponsor me so please jump on that bandwagon.

Finally, a recent news story proved that blogging does in fact get major institutions to take action, and no I'm not talking about federal legislation for gay rights. Several weeks after I first wrote Syracuse University should fire Greg Robinson, he was finally fired, illustrating the power of my blog. Greg Robinson's first year as head coach of the Syracuse Orange coincided with my first year of graduate school, and who would have thunk I'd be the one with a job. Not my mom, probably.

Well I'm feeling heaps better than I did one week ago. I sadly had to cancel a prepaid weekend trip to Mornington Peninsula, but I did have fun dancing to bad techno and 80s. I don't wanna lose your love, toniiiiiight!! Classic. To all of you Americans and Europeans bored with boring America and boring Europe: Please come visit me!!!! Twelve weeks down, 40 to go.

Week Twelve Summary:
Weather: 88 degrees on a November evening = just punch me in the face.
New observation: Working from home is a pretty sweet deal.
New activity(ies): Australian casinos, black tie events
New food: braised Wagyu ox cheek
New word(s): "Hey?" instead of "What?"
New people: Tons of fancy yet sweet people at the Rainbow Ball!
What I miss: air conditioning, pounds/feet/inches/miles, my comforter, Kraft Mexican shredded cheese, Wegmans, looking forward to Syracuse basketball when Syracuse football knocks itself out of bowl contention

Monday, November 10, 2008

Week Eleven

(picture at left= Don's Mo Watch: Day 9)

Alright so apparently the U.S. had an election last Tuesday. Did you know that? Being in Australia I would have had no idea, if not for the 19,200 Facebook status messages from my friends saying "we did it" or "yayyyy" or "i'm proud to be an american again" or something along those lines. That is, except for the 4.4% of my friends who are either Texan or Mormon, in which case their status messages were "time to stock up on amunition (sic)" or "well (sic) see what change really is" or my favorite, "i'm moving to austraila (sic)", as if Australia is really any better than the United States. Trust me, it's not.

But lost in the presidential election were the extremely disappointing results in my home state of California. Proposition 8, which would overturn a California Supreme Court decision that recognized same-sex marriage as a fundamental right, passed by a margin of about 5 percent. This was the result of too many religious people believing that their Church would not tolerate gay marriage and their God would not recognize a gay person's right to marry the person he or she loves, which really begs the question, isn't it time there's a separation of church and state? Listen, I'm proud to be Methodist and I'm happy to be straight, but Proposition 8 had nothing to do with my religion or my sexual preference - it is an issue of equality.

It's incredibly ironic that Black voters, traditionally among the most liberal in California, voted overwhelmingly (more than 2:1) in favor of Proposition 8. Because of Barack Obama, Black voters came out in full force in California, which made a significant difference in the 500,000 vote differential. Gay people have been some of the most supportive of Black and other minority rights in the traditional civil rights struggles in our nation, but many African-Americans believe their discrimination is different than gays', often arguing "Black people didn't choose to be Black but gay people chose to be gay..." But I'm not blaming Black people, who because of their own centuries-long hardships have been rightfully so some of the most religious, soulful and faith-driven people in all of the world.

As influential blogger John Aravosis wrote in, "The Mormon church has for years been bankrolling hateful and bigoted efforts to block civil rights legislation in various states. This time, it appears they finally went too far". Now anyone who knows me knows I love Mormons, especially Shante. But Mormons for Proposition and other various Mormon-supported propaganda illustrate how naive the Church of LDS really is. While the Mormon church is pointing the finger at other groups that supported the ban on same-sex marriage, such as the Catholic church, the unfortunate fact remains that centuries after our country's founders separated church and state, some religions are still impacting government and using it against nonbelievers. I would encourage you to look at the facts, look in your hearts and do what you can to support the huge Anti-Prop 8 protest movement.

Even Arnie, in true Terminator fashion, says we should keep fighting.

While I'm sure Proposition 8 is making national news all over the U.S., the only thing we talk about in Australia is Barack Obama, Barack Obama and Barack Obama. I'm proud that everyone in Australia followed the U.S. election so meticulously (I watched it live from my office), but I hope some of these other issues make international news as well. Any issue of equality hits at a global level. But enough about politics...

The past week was Cup Week, which began with Derby Day and included Cup Day, Crown Oaks Day, and Emirates Stakes Day. To celebrate, I got really full-on sick. Yes, Thursday through the present I have been sleeping 12-16 hours a day in pure pain and misery. Ninety-three percent of my body is in pain, which is 93% more than I would like. I sadly had to miss a birthday celebration, a co-worker's farewell dinner and drinks, and a home-cooked lasagna dinner, which just shows my knack for good timing. I did, however, finally get Taco Bill.

