The hotel this time was near the IBM offices rather than close to downtown. That was really nice in the mornings, and nice to drop the briefcase and change clothes after work before going into town. But at times, like after a 24-hour travel stint, it was tough to make myself go back to town. But make myself I did. I had wracked my brain to think of things that I hadn’t done last year but still wanted to do. One thing I missed was the Barangaroo Reserve, just West of the bridge. Last year it was under construction, so I started out walking around that well used path on the edge of the waterfront. Then ate something, and halfway through the meal felt like I was going to pass out… I guess I didn’t handle the sleep on the plane as well this year as I did last year. Limped back to the hotel and passed out!
|The view of Sydney from the IBM office in St. Leonard, north of the Harbor bridge.
We are here for our last official funded class to train TRIRIGA software. Much of my travel has been for these classes and we don’t yet know what will happen in the new year. Class started on Monday, Halloween in the US, and Halloween in Australia. But no comparison. We didn’t even see any evidence of Halloween. Mike said at home we got LOTS of kids as usual. My boss was kind of bummed to miss Halloween at home and I vowed that I’d help him not to plan travel over holidays.
Tuesday was more of a holiday in Australia, it was Melbourne Cup day. Apparently in Melbourne they don’t work at all on Melbourne Cup day. In the rest of the country they stop working at 2pm and go to a pub to watch the races.. a horse race on par I guess with the Kentucky Derby. SO, we stopped class and went to the bar and watched the races. I even donated $10 to the cause. (Jameka didn’t win). But we had a fun evening getting to know our colleagues.
Wednesday evening our new team member, Melissa and I, went to a play at the Sydney Opera House. I heard that My Fair Lady was playing, and directed by Julie Andrews. But alas, that was sold out, so we opted to see the play “A Flea in her Ear“. Funny, quite enjoyable, and nice to have this memory in the Opera house and with Melissa. I guess one major differentiator between the last trip and this one, is that last time I was here alone and we worked every night until last in the evening. This time, the class was ahead of schedule the entire time, and we were there with a bunch of colleagues and free evenings. Totally different.
|Melissa and I at the Opera House
Thursday was punctuated by the World Series. Three of my students were big baseball fans, and the exercises we were working on were very independent. The room was quiet and as I looked around the room, the three were listening to the game in their earbuds, and others were falling asleep. So I had them project the game to the front of the room, and we watched the last 2 innings of that most historic game. The non-Americans got quite an education on baseball. Come to think of it, so did I.
Friday the class finished the weeks agenda by noon, so we took the afternoon off. I was renting a car for the weekend, so three students and I took off for the car rental and drove out to Featherdale Wildlife Park that promises you can pet kangaroos, wallabies, and koalas. The park did not disappoint.
|Nick kissing a Wallaby
|Me and a Koala
|Melissa and a Kangaroo
Then Melissa and I went out to dinner before I went to Square Dance with a local club. We got a little lost and so were late, but once we found it the club was fantastic. Of course square dancers the world around are a friendly lot. Melissa decided to come and watch. I never expected that they would get her up and dancing for a tip! We had a lot of fun, and met a lot of nice Australians! The club was the Greenwich Swinger caller was Brian Hotchkies, Australia’s “fun” caller and he was. They gave us gifts, and invited us to join them of “tea and snacks” (meat pies and cookies). Two squares plus a few.. fun evening, both of us vowed to come back next week.
The next morning I took of in my car toward a weekend trip to Jervis Bay. On the way down (3 hour drive) I drove the inland route through Kangaroo Valley. Reminded me a lot of North Carolina. I stopped at Fitzroy Falls to stretch my legs for a few minutes. Someone on the path said they saw a pair of Echidna so I hurried up the path, but later wished I had asked them specifically where they were.. I didn’t see them, but because I was looking I heard something scratching around in the bush (forest for you Americans) and I saw a mating pair of Lyrebirds. This is apparently very rare and very good luck.
The lyrebird is a mimicing bird and can mimic anything. I of course couldn’t get a peep out of him but here is a youtube video of a lyrebird mimicing construction sounds… Amazing.
By early afternoon I was at Booderee National Park on Jervis Bay at Greenpatch Beach the Whitest Sand in the World according to Guinness. I had come and hauled snorkeling gear all the way from the states. This bay is supposed to be ripe with wildlife and lots of mammals due to it’s extrusion out into the ocean. So I decided to snorkel. But once I put on the gear and got in the water.. well, the ocean felt SO BIG. I really wasn’t comfortable, which really surprised me. Maybe it was that the sand was fairly churned up and without someone else out with me, I wasn’t sure how far I could see…. And I couldn’t see much. Maybe it was just the “without someone else with me”.. and no one on the beach either. I found lots of excuses so ended up visiting a lot of the beaches, and walked up to the old lighthouse, which was in ruins because when it was built, they built it in the wrong place and it caused a lot of boat crashes. Even after they quit lighting it the bright stone it was built out of misdirected ships, so they had to tear it down. But from the cliff edge you can whale watch. The whales were on the tail end of their spring migration south. I saw a few groups.
|Nina.. my host.
