Stateside Bound

I can’t believe it. In six hours I will be on my way to the airport to head home. Five and a half months went by incredibly fast. We’ve all been saying that this is the definition of bittersweet. We all had an amazing time here and cherish the friends and memories we’ve made for ourselves, but at the same time, we’re all anxious to get home to see our family and friends there. I think this was one of the best things that I could have done for myself. There was a lot of self discovery (as to be expected on these types of endeavors). I made a few life long friends. I conquered a fear or two, and strengthened my independence and self-sufficiency. I learned a ton, and hopefully imparted some unto others in the process. The memories I made here will stay with me forever, and hopefully this experience has helped me grow as a person in ways that will benefit others in the future. It was a whirlwind of emotion and adventure and learning, and I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to experience it. With all that said, I want to thank y’all that took the time to read this blog (when I managed to post stuff), and I’m so grateful to everyone who helped me along the way. Thank you guys, and I hope that all is well!

Friday the 13th, Spooky…

It’s officially summer! I finished and submitted my last paper today, so I’m free from scholarly duties for a while. I also go to Skype with two of my besties today, which was great. I’m now doing two 5k color runs when I get back to the states. =) In the spirit of it being Friday the 13th, they were testing the fire alarms today. They went of approximately 17 times over the course of a few hours. It was about 45 seconds each time, at seemingly random intervals. Sometimes I could hear it coming from across the courtyard, and others it scared the crap out of me. Not really conducive to studying. The first time or two, a few of us went out on the our balconies, as per usual. And Caroline yelled across the courtyard at me, asking if we had to leave, and I said I didn’t think so, that they were just testing. She responded, “Really?! It’s finals and I’m trying to write a freakin’ paper!” Yep, me too… It started to give me PTSD, everything made me jump and every time I was lulled into a false sense of security, they would go off again. At one point the RA started blasting music from his room and a number of guys were chillin’ at the pool. Eventually it subsided and I finished my paper, but still. Aside from that, nothing much else new going on… A little over two weeks before I head back. I have some plans with Steph to do a few more things, and I’m planning to meet up with Sarah once more (Oh! we saw X-Men the other day, super awesome) and the ‘Graphic Girls’ are planning another get together before I head out. I’m contemplating doing a ‘life blog’ when I get back to the states, of just the random thoughts on my mundane life… but well see. Other than all that, not much else. Hope everything is going well with all y’all!

Study Adventures!

Steph and I had a fun day. We had both been taking easy since classes ended last week, and we were starting to feel the pressure of finals (or exams as they are called here). So we decided to do something about it (go us)! Steph’s solution was to venture over to the State Library, and it was a great solution. Around 11am we made our way in that direction, making a pit stop at Central to get lunch. I had sushi (only the cooked stuff though). Steph’s getting me hooked on the stuff. Then we eventually made it to the library. We went to the Dome room and found seats. It was great, just on the side of cool without being cold.  There was indistinguishable chatter, it just turned into white noise, and it was really calming actually, but when some one dropped a book on a table, it made this deep echo through the room, it was kinda awesome. I feel like there could be a really nifty a cappella showdown in there. And the greatest thing about it was that Steph and I were actually productive! Slight downside (but worked to our benefit) was that there were so many people on the wifi, it didn’t really work (kept us focused). Then we decided to go get coffee at Gloria Jean’s across the way.  Where we discovered that their was working wifi (and awesome bird watching cause Steph loves birds). We worked there for a little while, and then headed back to the study room at the Village. I hung out there until my computer died. All in all, it was fairly effective. I got a good chunk of my Self & Society essay blocked out and researched. We realized once we got back to our rooms the sudden lack of productivity, so we decided to make plans to go back to the State Library again tomorrow. It’s nerdy, but I was super excited about our study date adventures.

Also, as before, I there are things my notes app I keep forgetting to share. This one is all the way back from Sydney (mainly cause thats where I learned about it). It the Australian Crest, and the meaning behind it (or at least what I remember of it). It’s their coat of arms, and on the left is a kangaroo, and on the right and emu. Now that seems pretty ‘yeah, okay’, however, not only are these animals australian, but they also lack the inability to walk backwards. The theory is that the country would only make progress/take steps forward not back, ect. I found it pretty nifty.

 

Just Another Update

Just a quick update. I’ve been kinda social lately so I figured I should document it. =P

On Sunday, Steph and I went to see the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by the National Theater Live at Cinema Nova. It was fantastic. The set was amazing. And the way it was done was great. For those of you that don’t know, it’s originally a book. They started off by showing us a video with had interviews with the cast and behind the scenes footage, and kind of explained what they were hoping to achieve and their mind set and the research they put into it. I really enjoyed that because it enriched the play itself, which was about a boy that has autism and how he perceives the world and how he deals with a specific incident. It was really neat though because he wasn’t portrayed as ‘less’ or ‘deficient’ or anything, it was that you got to see the world through his eyes and understand his thought process. It was brilliant, in more ways than one. And it inspired some deep discussion between Steph and I afterward when we went to dinner, and I always think that something that inspires some deep thought is successful. All in all, super awesome.

On Monday, Sarah and I had our last photography class, which was kind of what ever, but then we got food after (I had sushi and it was surprisingly delicious – no raw fish though) and then we made plans to hang out and such in my last few weeks here.

