Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Land of the Tasmanian Devil

This past week I made a small trip to Tasmania to see my friend Ella. After only getting 2 hours sleep I boarded a plane, which seemed like ages ago since I was last on one, and flew to Hobart. Ella hired a car and picked me up at the airport. We went to Salamanca Square and had lunch at a launderette turned café. The square was very cute and had a few art galleries and restaurants. After stuffing my face we made our way to Ella’s hometown in Burnie. You hear tons of things about Tassie, jokingly of course, how its full of bogans and incest and some wonder why you would want to go. I found Tassie to be absolutely beautiful and a breath of fresh air. It’s not very populated and really spread out with tons of farms, small towns and vineyards. I asked Ella if it’s very common to have a farm and she said it was. Her parents have a farm, her uncle has a farm and a couple of aunts have a farm and most of her friends have a farm. Its crazy really but makes Tassie a really green and beautiful place.

The next day we went to her grandparents’ house for some lunch. They were some of the sweetest people I’ve met and so welcoming. Then we were off to see one of her family’s horse race, which was an entirely new experience for me. It was really exciting and it was everything that I’ve heard about the races, well except no big hats for the women. After the races, we went to their farm where they keep most of their horses. We went into some of the paddocks and I met some of their horses, such as Super, Jimmy Becket, Kade One Nut and many others. I believe it was Super who started eating Ella’s jacket and actually ripping the fir off the hood. She told me that one time a horse actually unzipped her jacket completely, so this must be a common theme. After the farm we went back to her house and her mom made a delicious fish dinner for us. Her dad brought up a couple bottles of very nice wine from his cellar, which was very very tasty. After cleaning up, Ella and I rugged up and went wallaby hunting in her backyard. It was so cool seeing these animals that look like kangaroos hopping around, you could even hear them hopping with a big thud every time they landed on the ground. I got so excited I actually started hopping with them. Yes, I’m a dork.

After a good nights sleep, Ella and I headed off for a small road trip to her uncles farm in Smithton. On our way we stopped along a beautiful beach called Boats Harbor and then drove to Stanley. In Stanley they have this mountain, which I guess is technically a volcano, that they call The Nut. We hiked to the top and walked around for a bit trying to stand up right in the strong winds. Since this was right on the coast, we had a perfect view of the endless ocean on one side and miles of greenery and farms on the other. What a beautiful contrast. We headed back down to the main strip and had a wonderful lunch in small café before making our way to Smithton. Before we arrived to her uncles, I decided to get a haircut. Because of the strong winds from The Nut, my hair was extremely tangly and the lady got so bluntly frustrated with my hair and after drowning it in conditioner and trying her luck with a comb, Ella ran to the car to get my brush so I could brush it out for her, which only took a minute for me to do. We arrived at her uncle’s farm, where they farm wagyu cattle, a delicacy in Japan, and had some wagyu steak for dinner. It was very tender and full of flavor. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to venture out to his island (he actually owns two islands) so we went to the local basketball game instead before heading off for bed.

The next day Ella and I made her Uncle blueberry pancakes and set off to Sisters Beach where we had lunch with her Aunt, a woman with a lot of personality and bling bling. She was so nice and so much fun to talk to. Everyone in her family has been so welcoming to me and one day I hope I can return the favor to Ella. After saying our goodbyes, we went to Anvers Chocolate Factory and had free tasting of delicious truffles and fudges. Then we went to Ghost Rock Vineyard where we tasted some wine before sitting down on the outside patio enjoying a glass of pinot noir and an antipasto platter. The weather was beautiful this day and the sun was shining without a cloud in the sky. It was a perfect ending to a nice visit with Ella in Tasmania. She dropped me off at the airport in Launceston where I caught my flight home back to Melbourne.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Crazy Rain Storms in Melbourne

Yesterday I think I got a little taste of the winter the Aussies speak of. We were kindly invited to my friend Sophie’s sister’s engagement party (Emily and Jesse are the bride and groom to be). The theme was Mad Hatters Tea Party, which is part of the overall theme of Alice in Wonderland Wedding. We were to all show up with crazy hats and enjoy some tea, cakes, champagne and other munchies. After purchasing a kids flower hat from the one and only IKEA, I was all set for the party and ready to test out my sweet tooth. Emily loves to bake, and might I add, absolutely fabulous at it. She made from scratch different types of cupcakes with different frostings, fillings and cakes. She also made other small cakes bearing phrases such as “eat me” to go well with the theme. There were also colored candies in the champagne glasses, which made your drink turn that particular color. Just everything was absolutely amazing and beautiful, besides the storm outside. Brennan and I still had to work that evening so we had to leave early and caught a train to the city. Well little did we know of the adventure we were about to embark on. We had to get off the train early because of flooding. No more trains were going into the city so we had to join the hundreds of people and try to catch trams into the city. We were the smarter of the hundreds and decided to walk to the stop before this one so that we would be able to get on easier…and bonus get seats. After the tram was crammed with people, we went as far as we could before we had to get off and wait for another tram to take us to St. Kilda, where we could get on yet another tram into the city. After waiting in the rain for trams we finally made it to the city. It was chaotic. There were emergency vehicles sounding their alarms down the streets and drenched people squeezing into any shelter they could. I kept calling work to update them on my whereabouts because this journey took quite some time and I was running late. Once we arrived in the city I had to catch another tram to get me home so I could quickly change and rush off to work. Around Flemington you can see the damage of the storm. There were leaves and branches of trees just covering the sidewalks from the huge down pore. I finally made it to work and quickly got the low down on what was going on 2 hours after I was supposed to be there. Luckily some others showed up late and there was understanding for my major tardiness…and as my friend Branden would say…I was a late loser.

