Tuesday, November 3, 2009


This is Movember, an annual month-long charity event where men grow moustaches to benefit men’s health issues, specifically prostate cancer and male depression. This is also Don's second attempt at growing a moustache, and who can forget the Failed Moustache Experiment of 2008? (right picture = Day 23, 2008)

According to preliminary survey results, more than 82% of you again don’t believe I can grow a moustache, and approximately 64% of you believe I can only grow a moustache through the use of black Sharpie pens. I appreciate the support. But while I would love for you to stick with me during this month through the thick hairs and the thin, it is your financial support that I am asking you for in 2.1.

With your help, Movember Australia will raise millions of dollars for two very important men’s health causes. Many of us know someone who has suffered from prostate cancer or depression, and the efforts Movember makes to increase awareness of these issues transcends the tiny effort I and others are putting in to grow facial hair.

I will post milestone pictures from Day 1 to Day 30 on 12767K, so you can see the lengthy (figuratively, not literally) journey my moustache will be on over the month of November.

I'm proud to say that four other boys will become men here at Sefiani: Roger Christie, Rod Jago, Dylan Malloch and Hugo Shanahan. This will be the first moustaches for Roger, Rod and Dylan. Although this would ideally be Hugo’s first moustache as well, most experts believe he is purely incapable of growing facial hair. Eighty-three per cent of the firm believes the quintuplet, dubbed Los Bigotes de Sefiani, can grow significant resemblances of moustaches, while 50 per cent said they would even not be embarrassed to be seen in public with us.

It's great fun to see hundreds of dodgy-looking guys in suits in the trains, train stations and supermarkets here in Sydney, and I would encourage each of you to see what you can do to help the Movember Movement. To make a charitable tax-deductable donation, please visit http://au.movember.com/mospace/143217/

Monday, October 26, 2009


Round Two. Yes, it's the second year, second city, second visa. It's my second take at Australia and my second take at a blog.

The new and improved iDon 2.0. With a name like that how could this possibly fail??

Ok, Cheesydon – twice as cheesy the second time around.

It's my second year in Australia but unlike the first, I have a sponsored job, large bedroom and private medical insurance. And unlike the first, I’m spending this year in Sydney, the largest city in Australia and home of about 7.2 billion gay people. For those not familiar with Sydney, there are no kangaroos waiting to greet you at the airport - only heaps of wealthy dressed-up douche bags. Sydney is basically a warmer version of London and a less-Jewish version of New York. It’s a transient city with a good-sized financial district (CBD), numerous tourist attractions and relatively good public transportation system.

But unlike Melbourne, Sydney is not a typical Australian city. My neighborhood has no trash cans filled with empty beer bottles or kebab wrappers, and in the four weeks I’ve been here I haven’t seen one jumping, one glassing or one public urination. Yes, there are 740,000 Fitness First centers, but I have yet to see an Indian be harassed or a Greek blast David Guetta through his suped-up Volkswagen speakers. In fact, not once have I been asked where in China I come from or when my boat arrived from Korea. No, Sydney is classier than non-Sydney Australia.

In fact Sydney is so classy that it charges me 10 percent more for groceries, 31 percent more for public transportation and 90 percent more for rent than tiny immature Melbourne used to charge me. Thirty-two dollars to see fish and $198 to walk a bridge make it one of the classiest cities in the world, behind only London, Paris, New York and Berlin. Yes, this is my new hometown.

I do, of course, miss Melbourne and everything it gave me during my first year in Australia - namely the beautiful young vibrancy pouring through the laneways, trendy streets and tree-lined boulevards. I miss the cool crisp twilight walks home through the Botanical Gardens, the Friday nights on Chapel Street and the effervescent weekends in the city. It’s a beautiful town. But Sydney’s my new home and for all the great work Australians did to make Melbourne Melbourne, there is probably no city in the world that can compare to Sydney and its natural beauty.

Every weekday evening I take the Northern Shore train over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and sit on the top deck, staring westward at the sun setting beyond the endless inlets of water. It’s barely a two minute ride over the bridge - not even enough time to listen to Walking on a Dream - but during those 130 seconds half of the people in my carriage do the same thing - put down their mX and stare through the window. The water glistens just before sunset - no reflections of the Opera House or shadows of the bridge staring east or west, just a hazy brightness that is spectacular on its own.

Sydney makes me smile. So too does Australia. It's no wonder people risk life and limb by boating or flying to this country. Round one had its challenges, but not enough to make me believe there was anywhere else I'd rather be than here. And round two can only be better :)

Friday, June 12, 2009

World Blog Surf Day

Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve updated my blog. Over the past two months, I have been busy working, traveling, parading, booking tickets, drinking, going to the beach, taking pictures and buying new pants. Two months goes quickly, but not long enough to get the NBA playoffs off of ESPN.com. Here are the top 10 highlights of the last two months:

10.National Gallery of Victoria
9. Trip to Brighton Beach
8. Club-hopping with a Canadian guest
7. Second place at Medical Trivia Night
6. Discovery of Twitter
5. Arj Barker at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival
4. Lunch at Guiseppe Arnaldo & Sons
3. Weekend in a summer house in Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula
2. Four-day trip back to the U.S.
1. Alex's Farewell

But enough about things you are actually interested in – today it’s time to talk about food. Today is World Blog Surf Day, the annual day for expats to blog about one common subject (this year is food) and, by linking to other expats’ blogs, create a chain from Australia to Turkey and everywhere in between. This is the ONLY reason I am updating my blog today, but I actually think talking about food would be a lot of fun!

Along with God and Scarlett Johansson, food is one of my favourite things in the whole wide world, and lately it’s consumed me as much as I’ve consumed it. This past week was the Good Food and Wine Show, the Melbourne Italian Festival, and the second month of my new favourite show, Master Chef.

Master Chef is the American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance of cooking, pitting Austrailan amateur contestants against each other to cook the best dish - with the worst facing elimination. These chefs are quite good (particularly the ultra-hot yet ultra-eliminated Linda Kowalski), but it is also extremely consistent with the rest of Australians.

If there’s one thing Aussies do well, and one thing only, it is cook. Communicate coherently? Nope. Manage the budget? Sorry. Stay sober one night? Not a chance. But grill a flawless snapper with beautiful vegetables and a refreshing glass of wine? You betcha. Melbourne in particular is home to some of the greatest restaurants in the Southern Hemisphere, mixing Asian and European influences with uniquely Australian meat and produce for a wonderful fusion of tastes.

However, most foreigners don't realize just how much great food there is in Melbourne. In fact, food critic Matt Preston recently wrote in The Age that Melbourne is losing its reputation as one of the world’s great food cities, having failed to place a single entry in the world’s 100 best places to eat. He has his own theories, including isolation from the majority of restaurants of the world, but I have a better theory: The world hates Melbourne.