Then today (tuesday), I had a tutorial presentation to do, which was quiet successful. That was a nice surprise. And then I got to chat with some friends back home via text and snapchat, which was really, uh, comforting? (I don’t think that’s quite the right word, but it made me smile all day)  Then I went to Graphic Design to take our final test. It was whatever, not too bad, probably could have memorized some more, but I think I bs’d my way out of it. I was done in about half an hour. Then the group of girls that I’ve become friends with (apparently we’re the Graphic Girls…?) invited me out to bevvies and dumplings. So Erin, Caley, Georgia, Bronte, and I sent out to obtain drinks and dumplings. A very popular thing here is BYO (bring your own) drink, be it wine, beer, cider, sometimes goon. So we stopped at the liquor store and bought two bottles of wine, one red and one white. Then we went into china town and had dumplings. I’ve never had dumplings before. We all decided to share, so Erin and Georgia ordered for the whole table. It was really good. We had a wide variety and I liked them all. The ‘thing’ here in Melbourne has been dumplings, I now understand the craze. It was a good time, we drank and ate and chatted for about two and a half hours. It was a great way to celebrate the end of our semester together. (I felt like such and adult =P)

So yeah, I have one more lecture tomorrow, and then I’m done with classes. I just have to write two papers and submit them online in the next two and a half weeks and then I’m done done. So that’s good. I’m starting to look forward to heading back to the States. But I do have a couple more things I want to do here before I leave.

Side note: there was a kid in one of my classes that had the greatest facial expressions to watch, especially when the teacher was being ridiculous, I was trying so hard not to laugh.

Outback Adventure Time!

Hey y’all! I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I got back a few days ago from my Outback Adventure, and I’ve been busy catching up on school work, but I have time now to tell y’all about it! Fair warning, this is gonna be an essay post… But once again, I was a nerd and took notes.

Day 1:
There were 11 of us total going on this trip, all of us exchange and the majority Canadian. Steph, Caroline and I were the Americans. Vivi and Tanai are originally from Venezuela, but have been living in the U.S. since they were 12 or so. Oliver, Sam, Zara, Talya, Carly, and Ali are all from Canada, and more specifically, they all go to McGill University together. The whole trip consisted of early mornings, and this was no different. We all met up at 6:30am and took a Maxi Taxi to the airport. The flight was fine. We did however have a scottish pilot, and Steph and I kept calling him Simon Pegg. Since we were such a big group, we had to wait for the second shuttle to the hostel so we hung out in the tiny Alice Springs Airport for a while. Steph and I were the only two out of our group that hadn’t ever stayed in a hostel before. Ours was nice, and we had 8 people in one room and 3 in the other. Steph and I were in the 8 people room. There were four sets of bunk beds and a bathroom. It was what I imagined summer camp would be like. After we dropped off our stuff we made our way into town to check in for our tour, where we were then informed that we each needed 3L of water. So we went on a shopping expedition, which was entertaining. After everyone had their water and some snacks we went back to the hostel for nap time. After a few hours of sleeping/chatting in our bunks, we went to check out the night market (nothing compared to Melbourne’s, but it was fun). We all got dinner and then went back to begin the shower rotation. Seven girls, one guy, and only one shower. Needless to say it took a while before we were all clean.

Day 2:
It was another early morning. Breakfast was at 5:10, pick-up for our camping/backpacking tour was 5:30. We all rolled out of bed at about 5. Breakfast was toast and cereal. We met our tour guide Mat, who was super awesome. We all got on the bus and chose our seats. There was a Dutch couple, a German couple, an English girl, two asian girls (I don’t know specifically where they’re from), two German girls, and a French girl that completed our tour group. One of the first things Mat said was,”The only thing better than music is loud music.” At which point I thought, this is gonna be awesome. He demonstrated the Australian Automatic Door, aka Manual (Steph and I were familiar with from previous tours). Then we began our adventure with the nice ‘soothing’ sound of  ‘Highway to Hell’. Mat was an awesome DJ and we had great music the whole trip. We drove for about four hours to our first destination. Mat gave us chalk pens to decorate our windows with, I suspect to keep us busy during the long drive, but it was also extremely helpful in identifying our bus. The first place we hiked was Kings Canyon. We hiked around the top of the canyon, but to get up there, we had to climb Heart Attack Hill. Which lived up to it’s name…my asthma made a valiant attempt at a come back. But once we made it up to the top, it was beautiful. It was about a three hour hike around edge of the canyon, with frequent stops for pictures. Apparently it’s the biggest canyon in the world (cause the Grand Canyon isn’t technically a canyon…). There was a rock that jutted out the side of the canyon and it looked like pride rock from the Lion King. So naturally everyone was taking pictures and singing the Lion King. At one point we crossed the canyon at it’s narrowest point. There was the option to jump across. The boys did, the girls didn’t. After our extensive hike around the canyon, we started to make our way to camp. When we were about halfway there we pulled over to the side of the road to collect fire wood from the bush. Then we made a stop to buy alcohol, of course. People took turns DJ-ing on our way to camp. On the pitch dark drive into our camp sight, Mat blasted music, flickered the lights in time with the music, and drove donuts around our campsite. That may have been the most terrifying part of the trip… But I laughed the whole way through, cause it was either laugh or cry. We all pitched in setting up camp and cooking dinner on the campfire. Mat brought along a Kangaroo tail, which he kindly put the vegetarians in charge of. I was surprised at how many people didn’t really know how to cook or properly chop up veggies, but in the end, dinner got made and it was pretty good. We were also starving so… We had chili, rice, potatoes and carrots, along with garlic bread that Mat made which consisted of flour, beer, and garlic. It was delicious. After dinner we set up our SWAGs. Which are basically heavy duty canvas sleeping bags with a mattress that you put your sleeping bag into. Mat then went on to tell us how we have to draw a trench around your swag to keep the snakes away. And that we have to lay down a line of salt to keep the bugs and spiders away, and a line of pepper to keep away the dingos. He promised he wasn’t trying to cook us. We were worried that he was making us preform some sort of satanic ritual. And Oliver kept asking for the garlic for vampires… But in the end we all dutifully protected ourselves from the outback (the next night we were informed that it was a placebo…). We had a full moon, which was so cool. We could see the full moon ring around it all night, and it gave us enough light to see in the dark. It was really peaceful once everyone went to sleep, quiet and cool. Until Steph woke me up at two am worried that she was dying. Something had caused her finger to swell in an allergic reaction, she took some meds and was fine in the morning.

