Thursday, September 20, 2012

Just minutes ago, my family has grown a tad more with my newest nephew’s birth: Leonardo David. I still don’t have any photos and I couldn’t be there for obvious reasons but I sent from here all the love I can for the newest member of my family :)

My family picks names because of different reasons, is a tradition… our names are meant to represent our personality, charisma and illusions for the future ahead.

In this case, Leonardo (strong as the lion) David (beloved) will be a strong of character person who will be loving and beloved by his peers.

Now... this blog post is for him, hopefully you will read it when you are old enough to understand this words.

I would love to introduce you people you share name with, and hopefully will inspire you in life to be the greatest on whatever you want to be.

Probably the guy that has the most influence on your mother (besides your father)...
Leonardo Da Vinci
We don’t expect you to be the next Leonardo Da Vinci, although I am sure your genius, creativity and intelligence will be a fantastic addition to the world.

Leonardo dared to go beyond anybody of his time,
to dream incredible machines,
to create mind blowing contraptions that changed the world forever
and keep changing in it inspiring thousands.

Take him as mentor, challenge the world with your curiosity!
I don’t know if you are going to be good with numbers as Leonardo Fibonacci (although it runs in our veins the thirst of science and the curiosity) but certainly the way you will see the world will be amazing and we will love you whatever you decide your path is going to be.

Fibonacci looked more than plain beauty on things...
He saw how things grow and replicate themselves..
He thought in a way to explain the beauty of the world using mathematics because
he dreamed to challenge his imagination
Finally be noble, strong and courageous as  King David

Highly probable to be a misdirection from the actual image of David...
But angels will come down to watch over you.
But I know you will be strong enough to fight your demons and vanquish the giants lying on your path, just like King David

 I also know you are extremely loved and this will continue for as long as we have blood running though our veins, air filling up our lungs and strength to protect you with our heart.

Welcome to this blue marvel, orbiting around the star we call sun on this vast
and amazing universe.

Welcome to this wonderful planet my dear nephew, it has some bumps and is not on its prime because we have been sloppy and careless... but certainly is beautiful and full of joy; my arms aren’t long enough to hug you from where I am but my love will definitely reach the deepest regions of the cosmos to bring you all the very best.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Trilogy Time

Have you ever felt identified with a book, TV series or movie?

In my case I have felt identified lately with How I Met Your Mother because I found myself going through certain aspects of my life and can’t help to notice similarities between my Ted’s emotional state and mine own.

Ted is the kind of guy who is always trying to find the bright and romantic side of the story, filling with hope every corner of his mind with his dream girl yet reality hit him straight on his face every now and then to remind him how life really works and to stand up and keep looking forward, remembering the details of his life to later on tell the story to his kids.

In a way, I am Ted; loving the story telling and trying to compose it in such detail a matter that the audience enjoys it as if they are watching my life on their minds.

Although I don't plan to tell my kids the story of
everything girl in my life...

That doesn’t explain the title of this post, does it?

Trilogy Time is How I Met Your Mother’s 20th episode of the season 7 where Marshall, Ted and Barney agreed to watch Star Wars trilogy every three years just to imagine at the end of it how their lives will be different in three years time. As for me there is no trilogy to watch on my comfortable couch but it is a time to remember the sacrifices I have done over the time to achieve part of my dreams.

If you don't watch Star Wars at least every three years... the dark side wins!

Three years ago I was for the very first time taking my first breath in Australia, waiting for friends to pick us up (Kathy and I) at the airport to then enjoy the rest of the day waiting for the night to arrive and finally, give some space where to rest our exhausted/jet lagged bodies.

Three years ago I took a seat in the balcony looking west as nightfall came upon us gazing at the starry sky, trying to understand this familiar yet different celestial vault; searching for the location of Orion’s belt, Southern Cross, Arcturus, Vega and then Spica (my favourite stars).

Three years ago I couldn’t imagine the types of changes I was going to go through neither the challenges I was going to be facing. My dreams were different to those I have now and definitely there have been changes I couldn’t foresee...  

But... three years ago Australia gave me a marvellous sunset and an amazing night sky to allow me to energise for a new tomorrow and a new start.

That is, one thousand and ninety six days since I arrived to this fantastic place and I don’t regret any of it.

Three years full of stress, sadness, happiness... but nevertheless...
Three years of pure awesomeness.

So... What is 2015 going to look like?

Short answer, I don’t know... but whatever it is... is going to be amazing!

Keep posted cuz more is coming ;)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

These last three years in Australia have been amazing on different areas and well... different on certain other aspects.

Australia gave me personal satisfaction towards my work as I am working with a group of smart and capable people motivating me to deliver my best most of times; even though my personal life has taken a severe change and the company culture has been changing towards a more corporate/ less creative environment.

Another thing I noticed (and I couldn’t appreciate it when I was in Venezuela) was how close some of my friends really are to me... and when I talk about friends I am referring to the real friends, those that remembers the best of you out of the hard/awful times.

Finally it brought me internal peace from those last seven years in Venezuela (and a few more in here) of charged tribulation, tension and uncertainty of the direction of the country, my relationship and work.
Internal peace brings clarity of judgement, allowing me to see things clearly looking back in time so I can reconsider past behaviour and how I reacted to some of it. It enabled me to self discovery to find spots of improvement instead of plain self critic.

Up to this point, I want to expose something very personal I have found of myself over the last couple of weeks. I am not the kind of people trying to be friend of everybody as most of times I felt I couldn’t communicate with others effectively, wondering constantly if people understood what I was trying to say; making me a very stubborn and insecure person trying to cope with the rest of society just to blend in (regardless to the reasons of why this insecurities took place in my head and my heart). So... for me it was extremely difficult to recognise love or concern others felt for me.

