Updation from my home nation

Posted by Katrina at 7:45 pm on Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Filed under General

G’day mates… I’m back–both in the sense that I’m home and that I’m finally updating this. I extend my sincere apologies for the delay. I really don’t have any excuse, besides the fact that summer makes me simultaneously busy and lazy.

So. I feel like people expect me to say that it’s been really hard being back, what with getting adjusted and all, but that hasn’t been the case, at least not for me. I always tried to look at Australia as what it was: a brief time period to explore another place and do a little getting to know myself, not to mention other people. I think because I kept the idea of the trip’s brevity at the front of my mind, I was able to accept the fact that it was over. Also, I had a really distinct picture of what life would be like when I got home in my head, and it turned out to be exactly what I expected: warm welcome homes, reunions that exciting at first, soon melded into another comfortable hangout, etc. AND I’m taking some of my best friends home with me, so basically, little to no adjustment neccessary.

OH something I’m really proud of: being that I enjoy both surprises and mischief, I changed my return flight to the 26th of June instead of the 29th….and didn’t tell my parents. I had my brothers in on the scheme, and after a harrowing journey home (even though I had Casey with me for the long part) my younger brother picked me up from JFK, and I snuck up to my parents room. The looks on their faces…priceless. Well, almost. It cost 35$ to switch flights.

New Zealand, as predicted, was breathtakingly beautiful. Glaciers, lakes, rivers, mountains and sheep. TONS of sheep. Christchurch was pretty….and pretty small. You could easily see its entirety in a day, two if you walk slow. Ya know how New York is the city that never sleeps? Christchurch is its exact opposite; Tracy and I got there at 11:30 pm on a Thursday night and not a soul was to be found. We skipped around the streets for a while.

n27906457_32350222_2446.jpg Christchurch actually has a church. Well, a cathedral.

n27906457_32350229_4554.jpg Tracy chillin at the base of the biggest tree I’ve ever been under in the botannical gardens.

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This I’m also really proud of. The most currencies I’ve ever had in my possession. Clockwise from top left: Australian, Malaysian, New Zealand..ish? (I still don’t know the word for that) American and a Mexican peso in the center.

 Now, for the first stop on our trip: Hanmer Springs, northern South Island. Natural hot springs. It was like having a bunch of earth-warmed, organic hot tubs at our disposal. Mondo relaxing.

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It’s too bad it was our first stop…Casey could’ve used some lazing after driving over countless of these bad boys:

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Yes that’s a one lane bridge with a train track running through it.

n27906457_32350363_8188.jpg This is Brandon trying to figure out the cushy puzzle that was our sleeping quarters. Once we got everything settled, things got a little better for everyone. Except for the fact that it went down to easily below freezing during the night. If not for the extra blankets the campervan place lent us, I wouldn’t be typing this right now because I would’ve lost my fingers to frostbite. And most likely my nose, too. Anyway.

Peaceful: n27906457_32350374_1771.jpg 

Nerdy: n27906457_32350387_6339.jpg

Glacial: n27906457_32350392_8530.jpg

Exploratory: n27906457_32350395_9662.jpg

Frighteningly Foggy:n27906457_32448989_2824.jpg

Other highlights include Queenstown, which although it was the most commercial, was still really naturally gorgeous. We went on a gondola up to a mountain that looked over the entire lake.

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Once at the top, we enjoyed a sweet street luge ride. Queenstown is one of three places in the world where you can do that, so we took advantage.

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Other Queenstown shots:

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Random Llama sighting: n27906457_32449008_9538.jpg

All in all, good trip.

Once we got home, (home being Melbourne) Casey and I only had a day left in the city. Somehow, we got a sunny day, which we spent wandering through the bottanical gardens before enjoying our only trip to Crown Casino. (No I did not win anything.)

And now here I am, back in New Paltz with classes only a few weeks away. I’m definitely excited to get back to the familiar class setting. I honestly cannot believe this is my last year of college. Watch, soon as I graduate I’ll be running for the hills….of New Zealand.

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I guess this is it

Posted by Katrina at 11:23 am on Sunday, June 15, 2008
Filed under Australia,General,Melbourne

The last post from Australia. (Internet gets switched off tomorrow.)

 You know, coming here, everyone tells you “oh god, study abroad’s gonna change your life,” but you don’t actually realize it changing. You don’t see your life taking place through one of those time-elapsed shots where the clouds roll through really fast and shadows dance around on shaking trees. You live life normally, a minute at a time. But then those minutes become sparser and sparser, and you turn around to see all the memories you’ve made piled up on top of one another like toys in a toybox. And then you realize what it’s all meant.

