Saturday, January 31, 2009

How Many Do You Count?

So I stopped this section of my post since being in the great barrier because every day the count was zero. Literally. Except that on my dive boat, one of the instructors was black, by way of France, by way of North Africa-somewhere. Really crazy guy. and I don't mean crazy like a fox. I mean crazy like a crazy person.

but back to the dive boat situation. If you're a diving enthusiast, I highly recommend living on a boat.
A. you get to dive about 5 times a day
B. if you're traveling alone, it's a great way to meet other people, and
C. it's kind of awesome to tell people you lived on a dive boat.
D. you have people to go drink with in town after a Cyclone cuts your trip short. good times.

The name of my boat was called Ocean Quest, which is run through Divers Den Dive Center. They are an unbelievably professional company and the staff is great and really personable. Most are relatively young and come from all over the world. It's also cheaper than doing day dive trips where you only dive twice and pay $200/day. Kind of a rip off.

I give them *** 1/2 out of ****.

Get To Know An Australian...by way of New Zealand


So this is Awesome Paul. Formerly known as Cool Paul, I changed his name after he officially certified me. He's from New Zealand and hates it when I jokingly call him Australian. I kept doing it until he only half-jokingly threatened not to certify me unless I paid him $100 Australian Dollars. which is roughly $7 US dollars. He's been a dive instructor for like 15 years which is coincidentally the age of his son. which if my math is correct means he had his son when he was 12. He was a really cool instructor and sits around making fun of people all day. which of course is why we got along. He's thinking of starting his own dive instructing company in New Zealand which is smart since New Zealand is inhabited mostly by sheep. So very low competition. Say hello to Paul.

Unrelatedly, how come no one ever told me how large my head is to the rest of my body? Now I understand why people always say I have such tiny ears. Which apparently is a nice way of saying you have a massive head.

When life hands you lemons






make lemonade. and then throw it back in the face of the person until they give you the oranges you asked for in the first place. Basically what I'm trying to say is that even though my dive trip got cut half a day short, i'm now back on land at a hotel with wireless internet. so every cyclone cloud has a silver lining. Now I can show you some of the pictures from the reef.
Unfortunately the picture of the shark didn't come out well.

toto i dont think we're in Kansas anymore

So it's still raining out in the great barrier. And by raining I mean we just got word that cyclone Ellie was 100km away from us last night. Therefore we are now speeding back towards shore for obvious safety reasons. In case you don't deal in metrics, 100km is extremely close which means it was no more than 2 hours away from the boat. It sucks because we don't get to do any dives today. But plus side is that I didn't have to get up for my 630am dive.

Australia why do you hate me so much right now!?!? What did I ever do to you. Stop raining, I promise I'll be good....sigh

20 meters under the sea

Last night I finished my first night dive ever. I don't know if there are words to describe the experience and any ones that I choose would be hopelessly inadequate. It felt like being in a move or floating in space. Neither of which I've done but imagine that's what it'd be like.

Unfortunately there were no sharks out tonight which I was pretty pissed about but I'm heading to the whitsunday islands in 2 days so I hope to see them there.

I have a little less than
2 weeks left on my trip with so much more today. Should be able to send underwater photos soon.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Mamasaymamasahmamamakusah

So new people have arrived on our boat to stay the night. 38 of them to be exact. No they're not pirates but they frighten me nonetheless. Only 3 of us are staying on from last night. It's like being at summer camp when you stay a week longer then your friends. So when the new kids show up they seem a lot less cool and awesome. Yeah that's what this is like. Except that we're not going to be roasting marshmallows over a fire or practice archery.

thar she blooows!!!

So I've just emerged from the depths of the ocean and am now a fully certified diver. Aaand I have 4 more dives left. I have an underwater camera and should be able to send out photos tomorrow. Don't know how good the photos will be on the night dive tonight but there were plenty of sharks yesterday so should be able to get some good photos of them for you.

