Monday, December 21, 2009

lucky 70!

This is my 70th post! I don't know if 70 is perceived to be lucky like 7 but I hope so, because this is probably the most serious thing I have ever written about.

20 years ago, my uncle Danny needed a kidney transplant. He was able to get a matching kidney from his mom, and for two decades it worked great! It is great that it worked for as long as it did, but while I was in Australia he started going into kidney failure again. People on both sides of our family started getting tested to see if they could be potential donors for Danny.

It is harder to find a match this go around because of the 2 different kidneys, his and his mom's. My mom told me I would probably not be a match, but I wanted to make sure. I knew going into this that I have a history with needles and such, so it was no surprise to me when I passed out and woke up in the ER of UTMC with an IV. Great, just great. I was informed a week later by the nurse that I was not a match either which is a huge bummer.

There have been 2 new options for Danny. One was a nationwide donor "pool" which was basically a group of 9 people who all needed donors, and the donors were all close-ish matches. It fell through recently when one of the donors backed out. Also, bummer.

Currently, we are hoping that an experimental therapy in Maryland works out. What I understand (and how my mom explained it) is that they give him a drug that "tricks' his immune system into accepting the close matches, which there are 2 of here in Knoxville. It is all very preliminary right now and we are all hoping to hear more news soon.

Danny is an engineer and is married to my mom's youngest sister Devah, who teaches kindergarten. They have 2 awesome and hilarious kids. Chloe is in 7th grade and is a smiley, peppy little cheerleader! Molly is in 5th grade and reminds me so much of myself when I was younger. She calls me Big M and she, naturally, is Little M.

I can't even imagine to be going through what they are currently, and especially during the holidays. Anyone who reads this please keep my uncle Danny and his family in your thoughts and prayers that he finds a match soon and is healthy in 2010!

Monday, December 7, 2009

hey world

I have been home almost a month now and I thought I would do a little wrap-up of sorts of my Australia trip.

I'm still not quite sure which adjectives to use to accurately describe it all. I LOVED being a temporary Australian! I love the people I met along the way and I can't wait to meet back up with them over the coming years. I definitely learned some lessons along the way.

Starting with it reinforced the fact that I have too much stuff. I took one suitcase and a backpack with me (granted it was pretty heavy...and I came back with 2 additional bags) and I could have left half of THAT stuff at home. I took clothes that I wore a lot, but never touched some things. In addition to clothes, I took 4 pairs of shoes, some assorted books and my laptop and such. Now that I am home and have a whole closet and more than 4 pairs of shoes to pick from it is a bit overwhelming. I have enough tshirts for probably 8-10 people. Oh my. Also, I had one towel and a shammy in Australia and I was fine. I have waaaaayyyy too many towels for one person.

I also learned that I honestly really love America. Not in an obnoxious flag-tshirt-wearing-bumper-sticker-on-my-SUV-sporting-we-are-better-than-any-other-country-in-the-world way, but in a genuinely interested and thankful way. I met people on exchange (and I won't say from which state) who knew absolutely nothing about the US. I am happy that my parents instilled a certain sense of history in my sister and I and it made me pretty happy to be able to explain things about America that people from other countries may not have why we celebrate Thanksgiving and what's the deal with our flag. And what are chili fries...but that is another story :)

After being so far away, no distance will ever compare and I feel like I can handle literally anything that is thrown at me now. I don't feel as stressed as I used to and I find myself using Nah Worries on a daily basis.

Traveling the coast was BY FAR the best experience of the trip. It was so much fun to have a taste of backpacking, and I am ready to take off again! This time to Peru, wooooo! It was great fun to meet other travelers and hear their stories. So inspiring.

Since I have been back it has been way more difficult to get back in the groove than I had anticipated. I don't know what I was expecting or hoping for but it has definitley been different. Seeing my family and my friends has been awesome! But I'm not in class, like a lot of my friends, or needed at meetings/shows/group projects and finding a purpose once again has been pretty draining. I'm back with mom and dad for now, and I knew I wanted to stay at home through the holidays. I've been hoping to have a plan in motion by the beginning of the year.

And now Christmas is upon us! Even though I lost the fight for a real Christmas tree to my mom, the house sure looks lovely and festive! There was even some unheard-of snow yesterday! I'm enjoying this season and am holding on to Marley's words that every little thing's gonna be alright:) No worries, mate!

PS: I am very much enjoying being free from Voldemort, aka the very loud and inconsiderate neighbor I had for 4 months:) Bethany is much better; nice and quiet.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

it's thankgsiving time

Well the most gluttonous day of the American year has come and is almost over. We had my dad's side of the family over for lunch and spent the day talking, playing games, watching the Muppets and laughing.

I have always been a fan of this fall holiday, mostly because as a kid my cousins and I spent the day in the playroom or outside and-our favorite-spying on the adults.(We went through a big spying phase after we saw Harriet the Spy...) It brings back some great memories and today was no let down.

I say over and over how weird my family is, but I am so, so thankful for all of them. My two year old cousin Evelyn is growing up so fast and was running around everywhere and was talking everyone's ears off today. My aunts are so much fun and all make me laugh so much. And anytime I need a self-esteem boost I should go see my Grandma, because she says the sweetest things and can give anyone the warm fuzzies.

In the spirit of the holiday, here is a list of several other things I am very thankful for, some serious and some novel...

*my Mom and Dad, who always took my sister and I on vacations around the US, to Sunday school and VBS, came to our assorted recitals/competitions/games/concerts over the years and helped us both through college. They also didn't get cable or satellite at the house for 21 years, which I think had everything to do with how much we read.

*my sister, who I am convinced I share a brain with. I love when we say the same thing at the exact same time or when I ask for the "thing" and she comes with precisely what I was talking about. There are inside jokes we laugh about from so long ago I don't remember where they started. My very first memories are from when Bethany was a baby. She is so much smarter than me in some ways.

*my friends who keep me sane. I made some of the best friends while I was at UT, through living in the dorms, Young Life, TVC and going on break trips. I am so happy to be able to look back and remember all of the fun/weird things I have done with them over these 4 years.

*the little things like pictures from Australia to remind me it WAS real, being in America, Jodie Picoult books, my recycling pajama pants, Wifi, "dad" humor, our front porch and seeing the mountains, good coffee/tea and music with a message.

My sister's list goes like this:
Cereal, pajamas, family, warm house, that I didn't keep the freshman 15, roadtrips, online shopping, Christmas, traditions and musicals.

My parent's list goes like this:
That Melissa is home from Australia (ha ha ha), my dad'd new job and church family, Melissa and Bethany (of course), house is paid off/no debt and family!

Happy Thanksgiving friends!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

the end is here

Well my grand Australian adventure ends in the morning. Well, its so early in the morning it could still be classified as nighttime.

I am taking a bus from Canberra at 4am to Sydney, where my plane leaves for the US at 11:20. Apparently we might not de-plane in LA because it's only a crew change and re-fuel stop, in which case I will not be a happy camper. From there I will arrive in Atlanta around 3, take off again at 5 and hopefully be home by 6. Whewwww! I'm taking lots of my Drammamine and hope to be asleep (and not airsick) most of the time.

This has been one of the most beneficial things I have ever done in my life. I'm sure over the coming weeks that stories will be spilling out like crazy. I have no idea where to start when people ask me "How was Australia?" other than descriptive adjectives that seem so overused by now. I can't sum up my experience in just a few sentences. I'm sure that I will get my mind wrapped around it sooner or later and will come up with something very eloquent!

I'm excited to see everyone I miss from the States! Although, I wish they could just all join me here instead, haha! Last post from the far side of the world! More from the States!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

letter from home

hello friends!

