There and Back Again - an Australian Tale

There and Back Again - and Australian Tale

As of Friday, October 1st, 2010 I have officially been accepted to study abroad in Cairns, Australia. This program marks a new page being turned - another new start. I feel like my life is in need of some revamping and by traveling, submitting to my wanderlust, going somewhere new to learn new things in new ways - well, this trip is just billet I've been looking for. Come along and laugh at me, with me, or both as I prepare to tally forth, wander en and return from, the Land of Oz.

Australia's New National Animal

Australia's New National Animal
A Fez ?!

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Lost Weeks - Part I

Ladies and Gentlemen – it is the post (one of them) that you have all been waiting for!

If you were looking to figure out all the things I have been doing for a month and a half that were so important, I failed to tell you about it … well hopefully I have remembered most of it and can tell you a bit about it here today.



March

So back in March I wrote to you a few times after I got my shiny new hard drive installed about my life and what had been going on – followed by a brief post on the seismic activity out here on the 15th. That Friday, after telling you all about the three earthquakes out here, I went White Water Rafting on the Tully River which was filled with tasty class 4 rapids. A group of 12 students from the Student Lodge trudged out to the city (after a relatively self-induced, short-lived night on the town for St. Patrick’s day) where a coach bus picked us up and drove us the 2 hours out to Tully – one of two areas (the second being Mission Beach) where Cyclone Yasi had struck the hardest. Let me tell you, the damage was still just as apparent 6 weeks later as it appeared on the news when I was back home: trees were stripped bare of their leaves and bark, buildings and homes were destroyed, cars were still on the side of the road in shambles. While the damage did not get any less once we reached out drop in point to the Tully, the beauty of the river and the geologic landscape was too awe-inspiring in and of itself to detract any awesomeness from the trip.

 Our Group's 2 Rafts on their way down the Tully

We went part way down the Tully until we reached the lunch spot for noon, and then we backtracked half way up the river, re-did some rapids and went a few km further than the lunch spot to make the pick-up point. We had a great time with our raft guide, who encouraged the occasional riffraff: pulling people out of neighboring boats, jumping off rocks in the middle of the river, going for a few swims. Speaking of intentional swimming, there is something that happens quite often as the lead paddle in a raft ... it is called unintentional swims. I went for two of them over the course of the Tully. My friend Erin and I were placed in the front of the boat because we had been rafting before; it really is a great place to raft from as far as seating is concerned, but it can get rough and require a little finesse. While we managed to keep one another in the boat pretty well that day, I did flip backwards out of the raft on one occasion, keeping my feet wedged in the boat so she could help me back in ... but after a minute of hanging there with no success (the water was moving too fast to pull me in) I just let myself fall in and float with the raft till we hit a slow patch. The second swimming event was a little more slapstick. Erin started to fall out of the boat so I grabbed her life-vest by the front buckles to haul her back in but as I did, the boat hit a rapid and tilted left, dumping Erin further backwards and pulling myself in after her. Because this was a fall in the actual rapids the guide went Indiana Jones on us and tossed us a line to haul us back. 

Believe it or not, we fared much better on the section than the other raft of kids from the lodge, whose raft completely tipped over sending people and their paddles all over the place in need of rescue.  I even ended up pulling a younger guy from Papua New Guinea into our boat after a long float/drift of his own from a boat even further back up stream – it involved Erin and John grabbing my ankles while I dove half in and half out for his vest as he flailed and splashed, freaking out about crocodiles or something like that. If it looked half as ridiculous as I felt, I’m sure it was entertainment for the other rafts which seemed to have congregated for the occasion. It was a great, exhausting, long day – but a blast none the less.


 
From the day after I got back, which was a Saturday, all the way until the following weekend I was forced to do a solid week of school/studies/exams/paper-writing and all that fun stuff in preparation for midterms. Then I took off again.



