Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sydney...Home of 2000 Olympics (pictured below)

The first program that I visited was McKeon Swim School (Illarwara Swim Team). The head coach Ron McKeon was ill, but his head age-group coach was who I met with (James Greathead). The night I was there the swim school was in full action. The pool was packed. There were four different groups or squads training/swimming at the same time in a 6 lane, 25m pool. Some lanes had 8-10 swimmers. Behind this pool was a teaching pool for really little kids. This water was waist deep and warmer. There just seems to be an endless supply of kids interested (or parents interested) in swimming. No matter where I was in the country, it was the same scene…tons of kids using the pool for swimming.

Some unique aspects of this program-
Bell ringing: when a swimmers graduates out of a certain learn-to-swim level, they get to walk up on this platform and ring the bell as they leave. When the bell is rung, everyone stops what they are doing and gives a round of applause. Pretty cool motivator for the kids.
Squad for 11-15 year olds not interested in competing: This group comes 1-2 times per week and gets a modestly challenging workout. Most of these swimmers would be doing nothing physical if they did not come for this swim practice. They are not pressured to swim meets nor come to more practices. They seemed to enjoy what they were doing and had positive experiences throughout the evening. I was told this group of kids would most likely be doing nothing if they did not come for the swim session.

This was also the first team that I visited that was on somewhat of a break. I am not sure they had anyone make open nationals, and so that would be a good reason to have the team take a little break. However, they were still offering morning and afternoon practices for the older kids.

The rest of the trip I spent with Sydney swimming. My first visit was probably the most memorable of the trip. Through USA connections (Kathie Wickstrand-Gahen, former Northwestern Swim Coach and now president of the International Coaching Society, contacting the CEO of ASCTA (Australian Swim Coaches and Teachers Association), Dr. Ralph Richards. Dr. Richards is a former Indiana Hoosier, who coached with Kathie at Indiana with Doc Councilman.) Through these connections, I was not only able to meet Forbes and Ursula Carlile, but spend the entire afternoon with them.  

This all began with having lunch at their house. When I got there, they both welcomed me at the front door, like I was a friend from long ago. They have lived in the same house since 1961 and… built a pool before they owned the house (they were only renting at the time!) So their home became the site of the first indoor pool in Australia and the first Carlile Swimming School. It is a 12.5 meter pool (30 degrees C) that is strictly a teaching pool. I did find out that Ursula and Forbes swim in it every morning. I got a tour of the “business”. Their house is like a museum. I saw photos and certificates and artwork on the wall that was all related to Forbes and Ursula’s 75 years of swimming. Autographed posters from Ian Thorpe, photos of Shane Gould swimming in the early 70’s with Forbes at her side, commendations from the Dutch Government for Forbes and Ursula (who coached their Olympic Team in the 60’s), and too many more to keep track lined the walls. Their house could easily be turned into a library of swimming history. I had the complete tour and history of their home pool. The pool was recently renovated about three years ago. This is one of 9 pools they use for the Carlile System of teaching swimming. They have 17,000 swimmers go through this system every week! With a staff of 300, they are the standard in Australia. The Carliles are about to purchase a chain of pools in Melbourne that will increase the numbers even more.

Over lunch of egg salad and salmon sandwiches, hot tea, grapes and cookies, we talked and exchanged stories, information and philosophies for more than 2 ½ hours. I tried to keep track of everything we talked about and everything I saw. I took some videos and scrambled down notes in my small notepad. Once 3 o’clock hit it was time to go to practice. Ursula is the head coach of the Ryde-Carlile swim club. They train at the Ryde Aquatic and Leisure Center just up the road from the Carliles. This pool was the site for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Water Polo competition. The 50 meter pool was sectioned into two 25 meter pools. Within this configuration, there was another team there and Ryde-Carlile had 5 different groups training… with 5 different coaches that Ursula oversees. The head senior coach has as many as 15 in his group. He had just a few over 19. Presently, the two older male swimmers were resting for open nationals and the rest of his squad had the afternoon practice off. From his group the others were just steps down from this level. There was a clear connection between each group. It was easy (even for an outsider) to see how one group could feed into another. This was a program that seemed really balanced. I found out there were at least other clubs within the 15 minute radius that also had the different competitive levels. Once again, no program had its hold on the market.

