12 April 2009

Finally, I make a real post. It doesn’t seem like that long since I last got on this, and I could have sworn I updated after I got here, but apparently not. I can talk a little more now about the differences between home and here, although many of the differences now feel obvious. Driving on the wrong side of the road actually is feeling more right. Although I am a Texan, my fears of traveling to Australia were pretty much pointless. Everyone here is extremely nice and Americans, while they get a bad rep as a group, as individuals are treated very well. Aussies can’t even tell my accent — I am often asked if I’m from Canada, which is apparently the favorite foreigner for Oz. Don’t ask me!

Hanging out at the extremely classy Newport "hotel". I wouldn't want to stay here.

The yankees from my group turned out to be a really great selection of people for the most part. The guys from Pittsburg are awesome, and they know how to party. I haven’t really stuck with them as part of my crew for the most part, but we’re all on friendly terms still. Cairns was a fun experience in general, and it gave me a taste of Australia. I managed to get kicked out of the bar on the first night so a success in general. But, that whole experience seems like ages ago at this point. We were all different people, slightly.

These days I pretty much hang out by the pool and do some clubbing at night. Monday Norfolk, Tuesday Kardy, Wednesday Newport, Thursday Claremont, Friday Northbridge, Saturday Metros Freo, Sunday Sess at the Cot. Pretty solid party schedule. Occasionally I mix it up, but I’m pretty set on my favorite places.


24 March 2009

This country is beautiful

In Feb., I didn’t post anything to this blog, but I did write home to my parents after going on a 10 day backpacking trip to the Outback.

Hello everyone!

I have successfully returned from my trip to the Outback. I’ve been doing my best to get all the photos sorted out so that everyone can see them. I also want to give you a day-by-day of our events.

First, here are the photos:
Day 1 to Day 2
Day 2 to Day 4
Day 4 to Day 6
Day 6 to Day 9

I took a little over two hundred. It was basically a summary of all the things I’ve seen and all the fun we had. We got a bit crazy at times, but it was all in good fun. Some really beautiful sights!

Day 1

This is the actual dog who herds the sheep; he liked the attention.

Here we loaded up all of our stuff at 7 AM and started the trip north to the outback. This day was largely driving and we just sat around and listened to music or slept on the bus. When we finally pulled into our first stop at about 5 PM, we were told it was an active wool shed. We had the option of sleeping in the shed or pitching tents, but me and most of the others opted for the tents because it would be cooler and smell less like sheep. Myself, Allie, Oystein, Nichole, Hattie, and Kevin were all in a tent together. It was a big enough tent but sleeping was a pain since we weren’t used to sleeping bags on the ground. The girls had a shock because the showers were pretty limited, and there were Redback spiders in the bathroom, the third most deadly in Australia, as well as the world!

Day 2

You had to wear ridiculous fly nets everywhere to get any kind of peace.

This morning the flies were especially bad. All of us were donning our fly nets and trying our best not to get covered. It was inevitable, but at least our faces would be fine. Unfortunately, trying to eat breakfast was more than a pain — there were flies covering all of our food. Some opted not to eat. Rusty slapped my back to kill some flies, spilling scalding hot coffee on chest, as you can see from the later photos, but I forgave him. It’s tempting to slap anybody that has 40 flies on their back! After driving for some 7 hours, we pulled into our next stop, Newman, a mining town. We were told to not mingle with the locals as apparently miners can be the rougher crowd. Ignoring this, all of the guys and I went out to find a miner bar to see how miner life is. Sadly, we walked for a mile or two only to find out that the miner bar closes at 9 PM because of their schedules. It’s probably for the best!

Day 3

Conquering this stream in the bottom of a gorge

Today we arrived at one of our major stops, Karijini National Park at about 2 PM in 42 C (107 F) weather. We set up camp here — everything was red dirt and dry plants. We had no running water, no electricity, and no flushing toilets. We were advised to check the toilet holes before we sat down because that is where giant spiders and poisonous Redbacks live. Speaking of spiders, there were giant ones everywhere. And by giant, I do mean giant. Some were three to six inches long, as big as my hand. Some were hairy and others were camouflaged. I took a photo of one that is particularly creepy. These things are big enough to catch small birds in their webs. Scary. Our water source turned out to be the waterfalls in the rivers. They are some of the purest forms of water in the world and you can drink straight out of them without worrying about anything harmful. We spent the rest of today going through Dales Gorge, finding circular springs and waterfalls to swim in. It was a refreshing experience after climbing down rocks for several hours!