The weekend of the 26th and 27th came quickly after our post-St. Patrick’s-day rafting trip and a similar group of us was heading up to Cape Tribulation to see the Daintree Rainforest and maybe a cassowary or two. Upon arriving another girl from our group and I went off on an afternoon sea kayaking excursion and it was a blast – I saw some of my first Australian sea turtles, leopard shark, sting rays and jellyfish from the comfort of my little plastic raft. And as we were celebrating the productiveness of the kayaking trip – it began, in usual rainforest fashion, to piss down rain. So there we sat on our kayak, racing for the shore and surfing the waves (I doubt we looked quite as cool as these guys but I sure felt cool) riding into the beach because the combination of wind and driving rain meant that for those of us paddling in nothing but a bathing suit (because their rash guard was donated to someone with 3rd-degree sunburn on their back who couldn’t apply sunscreen), it felt like some 12-year-old was pelting pebbles at my back with a trebuchet.  But we made it and drank/ate a celebratory coconut for our trials and tribulations trying to get back to the boat-house.

That night back at our accommodation was filled with beer/wine drinking, a few solid rounds of men vs. women flip cup (girls rocked the house) and some late night hours of pool-mayhem. It was one of those nights that I will always remember from this trip, regardless of the fact that I was in bed pretty early because on Sunday before the long drive home, I was scheduled to go Jungle Surfing!

video


As you can see by the video, Shelby + ziplines + rainforest + helmet camera = awesome combination. It was the perfect way to start the day, with some hiking followed by some slower  zips where we could look down the river valley of the mountainous Daintree straight out to the ocean followed by two quick zips for some thrills. The bus ride home was fun, albeit slow, and the views along the way were worth the unhurried ride.


April

So after the Daintree trip my academic life sped up and my leisurely life slowed down for the two weeks leading up to my flight down to Sydney for ‘Spring Break’ (known here as mid-semester study break). This is because, while I have been enjoying myself and Australia has so much to offer, I am technically still a University student, trying to getting good grades and be productive. So midterms week hit like a ton of bricks but true to fashion even back at St. Lawrence, I had a large paper due, a large project due, an online quiz (do not be fooled by the word ‘quiz’ … this was an evil, long, quiz), two final pieces of art and a photography portfolio.  It was rough busting it out, it involved a few late nights, but I got it done just in time to take off for my adventure down the east coast. This is primarily the reason why I did not write to you for the 4 weeks following the earthquakes – if I wasn’t in class I was working on class work and when I wasn’t working on class work I was off doing crazy things all over Far North Queensland. I know, excuses, excuses but hey, if you were me I bet that you would rather be out playing in the sun than inside writing about how pretty I is.

And here ends part 1 – with more on the way!

With Love from Down Under,
~ S.S.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hail the Conquering Hero ... NAH NAH NA NAH NA NAH NA

This better be good.
I heard she fell off the Sydney Harbor Bridge.
I’ve only know she’s alive because of Facebook updates.
I wonder if she got eaten by a Shark on the Great Barrier Reef.

If these are among your thoughts about what reason I could possibly have for abandoning you all for over a month and a half … yes that’s right, 6 WEEKS (aka 42 DAYS) … you are well within your right to give me a good ‘What the F**k’ look right about now. I deserve it so, go ahead, stare with intense anger/rage/worry at your screen and I think (by your powers combine) I will get a good feeling of being slapped across the face with all of your technologically-dispersed emotions.

It’s really been that long though? (recent discovery)

Wow. Alright so a lot of time has passed, and the only excuse I can give you is that I have been having the time of my life. Also, it has been so beautiful that I have been spending the least amount of time possible indoors/in class so that the fun in the sun hardly ever ends. And, might I add, you would be doing the same exact thing if you were here in my shoes so no judgy-judgy.


I plan on telling you as much as I can about what has been going on and where I have been, with who, doing what and et cetera as soon as humanly possible but man, 42 days? I could write a quarter of a book on what I’ve been doing since March 15th but I am going to try and condense them as much as possible. ALSO! For those of you reading this because you’re going to Australia in the fall or are planning to go soon, I will be throwing in a few more pearls of wisdom about what to do and what not to do while you’re planning and while you’re here. I promise to pack as much of my life into an entry or two to let you know what has been up (^_^).

But while you are waiting!

