Boston's header
Monday
04/02/18

Oh look, another sugarcane train. Australia, Part 7!

Posted by bostonki on April 2, 2018 in Uncategorized

Back to Oz we go!  What’s keeping me partially motivated to continue my now months-long trip report is the fact that I just want a record of it to remember.  I lost my copy of the itinerary months ago and only have my location-alphabetized photos left to go by.  The 5 (?) days that we spent in Cairns were by far my favorite of the entire trip.

Once we finally surfaced again in Townsville after three long days of isolation on Magnetic Island (I’m probably the most introverted person you’ll meet and even THAT was a little too remote for my liking), we began the four hour trek up the coast to Cairns.  It turned into a whole day on the bus due to some pretty remote but awesome little stops we made.  Our trip leader informed us that since we were heading up to the Great Barrier Reef, we needed to watch a mandatory video from the Australian government about reef safety and conservation (it was winter, no stinger suits necessary).  He told us all to get out a pen and take notes.. then turned on Finding Nemo.

For lunch, we stopped in Mena Creek, which is a part of the Atherton Tablelands (Australia’s fancy way of saying it’s basically the boundary between civilization and outback).  It was a one-road town (maybe even less than that.. yikes) with a hotel (? pub?) that we ate at.  Perhaps the coolest part was across the street in Paronella Park.  There was this gorgeous waterfall and wooden bridge – think Shrek – and a stunning, never-finished castle built by Jose Paronella for his love, now seeping in moss.

Shrek: Oh, you can’t tell me you’re afraid of heights?
Donkey: No, I’m just uncomfortable about being on a rickety bridge over a boiling lake of lava!

The unfinished castle.

During our drive, we got a really deep look into Australia’s sugarcane, banana, and pineapple industry.  Sam and Austin were our bus captains that day and thus needed to keep us engaged by talking to us over the mic, playing music, whatever.  C wanted them to keep talking, so they eventually just reverted to pointing out every sugarcane train and pineapple tree we saw.  Kudos to them.

Oh, look. Another sugarcane train.  Surprise.

I still can’t get over how awesome Cains was.  It’s this cute, but rough, little city that has its fair share of questionable nightlife and Aussie surf culture.  Our hostel was probably a half an hour walk from the main thoroughfare, but luckily there were shuttles that ran back and forth.  Sam, Michelle, and I shared  a room for six with Chris, Austin, and Sean, and it was here that our legendary Cards Against Humanity nights would develop.

My favorite part of the city was the Cairns Night Markets, which must have had hundreds of stalls worth of food, souvenir, and gift vendors.  I tried bubble tea (it tasted slightly different, probably less Americanized.  Asian food as a whole was more authentic due to the proximity and large wave of immigration), brought my boyfriend back some coffee, and it was here (well, on the main touristy thoroughfare) that I purchased my beloved mother-daughter plush koala bear (later named Chloe and Joey) from a Chinese souvenir shop.  You don’t even know how hard it was to find a reasonably priced yet cute koala bear.  Some of them looked like they’d been through a woodchipper or something.

The entrance to the Cairns Night Markets.

I don’t remember the exact order of how things were done in Cairns.  I think I’ll save an entire post dedicated to the Great Barrier Reef for a later date.  The whole Northeastern Queensland is pretty much blanketed in rain forest, so we did a lot of wet, sticky, humid activities.  One day we went on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, which took us up over the trees in gondalas and down the other side to the rainforest village of Kuranda, where we walked the streets and I waited ten minutes for them to bring me a muffin from behind the glass.  Australians pride themselves on relaxation and “taking your time” but come on man, I could’ve gotten that in thirty seconds at Tim Hortons.  The village was beautiful.  On the bus ride down, we got stuck in traffic and after waiting an hour, turned around.  Good thing!  It turns out there was an accident and the wait time was TEN HOURS to get through!

#views from the Kuranda Skyrail. There’s a train as well that weaves in and out of the mountain.

