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The End

Time June 27th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Yup. I’m home again. But before I get into how I’m adjusting, I’ll mention a few things I did before I left.

I spent my last couple days hanging out with my friends, living it up at Velvet Underground, and having a fun bonfire on the beach at night. I knelt on some coals, so I’ve got a nice scar as a memory of that night. It was an interesting feeling, knowing I was returning to somewhere with no beaches, let alone ones that were so easily accessible I could pop over literally whenever I wanted. Sitting on the edge of a country has a way of making you feel insignificant, and I know I won’t get to feel that way for a long time.

My last evening in Cairns I knew I wasn’t going to be able to go to sleep, so I hung out in my friend’s room for the entire night until 3:30 rolled around and I knew I’d have to go meet the SunPalm to pick me up. The goodbyes were hard. I knew they’d be, but it didn’t help at all. A lot of my classmates were leaving on the same flight, and gradually as we took more and more flights the group dwindled until I was traveling to Boston with just one other girl I knew. It helped pass the time having someone to chat with.

Seeing my family was great, but the whole experience of being back home is still very strange and nostalgic. I sort of feel like I don’t belong here, and I find myself wanting to refer to Cairns as home. But I know that feeling will fade, because I’m already getting back into the groove of things here. It’ll take time, and I’ve got plenty of it. But I definitely hope I can go back to Cairns someday, and I’ll definitely bring my family with me. They should experience the awesomeness that is Australia too.

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I’ve Got Four Whole Months In Austr…Wait, What? It’s June?

Time June 10th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I think I’ve been doing everything in my power to avoid posting this entry. I uploaded the pictures I needed to on Monday, yet haven’t written a word until today. I know this is most likely the last post I’ll write while in Australia, and I’m not okay with it. Hence: procrastination.

Before I forget, I should probably correct a statement I made in the last post. You know that do not enter or be prosecuted sign I talked about that led into the conservation park? I said everyone ignored it? Yeah…disregard that comment. As it turns out, I’m pretty sure they do mean what they say. They don’t want you in there. Yet, one time I was walking through there, and there were these guys in a Jeep, and I thought, “Oh, shoot, I’m going to get called out for being in here,” but all they did was say hi and went on their way. Also, I’ve seen people riding bikes and walking their dogs in there, and there is an entry into the conservation park in there. So how do they get in, if they’re not using my illegal route? HOW DO THEY DO IT?!

Anyway, I discovered I was wrong about this when my friend told me about the entrance to the conservation park she knew about. The park I’d gone through was as tropical as they get; this park was very temperate. Lots of bike trails, lots of paths, and a map that was of absolutely no help let me know that this was the place I’d been trying to get to. Will I still go into the forbidden park? Yes. Until someone tells me off for it, it’s way too pretty to stay away from. And I still need to figure out how those other people get inside…

My first walk in the legal park didn’t go as expected. I got wicked lost. I took a picture of the map on my camera, and tried to follow the trails as much as I could. After 45 min of walking, I finally came to another map.

I was practically on the other side of the map from where I’d thought I was. And I didn’t have a clue how to get back.

Either the universe was on my side, or I got super lucky, because by some miracle I made it back to the beginning after literally five minutes of walking. Seriously. How the heck do I spend 45 minutes walking to this place, and get back that fast? What did I do? Did I enter a portal or something? I’m still surprised I managed to find my way back.

Last weekend, Katie, Matthea, Matthea’s other friend Katie (confusing, yeah), and I went scuba diving on the reef. I can honestly say that it was the most amazing experience of my life. I’m not even sure I can put into worlds what it’s like. Everywhere you go there are these bizarre, three-foot fish, and some of them swim right up to you and you can pet them. Yup. I patted a fish. And then if you’re at the bottom of the reef, you can look up and see your bubbles expand from little marble-sized bubbles into bubbles the size of a beach ball by the time they explode on the surface. I happily paid the extra fifty bucks for the second dive. I would’ve paid for a third dive if we had the time.

Before my finals, I developed a nice routine for studying. I’d wake up at around 8, head to campus at 10, snag my favorite picnic table, and study/watch TV shows. Then at around noon, I’d go to the refectory and get a caramel latte, and return to my studies. I found it to be a very effective way of working.

But with a week of no class, I also partied pretty hard. One of these times happened the night before my last final. Not the smartest decision, but I’d been studying all week, and, although I was hardly conscious for the 8 am exam, I managed to crank out the three essays I needed to write. I’m almost somewhat certain they’re coherent.

I’ve had a lot of trouble figuring out the flight-home stuff. I had a long talk with Rachel from the International Students Office about whether I should get to the airport two hours ahead of time or one. Apparently it depends on if I fly from the domestic airport, or the international, and whether it’s a connecting flight and yada yada yada…

Today, though, we figured it all out, and I’ve arranged for Sunpalm to pick me up at 3:30 in the morning for my 5:30 flight. Except they only pick people up from the student lodge. So I need to bring my stuff over there the night before and stash it in my friend’s room, because there’s no way I’m hauling that much stuff across the highway at 3 in the morning.

I went to Rusty’s Market a couple hours ago, possibly for the last time. All I bought was an avocado, but at least I got to take in the sights one more time. I have nine days left here, but Rusty’s is only open on the weekends, and I don’t know what I’ll be doing next weekend. I’ll most likely be packing.

So now, without further delay, I shall begin my list of things I’ll miss when I leave Australia. I’m sure I’ll forget about a hundred things, but here it goes:

  • The “Wild-Thing” woods, which is a huge row of trees along the highway by the student lodge. At night they look exactly like the trees in the book. Literally.
  • The fact that crossing the roundabout to get to the student lodge is one big game of Frogger. One misstep and splat.
  • The butt-wigglers and puvs. Since I don’t know most of the names for birds here, I made up my own. Butt-wigglers are these little black birds who always wag their tails from side to side like dogs. Puvs look like a mini hybrid between pigeons and doves.
  • Cockatoos and Kookaburras. Kookaburras are easily the coolest birds ever, and Cockatoos look awesome when they fly across the sun.
  • The constant fear that, while walking in the conservation park, I will bump into something that could kill me, or run across the path of an angry cassowary.
  • Rusty’s Market, and all the amazing topical fruit samples.
  • Living in a community like the Beaches. Everyone’s pretty awesome.
  • Tim-tams, though I’m smuggling some home in my suitcase.
  • The pond by Lake Placid, where I bike to all the time.
  • The Uni, and the fact that enormous lizards wander across campus and no one thinks it’s a big deal.
  • Riding my bike everywhere.
  • Sunrises and sunsets over the beach.
  • Toad races.
  • Australians with accents so thick I don’t have a clue what they’re saying.
  • Hearing phrases like “good on-ya, mate,” “cheers,” “ta,” “bugger off.”
  • The fact that I can walk into the Smithfield Shopping Center barefoot, and everyone else is barefoot too.
  • The Wet-Season, when you have to walk barefoot because the rushing water on the sidewalks will sweep away your shoes.
  • The Dry-Season, since I can now go outside and not worry about a sneak-attack rainstorm.
  • Wild horses in Chillagoe.
  • Tony trips, with all the bizarre foreigners, and his awesome breakfasts.
  • “Beware of the Jellies” signs.
  • At home I can recognize almost every tree I see. Australia’s rainforests have more species of trees than anywhere else in the world. I walk through the bush, and no two trees are alike.
  • The Great Barrier Reef. Nuff said.
  • When my teachers take their students out for pre-final drinks, their “shout.”
  • Manu and My Kitchen Rules. I’m not going to get into it, but Manu is the bomb.
  • Dumbass cane toads.
  • My flat.
  • My friends.
  • My life here.

