Heads of State White and Phat Chilly in the post-game circle.

AUC 2014

Since moving to Melbourne, I’ve joined up with the Heads of State ultimate club. It’s a wild crowd of young guys who work hard at ultimate and often play harder afterwards. I made it onto the club’s second team, Heads of State White, as both a player and co-vice captain. We just finished our 2014 season off by competing at the Australian Ultimate Championships near Penrith. It was a four-day tournament over the ANZAC holiday weekend and by the end of it, I was very pleased that past me decided to book the Monday off work to recover.

Both Heads of State teams competing at AUC (the first team, Heads of State Burgundy; and the second team, Heads of State White) arrived in Sydney on Wednesday, April 23rd. Then, our group of about 40 rowdy guys piled into a fleet of hire cars and set off in convoy towards our accommodation. What came next was about an hour of loud road-trip music, banter, and highway shenanigans, before we finally arrived at our accommodation in what seemed like the middle of fucking nowhere. We had nearly booked out the entire place, which consisted of 18 rooms on top of a large country pub. There was even a KFC about 40 metres from the entrance. You could say it was perfect.

The first day was rough for us, as our initial pool contained 2 of the best teams in the country. We went down 15-9 to Phat Chilly, 15-8 to French, and 15-5 to Colony Pillage. Despite not winning a game on day 1, there were plenty of positives. We put up a great fight against every team, had our best result against Phat Chilly all season, and managed to get 5 points on Colony Pillage, who would go on to win the tournament.

The second day brought games that were closer to our ability. We were a rather new team to the national level, with a lot of our players having their first taste of AUC. It was good to get some experience against slightly lower-seeded teams and the games felt a lot better on the field. We had a close match against Hot Chilly, but ended up losing 15-12 in the end. We then played Magon, who had made the trip over from Auckland. Despite the final score being 14-3 in their favour, it felt a lot closer on the field. It was a very tight, intense game, but they were just able to convert more of their opportunities into points than we were.

On the third day, we had our first chance for glory. After going down 15-6 against Sublime first up, we had a game against Magnum to close out the day. This match was about as tight as they come, and came down to a 11-11 scoreline in a game to 12. Unfortunately, we were unable to convert our opportunities into that precious final goal, and we ended up losing the match 11-12. We had plenty of bright moments during that game, but it was hard to shake the feeling that we came so close to winning our first match, only to have it slip from our fingers.

The fourth and final day brought our last game. We were to play off against DUFF for 15th/16th place. It was a pretty good repeat of the previous day’s game against Magnum. After another hard-fought match, we ended up at 11-11 in a game to 12. We came out on defense in that last point and were unfortunately unable to force the other team to turn it over. They scored the final goal, leaving us with a winless record.

The weekend may have ended on a disappointing note, but I’ve had time to deal with that. Looking back on the tournament, HoS White had an outstanding weekend. We were mostly made up of players who had never attended division 1 nationals before, as well as some who had never played an open season before. We managed to take a group of players from a wide range of fitness and ability at the start of the season and turn them into a team that not only competed at AUC, but put up great fights against some of the best teams in the country (as well as one from outside the country).

Yeah, sure, part of me wishes we’d won either of those last 2 games. Part of me wishes we didn’t come in last place. But I don’t care. I play this game for the losses, because now I have a bunch of stuff to improve on to make myself an even better player. I play this game for weekends away with the boys, playing frisbee during the day, hanging out during the night, and bantering and heckling our way through all of it. I play this game for hanging out with old friends at tournaments, or the friends I only ever see at tournaments. I play this game for the competition, as well as the constant drive toward self-improvement.

I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

  

I’m In Skyd – A Backstory

You would have seen my recent post about getting my first feature published on skydmagazine.com. I thought it’d be worthwhile to share with you how that came about and what to expect in the future.

I have been aware of Skyd for a while now. I wouldnt’ say I was an avid reader, but I checked out a few articles here and there. Mostly, this was because I felt a lot of their content was aimed at the North American region. The pieces I was coming to Skyd for were humour pieces or more general strategy and training tips.

A few weeks ago, I found out that the Editor in Chief of Skyd Magazine, Elliot Trotter, is coming to play a brief stint with my current ultimate club as part of his Ultimate Globetrotter journey. Basically, he’s travelling the world and playing various tournaments with clubs, learning a bit about ultimate in different cultures along the way. Hearing this news prompted me to have another look at Skyd. This was when I spotted an ad they’d posted looking for internationals contributors.

A few emails and about a week later, I was off to put together my first draft. I did an interview and everything. After a couple of rounds of revisions from the Skyd editorial team, I had my very first published piece of writing. If you haven’t done so already, you should check it out.

