A week with an old friend

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An old friend of mine is staying with me right now. He’s been here for a week so far. The last time I saw him was when I was in Melbourne in April before going to the farm in Bundaberg. Pete (his real name is Peeter) is traveling for a while before he goes back to Estonia.

On Sunday we met at the beach in Gold Coast. We went for a swim and tried surfing. We’re still not able to stand on the surfboard.

On Monday we went to Sunshine Coast and Noosa. We tried surfing again but the waves were a bit too big and scary. The dumping waves were a lot of fun. I liked watching  other people trying to get out of the water just to be smacked hard by one of those dumping waves. People were flying around and falling just before reaching the safety of the land. Hahahahaa… I almost broke my neck doing the same thing.

After surfing we went to the beach at Noosa and visited the Noosa National Park. It was beautiful. This was the second time I visited Noosa. We managed to spot dolphines, rays and turtles. Pete took some photos. I also wrote my name on the beach with some rocks. It should still be there today if the water hasn’t moved the rocks.

We walked in the national park and a group of 5 or 6 people came towards us. I noticed a snake was crossing the track but that group didn’t notice the snake. They sort of just walked right over it. It was unreal. I tried to get into the shot with the snake but Pete’s camera had a fancy lense on it which wasn’t any good for short distance photographs. We googled „snakes at Noosa“ at home and think that it was a Brown Snake – the world’s second most venomous snake.

On our way back from the park we saw tourists looking up into the trees. They spotted a koala. That was the first wild koala I’ve seen in Australia.

This Tuesday I thought that we should do something cool – for example go for a swim in a pond under a waterfall. We decided to go to visit Cedar Creek Falls near Mount Tamborine. The water was a bit cold at first but after a bit it was perfectly refreshing. I liked diving into the water and sliding down the slippery slide. We continued the day in the nearby nature, completed a Skywalk and visited the Knoll National Park.

This Wednesday we went for a quick surf at Gold Coast. The sky was very dark and it started to rain but that didn’t stop us. We were in the water until the lifeguards told all the people to get out.

We spent the next day hiking. We drove to the Glass House Mountains to conquer Mount Tibrogargan. An information board said that it would take us 1.5 hours to complete track #1. We finished it in 45 minutes and concluded that we’re hardcore backpackers and nothing can stop us. So we started on track #3 which was recommended for experienced climbers only. We went up the rocky and curvy road for a couple of hundred meters until the mountain become almost vertical. There were red marks on the cliff which showed the path up to the top.

We only climbed about 10 meters of that vertical wall until I got too scared to continue. You know… up on that wall suddenly everything became very real very fast – each step I made, each rock I hanged on to had to be secure. One mistake and I’d hurt myself pretty badly. I got an adrenaline rush. For a moment I felt alive again.

A local bloke told us that 10 meter climb was the scariest bit but even he didn’t climb any higher. He said that “his mind started to play tricks on him”. We didn’t conquer the mountain. But the view from there was great.

After our adventure in the mountains we went to Caloundra to end the day with some surfing. Louisa from work said that she loved that place and recommended an ice-cream and smoothie shop at Kings Beach. So after our smoothies we went for a surf. I loved the place.

Today I was supposed to host a couchsurfer from Taiwan but he couldn’t come tonight. He’ll be here tomorrow.

Until next time,

Ivar the Salacious

Burglars from Sydney

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After my interview at Aristocrat I had to get back home. As I wrote earlier I found two girls to travel with me and share the fuel costs. My passengers were Rachel from Canada and Anni from Germany.

Similar to my journey to Sydney, everybody got to know each other. We talked about our plans in Australia, our interests and home countries. At that time Anni had been in Australia for 2 weeks, Rachel only for 3 days. None of them knew how to drive on the left side of the road.

About 3 hours after my start in Sydney the traffic on the highway decreased and I decided it was time for one of the girls to learn to drive on the left. Neither of them were very enthusiastic about it but finally Anni agreed to do it.

Anni turned out to be a fabulous student although she sometimes drove faster than the speed limit. She only needed a little bit of coaching in urban areas. Other than that she was perfect behind the wheel.

