Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Department of Mathematics
Elmira, NY 14901
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
In my first blog I said that I was not Jet lagged there and I wondered if I would be when I was home. Here is my answer to that question: yes. SO jet lagged!! It is so awful! I’m almost fine now, but I’m definitely not on a normal schedule yet.
The flight back to LAX from Sydney was way more enjoyable, mainly because whoever was sitting in the two middle seats of the middle section moved and I had two seats to stretch out on. Ahhh, bliss. I watched movies and slept a little and listened to some music. I didn’t feel bad constantly getting up to use the toilet because I was on the aisle seat and there was nobody who needed to get out either.
However, once the plane landed, I had to race to get to my connecting flight home, because boy was I ready to get home at that point.
I’m really sad that the trip is over. It was such a great experience. Honestly, how many 19 year olds can say that they have travelled to Australia for an entire month? Not too many, I may say. This is definitely an experience I will never forget. Thanks.
I thought that everything we did before this was my favorite, well, I lied. The camping trip was by far my favorite. Whenever I return to Australia, I will visit Uluru, Kata Tjuta and the MacDonnell Ranges again; most definitely. Scott was such a great tour guide, so that made it even more enjoyable. Overall, it was the best trip ever. There is nothing like cooking meals over a fire, gathering firewood, sleeping under the stars, and embracing not showering for a few days. I enjoyed myself a lot. My favorite portion of the trip was hearing all of the Anangu Dreamtime stories. Even though all were at a child’s level, they were still very interesting, and everyone can learn moral lessons from them. I wish I could say more, but then this one would be about 20 pages long. All in all, this is definitely an experience I will never forget, ever. So many experiences, so little time!
So far, I love Cairns, a lot! Today we headed out to the Great Barrier Reef on a Passions of Paradise cruise. So beautiful!! The blue water, the coral forest beneath our feet. There are not enough words to describe it; and to top it all off, it was the most beautiful day we have seen yet, even though it was a little breezy. You had to be there.
The night before, we went to a program called Reef Teach that taught us about all of the different types of coral and fish of the Great Barrier Reef so that when we went diving or snorkeling, we knew what we were seeing. Sadly, I did not see much of what we were shown, I still had a great time. I went snorkeling and diving both opportunities. The first dive was just to show us the basics of diving and we were under for about 30 minutes. However, the second dive was so much more fun. As Russell said it best, “If you like the first one, you’ll love the second one,” and boy was he right. We went deeper on the second dive. It made me feel so small to see the vast coral and then cliffs and wide open ocean. We were underwater for about 15 minutes longer this time. It was so beautiful. I bought an underwater camera specifically for this day but Genius Me forgot to take pictures on my first dive. Genius Me also forgot to bring a towel, so I had to buy one of those, too. Sometimes I surprise myself with my stupidity, but anyways, I still have that towel; one of my many souvenirs. All in all, both dives, totally worth it!
After all of the diving and snorkeling and we were heading back to Cairns, the one diving instructors, Simon, was doing some Magic tricks for all of the passengers. On the final card trick, I was the one who helped him. My mind is still blown. I have no idea how he did that trick but it was awesome! I’m really curious to know, but it will ruin it if I know, so I will remain ignorant to it for now.
Today was definitely my favorite event so far. I just love the ocean, and to go Scuba Diving on the Great Barrier Reef was absolutely amazing!
Fraser Island was a lot of fun, except that we found a gecko in our room in the first place we stayed, but thankfully, it didn’t get much worse than that. I heard stories of worse!
Anyways, Fraser Island is one of the largest sand islands in the world. For those without common sense, a sand island is an island made entirely from sand that formed from the currents of the waves. Fraser Island is huge! However, one of the sad things about Fraser Island is that its beaches are unable to be swum in because of sharks and stingers. There were a lot of beautiful beaches, but about 99 percent of them were empty of people, except the one percent area where the water was constantly monitored and deemed safe for swimming. Visitors were able to fish in the water, but they did not go in farther than ankle deep for two reasons: one, there were the sharks and stingers as I mentioned before, and two, there was a very strong undercurrent that could easily drag them unsuspecting into dangerous waters.
Despite that we were unable to swim at the beaches; we were able to swim in the inland freshwater lakes (yes, freshwater). The one in particular had this special white sand that was an exfoliating sand that made skin softer and actually polished jewelry without scratching it. Sadly, I had none of my jewelry with me to clean, but some other girls did and the transformation was really amazing. We also visited other waterholes during the three day adventure. Because Fraser Island is a sand island, it is surprising to see rainforests growing, but thanks to this course, I now know and can inform all of you readers! As you know, sand is not very good soil, but the reason there is so much plant life is from the nutrients provided by decaying vegetation and there is plenty of water available.
The third morning at breakfast, we were able to feed the dolphins at Tin Can Bay. There were three that came in. Their names were Harmony, Mystique and Patch. Mystique was the largest and the oldest and was the dominant male of the group. Harmony was one of his offspring that was very skittish and shy. Patch was a female of Mystique’s family. The lady who was directing us told us that the only reason that Patch and Harmony are allowed to come out with him is if he gives them permission. He apparently only barely allows Harmony to go with him.
I was sad at the end of this trip. As of yet, everything we have done has been more fun than the previous thing. I know there is still so much left but I know that once we head back to Brisbane, the trip will fly by before our eyes.
Today we visited the Parliament House and the United States Embassy building. I had a little bit of a hassle getting through security into the Parliament House because of the small umbrella I had in my bag, but otherwise, everything else was smooth-sailing.
It was very interesting to learn about the Australian government versus the United States government. The two governments are very similar, as in they both have a House of Representatives and a Senate and similar manners of electing officials for their respective branches. However, they are also very different. The United States government is part of a democracy with a President. The Australian government is part of monarchy with a Queen and Parliament at equal share for the title. It’s interesting how the two are so similar yet so different at the same time.