Now understand that I love Mexican food. I heart it. I embrace it. It completes me. But there is evidently a translation issue between English and Australian on what is Mexican food and what is a Mexican restaurant. Take Taco Bill, the Mexican restaurant chain in and around Melbourne. The menu is ok, similar to a "Jalapeno's" in Alabama or a "Tortillas" in Virginia. It's filled with enchiladas and fajitas and burritos and tacos and combinacion platters, etc. I'm ok with that. I'm even ok paying $2.50 for some jalapeno peppers, a necessity when there is no Cholula within 12,767 kilometers. What I'm puzzled by, however, is a Mexican restaurant that plays trance and electronica music with specials buzzing on a stock ticker board and Australian paintings on the walls. No Mexican chefs, fat customers or mariachi music anywhere to be found. I still loved it though. God bless beef enchiladas and frijoles.

Well Trinity lost two in a row and effectively kicked themselves out of the D3 playoffs. Syracuse blew a 14-point lead and lost 35-17 to Rutgers in the annual which-mascot-is-less-masculine:a-scarlet-knight-or-an-orange battle. And speaking of less masculine, my mo is on Day 10!! According to my preliminary survey results, 61.5% of my friends believe I can only grow a moustache with Sharpie pens while 46.2% don't think I can grow a moustache because I only have seven hairs on my entire body. It's not too late to make your vote count. Get in the voting spirit and speak your voice. And again, please sponsor my mo!

Anyway, this upcoming week should be a hectic one, filled with work and rest and painkillers. Hopefully I'll be at least 80% by the weekend! Eleven weeks down, 41 to go.

Week Eleven Summary:
Weather: Too hot for a November
New observation: The Australian healthcare system is pretty cool...if you're an Australian.
New activity(ies): influenza; not shaving
New food: Strepsil throat lollies
New word(s): "herpes zoster"
New people: A Canadian doctor who spent 15 minutes talking to me about America while 4 sick patients waited to see him.
What I miss: election parties, Ibuprofen, gay people, ice cold fruit smoothies, all of my wonderful friends and my mom. I miss you guys!!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Week Ten

You must be really bored. I mean why are you reading my blog when you Americans could be following the online election coverage, you Australians could be getting spastic for Cup Day, or you Europeans could be scarf shopping, cigarette smoking, wine making or listening to O-Zone? Tomorrow is the biggest day in the history of everything. Tomorrow is Election Tuesday, the one day every four years that Americans typically go brain-dead and screw things up for the rest of the world. But that's not going to happen this year.

This year Americans are going to vote and they're going to get it right. While there's bound to be some evidence of the Bradley Effect, the belief that many voters tell pollsters they'll vote for a Black candidate in order to avoid seeming racist (when in fact they end up voting White), a larger turnout of African-Americans and young voters than polls originally accounted for should even things out. It's up to you, young people. And Black people. Make us proud. Everyone else just stay cool.

But a new president isn't the only thing worth voting for. California's Proposition 2, which would prohibit certain farm animals from being confined in cruel ways, and Proposition 8, which would eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California, are two issues that are provoking even greater interest. While Proposition 2 is expected to pass in a landslide, Proposition 8 is tightening up. There are 153 proposals on ballots in 36 states, and include measures to ban dog racing, outlaw affirmative action and criminalize most abortions. It's an exciting time for every American, whether in Ohio or 17 time zones away.

But Australia is also making international news! In a move that would make John McCain proud, the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship denied permanent residency to a German doctor and his family because his son has Down syndrome. Snap. The immigration department said 13-year-old Lukas Moeller's condition would cause "significant and ongoing cost to the Australian public". His father, a specialist physician, came to Australia two years ago to fill a doctor shortage in a rural area of Victoria. Why the country's immigration department would refuse an ethical and heroic doctor yet keep me, a public relations practitioner, remains a mystery.

However, I'm still here and I've finished my second month. To celebrate, I have decided to grow a mo!!! Yes, in an effort to either put Gillette out of business or raise money for prostate cancer, or both, Australia is changing November to Movember. Movember is a month-long charity event where males lose the razor and grow moustaches to increase awareness and raise money for men's health issues. To help this cause, I have registered my upper lip in hopes that my three facial hairs can collectively come together to grow something special for this annual event.

Please take my mo survey and give me your feedback on whether or not this is a futile attempt.

Then please sponsor my mo.

