Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Week Three - Canberra

Time to play some major catch up by sharing what I've been up to the last several weekends. The semester is flying by!

Week 3 was pretty low-key. It was my first week on call, which was incredibly quiet, but it limited how far I could be away from the building.

The highlight for the week was an overnight field trip with my political science class to Canberra, the nation's capital. Described as a cemetery with streetlights by my professor, the city is a tad weird. Sydney and Melbourne couldn't decide who should be the capital so, naturally, they decided to build a city from scratch in between the two existing metropolises.



Neither Parliament nor University were in session, so the town was rather dead when we visited, but we still visited a few cool spots.

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Day 1, we visited the National Museum of Australia, a comprehensive look at Australian history and culture. History in Australia is a peculiar thing. It's much shorter than American history (the east coast of Australia was first encountered by Capt. James Cook in 1770 v. Christopher Columbus' discovery of the New World in 1492) and they're also much more candid and honest about injustices forced onto Aboriginal people. Until now, I never noticed or realized how little we, as Americans, talk about our relationship with American Indians and the indigenous people of North America. Australia seems much more conversational and apologetic about the topic, while we continue to ignore our native people groups. (History length and population size/ratio are potential reasons for this, no doubt.)

TL;DR It was a great museum

PHOTO

The Australian War Memorial was a another very large museum which looked at Australian involvement in military conflicts. It also acts as a memorial for fallen Australian soldiers and holds the tomb of the unknown Australian soldier. Each day is closed with the Last Post ceremony.

Coming from a military family, it was a great experience and an insightful look at Australian military involvement.


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Night life in Canberra is pretty nonexistent. We had breakfast for dinner at a delicious tavern, then stopped by a chill Mexican cantina, saw the incredibly sad film "12 Years a Slave," ran through some sprinklers, star gazed for a few minutes and then passed out at our hotel.

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Day two, we visited Australia's legislative houses.

New Parliament House, opened in 1988, is a super snazzy and contemporary building. It houses the House of Representatives, the Senate, portraits of all the past PMs, and one of the original copies of Magna Carta.

PHOTO

Old Parliament House was used from 1927-1988 (even though they were federated in 1901.) It feels very 70s, which is funny because they're pretty serious about preserving their 70s historical artifacts (hence the white gloves.) Again, their concise history is interesting.

We reenacted the dismissal of PM Gough Whitlam, a very famous moment in Australia's political history. Similar to the assassination of JFK, everyone knows where they were when it went down. Its a tiny bit complicated, so I'm not going to try and explain it... #wikipediaarticle

PHOTO

Like any good Americans, we found a cafe inside Parliament to watch a bit of the Super Bowl and the half time show.


Oh and our bus kind of broke down and didn't have AC for the trip back in 90+F temps.

It was a packed two day field trip, but it was mad enjoyable and engaging.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Australia Day!

Australia Day "celebrates" the First Fleet (of Europeans) to arrive and settle the continent on January 26, 1788. It's kind of an awkward holiday, much like Columbus Day in the States. Most Australians don't think much of it; they enjoy a day off work, hit the beach, have a few drinks, and watch some fireworks. On the other hand, many thoughtful academics look at the day as a shameful celebration of the imperial takeover of an occupied land, and the subsequent slaughter of its indigenous people. 

The highlight of my day was the firework show at an absolutely packed Darling Harbour. It was the most incredible, extravagant, beautiful display I've ever seen. Lasting at least 20 minutes, the fireworks were launched from a floating dock in the middle of the harbor and were accompanied by a beautiful soundtrack and a great lighting set up. The best and classiest fireworks I've ever seen in my life.

Sorry for the lack of pictures, I was just taking it all in with my eyeballs. 


Friday, January 31, 2014

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Week Two - The Blue Mountains

This past Saturday, a big group of us took a day trip to the Blue Mountains, about two hours west of Sydney. The trip was planned Phi Beta Dingo, a local travel agency, and hosted by Dingo Jen, which was a wonderful way to see more sights than I would've on my own.

About fifty of us piled onto a coach and headed west. [Fun fact: it's illegal to eat or drink on a coach/bus in New South Wales.] Our first stop was the Sydney Olympic Park, home of the 2000 Summer Olympics. We didn't hang out long, but we did check out an area outside the main stadium with all the volunteer names and different track and field event results [Fun fact: A 25ft long jump won Ivan Pedroso the gold medal in 2000. I didn't know it was humanly possible to jump that far.]


