Tag Archives: IBM

Art, food, and wildlife

We are already in our third week in Melbourne, and I think it is fair to say we have definitely used any time off we have had to explore the city. This is such a walkable city; our feet have taken us all over the CBD (Central Business District) to try new things and explore. I feel like I have been making personal connections with the city itself, reflected in three main areas that have made my short visit special: art, food, and wildlife.


Before I came, I didn’t quite understand what street art really meant. After seeing various parts of the city throughout our “walk-abouts”, I am beginning to get an inkling. The street art in Melbourne is not only for others to view; it also expresses the very core of the individual who has left it there. It is an ongoing story of the city and its residents, one which I have really grown to appreciate!


Art along South Bank


Images are everywhere!


Someone told us today that if we were to eat at one Melbourne restaurant each day, starting when we were very young, we still wouldn’t get through them all by the time we leave this planet – and I believe it! We are definitely spoilt for choice here, with cuisine available from any country. We can eat at a cute sidewalk table in one of Melbourne’s many lanes, at a nice restaurant, or on the go (“take-away”) – seemingly any time of day. This city seems even more vibrant than many other cities I have traveled to around the world. Foodies, you have to put Melbourne on your bucket list! I wonder how many more places I can get to in our last week here, between work and sleep?


Queen Victoria Market – a treasure trove!


Enjoying a gelato after a long day…










We had the pleasure of venturing outside the CBD and visiting beautiful Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary today! Among the wildlife we saw were wallabies, wombats, Tasmanian devils, emus, and koalas. Some of us had the privilege of feeding the kangaroos as well! I got to know Kiki the kangaroo; she greatly enjoyed the goodies I was given to feed her. A very memorable experience indeed. I am so grateful to be able to see such wonderful creatures in one spot; the Sanctuary is doing great work! Thank you!

Kangaroo feeding Melbourne

Feeding time at the Healesville Sanctuary


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IBM Smarter Cities Challenge Allahabad Team Effort Underway

2015 Smarter Cities Challenge 059

When asked why I chose to participate on the IBM Team addressing the challenges Allahabad faces as it embarks on a journey to evolve into a Smarter City, I expressed the honor I felt in being able to contribute to the city that my grandfather and father called home. I, too had spent 3 years of my childhood in Allahabad and felt a strong bond with the city. I wanted Allahabad to become smarter, yet retain its unique cultural heritage and identity as a place of pilgrimage for Hindus around the globe. These sentiments immediately resonated with the City’s Mayor who responded saying “Exactly! We want Allahabad to evolve its infrastructure and become a pleasant and inviting town with revitalized industrial growth but not lose its cultural identity as a home to the “Kumbh Mela.” Allahabad should remain as Allahabad, but just get smarter!”

City Authorities stressed the importance of solid waste management as a foundational issue in Allahabad’s Smarter City Planning Process and thanked IBM for investing in an overall assessment of the city’s challenges in this area.

Following the official kickoff, the team visited the banks of the Yamuna and Ganga rivers that are home for people coming to Allahabad during the annual Magh Mela and the famous Kumbh Mela (held every 12 years).

The IBM SCC team for Allahabad on the banks of the river Yamuna.

The IBM SCC team for Allahabad on the banks of the river Yamuna.

On Day 2, the team visited Sewage Treatment plants and learned about the current and planned initiative addressing waste water treatment.

The Sewage Treatment Plant at Naini

The Sewage Treatment Plant at Naini

IBM's Smarter City team at the Naini Sewage Treatment Plant

IBM’s Smarter City team at the Naini Sewage Treatment Plant

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A Coastal Adventure!

It’s the weekend!!! I can’t tell you how excited I am that it’s Saturday. We all decided to play hooky today and get a much needed break from work and have a little fun. And boy did we have fun!!!

As Sunny’s birthday was Thursday, and we were so swamped with work, we didn’t get to celebrate much so we celebrated again today. We hit some of Sunny’s favorite spots and it was just fine by me.

We started the day bright and early with an 8 AM departure from Phoenix Park. We began our journey towards the east with the ultimate destination being Gangneung (the eastern coast of Korea).

We stopped for an amazing Korean brunch along the way. Fish…kimchi…the traditional fixin’s and “hangover soup.” No hangover to cure but it was still yummy!





