Archive for August, 2011

The Bucket List

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

(In no particular order)

 

1. Cook an American dinner on Thanksgiving

2. Get a Brit to Cryp Walk with me

3. Wander the moors and wail “Heathcliff!”

4. Explore Ireland

5. Substantial Hike

6. Rock Oktoberfest

7. Convert a Brit into a Faulkner fanatic

8. Convert an American into an anti–Austen fanatic (yes, come get me Feminists, I don’t like her)

9.  Go to a punk club (they still have those, right?)

10. Learn snippets of a new language (German and French don’t count)

11.Play rugby with the Brits

    12. Learn to love rain

13. Punt on the river

14. Dance a jig with the Irish

15. Jog at least three times a week down the Avon River

16. Start my novel

Jet Ski Safari

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

We were none to thrilled too have to return to getting up early the next day, and due to this we were a little late getting out to the beach for our jet ski adventure. Never the less we made it down to the Adrenaline Water Sports loading dock just in time to be the last ones to be given jet skis. We would be jet skiing out about 45 minutes to a small island where we would then be scuba diving on a reef for roughly an hour and then we would return. We were given life jackets, scuba gear, brief instructions and keys to start the jet skis. Julie and I would be driving but Dad would go with Julie and Mom would ride with me. While jet skis look relatively simple to operate, Julie and I learned that it is a bit harder than it looks. We both had trouble maintaining a constant speed especially when Mom was sitting behind me holding on for dear life and squealing anytime I picked up speed and Dad was sitting behind Julie yelling at her to go faster. Somehow we managed to arrive at the island with all four family members intact even if we were the last ones to arrive by a long shot.

 

Adrenaline Watersports!

Getting ready to head out

 

Once on the island we suited up in scuba gear and headed out onto the reef, or the remains of it anyway. After scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef just about everything else is going to pale in comparison, but the Fijian snorkeling experience was somewhat underwhelming. The “reef” was more like the fossilized remnants of a reef that once was there, and there weren’t that many fish around either. We did see lots of sea urchins and starfish though. And the starfish in Fiji are this incredible electric blue color. We must have seen hundreds of them, they were all over the place. In addition to the blue starfish there were also schools of very tiny electric blue fish that had a shimmer to them. They were very eye catching. Also on the ocean floor were some concrete blocks where certain environmental groups had been trying to rehabilitate the reef, and some PBC piping sticking out of the sand for reasons unknown. After getting out of the water all four of us agreed that the salinity of the water in Fiji was the most intense we had experienced anywhere. Something about Fiji, its just very salty. As we were packing up our scuba gear to get ready to head back Dad said “I have seen the remnants of a former civilization- they used PBC piping. They were ahead of their time.”

at rest

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue?!

 

Before getting back on the jet skis to head back we had a major discussion about who would be riding back with who. Julie had put her foot down that she would not be riding back with Dad since all he had done was tell her how crappy of a driver she was and push her to go faster. I wanted to go with Julie but that would put Mom riding back with the man she married, and she was not down for that. She hadn’t liked how fast I had gone being at the helm and she knew that Dad would want to go much faster than I had. Julie and I figured that while Dad could jerk her and I around, with Mom he had to behave. We quarreled over this on the beach for a while, but ultimately I ended up going back with Julie driving and Mom rode with Dad driving and that arrangement seemed to work out much better as Dad was scared into behaving and Julie and I were much less stressed and actually enjoyed the ride back. On the return journey Julie and I managed to stay with the rest of the group, but Mom and Dad fell behind. We arrived back at the hotel a good ten to fifteen minutes before we saw any signs of them so Julie and I got very concerned that they had gotten lost. Luckily they turned up a few minutes later with one of the guides trailing behind them.

