Sunday, March 16, 2014

Life of a Fishie

Good news! I survived my 21st birthday here in Australia thanks to a few good friends and really good roommates.

But more importantly, I passed my open water dive course and I went diving on a shipwreck on Magnetic Island. The ship was a German vessel called the SS Moltke, built in 1870. After a quick read up on the wreck, I found it ran aground on Magnetic Island after delivering supplies in 1891 but was towed back to Townsville, Australia. The ship was returned to service, but ran around again - in the Ross River of Townsville. A Dentist on Magnetic Island purchased the Moltke in 1911 and towed it to its current resting place of Magnetic Island in Geoffrey Bay to be used as a breakwater. Luck for me, I got to dive on it! I saw fish of all different colors and multiple corals. It was high tide when we went on the dive so the water was quite clear. I got stung by a few jellyfish on my wrists and face (because my wetsuit didn't cover those areas), but it was well worth it!

Some jellyfish stings
Meet Bozo, the 9 month old dive shop dog!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

It's been one of those weeks. Classes are in full swing and new students are still trying to master this  university's landscape. I've gotten lost a few times and missed the beginning of a lecture or two. But, "Some days are like that. Even in Australia." 

I've started my diving certification here on an island called Magnetic Island. On this island you can see koalas in the trees, wallabies laying down, and opossums in trash cans! Like this little guy:
The hostel we stayed in was one of the most fascinating places I've been to yet. There were backpackers my age staying there as well wearing no shoes, drinking beers, playing cards, and listening to music at the bar. The bar was outdoors and there was a tree just in the middle of the floor with Christmas lights wrapped all around it. The mood and atmosphere were incredible and I'm going back this coming weekend! That is, if a Cyclone doesn't wipe me out. 

I also went to a sanctuary and had a personal encounter with a koala! They are just the cutest. They've been bred in captivity so they are quite familiar with humans handling them. There were also crocodiles, wallabies, birds of all different species, snakes, turtles, and wombats. I met one little wombat, his name is Tonka and he was found in the pouch of his mother after she had been hit by a truck. Tonka was one of the most personable out of all the animals, he even smiled. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

"It Never Rains in Townsville"

Rain, rain go away. We were told it never rained in Townsville, Queensland and knowing that I of course didn't pack rain boots. Were they correct? Nope! I've never been rained on so hard before, in fact my feet are permanently orange from the dyes of my leather shoes being wet for so long. But I can't complain, I'd rather have wet feet than frost bitten feet.

Whenever it rains here though there are creatures everywhere! There were tiny black frogs all over the place when it was raining - they were like little ants! Check out the video below. I later learned from my Australian roommate that there are also birds here called "rain birds" and they're black cockatoos with red under their wings - they're beautiful. But apparently whenever they are gathered in one area, it's bound to rain within the next few hours. Guess what - Those birds were right! So then I told some Australians we have something similar to that in the states that whenever cows are laying down it's supposed to rain. They didn't believe me.

But on another note, I've been to the strand a few more times now and I stumbled upon an amazing tradition they have here in Townsville. They have community drum circles every fortnight or month where they all come together (people of all ages) and just play a beat together for hours. I actually got to join in! I was told to keep the drum between my legs "to keep me modest". Whatever that may mean. But I had an incredible time playing and I wish there was a tradition like that back at home.

Last night though we had a comedian/magician stand up act on campus and that was quite a show. I was asked to come up on stage with another girl. The magician told us to pick a card, write our names on each and put them in our mouth. Naturally, we did. Then he tried to make us kiss... For those of you wondering, no I did not kiss a girl. After we refused and the crowed stopped laughing, he told us to check our cards again. SOMEHOW her card was in my mouth and my card was in hers! I honestly don't know how he did it because I know I put my card in my mouth. It was so great! Check out this beer trick below.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Jet Lagged and Loving It

After 25hrs of flying and sitting next to snoring people, I am in Townsville at James Cook University! The weather has been in the high 80's and my pasty skin is a clear indicator that I am definitely not from Australia. Nevertheless, the birds here are more colorful than any I have seen in zoos, there are geckos that climb on the outside of my window every night eating away at bugs, and I've seen 1 kangaroo (aka "Joey"). This campus is crawling with all kinds of amazing creatures and I can't wait to get to the outback as well as go scuba diving while I'm here. But so far there are only international students on campus and we have orientation beginning tomorrow, or as the Aussies call it -"O Week". I've found myself asking them to repeat so many things because I can hardly understand them sometimes. An example is they called me "love" and "Sheila" because apparently those are other names for girls here. Same thing with swim suits - they call them "swimmers" or a "cozzie". It's like I'm learning a second language!

Anyway, today a bunch of us traveled down to "the strand", which is a stretch of beach that is absolutely gorgeous. However, once we got there we saw red flags all over alerting swimmers of the jellies that a recent cyclone apparently blew into the swimming areas around Townsville. But that didn't put too much of a wrench into our day, we just had to swim within jelly-nets further down the strand. After throwing around the frisbee and hanging out on the beach, we hit the bar. The daily special was called "Jamacin-me-crazy"and it was delicious.  Not only has the food been edible and the drinks tasty, I have quickly realized the people here are so kind and have a great sense of humor. The bartenders were cracking jokes with us and people in general are always happy. I also realized this when figuring out the public transportation since I had to ask all the bus drivers where they were going and what their schedules were. Most of their responses were just smiles because I'm sure they recognized my American accent and knew I truly had no idea how these buses worked. But what can I say? I'm a Yank!

Jellyfish Caution Signs
Australian Larokeet in the Palm Trees

Some of the Group at "The Strand"

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Almost Time

So, today I decided to start a blog for my friends and family to see what I'm doing abroad and also know that I haven't been eaten by a "saltie" (saltwater crocodile), stung by a marine stinger (mainly the deadly box jellyfish or irukanji), bitten by spiders (mostly the dangerous Sydney-funnel web spider), or come across an octopus (such as the tiny blue ringed octopus, of which has no anti-venom available). Oh, did I mention Australia is one of the most deadly places to live? Sorry, Mom… but I'm still so excited!

It's really not that dangerous where I'll be living with 8 other SLU students, I looked it up! Townsville, Queensland is central to the Great Barrier Reef with a small city atmosphere (at least that's what I'm told). To get ready for Townsville, today I am attempting to tie up any loose ends that I have successfully put off until the last minute. You see, procrastination has been one of my greatest achievements as a college student. Kidding! I've got my flight, housing, final transcripts, visa, passport, acceptance letter to James Cook University, and orientation manual all together in one place. It's looking good! 

My best advice to those looking to study abroad in Australia is to tell your parents how much you love them so they will help you figure out which visa is which, make sure your passport is valid, help you understand housing abroad, contact your doctors to ensure you're receiving the correct vaccines to be allowed entrance into a different country, verify your luggage bags are secure enough to travel across oceans, help you find the appropriate methods of city-travel, and just because you won't be seeing them for a few months. I love you Mom and Dad.

13 days until departure

Ready to go!