One fact I learned about the Parliament house that was the most interesting fact I have ever personally heard was about the Senate room. First of all, in Australia, all exit signs must be green, like all must be red in the U.S. However, in the Senate room, because the room is decked out in shades of red, they allowed the Exit signs to be red just to match the rest of the room. How funny! Definitely made my day.
After the Parliament House visit, we traveled to the U.S. Embassy. Here, because security is so strict, we were not allowed to bring in much. We were forced to leave our cameras on the coach because taking pictures was forbidden, unless in special circumstances that did not apply to us. But what made this trip so interesting was not until later this evening when Charlie traversed to each of our rooms to tell us of the news of Osama bin Laden’s death which happened literally one hour after we left. I can only imagine what would have happened if we were still in the Embassy when it happened. Yikes!
Honestly, it may have been a tad boring at times, but learning of the government of where I will be living for a month was definitely beneficial. It will definitely help me at some point in the future unbeknownst to me now.
As you know, today was the day we hiked through the Blue Mountains, and of course, it was raining still. Therefore, everywhere we stepped, there was either an ankle deep puddle or an ankle deep mud hole, so, you guessed it, my shoes and jeans were soaked and dirty beyond belief. Why I did not wear shorts, I have no clue.
Anyways, back to the original point, where we hiked had such varying climates and geography. Deep in the gorges was a rainforest region complete with Cycads, Kingfisher Ferns and all the likes, especially bugs. High up on the plateau, the tops of the trees leveled with the ridge because of the wind. The vegetation at the top of the plateau had lighter green leaves than the ones deep in the canyons and gorges, which were of a deep green. This is because the trees at the top already had access to too much of the sunlight, so they then needed to reflect some of it away; hence the lighter shade of green. The vegetation at the base did not have it as easy, so to capture as much sunlight as possible, their leaves took on a dark, deep green to absorb that light and hold it. The Blue Mountains are also lush with animal life, especially bird life. Everywhere you could hear the annoying call of the Sulfur-crested Cockatoo and the familiar laugh of the Kookaburra. All in all, despite the wetness and fogginess, the Blue Mountains were absolutely stunningly beautiful.
*side note: I, for some reason, was unable to post any of these blogs while on the trip, so, let’s see how this works. This is the first of about 8 blogs.
Before the beginning of this trip, I had flown many times before, but never for one equivalent to the 14 hour length flight from Los Angeles to Sydney. Allow me to start with this, for one I was extremely exhausted from flying the whole day before we left Monday night and two, I had to race to the Tom Bradley International Terminal because one of my flights into LAX had been delayed and therefore I was an hour behind. It did not help that I had absolutely no idea where to go even after asking a handful of airport personnel for directions. But, thankfully, still with plenty of time to spare, I made it to the gate of departure and relaxed a little before everyone left.
As I said before, I was plenty tired before setting foot on the plane (which, by the way, is the largest plane I have ever laid eyes on. It was one of the double-decker Airbus planes that are both terrifying and beautiful all at once) so, by that point, I assumed that I would be able to sleep for a large chunk of the flight. I was wrong. Not to be such a Negative Nelly, but I was so uncomfortable in my seat. I did however attempt to keep myself busy by watching movies or listening to music, but all in all, I was way past the point of exhaustion so much that I ended up being wide awake.
However, on a positive note, I was not jet lagged, surprisingly. Thanks to Charlie and Coleen for keeping everyone awake and active all day despite our many complaints, I did not end up going to bed that night until 10:30 pm and awoke at about 7 am the next morning. How fantastic is that? Who knows if the same will happen on the trip back home? Hmmm, we’ll have to see when the time comes.
I am feeling a little sassy because I have still not adjusted to American time. I apologize for my weak attempt at humor. When we arrived in Alice Springs in Central Australia it seemed just like the Outback. I had no idea what was in store for me when we actually went to the Outback. After about a five hour drive to actually GET to the Outback in our four wheel drive it was much more empty than I was expecting. After stopping to watch the sunrise and watch Brittany eat a grub (yummy) we made our way to King’s Canyon. When we arrived, we were offered a short cut or to go up the steep mountain called heart attack hill. Being the athlete I am, I hiked up the mountain with vigor and still had energy left for the rest of the walk around the whole King’s Canyon. This is a lie. That was one of the hardest workouts I’ve ever had. Let me tell you that hill is appropriately named. After huffing and puffing I rounded up the end of the line with Charlie by my side. (Only because he has to stick with the slow walkers. Let’s say I got to know him pretty well on this trip). Finishing the hike around King’s Canyon and successful attempt at not falling on my face was a sigh of relief. Soon after we were transported to collect firewood for our dinner and campfire that night. I clumsily ran into a piece of fire wood and have the cut to prove it, but overall finding firewood was a success. After arriving at our campsite in the middle of no where and the only toilet a bush, many people were not looking forward to what was in sotre for the night. After realizing that there was an infestation of mice that hadclimbed into the bus and was in all of our bags many people were disgusted but I was too tired to care. I had zipped my bags anyways. One of the most important lessons I learned in the Outback that day is to drink lots of water. Even more than they tell you to drink. Speaking from experience I did not drink enough water and passed out in my swag at about 8:45 that night. I could only imagine the intensity of the next day’s workout as I fell asleep under the incredible stars.
Peace. Love. Aussie.
