Sunday, September 2, 2012

First Three Months Working in Singapore

The last three months have been an absolute whirlwind, I don't know how my mind has been able to keep up.  I knew that starting a new job in a new part of the world would be a challenge, but what has been the most difficult is learning to communicate and the social etiquette of those around me. Once you move to a foreign country outside the US, you realize how much of what we speak is figurative or are idioms that don't translate to someone who speaks English as a second language. The Singaporean language is very efficient and often curt. Taking this into account when you are trying to speak to a client professionally yet respectfully gets my brain going on many cylinders.  One of the best words I have begun using in my daily communications is "revert".  So much of correspondence in today's day and age is done via email and in the US if you want to let someone know you are working on something and will respond shortly, you say, "I'll get back to you soon", in Singapore, it is simply.  "I will revert".  It is the simple words like this which I feel are chosen so carefully, I feel the need to obsess over my emails as each word must have the absolute maximum impact.

While communication has been something of a challenge, learning the customers and lay of the land was a slow process in the beginning but is beginning to come together.  Just like I have done with my past two jobs, you have to start by learning the names of the customers in your territory, what their lines of businesses are, who they key stakeholders are, and then what are their pain points.  This last point will take the longest time but is the most important.  I have never been an Enterprise Sales person before and it is a completely different kind of sell.  That said, you have huge potential to be a consultant  for your customers and advise them on the strategies and solutions they should be looking toward that will help them meet their business needs. I love that aspect of this job.  I get to help my customers look like rockstars... perhaps its the American in me that thinks everyone wants to be a rockstar :)

After having spent the last year and a half working from home, I was a bit worried about how I would do in an office environment again.  I have also never used public transit to get to and from the office.  I was surprised at how easily I have fallen into a routine.  It has not been difficult getting up in the morning, usually making it to the gym before work, and then getting into the office (usually before the rest of my team) and starting off the day working.  It has been awkward learning what the local norms and expectations are in this particular office. My last two jobs would easily permit me to work from home and manage my own business. I feel that in SEA, the norm is more along the lines of, your butt needs to be in your seat during business hours unless you are out on a client meeting. This has taken some adjusting to and will hopefully get easier.  In terms of my colleagues, I initially gravitated toward the ex-pats as they are most familiar.  After being with the company for a few months now, I have found that I am growing closer to many of the locals in my office.  They are such high-spirited and good-natured people that i am enjoying getting to know them very much.  Many have taken on Western  names but for those that have not, it is very hard to learn their Eastern names and ensure I pronounce them correctly.  Slowly, but sure I'm getting there.

I just returned last night from Phuket, Thailand which was a beautiful experience.  We were only there for the weekend and look forward to going back and exploring more of the island next time.  I am off today to KL for a very senior level meeting with the largest telco company in Malaysia and hopefully will be moving toward closing some business for Q4.  I did not get near to hitting my goal for Q3 and really want to do well this upcoming quarter to make up for it.  I leave for the US on Friday and will be home for a week.  It will be my first trip home since I left at the end of February and I am SO excited to be home. In'n Out Burger is calling my name.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Last day of freedom

