Sunday, July 26, 2015

Orientation at USC

It has been already a week since I arrived at University of the Sunshine Coast and already I love it! Since I arrived, it has only been orientation week for us which means I have been settling into my apartment, meeting new people and getting ready to start classes.

My first full day at the USC included me creating a list of things to do as well as walking into the little shopping area in Sippy Downs where I will be getting all of my essentials to make food as well as making my room more personal. That first day, I was by myself though I had met a few nice Australians through one of my roommates. During the second day, the University held a huge BBQ for the international students. I ended up meeting a group of nice international students, many of which were Scandinavian and American. Right after the BBQ, one of the girls took us to her apartment where we all mingled. It was a great way to get to know everyone and we even established a group on facebook in order to keep everyone updated on all the different activities going on.

Photo credit goes to Dorthea Knudsen
Within a few days, all of us planned shopping trips, meet ups and more. One night, we all met up and had a small get together before everyone hit the clubs. The very next day we took a trip to the Glasshouse Mountains. One of the girls had done the hike before and many of us wanted to give the hike a shot. We all met up in the morning to take a bus and train to Mount Ngungun. With the GoPro on my head and a few people going at my pace, we panted as we walked up the trail. It was all worth it when we were able to get an amazing view of the Glasshouse mountains and of the country side. As I looked out, I forgot I was even in Australia. It was not the view you would expect when you think about the land down under but I took it as it was. It was also a nice view to eat a tuna sandwich and some TimTams.

We even had three birthdays my first week. For one of them, we all went hiking. For the other two, we had a little celebration with Italian food. I made a bowl of Spaghetti Carbonara and the host made some delicious ravioli with red sauce. A lot of carbs in one night but it was great otherwise.

Photo Credit goes to Louise Bertram
Of course you cannot forget about the beaches! USC is about ten minutes from Maloolaba beach which was our first beach stop. I spend part of my day at Maloolaba swimming and throwing the rugby ball around. For our last day before classes, we made a trip to Alexandria Headline Beach which was in the same area
as Maloolaba. The reason we picked this beach for our last day was because it was a surfing beach and a bunch of us wanted to rent some boards and test out the waters. It felt amazing to get back up on the board though it drained the life out of me. Since then, I want to try and surf at least once a week if possible. It was even awesome to see some of the gang try out the board and want to continue surfing for the next few months.

Overall, I can say I have basically settled in. I have three great roommates and an awesome group of friends who are just as active as I am. I have my own room and a common room kitchen as well as a living room and a pretty little patio where I can see the pond and a small glance of the university. USC is a very modern campus that is located on a nature reserve. Many different kinds of wild life live here such as snakes, birds (ones that like to wake me up at night) and kangaroos. So far I have seen a decent amount of kangaroos lounging and hopping all over campus which I will have to get use to eventually. The bus stop is right by the university so it is easy to get places even if I do not have a car. The weather has been a bit chilly but only recently has it warmed up. It is only suppose to get warmer which I can get use to. Classes start on Monday which will be interesting. As of now I do not have Friday classes because I was able to switch one of my classes to a different day which is a first for me. Time get start on my studies!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Last stop: Port Douglas

Landing in Cairns was a huge relief for the four of us since it finally felt like summer. From the airport, we drove an hour to the nature reserve where we were staying at in Port Douglas. Since it was 9:30pm by the time we arrived, we all went straight to bed.

Miles and I lost a few days of working out so we woke up early to get back into our routines. While Miles did his own work out routine, I ran on the beach near by and got a glimpse of the area we were in. The place was not only beach, but jungle as well. After breakfast, the four of us just laid down at the beach since we decided to make that day a day of relaxation. After lunch, we all did our own thing. Before I laid by the pool, dad and a bunch of the other guests spotted a lace monitor lizard. It is basically a smaller version of a Komodo Dragon and still just as frightening. For once I was a tad bit frightened by a lizard (I’m normally not taken back by any reptile). The rest of the day was relaxation and early bed time for our next adventure.