The dingos come out from the shadows

At night, the dingos, a type of wild dog about the size of bull mastiff with a long snout, started to come out and scavenge for food. Since we were the only campers out in this part of the bush, we were a prime target. We thought there may be one or two out there but as soon as the moon came up, we heard a howl on one side of the camp, and then literally from all sides of the camp came another howl. After this, they raided into the campsite to find what they could. They were certainly creepy.

Day 4

These little guys are relatives of the piranha. Ouch.

We spent most the day at the waterfalls in the river. This is a relaxing area because there was a deck to lay on after we swam. In the water we climbed up on old trees and got massages from the falling water. You didn’t want to sit still for too long because of the little fish in the water which were related to piranhas. They would give you a bit of a nibble, not enough to hurt but enough to startle you! We also climbed to a different gorge that was literally the side of a cliff. Climbing down was intense, if not a little bit scary. But, it was a good reward because through the canyon was a giant waterfall we could all lay on. It was beautiful. Later that night I helped with dinner by grilling sausages and steaks. I was able to save one sausage for later, and Stein and I, sharing a tent, threw a sausage in the bush nearest our tent to lure out the dingos. Sure enough, they came and we got some photos. It was hard to take them because it was pitch black and those dogs were sneaky, but I’ve got two decent ones. We also looked at the stars that night. They were more impressive than anything I’ve ever seen. They make a West Texas night look like a joke. I had no idea that the milky way had so many colors — greens, blues, and reds.

Day 5

Stein and I killing the dozens of giant spiders in our room.

This day we drove for literally twelve or thirteen hours, not including bathroom breaks and food stops. It was hot and sticky because the AC in our bus went out. Exciting stuff! We finally arrived at another sheep farm. Tonight we had actual rooms which was neat. However, Stein and myself had to kill something like 9 spiders in our room. They were huge and neither of us was a fan at all!

Day 6

The coral bay reef

Today we went to Coral Bay. This was a nice highlight because we got to go on a glass bottom boat as well as snorkel. I liked this reef almost as much as the Great Barrier, proof that Australia has some nice places to snorkel. The coral is not as bright as in Mexico, however, because it is a cold water coral. I got to see a 7 foot reef shark, which swam by but was apparently harmless. I also found a sea turtle swimming around, so of course, I had to grab on to it and let him take me for a ride. These are some strong animals. He didn’t seem to mind that I was grabbing on to him. I guess he’s used to people. All of the fish were out on this day because we happened to go on the very day of the coral spawning, which is the one day of the year that coral reproduce. The fish love the spores so they were having a field day. After this, we found a nearby resort and bar. Myself and Ryan split a case of beer and brought it back to the beach. From about 11 AM to 5 PM we continued to drink. All of the sudden I felt dizzy and couldn’t stand.

Hattie and I looking sun drenched after a long day out to sea

The guys just thought I drank too much and dragged my to the beach. I asked for water and after just a few minutes I was back to normal. Apparently the 104 F heat had got to me after all day of not drinking water! It wasn’t that scary, but I should have remembered to drink more water in between the beers. Everyone thought it was pretty funny.

Day 7

Nothing but net!

Today we got to feed the dolphins on the beach at a place called Monkey Mia, though they didn’t pick me. That’s fine, I wouldn’t want to crush a 10 year old’s dream! I did get some cool photos of them. Then we go to go on a cruise catamaran and see Shark Bay. We were all on a boat and had champagne (as it was the cheapest thing to drink on the boat and we felt it necessary to celebrate surviving the outback). We got to briefly stop at an oyster station in the ocean which collects pearls. Some of the pearls they produced were worth over 6,000 dollars each! Some of the people got to try black pearl meat, which goes for something like 800 dollars per 2.2 lbs in Japan because it’s a power aphrodisiac (supposedly). I don’t think it worked, though. Who knows about those Japanese! After the boat ride we laid on the beach and relaxed. We also had some delicious fish and chips (fried fish and thick cut fries), the most common meal in Australia from what I can tell.

Day 8

The entire beach was made of shells

We moved camp to an old telegraph station built in the 1800s. It was near a protected beach full of stromatolites, the oldest living life form on the planet. Basically they are bacteria that form black rocks. The entire beach at this area was made completely of shells, which was neat to look at but painful if they got in your sandals. The ocean here was pretty pristine as well. It was a relaxing area to be in and we got some good photos of the sunset.