The relationship friends develop over time are not subject of discussion between the members of the friendship; they just know you could count on them for anything in times of need and the friendship is never put under the microscope to find the little cracks, to later on exploit it to tear it down... If they do, they are not your friends.

So based on that definition I got to admit... I was a pretty lousy ‘friend’ as I was constantly evaluation people around me in terms of how much damage they could do to me (psychologically) if I let them get in my ‘comfort zone’... but eventually you meet people that really likes you and wants you to see it even though you might try to push them away as you feel vulnerable as you start caring for them. To me, these special people were four friends I meet over several years that I meet in primary school or university.

To all four of them I tried to convince to come Down Under with me. To all four I invested a considerable amount of time to explain to them the benefits of moving here as I was trying to decide the path I wanted to follow and how I wanted this people to be part of my life. Sadly I couldn’t convince them all; one of them lives in Denmark and the other still lives in Venezuela but struggles to take the decision as she is pretty close to her family.
But two of them decided to take the leap and join me in this marvellous adventure. At least I wasn’t going to be moving for long by myself with any extended family.

They are not as close as I would love to...
Hello finger... give me a big hug!

But I knew I couldn’t move to Australia without more contacts or support from other people and what’s better than finding a common goal to relate to others?

That’s how ‘The Aussie Neighbor’ and this blog were created, or at least the reasoning behind the impulse of sharing ideas over the Internet with strangers/anonymous/mates/friends; I wanted to meet new people with goals in common to myself (at least common enough to envision a life in the Land of Oz) and feel connected to something a bit bigger than my lonely journey.

That is how I met my new family and friends... that is how I got to open up to others without judging them in terms of how much I was going to suffer in case of misunderstanding (because I do care about people around me and their interactions).

These people were an essential part of me when I need them the most. They decided to support me even though I was shutting down; grieving my problems while failing to comprehend how it all went down that path... and it was when I understood the phrase:

“Remember that the darkest hour of all is the hour before dawn”

Despair and fear blocks your sight but even though everything looks grim, your friends will help you out to stand on your own two feet while dawn starts to show its true colours.

To all of them: the new and the old ones thank you!

I am truly and deeply grateful of having such great people around me.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Warning! I might be using profanities a tad. You have been warned.

This post was going to be a series of post (seven posts to be precise) where I was going to be describing a number of different events happening in my life on these last four/five-ish months.

But after careful and detailed reading I noticed I was providing a story telling that I could be selling later on to CBS for a series of the episodes of How I Met Your Mother.

For those of you who don’t know anything about the TV series I have the following phrase:

Samuel L Jackson tone of voice: You piece of shit, what the fuck do you motherfucking think you doin? Get the fuck out of here and watch how I bang many bitches ‘til I got stuck with your mom! Then get you sorry ass here motherfucka!

Get the fuck out of here!
Without Samuel’s tone of voice: “Please, watch the How I Met Your Mother then come back”.

In any case, I don’t have more than eight (or more) years to tell you about how I met Kathy before things went to hell and we decided to split up... so she is not your mother... and is not auntie Robin...

Spoiler alerts! Oops... too late!

I know! I know... By now your eyes are going back to the same paragraph above to detect the joke or the misspelled word that changes the interpretation of the content...
No... I am not joking...

Stop going back to the same paragraph, damn it! Is not going to magically change to say “Foool you!” Notice how the title of the blog, the author and everything else changed!

It is true, Kathy and I have decided to hit separated roads and keep moving forward just not together.

How did this happen?

Shit happens.

Is only takes a moment to understand when things aren’t going as you expected and another to open up your mouth and say the words.

But before those two moments there a huge number of difficulties, troubles, and fights nobody has to know! Still all these factors contributed to get to the point where you don’t love as you used to and there is no turn back.

In our case, we grew apart, love stopped flowing and there was nothing else keeping us together.

What does it mean?

It means that eventually I am going to explain how to get a divorce in Australia.

It means that I have some good advices (even though I have shared tons of my wisdom related to this topic) and observations that could apply to anyone; not just those planning to move to Australia.

But my dreams are mostly unchanged.
I will still have a beautiful family that I am going to make extremely happy one day, providing plenty of love and I will still live down under, where the women glow and the men chunder! Just that those dreams aren’t with Kathy anymore.

Why am I telling part of my story?

When you move to a new environment there is always the risk things don’t go the way you planned. But more importantly, many people think they are on this on their own... And that is not true at all.
I was lucky I got enough support (because of my depression and my separation) to get things going to feel better, calmer and hopeful about the future. Otherwise I would have got stuck for quite a while without being able to understand in totality next couple of steps to get on top of this situation.

I overheard at some point the number of divorces from families coming from overseas is close to 50% after many years.

The reason?
Yourself and your partner will have each other to deal with situations, problems and find comfort in general... but after a while those little things you used to find annoying about your partner start being more notorious, irritating and possibly unbearable.

Now... can you imagine if you already had issues with your partner and decide to jump the pond? There will be only two different outputs; you will get closer or not, hence 50%.

So... if you are going through a similar situation and need to talk about it, I am here to try to help you out as somebody helped me. My comments are moderated at the moment so if you want to publish your comment and not make it public just let me know and I will keep it to myself, leave your email to reply to you though.

Words of advice

I have said before, if you have problems with your family: be aware you could be stepping into the final stage of the decline of your marriage (it doesn’t matter if you are newlywed). Moving to a different country, different culture often implies more stress that has to be dealt somehow; otherwise you will be extremely unhappy.

