Falls Creek.

It seemed like a long wait for the ThoughtWorks ski trip to Falls Creek (aka ThoughtCarver – although I don’t work for TW anymore, it will be part of my life for a long time yet it seems!). I had been counting down the days since getting back from Kuala Lumpur. After endless Skype calls, with unreliable internet and dubious sound quality resulting in a lot of our conversations being along the lines of “huh? what did you say? I can’t hear you!”, Silvio and I would finally be in the same place, and able to have a normal conversation :) Oh yeah, and I was pretty excited about my first time skiing in Australia too.

I have to admit though, Aussies don’t seem to have a very good opinion of their snow quality – I was led to expect soggy slush, short runs and bad conditions, and I was pleasantly surprised by the skiing in Falls Creek. But I’ll start as usual, at the beginning of the trip, with the journey …

I flew to Melbourne to meet Silvio, where we’d rented a car to drive across Victoria to Falls Creek. I was desperately impatient as the plane began the descent into Melbourne, it had been a long two months, and the taxiing from the runway to the gate seemed to take for-eeeevvvv-a … until finally, the moment of reunion at the gate! We grinned like daft idiots all the way through the airport, but I didn’t care, it was a nice feeling.

It was a pretty long drive from Melbourne, over five hours … and we still had to find snow chains, since it’s a legal requirement in Falls Creek. Thanks to Google and TomTom, we found Ray’s ski shop along the way, and then finally, FINALLY we arrived. It was bloody freezing, and raining! We parked the car in the last available spot in a cold, windy car park and luckily there were parking attendants to drive us back to our apartments, where the rest of the ThoughtCarvers we were sharing with were already cosy in front of a log fire with red wine … didn’t take us long to join in!

Thursday morning the mountain didn’t look particularly inviting. A heavy cloud hung over it, drizzling cold rain on the village streets … we almost gave it a miss, but eventually bundled up in ski gear and braved the low visibility and high winds for a few pretty good runs. My legs were a bit shaky on the first run down, but Silvio was off like a shot, and then on the second run he led the way into the soft, ungroomed snow. Like an idiot, I followed – well, couldn’t really see much else to aim for – but my legs were not quite ready for that! I was a bit all over the place on my skis that first day, but at least the snow wasn’t too slushy or icy, even if we couldn’t see where we were going. The runs were all very short and over too quickly, but the chairlifts were also short so not too cold (except for Scotts Chair, where the wind seemed to blow right through me) and there were no real queues. I pretty quickly discovered that most of the black runs were comparable to hard red runs in Europe, although there were a few with some decent steep slopes and moguls.

Snowy mountains

Thursday night, Silvio had one goal: MEAT! We went to the Falls Creek Country Club which was described on the website as the best place in town for a steak, it was pretty quiet but the steak was good. When we left it was snowing fairly heavily, the roads were white and we left trails of footprints back up the road … this was promising for the skiing conditions the following day!

Friday was definitely better – although there were still times when the clouds closed in, there were also moments of sunny, clear runs. The first two heats of the Age Corporate ski race were held, and many of the ThoughtWorkers were participating – I watched a few, most weren’t too competitive, but some definitely were (coughDuncan). Everybody had to do the course twice, it was fairly short though – I ended up taking Silvio and Alex-no-brakes-Ong’s jackets down the slope for them while they competed (better for speed, apparently, did I mention some people were competitive?), I must have looked a right sight in my own bulky ski gear, with two more jackets tied around me on top!

Sarah finishing in style

Friday night, we all headed out for drinks at Tom Dick and Harry’s. ThoughtWorks had sponsored some pretty cool jackets for all of us, which most people had worn for the drinks, so we were pretty easy to spot as a group. The drinks were put on for the racers, so there were lots of other corporate groups there too – Sarah managed to get talking to a guy from another company who happened to have a tiger suit (wtf?) – she later convinced him to trade it for her ThoughtWorks jacket. I haven’t yet seen proof that the deal went through, although he did wear it (and partly remove it) in the next bar.

