Posted By MattDoc

Hey everyone,

 

Sorry it's been so long since my last post. I've been in Egypt for  just about two weeks. I've been taking tons of photos that I'll be sharing here once I get settled again.

 

Stay tuned.

 

 


 
Posted By MattDoc

 
Posted By MattDoc



On June 29 the new EastLink tollway will be open in the eastern area of Melbourne. This includes the two brand new tunnels that go under a protected wilderness area. To celebrate the opening, they had a festival at the Ringwood interchange. It included bike races, classic cars on display, and a chance to walk through the tunnels.


 
Posted By MattDoc

This past weekend was a long weekend here in Melbourne (and most of Australia). Monday was a public holiday honoring the Queen's birthday. Leslie and I used this as a chance to finally get out and see the Great Ocean Road.

For those who don't want to read the info at the link above, the Great Ocean Road is a long stretch of road along the coast of Victoria. Along the way it passes through beach towns, national parks, rainforest (but not tropical ones), and some of the most incredible scenery you'd ever witness. It's no wonder that it's considered by many to be one of the greatest scenic drives in the world.

Our trip started from home in Melbourne Saturday morning. Most of the driving the first day isn't too exciting as it is spent getting from Melbourne to the coast by way of Geelong, where the Great Ocean Road (B100) is picked up. After a quick stop at the Info center to load up on brochures and maps, we continued on to Torquay.

Our first stop here was Surf World - The World's Largest Surfing Museum. I left my camera in the car here but Leslie got some good shots. It was pretty cool to see how the surfboards have evolved over the years.

Shortly after that we stopped in Aireys Inlet to check out Split Point Lighthouse. This was the first of the scenery we expected on this trip.

We then continued down the beautiful coastline to Lorne, our base of operations for the first day. Along the way, the weather, which started kind of rainy, started to improve. We still got some rain here and there in Lorne though. After checking into our hotel and having a bite to eat for lunch at a place on the beach, we went out to explore.

Behind Lorne is the start of some of the rainforest areas that run along the coast. Hidden in the forests are a whole bunch of waterfalls. We decided to try to check out the one with the easiest walk from the nearest parking, Erskine Falls. The falls were not running too heavy, but the rainforest was amazing. And, as you'd expect, it started to rain on us when we got there so we didn't explore too much more than the hike to and from the falls.

After Erskine Falls, we went out to Teddy's Lookout to take in the scenery. All I have to say is, Teddy knows how to pick the spots!

By now it was getting a little later in the day so we drove back into town to check out some of the local shops before having some dinner and crashing for the evening.

Day 2 started as you'd expect...we drove. The stretch of road between Lorne and Apollo Bay is some of the best of the entire G.O.R. If you were to stop at every Scenic Lookout, it would take you an entire day to go around 40km. Apollo Bay looked like a great little seaside town. We decided that next time we'd stay there our first night.

After Apollo Bay the road swings inland for a while as it cuts through Otway National Park. The road winds through beautiful ferns and huge gum trees. Our next stop for the day was the Otway Fly.

The best way to describe the Otway Fly is a really tall series of catwalks suspended 25 to 45 meters above the rainforest floor. (That's 80 to 150 feet high for those not up on their metric measurements) Yes, it's that tall...and many of the trees are still taller. The views were very impressive.

When we finished there, it was time to head back to the Great Ocean Road and get back to the coast. Remember, we had been inland for a while.

When the road finally dumps you back on the coast, it does so in style. You are dropped right at the start of the Twelve Apostles...the main reason to make the journey in the first place. At one time there had been some steps to the beach so you could get a close-up view of the incredible rock formations, but they closed the steps earlier this year for safety reasons.

Instead, we had to make use of the viewing platforms that had been set up. It was ok though...the sky was clear and the views were perfect. Throw in a whale swiming around in the water and it was everything you'd expect on a drive like this.

After giving our cameras a workout at the first main viewing platform we continued down the coast. All along this area are different amazing formations that have been carved out of the cliffs by the ocean over millions of years. The best, by far, was Loch Ard Gorge. Words really can't describe it well enough, so I won't try.

After checking out a few more of the sights in the area, we were running out of sunlight...one of the downfalls of doing this trip in winter (but we'll go back in summer). We were just about done with the scenic overlooks anyway so we drove on to find our hotel in Warrnambool. After a fine dinner of some tasty Mexican food (yes...Mexican food in Australia...it can happen) we crashed for the night.

Day three was mostly reserved for just heading home. Before leaving though, we went down to the whale lookout point in Warrnambool. From June to around October groups of southern rigth whales come to the area for breeding. Unfortunately, they were not around when we were so we decided to hit the road for home...it was cold and starting to rain anyway.

We came home to Melbourne by way of the A1...a long, mostly straight road that passes through a LOT of farms with cows and sheep. Not much to see, but it didn't matter, we had a great trip.


 
Posted By MattDoc

So, we're right in the middle of Autumn here in Melbourne (no one calls it Fall) and things have definitely cooled down compared to summer. That's not to say that the winter here was horribly hot though.

Here's the odd thing...we arrived in Australia in mid-August last year. It was the tail-end of Winter at that point.

Sure, the days were somewhat cold, nights moreso, and we had just come from a VERY hot and humid North Carolina summer, yet nothing seemed out of place.

Even as things started getting warmer here as we moved into November and then December, things still seemed normal.

Sure, wearing a t-shirt and shorts on Christmas was different, but instead of not feeling like Christmas it was just Christmas, but with really nice weather.

Back to the present...we just came off a cold and rainy weekend. It was one of those weekends where you don't want to leave the house and just drink hot chocolate (which is not too far from what we actually did). And then it dawned on us...because things are getting colder, we mentally feel like we are getting closer to Christmas. It doesn't feel like June and July are just right around the corner.

It really messes with the past 30+ years of what my body and brain are used to.

I've done a warm January before, but never a cold July.


 
Posted By MattDoc

Dec. 7, 2007

This may come as a bit of a surprise, but life seems to be getting a bit more normal and routine around here. It's kind of strange. We are still trying to get out and see and do new things whenever we can though.

