Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Post Forty: Last Post for this Blog

Hi all readers! First off I want to thank you all for joining me on my trip. I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing about my adventures, I would not have continued without all of you to keep me posting.

As the title says, this is the LAST post for this particular blog. I will not be putting anything else on here and this website and its pages will remain static for the rest of Internet time.

HOWEVER! I would like to let you know that I have enjoyed writing and reading blogs so much  that I am going to attempt to continue blogging on a NEW site. This one much less specific, I hope to write about general thoughts as a college student, exciting events or travels, but mostly I really really want to start cooking and baking and posting recipes and tips and such.

SO! I am going to attempt to join the ranks of regular bloggers. I will hopefully post frequently, sometimes with pictures and funny stories, sometimes with just thoughts or perhaps writing, and hopefully many times with interesting recipes with photos, ingredient lists, origins, etc.

We shall see how it goes, if you want to check it out follow THIS LINK or, I have put at the top of this blog a page that will also lead you to my new blog.

Cheers!!!! Farewell from Australia, and greetings from the next phase of life!


Monday, June 6, 2011

Post Secret Two: Things I have been thinking, experiencing, and doing but was not able to write in order to keep my early return to the United States a surprise

The Feelings:

It has been different now that I know I am going home, the Vivid show in Sydney was the last time that I will ever be there, and it was quite a bittersweet experience. I am so happy and ready to be going home, REALLY happy to be leaving DLC and Macquarie, but I am so sad to be leaving Sydney, Australia, and my friends here. It dawned on me a couple weeks ago exactly what leaving Australia really meant. I am leaving a whole continent! A whole hemisphere! Without any idea when—if ever—I will be able to return. Granted I have had some amazing experiences, I think I made the most of my visit, and, though I did not get to do EVERYTHING I wanted to, I was able to fit most of it in. All the most important bits like the outback, and the reef anyway, I feel like my experience is a good one and as complete as I could have made it. But still, leaving Australia…its just…an odd thought, and yet, totally normal, and yet…its hard to explain.
I will not copy Angie, but she says some stuff about how she feels about coming home (she goes on the 12th) that I think is fairly relevant to me as well. I know I have changed some, become more independent, more capable, more, ‘of the world’, but ALSO I know that home has changed while I have been away, even though in my mind it is in sort of a static state, I know it has changed, and so, going back to all that different-ness will be really weird. My friends have had shared things without me, family too, etc. I am a little scared. Also, I am not exactly sure how I have changed…I just listed some of the obvious, but I guess I don’t know how this will effect me in my life once I return to the States.

The Departure:
Early in the morning.....


So, I woke early the morning of June 2. I had packed everything the night before of course; all that was left was the clothes on my back and my shower stuff. I said my last goodbyes to the early risers, before being accompanied by Angie and Anthony to the Airport. It was really nice of them to come along, Angie supplied Breadtop for us for breakfast and both helped lug my considerable baggage. The train ride was no different from most others I have had. It felt similar to the trainride when I was flying out to Alice Springs. I was aware that yes I was headed to an airport, but not really getting the whole magnitude of the situation. After checking in at the airport, getting a whole extra kilo in my check bag thanks to a friendly agent, it was time to say goodbye. We hugged and got a picture taken, still surreal, still not sinking in that I will not see these people or this country again for a long time if ever. I spent the last few moments waiting in a quiet corner of the departures lounge gazing out at my last time seeing Australia…When the flight began to leave the ground is when it finally hit me a bit harder I think, I felt some sort of wave of emotion so that has to mean something, but again I am still in denial I think.

