Saturday, April 30, 2011

Post Twenty Eight: no arms and no legs remaining.

My final part of the break journey began when I departed Cairns the morning of the 18th. I flew out to Melbourne and met Janet and her son Jacob at the airport around 2pm. We then drove to their house in a small, rather nice sort of suberb area of Melbourne.

"their house is gorgeous! located right behind Peter's business office which connects to the street, it has lots of wood and a bright sunroom at the back of the house which is the eating area, then it has an outdoor courtyard and an studio for Janet, which at this point doubled as a bedroom for me. I learned that the kitchen had been totally redone, and I have to say that I approved immensly! Nice and open and central to the rest of the house, it was everything a kitchen should be (minus a dishwasher) AND it was oriented to left-handers!!! YES!" --Journal entry April 19th

After quickly settling in and refreshing up, we all four headed across the city to a friends house for my first ever real Seder. Along the way I was able to get some insider information on various buildings, parks, and other locations of interest as we drove by.


"The Seder was so wonderful. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming and fun and not afraid to tease. I was able to feel fairly comfortable fairly quickly. WE sang Seder songs to rock tunes, and ate tons of amazing homecooking including beef briskit, sweet potatoes, flourless cake, and chicken. It was so nice to be among real people in a real house around a real table! I was so privileged to be able to share in this experience and I look forward to many more lovely times with this family." --Journal Entry April 19th

On Tuesday the 19th, Janet, Jacob and I went on a bikeride along the shore down near St. Kilda's. We had a bit of trouble getting there, but we eventually made it down to the path. It was a lovely ride, a great way to see some of the sights (including some famous and colorful beach cabanas). Melbourne is definitely the place of food, hence I will be mentioning it alot in this post. We had authentic fish 'n' chips first, then some fancy bakery items later at Aclan Street. I could definitely grow fat there (if I had the money) I am told that it is not what it used to be, but even so, the few bakeries there had alot of variety and everything looked marvelous.

Jacob was not feeling too well, so they headed home from Aclan street. I made my slow way back by biking along the path and past some gorgeous parks, before heading to the (amazingly prevalent) bike lanes on the streets. I kept thinking to myself as I pedaled past and through Melbourne, "Hannah was probably here, oh she was probably here too!!". Upon my eventual return to the house I was able to help Janet make a scrumptious and colorful REAL AND HOMECOOKED (I love this home cooked meal stuff, can you tell I am a college student?) dinner of chicken meatballs in tomato (NOT ketchup, actual tomato sauce) sauce, mashed potatoes, carrot salad, and some really yummy and super fresh brussels sprouts sizzled in garlic and olive oil.

Wednesday the 20th I spent by myself in downtown Melbourne discovering the main area of the city. It was raining pretty much all day, so I browsed some of the mall/arcades looking for Haigh's chocolate shop (I found it, it was pretty good for Aussie stuff!) and went to the free Australian art museum at Federation Square. Unfortunately (and ironically) the 'stormy weather' exhibit was closed, and the Aboriginal area was also being cleaned or something, but there was a gallery devoted to the best high school art of the Victorian area, it was cool to see some 'young' art.

Post art gallery, I headed by tram to Bimbos Pizza to satisfy the demands of Hannah Sawitsky and eat their $4 pizza. It was fairly well priced considering amount for dollar (by Australian standards) however, still did not have the cheese or sauce that makes pizza pizza, it was more faithful to the real Italian version of the stuff. So, conclusion, good, well priced, nice and gourmet, worth the trip, but still not the (terrible for you) American style of pizza.

rosemary, onions, redpepper and sausage
I finished off the day by walking through an old cemetery, it was the perfect sort of day for it and the cemetery was filled with gravestones where the markings were rubbed off, my kind of cemetery! I also found some real Mcvities at a shop nearby!!!! So I munched down a half package of these as I meandered in the cemetery. It was cool how the sounds of the city seemed to disappear while I was there...creepy!

apparently Wall-E died...
a momentary lull in the crowd

Family dinner!!!

my Pavlova
After another amazing dinner and meeting some more of Peter and Janet's friends, sampling some excellent Australian wine, and making my first Pavlova (underneath the watchful eye of a true Aussie aka Peter who said "make a Pavlova right and you will win over any Australian"), I got to use the internet for a few minutes to sign up for my LU classes. Yes, break is not all break, I now had to start planning my (gulp) senior year at college!!!