Today the last Italian moves out and there is some confusion it seems to whom will be moving in. From what I’ve heard there are a total of 4 people wanting 2 room vacancies. Some are expecting to sign contracts. And this has all come about through Dannie, my landlord, and her son Tony. They seem to have absolutely no communication with each other at all. We have one person saying one thing and the other something completely different. Its crazy how they can keep people renting this house out and bills (obviously excluding internet) being paid. Dannie can’t even remember when Hannah and I are supposed to pay rent. She called me yesterday asking for rent money when we had just paid a week ago for the month. Let’s keep the contracts in order peeps…I mean really.

Just seeing how this share house is being managed and experiencing the hospitality system really makes me realize how much order and organization I like to have in my life. I like to have rules and I like some things to be structured. I feel like for me, that makes life so easy and straightforward and there won’t be confusion. Now, I do like to be spontaneous, don’t get me wrong, but for things like renting and living with strangers and working efficiently, I need that structure.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Little Something About Flemington

I’m learning a lot about where I live at the moment. Flemington is full of ethnic food places and some cafes. There are a few pubs also located throughout and maybe one or two clothing stores. There seems to be quite a few car repair shops, which I find very odd to have so many in one area. But otherwise nothing too much or super exciting, just the necessitates that any suburb needs.

It seems that Australia is primarily full of private schools with typical school uniforms, just like the ones you see in the movies. They all have the matching jumpers with black shoes and white socks. Well, I think I live by a public school, because there are no school uniforms, and it’s what I would imagine schools to be like in inner cities in the USA. Now this could be my ignorance speaking and me being naïve, because lets face it, growing up in Colorado you don’t get tons of diversity. Well I’m sitting in McDonalds now, waiting for some people to get on skype and it’s about 3:30 in the afternoon. About 20 kids come in, all of them part of different ethnicity, hanging out inside. I can kind of already see the different cliques. I’ve spotted the “cool” crowd, the queen bee and her followers, the quiet ones and the ones who think they are straight up gangsters. As they are all basically sitting by my table, I can hear basically all of the conversations. Keep in mind these kids look like they are in middle school….maybe freshmen in high school but that would be the absolute oldest. One kid, who is part of the gangster crowd and seems to have a lot to say to everyone, is talking about how he is suspended and he doesn’t care because he’s never going back to school, and if he does he’s going to raise hell and devise a plan. And how his friend is going to jail for stealing an ipod and stabbing someone. This kid has the ipod that his friend stole and his sister just found out and is going to tell mom and is turning all dramatic about it. Later he says how he wants to get a haircut like Chris Brown because he gets all the ladies. Then this same group of boys and girls start talking about rape and to whom they lost their virginity to and saying very vulgar things about women losing their virginity that it blows my mind. If I didn’t hear the previous convos about stabbings and such, I might have the guts to say something…maybe. These kids are soooo young… And they were talking about junkies and how one night 6 guys jumped him for no reason and is going to get his revenge. Where the hell am I living and how do kids think they can speak this way?

I also found out that there were 2 separate occasions where people were attacked on the tram that I take on a daily basis to work and the city. Around 12:30am some nights ago, two drunks attacked one guy because he wouldn’t talk with them. This happened on the tram right around where my house is. Fabulous. Then the second occasion was some guy stole a girl’s purse early in the morning. She apparently chased after him and was tapped by his truck. I know things like this happen all over the world, but I feel like I’ve never heard of it so close to home before. It frightens me a bit but it’s definitely a learning experience. It has definitely made me a little more conscious about my surroundings and gave me a reality check that paradise is not always the safest place in the world. It’s just like in Uppsala, where I have never felt safer in my entire life and would feel completely fine walking home by myself late at night. But even then, you would find things in the newspaper about people getting attacked or stabbed, and that still blows my mind.

Now my intention was not to scare anyone….ahem…mom. It’s just something that I observed today and found interesting, frightening, worrisome and eye opening. Something I’m glad I’m aware of now but not too worried about where I’m afraid to leave my home.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Welcome to the Metropolitan, my name is Hannah...