The flight was really long. It was only one hour more than my trip to Japan, but it felt like a lot longer. I tried to keep myself on Chicago time as much as possible, so for the first few hours I watched a movie that I had really wanted to see (the Mechanic), another that I figured ‘oh why not’ (Never Say Never, actually an interesting movie, though I didn’t really learn anything except Justin Beiber is spoiled and doesn’t listen to direction or rules very well, I must say that he is talented especially for his age when he was younger). Then I attempted to sleep from midnight CH time to around 5am. I think I got a few hours, but certainly not much nor was it very restful. Finally I gave up and pulled out my Jack Reacher book. I was then entertained sufficiently for the rest of the voyage and by the time we landed in Vancouver I was already halfway through. It was so odd to land, there was fog! And, green stuff like pine trees! I had not realized how different the trees look in AU compared to here. It was almost like stepping into a ‘north woods’ postcard or painting or something. My feelings? The weather was so weird and different, and yet not different at all, I was also tired and being on a plane for so long does things to ones head so I was a bit out of it. Ready to be back in the States!!! But sadly I had a loooooooong layover to look forward to before I could get to Chi-town (from 7:30am to 1:30pm). Walking through the Vancouver airport though, there were things like REESES chocolate, and Cinnabun, and whisky, and books about grizzly bears, yep, stereotypical Canada alright! I was excited to see what Chicago was like, this whole in-between stuff where I was not even back in the states yet was weird. Kinda like limbo, it is also how my head felt…floaty and not attached to anything…yep…so began the jetlag!!

Post Secret One: Things I have been thinking, experiencing, and doing but was not able to write in order to keep my early return to the United States a surprise

The Decider:

Ok, so around the beginning of May I made the decision to explore my options for returning home. Since DLC kicks us out by the 25th of June, and my current plane ticket was for the 2nd of July, I needed to make changes regardless of when I decided to come back. I had been considering for awhile the possibility of returning by June 5th so that I could attend Lawrence University's graduation, several of my close Lawrentian friends are graduating this year, not to mention my Brother, so it is a big event this time around.

Not making any solid choice, I gave Continental Airlines a call to see what flights were available from Australia to the U.S. around June 4th, planning to arrive in the States just in time to make it to graduation, but not leave Macquarie before the official end of classes on the 3rd. The first person I talked to barely spoke English, misunderstood most of what I was asking and gave me the information that there were no flights before June 12th that worked with my ticket options. I decided that perhaps it would be good for me to call back and speak to someone else, so I waited a day and again called the Airline. Again I spoke with someone who had fairly poor English (a completely different person though) and she initially told me that there was a flight on the 1st in the early morning, and NO flights on the 12th...hmmm...I decided to call back one more time later that evening, just to be sure, since again, I thought perhaps there had been not so good understanding just based on what I was being given in responses (not because I was told there was nothing free, but, there were some other odd things as well). I called and OH NO! It was the FIRST person I had talked to again!!!! I asked my question and she told me that she would check for flights, she found one leaving on June 1st in the evening going from Sydney to Vancouver, to LA, to Houston, to Chicago. Certainly not optimal, long travel time AND leaving on the 1st I would not have any time to accomplish my exams. So I asked if there was ANYTHING else. I was on hold for a looooooong time and then the call suddenly cut to another line (whether I was transferred or it just jumped I do not know). Anyway, just as I was giving up on the idea of going home early, perhaps it was not 'meant to be' I was thinking, the person who picked up and asked "how can I help you" sounded like a native English speaker. I asked one last time about flights from Sydney to the U.S.

We proceeded to have lovely conversation about flights across the dateline, his impending 49th birthday, and the milestone of turning 50. He saw what had been done by the previous agent and laughed.

"That is not a very direct flight now is it!?" he said "I can get you in WAY better than that!" and within minutes he told me there was a flight from Sydney to Vancouver to Chicago on the 2nd of June. Easy to find, don't know why the other agents had such trouble! Perfect!!! Decision time!!! Should I book the flight? pay the money? If I don't do it it may not be available. At this point I had not yet decided to go home so early, because that was very early...was I done with my Australian experience? I had not yet been to Broome or Tasmania...but then again, I didn't really have the funds did I? What would I choose!? I decided to book. I could always change later if needbe, so I gave it a ‘here goes’ and asked him to switch the ticket for me. He proceeded to do so and I said,
"ok let me get my credit card out" to this he said
"shhh shhh I am concentrating!" I was a bit baffled by this, but ok, then I asked
"ready for the card number yet?" he replied
"nono shush! there you are, you are all booked I have sent the confirmation email."
"so, no credit card?" (I knew from previous calls and checking online that there was undoubtably a fee for changing tickets and airports)
"no Miss, we will collect that from you if you switch again. Thank you for flying with us!"