It is hard to believe that I will be coming home a week from today. That literally does not even seem possible. I can't even think about it because it doesn't seem real yet.

Anyway, I have been sorting through stuff, throwing away things I know I won't take home with me, and trying to figure out how to not pay for a heavy suitcase this go around. I've been peeling through the layers on my bulletin board because thanks to wonderful friends and family I got SO MUCH MAIL since I have been here! It has been so awesome and I LOVE it. My sister wrote me the most amazing letter before I left and told me to read it on the plane.

I wouldn't normally share something like this with the Internets, but it really sums everything up. I read it again yesterday and wanted to laugh/cry all over again. If you know me and how much I am obsessed with Jimmy Buffett it will make sense...

There are jobs and chores and questions, and plates I need to twirl

But tonight I take my chances on the far side of the world

So it’s your last night on US turf for awhile and you are busy packing away. I however, wanted to give you a little advice that will hopefully make this transition a little easier. So yesterday you said you were worried about not having anybody in Australia, but that’s where you’re wrong. Little did you realize you have one of your best friends on your Ipod. That’s right, I’m taking about our pal Jimmy Buffett. I know we joke around about how much we love him, but the more I thought about it the more it’s true. Jimmy is the one thing that can always bring our family together no matter what-although it will always be too loud for Mom. So I thought I would point out a few tips I have picked up over the years.

1. Always label your salt shakers with contact information

2. Wear flowers in your hair at any occasion

3. Have friends in Zanzibar

4. Pencil thin mustaches are cool

5. And going barefoot in the rain is suggested

So while you are over there living it up on the far side of the world take advantage of the changes in attitude that come with the changes in latitudes, But watch out because the natives are restless! I hope to hear on the coconut telegraph what it’s like to see the Southern Cross because the closest I’m gong to get to anywhere cool is by doing some Havana daydreamin. But when you get lonely and wishing for Monday to come jut kick it in second wind and remember with a little love and luck you will get by.

PS: Don’t make any Jamaica Mistaicas because It’s your job to be better than the rest!

Well said, Bethany, well said.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

life lately

Ah hi friends!

Here are a few life highlights since I last blogged...

1. Last week at work an older gentleman asked me if I was from Kentucky. Ha, I should have said "No sir, I am much classier because I come from the great state of Tennessee," but instead I just laughed and said no. I keep running into random people who have been to Tennessee, which is so weird! My Spinning instructor was just in Tennessee and North Carolina last week for a wedding and I met a girl from Virginia who LOVES the Vols! I have also taken it upon myself to teach my fellow exchange students It's Great to be a Tennessee Vol, and some lucky select few have gotten the chance to hear Rocky Top. I heard the line "wild as a mink but sweet as soda pop" in a whole new light.

2. People in Australia always relate life in America to the Simpsons. I have literally never watched an episode but have learned an immense amount about the show after being here nearly 4 months. That and the fact that the TV in our lounge barely works, and when it does...the Simpsons always seems to be on. I have had so many conversations where the other person will say "Oh! It's just like in the Simpsons!"

I ALSO learned that Knoxville is in an episode; Homer takes the fam to K-ville for the World's Fair, only to find that it has been over for a long time and the Sunsphere now sells wigs. Which also helped clear up my confusion over a Knoxville blog I read called "The Sunsphere is Not a Wigshop"; I never understood that allusion.

3. I am tired of feeling ripped off every time I leave the grocery store. Everything is WAY more expensive than back home. For instance: there is one grocery store in Civic that has Dr. Pepper, which is a fave of mine. I asked a guy who worked there how much a case would be and nearly fell over when he told me $48. Really? I have been making 99cent oatmeal and 59cent noodles go way further than they should and will be glad to have a clean kitchen to cook actual food in soon enough.

4. I am extra excited for the holiday season already. Aussies barely acknowledge Halloween and don't have a "Thanksgiving" so Christmas stuff has been in stores since the beginning of October. I'm not gonna lie, I got kind of excited to see a tree up at the mall the other day and have been listening to Transsiberian Orchestra and the Charlie Brown Christmas albums for a few weeks now. I am really looking forward to the holidays and the togetherness this year. AND I am hoping there is still some of my very favorite fall weather hanging around in a few weeks!

5. I finally figured out what I am doing here. It's about time, right?! What I have finally concluded is THIS...

I was really tired of UT. I was tired of crappy parking, early classes, boring assignments, Gen Ed requirements-ie Spanish, petitions, etc. etc. Having the opportunity to finish my degree away from all of the things that were irritating me has allowed me to finish on MUCH better terms. I am glad to be almost finished, don't get me wrong, but I am glad to be at peace with the Big Orange. I officially have no regrets when I graduate and am so happy I slipped this semester abroad in at the end. I have been informed that my graduation robe is hanging in my closet at home and that completely blew my mind!

Some of the girls here are so jealous I have gone to a big school where sports are big and there is lots of school spirit, and being away from all of that and going to a school with neither of those things has made me appreciate it so much more. I love all the tradition associated with it and how my entire family has gone there. I really have learned so much over my 4 years at UT, not just in the classrooms, and am so happy that I am a Tennesee Vol. That is so cheesy.

I also was really tired of being in the same place. I have spent 22 years in Knoxville and needed a change of scenery. I am not one of those people who plans on living my entire life and growing old in my hometown, but I have a renewed appreciation for the place I call home. Granted, taking off to a place 7,000 miles away didn't exactly ease me out of my comfort zone, and has been the biggest challenge I have ever experienced.

I was not expecting to feel homesick in the slightest, and was shocked when I found myself missing the familiarity of people and places at home. There were sometimes where I wondered what the heck I was doing here, but the awesome days have far outnumbered the sad ones. It was really hard to feel homesick because none of my friends want to go home...ever. I felt stupid for missing home because I felt like I shouldn't. I'm in Australia; why would I want to be back at home?! Holding all that in was a bad idea and ended up coming out in an explosion of sorts where I was mopey and sad for about a solid week earlier this month.

Being broken down in that way has made me feel like superwoman now because I feel like there is literally nothing I cannot do now. I have been living on my own in a foreign country and have made great friends when I came here knowing no one. I can't imagine not knowing Emma, Ayla, Amanda and Bridget now. I went on an amazing trip up and down the coast and spent a week traveling by myself. I have fallen in love with this massive and unique country-minus the amount of rain I have experienced. I have had a crazy and awesome adventure and I will never forget the lessons I have learned.

I came here a person who liked to plan and color code and organize. You should see my massive planner, its a tad ridiculous. I let insignificant things bother me and I let silly things stress me out and make me worry. I have been making conscious efforts to eradicate these habits and want to come back in a No Worries state of mind.

My nomad feet and wanderin' toes will be happy to be on American ground soon and will be even happier to start hopefully generating some income.

That's all for now mates. Off to bed, G'night!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

small victories!

Hello again friends!

It is SCARY how fast my time here has seemed to fly by. The semester is winding down, there are lots of fun end of the year social events happening and next week the international kids are having our first of a few farewell (?!) get togethers. I only have ONE assignment left in all of my undergraduate years! Wooooo! It's an essay that my teacher told me to turn in "whenever." I love being an exchange student.

I had the greatest night this week when I went to my friend Emma's boyfriend's house for dinner. His name is Jeremy and the two of them met while he was on exchange at her school in Canada. Anywho, his mom is born and raised French, and his dad is it was a very interesting night culture-wise. We had a great dinner, talked about Tennessee and then played Cranium as a "family" for a few hours. Jeremy's sister Chloe and I were on the same team and were practically reading each other's minds, it was great! I made the comment that I never thought I would miss home and Jeremy's dad made a statement that has stuck with me, and seems to sum it all up: This is why we travel.

