Saturday, February 28, 2009

Quintessential Sydney

After collecting the chickens' eggs and trying to figure out my schedule for next semester (which I have no idea how to approach), I started getting ready for my Opera House day. Michelle's mom stopped by to make sure everything was going okay, which was lucky for me, because I need a little help squeezing into my dress. I hopped on the bus into the city, and leisurely made my way down to Circular Quay and the Opera House. I had left myself plenty of extra time, so I decided to meander through the Botanical Gardens, spotting beautiful flowers, at least 4 wedding parties, and the Opera House, peeking through some trees.

I then toured the symphony hall and opera theater (which is actually the small one). The tour was very interesting, and we actually got to take pictures in the symphony hall (only after the musician had left the stage - they are very strict about that).

After the tour, I grabbed a bite to eat at the Opera Bar (spaghetti with prawns (they don't call them shrimp here) and strawberry cheesecake), and then went back to the opera theater to see The Magic Flute.

I wasn't sure where my seat would be, but I ended up being in the first row of the balcony and had an excellent view. The opera was by Mozart, sung in German (with surtitles, above the stage), spoken in English. The music, acting, singing, staging and sets were all fantastic. Afterward, I grabbed a gelato for the train and bus ride home. Tomorrow I can't decide if I want to try to do the zoo, or just errands and getting organized for the week. I will have the internship Mon. - Wed. again (picture of my office below), and I am going to see A Midsummer Night's Dream at the symphony hall on Monday night!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Thank God I'm a Country Girl?

So my host family is away this weekend on their parents' farm, and I needed to stay home to do my online class posting. So I am in charge of the house, which includes the animals. There is a cat, a budgie (bird), four chickens, 2? adult crayfish, many baby crayfish, goldfish, and a whole bunch of stick bugs (some of these pictured below with the kids, courtesy of my host mom's Facebook).Tonight, I had to find the cat that was missing all day (hiding on a seat at the kitchen table), feed it, feed the crayfish and goldfish, and get the chickens back into their hutch. Which, by the way, was impossible. They were perched on the laundry drying rack outside, and would not get down. At first I just tried clucking at them and running away, hoping they would follow me, like a dog. No luck. Then I tried picking them up, or scootching them off, both to no avail. They would just flap their wings and scare me half to death, so that I'd let go and they'd stay right where they wanted to be. I finally got one of them off, and another one followed, but getting them into their hutch was a whole other story. I practically had to chase them in. Finally, I got all three of them safely in the hutch and called Michelle to tell her, and she said, oh, well there are 4 chickens, not 3! Luckily for me, when I went out to check on the 4th, he had gone into the hutch all on his own... What an adventure...
On another note, my internship at
FilmInk magazine started on Monday, and as soon as I finished the tour, I got started working! They had me watch a French film (English subtitles), transcribe an interview that Dov (the publisher) had done with the lead actor and then write a profile on the actor. I did the same thing the next day with a different film, an American one this time (Sex Drive with Josh Zuckerman). On Wednesday, they had me watch a documentary-type movie, American Teen, which followed 5 high school seniors for the entire school year, and write a DVD review, which I felt kind of unqualified to do, as I don't really know very much about film, but I think I did an okay job of fudging my way through. It's a really small staff, so I think I will be getting to do a lot, which is great. I'll let you know when my articles are online!
The one bad part of the internship is that it is in Bondi, which is a little over an hour away, by bus, train, and then bus. I have to wake up around 6:45 to get there on time and don't get home until after 6. It makes for a really long day, and I am usually exaughsted when I get back home. Welcome to the real world, I guess!
Thursday we had class with the pop/rock star again, and I got my ID card (with a free jump drive!) and my travel stipend, which is really exciting.
Class went well, and then we raced (figuratively... realistically it was a half hour bus ride -- we got stuck on the bus that seemed to stop at every house) home to get ready to meet up with Paddy, a 19-year-old Australian bartender that the boys at met at their local hangout, who was going to take us out and introduce us to some of his friends. We got ready, Tyler's host mom miraculously gave us a ride to Steve's (saving us a mile and a half walk, at least) and Paddy picked us up. He was a really nice guy, and is actually going to be headed back to America this summer to travel and work at a sumer camp in Maine, which he did last year too. We got to the club where his friends were, and we couldn't get in because we didn't have our passports on us. So disappointing. We decided to go to The Greenwood Hotel, where we tried to go last week, but the line was too long.We got in this time, and it ended up being pretty fun, lots of dancing. Today I just had a lazy day. Tomorrow I am either going to go to the beach or the zoo, and then the opera at night to see The Magic Flute!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Bondi Beach in the Sun with No Frenchmen

I love that it's summer here. All the flowers are blooming, people are mowing their lawns, it even smells like summer. This is one of the flowers in my front yard after the rain.

