Tuesday, December 11, 2007

There's no place like home...

You all seem so close!

I am back in the United States after what seemed like an eternity. Our flight in Fiji was delayed so I missed my connecting flight in LA to Boston, but only because the stupid travel agent screwed up my ticket, and the airline couldn't issue me a ticket. I missed that flight and sat in LAX for four hours until they could get me a ticket and then for another three and half hours until my red eye flight. That flight was miserable, but at least it was only 4.5 hours until I arrived in Boston.

There's a lot for me to say…let me try to remember. The last week in Australia was a bittersweet one for sure. I feel had I been staying a year abroad I wouldn't have been feeling like I was ready to go home, but since the flight home was impending, I was anxious. My roommate Jamie's parents came to visit. They were nice and took us out to a Thai restaurant for dinner. My taste buds expanded whilst abroad, definitely. The last week also consisted of lots of group goodbye activities. We had a barbecue on the cliff edge overlooking Coogee Bay, which was a lot of fun. It was really warm out and really pretty.

The following night we were going to this ice bar called Minus Five. Basically it's a bar made entirely of ice. Apparently its vodka is served best at that temperature. Because it's so cold you're only allowed in for 30 minutes, and they give you wool coats and ugg boots. It's pretty expensive too. Anyway, during dinner, I got a phone call from my Frisbee friend Ryan who invited me to the beach to throw with my other Frisbee friend, Abra. We had fun throwing and then we watched movies and Chris Farley SNL skits.

I also celebrated my friend Warwick's birthday at this hotel and sadly said goodbye to some good friends. Hopefully Frisbee will bring us all together again, which it may, since Worlds is in Vancouver this August, and I'm going to try to save up and get out there. Yet another birthday! My last weekend in Sydney I took a two-hour train ride out west to celebrate with my Australian friend Lily, who I met in class. It was a movie-character themed party, and I used my Peter Pan Halloween costume. I met a couple really cool people, and we listened to subpar live music and hung out. Lily was really happy that I came, so that was good. We camped out in tents and I was kept up all night by these ridiculously loud and nasty cricket-like bugs. The next morning I drove home with two guys I met (one I knew from class). I had to drive since one doesn't drive and the other was…well he had a bit of a crazy night and was not up for driving. I did quite well on the highway…on the wrong side of the road and all.

The last couple days in Sydney I laid on the beach quite a bit and even went swimming! I threw on the beach again with some Barefoot guys, which is one of the Sydney club Frisbee teams. We went out to dinner (where I ran into Abby who had wanted to hang out…oops) and then celebrated Abra's roommate's birthday. My second to last night (Abby had moved out that day) I went to the botanical gardens, where I took even more pictures of that damn opera house, but this time from a different angle. I also went up to the Pylon Lookout with my friend Mrinal, which goes almost as high as the bridge, but doesn't cost $179.

That night, I had over my Frisbee friends, Mrinal, Abra and Ryan for some poker…which I won. Unfortunately, no one paid up and I didn't receive my 20 bucks. I ended up moving out that night since Mrinal was able to drive me and my massive bags to Abra's, where I was staying until I left. My last day I went to the beach pretty much all day. Abra had to work so I couldn't get back to his house until that evening, when I went to his Frisbee practice with him. I was hoping to see some good mens ultimate, but unfortunately the fields were closed, hence no lights, hence a conditioning practice. Abra and I ate some Thai food and watched a vampire movie starring Josh Hartnett, which was pretty lame but nonetheless scared the bejeesus out of me. That morning I had a somewhat tearful goodbye with Abra, and I headed off to the airport.

This jerk greeted me in the check-in line. I had three big bags, a laptop and my backpack, had just said goodbye to all my friends and was pretty exhausted and alone. He asked me if "I slept" because I was not keeping up with the line. I said, no, I'm doing the best I can. And he cut me in line. That sort of triggered it for me, and I started bawling. He chose to ignore me until I probably annoyed him, so he turned around and offered me a tissue. I refused and he insisted, and I refused and told him he was extremely rude and had no right to yell at me. Then he offered to help with my bags and I refused and looked away. (Hey, if you're going to stand up for yourself, there's nowhere safer than in an airport, right?) Finally, he took my biggest bag and I reluctantly took a tissue. He then told me that I could be quiet now and life is tough. Once I hit check-in, the lady thought we were traveling together, and I informed her he'd been helping me. She said that was nice and once he left, I told her the story. She told me to look out for myself.

I landed in Auckland and met up with my friend Sarah from Syracuse and her roommate from Brisbane who also goes to Syracuse. We checked into the hostel and pretty much passed out from being so tired. We got up early and took a four-hour bus ride north to the Bay of Islands and paid half price to ride "The Excitor," which was everything but. It was half off since they were filming a safety video, which of course I starred in. They asked for a volunteer, so I volunteered to be the person getting life jacketed in. It was a high-speed boat to the Hole in the Rock. There was hardly any swell, so it was just a lot of wind in our faces and no jumps. The hole in the rock was pretty, and on the other side was the wide open ocean, which is always kinda cool to see. Then of course, it started raining so we went back to the hostel and played some board games until it was a reasonable time to go to sleep.

The next day we took a ferry to Russell, which basically had two buildings in the town, and it was pretty terrible for $6 for the ferry. Once we got back, I took the hostel's rickety, rusty bike to the grocery store. At first I didn't have the helmet on since who knows who's been wearing it, but then when I realized how shaky the handlebars, I figured even a lice-infested, way-too-big helmet may help some if I crash. Once we got back to Auckland we hung out and retired early again. The next day we had plans to skydive (yes, me!!!), but with our luck (and my mom's) it rained, and it was cancelled. We took several bus transfers to the foot of Mount Eden, a dormant volcano and walked up. The cows were probably the most exciting part of New Zealand. I tried chasing one, but once it looked at me, I ran the other way. I guess being on a volcano was cool, but of course, it started raining. That night we wanted to see a movie, but figured for $15.50 it wasn't worth it. Yet another early evening in New Zealand.

Fortunately, our flight to Fiji was moved to 9 40 am, so we didn't have to kill more time in rainy, humid Auckland.Of course, it was beautiful the next day as we flew out, and it was raining when we landed in Fiji. Fiji WAS HOT. Our bad luck in New Zealand turned fantastic after the rain our first afternoon in Fiji. Once we got to our beach bungalows, about an hour and a half from the airport, Sarah and I ventured into town to get some groceries. Oh wow. We took a "taxi" to this depraved little shopping area. (A lot of things in Fiji involve quote marks because it's hard to tell what is really legitimate). We stuck out like sore thumbs in Fiji, especially in town, being the only white people around. Naturally, the people at the markets scooped us up and tried selling us junk. They separated me and Sarah. My lady gave me a "free gift," aka a crappy bracelet and then told me about her "deaf and dumb" son for some pity. She tried selling me all sorts of crap for way too much money. I think I made better items at Camp JORI arts 'n farts center.

Anyway, I found a pretty cool wooden bead bracelet and shut her up with five bucks. Bracelet value: two cents. Sarah didn't fare as well. She laid down $25 on absolute crap. They liked her. Finally I ran away and grabbed Sarah and we ran to the grocery store, where we learned there is no regular milk in Fiji…just powdered and long-life whole milk. We bought a few things and ventured off to the "bus stop." Mind you, this is a rut-tut bus that doesn't leave the stop until it's jam-packed. We were hoping it was the right bus when the surroundings looked unfamiliar, but luckily it did, indeed take us back to our bungalow. That night we had some pizza at our "restaurant" and retired early.

The next morning, after some dodgy directions to this beach called Natadolah, we got on public transport again and drove for 45 minutes and got dropped off at the side of the road. We started walking but were informed it's actually a 15K walk to the beach so we reluctantly hopped into the bag of a sketchy pick up truck and sat on some benches that were tied with basically dental floss to the truck. Most of the resorts in Fiji don't get busy until Christmastime, so we were like the only ones around. The beach was absolutely magnificent, and the water felt like a bathtub. You could see for miles. The sun was blazing, and it's a good thing I didn't want to deal with a burn on the 16-hour flight home, which is why decided to lather up.