Through the previous mentioned connections, I was also able to get an inside look at the New South Wales Institute of Sport. This institute is housed in the Sydney Olympic Park. The director, Jim Fowlie was a former Canadian Olympic coach and present Australian Olympic coach who has just been put in charge as the lead coach or director of NSWIS swimming. Some of the state institutes, (i.e., WAIS in Perth), does not have a head coach. New South Wales swimming is fortunate. They are also benefitting from Grant Stoelwinder (Eamon Sullivan’s coach) moving from Perth to be the high performance coach here at NSWIS. Jim will oversee this program as Grant leads it. Eamon will be arriving with him and they should be doing some great things. One area that Jim wants to look at is using a flume for training. We have always used it for evaluation and measurement, but never as a method of training. In the flume a swimmer can train at a higher rate of speed than they can in any other way. This will be a valuable tool for sprinters. He is also interested in altitude training and what and how swimmers respond to altitude training. They have done studies on caffeine, creatine… again looking at the athletes who respond to these tests. They do lactate testing, biomechanical analysis, physiological analysis, comprehensive weight training (beautiful facility), a recovery center with products, fully equipped medical professional office (MDs, psychologists, nutritionists). The medical practice is house within NSWIS, but is a private organization. So, a non-athlete could come off the streets for an appointment with one of the doctors. Jim told me that they never had a problem getting an athlete in right away.  

They have several levels of athletes (and levels of supported athletes) at NSWIS. Gold, Silver and Associate are the three levels of athlete’s support. There is also an NSWIS coaches network of support for the coaches of athletes that are being supported by the institute. Some of the athletes (associate level) might get the support of NSWIS outside of the Institute. Meaning someone from NSWIS comes to their home pool to evaluate or test. They might only come to the Institute a couple of time per month. This could be a swimmer who has been identified as having a strong potential for future success at high levels of Australian and international swimming.  

The NSWIS, like the other institutes sponsor all of their Olympic sports. During my tour of the NSWIS, I also was given a guided tour from Jim of the highlights of the Olympic Park (this included the pool [see picture], the Olympic torch, Olympic Village, where the opening ceremonies were, etc.) Since Jim just came back from Beijing, he has many experiences to share. The last time he had been there was about 12 years ago, so he also gave me a view of the differences since then. It was a great experience, Jim is a very open and informative person. I think NSWIS will continue to prosper and the next Olympics should have quite a few swimmers represented by the Institute.

Off to New Zealand in the morning!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Brisbane, Queensland

Brisbane, Pro-Ama Miami Swim Club (team of Annie Williams, Australian swimming captain for the 2008 Paralympics swimming 50/100free and 100 fly and Emma Snowsill, gold medalist in the women’s triathlon, Beijing). Denis Cotterell and Raelene Ryan are the coaches. Denis has been there since he started the club in 1977. Raelene has been there since 1997. Denis has a memory like no other person. His sets are very detailed, he is very demanding and calls it like it is. He was one of the CHINESE ast. coaches at Beijing… coaching the male silver medalist in the 400 free. The facilities were awesome…Two 50-meter pools, both outdoors (one eight lanes and one 10 lanes). It seems like all the 10 lane pools start with the first lane being #0 and the last lane being #9, therefore making 10 lanes. The pools are constantly filled with swimmers, triathletes, surf swimmers (those that lifeguard at the surf, do surf races and open water swims). There are also the fitness swimmers and the recreational patrons.
The last practice I saw was a morning swim after a monsoon! It was raining so hard and so windy, I thought for sure it was a tropical storm. I arrived at the pool late, after the storm…still before 6am. When I got there, they were swimming full steam. It was a Friday morning and the “pool swimmers” (swim team people and non-surf/tri/or lifeguards) had the morning off. There were at least 20 men (looking in age of 19-29) swimming a series of 40x50’s on ascending intervals, but increasing speed. They were totally cranking it out. I come to find out that none of these men were team swimmers. They were all beach lifeguards… training because of their job. Some of their fastest 50’s were :25 (from a push, lcm). Another non-swim team person training away was Emma Snowsill (Beijing gold medalist triathlete). She has been back from Beijing for a little over a week and she was there doing the whole workout. She can run a :33 10k after the swim and bike. She was an age-group swimmer to start then moved to triathlon.
5:30-7:15am, 4:00-6:30pm, with gym work until 7:30 on Tues./Thurs. This schedule was probably the most intense of the programs I visited. If you are not feeling well, or shoulders sore, etc… go to lane 9. If you bail out of a set… there is a verbal price to pay. He doesn’t yell, he doesn’t need to. The team starts in the team room before practice… socializing hanging out. When he gets there, it is like clock-work. They know what they are supposed to do, even though he speaks quietly and says the warm-up set once. Swimmers come from all over Australia to train with Denis. One moved from Perth, others drive pretty far each day to attend practices.
Workouts were pretty amazing. I saw a 15 year old girl do a set of descending 4x150/1x400 IM three times through with the 150’s being 100fly/50back, 50 fly/100 back x 2… then repeat for back and brst for set two and three. Her 400 IM started out at 5:18 and she descended down to 4:50 (lcm, from a push). He wants all his female swimmers under :30 pulling (lcm, push). They are a different breed and will be Australian’s future Olympians. They are serious kickers. One guy did a set of free kick (no fins), 1x300 easy @5:20 followed by 1x200 FAST for a total of three times. His 200’s were between 3:01 and 3:08.
I witnessed my first Australian club meet (see photo above). It was not much different than our US club meets. However, they do make a bigger deal out of medaling. There is an awards stand with medals, etc. Kids were running around like crazy, playing sort of a hackey-sack came, wearing team face paint, and they all were in club uniforms (either parkas, dry-fit type short-sleeve collared shirts, team cap and suit). They have a “spoken” rule that they are all to be in team uniforms when at meets.
It wasn’t all hard work swimming…I was staying 100 meters from the beach, saw some really great surfers. These people always surf where there are huge rocks. I guess the rocks help sustain the best waves. Too crazy for me. I think Australia is not the best place to “learn to surf”. Therefore, I stayed on the beach.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Perth... and Western Australia

