Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Visit to the Great Barrier Reef!

So I know I have taken forever to update this. Sorry! Crazy busy few weeks.  

The highlights of March:

Going to Manly beach (I love Manly!) for sunset-- some of us got in the water in our clothes--yeah....regretted that afterward traveling home :p, but it was so warm and so fun! … plus we stayed out late and heard some music in a park and people dancing and the nightlife at Manly was super chill and different but so cute! After a long night, we went home via trains and buses and barely caught the last ones (those of us who live in Concord have to deal with the annoying public transportation closing early on weekends—so weird)

Then Saturday we went to Featherdale Wildlife Park! A petting zoo! It was amazing, fed kangaroos, played with wallabies, saw a joey in a pouch, petted a koala and got the tourist pic with it, saw a quokka which I didn’t know existed, but is my new fav! Crocodile was huge and didn't move at all and was terrifying! Saw a sleeping dingo, Tasmanian devil, some vibrantly- colored birds, and lots of big, poisonous snakes and reptiles…eek. Also learned that Emus are mean.  Saw an echidna and a wombat. Koalas are super slow-moving and lazy and just really do look drunk and grumpy.  Kangaroos are super aggressive for food (one grabbed my hand with both paws, so cute but kinda hurt, lol). They also bite a little bit…

The only frustrating part was when my camera died after three pictures.  I was so upset, and I know its just a camera blah blah, but still, I was so looking forward to this moment to capture all these animals for memory and for people to see, so I was just really frustrated. My friends took pics for me though, which I am so thankful for!

Saturday night was awesome! I went and chilled with some friends and made a picnic and then went to Strathfield park to play around on the playgrounds until the movie :D. We laid on a blanket and ate popcorn and watched Sherlock Holmes under the amazing stars—all free! So relaxing and muchly needed!

Sunday was also a great day but with frustration! We as a whole group wanted to go to Bondi Beach for the first time, but we all went at different times from different places and it took me and my roommate almost 3 hours to get there. Then I could only stay 2.5 hours and had to leave to go to night church that I wanted to visit.  It ended up taking just as long to get back and we ended up not going to church because we were so late!

The following weekend was the best...because....I went to Cairns, Queensland and snorkeled on the Great Barrier Reef! One of my life dreams achieved!

Cairns Weekend:
- Got kissed on the cheek by an Australian who showed us how to get to the train station for the airport
- $4 burger and soda at hostel in Cairns (yay poor college travelers)
- 6 am, walk to marina, excited to discover that our tourboat for the reef was not sketchy! Yay, however, my debit card didn’t work. UGH. Thankfully my friend covered me. 
- Got wet suits! (covered head to toe because of the jellyfish).
- Got lunch and snacks and coffee and watermelon and coconut cake while on the boat!

- Tanned/ burned on sun deck of boat
- Had a great moment reflecting and admiring God's creation as I just watched the gorgeous views of mountains, cliffs, islands, and blue-green water go past.

