Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The End.

Well folks, this is it. We’ve finally come to the end of my five-month adventure in Australia. At the beginning of this journey I had no idea what to expect of this country. As I’m leaving, I realize that it has become a second home to me. Before all my friends left on June 26th they kept saying how it didn’t feel real, that they weren’t really leaving Australia. Or, that if they were leaving they would be coming back for fall semester. But, alas, we are not. I didn’t think I was going to get that feeling because I figured that being all over the country an extra three weeks would make me eager to go home and it definitely has. It is so true though- I always think I’m going to go back to the Gold Coast come September. I love Merrimack and I would not change my college experience there for anything, but right now as I am flying over the Pacific, I just keep thinking that in a few months I’m going to be back on this plane to go to school with Jenna, Cathy, Julia, Tanya, Jill, Brittany, and everyone else who has made this abroad experience amazing. I talked to Jenna shortly after she got home and she said she finds herself saying “in Australia…” a lot and I can understand why. Although we’ve lived three years at Merrimack, this experience has been unbelievable.

When I arrived in Cairns on February 12th, I honestly was scared about what was going to happen or if I was going to make friends. And just when I was comfortable there, I was dropped off on the Gold Coast with no explanation as to where anything was or how to live. I was completely on my own and it was weird. I’ve come a long way since then I think and Australia has helped me achieve that goal. From having to cook all my own food, clean my room, to watching after myself after a crazy night out in Surfer’s, I’ve grown up a lot and I don’t think I would have turned out the same if I hadn’t been abroad and taken this experience for everything it was worth.

I’ve had some of the best times of my life in these past five months. Let’s reminisce for a minute… There was the time I held a koala and it pooped on me. And the first time I went to Sydney and met my future husband who has been to almost every continent except for Antarctica. Or there was Mid-semester break when Jenna, Jill, Brittany, and me rented a RV and frozen to death all over New Zealand. And one of my favorite times, going to Byron Bay and doing absolutely nothing but laughing for three days. All the family dinners cooked, teasing Cathy relentlessly everyday of her life, laying out by the pool on a Thursday between classes, and running to my room at 8:30pm on a Tuesday night to get dressed because the bus to Surfer’s would leaving in 10 minutes. And these past three weeks with my mom have been unforgettable! So many memories that I’ll never be able to forget with people I’ll always be friends with no matter how close or far away they live.

I’ve been on this plane for 7 hours already and I still have another 6 to go until LA and then it’s another five and a half to Boston. This may be the longest and saddest Thursday of my life. Although I still can’t believe this is the end, it is. I know I’ll be back some day, but it won’t be the same. This semester has been incredible and I couldn’t have done it without the help of everyone at Merrimack and my family. The End.

The City Round II

It’s been so long since I’ve written about what we’ve been doing that I almost forget all the activities we’ve been up to. I know that we got to Sydney on Friday afternoon and checked into our hotel on Darling Harbour and then went to Hunter Valley on Saturday. Sunday we walked in whipping winds to Circular Quay where mom caught her first glimpse of the Opera House. Then we headed toward the outdoor markets in the Rocks and looked around. We got some corn from a street vendor and then hopped on a bus toward the Sydney Football Stadium. We had purchased tickets to a rugby game where the Sydney Roosters would play the Penrith Panthers, a team that had been on a five game win streak. The Roosters (the worst team in the NRL) surprisingly pulled off a victory and we had a ton of fun cheering them on in the process. The stadium was not even a little bit crowded. In fact, I think the total number of people attending was less than a full Fenway Park, somewhere around 12,000 people showed up. Everyone there, however, was a true fan; completely decked out in Rooster red and screaming their heads off in true Aussie fashion.

