Thursday, September 28, 2006

It ain't over till it's over

originally uploaded by dcodez.
I think one of the best things about having out-of-town friends come to stay is that you get to mix things up a bit. You get to show them places that you like, as well as trying out new places that you both get to discover. Courts and Ell have been such wonderfully brave house guests, gleefully allowing me to drag them across the Windy City in search of fun places to write home about.

Last night we intended on going to the Signature Room on the 96th floor of the Hancock building, where the views from the ladies toilets are the best in town. Honestly. [And note that I did say from the ladies room, and not in the ladies room]. But when we got there, the line-up for the elevators stretched nearly into the lobby, so it just wasn't worth our wait. My lovely friend Jenn came along too and recommended NoMi at the Park Hyatt Hotel, arguably the very best cocktail lounge/restaurant combo in town.

So off we trudged to the shiny and fabulous Hotel, wiggling in the door in our girly dresses and heels (yes, I squished my fat foot into heels for the first time last night - and consequently am back to hobbling in Doc Martens today). Straight up in the elevator to NoMi with no wait necessary, we ordered Cosmobellinis (a blend of my two favourite cocktails du jour) and Courts had a mojito which she declared to be delicious. Given that we were ravenous, the poor waiter had a hard time keeping up with us to refill our nibblies bowl. After two cocktails (and a civilised fight that broke out when Jenn decided to pay), we conceded defeat but wouldn't be silenced until she agreed to join us at Bin36 for dinner.

I love Bin36 cause it's a funky yet very elegant wine bar and restaurant right next to the House of Blues. It's menu is contemporary and the staff are all really educated about the wines that they recommend pairing with the foods. But the girls and I all decided to have flights with our meal. I had a champagne flight, where I was given 3 different champagnes and one rose, and each glass sits atop its own little circular coaster with a description about that wine's characteristics. Presumably this is so you can feel like an educated alcoholic hehe. But in any case, the food and champagne were simply delicious and we were well taken care of.

Jenn left us at that point and the girls and I jumped in a cab to head to Buddy Guy's, a blues bar that the boys at work have been recommending to me for weeks. The bar is on a side of town that I have not been to before and, though I knew the area, I didn't know what to expect of the bar. But my god it was awesome. The sheer talent of the musicians was infectious and the singer was so powerful. She belted out numbers so soulfully, a la Aretha Franklin and her band played along skilfully and I couldn't work out whether the crowd was fuelling the band, or the other way around. I had a wonderful time and I can't wait to go back. My colleague told me that Monday is Open Mike Night, where amateurs and wannabes can get up and jam with a 'professional' band to gain confidence and skills. He did say that no one he's seen has been crap, so obviously you've got to come along with some degree of ability, for which I'm sure the audience is grateful!

But I fell into bed at 2am and on the bus this morning, I somehow calculated that I have had 9 hours sleep in 2 days. How I have typed any of this blog post in complete sentences is beyond me. All that said, I would not have had this week any other way. It has been such a joy to see the girls again and to show them this beautiful City. And fortunately I've also seen some new things that I can share with the next lot of house guests...whoever they might be.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

At the old ball game

Pretty Good Seats
Pretty Good Seats,
originally uploaded by christopherdale.

I bought a diary several months ago, in an effort to get my own life organised. Given that I get paid to organise someone else's busy life, I figured it wouldn't be a stretch to get myself sorted out too. Wrong.

It has been easy to schedule things, but not so easy to remember to be disciplined enough to check where I'm supposed to be and when. And I'm notorious for accepting a social invitation without first confirming my availability in my paper diary. As a result I get double-booked, and irritated at myself.

So imagine my smugness when I got myself rightly sorted out for Courts and Ell's big trip to the Windy City. I cleared my diary of any extraneous appointments (which included my tutoring buddy Kev - sorry man) and set about filling my/our diary with cool and local things to do.

Last night's trip to Wrigley Field saw the Chicago Cubs take on the Milwaukee Brewers. While I did tell the girls that we should wear something blue in honor of the local team, none of us ended up doing that. It wasn't until we were walking to the stadium that we started to question what colour Milwaukee was - perhaps we were decked out in their hues by mistake? We weren't, as it turned out.

Courts declared that Cubs fans are like Crows fans - they take a while to warm up to the game but when they do, they go off. We were on our feet as some Cubs guy belted a home run and then when another Cubs guy slid onto 3rd base and was declared SAFE, in a controversial call that prompted some very colourful protests from nearby Brewers fans. The girls and I sat quietly and sipped our overpriced Bud Lights in rather non-committal fashion.