Sarah had her eyes on this suit …

The drinks were flowing on Friday and we got steadily more rowdy as we progressed to The Man bar. Andy Tam was particularly good fun that night, until eventually somebody decided to make sure he got home :) We discovered the foosball table, which brought back memories of playing in Berlin with Alex … this time we played against each other, Silvio and I won by a narrow margin (I’m pretty rubbish). Some randoms decided to challenge the winners but I told Alex to take my place, they almost won as well :)

Saturday would be our final day of skiing since we had planned to leave around lunchtime on Sunday, and it was also the second day of the race, with two more heats down a smaller slalom. Silvio had decided to try a new technique that involved bashing down the poles as he skied past them, it was successful in terms of getting him a pretty good time, but less so in that after finishing the second race, he had some pretty nasty bruises on his arms.


As he finished, I was pretty excited, he had almost equalled Julie’s time which was bloody good, she’s done a lot of racing in the past and in fact she beat Duncan that day too, which she didn’t let him forget (I hear there are now two new email aliases at ThoughtWorks now … ibeatduncan and ilosttojulie!). After Silvio raced, he sat down in the snow complaining about his arms being in pain and trying to use the snow to ease the bruises, but I didn’t really clock on how bad it was until the ski patrol arrived (two of them!) They were incredibly efficient, and even offered to take him back down the slope on a stretcher – which I thought was kind of funny, although when one of them pulled up on a skidoo I did think it might have been exciting to get a ride on that :) Eventually they left us with an ice pack after filling in about seventeen forms, and I continued to tease him for the rest of the day for being such a drama queen.

Saturday night, it was back to The Man for food and more drinking … but we sneaked out before the dancing started (sorry, Sarah!) Sunday, I crammed my gear back into my suitcase – I swear, no matter how tidy I am at home, whenever I go away, my suitcase seems to just explode everything out the minute I arrive – and Silvio headed off to the cold, windy car park to get our car. He was gone for ages, and I was wondering how he could possibly have got lost walking up one road … until I saw him walking back, waving his phone at me and asking why I hadn’t answered his (five) calls … must remember to take that thing off of silent sometimes. It turned out that the car wouldn’t start: the battery was flat as a pancake. Nobody else had jump leads, not sure I’d know how to use them safely anyway, but there was roadside assistance man with a truck who headed up the hill to help us. He attached the cables, and the alarm promptly started to go off – but with power restored, once that was disarmed we could at least get the car going again. Apparently it happens quite often :( anyway, we were sorted and heading off to the airport, with a few stops in the city along the way to trade ski gear for work clothes.

Although it was an awesome trip (and expertly organised, thanks Julie and Andy!) and I was sorry to leave the snow behind, it was also pretty good going back … we flew together back to Sydney and spent a couple of days enjoying Manly before Silvio had to head back to Bangalore for his second and final semester as a trainer at ThoughtWorks University.

I think we might have enjoyed Manly even more if I hadn’t forgotten my keys on Monday morning, resulting in two pretty hungry and tired people slouching over the table in the Wharf Bar after work until my new housemate Matthias finally arrived home at 10pm to let us in :( We sat watching the rain sluice across the harbour and worried about the bags we’d left in the porch of the house, which luckily were still dry when we finally made it back!

Quackers made it to Falls Creek – of course!

So on Wednesday morning, not only did I say ciao to Silvio but my friend and housemate Viviana was also heading off on a two month trip to Europe, so I am now missing both of them. Ah well, not long to go now until my own big holiday – heading back to the UK to watch my little brother get married, which I can’t believe has come around already. I will be squeezing in a quick weekend in Singapore on the way though …

A big change.

I think my feet first started itching in early February, but they had been tingling for a long time. After nearly four years working for ThoughtWorks, the time had come to make a change.

The last time I started looking for a new company to work for, I wanted to get out and work across a range of different projects and companies. I wanted to see how things were done in different environments and work with people who truly believed in Agile software development. In every interview at ThoughtWorks, I was asked if I minded travelling, told that this was a key part of the job. I had no ties, no reason to stay in one place, and although it sent butterflies through me, I was excited at the prospects. Before I even started, Heather called me to tell me that my first project would be in Dublin, and those butterflies went mental.

Nearly four years on, I’ve spent time working in Dublin, Manchester, Berlin, Edinburgh, Sydney and many parts of London – around the corner from Borough Market, within walking distance of the Wimbledon tennis tournament, and in the heart of the west end. I’ve had some incredible opportunites and I’ve made the most of them all – and the memories are all over my Facebook timeline (am I the only person who actually likes it?). Most of all, I feel like I achieved the goal I started out with.

