The Google Christmas Party

4 Mar

3 months late is better than never! And blurry photos are better than none!

Last December James and I went to the Google Android Christmas party (the company is too big so they have to split the parties into different departments). It was 1940s themed and held on the USS Hornet, an old aircraft carrier.
IMG_20141206_192403There was a lot going on as soon as we entered the carrier – music, food, drinks, games, etc. There were also tours of the ship but we didn’t sign up for those in time – bummer.

We both got some silly press-on tattoos to start the night.
IMG_5016There were lots of food and booze stations. James was drinking Old Fashioneds all night but I was more excited about the sushi.
IMG_5020 And the fresh donuts!
IMG_5021We met up with James’ coworkers and it was awesome to see how well-regarded he was, even after only a couple of months. One of the managers was introducing James to someone and was like “this is one of our new hires – and what a hire!” =D

We also rode in a fighter plane simulator and got to look at various exhibits. Here I am clutching my fresh donuts (also you can see my flaming skull bicep tattoo):
IMG_20141206_204423And here James is in one of the planes!
IMG_20141206_213213We also played some casino games like craps and blackjack with fake money.

You could walk up and down the (very narrow and rickety) levels of the aircraft carrier, and on the deck they had a band, some scotch tasting and souvenir cigars.
IMG_20141206_202642Of course, James and his friends decided they had to smoke cigars and drink scotch the rest of the night. =P We bummed some matches from some other people but it was really windy on the deck so they kept sputtering out. James eventually managed to light his cigar by using one of the lanterns inside.
IMG_5027Look at Jamesy. He thinks he’s so cool with his cigar, face tattoo and little hat.
IMG_5029

It was a fun night (aside from James feeling a bit sick on the shuttle ride home). I’m looking forward to this year’s party because I have a couple of friends whose husbands work in Android so I’ll know some people in my own right. Plus I won’t be as crazy homesick as I was last year, so it will be even more fun! =)

Homesick in San Francisco; Wishing I Were Sleepless in Seattle

8 Feb

At the end of February James and I will have been in San Francisco for 6 months. Though I don’t know if it’s fair to count it as 6 months since we went back to Australia for a few weeks and were in corporate housing for 3 months.

I’m still desperately homesick. It’s better than it was (which was crying multiple times a day), but crying a couple of times a week still isn’t great. I’ve never been so sad in my life. If you know me in real life you know I’m really cheery, and I’ve had multiple people tell me that they can’t imagine me not smiling. I don’t recognise myself anymore. I’ve cried more in these past few months than I have the past 31 years. I’m rattled at how fragile my happiness apparently is.

It’s not like I’m living in Siberia or Afghanistan. San Francisco isn’t even very different from Seattle or Melbourne. I’m in a beautiful city in a beautiful house with the best husband in the world, but I can’t stop crying. First world problems indeed.

So here is a list to cheer me up:

Things I Like More About San Francisco

  • James’ career (better paid, more interesting, and the ceiling is higher here than it is in Seattle)
  • Better restaurants
  • Quality and cheapness of produce
  • More things going on in the city
  • Weather (this one is kind of half-hearted because I really liked the overcast drizzly weather in Seattle but people told me that after a few more years it would start to wear on me)

I started to make a list of things I liked more about Seattle but it just made me tear up.

Right now the plan is to stick it out until we can condo convert. That will add value to our place and also make it easier to sell. If I still hate it here we’ll sell and take a loss (which isn’t as bad as it sounds, because if James can keep his SF salary in Seattle it won’t take long to offset any money we lose). If I’m managing okay we’ll stay a few more years. I can imagine getting to a point where I no longer hate it here. I can no longer imagine loving it.

My parents called a couple of nights ago and I just bawled my eyes out. Dad was being sympathetic and telling me the things I have been telling myself – to keep busy, do fun things and establish a routine, and that as an adult I have to take care of myself. And then mum snatched the phone away from him and was like “your dad is wrong. I don’t care how old you are; you will always be my baby and I want you to come home for a month so I can take care of you.”

I can’t even type that without crying.

