Monday, 6 June 2011

Bitter-Sweet Feelings

Well after today I will only have 10 more days left in Australia.  I have absolutely no idea where the time has gone.  It seems like just last week my group and I landed in Sydney and were just getting to know each other.  Now that four months have past we have all split off and formed our own group of friends but we still see each other around campus and remember what it was like the first couple weeks in Townsville when we all clung to each other for support because we didn't know anybody else. 
I have made some really awesome friends here from all around the world that I'm sure I will keep in touch with, maybe for the rest of my life.  People in Australia are some of the nicest people I've had the privilege to meet through all my travels.  I know that at least one of them is planning a trip across the U.S sometime next year, and he plans on meeting up with everybody he's gotten to know so I'm hoping he can make it out to the Midwest for a reunion with a couple of us from the area.
Well last week I was able to take 2 last vacation trips around North Queensland.  The first part of the week Sunday-Tuesday a group of 6 of us went down to Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays for an all-day sailing trip around the Whitsunday Islands.  The weather was perfect and the islands were absolutely amazing.  We went snorkeling around a small part of the reef, had a great BBQ lunch and stopped off at the amazing Whitehaven beach which had some of the purest white sand I have ever seen.  It was even able to polish jewelery when it was wet.  We stayed at a resort on Long Island and relaxed and soaked up the sun before we headed home on Tuesday.
We got off to a little bit of a rocky start when we got to the airport to rent the van because we were traveling with 6 people and found out that since none of us were over 25 we were unable to rent a van, but could still get a car.  So off we went 4 hours south in a 5 passenger Toyota Corolla stuffed with 6 bodies.  Quite the bonding experience.
The last part of the week we spend another weekend in Cairns Thursday-Sunday.  There I got to go on my free trip to the Great Barrier Reef, which actually cost me $90 but it was well worth it.  We stopped off at 2 spots on the Outer Reef and got the chance to snorkel for over an hour each time.  I even got the chance to to an introductory Scuba dive where we went down about 10 meters (33ft).  I saw some very colorful coral, huge clams, Nemo (clown fish), and 2 Green Sea Turtles.  It was truly one of the best weeks I've had in Australia.  Talk about saving the best for last!
I still have 3 finals to take before I depart however.  My children's literature final is Thursday morning the 9th at 8am.  My criminal justice final is the 16th at 6pm  and my Australian history final of course isn't until the day before I leave, Friday the 17th bright and early at 8 in the morning.  After that all that's left is packing, good-byes and maybe a celebratory party...or two. 
Thanks to everybody for the support and prayers throughout my trip.  For those back in MN, I'll be home June 18th until a couple days after the 4th of July, then I'll head back to Iowa.  Here's a couple of pics from my trip last week, and tune in at the bottom of the page for the rest of the funny Australian slang words I've missed.
In front of the Camira before our sailing trip in the Whitsundays

Loving life on Whitehaven Beach

Long Island resort we stayed on

The sea turtle we found while diving in on the Reef

Can you believe I put my hand in that thing?!

Everything's all right

Passions of Paradise boat on the Reef

Australian Slang:
Arvo: afternoon
Telly: television
Roo: Kangaroo
Sepo: an American
Thongs: flip-flops
Wanker: idiot
Lollies: candy
Mozzie: mosquito
Swimmers: swim suit
Sunnies: sunglasses
Pissed: drunk

General rule when trying to speak Australian: Take whatever word you're trying to say and shorten it.

Friday, 13 May 2011

5 weeks left, time to do some work!