Another day, I went white water rafting on the Tully, which cut right through the rainforest.  According to the group that took us, it was one of the greatest places to go rafting in the world, and it was.. quite an experience.  I’d love to do it again.  And I only fell out once!!!  Rafting is kind of a weird combination of paddling and then all of a sudden you drop to the floor and pull your knees to your chest as you’re sailing over rocks into the next section of the river below, and the water you’ve displaced is crashing over you.  I was soaked!  Also that day, I slid down a rock-formed slide into a sucky spot of the water (like it sucked you and pushed you out) and jumped off a cliff (sorry, mom).  I totally almost backed out and I never want to feel that sensation of my stomach lifting into my throat ever again, but it was all good fun.  The whole trip ended up being twelve hours and I just crashed when I got back to the hostel.

Yet another day, we went to the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Center.  I wish I cold have looked around at the art and exhibits, but we were on a group schedule.  We learned about bush foods and medicine, Aboriginal Dreamtime stories, saw performances featuring an actual life sized digeridoo, and the best part, got to learn how to throw both spears and boomerangs!.  I was terrible with the spears (I would have starved if I had to actually catch kangaroo with these things), but if you threw the boomerang and it came back to you, you got to keep it.  My second time, I threw it.. and it came back in a complete circle and hit my arm!! He let me keep it, and to this day it’s one of my FAVORITE souvenirs.  Plus, it didn’t cost a dime 😉  What an awesome feeling!

My friend Mikaela throwing a boomerang.

I was having a terrible, panicky, cancel-all-my-obligations-and-take-a-mental-health-day kind of day but writing this made me so happy.

Next time – the ins and outs of the Great Barrier Reef.  So much barf!  Panic attacks in the water!  But what I did see int he 45 minutes I was under was astounding.

 

 

Tuesday
03/27/18

Long time, no see and the last time I will take the G train

Posted by bostonki on March 27, 2018 in Uncategorized

And it has certainly been a long time.

I’m so sorry for neglecting the ten friends I have on Facebook that read this.. and whoever exists remotely that may be reading this.  But I missed writing.  I couldn’t stay away forever.

First it was finals week, then I went to New York with my boyfriend for a few days.  It was my third actual time in the city (I don’t count my eight hour layover from JFK to Buffalo last summer, thanks mom 😉 ) and I had a blast!  We wandered around midtown and I FINALLY saw the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center (I’m crying inside right now at how beautiful that was), and we saw the 2018 led lights in Times Square that were on display before being hoisted onto the ball for New Years Eve.

The next day, we stopped by Strand Bookstore a.k.a my new favorite place on Earth (twice actually – Mike was willing to go BACK) and went to the Museum of Modern Art, where I ogled at Starry Night.  We spent some time in Williamsburg but I was ultimately so fed up with the G train and the fact that it took 45 minutes to go maybe a few miles that I vowed never again.  But alas, I was WEAK and the next morning fed into my cravings for a rainbow bagel with cream cheese frosting from The Bagel Store.  That, I promise, is the last time I’ll take the G train.

Soo caloric.. I only ate half

After New York, I pretty much just followed through on my promise to do nothing the rest of the year.  Then January came and I went back to work nearly full time and basically the last two months has been a mix of burnout, seasonal affective symptoms, and thinking a LOT about my future.

Thus why I haven’t been writing.

But there ARE some pretty cool updates in my otherwise chaotic life.

All that money I made over break, I put it towards a mother-daughter trip to Europe this summer.  I just couldn’t keep away the travel bug.  It’s like every several months I just NEED to go somewhere.  She was down with the idea (she’s been once before to Italy) and I was certainly down with the idea because I am really itching to get over to Europe and see what it’s all about.  Especially the more people I see travel there.  I worked on the itinerary a lot over spring break, and it basically looks like this:

Day 1: London

Day 2: Stonehenge, Bath, and Lacock

Day 3: London (particularly, the Harry Potter Studio Tour)