I don’t know if I can pinpoint how it is I’m feeling right now–there’s a lot goin on. I’m leaving for New Zealand tomorrow for an 8-day trip with Case, Brandon and Tracy, three of the best friends I ever could have asked for; I have to pack up my entire room and material life back into the two suitcases I brought here; and I have to say goodbye to some insanely amazing people, all the while knowing it could be years and years before I see them again (if ever, for the pessimists).

Woof. Heavy stuff, I know. Now I understand why I’ve been listening to “Do You Realize” by the Flaming Lips so much these past few days. (look up the lyrics). But! the light on the horizon is that I know I will definitely see my Canadian friends in the Fall, and Liam’s planning a trip to the US for January. So it won’t be too long before I see him again. I want him to experience our homes the way we did his so badly.

Ugh. Part of me wishes I could just go to sleep and wake up in my bed at home without having gone through all the hard stuff like packing and goodbyes, but the smart part knows this is all part of the process that’s going to make me the person I’ll be when I step foot in the US in a few weeks. As much as I had no idea what Australia was going to be like, I have no idea how being home will feel. I’m so excited to see my family and my dogs and my friends and the beach and the mountains in NP.

 Throughout all of this I’ve just felt so lucky. Lucky to have this opportunity, lucky to leave knowing I made the most of it, lucky to have met so many different and amazing people, lucky to have these memories and lucky to have a great home to come back to.

 All for now from Australia. Next post will be from America.

 What.

Anyway, cheers mates!

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Daddy long legs are one thing…

Posted by Katrina at 12:19 pm on Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Filed under Australia,General,Melbourne

To quote my dear friend and suitemate, Tracy: “I have gone almost four months without encountering a mama spider…then I walked into my bathroom.”

 Last night, at around bed time (three a.m.) I hear a rapid soft knocking on my door. “Yeah?” I say

“Umm..I think you need to come into the bathroom,” Tracy’s voice said through the door. “There’s a big, big spider in here.”

“So get it,” I said lazily from my bed. (Since we’ve been here, Tracy, with her cup and piece of paper to cover said cup has been the resident spider catcher.)

“No, no,” she said and opened the door. “It’s huge and I THINK it’s the kind you have to be worried about.”

This was enough to get me out of bed. Warily, I stuck my head around the side of the bathroom door and looked into the corner Tracy was pointing at. Instantly, I got chills in places I’d never had them before. (Like my jawline. What?) Yeah it was that disgusting. It was big and furry and menacing.

Like a couple of 9 year olds, Tracy and I went back and forth between the foyer and the bathroom, panicking. “Should we call the after hours assistant?” I asked.

“Oh yeah and be the two American girls who called security to come get a spider for them. I don’t THINK so. I’m texting every boy we know right now.”

“Okay well I’m gonna keep an eye on it and make sure it doesn’t go anywhere,”I said. In reality, if the thing had moved even a fraction of an inch I would have run screaming out the door.

(Fun fact one: Tracy and I are both women’s studies minors. Fun fact two: feminism doesn’t apply to Australian spiders.)

Luckily our friend Chris was awake. “Does it look like a tarantula but smaller?” he asked on the phone.

“Yeah…kinda…I think,” I said squinting at it.

“It’s probably a huntsman. They’re like daddy long legs. Absolutely harmless, but I’ll be over.”

During the agonizingly long wait for Chris, Tracy tried to take a picture of it but had no sooner stooped to focus the lens before she ran out of the bathroom. “What! What!” I ran out behind her.

“His eyes!!! They turned RED.” Hence, there’s no accompanying photo with this entry.

Chris finally got to our suite and went into the bathroom. He squatted down to get a good look at the thing.

“…..Yeah that’s not a huntsman,” he said.

“Well what IS it?” I asked.

“Will it kill us?” Tracy backed up.

“I don’t really know. There’s funnel webs here. They’re pretty gnarly. You got a cup?”

Though I admired his bravery, I waited in the foyer while Chris tried to capture our furry buddy. No luck.

In the end, Chris had to spear the thing on a FORK and bring it outside. I fleed into the bedroom upon seeing its bulbous little body sitting on the metal prongs. Eesh it still gives me chills.

In other news, my time in Australia is dwindling down to a few weeks. I can’t say I’m heartbroken to leave; home is calling my name. But I’m not going to be jumpin on a plane with no fond looks back at this place. If nothing else, living in Australia has given me what my friend JoJo calls “the travel bug.” I’m dying to see Europe now, and I’m a lot less intimidated by the thought of figuring out strange cities and meeting fellow travelers. Next destination: South Island, New Zealand.