Friday the 22nd was my last day in Melbourne.

"we all traveled to a farm which Peter had very recently purchased, about two hours from the city, a beautiful piece of land surrounded by fence, with its own wild goats, woolshed, former racehorse named Henry, old trees, and some new trees that Peter had planted. We walked through the property, spotting wild kangaroos and wallabies, thankfully it was too cold and cloudy for snakes. We then had another picnic lunch (a feast more like, with chocolate cake, and eggplant parmesan, and lots of fresh fruit) and I was given the honor of planting a tree." --Journal Entry April 22nd

'sound of music' or 'man from snowy river'?

I was then driven to the airport under a glorious sunset as we all thought of man with no arms and no legs jokes (hence the title of this post). It was no less than absolutely wonderful to spend time with Peter Janet and Jacob. To be welcomed into their family for the time that I was there, watching old movies, looking at photo albums, eating amazing food, laughing teasing, seeing Melbourne and just generally having a great time. I am very thankful that I was given the chance to stay with these gracious people. It was the perfect way to end my break before returning to University to finish out my school semester. I am very very thankful.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Post Twenty Seven: Second leg

view from the shuttle port at the airport
Cairns was so different from Alice Springs it was like landing in a different country! Alice is hot and Dry, and quiet. upon arriving in Cairns I was greeted by a sunset over palmtrees and a mangrove swamp, as well as some very chattery tropical birds.

I met an Irish woman while waiting for my shuttle that would take me to the next backpackers. She was very pleasent and even gave me the $5 I needed for the shuttle (I had no cash and they only accepted cash). I told her I wold make a point to support some other needy backpacker in her honor.

"Upon arriving at the backpackers I met up with Angie!!! Hooray! we both talked a mile a minute (she had just come from Melbourne) as we walked downtown for our free dinner at a local bar/pub/grill called the Woolshed. The food was terrible but it was free so we were not complaining. Here also we found Alicia (another DLCer) who had been out to the reef already. It was extremely nice to meet up with people I already knew. I was invigorated and refreshed and ready for more travel as a result." -Journal Entry April 13

Cairns itself at first seemed very much like Appleton. It was a city, but a smaller one with not too many tall buildings, it felt safer than Sydney and more familiar more quickly (due to its size). Though by the time I left Cairns seemed nothing at all like Appleton, it is more tropical, a beach town, not a Midwest place.

On the morning 14th I headed out to the reef aboard a sailboat called the Rum Runner with five other tourists and a crew of five. It was a real switch of environment to go from the dusty red outback to the blue and wet water of the ocean! This day I got to do some snorkeling on the reef and one actual dive for 25 minutes.

"there is no bad spot to be out here. at first one reaches the reef and there is really nothing but green coral. but then fish just pop out! loads and loads of fish of all different sizes and colors. It is so fascinating that they all live together peacefully. The actual dive was incredible, but it is so weird to feel the water around you and still be able to breath. I was also a little unnerved by my proximity to the coral. I did not want to touch anything. I have found that there is just something about touching things in water that creeps me out. Luckily for the rest of the snorkels I found a wetsuit so I was entirely protected from touching ANYTHING. this made it better for the rest of the trip." -Journal Entry 14th April

We were on the boat for two days and one night. Unfortunately I never got my sealegs and instead received many bruises from running into everything as the boat rocked. Although I did note that this is not too unusual for me (running into things that is) so really nothing changed. The reef was fantastic, I got to see pretty much every well known reef creature except a ray. I enjoyed the experience and the small personal feeling of the boat and crew vs. tourist ratio was really nice.

the 15th Angie and I had one more day together in Cairns, so we took a bus up to Palm Beach. NOTE: if you are traveling to Cairns rent a car. the public transport is virtually nill and the bus we took pretty much only went to the beach. nowhere else. Anyway, we spent time on the beach (my first beach with palm trees!!! It looked like what I would imagine Hawaii looks like), we made sure only to swim in the enclosed area as there was a sign that warned of saltwater crocodiles....We also went on a beach walk 

