Friday, November 21, 2008

Finals/Being Back

Well today is Thursday and I got home from Australia on Saturday night. So I thought I would put a little post about the end of the semester and the return-home experience. The end of the semester passed fairly uneventfully in a haze of studying and saying goodbye and so on. It is weird to think that I might never see my friends again, or at least for a really long time, and same for Australia in general. However, there is really not much to report from that last week, except for that I had fun and am sad to be gone.

My flight was (thankfully) uneventful, if almost unbearably long. The second leg from LAX to JFK was delayed a bit due to rampaging storms in New York, but it wasn't too bad and apparently I missed some even bigger scarier storms right after I left Brisbane, so all is well. My dad picked me up and when we got home I had good food which was excellent. The next few days I unpacked and shopped and was really really jetlagged. I am still a bit jetlagged now but I think I am starting to get over it. Hopefully it doesn't last too much longer it's really inconvenient getting super-sleepy at weird times of day. As for reverse culture shock, when I first got back it was kind of weird - like things that were different stuck out at me (like the way the moon looks and the ketchup saying ketchup instead of tomato sauce), and I kept going to do things I had to do in Australia but not here, like switch my outlets on and off. But I pretty much got over it after about a day. It wasn't that hard of a transition I guess because this is where I lived my whole life, haha. Now I am in DC back at AU for a couple of days, which I am really excited about and am enjoying and am happy to see everyone. Michael came as a surprise and that was exciting.

So I guess this will be the end of my blog because I am back from Australia. I feel like I should put down some profound final thoughts, but I'm not really a profound kind of person. Maybe I will say this: there is a lot of talk in Australia about whether or not their culture is being swallowed up by our culture. I mean, they watch our TV and our movies and listen to our music, etc etc. And I have to say, once I stopped thinking about how convenient the quality coverage of the American election was, I started thinking that really it was kind of weird. I mean, how much do we know about Australian politics? But really, I'm pretty sure Australian culture still exists in full force. If you go there from here you can just tell. Even though they have a lot of our stuff it isn't like little America over there. At least, I don't think so. Maybe people can comment on the influence of American culture in the countries that they are in. It would be interesting.

Okay that is all.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Moreton/Gold Coast/Exams

My first exam is tomorrow, so I have been studying pretty much constantly for a few days now. However, UQ allows a whole week for studying that I put to much better use traveling about. The first weekend of SWOTVAC (read: study week) I went to Moreton Island, and that was really fun. We went sandboarding (like sledding, but on sand), and I got to climb on some giant sand cliffs, and the beaches were beautiful, and we did a bit of snorkeling also. It was an overnight trip, so we camped out that night and I went out to the beach and looked at all the stars. There were many. It was a nice weekend.

Later in the week I went to the Gold Coast for a night with Kailey and Kimberly, and Lauren was with us for a little while also. We stayed in Surfer's Paradise and it was really nice. The Gold Coast is basically your standard touristy city, but the beach that it is on is amazing. It's just huge, with white sand and nice waves. I enjoyed it immensely, even though I am now a teeny bit sunburned. One other downside is that the skyscrapers make shadows in the beach as soon as the sun starts going down. Unfortunate. In the night we went to this thing called Infinity, which was also pretty cool. It was like a maze of different rooms that was all based around lights and lasers and mirrors to make all kinds of weird illusions. It was really trippy and really fun. We explored some other aspects of the city too, but the beach was definitely the best part.

You may be interested to know that the Women's College is now decorated for Christmas, and we had Christmas dinner the other day (on Halloween, oddly enough). At first I thought I was really weirded out by all the Christmas stuff just because it was so early (I never realized how important Halloween and Thanksgiving were in limiting the length of the Christmas season). However, now I realize it's especially weird because it is so hot out. It is pretty much summer here. I can't quite believe I will be home in two weeks, or that it will be cold when I get there.

I have two things to say in closing: one is to ask Jenelle's Mom, who I know occasionally reads my blog, where she gets her secret American supply of TimTams from?

The second is to tell everyone to make sure they VOTE on Tuesday!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


PS I got to hold a baby wombat today! hurray!!!


I've been getting this question a lot lately, so I thought I would put it in here. The question is: what do Australians do for halloween?

Basically, the Aussies don't do halloween as kids, its not a part of their culture or anything. But they are aware of it as something the Americans do, and they appreciate the excuse to put on costumes and go to a party. So halloween parties are around among people our age, although they aren't nearly as common as in the US. Also costumes are a bit harder to come by and substantially more expensive. As a final note, the lack of 'halloween' as a holiday means that the halloween party doesn't follow strict guidelines regarding date. I have seen three happen since I got here, spread out over the last few months. So there you go.