Well I officially only have 5 weeks left here in Australia as of today.  I'm not exactly sure where all that time went but I've definitely had a good time.  It now seems that the "vacation" part of it is over now, at least for a while.  I have 2 big essays due one on Friday and one on Monday so I should probably get to work on those this week.  No worries though, they're both about half way done already.  After that it's one more trip up to Cairns for a day trip out on the reef, and 3 finals. 
It's a bitter-sweet feeling thinking about coming home.  I mean I have been away from home for the better part of 6 months due to my 4 week trip to Italy over the holidays but now I'm thinking I could stay here for at least a couple more weeks.  However, when I start to get that feeling all I have to do is look at my bank account and I'm harshly reminded that staying here is definitely not an option!  So my plan is to stick around the cities for a couple weeks until the 4th of July and then head back down to my house at school and start work. 
Sorry I don't have any more exciting news for you all, I've really just had my head in the books for the past week or 2.  We've had some small gatherings with friends and such but nothing too exciting.
I'm almost done with frisbee however.  Our team came in 3rd during the regular season but dropped our second game in the playoffs.  Wednesday will be our last game playing for 5-6th place.  The last week I'll be sitting on the sidelines watching the finals, heckling both teams and reminiscing of days gone by...with cold beers in our hands!
Speaking of cold, the past week has came as a shock to most of us.  During the day the sun is still shining bright and it gets to about 80 degrees but after the big ball of fire drops over the horizon the temperature goes with it!  At night now it gets down to about 15-18 degrees Celsius which is somewhere in the 60's.  After the 90 degree humid days we got used to, 60 degrees is cold!
Anyway, hope you're all doing swell wherever you may be, and enjoy summer now after the extra long winter has left you for good (I hope!)

I'm feeling generous today, so I'm going to teach you 2 Australian words!
Bogan--Australian hick or redneck.  Derogatory term we would stereotype people from the southern U.S as. 
Jumper--zip up hoodie.  "Now that it's cold outside everybody wears jumpers to keep warm!"

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Easter Weekend Eggstravaganza

Well I just returned from my fun-filled 5-day weekend in Cairns (pronounced "cans"), which is about a 5 hour car ride north of Townsville.  I departed Thursday afternoon with 6 other mates, although we met up with half of uni that was staying in Cairns for the weekend, most of them in our same hostel.
We stayed at Giligans hostel which is one of the more popular ones because it's based in the center of the city and has a good night-life that goes along with it.  We had an 8-person room and some of our other friends were sharing another 8-person room right across the hall from us.  16+ uni kids staying in a confined space, it's a wonder we didn't get kicked out, but we definitely all managed to have a good time!
Good Friday some of my friends went Skydiving while the rest of us took a self-tour of the city.  It's a very tourist city with many souvenir shops and activities to do like skydiving, white-water rafting, reef tours, ATV rides, bungee jumping and heaps more.  

 Saturday I spend the afternoon with a couple mates up in Kuranda where the rain forest is!  It was also a tourist town filled with small shops and markets.  After we had a small picnic and the beginning of the trail we hiked through the trees and vines ending up at a huge waterfall.  It was definitely worth the twisty turny roads we had to embark on both up and down the mountain to get there and back. 
Saturday Night we bought tickets to the "Ultimate Party" which may have been an understatement... We started at Giligans with a BBQ and a couple games, which of course I had to participate in! And it was definitely worth it! I stood on stage while a girl took a piece of bubblegum and moved it up one pant leg, down the other then blew the biggest bubble with it.  All I had to do was stand there, I couldn't help her at all.  And for that I won a day trip to the Great Barrier Reef worth $129.  Which means I'll have to go back to Cairns sometime in the next 7 weeks!  After that we went on a party bus to 4 other clubs and had a wonderful time with discounted drink prices and HEAPS of pizza.  At first I wasn't sure there was going to be enough, so I grabbed pizza by the handfuls.  Little did I know a half hour later they would STILL be serving pizza, and I would STILL be eating it.  Easily one of greatest nights since I've been in Australia. 
Rain forest waterfall