I miss being within walking distance of all our friends in Seattle. I miss snow-capped mountains. I miss grey skies, constant drizzle and green everywhere.

I miss long, slow days at Shoreham. I miss dinners with my parents. I miss laughing with my cousins. I miss the friends I’ve known since high school. I miss my sunburnt country.

I know this is my brain playing tricks on me. I know that the stress of buying a house has exacerbated my homesickness. I know that homesickness is more about missing familiar things and the sense of belonging, and the only reason I didn’t have it in Seattle was because we were absorbed into a friendship group so quickly.

James has been wonderful, and it helps to know that this isn’t necessarily forever. But if I’m asking him to give up his dream job for me I’m going to try as hard as I can to make that a last resort. We didn’t leave Seattle lightly and I have to trust the decision we made to move to San Francisco and not trust my depression-fogged brain. Because this isn’t me. I don’t get depressed. I’m cheery and happy and fun, and I make lemons out of lemonade.

We joined a gym, so I’m going to get back to my regular workouts. Once we have a working fridge I’ll be able to stock up on meat and vegetables. I’ve been going to meet-ups and have met some really nice people (and some promising couple-friends), but it’s like dating randoms when I want to be in a long-term relationship. I try to remind myself that our friends in Seattle and Melbourne were all randoms once, and as Chuck said, making good friends is just a numbers game. So I’m just taking things one day at a time, and maybe one day I’ll just wake up and be happy again.

Asian or Hispanic?

27 Jan

San Francisco has a much larger Hispanic population than Seattle (and Seattle in turn has more than Melbourne, where we have like, none). So to my chagrin, a lot of the time I have a hard time figuring out whether someone is Hispanic or Asian.

Not all Asians and Hispanics, obviously, but there is definitely an overlapping area where I can’t tell if people are Hispanic or maybe Filipino or half-Asian. Anyway, a couple of months ago I discovered that James has the same blind spot.

James: There’s a Chinese guy in my office who lives near us.
Me: Oh cool. What’s his name?
James: Rodrigo.

A Great Time at Mammoth Mountain

24 Jan

James’ uncle and aunt have a cabin in Mammoth, and they very nicely offered to let us use it. So we bought tickets (using James’ $500 credit from our detoured United flight) and planned a Thursday to Tuesday trip. Unfortunately for us, the storm that was supposed to happen petered out – that’s one of the luxuries I miss about being 1.5 hours from the snow – you could decide the night before (or the morning of!) whether it was worth making the trip.

But anyway, the Mammoth airport is freaking adorable. It’s really small and there what looks like a conveyor belt which is basically just a gate they put your luggage through (so there’d be a backlog if like … five people were slow picking up their bags).

IMG_20150115_163205We took a taxi to the cabin and were greeted by two bears carved out of tree trunks in the front garden. The driver, a Mammoth local, chuckled and said “we like our bears around here.”

We drove to the local Vons (which apparently is the same thing as Safeway) to stock up on supplies. The selection was just as good, if not better, than my local Safeway and the prices were similar – maybe a bit higher but not noticeably so.

Also, a couple of years ago Vons made the news because a bear walked in, stole some apples and left!

bearinvons-223x300

image from the Sierra Times

(“We like our bears around here”)

On Friday morning Steve made us pancakes and we headed to Mammoth. The cabin was within walking distance to a gondola that took us to Canyon Lodge which was very convenient. Cath and Steve were really disappointed with the snow, which apparently hadn’t been added to since Christmas. Admittedly conditions were pretty crap (a lot of rocks even on the groomers, with the added annoyance that I’d see one and go “better avoid that rock”, and then go right over it because I was staring at it) but that was mitigated by the excitement of discovering a new mountain. James and I boarded the whole day and when we got back Cath and Steve made falafels and plied us with wine.

Ohhhhh my God.

Snowboarding all day and walking back to a delicious homecooked meal? Heaven! This was a pattern that would repeat most days we were there. We’d get back, Steve would make us cocktails, and then we’d have dinner and sooo much wine. Then snowboarding the next day!