So this weekend was Halloween and Derby Day, good fun but nothing compared with the hullabaloo going on in the States. The first week in November of Olympic years is the best week to be in the U.S., with Halloween, the massive elections, earnings season, college football in upset-mode, basketball season beginning and snow just around the corner. I miss all of you terribly and depending on the outcome of the election, will be back home in winter or back home in 2012. Tomorrow, however, I'm being Aussie and watching the Melbourne Cup. The Cup, as they say, is the race that stops a nation. Tomorrow is also the day that re-starts my nation. Let's do it people. Ten weeks down, 42 to go.

Week Ten Summary:
Weather: Hot, cold, rainy, sunny, lame.
New observation: Australians don't celebrate Halloween to the same extent Americans do.
New activity(ies): Federation Square; Australian Halloween
New food: mini meat pies with tomato sauce
New word(s): stubby; Eski; a schooner; a pot; a Blonde; Draught = beer-related terms
New people: I met an Irish potato-loving kleptomaniac with an eye infection, low tolerance and potty mouth.
What I miss: Lee Corso, walking to work, Texas football, San Francisco protesters, cilantro, a delicious Freschetta at 2:01 a.m., my 16-year-old homemade artwork dinner plates

Monday, October 27, 2008

Week Nine

Why don't Australians love Mexican food? I do. I would eat every meal at Pedro's taco stand or cantina or taqueria, if Pedro had one here in Melbourne. Instead, because Australians don't love Mexican food, Pedro was forced to get a pizzeria, one of 1,883 pizza places in Melbourne. Silly Pedro, tu es loco. Why didn't you start a taco stand, cantina or taqueria? I would have dined at your establishment todos los dias. It makes me very frustrated and very hungry. I cannot find good Mexican food within a 12,767 kilometer radius, so if anyone has any recommendations, please let me know!!! It's nine weeks and counting since I've eaten a good taco. :(

Well, this weekend Don actually did some traveling and sightseeing. Saturday and Sunday my flatmate and I visited the Great Otway National Park, Lorne, Torquay, Apollo Bay, Port Campbell and the 12 Apostles. It's a 4.5 hour drive down the Great Ocean Road from St Kilda to the 12 Apostles, and is as scenic as and similar to the drive down the 101 from San Francisco to Santa Barbara. Hundreds of kilometers of driving along the ocean, thirty to sixty kilometers between each cute little fishing or beach town, each with its own charismatic charm. While many manage to make the trek to and from the 12 Apostles in one day, it is much nicer and more relaxing to cruise along the Great Ocean Road, looking at the sites and searching for wild koalas or kangaroos.

I still have yet to see a wild koala or kangaroo.

Today is October 27th and indeed it is a special day. Today marks the one-year anniversary of the greatest college football play of all time: The Mississippi Miracle, which not only won numerous awards but propelled the Trinity University football team (who would beat the 2008 Syracuse football team 77-2) into the Division 3 playoffs. The Mississippi Miracle is the third greatest thing I have ever seen, right behind 1) the 12 Apostles and 2) Eurotrip, the greatest movie in the history of film and/or cinema.

Both Trinity (ranked #14 in the nation) and Millsaps (ranked #5 in the nation) are undefeated this year and will play against each other again on Saturday. The game will likely have the same stakes - the winner makes the playoffs and the losers go back to class.

So my ninth week is almost complete and like every American, I am absolutely psyched about next Tuesday. In Melbourne, it is a holiday, Melbourne Cup Day, meaning I can watch various coverage of Election Day online from my house or from a pub. It was a nice little week filled with many billable hours and way too many Jason Mraz hours. While the 12 Apostles was unforgettable, the real highlight of the week was that I was finally on a trivia team that didn't finish in last place, ending the streak at 3. Constantly finishing in last place can sometimes hurt the ego. Nine weeks down, 43 to go.

Week Nine Summary:
Weather: I never knew so many of my body parts could produce sweat.
New observation: Australian flies are God's worst creation.
New activity(ies): 12 Apostles, Great Ocean Road
New food: Vegemite on bread, $11 cup of olives
New word(s): SpagBol, Vegemite for brekkie
New people: Ben Kimstra. Happy?
What I miss: mai tais, beautiful cool and sunny California afternoons, my clothes, my amazing leather anti-gravity recliner massage chair

Monday, October 20, 2008

Week Eight

Caulfield Cup Day may have cost me $120 for platinum-level entry, $245 for food, drinks, bets and transportation, $315 for a new suit and $79 for a new shirt, but 41-1 odds later and I still made a profit. Twenty dollars on lucky number eight and I finally won something greater than $5, dinner, or pride. Yes, the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival, a 50-day-long festival of fashion and horse races in the Melbourne area, kicked off on October 1st. The first big day, however, was Caulfield Cup, where approximately 51,000 fashionable Victorians weathered 32 degree heat in suits and dresses for one fantastic day-long party. It was fantastic.

