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Monday
11/27/17

20 Completely and Utterly Free Things to Do in Manhattan

Posted by bostonki on November 27, 2017 in Uncategorized

In spirit of my upcoming trip to New York (yes.. AGAIN), I have compiled this list of actual free things to do in Manhattan. Hotels and transportation are already expensive enough (trust me, try finding a cheap way to get there on a college budget and with everybody basically poking holes in your plan to drive.  You’ll see it’s not easy).

DISCLAIMER: Subway fares = not free.

DISCLAIMER #2: If you actually live there you probably can think of 500 free things, but New York is a vacation destination to us poor Buffalonains, so bear with me for the touristy stuff, OK?

  1. Visiting Central Park, especially the Imagine tribute.
  2. Hanging around by the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree (SO EXCITED).
  3. Literally just walking anywhere in Manhattan.  It’s only 2.3 miles wide and 13.4 miles long at its’ max.
  4. Times Square.
  5. Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.
  6. Every single talk show in existence almost.  Seth Meyers.  Jimmy Fallon.  GMA.  Today Show.  Tickets are actually free but you either have to sell your soul or spend your morning waiting in line.
  7. Visit the American Girl Store.  Relive your doll-filled childhood.
  8. Visit FAO Schwartz (where the rich people shop for their kids) and dance around on the life-sized piano.
  9. Hang out in Battery Park and watch the Staten Island ferry go by, and get great views of the Statue of Liberty.
  10. Chinatown.  It’s a destination within itself.
  11. The High Line.
  12. Visit the New York Public Library at 42nd and Bryant.  The building is beautifulll
  13. Grand Central Station.  There’s actually a room that’s built so if you stand in one corner and whisper into the wall, the person in the other corner can hear you clear as day.  Weirdest thing ever.  Don’t ask me where it is.  The place is a maze.
  14. The Met.  12789147194 days worth of art in there, and it’s technically free since admission is by donation.
  15. The MoMA.  This one is really free for students in SUNY/CUNY schools.  No charge to see canvases like this? SCORE!  Just kidding, I love art.The worst part is that people are actually standing around trying to analyze this.
  16. 9/11 Memorial, NOT the museum.  Imagine paying (ouch) to see artifacts from this day (ouch).
  17. African Burial Ground in Lower Manhattan, where in 1991 they uncovered a grave of former slaves.
  18. Fashion Institute of Technology Museum.  I bet my old Fashion in the Modern West prof would like that.
  19. New York Earth Room.
  20. Federal Reserve Bank with a sneak peek of tons of gold underground.  You’d be foolish to try and rob it, the place is like Gringotts minus the dragon.

Free stuff in New York has me like

Any other suggestions??

 

Sunday
11/12/17

The island that smelled like mashed potatoes and more Crikey! Australia Part 6.

Posted by bostonki on November 12, 2017 in Uncategorized

Hello from Starbucks!  This blog post is brought to you by a solid ten hours of sleep!

We finished off our first two weeks in Mooloolaba with a Saturday trip down the Sunshine Coast.  Sunday morning, we jetted up to Northern Queensland for what would be two amazing weeks.  For our two-week trip, we had a couple parents along: Vince and Kim, both of who were awesome.  Who knew people in their forties would make a great addition to and not dampen the spirit of 28 20-somethings (or 19, in the case of Sam & I) on their own across the world?  I think if my parents were interested in coming, it’d feel like an impossibility to have fun (sorry, guys) but it worked out well.

To save the 15-hour drive, C organized us to fly the 1300 kilometers north to Townsville, from which we would access Magnetic Island.  Organizing a flight for over 30 people, including check-in, security, etc., is probably no easy task, but it could have been accomplished quicker than an hour and a half, C.  Sorry.

The flight was pretty brief, and they gave us an Australian specialty – Bundaberg sodas.  They’re manufactured a couple hours north of Mooloolaba, and they have amazing flavors such as ginger beer, lemon-lime, and sarsaparilla (root beer).  On point.

“Town so small had to walk on the tarmac”.  My take on JayZ and Kanye.

From Townsville, we caught a ferry to Magnetic Island, undoubtedly my least favorite part of the entire six weeks.  The island only had a population of 2,000 and was probably the loneliest place I’ve ever been in my life.  Plus, you couldn’t shake the smell of bad mashed potatoes on the road between our backpacker’s and the main town where the ferry docked.  I wasn’t crazy though, many others made independent comments about the smell.

I’m sorry, HOW many kilometers to Washington DC?  Oh yeah over 15 thousand.

The first day was terrible.  I walked the half an hour into town through the potato smell only to discover a main bakery that didn’t know how to accept credit cards and a resale shop that might not meet building codes.  If they even existed on the island.  The wifi was terrible so I just spent the day in bed with a book, literally wishing I was anywhere but the island.  The backpackers resort was fun though, especially at nighttime.  Their bar and eatery overlooked the beach and was decorated with neon string lights and an enormous Australian flag.  Everyone gathered there for super expensive nachos (the only food I was willing to try at that place) and beverages every night and just hung out.

Beachside featuring the Australian flag.

