After Paris

paris_colors

Yesterday was my birthday. I grab my mobile for my dose of daily morning headlines.

Paris: Coordinated Terror Attacks

Information is still coming in but it seems that three coordinated attacks have been staged. Keywords: bomb, death, terror, live, hostage all come together to form various editorial cocktails; the message is clear. Real shit is going down in Paris.

The sad truth is that we’ve gone through different versions of these tragic events recently. The reaction is still always the same. Disbelief, denial, online research. Numb to such headlines I move past the disbelief and denial pretty quickly. I turn to twitter for live updates.

We leave for Melbourne and have a flight today at 3 pm. I still need to pack, eat breakfast and figure out transportation to the airport. Did I mention that Libby has a work call in 30 minutes and her MacBook Air decided to not turn on? Shit. How do you troubleshoot these stupid Macbooks!

Libby’s googling the closest Genius bar. I’m holding the power button for 30 seconds. She gets on her call. The Apple Genius Bar is 30 minutes away from here, so if she leaves now, spends 30 minutes at the store then comes back here, it’ll be right on time for us to leave to go to the airport. Did I mention the that you need need an appointment for the Genius Bar and that they are all booked for today? Fuck it. We’ll wing it since apparently Genius Bar options in Melbourne are even more complicated.

Call done. Libby walk outside the room; Macbook is powered on. Don’t ask me how? I guess these things “just work.” Yeah, right.

I just didn’t feel like writing this post.

A couple of days past. We’re in Melbourne.
Our first night there was, ironically enough, spent with a real cool French couple (Melbourne, by the way is really awesome!). As is the case with the French, we were greeted with wine and overall great conversation. The couple was fortunate to not have anyone they know be affected, aside for a friend of a fiend who was hit in the hand by a stray bullet.

I too am fortunate to not have had anyone I know be affected by these recent attacks.

Final death toll stands at 130. Scores other were admitted to the hospital.

The reaction is the same.

  • They did it. Get’em.
  • You’re an idiot. You don’t know what you’re talking about.
  • No. You’re an idiot. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

Did you know there was an attack in Beirut the day before that received no media coverage?

How come Facebook safe buttons were activated for Paris attacks and not the Beirut ones?

Speaking of Facebook… That blue white and red flag profile layer is pretty cool right?

Can most people actively engaged on the topic even point to France on a Map?

Did the Black Lives Matter movement use a #f**Paris hashtag?

Did you hear the latest headlines from Trump and Carson had to say?

These are some of the topics that made the round over the past couple of days

Meanwhile, I didn’t feel like saying anything for a while.

I did a bunch of reading from a wide range of sources and I think I’m in a good place to have an informed opinion at this point. But the truth is, I probably don’t know enough.

I don’t like quick empty judgment. I don’t like political posturing and social media bashing. I hate vague media quotes like the following that imply and condone policy rather than inform the reader.

Unnamed French police officials told The Associated Press that authorities have identified one of the suicide bombers as “a young Frenchman flagged in the past for links with an Islamic extremist activity.”

With limited transparency in agency “flagging” processes, quotes like these at face value give unchecked credence and validation to what from the outside seems like systemic profiling of those with Muslim backgrounds.

We are selfish in nature and have our own personal agendas. In moments like these we easily find ourselves consumed with the popular soundbites of the moment. Challenge the status quo, not simply for the sake of challenging it, but rather for the conclusions that come from that process.

It’s My Birthday

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Woke up this morning (16 hours ahead of EST in the futuuure) to a few happy birthday emails and text messages that put a huge smile on my face. I’m not a b-day guy so at that point I was more than set to have a perfect day.

Libby comes back to apt from her morning walk and sends me off to the bedroom- apparently she has a surprise and needs to set up in the living room. Like Halloween, birthdays, to her, are sacrosanct and with that celebrations are a must. Whatever. I play along, even though I was in the middle of reading some important stuff.

Minutes pass. I come back out to a table set up with tiramisu (my favorite), a few other pastries, an open laptop screen and a lighter for me to blow out.
“Since you couldn’t be with your friends for your birthday, I decided to bring your friends to you.”

Apparently, in just over 48 hours, she managed to collect enough videos and edit them to mount the most epic thoughtful gift ever. She even recorded my reaction!!

My wife is the absolute best!
Love you guys and thank you for making me feel special!!

South Park Gives Uber in Sydney Boost

EricCartman

For transport to our temporary spot in Sydney, we decided to get an Uber. It’s not really that we’re “about that life” and riding Ubers everywhere while away. But rather, time was a precious commodity that day so we did what we had to do. I learned two cool things.