Day 3:
We had another early morning. We found a few people sleeping in the bus, apparently there had been a dingo or two on the edge of camp. We had our usual breakfast of cereal and toast and then we got to take showers! They were nice, hot showers too. The way we reacted to them you would have though it was liquid gold coming out of the faucet. Once we were all clean, we headed over to Kata Tjuta. We hiked through the Valley of the Winds. It was beautiful. We stopped at one point where Mat gave us an interactive geomorphology lesson, pretty neat. We learned that Uluru is basically a giant land ice berg (the part you see above ground is only the tip). We hiked up the valley/canyon, which wasn’t as bad as heart attack hill, but pretty darn close. The view was worth it though. Then we spent a fair amount of time taking pictures, and the tour guides being ridiculous. Then we had lunch, with the help of super annoying flies (which were all over us on all of the hikes, a few people bought fly nets) and wraps with the left-over chili. Once we’d all reached our tolerance level with the flies, we headed to the Uluru Cultural Center. It was pretty interesting. they had a fair amount of the Dreamtime Stories on display, accompanied by aboriginal art. There was a lot of information about the aborignial culutre in its many forms. They had this book called the ‘I’m Sorry Book’, which is full of apology letters from people that came to Uluru and took a rock or a piece of Uluru back with them, and then bad things happened to them. They hoped that by apologizing and sending back the rocks that their luck would be restored. Uluru is sacred to the Aboriginals. It’s like their church. But they don’t really have any power to protect it, because when the Australians gave them back their land, there were certain restrictions that came with it. For example, you ‘can’ climb Uluru, but they really prefer you not to, because it’s like you’re climbing their church. But the aboriginals don’t have the power to physically stop you. All they can do is educate people about it and hope that they will be respectful and not climb it. Mat was very proud to say that in all the times he’s lead this tour (which is a lot, he has everything effortlessly timed down to the minute) he’s never had anyone climb Uluru (they have to give the option). After the Cultural Center, we drove to Uluru do to the Mala Base walk. Leon (half of the German couple) sat at the very front of the bus (his girlfriend was at the back cause they were the last to get on and we were rude and took all the paired seats). His english wasn’t great, but he was funny. He clearly understood everything, but just kept quiet, and when he would do something funny, and Steph and I would laugh (we were the row behind him) he would look so proud of himself. The point being, that he was an awesome guy, and to make it better, he would jump out of the front window (it was a pretty big window) to open the door for the rest of us, every time without fail. Anyway, we did the baby base walk around Uluru, it was gorgeous. It’s this giant rock in the middle of the outback, which is flat. We understood why it would be sacred, if you’d only seen flat land all your life and then you went to Uluru and saw this huge, bigger than life piece of earth sticking out of the ground, bigger than anything you’ve ever seen before, the only way to interpret that would be something spiritual. Steph said that it was sublime, in the art history sense of the term, and she’s completely right. There are certain places that can’t be photographed because in their culture they are scared and thus not everyone in their culture is allowed to see them, and they don’t want them winding up on the internet for those who haven’t seen to accidentally be seen. Mat said that if they do see a site they’re not supposed to, that they can still be punished within their culture. At one point, Mat reenacted one of the Dreamtime stories for us, which was cool. Then we went to an area across the way that had picnic tables where we could watch the sunset on Uluru. Mat made us dinner, which was delicious, and we all took more pictures, and drank, and had a jolly time. Then it was time to head to camp. We must have been obnoxious to everyone we drove by. We were jammin’ out to all the 80′s/90′s throwbacks when we pulled up to the gas station. It was a great time though, and everyone on our bus sang along. We got back to camp and showered again (because we could and it was the last time we’d be able to). Then Mat walked us up to a look-out platform outside of camp. It was amazing, we could see the stars, and not just the stars, but the star dust and the outline of the Milkyway galaxy. It was incredible. There was the whole sky dome effect going on. Steph and I had a moment or two. We stayed up there together to watch the moon rise. It was so surreal. We didn’t want to leave, but it was getting cold. We headed back to the campfire, where true to form, there was a sign along occurring. Steph and I felt bad for the european people cause they didn’t know any of the songs we were playing. We set up our Swags, sans spices, and slept under the stars. A few girls chose to sleep in the bus again. I loved sleeping under the stars, it was cool and peaceful and it was so calming to just watch the sky. I want to go camping on the beach back home now.