SO TRUE! I came here in the first place because I was sick of being in the same place for my whole life and wanted to see and live something fun and new. I appreciate home more than ever and have a massive respect for people who give up everything and leave their homes to travel the world. It is one thing to go visit a foreign place, but it is a completely different-and educational-thing to go live in a foreign place.

I met so many people who were my age while I was traveling over break last month who had been on the road for months and months. Their stories of how they came to be in Australia and where they had been were absolutley mind-blowing and so inspirational. There were more than a few moments when I wished I could sell all my belongings, throw my degree to the wind and live the life of a nomad. There are so many places I still want to see here and even more outside of Australia. I think I have the travel bug now.

Literally the ONLY thing I have to complain about is this bizarro weather! Lilli, our adviser, told us that is has been 2o years since she has had to turn on the heat in October and that its normally 20-25 degrees by now. That's 70's, for all us Farenheit snobs. There has also been a mass amount of rain, which is good for the drought, but terrible for us people who have no cars and are trying not to spend money. I have been watching quite a bit of TV, via laptop, and doing a lot of reading lately.

This is a big weekend! It's Res Ball tomorrow, which apparently is like prom for some of these Canberrans. It should be pretty fun!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Embassy excursion!

Yesterday I had the very unique opportunity to go to 3 Embassies here in Canberra with my International Political Communication class. We first went to Indonesia, then China then the US!

We were given a tour of the Indonesian cultural center and saw these massive instruments that they play called gamelans (eh, spelling?) We listened to a presentation and had a q and a, it was very informative and they were so hospitable.

The Chinese Embassy is gorgeous! The outside is very traditional and intricate and the inside is filled with artwork and sculptures. The diplomat who spoke to us was so well-spoken and answered all of our questions. Once again, so hospitable!

We broke for lunch and I tagged along with some girls from my class, Cat and Jen. We have sat near each other in class all semester and finally spent more than just classtime together! Jen loves anything Disney and Taylor Swift (haha!) asked me all sorts of questions. It was fun and I love making new friends :)

Lastly, we went to the Press Center to meet with the American diplomats. We couldn't go to the actual embassy because of space issues-our class is pretty large. Of course my teacher had to call me out on being the American, which was funny, and then the diplomats kept referring to me as "our friend from Tennessee." Oh America! They were open to talking to just about anything and took photos of us with a life-size Obama.

One thing we did agree on later was that the Americans were much more candid about things they did not agree with, and it was okay. At the Chinese embassy, the diplomat made the statement that in 2o years she hadn't disagreed with anything the Chinese government did. This was a very diplomatic (pun not intended) answer but I find that hard to believe, personally.

I liked that the American diplomats did not make it seem like we take ourselves too seriously OR think we are better than anyone; they cut up with he group but were serious and addressed not-so-fun issues as well. I'm glad we are friends with Australia!

Overall-such a great experience!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

back in the new york groove

Well hello friends,

After that last post I am happy to report that I am finally out of my bad-weekend funk. Whew it's good to feel like myself again.

Today was an exceptionally good day for no real reason. I had a great run around the lake this morning, it did NOT rain for the first time in weeks, my friends Bridget and Amanda are back from New Zealand, I had a great presentation of a new invention in a class, went to cycling and now am off for some tomato soup and grilled cheese with Emma. Grilled cheese are my FAVORITE.

I worked really hard on my essay and presentation that I turned in today and it felt great to be productive in the way of school. Good thing I don't have to go back to "real" school after this...there is no way I would make it!

My only complaint: my neighbor and I have this teeny paper thin wall that divides our rooms. It used to be one big room, but they threw up some sheetrock and called it two. Anywho, for 3 months now I have been very well aware of ALL of his habits including (but not limited to): talking on the phone insanely loud, spitting in his sink, belching and now his coming home from work between the hours of 2 and 3 am. It did not used to be like this and is quite inconvenient, because it always wakes me up when he slams his door and closet doors. That is no fun! I have to get some good sleep. I think I'm going to utilize the earplugs tonight and hope my body clock wakes me up in time for class tomorrow. Haha

Ah! On Friday I am visiting the Indonesian, Chinese and American Embassies with my Political Communications class. During O-week, we went on a bus tour by the Embassies and so I am pretty excited to get to go and see a few! This will be my 3rd field trip and I am really looking forward to it.

I'm also hoping to get one more trip to Floriade this weekend before it's over! The weather is looking clear so I'm hoping Canberra will hold off on the rain so I can get some more pictures!

I'm back! Back in the New York Groove!

Friday, October 2, 2009

and the award for the spazziest American goes to...

So today has been what I like to call an "off" day. It's my fault; I drank a Coke Zero last night at dinner which was a HUGE mistake. I was absolutely wide awake and staring at the ceiling at 3 a.m. I read, I wrote down everything that was preoccupying me, I listened to Jack Johnson/Jimmy Buffett (which normally works). But nothing did. Eventually I must have fallen asleep because at 7:30 this morning my alarm went off.

I should have known it would be an off day when I hit snooze twice. It's only once normally, if any at all. Then I got to work and the fun began.

For 5 1/2 hours today, I was not with it at ALL. I dropped things, spilled things, tripped and broke 2 get the idea. I got orders wrong. I forgot to write things down. I couldn't carry more than one thing at a time. I took cups of coffee to tables and by the time I got there it was all sloshed over the sides. I spilled coffee all down my front. I burned my finger on a tea pot. I bumped people. I spilled an entire pitcher of water across a table. I got yelled at by a kitchen guy for being in the way.

Once it started it made me so flustered and caused me to continue this pattern of tripping and spilling my entire shift. I also had the hiccups for about an hour, which is also very atypical. Normally its two hiccups and its over. Ahhhhhhhhh what a day.

It's Saturday afternoon on a long weekend. Apparently there is no class on Monday, I just found out. It doesn't really affect me because I don't have class anyway.

I'm going to go for a run and hopefully shake whatever weird mood has come over me today. Quite a few people have gone home from my floor for the long weekend, so its nice and quiet.

After my run I think I'll lay on my bed and watch movies and try not to hurt anyone, or myself. Tomorrow is another day!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

things that I love HEAPS about Australia

I have been here almost 3 months! Crazy! Here are some things I have grown to love about Oz.

in no particular order...

Tim Tams, Weet-Bix, Solo soda and ice cream on pancakes
These chocolate biscuits, yummy cereal, lemonade soda and the fact that Aussies put a big scoop of ice cream on top of pancakes have ALL been a joy to experience.

Public transportation
I cannot count how many bus rides I have taken since being here. Yes, sometimes it is a pain not being able to drive (like the other day when I was walking back from work and it was raining sideways) but the bus system here is relatively easy to figure out and pretty cheap. I have definitely taken some trips where I ended up NOT in the place I thought I was headed or that took waaaayyy too long, but I feel pretty confident in my ability to get on the right bus finally!

$2 coins
They make the aforementioned bus trips and doing laundry so much easier because I have to carry around less change! It's a great thought, the $2 coin.

Being a 3 minute walk from my classes
Especially on the rainy/windy/cold days, it is super nice to be able to be at any of my classes in usually under 5 minutes flat. Even when I lived on campus at UT it took me awhile because you have to factor in the size of the campus and crossing the street in front of the library. Which can take years.