And for good reason. In Melbourne, we are racist, violent, drunk, drug-addicted, backwards and dumb. Who wouldn't hate this city, other than racists, drunkards, illiterates and alcohol suppliers?

As a result, we have been omitted from one of the few things we hold pride in - a list celebrating our food. It is particularly a shame because when tourists visit Australia, they mainly visit Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef, skipping Melbourne entirely. Never mind that Melbourne hosts most of the country's best exhibits, sporting competitions and art galleries. Never mind that it is home to the best nightlife, entertainment and dining.

The food in Australia - everything from the fine dining restaurants to the hole-in-the-wall cafes to the produce section at the local Woolies - is first class, and nowhere is it better than in Melbourne.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Week Thirty-three

Anything is possible. The Ducks won 10 of their last 12 games to squeak into the eighth and final playoff spot. The U.S. Navy daringly rescued a Somali pirate-captured hostage. And, Matt Riordan found a girl who said 'yes'...to HIM. Matt, for those of you who don't know, lived with me at Farmington Commons for a few months while he was going to school, working at the car wash and studying God. With the attention span of a second grader, the intellect of a chipmunk and the diet of a wild goat that got loose in a 7-eleven, Matt Riordan found one lucky girl to take him for the rest of her life. And you thought the Antwerp train station video was bizarre.

In fact, Matt's announcement caught all of us off guard. He kept the engagement plans a secret and finally announced his engagement not through phone calls or a big party, but via Facebook: one step above tweeting the life-changing announcement and one step below circulating the news via notebook paper in a second grade classroom.

So yet another wedding I'll have to go back for and yet another good friend to finally get hitched. At least I still have you, Tara!!!

Yes, the blog is back, but on its new weekly day: Tuesday. It's just easier this way.

Well, Thursday morning marked tremendous tragedy for Orange County sports fans, including myself. Rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart was more than just the Angels' top prospect - from all accounts he was a terrific person. Adenhart and two others were killed when a drunk driver plowed into their vehicle only a few hours after Adenhart pitched six scoreless innings in the Angels' defeat to the Oakland Athletics. As Rob Neyer and hundreds of other journalists often point out, the Angels have had a history of tragedy. They used to say the organization was cursed, but a championship in 2002 proved otherwise. The Angels are a close-knit team and unlike Australian airlines, will get through this mess.

Of course, another week in Melbourne and another dodgy airline incident, though this time it centers around Dubai-based Emirates Airlines. Flight EK407, carrying 225 passengers headed for Dubai, nearly crashed while taking off in Melbourne. The plane used the entire 3600-meter-long runway before managing to get airborne, and after a thorough investigation it was reported that the passengers were lucky to have escaped without harm. It still beats Qantas.

Qantas yesterday announced it was slashing another 1,750 jobs - the third round of cuts in nine months. In fact, Qantas is so terrible that even the Hell's Angels had been going to Qantas airport terminals just to commit bike gang-related murders. The airline industry has been so bad here that Melbourne held the Birdman competition to see which new flying invention would be the most successful. After all, anything is possible. Unfortunately, the collection of Australian inventors failed to come up with anything.

Well, this week was Easter weekend and I got amazing tickets to my first AFL game at Etihad Stadium, a pretty sweet venue when you're sitting in the Medallion Club. My team, the St Kilda Saints, crushed the West Coast Eagles (AFL's version of the New York Islanders) by almost 100 points. More surprisingly, I came to the conclusion that after only a few months, I am absolutely obsessed with Australian football. I watch it on t.v., dream it at night and read about it online when I wake up in the morning. It's my new Ladette to Lady. I heart it; it completes me.

Thank you for filling out my survey. It is through quantitative research that I have been able to make such vast improvements to my blog, such as write better and include more pictures. It's still been pretty hectic here in Melbourne, but I've enjoyed walking home from work the past few days to enjoy the moment a little longer. At 6 p.m. when the sun sets and the air is crisp and cool, few things beat a casual walk through the Botanical Gardens at twilight, with the street lamps glowing and the joggers breezing past. It's autumn, it's beautiful here and I will do what I can to stay in Melbourne longer. Anything is possible. Thirty-three weeks down, 19 to go.

Week Thirty-three Summary:
Weather: perfect
New observation: Updating a blog requires tremendous time and dedication! I really don't have either.
New activity(ies): Prince of Wales Hotel; 1806
New food: Swedish Easter food (potatoes with anchovies)
New word(s): utilise, capitalise, organise, and other words without a 'z'
New people: a professional hairdresser for the stars; random Swedes who said I spoke excellent Swedish!
What I miss: Cowboys Dance Hall, Broadway Street in Alamo Heights, the Burketts, Lesley and her Duke-arrogance, my red IKEA chairs, Peet's coffee

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Week Thirty-two

I'll need to keep this short yet sweet. Yes, I'm alive.

The last couple of weeks have been incredibly hectic, and as a result I have slacked on my blogging responsibilities. In the last two weeks, I spent 105 hours in the office, attended three overly-ornate client functions and saw my first Grand Prix from Ferrari's corporate suite. I speed dated, went to Boutique and was constantly hit on by Dannii Minogue. Good fun, hard work and no time for the ultra-hot 12,767K. Though I doubt this will be a trend, the busy schedule has forced me to consider new blogging alternatives.

To help me determine my future blogging schedule, please complete my survey. Your feedback is as always much appreciated.

More to come later this week. I promise on Liz's grave. Thirty-two weeks down, 20 to go.

Week Thirty-two Summary:
Weather: Stormy and beautiful.
New observation: Australians LOVE Toto
New activity(ies): Boutique; The Laundry; Spice Market; the Formula 1 Grand Prix
New food: MoMo
New word(s): sneaky drinks (quiet drinks)
New people: Dannii Minogue; heaps of beautiful international flight attendants; speed dating crew; my clients and their problematic children
What I miss: Dannii Minogue; heaps of beautiful international flight attendants; did I mention Dannii Minogue?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Week Thirty

Week Thirty was deleted by Blogspot when I submitted "Publish Post", and sadly I don't have a backup copy. Blame Blogspot. You will have to wait until Week Thirty-one now.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Week Twenty-nine

A recent survey this week found UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown to be the country's Most Boring Speaker, ahead of David Beckham and Kate Winslett. He is pretty boring - not just when compared with Barack Obama, Tony Blair or other engaging leaders, but when compared with living mammals of any kind. However, he is not the most boring speaker in the world. I think it's safe to say that honor goes to Kerry O'Brien, host of The 7:30 Report on ABC Australia.

What a bottle of Aquafina is to a refrigerator full of Red Bull, Kerry O'Brien is to the rest of the television personalities here. Listening to him talk is like going to see The Fray perform a 180-minute acoustic concert on a rainy Tuesday late morning in Fort Stockton, Texas, after taking five klonopins without having slept for the previous 76 hours. Adelaide is less boring. In fact hanging out with 17 emo kids would be more fun, because at least you'd be able to do something to them. With Kerry O'Brien you just have to sit and listen.

So another week down and this week I went to Sydney…again. I was only there for about 16 hours, mainly to see one of my clients, but I did enjoy an evening in Darlinghurst catching up with a lovely Canadian bird. I’m not sure why, but Sydney is starting to charm me. Every time I’m there the weather is terrible, the taxis overcharge me and I get hardly any sleep. Yet, the people are delightful and the city is vibrant. Is it possible I'm moving from Team Melbourne to Team Sydney?? I've already switched to Team Edelman, Team Pepsi Max and Team Aniston, so I suppose anything is possible.

After Sydney, I spent the rest of the week working, sleeping and saving money. I did Hoo Haa it Saturday night and I purchased new earphones on Sunday, which are quite frankly the worst earphones I've ever had. Yes they were relatively cheap, but they manage to make every song sound like they are on 808's & Heartbreak or Is This It. And when I do play Kanye or The Strokes, the songs are completely indecipherable.

Well, it’s finally March Madness. Not only is it a pretty exciting time for college basketball fans, it is very exciting for us Syracuse faithful. Friday night was one of the most thrilling basketball games in college basketball history, when Syracuse upset Connecticut in a near-record six overtimes. It reminded me of the Orange's 2006 Big East run, when the Gerry McNamara-inspired team reeled off four consecutive victories to clinch a berth in the NCAA Tournament…only of course, to lose in the first round like they always seem to do. This year, however, the Orange team looks like it can reach the Elite Eight.

Here is my bracket. Don’t copy: I know you want to.

And finally, tomorrow it's time to dust off the 'ol Cranberries cds, boil the potatoes and bust out some mad W.B. Yeats rhymes. Tomorrow it's St. Patrick's Day, the one day each year it's actually cool to be Irish. While some cities dye their river green or have massive boozefests with half a million drunks, Melbourne has both on any given day of the week. Be sure to wear green. Have a great week and Let's Go Cuse! Twenty-nine weeks down, 23 to go.

Week Twenty-nine Summary:
Weather: Starting to get chilly. Like a crisp October night in San Francisco. It's beautiful.
New observation: I had NO IDEA that the lead singer of Silversun Pickups was a dude!!
New activity(ies): spending $132 on a taxi in Sydney. Good thing my company gave me a CabCharge!
New food: Subway breakfast sandwich. The concept sounds terrible, but at 5:15 a.m. it can be beautiful.
New word(s): bugger off! (get bent!)
New people: I FINALLY met someone who LIKED my American accent. I think that was the only thing she liked about me.
What I miss: Shante Micah Schroeder, old Facebook, Whataburger, the Power Players, Matisyahu, my own washer & dryer, summer

Monday, March 9, 2009

Week Twenty-eight

Optus blows. Not only does my phone service consistently de-credit my account, hang up on important phone calls and get no reception in the first- and second-largest cities in Australia, but it also successfully managed to charge me $35 in roaming fees for calls made in Sydney. And the last time I checked, Sydney was based within Australia. Apparently Optus uses the same phone system as 16th century Africa, at a significantly higher price. Come on Optus, seriously.

So Saturday was Mardi Gras in Sydney, and since it was a three-day weekend I decided to make the 712-kilometer trek to watch how gay people celebrate Mardi Gras. You see, Australia's version of Mardi Gras really has nothing to do with our Mardi Gras, the annual series of events preparing for the start of Lent. There were no beads, no drunk Louisiana Tech frat guys and no delicious gumbo. Mardi Gras here is just one massive gay orgy.

Approximately 871.5 billion gay people flooded Oxford Street, Sydney's version of the Red Light District, to watch a three-hour parade where everything from football players to piggy banks suddenly became gay. Thousands of people marched in the parade in costumes, underwear or leather, and all were celebrating and barracking for universal gay rights. It was quite the spectacle for Australia, but basically the equivalent of a Tuesday in San Francisco.

Some of my friends in San Fran have actually been doing their part to keep the "Overturn Proposition 8" movement alive. More than 3,000 people marched down Market Street on Wednesday, the night before the California Supreme Court commenced hearing arguments for the validity of Prop 8. While Sydney's Mardi Gras was a celebration for the entire gay community, many more gay rights activists will be celebrating if California and the U.S. can prove to the world they are a leader in the quest for universal equality. It's a big statement but one all Californians can be proud of if and when our judicial system repeals what non-sensical voters helped push through.

So it was a good week here in Australia and abroad. Other than standing for seven consecutive hours waiting for the gay people to actually show up to the parade, I also spent my weekend in Sydney meeting new Canadians and old co-workers. We spent most of the time in The Rocks, enjoying Saturday night beverages and Sunday afternoon refreshers at The Glenmore Hotel and The Argyle. Both were beautiful.

Abroad, Syracuse is FINALLY going to the NCAA Tournament after two years in the NIT. Just two and a half months ago Syracuse was losing at home to Cleveland State and Eric Devendorf was busy punching women in the face (which by the way, all of us who saw Devendorf back in 2006 probably knew that was bound to happen). And now? The Orange finished the regular season 23-8 after an overtime win at Marquette: not too shabby.

Here in Victoria, colder weather has helped with the bushfires, but Australia is still proving it's a land with many natural disasters. On Friday Melbourne had the biggest earthquake in 36 years and a cyclone is currently hitting the state of Queensland. Adding insult to injury, Cyclone Hamish, which was originally expected to effectively flush out dengue-carrying mosquito larvae, is now expected to instead create more breeding grounds for them to spread the disease even further. D'oh!

So 28 weeks down and I'm finally starting to get into The Raveonettes. I always appreciated their Buddy Holly melodies and Everly Brothers harmony, but not until recently did I find out Sune Rose Wagner, the female half of the duo, was actually pretty hot. Suddenly I appreciate their music a little more now. And despite hiring me, Edelman was this week named PRWeek Agency of the Year for the third consecutive year, an impressive accomplishment. Go Team! Anddd... Happy Birthday Tara!!! We'll celebrate when I get back. Miss you all! Twenty-eight weeks down, 24 to go.