At the seventh inning stretch, we did our best to sing along to Take Me Out To The Ball Game (thanks Grandma for sending me the words) and then we took off to Guthries to play a board game with Pete and his friend John.

Crash-landing into bed at 1am was an ideal time to reflect on another good day spent with my girls.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

This is a bigger, weirder world than I thought

This morning I started raving on to Josh about how the Midwest is chock-full of Aussies that have achieved admirable career highs. We ranted further about how great it is to catch up with these Aussies whenever possible and reminisce over a beer or three about the homeland. Little did I realise just how close to home my day was about to get.

At 11am today, security phoned to tell me that a visitor had arrived at the Consulate for her meeting. The lady's name was just too unusual to mistake. Sure enough, an old high school classmate showed up at the Consulate to have Biggsy authorise a document for her. What a small world this really is! The girl and I had lost touch at the end of Year 9, when she moved away to another school. But up until she left we had been good friends and been in many of the same classes together.

Together we talked about the old days, while Biggsy just marvelled at our collective ability to remember back that far. [Fortunately my long term memory is OK, it's the short-term memory that is suffering these days]. We agreed that our friendship group as it was pretty much disintegrated after high school and we seem to have lived rather parallel lives in terms of travelling and seeking fulfilment in far-flung places across the globe.

Now this girl is working for a multi-national corporation and is living in a beautiful new apartment on the east coast. I have even been invited to stay at her place in Seattle if ever I make it over to the rainiest city in the country. You never know your luck - I just might take her up on that offer.

And you never know when a piece of your past is going to jump out of the shadows and surprise you.

Ohhhh look what you've done...

originally uploaded by freschwill.

Well Reg, you asked for the blog post and you're gonna get it.

Last night's Jet concert at the Vic Theater in Chicago was simply awesome. I hadn't been to the theatre before but it was perfect for the guys - a little old and grungy but with loads of character. And it was packed. We got there a little late, owing to a delicious dinner and beers at a nearby pub called "Matilda's" (the Aussie reference is just a coincidence). We walked into the theatre to the strains of this post's title song, and we didn't miss out on "Are You Gonna Be My Girl?", for which I was very grateful. Don't worry Katie, I rocked out for you. I was a one-woman mosh pit.

The boys were fabulous but in some of their songs, I was having 12th-grade flashbacks to Oasis (whose "What's the Story, Morning Glory" album really was the soundtrack to my final year at school). I don't know why it was, but the songs from Jet's new album have some real Gallagher-flavours running through them - but in a good way. I will buy the new album of course, I'm such a groupie for Aussie bands when I'm away from home it seems.

Unfortunately we didn't get to do the 'meet and greet' after the show, but it didn't matter. Instead, we headed back to "Matilda's" for some cocktails, beers, and mild flirtations with a very handsome bartender named Calvin. Gab had her groove on, well and truly.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The weary travellers take Chicago

Courts and El
Courts and El,
originally uploaded by Miss Gab.
Well the girls have arrived and we're getting ready to go and see Jet. Travelling up from Champaign with Ell's friend Josh (also an Adelaide guy - yay us), we're hungry for burgers and a dose of Aussie music. I'm so glad to see the girls looking so refreshed after their worldwide adventures - though minus the fancy hat and dresses they're donning here at last year's Melbourne Cup...

More news of our crazy exploits to follow in the coming days.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A weekend taken one step at a time

originally uploaded by thushara_sl.
This weekend was rainy and dreary in Chicago, so I could be forgiven for living the life of a hermit. Only, I didn't quite do that as it turned out.

Friday night was drinks for Lexie's boss to celebrate his 21st birthday (again) and so Saturday morning was a rather slow one. We have finally go our cable connected, but we neeed our digital recorder so we had to line up at the Comcast store to get it. ARGH that was a nightmare, given that there were no soda machines or buffet tables and me, Lexie, and Tim were all rather hungover and sluggish.

Then it was off to IKEA where I bought a rather fancy bedspread to add a touch of va-va-voom to my room, which I believe I have now accomplished.

There is something fabulous about being in one's pyjamas by 5.30pm on a Saturday night - takes you back to primary school days. But it was lovely to have the rain bucketing down outside, and me curled up in flannelettes with a steaming cup of strong coffee on my lap. I can't even tell you what we watched on TV, I think I was asleep in literally minutes.