 

After our adrenaline filled morning adventure we were pretty tired, so we spent the rest of the day being lazy in front of the TV and by the pool. While this was the last night we would sleep in Fiji, we had a long day ahead of us with a late evening flight the following day and then a red eye across the pacific ocean, so we went to bed early because it was the last time we would get to sleep on a horizontal surface for a while.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Drive and Boston

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

A quick summary of the drive up to Boston. It was semi-stressful (yay flash rainstorms on the New Jersey Turnpike!) and long. It was not interesting save for the flash rainstorm on the New Jersey Turnpike. Mom and I made it to Boston in one piece with only a minimal amount of getting lost (tricksy Boston roads are tricksy). I was more stressed out by unpacking and moving everything in than by the drive to be honest. And moving in and unpacking was incredibly stressful because I have no organizational skills or sense of space. Thankfully the major things (furniture, huge boxes) were taken care of by a moving company and Mom was there to help unpack a bit before leaving. Her leaving was incredibly difficult but was made up for in spades by the arrival of roommate from Buffalo (Melissa)’s friend arriving. This made getting to know Melissa ever so much easier in a weird way. Melissa is very cool and kind of reminds me of another friend of mine who’s hung on despite my tendencies to not communicate with people since high school.
Boston. Boston has confusing roads and tiny tram cars. However I feel that by the end of this school year I’m going to like Boston at least as much as I like DC (though not as much as I love London.) There are more Dunkin’ Donuts in this city than there are Starbucks in any other city which is kind of awesome. The law school is right across the way from a Dunkin’ Donuts and there is one across the street from the T stop I get off of to get to school. That’s how popular Dunkin’ Donuts is in Boston. However they do have Trader Joe’s in Boston and I have mastered the bus system well enough to get to the Trader Joe’s close to me. And just past that Trader Joe’s is the nearest Jewish neighborhood which means there is a fantastic bagel place I can go to for breakfast before I go grocery shopping. That and many other reasons is why I think I’m going to like Boston come the end of the year.
Both of my roommates are awesome. One actually enjoys cleaning the dishes and the other says what she thinks and doesn’t give a damn (though really that’s true for both of them.) They’re mature and smart and don’t believe in petty drama. They are, basically, the perfect antidote to last year’s roommate situation. I hope everything continues to go as well as it has been for the past few days, but I have high hopes that they will. Tomorrow I find out if the rest of my section are as awesome as my roommates.
That is all for now. I have my second day of orientation tomorrow which hopefully will be less dull than the first day. Quickly though one last thing: I love how cold Boston is or at least how much colder it is here than in Virginia. Bless the North.

Round 2

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Well, as of 9 pm yesterday (Korea time, 8 am EST), I am back in Korea. I am currently at Orientation again, which is strange, sitting in the new ETA lounge. Tonight there’s a talent show, tomorrow we have regional competitions, and then on Thursday we get picked up by our schools and off we go!

This year I will not be teaching in Yesan, I’ll be teaching at a new school called Changpyeong which is just outside of Gwangju. It will be different, but it should be enjoyable.

More later!

A Week in Oxford

Monday, August 15th, 2011

From September 17-23, my program is taking me to Oxford University where our classes will be taught there for a week. Up on the menu:

-Served breakfast and lunch in the Great Hall (Harry Potter-induced giggle. Yes, THE Great Hall where they eat breakfast in the movies. The very same. Mhmm.)

-Guided tours of the city

-Accommodations in the dorms

-A formal dinner with the faculty

-Punting on the Isis River (think gondola boats in Venice)

-Visit to Bleinheim Palace, where Sir Winston Churchill was born (pictured to the right)

 

 

But something that really catches my eye more than any of the others is FULL access to the infamous Bodleian Library. Uh huh. It’s pretty much like the moment where the Beast unveils the insane library as a present to Beauty.

    And apparently, the library serves as the filming location for the Harry Potter movies (the Hogwarts library and the hospital wing). To an English major, it’s a double whammy. Not to mention, Philip Pullman’s (an Oxford grad) Dark Materials series takes place in Oxford. Who knows, maybe Oxford will inspire me to write the next Pullman-esque best-seller series! I don’t even think I’ll know what to do with myself. Probably stare and drool.

