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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.

 

Tuesday
05/02/17

Rethinking Facebook

Posted by bostonki on May 2, 2017 in Uncategorized

At such a politically turbulent time for our country, I’m rethinking the use of Facebook.

I was reading a Buffalo News story this morning about the anti-Robert Spencer protest last night (which I proudly went to because I believe in things like truth and equality, ya know..) and all the commenters were absolutely destroying liberal college students.  Some even called liberalism a “mental illness”.  I kept reading these all day despite my frustration and anger, and by the time five o’clock rolled around I could feel a punch ready to spring from my arm.

Another article talked about a cop a few weeks back at the Walden Galleria mall who suffered a concussion and infected hand from being assaulted by a 16-year old trying to break up a fight.  Those comments were both racist AND again, generational.

So I angrily texted my aunt some expletives about older adults (thank you, generational divide), but I came to a stunning conclusion.  In a world where a majority of the Facebook users I see are pro-Trump older adults spitting all over our liberal, free, awesome vibes (that’s why we’re all cynical, dad), maybe I should just stay away from Facebook.  What comments I can’t read about me being an uneducated ‘snowflake’ (lol) can’t hurt me.  I think it’s worth noting that for the record many of the folks who call us dumb in fact cannot use their/there/they’re properly and can’t figure out how to turn off the caps lock.

I’m really angry.  I haven’t been able to concentrate since last night’s protest.  All of this political junk has just been weighing on my mind, making me excited to leave the country in a month and enter a Trump-and-religion-free zone (Australia’s atheist population makes up about 25% of the country, versus America’s average of 16%).  For five weeks I can at least pretend to be a citizen of a somewhat mellow country where people aren’t wearing ‘Make America Great Again’ hats.  I feel like an Aussie already!

I’ll probably still post on Facebook, though.

 

Tuesday
04/25/17

She’s a wonderful woman. Fantastic. Great, nice, woman.

Posted by bostonki on April 25, 2017 in Uncategorized

Now that I’m a sophomore, it’s not my job to worry about SAT scores and applications.. but it is my job to help those who have to worry about it.  I took a job answering phones in Admissions a couple of months ago.  I love it!  It’s a relatively easy job with great coworkers, and not to mention it’s a glimpse I’m getting into the education field.

But folks… please.. if you need to call UB for anything, don’t just google ‘UB phone number’ or ask Siri for it.  It will take you right to us and we don’t like sifting through the directory to connect you with John Smith of the Transnational Studies department.

And please, open and read your emails and mail that we send you.  It’s actually quite easy to complete the admissions process start to finish without making a single phone call!  I managed to do it.

Please please don’t call us for recommendations about nearby hotels, airport information, or how to get to Toronto (yes, that happened once).  Google is actually quite proficient in all of these.

And calling every other day to check the status of your application will not only annoy us and those working to process it, but it will not get done any quicker.

On the happier side (now that I’ve scraped all the goo off of my heart), I got to work my first Accepted Students’ Day this past weekend.  I find that I really enjoy talking to prospective students about my experiences, and seeing all the excited students made it surprisingly easy to have a chirpy attitude at 7:15 on a Sunday morning.  I helped students with check in (but still managed to get yelled at by a furious parent who claimed we gave them the “wrong” directions) and stood in the Union for awhile answering questions mostly about where the nearest restroom was.

My boyfriend, who is a College of Arts & Sciences Ambassador, even gave a short speech at their presentation about some of UB’s great opportunities!  And I somehow had the courage to walk up to CAS Dean Schuzle and engage her in a ten-minute conversation about Australia and how she got her start in higher ed.  As Donald Trump would probably say, “She’s a wonderful woman.  Fantastic.  Great, nice, woman”.

I crashed later that day in my room and slept for a blissful three hours.

My only regret was not stepping inside the Victor E. Bull suit.

This pic of Mike is supper blurry but you can tell he’s really revving up the crowd with the Italian hand thing going on.

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday
04/18/17

WaWa and Golden Corral are really impressive

Posted by bostonki on April 18, 2017 in Uncategorized

I introduced my Jersey roommate to sponge candy the other day.  I think she liked it (I hope she liked it).  For those not native Buffalonians, sponge candy is hard to describe.  The interior flavored chocolate kind of resembles human spongy bone, and it tingles and melts on your tongue.  The outside is hard milk chocolate.  It’s heaven on Earth.

Anyways, this got me thinking more and more about how each of us come from someplace with its own little treasures.  Buffalo has Tim Hortons, Loganberry pop (NOT soda, sorry), Sponge Candy, Food Truck Tuesday, and Mighty Taco.  Mighty Taco’s meat probably should be under suspicion, but it is a delicious calorie-empty, finals-week treat nonetheless.  And most people I ran into from out of state aren’t terribly impressed with Tim Hortons.  But that’s fine, just suffer with your overpriced Starbucks and less-than-satisfactory Dunkin’.

Last summer in Philly, I came upon the great, the powerful, WaWa.  I was told we were going down to the convenience store for breakfast and I thought, “Oh great, some greasy, 45-grams of fat breakfast sandwich but NO, WaWa is a gift from the gods.  The fruit was fresh and there was a sandwich/bagel station and the coffee probably didn’t taste like tar.  Another friend from Jersey (hey, at least it’s a variation on the everyone’s-from-Long-Island trend) brought this up on a car ride last weekend.

Another mouth-watering joy was discovered the last time I visited Florida in the form of Golden Corral.  Oh, my.  The buffet was impressive and delicious (and cheap, from what I can remember).  Cornbread (my first real love, sorry boyfriend) and soups and salads and meats and desserts and pastas and tacos and it’s basically a college student’s heaven.

Too bad the closest location is in Rochester.  Oh well, that warrants another road trip I suppose (what a shame, can I stop at the Museum of Play again like I did over spring break?)

What are some of your regional food treasures?