Today I did laundry and went to the grocery store, to make the final preparations for my Adelaide visitors who arrive tomorrow. Then I made time to share a bottle of wine at Jenn's place and back home to clean the bathroom and tidy my room. Where did the weekend go?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Does anyone even care what "x" equals?!

Poor Kev lucked out at tutoring last night. The kid had math homework and I was his only hope. We both feared for our mental stability, and I was pretty much freaking out when he opened his text book to reveal algebra homework. Oh man. What kind of school gives 4th graders algebra homework?! Bullies, the lot of 'em.

Then I realised that we weren't doing algebra at all; rather, we had to answer 6 questions about rounding up or down to the nearest ten, hundred, and thousand. Slightly simpler you'd think, right?

But just like in all things, math is one of those subjects where things either click for you or they don't. And if they DO click for you, sometimes you just can't explain them. You don't know WHY you round up, you just do. But when a sweet Puerto Rican fourth grader looks up at you with his brown eyes, pleading with you to explain the fundamentals of the solution, you become resolved to find a way to explain the phenomenon. And somehow I did, and he got it. I think I even heard the 'click' when it all fell into place. I even tested Kev with some other examples just to make doubly sure he got it. And woohoo we got gold stars all round. If you want something rounded up or down, my mate Kev will do it for you.

It was when Kev brought out the old chestnut, "if a train leaves San Fransisco at 10am travelling at 40,000 million miles an hour and has to be in Denver by January, what time should Betsy wake up and curl her hair?" that I called it a night.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Tastes just like home

I went along last night to an event run by our Austrade team called OzFest 2006. In the early days, the event was a small affair, just a couple of tables offering Australian wines and cheeses to our American industry clients. Then something happened and the event grew wings and just soared.

The venue was Casa Monde, a design showroom in Chicago that imports Australian bathroom fixtures from Melbourne. The showroom was soon full to the brim with Aussie companies showcasing beer, wine, cheese and crackers, macadamia nuts, lamingtons, pavlovas, and moreton bay bugs. We had Aussie chefs whipping up Aussie imported produce including Tasmanian trout tartare, deliciously tender lamb coated in bush spices and even ostrich (tried that for the first time last night - delicious). The whole evening was a feast for the senses.

I even tended bar for a few hours, along with our Adelaide Austrade contact. We served up so many bottles of Coopers beer, it was just awesome. And now I know where I can buy cases of it here in Chicago, so look out fridge - make some room!

Given that my ankle was pretty much ruined by the end of the night, I shared a cab home with the parents of our Trade Commissioner, who basically brought the whole night together. They are visiting him from Queensland and his mum just about cried when she told me just how proud they were of him. I could honestly say that we were also proud of him, and for all the Aussie companies that came together and wowed the crowd. They're already talking about OzFest 2007!

Monday, September 18, 2006

But where does THIS cord go?

At the risk of shocking you speechless with an understatment, I'm going to put forward that I am not technically-minded. I know what an ipod is, and I even know how to put songs on it. But I am not sure how cable works and I certainly can't unravel the mystery of the cable TV remote. To me, the concept of a little set-top box that also allows you to record several TV programs, not only digitally, but simultaneously, is something that makes my brain hurt.

And here we are in our apartment, sans cable for the first time since moving in. And it's all the fault of the evil ground floor she-hags that have since been thrust into homelessness by our clever landlord. You may remember these girls caused me many sleepless nights with their carousing and partying and general foulness at all hours of the (school) night. Fortunately they've now gone and I don't care where, but for the fact that they took the cable connection with them.

So when Lex got the Comcast people out to hook us back up, we realised that our initial cable was being supplied by a complex web of split wires and half circuits coming up through the floor boards. Tricky. And also rather illegal. Whee. Fortunately for us, the Comcast nerds knew we had nothing to do with it but they didn't exactly know how to fix it either.

As a result, we're going to remain without cable until this Friday. And normally that would not be a drama in and of itself. Except for the fact that this Thursday marks the season premieres of House; CSI; and - most importantly - Grey's Anatomy.

