Friday, May 31, 2013

I ate Kangaroo...and I liked it.


So here is my last blog probably in Australia, sorry it has been forever, I have been crazy busy with classes and trying to have fun and explore and all that at the same time :p

Sooooo here is a quick blog full of all my experiences since the Outback...yeah that was forever ago, woops:




Highlights:

-       Ate my first Kangaroo burger, and didn't want to at first, but i'm glad I did...it was delicious! Pretty gamey but good! Dad would be proud :)
-       Enjoyed more gorgeous sunsets on ferries and at my favorite place, Manly beach (good moment eating ice cream on wharf during sunset just chilling and watching surfers)
-       Took a class field trip to a park and learned to play didgeridoo (I suck) and I learned to throw a boomerang AND it returned to me on my first try and I almost caught it! WOOT. We also learned to throw spears, which were twice as long as me, hmm.
-       Finally got to go to Coogee beach, I had heard alot about it but never made the trip over there! Wow. In love. Clear water! Coast walk with huge tide pools and cliffs like Maine! Mini “blow holes”...SICK.
-       Loved the atmosphere and feel of Coogee and the locals, just breathtaking and such a great example of the Aussie lifestyle: relaxed and enjoying life!
-       Hillsong Street Team service placement is becoming more meaningful: good convo with guy about debating Christianity (magic, miracles, etc.)
-       Went to an Australian Football League (AFL) game, NOT at all like American football, but super fun and interesting to try to learn!
-       Went to see the Don Quixote ballet at Opera House! Felt so mature and fancy-like ;) no but for real, it was gorgeous and a great night! Sat at a cafe along the harbour viewing the bridge and opera house, got dressed up, and just enjoyed my first ballet in such a great place!
-       Went to see X Factor auditions and was a part of a great experience seeing the behind the scenes aspects of a TV show---learned that Aussie's way of doing TV is veryyyy different that USA lol! (Singer of LMFAO and a guest judge for the show called Red Fu talked to us because he asked if any of the audience were American and we were the only ones, so he talked to us from the stage and we were on tape and such, pretty funny!)
-       Watched Finding Nemo and saw all the stuff I see everyday :p
-       Went to ANZAC day parade (“march”), kind of slow, reminded me of how Americans do everything “louder, bigger, better” etc. stereotype, which in relation to how the Aussies acted during the parade and X Factor seems somewhat true! (Although AFL was more crazy due to alcohol :p)
-       Had a great day at the famous Taronga Zoo! (my camera worked this time so yay! got pics of kangaroos and koalas, saw a red panda!, crocs, tree kangaroo, seal show! gorgeous view of the skyline!)
-       Had another beach day at Coogee (and it's winter now)! First swim in clear water beach/ocean! (Frisbee, swam to rock/cliff got cut up by rocks and barnacles, saw stingrays and other suspicious creatures, snorkeled in clear water, saw sea urchins, cool starfish)
-       Went to Watson’s Bay for fish and chips but got steak and chips instead for $10 (because the other place closed at 6pm!)--Finally got fish and chips for the first time there later, because it's a famous place for it. NomNom! Also went on the Watson Bay coastwalk which was gorgeous and so like Maine!
-       Went to Luna Park at night! Gorgeous lights and so fun and colorful and lively with people, rode an upside down ride for $10! Ah. WHAT!? But it was worth it! You could see the opera house and bridge and skyline all lit up (and upside down! ;))! So cool and fun!
-       Sleep over with friends one Tuesday night randomly, had burritos and chips and salsa and nachos with cheese and beans and biscuits with ice cream, marshmallow fluff, cookie dough, and chocolate (Cadbury, mm!) on top! So grossly deliciously sickeningly wonderful! haha, then we watched movies. So fun even though I had a huge art project due next day, oh who cares...
-       Went to Saturday city markets! (Glebe, Surry Hills, cool atmosphere! Chill, food, people picnicking, live music, smells, cheap--kinda, fun, more culture!)

RANDOM Facts I've observed:
Foods:
-       milkshakes are like chocolate milk, chocolate milk comes in juice boxes, smoothies are like watery milk, sour cream comes in school milk carton container
-       Cadbury chocolate is delish, Lamingtons (coconut dessert, famous here) are delish, TImTams are my fav! (Can't wait to teach some of you the TimTam Slam!)

