Monday, June 28, 2010

Prepare to be boarded

The advertising for the boatshare may contain slight exaggerations

This past weekend Amy and I took the course and passed the tests for our Australian boat licenses. What spurred this was our desire to participate in a boat share in our time here, which is basically like a vacation time share but instead of getting a condo on the beach, you get access to a boat.

Passing the examinations were no cakewalk, even for a seasoned boater such as Amy. For the written part, there was a mass of information to learn about navigation and markings on boats, i invite anyone to try the sample test. In addition to this trial, there is also a practical section in which one must demonstrate basic competency driving a boat. For Amy, this was no problem but I had a greater challenge to overcome. For one, I could barely understand the Aussie instructor. In addition to this, I had no idea how to do what he was requesting. Case in point, he had me practice docking the boat against a concrete bridge abutment, rather than a nice, padded, wooden dock. Bad call. It resulted in him shouting, "NO NO NO NO!!!!!" and grabbing the wheel from me right as we banged into it. I declined to point out to him that "NO" is not really a specific instruction such as left/right/forward/back. Thank God it wasn't our boat. I passed regardless.

Docking malfunction

What this means is that now we will have access to 2 boats - a 24' ski boat and a 27' ocean cabin cruiser to further our diving, skiing, wakeboarding, tubing, fishing, spearing, and general cruising around. Not to mention that we will be able to take any guests that may happen to come visit out to enjoy any of these things.

Out on the ocean, anything goes and in due time we will be hosting monkey knife fights, offshore gambling, and conducting weddings of any nature (person/animal, person/inanimate object, etc).

It also means that all other boats in the Sydney area are preparing to be boarded, pillaged, and eventually ransomed.

Furthermore, in recognition of our hard earned status, please address all correspondence to Captains Amy and Chris.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

End of the Rainbow

In amongst the rain yesterday the sun decided to come out and although it was pouring rain where I was, there was an amazing double rainbow for almost half of the ferry ride.

Compare this to a subway ride in NYC any day!

Monday, June 14, 2010

God save the Queen

The Queen's Birthday was celebrated in Australia this past weekend and all the working stiffs got Monday off to mark the occasion as they saw fit. This is odd only because according to our British friends, no one gets this day off in England. I think it is the sort of thing that no Aussie wants to acknowledge out loud for fear of having it taken away, like in the last minute of class when everyone knows the teacher hasn't assigned homework and no one is raising a hand to remind her.
Anyways, this being our first Queen's birthday, we were a bit scattershot in our approach to celebrating but I would like to think that the old maid herself was up at 4 in the morning drinking, just like us. More on that later.

World Cup Central in Darling Harbor

We started the weekend by attending the World Cup kickoff ceremony in Darling Harbor after a massive dinner in Chinatown. Sydney is one of the official host cities of the World Cup and they have huge screens set up in the harbor for viewing the games as well as vendors and an overall carnival atmosphere. We stopped by for the opening ceremony and then ran/drove home to watch the first game - Mexico vs South Africa. This drive was interesting as it featured a singalong version of Bohemian Rhapsody which starred James as DJ, Debs ad Chris as Freddy Mercury and Amy as the fuming sober driver. The issue of a fuming sober driver raises the important point of "if you didn't want us screaming in the back seat, why did you allow Bohemian Rhapsody to be played?".

The answer to this perfectly logical question is still to be determined. For anyone who watched the opening match, you will surely agree that this was an exciting game and a great way to start off the World Cup. This whole exercise however was a mere dry run to help us decide where to watch the upcoming England vs USA game the following night.

Royal National Park

Saturday morning was a day spent as surely the Queen would have enjoyed, hiking in Royal National Park, about 50 minutes south of Sydney. This park is the 2nd oldest national park in the world and its conversation was modeled after it's older sibling, Yellowstone National Park in the US. It is a beautiful expanse of wilderness that follows the coast for many miles just south of the major metropolis that is Sydney.

Sun starting to go down in Royal National Park

The hike started off in an underwhelming fashion as it was mostly on a fire road which is essentially a dirt road through the woods used by rangers to inspect for forest fires and the conditions that may cause them. This is a great idea but it makes for a bit of a dull hike. It was however spiced up by the passing of the occasional child cross country runner. What kind of a sick parent sign their kid up for cross country running? To paraphrase the great Kenny Powers, kids want to play real sports, not be the best at exercising.

Tread the path

Our hiking was greatly rewarded however upon the discovery of a fantastic waterfall at the end. I don't know how high it was as it disappeared into the canopy below us but it had multiple cascading levels and after some investigation, we were able to climb down the side and into a grotto that had been hollowed out behind the wall of water.

This made everyone's day. It was awesome sitting on this ledge as hundreds of gallons of water rushed down mere inches from your face.