Today is officially my last day of freedom before rejoining the corporate world.  The past year and a half of my life, I have worked remotely out my home office and the past 3 months have worked very part time so this will definitely be an adjustment going back into the working full time in an office.  Truth be told, I am actually very excited to meet new people and feel like I am finally grounding myself locally.  I accepted a job with Adobe about a week and a half ago and will be selling their digital marketing suite to South East Asia.
The interview process was wonderful and I had a really good gut feeling about everyone I met with.  I really like my new boss and think I will learn a ton from her.  I will learn more about the specifics around what I will be selling and my territory in the new couple weeks.  The timing of my start date worked out perfectly with the beginning of Adobe's 2nd quarter as well as my first day on the job, there is a major sales training which is held at the Marina Bay Sands where Adobe sales offices from all over Asia including India as well as Australia will be joining and meeting in Singapore. It is going to give me the opportunity to meet a lot of the regional team and receive some very high quality training that will hopefully make successful in this new venture.
The only major concern I have about starting my new job is Chewie. Her separation anxiety has gotten increasingly worse since we have gotten here and she is not used to having me be gone for 8-10 hours a day.  I finally gave in to Drew's persistence and signed Chewie up for obedience training. For the most part, Chewie is very well behaved except for when I leave.  The dog trainer swears that this is because she does not have confidence and the obedience training will help her to overcome it.  We have to spend 40 minutes every day training her and working on her beginning to listen and follow directions on a leash.
I scheduled my gmat test which I have set for two weeks away.  My class ends on Thursday and I have done a lot of the homework.  I am going to have to really commit to studying every night when I get home from work to make sure that I am prepared for the exam.  I don't want to take it more than once. Hopefully I will be able to enroll in an MBA program early next year.  One of my favorite things about Adobe is that they offer educational assistance and will cover almost a third of the cost of my MBA program which will be very helpful.
Our friends Matt and Nina are coming out to visit in three weeks and I am very excited to see some friends from back home.  We are going to take a couple of days and go to Koh Samui, Thailand and then go to Koh Phagnan for the full moon party which will happen to be on the 4th of July.  I thought it would be fun to get an American Flag bikini but Drew didn't think it was a good idea to draw that kind of attention to ourselves. We are supposed to go home in August for a wedding but I have to make sure my job will allow me to take the time off work before I can book the trip.  That's the only tough thing about starting a new job is it is going to cut into my leisure travel time. :)
This was one of the most fun weekend's we have had in awhile and I feel like we squeezed in a  lot of fun before I am going back to work.  Drew took me and a a couple friends to dinner Friday night to celebrate my last weekend of Freedom and we went to a really neat area called Dempsy Hill.  This area used to be army barracks that was converted into a little community of very unique restaurants.  We got tapas at a place called Don Quixote and then drank the night away at a local chain pub called Harry's.  We were finally ready to go home and were outside waiting for our taxi when Drew decided he could not resist and had to run into Ben and Jerry's. He came out with not one, not two, but three scoops of ice cream with chocolate fudge in a waffle cone bowl.  The night could not have ended better.
I had my class Saturday afternoon but we coordinated a lunch with some friends of our friends Sergio and Sarah from back in the states.  We ended up meeting them at a different restaurant in Dempsy Hill which was ironic because we had never been there before the previous night.  Both parties arrived a bit hungover and we ended up having an amazing meal that was extremely necessary on my uneasy stomach.  I had a pulled pork sandwich with french fries that was incredible.  The owner of the restaurant wanted it to look like a place in the New York meat packing district, even though he has never been to New York which I find pretty funny.  It was really nice meeting these new friends and made plans to go to Beer Fest with them next weekend. Saturday night we went to an authentic Thai restaurant near our apartment where the electricity went out, luckily after we received our food. Saturday night we made plans to go to Singapore's full moon party which takes place out on Sentosa.  Sentosa is an island known for being a bit touristy and Drew has refused to go there up to this point.  I was thrilled to finally make the trek out there. The party is known to be nothing remotely near as cool as Thailand's full moon party, but this was still a party that apparently lasts until 5 or 6 in the morning and hundreds of people party on the beach, in the sand, in bikinis, while several different DJs blast music and entertainers dance with fire or pole dance.  It was an amazing experience.  It was nice to finally see Singapore let loose. The city seems very stiff in many ways and this was the first time I saw it go a little crazy.  Drew and I both way overdressed for the party and next time will go in our swimmers.  Among the hundreds of people dancing, there was not much of a breeze, and the cloud of cigarette smoke that hovered above the crowd made it a very sweaty evening but was so much fun.  We will definitely be going back there soon.
Going to have a glass of wine and hopefully get a good night's sleep before the big day tomorrow. I haven't had to get up at 7am since we have been here so I hope I'll be able sleep tonight.  Usually the night before a first day, the anticipation keeps me up.
P.S. Chewie is snoring next to me right now. Obedience class pooped her out!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Too busy for someone who is unemployed

