Archive for the ‘USyd’ Category

On the Beach & Inside the Opera House

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

There has never been a Lapointe family vacation that did not involve a beach or large body of water in some way. Even though it is winter in Australia right now, Mom was determined to not let this stop her from getting to the beach while in Sydney.  Her one request for our last full day by ourselves was that we go to a beach so she could put her feet in the Pacific Ocean. So after getting up this morning and spending a few minutes at USyd using the Internet to skype, we caught the bus to Central Station and then the train to Bondi Junction, and then another bus to Bondi Beach. Once there we had a light lunch and a pastry at my favorite café in Bondi- The Gelato Café. Unlike last week when I did the cliff walk with Kaela and her mother, today was a beautiful bright warm sunny day, and the beach was buzzing with surfers and families enjoying the weather.

Mom puts her feet in the Pacific Ocean at Bondi

Graffiti art at Bondi Beach

Surfer standing on his head for reasons unknown

A beautiful day at Bondi

So many surfers

Local wildlife

After spending a few minutes on the sand we started the cliff walk which goes is a roughly 5 km walk, but we only did the first leg of it which ends at Bronte Beach. We got off a Bronte and then took the bus back to the train station where we caught the train to Circular Quay.

On the cliff walk

We walked from Bondi to Bronte beach- thats Bronte in the background

While I have taken many people to see the Opera House when they have come to visit me this semester and I have walked around the exterior many times, I had not taken the official Opera House tour, but I definitely wanted to. Mom and I had attempted to do this on Monday but most of the performance spaces had been closed then do to rehearsals taking place, so we had agreed to revisit on Wednesday. So upon arriving in circular quay we went straight to the tour center and purchased tickets for the 4:00pm guided one-hour tour.

After meeting our tour guide, Daniel, everyone in our tour group of about thirty was issued a head set, and the tour guide had a microphone that he spoke through which we could hear in our headsets. Mom and I both remarked on what a brilliant way to conduct a tour this was since the guide never had to shout and you could always hear him no matter how close to him you were. One of the rules for the tour is that you were not allowed to take pictures inside of any of the performance spaces. This is because many of them have sets built inside of them that are under copyright, and the stage hands and musicians that work inside these spaces have signed privacy contracts that do not allow them to be photographed while they are working. Therefore, all my pictures are of the exterior hallways and lobby spaces of the opera house.

The first space we were taken into was the smallest one, which is a square theatre that has seating all the way around and chairs that can be brought out to fill the floor, or the floor can be left empty. This space can be used for intimate concerts, children’s shows, or any theatre performances that are done in the round. The second space we went through was the concert hall, which is acoustically designed so that no microphones ever have to be used and the sound evenly distributes throughout the entire room. The opera hall is similarly designed, so that the performers never have to use microphones, and a person sitting in the front row will receive the same quality of sound as a person sitting in the back row. In total the Opera House consists of seven spaces:

The Concert Hall, with 2,679 seats, is the home of the Sydney Symphony and used by a large number of other concert presenters. It contains the grand organ, the largest mechanical tracker action organ in the world, with over 10,000 pipes.

The Opera Theatre, a proscenium theatre  with 1,507 seats, is the Sydney home of Opera Australia and The Australian Ballet.

The Drama Theatre, a proscenium theatre with 544 seats, is used by the Sydney Theatre Company and other dance and theatrical presenters.

The Playhouse, an end-stage theatre with 398 seats.

The Studio, a flexible space with a maximum capacity of 400 people, depending on configuration.

The Utzon Room, a small multi-purpose venue, seating up to 210.

The Forecourt, a flexible open-air venue with a wide range of configuration options, including the possibility of utilising the Monumental Steps as audience seating, used for a range of community events and major outdoor performances. The Forecourt will be closed to visitors and performances 2011–2014 to construct a new entrance tunnel to a rebuilt loading dock for the Opera Theatre.

When the city of Sydney first decided to put an opera house on Bennelong Point, there was a contest held for architects everywhere to see who would get to design it. Hundreds of designs were submitted and discarded by the selection committee, but it was an American judge who arrived late to the judging process who asked to see the discarded designs that selected the design by Jorn Utzon, a Swedish architect, which had been placed in the discard pile initially but ended up being the winning design. The initial drawings done by Utzon were very crude and were more sketches than blue prints. He had no idea how he was going to construct the sails of the opera hose, and so work commenced on the base while Utzon and a team of mathematicians and architects worked on how they were to build the rest. This caused significant delays in the building process as the technology to be able to construct the building had to be invented.

