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'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