Chapter One: First Impressions
Dates covered: July 8th — July 19th
Without further ado, here are my initial thoughts and reasonings:
On leaving San Francisco
You never realize how much stuff is in your house until you have to get rid of it all in 48 hours. I owe a heartfelt apology to Ben and Sam, two college housemates saddled with eliminating my previous residency’s legendary levels of clutter.
Unfortunately, packing meant we couldn’t put together a big “Jake and Nick are leaving come get drinks with us and sob” session — we were too busy divvying up our trash into equally sized bags and stealthily dunking them into neighborhood bins the night before trash pickup.
At this point, dear readers, it is important that all of you know who Jake is. Most agree that he’s a friendly muppet of Appalachian origin that I encountered sophomore year of college. He and I have been in the same city ever since, including San Francisco, where we got a job at the same tech company whose name rhymes with “Shmopbox.”
When opportunities arose to do a year long assignment in Dropbox’s Sydney office, we leapt at the opportunity. As far as San Francisco, though, we miss our friends, that hilly city, and above all (literally), the dazzling rooftop porch from which we watched Karl the Fog devour the poor saps living in the westernmore ‘burbs of the city.
On airplanes and losing days
We hopped on a plane in LA at 10 pm PST on July 8th and got off the plane 16 hours later on July 10th at 7 am Sydney Standard Time or whatever it’s called.
Editor’s note: It’s AEST, or Australian Eastern Standard Time. You learn something every day.
July 9th was lost into the ether, but accomplishments on that fateful, 40,000 foot day include:
- Watching the new Avengers and not falling asleep, a feat not replicated by Jake (“Did I finish it by the end of the flight though? Hell yeah.” — Jake)
- Preventing the surprisingly large leg of the adolescent dude in the seat next to me from spilling into my space by forcefully holding down the arm rest betwixt us while sleeping
- Not crash landing on a mysterious, Indo-Pacific island with polar bears (actually a disappointment, but I suppose we were taking the reverse of the LOST flight — will try harder on the flight home)
On temporary accommodations (pt. 1)
For the first two months, we are living in hotel-like accommodations in the Sydney downtown (called the Central Business District, or CBD). We were given a couple of choices, and I was convinced to go against my initial impressions from Google Maps street views by a very persuasive Jake, who cited the provided pictures of the rooms in question.
Unfortunately, a Google photo of your apartment complex’s entrance situated in the basement of a Chinese restaurant turns out to be a stronger indicator of overall quality then the meticulously stilted pictures provided by the hotel itself. Note to self: do not be persuaded by Jake again. He cannot be trusted. To find out how Jake and I escape our dingy hotel rooms and trade views of a parking garage for a swanky locale five minutes from the harbour, keep reading.
Hey-o! See what I did with the ‘u’ in ‘harbour’? That kind of magic happens out here all the time.
On the Sydney Opera House
The Opera House happened. We touched the side of it and left. Apparently, this tendency for “Welp, there it is. Next!” tourism is inherited from my dad. Like father, like son, I guess.
Let’s talk about the seagulls. They look enough like American seagulls and inhabit roughly the same locale (the sea), so they are identifiable. However, the males have scary, crimson beaks and a similar colored lining around their eyes. They’re also far more aggressive than American seagulls, which sounds hard to imagine, but is entirely true.
They make different noises, too. American seagulls drift lazily in the wind, occasionally emitting a delicate “cawww!” which mingles with the waves to become ambient beach noise that I recall fondly. Australian seagulls, however, are a bit more gurgle-y, and prone to constantly emitting a sort of “BLAAARGH!” at passersby. Finding Nemo was spot on; if anything, it was actually a bit flattering.
Jake and I honestly spent most of our time near the Opera House watching the seagulls. One pack in particular surrounded a little girl and squawked menacingly until she dropped her fries (called “chips” here) and ran, crying, to her mother. While Pixar limits seagull vocabulary to “mine,” they clearly have more threatening verbiage available.