The design work on the shells involved one of the earliest uses of computers in structural analysis, in order to understand the complex forces to which the shells would be subjected. In mid-1961, the design team found a solution to the problem: the shells all being created as sections from a sphere. This solution allows arches of varying length to be cast in a common mould, and a number of arch segments of common length to be placed adjacent to one another, to form a spherical section.

The tile pattern on the outside of the shells is the design it is because Utzon saw the same pattern on a woman’s bathing suit one day and he was quoted as saying ” I liked the way it flattered her curves” and hoped that the same pattern would flatter the curves of his design. The tiles themselves were triple glossed ceramic tiles so they would shine in the sun, but would not have reflective properties. Also- due to the triple glossing, even if they get dirty any amount of rain water rinses them off so they never need to be cleaned.

In the middle of construction on the project the governor of Sydney changed, and the new governor was not as patient or forgiving of Utzon and his expensive and time consuming project as the previous one had been. Tensions arose and got so bad that Utzon abandoned the project, returned to Sweden and a new group of architects were brought in to finish it. Utzon never returned to Sydney to see his completed masterpiece, although he was re-commissioned by the opera house board in 1993 to refurbish one of the interior spaces and draw up plans for several of the opera house spaces for the future. He died a decorated and famous architect, and now his son works with the opera house board to continue his fathers work and the refurbishing and updating of many of the interior spaces.

Tile detail

Inside the opera house- The famous opera singer Liberace hated this carpet and refused to have his picture taken in this area according to our tour guide

Harbor views from inside the Opera House

More internal opera house views

This glass was made in France, and it is special glass that expands and contracts with cold and heat. It is attached to the beams on elbow joints to allow for this movement. The opera house is called a "living sculpture" and not a building by its architect Jorn Utzon

The original cost estimate given in 1957 when work began on the Opera House was $7 million. The original completion date set by the government was 26 January 1963 . The project was not completed until 1973, ten years late, and it ended up costing $120 million, so it went over-budget by more than fourteen times.

The worst place to be in bad weather as the wind gets tunneled through here, and since the building has no rain gutters all the rain slides off and into this space.

on the inside

After finishing our tour the sun was setting, so mom and I found a bus back to Glebe. On our way back to our hostel we stopped and got some Thai food to go, and then did laundry at the hostel while we ate. When we wake up in the morning we will check out of our hostel and take a bus downtown to check into the Menzies Hotel near Circular Quay, where Dad and Julie will meet us assuming they made both their flights. So as of tomorrow all of the Lapointes will be in Sydney (hopefully). Here’s Hoping!

I never get tired of this view

Mom Arrives!

Monday, July 4th, 2011

Mom’s flight was supposed to land in Sydney at 6:30 am on July 3rd, but as nothing can ever be simple in my family this of course did not happen. As she was nearing the 15th hour of her trans-Pacific flight the captain came over the intercom to tell the passengers that the Sydney airport was shrouded in fog, and therefore they could not land there. Instead they would be making a slight detour trip to Brisbane (453 miles north of Sydney) to sit on the airplane on the runway there until they could be cleared for a landing in Sydney. By the time Mom actually made it to Sydney it was close to 11 o’clock which means that she had been traveling for over almost 30 consecutive hours. Luckily she had arranged to get a shuttle from the airport to our hostel and I didn’t need to meet her anywhere, otherwise I would have been waiting for quite a while. Not having slept  hardly at all on the flight she arrived at the hostel and we had our hugs and hellos before she demanded to know where the shower was located.

After a shower and a quick change she was feeling more human (and certainly smelling better) and I thought she would want to take a nap to sleep off some of the jet lag as almost everyone else who come to visit has wanted this. Not my mother. She was not going to let the flight beat her, so we set out in search of lunch and then got to walking. She wanted a picture in front of something quintessentially Australian to put up on the internet so that she could prove to friends and family that she had survived the flight and had arrived safely. So of course after lunch I steered us towards the opera house.

She has arrived!

Me, Mom, and the most photographed building in the Southern Hemisphere

We walked from Glebe to Darling Harbor and then along the water to Sydney Harbor. We stopped in Darling Harbor for an hour or two to take in some street performers and soak up the sunshine and the lovely 70 degree winter weather. We even enjoyed our first official alcoholic beverages together as we sat at a table on the water chatting. We must have walked a good three miles over the course of the day, but mom kept on trucking. We walked around the craft markets at the Rocks and popped into a few opal jewelry stores to have a look. By 5 pm the jet lag had finally caught up to her and we found our way back to Glebe and enjoyed a light dinner at an outdoor Spanish wine and tappas bar before heading back to the hostel. We were in bed by 7pm, which in the world of me is utterly absurd. I was tired though for not having slept but a few hours the night before due to restlessness. We were both sleeping quite soundly until about 2:30 am when mom’s blackberry started ringing. We both started grumbling and through our grunts had this conversation:

Mom: Valerie…Valerie! What is that?! Turn it off!

Me: Mom, I think thats you’re blackberry, its ringing

Mom: Who in the world could be calling me?! Someone better have died.

I stumbled across the room to pick up her blackberry, and by the time I found it we had missed the call. On the call log it said that Home had called and Mom started assuming the worst. We thought it was Dad that had called us so we decided to call back. To our surprise it was not Dad, but Julie who answered the phone. That conversation went something like this:

Julie: Hello?

Me: Julie! Did you just call us?

Julie: Yeah, why?

Me: It’s 2:30 in the morning here!

Julie: ….o…I forgot about the time thing

Me: You just FORGOT that its a whole different day on the other side of the world?!

Julie: Yes. Look, can I just talk to mom?

I handed the phone off to my mom. As it turned out nobody had died, Julie just had some menial question that did not merit us being woken up at such an ungodly hour. After we hung up with her neither of us could get back to sleep and we ended up talking until the wee hours of the morning when we finally fell asleep for a few hours. We woke up the next day with a list of Sydney Sights to see. First we walked up Glebe Point Rd and had a light breakfast at a local cafe and then continued up the street so I could take Mom around USyd.

Mom at the University of Sydney!

Not only did I attend Hogwarts this semester, but I was a Gryffindor Lion too!

So excited to be at USyd!

After walking around and showing her where I had interned and where all my classes had been we sat in Fisher Library for a few hours so we could skype with Julie and Dad and listen to them panic about their impending solo travel mission. We walked Julie through what to pack and how to navigate the airport, even though mom had left a large packet of information behind for her and dad that contained all their travel documents, vouchers, important phone numbers and directions to everywhere they needed to be, all neatly numbered, collated, and color coordinated of course. Despite all this, we were both painfully aware that we had left the more inept half of the Lapointe family behind, so we were willing to field their panicked questions for a while. After leaving USyd, we hopped on a bus down to Circular Quay to check into an opera house tour, which wasn’t available that day due to rehearsals taking place, but we were still able to walk around the inside of the lobby and the outside of it. After leaving the opera house we made our way through the botanic gardens before grabbing a small salad to tide us over till dinner.

Botanic Gardens

As the sun was setting and the temperature beginning to drop we hopped on the bus back towards Glebe where had dinner at my favorite Australian mexican restaurant, The Flying Fajita Sisters, and then turned in for another early night.

A beautiful day

April Adventures to Come!

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

In place of our normal Tuesday adventuring this week Yaella and I popped into a local Backpackers World Travelers travel agency. This is basically a free travel agent that makes money by receiving kick backs from the tour companies they recommend, and they specialize in booking cheap trip for students and backpackers. The purpose of that visit was to nail down our reservations for a trip to Tasmania that we have been discussing going on. We weren’t really sure what kind of activities we wanted to go on while we were there, but we knew we wanted to do a wineglass bay tour.

Wine glass Bay

Tasmania is part of Australia technically, but most Australians don’t actually consider it to be. It is kinda the unloved red headed step child in most Australians minds.  While looking at brochures and doing research for our trip I found this quote that said “Tasmania is an island of inspiration, a world apart, not a world away.” Most of the natural environment of Tasmania remains untouched, and 37% of the total land mass lies in national parks, world heritage sites, and wildlife reserves. The climate is incredibly bipolar, and the travel agent was telling us that it could be warm enough to go swimming and snow in the same day depending on where you are in the country.

The island is 226 miles long from its northernmost to its southernmost point, and 190 mi from west to east. So its not huge. Still, Yaella and I are looking at doing a five day trip there and getting a fair amount of hiking in during that time.

We would probably fly into Lanceston and work our way down to Hobart, which is the capitol city, and fly home from there.

While we are still ironing out plans to go to Tasmania during a weekend in April, we have already booked our flights to Melbourne for the first weekend of April. Yaella, Lyndsay, Jordan and I will all be flying out at 5pm on April 1st, staying in a hostel and getting up early the next day to do an all day tour of the Great Ocean Road. This is the one attraction everyone keeps insisting is THE thing to do in Melboure (in Australia this is pronounced Mel- bin) so we have booked our tickets already.