So I'd like to put a special shout out thank you to Pete, who is giving me his house keys so that Lex and I (and a pizza and beer and plenty of Kleenex) can crash at his place on Thursday evening before he gets home, and cue up the episode of Grey's. Poor Pete will no doubt return home to two women sobbing on his sofa, swooning over Dr McDreamy. But god bless him for letting us crash all the same. And please let the Comcast crew hook us up on Friday, and please let the TV remote be something I can work out.

Celluloid wedded bliss

Here comes the bride......
Here comes the bride......,
originally uploaded by Terry_Lea.
Lex took me to see "Confetti" tonight, which many people in Australia have already seen, as it has been out there for a while. But the US is a little slow on the uptake when it comes to British films, and "Confetti" is about to jettison into theatres later this week.

I really did love it. I don't think that Martin Freeman (from the British series of "The Office", "Love Actually", and also "Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy") can do much wrong on film. He is just so adorably off-beat and uncomfortable that you have to love him. And in this movie he is no exception.

Lex loves British guys and I think her crush was just confirmed tonight. Lex and Marty sitting in the tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.

I get to be bridesmaid.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The definition of irony

A Pathetic Clown
A Pathetic Clown,
originally uploaded by *Irina*.

For the past few weeks, I have been looking forward to the Cult's annual party, called "Homecoming". This year's theme was Las Vegas, and the Club was planning to decorate 4 floors with showgirls, Cirque du Soleil performers, and even a Chapel of Love with an Elvis tribute artist (not impersonator, thank you). Honestly, the party was all I could talk about for weeks. My friend Kerry and I were all set to go there on Friday night.

But Thursday night after the UNICEF benefit, I got home and took off my 4" heels to get ready for bed. I took my make-up off, brushed my teeth, got into my pyjamas, and then stood on my bed to turn off my light. My bedroom light is actually the ceiling fan, but I can't reach the switch just by standing on the floor, so I either leap to turn it on/off, or I can do what I did on Thursday night and stand on my bed to do it.

Anyway - and keep in mind I was barefoot while doing this - I slid off my mattress and landed the wrong way, rather heavily, on the side of my foot crashing onto my floorboards. And you guessed it, I have sprained my ankle.

The only shoes I can wear are my pink pumas (yay) and my Aussie flip flops (double yay). But the most distressing thing was that I could not wear the gorgeous black slingbacks I'd bought to wear to the Cult party. Not only that, I could barely put my weight on my foot. So I had to bail on the party of the year.

Fortunately I was able to do all that without financial penalty - the Club graciously cancelled my tickets at no charge. Phew.

But I'm just bummed you know? I walked around all Thursday night in 4" heels without incident, only to bust my ankle when I was barefoot. Where is the justice?!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Stepping Out for UNICEF

Red Ultra Hi Heels
Red Ultra Hi Heels,
originally uploaded by shielaannkeller.

This post is actually dedicated to my sister, who has been on my mind all week as I gear up for a BIG night tomorrow. I'm going to a fundraiser benefit for UNICEF. It's title? "Wine, Women, and Shoes". It's title? "Wine, Women, and Shoes". My sister's idea of heaven.

The invitation specifies a dress code that is "Business Casual - but your shoes must be fab". Given that none of my shoes fit such a description (other than the silver sparkly wedges Joshua picked out for me), I took myself for an adrenalin-fuelled shopping trip after work. And I came home with some red peep-toed satin stilettos that I can actually walk in (phew) which I will team with my new black shirt-dress. I hope that will conjure the appropriate degree of 'fab' and see me photographed at least once.

But best of all is the silent auction. One of the items is a pair of Celine pumps (that's shoes, Dad) signed by Sarah Jessica Parker. So exciting. I am not going to bid for them of course - since the auction catalogue dares to suggest the item is 'priceless' - but I can't wait to sit back and see just how much they fetch. Sigh.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Who's the teacher here?

I had my first official night of tutoring and I was just really excited to find the place on public transportation! I took the Pink Line train out to the station and then walked the three blocks to the school. I was the only white girl in the whole neighbourhood, but most people were just curious to see me and I wasn't nervous or afraid at all. To be fair, I was a little too distracted for that. I needed to make sure that I had my bearings. After all, I'll eventually be doing this in the dead of winter, so I need to know exactly where I'm going.

I got to the school around 5.45pm and was put to work straight away in the library/tutoring room, and was asked to help one of the girls with her reading. She's only 11 years old, so I didn't think it was too advisable that she read to me a chapter about finding love and marriage in the early 1700s America. A little too heavy for all of us I think. So we switched to read Disney's "Dumbo". Much more appropriate. Still, my student is not the best reader, so I don't think we fully captured the simple beauty of the pachiderm parable. I still enjoyed it though.