In case you are interested, I myself will be going to a halloween party thrown by one of my Canadian friends (Canadians do celebrate halloween, in case you're wondering). She's going pretty all out, and I'm pretty excited. I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Spring Break

Hi peopleee

Sorry for the lack of post-spring break update, I was kind of hoping to put pictures up along with the entry, so I was waiting to see if I could get my camera fixed (it broke on the second to last day of the trip), but as that is not looking like it is going to happen any time soon I thought I would go ahead and update anyway.

I had an AWESOME time. I started in Sydney, where I spent the day by myself hitting up the major tourist attractions and just generally exploring and getting a feel for the city. Parts of it reminded me a lot of New York City, which is a pretty high compliment in my book. Also, the water was actually blue, which I was totally surprised by (I was expecting that brownishgrey color that is way more typical of high-traffic water). Possibly my favorite part of Sydney was at busy intersections, where it said on the ground "LOOK RIGHT" with an arrow pointing right, for poor people like me who get confused with the traffic coming from the other direction. It was quite funny. I also met a couple of very nice people at my hostel and had some fun with them too.

The next day I departed on a three day bus trip (during which we spent over 20 hours inside of a bus...ugh) that was really fun. Along the way we stopped in a lot of really small towns for bathroom/snack breaks, and most of the way we avoided the big highways and took back roads, so I feel like I saw a lot of Australia this way. Or at least, a lot of the area between Sydney and Melbourne, which is a really really big area, but Australia is really, really, really big. Anyway, we started off going to Canberra (the capital of Australia), which is very pretty and quiet and has lots of trees. Honestly, though, it isn't that interesting of a city lol. I have a picture of Parliament House that I will share with you one of these days. Then that night we went to Jindabyne, which is a little town up in the Snowy Mountains, and could rent stuff for going up into the mountains the next day (ie ski stuff, sleds, or bikes). There wasn't going to be much snow, so most people opted for biking or hiking rather than the skiing. I went biking, and right after we got our bikes we rode around the lake by our accomodation, which was nice. The biking the next day was really really nice (despite the fact that it was WINDY and quite uphill). The views were gorgeous. I swear I have nice pictures lol. And at the top we got to play in the snow.

Sometime in early afternoon we were off again, going down to the coast along a very pretty road. So we had a morning in the mountains, and that night we had a fire on the beach. It was really fun, and there were a lot of stars - I saw the southern cross! (I think). So that night was basically spent hanging out down on the beach, and then the next day we were off AGAIN to go to the southern most point in continental Australia for a hike around some really big rocks (big rocks are my FAVORITE). At this point my camera was already broken, which was disappointing, but I am hoping to acquire some pictures from facebook friends one of these days. Then it started raining while we were eating lunch on the beach, so we were off again to Melbourne, which was where the trip ended.

I spent my night in Melbourne at a bar with some other people from the trip, and the next day the four of us who were staying in the city just went around and explored Melbourne. Okay, people don't really talk about Melbourne much outside of Australia, but it is a seriously cool city. If you are going to be around this end of the earth anytime soon, make sure you hit that up. Its just a really nice city, with some really cool architecture, and some really nice areas along the river, and a really big market, and some other things. I had a really great day there and wish I could have stayed longer.

Overall I had a great break, and met a lot of really cool people, and am utterly exasperated that I have no pictures to share with you lol.

Sorry that was so long.

At this point I have two weeks of classes left, then a week off, then it is finals time, and then I leave. I am going to Moreton Island in approx 10 days, and am hoping to get some other traveling wedged in there too before I leave. Yay.

Send me emails, I would love to hear some news from home : )

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pretty Flowers

I have been accumulating pictures of cool flowers I have seen around campus, and I have posted them up to facebook. Also, Heather and one of her friends from uni down in Wollongong are up to spend a bit of their spring break in Brisbane, so we went up Mt. Coot-tha, which is a mountain from which you can see all of Brisbane, and to the Botanical Gardens at the bottom of Mt. Coot-tha, which are really pretty. So there isn't a whole lot to say about any of these things, but you can look at some sweet pictures I took.