Downside is that the weather is terrible. The boat's been rocking violently since last night. The water on the nightstand flew off in the middle of the night and I woke up in a puddle of water. The first thought was that I had wet the bed. Then I remembered that I'm not a 6month old baby. I also came close to falling of the bed. Twice. Luckily the seasickness tablets have helped throughout the day. For now. Snarf snarf.

riddle me this Batman

What's the difference between an Australian and a New Zealander? No seriously it's not a joke. I can't tell the difference. I'm pretty sure they're the same country and new Zealand doesn't actually exist.

And it's gonna be Nadal and federer in the finals AGAIN tomorrow. Sigh.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I punched a donkey once

So now I'm officially on my live aboard dive boat. In the middle of the reef and though I can see land far in the horizon I'm still amazed I get blackberry service. Thus I can update you guys on my experience if only to make you feel bad about your lives.

I went for an afternoon snorkel (cause I'm not aloud to dive again until tomorrow). Which is fine because I just saw a black tipped reef shark. It was truly amazing.

The boat is actually pretty nice and there are only 9 other passengers besides me living aboard. which again is fine because of my aversion for people still exist. There are twice as many crew as passengers and 2 are Dutch. And the Dutch are as goofily ridiculous as I remember. Makes me want to work on a boat. Except of course for the fact that it would be hilariously gross after a week.

Here's to the sea....oh and they have TV on the boat. I must have done something good..er scratch that, something great in my previous life. I'm going to marry you TV.

A dingo ate my baby

I have just emerged from my first 2 dives in the great barrier reef. And it was as underwear soilingingly spectacular as I thought it would be. It was like diving in some crazy rich man's tropical fish tank. Except that tank is massive and protected by the Australian government. Today was the final certification test so I didn't take underwater photos. But renting a camera tomorrow and will have great pics. I did see a sea turtle and dolphins today tho.

Tomorrow nite I'll be swimming with sharks!

I knew a man Bojangles and he danced for me

...but he wore shoes. People you need to wear shoes in public. Australians I realize that this is a free country, that you do as you please. But for godsakes wear shoes. It is gross to walk around barefoot. Stop it.has no one ever heard of broken glass. Or nails. Or general decency. Despite what "Barefoot Enthusiast Magazine" told you, wear shoes. Don't just walk down the street without them. Or stroll into a drugstore like you're walking into your kitchen. Unless of course your homeless and in fact have no shoes. Then it's okay. Otherwise..

So a guy walks into a bar and says ow!

So my blogging has been lacking simply for the fact that I do not have highspeed computer access. I'm currently staying in Palm Cove which is a beautiful beach town/village/city/enclave outside cairns next to the great barrier reef. My hotel is amazing except for the fact that it has comically slow internet access. Therefore I'm updating the blog from my blackberry. Thus I can't upload pics for the time being. Not having computer access makes me feel uncomfortable. like watching ugly people kiss. It's just not right. So apologies for all the egregious errors because blackberries are terrible to type on.

The past two days have been long and uneventful. I'm getting my final diving certification and have been in a pool the past 2 days with my instructor Cool Paul. I call him that because he is cool and his parents have given him the name Paul. I somehow ended up being the only person in my course whereas everyone else is in a class of 10 people. This works well for me as I don't like people.

Tomorrow I head out to the reef to live on a dive boat for several days. I will take copious pics and hopefully some underwater. I'm also doing a night dive which will be pants crappingly awesome! It's unlikely that I'll have internet out in the reef but who knows. I had service in the bush of Africa. So will update when I can.

Luckily I'm diving with Cool Paul which will ensure that I don't get left in the ocean. Coincidentally enuf they're showing the movie Open Water tonight about the divers who get left at sea. Don't know if that's a sign...perhaps a sign that they'll make a move about me. Hmmm, who will play me? Morris chestnut? Bill bellamy? Perhaps Gabriel union will star?

Some of you will get that joke.

Monday, January 26, 2009

glory be to gawd

I am sitting across from Dave chappelle's aboriginal doppelganger in the Sydney airport. It is surreal and this guy's surrounded by an entourage. Which more than likely just means he's a rapper. They call them stereotypes for a reason.
Will move in closer to see if I can capture a photo without getting punched.

Men at Work

In honor of those with jobs. and Australians. and Australians with jobs, I've decided to entertain you with a song from one of the preeminent bands of our time. Men at Work performing their classic hit "Land Down Under". Please note that not all Australians are like this. Just most.

