Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cairns, Australia

I've completely been slacking with the updates, so I decided it was time to finally write about my amazing adventures in Cairns, Australia a few weeks ago. We flew out of Sydney on Thursday morning and arrived in Cairns in the afternoon. We were greeted by beautiful weather, so we grabbed our luggage eager to get to the resort. We got there, unpacked and spent the day laying by the pool. Friday we were out up and early to head to the Great Barrier Reef for a day of snorkeling. It was AMAZING! First of all, the boat ride alone was hysterical. We took a catamaran and decided it would be fun to sit in the nets on the front, so my friends and I left our stuff inside and headed out to sit in the sun. The entire ride there we continually got drenched by waves that we would hit that would splash through the nets. It was so funny, even though by the end of the ride half the boat was throwing up from sea sickness, but that's besides the point. We got to the first location, put on our stinger suits and jumped in the water all ready to snorkle :) Unfortunately due to bad weather that they had been having previously, the bottom of the water had been stirred up a little which made it a little foggy, but nonetheless it was so beautiful. There were turtles, stingrays, and even reef sharks (even though we didn't run into those thank god). We boarded the boat to eat lunch and head to the second location which was nowhere near shore. We jumped into the water and were led around by guides who described all of the different types of coral that we could see. At the end of our tour we got back on the boat, took off our snorkeling gear, and jumped back in the water to go swimming-- it was a perfect day. We got home that night, walked into downtown Cairns to look around. We went to The Woolshed for dinner which turned out to be THE best meal of my time here thus far. It was a vegetarian meal, words can't describe how good it was.. needless to say we went back again before we left. Saturday we were up bright and early SO excited to go skydiving... fail. The weather was too bad to go up :( So we were scheduled to do it Monday instead.. therefore we went back to bed for a bit before we left to go bungy jumping. At about noon we were picked up to go to AJ Hacketts to go bungy jumping. Tracy, Rachael and I got there, checked in, and walked up the tower to get ready to jump. 164 feet above the ground, Tracy and Rachael stood there wondering exactly what they were thinking when they signed up for it.. I on the other hand had never been so excited :) When it was finally my turn to go, I put my toes over the ledge and felt my heart pounding in my chest haha. I heard my count down, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, BUNGY! And that was that.. it was the greatest feeling I've ever had before and I just dangled around upside-down wishing that I could do it again. When I was finally right-side-up and ready to leave, I picked up my pictures and DVD and walked back out to the van, wishing I could jump again. We got in the van to go to the site for White Water Rafting, where we met up with Kacie. Our tour guide was awesome! And even though the river was decently calm, it was deceiving. He let us get off of the raft and swim down some of the final rapids and it was scary. I felt like I was drowning, I got sucked under for a decent amount of time and was flailing in my lifejacket, helmet and awful water shoes they made us wear (now that's an image). When I finally surfaced I looked around to see Tracy and Kacie struggling too, so we all just started cracking up haha. When we got to the bottom we were greeted with tea and coffee, which was perfect. Talk about the most action packed day ever haha, I wish I could go back and do it again, if only every Saturday was like that. Sunday we got up to do a hike through the rain forrest which was beautiful! and then we went on a crocodile watch boat. We saw crocodiles just relaxing on the bank, ya know, normal haha. It was crazy to see them up close and personal with no cage or glass separating us from them. After the croc boat we took our 3 hour bus ride home which was less than comfortable, but beautiful. The sights were incredible. That night we went back to the Woolshed to get some more of the incredible food, shared a table with 3 guys from Europe who were traveling the world for the year.. it was so cool to hear some of their stories, and share ours with them as well. That night I slept like a baby, so excited to skydive the next morning. We woke up to overcast skies and strong winds :( nervous that we wouldn't be able to jump again. The company came to pick us up, which was a step further than we had made it the first time. We got to the company headquarters, filled out our paperwork, bought our photos and dvd's and sat on standby because we had been delayed due to weather. 4 hours later, we lost hope.. no skydiving in Cairns :( We went back to grab our bags, depressed, and boarded the bus for the airport to head back home.. I mean, to Sydney.. weird. We got home late Monday night, feeling so accomplished. By far one of the best weekends of my life <3

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sydney Aquarium & Wildlife World :)

Hahaha Tracy & I in the gift shop

Crazy lookin fish

School :)

Cute Dugong :)

Huge stingray!