The big event this past month was Vegas. He came home!!!

After three full months in quarantine, it was time for him to be released on November 18. We were quite excited. We had spent time the day before he arrived getting everything for him ready to go. Then, Sunday morning, we drove out to Spotswood and rescued him. Normally, he hates going in his travel crate. This time, he didn't seem to mind too much.

We were not quite sure how he would react when we brought him home. In the past, any time we moved to a new house or apartment, he always spent the first couple of days hiding under a bed until he got a better feel for the place.

It was a pleasant surprise when he walked out of his crate and pretty much instantly explored the whole house and never really hid anywhere. He was home and seemed to love it and has settled in quite perfectly since then.

The only bad thing about the day that Vegas came home was the fact that I had to fly out to Perth later that day. John and I were doing one of our client/prospect meetings there.

In case you haven't pulled up a map yet, Perth is on the west coast of Australia. It's actually almost closer to parts of Asia than it is the rest of the major populated areas of Australia. The flight is around 4 hours or so and there is a two hour time difference between coasts.

Therefore, I flew out Sunday afternoon so we could be there first thing Monday morning. John had flown out earlier in the day and was meeting up with one of his friends for the afternoon so we met up the next morning at the hotel for the event, which went well.

We finished our meetings a little early but couldn't get on an earlier flight than we had booked so we wandered around Perth a little bit. It's not a huge city and is waaaay more laid back than the other areas of the country I've been too. That's saying a lot because everyone is laid back.

It's kind of interesting...in three months I've seen more of Australia than most Australians do in their entire life. Kinda cool, actually.

The next big event for us was Thanksgiving. Keep in mind that it's an American holiday and not celebrated here in any way. That wasn't going to stop us though.

We made plans to do our own Thanksgiving dinner on the Sunday after the actual holiday and invited some of our extended Australian family over to celebrate.

There was one huge challenge though...how to cook the turkey. Finding a turkey here wasn't an issue. The problem is that a standard oven here is much smaller than what we had in the US. Way to small to cook a turkey that would feed two people, let alone 6 or 7.

I asked John what they normally do and he simply said that we could borrow his Weber to cook it. Yes, that's a Weber charcoal grill. We already have our big gas grill but apparently the main way to cook a turkey or whole chicken is on the Weber.

Before we got to our Thanksgiving weekend, Kerri kind of surprised us by having Thanksgiving dinner brought in for lunch in the office on Thursday. It was so cool!

So, our Thanksgiving weekend was now upon us. Saturday was spent putting the finishing touches on the house. It was finally all pulled together. It felt good.

Sunday morning I got up and started getting ready to cook the turkey. The Weber had very specific instructions on how to set it up for indirect cooking, which made it easy. It even included how much time you'd need to cook it per kg.

There was one problem with that though. I didn't know how much our turkey weighed. It was only had a minimum weight on it. Sensational. I essentially had no clue how long it would need to cook. So I guessed and decided it was best to have it fully cooked and done early than undercooked. Food poisoning always ruins a holiday.

Our guests arrived around 2:30, with plans to eat around 4:30 or 5:00. The turkey was done at 2pm. I simply took it off the grill and wrapped it in foil. After we finished the rest of the cooking, everyone sat down to a delicious Thanksgiving meal. It may have been the best turkey I've ever had. The Weber is the only way to do it. With Thanksgiving now behind us, we could start to really relax and enjoy our new home.

Next up, however, was a Hurricanes hockey game!! For the 2nd time this season, the FoxSports channel was going to have the Hurricanes as one of their weekly games.

This one was going to be shown on a Thursday afternoon so we set our DVR to record it. The challenge was avoiding any website that might show the score or results throughout the day. Fox wasn't showing it live, but it had been played at around 11am our time.

Since we talk about the Canes a lot at work, we figured this would be a great chance to share the world of ice hockey with our Australian friends. So, we extended an open invitation to the whole team here to join us for some burgers on the bar-b and some Canes vs Flyers hockey.

A few of the team came over and we enjoyed a relaxing evening of food and ice hockey. Unfortunately the Canes lost the game (actually, it didn't look like they even really showed up).

That was just about it for the big events in the last few weeks. There was another of our three-city tours to meet with our clients here in Melbourne, then Sydney and Brisbane. It all went very well, but was very exhausting. It's good to be back home and able to crash for the weekend.

There was one other small event though. I took some time one evening to wander down along the bike/walking trail near the house to try to photograph some of the birds I had seen there last time I rode through on my bike.

Before we go into that, a quick note on the bike paths....they are everywhere. The trail near our house connects to a whole system of trails that runs along the Eastern Freeway (which is how we get into the city) and branches off into different parks along the way.

So, the birds...Other than your basic pigeon, none of the common birds you see around the city are found in the US. There are kookaburras, magpies (which are loud, aggressive, and everywhere), cockatiels, galahs, and my subject for this evening, the rainbow lorikeet.

These birds caught my eye for a couple of reasons. The first is obviously their incredible bright colors. They are also not quite as common (at least where I usually go) as many of the other birds. Lastly, they are fast! Really fast. You usually see them fly around very quickly in pairs.

I had noticed a larger than normal concentration of them in an area of trees about along the bike path very close to our house so I and my camera went for a little walk. I stopped in one area where I saw a few of the lorikeets flying around and had no luck. Sure, some of them would fly past, but they were way to fast to try to photograph.

I thought I had remembered an area where I could hear a lot of them a little farther down the trail so I moved on. Jackpot.

This section of the bike path has about 20-30 yards of grass, trees, etc. on either side and then houses. More accurately, the fences in the back yards of houses. Here is where I found my birds.

They were everywhere! Flying in and out of the trees, perched on branches, and totally swarming in one of the back yards. One of the houses had a birdbath and some kind of a feeder.

So, I got set up next to a tree close-by (not the one with the hundreds of bees living in it that I first walked up to...whoops) and started shooting. I'll let the photos tell the story now.