Skype, the Internets, and "the network"
I have LOVED getting to catch up with my family and friends with Skype. Both times I have talked to my grandparents they have loved it even more and it made me laugh at how mesmerized they were to be talking to me :) Even though I am so far away and almost an entire day ahead, it is nice to feel the slightest bit connected. The Network is a file sharing database that almost all my Aussie friends are on, and is how I have been able to watch Entourage! No one can find the Office though...and I have been pretty bummed about that.

Old Res
Yeah its old, pretty basic and kinda dirty...but we all know each other! I would say that Old Res is the Hess of Canberra. Everyone's door is always open and people are always milling around the halls and hanging out on the picnic tables between my building and B-Block. It's been a lot of fun to meet so many cool Aussies this way! The girls on Ayla's floor have had much entertainment asking the 2 of us random questions about America and Canada. To date, I have explained the concepts of Homecoming, cheerleaders, class officers, block scheduling, skim milk v. full cream, tomato sauce v. ketchup, sororites and fraternities and other aspects of university and school life. They always ask "Is it like how it is in the movies?" Those conversations are so much fun.

Ahhh it is amazing! It is a massive spring festival where there are thousands and thousands or flowers planted at Commonwealth Park in Canberra. Two of my friends won tickets to the "Floriade Nightfest" last week and couldn't go, so they gave them to me! The Night part was only a few select nights where there was more entertainment and movies playing on a big screen and all kinds of vendors and markets. I took my friend Emma and we had a great time! I am excited to go back in the daytime during one of these hopefully nice days we have coming up!

words and phrases like...
heaps, dodgy, sunnies, arvo, crook, banana-bender, bugger off, brekky, doona, bogan, trackies, jumper, the alternate pronunications of tomato and banana, full stop, How'd ya pull up?, Howya goin?, Oi! and rubbish. Whew! The Australians love their abbrev.s' too, so most of the time people call me Mel, which I like!

I can't believe I have been here this long! This has been the best experience of my life. I miss everyone at home so so much, but I will be sad to leave my Australian friends and No Worries life here come November.

Hopefully there is some nice spring weather just around the corner for Canberra! It has been so crazy here; storming for the first time in months and months, raining like crazy, dust storms...its been so weird.

I literally only have 4 more assignments left for this entire semester, and it is still crazy to me that I haven't had any exams and have no finals. What a way to go out!

Monday, September 21, 2009


If you have made it through reading the immensely long post below, you can now look at the pictures that will help it all make sense!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Put your reading pants on!

Well hello friends! It has been awhile since I have posted anything because I have been gone since the beginning of September! Where has the time gone?!

I am going to now attempt to recount the past month, which happen to include the best 18 days of my life. I have been keeping a journal along the way, so hopefully this won't be too difficult. Here goes nothing...

September 2 Canberra to Byron Bay
Woo! This has been a long day. It is 10:45 and I am about to head to bed. We left UC this morning at 7:30 and caught a bus to Civic. Our bus to Sydney left Civic at 9 and we arrived at the airport around 12-ish. We had to take another bus to the domestic terminal because the airport is so dang big! This day has been ALL about some transportation! We then flew from Sydney to Ballina and thanks to Drammamine, I was practically comatose the entire time. Ah one flight down and 3 to go! THEN we had to get a shuttle from the airport to Byron and over the 20ish minute ride, the driver told us the entire Ballina/Byron history which was pretty cool. We are staying at Aquarius Backpackers, which is only about a 2 minute walk to the beach AND we get free dinner every night! Niiiiiiice.

We walked on the beach and saw the most gorgeous pink and purple sunset. It's a little chilly today and we are hoping for sunshine tomorrow! We had dinner and then Samara, Ayla and I played some cards with the Italians staying in our room. It's starting to quiet down and I'm hoping to get some sleep soon. Made it through Day 1 without getting sick, lost or losing any of my belongings!

September 3 Byron Bay
If the rest of this trip totally bombs for some reason, today will be worth it all. This morning Bridget, Amanda and I got up early and walked to the lighthouse at Cape Byron. The view was absolutely breathtaking and it felt SO good to get moving and sweat! It is whale-watching season, which means the humpbacks are all headed north so we were hoping to see some, but they all seemed to be underwater this particular morning.

The better part of today was spent drifting in and out of consciousness while laying on the beach. We got some fruit from a market and lazed the day away. Incredible. No complaints at all. Got a little too much sun but today has been GREAT!

September 6 Cairns
Ayla, Samara and I are now in Far North Queensland! The rest of the Byron trip was fantastic. The weather seemed to get a little more cloudy, but that was okay because it gave us the chance to do some shopping in all the quirky and exotic little stores! I probably got a little too excited in the Byron Bazaar, where there was a whole room filled with all things tye-dye. SO much fun. We also went to a really great cafe and had yummy organic eggs and coffee for breakfast. I also went into a grocery store barefoot...I could get used to this.

Now Cairns! The flight was bearable; once again I was knocked out the entire time and only remember landing vaguely. We got here yesterday and spent most of the day getting settled, getting groceries and meeting friends. We are staying with a friend-of-a-friend of Ayla's, who is in law school at James Cook University. His apartment is about 20 minutes outside of actual Cairns, but is closer to the beaches-win!

We spent all of today at Trinity Beach, which was gorgeous and tropical. I wandered around a trail for awhile and took pictures until my feet got too hot. We drove over to Palm Cove, which is more resort-y and is supposedly the cleanest beach in Oz. It was super nice. We walked out onto the pier where lots of people were fishing. Off in the distance was a weird shaped island, and they informed us that there was a tiger shark breeding ground that thanks!

Tomorrow we are going to the Great Barrier Reef! I am looking forward to being outside all day and seeing some amazing sights!

September 7 Cairns
Today we woke up early to go to the Reef! The views were absolutely AMAZING. We took a giant catamaran about an hour and a half out into the ocean to go to the first of 2 reefs. Snorkeling was so so cool! There were so many amazing colors and fish as big as my head! It was incredibly peaceful to be in water that clear with the sun shining down and to see nothing but you and a bunch of fish! The coral was stunning. I literally was swimming through schools of fish! We saw a giant sea turtle swimming around and I saw 2 stingray while I was snorkeling.

At the second reef, we took a submarine-type boat and got to see further underwater. It was there we saw a reef shark! They are vegetarian, so no worries! We also saw a bunch of clown fish, or Nemos, hovering over their anemone homes. Crazy! There is also this giant fish that the dive instructors have named Wally, and he will come right up to the boat and let people touch him.

Today has been a dream. I saw one of the 7 wonders of the Natural World. Amazing.

September 8 Cairns
Today we decided to journey into the city via bus for some sunning and shopping. There are no actual beaches inside of Cairns, only smelly mudflats, so the city built a giant lagoon-type pool on the Esplanade that overlooks the ocean. There are plenty of trees and grassy areas to lie by the water, so that is exactly what we did. I fell asleep in the shade of a palm tree, only to wake up NOT in the shade and with an unfortunate burn across my stomach. Nice

I got some amazing banana gelato because it felt like 100 degrees. Still haven't quite figured out the Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion. We spent the afternoon laying around, looking in shops and exploring the little city. We ended the day with some $5 pizzas and a movie back at Jordan's apartment and now I am about to collapse onto the air mattress. We are getting up tomorrow for a trip further up the coast and into the Rain forest! Woo!

September 8 Cairns
Today we went to Daintree Rain forest and Cape Tribulation! Our first stop was Port Douglas, which is one of the top scenic drives to do in Australia and it was indeed wonderful. Port Douglas looked like a nice little vacation spot, but we didn't have much time there because our bus was a bit late this morning. After looking into a few stores, we hopped back onto the bus and went into Daintree National Park, where we walked to Mossman Gorge. It was fantastic! Picture a giant, clear swimming hole in the middle of a rain forest clearing. The water felt amazing and so we climbed around on the rocks and took pictures of the scenery.

