It's almost halfway through the LA program and I've been lucky enough to visit 4 theme parks! Here's my breakdown:

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Hey guys, Ben here attempting my first ever blog post. I know it’s been almost 4 weeks into the LA program, but it has been crazy since day one!

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I got an internship! Woohoo- no longer an intern-orphan! This week was the start of my internship at M&C Saatchi. I’m placed with Apple-extraordinaire Lee on the program who’s from WA and so far it’s been an amazing experience! M&C Saatchi are an awesome advertising agency who believe in ‘brutal simplicity’ as their driving philosophy. They are responsible for the Commonwealth ‘CAN’ in Sydney and in the US UGG Australia and the 'Where the Bloody Hell are You' campaign, just to name a few... It’s been great to see some real marketing in action! So far I’ve been spending time with the creative and social departments, doing cool things like helping out with creative briefs and attending photo-shoots. We’ve also been given our own little project (top secret for now) to work on and execute. It’s exactly the sort of internship I wanted! Yay!

Outside the M&C Saatchi Office... Lee insisted not to do a jumping photo, so of course we had to do a jumping photo.
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Last weekend we got to go to the happiest place on Earth... Disneyland!

Disney was so much fun, I think these shots explain it enough:

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I’m a wuss when it comes to rides, so I didn’t do too many scary ones... My favourites were: Space Mountain, Cars, Indianna Jones and Pirates of the Carribean.

WARNING: do not go on ‘It’s a Small World’ unless you like listening to mash-ups of ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘It’s a Small World’ for 40minutes! There’s no escape!!!

I spent the weekend just past back towards Borrego Springs, with some famiy friends doing a 100 mile bike ride in the Borrego Anza Desert. We were also lucky to have Monday off for Martin Luther King day, so of course I spent this day doing another 100 miles with a friend, as you do. I was pretty buggered by the end. It was a great day out though, and one new flavour of Clif Bar was consumed during that ride- Almond Black Cherry. Gets my thumbs up of approval! 17 flavours down, 3 to go.

Borrego Anza Desert:
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Riding on the Pacific Coast Highway during the public holiday:
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Life is pretty hectic at the moment. We’ve had a few assignments due this week and I’ve barely had the time to juggle everything let alone write this blog. But I love being busy, and I’m having such a great time, meeting all sorts of interesting people. Tomorrow I’m going with UCLA Sports & Rec to Yosemite for the weekend. We’re camping... In tents. Not cabins. If I don’t make it back, it’s probably because I froze to death. Wish me luck.

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It's now been 2 weeks since I've landed in the US. So far I've had a great time. I started off in Orange County with family friends Sue, Bob & Spencer and relaxed, did some shopping, bike riding and learnt the rules of American football. Somehow I've adopted the Packers as my team, but they lost so that's a bit sad!

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Four days later Sue & Bob were kind enough to drive me south to Borrego Springs for a week of training with the UCLA cycling team. It was awesome! I've never done so much climbing in my life, it reminded me of riding in East Timor except colder and the roads were a lot nicer, plus it involved less saddle sores! Winning!

Here's the sort of scenery we got to experience, every day:
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And another:
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My weekly total got to 540.4km, 21hrs 21min, 8,072m of climbing. A nice start to 2014! The UCLA guys are an awesome bunch and I'm looking forward to traveling with the team in Feb to collegiate races. Memorable moments were basically every time we got to the top of a hill, losing Matt multiple times and hearing he had managed to step on a cactus during a ride, watching Blake and Cade jump in the freezing cold pool and learning new phrases like 'swoop swoop', 'duuuuuuude', 'being a Fred' (aka Hubbard) and 'railing'. Riding on the wrong side of the road was sketchy at first and descending was even worse, but I think I've got the hang of it now... Let's hope so!

Matt with his Bruin chips:
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I'm now staying in my main base for the next 9 weeks, which is the Palazzo Apartment complex in Westwood. It's a pretty ritzy place with a gym that has a rock climbing wall and offers classes including yoga and pilates- all complimentary... Yeah life's not too hard!

I haven't got an internship yet, but I'm really enjoying the extra day or two off. Today UCLA cycling buddy Cade was nice enough to take me for a ride around Hollywood and even had the patience to let me take toursity photos. We even got to ride down the main drag past the walk of fame.

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Still figuring out the coffee situation. It's messed up! A standard American coffee is a long black, cappuccinos usually don't have chocolate sprinkled on top, and a flat white is just steamed milk!!! Cade took me to 'Coffee and Food' today which is a really cool, hipster-esque cafe, started by an Aussie from Port Macquarie. I got to meet her & say hullo. The coffee was good, it wasn't the best I've ever had, but it's definitely the best I've had so far in the US!

Some little things I've noticed (apart from the coffee) so far are:

-Americans are crazy drivers. They don't like using their blinkers for changing lanes. We almost got hit 5 times coming back from Borrego Springs... And that was driving defensively.