After 80 resumes, weeks of searching, interviews and trials, I have a found a job as a waitress at the Metropolitan Hotel. It’s not a real hotel, that's just the name of it. There is the bar side and the dining side, which is where I primarily work. They are trying to make it a high class dining area with an Ala Carte menu and top service so I really have to pay a lot of attention to detail. Some of the things I have to do are so ridiculous that it makes you really think if the customers would even know the difference. I really have to bite my tongue sometimes with the things they ask me do so sometimes it’s not really that enjoyable. And their service style is different than in the states, which I guess is something you would expect. Instead of everyone having their own section of tables, we all share the tables and potentially serve each table in one way or another whether its taking orders, serving food and drinks or clearing off the plates. To me, even after 2 weeks of working there, it seems disorganized and frustrating. It’s definitely an adjustment that I'm slowly making and something I need to work a little harder at. One thing I do like though is that here, you don’t need to rely on tips for your income. Some people will tip here so its not totally unheard of but not everyone does it. And because we all share tables, we divide the tips evenly between the people that worked that particular shift. Hospitality gets paid minimum wage here and I believe that is around $17.55 AUD an hour. Not bad eh? And because hospitality gets paid minimum wage and doesn’t have to rely on tips, we don’t rely on a high turnover of customers. There have been tables that come in and stay for 3 hours and it won’t matter, as long as they are satisfied and granted they usually go through a multiple course dinner so you kind of need that long to eat everything. We have recently changed our menu and I was lucky enough to attend the tasting of the new entrees and mains. They are absolutely delicious (and pricy might I ad) and I myself would love to sit there for a few hours and get the full Ala Carte experience that these customers receive. Oh, and the dessert looks amazing!!! Unfortunately I did not get a tasting of that. I will have to try at least one of the dessert plates before I go home though.

I did apply and interview at a realty agency and it actually went really well and they said they would hire me if I was going to be in Australia longer (they were looking for at least 2 years) and didn't have a working visa that limited my ability to work somewhere longer than 6 months. So I gave up on receptionist jobs and looked primarily at service and retail jobs.

I'm only working at the restaurant about 15-20 hours a week at the moment, hopefully more soon. So I have a lot of free time and I honestly don't know how I spend it some days. I've gone to the beach a couple times, walked around the city hundreds of times and tried new cafes that pore out of lane ways. They have tons of free music and art festivals located about the city that are always fun to explore. Hannah and I have been lost countless times and have sometimes ended up in cute suburbs and in other times ended up in bad suburbs, with misleading names such as sunshine, where we have to take a taxi to get home. The past couple of days I have spent exploring Flemington and seeing what’s available. Hannah and I have stumbled upon many Thai restaurants, a couple bars, a gym that I have now joined and a discounted food warehouse. As we were piling up on all of these different food items and just amazed on how cheap they are, we started reading the labels. Hannah starts laughing and tells me that the corn nuts she had just purchased were expired in Jan ’10. Aha….that’s why they are cheap. So then I start looking at my items and discovered that this curry ramen thing that I wanted to try (it was only $.40) had an expiration date of August….August of 2009. Haha…oh good. After that interesting experience we made our way to McDonalds to enjoy free wifi because the internet in our place will not work for whatever reason. I cannot believe that I go to McDonalds for free wifi. It makes me feel like a stereotypical American, even if I don’t get anything to eat. This internet problem better be solved sooner than later. They employees might start recognizing me, which something I do not want at all.

Needless to say, there is never a boring day. Hannah and I seem to always make everything interesting and exciting, even if we don't mean to. Some days are really hard and I get a little homesick and just get this feeling of being lost and confused about what I'm doing here but most of the time I enjoy every second of it. I love learning about new things in the city, new quirks about the australian culture and new things about myself that I don't think I would discover if I didn't embark on this journey.

White House on Mt. Alexander Rd.

After staying with the newlyweds Chris and Sophie and cramping their style for 3 weeks, Hannah and I have finally found an affordable place to live that's near the city. After looking at trashy places in sketchy neighborhoods, getting lost trying to find places and being rejected, we have finally found our humble abode. You are now looking at one of the new residents of 150 Mt. Alexander Rd, Flemington VIC 3031. We have been in this house for about a week now and learning many new things about the place daily. We don't live with any Australians unfortunately but we do live with a Dutch girl named Malu, a Mauritius guy named Vivian, German girl named Yvonne and 3 Italians named Fabio, Maurizio and Frederico. Kind of sounds like the beginning of a joke, right? The house is a 6 bedroom place so it’s a decent size. There is one shower and 2 toilets so sometimes it’s a little crowded but for the price it’s worth it. In Australia they advertise prices weekly and I am paying $90 a week, which is one of the cheapest places I have been able to find. And what makes it cheaper is that Hannah and I share the room. It is right on a main street where conveniently a tram stop is located that can take me straight to work, the amazing Queen Victoria Market and to the heart of downtown. The house is pretty old, so old that the house is on stilts and there are holes in our floor where you can see the ground so there is quite a draft sometimes. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s affordable and a good location.

