Monthly Archives: March 2014

In Brisbane

It’s been called Brisneyland or Bris Vegas on account that it’s a place to party and have a good time. I didn’t know that until I arrived and given the amount of time I spent there, partying, learning, taking in the scenery I feel confident that I can say I agree with those two nicknames. Now, that doesn’t mean that there are rides and attractions all over the city, but there is plenty to do and see that makes the entire city fun and enjoyable – and not just for the adults, for the entire family too.

After a quick flight up from Melbourne, Brisbane was a welcome sight. Firstly, there was a ton of sun and it was much warmer to boot – and this was still July (Winter) but I felt right at home because the weather is so similar to what I experience in California. Secondly, it was just nice to finally be in the city I was going to call home for the next six months.

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View from apartment balcony

I was put up in an apartment just off Coronation Drive and it was conveniently located to a shopping centre complete with market, a subway & CityCat ferry terminal, and more importantly the bar/restaurant The Regatta, and a First Choice Liquor, a store similar to the American BevMo or Total Wine & More. I would end up spending many a night at The Regatta, no matter what day of the week it turned out to be. What more could I ask for?

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The city close up

This being my introduction into Brisbane I didn’t want to do anything too rash or get lost so with a small group of about four or six, we set about exploring the surrounding area and found that if we wanted to find something relaxing to do after a day at Uni or just on the weekend, we could find it in this area or easily hop on the public transit and go somewhere else. We were situated just on the outskirts of the city to experience the night life, but also far enough away so that we could have some peace and quiet when we wanted. The best of both worlds.

It wasn’t a long flight but it was a quick transition into “OK, I’m here now and tomorrow is when I actually have to do work” because there was an orientation the next day and it was for all international students so we could get our IDs, change any classes on our schedule and other administrative stuff. I didn’t fly to Australia to just party, I was there with a purpose…but partying was part of that.

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Melbourne

It’s Melbourne. Not Mel-born or Mel-bournee or any other butchering of the name of the capital of Victoria. Here’s some audio to support this:

Pretty simple right? Eh, not so much. I still here people mispronounce the name and maybe that’s because they’ve never been there or they just don’t know any better. Hey, I once watched a ‘Wheel of Fortune’ puzzle where the category was ‘On The Map’ and the last two words were ‘New Zealand’ and they had a few of the letters up top to let you know the answer was ‘Auckland’ – hell, it even got down to missing the ‘U’ and still the dummies couldn’t guess it…. You wanna know what happened next? I’ll show you:

“I still haven’t heard of it.”…….gahhh. Anyway, enough of  tangent, back to Melbourne.

Many consider Melbourne to be the cultural centre of Australia and I may or may not agree. I did not spend a whole lot of time there (actually only a day) but it’s certainly nothing like Sydney or Brisbane. Melbourne is home to the Australian Open held every January and if you didn’t know, it’s part of the tennis Grand Slam which also includes the US Open, the French Open and The Championships Wimbledon. But it, like Sydney and Brisbane, have museums and theatres but for some reason many label Melbourne the cultural centre. Maybe it’s because they hosted the Olympics back in 1956 and that was the first time the games had come to the Southern Hemisphere and it was also the first time they were held outside of Europe and North America. So maybe, just maybe, it all stems from that but I won’t comment any further because I’d rather not tick off the friends I have in Brisbane, Sydney, Perth or wherever else they might be around Australia.

Here’s a taste of what I saw, which was mainly exteriors because I was just walking around the city taking in various sights.

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Into the Southern Hemisphere

As I stood in the line for Qantas (keep in mind this was 2007, so I remember the gist of everything but not certain details) , I remember thinking “this is going to be a very long flight”. Certainly the longest flight I had ever been on up to that point in my life. Up until that roughly 15-hour flight the longest flight I had ever been on was an 8-hour ride to Spain in the Summer of 2004, it was also the only other time I had left the United States and here I was about to venture off to the other side of the world, literally, and be the farthest away from home I had ever been. Luckily, the flights to Australia generally take off at midnight from Los Angeles which can allow an easier transition to the time change because by the time you land you’ve lost two days. I remember trying to stay awake as long as I could then just passing out and, when I woke up, watching some movies and TV shows until we landed.

Now being a California guy I enjoy wearing shorts year round but the cold doesn’t get to me like most Californians. When it dips below 60 I see people bring out their scarves and mittens and beanies. I just wear my shorts, a sweatshirt and most likely sandals. This happens other places I go too. If I can wear shorts, I will. The cold doesn’t really bother me. I bring this up because I left the USA in July and this being the Southern Hemisphere, it was winter so it was cooler/cold but not to the point where I needed to layer up. It was a bit of a shock stepping out onto the cool street and knowing that it was July but I acclimated quickly.

I should note that one of my companions, who turned out to be one my good friends on this trip – I called him “T” on account of our affinity for the movie Men In Black, lost his luggage – rather the airline lost his luggage and sent it to Tahiti or someplace so he was stuck wearing the same clothes for what I think amounted to a week and a half, maybe two weeks. He had a good sense of humour about it and, still, seven years later I still bring it up and laugh about it. He literally washed his socks, boxers, and shirt every night in the sink with soap & water. It also taught me to always travel with a spare change of socks, shirt and boxers in my carry-on. So for that T, I thank you.