"not anything special, just a quiet walk along a beautiful tropical beach. However! We reached a rocky bit and I noticed there were crabs!!!! They were everywhere! and would scuttle from underneath the rocks (where one could not see them) to other rocks as one came closer to them. I was terrified! My toes were curling with every step! I kept a brave face though and pushed on, however if one had touched me I would have jumped four feet in the air and crawled backwards (like a crab actually) faster than the speed of light." -journal entry April 15

We saw a sign for sea kayaks to rent and decided it was well worth the money, so Angie and I went Kayaking on the ocean out to an island. It was wonderful! First time sea kayaking for me, peaceful and again, we were on a tropical and blue ocean!!!

The last day in Cairns I was by myself again, I went to Palm Sunday in a small and very welcoming church with real palm fronds! in the morning, but it was the afternoon that was really special. I took a trip out to Hartleys Crocodile Adventures!!!!!!!! Home of over 18 saltwater crocodiles that are larger than 3 meters, as well as many other crocs, some wallabys, kangaroos, koalas etc. But the crocs are the main show.

Satwater crocs are basically the bomb. They can run 40 mph, climb trees, bite with 3,000ppsi, hide in (I kid you not I saw this with my own eyes) 1 foot of water, hold their breath for up to 3 hours, AND due to the salt glands in their cheeks, they live in lakes, ponds, oceans, rivers, waterholes, estuaries, seas, creeks, basically everywhere there is enough water. The biggest croc at Hartley's was 4.6 meters long and was there because he had attacked some fisherman and then found his way 300km back to the same spot after being relocated. The biggest recorded estuarine croc was 8.4 meters long....that's big...

Anyway, I spent the afternoon there just aweing over these amazing dinosaur-like creatures. I spent my last night in Cairns writing in my journal and departed the next morning for Melbourne where I was to meet up with the family that was going to take me in for the last leg of my journey.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Post Twenty Five: Beginnings

April 8th, 5:30pm: First Journal Excerpt (please note that this is a bit edited, not exactly the original journal entry IHRTLUHC) 

"So it begins. I moved totally and completely out of my room at DLC since according to their stupid policy one has to pay extra to stay over break. Supposedly they need the space for paying conference guests...psh...I wonder what the conference guests will think of the cockroach that is still stuck to my wall."

I flew out to Alice Springs at 6:05am on the morning of the 9th. It was super hot there, and very dry, upon exiting the aircraft my hair instantly stood on end from the dryness. I was not impressed with the backpackers I stayed at (Toddy's), although the people employed there turned out to be the most friendly in my hostel experiences. Since I arrived at 2 in the afternoon I had some time to explore the town, not needed, Alice Springs is absolutely void of anything to do, it is more of just a jumping off point for tours out to the Red Center (Uluru etc.) I stayed at Toddy's only for the night, meeting Corelie, a Swiss student who was also from Macquarie and was going on the same trip that I was the next day!! Fancy that, we had not met prior to bunking in the room!
The first of many 'look, my face!' pictures

The next morning was when things really got started. Leaving the hostel at 5am, we picked up the rest of our group at another hotel. There were only eight of us and our guide on the trip, this turned out to be a real blessing because it meant that our group could get places faster, ask questions more freely, get to know each other well, and bond quite quickly (most of the other tours had at least 20 people if not more). We drove out of AS as the sun was rising over the outback, it was quite beautiful but this was just the beginning! the four hour trip took us farther and farther from everywhere. Along the way, Corelie and I measured the prices of everything by comparing the price of a container of Tim Tams at all of our various stops (the prices rose from $4 in AS, to $6.95 by the time we reached Ayers Rock).

We stopped here for firewood. Note: this was not the road we took, just an offshoot from the paved one we were actually on.
 We arrived at our campsite and ate a quick lunch before heading out to Kata Tjuta for a hike. KJ is much like Uluru, except it is a lot of big rocks, not just one giant one. Here, our guide Bron explained how KJ and Uluru were formed.