The rare collection of random fermenting alcohol greeted us on our way out. I’m not really sure if you drink it…and I wasn’t quite up for finding out.


The restaurant was located on a quaint little street corner across from one of the many beautiful rivers that flow through Pyeongchang. It truly amazes me how much water and how many mountains there are here. You really do feel like you’re in a fairy land.

The bridges are also spectacular. Everywhere you look there’s one…hovering over a meandering stream. It’s majestic!


And there’s always the local store selling some sort of dried fish. We actually had this in the “hangover soup.” It was quite good.


Our next stop took us to the Daegwallyeong Samyang Ranch. Located on the hills of Daegwallyeong 850 to 1,470 meters above sea level, Samyang Ranch is the largest highlands farm in Asia.



There are so many attractions at this place, it was hard to keep track. Such an amazing experience as there was something new to enjoy every time you turned around.




We got to get up close and personal with some very LARGE windmills. And boy were they spectacular. I’ve only ever seen them from far away and to be up close to them made me feel so small.





The sound as the wind “whooshes” by you as the huge blades pushes through the air was amazing! I really can’t describe the sound or how it felt to be near them.



Cotswold was actually a little scared but braved the “blow you over” breeze and the “bitter” cold for a quick photo shoot. I totally get why these things are located on the top of tall mountains!!


There are lots of different animals at the Ranch, including a special area for the sheep, known as the Daegwallyeong Sheep Farm. This is the only sheep farm in Korea, so we were pretty lucky to have visited.

Apparently 200 sheep graze leisurely on vibrant green pastures spanning over 204,960 square meters…but they weren’t out today. Just the little buggers who greeted us with warm “bleets” and a smile.


We also ran into some ostriches who greeted us in anticipation of being fed. Alas, we had nothing so they lost interest pretty quickly.



I have to say, the cow was the biggest hit of them all! Ji-Hyun was lucky enough to ride shotgun. Now two members of our team have ridden cows during our journey.


Throughout our visit to the farm we strolled the trails enjoying the scenery and each other’s company. We’re all really starting to get close…it still amazes me how close we’ve become in just 2 short weeks.



We ended our glorious adventure at the Ranch with one last photo. Moo!


Our next stop took us to all the way east to Gangneung. This is the site of the Coastal Cluster for the 2018 Winter Olympics. You can certainly tell the Olympics are coming! There are signs and Olympic rings everywhere.



Oh and there are cherry blossoms too!!! YIPPEE!! We were so excited! The past few days we’ve seen several blossoms starting to come out but we hadn’t seen any this full yet. And this was pushing the end of the blooming season.





It was truly beautiful!



Our visit to Gangneung also provided a visit to the beach. I honestly have never thought about a beach in Korea, but considering a darn good amount of the country is surrounded by water it makes sense. I’m hardly good at geography in my own country let alone 7,000 miles away. 🙂







The beach was stunning! I see why people come here in the summertime. The sand is pristine and the beaches are surrounded by the most beautiful evergreen trees. No palm trees here.


Of course there are evergreen trees, and then the random “large metal tree” of the steel variety.


The group took a group shot to prove we were there. Notice Justin is missing. He decided to abandon us for his bike ride and a trip around Pyeongchang town. We did send him on his way with his letter in tow. Fortunately he had no issues and joined us back at the hotel later in the afternoon.



We stopped for lunch at a local restaurant. Again, the food was fantastic! There’s just so much to try…I don’t think I’ll ever get to experience it all.




Buckwheat noodles in a kimchi broth. Yummy! Honestly I have never been a big fan of kimchi, but I’ve never had kimchi like I have had in Korea. I think I’m hooked. I’m just not quite sure I’ll be able to get anything like it at home.


Following lunch we made our last stop of the day. Sunny’s favorite…Terarosa Coffee.



This place was spectacular! The building itself was nestled in the woods…right across the road from the beach. It was made up of mostly windows so everywhere you looked you could see nature outside.



Besides the view the coffee and snacks were great! Pain au chocolat and a cappuccino. Yummy!




Oh and a little coffee purchase as well. Rookie mistake on my part. Each bag (which was less than a pound of beans) was KRW 22,000. OYE!! That’s about $22 per bag. Alas. I’m going to enjoy it when I get home. Vince – get ready for some yummy coffee!