Did you know that Amanda Palmer release a new album at the beginning of this year? The album, entitled “Amanda Palmer goes Down Under”, was written for and dedicated to her home away from home and her secret love affair kept from her Massachusetts roots in US … with Australia. This record has been the source of a lot of laughter and happy days after hours in the art studios and out in the courtyard of my dorm and I would very much like to share it with you. I will warn you that some of the songs may not be ‘age-appropriate’ for younger readers due to mild swearing/ topics but it is a wonderfully curious album and my theme song while I was planning this semester was Track #2 so I am biased in saying IT IS AWESOME !!!

Click HERE to go to Amanda Palmer’s blog where you can listen to the album FOR FREE (yay free!)

 p.s. - I happen to be in love with track #2, #3, #5, #6 and #12 but you can make your own decisions for yourself :-)

And! If you want to know more about other songs she has written or published that I happen to like (which really encompasses mostly all of them), here are a few worth listening to (in no particular order (click on the title to listen)):

Coin Operated Boy (song from when she was part of the band that launched her career, the Dresden Dolls)
Ampersand (from her solo album, 'Who Killed Amanda Palmer'[WKAP])
Have to Drive (another one of my favorites from WKAP)
Love Will Tear Us Appart (her second album. To appreciate the whole album you must first love WKAP)
The Bed Song (my favorite, non-record released song ever. She played it at my first Amanda Palmer concert)

 This was AGES ago when I met Amanda Palmer at a Secret Twitter Concert in Boston, MA
(but it seemed appropriate for today)

Will be talking to you soon!
I bet you can't tell I love Amanda Palmer!
I shall be listening to her all day as I write "An Australia Saga: 42 days of Shelby"!
Exclaimation Points !!!

With Love from Down Under,
~ Shelby


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cyclones, 7-hour Thunderstorms and … Earthquakes?

Hello Out There!

So as many of you have undoubtedly heard, two major earthquakes have struck in the Pacific during my stay so far in Australia – one in New Zealand about 3 weeks ago and the more recent one in Japan 5 days ago. Besides Cyclone Yasi and a brief 7-hour thunder and lightning storm (followed by a week of rain) – there has been nothing (knock on wood) overly significant happening in the way of natural disasters here in my neck of the woods. Today however, Cairns decided to have its own little geological occurrence party. Just after 4pm, the Cairns area apparently experienced a small earthquake which lasted only 4 seconds and reached a magnitude of just 4.0 on the Richter scale.



Last I checked 444 was neither a lucky nor unlucky number so I am reserving most of my comments or concerns as of right now … but I will say that it is rather odd for a country located in the middle of its continental plate to experience any seismic activity. If you take a look at the image I have placed below you’ll see that both Japan and New Zealand fall right on the boundary line, hence the reason for the larger earthquakes that have occurred there. Click on the image for the full scale version of these boundary lines and the direction the seismographic energy travels in based on the fault-line type (convergent, divergent and transform).



I am alright; the quake was not large enough to cause a tsunami nor big enough for me to feel from 30/45 minutes away. If you would like to read up more on these three earthquakes (particularly the one local to here and most recent) check out the links below.






Stay tuned for my next post about this past weekend to Cape Tribulation and the Daintree Rainforest!
With Love from Oz,
S.S.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Put a Little Mudd on the Tires


Hello!

So the moment you have all been waiting for – my newest post! Which is unfortunately out-of-date and in every other sense of the word, old. The stuff I have written about in this post is in regards to the weekend of the 26th and 27th of February, (not this past weekend of the 5th and 6th) and my visit out to Chillagoe and Mungana Caves National Park. But this is a wonderful thing! It is a wonderful thing because it means that I have FINALLY installed a new hard drive which was so wonderfully imaged and shipped out to my technologically-deprived self by my equally wonderful bosses at St. Lawrence’s IT Department (thankyouthankyouthankyou). 