I discovered that my favourite runs were also Ian and Steve’s favourites. I can’t wait to see what they’re like with more snow.

This was at the summit (11,053 feet). I’ve seen photos where the snow covers most of that pole so you can see what a slow start to the season it’s been.

IMG_20150117_150518James was tired and actually having a bit of trouble at the elevation so he took the gondola back down while I explored on my own for the rest of the day. I also got the impression that he wasn’t having the best time. =( He said “I’m slowing you down. I don’t think you realise just how much better than me you’ve gotten”, which made me simultaneously sad and pleased.

He wants to bring his skis next time because Mammoth has a lot more flats than Stevens. Cath and Steve let us keep our boards at their cabin, so James thinks he might save his board for powder days and ski the rest of the time.

On Sunday James and I had already snowboarded two days in a row, and we weren’t keen on fighting crowds for crappy snow.
IMG_20150117_111538Instead, Cath, Steve and Ian showed us around the area, which was really nice of them. We went to see the tufas at Mono Lake:

IMG_20150118_112736And also to an abandoned mining town:
IMG_20150118_140757

Unfortunately Cath, Steve and Ian were so disappointed with the snow that apart from a couple of hours the first day where they showed us the ropes we didn’t get to ride with them. Hopefully by the time Chris comes to visit the conditions will be better and we can all get out together. I’ve snowboarded in worse, though admittedly not much worse. But even though the snow was crap I still had a really great time catching up with family.

Goodbye Mammoth! Fingers crossed next time you have some more snow for us!
IMG_20150117_150910

Mutilated.

30 Dec

Do you remember that beautiful tree in the front garden of our house?null

While James and I were in Australia our neighbor cut off all the branches. James had given him permission to trim the branches overhanging his roof, not butcher it. This is what it looks like now.

image002Our beautiful view. Our beautiful tree. The little birds that used to visit us every day are all gone.

Our neighbor is super apologetic – he thought we would be just as happy as he was but it’s hideous and I can’t look at it without crying. He had no right to come onto our property and mutilate our tree.

I am having an arborist come over to assess the damage and advise us how to best repair it. If the topping doesn’t kill it outright it will take years to recover its beauty. From what I’ve read the best case scenario is that in Spring it sprouts rapidly as a defense mechanism, even though all the subsequent branches will be forever weakened.

I know it was just a tree. If it doesn’t grow back we can replace it with another. But it was one of the major reasons we bought this house and I loved it. It feels like such a major setback in coming to terms with moving to San Francisco – I can make friends much faster than it will take this tree (or its replacement) to grow into what it once was.

I know that part of it is Seattle homesickness and part of it is how much I miss friends and family in Melbourne. The time it will take the tree to regrow is a blip compared to how long we intend on staying in San Francisco. I know it will be better in a year. In a year, or maybe even in a week, James and I will be all like “do you remember when we freaked out about the tree?” and sort of smile sheepishly. But not right now. Right now my heart is breaking.

“Pretty Woman” According to James

23 Dec

Last night we were in the car and a song I recognised from the Pretty Woman soundtrack started playing. James said that he had seen the movie but I didn’t believe him and challenged him on his Pretty Woman knowledge.

Picture James starting off quite tentative, looking at me for confirmation because he wasn’t 100% sure he was on the right track. Then when I didn’t correct him he got more and more confident, finishing his last sentence loudly and victoriously.

James: She’s a hooker and he’s a rich guy. They fall in love for no reason and she goes shopping a lot. And the hotel staff are mean to her except one guy. Also the shop people. And she buys a lot of stuff and shows them her credit cards and is like “look at all this shit I bought! You fuckers!”

I hate it when James is right even when he’s bluffing like I’m pretty sure he is now. I still don’t think he’s watched Pretty Woman. I think he absorbed plot knowledge through pop culture.

A Slight Detour On Our Way to Australia

15 Dec

Our flight from San Francisco to Sydney made the news! We were supposed to arrive in Sydney around 10:30am but actually touched down some time around 6:30pm.