Perth…former home to Shane Gould, triple gold medalist (1972) and former world record holder in the 100 to the 1500 free, simultaneously)… oh yeah, club team (West Coast Swim Club) of Eamon Sullivan (silver medalist 2008, and former world record holder in the 100 free).
Challenge Stadium is the site for West Coast Swim Team. This facility has THREE 50 –meter pools. Two are outdoors (an 8-lane and a 10-lane), and one is indoors a 10 lane. They also have an outdoor water polo pool and an indoor diving tank. There are a total of 57, 50-meter pools in the state of Western Australia. To give you an idea of size of the state, WA (Western Australia) takes up 1/3 of the entire country. They have about 2 million people that live in the state, with 1.5 million living in Perth.
I worked with Roger Bruce. He has been an Australian Olympic coach for the Athens, Commonwealth Games, and multiple World Championships. He was the coach of Olympian Jennifer Reilly, one of Australia’s best IMer as well as his daughter Tamara who holds the record for the fastest English Channel Crossing by an Australian (male or female). He is also a member of the WAIS (Western Australia Institute of Sport) coaching panel. He has been coaching forever, but has the unique ability to still “think outside the box.” He gave me some really interesting stroke drill ideas for butterfly and breaststroke. Mel Tantrum, the head coach was in Beijing with two club swimmers competing in the Paralympics. Grant Stoelwinder, coach of Eamon Sullivan will be moving to Sydney after the Beijing Games.
Practices were 5:30-7:30am, and 4:30-6:30pm. Arriving at the pool in the morning was an amazing site. Challenge Stadium is all lit up (because it is dark at 5:30am… see picture above). You can see the steam rise up toward the lights blocks away from the Stadium. This site is also the host of “net ball”, a female professional game similar to basketball (nets with no backboard), the Western Australia Institute of Sport (more about that later), rowing, kayaking, cycling, gymnastics, hockey, water polo, diving, open water swimming, swim school (huge lesson program), Masters swimming, and triathlon training. Club Fees are pretty high: up to $235 per month for the first swimmer in the family, then $210, and $185 for the second and third family member. This feel also includes membership at the pool.
WAIS (Western Australia Institute of Sport) Program Coordinator is Simon Jones. I spent some time with Simon, getting a tour of the facility and hearing about the type of support a swimmer would receive if they were sponsored by the Institute. WAIS is housed at Challenge Stadium. According to Simon, unlike other areas in Australia, facilities are not the issue. One of the reason’s WA is not a prominent or doesn’t have as many Olympians is the structure. Money comes down from the state, and there is not enough going to the Institute. There is no “Head Coach” at the Institute, either. This is not necessarily the case in the eastern part of the country. Private coaches come in and run their programs (i.e., Mel Tantrum with West Coast). The coach to swimmer ratio is not what it should be to get swimmers to the Olympics. According to Simon, the best ratio is no more than 1:5. For coaches here, they need huge squads to make a living and then need more coaches, b/c they can’t handle all the numbers. Another issue is the learn-to -swim programs. They generate money but they are not good feeders for competitive swimming. They are not learning “competitive swimming technique”.
Presently, there are about 6 or 8 swimmers that are supported by WAIS. Type of support includes, utilizing the best boimechanist in t he country, funding to attend Nationals ($250.00), lactate testing, physio work (weights-dryland), connections to the doctors, trainers and scientists associated with the Institute. Eamon Sullivan was one of those sponsored. According to Simon he is pretty high maintenance. A typical training day for Eamon would be, morning practice ending about 7:30am, breakfast, weights (4x/week), recovery swim or stretch-out, massage, eating, sleeping, and then back for another training session. So high maintenance means a lot goes into his day to get him to go as fast as possible. Grant Stoelwinder (Eamon’s coach) and the WAIS have an underwater camera that is in the pool (water) all the time. They wheel out this cabinet to view a flat panel TV that shows what they are doing underwater at any time.
The WAIS has chambers where they can get cyclist and rowers, etc. to train in environmental conditions similar to Beijing… a heat and humidity chamber… doesn’t that sound fun? Specialists associated with WAIS include: Physician/Doctor, Physiotherapists, Massage Therapist, Sport Psychologist, Nutritionist, Exercise Physiologist, Athlete and Career Education Advisor, Biomechanist/Performance Analysis specialist, and strength and conditioning coordinator.
On the non-swimming end, saw a whale off of City Beach, Perth; seals in the Margaret River region, beautiful cliffs and awesome waves!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Adelaide: Norwood Swim Club and Burnside Swim Club