Pictures of flowers on campus are at the end of this album:

Pictures of Mt. Coot-tha and the Botanic Gardens are at the end of this album:

I am off on my Spring Break trip tomorrow (hurray!!!) and will tell you all about it when I get back!!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

American Dinner

You may recall me mentioning that every Tuesday we have formal dinner, which the entire college attends wearing academic robes and involves some kind of presentation. Well this week was American Dinner, at which the 7 Americans staying at college got to select the menu and present a little bit of their culture to the Aussies. Well, we decided to go with a Thanksgiving theme, so we asked for turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, stuffing, cornbread for the bread and pumpkin pie for dessert. As a bonus, we go to ask for Coke and Sprite (7up) on the tables, which was excellent. We also asked for pigs in a blanket and chips and salsa for appetizers. Then we did a presentation about Thanksgiving and a little bit about each of our hometowns. Here are the amusing parts of the evening:

-Curly fries and salsa, because chips are french fries here. Possibly the hardest I have laughed since I got to this country.
-Pigs in a blanket were mini hot dogs wedged into dinner rolls. Almost as funny as the chips and salsa.
-Stuffing: more or less, croutons.
-The principal of the college surprising us by having everyone stand with their hand on their heart for our national anthem.
-Mini-cornucopias on every table full of lollies. Apparently America is associated with candy.
-Oreos served after the meal. Not amusing but really exciting (you don't really come across oreos every day here). hurray!!!!!!!!
-Listening to girls in sororities try and explain differences between their sororities and the show Greek.
-The Aussies unexpected fascination with the Amish.

Unrelated: we just did the film unit in my Australian Pop culture class. Movie I didn't know was Australian: Moulin Rouge.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Stradbroke and more Cricket

Yesterday I took a semi-spontaneous trip to Stradbroke Island with two other Americans. It took all eternity to get there (well, about 3.5 hours, but thats a long way to go for a day trip) but it was totally worth it. We walked on some trails and took pictures (link below) of the waves crashing into the giant rocks, and we saw a group of dolphins, which I tried desperately to get a picture of but it was kind of hard. After we walked along the beach for a bit, went swimming, and then laid down for a while before beginning the 3 hour hike back (not literally a hike, it was a bus to a ferry to a bus to a train to a bus).

As it turns out I DID make the cricket team, mostly as an extra but I still went to the matches and played a little. I did some research on wikipedia to find out how to play, and I have learned that it is a very bizarre game and a very slow game. I learned the slow part even more today. It is kind of like baseball in that there is a lot of standing around in a hot field involved. I bowled one over, and found out that I am a really terrible bowler, but I am not too stressed out about it. Anyway it was fun to go and watch and we won both games we played, so that was good. Hurray!


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Horses and Cricketers

hello friends and family!

Sorry it has been so long since an update, I haven't really been up to much. School has actually gotten a little busy so its just been uni, uni, uni. Last weekend I did find time to go on a horse-riding adventure that I booked when I first got to Australia with a couple of my friends, and that was really fun (picture of me and my horse, nugget, are below). We had billy tea and damper, which are Australian words for tea and bread cooked on an open fire. I bonded with my horse nugget, who was fidgety like me and very old and stubborn, but unfortunately I don't think he bonded back with me. We got to trot a little, which I had never done before and was great fun. We went through the forest and the mountains and even through some water. It was a good day.

In other news, I have tried out for my college's cricket team for a tournament this upcoming weekend. I am mostly trying out for a laugh, since (a) I have little to no hand/eye coordination (b) I don't have the slightest idea how to play cricket. However, just appearing at the trials appears to have given me a relatively high chance of getting on the team, so you never know. Also, they never actually asked whether or not I knew how to play lol. So I'll keep you informed. Things I have learned about cricket:

1. the ball is made of red leather, and it is very heavy and hurts a lot when it slams into your body.
2. games can get really really long (based on the fact that games in the tournament are being limited to two hours)
3. the bowler (ie pitcher) can't bend their arm when they throw the ball
4. the bowler is trying to hit the wicket (i think); the batter is trying to get them to not hit it...and at some point the batter gets to run...I haven't figured that part out yet.
5. there are only two bases.

My spring break is about a week and a half away. I have booked myself on a sort of hiking adventure type trip that starts in Sydney and ends in Melbourne, as well as an extra night in both Sydney and Melbourne so I can hopefully get out and see the cities a little bit. The trip also goes through Canberra, which is (believe it or not) the capital of Australia, so I will get to see that too. I am really excited.

In Australian popular culture class we just did the music unit, so as a final note I leave you with a list of bands I (sadly) had no idea were from Australia:
Maroon 5
Savage Garden

Monday, September 1, 2008

Interesting Cultural Tidbits

In Australia, jell-o is called jelly. Jelly as we know it (ie grape jelly) is called jam. As a result of this confusion, the concept of 'peanut butter and jelly,' when first conceived, is repulsive to most Aussies. I haven't actually encountered this revulsion because most people I know have figured out the jam/jelly connection long ago. I just thought it was interesting. Also, peanut butter and jam is not that common of a thing to eat here either. Peanut butter and honey is much more common. There is also one girl in my college who eats banana, butter (not peanut butter, regular butter), and sugar sandwiches, but I think she's just weird.