And a formal dinner with the faculty? Sometimes I wonder how I managed to finagle a spot into this program. Rubbing elbows with some of the most distinguished faculty in the world? Actually taking classes in one of the most prestigious universities worldwide? Sigh. I’ll be sure to have people handy to revive me when I inevitably faint.

A Day of Rest

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

 

Julie and I didn’t even consider getting out of bed before noon. We were so tired from the constant hustle and bustle of our vacation that we were ready for a little R&R. We probably would have snoozed right through lunch had the maid service not come knocking on our door asking to clean the room. Julie and I sent her away and didn’t roll out of bed till around one, and after grabbing a quick breakfast from one of the take away places in the hotel we grabbed some sunscreen and headed for the pool.

 

Hanging out poolside

 

We lazed around poolside for a few hours, and when that got old took a walk down the beach to see some of the other hotels that were on our island. Around five or so we started to get hungry so we headed back to the room and to find mom and dad. As it turns our parents had started their day a good bit earlier, and of course dad had been seated at the bar at 11 when they started serving alcohol. His drink of choice? A long island ice tea. Mom came along, but she can’t hold her liquor quite like Dad can, so she had abandoned him to relax in the room which is where Julie and I found her on our way back from the pool. Since she had gotten up at a reasonable hour she didn’t have much interest in eating dinner as soon as we wanted to, so we went back to our own room and changed into some beachy evening attire and took a stroll around the resort before headed to dinner together.

hammock sitting

 

overlooking the resort

 

sisters

 

Making some tiki friends

We had a “lesbian date night” as Julie calls it, dinner and drinks together at the oceanside restaurant. Once we had eaten we headed back to the room to watch movies on TV and order dessert from room service. Mom came in a bit later and we chatted and hung out and then still ended up going to bed fairly early. It was so nice to have a lazy day

legal drinking in Fiji

 

fruity drinks

 

We thought that the next day would be more of the same, but as it turns out while Mom and Dad had been throwing back long islands at the bar the morning jet ski tours had been heading out. Every year we have gone to the beach as a family Dad has suggested that we rent jet skis for a day, but it has never happened. Every year we have a conversation where he suggests that we do something adventurous like that, and every year mom shoots him down and spends her vacation in a beach chair with a book and a cold drink instead. With our Australian vacation we were breaking all the conventions of the Lapointe family trips, so in their lightly buzzed morning drinking state when they saw the jet ski groups going out Mom and Dad had finally agreed that we would in fact do something adventurous. They had booked us a three hour jet ski safari for the following morning, so we went to sleep with that to look forward to!

The End?

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Well, my mother and I had a fantastic roadtrip and last week in Cairns.  I’m currently in the Auckland airport in New Zealand and have found myself completely depressed about the end of my experience.  I left so many loved ones at my second home and I don’t want to leave, at all!!!

The internet here is really crappy, so I’ll have to wait to upload more travel pictures until I get home-home.  It’s going to be so weird.

I miss my best friends, my boyfriend, and just Cairns in general.  I don’t want it to all end!!! :(

Bula Fiji!

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Waking up at 4:45 am to check out of our hotel by 5 was not my idea of a good time, but knowing that we would be in Fiji by the end of the day did make the whole process a bit easier. We caught the shuttle to the airport from our hotel at the butt crack of dawn and after one last Qantas domestic flight to Brisbane and an international Air Pacific transfer we were in Fiji. Even though we had left Australia at an ungodly hour, by the time we arrived in Fiji we had gone forward in time about three hours and lost a whole day to being in an airport so the sun was setting when we arrived. In the airport we were greeted by a group of Fijians in bula shirts (just like a Hawaiian shirt, but they call them bula shirts) playing island music while we waited in the customs line. When we had gone through security in Brisbane the officer who helped us had told us that while in Fiji we would get sick of hearing two words: 1) Bula, which means hello, welcome, good evening, good afternoon, its basically the standard greeting, and 2) vinaka, which means thank you.