But Caulfield Cup wasn't the only posh event here in Australia over the weekend. Gabriella Cilmi, the just-turned 17-year-old from Melbourne, was the big winner at yesterday's 2008 ARIA Music Awards, Australia's version of the MTV Awards or Grammy's. For the 99.92% of the world's population unfamiliar with Cilmi, there is no need to toggle over to iTunes or Google to find out who she is or how important she is. She isn't. To many Australians, particularly the large population of Italian-Australians, she is a bonafide superstar, which illustrates Australia's lack of musical talent as effectively as a season of Australian Idol. When the biggest names at the country's biggest music awards are Sam Sparro, The Veronicas and The Living End, you realize why every other song on the radio is America's B-Artists Miley Cyrus or Jordin Sparks.

In fact Orange County, one of the smallest counties in California with a population 27% smaller than the population of the city of Melbourne, likely has more musical talent and a richer music history than the entire continent of Australia. Orange County can claim some of the most influential musicians of our time, including No Doubt, the Offspring, Rage Against the Machine, Sublime, The Mars Volta, Stone Temple Pilots, the Vandals, Jeff Buckley, Reel Big Fish, Sugar Ray and Matt Costa. Australia can claim Men At Work and this guy.

Now I admit, I've definitely done my fair bit of Australia-bashing and America-praising over the past few weeks, and to the two Australians that actually read my blog, I apologize. As the election nears two weeks from today, many Americans, including I, have a renewed sense of nationalism. As I've said many times, one of the best reasons to live abroad and immerse yourself in a new culture is to learn more about yourself and who you will be years down the road. It provides context and gives you perspective.

I am an American and I realize that I'm actually proud to be an American. Canadians and Mexicans may be close geographically but that is all. They may have great food and significant landmarks and beautiful trees and people and birds and sports but they don't have our taxes. They don't have our police. They don't have our government or our diversity or our educational systems or our media.
Having said that, I admit our country has suffered for the last eight years. I absolutely want us to regain our swagger, and that will only come from a better economy. As New York Times columnist/Pulitzer Prize winner/The World is Flat author Thomas Friedman said in a recent Australian interview, the world should stop worrying about the U.S. having too much power and start worrying about the U.S. not having enough power. The world is watching our election because it affects us all. And to Paul Kelly at The Australian, the Australian model is not superior to the American model - it is dependent upon and formulated from the American model.

I do love Australian carnivals, pubs and chips though.

Well, the Official Greg Robinson Should Be Fired Stance is on week number six following another blowout loss. The Ducks are one of the worst teams in the NHL and the Dodgers and Angels are watching the World Series from their couches. It's all ok though when you win $820 and look good in a new suit. Happy Birthday Megs!! Eight weeks down, 44 to go.

Week Eight Summary:
Weather: sunny and hot and cloudy and cold and sunny and hot...
New observation: Australian fashion is actually quite nice.
New activity(ies): Caulfield Cup, The Saint
New food: Australian tacos
New word(s): We get along like a house on fire.
New people: 51,000 beautiful people at Caulfield Cup!
What I miss: The Cellar, hockey games, spicy food, gay people, Cholula, talking smack to Red Sox/Patriots fans

Monday, October 13, 2008

Week Seven

Everyone knows I love a good politically-incorrect race joke, provided it's in semi-good taste. After listening to the Monday podcast of Kevin & Bean, however, I realized that American race-based humor is so much more sophisticated, and funny, compared to anywhere else in the world. Especially Australia, whose humor lies in sex-, politics- and self-depricating jokes. I imagine that's because Americans have dealt with race for so long, are generally open-minded in the present and interact with diverse people every day, that a majority can laugh about it now. Not so in Australia, which begs the question: Why do Australians hate diversity?

Nearly 90% of Australians are of European descent, with the second highest population being Asians, mostly Chinese and Vietnamese. Melbourne is one of the most diverse cities in the country, with nearly a quarter of the population having been born overseas, but is that really encouraging diversity or prompting segregation? When the people here don't know how to accept a growing immigrant population, it promotes segregation. The people I've chatted with believe Australia is still learning how to accept diversity and embrace multiculturalism, which sounds consistent with Australia's recent historical attempts at minimizing the racial damage.