The initial plan was to drive for 2 days and spend one night somewhere in a rest area in tents. Luckily Anni saved the day… or more accurately saved the night. When she was in Sydney she met a woman at some market. They just talked for a bit and the woman said that if she ever needed a place to crash near Coffs Harbour then she should give her a call. Coffs Harbour is about 500 km north from Sydney and it was on our way to Brisbane. Anyways Anni contacted the woman and her husband Richard to find us accommodation. Richard agreed to host us, gave us his address and we were on our way to his farm.

Richard lived in a place called Upper Orara, about 20 km west from Coffs Harbour. The road to our host’s place was very curvy. At one point the tarmac road ended and we were driving on a gravel road. We found the road Richard was living on but finding his house turned out to be a bit of a challenge.

At one point the gravel road ended. A stream of water went across it. I thought that maybe there was a detour or bridge nearby but didn’t find it. I checked the water depth and thought that my awesome Ford Festiva will have no trouble driving through 20-30 cm of water. I backed up to get some speed and went through the water barrier. About 100 meters later everybody was very happy when we saw Richard’s house number on the mailbox.

Past the private property sign we saw one house. Three cars were in front of it. Somebody was definitely at home although no lights were on in the building. Two little dogs were barking at us as we approached the house to meet Richard.

I had a flashlight with me because it was pitch-dark there. We looked through the windows but didn’t see anyone inside. We were knocking on the windows and doors trying to get some attention from the inhabitants. We did this for a couple of minutes without success. The girls decided to go get their phones from the car and try calling Richard. I stayed at the house to continue knocking.

Suddenly the light went on in the back room and a woman opened the door. I asked whether Richard lived there. She was quiet for a moment then suddenly realized “aaaaaahh… Richard… over there” and pointed me somewhere into the darkness. I apologized for waking her up and went back into my car to find the second house.

About 300 meters down the road we saw another large house. We saw a very similar picture: several cars were parked in front of the house, shoes were in front of the slide doors but no lights were on. Again we used the same technique – knocking and making some noise. We felt like burglars in the night. Nobody came to answer the door and we couldn’t call Richard because none of us had any reception.

We discussed our options. Maybe we should just put up our tents on the lawn in front of the house?

No! It was cold outside and that woman also said that Richard lives there. We travelled too far to give up like that.

Again the girls knocked on the doors and this time they managed to wake somebody up. A rather sleepy man opened the door and said that Richard lives next door. Basically where were two houses next to each other but they were connected with a roofed patio or terrace.

We knocked on the doors again but since that didn’t work and the door was open the girls just walked in. I felt very uncomfortable with that. The last time I did that I was lucky to not get arrested. Anyways Anni and Rachel turned the lights on in the house and looked around. About 30 seconds later we heard somebody’s footsteps from the back of the building and Richard appeared.

Everybody was glad to see him. He was a very interesting person. Somewhat of an artist. I think he was an artist/painter. He made us tea and some sandwiches, we had a small chat and listened to Simon & Garfunkel. There was a lot of room in his house. The girls slept in one room and I had a separate room to sleep in. It was good to sleep in a bed.

Richard left rather early in the morning and left us alone in his house. He said that if we wanted we could stay longer at his place. Richard was really cool about everything.

Sadly we had different plans and had to leave. We packed our stuff and headed to Byron Bay, NSW. Anni did most of the driving.

We weren’t as chatty in the car as on the day before. I was also sick of listening to my 100 greatest driving songs CDs. Once we got to Byron Bay, we went to the beach.

Rachel was like a little kid in a candy store. There was the sea, the beach, beautiful surroundings, rocks and nature. Anni and I laughed as Rachel went into the water and battled the waves. It was funny.

I had a quick swim too. Later we went to see Australia’s most easterly point and took some pictures along the way. Anni decided to stay at the beach instead.

When we came back Anni said that she got a text from her friend who will arrive in Byron Bay the next day. She decided to stay there. I dropped her off at a hostel and we said our final goodbyes. Goodbye Anni, I will miss you and your German bread very much.