Enjoy

http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=ymO-W1Lfth8

Great Moments in WTF?!?



So I've still yet to confirm whether or not Midget Tossing exists but supposedly it is alive and well in Australia. I think I heard that I read that somewhere. Before I leave this country I will get to the bottom of this mystery even if I have to toss a midget myself.....err, sorry a little person. Toss a little person myself.

...The Great Barrier Reef

In a few hours time I will be flying up to Cairns, a city in the North of Australia. That's where part of the massive Great Barrier Reef is. I'll be living on a boat for several days while diving about 4 times a day. I've never lived aboard a boat before...unless of course that time I spent with Noah on the Arc counts.

I expect that the pictures will be spectacular.

This is what it sounds like


When doves cry.

It's been raining in Sydney for the past 12 hours or so and it's been a complete shock to the system. While the rain did not completely ruin my first Australia Day, it made a valiant effort.

The day actually started out nicely. I chartered a boat with a few people that Myles put me in touch with and sailed around for a few hours. It was fantastic. I failed to take pictures but rest assured that it was better than sitting in an office. We gorged on bottles of champagne followed by a lunch of smoked salmon, prosciutto, spicy salami, fresh cut fruit, sandwiches heaving with smoked chicken, avocado, cherry tomatoes, jugs of ambrosia, and....oh sorry, I blacked out there there for a bit. what did you have for lunch?

The boat was a veritable U.N. with representatives from Argentina, Bulgaria, Australia, and the US.

The weather started to turn sour in the afternoon but I managed to make it to the pier with a fellow American to celebrate the day with a fireworks display on Darling Harbor. And what better way to celebrate Australia Day than by eating hamburgers and drinking Belgian beer. Keep in mind that it was raining this entire time, but the fireworks were pretty nice. And the day actually coincided with Chinese new years so the festivities were bigger than usual.

Luckily I was in bed before all of the brawls started. My boxing days are over and I'm too old for that mess.

So not sure what you guys are up to, but who's down to join me on a new adventure in....

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Melbourne. I hardly knew yee

So I'm back in Sydney and regret that I didn't spend more time in Melbourne. Overall it turned out to be a fantastic city though I initially underestimated it. A far more relaxed pace than Sydney, amazing restaurants and bars and genuinely friendly people. I highly recommend it. Highly.

Australia Day

G'day Mates. Just in case you didn't know, it's T-minus several hours until it's officially Australia Day here. In case you've never heard of it (which is pretty unlikely unless you're Australian) it's the day the country celebrates the arrival of the first European settlers (read:prisoners) to Australia (read: land originally inhabited by the Aboriginals). So far it really sounds like a day off to drink and shoot fireworks. I'm sure most Australians don't even know what it celebrates anymore. Similar to our Fourth of July. I mean do you really even know what it's meant to commemorate? Oh you do? Then it's just me that doesn't? Hmmm.

Understandably many Aboriginals aren't happy with the day and hold annual protests. I mean could you imagine if the US had a national public holiday to celebrate a European invasion and pillage of land originally inhabited by natives? Oh wait we do. Happy early Thanksgiving.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Act 3: Parade of Penguins

And now to the highlight of the day. The Little Penguins of Philips Island are very famous attracting tens of thousands of visitors a year. Every night these tiny penguins (about 12-15inches tall) come back from a 10 hour day spent at sea feeding to bring bellies full of food back to their young. Depending on the time of year and the availability of resources there can be anywhere from 500 to 2000 of these penguins the rise up out of the ocean and waddle to their nests. They only come out of the ocean once it's dark to avoid predators. It's really awesome to see them waddle out of the sea and fall over because they've eaten too much. They are not lacking in adorablity.

If you do decide to do this trip, I strongly urge you to do the Penguin Private Experience Plus. You get a private guided tour with 9 other people and you to sit in a special viewing area where you have excellent views of the penguins. If you do not do this you will have to sit in the lame bleachers section with terrible views. And bring a jacket and wear pants because it is not warm by the water.