Now to say a little about my roommates. Malu lives across the way from Hannah and I and she is here working at a research center at one of the hospitals. She is really nice and usually out of the house during the days saving people’s lives through her research. Vivian is the sous chef at the restaurant I work at. He is the one that told me about the available room. He is trying to get his permanent residency here and is a really nice guy. Yvonne is traveling a bit I believe and is currently taking English classes while trying to find a job. She has only been here for a couple of months and also just finally settling down. The Italians are an interesting group of guys. 2 of them share a room while the 3rd one has his own. They like to smoke inside the kitchen, which is always pleasant when you are trying to cook or eat your food. There is nothing like biting into your meal with smoke blowing into your face at the same time. We've asked them kindly to smoke outside but they bluntly refuse. Luckily, they are moving out in a week. At first I didn’t really care for them because of the smoking issue, but I tried to keep an open mind and have carried on some conversations with them. They are good-humored guys and nice but I’m still looking forward to when the smoke smell disappears.

The house is pretty old, so old that the house is on stilts and there are holes in our floor where you can see the ground so there is quite a draft sometimes. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s affordable and a good location and it’s not for the rest of my life. If I had money that I could just spend without a care, I would love to take a trip to IKEA and completely decorate this house so it looks like someone lives there and completely get this place organized and clean. But I don’t, so I have to make do with what is available. One thing I’ve also noticed and only in this house so far is that the cold water knob is on the left and the hot water knob is on the right but only in the bathroom. I had a few cold showers before realizing this. The knobs in the kitchen are normal, at least by our standards. In the backyard we have around 6-7 shopping carts just hanging out there. The nearest grocery store is about a 15 minutes walk and by the looks of our fridge and cabinet, no one buys that many groceries to where they need to bring a cart home with them. I’m thinking they got there by some drunken escapade. Needless to say the character of the house and the things I find here definitely makes life interesting.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Reality in Australia

So I have been back from traveling for almost 2 weeks now, and you might wonder what I've been up to. Well to be honest, nothing exciting like the road trips, but still managing to squeeze fun into job searching and house hunting. So far, it has been waaaay harder than everyone here said it would be. We were supposed to be these novelties that any place would love to have. That is what some Australians told us when we began our journey. Well any feeling of "novelty" has definitely worn off. After handing out and applying for over 70 jobs and not a single confirmed job yet, is a little worrisome. I have had some leads, and still do. But I feel like I can't count them until I'm told that I'm hired or I see my name on the schedule.

My mom knew someone who knew someone who manages a restaurant in Melbourne called the Spaghetti Tree. Naturally, that was the first place I stepped in hoping that my connection follows through. Unfortunately, David (one of the managers) said that business is very slow at the moment because everyone is on holiday and down by the beach but he would keep my resume if something comes up. After dragging myself out there and forcing the positive thoughts to come back, I have been walking up and down streets looking for help wanted signs on windows. They are out there, but my visa has limited me and have not been qualified for some jobs because of it. After a few discouraging days, I randomly walked in a restaurant called The Trust and they said to come back in a few days for a trial. A trial? What's a trial? I guess they test you out before they officially hire you or tell you any pertinent information you might want to know such as wage, hours, perks etc. After a few days of trialing with the restaurant I find out on my own that they are also really slow and yes my name is on the schedule now, but more as a sub or when there is an event at the restaurant that they need extra staff for. I found out through a dutch guy who was bartending there that he gets paid under the table and roughly every week. He doesn't get much hours either. Fortunately, I had a trial last night at another restaurant called the Metropolitan that I had a connection with through the Spaghetti Tree. The trial went well I thought and Chase, the manager, said he would call me. But is this the "I'll call you" as in no I won't at all and you did terrible or is it really I will actually call you. I hope its the later option. He said they were looking to fill a 25-30 hours a week position which would be PERFECT! The guy who was training me had only worked there for 7 days and it seemed like he was there for longer. This restaurant seems very detail oriented which is good but its to the point where its obsessive. Everything is PERFECTLY in line and there are so many stupid and silly time-consuming things that it makes you wonder if customers will actually notice. Its not like its a 5 star restaurant, more like a wannabe but with average customers. Weird. But beggars can't be choosers and I hope I get the call from Chase. I also had an interview this week for a reception position at Morley's Real Estate. It went really well but their only concern was me only being here for a year and they are looking for someone even more long term. I made up some crap about 2 year visas but I'm not sure if he bought it. Considering its been over 48 hours and that's when he said he would call, I reckon I didn't get the job. Shucks! I'm trying to keep my spirits up and keep applying in hopes something for sure will come up.

The renting market is really competitive here. In the beginning the 5 of us, Hannah, Brennan, Rich, Simon and I were going to share a place. After about 5 minutes looking, we realized that was near to impossible so then we split up and Brennan, Hannah and I are going to try to find a place. After looking and viewing some places, we realized this is also very difficult. So no Brennan is on his own and its down to Hannah and I looking for a place, which today was the first day looking. We called and e-mailed about 10 places in hopes that one of these will work. Rentals here go really quickly and some people pay 3 months rent up front to secure the rental. Unfortunately we don't have that kind of money. Hopefully one of these house share places will take us in. It has come to the point where Hannah and I don't mind if we have to share a room, we've done it for 1.5 months now, what a few months more? And it might save us on rent by quite a bit.

Now after reading that, it sounds like Australia sucks. It doesn't! Melbourne is such a fun city with so many festivals, squares and places to check out. We have gone to this one bar a couple times called Nu Guernica which is this old cabin kind of feel. Pretty funky and awesome specials. We have also gone to few BYO (bring your own alcohol) restaurants in china town and tried out some small cafes that can be found in small lane ways. The city is always moving and people are always hustling. Its so different and so much fun to be a part of. I could sit down on a bench all day and just people watch for hours, that is if I had time or when I have a job. I have all of these chocolate places I want to try out and other small cafes and restaurants to experience....of course when I have a job and a somewhat of a steady income, if there is such a thing here. The international festival is going on and showing some free movies so I plan to see some. They also have rooftop cinemas and moonlight cinemas in the botanical gardens that I would like to venture out to. So many things to do here, so little time and money.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Adventures in New Zealand

Day 16 - January 20
Last night we arrived in Wellington, which is in the north island, pretty late so we slept in this morning. Andy showed us a lot of the city in between his job and an interview he had. He also told us that quite a bit of the city is built on sand to expand the size, and that they lie on a major fault line so if there was an earthquake, they would be screwed. We walked along the coast before Hannah, Brennan and I headed to Te Papa, the New Zealand Museum. This was our first museum of the trip which is weird considering thats what we went a lot to in Europe. This museum was so big and so amazing with everything that was filled in it. We saw the world's largest squid on display (dead of course) and learned about the Maoris, the equivalent to indians in New Zealand. The Maori culture and language is still very visible in New Zealand which I thought was really cool. After the museum we picked up some lamb that we were going to BBQ at Andy's and that is when we got to see our friend Ellie as well! They were explaining to us that the population of sheep in New Zealand is higher than the population of people. Interesting to think about.

Day 17 - January 21
Today we had to get up super early in the morning to catch a taxi to the ferry to take us to the south island. I was pretty tired so I slept most of the ferry ride but woke up right on time to see the amazing views of the south island coming in. It was full of green hills/mountains with patches of really low clouds surrounding them. It was just absolutely beautiful. After the ferry ride we had an hour to kill before the 6 hour bus ride to Christchurch where we were meeting Ellie, our next tour guide. When we were all together, her family kindly let us borrow there car and we drove up to their batch (vacation house) along Arthurs Pass. It was a cute little cottage in the mountains and made me think of Colorado a bit.

Day 18 - January 22
In the morning we woke up to Ellie blasting Sound of Music, quite entertaining. We took a short hike/bush walk/shrub walk along Arthur's Pass and saw the point between east side and west side. The mountains are quite different here than they are in Colorado. They are definitely taller and covered in various types of green trees and shrubbery, but still made me think of home. Then we drove to Fox Glacier where I got to see snow...and a glacier. The Glacier was amazing to see. Unfortunately we couldn't touch or walk on the glacier without a guide but we still got pretty close. You could actually smell the ice, which made us all think of the Titanic. There was a creek running off from the glacier with as you can imagine, extremely cold water, but it was so clear and pretty cool thing to see.

Day 19 - January 23
Today we drove to Queenstown, the well known backpackers town. On the way we stopped at this big open meadow with mountains in the background because it literally looked like it was from Sound of Music. So we all got out and ran out into the meadow while spinning around and singing, a little show for the cars driving by. For dinner we had a picnic by Wakatipu lake while listening to some techno from a nearby boat. Interesting setting for sure. We also learned about FaFa which is this mythical Maori creature that lives in the water and he creates the waves in the water when he is upset. I can't remember what it is actually called but we did the honors and called him FaFa. We thought it suited him. After dinner, we joined all the other backpackers and checked out the night scene. We went to the World Bar where we had there famous tea pot drinks which are basically a mixture of different spirits and juices. They come in actually tea pots and you pour them into these little shot glasses. Brennan and I played it safe and shared a Long Island Iced Tea, something we were familiar with. The backpackers vibe was definitely present in the town and there were people from all over the world.

Day 20 - January 24
Today was another long drive to Milford Sounds. We had a quick lunch stop in Te Anau before making our way to our hostel. The drive there was soooooo beautiful. We were driving in between up and down mountains that had tons of small waterfalls just streaming through them. So gorgeous. After getting to our hostel, we braved the cold and went swimming in the Claddao river, which was incredibly cold. I've never been in cold water like this. We warmed up a bit and walked to Milford Sounds, which we saw at dusk. It was so cool how you could see the different layers of mountains almost with the water in the middle. Pictures could not even capture how amazing of a sight this was. On our walk home we stopped on a little trail and saw glow worms, a first for me. That was pretty cool and surreal to see hundreds of these small glowing things spread out in the bushes. This place is full of wonderful things.