Somewhere along the way, I decided to switch from doing business analysis back to writing code. It was the hardest career move I’ve made – at least starting out as a developer after university with very little experience, people had much lower expectations. ThoughtWorks helped me get there though, and I haven’t looked back since.

But goals shift, and always being the outsider on a client site eventually wore me down. I missed being part of a team, I missed seeing and working directly with my own ThoughtWorks colleagues every day, and now I want to spend more time writing code and get really, really good at it. I never quite managed to get used to the uncertainty that goes with consulting, of “where will I end up next and what will it be like”. My poor mum, she had to listen to me worrying about the next unknown project time after time.

So eventually, I started to take notice of my itchy feet and look around. I knew I wanted to stay in Sydney, and I also knew there was a very specific kind of company I wanted to work for – one with a culture with many things in common with ThoughtWorks (as I described it to Steve Gilles “the kind of company that keeps beer in the fridge in the kitchen”), where I could do hands on coding, work with really smart people … and one that would sponsor my working visa. I was really lucky that I already knew a company that would fit that bill, and they were recruiting: Atlassian.

Three months, seven interviews, a whole heap of stress and a brand new visa later … and I am almost ready to start next week!

As a bonus, I wasn’t assigned to a project when I resigned, so for the first time in my life I had “Garden Leave”. I haven’t spent much time in the garden though.

On my last day at ThoughtWorks, those three empty weeks loomed ahead of me like a big void. I had some ideas of how I would fill them: I booked a trip to see Yolly and Claudia, I wanted to finish Seven Languages in Seven Weeks, read some technical books, lots of exercise, cooking nice food, maybe blog a little.

It didn’t take long to get used to getting up after nine am and catching up on TV (MasterChef Australia started just in time …)

I did make it Brisbane though, and I also managed to do quite a bit of exercise, including some circuit sessions on the beach and meeting Viviana for a bit of boxing with an ocean view! But I have to admit that most of my other lofty ambitions went out of the window fairly fast. It only took a couple of days for my brain to switch off completely and go into holiday mode, and I didn’t fight it. I’m hopeful that I will feel very refreshed next week.

With just one week left to go, I’m heading off to Malaysia for a pretty special trip tomorrow, before I have to get my brain back in to work mode next Tuesday. Hopefully, I’ll have enough time before that to write a quick post about the time I spent with the girls in Brissie.

Wish me luck :)

Life and stuff.

I haven’t had much to blog about in the last couple of weeks! No big trips or stand out events really … life is just going along nicely. So I thought I’d do a bit of a general update instead …

Last week was a bit crazy. The people who know me well will know that I like to have a plan, and I had my week neatly lined up: Tuesday I was starting my fit2date class, I had a haircut lined up for Thursday and heading to the Space bar afterwards with Andrea, then hoping to be diving over the weekend. At work, we were expecting to start on our next project.

Right from Monday morning everything went awry … the project was delayed, leaving us with barely anything to do but surf the interwebz, the fit2date class in Manly was cancelled and I had a choice of a refund or doing the Sydney CBD class on Thursday. My first reaction was to be cross and want a refund, but I was really looking forward to the class, so did decide to reschedule in the end.

Things at work didn’t really improve much, we switched to look at another project but that didn’t go anywhere either. I headed out to the Ruby on Rails user group on Tuesday, which can be an effort sometimes but is always worthwhile, especially now I know quite a few people there. I managed to avoid mid-week alcohol and made it to the ferry home before nine, but I got mistaken on the way out for the bar maid which didn’t help my ego …

Wednesday turned out better when I got an unexpected date :) so the week was looking up. Thursday, I arrived far too early for fit2date, and when I first joined the group there was a few minutes of wondering what on earth I was doing (kind of like that feeling you get when you turn up to a speed dating event). The night turned out pretty good though, I left after to get the ferry but realised pretty quickly I wasn’t going to make it, so went back to join the group in the pub. I was glad I did, they are all good fun and I ended up getting the ferry back with a girl called Amanda – we chatted all the way home, so I was hopeful that I’d found a new friend.