In my case, I applied pressure on Kathy to commit to this decision (move to Australia) which thankfully none of us regret it. I was decided from the start to migrate with or without her... and eventually she excluded herself from this recipe. I will continue my process by myself and she will continue by her own means. The moral is: are you ready to take this kind of decision knowing the risk?

Finally (but not least), I don’t regret my time with Kathy (even though I have to recognise at the end I was extremely miserable) as she provided me the support I needed to fight for the future I always wanted but didn’t know if I was strong enough to achieve it.

Also I have got a clear panorama of the things I want to get in life. I want a beautiful girl that sees me for what I am, likes it and is willing to share herself, her love and her thoughts with me as willing to grow with me in every possible way, provide me feedback to be better for her, for me, for our family. I want her to show me what's the real thing of being utterly in love. I want to make this girl as happy as I can, to love her to the fullest.

My singing is terrible... but I will tune this song everyday just for her.

So... ladies... that means I am open for business and the higher bidder will take it all and all I’ve got to offer. I am not going to make a ‘As Seen On TV’ sort of joke as that stuff tends to break after a little while and I am built to endure whatever you want ;)

Cheers and until the next post.
Over and OUT!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The following post reflects one reason of why I haven’t been around as frequent as I would like to or why I haven’t been publishing more photos for a while...

This last year has been very difficult for me (emotionally speaking) causing me distress, sadness and frustration; leading me to a profound state of depression and low self-value. The cause of it I will have to keep it to myself for a bit longer as there are topics of it that I still need to work out, digest and process.

Now, I know is difficult to detect the subtle yet visible trail of my depression over the last year because I tend to use to great extent satire and sarcasm as part of a defensive mechanism to guard me from a painful reality... but at the end you got to understand where you are standing, facing the truth that you have been unable to solve situations the way you want it to be solved and accept that you need of someone else to get you out of it.

Up to just seven to ten weeks ago I couldn’t recognise that I was deep in depression that was affecting my life and that I needed desperately to do something about it, starting a recovering process to a more stable version of myself.
Is hard to get out of a dark place with your eyes are closed.
Image by Brandon Rechten

It wasn’t until I went to Canberra to visit a childhood friend of mine that I was pointed out of this issue; it took to him no time to understand something was off with me, asking a series of subtle questions about my mood, behaviour, eating and resting patterns. Puzzled about the causality of my depression (as I am strong/stable personality) he tried to point me out my problem without a direct confrontation as he thought I was unable to handle it at the moment, keeping frequently in touch the next two weeks, worried I might try something stupid.

But after a short period of time something happened, leaving me totally exposed to this situation to which he called me once more to tell me to get professional help. I couldn’t discard his pleads as he was utterly concerned about my well-being and I was starting to realise he might have been right on calling me almost every day; I had touched rock bottom.

Next thing to do was to indicate the situation at the office (to my boss) trying to appeal to his understanding as I was struggling to get things going on a positive note. He told me to talk to him in person, try to deal the situation without me being uncomfortable and provide a series of advises that I was meant to follow. I don’t think that I have acknowledged to him that I am really grateful for understanding my position and give me those comments.

There were more people critical for my recovery; one of them was my good friend and co-worker that I share desk with and a Venezuelan friend that lived though a similar situation that I was living (apart from the depression). The two of them took a big chunk of their time to be there and listen out everything that I needed to say, just like a security valve I was letting everything out, venting my problems, getting feedback about it and trying to be objective about what things I needed to take control of and what things to let go.

The next following weeks were of intense work on me, stabilising my emotions and getting into rhythm; talking my issues out with friends and therapists, understanding the origin of it all, getting priorities in which I am number one and letting things go.

It may be painful at first... but letting things go is the best approach you could assume on destructive situations.

In any case, I am a lot better now, capable of writing this post to check against myself (and my future self) to keep in line and remind me that I need to flush stress and sadness on time before everything goes dark.
I wanted to share my story as well... to expose what I think it was useful to me and to be able to connect to some others in the same situation.

There are early symptoms which you will be able to detect if you or someone you know is suffering from depression.

Is not just being sad all the time, is an entire attitude towards your day to day that changes gradually dragging you down bits and pieces until you hit the critical zone. Depression appears because of multiple causes but one common cause is the inability to resolve a situation that causes frustration, anger or sadness for a long period of time.

In any case, you might be suffering of depression if:

  • If you think there is no much point of getting out of bed or performing daily activities.
  • If you struggle to focus on activities and you are easily diverted for topics of conversation.
  • If your daily diet is invariant most of days, you probably don’t care and you have stopped eating properly (over or under eating).
  • If you have lack of decision taking and leave everyone else to take decisions for you to prevent conflicts, or because you are unable to made your mind toward one option or the other.
  • If you can’t find anything gratifying or positive about your day or the activities you have performed during the day, every single day.

Does many of these items apply to someone you know? In that case get help and talk to someone about your problems. Try to vent out the steam, get out and walk, exercise, spend time with friends.

Do you still have a hard time to get on the right foot? Then try to following:

List good things of your day: creating a daily list enumerating those things you liked about your day gives you perspective and motivation to go on. For yourself to write it with at least certain amount of items; it could contain from ‘I liked my cereal this morning... marshmallows are the best’ to ‘I have manage to deal with X situation at work, getting my boss to like the outcome at the end of the day’, from ‘the night tonight has lots of stars’ to ‘I have run 2 extra kilometres this morning’. Force yourself to positive and each day you will find a new reason to keep it up.

Get distracted: if the problem follows you anywhere you go, then try to distract yourself by meeting new people, going to galleries, museums, beaches, parks or movies... Chill out! There will be a good portion of it where your brain isn’t trying to psychoanalyse your situation, giving you a second breath of air to continue moving forward.