This is my first official week of being unemployed and I am way to busy to be doing all of the fabulous things I am supposed to be enjoying like going to yoga, lunching with friends, tanning, and going shopping. I have had so much homework and studying to do for my GMAT class, I don't know how people with full time jobs are able to get all the of required homework and studying done. 
The work has been very frustrating and tiresome.  I have to walk away after awhile, particularly when doing the verbal portion.  I am starting to feel the math coming back but have been so amazed at how much I have needed to re-learn.  It's like using a language.  We spend at least four years of our lives learning a language between middle school and university and for many people, if they don't use it, they lose it.  I don't think I have seen a fraction or exponents in the last 10 years as there isn't much math in advertising. I am really hoping that as I continue to practice, I will start getting more answers correct. I have already finished my verbal homework for the week but I still need to do the math, the online tutorials for verbal and math, and then take another practice test.  That alone is probably at least 9 hours worth of homework and I have already spent 4 on the other verbal homework. 
Other than GMAT preparation, I have been actively moving things along on the job front.  I am in the final round of interviews for one company and am at about the mid-way point for another.  I have an in person interview this afternoon with 1-2 people and have a really big in person presentation with another company tomorrow.  I spent about 8 hours yesterday working on the presentation for tomorrow. I have to essentially look at a local advertiser, evaluate their current social strategy, and then build a business plan using the solutions I would be selling to better their business.  It was a fun task and I love solution-based selling.  The challenge was that I have not had to build a power point completely from scratch since college.  Typically, there are company charts, infographs, and marketing slides that I can modify to my need but I had absolutely nothing and had to build from the ground up. I spent a lot of time yesterday on Google Images trying to ad some color to my presentation. 
I received my first job offer last night for the ad agency. I have been very excited about the role, the company, and the people I would be working with but the offer was as I suspected, far too low.  I knew that I would likely take a pay decrease since I am used to making a fair base salary and a large amount of commission.  This new role would be almost completely salary base with a small bonus.  The base salary itself is far lower than what I have been making and I just don't think I can afford to live off it.  The media director made it sound like I might be able to counter, but they couldn't offer me much more than that. 
Drew and I now have a gorgeous apartment that costs quite a decent amount in rent and I have my condo back home that looks like although I may be finally getting a tenant, I am going to have to pay over $400 a month between what I will be able to rent it at and what the mortgage is costing.  Most importantly, Drew and I moved here to be able to travel and I want to be able to ensure that I can afford to travel to all of the wonderful places we planned visiting while we live here. 
One of the companies I am interviewing with this week also offers the perk of educational assistance.  If I start my MBA program while I am here, it would be amazing if the company will help fund it.  That is something else which is drawing me away from the offer I received yesterday.
Anyways... praying that what is meant to be will happen and something good will happen this week.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Ferrari and KK, Malaysia

