Sunday, October 30, 2011

Wine Glasses and Dissenting

On Thursday I rented a car with a Dutch girl I met at the hostel and took off to Wine Glass Bay, a scenic area north of Hobart. The drive was very scenic, and the day was clear and beautiful. It felt good just to drive a car again. It was my first time driving a car on the left side of the road; the driving part wasn't really the problem, it was the orientation of everything inside the car. I kept on turning on the windshield wipers when I wanted to signal, and I kept on reaching over my left shoulder to fasten my seatbelt, only to be swatting at thin air.

Wine Glass Bay was very beautiful. We started by wandering around Coles Bay, on the other side of the mountain, first, then heading up to the viewpoint over Wine Glass Bay. I found the viewpoint to mediocre, but when we headed down the mountain and hit the beach, it was far from mediocrity. The white sand was fine, much like a Thai beach. The water was cold as balls, however. My feet were more than I wanted to immerse in it. We took another way back to the parking lot, which lead around the mountain we crossed to get to the beach. The path wasn't very exciting, the highlight of it a pleasant beach that had a mother Wallaby with a Joey.

On Friday I started my new job at the Kathmandu outdoor gear store. I was really thrown to the wolves this first time round by being put on the sales floor without knowing anything about the store or it's products, but simply telling people I didn't really know much but would help them out was a more than adequate response for them. One kick ass part of the day was when I received a voucher for an employee discount of 70% off for anything in the store. Time to buy some new gear!

Yesterday I braved the soggy, shit ass weather and headed out to the Parliament Grounds to take part in the Occupy Movement, a worldwide protest that's been ongoing around the world, aimed at stopping corporate greed. It started out well, but seemed to lose it's steam quickly. The message started to get blurred when everyone split off into groups to talk about different aspects of civil liberties, workers rights, etc. It slowly became more of a forum than a protest, like there was no fight in anyone. However, it was good to see the Australian point of view on the matter, and the fact that the crowd was diverse, a bold sign that more and more people are taking notice of this world problem.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Plugging the Money Drain

I can finally stop the steady drain of funds from my back account, now that I have a job! On Monday I got hired on at a local outdoor gear store, doing retail work. It's not many hours right now, but hopefully that will change within the next month. On the TasRail job front, I had an interview with an immigration lawyer they hired for me on Tuesday, and she told me that with my qualifications, I had a good chance of getting a work residence visa. The only downside to this is that it might take up to six months to process the visa. I can only hope that the paperwork goes through quickly enough to trim some time off this. Although it's not totally bad, if I have to wait that long then in the New Year I'll spend it doing some farm or winery work to build up funds, then travel with the time I have left. I do still want to do Indonesia...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

To Prison and Back

On Tuesday the Dad and I took a day tour to Port Arthur. The first half of the tour was a speedboat ride around the peninsula to see the spectacular coastal cliffs around Port Arthur. They were exactly that, spectacular. The maneuverable little boat took us right into coastal caves and to the open ocean to view some feeding dolphins. We cruised along the coast sighting seals and enjoying the views. Apparently we had hit this on an absolutely perfect day; calm seas and completely sunny skies are somewhat of a rarity around there. Four hours later we were back in Port Arthur to tour around the Port Arthur Prison, an old penal colony built by the British hundreds of years ago. It was a great historical site in terms of beauty and substance alike. We toured around for a couple hours, checking out the crumbling buildings that once housed some of the most dangerous criminals in the British Empire.

Wednesday was spent drinking beer on a patio under the warm sun, a good end to my Dad's trip in Australia. And the next day he was off to Sydney bright and early, spending a day there before heading back to Canada. It was good to see him again, it had been so long since I've seen any of the family I miss dearly. Now I'm back on my own again, back to my own devices. I checked into a small hostel again, another cozy, friendly one, the type I prefer to the larger ones. The only drawback is that it is quiet here, and lots of people tend to keep to themselves. Maybe I'll just have to wander the halls singing to break the ice.

On Friday I headed out to the local Exhibition with a couple girls from the hostel. Much like Capital Ex back home (but on a small scale), it really showed how farm-oriented and redneck Tasmania really is. We watched a wood chopping competition, laughed our asses off at pig racing, and strolled through markets full of Affliction T-shirts and Southern American rebel trucking carpets, you know, the ones with the American Flag and Eagle and shit on them. It was a pretty good time though, and a good way to spend an afternoon in the sun.