About half an hour before we were due to land, the pilot made an announcement saying that there was only one runway open due to debris. He said that there was a backlog of planes trying to land and the earliest they could slot us in was 50 minutes from the originally scheduled landing but that the plane didn’t have enough fuel to keep circling. So he diverted us to Canberra to refuel. James and I figured it would be tight, but we would still have enough time to make our two hour connection.

Nope.

We all sat there for an hour, and then another hour before they told us what was going on. Occasionally we’d get these stressed-sounding updates that they were trying to figure everything out and they would let us know what was going on as soon as possible.
IMG_5047It turned out that the pilots and flight crew had exceeded the hours they were legally allowed to work so the airline would have to bring in additional crew. But they were all in Sydney so they would have to be flown into Canberra so their ETA was in 5 hours. And we weren’t allowed out of the (increasingly hot and stuffy) plane because we hadn’t been processed by customs. And the airport didn’t have enough staff on hand to process us so we’d just have to sit and wait until the government decided to allow us out.

The flight attendants cooled down the plane by cracking open the emergency doors.

At the back:
IMG_5040And at the exit row right where we were sitting:
IMG_5043James was sad that they didn’t allow him to open the door. I was so glad we’d forked out for the extra legroom seats (even though they ended up being a mixed blessing because they were right near the toilets so a lot of people stood there to wait or stretch their legs).

For us, the most stressful part was not being able to contact our family to let them know what was going on. The guy sitting next to us was very nice and let us use his roaming to call James’ dad, and several hours later we were also able to use one of the customs guys’ phones. Then after that, the main worry was how we were going to get to Melbourne now that we’d missed our original connection – we did have a wedding to get to the next day, after all! The flight attendants told us there was a team on the ground who would be re-booking connections for everyone, so that was a relief.

After a couple of hours of not knowing what was going on, people were starting to get irritable, not to mention hungry/thirsty and the toilets were gradually failing. The crew brought us some crackers and water (donated by Qantas) which was nice. For the next hour we would get updates about how they were trying to negotiate with the airport to allow everyone outside of the plane but that it was difficult because the Ukranian President and the Australian Prime Minister were in Canberra (and we were like “whaaat?! The Australian Prime Minister is always in Canberra!”).

Finally (after 3+ hours in the plane) we were allowed out! And it was glorious.

IMG_5049Under the watchful eyes of customs and the federal police we frolicked around in our pen.
IMG_5048Rations!
IMG_5067We sat in the sun to have our lunch and then headed back in to use the rapidly deteriorating toilets. One of the toilets near us had a clogged sink and the other was no longer flushing.

Obviously it was a massive inconvenience but once we knew what was happening (and that our connections were taken care of) it became much more bearable. The crew were trying as hard as they could, and you could tell that everyone was making the best of a bad situation. It was kind of funny because a lot of the crew were also taking photos of us and the open emergency doors, so it was just as much a novelty for them as it was for us!

I talked to one of the flight attendants who said that two hours after we left San Francisco the airport had cancelled all flights because of the storm, so they had been talking among themselves and were like “aren’t we lucky to be on this flight!”

After our bathroom break we headed back out for one last moment in the sun.
IMG_5061As it turned out James should have done a bit less basking because he ended up getting sunburned!

When we went back in they had emptied the toilets and everything was back to normal, just in time for the new crew to arrive. It was a bit sad when our original crew was swapped out. They were applauded off the plane because they were awesome even though they must have been exhausted.

When we finally landed in Sydney, people with connections were directed to a new line where we got tickets for our next flight. We were pretty much rubber-stamped through customs (not sure if that’s normal or if they gave us a break out of pity) and waited to board. We ended up getting another exit row seat on the flight to Melbourne which was nice!

James’ parents picked us up from the airport – and as it turned out we needn’t have worried because they knew about the delay. Once we had an internet connection we read some reassuring updates about the cats from our house-sitter, and felt much better – especially the next day, when United emailed and offered us $500 each to apologise for the inconvenience.

All in all it was a really long day, but no harm done as we arrived 10 hours late, but well in time to see Ivanna get married! =)

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