Friday night finally rolled around – I had intended to go out for a run, but it was cool and windy and I just couldn’t be a***d, in all honesty! So I poured a glass of wine instead :) I sat outside with my housemate Chelsea putting the world to rights for an hour or so, then slowly got ready to head out. I was dressed and doing my hair when Andrea rang, to say she’d locked herself out of her apartment having lost her key while she was out running. Her flatmate was away until the next day, so she needed a place to stay, something to wear, something to eat, well, everything basically. Nothing was too much of a problem, except that she couldn’t sleep on the sofa because it was full of dog hairs and she’s allergic … well, thank goodness I have a big bed, because I also have a tendency to fidget a lot in my sleep! Poor Andrea, when her phone alarm went off unexpectedly, I forgot she was there and as I leaned over she got an elbow in the mouth. Whoops!

Anyway, I was still determined to go out for drinks, and eventually … we made it! We met a guy called Ron in the Space, he seems to be a regular, and he invited us to go out on his boat! There are some interesting people in Manly (I’m not going though). Halfway through our second bottle of wine, we were tired and I’d had enough – for some reason we decided it’d be a good idea to try and leave with it. Turns out, that wasn’t so much of a good plan, at least that’s what the security guard and policeman outside told us! We were relieved they only took away the wine then sent us packing, they were probably laughing at us though as we scurried away. Bad girls.

Saturday, I headed out for a morning run just as it was warming up, I was pretty damn hot by the time I got back. I run 5k along the beach, not on the sand (that’s way too much like hard work) – it’s a really pretty run, just long enough to feel like I’ve done something but not so long I get fed up with it. In the afternoon, I was off to Andrea’s – she’d got back in to the flat by then – for a barbie and a bit of a party with some friends, while we watched the Australian Open of Surfing from her balcony. The view from there is incredible.

The party went on all day and into the evening, until eventually I’d had enough cider and headed home. I carefully gathered up my belongings, still managing to leave behind my camera and iPod … I’m so forgetful.

Sunday was surfing and gardening! I met Andrea and Lucy down on the beach, and later Jess and Phil joined us too. The waves weren’t too bad, we managed to paddle out quite a long way and rest on our surfboards. I tried to sit up on mine – which was pretty easy on the big foam boards we had for our lessons – but on my surfboard, it was like it was trying to buck me off! Andrea laughed at me, especially when I fell off it (three times). I’m useless at surfing!

Towards the end, I managed to get both of my feet on the board – I was still holding on with my hands, but still, this is a first! By then, the waves near the shore seemed to be a bit bigger, and Lucy and I were having trouble getting over them to get out. After being thrown back down on the shore four or five times, I gave up and crossly marched out with my board, promptly getting turned over again before I managed to get myself out.

There's a spider like this in my garden

In the afternoon, I headed up to my herb garden to pull out the weeds that just won’t stop growing. I found an enormous black and yellow spider – it’s just an orb spider, which isn’t dangerous, but it isn’t one that I particularly wanted crawling through my hair, so I tried to avoid his web as much as I could. With my plants fed and watered (the rocket is ready to eat now!) I moved to the lower part of the garden, and just managed to finish weeding the front and side path, before Matt and Chelsea got home. I planted out a few of my pepper and beetroot seedlings which are starting to look really good, but it was clearly getting ready to pelt down with rain, so I decided to stop and start on the wine instead …

I put the barbie on a bit later, Andrea was going to come over for dinner, and I was feeling nice and chilled after the weekend, just writing a facebook status to that extent, when I realised the barbie was smoking a bit. I opened it to discover that the charcoal beneath the gas burner was on fire … that’s not supposed to happen, dammit. It wasn’t too bad though, it went out pretty quickly once it was turned off, and when we did eventually cook our dinner it worked out fine.

Then it was Monday again … back to trying to figure out what we were doing at work. I managed to run again on Monday night, then it was Tuesday, now let’s see … oh yes, Valentine’s Day. I headed out to my boxing class at lunch, which was nearly empty! It was wet outside, and I slipped over in my flip-flops, think I tore something in my right quad as it was a bit painful walking to the class after that. It didn’t bother me too much though, except when I tried to run across the road coming back to work there was a sudden twinge.