Dash Cams Can Be Useful

Our driver had this mini cam mounted to his window. I’ve never seen one of those so I ask

Me: Yo, is that a rear view cam?
(I say “yo” alot out here to let people know I’m not a local. In case being 1 of about 6 black guys in the country didn’t make that obvious)
Driver: Naw mate. That’s a dash cam; I use it to record my driving in case something happens.
Me: What’s the point? Would insurance companies even bother with that stuff given no-fault policies and the bureaucracy?
Driver: Actually it came in pretty useful; the no-fault thing in’t default practice here. Just the other day some guy backed into me and claimed that I hit him. I submitted video and Insurance company ruled in my favor.

 

Uber dash

In case you were wondering, like I was, video is stored on a memory card and is constantly looped. If you need to save any part of the feed you have the option to manually mark the section.

South Park Influence

Just like in the US, whenever Uber launches in a new city, they face resistance from established taxi companies and policy makers. Just the week before while in Cairns, we heard sound bites of these manifestations on the local new channels.

The interesting bit came when I asked the driver what he thought of the volume, adoption and popularity of the Uber service in Sydney. I was surprised to note that they had launched locally in Sydney about three years prior and that adoption, according to our driver, was so-so only until about 8 months prior when an episode of South Park aired poking fun at the company. What episode you ask? See: South Park: Handicar

 

Welcome to Cairns

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Trinity Beach

We decided to crash in Trinity Beach, 19 km north of Cairns (12 mi- yeah we speak kilometer aka metric system now) and about 45 minutes south of Port Douglass. After considering  Port Douglas, Palm Cove and Cairns city. Our logic goes something like the following.

We wanted somewhere a bit more on the quiet side, so there goes Cairns city. High on our list of priorities were proximity to the beach, affordability, access to restaurants and a “cool” spot. Palm Cove is a poor man’s Port Douglass just like Trinity Beach is a poor man’s Palm Cove with the difference being one has more resorts than the other.

Not doing the resort thing so instead we got a town house and access to a car for a fraction of likely expenditures in Port Douglass. Win.

What’s the plan?

Unlike New Zealand, where we would essentially move from town to town every 48 hours, the plan is to slow the pace down significantly here. Cairns’ official to-do list consists of three items:
– Great Barrier Reef
– Daintree Rainforest
– Kayaking

Warning About Christchurch

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It’s crazy late. We hustle and barely make it onto the bus to head over to our spot. A group of of 5 kids in their mid teens look at us up and down. Massive backpacks on our rears,we’re clearly not-from-round-here.

Kid: Hey mate. Can I ask you something?
Me: Sure
Kid: Are you from the States?
Me: Yeah.
Kid: Why did you come to Christchurch? I don’t get why you are here?
Me: We’re on vacation.
Kid: Don’t stay here. There is absolutely nothing to do. You should go to Queenstown!

The kid was kind of right. Thirty six hours later, we’re out.

We out.

Disclaimer: To be fair, the city is still recovering from a major earthquake which, pardon my french, royally fucked their shit up. On the upside though,  it seems great things are on the horizon as urban developers have ambitious plan on rebuilding projects.

Touchdown In Auckland

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Fours weeks into this thing and I figure it’s due time I jot something down about what’s happened thus far. I’ll be pre-dating the posts for all the New Zealand entries, cuz I like order and I control this blog so I can pretty much do what I want (internet 101).

We’re currently in Brisbane airport (10/30/15) for a two hour layover before we head over to Cairns, Australia. I’ll start from the beginning and see how far I get before we need to hop on this plane…

Auckland

We received a lot of flack for setting aside as much time as we did to explore the city. Heading into New Zealand, the South Island gets all the love (bloggers, forums and past visitors). Well we didn’t listen to any of that junk and it was 5 days well spent- keep in mind those first 24 hours are a wash after 20+ odd hours of travel time.

We stayed in Ponsonby with a young Airbnb couple (German guy and French chick). Area was the perfect spring board to venture out and explore a different area each day. City is spread out (think LA) with little to no nightlife. Nope, none, at least, that we saw. Don’t get me wrong. We didn’t leave NYC, travel half way across the world to New Zealand to hit up the clubs and party till the wee hours of the morning. But, the energy that comes from being in close proximity to such a setting would have been nice. Auckland social scene is heavily skewed after-work vibe that tapers down around 8~9 pm.

All About Nature

Mt Eden walk up

People here genuinely share a love of nature and everything outdoors. Interesting side note… City was built around a volcano now called Mt Even. Hope it’s inactive since we went up there for a stroll.

Little did we know then, though, that “scenic drive” would become the most clichéd soundbites of our stay in land of the Kiwi. Spoiler alert: we opt out of longer drives for more direct routes after day 21. Oh and did I mention that October in New Zealand is pretty darn cold?

Speaking of the weather. It is the most schizophrenic element of this place. One can literally experience all four seasons in a day. Wake up to 33 degrees, warm up to 77, get poured on, have the sun come out to finally see a sunset blanketed in cool temperature with 40 mph winds. Yeah oceanic climate apparently is the label.