It was a great feeling to get a piece of my writing published. I have been writing, with varying levels of regularity, on my own website for a few years now. I don’t have an editor, besides myself. I’ve been questioning my writing ability for almost as long as I’ve been writing, so to have a team of editors tell me they like my writing and are willing to publish it is the best reward.

Look out for more from me over on Skyd. I’m writing on a freelance volunteer basis, but I’m working on producing regular features. In fact, I’m working on my next piece right now.

  

I’m In Skyd

It’s been a while, I know. Don’t worry though. I’ve got some new stuff coming soon.

Really.

In the meantime, a feature I wrote on growing ultimate in Australia and New Zealand got published today over at Skyd Magazine. It’s my first piece for them so far. I will be writing for them on a freelance basis, focusing on things relevant to ultimate in Australia, and occasionally New Zealand as well. If you play ultimate in these regions and have a story you’d love to have covered, get in touch. I can be reached at michael(at)mwjeffcott(dot)com.

  

Two Thousand and Fourteen

How about that 2013, huh?

The last year has been, for me at least, pretty incredible. Here’s my greatest hits for 2013, just so we’re on the same page:

  • Toni and I left our mutual home of New Zealand, bound for Australia
  • On the way to Australia (but not really) we spent 2 months in Europe
  • Toni started her PhD in geomicrobiology at the University of Melbourne
  • A couple of months later, I started as a Quality Assurance Analyst (software tester) at Xero
  • We’ve both jumped head-first into competitive Ultimate clubs here in Melbourne

Fortunately, we could both take some time off over Christmas and New Year’s to head back to New Zealand and the break, while very busy, was very welcome. Toni had the graduation ceremony for her Master’s degree on December 18, which was followed by a week of running around seeing friends and family, including a slightly early Christmas in Nelson with my family.

Christmas itself was with Toni’s family this year and it all went really well. We spent it exchanging gifts, playing games, and generally laying about relaxing. The weather during our trip wasn’t exactly kind, but it definitely made us feel better about not doing a lot. Isn’t that what holidays are for anyway?

We returned to Melbourne on December 27, along with a friend of ours. She was staying with us for a week before heading on to Vietnam for a holiday, and she’d managed to get on the same flight as us to Melbourne. We fit in some shopping, beach trips, a bush walk, as well as general sightseeing. Also, we had one of the best New Year’s Eves ever, hanging out at a rooftop bar in the middle of Melbourne, which provided an excellent vantage point for the fireworks display launched off a few of Melbourne’s tallest buildings. Complimentary champagne too. It was fantastic.

And now, to 2014.

There’s plenty coming. I’ve started a podcast with a friend of mine, covering mainly pop culture and often digressing into irrelevant-but-still-entertaining bullshit. All things going well, the website and first few episodes should be live by the end of the month. In addition, I’m planning on making this the year I actually make good on my promise to do more writing. I’ve missed it.

  

Chapter Thirty-six: Catching Up

Hey.

So, it has been some time since I last wrote anything here. I’ll explain why that is in a little bit, but the bottom line is I’ve been super busy for the last few months and finding the time to sit down and catch up on everything writing-wise was difficult. In the interest of keeping my website going, I’m going to write one post right now to catch up to the present day. I’ll be skipping a bunch of detail when it comes to the rest of the Europe trip, so if you want to know more I’m more than happy to answer questions about certain parts.

The Rest of Italy

After Venice, we spent a few days in Rome, including a day trip to the incredible ruins of Pompeii and another day spent almost entirely visiting the Colosseum. We had to deal with all sorts, including train strikes, guys with knives on buses, political rallies, and thunderstorms. Along the way we did meet some great people as part of our Airbnb experience. Rome was definitely a place we felt like we needed more time to see properly.

From Rome, we went to Florence for another few days. This was probably our favourite city in Italy. It felt a lot safer, while still having some incredible things to see and do. There was a 90 minute line to see Michelangelo’s David, which, looking back on it, was totally worth it. That dude is huge. We found a sprawling leather market, ate a whole bunch of gelato and pasta, and ran around trying to reorganise our trip so we could get back to England as quickly as possible. Perhaps it was the stress of the way we were travelling, or some of the things we had experienced throughout Italy, but we were ready to head back to England pretty soon and be with family again.

To France

We left Italy via a train along the Mediterranean coastline into the south of France. It was a long journey, but we stopped off along the way to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It was a long day of sitting on trains, but we did have the company of a Brit and an Australian for most of the way and it was surprisingly comforting to be around English speakers again.