Sunday Ryan had an inline hockey tournament and was playing for 3rd place so I went to watch his game with a couple other friends.  They lost, but it was interesting watching an inline game vs. an ice hockey game.  I think I'll stick with ice hockey.
The friends that I went up to Cairns with left on Monday morning, but I decided to stay and get a lift back with the other friends staying across the hall.  The rest of the weekend was spent sleeping, eating, drinking and dancing.  We left Tuesday morning and started our long tiring journey back to the Ville.  We stopped at Crystal Creek to jump off rocks into the river, and slide down the rock slides.  I would show you what I'm talking about and the beauty of this river, except my camera died by the end of our 5 day adventure. No worries though, I will definitely be back to show you what it's all about.  
Now it's back to uni and the joy of essay writing.  I have 1 essay due in a week, 2 more due in 3 weeks. In between there I have a couple quizzes, one final for my indigenous class and more things to see and adventures to go on! Cheers to you all and Happy Easter, hope you're having a great spring!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

"Spring" Break/ Lecture Recess

Well this week we had off from class for lecture recess. Those back home would refer to it as spring break, but they don't really have spring here. But we did just move into their other season recently, the DRY SEASON!!! This whole week has been beautifully sunny and nice temps around 75-80 degrees with less humidity!

Magnetic Island
Yesterday I took the day and went out to Magnetic Island which is just off the coast of Townsville, about a 20min ferry ride, by myself for a day of exploration.  I went to Bunglaow Bay Koala Sanctuary where I got to hold a Koala, a baby crocodile, some lizards and a snake, and after that I went on a Fort Walk where I got to see old WWII defense buildings.  They were set up by the Australian and American forces to protect Australia from any attacks by the Japanese. The walk is also famous for the wild koala's that are seen in the trees.  I got back on the ferry back to Townsville at about 6pm, just in time to see the sunset over the ocean. It was an amazing day.

Time Flies By
Well it's hard to believe but I've already been in Australia for 10 weeks! But what's even harder to believe is that I have another 9 weeks left here! However this is how the rest of my semester looks:
Full week of class
2 day week
3 day week
3 full weeks
1 week off
2 weeks of exams
Head for Home
So needless to say I'm going to do everything I can in the next 9 weeks because they're going to FLY by.  Over Easter weekend I think I'm going up to the city of Cairns (pronounced "cans") with a couple friends. The number one goal up there is to get out on the reef.  I heard the viability is supposed to be less than ideal because of the cyclone, but it would still be worth seeing.
Other than that I have 3 big essays to write and prepare for my final exams which are going to be more essays.  I've only taken 3 multiple choice quizzes since I've been here which is much different from back home.  The rest have been essay form, or short answer. 

Other than that there isn't much else going on here.  I will definitely update after my trip to Cairns because I'm 100% positive there will be some good stories coming out of that trip! :) Until then have a wonderful week and Happy Easter!

You're word of the day is: Goon
This might be better known back home as boxed wine.  For some reason they call it "goon" here, and I think I've figured out the why.  Because if you drink too much of it, you look like a goon!  It's the cheapest kind of alcohol here and you can use it in a variety of different ways.  "Goon punch" is quite a popular use of it.  My fellow college friends would better know goon punch as jungle juice.  Basically it's goon mixed with you're choice of juice.  Most use some type of orange juice, and you can also mix in some vodka to your liking.  My advice: Keep Away from Goon 

Friday, 25 March 2011

Time for an update

Well this week has been pretty uneventful just class, frisbee and homework.  This weekend looks like much of the same compared to last.  We had our ultimate frisbee pub crawl last Saturday and boy was that eventful!  The theme was hero's and villains so be rest assured we were all safe from least until we all dove into the goon punch.  I transformed into the Clark Kent/Superman combo, and while there claimed to be 2 more supermen at our celebration we all know who the REAL one was...Anyway my friend batman also joined us as well as catwoman, heaps of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Quail Man, Flash, Hulk, Wonder Woman, Tron, and other miscellaneous figures with capes.  We made it to 3 pubs and then hit the town. I had an amazing, unforgettable time...thanks to these pictures:
This one's for you James!