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A very Village fire drill in Austerica

Posted by Katrina at 12:48 pm on Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Filed under Australia,General,Melbourne

Let me preface this entry by saying that one: I had never seen The Blair Witch Project before last night, and two: it is legitimately terrifying. So you can understand why after watching it at Liam’s, Casey and I decided to have ourselves a little slumber party.

After putting on a happy movie, we finally drifted off to sleep somewhere between the hazy, little hours of 3 and 4. Now, it’s not strange for me to wake up in the middle of the night (I tend to twist myself up in my sheets to a point that’s almost life-threatening ) but when I woke up at 7 am, I had a funny feeling. A minute later, a shrill, high-pitched ringing sounded somewhere outside. I sat up on my elbows, squinted through the muted light in my room and went over possibilities of the sound’s origin:

-We are being attacked by aliens, and this is the noise their ship makes.

-It’s the Blair Witch.

-I’m dreaming.

-I’m NOT dreaming…I’m awake and this ringing will be something I have to deal with for the rest of my life.

Then I snapped to and remembered what one of the Res Lifers had told me and Tracy a few weeks ago–that sometime before the end of the semester the Village would be conducting a full-scale fire drill where everyone had to evacuate their rooms and meet on the fringes of the establishment for a head count.

But something wasn’t adding up. I looked over at Casey. I don’t even think she was awake yet. How could this be a fire drill if it didn’t even wake someone up? I thought back to my past experiences with fire drills: back at Marist my first semester freshman year, when I was caught in the shower (I’m not joking) three times by the blaring sirens…all the countless nights I was woken up in Shango in New Paltz, narrowly escaping a ceizure from the flashing lights….checking to see if my ears were bleeding as I walked down hallways as sirens screeched above…

If this was a fire drill, how was it that I was still (somewhat) cozy in bed? The ringing was annoying yes, but not enough to make me get up. Casey seemed to be thinking the same thing. Then Tracy came in and joined the party, but was a little less blase about what was going on. She had a test in a few hours, and had only fallen asleep a little bit before. We all sat in my room and listened outside. We heard voices, but no one was knocking on our door. Still the ringing persisted. I put a pillow over my head.

“You know, if this was a fire, we could be dead right now,” Tracy said. I lifted my head up from my pillow and thought it over. She was right. The ringing was a pretty poor excuse for an alarm, and, depending on whether or not I’d gone to the pub or not the night before, I might not have even been woken up by it.

Eventually the ringing stopped, and Eva sent me a text message, echoing Tracy’s statements: “Some fire drill..you guys would be dead right now if that was real.” She also said a bunch of people were missing from the head count.

Later on it was revealed the res-lifers in mine and Tracy’s building forgot to knock on our doors and force us out, which is an understandable mistake. But the whole drill just seemed so much more (to use the same adjective I’ve been using to compare Australia and the US since I’ve got here) laid-back. It seemed like no one really cared whether we turned up to the head count or not.

I was really attracted to the whole “no worries!” attitude when I got here. But now that I’ve been living it for almost four months, the take it slow, take it easy, why the rush deal is actually wearing me out rather than calming me down, especially with school. I still get so aggravated at my classmates for being so careless about turning in assignments and/or going to class, and even more so with my teachers for letting it happen. It seems like no one is motivated to do much more than what’s required of them.

Sigh. Sometimes I wish I could take America and Australia and mash them together and make a hybrid country. Little bit of the GO GO GO of America and the chilllllll dude of Australia. I could name it Ameristralia.  OR Austerica. (I kind of like the second one…possible title for my future Australian memoirs?)

In any case, in the next three weeks I’ve got two classes to attend, four papers to finish (err–write) and one test to take before I can fling myself into the open arms of New Zealand for a solid seven days. Then it’s over the Pacific and back into a life that’s getting a little less hazy with each passing day

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Trippy Tuesday

Posted by Katrina at 9:46 am on Thursday, May 22, 2008
Filed under Australia,General,Melbourne

I’m pretty proud of myself for sticking to the resolution I made a few weeks ago: that I would take advantage of Melbourne on my days off. Being that Brandon, Casey and I all have off on Tuesdays, it’s usually our outing day, and it’s normally a pretty good time. This past Tuesday, though, weird stuff kept happening. Strange surprises kept popping up that may or may not lead to two of your favorite American bloggers appearing on Australian news sometime soon… (Don’t worry, we weren’t arrested/doing anything illegal, I swear.)