The 12 Apostles limestone rock formations

The Great Ocean Road is a 151 mi stretch of road along the south-eastern coast. The road was built by soliders that had returned home from WWI between 1919 and 1932, and is the world’s largest war memorial; dedicated to those lost in the war. It is an important tourist attraction in the region, which winds through varying terrain alongside the coast, and provides access to several prominent landmarks; including the Twelve Apostles limestone stack formations.

The tour we booked is a bus tour that basically takes all day, but lets you out at different points along the route for varying amounts of time.

The Great Ocean Road

Plenty of time on planes traveling means plenty of time to catch up on my readings for class while I am a safe distance away from an internet connection, which is my major downfall in terms of distractions. At the end of April I will leave for my spring break trip (technically a fall break trip in the southern hemisphere) to Thailand! I am so pumped about this I even downloaded an app onto my ipod that counts down the days, as of today only 30 days to go! I also enrolled in a frequent flier program because I am going to be racking up some crazy miles and it would be nice to log all of them and earn a free flight somewhere, since I will undoubtedly be broke as a joke by the end of this trip.

In other news, I applied for the Study Abroad Internship program through the International Student office at Usyd and was accepted. The next step was for them to send me internship options in the fields I had expressed interest in, which for me were media and communications, and public relations. They sent me a long list of internship option profiles, each one detailing the type of work I would be doing and some background on the company I would be working with. I was asked to rank these in order of preference, and a day later I heard that I had an interview with the Office of PR and Development at the University of Sydney, which is great because that means I don’t have to walk very far to get to it should I get the position.

On Tuesday I went over for the interview and the guy who would be my boss interviewed me and was really laid back and had a great sense of humor. He is also an american who up until four months ago worked with the University of Chicago. He was impressed with my background in writing and asked for me to send him some published writing samples. We chatted for over 45 minutes about Australia and America and it seemed like it went really well. If I get the position I would be drafting and editing proposals for groups who are seeking grants for projects and research in addition to dealing with the public relations aspects of public and private donors. There was also talk of the creation of a database of all the donors USyd has dealt with in the past, which would require some research and data entry. I am supposed to hear back by the end of the week so heres hoping! Should I get the position I can transfer it back to UMW for credit and it would also count as a class here, which would be fantastic because it would mean I could drop something else and have less homework and more time to travel. The way I see it I would rather spend my time here traveling and getting in as much of the country as I can because classrooms and homework pretty much look the same everywhere you go.

A Freshman Once More, Now Internationally!

Friday, February 25th, 2011

So after a week of orientation I got one day off, and in that one day I must have somehow become askew again because I had to go to a different orientation today! I am going to be the most oriented human being by the time I return to the states.

My orientation for the University of Sydney began this morning at 10:30 am, and I had no problem waking up for it. (Miracles do happen, you just need to go to Australia for them to occur apparently) My roommate Courtney and I are both attending  University of Sydney so we set out together and ran into a group of about 10 or so other kids living in our building who were also headed to orientation. The University is about a 20 minute walk from our apt which means I am going to have to carefully budget my time to ensure I get to class on time. (pray for me)

Most of the walk to Uni (as they say in Oz) is through suburban glebe, but once you get to the main drag you cross the road and this is what you see:

Large public park that backs up to my Uni

The fountain in the center is HUGE. We saw a guy showering in it as we were walking to orientation this morning. Although we suspect it was some sort of hazing thing as he did not look like a hobo, more like an idiot.

Once we had walked through the park we moved onto the main campus of The University of Sydney. The main buildings on campus are modeled after Oxford, and even knowing this could not prepare me for the striking similarities. To me, when you say something is “modeled after” something else that means “inspired by” or “in the same style as” but in actuality the main building at USyd is an EXACT REPLICA of the main building at Oxford. The very same building in which the great hall scenes were shot for Harry Potter (the oxford building not the USyd one).

walking up the hill towards USyd. There was a huge club carnival going on which is what all the colorful tents are about.

EXACT replica of Oxford building. USyd was established in 1850, which makes it the oldest university in Australia but a spring chicken compared to many of the universities in the states. It also has a student population of 47,000. Which is nuts.