"When Australia was squeezed from West and East by techtonic plate movement, it created mountains tall enough to have ice on top. The ice melted and huge chunks of rock fell off into the sea that covered this part of Australia, then they were covered by earth as the seas dried. Then Australia was squeezed again from North and South and these rocks were pushed to the surface a little, exposing them again to the upper world (scientists believe Uluru is a massive rock that extends down into the earth much farther, what we see is just a small bit of it). So basically, KJ and Uluru are Giant earth pimples." -Ariana Flood, Journal entry April 10th 2011.
The Kata Tjuta (Aboriginal name) or Olgas (Settler name)

Sunset over KJ
The Hike was enjoyable, I was constantly reminded of sleeping cattle as we walked among the huge red rocks just resting out in the middle of nowhere. We then finished this first day with a spectacular sunset over the Olgas (Kata Tjuta) before returning to camp for some Kangaroo for dinner and a celestial starshow that was unlike anything I have, or ever will see again I imagine. The stars were so numerous that one actually had to look away from the milky way because it was too bright! We got to sleep in swags (basically a mattress inside a sleeping bag) out in the open under these stars, and I had the pleasure of waking a few times and just having to look up to be awed again.

Yes, I was awake this early, and no the sunrise was not any more beautiful than the sunset
Day 2 we headed out to Uluru itself at 5am to see the sun rise on the Rock and then to circumnavigate the base of it. I was struck by the spiritual feel of the Rock. It really was special, I was not expecting it to be so interesting, I mean, it is just a rock in the ground...but there is something about it that just takes your breath away. Perhaps it is that every single step of the way the rock changes as the light, or your position shifts, perhaps it is the absolute silence other than the morning rustle of wind that almost is music unto itself, or maybe there is something more. Regardless, Uluru was even more amazing than I had imagined. 
truffula grass?

part of Uluru
After our walk we got to learn some about the Aboriginal culture and beliefs surrounding it, in particular one story about a Dingo God who massacred a group of Indigenous women, so violent he left his mark on the rock itself in the form of a massive pawprint.

The pawprint on the left, a faceless and armless woman on the right. See it?
We then headed in our bus for our 6 hour drive over to Kings Canyon (it takes a while to get anywhere out there), our last stop of the tour. Along the way was more outback, outback, outback. I was reminded of my out West trip in the U.S. when a certain person in the car kept commenting on all the "sagebrush and juniper", only out here it is something like "deathplant and buffo grass". 

In the swag

Kings Canyon was also quite amazing. Though apparently it is rusting. that is where the red color comes from. Kings canyon is like the Badlands, the paths were marked, but mostly we were just walking along the rocks and along the canyon. At one point one could shout and actually hear the full echo, it was really cool. Also, since our tour group was so small we were able to move quickly and finished the walk in only 3 hours with plenty of time to stop and take pictures, we just didn't have to wait for people to catch up or rest etc. We finished with the canyon at 10am, just before the thousands of flies started coming out, and departed from the Red Center taking our 6 hour trip back to Alice Springs. 
According to Aboriginal legend, these are all warrior men who were turned to stone in case they were needed later

two anecdotes of AS before my departure

"Getting ready to leave Toddy's I was greated by a young police officer who asked if I had found anything missing (sort of an odd question, how does one find something if it is missing...). Apparently the person a couple doors down had been burglurized in the middile of the night as a couple of locals had opened her door and stolen her backpack. We had been warned that AS was not a friendly place after dark, but this truly brought it to reality........Unrelatedly, later, while I was waiting for the shuttle for the airport, I was approached by a couple of young men who asked to use my toilet. I laughed and told them it was not MY toilet and as far as I was concerned they could go ahead. whilst one of them left, the other sat with me and introduced himself as Guy from Israel. He and Yanni (the other) had been out in the desert doing a reptile survey for the past week. Yanni joined us again and Guy treated us all to Paul's local iced coffee which Guy insisted was the best in Australia (pretty good though more milk than coffee). We chatted for about a half hour and I was invited to share a taxi to the airport with them after lunch, but since I had already paid for the shuttle I declined promising to meet up with them upon their arrival at the airport instead. I did end up finding them again while we waited for our respective flights and they sang for me a song they were planning to put up on Youtube, entitled "the crayfish funnyfarm song" to the tune of Yellow Submarine. Someday perhaps I will be able to find this video and these two awesome guys again." -Ariana Flood, Journal Entry April 13th 2011
Doing homework at the airport and drying out my shoes after washing them

Post Twenty Four: Back from Break!!!!