Some kids came by to try to gyp us out of our money. After awhile, one of the little girls came back and accepted my offer for two artistic shells for five bucks. She knew she wouldn't make anything else from us. Sarah and Lynn decided to go horseback riding…I am not a fan of horses, horse smell, riding with sketchy locals or spending $30 to do it. It's a good thing too, since Lynn's stirrups broke and she's all bruised and they tried getting Lynn to pay the full amount, and she refused since she didn't get a full ride and she was bruised. The "businessmen" didn't have change, and good for Lynn- she refused to pay until she got change, which they couldn't provide. Eventually she bought a bottle of water and paid them. We left after that.

Since we splurged on sandwiches at the beach, we cooked up some delicious Fijian brand Ramen noodles. I almost threw up and we threw out the whole pot of it. I was up all night feeling pretty subpar. The next morning we got up super early for our day cruise to South Sea Island. For only $99 we got a cruise to one of the islands, buffet lunch, unlimited drinks, transportation and access to snorkeling gear, catamarans and kayaks. Unfortunately half the bus was filled with annoying, loud Canadians from Vancouver who were in Fiji for a wedding.

The island was unreal. (See pictures) This was Fiji. I can't even describe it. We laid out for awhile under some tiki huts and then you know, when that became too strenuous, we went kayaking. The island was maybe 20 meters in diameter so it wasn't terribly grueling to go around the whole island. After that we had some lunch- tasty meat and different salads. Since the buffet wore us out, we laid out again. Then we went snorkeling. This was the first time I'd gone not off a boat. I just sort of waded into the water and started swimming with all the fish and coral. I kept an eye out for sharks, and fortunately did not see any. I even splurged for a back massage. I kept telling her to go harder, that I was really sore, but she paid no heed. It still felt very good, and after I was all greased up, I jumped in the pool and conversed with some Australians. After some more lounging and snorkeling, we went on a catamaran. The guy who took us knew I was nervous so he told me the sharks weren't interested and proceeded to splash water and make me let go of the rope. It was a nice ride.

Eventually the boat came to pick us up and we took the cruise ship back to the main island. A perfect day…well not yet. Once we got back, we showered and got dressed up for a really fancy, expensive dinner at the nice resort next door. They gave us cool, minty towels since it's soooo hot and humid. I got basil encrusted salmon, which was delicious. They sang us a farewell Fijian song, and I tried not to laugh. Now, a perfect day.

Our last day in Fiji, it rained, but that was OK since we were too wiped from the sun to lay out again. We packed up and snuck into the nice pool at the resort next door and swam for awhile. No one even questioned us. Then we showered and watched a battle between and Asian couple who for some reason refused to pay for their night (we think they didn't sleep there but had it booked and wouldn't pay). The fight went on for two hours and then the lady tried taking our cab, and I was about to give her a piece of my mind. Surprisingly, all of our ten huge bags fit into the taxi station wagon and we dropped it all off at the airport and then went shopping in town before checking in. Then we bummed around the airport for like four hours, before embarking on our 10-hour flight to LA.

I can't believe I'm home. It's weird, especially with the drastic weather change…and time change. I'm all out of whack, and really cracked out since I haven't slept in two days. There's lots of cleaning and unpacking to do, but I can hardly keep my eyes open! All in all, these past five and half months have really been indescribable.



…or is there?

Happy Thanksgiving from Down Under!

Hi all,

I hope you're enjoying your Thanksgiving feasts. I didn't do much of a Thanksgiving dinner; I went to a friend's apartment for stirfry which she made to get rid of food that was about to go bad since we're all leaving within the week. I haven't done much since Tasmania, but there are few tidbits to share, mostly so I don't forget them, as my e-mails are my only source of collection of my goings on in Australia.

A few friends and I saw "sea monsters" at the IMAX theater. It was alright, I suppose. It was all computer-animated, which these days is almost flawless, but since it was all prehistoric animal stuff it was hard to get into. We wanted to see Deep Blue Sea with narration by Kate Winslet and Johnny Depp, but there was a school field trip so it was rented out. After the movie the rain had cleared so I had the genious idea to walk home from Darling Harbour, which we guessed is around six miles; we're not sure. Dodging traffic and following signs back to Coogee was quite entertaining and adventure-packed.

The weather has been nice up until yesterday. I got a less than favorable sunburn, which is slowly getting better. I'm hoping the next five days that I'm in Australia will clear up so I can enjoy summer before heading back to cold and rain and snow.

The other day I went to tour the Great Synagogue in Sydney- Australia's second temple. It's a reall nice building with sort of gothic characteristics. The inside is really ornate, and the ceiling is cool because it's dark blue with all these stars. The tour itself was merely an information session, and while most of the group (I was the only person under the age of 50) was Jewish, the film was about basic Judaism, and what wasn't, I learned at the museum a couple weeks ago. But hey, for three dollars I'm glad I saw it.

There have been a few last Frisbee get togethers; last week was a farewell to "Seppos" (see your Australian dictionary for that meaning). Tonight I'm celebrating my friend's birthday in the city, if I can find the place. Yesterday a few Frisbee kids and I went to the Sydney Cricket Ground to watch Tasmania play New South Wales. (If you were unaware, I am in the state of New South Wales) It was a test match, which means you play one game over the course of five days. I can't really explain the rules though; I am just learning them myself. It was a six-hour game, and I left after about three, because it's pretty boring, but cool to see nonetheless. I played in a women's ultimate game earlier this week, which was lots of fun except my hamstring really is in tough shape. I need to nurse that back to health. I played really well and the Australian women said it was too bad I'm leaving before their club season; they'd like to recruit me.

I have my last exam in a couple hours, so I guess I should review a bit more before heading off to the racetrack to take it. Yeah, they don't have space on campus for all the exams so we take them in the betting rooms and derby rooms at the racetrack. After that, I'll be spending my last few days packing up!

Stay warm whilst I soak up the sun on the beach!


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

And it's strange how clouds that look like mountains in the sky are next to mountains anyways


Warning: This e-mail is going to be pretty long, so get comfortable. On the plus side, there will be lots of pictures to go with it!!

I'll start off by filling you in on my trip to the Sydney Jewish Museum located in none other than Sydney's redlight district. Needless to say, it was a good thing I went during the day. The museum was fairly small, but really nicely designed. Some fun facts include: Australia, second to Israel, accepted the largest number of Jews after the Holocaust per capita. Among the first boat of convicts sent to do time in Australia, 11 were Jewish and eventually became bankers and shopkeepers, of course ;-). One of Australia's finest generals, Gen. Monash, was Jewish, and in Melbourne there is a university named after him. We creamed them in uni games....I guess Jews really aren't athletes. Hehe. I bought a fair amount of things at the gift shop- hey gota support fellow Jews! All in all, the musem was really incredible. I'm hoping to check out the Great Synagogue in the next week or so.

Well, my big trip was touring the west coast of Tasmania, which I just got back from tonight. A lot of Americans don't really think to check out Tasmania, it seems. I knew I wanted to do something else before I left, and I didn't get to see the Great Ocean Road, so I thought a trip to Tasmania would be awesome. Originally I was supposed to go with three other girls, all of which bailed AT the booking agency. I was pretty upset, but then decided I wanted to see Tasmania regardless if I went alone. So I booked the trip and a few days before, a friend of mine said she'd like to go, so I had a travel mate. I left last Friday and flew into Launceston. All of Tasmania was about 500,000 people, so it's pretty tiny- mostly farms. I guess it's similar to New Zealand, which I'll see for myself in a few weeks. We stayed at this really sketchy hostel that night. The guy was no where to be found, and then when we found him he gave us a key to the wrong room, and we really freaked out the girls in there. I don't blame them. After spending the night in probably bed bug-ridden sheets, we ventured off in the Under Down Under tour bus, with our guide, Tony.

We first went to Cradle Mountain National Park, which is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. Cradle Mountain, can you guess? Looks like a cradle, and it sits above this huge lake called Dove Lake. Kendra and I decided the two reccommended trails were far too easy for us athletic folks, so we decided on the hard trail. It should say that hard really means rock climbing. We thought the first set of rock stairs were tiring, and then we got to areas where we were literally rock climbing. Eventually we got to a sign that told us to go a weird direction to get to the parking lot; it pointed us away from the lot, so we decided to keep going around the lake. We eventually were climbing directly upward and found ourselves in the cradle. It was absolutely stunning, but a little unnerving, considering there were no signs that we should've been there besides a few metal poles. We had to get back to the parking lot no later than 7 20 for the bus, and since we had no cell service, we started to get a little concerned about making it back in time since we weren't sure if the trail was ever going to back down! Finally, after nearly being mauled to death by a bird that wouldn't leave me alone so I ended up sprinting down somerocks holding onto a metal chain, we found a sign that pointed toward the car park. But the sign said 1.45 hours so we had a ways to go. Upon running out of watr, we found a stream and I felt like Bambi drinking out of it, but it was delicious. Way better than the tap I drink in my apartment. We then entered the rainforest, but luckily it was all downhill. We kept going and met an older couple (who we later meet again), and FINALLY after nearly collapsing, we made it to the end!

