Working to redefine the model American

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October 11th 2007
Published: October 11th 2007EDIT THIS ENTRY

As you can tell from my last entry I’ve taken liberty to be a little more open with my writing. I’m going out on a few limbs and not sure how it’s coming across. I tend to write and think this way a lot but never had the opportunity to express it. I have the feeling that you will open this up see how long it is and decide not to read any of it. So, if you find the next few entries a bit to long and abstract feel free to just look at the pictures they probably say things better than I can.

I was looking back on my entries and realized I haven’t talked about work very much. If I haven’t talked to you personally while I’ve been here you probably think I’ve been on one giant holiday. To expel that misguided perception I thought I’d fill you in on life at WHK (Day Neilson). The firm was based in Geelong and had several small offices scattered about rural Victoria. It has been rumored since I arrived that the office was going to move to the city. However, about 3 weeks ago another WHK firm merged with us and moved out to our building. This caused the Geelong and Melbourne offices to break off of Day Neilson and become WHK Horwath. WHK is really an association of several firms around Australia like Horwath is an association of several firms around the world. The make up of WHK and Horwath is very confusing I really don’t understand it but the idea is to consolidate all the firms into one. WHK is already listed as the 5th largest firm in Australia but with the Horwath merger it will be on track to be competitive with the big 4 soon (if not already). The merger has been pretty interesting. As both Accounting firms I have worked for in the states went through mergers before I arrived I had heard lots of stories but not experienced one personally. Each of the firms have different approaches so there is a lot to do to get everyone on the same page.

I have been working on a lot of clients for the Auditor General. These are governmental entities which are privatized but receive grant funding from the state government so an Audit is required and the Auditor General (a position appointed from the State premier, like a Governor) hires us to perform the audit, issue the report and then he signs off on it. This is a pretty new concept for me but sort of like doing audits for a nonprofit company.

I’ve also been doing several “bag audits”. These jobs are done by one person and everything is in the office. The client sends us the information (usually in a shopping bag) and we sort through it, prepare the accounts, and will issue the opinion usually to a committee or Board of Directors.

I’m going to wrap up my secondment by doing Internal Audits. I’ve never done internal audit work before but from what I gather, it is just intense internal control testing. There are no financial statements issued. We just try to document and test the control environment of the company and give them suggestions on how to improve their systems. I was on my first one Friday and seemed to enjoy it. I will be working on a few Tafes. Which is basically a cross between a university and a community college. They specialize in instruction for technical skills and offer training for students who wish not to go to a 4 year degree university. I've been on two so far and it is an interesting concept that seems to be growing in popularity as the stigma is fading and the job market tends to gear more for technical type jobs.

I have to interview several people who basically just tell me what they do. (Kinda like the Bob’s in Office Space except I don’t get to fire anybody). Anyway I was interviewing this lady and she asked me what part of America I was from, when I told her I was from Nashville and her eyes lit up like a child who just spotted Mickey Mouse at Disney World. I’m serious I thought she was going to cry. She just said that she has always wanted to go to Nashville, and turns out she is really into music. She asked if I was a music fan and what type of music I was into. Still trying to develop my answer on this question I think I said “I like everything, especially if it sounds good live.” She asked if I liked Dwight Yoakum, which I do, but never seen him live. She said he’s really
Sea HouseSea HouseSea House

Okay two questions: 1 how did the pelican get in the water? 2 why do those sea horse things have leaves?
good. Then she said something that really surprised me, she said she really likes Ryan Adams. Actually I think she said she loved Ryan Adams, and just saw him down in St. Kilda.

Now I know I missed this show and still really upset about it. It was the day after Dylan played and it was not marketed at all. I don’t know how people knew about it cause I had researched it and found he was playing in every Australian city except Melbourne. But he did a show and she went and said it was incredible. We talked a bit more about musicians and really could have spent all day talking we basically had the exact same taste in music. (She likes Dylan and saw him too, but more out of a respect. I actually like the way he sounds)

Anyway a while later, as I was interviewing someone else she calls and says she has some websites for me with reviews of the shows and a link to download the Ryan Adams concert. I did this as soon as I could and the show was stunning. Seriously the best I’ve heard him do. (Except maybe the time I saw him at the Ryman from the second row) But it just sounded really special. He played an upbeat version of Dear Chicago and it sounds really sweet with this nice guitar riff and little hook in the middle. I hope he rerecords it this way.

Okay the reason I went into this is just to say I’m rethinking the statement I had last week about life being more than going to concerts. Going to concerts is the greatest thing ever. Just something about the connection you have with the artist and the fans and the music, there is nothing like it. The only regrets I have in life are not going to more concerts which I’m not real sure is even possible considering I like to go to 2 or 3 a week. However, I had to miss a show tonight and stay home in order to get a report out tomorrow, so I guess there are things more important, just not as fun.