- The first snorkel trip was kinda scary—we had to swim through deep cloudy water until all the sudden: bam! the reef was right under me...amazing
- First time snorkeling: choked on water and bad at mask and breathing, had my mask too tight and literally my forehead was bruised and hurt for days after. haha! woops
- Surprisingly got a little sea sick on the first time around...weird.
- Spent a lot of time taking spastic videos and pics (underwater camera case worked!)
- Amazed by vibrant colors on fish and coral, fluorescent greens and purples and yellows
- Amazing textures, big fish, tiny fish, metallic fish, anemones moving in the currents
- Saw a big squid! and some mini ones in groups (my friend got one to ink! haha)--  the big one scared me because I saw some bubbles and took a pic like "oh whats this from?" and then AH! it came shooting out of the trench! (Those were the bubbles--so cool right?) Little did I know ;)
- Saw no sea turtle while snorkeling (SAD) but saw one while up on the boat deck
- Some parts we snorkeled were soo deep and scary and hard to see, others so shallow I was afraid to touch and break the coral
- It really was just like Finding Nemo: With the “drop-off” and the trenches
- Didn't see (or feel) any jellies :p! Yay (BUT did see some huge White Box Jellyfish floating while up on the boat deck on the way back! EW)
- Second time around snorkeling was much better, didn’t hurt my forehead or choke or get water in goggles as much
- Much more relaxed and focused on taking things in
- Dove down a lot more, more comfortable holding breath with snorkel and being closer up was way cooler!
- Saw nemo!
- Saw gill!
- Favorite fish: huge purple and green fish that was so weird looking and swam around eating things and spitting them out
- Saw the ripply, weird thing that is in the beginning of finding nemo?  It was cool cause it looks like a big shell just chillin there but it breathed through a hole on to. (I think it's a giant clam?)
- Loved the drop off and the contrast between deep dark water and the shallow reef-- the depth made it feel like an endless world and so creepy but awesome!
- Swimming back to boat each time was scary because you could see nothing around you but cloudy water, hard to even see other snorkelers at times
- Loved being on the boat both ways, just laid out and talked and relaxed
- The crew was super funny and nice and not sketchy :p
- At times I felt fear and excitement and AWE, just being able to see God’s immense works like the mountains on the way to the reef versus the intricate works like the detailed coral..
- I just kept thinking: this is why I believe in a CREATOR

Later that day, after our reef tour was over, we walked around Cairns and discovered a community pool type thing which was FREE and had fountains and food and music and sand that led into it (Cairns beaches are muddy and gross so I think they made this pool as an alternative :p)

The next day:
- Got up at 5:45 AM for sunrise on marina, sail boats and contrast of sun and mtn shadow on water was gorgeous
-       got food for picnic, went back for free pancakes at hostel (fail, so small..haha)
-       slept some more! Sooo tired! Snorkeling is exhausting!
-       Got up and checked out of hostel, then walked 1 hr to Botanic Gardens!
-       Explored, ate picnic, rainforest boardwalk, lakes, CROCODILE WARNINGS
-       Played cards, talked, relaxed
-       Went to flower gardens
-       Saw Aboriginal context of rain forest uses

-       Saw more Aborigines in Cairns than ever before in Sydney or anywhere

-       Loved the relaxed, sleepy, beachy, touristy feel of Cairns

-       Loved the surprising scenery of mountains, marina, boats

-       Mountain horizon reminded me of the DR

·      God moment on boat on way to the reef, just in AWE!

·      Loved seeing the reef like in Finding Nemo! (lighter colored in water and could see it in the horizon!)

So that's all for now...Saturday March 30th I'm off to New Zealand for break, I return Wednesday, and then I leave Thursday for the OUTBACK with our ASC group! I'll be there for another week! So goodbye reality and technology for a while! :) Thanks for the prayers and support!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

So it's been a stressful first two weeks here. Probably due to my tendency toward worry and such, but with re-arranging classes, booking flights and hostels to the Great Barrier Reef and New Zealand, and just adjusting, I have been feeling really stressed and overwhelmed. It's hard to take time to just stop and appreciate, which I told myself I would do! Ah. I hope now that I booked these trips and such that I will be more relaxed. Anyway, all that aside, I am so grateful and blessed and excited that I get to do these trips! I will be super poor :p, but I know that I will not regret it-- the travel, the experience, the beauty-- I'm so thankful! I only wish I had my family here to share it with me.

Let's see, I'm not sure what I posted in past posts, so sorry if I repeat myself! Here's the past week:
- I am officially pro at hailing buses, I feel sooo cool when I do it. Not. It's super awkward, like when a bus comes that you DON'T want, I look down and back away and act all awkward like, "Hey Mr. Bus Driver, please don't think that I want this bus and please don't pull over for me and make all the riders get mad--this is me definitely not hailing you." Meanwhile, when I want a bus, I put my hand awkwardly in the air trying not to look like a waving lunatic but to still look like I know what I'm doing. So I try to look all cool and casual flick my wrist with my bus pass in hand, like yeah I know what I'm doing pshhh.. lol
While on the topic of buses, most of us have found that ALREADY, they are the bane of our existence. Most people think "Oh you're going to Australia! You're going to surf and tan and play with kangaroos..." BUT nope. Instead, most of my time is spent studying bus schedules, trying to find coordinating ones, then of course waiting for them (many are late or don't show up), and then being on the bus, which from my hostfamily house is usually at least a half hour per busride and I take two buses to get anywhere...so yeah add all that up and getting anywhere takes foreverrrr. Therefore, buses = frustrating and bane of existence.