The next stop was Cape Tribulation-which gets its name from Captain Cook, who said that everything past that point on his voyage in the 1700s went wrong. I just don't see it, because the whole time we were there I felt like I was living a Jimmy Buffett song. If you know me, you know that's a big deal! It was almost deserted, only the odd person every now and then with their dog, clear, warm water and green, green trees. The rainforest literally runs into the coastline and it is breathtaking.

BEST PART OF THE DAY! We legitimately cracked a coconut open on a rock, ripped it open and ate the meat on the beach. Highlight of the trip so far.

We also went on a botanical walk through another part of the forest and saw where the Daintree River meets the forest, and we saw never ending mangroves. Mangroves are trees that grow in the water, but since the roots can't root in the bottom, they grow back up towards the surface and earned the name "snorkel roots." Neat.

The last stop was a ferry cruise down the Daintree River where we were on CROC watch! We saw 4 salties (saltwater crocodiles) and as luck would have it, my camera battery died, BUT I got the first one on camera! The biggest one, a 20-metre (AHHHHHH!) male named Scarface never did turn up, but knowing he was there lurking under the water was enough for me. Crikey!

September 10 Cairns
Today has been pretty low-key. I woke up early and went for a long run on the beach and am now having a little trouble walking. We have just been lounging by the pool today, which is in fact, REALLY nice for an apartment pool and has all sorts of little fountains and waterfalls and such. Not too much out of the ordinary today. Ayla and I went and picked up Thai food for us all and then we watched Role Models. Ahhh vacation.

September 12 Cairns
It is 5:17 am and I am sitting at the Cairns airport. I woke up this morning at 3:15 (yes, a.m.) to catch a 3:55 shuttle to the airport, Yikes!

Yesterday I left Jordan's and took a bus into the city with all my stuff where I met up with Bridget and Amanda! We talked about our separate weeks (they had been in Brisbane and Fraser Island since splitting with us in Byron) at the Esplanade lagoon and then we checked ourselves into hostel #2, Gilligans. It was MASSIVE; literally a backpacker resort. We spent the afternoon napping and laying at the pool (seems to be a trend, eh?). I had a great conversation with Amanda; I just love that girl!

I finally got the Mexican food I had been craving for weeks and weeks, although it couldn't hold a candle to El Charro! It was weird in that there was tomato sauce and parmesan cheese over my enchiladas? Que? Oh well. We wandered around the Night Markets for awhile where I had to pick up a touristy tote bag to store the stuff I have accumulated up to this point. Ooooh and we got some great gelato! Apple pie and dark chocolate! It was so great to see Bridget and Amanda because they move at my slower speed,

Bad thing about Gilligans: you cannot stay there and expect to sleep. At all. All the rooms have conjoing porches and there was literally a party raging allllll night and was still going on when I got up at 3:15. I'm looking forward to napping on the plane and hopefully crash landing on the beach as soon as I arrive in the Gold Coast at 8:35. This hot weather has gotten me spoiled! I hope it's nice in Surfer's Paradise, although I have heard that it is a crowded and touristy place, I'm only there for one night so I should be able to bear it.

I am so looking forward to being on my own agenda for the next week! It will be nice to make decisions that only concern me as far as where I want to go, eat, see, etc. More from the Gold Coast!

September 13 Surfer's Paradise
Yesterday in Surfer's was one of the most relaxing and chilled out days I have had so far. After checking into my hostel, I found out that I got a room ALL to myself. Great news! It was about a 15 minute walk from the centre of Surfer's, so I threw on a swimsuit and headed into town. It was definitely crowded alright. I had visions of Panama City or Destin at spring break time as I pushed my way through crowds of families and strollers and jean shorts...yes, jorts are really big over here for some reason, I found a reasonably un-crowded piece of sand, lay down on my towel and slept for 2 hours. I LOVE napping on the beach.

After showering and re-arranging my ever expanding backpack, I walked back into town for dinner. I got blueberry pancakes at Pancakes in Paradise, sat by myself and read. I honestly don't mind the whole stigma of eating alone, and it was nice to sit and be with just my thoughts. Some more reading back at the hostel and I was asleep by 9. I slept SO GOOD which was a nice change from the 4-or so hours I had gotten at Gilligans.

This morning I woke up early and went for a walk on the beach, which was lovely when it's not packed with people. Now I am sitting at the Gold Coast Greyhound station, about to catch a bus to Brisbane and then onto Noosa!

(later) September 13 Noosa
I LOVE NOOSA! I have only been here about 5 hours and I already kind of want to move here, The YHA I am staying at is fantastic. It is a big, historical house that has been converted into a sweet hostel with a massive porch. I'm in a big, open room with 5 other girls. 2 English, 1 Canadian, 1 Finnish, 1 Chinese and me!

This afternoon after I arrived I walked into the Noosa National Park for a bushwalk! I went on the Palm Grove trail which was only about 2km. There were insanely huge trees and I looked and looked for a koala but never saw one. I did see and hear a couple of kookaburras, which are much nicer to encounter when they aren't waking you up in the morning with their strange call. Then I walked down the coastal walking path which was AMAZING. I had been walking for about half an hour when I saw a few people gathered around the base of a tree. It was...A KOALA! It was sleeping on a tree branch that was pretty low, and I got some pictures of it's furry little face! I am so excited!

I walked for a little bit longer until I found a cove with some rocks to sit on and watch the sunset. I have been using all my adjectives up, so I'm really not sure how to describe it. I never want to forget that moment. Could this get any better?

I walked back to town and bought a few groceries and sat on the aforementioned massive porch at my hostel and read and ate. Tomorrow I am going kayaking! I'm pumped! I honestly kind of wish now that I had skipped Surfer's and come straight here. I hate that I only have 2 days here because this place is just so naturally beautiful. I would really like to come back here.

September 14 Noosa
I am so exhausted but I will attempt to cover this great day! This morning I got picked up from my hostel by Kayak Noosa! (Side note: I had some CRAZY dreams last night about a flood of Evan Almighty proportions. Weird)

It's run by a couple with 2 adorable little sons and is located a little bit outside of Noosa Heads, where I am staying. We had a short intro and we were off! It was only me and a lady named Chan, and our instructor Rod. They said typically they only run the tour with 4 people, but since today was such a nice day that they wanted to do it for the 2 of us! So lucky!

Ahhh it was so cool to kayak over the waves! I was in the back and had to operate the rudder, which proved to be more challenging that I thought, After going completely sideways and off course a few times I finally got the hang of it. We paddled out for about an hour and a half before stopping at a bay for morning tea, how lovely! Haha

We then paddled to Granite Bay, which is HUUUUUGGGGE cliff and some super scary rocks, which we stayed very far away from. The waves rebounded off the cliffs, making it super choppy and hard to paddle through.

We started seeing FINS off in the distance and tails flipping about! We followed this "pod" of bottle nose dolphins around for about 20 minutes! It was incredible! They were making all kinds of neat noises and spraying water and being so playful with each other.

After lunch on the beach at Tea Tree Bay, we put the sails up and lounged our way back into shore, It was a great way to spend a day. My feet are so sunburned and I am all freckled. It was about 4 when we got back so I looked around for a few hours with no real destination, before finding myself at my ultimate vice: a bakery. I don't know what it is about Turkish bread, but it seems to be so much better than almost any bread I have ever had before. So of course I had to buy a loaf and I ate it on the beach with some hummus and watched another beautiful sunset. Living the dream. So sad to leave in the morning :(

September 15 Brisbane
Well, I'm in Brisbane. It was unduly stressful getting here. But after almost 2 weeks of smooth sailing, something was bound to happen.