On poisonous critters
As part of a self-imposed Survival Down Under Orientation program, Jake and I visited the Australian Museum and spent a lot of time in the “These Things Will All Kill You, Mate” exhibit. To be honest though, I don’t think it really matters that I can differentiate between the Sydney Funnel Spider (poisonous) and the Huntsman Spider (massive) due to my comprehensive Spider No Contact Policy.
On frisbees and having one or not
In Hyde Park, Jake threw our frisbee down the drain. Or I didn’t catch the frisbee and it went down the drain. Agree to disagree there. No, it didn’t spin the opposite way in the southern hemisphere.
On first weeks of work
I read The Lean Startup once on a long plane flight, and it said that Learnings™ are the most important results you should strive for when making a business. In honor of that, I’ll list my Learnings™ from work the first few weeks:
- There are no bagels in Australia (sorry, Sandy Cohen).
Editor’s note: There is one bagel place in New South Wales, and it’s right near the office. We thank you, Lord, for the blessings you give us this day and every day.
- The Sydney office, and the rest of Australia, takes work-life balance very seriously.
- This means that everybody works reeeeally hard right up until 5:01 and then promptly leaves. It’s refreshing and keeps everybody on task all day, and keeps you sane all week.
- Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan are relatively small, but a huge proportion of their population uses the internet and makes a decent amount of money. Places to keep in mind if you’re ever trying sell something tech related (but who does that?).
- I’ll be briefly visiting Melbourne in August for a conference! If you ask Melbourne residents, Melbourne is a more cultured Sydney. If you ask Sydneysiders, Melbourne is a duller, less sexy Sydney. There’s only one way to find out.
- Empty office space is a great place to play soccer.
- When starting a new job, spend the first couple of weeks figuring out how to measure everything and how to report that. It helps you recognize areas for improvement and fully own your zone. Plus, numbers make you look smart. Which do you prefer? “To ballpark it, we sold a couple thousand eggs last week,” or “Ma’am, we sold 5,650 cage-free, free-range eggs last week, every single one delicious.”
Editor’s note: Nick works at Dropbox doing Digital Marketing. He does not sell eggs.
One of the office’s resident Americans was returning to the states at the end of our first week. In honor of his departure, a coworker gifted in the art of disc jockeying played a classic 90's hip hop set. Most of the office boogied down until at least 9 pm (which is super late for people who consider 6:00 PM to be burning the midnight oil).
Unfortunately, I let slip a couple of more extravagant dance moves, and it was enough to get me coerced into a dance-off against the resident office dance fiend. I can think of no better way to eliminate any remaining vestiges of professionalism than to perform a poor man’s Single Ladies dance in front of the whole office. However, the only thing more embarrassing would be losing, so the big guns came out. Ultimately, it was a tie.
The same evening after a few more beers, the Ozzies in the office also took it upon themselves to give me a lesson in cricket. This brotherly gesture manifested itself as me guarding an office chair with a misshapen baseball bat as they hurled ball after ball at my shins. The whole thing was very Australian and not entirely unenjoyable.
On temporary accommodations (pt. 2)
After our first night in our less than ideal accommodations, we contacted the services that placed us and requested if we could have our second choice (which had been my first choice, remember? Remember?!). We got the a-okay to move on the Saturday of our second week there. Saturday morning, we packed everything up and shuffled it on down to a hotel/apartment building that was two blocks from the office and 4 blocks from Circular Quay (pronounced “Circular Key,” duh), the ferry terminal right on the harbour by the Opera House.
More importantly, I hunted down a hardware store and acquired the Gorilla Glue™ necessary to repair my precious boat shoes post dance-off. Shoes glued, hair freshly cut, and outlook hopeful, Jake and I moved into our new temporary apartment. It had everything the old one did not, such as no parking garage outside the window, separate rooms for sleeping and cooking, and nobody painting your room while you were staying in it.