 Casey, Brandon, Liam and I all took an early tram in with the idea of going to the Queen Victoria Market and hitting up the Melbourne Museum. We’d all been to the market in March, but squeezing between souvenier-hungry crowds in 100-degree weather is actually perilous, so we didn’t last long that time. This trip was much more pleasant. I was able to score some sweet t-shirts for some friends, and I tried lamb for the second time in my life and actually liked it for the first time.

First odd event of the day: we’re walking to the museum, and up ahead I see a guy wearing the same hoodie as Liam…and he’s also wearing a similar messanger bag…and he has scruffy black hair…and dark jeans. I swear it was Liam three minutes in the future. So of course being the mature, 20-somethings we are, we dodgily ran to catch up with him. Brandon managed to snag a photo.

First, Liam: n27904471_32194745_7700.jpg 

His bizarro twin: n27904471_32194719_9895.jpg

Onto the museum. The exhibit we went to see was called Drugs: A Social History. Looking it up online, it looked decent,  but when we got there it was rather boring. Lots of non-exciting reading about side-effects, and even less about the sub-cultures formed around drugs, which is the interesting part. (I’m thinking the 60′s, Hunter S. Thompson’s writing, etc.) I was feeling grumpy and bored when this guy came in with a TV camera and huge light set which enabled me to take some Peter Pan photos on a blank wall:

 n27904471_32194736_4934.jpg  n27904471_32194739_5846.jpg

But, quirky event numero dos occurred when a pretty lady with a microphone asked us if we wanted to be on SBS (think NBC in America) news! What. Of COURSE we wanted to be on TV! (Casey’s excluded in that statement.) She interviewed us seperately. Brandon went first, but it was too hard to  hear what she was asking him, and I was too busy cracking jokes to Liam and Casey that I didn’t really think about the fact that I would have to be answering the same questions in a few minutes……on camera. So, naturally, when it was my turn to answer the sizzling, “So what did you think of the exhibition?” I tripped and fumbled over my words so badly that I essentially gave up and said “Oh my God I am BABBLING.” Andddd upon starting over….did practically the same thing. My one shot at Australian fame, and I blew it. Good thing I don’t have a TV and don’t have to re-live my own personal catastrophe.

After the museum we ended up in a cathedral right off Swanston Street. The name is escaping me, but it was a really interesting experience. I don’t believe in the Catholic church as a system of belief, but I think churches in themselves can be really beautiful. What made this one particularly interesting was the fact that down at the end of the aisle, where all the holy practices are conducted, sat a huge hunk of machinary. I think it was a crane or a lift of some sort. Whatever it was, I found it so curious. It looked like an alien that got lost or something.

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The occupation of this thing in a space that’s considered sacred by so many people held me so captive for some reason. At first I thought it looked really unnatural and grotesque. Then the more I sat there looking at it, the more sense it made to me; it looked strange at first because it was so obviously man-made, and churches usually have auras of being more other-wordly. But then I though that the church and the actual religion itself are also constructions of humans, and the machinery began to look more at home in the space.

Few other pics I took in the cathedral:

n27904471_32194757_1551.jpg  n27904471_32194759_2216.jpg n27904471_32194761_2875.jpg n27904471_32194762_3212.jpg

Around the corner was this Opal store that Casey had a coupon for “a bag of rough opals” for, and after walking through a shady alley-way with a lot of sick graffiti, we found it.

So we walk into the place, and it’s really bright… and completely empty. We kind of just stood there for 30 seconds to a minute before a man in his late 50′s or 60′s came out, and without any introduction of any sort, said, “Let me show you how you refine opals!”

O..kay. We didn’t really have anywhere to be, so we watched and made small talk as he finely sanded a rough opal to a beautiful pearl color.

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He had a ton of enthusiasm. Almost TOO much enthusiasm. He was crazy. about. opals. For some reason, (let’s say paranoia) I started constructing images of brutal torture in my head: him sticking our fingers in the sander, one by one…him conking each of us out with a huge slab of opal…Then he said, “Now I’ll show you my creatures!”

Excuse me, creatures? My imagination switched into high gear as he lead us into a darker room full of glass cages behind which were sitting various reptiles and insects. The kind of insects that kill.

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“You know black widows you guys have back in the US?” he asked with a grin. “Well we have redbacks. Enough venom in this little guy to paralyze you on the spot!” I just stared at him. Then when he turned around to take out his scorpion (it was “tame”) I snuck a quick, wide-eyed peak at the others. Liam shot me a skeptical grimmace, and Casey and Brandon were slowly backing up.