As I wrap this up, I'll tell one more quick story. This one is about spiders. I don't like spiders. Not many people do. I'm learning that they have some rather large spiders here. We've been told some stories about some of them but hadn't really had any of our own experiences (other than John knocking one off of Leslie's head the other day...he said he thought it was a hairclip until it moved!)

As I was typing this update tonight, I realized that I was super thirsty so I decided to run up the street and get some Gatorade. It was around 9pm. Even as I walked out back to the car, I was thinking that I should not go near the yard or carport after dark. The back porch is fine, but beyond that is the great unknown, even with the motion sensing spotlight that shines on the car.

I opened the garage door and noticed a small spiderweb going from the door to the ground. Nothing major. I didn't see any spiders. All clear, so I climbed in the car, cracked the window for some air and moved out.

As I stopped at the end of the driveway, it happened. Right in front of my face on the windshield, crawled a spider that had about a 3-4 inch leg-span. My very first thought was, "Inside or outside!?" because I could only see the silhouette of it in the streetlights. I watched it scurry to the top of the windshield and disappear...in a good way. It was outside.

I quickly made sure all windows were closed and floored it down the street in hopes of blowing it off the car. All the while, experiencing the wonderful sensation of creepy-crawlies.

The drive from our house to the supermarket up the street takes about 2 minutes. About 1 minute into the drive, it happened again. The spider crawled across the windshield and up over the top. At least I assume it was the same one. I honestly don't know.

I pulled into the parking lot at Coles and planned my escape from my Escape. The last thing I wanted to do was open the car door and have the spider(s) either get into the car or get on to me. I shut off the engine, removed the seatbelt and positioned myself to launch from the car as soon as the door was opened. It worked (as far as I know).

Next I had to inspect the outside of the car to try to find my not-so-little eight-legged passenger(s). I truly believe that all spiders have the ability to become invisible whenever they want. The worst spider is the one that was just right there, and now isn't. Such was the case here. Nothing to be found anywhere on the outside of the car, or me (though it sure didn't feel like it).

I did my shopping and returned to the car for another inspection before opening the door. Still nothing, so I quickly jumped in and slammed the door and drove home as quickly as possible.

We normally don't leave the garage door open at night. It's not that it is that secure (see the photos above). We just like to keep it closed.

That was not happening tonight. My only goal was to make it from the car into the house without anything hitching a ride on me.

I'm pretty sure I made it, but even as I wrap up the story, I still have that wonderful feeling of something crawling on me. I think if I take 6 or 7 showers before the end of the night it should go away.

We hope everyone is doing well as we get close to the holidays. We look forward to hearing what you all did for the holidays. I'll be sure to share stories and photos of our holiday adventures.


 
Posted By MattDoc
Nov 5, 2007

Almost an entire month has passed since I last wrote. How horrible of me. I know it's no excuse, but we really have not slowed down at all here. I've done some more travel, which I'll write about a bit here, and we've kept moving forward on the house.

For the most part, throughout this time, we've been spending our free time most evenings and weekends continuing to fill the house with furniture and other items. It's kind of a shame that Ikea doesn't have a frequent shopper program...we'd definitely have a free sofa or something by now if they did.

We've been getting out to visit Vegas every week. Well, at least Leslie has. When I'm travelling it's harder to take the half day to get out to see him. He's doing well and is less than two weeks away from coming home. It's been a long three months, but it's good to be close to the end.

Mixed in with some of our house stuff has been more exploring, particularly in the downtown area.

But first a quick note on terminology that we've learned relating to that. When we refer to the main section of Melbourne with all of the high rises and government buildings, arranged in a standard city grid pattern, we call it "downtown" since, to us, everything in our area is basically the Melbourne metro area.

We have learned, however, that that area is simply called "the city" here. And this is the case for all of the major cities. Everything else is the suburbs. The only thing that is actually Melbourne is the small section described above.

Anyway, we have explored more of the city (aka downtown). All of the travel books you read about Melbourne talk about it being the shopping capital of Australia. We could see this even in the suburbs where we are, but it's simply insane downtown. Along with the major shopping centers and department stores, there are hundreds of little shops, restaurants, and cafes tucked away down every street and alley. It's really fascinating to wander around and see what you can find.

One thing we made a special trip to was the Queen Victoria Market. It's the huge outdoor market downtown. A lot of it is where people go to get their fresh produce and meats. That part was fun to watch. Most of it, however, seems to have turned into a bit of a tourist trap shopping experience. While there are hundreds of different little vendors, it really just ends up being the same few styles of shops over and over, most of them selling things that residents of Melbourne would never even think of buying. Therefore, we bought a bunch of stuff.

Now on to work. The first of my two big trips in the past several weeks was back to Brisbane in Queensland. I was heading up there to spend a day and a half with a big new client that had recently signed up. A trip to Brisbane normally would not be a big deal. This one was, however, because I was going solo.

I hadn't done any travel on my own in Australia yet. I wasn't worried about the work part. That was easy. Oddly though, I wasn't worried about the travel part. It was just...different, but at the same time cool. I know that it may not seem like a huge deal, but it was pretty exciting to know that I could manage to get around (both flying and with a rental car) on my own in a strange city in a new country.

The trip went very well and the clients were very pleased with the time we spent.

While I was doing this, we were also getting ready for our next big events...in Hong Kong and Singapore.

The reason we needed to head to those cities was because it had been decided that our office would be responsible for Asia as well as Australia. I had always expected this, just not quite so soon. I guess that's what happens when we (the AU office) exceed our goals and impress the home office right out of the gate like we did.

The events we were going to do in Asia were to be similar to what we had done in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane a few weeks back...our "intensive" events. We wanted to get a chance to meet some of our existing clients who had had very little (and difficult due to time zones) contact with anyone at CA. Also, it was a chance for John to do his Sales pitch to any potential clients. That's right....I was going to Hong Kong and Singapore. Needless to say, I was incredibly excited, especially since we would have some free time to explore.

Prior to this trip, Kerri had spent a week in Raleigh to attend quarterly meetings and planning meetings at the CA office. She was then going to fly straight from the US and meet John and I in Hong Kong.

