Archive for August, 2007

Reflections on the First Week

Friday, August 31st, 2007


One week ago exactly, we were making our way through Sydney’s airport on the start of our trip.  And, now, we’re one week into it.

Tasmania 079 First, it’s been an amazing week.  We’ve stood a few feet from eastern grey kangaroos in the wild.  We’ve seen a moonlit field of wallabies, padymelons, and wombats.  We’ve held wombats, and fed a hurt baby wallaby (note, wallabies and padymelons are smallish kangaroos).  We mountain biked down a mountain in a Tasmanian national park.  We saw one of my favorite operas (“The Barber of Seville”) in the world-famous Sydney Opera House.   And all four of us watched a full lunar eclipse unfold in the clearest sky on the earth (Tasmania’s).  So it’s been an eventful week!

Tasmania 126 We’re doing well on the school front.  Each morning, the kids get up around 6:00 a.m. (and we’ve adjusted pretty easily to the time zone change) and start right into their school work.  They do math, Worldly Wise, geography, a book on Australia history, and they write their journals.  They are flying along, and the system seems to be working.  And, the best part is, the “school” start to the day isn’t the end of the day’s education.  We’re typically touring with a guide (an expert on local culture or nature), and picking up all sorts of things.  Tasmania 004 So when we’re playing baseball (more later) in the parking lot last night, Gibson looks up in a tree and says, “Look, Daddy, a Kookaburra!”  Then, when he pursues it to take this photograph, he calls back, “And, Daddy, there’s a padymelon here by this tree.”  Anyway, Australia has been an unbelievable nature “classroom” for all of us.

We were warned by lots (and I mean LOTS) of people that we were doing too much moving around on this trip.  In the first eight days, we’ve spent the night at four different places (and are flying later today to Kangaroo Island).  But we have been able to pack and unpack easily, and our family really loves seeing different things.  So we still think we’ve planned the right trip for us.  I’ll revisit this in a few weeks, and our view may change. 

One thing we’ve encountered, though, is the pluses and minuses of using local guides.  We feel we really get a lot out of touring around with someone expert on the local history, culture, and nature.  We’re discovering — FAST!! — though that their idea of a good day and ours can be quite different.  We’ve been asking questions (e.g., “So how long a drive will this be?” and getting answers (e.g., “Oh, it’s not far at all.”) only to discover that “not far” is three hours! 


We’re doing a pretty good job of getting in some sports as we travel.  We brought a fair amount of baseball equipment, and have been able to play most days.  And, with the help of the Boston Red Sox and long-time friend and colleague Kristie Jochmann, we are about to start our around-the-globe “Baseball Ambassadors” program (more next week!).  So we’re pretty happy with our balance of sports, school, sight-seeing and education.

Tasmania 127

We’ve stayed at a range of places, from Sydney’s finest to the Millybrook Inn in a tiny place in Tasmania.  The variety has been fabulous, and we are pretty good at going with the flow on the types of places we stay.  At this particular place, we were able to see some of the cutest little wallabies and padymelons you can imagine.  Our tour guide and his wife cooked us dinner that night, which was going great right up until he brought a skillet of freshly-cooked . . . wallaby!  Not a huge hit with our kids!!!

High Tech Stuff In packing, I clearly underestimated the impact of the electronic equipment we are bringing on the trip.  We have three laptops, four digital cameras, two blackberries, an iPod, a satellite phone, three pairs of binoculars, two 250 Gig hard drives, two sets of noise-canceling headphones, and more chargers and adapters than I could ever imagine.  We’re making great use of most everything.  The kids are using their cameras constantly, and to good effect.  And their laptops play a big role in their schoolwork.   But my biggest priority for the coming week is to rationalize all of this stuff!

And tonight, all four of us were walking at sunset along this amazing beach on Kangaroo Island in southern Australia, laughing giddily, and saying, “Wow!”  So far, at least, we’re thrilled to have taken this leap!

