In Search of Penguins

How to reflect on my first week in Melbourne?

Adaptation ruled. To time, new people, new work, different weather, and cooking for myself (I’ve been spoiled).

Shifting into my role at our Australia office has been fascinating — functioning in a similar position, for the same organization, but in a different place, has given me new perspective on the intricacies of my work.

What has been a true revelation is the kindness and support provided by my Australian colleagues. Through every step, they’ve made sure I’ve felt at home and welcome, making my transition to their office all the easier. Consider my base of support established.

My Saturday plans were three-pronged.

I would get to the Triennial Exhibit at the National Gallery of Victory (NGV), find some items I had forgotten at home (sunglasses, jeans x2), and tag along to a birthday party.

I felt like a pro walking over to the NGV, dodging groups of tourists, confidently strolling into the museum, flipping my camera on, only to be greeted by the boxed text: NO CARD IN CAMERA

So much for being a pro.

Nevertheless, I still had my phone and the works of Ron Mueck and Yayoi Kusama were wonderfully eerie; giving me a distinct ‘Southern Reach’ vibe.

Counting myself lucky to have been in the right place at the right time, I left the museum with a smile and set out into Melbourne in search of jeans and sunglasses. The sunglasses were easy (pharmacy!) but the jeans around here seem to be….um….a bit tight (like, yoga pants tight).

My one pair of jeans will have to hold for now.

The next part of the story is what will seem truly outlandish to those who know me well. I accepted an invitation to a colleague’s, friend’s birthday party.

It was time for me to be social.

Ignoring the part of my brain that told me to ‘play sick and watch movies,’ I nervously waited for my coworker to pick me up in front of the Crown Casino. Soon, she and her husband arrived and I was off to the Docklands.

Any anxiety drifted away as I talked ‘footy’ on the ride over and was lobbied hard to support both Collingwood or Melbourne, respectively (I’m leaning towards Richmond, but more on that next week).

Hospitality seems to be ingrained in Australian DNA

Here I was, some random American at a birthday party that I was tagging along to, and I was greeted by the entire group like an old friend. The ‘restaurant’ itself was a riot. An indoor hookah bar that seemed to deal entirely in Birthday parties (with a birthday song that was blasted so many times it’s still playing in my head). The night was full of good food, good laughs and fun conversation.

I fell asleep feeling grateful that I didn’t stay in and watch movies.

Today, I woke up with one thing on my mind. Penguins.

The penguins of St. Kilda to be exact.

With morning chores out of the way, I hopped on a tram to St. Kilda, the beach-side neighborhood of Melbourne that, I had read, had a community of little penguins (As the smallest penguin species, that’s actually what they’re called). They are shy, sleepy during the day, and not easy to spot.

First, I briefly explored St. Kilda, a funky neighborhood with an artistic vibe and old-school feel. From the boardwalk to the amusement park featuring a horror-show entrance, and the finest rides from the 1898 Worlds Fair, I’ve tagged St. Kilda as a neighborhood definitely worth a deeper look.

I’ve played enough RPGs to know you have to get a boon from the local idol to move forward

Strolling down the long pier to the breakwater, I was met with stunning views of the city.   My heart started to race as I got closer to the rocky extension from the pier that the penguins call home. Seeing wild animals always fills me with the same thrill.

Patience and silence are the two keys to spotting animals in the wild and I was ready to wait and watch, but, fortunately, neither silence nor patience were needed as the little guys were putting on a show!

I must have walked the breakwater near two-dozen times as I photographed and watched the little animals. My one hope being that the easy sightings were due to population recovery and not luck.

Sitting at the apartment now, thinking of all that’s happened in a week’s time, I can’t wait to see what comes next!

Quote of the week: “I tell every tourist that comes through here about the same-sex penguin couples right here on the breakwater to prove that it’s natural and love is love.”  – St. Kilda Penguin Ranger (Keep doing the good work!)

If you want to help out the awesome ranger above or learn more about the Little Penguins of St. Kilda, visit here:

Melbourne pro tip: Remember to tap off on the tram. I almost had my arm taken off reaching back into the tram to tap off after I had forgotten.



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