While she was in Raleigh, I decided that Kerri needed to attend a Hurricanes hockey game. We had been selling our tickets still, but one of the games while she was there had not sold yet so I convinced Kerri that she should go. (It didn't actually take much convincing...she was very excited)

Here was the fun part...the day of the game, we could listen to the radio broadcast streaming online. It was a Friday night game, so it started at around 9am Saturday for us. Throughout the game, Kerri was sending me instant messages on the Blackberry when something exciting would happen. When they would score, she'd record the cheering as a voicememo and send that.

The Canes lost the game (horribly, in fact) but she got to see a few fights (on the ice, thankfully, not in the crowd...we weren't playing Buffalo), a lot of scoring, and even a penalty shot.

Now, on to Asia. John and I got on a direct Cathay Pacific flight from Melbourne to Hong Kong that was scheduled to take off around 1am. The flight was how you want a flight to be...smooth, comfortable, and uneventful.

The timing of the flights was pretty impressive. About the time John and I got to the baggage area in Hong Kong, Kerri's flight from the US arrived in the same area. We gathered our bags and got in our hired car (essentially a nice taxi) to head to the hotel. We were staying in Kowloon.

Quick geography lesson for those who don't know...Hong Kong itself is actually an island. Kowloon is the major mainland area just across the water from the island. I actually knew this before I arrived, but not because of my top-notch education. I learned it from James Bond movies. I'm pretty sure that 007 has been to Hong Kong more than just about any city (other than London).

For those who remember "The Man With the Golden Gun"...the Peninsula Hotel still has green Rolls Royces. A whole fleet of brand new ones. We saw the cars on the highway and parked at the hotel.

The views on our first day were a bit foggy and smoggy, but I didn't care. I was in Hong Kong.

Having been a British territory until around 1997, just about everyone speaks english and all signs, etc are in english. Very helpful for those of us who don't speak anything but english.

We had time our first day to explore a bit. The great thing was that Kerri had been to Hong Kong many times in the past so she knew where to go for the good sights and shopping (both huge shopping centers and the small markets where you can haggle for just about any cell phone accessory imaginable.

I didn't care where we went. I was just enjoying every sight, sound...and smell. I had forgotten about the wonderful smells that can come from a crowded city in Asia. It really is a great part of the experience, but unfortunately one that can't be captured and shared very easily.

That night we wandered a bit and then hit the first of many restaurants where I had to act like I knew how to use chopsticks. The food was good..I just couldn't eat too much of it due to the extra effort involved in getting from plate to mouth.

The next day was our Intensive event. That went very well and wrapped up by around lunch time. After catching up on emails and a quick change of clothes, we did some more wandering around Hong Kong. John had gotten in touch with a friend of his who lives in Hong Kong and we planned to meet him for a drink later.

Being a local, John's friend showed us some great areas of the city that the average tourist most likely would never think to go. Dinner was at a tiny Thai restaurant hidden on the 2nd floor of a shady looking building with an even shadier elevator. But the food was incredible.

After dinner we started the walk back down the hill to the ferry back to Kowloon. Normally this would not be a problem. This night, however, was Halloween. Hong Kong has started to embrace the holiday. I didn't see a ton of costumes, just a ton of people. There were mobs of them in the streets to celebrate.

The next morning, we headed to the airport early for our flight to Singapore. It was about a 3 hour flight and went well.

As with Hong Kong, we had time to wander a bit. But instead of Kerri being the expert, John was the one with experience in Singapore. His younger brother has been living there for several years.

From our hotel we could walk to many of the major landmarks, mostly the old hotels from the old British days. Like Hong Kong, it was colonized by the British at one point.

The fun part for us was how different it was from Hong Kong. As crowded and dirty and fast-moving and loud as Hong Kong was, Singapore was clean, very green, laid back, spread out, and calm. It was a bit more westernized than Hong Kong, if that's possible. There may actually be more ex-pats than locals in Singapore.

Our Intensive event the next morning was incredible. I think the attendees found great value in it, but I may have learned more than they did about how we can help them. It was a great success.

We wrapped up the trip by checking out the Little India area of Singapore before catching our overnight flight back to Melbourne. I got to the house around 7:30am and propmtly went right back to sleep for a few hours.

At this point I am still kind of recovering and trying to get my sleep schedule back to normal, but the trip was totally worth it. It's exciting to think that I'll get to go back eventually.

While I was gone that week, Leslie had some fun with the girls (that would be John's daughter and Kerri's two younger daughters).

First, she offered to take them trick or treating on Halloween. Then, she took them to the zoo on Saturday afternoon. Everyone had a great time.

I think that is all for now. One thing to note, though, is that we all have to get used to new time differences. We started daylight savings time two weekends ago so we moved ahead an hour. Then, the US ended daylight savings time and moved back an hour. This means that we are now 16 hours ahead of the east coast of the US. Kind of strange that we didn't physically move but we lost 2 more hours of difference. Oh well.

Hope everyone is doing well and look forward to hearing from you!

 
Posted By MattDoc
Sept. 24 - Oct 9, 2007

You'd think that things would have started to slow down for us. We've been here almost two months. We should be getting settled and in to a normal routine.

That's what you'd think. And you'd be wrong. (which only partially explains the long delay since my last update)

When we last left you, I was getting ready to head out on a whirlwind trip for work. Because we have a lot of new clients here who had not had a lot of contact with anyone from our company until we got the office opened, and also because we recently bought our big competitor and want to move those clients over to our systems, we started what we call "ChannelAdvisor Intensive."

Basically, it's a half day classroom style session that we run. There are two options that the attendee has. They could do the "sales" one in an effort to learn more about what the company does (and hopefully sign up) or they could do the "services" one. I ran the services one. It was essentially some advanced tips, features, etc. for our existing customers.

We did the first of these here in Melbourne on Wed. the 26th of Sept. It ran all morning and then we used the afternoon to clear up emails and get ready for the next show. Early on Thursday we got on a plane for Sydney. Half the team had some flight delays, but still made it in time for the afternoon session. Same thing as Melbourne, just a different location. Once that was done, we packed up and went back to the airport to fly to Brisbane.