So, I was gifted a ticket home by a man I have never met, I don't even know his name. Ok Ariana, perhaps going home early was 'meant to be' after all. Also, a week after I booked the ticket I secured a part-time job in Oberlin beginning on the 6th of June, tickets to Broome are really expensive, and I need some reason to come back to Australia someday right? So going home early works out well.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Post Thirty Seven: Blogs I follow

I managed to covertly sneak around campus again today to snap a few shots of Autumn at Macquarie University. It is not often gray and rainy, and the native trees are evergreen; but there are enough imports that there are leaves a-fallin' and unfortunately even in Australia the weather is occasionally less than beautiful. I know they are not of exactly the same areas, but compare the following photos to the ones I took earlier in the Summer, and you can get a general idea of how things have changed in these four months.

outside the old library
top of main path
looking up the main path

Now, on to that which is the subject of the title of this post. I have nothing to write about, I am just waiting for my impending exams tomorrow and Wednesday, so I decided to inform you about the various blogs I like (featured on the right side of my blogsite).

There are a few categories.

1.) Australia: the blogs here are various friends blogs of their experiences in this continent. Alicia and Angie are two fellow DLC/Macquarie Study Abroad students, and Hannah Sawitsky is a Lawrentian who Studied Abroad in Melbourne Australia last year. They each blog about their experiences in Alicia's Adventures in Australia, Seventeen Hours Later, and the Last 100 days respectively. Heidi is a former neighbor of mine from Wisconsin who is visiting and writing in Australia 2011. All of them have different and interesting viewpoints, experiences, photos, and information about what Australia is like.

2.) Food: I am a food-lover, as well as an amateur cooking and baking enthusiast. There are hundreds of cooking sites on the web, and I am constantly looking for good ones. Some of my favorite discoveries are featured here. Foodwishes is done by a professional Chef who posts a new recipe and video pretty much every day, I find his videos easy to follow, directions simple and clear, and narration style engaging and funny. Baked is a blog I stumbled upon when I was looking for very easy cookie recipes (since I am college student and have no ingredients, time, or space). She doesn't update too frequently, but all of what she posts are delicious looking baked goods recipes along with an anecdote on how she found the recipe, ways to make it original, and tips regarding when to use. Liberal Arts Cupcakes is another blog by Hannah Sawitsky. It is new and developing, but she makes amazingly creative cupcakes and will continue to post new endeavors or items I assume. Alimental is done by Hannah Voss Surges (Not Hannah Sawitsky from Lawrence, different Hannah) a friend of mine from the old Homeschooling days. Hannah Voss Surges gives healthy vegetarian, gluten free, or vegan recipes with some really great photos and comments on some not-so-well-known but good for you ingredients. Cakewrecks and TDAC (They Draw And Cook) are a couple sites I just enjoy looking at to look. Cakewrecks is all pictures of failed, weird, or just funny cakes found in stores or delivered as orders. But! on Sundays they do a special on the actually really well done cakes some of which are spectacular. TDAC is a recipe site, but focuses on some pretty fantastic illustrations done by the recipe submitters (hence the name). Finally, Foodbuzz is a cooking site NOT an add (so clicking on it does not go to the Ariana fund, even though it looks like an add in my sidebar), it is similar to the Cooking Club sites, but it is free and I think Foodbuzz is more like a collective Blog, less advertizing than most sites and almost anyone can submit recipes or comments, or advice, and some are quite interesting. If you are at all interested in food I highly recommend you take a look at these!

3.) Misc.: the rest are as follows (no pun intended): other travels abroad by friends of mine to Granada Spain and Santiago Chile from Fall 2010, advice and inspiration by a writer for writers, and creative living by Lisa a friend and teacher from Homeschooling, learning to live as a high level athlete and student with Diabetes by a friend and fellow Lawrentian Dimo, Masa writes his observations about a Europe hockey tour, Japan, and various other facets of life, and lastly but not leastly, Sarrah AbuLughod another friend from Homeschooling posts funny, inspirational, and entertaining anecdotes of her life experiences.

