Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Mapless in Melbourne (aka Fatigue and a Shortage of Everything)

This is one of those 'ME' posts - long, ranty, and not very much useful in the bigger scheme of things. It does feel good to write these once in a while though.


I am tired:

- of being me.

- of being me being a crutch.

- of being me being a crutch once too often.

- of being me being a crutch once too often, and for other people.

- of being me being a crutch once too often, and for other people, without anything in return.

- of being me being a crutch once too often, and for other people, without anything in return. What's more, it isn't like I am expecting some reward (though I do habour some expectations).

Being supportive, or otherwise being a friend, is sometimes a tiring exercise. Sometimes, I just want to quit it. If I could just easily tender my resignation as a friend sometimes, it'll be so much better.

A leave of absence will probably not hurt either. In some way, being 6000 miles (approximately) away from home does help.

I don't get too bothered by folks back home when I am here.

I don't get knackered at the end of a day chasing deals that never materialise.

I don't worry about people around me.

I get time away from all that has saddened me and worn me down. I am still sad about it - I just can't do damage to myself from being physically where it hurts (thinking about it still hurts... but it's containable here)

*** By the way, don't believe that bull shit about how getting away will help you forget.


But I don't get to be myself though. Over here, my social circle is diminished, and there is increased interaction with a very small number of people. Being with colleagues for 12 hours a day, constantly, and without respite, is probably none too healthy (even though most consulting engagements are such, I've always been the local and never realised the almost 24/7 interaction required with other colleagues).

Consider this: I live in the same hotel as them; see them the first thing in the morning before heading out; take turns driving the rental car and bitching about traffic; work in a small meeting room overrun with cables, laptops and assorted fat-inducing munchies; hunt for new vegeterian options (I work with a vegeterian Indian, a somewhat renounced vegeterian Indian, and a none-too-picky Thai) during lunch; brainstorm over coffee about our collective problems; fire off emails and make cruel jokes about our counterparts from Hong Kong (they and their 'sing-song' English); check out for new dinner options (Thai today, Italian tomorrow) - the first suggested restaurant wins (so long as there is vegeterian); and then retire to the hotel room, with the privacy it offers me to watch my latest downloaded shows (ack... Heroes is ending!).

I see my colleagues too much. I even talk like them now (affected Indian accent with bobble head thrown in for good measure; kawaii Thai intonations - quite charming for a gal, very gay-ish if you're a guy though).

My rant is: I need to be home... and they aren't letting me be.

Part of the reason is cost: it costs less to house me in the hotel over the weekend than fly me back and forth. The hotel is none too bad: it has broadband, the room is big and spacious, and I get a queen sized bed all to myself (anyone wanna come share it?). The flyback is not bad either: the company books us on SIA (Side note: Since I fly economy class, I always check into seats near the galley, somewhere around row 53 or so, and on the window aisle seat - go find out why).

Another reason is my bad timing: I chose to stay over one weekend, just for the heck of it (and me and another colleague did the Great Ocean Road! 2nd time round for me but she was totally thrilled to see the cliffs and winding roads). That was last weekend, and the intention was to fly home this weekend. Which proved impractical because we were going to fly home ANYWAY next Wednesday (or Thursday, or possibly Friday because we are such poor planners).

It sucks that I can't go home this weekend because: 1) I already miss home and people I know - I also miss TCC coffee; 2) I am going to miss a friend's wedding, and furthermore, that is my one chance to play being a 'Brother'. This sucks ass - I've always wanted to be the guy helping the groom tackle the ruckus of 'gate-crashing' while fighting off demanding bridesmaids. It always sounded like so much fun.


In other news...

1) Melbourne May 2007 is probably not the best of times for this sunshine state. The water shortage is made further acute by the realisation that the government has miscalculated its water reserves by 40%. 40-freaking-percent! This means further water restrictions are likely, with Stage 4 being a distinct possbility now. Yikes... people are already not washing cars due to current restriction levels. What's next for this drought stricken land? What is a stupid tourist like myself worrying about a drought in this country? Perhaps I just like the collective environmental conscience that seems to permeate policies within this country, and therefore hate to see it suffer such (un)natural problems.

2) When driving in Melbourne, you cannot do without their version of the Street Directory. The Melway is one really comprehensive road directory - it never fails to list every major or minor road. The one thing that impresses me about it is that it accurately reflects how 'big' a road really is (which is one gripe I had about Singapore's version of it - all roads look the same size and one-laners are no different from expressways). Much as the Melway helped within understanding and planning a route, Melbourne itself makes it disappointingly hard to get your bearings: street signs are not the most conspicuous objects and the necessity of doing hook turns at junctions featuring tram lines still baffle me sometimes.

3) The Great Ocean Road is one big scenic drive - doing it the 2nd time round is decidedly more fun, since I am now a more seasoned driver and can navigate the curves better (there are other curves I navigate better these days too but... sighs... no chance there). This time, I was driving in a generally west-bound direction and during the mid-morning to afternoon period. The views were amazing - sheer towering cliffs, waves crashing on rocky shores, inlets carved out by years of pounding surf. Given the chance, I would love to do it all over again - and bring a camera... and lose the non-too-adventurous colleague.

4) Finally, the last news item of the day: If you know anyone who can take me out to somewhere chic in Melbourne and have a swell time, sign me up with them. I hang out with people who are currently married / engaged or otherwise seriously dating someone while here. This means there are no singletons like myself who would love to hang out over some drinks and meet other people, and this means that this means post 9pm, I'm mostly back in my hotel room watching downloads or checking out Australian TV shows like Big Brother, 1 vs 100 etc. In the short term, it is kind of nice having a hotel room to thrash like a rock star. In the longer term (which is the next one month or so) this place will start to seriously bore me. HELP!


Oh btw, since I have a surfeit of photos which I have yet to blog about, I will probably put a couple of posts to showcase them a bit - bear with me as some of them date back to last year.

Mapless in Melbourne, May 2007

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.