Archive for the ‘Big White Birds’ Category

Checking Out, Moving In

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

With orientation having come to a close it was time to get situated into what would become my life in Sydney. At 10 am I met up with the other students who elected to live in Glebe, which is a suburban area in the northern part of the city.

The bedroom I was leaving in the Metrion World Towers

Incredible views of Sydney from my hotel room for Orientation. The white circle looking thing in the upper right hand corner is the olympic stadium

Stunning Sydney views from the 72nd floor

My apartment in Glebe where I will be spending the next four months is very nice, and a lot more than I was expecting out of temporary student housing.

New bedroom in Glebe apt! One guess as to which bed is mine.

Out my window on the second floor.

One of the many birds of this variety that frequent the tree outside my window

Kitchen/living room/ roommates.

Kitchen with our nifty space age dishwasher drawer. Its the silver thing to the left. Its a drawer that pulls out. Whenever we put dishes in it we say we are sending them to space.

Our living room. We are going to treat the wall behind the couch as an ongoing art project and keep adding to it as the semester goes on.

Bathroom! The steam shower has a waterfall shower head that is DIVINE.

My lovely roomies. Jill (the feisty brunette) and I share a room while Kayla is living with our other roommate Courtney who was stuck in New Zeland due to the earthquake when this picture was taken

SO after I got moved in and situated to my apartment I of course wanted to get on the interent because I had been without it for five days (read: an eternity) but only one apt had their internet already set up, number 29, and I live in apt number 18. Since we were all told this, the kids living in my building have taken to sitting in the hallway to steal the wireless connection from apt 29, the inhabitants of which have been great sports about it. Its actually turned into a funny bonding experience and a quirky way to meet people. So after catching up with the world via wireless internet connection Jill and I set out to find groceries. Our apt is about a 10 minute walk from the main shopping mall here which houses a grocery store and a K-mart and Target. As you can see only the absolute best parts of American culture  have made it to Australia.

We purchased a few household items like a bath mat, hand soap for both bathrooms, extra pillows, and a shower organizer. Then we made our way to the grocery store and spent the next hour or so trying to figure out what was what. There are almost no american brands to be found in an Australian grocery store, which turns grocery shopping from a menial task into a grand guessing adventure. I think we may have gone a little overboard in terms of number of items purchases as we were loosing circulation in our fingers about 4 minutes into our 10 minute walk back to our apartment. Never the less we made it back with all of our digits in tact.

Once all the groceries were put away and we had settled in it was about dinner time. Jill and Kayla were very sweet and made three cheese tortellini with chunky tomato sauce and salad for dinner. My contribution to this, since I was told that it was their meal to cook, was a frozen tirmasu that we all ate with spoons out of the plastic container. It was a wonderful bonding girly thing to do. After the dishes had been put away in the dishwasher drawer and a few more hours had been spent sitting in the hallway stealing the wireless connection from apartment from apt 29 my two roommates and I along with one of the residents of apt 29 set out in search of some nightlife in Glebe.

We walked past a few sketchy looking dives illuminated by neon lights and not wanting to sell our bodies on this particular evening landed instead at a karoke bar. Based on the miniscule population sample I observed at this random bar I am prepared to force the following mass generalizations upon the entire population of Australia.

1) most australians appear to be tragically tone deaf and without a sense of rhythm even when not intoxicated

2) They do not produce any music in this country, either that or nobody likes australian music, as every song we heard was from the US.

and

3) Australians dance like awkward elderly white people. Meaning, with lots of peculiar hand motions and without touching the person they are dancing with at all. It’s kinda precious, they are so adorably innocent seeming even at their most inebriated.

We stayed until last call and then sang our way all the way back to our apt building. Exhausted, we all fell into bed still chatting about anything and everything.

Any reservations I had about this trip, or feelings nervousness I felt in the days prior to leaving seem far away from me now. I am so excited to be here and get to know all the people who I have met. I am so glad everyone in my life pushed me into doing this when I wavered, I am so glad I did.

The Orientation Process Continues!

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

I don’t know what is causing this but everyday almost everyone is waking up around 6 or 7 am without an alarm, myself included. I am sure it has something to do with jet lag/being on the wrong time zone but its a very odd feeling to wake up and have no idea why. Usually when this happens to me its 2 pm when I needed to be somewhere at 9am, so I ususally wake up in a panic and scramble to find some device that tells time to confirm my fears. While the fleeting moments of panic are still there I have been pleasantly surprised to find each time I found a clock that I have woken up 1-2 hours earlier than I needed to.

SO in other words, this country has caused nothing short of a miracle to occur in my life. Let us all pray this blessing does not soon pass.

The first order of business when I awoke for day two was to find my luggage! Luckily it had in fact arrived when they said it would, and was waiting for me in the lobby of our hotel at the concierge desk. I have never been happier to see suitcases in my whole life.

I scampered upstairs with my suitcases bounding behind me and quickly found my shampoo and clean clothes. This was blissful.

45 minutes later it was time to head down to meet up with the rest of the group. Today was going to be all about living in the city and learning where things were. Our tour guide Russ, a native Aussie took us on a three hour walking tour all over the city. We started our tour in Hyde park which is very central and houses the Australian War Memorial.

Australian War Memorial

This building has four corners and there is a statue on each one. A member of the airforce, marines, navy and the fourth one is a woman. Russ was explaining that Australia was the first nation to grant women the right to vote, and that equality has always been a big part of AUstralia culture. Since women ran the country while the men were away at war during every major conflict, they are featured on the memorial. Inside of it is a sunken statue of  solider. It is sunken in so that you have to bow your head to look at it, assuming a position of reverence. The statue has three sets of hands supporting it that represent his mother, his wife, and his daughter. These women symbolize the past, the present and the future of Australia.