 After we were shown a python (named–you guessed it–Opal) and some lizard thing, we headed back into the light. After the owner went into the back room to grab something, I discovered I wasn’t the only one concocting psycho worse-case situations in her head. Brandon: “I know! I thought he was showing us the spiders so he could torture us with them later!”

In the end, it turns out that he was just super-friendly and passionate, and, once I realized he wasn’t going to kill us, I found him completely intruiging. He’s made millions in the mining of Opals all over Australia, and somehow, managed to avoid becoming a snob…though he made no secret about how much each of the Opals spread before us was worth. An opal literally the size of a pea carried a weight of several hundred dollars. IIII know. But some of them were amazing. Each piece of this one is worth thousands. I love it when nature does stuff like this. Blows my mind.

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Before we left, the owner let us dig through his rough opal “mine” (a table with bits and pieces on it) for some scrap souveniers. Not quite the same as actually mining…but then again I’ve never been so who knows.

I feel like each part of this day was its own chapter in a weird story book. Maybe some day I’ll write the expanded version and market it to kids or something.

In other news, I bought my ticket to New Zealand today! Eight days of Lord of the Rings land, baby. We’re gonna rent a car and do sight-seeing that way.

 Roughly a little over three weeks left in Australia. Yikes McGee.

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Down on the Farm

Posted by Katrina at 1:09 pm on Friday, May 16, 2008
Filed under Australia,Melbourne

So as you may have read on Brandon’s blog, this past weekend we took a little roadtrip out to good ol’ Swan Hill. Even though I’d never been there before, it gives you the feeling like you’ve known the place all your life. I think it was the way Liam’s family took us in so graciously and generously that did it.

Whenever you go to someone’s hometown it’s like chiseling a little bit away at another layer of them that you couldn’t get to before.  I guess since I’d only known Liam in the context of Melbourne, I had him pegged as a city boy. But it was really curious to see the dusty country roads he’s driven on, the trees he’s climbed as a kid. I mean, the kid had a pet kangaroo that was fed with a bottle and slept in a pillowcase hung from a doorknob.

 Anyway, start of the trip:

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A long car ride is always do-able when you have good friends and Britney Spears’s greatest hits. Not to mention some pretty fantastic scenery:

n27906457_32164908_8206.jpg  n27906457_32164903_7137.jpg  n27906457_32164909_8437.jpg

So we get to Liam’s, and we’re greeted by two of his (many) dogs, a home-cooked meal and tons of questions from his parents. Wouldn’t have had it any other way. After we digested, Liam’s dad took us out in the “triton,” which is their big, bad Australian country truck, and we went spotlighting. We were all a little dubious about what this even meant, but we soon learned it meant heading out into a field in the pitchest black the sky has to offer, and using a gigantic flashlight’s beam to find kangaroos. And kangaroos we did find. I felt pretty satisfied with myself after the trip to Healseville, but nothing, and I mean nothing,beats chasing kangaroos around a field in a truck.

After that bit of exhileration, we took some time to relax before bed. Now, I’ve been in some cozy rooms before, but Liam’s living room takes the cake: wood-burning stove, hand-quilted crafts galore, multiple couches and recliners. And my favorite, platypus coasters:

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Of course we got Liam to break out the baby pictures.

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The next day we went into the town of Swan Hill and hung out with a giant fish.

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And we also went down to the Murray River, which (according to Liam) was at a lot lower than it has been in the past because of the drought.

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 All of Australia is really into water conservation, but I didn’t really realize how important it is until I saw the state of Swan Hill. Everything just looks bone dry and brittle. Liam’s dad is really up on his info about conservation and sustainability because of everything they’ve had to go through with the water situation.

After coming home from town, we meandered around the farm for a while. The sun came out and turned everything golden instead of the muted gray that had been lingering around. Beautiful:

   n27906457_32164940_6581.jpg  n27906457_32164937_5707.jpg  n27906457_32164939_6276.jpg 

    

We also checked out some scenic foresty locations. This one especially reminds me of Peter Pan:

n27906457_32164933_4558.jpg n27906457_32164934_4853.jpg  n27906457_32164932_4252.jpg

On the way home, since the streets were pretty much deserted, Liam agreed to give Tracy, me and Casey a lesson on stick shift! That was good fun, let me tell you. My past experiences with manuel have only involved a quad (or ATV) my brothers picked out, snow, and stalling every time I tried to start the thing. So when I got it first try, I was supremely pleased with myself. Likewise, Tracy and Casey did as well. Achievements all around.

Later, we also saw a baby lamb 20 minutes after it had been born. Disgusting fact: after the baby is born, the mother licks the placenta off of it in order for her body to create an enzyme or nutrient that nourishes the baby when it feeds. Yeah, I’m glad I didn’t see that part. But look! Cute!

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That evening, Liam’s aunt and uncle came over and we had a long, lively BBQ dinner. Points of discussion: climate change, Vegemite (which Liam’s dad stuck on a spoon and made me taste-BLECH), American elections, accents and much, much more. It was like a mini Thanksgiving.

I hadn’t really thought about the feeling I get from being with my family in a while. I was always aware of missing my parents and my brothers and my big family parties (I have like, 40 cousins altogether). It kind of just fades into a dull miss; it’s not something I feel at every second, but I’m usually conscious of it. But being with Liam’s family was one of those rare times when I think, “Wow, they’re on the other side of the world right now.” And I miss them pretty badly.

But enough sap. I only have a few more weeks left here, and being sad is a waste of time.

Stuff coming up to look forward to:

-being done with classes

-trip up north to Cairns in early June (white water rafting anyone? or bunji jumping?)

-New Zealand!! on the way home.

First I just have to get through the massive black cloud that is having four final papers due in early June.

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A day with Dife, Casey and some roos

Posted by Katrina at 9:55 am on Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Filed under Australia,Melbourne

Be fore-warned: this is a long one, folks. Read at your own risk of developing ADD 

 So before I get to today (which was A+), let’s travel back to say, September of this past year:

I’m sitting in Professor Miraldi’s Muckraking class on one of the first few days of the fall semester.  It’s hot, even for September, and I’m waving what was probably the syllabus in an effort to facillitate some ventillation in the stuffy, third-floor room. Miraldi is up at the front of the room, energetic as usual despite the heat, when he asks a question of the guy sitting behind me.

Being lazy, I don’t bother  turning around and continue to fan myself until something peaks my ears’ interest: the accent coming from the guy behind me is unmistakably Australian. (Keep in mind, this was right after I had decided I was definitely going to study in Australia. I may have even picked up the application that day, who knows.) I turn around slightly to get a peak at the foreigner: pretty friendly looking. I decide I’ll try and talk to him sometime about Australia.

“And what’s your name again?” asks Miraldi.

“Dife,” says the guy behind me. It must be some cool Aussie name, I think. The class continues.

Fast forward a week or so: Professor Good decides to hold Press in America outside under the shade, the kind of rare treat no high school teacher would bestow upon their students. Dife’s also in this class. Today’s the day, I decide, to sidle up to him and propose a chat about his hometown. Dife takes my number and I tell him to call me when he has a few minutes to spare.

Few days later, I get a text message from an unknown number: “Heyya Kt…wucha up to this evening?” (or something to that extent) This has to be Dife, I think, but let me make sure: “Hey…this is Dife right?”

And now for the point of the story, the text message I get back: “Ha, well you can call me that if you like….but my name’s Dave.

If you’re not cottoning on, try saying “Dave” with an Australian accent. Go on, most likely no one’s in the room with you. Try it. SEE? Dife.

So goes my first experience with a real Australian accent. Yes, it was utterly embarassing. (Even more so when Dave showed up to my friend’s art show and because I’d told everyone about it, was greeted as “Oh yeah, Dife!”)

So it turns out that Dave was studying in New Paltz for a bit, and he was from the school I was to attend in Melbourne. Now that I’m here we really haven’t seen each other all that much. But today however, he was kind enough to escort Casey and I to Healseville, an animal sanctuary an hour outside Melbourne. And yes, I FINALLY saw a kangaroo.

To start things off: the drive there was actually really pretty. I always thought Victoria was pretty much flat for some reason, but nope!
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Dife himself:

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This is a dingo. Maybe it ate your baby. (Seinfeld, anyone?) Anyway, it made me miss my pups.

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Drumroll please: here come the kangaroos! I thought its top paws looked weird at first, but dismissed it. Then Casey pointed out that those paws actually didn’t belong to the big kangaroo, but to the little joey she carried in her pouch!

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Next come the wallabees. They little guys were really skittish, but the older ones let you get right up in their business and pet them.

My new best bud:

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Scratchin’:

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Dife lends him a hand    

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Casey goes in for the awkward hug you give relatives you don’t know at family reunions you don’t want to be at:

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Next we had the wombat and the tasmanian devil. The first one was totally passed out in his little cave shelter thing. Wouldn’t you be? Look how nice it looks in there!

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The devil was running amock behind the glass-enclosed pen, so it was hard to get a good shot of him (or her?) but here he/she/it is:

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It felt good to talk to an Australian who’s been to America, especially one who studied at New Paltz. Kind of put us on the same footing. We talked about classes and internships and writing, which made me feel better about my studies–not just here–but in general. I told Dave how I’m kind of intimidated by writing as a career, and I really felt like he understood. We both agree it’s about finding your voice, your style, and cultivating it.