We sat on the 2nd floor balcony and enjoyed our coffee, snacks and good conversation. The laughter was in abundance…as it seems to be much of the time these days.


We all really do get on very well and I swear I’ve laughed more these past 2 weeks than I have in a long time. Don’t get me wrong…I laugh a lot in my regular life, but we’ve laughed A LOT!!! Antonio enjoyed a little smell of the purchased roast.


Alas, after our coffee we headed back to our hotel. Time to get to work and get ready for our dress rehearsal with the County. We need to prepare our final presentation for review with them on Monday with our final presentation on Thursday. We also have to write our findings and recommendation report all by Wednesday evening. No pressure! Ha! It was definitely worth it to get out a bit today as we have a ton of work to do. But we all needed the break! And it was well worth it.

Time to sign off for now…lots of work to do before the week starts. Goodnight!

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And Now It’s Time for Our Kickoff…

Happy Easter! Happy Passover! Happy Sunday!

I’m sure I missed some greeting, but you get the idea. The good news is I am literally sharing this day with my new friends from all over the world. Today we are representing 4 continents and 5 countries. It’s a sign that our Smarter Cities Challenge team is a worldly combination of skills, background and experiences. And after all this time in planning we have finally come together for day 1 of our 3 week journey.


And what a day it has been!! Of course it started with me not getting nearly as much sleep as I was hoping. I think I finally crashed around 2:30 this morning and spent most of the night tossing and turning…attempting to adjust to the 15 hour time change. As you can imagine that did not go well. I rolled out of bed around 8 AM…negating all hope of getting to the gym for a workout. Alas, it awarded me a daytime view of the Grand Hyatt Incheon. What a lovely hotel!

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I hit the breakfast bar to be greeted with the yummiest of bread fruit and pain au chocolat. I know…not quite the Korean breakfast one would imagine, but there will be plenty more days for that.

At 9:50 AM I headed out the front door to catch my ride to Pyeongchang. I nearly fell over when I saw the car IBM had set up for me….


HAHA! If only I could be so lucky! My real ride is a big black van that seats 8…so much for the lap of luxury.

I met part of our team (Justin, Souvik and Antonio)…and we swiftly departed for our 3 hour drive to Pyeongchang. Stephanie and Sunny were traveling in another vehicle coming from Seoul proper, accompanied by our fearless Corporate Citizenship leaders, Ji-Hyun Shin (South Korea) and Louise Davis (Australia). Fortunately we took a break along the way to get the entire team together and to stop for a yummy cappuccino.  We were all in need of strong coffee by this point.



An hour or so after our brief rest, we stopped for the most amazing lunch…and a very warm welcome to South Korean food and culture. At first I wasn’t quite sure if we were going to be sucked up by the strange hoses coming from the ceiling, but I soon figured out it was to vent the smoke coming from the Korean BBQ.


Upon inspecting all parts of the cow…


…and wondering what we would end up with…we were presented with an amazing display of appetizers, ranging from spicy kimchi to sweet spinach and sautéed bean sprouts.


The main portion of our meal introduced us to bulgogi. My-oh-my, this is favorite food #1!! Bulgogi is defined as thinly sliced or shredded beef, marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, sugar, scallions, and black pepper, cooked on a grill…at our table…by Ji-Hyun. SO YUMMY!!!

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Lunch also provided the opportunity for our “VERY FIRST” group photo! We already feel like royalty with all the paparazzi…let the team-building begin.


5 minutes post lunch we arrived at our home for the next 3 weeks! Cotswold was ecstatic to finally be out of the van and on his way to the room for nap #3. He was very excited to be staying in the Blue Condo as “blue” is his favorite color…just like his brother Alex (of the species homo-sapien).  🙂

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Upon our arrival to the room Cotswold was sad to report that there was not quite enough snow for a quick run down the mountain. We were both disappointed, but it’s just as well as we didn’t bring any of our ski gear.


After a bit of unpacking I left Cotswold to relax and headed to room 702…our team headquarters for the next 3 weeks. It was time to get down to business. After lots of water (South Korea is already prepping for the Olympics)….


