G'Day Mates!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Day 36: Friday April 17

Today was my last day in Australia. I am so heartbroken to be saying goodbye to this amazing country. This experience has been more than I could ever imagine. Our morning started quite early, as we had to leave our villa by 5:30 am. I did my best to pack up as by now my foot was quite sore and swollen. I was also incredibly anxious about making it on time. I can only assume all this made me quite the annoying travel companion. Nevertheless, Terri, Emily, John, Eric, and I piled into the van and made the three-hour drive to the Sydney airport. After some difficulty at check in and security, we made it to our gate with 45 minutes to spare and we were ready to board. I have to say we got pretty lucky with both timing and seating. Our flight was relatively empty, which meant that each of our rows had an empty seat in the middle and I was able to stretch myself out. I took about a 5-hour nap and watched two movies: Into The Woods and This Is Where I Leave You. The first was not as good as I suspected; the second was better. The flight felt much shorter than when we flew into AU so we landed in LA sooner than I expected. Let’s just side note that I left AU at 11:05 am Friday morning and landed in the US at 7:50 am Friday morning. It was a bit of a mind melt. Once in LA we had to go through customs two more times, collect our luggage, and then recheck it. I was happy just to sit down by the time we made it to our gate, even if we did still have an hour layover. The flight from LA to Minneapolis was not as fun (we were packed in) but did involve more sleep. By the time we got to the MSP airport, my foot was throbbing and our gate was a good 50-minute walk on the other side of the airport. Luckily, I was able to catch a ride on a service cart and was able to grab some food and stretch out during our 2-hour layover. Having already done a 14-hour flight and a 4-hour flight, the 1-hour flight into Flint was a breeze. I was back in the mitten before I knew it. As sad as I am that it's all over, I was thrilled to see my fiancĂ© waiting for my outside the airport, ready to take me home.

Day 35: Thursday April 16

    Today was my last day of the program. I woke up in the morning and couldn’t believe that five weeks had already gone by. We got dressed and rode the bus into the city one last time. We were pretty lucky because for our last day at Questacon, we busked all day. Sivan and I started the morning with our music trolley. We started together but then took turns so that we could each explore first. Questacon has 4 levels with 7 galleries total so I wanted some time to see each one. The top floor had the optical illusions gallery, which is exactly how it sounds.
 It also has the awesome Earth gallery. This one was cool because you saw caged lightening and created earthquakes. The third floor had an experiment lab where you got to make things blow up and examine x-rays. The second floor is where the theaters are and the first floor had the big kid room: Excite. This is basically a game room with science incorporated. My favorite part of this room is the vertical slide, which I went on in the morning and pretty much had a heart attack! They also have a four-way air hockey table as well as an air hockey-playing robot arm that is basically unbeatable.
Also, to enter the room, you go through the Rototron and try not to get dizzy.

Later on in the day we busked a bit more, this time with the stick insects because I wanted to say goodbye to them one last time.

Then finally we turned in our keys, thanked everyone who had welcomed us into their work, and rode the bus for the last time ever.
     Now that the program was over there was only one thing left for me to do: get my tattoo. Yup, I wanted to commemorate this trip in my favorite way- with some fresh new ink. So I went home and got ready then called a cab and headed to North Lyneham to a little shop called Tattoo Power. I had made this appointment before I even left for Australia so I walked in and met with Dave and we discussed size then before I knew it, I was on the table having my foot prepped. Now this is my fifth tattoo so it wasn’t much of a shock but this is my first in full color so I’d have to say it was my most painful.
It was definitely worth it though because it is gorgeous. An hour and a half later I was thanking Dave for his work and calling another cab.
    This time I was headed to Mel’s for one final goodbye. The plan was to stop by, give her the present I got for her, and then head home. But, in true Mel fashion, once I had arrived, she insisted that I stay for dinner and drinks. She had out of town friends over so we made it into a small party. For dinner we had Moroccan, which I’ve never had but was super good. We had couscous (which is similar to rice but technically a different kind of wheat called semolina) with beef and veggies. After dinner I gave Mel her presents and then it was time to break out the games. We started with two tense games of Camel Up that I swear I was going to win. They may have been a bit tense due to the money that we had put on the line. After that Shorty bid us goodnight and we moved onto a final game of Trains. Trains is basically what it sounds like where you build train tracks to and from different cities to get points. I actually got second place on that one! Finally, quite heartbroken, I realized it was time to go. We called a cab and Mel walked me out and I tried not to cry but I knew I was really gonna miss her.
     Once back home I still had a decent amount of packing to do. My foot was starting to swell a bit so that was some added fun. About a half hour in the girls next door came over to say goodbye as we would not see each other in the morning. I was really starting to hate all these goodbyes. We woke the roomies up so they could say goodbye too and around 1:30 am I finally laid down on the couch to take a quick nap (I say nap because we had to get up at 4 am to leave). I did my best to not think about how we were leaving in the morning.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