That's right...one day...three cities. The day started in Melbourne, stopped in Sydney, and ended in Brisbane.

Friday we got up early to do our final show at the hotel downtown.

Now comes the really cool stuff...

After that session in Brisbane, everyone's families were flying up to meet us there for a long weekend of rest and relaxation. So everyone's spouses and children arrived that evening on a flight from Melbourne.

Part of the reason for this extension of the trip was to scope out potential locations for our Catalyst event to be held next year (our version of the conference we do in Pinehurst in the US). But the first order of business was to have fun.

We piled in three separate Holden Commodore rentals and headed slightly south to the Gold Coast. This area is a very popular resort area. I think it gets compared to parts of Florida in the US (specifically Miami).

The hotel we stayed at was right near the beach so we had great views of the ocean. From there we had a nice short drive to Dreamworld. We all spent the day Saturday there riding the rides and having a blast.

The only challenge for the day was with my glasses. I have never had trouble with them at theme parks in the US. If I'm going to ride the big rides I sometimes put a strap on just to make sure they don't fly off. I had this in place but the operator on our first ride of the day turned me away.

I had to literally get a note from the doctor in order to ride the rides with my glasses on. Ok, well, not the doctor exactly. But she was the nurse on duty at the first aid station. I didn't care. It meant that I got to ride the rides AND see where I was going. I would not be as lucky the next day. Dreamland also had a small wildlife area where Leslie and I got to hold a koala. We were pretty amazed at how incredibly soft their fur is! That, and how bad they smell. But I guess you'd smell too if all you ate was eucalyptus!

For part of the day, the girls had a good time at the connected waterpark. I held on that fun because we had plans to hit another waterpark the next day.

That night, however, was time for more grown-up fun. After the youngest and oldest from our group (aka the small kids and their parents) called it a night. Lesie and I, along with the younger guys from the team, headed across the street from our hotel to the casino. Leslie had the urge to try some blackjack.

We wandered around the casino floor a bit, trying to figure out where we could try our luck. Being a Saturday night, it was quite crowded. Eventually, after camping out at a $5 blackjack table, a seat opened up and Leslie grabbed it. Shortly after that, the seat next to her became available so I hopped in.

While we were playing, a couple of the guys from our group jumped on to a $10 minimum table. By the end of the night, Leslie and I were up a total of about $70. We decided to stop when the table changed dealers and the guy hit 21 three hands in a row. It was a sign for us to call it a night.

Kris from our group was the big winner. He started with $100 at the $10 table and walked away with over $300. Needless to say, the next round of drinks was on him.

It was a sluggish start to the day Sunday. A late night at the casino will do that.

On the agenda for today was Wet N Wild...the huge waterpark. We got started later than planned, but it was ok. You only need so much time at a waterpark anyway. I hadn't done a waterpark in years and you know what....they're still fun!!! Even more important, I escaped without getting fried by the sun! I did, however, have to go the entire day without glasses. They were not allowed on the slides at all. No exceptions. It was still fun. I just had to make sure my group didn't jump off a slide and run to the next one without me...yeah, I'm blind without them.

While on the topic of glasses, at dinner one night John's 7-year-old daughter, Charlotte, asked me why I wear glasses.
"Because I can't see very well," I replied.
"Why don't you just get a guide dog?" she inquired.
"Because I don't have to feed these." I answered, while pointing to my glasses.

It was priceless.

That night we had dinner at a restaurant at the hotel (that somehow managed to have high chairs, but no kids menu...try to figure that one out). The younger guys (the ones without children or spouses) ran to the airport to head back to Melbourne that night at the end of dinner. The rest of us were staying on to check out the meeting spaces at the hotels.

Monday morning we met with the sales folks from the hotel to look at their conference space. They were friendly, but their spaces were either too small or shaped weird and would not work for our events. So we walked across the street to the big convention center.

Being a convention center, they obviously had the space. It was just a matter of what was available when we wanted it and what rooms we would need. They had everything from small meeting rooms to a full size arena.

After lunch and a late checkout, we loaded up the cars to head north. We drove back past Brisbane up to the Sunshine Coast. Our next stop was a very different type of resort. It was a more family oriented location. A little older and more laid back.

But we had work to do here as well. After several loud buffet meals (adults were seemingly outnumbered 3:1 by young, screaming children) we were skeptical of whether we could do our conference at this place.

The next morning, the sales team at the hotel changed our minds and won us over. The location, as it turns out, is going to be perfect for the event.

After a long several days away from home, we headed to the Gold Coast aiport to fly home. The airport was tiny (one gate). But we thankfully didn't fly in a little puddle jumper. We were in a full size jet. It was almost bigger than the airport!

The rest of that week, back in Melbourne, was spent recovering and catching up on work.

For Leslie and I, we got back to trying to turn our house into a home. Friday night we made another journey to Ikea to try to get something to sit on. Up until now all we had was a bed, an air matress, and my video game chair. We figured Friday night would be good so it would be delivered on Saturday while we waited around for our TV guy.

The TV service we were getting is Foxtel. We were getting the full package to start (no choice on that) and threw in the IQ box...their DVR system which we had missed since leaving Raleigh.

Mr. Foxtel was scheduled to arrive, in true cable guy form, between noon and 5pm on Saturday. No big deal. Plenty to do around the house while we waited.

There was just one problem...I had been searching the online tv guide to see if they ever show hockey here. Well, they do. Not only that, they were going to be showing the Canes vs Penguins game at 3:30pm on Saturday!!!! Right in the middle of our installation window. This was stress I simply couldn't handle. Would Mr. Foxtel make it in time?

Not to worry though...Mr. Foxtel (well, more accurately...Foxtel-san, once we met him) actually arrived early. Once the box was hooked up, I immediately set it to record the game (and then did a test recording of the Simpsons to make sure it worked).

Now it's time for a small side story about Foxtel. But this one is only for the guys. I don't do this often, but this is worth mentioning...