Well, our hike was over, but we had missed our tour guide so we had to find the other parking lot with the shuttle bus, which meant more walking. It was getting to be dusk, so we saw tons of wallabies (small kangaroos) and wombats chiling along the road. It was pretty amazing. They were fairly tame too. We walked for awhile, but still no sign of our van. Eventually a car pulled up and it was the old couple who offered us a ride. They dropped us off at this lodge where we ate steak dinners. It was expensive and not that great, but we were starving and scarfed it down in a matter of minutes. I learned the way NOT to open ketchup (tomato sauce as it's called here) after spraying it all over my T-shirt. (Pam, it's the Australia one you gave me...gota bleach that baby out). The whole restaurant got a laugh at me. After dinner, we had to continue walking, but luckily our tour guide was genuinely concerned we hadn't come back yet and came looking for us and picked us up on the side of the road. We felt bad we worried him, but we said if we weren't back by 9 to worry (of course, that was in jest since we didn't think we'd be gone that long). Apparently he told the other people on our tour that he looked for us, couldn't find us, and decided we could easily be replaced by other Americans (we were the only Americans). They believed him. We passed out from exhaustion.

The next day we headed to Montezuma Falls in the rainforest. It was a 3-hour walk, but didn't have hills so that was good since we were recovering from Cradle Mountain. There was a big suspension bridge, which I crossed, twice, but practically cried the whole way. It was pretty scary. The waterfalls were beautiful, but due to acid, we couldn't touch it. Nice. Later on, we stopped at the Henty Sand dunes, which were dunes at least 30 meters (90 feet) high. Some kid sprinted down them and tripped, smashed into a sandbank and broke his collar bone. I thought he broke his back. After that, I walked down...slowly. We had to take him to a medical center...poor kid. We also Ocean Beach, along the west coast, which is the start of the longest stretch of ocean in the world. The next time you see land is South America. It's pretty crazy. The western beaches are pretty desolate, and kind of eerie, but beautiful. The water is brown because of the tanen (also in tea) which runs off the rivers.

That night we stayed at some nice cabins- tiny but very comfortable. The last day of the tour consisted of a few more rainforest walks with waterfalls, and hiked up to this great lookout over the Franklin River. Throughout the trip we passed through some tiny towns- literally nothing was going on, since they used to be mining towns, but all the stuff was used up. By the end of the third day, I was beat. I don't know how people do 5-day or weeklong tours. I was exhausted. We crashed at this hostel in Hobart after I had my first fish and chips experience. Not too bad until I saw the blue fish skin and couldn't eat anymore. We got up early this morning and went to Claremont, about an hour outside Hobart for a tour of the Cadbury Chocolate Factory, the world's second largest Cadbury factory outside England. (We also stopped by a smaller chocolate factory near Launceston where they had a plethora of samples.) We had to wear hairnets and we walked through all the processing machines. I felt like I was in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, but unfortunately there was no Johnny Depp. It smelled like heaven, and I was so sad to see the throw out huge trays of chocolate which touched the ground. Five second rule? I guess not when you're serving to millions upon millions of people. We got some freee mini bars and a package of chocolates at the end. I bought some "less than perfect" discounted bars for my roommates. My stomach hurt from my samples so I passed on chocolate for me. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around Hobart and eventually falling asleep in a park until we had to catch the bus to the airport. The flights were OK, but I was tired and the chocolate was still churning in my lactarded stomach so that was annoying. Now, back in Sydney, I have two exams before heading off to New Zealand and Fiji and then home! I'll be home in 24 days, which is crazy.

Until then, enjoy your winter while Sydney is just warming up!


I think I'm going to have some issues leaving Australia

Hey everyone,

I'll be home in just a little more than a month, and it's starting to freak me out. I'm excited to get home and see people, but Australia is definitely somewhere I'd like to stay. Despite the weather not really turning out in our favor, things are going well, and now that classes and papers are done, it's almost smooth sailing. I have two exams spread out over the next two weeks before I can officially be halfway through my junior year.

About that surf lesson I mentioned...I didn't do too badly. I got up twice, which is more than most people can do. Granted, I didn't stay up for very long, but maybe next time. I wore a wetsuit, which was great since the water is still pretty cold in Sydney. My friend Kendra took me and told me to avoid the bluebottle jellyfish, which I saw all along the beach. Once I got that fear out of my head, I enjoyed the water, although the waves tired me out due to the fact I'm not a strong swimmer and even the smallest waves are taller than me. I was extremely sore afterwards, but it was a great full-body workout. Good thing I can do all those pushups!

I went on my kayaking trip in Watson's Bay, which was pretty spectacular. The flies are pretty awful, but once we got into the water they left us alone. My friend Sarah, from high school, and I partnered up in a two-person kayak. I guess I'm renown for being strong because my roommates always ask me to open the jars and bottles, and Sarah asked for me to be in the back to be the power steerer. We went pretty well, I reckon. We kayaked almost to Manly, which is part of Sydney's northern beaches. Along the way we saw an old, pretty wrinkly naked man walking along some rocks. We giggled and then realized it was a nude beach. Haha. We kayaked a bit further to the entrance to the Tasman Sea. This was pretty surreal because it looked like a drop off; it was just a small opening and then wide, vast sea. Kind of eerie, really. Then we kayaked into various other bays with some incredible houses that apparently go for $10 million. We even saw Paul Hogan's Sydney House. (Speaking of houses, I've seen the 'Real World: Sydney' house in Darling Harbour; Paul I thought that might interest you.) I took the ferry back to Circular Quay, which was faster and way better than the bus.

Halloween in Australia isn't as big as it is at home, but I found some ways to celebrate. My ultimate team and I planned a bit of a Halloween party and then ventured off to this club, which was hosting a party with live music. I went as Peter Pan. My costume was pretty awesome considering I'm not my mother and can't sew and I was on a bit of a budget. I'll attach a picture. I did get some of my mom's creativity genes though and everyone loved my costume. The party was great, and there were some good costumes. I didn't go out on Halloween though. I got dressed to go out and then decided I'd watch Ghostbusters and study for an exam, which I think I dominated.

Last night was our big, formal Frisbee dinner. We all got dressed up and ate at this Nepalese restaurant. We had our own private room upstairs, and we sat on pillows on the floor. I was a bit skeptical about trying Nepalese food, but it turned out to be pretty good. Unfortunately we didn't get much for our $25, so that was a disappointment. My friend Waz and I were in charge of making and giving out awards to everyone, and that was a lot of fun. I was in charge of making the awards for the boys. My award was "Best Costume of the Year," with regard to my ridiculous outfit at one of the uni games party. After dinner we went into the city for some good ole karaoke. The place we went to had absolutely no ventilation and was seriously 100 degrees. Eventually we didn't even bother trying to wipe off the sweat anymore because everything just became drenched. I sang some tunes, "I Will Survive" and "Bohemian Rhapsody" were my spotlight moments.

Sadly, I had to say goodbye to some of my friends last night in a hurry because it was raining and we were hailing cabs. I wish I had had more time to say my goodbyes considering I may never see these guys again.

I'm headed off to Tasmania on Friday for a three-day tour and then in Hobart I'm going on a tour of the Cadbury Chocolate Factory. It turns out I'll be traveling with someone afterall. Originally some friends bailed, but it turns out my friend Kendra just booked the trip as well. I'm pretty excited.

That's about all the news from down under.


Friday, October 26, 2007

6 days till classes, 46 days til home

Hi everyone,

Good news! I finished the majority of my work for the semester. I had three 2000 word papers due within seven days of each other and a presentation. I have one more written assignment due next week, but that shouldn't be terribly hard considering the presentation has most of our material. I have two finals (for the same class but with different lecturers...it's an awful class) and an in-class exam and a take-home exam. We'll see how studying goes with those...

The weather is great, and the beaches are finally hoppin. I've found it harder and harder to go to class living right next to the beach, however I only have six days of class left, so I can't really justify skipping anymore. The other day the university held the biggest Sydney party for university-age people called Oktoberfest. Unfortunately I didn't have any German gear, but it was good anyway. I went with some kids from my team, and if it weren't for the two tallest guys around, Frank who's 6'7 and Waz who's 6'4 with a cool hat, I would have spent my entire night looking for my friends. It was held in the uni bar, and there were like four different tents of different music and food and drinks. It was ridiculously loud so most of the night was spent texting people to tell them where you were trying to dance among the hundreds of sweaty, beer-laden students. I had a few friends crash at my place, and one of them had his car on campus. I took the liberty of driving home, which I did extremely well. Not only did I drive on the left side of the road, the stick shift was also on the left, yet the gears were in the same place so it was all backwards and crazy. But we made it home.

I've been watching the Red Sox (cross fingers for tonight's game) at a sports bar down the street. The staff has come to know me, and everytime they see me there they ask how the Red Sox are doing. It's stressful, and kind of a bummer to watch alone since there's no one to high five. My roommates are Yankees fans and one of them is also a Rockies fan and I get extremely annoyed when she talks trash, but I can't do it back...yet. Two more games...come onnnnn Sox!

Today my friends and I barbecued on the beach and tye-dyed T-shirts. I invited my ultimate coach and we threw around for more than an hour. My friends were amazed at how long we could throw and not get bored. One of my roommates said I was really good. Yeah, I'm a pro at playing catch. My friend Kendra has been wanting to take me on a surf lesson for ages so I'm going to head over to Bondi, a great surfing beach apparently, on Tuesday and rent a board and a wetsuit. I have a fair amount of upper body strength so we'll see how it goes.

Next week I'm taking an exam for an editing internship I've applied for for next summer. Let's hope for the best!! I'm also looking into a tour of Tasmania in early November before exams...during study week. Haha. It's a three-day outdoorsy tour, which should be really cool. We need to get on the booking though.

Nothing much else is going on. It's been a quiet few weeks with all my work, but I can't believe I'll be home in 46 days! I have my course registration for next spring coming up, and I've also found housing for senior year, which is a bit stressful to do abroad. Wow, senior housing. It flies by.


To add to your Australian dictionary:

sunnies: sunglasses
stubby: beer bottle
good on ya: good job
singlet: tank top
bottleshop: liquor store

Funny tidbit:
A friend ordered mayonaise "on the side." The waitress gave her a funny look and came back with mayonaise smeared around the edge of the burger.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Australia's Boston: Melbourne


What a surprise...another e-mail from Down Under so quickly! I will admit that while I love informing the masses about my Aussie travels, this e-mail won't get sent unless I do it right now, as the next two weeks are going to be utterly brutal. To my surprise, I actually have papers and work to do. It's like I'm down here for school or something... I have three large papers (2000 words and up) and a big presentation due this week and next, and the following week I have to hand in the written presentation, and I'm also in the midst of applying for to two big internships for next summer, with deadlines quickly approaching. The stress levels are reaching high altitudes right now, and those of you who know what kind of student I am, I tend to stress out. Although, I will admit, I've become somewhat lax when it comes to classes and reading as of recent. It's Australia's fault.

Anyway, I just got back from Melbourne, Victoria this morning. I was visiting my friend Jackie who's studying there. It was quite a journey getting there last Thursday, as I was still relatively sick and had little to no strength. But I pressed on. I flew into Avalon which is about an hour outside of the city. It was cheaper to fly there, but it turns out the $50 I saved on a flight I spent in commute to and from the airport. You live. You learn. I got in Thursday night and Jackie and I met up with some of her friends and walked around Lygon Street, which for those of you Syracuse folk, it's similar to Marshall Street but a bit bigger. Jackie lives on campus in a college called Trinity. Melbourne University is different than UNSW in the sense that a college isn't a dorm, but a little community. All in all there are about 12 colleges which house MU students. Jackie is in the most expensive and most prestigious, but unfortunately her experience has been sub par. When she visited me in Sydney I cooked her a homecooked meal since she said her college's food was horrible. She was right. It made Crane Lake Camp food seem like Camp JORI food. Not only that, you have to pay for lunch on the weekdays and you can only eat at certain times. We had some sketchy hamburgers and I stayed away from the meat which was either lamb or pork- no one really knew. I also stayed away from the eggs which looked like Fisher Price's kitchen set for a three year old.

On Friday we headed into the city and found as much free stuff as we could. We checked out the National Gallery of Victoria, which was pretty cool. Though I think the Museum of Modern Art in Brisbane was cooler. We saw some sculptures and there was a clothing display, which we thought would be really neat, but it was disappointing. We checked out this alley way which is basically a designated area for graffiti. It was really cool and a bit overwhelming. Some of the stuff Jackie wanted to show me had already been painted over. It was funny there was all this graffiti since in Brisbane, Adam and I talked about graffiti as art and checked out a book about "Banksy." He has some very cool work. Adam also sent me an e-mail of things to do in Melbourne, one of which was to find Chloe. We checked out this bar called Young and Jackson's, where Chloe is. She's more than one hundred years old!! Unfortunately, you'll have to meet Chloe yourself, as I can't tell you who she actually is.

When Jackie had class I stayed in the city and wandered around. I was trying to find some cool little alley ways to get lost in and find small shops, but I failed. I did, however, find the Immigration Museum, which was free with a student ID. I wasn't there for too long, but I learned a bit about immigration to Australia. I liked the kids' section the most since you could lay down in the bunk beds in the sea vessel model. Some little kid stared me down for awhile. I told him we could share. I met up with Jackie at the Victoria Markets. Unfortunately they were almost ready to close so we didn't get to see too much, but we did taste a bunch of cheese and finally settled on aged Gouda and ate almost the whole chunk with some water crackers. It was delicious. It was even more delicious since we didn't have a knife and the only thing we could find was a spork. That was my idea.

Once the markets closed we headed back to Trinity, which I should mention, looks like Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Plus, Monday through Thursday the residents have to wear formal robes to dinner, which look exactly like Harry Potter robes, and there's even a head table. It's crazy! We had that sketchy barbecue for dinner and then we downloaded some movies to watch. Jackie is part of this campus network in which you can share movies and music, so the possibilities were almost endless. Pan's Labyrinth didn't have subtitles; I could understand the Spanish, but not quickly enough to translate to Jackie. We ended up watching Pulp Fiction, as I had to educate her about the origins of Fox Force 7. While I may have changed a bit down under, I still fell asleep in the middle of the movie. But to be fair, so did Jackie.

On Saturday we hoped to rent a car and drive along the Great Ocean Road to see the 12 Apostles, well 8 now. But the car rental place had a minimum of three days and we didn't want to pay $150 for only seeing the road one day. I hope I can get down there to see the Apostles before more of them fall. We also tried getting a tour of the Carlton Draught Brewery, but for some odd reason it's not open on the weekends. Do they expect working people to leave their jobs to drink beer all day? Frustrating. Instead, we checked out the Eureka Tower. We paid some money to see the 360 degree observation tower, which overlooked all of Melbourne. And then we went to The Edge. Being afraid of heights, I expected to collaspe to my knees and crawl out, but I did surprisginly well. We got into this box which extended out from the building and then after some corny soundtrack of glass breaking, the floor came away and the floor was all glass. It was scary enough that I didn't let go of the bar, but not terrifying. For ten bucks it was cool.

After that we headed to the Victoria ANZAC (Australia, New Zealand Army Core memorial) Memorial. (See pictures) It was a nice building and we took part in a memorial service. It had some cool history and from the balcony there was a great view of the city.

We did a bit of shopping before heading back for another mysterious dinner. Instead of partying all night (since I don't do that) we started to watch Children of Men (amazing) until it got cut off since the person we were downloading it from didn't download the whole thing. So we resorted to Office Space. I left early this morning, and luckily my cold is better enough that I didn't cry landing due to severe eye pains like I did on the way there.

And now I am done procrastinating and ready to start my massive amounts of work. You won't hear from me until it's done. So about two weeks. But after that it's almost smooth sailing. I'll be home in just less than eight weeks. Wow.

Until next time, here's to you, you're true blue,

Uni games is by far, the best thing since sliced bread

Hello all!