Monday, we had booked a trip to the famous Blue Mountains. I don’t know what it is about me and my mom, but I think we attract people who can’t hold down their lunch. Half an hour into our journey a little kid got sick on the bus making the rest of the drive absolutely miserable. Luckily, most of our trip was planned for outside and it was amazing. The Blue Mountains are home to another amazing Australian nature made landmark- the Three Sisters. The Sisters are Australia’s second most visited sight and were incredible. They are three freestanding columns in a row. Across from them are other sights such as Orphan Rock and Solitary Mountain. Solitary Mountain, according to our tour guide, is same in size to Ayer’s Rock in Alice Springs. The Blue Mountains get their name from the constant blue haze that is given off by the millions of eucalyptus plants that live in the valley. The leaves refract the sunlight and create a bluish fog, which was unreasonably obvious on the cloudless day that we went. After we saw the Three Sisters, we got back on the bus and headed to Scenic World. Whilst at Scenic World, we took three cool rides in the valley. The first was a Skyway, which is essentially a horizontal gondola that has a glass floor; it was cool, but not my favorite part of our trip. After we ate lunch, we boarded the Scenic World Railway. Our bus driver had told us that the railway was one of the steepest in the world at 52 degrees vertically, but honestly what does that even mean? Well, it means that when you get in the train you are almost laying down in your seats and then when the train goes it is practically straight up and down. The ride was all of a minute long, but it was so cool. Everyone was screaming because the train goes through caves and is pitch black and going down a steep mountainside. Next, we walked through the Blue Mountains national park and saw a lot of cool artifacts left from the mining that used to be done there. The last ride of our trip was the Cableway, just a cable car, but still fun. We left the Blue Mountains and stopped in a town called Leura to look around. Then we drove through Sydney’s Olympic Park before finally getting dropped off for a boat ride into Circular Quay. They views from the boat were spectacular.

Tuesday I got to sleep in and it was awesome. After I finally rolled out of bed at 10:45am, mom and I started walking. We walked about 5 miles or so starting from our hotel to the Opera House. We looked all around the iconic building and then walked through the Royal Botanic Gardens and sat on Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair. For lunch, we had a little picnic while mom inhaled her first kebab- an experience that will not soon be forgotten considering she called it “the best ‘sandwich’ she’s ever had.” After fueling up, we walked another few miles over the bridge and into Luna Park. Luna Park is very similar to New York’s Coney Island because it is an old time amusement park, but it still runs and people love it. We then took a ferry back to Circular Quay and looked around the Rocks again. We came back to the hotel after a drink at Jenna’s favorite bar, Lowenbrau. Since coming to Australia I had a few goals. One was to get an Australian accent, which I didn’t do. Another was to learn about myself and have as much fun as possibly. And the last was to get a haircut because my hair was too long even before I left in February. I know you’re thinking this is completely random, but it’s not. You see, after we walked a lot we came back to the hotel to relax and we had a brilliant idea to let mom cut my hair. It actually didn’t come out that bad and it made for a good story! We went to dinner at the Hard Rock Café and made friends with our Italian waiter Carmine. Tomorrow is our last day in Australia and we have quite a mission.

We woke up on Wednesday morning to a overcast sky, which was unfortunate because we were planning on going to Bondi Beach for the day. Bondi is one of the most famous beaches in Australia because it is situated in Sydney. It takes about half an hour to get to Bondi Beach by train and bus. Mom and I got there, walked down to the water, and just had a look around. It was really cool to be there in the winter because Bondi is host to a Winterfestival and there was an ice skating rink on the beach and a ski hut. We had lunch down there then headed back into the city for some last minute souvenier shopping. I had planned on taking mom to a seafood restaurant right in Darling Harbour, but apparently it had closed down between March and now. We ended up eating a disappointing last dinner in Chinatown, but it was ok. Tomorrow is Thursday and we have to be in a shuttle to the airport by 7:15am. It definitely hasn’t hit me that I’m leaving yet. Prepare for the most sentimental post ever tomorrow.

The Capital

I’ve been to Washington, D.C. twice and absolutely loved it. As a lover of politics, I can’t help but be obsessed with the endless amounts of history to be learnt and the tours to take around our nation’s capital. While visiting Canberra, I got a very similar feeling. Although Canberra is usually thought of as a tiny city that doesn’t offer much compared to big cities in Australia like Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, I found the Canberra to be quite enjoyable. Canberra, pronounced like Can-bra, was chosen as Australia’s capital for one reason alone: there was no way to choose whether Sydney or Melbourne was larger, so they picked a spot in the middle to represent the country as a whole. When asked about their capital, most Aussies will say that they’ve never been and aren’t exactly sure of the whereabouts of the ACT or Australia Capital Territory. The reason for this is simple. Although the political end of government is drawn out in Canberra, most of the housekeeping, campaigning, and other aspects that go into politics take place in either of the two other cities.

