Australia is amazing! Everyone talks funny and eats Vegemite straight out of the can. The 48 students in the group are staying at a motel about 15 minutes from campus, and there's a bus stop right outside so it's easy to get to classes. They provide breakfast at the motel, lunch at school, and have given us money orders so we can buy dinner. A lot of us have been buying groceries because it's cheaper, and saving our money so we can do exciting stuff like going white water rafting or scuba diving in Cairns.
The campus here is beautiful and they have a real lake, not an empty bog pit like Lake Lag (not that I have any problem with Lake Lag, I'd just forgotten what a beautiful campus lake could look like).
University of Queensland is on a short break right now so campus isn't too busy, but I think they normally have about 20,000+ students taking classes so it's a pretty large and well-used campus. The dining hall food has been great so far! All in all, I have no complaints, except that it's slightly hilly here - but I need the exercise so it's all good. There was a huge dust storm the other day from Sydney and the sky turned from blue to brown in a few hours. It clogged up my throat and made it kind of hard to breathe – apparently people couldn’t leave their houses in Sydney because there was too much dust.
Photos I took at UQ (during the dust storm):
We just got University of Queensland ID cards so we can accesses the facilities here. We can use the athletic buildings, go swimming, take dance classes, and all the other stuff that normal students can do – Lisa and I went to the pool Friday morning and did some laps, and it was really relaxing. The water was super comfortable, and I’m a stronger swimmer than I expected. Probably from scuba!
We went into the city Tuesday night on the ferry, which was gorgeous and only took about 10 minutes to get to downtown. It was ladies night at one of the bars, and the bar provided these terrible grandma dresses for the boys to wear if they wanted discounted drinks. Needless to say, there were many well-dressed men (har har) and I love that non-American boys don't mind looking ridiculous and dancing crazy. It was really fun!
The group that went out to ladies night:
On Wednesday, we went on a tour of the XXXX (four x) brewery and had a great time! It was $35 for a 1.5 hour tour, dinner, and 4 drinks. The tour guide was really funny and definitely knew his stuff, although he talked about a mile a minute so we could only understand about half the stuff he said. The dinner had chicken, a sausage, and a small steak, as well as salad, pasta, and bread on the side. It was a ton of tasty food, which helped the beer settle. After we finished eating, the guys sitting at a table near us gave us their extra drink tickets because they were leaving early, so we all had a great night. And KL bought the huge blow-up display beer bottle and carried it around the trains on the way back... quite a sight!
Eating and hanging out at the XXXX brewery:
Thursday was pretty chill, we had a couple classes and I found out that my research project is going to be focused on the coral reefs! They had to assign us advisors and there were limited numbers of kids who could have each advisor, so not everyone gets to work on their desired project. But I got what I wanted! Now I have to plan out my experiment in more detail. SO EXCITING. We spent a lot of the afternoon planning our trip for the weekend since we’re going to rent cars and explore a bit.
Sitting and planning outside the library at a really cute café on campus:
Friday was relaxing. Lisa and I went for a swimming at UQ in the morning and we went lawnbowling (strange version of bocce ball) as a group. We visited the Botanical Gardens afterwards and saw some crazy awesome plants:
The view from the lookout point:
These water lizards were rustling around the plants all over the botanical garden:
Eric (a fellow Hawaii summer intern) informing us about figs:
Eric also grabbed this spider skeleton from a plant - check out the huge mandibles! Ugghhhh!
For dinner we ate at a delicious buffet for $9! It was really extraordinarily tasty. We went to a casino after and Lisa won $2!! It was exhilarating, but I don’t plan on gambling more on the machines. There was a super fun DJ playing salsa music in the middle of downtown and tons of couples were salsa dancing and having a great time. Lisa and I want to go back when we have more energy!
On Saturday, about 20 of us went to Byron Bay about 2 hours down the coast. We rented cars and drove there and back, which ended up being way cheaper than taking the bus! I had a ton of fun just playing the ocean and hanging out with a new group of people. Some of the kids went really early (left around 6 AM) and took surfing lessons, but the waves weren't great and I didn't feel the need to surf.
We saw a HUGE lizard right by where we put our towels. This country is crazy!!
There was a beautiful lookout point right by our camp:
And we had fun taking pictures in the ocean:
Our first class will be in Cairns, and we've been informed that internet access is going to be very spotty and perhaps totally absent. This is the section on mangroves and coastal rainforests, and I'm SO excited to get all muddy in the field. We've been warned about the crocodiles, cone shells, sting rays, sharks, flat fish, jellies, blue-ringed octopus, disease-bearing mosquitoes, toxic plants, dangerous ocean currents, and many of the other threats that will thrust upon us as we travel through Australia. I'm not too concerned =)
When we're in Cairns, we have several free days and a big group of us are going to get on a scuba boat and go out to the Great Barrier Reef to see some spectacular sights. This is going to be AMAZING!
This is really an extraordinary program. Our accommodations are really remarkable considering how many of us are participating, and we're visiting pretty remote locations just by virtue of having excellent professors with great connections. I can't wait for everything that's in store - Hello, Australia!!