The second day, I decided to try my hand at actually enjoying the island.  So I walked into town (again) and decided to hop on a shuttle tour of the island (paid an obscene amount but it was better than moping).  It actually ended up being really cool.  He told us a lot about the history of the island and the folks who’d lived there, I saw an abandoned schoolhouse and museum, and we explored all corners of the island.  For the record, they have a school there for primary through year 6, but anyone that goes to the high school has to ferry across to Townsville.  Also got to feed wallabies in the rocks by the dock.

Abandoned schoolhouse turned museum/local shop featuring the stroller of a mom who decided to take her baby to this island for some reason beyond my comprehension.

I grabbed lunch with an older woman on the tour, also from the Sunshine Coast area, and we talked for a bit and I ate really expensive mint gelato.

The next (and last) day, Michelle, Mikaela, and I set out for probably my favorite day of the three.  We started by hiking one of the best paths (I did a heck of a lot of hiking in that six weeks), called so because it was the best place to see wild koalas.  And boy did we see them.  You hike until you spot a group of people craning their necks towards a super tall tree, or until you see an arrow made of sticks on the ground pointing at the tree.  It was wild. The previous day on my tour, I had run into a koala WITH THE JOEY ON HER BACK.  IN A TREE.  IN SOMEONE’S BACKYARD.  I came back to the states with a newfound appreciation for the animal, their cuteness, and a stuffed one brought from a cheap Chinese souvenir store in Cairns.

IN SOMEBODY’S BACKYARD.  Can’t see the Joey unless you look really hard at the grainy picture.

Forest view.  Ignore my back sweat.

Mikaela, me, and Michelle overlooking Horseshoe Bay!

Anyways, the top of the hike afforded us views found nowhere else.  You could see the expansive green of the island, one of the beach bays below us and across the way, the majestic, wonderful, SAFE, NOT LONELY mainland.

The last thing we did before sundown was riding horses.  We trekked out to a horse farm near a bay on the other side of the island from our backpackers, running into a playground along the way where Michelle and I shared a jumbo trampoline swing and just sang our hearts out.  Once we boarded our horses (mine was appropriately named Crikey), we set off through the forest.  The instructor commanded the horses to trot which freaked me out and pretty much convinced me I was going to fall off, get trampled, and die on this terrible island.  I tried signaling Crikey to slow down, to no avail.  Without exaggerating, I can say I held on for dear life.

Down at the bay, we barebacked the horses into the water.  It was amazing, and they loved to stop and take a drink.. until one of the horses relaxed its’ bowel muscles and we were frantically pulling our feet out of the water to avoid floating turds.  I guess feces was just the theme of the entire trip.

Michelle, me, Kristen, and Brooke.  Summer program students unimportant in the eyes of C but we’re clearly making the most of it.

The next morning, we packed up (and I lost a hearing aid, and C made a wonderful public service announcement about said lost hearing aid before I found it buried in the sand just as the bus was about to pull up) and headed for our long drive to the awesome rainforest sector of Queensland and the queen city herself, Cairns.

 

Tuesday
11/07/17

The Irwins Have a Boat Named Croc One.. and other Sunshine Coast adventures. Australia Part 5.

Posted by bostonki on November 7, 2017 in Australia, travel

It’s 7:15 PM, I took a three hour nap midday, and I’ve got an iced capp coursing through my veins.  Time to keep telling my story.

We spent two weeks in Mooloolaba/the Sunshine Coast area (Brisbane through Noosa Heads in the North), and the very last day of that two week span was spent exploring parts of the Sunshine Coast we hadn’t seen yet before embarking around Queensland for the remainder of the program (embarking around the Southern Pacific for friends and I).

Mooloolaba was just the cutest town.  The beach was the best on the Sunshine Coast, with rocks, sunrises to kill for, and almost magnetic sand that when the strong waves pass over, it cleans out any imperfections your foot left.  We had a killer view of the beach from our living room window, since we were only one block away.  As soon as the thermometer hit 75 (about 24 Celsius), we were out enjoying the beach.  Locals didn’t touch it until it started hitting 85.  They sat in front of beachside coffee shops with sweaters and blankets.  After all, it was winter.  On warm days after we were let out of classes or school visits, my friends and I would pack up and head to the beach.  The waves were Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon style and the water was crystal clear.  Even up to your knees in, you could see fish swimming below the surface (a facet that completely and utterly freaked out my friend Michelle, even though these beaches are probably 10 times cleaner than any Long Island can offer).  We played volleyball, Frisbee, and I failed miserably to achieve any sort of tan.  Best of all, the beach had free public wifi.

Sunrise on the rocks.  That sounds like an alcoholic beverage.

Corelli’s, the bookstore di-rectly across the street from our apartment complex, was my recluse when I wanted to be antisocial.  They had a book swap system.  But really the whole trip I was obsessed with books.  I knocked out five books in the six weeks I was gone – taking advantage of nights when I didn’t care to join my friends going out, or there was legit nothing to do, or that time I was sick in the Outback and stayed in bed all day (always fun, keep reading over the next couple weeks to hear THAT one).  And I didn’t return to the states with the same two books.