Timeout For A Walkabout

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A few months preceding our wedding, sometime in the Fall 2013, my then fiance, says out of the blue “we should move, go live and work somewhere else; Australia, what do you think about that?” Completely unaware of this inquiry’s seriousness, I used my goto line when something sounds crazy but don’t actually want to engage. “Sure. Why not?”

“Crazy” might be a strong word; what I really mean here is irrational. The facts are that our family, friends and careers are all rooted in the US, so that proposal’s initial mental processing translated more or less to “how about we leave behind work and everything else that is dear to us to go live 10,512 miles away from here (I googled it) just because it’d be a cool thing to do.”

Now, I’m the laid-back unconventional nonchalant node of this relationship.  Libby on the other hand is the more pragmatic long term visionary. If we’re chasing unicorns, you can bet it’d be my idea. At this point we’re all talk. I assume we’re playing the “what if game.” You know, the one where you ask someone something ridiculous to test their hypothetical boundaries like: “If I gave you three million dollars tax fee, would you let Donald Trump cut the tip of your left pinky and post the video on YouTube?”

By the way, your response to that should be, “is it tax free?”

The Follow Up

A wedding, honeymoon and a new year roll in. It’s early winter 2014. After a tough week at work Libby is burned out, angry and fed up with the weather. Australia is brought back to the  table. This time around the discussion isn’t speculative. Concepts of age, personal growth, children and unpredictable futures are considered. Timeouts from the obligations of life, likely, will not be an option when we really become adults, you know… in the future. We have the opportunity now and so decide to go for it.

How does one do the marriage thing and still manage to dodge the whole adult thing?

Great Question!

“With great power comes great responsibility.” –Ben Parker

The way I see it, adulthood is a balance of autonomy and duty. That line though, is forever shifting with respect to growth and achievement. At various times those boundaries have been defined by various arbitrary milestones: drive, vote, work, live independently, love, commit, and now groom life. That last milestone is a long term commitment; no timeouts allowed, just constant execution. So that’s where we’re at. I’ve managed to contextualized this definition and, in the process, again deferred the idea of adulthood. Soon… but not quite there yet.

Ready, set, not yet.

After our heart to heart that winter, the plan is to leave for Australia in September 2014 later that same year. Four months later, in July, Libby gets offered an awesome new gig. Plans are meant to be broken. We’ll stay in New York longer and instead leave in January 2015.

In the meantime, after contacting an Australian visa lawyer, for an assessment of our options, things start to look a bit bleak. First, being over 30, we’re too old and thus don’t qualify for their working holiday visa. Second, it turns out that neither of us qualify for independent visas based on their Skilled Occupation List (SOL). Reality check! We’re not as special as we thought we were, which means that unless we got sponsored or transferred from a US company, our options would be to stay in country for 3 months on a tourist visa.
Our optimistic takeaway from all of this negativity? We’ll move  to Australia with enough money to survive those first few months, look for work, get sponsored and stay for a while. Why not?

Fast forward. It’s November 2014 and between local opportunities at work and the new year being right around the corner, we agree that it makes more sense to leave in the Spring 2015.

Well… actually once January comes around we realize that our spring is their summer and moving to the southern hemisphere around that time sets us up to arrive while they transition into winter. Dumb idea. New plan! We’ll move in September 2015.

Numbers dictate a new value proposition

All while departure dates are getting pushed back, we start to crunch numbers. Australia is pretty damn expensive…  like New York City expensive. The idea of moving to an expensive foreign country with no guarantee of a transition into their workforce no longer seems like a strong value proposition. After all, the numbers in our bank account really only allow for a three month cushion in the great outback. Since our goal had always been to experience a new environment together, instead of the high risk of failure tied to Australia workforce assimilation, we instead decide to only spend three weeks there. This shift allows us to defer a large portion of our budget to travel elsewhere over a period of 8 months.

Unlike previous iterations, as our new target date approaches (Sept 2015) commitment tasks start to get done. One way plane ticket purchased. Notice to employer and landlord sent. International friendly credit cards ordered. Storage place leased and movers scheduled. Words have morphed into actions and travelers’ backpacks are being delivered shortly.

August comes around and with it a family emergency . Our biggest fear of moving across the world comes true. Not being there.

Nothing is set in stone

At the top of our list of priorities is family. Contrary to Nostradamus and the Mayans the rest of the world isn’t going anywhere in December 2015. We’ve made adjustments before; with that mindset simply cancelled and pushed back reservations with a wait and see approach. Few things in this world will make you feel as helpless as being a by-stander to a loved one’s fight to regain his or her health. These moments put back in perspective how important and fortunate we are to have our health.

One month passes and everyone’s back up to full throttle. New departure date set with itinerary for the first 4 weeks in stone. We enter New Zealand October 5 and exit for Australia on October 30. The rest is to be continued…