We spent three days staying at a slightly scary backpackers in Nice. We compensated for our accommodation by taking day trips along the French coast to visit Cannes and Villefranche. During our time in France we had almost perfect, sunny weather, and we definitely intend on revisiting France in general.

Back to England

After a rather hectic month in mainland Europe, we were very glad to return to Toni’s family in England. We spent most of the two remaining weeks there relaxing and recovering from our trip. This was interspersed with many great trips out and about with various parts of Toni’s family. Some of the best parts of this final stretch in England were seeing Stonehenge, attending a Shakespeare play in Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, being taken to an Australian-themed bar by Toni’s English uncle, and visiting an old friend for a night out in a very small town.

I’d personally like to thank all those we visited during our trip, especially those who let us stay with them, those who fed us, those who listened to us worry about our trip, those who cheered us up when we did worry, and most especially of all, I’d like to thank Toni’s family for welcoming and accepting me.

And to all those who tried to convert me to drinking tea: I’m sorry, it’s just not for me.

After the trip, mate

We finally arrived in Melbourne for good in the middle of June. Toni started her PhD work about a week after we got back, so we moved pretty quickly to get the rest of our lives in order. Somehow, we managed to find an apartment near the city pretty quickly, and while I was still unemployed no less. It’s weird to think back to it now, but it took me about two months to find a job. I went to a lot of interviews, but there was one job I spent that entire two months chasing. I did eventually land that job. In case you’re wondering, I now test software for a promising New Zealand based company called Xero.

In amongst all of that, we found our way into the frisbee scene here in Melbourne, and we’re both now trying to get into high-level competitive clubs. I also attended the first ever PAX Australia, which was a three day video game convention.

I’ve had a birthday over here and my family flew over to Melbourne to celebrate it with me. We had a great week showing them around and catching up, and it was their first time to Melbourne.

A couple of weeks ago, I did something called Extra Life. It was a charity event where some 39,000 people played video games for 25 hours straight to raise money for children’s hospitals across North America. I managed to get $445, which was almost double my original goal of $250. The team I was on raised over $117,000, and the charity as a whole raised close to $4 million. I’ll write something more in depth about it soon, but I’m so proud to have been a part of this great cause.

Final thoughts

I know for a fact I’ve missed a lot of detail in this post, but that was kinda my intention. I’ve been putting off writing, mostly because of the amount of stuff I hadn’t covered yet. This way, my writing’s up to date, at least in a very general sense. You can expect some pretty neat things soon, including:

  • More writing! Yeah, I’ve been slack, but now that I’ve caught up somewhat, I’ll feel better about doing more writing.
  • Some stats for the Europe trip! Think stuff like a map of all our train journeys, time spent on train journeys, and so on.
  • A podcast! I haven’t worked out all the details yet, but me and a friend are pretty keen to start a podcast. More details will appear if/when this goes ahead.
  • Maybe videos? I’ve been playing with some ideas for video game video stuff, as opposed to video game writing stuff. We’ll see.

See you again soon.

  

Chapter Thirty-five: Venice Harder

May 21st

During the night, 2 fellow Airbnbers from Canada had arrived and taken the other room on offer with our host. We took them with us into the city, so they’d at least be familiar with the directions, then went our separate ways. Toni and I grabbed some lunch and spent way too long looking for an internet cafe. It turns out that internet cafes are way less common in Italy than anywhere else I’ve ever been.

The Vivaldi concert we’d bought tickets for didn’t start until 8pm, so we began the winding walk towards Piazza San Marco after lunch, but made sure to stop along the way for a drink. I don’t think Italians are used to seeing people drinking port at 3:30 in the afternoon.

Italy is particularly bad for people on the streets trying to sell you all manner of things, some more illegally than others. I’m not talking drugs or anything like that, but knock-off designer handbags and sunglasses. One of the funniest things with this we saw during our walk towards the piazza. There were a bunch of these “merchants” lined up down one side of a major bridge, most of whom had their wares laid out on cloths. They must have seen the police coming their way or something, because all at once they gathered everything up and were running off into the distance. It’s also weird to see a tall African man with handbags all up his arms trying to talk you into one of them.

It was growing dark and near time for the concert, so we got a quick dinner and joined the queue that was beginning to form outside the Ateneo di San Basso. It’s a tiny, old church sitting beside the main, massive basilica in Piazza San Marco. The group playing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was made up of 6 people, including one particularly talented and vibrant violinist. It was a bit surreal, sitting in a church in Venice, listening to VIvaldi’s Four Seasons being played by some excellent musicians. I’ll never forget it, at least.

