true life: i’m a study abroad student

Another blog post is yet again long overdue. But this time I haven’t just been sitting on my bum using the ever distracting dc as an excuse.  Of the sixteen days I’ve been back from New Zealand, I’ve been in Brisbane for six of them.  I’m definitely living the life of a study abroad student and I know an actual class load next semester is going to be a rude wake up call back to reality.  This week marked the beginning of my last month here and with only one more week of classes before I head to Uluru as my final big adventure, I’m getting down to the end of it. But let’s not fret over leaving just yet because I’m still in Australia!  And speaking of here are the latest tales of my travels.
ADVENTURE #8: Stradbroke Island (aka Straddy)
Sunday September 18, 2011
If you noted the date, you’ll realize just how overdue this post is! This was yet another QUEST trip where we were already well on our way before the sun was up.  Following bus and ferry rides, we were welcomed by our aboriginal tour guide who gave us a unique perspective of the island his tribe resides in.  Fun facts: There are ten venomous snakes in Australia. Eight reside on Stradbroke Island.  I wore flip flops.  After a slightly disturbing introduction to the environment of the island, we settled down to learn the art of a boomerang.  I have always thought of a boomerang as an innocent children’s toy.  Little did I know these pieces of wood can be weapons of destruction.  We all were handed our own personal boomerang, a cheat sheet of aboriginal patterns, and some paint.  Disregarding the dark history of the boomerang, I had an aboriginal draw a merry, non-threatening, and slightly pregnant-looking dolphin on mine.  When arts and crafts time was over, we learned how to throw our newly acquired toy.  With a dozen or so boomerangs flying in the air, you always have to watch your back so one doesn’t accidentally smack you.  A measly ten seconds on the field told me he wasn’t lying when he said those things hurt!  Sporting a few fresh bruises, we voyaged to the other side of the island to some breathtaking lookouts.  The rest of the day was spent on the beach soaking up some those intense Aussie rays.  Have I mention Queensland has perfect weather here basically all the time? They don’t call it the Sunshine State for nothing!
 
my boomerang
 
sat on that beach!
 
ADVENTURE #9: Byron Bay
Friday October 7- Sunday October 9, 2011
What a weekend… I had heard all about the hippie feel of Byron and have been dying to get my peace-love-hemp on.  As an official member of the UQ beach volleyball club, I decided to take advantage of the cheap transportation option and spent the weekend with sixty or so fellow vballers.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  We arrived Friday evening and after chowing down on cheap Mexican food, we got our goon on!  As such a large group, we were VIP (yeah buddy) to the conveniently located club across the street.  Once inside La La Land – no lie, that’s what it’s called – we took the place over.  As I’ve learned is customary with this rambunctious group, most of the guys ended up kicked out by the end of the night. It was a whirlwind of drinking, laughing, and dancing that ended, at least for me, with a solitary wandering to the beach.  I woke up for an early swim in the beautiful waters sullied only slightly by a cloudy sky.  Returning to our hostel I encountered the wreckage UQBVC had left upon the hostel: a broken window, a highly suspicious pool of water by the door, and a top bunk bed half fallen onto the lower bunk.  Slowly staggering out into the light, everyone swapped stories and used a combination of numerous hazy memories to piece together the happenings of the evening.  The rest of the day was taken up by some serious volleyballing (remember kids, it’s just social) and getting ready for yet another night out.  But if I hadn’t learned it yet, I found out this club does nothing halfway.  I was told to bring a costume and I luckily found one last minute (thanks Alyssa!) as a Native American Indian.  While my costume was homemade, everyone else put me to shame.  How can you compete with grown men wearing terribly fake wigs and phony balloon boobs, Mario & Luigi, the Ninja Turtles (body paint extensively applied), Prince William, a Playboy bunny, and even a genuine German duo complete with a dirndl and lederhosen?  We headed to another bar stupid enough to give us free drinks for another night on the town.  A round of applause goes out to all the boys who volunteered for the amateur strip show.  I was sincerely impressed with the enthusiasm put into each performance.  The night went from a relatively civil (for us) dinner to outrageous dancing on table tops.  And it was a blast!!  While a much less destructive night, there were still plenty of stories to exchange the following day.  And since the sun finally decided to make an appearance, Sunday turned out to be a relaxing day of swimming, tanning, and more volleyball (remember kids, it’s still just social).  The water at Byron is crystal clear – tell me how you do it Australia?! – and the sand is that perfect soft texture you dream of.  I didn’t want to leave the simple beach life and I vow to return at some point and live life as a beach bum (just like you Vidi).
 