Day 4:
Mat woke us up super duper early (not as early as the summer tours though) and we went back to the picnic tables to have breakfast and watch the sunrise. It was beautiful. At one point Mat was blasting music (a famous symphony piece that I can’t remember the name of) and conducted the sunrise, it was great. Then we went back to Uluru to do the rest of the base walk. It was just the right amount of chilly and quiet and peaceful. After we walked around all of Uluru, which took us a little over two hours (at a pretty brisk pace I might add), Mat met us with oranges and fruit cake. It was divine. Then we began our six or so hour journey back to Alice Springs. We had a few awesome jam sessions between stops, and Mat was taking requests (mostly Steph and I because we were sitting behind him). We stopped for lunch after about two hours. Then we had another couple hour drive, where everyone passed out, the music blaring. Then it was time for the camels! We had the option to ride them (I didn’t), but Steph and a few others did. It was amusing to watch. Then we drove the rest of the way back to Alice Springs, in which Mat pulled out the 90′s big guns, aka Back Street Boys, Britney Spears, ect. It was great. We got dropped off at the hostel, showered and then went to The Rock Bar. It’s tradition to go to The Rock Bar after the tour for dinner and drinks with tour guides. (I got a free drink out of it too!) It was a fun time, but we called it a night fairly early, since we were all exhausted.

Day 5:
We had a random extra day in Alice Springs because for some reason there were no flights out of Alice Springs that day (there’s only one flight each way each day, and we didn’t get back early enough the day before so we had to wait till the day after). We woke up early (8am) for free breakfast (5:10am-8:30am). Then we all lounged around for most of the morning until lunch time. We broke off into little groups and went into town. We had lunch and did some souvenir shopping.  I was exhausted so I went back and slept for a few hours. Katja (one of the German girls from the trip) met up with us and hung our for a while, she was also on our flight back the next day. We had pizza from the pub at the hostel for dinner. It was surprisingly good… but I was also starving, so… We hung out, then showered, and passed out. We got up early the next day for the airport, which was uneventful.

 

I was very apprehensive about going on this trip. I was going to have to miss a few classes, I didn’t really know a lot of the people going… I’m not an outdoorsy person in the least… But Steph convinced me to go, and I’m so glad I did. It was so much fun, and enlightening and amazing. Definitely one of those once in a lifetime experiences. And in the end I didn’t really miss much in the way of classes and such. It was really nice to unplug from technology and all of that (although by the last day or so you could tell that we were all going through withdrawal… There was a sign on the wifi at the hostel that if they felt we were being too anti-social they would turn it off…) I’m also becoming a firm believer that it’s not where you are, but the people you’re with. In the sense that you can be somewhere so amazing, but if you don’t have anyone to share it with, then it doesn’t really mean much. And the people that you’re with have the power to make or break the experience. I’m so happy I went with the group that I did, they’re all wonderful human beings and so happy and positive. And Mat was the best tour guide we could have had, he was fun and goofy, had really good taste in music, and he knew what he was talking about/doing. Words cannot express how great this trip was. It’s strange to think that it’s already a memory. I’ve been hanging out with too many optimistic people, because this trip had its ups and downs (what trip doesn’t), but the downs seem to pale in comparison to the ups, they hardly seem worth mentioning. It’s a good thing, just different from the norm for me.

In other news: I updated the gallery. I added a few from Sydney that were on Steph’s camera, and then started a new gallery for the Outback trip.

Update, Update, Read All About It!

I figured I should probably post something so y’all didn’t think I fell off the face of the earth (since we all know the world is flat and I’m living on the edge of it). I’ve been pretty busy with classes and what not as of late. I’m working on my Graphic Design project right now, which is due essentially next week. And then on thursday, a group of us from the Village are going to Alice Springs for 5 days. It should be fun, but people keep warning me about spiders and snakes… so now I’m nervous. I did go to the movies last week to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier with my friend Sarah (we met in my photography class) and it was really good. They assign you seats here when you purchase your movie ticket. Apparently they do that in Europe too (or so Maria tells me). It was actually nice not having to fight for a seat. Maria, Steph, and I are having a girls night out tonight. We’re going to go get dinner at Grill’d (the awesome burger place) and then see Bad Neighbors (with a shirtless Zac Efron, yay). Maria invited Steph over for dinner last night cause Steph as stressing about having so much homework and things to do. We ended up chatting and cooking and what not for about three hours, so I’m sure that helped with ‘the lack of time to get things accomplished’ issue…