    During my time in Australia I knew I was going to meet lots of awesome new people and I have, but being able to meet Melissa and her family and friends and spending time hanging out with them has honestly been the best experience of this trip. They are just such fun, interesting, down to Earth, genuinely good people. It’s crazy to me that five weeks ago I travelled across the world and met people that I would now consider such good friends. It kind of shows the whole “not so different” aspect of traveling, as well as the idea of things happening for a reason because if it hadn’t been for KSS allowing Central to place us there or for Mel being willing to take me and accept me with all the other things she has going on, none of it would’ve happened. Basically what I’m saying is it’s been incredible and I am truly sad to see it end, but very grateful for everything that has gotten me here.

Day 34: Wednesday April 15

    Today was what experts would call a “slow start.” I woke up at 6:34 A.M. to silence. No one in our villa or the next had stirred. See, by this point in the trip everyone is spending late nights either working on last minute assignments or packing (or in my case hanging out with all the cool kids) so mornings have become less of a priority. Eventually though we dragged ourselves around, hopped on the bus (which is quickly becoming the bane of my existence), and landed at Questacon, where I got my very first coffee of the trip! Yes, yes, I know, me, the coffee queen, has gone over 30 days without coffee. (Alright, maybe I had a sip or two of Em’s at one point but overall it’s been pretty cold turkey). This has not been for lack of available supplies or lack of want but more so lack of money. Additionally, like most food/drink in Australia, the coffee here is (generally) quite a bit better than that at home so I figured that if I began drinking coffee regularly here then upon my return, I may have some taste aversion to my homeland version. And, if there’s anything I hate, it’s a coffee snob. (Or a snob in general. Like, excuse me, don’t even try to go walking around like you’re all that). The point is that I had a caramel latte and it was delicious and just what I needed to head up to gallery five and spend the morning running the doors and playing games with the kids.
There were a couple of probability games, like flipping the toast to see which side it landed on the most (that rhymed a little) or spinning a tube with two colors of raffle balls and seeing which one would come out more often. My favorite was the dice pit where kids rolled two die then did math to find the total. There was also one where kids threw a ball through a hole in a net. I’m not exactly sure what the educational point of that one was but they seemed to love it anyway. It was good fun and I even was able to sit in on one of the shows about animals that live in extreme environments. All in all, not a bad morning.
    The afternoon, however, got a little rough. Our next shift was covering the Japan theater doors again. This itself isn’t that bad, if only perhaps a little boring. But I also sat in on this show, which was all about optical illusions, and I ended the day with a bit of a headache. There was a bright spot when Mel and Shorty came to pick me, Beth, and Lilly up and kindly drove us over to the mall. Mel also had stopped by and picked me up a really nice Kingsford Smith School zip up which I’ve also been wanting since we got here. Once at the mall, we had gift shopping to do. For one, we needed to get a thank you gift for Terri. It’s also one of our other girls, Laura, birthday this weekend so we wanted to get something for her as well. Then, I still was trying to find a gift for both my sister and my (future) sister-in-law! Who knew that shopping for two girls would be so difficult? I mean I have a few small things for both of them but I really wanted to get them something that said “(insert various sisters’ names here).” Additionally, I’ve been also looking this whole trip for a small knife for my father-in-law. It’s not weird; he works with his hands a lot. But, it turns out that, unlike a certain other country (*cough cough* America) it’s actually quite difficult to find knives, or pretty lots of weapons, or sale here. Thus, mostly defeated, I met back up with the girls and we headed to the bus station. This is when things really started to go down hill.
    Even though we have been here for over a month now, we still aren’t that great at the bus system. We’ve been lucky because almost every route we need for work is the same. Today, however, we were in a different part of the city. So we got to the station and started reading the different routes and Beth headed down to the other end while Lillian and I kept searching. Then we hear Beth say, “Lillian, it’s down here” so we turned and another bus pulled up. Here’s where some alternate universe stuff starts happening. I look up and see Beth’s blonde ponytail turn around. I look down for about 10 seconds to grab my bus pass from my bag. I look back up and she’s gone. So I follow Lillian onto the bus and start trying to look past all the people in front of us. By the time we are sitting down and the door closes, it hits me that Beth is not on the bus. This is also the time where Lillian says the same thing. As we’re pulling away, I scan the bus station but still see no Beth. And within a minute, we are cruising down the street, one girl short. And, as luck would have it, our phones expired yesterday so there was no communication to be had. The worst part was we had gotten on a bus that went basically the opposite of where we needed to go. So instead of going west over to the edge of the city, we went Northeast outside the city itself into the suburbs. In the end we asked some men on the bus and, after shaking their heads at us for how far away we were from our actual destination, they pointed us in the right direction. So we hopped off and got on a new bus and soon we were seeing familiar sites. We did one more bus switch at the UC and were finally home. Only an hour and a half later. I wouldn’t have been bothered at all had it not been for the fact that we had plans to go with Terri to the Telstra Tower and had now missed it. But it was an adventure to say the least. Eventually Terri returned (with Beth who had realized after a few minutes that we must’ve gotten on the wrong bus without her and instead got on the correct bus and had arrived home in 20 minutes) and said we could have another chance tomorrow so really all’s well that ends well. I spent the rest of the night packing and cleaning, doing my best to pretend that tomorrow wouldn’t be my last day of this program.