…we were all briefed and ready to begin our adventure. Team photo #2 with our new Smarter Cities Challenge jackets (thanks to our fearless leader Anne McNeil).


Following the photo shoot we were off to enjoy another yummy meal. Beef filet with potatoes dauphine (AKA french fries). 🙂  And what a view…


We called it a night around 8 PM and I have since returned to my room ready to hit the sack. Surprisingly I am not tired…considering I’ve been up all day with not much of a yawn in sight…

With that being said…I just yawned so I will bid you adieu for one more day. And with that a wish of “Joy” to you as I now know what my name looks like printed out in Korean.


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I Have Arrived!!

I made it to Seoul!!!

After sitting in the Delta Sky Club in the Detroit airport for 4 hours, catching up on work emails and trying to disengage for 3 weeks, I finally headed to the gate to claim my Economy Comfort seat for the 13 hour flight. Cotswold was ecstatic to be getting on such a big plane. It took a lot of explaining to get him to understand we weren’t sitting upstairs.


No sooner had I put my bag in the overhead, I was approached by a nice gentleman who handed me a ticket with my new seat assignment…10A. It was my lucky day!! I thanked the nice gentleman, who claimed to be Santa Claus, and went on my merry way…all the way up to business class. He claimed they needed to rebalance the weight on the plane…Cotswold was happy to oblige.


Remember that head cold I said I was fighting….well it had gotten worse over the course of the day and was taking it’s hold on me and my sinuses. Nothing a good champagne couldn’t fix. Cotswold even got a sip. Only a bit…as I didn’t want an unruly monkey on my hands for the long flight.


We settled in nicely, jumping into a good book. Only to be interrupted by dinner…shrimp with avocado to start, followed by a mixed green salad and creamy corn and poblano soup, a seared chicken breast in a tarragon lemon sauce, accompanied by brussel sprouts and brown rice paella. And last but not least a tasting of sweet treats and a glass of port. Cotswold enjoyed the meal immensely. I almost didn’t get a bite but he quickly got full and was kind enough to share.


I made it through one movie…”The Mockingjay Part 1”…and had started to watch “Into the Woods” when my Tylenol PM kicked in. With 9 hours to go in the flight I settled into my lay-flat bed with my feather duvet and enjoyed a nice long nap. Of course it was only 6 PM Denver time when I crashed, but after that 2 hour nap the night before I was in need of a good rest. I know you all feel really bad for me right now with my business class seat and lay-flat bed. Believe me it was not what I was expecting and I was pleasantly surprised and incredibly grateful to have been upgraded. I honestly felt a huge weight being lifted off my shoulders as soon as I found out, as I had been dreading the long flight. I know all my friends who are worldwide travelers know that feeling very well.

I woke somewhere over Russia due to some “not so light” turbulence, and finally rose about 30 minutes before landing to pack up my things and prepare for my arrival in South Korea. Amazingly I felt better than I think I have ever felt coming off of any international flight. The gods were smiling down on me today.

After disembarkation I collected my bags (again …”Why did I pack so much stuff?”) to be greeted by a nice lady from the Grand Hyatt Incheon who promptly called for the car and took my bags from me. I was then told to put on my jacket as it was cold outside. Yes ma’am! My Hyundai Equus greeted me, followed by a short 5 minute drive to the hotel. At first I thought I was getting picked up in a Rolls…the Equus had bloody wings on the bonnet (front hood for you lads and lassies back home).  Alas upon further inspection it was “only” a Hyundai. However, I must say, I’ve never been impressed with Hyundais, but that car was a sweet ride!

Upon my arrival at the hotel, I was greeted by Jason, my concierge. He welcomed me as “Ms. Belfoure”, which had a nice ring to it. My hubby of 10 years would be proud that I was called by his name for a change…as I’m always traveling under my maiden name for business trips. Jason instructed me through all the logistics and sent me to my room. And what a nice, modern room it is. If anyone ever comes to Seoul and needs to stay near the airport, you must stay at the Grand Hyatt Incheon. It’s beautiful and the people are incredibly nice.