Mom and I only spent one night and half a day in the capital, but we mostly enjoyed our time. We arrived around 7pm on Friday, which meant it was dark outside and our only source of guidance was our GPS that we had named Helen on our 5-hour trip from Melbourne. Canberra is well lit and from the outside looks as though it has a reasonable amount of nightlife to offer. We drove through the city expecting our hotel to pop up at any given moment. Before we started our journey, we knew not to expect much because we had booked our one night in a Best Western “Resort”, but we did now know exactly where this hotel/motel was located. It turns out that we had entered into the scariest place to stay in the entire continent of Australia. Ok, it wasn’t that bad, but the only other people we saw at the Best Western were an elderly woman running the front desk and a chain smoking truck driver who just happened to be in the room right next door to us. Honestly, I felt like I was in the beginning of a bad horror movie and that at any point in time someone was going to break into our room (the book Julia gave me to read didn’t help either as the chapter was about a break-in to the main characters home).

After not sleeping all night, we awoke to the coldest day yet. The thermometer read 1 degree Celsius and I was bundled up like I was going skiing. We drove to the Parliament House for a tour around and a better understanding of the confusion that this country considers government. The Parliament building was amazing. The entire inside is made of marble and surprisingly you are allowed to sit in both the Senate and House of Representative chambers even whilst they’re in session (if you’re lucky enough to be there when they meet, which is rare). We learnt a lot by walking around and mom purchased a giant map of Australia with all different facts in the gift shop. We then headed out of Canberra and started to make our way to Sydney.

We got into Darling Harbour around 6pm after making a few tourist drives through small town on the way from Canberra. It was as if we were royalty especially considering the motel we had just come from. Bellhops to take our bags, separate beds with down comforters, and free wifi in the lobby; we are really getting spoiled and we definitely don’t mind. We unloaded and then decided that we “fancied an Indian” for dinner so we walked across the bridge and ate some of the most delicious Indian food. We headed to bed fairly early after stopping at an Irish pub for one last drink. Saturday, we drove the car a couple hours north of Sydney to an area just outside of Newcastle called Hunter Valley. We checked out a few breweries that we knew were in Australia’s “wine country” and bought some cheese, then said goodbye to Helen as we took the car back to the airport.

When mom first told me that we were spending 6 days in Sydney, I was a little nervous. I wasn’t sure if we would find stuff to occupy our time for that long and I didn’t know much about the city, but now that we are here, we are both concerned whether we’ll have time to fit in all the activities we want to do. It’s been a day and a half and mom still hasn’t really seen the Opera House. The closest she came is when we accidentally drove over the Bridge! We have so much planned for the next few days and we’ll be tired and busy, but we’re excited. I have to make the absolute most of my last few days in this country. As of today, it’s been exactly 5 months since I’ve been home. I am eager to get back, but I can’t imagine leaving this place. It truly has become a second home to me.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The New

Melbourne is unlike any city I’ve ever been into in my life; not only Australia. Half of this city is straight Aussie- a Pieface on every corner, every other block has a shopping mall area,
and there are pubs and Asian restaurants everywhere. But, the other half of the city is more like Europe. The city is broken down into sections and precincts. There is an arts district that has museums for every kind of art buff out there, sculpturesalong the river walk, and historical churches and buildings to tour. It’s an amazing city with so much to offer and with only a limited amount of time, I’m not sure mom and I aregoing to get a chance to see it all, but we’re trying our best.
We arrived late Sunday night and decided it was a good idea to rent the car right away instead of waiting until Tuesday. We didn’t instantly regret the decision, but we definitely didn’t fully think it out. Mom freaked out a little while driving throughthe city especially since every intersection has a right turn from the left lane… figure that out. We managed to find our way and only got lost twice! Our hotel is basically located in Chinatown, which is really cool if you’re in the mood for any form of Asian cuisine, but on Sunday we were just hungry. We found an Italian restaurant a few blocks down from the hotel and ate amazing food. Thenwe looked across the street and there was a James Squire Brewhouse, so we headed that way for a sampler of their signature brews. It was a lot of fun. We knew we were in the right place for us when we could order spicy peanuts, a paddle of 6 different kinds of beer, and Adele came on the radio.