That night I opted not to stay at a hotel and instead decided to give Couch Surfing a try. I’ve always thought AirBnB was a great option because you get to meet local people and see how they live. Well IBM won’t approve AirBnB as lodging. Recently I discovered Couch Surfing which is like AirBnB but is free, people offering a room for the night for free. Perfect. I could filter and say I only wanted a private room in a house where the host was a woman, roughly my age. To my delight Nina said yes. Her husband was away at a conference and she was going to paint her living room that weekend, but I gave her and excuse to stop painting and go out with me to a local pub for fish and chips. She lived out on a small ranch and before dinner we enjoyed a cup of tea and watched the nightly mob of kangaroo come into the neighbors pasture to graze. Lovely evening, lovely woman. And the stars out there were so great as the sky was SO DARK. Being a star fan and having never had a good look at the Southern Sky, I really should have gone out to watch them, but I was exhausted and so had to watch them through the window from my bed. In the morning 1000 birds must have been singing just to me… How relaxing.
I went snorkeling in the morning at Huskisson’s, Shark Net Beach with little more success than the evening before. So instead decided to take a wildlife/whale watching boat tour of the bay. I saw a dolphin just from the beach before we even got on the boat, On the boat we saw some seals in a couple different places and about 3 groups of whales. They looked close, but when I look at the photos, they seem awfully far away.
When the boat trip was over, it was time for me to head back to Sydney. This time I drove up the Australian Equivalent of the Pacific Highway (Grand Pacific Drive), except it felt a little weird as I headed north, the ocean was on my right! It was a BEAUTIFUL drive. I drove over the newly finish Sea Cliff Bridge. I took one wrong turn within a few miles of sea level ended up at Sublime Point Lookout at 415 meters (1300 feet) high. (That’s my kind of wrong turn, and of course there was a geocache there).
Second week of Class/Activities in Sydney
Back to work on Monday! That evening Ian, one of our team members who lives in Sydney, invited us all to his Apartment (on the 16th floor with a gorgeous living patio and views of the city) for a regular Australian BBQ. We all pitched in some cash and he had shrimp, lamb, kangaroo, and lots of alcohol. I, for one, had altogether too much to drink before any food was served, and come to think of it, there wasn’t really much eating at all. Someone (perhaps Nina) had warned me that from her understanding BBQ’s in Australia were nothing like BBQ’s in the states… and while not entirely different, I do understand that statement now. It was more grazing all evening than any kind of meal… again impaired by alcohol I cannot be sure that was the intent, but that’s how it was for me anyway. It also happened to be my birthday, so of course I was very grateful that Ian had thrown me such a nice party!
|Jack and Zeina
|Unfortunately missing the “bug tail” photo.
The next day was Election day in the states, and 1pm Wednesday Australia time was 7pm Eastern time in the US. My boss, fearing the distraction at 1pm, suggested we take a late lunch. Well, again, my superstar class, had finished everything by 1pm so we adjourned for the day. Some stayed and watched as states started coming in, but we all ended up back in our hotels by the time the realization started hitting that Trump might be the winner. No socializing happened that evening. The next day emotions were high, and I had 2 girls in my class that were totally out of line for a professional venue. It was a hard day to get through, and I was glad it was our last day of formal training.
That evening though, Melissa, and her boyfriend (who had SURPRISED her by flying out from Altanta to Sydney for our second week there), treated me for my birthday to a dinner cruise of the Sydney harbor. What a treat, and what fun. Dinner was accompanied by live music, but is was difficult to see outside through the windows in the dining room, so as soon as dinner was over we headed up to the top deck where we were outside and could take in the sites. Mary and Chris, two other team members showed up on the boat too, so it was a very social evening.
Friday we all had a free day in Sydney. Zeina, Josh, and I headed out to Bondi Beach. It was a beautiful day, soaked in some sun and relaxed. There is a coastal walk along the cliffs for 6 kilometers passing numerous beaches and overlooks with stunning views. Josh wanted to walk the whole thing. Zeina had done it the last week, I was along for the ride, so we started out and immediately ran into two other classmates starting out on “the walk”. We walked about 2 kilometers past two beaches, where we were looking for a cafe for lunch. About a kilometer and a half in I fell down, stepping on the edge of the sidewalk and twisting my ankle. I am surely tiring of falling down! No serious damage, scraped palms and scrapped knee and sore ankle but my walking was compromised. I limped along until lunch, but knew that after sitting for a while… I’d be done. Later that evening I was planning to meet a few people and walk up one of the towers of the harbor bridge, and then as promised I was heading back to the square dance. But after the fall I decided I’d better just head back to a hot soak and packing and bed early.. I was leaving Australia in the morning.
Hunting in Montana
Meanwhile, back at home, Mike (who I know I hardly mention in this blog) went hunting with three of his boys in Montana. This was Dan’s last year as a resident since he has moved to Topeka, so he decided it was high time they all got together and he organized the whole thing. He drove to our house and picked up Mike and our trailer and they drove out together, meeting up with the Jed who lives in Ogden and Josh who flew to Salt Lake from Phoenix, at the camp near Dillon, Montana. Well, they enjoyed their time together, and hiked from dawn to dusk. Mike came home with a back so beat up he can hardly walk this week. They were hunting for deer, elk and wolves. The whole week they didn’t see a single animal on public land, except the elk in the back of some other happy guys truck. They did see a lot of animals on private land so, although Mike hadn’t seen this behavior before, it seems they have taught themselves to seek out these private sanctuaries at the sound of a gunshot. Jed had vehicle issues mid-week and with the hunting frustrations went home early. Two other friends of Dan’s, Gus and Calvin, joined them at the end of the week. Dan and Mike ended up taking Josh back to the airport, and Dan had truck trouble too, so they ended up staying an extra day in Ogden getting the Truck worked on. Luckily, the work was being done by Mike’s son-in-law, Cory, so it didn’t cost him an arm and a leg, but they got back to our house at 2am, and Dan took off again for home about 9 am the next morning. Overall though, it was ok, since he was back in plenty of time for work on Monday.