UQBVC

 

 

 

ready for Halloween a little early

 

doin what we do best
 
ADVENTURE #10: Cairns: home to the Great Barrier Reef
Wednesday October 12- Tuesday October 18, 2011
Back from Byron I scrambled to finish two major assessment pieces for my biology class so I could enjoy yet another hiatus from uni.  And this time I got to experience it with my sister Sophie! Taylor, Jasmine, and I arrived in Cairns late Wednesday night.  After a cheesy sibling reunion Taylor, Sophie, and I head into the wall of stifling heat to explore the city.  We were told the only way to handle the mugginess was to take a dip into the lagoon, and so we happily obliged (after applying copious amounts of sunscreen of course).  Our second day in Cairns was really the main event: snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef.  We signed up for a day tour through Passions of Paradise where we were promised two beautiful snorkeling sites.  And I was not disappointed.  It took a solid two hours to sail to the first snorkeling point, Michaelmas Cay.  The water was a brilliant turquoise and the closer we sailed, the easier it was to see exactly how distinct the reef is.  Patches of darker blue were the only clue as to what lay beneath the surface.  Grabbing our snorkeling gear we jumped into the ocean as soon as the anchor dropped to witness life under the sea.  To be honest the coral was not nearly as brightly colored as I imagined (I blame the animators of Finding Nemo for my high expectations) but much more diverse.  With so many different types of coral, there’s a home for every type of fish.  And the fish were not a disappointment.  I saw fish of every size and of every color in the rainbow.  Except the colors were so bright it looked like someone had used Photoshop to super saturate them. The best way I can equate the experience is by imagining being a part of life in a fish tank.  I felt less like an intruder and more like a participant in the ecosystem.  Schools of fish were not fazed by my presence even when I swam through them to get a closer look at the coral. The second place was exclusive to our boat and fittingly called Paradise Reef.  They sailed us out until nothing was in sight and told us to hop in.  I was skeptical of the deeper ocean blue and saw no trace of a reef below.  However once underwater I quickly saw the difference from the first reef.  The coral here was deeper in the ocean and much more complex.  We snorkeled for another hour enjoying nothing but beautiful underwater scenery and the sound of our own much-too-loud breathing.  

the lagoon

 

where dindin was served (choice of pasta, pasta, and more pasta!)

 

our boat

 

the reef!
The next day Jasmine and Michael drove us to Kuranda which is known as the hippie capital of Australia.  Sadly since it was a Sunday the markets closed early, but we still enjoyed a picnic in the park and saw a bit of the town.  The next day was our all day Tablelands and Waterfall tour.  The day was filled with hearing morbid stories of tourists tumbling to their deaths on the Babilda boulders, brekkie on the barby, chilling by the Milla Milla Falls, platypus watching, and swimming in a lake within an ancient volcano crater.  Our final day in Cairns was spent on Trinity Beach.  After being spoiled by Gold Coast beaches, this one wasn’t up to par.  Unfortunately I now have high standards of sand quality, wave intensity, and water clarity.  Australia has ruined mediocre beaches for me! When you’re used to the best, anything less just won’t do.

gorge Jas and Michael took us to

 

brekkie on the barby

 

Babinda Boulders

 

Milla Milla Falls

 

the Curtain Fig

 

unsuccessful platypus watching

 

Lake Echam
Trinity Beach

 

Despite evidence to the contrary, I do actually go to class here. Though I will admit the life of a study abroad student is more abroad than study. Thankfully my courses are not quite as challenging as my other mates, but there is still work to be done.  My past blogs have focused on all the best parts of my time here.  Don’t get me wrong it’s basically almost always that awesome, but life can’t be exciting all the time.  I have a lot of down time that I spend catching up on homework and watching gratuitously large amounts of television (dc is a blessing and a curse).  It’s hard to capture the big picture, but for the most part Australia really is that awesome. So it is more than okay to be jealous of me 🙂
Still taking it all in,
Lena
Also I realize this was a really long post so if you read it all the way through, thank you. Even though I love re-reading my posts, I realize they may not be nearly as thrilling to everyone else as they are to me!

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