Monday we woke up with absolutely no idea what to do. We read some of our tourism books and figured out where the most popular places in the city were, so we headed those ways. We walked about 5 miles around the city, down the river, around the sports stadiums that line the city, and then took a free tourist shuttle back to find something to eat. Like I said, Melbourne possesses many similar qualities to European cities. When we hopped off the Tram, we walked a little ways and found this small alleyway that was bustling with cafes and people. There were tables all along the side of the alley and there were people sitting outside drinking coffee and talking. It was adorable! We walked around the city more to see some sites and then headed to the infamous Young and Jackson Pub located right in the middle of Federation Square, the busiest spot in the city. We heard that Melbourne was home of Australia’s largest casino, so we decided to go there for dinner and a look around the place and man they weren’t kidding, the place was huge! We had a lot of fun walking around the casino and testing one of two of the roulette tables, but we didn’t play too much as Tuesday held a busy schedule.

Although it was raining, mom and I made the most of our experience down in the southern part of the country. Victoria is a lucky state because it has the coast, rainforest, and outback areas all in small vicinity. We took the car out of the carpark and made started our five-hour journey toward the Twelve Apostles, one of Australia’s numerous nature-made marvels. The Twelve Apostles are limestone rocks that have broken off of the cliffs from the ocean and are now standing free in the water. They truly are a sight to see and even though we risked our

lives going out onto the viewing platforms in 100km/h winds, we wouldn’t have wanted to miss it. To get to the rocks you have to drive along the Great Ocean Road, another famous landmark in Victoria. The road was built by WWI veterans as Australia’s tribute to their hard work in the war. It was a seriously curvy road and the high winds certainly did not help the car’s stability, but the view along the cliffs towards the ocean were incredible. Mom let me drive on the way home, which was probably not in our best interest as I took an American right turn into oncoming traffic while pulling out of a gas station. I must say, once I got over my nervousness, I was much better.
The highlights of Wednesday were going to St. Paul’s Cathedral in Federation Square- an absolutely exquisite Anglican church in the middle of a metropolitan city. Another highlight was finding a pub to watch the third deciding game of the State of Origin. State of Origin is a three game series between all star rugby teams from Queensland and New South Wales. Noticeably, people in Victoria don’t care too much considering their state isn’t involved, but I’m a true Queensland fan, so the game was a big deal to me. (The Queensland Maroons won again, obviously.) Thursday morning mom and I woke up slightly hungover and before the sun even rose to start our trek to the capital of Canberra. First though, we had to visit the largest outdoor markets in Australia. The Queen Victoria Markets in Melbourne stretch for about four or five blocks in both directions. We shopped for souvenirs, fresh fruit, cheeses, olives, basically anything you wanted. Although Thursday was the first day we had seen the sun and the first day it hadn’t rained, but that doesn’t mean it was warm. It was so cold that mom and I had to get fresh hot doughnuts from a little stand (they were SO GOOD) to stay warm. After getting some great stuff for cheap, we hopped back in the warm car for our drive. The drive was pretty and there were mountains and hills that reminded me slightly of New Zealand. There were even sheep, but who are we kidding, there will never be as many sheep farms as NZ anywhere in the world! Tomorrow we are touring the Parliament building and then driving to Sydney for our last week. I cannot believe that it’s been two weeks since my mom left home and almost two weeks since she’s been here. I must admit, I’m getting eager to go home at this point, but we have a lot planned for Sydney and if Cairns and Melbourne were a precursor to anything, we are going to have a lot of fun.

The Re(ef)peat... See what I did there?

It’s now June 30th and I’m in Cairns again. This time, however, I’m not nervous or a stranger. I’m in a familiar land showing my mom the ropes of the Australian way of life. Day 1 in northern Queensland it rained. The first day of rain in June and we had just stepped off the plane. We took a shuttle to our apartment, set our stuff down, and proceeded to find a way back into the city. I remembered Cairns as being a small city with a lot of different shops, bars, and restaurants with not many people. Cairns is set up in very square blocks that reach all the way to the water. Mom and I walked towards the water first and admired the little man-made lagoon along the waters edge. Surprisingly, I could not get a grasp of how the blocks were located, most likely because I’m used to Boston where the city streets have little order and are narrow and winding. We poked around the shops before deciding it was time to eat and have a drink. We stopped in a restaurant called Rattle and Hum to have some lunch. We continued walking around the city a little more, still exploring the mostly unknown territory, had a few
drinks and then headed back to the apartment for the night. We decided that it would be better to plan some activities for the upcoming days, as the weather did not seem to be cooperating.Day two we awoke to a cloudless sky! We threw on our bathing suits as fast as we could and literally ran down to the beach. Unfortunately, the sky stayed nice for alittle over an hour and soon enough we were soaking wet with rain yet again. Instead of going back to Cairns right away, we walked around Palm Cove and I finally got a Bali Bintang singlet I’ve been wanting forever! When we were fairly hungry, we took the bus into the city again and had a snack. Then, we channeled our inner Australian and had a few drinks before inhaling the most delicious Thai food ever. It was still quite early after dinner so mom and I decided to do what we do best (kind of): we gambled a little at the casinoin Cairns. We played roulette and won almost $5! We had planned a big day for Thursday so we headed back to bed. We awoke bright and early on Thursday morning, boarded a shuttle bus, and were off to the small rainforest town of Kuranda.

