messing family picture

New Zealand photos are here

Australia photos are here

Friday, April 4, 2008

Lauren, Colleen and I left Boston in the afternoon. Since business class was crazy expensive ($19,000 per person!!), and coach turned out to be pretty cheap we purchased 2 extra seats for the three of us. The United Airlines gate agent was quite rude, and was absolutely pleased to hand us 5 center seats. Fortunately, this was only to our connection in Los Angeles, where the Air New Zealand agent was much nicer and accomodating.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

We arrived in Wellington, New Zealand very early in the morning after a long trip (24 plus hours, 2 plane changes). Crossing the International Date Line at around midnight meant we went directly from Friday to Sunday. (And on the way back we made up for it by experiencing 2 Saturdays). We were tired, but excited to see Sam. He walked over to our hotel, and it was sure great to give him a hug and catch up on what he has been up to.

We stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel. It was quite modern, and the service and rooms were nice. Out our window we had a view of some of the downtown buildings and a bit of the harbor. Breakfast in their concierge lounge provided a stunning view of the harbor, a great way to start our mornings there.

We were tired, but eager to get out. A walk down to the waterfront ended in our visiting the Te Papa Tongarewa museum, which was quite nice. Interesting facts: New Zealand was completely uninhabited until around 800 years ago when the Mayori arrived from islands to the north. There are no native mammals in New Zealand.

Monday, April 7, 2008

I had picked up a car at the airport, and was quite proud of my ability to drive on the left side of the road to get us downtown. This pride was to turn to embarassment as I continually overadjusted to the left and kept scraping up against the curb. Wellington streets are narrow and hilly and parking is allowed on both sides. Driving was a real pain for someone used to being on the right side.

We drove north along the water and then made a big loop back into Wellington, stopping to see the shore and take some photos. On the way back we had a walk through the Karori Wildlife Reserve. Amazing bird calls. Nice to be with the family.

We dropped Sam off at his apartment, which gave us a chance to see it and meet his room mates. He has a killer view of Wellington from his room.

Dinner that night was at The Balti House, the Indian restaurant where Sam works. I had a problem with the cilantro, but the food was quite good. Moreover, we got to meet Sam's new lady friend, Emily. She passed the 3rd degree we gave her quite handily. After dinner we wandered over to a nearby art museum. As we got closer, all we could hear was a voice counting up from 1 over and over. Sometimes the voice got to 10 or 12, sometimes it stopped at 4 or 5. When we got closer, we could see it was a video taken with a helmet camera of an artist attempting to ride his bicycle down the center of a road with his eyes closed. Hilarious...

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Today, Lauren and Colleen went shopping for native New Zealand items while I attended class with Sam. Walking around Victoria University and going to the campus bookstore brought back memories. His Computer Architecture class was interesting; I was glad to see there was nothing I did not understand.

In the evening, a 3 hour ferry ride took us to the South Island, where we overnighted at the Copthorne Hotel in Blenheim. The drive there from the ferry in the dark was not fun. Sam was able to join us as he does not have classes on Wednesdays.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Today was spent touring the South Island. The main road is interesting. It is 2 lanes, and you rarely ever see another car. Every once in a while, where there is a bridge the road narrows to one lane for both directions and you have to make sure no one is approaching from the other side. In the mountains there were 2 or 3 places where the road also narrowed around a curve to one lane, with a sheer cliff on one side and just barely enough of a line of sight to make sure no one is coming (assuming they are travelling slowly!).

The views at Nelson Lakes where Sam had done some camping were amazing. The terrain was quite varied, from mountains to forests to plains with rolling hills, to cliffs by the sea. We ended up seeing the seal colony at Cape Foulwind (I love that name). It was a long drive back to the ferry from there. We had dinner at a rustic local restaurant in Picton, and took the late ferry, arriving back at the Intercontinental at about 1 AM.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Lunch today was a treat. We went back to the Balti House, where Sam was working and waited on us. This time he had them hold the cilantro. I don't think I have ever had better Indian food. The Buttered Chicken in particular was good. We ended ordering up extra. It was fun to watch Sam working with the other staff members, and setting up drinks behind the bar. He looked good in his apron. I'm not quite sure why he has felt the need to take the job, but he is clearly enjoing it. Who knows, maybe it will end up in a novel he writes some day?

I spent the afternoon wandering around the city, taking photographs and doing a lot of people watching. It's quite different doing that with a camera in your hand, then without. You really do feel like an outside observer, even if you don't actually take many photographs.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Today we left New Zealand and flew to Sydney. Sam was on break, so he was able to join us. We stayed at the Shangri-La Hotel. Its location was perfect, in the downtown area next to the harbor in the area known as The Rocks. We were on the 31st floor with a magnificent view of the Opera House and the rest of the harbor. I enjoyed watching the ferries going back and forth and trying to take pictures of the Opera House in all kinds of light.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

John and Clare Tresling, our friends and business associates from South Africa had arrived a few days earlier. Much of the reason for this visit was for me to see their Australia operation and meet their existing client and pay some sales calls. But that was to wait until Monday. John and Clare always outdo themselves with their hospitality. They must be so tired once they 'get rid' of the Messings! We enjoy our time with them a great deal. Despite them living on the other side of the world, we have managed to see them fairly frequently the last few years.

