Tuesday, February 26, 2008

One thing I've always taken for granted...

Internet. NEVER take it for granted. Here in Tasmania it is unBELIEVABLY expensive... right now I am paying a dollar for 9 minutes of internet. AND... there is nowhere for me to upload pictures. So... unfortunately... I will not be telling you what I have been doing in Tasmania until I am at a place where I can post pictures...
because honestly, the pictures would make the post SO much better. I will tell you a bit though.

Tasmania is still beautiful. I mean, I have been traveling ALL over with this tour, and EVERYWHERE you go, there is something beautiful to look at! Mountains, rainforests, waterfalls, beaches, even the picturesque towns... it's fantastic.

The weather on the last couple of days has been MUCH better by the way. Not too hot, not too cold, it's been in the 70's (farenheit) and it is PERFECT.

Oh, and the tour I have been on has been wonderful. We've seen SO much, and I've taken SO many pictures, so you guys will have an eyeful when they are all uploaded. Also you'll have a lot to read, since I'll have to talk about 5 days of tasmania. I'm going to write down notes so hopefully I don't forget anything but man I wish I could upload the pictures now!

Anyhow, I guess I will explain the whole snake bit. Hah, it's actually funny... Karen and Cliff and Alissa and I were sitting in the grass under a tree... suddenly I felt something bite me on my back and it (of course) scared me so I may have jumped out of my skin just a BIT. Turned out, Alissa was playing with a rubber snake, and stretching it and accidetnally let go so it snapped on my back. That is the closest I have come to seeing a wild snake in Australia :( But, 2 people saw 2 different snakes on our hike yesterday! Not me though. Sigh. Now for your trivia for the day... Tasmania only has 3 varieties of snakes, and ALL of them are poisonous.

OK guys, I must be off since I am running out of time and I still have to do a bit of internet research... but I would like to welcome Elana to our little group :) She seems to have taken the place of Cheryl who doesn't seem to find it IMPORTANT to comment on my blog anymore! Cheryl, what's up? I need to feel the love of ALL my sisters. Stacy has an excuse, Vegas and Sickness, but what is yours? And don't say bunnies!


Bye for now!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

I'm in Tasmania!

Hey everyone! This has to be a very quick post with no pictures (unfortunately) because they are charging me an arm and a leg for internet, AND there is no way for me to update my pictures! That is incredibly annoying because I took some beautiful pictures of what the area of Tasmania I'm staying in looks like... it's a city surrounded by gorgeous mountains. And it's a nice little city too, not an ugly one like Sydney or a scary empty one like Melbourne... the only downside? It's COLD here! I mean, it's nothing compared to the temperature most of you in America are dealing with, but it's like in the low 60's (farenheit) I think, and it's windy! So, I'm chilly. I might have to buy a sweatshirt JUST for Tasmania, but then it will be pretty useless the rest of my trip, and I don't really have much room for a sweatshirt.

I actually knew I would like Tasmania right away when I looked at the scenery on the bus ride up... wow, the whole state is just amazing. And I saw a sign on the road that made me smile... "Quiet! The trees are growing!" And a few minutes later I could see a rainbow right across a mountain. Breathtaking.

Anyhow, I didn't really do much since I got here... the boat ride was long and I didn't get much sleep on it, and then the bus ride afterwards was about 4 hours and I didn't get much sleep on that... so I'm just kinda beat. I'm going to bed early tonight I think.

Yikes, I really want to keep talking about other things that I've been meaning to talk about, but I can't because it's a race against the clock which is slowly ticking down to zero (minutes left) so I'll just end with this interesting fact...

Did you know, that in Australia, when people get their licenses, they start out with 12 points on their license, and when they do bad things like get caught speeding, the points are taken away... and then when they get down to zero points, they lose their license? As all you Americans know, in the US you GAIN points for doing bad things and when you get up to a certain number of points (I don't know what the number is cause I never do bad things) you lose your license. I just learned that when Karen and Cliff drove me to catch my ship ride across the sea to Tasmania! Now you all know! It's fun to learn, isn't it?

Friday, February 22, 2008

New Pictures

Here is a link for a few new pictures... and yes, there are pictures of me and Karen and Cliff (at least one of each!)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/23059368@N04/collections/72157603961985628/

And here is one quick funny bit...

When I was in Melbourne I witnessed some guy in a car make a REALLY weird right turn. He was all the way in the left lane, and made the turn from that lane. I thought either he was drunk or he had gotten stuck in the wrong lane or something, but then I read this passage from the best author in the world, Bill Bryson, in his book "In A Sunburned Country" (I had read it before, but I've been reading it again on my journey - when I am in a city I'll read what he says about that city). He explains the reason for these turns much better than I could so I will put a passage below. Now, this is Bill Brysons words in quotes, not mine!

"Melbourne may not have a Harbour Bridge or an Opera House like Sydney's but it has something in its way no less singular. It has the world's most bizarre right turns. If you are driving in central Melbourne and you wish to go right (and bear in mind that you are driving on the left), you don't get in the middle lane, but rather pull over to the left-hand curb- as far away as possible from where you want to be- and sit there for an indeterminite period (in my case until all the clubs and restaurants have shut and everyone has gone home for the night) and make your turn from there. It's all to do with keeping out of the way of the trams- Melbourne's other specialty- which go down the middle of the road and can't have turning cars blocking their way. It's immensely confusing, not only to visitors from overseas but to other Australians- even, I suspect, to many Melbourne people."

Hahaha, now everyone go out and buy that book and read it. It's really fantastic!

Well, I am going on a boat to Tasmania tonight, so I may not have a new update for you tomorrow, but I miss all of you! I don't miss the snow that New Jersey is getting though!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Real Australia Part III

Well, I know some people have been complaining that there are no pictures (mom) so you will be happy to know that today, there will be 2 pictures. And, hopefully I will upload new pictures to my flickr account, and video to my youtube account before I leave Karen and Cliffs house tomorrow... But first, a bit of talk.

Yesterday, I went to a wildlife sanctuary - actually it was just a house where a woman and her son and husband take in injured or orphaned animals and nurse them back to health until they can be re-introduced into the wild, or a home can be found for them. It was really neat - I went into the house, and there were kangaroos hopping around EVERYWHERE. There were four or five in the living room, eating hay and chilling out (the son was feeding one of them a bottle), and there were a bunch more in the kitchen, and still more in an outdoor enclosure connected to the house. I got to pet a bunch of them (they are incredibly soft, even the adult ones) and I experienced stepping in 'roo poo'.


If you look closely at the pic above, you can see the farthest away kangaroo has a little joey hanging out of her pouch! Aren't they adorable?

So anyway, I was a bit jealous that I found out that Cheryl and family got a pair of pet bunnies... so I was thinking, I need to top it... someway... somehow. What can I get that hops, is cute, but is somehow BETTER than a pair of bunnies?

VOILA! I have adopted a baby kangaroo! He will be coming with me on the remainder of my Australian vacation, and I will be taking him back with me on my plane ride. I think for now he can stay in the spare bedroom at dads house, I can just take him for walks and stuff, and when he gets a bit bigger he can stay in the patio. His name is Spike (I'll be getting him one of those spiked collars). I figure he'd be good to keep out intruders and such... when he gets a bit bigger, that is. Here is the first adoption picture:


This will be the end of my 'real australia' series, since I will be leaving Karen and Cliffs house tomorrow to go to Tasmania... but you can be sure that I'll have plenty of things to talk about there! Maybe I'll adopt a tasmanian devil so Spike will have a playmate!

Peace out everyone!

Karen

Real Australia Part II

G'day everyone!

Well, as I promised, I'll tell you a bit more of my time in 'real' Australia!

On Monday, I went to Alissa's school (Karen takes her to school in the mornings) and I stayed for a bit to see how the schools in Australia are different from the ones that I remember in the US. It's been quite a while since I was in the 6th grade so it might all be different now in America anyway... but first thing on Monday morning, the whole school (all 100 or so students) get together in a big room and go over what they will be doing for the week. They all sing Australia's national anthem which I thought was neat to hear. In case you were wondering here is the first verse:

Australians all let us rejoice, For we are young and free; We've golden soil and wealth for toil, Our home is girt by sea; Our land abounds in Nature's gifts Of beauty rich and rare; In history's page, let every stage Advance Australia fair! In joyful strains then let us sing, "Advance Australia fair!"

After that they talked about things like the importance of sunscreen and hats when they are going outside... they aren't even allowed to play outside unless they have sunscreen and a hat on! Also, the kids learn heaps about the environment and all about saving water and energy... They learn so much more about protecting the environment then I ever remember learning in school! I think that is wonderful, they will grow up wanting to make a difference... actually I've found that overall Australia is WAY more concerned about the environment then the USA is. Hopefully we'll catch up soon. Anway, it was fun being in a school with a bunch of cute little kids with Australian accents :)

So, after that, Karen, Cliff and I went to this nifty crystal warehouse... a place where they sell geodes and stones and really beautiful crystals at wholesale prices. Some of the things that they had in that place were gorgeous... they had a coffee table where the entire bottom was an amethyst crystal! It was only a few thousand dollars.... I bought it and I am having it shipped home. Dad, I used your credit card numbers, I hope you don't mind?

I also did something truly Australian... I tried something called 'Vegemite'. What is Vegemite, you ask? Well, it's a spread for toast that many, many Australians have for breakfast. I think that it's more common on toast then jam is. Why is this interesting? Well, have you TASTED the stuff? Wow, it is the weirdest thing that someone might eat for breakfast that I've ever known... weirder than even spaghetti on toast for sure. It's this yeast product that is SO salty... and it just has such a strange taste... It just doesn't seem like a breakfast food! I mean, it wasn't 'throw up' gross, but it was really, really salty I don't think I'd ever have the urge to eat it again :)

Besides vegemite, crystals, and school, Karen and Cliff have taken me to a bunch of small (ish) towns that we have checked out (non-touristy towns) which has been neat... I also met Karen's other daughter (who is 20) and I've met a ton of their friends (true Australians!). We also took a bush walk where I saw a couple of other big spiders and a kangaroo running around in the trees. The cockatoos flying above their house has become a common sight (they are SO loud) and I'm learning alot about their other native birdlife like the willy-wagtail (I love that name).

Oh, I also introduced the family to a lovely American campfire tradition called 's'mores'. I had to improvise a bit... they don't have graham crackers here so we had to use a different kind of sweet cracker, which was a bit too thick and not really sweet enough... They also didn't have Hersey bars so we used another chocolate bar called a 'Flake'. Also, they only had marshmallows that came in a package with strawberry and vanilla mallows... so we just picked out the strawberry ones and used the vanillas. Oh, and there is currently a fire restriction in their area (it's a drought and it's high fire season) so we used the electric stove to roast the marshmallows. They turned out pretty good, but nowhere NEAR as good as they are with all the proper ingredients! Well, we'll just have to make sure that when Cliff and Karen come to the states next, they try the proper version of s'mores!

Hmmm... I don't know why I always wait until this late to write my blogs... I'm so beat and I'm sure I'm forgetting a ton of things and I tend to ramble more when I'm tired... but this is getting pretty long now and I want to go to bed so we will have to have a 'Real Australia Part III' tomorrow! And let me tell you, it is going to be good. I haven't even told you what happened today! (hahaha, always leave them wanting more, that's what I say!)

G'nite everyone! If you go to Mackers in the arvo, don't forget to put dead horse on the chips!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Real Australia Part I

Sorry for the lull in my blogs, I’ve just been having so much fun here in REAL Australia! Also the internet wasn’t working too well yesterday :)

I’ve been staying with moms friends Karen and Cliff, and let me just say that they give all Australians a terrific name. They have been so friendly and have gone out of their way to show me things and take me places, it’s been terrific and I’ve had a lot of fun! They have a couple of daughters, though I’ve only met one of them yet. Alissa is 10 and she’s such a great kid, very entertaining and dramatic and always singing and dancing. Come to think of it, she reminds me a little of Stacy when she was that age! They also have 3 dogs which are really sweet and lovable.

So, I’ve been staying about an hour outside of Melbourne since Sunday. We had a barbeque on Sunday with a few other Aussies (and a South African!) and it was delish, meats, potato salads, the works. But you don’t want to hear about the food I’m sure, so I’ll tell you about the deadly creatures I’ve seen.

First… I’ve seen quite a few redback spiders… I learned that they like to hang around metal things so pretty much all you have to do is look underneath a metal lawn chair or look in the corner of a metal shed and you’ll see one. Here is a pic of a small one…
we saw a bigger one underneath the lawn chair but I didn’t get the picture of that one. There are also the egg sacs of these spiders everywhere… I mean EVERYWHERE. To emphasize on how dangerous these guys are... one of these spiders bit Cliff some years back, and he was in the hospital for three days. A big ones bite can kill a man in hours (if he doesn’t seek medical attention) So they are bad little buggers. And they are EVERYWHERE here! Neat huh?

Next… I’ve seen tons of wild kangaroos, fairly close up! They remind me a bit of deer… in that they run in front of cars and they stare at you the same way deer do, and they are attracted to your headlights… people in Australia don’t hit deer on the road, they hit kangaroos. Usually kangaroos have one dominant male that is very large, up to 7 feet tall, and when you get too close it will stand up straight and stare you down… while all the other kangaroos run off. It will run off too when all of its pack are safe, but if you are too much of a threat to them, they can be dangerous. They could give you quite a kick with their powerful legs if they are cornered… yes, even kangaroos can be deadly!



Now, for the birds… I’ve seen TONS of beautiful birds… the most amazing to see in the wild have been the cockatoos and the galah (rose breasted cockatoo) How cool to see birds in the wild that before I’ve only seen in pet stores! And the birds... well, they are deadly to bugs I suppose. And I'm sure most of us have seen 'The Birds' :)

They’ve also taken me around the bush to see the stunning views… it is just gorgeous around here. It’s been incredibly hot and dry, but it has been beautiful.



I’ve done a few more things that I want to talk about, including visiting the public school and seeing a crystal warehouse, but I’ll save that for my next blog.

Toodles!

Karen

Saturday, February 16, 2008

It's quiet... TOO quiet...

Well, as most of you know I am now in Melbourne. Melbourne is... well... strange. It is a city, perhaps not as big of a city as Sydney, but it's definitely a city in LOOKS. But, in feel... well, it really doesn't FEEL like a city. For starters, there is NO ONE HERE! I mean seriously, in Sydney, there were TONS of people constantly rushing from one place to another to get somewhere that they really don't want to go anyway... here in Melbourne there is none of that. I mean, sure there are people, but really, it seems EMPTY compared to Sydney. It seems empty compared to ANY city actually! It's really strange too, because for some odd reason, when I'm walking around by myself in Melbourne, I keep having this odd feeling that there is someone behind me... but I turn around and there is absolutely no one.


Really, if I had to choose to live in Melbourne or Sydney, I would choose Melbourne in a second... the people are much more laid back and less rushed than they are in Sydney, and they seem a bit more friendly and willing to talk to you. Also, people seem a bit more into healthiness in Melbourne, I see a bunch of people jogging and sports are a big thing here. Especially Aussie Rules Football, which I will get to in a little bit. (It's good).


But now back to the subject of the emptyness of Melbourne... take a gander at these photographs, won't you?



Looks like any normal city, you think? Well, look again. WHERE ARE THE PEOPLE??? Of course cars are coming and going like normal, but you can actually look down the street and not see anyone. It's almost like a GHOST city. With cars. And motorcycles. Now you are probably thinking, "well of course there is no one there, you probably took it at 6:30 in the morning when the sun just came up!" FOOLS! This was taken at 4:00 in the afternoon on SATURDAY!


OK, of course there are sections to the city that have more people in them, but there seems to be an awful lot of streets that are just like this. And Melbourne is a popular place, where are all the tourists taking pictures? I mean, besides me.


Anyway... all in all, Melbourne is a pretty cool place, but I don't think I'll stay here very long either... again... it's just another city.


Now on to what I've done in Melbourne so far! Well, yesterday I walked a HECK of a long distance to see where the Australian open was played (just for dad). I mean... it was a LONG way... a couple of miles at least... each way! My calves have gotten another nice work out! By the time I got there I was pretty beat, I had just come from a 12 hour overnight bus ride so it probably wasn't the best day to pick for this hike. And I pretty much only saw it from afar... I could have walked closer, like to the parking lot or something, but it looked like another long distance and I just kept thinking that I still had to walk back. Also, I am not positive which arena was the correct one... I was seeing it from the back, and there were a bunch of other arenas...


This one (the white one in the background) is what LOOKS like the arena to me, but I don't think it's that one. I think that is the Vodafone arena... but you can see the practice tennis courts here which is neat :)



This one was right next to it, and is the one that I think is the right stadium... I'm pretty sure (according to the map if I was reading it correctly) that this is the Rod Laver Arena.



Of course, I could be wrong and maybe what I think is the Vodafone arena is the right stadium, but i'm no tennis genius. Dad, can you enlighten us?


Anyhow, after I took a few pictures, I headed back. I was so tired that I didn't have time to sight see anymore that day!


Now, before I did the tourist thing, I actually did get to meet moms friend Karen and her husband. They are really nice people, very friendly (mom has good taste in friends!) and they invited me to a BARBEQUE tomorrow! My first real Australian barbeque! I'm very excited ;)


They also introduced me to a friend of theres who has been living in Melbourne so that perhaps he could show me around a bit (since they actually live outside of Melbourne and aren't as familiar with it as someone who lives there would be). So I'm meeting all kinds of nice people in Melbourne, it's fabulous! But I still wouldn't want to live in the city for too long :)


OK, so today, against my best judgement (my feet were still sore) I walked over to the Melbourne museum. It was pretty neat... it's cool to see museums in other countries. Some of the things are the same as what a US museum might have (dinosaurs and the like) but when you go into the natural parts and you look at the stuffed native creatures like kangaroos and these GIANT crabs that are bigger than a dog, you know you are in a completely different place. Also, when you go into the rooms where people talk to you via a recording, they are talking with an Australian accent. Nifty!


For all the computer geeks out there... a bit of Australian history trivia. Australia had built the 4th computer in the world, and named it 'CSIRAC'. It was built in 1949 and it was used from 1949 to 1964. And now, it is the ONLY 1st generation computer that is still surviving and operational. I just thought that was neat. I guess in Australia they take good care of their electronics.



Ok, now before I end my blog, I want to talk a bit about Australia Rules football.


I was chilling out on the couch in my hostel, and a football game was on, so I was watching it. Wow, this game is probably one of the most intruiging ones I now know of! It's similar to American football, but it's also very different. First of all, imagine a bunch of tanned, hunky, fit and toned Australian men... put them in tight shorts and tank tops... and give them a football. ;) Got that picture? Good!


Ok, now I'm not too sure about what all the rules of Aussie Rules are... but watching it was really interesting. They did a lot of kicking and throwing of the ball like we do in football, but they also BOUNCED the ball as they ran (sometimes). And when they threw the ball, it looked like they were actually serving a vollyball. They held it in one hand and bopped it with the other. When they ran with the ball and got ready to kick it, they ran holding it with 2 hands as far in front of them as they could, like they were holding a dirty stinky diaper and they wanted to get it to the trash as quickly as possible... and then they would drop-kick it (The ball, not the diaper).


They did the whole tackling thing too, but once they got the person down, it looked like they sometimes put them into a head lock until the person let go of the ball. And they had no issues with grabbing someones shirt and practically ripping it off in order to get them down to the ground so they can take the ball.


And the ball... it was SHAPED like a football, but it was yellow, and truth be told, it looked like a yellow NERF football. To me. And watching the guys run across the field throwing the ball from one person to another in order to keep the ball out of the hands of the other team, it seemed kind of reminiscent of 'Monkey in the Middle'.


The game seemed pretty rough, a couple of times a guy left the field bleeding (although he always came back) and they don't wear ANY padding or equipment like our pansy football guys do. Padding and long pants and helmets! HAH! I never realized what wimps our American football players are! (just kidding to all you nutty American football fans)


So, Aussie rules is like a bunch of different games rolled into one neat package... and it was fiercely entertaining. And not just because it was played by a bunch of hot tanned men in shorts :)


OK, that is my post for today. Oh, one more thing... on my trip to melbourne, I was looking out the window of the bus, the moon was half full so I had a bit of light to see the landscape... and wow, it was beautiful. For the first time, I actually felt like I was in australia. I mean, REALLY in Australia... it reminded me of this painting of australia at night, that is pretty famous (in the sense that I've seen it a bunch of times and I bet some people would recognize it if they saw it).

I couldn't find the painting online anywhere, but it was kind of similar to this picture below:


Kind of similar because of the tree shadows, but when I find the actual painting I'll take a pic and show you guys.

See, this is what I'm talking about! It looked so beautiful and was just so 'Australia'... the cities are neat and everything but they aren't what I came to Australia to see!

OK peeps i'll talk to you all later!

Karen

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Happy V Day!

Just wanted to say that I love you all! Mwah!

I'm actually going to be on a bus in a few hours and I'm going to be getting to Melbourne tomorrow morning.

I don't really have anything much to say on this blog, Sydney has nothing exciting going on, really, but wait! I do have ONE bit of news.... I actually met a backpacker who is OLDER than me! The roommate I had here in Sydney was 30 years old and she is pretty much in the exact same boat as me... she is here in Australia until March and then she has to come back to her country and decide what she wants to do with her life. Woo! I'm only 29! I finally beat someone! It's funny actually... all I really meet are people (kids) between the ages of 18-24... and we are completely in different stages of life. They are in the college/party all night long stage... I have already finished college and I'm supposed to be a grown up and have a career and a house and all that kind of fun stuff. So, it's definitely interesting. And I enjoy meeting people closer to my own age because, well, I have more in common with them than an 18 year old! But, I guess as backpacker travelers go, I am pretty old to be doing it.

Anyhow, hopefully I'll have more pictures to upload for you guys next time I write. Maybe exciting things will happen on my 12 hour bus ride, who knows!

AND I wanted to say, in the spirit of valentines day, that I really appreciate everyones comments and emails... It's really lovely when I log into my yahoo account and see '9 new messages!' (I get the comments emailed to me, I don't read them on the blog. Easier that way)

Peace out guys!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

oh, and the photos...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/23059368@N04/collections/

there are some new ones in the Sydney collection as well.

And you will notice that almost all of the pictures of me surfing are really just me holding on to the board for dear life ;) I got maybe 5 of me standing? Hahaha...

And by the way Lisa, I was joshing about the Fairy Floss... it's actually the name of this womans clothing line... like how Cheryl's clothing line is Weeping Cherry Designs?

:)

Americans Abroad...

So, in my just over 2 weeks of being here in Australia, I have met people from MANY different nationalities... Swedish, Dutch, French, German, Canadian and many different Asian people... (Especially Canadian though... it's amazing, but I have met SO MANY more Canadians than others while I've been down here!)

So, in talking to people, I have realized more than ever what a bad name Americans and America have in most other countries. Everyone that I've talked to about the subject has told me that America is kind of a big joke in their country. Or, we're thought of as bullies, or ego-centric, or just not-too-bright when it comes to world news. In Canada, I'm told, they have a show where they go up to Americans and ask them questions that we should know, and of course generally the Americans don't know it. Like, 'are you smarter than an American'.

I also hear that many Americans who travel abroad tell everyone that they are from Canada, and they wear a Canadian flag on their backpack, so people don't know they are American and therefore don't harass them. I personally think that is silly, and I wouldn't do it, I'm not going to deny where I'm from. And I haven't really had anyone harass me for being American, but they have looked at me with pity or just said "Oh, America huh?" (I can't really say that Australians feel the same way because I haven't really befriended any Australians yet...)

So everyone... why do you think this is? Why does America have such a bad name? I guess I can see it, because we definitely do throw our weight around in the world, AND many Americans don't tend to know as much with what is going on in the world... I mean, even though I tried to stay in the know with world politics I still don't seem to be as informed as many people I meet.

I am proud to be an American, but I do feel like we need to work on our image in the world. I don't think Americans who travel abroad should have to be ashamed to tell people that they are from America.

Oh, and I've still only met 1 American since I've been here. Unless all the Canadians I met are lying :)

Cheryl, I saw this in a shop window and I wanted to share it with you. Suuuuure it could be the Jets, but am pretty sure it's the Giants ;)

Monday, February 11, 2008

May the force be with you...

Well guys, I don't have much to say about yesterday, because I didn't really do much. I walked around the city and the beach, waiting for when my bus was going to come...

I did meet this one guy whom I had seen around the city a few times... he was Asian (actually he looked Hawaiian) and had long dark hair and walked around with his shirt off everywhere and he carried a ball. One time when I passed him he bounced the ball in my direction, I caught it, and bounced it back to him. He smiled and thanked me, and then we kept walking... it was interesting.

Well, when I saw him yesterday, he talked to me and asked me where I was from. I told him, and then he asked me if I was at Chantan Market yesterday (I actually don't remember if it was called 'Chantan' but it was a CH name I remember...) and that was the market that I went to when I was in Nimbin. I'm not sure how he knew, but maybe that is a big thing to do on Sundays? So I was like, "yes..." and then somehow we started talking about comparing Sydney to Byron Bay and he was talking about how people in Sydney live for time (always checking their watches) and that people in Byron Bay have time to live. Or something to that effect.... I don't remember if those were his exact words. And then he told me that he didn't even wear a watch... except to keep track as to how much time he had spent meditating that day. Then he asked me, "What is your purpose of your trip to Australia?" And of course, I didn't really know how to answer that, but I didn't really have to because it was at that time when someone else came up to him to ask him for his advice... and then another person came by for advice. So it was definitely interesting.... he was like the Byron Bay Yoda!

I could have waited to talk to him more, since he was an interesting character, but it was getting close to the time when I had to get ready for my bus to Sydney, so I went on my merry way.

So that is my story about yesterday! And now I have to decide what my purpose is for coming to Australia! It's not to party all day and night, that's for sure. And I don't want to just do tourist stuff the entire time either. Maybe I must use the force?

Anyway, after a 12 hour bus ride I'm back at Sydney now... I do have pictures that I will be posting soon but I haven't finished uploading them yet. It takes a long time for all that. Probably tomorrow I will post links for new pictures... are you all very excited???

Also - I just want to say that I do appreciate and read and enjoy all the comments that you guys write! If I don't thank you for your comments in a post, it's not because I don't read them! I just usually have a mission when I am writing posts, and I don't always remember to mention something someone might have commented on. And I refuse to comment on my own blog! Thanks to everyone for the birthday greetings! Karen, thanks for the insiders perspective on Australia, it's always great to learn new things and new slang words :) Lisa, fairy floss is actually what it sounds like. Dental Floss for fairies. They need clean teeth too, you know. Clap your hands if you believe! Hahahaha.... :)

Peace out guys I'll write more tomorrow!

Karen

Sunday, February 10, 2008

What a long, strange trip it was!

Well, yesterday I went on my tour of Nimbin, a town unlike any I have ever seen in my life. We were picked up in a tye-dyed bus at 10:15... Driven by a short-haired hippy who told us stories about the many different areas around the Byron Bay area ("this hostel was once a slaughter house... but it was bought up and shut down and a vegetarian restaurant opened up across the street! Kind of a karmic justice, isn't it?")


So, the town of Nimbin is actually built in an extinct volcano... when I heard this, I was expecting dust and dirt roads and not much greenery (you hear 'volcano' and that is the image that is usually conjured) but it was actually the most beautiful, green, lush, hilly place I've seen in a long time! The scenery driving up to get into the volcano, and driving down into the volcano, was just breathtaking. A few of the roads were pretty scary because we were like right next to a cliff and there was no wall... but it was very neat.

So, it took about an hour to get to the town of Nimbin, and it was so interesting... all the shops were colourful and bright and it was exactly what you would think a town run by hippies would look like...















Seriously, it was like... you take the sixties, put it in an (extinct) volcano, and there you have Nimbin.
After we wandered around the town and had lunch, we got onto the bus again and went off to the market. It was kind of like a flea market run by hippies. (Is anyone catching the hippy motif on this trip?)
















And of course, what hippy market would be complete without a drum circle? They were actually really good. It was a shame there was no dijiridu player so we'd know that these were Australian hippies.


So anyway, we wandered around the market for about an hour, then we got back onto our bus to go to see the waterfall. The waterfall was located inside a rainforest... which brought back so many memories of Costa Rica! We only had a short time at the rainforest/waterfall, so I didn't really have time to explore... pretty much we all had time to eat a slice of watermelon and look at the waterfall for a few minutes, and that was it. We didn't go swimming.... some of the other groups did that but I think because we were running a bit late, we only were able to see the waterfall from on top of the cliff. It was a HUGE DEEP cliff, but the waterfall was really neat. The bus driver said that normally the waterfall wasn't as big, but because of all the rain we had gotten lately it was much more spectacular than it would have been. So I guess there was one good thing about all that rain!




















So after the waterfall and watermelon, we got back on the bus and headed for home. It was really a great trip, very interesting and I've never really been to a place like that before. It was like an entirely different culture!
Anyway, I didn't really do much last night after I got back from the trip, we just went and had ice cream and sat on the beach and watched the waves and looked at the stars. I took a goodbye picture of all the people that I hung out with while in Byron Bay, since most likely we won't see each other again! None of them are Australian, but I have certainly met people from a variety of other places in the world!


I still haven't met too many Australians, but that will change soon I'm sure... At least I'm going to meet mom's friend soon!

If you have noticed, the pictures are smaller and I was able to put them right side up! I figured out a way to do it (sometimes) on computers, only if the computer lets me save files. I made them a smaller size to make them upload a lot faster. Since I'm paying to use the internet by the half hour...

And now to leave you. I'm going to be on a 12 hour bus trip this afternoon, to get back to Sydney for a day or two so I can the work stuff settled... or wwoofing stuff if that's what I choose to do (most likely it is what I'm going to do, it would be neat to stay with different Australian families and experience their day to day life... and experience the REAL Australia)
But I'll give you one last picture... this was from a couple of nights ago when we were playing Jenga at the restaurant we were at. I was making a funny face so I wanted to share. Good times, good times!


p.s. - sorry about the pictures... they are off center and weird, I tried to make them side-by side but I guess it didn't work when it was published, and now I only have 15 minutes of time left on my session so it'll have to stay this way!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Well, here I am, back again, to tell you all about my surf camp experience. First let me say, that it rained. Every single day. I think, one day it was sunny for the first half, but we were back to thunderstorms the next day. But let me tell you in a bit more detail... I'll give you a day by day...

On Monday we drove up to surf camp fairly early in the morning (bus picked us up at 7:30). The ride was about 2 hours, but along the way we saw a giant redbull car driving along side us, and our bus rider/surf camp owner said we should mess with them and stare them down as we drove by. So, as we drove by, everyone stared out the window at the redbull girls... Of course they noticed and they were like "Hey guys! Want some redbull? Just drive up to the next parking lot! Hah, our plan backfired, but we got free redbull! And I must say, I have never tasted redbull before... but it was REALLY good! I was always afraid it would taste nasty so I never tried it... but no one ever told me it tasted like liquid smarties! Yum!




So after our redbull pitstop, we continued on to surf camp, and when we got there and after getting our room keys etc, we had to suit up into wetsuits and get on down to the beach. It was raining, but it wasn't raining TOO hard, just a light rain. Of course, that meant we had to put on wet suits in the rain, which was definitely a challenge. In fact, putting the wetsuits were probably the worst thing about the trip!


So, we got there and they gave us a two hour lesson on surfing... although it was raining it wasn't very windy so the waves weren't that bad. I wasn't able to stand up the first two hours on the board... but I didn't feel that bad because a bunch of other people were in the same boat. So, after the lesson, we had lunch, chatted with each other a bit, then we went back to the beach. (it was still raining). This time around the waves were a bit nicer, not really bigger but not as messy as the last lesson. And, it was during THIS lesson that I stood up, twice! One of them was such a good wave too, I went ALL the way to the end. It was fantastic... but of course they didn't get any pictures of me catching this wave.


So, the lesson was over after two hours, and we went back again for dinner. NOW it started raining pretty hard... so pretty much, there was no way for us to be dry, ever. We had to walk to the bathrooms, walk to the outside area for lunch (although it was sheltered on the top, when the wind started picking up and some rain blew in, making sure we were kept nice and wet).


Afterwards, it was time to party! There were a lot of cool people at surf camp, and actually, there were a LOT of Canadians. Also there were people from Sweden, Norway, Germany, pretty much all over. And there were a lot of hot guys ;) We couldn't really go anywhere to party, normally at surf camp they go down to the beach and make a bonfire and all that, but with the rain, we really had no choice but to hang out in the roofed eating area. We still had fun, and I had my first taste of...


Hahn Beer!