Last Saturday, my roommate Tracy & I decided to get up and take advantage of the day. We looked online for things to do and decided that the Aquarium and Wildlife World were the perfect idea :) We got on the bus to Sydney, and after what seemed like the longest bus ride ever, we arrived in Sydney. We got off the bus and walked to Darling Harbour where the aquarium & wildlife world are located. We did the wildlife world first and saw some incredible things: the largest crocodile in the world, kangaroos :), wallabies which were definitely my favorite, and koalas :) after the wildlife world we went to the lizard lounge for lunch, which obviously was Tracy's favorite because she loves creepy crawlys like lizards and iguanas haha. Lunch was great, and once we finished we headed over to the aquarium which was AWESOME! We saw some incredible fish! Sharks, stingrays, dugongs, turtles, alligators, and even Nemo & Dori ;) My favorite part i have to say was the underwater walkways under the shark tanks. It gave us the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the deadliest sharks in existence. My favorite animal was definitely the Dugong :) even though it was the size of a cow haha. Tracy and I are hoping that we'll get to see some of the beautiful fish next weekend first hand when we go snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef, hopefully not the sharks, but other than that :)

Walking under the shark tank!

Wallaby :) <3

Lazy kangaroo haha

Koala :)

Bus on the wear there haha, note the sign on the window

Mardi Gras in Sydney!

Last weekend we decided it would be a great idea to trek to Sydney in bright clothes and sparkles to witness one of the biggest celebrations of the year in Sydney, the Gay/Lesbian festival & of course MARDI GRAS! It was an experience to say the least. There were people EVERYWHERE, literally: in trees, hanging from light posts, sitting on top of buildings, on each others shoulders, all trying to see the parade that went by. Obviously being American we didn't know how to prepare for this and barely got to see anything at all, but being in the city during this time was enough for us. It was out of control, so many people were dressed up, gay pride flags were flying everywhere, and everyone was cheering. After about an hour of pushing through crowds to try to see the parade, we gave up and headed to a local bar called the Gaff to get some drinks and watch the parade on tv. The Gaff was packed from floor to ceiling, music was blasting-- it was awesome. The bartender at the downstairs bar was hysterical, i made sure to document his outfit because you wouldn't believe me unless you saw it. All in all it was an awesome night with even better friends :) i'm so glad we decided to go because it was an experience in itself to just be a bystander at this awesome celebration.
Downstairs at the Gaff!

Outside at the celebration :)

Our "sassy" drinks

The bartender! hahaha

Rachael, Naz & I on the train in :)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Beginning of Sydney

So now that i've been in Australia for a week now, I guess it would be a good time to add a post. The first week here has been overwhelming to say the least, between finding out about classes, learning the ropes of the campus (which I still have to do) to figuring out public transportation, I've felt lost a lot of the time, which is difficult but at the same time so rewarding. I've started to learn a lot about myself in the situations that i've been in and learning to manage money, time, etcetera. It's been great. I'm still waiting for it to hit me that I still have another 4 months here, it just doesn't seem real yet. In my first week I've seen some beautiful sights including downtown Sydney, the Opera House, the Harbor Bridge, and Manly & Bondi beaches-- each of which is more beautiful than the one before. Pictures don't do justice to how incredibly beautiful it is here. Also, thanks to Skype I don't always have to feel so far from home, because even though Australia is very modern and Americanized, there have been a number of situations when I just wished I could be home for a second because that's where I feel comfortable. But, thanks to the amazing friends i've made here, i've come to realize that although I'm so far from home, that we're all in this together, learning and living together and that we're all in the same boat. So I'm getting excited. This is going to be the best months of my life and I can't wait to see all that Syndey has to show me.

Bondi Beach!

Manly Beach!

Cheers to new friends <3

Opera House from the Ferry!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Eco Park, Hindu Temple, Last Night in the Feeej

Today we arrived at the University of the South Pacific with our bags in tow ready to leave : ( we packed up the bus a

nd said goodbye to our families, which wound up being so hard for me. It’s crazy how close you can get to people in such a

short period of time. My family was amazing to me. They helped me to feel welcome and always as if I was a part of the family. Words cannot describe how grateful I am to them for everything.

We were on the bus for a few hours until we got to Kulu Eco Park. When we got there we saw some crazy things: talking birds, baby turtles, peacocks, and even an aquarium! There were also iguanas and snakes that we got to hold, but I was kind of a chicken.

I held the iguana but couldn’t bring myself to hold the snake haha. Call me crazy but I didn’t want a boa constrictor wrapped around my body. After the park we took the bus to lunch, which was great.

Right on the beach, the sun was out- it was perfect. After lunch we boarded the bus once again to head back to Nadi for our last night in Fiji. Along the way we stopped at the Hindu temple to take pictures, which was kind of difficult because they didn’t allow photography, but we managed to snag some pictures haha.

