At the Mastering SAP Technologies conference last week, I met many native Australians, a few transplants, caught up with SAP Mentors I’ve met elsewhere in person and virtually, and learned a lot more about the culture down under. The country continent was nearly at an election time (which in fact occurred while we were en route home), one controversy being carbon tax. With high energy exports, via coal mining primarily, there was more debate on this subject than I’d typically see in an American election, which tend to focus on wallet issues rather than global ones.
For my wife, one of the bigger shocks was lack of availability of ice. Being an ice tea drinker, she typically finds tea bags, a water heating device (usually a coffee pot in the U.S.), ice cubes, and artificial sweetener in every hotel we stay in. In this country, though, she found a tea kettle (plastic, but still), tea bags, but that’s it. No ice machine in the hallway, no ice tray in the freezer compartment (no freezer door in the mini-bar fridge either), and no handy ice bucket (metal or plastic) with disposable plastic liner (“for freshness”). Trips to the hotel dining area were not a problem, once the request was placed (“what, you want hot tea and a glass of ice?”). However, getting ice into the room prior to breakfast proved to be an expensive endeavor (“No, you can’t take ice to the room on the lift. Room service will deliver it to you.”). Graham Robinson, SAP Mentor, conference host, and tour guide extraordinaire, explained that supplying ice is not normal in Australia. Asking for “ice water” will get you a glass of water, chilled, with perhaps a piece of ice, perhaps not.
Graham was our host (me, Kathy, Anne Kathrine Petteroe, and Sue Keohan) for a tour of the Blue Mountain area on Thursday after the conference ended. We successfully navigated the right-hand drive street traffic, procured our train tickets, and found the correct platform with seconds to spare for a 30 minute ride to the Parramatta suburban area of Sydney. The initial views of the topography and architecture between downtown and this exurban area were typical trackside appurtenances, graffiti, industrial spaces and not much else. Graham explained the historical reasons for the railway and westward highway development, which only became apparent once we reached the “gorges” I had not quite pictured (nor the “bush” for that matter).
I had envisioned Australia as more like Nevada, maybe, with dry conditions, not much vegetation in the “bush,” and sparse population other than the metropolitan areas. At least the first two are wrong, as it rained in Sydney several days we were there, the rains followed us into the mountains, and the canyon areas as pictured above were much more densely forested than the term bush would imply.
The Saturday when we left (and when we arrived in fact), were designated as having an Earth Hour. See Gavin Heaton’s blog “Join Earth Hour this Saturday“, not to mention earthhour.org. It’s great that we were able to visit the birthplace of Earth Hour, though you can see the irony of us flying thousands of miles on that day, only to arrive home and turn off a few lights (and then returning to our comfortable familiar bed). I’ll work on the offsets.
The day after the first Australian Demo Jam, I recorded a conversation with Neil Gardiner, SCN moderator, transplanted Swiss-Franco-English-Wales-etc. architect, about his route to the stage, and here it is: