Day 21 Monday, August 18, 2013

This past weekend can be summed up with one-word “chill”.  Peyton and I simply enjoyed being home owners for the past couple days, cooking our own food with our own groceries (hand picked groceries, none of this eat what you mom brings home stuff), sitting on our nice brick patio, lounging in front of the T.V. (despite the fact that there are like three channels that work and watching Dr. Oz all day isn’t something I’m too keen to do), and today I even laid out for a while in the sunshine!  There has been no rain this Monday, and I am convinced the sunshine is here to stay.  We keep getting told that we are a couple weeks from amazing weather, which equals an amazing opportunity to go to the beach that is right down the road.  It’s kind of sad that we haven’t had a beach day, or even walked the beach because of the cold dreary weather.

As I was saying, most of this weekend was spent at the new house, and the nights consisted of Peyton and I sitting on my bed with our noses in our Mac’s expanding our knowledge on what makes us curious.  For me, my interest in the ocean was sparked by our oceanography trip out on the boat, and I have been busy researching deep ocean discoveries.  Life in the deep ocean (I’m talking 3000+ meters) is the final frontier on earth, and remains largely undiscovered.  I want to discover it.  They say the extreme conditions in the deep water, where the pressure and extreme cold make life almost impossible, is the closest thing we have to conditions on other planets.  The work they do at the bottom of the ocean, with their robots and manned submarines, is very similar to how they maneuver around places like Mars and the Moon.  This got me thinking about exploring space, which led to more Google and YouTube searches.  Get this, all life as we know it gets its energy from the sun, yet there are thriving ecosystems at the bottom of the sea where light has never touched.  There are creatures that live off water and heat (from the hydrothermal vents) alone, and don’t need photosynthesis or even stomachs for food to survive.  So if it only takes water and heat to create life, shouldn’t life on other planets be possible?  Am I turning into a nerd on this trip?  I suppose it’s a better alternative to constantly living on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and whatever else I was constantly connected to in my pre-world traveller life.

The most exciting thing this weekend was a trip to Glendalough to pick up some flippers and a mask and snorkel for my trip tomorrow morning.  I had searched on Gum Tree (an Australian equivalent to Craigslist) for a cheap set of flippers and found a great set for $30.  The only catch is that I had to meet the guy in his area, which was a train ride to Perth, and then a train ride to Glendalough away.  So Peyton and I made a day out of it on Sunday, and after making the purchase we walked around North Bridge.  While we were there we stopped at a really cool restaurant and Peyton ordered a single $6 taco and I ordered $6.50 guacamole and chips.  You should have seen the looks on our faces when Peyton’s miniature taco that was about ½ the size of his palm was delivered to our table.  Money doesn’t go far in Perth.

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Tomorrow we wake up at the crack of dawn to depart for Coral Bay and the Ningaloo Reef.  The drive is 15 hours total straight north, and we are doing the first ten tomorrow before stopping in Carnarvon to sleep at a hotel.  We travel another five the following day before reaching our destination.

I don’t know the exact details on the trip other than it is ten days long and we will be in the water basically the entire time seeing some of the most amazing things.  We were told that Internet is a little scarce up north, so this may be my last blog post for a while.  Expect a massive post with tons of juicy details after this once in a lifetime trip to Ningaloo.

If Internet is accessible, expect some updates!

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Day 18 Friday, August 16, 2013

Turning a knob to let up my electronic metal shutters that don’t let sun even think about coming in, I crawled out of bed and zombie shuffled it to the shower where I took my time in the consistently perfect temperature water.  To wake up in a new house that actually felt like home and not a vacation was a great feeling.  Even though this trip has been great so far, I feel like the move to this new house has really lifted my spirits to truly take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity.  We met Jennifer at the train station where we got aboard the 10:15 train to Perth station.  Once there we walked to North Bridge (it’s a North Bridge left, Perth right kind of thing) and entered the WA Museum.  We have one class a day, and this one was at the museum looking at some world-class exhibits.  Tough life.  After all the Aborigines history, stuffed animals and skeletons, stones and minerals, and history of life I could handle we left for a late lunch.  Our group of five snaked our way through the crowded mall to a food court of different ethnic foods.  I chose Indian, and made my best attempt at finishing a plate of three different curries over rice.  After lunch we headed back home to Fremantle.

            Back at the house Peyton and I relaxed.  I caught up on my blog, he caught up with family and friends back home, and we both caught an appetite around six.  Dinner was homemade Penne pasta with Bolognese sauce.  Yes, a homemade meal by yours truly.  It was delicious, and Peyton and I were content to continue relaxing the rest of the night, taking it easy for once on a Friday night.

 

Day 17 Thursday, August 15, 2013

Once again I’m slacking on the blogging.  So after a four-day break from recording my life, here is my attempt to catch up.

On Monday we had Conservation Biology with Kate.  The classes here are a little bizarre with only the professor and us four students.  They are also three hours of lecturing which can get very long, lets say, especially when there is so much being covered so quickly that your brain struggles to retain any of it.  Both of my professors are emailing me the PowerPoint’s so I can review and also get inspiration for our daily class reflections.  The reflections typically incorporate something learned in class and apply it to the real world with an example from a journal article, news article, YouTube video, or whatever else is on the web.  It’s been raining a lot here, which isn’t normal for such a dry continent, so we have been coming straight home from school and staying in most of the day.  Jennifer (Marine Biology Professor) told us this is the most it’s rained in the month in 50 years.  Just our luck.  Peyton and I chilled all night, looking forward to a big nights sleep with class at 1pm the next day.

We somehow managed to barely get out the door in time for school on Tuesday.  Apparently my body needed a ton of sleep, and it definitely got it.  We had class with Paul, where we went over our interviews with our cultural partners from the previous week. During these interviews we had to discuss each other’s names and how they came to be.  My partner was my friend Sam (my Australian friend I met at Doane).  After class we had a stats refresher course where I was basically reminded on how to use Excel, a program I am definitely familiar with.  After class we headed back to the house to relax for a while before heading to Freo for dinner with the girls.  They chose Mexican Kitchen, and I ordered the Mexi Plate with a beef enchilada, beef taco, rice, beans, and steak taquito.  I’m including the order in this blog because the food was that good, and I munched down every last morsel of the $24 plate.  I still haven’t adjusted to the prices here (that $24 dollar meal doesn’t include the $4 drink and $8 chips), but apparently it isn’t that bad for the locals because there is so much money being made here with the nearby mines and minimum wage of $20/hour.  Perth is going through an absolute economic boom and I have to live amongst the ‘young money’ with my measly American savings account.

Wednesday was Oceanography day, and by 10am we were in Jennifer’s (our Marine Biology professor) stick shift Subaru on the way to the marina to hop on a huge Catamaran boat with some other Uni student’s and head out into the ocean to test a spot where different types of water meet .  The boat was massive, and with a bag of chips with tomato sauce in hand (fries and ketchup), I explored the two levels of the boat which included a dry area with couches and a bar, captains control room, and an upper and lower level outdoor seating area.  We were taught about the different devices on board and how they were to be used and why exactly we were using them.  One instrument measured wind speed, one measured wind direction, one measured salinity and oxygen levels, one measured visibility, one measured temperature, one measured the current direction, and one collected water from deep to compare to water near the surface.  Needless to say it was a science filled day, and most passengers caught a couple z’s on the 30 minutes boat ride back to the dock from the testing spot.  I had Zed’s Fish & Chips for dinner and chilled with Peyton at the house the remainder of the night.  Just kidding, after some food we headed over to Murdoch Uni to hang out with the other CIEE group and their friends in one of their flats.  Many people of many nations came and went from the flat and we all shared drinks and had a great time before heading into downtown Freo for another student night at Newport.  After a long night of dancing and socializing I was happy to meet my bed again.

I vow never to drink boxed wine again, after the headache I woke up with on Thursday morning.  By 1:30 I was packing up all my stuff to move houses.  Peyton and I moved a block down the street to a house where Peyton wouldn’t live in a broom closet, there wouldn’t be standing water in the shower room and toilet room at all times, the shower wouldn’t decide go cold or hot whenever it pleased, the internet would be better, and we would have some more social and cheery housemates.  I never realized how depressing of a setting we were living in until we moved.  The new house turned out to be everything we wanted, with Peyton and I both getting big rooms with big beds and plenty of closet space.  We have a huge, clean bathroom that is dry.  The shower is great and there is even a huge whirlpool tub!  We have the whole upstairs to ourselves, and downstairs is a huge kitchen with a dining room and living room, and best of all a guest toilet.  The move took us out of a dreary situation in the dark old house, and put us into the quality of home we are both used to.  We both agree the move was much needed.  After getting unpacked we took the bus to campus to do laundry for the first time, as we both had to wear repeat clothes.  The washing and drying process took so long that we had time to walk over a mile to the closest grocery store and buy very reasonably priced groceries that will definitely help our budgets in one of the most expensive cities in the world.  When we got back we were surprised to see that the dryer had not completely dried our clothes.  Out of money and patience, and bellies on E, we headed back to the house with damp baskets of laundry.  Peyton rigged a clothesline under our front porch roof with his camping hammock (it had literally been raining four days straight), and I set most of my clothes on the living room floor to dry, only hanging my most damp articles on the clothesline.  We cooked ourselves a couple frozen pizzas and relaxed the rest of the night.  Life is good in the new house.

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Day 13 Sunday, August 11, 2013

I’ve been bad about adding to my blog so I will do a quick recap of what I remember (it’s not easy because we do so many things and go to so many places).  On Thursday we had our first Marine Biology lecture with Jennifer.  The class had interesting material, but was hard to digest as we raced through 90+ slides on PowerPoint in three hours.  It probably didn’t help that Wednesday is a big party night in Freo, and we had been our till the wee hours of the morning at Newport club on student night.  Our only class on Wednesday was with Paul where we talked about getting used to the culture and were assigned the task of making an Australian friend and interviewing them.  I slept all day Thursday and went to bed early.  Note to self, avoid cheap wine.  On Friday we woke up early to be picked up by Kate and Jennifer at the girls house and headed off to the local aquarium.  It was really neat to see all the local animals and corals, knowing we will soon be swimming amongst them ourselves.  We had to fill out a huge packet while we were there, but it really helped us learn so we all appreciated it.  After the aquarium Peyton and I went to our favorite bar/brewery, Little Creatures, and tried out another one of their signature beers.  We munched on a big basket of frites (fries) and were set.  I accidently walked out without paying and the waiter ran me down, oops.

Later that night Peyton and I had two Aussie guys over that we had met at ultimate frisbee on Monday.  We sat around the table on our back patio and shared stories and played card games.  It was fun to have a chill night with Australian friends, who are really just like us.  We headed into Freo to check out the nightlife scene, deciding the trip to Northbridge in Perth where all the best nightlife is was too big of a trek that late at night.  Besides, the buses stop at 2am on the weekends and we would have had to walk home from the train station (a 30 minute walk).  Instead we had a late night Kebab (with garlic sauce, a horrible idea) and went to Newport, which wasn’t all that exciting which surprised me considering it was supposed to be one of Freo’s best clubs.  I’m learning that the party is somewhere new every night and you either have to know what your’e doing or stumble on to a crazy night at the club’s.  I also need to remind myself that this is a port-town of 30,000 and Miami Beach.

Saturday I slept in till noon, which felt amazing.  By 1:30 I was out the door on my way to Perth to see Sam play a Footy (Australian rules football) game.  I made this journey alone which was a first and a bit nerve wracking knowing I was heading into the jaws of a big city alone (2 million population).  I made it to Perth fine on the train, but once I got there the big city swallowed me in, and the plan I had in my head went out the door and I scrambled to find the bus stop that would take me to Hamer Park where Sam was playing.  After asking directions I found what I thought was my stop, but the bus ended up taking me to the train station where I started.  After asking for help again, this time from a bus driver, I was pointed to the correct bus stop.  I still felt uneasy being completely alone and clueless in the looming unknown city, but my worries were put to rest when the bus driver said he knew exactly where Hamer Park was and he would let me know exactly when to get off.

I arrived at Sam’s game late into the 4th quarter, but I still got to see what his level of Footy was all about.  It is a brutal game, a combination of soccer, football, and rugby, with no pads.  Sam hurt his knee and got a possible concussion, which he said is normal.  We headed to his house where I met his big family and American cousins who were living there as well.  We ordered pizza and then went out for the night.  We went to several bars, attempted to get into a couple crowded night clubs with hour long lines, and visited a couple houses.  It was a fun and crazy night to say the least, but I would expect nothing less from my crazy Australian friend

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Sunday I woke up, ate breakfast prepared by Sam’s mom, and then got dropped off at the train station.  Once I got back I showered and left for the train station again with Peyton for the Fremantle professional Footy game (AFL).  We met the girls, the Clarke kids, and Paul and his family at the stadium in Subiaco (about ¾ of the way between Fremantle and Perth).  Everyone wore purple, and Paul gave us each a purple Freo scarf and paid for our tickets.  The stadium was packed, as 30,000+ fans watched their hometown Fremantle Docker’s demolish the South Sydney Giants.  It was great to watch, and I was blown away by the accuracy of the player’s kicks and their split second decisions as they withstood bone-crushing tackles.  I treated myself to a fresh sugar donut at halftime.

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After the game Peyton and I picked up some Indian food and headed back to the house for the night to do homework and prepare for the following week

Day 8 Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Class was at 9:30 with Kate.  She is Paul’s wife as well as our Conservation Biology professor.  Class was fun, as we bounced from classroom to coffee shop to outside to the CIEE room.  For three hours we discussed the class expectations and the first lecture.  We are assigned a reflection from each class that will end up being a journal that we turn in for a large portion of our grade. 

            After class Peyton and I headed back for lunch at Zed’s Fish and Chips, which we were sad to discover was closed.  Moving on to the next option we headed a little bit further down the road to a café where I ordered a plate of pasta because I noticed the owner was Italian (and because it was the cheapest thing on the menu at $12).  There are hardly any restaurants here with wait staff like in America, because there is no tipping.  You order at the counter and wait at your table till the food is brought to you.  Spaghetti ended up being a good choice!

            After a little down time Peyton and I headed to downtown Freo to walk around.  We met Sam there in-between one of his classes and he suggested a famous brewery/bar/restaurant on the harbor that boasts one of the top 100 beers in the world, the Little Creatures Pale Ale.  Of course that was our next stop, and the next hour or so found us enjoying a view of the boats with a world-class brew in our hands.

            The docks walked and the streets strolled, we headed back to the house for a relaxing evening while the girls went out to a party.  

Day 7 Monday, August 5, 2013

This was our first completely free day, so of course we were completely busy the entire day.  Peyton and I headed into Freo first thing in the morning.  We stopped for breakfast at a café.  There are so many that are so similar I forgot the name, but it was very good.  It is impossible to have a meal here for under $10 which is really hurting the wallet.  After breakfast we searched and searched for the post office so we could get our proof of age cards so we wouldn’t have to keep lugging our passports around to the bars.  We must have asked for directions five times and walked nearly the whole downtown area before finally finding the place.  $25, a passport and credit card scan later we had successfully ordered our cards.  The next order of business was getting a phone plan.  After scavenging the town once more for a stand that could unlock my iPhone so I could get a new sim card, we discovered it would cost $80.  So instead of wasting all that money I went to the Telstra store and purchased their cheapest phone and cheapest plan.  Now I will be able to text and call basically as much as I need to within Australia, and all usage after 6pm is free.  All incoming calls and texts are free as well.  So I’m slowly getting integrated to life here in WA.

            We headed back to the house to relax for a while before meeting up with my friend Sam at The Orient Bar.  I met Sam at Doane.  He is Australian and had come to Doane for a semester to play baseball.  He lives in Perth but takes the train to Fremantle every day where he studies at Notre Dame.  It was great to catch up with him, and he filled us in on the fun things to do in the area.  He will be a great connection as I try to get integrated into the culture. 

            From the bar we took a bus to the girl’s house, and from there we took a bus to Murdoch University for Monday night ultimate frisbee.  Some guys we met at the campus Tavern the previous Thursday had invited us, and of course we showed up an hour late because we could not find the field (which ended up being about 50 feet from the bus stop or about 15 meters as I should say here).  It was good fun even though it was rainy and slippery and Peyton took a frisbee to the lip.  We even got invited to an awesome music festival in September by one of the guys.

            After another big day we were ready for bed knowing Tuesday would be our first day of class at Murdoch.

Day 6 Sunday, August 4, 2013

Bags packed, the crew hopped in the van and said goodbye to The Cove and Denmark.  On the way back we stopped to watch a community Rugby match and eat our sandwich lunch.  It was interesting to see, and after about 15 minutes of watching I had it figured out.  We are going to a professional match later in the semester.  The trip back was painless and I finally got to listen to the new Kanye West and Jay-Z albums in their entirety. 

            We were pretty wiped once we got back to the house, so instead of going to Murdoch to party with our new CIEE friends, Peyton and I walked up the street, ordered a pizza and chilled on our back patio with our roommate Roman.  After some good conversation with the Russian we were both ready for an early bedtime.

Day 5 Saturday, August 3, 2013

Breakfast was self serve, and by nine we were off on a four-hour hike to Monkey Rock, the highest point in the area with too good to be true views.  Along the way, Ilya (our tour guide and the builder of our house) told us all about the land and different vegetation and animals.  This mountain man had a mountain of knowledge.

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After a lunch of leftover steak from the night before we hopped in the van and took a 45-minute drive to the Valley of the Giants for a treetop walk amongst the enormous red Tingle trees.  These monsters resembled the redwoods of California.  It was a great experience to walk on a bridge near the tops of the trees and get a sense of just how high they reach.

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Group inside Tingle tree

On the way back we stopped at a surfer beach and walked around to get a last look at the South Ocean.