I have not fallen off the face of Australia. I just got back from what maybe the best 10 days EVER. I don't even really know where to begin, so Ireckon I should start at the very beginning, a very good place tostart...(continue singing if you so desire)

Uni games this year was at the Gold Coast in Surfer's Paradise, which isabout an hour south of Brisbane in the state of Queensland. Uni games is anationwide university sports competition with sports ranging from soccer to rugby to ultimate to badminton. I drove up with some of my teammates. Sincethe day we left fell on Yom Kippur I fasted the drive up to Coff's Harbour and listened to Yom Kippur prayers on my iPod, which miraculously my friendhappened to have. It was pretty terrible since we kept stopping for snacks,but I made it up to Coff's where I broke fast with a candy bar and then wegot some dinner at a pub. I had chicken stirfry, but unfortunately could hardly eat it since fasting had shrunk my stomach.

We stayed at a trailer park in a mini caravan. It wasn't much better thancamping other than the fact that it was raining, so we stayed dry. I smelleda bit dodgy though considering it wasn't the cleanest of places. We did afood shop together and that was entertaining. I rode on the back of atrolley (shopping cart) up and down aisles and then we sat on the minimerry-go-round and my buddy Mrinal may or may not have broken the seat. Needless to say, we hurried out of the supermarket very quickly.

Upon leaving Coff's, we passed a giant banana, which read "Big Banana" on it. Clearly, I took a picture. I took a picture of everything. We tossed a disc around this farm and poor Famous Damous had to get the Frisbee from some cows- he looked petrified. And then we got in trouble since we were on private property. We drove some more and missed the exit to Byron Bay, but we did make a pit stop upon entering Queensland and threw on the beach. Then we drove to Surfer's Paradise, where we were staying in apartment. The apartments were incredible. They overlooked the beach and all you had to do was walk out the front door and cross the street to get to the water. I went for a swim once and it was great. I was mentally exhausted from the waves though. It's pretty tiring.

We were at the fields from like 8-5 and then weall wanted dinner so we didn't beach much. The one sunny part of the day wehad off from games I slept and by the time I wanted to go to the beach, itwas time to cleat up for the quarter finals.We played a total of 12 games. The ladies had one sub, and since myhamstring is injured, we really had no subs. I played the first five gameshard and then the trainer (we became the best of friends) told me if I wantto play in the semi finals, I needed to rest and then he'd tape me. So Iwent in for a few points here and there when the girls needed subs. It wasreally more mentally challenging than physically challenging since my mindwanted to play despite my injury. My coach and teammates yelled at me fromthe sidelines not to run- to save myself for the big games, but it was hard.

During one game, my girl was cutting in the endzone for a score. I decided Iwanted to get a lay out D on her. It was pretty sweet; I'll give myselfthat. I sprinted as much as I could on a bum leg and made a beautiful lay. Iwish someone had taken a picture. My friend Abra was sitting on the sidelinethere and said I was about three feet in the air and was angled upward(something only really good guys do and girls almost never) and d'd the discright as she was closing her hands. I was pretty stoked- as it was right onthe endzone line. And then my coach called a time out and told me to call aninjury and sit on the side. But I got primetime player of the day for it.We won the quarter finals pretty easily, but unfortunately something wentamiss for the semi finals, which were on Friday.

We played University ofQueensland, and we really should have won. I think we had a tough timepulling ourselves together and playing with flow. I think individually,everyone played well, but as a team we had a missing link. The score waspretty close though- 12-9 was the final. It really hurt. Abra and I had agood cry together afterwards. Me because I was the last person with the discand turned it to give UQ final possession and Abra because it was last unigames and he had turned it several times on the endzone line. It hurt a lot,but we got amped up to play for 3/4 place. We played a Victorian team, andour coach got us sooo pumped up. He got into the middle of our huddle andstarted shaking a can of Victorian Bitter (pretty cheap beer). I thought hewas going to shot gun it, but no. He open it up and sprayed it on all of us,saying that the team we were about to play is as crappy as this beer.Needless to say, I've never been more pumped for a game or a race oranything before. We crushed Monash 15-6 or something. Bronze felt good, butit stung a bit knowing we should have been in the finals.

The party scene at Surfer's is pretty crazy. It's kind of like a toned downLas Vegas, but only toned down in the sense that there isn't thisridiculously gaudy architecture. Everynight uni games had a different venuefor the party. Most of them were good except the last one, which apparentlya Frisbee kid had all the ultimate people go there, which was cool but itwas really sketchy. If you weren't ultimate, you were either white trash,goth or thug. Each night was also a theme. The one night I decided to dressup (all white), I was given my primetime player of the day award, which wasmy team got to dress me up in anything except white. I was in the mostridiculous getup EVER. It was pretty classic though. A few random peopleasked for a picture with me. It was a good time. The last night we wore ourmedals, which felt really great. A very proud moment.

Along with the partyscene comes with various ultimate shenanigans. For example, Kangaroo (thoughit has become 'Kenga') Court puts trials on for those who have donesomething stupid/gullible/ridiculous, but also good. Our captain, Waz, wasthe judge, but everyone got a say in the punishment and the person on trialwas allowed a defense. One night, the first night, actually I was courtedfor setting of Waz's car alarm. My punishment was I had to try to set off analarm and make a big scene. I couldn't believe that I couldn't find ONE carthat had an alarm. That was disappointing. That's the gist of Kenga Court.

We also have all sorts of buddy challenges and rookie challenges. One of myteammate's rookie challenge since he's the UNSW ultimate president (he'slike 30 something), was to give a speech during the awards ceremony, writtenby Abra and Waz, who are two characters on the team. Charlie passed withflying colors. It was quite a laugh.

Once the tournament was over, my team headed back to Sydney, but I took atrain about an hour north to Brisbane, where Pam's friend Adam lives. Myfriend from Syracuse is also studying up there so I stayed at her apartment.I got up there and it got really really hot; it's a good thing it wasn'tthat hot during the tournament. We would have died.

I went to Adam'ssister's house to meet a fairly large number of family members. I met asister, a brother, two in-laws, his parents, a cousin and three of hisnieces and nephews. We watched the AFL Grand Final (Australian RulesFootball Super Bowl), and Geelong (out of Victoria) wont by like 160 points,so it wasn't terribly exciting. His nieces and nephews are adorable, andtook a liking to me because I read them books. From there we got dinner inthe Valley (and it's not anywhere near California's Valley...just theopposite). We had Chinese food and then rushed to this play called The Club,which coincidentally was about the AFL and the players beginning to be likeAmerican and play for money, not the love of the game. It was really funnyand it's worth renting the movie.

On Sunday we walked all around Brisbane. We went to the markets, which wehave in Sydney as well. It's basically just small, overly priced stuff, butwe did get three packages of strawberries for six bucks and then ate themthroughout the day. We took the City Cat, which is a water taxi, up and downthe Brisbane River and stopped at a pub for lunch and to people watch. Itried chips (French fries) with gravy...quite good actually. After that wewent to South Bank to a modern art gallery. Normally I'm not an art person,but there was some really cool stuff and Adam and I had some pretty in-depthconversations about the pieces. After that we walked around a bit throughthis archway of flowers. Pam- I've been told to pass along a message:"Aren't these beautiful?"

Once we parted ways, I met up with Sarah and a fewof her teammates (who beat us in the semis) for some delicious Subway andthen to a pub to watch part of the National Rugby League final. At least Ithink it was league..it could have been union. Whichever the world cup isNOT. We got bored of that pretty quickly and headed back to Sarah's to watchTop Gun. I must say I've seen the movie a billion times but never all theway through due to conversations, boredom and getting distracted.

Yesterday Sarah joined me and Adam to the Australia Zoo (Steve Irwin's zoo).The stupid bus driver wouldn't wait for us as we were getting out tickets sowe hung out at a pub/casino until the train came. It was a long commute andit was so hot out. The zoo was pretty cool. It was mostly geared towardyounger kids, but it was Steve Irwin's zoo! We saw a fair amount ofcrocodiles. We fed some kangaroos who were pretty inactive. We also fed anelephant..kind of nasty and drooly. There were some nice memorials aroundthe zoo, and some great pictures of Steve and his family. Apparently hisdaughter, Bindi, was walking around somewhere. I bought a sweet wristbandbracelet that says "Crikey." That was kind of a necessity.