 

So what will my last Check It Out! be?

1. Australia. Forget about the things to stay away from. See it all, take it in, and make it your home.

 


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Reunited, and It Feels So Good

Time May 25th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | 2 Comments by

Please indulge me as I begin this blog with a letter to the bike thief.

 

Dear Thief,

Hey there. First, let me start by saying thanks for ditching Balto at Trinity Park. You didn’t rip his pedals off, or hack through the lock I had wrapped between the handlebars and the seat. In fact, he was in pretty good condition, except his front tire was deflated. Only the front, not the back. I’m guessing that’s the reason you ditched him, since buying a pump and filling it back up would be far too much effort for you. You probably just went off and stole another bike.

Well, Balto deflated his tire on purpose. That’s because he hates you.

But it’s okay now. Balto’s back with me, I brought him to a cool guy at the mechanic across the street who filled up his tires, and we took a lovely reunion bike ride down to Lake Placid. Feel free to stop by my apartment if you want to see him again. I’ll be the one sitting on the steps with a baseball bat and tranquilizer gun.

Sincerely,

Stay-away-from-my-bike

 

Ok. Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, you’ve probably guessed that I’m excited about the return of Balto. It’s been a long two weeks without him, and I’m very happy the police found him and I have him back for my last month in Australia. Then I’ll sell him back to my neighbor who works at the Smithfield Secondhand shop, and he’ll go to a nice person who needs a bike. A person who will actually buy him.

Now for everything that’s gone on in the past two weeks. I realized that I haven’t said much about my classes, and I feel like I should fix that. My archaeology class in-particular is one I should talk about.

Tutorials in that class are almost always fun. One week we had a table full of bones, and reassembled them back into a mama kangaroo and a joey. Apparently, they were roadkill from some of Professor Ulm’s old students. Another week, we did a campus-wide scavenger hunt for all the memorial plaques for former students, and had to draw maps to how we got there. Most recently, we dug through his trash from the past two weeks, and had to form conjectures about where the people/person lived, their income, their lifestyle, and how old each food thing was. One group decided their pile of trash was from a college student. It was from Professor Ulm’s mother.

My last Myth and Ritual class was Monday, and after the final exam we spent most of the lecture talking about the end of the world, since the Rapture was supposed to be on Saturday. I’m wicked glad I only have two finals left. But that also means I only have two finals left. Only one month left in Australia.

Last Thursday was an Around the World party between the Lodge and the Beaches. There were about five or six rooms that had a different country attached to them, and the hosts of each room had to make drinks for everyone that represented that country. I was Mexico with my two neighbors. We’d been planning this for a couple weeks, getting money from everyone, and, despite the fact that it rained, it was a definite success. We got a little too rowdy at Amsterdam, and Rob came and booted us all out of the Beaches. I kept my head down, hoping he wouldn’t recognize me. But when you think about it, getting kicked out is a sure sign that the party is awesome.

Also, during the two weeks when Balto was MIA, I discovered walking/mountain biking paths behind the library. I’d seen the entrance to them once before, but never checked them out because the big sign said “STAY OUT” and various other warnings about being prosecuted. But I was in a bitter mood about losing Balto, and by god I was going to walk if I wanted to. Turns out everyone ignores those signs.

Considering the paths I walk at school and home, where there are only a few diverging paths to explore, this is paradise. There’s no way I’ll be able to explore all of them in a month. The best part is they’re right at the base of the mountains, so you get a spectacular view as you walk the paths in the grassy area. The grass is about six feet high, so it’s a little like walking in a maze. During my second walk I found the entrance to the conservation park I’d heard about, and during my third walk I actually walked one of the paths all the way through back to the grassy area.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great hike, but there’s something constricting knowing most of the plants around you are dangerous. Back home I can walk off the paths and only worry about poison ivy (it doesn’t affect me anyway). Entering the conservation park, the first sign I saw was “DO NOT TOUCH THE STINGING TREES.” In tropical Australia, you have to assume every plant will kill you.

This past weekend, I went to Cape Tribulation on my last Toe-Knee trip (Tony’s the guy who runs the Walkabout Trips). Cape Trib is a lot like a tropical, oversized summer camp. It’s got a very relaxed vibe, and at the bar Saturday night I met a girl from England and we just chatted about all the places in Australia she’s been. A very chill trip, compared to the others I’ve been on. Sunday morning, Katie and I went Jungle Surfing, which I was really looking forward too. Unfortunately, I considered it to be a huge let down–definitely not worth ninety bucks.

Most of the time we had to wait in the tree-loft things for other people to surf over, though it wasn’t really “surfing.” They controlled our speed the whole time, and the only time we went fast was on the last two surfs. They were very short, and I was expecting more. Luckily, on the last one we got to swing upside down, and that was way more fun. If the whole experience had been upside down, I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more. Otherwise, I got no adrenaline rush.

Saying goodbye to Tony was sad. He’s wicked cool, and always made fun of the Europeans on the trips in subtle ways that only the Americans and Australians could pick up on. He also did a ton of cooking for us. After a hug goodbye, his last words to me were “Stay young and alive.” I told him I’d do my best.

Getting Balto back is the highlight for today. Now I’m just enjoying my last week of classes, and stubbornly refusing to think about going home in a month, back to reality…

 

Check It Out! (You Get the Drift)

1. The Tim-Tam Slam (Brings eating tim-tams to a whole new level of awesomeness. You bite off one corner, then the corner diagonal to that, and drink milk through the tim-tam. I recommend doing this with the double-layer tims-tams.)

2. Mangroves (I’m not sure I’d ever seen a mangrove before Cape Tribulation, but the roots are awesome. I’ve posted a picture of the grove we came across.)

3. Cassowaries (By “check them out” I mean check them out from a very safe distance far away, preferably in a vehicle with all the doors and windows closed. I mean, I’m pretty sure they’re decedent from velociraptors, for cryin’ out loud. Their talons will rip you apart.)

 


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Finding Balto

Time May 10th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

How many swears am I allowed to put on here? Not many? Okay, then I’ll resort to this exclamation to portray my anger.

##!#@#*$@#*!$&@#!$

That’s right. Some asshole stole my bike last night. I was feeling pretty sick yesterday, so after my bike ride I was distracted enough that I forgot to lock Balto around the stairs like I usually do. Instead, I just left the lock wrapped around the bike.

This morning I was feeling much better, so I decided to continue the biking routine I started a couple weeks ago. See, I had wanted to see what was beyond the Tjapukai Park, and I took a really nice ride beyond all of these cane fields and farms and mountains, and eventually found this adorable pond with all these duckies and there were cockatoos flying around. It was right beneath the mountain, so I made it a routine to bike down there a couple times a week, to stop and sit at one of the benches by the pond, then come back. It’s a long ride, and a good work out, so I liked the plan. Tuesday mornings are the best time for me to do this, so I ate my breakfast, got all my biking gear on, and walked outside. I looked over the railing to say hello to Balto. He wasn’t there.