While we were finishing up, a little champ named Kev came up and asked if he could read to me next. So we started out with a book about Spoonbill parents trying to find food to feed their hungry chicks. The perils that the mother bird faced as she fished in the swamp; so close to being devoured by a family of alligators. It was intense! But at least Kev was getting into it too and making a lot of sense of the story, which was good. Then we switched and read some wildlife books where we oohed and ahhed over photos of bobcats tearing the heads of rabbits - that sort of thing. But Kev's mother was in the room the whole time, so he was allowed to look at that sort of material.

Then we just chatted for a bit about our mutual love of animals and the various pets we've had in our lives. He was really good company, and we've agreed to bring each other a book next week that has some fun animals in it. I have 7 days to find such a thing. Help.

Your call will be monitored for my own amusement

A fellow Cult member approached me last night while I was sitting with Jenn and he was introduced as somewhat of a property tycoon, whose most recent acquisition is a very snazzy building on the other side of the Chicago River from my office. He is also a first-class art collector (by his own humble admission) and now he's in the process of decorating his newest real estate purchase, and setting up his offices.

One of his top jobs is to make sure his phone system is up to date, and he's asked me to record his 'telephone tree' for him. You know the phone system menu you hear when you first dial into a large corporation? Press 1 for Company Directory, Press 2 for take-out pizza, Press 3 to hear these options again - that sort of thing? Anyway that's what he wants me to do for him. He wants me to help out particularly because my accent projects an easily-understood and crystal-clear professional image for his organisation. Uh huh. I didn't have the heart to tell him the awful stories of just how many times I have been misunderstood in this City because of my accent. Oh well, let him find out...

In any case, I was going to do the phone recording anyway. He didn't have to lay the compliments on so thickly! I'll be warming up my vocal chords for him in a few weeks time.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Cheers and Chin Ups

There is something really great about catching up with a friend for a few drinks after work in the aptly-named "Rendez-Vous Room" at the Cult. Jenn and I had a lot of catching up to do after not having seen one another in over a week. This was a serious lapse in time for us and we hardly touched our Pinot Grigio before we had at least dished out one decent story each.

My first thought when I saw Jenn was how great she looked. I did the standard "wow, have you lost weight?" but I meant it this time. And fortunately for me, my observations were correct. She had lost some 8lbs in only 4 weeks - thanks to the Cult's personal trainer, Armando. I am seriously considering going to visit him a few times a week, if I could possibly have the same success as Jenn has had.

Swimming is all well and good but to have such dramatic results in such a short time - this is amazing. Jenn said that Armando shuns traditional gym equipment, instead relying on resistance training and lifting your own body weight. Jenn used the words "push ups" several times, and I don't think she was talking about underwear.

So we'll see. I'm not sure what Armando's consultation hours are. Jenn sees him around 3pm or 4pm during the week, but I can't get out of work at that time. For once I can actually blame a slack gym routine on the office, and it won't be an excuse. Sweet.

Still, today was the first "sweater day" at the office but I just know it's the first of many. No one will notice stomach rolls and flabby bingo-wing arms underneath bulky winter clothes, right? Just as long as I'm in shape for bikini season again, right?

Gab and Goliath

I like to think that I am a reasonably intelligent person, capable of multi-tasking and ensuring that I get my jobs done successfully. So when my capacity in this regard is challenged, and yet I know I've done the right thing, I get a bit irritated.

This morning at 10am, just as the delicious caffeine was working its way into my blood stream, my boss challenged me about a meeting he'd had with Uber-Corporation X recently. I knew that I'd spoken to them and made necessary arrangements but the Corporation complained to my boss (in person) that I hadn't informed them of the arrangements. [The fact that their ignorance of the arrangements did not inconvenience anyone is apparently immaterial].

So my boss believed the Corporation and challenged me about it. Now I hate when the fat cats pick on the little guys, especially when the little guy is me. So I wasn't having a bit of it. I knew I was right and I told my boss so. I stood there and parroted the conversation I'd had with Corporation Exec Assistant and concluded with a rather emphatic, "so it was their mistake, not mine".

I was not hearing another word on the subject. The only thing I did hear after that was the apology from my boss. I think it was an all-encompassing apology - for underestimating me, for not defending me to the Corporation and, most of all, for breathing. Apology accepted.