First, I missed the bus at Noosa Heads (where I was staying) that would take me up the giant hill and down the other side to Noosa Junction (where I was supposed to be picked up). Grrrr. So carrying 15kg on my back, my day pack on my front and my souvenir-tourist bag from Cairns over my shoulder I walked. Yikes, major back sweat.

When I got there, I wasn't sure at which stop I should be I ended up wandering around and eventually asking someone where Greyhounds normally picked up. I was supposed to be picked up at 8:13 (random) and when it got to be 8:20 I was sure I had been forgotten, or I was at the wrong stop. The bus showed up about 3 minutes later. Whew!

We made a few stops along the Sunshine Coast before getting on our way to Brisbane. When I got off the bus in Brisbane I set off to find my hostel. 30 minutes and some crappy directions from a cab driver later, I showed up sweaty and irritated. They then informed me I couldn't check in for 3 more hours and this was not good news considering all I wanted to do was shower or sit and cool down.

So I store my stuff and grumbled inside about being gross all day long. I walked back into the city and am currently sitting on a bench in the Queen's Mall. I just devoured a little pizza, which I had to fight my way for when I made the mistake of going into the food court.

First impressions? Too crowded. I have already gotten pushed around and I don't like feeling "herded" by crowds, which has happened a lot, For Sydney being a bigger city, this one sure seems busier and more packed. And I actually like Sydney a lot, which helps. It could also be the fact that I am ending 2 weeks of beaches with one of Australia's top 3 biggest cities.

(later) September 15
This has been the most random day ever. I'm finding myself really wishing I had stayed in Noosa longer instead of coming to a big, smoky city. This afternoon, I wandered around and eventually found the Botanic Gardens by one of the universities. I laid by a pond and read for awhile before heading back to check in. I just didn't have it in me to explore that much today.

When I got back to my hostel to check in I had another rude awakening. Turns out that this building was once a school, and by the looks of it it's pretty ancient...complete with creepy lifts with the doors you open and close yourself. So creepy! I opened the door to my room and was immediately met with a lady babbling something indecipherable about there being one bathroom for 16 people, or something like that. It was a massive room of 16 girls and it took me forever to figure out which beds were occupied and which were not. Meanwhile, I still cannot figure out what this lady is saying to me and still all I want to do is shower. That also turned out to be a chore, as the shower was built for someone about 5 foot tall with very small arms. Oh dear.

I didn't want to go out and spend any more money, so I finished the book mom had sent me (about Julia good!) and don't really have anything else to do...hopefully Moreton Island tomorrow will shake off this weird mood I am in.

September 17 Brisbane
I'm about to head out of Brisbane for SYDNEY! I LOVE that city! A little backtrack: yesterday's adventure to Moreton Island! It turned out to be a group of 10 people:
-a Canadian
-2 German girls
-2 Turkish brothers
-a couple from Denmark
-a girl from Austria
and our guide, Logan.

We all piled into a LandCruiser and headed off to the Port of Brisbane to get the ferry to Moreton Island! MI is the 3rd largest all-sand island in the world! The top 2 are also Australian: Fraser and Stradbroke. We drove onto this giant catamaran and dispersed until we reached the shore. I found a spot on the top deck and had a great conversation with Celine and Mikkel from Denmark. They are in Brisbane until Celine finishes this semester of school and then they are travelling Asia. Mikkel had been to Tennessee! He went to Memphis last year! It was so crazy to sit and talk about the US with him! He said he would rather go back to Tennessee than Denmark :)

When we got to MI, about an hour and a half later, we got back into the LandCruiser and began the day of being bumped and banged around the backseat. It was NUTS! It was like being in a theme park ride where you are strapped into a chair that moves and you watch a screen...only we were actually doing all the things you watch on the screen.

Our first stop was the Desert, which was a massive stretch of the whitest sand ever! I thought it would be scalding hot to step on, but it was surprisingly cool and so so soft. There were patches where the sand was even whiter, and that was because it was pure silica. There were also hard pebbles all around, which are formed when lightning strikes the sand. Amazing.

The wind forms massive sand dunes, which look more like sand hills if you ask me, but we used them to go sandboarding! Which is exactly what it sounds like!

There were 3 variations: standing up like a snowboard, sitting down like a sled, ot laying on your belly. I sat down first and got some serious friction burns on my hands, yikes! The trek back up the hill was SO INTENSE! Everyone ended up stopping about halfway just to sit and rest! Then I went down on my belly and got sand positively everywhere! My ears are still itching!

We hopped back onto the LandCruiser and set off to the East Beach to snorkel! There were several sand-mining ships that had been purposely sunk and we snorkeled right up to them! We also fed some fish, which was alllllmost as cool as the Reef. We had lunch and drove to the Lighthouse where we saw WHALES! We didn't see them breach (think Free Willy, coming up on his side and splashing back down into the water) but we did see them spouting and flipping their tails, which was so neat.

Back in Brisbane I went to bed early again and then caught the train to the airport this morning. I am at the gate in the Brisbane airport and I'll be in Sydney in 2 1/2 hours! No more planes for awhile after this, 4 in 3 weeks is plenty in my opinion.

This is the end of my fabulous solo adventure and it has been great! I love that I have been on my own time and done exactly what I felt like doing. It's been nice to sort of "process" my time in Australia this far and think about the things I still want to do. I've also had a ton of time to sit and wonder what I will do with myself when I get back. I have been through so many scenarios on my head but only time will tell. More from Sydney!

September 19 Sydney
This weekend in Sydney has absolutely flown by! I took me awhile to get from the airport to Bondi, via train then a 40 minute bus. Our hostel ended up being pretty basic, but right across from the beach with an ocean view from our room! I met back up with Ayla on the beach and that is where we spent most of the afternoon. After the sun went down, we got dinner at this yummy place called Moo's Gourmet Burgers. I got a spicy red kidney bean burger and we split "chips" (fries) and this place had actual Heinz ketchup! I don't even like ketchup that much and I was excited! And I also found Dr Pepper in a convenience store, so needless to say I was set! After dinner, I used my power of persuasion when it comes to desserts (I am verrrrry good) and so we got waaaaaay-too chocolaty brownies and sat outside and talked for several hours. It was a great night to just sit and talk.

On Friday morning I woke up extra early for some reason and looked (well, squinted) out the window and saw the sun coming up over the ocean! Epic! I couldn't go back to sleep, so at 7am I was ready to get up and do something! Ayla was still sleeping and informed me that I was very annoying in the mornings, so I set off to do the 5km walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach. It was a warm and beautiful morning and the views were spectacular. Gordon's Bay was especially pretty and I took so many pictures of the cliff views.

After another beach day, I went into town to see...WICKED! It was sosososo good! It made me miss Bethany so much because I kept wanting to look over and singalong. It was an amazing show, nonetheless. I would love to see it again!

This morning we slept in a bit and went back to the beach for the last time. Ayla left for Canberra around 2 and I took the bus downtown and went to the Rocks markets. And talk about amazing timing! I was there so long that some of the vendors started packing up and closing up shop. When I heard "2 for 1 chocolate covered strawberries and bananas" I was sold. Dinner! Woo!

The sun was starting to go down so I walked towards Circular Quay to see the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House at sunset. It just doesn't get old! I love Sydney!

