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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
04/04/17

Quinoa pancakes and frozen snakes

Posted by bostonki on April 4, 2017 in Australia, travel, Uncategorized

I’ve calculated it.  Eight planes.  I will be taking eight planes in my journey to and around Australia and New Zealand.

Buffalo to New York.  New York to LA.  LA to Brisbane.  Brisbane to Auckland.  Auckland to Sydney.  Sydney to LA.  LA to New York.  New York to Buffalo.

There aren’t many drawbacks to this trip, but the planes definitely are one.  Fourteen hours each way across the Pacific.  I hope Quantas offers good hourly wifi rates.

What am I going to do for fourteen hours?  Netflix, for sure.  Read a book? Maybe.  Facebook everybody back home and brag about what an awesome time I’m having? Definitely.  But there’s just a certain point where I imagine you begin to feel claustrophobic and pray that you don’t enter into a full panicked state.

Getting lost in JFK airport is another concern.  So is dying of dehydration in the middle of the Outback and being left to the poisonous snakes.  But this is a faculty-led study abroad trip, these sort of things don’t happen… right?

I’m sure anybody who has studied abroad before has felt this way.  Totally excited about their experience but also extremely nervous about being halfway around the world with people that you’ve literally just met.

Maybe it’s the mystique of Australia that’s making me feel this way.  Nobody I know has been there (while EVERYBODY I know has been to Italy, of course).  Nobody knows what kinds of secrets and surprises the land down under holds.

I had several dreams over the last several weeks about Australia that reinforced these fears.  In the first, I went to a diner for breakfast and had these repulsive pancakes.  When I asked the waitress what was in them, she answered “quinoa”.  Those repulsive little grains that are shaped like a certain contraceptive if you look at them really close up.  In the other, I was grocery shopping at a local supermarket.  Instead of frozen fish in their freezers, they sold frozen snakes.  ‘Nuff said.

So I have my fears and doubts alongside my excitements, but as the trips grows closer I find I need to shove those fears aside.

Scholarship applications are done, travel guides checked out from the library, books on Australian art rented, and orientation happening across the state this Saturday.

Hopefully they won’t serve pancakes with quinoa.

By the way, upon Googling a suitable picture of quinoa to include with this post, I came across this MONSTROSITY.  According to the recipe, they’re Coffee Quinoa Pancakes with Carrot Frosting.  I’m sorry, but I could have sworn that was meatloaf  with cheese-from-the-can dumped on top.  I wonder what level of Dante’s Inferno hell these are from?

 

Monday
01/30/17

Kangaroos and koalas

Posted by bostonki on January 30, 2017 in Australia, travel, Uncategorized

It’s crazy to be thinking about summer plans already considering that it’s only the first day of the spring semester.  But here I am, daydreaming away before my first class sucks me in like a tornado.  I did something huge this winter, something that I vowed to do before I graduated college.  I decided to study abroad.  My ideal location was Europe (isn’t that everyone’s dream destination, after all?  The history, the art, the architecture, the food…), but the program I was looking at in Italy fell through.  So I’m going to Australia.

I’ve never left the country except for Canada and a six-hour jaunt in Nassau via a cruise.  The longest plane ride I’ve taken was five hours.  I’ve never seen a snake except behind glass at a zoo.  And I’ve only used the phrase “shrimp on the barbie” to poke fun at a saying that probably isn’t used all that much anyways.  Now my longest plane ride will be twenty hours.  I’ll be an ocean away from everything that’s familiar to me.  I will be around animals that supposedly can kill me with one look.  Needless to say, I’m terrified.  But, I’m also excited beyond belief.  I’ll see koalas and kangaroos in their natural setting.  I’ll get to meet Australian aboriginal folks and learn about their way of life in the Outback.  I’ll get to snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef, for crying out loud.

Uluru (or Ayers Rock), a sacred site to the local aboriginal peoples.

The Great Barrier Reef.  Just a sampling of the wild diversity found under the clear, warm waters.

A kangaroo and her joey, added for this post’s cuteness factor.

Australia has always been on my bucket list, since I was a little kid and saw Finding Nemo (unfortunately, I don’t think 42 Wallaby Way exists).  It’s a location that seems so remote and otherworldly to Americans, so far away.  And while it is, it won’t be a complete culture shock the way that countries in Africa and Asia may be to us.  I wanted to go someplace that I felt safe and familiar going to, but one that also pushes me to the edge of my comfort zone.  I felt as if Italy did not do that for me, so now I’m packing up my bags to hang with the Aussies for a month.  What a rush.