Another tidbit I want to share is recovery. I came to Australia during ball season (each of the colleges has a ball - my college had theirs last week). Although I haven't actually attended any balls, as the tickets run about $100 plus I would have to get a pretty nice dress somehow, I have heard the basic outline of the event. Basically you all go to the ball and then you get bused to the afterball event, and then everyone goes home and the next day they have recovery (ie drink more to recover from your hangover from the night before). The cost is a part of the ticket, and it is basically a barbecue. The interesting part is that as far as I can tell everyone dresses up in funny outfits (think 80s workout outfits) and brings food dye (this is the interesting bit). The food dye goes in the beer, and then everyone spits beer at each other all day, and everyone comes back blue. Bizarre much?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


It is springtime at UQ!

The weather is pretty much the same, but I can tell it is spring because all of the birds have gone crazy. Plus, ducklings!

Anyway, it is hard to believe but I am just about halfway through my semester abroad (already??). I thought I would take a minute to reflect on my classes thus far. Although not so much on microeconomics because micro is pretty much micro, wherever you happen to be.

Australian Popular Culture: This course has proven to be fairly interesting. We did a unit on 'Sport' during the Olympics, and we learned about how Aussies have a tendency to identify themselves as being naturally good athletes and how representing themselves that way to to the rest of the world during the Olympics is really important to them. We've also had units on the beach and the bush and tourism and the way that these things factor into the Australian identity (Austrialanness, a word I still cannot pronounce). Downside of this class is that it's one of those classes that encourages you to think critically of common ideas, to the point that you tend to focus a LOT on the less-common view of things and pay little or no attention to the more common perspective. That kind of thing makes me crazy.

Ecotourism: This class is pretty educational but a little intense and a little circular (because there is only limited literature about ecotourism available). I know more about tourism than I ever wanted to know, and I am developing a fantastic guilt complex about any tourism that I ever have taken or will take part in, ever. Not to say that I don't like the class though lol, it is one of my favorites.

Developmental Psychology: pretty much what you would expect, but I just wanted to point out that I think the study of pyschology in Australia is much more focused on looking at empirical research studies, and also more directed towards students who are going to become research psychologists. This is only in my very, very limited experience though.

As a final note I want everyone to know that I ate kangaroo for dinner last night. It pretty much tastes like steak, but a little chewier. That is all.

Monday, August 18, 2008


I guess it makes sense that since there are different trees here the Australians might not put maple syrup on their pancakes, but it is not something I really thought about until I got here. Don't get me wrong, maple syrup is available, and "maple-flavoured" syrup is in abundance. I just thought I would call attention to the fact that it isn't the primary type of syrup, since maybe other people in America would also not have thought of it. Instead the Australians use something called golden syrup, which is gold-colored (obviously) and sweet and in my opinion really gross. But then again I am pretty picky.

Another type of syrup which is pretty scarce around here is corn syrup. No matter how many processed foods I read the ingredients of, I have yet to find any that have high fructose corn syrup. This is another thing I would have known before getting here if I had bothered to really think on it, but America just has more corn than other places (more than we know what to do with apparently). I have seen a variety of other sugary type syrups in things like coca-cola, but there is definitely a distinct lack of corn syrup.

There, you have all been educated.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Races

On Wednesday (as I mentioned in my last post) the entire city had a day off to go down to the horse races. Basically you get really dressed up and put on a funny hat and go bet on the 8 horse races that are spread through out the day. Despite my best efforts i was unable to acquire a funny hat or a 'fascinator,' which is like the frilly, flowery decoration on a hat but without the hat. If you're in uni you also start drinking at obscene hours on Ekka day (the boys in Kings College started at 6 am) to ensure you are totally wasted through the whole day. My college hosted a champagne breakfast with Kings College and then a bus ride over to the races. It was really good fun. I bet on two races and lost both times so that was the end of that. It was really fun to people-watch too, there were thousands of people there all dressed up in their race day finery. I have heard good things about the actual Ekka, which is like a fair with rides and face painting and so on that went on all week, but I didn't actually make it to that. Pictures of the races and also of the trip to the Sunshine Coast have been added to the album with the Bartopia pictures from earlier. Link:

Here are some of the pictures...Sunshine Coast:

The Races:

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sunshine Coast

Last weekend I took a semi-spontaneous minibreak up to the Sunshine Coast for the weekend with 5 other Australearn kids. Because of Brisbane's location, it is necessary to travel either an hour south to the Gold Coast or an hour north to the Sunshine Coast to get to the beach. The Gold Coast is supposed to have a reputation of being more glitzy and touristy, while the Sunshine Coast is supposed to be more mellow and casual. I cannot speak for the Gold Coast, but the Sunshine Coast is certainly on the mellow side. We took a bus, two trains, and another bus to get there (it took approx 2.5 hours) and stayed in a hostel for two nights. The beach was really, really pretty. Absolutely gorgeous area. Pictures will be provided when my internet connection is being more functional. We had fun gallivanting in the surf (only about knee high, it was too cold to go in properly). I found some very nice shells, and got to climb on some really big rocks (which I love). I also learned that Australian playgrounds are way, way cooler than American playgrounds. The first night we watched the opening ceremonies of the olympics, and then we made an effort to go out, but there were only three places and one charged an $8 cover (high to pay for 11:30 at night) one wouldn't take us because of our flipflops, and the last one had almost no one in it. So the next night we got dominoes and watched hostel (while staying in a hostel - bad call - plus it was a pretty terrible movie) and ate a lot of junk food. I also ate the most amazing cold rock (coldstone) ice cream...honeycomb flavored with nutella and timtam mixed in. Yum. Anyway, my verdict of the Sunshine Coast is that (a) it was a good weekend (b) it is a really pretty place and (c) rumors of a mellow atmosphere are not wrong.

Tomorrow is the Ekka holiday, a day off for the whole city to go dress up and enjoy the horse races. I have purchased my ticket and will post about that after I have been.

Hope everyone is well : )

Saturday, August 2, 2008


I just got back from a 3-day environmental volunteer weekend through Conservation Volunteers Australia, at an absolutely beautiful site about 2 and a half hours southwest (ish?) of Brisbane. We were located at Bartopia Nature Reserve, and it was just a Nature Reserve that the owner is working on making into an ecotourism location for backpackers. It sported a family of kookaburras who were always hanging around. Our (myself and 5 other Australearn kids) assignment was listed as "weed management" which we thought meant we would be pulling weeds in the forest (which always feels kind of tedious and futile to me). Instead, we were taking down massive, tree-sized weeds called 'lentana' (sp?). For reference, a picture has been provided below. It was really great fun. Our team leader, Myriam, navigated her 4-wheeler up the perilous mountain roads to get us to the place, where we were greeted by Ben, the owner, and his semi-deaf mate Max. Both were very entertaining and very Australian men, who called us blokes and sheilas. They also called Jared, the redhead, "Blue". This is typical Australian humor (ie it doesn't make sense lol). We cooked dinner each night and slept in dormitories which were VERY cold...the last night I slept in one tshirt, two long sleeve shirts, two hoodies, flannel pants, sweat pants, and two pairs of socks, inside of my sleeping bag which was also covered in towels to serve as an extra blanket. But I think it added to the charm lol. The first night we tried our very hardest to make s'mores, but the lack of graham crackers and our inability to find thin-ish pieces of chocolate or marshmallows that weren't flavored raspberry made it a challenge. Possibly the most amazing part of where we were was all the stars you could see. Supposedly these were different from stars in the Northern Hemisphere, but I couldn't really tell except for how clearly you could see the Milky Way, which was amazing. I tried to take a picture of the stars, but it was to no avail. Please enjoy the pictures I do have posted, and here is a link to the rest of the album if you are interested:

Our shoddy s'mores ingredients:

The view from Bartopia:The big green thing that takes up most of this picture is one of the weeds we were destroying:

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

One more thing!

One more thing I forgot to mention is that two of my classes have multiple lecturers. This is probably the most weird thing for me. Just a different person turns up to lecture every couple of weeks. Okay, that is all.


Now that I am well into my second week of classes I thought it might be time for an update. I wanted to highlight some differences between the way that uni here works and the way it works in the states. First of all, the ages are different. People typically graduate year 12 at 17, and then either go to a trade school, into the work force, or to university. This means that most of my classmates are my age or younger. They also graduate typically in three years, although it varies some, and when they graduate they usually are done with school and can go right into working on what they got their degree in. There is no real 'liberal arts' education, it is pretty much studying what you are going to do, with the occasional elective.

My classes are also different, because the university is so big and because it is just different. With rare exceptions, classes usually have an hour or two of lecture or week, and then smaller meetings for various purposes, like tutorials (tutes) or practicals (pracs-australians abbreviate everything, honestly) where you are able to actually discuss what you learned about in lecture and go into it in more depth, and ask questions. My microeconomics class has something like 400 people in it, but the tutorial is only about 25, so you can see how these sessions would be helpful. Another thing that is different to me, but probably not to some other people, is that I have a class on the 8th floor. This is an absurd idea to me. I have never had to take the elevator to class before.

My classes themselves are moderately interesting. Australian Popular Culture is a lot more in-depth and a lot more intense than I was anticipating, but not in a bad way. Developmental Psychology is a lot lamer than I was anticipating lol. Environment, Sustainability, and Ecotourism is going to be really cool I think. That class is actually quite small, and at the end we will get to go to an actual ecotourist location and perform a full environmental audit on the place. Microeconomics is microeconomics.