Cotswold of course had to inspect the place. He found himself right at home and took full advantage of the amenities. He especially enjoys the heated toilet seat and prefers it set to 40 degrees C. 🙂


Cotswold decided to take a nap (as if the long nap on the plane wasn’t enough…lazy monkey), while I strolled down to the gym. I felt the need to kill my cold with sweat, and worked out for over an hour. As I was on the treadmill, staring outside into the dark that was 9 PM in Seoul, I was wondering where all my energy was coming from. Then I realized it was 5 AM at home…and that settled that. After a brief walk outside in the cold and rain (yes, I know I’m crazy, I just needed to get outside for a few minutes as I had literally been inside a building or metal tube for over 24 hours), I returned to my room and ordered room service. One last Western meal before 3+ weeks of yummy Korean food. I won’t lie…I’m a big foodie so I’m very much looking forward to all my meals over the next few weeks. So much for the diet! Ha!

Alas, it’s time to attempt to sleep. I get to meet my team tomorrow…Antonio, Stephanie, Sunny, Souvik and Justin. I’m so excited!! We will finally be making our 2 hour trek to Pyeongchang and our fearless leaders will take us through our orientation. Have a great Sunday and Happy Easter to everyone back home and around the world!

Tylenol PM is on the menu so I bid you adieu until tomorrow. Sweet dreams!

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Let the Adventure Begin….

It’s official….I’m on my way to Pyeongchang, South Korea!!!

As many of you may know, I have been hand selected to participate in the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge. The Smarter Cities Challenge contributes the skills and expertise of IBM’s top talent to address critical challenges facing cities around the world. We do this by putting teams on the ground for three weeks to work closely with city leaders and deliver recommendations on how to make the city smarter and more effective. Over the past 4 years, 116 cities have been selected to receive grants. The Smarter Cities Challenge is IBM’s largest philanthropic initiative, with contributions valued at over $50 million to date.

Pyeongchang is the site of the 2018 Winter Olympics. Pyeongchang wants to ensure that the investments made for the Olympics can be sustained to drive their economy after the Olympic games are over by attracting a global market of tourists to the region. Mayor JaeKook Sim has asked IBM to help the city by developing a tourism strategy for realizing their vision of becoming the “City for Relaxation, Tourism, Leisure, and Sports”.

Today is the day I knew was coming when I got the call on March 4. Getting to this point has been a whirlwind. From making the decision within 5 hours on whether or not I could take 3 weeks away from my job and my family, to spending the last 3 weeks on the road (Vancouver, Costa Mesa, San Antonio, Toronto and Chicago), to only having 30 hours home in between trips to pack and get ready to leave the country for 3+ weeks….I’m finally on my way!! And I’m beat already!!

But after all of the craziness of the past month, I’m SO excited to finally be sitting in the Detroit airport for 4+ hours awaiting my flight to Seoul. 🙂 Seriously though, this is an opportunity of a lifetime and I’m so lucky that IBM has given me and the rest of my fellow IBMers this chance. We’re going to make a real difference!! We’re going to be doing it because we want to, because we have the opportunity to make an impact and because we’re passionate about doing something greater than the day-to-day. I can’t wait to begin this journey with my IBM partners for the next 3+ weeks, Antonio Galbe Bartolome (Madrid, Spain), Stephanie Carmel (NJ, USA), Sunny Chung (Seoul, South Korea), Souvik Das (Kolkata, India) and Justin Webb (Burnaby, Canada). I’m sure we will learn together, cry together, laugh together, play together, drink together, jump out of our comfort zones together and work VERY hard together, but we will have a lot of fun and we will make a lifetime of memories.

I have to admit, I was incredibly apprehensive the past few days. When I was sitting in the airport in Chicago Wednesday night, and my flight was delayed with the potential to miss my connection on the last flight back to Denver, I started to freak out a bit. I hadn’t packed a thing. I had to pick up my dry cleaning. I wanted to spend time with my husband and my kids and it all had the potential to come crashing down. But I got home late Wednesday night and I got it all done. I only got 2 hours of sleep last night but I made it. I packed too much, I slept too little, but the apprehension is gone and now I’m just downright ecstatic to be on this adventure!!

The kids and Vince will be a little worse for the wear, but they’ve got a fun-filled 3 weeks ahead of them. Livy is heading to Wyoming for a sleepover, Alex is going skiing, they’ve got birthday parties to attend, family to spend time with, snow to play in (yes it snowed 3” last night), Daddy to torment and more. I may never be allowed to leave the house again (if Vince has his way) but the support is there nonetheless. Thanks babe!!