Words:
-       “assume= ashume”
-       “heaps”, “fair go”, “muck up”, reckon,
-       fair dinkum (It’s true, or is it true?)
-       daks- pants
-       jumper- sweater
-       thongs- flipflops
-       singlet- tank top
-       dodgy- sketchy
-       no worries- that’s okay, you’re welcome
-       rooting – bad word :p don't say "who are you rooting for?" lol Instead say,
-       “Who are you going for” (who are you cheering for)
-       reckon- for sure
-       ripper- great
-       bushtelly- camfire or starlight
-       lollie- candy
-       chewie- gum
-       cuppa- cup of tea


South Coast Trip:

Weekend at Booderee National Park with the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Tribe
-       Jervis Bay (famous for dolphins)
-       Educational field trip for class
-       Led by Paul (Mac Daddy)
-       “Have a yarn” = telling stories
-       Informed us on Aboriginal culture/beliefs
-       Bushwalk and bushtucker and bushtelly
-       Ate mullet, bread, sarsaparilla tea (taught to learn which leaves to pick vs. poisonous ones!)
-       Smoking ceremony (welcoming ceremony, connection to land)
-       Learned about natural remedies in nature (iodine, penicillin)
-       Sharp plants, snakes (widow-maker!), wichitti grub, huge ants (fire ants with pinchers, about an inch long or more)
-       Greenback crabs, poisonous toad fish
-       Hike to beach, white sand covered in huge shells!
-       Coastal cliffs (highest in Aus!)
-       Huge shells, perfect, white (Jami--- :)
-       Striped shells, conch, vivid purples and blues and pinks, smooth and shiny
-       Went for a swim in the cold but clear ocean at 5 pm
-       About 65 degree water
-       Got changed into swimsuit on bus :p
-       Swam in the sunset!
-       Treaded water in deep part looking for dolphins (the bay is famous for them)
-       Saw stingrays :/
-       I saw a dolphin a bit away and swam closer to it
-       I lost it but then heard “GABI!” -- my friends were calling me and I turned and a huge dolphin swam right by me so close I could hear it and touch it! Buttttt I was too shocked to try at first! 
-       It was literally breath-taking
-       BUT THEN....
-       Minutes later the same dolphin, huge and grey, came back and swam around us and under us and was playing with us!
-       It touched me once and then came back under me and I was almost sitting on top of it, I felt its nose, fin, and tail! Crazy! It was so smooth but also kind of scary and weird!
-       PLUS....
-       It was not alone! LOL. I freaked out because I looked down and not only saw the dolphin but also another large blue blob with a long pointy thing on it and I couldn’t make it out but it scared me enough to grab onto my friends! Oops. We started swimming back to shore because we were so freaked out but sooo happy!
-       Later I asked our bus driver, Ian, about the other fish, and we realized it was a Marlin fish!
-       Lesson: embarrassing to know that in time of absolute terror I grab onto my friends and pull them underwater?….:( hahaha
-       I was just overwhelmed: deep clear water, large mammal and fish and stingrays swimming under me and into me-- just so much excitement, fear, vulnerability and awesomeness!
-       Even in the terrifying feeling of vulnerability with these wild animals around me, I still had such an amazing experience because the dolphin literally swam with me and I felt it and heard it and it was just beautiful.  I was so happy and scared and couldn’t believe it was happening—one of my biggest dreams!
-       It was maybe not as peaceful and romanticized as my ideal dream ;) BUT it was so fun and new and funny looking back on it!
-       It was great to have such a close experience with one of God’s huge, beautiful, powerful yet friendly creatures!
-       Gave me even more respect for dolphins <3
-       I know dolphins are docile and friendly, but in that moment I was like hmm, this animal could hurt me if it wanted (not to mention Mr. pointy nose marlin and sting rays under me) and I just feel so vulnerable to it yet so excited to be in this situation!
-       Oh PS. Most embarrassing of all…I accidentally kicked the dolphin in the nose when it swam under me. Yeah. How’s that for a first encounter with my favorite animal…

So that night we discussed the day with Paul and the Aborigine leaders, and
-       Paul told us it was rare for dolphins to come in that close and swim around humans
-       Even more rare to have them stick around and play with humans!
-       It was a magical thing because it meant something
-       Although I don’t share their beliefs and spirituality in relation to land and animals, I still think it’s cool to think that the dolphin felt some type of connection to us and knew we wanted to experience it—it’s like he wanted to welcome us and love us back.
-       Paul has this song he sings to the dolphins, and he thinks this dolphin was one he has sung to and seen before, and he said he sang it that night which is why the dolphin came to us to meet us and respect us (as the song respects them).
-       So cool to think, no matter what I believe. 