All that was left was my helmet, pathetically turned upside down on the ground.

I asked my neighbor if she’d seen anything, and she commented that she’d noticed Balto was gone this morning, and thought it was odd. So I knew he had been taken before 8 in the morning, and after 4 yesterday afternoon. I went to Deb, our landlord, and she told me she’d keep an eye out and recommended I go to the police station and report it. They’re right next door, so that was a quick walk. I put in the report, but the guy said not to get my hopes up. Apparently, another bike was stolen from the Beaches a few weeks ago. Turns out that bike belonged to my friend.

The thing is, the Beaches is a pretty safe place. My neighbor commented on how she leaves her car unlocked all the time, and her car sits right next to my bike. You see bikes off their chains all the time. I’ve never felt it was a risk, since the few other times I’ve forgotten to lock Balto up, he is always there in the morning. I usually trust everyone.

I spent an hour or so walking along the highway, hoping someone ditched Balto over the railing of the underpass or something. No such luck. So I went to class, and now I’m here on campus, playing spy and hoping the jerk rode him to campus and left him in one of the bike racks. I plan on beating him over the head with my laptop when I find him.

And another few things I noticed:

A. They didn’t take the helmet, which means they either have their own, or are risking getting pulled over by the cops, since helmets are required by law.

B. It was most likely night when they took it. Balto has no headlight on him to see at night. His bell is broken, so the thief wouldn’t be able to warn anyone he was there. Therefore, I’m hoping he crashed into a tree and is now in a full-body cast, rueing the night he took my bike.

All in all, the person who took Balto is a dumbass.

Unfortunately, Balto’s not at P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney. I know Nemo was there, but that’d be one hell of a ride down to Sydney.

I just want my bike back :(

So I wouldn’t tell people to completely distrust everyone, even though Balto was stolen. Both my neighbor and landlord offered to let me borrow their kids’ bikes, so most Aussies are nice and reliable. But be wary, I guess is what I’m saying.

I haven’t got many pics from the past two weeks, since things have been pretty low-key. But I do have a picture of my new friend, whom I plan on sicking on the person who stole my bike. Be warned.

 

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Hostels, Horchatas, and Harrowing Hikes

Time April 28th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Grab a seat, get some snacks, and make sure you’re comfy, ’cause this is gonna be a long blog. Unfortunately, I am not comfy, because I’ve been sitting at this picnic table for about two hours, probably longer. That’s because I have two 2500 word papers due on Friday, May 6th . . . and I have a final exam the same day. Hence, this bench outside the library is my friend.

But onto the good stuff. Over Easter Break I was at (drum roll) Magnetic Island! It’s known as Maggie Island to the locals, so that’s what I’ll call it. I’ll start by saying that the trip was not at all what I expected. In fact, on the lengthy bus ride down to Townsville, I was constantly thinking, “This could really, really suck. I hope it doesn’t suck.” I was thinking this for several reasons, though I’ll list the major ones. First, one of my friends who I’d planned on coming with couldn’t come because there wasn’t space on the trip. And there wasn’t space on the trip because of reason number two: the rest of the people on the trip were about forty foreign students who had come here to learn English. None of their first languages was English. My friend Katie was taking the train down there, so she wasn’t on the bus with me, and I was worried I’d be stuck doing stuff with the program group, instead of getting to frolic around the island as I pleased. Plus, it was a long day of travel, and I was in pretty much a bum mood.

But the trip didn’t suck, and those foreigners had a good part in it.

Whenever I wasn’t hanging out with Katie (I’ll get back to what we did later on), I was hanging out with people like Min from South Korea, who had been studying in Christchurch until the earthquake, and then she’d had to come to Australia. Or Aki (I never did find out how to spell his name) and Hatsumi from Japan, who were about ten years apart in age difference, but who both called me “teacher” because I spent a lot of time teaching then how to pronounce words or telling them the meanings. And then I learned about all the different parts of Switzerland, because there’s apparently four parts, and now I’ve met people from the French and German parts. And met guys with names like Viktor and Donovan. And the forty year old guy whose name I never really figured out, but who I think is French…And since I was the only native English speaker (apart from Australian Stu, but he doesn’t really count), and also the only American person many of these people had ever met, I was asked a lot of questions about language and culture and stuff. Some evenings I’d spend an hour or more trying to help Hatsumi learn how to say words like “learn,” which she still can’t say, because there are certain sounds that just aren’t part of the Japanese language. In teaching them how to speak, I learned a lot about what sounds are difficult to make and why, and I had to find ways to convey that to them. To get Hatsumi to say the “L” sound, I literally had to make her stick her tongue out between her teeth, otherwise she’d revert to this other sound that sounded absolutely wrong.

In short, my nickname fit. I was a teacher, and it felt kind of cool.

And then I’d spend some evenings chatting with the German girl and the other Korean girls, and we’d talk about the differences in education (by the way, never study in Korea), and differences in culture. I just felt very involved, like I was actually interacting with different parts of the world. I mean, Australia’s different and everything, but these people were of all different ages, all trying to learn English, and all coming from different parts of the world. Aki taught me how to say “My name is Allie” in English, and also a few other words. I now know that in Germany, students go to different schools based on their intelligence. I know that the seven hours I spent a day at high school is nothing compared to the eleven hours South Koreans spent, six days a week, with no extra curriculars.

So I learned a lot. I feel so . . . cultured. And I like it. If not for anything else, the trip was worth it for that.

Now onto what I did besides playing English tutor. The island had tons of bays, some of which were only accessible by foot, but some by the bus. We stayed at Alma Bay, which had the little village (though I’m not sure it could be called that), with the breakfast cafe and gift shop. The hostel we stayed at was called the Magnums, and I was in a room with ten other women . . . and one bathroom. I practically cried for joy when I got home and saw my own personal bathroom, so neat and tidy, without any permanent layer of water on the counter and floor. Though I wasn’t expecting a hostel to be the Ritz anyway. Hostels are supposed to be cheap, not clean. We fed some of the rock wallabies by Geoffrey Bay that first night, which is right across from the Magnums, and the hostel even gave us some complimentary wallaby food. I’ve learned that the Japanese are very gullible, if not because Hatsumi believed Stu when he said we fed the wallabies and then ate them, then for the countless other times when Hatsumi and Aki believed whatever they heard.

Day two, Katie and I took the bus to Horseshoe bay, laid on the beach a bit, ate at Noodies (a great mexican place with a surprisingly nice coffee shop inside) where I had a horchata: possibly the greatest drink ever. I got it because it had the same name as Vampire Weekend’s latest album, and I was thinking, “Wait, this is a drink?” And it was great. I’d go back to Magnetic Island just for the drink. We were planning on doing the Forts Koala Walking Trail later that day, but after going kayaking to look for sea turtles (didn’t see any), we were too tired. I think we just laid on the beach for the rest of the day. That night was live music at the Magnums: the singer was Scottish, which was the only positive thing I can say about his performance other than he played the guitar well. Guitar=good. Vocals=bad. Accent=wonderful. We all agreed that we would’ve preferred for him to chat with us instead of singing.

