I arrived in Australia over a month ago. It’s been an interesting time so far, and I can’t believe that so much time has passed. I owe you plenty of stories, but I’ll start the very first week.
When I arrived, after a 15 hour flight (besides a three hour one before that and a 6 hour wait in the airport), I was pretty exhausted. I had to go through customs, which was a little confusing since I had never done it before. (well, I guess on the ship, but that doesn’t really count) I wasn’t sure which line to get in, or what form to fill out. I casually asked other passengers, hoping they weren’t as new to it as I was. Thankfully, I picked the right ones, and I figured it out.
I chatted with a nice girl who had just recently married an Australian. She was from the Philippines and really missed her home, but loved her husband. While we were waiting to go through customs, one of the guys in front of us said, “Do you know who that is?” as he snapped pictures with his phone. Right next to him, in bold letters, was a sign that clearly stated that taking pictures was against the law and you would be fined. I had also just watched one of the uniform officers yell at a guy for taking pictures.
Anyway, it turns out that this guy was snapping pictures of Russell Crowe, who was wearing a plaid shirt, a hat and was talking to the clerk at the desk. I thought it was pretty cool, because I recognized him right away. However, as I was still standing by the officer, I was not about to take any pictures.
OzIntro had someone waiting for me named Rhys and he helped me to bring my stuff to the van. Then it wouldn’t start, so he kept trying while talking to me. Then he had to go and tell someone we were still in the parking spot, so I read my book. Eventually, he came back and called his boss. They were going to come with another van when it suddenly reared up and we were able to leave.
He dropped me off at the hostel, and then I was told I couldn’t check in til 3:00 (which was wrong. They should have said 2:00) I wasn’t really sure what to do, since all my stuff was locked downstairs in storage and I didn’t have Internet yet. I purchased Internet on my Nexus, contacted my friend Bishoy, who was at church, and tried to talk to the people around me. They were, to say the least, a bit rude. I got nowhere.
Later, I went to Subway and got my first meal in Australia. It wasn’t because it was American and I recognized what it was, but rather, it was only a 3 minute walk from the hostel, and it was real food.
Bishoy contacted me later that afternoon after church and came to rescue me from the depressing hostel. He helped me get a phone, and even showed me some stores near the hostel. I had been scared to venture far because I was afraid of getting lost. Navigation has never been my speciality.
At 3:00, I was finally able to check into the hostel. The second I walked into my room, I was pretty shocked. There was a guy laying in the first bed. ‘Am I in the wrong room?’ I thought to myself. Surely this couldn’t be right.
It turns out most rooms are mixed; and OzIntro assumed that all of us were comfortable with that. I wasn’t, but it was already booked and there didn’t seem to be anything I could do about it. I left the room to go see if I could get my Nexus working with the 3G. When I came back, two girls were under the covers and then peeked their heads up at me, giggling. They proceeded to sleep together and I decided it was time to read.
I finished my book to look up at a girl, just staring at me. She was in the bed across from me and she just stared. No words, nothing. She was friends with the crazy girls, and appeared to be quite creepy. I decided it was time for bed, because I wanted to be out of this nightmare.
The first couple days were pretty bad because it was raining, cold, and I wasn’t sure I liked that I had come to Australia. The hostel that we were staying in (The Base) was ugly, unfriendly (aside from the OzIntro people) and pretty gross. I wasn’t getting any sleep, which made me grumpy and a bit of a complainer.
We did some fun adventures as a group for OzIntro. The first day was so cold and wet that it wasn’t as much fun as if it had been sunny and pretty. We went on a jet boat and got soaked! The water sprayed at us at extreme speed and splashed across our faces. We were shriveling and dying, but it was pretty cool to see the area.
That night, we went to Scary Canary’s which is a bar located right next to the hostel. We weren’t really aware that we had to pay for dinner, so that was a bit of a surprise. I ordered a Bacon Cheeseburger, which was pretty good. However, I tried to get some sleep and everyone stayed up pretty late talking and being loud. This would become a trend for the week. However, some of our drunk roommates came in the room and did some pretty silly stuff which those of us trying to sleep laughed about for hours. It was one of those “you had to be there” moments.
The second day, we learned how to surf in the rain. It was cold, so a lot of us weren’t too sure we wanted to still go through with our surf lesson. However, it turned out to be not so bad. I actually was pretty good at surfing, when I had a chance. There was a lot of us, and you didn’t want to run into anyone. So it was often hard to wait for your chance to surf.
I got up on the surfboard about seven times total, but only stood up five of those times. Of the five times, I only surfed all the way to the shore three times. And of those three times, the last one was the best. The instructors were really nice and helpful. They would tell me when to go, because that was my biggest struggle. By the end, I started getting the hang of it.
We had lunch, took some pictures of the pretty water and complained that it became sunny after we surfed. However, I was walking with the surf instructor and she told me that because of the rain, the waves were perfect for learning to surf because they were a bit more smoother than usual. That actually made me feel better.
That night, we all went to Sidebar for our first official night out. People had been partying all week, but this was one of the few nights I chose to go with. Seeing as I’m allergic to alcohol, going out just isn’t as much fun for me. Watching a bunch of people act like idiot drunks is only fun for a while. A whole week of it is just boring.
The night would have been a lot more fun if a certain individual hadn’t poured his drink down the back of my dress, causing my awesome friends Julie and Rosy to have to walk me home. I ended up getting an offer from some of the girls who left early to come sleep on their extra bunk. I got a good couple hours of sleep, disrupted by some bad behavior in the bed below me, causing me to leave and go back to my room. Unfortunately, there was also some activity in the bed below me in my own room, so it was an interesting night. Finally, I got some sleep at some point. This is probably when I officially made the decision that I wanted to get out of the hostels as soon as possible.