Ok! First let me say that, although I love disconnecting on occasion to go camping or something, being away from the internet and thus all contact with people outside my immediate bubble (no cellphone really either, since almost everyone I know is not in AU right now) is EXTREMELY taxing! Holy Moly! I did not like not being able to talk to people or to share, or to even just check in and see how things were going in various places. I would not hurry back to not having internet that is for sure! I know I sound spoiled, but it is really hard to be in the dark as to what loved ones are up to, what experiences and news, I can only imagine in horror what it must have been like in the ages before telephones!

Now that that is settled. On to describing my amazing break experiences! Just to refresh your memories, I traveled on April 9th out to Alice Springs, then began a 3 day camping trip with a tour group on the 9th, left Alice Springs for Cairns on the 13th, went on an overnight sailboat out to the Great Barrier Reef on the 14th, departed Cairns for Melbourne on the 18th, spent time in Melbourne with Janet, Peter, and Jacob Bau; friends of my old piano teacher Stefanie Jacobs, then returned to Sydney on the 22nd. Classes don't start until the 27th.

I did keep a journal of my travels so that I would not forget anything and could write alot down on my blog once I returned (thankfully!) to internet range/access. I also took over 600 pictures. Needless to say I will not feature all of those pictures here, nor will I have the full version of my journal, just the important or interesting bits. I will also be posting a few separate posts, one for each leg of my journey, this way you will not be subjected to reading one super long post.

Just as a general overview, my 'holiday' was incredible. It was fantastic to travel around Australia, especially since that is the real reason I am here after all. I feel like a travel veteran now, and airports and place travel are no big deal. I have learned much about Australians, about backpacking hostels, different people, certain cities, tours, etc.

And now, without further ado...Ariana's Australian Adventures!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My way IS the highway!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Post Twenty Three: Off into the wild yonder

Hey everyone! I am going on break (FINALLY WHOOPIEEEEEEEEE!!!!) so I will be out of internet contact for the next three weeks. Thus I will not be posting at all, I will try to remember and write down as much as I can in a journal or something and then post one really super long post, or a bunch of shorter ones, or something when I return from my adventures!

So yep, I leave Friday afternoon by my time, and I return on the 23rd. though I may not have a computer until perhaps the 26th. So until then, farewell to everyone and I will get in touch again upon my return to DLC!


Love - Ariana

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Post Twenty Two: ok, a few things I forgot to mention

How to kill a cockroach family:

Step 1. Locate cockroaches. This will happen purely by intuition. Similar to suddenly getting the feeling that there are raccoons by your picnic table, you will allof a sudden get the urge to look to your left to the corner, or to go over by your sink not knowing why with goosebumps prickling your neck. You will then spot a cockroach parent on your wall, or cockroach child on your floor respectively. 

Step 2. Choose weapon. Find something that you do not care if it becomes either broken or smattered in cockroach. (cups from the dining halls that you have no respect for are perfect).

Step 3. Calmly and firmly grasp weapon and slowly lower towards cockroach. No fast movements, they will notice and subsequently skitter out of sight causing significant distress to your person as you will now have no idea where they have gone to.

Step 4. Once weapon is sufficiently close, quickly finish the blow and squish roach thoroughly making sure that it is separated into at least two halves. Otherwise it will continue to live. If either of the halves are still moving, repeat step 3 and 4 until no movement is detectable and roach is in a number of pieces.

Step 5. Leave in conspicuous spot for the cleaning crew to discover. Perhaps they will realize that there is a problem. Or. if this is impossible because the roach is in a traffic area and you will forget that the roach is there and will inevitably step on it, use utensil (again, dining hall materials such as knives work well) to pick up roach and place in trash.