It's not a very POPULAR beer here, I think because it has a pretty low alcohol content (2.7% or something like that) but I of course had to get it. It's actually funny, whenever I tell an Australian (only the guys though) what my last name is, they always ask, "Oh, like the beer?"
So, anyway, after we all went to bed, we had another surfing lesson at 9 in the morning. But overnight... it rained... HARD... all night long. When I woke up, it was POURING. We had breakfast, and the instructors told us that we could go to the lessons if we wanted to, they would probably stick us all in one big group because a few instructors called out because of the terrible weather. I decided not to go... because seriously, it was raining so hard, being out there in that and trying to see where you were going would have been insane. About half of the people actually went, and most of them ended up leaving the lesson early because it was hailing. On the second lesson, the weather was about the same, but now everything was flooded and the waves were crashing. Again, I decided not to go to this one, and probably only a quarter of the people actually went. This time, everyone left early, because the rain and wind brought in a huge family of bluebottle jellyfish. A bunch of people got stung (those aren't the deadly jellyfish, just the painful stingers).
Anyway, by dinner time, it had mostly stopped raining, so we all hiked down to the bar and spent a few hours there, then came back to the camp and walked over to a park where we could be extra noisy. It was a great night, and everyone forgot about the terrible surfing day as we drank away our worries!
The next day, it was actually SUNNY! It was fantastic surfing weather... but the problem was, the water was disgusting and muddy from the terrible weather the night before, and the waves were bigger and crashing. I think it was during this lesson when I realized that I am kind of afraid of big waves. Seriously, I have never gone deep in the ocean in my life, and going deep in the ocean where there are big crashing waves was not fun. At all. So I continued to do pretty poorly for this lesson, but on the second 2 hour lesson of the day, I was able to stand up... the picture wasn't that great, because on the second 2 hour lesson, it had started getting overcast and rainy, but here is a pic of me standing up on the board:


This was actually the end of the wave (which is why you don't see much wave behind me). The waves kept getting worse and worse though, and I really was not enjoying my surfing time. The waves kept beating me up, throwing me off my board, knocking me around... and it wasn't just one wave at a time, there were always like 3 or 4 rows of waves (you can see the one behind me breaking).
Most of my time surfing ended up with this:
And I have a lot of pictures where I'm just halfway up because I wasn't able to stand without losing my balance. I thought that was more fun actually :) I usually only fell when I tried standing up!

So anyway, there was one more day of surfing to go (we all went to bed early on Wednesday night because the first surf was at 6:30 on Thursday).
Of course, it was raining in the morning, but I got myself up and went to the 6:30 surf lesson, hating every minute of it from putting on my wetsuit to taking it off. I just am not a surfer. The waves are not my friend. I love the sound of them and I love playing in the waves maybe up to my hips, but by the time I'm up to my shoulders, it's terrible. I got banged up quite a bit from all of this, but at least I did try something new... and I went in the deep waves even though I was afraid. I didn't go as deep as everyone did, I stayed in the first 2 rows of waves when some people were out in the back waves where they were even bigger.
I did have fun during the trip, it was an experience. I would have had MORE fun if I was a better surfer or if it didn't rain so much, but it was still fun, and I met a lot of really cool people.
So, after we finished our 2 surfs for the day, we packed up and went back to sydney for free pizza and beer at the scubar, and the people who had the 5 to 7 day packages (me) had to leave after about an hour to catch the greyhound to Byron Bay. It was a nice 12 hour overnight trip... I tried to sleep for most of it but it wasn't too easy. We got to Byron Bay at about 10 or so in the morning on Friday, and checked into our hostel here. Let me tell you, this place is SO nice, it's like a hippie paradise! The shops are amazing, the people are all so laid back, and the souveneirs you can get here, instead of coffee mugs and kangaroo paw scratchers, you can get fairy things and aura photographs. Haha, I don't know exactly what they are, I think it's just a picture of you with some really nice background or something like that... not actually a picture of your aura, but I didn't ask to find out.
But, I'm not going to talk much about this city on this blog, since I've already written enough for one day... but I'll do that on my next one. I'm going to this really cool hippie villiage type place tomorrow where we are going to swim in a waterfall and have free watermelon and all that. Fun!
But, I'll leave you with one more picture...


this was taken on the one sunny day at surf camp, our wetsuits are halfway down because it was hot. You can see that I haven't gotten much of a tan here, and wow you can really see my ribs can't you? Don't worry, I am eating here in Australia despite the croissant incident, I think it was just cause I was jumping up...

Ok, lunch time, see you all!

Oh, and I'm 29 years old now! Hoooray!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

I'm back!!

Well, I'm back to the internet at least. Sorry I didn't have one last blog before I left like I planned to, but wouldn't you know it, the internet in the hostel was out for like 18 hours and then I had to go to surf camp, where there was no internet.

I just want to get one thing straight though, since my last blog ended on a sour note. True, I really don't like cities (i.e. Sydney) and true, I almost died, but that doesn't mean I'm a quitter and I'd want to pack up and go home! It just means I want to get myself to another spot! I'm surprised at anyone who thought I wanted to give up. For shame, you should know me better than that. AND I expect many, many more things to try to kill me in Australia before I leave!

Surf camp was DEFINITELY a great change of scenery... so much quieter, SO much nicer than Sydney. The only problem was that it rained every day. (sheesh!) I'm actually going to fill you in on surf camp tomorrow morning or later today (my time) because I really don't have time to go into it all right now... I'm now in Byron Bay and while it is KIND of a city, it is AWESOME. More like Princeton city instead of New York City. I absolutely love it so far (only been here a couple hours though) and I think that I might even come back here before the Australian trip is up.

And I do have pics of me surfing that I will upload when I can, hopefully I will do that tomorrow when I tell you all about my time since I last spoke (blogged).

This was pretty much to let everyone know I am still alive and well, I'm a little sunburnt, but I'm still kicking!