Then we stopped at a wildlife park and saw [and touched and fed] all sorts of incredibly adorable animals. Enough said. More pictures to come.
[Fun fact: its illegal to hold a Koala in New South Wales]

I haven't been able to get rid of this cheesy smile since I've gotten here. #sorry

Next, we stopped for lunch in Leura, a small mountain town with lots of little quaint shops [the types of places Moms like to go], local eateries [where we had delicious meat pies], and a grocery store [where we got a great deal on a huge pack of timtams.]

We drove a little farther down the road to see the Three Sisters and hopped on the bus one last time to go for a little hike down into the Blue Mountains [They kind of reminded me of a shallower, forested version of the Grand Canyon.] It was all beautiful, of course. At the end of our hike, we jumped on the world's steepest railway to get back to the top.



The Three Sisters

#howwonderfullifeis
#morephotostocome


Friday, January 24, 2014

Flat Stanley Goes to Australia


My good friend Max let me bring Flat Stanley along with me on my trip to Australia. We took all different kinds of transportation, a bus, a train, and a plane, to get to our final destination: Sydney.

On the way there, we stopped in Shanghai, China to switch planes. It was dark outside and there wasn't much to do or see, so Stanley and I just read a little bit of news while we waited for our next plane.



Australia is a huge country, its actually about the same size as the United States. It was settled by the British a few years after the United States became a country, but native people, like the Native Americans, had been living on the land for thousands of years before.


Before I mailed Stanley home to Max, we stopped by a couple of Sydney's famous landmarks. The Sydney Harbor Bridge lets cars drive across the city and drive over all the ships that come and go from the harbor. The Sydney Opera House is a very unique building that hosts all sorts of concerts, performances and shows.





Over all, I think Stanley really liked it here, I know I do! (Especially since its summer here right now! Its beautiful and warm!) Max, thanks for letting me bring Stan on some adventures! Stay warm in the snow!

More Darling Harbour

               Darling Harbour at Night                                     Kids Film Fest near Darling Harbour


The largest spider K. Strass has ever seen.
[It was pretty big.]

Like most things, I think McDonalds [aka: Maccas] is better here than it is in the States.
[Don't you love that "why are you taking my photo while I'm eating McDonalds?" face?]

#darlingharbour
#twinklelights
#mcdonalds
#maccas
#latenighticecream
#bigspiders

Monday, January 20, 2014

Week One - Darling Harbour


I've been in Sydney for just over a week now. Classes started yesterday after a couple days of great meetings, and a few days of longer/boring, meetings.

Outside of the meetings, I frequented Darling Harbour several times this week. It's a beautiful harbor with loads of restaurants, bars, street performers, ferry tours, and loads of other shops.

In hopes of becoming familiar with the area, the other ResLife staff and I went to a place called the Cargo Bar for delicious $10 steaks. I went back to the area the next night for a walk around the harbor. The whole program went there Friday night for a harbor cruise. And I went a fourth time on Sunday night for a kids film fest for a free screening of "Billy Elliot" in a great park nearby.

The harbor is just a beautiful place in general; really magical, almost cinematic (I felt like I was in a movie the first time I was there, just because everything and everyone is so cool here.) Everything is beautifully lit up at night. And even with the city lights and a full moon, we could still see the big dipper as we sat next to the water at midnight. Absolutely beautiful.

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Of course a week in Sydney wouldn't be complete without seeing the Opera House, the Sydney Harbor Bridge, and going to the beach.

All that, and more, was completed with a scavenger hunt-type day outing that the staff planned for us on Saturday. We checked out a few popular local markets, beautiful parks, and the beach (I only got burnt a little bit..). I could go into detail, but all you really need to know is that everything is beautiful here. And everyone is incredibly friendly. The BU faculty and staff have been incredibly kind and accommodating. Its unreal.

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The weeks ahead are packed full with classes, trips and adventures including:
-a day trip to the Blue Mountains (get ready for the kangaroo and koala pictures!)
-an overnight trip to the capital, Canberra, with my political science class
-a weekend at Surf Camp at 7 Mile Beach, north of Sydney, learning to surf
-an overnight hike in the Royal National Park, south of Sydney
-mid-semester break TBA, Cairns/Whitsunday Islands/Brisbane? (parents, send money! :) )

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All the pictures are from the Harbor Cruise, none of them actually show Darling Harbour, maybe I'll get a shot or two and post later..



#peacebewithyou