The weekend wasn't too eventful, mainly just handing out resumes in an effort to plug the drain of funds from my bank account, and rugby. The New Zealand/France game was a hell of a game, with the All Blacks winning by one point! The game also put in perspective the rivalry between Australia and New Zealand, and just how disrespectful they can be towards each other. The bar we were at was ignorant enough to have a live band playing during the World Cup final, and at the end, instead of showing New Zealand receiving the trophy, the program immediately changed to some shitty Vampire show. I find this absolutely fucking disgusting. Even though there's a huge rivalry between Canada and the USA, we still keep the channel on when they hoist the Stanley Cup in the air, for god sakes. GOOD ON YOU NEW ZEALAND!!!

Tomorrow I meet with the immigration lawyer to discuss my visa issues, hopefully so I can get that job at TasRail

Monday, October 17, 2011

Welcome To Da Island

The last day in Melbourne was spent searching for a new netbook to replace my tragic loss, and getting high above Melbourne itself. We took an elevator to the eighty eighth floor of the Eureka Tower, where the observation deck (the highest in the Southern Hemisphere) gives amazing views of urban Melbourne. It was a good thing we waiting until that day, because it turned out to be the nicest in terms of weather and visibility.

The next day we had a hard landing in Hobart. Hard due to the crazy wind shear that was throwing our plane around the runway like it had no business being there. And so started the legacy of the weather in Hobart. It definitely isn't the highlight of this city so far; The first two days were windy and rainy. However, it was nice today and is supposed to be really nice tomorrow, but locals tell is it truly is a four season day around here.

I was pleasantly pleased with Hobart. I had expectations of a quiet, low key city, but the city surpassed that. For all you who have been to British Columbia, Canada, it is like a cross between Nelson and Vancouver, combining old colonial architecture and vibrancy with a modern seaside city full of culture.

Mainly we've been walking around, checking out the streets of the city. It really is a beautiful place; the old stone architecture and the shop lined streets give it the feel of a small town in a big city. The people seem to fit that stigma, too. We've met a few that seem very nice and have that isolated, townie attitude; old school and content with their surroundings. I haven't picked up a clique feeling from them yet, which makes me happy. There are tons of small cafes and restaurants here, many of them built into old, converted brick and stone homes. Tomorrow we head to Port Arthur to see the sight of the original penal colony, where convicts were brought from Britain over two hundred years ago.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The past 24 hours have been a roller coaster, to say the least. We've done two tours the past couple days, one a day trip down the Great Ocean Road, the other a a day trip to Phillip Island, site of a penguin march. The Great Ocean Road trip was pretty good. The weather could have been better, but the Australian coastline is amazing. I'm really looking forward to exploring the rest of the coast of this country after seeing this chunk. The high ocean bluffs present amazing views of the turbulent seas below, some of the beaches offering some of the best surfing in the country.

The next day (yesterday) is where things get interesting. The weather was amazing and the group was friendly. We started the tour off at a Wallabee sanctuary where we got to feed some, and then to a sheep farm to learn about sheep shearing. After that we stopped off at a Koala sanctuary to see some of the furry critters. They lazily lounge in the tree tops, making themselves easy photographic subjects for the gawky tourists below. They turned out to be a lot bigger than I thought! I figured they might weigh around twenty pounds, but they grow up to a lofty one hundred pounds! I guess it's easy to put on weight when you sleep twenty hours a day.

The next sights were the pinnacle of the tour. We stopped off at Woolamai Beach, a huge beach that seemed to stretch for miles. Arriving there at 5pm made for perfect late afternoon photographs. After that we went to the Nobbies, a peninsula where thousands of gulls nest on it's hills. The views of the setting sun along the coastline were some of the best I've seen in my entire trip. Unfortunately it was at this point my camera battery decided to die. Not to worry, though, I will be back there at some point. After the sun set we headed to a nearby beach where the penguins emerge from the ocean to return to their nest at night. This was actually a big tourist trap, with bleachers built into the shoreline, chalk full of Chinese tourists who constantly stand up in front of you, blocking your view. It was still cool to see the little penguins cautiously emerge from the waves and wait by the rocks, making a mad dash up the sand when they think it's safe.

When we returned to the hotel is when my luck turned to shit. After one year of traveling in some of the poorest countries in the world, thinking for sure either my netbook or my camera would be stolen in PNG, instead my netbook gets stolen in Australia, a country where I should feel more at ease from these worries. During the time we were at the tour, somebody had broken in through the window of our room and swiped my computer. And nearly all my pictures from Papua New Guinea and the Philippines. I don't even care about the computer, but losing the thousands of a amazing photos from the most photographically magical places and festivals a person can see is heartbreaking. I just wish that person knew really how much they've stolen from me. And I wish I had caught and beat the living shit out of them, too. Fortunately they didn't get my external hard drive, so with that and one last SD card with PNG pics, I still have a few days worth, but only a small fraction of what I had. It's funny, as I was preparing an SD card full of pictures from the Mt Hagen Festival in PNG to shoot for the tour, I hesitated before deleting them. Lesson learned: trust the gut. After that, I needed a few beers. Conveniently, that day was the last day of my month challenge of not drinking. After midnight, I got drunk. Very drunk.