Once we had made it out of the terminal and through processing, we collected our bags, were given leis made of sea shells and loaded onto the shuttle bus that would take us to our hotel. We were told that the ride from the Airport would take about twenty five minutes but there was some big construction project going on and so it took us almost twice as long to get across the bridge that would put us on the island our hotel was on.

 

Front of our resort

Once at the hotel we checked in, showered, changed and headed out in search of somewhere to have dinner. The resort we were at had four different restaurants, and not knowing the difference between them we picked the first one we came across which just happened to be featuring an Indian buffet. All four of us got cocktails to go with dinner and after we had eaten we headed back to the room to sleep. When dad signed the bill for the meal I think he may have suffered a mini stroke. Currently 1$ USD is equal to about 1.79 fijian dollars, so the bill came out to be something like 300 fijian dollars, only Dad did not realize it was in Fijian until long after he had paid.

Where we ate dinner the first night

 

The next morning we were up early yet again to meet the bus that would take us two hours into one of the main islands so that we could then load into longboats and long boat up river where we would tour a fijian village and have lunch there. The boat ride took about an hour and a half, and along the way we stopped at a waterfall to do some swimming, but as it was still pretty early in the morning and the water was pretty cold, none of the Lapointes got in, but some of the other people in the tour group did. The water levels of the river were very low, and most often you could reach your hand over the side of the boat and touch the riverbed. We had a few problems getting over some of the shallower areas, but eventually we did arrive at the village.

Waterfall on the river we longboated down

just around the river bend!

Walking up to the village from the river

Once there we were greeted by a Fijian warrior and given a traditional lei to wear. We had to take our shoes off to be able to enter the main building, and once we did we were told we needed to pick a chief of our tribe, someone to represent us to the Fijians. We picked one of the fathers in our group, and once inside the building we had to sit in two rows, men in front and women behind.

A lei of welcome

Once we were seated, the village people filed into the room in their traditional garb and the welcome ceremony began. They sang songs, played music on drums and guitars, and performed a traditional war dance. The main event was the Kava ceremony. Kava is the main crop in Fiji, similiar to the potato or wheat it is the main staple in their diet. While Kava is a root, they also drink it by grinding it up into a powder and mixing it with cold water. The men who had danced the war dance brought out a large wooden bowl which was placed in the center of the room. They swept reeds through the bowl while chanting, and then brought a little half coconut shell of Kava to everyone in the room. On the way to the village we had been told by our guide that Kava tastes like dirty dishwater, but she is a native Fijian, and she told us this with a laugh, so I thought she was joking. As it turns out she was actually dead on. Kave does in fact taste like dirty dish water. Kava has a sedating effect and is primarily consumed to aid relaxation without disrupting mental clarity. Perhaps thats why everyone in Fiji is so laid back and relaxed. It’s either the kava or the fact that they live in paradise. Take your pick.

 

Traditional Fijian war dance

Once the formal part of the ceremony was over they brought the musical instruments back out and asked all of us to stand up and join them in a dance. Each one of the villagers came over and grabbed the hands of someone in the tour group and pulled them up to dance. We danced a traditional Fijian dance that bore a strong resemblance to the hokey pokey and formed a very long congo line around the room.

Dad dancing with a Fijian

 

Mom and Dad breaking it down

 

Julie makes some fijian friends

 

Julie and her new buddies

Once we had finished dancing the chief led us around the village and we got to see the school house and many of the villagers homes. We were also shown how high the waters had been during the big flood they had in 2009. The village had lost over half of its buildings during the storm and fortunately Australia had come to its aid and they had been able to rebuild most of what was lost since then. After about twenty minutes or so of walking around we headed back into the main meeting room for lunch. Lunch consisted of chicken sandwiches, tomato and lettuce, chocolate cake, Kava, fresh pineapple and bananas and fruit juice.

Walking around the village

lunch spread

 

After we had finished eating the villagers brought out blankets full of handmade craft items. Weavings, carvings, jewelry, beaded items, and paintings were all for sale. After making a few sales the packed up their wares and sang some more songs to send us off, and then we walked back down to the boats.