After we went to the temple we got back on the bus for our final leg of the trip. Finally, we arrived back at our original hotel that we were at in the beginning of the week before our homestays. We moved back into our rooms, repacked our suitcases and got ready for our flight to Sydney! I got to talk to some people from home on Skype which was nice. It felt good to have a little taste of home being so far away.

We had dinner around 7, and then we came back and hung out at the hotel for the night. It was a great way to spend our last night here. Since the week that I’ve been here I’ve absolutely fallen in love with Fiji. It’s such a culture rich place with so much to offer. The beaches are beautiful, the people are friendly, and the food is.. interesting, but great! I wouldn’t trade these past 10 days for anything.

That’s all for today, goodnight everyone : ) and Happy Valentine’s day<3

YES, that's for McDonalds haha.. It's luxury in the Feej

Exam Day, First Night Out, RAINFOREST WALK : ), Farewell Dinner, and Last Night with the Lalabalavu’s : (

Today we had our exam for our Fiji class. All essays for the 5 hour and a half hours of lecture that we had. It took me about an hour to get all I could onto paper and then get out of there. Felt great to have finished my first class abroad! After our class we were supposed to volunteer at an old folks home in Suva, but we were supposed to do work outside and it was raining, so unfortunately it was cancelled. It all worked out because we got to go into the city and walk around for the afternoon but we got caught in the rain, which was unfortunate. After the city we went home and had dinner with our family and got ready to head out. We went to Tracy and Naz’s house for a bit before the bar and met all of their family, which was a lot of fun. We went to a place called O’Reilly’s first, but I couldn’t get in because I was wearing flip-flops, so we went to a place called Traps instead. It was a cool place and we got to soak in some of the Fijian nightlife. I got home pretty late and headed to bed, ready for Saturday, our free day with our homestay families.
Evy and I got up around 8am and had breakfast and got ready for the day. We headed to the rainforest to do an hour hike to the freshwater pools. The sights were absolutely incredible, but the hike was a challenge. The rocks were slippery and the hills were hard to get down at times, but it was absolutely worth it! We got to the last pool and were immediately SO excited. There was a rope swing from a cliff into a freshwater pool. We were all a bit anxious to try, but we gained the courage and did it. It was SO fun!

The weather was a bit rainy, but that didn’t stop us from having such a great day. After the swim and lunch we hiked back out and took a cab home. Evy and I had SUCH a great time hanging out with great company and amazing sights. When we got home we packed up our bags and showered and got ready for our farewell dinner : ( The dinner was great and we got some great pictures with our families.
Afterwards we went to McDonalds to get ice cream for dessert because in Fiji it’s the hot spot for ice cream haha.. also nice dinners, but that’s another story. After ice cream I went home and hung out with Evy, Pio, Bapsi, Christine, Amanda, Tui, Kata and Ron. We sat around and drank Kava and talked. Then we decided to break out Catch Phrase. It was SO funny haha playing with our Fijian friends was so great. We played for awhile, but the Kava made me exhausted and I had to go to bed before I fell asleep sitting up haha. It was such a great last day with our families I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.


Second Day of Class in Fiji (Day 6)

Today we got up around 7:30am and I took a quick shower before breakfast and school. I have a new love for Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds, I have to say it might be my new favorite cereal. We dropped Bapsi off at work and then took Pio to school on our way to the university. Today was not as hot as some of the other days since we have been here. We had 3 lectures today, starting at 9am and running until 3:30pm, with breaks for Morning Tea and lunch. During my lunch break I went over to the internet cafĂ© and got to talk and skype with people at home. It was so refreshing to see all the faces that I’ve been missing so much! It’s crazy to think that we’ve only been here for less than a week, it feels like much longer- probably because all of our days are jam packed with things to do.

After school the girls and I took a bus into the city to walk around for a bit. We did some shopping and I got some cool jewelry and things to bring home. Then we decided to go to dinner together. So 7 of us went to dinner on a boat! The boat is stationary and sits right in the harbor. I had some great salad, French fries, and a Fiji Bitter which is the most popular Fijian beer.

Tracy and I had to document it because it was our first legal beer that we bought! Dinner was great and we split dessert which was arguably the best part—Fried banana’s with ice cream.. SO good. Then we walked around the city a bit, took some awesome pictures and then decided to sit together and study for our exam that we have tomorrow. We met some.. interesting natives to say the least. Everyone here is so eager to here where we’re from and how we like Fiji. At around 8pm it was pretty dark and we thought it’d be for the best if we got out of the city haha so I took a cab home, sat around with my family, and then went to bed at around 10:30 : ).

That’s all for now<3