So anyway....
-       I CANNOT BELIEVE THAT I SWAM WITH A WILD DOLPHIN! (and for free!)
-       PRICELESS EXPERIENCE. (and unique, lol)
-       God is awesome. So is His creation and His creatures.
For the other parts of the trip:
-       Kangaroo hunting (played around in a whole field of Kangaroos just eating grass)
-       Could hear their chomping, and grunting, and weird clicking noise
-       Got really close! (def wild but used to humans)—some chillin in ppl’s yards!
-        Met “Big Bill” and “Wayne the Wallabie” :D
-       Saw them itch, box, walk (weird lookin), grunt, etc.
-    Saw a Joey mimicking/paralleling every movement of its mother!
-       We got too close to Big Bill and he stood up and was tensely staring at us, so we freaked out afraid he’d dropkick us ;)
-       Sooo, of course, we ran away.
-       The way they itch is supe funny: they stand up, roll head back to the side, and use tiny little arms to scratch their belly or chest. TOO STINKIN CUTE.

Loved South Coast because:
-       Culturally and geographically, it was a new side of Australia to see
-       Gorgeous countryside: rolling, green hills, distant mountains on horizon, blue clear water, blue, clear skies, white sand, huge rocks and cliffs on coastal line (highest in Aus.)
-       A lot like Maine but mixed in with coast and beach and rock was country and horses and cows!
-       Cool juxtaposition of location.
-       Loved the relaxed feel of the country
-       Like a beach town but also with country-like atmosphere
-       Like the Australian I’d pictured and dreamed of, the one you hear about ya know? The beach culture, beauty, relaxation, and quaintness
-       People just relaxing whether at shops, cafes, parks, or beach
-       I thought, “I really want to live in a place like this one day…”

So here are the things I've done since South Coast:

      -    Lots of coast walks!
-       Bondi to Tamarama to Bronte to Coogee (3 hours)
-       Cool, free pools that are actually in the ocean!
-       Crazy waves, white and frothy
-       Sunny, gorg fall day—so many Aussie’s still tanning and surfing, totes wanted to join them
-       Sunrise at Circular Quay with Steph, cloudy but pretty colors
-       Rocks markets
-       Went to Darling and saw VIVID light/water show!
-       Went to Circular Quay and watched VIVID festival all around the harbor
-       Also went on a coast walk from Spit to Manly with Fiona 
-       Found out there are wild penguins at Manly!? (saw signs, but not penguins, boo)
-       Gorgeous views of whole city from the coast there!
-    Also went to the gorgeous stunning Blue Mountain! Walked up and down 1800 stairs, super steep and awesome! 
-   Finally walked across the harbour bridge! So fun and beautiful views of the city!

LAST WEEK OF CLASS:
-       So ready to be home and see my family and friends, but I wish I could live here!
-       Went to Manly one last time :( with steph, saw the sunset and collected shells and just enjoyed it in the peace and beauty and ahhh, I love Manly!
-       Nice ride on ferry as always, enjoyed the weather and waves and fresh air
-       Love the ferry, it really is like a slow-mo roller coaster, hehe :D
-       Bought myself a sweatshirt! Only 10 dollars and so cute! YAY Just what I’d wanted!
-       Rode ferry back after dark, saw VIVID festival in the harbour again
-       Played on the lit up piano attraction at the harbour :D
-       Walked around, relaxed, enjoyed the atmosphere and gorgeous lights of the famous VIVID festival. What a beautiful city I live in! 
-    Truly hope to come back some day!


So many struggles and joys and fears and awesome things! I can't believe I leave in a few days, it has gone by so fast... It's an amazing country with amazing views and places and people and I am so blessed to have been here. So for now, this is my last post, until I maybe write one when i get back home and reflect on it all! Thanks for reading :)

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Outback!

So finally, my reflections on the trip our ASC group took to the Outback...

    -     4 days of travel out to the middle of nowhere ie. "Back of Bourke" or "whoopwhoop" 
    -   12 hour bus ride both ways
-       Stayed in an awesome hotel (well...it seemed awesome after hostels and such)
-       actually only 2 full days in Outback
-      it felt longer though because we just could do whatever we wanted and explore
-        I signed the "No Shower” pact with the group (4-5 days ish) yum.

-       Where we stayed was called Trilby Station, Louth-- a 300,000 acres sheep farm-- they herd the sheep with not just dogs but also planes, yes, planes.
   ^ That is the sheep farmer, Gary.... you can find out more crazy awesome info. on him and his wife and their farm by looking up their website for Trilby Station!)