 

Saying and singing goodbye

 

Heading back out to the boats

Since we were going downriver on the way home we got out of the motorized longboats and for part of the journey we took bamboo rafts instead.

Bambaoo rafting downriver

Towards the end of our journey the sky started to cloud over and it began to drizzle. Luckily we made it back to where the busses were parked before any real rain started to pour. After a day out in the sun we were all exhausted so Julie and I slept during most of the ride back to our hotel. Once we got back we all but collapsed into bed, relieved that the next day for the first time in a long time we had nothing to do and could sleep in.

Boating into the storm

The Great Ocean Road: Redux

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

The next day was another early morning as we had to leave our hotel around 7 am to meet the great ocean road tour bus. I debated not going with my family to do this tour for the second time and spending the day curled up with my laptop and some room service, but I figured that since this was supposed to be a family vacation and all I would suck it up and just go. At the very least I could be sure that dad would do something ridiculous that would embarrass the family, and who would want to miss out on that.

 

Start of the Great Ocean Road

 

phallic

It takes about two and a half hours to get from downtown Melbourne to the start of the Great Ocean Road, and true to form Melbourne was overcast, windy, chilly, and rainy. The driver we had for our trip didn’t do nearly as many stops on the Great Ocean Road as the driver I had the first time did, although this might have been because we had a much bigger group with us, or because since it was now winter there were less daylight hours to spend on the road. Regardless of how many stops you make the one stop everyone makes is at the Twelve Apostles rock formations. The Twelve Apostles are the seven remaining limestone rock formations that sit away from the shore, there used to be twelve but over the years erosion has left only seven.

 

The 7 remaining apostles

 

Given that this is one of the main attractions on the Great Ocean Road, it is the longest stop the tours usually make, they give you about 45 minutes. So Mom, Dad, Julie and I piled out of the bus when we got to this stop to check out the formations. We wandered around for a good twenty minutes or so before heading off in different directions. Since Julie, Mom and I are all capable of telling time, we were back on the bus when our 45 minutes were up and of course Dad was nowhere to be found. Julie and I were quite unconcerned about this. I mean, he is 50 something adult male in reasonable mental standing and therefore it is reasonable for us to expect that he can take care of himself. Mom seems to feel otherwise.

She started pestering us as to his whereabouts, which of course we had no more knowledge about than she did. Soon her pestering turned into suggesting that one of us should go after him since she couldn’t get very far on her bum ankle. Julie and I made eye contact and without words knew that neither one of us would be volunteering to do this alone, so I asked her if she would go with me. Julie and I tossed this idea around for another minute or so as Mom moved from worrying to a full fledged panic as the bus driver began counting everyone on the bus. As the bus driver comes by to count us Mom explained that Dad was still missing, and the driver seemed unconcerned since it was an adult that was missing and not some small child. Little does he know that my father being missing is perhaps worse than a small child being missing because at least a child knows that he should not be out on his own, whereas my father still thinks he is capable of wandering off without supervision. Mom tried to explain this, but the driver only laughed.

Finally, seeing the desperation on mom’s face Julie relents and we both got off the bus to search for Dad. Having never been a member of a search party Julie and I made the rookie mistake of splitting up, and of course as soon as we had run off in opposite directions Dad showed back up on the bus, thus shifting Mom’s panic from where Dad was to where Julie and I were. Since I hadn’t made it as far away as Julie had, I heard Mom when she yelled at me to come back, and I did, but then we were still one person short.

The bus driver has counted the number of passengers on board at least twice, and as mom and dad both pester me to go after Julie (didn’t they get that this didn’t work the first time?) the driver shuts the doors and begins to drive through the parking lot towards the highway entrance. Now both parents are panicking and practically pushing me up to the front of the bus. Why the responsibility to find Julie who Mom sent to look for Dad falls on my shoulders I don’t know, but I suspect it just has something to do with shit rolling downhill. So I go up to the bus driver and sheepishly explain that my sister is still missing and he looked considerably less than pleased. Our family has held the whole group up a good ten minutes and he seems even more frustrated when I explain that I have no idea where she is and the only recourse is to go out after her myself. Embarrassed and frustrated I take off after Julie and luckily it isn’t long until I find her and we are both back on the bus. As soon as we are, we dig into Mom for sending us out after Dad, and in response Mom yells at Dad for not being able to tell time. Dad of course absolves any responsibility for the situation saying that by the time he was on the bus Julie and I were the ones missing. So in other words, everyone ends up disgruntled and frustrated and its another lovely day with the Lapointes.