Week Twenty-eight Summary:
Weather: Rainy. Twenty-eight weeks and I still don't own a brolly!
New observation: Australians really like the name Hamish. Why???
New activity(ies): Gay Mardi Gras, standing for 7 hours
New food: white wine sangria (yum), lychees (double yum)
New word(s): gobsmacked (surprised). Mozzies v Muzzies (Mosquitos v Muslims) - don't mix them up
New people: heaps of gay people and Canadians. I miss them already.
What I miss: all the randoms outside the Fillmore Center, American bread, the old Joaquin Phoenix, Frappuccinos, 3(0)c1W

Monday, March 2, 2009

Week Twenty-seven

Another shark attack in Sydney *yawn*. Way to be creative there, Sydney. Seriously. You're a beautiful city with a decent personality, so why are you being such an attention whore? (Note that anything found on Wiktionary is ok to publicly type - it means I'm hip with today's slang.) This is the third time in three weeks a shark has bitten a piece of an Aussie, and knowing Sydney it'll happen several more times in the months to come.

Tourism is already floundering here in Australia, and Sydney's weak desparation to get in the news is only hindering this country's ability to recruit international tourists. It doesn't help when the country's iconic airline to import tourists keeps crashing into itself and the country's international spokespeople are these guys. So while Australia may be doing a good job of recruiting accident-prone 41-47-year-old gay males, it hasn't exactly brought in the rest of the masses. Note that it also doesn't help when the international tourism song , "Come to Australia", explicitly confirms tourists may die here.

It's gotten so bad that the only tourists I've been meeting here in Melbourne are Canadians who either want to substitute teach or pick fruit: not exactly the cream of the international tourist crop.

In fact, it's so bad in Queensland that the government is actively targeting and recruiting unemployed people and giving them jobs to aesthetically improve tourist areas. The $57 million plan gives $10.4 million to Tourism Queensland, the same moneybags organization that's giving one lazy bum The Best Job in the World. I can't help but think the money might be better spent hiring a plane and flying 30,000 international tourists to Australia (30,000 people multiplied by $1,900AUS, the average cost of an international flight, equals $57 million).

Tourism Australia did actually launch an expensive tourism campaign already - in conjunction with Baz Lurhmann's movie Australia. Unfortunately, the movie and campaign were released just as the recession started in Australia's key market: The U.S. of A. According to the 15 January edition of Media magazine, the cost of Tourism Australia's ad campaign was $40 million AUS and the cost to make the movie Australia was $130 million. The direct impact is hard to measure, as the impact of the economic downturn instead has resulted in a bleak forecast: In 2009, inbound tourists are expected to decline by 4.1 percent.

Regardless of the government's ineffeciencies at recruiting tourists, I am adamant on doing my part to bring foreigners to this hot, sparsely-populated and disaster-prone land. You see, I have now lived in Australia for 27 weeks and not a single friend, other than Frenchie, has come to visit. Really? How many record-breaking floods, third-world diseases and mass-murdering fires must this country endure before people realize this country has it all?! It's not like I live in Syracuse or Adelaide, the most boring cities in their respective hemispheres. I live in Melbourne. It's fun. Come visit.

And speaking of fires, authorities here are warning Tuesday might be worse than Black Saturday. I even got two text messages from the Victorian Police notifying me of the danger. While several of my friends have called with concern for the fires, several more are pressuring me to risk my life and go into the fires to save koalas. I suppose there are worse ways to die...

Red back, funnel web, blue ringed octopus, Taipan, Tigersnake and a Box Jellyfish; big shark, just waiting for you to go swimming at Bondi Beach; come to Australia: You might accidentally get killed. La la la

Twenty-seven weeks down, 25 to go.

Week Twenty-sevenSummary:
Weather: So inconsistent. Warm, cold, warm, cold, hot, warm, hotter, cold c'mon!
New observation: American Express is a nice credit card to have, unless it's the only credit card you have. Not many places take Amex without charging a usage fee. :(
New activity(ies): Gay eco-friendly vegetarian bars
New food: Singapore stir-fry with crunched up Doritos. YUM :)
New word(s): Tucker (food)
New people: A girl who usually stands across from me on the city tram who looks EXACTLY like Chelsea Clinton, circa 1998.. Not cool.
What I miss: Uluru, my non-girly bed frame, my fluffy mattress pad, my photo albums, Flamin' Hot Cheetos, my mom's shag carpeting, Janet Reno, (any) Mexican food

Monday, February 23, 2009

Week Twenty-six

Has anyone else noticed that Australians don’t say “Bless you” after you sneeze? I have seen beautiful women sneeze in a train filled with men, and little children sneeze in front of their parents at dinner, and not a single “God bless you”, “Gesundheit”, or “Ewww, get away from me” to be heard. When I sneeze I expect to be blessed, and thus far I haven’t been.

In fact, Australians seem to have an obvious tendency to talk, a lot, yet rarely do they ever talk politely, with regard for another’s welfare, or with manners. And that is the premise for my new favorite show, Ladette to Lady.

What Prince Harry is to Natalie Imbruglia, Ladette to Lady is to me. "Ladette", a new reality show in which bogan Australian girls are taught proper etiquette in England, originally grabbed my attention when the Australian women were seen farting, burping and urinating on the street. Like Prince Harry, the Aussie women are depicted as drunk, obnoxious and overly politically-incorrect, and like the older Natalie Imbruglia, I am infatuated with it all. The show is proof that girls from Boston are not the most annoying girls in the entire world. They're only second.

Good to see Slumdog cleaned up at the Oscars, though I was devastated not to see Freida Pinto accept an Academy Award for her achievement as Hottest Female Ever 2009. As could be expected, everyone here has tremendous admiration for Perth-born Heath Ledger, and since Australians normally only win things of non-importance, yesterday's victory was quite special for the Land of Oz. I didn't get to see the Oscars due to the time difference, but I hope all of you girls enjoyed it, and that you guys won your Oscars drinking games.

Well, yesterday was the last day to apply for The Best Job in the World. I know that all of you are asking where my video application is, but unfortunately I didn't apply. In fact, I was ineligible. Because I am using a Work & Holiday visa (Subclass 462), and because I am still in Australia, I do not qualify for the necessary Sublcass 457 visa. I really don't think that's very fair. Not that any video of me would ever get me a job (or anything other than a mocking), The Best Job in the World needs to be one that anyone qualified can apply for. While visa restrictions are out of the Tourism Queensland's hands, the job shouldn't be advertised as some open international competition if it really is not. At least the government's not tightening restrictions to keep working here - good news for all of you who want to follow in my amazing footsteps.

Regardless, I’m officially at the halfway point of my Australian adventure, and to acknowledge the occasion I decided to dust off the 'ol 100 Things I Have to Do in Australia checklist and see how far

I've gotten. While I have yet to wrestle a shark, become more masculine or outdrink an Aussie, I have achieved nearly half of what I set out to accomplish. I sailed the Whitsundays, snorkeled the Reef, hugged a koala, hiked Uluru and saw the Twelve Apostles. I surfed the Gold Coast, attended the Australian Open and sunbathed on the beaches of Sydney. Half of the list is complete and I have half a year to finish what I came here to do.