Stay clean: Alcohol and/or drugs aren’t good advisors and are not a good source of distraction (as you will find out sooner or later that you are losing more than what you get out of it).

Recognise the support from friends and family: is easy to fell into the trap ‘I am the one with the problem, I will work it out’ but in reality there are people willing to take a seat an listen to the things you got to say without judging; they might give you some critics but embrace it and improve out of it as they meant to help you get through the situation. Close friends will not overlook details and they won’t give a critic that you won’t be able to handle.

Be honest with yourself: ask if you are happy with the situation, if you are willing to change anything to feel better with yourself and recognise you have a problem that needs to be solved. Being in a dark place is not easy and bad ideas will pop out of the wilderness of the dark regions.

Get resolution to your issues: facing your problems will be the hardest and the last thing you will do to fully recover. You will need closure of that feeling, be ready to accept any outcome and then face the problem.

Force yourself to do things: have you ever seen ‘Yes man!’? No? Watch it! Is not a great movie but the idea is fantastic. Apply it to your life; every piece of the puzzle will start to fall into its right place.

Cheers and till next time.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Changes ahead

As you might notice by now… I have not being really active on my blog these last several weeks (more than a Month now) and I would like to let you know that there are a bunch of changes I need to announce… but not at the moment.

Sometimes we don't have a way to indicate changes like this sign...

I have been working on a bunch of posts; most of it is personal stuff and some other is unfinished material that I need to publish really soon.

I am not closing or ignoring my blog (as some people have indicated to me), I am just unable to publish as many things as I have written.

I am sorry and I will be publishing something really soon.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

I have always found fascinating the freedom  assumed by people when commenting on blogs, because few words could reveal big aspects of their personality. Even more interesting you is start finding common characteristics on each of the comments, creating a demographic group or categorisation of the commenters...

WARNING: if you are susceptible and might suspect that I am going to be indiscreet, please... stop reading now and assume this post never existed.

For instance, there is the buddy type of comment as the following:

"Duuuuuuuuude! [Small opinion about the current topic is inserted in here]. [Best wishes or small observation trying to be polite goes here] [Optionally their nickname]"

Here is the dude... No idea what am I talking about? Get some pop culture first and then come back.

This kind of comments usually comes from friends.

Note: ‘Dude’ could be replaced by an ‘hey’, ‘Hi’, ‘Mate’, ‘congrats’, ‘I am sorry that’, ‘I think that’ or ‘HAHAHAHA’ (depending on a painful experience shared on the blog), and it is totally optional.

You could also find the "I have never read your blog, but I want to ask something and don’t want my intervention to sound as a desperate way to get the info without reading heaps of your rambling" comment type as the following:

"Hello [blog author name here]! I have been reading your blog for a long time (undefined period of time is a must) but I have never written anything! Congratulations on [anything relevant on the current post]... I would like to get in contact with you and my email is []. Cheers!"

Some are straight on their interests by changing the last paragraph by "I have a question related to [topic of inquiry], could you send me the answer to my email?"

Note: they always... ALWAYS, will include their email account; that way they express their lack of interest on the blog; thus redirecting the conversation as further away as possible from it.

My blood heats up every time I found one of this in my blog... I mean seriously, if you don’t take the effort to read my posts, what makes you think that I want to waste more time writing something exclusively for you?

But then I come to my senses and end up writing a re-redirect comment with the link to the related blog post. I have met good people like this as well.

Another type of people is the fans (I was going to call them groupies, but to this day no one has offered me sex, so... no groupies for me) with comments as:
"Love your work... superb." Or
"Can’t wait to read your next post." Or
"Inspirational, live changing blog post about... polystyrene cups!" Or
"OMG! I never thought you could complete X, Y and Z so soon!... OMG! I will never change my underwear again... E.V.E.R A.G.A.I.N..."

And sometimes fan comments turns hilarious (and creepy) when they try to keep it cool:
WOW, this post is F.A.N.T.A.S.T.I.C! That is fantastic!
... I mean... Great work!
I will be waiting your next post... Or not... whatever... is not like I am waiting for you to write anything...
Please write your next post soon...
... Please...
(...I love you...)

Then you have trolls with their lack of taste type of comments as:

Oh... you got to see the full moon? You are not as moron as I thought...

Or “Oh... you got the Canon 60D? That piece of rubbish is not as good as I thought... Is too difficult and that is why I love my iPhone... and Instagram.

Or “so you think getting job offers in a country where no one knows you is achieving a personal goal? How nice...

To all of you... I don't really care about your comments and will be deleted.

Finally, spammers presented in many flavours... these are the one I hate the most and I can’t wait two minutes to report and delete it.

You could find the hide hideous link inside comment type: "Interesting blog, I have found it very useful in australian-visa-link," (is there any reason why 95% of this comments comes from India?)

You could find the hide sexual content in comment type: "Australia is a beautiful place with lots of sexy gals, had to use to keep up with!" (Again, is there any reason why 80% of this comments comes from the US?)

And you could find the subtle sex ads: "VIAGRA VIAGRA!!! BOOBS, TITS, BIG COCK, VIAGRA at" (50% of this comes from china and 30% of it from the US).

So... what type of commenter are you?

Monday, April 9, 2012

One of my biggest issues writing any post is me. I’ve written already close to sixteen posts about different topics and can’t get my head around it to make it interesting or just to get the courage to publish it.

But I have to ask myself: why? Is it because is open for critic? Or is it because I am sharing with the rest of the world the way I think and possibly sharing too much of my dark passenger.

Erm... not this kind of dark passenger...
(image property of wordans)

Well... the blog is a dairy to me where translate and order my thoughts into words, trying to make sense of lessons, interactions and appreciation of my environment and life. But it shouldn’t be this difficult, right?