in case you forget

 

Thankfully the rest of our trip on the Great Ocean Road passed uneventfully and we got back to our hotel in Melbourne around 9pm that night. We went to bed almost immediately after returning to the hotel because we had to be at the airport by 7 the following day meaning we had to be in the lobby waiting for our shuttle pick up by 5. This was to be our last night in Australia, next stop- FIJI!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March of the Penguins

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Thankfully the next day our flight wasn’t leaving at some un godly hour, instead we got to actually see sunlight before boarding the shuttle to the airport. We had a lazy morning packing and getting checked out of our rooms until it was time to meet the shuttle, which showed up over thirty minutes late due to some road construction delays. When we got to the airport we learned that our flight had been delayed too. Dad, who had spent two hours sitting on the runway at LAX with Julie due to a Qantas delay was growing quite impatient with this routine (not that it takes much to make him impatient) and he said “ You know I could work for Qantas. I would just have to be able to say, sorry for the delay. “

Eventually we did get onto our flight and once we arrived in Melbourne it was much chillier than it had been in Cairns. Since it was getting close to the end of the day we didn’t have any time to explore museums, so instead we checked into our rooms and headed down to the hotel bar for a light dinner and of course mom and dad got drinks, thus continuing the “Lapointes Get Hammered Tour.” After dinner Julie and I gathered up some $1 and $2 coins and headed to the Internet kiosk in the lobby to catch up on our facebook news feeds and check our email before heading up to bed.

Even though our tour of Phillips Island didn’t start till 1pm the following day, we had decided that we would get up early the next morning and spend the day exploring the city. So we got up the next day around 9am, had a quick breakfast at a cafe we found near our hotel and then headed towards Federation Square, which is the center of downtown near where all the museums are. I wanted to take everyone to the Australian Center for the Moving Image, a free and very interactive museum that I had really enjoyed when I was in Melbourne, and I thought that even Dad and Julie who have very little patience for museums, might enjoy this one. We arrived at the museum around 9:30am and since it didn’t open till 10 Dad and Mom explored the area around federation square while Julie and I sat at a table in the square to take advantage of the free wifi. Around ten we headed inside the museum and consulted one of the docents as to what exhibits were on for that day. Dad couldn’t have said more than three words to this woman when she asked “So what part of Ireland are you from?” In the United States people ask him if he is from Australia, and apparently Australians think he sounds like he is from Ireland. I don’t see why a Boston/New England accent is so hard to place but once even in Logan Airport in Boston someone asked him where he was from.

Interacting with some street art on the way to Federation Square

What is happening here? Art is happening here.

Car from Mad Max, Dad was pretty excited about this

Can Can dress from Moulin Rouge

 

After spending a few hours wandering through the museum we ventured back outside to a sunnier day than we had left, as it had been rainy and overcast when we had woken up. Given the pleasant change in weather I decided that we should check out some of the street art that Melbourne is so famous for, so we headed over to Hoiser Lane, one of the most famous alleys in Melbourne. Last time I was in Melbourne Seth, Jordan, Lyndsay and I had spent easily 30 minutes carefully examining and gawking at all the amazing works of art we found there. Mom, Dad and Julie were quite content just to walk through it at a normal pace and tell me it was cool. Another thing that Melbourne is famous for is its many hidden alley ways as they hold art, galleries, cafes, and lots of shopping outlets. I steered us towards one where I knew we could get some great burgers for lunch. After eating we headed back up towards our hotel to meet up with the shuttle that would take us to Phillips Island.