*Hand clap emoji*

At some point, I made it out kayaking with Michelle.  There was a company operating on the wharf directly behind our apartment building.  We were given a map and I was firmly attached from the beginning to the idea of finding Steve Irwin’s house (old family house?  Current family house?  The zoo is only 30 minutes away..) from the instructions on the map.  We got there and saw the majestic Croc One boat sitting in the water out front (seriously, everyone in this neighborhood had a dock and a boat.  I don’t even think it was that hoity-toity), but not without a struggle.  Turns out, fish are very active in the waters that wind through the neighborhoods.  At the first fish-out-of water she saw, Michelle flipped.  We sailed determinedly through hundreds of flopping fish, thankfully none of them landing in my kayak.  I may have lost it then.

During this time, I also became sort of a Queensland Maroons/rubgy fan.  The National Rugby League in Queensland and New South Wales is equivalent to the NFL.  Each winter, two special teams composed of NRL players from each state play in a series called the State of Origin.  Queensland’s had it locked up for years.  Our instructor gave us homework to go out and find a viewing of the game (not that hard).  We settled on some sort of beach sports bar along the esplanade and showed up decked out in Maroon and of course Queensland won.  (Flash forward to the finals.  I’m sitting in a bar/grill in New Zealand watching the game and of course we took home the championship again).  It was a cause I was committed enough to, so I later splurged and bought a $10 Maroons tee from a dollar store somewhere.  Oh and best part of that night?  When I spilled an entire bottle of pink Himalayan salt all over my French fries.

(Left to right)  Me, Hannah, Austin, and Sam ready to do our homework (also, my eyeliner is on point).

The esplanade along the beach was my favorite part.  TONS of mom and pop coffee shops littered everywhere (although none open past three PM, an annoyance to someone used to Spot and Starbucks being my favorite night work places), a full-size Ben and Jerrys, and tons of cute clothing shops.  Our favorite spot came to be Taps, another bar/grill that I still get homesick for sometimes.  Except for their wings.  I was fooled into their .50 wing night on Wednesdays.  Motto of the story, Australians can’t get a chicken wing right.

Gross wings NOT on point.

On that first Saturday of our cross-Queensland trip, we were paraded around the Sunshine Coast in a whirlwind to see their best spots.  Our first stop was the Glasshouse Mountains.  They were actually visible from my bedroom window, which was awesome, but they looked so much better from the lookout point C took us to.  And as always, there is an Aboriginal story attached.  Something about a son betraying a mother.

The Glass House Mountains

Our next stop was Montville, a cute crafty village (think Ellicottville) way up into the mountains.  I was super sad that we didn’t have more than a half an hour there, I could have easily stayed and explored all of the shops.  Flowers everywhere, and beautiful buildings with old water mills, family diners that would have given me the world’s biggest food baby, and the weird souvenirs.  I found a lovely koala and kangaroo nativity set in one shop and an Australia themed chess set.

Where’s baby Jesus?

Eumundi was probably my favorite stop of the day.  The destination – the Eumundi Markets – a weekly Saturday marketplace that felt oddly like the Allentown Art Festival to me.  The same types of vendors.  I ate a terrible peanut butter thing on some sort of weird, crumbly bread, and I will never make that mistake again.  I also found – what else – a bookstore.  Floor to ceiling shelves lined with every book (Australian at least) known to man and multistory at that.

We trekked up to the top of the Sunshine Coast and worked our way down on a hike through Noosa National Park.  C talked incessantly about how the hike required sneakers and how we should bring backup.  Well I didn’t have backup and so guess who had to finish the hike in flip flops after she tried jumping from rock to rock and landed in a filthy, mosquito-ridden puddle while bearing bleeding hands from failing to catch my fall?

The plaque next to the koala read “In memory of Harrold who died from a dog attack in Noosa National Park”.  Aw.

The hike was beautiful though – dramatic views everywhere.  At one point we were on a cliff and C was ready to lose whatever hair he had left on his head from people getting within 10 feet of the edge.  At the very end, we had a view overlooking the whole coastline – beach, then expensive houses, then nothing but forest.  We walked down what seemed like 1,000 stairs and caught the sunset on our way back for our last night in Mooloolaba for awhile.

Next time?  A desolate island that smelled like bad mashed potatoes (you’ll be able to tell this was my least favorite part of the trip), wild koalas, and me almost crying while on a horse.  Stay tuned.

 

 

Monday
10/23/17

I can’t get away from my Chemistry 101 text. Australia, Part 4

Posted by bostonki on October 23, 2017 in Australia, travel

Hello, users of the internet.

I’m finally ready (in the mood, have adequate time) to continue my blog posts about this past summer’s study abroad trip to Australia.  I believe when I last left you a month (?) ago, I had just moved in to my apartment in Mooloolaba, Queensland.

The first two weeks weren’t that glamorous.  Mostly, we just went to class.  Monday through Friday, whatever early morning C decided to torture us with (8 AM was the norm) until 3 or 4 if we were really unlucky.  We spent most days at the University of the Sunshine Coast, which actually is one of only 40-something universities in Australia.