-Americans are sticklers for rules. J-walking, parking... I feel as though we are a lot more relaxed in Australia. I was told the attitude here is if you break the law someone will sue you!

-Everyone seems to have an opinion, and people really care about politics. I was asked who I support- Abbott or Gillard. My response of 'to be honest I don't really care that much' was greeted by surprise. I also had to google who the current Labour party leader is...

-They don't know much about Australia apart from kangaroos and so-called 'drop bears'.

Drop bears... Seriously!?
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-Filtered water is big here- everyone drinks filtered water. Whatever happened to plain ol' tap water? Also kettles are non-existent. Lisa my roommate has been boiling water on the stove for her morning cup of tea... haha...

-Eskies are 'coolers', take-away is 'to-go' and jumpers are 'sweaters'

But overall they're super friendly and love Australians! That's it for the first instalment. I do miss my family and friends and my dog... But I'm surrounded by such great people at the moment and have already made really good friends, and I'm having a ball! Over the next couple of weeks: Stagecoach 165km century ride with Sue, Disneyland with the Sydney + WA Uni crew, starting classes at uni and starting my internship (company TBC)... Fun times ahead!

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Suits

4 Jan

Suits

Shopping for suits is not enjoyable. For a while now I've held an idea of passing through as many years as possible without experiencing a suit jacket. When one is faced with the dilemmas of workplace clothes, an immediate fixation on the well-cut jacket, fitted pants, crisp shirt and not overly flamboyant tie is all too familiar for us interns. Now, with less than two weeks before my departure for Los Angeles, coupled with my apparently childish experience with 'appropriate' employment wear, I asked my very close friend for some advice. As a St Paul's College resident, he is a well-seasoned suit owner and so I assumed he owned somewhat useful advice when it came to this sort of problem. We did what most males do with each other at one or many points during their non-sexualized friendship – spend an afternoon at Westfield.

Earlier this year, another friend, an architecture student, informed me of a simple principle that states to design not for the elite but for the masses. With Armani, Versace and Hugo Boss in light boxes, it is hard not to notice that the levels of David Jones are the antithesis of said design principal. For materials more within my price range, I greeted the friendly and short Asian woman who overlooked the Country Road territory. During that time, stress caused me to sweat, my challenging frame did not allow many suits to fit, and I had inadvertently knocked and snapped a clothes hanger.
"First time shopping for suits?" was the woman’s reply.
Thankfully Incu was not too far and I retreated to a less soul-destroying place.

It is strange how work wear pressure can make one feel so uneasy. Up until now I have felt reasonably comfortable with what I wear but the act of walking with purpose in a store targeted towards older workingmen left me tired. Tired is a good way of describing it. Tired like when you have an insincere conversation where someone throws the word ‘love’ around too many times in a sentence. I don't think it comes down to a level of arrogance or a self-satisfying need for being different. I was just hoping to spend my last teenage years as a working student in comfortable fitting pants. And maybe some shoes.

My friend recently found employment at a well doing architecture firm in Sydney. His work wear uninterruptedly consists of a button down, or on lazier days it is solid colour T-shirt, slim pants or jeans, high quality brown boots and an assortment of joyfully patterned socks. His boss had apparently complained about his recent choice of office clothing. If I was an employer, I would happily wait every morning in anticipation – burnt coffee in hand and all - for another outrageously coloured sock on my employee’s foot.

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Having been lucky enough to spend some time on the East Coast of America on exchange at Boston University, I thought I had developed some sort of understanding about American culture that could be transposed in the city of LA. Having taken my chances on a big jet plane, I soon realised my perceptions were incredibly wrong.

Whilst the East Coast/West Coast divide vocalised for decades in the workings of Tupac and Biggie holds true to some extent, the very nature of contrasting lifestyles between the East and West Coast could not be more noticeable. Take New York for example- a high paced, densely packed, centralised city that serves your every need within walking distance. LA is much different. My rose-coloured perception that I would be riding around campus, to and from the beach and quite possibly to work on a Friday morning, was shot down by the reality of how widely spread out LA actually is.

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Matt and Shruti at BOA Steakhouse

Today, Matt, Jun and I had the amazing opportunity to hear Governor Michael Dukakis speak and meet him in person. It was fantastic, he had some really great ideas on how to move California forward, such as investing in infrastructure to promote smart growth in revitalising existing urban neighbourhoods rather than encouraging more urban sprawl.

Yesterday, Matt, Shruti and I ate at BOA Steakhouse, again, as part of DineLA and BOA was once owned by Ryan Secreast. OMG the food was so good. I had potato and leek soup as my entree, Matt and Shruti had the calamari (which I got to try a bit of and it was SO GOOD), and then we all had the filet mignon for our mains, and I had a lemon meyer creme brulee whilst Matt and Shruti had the chocolate chip cookie and vanilla bean ice cream for dessert. The food was so amazing!

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Mmmm, steak!