There you have it! I will update this if I start following any other blogs of course, I am also open to recommendations of good Blogs to take a peek at, I find it enjoyable and informational to read them. Blogs are a good resource and are fun because they usually update on a fairly frequent basis (a blog is sort of like a series of books, where a website or book is more like, well, a book) but it is often difficult to find the good Blogs so I hope this gives you some good info, feel free to give me some as well!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Post Thirty Six: Night lights

 Yook at tha YIGHTS!!!!!

This Saturday evening several of the DLC crew took the train to Sydney's Circular Quay to see the Vivid Sydney light show. We arrived at the Quay and walked along through the crowds of people, taking photos and gazing at the spectacular lights projected on the Operahouse as they changed and shifted in a dazzling array that was different each moment we turned to look.

Looking at the city from the bridge

          Ariana: "Everyone turn around and smile!" Angie: "You sound like my Dad!" From Left to right: Alicia, Kate, James, Anthony, Angie, and Karen

We then walked across the Harbor bridge, and visited Luna park to see its lights and to laugh at the creepy faces that seemed to be everywhere in this tiny old amusement park. It was alot of fun to walk around the Quay/Operahouse/Bridge area of Sydney at night in the cool fall air with friends.

I find this area of Sydney to be one of the most captivating places in the city. Even though it is not 'in' the city and is certainly the tourist central, I absolutely love the Operahouse, and the Quay, and the night, and crisp night air. After so many months here, even though Macquarie is a bit of a distance from this area, I don't really feel like a tourist anymore, more like a local who just visits the place, much like I would visit a park or a museum back in the States. I find that this sense of 'my place' has developed more in the weeks since break. Even at university and at DLC, it feels much more natural to be here in Australia, again, less like I am dipping in for a bit and more like I am actually here here. It is a very comfortable feeling to be sure.

What a wonderful way to end the school semester, enjoying so many things I like about Sydney, feeling like I belong, and all with good company!

"You've no need to light a night-light
On a light night like tonight,
For a night-light's light's a slight light,
And tonight's a night that's light.
When a night's light, like tonight's light,
It is really not quite right
To light night-lights with their slight lights
On light nights like tonight."

-Tongue Twister

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Post Thirty Five: Windsday

"Oh the wind is lashing lustily
And the trees are thrashing thrustily
And the leaves are rustling gustily
So it's rather safe to say
That it seems that it may turn out to be
It feels that it will undoubtedly
It looks like a rather blustery day, today
It sounds that it may turn out to be
Feels that it will undoubtedly
Looks like a rather blustery day today"

-Lyrics from Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day 
(the best Winnie the Pooh in my opinion)

Today is an amazing chilly and cloudy and windy fall day. Though I have said this before, I am again reminded of soccer. It is one of those days where one finishes classes cold and tired, heads to the gym and changes into uniform or training clothes as fast as humanly possible and bundles up in the 'practice greens' for a gray practice on a squishy field under the swirling trees. A training that ends with a longer-than-necessary warm shower and a quick drive back to campus for a hot meal.

As I walk around the Mac campus I wish (as I often do) that I had brought my camera and could sneak some photos, but then again, photos wouldn't really capture this weird fall feeling in (ahem, May).

Today in approximately 2 hours I hand in my last two out-of-class assignments ever in my Macquarie experience! Then all I will have remaining is a take-home final consisting of two 1,000 word essays (I will have 2 days to accomplish this...not excited) and one in-class essay exam. Then I am finished forever with my Australian school experience as an undergrad study-abroad student! I will not take time to reflect on the entirety of my experience in this post because I am not quite done yet and I feel that if I did that then my brain would officially check out. And, since I still do have a couple things to do that kind of matter...I will wait. But I am so close!!!