Also, I have a note keeping app on my phone where I’ll jot down little things I want to write about, but I usually put them there so I wont forget, and then forget to transfer them from my phone to my blog or wherever else they’re supposed to go… So I guess I’ll do that now. A few weeks ago I saw a munchkin having a temper-tantrum. I don’t remember exactly why, but he was basically just done with the situation and wanted to go home and chill, and I very strongly identified with the poor little guy. I think that might be the point in which I realized I’m an adult, not because I’m above it, but because I realized that I could never get away with that kind of behavior no matter how justified. I think a little piece of me died inside, taking with it the temper-tantrum throwing child. Next topic: they don’t really do lines at things like food courts. It’s just kind of a walk up and order. People are respectful of who got there when, but they don’t queue up for their turns per se… It’s weird. Next: When they do happy birthday, the do ’3 cheers’. The whole hip hip hooray! type thing, either instead of or after singing happy birthday. Next: I can’t remember if I ranted about this already or not, but here it is anyway. When we were at the Sydney Observatory, we watched a video on some of the rovers that have been sent to different planets. There was one they talked about, I think it was sent to Neptune?, but it took six years to get there. Think about how far a person can travel in a few hours, you can fly around the world essentially in a day, so think of how far that rover got it if was traveling for six years. They were able to communicate with this rover remotely from ‘six years away’. My question to you, is if that is possible, they why can I not be guaranteed adequate (not even great, just adequate) cellphone service cross the globe? Cause in the grand scheme of things, the world is not that big. Just a thought. Next: Last week the fire alarm went off at about 10:30pm. Maria was just about asleep and protested. I went onto the balcony to see what was going on, and a fair amount of people were actually evacuating. Maria asked me if it was smoky, to which I said ‘I can’t tell, it’s cloudy’. So we decided to join the masses and evacuate. Once we all congregated out front, they marched us down about two blocks. We stood there for about half an hour. It was a Saturday, so everyone was either dressed up to go clubbing, or in sweats about to go to sleep. I was in sweats. They eventually let us back in. No one was all that worried so it was either a drill, or someone accidentally set off the alarm. I think that’s all I’ve been forgetting to tell y’all. I have about four weeks of classes left and then I’m done! Then I have two weeks or so before I head back to the states. It might be time for steph and I to have another planning party. =P

Sydney Trip Part 2

I apologize for the lack of updates. Once again I was off galavanting and there was no free internet (and I’m cheap so when I did pay, it was for obtaining student housing or signing up for summer classes and the like, fun!). Anyway, I spent the last six days in Sydney with Steph. We had an awesome time and did a ton of stuff. Luckily for y’all (and my future self) I took notes! I’m such a nerd. As per usual, I’ll go chronologically.

Day 1: Sunday
Steph and I got up at the crack of dawn (6am) to catch our cab to the airport. Our plane was scheduled to take off at 8am. We had the breakfast of champions at the airport: Hungry Jacks (aka Burger King). Once we landed in Sydney, we took a taxi to our hotel. We staid at the Aarons Hotel. We quickly discovered that it was located in China Town. Since we were super early, our room wasn’t ready, but they were really nice and let us leave our suitcases at the front desk so that we could go explore in the mean time. And of course, the first thing we found was Market City, basically a mall. So Steph and I did some shopping/wandering, and then we went upstairs to the food court for lunch. It had a wide array of Thai and Chinese food. We got a plate at The Golden Tower, which was really good. Then we went downstairs to the ‘basement’ and checked out the Paddy’s Market, which are apparently really well known in Sydney, but we weren’t aware at the time. But we shortly figured out why when we got lost in a vortex of awesomeness. There were booths and booths of everything, and a fresh food market as well. It took us an hour  to walk through the whole thing quickly. It’s a cosplayer’s dream, there were good quality wigs of every color and style, bits and pieces for costumes everywhere. I had to restrain myself on a few occasions. By the time we found our way out, it was time to check in to our room. It was fairly nice (especially considering the deal we got for it). Steph and I shared a bed (so many jokes to be made). It was actually two twins pushed together, and it was supper comfy. The bathroom was one big plastic unit, kind of like a super-sized airplane bathroom. We took a few minutes to collect ourselves before we headed into the city. Next on our agenda was the I’m Free Walking Tours (by the same company that did the tour in Melbourne). We walked via George St. (pretty much the only street that goes through the whole CBD) up to Town Hall. We walked ALL over the city. It was really neat and informative, but so much walking. We saw all kinds of things, many of them historical. We learned all about the convict colonies too. Most people know that ‘Australia was started by criminals’, but it’s more complex than that. Sydney specifically was founded by convicts, but back then you could become a convict by stealing a piece of fruit or a loaf of bread to feed your starving family. Originally, they would send the convicts to America, but America got tired of them, and didn’t have the space for them, so they decided to send them to Sydney since Australia had been recently discovered by Britain. Then they built the part of the city known as The Rocks, and it expanded upon from there. Side note: Melbourne was founded by John Batman from Tasmania, and flourished with the gold rush. After the walking tour, which was about 3 hours, we went to a little place on George St. called Parlor Burgers. It was really good (and not just because we were starving), Steph and I each got a burger and we shared duck fat fries.  Then we walked all the way back to our hotel, which was too far. Some one had told Steph that we were close to a train station, so we decided that we would try to figure that out. We had booked a night tour at the Observatory, so after we had a little break from dinner, we tried the train. It was super fast and easy and convenient and cheap. In other words, our new best friend. We got to Circular Quay, which was half the battle. We then had to get over to the observatory, and to our astonishment, most Sydney-siders (as the tour guide called herself and the locals) don’t know where it is. We had to cross under the Harbor bridge and walk up a ramp around the backside of the hill to the observatory. In the daytime, it would have been beautiful, but because there was the time change, the sun set earlier and the timer for the street lights hadn’t been adjusted. That meant that it was pitch black and terrifying when we walked up. It didn’t help that every so often a bat would fly by. One of the scarier moments of my life. But we survived and made it to the observatory. It was an old, but beautiful building. They divided us up into groups, and then we went into the planetarium and watched a few 3D movies about space and such, which were really interesting. Then we went outside and looked at some constellations. Steph and I were the only ones who were from the northern hemisphere, and thus the only ones who had seen the North Star and such. You can see Orion from both hemispheres, but he’s upside down here… We got to see the Souther Cross, which is the equivalent of the Big Dipper/North Star. Then we got to go up into the South Dome and see the original telescope of the observatory, which was 140 years old and still functional. It was too cloudy to really see anything with it, but it was neat to see the telescope itself. It was a #1 museum item, which means it should be behind glass where no one can touch it. Then we went to the North Dome where they had a newer more hight tech telescope. We got to see Jupiter, a nebula, and the Jewel Cluster, which was super duper cool. It was also cool because the architecture of the dome would throw voices. So we could hear people laughing or talking on occasion from the other side of the room. I was really tempted to tell a bad joke and see who laughed from the other side of the room, but I couldn’t think of any jokes. On the way back, the teamed up with these two older ladies that were going the same way as us. We walked back with them and they were quite nice and sweet. It was nearly so scary going back because we were in a group, and the lights had turned on by then. We caught the train back, and were completely exhausted.