Stunning Sydney!

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007


IMG_0234Short version:  The reason Sydney is a long way from the U. S.  might well be that it’s a suburb of heaven.  This is an amazing place!  The city has natural and architectural beauty, the climate is fabulous, the people are friendly, there’s heaps going on culturally, it’s easy to get around, it’s an English-speaking country, and it’s safe.  We’ve loved our time here, and are sorry to be leaving.

While it’s still “winter” in Sydney, the weather here was gorgeous — crystal clear blue skies, and in the 20′s Centigrade (or 70′s Fahrenheit).  We stayed at the Park Hyatt, right on Harbour Quay.  It’s a smallish but very nice hotel, with outstanding views of the harbor, and an easy walk or ferry ride to most of what we wanted to see here.   


The signature building in Sydney is its Opera House, which we could see from our room.  Up through the 1950′s, Sydney was something of a backwater city, second to Melbourne (which was awarded the 1956 summer Olympics).  To their credit, Sydney officials decided to build a world class performing arts center, and went with the architectural plans of an unknown Danish architect, Joern Utzon (who to this day has never seen the completed building, although he’s still alive and in his 90′s!).  The original project was budgeted at $7 million, and came in at $102 million — but worth every penny.  It actually encloses six different performing halls, and is stunning inside and out.

Highlights of our time in Sydney included the Aquarium, the Zoo, the Australian Museum, attending the opera “The Barber of Seville” and a tour of the Opera House, numerous walks, a visit to the Olympic Stadium, and a day trip to the Blue Mountains.  Much of our transportation was by ferry, since the city surrounds a big harbour, and the ferry is essential for travel. 


One thing in Sydney we weren’t able to do was the bridge climb.  Children must be at least ten years old, so we didn’t make the cut.  It takes three hours, involves some pre-training, but you can then hike up the arch of the bridge to its apex, cut across, and return.  We saw lots of people doing it, and it looked really fun.  Next trip!

IMG_0228 While we didn’t expect Sydney to be a wildlife mecca, we saw lots of great animals.  Going to a zoo in Sydney to see giraffes when we’ll see them in the wild later this trip seems a bit odd, but we had a blast, and the backdrop of Sydney’s skyline was breath-taking.  Australia has incredible wildlife, including the koala, kangaroo, playypus, wombat, and on and on. 

Speaking of “on and on,” it’s clear I could talk forever about Sydney’s many virtues.  But we’re now off to Tasmania, and that will be the subject of our next blog.

Blue Mountains 003

A kangaroo we spotted in the wild in the Blue Mountains.


The four of us outside our hotel along the harbour.


Our close friend the koala (not a bear, believe it or not).

A Surprising Travel Day: August 22nd/24th (but no 23rd!!)

Friday, August 24th, 2007


For starting our trip, we thought it made sense to fly to Los Angeles, spend a day there at Disneyland, get exhausted, and then fly that night to Sydney.  Well, the plan worked!  We had a great time at Disneyland, followed by a fun, and what quick, flight to Sydney.


One ride that was a must at Disneyland was “Small World.”  We wanted to see how many “small world” countries would be on our trip.  I wish I could give you a definitive answer, but can’t!  For sure, the “small world” ride includes Turkey, Australia, Egypt, Argentina, India, Thailand, China, and New Zealand.  It seemed to include Antarctica.  And then — oddly —  it included a generic Africa.  Apart from Egypt, no single country of this vast continent seems to have enough to distinguish itself as a single country for Disney’s “Small World.”  Well, we’ll see about that when we get there.

One IMG_1665unexpected upside of our day at Disney was to be there in a sea of New York Yankees’ fans — on the day after they lost to the Angels, 18-9!  I’ve never seen so many long faces wearing Yankee hats.  We had a great guide, did lots of fun rides, ended with a swim in the hotel pool, and were off to LAX.  All of us had gotten up early (still on east coast time), ran all over the park, and then were ready to sleep when we got on the plane.