I took Rachel to Gold Coast to see the beach and after that drove back home. It was a bit late so we decided that Rachel will crash at my place and will continue her journey in the morning.

Before saying goodbye to Rachel we took some pictures in my home garden. Thanks for joining me Rachel. This trip was a lot of fun. I’m glad I had such wonderful people with me.

Although a bit unrelated to this post I also took a pic with my roomie and his girlfriend. Now you know who I’m living with.

Burglar Apprentice,

Ivar

PS: Aristocrat called me and said that I didn’t get the job.

Graduate Assessment Day at Aristocrat

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I put on some nice clothes for the interview, packed all my stuff from Caroline’s place and went for my interview. The journey was about 30 km and I started 1.5 hours before the start of the activities at Aristocrat.
I remember my GPS telling me to take a right turn. After that turn I discovered that I was supposed to take the next right turn but since there were cars everywhere and rush-hour was being a bitch I had no choice but to go into a tunnel. The speed in the tunnel was 20 km/h tops and at the end of the tunnel was Bondi Beach or Bondi Junction (sorry, this was my second visit to Sydney). Great, 30 minutes of driving and I’m back at square one.
I made several other minor mistakes along the way but 10 minutes before 9AM I saw the Aristocrat building. All I needed to do was park my car. Since I was in a rush I parked my car half-illegally near the Aristocrat building and was glad to pay $4 per hour for parking (several weeks ago I had an interview in Brisbane CBD where I paid $50 for an hour for parking).
I rushed into the building and was able to make it on time. So the day didn’t start perfectly, I was a bit frustrated, nervous and anxious – not a great way to start a job interview.

The receptionist pointed me to the other candidates and shortly after that we were all listening to a presentation about the company and its products.
After that we had “group activity”. There were 12 candidates and we were divided into 3 groups. Each group had to build a basket or protective cage around an egg such that if the egg was dropped from 2 meters it would not brake. Our construction materials included plastic straws, plastic plates, cups, paper plates, pencils, cotton pads etc. Each material had a price and our budget was $1000. This group exercise was a lot of fun. It acted as a great icebreaker and to some extent helped to assess our teamwork abilities and also creativity.
Everybody’s egg basket design was successful and no eggs were harmed during this exercise. Now the networking session started. Well technically it lasted until the very end of the assessment day.
All the candidates were guided into a mini-casino where we could play the pokies and ask designers and software developers about the job and about working at Aristocrat. At the same time each candidate had to go back into the room to give a presentation about themselves and why he/she was a good fit for the company. We had to make the presentation at home before the interview.
I think that my presentation went really well. My strategy was to focus on games and coming across as really enthusiastic about games. So I talked about the video and computer games I’ve played and why I liked them. It was funny and I got the jury to laugh several times. Mission accomplished!
I’ve never really put this much effort into a job interview. It took me about 6 hours to make the slides, I practiced my speech 20-30 times, also used a mirror to fine tune my body language. Since the role required strong numerical skills I spent my time solving math and probability problems. I also practiced my answers to interview questions.
After my presentation the networking session continued and the interviews started. Three people were asking questions and I was answering them. For example I was asked:

  • What kind of pokie game would I make where the theme was eggs just like in the group activity? What about a pokie game with financial markets as the theme?
  • Why do I want to transition from a financial markets background into games design?
  • What games do I play? Do I have a playstation?
  • Why do I want to work at Aristocrat?
  • Where do I see myself in 5 years?
  • Which kind of visa do I have and when will it expire? I think this was one of the last questions asked. It seemed that they didn’t like that I was in Australia on a Working Holiday visa although I’m quite sure that they could’ve organized an Employee Nominated Sponsorship for this role.

The interview lasted for about 15-20 minutes. In total I spent more than 5 hours at Aristocrat. At the end of the day my head was a big mess about games, design and regulations. I learned a lot about the industry and the company. I had a lot of fun and enjoyed my time at Aristocrat.

 

Brisbane to Sydney

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7 AM Sunday morning was the start of my journey from Brisbane CBD. I picked up Robin (she’s from China) and was on my way towards Sydney. The second girl cancelled the night before and I had no time to find anybody else.