Day 2: Monday
It was a public holiday for Easter. We started off our day by getting brekkie at 7/11 down stairs, OJ and a muffin. Then we took the train to Circular Quay to do the Sydney Opera House Tour. I think that may have been my favorite part of the trip. My inner architecture nerd got all excited. It was such a journey to create the opera house that we all know and love today. There was a contest to design the opera house, and the designs that were used, were originally in the reject pile. Then once they decided on this design, the building commenced without any technology in place to build the sails. After a few years, all hope was lost and they were ready to give up on the project. That’s when Jorn Utzon (the danish architect behind the opera house) came up with a solution. It had to do with taking all the pieces for the sails out of the same sphere so that they had the same ratios and then the concrete ribs could be casted out of the same mould. It was quite a process (and that was the cliff notes version). We got to see 3 of the 7 performance spaces: Studio, Joan Sutherland Theater, and the Concert Hall. The Australian Ballet Company was doing their morning classes in the Joan Sutherland theater. They do classes in the morning, rehearsals in the afternoon, and performances in the evening. It was so beautiful to watch, to get a behind the scenes look, especially since Steph and I were going to see their performance the next night. We also got to walk up and around the exterior of the opera house, as well as see the inside structure of it all. It’s such a beautifully crafted building, with the concrete and wood and steel. It’s amazing because everything is structural and yet aesthetically pleasing, that’s a hard combination to pull off. After our tour, we got lunch at a little cafe in Circular Quay, and then walked around The Rocks on our way to the Harbor Bridge. Steph was doing the Harbor Bridge Climb at twilight. Which is where you walk up and over the harbor bridge. You have to wear a special harness and there’s something like 2,000 steps to the top or something insane. My fear of highs was rearing its head just thinking about it. I opted to do Pylon Lookout instead. Steph did that with me before she went to her bridge climb. Pylon Lookout is in one of the pillars at the end of the Harbor Bridge. There’s still a lot of stairs, but not nearly as many as the bridge climb, and you’re also inside of the structure. It was cool cause there were about three levels of museum type exhibits about the bridge and the history and such that broke up the stairs. It was a little touch and go toward the top for me because the stairs were industrial, so you could see between the treads, and down pretty far. The hand rail was my new best friend. But I did make it to the top, and it was well worth it. The view was spectacular. So cool. It helped that it was a gorgeous day. After the trek up and down, we decided to take an ice cream break. I got coconut, which was delicious, and had shredded coconut as well as chocolate chips in a waffle cone, yum. Then we found the visitors center, and sat around there for a while since our feet were protesting. Steph and I parted ways when it was time for her to do her bridge climb (which was scheduled to take 3 hours). I ended up going back to the hotel and fell asleep. Steph survived the brigde climb, and loved every minute of it. She wasn’t allowed to take her camera, but there was a photographer with them, and they got some fantastic pictures of her. By the time she got back and I woke from my slumber, it was about 8pm and we were both starving. The front desk recommended the Great Southern Hotel Bar. It was a good recommendation. There was good food and a cute little atmosphere. There were lots of tvs with various australian sports going on, which was fun to watch. There was a group of three (two girls and a guy) in the back corner, and I wasn’t entirely sure who was hitting on who… Fun stuff. At the end of the day we decided that if we ever saw another stair again it would be too soon… We also discovered that parts of Sydney are not very handicap friendly. Granted when it was built that wasn’t really a concern, but still, so many stairs.