Day 33: Tuesday April 14

    Today was a busy day. It started off with Emily and I being the only ones to catch the bus. Or so we thought. Turns out they all decided to get a later one but at first we were a bit worried. Once we had all arrived and settled into Questacon, Sivan and I started our day busking with Emily and Christy. I walked them through the insects (explaining what they are, how to hold them, how to show the kids, introducing them because they have names) then Sivan and I set up our music trolley. The music one might be my favorite because there’s a lot you can do and talk about with the kids. It was still a little early so to get some attention, Sivan and I sang the blues. Well, she played the harmonica and I played the drums and sang the blues. I put on my best “blues” voice I could and sang about my baby leaving me and having no money. We were definitely the crazy Americans but it worked because lots of kids started coming up and asking if they could play with us.
    Afterwards I spent my lunch break shopping at the Q-Science shop (yup, just buying more stuff) then we headed outside to help build rockets. What happens is we have an air pump attached to…a tube and a…launcher button (clearly I know all the technical terms). The kids use paper and tape to build rockets that we pump up and they shoot them off. The emphasis here should be “the kids” ‘cause you know those 5th grade science fairs where you see a 10-year standing next to a perfectly built volcano and the kid is like picking their nose and clearly not caring at all but the parent (s) is right next to them with a big smile on their face and showing off all “their kids” hard work? That’s kinda how rockets were. The only time I really saw many kids building their own was when Sivan or I were helping. We explained the three basic parts needed (body, cone, and wings) then either provided hands to hold pieces while they taped or tape to put down while they held. Everything else was up to them, as it should be. And some of them actually did pretty well. The downside was me crawling on the ground at the end of the day picking up the hundreds of scraps that had been dropped there but such is the life of a teacher. By the time the clock struck three, we were packed up and ready to go. It was perfect timing because as we were walking in, I walked right into Mel and Jake.
    See, remember last week when I visited and I met Mel’s friend Christy? Well, turns out I made a good impression because she invited us over for a game night! So, we hopped in Mel’s car, stopped at Wooly’s for some bubbles (aka champagne) then headed to the house. We weren’t due for a little bit so I made a quick call to Adam on the unlimited wifi (still my two favorite words), which was a nice bonus. But soon we were out the door and walking down the street (Christy lives in the same neighborhood).  Moving along, we made it to Christy’s to find that another familiar face was there: Jill! It was pretty much a party. I also met Christy’s husband/Mel’s other friend, Grant. We spent some time chatting and then sat down for a game of Camel Up! The premise of the game is that there are 5 camels and they are in a race. The goal is to have the most money at the end of the game. You win money by betting on who will win or come in second each leg and who will win or lose the race as a whole. It was a hoot and relatively quick (aside from the chatting and joking around but that was the best part). We got through about three games before Grant was ready to join us and Jake showed up for dinner. During this time Christy’s two little ones, Gwen (3 yr) and Mark (6 mo), made appearances as well. They are just ridiculously adorable. Gwen is sweet and a little shy but if you get her on Frozen or Barbie, then you’re good. She even shared her freeze-dried ice cream (which was definitely yummy, btw) that Mel had brought her. And Mark is just a happy little guy who is always smiling and likes to move. He let me hold him and was just bouncing around it my lap and having a grand old time.
    Once we settled we brought out dinner and that’s when the night got even better. Mel had made a mild chicken curry (something I’d never had before) and Christy made green beans with fetta cheese (also never had) as well as a lovely salad and some brown rice. The whole thing was fantastic! I helped myself to seconds of pretty much everything. Then for dessert, Jake brought out some frozen mango and Grant brought out some rum raisin chocolate (other things I haven’t had). Suffice to say, it was definitely a success. During and after dinner, talked a bit about all the things I’ve never had and how most people would possibly consider me a picky eater (I’m currently visualizing several family members nodding vigorously in agreement) but I must admit that I’ve tried pretty much everything I’ve been given here and have yet to be disappointed. The rest of the night was a complete blast and flew by for me. After dinner we ended up on the topic of music and the group began sharing all their best Australian suggestions. We listened to a couple and I liked them but am currently hardcore blanking on names right. Come back to me in a few days. Christy even started to make a list for a potential mix cd.
    We ended with the game Coup. Basically there are 5 roles (Captain, Ambassador, Assassin, Duke, and Contessa) and each role has an action and a counteraction. Example: The Duke can take three extra coins and can block people form taking foreign aid. Or the Captain and the Ambassador can both steal coins and block others from stealing coins. Only you know your roles and you are allowed to lie about them to do actions that you aren’t actually capable of. If, however, someone thinks you are lying about who you are then they can challenge you. If you are lying and can’t show the card you claim to be, you lose one of your lives aka card. If you are telling the truth though, you show that card and they instead lose a life/card. Then you get a new role so that both your roles are secret. The point of the game is to collect coins, kill other people, and be the last one with a life left. It’s a lot of fun because you have to be able to bluff a little or be inconspicuous and just read other people. I was actually pretty proud of myself because I won our first round! But that was all ha. Playing games with Mel is crazy but fun because she is a straightforward person but not so easy to read so she can just mess with your mind.
     After a few more rounds, we said our good-byes (mine, quite sadly, for a very long time) then headed back to Mel’s to meet Shorty, who was so graciously taking me home. Although before we left, Mel came down the stairs with a present for me: the Raiders beanie!! Remember like 20 posts ago when I said we went to the Raiders rugby game our first weekend here and I saw the coolest knit hat with horns on it and it was the first thing I wanted in Australia but it was a promo thing so I couldn’t get it and I’ve been searching ever since and was going to go on ebay and buy it? (and if you don’t remember then I just recapped it for you) Well I finally got one! Somehow it got brought up at dinner (probably because I haven’t shut up about it this whole trip because it is seriously bomb as hell) and Mel said she had an extra one and she would give it to me and then I promptly declared my love for her (because seriously she has become my Australian fairy godmother). Anyway, eventually we made it in the car and all the way home where I bid them goodnight, left another note on the fridge, and promptly passed out with a smile on my face.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Day 32: Monday April 13

