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.

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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.

Day 2 Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I landed in Brisbane at 5:15am local time.  The flight lasted over 15 hours!  Notice the date, as I literally lost a day of my life traveling over the International Date Line.  Don’t worry; I’ll get it back on my way home.  I sat next to a really nice guy, originally from New Zealand, but had lived in most major Australian cities and travelled a lot.  He told me that Aussies like to tease you and “knock you down” when they first meet you, but you shouldn’t be offended as that’s just how they make everyone equals.  He said each city is different since there aren’t many of them, Perth being huge into the environment and sustainability.  He also said that everyone will want to hear us talk to hear our accents and ask us our political views.  I watched several movies on the plane, and was really impressed by the touch screens in each seat that offered tons of entertainment from a wide selection of movies and television shows, to games and music.  I also slept eight hours on the flight, thanks to a late night airline dinner and a free Bundaberg (Australian Rum that I later learned is hated by most locals) and Coke.

I chilled in the Brisbane airport for a while after going through customs and ordered a coffee.  By 8:20am I was off on my way to Perth.  I thought the flight was going to be a little over three hours, but ended up being slightly over five hours because of a two-hour time change I hadn’t considered.  This flight was a little rough since I was so excited to get to Perth.  I landed in Perth around noon local time and was met by Paul, my program director, and Emma, one of the three others in the program.  My baggage came through as scheduled, unlike Emma who didn’t end up getting hers till around 10 that night.  Paul bought us lunch, and we waited until Chloe arrived.  Peyton, the other guy in the group, missed his flight to Perth and didn’t arrive till around 4pm.

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Paul drove us to our houses next.  The girls live in a very cool house that they share with 3 other couples.  Each girl has their own room, and the backyard is awesome with a lemon tree, grill, big patio, and even a trampoline.  Just down the road a couple blocks is where Peyton and I will be living during our time in Fremantle.  Our house is almost as cool.  We share it with three other guys who I have yet to even see.  Peyton and I share a big room for the first couple nights until one of the guys moves out, but we each have our own bed.

Paul and his wife took us to dinner at Clancy’s Fish Pub in Fremantle where I ordered my first beer!  We all ordered fish and chips and got to know Kate, Paul’s wife, who is our academic advisor and is teaching our Conservation Biology course.

After dinner we walked around downtown Fremantle, trying to get a feel for the nightlife.  We found out the best bar/club is called Newport and the best nights are Wednesday and Saturday.  We will have to go back.  We took the bus back to our house with the girls.  We have pre-paid cards where we simply scan on and off the bus for a reasonable fare (If you think $2.50 each way to school is reasonable).  The bus is about the only thing I think is reasonable, as we are quickly learning that the locals aren’t lying when they say Perth is one of the most expensive cities in the world.  We walked from our house to the girl’s house where we met their roommates.  We sat on the back patio and sipped all of the main Australian beers from each area.  Aaron, one of the roommates, was extremely generous with his beers even though the alcohol prices are outrageous ($16 a six pack if you’re lucky).  He wanted to expose us Americans to what Australia had to offer.  Overall it was a great night and great day.

ECS Four first night

Day 1 Monday, July 29, 2013

I checked in and walked to the security checkpoint with my Dad where we said our goodbyes at 4:45pm and by 6:15 my plane was taking off from the Omaha airport for Dallas.  I got off the plane in Dallas around 8pm and went to PizzaVino in the D terminal.  The pizza there was really good, Neapolitan style.  I researched Fremantle (the town where I will be staying a majority of the time) while I was passing time in the restaurant and found some interesting stuff.

  • The average high temperature in Fremantle while I’m here is 65 degrees Fahrenheit
  • During WWII, Fremantle was home to the largest base for Allied subs in the Southern Hemisphere
  • Their government is similar to ours with a Mayor and a council
  • Fremantle is home to the oldest intact building in Western Australia called the Round House.  This eight-cell jail is made of limestone cut out of the cliff right in front of it.
  • I will go to Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute (CUSP) and Murdoch University here in Fremantle
  • Italian, Asian, and seafood are popular
  • Fremantle has a vibrant music scene and home of AC/DC lead singer Bon Scott

By 10pm I was off on the huge Quantas 747 double decker plane and taking off on what I learned was the longest flight in the world, Dallas to Brisbane.

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