#11. Australia is not good for relationships.
And this is why I say that: out of the seven people in our American students group (heretofore referred to as "ASC") that had significant others prior to coming to Australia, five are down for the count; there are only two dating couples left. However, Australia has so far created one relationship (my roommate met an Australian, next thing you know...). So I guess to be fair: Australia: 5 Relationships: 1.
#12. Ping-pong as you have never seen it before.
Each ASC student is required to fulfill 35 hours of service while we are here; my placement is at a youth service after-school program for 8-18 year-olds. Basically, we hang out and play uno, pool, wii, and ping-pong. To date, I have lost over 30 games of ping-pong to Jon Borr and won two.
#13. It rains money here.
Close your eyes and picture this: (wait, open them again so you can read) my roommate Kelly and I are walking down Paramatta Road (basically a small highway) on our way to McDonald's to get some internet. It's pretty dark, it's chilly and we're kind of cranky. My foot kicks a bit of something. Upon treading about three more steps my mind tells me it thinks that looked like money. I stop. I turn around. Ah sweet, looks like a fiver! I pick it up. I unfold it. Wait, No. It's a FIFTY DOLLAR BILL! At this point Kelly and I freak out appropriately. Three steps later...MAD DIVE FOR CASH BLOWING ON SIDEWALK - IT'S ANOTHER FIFTY AND A FIVE! So, after realizing we each just made $50 (I made $55), we started looking around - either for the camera that was going to tell us we were on TV, or the cloud that was dropping money. Awesome.
#14. The worst two and a half hours one can spend in AU is in Visual Communication and the Designer.
We're allowed to listen to iPods in class because there are no lectures. Fun facts about Australian school: each class is once a week for between 2-4 hours; each class has about 1 paper, 1 project and 1 presentation. That's it. That's ALL that makes our grade. Dude.
#15. Australian biking is a sport, an art and a science.
Aside from the fact that I discovered last summer that I love biking, I was feverishly hunting for one to use here as I also discovered a softening of the waistline resulting in a tightening of the pants - on myself. Bother. Our host mom makes food that's just too good – irresistible, in fact. Anyway, I just managed to acquire a bike this past weekend and biked to school for the first time. Biking = smart idea. Fifteen minutes on the bike beats 25 on a bus and the time it takes to wait for the bus, and the time it takes to allow for two buses in case one doesn't show up. Biking the bus route = stupid idea. Here, biking is a sport because Sydney is CRAZY hilly. Like, I will have massive quads. It's an art because dodging the crazy, little, quick cars takes much finesse. It's a science because it's almost impossible to figure out traffic patterns when it's all backward and on the wrong side of the road. Thankfully, my host dad helped me figure out a much more bike-friendly route.
"...an identity that straddles the border and defines the person as being neither fully here or fully there." (Because I feel like this - between Chicago, New Jersey, and Australia) -William Cavanaugh (from one of our required readings)
Also, this may not even be a funny quote. What IS funny is that we found SLUGS - FIVE OF THEM - on our kitchen floor upon coming home late one night.
Roommate Kelly: "Take a picture of these slugs!"
Roommate Jamie: "Quick! Before they get away!"
Lauren: "Quick?? Jamie, they are SLUGS."
#16. Danger and worrying are relative.
In preparation for our trip to Cairns (tropical north Queensland by the Great Barrier Reef) during our “spring break,” our family made mention that we should look out for sharks, blue bottle jellyfish, and crocodiles, but if we minded the signs, we’d be just fine. That was shortly followed by a thought that maybe we should just not get in the water. No big deal. Sharks. Jellies. Crocs. Bring it on.
#17. You cannot deny the existence of God in Australia on the Great Barrier Reef.
We arrived at Cairns airport late Saturday night. Sunday we spent arranging our Reef and Rainforest tours and relaxing by the community pool (myth buster: just because Cairns is on the Reef does NOT mean it has a beach). On Monday, after a full day on the Reef in two locations – hours of snorkeling (saw a sea turtle!) and even one scuba dive – we found ourselves speeding back toward land in between beautiful mountains.
#18. Spiders crawl in cameras.