One of the channels we get here is the E! channel, like we had in the states. One of the shows in the US on E! follows Hugh Hefner's (Mr. Playboy) three young girlfriends. In the US, it's really just training grounds for the guy who does the graphic blocks over nudity. Here in Australia, they haven't hired that guy yet.

I knew that this country was more laid back than the US, but I didn't expect full nudity on regular TV, any time of day. I'll leave it at that. Back to our story...

I spent the rest of the day putting my huge grill together. Yes, it took the rest of the day....putting the legs on twice (once incorrectly, once almost correctly...they're still not right, but it hasn't fallen down yet)...two trips to Bunnings (think Home Depot) for various home improvement items, including the gas tank for the grill.

It was all worth it though. That night we enjoyed some steaks from the grill followed by the Canes beating the Penguins 4-1. The Fox Sports channels here show several hockey games each week so hopefully the Canes will turn up again in the schedule.

Sunday we had plans to head downtown to see the Pixar: 20 Years of Animation exhibit since it was leaving in a week. It was incredible. It was filled with artwork and sculptures from the artists who did the concept and design work on the Pixar films. It's based in NY so if you ever get a chance to see it, definitely check it out.

Some of the rest of the time was spent exploring more of downtown. All of the travel books say that Melbourne is the restaurant and shopping capital of Australia. I saw why that afternoon. Every side street and alleyway has a shop, cafe, restaurant, bar, etc. It's actually quite cool looking. I'd say that I think things are going to slow down now, but that's just not true. I have a few more potential trips in the near future that I'll fill you in on when they get closer.

It's just amazing to us that a) we've been here two months already and b) we're in Australia. We still have those moments when we do the "Holy crap, we live in Australia!" It tends to happen randomly throughout the week, but it does still happen.

At the same time, we are occasionally amazed at how far we've come since we arrived. We are starting to get used to some of the little things that we noticed as different when we got here. Some of our "green-ness" has started to fade as we adjust to the way of life here. And I think that's a good thing.

We're getting comfortable here, and not just because we finally have furniture to sit on.

 
Posted By MattDoc
Sept. 16-23, 2007

I'm going to pick up right where I left off last week. The plan for Sunday (the 16th) was to get furniture. We only had until Friday before we had to be out of the temporary house so we couldn't wait any longer.

The bulk of our time was spent back at IKEA. We had shopped around many places but just couldn't bring ourselves to spend 3 or 4 times more for furniture.

We got to the big blue store right as it opened at 10am. We learned later on that this was very wise. At one point when we stopped for a quick lunch in their dining area we could see the constant flow of cars heading into the parking deck. It was madness.

Having never actually bought furniture from IKEA before we weren't sure how it would work. After we made our picks for bed, dresser, couch, dining table, and chairs, we went to one of the service computers to get it all figured out.

The IKEA worker pulled everything up on the computer and made our purchase order. The only problem was that the couch we wanted was not in stock and would have to wait a week or so. Not a big deal.

We worked our way through the section of the store with the smaller items (glasses, accessories, etc.) before heading to the big warehouse. The dining chairs and some pieces of the bed were in the "self service" area and the rest was the full service section.

With a cart full of boxes and other items, we went through checkout and then over to wait for our larger items to be pulled out for us. Since many of these items were too big for us to take now, we simply rolled them to the next counter for the delivery. For a small fee, everything was set to be delivered the very next day!

The entire process of picking out our items, paying, picking them up, pulling the car around to the loading area, and loading the car, took about 4 hours. Intense!

Next it was matress time. We had our eye on one at a furniture place closer to the house in the Mitcham/Nunawading area so we went back there. We placed our order only to find that they had none in stock and it would take 7-10 days to get it delivered. Not good since we needed something to sleep on by Friday. We weren't too worred about it though.

There was only one more "urgent" item to get before we moved out of the temporary place...a fridge. As long as we had something to sleep on and someplace to store food and drinks we'd be ok for a little while.

We only had about 30 minutes before all of the stores would be closing (only open until around 5pm even on Saturdays) but we made it. The fridge was set to be delivered Tuesday morning. Whew. Time to relax a bit before starting a new week.

While I was at work, Leslie was camped out at the house (ours, not the temporary one) doing some cleaning and getting ready to accept the IKEA delivery. No surprises there thankfully.

Tuesday was about the same. Only this time, we were a little nervous about the fridge because we noticed after we had left the store Sunday night that the paperwork had the wrong brand on it. Needless to say, they delivered the wrong thing. Not a big deal though. In the US this most likely would have been boatloads of trouble and probably extra delivery fees. Not here. A few phone calls and the right one was set to arrive the next day.

It arrived as expected, but we had one challenge...we still had no electricity in the house. It turns out there was power running from the street to the house, but they do some strange thing here where they remove a fuse when a tenant moves out until the new one moves in. The braniacs at the power company had forgotten this step. It took several phone calls and one electrician to get this figured out.

There wasn't too much more excitement the rest of the week. We used the time to move things from the temporary place to the house.

Once again, I had a quick trip to Sydney on Friday. I've been here for 5 weeks and I've already been to Sydney three times (and going back again next week).

The interesting thing this time was that I woke up and was picked up by John from one house, and then dropped off at the end of the day in another house. We were finally in our place. Still no bed, TV or furniture to sit on, but we were there!!!!

We didn't think that the lack of bed thing would be a huge deal since we had a couple of air mattresses. Boy were we mistaken. By Saturday morning I was essentially sleeping on simply a thin piece of vinyl that was laying directly on the hardwood floor. My air bed was the special self-deflating kind.

But then...a moment of hope! My phone rang! Jokingly, Leslie said, "Answer it quick, maybe it will be about the mattress delivery." I was not as optimistic. But lo and behold, it was. They couldn't deliver that day, but Sunday would work. Only one more night of extreme discomfort.

Saturday this week was super-dooper shopping day. In a matter of around 5-6 hours we brought home (or arranged delivery of) a TV, DVD player, washer and dryer, a 4-burner gas grill (4 burner is the small size hear....yeah), and two mountain bikes.

That's right, bikes. We discovered that this city, especially the eastern suburbs, is disected by a ton of walking a biking trails. Combine that with the fact that I'm really close to the new office and I decided it was time for me to get back into biking a bit, even if it's gradually.

It was quite a day. When we stopped to think about it, it was somewhat overwhelming to think about everything we just purchased. But when we realized that it's all stuff that we really need just to have to try to live a normal life, it wasn't so bad.

After that we had work to do. Our night was spent with cam locks and allen wrenches as we finished assembling the Ikea furniture.

Finally, Sunday morning had arrived. The morning was spent waiting for the delivery of the sweet, sweet mattress. It was late, but we didn't care. It was here!!

We decided that we needed to escape a bit so we made plans to go to the Royal Melbourne Show. The name of this show does not even come close to what it actually is. It's a fair. A huge fair. For those who have seen it, it's comparable in size and spectacle to the NC State fair.

For 10 days each September it is set up on the showgrounds near the Flemington Race Track. It has rides, midway games, food, animals (livestock and otherwise), shopping, and showbags. What's a showbag? Glad you asked!

The show is all about the showbags. I think it started years ago when some vendors would make up little sample bags of different products and either give them away or sell them at a discounted rate. Now, it has grown out of control. Most of them are food or candy related but some are toys or magazines.

There is an entire huge building dedicated to these things. It's wall-to-wall people buying as many as they can carry. The idea is that you spend something like $12 and the bag is filled with $100 worth of stuff. Some stuff is good, some is not.

Beyond that, we checked out some of the animal areas (alpaca were awesome!) and some of the food areas (free samples of wine, beer, food, etc.).

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that we got to the show by taking the train. Our house is about 5-10 minutes from one of the stations so we parked the car and took the train. Saved a lot of time and frustration (of getting lost and dealing with parking). It was my first time on the trains here but Leslie had done it a few times to go see Vegas in quarantine. It went pretty well, and it was very nice to be able to just plop down in a seat and relax for the trip home.

After two nights of air mattress hell and a day of non-stop walking around the Show, we were ready to crash for the night.

 
Posted By MattDoc
Sept. 4-15, 2007

Things have really started picking up speed since my last update. We officially signed the lease for our house in Donvale on Sept 4th. That was pretty exciting, and also relaxing to know that we didn't have to keep looking for a place.

From what people have been telling us, we're pretty lucky to have found anything at all. The market for properties here is crazy.

Our move in date was set for the 12th of Sept, which was two days before we were supposed to be out of the temporary place. Normally, that would be enough time, especially since we don't really have much stuff to move just yet.

However, the week of the 10th was scheduled to be a crazy one because there were two eBay-related conferences for me to attend...one in Sydney and one in Melbourne.

Therefore, we extended the temporary place by another week. Whew. We could relax a bit and have some extra time to get moved and buy some furniture.

There was just one problem...we still didn't have our car. The reason we didn't have the car was because I was waiting on the finalization of the 4-year visa. Without that, I couldn't get the car. Or so we thought...

My car guy called me to check in on the 5th to see how things were going. I told him no visa yet, but we had our house. A few hours later he said we could pick the car up on Friday. It seems that having a lease for a place to live is enough proof that we're not going to be leaving any time soon. Finally...no more rental car!!!

Thursday of that week I went with John out to Ballarat (about an hour or so outside of the city) on a sales call. While on the road I called an got some car insurance (they kind of need me to have that before they hand over keys) and then we dropped off some documents at the dealer that evening.

Friday that week (the 7th) was pretty much a normal day with one cool exception. We got to pick up the car!!!!

So, many of you are wondering what we got. Ready to laugh? We bought another Ford Escape. For those who didn't know, we had one in the US for 4 years before moving and we loved it. This one is brand new (06 model). We took some photos of it with a nice view of downtown while we were out and about on Saturday.

Things were really starting to fall in to place. We had a house and a car. Now we just needed permission from the government to stay here longer than 90 days.

As it turns out, that came through on Friday too! We still have to go and get new stamps in our passports, but we have visas! We can stay!

Now that house and car shopping were behind us it was time to start looking at furniture. Friday night we hit a few places in the area but were not blown away by too much. So, Saturday morning we headed to the huge IKEA that was between our area and downtown. We parked the car, by chance, on the top level of the parking garage and, as luck would have it, there was a nice view of downtown. What a great chance to take some photos of the new car!

I think the population of the greater Melbourne area is somewhere between 4 and 5 million. It's a big area, but that's still a lot of people. You'd think that newcomers like us who only know 6-7 people wouldn't be bumping in to anyone when we're out shopping. Not so.

While walking into IKEA, we ran in to Kerri from work. She was going to look at furniture for our new office. Very random.

The furniture shopping that we did that day ate up just about the entire day, but it seems like we might have figured out at least some of what we wanted to get. We'd wait until next weekend to purchase and arrange delivery of the larger pieces. On a side note, it was interesting to note some of the background music that they choose to pipe into the IKEA. I had the pleasure of hearing David Lee Roth's "California Girls" at one point. Just didn't seem to fit the furniture shopping experience.

Since getting here, Sunday has been our day to explore and relax. This Sunday was no different. We decided to get up and head to St. Kilda for their weekly Sunday street market. All along the Esplanade near the water there are various artists and craftspeople selling their creations. It's a great way to see what some of the local artists have to offer. Some of it was targeting more of the tourist crowd (which we only partially fall into) but overall it was nice to just get out and take in a little of the local culture. From what we've heard and read, things like this are very common in Melbourne.

Next on our list was the aquarium. We jumped in the Escape and headed downtown. The aquarium is right on the river downtown so it was easy to find, but hard to park near. As you'd expect, they had some great exhibits and we even timed it right to see the sharks and other large predators during their feeding time.

The garage where we parked the car was not going to close for another couple of hours after we were done in the aquarium so we walked across the bridge to the Crown Entertainment Complex...more commonly known as the casino. We knew that it was there but hadn't planned on visiting it just yet.

