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!