At our first pub

On the bus

Tron and TMNT

That full moon party was the night before...Friday. It was pretty much a bust. They hyped it up really well, but really it was just like any other party at a club. Lots of drunk people, expensive alcohol, police, and idiots.  We did get to hang out on the beach and watch the sunrise
St. Patty's Day was fun as well, we went downtown to an Irish pub to hang out.  They didn't serve green beer, but they did have an Irish band playing the bagpipes

This weekend I think I'm going to hit The Strand. That's the strip of coastline where the beach is. And since it's jellyfish season we usually hit the Rock Pool which is on the very end.  It's saltwater from the ocean that's filtered into a rock enclosure. The Strand is also home to many restaurants and hotels.  It's very popular and very beautiful on a sunny day.  I have a field trip this Sunday for my Indigenous class. I'm not exactly sure where we're going but it's supposed to be a lot of fun and very educational needless to say.  I'll let you know more next week.
Other than that we only have 2 more weeks left until spring break...well "lecture recess" as they call it here, since they don't really have spring.  I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to do yet, but I'm hoping to get out on the reef for a day or 2.
Until next time, have a wonderful weekend and stay warm!

Slang word(s) of the day:
Bloke: male
Sheila: female 
Rock Pool

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

I'm here for...School?

 Today I had my first "test" in my Australian History class.  I would call it more of a quiz than a test.  11 questions, short answer, 15 minutes, typical quiz.  I feel like I did pretty well for my first assessment of knowledge in 2.5 months.  I'll get my results back next week. 
My schedule is set up a lot different here than in the U.S. We go to a lecture for 2 hours once a week, and have a smaller tutorial once a week for an hour. You know how much information can be covered in 2 hours?! More than the 50 minutes we have back in Iowa! But then again, they did warn me the work would be different here.
Most of my classes grading system breaks down like this:
20% Tutorial
40% Essay
40% Final Exam
Then I get my grade. A little nerve wracking, but I'm confident.

This weekend is shaping up to be one to remember.  Thursday is St. Patrick's Day and the Irish had a great role in shaping Australia, so that should be quite eventful.  Friday night there is a "Full Moon Party" out on Magnetic Island. (If you're cool, like me, you call it "Maggie" Island.) It's basically a huge party to celebrate the full moon from 3pm-5am with lots of bands, body art, booze, and dancing.  Saturday night I have a pub crawl with a hero vs. villains theme for the Ultimate Frisbee Club that I joined this semester. And Sunday I was supposed to have a field trip all day for my Indigenous class, but by some miracle that has been canceled due to the excessive rain fall we've had here the past week.  Now my plans for Sunday include sleeping...and that is all. Look for pictures those of you who are on Facebook. And don't worry Mom and Dad, I already got all my work done for this week!
I've noticed here that the majority of Australian parties include themes.  During O-week we had a toga party at the Uni-Club on campus. Last weekend I ventured out to a Pirate party, and now a Hero and Villains theme. They really put Halloween to shame. Here are a couple pics courtesy of my wonderful friends.

Yeah, we definitely like to have fun around here. Sometimes at our dignity's expense but hey, you're only in Australia once right? I think that's about it for today. I've decided I'm going to give you all one Australian slang vocab word/phrase per post, so the word of the day is...

Footy (foot-e): The name for Australian Rules football. Also known as rugby.
(can you use that in a sentence please?) The North Queensland Cowboys won their first footy game last Friday. Can also be referred to in:
Footy Boots: cleats

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Welcome to Australia

G'day mates!

Well I've been in Australia for about a month but I just figured out how to make one of these things, so bare with me.  I have heaps of things to tell you to get you caught up and what I've been doing for the past month. There are so many things I want to get out, so don't mind me if I go on a random tangent, or seem a bit random at times.  I'll try to make headings, and stick to them as much as possible so here it goes...