-       Saw my first wild kangaroos hopping by while I was on the bus! 


-       Most amazing star-gazing ever! Saw a huge possible meteor (ball of fire thing, need to ask Dad, lol)?
-       Tons of shooting stars, saw a very clear Orion, and saw my first Southern Hemisphere constellations like the Southern Cross!
-       Twinkling stars! So bright and clear and twinkly! (Red, whites, blues/purples)
-       Saw Mars distinctly, but no moon because it was a new moon, weird
-       Canoed and relaxed viewing the beautiful scenery on the "Billabong" ie. creek 
-       Practiced enjoying the moment (easier there than in Sydney)
-       Slept outside under the stars the first night (not much sleep but still awesome)
-       Got to play with the sheep- herding dogs, the Kelpies! (Rudy, Tanny, Plugger)
-       Was part of a little worship team some of us created for the ASC group
-       Sang improv and harmony by the fire at night with some talented ASC friends, so fun
-       Saw Kangaroos everywhere on the property, and on the tour our bus driver, Ian, took us on around the Outback, also saw rare pink-winged cockatoos
-       Worst part: the AWFUL annoying loud huge amounts of buzzing FLIES, the do not back off! lol just group of them land on you and stay there and buzzzzzz. ick.
-       The ground was covered in burs, which were felt like little thorns that just work their way into your skin and clothes, they were annoying also!
-       Still finding burs in my clothes (socks mainly, although i painfully discovered one in the back of my athletic shorts while dancing in hiphop class, that was fun :p)
   -        Loved the gorgeous red dirt! White socks and a t-shirts are permanently stained, and there's still some red dust and dirt on my camera and bag, but it's like i'll always have part of the Outback with me now ;)
   -       Some of us went Mudding in the billabong! Just like a foot of mud on the buddy, didn't want to know what else was down there, sketchy! But super fun! Except when it dried, it dries like cement :p oops
-       But it was nice to cool off/take a half shower in the pool ;)
   -  It was super hot by day, super cold by night
-       Got ANOTHER cold while there (fun fact)

-       Went on a sunrise walk last day to find some kangaroos and get video of them hopping!

The scenery was beautiful:
Red, bright dirt; green, twisting trees; blue, clear skies; white, puffy clouds

The horizon went on forever and ever! Breath-taking.
-        I had a few moments where I just was so calm and I felt God there, as cliche as it is I know, but it was something I'd never felt that strongly before... comfort, peace, security..

My Goals While There:
   -    To get red dirt on my face, of course :D

   -  But also, I wanted to grow closer to God, and it happened in finding time and silence and relaxation to just sit and listen and pray and read

   -      I wanted to be more open and outgoing with others, and it happened through the sharing time with our ASC group and through good conversations and bonding, still struggling with being quiet and shy overall, but this trip helped me feel more comfortable in myself

-       I loved being on my own with God and nature, but I also stepped out of my comfort zone to let others in more and to just enjoy all the interactions and fun, new experiences together

I definitely miss the Outback, it was just overwhelmingly peaceful (minus flies) and comforting.  It was also like a whole new world, hard to believe people still live that remotely (reminds me of the Dominican), but it was cool to be integrated into that type of life even for a few days...Makes me realize more and more that I'm definitely not a city person.  But I am not a country person in terms of that type of remoteness either, lol, but I think I've decided I'd like a happy medium... :) preferably a place with skies that go on forever and kangaroos that hop past you on the road, nbd.




Sunday, April 14, 2013

New Zealand: Wellington

So for the first part of break I went with 5 girls to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. It's on the North Island (southern part) and is a beautiful harbor city.  Overall, it was an amazingly challenging but awesome trip, it was not what I had exactly dreamed of or expected, but God has been teaching me a lot that I need to be more grateful and enjoy what I do have-- I realized how spoiled I often am...Anyway, although it wasn't the typical New Zealand views you think of (kayaking through waterfalls with dolphins or hiking to snow-capped mountains, lol) it was still beautiful and relaxing nonetheless! And so cool to have seen just a glimpse of that gorgeous country!