Now Valentine’s Day is not my favourite day of the year as a long-term single girl! I had re-booked my haircut deliberately, so after a lunchtime boxing session that was nearly empty, and seeing piles of flowers at the mailroom at work, I headed to Ebony in Manly to get a trim. I don’t want layers, so really my hair looks much the same as it did, except to me!

New haircut, looks completely different, right?

Wednesday, and we moved up to the 22nd floor in our building. It’s a much better view and lots more natural light, which is nice! In the evening I went to SydJS – the JavaScript user group, where I ran in to quite a few people I’d met there before, so it was nice to catch up on what they’d been doing in the month in between. I was tempted to stand up for the Open Mic segment – I’d been preparing and practicing a lightning talk for Web Directions next week, but I decided I wasn’t quite ready, and wanted to save it for next week.

View from the 22nd floor

Thursday night was my second fit2date event. I was a bit worried that my leg would hurt when I was running, it was fine for the warm up jog but when we played a bit of a team soccer game I went to kick the ball and it hurt! I had to run a bit slower during the games, but luckily it didn’t interfere too much with the post-class beer drinking.

So now it’s finally Friday! The milk was off this morning, which was a great excuse to have a naughty ham-and-cheese croissant at the cafe downstairs instead, I thought I’d try and be healthy with a mango smoothie but that tasted way to good to not have naughty stuff in it too.

Tonight I have another date – getting dinner cooked for me too :) Maybe I’ll write more about that sometime.

So … that’s it for now. Life’s good, not very exciting maybe, but pretty good …

Hello… hello? Anybody there?

View from the train station on the way to work

Yes, I’ve been a bit quiet over the last couple of weeks. Sorry about that … since starting a real project, work’s been taking up a lot of my time and energy. It’s going great so far and I’m really enjoying the project, but as usual when that happens, I’ve been working slightly longer and by the time I get home at night I don’t have much inclination to get the laptop out, or much to write about!

On top of that I’ve been shattered all week last week – finally realised why this weekend, when I’ve come down with a sniffly cold :(

With Viv and Rachel at the opera bar, with the Harbour Bridge in the background

In case I’ve not lost you already with that fascinating start … over the last couple of weeks, I’ve also had a couple of Christmas parties – starting with a pre-party Party last Friday night, at the Opera bar with Viv, the night before our ThoughtWorks party on Saturday. Friday evening was beautiful, with great weather and amazing views across the harbour but also incredibly busy – so we headed off after a drink, to get some food and meet the boys (Fabio and Jules) at another bar.

On Saturday I was out diving in the afternoon (more about that later) so I was very fashionably late to the ThoughtWorks party, most people were already having a good time when I got there. Our MD was even wearing a white halo.

I missed most of the food but managed to salvage a bit before they took the plates away, and we even got brownies to take home! Rachel and I had a couple each, and I think we gave away one bag to the man at the ferry gate on the way home … Definitely a fun night, and nice to meet some of my colleagues’ wives, it’s a great way to get to know people better :)

On Thursday this week, I was thinking all the way home about going for a run. So much so, that by the time I got there I was really not feeling up for it – I was so tired and already a bit sniffy. I walked in the door to find Chelsea putting together some delish looking salads, the back doors thrown open to a fairly warm evening, and the table outside decorated for Christmas. A couple of her friends had already arrived for dinner, and she immediately told me not to even think about cooking, there was far too much food … have a glass of wine and pretend to be a guest! Well, I don’t need telling twice :) That was the end of all thoughts about a run. When the last guests left at midnight, I crashed in to bed tired, tipsy and happy.

By mid afternoon Friday I realised that the reason I still felt headachy and fuzzy wasn’t just Thursday’s over-indulgence, I was actually ill. Dammit – I was supposed to be out diving on the boat over the weekend, and I’d been looking forward to it all week! I spent Friday night curled up on the sofa with comfort food (fish and chips, yum!) but it wasn’t enough and on Saturday morning I had to admit I just couldn’t dive.

It’s been a weekend of mostly rest, crappy tv, and also a little gardening … more about that later too! I’m still pretty stuffed up but hoping to feel better for my birthday tomorrow. After that I’m off to see my lovely cousins Yolly and Clauds in Brisbane – and so excited about meeting the rest of their family, including Yolly’s little children. I better get well by then!

