Friday, December 30, 2011

Fox Hunting, Pizzas, and Beaches

Day 3 in Sydney Australia started out much differently than the first two days. The delirium brought by 20 hours on planes, followed by a full day of hiking and sight seeing, has worn off. My internal clock is on Aussie time, which I am thankful for. I believe my body didn’t go through bad jet lag, due to the fact that it was encased in a tube of metal, with no light, for about 11 hours over the Pacific Ocean. At that point, I was able to just jump into whatever time zone I found myself in, with little to no problems. That said, This morning was all about the thing which we all dread... School. We had two papers due by 8am, and a test over the book, “In a Sunburned Country,” at 9:15. After that, our plans were our own until one o’clock, when we rejoined as one group, and continued our exploration of Sydney. 

The currency in Australia is not like the US at all. Their dollar bills are colorful, with places on them that you can see through. The value of their coins are based more on the type of metal than anything else. In the United States, a quarter is both bigger, and worth more, than the other coins. Here, the largest coin is a silver 50 cent piece, while the smallest is a gold two dollar coin. It feels odd holding such a small coin, and knowing that it’s worth $2 (granted $2 will get you nowhere here in Sydney.) 

A hefty portion of our afternoon was spent exploring the Olympic Park. In the year 2000, Sydney hosted the Olympics. A massive “city” was created specifically for the event, and now lies virtually empty, bar some occasional use. Monuments and similar items have been erected, celebrating the athletes glorious achievements. The pool area has been refitted for use by the public, and the stadium is used for concerts, cricket matches, and other events similar to these. Having never been to an Olympic park, whether for the Olympics or after, this opportunity was welcomed with much enthusiasm. 

On the train ride back to Circular Quay from the Olympic park, a conversation was struck up between myself and a middle aged gentlemen wearing multiple jackets. I know this, because he stood there and took off each jacket, one by one. Anyways, the man is a fox-hunter. “Ya let the hounds get afta the foxes, and you just say, “Tally ho foxes!” Our thoroughbreds can jump anythin’ that gets in their way.” The man seemed quite proud of his hunting ability, and was willing to share with anyone who gave them a minute of their time. 

Upon arriving at Circular Quay, we boarded a ferry headed to Manly Beach. We were able to see the harbour from an entirely different viewpoint, which was quite the experience. After watching the scenery slip by, we arrived at Manly beach and walked down a lengthy strip of shops, bars, and restaurants, to end up at a gorgeous shoreline. Within 5 minutes of enjoying the sight, we realized some girls were being rescued by a local surfer and some of their friends. I tell you this folks, anyone who says Australia is dangerous, is not kidding! After splashing through the shallow end (no sharks for me, thank you!) we ended up at the Sugar Lounge where they were serving $5 pizzas. I chose a smoked chicken with mango and brie... It was delicious! The ferry ride back to Sydney was chilly, windy, and a tad bumpy. My only experience with ferries comes from Seattle (Puget Sound) which is definitely a much calmer passage than through this harbor. It was rough, but seeing the Sydney Harbour lit up at night, glowing for all to see... That, made it all worth it!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Spectacular Views


From the Sydney Harbor Bridge, one can see all of Sydney. From the Botanical Gardens, to Darling Harbor, and The Rocks. The view is great, and the weather was nice. It was a nice hike up the to top of the bridge, but it was definitely worth it!

View from the Harbor Bridge
The Sydney Opera House
makes for a nice backdrop.

The exchange rate from US to Australia is generally higher (our dollar is worth less) than most other countries, but sometimes hovers around 1. That would be fine, except I have learned that the cost of living in Australia is rather high. $4 for a Coke. $14 for a pack of four AAA batteries. $6 for some toothpaste. I was prepared for the more expensive cost due to the exchange rate, but hadn't considered the cost of living being so much higher. Also, restaurants do NOT refill your drinks. I paid $2.50 for a soda, and then ended up drinking water after finishing off my small cup of Coke. Needless to say, I believe I'll stick to water from here on out! The minimum wage here is much higher, as well as the per hour cost for skilled labor. Everything is just so expensive!

There are public toilets available as you explore the city of Sydney. Before you ask, "Who would go in a port-a-potty in Australia?!?!", let me explain. These bathrooms are large, secure, and are not free. You have to pay to use them! I might just work up the courage to enter one before we depart for Brisbane...

Public Toilet

The more I explore the college in which we are staying, the more I feel like I'm in Hogwarts. There is a great hall, with long tables for eating at. I feel as if I will, if I look hard enough, see the sorting hat sitting on a stool at the other end of the room. There are crests, symbols, and shields. Winding hallways and secret passages. Maybe I'll find a painting to talk to while I'm here.

Students arriving at Wesley College (Hogwarts

First day... American Style

First off, Sydney is a place full of art, and beauty. Amidst the tall, shiny buildings, there are groves of mature trees. Amidst the bustling traffic, there are birds, bats, and butterflies. Amidst the human living space,  the natural environment still exists. Instead of tearing down anything green and building in it's place, Sydney has incorporated it's everyday activities into nature. Look to your right, and see a car. Look to your left, and see a pond with bats and ducks living happily. From across the harbor, one can see the corner of the Botanical Gardens. This outstanding nature preserve is a welcoming sanctum from the hustle of the city.

The locals are fun, energetic people. I have seen a lot of men and women alike hurrying about the city. A businessman ran past our group to catch his bus. A teenager zoomed by on his skateboard. An older lady hobbled along with a cane to reach the train she was awaiting. The people that inhabit Sydney are active, and not slothful. Everyone, is going everywhere!

"Stupid Americans." This is a phrase heard often as a group of 17 Americans try to make their way around Australia. While searching for another group of friends in The North Face, all we had to ask was, "Is there a group of Americans in here?" The clerk pointed us straight to them. Apparently, it is easy to point us out!

A street contortionist performed at Circular Quay, and chose one of our own Auburn students to help her. She knew we were American by our "enthusiasm." I'm not sure what to take from that yet, but I feel like enthusiasm is an important thing to have in life.

On day one of this trip, I already feel like I know my way around. I feel as if I've been here, and belong here. Sydney is an amazing place, full of wonders that I can never get tired of seeing.

The University of Sydney at Sunset

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

And as I looked through the small, prison like window, I saw... shining out to the world, underneath the rays of the Australian sunrise... The massive golden arches, standing tall and proud, of McDonalds. Welcome to Sydney, Australia.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Bizarre Foods

The Travel channel's, "Bizarre Foods", starring Andrew Zimmern, did an episode on Eastern Australia. First up : Sydney. "Australia is all about contradictions. It's home to one of the oldest civilizations, and the most modern world-class cities."

#1 - Kangaroo Tail Soup : Tastes like beef... Then let's eat a cow! No matter what, I can't come home from Sydney and not be able to say that I tried this...

#2 - Quandong : A fruit harvested from trees that can only grow if the seed has germinated in an Emu's digestive system, and sprouted in it's dung. Yum!

#3 - Vegemite : It has been estimated that 9 out of 10 Australians have vegemite in their homes. Try it on toast, with butter. I'm sure we'll be able to find it in any restaurant!

#4 - Tiger Pie : Sold at Harry's Cafe de Wheels. "You can't go to Sydney and not have a Tiger Pie from Harry's." It is pie crust, holding meat stew, mashed potatoes, mushy peas, and a dollop of gravy on top. Meat pies are a staple of Australian eating, but the Tiger Pie is considered to be top of the line.

I'm all for trying new things, but kangaroo will be a tad interesting!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Packing Pro

Today is our pre-departure meeting. We were told to come to the meeting packed, and ready to go to Australia. We will walk to downtown Auburn for a drink (I'll be getting tea!), so that we can get a feel for how traveling with our luggage will be like.

I wanted to take one bag to avoid paying all the checked luggage fees. Also one bag means less "junk" to lug around! New Zealand's carry-on weight limit is 10kg, which is a little over 20 pounds. I was able to pack one bag, which weighs 14 lbs.

On the trip home, I'm sure it will weigh more!!!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Itinerary Coming Together

I just booked some flights! On January 26th, I'll fly from Auckland to Queenstown. On January 29th, I'll fly from Christchurch back to Auckland. Other students are on these flights, and we will all travel from Queenstown to Christchurch together.

Here is a link to the "big" blog, that has details of the entire trip.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Auburn University Down Under

On December 26, I will fly from Atlanta GA to Sydney Australia. I will be abroad for 40 days, visiting Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, Australia, as well as Auckland, New Zealand.