I’ve recorded how much time it takes me to write down a post, getting a totally shocking time (average) of three to four days...

And you may ask ‘Three to Four days??? Why? I know you have typos, reaction issues and some of your jokes are... incredibly stupid.

The first pass my draft is nothing more than a couple of lines describing general ideas of what I want to create as an end result; must of times this process is a bunch of questions I ask myself of what I have learned or what I would like to read later on (I read my blog a lot). This takes me no more than 20 minutes.

A "Thank You" Note Rough Draft
Some drafts start like this...
(Thank you John of Austin for this image)

The second pass is a refinement of the draft, trying to expand the ideas, including parts of my silly humour and some other anecdote left behind as couldn’t fit it anywhere originally. It usually takes me two to three hours and at the end of it I don’t want to keep writing anything about the blog.

A third pass or second refinement is trying to read it with my own voice, feeling the vibrations of my throat and exercising the facial muscles. This serves me with a dual functionality: spotting sections where the reading process does not flow (shuffling paragraphs or ideas) and excluding trivial or redundant details with little or none value for the post. Depending on my mood, this process could take from two hours to an entire day.

A fourth and final pass is my creative/destructive phase, consisting on a read of the content to Kathy, modifying the post (yet again) on the fly as I read it to her or rewriting entire sections as I notice certain ideas could be exposed in a different way (sometimes pulling new ideas into its own separate post). In the end I ask her if it reads ok, repeating the pass as necessary until I get it right and dropping the entire post altogether. Is at this point where Kathy points out the rough edges of my tongue, lowering the level of acidity to my statements from car battery acid to lemon or orange juice sort of thing (one of the reasons of my moderation while writing).

But, this process is not consistent; writing down a draft for two or three posts at once, to then come back to it a week later and type down an entire post: reading, expanding, researching and linking details, to then publish it just few days later, leaving those drafts as incomplete thoughts.

So I ask... is there a better way to create content and publish it? Does anyone have a better approach for me to try? because it seems to me it takes me ages to compose and get things published...

Friday, April 6, 2012

Let’s face it, is pretty rare to find someone whom does not know anything about Easter and its general meaning. Although I have always found interesting how different countries or cultures celebrate it.

For instance, in Venezuela the tradition dictates you should get communion with god, realise the value of the sacrifice of his son (Jesus) and the realisation of his divinity after his resurrection, although everybody tends to go to the beach, drink and party like there is no tomorrow and get wasted… Basically the religious context is set aside but the last day (resurrection day) where people march to the nearest church to spend that day in communion.

Easter looks like this in Venezuela

In Australia (probably in every Saxon descendent culture) is a bit more disconnected from the church and a closer to a festivity for kids and teach them about what’s the meaning for these days; rebirth.

Years ago I thought about the bunnies and the eggs...
And it was a bizarre image to picture a bunny laying eggs coming out of its little furry bum.

In case you did not know the history behind Easter eggs or baby chicks I will tell it to you, they are symbol of rebirth and renewal; which for most parts of the world, matches the season (spring) and everything else grows around you. This concept might not apply environmentally (because we are in fall) even though the spirit keeps the same, finding enormous queues to buy chocolate eggs, bunnies or bilbies.

Oh yes, the chocolate Easter bilby.
Not extremely popular in Australia but you could find it as part of  the Aussie tradition.

And… how do I know of such long queues?

Well, the explanation is… Kathy (my missus) wanted a new phone to replace her old (and extremely slow at the moment) Nokia E71, which was a bit more than troublesome taking is two good minutes to open up an SMS and a lot more to start up the email application. The frigging phone was starting to show its two years of intense usage by crashing every few hours but the envisioned replacement provided enough hope for Kathy to hold on and keep using it until the service contract was due.

The explanation might sound totally absurd but it will make sense at the end, hang with me for the next forty three paragraphs. I swear, there is no alcohol in my body (at least not at the moment) and I am not deranged, although most of times I make no sense.

Two months ago, Kathy pointed me out the date of termination to get her new phone (an iPhone) and she started to count down the days to be able to go to the store, picking one of those beautifully designed devices and begin a world in which calls were not dropped because of phone crashes (although I am not sure the antenna gate is totally fixed) and application can be purchased and installed without having a software engineering degree. But I took over those expectations and shattered like a delicate crystal glass being smashed against the ground by telling her 

Hon, I don’t think you should get the iPhone at the moment… You know the super capitalist company called Apple will release a brand new version of it on the next couple of week (6 to 9 weeks) and we should probably wait to get it later on… A brand new or another cheaper, what do you think?

At this moment you probably think I am the sickest man alive and I am doing this just to make her suffer… but you are wrong! MUHUHAHAHAHaaaa….

(the evil laugh doesn’t help on my point)… Anyhow, I had the plan of buying the phone, but how to present it so it was a nice surprise? Some of the following ideas came to my mind:

Scenario 1 – The Restaurant Mystery

We could arrange dinner at a nice restaurant (we have been trying to reserve a nice decent restaurant for the last two months) to then wait for her escape to the bathroom (every woman does this) and at that moment place the phone in a noticeable area… but where to place it? On the plate? What about if we already started to eat could I place it in front of her place? What about if she never when to the bathroom? This plan was flawed from the very beginning plus the surprise level wasn’t going to be high.

Scenario 2 – The Glorious Delivery

I could try to arrange the delivery of some flowers to her office and get the phone included with the flowers. Sounds perfect, but… Then she had to walk three blocks to home with everything on and the one thing I will never do to Kathy is to put her under that situation. I know women love intense and big displays of affection, but I have seen lots getting pissed off because of that giant 25 kilos teddy bear her partner sent to cheer her up followed up by ‘you should have come early enough to pick me up …’ (as in you pick the gigantic shit you sent me) ‘… to then have a romantic dinner’. Soooo nope; another plan goes to the rubbish bin.