This last Sunday, Andrea, James, and I went to an AFL game at the Sydney Cricket Ground. We had some trouble getting there, since the cricket ground is literally right next to another stadium that looks pretty much the same from the outside. So we tried to get in to this other stadium (which also had a sporting event happening) before figuring out that we needed to walk a bit farther on to the next one. There were no signs or anything pointing which way to go for what event, not very well laid out. We made it though and got to watch the Sydney Swans get annihilated by the Hawthorn Hawks. I couldn't really care less who won, I was not for a particular team (note: NEVER under any circumstances say you 'root' for a team, 'rooting' means...something else...) so I did not care who won. The Swans did really well in the first quarter, dominating the play, but the Hawks came out after the half and totally took over, it was almost as if the Swans were no longer even on the field!

The spectators
AFL has alot of rules, and they are all pretty complicated. I did not understand most of what was happening, though I got the general gist of the goals. I think I prefer rugby to AFL, it may be a bit slow, but it is easier to follow and there are less men on the field in rugby (about 12 each team as opposed to 17).

We left early to beat the crowds and I introduced my companions to the wonders of Breadtop. I should be paid a commission for all the business I have brought this wonderful bakery!

and that's it! nothing else interesting to report from this past weekend. Coming up, some friends and I are planning to attend a light show over the Operahouse and perhaps go to a bar at fancy hotel NOT for the alcohol, but to see the sunset over Sydney from one of the top floors, apparently it is quite worth the trip.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Post Thirty Four: Baking things

Friday!!!!! Still finishing things up. Seems like once the semester starts ending it continues to 'end' forever! and I took the time to count, I sill have 18 classes left! That is alot for only two weeks! I have 20 left if I actually went to all of them, but I have sadly ceased to attend the lectures for one of my classes since the lecturer is so boring!

Let me take a moment to explain that last bit. I have finished all of the graded assignments for two of my four classes. However we still have class until the 3rd of June. I continue to attend all the lectures of one class just because I like it so much, I would not choose to miss it! But this other class, the lecturer speaks in a monotone for two hours...no joke, same same tone, same inflection, same rise and fall of the voice nonstop for two hours. The material is interesting, but I would rather spend the two hours to read a book about it than to sit in a darkened lecture hall (which is in such bad shape that the arm desks for the chairs don't work and there are...unidentified stains on all the chairs...) trying not to fall asleep. I can download the lectures from the school website so that if I ever feel I really was missing something I can go back and listen. I am still attending the mandatory tutorials (smaller discussion classes), but I just can't bring myself to go to the lecture for this one class any more. To conclude, yes I do feel a bit guilty, I have never before in my college career skipped a class merely because it was boring...but...it is just a waste of my time...which is too bad because it could be really fun if the lecturer was not so abysmally bad. Oh well, a good learning experience, teaches me to appreciate the other profs more!

That being said, on to the Munchkin and, more importantly, BAKING!!!!!!!!

I talked with the Dean of Residents (DOR) about a referencing system for one of my papers once upon a time and noticed that he owned the game Munchkin, when I remarked "oh you have Munchkin!" he looked at me brightly and said "you know of this game?!?!" we then proceeded to have a small conversation about the wonders of this silly card game. This was back in late February I believe. About a month ago he approached me again and said "how would you like to play Munchkin? Please oh please? I am so bored and I have never found anyone to play it with" or something to that effect. I said yes, but playing with two people would be kind of boring, perhaps we should get some others. Then, a couple days later I was talking with my friends at dinner and James asked if I was planning on making cookies again (I had made some fairly ok ones in the microwave before break). I remembered that the DOR had said he had a full kitchen in his apartment that he and his wife let students use for baking on occasion. So, putting two and two together I said I would love to make some cookies or something, I could use this kitchen so that microwave wouldn't be needed, IF we would all play Munchkin together! My friends agreed to this and after much scheduling and re-scheduling we finally decided on Friday evening the 20th. The baking pool decided on peanut butter cookies and molasses/ginger cookies (for some people who don't like peanut butter) and Angie wanted to introduce us to Missouri Gooey Butter Cake a St Louis specialty.
Andrea and Karen entertain us

We all had fun in the kitchen laughing and baking, it was cramped but we managed. I had trouble figuring out the beater because the way it worked was that it was automatically ON unless you held this trigger, but holding the trigger made it go faster if you squeezed too hard and turn off completely if you pushed this little button (also on the trigger)...anyway, it was difficult but I got it to work enough to mix everything.
attempting to use the blender...