As always in such situations we talked about who we were, where we’re from, our interests, Australia etc. Driving conditions were a bit bad because of rain and some thunder but all that stopped after the first 300 km. I think it was at the New Italy rest area where I decided to let Robin drive.

Her driving was a bit messy at first. I should’ve expected that since she’s never driven my car and had little experience driving a stick. The clutch was a bit problematic, I don’t recall her ever using the 3rd gear, once she got a bit confused about which gear she was in (that would explain why she tried to go into reverse after 5th gear). She was also a bit late on the brakes and almost crashed my car into a trailer. Yes she had a few minor hick-ups but that’s just the nature of the beast. Most of the time we were on the highway and she was an absolute delight driving outside of cities. She did about 300 km and I got my rest and was able to reach Sydney.

Robin was funny and very informative. I learned a lot about China. It was good to have her as a passenger. After I dropped her off I went to Bondi Beach because that’s where Caroline (a friend from the Bundaberg farm) lived.

I was very excited once I reached Bondi. The view on the ocean was crazy beautiful and I found out that Caroline lives only 200-300 meters from the beach. Fantastic location. I’m glad I could crash at her place before the interview.

Caroline was living in a flat with her roommate Andrea. If I understood correctly both of them work in the fashion industry, one works for Prada and one for Chanel.

The last time I saw Caroline was in late June, about 5 months ago. A lot has happened since but sadly we didn’t have enough time to properly catch up because I arrived in the evening and had an early start in the morning. It was good to see her. Thanks Caroline for hosting me! I hope I wasn’t too much trouble.

In the wild

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The last couple of days have been very interesting. One day I was very bored and decided to go on a walk in a forest which was only 6 km from home in Brisbane. The forest was called Karawatha Forest. I had absolutely no other motivation other than being really bored to visit that place. The hike was lovely as I spent about 2 hours in the forest but I felt that next time I should go visit some place bigger… How about a real Australian National Park?

After my hike in Karawatha I Googled some national parks near Brisbane and the very next day I went to Springbrook National Park. It’s 100 km south from Brisbane. As usual, the nature was beautiful. I saw several waterfalls, visited lookouts, enjoyed the stunning views and hiked in the tropics.

I liked that the place wasn’t very crowded. It was Wednesday. I enjoyed listening to the sounds of the forest and its inhabitants. I saw many small lizards, one snake, several kangaroos and wallabies. Luckily no mosquitos were around. All in all it was a great trip to the park.

When I was at Purling Brook Falls lookout, I got a phone call from Aristocrat. It’s an IT company which specializes in chance games with a focus on pokies’ games. I applied for a position as a graduate games designer. Well, since I was in the middle of a jungle when I received the call, I had a very bad signal on my phone and we didn’t really understand each other. I decided to give Aristocrat a call later once I was back in civilization.

I continued my day in the wild. As I was walking on the track it suddenly ended. There was a sign saying that due to a recent landslide only experienced bushwalkers with a topographic map should continue. It also warned about the track being rather steep – the equivalent of 61 floors to reach the top of a hill. That little sign didn’t stop me. I didn’t travel all across the world to be stopped by some landslide or a little hill. I kept on going and although exhausted reached the end of the track. Success! Soon I’ll be putting Crocodile Dundee to shame.

A new and happy day later I called Aristocrat and found out that they wanted to invite me to a graduate assessment day in Sydney on Monday. I was glad that I was invited to a new “decent” job interview. Decent just means something which is related to my university major and isn’t minimum wage. Now I had to work out the logistics. Since I live in Brisbane I had to plan my trip to Sydney and back. I decided that the best way to do that would be by car. After all it was “only” 900 km one way.

I didn’t take the plane because I thought that would be super boring. With a car I would be able to see a bit of Australia’s landscapes and it would feel more like an adventure. I also posted an ad on Gumtree looking for fellow travellers to share the driving costs. It took me less than two days to find two girls for my trips to and from Sydney.

More about my trip in my next post!