Saturday, May 05, 2007

Two Steps Behind

It's been 5 days in the Garden State of Melbourne and it looks set to be much longer now. Going by what is required, the work is going to be done by a partner in Australia, with my company being in a more supervisory and advisory position. I believe that this can largely be done out of Singapore. But given the tight timelines and strict deadlines, I guess there's no choice but to be here in Oz-land, stepping on tails and cracking the whips.

Coming to Melbourne in May is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it means that I get to meet my sis and her boyfriend again - the last time we saw each other, it was in rainy December. A blessing also when it comes to food and lodging: the food's largely covered by the per diems, and lodging comes courtesy of the company (of course!) so I'm living here like a well-fed happy consultant, with nary a care who cleans the room or washes the toilet (eh... it's not like I worried about these things back home either... )

It's a curse because I ended up being here (initially) with 2 Indian vegeterians. They're nice guys who took the trouble to explain all things Indian to me - I understood more about Hinduism and why Hindus are such tolerant folks when it came to other religions, and also why they aren't (Hinduism is both everything and nothing at the same time, but at a less abstract level than Zen Buddhism is); I understood also why a map of India from India is geographically depicted to have more land area than the typical atlas, and why Indians are outraged at seeing maps from so-called authorities on national borders; I understood that arranged marriages have a whole structure and organisation to them, that it is in and of itself a grand affair with parents on both sides involved, and brides chosen with much care, and that even if it was a love marriage, the logistics of an arranged marriage are followed nonetheless (70% of marriages in India are arranged marriages and they have one of the lowest divorce rates in the world!).

Oh wait, it's a curse because they are vegeterians and are really good at wrangling a situation to their benefit. :) When it comes deciding where to head to for dinner, the research on Indian restaurants in the area had already been done, and the decision was moot: 2-1 Indian curry place wins hands down. Oh yes there is a concession on one of the nights to go to a noodle joint, but the less than enthusiastic response from my Indian counterparts told me where their cuisine preferences lie. They are picky, cautious and particular when it comes to the food they eat - 'Rightfully so!' Ravi claims, 'because it is what you put into the system, and the system is all that matters in the end.'

Philosophical, that Ravi.


Melb's left an impression as well over the last 5 days or so. First thing I noticed on getting here is the water restrictions put in place. From the various sources I've got (sources include sister, cab drivers, receptionists at workplace and hotels among others), it appears like there's been a drought in the state of Victoria for a long time already, something in the area of the last 5-6 years apparently (according to one source).

It's probably been quite severe before, and there are actually water restriction levels that are put in place to control water usage (to some extent). This also explained why my sister's beat up car looked more beat up (dust, grime and dirt is obvious on a 20-year-old white Honda) because it hasn't been washed for months. Water restriction was at Stage 3 during my stay there and I can't help but think about other such similar 'levels' and stages out there: Hurricanes, Tornados, DEFCON, Terrorist Alerts etc. (for more details on water restriction levels, go here)


An additional curse, if you can call it that, is that our client site isn't located in town. Initially, the expectation was that the site might be on St Kilda Road, which was a hop, skip and jump away from the city centre. Following our own research on the Internet, hotel rooms were booked nearby.

However, upon further information provided by the client and other sources, it was apparent that the client site that we thought was the client site is not the client site that we were supposed to be at. The actual client site is in some suburb outside of town, in the 'city' of Whitehorse (I'm not gonna give away the actual 'urb' it's in because it just might give too much information away on my client and what I do).

The city of Whitehorse is not a city in the strict sense of the word: from the looks of it, it's an extension of Melbourne, or rather, a suburb of Melbourne. The road trip over here passes many houses, and it appeared like we never left the urban areas behind at all. In contrast, during my time in France, driving from one town to another is usually through forested areas and the distinction between one town and the next is usually clear cut (exceptions exist... like Fontainebleau and Avon, which are essentially two towns merged into one big urban mess).

I suspect, though, that Whitehorse might be a local municipality: i.e. it is more of a political entity than that of a geographical one. Given that I am in the airport transit lounge at the moment, I'll check that hypothesis out at some later date and perhaps qualify what I'm babbling about here. This might mean that the jurisdiction over essential services might be separate and distinct from the main Melbourne area itself - it might have its own police force, garbage disposal services, and the like.

Nevertheless, seeing the phrase Whitehorse brings back memories of my NS days. Singaporean males will know what I mean. The White Horse is that oft-used phrase describing a full-time national serviceman who is a 'priviledged son'. He is typically the son of an influential politician, rich and prominent business person, or some other similar e-literati (A l33t in netspeak). The name came about because the dockets (35A and 34B for those who care to recall) will have a white horse stamp on it to remind the unit commanders of the special treatment require for the rich kid.

Few people liked the system (for obvious reasons) and its existence was only very recently acknowledged.


Right. Boarding soon. Thank god for the new IBM Thinkpad my company has deigned to bequeath to me: this baby runs on juice for more than 2 hours at a stretch! (on those days I don't run power intensive programs on it like Azureus). The Thinkpad is a tool for the pro: it looks chunky for sure, but the whole charm of it comes from its ubiquitous black monochrome and the sleek black lines with hard edges and sharp corners. In other words: don't mistake this for a fluffy mac pretender; it is a work tool through and through. And it doesn't say 'I look like I might collapse' like the Dell does sometimes. Thinkpads are made to get you looking like the professional you are, and there's no looking like a pro than tapping away on one while in the airport transit lounge.

Now... if only I can look like I'm actually doing work than blogging away. hehe...


See you in Singapore soon. Bon Voyage.