I am having a blast.
John B. picked me up at the airport and my immediate comment was one of surprise that he could have gotten through security to meet me at the gate. He thought this was funny. Not only isn't this America, this is Perth. It's safe here, he points out. We're very far away from anything.
John came back Monday morning to give me an overview day, such as I couldn't have had without a car or, indeed, without personal intimacy with the area. We checked out parks, we paid a visit to an interesting friend of his (a lifelong resident), we walked all over the business district of Perth stopping for lunch at the cafeteria atop Meyer's department store. We went to the King's gardens (?), a huge landscaped glorious park at Eliza bluff overlooking the widening and the bend in the Swan River that defines the city. We walked around the two universities he's affiliated with, to check out the architecture and landscaping. We went to Fremantle, where we checked out the shipwreck museum. This, mind you, was all in one day. Actually 6 or 7 hours.
Fremantle was more than I was expecting. I'd read that it is a city that has retained much of its 19th century architecture, but I wasn't prepared for the sort of timetravel experience it yielded. First of all, Victorian architecture in Western Australia is different than in, say, England. It's hard to pinpoint exactly why for me, since I don't have the architectural vocabulary to do it justice, but the general proportion seemed squatter and the ornamentation more fantastic than I've seen elsewhere. The city must have fallen on generally hard times for a hundred years or so, since many many blocks of original buildings remained -- to be restored when the America's Cup brought the world back. The storefronts on the main street, patched up and painted over, felt like a movie set, Except it was real (although off season Monday the streets were near empty towards the water). I stood for a while and just breathed it in, practically feeling the waistcoat and top hat materialize on my body. I may try to get back there, although it turns out that getting anywhere from my hotel is something of an ordeal.
This morning, for example, Elizabeth Z. and her toddler daughter and I waited a long time for a bus to the aquarium before realizing in the small print of the bus schedule that the bus only runs October through March. We took a taxi and all was well, but our only other option was a bus to a train to a bus just to get a few miles direct up the road. Similarly, getting to Perth is relatively easy (there's an expensive hotel-run shuttle and an inexpensive bus that takes forever), but getting back becomes tricky. John B. said that the locals rely on taxis.
But this hasn't mattered yet. Last night I just hung around the hotel with the Australian system administrators and wouldn't have wanted anything else. I'm writing this from the conference "terminal room" where, at this moment, the other people in the room are collectively discussing what "we" are doing tonight, I may stay in my hotel room and practice my talk, about which I am inexplicably worried beyond all reason -- mostly that it won't be funny or entertaining enough. If I can feel completely ready with my talk I'll feel free enough to head back to Perth tomorrow, to spend time in the history and art museums. By tomorrow night I'm pretty much fully scheduled with conference activities, social and technical. That's more than enough, I now see,
While writing this note I got a call from the guy on the Sydney Morris team I've been corresponding with. Once again we disappointingly realized that I will just miss Morris practice (both visits!), but we'll meet for a pint and he offered sightseeing and dinner with his wife. I think I'll be pretty much otherwise engaged, though. So I won't really get to sing and/or dance with either the Melbourne or Sydney teams this trip, which was one of the main things I'd hoped to be able to do.
So this means -- and I'll bet none of you are surprised here -- that I'll come back.
I like it here. I really, really like it here.