At 7:15 am, we jumped on a bus and headed over to Port Douglas to swim in the famous Great Barrier Reef. My family snorkeled, and I dived. This had been my life long dream to scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef and boy was I not disappointed. Our first dive was at a section called Phils where my group and I were able to see a white tip reef shark hiding under the coral as well as stingrays and many other different kinds of smaller fish. Our second dive was at a section called Castle Rock. When we first descended, the dive master told us to get on our knees once we hit the sand so we can meet this friendly grouper. Since this fish was a regular during these dives, the crew named him Collin. He swam around and got really close to us as our dive master shot some fish out of a bottle for Collin to snack on. After we visited the social grouper, we swam along a huge wall of coral with bigger fish and even saw a great reef whaler shark. Collin followed us for a little bit but it was good to have some company that was a native to the reef. Our final dive was called Trigger. Unlike the other stops we made, this was a drift dive where my group had to jump from the moving boat and let the current from below take us. This made things more relaxing for me since we barely had to move due to the current moving us along the reef. There were unicorn fish, white tip reef sharks, great reef whaler sharks, clown fish, and more. Our dive master even took us through a small opening in the coral that we could swim through. That was an amazing sight to see, as the colors were so vibrant inside while the sun shined above into the cave. It was so cold getting out of the water but all that diving was worth the exhaustion and chills. I’ve done 10 dives in total (if you count resort dives and my dives for my certification) and all I can say is this was the most amazing dive experience I had. I took the GoPro down to get the best pictures I could but not even the pictures can describe how beautiful this reef was. If anyone ever has the chance to be in the same area as this reef, please go and explore! Even snorkeling you will be able to get an amazing view of the reef.

For our last day in Port Douglas, Mom wanted to fulfill her dream of holding a koala bear so we headed to the Habitat Zoo. This zoo was very different from any other zoo I had encountered. Not only were there different animals than what I normally see, the zoo allowed most of these animals to run and fly around without being kept in cages. Some animals even interacted with humans. We fed wallabies, kangaroos, and different kinds of birds as they walked right up to us. The koalas were very chill and slept a lot of the time. My mom, Miles and I all got to hold a Koala named Samson. He was very gentle and loved to give hugs (most koala’s are mean according to the keeper). That was the highlight of mom’s entire trip most likely since this is her favorite animal and she studied them since she was little. Though I loved holding Samson, I enjoyed feeding the wallabies and kangaroos. That was my first time seeing those animals up close. Miles even tried to feed an Emu that just pushed him out of the way as if Miles was a rock blocking its path. Once we had our fixing of awesome animals, we took a shuttle into the town of Port Douglas to have lunch and shop. The town has some cute retail stores as well as delicious coffee shops. I had the best flat white ever at this little hippy looking coffee shop called Ahoy Trade. They had coffee as well as interior decoration which mom and I could not resist. Eventually we had dinner in Port Douglas for our final night before going to bed. This concluded our final day of vacation together.

Port Douglas seems like a summer place for Australians but is still very nice in the winter. Compared to the cities, it is slower moving and I had been told that this place is were people come to in order to get away from city life. I generally liked Port Douglas but I don’t know if I could live there. Though I loved the area for holiday. It goes to show you that Australia has every weather condition you need: hot, cold, rainy, cloudy, sunny, tropical and dry. This was the last designated vacation spot for me and my family since the reason for going to Brisbane is just to drop me off at The University of the Sunshine Coast. This will be my last blog post about my family and I but there will be more posts to come once I settle into my apartment at school. It was great traveling with my family around this beautiful country but now it is time for me to make my own adventures. USC here I come!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

2 days in Melbourne

After an easy 1 hour flight, the family and I made it to the city of Melbourne. The weather was a bit colder than Sydney but nothing a bunch of New Yorkers could not handle. Once we settled into the hotel, we too took a cab to the main section of Melbourne where we met up with my cousin's boyfriend James at his juice shop called Green Press. The place sells delicious fresh juices and treats which everyone should check out! Follow his store on Instagram @lovegreenpress if you want to look and see what yummy treats they make (yes I'm promoting his business! Why wouldn't I?).