Working for a living … and spending my earnings.

After three and a half weeks “on the beach” (as we call it at ThoughtWorks, when we’re not working on a client project) it was time to start earning a proper living. I started work at my new client on Wednesday this week. No more rolling out of bed at nearly 8am and getting on the 9:20 ferry – now I have to be at my desk and working by 9am! That means getting up at six thirty-ish and leaving home in time to catch the 8am ferry. Lucky it’s only a five minute bike ride!

The last three days of the week flew past faster than any others since I arrived, with so much to do setting up a new project. The beginning is always the most exciting. There are just two of us (myself and another consultant called Hari), trying to build a working website within six weeks – it’s going to be challenging, but that’s what I like!

The building where I’m working is above a mall – it has about thirty floors, and the higher ones have gorgeous views across the water. Sadly, Hari and I are working on the second floor, but we have nice, big desks and plenty of wall space. We only have to go down a floor to find coffee or lunch, and we get to see the view when we have meetings on the upper floors.

Enough about work though.

This week I also decided it was time to get a bit more serious about exercise, and so I’ve joined Fight Gym. I used to really enjoy doing boxing exercises at the gym in Edinburgh – with pads, rather than hitting a real person – and I wanted to find a kick-boxing class. Fight Gym hold different kinds of boxing classes every night of the week as well as lunchtimes, and have two locations: one near work and one near home. I was a bit nervous going for my first couple of classes as the website emphasises how much hard work it is, but it’s SO much more fun than boring treadmills and cross trainers. It doesn’t hurt to let off a bit of steam after a tough day either! Not that I’ve had any of those out here … yet.

My run from home to Shelly Beach, along the Steyne

Other than boxercise, I’m also trying to run occasionally. I haven’t tried running on the sand yet, but I did make it about 5k on Friday night – from home to Shelly Beach, all the way along the Steyne, looking out across the beach. It’s a lovely route and nice and flat, but I do feel quite unfit sometimes!

Other than the gym, I went out for a couple of drinks near Darling Harbour after work one night, but the 6:30 start got the better of me and I had to leave early! (Not like you Jo, I can hear you say!)

Saturday was the Global Day of Code Retreat – developers all over the world were meeting up to practice writing code. It probably is as geeky as it sounds, but I had a fantastic day writing Ruby and Coffeescript … OK, OK, megabytes, blah, blah, I’ll leave it there, save it for my technical blog. Rachel and I had gone together, and by the end of the day we were both shattered.

I didn’t feel like going home though, so after dropping off the laptop and a quick change I headed over to meet Marie-Claire – another fellow Manly-dweller who has just moved into a new flat. I love that going to see my friends here is so easy and chilled, unlike London where it’d take up to an hour to get anywhere. That’s what I thought, anyway, until I tried to cycle up the STEEP hill where Marie-Claire lives – ooowwwww, my legs! (I didn’t even make it very far).

We ended up going out for dinner at Yok Thai – she skateboarded there, behind the bike! – and I had an amazing Thai green curry. Finally, home to collapse.

Sunday was shopping day! Rachel and I had planned to hit Warringah Mall and her housemate Viv joined us. Some days I can go shopping and not find anything much to buy (OK, not often) and others I want to buy everything, well, today was definitely one of those days where I wanted to buy everything.

I found some nice new clothes for work – some great trousers and a wrap around skirt, and accidentally ran into a little silk dress in Kookai that I fell in love with … Oh, I do love to shop.

A proper day out shopping!

Rachel was spending more of her “furniture budget” (the money we have from ThoughtWorks to furnish our new homes in Sydney when we arrive on a temporary contract) – mine is almost gone now! As well as clothes though I did find some gorgeous aromatherapy “melts” and an oil burner in a lovely little shop called Dusk. I also bought my first (and probably only!) Christmas decoration – a little SnowShopper called Pippa (I think). It’s a snowman (snowwoman?) with a candle inside and a little handbag, and she looks very cute lit up on my dressing table.

Viv was disappointed not to find anything to buy, at the last minute she rushed back but the shops were closing :( Rachel and I definitely had more than our fair share of purchases though! What a great way to spend a rainy Sunday … oh yes, people, Sydney is rainy and COLD! I went to bed last night wearing a fleecy top, this is not how early summer is supposed to be here. It looks like next weekend might be warmer, so fingers crossed, I want to get out on my surfboard.