First practice was only at 5:45am, since it was a Saturday. Peter Bishop is the head coach of the Norwood Swim Club. He coaches Hayden Stockel (the Aussie that broke the Olympic record in the semis of the 100 back). He also coaches Matt Cowdrey (push 50 meters free in 26 +). He is swimming 8 events at the Paralympics in Beijing. Matt is an amputee from the elbow down on his left arm. He leaves for training camp with Peter today. Matt is FAST. He should be coming back with a few golds. Peter also has a female swimmer, Shelley Rogers, with CP and she has made the Aussie Paralympic team was well. She will be swimming 200 IM. Peter seems to be a fantastic coach. He was highly recommended by numerous other coaches as well as the CEO of the Australian Swim Coaches and Teachers Association. He really coaches… stops them when they are not training technically the way they should be. His swimmers seem to respect and enjoy what he puts into the practices. Again, very quality focused, no garbage yardage. Today they went quality swimming focusing on stroke tempo and stroke count. They went a total of about 4200 SC meters. The pool today was one that they prefer not to use… warmer water and poor air circulation . So their quality sets were a little shorter in duration than what they might be at the other pool (Monday’s practice). The Norwood Swim Club also has a HUGE learn to swim school, they have about 1500-2000 kids come through the school every year. The Australian push to have everyone know how to swim is amazing. I understand that they are all around water, but the parents have to want to have their children in these programs even if they live inland.
Monday we trained at the Adelaide Aquatic Center on the north side of the city. I followed Shelley Camy, a new coach from the UK, who has just moved to AU and take over the Burnside Swim Club. I think she has been here for only 11 weeks. She brought with her one of the Olympians from her former team. It seems that big name swimmers help the club to grow. I am still getting a kick out of the Australian news. The big news was that Stephanie Rice “might” be Michael Phelps’s new girlfriend. When interview, Stephanie said that they had briefly met and she is “so impressed with what Michael has accomplished”. So, she might not be his new girlfriend, but I am sure she will read his new memoir that he announced he would be writing. All the commercials on the television are also sport related. There is one with Brooke Hansen with a laptop at the pool. She comes over in her swim suit and picks up the lap top and starts typing. Then someone splashes her, and spills water on the lap top and she turns the lap top over, the water pours off and then she says “be careful”. I think she got lots of money for that. The Olympics is 24 hours on the TV, ABC, channel 7. They are into it.
Practice on Monday.
First practice with Burnside was and afternoon practice. They had FOUR teams using the pool at the same time. The pool is amazing, however. 8 lane 50-meter, with separate diving and water polo pool. The diving area has four 3-meters, four 1-meters and tower with10-meter on down. They have a dryboard and do trampoline work as well. I guess Adelaide is known for their divers. They have nothing to do with Burnside swimming, they are a separate entity. I saw some really impressive divers. There seemed to be about four different coaches and athletes ranging from 6 years old to 18-20 years old. The water polo program is again separate from the swimming club. The program I was watching was H.S. Swimmers on Burnside (and anyone that uses this pool) needs to be a member of the Aquatic Center and then also pay fees for the swim team. Then the Aquatic Center charges the teams for lane use. Seems like a little double dipping to me. Some teams charge club fees of up to $190/month where others are as reasonable as $200/3 months. They have their state meet this weekend. Entry fees are $11-12 per EVENT! Some kids were swimming 8 or 9 events. Yikes!
Probably one of the most surprising things with this first practice, was a swimmer that I met. He was a study-abroad college swimmer from Denison, Matt Newton. He had been in Adelaide for about 4 weeks and swims with Burnside three times per week. We chatted after practice about swimmers I knew that attend Denison and the unique aspects of Australia that can make an American a little nutsy.
The training was a massive threshold set: 24x100 (SCM) at threshold @1:45. Threshold was PB plus 10-15 sec. The last one was from a dive and all out. This was the first set I witnessed that was somewhat similar to typical American training. She still had a focus of stroke count per 50, and a certain number of kicks off the wall. This program was less developed than the other two and younger. With Shelly only being there for 11 weeks, I could easily see the difference. A unique aspect of training here is that for a recovery after a threshold or lactate set, the coach has the swimmers put fins on and kick a fast 600 fly kick. This is supposed to remove lactate faster than just easy swimming. The swimmers were not real “keen” (Aussie language) on this.
There were also some unique aspects to coach’s pay. I was told (by someone not from Burnside) that the previous Burnside Coach earned $100-110/year. However, only $40K was paid in cash. It was very typical for someone to come in with a case of wine (if their family owned a vineyard), or petro vouchers, or bartering for free groceries if the family owned a grocery store. This was all in exchange for coaching fees.
The next practice was a morning practice (5-7am). Again, the pool being shared but not as many teams or people. The squad is expected to do anywhere from 5-10 sessions per week. It seems that a virus had been going through and numbers were a little low b/c of this. From morning practice they all head out to school. Most schools start at 8:30am. For afternoon practice they actually can get a pass to be let out :30 minutes early from school to attend swim practice. These are H.S. students… I was blown away by this. That is how swim club and swim training is viewed by schools and by the country.
Yardage was a little higher here than with Norwood or Nunawading in Melbourne. I think there is more of a similarity between UK training and American training. Lots of pulling and they use bands like the other two teams did.
Aside from swimming stuff, I fed Kangaroos (see picture), pet a Koala, saw some of the most beautiful coastline with Kangaroos just roaming around, obtained a new addiction for Iced Coffee (apparently they think Dr. Pepper is disgusting and I have only found it at one market, for three dollars a can), and there is certainly no shortage of baked goods here (pastries galore).