It has been almost 2 1/2 weeks since my last post and I have lots and lots of updates. When we got back from Sydney, AU, we found out that we officially got the fabulous "ferrari" apartment. It is at the top of our budget but everyone we have had over has told us this place easily should go for $2-4k more than what we are paying for it.  Everyday we are here, we are in awe in at how grateful we are to have such a beautiful place so well located. If I were to describe this to someone in the US, I would describe it as 5th Avenue combined with Rodeo Drive and the Santa Monica promenade/place.  I have seen two Hermes in less than a quarter of a mile and there could easily be more in one of the many many floors of the malls around Orchard Road.
We got back from Sydney on Sunday night and left for KK, Malaysia on Saturday morning.  Drew was attending a conference for the ad industry so his flight and our gorgeous room were both free.  The conference was at the Shangri-la and our room was stunning.  We looked out onto a mini-golf course and out onto the ocean. The hotel had a mini-water park, three different pools, a beach, and the most amazing bar I think I have ever seen called the "Sunset Bar". Every evening people gathered out at the bar at tables and on lounge cushions to watch the sun set behind thunderous clouds to create the most spectacular view of pinks, purples, and oranges.  I think Drew took over 300 pictures of the sunset with this camera.  We have some truly breathtaking photos.  
The conference was interesting and we did some great c-level networking to help build our relationships in SEA. We were able to get away one afternoon to go to a nearby island for snorkeling.  The island was beautiful and we enjoyed a delicious buffet lunch before trying out snorkeling.  The water was pretty nice and we could see almost everything without the need for scuba.  The only problem is that as we were out in the water, I started feeling little stings.  They felt like mini jellyfish stings but there was absolutely nothing I could see in the water.  I later found out there are microscopic critters in the water called jellybugs.  They left little red bite marks on my skin and were itchy and burning but finally went away later that day.
Malaysia is predominantly a Muslim country so I was definitely a minority in a bikini out on the islands. Our resort is mostly expats and tourists so it wasn't as noticeable.  But out on the islands, there were mostly locals so most of the women were completely covered up.  Even when they went in the water, they donned full wet suit style clothing to cover their heads, arms, and legs.  It must have been 90 degrees with almost 100% humidity and I can't possibly understand how the women can manage to be in all black head to toe.
The trip was fabulous and we were very sad to leave.  We got back on Wednesday afternoon and went straight from the airport to go pick up Chewie who was SO excited to see us.
The next couple days I packed up our apartment and on Saturday morning we made the move into our new apartment.  The movers brought in 99 items which included all of our furniture and all of the boxes containing our clothes and every last bit of our lives from the US. I have been waiting two months to settle into our life hear and I was on a mission to get unpacked as quickly as possible.  I have been working from home so being around clutter night and day drives me absolutely crazy.  Drew called me a woman on a mission.
I hosted my first girls night here the following Thursday night and managed to have our paintings and pictures hung up and had all boxes cleared out.  I let Drew go out to buy the TV which was probably a big mistake as he came back with a 42 inch HD 3-D television. I also sent him out to buy a coffee machine and he came back with an espresso machine. We ended up getting everything sorted outing the long run but had to make four trips to the electronics store which just about put me over the edge.
My last day at comScore was officially on the 30th and I received my separation papers via email yesterday.  I dropped off my stuff at the local comScore office and will receive my final paycheck hopefully in the near future.
I have been interviewing heavily with three different companies and all three interviews have been going very well.  I should be expecting an offer from an ad agency in the next week or so. I have also been also interviewing with a couple of competitors to comScore that have been going very well and I think would be exciting and challenging opportunities to me.  Both of the companies though have been taking a long time and the process has already been over a month and will likely be a minimum of two weeks before I could even get an offer. I am grateful for the time getting settled in but am also looking forward to starting work.
I have been keeping myself busy the last week and a half by beginning to study for my GMAT test.  My GMAT class has proven to be extremely helpful but also made me increasingly aware of how much I have forgotten since high school.  The test consists of two parts like the SAT, math and verbal.  I took the diagnostic test and could not believe how poorly I scored. I was always an honors student in school and this test score did not reflect that at all. During our first lesson we reviewed several components of the math portion and I felt so embarrassed that I had forgotten simple mathematic procedures such as multiplying and dividing fractions, how to add and multiply exponents, and I felt a wave of nausea when I was shown quadratic equations.  My brain knows that I have the knowledge somewhere in the deep dark crevices, but my conscience cannot pull up the memories to help me solve the mathematical problems.  That said, I have been spending a lot of my newly unemployed time by re-learning all the math I learned from grades 6-12.  Thankfully it has all been coming back relatively easily but I definitely need to practice as much as possible as the GMAT doesn't just test your basic knowledge of these mathematical skills, but it checks to see how it can trick you and determines your ability to reason while using advanced mathematical skills.
Today is Cinco de Mayo and this is a day we would normally surround ourselves with friends to indulge in Mexican food, margaritas, and tequila.  We are going to have people over at our place this evening so Drew can truly break in the bar and then go out to Cafe Iguana (yep, that's really what it is called) to drink and have a Mexican feast.  The restaurant is offering 40% of happy hour prices which is a REALLY good deal for Singapore so I am excited to enjoy the festivities. I have also been really trying to cut back on the alcohol consumption as it is SO expensive to drink here and I frankly don't need the calories.  I haven't drank anything since last Sunday so I feel like I have earned the right to indulge tonight.
I promise to blog more soon.
Besos y Abrasos,
Alicia