I arrived in Sydney on February 9th after being on an airplane or in an airport for about 28 hours.  I met up with my group and started getting to know everybody. There were about 22 of us, 6 being male including me. Can't complain there. Anyway we all got along really well and had a great time. We spend 5 days in Sydney getting accustomed to the culture and learning about how things work around here.  We did a lot of really cool things including the Sydney Harbor Bridge climb. We spent an entire morning climbing to the very top of the bridge and the view was amazing. We got our picture taken and learned all about how they built the bridge, most of which I can't remember. Except that when they were building it they didn't have any safety harnesses, or protective barriers, so if somebody fell...that was the end of them.
We also went on a dinner boat cruise around the harbor. Although it was raining (as it has been quite often since we got here; it is the wet season) we had a great time. This is why:

I also got the chance to eat some kangaroo for dinner one night. And no, it didn't taste like chicken. It was very lean, a bit chewy, but overall...not bad.
We visited the famous Bondi Beach and met a star of the show "Bondi Rescue", except none of us had ever heard of the show so we really weren't that impressed. It's basically a reality show about the lifeguards saving lives on the beach.
We visited an Australian zoo and saw almost every imaginable Australian animal, and even got to feed some kangaroos and emu's. We saw Dingo's, Tasmanian Devils, Wombats, crazy looking birds, a huge crocodile, and of course koala's.  That was basically it for Sydney.

We then flew up to Townsville which is on the northeast coast. We got here on a Sunday right before "O" Week. (orientation week).  I moved in to my "college" (dorm) on campus and started getting to know people. Then proceeded to get initiated much like an American frat house...but not near as bad.
I've been in class for 3 weeks now and I think I'm really going to enjoy my classes. I'm taking Children's Literature, Youth Deviance, Australian History and a class about Indigenous Australians.  Indigenous Australians are very comparable to our American Indians in the way they were treated.  The best part is, I don't have class on Friday's!

The campus itself it set upon a "wildlife sanctuary" so there are plenty of animals around, although it is illegal to touch them.  There are Turkey's running around campus and I've also seen Wallaby's which are basically smaller kangaroos, and there are very obnoxious birds all over. Cane toads are everywhere too. And at night there are bats. Huge, black, vampire-ish, blood-sucking bats flying all over. Actually I think they're fruit bats, but these things are huge. We're talking at least a 18-24 inch wingspan.  And they're not scared of humans, but will fly right in front of you. I hope to get a picture and show you one day. or night.

Yes they really do say "G'day Mate" but no they do not say "put another shrimp on the barbie". Although they do say Barbie for Barbecue, and shrimp are called "prawns".  I've noticed they like to substitute an s where a z should be as well. For example they would write civilisation instead of civilization. It's very subtle but very annoying when you're trying to read your textbook and be a good I've heard :).  More important phrases I've heard is to "skull your beer", as in chugg it. Lollies are candy, "swimmers" are swim trunks, "Sunnies" are sunglasses, the "bush" is the outback. They say "how you goin?" as in..what's up/how are you doing/how's it going. And I've gotten quite accustomed to wearing thongs..err...flip-flops.  Oh and rooting means...well on second thought, I'll let you look that one up yourself. I've also picked up some East Coast USA slang too, since it seems 90% of the Americans here are from the East Coast.

Most of the Americans I've met are from the Boston, New Hampshire, Jersey area, however I have met 1 girl from Iowa, 2 from Wisconsin and 3 from MN. They're home universities range from UMD, St. Thomas and the U of M, but I think I'm the only one from Iowa...go figure.  Anyway most of the Australians are extremely nice and inviting and are willing to do almost anything for you even if they've just met you. They are some of the nicest people I've ever come across.
Most of our American group

Plain and simple, it's HOT. Around 30 degrees Celsius which is about 90 degrees F, and wicked humidity upwards of 90%.  This is considered their summer, or wet season as they call it here. And boy has it been wet.  They had flooding in Brisbane and a Cyclone just north of Townsville right before we arrived. And ever since that it has rained almost every other day. They say it should be letting up here around the end of March so the humidity will go away and it won't rain at all.

Well I reckon that's about it for now. I'm keen for my bed as it's already 1:30am here Friday morning. That makes it 9:30am Thursday morning for those of you in the Midwest. Check back soon for more updates!