Of koalas, taxis, and other Aussie stories

The almost thirteen-hour flight across up to five timezones, which I encounter whenever I fly to Brazil, are nothing in comparison. A total of 26 hours aboard airplanes, first from Frankfurt to Abu Dhabi, then to Singapore, and finally to Brisbane, crossing no less than eight time zones, were a whole new game. But with a bit of planning and appropriately-timed in-flight sleep, I managed to arrive in Brisbane well synchronized with the local time. There, I met my Institute colleagues Benoit and Kaisa at our booked university accommodation, and together we went out to explore the city of Brisbane and its surroundings, culminating with a wonderful swim in the Pacific. The only, barely noticeable manifestation of the dreaded jet lag was found in my early 20.30-ish bedtime. So far, so good.

The conference, which began on Monday, was a great opportunity to put faces to many of the names I had become quite familiar with through journal articles over the last year and a half. Some interesting discussions on all levels, ranging from experimental implementations to theoretical proposals to near-philosophical interpretations of the universe as one huge quantum computer. Found others working on similar topics as mine, exchanged some ideas, received some feedback on my poster's results, and left with a few ideas to work on. In fact, one person who asked a few questions about my poster also happened to be a certain famous taxi-driver-turned-physicist. As luck would have it, I also had a poster about Quantum Taxi Driving - what are the odds of that? :) - which I promptly brought out. After the proper explanations, Tim Ralph posed for a picture, and thus I won my bet with Peter Rohde, who had challenged me, two weeks earlier, to approach his former advisor and start a conversation about taxis. Except for the coffee, which was terrible - I soon resorted to a nearby coffee shop for my daily fix of quality espresso - QCMC was fantastic.

Oh, we also had a mid-conference tour of a Koala sanctuary, which was in fact a fully featured zoo with every possible Australian animal. Played a bit with guinea pigs, kangaroos and even cuddled a koala - but didn't pay the 15 dollar fee for my picture to be taken with them. Still, there are pictures aplenty in the usual place.

With the conference over, joined with Benoit in our plans of checking out the Whitsunday Islands, some 900km further up North. From the launching pad of Airlie Beach, we boarded the 75ft sailboat Habibi for a three-day, two-night cruise of the islands. Unfortunately, the weather gods didn't provide us with the blue-skied backdrop the travel brochures so marvelously depicted, but it doesn't matter. We had a great time sailing, snorkeling amidst the corals, walking the white sands of Whitehaven beach, and also playing card games and drinking cheap wine onboard :) . But the lack of postcard-perfect shots means I'll have to try my luck there sometime again in the future...

Boat trip over, we rushed to the airport for our flight to Sydney, where we arrived late Tuesday evening. We had some sushi in a small Asian eatery and made it back to our hostel, appropriately named "Wake Up!", for a basement rock'n'roll party. Wednesday greeted us with overcast skies and a constant drizzle, but we decided to soldier on and see as much as possible, given our limited time schedule. Again, the shots of the Opera House and its world-famous bridge background weren't nearly as impressive as I'd have liked, but were enough for an "I've been there" kind of proof. We were then guided by a fine gentleman named Arthur, who found us in the tourist shop inside the Opera and took some time to walk us through the main downtown district around Circular Quay, where, after parting ways, we took the ferry to Manly Beach - another wonderful journey which I should definitively undertake some other day in more favorable weather conditions. After dinner in a charming Argentinean tapas restaurant, we met a long-time family friend of mine, Juliano, who has been working in Sydney for over three years now. Now, even though we don't talk so often, there's just something about meeting people - former classmates, family members or long-lost friends - abroad, and finding so much in common to discuss. In spite of the price, which will be discussed in a forthcoming post, viajar é preciso - "traveling is a must".

Thursday presented us with slightly better conditions; we walked through Darling Harbour all the way to the Fish Market, before it was time for me to head back to the hostel to pick my stuff and head to the airport, while Benoit would still enjoy one more day before flying back on Friday.

The direct, westward flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi didn't fit my sleep schedule so well as the inboud flight, but I still managed to wake up just before landing in Frankfurt, at around 6 am, local time. Suffered the train ride back, was greeted at the station by Monica, and had a pleasant surprise of finding some fresh supplies in my fridge provided by Benjamin. Home, sweet home. The rest of the day went on trying to keep awake, before collapsing around 8 pm and sleeping all the way to 2 am on Saturday (this got better as I woke up just past 4 am on Sunday, and was finally synchronized back to local time on Monday, when I woke up at 6 am).
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Now just one more week, and I'll be boarding again to yet another continent: another six time zones, a new apartment, a new office, and hopefully some new results. Buckle your seatbelt, Dorothy, 'cause Erlangen is going bye-bye...

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