The next day was the long, long hike. I’d say there was a pretty decent chance I could’ve died on it, or at least gone to the hospital, but I’ll get to that. Katie and I started the Forts Walking Trail, which led to some great views and old WWII hideouts built into the mountains. We saw two koalas, which was awesome. After taking some good pics, we got back to the bottom of the trail, and decided to hike to Horseshoe Bay. We were close to Arthur Bay, and looking at the map, it looked pretty decent. And it was a really good walk . . . right up until we ran out of water.

I guess Australians have the water-storing capabilities of camels, or else the trail managers at Maggie Island hope to kill off their visitors on these hikes, because there was no water anywhere. And you know what? We were on roads the bus route didn’t cover. That Australian pick-up-hitchhikers hospitality I’d heard so much about doesn’t transfer to Maggie Island, either. Half-way through the walk, Katie ran out of the last of her water, and I’d ran out of mine ages before. Uphill…in the sun…stopping at bay after bay looking for a water fountain, only to find at Florence Bay that the water in the bathroom isn’t “suitable for drinking.”

Damn you, Florence Bay!

But seriously, thinks were looking pretty bleak toward the last portion of the hike. We’d finally found a sign pointing to Horseshoe Bay, and started the hike. Entirely up a mountain. We were stopping pretty frequently, the sun was still scorching, and I was licking my lips every few seconds or so at that point. I was dizzy, my muscles weren’t working properly, and I had a feeling my legs would give way at any minute. Now I know how castaways feel.

Long story short-ish, we made it. I was kind of slap-happy at that point, and the walk across the beach to Noodies felt like it took an hour. When we were finally given water, my hands were shaking and I couldn’t drink it properly. I also ordered a strawberry daiquiri and a horchata. The last horchata had just been given to the person in front of me, a fact that I would’ve been more disappointed about if I weren’t dying of dehydration.

So that was my lunch. Two jugs of water, a daiquiri, and a milkshake: my replacement for the horchata. Once I was fully-functioning again, Katie and I hung out at Picnic Bay, and watched the sunset from the rocks.

And then that night I watched a Maggie Island tradition that I plan on bringing to the states: toad racing. Seriously, it should be a classic. Everyone was in this huge circle outside the bar, and the announcer had the best Australian accent, and he’d pull out each cane toad one by one and describe them to everyone. They all had ribbons tied around them, with names like Baby Toad, Purple People Eater, Yellow Rose of Texas, Red Devil, etc. Then he’d set them on the ground so people could see how fast they hopped, and people would start shouting out their bids. And people of all ages bid in the auction. The first winner was this teenager who’d paid 50 bucks for his toad. If you win your auction, you get the toad for that round. If your toad wins, you get the pot of what everyone paid for their toad. So each race, eight people had money in, and the pot got close to four hundred bucks most of the time. During the last round, the man behind me had bought a toad, and his wife ended up getting the Purple People Eater for 65 bucks. It was great, hearing all these people outbidding each other for a frog.

The next morning was the ceremonial Anzac Day service on Alma Bay at 5 in the morning. The service was really nice, and I got to watch the sunrise from the bay. So I got to see the sunset and rise within a span of a day.

As it turns out, islands are great for relaxing…and that’s about it. I was really bored most of the last day, since you can only lie on a beach for so long before you worry about getting skin cancer. But I found that, when in doubt, buy some gelato and go feed the rock wallabies. They’re always adorable, and the gelato is always good.

So, all in all, the trip was a success.

Now I’m back at school, insanely grateful to have my flat and bike and fridge and all the other wonderful things I missed. And while I was on the island, I was thinking, “Hey, I miss home.” And home was Cairns, not VT. The reunion moment I had with my flat is probably a more subdued version of what I’ll feel when I go home home, but for now, I’m just showing my love for my flat by buying some veggies and looking up recipes so I can use the kitchen to its full advantage.

Living mostly on yogurt and bread for five days isn’t all it’s cracked out to be.

Run Run Run As Fast As You Can (List of Things to Stay Away From and/or Avoid)

1. Running Out Of Water (For the love of god, bring extra, bring an entire cooler if you have to. Otherwise, you’ll die. Just sayin’.)

Check It Out! (Yadda Yadda Yadda)

1. Rock Wallabies (Very skittish, but very cute and fun to feed. They only come out when it’s quiet, so make sure to give the tourists that drive up on their noisy vespas dirty looks.)

2. Forts Walking Trail (Gotta love those koalas.)

3. Horchatas (I still don’t know what’s in it, but it’s the greatest milkshake you’ll ever have. If it’s even a milkshake…)

 


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You Say Spring Break, I Say LIAR!

Time April 15th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

Okay, so my title is a little dramatic, but come on! I’ve already written and turned in one insanely difficult paper this week! (Fine, so it was difficult because I had to use words like microcephaly and morphological about fifty times, but still–you try writing a paper about Homo floresiensis. Yeah. I bet you don’t even know what that is.) And now I’ve got a midterm on Monday and I’m pretty sure I have another test or paper coming up, but I’m too worn out by the first paper to even think about doing anything about it. The nice thing about break in the states is that we don’t have any work. Here, break means get your ass in the library and do your assessments. Evil Australians…

But other than those minor vacation snafus, my break is great. The weather has been surprisingly cooperative, and I’ve spent many a day lounging outside and going to the beach and the lagoon in Cairns. Now that I have my bike (I’ve named him Balto, because I have an obsession with naming all of my vehicles. Maybe it’s because they become like pets to me when I’m away from home), I can explore more.

As for the things that happened before spring break but I haven’t mentioned yet because my attention span is short and I need dinner, I had a very busy weekend two weeks ago. For starters, I had that project for my indigenous class that had a whole bunch of things go wrong, like three out of the five group members bailing (one bailed on the day of the presentation). But me and my partner were the only ones who really had a clue what we were doing anyway, so it’s probably better that everyone else disappeared like they did. Friday and Saturday were taken up with going to the Tjapukai park to get info for our presentation, and Saturday was my class from 9-4:30. Long, long day, but at least they gave us cookies and coffee.

On Sunday I went on a Walkabout Club trip to the highlands, and let me be the first to say that you can actually be cold in Australia. I didn’t know it until we got to the tablelands, but the humidity just disappeared, and the landscape was gorgeous–so different from tropical Australia. First we went to Lake Eacham National Park, and got to walk around and/or swim in the top of an old volcanic crater. Then we went and checked out the Curtain Fig Tree, which I’d actually heard of before I came to Australia. Apparently it’s one of the most photographed trees in the world, and I can see why. It kills all the other trees nearby, and looks cool doing it.

Next was swimming at Milla Milla Waterfall, and that water was freezing. Not to mention that once we finally got our limbs moving enough to get behind the waterfall, the spray made it difficult to see, and the water got even colder. Walking behind a waterfall is on my bucket list, though, so I got to cross that one off! Granted, my walking was more like hobbling and trying not to slip on the rocks, but it counts. Our last stop after getting lunch at a pub was going to the Johnstone River Crocodile & Native Wildlife Farm, where I made friends with a cockatoo, got to hold a python and baby kangaroo, pat a dingo, fed kangaroos, saw some cassowaries, and watched massive crocodiles during feeding time. The trip was definitely worthwhile, and I can’t wait till I go to Magnetic Island for Easter Break through the Walkabout Club. That’ll be my real spring break.