Scenario 3 – Easter is coming, right?

Here is where everything makes sense. At the beginning of this week, I decided to share some of my ideas with one of my friends and went though many different scenarios. Some evil and some… totally evil! But at the end the ideas diverted to buying a box of chocolate that looked uninterested to give it to her and let her find the phone inside. The only problem with this was the level of difficulty; had to be aware of details such as the wrapping and presentation (trying not to be suspicious) but overall it was a simple plan.

That night I went to bed, trying to formulate the perfect plan to delivery multiple surprises and then I thought… What about a chocolate egg with an awesome surprise inside? If I could pulled that up it would be legend.

On the next day the opportunity arrived, Kathy told me she was going to a chat (or presentation) of one re-noun belly dancer from Cairo, checking with me if we had anything scheduled, to which I respond nothing special other than ‘Ok’ while in my head I was fast forwarding every step I needed to complete… 

I had to buy the phone, the egg, set up everything on her phone (mail, calendar, contacts, favourite applications and music) to then find a way to cut the egg open, place the phone inside, shut it as it was never open and give it to her avoiding suspicion…. Everything had to fall in place on the next 20 hours if I wanted to succeed on it.

Setting things into motion.

Early on the given day and after calling Apple to check stocks and be certain I could go there to pick up the specified flavour of the phone, went to Chatswood Chase and then to Big W to find the biggest chocolate egg I could fit the phone in; got two of those (intelligence purposes to be explained later). On my way back to the office got a micro sim just to receive calls and set up the phone with it so Kathy don’t lose her line while I was preparing the surprise and more importantly to allow me to ring it while in the egg. Back to the office, charge the phone and installed all her favourite apps and once I was home loading her music and final touches.

Ingredients of the surprise

Now all I needed to do was, cut open the egg, put the box and phone inside, seal the phone and put it back in the box... Easy right?

To cut open the egg I used sharp and flat cutting knifes, preheated with hot water, allowing me to melt the chocolate without too much mess; it was a good idea to pop the egg in the freezer every now and then to maintain its shape.

Getting the egg ready to be cut open while the phone charges a tad more.

Egg ready

Phone ready

Sealing everything up!
Once I had two shells, I could fill up the egg with notes and the phone in the box, and proceed to close it. Taking one of the shells and place on a hot surface to then carefully place it in position and back to the freezer; is not supposed to seal it perfectly because you will need to fill up the gaps with melted chocolate then wrap it with the same foil paper.

It took a bit of work and patience. But once I was done it looked like new.

In case I had any accident and the first egg got destroyed in the process I would have used the second trying to save as much as possible from the first one. But given everything ran smoothly I was ready to give her the present and now all I needed to do was to wait for her to crack the egg open.

Now... Which one has the prize?

She got back home around 11pm and I told her I got those two eggs to celebrate Easter, Aussie style. Also specified to her some of the eggs contained toys for kids (sort of like kinder surprise) just in case she started wondering the weight of the egg, which she pointed out as soon as she had it on her hands.

What kind of cheap plastic toy could weigh this much? Is so nice you got me this gigantic egg! Thank you honey!

I had to hold it a bit more, trying to resist the impulse to tell her to open it once and for all, she pulls the wrapping foil and cracked the egg just enough to notice a bunch of pink notes inside saying 'surprise!'
Took out my mobile and rang her four times to which she replied 'what kind of toy rings like a phone? How did you get all these notes inside the egg?' Dug a bit more and there it was a box wrapped with pink paper, ringing again and vibrating. With a confused face took the paper off the way and stood quiet staring at the white box with the apple logo on one side and the picture of the iphone on top.

Must be honest, at this point I was on edge because she did not said anything for 3 or 4 seconds... but then turned around and said 'Oh my god! Oh my god! How did you do this?'

She kept asking me for two days how I did it.

Is not necessary to describe her reaction, she really loved it :) and so, the miracle of the Easter egg was born. I must admit, I am not the kind of guy that is planning for weeks a surprise, in fact I am pretty simple on that aspect but it felt so damn good... (she kept playing with the phone for three hours until at two AM when I was pretty cranky and told her to play with it in the morning).

Well fellows, I have shared one of my Easter stories. If you have one post a comment :)


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Playing Melbourne

Ever since I came to Australia I always wondered what's the look of Melbourne, its spirit and how would you feel living in there

And you probably wonder,

Didn't you decided Sydney from the start?
Are you planning to move to Melbourne?

The why is:
Melbourne is an interesting city of Australia (the second biggest) and curiously enough it was our first option when we first take the decision to come down under.

The Sydney decision:
Moving to Melbourne was a short lived dream because after a little research and a bit more of crunching numbers (and understanding the meaning of it) we realised Sydney was better option; it provided more jobs with equal to almost less competition, which meant quicker insertion into the work force and more metropolitan (closer to our taste) lifestyle.

Am I planning to move there?
Nope, I think it was a bit of curiosity but that alone wasn't the driving force for our trip, the real reason why we went there was to celebrate the engagement of two dear friends (it was their Aussie wedding sort of thing... difficult to explain without writing another post... and is sort of private) which allowed us to go there for two days and enjoy the city.

Please be aware, it was a weekend getaway (forced to three days thanks to bloody jetstar) which could be a complete overlook of the entire Melbourne experience. By the way, jetstar is a piece of shit; never fly with them (promotional spot was promoted by Rod’s Rage... and Colgate!).