Before we came up to the rainforest area, mom had said that she really wanted to hold a koala and pet kangaroos, so we found a trip that allowed us to do both while also admiring the town

of Kuranda. We took a scenic, historic train ride up the mountains before arriving in the village. We shopped around in the famous Heritage Markets of Kuranda. They literally had everything in the markets! Then we went to the koala gardens to hug, feed, and pet all the native Australian animals. Mom and I made friends with the cutest wallaby! Leave it to us to find the most amazing scones in all of Kuranda, served with cream and jam and then have delicious hot pies for lunch. Finally, we escaped the rain by taking the Skyrail down the mountains. The ride was unreasonably cloudy and at one point we couldn’t see anything in front or behind- kind of scary! The Skyrail stopped at two different lookout points, though the second there was little visibility. Overall, we had a really fun day.

Tanya had hooked us up big time for a reef trip on Friday morning, so we woke up around 6:30am to board a bus into Port Douglas. The weather was still not cooperating, but we risked the trip anyway. After overdosing on motion sickness meds and eating our weight in ginger snaps, mom and I boarded the Quicksilver SilverSonic along with 45 high schoolers, who clearly had not taken any medication. The water was rough and, I’m not joking, about half of the people on the boat had to utilize the white paper bags offered by the staff. We quite possibly experienced the most unique trip to the reef. Not only was the water choppy, but at our first stop it started down pouring while we were snorkeling. We had a lot of fun and saw some amazing fish, coral, and shells. At one point, one of the crew members were feeding an enormous fish they nicknamed Old Greg and everyone got to pet him! On the way home, the captain stopped the ship because a humpback whale had breached right in front of our ship. The funniest part of it all was that the other Quicksilver boat showed up right next to us and it turns out Tanya was working there! After finally getting our feet on solid ground, mom and I headed into Port Douglas to have some dinner. And then the most exciting thing happened- TANYA SHOWED UP. Ok, we had kind of planned it, but it was still so awesome. I realize that the last time I had seen her was about 7 days previous, but it was still great to hang out for a little while.

Saturday morning mom and I went to a little café in Palm Cove for brekky and then took a small shuttle back up to Port Douglas for the day. We had a really fun day shopping, walking on the beach, and watching some footy games. Tanya met us for a quick second for our final goodbyes (which I’m still sad over, btw) and we boarded our shuttle around 9:15pm to get back to the apartment for last minute repacking. Now, it’s Sunday afternoon and I’m on a plane to Melbourne for the real adventure to begin. Cairns was an amazing five days and despite the weather, mom and I had a lot of fun. It’s a very bittersweet feeling for me. I am excited to go home in eleven days, but I don’t want to leave this amazing place. Not only that, but leaving Cairns means actually leaving Tanya and the warm weather, but I am on my way to Melbourne; the iconic city of Australia and somewhere I’ve never been. Mom and I had a conversation earlier that made me realize how much this place has become my mom. She asked, “how long do you think it takes people to not notice the Australian accent? A few years?” and I answered “Only a few months. I hardly notice it anymore.” And it’s true. I also find myself using Australian expressions like reckon, heaps, keen, and so many more.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Beginning of the End

