Farewell For Now

My Aussie odyssey if officially over. I returned home back to the states safely a week ago. As I got my final results back from my classes and passed, thankfully, it finally hit me that my adventure in Australia had come to an end. It was all in all an amazing, life changing experience. Not only was I able to live in Western Australia for four months but I got the chance to travel a bit at the end.

With my classes completed in the third week of November, I took the opportunity to travel through the eastern side of Australia. Traveling with friends I had made over the semester, we flew to Melbourne and began our east cost adventure there.

We decided to drive the Great Ocean Road for a few days to see more than just the city life. We rented a car in Melbourne and packed the boot with all our (mostly mine) luggage from the semester abroad- Tetris style. We drove directly to Warnambool, about where the Great Ocean Road begins and stayed in a hostel over night. The next two days we slowly drove up the Great Ocean Road, making it back to Melbourne, stopping at sites, road side beaches and sleeping in hostels along the way. I saw my first wild Koala and saw some amazing views of the ocean. Once we returned to Melbourne we dropped off the car and toured around the city for two days. We took a night train to Sydney and I spent my last 4 days in Australia seeing the big city I had always dreamed of visiting. I fell in love with Sydney. I think what really makes Sydney so great is the Sydney Harbour. You can take ferries to different parts and beaches and especially right now, the weather is beautiful. We went to the Sydney Opera House, took a trip to Manly Beach, The Rocks (a historic place in Sydney where the first Europeans settled), Chinatown and walked through the city at night. Leaving was hard, knowing that not only was my vacation on the east coast over, but I was saying farewell to travel companions and my Aussie life. Bittersweet feelings accompanied me through my flights home but a welcoming family at the airport was a relief.

Many people told me that I would experience a culture shock when I arrived in Australia. But the biggest culture shock I experienced was coming home. In addition to the 18 hour time change, I was a bit overwhelmed by the American culture. It is crazy how accustom a culture can become to you in just a short amount of time. I really made me notice the differences between Australian and American culture. Being home is a bit of a shock, a lot of emotion, missing friends and Australia but the excitement of being around family and seeing friends is also there. I feel so blessed to be given the opportunity via my school, scholarships and encouraging support from my family and friends to study abroad in Australia. I have met amazing people, seen some beautiful scenes and experienced an Aussie life. The thing I treasure the most that I brought home was the desire and eagerness to travel more. There is so much more to life beyond America and I cannot wait to travel and discover more. I have learned so much by the simple act of traveling.

I know I will return to Australia. Not ready to say goodbye to that beautiful country just yet. But for now, I must continue my odyssey else where.

Ciao Bella! XxDSC_0089Scanned Image

1472875_10200426291178884_1950349162_n

A Dark Chocolate Week

Since the last post I have been busy writing the last papers and studying for final exams.  I spent my days studying, or at least attempting to, at the library and frequently taking much needed coffee breaks. With my last exam done I am finally enjoying the freedom of break! With less than a week now left in Western Australia I have been filling my days with beach trips and cafe treats, BBQs and of course lazy days.

As some friends are already gone, and many are leaving day by day, it’s a bittersweet week, like dark chocolate.

It is hard to say goodbyes when I don’t when I will see them next. But then again I have more of a reason to travel Europe where I have multiple places to stay in Sweden, Germany, Norway and France. As most of us have just a few weeks or less till we leave Australia, many have asked me if I am ready to go home. The longer I have been here, the more I have fallen in love with the idea of living in a different country. I have enjoyed this exchange so much I am ready for another one. It is not that I don’t like my life in America, it’s just I find travel and the new-ness of a different country so intriguing and exhilarating. I am looking forward to seeing my family and friends back home and I cannot wait to share all the amazing stories and experiences with them. But with excitement, I am also sad to leave my Australian life so soon. I have been able to share this experience with other exchange students from around the world and there is something special when we are all in each others company. Conversations are much more interesting when it involves perspectives from four different countries, and at times three different languages. Being surrounded by international students, my eyes have really been opened to a whole new scope. This exchange program confirmed in me my love for travel and sparked the desire to keep exploring. So yes, I am excited to go home but I am not ready to leave this adventure behind. With east coast travels around the corner, I am ready to see beyond Western Australia and when I fly home December 10, I will be excited knowing I have many more adventures to come. Perhaps I will indulge in some dark chocolate as remedy for the many goodbyes.

Here are a few photos of what I have been up to since my freedom from finals!

Relaxing after last exam.

Relaxing after last exam.

Evening at the beach with good friends

Evening at the beach, in good company.

Brunch with a view.

Brunch with a view.

Cheesey chive eggs, rye toast and roasted tomatoes. Banana bread with mascarpone, honey and almonds. Bon Appetit!

Cheesey chive eggs, rye toast and roasted tomatoes. Banana bread with mascarpone, honey and almonds. Bon Appetit!

More relaxing

More relaxing…

Enter Title Here

Enter title here they say.. Just Write. But you see it is not always easy to put thoughts into words. How do I describe this,

In exactly one month I will be back the Arizona.

In one month I am leaving Australia.

It is crazy to think that I have been here for almost four months. I have built a life here, a routine, a group of friends.. Its hard to think about leaving. Its hard to sum it all up, to type what may be one of the final posts, to put thoughts into words. I keep staring at the blinking cursor, waiting for it to move. Waiting for letters to form words to push the blinking further along the screen. But I don’t know what to say. Any maybe there is not much to say.

Fact is this has been an amazing adventure that I honestly wish did not have to end.

But there are many more adventures down the road. And this won’t be the last.

Cheers to an amazing time so far and cheers to an adventurous last month!

A month full of final exams, beach days, travel, unfortunate goodbyes to good friends, a trip to the east coast and unexpected but fantastic discoveries.

Home(s) Away from Home

As my last post was about slipping into the Aussie life, I have become used to the laid-back life style and became a bit lazy with updating you all. With my time coming close to an end, I have been trying to experience as many things as I can. Excuse the delay in the posts. Here is one in honor of a weekend getaway I took a few weeks ago.

To continue with the local love, my three Australian flatmates and I took a road trip down to Albany, the hometown that they grew up in. It is about a six hour car ride from Perth so we left midday. I was astonished to see how much the landscape and rural grounds changed within six hours. From vast open land with nothing but shrubs, to forests and vineyards, I was entranced as I stared out the window at the sites passing by. Of course the girls were less enthusiastic, for they have done this drive many times but I was content with the silent scenery show. We stopped at a petrol station on the way to refuel, the car and ourselves. Hot chips (french fries) and ice cream to go. Proper road trip food. Few more hours and we arrived in Albany, stiff and sore from the car ride. We went around to each house to drop off belongings, say a hello and I, properly met the families.

It was a cold, wet weekend which made visiting the homes of the girls even homier. There was something so soothing and comforting about visiting well lived in homes after being far from my own for so long. -It was like rereading an old tattered book, soaked with a familiar smell of worn pages, and feeling the spaces in the spine from long resting bookmarks- Since we spent three nights in Albany, each night was spent at one of the girls houses. It reminded me of childhood sleepovers , staying up late watching movies, piling blankets and pillows on the ground. It was nice to spend time in a house, with home cooked meals. Being able to sit around the table with their families, enjoying conversation over food, was like a memory from home. We spent the days traveling around Albany seeing different landmarks and such. We went to a place called The Gap, a giant crevice in rock that water from the ocean flows in and out. On windy days, as it was that day, the water crashes high up on the gap’s walls. Not far was another rock structure called The Bridge. It was magnificent to watch the water roar in, crash down on the rocks and then it be sucked back out into the waving sea. The next day we visited Greenspool. It was a beautiful aqua colored pool, scattered with boulders that kept the pool calm and silent. Just around the bend was Elephant Cove, which got its name for looking like a crowd of elephants walking out to sea. As I am not used to growing up near a sea, and never seeing such clear crystal water in Perth, I was drawn to Albany’s beauty.

One of the days we drove to Denmark, a town just outside of Albany. We went to a little winery there called The Lake House for coffee and cakes. We sat outside overlooking a small pond, sipping on coffee, nibbling on an assortment of cakes and such. It was nice to get away from uni and the city buzz to have a relaxing weekend at a home(s) away from home. Driving through the town, schools attended were pointed out, along with the best restaurants, and the worst, old jobs and favorite spots, the rock that looks like a dog and of course Albany’s biggest round-a-bout. (Albany prides themselves on having no traffic lights and only roundabouts.) I enjoyed seeing another side of Australia, the homier side. A side beyond student life and the city. It felt easy, to slip into a calm weekend away, being around people that felt like family despite the brief interactions. And yet, I did not mind coming back to my uni home.

It feels easy to live the Australian way and to call this my second home.

My home away from home.

The Gap

The Gap

The Bridge

The Bridge

249004_10200129445797935_1131756805_n

Greenspool

Greenspool

Elephant Cove

Elephant Cove

Date, Fig and Nut cake and a Double Macchiato in Denmark — at The Lake House Denmark.

Date, Fig and Nut cake and a Double Macchiato in Denmark — at The Lake House Denmark.