Day 9

The last sunset we say on our trip. I miss this place like you would not believe.

We moved camp to our final location, another wool shed. Immediately after setting up tents, I saw a giant black snake about 6 foot in length. It may or may not have been the most poisonous snake in Australia. We never got to see it again to find out, thankfully. At this location, we were told it used to be a convict work camp in the 1800s. We got to scale a giant hill to see the sunset as well as enter an old mansion at night. Nichole found a lantern from the 1800s with a candle still inside, and managed to get it lit. This was the highlight of her trip, she told me later. Personally, I enjoyed the beaches more!

Day 10
We loaded up for the final time and drove back. It was nice to finally take a hot shower!

So there you have it! Hope you enjoy the story and the photos!

5 February 2009

Chunk up the duece for the north and the south

I’m here! I’m alive. And everything so far has went smoothly. I got here for our orientation, teaching us about Aussie customs, etc. The lectures are pretty dry, but exploring Cairns has been fun. I got to see the rainforest and hold animals (and take touristy photos), and see the Great Barrier Reef for a day. Pretty exciting stuff. Tomorrow we fly to Perth to get settled at Murdoch.

31 January 2009

A view from the Murdoch courtyard

Well, here it is. Only one day left until I move to Perth, Australia to study at Murdoch University for a semester. I didn’t even realize how much work getting ready for a move like this is. For the last two weeks of my life, I spent my time working as much as possible to make some extra spending money. And, throughout this period, I’ve done everything imaginable to get ready.

The whole story is pretty boring (so feel free to skip this section entirely), but it involves getting lease agreements lined up for April/May, and then having to get my power of attorney created and notarized. I also had to go to the doctor’s office several times for all the medications I need. I have horrific allergies and a day without my medicine is a day spent in hell. Trying to get proof of prescriptions after the fact is pretty challenging; I had to get new prescriptions, and then get them all authorized, and then there was an annoying snag about medicine regulation differences.

Apparently pseudoephedrine is illegal to possess unless you have a prescription in Australia. Probably with good reason, as I believe you can make crystal meth with the stuff. Regardless, over here it’s legal over the counter. So, it’s nearly impossible to get a prescription for something that you can get easily. I got one, but the medicine wouldn’t come in for another week. So I had to get the closest over the counter equivalent and get a signed printout of the ingredients in my prescription. That, and insurance won’t pay for over one month’s supply of any medication at one time; and since I need more than one month, the situation was complicated infinitely more when trying to explain it to the pharmacy to explain to the insurance company. I only managed to get an 18 day supply of the over the counter medicine because of the regulations here. Sad. My other medicine came through fine though. Apparently, also, you can only take three months of medication into the country, leaving me to fend for myself without insurance coverage in Australia after that time. In the end, through some loopholes, it ended up coming out okay. But, this process has eaten away entire days of my time just going back and forth between doctors, pharmacists, and insurance people.

That, and the banking situation was pretty confusing. I needed to authorize all of my credit cards for international use, and when you have as many as I do, the situation gets frustrating to say the least. I finally got that taken care of, and then made my last deposits. I had some Australian currency shipped in from Houston to supplement my plastic in case somewhere doesn’t take it. This was an amusing sight at the bank, as most of the employees have never seen this currency before. (Colorful plastic money, what demonry is this?!)

The last snag was a sort of funny one. I had to buy shorts. As I am going to a beach, I would need to wear shorts. I don’t imagine blue jeans would work well. However, to be honest with you, I haven’t worn anything but jeans in years and years. I don’t know the style of shorts people wear, as everyone in Midland just wears jeans. My legs are so white they would blind small children. I can’t wait to get burned to death in the Australian sun.

I still have to check on power conversion and how all my electronic equipment will work. I need my laptops and camera to work over there or I will die from technology withdrawals. I think I should be okay, but who knows. I really know nothing about how power conversion works.

Finally, I still haven’t even packed anything. I’ve been so busy trying to get the ridiculous amount of other things finished that I haven’t got to it. Ironically, those people who know me best at college have probably pegged it pretty accurately. The following is a wall post from Cory, my suitemate at Trinity:

“Knowing how you get things done, I was guessing that you would start packing about 1 am the morning of your flight, drunk. Have you bought the plane ticket yet?”