Day 3: Tuesday
We hit up 7/11 again for brekkie. OJ and a muffin. Then we took our beloved train down to Circular Quay to catch the Ferry to the Taronga Zoo. It was much busier than when I went with Dad, but that was probably because it was pouring rain when we went. But Steph and I had a good time, and when Dad and I went, we only saw about half, so I got to see the rest of it. Steph and I took turns through out the day looking like disinterested spoiled brats on our phones, the joys of dealing with school stuff from overseas with a time difference. After a few hours, we did the whole thing. And then we decided to head back to our rooms for a break before our big night at the Opera House. We watch Who’s Line is it Anyway? and then had dinner across the street at the same place in the food court from the first day. It was delicious once again. After our tummies were satiated, we got ready for the Ballet. It was funny becuse we could tell who else on the train was going to the Ballet by the way they were dressed, and it was all pairs of women. When we got off the train and walked to the opera house, we could see a couple taking wedding pictures on the front steps. It was so cute, and I bet those pictures were gorgeous. The Ballet was beautiful. We saw Manon preformed by the Australian Ballet Company. The costumes and set were amazing. I wanted all of the dresses the girls wore. The dancing was wonderful, and I don’t know how they do it, but it was great. It was amazing how they can tell a story just through music and dancing (in Steph’s words “You stole my girl, I’m gonna dance it out.”). They did give us a handy little print out with a synopsis since the storyline got complicated really fast, but I read it before hand and was able to understand what was going on the entire time. It was great. It was really enjoyable, and Steph and I can’t stop talking about how cultured we are now. One the walk back to the train, we stopped for some gelato, tasty. And then promptly passed out when we got back to our room. That’s about the time Steph decided she was getting sick, poor thing.

Day 4: Wednesday
Broken Record: Brekkie at 7/11. OJ and a Muffin. Then we did the Botanical Gardens. They were huge! We kept walking through and there was more until it opened up to a park and revealed that it was the entire peninsula behind the opera house. There was every type of vegetation involved. There were little ponds, and fountains, and art. And a rainforest walk, and Japanese Garden. And a succulents garden that was like being in Arizona. And a pretty rose garden that was akin to the Kellogg Rose Garden at school. And there were wonderful views of the back side of the opera house, and the harbor bridge. there was also a nice little garden store that had some nifty things, most of which I wouldn’t be able to get through customs. I did get a few sun-catcher stickers that you put on a window or some such that depict Australia. I plan to get an old frame/window and make an art thing out of them. After walking around the gardens for a few hours, we caught the bus to Bondi (pronounced bond-eye) Beach. The bus ride was terrifying. It was one of those accordion buses, and the bus driver was going really fast, and he would get REALLY close to the other buses. But we made it in one piece. We had lunch along the beach at Niko’s, which was really delicious. I had the Salmon Fish Cakes which came with chips (fries) and a salad. And Steph had a Veggie Burger and chips. Yummy, yummy. After lunch we walked along the beach. It was beautiful, and such a nice day for the beach. It was kind of like the beaches of Cali and Hawaii combined. It also looks like the set of a TV show like Summerland or Laguna Beach. It didn’t hurt that we had super cute waiters at lunch either. After we explored and took a ton of pictures, we took the bus back to the city. Steph was feeling a little under the weather and I was tired, so we took at nap, and then woke up in the dark… It was only 6:30pm. We decided to go get food, and wandered up and George St for a while until we decided on the Star Bar. It was super cool. We went upstairs for food, and it was like a club atmosphere. And here when you go to a pub or a bar that serves food, you have to go up to the bar to order and pay upfront. Which works, its just different. It’s actually nice because if we don’t pay in advance, we haven’t figured out the protocol for paying after, do we wait for the check? do we ask for it? do we go up to the counter to pay?…. I think the issue is that there is no protocol and it just depends on the place. Another thing we’ve discovered with the food, is that especially at food courts, they don’t really do lines, it’s just kind of whoever walks up to the counter and orders. It took me a little while to figure out the system. Anyway, back to the Star Bar, Steph finally had ‘real’ bacon on her salad (she was really excited). And I got a delicious chicken burger with avocado, and some of the best chips I’ve had yet. Also, Steph got a free Chocotini at the bar, which made her night. Then we went back to the hotel and watched Phantom of the Opera, and belted out every song along with it. I’m sure the neighbors hated us.