I'm starting to feel a little sluggish and just worn out from all of this back and forth and travelling, so it will be nice to get back and be stationary for awhile. I cannot believe how much I've seen and done in the past 18 days. This is truly a gorgeous and unique country. I have definitely had my moments since I have been here, but this trip is exactly what I wanted to do the whole time: get out and see things I've never seen before and get out of my comfort zone and routines.

I'm looking forward to nicer weather in Canberra, the Floriade festival, Res Ball and visiting the South Coast next month with some of our friends who live there! School won't be challenging by any stretch of the imagination, but I do have something due every week from here on out. I'm excited about long runs around the lake and getting to be outside more. This trip has been great for my motivation and has made me even more happy to be here,

September 20 back to Canberra
Well today is the last day of my fabulous vacation. This has been the best experience of my life. I will say this though: the life of a backpacker is DIRTY. I have loved it for the past month, but I am probably not cut out for multiple months or years. It's nice to have my room at UC as kind of a home base, where I know I can do laundry and keep stuff safe. Being a nomad for a little and getting a taste of life on the road (and air) has been so so fun. I'm not picky about accommodations or showers and such, but having a little privacy every once in awhile is nice. Its also nice to be able to spread my stuff out and not worry about lockers and losing things.

I've definitely covered the highlights extensively, and I am happy to say there were very few bad moments:
-feeling the effects of travelling with the same people for 2 weeks and getting irritated with each other in Cairns
-the night at Gilligan's. Never again.

I'm on a bus back right now! First order of business: laundry! Then mail and attempting to put up pictures and blog.

Eh, and getting back into the school groove...haha

Sunday, August 30, 2009

September is looking awesome

Hello friends!

Well, when I last wrote I thought I was going to be spending our 2 week break working in Canberra and holding down the fort. Since then I had a stroke of some amazing karma in the form of financial aid from UT that I had not planned on, woo!

I am now headed up to Cairns (pronounced "Cans" and aka the Great Barrier Reef) with Ayla and her friend Samara, who is visiting Oz from studying abroad in NZ, after we leave Byron Bay!! I can't wait!

From there, they are both headed to Sydney with Ayla's dad who is coming to visit and I am meeting up with Amanda and Bridget in Cairns (who are meeting their parents there). For several reasons, I could not bring myself to book a flight out of Cairns on the 11th, so I am staying one night with them and then making my way back down the coast.

I decided I had no reason to hurry back just because everyone was hanging out with parents, so I'm going to hop on a few Greyhounds and stop in some little towns that are more off the beaten path. (And if I need to be reminded of Pigeon Forge, naybe even the Big Banana at Coffs Harbour, haha!) If everything goes to plan, I will be meeting BACK up with Ayla in Sydney on the 17th or 18th.

Whew! I am about to embark on a marathon tour of the East coast and I am so excited! Now THIS is why I came to Australia.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Want to see a kangaroo?

Here are some photos from the kangaroo adventure! I discovered that I could link to my Facebook album instead of uploading them to Picasa, too!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Still can't believe I am in Australia

Hello friends! I hope this finds everyone having a lovely Sunday. It's pretty good, I already lived it, haha. I have been here 6 weeks and so excited I made it this far! Woo!

I'm getting a bit sporadic with writing but honestly I don't feel like I have done very many interesting things since going to Sydney! (I want to go BACK!!!)

I really like my little job at Black Pepper Cafe. It is so great to need to be somewhere and be busy! On Saturdays and Sundays BP serves yummy breakfast all day long. So all day there are slews of people coming in and ordering lots of coffee and smoothies and milkshakes to go with their Eggs Benedict and blueberry pancakes. I can't even count how many banana smoothies and iced coffees I have made over this weekend, but the best part is making too much...and getting to taste it :) I worked with 5 girls today, including Bek from my floor, and even though we were crowded and busy and hot I really had a good time chatting and gettting to know them. I'm still finding that I introduce myself to someone and start talking, and then somewhere along the way I get the "Wait, what are you doing here?" A relevant question! However, I did see someone wearing a Tarheels hoodie today and I got so excited I had to go ask if they were NC fans and it turns out they were-so random!

I also tried Vegemite on buttered toast at the insistence of Jenna, a girl I work with. Honestly, it was not that bad although it is incredibly salty. We tried to decide what the American equivalent would be, as far as being brought up on a certain food-because all Aussies are brought up to eat it. All we came up with was peanut butter and Pop Tarts. I can still stand by the statement that I will eat anything besides onions...and that now includes vegemite.

One park of working at a cafe is being able to drink free coffee my entire shift! I've been having a hard time knowing what to ask for when ordering coffee because everyone here is all about their lattes and cappuccinos and I'm more of a black coffee with a little milk and sugar kind of girl. I had an unfortunate incident in Sydney when ordering an iced coffee, only to be brought a huge class with about 1/4 coffee and 3/4 ice cream and whipped cream, yeesh! SO I learned by working at Black Pepper that what I need to ask for is a "long black" (as opposed to a "flat white" which has heaps of foamy milk in thanks).

And I can officially say that I am no longer mesmerized by seeing a kangaroo. That sounds disappointing but it's not! I went on a field trip on Thursday with my Indigenous Studies class to Namadgi National Park to see indigenous rock drawings. I have NEVER seen that many kangaroo before, not even on Animal Planet or the Discovery Channel. It was amazing. The path we were walking on wasn't wooded or marked off and they would hop right across it in front of you. The first time I saw a kangaroo on campus I got so excited I ran towards it and fell on my face, but now I can look at nonchalantly like, "Oh look, a kangaroo." . I'm a bit of a kangaroo snob, if you will. Haha.

On the hike back, someone suggested we not take the path back and instead cut straight across this HUGE meadow because it was a more direct route. HA! An unforseen and massive nasty bog and wet grass had us all laughing and trying not to fall in. (Well, I was trying not to fall in.) It ended up adding about half an hour to our time in the end. And then everyone had soggy feet on the drive back...except me! My sandals helped me out on this one, win!

This weekend all my girlfriends headed off to either Sydney or Melbourne but I decided to stay in Canberra and work and catch up on school stuff. I could have take these classes at UT, so I'm not hugely worried about them but we are missing some time in Septmeber to go to the beach. My teachers are totally understanding and are letting me turn stuff in early. Nice.

We had originally planned to go to Byron Bay and then up to Surfer's Paradise, but after further investigation we decided Surfers was kind of seedy and we would rather just stay in Byron. I am very happy with this decision! I can't wait for the beach! 3 girls' parents are coming over our break and so they are headed up to Cairns after Byron but I'm headed back here once again to hopefully work a bit

I'm also happy to report that the weather is starting to seem more cooperative. No more fleece! It hasn't seemes as cold lately except when the wind blows. It was so nice today and it actually got up above 60! After work I took my homework down to the lake and started writing another short story for my narratives class. Spring is in the air! It's amazing what some sunshine and warm weather can do for a mood.

I have also gotten more feedback about my Southern accent. Somebody today told me it was not that bad, which I consider positive!

Friday, August 14, 2009

pictures from weekend in Sydney!

I posted some photos from last weekend in Sydney if you have not seen them on facebook!

Here they are!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

This is a long one!

I have been in Canberra a month today! I am so happy to be here, unlike a month a go when I was throwing up on the plane from Sydney to Canberra. Yikes!

I am also coming off a GREAT weekend in Sydney with Ayla, Amanda and Bridget! We left Canberra on Thursday afternoon and after about a half dozen hiccups on the way (like almost missing the bus and then sitting next to a screaming child on the bus) we made it to Sydney and settled into our hostel. We stayed at the same place I did upon arriving in Oz since it is right across from the bus station.

