Monday, February 23, 2009

I Guess We Just Took the Scenic Route...

It has been so much fun exploring my new surroundings!  My apartment is in a small complex with walkways throughout surrounded by beautiful tropical plants and a pool conveniently located directly outside my door!  Next door we have an Aldi, a Blockbuster, and some cool local food places.  The bus stop is just a couple blocks away.  Tomorrow, we're all heading to the Uni for orientation (yes, I AM going to classes while I'm here...), so I'm excited to see my new home campus!

In the past couple days, I've been able to check out the cool shopping, beaches, and attractions the Gold Coast has to offer.  They obviously have mostly Australian stores here, but I was surprised to see KMart, Burger King (under the alias of Hungry Jack's), and Target!  I breathed a big American sigh of relief on my first day out in Surfers Paradise when I was starving because I didn't have any food in my apartment yet and slightly overwhelmed by all the new surroundings, and there was a Subway!  It was like a beacon of light and familiarity!  (Unfortunately, $5 footlongs don't exist here... more like $8 footlongs) 

Today a bunch of us went to the Wet 'n' Wild water park, which was, once we got there, a really cool place.  Overall, it was a fun day, except for the part where it took us over two hours to even get to the park!  Our landlord got us all semester passes and told us where to go on the busses... then the next bus driver told us a different route... then the next passenger told us another route... and so on.  About two hours later, we arrived at the theme park down the road and had to walk through a swamp to get to the water park... ha.

It's also been kind of hard adjusting to the metric and currency differences compared to the states.  Everything is more expensive here, but I always put myself at ease knowing that I'm actually spending less in American dollars because the currency exchange is favorable!  Additionally, the nutrition labels' calories are in kJ, the pounds are in kilograms, and the degrees are in Celsius.  My friend Chris had a really embarrassing (and amusing to female onlookers) experience the other day when he was working out in our gym and using the bench press... he put his normal bench press weight onto the bars and laid down to start benching it.  However, the weights were in kg instead of pounds, so his "20 lbs." was actually 20 kg... equal to about 44 lbs.!  He obviously couldn't lift it back up to the standing position so he had to dump them off onto the ground which abruptly shifted the equilibrium to the other side and the other side's weights clattered to the ground as well... hahahaha.

Lastly, if you want to send any goodies my way... (hint: they don't have Twizzler Nibs here :-P) here is my address :-)

Lydia Beck
Metro on Central
24c/7 Brown St.
Labrador, QLD 4215

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I Have Never Seen Such Vivid Colors!

We left LAX on a huge 2-level Boeing jet around midnight on Saturday night.  I have honestly never felt so alive/excited/exhilarated in my entire life than I did when we were lifting off!  The reality of everything really hit me, and the anticipation from the last six months of planning came crashing down on me.

Most of the trip over the ocean was spent sleeping and watching movies, so the 14 hours went very quickly!  We arrived in Brisbane around 7 am (Aussie time) on Monday morning.  After making it through customs (whew!), we hopped on a flight up to Cairns.  Our group of about 90 students from the states stayed at a hostel in Cairns, and that evening we ate at a cool local brewery and then explored some local bars.  

On Tuesday, we all went out to the Great Barrier Reef on a catamaran.  The reef was absolutely breathtaking.  Not only are the views above water beautiful, the coral and fish were the most interestingly shaped and vividly colored creatures I had ever seen!  We spent the day on the boat, soaking up the sun (some of us soaked it up a little too well!), and exploring the amazing underwater life.

We went up to the mountains surrounding Cairns to the rainforest on Wednesday.  We got a tour of the forest itself, got to hold a koala bear, pet some kangaroos, lick an ant's bum (they secrete citric acid, so it gives you a little sting on your tongue!), and check out some massive crocodiles.  That night, a bunch of us went on a pub crawl around Cairns... an amusing and extremely fun time!

Our flight back down to Brisbane left on Thursday, so all of us packed up and left the hot and muggy weather in Cairns and traded it for the beautiful 80-degree weather of southern Queensland.  A bus took us to our apartment complex, which is in Labrador, a suburb of Gold Coast.  I met my two awesome roommates from Norway and Mauritius along with some of the other residents in our complex.  The weekend consisted of meeting students from all over to the world, getting settled into my room, shopping, going to the beach, and exploring the Gold Coast nightlife!  (This IS the life...)

Do 3-Day Layovers Even Exist?

Oh, the joys of having cousins living in cool places...  

I started off my great Australian adventure with a mini LA adventure.  I left from Des Moines on Wednesday, February 11th, and my cousin Natalie picked me up from LAX that evening.  I spent the next day walking around and exploring Santa Monica and enjoying the nice weather.  (Apparently, I was enjoying it a bit too much because my t-shirt looked ridiculous compared to the sweaters everyone else was wearing!)  

I spent Thursday night in Tarzana with my cousin Susan.  Susan was wrapping up the costuming on the movie she's been working on, so I went to work with her at Universal Studios on Friday.  After a tour of the back lots where all the outdoor movie sets are, we went for Japanese.  (I realized my chopstick skills are way below par.)  After lunch, the costume designer from the movie hooked me up with some really cool swimsuits, sundresses, and flip flops from the actresses' wardrobes!  (I'm glad I didn't decide on Russia as my study abroad destination... they didn't have any parkas on-set.)  I went to dinner with some of Susan's friends, then I met up with Natalie and her friends at a bar in downtown LA.  On Saturday, I packed all my things, and Natalie took me to the airport for my 11:50 pm flight to Brisbane, Australia!