Healthy burgers for lunch. Dad and I both got Veggie burgers which were incredible.

More street art

 

Phillips Island is  a small island that is located 140 km southeast from the city of Melbourne and is approximately 10,000 hectares in side. In addition to the town of Newhaven, which has a population of 428 people, the islands other residents all live on the Phillips Island Nature Park. Wombats, koalas, kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, parrots, birds of prey, and reptiles can all be found here, roaming free, but the most famous inhabitants of this park are the Little Penguins which nest there and come ashore in groups every night to do so.

Before reaching Phillips Island we made two other stops. The first of which was a petting zoo where Dad had his first real life encounter with a kangaroo. He seemed slightly less than amused, but mom seemed to really enjoy herself, although she was a bit timid at first to feed them since they can be a bit grabby.

Mom feeding a kangaroo

Dad staring it down

He gave in. They are so soft.

wombats- they bite!

After leaving the petting zoo our next stop was a koala sanctuary. By the time we got there it had started to rain, and since it was a bit chilly out, all the koalas were bundled up into balls sitting in the forks of trees sleeping. I can’t say I blame them. It was a rather miserable day to be outside. So that was somewhat disappointing. But I did manage to spot one of these:

A kookaburra! Do not be fooled by the cute exterior, these things make an obnoxious amount of noise and they are LOUD.

Roughly another hour on the bus found us at Phillips Island about an hour before the penguins were expected to begin coming ashore. We wandered around the visitor center which was buzzing with activity. They had a fairly good exhibit on penguins that showed the different types of penguins and talked all about the breeding and social habits of the fairy penguins that nested on the island. It was all very well done. They even had some nesting boxes with little viewing holes in them and you could see some penguins that had not ventured into the ocean for the day. Around 6:30 it had gotten dark enough for the penguins to come out, and so we headed down to sit on the bleachers lining the shore. It was a cold and windy evening and it was still lightly drizzling. Mom, Dad, Julie and I huddled together to try and stay warm, but I don’t think any of us were really dressed to be sitting on the beach in the rain in the middle of the winter so we were cold.

 

While we waited the park rangers explained that every night the number of penguins that come ashore varies a great deal due to the moon being out and tides and such. They have seen as few as 20 and as many as 2,000 in a single evening. Since the moon was full that night we were told not to expect a huge number, because this would increase visibility for predators thus making the penguins a bit more timid about coming out onto the beach. The penguins have had a rough time in the past few decades with the introduction of species not native to Australia, like foxes and feral cats as they have taken a dent out of the population. Penguins can only have one egg at a time, but they have survived somehow. We kept hearing them referred to as “determined little birds” and they really are.

 

We shivered and waited for about 15 minutes before we saw the first penguin emerge from the water. It is unusual to see only one, as they typically come ashore in small groups of four or five called rafts. They do this because when you are a tiny little penguin there are many predators out to get you and there is safety in numbers. We watched this lone little penguin come out of the water and timidly make his way out of the surf until he was almost halfway up the beach and then he broke into a waddling run to get to the low lying bush where he would be better protected from birds and such. The ranger had told us that we should only spend half our time on the shore as once the penguins had come out of the water they could be better observed further up the beach socializing and coming home to their mates. We saw that first one, and then about two small rafts of five or six before the rain really started to pick up and we decided we had enough and were ready to head inside. As we did we saw some of the penguins waddling up beside us.

Since the penguins can be easily startled, we were not permitted to take pictures, so here are some that I stole from the Phillips Island Penguin Park website:

 

We got this close

Totally could have reached out and touched one

ADORABLE. DO WANT.

 

By the time we got back to the visitor center we were cold, wet, and somewhat disappointed. While the penguins we did see were adorable I think we had all been expecting to see a few more than the twelve or so we ended up seeing.

Dad said “I’m gonna tell people that there were so many penguins that we had to walk on them to get back to the visitor center. The sea was blackened by penguins.”

The four of us all got a very overpriced cup of hot chocolate in the visitor center before getting back on the bus and headed back into the city.

No running over penguins please