    Today was our first day volunteering at Questacon. There is so much to love about this place. Free wifi all day, for one. But also it has something for everyone: little kids, big kids, teens, even parents. And, it makes learning science easy and fun.
We’ve been split into teams and my team, Sivan and I, had a pretty easy morning- all we had to do was help set up for the music show then man the doors. We got to watch the show too, which was a nice bonus. Let’s side note to mention that I also got to video chat with my absolutely adorable niece so my day was pretty much made at that point. We grabbed a quick lunch around noon then it was back at it.
    The second half of our shift we were supposed to be busking in the foyer so we teamed up with another group, Lillian and Beth, and brought out the Dr. Scar trolley. Dr. Scar is the one where we use artist makeup to give kids black eyes, scars, bruises, anything. While doing so we teach the kids about how blood cells work and what hemoglobin is but we also mostly just help them come up with really cool stories for how they got their injury.

After a little while Lillian and I decided to break off and play with the Music trolley for a bit. This one has a bunch of slinkys and drums and pop cans and we focus on sound waves and resonators vs. oscillators. It was fun for a bit but four hours of the exact same thing can be boring so we brought out one more cart: the insects. Now, for any of you who know me, you know I am not a fan of anything creepy or crawly. Lillian said she would handle the actual bugs and I could just talk about them but once we got started, things got busy and I was forced to let one of them (then two of them!) crawl on me. Thankfully there were only two types of bugs: the Spiny leafy insect and the Goliath walking stick.