 

Check It Out!

1. The Atherton Tablelands (Gorgeous contrast to the tropics. Makes you feel like you’re back home, unless you live somewhere tropical in the first place, in which case why are you in Cairns?)

2. Bikes (Get a bike. Don’t argue. You want one, it’ll make getting around so much easier, and Cairns is relatively flat so your legs will only hurt after a while of biking. If you come to a hill, just don’t go up it.)

3. The Lagoon (A big pool on the esplanade in Cairns. You swim and get to look at the ocean at the same time, without worrying that you’re going to get stung by a jelly.)

 


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And the Cane Toads Come Out At Night

Time March 29th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | 2 Comments by

No, my title doesn’t have any particular significance, but it is true. That’s why at night I take the long route walking back to the Beaches, because if I take the shortcut through the grass it’s like walking through a minefield of enormous cane toads. I don’t particularly want to feel their bodies squishing beneath my feet . . . especially since I walk barefoot a lot.

I’ve been really busy these past few weeks, and only realized today that I’m due for another blog post. Last friday I turned in my first assignment–or assessment as they call them here, which makes me feel as if I am being critiqued, rather than my work. My teacher was sick, so we didn’t get our essays back this week, so I need to wait till next week to learn if I did a decent job with my first Australian assignment. Here’s hoping for a ‘D’!

The grades are different here. ‘D’ means distinction. ‘HD’ means high distinction, though I automatically think high definition. There’s no possibility of me getting either HD here.

‘C’ means credit. Then I think there’s a ‘P’ which means pass, I think . . . or poor. I should probably figure out the difference.

Last weekend I went white water rafting down in Tully, which was absolutely ravaged from the cyclone. Think about if you take a fern, and run your fingers down it, so that only the tip of the fern is left and the rest is stripped. That’s what the trees here look like. Forests of nothing but treetops. It was kind of sad, but at least–according to the bus driver–the banana crop is coming back well. Chances are I won’t be able to buy a decently priced banana during my time here, though.

The rafting was awesome. Granted, I had to wake up at 4:30 am to be ready to leave for the Student Lodge at 5:30, and when I left it was still dark out. Hence, the cane toads were out. So from the lodge we took a van to Cairns, then took another bus to Tully. The difficulty of the rapids was level 4, which is pretty intense, and our raft almost tipped over more than once. There were some parts of the river we were allowed to swim in, and some parts that, had we swam in them, we might’ve become croc food. We got to go down the river twice, and a good part about being in front for a chunk of the time was that we got to watch all the other rafts try to navigate the rapids. Then, if anyone fell out, we went on the rescue to try to get them back into a raft before they floated to the next rapids.

Oh, I almost forgot. The day before the rafting trip I went on a field trip to Mossman Gorge with my Linking Indigenousness class. We took a Dreamtime tour, where our guide more or less told us that every plant surrounding us in the rainforest had the ability to kill us if we touched it. Then again, the indigenous people knew cures for almost everything out there, so I was confident that if I accidentally brushed against one of the stinging plants, I wouldn’t die. I’ve included some pictures of the trip on here.

Ever since Monday, I’ve been on an obsessive hunt for a bicycle. I think I’ve browsed through every newspaper, looking for bikes in my price range. There’s this guy at Rusty’s Market who’s supposed to be getting some in next week, but that means I’d need to take the bus to Cairns, then he’d have to give me a ride back, since you can’t take bikes on the bus. Every time I walked by someone on a bike this week, I just wanted to push them off and take it. There was a kid’s bike stuck in the water at the underpass, and I seriously considered jumping in and getting it. That’s how desperate I am.

Luckily, this afternoon the woman at the secondhand shop across the street got in some bikes. The one I tried out had no air in the tires, something was wrong with the chain, the front brake didn’t work, the back brake only sort of worked, and the gears were broken.

And I considered buying it.

My good sense kicked in, and I told her I’d wait for the guy to come by and fix it up a bit, or I’d wait for her to get some better ones. I mean, I want a bike, but I want it to be good enough that I don’t crash into a tree on my first ride because the brakes don’t work.

On Tuesday two of my friends and I went into Cairns for zumba. Of course, I assumed it was indoors, because nothing is held outdoors in Vermont, but this was on a big green right in the middle of the city. It was free, and people would stop and watch the whole time. The cool thing was that it was at 5:30, so all the bats were out. Theses aren’t little Vermont bats. These are bats the size of pelicans, and they fly around as though they’re birds. There are huge swarms of them, just flying over the buildings in daylight.

Now I’m waiting for my group partners for my Indigenous class to show up at the library, because we have a project due next week, and we haven’t started . . .

Better late than never.


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Check It Out!

1. White Water Rafting (Don’t be a pansy and go for the level three rapids. Level four, baby!)

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It’s Called “The Wet Season” For a Reason

Time March 14th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

All right. I’ve got to sum up a week or so in this blog.

For starters, I’ve finally gotten the hang of my classes. I had to switch two of them, and tutorials and lectures were tricky to figure out at first, but I’ve got it now. Unfortunately, we’re nearing the fourth week of school, which means it’s assessment time. I have a feeling I’m going to go from having almost no homework, to four papers due the same week.

Also, I signed up for one of the Walkabout Club trips our school offers, so I went into Chillagoe two weekends ago. It’s not very far outback, but you can only go so far when you’re on a schedule.

Of course, no one thinks it’ll rain when you go to the outback. I mean, it’s the outback. It’s famed for being dry all the time, and having those intense red dirt roads.

The roads were red . . . and wet. It downpoured.

But still, it was an interesting change of scenery as opposed to the unrelenting humidity and tropical plants of Cairns. Our tour guide told us the part we were at is a lot like South Africa. But as opposed to giraffes and lions everywhere, we saw wild horses and an insane amount of cows. They just wander around as they please, and I’m amazed I didn’t see any dead on the side of the road. Then again, I think we were the only ones driving on the road. The nearest town from Chillagoe was something like 140 km, and unfortunately I still don’t know how to convert anything here, so you’ll have to figure out the distance yourself. I have yet to master the celsius to fahrenheit conversion, either. I just assume every day will be insanely hot.

In Chillagoe, we stopped at this, uh, very interesting “bar,” though they lost their license years ago, and they don’t serve any food. They did have a lot of other interesting things in there, as shown in the pictures below.

The food on the trip was great. For someone who had cooked their first meal the day before (french toast), I was more than happy for some real food. Our accommodations were good, too, and despite the rain we managed to go see some sites. We even went swimming in a lagoon.

And then we went and saw something I’d actual heard of: the balancing rock. It’s one of those things you look at and think, How on Earth did it get like that?

The next morning we got to go to the caves, which is what I really wanted to go to anyway. Some of us were worried that the weather would ruin our trip, but the skies were surprisingly clear the next morning, so we booked it for the caves before the weather could change its mind.