Twenty-six weeks down, 26 to go.

Week Twenty-six Summary:
Weather: Consistently in the 30s.. I'm actually starting to get used to the heat.
New observation: Australians really like bad American 80s music.
New activity(ies): baking
New food: Australian breakfast tacos
New word(s): Toowoomba, Gympie, Ballina, Ipswich, Maribyrnong and other retarded city names.
New people: another Brandon who mispells his name "Brandan".
What I miss: Fantastic Sam’s, cheap dry cleaning, dodgy Mission bars, sleeping in, my four oversized pillows, Bistro Burger

Monday, February 16, 2009

Week Twenty-five

Uh-oh. In a recent incident at a Beijing bookstore that bodes very, very poorly for influential bloggers such as myself, one prominent Chinese blogger was stabbed yesterday as a result of his anti-establishment writings. According to the article, Xu Lai, a newspaper journalist and novelist, had published many writings about government corruption and satirical items on the Communist party, censorship and the melamine milk scandal. And for that, he was STABBED. So yay establishment!!! I heart you, wacky federal leader of the centre-left Australian Labor Party. You complete me.

Actually, a lot of Aussies do like The Establishment. On Thursday, Edelman Australia released the results of its 2009 Trust Barometer, which studied trust among 4,475 key opinion leaders in 20 countries, and government ranked higher than business in terms of trust. When it comes to business, however, Australian key opinion leaders apparently listen to too much XTC.

According to the results, 74% of Australians trust business less than they did last year, and they trust business significantly less than every other country/region to 1) act quickly to correct problems, 2) make changes so the problems don't happen again, 3) admit their mistakes when things go wrong, 4) make full public disclosure about the problems and their causes, 5) have execs take a visible lead in communicating about the problems, etc.

Another reason Aussies probably listen to XTC: They are one of the world's least religious people. Coincidence?

But aside from being cynics, Australians are also really fun drunks. And on Saturday night, all of the fun cynical drunks came out to celebrate Valentine's Day with other fun cynical drunks. No flowers? No worries - beer was in full supply at the Carlton Hotel, a local establishment in the heart of downtown. I and one other fellow spent the night with seven single women, which prevented me from 1) drunk dialing an ex-girlfriend, 2) finding new Valentine's Day romance, or 3) staying home eating chocolate listening to Fergie on the sofa in a pool of my own tears.

Well, the Victoria bush fires are still dominating the headlines everywhere in the country. On Friday and Saturday a fire in nearby Healesville caused an eery haze that covered the sky and smoke that filled the air. It really reminds me of the wild fires that plagued California for the past half-dozen years. It's been a sad nine days with 189 now reported dead, but more than $100 million has already been donated, which for a country of only 21 million people, is quite an impressive feat. Aussies do support Aussies and it's great to see the nation come together, even over tragedy.

So I'm almost at the half-way point of my Work & Holiday visa. I feel like I've actually done a lot in these past 25 weeks. I've had two jobs. I've written six press releases for CSG. I've met a lot of cool people and had a lot of great memories. Still, though, I can't help but look ahead and wonder where I'll be come Week 53. There's a good chance I'll still be in Melbourne, but I reckon there's a better chance I'll be elsewhere. London? Sydney?? New York??? Any other ideas? In the meantime, I've got half a year left to see the city and conquer the country and region. And get hangers. I need hangers. Twenty-five weeks down, 27 to go.

Week Twenty-five Summary:
Weather: Was perfect, now getting hot again. Stupid sun.
New observation: It seems as though more Europeans, Americans and Asians make the trek to Uluru than Australians
New activity(ies): Working on Saturdays
New food: seafood pizza
New word(s): spelling words that should have a "z" with an "s", i.e. capitalisation, organise or realise.
New people: the checkout lady at Safeway knows me, and I'm not sure how or why...
What I miss: the 2000-2002 Los Angeles Lakers, cilantro on tacos, my DVD collection of The Office, coupons in the Sunday paper, 3C1W2008 (has it really been a whole year???)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Week Twenty-four

Does anybody really believe in "global warming"? I mean come on, it's got to be a myth. Like "economic downturn" or "yawning is contagious", nobody actually really believes any of this liberal-fed gobbledygook. Well, those Silicon Valley nerds might in fact have been on to something.

Saturday was the hottest day in the history of everything. The temperature in Melbourne reached 46.4 degrees Celsius (that's over 115 F), which for Don is the equivalent of about 17.8 layers of deodorant. In case you're curious, here is the formula I am using:

The Don Takaya Deoderant Quotient

When the temperature is below 14 degrees Celsius, I am technically ok without deodorant. When the temperature is between 14.1 and 19.1 I need one layer of deodorant. When the temperature is between 19.1 and 21.6 I need two layers. When the temperature is between 21.6 and 23.6 I need three layers. Anything above 23.6 gets calculated at [one layer for every 1.65 degrees through 35 degrees], and [one layer for every 1.45 degrees above 35 degrees].

As such, the formula for Saturday's DTDQ is as follows: 1 + 1 + 1 + 6.91 + 7.86 = 17.77 layers of Deoderant. And no, the type of deoderant, the time of day applied, nor the number of minutes following a shower all do not factor into this equation. Equation trademarked.

In the country, the hot weather fueled by hot and dry winds, similar to Orange County's Santa Ana winds, resulted in Victoria's worst bushfires since Ash Wednesday. In fact, the bushfires have since gripped the entire nation, and tens of thousands have already donated $7 million to the Red Cross. Unbenknownst to the fact there were fires going on in the distance, I spent the day ironically enough, firing up the barbie for a barbecue. Apparently Swedes don't believe in "fire bans".

I also spent Saturday watching Slumdog Millionaire, an award-winning film that brought up many important issues, including the gentrification of Mumbai, the religious hostility between Hindus and Muslims, and how/why I had never before heard of Freida Pinto, the hottest female in the history of everything. Needless to say I spent much of Saturday night images.google.com.au'ing "Freida Pinto", for research purposes for this blog.

On Sunday I attended the St Kilda Festival, the largest patronised, free music festival in the Southern Hemisphere. Approximately 300,000 attended the day-long street event in my hometown, and it was quite a spectacle. And of course, on Sunday night I resumed my pictorial search of Freida Pinto.

Well, five and a half months in Australia and I finished my first week at Edelman. After only five days I can already tell how different Edelman is from B-M, and how different my role and my responsibilities will be from my previous job. They're doing a lot of cool things at Edelman, and even though my Friday was spent in non-casual attire, without a morning fruit basket, and contained no Happy Hour wine nor chips, the level of projects and programs I'm working on make the hours in the cube pass by with ease. There's even a little cafe downstairs in the courtyard that sells ice cold Diet Cokes, and it only took three days for the cashier to pick up on my DC addiction. So Happy Black History Month Jasmine, and Happy Valentines Day mom!!! :( I still need a girlfriend. Twenty-four weeks down, 28 to go.

