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 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'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 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.