Wednesday and Thursday we spent relaxing on the postcard-like beaches north of Cairns – Trinity Beach and Palm Cove (there is just so much right in that name). After lightly toasting myself and frolicking in the water, I decided to walk straight up the beach to a rocky coastline. Upon arriving, I decided to take some pictures. Upon taking some pictures, I decided to try to be in one. Upon deciding to be in one, I set my camera on self-timer on a rock. Upon returning to the rock to retrieve my camera (my new, five billion dollar SLR camera, mind you), I found it [at least the flash/top of it] to be ABSOLUTELY COVERED IN MINI SPIDERS. I wish I could have taken a picture of them to prove to you that there were literally probably about 800 mini spiders on it – crawling in and out of every hole and crevice conceivable. I don’t know how they moved so fast. Also, when one would blow upon them, they became immovable and stuck to the camera. There were so many that I could not see the black on my camera. Talk about a frenzied panic. The long and short is that I spent the next two and a half hours blowing, flicking, smashing, screaming, yelling, chasing, shaking, etc. By the next morning, I was only getting about 5 an hour. So far…it’s still working.
#19. Food prices convince you there is minimal shame in consuming a fellow diner’s leftovers. Scavengers.
It was Thursday night. Our $16 per night hostel included a free dinner voucher each night at a local pub. Free hostel meals there were either rice and chili or spaghetti bolognaise. After five days of that for dinner and pb&j every day for lunch, we were dying for some MEAT.
#20. Sometimes it takes eight samples to find the best gelato.
Especially when you know you have to spend $6 on it and you have no money. There was no way we were going to drop that kind of cash on a sub-par gelato. Besides, the number of samples we had probably added up to a whole small one anyway. [In case you were curious, I had dark chocolate and raspberry gelato. The best combination known to laurenkind.]
#21. Never let other people apply your sunscreen.
Ahh yes. I asked roommate Jamie to screen my back. Australian sun is supposedly seven times hotter than American (questionable). Dear Jamie rather neglected the side of my back – that nice area right to the sides of my shoulder blades. Ouch ouch ouch.
#22. The Cairns tablelands would easily convince me to live in the Australian boondocks.
Our “Rainforest tour” actually was a tour of the tablelands in the mountains surrounding Cairns, but it was amazing anyway – we slide down a rock slide, swam to and walked behind the Herbal Essences waterfall (the one they did the commercial at), and waded in a lake created by a volcano. Awesome.
#23. I always want to fall asleep looking at shooting stars and wake up to the sun on my face.
This was my favorite part of the trip. Our flight left Saturday evening, so we decided to rent bicycles for the day, starting Friday morning (we even convinced the rental place to give us the bikes for 30 hours for the price of 24). We biked about 8 or 10 miles through beautiful mountain/hill/farming scenery to Crystal Cascades, an area of swimming holes that we ate our pb&js at. After eating, we hiked further up the swimming holes to an area that posted “no swimming” signs. However, we saw people jumping off a 40ish foot cliff into the water below. So what did we do? We did it. Scariest thing I’ve ever done. We then set off for the next leg of our absolutely breathtaking bike trip back up to Palm Cove (about 15 miles). After arriving, we wandered the resort beachfront, split the cheapest burger dinner we could find (still $14 after convincing the staff to give us the lunch price), split a dessert and headed to the beach around 9 p.m. to set up camp, because what did we do? Yeah, we SLEPT ON THE BEACH. Other than it being absolutely freezing cold (even though Cairns was routinely 90 during the day), getting hit by sprinklers, being alarmed by garbage men, hiding from a wedding party, it was a fairly uneventful night; and after a sunrise I basically slept through, I awoke to the feeling of the sun beating on my face, the rustling of palm trees and the rush of the waves a few feet in front of me. Paradise.
#24. The outback shows yet another aspect of God’s character and creation.
Sorry, are you still with me? Because we got home late Saturday night and then left Monday morning for the Outback (and got home just yesterday). In direct opposition to Cairns, the Outback was surprisingly chilly, dry, flat and RED. Also breathtaking in such a harsh way. The fact that I saw absolute beauty in such a different environment reminded me of God’s character – multifaceted and often unexpected.
#25. Traveling gives me energy.
Last thought – the incredible amounts of traveling and adventure I’ve done the last two weeks have given me such a happier and more energetic disposition. Also encouraging me is the fact that in only 56 days I leave Australia to start my adventure in New Zealand. Hopefully that keeps me trucking through my last few weeks in Sydney – weeks stuck in class, often missing the people I care about most.
FROM THE OUTBACK: