Monday, June 30, 2014

The Girl with the Pink Headband

At the baggage claim for the Sydney to Dallas flight, some girls behind me were saying they were just returning home from study abroad. One of them said Melbourne and study abroad in the same sentence, and my ears perked up. Not only was this girl from Indiana on the Clayton campus at Monash this whole time, but she had been in my Contemporary Australia class. I never ran into her until all semester, yet there she was right in ear shot of me. So weird, especially out of all the conversations I could have overheard while waiting to get my bags.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Traveling Home

This morning I got up at 5 am for my 6 am pick up. I probably could have gotten away with asking for the car to come a little later, but I didn't know if there were going to be any complications before my 9 am flight boarded to Sydney. I did have complications, but they were minor enough that a 6:30, maybe even 7 am ride may have been more suitable. I would have definitely benefited from some extra sleep since I stayed up a little later than I had planned to hang out with my Aussie friends for the last time.

I didn't realize at first how complicated it would be for me to "check out" of my room at Halls. I made the quick and grateful observation that I actually had to get my luggage out of the door of the suit, which requires a key card to access before I could return the keys. Normally, it wouldn't have been a problem for most people. They would have locked their door with the luggage in the hallway. Left to return the keys, and used their student ID card to get back into the stairway. Unfortunately, for me I lost my ID card on the way back from my first final exam and had been using a borrowed key fob from the Residential services ever since. That had to be returned with the keys. I did get clever, though. I didn't want to walk the long way around the building to get back to my luggage since the short cut also required key card access, so I took my water bottle and used it as a stopper for the door. I did this again after dragging my luggage to a place where I could see them outside, while remaining in the common area where it was warm.

I am glad I checked the parking lot early. I thought I heard a honk in the parking lot, so I thought after planning to stand out their at 5:45 am that I should check it out. Sure enough a white Lexis was swiveling round and round the Roberts Hall side of the parking lot. I was a little hesitant to check it out though, because for all I know, someone who wasn't supposed to be around Halls was creeping around after dark.

My driver was a nice man from Egypt. It didn't take much to get him talking. The first fourth of the journey we spent in silence while listening to the news go on about local, federal, and international political issues. I had control of the volume, channel, and heating from the back seat. There were even chocolates in the middle seat console! Thank you Dad for getting me business class! For it, I was riding to the airport in style! Anyway, the driver and I chatted about the differences in weather and personality of Melbourne vs Sydney, the World Cup, and Egyptian history. However, my side of the conversation consisted of little comments here and there, as he kept up a steady pace of words that I didn't always catch with his thick accent. He had an unusual habit of using filler words at the end of every sentence, but instead of "like" or "um" it was something to the affect of "as it goes." It was early, so to be honest, I cannot recall the exact words, but I do know that they were uncommon.

On the flight, there were no celebrities. At least, I didn't recognize anyone in business class. The woman sitting next to me didn't seem to want to chat, so I left her to her own devices. I love how hour flights never seem that long. Your up, your off, then you touch down again. The food was good; I took a picture of it. I don't normally take these many pictures along a journey. It's for my Dad's benefit, because I know how much he wanted me to document my once in a life time luxury ride home. I am currently sitting in my second Business Lounge, eating potato salad, strawberries, a brownie, a simple salad of cheese and lettuce with balsamic vinegar topping, and some sort of cold salad filled with chick peas, cauliflower, and raisins.

The first thing I saw when they announced we were landing soon was the ocean. They pilot headed toward the ocean before turning around to land. There was such a gorgeous lighting on the Harbor. I wish I had been allowed to have my electronics still on. And by the time I would have tried to turn my Itouch back on, I would have had to shut it off again. I will try my best to describe it instead, though give me some slack, since I am no poet. The distant ocean glowed orange while the closer waters shinned and reflected white by the sun. The ocean that wasn't blinded by light, was a green deep blue. As we turned back towards land, you could see patches of a lighter green in the water where it was closest to shore, or where the water was shallow  with patches of life and a coastal forest touching. The beaches looked perfect, though I probably wouldn't dare dip my toes in that water at this time of year. It's still quite chilly here, even though we are further North in Sydney than I was in Melbourne.

There you have it! That's it for now. I still have my longest flight ahead of me coming up in the next hour or so, and I will be utilizing the first half of the journey sleeping to try and adjust to the time difference, since at the moment it is creeping into night (I think it would be about 10 pm right now) back home. And the second half I will be reading for an assignment in my summer class. No rest for the weary. Only one day after my last final exam, my summer II course started, and the first big assignment is due Monday night at 11pm. If I don't do it on the way home at some point, it won't get done in time. The plan is to read and take notes on the plan, and sketch out what I need to write. It's only 400 words. Then, when I land, I will get back online as I wait for my flight from Dallas to Raleigh to cite the sources properly, and submit it, if it is complete at that time. Hopefully I will have enough battery life. I am charging it now to ensure that I have the most time my computer's battery will allow me on the flight.

I may write more about my journey when I return, but I doubt that will be until July 1. I will make sure to make notes of certain interesting observations that catch my eye in a notebook, though. Thee-thee thee-thee-that's all folks!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Last Visit to the City

Tomorrow is my last day in Melbourne, so on Friday I went with a friend to the city for a last minute souvenir shopping spree. There were a few things I knew I wanted to do, like go to T2 to buy some unique tea for my sister and mom, go to the Queen Victoria Market, and go shopping at Clear It.

Our trip started off slightly bumpy. Anna had planned to meet me at the bus stop on Normanby Rd to take the bus that goes to Oakleigh station at 9:30 am. I was there early, which was uncomfortable because I was really cold. The sun wasn't at its highest, and the wind was chilling even with gloves and a scarf. I realized, after checking my itouch for the time when it was getting close to 9:30 am, that there may be a bus stop further up the road closer to her hall. I was right. That whole time I was waiting for her at a bus stop, she was waiting for me a the other. I am glad I thought to walk down the road.

The bus and train were quick to arrive, but being that it was a Friday, we ended up having to stand for the entire journey there. Better off standing on the way there and not on the way back, though. We chatted about home and what we were thinking of getting for others on our outing, etc. I used a screen shot of the map of the city to find the T2 place that was on the way to a coffee shop she wanted to check out. I had been there once before, but it was brief. It was an olfactory factory. I had so much fun trying this smell and that. I had never realized how teas could smell syrupy, or flowery, or one that would smell like pungent perfume, while another gave me the sensation of floating on an aromatic cloud of bliss. I wish I had taken notes of each and every one I smelt and the observations I gave, because it was like wine tasting but for tea. I wanted to take some many home with me to brew. I decided on two.

We took our time heading out, yet when we finally were done, the receptionist was busy with other customers. It was bad timing. I could tell the receptionist preferred talking with us than the old couple, since we were interested in the tea, and they were only interested in the tea pots.

Our next stop was the coffee shop Anna had heard about. It was small, and intimate, and they had chairs hanging from the ceiling. We got our coffee to go after Anna decided she didn't want to purchase the coffee beans for her boyfriend's parents because they had weird things in them like lemonade flavor. That just sounds like too much acid in one cup to me.

We were both a little disappointed in the wears at the QV Market. Of course, much of the vendors were selling winter items, and we were heading back to the summer. The night market was much better, but that had ended months ago, when it was still warm enough to be comfortable at night. Many of the vendors were selling the same items as the others, we observed. We did end up finding a few places with items of interest. One particular vendor was selling an interesting thing--I cannot reveal it now because it is meant for a surprise to someone--and he was a very friendly and talkative fellow. He was surprised when we said we liked exploring Melbourne and thought it was an amazing place to visit because he thought that of the US. You always love and romanticize places you've never been, and not the one you are always in. He was the kind of guy who was perfect for the job of a salesman, but I would never want him as a waiter because he would end up overcoming his stay talking to the people at the table. Even as we walked a way, he had to get the last word in. He was a pleasant local, though.

We tried our best to stick around long enough to catch up with another friend, but she had slept in late, and was arriving just as we had the desire to leave. We stuck around long enough, though, to find the perfect local coffee vendor to purchase some coffee beans. We were lucky too, because soon after we got up to the counter, a line came out of no where. I guess we attracted customers (just kidding).

I regretted suggesting we walk down Victoria St from the market all the way to Brunswick St. We made it, though! And we realized that CleariT has great stuff, but only the top floor is priced for college students' pockets. There were dresses in the 100s on the main floor. The last time I was in there I didn't get to look that closely. We tried on a few things, then all of a sudden like a tone of bricks, exhaustion hit me in the head. I felt like I was going to collapse.

 You see, the night before I hadn't gone to bed. It had been an unusual Thursday. I woke up early, went for a run, spent my morning chatting with my Mom and grandparents on Skype over my breakfast at the local cafe. Only to have an epiphany that I should probably take the time to take photos of the hall for my sake and others who wanted me to share. I had wanted to take a nap right after I was done talking with my family, yet I wanted to use the good morning light while I still had it. Then, at noon, I laid down for an hour nap, and woke up right before midnight! I slept the entire day away! So, I got up and decided, I still needed to do some things so I may as well do them now. I went and did some laundry and got some needed nutrition in me. As I did so I ran into a big group that had obviously been drinking, since Cristian was teasing Jasymin. This lead to the guys throwing around her cereal box because it was funny how much it bothered her.

They invited me to watch the World cup match, USA vs Germany, and I consented. I planned to get a few hours of shut eye before 8:30 am when I needed to get ready. That never happened. Hence, the exhausting hostile take over of my body at 3 pm. We made it out okay, but Anna admitted to very little sleep for the same reason, she was watching the game (which we lost 0-1, but still made it to the next round on the default that Portugal won against Ghana - I honestly don't understand how the cumulative point system works in this kind of tournament, especially when Portugal won but didn't have enough points to move on while USA lost and got to move on). I have to admit, though, USA was on its A-game when it came to great defense.

The last bit of input on how Friday went is that for the first time ever, I was shocked by what the intercom system said at the train station. They announced that some trains would not be running on their normal course on account of a woman getting hit by a train! Anna and I were especially surprised that the announcement gave the reason for the delay. I know this is selfish, but I am glad it didn't affect us getting home. I was too exhausted to ponder over the tragedy of the situation.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Entry 2: New Zealand

It has almost been a month since I have written. I had planned to be consistent with a weekly blog, but the past month has been devoted to studying for final exams, so I have been too stressed and preoccupied to post anything. You all probably won't even see this, since you most likely have given up on me. I apologize.

I have a few things that happened right before my studies that I would like to cover including the intensity and endless hours I worked on a group project like I had never worked before, the Heritage Walk I experienced at the Botanical Gardens in Melbourne, a very insanely survival-of-the-fittest camping trip, and an dine-in I was invited to with some very famous Australian guest speakers.

I haven't been able to figure out where to start with those, so I am going to start off with another NZ Journal Entry first. It may be too long to get to anything else. I am really behind the times at this point. So, I am looking back more than I am thinking of the now. There isn't much to speak about on the last few weeks anyway, unless you want me to drawl on about my study habits. The one important present day event I will mention is there is an end-of-semester Super Secret Location Party going on tomorrow that I plan to participate in to relieve some of my stresses and get some much needed social time with friends who I may never see again :(.  A group called MOVE is hosting it somewhere downtown, but all they have been disclosing are hints to the location. I am not sure what I will wear, since it is extremely cold out at this point (and when I say extremely cold, I mean, night times are bitter sharp, while the days are like fall weather with the warmth of the sun keeping you going). They requested that we wear formal clothing, and I want to wear a dress, but unless I find a pair of leggings tomorrow on a quick shopping spree, I will be stuck with black pants, and a nice top (probably red), with a heavy coat on top.

I don't have enough energy to write about the other events I said I would cover. I am too exhausted after taking my other exam. I experienced a little bit of dramatic irony in my life when I say my Dad had posted me a message on facebook warning me not to do an all-nighter. Whoops! It wasn't an all-nighter, but it was damn near close. I have decided just to copy my Journal notes so here's Entry 2:

17 April 2014

"I had this impending doom feeling in the pit of my stomach while I waited for my next flight ever since I heard it was delayed 10 minutes. The reason for this concern was because I overheard another flight get cancelled entirely due to inclement weather. What if I got stuck in Auckland? It's not liked I expect Extreme Adventures to stay behind and wait for me.

It ended up being alright. I did miss a photo opportunity, though. I shouldn't have powered down my iTouch so early. It was more of a novelty photo, to say to all of my friends, 'Welcome to New Zealand!' in grand caps. The photo op amusingly was in the bridge between the terminal and the air plane. New Zealand was really milking the filming of "The Hobbit" being here, so they decorated the bridge to look like Hobbiton. That's as close as I will bet to Hobbiton on this trip. That's my one regret about this trip, that I don't control the itinerary, because that would have been on my list of stops.

After three sightings of the same girl, I decided it was either fated that I speak to her about the backpack she had on because I kept thinking of saying something only for her to be too far along in the terminal line for me to do anything, or she was going to the same trip as me. It turns out it was a little bit of both. The girl with the curly hair and the owl backpack from Fitzroy was from Peru, living and going to school in Vermont (she actually had been to North Carolina!) and going on exchange at Melbourne University. I was hopeful we would be going to the same hostel; she's going on the same trip as me but I guess there are two versions of the tour and her's was the reverse tour. What a coin toss! Too bad, she was nice.

It was a bumpy ride. It didn't help that I made a snap decision to take a complimentary 'cup' (not glass) of wine on the plane. I ended up having to gulp it down because of the shaking and bumping, which made the decent all the more dizzying. Ooops. I promise, I didn't get sick.

The next coincidence was Daniel from the UK. He had been sitting in front of me the entire trip to Christchurch, and here he was sitting in front of me in the shuttle bus. My fingers crossed again, and I asked myself, 'Was he going where I was?' Nope. I struck up a conversation with him (obviously, since I know his name). He studies politics and philosophy in Scotland and was saying that Scotland has finally made the decision to discuss breaking away from the UK soon.

The only reason I remembered Daniel from the flight in the first place is because of what happened on the plane. He sat down in my row, in the wrong seat. It didn't really matter, both people who were sitting in my  row were sitting alone, but if he hadn't have moved, I wouldn't have been able to amuse myself with being half in a conversation with two women in the early stages of grand motherhood. I asked for the time to the lady sitting next to me, but she didn't have a watch, so she asked the other woman. I hadn't really cared what time it was, I just wanted an excuse to start conversation. I ended up helping the other woman start some odd conversation about the new screening technology at the airport. The story was something about  a heat sensor, where she was amused by the screen picking up a large heat signal from her crotch. It was odd, and I think I had more fun listening into their conversation than being a part of it. Here were these two complete strangers, and their were discussing things of this nature for the whole hour, chatting like old friends, while I sat in my corner, watching the sky grow dark.

Three strikes and your out, right? There were three other parties on the shuttle bus: Daniel, two Asians and a girl in the back. The girl from the back, Heike, is guess where from? You guessed it! Germany! I swear, every travel trip I have ever been on, I have met at least one German. I had someone to practice on! She's studying Psychology at another university in Melbourne. I already feel close to her. She's bunking above me, and we spent the rest of the evening chatting lazily since we bother were tired from our travels. She was on the same flights as me, I just never ran into her until the shuttle bus.

Time for bed! Night!"

There you have it. Now just as I quoted myself, it's time for me to get so shut eye. Hopefully I will have more energy to catch up on the other more present events and things of importance that have happened since then end of May in the next few days. I have another exam, but I am not that concerned with it. I just need to reread and review a few articles. The professor was kind enough to tell us exactly which subjects to focus on for the exam and what type of questions they would be, so I am confident about it. Night!