So here's a day by day itinerary:

Day 1:

-       Got lost, (got laughed at! lol) got told wrong place to go in searching for a waterfall hike
-       Ended up finding a great hike to Mt. Kaukau
-       I think it would be considered a normal hike to any local, but to us it was phenomenal!
-       It was so green! Soo many shades of green-- I loved it!
-       The view was full of yellow, tan, green, with blue sky and puffy, fast moving clouds (and unfortunately lots of fog while we were there all week--which is why the sky looks white^)
-       Cameras don’t do it justice, so picturesque
-       Not the view I’d imagined, but was just as good because we worked to get there
-       I will never forget just running up the side of a steep cliff to the highest part we found at first, it was so windy we were tripping and falling and that made it all the more memorable and worth it :p!
-       We hiked and got lost and wandered all day, and it was exhausting but I just kept walking and was not bothered because everywhere I looked was interesting and new and gorgeous (we even walked all the way back to Wellington, got lost for over 3 hrs)
-       “Just 30 more minutes…” (that's what everyone kept telling us as we wandered trying to find Wellington after our hike, haha)
-       After first day, nice to relax and not have a plan all the time, stressful but freeing, my mind kept racing with all that I wanted to do there, but it’s a group and it’s limited time and money and I had to learn to go with it and adjust and appreciate what we did do, which ended up being awesome!
-       Learned that I need to go with the flow more, trust God more, not let frustration and expectations overwhelm me so much! (Below pic is the beautiful harbor, Wellington was just gorgeous, esp when the skies cleared up!)
-       Learned to THANK GOD more: creation, means, opportunity, safety, etc.
-       Found that the time and the views gave me opportunity to reflect and feel overwhelmed with emotion and thankfulness for God’s grace and love for me and his creation that he allows me to enjoy and experience
-       Random realization: BEING IN NEW ZEALAND MADE ME MISS MY FAMILY EVEN MORE!
-       Wanted them to be there to experience it-- Dad would love it (seclusion, peace, silence, wildlife, never-ending hikes and trails), Jami and Jase would love the adventure sports and such, and Caleb would love the LOTR references everywhere!
-       Overall, the visit was like a “TEASER” for me, I didn’t see all I wanted to, and I’d love to go back, especially to South Island!
-       But I still loved it because I did stuff that stretched me (literally sometimes :p ie. ropes course, haha!), challenged me, and was completely new to me. 
-       Fun fact: budget was $800 and I made it! (With six girls it was awesome because we split and shared and packed meals each day and cooked huge, awesome meals each night at the hostel! I learned to make pancakes :D) Food overall: $25 (score!)


Day 2:

-   Zip-line (“Flying Fox”) and high ropes course! Super high in the trees, hard to reach stuff cause I was too short :p, but still awesome to complete it and feel proud that I could
-       Physically hard but rewarding and beautiful and scary and exhilarating!
-       Indiana Jones rope swing! Aw yeah.
-       There was a literal skateboard on a rope across a wire and you just glide across on it--sweet!
-       Body- slammed a few times after ziplining to fast without breaking (fun! and woops! haha) and almost fell off twice from the rotating logs on ropes which were super slippy and hard to figure out, and there was a zipline hanger thing where my hands slipped at the end--eesh!


Day 3:

-       Mountain biking!
-       Hard, fell off twice! (cut & bruised...) haven't fallen off a bike since I was like 5 (not cool & embarrassing lol)
-       It was scary at times because it was a tiny trail right by the edge of the cliff..
-       Pushed my bike up 50% of the time (not gonna lie ;p)
-       REFUSED to give up! Although I was not physically completely able to do it, I still wanted to make it to the top, there was no way I wouldn’t after being halfway up lol
-       Minimal view at top (FOG and clouds...but still cool views on way up-- see below pic with windmills!)
-       But still felt proud and accomplished since it's something i'd not normally do
-       Going back down was fun, fast, and bumpy :D best part.
-       Same day: Wharf Jumping! (2 diff locations)
-        First one was this staircase thing ^, it was so fun and i'd never done something like it before! So cool, plus it's a tourist spot that locals tell you about but don't warn you :p (unknowing tourists get splashed/soaked because we stand too close to the edge when ppl jump off, hehe)
-       The other wharf jump we did was on a wooden “plank” over the actual harbor, supposed non-stinging jellyfish in it that locals told us about, but I didn't feel/see them :(
-       So COLD but exhilarating and cool feeling of adrenaline (esp of the high staircase one)!
-       Random: sweet, friendly woman asked to take our photos while on the plank lol, she told us how to pose haha

  *Trip Highlights:
o   Friendly, warm Kiwi people
o   Stumbling upon Mount Kaukau and loving it
o   Mountain biking to the top!
o   Wharf jumping!
o   Time for growth, prayer, reflection, and appreciation for my family & friends back home!