Day 4: London

Day 5: Travel to France

Day 6: Disneyland Paris

Day 7: Paris

Day 8: Paris

Day 9: Versailles and Paris

Day 10: Travel to Brussels, spend time in Brussels

Day 11: Potentially a day trip to Bruges

Day 12: Travel to Amsterdam

Day 13: Amsterdam

Day 14: Amsterdam

I’ve convinced mom to stay in hostels in some cities (only 20 euros per bed per night, certainly a good deal if you ask me).  Travel through Europe via train is pretty cheap.  Also, we scored some sweet airfare deals.  About a little over $500 round trip per person.  It’d probably cost more to fly to California. Shoutout to www.statravel.com and www.studentuniverse.com for making student’s cheap travel dreams come true.  Most of the sights in London, Amsterdam, and Belgium are free or cheap, and Paris has a wonderful attractions pass deal, so it isn’t as expensive as you may think.  Just about a month of near full time minimum-wage work was all it took.

So my second cool development is also pretty neat.  See, I have this obsession with doing really cool and neat stuff, with making the most out of the opportunities you have and living your life so that you’ll always have a story to tell.  And one day when I was feeling particularly panicky and out-of-control, I spontaneously applied to the Disney College Program.  And made it through the whole application process, and actually got accepted for the Fall semester on an attractions role.  Now, this is a paid internship, and while you can take courses, they really don’t recommend it.  I’m planning taking the semester off to go down (I could use a break anyways).  While this is certainly exciting, I do need to be practical and have been wavering a little bit on it’s practicality as a whole and how it will fit into my career interests.  I’ve asked multiple people in the field I’d like to enter if they’d recommend it, and the answer was “Do whatever you feel is best.”  Thanks.  Muy helpful.

Yikes… what do I do with my life now??

My timeline feels so crunched.  Freshman, MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TIME.  I wish I’d spent less of freshman and the first half of sophomore year feeling bleh and made use of it.

Live and learn.

I think that’s it for my updates.  I might as well turn this into a travel blog, because I want to finish my Australia story that I left off with last fall.

See you sometime in the near future!

 

 

 

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
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.

 

 

 

Monday
05/08/17

Frozen in the Song

Posted by bostonki on May 8, 2017 in Uncategorized

For me, time is stuck in songs.  I can listen to a song I’ve heard before and place what time period of my life that song was from, what was going on in my life, who I had a crush on, who my friends were, etc.  For a couple minutes, I can travel back to that time, which depending on the song makes me want to throw up or is quite pleasant.

‘Best Love Song’ by T-Pain and Chris Brown?  I was warming up for volleyball games my junior and senior year of high school.  We’d be running through hitting drills to this song and you got bonus cool points if you smacked the ball particularly effectively the moment the bass dropped.

‘Party in the USA’?  Talk about a middle school throwback.  Everytime my friends and I were at a dance and you heard the beginning guitar riff (correct word?) everybody would scream and conglomerate and as my grandmother puts it, “does that jumping up and down thing”.  Embarrassingly, my friends and I even had a special dance where we made butterflies out of our hands.  Miley Cyrus was legitimately our idol.. repeat, was.

‘Girlfriend’ by Avril Lavigne takes me back even further.  I had a friend in elementary school that was obsessed with Avril and had like the whole wardrobe – pink and black striped knee-high socks, black short skirts, converse, etc.  She’s like so whatever, you can do so much better.  I honestly forgot how fun this song was.  What ever happened to her?  Did she fall off the face of the Earth?

I asked my boyfriend if he thinks of intensely specific time periods or events whenever he hears a song, and he looked at me like I was crazy.  I guess it’s a girl thing?  Music was always how I processed events.  No matter how many songs you have on your iPhone (I have like over 400), the vividness comes back each time you listen to it.  Or maybe I just have a really good memory.  I tend to scare people with the extent I can recall knowledge.  I remember the date and time I last got pukey sick, for example.  January 27th, 2007 at 5:30 AM.

Ooh, Sk8er Boi came on next.

It’s just a blog, I’m just a girl, can I make it any more obvious?  We are in love, haven’t you heard, how we rock each others world?

LOOK AT THIS HISTORICAL ARTIFACT.