Is it just me, or is it warm in here?

Last night was Pete's housewarming and now he only lives about 3 blocks from me. Perfectly stumbling distance, as I might have said when I was 17 or so. Ahem.

But it was very amusing to see just how many people can squish into a 1-bedroom apartment at one time, even though that does sound like the start of a very bad joke. Armed with a bottle of champagne and a good attitude, I joined good friends at the party and had a great night.

To be fair, I had a good early morning, cause I didn't get to bed until 3am. Pete's reflections today were rather blah, but I guess you never have a good time at your own party. It was left to me to reassure him that everyone I spoke to (and that was pretty much everyone - at length) was having a blast. Me included.

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, the jury is still out), Pete has no room for food in his fridge right now. He will have to survive on clever rations of Chinese take-out (his only fast food menu so far) and a large assortment of bottled beer. The house is well and truly warm, and our job here was done well.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

A home cooked meal just for me

the dinner party (before)
Originally uploaded by JKonig.

Okay so this photo is not really representative of last night's dinner, but I just liked the colours and the glassware, so give me a break.

Last night I went to the home of "Aussie Mel & Tongue-Ring Dave" to enjoy a delicious home-cooked meal. Mel had been keen to thank me for giving she and Dave some concert tickets a few weeks back and while I said a thank you wasn't necessary, she persisted.

And so it was that I ended up at their beautiful apartment, in a refurbished carriage house just outside of Downtown, to enjoy some 'experimental' bruschetta and delicious pasta bake. Dave also generously opened their impressive wine cellar too, so the dinner was really rocking. Rather uncharacteristically, I turned up empty handed, so I felt rather awful and will probably do something to remedy that bad karma soon.

Last night the weather was just ideal and so we took our wine glasses up to the building's rooftop and enjoyed beautiful views over the City of Chicago. It looked so peaceful from up there. Lake Michigan looked so calm, and the imposing Field Museum and The Spaceship (aka Soldier Field) just completed the view.

Great food, great friends, and great location. And I was spoilt rotten - it was a real treat.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Am I really better naked?

I left the house in a bit of a rush this morning and even though I freakishly made my bed, I neglected to slip my cell phone (oops, mobile - sorry Jems) into my handbag. As a result, I am feeling positively naked today. And not in a good way either.

During a normal work day, my phone lives on a shelf by Biggsy's desk. Each time I head to the kitchen for a drink refill, I'll stop by Biggsy's desk as a reflex and check for phone calls or messages. On the off chance that my phone rings during the day, it will blast out a number of equally obnoxious ring tones that I carefully selected to represent my friends. For those unlisted numbers, it's a Missy Higgins tune (but you could have guessed that, right?).

So today when I lamented not having brought my phone, and making likely distasteful comments about my nudity, Biggsy declared that he preferred it when I went sans phone, as it meant some bloody peace and quiet. No Missy, no INXS, no nothing. Even when Mero and I reminded Biggsy that he has 70s porn music as his ring tone, somehow my musical choice still ended up to be the dumbest. Sigh, I just can't win.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Lettuce be glad for a cast-iron stomach

I had yesterday off work owing to a rather horrible bout of post-Mexico stomach "issues" that left me feeling rather seedy. In any case, I only trusted peppermint tea, small cups of coffee, and water to nourish my system. Given the obvious light-headedness in which such a diet resulted, I figured staying home was truly the best medicine.

I've come to work today, feeling a little thinner to be honest (woohoo) but managed to have a rather surreal remote conversation with my boss, the essence of which follows:

Boss: Are you feeling better? What did you eat?
Me: Yes, much better thank you. Not sure what I ate, but I will try not to do it again.
Boss: I bet it was the lettuce. Did you eat the lettuce?
Me: [slightly shocked that this would be his first go-to gastro nastie] Uh, yes I had salad on the buffet but they would have been careful not to wash that in tap water.
Boss: You can't be sure of that; you should have asked. Did you drink the water?
Me: Oh no, I know better than to do that [I omitted sharing with him the amount of tequila I drank]. After the travelling I've done incident-free, perhaps it was just my time to get sick...
Boss: Nonsense, it happens all the time. Right well it's good that you're good, you should count yourself lucky. Now, anyway.
Me: Yep, I do. After yesterday's efforts I'm just grateful to be alive. Groan.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Nerds are people too

Originally uploaded by DG N.