On Friday morning we began the first of many tourist adventures. Since I had been there once before and semi knew my way around I was appointed tour guide. (Which is funny if you know how directionally challenged I am)We made our way to Circular Quay for the first glimpses of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge-this time on a sunny day! We finally found Pancakes on the Rocks tucked under the Bridge and I had the most amazing cinnamon apple and raisin pancakes! Ahhh it was so good!

We took a ferry to Taronga Zoo and spent the afternoon there, all the while getting an amazing view of downtown Sydney. The koalas were a big hit, even though they were sleeping, as well as the baby gorilla, baby elephant and the seal show! We also saw all the huge, scary snakes that are in Australia and some super creepy salties (crocodiles). We were so lucky to have such gorgeous weather. After we took the ferry back, we went walking around the Opera House, although we didn’t get a tour and I would still like to eventually. After some sushi in the city for dinner we met up with Liz, a friend of Josh’s who lives in Sydney, for some karaoke in Newtown-which is the college-y area near all the Sydney unis. Our rendition of Don’t Stop Believing was a big hit!

We had another early morning on Saturday because we had to go collect our race packets for City to Surf! The race was beginning at the Hyde Park Barracks, which was one of the former prisons used to house convicts in the 1800s-also a place I wanted to tour, but didn’t have the time! We had decided that we wanted to see where the 2000 Olympics were held and that turned out being a bigger task than we bargained for.

First, it took us about half and hour to locate the train station. And thank goodness for the subway-savvy New York girls, Amanda and Bridget, for taking over as tour guides and getting us on the right train. As it ended up, the Olympic Park was waaaaayyyy far away from anything identifiable in Sydney. We took an almost 20 minute train ride, and then transferred to take another train to Homebush Bay. We practically lived on peanut butter the whole weekend because we didn’t want to pay for food, so we sat on the train and made peanut butter crackers and peeled oranges. The whole time we are looking out the windows and wondering just where in the heck we are going to end up.

When we arrived at Olympic Park the entire train station was super nice, but super deserted. Aside from one obviously touring family, we were the only people to be seen at Olympic Park! It was nothing like the Atlanta park, which is downtown and there are normally people all over. We wandered around and took pictures of the arenas and the torch and looked for athlete’s names which were all inscribed on a bunch of poles. It was really cool to see and I can only imagine how cool it would have been to be there during the Games. I LOVE the Olympics!

We then took a train, and then a bus to Bondi Beach! It was still a gorgeous day, but we had badly underestimated how chilly it would be with the wind. This did not stop us! We looked around at some street vendors and in a couple surf shops and got gelato and ice cream. Then we climbed all over the rocks and cliffs overlooking the water. I got some great pictures of the water and the tidepools!It was breathtaking! We are definitely making a trip back when it is warmer to do the coastal cliff walk from Bondi to Coogee Beach.

The trip back to the city was incredibly frustrating and hilarious at the same time. We got a ride from a friend of Ayla’s who lived nearby back to the bus station, where we bought tickets WE thought would get us back to Hyde Park. We are on the bus for about 20 minutes and are all about to fall asleep when we hear the bus driver yell LAST STOP! We look around and realize that we are BACK at the beach where we started….and we felt incredibly stupid. We did get the right bus back, but the trip that should have taken 40 minutes took about an hour and a half. NICE!

We called it an early night since we were getting up early to run run run! On Sunday morning, we all put on our matching neon-colored tank tops, bright colored ponytails and kneesocks, and I used some of the American flag stickers Mom sent in a care package to decorate my number bib:)

Hyde Park was absolutely PACKED with people who were in the race. It is THE biggest footrace in the world-beating both the New York City and Boston Marathons. There were almost 80 thousand participants! There were all kinds of crazy costumes: a family of gorillas, Scooby Doo, pirates, people who were painted head to toe, AND several men running on stilts! And those are just the ones we saw!

Since we had never run City2Surf before, we were placed in the back of the pack, which was the last starting group. This is the craziest part: the first guy crossed the FINISH line before we were even up to the starting line! It took us 41 minutes to cross START! From there, Ayla and I ran, and Bridget and Amanda walked. However, the first 2 kilometers were impossible to run because it was so packed out! We ran, laughing hysterically, weaving in and out of people for a lonnnnnnng time. Eventually our pink and green ponytails got quite irritating and pretty sweaty, so we took them off and clipped them to a stop sign in Double Bay:)

We ran the first 6 kilometers and then 7-8 were up “Heartbreak Hill” which we definitely walked. It wasn’t a huge incline or really steep, but it steadily inclined and was so hard on the knees to run. It was such a great motivator to have people all around me literally the entire time. We picked up running again after the hill until Km 14 at the FINISH line on Bondi Beach! Woo! Ahhhh the sand felt amazing on my tired feet and so while we waited on Bridget and Amanda, Ayla and I dozed on the beach. Living the dream.

Once again, our trip out of Bondi was unduly stressful. The busses ran for free back to the city on race day, and that was how we had counted on getting back. However, the lines were insanely long and we had a bus to catch back to Canberra! So after debating walking, getting up and announcing that we were exchange student s and needed to catch our bus OR waiting in line…we decided to risk taking the subway back. It turned out to be the best bet and we were getting our bags from the hostel with half an hour to spare! The bus ride back to Canberra was nice and quietJ

It was such a GREAT weekend and this week so far has been pretty great too! I started working on Monday at Black Pepper Café and I just love it. I had been getting a little bored on Mondays since I had no class, so it felt great to feel busy and accomplish something. Everyone was so helpful and answered all my questions. As soon as a customer heard me talk they wanted to know where I was from and how I came to be in Canberra. I had a great time and I am excited to work again!.

Monday was also Ayla’s and Erin’s birthdays so a bunch of exchange kids went out to dinner to celebrate! I FINALLY got some decent pizza! Not awesome, but decent. We also experimented with making a birthday pie of bananas, custard and Nutella and it turned out absolutely fabulous, if I do say so myself.

Yesterday afternoon I was working on getting my presentation together, keeping my door open-trying to be social, when Kirby and Carla from across the hall came in my room and we chatted the afternoon away! They asked me where Montana was after seeing the photo of Bethany and I at the Montana state line, so I got to explain US geography a bit! We talked about California and Washington DC and I showed them photos from the trip Mom and I made to DC in 2007. It was so cool to get to explain to someone about the Capitol and Arlington Cemetery and others.

The 2 BEST things they asked me:

1. Is life in America like the Simpsons?

I laughed a lot and then had to inform them that I have never watched a single episode! EVERYONE here watches the Simpsons! I’m glad that’s how they perceive us, haha

2. Is Alabama scary?

This one made me so happy to answer! I got to explain about how gridiron(football) is so huge in the south, and how UT hates Bama and Florida. But for all practical purposes, YES, Alabama is scaryJ I laughed a lot!

Today I gave a presentation in my Political Communication class about how CNN has influenced news and about the integrations of social media like Facebook and Twitter into news. It was so crazy and cool to be presenting to an entire classroom of people where I didn’t recognize faces or know names, like I would have at UT. I feel great about my first completed assignment down here.

Annnnnnd in between my 9-5 classes today, I checked my mail and had a package slip! I practically RAN to the post office! I was so happy to get a care package from Todd, Michelle and Evelyn! Thanks so so much for the oatmeal, popcorn, Pop Tarts and Rice Krispies Treats!

This weekend is looking pretty uneventful as of now…probably going to try and get a few essays done! Loving keeping in touch with emails from family and friends! I’ll be sure and update as soon as I do something exciting! TTFN…Ta ta for now!