Unfortunately you are legally not allowed to take pics because it scares the little guys. But google can help you figure out what these penguins look like. Oh sweet google, your powers know no bounds.

Act 2: Koalas


The second stop on the tour was a koala sanctuary on Philips Island. I will try to explain koalas to you.

Ok think of a very fast and active animal (for example, a cheetah). Now think of that animal all hopped up on coffee and crack, running around all agitated and sweaty. Stealing money from your wallet even though he said he stopped using and was going to rehab. Now picture the exact opposite. That is a koala. These animals (actually marsupials) are excessively shiftless and lazy, sleeping about 23 hours a day and only wake up to eat and use the bathroom. However this is fully compensated for by their inexplicable level of cuteness. If it weren't for that, they'd be completely useless.

Sorry for the poor quality of pictures but I forgot to charge my camera battery before heading out.

Act 1: Kangaroos



The first stop on the long day tour was to a farm that raises kangaroos and sheep and other such farm animals. I have decided to express my feelings towards this majestic creature in the form of a poem.

Ode to a Kangaroo

Oh kangaroo, you proudly don your deer like face.
Pointy ears of yore, cupped mouth eating pellets from my hand.
Too bad you're covered in flies. At least the other tourists will pet you.
But I won't.

A day in Three Acts

So I thought I was going to be spending the day with the Little Penguins (also known as Fairy Penguins, though they possess no discernible powers). How wrong I was. Though I would have known better if I actually looked at the itinerary I paid for. The day was actually a full day tour to visit a farm with real live kangaroos, then to a koala sanctuary, and then finally to the penguins. I will present the proceedings of the day in three separate postings with varying degrees of similes, metaphors, and poetry.

Friday, January 23, 2009

How Many Do You Count?

I got a little behind on my count so I'll have to lump the tally from the entire time I've been in Melbourne. Despite the fact that Melbourne is populationally smaller than Sydney the count has been relatively high. The Aussie Open was littered with blacks. They were primarily from Nigeria which is surprising as I don't believe there's ever been a Nigerian professional tennis player in the history of ever.

Tally for the 3 days spent in Melbourne: roughly 35*

*The count would have been higher but several "blacks" turned out to be Indian.....don't worry, I asked.

Things I learned....at the bar

Australians speak one language. That language is not English. I will report back once I've discerned the dialect.

Stay tuned.

Flora Fauna

Okay I got the video thing to work while at the Royal Botanical Gardens. Unfortunately it's just a video of a tree. And that tree is just standing there. It's like watching grass grow. Literally. Perhaps I'll submit it for the Cannes Film festival.


video

Lions, Tigers, and Penguins, OH MY!!!

Oh my indeed. Tomorrow I'm heading to Philips Island to hang out with the Little Penguins (not to be confused with Little People). It will be like March of the Penguins but without the narration and dramatic music. It should be glorious. most glorious.

I can't believe Kylie Minogue is so popular here




That thought is not related to this post, but more a general point of confusion.

What is not confusing is how great the architecture is in Melbourne. It's deliriously creative and inviting in equal measure.

I also had the chance to visit the museum of Australian Art which actually features work by only Australian artists. It's all very good and highly underrated.

The Garden of Good and Evil




Actually there was no Evil at the Melbourne Botanical Garden. But there was more than an abundance of good. There is also an abundance of flora and fauna. Because there was so much flora and fauna, I will replace most words in this post with flora and fauna. While I previously complained about Melbourne's slow internet it appears that was only specific to my hotel. apologies Melbourne.

You've definitely redeemed yourselves with a flora fauna of flora fauna. But because you cannot always flora fauna during the flora fauna, you must choose alternate flora fauna.

Enjoy the pictures of the garden. If the weather is nice enough you can enjoy a nice nap on the grass. I however did not because there was too many youth around. and suspicious looking birds which can't be trusted, as evidenced by what they did to that airplane in New York.

Aussie Open...by day






So I tried to upload some cool video from the US Open yesterday but the internet here is offensively slow. So for now these pictures while have to tide you over until I get back to Sydney where the internet infrastructure appears to be much better. Step it up Melbourne!!!