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Melbourne… check.

Melbourne was awesome. Thank you Nunawading Swimming Club and coach Nick Veliades. (picture of me and nick). Practices were getting harder to get to as I was adjusting to the time change. To make the 5am practice meant continually getting up at 3:50am. Traffic is good (i.e., light), but there is still the issue of driving on the left side. Time is quite off. For example, it is 9:15pm Thursday in AU and 6:15am Thurs. in Iowa.
So, my last training session was this morning. Both today and the last two days prior have been the most interesting from a training perspective. This team is pretty quick… like h.s. age females going 1:02 stand-up 100 meter free. The h.s. age guys were going :56-:58. They did a quality set yesterday, followed immediately with lactate testing. This club program has everything a university team would have in the US. Their college/university system is very different than ours. Almost all will go to “Uni” in their hometown (i.e, Melbourne) and live at home. They DO NOT swim for their Uni. There are hardly any swimming programs at the college/university level. So… back to lactate testing…they have their own lactate testing equipment. After this MVo2 set, their lactate mmls were anywhere from 1.1 to 13.6. They have tested lactate in relation to warm-down amounts and warm-down intensity and have come up with some really interesting information (i.e, look for a possible change in our warm-dwn, dogs and ducks).

They also use heart rate monitors that have the “swimming handle” attached so they just press the monitors to their chest to get an immediate reading, then pass it along to the next person. Their athletes show up on time… meaning dressed and ready to get in the water before 5am… They have up to 10 training sessions a week, but the total mileage is not what would happen in the US with that many sessions. They are very quality focused and do purposeful training. Each session leads into the next. I never found any garbage yardage.

