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!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

pictures from 7 Mile Beach!

Facebook keeps kicking me off when I try to upload pictures so I think I am going to have to stick with Picasa!

Here are some pictures from the weekend!

I've got some nomad feet and some wanderin' toes that glide up my longboard and hang off the nose

I spent the weekend learning how to surf at 7 Mile Beach National Park in Gerroa, New South Wales. It was an INCREDIBLE experience!

We loaded up on Friday for the 4 hour trip from Canberra to (hopefully) some warmer temperatures and some surfing. There were about 20 Canberra exchange students, including myself and the 5 girls I have become such good friends with. According to tradition, I put on the I-pod and slept the whole trip (that's for you Bethany). We arrived after a dinner stop at KFC-who knew?- and were put up in little beach cabins! After a walk on the beach, a few rounds of Scattergories and talking about scary Australian spiders we called it a night.

It was colder than I would have liked on Saturday morning, but we all bundled up for some hot tea and brekky before getting fitted for our wetsuits and heading down to the beach. 7 Mile Beach was absolutley breathtaking in the daylight. A cliff dotted with colorful little bungalows overlooked the beach that stretched on and on. I love going to national park beaches because there are no hotels and seedy tourist stuff.

We were all in the first group to surf and the sun was nice and bright. We spent about half an hour on the beach learning technique and drawing fake surfboards in the sand to practice on. If you know me, you have probably noticed my lack of coordination and balance at certain times. If you have seen me ski, you especially know what I am referring to. I literally had no idea of what to expect out of myself in a sport that involved so much standing and balancing...on a board-on the ocean. Which happens to be very unstable.

The first couple tries I got nowhere, but after being given a few pushes from our instructors I was actually able to ride some little waves into shore. I seriously surpised myself on this one! And it was my first time in the Pacific! We spent two hours in the water before heading in for lunch. Our second session involved less learning on the sand time, and we were able to be in the water a lot longer. The wetsuit was amazing at keeping off the chill because the wind really made it feel like winter. I would say I had an overall successful first day ever of surfing

Amanda, Ayla and myself hung around after our second lesson and sat under the sun and talked. We played 20 questions and my personal favorite-Would You Rather, until the sun had almost sunk behind the trees. It was a relaxing way to cap off some intense hours of getting beaten down by the waves. Our staying out later also turned out to be a plus when we got back to camp and all the showers were open-win!

Preface: There is nothing better than the exhausted feeling you have after a day of being outside hiking or skiing. You have exerted yourself all day, your body is tired and you are hungry. Now, multiply that by about 120. Because that's how many tired and starving people there were...and it was FEEDING TIME! I literally do not think I have ever taken in as much food as I did in that short of a time. I don't know how it happened, but I looked down and it was all gone. The sun sets so early in Oz, so by about 6:30 every night it is almost full dark. By the time we were done with dinner, it felt like 2am but was actually only about 8.

We all collapsed shamelessly into bed at a ridiculously early hour and somehow ended up STILL oversleeping for breakfast this morning! I don't think I have been that physically drained since the half marathon.

The weather today was absolutley wonderful. It was about 5 degrees warmer and the waves were great! Although today seemed to be a less successful day in the balance department. At one point, I somehow managed to end up under my surfboard and took a fin to the forehead. I have a massive bruise on my left side from getting hit with a rogue board and a bruised knee from falling repeatedly on it. What's new, haha/ Ayla and I also kept managing to get so incredibly tangled up with each other. We would be going along just fine, and then end up crashing into each other! You have a cord on one of your feet connecting you to the board and we spent about 10 minutes laughing hysterically and trying to untangle ourselves.

We had a free afternoon before heading back to cold Canberra so we went looking for shells and walked on the beach. It truly was a stunning place to spend a weekend. Now I am back and thinking about class this week, but very much looking forward to going to SYDNEY this Thursday!

The City to Surf 14k is a week from today! We are heading out on Thursday to spend some time running around Sydney before actually running around Sydney. The weather is supposed to be mid 60s and sunny-I can't wait!

I think I will put the laundry and unpacking off until tomorrow. Tonight I am going to sleep like a baby.