The way back fromthe zoo took forever. We hurried into the city to try to find thislecture/slideshow about this guy who climbed Everest and the like. We werejust on time and after banging on the front of the closed mountaineerbuilding, we found a back entrance. It was really cool and interesting. Whypeople risk their lives and die for climbing a sheet of ice is beyond me.Throughout the show though, my cold developed more and more so flying homethis morning was brutal.

Currently I'm drinking lots of tea since I'm leaving for Melbourne onThursday to visit a friend from home who's studying there. It was a reallycrazy and amazing week. I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but that's boundto happen with 10 days of ultimate-related activities. After playing unigames, any other ultimate won't be nearly as fun. I've improved a fair bitthough, so that's good.

I'll be home in just a bit more than two months. I can't believe it'sOctober already. Absolutely ridiculous!! If you've gotten this far in thee-mail, pat yourselves on the back. I just wrote for quite awhile.


to add to your dictionary:

get amongst it- get with it/go with the flow
have a go- have a turn
brekkie- breakfast
French fries- McDonald's fries (all others are chips)
Maccas- McDonald's
deks- pants/underweardekking- pantsing someone
hectic- crazy (not busy crazy, just crazy)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Happy New Year from Down Under!

L'shanah Tova!

I've been celebrating Rosh Hashana down under, and it's been quite nice. Last night a bunch of us went to our friend's apartment for a potluck dinner. My apartment was in charge of the desserts; I found a dairy-free coffee cake and some meringue cookies. Rachel made corn flake and honey chicken and we also had avocado salad, and one guy even made a kugel. I lit candles and we said the shecheiyanu (a prayer for experiencing something new and being grateful). It was a really great evening.

I went to the temple across the street from my apartment for services, and I'm going to go again tomorrow. It's a modern-orthodox temple, so all the girls sat up in the balcony. I was very surprised and kind of appalled at the conversation noise level going on throughout the entire service. We could kind of hear the prayers, but come the Torah service, you couldn't hear a single thing. The rabbi kept shushing people but no one cared. I was really upset at how disrespectful the congregation was, especially because we all took the time to make sure we were quiet and dressed appropriately. I was glad I went, and I'll go again tomorrow and for Kol Nidre during Yom Kippur, but it's upsetting. At least when I goof around with Evan, Rachel and Nolan we're quiet. In a little bit I'm going this really beautiful cliff on the water for Tashlicht, which is the service for throwing away your sins by throwing bread into running water. And tonight my roommate's and I are going to my roommate, Abby's cousin's for dinner. Apparently we're having chopped liver, so I might eat secretly before we leave.

I've been not so great about going to class last week and this week. Last week I was just not in the mood to go to class and then wait three hours until practice, since my tutorial which usually breaks up at three-hour break was cancelled. And then yesterday our washer broke while all my stuff was soaking wet so I had to wring everything out and then I electricuted myself so by that point I wasn't going to make it to my 2pm lecture. I was ready to go to my 4 pm class, but my roommates asked if I wanted to join them on the beach instead, and since I was going leave my 5 pm class early for our Rosh Hashana dinner I didn't go at all. And then I didn't go to class today since it's a holiday. oops. I did, however, finish a 2500 word paper four days early. Since I didn't go to last week's lecture I didn't get the memo that the deadline was extended, which turned out to be good since I handed it in and was done with it.

Nothing terribly exciting is going on at the moment. I've been here nearly two months, and I'll be home in less than three. A week from tomorrow is spring break, if you can believe it. I'm driving up to the Gold Coast (12-hour drive) for uni games- I think I mentioned that. After the tournament, I'm visiting Pam's friend, Adam in Brisbane before flying home. After spring break there are four weeks of classes and then I think I have only one exam during exam period. I can't believe how fast everything is going by! You're lucky I'm coming home at all, as I would not have any problem living here. Well I guess I'd miss a few people...

Stay tuned for tales of spring break in the next couple of weeks!


Australian Hospitality

For the most part, it seems Australians enjoy the company of Americans. That's not to say we don't hear an occasional stereotypical joke, but usually it's all in good fun. However, at the APEC conference last week, Australians had a right to poke fun at Americans, and even I quietly hung my head in a bit of shame.

At this year's world leader's conference held in Sydney, President Bush made an appearance. His friendship with Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, fueled angry sentiments from Australians, and most Americans were not looking forward to Bush's visit. In Bush's opening speech he greeted "Austrians" and thanked Sydney for inviting him to "OPEC." I'm sorry, but that isn't OK.

While I was in a cab, the driver correctly assumed I was American, and proceeded to say the rainy weather will go away when Bush leaves. Regardless of my sentiments toward our country's leadership, I felt uncomfortable with those comments because a) I am in another country b) A bit more extreme, I don't know how this man feels about me being an American. I also experienced similar comments at a doctor's office. While Bush isn't well-liked by many people, I still feel the need to stand by my country.

I didn't attend the protests, after being warned by the study abroad office to stay away from the Sydney. However, I did see pictures from the rallies, and saw too many American flags being burned. I know it goes on, even in our home country, but it was unnerving to be somewhere outside of my comfort zone and see that hateful sentiment toward my country.

Other than APEC weekend, I haven't felt any uncomfort for being an American in Australia, though even if I did, there's nothing I can really do since the second I open my mouth...it screams "Yank."

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore

It's been almost two months in Australia, but it's only just hit me that I AM IN AUSTRALIA. It first happened just after my wine tour. My roommate, Jamie, had another friend visit, so we went into Sydney to have dinner along the harbor before seeing a show at the opera house. We saw this dance show called Bangarra, which was a collection of Aboriginal stories in dance form. The show was very different, but I wish I had more Aboriginal history to appreciate it. Anyway, after we finished eating, we were walking along the harbor toward the opera house. I had seen it numerous times, but never this close before. I started reciting a line from Finding Nemo, "P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way Sydney," and I got butterflies, because it was at this moment that I said to myself, Whoa, Heather you're in Sydney, Australia.

Although the show itself wasn't in the opera theater, it was really cool to be inside. I did, however, get a chance to tour the opera house when my friend from home, Jackie, came to visit. She's studying in Melbourne this semester. We were supposed to go to a tournament, but our team didn't go since we couldn't recruit enough girls. Apparently Australian girls aren't big into sports here, which is too bad. Instead, Jackie, Janine and I went to Paddy's Markets in Chinatown. It's basically a huge souvenir flea market. I bought lots of souvenirs. We also walked around Darling Harbour, which is nice, but I like Sydney Harbour a lot better. Bush is actually coming to Darling Harbour on Wednesday, since he's coming here for APEC this weekend. We tried going out that night, but I had progressively been getting sicker with a nasty cold, and it was raining. We took the bus all the way to Circular Quay (downtown Syndey) and then took it all the way back to Coogee. There was a fight on the bus right behind my head...oh the things you'll see when riding the bus.

The next day Jackie and I got up relatively early for a tour of the opera house. Our tour guide was classic. She's part American so it made it OK to joke about Americans. We didn't get to see the main opera theater because there was an opera going on, but apparently the grander room is the concert hall, which we got to take pictures of. It was pretty spectacular.

Did you know that... when the opera house design was part of a contest, and the judge who decided on the design was an American architect, who came to the meeting late and didn't like any of the finalist designs, so he went through the reject pile where he found THE design. There's actually a Simpson's episode in which Springfield builds a concert hall, and it's a spoof of the opera house design.

Did you know that...the ceiling of the theaters in the opera house are not actually connected to the world renown rooves? There is a gap between the ceiling and roof. The roof is also made up of hundreds of thousands of pieces of tile, which from my pictures, you can see individually.

After the tour, we walked around the Rocks, which is another part of Sydney right around the harbor. Instead of spending $275 to climb the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Jackie and I climbed the stairs from the street to the roadway and peered over onto the harbor. We also opted out of spending $10 to climb to an observation point. It was pretty great though- a must-to-do while in Sydney. Finally, I took her to Pancakes on the Rocks, which is a delicious pancake place that serves the craziest kinds of pancakes. I got chocolate and vanilla with respective ice creams. Definitely worth another visit. All in all, Jackie's visit was a lot of fun, and I'm heading down there in October, hopefully to see the 12 Apostles along the Great Ocean Road.