Thursday, April 19, 2012

End of Sydney and back to house hunting

The last night in Sydney we took a dinner cruise around the harbor.  It was the perfect, touristy thing to round out our time in the city. We almost missed the boat because we were running late but ended up making it on time.  The dinner cruise was kind of pricey but I paid $25 extra per person for us to have open bar which we easily got our money's worth.  We were greeted with glasses of champagne.  Went through probably two bottles of wine at dinner and Drew had two large glasses of whiskey.  There was a live band which played a compilation of music from jazz, oldies, to pop and no one was dancing though they were begging for people to help them out when the singer announced we were celebrating the fact we recently got engaged.  Other couples were announced as celebrating a birthday or a reunion or something but because we were on the dance floor and Drew was twirling me around, we had people stand up applaud us and start taking our pictures.  It was  SO embarrassing.  We laughed for the next 5 minutes while the singer dedicated some classic love song to us and we slow dances as people continued to take our picture and we tried not to look at the cameras.  It was a very fun night, the food was pretty good, and we were back in our hotel well rested for the very long flight back to Singapore.
Drew's flight was early in the morning so I ended up being alone most of the day Sunday which was Easter.  I felt a little homesick I wasn't with my family or around people but managed to make do.  It was also the first Easter I have never received an Easter basket which I realize to many people is crazy that as an adult my mom still gives all her kids Easter baskets but it has become a tradition regardless.  The only perk is that I did not have to try to resist the temptation of downing the chocolate in the basket and therefore was able to save myself at least a thousand calories.
The long flight back was uneventful but getting home to see Chewie was glorious.  I have not been apart from her that long in many many months so she was beyond excited to see me.  The week back from Sydney was very full of job hunting, interviews, and house hunting.  I have a couple of very interesting opportunities that I am exploring and while I have loved being able to work part time, I am excited to get back into productive mode.  The most exciting highlight of the week I am happy to share is that we finally found our apartment.  Tuesday was a long day and I viewed about 10 apartments but we definitely found our home.
I have been explaining to people that many of the beautiful new places we have been looking at are like a mercedes and the older apartment I thought we were going to get stuck with would be settling for a prius.  It's still a good car, reliable, does it's job and is more economical in many ways.  The apartment we chose, I can't believe to say, is a Ferrari.  The listing agent knew our agent and told us that this place normally rents for $2-$3k per month more than what we were able to get it for.  It is at very top of our budget but the location is perfect, it is absolutely gorgeous, and the rooms are large enough for all of our furniture.  It has a private elevator, maid's quarters, a service elevator, and a rooftop pool.   Drew and I actually feel guilty that we are going to be living in such an incredible apartment.  That said, we get the keys tomorrow and have our stuff moved on Saturday including the sea shipment.  I am SO excited to be finally moving into our own place, getting to sleep in my bed, and being able to unpack everything.  Its' been a great week.
It sounds like I may be getting an offer on a job that I am very excited about.  It is definitely going to be a pay cut since our industry doesn't pay as much here but I am very excited about being part of something big and helping to change and shift the industry in SEA.  The next week is going to be a big week.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Darling Harbor is Darling, Blue Mountains- Three Sisters and Bushwalking