The lovely girls and I

The lovely girls and I

Oh Me Oh My, It’s Local Time

I am comfortable here under this Aussie sky.

A quiet weekend at my little home. Friday my Uni hosted a Wild West party at its Tav on campus. A small band played country style music and a company provided a mechanical bull. The night ended with late night conversations, a ride in a trolly cart, laughs. Saturday I went to a local gig performed  in a backyard. My flatmate’s friend of a friend hosted a few local bands and singer song writers to come and play a small set to friends and a bit of family. Sitting in the grass, the bands played under an old wood cabana decorated with a long plastic silver ribbon that swayed awkwardly in the wind. It helped set the tone- laidback, no expectations, no worries, standards, judgements. Half the crowd looked like they were from the 90’s and the other from the 70’s. “A hippie event” one guy proclaimed. The music genre shifted with each new band but the mood never changed. A relaxed afternoon with the sun shining through the trees and making the silver ribbon glisten. Sunday was another blessed sunny day. After a long nights rest, I woke to sit outside and enjoy breakfast with my lounging flatmates. We bathed in the sun till our studies forced us in. 1000 word essay later I was out again. To embrace the sun-day I walked barefoot to the local grocery store and bought some fresh nectarines. Along with some strawberries and oranges, I sliced up the fruit, mixed them with a bottle of sparkling Moscato and made some Sangria. I met up with some friends in the local area and we shared stories while sitting outside sipping on Sangria. Once again- laidback, no expectations, no worries standards judgements. The moon, hung early in the sky, like silver lining against a bright blue backdrop.

When I thought about studying abroad I only imagined the big adventures I would experience. I never thought much about the little things but I am realizing its the those I will remember the most. The sunny days with good people and good music. My day to day life that I have built here has the simplest of joys. I love being local. I love the shopping trips I take with my flatmates to the store and then cooking together for dinner. I love the conversations I have with people, the trips to the city when we take up half the bus, the movie nights in Vickery common room, and the coffee dates with newly met friends. In the grand scheme this has been an amazing adventure so far, full of new sights and experiences but it’s the little things that I enjoy the most. Its the localness that adds the silver lining.

My silver lining today- the best soy dirty chai latte with a beloved friend

My silver lining today- the best soy dirty chai latte with a beloved friend

20, 3, Shutdown

As I sit here at my desk, window open, breeze blowing the curtains and the view of pink tinted clouds from a setting sun, I think about this whole experience. I came here not knowing a soul, and now when I think about leaving, I dread the goodbyes. October first I celebrated my birthday of twenty years! A year ago I would have never imagined that I would have celebrated it here in Western Australia. Even though my home was thousands of miles away I still celebrated it with the same traditions I grew up with. Most important thing- A big breakfast to start the day. This year I decided with pancakes so my flatmates and I cooked a big pancake breakfast. I brought out my Dad’s famous pancake recipe, Whole Wheat Yogurt pancakes, and made a double batch. With two frying pans going, we flipped out fluffy light pancakes like it was no one’s business. The table was set with flowers bought for my birthday, and pancake toppings. Strawberries, honey, lemon, Nutella, jam and syrup. I snuck some bananas into my pancake because I can never pass up a chance to make banana pancakes. As time passed and conversation continued, the pancake stack slowly dwindled down. To continue the blessed morning, I got to Skype my family on my birthday. I think all of us exchange students would agree that Skype is the best thing invented. 

While Skyping my parents it was odd to think that it wasn’t quite my birthday in the States but because of the 15 hour time change it was my birthday in WA. I opened my packages I had received as my presents over Skype so it felt just like how we do it at home. Everyone circled around watching as I read the cards aloud and revealed the little treasures inside the wrapping. 

Later that day, my flatmates and some close friends went out to late lunch at a local restaurant. Once again we sat around, letting time ease by with conversation and good food. To end the night, we finished with carrot cake that I had made the day before. It has become tradition for me to make carrot cake for other people on their birthday and I always make the same recipe from scratch. I don’t mean to brag, but I  must say this carrot cake is something special. Icing on the cake? Cream cheese frosting. The only way to go. So I thought I would change it up a little and make it for myself this year. And of course a serenaded birthday song with candles on cupcakes that my flatmates bought from a gourmet cupcake shop called Bella’s Cupcake World. Though we saved the cupcakes for another night. A special day was made memorable with a glorious breakfast, a surprise cake and decorated room, a delicious lunch, more cake, a song, good conversation, and more cake! Everyone needs a bit of cake on their birthday. 