The school of the air was a very interesting place, it was one of my favorite stops. The school of the air is available for kids who are living in places where they are not near a school, a place where they do not have access to a school. There are currently 116 students, they communicate with their teachers through the computer. The teachers are full time and they get online from 40 to 60 minutes a day with the kids. When we were there, there was a session going on where the child was learning guitar from the principal. I found this really amazing because the students and the staff are very close for being so far away, distance wise. The School of the Air sends packages with supplies and books to the students. The students can learn Japanese, which is a great opportunity to broaden their education. There was a metal quilt on the wall that were made from the parents, one was a ranger and one was a police officer. These squares come from all over Australia. The lessons are recorded; they have a talk button and a chat box. Some of the younger children had a hard time figuring out how to fix the microphone. There was a little girl named Alice and she was the sweetest little girl ever, she could not figure out how to turn on her microphone. Tifany and Brady got to participate in the hokey pokey with a few children. It was really cute seeing the kids dance along with them.
As soon as we set sail for the Great Barrier Reef I knew I was going to have a great day already. The sun was out and the temperature was perfect for being on the ocean. It took about an hour to reach the first reef we were going to snorkel on, which wasn’t that long of a trip because we were all enjoying the sun so much after not seeing it much in Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane. Though the trip offered scuba diving conveniently, I had come down with a head cold the day before. So I thought it wasn’t a very good idea to be going scuba diving when I had a lot of pressure in my head anyways. (I guess this means I will have to go back to Australia later in my life and scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef, how unfortunate for me!) Though I was bummed about not being able to scuba dive snorkeling was amazing! As soon as I got all my snorkeling gear on (full wetsuit because it was stinger season, flippers, and a snorkel) I looked in the water I saw bat fish right off the side of the boat looking for handouts from passengers. After taking a small motor boat to the reef Tifany and I jumped right in and enjoyed the view. Everywhere we looked there was coral of all sorts. Brain coral, finger coral and pretty much every type of coral you could imagine. As we were swimming along I saw a giant clam which was really special to see. I also saw sergeant majors and parrot fish but the coolest fish I saw was the cleaner wrasse. The cleaner wrasse sets up a cleaning station where large fish come to be cleaned of their parasites. I saw this station which was amazing because the tiny cleaner wrasse had no fear of the bigger fish even cleaning inside of their mouths! Snorkeling on The Great Barrier Reef was an experience I will never forget and is one of the reasons I want to go back to Australia. That day was as amazing as I was expecting and more! I successfully came back with wonderful pictures from my under water camera and surprisingly no sunburn (:
Peace. Love. Aussie.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Today is the last day of our trip and I though that I would take a little time to reminisce about the past experiences that have unfolded in the last month.
When first arriving in Sydney, Australia I had no idea what to expect while stepping off of the plane but we hit the ground running through checking out the Hyde park barracks. This was the first building manufactured on the island and housed all of the English prisoners, which the prisoners actually built themselves. We were able to see the living conditions and the hammock that originally filled the thirds floor and we were also able to check to see if any of our ancestors were on the list of prisoners. We also learned how important rats were in the process of collecting of the information about the barracks and its inhabitants. The rats would hide materials and possessions in the walls over the course of the barracks history, which were eventually recovered and put on display. Our next stop that same day was a museum and specifically an exhibit on the aboriginals. We learned a brief over view about the life styles and the art of the original inhabitants of the continent. This included the hunting methods and the weapons that they would use including the returning boomerang, hook boomerang, wooden swords and their spears. This was also the day that we were first introduced to their unique form of art work and some of the symbols that they used to depict certain objects and animals. This was a nice brief first encounter that set up a solid basis for our future learning about the Anangu. This ended the lectures for the first day but now looking back on it seem to be the perfect starting point. We students just arriving on our first trip to Australia looked at the first two cultural groups that founded and created Australia. From that point we were free to do what we wanted and enjoy the city creating our own adventures. We all decided to go out as a group and grab a class dinner at a local eatery. We decided to hit up a local kebab stand where a few of us enjoyed our first taste delicious taste of Kangaroo. This long day and completely new city eventually tired most of use out and we called it a night returning to the hotel we had to wake up the next morning to attend the aquarium and the Taronga zoo
We woke up early on this nice Sydney morning with normal weather conditions consisting of rain and clouds and walked our way down to the Aquarium. Here we were able to get our first glimpse at some of the native creatures that live in either Australia fresh or saltwater habitats. We started in the fresh water habitat where I was able to see one of my favorite animals the Platypus. This turned out to be a lot smaller than I had originally predicted but just as anatomically awkward as I imagined. This was also the first time I experienced the Snake Necked Turtle and the Macqurie, which both have necks that stretch out of their shells a lot longer than turtle back in the States. After these encounters we entered the saltwater section of the aquarium where we observed the vast amount of sea life that we would soon be visiting at the great barrier reef. These animals were kept in many different sections some in large containers with many other fish while some were just one or two fish in a smaller container. In the large containers we saw Sting rays, Sea turtles, and sharks swim above us while we walked through a glass tube while in the distance we watched as a Dugong munched on its brekky of fresh sea leaves. I was also able to find my new favorite fish. Australian Pineapple Fish, which looks like a flattened pineapple that can swim. Upon leaving I could not help but resist but to purchase a nice fish and chips meal. After a nice lunch we took the ferry to the Taronga zoo. On this ride we got our first view of the Sydney Opera house and a great opportunity to gain a few shots from angles that could only be reached by boat. At the Taronga zoo we walked around viewing all of the different animals either from Australia or other continents. This was a large day for me because I had previously never attended a Zoo so there were many animals that I have never seen in person. The highlights for me were getting my first glimpses of Australian native animals like the Kangaroo, Koala, Emu and kookaburra. I also was able to see my favorite animals the Komodo Dragon. Afterward we went and watched a bird show that consisted of many birds that we would actually see in the wild throughout the trip and got an idea of their different hunting talents through up close and personal experiences with them where they flew high above the crowd or took money out of our hands. We were then again free to roam around as long as we wanted. That night was another evening where we hung out with classmates and attempted to explore the town and get our barrings for opportunities on free days. Again after a long day filled with walking we decided to turn in. We had to wake up early for a two hour train ride to our first experience in the rainforest.