My mom arrived at the Gold Coast Airport bright and early on June 25th slightly jetlagged, but excited to finally be in Australia. I’ve been anticipating my trip around the east coast of the country for a while and I was excited for it to begin. We began out journey on the Gold Coast for a few days. On Saturday night, mom, Julia, and I headed into Surfer’s so we could finally get to the top of Q1. Q1 is the tallest building in Surfer’s Paradise, but it is also the tallest residential building in the Southern Hemisphere. Looking at it, the building doesn’t seem that tall and I can think of at least 5 skyscrapers off the top lf my head that easily would dominate it, however, the fact is that Q1 is the tallest residential so every floor contains apartments, not offices and cubicles. From the 77th floor of Q1 it is easy to see over 20km on either side. It was a lot of fun for me and Julia to spot all the places we have visited in the past four and a half months; shopping plazas we’ve been to, the rugby stadium where we cheered like mad for the Titans even though we had no idea what was going on, and the airport wherein a few short hours she would be headed to go back home to Rhode Island. After admiring the view for a little while longer, we headed back down the fastest elevator I’ve
ever been on and met my mom. The three of us went out to dinner and then headed back to the Village. Mom was pretty tired after two days of traveling so while she was in bed, the girls and I played some games while remembering all the fun times we’ve had in Australia. I sent them off at 3:00 in the morning, not as sad as I was when saying goodbye to Tanya, but slightly emotional nonetheless.

The next day, mom and I got some breakfast and then I showed her around the area of the Gold Coast I knew best. We did a little shopping in Harbour Town and then headed into Surfer’s for the night. I took her to two Irish pubs (Waxy’s and Fiddlers, obviously) and introduced her to my favorites of Australian beer. She prefers Pure Blonde whereas I’m still partial to Toohey’s New. On Monday, our last day on the Goldie, I thought it would be fun to show her Brisbane. I’ll be honest, I’m not too familiar with Brizzy, but we managed to get a walking map and find our way around to all the places I had seen before and thought she would enjoy. We walked probably four miles altogether from one side of the river, over a pedestrian bridge, down the river, back over another bridge, and then all over shopping area in the city. We stopped at a little outdoor restaurant, had a beer and some nachos while we people watched and discussed how Australian people are quite the attractive race. After we took the bus to the train and back on the bus to school, we had to pack up five months of my stuff into two suitcases under 20kg. Needless to say, we were up late and didn’t even accomplish our goals, but it was time to move on from the Gold Coast- the place that had become home to me. I’ll always have a spot in my heart for that area of Australia. It served me well and I don’t think there is another time in my life that I’ll be able to appreciate all the Goldie has to offer than I did at the young age of 21.

Tuesday at 1:45am, mom and I woke up to a fire alarm, which I guess was the Village’s final goodbye to me. Three hours later, my alarm went off and we had to get up to catch the bus to the airport. Anyone who has used Translink will understand that the bus ride at 5:42am to the Gold Coast Airport was the most miserable ride of my life. I don’t understand why there were so many people awake at that hour taking public transit to the airport, but it was terrible in my opinion. If the bus ride wasn’t enough to put me on edge, it turned out that our flight to Cairns was an international flight so we were supposed to have been there over two hours in advance, not the 45 minutes we had allotted ourselves. We, along with a dozen other passengers, were rushed through one set of security and then the international security and customs and finally boarded the plane with five minutes to spare. The flight was luckily short and the process to go through customs once we arrived in Cairns was shorter. We finally arrived in our apartment. The apartment is in a suburb called Palm Cove and is about forty minutes outside of Cairns. It’s a cute little place, but it gives the Florida resort type feel with families of children ages 10 and under everywhere. Since it’s the dry season up in Northeast Queensland it should be beautifully sunny with a temperature of 25C everyday and not a cloud in the sky, but alas it is not. It has rained every day we have been here. I talked to Tanya yesterday and she said there had not been a rainy day in June until the 28th. We had all of an hour on the beach and then it started down pouring, but mom and I have been making the most of it… More on that later.

The Lasts

The week after all my finals and before my mom arrived on the Gold Coast became solemnly the week of lasts. Our last Shooters BBQ and bus ride, our last beach day, our last trip to Brisbane, our last goodbyes. It was an adventurous time for me and Julia (because everyone else still had finals), but it was an emotional time for us all.