Also in Hyde park is this statue of James Cook. Much like Christopher Columbus he did little more than stumble into a large land mass, mistake it for something else, and get credit for finding it when someone else was already there. Essentially he is the Christopher Columbus of Australia. Why we can’t properly credit people for discovering our countries baffles me. I took the picture from this angle because our tour guide showed it to us from this angle and made some interesting comments about his….telescope.

As we made our way downtown towards the shopping district we could see the Sydney Observation tower. At the top there is a very fancy revolving restaurant. Being that the hotel we were already staying at was 80 floors high we were told not to waste our money to see the views from atop this thing as it would be expensive and no better than the ones we already had in our hotel.

This is part of the shopping district. Almost all the stores are located in open air alleyways like this. They are really quite beautiful and you can just wander in from the street without having to go through doors.

Throughout Sydney there are a bunch of public parks that feature the work from local artists. The design in this fountain that Russ is standing in front of is from a local artist. Also- since the soil in Australia is so nutrient poor the trees there never loose all their leaves completely since they don’t have the recourses to replace them all at once like the trees in the US do. Instead they loose a few all year round.

We also walked through the Botanical Gardens. When you first walk in the sign says “feel free to pick the flowers, climb the trees, walk on the grass and feed the animals” I thought this was really refreshing how they encourage a hands on experience when in the United States it would be very “NO TOUCHING”. The big white bird in this picture is really like the pigeon of Sydney. THese things are EVERYWHERE. They are very friendly and will eat out of your hand. Here, Russ is demonstrating how they will sit on your shoulder and eat out of your hand if you let them. They have a particular fondness for banana bread we found out. Many of the students tried this, one guy even had about 4 birds on him.

The botanical gardens back up to Sydney Harbor, where the famous sydney bridge and opera house reside. Of course everyone wanted a picture of this stunning view. I’m fairly certain all 80 kids from my program have this exact picture only with a different person in the foreground in every one.

Harry's Meat Pie Stand. These things are world famous apparently. None of our group was incredibly blown away by them. They were kinda bland, and not great food for an 80 degree summer day.

After our walk around the city we stopped at Harry’s meat pie stand for lunch off of the Harbor. Supposedly these things are amazing and quite famous in Sydney. I didn’t eat the tradition version, because it has meat in it, but instead opted for a veg version.

Harry's Meat pies with potato, mash pea, and gravy. Mine was a vegetarian one. Obviously this is not mine because I would never put coke zero (read:POISON) into my body.

It’s like a pot pie with a serving of mashed potatoes and smooshed peas on top covered in gravy. Its good but certainly not the life changing experience it was built up to be.

After lunch we all were loaded onto a bus and taken to Featherdale Wildlife Park http://www.featherdale.com.au/

It is a very nice facility that is a hybrid between a park and a zoo. While the birds and more dangerous animals were kept in cages the more docile ones were allowed to roam within the permitters. So you could be looking at a pretty exotic bird in a cage and all of a sudden a kangaroo goes bounding past you. Its really awesome. This darling little guy was the first animal we met. He is a newborn baby wallaby, and very sleepy as you can see. But o so incredibly soft and cuddly.

Baby Wallaby

There were also Koalas EVERYWHERE Almost all of them were sleeping in trees, which looks very funny and uncomfortable but they don’t seem to be bothered by it in the slightest.

To me they kinda look perpetually hungover. But also very cute and cuddly. And so incredibly soft.

The Kangaroos and Wallabys are very docile creatures and do not mind at all if you play/pet them. They are very friendly/indifferent. Also super soft. I think one of the major genetic traits of marsupials is that they are really soft.

tiny penguins! They huddled in a little group like this and it was adorable. I was so tempted to scoop one up and let it live in my bathtub for the next four months.

My favorite. So beautiful

Being that Australia has been so isolated from the rest of the world biologically the animals have evolved quite differently, or sometimes very little evolution has taken place at all. This lizard is a very close decedent of the dinosaurs, and he looks it too.

This crocodile is MASSIVE. The inclusion of the girl on her cell phone in this picture was intentional to give it some sense of scale. It was FRIGHTENING to be that close to such a gigantic and ferocious creature.

These guys are wonderfully fuzzy. And as long as they can still get to their food they don't really care what happens to them.

kookaburra!

So after we finished up at the wildlife park we went back into the city and had the rest of the night off. I went with some friends out to dinner at a sushi bar. I am not a big fan of sushi but they were very hell bent on having some since it is so plentiful and cheap in sydney. The quality of fish here is also a lot better than it is in the states. The water around Australia is actually very clean. SO clean in fact that they have begun to attract sharks. While this may seem alarming and unrelated, if the plankton and organisms at the bottom of the food chain have food to eat and can swim in the water then they attract bigger organisms, and this goes all the way up the food chain. So if you have a body of water that is attracting large predators like sharks you have a very flourishing and healthy ecosystem. So if you ever get bit by a shark, look on the bright side, you were swimming in a very healthy ecosystem when it happened!

So after my sushi dinner experience I have gone from a casual dislike of sushi to a passionate one. Luckily it was cheap and I didn’t waste too much money discovering this. After that some poeple elected to go out, but after a long day of marsupials and walking I was quite exhausted and decided to hang out with some friends in the hotel and then call it a night.