Education is quite different there, from the level of Year 1 (equivalent to preschool, I believe) all the way to higher education.  Something I really appreciated was that it was acceptable to take a different path and actually not attend college (hence why there are only 40 something of them).  Schools in Queensland produce a lot of college-bound students, but also produce a lot of students earning special certificates in subjects like Culinary, Trades, Tourism (which is actually what Bindi Irwin is pursuing currently, fun fact).  And this is okay.. it’s okay if you don’t go to college.  Every path is equal.  I still have trouble wrapping my mind around this.  And college is free.  Let me repeat that.

College.

Is.

Free.

I was also informed that starting at age 18, the Queensland government sent you checks for a certain amount of years to help support you living on your own.

And everyone wonders why American millennials are broke, angry, and depressed.

I did get a chance to look in the University’s bookstore and Pearson still has a monopoly overseas and textbooks are NOT any cheaper there.

Anyone recognize “Chemistry: The Central Science”??? LOLOL I can’t escape it from halfway across the globe #CHE101

Some other random facets of information I learned about Queensland education?  The school year runs January-December.  So there are a whole bunch of Year 12’s just beginning to line up and celebrate right now.  Also, teachers in Australia have to fulfill a service requirement during their time.  They have to spend time teaching at a location away from the Coast.  The more remote the school, the more “points” you rack up and the sooner you can escape the desert and get back to where all the action’s happening.  Unfortunately, many teachers don’t like this since they find teaching in Outback or very rural towns, especially those with high Indigenous populations, difficult.

As dazzling as the system sounds, it’s not without it’s faults.  Just like Native Americans, indigenous Australian communities suffer from problems like alcoholism, gambling, violence, a curriculum that doesn’t cater to them or their needs (which is slowly being overdrawn as Australia introduces facets of indigenous culture in), and friction with white teachers coming in from the coast.

What has made me really sad is the recent timeline of indigenous history.  The first British colony was set up in Sydney in 1788 and a subsequent ransack had taken place, but it was not until 1962 that they were granted the right to vote, until the mid-70s that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags were recognized, and not until 2008 that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologized for everything that had happened, including the Stolen Generation.

Aboriginal Flag, one of two indigenous groups.  The other are the Torres Strait Islander peoples from the Papua New Guinea area.

So we studied history (the real way – where C didn’t hold back on how crappy the country’s past actually was), culture, educational issues, curriculum – and then we went to visit schools!  This was the best part, as we got to see what they looked like, how they worked, the students, etc.

I don’t have any pictures of schools but there were def some major differences.  I didn’t see one school that was just one brick, prisonlike building.  They were all multi-building, one floor, and the campuses were huge!  You had to walk outside in beautiful garden areas to get from classroom to classroom or to the outdoor eating areas.  Backpacks were kept outside the classrooms.  Kids wore uniforms.  There was no cafeteria.  I’m sure these students would feel just as strange in New York as I felt walking around there.

At one school, a grandparent made us traditional Anzac biscuits (like a cookie).  At another, the kids decorated their own Australian flags and paraded us through a main area, giving us high fives.  At another, a kid walked by and yelled “I love Donald Trump!”.  At a fourth, the culinary certificate students made their own lunch for us from scratch, with kangaroo sausage, beef stew, biscuits (I didn’t try a biscuit there I didn’t like).  Yes, I ate kangaroo.  And I couldn’t stuff it down, I felt like I was eating spiders or scorpions.  They gave us kangaroo keychains and I won a beer cozy at one (keep in mind youn can drink at age 18 here).  And mostly, they just stared as we walked by with weird accents.  Someone I would meet later in the trip would tell me that Australians just have a thing for New York accents (use this to your advantage, ladies!)  Everyone at the schools was just so hospitable.

Here we all are at Mountain Creek State High School.. with whatever their mascot is.

Next week, you can look forward to me finding Steve Irwin’s house, getting nasty wings, watching rugby for the first time and developing a love with it, “All Star” by Smash Mouth, and me wasting a whole ton of Himalayan pink salt.

Cheers!!

 

 

 

 

 

Monday
10/09/17

New plans already?

Posted by bostonki on October 9, 2017 in travel

Hi guys!  Sorry about the two-week wait for a new blog post.

Life has been absolutely nuts between classes, lab time, work, club and volunteer commitments, and trying to have a basic Fall experience (apple picking, festivals, Halloween movies, Haunted Hayrides and Haunted Houses.. I need a vacation exclusively for fall activities!).  But what I want to talk about this week isn’t Australia, but some newer, just-as-exciting plans I have in the works for next fall.

I have been back from Planet Irwin for three months and I’m already itching for another adventure.  I’m planning a hopeful one-day trip to New York around finals week because the City at Christmas has been on my bucket list forever, and Mike and I are thinking about going to Boston next summer (har har).  Those are just placations.  I wanted another international experience, which I briefly considered, until I remembered about something I was really enthusiastic about in high school.

The Disney College Program (got any connections THERE, Mr. Mike??).  I’ve decided at this point I’m really tired of being a student and could use a break, especially since I plan on starting graduate school right after graduation.  Also, DISNEY.  So, I am going to apply when applications come out at the end of January.  But..  Disney World or Disneyland?

My family and I have been there eight times, if I’m counting correctly.  I’m a part of the World’s fandom and know the place like the back of my hand.  A lot of cool stuff will be open by next fall, including Toy Story Land.  And a lot has opened since my last visit in May of 2016, like Pandora land, the new Soarin (which debuted less than two weeks after we left, grr), etc.  As an added bonus, Harry Potter land is a twenty minute drive down the road and I still haven’t seen their expanded section, or had a butterbeer since June 2012.