I’ve commandeered Cotswold (Alex’s stuffed monkey we bought in Cotswold, England when Alex was but a wee chap). Cotswold has seen the world with us as a family (England, Curacao, New York City, and many other US destinations), with Daddy (South Africa, Germany and the UK) and now with Mommy (South Korea).   Alex loves following Cotswold’s adventures and it was the best I could do to keep him from wanting to pack himself in my bags and come with me. So far Cotswold has enjoyed his trip from Denver to Detroit. Keep an eye on the blog and follow his adventures.


Cotswold has been keeping me company in the lounge. My flight to Seoul boards in a little under 2 hours and I’m ready to get it over with. 13.5 hours in a metal tube in the sky is not my idea of fun, but I’m hoping to catch up on my sleep (remember the 2 hours I got last night?), a few movies and some relaxation. I’m actually one of the fortunate ones who can sleep on an airplane. Wish me luck! I’m also fighting a head cold so here’s hoping the Tylenol PM will do the trick. 🙂

I will do my very best over the next 3 weeks to keep blogging. I’ve never been one for this sort of thing, but knowing I’ve got a fan base out there should keep me going. 🙂 I can’t promise I’ll post something every day, nor that my posts will be as lengthy as this one, but I will push through.

Check in on me from time to time. I look forward to sharing this amazing experience with all of you.

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SCC Team Perth is Off on Our Australian Adventure

Smarter Cities Perth

Five traveler’s from around the world have settled in and successfully completed our first week in Perth on our Smarter Cities Challenge assignment. We met with the Lord Mayor, Lisa Scaffidi, on Day 1 and it has been a whirlwind of activity ever since. I (Deb Bolk) arrived from Colorado USA on Saturday and my teammates, Li Jun Sun from Beijing China, Ian Watson-Jones from San Francisco, USA, Luciano Dallolio from Sao Paulo Brazil, and Jeff Wells from Melbourne, Australia followed close behind on Sunday.



Our IBM in country host, Liz Hampton from New Zealand was here to meet us with open arms and she and Camile Smetana have looked after our every need to help get us settled in and started on our work. The team at the City of Perth headed by Martin Mileham and Liz Handley have been outstanding and so helpful. They even brought in a new espresso coffee machine for us and Dillon has taken care of every detail to provide us with our every want and desire when it comes to lunches and snacks. We are being thoroughly spoiled!

We attended a lovely Kickoff Reception and tea hosted by the Lord Mayor on Tuesday and were introduced to the stakeholders and the press.

Launch Photo with Lord Mayor - Perth SCC

The team has been heads-down in interviews at The City of Perth’s Council House since then and has already gathered some great information on the city and some of the issues we need to address in our recommendations. We also took a tour of some major development sites at Elizabeth Quay, Riverside, and the Perth Link. In the evenings, we have experienced some really excellent restaurants. Jeff has taken us on the “scenic route” several times so we’ve gotten a few great mini-tours of the city. Several of us have made the climb up Jacob’s Ladder, which is right behind our apartments. The 242 steps take you up to Kings Park which is just beautiful and the sunrise over the City of Perth is just breathtaking.

Sunrise Perth Australia


To celebrate our first successful week, we loaded up in our big white van, which we have affectionately named the Waga Waga Wagon, and headed out for the train station right after work. We attended an Australian League Football (AFL) game and although we all got completely drenched through by a huge winter rainstorm, we still had a fantastic time. It was the first AFL game for many of us, so we kept Jeff very busy explaining all the rules when he wasn’t searching for rain ponchos for all of us. The Aussie’s are very serious about their football and it was fascinating to experience the fast-paced game, even if the home town West Coast Eagles were soundly defeated by their rivals the Richmond Tigers from Melbourne. It was a blast!

At the AFL Game

Tomorrow holds a chance for us to do some more exploring! It will be great to take a short break from the interviews and see some of the sights around the area! The Lord Mayor promised me at the receptions that I would get to see a kangaroo during my visit, so I’m really counting on getting a chance to pet one and maybe cuddle a koala!!


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