Day 21 - January 25
After our short stop in Milford Sounds we headed back to Queenstown for another night. On our way back, we stopped for a several hour hike and stretched our legs. We did the beginnings of Routeburn track and continued onto the summit hike where at the top you could see everything around you. At the top we were at 920 meters or 3,018 feet. So still not quite a mile high. After a pizza dinner in town we went on a blind fold pub crawl with our hostel. That was so much fun and interesting. We each had to get in pairs and take turns being blind folded while the other person would guide you to the next pub. I was paired with Ellie and Hannah and Brennan were paired. We went to 6 different places where at the entrance you received a different shot. Our roommates (we were in a room of 6 for the night) were from Holland and such fun and happy girls. They also went on the pub crawl and made the evening very fun. It was great to talk to them and hear about their experiences as well. Made me miss my dutch friends. There was also a dance contest, which Ellie won. Her prize was a free bungee jump!!! Amazing. Unfortunately she didn't want it and we were leaving somewhat early the next day so we couldn't use her prize at all. Oh well, at least we all know that she won.

Day 22 - January 26
Today was our 7-8 hour drive back to Christchurch where we stayed at Ellie's parents place. They had such a cool house, away from the city, where they had a pool (not heated but still fun to swim in), a tennis court made of grass and a croquet field. It was so cool. They also have a lot of land and cows. After a delicious dinner that her parents kindly made us, we played some croquet, I was behind for most of it but got 2nd in the end. I guess I did get dad's croquet skills after all.

Day 23 - January 27
Another really early morning to catch a flight back to Melbourne. Our vacation is over, and reality begins, well what reality would be in Australia anyways. It's great to be back but now we need to find a place to live and jobs. Oh boy. Wish us luck!

The Big City

Day 12 - January 16
Once again another run on the beach before a swim. Byron Bay definitely is one of my favorite beaches so far. We hung out on the beach a bit before grabbing a kebab and heading back to the packed down van for another drive. Today we are heading towards Koffs Harbour just for the night. Its a small town so there was not much to do. It was more of a stop for the night so that the drive to Sydney would not be as long. It was nice though just to hang out in our motel room and make dinner, instead of eating out. Once again, Brennan made another delicious meal that makes up for all of the small fish & chip and kebab places we've been stopping at. We also had a tv in our room, which was a first, so we watched Black Hawk Down which was on tv. Nothing too exciting, but sometimes you need a break from the super exciting life.

Day 13 - January 17
Today we drove to Sydney where we dropped off our van, that looks like a cat by the way, and enjoyed our luxurious 3 bedroom, 2 bath suite on the 75th floor of the Meriton World Tower. As Chris would say....sexy sexy time. We had a view of Sydney Harbour that was just absolutely breathtaking. Hannah and I got our own room with a king sized bed and our own bath with a jacuzzi. The boys shared two rooms and 1 bath. It payed off to be the only 2 girls. The kitchen was fully equipped and so nice. The living room was open with nice, comfy coaches and a tv. And how could we afford this you might ask...because Chris is amazing and booked this place 3 months in advance which meant we got a screamin' deal on it. Only $5 more than a hostel. Fantastic! Inside the building, we could use the gym, swimming pool, hot tub, sauna (sadly out of order when we were there) and free laundry, which we all took advantage of. Because of such a wonderful place, Brennan made us a delicious curry dinner before we walked around Sydney Harbour at night. Sydney Harbour is where the Sydney Opera House is. That was amazing to see at night because all of the lights were on so it was just glowing in the distance. A very good time!

Day 14 - January 18
Today I took advantage of the free gym before some french toast for breakfast. We took the ferry out to Manly Beach, very manly indeed. :) It was such a cute little place to walk around, go to the beach and enjoy an ice cream. On the ferry, we had amazing views of the opera house and the Sydney Harbour Bridge where you could actually see people climbing the bridge. After our little trip to Manly Beach, we walked into the opera house to take a look. The architecture of the opera house is amazing in itself, but its even more amazing to see all of the little tiles that make it up, so elaborate. I really wish to see a show in there someday. For dinner, Brennan made a fabulous 3 course dinner for us, complete with champagne and wine. After stuffing our faces, Hannah, Brennan, Chris and I went for a walk by one of the nearby parks to walk off all of the food and enjoy the perfect temperatures outside. We sat at a park bench talking and we saw some bats and big rats, which of course I freaked out about. I did not need to see that rat, but nonetheless, another wonderful day.