Fun Facts time:

1) P Sherman 42 Wallaby Way does NOT exist, much to my chagrin.
2)  I have been to one beach so far, Manly, and I am outside often, however, the weather has been super rainy and cloudy so NO I am not as tan as you'd think.
3) I have not yet seen any wild Australian animals, except for Rainbow Larkeys which are bright red and green and yellow and gorgeous! BUT they live outside my house and in packs and they are the most annoying birds ever. They start screeching and like making really obnoxious noises starting at 5 AM outside my window. You'd think they have pretty singy-songy bird calls, but noo way. They ruin their exotic-ness :p.
4)  I have not even seen any zoo animals either, but this weekend we get to feed kangaroos and pet koalas and feed wallabies! So excited.
5) If I haven't mentioned this before, I did see my first official celebrity at LAX and I walked right past Fergie and Josh Duhamel (who is in the movie "Safe Haven" which I had just watched a few days before). Incidentally, that day they officially announced they were pregnant. How cute :) Oh and true to the common pics of celebrities in LAX, he was wearing a baseball cap and she was wearing sunglasses, of course. So yay, claim to fame.
6) True to the stereotype, most people here are beyond friendly. Like if you're lost, which of course I often am, you can ask anyone for help and they go way out of their way to help you. Despite some accents and weird phrases that are hard to understand :p, it's often quite helpful and easy to get around with locals' help.
7) So yes, most people are friendly, but there are those exceptions...which often seem to be bus drivers. So here is my first bad, sketchy story of public transportation in Sydney (which I have not yet told my mom...sorry mom)--

My roommate and I were coming home late to our house on a super rainy, gross evening. It was around 9:30 PM and we caught our regular second bus to get home. Well it was a more shaky, bumpy, speedy ride than normal, and buses are already crazy and somewhat scary to ride on due to the driver going so fast and such, but this one was worse. The driver must have been in a hurry. For example, our friend got off a few stops before us, and the driver literally closed the doors on her, which pushed her off the bus into the rain. Not cool. So then when we got to our stop we pushed the button and it didn't work, so we missed our stop. The bus circles around so we figured we'd be fine to stay on til then. But a few minutes later the driver literally stopped the bus and said "Okay last stop, get out." We were confused because that was not the last stop. So we asked him if we could stay on til our stop and he said "No get off, I'll be back in five minutes."...?... So we got out and were in a back alley, at night, in the pouring rain, and we had no idea where we were.  Unsure of what to do, we waited for a while and he came back, and I got on and said "Can you please tell me why you did that?" He said, "I had to pee." Now....the bus reeked of cigarette smoke and it had not before... SO. My roommate and I decided that this driver had dropped us off in the rain and stopped his route to go smoke for a bit...just because. When we got off the bus again, my roommate said to him, "I'm sorry, but that was not okay." And the driver said, "Oh really, what ya gonna do about it?" When we got home and told our host dad, he said that this was actually illegal for the driver to not complete his route and to kick people off the bus. So we called and filed a complaint but that is all we know.

So wow this is a long post, well I guess I'll finish it by saying, if you'd like to pray for me you can of course pray for safety, but also pray for my frustrations with things like public transportation :p and even frustrations with myself sometimes.. I just want to enjoy my time here and not overthink and analyze and worry so much. Also, I'm feeling much better from my cold! My ear is still messed up, but my dad says nothing's wrong so yay :) Thanks for the prayers!... and thanks for reading this if you lasted that long! ;)