After grabbing some food and drinks at his place, James walked us around some of the streets in Melbourne, which included many ally ways that had some amazing coffee and sandwich shops. Miles and I had some sushi at one of the many Japanese Caf├ęs we saw on our walk. You can tell the city had a huge Asian influence. Mom and I eventually went to a local Melbourne coffee shop in one of these ally ways before the four of us went back to the hotel to relax. For dinner, my cousin Lindsay and James met us in the lobby to walk with us to the Moroccan themed restaurant we had reservations at. After dinner, we all headed to n Australian footy game to watch Richmond and Carlton battle it out. For those of you who have not heard of this game, think of it as a mix between rugby, soccer and basketball. That is the best description I will be able to give because you have to see a game to understand what it is. Though Richmond kicked Carlton's ass, it was an exciting game to watch and experience. Right before the rain started pouring, we went back to the hotel to rest for our next Melbourne adventure.

During our last full day in Melbourne we took a helicopter ride to the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. The area had large cliffs and beaches as well as miles of farmland. Our goal was to reach the twelve apostles. No Jesus's apostles were not waiting for us off the cliff sides! These large rocks stand right near the coast line and were created by erosions.
It basically looked like the part of the land that stretched into the sea fell apart and was now stranded between the coats line and the crashing waves. It really is hard to describe how beautiful these forms were because it's a sight one must see in person to understand the beauty. Even pictures won't do these natural creations justice. Once we landed and got to see these forms up close, we realized how huge they were. We even walked on the shore and looked up the cliff sides from the bottom. Walking on the beach with coats and hats might have felt a bit weird for us but it was worth the beautiful views we got. Before lunch, we walked along the cliff side where a ship called the Loch Ard crashed. In 1878, this ship accidentally ran a ground off the coast of Australia trying to reach the city of Melbourne. Of the 37 passengers that were aboard, two survived. We were able to see the Loch Ard Gorge where the two survivors swept to shore as well as the large section where the ship wreck took place. Though that area is known for a crazy shipwreck, it was a beautiful sight to see. For lunch we stopped in this little town where we had fish and chips and sticky date pudding. After lunch we jumped back onto the helicopter and set course for home. Dinner was a bit different for us that night. We visited the apartment of Lindsay and James located in Port Melbourne where they cooked us dinner. We tried some wallaby and kangaroo for the first time which was a very different taste for the four of us. The kangaroo was a bit like steak but leaner and more gamey. I am not to sure how to describe the wallaby but it was a bit like a veil chop. I personally liked it and Miles seemed to like it due to the fact he ate all kangaroo in a short amount of time. Looks like I'll be cooking some kangaroo in my kitchen while I'm in school. After a delicious sticky date pudding with caramel sauce and this interesting ice cream for dessert, we headed back to the hotel for bed.

Before leaving for Cairns at 4:00pm, we had brekki (short word for breakfast) with Lindsay and James. The place according to James was a very Melbourne place. After brekki, Lindsay and James took us to the Victoria Market. The best I can describe this places is that it looked like a larger Chelsea Market with a greater variety of things to buy such as food and souvenirs. There were meat stores, retail shops, produce stands and more. We walked through the large market as it poured rain until it was time to say goodbye. Though my family will not see Lindsay till she takes a trip to New York, I have all the time in the world to go see her. It is so nice to have family on the other side of the world!

The city of Melbourne had a very different set up and weather conditions compared to Sydney. Lindsay calls Melbourne the Seattle of Australia and though we lucked out with the weather, I can see what she means. It is a beautiful looking city but the weather is not the best. For most of our trip, it was cloudy and in the 40's but again, nothing a bunch of New Yorkers can’t manage. I would love to see more of this city while I am in Australia for the next 5 month. Compared to Sydney, it was not my number one favorite place but I feel I need to see more of this city to grow to like it. Cannot wait to come back! Now it is time for some warmer weather in Cairns.