I’ve never been to Disneyland.  My parents are under the impression that it sucks and all that, but it doesn’t sound bad at all.  I’ve heard Disneyland Park is very intimate, plus there are spaces like New Orleans Square that the Magic Kingdom doesn’t have.  Plus, there’s Cars Land at Disney’s California Adventure.  It’s much smaller geographically but this is where it all began!  I hope it has the same Disney maagic vibe that I got growing up on Disney World.  The added bonus here is Southern California.  A couple of layovers in LAX in my lifetime does not equate to being in the city.  Though one of my favorite cities, San Francisco, is a six hour drive north, there’s plenty of bucket list items in South Cali.  The Hollywood Sign hike, Stars, Chinese Theatre, Sunset Boulevard, beaches (if I’m feeling it), the San Diego Zoo, free TV tapings (helloooo, Ellen!), and the list goes on.  Go to UCLA for a cheesy sweatshirt (like I want to do at Harvard).

No matter which location I decide to go, I’d definitely take my car.  When I told my parents initially under the assumption I was going to Florida, my dad perked up and seemed excited about taking my car?  But to Cali?  That’s a no-go.  Well why not?  I could make a whole map of places to stop and see.  You take your time.  My Google Map search automatically took me through Chicago, Denver, and Vegas.  At that point, the Grand Canyon is just a short jaunt away.

Terrifying, yes.

But the question remains, Florida or Cali?  I might already know which one I’m leaning towards.

 

Monday
09/25/17

Living across from a bookstore is dangerous. Australia, Part 3.

Posted by bostonki on September 25, 2017 in Australia, travel

Ahh, Monday morning.  It’s been a terrible one so far.  The shuttle was eight minutes late which means I was rushing to get coffee and print.  But my coffee spilled all over my newly printed notes and class was terrible and just cannot get comfy enough to study for more than five minutes and I have a lot work and an exam and just no motivation.  So while there are hundreds of other things I could be doing, I think I’ll continue writing about Australia since it seems to serve as a reprieve.

I left off with the pooping koala.  But fear not, the Australia Zoo had plenty of other hidden treasures.  We saw a lunchtime show (where they spent half of the showtime talking about the work of our Lord and Savior Steve Irwin) with birds trained to fly right over the audience’s head, and a woman egging a saltwater crocodile out of the water to get the food tossed from her hand.  Now that’s just natural selection at work here.

There were your typical snakes (which I touched, ew), wombats, Tasmanian devils, but the second best part (and I only say this because of the koala cuteness factor) were the kangaroos.  They were in a natural enclosure that you could walk into, and they were completely tamed so you could pet them, feed them, whatever.  They were just hippity-hopping around, going about their business of digging in the dirt with their cute, short, t-rex like front paws.  They bore no resemblance to those featured in YouTube videos delivering a nice jump kick to somebody’s stomach.  We’ve all seen the videos.

Perhaps the most epic selfie I’ve ever nabbed.

Look at him just chilling, not worrying about Trump or student loans.  I’m jelly.

After the zoo, C and our bus driver Trevor took us to what would be our home for the next two weeks – the cozy beachside yet touristy town of Mooloolaba (moo-loo-luh-buh).  We were staying in a (sort of) high rise and I was living with four of the other ‘Summer Program’ students.  Translate: students who were kind of worthless of too much attention in C’s eyes.  While I’m at it, ‘student teachers’  = thumbs up.  Staying for 13 weeks and working in schools, the sole source of C’s paycheck and reason for existing.  I think the most C addressed us 6 ‘summer program’ students was when he was outlining our final assignment.

Right across from the high rise was a used book store called Corelli’s with a dangerous EXCHANGE program.  I’m not ashamed to say that I peeled through six or seven books on the trip and was in fact dubbed both ‘Bookworm’ and ‘Most Likely to Have a Higher IQ than C’ officially by my peers.  #proudmoment

DANGER! DANGER!

Mooloolaba was the cutest town.  There was the phenomenal Mooloolaba beach with almost magnetic-like, soft sand and crystal-clear water.  Sunrises and sunsets to die for.  Crashing waves supporting wave pool fanatics like me and radical surfers alike.  An esplanade, lined with coffee shops, boutiques, and restaurants.  The town’s favorite craft beer place, Taps, which supported rowdy weekend nights, 50 cent wing Wednesdays (absolutely terrible by the way), and Queensland Maroons games.  The antique clothing store and the massive Kawana shopping complex (featuring teen Boho-hipster shop Typo and the hysterical Bed, Bath, and Table).  Coles, where I learned that whole wheat bread is referred to as wholemeal bread and where I learned that Australia doesn’t sell frozen pancakes.  Or frozen snakes, to reference by dream from this previous spring.  But seriously, I couldn’t dig the no frozen-pancakes thing.  There was this, though.