Australia's Racial Hatred Act was established all the way back in 1995, which is later than Microsoft, Beverly Hills 90210 and the Colorado Avalanche were all established. Even the country's equal opportunity act was established in 1985, two years after Michael Jackson became the first Black artist to appear on the MTV with "Billie Jean". But of course, this is a country that only now is playing WALL-E, "Tattoo" and the Season 4 Premier of "Prison Break", weeks and months after their debuts in the States. Which only proves last week's hypothesis that Australians really want to be like Americans, and are always one or several steps behind in copying us.

Unfortunately for them, they can't afford to be Americans.

Not long after the financial crisis hit Australia came proof that a dollar really does make a difference. Within the last two weeks, the Australian dollar has sunk to its lowest level since 2003, having been hit hard by fears of a global recession, the mass exodus of risky assets and explicit cries to cut interest rates. Within the last two weeks, the American dollar has gone from equaling $1.19AUS to $1.53AUS, a ridiculous 29% increase. That means every book, shirt, soda, plane ticket or beer is 29% off, and a suit that two weeks ago would have cost me $315US now costs me $224US. Therefore, now is a great time to buy a nice suit...which is very good timing indeed.

Next weekend is Caulfield Cup, Victoria's version of the Kentucky Derby, where good 'ol fashioned fashionable rich people dress in nice suits, colorful dresses and hideous vomit-inducing hats. Apparently this is the place to see and be seen, meaning a fancy person such as myself absolutely has to attend. Unfortunately, I didn't bring any cool suits (fabric-wise, as it's supposed to eclipse 30 degrees Celsius on Saturday...and style-wise, as I have no style). Luckily now is a great time to buy a nice suit.

So Don's Official Greg Robinson Should Be Fired Stance is entering its fifth week. Syracuse lost again and is halfway to a 1-11 regular season. The Angels are out of the playoffs, the Dodgers are about to join them and the Ducks are 0-2. On the plus side, Obama is now up by 10 points over McCain and our markets were up 11% today. But does anyone else think it's a little eery when we constantly compare things with The Great Depression? Thank you my friends. Seven weeks down, 45 to go.

Week Seven Summary:
Weather: it's getting way too hot...
New observation: Australians don't like hip hop music in nightclubs.
New activity(ies): Australian reggae
New food: Aussie steak. Yum!
New word(s): Porky pies.
New people: A really really really gay sales guy at a menswear store told me I have no style.
What I miss: my television, cold weather, beef brisket, New York, Autumn, guacamole

Monday, October 6, 2008

Week Six

12,767 kilometers away and even Australians think Sarah Palin is an idiot. Now nobody thinks she's a George W. Bush kind of idiot, but an idiot nonetheless. Who knew words such as "idiocy" and "inanity" could translate across borders? The fact Australian teenagers are emailing their Australian friends SNL YouTube clips, however, points to a much larger problem: Aussies are infatuated with media-generated images, videos, articles and graphs devoted to making fun of Americans, our politics and our culture. What that really means, I think, is that Australians want to be Americans.

In fact, one of the most surprising revelations about living in a foreign country is the amount of front-page news devoted to the United States and our news. Obviously a lot has been happening in the forms of deadly hurricanes, stock market crashes and elections, but even O.J. Simpson is cover story-material from Sydney to Brisbane to Perth. So not only am I answering questions on my neighbor Mischa Barton, but I am also asked for my opinions on O.J. Simpson and Beverly Hills 90210, meaning this is apparently 1994 again. Luckily, neither of them made it.

Now I can't blame Australians for constantly keeping tabs on the U.S. We're pretty cool people. America is so trendy that even Australia's markets are trying to copy ours. The shopping centers here are filled with Quiksilver, Ralph Lauren and MLB baseball caps, and 98.4% of all cars, lobbies, foyers, bars, pubs and department stores play "See You Again". Even Australia's people are trying to morph into Americans, becoming the fattest people in the entire world.

How flattering!

Well, week six is almost in the books and other than watching overly-creative commercials and weight loss investigations, I did venture out and go to my first Australian shopping center. I decided to replace my jeans that were stolen with a brand new pair, the most expensive jeans I have ever purchased (and will ever purchase) at roughly $83US. No, I don't understand why anyone would pay more than that for a pair of jeans. The shopping centers here are the same as the ones in the States, with food courts, douche bags and trophy wives, except they won't call them "shopping malls" or "malls" or even "centers" here - just "shopping centers".

So congratulations to SNL for making debates and interviews interesting again and congratulations to Sarah Palin for making SNL fun to watch again. Syracuse had a bye week so the Official Greg Robinson Should be Fired stance is temporarily on hiatus. The Angels won tonight but are a long way away from facing the Dodgers, so please keep God's Angels in your prayers. And did anyone win their Palin Bingo game? Six weeks down, 46 to go.

Week Six Summary
Weather: unpredictable
New observation: Daylight Savings Time kind of blows when you're springing forward.
New activity(ies): Shopping centers
New food: Bratwurst filled with food-poisoning. Geschmackvoll!!!
New word(s): Full as a goog!
New people: I finally met some Americans who helped me mock Australians! Snap.
What I miss: Stephen Colbert, Fiery Habanero Doritos, Yank Sing, Pac Heights, loud girls from New Jersey , Matisyahu, my stereo, Angels games.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Week Five

Five weeks in Melbourne and this fifth one has definitely been the toughest. Too many arguments, too little sleep, and too much stress. It's rarely a good thing when one's daily average of Diet Coke cans consumed exceeds one's daily average of hours slept, and such has been the case for the last eight days. I am, however, now known as "The Diet Coke Bloke" at my local grocery store, which if I understand Australian-English correctly, means everyone there enjoys and respects me.

It's September 29th and Greg Robinson is still head coach of the Syracuse Orange. We lost again, so my Official Greg Robinson Should Be Fired stance is entering its third week. As my mom pointed out however, there may be a worse team: her alma mater. My solution? Let's trade Greg Robinson for Tyrone Willingham and finish the season with new coaches. Problem(s) solved.

Back to Australia.

Grand Final 2008 was, as expected, a fantastic train wreck. The Hawthorn Hawks upset the defending champion Geelong Cats 115-89, in what was a close match for the first half. The second half and the nine hours that followed are a bit of a blur, but I did manage to spend $160 on multiple rounds of drinks, lose my bank card and end up in Sydney. You know it was a train-wreck-of-a-night when the last two text messages in your Sent Items folder are "Omg i jvr8 waottm get home" and "wgy ami n sydney!@". I did wake up safely in my own bed Sunday morning...with a GFC tattoo on my left arm.

Now people around here say that Grand Final Day is the most important drinking day in Melbourne, which says a lot considering each of my first 33 days seems to have been more than the quintessential drinking day here. Approximately 100,000 fans packed the MCG on Saturday and hundreds of thousands of more fans packed the nearby pubs and local bars. Similar to the Super Bowl, many Melburnians also held barbecues and house parties but unlike the Super Bowl, the game itself started at 2 p.m. and was on a Saturday, meaning hundreds of thousands here drank from noon until closing time. To see what that looks like, click here.

Binge drinking isn't the only thing wrong with Australia. While the U.S. has been in shambles recently, last week tragedy finally made its way to the Land Down Under: Brooke Addamo, the 17-year-old Werribee native and only good-looking contestant on this year's Australian Idol, was eliminated in what is the biggest Idol-related controversy since "White Wedding" only reached #36 in 1983. Not only has Brooke's eviction left me heartbroken and disillusioned, but it also makes me question whether music is worth listening to if Brooke isn't the one singing it.

So overall it was a pretty tough week. My equity portfolio went down 28%, I slept an average of 4.5 hours a day, and my beloved Brooke was eliminated from Idol. Additionally someone stole my two pairs of jeans from the community dryer and USC lost to a bunch of Beavers. On the plus side, I did get my first paycheck and my Angels and Dodgers are lined up for a 405 World Series. Baseball's back in the Southland. Things can only get better. And don't worry mom, it's a temporary tattoo. Five weeks down, 47 to go.

Week Five Summary
Weather: the spring flowers are a-blooming
New observation: Australian girls watch football
New activity(ies): AFL Grand Final
New food: Hungry Jacks
New word(s): arvo (afternoon)
New people: everyone I met and have since forgotten from the AFL Grand Final
What I miss: my messenger bag, Kanye West, Californians, baseball, crushed pepper

Monday, September 22, 2008

Week Four

Less than four years removed from San Antonio, T.X., and I'm already back in a crime-ridden city. That is according to "Underbelly", my new favorite show and a 13-part Australian TV series based on the factual events of the 1995–2004 gangland war in Melbourne. Of course that's what you get when 56.4% of your country's first settlers were convicts: the permittance of crime. Let's hope I make it back to the U.S.

I'm going back to California for Christmas and after last week's events, I am really wondering what kind of U.S. it will be. Will my president-elect be John McCain? Will my Angels be 2008 World Champions? Will I still have a bank account? Only two things I know for certain: 1) our deficit excluding Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and last week's bailout will be a record $482 billion, and 2) Syracuse University will still have the worst college football team in the United States of America.

Now anyone who knows me knows I bleed orange, but the only things to have fared worse than Syracuse football in 2008 are Lehman Brothers, the Chinese milk industry and the U.S. 4x100 relay teams. In fact, Syracuse finally attained the highly-coveted number one ranking in last week's Bottom 10. Mitt Romney, Merrill Lynch and the San Diego Padres have all performed better than Syracuse's football team, and even former presidential hopeful John Edwards, who spent 2008 announcing 1) he was quitting and 2) he had an affair, still had a better 2008 than Syracuse, as at least he won six delegates in the primaries.

We should probably axe Greg Robinson.

Well, I'm finishing up my fourth week in Melbourne and I've already attended my first salsa lesson, second Friday happy hour and third house party. I've also slowly adapted to life in a big agency. Other than timesheets, weekly staff meetings and cubicles, the biggest adjustment thus far is the amount of time devoted to strategic research projects - something smaller agencies rarely have the time or capabilities to accomplish. I'm also slowly figuring out how to talk to the Australian media. Although the editors in Australia are not nearly as cool or as hip as the Editors in England, I've found that the writers and reporters are universally the same.

While good journalists always have an obligation to their employer to write for the target audience, the "good" writers keep an obligation to their profession, their colleagues and their hearts to write for humans. It's a completely different mentality for them. Australians, Americans and non-communists alike want to know about an opportunity to write a piece that gives those without a voice an avenue to be heard. They may need to write summaries, but prefer to write stories. As a PR professional, don't target an editor - target a writer. They're better people. And read the Code.

Back to the other Editors: "An End Has a Start" is absolutely the best 10-song album of 2007. You should give it a listen.

So the Saints of St Kilda were eliminated from the AFL playoffs Saturday, linking St Kilda supporters with the Syracuse football team, college seniors and registered American Democrats, as people looking forward to change in 2009. Next weekend is the AFL Grand Final, Australia's watered-down version of a Super Bowl, and the 27th day in September to drink. I can't wait. Hope everyone has a great week, and please wish my mom a Happy Birthday! Four weeks down, 48 to go.

Week Four Summary
Weather: brolly and cardigan
New observation: My Microsoft Word spellcheck automatically corrects "favorite" and "center" to "favourite" and "centre".
New activity(ies): Australian Trivial Pursuit
New food: chicken quesadilla with Parmesan cheese, Caesar salad with fried eggs
New word(s): snogging
New people: Loud and obnoxious Geelong supporters
What I miss: country music, cheeseburgers, cilantro, diversity, old Facebook, my desk

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Week Three

So after I conducted my weekly scalp search for white hairs, caught up on my online news and drank my morning Diet Coke in a Dilbert mug, I realized that I, like many other Americans, am getting old. This is not ok. It is now 5:53 p.m. on a Sunday and I have already finished dinner, am packing my briefcase for work and am about to update my LinkedIn profile. In other words, I am ancient. I have no energy for a jog and no desire to binge drink like a normal young Aussie, so I decided to do the next-best "young" thing: update my blog. After all, since the businessmen and women of New Hampshire are just figuring out what a “blog” even is, it must be technology for young people only.

This is now my third entry and according to my survey results, my mom has still not read my blog. Thanks, mom.

Not much has happened to me since my last entry. Still no luck finding koalas or sober Australians, but I did find cheap diet coke - $14.98 for a slab of 30 cans. I also completed my first week at Burson-Marsteller, where I no longer have a corner office, personal Blackberry or dental insurance, but I do have a liquor cabinet filled with vodka, beer and wine. Who knew alcohol would improve (or at least impact) workplace morale so much more than American perks such as medical insurance or corner offices? My new colleagues are young, enthusiastic and incredibly talented, and while I already feel quite challenged, I’m excited to be a part of the team.

On Saturday I went to my first-ever AFL match, a semifinal between St Kilda (my hometown) and rival Collingwood, two local clubs and nearby suburbs of Melbourne, separated by only 8.2 km. Nearly 77,000 fans packed the MCG to see the Saints of St Kilda, population of 16,122, battle the Magpies of Collingwood, population of 5,494. So essentially, more than 3.5x the entire towns of St Kilda and Collingwood combined attended this match. That is nuts, and that is AFL, particularly here in Melbourne.

In fact, nine of the 16 clubs in the country-wide league, also called AFL, are from Melbourne. In contrast, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth all have only one club each. If I have learned two things about Melburnians in my third week here, one is that they are very serious about their meat pies, and two, is that they are very, very serious about their AFL.

