13 March 2008

Australia Trip

Well, I’m back from my trip to the land down under, which, from my perspective is actually the land up above. Well, really, the land west above. But you get the idea. I’m back, and I’m eager to report on my business trip.

For whatever reason, the person who booked our flights was unable to get me a flight to Adelaide without some sort of overnight layover for me, which was rather annoying since it added a night to my journey, but alas. So, I flew to Aukland on Tuesday night. After a bit of confusion (like calling a hotel and asking them to come get me since I had just arrived, but the clerk said I didn’t have a reservation at that hotel, and I was completely perplexed and worried about what I was going to do since the domestic terminal in the airport actually closes! But then I realized I had called the wrong hotel. And this was the longest parenthetical explanation ever!) I arrived safely at my hotel outside of Aukland. I travelled there via a taxi, and I had a nice chat with the Samoan taxi driver. About seven hours later, I left the hotel to catch my flight to Adelaide.

At the airport in Adelaide I saw my old roommate’s doppelganger. (Thanks for the word, Allison.) This girl looked exactly like my old roommate, Priscilla. I can’t tell you how confused I was when I saw her at the counter. All I could think was, “But Priscilla lives in Canada, not Aukland! And why won’t she say hello to me? Surely she has seen and recognized me!” It even crossed my mind that perhaps Priscilla had witnessed a mob-sponsored crime in Canada and was in the witness protection program, and that was why she couldn’t say hello to me.

The flight to Adelaide was about five hours, and I really wasn’t expecting such a long flight. I got to see August Rush on the plane, and it was not very good. Extraordinarily contrived and predictable. I could go for the theme of the mother missing her child, but the idea of a one-night stand producing that sort of longing and affection in a couple was completely ridiculous. Also, I find Robin Williams pretty annoying these days.

After I met my co-workers at the airport we headed to our hotel where we caught up on a bit of rest, and then we went to dinner with our Australian business partner, Alan, and his wife, Anthea. I had a delightful seafood dish. I love red snapper!

On Thursday we met with Alan for about seven hours. It was one of the longest days in the entire world. Also, we tried to find breakfast at the “deli” next door to Alan’s office, and that is where I had the worst donut of my life. Just awful. That night we ate at a Thai restaurant, and I was rather disappointed with my food there as well.

On Friday we had our first presentation at the South Australia State Library. The presentation went quite well, but we decided to revamp it for future presentations, once we had a better idea about our audience and what they were hoping to learn from our presentation.

That night we had a nice picnic dinner with Alan and his family. It was great to get to know them a little better and to relax in the warm Adelaide evening.

On Saturday we flew to Sydney. We arrived there a little before noon. After we dropped off our luggage at the hotel, we hit the tourist sites. We took a ferry ride over to Manly Beach, and we spent a little bit of time swimming in the ocean. I got a little bit sunburned, but not badly enough to peel. On the ferry ride (both ways) we made sure to take lots of photos of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and of course, the Sydney Opera House. The harbour there is really beautiful, and I hope to have time in the future to go back and spend more time. Sydney has a great transportation system, and you can ride all the ferries, buses and trains (within the inner city limits) for only $16 per day. It’s really a cheap way to get around- much cheaper than renting a car.

That night we went to The Rocks, which is an older part of the city that has been kept up quite nicely. We ate at a little Italian place, and then we headed back to our hotel.

The following day we went to the Hyde Park Branch in Sydney. It was an interesting mixture of people, with oodles of missionaries and tourists. In fact, I would say the branch is comprised mostly of tourists and missionaries. But, you know, the Church is true everywhere, so we had great lessons and great speakers.

That night Alan flew into Sydney, so we met up with him and grabbed a bite to eat at Darling Harbour, which was just a short walk from our hotel. We were glad that Alan suggested we go there because the environment was just lovely, and we would have completely missed were it not for Alan. For dinner, I ate a filet of barramundi fish, which reminded me a lot of Tilapia. My colleague, Jonathan, had kangaroo, and he let me have a bite. I didn’t care for it, and I was glad I didn’t order it.