The boys and I went to Bondi Beach on Sunday. It was a beautiful day, and I only got a little sunburned!

I'll add more text later... making the trek to the boys now...

Friday, February 20, 2009

Class with a pop/rock musician

The past few days weren't quite as eventful as the first few. We had class Wed. - Fri. from 9:30 - 4:30. The first day I missed the bus and was late, but our teacher, Jillian, was really nice and didn't seem to care. She taught us about Australian government and politics, and then took us into Sydney to Macquarie Street see the oldest post office, the Parliament House, a huge bank (where we got to see the faults underneath -- looked just like the movies!), and others. The buildings were really beautiful and I might try to go back to get some pictures. We had lunch in the building where the supreme court meets, and saw the judges, wigs and black robes and all! The view from the top of the building was fantastic, which normally would mean the food would be really expensive, but it was very reasonable.
Thursday and Friday we had a different teacher, Mandy, who turned out to be a pop/rock musician who is pretty famous in Australia. She has preformed in the Opera House multiple times, went to acting school with Hugh Jackman, and is friends with Russell Crowe's wife! She was a great teacher, and we learned more than we could ever want to know about Australia. From talking to her, I decided I might want to try to go visit Tasmania, maybe toward the end of my trip, because the views are fantastic, and you can go skiing there. I definitely want to go to Melbourne as well. She gave us some great tips about travelling and living in Australia.
We tried (unsuccessfully) to go to the Greenwood Hotel (hotel means bar here), and I wrecked my feet by trying to wear heels... at least 2 blisters, and really sore feet :-(. Last night I watched a rugby game with my host family. The rules are a little hard to understand, but it was really intense.
I had planned on going to Bondi Beach today, but awoke to clouds and rain, again. I might go to see A Midsummer Night's Dream tonight, preformed outside, with views of the harbor (I think). Then tomorrow will be the beach, and then TropFest, the largest short film festival in the world. My internship starts on Monday! Off to get some work done for my online class...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Braving the city

After waking up to another cloudy day, I decided to change my plans from the zoo to the aquarium. The boys were out too late last night (too early this morning, actually) to go with me, so I ventured off by myself (with some flower-picture-taking on the way, of course).

On the bus ride, I noticed that even the youngest children have learned the art of gaze-avoidance when there are off-kilter passengers riding near them. The aquarium was alright, but nothing too exciting, and I blew through it in about an hour, and had scheduled 4.

I was then left, without a plan (huge gasp), and with 3 hours to kill. I decided to take my time and explore Cockle Bay and Darling Harbor. I walked along the boardwalk (? I'm not sure if they call it that here, did some people-watching, and tried to decide if I wanted to eat at one of the many overpriced restaurants. I opted for some gelato instead. The flavor choices were endless, and I ended up deciding on green tea flavored. Poor choice. After only eating toast with nutella on it all day, the green tea gelato made my stomach feel a little queasy. Better luck next time.

I then ventured over to the Chinese Garden of Friendship, but decided to save it for a sunnier day, and maybe when I have someone with me to enjoy it. I made my way over to Chinatown and decided to grab a bit to eat. I got pan-fried beef dumplings, which were excellent. I opted to use a fork, though.

By this point, I still had more than an hour to kill, and was starting to consider winging it in the search for a bus home (I had plotted out my route on this great website where you put in your address and destination and it gives you maps and directions for which buses/trains to take and plans a return route for you. However, the route changes based upon what time it is, so I wanted to stay on schedule). I headed for my bus stop to see when the next train to North Sydney would be, and on the way, stumbled upon my favorite building so far: The Queen Victoria Building (or as the locals say, the QVB).

It had beautiful architecture, complete with stained glass windows and old fashioned elevators. Inside were hundreds of shops, restaurants, and cafes. While the majority of the stores were way above my price range, they were fun to explore, and I definitely want to go back there again. I ended up buying the brown Tevas I passed up in the states, because my flip flops the other day just weren't cutting it -- my ankles felt about ready to break. Turns out it was a good idea to wait until I got here to buy them; they were at least $20 cheaper! I slightly haphazerdly caught the train back into the city, in the pouring rain, and ended up on the perfect one, to take me right back to Edinburgh Road, right near my house.
Here's a picture of my house:

I finished off the night with dinner and TV with the host family. Tomorrow, Thursday and Friday we have our culture class at the school, which means leaving the house at 8:38 a.m. (according to my handy trip planner website). I will be fitting in a phone-date with Tonya at 8 a.m. so it will be an early morning for me...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Bondi Beach in the Rain with Frenchmen

It was finally sunny today when I woke up, so I decided to venture to the famous Bondi Beach. My internship will be located near there and I wanted to be sure I would be able to find my way. I have to take a bus, a train, and then another bus; it will take me a little over an hour. While on the second bus, I started chatting with two guys that looked to be travelling together. They were from France, and had just arrived last week as well, but they were not travelling together; they had met at their hostel. One of them spoke very good English, and was looking to move to Australia and get a job; the other was a backpacker whose English wasn't quite as good. They, too, were headed to Bondi Beach, so when we disembarked, we decided to try to find our way together. We took a guess, and ended up choosing the wrong direction and ended up at Tamarama Beach, which is the beach just south of Bondi.
It was equally as beautiful, but there were no people on the beach, and it was quite a bit smaller than Bondi Beach. By this point (of course) it had started raining, and we asked some people how to get to Bondi. They pointed us in the right direction, and we ended up on a gorgeous path. The conversation with the Frenchmen was very intersesting, and I had to struggle to understand their accents (You'd be proud of me Julia, I'm getting much better!) As soon as we reached the top of the point, and Bondi was just around the corner, my camera died.

I will definitely be back though, so I wasn't too disappointed. After soaking in the views and looking for surfers, it started downpouring. We ran to find somewhere to get under cover, and found a surf club. Normally you have to have a membership in order to go there, but internationals can go for free. We sat for a while to wait out the storm, and then I parted ways with them in order to catch the bus back home in time for dinner. They kissed me on both cheeks, in the typical French manner, and as I walked away, I thought, "This is what study abroad is supposed to be like." I had just spontaneously spent the afternoon with two complete strangers, French-speaking no less, seen some beautiful views, gotten lost and had a fantastic time.
On the way home, I got "off-course" a bit (I decided that will be my new term for lost, as I have never been completely lost because there are always people around to ask directions of), but ultimately found the right bus to take from the city to Willoughby. Everytime I would see something familiar, I silently cheered for myself that I had found my way, and that I am starting to recognize places in my new city. When I stepped off the bus at my stop, I realized that my host dad, Matthew, had been on the same bus, and walked home with him.
For dinner tonight, we had "scraps," their term for leftovers, and now I will probably spend the rest of the night getting organized and reading. Being out in the sun/rain/wind all day has tuckered me out. I think I want to try to head to the Taronga Zoo tomorrow. Maybe one of the boys will decide to join me... If not, that's okay too... they would probably get impatient always having to stop so that I can take countless pictures!
I am adding pictures to my previous posts if you want to check them out!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Where are you, sun?

I have not seen the sun in... I think a week... It has rained every single day we have been here, usually harder when we decide we want to go outside. Yesterday, we all met up at the mall and explored Chatswood a little. The escalators in the mall were more like moving walkways, like in airports, except on a slant. I rode the bus from the stop near my house, and there were the most adorable brother and sister. The little boy was about 1 1/2, and the girl was about 7, and she just kept making him laugh hysterically. The kids here are adorable.
Random fact: They put lemon juice on their pancakes!
I went back home for dinner (walking distance: 1.2 miles! I am so going to get in shape!), which was Thai food (Julia would be so proud -- I tried (and liked) everything!). Then I got ready to go out, but by that point, it was a torrential downpour (of course) and I had no interest in strutting around Sydney in heels (no flip flops allowed in most places) in the pouring rain (after walking 15 minutes to meet the boys), so I opted to just meet them at the closest house and hang out for a while. I slept super late this morning, and awoke to more rain. I made juice with the kids (some combination of apples, carrots, nectarines, mint, watermelon... I think that's it) and played some games with them. I finally set up my calling card, so I made some calls home today, and am now off to watch the Mummy 3 with the kids.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Beginning of Day 3: Awoken by the Rainforest

This morning at 8 a.m. I awoke thinking I was in the rain forest. Birds have been squawking SO loudly... so I decided to just succumb to their insistencey and wake up.
So anyway, after orientation yesterday, we ventured into the city of North Sydney. It was only about 1:00 pm and all of the bars were full of people, mostly middle-aged business people. We went to a restaurant with a super nice waitress and ordered burgers, which were a little different, but good. The coke, on the other hand, not so good. Then we got our bus/train/ferry passes for 3 months ($325 American for unlimited rides) and hopped on a bus back to our suburbs. Tyler and I live closest to each other, so we walked back together, getting minorly lost, which was kind of fun. He found a phone card that is $10 for 2,000 minutes to the US, so I think I will buy that today, but you can only call from landlines, so I will need to set up something to use the cell phone Stephanie left here for me.

