Saturday, July 13, 2013

Surfing the waves on the Great Ocean Road

I have been in Australia for two weeks, and the time has absolutely flown by and yet I feel like I've done so much.

After leaving the wonder hospitality of some friends of a friend, I moved in to what I will call home for the next 4 months or so. I'm living in what they call a boarding house here, which means that the couple that own the house live in the downstairs area; the upstairs area is a self-contained rentable area. I live upstairs with two other girls, both originally from China, and we have three bedrooms, living room, full kitchen, and a shared bathroom on the second floor of the house. It is a wonderful set up and I am very close to campus, 3-5 mins. walking time. I've lived there for a week now, and am loving it, and I love hanging out with their cute dog!

Sunrise view from my kitchen window

Me and Jessie

Let me know by email or post a comment if you would like the address.

Well luckily for all exchange students, my school here Deakin University set up a three day beach trip to the picturesque town of Lorne, located on the famous Great Ocean Road.

So, before I left there were a lot of questions about surfing in Australia, quite a trademark of traveling in Australia (cough**David**cough). So dude, even though I'm like from Southern California, dude, I've like never totally mastered the surfing bro. (Hopefully you understand the exaggeration there). Keeping in mind that is winter here, and that the air temperature during the day is 15°C (55° F), at night is 5°C (40°F), and the water is 13°C (55°F). I did go surfing, in the town of Lorne. I had to wear a full wetsuit, actually everyone was wearing a full wetsuit except for this crazy old guy, wearing white, see-through-when-their-wet underwear.

Photo by: Nadia Buttice
Well we did get surfing lessons, and after attempting to catch some waves...I was actually able to stand up! ...and then I fell....but I sure felt accomplished! Surfing is really so much fun, and quite a good workout.

Me and my Australian surf instructor

The university had activities set up for us for all the days, meals set up, a place to stay, etc.... all at no extra charge to us. Well a line up like that attracted almost all the exchange students, and in total we were about 200 people. It was a giant group, but surprisingly over the three days we got to know each other all pretty well. Split into groups of 50 people, we rotated though the activities for three days.

The first day, my group had surfing which was an absolute blast. That night at dinner, I was part of a limbo competition, i'm not as limber as some of those people. The next day was a jam packed day of fun; beginning with a hike into the Australian bush. We headed inland early in the morning, the landscape can best be described as semi-arid forest, with plenty of ferns and eucalyptus as well as rivers running every which way. It was my lucky day because we spotted a kangaroo. It was a much different spotting a kangaroo hopping around in the wild than it is to see one in the zoo; and I have to admit, I felt a little bad about eating kangaroo steaks only a few days before because it was probably his cousin or something! After the really nice hike, I opted for beach yoga. This was very refreshing and felt good after being sore from surfing and hiking. The afternoon was full of fish and chips and beach volleyball and then wine. You have to watch out when your eating outside because there are yellow-haired cockatoos everywhere, as well as the black and white magpies...together they threaten any meal you eat outside. Dinner that night included Trivia Night. So, without using your SMARTPHONES!!.....first person to get this question right by leaving a comment, I will send you a postcard!

Which of the following is not an Australian innovation?
A) Chiko Roll (kind of like egg roll)
B) Lawn Sprinkler
C) Plastic Bank notes
D) Dual flush toilet
E) Wine cask

 The trip to Lorne and traveling along the Great Ocean Road was amazing and loads of fun!

First day on the Great Ocean Rd.

I still don't understand how they destroy homes???

Hiking into the bush

Magpie birds, that are everywhere, like our crows

A great group of friends I've made
I didn't mind looking at this view for 3 days

Monday, July 1, 2013

Men's short shorts, ugly buildings, and drunks

They make taking a trip into dowtown Melbourne quite easy, lots of public transportation and crowds of Rugby fans sloshing their way into the city. As you arrive into the city, and more specifically the transport central of Federation Square, you come into that square army colored building on the bottom there, named the 5th ugliest building in the world by Virtual Tourist. Nothing says "Welcome to Melbourne!" like that.

I took a day trip into the city on one of the sunny days (most days have been about 12-15 degrees Celsius, or 50-60 Fahrenheit). I think heading into cities is a lot of fun, they are full of energy and life and sights, but they can also be exhausting. I wandered around downtown on a Saturday afternoon, and noticed that everyone, and I mean everyone, was wearing red. Come to find out there was a huge Rugby match on that afternoon, the Lions (yellow) versus the Wallabies (red) - and the streets and pubs were overflowing, kind of like a Sunday afternoon during football season. It was fun to walk around and listen to all the singing of team songs, seeing men in short Rugby shorts, and people in good spirits.

The opposing teams sitting side by side in a pub

The abundant Wallabies fans

The Lions - getting interviewed, they were outnumbered. (With the famous Arts Centre Spire in the back)
As I continued walking around town I noticed how multicultural the city seemed to be; the city isn't full of Crocodile-Dundee-like men and Aboriginals, but rather people of all mixes. While walking, I eventually ran into Melbourne's very own China town. The Chinese restaurants sold a lot of fish and sushi was everywhere (even though that's Japanese...) seeing as we're in a coastal town. Just up the way was Greek corner, full of yummy bakery shops and Greek food. Apparently Melbourne has the largest Greek population of any city in the world, outside of Greece.

Now I referenced earlier in my blog the interesting animal encounters I may have in Australia, which I rambled on about here. Well now that I've had kangaroo steaks, which were mighty tasty, lean, and earthy, I want to touch back on a few others. Most importantly of which is dog poo. There are 90 tons of dog poo left on the streets of Melbourne each day. Now as I've walked around a few of the suburbs and the main city, I have miraculously not seen much - imagine my delight! Now that I know the soles of my shoes are safe, I set my mind to greater things. Next being, Batmania. Now this part is true, Batman is around. I saw the road to his house, and surprisingly, he lives in suburbia. Come to think of it, the ugly building from the above picture looks an awfully like the bat cave.... now I wonder.

Another thing is how expensive alcohol is here, the exchange rate is more or less 1:1. For example, a bottle of Jack Daniels on special is AUD $44. A 24 pack of Heineken is AUD $56 on special. A 24 pack of local Victoria Bitter beer is AUD$ 40 on special. Apparently there are some microbrews around, so I'm keeping my eyes open. With such high taxes on alcohol, it's a wonder how Aussies have a reputation for drinking so much. Well maybe it has something to do with the fact that full-time minimum wage is $16.37 per hour . Time to start looking for a job!

So far, I'm loving Melbourne!