On Gossip Girl
Spotted: Nick watching Gossip Girl on weeknights. It could be because Game of Thrones is over, but we think it’s because this Nemo is 7,500 miles of ocean away from his old school and has nothing better to do. Either way, it looks like this fish is hooked. XOXO
Another bird encounter. Whilst Jake and I were eating on Saturday at a cafe, other brunchers were accosted by these beautiful red and green parakeet-ish birds. (Editor’s note: These are called lorikeets.) They’re initially a wonderful surprise, but then you realize that they’re not that rare and behave like pigeons.
Because they’re stunning, people let them get away with whatever they want, like a beautiful girl cutting in line at the bar. They just land on the table, messily devour a sugar packet, and then fly on to the next pair of wonderstruck brunch-stagrammers who are counting their lucky stars that their brunch photo is going to be so much better than Shelly’s. Try that at my table, bird, and I’ll squash you with Jake’s new, heavy-ass camera.
On Jake’s new camera
Ah yes: Jake got an awesome, new, mirrorless camera. Combined with him releasing his travel log first, this firmly cemented his place as the cooler of the two of us (despite allegedly being a muppet).
The new camera is going to be perfect for documenting new travels and discoveries. They say pictures are worth a thousand words, so in the interest of saying more with less effort, we’ll start taking photos. Jake has also offered to be my photography coach, a position formerly occupied by Dropbox homie Akiff Premjee (#ruleofthirds #carouselblog).
I do think I have some potential; my debut into the world of photography with fancy cameras was Jake’s legendary Arches/Dropbox badge photo. You’re welcome, ladies. Nice and big - save it and make yourself a mobile background:
On our first Saturday night
The plan for our second Saturday night was to meet up with some coworkers and watch our DJ coworker (hereinafter DJ RK) spin some tunes at a bar in a Cambridge-esque neighborhood called Surry Hills. The ensuing events are chronicled as an agenda:
- 8 PM: Dinner at a burger place.
- 8:30 PM: Jake and I go to Phil’s for a beer or two. Phil is the All-American homie. Phil is the big brother eagle taking the eaglets that are Jake and I under his wings. Phil also lives close to the bar where DJ RK is playing.
- 9:00 PM: Listening to Drop It Like It’s Hot with coworkers at DJ RK’s event. In the US, classic hip hop is considered standard bar fare, but featuring that genre in an Ozzie bar earns you the specialized “Classic RnB” designation.
- 10:30 PM: Some coworkers leave to go to a different bar. They take a cab. An Ozzie offers to walk me to said bar instead. Being frugal, friendly, and generally a fan of Australian girls, I agree.
- ??? PM: Some time around this point, at Phil’s behest, Jake successfully pretends to be the founder of Dropbox.
- 10:45 PM: Wandering around Surry Hills with a local singing Flight of the Conchords songs. Maybe they really are ANZ’s second most popular comedy folk duo.
- 11:00 PM: Local girl comes through, and we arrive at second bar. I am saddled with two more local groupies, one of which is a bloke who introduces me to everybody as Djokovic (I’ll take it at that point).
- 12:30 AM: Shanghaied by locals. We take a cab somewhere, which is fine except I left my compass in my other Wilderness Explorer backpack and have no idea where we are. I end up on a wharfside bar near water — Opera House near?
- 2:30 AM: Leave bar. Original Ozzie calls a group of drunk gentlemen “Bogans,” which means rednecks, specifically from Perth. They originally think it’s me, and things get heated until they realize from my accent that, as I claim, I don’t actually know what “Bogan” means.
- 2:40 AM: Locals leave. Using newly acquired Oz-friendly phone, I discover that I am in fact on the other side of the CBD from Opera House. It turns out that, being a harbor, Sydney abuts the water in a lot of places. Fortunately, it is not an arduous trek home, and the night ends with me grateful that my new Oz-friendly phone charger doesn’t require my single, perpetually misplaced outlet converter.
On things in general down here
Ozzies, like land in which they live, are rowdy yet well intentioned. I can’t wait to get to know them both a little more.