“Just add freshly ground coffee”…

More on the goings-on of Mooloolaba later.  We’ll just take a brief tour of my apartment as I prepare to say a sad goodbye and return to studying.  It came fully furnished with a living room and kitchen (lots of counter space and full breakfast bar, ooh).  Somehow I got my own bedroom, bathroom, TV, and balcony.  Oh yeah, and a full-sized mirror.  And a full bed.  And everybody else wanted to have a roomie, LOL.

The view out our livingroom window towards the beach!

And the view of the wharf from my balcony. Steve Irwin’s old house is back there, which (SPOILER) I later find 🙂

Sayonara.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday
09/19/17

You were probably really confused if you didn’t know who Steve Irwin was. Australia, Part 2.

Posted by bostonki on September 19, 2017 in Australia, travel

So.. I think I left off right when I finished time traveling.  I had left New York on Wednesday morning (local time) and arrived in Australia on Friday morning (Australia time).  And the way we were flying west over the Pacific meant I completely skipped Thursday.  My body was a little angry, to say the least.  When we first landed, I wasn’t that tired.  I was just thankful to be off of the plane.  I think I actually said to the kid sitting next to me, “this is the best moment of my life”.  Yikes.

So we were booked that night at the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Brisbane.  Not ONLY did the showers have wonderful water pressure (it was like being in a rainforest, minus the frogs), but Sam & I had a primo view of the city.  Once we figured out how to open the sliding glass door (hey, new country, different ways of doing stuff).

We soon took off to explore our new home, walking first through the downtown waterfront area.  We nearly got lost in the maze that is the Queen Street shopping mall (completely underground, reminded me a little bit of Grand Central station but without the trains).  I quickly learned that pharmacies are called “chemist shops”, Coles and Woolworths are the main grocery stores, McDonalds is ridiculously expensive, and that there IS a Target down under but it’s quite different – and also much, much cheaper than the states.  The downtown area is filled with beautiful architecture, a mixture of new and old.  This would become a common theme in the larger cities.

We walked through the Royal Botanic Gardens, another common theme in cities.  Australia may have a Prime Minister that does all the brunt work, but Queen Elizabeth II is still a presence.  She mostly overlooks what PM Turnbull and his government does, and makes side trips to dedicate things in her name.  The gardens were all beautiful, and right smack in the middle of all the hullabaloo.

Peep Mikaela in the foreground.

Afterwards, we walked across a bridge (river, maybe?) to what is known as the South Bank and is clearly the best part of the entire city.  They have strips with restaurants and shops alongside public man-made beaches and pools RIGHT ALONG THE RIVER.  You can take a dip and stare at the skyscrapers across the water.  Best of all, for those basic Instagram pics, they have the letters.  You know what I’m talking about.

Please pardon awful-looking pictures, by the way.  I had to wrestle with my computer to get them under 300 KB so they would fit into this post.

It was around this time (3 PM actually) that I decided to be a party pooper and go back to the hotel because my body was ready to give up on me.  I was running on 1 AM Buffalo time.  So I went back, cracked open a Sprite from the mini-bar (and promptly told the hotel clerk I took a pop from the fridge – there was a little bit of misunderstanding there), and slept – for fifteen hours.

The next day, Saturday, was perhaps one of my favorite of the entire trip.  Our instructor (I’ll refer to him as “C”) picked us up at the hotel bright and early with our bus driver, Trevor, and our coach (bus, that is).  Trevor would become our best friend and ally against the whimsical rudeness (nicely to speak) of our trip later.  More on that as events unfold.

We were slowly making our way about an hour up the coast to Mooloolaba, the touristy beach town where we would be spending the next two weeks.  However, there was a necessary detour to the Australia Zoo, because C felt as though we would not be able to focus on “quality teaching and learning” (I can just HEAR his accent) if we did not have a chance to hold koalas and feed kangaroos before the actual work started.  So we arrived, and a common theme seemed to be STEVE. IRWIN. EVERYWHERE.  Steve Irwin bronze statues, Steve Irwin merchandise, Steve Irwin phots, Steve Irwin-inspired shows, man you were probably really confused if you didn’t know who the guy was.  Oh, and the word “crikey” was everywhere.

Crikey, mate!

We were only given a couple hours at the zoo, so my girls and I zipped our booties over to.. what else?… the koalas.  The best $25 I’ve ever spent was for a minute holding a cutie pie with a professional portrait included.  We were screaming and squirming as we approached our turn, as we could see the FLUFFINESS AND CUTENESS draw closer.  I was so excited when my turn came!!!  The koala caretaker (how lucky do you have to be to get a job like that) slowly handed the koala over to me.  I could feel it’s fur, feel it’s claws grip my sweater in an oh-so-cute fashion usually reserved for human babies and corgis, then felt pellets on my hand.

The koala pooped on me.

“It’s good luck” the girl encouraged.

I was not amused, despite how happy I look in this pic.

My heart still skips a beat whenever I think about this creature.

Side note:  They do not smell fantastic.  I don’t know what they smell like but they certainly don’t smell good.

I’m pretty tired so I think I’m gonna wait until next week to discuss kangaroos.

Stay tuned for more zoo, Mooloolaba, and life at the University of the Sunshine Coast!