I realize in retrospect that this post may not have been that interesting. Sorry for that lol.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I have posted a photo album of my pictures so far (and I kept it down to one album!) on facebook. Those of you who don't have facebook can view the album here:

Also, does anyone know why my 10 Things I Hate About You case doesn't have 10 Things I Hate About You in it? Instead it had Sweeney Todd, which is odd because I don't own Sweeney Todd and I don't think I know anyone who liked it enough to buy it. Also, I watched 10 Things right before I left. Is anyone missing their copy of Sweeney Todd?

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Thought

I just got back from my first lecture of Australian Popular Culture (a class populated almost entirely by American students). One of the introductory slides featured pictures of Crocodile Dundee, a lifeguard sitting on a surfboard, and a picture of Ayers Rock (actually called uluru, nowadays). During my orientation, similar pictures were put up on slides of the way that Australians were conceived abroad, basically as surfing Steve Irwins. And while it is true that that is sort of the joking Australian stereotype, when I got on the plane to come here I wasn't really expecting the people in this country to be like that. I just assumed they would be normal people, when I really got down to the practicality of it. And I think that's probably what most people believe, right? When you picture a stereotype of a person from another country, do you really believe that everyone there is like that, or just that they are people who maybe speak another language or have a different accent? Maybe all of this stuff about how countries are represented abroad doesn't matter as much as we think it does. I do not really believe that Kazakhstan is full of people like Borat (lol).

PS australian funfact: most of the lifeguards here are volunteers.
PPS i got growled at by a bird yesterday. it was scary.
PPPS there was a gecko in my room this morning. actually he is currently MIA so he might still be here somewhere.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

List of Information

Sorry for the lack of updates, but I haven’t felt like I had much to say. This is supposed to be a travel blog, but since I haven’t really been up to much besides waiting for classes to start, I haven’t really had many travel adventures to mention. But here I will assemble a list of some interesting information I have encountered in my days going around Brisbane, my Uni, and the occasional night out. There will likely be more information like this in the future, as it comes to me.

1. There are crumpets in my dining hall. No, seriously. Crumpets.
2. There is an abundance of tropical fruit here (for obvious reasons I guess). Kiwi, pineapple, and passionfruit are commonplace in my dining hall, and I’m pretty sure the filling in my pastry earlier was guava.
3. Australians cannot dance. Now I’m not judging, because neither can I, but it really is funny. Picture a room full of Americans dancing in the way they do when they are kidding around, except picture them all doing it, and being serious.
4. Australians listen to an awful lot of American music, apparently because theirs is too mellow to dance to.
5. One nickname for a redhead is an abbreviation of orangutan (because they are orange): Rang-er.
6. During the song “Eagle Rock” (or something like that) it is traditional for the men to drop their pants. I have no explanation for this.
7. All schools, even public schools, have a uniform in Australia. The uniforms are usually mind-bogglingly ugly. I don’t know who designs them, but you really cannot imagine how ugly they are. Much worse than American school uniforms.
8. They drive on the left side of the road here. This may seem like basic information, but I was certainly surprised.
9. A timtam (which is a chocolate cookie) is ten thousand times better when dipped in a hot beverage and used as a straw for a second (to melt the inside). The whole thing collapses into a blob of melty chocolately amazingness.
10. Junk food is really expensive here. Like a soda from a vending machine is about 3 dollars, and a bag of chips from a vending machine is like 1.50, and candy from a vending machine is even more than that. Apparently this is intended to fight obesity. Also the candy is different. I won’t go into all the different kinds of candy, but I tried something called a ‘musk log’ the other day. The clever among you may have noted that ‘musk’ is like perfume; this candy was like solid, sugary perfume. It was disgusting.
11. Because the city I live in has a giant river running through it, part of the public transportation system is ferries, called the CityCat (or citykitty, as I heard it referred to today). It is really cool.
12. Australian people think University in America is like the TV show “Greek,” at least according to some of the girls in my college. I am glad we are well-represented abroad.

That is all that is coming to mind right now. Uni starts tomorrow, so hopefully I will have more going on with my days and more to say. It has also occurred to me that I will be watching the Olympics from another country, which could potentially be an interesting cross-cultural experience. Finally, pictures in the next post, I promise.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Orientation and Women's College