There aren’t many caves in Vermont–none that I know of–so these caves were awesome. Granted, the twenty minute walk through the bush, where every other step I found myself face to face with enormous spiders, was absolutely terrifying, but by god I was going to see the caves no matter how many facefulls of spiderweb I got. We each had our big flashlights, or lanterns as the Aussies call them, and once we crawled into the caves we had a good amount of time to look around. A couple bats went swooping by us on our way in, which only solidified the feeling of eeriness. We would’ve had a longer tour, but the deep part of the cave was flooded from the rain, so instead we got to poke around for a bit.

Most people went right, so I went left. It’s amazing the kind of silence there is in a cave, except for the plop plop of water leaking from the stalactites. By the way, I now know the difference between stalactites and stalagmites. Stalactites hang from the ceiling because they have to hold on tightly, and stalagmites might grow tall enough to reach the ceiling. Just a little fun fact.

Okay. Now fast forwarding to this weekend. My friend and I went into Cairns to go to the market, because I’m a wimp and have never taken the bus here by myself before. I have a tendency to get lost on public transportation. The market was one I’d been hearing all about, Rusty’s Market, and it lived up to the hype. There are so many fruit stands you can’t even figure out where to start, and stands selling bags and t-shirts and other knick-knacks. The fruit is what gets to you, though. Dragon fruit might be two-fifty a kilo here, but two-thirty over there, and even less over at that stand. And there are so many exotic fruits you’d never be able to get fresh at home. Then again, there are fruits I’d never even heard of before. Like a custard melon, which is currently sitting in my fridge because I have no idea how to eat it. I had to look up online how to eat nectarines and dragon fruit, the two other fruits I bought there. I’m not so much a fan of dragon fruit, but nectarines are my new favorite fruit. That being said, I’m not much of a fruit person to begin with, but fruit just tastes better here.

This week the weather has been pretty awful. Most of today I didn’t wear shoes because I was walking outside so much, and after thirty seconds of rain the sidewalks are already flooded. I wish the weather were decent so I could take a walk outside, or, I don’t know, just go outside in general. The weather controls my life. But it’s a small price to pay for never being cold, which I always am back home. If anything, I’m not cold enough here.

My air conditioning broke a few weeks ago, and the guy came to try and diagnose what was wrong with it. Ironically enough, he was Irish, and I just wasn’t expecting that in Australia. But until he gets the part needed to make my air conditioning go on its own again, I just need to reach my hand up into the fan and flip the thing that spins round and makes the air come out.

It took me about three days to realize the reason it never worked when I tried it was because I was spinning it the wrong way. You’d think that’s something I would’ve paid attention to.

This weeks updates:

Run Run Run As Fast As You Can (List of Things to Stay Away From and/or Avoid)

1. Spiders. (This is more of a caution for anyone who’s going to venture into the bush. You have a tendency to look in the distance for what you’re going to step over next, when there are probably eight eyes staring you right in the face. . . .)

Check It Out! (Self Explanatory)

1. Rusty’s Market (So much good fruit. Experiment a little, no matter how weird the fruit looks. And try all the samples they offer.)

2. The Chillagoe Caves (Just see the pictures to know why.)

3. Tim-Tams (Not only the greatest cookie in Australia, but they’re so good I might love them more than Oreos. And the mint ones taste like thin-mints.)

4.Nectarines (So it looks like this is the food edition of Check It Out! In case you’ve never had them before, nectarines look like mini apples bred with peaches. They’re delicious, but don’t eat the pit.)


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No, I’ve Never Played Rugby Before. Why Do You Ask?

Time March 2nd, 2011 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

Yup. I tried rugby.

I was just walking out of the bookshop with my arms filled with various books for my classes, when this guy walked up to me and asked if I was interested in playing for the team JCU was trying to start up for girls. He handed me his card, said practice was that night at six, and I went on my way. I was starving, and my stomach wasn’t about to settle for a long chat with this guy.

I have a friend back home who graduated from SMC who played rugby and loved it. All I really knew was that the sport is huge here in Australia, and there was a good chance I’d get my ass kicked. I mean, the last time I played an organized sport was lacrosse during senior year of high school.

I love lacrosse, but, as it turns out, the two sports are very different.

The first thing I noticed when I walked over to the oval (the football field) was that I was the only female around. The guys’ rugby team was there, and I stuck out like a sore thumb as I walked over to the gym behind the field. I hung around there for a few minutes until I saw some girls, then followed them to where the coach was waiting. There were about eight of us in all, and for a few minutes we just tossed the rugby ball in a circle, discussing how none of us but two knew how to throw the ball.

Then the coach came over, and we arranged ourselves on the other side of the field so the guys could play where we were, and played a fun, no-tackle version of the game to figure out how to play.

I had no idea what I was doing.

Luckily, a girl I’d sat with on the bus tour around Cairns was there and had played the sport before, so I’d hiss questions at her every chance I got. I had a tendency to spike the ball out of midair when the other team was tossing it, but, apparently, this is not ultimate frisbee, and I need to actually catch the ball to gain possession, rather than simply hitting it away from them.

Overall, I thought the practice was good so far. Just playing around a bit, pretty low-intensity stuff. I wasn’t intending on sticking with the sport–I just figured I was in Australia, and I might as well give it a go and learn how it’s played.

And then the real practice began.

After our casual four vs. four game, we went and did conditioning with the boys. We did lunges, we did sprints, we ran backwards, we ran forwards, we did throwing exercises where we ran in impossibly tight circles, throwing the ball to someone while almost simultaneously catching it from another person. There must’ve been six balls going at once, fifteen people running at the same time, and whenever someone dropped the ball we all had to do ten push-ups–if we dropped it again, twenty. Then thirty. Then hills. And then the cycle started all over again. I used up all my good push-ups in the first ten.

Here I was, someone who hadn’t actually sprinted in years, in my Converse since my running shoes are in the mail, running around with forty sweaty guys who had probably been playing rugby their entire lives.

Not to say learning about the sport wasn’t fun. I know how to throw the rugby ball now, and I have a general idea of how the sport is played. Even on one of the hills, I got to call out the command for when we’d jump up and sprint up the hill. But my god, it was exhausting, and lasted two hours instead of one and a half. It was pitch dark out by the time we finally ended, and I was being eaten alive by the mossies.

I’ve already told Chichi that if anyone gets Dengue fever, it’s gonna be me. It’s just one of those things I’ve come to accept. I’ll get Dengue at some point, and if I didn’t get it last night, it’ll be sometime in the near future.

On the (literal) bright side, walking back to my apartment after practice was the first time I got to see the Australian night sky. Granted, all my interest in astronomy didn’t quite apply here, since everything looked different, but I pretty much walked back through the gap in the hedges where everyone ditches their shopping carts (my keys were in my room, so I wouldn’t have been able to go in the front way) with my neck craned toward the sky.

But I was right about one thing. Rugby kicked my ass. I think I’ll stick with bushwalking . . . or sleeping.

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True Life: I Live In a Tropical Paradise

Time February 22nd, 2011 in College Study Abroad | Comments Off on True Life: I Live In a Tropical Paradise by

I’ll start with this simple statement: my apartment is fan-tas-tic. As in, I wake up every morning feeling as if I’m living the high life in the jungle.

Why am I living the high life, you ask?