Waterfall. Awesome.

Next up was the brutally early 4 AM England vs USA game. The promise of white russians, bacon, and french toast casserole drew us out of bed at the appointed time, arriving at 4:20, with 10 minutes to spare before kickoff.

We were in enemy territory to watch the game, with our hosts Kat and Webs hailing from the UK but this advantage was quickly overlooked by them after England scored a goal within the first few minutes. God knows I didn't want to have to hear about it from these people for the next few years so I stirred my white russian and began to focus my cheering/wishing powers at the glowing receptacle of the television.

Can I get a do-over?

This paid off late in the first half when the US scored a totally BS, blooper reel goal. My shrill laughter that followed witnessing this will surely haunt the Brits for generations to come. Their disappointment was absolute and they begin making excuses about "luck" and so on. I calmly explained that the British goalkeeper simply couldn't stand up against the sheer POWER of the American strikers. We all knew this was a ridiculous and boastful lie. However, my hubris went unnoticed by the gods as we held on to the 1-1 tie. After which, we went back to being on speaking terms.

Sadly, the same outcome cannot be said to have happened for the Australian team on their first outing. The Socceroos suffered a 0-4 loss to Germany. The poor Aussie fans added the shame of this loss to the insult of having to wake up at 4 AM to watch it occur.

Dutch fans mesmerized by the TV, except that one woman who clearly does no want her picture on the internet in that hat.

We ended the 3 day weekend at an event sponsored by Holland House, which featured drinks and a viewing of the Holland vs Denmark game. This was an exciting event with the crowd swathed in Holland's orange and a marching band making their way through the crowd. The Dutch fans were intense, screaming and cheering along with the game. The place erupted when the 2 goals were scored and the crowd was magnanimous in victory at the close of the match. It was a great way to finish off our weekend of royal festivities.

God save the Queen.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Another Crazy Australian Sport

Guest Blogger Amy here with a sportscast. This week some of the girls at work recruited me for their netball game. Little did I know this is actually a global sport, although it hasn't made it into the Olympics yet.
Check out the awesome skorts!

Armed with a post it note diagram of how the game works and a few words of encouragement from the girls we were off. Confused by the diagram? Me too.
My favorite rule of this new game is called the obstruction rule - where your foot needs to be 3 feet away from the person that you are defending before you start defending, after they catch the ball. Completely counter intuitive to all prior defensive strategies that I've ever learned, I definitely won the largest amount of penalties.

Thankfully they stuck me in the place where I could do the least damage and we crushed the opposing team by a healthy margin. Apparently everyone else on the team had played this before and actually knew the rules!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tasting, Climbing, and Footie


This past weekend Amy and I ventured forth to try out 3 new things.

These lines would move faster if everyone would push harder

The first was trying the offerings of the various restaurants in Manly at the Manly Food and Wine Festival. We ended up trying out some Thai food and a couple of glasses of wine before giving up on the lines. the food was good though and it was situated right on the beach which made it a great stroll. We sat on the seawall and watched surfers ride the waves and tourists roast in the sun.
Spiderman's got nuthin' on me

We followed up the food and wine fest with some exercise and ventured out to the rock climbing gym Climbfit. We went with some friends, some of whom were veterans. Amy had never tried this before but took to it well once I tricked her into thinking that I wouldn't let her fall. Yeah, yeah, I'm watching. Just jump already.

Do a flip!!!

We capped off the evening with a barbecue of entirely too much food and just enough beer and wine. I have been eating leftover chicken and sausages all week. Mmmmmm....

Sunday's new venture was an Aussie Rules Football game. You may have seen this on Sunday afternoons in the NFL offseason on ESPN2 or some other random, space filling time. Taken at a glance the sport resembles a pack of large men chasing a greased football around a gigantic field, occasionally kicking it and frequently waylaying eachother with reckless abandon. Upon closer pretty much looks the same only even more awesome.

Go for the weak spots- eyes, throat, groin, etc.

I simply cannot understand why this sport is not more popular. The athletes are all gigantic and run miles every game, the gameplay is like a cross of keep away, soccer, and one of the better scenes from Braveheart. Also of note is when the ball goes out of bounds, it is returned to play by a referee who faces away from the players and blindly chucks the ball as high and hard as he can back onto the field. The only real oddities are that it is played on a cricket oval and the game length - 2 hours. Neither of these however should be a real impediment to its growth. Seriously, people are choosing cricket and baseball over this? There is no justice in the world.

Guy on the left is clearly throwing an elbow

Cheap Flight of the Week

Already tired of that Northern Hemisphere summer? Want to try out universal healthcare before it invades the US? Do you like countries that are awesome enough to warrant their own continent?

Come to Australia!!!

The cheap flight of the week is $903, jump on it or be doomed to live the rest of your life wondering what could have been....