You'll get to experience the matches (pictorally of course) as well as up close pictures of a few of the players including number 2 men's player Novak Djokovic and number 1 female player Elena Jankovic. Who oddly enough are both Serbian....well not so much odd as coincidental.

The guys in red are the Chilean fans. or Argentinian. or something. I don't really do country flags.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Aussie Open




Oh what a night it was for my first time to the Australian Open. The fans were painted all sorts of colors, none of which are found in nature. It was truly spectacular. Rod Laver arena is tiny compared to the US Open center court which means that even the crappy far away seats are pretty decent (the photo may look like I'm far, but that's because of the camera). However, I would recommend not booking your ticket the day before in order to get better seats. The two night matches featured Australians (Jelena Dokic and Bernard Tomic, respectively). Dokic won, Tomic did not. However he is only 16 years old. That's basically a fetus. And he's playing in the Australian Open. I was studying for my drivers license at 16. How depressing.


Here are some pictures from the night.

Melbourne is not Sydney

So I have been in Melbourne two days and it's so much NOT like Sydney. Not better or worse. Just different.

After arriving in the morning (and more or less missing most of Obama's speech) I decided to take a trip down to St. Kilda which is the beech area of Melbourne. Of course I use the term beach very loosely as it is a twelve foot wide stretch of sand facing water. There is also an absurdely unappealing amusement park called Luna park.

However I did have an excellent meal at Rococco which is right near the water. But do you know what drinking in the middle of the day does to a man? It makes him drunk. I would advise against it especially when it's 100 degrees out. There is a 99% chance that you will develop a massive headache by 5 PM....So after a nap it was off to my first night at the Australian Open.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

This Sign


Is awesome...It's a lesbian liquor store, whatever that means.

How Many Do You Count?

Mountains are places not frequented by blacks (like swimming pools or college), so it was looking like today's tally would be zero.

Buuuuut, my trip to dinner at Billy Kwong rectified that. Unrelatedly, Billy Kwong was the tastiest meal I've had so far. I suggest the crispy prawn wantons with chili sauce. delicious.

Today's Tally: 1

Blue Mountains





Today (Day 5) I went to the Blue Mountains which has been the best part of my trip so far. It's absolutely stunning but unfortunately the pictures don't come close to captureing the sheer awesomness of the canyon. They're called the Blue Mountains because of the blue hue given off by the trees reflecting the sun's rays. Kind of like a rainbow (I told you this blog would be informative).

I went with OZ Trek tours and they're spectacular and I highly recommend them. Very professional and our guide Melanie was super informative with a great personality. The group sizes are small which means that your odds of being annoyed by random people decreases drastically. I now have travel buddies to meet up with in Melbourne tomorrow. It was a 10 hour tour from pick up to drop off, but well worth it. The trip ended with a walk through the rainforest.

There is a stop for lunch in Leura where I had the best steak sandwich in the history of ever. The place is called Red Door so go if you have a chance.

I love this country.

How Many Do You Count?

Day Four's Tally: 4

Get To Know An Australian


Today you actually get to meet three of them. Jane, Jeff, Jo (l to r). These are all friends of co-worker Myles who put me touch with great people while I'm visiting Oz. Jane recently finished a year at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and is now working at Dexa in Sydney. Jeff and Jo are married and expecting in 5 months. Jeff works in real estate while Jo owns her own wedding dress design company. All three are fantastic people and this is us dining at a great little oceanside restaurant called Bondi North Italian.

The lady in the middle....that's our waitress

This is a knife


...actually the first one was a fork. But I've made it my mission to locate Crocodile Dundee (né Paul Hogan) and revive one of the great franchises of the 1980s.

That's Naaawt a Knife

A day at the aquarium





Sydney's Aquarium was pretty great. Who knew so many fish could be taken out of their natural habitat and put inside a tank. Amazing. Seriously though, it was a really cool place, especially the sharks and manta rays (which were massive). The photos don't do them justice. There were also a couple of dugongs which are basically like manatees only with Australian accents. The ginormous crocodile stuck inside a tiny cage was not so cool.

Positives: Friendly staff, excellent aquatic life, open until 10 PM.