When I got back to the house, I played Wii and Harry Potter Scene-It with the kids, and then got ready to go out with the boys. After I got ready though, I found out that Tyler wasn't going to be able to go, which would mean walking quite a ways by myself, in the rain, with no umbrella. So I opted out of that. Maybe we'll try again tonight. Not sure what the plan is for today, but I probably should get out of bed and get moving... now that the birds have finally stopped...

Is it really only the end of Day 2?

Wow... today seemed like 3 days in one... It's only 10:36 pm, but seems like so much later...
I suppose I'll continue with what I left off on last night. We had schnitzel for dinner (which I had only previously heard of in the song from the Sound of Music... Alec thought it was hysterical that I didn't know what it is), which ended up being breaded chicken... tasted just like at home, plus an addition of lemon, which made it extra tasty. After dinner, I watched the movie "Fracture" with my host dad, Matthew, and struggled to keep my eyes awake. I finished off the night by starting to read Kite Runner, and then slept like a rock until the kids started getting ready for school in the morning. Rebecca plays the trombone, Alex the trumpet, and band is at 7:15 am... I can't picture sitting in front of Gary at that time... we never would have made it.
It was raining hard this morning when I woke up, and so I dressed in jeans (yes mom, I have started to wear my jeans already... I only have 1 clean pair left... may have to purchase some here because of this unseasonably cold weather!) and a zip-up. Just last week they were having a heat wave with temperatures around 100 degrees F.
Michelle drove me to campus where I met up with the boys and we had a short orientation with Chris, the man who met us at the airport. We also met Lew, who reminds me of Uncle David, who is going to be taking us on the trip to the Blue Mountains Feb. 28 - March 1. The trip sounds really great, but it is going to include a 4 mile hike, which I am a little worried about. Hopefully I'll be slightly more in shape by then. The place will be staying is a bed and breakfast that Lew owns (
More to come... my battery is dying and I am too comfortable in bed to plug it in. Sorry!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Beginning

"This is the start of something good... don't you agree?"
- Gavin DeGraw

As I opened up the window of the airplane and saw the most amazing sunrise I've ever seen, all I could think was the above quote from "Follow Through" by Gavin DeGraw. I've arrived, safe and sound, in Sydney!
The plane ride was smooth -- fell asleep for most of it, which was good, because I am not feeling the effects of jet lag at all. On the flight in, I was able to see the Sydney Harbor Bridge and Opera House.

I met up with the international adviser and we had to wait an hour for the boys to arrive. We are going to be spending more time together than I had anticipated, but it seems like we will have a good time together. We took a van to the school where we were met by our host families. It turns out that one of the other students is staying with my host mom's mother.
My mother, Michelle, brought me back to the house, which is really pretty. I unpacked, showered (felt SO good -- their shower is like a whole room!), and then went to pick the kids (Rebecca (age 11) and Alex (age 9)) up from school.
When we got to the school, there were tons of kids running around in uniforms, which included floppy hats... so adorable... Michelle already mentioned to the other parents that I babysit! Alec and Rebecca are great... running around chasing each other at the moment, but normally, great.
We'll have dinner together tonight, and then I might go hang out with the boys. Most of the host families live in the same area, which will be fun. Tomorrow we register for classes (which I won't really be doing), and then we have the weekend off. Monday we travel to the other campus, Tuesday we have off, and then Wed. - Fri. we have our intensive culture class. Then, Monday the 23rd I start my internship!
I'll update more later, maybe with some pictures!

Thursday, February 5, 2009


I am wordless (the blogging form of speechless?) with one day left at home. How do I have only one day left at home? How do I treat that day? I am filling it with packing, a trip to GHS, seeing Jocelynn and Grandma Wheeler, and going to Gianni's basketball game with mom, Joce, Frank and Grandma... I know it is stupid, and it's not that big of a deal, I will be back in 4 1/2 short months... 127 long days... but wow... it should make for an emotional day.

Confession: I used to cry while brushing my teeth practically every time it was my last night home before going back to Marist freshman year. I don't know what it was about brushing my teeth that made it hit me that I was leaving, but without fail, no sooner would the Aim toothpaste hit my toothbrush (I currently can't think of how to word this expression... I probably should delete the sentence, but I like the beginning of it...).

Anyway, what I am trying to say, is that tomorrow may be a tearful day for me. Cross your fingers I make it through without getting a crying headache.