Wednesday was considered the “boring day”. We had to go to the bank to get our accounts figured out, and seeing as there was quite a few people in our group, this took a bit of time. After that, we had lunch at Darling Harbor, which was nice. I had a BLT. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but one of the girls got sick because of the food and later ended up puking multiple times.
The aquarium was really cool to see. I enjoyed the walkway where you could look up and see all the animals. Some of the fish were so huge! They even had Nemo and Dori fish, which were so cute. Melodie stayed with me, and we kept our own pace. Everyone else seemed to rush right through. I got some really amazing pictures of the penguins because we just happened to come when they were getting feed. They rushed all around, swimming up and down really fast.
Thursday was pretty cool because we got to go to Bondi Beach. All of us had pretty much been dying to go the beach. It had been raining all week, but thankfully, it was sunny and amazing on Thursday. We laid on the beach at Bondi, and I even jumped around in the waves with the other group leader, Beth.
The waves were so cold! I could hardly stand it and there were laughing because I’m from Wisconsin. I just don’t like the cold! I headed back to lay in the sun, and my friends Charlotte and Melodie suggested we go up to the bathroom before we took an hour walk to the next beach. While we were gone, the group took off without us, even though we told one of the group leaders.
I started panicking, though, one of my special qualities. I think it worried the other two that I might have a breakdown more than anything else. We walked towards where we thought the walk was, and thankfully found everyone. No one had even noticed we were gone.
The beach walk was pretty cool. The views were stunning! After only seeing rain all week, it was nice to finally see the views, which were why we had all come to Australia. It might me realize there was more than the ugly hostel I was staying in. I had just had a rough start.
We went snorkeling at the beach, which was super cold! I couldn’t really see anything in the water, either. The Canadians feed some of the fish, though, and it was cool to watch them attack the food. After snorkeling, it was time for some volleyball. I love volleyball, but I have a pretty wicked serve that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. This time, it pretty much shocked everyone. I thought that was cool.
We took a break from volleyball to play frisbee, my second favorite sport to play. I’m a little rusty since I haven’t played in a while. I caught almost every frisbee, but my throwing needs a little work. Following frisbee, we played some more volleyball, but this time, everyone had to get involved.
Team A (Beth’s team) vs. Team B (Shaun’s team). Team B had way more guys, and a few of us girls who actually knew how to play. Therefore, we kicked Team’s A butt. It was a lot of fun, even if I hardly ever touched the ball that game.
On Friday, we had to get up early. It was the day we went to the Blue Mountains. I was very excited about this, because I had seen pictures before and it looked amazing! I had purchased a raincoat the night before, because we heard that it was supposed to rain, again. No one was excited about this idea.
The Blue Mountains were a bit of a hike. I don’t think that some people were really expecting all the steps that we went up and down. Some people complained quite a bit and the rest of us just laughed. It appeared, from what they were saying, that they never did much exercise.
We saw some really cool waterfalls, and a few amazing views. Our guide was a very interesting man, and was often telling us stories about the rocks and rubbing them on his face. If I had listened, I would have probably understood, but I was too busy taking pictures.
We experienced the thrill of a 52 degree incline riding the steepest passenger railway in the world, the Scenic Railway. We choose the adventurous ‘Cliffhanger’ ride at a steep 64 degree incline. Everyone was screaming, and I filmed the whole thing, which makes for a funny video to watch!
I spent most of Friday afternoon and Saturday looking for a place to live. While most people were more concenered with a job than a place to live because of the advice from Oz intro, I knew that I could not stand another minute in a hostel. Everything frustrated me about the place, and I found myself more and more miserable.
I ended up finding a place in Ultimo that was available, thanks to the help of my friend Bishoy. I called Iris, and she invited me to come see it. I walked over there, fell in love, and told her I’d like it. She said she had someone else coming to look too, but I’d know by the end of the day if I got it. I did! (the place has a pool, hot tubs, sauna, gym, library and a balcony)
Saturday night, we went out on the Party Bus. Now for most, this was probably their favorite night of the week. I really enjoyed myself at first. We were dressed as lifeguards (we bought the outfits in Paddy’s Market) and looked pretty amazing. I loved the dancing, and just having a blast.
However, the night turned sinister when someone started smoking pot. They didn’t do it on the bus, but came back on the bus smelling like it. Not many people know, but I am deathly allergic to pot. I start going into shock, and I can’t feel my legs. My blood pressure rises rapidly and I can hardly breathe. It’s one of the scariest feelings in the world. I started having this reaction and freaked anyone who was remotely sober out.
Beth and the girl who worked for the Party Bus were extremely helpful in calming me down. After that, I was ordered to sit near the front of the bus so I could stick my head out the window. I felt better, but I was still pretty badly shaken. The rest of the night just wasn’t as much fun.
Sunday, Rosy and I attempted to go to a church called Hillsong that I’ve wanted to go to forever. However, being new to Australia, we didn’t understand the bus system and missed the bus. The next bus would have gotten us there too late, and it was raining. We ended up seeking refuge in the Queen Victoria mall. Its very pretty and so we did a little shopping.
As the last night of Oz, we were going up in the tower for dinner. I dressed up and so did everyone else. It was nice to see everyone in “fancy dress”. The food was…interesting. I tried kangaroo, crocodile, and emu. I didn’t really like any of them. They seemed dry and unappealing. I wasn’t the only one, either. Most people had their plates filled with other foods. I ended up getting two plates of desserts…they were so good!
The views were amazing from the tower. I got some pretty cool shots of the lights and buildings. You feel as though you are on top of the world from that high up. It was a good way to end the week.