I’ll leave that for now…

So for this weekend I had a great time. Friday night I met up with some people I met through church. One of the guys turned 26 on Friday and is also a huge Geelong football fan so he had a bunch of people together to celebrate at a local pub on Chapel Street (sorta like the village in NYC or at least wants to think it is). It was fun but honestly clubs and bars without live music have never been my scene. I did talk to a couple girls who are lawyers, but can’t really remember what we talked about and I didn’t even drink that much.

So I didn’t have any real plans for the weekend. I wanted to go buy some souvenirs but not sure what to get. So if you guys want anything let me know. There are lots of boomerangs and didgeridoos and stuffed Kangaroos but if there is something special you are after please let me know I have to mail stuff back anyway so its no trouble just send me a message or something.

I went down to Brighton Beach on Saturday. It is really the last place in Melbourne I had yet to see. It is famous for these multi colored bath houses which people use for storing boogie boards and to change in I guess. There are lots of post cards of them so I figured it would be cool to see but I was disappointed. They are really just old storage buildings that people paint with bright colors. I guess they look good in a picture but not really that special in person.

The city of Brighton was interesting. I found out that is where most of the people with money live. The houses were quite big and it just had that rich people neighborhood vibe. The shopping centers reminded me of 21st street in Nashville.

I had some time to kill so I decided to go to a museum. There is a large one right next door to me that has had an exhibit from the Guggenheim spotlighting art from the 1940s to now that’s supposed to be good. I went in but after seeing the line and the entry fee figured I’d just mosey around the other free exhibits.

I’ll try not to get too deep here but I’ve been working on a new theory about art. Actually one of my friends is working on a theory he tried to explain to me that I’ve adapted to my own. So John if you are reading this I hope I’m not stealing your idea but you should get it published soon before someone else does.

Basically he believes there is an absolute beauty to art that is inspired through God. I know there is a trend to incorporate more arts into church but this is a different perspective. This is saying Christians (or people connected to God) should be making really good art. Sadly most of the art marketed as “Christian” is pretty lame. (I’m thinking Christian music here but also take a look around a Lifeway and compare that to a local art gallery and I think you’ll get my point).

There is much more to this theory of art which I won’t get into but you can look at some of the paintings I saw in the pictures posted and see if you notice anything (hint: I don’t think art should necessarily be ascetically appealing and in some cases should be down right ugly.)

On Sunday I went back out the Dandedong’s. I was thinking about meeting up with Serge and Simone again but they have a lot of wedding planning to do and need to get their invitations out. But it didn’t stop me from a solo adventure. I got on the Puffing Billy train, which is an old steam powered train that goes through the mountains. When I went up to the ticket booth the guy asked me how old I was, the child rate applies if you are under16. Now if you know me very well you know the one thing that bothers me more than anything else is the fact that I look younger than I am. I often forget until I get carded at a bar or asked what college (or sometimes high school) I go to. People tell me I’m lucky but I don’t believe them. However since this attraction mostly caters to little kids (they even have one train that is supposed to be Thomas) I thought this may be work out to my advantage. I paid the full adult fare but saving money is not what I was interested in. The thing that makes this ride special is that all the carriages are open and the guests are encouraged to sit on the sides with your feet dangling off the edge. The only people that can get away with this (and not get funny looks) are kids and adults with kids. (Which I think is a real advantage to having kids. You get to do all the things you really want to do or even did when you were younger but don’t really remember. Having kids really gives you an excuse to do anything you want).

Since I don’t have kids, I don’t get that excuse. Nonetheless, I really wanted to sit on the edge of the train and figured if I look 15 maybe people won’t say anything. So as soon as the train left the station my feet were out that window! And to my knowledge know one thought twice about it. I talked to on of the “conductors” and he informed me that everyone that works at the Puffing Billy is a volunteer. All the money goes to fixing up the track and the trains. The train runs every day except Christmas, with approximately 250,000 riders a year at $30 a ticket that’s 7.5 million dollars!

After the train ride, I met up with some other people from church at a couples house who live in the mountains. Literally they live in the mountains. Their drive way is like at a 50 degree angle it’s crazy. Since the church meets in pubs and cafés we don’t really have the opportunity to have worship. Thus every once in a while they will get together to sing and pray. They call it a Taize service which is taken from a community in France that hosts this service for people of all nationalities and they just get together to have a worship service that is genuinely lead by the spirit which means there is no real time frame and no (x3) next to a line on a power point. And most of the songs are in Latin. As people speak all different languages Latin is commonly accepted as the universal language. It seems to work really well and the services in France have 10,000+ at a gathering. It also seems to be a new trend for house churches and communities of the emerging church. It was my first experience and honestly kinda weird. I was the only one there under 40 and since I don’t know Latin not really sure what I was singing.

But it was cool too, I mean I really did like it, just the idea of being in Australia, in the middle of the mountains, with a bunch of people I really don’t know was a very nice reflection time and one of those “how did I get here moments”.

After it was over we had some really good lasagna, the best I’ve ever had. The guy that lives at the house made it and it was great. Not like any lasagna I’ve ever had. I should get a recipe so my mom can make it for me.