So without any further ado (so help me) … I give you Chillagoe (^_^)

~*~*~*~*~*~

The night before my trip to Chillagoe was James Cook University’s annual toga party. So, to go along with the traditions associated with toga-donning there were (of course), fire-breathers and mechanical bull riding contests. Very Grecian/Roman yes? I thought so too. There was also the misgiving involving the "party theme" and not being allowed to dance in the boathouse without dancing shoes; bare feet = common at toga party but = no go for the  party portion of the party (strange). 



 It was a night full ping pong and pool, unless you also count the drunken versions of the games. We had “Ping Pong for Ding-dongs” … where drunk people swing the paddles like baseball bats with the pretence of making an awesome table-corner shot while the sober kids who want to play at some point, chase the ball down the hill before it falls into the creek. “Pool Stick Limbo/Simon-says” was another favourite, where those of us retaining our wits popped, locked and dropped ourselves trying to avoid the poking/bitch-slapping/walloping that would ensue if we got in the way of alcohol-infused students trying to make the 8 ball in on a 3-wall combo shot into the opposite pocket.

I also recall a mildly creepy incident involving a guy 13 years older than me trying to pick me up at the bar, but all way avoided with a well-placed excuse to leave due to a drunken friend needing an escort (said drunken friend was lent to me by my sober friend Marcus ).

Long story already made … long, the party was fun, but I have digressed.

My oh-so-reasonable self, knowing that I had a 7am wake-up to catch my tour in the morning, skipped out on the bus rides into town where toga’d students were dropped off at the club of their choosing. I left around midnight and I was okay with this decision. Until the part where the heavens decided to open up as I began to walk back. Soaked and bare-foot I arrived at my room after running the ¾ mile between the last walkway with overhead coverage and the student lodge. I hung up my toga/bed sheet on the railing outside to drip, packed my bags, took a hot shower, set my alarm and curled up in my bed.

I swear this all has something to do with going to Chillagoe … it was actually this drunk/damp evening made the next morning all the more hysterical and 150% worth waking up for. I woke up and began to go about preparing to leave when I realized I was the only one awake … and one of my roommates was supposed to be adventuring forth with me. When I opened her door to double check, lo and behold, Nikki was still passed out. I woke her up, and relaxed with my yogurt on the couch as she ran around the suite like a mouse in a maze of dead ends muttering about an alarm not going off and wondering aloud how to pack her soaked/smelly running shoes. The hilarity only continued once we got to the pick-up spot and saw that many of the other students looked dazed and confused as to why they were awake; many of whom admitted to a similar story of sleeping through alarms or having a “late night”. In fact when our tour bus showed up one student was still M.I.A. but after Tony the Tour Guide was wrapping up the lo down on how our trip was going to work out the missing showed up on a city bus (one rotation on the route later than she would have liked). Everyone was then accounted for and together, the hung over/slightly tired pulled themselves onto the bus with the chipper/slightly amused of us and were off!

One of the most exciting part about the ride (for me) is watching the change in landscape and ecosystem changes as we crossed out of the rainforest, across the Tablelands and then into the Outback. Everything changes so quickly (quick as far as landscape change goes) that if you close your eyes for even half an hour you’ve missed something: the soil becomes red, the trees thin out and get shorter, the rain stops and the wildlife changes. For instance – I finally saw my first wild kangaroo! It was actually three of them and they were chilling in a line across the road kind of like the Beatles crossing Abbey road … minus a McCartney-esk kangaroo being weird and looking different to draw attention to himself. And for those of you reading this who may or may not have done a 6th grade project on dingoes (*cough* Cousin Rob *coughcough*) let the record show that I did indeed see a dingo but unfortunately, did not procure a photo.


So from the drive into town and through most of the weekend the trip went as planned – we stopped near Dimbulah at Lappa Junction (an old bush pub for photos) and learned about the importance of halting for cows - because they are killer out in the bush.



We hit the road again so we could get to and unloaded at the Eco Lodge “outside” the town of Chillagoe and drove out to the old copper mine where I stood on the largest pile of slag in Queensland and played with rocks (because I am still a 7 year old at heart). After the hiking/playing in dirt/teaching Tony about the period table of elements and theorizing how to efficiently smelt more elements out of the left over slag using melting point data, we drove out to the Balancing Rock park. Click here to see more and read more about the balancing rocks of the world.


We stopped at a swimming hole before dinner (no crocs!) to cool off and as is usual for most Australian swimming holes (of the 3 I have been to) … there was a waterfall. We ate dinner at a small bar located in the Post Office Inn where a girl named Cristianna and I played an abysmal game of pool and discovered that Australian pool tables have smaller balls and smaller pockets than we were used to (we kept missing each shot by 2 inches). So we got Steve and David, two local Aussies, to show us how it’s done in a team game. It was a great time and the night could have only been made better by being able to climb the town lookout to go star-gazing but the clouds followed us from Cairns and rained. So not only were there no stars to gaze upon but no dry wood to campfire with and therefor, no Tim Tam S’mores to make. So we just called it an early night so we could make it out to the Limestone Caves earlier the next morning. It was such an early night in fact that I went for a run the next morning just to kill time. I guess I just can’t do 9pm nights anymore because I was up by 6am and ready to go. So I went. Minus the very muddy, red clay roads from an evening shower and subsequent mosquito swarms it was a fun run, especially watching the groups of Pretty-face Wallabies eating. Too bad the shower I took before check-out after the run did very little to contribute to my cleanliness by the end of the day; the caves were even more muddy than the roads. Some of the girls who were a little less “adventure-ready” needed me to give them a foot-hold going up some of the slippery climbs – mud became my new favorite accessory but a little dirt never slowed anyone down.



After a quick lunch back at the Post Office Inn we jumped back in the van and headed for home – stopping briefly for gas at a car hobbyist's workshop (he had a 1965 Shelby Mustang!). We hit the Australian Coffee Center in Mareeba with about 45 minutes left in our trip to sample a cup of Aussie Joe and watch Tony aggravate their Sulfur-crested Cockatoo by “speaking bird” (his words, not mine). That was certainly something new I learned – not only are cockatoos a native Australian bird but they respond to dance cues from a crazy tour guide pulling moves from the "Single Ladies" music video. All and all I had a great trip, saw some cool stuff and got to hang out with some friends from the lodge and students from Europe who were studying at Cairns English school. I even got to explain the plot of Moulin Rouge to a French Girl – go figure.




More to Come (and in better time!) But for now It is 2:(somthing or another)am and tired so I am going to bed - until next time!

G’day Mates,
~ Shelby



P.s. -Hey Mom and Dad, seeing as you are made out of money, if you were looking for a small 'Welcome Home' present, that Shelby Mustang is only going for $500,000 AUD ... (^_^)

Monday, February 28, 2011

A Breif Interlude

Hello Everyone,

So if you have not heard the word (that bird is the word) this is just a brief post to let you know what is going on out here. I am sad to say that my dear Hard Drive passed away in the early morning of Tuesday last week. This grievous passing has also, unfortunately, rendered my laptop useless for the time being. I am trying to bring together my next post using a flash drive and a few scattered evenings in the 24-hour room but trying to bring the media and photographs into the blog as I normally would is a little difficult when you use a different computer every other free moment. So for now, hang on tight and a new post should be out soon (exciting!) - my trip out to Chillagoe was a lot of fun this past weekend and I finally saw a kangaroo!

But more on that later.

Exiting on the Rick Roll
Until Next Post,
~ S.S.



p.s. - to continue the Family Guy theme for those of you who like the show you get an Extra Special Rick Roll
Click to be Rick Roll'd

Saturday, February 19, 2011

144 you say? I think I'll just take your word on it ...


So P.S. and just in case you haven’t gotten the memo yet … I have successfully arrived in Melbourne, subsequently Cairns and have officially parked my tired, travel-worn ass at the Footprints Student Lodge across from the University.  The rest of the trip was really easy and I got some amazing pictures from the plane of sunrise on the way into Melbourne and then sunset through the clouds as I began to descend towards Cairns. 