To help all of us newcomers to the country get acclimated to the time change we stayed out in the small beach resort town of Sorrento which is about and hour and a half south of Melbourne. Why did we stay out here? I have no idea, but I was not going to complain given the scenery. One of the first things I remember doing after putting down my bags was heading down to the beach and exploring the area.

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After exploring the coast for a bit and examining the tide pools and watching the crashing waves for a while I believe it was time to head back and partake in the boring part of why we were all there: orientation. What a great way to end the day huh? Sitting down… hearing about acceptable behaviour, social customs, pronunciation of words and things of a similar nature being discussed in great detail…Oh, and advice/guidelines for us so that we would not end up in jail or worse, deported. Don’t worry, that didn’t happen. It was boring and informative, but it sure put me in the mood to sleep, that’s for sure. It made for an easy transition into Australian life.

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Living Down Under

Back in 2007 I decided that I needed to expand my horizons and I wanted to travel and study abroad. My heart ultimately settled on the continent/country of Australia. While most of my friends ventured off to Europe with Spain & England & Italy being top destinations, I decided that I wanted to go someplace that was a bit more out of the way but would also be an excellent experience for me. I figured that if I landed anywhere in Europe I could get to other countries in Europe relatively easily by way of a plane, a car or a train.

Australia is not like that.

Australia is an island. A big damn island. A big damn island SO BIG that it was once used as a prison! Why wouldn’t I want to go there?!

The stories that will follow will be my first-hand accounts of what I experienced, felt, and learned from my six month stay Down Under, which also (spoilers!) included a side trip to New Zealand. I aim to provide you with the sights and sounds of each city, beach or town that I visited during my stay and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! Stay tuned!

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A Visit to World Cup History

The Summer of 2002 was a magical year for the Stars & Stripes at the co-hosted World Cup between South Korea and Japan. It saw them advance to the quarterfinals only to fall to eventual runner-up Germany. But it was also a huge success for the Asian hosts. This was the first time the tournament had ventured to the Far East and the two hosts performances laid the foundation for their current crop of national team members and their supporters. This was only the 2nd appearance at the World Cup for Japan with their debut coming four ears earlier in France. They have since qualified for each following World Cup, including this Summer’s contest in Brazil. This is a young soccer nation and they have proven that they should not be taken lightly. The host for the 2002 final was the city of Yokohama, roughly 25 miles South of Tokyo and being being soccer fans Sean and I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to take a tour of the stadium.

The first step was getting to the stadium from Tokyo. Up until now, we had mainly used the JR and Tokyo Metro and in order to get there in a timely manner we decided to take the Shinkansen (Bullet Train). It was also an excuse to ride the famed Japanese Bullet Train.

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A quick and quiet 18-minute ride later and we were in Yokohama and there are signs at the train station that point in the direction of the stadium which only made it that much easier.

After navigating the streets and adhering to the directions from the signs, we were at Nissan Stadium.

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It’s a massive structure that was on the border of the city and suburbs. It is also a popular destination for runners and joggers, as we saw numerous people running by the stadium.

As we walked toward the entrance it was easy to try and put ourselves there back in 2002 and imagine the sea of Yellow & Blue & Green and Black & Red & Yellow parading into the stadium, cheering and singing all the way. On this day, it was empty.

At the stadium entrance there is a small statue commemorating the final and the entire tournament with the bracket and group results filled out. Being a USA supporter I quickly found the spot where we beat our archrival Mexico and knocked them out of the World Cup in what has led to a series of matches where we beat them 2-0, or Dos A Cero (en Español).

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Dos A Cero!

After basking in that glorious moment that took place over a decade ago, it was time to take the tour. Normally, the tours operate at certain times and since we thought we had just missed the first tour of the day we were prepared to wait around the gift shop or the stadium until the next scheduled tour. This was not the case. No one showed up for the first tour and since we were the only two people waiting for one we were treated to what turned out to be a private tour.

The tour guide filled us in on when the stadium was built and walked us by the banners and plaques commemorating the World Cup group matches played there and the home team Yokohama F. Marinos of the J-League. From there we went inside the stadium.

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Once down on the field level we really got the scope of the stadium and just how massive it really is and how loud it must have been on the night of the final. Speaking of the final, what must have it been like to be in that winning locker room? I’ll show you! While it is impossible to recreate the moments and atmosphere of that event, the Japanese do a great job preserving the memory of the final. Upon arriving in the locker room we see jerseys of each player hanging in their respective locker and it was hard not to get giddy at the fact that we were standing where Brazilian greats like Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Kaká and Ronaldinho once stood and celebrated. They also had each player sign the wall behind their locker and they then encased in in plastic to preserve it. They also preserved the white board coach Luiz Scolari used on which he predicted that they would win based on adding up the years previous champions, Germany and Argentina, had won and they all equaled the same total. He also boldly predicted, based on this equation, that they would win again in 2006 in Germany – not so much.

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After touring the locker room we were brought into a room where the players practiced shooting on  goal. It is literally a goal painted on the wall with a diving goalie added for effect. And yes, you can even take a shot on goal!

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After barely making a goal, the ball just slid inside the “post”,  we were led to an area that housed many items of memorabilia from the tournament. Items like signed jerseys, balls, and programs from different matches throughout the World Cup played at the stadium and just beyond that, is a gigantic mural pieced together artfully depicting “The Beautiful Game”.

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This was the final destination for us on our mini Japanese adventure and it was a fitting conclusion to a fun-filled trip.

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