Group pic South Ocean

 

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The rest of the evening consisted of conversation, more chess, and a game of Australian style Pictionary.  At night we ventured out to waters edge in the cove and sat in the sand and did some stargazing.  There was minimal light pollution and we were able to observe a set of stars that none of us had scene before.  We were shocked at the brightness and clarity of stars as there was not a cloud in the sky.  We could see the Milky Way and even a black ring in the sky, as well as countless shooting stars.  This led to talk of outer space, which led to talk of other mind-blowing things, and we ended up sitting there for a couple hours lost in interesting conversation.  I always appreciate some intelligent conversation.  We all headed to bed that night with crazy thoughts in our heads.  We all agreed it was a great night.

Day 4 Friday, August 2, 2013

We left for Denmark (Australia) when it was still dark.  Paul picked us up with his friend Michael and we headed to Murdoch to pick up the other CIEE kids.  Zach, Erica, Willy, Seth, and Becca all hopped in the van bringing our group total to nine and we started our six-hour journey south to Denmark.  On the way we kept commenting on how the landscapes changed to different American states, which goes to show that there is a lot to look at here.  We stopped at a gas station for breakfast and a park for lunch.

On the way we stopped at a museum commemorating the life of the indigenous people of Australia where we learned a brief history of the original Australians (when I say brief I mean the Aborigines tour guide flew through the exhibit in record time), and then snacked on some Billy Tea and Damper (bread) prepared Aborigines style by a fire.  I bought a sports boomerang in the gift shop to support the local economy.

We visited an animal farm/petting zoo next where we got to feed kangaroos, goats, llamas, emus, bunnies, a camel, chickens, and ferrets, among others.  We even got to pet a couple koala bears and watch racing pigeon’s fly in formation.  Feeding the emus was terrifying but definitely exhilarating!  They are incredibly accurate with their pecks and can snatch the pellets from your hand without hurting you.

Peyton, Me, and the Koalas

When we finally got to Denmark we were met with beautiful tall trees and chilly
weather.  We were basically as far south as you can be without being in Antarctica, so of course swimming in the South Ocean sounded like a perfect idea!  So the whole troop got our suits on and headed to the amazingly beautiful beach and proceeded to swim around for about 30 minutes in the 50 something degree water.  It actually wasn’t that bad once you became numb and stayed under water, but once you climbed out on a rock the cold breeze made sure you didn’t forget how insane you were being.  The water was crystal clear and beautiful, and how many more opportunities am I going to have to swim in the South Ocean?

Hunger was an issue at this point so I was extremely excited when we threw a bunch of kangaroo and beef steaks on the grill for a huge dinner feast.  It hadn’t even been a day yet and we were already great friends with our CIEE friends (all five from Clark College).  The house (The Cove) we stayed in was absolutely amazing, built by hand from different local woods and reclaimed glass, and plenty big for our group of 11 to live as one big family.  The guys slept upstairs and we each had our own bed.  A fireplace heated the whole thing and did a great job considering the wintery weather outside.  The evening consisted of chess and good conversation.  Sleep came easy after such a big day.

Day 3 Thursday, August 1, 2013

In the morning Peyton and I walked up the street to the bakery where I got a coffee and a bacon and egg sandwich.  The lady could tell I was American just by the way that I ordered.  By 9:30 Paul picked us up with the girls and we headed into Freo, downtown Fremantle.  We had breakfast at an awesome place called Moore & Moore.  The coffee here isn’t filtered, rather espresso and a little bit of milk because it’s stronger. 

            We walked around town and got a feel for the shops.  We figured out where the cell phone store was and what we will need, and also where we can get our over 18 ID’s.  We will get both of those things on Monday, our first free day. 

            After exploring the beautiful port town we headed to Curtin University Sustainability Policy headquarters where we met our Sustainability professors Anne and Talia and a lot of other passionate people.  CUSP is where we will be doing some studying, but mainly a place for graduate students to work and discuss sustainable projects.  We sat in on a discussion about wind turbines bringing renewable energy to Fremantle, and saw first hand how daunting of a task getting a project like that is to get running.

            Next we headed to Murdoch where we met our Marine Biology professor Jennifer.  We discussed the semester and expectations, and then went to the Unicredit spot on campus and created accounts for our time here in Australia.  After snacking on some free sausage sandwiches on the Bush Court (the quad) we headed to the Tavern on campus where we met some Australian students who invited us to play ultimate frisbee on Monday night.  Already getting integrated into the student population!

            We took the bus back to our house where we walked to get groceries for dinner.  From there we walked to the girls house where they prepared the spaghetti and meat sauce and the guys did the dishes.  We headed back for a good nights sleep before our 6:15 departure for Denmark.