Negatives: Kids. Rampant unsupervised kids. To avoid these things, I suggest taking advantage of the 10 PM closing time when the children should be in bed.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

7th Heaven

They love that show here. Which is hilarious because that show is terrible.

My adventures for the day are about to begin as I head to Sydney's aquarium.

Sweet Beauty


This is how my day ended yesterday.

Sydney's Beaches




Yesterday I took the beach walking path between Coogee (awesome name) Beach to Sydney's famous Bondi Beach. It was a beautiful 1.5 hour walk and you get to pass several other beaches along the way. Here are some of the scenes along the coast. The massive cemetery was really beautiful.

OMG!!

These pictures take so long to upload.

How Many Do You Count?

In order to tie in my travels through Australia with my Istanbul experience, I have decided to keep a daily tally of the total number of other black people I see while here.

Today's Total: 2

Sydney at Night

My Amsterdam friend Inky put me touch with a friend of a friend named Steve living in Sydney. He apparently knows everyone here so he took me out to experience Sydney's ridiculous nightlife. Suffice it to say, we went to paint the town red. Which of course was weird because we ain't even have no paint. Hugo's is definitely a bar that should be experienced while visiting here.

Get To Know An Australian


This was our bridge tour guide Dean. He was a awesome. He does three climbs a day which is absurd given that there are so many steps to the top. He is also bald, but not on purpose. His son lives in Holland teaching kite surfing. How random. Say hello to Dean.

I can see my house from here



The Sydney Harbor Bridge is one of the cities most famous landmarks. And it is massive. Rather than observing it from the ground I took the 3.5 hour bridge tour. You get the chance to don a weird suit and climb to the top of the bridge on a guided tour. It was pretty spectacular and you can see the entire city from the top. My group was really cool, though I don't remember any of their names. But the two Irish guys were funny I think. I couldn't understand a word they were saying. Good times. Here are a few pictures to whet your appetite.

The first picture I'm supposed to look like I'm holding the Australian flag. It does not look like that at all.

Sydney Zoo



During my first full day in Sydney I took a trip to the zoo, but must admit that I was a little disappointed. Thus the only picture that I took was of the sign at the entrance because it was shinny. And also of this koala sleeping in the tree.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Oh what sites



Recognizable sites of sydney. The famous Sydney Opera House and bridge. That's me in the picture.

Get To Know An Australian


This is my cab driver who is the first person I met upon arriving in Sydney. He told me his name, but I did not listen. I think it was AJ but I will call him Darnell. He moved to Sydney from Jakarta some odd years ago.

In Australia they drive on the wrong side of the car and on the wrong side of the road. It's just like England except with better food, better weather, better looking people, better....wait, it's nothing like England. Vive le France!!!

Arriving



This is me landing in Sydney. It looks vaguely like leaving LA.

Leaving


This is me leaving LA.

Day 1.5

So my trip from LA to Sydney got off to an auspicious start. My flight on the night of the 15th was canceled and had to leave the following morning. I had planned to become indignant and demand a first class upgraded. But needless to say that did not pan out. After a 14 hour flight, I finally arrived, but my first day in Sydney was a bust since it was night time when I landed. But I knew it would only get better.

An Introduction

Hello friends and family. Welcome to my travel blog "Hello Lovely Chocolate People". Most of you know the origin of that name but for those unfamiliar, I'll enlighten. During my trip to Istanbul with my sister we quickly learned that we accounted for half of the minority tourists there. In an attempt to get us to come into his restaurant, a man smiled at us, stretched out his arms and greeted us thusly: HELLOOOO LOVELY CHOCOLATE PEOPLE!!!

I thought "well played random Turkish restaurant owner". Because of the sheer awesomeness, and vague offensiveness of this encounter, I decided that if I ever formed a band I'd call it Hello Lovely Chocolate People. Since I will never form a band, I've decided to give my blog that name. You'll be able to follow me through Australia for the next month, go where I go, see what I see, do what I do...haaa, I'm just kidding. You won't actually be doing any of these things because you'll be working, but through this blog you can watch me do them. I'll attempt to update daily or at least every other day with pictures, random musings, and hopefully video.

So as they say in the great state of Alaska: Onward and Upward....or some such nonsense