Day 15 - January 19
Today we went to the fish market, something I have never seen before. It was kind of cool to see all the variety of fishes they had so neatly laid out. It was a little creepy seeing the eyes, we felt like they were following us. Hannah and I decided to be adventurous and we tried a fried soft shell crab...whole. It was ok at first until you got the middle where there were lots of different body parts that I just did not need to see. We couldn't finish it because we started thinking about what we were eating to much...but at least we tried, and liked it at first. I also got some fresh salmon sashimi, which was absolutely amazing. After getting our fill of fresh fish, we got on a sketch bus to the world known Bondi Beach. It was pretty and cool to see but really crowded, kind of like Surfers Paradise. After Hannah, Brennan, Chris, Andy and I had a short walk along the beach, we left Rich and Simon who were going to try to surf for the city again. For lunch we had malaysian food, which was the first for all of us and so delicious. Laksa is one of my favorite dishes now. We then caught a taxi to the airport, where we were heading to Wellington, New Zealand, the start of another adventure.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

East Coast in Australia

Day 9 - January 13
Today we drove to Maroochydore which was one of my favortite places. The beach here was so amazing and it was such a cool town to be in. On our way there, we stopped for a picnic lunch at the beach where the ocean was really shallow and you could walk out a far way. And it was one of the first times we could actually go in the water without worrying about the jellies. For dinner I had this massive burger with "the lots" which I feel like its everything you think could be on a burger is on it...plus some. Hannah and I walked along the beach to meet up with the boys who drove and it was so peaceful and a great way to see the town.

Day 10 - January 14
We had an early run and swim along the beach this morning before we headed to the infamous Australia Zoo, or Steve Irwin's zoo. After a whopping $55 to get in, Hannah and Brennan fed the elephants before we were able to walk around a kangaroo park where you could pet and feed them. It was insane on how cool they were with people coming up to them. I also got to pet a Koala Bear which was really soft and very cute. Wanted to take one home with me. We of course saw crocs and a croc show where the Irwin family all came out on the stage and hosted the show. Parrots and these crazy fast birds were also flying freely around us. I felt like I was in a different world. We also saw wombats being fed which were surprisingly really cute animals, despite the name. Tigers, Red Pandas, Dingos and Tasmanian Devils were also a list of animals we saw. After the zoo we made our way to the Gold Caost where we stayed in Surfers Paradise which is an extremely touristy place. We had a quick swim in the ocean before Hannah and I split off from the boys to have a girls night. We went out with 2 girls we met from our hostel and went to a bar called The Bedroom where ladies could drink free as long as you had your glass to bring up. It was so much fun to have a night out with the ladies and dance the night away.

Day 11 - January 15
Woke up again with another early run and swim in the ocean and before we headed to our next location. Today we were driving to Byron Bay which is known for its backpackers vibe. It was such a small hip town where all the pretty people go. The beach was once again beautiful and great to walk along and relax by. It was different than Surfers Paradise in that it was a lot of less people which made it a lot more peaceful. Along the coast, cafes, bars and shops were lined up for the tourists, something we definitely enjoyed. We kept it easy tonight and enjoyed dinner, drinks and card games at our hostel.

Sorry about the short posts, I just have so much to catch up on. Will try to update more tomorrow!

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Road Trip Begins

Sorry about the delay, finding and paying for internet is not always fun. Here is recap of what I've been up to the past couple days.

Day 4 - January 8
Drove to Melbourne today and got to see where our new home will be. We started learning all of the different areas of where to live, and I'm def excited. We went straight to St. Kildo beach for some lunch before we walked around a bit. The beach is filled with tons of shops a12facebook.com/index.php?lh=98886066cf47b5c71b2902cfe2a086dd&long the way and I can't wait to start making some money to buy some of these things. We also checked out the Crown Casino to gamble some (I didn't, but some of the guys did) and walked around some more. Its such a beautiful city with tons to do. They have millions of restaurants and each cuisine has its own area or street. For dinner we tried out China Town and ate at a place where it was BYO which I've never seen before. So we all came in with our wine ready to enjoy great Chinese food. We had a lot of Uppsala people meet up with us at the restaurant and it turned into a huge reunion. After we stuffed our faces we went to a karaoke bar. This was pretty cool because you book your own room so you are only singing in front of your friends. I def rocked out to Spice Girls.

Day 5 - January 9
More of a lazy day today with sushi for lunch and some wondering around Melbourne again. They have tons of sushi stands that are relatively cheap to buy and you order rolls that hasn't been cut in slices and eat as is. That was different and felt very weird picking the roll up with my fingers and just eating from it. We did a free tram ride that makes a big circle around Melbourne and it was a good way to see the city and kind of catch my bearings. We went to Lygon street for dinner which is a street with Italian restaurants lined up one right after another. It was absolutely delicious food. And to just pig out some more, we went to a chocolaterie for dessert where we had mousstinis and tirimisu. The best chocolate mousse I've had in my life. I was in heaven. All of these amazing meals is confirming that Melbourne truly is a food capital.

Day 6 - January 10
Woke up early to catch a flight to Mackay. From Mackay we picked up the Van that we are renting and starting our road trip. We drove to Airlee Beach which is where you catch boats to the great barrier reefs. You are not aloud to swim in the ocean this time of the year without a wetsuit because of the stingers (jellyfish). They have tons of poisonous ones right along the coast, and the second most deadliest one can be only 3mm long so hard to see. We relaxed by the man-made laguna instead for some hours before heading to our cabins where we will be for two nights. We have kitchens in our cabin so we can cook our own meals which will definitely help out keeping costs down and for some home-cooked meals. Luckily Brennan can cook well! :)

Day 7 - January 11
Once again another early morning but its for our snorkeling excursion, makes it worth it. There was 21 of us total on a sail boat heading out to some islands for snorkeling. Its not exactly the Great Barrier Reef but pretty damn close. The sail boat was nice because we kind of took our time out there and didn't have the annoying sound of a motor for 2 hours. The first island had amazing snorkeling. You could just float with the fishes near the surface and they would get so close. We saw quite a few rainbow fishes which are absolutely beautiful fish with all of their colors which just sparkle in the water. We snorkeled for about 2 hours before we headed to the second island for a quick 30 min snorkel. The wind really started picking up here so the visibility wasn't quite as clear as the first island but still amazing. This one had a lot more variety of coral with beautiful colors. We then got back on the boat and attempted to eat lunch while sailing and windy conditions. Food was flying all over the place and the wind even carried Chris' bread roll right off his plate and into the water. They had big swells as well so we were getting quite wet up front which actually was fun and entertaining. We got back to our cabin around 4 and took showers before making dinner and drinks. After some drinks we took the 15 min walk into town to check out the pub scene which included lots of live music, outdoor areas and people all over the world. Met some guys from England and girls from Sweden. It's always so fun to meet people from all over and find out what they are doing in Australia. Great fun!

Day 8 - January
Today we left Airlee Beach and made our way to Rockhampton where we will be for one night. We made a quick pit stop in who knows where and had some lunch. It was right by the ocean and it was so shallow it was hard to see where the ocean ended and the sky began. So pretty. Hannah and I wanted to see how far we could walk out but alas, those stingers got in the way. The drive was also full of tons of greenery and rolling hills, a nice change from dry Colorado. The rain has also been off and on today which makes it a little cooler, but its still pretty hot if there isn't a breeze. We were told that it reached 43 degrees Celsius in Melbourne yesterday, that's about 110 degrees Fahrenheit I reckon. Apparently Rockhampton is know for their beef so we will be eating out tonight and getting some steak. Then later I guess we are going to a pub where there is mechanical bull riding....interesting. We will see how that goes.

Love you and miss you all!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The First Couple of Days

Hello all!

I've made it to Australia now safely after 3 flights, 9 hour layover in LAX and about 20 hours in the air. Everything went smoothly which made it nice. While I was in LAX, I actually met an aussie who had family in Longmont so we talked quite which was a nice surprise and made LAX not as miserable as expected.

It has been soooo good to see all of my friends again. Its amazing how quickly we can just pick up where we left off. The weather is absolutely amazing, I mean it is the summer time and all. Slightly pink on my face but so far doing good with the whole trying not to look like a lobster thing. The jet lag hasn't been too bad, just been waking up at 6am and getting tired around 6 but its getting a little easier. Below are the these that happened in the last few days in Oz land.

Day 1 (January 5)
Chris and Sophie picked us up at the airport and we made our way to Geelong with a packed car. When we arrived we had some drinks waiting for Rich and Simon to arrive before we made our way to the beach. We picked up some dinner for the beach and I had grilled flake (which is shark...awesome) and chips, such a classic Australian dish. After dinner we made our way back to Chris' for some backyard cricket. That game is so confusing with so many new terms I've never heard. I still really don't understand it at all but I gave it a try and was at least able to hit the ball with the paddle. Maybe one day I will understand.

Day 2 (January 6)
We started off the day by driving to Torquay Bay where we saw our first sighting of surfers and then made our way to the famous Bells Beach for a quick stop. I'm still amazed that I'm here in Australia right and I'm loving all of the beaches...and the ocean. The ocean is bright blue with hints of aqua, it is so beautiful and I'm loving every second of it. We took the Great Beach Rd, which is the scenic drive along the coast to get to our final destination for the day. We also stopped at Anglesea golf course that apparently has tons of kangaroos just hopping around while people golf. We were all expecting to see tons of kangaroos and didn't see any. Right when the car I was in was leaving, I luckily spotted one in the fields and we stopped to snap a picture. I got really excited about it...how lame. We then stopped in the town of Lorne for some lunch and then headed to the 12 Apostles. 12 Apostles was not what I expected. I knew that it was these big rocks sticking out of the ocean and I'm sure there is more history to it, I'm just not really sure what it is. It was extremely touristy and tons of flies which was random. Other peoples pictures are so misleading in the fact that it looks like no one is there, but there are TONS. But I guess I am doing the touristy things and will just have to accept it. We then headed to our camp ground for the night in Apollo Bay and set up camp. It was nice to just relax for the rest of the evening walking along the beach, watching the boys play some Australian Rules Football and getting tackled.

Day 3 (January 7)
Once we were all up, had some breakfast, and packed our things, we started driving back to Geelong. We made one quick stop to see a lighthouse at Split Point which is where a TV show was filmed and based on. It was a very beautiful and picturesque lighthouse and the views of the coast were breathtaking. We just made it back to Chris' now and soon will be heading for the beach for some swimming and tanning (hopefully not burning) and some relaxation. I'm looking forward to it. Hope the winter time is treating everyone well, I know I'm not missing it. :)