I started my volunteering gig today, helping young kids through the Union League Boys and Girls Club. The Cult, as you and I have come to affectionately term it, owns several properties across Chicago, that offer after-school care activities for local school kids. The idea is that the Clubhouse offers the kids a place to come, primarily to do their homework, but also to do arts & crafts, sports classes, and generally just to just muck about in safety after a day cooped up in classes. A cool concept and I am pleased to be part of it.

So tonight I met a Cult representative and we travelled out together to meet the organisers of the Clubhouse that I will be visiting every Tuesday night for the forseeable future. My job will be to supervise "Power Hour", the 60-minute window where I'm supposed to focus the kids on doing their homework. At any one time, I will be supervising 20+ kids aged between 8 and 16. I was joking at work today that I will be fine, just as long as no one asks me any questions about American History. Or Geography. Or Politics. Or Science.

I only spoke to two of the kids today, adorable little girls about 8 years old, and both of them gazed at me open-mouthed, as if I was from another planet. Then they collapsed into a fit of giggles that did not subside until I left the room. Not an altogether unusual reaction by any means, but it made me smile nonetheless. This is going to be a very "interesting" volunteering experience.

The organisers assure me the kids will warm to me. Even more when they get comfortable enough to ask me questions about Australia. My secret mission is to have them all speaking Aussie slang by the end of the year. Or maybe I'll be a bit of a covert Australian Tourism representative and get the kids interested in Aussie animals and plants - I can see papier machied eucalypts and egg carton koalas hanging up all over the art studio already.

And there is an upside for me too, you know. I'll be working in a largely Hispanic neighbourhood. Do I hear "Free Spanish Lessons"?! Muy bien, senorita!

Monday, September 04, 2006

RIP Fearless Steve

Originally uploaded by Mr Nylon.
For a long time I was very anti-Steve Irwin. For me, his ballsy and over-the-top antics were almost too Aussie and in a way I thought he was doing our national image a disservice (think "Crocodile Dundee" for an older, but equally cringe-worthy, example of this).

But as time dragged on, and particularly when I came to the States, I realised that Steve Irwin was a real asset to Australia and particularly helpful to our image overseas. Sure he was loud, brazen, and audacious but he was also a family man and a savvy businessman who knew how to work the American public and at the same time showcase the uniqueness of Australia and our wildlife.

And the American media is remembering Steve fondly as news of his tragic death reaches us. America had embraced him as that very quirky but really loved Aussie ambassador. And for all the people saying "well, he died doing what he loved," it still seems an awful shame (if not particularly grisly).

For fear of getting bogged down in melancholy, check out Harry's take on Steve's passing for a more "Aussie" reaction (which is not bad at all really, considering Harry's a Brit).

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Hasta la vista, amigos!

Originally uploaded by st_gleam.
I'm sitting here on my bed in Chicago, wondering where the last four days went. Caro and I had an absolute ball sunning ourselves in Puerto Vallarta, even though the presence of Hurricane John just further up the coast from us was never out of our minds for long.

When I started thinking about what I was going to blog about this vacation, I was going to take a day-by-day approach. But on reflection, that would read rather boring. Given that we were on an all-inclusive vacation, we didn't pay for the tequila and beer that we started drinking at 11am. And as a result, sleeping became a regular feature on the day's agenda. Falling asleep on a beach chair under the hot Mexican sun is not something I'd immediately recommend. Tequila has some sort of sedative property I'm sure.

But Caro and I did get ourselves organised and left the resort for one of the days. We put ourselves in the capable hands of Vallarta Adventures, and took off in one of these open-sided vehicles to go smashing and crashing into the heart of Mexico on a Sierra Madre adventure. I actually went hiking in a forest! And no one carried me! The day ended with a late lunch on the beach and, true to form, I slept a little on the beach chair (post margaritas of course). Then on the vehicle back to our resort, the tour guide encouraged us all to have two shots of really good quality tequila. Arriba! Then it was back to our room for yet another sleep.

Are you getting the (restful) picture here?

I didn't take as many photos of Mexico as I'd intended. Partly this was due to my narcolepsy, but also there was just so much relaxation to be had at our wonderful hotel, I didn't want to interrupt the serenity. Honest. So just take my word for it when I say that I am healthy, happy, tanned, and rested. And I'm not entirely ready to see another bottle of tequila just yet.