The past two days have been full of activity and fun.  I went to Darling Harbor yesterday which is an adorable part of the city full of restaurants, shops, tourist attractions, and the Maritime museum.  I opted to go to the Aquarium.  I saw lots of beautiful fish but frankly nothing that was amazing I haven't seen diving except for some rare sawfish and a very cool fish called a flashlight fish.  The fish live in pitch black water but their eyes shine an eerie green color that glow in the dark. I still had some time to kill so I figured I might as well do the Wildlife experience which was right next to the aquarium.  This was pretty unique since I got the chance to see many of Sydney's rare and renown species.  I saw kangaroos, a platypus, wallabies, wild dingos, emus, and one of the world's largest crocodiles. Australia is also home to the most poisonous spiders in the world and after leaving that exhibit I kept feeling itchy.  My favorite part of the experience was I had the opportunity to interact with a koala.  This means that for $25, I get to go into an enclosure and have my picture taken right next to a couple of koalas and even get to pet them!  It has been a lifelong dream to do that and I was stoked to get the chance to do it.
After finishing my touristy activities, I met up with my friend  Ranjani who was also visiting Sydney from Singapore.  We found a restaurant that was already serving happy hour at 3:30 and shared a nice bottle of wine over the course of the next two hours and talked about what our experiences have been like moving to Singapore since she has had to go through about everything I have experienced as well including finding a new job, apartment hunting, and being home alone a lot. I am very grateful I connected with her since we moved.
We met up with Drew, Ranj's husband, and another colleague from the LinkedIn Sydney office at a bar and had a drink before going to dinner at Malay.  I know it doesn't make any sense to leave Singapore, go all the way to Sydney, and eat Malaysian food, but several people all said this was their favorite restaurant.  The food did not disappoint. It was extremely flavorful, not too heavy, and absolutely delicious.  We had black pepper chicken, a coconut fish curry, and some kind of lamb dish. I walked out feeling extremely full.
Today I took a two hours train ride out of Sydney and up into the Blue Mountains.  From everything I have read online, it didn't seem a trip to Sydney would be complete without coming up here.  I braved the CityLine and drug my suitcase and backpack to the train station, had to change trains at Central, and then rode a good 2 hours through the suburbs of Sydney and up into the mountains.  I am staying in the city of Leura at a quaint little hotel by myself tonight and am proud to say I have managed to navigate my way around pretty well.
I got up here around 1 and rather than taking a taxi from the train station, I decided I would walk.  It ended up being almost 2km (1.2 miles) dragging my suitcase through residential streets to find my hotel. Once I checked in, I packed my backpack and called a taxi to take me to Echo Point which is the central point in Katoomba (the next village up) to go bushwalking.   Bushwalking is the Ozzie term for hiking.  I enlisted the help of a guy in the information booth and told him I wanted a challenging hike that would also be beautiful.  He sent me on the perfect route.  You start by walking out to Three Sisters, which many people know of as a famous rock formation in the Blue Mountains, and then down the Giant Stairway.  I find it pretty funny they couldn't come up with a more creative name, but it really is a GIANT Stairway.  There are 1,000 steps down from the top of the cliff into the canyon and they are very steep, uneven, and narrow.  Many are formed right into the rock and if there were not two railings on either side, one misstep would lead to certain death.  I was very happy the guide has suggested I go down these steps first rather than sending me the opposite direction so I would have ended up coming up them.  The others bushwalkers seemed miserable that were on the way up.   Once I was down at the bottom the stairwell, I made a left toward Dardanelles and walked through this forest and had to fight off wild snakes, dodge poisonous spiders and machete my way through the greenery.... JUST KIDDING.  The forest was very lush though and there were several huge trees that had fallen across the path so that you had to nearly crawl underneath them.  Because there is such heavy rainfall in this region, I trekked through a lot of mud and at one point my shoe sunk down several inches and I was worried I wouldn't be able to get it out. I walked the first 30 minutes without seeing another person which kind of concerned me but finally I passed a couple and then later another guy.  After Dardanelles, you walk through Federal Pass.  This is a gorgeous area full of waterfalls, creeks, and beautiful scenery.  I took so many pictures initially and by the end you're just thinking..."oh, there's another one"'.  I was very happy to have made the trip, ended up hiking for almost 3 hours and worked up a huge sweat in doing so.  I will have lots of great pictures from today.  Going to try to catch a bus and head into town to grab dinner and then get a good night's sleep tonight as I have a full 8 hour day tomorrow of canyoning and abseiling (rappelling) before getting on a train to head back to Sydney and have dinner with a comScore colleague.
Also, our offer was rejected on the apartment and even though we gave the almost asking price, the brother and sister who own it decided they wanted to ask for an additional $700 which is what the previous tenant was paying. Drew and I might put in an offer on one of the older places we saw that was substantially cheaper but had beautiful views, lots of living space, and was well located. Trying to keep up the attitude if it is meant to be it will happen.  Two years is a very long time to sign a lease for and we don't want to get stuck in a place we will end up hating.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Trip out to Manly