I may indeed live up to this grand dreams at this point. I’m so stressed/happy/scared/excited/terrified by the whole thing that I feel like a beer right now, just before lunch time! Cheers!

30 January 2009

You could imagine that doing nothing in Midland would give me the time to update this more. Surprisingly, a lot of things have been happening that have taken all of my time. First off, and most importantly, I leave Texas for Australia this coming Sunday, Feb. 1. I don’t even know what to think at this point. I am really excited, and really happy to finally get to do something exciting like this. But, at the same time, I am terrified of leaving Texas. As much as I want to think I am educated, I don’t really know the ways of the world, and I’m afraid of not being accepted for who I am. I’ve already been told not to mention I am from Texas, but this is probably impossible as I obviously sound like a Texan. That, and I don’t think I will compromise who I am, even in a foreign culture.

My group is full of yankees for the most part. There are some that are from South Carolina, but even this is odd and foreign to me. I’ve talked to one from my group, an admitted vegetarian and environmentalist. I mean, you just don’t find that in Texas. I’m not saying that I disagree with her viewpoints, though I have to say my own viewpoints are much more enjoyable for me. It is my hope to eat all the native animals that I can, as food is a big part of my life. And the only environmental policy I have is “Don’t Mess With Texas”, so I don’t know if that matches up well enough. I’m mentioning this because it shocks me I am so different from yankees. These are people who are from my country. What could Australia be like? Maybe the people will think I’m ignorant and arrogant. I hope not.

My goal with this trip is to make friends and experience culture. I don’t want to compromise who I am in the process, though. But, I haven’t left, so I don’t even know what I’m getting into yet.

Otherwise, my stay in Midland has been full of work. I’ve been working full days typing entries into a big database. It’s sad and horrible, but now I am done. And, my boss gave me a big bonus for my work. I’m confident I’ll have a few dollars to blow on things I want to do, not just the bare essentials. Some of those things include the “Northwest Trip”, a ten-day camping trip throughout Northwest Australia. I am pretty excited to do that. Because of the currency difference, it’ll only be about 450 dollars. I think I can manage that.

Work was boring, of course, but it was good being back with the guys from ViaMedia. Josh, Benjamin, and Max are good guys, and I’m glad to have met them. We got together a few times and played poker. I lost twice, but I won everything on the last game we played. Poker has started to become an addictive thing. I’m playing it online all the time, albeit with fake money.

Hell. Yes. Bromance 4 Life.

I spent a weekend in San Antonio with the Trinity guys. I took a lot of photos, but it was basically a summary of my entire experience at Trinity. These guys are the friends I hope to have for the rest of my life. I’ll miss them when I graduate, and I’ll miss them when I’m in Australia. I hope all of the alcohol I bought them is proof enough of my friendship! God knows, they’ll be drunk for a semester on an amount that size.

Finally, I’ve been working out a ton before I leave. Partly because I found out I was 204 lbs. I used to be 145 lbs before I started college. Way too much beer and Jack in the Box, that’s certain. I’ve lost over twenty pounds, but I still need to do more. My goal is to really push myself in Australia, so that I can be 160 lbs of raw steel and sex appeal upon my return. We’ll see!

I guess I’ll update this next when I’m in Perth. I’ll miss Texas, but I’m ready to jump into something new!

17 December 2008

It's pretty massive for a dorm room

I had been meaning to update this. I’ve been home for almost a week, which is pretty legit. I’ve done nothing so far, which is also pretty legit. I’ve signed up for Netflix so I basically lay in bed watching movies all day for free on my huge TV. I can’t ask for a ton more, actually.

It’s surprising that I’ll be out of the country soon. I’m glad to be done with school for this semester. Between the horrible deli gig, my weird love life, and my shitty grades, it will be nice to move past that. Too bad this semester will kick my GPA’s ass. How awesome. I managed to do minimal work for most of the semester, but I actually did put in work to these upper level communication classes. But they all give B’s at best and C’s at worst. And I’ve been getting a lot of that worst stuff. I even withdrew from a class.

Is this what college is all about? Hating it? Learning nothing? Memorizing? I certainly hope not, but then again it keeps seeming this way more and more. When was it supposed to change? I should have went to a state school and coasted by.

Whatever, I hope that Australia is extremely awesome and it makes up for this bland semester. Tomorrow I may get to see someone I’ve missed. I want to take portraits.