As I woke up the next morning and checked Facebook I kept seeing posts on government shut down. I thought people were just being exaggerate but when I looked up the news I was shocked to find the government had actually shut down. Though I don’t tend to understand politics much anyway, the hardest part for me to grasp and come to terms with was that this was all happening while I was all the way around the world, a day ahead. I was already in the future, awake for the day after my birthday and the States were still celebrating my birthday and watching a countdown to government shutdown. It gave me an eery feeling to watch Youtube reports and read articles about what was going on. I didn’t know if I should be concerned greatly or if things will smooth out quickly. I must say I felt semi relieved I wasn’t in the States while it happened but yet so strange and a bit scary. 

I think I will forever remember this birthday.

October 1, 2013- The day I turned 20, received 3 cakes and when even the government shutdown to celebrate my birthday.  

Field Trip to Freo

I am taking a class called Australian Studies where we get to learn about the history and culture of Australia. Some days are lectures, others are movies and the best days are excursions! One of the field trips was to Fremantle to see the Round House and other monumental places. Afterwards, we wrote a reflection on our adventure.  To get a little history lesson on Fremantle and our field trip, have a read. Here is some pictures from the trip!

1-IMAG0066

Bather's Beach

Bather’s Beach

1-IMAG0063

The streets of Freo

The streets of Freo

Inside the Round House

Inside the Round House

1-IMAG0067 1-IMAG0071

On our second excursion, I had the chance to see Fremantle and learn about its rich history. Although it was not the first time I have visited Fremantle, it was the first time I truly understood and appreciated this place for its historic value. As I came to find out, Fremantle was the first place that the ships arrived when coming to Western Australia. I had only ever learned that the people that first inhabited Australia were convicts sent over. I never knew that the first settlers came about 20 years earlier as free settlers from the British colony into what was deemed “Swan River Colony”.  As we stood on the small beach that lay between Point Marquis and Anglesea Point, I was taken back by the thought this could have been the same beach that the travelers dumped there belongings on when they first arrived (The Round House Precinct). The beach was small and not much room for big furnishings and livestock. I imagined the travelers struggling to keep the livestock in order and piano keys filling with sand. I can imagine it must have been quite a task to move it up the sandy shore and over the shrubbery hill.

Earlier in my time in Western Australia, I visited the exact beach we stood on, Bather’s Beach and walked through what I thought at the time was just a tunnel for mining for something. To my surprise, the tunnel was built for the whaling operation that became popular during the time the Round House was built. The tunnel acted as an easy access route from the beach to the town so the whale could be efficiently processed. As we walked through the tunnel I imagined whales being tugged and towed through it. The ability to cut a tunnel through a hill that did not collapse and has lasted since the mid 1800’s still stuns me. There must have been some good engineers on the traveling team to know how to articulate something so complex. The tunnel sits properly under the Round House, which I learned was the first permanent building to be built when the free settlers arrived. The spot chosen for the building was prime because it looked over the ocean and from up top, the various islands and Cockburn Sound are visible (The Round House Precinct).

Not only was the Round House used for sea navigation and whale watching but also as a convict house. We were told the story of the Round House in a tiny cornered room which come to find out was the kitchen. I could not imagine how such a tiny place could be used as a kitchen, but I guess they worked with what room they had. Being so tiny, the Round House was used as a short-term imprisonment and for those men who broke curfew. Curfew enforcement was not like todays curfew enforcement that can be easily read on clocks and enforced by police.  Rather in the 1900, a Time Ball was built near the lighthouse as a way to signal to mariners and residents the exact time. For not having clocks, I found it an ingenious and practical way to tell time. The ball was hoisted up when it was a little before afternoon time and released at 1 pm that also signaled a cannon shot (The Round House Precinct).

What I loved most about Fremantle was the atmosphere that it held. It was quite different than the hussel and bussel of Perth city. It is full of artists, locals, culture and village style atmosphere that suggests a close, tight knit community. Fremantle feels more relaxed then Perth City and holds an air about it that is calm. Walking along the streets there are many small local places to eat, drink coffee and enjoy artwork. I like that the city was built by its own people and by people who wanted to come live in Australia. Nothing is forced in Fremantle, it carries it vibe as travelers come and go. As we sat in Little Creatures, I saw exactly what I had described above. The workers were relaxed and friendly. No strict black tie attire was enforced and the workers wore what suited them best. The beer and cider on tap was local brewed and they prided themselves in that. We were encouraged to come back for a free tour and tasting. After learning about the history of Fremantle, I have grown a stronger appreciation for the people that live there. What began with pianos strewn across the sandy shore, to tunnels to boost whale business to local breweries and hippy vibe, Fremantle is a unique, rich city that I have come to value greatly.