Talk to you all soon!

Oh, and Karen, it is so funny that you signed it Kaz because that was what the instructor at surf camp kept calling me, she said it was a common nick name for Karen. Now I know it's true! I like that nick name, I think everyone should call me Kaz from now on. It's so hip!

Kaz

P.S. - Stacy and Lisa, Oz is short for Australia.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The first thing that tried to kill me in Australia...

What could it be, you wonder? A snake? A shark? A croc? No, it was...

A croissant. Seriously. So before I explain what I mean here, I'll tell you a little about how the last 24 hours have been. Well, more like 18 hours. But you get the picture.

So, around 4ish PM yesterday I wasn't feeling all that great... and I made a mental note that from now on, if I have a bad first impression of a place, I won't eat there. The problem with that is, I'm in a city... and I have a bad first impression of almost every food place. Big cities are generally kind of dirty. It wasn't terrible though, I was just a little queezy, but I was still going to go to the pub crawl that night. Then I got a call that the pub crawl was cancelled (I think because of the bad/rainy weather). So, no big loss... I just decided to stay in.

I got to know two of my roommates pretty well... one of them was from England and the other was from Korea. The Enlish girl was doing the same work/travel program as me, and we were talking about how everyone in the hostel was... well, not really very friendly. They all stuck to each other and didn't really want to meet 'outsiders' I think.

I actually was glad to hear that someone else felt the same way as I did... I thought it was just me, maybe because I was the only American (that I know of) who was there at the moment... and I was disappointed because I always heard about how friendly everyone was in Australia. But here in Sydney, people haven't really been overly friendly at all, especially in the hostel that I'm staying at. My roommate said that she was talking to other people who had been to Sydney and to other places in Australia, and they all said that Sydney was the least friendly place.

So after we all had a nice bit of girl talk, we went to bed around midnight or so... and the young guys in the room next to us were having a hugely noisy party. I mean, they were LOUD. You actually aren't allowed to drink in the rooms of the hostel, but they certainly were. And you could hear everything they were talking about... one guy was saying how he was going to cheat on his girlfriend because he wanted to "get laid" that night. And then, I think 3 or 4 girls came by and I could hear all the flirting... "What's your name?" "Rob..." "REALLY? WOW! My name is RobBIN!"

Anyhow, eventually I was able to fall asleep... and I woke up at 7 or so to go down for breakfast. Now here is where we come to the part you all have been waiting for. So, my normal breakfast at the cafe connected to the hostel is a bowl of cornflakes, coffee, orange juice, toast, and a croissant. I should have got up and left when I found that black hair in my coffee cup... but I thought "no I'll just eat the cereal and croissant and have my coffee at starbucks instead."

So, I ate the cereal... and had started on my croissant... I had eaten most of it and I was just taking a sip of orange juice to wash it down when suddenly I realized that I couldn't breathe... and I couldn't swallow, and I couldn't talk... I started freaking out just a little and I got up, and I still couldn't breathe or swallow... I walked out the door to the cafe into the connecting hostel and I saw one woman and I tapped her back and held my hands up to my throat (the universal choking sign) and she just said "Hi!" And smiled at me. That was going nowhere and I still couldn't breathe or talk and tears were streaming down my face and I started getting even more scared... I went up to the reception desk and did the same thing, my hands around my throat in the choking sign... and they looked at me and were like "are you ok? Whats wrong?" I'm sitting here, not able to talk, not able to breathe, and they are doing NOTHING. They just keep asking me if I'm OK and what is wrong but I obviously can't TALK. I'm thinking "Oh my god how do I make them understand that I can't breathe?!?!" But luckily, I was finally able to swallow that piece of croissant that was lodged in my windpipe... and the two guys are still looking at me like "are you ok?" and I'm taking in deep gasping breaths and I say "I was choking!" and they say "Oh!". Isn't that nice? "Oh!". They told me to sit down for a little while, but I just went back into the cafe to get my purse (that I had left there when I was searching in vain for someone to HELP me) and then I just went to the lounge to sit down and calm down a little from my near death experience. One of the guys at the reception that didn't know how to help me came up and asked me if I wanted some ice cream. But I didn't.

So, that is my story. The crocs didn't get me yet, but the croissant nearly did. Seriously, that was one of the scariest things I ever experienced... I'd compare it to something, but honestly, I don't have to. It's like choking on a croissant in front of a bunch of people who are just staring at you and asking if you are ok. It was like, 45 seconds to a minute where I couldn't breathe or talk... and it wasn't what I thought choking would feel like, it was just... well, scary. And I'm thinking to myself "What, maybe in Australia they have a different choking sign?" But... it's called a UNIVERSAL choking sign. That means it is supposed to be familiar to everyone in the UNIVERSE. (Or, planet at least, I guess I wouldn't expect any aliens I might meet to know, since they might eat and swallow out of their knees instead of their mouths/throat)

For some reason... croissants have always been a little bit of a problem for me to eat. I don't know why, but occasionally I find that it is hard to swallow them... but it was never so bad that it dissuaded me from eating them. Its ONLY croissants too... I don't know why... but I think I'm going to avoid eating croissants for a while. Even though they are so darn good.

Anyway... I think I'm officially sick of Sydney. Hah, as I wrote that line, the music that currently playing is "We gotta get out of this place! If it's the last thing we ever do!" That's how I feel right now about Sydney. I can't wait to get out of this place. So I think, after surf camp is over (I come back a week from tuesday) I'm off to another place that will hopefully be a little nicer to me.

Hah, and now, as I'm signing off, the song that has come on is "Highway to Hell". I really hope this isn't a bad sign for me!