While arriving at the Blue Mountains it seemed as though we were never going to be able to get a view of the three sisters, a famous selection of eroded rocks at the top of a cliff, due to the large quantities of fog. After spending a cold misty day in the rainforest and these peaks eluding our gaze the sun finally peaked out from the fog lifted and we were able to snap a few quick photos before they were once again covered. The actual trek through the forest was amazing giving us a great first impression of what to expect from the rainforest. We walked deep into the canyon and eventually ended up at the base of a giant waterfall and then we climbed back up the side back up to our starting point for lunch. We then again started walking through the forest where our guide gave use some great talks about the natural habitat and was able introduce us into the the many different plants that we past. Unfortunately we were unable to see many of the animals from the zoo because we were on the side wall of that rainforest and not in the center which the animals prefer. When we reached the end point we took a contraption similar to a roller-coaster out of the canyon. This ride was used by miners everyday as their main transportation to work. On the bus ride back we were all stiff and tired from our exportation and enjoyed the relaxing train ride back. This was also where I found a book on the train that happened to be on Amazon.com's best sellers list called, “Across the Universe”, by Beth Revis. I ended up reading finishing this book during the rest of our trip.
On our day off we again explored the city but this free range exploring had us walking all over from one end to another and experiencing more than we realized. This early exploration definitely helped us realize what to do on our free day when we came back around for the last few days in the area. We walked all the way down to paddy’s market and checked out all of the souvenirs that would could purchase for our family but refrained to save money and space in our suitcase. I only purchased a watch to help keep track of time because I no longer had a cell phone in my pocket. We then walked through the botanical gardens and took a peak at the Sydney Opera house while the sunset from the opposite side of the city. We had recently met a few individuals that informed us about the Sydney Wartahs Rugby game. The majority of individuals on out trip decided to walk to the stadium and watch the game together...until it started raining and some people decided to head further back into the stands to escape the light rain. After the game we all went our own ways until we met up the next morning to head out to the capital city of Canberra.
After hearing that we were heading to the capital I expected it to be a larger city similar to Washington DC. Unfortunately the city was a lot smaller and colder than I expected. Winter was setting in and this noticeable through the fact that leaves were leaving the trees similar too home. Surprisingly this means that these trees are not native trees to Australia because instead of losing leaves native trees shed their bark. Since we had been walking a lot most of us purchased groceries and decided to go to sleep early. We then cooked dinner and while we ate we had the most diverse set of attitudes and beliefs sitting at one table. There was on individual that was from Botswana who was a vegan, taught guitar, and worked on organic farms for the past seven years and two other individuals from Tasmania that were either a brick worker or a painter and in their free time hunted. These individuals respected each other but not their ideals. This was apparent throughout the conversations and it painted a great picture of each persons personality and how they respond to other people. After things died down we all went our separate ways and it was time for bed. We had another day of touring and exploring.
Again we woke up early to go on a huge tour of the city and gain an inside view of it's history. We started at a nice look out over the city where we learned how the city was originally constructed by an architect and that it was created because Sydney and Melbourne were unable to decide which city should be the capital. The town was set up in a triangle shape separating it into three different sectors, which I believe are military,government and public. We then got an up close look at the parliament building and where the senate and the house of representatives. This is odd because I have never been in any United States government buildings. There are also plenty of symbols built into the capital my favorite is that you can have lunch on top of the parliament because the people are above the government and that there is a straight line between the war memorial and parliament to remind them of the consequences of their choices. We then went to the US Embassy and asked a few questions with members of the US government about their jobs. We then got a short tour of the lawn of the Embassy but was a little let down that we were not allowed to go inside of the house. The last stop of the day was the actual ANZAC War Memorial where we learned about the past wars that Australia had been a part of which was new to me. I had no idea they fought in the battle of Galipoli and how much they have supported the United States in wars. This day was incredibly taxing and by the end of this everyone was ready to crash for the night and prepare for the trip to Brisbane.
On arrival (Brisbane) the first though that crossed my mind was this is what I expected out of Australia. The weather was warm and there was not a cloud in the sky. The city looked like a mix between New York City and Miami. After arriving at the hotel went to grab some groceries and all of a sudden it started to down pour and we were running through a new city in the rain. After grabbing groceries I decided to take it easy all and and begin reading across the universe and avoid the sloppy weather.
Lone Pine Sanctuary was a great day with a lot of interaction with a lot of animals native to Australia. This day was the time when we were able to actually hangout, feed, pet, and hold a native dog and a bunch of Marsupials. I started out with a quick trip to the Kangaroo pen where I was able to walk around feed a large group of kangaroos. It was nice to go early in the day because I was able to see them before other people came to interact with them and it was just three of us. When we went back later the field was littered with families and their wasn't the same feeling of being amongst the animals at that point. I started to feed them water which they enjoyed just as much as the food but the first time I tried to feed them I sprayed on in the face. Luckily he was not angry with me and even held my hand later on. I was also able to hold a Koala this day which was an incredible experience. I noticed how slow they moved and how they seemed really out of it the whole time we were together. The animal had a distinct smell and seemed really complacent. I expected the fur to be a lot softer but in reality it was rough. After these experiences I was able to pet a Dingo and take a picture with it. The most interesting part of my day was when we learned about the Platypus. This animal is surprisingly nocturnal. They are also the only marsupial that lays eggs in a den instead of a pouch. They use an electrical sensor in their bill to pick up food off of the bottom of a pond or a river and that their eyes are actually closed while they search for food. After this tour we looked at a lot of native birds and I finally saw two Tasmanian Devils up close. While in Torango Zoo they had an exhibit on Tasmanian Devils but they were sleeping behind bushes. After Lone Pine we returned to Brisbane and explored for a while and I actually met a local that worked for a Didgeridoo shop and gave me his contact information to keep in touch and meet up eventually to help me purchase one.