Bali Break

Aside

Bali was an amazing break from Uni classes. Many of the photos speak for themselves but it was a trip full of good food, relaxing days, new experiences, and many naps. The group of eight of us that went enjoyed the time we got to spend together away from the busy stress of school and work. And thankfully none of us got sick from the water or food. Now back to the daily grind of uni and the rainy days of Perth spring. But the memories keep us going and warm.

Image

Chicken Satay kebabs at The Balcony. This place was so good we went back three times!

Image

Leave it to me to be the goof in a photo

Image

Laura the Elephant!

ImageKisses for Laura

 

ImageThe Crew!ImageBali Streets1185588_4854889309142_638535376_n

Delicious meal at Potato Head Beach Club- A fancy day to treat ourselves

 

A Short Note on a New Home

Aside

The other week uni had a tuition free week, meaning one week spring break! Many of us from Vickery House decided to do what many Aussies do on breaks and head to Bali Indonesia. Its like the Mexico trip for the State dwellers, but in my eyes, so much better! I will post pictures and stories from the Bali adventure soon but this post is about the return.

Coming home from a vacation is always the best feeling. Although you don’t want to leave the place where you got to routinely sleep in, eat high quantities of good food and never failed to take that siesta nap, there is something comforting about walking into your house with that familiar homey smell and sleeping in your worn in comfy bed. The return home from Bali held a strange feeling because I wasn’t going home to the States, but going home to 8 person flat with my little tucked in the corner room. Little did I realize how much this place has become and feels like home. The minute I walked in, I had all the same comforts flooding me. The flat smelled the same,  and like always, with a hint of rice from the two rice cookers that permanently reside on the bench top. I was excited to see my other flat mates that I hadn’t seen all week and realized that I had missed there company. As I reunited with other friends who weren’t on the Bali trip I came to realize that I have made really close friends here. I enjoyed my time in Bali but was happy to be back in my newly founded home and around people who are the best of company. I was much happier walking down the little paths between the VIckery units saying hello to people I knew than walking on the crammed dirty streets of Kuta Bali with sellers chasing me down the street to buy the “cheapest” towel or bracelet. One of the joys of going on an adventure is coming home to warm people and sharing it with them. And that is exactly what I got to do. Share my adventures and stories with my new family and home.

Big Wetsuits Big Appetites Big Scores- Big Adventure

One of my favorite parts about my exchange is that I get to try new things. Surfing is pretty popular here and since I normally live landlocked, away from the sea, I decided to sign up for lessons. Saturday morning, a group of us drove down to the beach, wet-suitted up and did our best to ride the waves. I got up a couple times though was quick to fall over once I did. Best part about it, my wetsuit was a size too big, so every time I stood up, I was lifting myself plus like 20 pounds of water. I probably created my own waves with the amount of water that would gush out of the wet suit. It was quite a look, I resembled the wetsuit version of the Michelin tire guy. Even the instructors noted that it was too big, though in my defense they chose that size for me. Luckily getting out of wetsuits that are too big for you is fairly easy. While everyone struggled with the wet suit strip, hopping around, having their buddy yank and pull, I shimmied out with ease. After three hours of surf time and plenty of sea water in my sinuses, I was stoked to try at a local brewery in Freemantle called Little Creatures. Some of the other girls and I decided to order a couple different things and all share. It was a gastro-pleasing spread! We got greek styled chicken, chili beef nachos, mushroom and olive pizza and french fries. The food was spectacular and we all tasted what the others ordered as well. The pizza was charcoal baked, sprinkled with sea salt and had a perfectly thin crust. The chicken was juicy and flavorful and the nachos were supreme! Also tried amazing kangaroo kebabs with tomato chutney, and of course french fries are always good! After we ate we headed home for  a quick shower and change, as next we were headed to a AFL game. Australian Football League, aka Footie. Its very different to American football as the players can kick the ball or hit it off one hand with the other. They can tackle each other but they don’t wear pads or helmets. The game doesn’t start and stop like American football does and they don’t reconfigure in formation when they start to play again. In this sense the game is much quicker paced. But that is all I really understood about it so I resorted to cheering whenever everyone around did and remained quiet or booed when they were. We rooted for the Fremantle Dockers and rocked the anchor mascot. We won buy a huge margin making the game to one side but still a great experience! It was fun to see a sport in Australia that everyone gets excited about and supports their team. It was much like the American football atmosphere though everyone had Aussie accent instead. I walked away from the day learning a new sport, trying new foods and experiencing a new game.

1148959_10153124035650214_1596369606_n

Almost standing up on the first day!

GO DOCKERS!

GO DOCKERS!

Grubbin at Little Creatures

Grubbin at Little Creatures