Week Twenty-three Summary:
Weather: Finally starting to cool down, but still too hot for suits
New observation: Holidays are much more fun than workdays
New activity(ies): electronic roulette (stupid electronic roulette) :(
New food: 4-day old dim sum (it was on sale)
New word(s): "the" in front of sports. i.e. "I'm going to watch the tennis" or "We're going to the cricket."
New people: new colleagues at Edelman, half of whom are pregnant
What I miss: George W. Bush's foreign policy expertise, Syracuse defense, cheap fruit, Del Taco on a Tuesday night, Safeway online grocery delivery (the best way to get 144 cans of Diet Coke to a third floor apartment).

Monday, February 2, 2009

Week Twenty-three

Apparently I moved to Death Valley. This week Melbourne became hotter than Bobby Knight's son at an NCAA basketball game. Temperatures consistently reached the low-to-lower-mid 40's, setting a record for three consecutive days of at least 43 degrees, and causing heaps of problems for commuters, fire fighters and everyone else, including me (As we all know, "Don" and "extremely hot weather" don't often go well together in the same sentence, and are often joined together by the phrases "practically dies in", "wants to vomit in", or "wants to pass out as a result of"). To escape the blistering heat, I went to the Australian Outback, where the average high was only 41 degrees. Unfortunately, there was no air conditioning at Uluru.

Most people from around the globe know that the Great Barrier Reef is one of the unique natural wonders of the world, but not as many are familiar with Uluru. The fact is, neither The Reef nor The Rock are one of the seven wonders, but both are on the shortlist to be named among the new seven wonders of the natural world.

Uluru, also referred to as Ayers Rock, is an 863-meter high sandstone rock formation in the middle of nowhere, is a world heritage site, and has tremendous sacred cultural significance to Aboriginals in Australia. It is also significant in terms of history, geology, flora and fauna, and more than 400,000 visitors each year come to Uluru to witness its beauty, hike its trails, camp in its wilderness and return home filled with new insight and an uncleanable stench of bugspray and sweat. I took a 27-minute shower when I got home and plan on taking three more 27-minute showers tomorrow as well.

My three-day backpacking and camping adventure was one of the coolest experiences I have ever had. Each night I slept outside underneath the stars with a half-dozen new friends, and each morning we woke up at 4 to hike King's Canyon, Uluru or Kata Tjuta, as well as to see the sunrise at Uluru. I was covered in filth, sweat and 7,489 flies, and surrounded by insects larger than a 600ml bottle of Diet Coke, yet enjoyed the entire experience.

Well, the 23rd week was probably the most active week I've had in quite some time, ironic since it was the hottest week I've ever had, ever. Monday was Australia Day, when I went to Federation Square to watch the fireworks and chant "Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi". Tuesday I had lunch with my wonderful former B-M colleagues, and Wednesday I spent all day at the Australian Open, watching Serena and Verdasco win their quarterfinal matches at Rod Laver Arena. Then Thursday morning I headed to Alice Springs, spending three days on the camping and hiking tour, before spending Saturday night at Bojangles in Alice Springs. And Sunday, of course, I watched the fantastic final between Federer and Nadal.

Oh, and I also accepted a new job. Today I officially joined the corporate practice in the Melbourne office of the world's largest independent public relations agency. It's a six month contract with a possibility to stay longer, which will at the very least be able to keep me in Australia a little bit longer and enable me to fulfill the length of my visa. I'm excited to join Edelman and look forward to working with some of the best minds in the Australian PR industry. Going back to work, however, ughhh...
So Don's seven week holiday is finally at its end, and it was definitely a fun seven weeks. Seven flights, seven days of sailing and nearly seven thousand Australian dollars spent in the seven weeks of holiday, which means it's probably time I get back into the swing of things working the 9-to-6 again. I think my dry cleaner had already forgotten me. And if you're a Pittsburgh Steeler fan, you can just stop. You may be a national champion but city is still boring and you still have the Pirates. Twenty-three weeks down, 29 to go.

Week Twenty-three Summary:
Weather: The hottest week in the history of everything
New observation: It seems as though more Europeans, Americans and Asians make the trek to Uluru than Australians
New activity(ies): Outback camping, filthy hostel showering, dodgy cheap Australian airlines
New food: spaghetti stir-fry
New word(s): "to be sure to be sure" ~ token Irish girl on the tour
New people: a dozen Europeans on the Uluru tour
What I miss: being on holiday, Super Bowl commercials, having a big bedroom, MySpace, everyone from Contiki 1, driving on the right side of the road

Monday, January 26, 2009

Week Twenty-two

Happy Australia Day!! Today is the official national day of Australia, celebrated annually on the 26th of January to commemorate the proclamation of British sovereignty at Sydney Cove in 1788. There are heaps of events going on today all over the city, including parades, fireworks and millions of Aussies drinking and barbecuing all day, about half of whom doing so because it's Australia Day. I decided to celebrate by going to Federation Square, the center of Melbourne, to watch fireworks and tennis with a Canuck and 3,000 French supporters rooting against my boy Blake. Uhh, les gens stupides!

It's been a busy week in Melbourne with the Australian Open now half-way complete, and with the long weekend catering to thousands of local, national and international visitors. It's also been a busy week back home. Apparently on Tuesday we got a Black president. Did you know that? I was in New Zealand at the time, but according to every single person I met during the last few days, it's true. One Finnish backpacker said he could no longer hate Americans because of it, which is as nice a compliment a European could bestow on an American.

Last week I dusted off my trusty backpack and traveled through the northern island of New Zealand and Sydney, meeting many backpackers from all over Europe, Australia, the U.S. and Canada. It was great to meet and inspirational to chat with young kids fresh out of college and older professionals taking breaks in their careers, all to spend months away from home to see the world and gain new perspective. The trip itself was also fantastic.

After I left boring Auckland on Wednesday, I spent three days in the Bay of Islands, sailing, boating and speed boating. I also took two ferries and a cruise, spending as much time on the water as possible. There are 144 islands in the Bay of Islands, and the famous Hole in the Rock is among them in the northeastern part of the bay. One could sense the amazing originality in naming their landmarks ("Wow this is a great bay, with many islands"/"What should we call it"/"I know, 'Bay of Islands'"...), while sailing through the picturesque location. It was beautiful and the weather was fantastic. I even hung out with dolphins!

Following my four days in New Zealand, I spent 22 jam-packed hours in Sydney, touring Kings Cross, Lane Cove and walking from Bronte to Bondi Beach. It was great to see different parts of Sydney and I have to say, I'd definitely be keen to live there as well as Melbourne. Perhaps I'll get that chance.