I told you this would be long. And I’m not even procrastinating anything right now.

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Long time, no post

Posted by Katrina at 12:22 am on Sunday, May 4, 2008
Filed under Australia,Melbourne

Sorry about that. I haven’t been fufilling my bloggerly duties lately. School has been swamping up my internet use, but it’s all paying off. I got my first paper back yesterday and did well. Thing is, they use a numbers scale of 0-100, but it’s extremely rare for someone to get above an 85. (What my teacher actually said was, “Don’t expect anything above 80.”)

I always hate it when teachers preface assignments with the whole “I don’t give out any A’s” schpeel. How’s that supposed to make students feel? But apparently, anything over 85% is saved for the rare geniuses that emerge from time to time.

Anywho, I’ve still been out and about, but unfortunately, my camera hasn’t been. The battery was really dead for a few weeks, and I kept forgetting to charge it. So some of the pictures you’ll see in here are courtesy of Ms. Tracy Soren, dear friend and beloved suitemate.

A few weeks ago I attended my first (and hopefully not last) footy game! You may have read about it in Brandon’s blog. It was pretty spectacular. Not the same as going to a Met’s game in August, but still a great experience. It took me half the game to latch onto the rules, but once I did I was pretty into it.

n27906457_32133615_30.jpg Insane crowds outside the Telstra Dome

n27906457_32133619_1128.jpg  The Western Bulldogs! (VU sponsors them, so we are obligated to be fans.)

  n27906457_32133620_1408.jpg Casey and I

The crowds were intense. It all may have been a little much for Brandon.

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I’ve also been trying to make the most of my weekends and head into the city during the day to check out everything Melbs has to offer. We went to the Melbourne Museum, which was beautiful, but we didn’t have enough time to see it all. Oh, also every time we get out of the Flinders Street station, some kind of wacko street performer has managed to garner the attention of at least 100 people in Federation Square. Like this guy.

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They’re never too great, but we always stop for some reason.

This past Tuesday, me, Brandon and Tracy went to the Victoria College of Arts to see Liam’s film debut! His class had all been given the assignment to make a one-minute movie with a Super8 camera. I was so impressed. As we were walking to the theatre, Liam turned to me and said, “You know, when I was younger I told myself I would live here someday. And here I am.” I really admire him for that.

Tracy took this beautiful photo as we walked past the Yarra River in search of some noodles. That’s professional quality right there, that is.

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On the walk back along the river, we started to notice a lot of police cars with their lights flashing. I didn’t really think too much of it, but as we neared the main intersection, we knew something was going on. Hundreds of people were crowded into the middle of the intersection, and parked taxi cabs lined two of the four streets leading into it. It was a protest.

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The sign the man is holding says “Stop killing taxi drivers.” The night before, a 23 year-old Indian taxi driver was the victim of a stabbing, and all the drivers in the city had rallied to show the need for better saftey precautions in cabs. It went on for hours, and it caused tons of traffic. But more power to them if it results in anything positive.

 School ends when May does, and I’m really looking forward to it because in June we’re planning on travelling up to the tropical North. MMM warm weather. It’s been so cold here lately, and I REALLY didn’t bargain for that. Que sera. In the meantime, I have crazy amounts of homework to do (in June I have three 6-10 pagers due all on the same day.)  However, the weekends are going to be reserved for fun times–next weekend we’re taking a trip into the country to stay at Liam’s house, and the next we’re going to Phillip Island to see the little penguins! So cute.

I promise, more blogs to come, more often!

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Mooooovies

Posted by Katrina at 12:32 pm on Monday, April 14, 2008
Filed under Australia,Melbourne

I just thought I’d update to tell you guys about some movies I’ve seen recently. Why am I thinking this would be an interesting subject for the blog, you ask? Because, my friends, none of the movies I’ve recently seen have been American. How refreshing!

On my birthday my friend Liam and I went to see St. Trinian’s, which is British. We both fell for the poster: bright colors, fun fonts, cheeky-looking school girls. It was about some off the wall girl’s school that was in danger of bankruptcy should the aforementioned pupils leave it to the big, dumb grownups to take care of business! I never expected it to be a masterpiece, but the plot (which could have been concocted by a fourth grader) didn’t carry, and the editing (which could’ve been perfected by that fourth grader’s twin sibling) was all over the place. However, Liam and I were the only ones in the entire theater, so we vented our frustrations in voices louder than typically heard in a movie theater. Sometimes a bad movie can be so dismal that it’s fun.