So I have been busy orientating (well busy might be a little strong). But I have a little bit to report about my College (Women’s College), which is like my dorm, and about the University. Mostly the orientation stuff has been basic stuff you would expect from any orientation, although there was one memorable session about safety in Australia, ie which snakes/spiders/sealife to avoid and how. Other than that I have just been trying to explore campus and learn my way around and finalize my schedule (I’m almost there, thank goodness). Around my college I have met a few other girls, but most won’t move in until Sunday, so it’s pretty empty. My college has a weekly ‘formal dinner,’ where we have to dress up (no jeans, no ‘thongs’ (flipflops)) and put on academic robes (really??). This meal is compulsory (mandatory) and if for some reason I cannot attend, I have to write a letter of apology to the president of the college, Dr. Aitken, who, by the way, is Scottish and very sweet. My college also gets free membership to the gym, which is great. A fun fact about Queensland is that the sun is very strong here. Apparently the hole in the ozone layer, which I always thought of as kind of a hypothetical thing, is actually located above Queensland. When summer comes, if I am outside for any amount of time I am expected to wear spf 30+ no matter what. They have the highest rate of skin cancer in the world here. Two interesting pieces of Australian terminology: When I ask the girls who have already started classes what they have been up to that day, they don’t say they went to class, they say ‘I had Uni’ (as in University). Also I went to the “lolly shop” the other day and bought candy, but it is actually called ‘lollies.’ I didn’t buy lollipops, that is just apparently the word for candy. I think that is about it for now. I start Uni on Monday, but if anything interesting happens before then I will let you know.

PS this whole entry was very grammatically and logistically confusing, so props to anyone who understood everything I said.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Sorry for the complete lack of updates; I had to wait until Monday to get internet in my room, but now that I have it you get three for one because I have been writing blog entries in Word. I have been exploring the campus, which is gigantic and very pretty. There is a lake right in front of my building, with all paths and bridges around it, and birds EVERYWHERE. I need to take a minute to talk about the birds in Australia, because so far they are my favorite thing. They are huge, and there are a ton of different kinds, and because they live on my campus they aren’t exactly shy. There are these huge birds with long, curved beaks that just sit on the empty tables in cafes, and there are ones that look like turkeys (I have been calling them turkeybirds), and I saw a tree full of white birds that looked like parrots or something similar, I think I saw a pelican the other day, and then there are a ton of different kinds of water birds and ducks. They’re everywhere and they make me really happy. I will put up some pictures of them soon. Anyway, the other day I went out to Queen St Mall, which is a huge outdoor mall, like a party in the street, and I bought a cell phone. I am really proud of my cell phone. It is a cute little Samsung, that I went out into the city, on a bus, by myself, to buy with my own money, and I pay for it myself. It is 35 cents for me to send an international text message, so I probably won’t be sending too many, but I can receive them for free so if anyone wants to send one it would make me smile. Similarly I can receive calls for free, but I can’t imagine that anyone wants to call me in Australia, as it is a little expensive. Just in case, my phone number is: 0413 906 398. You also need to do 0011 and the country code, but I don’t know Australia’s country code. I also went out to the South Bank today to a little market (kind of like Eastern Market, for DC-ites) where they sold crafts and some local produce and all kinds of things. There’s also a man-made beach there, and a playhouse, and it looks like a fun place to visit. Brisbane itself is a great city. I love the river curving through everything, and according to my guidebook there is a lot to see. I found a walking-tour in my guidebook that I might go through next weekend (I start orientation today so there won’t be a ton of time). My exciting news for today is that as I was walking around campus aimlessly, someone asked me directions to Wordsmiths and I knew where it was and told them! I was pretty excited.

I will write about orientation soon, but I'll wait to give everyone time to catch up with these three posts.

Moving In

I arrived at my school last night and moved into my dorm, Women’s College. It is, not to be mean, a little on the ghetto side, but it is acceptable, and I have my own room, and they serve three meals a day. We had a very entertaining driver from the airport who told us a lot about the city (she was 72 and quite a character). She told us that we are 10 years into a drought in Brisbane, which according to the sign in my bathroom means we get 3 minutes to shower. THREE MINUTES. But anyway. My room is a little small, but cute (the outlet and my bed are on opposite sides of the room but I am comfortably sitting in my bed with my computer plugged in). Whoever lived here before me was really nice, they left me a $130 hairdryer/straightener set, a bunch of pushpins, and an umbrella. As far as the internet quota, I don’t get much at all but for 10 dollars a month I can get a lot more, so that will be fine. After we put our stuff in our rooms, me and three other Australearn girls went over to Target and bought things we needed (I didn’t realize that I need so much stuff), and it was very productive. Now I am all moved in, and it is very satisfying. One major inconvenience of our dorm is that it is FREEZING. Our rooms have little space heater thingies, but they turn themselves off after 30 minutes. Annoying when you are sleeping. My goals for today are to get myself a cell phone (dreading spending that money) and see if I can familiarize myself with the campus a little bit (it is huge). As a final comment, I know a lot of you were wondering about Australian toilets. So far as I can tell, they don’t spin either direction; the water just kind of pours straight down from the top of the bowl into the bottom. But people tell me when it does spin, it goes the same direction. So there is your report. The toilets also have two flushes, for a lot of water or half water, because of the drought. Actually a lot of things here are good for the environment. All the outlets have switches to be turned off, and I couldn’t find any detergent with phosphates (not that I wanted it, I was just curious).