The past two days have been wonderful. It has been so refreshing to walk around without humidity torturing us.  The weather has been wonderful and around 77 degrees the past two days.  We slept in very late on Saturday not quite used to the time difference here.  We walked down to the Opera House and had a late lunch at Opera Bar which sits right next to the water in the harbor.  I had a salad that had roast pumpkin, asparagus, and feta. It was delicious.  Drew ate a pizza that was topped with Wagkyu Beef.  We then took the short walk to the Opera House and took pictures admiring the amazing architecture.  We were hoping to maybe catch a play while we are in town but the only thing that seems to be showing is "MacBeth" so we might see it, but were hoping for something a little bit more light-hearted. One of the fun things about being there on a Saturday afternoon was that there were weddings everywhere.  There were three different couples we saw taking pictures in their wedding dresses and tuxes and then saw several other groups wandering about the city as well.
After viewing the opera house, we walked back to the hotel to relax for a little bit and then freshened up to head out for Happy Hour.  We were hoping to find a place that had a rooftop bar or sweeping views of the city and the concierge directed us toward the Goodwin Hotel.  We arrived to find out that is has been closed for renovations.  We meandered through a part of the city called The Rocks which is full of restaurants, shops, and cobble-stone streets.  Heading down Argyle Street, we passed a venue called "The Argyle" which was a huge indoor/outdoor club lined with rainbow banners, tables topped with feathers, and boas. It looked like a fun spot for later in the evening but it wasn't quite the place for happy hour.  We continued down toward the water and in front of the cruise terminal, we found a perfect spot to enjoy twilight. Drew has discovered his new favorite drink, a lychee martini and downed a couple of those while we tremendously enjoyed people watching (I cannot figure out Australian fashion- it's interesting to say the least) as the sun went down.
After happy hour, we headed back up Argyle street to a sushi restaurant called Sake which came highly recommended to us by Drew's coworkers. The food was fantastic and the sake sommelier ended up guiding us through the entire menu and brought us several different cocktails and varieties of sake to bring out the flavors of the meal.  It was divine.  Several of the courses we had included King Fish, which is not something I would normally associate with high end sushi, but it was GOOD! We left feeling very happy.
Just down the street from Sake was a German pub called Lowenbrau.  They actually brew their own beer here, have a beer garden, and a dance club upstairs.  We made our way up the steps and proceeded to dance for the next three hours to music ranging from oldies, disco, 80's rock classics, to modern day pop.  It was SO much fun.  In a brave moment, I jumped up on Drew so he lifted me up I and rocked out to "All the Single Ladies" which received a round of applause when the song was over.  When we didn't think our booties could shake anymore and Drew had sweat all the way through his shirt, we made it back to our hotel around midnight and had a good night's sleep.
Yesterday Drew got me up way earlier than I would have liked and we headed down to the wharf to catch the ferry to Manly Beach.  Manly got it's name from when the beach was discovered, the local tribes were known to look very "manly".  The ride on the ferry was gorgeous and gave us beautiful views of the Opera House and Harbor Bridge.  So far, the weather has been perfect but there is a 70% chance of rain today (Monday). Once we got to Manly, we were amazed by the tall trees that stand over the ocean, the beautiful blue color of the water, and coziness of Manly.
We walked through the Corso (their version of third street promenade) which takes you out to the beach on the other side. The beach is very large but because of the strong currents, most of the water is only open to surfers and the swimming area is a very small section in between two flags.  We set up camp on the beach and enjoyed the water very much.   It was cool and refreshing, but not too cold to enjoy.  After a couple hours of relaxing, the clouds started to come in a little bit and the air got a bit chilly so we decided to rent some bicylces and go for a ride around Manly.  We rode up the bath to Shelly Beach and were constantly dodging pedestrians and am fortunate to say I didn't hit anyone (hard). Shelly Beach is in a secluded cove and is a beautiful area where it is best for snorkling.  We stopped and took a couple of pictures but since the sky had turned grey I don't think they will do the beach justice.  We rode past Shelly and ended up in a residential neighborhood where the houses looked spectaucular.  Glass windows everywhere which I'm sure provide amazing views of the beaches. We then went the other direction past Manly and ended up in a park where we hopped off the bikes to ride the swings for a few minutes before heading back.
After returning our bikes, we went up to Murray's Ale House for happy hour and another great view of the sunset on an outdoor patio. We tried the beer sampler and an appetizer and then walked up to Manly Wines. I loved this place and could have stayed for hours. The wine was very reasonable priced, the decor was french country meets art decco and the view was beautiful.  We had a pitcher of rose sangria and a pitcher of white sangria which were both delicious and unique (and only $15 each!).
We headed back  toward the wharf to check ferry times and then decided to try Hugo's for dinner at another recommendation.  I ordered Wagyu Beef and Drew had a pizza that came with lamb and figs.  Hugo's is known for their unique pizza selection and so it was something we had to try.  The meal was incredible and was the perfect way to finish off our weekend.
That said, I am going to head to the gym and try to burn off some of the gluttony from this weekend.