Next was a rental watched in a dark room, a bunch of us squished onto the bed:Death at a Funeral.  Can’t you just smell the irony? It was another British one, but this one was really good. I have to admit, British humor sometimes fails me. But I’m starting to change my mind. Tracy and I were pretty much in guffaws throughout. It’s about–duh–a funeral, which sets the scene for a bunch of little mishaps that snowball together to ultimately explode into what was a surprisingly heartwarming climax. If you rent it, take note of Uncle Alfie, the grumpy old man. He was my favorite. I always love to see elderly actors embracing the roles of real nasty, grouchy, old people, because it shows they’ve got a real keen sense of humor. Which, now that I think about it, actually does quite a bit to combat ageism. But anyway.

Last (because it was the best) is The Black Balloon. Brandon, Casey and I were having a super-laid back, mopey weekend, and one of the reviews for this movie promised we’d “laugh as much as we cried,” or something to that extent. Obviously we were drawn in like moths on your computer screen at 2 am when you’re trying to write a blog….

Ah, killed it.

Anywho, the movie did just what it promised. And this one was 100% utterly Australian, which I didn’t know going into it. All Australian actors, Aussie slang, Aussie companies. Toni Collette (mom from Little Miss Sunshine) and supermodel Gemma Ward (mistress of Vogue as of late) were both in it, as well as others I didn’t recognize. It focused on a 15 year-old boy and how he deals with his family, specifically his 13 year-old, severely autistic brother. It was one of those films where you’re just crying and crying at the end because it’s happy and it’s sad and it’s beautiful all in one. And then you walk outside and feel a little lighter, even though it feels like now you can recognize and physically feel all of the universe’s magnitude and possibility pressing down on you from the sky.

Kinda like that…if you’re psychotically analytical of your emotions. Ahem. But yeah, try and find a way to see it eventually.

Oh, also, Brandon and I are going on our third day of the cleanse. He just IM’ed me with “I want Outback steakhouse cheese fries. What are your feelings?”

The cravings are supposed to go away tomorrow.

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Class differences

Posted by Katrina at 12:25 am on Sunday, April 13, 2008
Filed under Australia,Melbourne

Although I do hear a lot about Marxism here, I’m not discussing economics. I’m talking about my actual school classes. 

The past two weeks have been spent doing the whole ‘back to the grind’ thing. It’s amazing what two weeks of travelling can do to your motivation when it comes to going to classes. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been skipping out, it’s just harder to get myself to go to class than it is here in New Paltz. I think it’s a combination of things though: for one of my classes, I have to take a 20 minute bus, wait for a 10 minute train, then take a 15 minute walk to campus. On a Friday.

But that class is my favorite by far since it’s a writing class. My other classes are…okay. I don’t mean to be a whinger, (whiner) but I really just think Australians have a different mindset towards education than Americans. I think that it’s ingrained in us since we enter schooling that we HAVE TO GO TO COLLEGE AND GET GOOD GRADES TO GET A GOOD JOB, so that’s what we strive to do.  I’ve always taken my education very seriously. Here, they’re more laid back. It’s common to take 1-3 years off after high school to travel or work or just get your bearings in the world, so sometimes it feels like my classmates are all on completely different levels. The student-teacher relationship is also really different here. At home, the professor completely runs the class, and the students can pretty much expect him or her to be an expert on the subject matter.  Sometimes here, (in some classes, not all) it’s almost as if it’s just a big group discussion that may or may not end up anywhere.

I don’t know. I’m trying really hard not to sound snobby, but I know I do. It’s not that I don’t value the education I’m getting here, I just like the way everything’s run at home better. But that’s part of the experience, eh?

In other news, I celebrated my 21st last week, and I’ve come to the conclusion I like celebrating other people’s birthdays more than my own. This one was especially weird; I felt like half of me was back home with my parents and my friends.

Hmm. I guess I’m not keeping it a secret that I’m a little homesick. I just keep thinking about Spring at home and how glorious it is. And then I look outside and notice the blustery air that’s getting colder every day. I still don’t understand how I thought I would have a full 5 months of sunshine and 80 degree weather. Que sera. So to combat the “eech” feeling the weather has been giving us lately, Brandon and I have decided to do a body cleanse. You basically drink a mixture of water, organic maple syrup, lemon juice and cayanne pepper for 10 days (if you make it that long), and it totally cleanses out all of the toxins in your immune system. Supposedly it gives you tons of energy as well. And Beyonce did it. I’m sold. I’ll let you guys know how that one works out later.

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