I also started talking to a few people there. (Initially the musicians). I was wearing my Nashville shirt and started to look at the girl’s guitar who just finished playing. I commented on the style and wood type (Epiphone EJ-200 circa 1973 which looked like Koa wood but I don’t think Epiphone ever used Koa) She said well you know your guitars. I said well I am from Nashville. She asked if I knew Tommy Emanuel ( I sorta do, I know he’s one of the best guitar players alive and my friend Derek talks about him a lot, and he just played the symphony hall in Nashville but I couldn’t name one of his songs and if I have heard his music I didn’t know it was him) I said something to this effect but probably sounded more like oh yeah I know him really well, he just played in Nashville. She responded with well I used to play with him when he lived in Melbourne. I knew immediately I was way out of my league. I was like oh wow. She said yeah I actually produced a few of his records. My jaw (and lasagna fork) hit the floor. I was standing in the midst of true musical greatness. Later, on the drive home I found out she has produced gold and platinum albums and worked with people like Joe Cocker, Bonnie Rait, Tom Jones, and Jackson Brown. Her and her husband have a full music studio in their house in Brighton and continue to write, record and produce great music. Including the guy who was playing keys and gave me a lift home. He’s a super guy too. He is the president of the optometrist society for all of Victoria, but passionate about music. He has just finished his 6th album and coaches vocal training for singers (like professional singers, not 3rd grade music class, not that there’s anything wrong with that but just so you understand). He is a classically trained vocalist but sings and plays in all genres. He likes Radiohead and Chris Isaac.

I also talked to a few other people about Australian Nationalism and how some people are weary about it. A very strange concept for an American but I guess some in Australia like it’s English roots and would rather not branch out to a self-sustaining country just yet.

Well that was my weekend. This has been a very full on week too. As I only have 2 weeks left now I have both work and social life have been demanding. I am starting to really develop friendships with the people I’ve met which is good but also tiring as there seems to be a lot more to do now. I got to listen to the new radiohead album at a friends house last night and it is sweet. Next weekend I’m doing a bike ride along the beach and I’m really excited, I haven’t been on a bike in 3 months! Not sure what else I’ll get into but I’ll soon find out.


I will update you on the application of my new outlook on life. I haven't noticed a physical change in my attitude or approach to life but I do keep it in my head as the purpose of living is to meet people. I don't go out of my way and annoy anyone and still basically wait to be approached, but I have had a couple encounters on the trams this week. On my way to meet some friends last night I overheard some people discussing America.

Basically Bush bashing which is very common and until last night I had just let it go and not intervened. But this has really started to bother me. I had no idea how bad our perception to the world had gotten until I left the country. From what I gather, Australia (and perhaps the rest of the world) sees us as a bunch of rednecks (they call bogans) who love their God, their guns, and their country and hate everything that threatens to take any of those things away. While I admit there are people that fit this description, America is a very diverse country. We have people of all nationalities and viewpoints, but somehow we've let the negative ones show through.

Anyway I was just sitting there reading my book when I heard this girl say she paid extra to fly to South America so she wouldn't have to land in the U.S. Now this would have been understandable if she was concerned about customs or security or if it saved time, but in the context she was clearly making a point that she was so discussed with the U.S. that she couldn't stand to step foot in the country. At this I had enough so I decided to walk down the tram car and let them know not all Americans are bad.

If you've known me very long you may know that I have made similar statements against my own country. I get frustrated with the power of big business and the general apathy of so many of my fellow Americans but by and large I love my country and I can't just stand by while someone tears it apart without knowing anything about it. It'd be like messing with my family.

So I asked if I could join the conversation as an American. Surprisingly they welcomed me in and apologized for what they were saying. They said they were mostly upset with Iraq and the fact that it seems most Americans don't care about the rest of the world, which is made clear by them not voting. I tried to explain that most American's want to end the Iraq war, we just don't know how and it seems that the rest of the world is backing out and leaving us to solve the problem. Maybe they see it as we started so now we have to end it. But I think the other countries need to see this as a Global problem you can't just pawn it off on U.S. if you have a better idea than bring it to the table, don't just complain about it and expect someone else to fix it. (I tried to say all this but not sure if it really came out that clear). I also tried to explain that America is a very diverse country and you can't generalize us on a small representation. Especially if it comes from Hollywood. But oddly enough I don't think this is the most common view of Americans. It seems the people of the South and specifically Texas have the biggest influence on American culture. Maybe it has to do with our leadership. If you think about it Sr. Bush was from Texas, Clinton was from Arkansas, and Jr. Bush is from Texas so we've had southerners in power since 1988. I asked if they were following current American politics and they responded that they were pulling for Hillary because Bill will be back in the White House. I thought this to be a pretty unintelligent comment which was ironic considering the reason I come over. I left the conversation just that not all Americans are bad and please don't judge us until you've met a few of us.

Thanks for reading.

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