So my third week is nearing an end and it was indeed a very productive week. I got tickets to the Caulfield Cup and upgraded my phone plan, but perhaps most importantly I received four invitations to join various anti-Sarah Palin Facebook groups – what an honor! I do miss California and all of you great, wonderful friends, but will see you all very soon. And won’t somebody fire Greg Robinson? Three weeks down, 49 to go.

Week Three Summary
Weather: warm & windy
New observation: Being "drunk" in Melbourne is completely different than being "drunk" in the States.
New activity(ies): AFL semifinal game at the MCG
New food: Australian mustard; Doritos Mexicana; Sultana Bran (Australia's version of Kellogg's Raisin Bran)
New word(s): going off like a frog in a sock; hit the blower; far out brussels sprout
New people: all of my new, sweet, smart and incredibly-talented colleagues at B-M
What I miss: San Francisco, breakfast tacos, Mormons, my car, my old friends at EVC, 3C1W

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Week Two

This is my flat.

Today is Monday. It’s been 12 days since I arrived, 57 days before Melbourne Cup Day and 353 until my visa expires. Normally I like to start off each day by going for a walk down the street, finding various trees, looking up those trees and shaking them, and then I’d keep looking up into the leaves while extending my arms and hands - all in hopes of eventually catching a koala. Today, however, I don’t have time (and quite frankly I’m 0-for-142 in neighborhood trees thus far).

Today, I got my $93 dry-cleaning, enough Diet Coke to last me the week (48 cans), and a haircut at the local Edward Scissorhands, Melbourne’s version of a Fantastic Sam’s. And since my last entry, I got a monthly tram pass, a bank card and a job. All I need now is a cynical discontentment with Kevin Rudd and a pair of brown UGG’s and I’m practically all Aussie. Oy!

I decided to join the corporate practice at Burson-Marsteller, The Holmes Report’s 2007 International PR Agency of the Year. While I’m excited to get back into PR, I’m a little nervous at my job responsibility: to communicate with the Australian public. If I can’t understand these people how can I communicate with them? Really, the only subjects I feel qualified to discuss with Aussies are 1) why Brooke Addamo will win Australian Idol or 2) why Brooke Addamo is such a looker.

Twelve days into my stay and the only things I’ve really learned about Melburnians, Victorians and Australians are that they like beer, football and beer & football. One person I met loved Prince, another loved Jesus and another hated Prince and Jesus but loved Sophie Monk. I have a ways to go before I fully understand this public, but several of the individuals I spoke with gave me valuable insight. Attempting to use my non-skills in journalism and qualitative research, I decided to pose some questions to the locals. Here are their responses:

Q. What is a typical or stereotypical Aussie?
A. 1) fine, 2) an arrogant a*@hole, 3) trying to better our country but needing to work harder, 4) unappreciative of what we have, 5) fun and likely a bit drunk, 6) proud but good fun, 7) friendly, 8) there is no stereotypical Aussie – we’re a cosmopolitan of different backgrounds, and 9) intelligent but still learning, always wanting to improve our country and probably into having lots of fun.

Q. What do you love?
A. 1) Prince, 2) Jesus, 3) Sophie Monk, 4) for you to shut up, 5) footy, 6) Americans, 7) your mum, 8) the city and its nightlife, and 9) Thai food and women like that one right there.

Q. What can an American do to better understand the local culture?
A. 1) read the Herald Sun, 2) talk to strangers, 3) be open-minded, 4) go back to America and take rap music with you, 5) talk to people and listen, 6) drink, 7) drink and meet new friends, 8) go to the local festivals and walk around the different areas and suburbs, and 9) go to a hotel (pub), drink some Aussie beer and talk to all the friendlies.

So to sum it all up, some Aussies are very proud of their country while some believe there is much work to be done. Some are incredibly engaging and intellectual and others prefer to party and drink, yet all seem to have very strong opinions. Additionally, approximately 22.2% of the respondents hate me, which I believe means I only have room for improvement in the eyes of the locals. Two weeks down, 50 to go.

Week Two Summary
Weather: Still trying to figure out Celsius
New observation: Aussies watch a LOT of American t.v.
New activity(ies): Dance clubs that close at 5 and 7 a.m.
New food: French fries with gravy
New word: jim-jams (pajamas) & tracky dacks (tracksuit pants)
New people: I met a flamboyant 42-year-old straight man who drank his age (42 drinks) on Friday.
What I miss: The L.A. Times, Mexican food, ESPN, Liz Oh’s ability to say inappropriate things at inopportune times, Bounce Fabric Softener

from left to right - 1) my living room, 2) the local milk bar and tram, 3) my local reading material, 4) my week's supply of diet coke