That’s it for now, a bit of a long rambly one, sorry about that! I have been hearing from people that they are actually reading my waffle though, so wanted to keep writing, I like to feel we’re keeping in touch :)

Rachel bought a cute mirror

My "SnowShopper" candle, Pippa

Quackers got a friend!

Tea and Quackers.

Poor Quackers hasn’t really featured that much in the blog since the plane ride over … so just to prove that he is still getting out and about in Sydney, here he is enjoying the delights of the ThoughtWorks office. As for me, I’m loving the enormous ThoughtWorks mugs for my morning cuppa, it’s keeping me going through the endless laptop set up …

I Love Fridays.

Yummy team lunch provided by ThoughtWorks!

Every week, ThoughtWorkers in Sydney gather at the office to catch up and share lunch. This week it was from Alpha Gourmet … after the vultures swooped in, there was still plenty of salad left, although most of the naughty fried things were gone.

Topped off with a Paddle Pop out of the ThoughtWorks freezer – “The best ice cream in Australia”, declared Miss Howe, I think that’s slightly overrating it though!

Working Girl

It was back to reality this morning, time to face the rat race and hit the office. Luckily I’m not assigned to a project just yet, so I could take it a bit easy, and I arrived at 10am to a nice relaxed start to the day.

Going to work in Sydney, the atmosphere is actually pretty similar to London, just hot, sunny and much less grey. But the commuters still bustle about, the roads are jammed and the traffic lights take forever to change. My walk to work takes less than fifteen minutes from my temporary flat in the centre of town, but despite the convenience I can’t wait to get out of the city to the leafy ‘burbs. It seems such a waste of the glorious weather to be in the city.

At work, I soon find out that my first project will start next Monday, although we’ll be going to meet with the client tomorrow afternoon (Tuesday). I’ll have to introduce myself and talk about the projects I’ve done for ThoughtWorks. It’s not an interview as such, but it kind of feels like one – hope jet lag doesn’t kick in and frazzle my brain!

The project sounds really exciting and different to anything else I’ve done. There will be just two of us, working together to demonstrate how we can use agile techniques to produce something really quickly – the target is to finish a project within six weeks. We don’t know for sure what the project will be yet, but we’ll hopefully have a lot of control over how we do it, and with such a small team there should be a lot less communication overhead, so more scope to really make it work. We’ll both have to cover all of the usual project roles though (analysis, testing, project management, and anything else they throw our way!), which is going to be an interesting challenge.

Needed a new skirt for my smart new office-to-be!

We’ll be working with .NET which I’m pretty happy about – having just come off a .NET project, it’s fresher than Java! – although we will have to use Windows which is less thrilling.

My teammate Hari and I spend some time brainstorming how we could approach the project and try to prepare our laptops, but the internet is throwing a bit of a tantrum today and we can’t get much done. I have a sparkling new Macbook Pro from the Sydney office, it has a super fast hard drive and loaded up with Lion – I’m loving the new swishy gestures.

The internet is creaking more and more and eventually I give up and head out to find a skirt suitable to wear at the client, until the rest of my clothes arrive. Everything is expensive in Sydney! I find a cute black and white skirt in Gap, meanwhile it’s starting to rain – what happened to the sunshine? :(

First day in Sydney was a long one.

Here’s how it went:

I try to squint out of the window to get my first view of Australia, but it’s mostly just clouds until the plane bumps a bit and I realize we’ve landed.
As I disembark, the HSBC adverts along the walkway are familiar and I wonder if I’ve accidentally caught the plane back to Heathrow. It turns out to be the right one though.

I stand uncertainly in the customs queue, wondering if everything will be OK with my visa and if I’ve completed the landing card correctly. One of the other passengers gets told off by the official for getting in the wrong queue. It’s a bit of an anticlimax when she barely glances at my paperwork, stamps the password (didn’t use up a new blank page though, how am I going to fill it up?!) and sends me on my way.

My bag’s made it – yay! I have to line up with the other passengers while the customs officials lead a police sniffer dog along our bags, but they take no notice of mine, so I’m through. I find my driver, he hands me my welcome pack including a mobile phone (bonus!) and we set off to my new home.