It was a bit baffling to be flying at night from Los Angeles to Sydney.  We took off at 11:00 p.m., and stayed in darkness for the entire 7,509 mile, 13 1/2 hour flight.  And we slept for most of the flight.  At one point in the middle of the flight, Gibson asked me, “Daddy, what time is it?”  Well, I paused, and realized that the question was REALLY complicated.  I had no idea what time zone we were in, nor really cared.  And we were in the process of losing August 23rd from our collective lives as we passed the international date line.  There was no normal sunrise/sunset pattern to key on, or tell us when to eat.  And all I could think about was flying every June 14th for the rest of my life from Los Angeles to Sydney, arriving every June 16th, and never again having a birthday — forever preserving me at my current age.  I made a mental note to myself to follow up on that through Google to see if it actually would work, and went back to sleep!

We arrived in Sydney to daybreak, clouds and showers, and some of the nicest people I’ve ever met (other than some guy at the baggage carousel at the airport, in a Yankees cap, who picked up one of our suitcases and started to leave with it!).  We got to our hotel around 7:15 a.m., got a temporary room, and our kids got right to work on school work.  IMG_1688

So we now are into the first day of this adventure, and we’re more excited than ever.  Australia looks to be incredibly interesting, and we had no early travel glitches.  We’re in Sydney for the next four days, and have lots of fun things to do.  For years, when asked where I’d live if I could go anywhere not in the U.S., my answer was always Sydney, qualified by the fact that I’d never been there.  Well, now we’re here!

The Departure: August 21st, 2007

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

We’ve spent much of our summer preparing for this trip. Today, the trip started! I got up quite early (5:15 a.m.) and went up to Boston for an early Board meeting (Netezza, which has an outstanding management team and just went public), while Elizabeth got up shortly after I did to take on all the loose ends that needed to be tied together.


The day started auspiciously with an incredible Jamestown sunrise. At the left is the view of daybreak with the Newport Bridge in the background. We’ve been lucky to have some spectacular sights right in our own yard this summer. So now we’re off to see all sorts of other wonders of nature throughout the world!


It’s hard to imagine that we could spend the better part of two months getting prepared to put our entire family life into eight suitcases. Yep, just eight suitcases — shown on the right just shortly before our departure. Determining what to take, what to leave, and how to organize it was far more challenging than we anticipated. Anyway, there it is — ten months for a family of four, including school work, all in eight suitcases. Well, this should make for an interesting year!

The good news is that we are relatively mobile, which was our goal. We can all wheel our luggage through an airport comfortably. When you’re going to go down those endless custom’s corridors as many times as we will during this coming year, mobility is important. IMG_1663

So we’re off to LA, getting in late tonight. Tomorrow, it’s Disneyland. Whenever, I hear the word “Disneyland,” I invariably think of Sterling. At age two, with no exposure (and I mean zero) to Disney-related stuff, she suddenly said regularly, “I want to go to Dizzz-a-knee-land.” Over and over. So tomorrow, she’ll go to “Dizzz-a-knee-land”!! And so will the rest of us!! Then off on a 10:30 p.m. Qantas flight to Sydney, leaving Wednesday night and arriving Friday morning!

Departure Day Approaches

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007


We’re getting more and more ready for our departure, but probably not ready enough!  We leave next Tuesday, which gives us about five days to get everything finalized.

I’ve made some progress on the technology front, thanks largely to David Cancel, who has helped me enormously get everything in place.  Meanwhile, we’re trying to figure out how to get ten months’ worth of personal possessions into two suitcases each!  I think the others in my family will do it, but I’m going to be in huge trouble on this challenge.

Meanwhile, we think we have all the materials we need for school, and have started the homeschooling process before we leave.  It’s proving very interesting, and more fun than we anticipated.  Nevertheless, road conditions will be more challenging, so herpes simplex we’ll see what obstacles we run into across the different continents.

So, back to packing and organizing!