                      Sunrise                        Lake Outside Sydney                       Sunset

There was even something oddly relaxing about the 14 hour flight. Maybe that is only because I managed to pass out for about 8 hours of it. I remember wondering as I began falling asleep what the procedure is for loud snorers on planes but apparently I didn’t care quite enough to put the sleeping off all together. On another note, two hours before the plane landed and after most people had woken up to enjoy our breakfast everyone experienced what I have decided to call “Seventh Inning Stretch Syndrom” – aka: SISS. For some reason everyone decided it was in their best interest to stand up, walk around, stretch and do yoga in the isles of the plane. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it was pretty cool and I definitely partook but it seemed like a very strange and random occurrence.

And now for more on those not so random occurrences that occur when flying!

~*~

Number 19:

When traveling on planes or making plans to travel – if your area of the country (or departure city) experiences freak and/or violent weather make sure you book your flight with plenty of time between connections just in case of delays or cancellations.

Number 20:

Check ahead about baggage requirements and limitations for each airline you will be flying on – make sure you are aware of differences in baggage allowances so you can prepare for them accordingly. For example: 1) if your first airline only allows one piece of free check in, know the price for an extra bag, 2) check the number of allowed carry-on’s – don’t bring two on the first flight if the second only allows one otherwise you’ll probably have to check something in for an extra charge/when chucked below it has a high probability for getting destroyed, 3) make sure, once packed, that none of the above luggage exceed weight or size requirements because it will result in fees. Et cetera.

Number 21:

Make sure, especially if you are traveling between countries, that you have cash available to yourself in both currency forms. Also make sure you do not keep it all in the same place – this way if you lose a bag or find some of it to be missing you have some for back-up.

Number 22:

When you go through security, it is nice to have the people seeing you off stick around. If you realize that you have forgotten that you left your favorite multi-tool in your back pocket or in a carry-on, they can take it home for you instead of ending up in the trash. I saw a woman almost get tackled for wipping out a pair of tweezers from her jean pocket; security in the US = no joke.

Number 23:

Chasing the sun or chasing the moon – either way you are going to feel it when you land. Getting a feel for the local time of your landing will give you a way to estimate (using the length of the flight in total) when you should sleep on the plane and for how long. The less the jet lag, the better the night sleep when you arrive and the better you feel the next morning. Don't get your butt kicked by Jet Lag.

Number 24:

Be aware of what you will need at customs when you arrive in your abroad location – if your needs exceed your passport and visa, have them ready. Check with past students who have gone or your international studies office to be sure you are aware of everything you’ll need.

Number 25:

When you land or arrive, make sure you call your parents/significant other/friends who are wondering about your well-being – if you have landed overseas and can’t find a payphone, it is worth the extra charges on your cell phone bill to get ahold of them.

~*~
 
Moving on.

There was no one else moved into my suit of three when I got here so after unpacking/creating a semblance of order in my room I forced myself to stay awake by reading Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy until 9:30... after which I officially could take no more and finally crashed. That time difference really hits pretty hard. My roommates showed up that Saturday and Sunday and are pretty cool – Chantelle is a freshman from Australia and Nikki is a senior from Austria. I’ve met a lot of other people since they arrived, mostly international students who were also arriving early for Orientation week and the few token Australian students who have been sprinkled in with the early arrivals "just because". The group of us have had a few welcome parties, birthday parties and just-because parties down by the lodge’s pool over the course of the past week and a half. I’ve had a blast – although I will say that drinking a lot over here is not anywhere in my future. When the cheapest price of a six-pack is $14 bucks and a bottle of rum will cost you $50 for the brand that no one has ever heard of it makes you consider what your money is actually worth to you. I for one would rather drop $100 on a day trip some Saturday and travel around the country a little bit than drink – I can do that when I get back home and hit 21 for more than half the price here.

And speaking of dropping money on trips I have arranged for my first official trip through the school heading out on a 2-day Outback Tour to the Limestone Caves in Cillagoe. But that’s not going to happen until next weekend, so more on that trip when it comes up (^_^). On the other hand and not speaking of dropping money I won a contest during O-week and now have a free dive trip to cash in on - going out to the Great Barrier Reef via the Ocean Freedom (a beautiful ship) *fist pump*. Also, I have already done a few day trips in the area and let me just say, choosing the rural campus instead of the one in Townsville was one of the best decisions I have made thus far. One of the trips was out to Crystal Cascades where our group of students went cliff jumping and waterfall sliding ...