The next morning we woke up early to leave for Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world. This was a five hour trip from Brisbane and eventually we ended up four wheeling across a beach. This beach run had a lot of large bumps and sitting in the back seat I was tossed around. This island had a perplexing ecosystem one that I did not exist before this trip. The Island is located in the ocean but has freshwater lakes thanks to the clay underneath the sand that holds it into place. The island was created by harsh tides that bring in sand and carry it out depending on if its summer or winter while strong gusts of winds also help build up sand dunes. Throughout the island there is also patches of rainforests that grow into the sand which is hard to believe because sand isn't the optimal choices for plant life to grow in. This island was also interesting because dependent on the tide there are certain points of the island that are only accessible while the tide is out. The tour guides were both entertaining and kept us occupied and completely stuffed with food while we were on the island. While staying over night on this island I saw my first and only groups of Cane Toads. I expected to see these animals a lot more often throughout this trip but this was the first time I noticed them, which makes me think that there is a lot less of a problem with them invading Australia.
After this we had two free days in Brisbane back to back where we were able to explore and meet with the locals that we had meet on our last visit. I met up with a local that used to work at a Didgeridoo shop in the South Bank Market. He took me to his old shop where he gave me a tutorial about how to tell if its a high quality instrument and then quick lesson on how to play. We then went out and grabbed some food and talked about the differences in cultures, shared music and a few stories. After returning to the States I have stayed in touch with him and he is actually giving me a few pointers on how to play the didgeridoo through videos of my playing and his criticisms. The rest of the day I took to relax and purchased a twenty-four hour internet card to contact friend and family back home.
This ends my recap of the first two weeks of the Australia Course. I would like to thank everyone that went on the trip for a great time. I felt as though I met and got to know everyone on the trip very well. Also thank you Colleen and Charlie for a great experience abroad and teaching us how easy and important it is to travel.
Well the trip is officially over and man did it fly by. Personally I did not like ending the trip in Sydney. I say this because it is very expensive here and the weather isn’t the greatest. Today on my last day I went to the Botanical Gardens, it was very beautiful there. It was really cool because there were about 100 cockatoos in a tree at one time, and then they would fly on to another tree, it was a great opportunity to take a picture. There was such a variety of trees, flowers and plants there, it was also very peaceful. We continued along the walkways to a look out over the water and there in front of us was the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge. It was so pretty, it was the perfect time to go because the sun was setting. We positioned ourselves so that the sun was behind the Opera House, it made it look like it was glowing. I took so many pictures of it, they are all probably the same but it was just so beautiful. On the way back Sarah noticed something in the tree, they were bats, which was really cool. I have never seen anything like it before. I did not think that they were bats until one of them moved and I was able to see their wings. There was up to thirty of them in one of the trees. The walk back was also very nice, all of the trees were lit up in Hyde Park. It was nice to get out because I was in the room all day and it was a great time to get out, especially for sunset over the water. It was a great w ay to end the trip!
Right now I am sitting on a train. It’s not just any train though. This train goes across all of Australia and takes passengers all over the country from one end to the other. At the beginning of this week we boarded the train in Brisbane bound for Cairns. Most of us on the trip were dreading the train ride because it is 32 hours. Long right? Well it actually has not been that bad. Right now we are about 25 hours into the ride and we have not run out of things to talk about or things to do. Though it is not exciting and thr better. Yesterday, it was nice to look out the window and be able to not see any more rain, since it has been raining non-stop this whole trip. Looking out onto the wide fields of crops and animals with mountains in the background was very peaceful and relaxing. In addition to staring out the window at the scenery, Heather, Brina and I watched three movies in a row on Heather’s portable DVD player. And I must say thank goodness that Heather brought that. The movies were really entertaining and it was a good way to spend our time together. After my dinner of train chicken nuggets and chips (french fries for you yanks) there was a stop where we could get out and walk around for a little bit. Though it was a short stop for about 15 minutes, it felt really good to be able to run around a little bit and do some jumping jacks to get the blood flowing again. Everyone on the train went to bed early after a long day of travelling and being exhausted. After almost completing our 32 hour trip on a sleeper train, everyone has survived the long trip and is looking forward to getting their land legs back again. Though it sounds boring, the 32 hour train ride has been a great experience and I really enjoyed watching the scenery pass and having good friends by my side.
Peace. Love. Aussie.
When you think of Australia what is the first animal that comes to your mind? Most likely koala or kangaroo right? Well that’s what I would have thought of before coming on this trip too. After visiting multiple zoos here, there is so much more to Australian wildlife. Though the kangaroo and the koala still happen to be my favorite animals here, my knowledge about the animals that I have seen here has expanded so much. This past week we visited Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane. Though the main focus of this zoo was Koalas, there were plenty more animals to see. For instance, the wombat. The wombat is an interesting marsupial because it looks like a mixture between a pig and a bear to me at least. It has a hard back plate to protect itself from predators and has an upside down pouch to carry its joeys (baby animals). This nocturnal animal is cute on cuddly but can be very vicious if provoked and is known to bite. Another animal that interested me was the Tasmanian Devil. This harsh name does not match the looks of this adorable little mammal. However, the Tasmanian Devil has a bite pressure that is must more than ours. It can eat its prey whole and snap the neck of any potential food in one bite. Must unlike the Tasmanian devil, the tame koala bear (who is actually not a bear) is cuddly and munches on eucalyptus leaves and sleeps 20 hours of its day. I had the opportunity to hold a koala at the sanctuary and though it is soft and cute it has claws that are very sharp and dig into your skin. These animals are very protective of their joeys so these claws are more used as a defense mechanism. When their joeys are born they travel right from the birth canal to the pouch and are about the size of a jelly bean. Also marsupials, Kangaroos develop their joeys in the same way. At Lone Pine, I actually saw a joey in its mother’s pouch. It poked its head and leg out and was eating grass when its mother bent down. Kangaroos are very gentle creatures and love to be fed by tourists which I was able to do. Ironically, though the kangaroo is the main animal thought of in Australia, they are comparable to deer in America. When we travelled to Fraser Island, a couple hours away from Brisbane, we saw many creatures out in the wild while we were hiking. One of these animals was a dingo. Though a dingo appears as a normal household dog, it still has to be kept in mind that they are wild animals. A few years ago when a couple brought their three year old to Australia she was hurt by a dingo while trying to feed it when her parents weren’t looking. Though they appear friendly and will approach you, they are just looking for food and will attempt any way of getting it. Also while we were on Fraser Island, the cane toads appeared at night time and were everywhere. When I saw everywhere I mean EVERYWHERE. Cane toads were introduced to Australia to get rid of the grubs that were eating the sugar cane crops. However, the toads did not like the grubs and preferred to stay away. In the end they have been viewed as a nuisance where people go out of their way to kill these toads. On the other hand, they are kept as household pets also. Though these animals are fun to keep as pets, they can be deadly. If threatened, they produce a puss that squirts out of pouches on their sides and can kill a human if ingested. Though most of these Australian animals look friendly and inviting, tourists as well as residents are encouraged to stay away from the wildlife here.
Peace. Love. Aussie.
Hello everyone or should I say g'day! I miss you all, especially my Mom and Dad and Suiteys <3 Don’t take it personally if I don’t respond to your messages, internet costs $1.50 for 15 minutes! Though the time difference makes keeping in contact with loved ones hard, I love being in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I can finally cross this one off of the bucket list! Every morning I have to pinch myself remembering that I am waking up in Australia, most people’s dream. I am so thankful to be able to have the opportunity to travel half way across the world.
I am going to try and sum up my past few days in a paragraph which will be a struggle. I mean come on it’s Australia! So the plane ride was actually not too bad! Most people think that a 14 hour flight would be horrible when in reality it was actually fun. Going into the trip I only knew two freshmen, my roommates for the trip, Hannah and Liz, and I didn’t know not know them very well. On the plane I had a middle seat, which I was not looking forward to. However, the two seniors I was sitting next to were really nice and made me feel more comfortable going into the trip. When we arrived on the first day in Sydney it felt like I had been up for 24 hours due to the old man snoring loudly behind me on the flight. I honestly do not remember at all what we did that day but it was helpful to get adjusted at the time change by staying awake during the daytime in Sydney. However the next day was much better. After a great night sleep we headed to the zoo and aquarium to see the exotic Australian animals such as kangaroos, emus, manta rays and great white sharks. This day was by far the highlight of the trip so far. After a grueling hike up and down the Blue Mountains all day everyone was sore and tired. But the benefit was having toned legs J Yesterday we arrived in Canberra by bus and today we toured Mt. Anslie, Parliament, the US Embassy and the ANZAC war memorial. It was a really exhausting day but it was also really interesting. The time change has hit me hard so I am trying to stay up later tonight and keep myself busy to keep myself on a normal schedule. In the morning it is really easy to get up but I get REALLY tired at about 8 o’clock. I think I will be adjusted soon (at least I sure hope so!)
I love you all very much and I can’t wait to talk to you soon! Hopefully I will be able to put my 400+ pictures up on facebook from the past week. I think I will need a new memory card soon. I will do my best to try to keep this updated at least once a week to let everyone know what is going on.
Peace. Love. Aussie.
We got the chance to be at Uluru for sunrise and for sunset. I would say that I liked sunset better because of how beautiful it was. We were lucky enough to get there early enough to get front row center seats. We stood around for a while as people started to pile around to watch the sun set on the rock. Some people were become annoying, they started to try and take over the space even though we were there first. Colleen, Dan, Tifany, myself and a few others held down the fort. We started to take funny pictures. We took turns making our arms into hearts and placing them around the rock. We took pictures where it looked like we were holding up the rock. Shortly after it was time for dinner, which was delicious, we had a stir-fry. As the sun went down the rock went through a variety of colors. It was a beautiful array of colors from orange to red to purple. The sun set quickly, the sunset was beautiful; the skies were orange and yellow, and reddish. The clouds were in a spiral, it was really a sight to see. When we were at Uluru for sunrise it was alot of fun! It was cold out but it was worth it to see the beautiful sunrise lighting up the land. The sun rose very quickly, we had just enough time to take pictures and eat breakfast. It was the first time that i was able to try wheat bix( i think that is how it is spelled) It was rather bland but it was overall very good. It was funny to see everyone huddled together to get some warmth through our bodies. Some of us were spinning around and others were doing star jumps. It was a great day to see the sunrise at the rock.
The journey home was a long one. We had around a 13 hour flight from Sydney to LAX. Sarah, Tifany, and I then had a nine hour layover, which was not fun at all. There was not a lot to do in the airport, we spent some of the day outside in the hot weather of California, and the rest of it was spent inside the airport. The time just seemed to drag on;we boarded our plane to JFK in New York around 4 pm. We got into JFK around 1 30 am, then I had a 6 hour drive home. I got in around 7 am, which messed up my sleeping habits even more. I ended up sleeping half of the day away. I am finally starting to get used to the time here. I must say that it was weird to be driving again, I almost forgot how to drive. Being on the right side of the road and passing people on the left is starting to become familiar again. I didn’t think that I would complain about certain things being expensive especially after Australia, however, I still do. Australia is a beautiful place, but it sure does feel good to be home. I can honestly say that I did not miss the squirrels when I was gone, it was nice not having them all over the place all the time. When we went up into our house in New York there were some squirrels that had made their way into the celing. We got them out however it made me miss Australia a little bit. I miss seeing kangaroos and I miss having to look right, and I miss the beautiful views.
Staying in hostels lets you encounter a great deal of backpackers travelling not only throughout Australia, but throughout the world. Most of these backpackers love meeting new people and like to have a good time. In any other hotel in the world it would not be common for someone to walk up to another person’s table and just sit down and start talking. In a hostel it was not uncommon at all to walk up to a random person sitting at a table and begin talking to them. This is what made living in hostels so much fun for me. I was able to meet so many interesting people just looking to have a good time. We would talk about where we came from, what we are doing in Australia, and anything else that was on our mind. Everyone was very friendly to you and accepted you no matter what your nationality was. If anything they would prefer you being from a random or unusual country because that just mean that they were going to learn something new. As for me being from America they always talked about the American stereotype of being loud and obnoxious. I always found this funny because many times I would sit back and watch our group of Americans sitting around other foreigners and by no surprise we were the loudest. All I could do was agree with my new friends when they brought up this stereotype. Just the fact that we could laugh about things like that automatically produced a common bond between us. I have never met so many great new people in my life than I did at the hostels we stayed at. In a sense I would say that living in hostels added to great experience I had while in Australia.
Now that most of the trip has passed I look back on all of the experiences that we have had thus far. I asked myself what my favorite experience was during this trip. I had to think about it for only a few seconds before I came to my decision. Fraser Island was by far my favorite adventure that we encountered on the trip. Being able to drive around on the beaches and see incredible sights was definitely the most memorable experience. I have never been to a place even similar to Fraser Island, which is what made it so special to me. Also, on this trip I was able to bond with new people in our group that I had yet to get to know. This is also a big reason why I enjoyed Fraser Island so much. What I think made the experience so great in the end was our tour guides. Our two tours guides were both very interesting, funny, and laid back people. They were very informative, but also showed us the best possible time that we could have had. With different tour guides I’m almost positive that my experience on Fraser Island would not even closely compared to what it actually was. When taking all of these components and add them together that is truly what made Fraser Island my favorite experience.
As this was a small taste of living on my own I began to realize some of the tasks I need to be capable of doing to successfully live. One of the biggest challenges that I faced throughout the trip was budgeting my limited amount of money. At the start of the trip I found myself buying whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it without really caring about my slowly dwindling bank account. Once this problem quickly became apparent to me is when budgeting started. I found myself cutting back on things that had never crossed my mind before. Now I was cooking my own dinner instead of going out to eat. Since I was cooking my own food it meant I had to shop for myself. This was never a dilemma that I have had to deal with until now. At home my parents seem to take care of the necessities, and when I’m at school all I needed to worry about was having my meal card. Shopping for food mean decision making, which I found to also be a problem especially when it was my money going to use. I found myself bargain shopping for cheap food, and drinks we already to expensive for my budget so it was a lot of water all the time. This new experience was a lot of fun to me , and I enjoyed it a lot. Not only was it fun and exciting, but it also taught me a valuable life lesson. The lesson of budgeting has now been engraved in my brain for the rest of my life. Whenever I am put in a similar situation I will know be prepared and will not blow a lot of my money all at once.
As we travelled we had the opportunity to see a wide range of climates, environments, and other surroundings. Going from Sydney where it was a large city with lots of people, cold at times, and large skyscrapers and ending up in Alice Springs in the outback of Australia allowed us to see so much. Each city was different from the next whether it was the temperature or environment. One of the biggest changes that I experienced was when we flew from Alice Springs to Sydney. We went from a desert atmosphere to a large urbanized city. This sudden change was a big culture shock for me to handle at first. I was use to seeing lots of mountains and red dirt, and now all of the sudden we were in a concrete jungle. It took me a day or so to get use to the change, but I was soon over the new environment. The way I found best to handle the situation was to just go out and surround yourself with the environment you were in. After walking around the city for about an hour I have gotten use to being around large amounts of people and big buildings. Its hard for me to even imagine what it would be like for someone to come visit Sydney after living in the outback for many years. My transition was not hard at all, but for someone who had never experienced such an environment would certainly experience a large amount of culture shock. The experience of travelling to opposite environments in one day shows me how different two places can be, but only a few hours apart.
Today was probably the best day of my life. I knew it was going to be great but it was so much more. I really wanted to go scuba diving so I decided to do it. At first I was so scared but after relaxing and seeing that everything was fine, it was a lot of fun. We did not get to go as far down as I thought but it was still so cool. I got to also see so much. Right away I saw a string ray, which was amazing. At first all we could see were his eyes because he was under the sand but when we got closer he swam away. It was not big but still really cool. I also saw Nemo, the clown fish. I was really surprised because the clown fish is a lot small then I anticipated. It was still really cool!
At our next stop we had a chance to go scuba diving again. I was really hesitant to spend more money but when they said that we could go deeper, I could not say no. This time scuba diving was much more exciting. We did not have to hold onto our dive instructor, which was nice. They let us go by ourselves and explore. I saw so many different kinds of fish and much more. The best part would probably be the sea turtle. This is the only animal that I desperately wanted to see so seeing the sea turtle truly made my day! It was so cute and we even got to swim next to it was amazing. It was such a great experience to end the day and overall a great experience.