Traveling with open-minded and big-eyed backpackers have again made me appreciate the situation I am in, knowing that it's a rare opportunity that I've been blessed with to live in a different part of the world and embrace the various new cultures. I'll do my best to find something to keep me here, even if just for a few more months, so I can go back to the States having fulfilled my time abroad. I'll have more clarity by the end of this week.
Well, Wednesday I'm off to the Australian Open quarterfinals and on Thursday I head over to Alice Springs and Uluru. I'll be back in time for the Super Bowl. Arizona 20, Pittsburgh 17. Twenty-two weeks down, 30 to go...??

Week Twenty-two Summary:
Weather: It was as perfect a week weather-wise as possible. This week, however, will likely blow.
New observation: Aussies abroad are LOUD. It's a wonder why people think Americans are annoying...
New activity(ies): Speed boating, Australia Day
New food: New Zealand barbecue
New word(s): "yo it's sweet as bro" & "Haere mai" - two traditional Maori phrases, according to a Maori tour guide."
New people: all of the randoms on the Bay of Islands bus tour
What I miss: making fun of Jameson Bull, Fisherman's Wharf on a foggy winter morning, Arrested Development, my feather queen-sized comforter, air conditioning

Monday, January 19, 2009

Week Twenty-one

So tomorrow is The Inauguration, the hottest ticket event since Right Said Fred took over Berlin in 2006. But who needs to spend $10,000+ to see it live when you can go to Legoland and see the much better Lego Inauguration? And you wondered whether or not nerds with too much time on their hands could ever find employment. If only I were so lucky.

This is the fifth full week of Don's inaugural 2008-2009 vacation. As such, I decided to spend this week in the Land Under the Land Down Under: Hot, sunny, flat, beachy New Zealand. Actually no, it's not. It's pretty darn cold here. I arrived in Auckland, the second-most boring city in the Southern Hemisphere, four hours ago and it took me one hour to get my luggage, one hour to get a shuttle and get to my hotel, ten minutes to see the city, one hour to eat and fifty minutes to find an internet cafe. There's not a lot to do here. In fact, my three-hour flight delay in the international terminal at Tullamarine Airport had more to do, as there were two cafes and some duty free shops. Auckland only has a McDonald's.

Luckily, tomorrow I will be meeting with a Contiki mate and on Wednesday I head to the Bay of Islands for two fun-filled days of sightseeing. This is good because unfortunately, there's plenty going on Australia and my timing was as usual, very very poor. Lance Armstrong flew all the way from Austin, the coolest city in America, to take a bike ride through Adelaide, the most boring city in the Southern Hemisphere, in the 2009 Tour Down Under (you were wondering what could trump Auckland). The Tour Down Under started yesterday, the day before the Australian Open.

For the past month, the most elite tennis players in the world have been touring Australia and playing in smaller competitions to bone up for The Big One. I'm totally pumped! I have a ground pass for the Monday I get back and tickets to the Quarterfinals on the 28th of January, and during the weekends the city apparently becomes more alive with even more dancing, drinking, pickpocketing, theft and good old fashioned alcohol-induced Aussie street violence. While I will be doing my best to avoid all of that, I will be watching good tennis and hope my boy Roddick will come through with at least a semifinal appearance. After all, should he really have to spend any more time with Brooklyn than is absolutely necessary? I say no.

So Week 21 is almost in the books and it was spent with some more Contiki friends seeing some more of the city. I finally went to the Queen Victoria Market and caught up on a few errands. Nothing new to report on the job front, but things look promising both here and abroad. At least more promising than they did in Week 20. And with that, my one-hour internet allotment is nearing an end. Worst $7.92US I ever spent. And I can't forget: Happy MLK Day Jasmine!! Twenty-one weeks down, 31 to go...??

Week Twenty-one Summary:
Weather: Tuesday was 40, but every day afterwards was PERFECT. And it's only 18 here in Auckland!
New observation: with 24-hour food courts, entertainment, movie theatres, shops and more, you really could live in the Crown Casino and never leave.
New activity(ies): Queen Victoria Market, international flights out of Tullamarine
New food: shrimp on the barbie!! Yum.
New word(s): "This week: Sale on Diet Coke". The greatest phrase I heard in the past 21 weeks and it came in Auckland.
"New people: More Northern Irish professional poker players
What I miss: inauguration day, non-Qantas flights, John Wayne International Airport, laughing at the Arizona Cardinals, Arrowhead Mountain spring water

Monday, January 12, 2009

Week Twenty

American legend Slappy White once said that "The trouble with unemployment is that the minute you wake up in the morning you're on the job." So, my work day officially began at 10:17 a.m. Not good if you're a retail worker, administrative assistant or newspaper delivery boy, but not too shabby if you're a Somali pirate, professional poker player or lead singer of Guns N' Roses. And the last time I checked, those three professions were much more lucrative, meaning I am definitely on the right track.

It's the twentieth week and my how time flies when you're incredibly utterly hopelessly bored. It's been one month since my last day at Burson-Marsteller and during this month I have definitely seen a lot of Australia. This past week one of my mates from my previous holiday came and spent four fun-filled days touring Melbourne. Of course I had to be a good host and show Sylvain, a stereotypical French-Canadian hockey-playing drunk, that Melbourne was the best city in the entire world. I accomplished this feat by showing him the Royal Botanical Gardens, taking the Yarra boat cruise down the country's dirtiest river, and waking up too late to take a tour of the MCG. We also got lost twice, took the wrong tram twice and spent the first half of Tuesday waiting for me to get a haircut, which altogether shows I should not be counted upon to know this city nor to be a good host.

I did, however, treat Sylvain to delicious $4 pizzas at Lucky Coq, two beers at the Belgian and a night of reminiscing with fellow Contiki alums at Bridie O'Reilly's. Good fun with good people.

I also spent a good day of sightseeing with my favorite Irish former-colleague, where we visited the sprawling towns of Gisborne and New Gisborne, as well as the Hanging Rock Reserve, which obviously needs to change its name as there were no African-Australian tourists within a 50-kilometer radius (note that this is not the same owner as that of Megan's favorite "hangout", the Hangin' Tree Saloon).

Hanging Rock, a formation and collection of volcanic rocks about an hour northwest of Melbourne, was popularized by a book and subsequent film documenting the mysterious disappearance of several schoolgirls who picnicked at the site in 1900. Apparently three schoolgirls mysteriously vanished into the rocks, showing that even more than a century ago Australian girls weren't exactly the brightest stars in the universe.

Now that I've seen the infamous Hanging Rock, as well as Melbourne, Sydney and coastal Queensland, I'm wondering where I should go next. I have a diminishing savings account but a desire to see more. Although I finished my amazing Queensland holiday over a week ago, this past week was just as fun seeing parts of Melbourne I had never before visited and other parts I never knew existed. I'm running out of time before I have to go home, and I want to spend these weeks that I'm not working touring other local places. Next on my to-go list include (though I know I won't be able to accomplish all of them): New Zealand, Uluru, Tasmania and Perth - in that order.