Another was a day trip into the city of Cairns to see the markets and activate my Aussie phone and the third one was out to Trinity beach for some ocean Frisbee, hiking and tanning (within our designated netted boundaries so we may be safe from jellies and crocs).



~*~*~

I do apologize for the wait on this one and the relative short length but after surviving my second official freshman orientation week and finding time for fun in between, time has been stretched a wee-bit thin. Hopefully I will be able to keep up a little better from here on out - especially with courses starting on the 21st.

Also, before I go to bed, I would like to bring to explain the title of this particular entry to my blog.

Someone, potentially bored to tears or death, had decided one day to write out the lyrics to the song “Around the World” by Daft Punk. For those of you who know how terrible this is - just go listen to the song and say a quick prayer for this poor person. For anyone who will need a brief sum-up to understand what I am talking about because you have never heard of the song or Daft Punk hit the link below:

Wishing you all well,
S.S.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

I'm leeeeaving on a jet plaaaane ...

Howdy howdy and big hello’s from the even bigger city of LAX!


Let me first say that I have an awesome family. Friday night my Mom and Dad got our family together for an Australia (or bust) departure party and it was a blast. I was presented with a Dora the Explorer hat prior to the party from (presumably) iParty which I was instructed to decorate, paint and put Country appropriate Stickers on (also provided). The plan was for me to wear said hat for the duration of the party, however I am not well known for having a small head (I apparently do not fall into the “one-size-fits-all” group for the Dora Explorer age group). Then, with my too small hat balanced on my too big head I was presented with my parent’s big surprise for me – a cake. A chocolate cake. A bourbon chocolate cake. A bourbon chocolate cake with raspberry filling. Oh – and this bourbon chocolate cake with raspberry filling looked like a foot-tall replica of a kangaroo. View the awesome-saucery below.


The party was very relaxing and enjoyable, it was a good way to also celebrate the news regarding the status of my study abroad program. I finally got a hold of Karl - the head of the International Studies office - who was all too happy to tell me that the program would indeed go on. It took me until the ride up to Logan Airport in Boston the next day to really grasp what was going on. After the massive flooding on Australia's east coast which was followed immediately by Cyclone Yasi, I was more than a little worried about being able to get out there but as they say in Australia (so I am told by Bec) "she'll be right mate". And I believed her, especially as I walked down to my gate after my mother made me cry (because she cried - it is a completely *tearing up* normal reaction *sob*). I'll miss my family - its been a fun month and a half.




~*~*~

So, for now, everything is going according to plan. But before I get too far into explaining my trip so far and offering advice on practicing good and safe travel, I owe you some more helpful hits on pre-pre-departure preparations. As I said in my posts about Yasi, I do have a list of hints all drawn up for you  but I got busy with school after midterms ... one thing led to another and here I am at the (almost) start of a new semester. I believe we were on hint 8. Don't forget, this is stuff you should be doing BEFORE you are sitting in a hotel in (insert country/state here) en route to the program:

~*~

Number 8:

Start worrying about your medicinal and immunization needs. Certain countries will require you to be up to date on certain shots or on a medicine regime before entering the country. Seeing as some of these regimes must begin well before departure, be sure to check in with your program head early about medical needs.

Number 9:

This also includes calling insurance companies if there is a drug you are on that you will need while abroad! Some countries will not carry the prescription you need, in some it may be off the market - make sure you are able to ask for a travel allowance for multiple prescriptions filled in a short span of time.

Number 10:

Apply for/research the process of applying for a Visa in your destination country. Without one, you shall not pass, and for that there is no cheat code ... you are more likely to be eaten by a grue

Number 11:

Application for the Visa portion of travel also begs the question, "Do you even have a Passport?" ... if the answer is no, you need to get on that. Sometimes it can take 2-4 weeks for your passport to come in.

Number 12:

Check with your school about availability of a school-hired agent to help arrange travel details. Often times a group flight will be offered from a certain city to your program city so that students who will spend the semester together can fly together. Be sure to know the details of whatever itinerary this agent gives you so you can make arrangements for connecting flights and hotels where necessary.