Well, my room looks over a pool and palm trees and a gazebo, and if I turn my head to the left a little I get a view of the mountains. Connecting to my room is a patio sort of thing, with large windows that open up without screens so you can let in all the sunshine and fresh air without going outside into the scorching sun. We’ve got a dishwasher, washer and dryer, our own bathrooms, and nice big closets for all of the stuff we can’t afford to buy. Now that I think I’ve figured out how to add pictures, there should be some of my place in this post.

Our first day in Cairns, we went on the SkyRail, which took us up over the rainforest. At one point, all you could see were clouds, and you could hear the chattering of countless birds around you. The SkyRail stopped twice on our way to Kuranda, and we got to walk right in the heart of the rainforest, while a guide explained about the ancient trees and a funny plant I can’t remember the name of, but if you walk into it its little prickers will cut you.

The SkyRail ended too soon in my opinion, but we were finally in Kuranda, and had hours to ourselves to do whatever we liked. It was the first time since we arrived in Australia that I had time to myself, so I took advantage of it and wandered leisurely through the village.

But there were so many things to buy . . . so many things I knew I would never get a chance to buy back home. At one point, I walked back and forth to the ATM, fighting with myself on whether to extract money for a canvas painting or not. I resisted . . . and then bought a boomerang.

Well, you can’t win every battle. At least the boomerang was three-times cheaper than the tapestry. I also got these really tasty lollies (candies) from a shop there, and have been restricting myself to one or two a day in the hopes of making them last.

Speaking of food, I miss home food. A lot. With the white hot intensity of a thousand suns. Maybe it’s my addiction to sugar that’s rearing its ugly head, but everything tastes so much better back in good ‘ol VT. But even as I force down the Chex-like cereals, I know that the time away from sugary home food will be for the better. I feel healthier . . . but I resent it. It’ll take some time to appreciate the change.

An experience I should probably mention is shopping. The walk to Smithfield, the big shopping plaza, is half an hour. I was dreading the walk when I first heard about it, but maybe that was because it was raining and I ended up walking with no shoes, pushing my shopping cart full of groceries down the sidewalk like a bum. Now I enjoy the walk. Since I haven’t been able to find any good trails to walk yet, that has become my trail. There’s a little student express mart across the highway, maybe a five minute walk, but I braved it this afternoon and felt that crossing through that many lanes of traffic is just a little-to risky to do often.

So, in my opinion, take the walk to Smithfield. The sun is always shining, it’s warm out, and you can appreciate the beautiful day–which it will be, since every day is gorgeous here, even when it’s raining.

Honestly, I wake up in the morning, step out onto my porch, and think: damn, life is good, isn’t it?

So really, this past week has been time to explore for me. I’ve wandered to Smithfield a few times, played chicken-crossing-the-road to get to the expressmart, navigated the JCU campus (which is equally fantastic in terms of natural beauty), and essentially established where my apartment is in regards to most things within a mile radius.

Something I’ve learned in this past week when it comes to scheduling classes is that the Australians have a much different system than we do. You pick classes without knowing when they are, then check out your schedule to see if lectures overlap. If they do, you need to reschedule, but if they don’t, you need to check the (often) five options of tutorial times, and hope that when it comes time to pick your group, you get the one you want. When you first look at it, it seems as if you’re taking fifteen classes in a week, which, for a foreign student like myself, freaks you out. Luckily, I’ve gotten everything straightened away at this point, except I need to ask the registrar back home to approve the new class I had to switch in for one that conflicted with another class. But even if they don’t approve me, I’m taking it.

I mean, how many people can say they took an Indigenous Studies class? On a scale of one-to-ten, Vermont’s cultural variety is about a .2.

Well, now it’s time for dinner, and since necessity has yet to compel me to cook an actual meal, I’m going to make a hearty peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I can only make so much progress in a week.

This week’s updates on my helpful suggestions lists:

Run Run Run As Fast As You Can (List of Things to Stay Away From and/or Avoid)

1. The Scary Biker Chick Smoking on the Side of the Road (You gotta walk that path to get back home with your shopping cart of groceries, so just smile meekly and scurry on your way. Ignore the fact that she might put that cigarette out in your eye.)

Check It Out! (List of Things to . . . Well, Check Out)

1. The Kuranda SkyRail (You’ve never see anything like Barron Falls before, so I also suggest taking the Kuranda Railway back down the mountain after you take the SkyRail up. The rainforest is, as I have mentioned earlier, gorgeous.)

2. Internet (I know, it sounds random, but reception up here is close to zero, so go to a Telstra shop, get one of the Internet USB sticks, and bring your passport, because your Vermont license doesn’t count for squat here, and then the phone number they gave to call you might not work, so you’ll have to trudge back to Smithfield to have them authorize it. . . . Yeah, just get your Internet as soon as possible.)

3. Cairns (The city is about twenty-thirty minutes away from the JCU campus, so take a bus and see the sights. You may not go to most of those places, but at least you’ll have an idea of where they are.)

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Sunnies, Sunburns, and Aboriginal Smoking Ceremonies

Time February 14th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Okay, so I’ve been without the internet since I was in LAX and paying seven dollars for access when, in reality, they boot you off the moment you close your computer. Therefore I’m going to have to crunch four days worth of events into this post during the next forty-five minutes, since that’s about all I have left in my internet time at this airport.

Gaah. This is stressful.

So the flight from Los Angeles to Australia went by relatively fast, since I took two sleeping pills and two Tylenol PM’s to try and help me through it. What wasn’t helpful was that I was in the aisle seat, and I think I developed a permanent crick in my neck from sleeping awkwardly. We got to Sydney, drove to the Sport Complex where our orientation would take place, and then settled our things into our rooms.

For starters, the wildlife if gorgeous with a capital G. And that rhymes with P. And that stands for pool!

Sorry, I’m a little slap-happy from trying to adjust to the time-zone difference. Still, I can’t believe I just quoted The Music Man. . . .

So the first day we mostly relaxed, tried to stay conscious, and took a short bushwalk through the woods behind the Complex. It was quite a shock to be in 75 degree weather, and to see not only grass, but the strangest array of birds imaginable. I’m going to try and upload a picture from the bushwalk on here, but I haven’t tried to upload any pictures yet, so it may take a while.

The next day we went to the Taronga Zoo, and I felt slightly less exhausted, which was good since the zoo was awesome. I mean, how many people get to see platypi? And koalas? And heres a suprising fact: tasmanian devils are adorable. So cute that I would like to keep one, if it weren’t for the fact that their jaws could rip off my arms. That makes me love them a little bit less.

At the zoo we got a nice chunk of time to walk around and check out all the animals we didn’t get to see on our guided tour, we caught the end of a bird show, and then went down to the dock to take a ferry to the Sydney Opera House. The best part of that walk to the ferry was that there was a peacock walking on the road, completely in the open! I’m not sure if that was because it escaped from the zoo, or if it’s normal for peacocks to strut down streets like they own the place. Regardless, it was a sight, and I can only hope that if the peacock did escape, that someone came and brought it back to the zoo before it got hit by a truck.

In Sydney, my friend Natalie and I mostly wandered around, checked out the Royal Botanical Gardens, attempted not to get lost (we failed), and ate at a Belgian chocolate shop right by the opera house where we could make sure we didn’t miss the ferry. That night, back at the Complex, a band called The Bush Band came and played for us, and I can honestly say that I never thought so many college students would dance together, doing jigs that are kind of like a waltz and square dancing. Either way, it was fun, and I got some nice blisters on my feet from my flip flops.