Day 5: Thursday
Guess what we had for brekkie?! OJ and a muffin. Of which we ate on the bus. We did the Blue Mountains and Jenolan Caves bus tour by the same company that we’ve done in Melbourne. We drove for about two hours to Katoomba where Echo Point and the Three Sisters are. First we saw an Aboriginal show, which was neat. They taught us about some of the various cultures and such. I learned that the didgeridoo is not the technical term for the instrument. I can’t tell you what the technical term is because I couldn’t pronounce them let alone spell them… But I did learn that they are eucalyptus trees that have been hallowed out by termites. Then we got to see the Threes Sisters rock.  The cliff notes version of the story is that a dad (who was their god) and his daughters went out to the bush one day. He went hunting and left them to play. One of the girls disturbed nature and they were about to be attacked. Their dad had a magical bone that he used to turn them to stone to save them, and he then turned himself into a bird to flee but dropped the magical bone and couldn’t turn them back. It’s said that to this day he is still searching the forest for the magical bone. Next was the Jenolan Caves. We drove about two more hours into the mountains to get to them. The only way to get to them was on this super narrow, windy road on the side of the mountain, and it was so narrow that they close it off a specific times of the day so that the buses can go one direction with out falling off the cliff. It was the most terrifying bus ride I’ve ever been on. Once we finally got to the caves, we had lunch at the bistro, and we ate by a lake that was so clear and blue it looked fake, but it was natural and had to do with the minerals in the water. The Jenolan caves are the oldest caves in the world. They were pretty nifty. We went through the Lucas caves, named after George Lucas who discovered the caves. There were many different sets of caves that had different qualities, some had different crystals and some are more newly discovered and such. And just when Steph and I though we were in the clear with the stairs… we were wrong. So many stairs, and there were parts where even I–the vertically challenged–had to duck down a lot, especially when going up stairs, which were super steep at times. But it was so cool. They were so massive! And they were at one point under water, so that was cool to imagine, little fishies swimming by. They had the caves light up, and they demonstrated cave darkness and how the founders would have come through, and they showed us the original paths, which consisted of the scary ladders, and some stairways that ended in the air because the ladders are gone, and there was a portion (very steep) that was at one point used as a slide… It was really amusing because they would tell stories with the various stalag shapes. There was a cathedral with all the fixings, and a stage with the rolling stones, who then went to get booze and party at the tower of pisa, and a bride left at the altar by the runaway groom with the evil stepmother looming over head. We caught a glimpse of the river below, aptly named the river styx. At the end they had a light show with colored lights that was super cool. Only pet peeve I guess that I had was that people were so focused on taking pictures with all their varying devices, that it was distracting, and I don’t know how they even saw the places they were at, but maybe that’s just me, I fell like a few choice pictures are appropriate, but not every instant in existence needs to be photographed or filmed. Probably doesn’t help that my phone was pretty much dead from the get-go… Anyway, we got back on the bus for our return journey. We had to backtrack up that terrifying road, but we made it. Then we drove back through the countryside, which was beautiful (I slept through it on the way there because we were on the back of the bus where the air wasn’t really working and it was motion sickening). It had a very European feel, and there were a fair amount of trees turning colors since it’s fall here, it was nice to see. But little did we know that said return trip would take 5 hours… we did get a rest stop about halfway, and they played a documentary about kangaroos, which was actually awesome. That is until they pulled the standard nature documentary move, making you fall in love with a cute furry animal that eventually gets attacked and dies. But aside from that I learned that female kangaroos are awesome. They can choose the gender of their embryos, and they can also store a fertilized embryo for a number of months before they actually do the whole process of having a joey. And male kangaroos actually box. It’s how they determine who’s the alpha. And the behavioral patterns between the male and female kangaroos is very similar to that of humans, in case we need more reminders that we’re animals too. Kangaroos are adorable animals. By the time we got back to the city, we were very ready to get off the bus, and poor Steph was decidedly sick at that point (she had been getting worse throughout the day). We made a stop at Market City on our walk back and got Nando’s takeaway for dinner. Side note, I’ve decided that I’m very pro public transportation if it works. Buses are so/so, but the trams and trains are fantastic. Not once in Melbourne have I wished I had a car, or thought twice about not having one. Sydney is a little less convenient, but the trains are awesome, and its still quite feasible to not have a car.

Day 6: Friday
So our plan was to do another beach day and go to Manly Beach before going to the airport. But when I got out of the shower, it was pouring buckets. Steph thought it was me in the shower until she realized the sound was coming from the wrong side of the room… And apparently Melbourne is the only place that has the 10 minute down pours. We had to be out of the hotel room by 10am at the latest. So we packed up, left our stuff at the front desk,hit up 7/11 for brekkie, and ran over to Market City to hide out from the rain. But since it was ANZAC Day (I’ll go more into that in a minute) only the food places were open. We sat in the food court until lunch discussing books and movies and such. Then around 11:30 we decided we were hungry so we had lunch. By the time we were done it was noon, which is when everything else opened up. We wandered around and shopped, mainly because we were bored. And then we went down to the Paddy’s Markets, and got some cool stuff there. When we were all done with that it was about 3:30 and the rain had cleared. Steph and I wandered around China town for a while, and then back to Market City. We had decided to take the  train to the airport and had to leave around 5:30, so when the rain finally cleared, there wasn’t enough time to do the beach. We successfully took the train to the airport, which was convenient due to ANZAC Day, some of the roads were blocked off, and it dropped us off right at the check in for departures. We had dinner at Macca’s (McDonald’s) in the airport. If I don’t get sick from Steph, the little runt in front of use coughing every 30 seconds probably sealed the deal. So ANZAC Day. ANZAC stands for Australia New Zealand Army Corps, and its commemorating the day they landed at Gallipoli in WWII. It was the only time Australia has had loss of life in a war. It’s kind of a combination of the 4th of July and Memorial Day. It’s a country wide event, with services at dawn and dusk, and the soldiers wear their dress uniforms all day, but it’s a fairly somber event. All of the ceremonies are televised, Steph and I were able to watch some of them on the news while we were getting ready.

So that was our week in Sydney. I’m completely exhausted. And true to form, I have a fair amount of homework to catch up on now. But it was completely worth it, I’m so glad I went and that I got to see famous landmarks and such. It’s making me excited for my trip to Alice Springs in May.

Vocabulary: Stroller (like for babies)=Pram, Vegetables/Veggies=Veg

(sorry if there were any glaring typos)