On Monday we gave our second presentation. We had completely revamped it based on the feedback (or lack thereof) and questions from our presentation in Adelaide. Our group was very talkative and responsive, and we felt like we got a lot of our questions answered and a lot of feedback, which is really what we were going for.

After the presentation and our little follow-up meetings we had a bit of time to sit and chat with the locals about kangaroos, koalas and opossums. One lady that worked at the society library said a parton came in once refusing to put her bags in the lockers. When questioned, she told them she had a joey in her bag that she was taking care of because the mother had been hit by a car. So, the society librarian let her hang the bag on the back of the door in her office. Mostly the joey just slept in the bottom of the bag, but he would pop his head out every time the phone rang.

They also told us about what a nuisance opossums are- how much they smell, how territorial they are, how they burrow into your attic and such. And because opossums are protected in Australia, people aren’t allowed to remove them from their nesting sites.

After that and yet another meeting, we started our drive to Canberra. Ordinarily that is only about a three-hour drive, but because of traffic it took us about four hours to get to Canberra.

Alan’s distant cousin is the wife of the Finnish Ambassador to Australia, so Alan had arranged for us to meet with them and eat dinner with them. I was a bit out of the loop in the planning of this trip, so I really didn’t understand what this dinner was all about, where it would be or what to expect in general.

As it turns out, we were simply invited to come eat with the Ambassador and his wife in their home. All growing up my mom told me that I needed to have good table manners in case I ever got invited to eat dinner at the White House. I doubt I will ever do that, but I think my dinner at the Ambassador’s house was as close as I’ll ever get.

Seriously. This was a top-notch, multi-course, multi-fork meal. With servants. (What do we call them these days? The meal was the best I ate in Australia. Just terrific! And the conversation was very interesting. As you might expect, the Ambassador and his wife have done quite a bit of travelling, so they have some very interesting perspectives on various parts of the world and politics.

We spent that night in a hotel in Canberra, and the next day we gave our presentation at the National Library in Canberra. It was our smallest group, but they were very interactive and helpful. Following our presentation and lunch with them we headed to the national archives to meet with somebody there. After that we had about an hour to kill before we needed to catch our flight, so we drove around for a bit looking at the embassies and ambassador homes. Then we went to the War Memorial. It is actually a war memorial and a museum, and it was the main highlight in Canberra, which is a capital city without much going on. I’d really like to go back to the War Memorial with Eric and spend some more time in the displays and galleries.

After that, we went to the Canberra airport to catch our flight to Melbourne. From our flight we went straight to our hotel to rest. Yvette and I ordered in for dinner that night because we were just too tired to wander around town to find something. The next day we gave our presentation to our most lively and interactive group of the four. We really appreciated all their kind comments and suggestions. After our presentation, we ate lunch with many of them, and then followed up with small meetings with about four different associations and groups.

That night the four of us grabbed dinner, then I went out with Yvette to see the town a bit more and to help her find trinkets to take back to her kids.

On Thursday we headed to the Melbourne airport to catch our respective flights. I was really pleased that my whole journey would be only about 8 hours, whereas Yvette and Jonathan would need to travel for more than 24 hours to get home. AND they’d have to go back to snow, but I’d get to get to my sunny flat on Tweed Street.


John said...

There's organized crime in Canada?

Sounds like a great trip. My co-worker had a family of opossums in the atic of his home in Canberra. Although I am not sure if I beleive him because he also told me that spelling didn't matter as long as you could recognize the word.

Love ya!

allicat4 said...

You live on Tweed Street? How CUTE is that name? What fun adventures you are having! So, plane tickets to NZ these days are pretty pricey, but I'm keeping my wee eyes open for a good deal!

Leighanna said...

This is great info to know.