As with all casinos, once you walk through the doors, you are in a different world. You'd have no idea that you are in downtown Melbourne at all. You could be in just about any casino, anywhere in the world. Outside of the gaming area it did have its fair share of shops and restaurants that we will have to try out.

Sunday night was time to hang out and get packed for my trip to Sydney for the PeSA (Professional eBay Sellers Alliance) conference that was on Tuesday. I was flying out with John and Kerri first thing Monday morning.

Our flight to Sydney was uneventful, which is always good. The only challenge for us was the fact that we had three large boxes and an extra large suitcase of things for our exhibit booth for the conference. The boxes had everything from pens and keychains to brochures and banners. Why spend the time and money to ship the boxes ahead of time when you can just check them as baggage?

Upon arrival in Sydney we loaded our boxes and bags on a cart and made our way to the rental car. This time around it was not a purple sedan, but a black minivan. Eventually there would be 6 of us to ride around so we needed the space. After the car was loaded it was back into the airport to wait for Jennifer Gibson, our head of International at CA, who was flying in from a few days R&R on Hamilton Island.

Now that everyone was here, it was time to head to the hotel. This event, and our hotel, were being held at the Sydney Olympic Park. The complex was quite impressive with all of the hotels and event venues. The eBay conference was to be held in the Acer Arena. I belive that it was where they did the main indoor events like the gymnastics.

We all got checked into our hotel rooms and met up with Matt and Kris, who had arrived the day before. After a quick lunch in the hotel restaurant, it was time to go to the arena to get our booth set up for the event on Tuesday. Even though our space was somewhat small (see the photos) we made the best of it.

Now it was time to do a little bit of sightseeing. We piled into the minivan and headed for the downtown area. At this point it was just late afternoon so we still had some daylight left. Before I realized it, we had parked at the base of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, right across the water from the Opera House. The view was unreal.

We made our way on foot around to the Opera House just before sunset. Once again, it was quite amazing. Since we were all in our CA conference uniforms (boots, pants, shirts, and coats, from R.M. Williams) we made sure to get a team photo on the steps of the Opera House. Kind of hard to believe I was standing there.

Next, it was time for some dinner. We chose a place with a great view of the Opera House as daylight faded and the building was lit up. The restaurant was called "Waterfront" (you'll never guess where it was located). Everyone, except me, had some great seafood. It's going to get harder and harder to avoid the seafood here. There is pretty much an endless supply of great, fresh seafood.

From PeSA Sydney
As we had a loooong day ahead of us on Tuesday, we called it a night at this point and went back to the hotel to crash.

I don't feel the need to go into the details of the conference day on Tuesday, but I will say that it was as busy as we expected. The day started around 7am and didn't end until around 11pm. It was pretty much non stop talking with cliets and prospects. I spent a lot of time doing demos of our software for potential clients.

We took some time on Wednesday to do a small amount of site seeing near Manly Beach for lunch and then it was back to the airport to fly home. Getting six people and a boatload (well, I guess planeload) of bags and boxes checked in was uneventful, as was the flight. It was nice to get back home to Melbourne.

While I was in Sydney on Wednesday, Leslie got to pick up the keys to our house!!!

Ah, but we weren't done yet. We still had a dinner planned downtown that night with the main PeSA guys and a few eBay sellers. I had just enough time to shower and change for dinner before John was pulling back into our driveway for the 30 minute trip downtown.

Dinner started around 8pm and around 9:45pm, Kris, John, Matt, and I excused ourselves to step outside and dial in to a worldwide ChannelAdvisor conference call. It was an all-hands company meeting to announce some big news. Very big news (but we already knew).

ChannelAdvisor had aquired one of our biggest competitors over the last 5+ years, MarketWorks. This was huge. We planned the dinner around it because everyone but us at the table were MarketWorks clients. Now they were our clients.

Dinner wrapped up later and it was good to not be sharing a hotel room that night with John (he snores a bit).

The next day we had to prepare to do it all over again. The same conference was in Melbourne on Friday so we had to get ready on Thursday. It was to be held at the Flemington Race Course just outside of downtown.

Before meeting up Thursday afternoon to set up the booth, Leslie and I first went to visit Vegas for a bit. The quarantine was not too far from the racetrack.

Setup went well and we all got to escape early to truly relax before the next big day. And the day was huge. There were almost twice the people and we were twice as busy as we were in Sydney. By the time the day ended, after we entertained a few clients at dinner that night, we were all exhausted. We crashed at a great old hotel downtown called the Grand Melbourne hotel.

Finally, we had made it to Saturday. But wait! There's more! We were not done yet! We had organized a winery tour for some of our contacts from eBay who were in town (and a client). We all met at the hotel in the morning to get on a small bus and head out to the Yarra Valley to check out a few wineries. On the way, we stopped and picked up Leslie. This was too cool for her to miss out on.

As with any wine region, it was beautiful. We started our day with some champagne at Domaine Chandon. Then, just to mix things up, we went to the Healesville Sanctuary.

Leslie and I had been planning to check this out anyway since we get in for free as Zoo members. It was way cooler than just a zoo. It's all very natural environments and it's all Australian animals. We got there in time to see their birds of prey demonstration. Obviously, I had my camera with me for this one.

We were on a tight schedule for the day so after that we checked out a few other animals and then our guide took us back to the bus to head to De Bortoli for lunch and some wine tasting. Everyone was having a truly nice and relaxing day and we still had one more winery to go to!

Our last stop of the day was Immerse. While we weren't blown away by their wines, they had a great setup. There was a spa and some meeting space so we are keeping it in mind for company events.

Leslie and I didn't buy any wine that day, but we did get some nice olive oil! When the bus dropped us at home it was time to crash, which is exactly what I did. I had to rest up because Sunday we were going to spend all day shopping for furniture to fill our new place.

Whew...what a crazy couple of weeks!

 


 
Google

 
 
 
Recent Entries
 
Category
 
Archives
 
Links
 
All images © Matt Dougherty unless otherwise noted.