The next day seemed to lift my spirits, if only for a brief moment. I received a call from TasRail, with the news I got the train driver job I had been hoping for. My worries were mostly lifted, I had a great paying job that guaranteed my goals would be accomplished. I headed to a local computer store to get a new case for my hard drive and look at net books. And that's when I got the call from TasRail saying there would be a problem sponsoring me for a work visa. Apparently the only way it can be done is for the company to nominate me, which will only be accepted if there is a listed shortage of Australian workers for that field. And for train drivers, there apparently isn't one, even though TasRail could only find three qualified drivers (including me) to fill seven positions. Australia is the worst bureaucratically bullshit country I've ever seen. So now my future at TasRail is in the hands of a immigration worker that said I have a ten percent chance of being approved. Not favorable odds. Understandably, TasRail wont hire me for six months, only to spend two training me. I have been brought up and torn down hard twice in twenty four hours, of which have been some of the worst of my life. I hope karma will bring some good my way soon, because I know I have some saved up, and right now I need it more than ever.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Going Nationally Geographic

In my attempt to turn my photography hobby into some of a career, I've entered a photo into the National Geographic 2011 Photography Contest. If any of you that read this would like to support me in my endeavor, please follow the link, if you have Facebook, click the "like" button below my picture.

My National Geographic Photo Entry

A little background on the photo in case you're wondering: it was taken on the summit of Kala Pattar, a peak that affords views of Mt. Everest. It was a beautiful day on the way up the mountain, with the exception of the stinging wind that howled around us. My friend, Emin, climbed up on the edge of the cliff and I managed to snap a few shots of him, capturing his figure in the top left corner of this amazing vista. Right after that was taken we quickly had to descend as a huge cloud bank was blowing in from the South, and it would have been dangerous to be exposed on that mountain in a storm.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Arrival of the Father Unit

It's been about five days since my Dad arrived in Melbourne, and it was damn good to see him again. I checked out of my hostel to go meet him at the airport and move to a nicer guest house, taking the airport shuttle. I arrived there about an hour before his flight was due to arrive, and upon grabbing a coffee, got a call from him telling me he missed his connecting flight and wouldn't be getting to Melbourne for another four hours. I caught the shuttle back into the city and checked into the hotel. After a while I headed up to the rooftop patio to enjoy the beautiful weather and make a call to the HR lady at TasRail about my upcoming interview. I walk onto the roof, my face pointed down toward my phone as I'm walking. As I walk around the corner I look to the right and there, sitting on one of the couches, is a woman sunning herself, completely naked as the day she was born. She sees me and blurts out an "Oh my God!". I stand there for a second or two processing how to react to this; she's shocked yet she's sitting on a rooftop with half of downtown Melbourne in big, windowed offices above and around her. I blurt out a half assed apology and walk away smiling from a big breasted introduction to this new hotel.

When Dad shows up he's brought my resupply of Kraft Dinner, which I desperately needed a fix of. KD in Australia sucks, the cheese comes in a tin can and looks like a cross between Cheez Whiz and Jello, and it's gooey as fuck when you mix it in. And he brought me a Canadian Rugby Jersey that I had been searching for here, but unfortunately the medium size in a rugby jersey is anything but medium. Hopefully it will be an easy fix to get a different size. I exchanged some gifts with him as well; a shirt and a hat I bought from Papua New Guinea.

The past few days we've been sightseeing around Melbourne, making good use of the free tourist bus that stops at various tourist locations around the city. We've wandered through the unique cafe-lined narrow alleyways in downtown Melbourne, seen the Botanical Gardens, done some shopping in the Central Market, and wandered around the boring Harbor Town, which turned out to be a giant shopping center. We've been sampling the great food selection that Melbourne has to offer, so far dumplings, Mexican, Greek and Italian food have been some highlights. We've been hoping to go check out the 88th floor skydeck above Melbourne's downtown, but yesterday, the day we wanted to go, turned out to be the haziest day so far, and today isn't much better. Though we do have time. On Tuesday we'll be setting off on a two day tour of the Great Ocean Road, a stretch of highway supposedly scenicly comparable to California's Route 101.

I had my second interview for the train driver job in Tasmania, and it went really well. The people that interviewed me bragged up Tasmania quite well, I'm hoping a move formulated to make me want to stay there. I was told I'll hear back from them by next Thursday at the latest, so until then, my fingers are crossed!