The dryland “gym” session was fantastic. I took quite a bit of video and I am sure Tim will get really psyched about some of this stuff. This team has their own “physio” or conditioning coach. His name is Simon. Simon was extremely informative. (i.e., look for a possible addition of some exercises, dogs and ducks).

Aussies LOVE their sports. It was not more than two days after Stephanie Rice won gold in the 200 IM before she was on an Australian postal stamp. All of their gold medal winners have a postal stamp of themselves. It takes YEARS here to get on a stamp, and God forbid it would be an athlete. 1 hour of TV Evening News… :30 minutes of weather, happenings, etc. and :30 minutes of sport. I think I love it.

So, not to worry… it has not been all swimming. I have seen wallabees (sp?), kangaroos, the Great Ocean Road and the Apostles, had lots of great coffee, incredible fruits, and some really crazy driving!

I hope you all are getting ready to start a fantastic 2008-09 school year!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

First Training Session... 5am

First things first... the Commonwealth Games pool in Melbourne... (not the pool where the team I am working with swims). Took a tour of the pool yesterday.

Okay, with the first training session at 5am, that means getting up before 4... good thing for being messed up on time zone change. I visited with the Nunawading Swim Club. The first training session was more of a recovery practice as they have just come off a competition this past weekend. There were two training groups. The National Open Squad (mostly ages 21 and over) and the National Youth squad (high school age). There is really no college swimming here... like we have it in the US. They all had a two hour practice then either went off to High School or home or to college classes somewhere in Melbourne. The NO groups had a "tribute to Michael Phelps" practice. They incorporated all of his 17 events from the Olympics into the practice. The total was about 5k-6k (meter). They used lots of equipment, paddles, pull-buoy, fins, snorkel (lots) and sponges... the sponges were like using parachutes but more controlled, as they use them for building strength instead of power.

Their NO team has Prue Watt on their team. She will be leaving this Saturday for the Paralympics in China. She is blind (like 90% in one eye and 80% in the other). She will be swimming the 100 fly... she is about 1:08 in meters.

I am leaving in a few hours for their second practice (5:15-7:30pm). One hours of dryland and then the rest of swimming. They are to do some high quality swims tonight.

Yesterday was a tourist day. I spent most of the day with GC swimming alum Natasha Vasey. We also made the time to watch the final day of swimming. The Aussies are NUTS about their sports... especially swimming. We were in a restaurant for the events and the entire place was cheering and totally into their Aussie swimmers and Michael Phelps. He has a great reputation here and seems to be seen as a really nice guy.

Back with more later...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I made it!

All is good. Flights were non eventful, and that is what everyone should hope for when they fly. Saw Maiko Morotani (GC tennis player '04?) in LA airport. A planned meeting and a nice hour spent. The flight from LA to Melbourne was just shy of 15 hours. Qantas airlines was very accomodating. With the way airlines have been handling people these days, I was quite surprised. I had a delicious dinner, snack and then breakfast all in about 8 hours. I was able to watch a documentary on the East German swimmers training for the '72 Munich Olympics. The female athletes, 30 plus years a later, talking about the drugs they were given with out their knowledge. Pretty amazing doc.
Melbourne... landed about 8:50am, on Saturday... (left Des Moines about 5pm on Thursday). Pretty amazing city. Upon driving from the Airport to the Quest on Lonsdale (about a 20 minute drive), I went through areas that reminded me of Chicago ("little Italy, "China town", then other ethnic clusters such as turkish, indian, etc). Driving was a little challenging... Steering wheel on the left side of the car and driving always in the left lane. Can't tell you how many times I used the windshield wiper instead of the turn signal. The turn signal is on the right side of the steering wheel. It was raining and cool, but this did not stop people from shopping, and hussling about. It is the end of winter here, so about 40F. After checking in, the first thing on the list was getting a good cup of coffee. Not hard to find. That warmed me up and got me re-focused. Found a "Safeway" shopping center where it seems everyone goes to get groceries. Found these yummy little "pikelets", mini pancakes that are packaged like bagels. Got more food than that of course. Food, coffee, gas, parking, everything is quite expensive. Parking meters are $3.25 per hour. My cup of joe was $3.00. So much for small town prices.

Woke up at 4:40am today (went to bed last night at 7pm... all australia time). Was dying last night... sleep deprivation makes you see funny things.

Heading out to meet Natasha Vasey '97 and her daughter for lunch/brunch in a few minutes in St. Kilda beach. Will take public transportation for that. Hope to write more tonight with some pictures!