Together with Clare and John, we hopped on the Sydney Explorer bus for a tour of the city. Very modern, it reminds me of a clean New York City. After leaving the bus, we got on one of the ferries for a beautiful cruise around the harbor, getting off at Watson Bay for lunch and then walking up to Gap Bluff overlooking the Pacific. It is beautiful, with the Pacific and the entrance to the harbor on one side and the city off on the other side. The weather was perfect.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

On Sunday, we were joined by John, Clare, and Douglas and Louise Murray. Douglas is the head of MEDITECH Australia. Spending time getting to know them a bit was one of the highlights of the trip. Charming people, they seemed so eager to show us Australia. We took a drive out to the Blue Mountains. As we arrived I was afraid we would not see anything as their was quite a bit of low lying fog. But it cleared, and the mountains really were blue! John explained it had something to do with the 'vapor' emitted by the trees. I took some panoramic pictures...just delightful.

Hanging out there was an aborigine in traditional garb, selling boomerangs and playing a diggerie doo. What an eerie odd sound. I would not call it music but I could see how it might have been part of their mystical life.

Afterwards, it was off to the local tourist town to let the ladies look at the shops. (The bench with a sign 'For Bored Husbands' was quite appropriate). It had alternated between rain and sunshine all day, but the drive home was accompanied by a rainbow. A fitting end to the day.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Colleen and Lauren spent the day relaxing, and visiting some of the Sydney shopping areas with Clare. Sam joined Douglas, John and I for a tour of MEDITECH Australia, and then to visit a MEDITECH customer, North Shore Private Hospital. It was a beautiful facility, and seemed to be a happy customer.

In the afternoon, the MEDITECH Australia staff gave me a presentation on the work they have been doing to adapt our software to the Australian environment. I had thought that hospital billing in the U.S. was complex, but what they have had to change to make it work in Australia is really quite impressive. Following that, I attended a Ramsey Health status meeting with John and Douglas. Things seem to be going well. (Ramsey is the company that owns the most private hospitals in Australia. We are quite fortunate to have them as a customer).

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The next day, Colleen, Sam and Lauren went with Clare to see kangaroos, and koala bears, and parrots at a local Sydney animal park. I visited a prospective customer. It was interesting as the current hospital is located in a residential area and looks from the street just like a large house. The intriguing part is they are building a much larger university hospital to open next year. It would be nice business to get.

In the afternoon, I had the pleasure of going with Lauren to buy her a piece of jewelry. I have been doing this for her on our trips since she was quite little. Being in Australia, of course we were going to look at opals. She found a really unusual red colored opal to wear as a pendant on a chain we got her. I was also happy, because the same shop had mineral specimens, and I got a nice slab of white opal.

That evening was one of the highlights of the trip. John and Clare took us to the Sydney Opera House to hear a performance of the work of Handel. The building is spectacular and the music was inspiring. A very special evening indeed.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

This day was also special. John and Douglas hired a driver and small bus and we went on a tour of Hunter Valley, the wine region near Sydney. It was a great way to do this, as no one had to drive. 3 vineyards and a spectacular lunch filled the day. It was also interesting to see just how knowledgable Douglas is about wine. Not a bad talent to have for someone who entertains customers a lot.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Today was a long day. I got up at 6 A.M. and John, Douglas, and I headed to the airport and flew up to Brisbane for the day. Brisbane is a bit different from Sydney. Much smaller and based on a river, it does have a nice downtown (where we had lunch overlooking the river). We visited a prospective client, a large oncology clinic and another Ramsey Hospital. I was struck at the hospital at how everyone who worked there had a smile on their face. Not the case in many U.S. hospitals. The other interesting aspect of this hospital was the artwork. It was filled with beautiful things, just a few paintings but many sculptures from local artists. It could have been a MEDITECH building.

That evening we took the Treslings and the Murrays to a farewell dinner at the restaurant in the hotel. We really had to thank them for such a special visit. (John and Clare departed the next morning).

Friday, April 18, 2008

In the morning, Sam and I went to a bookstore to pick up some books requested by friends that are only available in Australia. It is always interesting to see how bookstores are stocked differently in different countries.

In the afternoon, Sam, Lauren and I climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Yes, climbed! What a fantastic experience. It took about an hour to get briefed and loaded up with all the equipment we needed (jump suit, safety harness, fleece, rain gear, radio, etc). Not only were the views spectacular, but the bridge itself was beautiful in an industrial sort of way. And definitely not for someone afraid of heights. It was not too strenuous, but there were some steep ladders and walkways that made you glad you were attached by a safety harness to the bridge

In the evening, Lauren and I upheld another tradition that she and I have had on vacations since she was little. We got dressed up and went out to a really nice restaurant together. Always a special time. Sam and his mom go off together at the same time, and I think they enjoy themselves as much as Lauren and I do.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Early this afternoon, we left Sydney, arriving home tired but happy later that night.