As their names suggest, they are both quite harmless as they just pretend to be part of a tree. Neither of them are poisonous or let alone even bite. They just crawl up your arm and freeze there, thinking that they are in a tree. I actually became quite fond of the walking stick and named him Jeremy (well some of the kids did, but I stuck with it). Not even gonna lie, I was pretty proud of myself and before I knew it, it was time to go.
     We piled into Terri’s van and headed to a local restaurant called Tilly’s for a celebratory dinner. It’s supposed to be like pretty famous and amazing and although the atmosphere was pretty cool (it looked kinda like a speakeasy) the food wasn’t all that amazing. I mean good but I’ve had better. However, I did try a new thing while we were there- hummus. It’s actually not bad. Another thing checked off the list. We headed home and I spent the rest of the night finishing up journals before turning in for an early night.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Day 31: Sunday April 12

    Today was the day I did something I would not have expected to in Australia: visited a sheep farm. Turns out sheep farms are actually pretty big here and there’s one basically just up the road so we figured why not? Not wanting to all cram into the van, Sivan, Emily, and I caught a ride with Chris, an LSA (learning support assistant aka paraprofessional) from our school who we had invited along and we made our way down to the farm. Let’s side note to mention that Terri, bless her heart, is not the best driver and somewhat directionally challenged (no judgment because let’s face it, so am I) so when we got to the farm, there was a sign out front letting her know she had made it.

Once we got there the first thing Emily and I did was jump all over the cutest puppy in the world. Bob is a 4 month old kelpie, which is a sheep dog. His dad and mom, Digger and Jenny, were also nearby. Craig, the owner of the farm, told us they had about 10 acres and 1500 sheep. He explained that the sheep pretty much wonder where they like and anytime they need to be brought in, Digger does that. I’ll admit I’ve never known much about how sheep dogs operate but I finally got the chance to see.
    Craig sent Digger out to the field with the command “Go back” which means go behind the sheep. First he circles the sheep so they get scared and group together. Then he gets behind them so they run the way he wants them to. Two of the girls, Lillian and Laura, actually joined Digger in the running of the sheep and it was pretty amusing. Once they are brought down to the smaller area, they are ready to be caught. This was also something I watched several of the group members try (I, however, did not. The one thing I’ve turned down while here and mainly because it looked a) like a lot of work and b) terrifying- animals are unpredictable!). Turns out it’s quite difficult. What you do is grab the sheep by the chin and turns his head towards his body (don’t worry, it’s not hurting him). Then, put your legs against his side and push his back hip, somewhat knocking them off balance. After this, they just sort of roll right over in between your legs and you basically cradle them. It’s hilarious to see the sheep just sitting on their butts looking up at you. Once you’re there though, you’ve got them. I was willing to at least cradle the sheep to see how it feels.

Of course you might expect them to be very soft but when you think about it, they’ve been living outside so they can be a little rough.
    Our final step was sheep shearing. We learned that sheep shearers are paid by the sheep, the fastest record in the world is 40 seconds (Craig did his in six minutes), and, when done correctly, you will end up with three separate pieces of wool.

The first piece will be the belly, the next will be the legs, and the third will be one large piece that is the rest of it. It’s amazing because when you think about shaving or cutting hair, it falls off in pieces. But with shearing, it’s literally one big piece, like a blanket.

The small pieces are tossed and the large pieces are separated by grades: AA, AAA, Super AAA.

    After watching him do all that work, we were hungry. They served an amazing lunch of sirloin steak (which, yes, I did eat even though I rarely eat steak), salad, potatoes, coleslaw (which I also ate despite the rarity as well), and I even tried beets for the first time (not a huge fan but could be worse). For dessert, apple pie with custard. To work all this off, our last event was both a surprise and a blast: boomarang throwing. Turns out I’ve been picturing it wrong the whole time! Rule number one is the hold it up and down, not sideways. Depending on the make or the wind, you can tilt it a little but mostly up and down. Also, you need to throw into the wind and be sure it flick your wrist. It’s all about the wrist flick. Now, let me just say, my first try at it was actually pretty good. It flew and in the right direction and it curved back towards me, it just didn't make it all the way. My second go however, well...

This is the part where I nailed the fence. 
     We had so much fun watching each other practice and giving it a go ourselves. I’ll admit none of my 5 or so attempts ended with it actually coming back to me but some came close. With practice, it’s sure to happen. We said thank you and good-bye and headed home where I spent the next few hours doing the dreaded p-word: packing. I swear I’m going to have to buy another suitcase; I have way too much stuff! I got a break at the end of the afternoon as we all met up at the villa cafĂ© and had dinner together. Afterwards we had our very last seminar meeting. Tonight’s topic? Interviews. We talked about all the ins and outs and even did some mock questions with each other. Nerve-racking but important. At the end of the night Terri handed out goodies and certificates and we headed to bed, ready to start our final week in Australia.