Monday, July 14, 2008

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.

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