Yesterday was surfing at Collaroy Beach. I’ve decided to provide little tips in my blogs, and my first tip is that, if you are surfing, grab the biggest surfboard you can. It makes it much easier to stand up without wiping out and getting a mouthful of saltwater. Also, if you’re looking for a good workout, this is it. Not an inch of my body isn’t aching.

On the bright side, I stood up! Twice! Okay, so the second time the guy was holding onto the back of my board and riding with me, but it still counts.

Our evening activity (after another bush walk that I didn’t attend because my legs were screaming for relief) was where an Indigenous group came and danced and sang for us. The yidaki (I think that’s how you spell it), also known as a didgeridoo, is one of the coolest instruments I’ve ever seen. The man playing it would tell a story, and then show us how the story was told through different sounds through the instrument. There was a story about the origin of the kangaroo’s pouch, a hitchhiker, and a few others. All of this was, of course, after the smoking ceremony, which cleansed us and prepared us for our journeys.

Believe it or not, I actually feel cleansed, but that could be because I finally got to take a decent shower after surfing.

Phew. I’ve covered a lot in this entry, but still, there’s so much that I wasn’t able to include. Like my first time trying vegemite this morning, which I will never do again. Honestly, it’s disgusting. But I suggest you try it simply for the experience. And certainly don’t spread it all over your piece of bread–just a little corner to taste. Then slather butter on the rest, and pray that you never have to try it again.

Now we’re at the airport in Sydney, waiting for our flight to Cairns. All the students going to Townsville and the schools in Sydney are gone now, leaving just the seven of us. But I’m excited to get to Cairns, and to see my apartment, figure out where to shop, and, hopefully, to get the flash-stick that will allow me to get internet no matter where I am. Goodness knows I need it.

Ps- I’ve written a few posts on Microsoft Word since I’ve been without internet, so the dates these next few posts are posted are probably several days after the events.

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Me vs. the Cockroach

Time February 14th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Spiders have always scared the living daylights out of me, but it turns out there’s another creepy crawly creature that scares me even more.

Cockroaches.

I’d been warned that there were cockroaches-a-plenty in Cairns, but seeing as I don’t think I’d even seen a cockroach, I wasn’t too concerned. After my roommate Chichi and I had moved all of our stuff into our amazing apartment (see the pictures that will eventually be posted to understand how great it is) I channeled into my inner obsessive compulsive cleaner and disinfected every inch of our place. How this wily little cockroach managed to escape my view during all that scrubbing, I have no idea.

I was taking a shower after the long day of travel and settling in, and since the walls of the shower are glass I was able to see out into the rest of my bathroom. Just before the steam was about to cloud out everything from view, I saw something big and black scuttle across the floor of my bathroom, and the first words that came into mind were, “Oh hell no.”

For the next ten minutes I wiped away steam to try and keep track of the little bugger (who wasn’t little at all), and by the time I could no longer delay stopping my shower he had vanished from sight. Therefore I just stood there, dripping wet in my shower, safe in my glass case of emotion as I crouched down to the ground and looked for the guy. After a few minutes with no luck, I dared to open the shower door to grab a towel, and immediately shut myself back in. What was worse was that my contacts were off, so I was half blind searching for something that was almost the size of a hamster, and could also survive nuclear explosions.

Finally I stepped out of the shower, and, realizing that there were few places where the cockroach could be hiding, I lifted up the trash bucket (we have no trashcan, only a bucket).

There he was. Hiding behind my bucket.

At once he scuttled into the corner, and for a moment I crouched down in front of him, acknowledging that he was probably scared, and meant me no harm. At that point I had no intention of killing him. For starters, I didn’t want to hear the crunch of his little body being smushed beneath whatever I decided to kill him with. And secondly, I knew he really didn’t mean me any harm. So I grabbed the trash bucket and trapped him underneath before he could scamper any farther. Then I hurried into my bedroom, dressed, and grabbed a shoe, just in case I couldn’t trap him under the bucket long enough to get him out of our apartment.

The thing is, when an abnormally large and foreign insect bolts absurdly fast out from under said bucket, scurries under your bedroom door, and you’re faced with the knowledge that if you don’t act immediately the bug will be living in your apartment, probably waiting to climb into your bed at night and terrify you, your instincts kick in.

I opened the door, raised my shoe, and pounded that bug until every last one of his little legs stopped twitching.

I was so freaked out I had to call my mom for reassurance that the cockroach wasn’t going to call his friends to come attack me in the night, and that a bug was just a bug. But that didn’t stop me from staying up for another hour, using towels to block any holes in our apartment that led outside, practically crying at every strange sound I heard, and sleeping with the light on.

It was a long first night in Cairns.

And for the sake of everyone who might come to Cairns, I am starting my Run Run Run As Fast As You Can list of things to stay away from.

1. Vegemite (Except for the very first time you try it. After that it’ll just make you nauseous.)

2. Things That Go Bump in the Night (I.E. cockroaches. I recommend going to a shop to get lots of bug spray, and traps. Also, don’t be surprised to find little frogs and lizards in your apartment too, but those are actually cute.)

3. Water Left Out in the Open, and Open Containers of Food (Mossies, aka mosquitoes, breed in water, so don’t leave any puddles anywhere. As for open containers of food, the ants will come . . .)

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And So It Begins . . .

Time January 31st, 2011 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

I’ve never written a blog before. Then again, there was that one time I wrote a story for my sister on a blog where I turned her and my other sister into a. a cow, and b. an ugly woodland troll. But this is beside the point.

The point is I’m trying to pack for Australia, and I have absolutely no idea what to bring.

I’ve been told  it’s a basic rule of thumb to bring the things that mean the most to you, as in the things you can’t buy while abroad. But where do you draw the line between necessity and frivolous trinkets? It’s as if my parents don’t believe I need to bring my lucky wooden pig I made at summer camp when I was fourteen, despite the fact that he’s remained perched on my desk at school for the entire semester. Sure, his head fell off when I brought him home a month ago, but a little bit of super glue fixed him right up. I can’t buy him in Cairns, so is that an excuse to shove him in my suitcase and hope he doesn’t get too shaken up on the insanely long flight?

And what about pictures? And candles? And my memory foam mattress pad?

My mom just poked her head into my room to remind me to look at the list of things I need to pack in my carry-on. In all honesty, I’m going to forget something anyway, which is why I much prefer having someone else pack for me. That way, when I show up in Cairns with only one sneaker, I can blame it on them instead of my horrible memory.

Surprisingly, I’m not too nervous about the fact that I’m going to spend the next four and a half months in a country halfway around the world. A month ago I was freaking out. A year ago I remember lying awake and thinking, “Oh my gosh, I’m going to Australia in a year!” to which I replied to myself, “Cool it, you’ve got a while . . .”

I don’t have a while anymore, and I have the feeling that, in a few days time, I’m going to be freaking out again.

But until then, I’ll try to pack only the basic needs. If I manage to fit all those things and still find space in my suitcase, then I’ll go crazy with “frivolous” things. . . .

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