Wednesday
09/13/17

“It didn’t smell like I expected”. Australia, Part 1

Posted by bostonki on September 13, 2017 in Australia, travel

This summer, I had the good fortune of being able to go to New York, all around Australia, and New Zealand within the span of six weeks (don’t discount my hard work though – numerous hours begging people on Facebook to donate, filling out scholarship apps, etc.).  I have all sorts of memorabilia next to my bed not limited to a stuffed koala, a framed photo, maps, boomerangs, and a little model of the Sydney Opera House, but I still can’t believe this actually happened.  This place has been on my bucket list since my first Finding Nemo run-through!  But as I’ve learned and you will come to as well, Australia more than the Opera House, more than kangaroos, and more than a weird Aussie twang.  It’s a vibrant, culturally exploding hub of people from all over the world, really good breakfasts in cute coffee dives, and areas so remote you feel like you may never encounter another living human being again.  It’s breathtaking natural wonder, it’s stinky but beautiful city neighborhoods lined with vintage style homes, and it’s home to undoubtedly the CUTEST animals on Earth.  It’s a little bit of everything you could ever need, really.  Come along with me as I reminisce about my time abroad, and hopefully in the process (if you’re a college student) convince you that study abroad is completely possible – and without a doubt worth it.

I left for New York early on a Monday morning.  My guess is that 95% of readers are either from the New York city area (UB joke, haha) or have been there before.  So I’ll skip the winded explanation of what I did and just say I crossed some more touristy stuff off my bucket list – the Metropolitan, Grand Central Station, the giant library a 42nd and Bryant, a sit-in on Good Morning America,  my first taste of Cookie Do, and of course a repeat contender, Times Square.  I could hear the New Yorkers groaning as I typed that.  Okay, I suppose I’ll post one New York pic, of course behind the scenes at GMA!

Mom and I narrowly missed a selfie with Michael Strahan and had a kid near us who was bragging about having seen Jimmy Fallon like 36 times.

My first time in JFK was… well.. busy.  Buffalo’s one-terminal International Airport (only named so because we service flights to Canada) had nothing on this bad boy.  Mom and I somehow found the international terminal where my Qantas flight was scheduled to leave from, and I said my goodbyes.  As she walked away I realized I wouldn’t be seeing her for six weeks.  I felt the same about the rest of my family as well as my boyfriend.  I don’t remember much about the wait out.  I met up with some friends I would be traveling with and eventually we got on the monstrous plane.  The double-decker kind with 80-something total rows and ten people per row, split into two aisles.  The kind with really really nice, first class.  If I paid $700 for my ticket there, I wonder how much being able to lie down without anybody breathing down my spine would have cost.

The first leg (of 10, my calculations concluded) was a five-hour stint to Los Angeles.  We flew right into the sunset and I got glorious shots of the Rockies underneath a sunset.

In Los Angeles, I savored the last of the Starbucks I would have until New Zealand (Starbucks’ are practically nonexistent in Australia except maybe in some major metropolitan areas).  They’re much more of the mom-and-pop type, although I did discover a wonderful chain called The Coffee Club.  I would later discover that they have the world’s best heated muffins, and also serve their pancakes with ICE CREAM.

Vanilla ice cream (top left) and butter (top right). And Americans are unhealthy?

Now for what would become the loneliest and most excruciating part of the trip – the 14 hour chug across the Pacific Ocean.  Not only are you crossing it, but you’re traveling South so it takes much longer than feels necessary.  It starts out alright (unless you’re in the middle in economy class like I was).  It was nighttime and I was pretty tired, so I could sleep.  There was insane amount of music, tv shows, movies, and even a language-learning program available on the plane.  I had spent $15 on magazines before I left New York.  I had like three thick books in my carry on.  But by hour seven you’ve slowly lost all sense of time and you’re longingly looking at the map and countdown-to-landing clock on the tv screen every twenty minutes, seeing your plane move an agonizing millimeter.  You’ve slept through some of the meals they said they were gonna pass out to you.  And your neighbors are sleeping so you can’t pee.  The kilometers (it is an Australian airline after all) pass by slowly and it gets really lonely because you know there is nothing below you.  And will be nothing below you for like eight more hours.  Except Vanuatu.

We landed at 6 AM in Brisbane, on the Eastern coast (4 PM the day before translated into Eastern time, a conversion I would come to master).  Wifi felt glorious after being deprived for 14(!) hours.  Mom and dad even called to video chat, but I had to rudely cut them off because, ya know, customs.

 The plane!

I was on Australian soil now!  No more planes for a few weeks!

A couple hours and wifi plans later, we emerged into the Queensland sunshine (although it was winter, it was basically summer.  It was 80 degrees Fahrenheit and people were bundled up in sweaters by the beach).  I expected it to smell different, cleaner (like a mass-produced Bath and Body Works scent?) but it smelled the same.  Hailed a taxi, which drove on the LEFT side of the road and had the driver’s seat on the RIGHT side (EEK) and off to our hotel to explore the city!

To be continued.

Up next: Brisbane, sleepiness, and me spending $25 to hold an adorable but smelly koala.

Tuesday
09/05/17

Would you travel to this country?