First impressions of Melbourne

Its architecture is extremely interesting; evolving gradually replacing spaces of the old city without removing its architectural heritage as Perth has done during the last twenty something years... But if you know nothing about architecture or don't care about it, you probably will notice that is definitely cleaner than Sydney.

In my case I noticed both at the same time, causing me instant wonder and surprise.

Would you like to take a look at some of my photos of Melbourne?
Click on the slideshow and it will take you to my flickr photo sets.

Is very easy to find yourself walking on the streets, looking at a Victorian building from 1890’s near by a brand new art-deco or post-modern house with solar panels on its roof and a vintage shop at the entrance; so well done that it refreshes the old Victorian building without breaking its style neither tendency; it just plays beautifully.

Worthy to include: their general dress code.
Melbourne dress style is very European with a hint of hipster; that is, elegant yet including young elements into the mix which makes you think they are outgrown children with a keen sense of fashion (don’t hate me for saying the truth).  Obviously not everybody uses the same style but you can get the general idea with the following image.

Also worth to note on ‘first impressions’ is (with the exception of Mel CBD) the city is two stories high in every direction our eyes look upon, having as consequence zero to none point of reference while you are walking around. This is not entirely a bad thing as Melbourne adapted its flatness to its advantage building up the tram as main transportation system.

A tram gives you the possibility to move around the city easily without losing contact with the surface or the city, resulting in a more appealing, interactive and enjoyable ride towards your destination, although I found myself quite often thinking ‘every tram should be a bit bigger, I feel cramped’. If getting into the tram is not your thing and you are more sport oriented, the city is super adapted for bicycle riders and it has lots of dedicated roads for all of them.

And riding the tram, bicycle or walking around get me into another point of interest, shops and restaurants. Melbourne seems to be designed as a big shopping area with plenty of restaurants established in every corner with music (lived or recorded) to engage your senses with its aroma, texture, taste and sounds. Certainly you could find something to captivate your curiosity to drive you to one of those establishments, spending most of your time in there. In my case I was captivated initially by Flinders street and its multiple parisienne alike galleries with numerous restaurants and beautiful smells (someone told me they are called Flinders’ Hallways, no idea if that is correct) especially after starving for three hours while we were leaving our bags to then go back to Flinders Street to get something to eat.

Finally (and this is what stood up all the time) was the lack of mimes running on the streets entertaining everybody.

At this stage you probably think... WTF is he talking about? (Yes, what the FAQ...)

Everybody (from Melbourne) has told me so many times that the best way to describe Melbourne was with the word... ‘Cultural’

But what does it mean?

I am going to cite a dictionary definition of culture: ‘The arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.’

Cultural as in there is lots of history in there just like Greece or Italy? Nope...

Cultural as in you will be able to find people walking down the street dressed and dancing with their own very cultural background? Again, no.

Well... Melbourne does have lots of sculptures every now and then and it does have a huge number of graffiti’s in every single wall of alleys, semi old houses, etc, etc. And the concentration of museums, theatres and public spaces where to demonstrate a play seems to be greater than Sydney... But does it qualify as cultural? I don’t know... I have seen some pretty cool art on the street of Brisbane and tons of public sculptures, drawings or paintings on the far away Perth. (Oh yeah, forgot to mention I went to Brisbane a couple of months ago...)

My expectations were set by Melburnians as if I was going to be received by cirque du soleil acrobats jumping out of hot air balloons, guided by the magical old man with a set of rolling dices in his hands telling me where to go, while legions of mimes walked down the street entertaining everybody.

Our experience was not like this, but it was pretty good.
(In case you are wondering... we could not see anyone running around with a hospital rope...)
Do you want to play Melbourne?

So, cultural is a word that will apply for every other city in the world as every city in the world as well, as it has the capability to ‘manifest human intellectual achievements’.

Certainly is a refined city, with refined taste for food as well for some fashion (I am not thrilled about the hipster thingo) and undoubtedly exposition to great architectural tendencies. Melbourne is the New York’s fifth avenue of Australia; I would dare to say (just the fifth avenue).

How about that for a first impression! Uh?

Was there anything I didn’t like?

Three things came to my head straight away.

First, the beaches; I am terribly sorry for you Melburnians... but St Kilda is anything but dreamy and any comparison to Bondi beach (which is not nearly one of the best in Sydney) will be more than unfair to Bondi’s crystalline water, soft sands and outstanding panoramic of its surroundings, and apparently surfing beaches are too far away for the discussion of this post.

Second and this one could be highly related to a very bad coincidence... but in two days I saw no less than seven drugs consumers, sharing or consuming drugs on the street; leading me to think one of two things: Melbourne has big drug traffic or Melburnians are not discrete at all! For instance, on two and half years in Sydney I have seen two drugs users, definitely not cool.

Third and last thing I did not like, the Yarra River and I think is heavy attributed to my mental image of what a river should look like. Its water is anything but clear; in fact it has a brown turbulent muddy colour giving you the impression of being dirty all day long. At the end of the day, my dislike is more related to its appearance more than anything; can’t complain about bad smell (because I couldn’t get any odour) but there was no connection what so ever to the river.

How do I compare Sydney to Melbourne?

There is no comparison what so ever. Both cities are so bloody different to try to establish a comparison.

Australian cities are so different between each other, so diverse and (at the same time) so into their own fashion and lifestyle that any comparison between each other will be unfair and disproportionate to both.
Melbourne offers an interesting mixture of fashion, gastronomy and architecture compensating a lot its uninteresting beaches, few slopes (or very poor elevation, I should just say lack of panoramic views) or extremely bad weather.

Unfair comments between Sydney and/or Melbourne

I have heard comments from different sources about what to expect from Melburnians or Sydneysiders and I can tell you... there are some nasties in the bag. I will try to show two of them and my counter argument.

Comment #1
"People from Melbourne is friendlier and less interested on how much money or what type of stuff you have. Sydneysiders are d-bags on this aspect" - Shared by some fellow Melburnians.

Dear people from Melbourne, what type of people have you met in Sydney?
Sydneysiders are not classist or segregationist as far as I can tell. On my two and something years of life down under I have bumped with pretty cool people with little pretensions or preconceptions at the time of socialising with somebody. In fact, our conversations will focus on many things but money, class or social  level you're in; they try to avoid it as much as possible!

Now, I know I can't speak in absolutes and it is possible that I have been blessed to be in a circle without awful social activities such as discriminating people because of their monetary/financial status or type of education, but as far as I have seen, that behaviour does not apply here.

Comment #2
"Melburnians are ice cold with everybody other than themselves... a bit boring but definitely cold people... like Europeans." - Shared by a fellow Sydneysider

I have to say, on those two days of my visit to Melbourne and the day at the airport, everyone was kind and curious of our origins; sharing a laugh while we were browsing or walking around.

Those are comments that I have to add to the 'list of things to never apy attention to', I really don't know why people express things like those.

In conclusion

If you are taking into consideration living in Melbourne I think is a pretty good choice. Even though there are things that I don’t like, it offers really nice options when it comes to food (the city is packed with restaurants), nice transport system (trams and trains) and liveable standards.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Everybody has an issue they must live with.

Some people have strabismus... 

Some people have one leg... 

Almost anybody have at least one condition they have to learn to live with... 

What’s mine?

I... I have... sorry to all of you... is difficult to admit it... But I am going to share my terrible problem with all of you. If you suffer hypoglycaemia, bladder control or aspersers’ syndrome, hold on tight to your seat... 

I have... 
two last names!

Reaction of a chipmunk moments after my last name was revealed. 

Hispanic cultures use multiple last names as ‘the last name’ to indicate their origins and pay respects to both father and mother. A better explanation (if you are interested on reading it) is here. In Latin-America is extremely common to meet someone with two last names and in very rare cases they even use more family names (grandparents or grand grandparents). Someone even wrote an article about it.

Now, why am I writing about my last names? 

Because I would like to recognise the person who had that marvellous idea, he or she should be taken to a podium in front of the thousands of Hispanic descendents living on English, German, French speaking countries... and stone him/her to death! 

Who in their right mind thought about prolonging your name until it doesn’t fit on one piece of paper?

To me it wasn’t such a big deal until I came to Australia (in the States is not a big deal because of the increasing number of Hispanic descendents blending in the American culture, and still they struggle with it at first) and it was totally manageable with almost no consequence until today...

Today I was ready to take the knowledge driving test to eventually be able to drive free in Australia... and have proper identification other than my passport, when I get to the RTA (transport and marine services) and an officer calls me by number to inquiry ‘what can I do for you?’ 

After telling him I had a booking for the knowledge driving test and handover my documents and other papers the guy tells me:

‘Well... everything seems perfect. So you are Rod FatherLastname MotherLastname? Good...
Do you have your passport? Good! 
Silly me... asking for everything when I have it all in my hands.
Let me check... let me check... uh! This is interesting.
Why is your last name in here (pointing to the gas bill) with a hyphen in the middle?’

To what I reply kindly ‘the guy at the gas company got confused with the last name and thought the system could find it easier to understand if he used a hyphen to connect both last names.’ 

He looked at me and said: ‘I am very sorry... but that hyphen changes everything! I could take your last name and consider you are stealing the identity of someone else! ...’ (Yeah right, someone on their right mind will steal a last name with 30-ish characters in it) ‘... So I will need a different document as proof of your address. I am afraid you will have to come back some other day...’

Secretly, they all went to the same school, then college.
Super trained on the deadly skills of the bureaucracy!

I stood there... silent for 25 seconds... to what I replied ‘Are you serious???????? One hyphen changes everything???????? Every other document matches everything, every single letter of my name and one hyphen in a piece of paper will force me to come back later to take the test?’

To what he replies ‘do you have any bank statement on you at this moment?’ 

‘Uhms... I don’t know, let me materialise my Tardis to then go to level five where the archive is to get you the frigging bank statement!’.... Is what I thought... But my real answer was ‘I have the electricity bill right here (I think)... but it has written my name as Roderiko and if you complained about a hyphen I don’t want to imagine about Roderiko.’

He turned around and handed me over a piece of paper while telling me ‘that is your new appointment, come back on Thursday with a document or reference properly spelled. I am very sorry, but the last name on your gas bill is totally different to the one on your passport.... Bye.’

Seriously, I cannot understand how someone can be so square.

Dear boys and girls... Madame et Monsieur... if you are an unfortunate soul with multiple last names thinking to move to an English speaking country, please take some of my advices:

First, check every identity documents to validate the full name appears identical in all of them. If your name is Mary Jane Watson Smith where your last name would be ‘Watson Smith’, check all your documents appears as Watson Smith instead of Watson S. or Watson-Smith.

Second, at the time you are getting new services, take the time to spell everything until they actually get it right.

Third, do not follow recommendations of ‘is going to be easier for the system and/or consultants to understand your last name’. That is utterly false, they still get it wrong and now you will have a document you won’t be able to use as proof of address (or anything else).

Fourth, if you can and you are willing to, sacrifice part of your last name and change it to their standard version. In my case I have been thinking about it for a while now; today just gave me another reason to do it.  

Until next time’ says Rod With-A-Last-Name-Very-Long-And-Troublesome