School has been going..well...it's going. I've turned in two assigments so far. One was a reading analysis on Rock and Roll and censorship for my history of the US and Australia in the 60s and one was for my philosophy class. I have a 2500-word research paper for my documentary class due next week. Clearly not looking forward to that. There isn't too much to say about classes other than I go, I do the work and I go home.

Today was the first day I didn't attend classes, but I reckon it was for a worthwhile reason. Fifteen of us went on a long weekend sailing trip through the Whitsunday Islands up in Queensland. (Note the pictures I'm sending) I can't begin to describe it. We went on a racing yacht, and by racing yacht, I mean a fairly small sailing boat, though fastest in Queensland. There were 22 of us, including the 3-person crew on board for two and half days. We slept in tiny bunks underneath the boat. There was no shower. We had to brush our teeth over the side of the boat. The food, however, was surprisingly good for being made in a kitchen the size of my hand.

We left from Airlie Beach and sailed for a couple hours to a snorkeling spot. I snorkeled once in the Bahamas, but this was a bit different since we were required to wear wetsuits in case we ran into jellyfish. It was over the Great Barrier Reef, so that was pretty amazing. We took a little inflatable skipper boat out to the reef, and one of the crew guys, named Dale, told me to hop out. I didn't actually believe he was serious...that I had to just jump off the boat into the reef. Well, he was serious. The scariest part was NOT looking underwater, for fear of things swimming around. I got a bit panicked upon swimming over a really shallow part of the reef. I ended up banging my knee on it....oops. I took some underwater pictures, so I hope those come out. The water was so clear, but if you looked away from the reef into the deep blue sea, it was pretty scary because a shark could totally have come up to you and you wouldn't have seen him until he was right in your face. I saw some crazy looking fish and neon coral. When I swam back to the little boat, I got blockaded by a school of NOT small fish, but Dale told me to put my head above water and not look because he couldn't come get me. Needless to say, I survived my first GBR snorkel.

We sailed some more to an inlet where we spent our first night. We saw humpback whales just swimming and spouting, which was incredible. I've seen whales before on a whale watch, but this was so different because I wasn't expecting it. After seeing a few whales we all looked at each other and came to the realization that these HUGE creatures were swimming around and under us. Crazy. We also saw giant sea turtles just hanging out. I felt like I was in Finding Nemo. Once the sun went down it was pitch black, aside from a flashlight on board. I saw Scorpius in the stars as well as Venus. I can't describe how amazing this was.

I didn't sleep much because the waters were pretty rocky and something kept hitting the boat. We got up early and only a few of us snorkeled. I wasn't too keen on getting in real early in the morning, but I figured when was I going to do this again? I was a lot more calm this time and stayed in the water a lot longer. I didn't choke on any saltwater either, so that's a plus. We were looking for sharks, but couldn't find any. After that snorkel, we sailed to White Haven Beach, which is in the top 5 most beautiful beaches in the world and is a national park. It rained for a bit, but we were so lucky that it cleared by the time we got to White Haven. We went up to an outlook, which is the 4th most photographed spot in Australia. Do you know the first three? (Answer at end of e-mail) This beach was breathtaking. Nobody was there, so it was really quiet, and somewhat eerie. We walked along a sandbar and saw sandsharks and some rays. The water was like a bathtub, and so unbelievably clear. You could see so far down, it was crazy. Between the woods we had to walk through and this beach, it looked like Peter Pan's Neverland...somewhere I've always wanted to go.

After the beach we sailed for a few more hours to our next inlet for the night. We had steak...and good steak, might I add, grilled on the boat. We fed some large fish that were flapping around in the water next to us. When we sailed home the next morning it was windy and raining. We all wore fisherman jackets and hung on to the high side of the boat for dear life. Apparently we were racing since the side of the boat we were on was almost perpendicular to the water. I almost cried. But I guess that's what these boats are designed for. Once we got to dry land, I showered to get all the salt and gross boat off me and we mostly slept for the rest of the afternoon.

I'm just getting back now. It was like a vacation from a vacation since Coogee is hardly somewhere you'd call mundane. Flying into Sydney I saw the opera house and bridge through the window...that's when it hit me again that I'm in Australia. Now that the weather is getting warmer, I hope to get down to the beach and swim, and by swim, I mean wade out to my hips and come back. My friend wants to take me surfing though up in Bondi, so maybe I'll try that. My roommates are going to Byron Bay this weekend since Bush is coming to Sydney for a world leader's conference meeting. I'll be in my apartment working on a paper. Spring break is about three weeks away. I'm heading up to the Gold Coast for uni games (ultimate) and then visiting a friend of Pam's who lives in Brisbane before returning back here.

If anyone is up for a visit, I'd love to show you around. Buy you a beer or some wedges with sour cream and sweet chilli sauce. Or if you know anyone that should come visit........tell him him to forget work and come.

I'll be home in just about three months....that's no time at all!!!


Is it summer yet?

Hello everyone!

It's been just a bit more than a month here in Australia. Winter is slowly winding down, but for some reason the wet season didn't realize it was over and it's rained quite a bit, unfortunately. I've been quite busy since I last wrote. Uni (as they call it here) is well underway. My first philosophy assignment is due on Wednesday and my first history paper is due in a week. Neither are terribly hard, just something in the way of all the sites of Sydney!

Recently a large group of friends and I took a bus up to Katoomba, which is a town in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. It was absolutely freezing and windy up there. We took a trolley to various parts of the mountains, including the Three Sisters, which were pretty spectacular. We walked down the Giant Staircase, which was quite a workout on my calves considering it was all down hill, and we were able to get right up to the Sisters. We walked about two kilometers or so to a train car, which is the steepest track in the world...45 degrees. I was absolutely petrified. We weren't buckled in or anything and we went up backwards nearly perpendicular to the ground and saw everything. I made sure I was tucked in between 4 people and held my roommate, Jamie's, hand the whole time. It didn't help that some guy was shrieking behind me. Regardless, I survived. From the top of the mountain we took the trolley to Leura Falls, which was pretty anti-climatic. Overall, the Blue Mountains were worth seeing.

As for ultimate, I made the Australian Uni Games team. Our tournament is during spring break, which is in about a month at the Gold Coast. We practice twice a week, and one night a week is pickup under the lights. As of just recently, practice has been lacking in the intensity department. I meet up with a few other teammates an hour before our Thursday trainings to do fitness work to get in shape for uni games. But last week one of the captains/coaches came back from visiting the United States, so he really put us to work. I also played in a fun tournament called Savage Sevens....yes, a no-sub tournament. My team was a lot of fun, but we could have done much better. We lost in the semis and tied for third, but we could have done way better in terms of not slacking off. I played very well up until that last game when I sort of just got tired. I had an incredible layout goal, which I'm definitely going to scar from, as I ripped open the scabs on my arm and hip at practice. Nonetheless, it impressed the team and got everyone pumped. I'm also helping my friend Alex with our jerseys. I told him that I am ordering our Syracuse jerseys from Patagonia, so we're going to see if that's possible before uni games. We also get free wedges (french fry wedge slices) after practice.

I've done a fair amount of souvenir shopping at various cheap shops. My friend Jackie from home is studying in Melbourne, and she is coming up this week so I'm going to take her to Paddy's Markets in Chinatown for some real cheap buys. We're then going to Newcastle for a tournament, though we'll leave Saturday since her flight leaves early Sunday. I'm going to visit her in October.

The other night we went to the Scubar club in Sydney, and it was quite a show...literally. I was probably the only girl in the place without a drink, yet got into a dance contest with a British girl. Basically, one of the guys working there said he needed a British girl and an American girl for a danceoff. As you know, I don't dance. If I do dance, it's pretty ridiculous. Well, my awesome friends pushed me up on stage, where I went head to head with a scantily clad girl from Wales. I proceeded to tell her that I don't dance and she said oh, well I do. Needless to say, I did not win, but I did get some fantastic photos to document the events, and afterwards several Australians told me I should have won and was far better than she was. It was a good time and not a drop was drunk.

I went to a Sydney Swans game with my roommates, which is the Australian Football Rules (Aussie Rules) game. The stadium is called Telstra Stadium in Olympic Park, which was built for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The stadium looked like a Quidditch stadium from Harry Potter. We sort of picked up on some of the rules with the help of a guy sitting near us. Sydney won, and I read in the Daily Telegraph the next day that the coach said it was the best game they'd played all season.