Number 13:

Start saving your money. If you haven't been doing so already because you haven't dreamed about was going to (__insert country name__) and having a good time since you were little. Each program acceptance will normally be accompanied by an estimate of cost calculated by your school using average amount spent by students in prior years and the currency value of the country.

Number 14:

This one pairs with 13. If you don't already have local destinations in mind to visit or cities in your country you want to see, make a list. You can even start exploring options for travel so you can estimate and work toward being prepared to get to your destination once you have arrived in the country.

Number 15:

In the case of Australia - and a few other programs - consider working toward certifications that will expedite or increase your fun while abroad. I personally would recommend getting Scuba certified as a college student at your home university if courses are offered. The course is often significantly cheaper than registering to be certified in tourist ports and this way you can get right to it once you get to Australia instead of needing to worry about another class.

Number 16:

Start following (if you don't already) the top news and headlines for both your home country and your destination country. Be aware of the political/social environment you are entering and respect it - girls traditionally wear a sari in India so don't be one who comes armed with only a bikini top and shorts. Tourists are frequently targeted by pickpockets and thieves so where ever you are - act and move with confidence. Go straight to a bathroom stall if you are nervous or unsure where you are going, lock yourself in and get your bearings - you'll feel safer and more steady alone and surrounded by walls on all sides.

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So. Right now I sit in the online deal hotel I cooked up for my two night quick stay in L.A. and here is what I love about airport hotels so far: not much. Well, at least not much about the one I am in. Room is good enough to sleep in, has great mattresses and plenty of space for one. Negatives are that the TV makes a high pitch screech every 5 minutes or so, the thermostat goes up when i tell it to go down, there are no trash bags in the trash barrels, wifi sucks and when I asked that my sheets be washed in hot water only (in advance about 3 months ago and on an official request sheet) because of a skin allergy to detergents I still ended up looking like this. Well, this minus the red hair. I had to sleep in my travel pants, socks and dig up the one long sleeve shirt I packed just to sleep comfortably and get rid of the rash.

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Number 17:

Just because you ask for something to be done, make sure you call before you arrive just in case your request is accidentally overlooked - especially in the case of allergic reactions.

Number 18:

Free wifi does not mean good wifi and free breakfast does not mean healthy or filling. Make sure you know just what you are asking for when you pay for it. I knew my reservation did not come with a complementary breakfast - so I was prepared to supply myself with one via room service, meal bar or breakfast nook nearby.

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I still believe that if the overnight stay is simply, overnight, a more "sub-par" hotel is O.K. This place looks nice enough but the staff is unfriendly and unaccommodating (except for the guy who brought me my two room service meals). The daily and frequent shuttles to the airport help to make up for this lack of interest in customer satisfaction or comfort ... especially being far from home, having heavy luggage and being under 25 (under which it is illegal to rent a car). Regardless of the poor service, this is the first time I have ever stayed in a hotel alone and I am enjoying the ability to run around naked with no one here to care (kidding!). There is nothing wrong with being a little wet behind the ears but with this in mind, ask your parents about their travel blunders and advice too. I'm sure they will have some lovely pearls of wisdom on why you should not leave you wallet in your back pocket or explain to you just why you should never pack fine china in your check-in bag at an airport. But more on that next time. For now I need to end here and get a good night's rest - check out is at noon tomorrow and I need my sleep to make sure I am awake enough to make my 11:20 flight out of here and to Melbourne!


S.S.


P.S. - While I am not flying Pacific Blue or drinking Vodka this is TOTALLY what my pre-flight orientation was like while i was comfortably stretched out across my empty row waiting for take-off

Flight Hostess makes Flying a little More Fun
What does Alcohol and Air Safety talks have in common?


P.S.S. - I would like to here note the extreme efforts of Yasi in preventing me from leaving the country and getting to Australia. I would also like to point out that Yasi failed and I am on my way there and I am going to help fix the damage she caused. If you want to follow continued efforts toward recovery click [here] for more information.


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