We were met at the bell tower (the big pointy structure in the center of the above pictures) by the international studies organizer. She was very lovely and had a bubbly personality but a name that I have sadly forgotten. She walked us across campus (our group was about 40 or so once the kids living in the other housing options joined us) to a classroom where she proceeded to go through a powerpoint presentation with us on how we go about adding/dropping classes, finding our schedules online and other administrative issues. We were given our registration paperwork and had to fill out some forms to finalize our enrollment and then she left us in the care of this chubby guy who seemed very bored. His lack of enthusiasm seemed to stem from the fact that he was leaving for vacation as soon as he got through the orientation program with our group (something we were told by the lady who presented after him). People began to ignore him and he didn’t seem to mind as he continued to talk. Once he had finished and told us we were done we all got up with more questions than answers. We were supposed to get our student ID cards, but where ? and how? We were supposed to go to the international student office at 1 to do add/drop but where was that?? Once we got there how did we add/drop? Did this all have to be done today? WHERE WERE WE?!

All these questions would have been nice to get answered, but since they weren’t, me, Courtney and a small contingency of our fellow Glebe-ers set out on the scavenger hunt from hell. Rules of the scavenger hunt: You have a vauge idea of what you need to get, but not a clue as to where it is, how to get to it, where you are, what time you need to have it by, or how to get back to where you started once you have finished. ReadySetGo!

Any of the adult uni employees we asked for help gave very conflicting information. One lady told us that we could not acquire our student ID cards until we had finalized our schedules, which meant going to the international office first. This turned out to be false. A different university adult employee told us to get our Uni ID cards in the basement of the Law Building, this was false as well. Someone else sent us to the international student lounge which is in no way the same thing as the international office. We were also told that we were exchange students, which we are not. Exchange students are students who directly enroll at the university as opposed to doing it through a program as we did. Exchange students are treated differently from study abroad students, which is what we are. This is an important distinction to be aware of when dealing with administrative matters.

Luckily for us Australian students  are super friendly and find bewildered americans endlessly amusing, so we were able to locate the international student office and the student ID services center after 20 or so minutes of trial and error and running around in circles. We had to laugh at ourselves when we discovered the two buildings were basically next to eachother. We asked one australian guy where the ID office is, and he stopped what he was doing to walk us there. They are such a friendly/helpful people.( with the exception of the university employees who deal with international students apparently) So once we had acquired our IDs (and waited in a line that would rival those at the DMV to do so) and finalized our registration at the international student office we spent some time wandering through the club carnival.

In order to join any of the clubs on campus (of which there are hundreds, and there are things like scuba diving club, rock climbing club, rapelling club, cocktails club, basically awesome things that you want to be able to join) you have to purchase a “Uni Access” card for 70$. Having this card also gets you a 15-20% discount at hundreds of local bars, restaurants, and shopping locations. It also gets you all sorts of student discount prices and free stuff. Although I was hesitant to purchase it, when I looked at the brochure that explained all it could be used for it seemed like something that would in time pay for itself, so I ended up doing it. Once you have the access card you get a nifty gift bag with USyd gear in it, which kinda softens the blow that you just spent $70.

I got this towel in my gift bag, its way cooler than I could show in this picture being so close up.

Courtney and I looked into a bunch of clubs but many of them are kinda pricey to join because they go on trips(which is just obnoxious because college clubs are free to join in the US, which is the way I think it should be done, wether that sounds internationally prejudiced or not) but we decided to join a club called “Beat the System.” While this sounds like a political activism thing it isn’t at all. It is actually a music club that puts on local music events. They organize shows with live bands and DJs both on campus and in the community. Plus if you bought a tshirt for 5$ and wore it to any of the events you get a free shot when you come in the door. So now I have a “Beat the System” tshirt- obviously. I mean, free booze? Come on. They really know how to market to college students.

After all was said, done, and oriented, it was about 3pm and we hadn’t eaten lunch yet. Courtney, Lindsay (who lives in the only apt that has internet right now) ventured back to our Glebe residence, and stopped on the way at this adorable outdoor cafe called BYO. I got a pumpkin, sun dried tomato, capcium, brie, and eggplant sandwich on wheat bread (they don’t use white bread here, at least not that I have been able to find) and it was DELICIOUS. I also had a pumpkin, squash, tomato salad on the side. It was an amazing lunch. The amount of healthy food options here is glorious. And when the check comes, you just leave the money on the table because there is no tipping. Minnimum wage here is 12-18 dollars, and increases depending on your skill level and age.

My Beat the System tshirt (punny!) and USyd ID card. I am official now!

After our cute and healthy lunch we headed back to the apt and Lindsay (the fabulous human being that she is) showed me a sketchy website that enables me to watch Glee and all my television shows overseas. We are going to be best friends, I can already tell.