Some of the Chefs

Grating cinnamon, the lesser of two evils
We also had no pre-ground cinnamon or cloves so we used a grater...this worked fine for the cinnamon sticks, but, have you ever tried to grate cloves!!?? if not, try, and let me know how it goes. Karen and I found it exceedingly difficult to grate them and not our fingers or knuckles. Thank goodness we only needed a half teaspoon!

Our final troubles lay in removing the cookies from the pan. The pan was not sticky, but the spatula was, so we had more cookie pieces (for the peanut butter ones) than we had cookies. But they still were pretty good if I do say so myself.

The butter cake was a bit singed on the edges (not Angie's fault, the oven was not very good, it did not cook things evenly, even some of the cookies suffered. Still better than a microwave though!), and since there is no such thing as yellow cake mix here (one of the ingredients) she had to improvise and use vanilla cake. Even so, the cake was delicious, absolutely fantastically wonderfully marvelously stupendously scrumptious, and HOMEMADE!!!!! I shall have to try making it again sometime, since according to Angie it is better with the proper ingredients and no black edges.
Alicia is an expert at scraping molasses

The cookies turned out pretty good too! and thanks to Alicia, they were all expertly criss-crossed.
peanut butter cookies pre-baking stage
Butter cake
Once all the baking was accomplished, we all joined Sean, James, and the DOR Eli to play a long game of Munchkin. Using our spiky knees, ghoul-lashes, and boots of running really fast to defeat the wight brothers, the gelatinous octahedron, flee from the bullrog (and its mate), and of course backstab our buddys with ducks of doom, sex changes, and big feet all whilst munching our delightful baked creations.
you are now an orkish wizard

 All in all it was a lovely night with friends eating good homemade food, an excellent way to spend a Friday night!

"Ariana, while you were in the other room we skipped your turn, but you gave Karen your crabs"

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Post Thirty Three: GLP GLP GLP!!!

Like most everything else at Macquarie Uni, I have not been particularly impressed with the GLP here. However, as part of the program we are invited to a prestigious event called the "distinguished speaker series" and since I wanted to have the event on my transcript, and the speaker actually looked like he could be interesting (though in the past, looking interesting and the GLP usually do NOT mean interesting), I thought I would give it a go. But I did not expect much. I was actually pleasantly surprised this time! I had a great time, and the talk was fascinating. Definitely worth the trip.

The Global Leadership Program hosts a 'distinguished speaker' every year to have a talk about some Global Issue or another. This years speaker was Waleed Aly, a well-known Australian figure in both the Islamic sphere and the Australian Media.

drinks beforehand

fellow glp'er Alicia, and guest Angie
(note the purple jacket lurking in the background)

The speaker

Mr. Aly was a very good speaker, relaxed but poised, and comfortable and engaging in just the right ways to win the crowd but keep his talk informative and knowledgeable.He spoke largely about the idea of identity, the ideas of prejudice, and the phasing out of National identity due to more global views and identities, or multiculturalism.

I particularly enjoyed his remarks regarding what he saw as the amazing differences in U.S. culture across America. That is, one can go to a small town in Washington, and then another in Alabama and get very different experiences. He contrasted this with the more homogeneous Australian Nation. Not that Australia is homogeneous and identifiable, but there is more commonality in its people and their differences than the U.S.
This pretty much affirmed my experiences in my travels around Australia, I thought I was being stereotypical when I thought of Australians as all belonging to one big town in a sense. Again, not that I saw Australians as 'the same' all over, just they are similar in the same ways and differ in the same ways across Australia. However, it was nice to see that my views and observations had not been entirely without merit.

Sydney Town Hall
Lawrence University Memorial Chapel
Also, fun fact, the Sydney Town Hall (the building we were in) room that we went to the lecture in was VERY similar to the Lawrence Chapel!!! Same balcony, stage, and seating design, even had an organ in the front! Just further affirming that I was supposed to come to this, gave good reason for the thing.

It was a great way to conclude my GLP here. Though I do have one more optional session on Ethical Living, I am pretty much done, and this talk was a fun way to end.