My address is:

Kate Drake
Women’s College
College Road
St. Lucia Queensland 4067

Australearn Orientation: Reef and Rainforest

So when I first arrived in Australia I was flown to Cairns (pronounced, inexplicably, like “Cans”), which is a very serious tourist city way up north in Australia. Despite being winter, it was reasonably warm there, and we were put in up a nice hostel, six to a room, for the four days we were there. The orientation included three ‘sessions’ that sort of told us what we could expect in Australia, including a lesson in Aussie slang and a detailed description of culture shock and how to get over it. My favorite Aussie slang was the kind that is falling out of use, but it basically says things totally unrelated to what you are trying to say, but that rhymes with it. So to ‘captain cook’ means ‘to have a look.’ It is just absurd and I love it. It also means that as a “yank,” I might be also called a “seppo,” which is an abbreviation of septic tank which rhymes with yank. Get it?

Anyway, during the two full days of our orientation, we went to the rainforest (actually a tourist place called Rainforestation) and the Great Barrier Reef. At Rainforestation we learned about Aboriginal culture, and I got to throw a boomerang and play a didgeridoo (and I actually did it!) (the boomerang was less successful). We also took an Army Duck (truck/boat) around the rainforest and saw a lot of plants designed to kill you, and a few animals too. It was REALLY COOL and our tourguide was hilarious. We also got to have our picture taken holding a koala, and we got to hold a snake, and feed and pet the kangaroos and wallabies, which are like little kangaroos (I didn’t know that). We also saw lizards and a GIANT croc nicknamed ‘jack the ripper’ because he killed 12 of his wives (he now lives alone). We also saw a quoll (?) which was cute, and a wombat, which apparently can break your hand with the hard plate in its butt.

At the Great Barrier Reef we could go snorkeling for free and scuba diving for 70 dollars, and I did both and it was amazing. First of all the water was so clear you could see all the way down to the bottom without even getting out of the boat almost. And there were big fish swimming everywhere around the boat, and snorkeling I saw just as much as I did scuba diving. The corals were so cool and everything was moving and I saw a ton of fish and giant clams and a couple of sting rays. On my dive I saw a sea turtle and I got my picture taken with him he was AWESOME. I’m not sure I can really describe how amazing the reef was in here, so I’ll just stop there. On the ride home it was super choppy, and I got terribly seasick for the first time in my life. I’ve actually pretty much had a stomachache since I got here, between the planes and the boat and my dinner on the first night, which didn’t go down well at all. One last bit about my orientation is that I tried sushi for the first time (nothing with fish in it) and I really enjoyed it. So I hope to find a decent sushi place around my University.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Flight

hi all! I am in the airport right now waiting to get on my (last for a while, thank goodness) flight to my university. I came into Australia three days ago, after almost missing my flight out of San Francisco because American Airlines is incompetent (they didn't even apologize! and who doesn't serve a meal on a 6 hour flight at dinner time? Qantas gave me a meal on a 3 hour flight that only went to 12:30). But anyway, after a mad dash through the airport I wound up getting upgraded to business class, which was pretty sweet for a 14 hour flight. Actually it was unbelievable. My chair folded out to a bed and they gave me all kinds of things like pajamas (??) and playing cards, and they kept coming by to be nice to me and give me things. I rocked out to Mika the whole way, we could listen to the whole album on the plane's entertainment system and it is GREAT. I recommend it. I also watched the bucket list, which was depressing, and the wizard of oz. The downside of almost missing my flight was that my luggage didn't make the transfer, so it was delayed for about a day and a half, but it wasn't too big of a bother because australearn warned us to pack a change of clothes and toiletries in our carryon. Plus, Qantas (who continues to demonstrate ways to be an awesome airline) gave me $100 cash for emergency expenses, which I used to pay for my scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef ($70). I don't really have time to tell that story now, so my Australearn Orientation stories (the reef and the rainforest) will come in my next entry.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Entertaining Advice

Here is a sampling of some of the tips I have received prior to my departure:

"bring me a [koala, duck-billed platypus, kangaroo, etc]
"take a video of the first time you flush the toilet"
"there is a lot of interesting biodiversity"
"don't get eaten by aborigines"
"don't they have a poisonous variety of everything?"
"if you get stung by a jellyfish, let someone pee on it"

(that last one is actually true)

New Blog

So this is going to be my travel blog. I leave for Australia 6 days from now (!!!!!) and until then it is just preparation (ie packing, etc). I'll see you in about a week when my adventure begins!