I realize there is no apartment key in the welcome pack and wonder if I’ll have to camp on the beach. This is quickly and calmly resolved and the agent will meet us at the apartment (who knew Australians were so efficient?)

My driver decides to try and educate me about Sydney suburbs: “This is Redfern,” he begins, “don’t come here at night.” I try but I can’t take in much more of what he says, my brain’s just too frazzled.

We arrive at the apartment and I meet my new flatmate Cathy. The agent talks me through the paperwork for the apartment and my brain aches even more. I sign and he leaves.

I realize that my backpack is missing, and hope the driver has driven away with it and not left it on the kerb (sidewalk?). Again, I am amazed at the Aussie efficiency and friendliness, within a few minutes he is on his way back with it.

Backpack arrives! I dig out my iPod stand from my luggage and discover that my UK-AU adapters were in the box I took out at the last minute because it was too heavy. Damn.

Cases unpacked, shower, check emails. Update facebook. I spend a few minutes enjoying the sun outside on the little balcony, but I’m beginning to feel dozy.

I have a balcony!

I need to get up and move around to wake up, so decide to go and find some tea and an adapter. I locate a Coles less than half a mile away but forget the map; luckily the lady on reception is super-friendly and provides m a hand-drawn map. She draws the road map to get to the supermarket on one side of the paper, then turns it over and draws a map of the supermarket layout on the other, marking the adapters next to the milk. I’m a bit skeptical, but she’s bang on, and now I can have music and hair straighteners this weekend!

I walk back to the apartment. The road signs all look the same as in the US, which is odd considering they drive on the same side as us. I see some nice looking restaurants near the apartment and a Nando’s almost directly opposite, I’m not going to starve.

TEA!!!!! It’s Tetley’s as well. God knows I need the caffeine.

Off to find the TW office for lunch: 51 Pitt Street, Sydney.

I’ve found 59-65 Pitt Street, 37 Pitt Street, 50 Pitt Street and 56 Pitt Street but NO BLOODY 51!

Oh, there is one after all.
Arriving in the office, I felt like I was starting a new job. I hadn’t even considered this aspect of going to a new office! (which was pretty silly, I guess). It didn’t take long to feel at home though, ThoughtWorkers are the same all over the world, over half the people I met were from outside of Australia, and they were all friendly and chatty.

I had lunch at the office and met up with Rachel and Sarah (recent transfers from London) – it was amazing to see them again, and we made plans for Friday pub (TW tradition).

Met with Danni to figure out some of the final details of the transfer, and left with a (luckily, reasonably short!) to do list. Hopefully I’ll at least have Monday to work on that before I have to be billable …

Off to the bank to open an account.

Sent home again to get driving license and email my Visa confirmation.

I am the proud owner of two Australian bank accounts and an almost-complete credit card application.

I find the Telstra shop. It looks like an Apple store (well, except for the Nokia and Motorola products) and there is no information anywhere about pre-pay options. I ask for help and am told there is a half hour wait for an assistant. WTF? But I have my Kindle with me and nothing else to do, they have cold water and comfy seats, so I yawn and settle in.

My phone is set up – I have interwebz again! Yay!

Well earned glass of vino in the TW office!

Glass of wine in the TW office. I stand chatting to Sam and Andrea about jet lag while we wait for the others to be ready to leave for the pub.
“I’m fine, except my brain feels frazzled,” I say, “So if I say daft things tonight, it’s because of the jet lag, not because I’m a complete idiot …” I wave my hands to illustrate my point and somehow knock half of my wine over. All across poor Amy’s going-out-top that she’s brought in for this evening. Oh dear … at least I have an excuse (and at least it’s white and not red). She forgives me, thank goodness.

First sight of Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House. Wow. We stop at a bar and slouch in sofas outside, watching the sun go down over the Opera House. This is amazing.

Andrea’s first “Manly Ferry Alarm” goes off. She snoozes it and we order more drinks.

First view of Sydney Opera House (Quackers didn't make it in to this one!)

Andrea and the other Manly-dwellers finally decide to catch the next ferry, and I admit defeat and head home to bed. The tiredness has been constant all day but thankfully not really got any worse until now.

Head on pillow. Sleep.