My finals ended on June 16th, which meant that I had free time between then and the 25th to do things I didn’t have a chance to do while during the school year. Julia and I decided to take advantage of the amazing winter weather the Gold Coast has to offer. Almost every day we woke up there was not a cloud in the sky and we could find no reason to spend any time inside. One day we played mini golf and then went for our final trip to Sumo Salad and our last trip to Broadbeach. It was one of our “adventures” that we created for ourselves. We tried to go hiking, but it turns out the Goldie is a fairly flat area of Australia. Another day, we headed to the beach and on that Thursday we just laid by the pool all day. Cathy’s mom was in town for two weeks, so we decided it was necessary she act like an authentic Australian. Me, Cathy, Julia, and Cathy’s mom headed to Brisbane for the day and then went to an Australian Rules Football League game that night. We watched the Brisbane Lions play even though we didn’t understand one rule of the game. For our last trip to Brisbane, Julia and I stayed at her friend Elyana’s house because we were in the mood for another fun adventure.

Elyana lives in an area of Brisbane called St. Lucia, which Julia and I decided was one of the cutest suburbs ever and if we come back to Australia for good we would seriously consider living there. That night Elyana took us to a bar called the Stock Exchange, which was unlike any other bar I’ve been to. There was dance floor on the bottom floor, but once you headed up stairs the whole bar was outside. Granted it was a little cold, but I had to take in the view. From the top floor you could see the entire Brisbane skyline. It was really amazing. We decided to have some fun in the bar so Julia, Elyana, and me ran around telling anyone who would listen that it was Elyana’s 21st birthday. The funny thing is that it was anywhere near the time of her birthday, but everyone believed us and bought her drinks. We had so much fun on Saturday night that we couldn’t help staying another night; considering it was an “adventure” and all. Sunday night Elyana took us to a hotel bar called the RE. This place was also unique. Almost the whole bar was like an outdoor patio and there was a band playing. In Surfer’s Paradise we sometimes go to a bar called Beergarden to watch a band called Venus Envy and while in Brisbane the craziest thing happened: Venus Envy was playing at the RE. It was a really fun and relaxing environment, but it was a Sunday so the bar closed fairly early. Regardless, we had a lot of fun and it’ll be a weekend I never forget.

The Tuesday after our amazing weekend in Brisbane was one of the most fun, yet most sad nights we’ve ever had. Every Tuesday the housing complex I live in drives us to Surfer’s Paradise for a night at a club called Shooters. Our little group has had some of the most fun times at this club and Tuesday was one to not forget. It was all of our last Tuesday night and Tanya’s last night at Griffith, so we needed to make it amazing and I’m willing to say that we certainly did. During my study abroad, I have made friendships with many people, but most of them are just fellow Americans studying the same way I am. Tanya, on the other hand, is from Port Douglas and is the best Australian friend I will ever have. She left Griffith on Wednesday morning at 4:45am. Cathy, Julia, Jenna, and myself decided to stay up all night and send off Tanya because we don’t know when is the next time we’ll ever see her again. The five of us have become so close these past five months and I know my experience down here would not be even close to as fun or the same without Tanya. It was an emotional goodbye to say the least. It was an odd feeling, especially for me. I knew that I would see the other four girls again, almost all the time once I get home because we all live so close together, but Tanya lives in Australia. However, I knew that I was coming back up to Cairns and would most likely make plans to see her again. Nonetheless, it was sad.

Cathy and her mom went to Sydney for the 22nd to the 24th so it was the Three Amigos for a little while. Since my friends were moving out soon there was really no food left in any of our houses. On Friday night, Jenna, Julia, and me cooked up broccoli with garlic and mushrooms, cut up carrots, celery, tomatoes, and cucumbers and considered it dinner. Honestly, it was the least filling dinner of my life, but the fun we had making it was enough. After Tanya left, the next exciting event was having my mom come. She arrived on the Saturday before all my friends left for home. I was excited for her to meet them, but I was sad to see them all go. It was nearly as emotional as sending Tanya off at 4:30am, but I did watch them leave around 3am on Sunday morning. Like I said in the blog from Byron Bay, I can’t imagine my time in Australia without these friends and I realize now more than ever that it’s true. Without them here it’s like something is missing. My mom and I are having an absolute blast and I am not sad or eager to go home yet. I want to enjoy my time in this amazing country as much as I can, but I definitely wish that my friends could be around to experience it with me. If you guys are reading this know three things: 1. I’ve been listening to “Fast Car” on repeat while writing this, 2. you’re the best, and 3. July 15th is going to be a reuniting we never forget.

p.s. Tanya…. You’re coming to the states ASAP- no excuses, play like a champion.