Finally, I know a lot of you are wondering when I'm coming home for good. I'm purposefully being relatively vague as there are still several scenarios that can happen that would alter my plan. I have come up with a couple of different plans accordingly. I'm currently looking for opportunities in Melbourne, Sydney, New York and San Francisco, and really don't see myself in any other locale in 2009. Of course if things don't work out, then in 2010 I might expand that list to include Texas, Canada, law school, a gutter, an Asian boy band, Borders Books & Music, Syracuse and the Singapore Taxi Academy, as places I could picture myself twelve months from today. So as it stands, week 20 is in the books and the question mark countdown remains: Twenty weeks down, 32 to go...??

Week Twenty Summary:
Weather: It's supposed to be 39 degrees on Wednesday. That's CELCIUS. I want to jump off a bridge.
New observation: Something crazy cool better happen at Obama's inauguration for $20,095!
New activity(ies): river cruise, St. Kilda pier and the local Hanging Rock
New word(s): Ute (utility vehicle), throw a wobbly (lose your temper)
New people: the Kosters, the Coopers, and Joe's personal taxi driver
What I miss: the NFL playoffs, Family Guy, my U.S. phone book, Carl's Jr., Kings of Leon, North American bacon, my old iPod (the one with all of my songs :( ).

Monday, January 5, 2009

Week Nineteen

So this is the New Year and as such, our lives all of a sudden become open to endless possibilities. We can start to live a healthier, more productive life and write a tidy little list of things that we'll be better at this year than last. Democratic Americans, Syracuse football fans and high school seniors have been looking forward to the change 2009 may bring for quite some time. For me, however, I set my life's changes in action 19 weeks ago and I'm starting January no different than the way I started December or November: with a freshly-shaven face, an ice cold Diet Coke and a new blog entry.

I know. You've all had lame Christmases and lackluster New Year's Eves. You've been spending an overwhelming time boring yourselves silly with your boring families and boring friends in your boring homes and you've all been anxiously awaiting today's entry for the last three weeks. Lucky for you, today is Monday and it's Week 19 on 12,767KM. My how time flies.
A lot's happened in the past three weeks. Violence has escalated in Gaza, the PAC-10 went 5-0 in bowl games and a series of avalanches rocked British Columbia. But more importantly, Don did a lot of pretty cool stuff. No, he didn't get engaged like some Syracuse classmates, and no...he didn't get a new job. But, from December 18th through the 31st, he did travel more than 1,800 kilometers from Cairns to Surfer's Paradise with half a hundred strangers, seeing the Great Barrier Reef, Whitsunday Islands, Fraser Island, Brisbane and Gold Coast, among other locations. While the weather was as expected, ridiculously hot, the activities more than compensated for the heat as we spent a significant portion of time in the pool, river, lake or ocean, and the rest of the time I spent in a pool of my own sweat.

The main attraction was the Whitsunday Islands, what several natives said they would most like to see if they vacationed in Australia. The Whitsundays are a group of 74 islands composed of dense green pine forests, vivid blue water and roughly contoured coastlines that give the group of islands instant eye appeal. I spent two days from December 23rd until the 25th sailing the islands, going to the beaches and snorkeling the waters in-between, in what was definitely something I won't forget. I slept on the deck both nights, next to three of the loudest snorers in the Southern Hemisphere, on a hard rounded surface that made my back ache for the next three days, but it was well worth it.

Of course, the real highlight of the trip was meeting so many wonderful people from all six continents. There were approximately 50 of us from all over the world - Singapore to South Africa, Switzerland to New Zealand and Montreal to Sao Paulo, and we all spent our Christmases together in the Whitsundays. We started each of my dozen days at around 6 or 7 a.m., averaging two or three times as many drinks-consumed than hours-slept per day, and bonding over unique stories and shared adventures in beautiful coastal Queensland, Australia. Some of my own personal highlights include:

10. Sleeping on the deck underneath the stars on a flotilla yacht in the Whitsundays
9. Cuddling a koala in Kuranda
8. Winning the Battle of the Sexes contest in Cairns by stripping, lap dancing and drinking mystery beverages
7. White water rafting the Tully River, a class 3-4 rapids
6. Surfing on the coast of Surfer's Paradise in the Gold Coast
5. Diving into a waterfall and lake on the border of Queensland and New South Wales
4. Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef
3. Drinking beer underneath the Milky Way on a farm in Rockhampton
2. Swimming with sea turtles in the Whitsundays on Christmas Eve
1. Caryn introducing herself to the German by calling him a douche bag. "Vaht es a douche bag?" "You're a douche bag."

It was a fantastic trip and exactly what I needed. Now there is some irony in that this two-week holiday has actually made me want to go back home. I traded a Christmas vacation in California for a Christmas vacation in Queensland, and took this trip to fully experience Australia. I wanted to avoid the Americans and hang out with Europeans and South Americans who like me, came here with an open mind and desire to see a new part of the world and the culture that lied within. And I loved the culture and adored this part of the world. Yet, by hanging out with Americans, incredibly funny, sweet and smart Americans, I realized how much I miss all of my friends back home, and by seeing the best sights in Australia I'm not sure what more there is left for me to really see and do here on the limited budget I am on.

There are a few people who want me to stay and quite a few more who want me to come back home. I'm at a point where I'm happy to go back home for good within the next few weeks or month, unless something compelling enters my life and coerces me to stay. I'm still convinced that there are more opportunities for me here, but the extent of which I'm uncertain. I now have two recruitment representatives working with and for me, and during this "transition period" I can see more of Australia. It's a new year and with that come new goals and new resolutions, but mine are the same as they were on August 27th: to see more of this world, to gain life perspective, to meet amazing people and to come back to the States a better and more-rounded person. Nineteen weeks down, 33 to go...??

Week Nineteen Summary:
Weather: HOT. In Queensland the sun really beats down on you...
New observation: ...it's little wonder why skin cancer is a problem in Queensland. I went through an entire bottle of sunscreen and then an entire jar of aloe vera :(
New activity(ies): white water rafting, surfing, snorkeling, koala cuddling, sailing, German mocking, kangaroo eating
New food: emu, crocodile and kangaroo
New word(s): sus, as in dodgy, as in sketchy, as in "The bus driver is sus."
New people: An Aussie who used the international distress signal by accident, a German douche bag, a Slovakian drug dealer, an Indian 7-11 worker and a French Canadian who's spending the week at my place
What I miss: Tara Zoellner, Matt Gorman, New York City, rooting against the Patriots, everyone from my amazing holiday