I got some free comedy tickets from the gym I go to. A bunch of us went into Sydney to see the show, which was great. The first comedian wasn't that good because he was mostly vulgar and made fun of his fat daughter, which was pretty awful. The second guy was hilarious, and once he found out there was a table of Americans, he went to town. The last guy was OK- nothing to write home about. We're going this week to another show as well. We're also seeing some dance thing at the Opera House on Tuesday. I have no idea what it is, but it was a fairly cheap ticket to see something, so why not?

Today my friend Janine and I went to Hunter Valley on a wine tour. We stopped first at a wildlife park and got to pat Koalas and feed Kangaroos. The kangaroos held my hand when I was feeding them. I think this park was better than the zoo since you got to touch the animals. We also saw a guy milking venom out of a spider to make anti-venom. The weather could have been a lot better, but it didn't rain much up there; it poured in Sydney. We went to four wineries, and I can officially say I do not like red wine. I gave it a fair chance at two of the wineries and eventually neither Janine nor I could drink it. We did buy a dessert wine, which tasted like pineapple and candy. I ate far too much cheese throughout the day; I wish it had been a cheese tour. The whole group, at the last winery, took a shot of chilli schnapps called Dragon Breath, and it was just that. It was sooo hot, but it did clear any congestion I may have had. Janine and I also took our own tour of the chocolate s\nhop and got some delicious fudge and other treats.

Well, that is the update for now. Things are going well; I just wish the weather would warm up! I have yet to take a dip in the water. I did run to Bondi, which is a couple kilometers along a beach path, but even at the end of that I wasn't hot enough to swim. Hopefully soon.

To add to your dictionary:

budgie smugglers: men's speedo bathing suit
(they are quite common)

Includes: Australian dictionary

It's been about two weeks in the land of OZ, and things are going quite swimmingly. I've met several Australians and have been hanging out with them and their friends in various places around Coogee and Sydney and the surrounding suburbs. It's pretty cool because I've seen areas that most other abroad students haven't or won't because it's not the big touristy stuff and places.

I've signed up for quite a trip coming up at the end of August. I haven't quite informed my parents, as I know my mom won't want to hear about it until AFTER I've returned safely. Stay tuned for more information about that... My roommates and I get along very well. Jamie is my actual roommate, and Abby lives in the single. We had our first week of classes last week, but only the lectures. The tutorials start this week, which means on Monday I will have class pretty much straight through 9-6. I live far enough away from campus that I can't walk home during my two-hour break, so that's a bummer, and there's always huge lines for computers around campus. I reckon I'll use that time to do work.

As for classes, they seem pretty good. I switched out of a Holocaust class, though seemingly interesting, Jamie reccommended a somewhat easier class, so clearly, I switched into that. My history class about the US and Australia in the 1960s is pretty much all American students, though I did meet an Australian named Joel, who is going on his third year as a first year. When he found out I study and do homework he said at least I'll pass two classes, as we have two classes together, and he is only taking two classes. My philosophy class is Thinking about Reasoning, though I thought I signed up for a mind/body class. Ooops. I think I could always work on my argumentative skills...parents always need to be persuaded. Finally, my history through film and documentary seems very cool. As Jeff does his work in documentary, I thought it would be cool to get a little background myself. We watch a film every class and at the end of the semester we have to pitch our own documentary idea. We watched a Thin Blue Line last week.

I started ultimate, which is great. A couple of the people remember Jeff from when he was there, so that's kind of cool. I have pickup Wednesday nights and training on Thursdays and Saturdays. I've become good friends with this girl Eline, who I hung out with this past weekend. We have a coach to get us ready for uni games this spring break, and he's from Michigan. I hear we have a chance to get a medal at nationals, so that would be very cool. The team seems pretty solid; I'm on the same level as the other women, at least. I'll definitely improve playing here.

Recently, we went to this very cool bar/club in Sydney. It's called the Scubar, and everyone had a lot of fun. I went with three of my girl friends with some Australians for this kid Eltin's 21st birthday. I guess 21st birthday isn't a big deal, but these Australians look for any reason to drink to their mates. ;-) I've been to Sydney a fair amount. My friends and I checked out this coffee and chocolate festival, which was delicious. I bought some fudge, which originally I was going to send to my dad, but I figured it'd melt, so I've slowly been chipping away at it. We also went to the market on the Rocks, which is a huge flea market by Sydney Harbour with lots of cool gifts. I bought a cool bracelet.

We finally got internet! It took me a total of about 8 hours to set up the wireless. I sat home one night and one day trying to get it to work, and FINALLY we got it all set up, so no more internet cafes! More procrastination! Hooray! Well, due to the extreme time change, no one is online when I'm awake. Bummer.

I've joined a gym, which has pictures of Arnold Swarzenegger all over it since he used to train there. It's small, but it's got everything I need and it's about a three-minute walk from my place. There are a ton of hills in Coogee as well, which is good since this past week we've eaten a fair amount of cookies and chocolate. And other empty calorie things...

Today we went to the Taronga Zoo. We took a ferry from Circular Quay in Sydney. It was very cool; we went right past the Opera House, which I've yet to go to, but I do have four months. We took a cable car up to the top of the zoo and saw everything! Koalas, kangaroos, Tasmanian Devils, Wombats, Wallabies, snakes, elephants, giraffes, lions, tigers and bears, Oh my!, platypae (?) and a "hip-hop-a-non-a-mous." (see Big Daddy to get the joke) One of the koalas had her baby on her back while climbing up a large tree. We also saw feeding time at the dingo area, unfortunately very anti-climatic. It ate some raw chicken. Overall, the zoo was sweet. The chimps were a bit unruly.

Cooking as gottten a little better. I made French toast for my roommates, and we made chicken pesto the other night...my idea! I suppose I'l get there one day, but as Pam knows, tortellini with olive oil and garlic salt is clearly the way to go. I've had that...almost every night.

I reckon that is it for now. Please read on to find an Australian dictionary composed by yours truly.


Studs: cleats
Pitch: field
Maggot: very drunk
Skull: chug
No worries: you're welcome
Shout: round of drinks
Footy: rugby
Mate: friend
Flat: apartment
Sepo: Americans (Yank rhymes with tank...septic tank)
Sheila: girl
Bloke: guy
Piss: beer
Jumper: sweater or sweatshirt
How you going?: What's up/How are you
Telly: television
dhfewihklsdf mate: what a lot of Australians sound like upon first listen

Greetings from OZ

Well, I made the long voyage to the land down under. The flight (after a 3-hour delay in LAX) was not bad at all. I slept for awhile and watched several movies, including, of course, Finding Nemo in honor of my destination. The airline lost my luggage, but luckily it was returned later that night, although I slept on a towel since my sheets were in that bag. I'm living five minutes from the beach...though it's a bit chilly at the moment. My roommates are coincidentally, all kosher Jewish girls, and we met a Jewish lady at the grocery store who told us about a temple on our street.

Food shopping on my own is quite interesting, as I've learned you really can't buy just one thing. I.E. Tuna? You need bread and mayo. I plan to test out my cooking skills. I had orientation today, which was about five hours of information, so that was a lot to take in. I start ultimate soon with the UNSW team, as well as looking into playing in mixed nationals. I'm excited to play, but unfortunately I didn't bring my heavy under armour. They said this is the coldest winter in 25 years. It's not that bad, but my apartment is freezing.

We went to the Syndey Aquarium yesterday in Darling Harbour. I saw platypae? Would that be correct? We also walked through a glass tunnel with water on all sides, including underneath in a tank of sharks. That was really something. The sharks were pretty big and nasty looking. We also saw some giant crabs you wouldn't want to encounter! Last night we went to the Beach Palace Hotel, which is the main bar/club in Coogee, the town I'm living in. A girl we know was kicked out for being too intoxicated- it was humorous.

Tomorrow my roommates and I plan to get internet, as I've been spending money at the internet cafe, though UNSW did just give us a $50 voucher for the internet. Tonight is a friend's birthday so I think we're going to go out to eat for that. Classes start on Monday; I believe my schedule is going to be a bit rigorous...three history classes and a philosophy class. But I don't have classes on Tuesday or Friday, though I do go until 6 on Monday and Wednesday. It gets dark pretty early and cold as well.

Stay tuned for more of my adventures, but for the sake of my mother, not too many wild adventures. For details on those, inquire in person.