Step 6. Hope and pray that you have now killed mom and child and not dad and child. if you have succeeded in killing the mother, then any subsequent children will not exist. If you have only killed the dad and child then you have only cut of the head of a hydra, as the cockroaches will continue to multiply. If this second is the case. Repeat steps 1-5 until problem is no more.

Step 4

Step 3

Ideal results of Step 4. (thumb included to provide scale)

second thing one must know. they PAY you to take psych studies here! no candy involved you get CASH MONEY!

third. the concept of the icecube is utterly foreign to the Australian. Thus, so too is the idea of cold beverages.

lastly, 'all you can eat' dining service is a lie at DLC. it is not 'all you can eat' it is instead 'limited first servings, only allowed one option of the three given, served conservatively by staff, then no seconds allowed until 10 minutes before closing (if there is any left at this point) to make sure we actually have enough for everyone because we don't plan well and often run out of food by the end even with our restrictive first servings'. So show up early to make sure you actually get food, and if you want seconds, bring a sweatshirt or something so you can go in with a different shirt on, sometimes they will not recognize you and will give you seconds thinking they are your firsts.

Anything I left out? oh yeah. make SURE you check your apple before EACH bite. otherwise you may end up finding you have just eaten half of a black spot or worse...

Friday, April 1, 2011

Post Twenty One: Almost there, but one more adventure before break.

Not much to report this week. I have been trying my best to finish all of my homework so that when I go on break I can actually be on break. I am currently trying to finish a huge research paper. It is not due for a little while even after the break, but seeing as during the month of May I will have a total of three of these monsters to accomplish (in addition to all other papers and tests). Granted, the workload here is not as pressuring as the one at LU, but I have one more class than back home and only a couple of extra weeks (since we have this giant break) of actual school. So, anyway, this will be a short post.

Yesterday I went with some friends beck to the Blue Mountains. The weather report was "mostly sunny"...however the sun did not get "mostly" until around 3pm...typical. I am finding it a trend that whenever I make plans to go places the sky tends to be either raining, or cloudy and cold.

However, it was actually pretty sweet to have this weather as you will see in a minute. After a long trainride we arrived in Katoomba and walked down to Echo point. We learned why people usually take tourbuses, because it is a fair walk (not undoable for sure, but it is a bit of a walk) to get anywhere.

where are the mountains?
Anyway, once we arrived at the 'scenic lookout' Echo Point. But, wait, where were the mountains? we couldn't really see anything due to massive cloud-cover. it was hauntingly interesting, every now and then a mountain would emerge and then disappear again into the clouds.

We then walked down to the three sisters, again it was so cloudy that it was hard to see anything. but it did clear now and then, enough that we were able to glimpse some of the vistas.

After this, was lunch on the side of the path (we received some looks from the passersby, perhaps because we were all sitting on the ground in front of a bench...instead of on the bench...)

can you find us?

sunlight turns it into a tropical woodland!

Then we walked along a path trying to get to the Leura Cascades. The walk was really fun, sometimes it was like walking through a misty valley in a horror movie or a rainforest. and then the sun would come out and it was like a tropical island walk! the walk was supposedly only 3 km... however, it took us 2 1/2/ hours before we reached a sign that said Leura Cascades 750m ahead. GREAT! but then, about 100m farther we saw another sign that said Leura Cascades 1.1 km...hmmmmm not good. we decided to sadly forgo trying to find the falls and instead headed up away from the mountains and onto the road to Leura town. after walking up and down and up and down hills we reached Leura and enjoyed windowshopping (it was a beautiful day at this point) for a bit before heading back on the train.

Since we had all purchased tickets that let us travel on all transportation free for that day, we decided to continue all the way back to Sydney City. We went to the Rocks Pancake House for dinner, I ordered one of their 'famous chocolate pancakes' and shared. It was our consensus that "they forgot the pan in that pancake!" Still, it was pretty good, even by my snobbish chocolate standards.

On the ferry, behind me is Circular Quay

Blue, and the Opera house. how can it get better!

We finished the night by riding the ferry to a litup Luna Park before returning tired but happy and satisfied, to the Uni.

There was my one day adventure! a bit short and to the point, I apologize. but homework calls.....