As we progressed through the trip it became more and more challenging to remember who you met and where you met them. I would constantly find myself talking to a friend about a person that I had previously met, but would then have to stop and think of where exactly I had met that person. Staying in hostels allowed us to meet a variety of interesting and unique people, and since we were constantly moving it proved to be extremely hard to keep track of where you met certain people. For example, I met a bunch of new people when we were in Brisbane before we left for Fraser Island, and when coming back to Brisbane I began recognizing familiar people. I soon realized that I had met these people the week before in the same hostel. What went through my mind when I first saw them was that I had met them in another city and they are now staying in the same hostel as us again. Sitting around in the YHA in Alice Springs I kept seeing people that I recognized and had met before. Before I would go over and say hello I would have to sit down and try to remember if I had met them in this hostel, a previous hostel, or both. This challenge became more and more apparent near the end of the trip, and I noticed it most when we were in Alice Springs. I am so happy that we were able to met so many people, and all that this challenge meant to me was that I have had the greatest opportunity in the world to meet so many great people.
Monday, May 30, 2011
One of the things I have not commented on in recent years is the experience of eating in Australia. There are several aspects of this: dining out, grocery shopping, and meal preparation. Not so many years ago, food in Australia was quite inexpensive, but the last few years have seen steady increases in food costs. Thus year, we saw saw breathtaking prices for bananas, a whopping $13/kg in most markets -- after the conversion to pounds and figuring in the exchange rate, that would be roughly $6.50/lb in US dollars, or more than 13 times what we are used to paying in the markets here. The short-term forces on this have to do with the floods in January and the tropical cyclones in March that damaged the current crop. There are longer-term issues, too. The Australians import no bananas, supposedly to protect the domestic crop from disease, but more likely to keep prices high -- a practice that should sound familiar to people in the USA.
Students find it a challenge to stretch their food budget to cover the month. Sydney has been especially hard, since the kitchen facilities at the Y Hotel are pretty minimal. Once we leave Sydney, we stay at YHAs, all of which have sufficient kitchen facilities so that students can prepare their own meals and save some money. (We will begin staying at one of the YHAs in Sydney as well starting in 2012.)
While in Sydney, students hunting for meal bargains often come across some very nice places. Betty's Soup Kitchen, located on Oxford Street a few blocks east of Hyde Park, was an excellent find. The students organized a final group dinner and invited Coleen and I along. The place is cozy and charming, with a picture of the founder, Betty Ehrlich, looking over the diners. The restaurant accommodated our group quite well, even treating one of the students who had come with little money to a free dinner. Meals are simple: soup, pasta, shepherd's pies. There is a salad bar as well, and a very tasty bread comes free to the table. Prices are very good: soup begins at $7.50, and I saw nothing on the menu over $20. I had a very generous nacho plate for around $11. Like most tex-mex dishes I have sampled in Australia, it was much sweeter than what an American would expect, but as long as one refrains from the comparison, it was very tasty.
The service was friendly and homey, reminding me of diners like Cozy Corner here in Elmira, or Frank's in Kenosha, Wisconsin. We were there on a Thursday night, so I do not know the traffic they get at other times, though I suspect that they get waiting lines like Frank's does at certain times.
So, for future reference to students and others spending time in Sydney: check out Betty's Soup Kitchen, 84 Oxford Street in Darlinghurst, phone 02-9360-9698. With good simple food, excellent prices, and pleasant service, it's a great value for the budget traveler.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Fraser Island was a great experience! It was fun to go to the beaches and interesting to lean how we cannot swim in the oceans because of jellyfish and crocodiles. It was also interesting that the whole island is sand but still many plants are grown. This is because the sand makes great nutrients. It was also cool to see the three dolphins, Mystique, Patch, and Harmony. Harmony was the baby of Mystique and Patch. I liked how we got to feed them. It was a great experience and amazing how all three of the dolphins left when they no longer saw food. It was really interesting and a great day to the end of the Fraser Island trip!
I am writing my blogs from the very beginning of the trip since I was not able to do them in Australia. This blog starts from Sydney and goes to Brisbane.
In Sydney we went to the Australian museum and the Hyde Park Barracks, which was very interesting. Got to learn about the Aboriginal people and understand how they lived. I felt bad for them because the British took their land. It is very sad but in the end it all worked out.
The Sydney Aquarium and the Taronga Zoo was a great experience. It was a lot of fun to see all the different animals. One animal at the aquarium that I thought was interesting was the upside down jellyfish. It is an amazing creature and looks nothing like a jellyfish that I have seen before. The most unusual animal I saw at the zoo would probably be the wombat. This is because I never actually realized how big it is. This Australian animal is huge but at the same time is very adorable.
The Blue Mountains was amazing! It was foggy and rainy in the morning but in the afternoon it cleared up and was beautiful. It was cool to also see the three sisters and the story behind it. One thing I did not like about this day is that I fell down the stairs! I was not paying attention and I just slipped. Got a huge bruise but in the end was ok.
Our trip to Canberra was long but not bad. We took a bus that was about three or so hours long. At Canberra we went to the Parliament House, U.S. Embassy, and the ANZAC War Memorial. It was very interesting to hear about the Parliament house and how it is both similar and different to the U.S. One major difference and the most obvious one is that the Australian government has a Queen while the Untied States has a President. It is also interesting to hear about the U.S. embassy and how Australians work there. This makes sense since it is a lot cheaper this way. One of the most honorable things that Australia has would be the War Memorial. The memorial shows exactly how much Australians care for their troops and how much they respect them. My favorite part of the exhibit was the wall with all of the names of the people who died in service. It was sad to see how many people died but nice to see how many people respect them and honor them for serving their country.
Brisbane has had the best weather so far. Finally we get nice weather and no rain. The best part about Brisbane has been the Koala Sanctuary. It was so cool to learn about the koalas and what they do in a day. I learned how they sleep 20 hours a day! I thought that was crazy. Also got to learn about the platypus, which was very interesting. I think that the platypus is my favorite Australian animal. It is just adorable. Got to see many other animals too like the kangaroo, wombat, and dingo. Overall one of the best days so far.