Once we left the church, the square had flooded, as it does every high tide. We made our way through the path of least resistance towards the water taxi, which was our quickest option to get back to the bus depot. The wind off the water was even colder at night. We managed to get some space in the cabin of the crowded water taxi, but that wasn’t enough shelter from the conditions. We made it back, of course, and crawled into bed exhausted.

  

Chapter Thirty-four: Italia

May 20th

After a very emotional goodbye with Justyna in Salzburg, we set off on another train, bound for Villach, which is an Austrian town right by the borders of Austria, Slovenia, and Italy. The ride there was fantastic, full of views of Austrian mountains and valleys. From there, we got on a really fancy double-decker bus to take us the rest of the way into Italy. Like, seriously, think of the nicest bus you’ve ever seen, make it a double-decker, and that’s what we rode in on.

We arrived at the Venezia Mestre train station to find a protest going on in the street. We’d been warned about transport strikes and protests at that time, but we weren’t exactly expecting to see it as soon as we got into the country. And now, we reach the Airbnb portion of the tale.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we talked to a lady from Amsterdam on the train out of there and she told us about Airbnb. I had heard about it before, but never had a need for it. If you know it, skip this paragraph, otherwise here’s how it works: it’s basically a social network, where people list space they have to spare with a price, and you can book it and stay with locals wherever you’re going. It’s all then tied together with reviews against both hosts and guests, meaning it comes down to trust and respect to keep people from abusing the system. We ended up using it for all of our accommodation through Italy and France.

Anyway, we got past the protest, left the bus, and walked to where we were staying with our first ever Airbnb host. He was a nice Italian guy, who didn’t speak a whole lot of English, but he gave us some good tips on what to see during our limited time in Venice. His English did put us in an awkward situation, where he misunderstood our communications and thought I was a gay, and put us in a room with bunk beds.

After dropping all our stuff off with our host, we got on another bus to take us into the city of Venice for the afternoon. The whole place is like a massive weaving maze, made up of really narrow streets. One of the first things we did was get some pizza. It was simple and delicious. Tomato and cheese. Then, we followed some helpful signs that took us all the way to the other end of the city to Piazza San Marco, or St. Mark’s Square. The whole thing is full of incredible buildings and it took our breath away a bit when we turned that final corner into the piazza, but man, the wind coming off the water was freezing.

If you’re thinking of visiting Venice sometime soon, do it. The whole place is very much sinking and it will eventually be pretty difficult to visit it if they don’t do something drastic with it. At high tide, almost the entirety of Piazza San Marco is under a bit of water. It’ll probably only get worse too. Also, do what we did, and stand near one of the entrances to the piazza for a while and watch people’s reaction as they come around the corner. It’s pretty great.

On our way home we talked to someone in a fancy costume who sold us tickets to a concert for the next night. It was a chamber music performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, which would be in a small church on the edge of Piazza San Marco. It was really cheap too, which is always a bonus.

 

  

Salzburg, Part II

We returned to Salzburg for a few days before heading off again for Italy and the rest of our trip.

Chapter Thirty-one: Back To Salzburg - In which we ride some trains, get a bit stressed out, and climb all over some rocks.

Chapter Thirty-two: Ice Cave - In which we find an incredible hole in the ground.

Chapter Thirty-three: The Circus Is In Town - In which we form a circus and say goodbye to Salzburg.

  

Chapter Thirty-three: The Circus Is In Town

May 19th

It was to be our last day in Salzburg. We kicked it off by sleeping in because, let’s face it, we’d worn ourselves out pretty good the day before. One of Justyna’s flatmates offered to teach us slacklining. We packed up a bag with the gear for that, as well as taking a frisbee and some other bits and pieces with us. We walked along the Salzach to a park, stopping along the way to take a few photos in some ridiculous-looking trees.

We must have looked like a travelling circus when we reached the park. The slackline was set up, there were juggling balls flying around, and frisbees being tossed about. I’d never done slacklining or juggling before, and I made some promising first steps. Toni made an impressive amount of progress with slacklining.

Rain began to threaten our day in the park, so we packed everything after a couple of hours and headed back home, stopping along the way for some ice cream. We had dinner that night on the floor in Justyna’s room, because one of her other flatmates was having a dinner party that was entirely too large for the apartment we were in. After dinner, the members of the day’s travelling circus took a bunch of ciders and walked up the Kapuzinerberg, a hill that is almost right behind Justyna’s place. We found a bench overlooking the city, where we enjoyed our ciders. It was the perfect end to our time in Salzburg.