Posted by bostonki on September 5, 2017 in travel

Hi.. welcome back. I can’t believe I’m a junior, yadda yadda yadda. Summer went too fast, textbooks are too expensive, yadda yadda. Australia was great (I actually hope to spend the next several weeks writing a ‘trip report’ on here in hopes of rehashing some of my good old summer fun), thanks for asking. But for now, I want to dive right in. I have a super awesome topic I’ve been thinking about writing for the last thirty five minutes and I couldn’t contain my excitement any longer.

You know that one country.. the one that’s been on the news internationally all summer (spending six weeks in the South Pacific I can attest to seeing this leader’s face on my screen each morning).. North Korea? Yeah, so would you ever, I don’t know,  travel there?

Think about this.  A totalitarian society where its rulers are sickeningly demanding of your loyalty, where the government has its eyes on you every second of the day and even the slightest anti-government activity can cost you more than you’re willing to pay.  Take last year’s story of the death of American student Otto Warmbier, who met his fate after serving time in a North Korean work camp for tearing down a poster of Kim Jong-un in a surveillanced hotel hallway.  The media is choked out of the scene, and access to the Internet is limited – very limited.  All digital activities are under review both for citizens and visitors.  You can be executed for watching American or South Korean films or accessing certain web sites, for example.  The country is notorious for its crimes committed against humanity.  It is an insanely hard country to flee.  And for those not in the upper echelons of society, it can be miserable to attempt to sustain yourself.  Most would agree that the country sounds terrifying.

Military march in capital city Pyongyang.

But for some (really, really brave) souls, they decide scary news articles aren’t enough and actually travel to the DPRK to check it out for themselves.  TripAdvisor lists 41 “things-to-do” and has 28 forum posts for Pyongyang.  Most are actually written about positive experiences in North Korea (nice tour guides, good food, etc.) and the rest pertain to the tour group options.  You cannot travel by yourself, you must be in a group, and you cannot wander from this group.  Clearly, you’ll only see the stuff the regime wants you to see, so is that a true North Korean experience?  Probably not.  Nonetheless, some of the travel spots look interesting, such as the beautiful Pyongyang Metro and the Arch of Reunification.  It makes me wonder how people took these pictures and uploaded them to TripAdvisor, since it is a heinous crime to take photos of seemingly anything unless it is approved by the government.

The beautiful yet somewhat ironic Arch of Reunification (with South Korea).

Almost like Grand Central except with a leader mosaic.

Much of the sights are government-related (like Kim squares or Kim statues), and if they’re not, then they undoubtedly have a nice fresco or mosaic of Kim somewhere in the vicinity.  While scary, daily life in the DPRK fascinates me.  And some of the sights are quite pretty if you ignore the bland and generally depressing atmosphere of the capital city.  Beyond the city walls, who knows what else the country holds.  But you can sure bet that it probably won’t be included on your tour.

Oh, something I forgot.  They have a state circus.  And reportedly, the bears used in the show are unnaturally thin.  So if you are an animal lover, beware.  You will probably shed tears.

And the bowling alley is kind of depressing.  Called Golden Lane Bowling Alley.  Look it up.

So.. would you go?

I think I might just stick to someone ELSE’S account of the DPRK for now.

 

 

 

Thursday
05/11/17

Average Joes with a dream and a love for Netflix

Posted by bostonki on May 11, 2017 in Uncategorized

I have to admit, one of the tougher things about going to a university as large and world-altering as UB is that you sometimes are feeling inadequate about your accomplishments.  This is something I’ve been dealing with a lot lately, especially as the school year wraps up and prestigious scholarships and awards are handed out.  I can’t help but feel not only a twinge of jealousy, but also annoyance at the fact that merely keeping up your grades, becoming involved, and working on your mental health every day is not enough.

First it was the round of grad school awards like the Goldwater and Fulbright.  Then it’s the College of Arts and Sciences talking about it’s outstanding students.  Then it’s academic awards, which my own floormates have begun to win.  Everyone around you is suddenly curing Africa’s HIV/AIDS problem and building robots to help disabled children learn.  These are wonderful accomplishments, and these students deserved to be recognized, but what about the average Joes?

I have a good GPA, write this blog, have eased myself into a major/minor combination that I am absolutely in love with, work for the Admissions office, am studying abroad in Australia this summer, and am going to be a research assistant in the fall.  But I’ve also dealt with severe depression, loneliness, feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, anxiety, and barely even became involved until my sophomore year because all of these feelings were too overwhelming for a freshman to handle.  What about the people like me, who have rough starts but ultimately begin to find a path to happiness and success?  What does it matter if I’m not curing HIV/AIDS at age nineteen?  I’ve probably taken a lot more steps than the people that I grew up around.

I’m proud to be a part of such a wonderful university, but the culture needs to change.  We need to stop placing all our glory on the same twenty students who are handpicked and labeled as “able to change the world” while the rest of us just kind of slip under the radar and hope that graduate schools and employers recognize that we too have done important things.  It needs to be more about fostering a culture of personal growth and pathfinding, rather than about what project somebody’s taking on to win the Goldwater.  Good for the kids who are able to do that, but the overwhelming majority of students at this university, including me, are not.  We are just average college students who have a dream and a passion, but love to watch Netflix and take life at our own pace.  We’re not superheroes, and certainly praising those at this university who are is not conducive.