Monday, May 28, 2007

Moo, Canberra, Coast

Groovin' the Moo exceeded my expectations. Although we didn't arrive til it grew dark, we didn't miss much in my opinion. On arrival we listened to some great rapping by an all female DJ group at the King Street Hotel tent, then it was off to The Presets (very, very cool music), where the crowd was heaps hyped up. Heccas! It was all young people at the venue, almost everyone was under 25 and the energy was crazy. Sneaky Sound System played in the then extremely packed King Street Tent - I couldn't move, literally. And it was so hot, I felt I was almost going to faint. Luckily that didn't happen and again, a very outstanding performance, melding right into Silverchair playing on the stage outside. At that point I was very tired, covered in sweat, my clothes soaked, so I didn't mosh (not that I would've anyway), but it was so special to see this iconic Novocastrian band live and in person. About 7,000 attended the concert, which isn't heaps compared to some, and thus I was able to get close to the artists.

On Mother's Day I ventured up to Tea Gardens, near Nelson's Bay in the Port Stephens area, to visit my host-grandmother, and we did a bit of 4WDing on the sand dunes in Daisy Daihatsu, the little red Japanese late-1970s 4WD my host family keeps up on the coast. It was a very pleasant day indeed.

The weekend after my host parents took me to Canberra to see the Nationa's Capital, and it was a very cool weekend. The temperature change in Canberra was much like the autumn we get in the U.S. climate I live in there, with the leaves falling off the trees, and a little 'nip' of the wind - definitely described as COLD, at least by night. Although I had heard that Canberra is b-o-r-i-n-g, after spending a weekend there, I find quite the opposite. Sure, it doesn't have the vibe of Sydney, but then again Canberra is under 350,000 people large, and I think it does very well on the food, entertainment, city vibe spectrum. People are out on the weekends - a good thing, and there is of course a lot of money in the city, it being an international government centre of Australia. Its a planned city, literally, with symmetry in large amounts, great roads, and a neat collection of embassies near the new Parliament house, the icon of Canberra.

We took a tour of the new Parliament house, went to the Australian War Memorial (a very large and interesting centre), Telstra Tower, and the National Museum of Australia, cataloguing Australian culture (as well as indigenous culture) in a very impressive and large, somewhat interactive museum. If it was on America, I would have been horrendously bored and perhaps physically ill from the patriotism, but since it was very well presented, and I still am quite a keen learner on Australia, enjoyable it was.

Then on Tuesday I went to the Sydney CBD to do a bit of shopping - pretty unexciting. But my friend from the Phillipines who was on exchange in my district in the States is coming to Sydney tomorrow to visit her uncle for a few months, and I'm looking forward to catching up with her soon!

Finally, this weekend was spent at the holiday house in Hawk's Nest (near Tea Gardens, which is near Nelson's Bay). We were blessed with some gorgeous weather; not unbearably hot, not cold, with a nice refreshing breeze checking the cloud free sky and white hot sun. I can describe this so vividly because I spent the majority of the weekend on the beach fishing. And I caught....wait for fish. Uno. YER! About two seconds after I caught it I threw it back in the water and that was that. Luckily my host dad had way more luck, bringing in about 12 brim and one big flathead whilst he was spearfishing/snorkeling. With the batteries recharged, I am home today and trying to get my life together to tackle the finale of my Australian adventure. On Saturday the big trip begins, rise and shine 7:15 a.m. departure (!). Then my parents get here, do their thing, which I must help organise pretty much in the next 96 hours, they leave, I have like 6 days after that to say my goodbyes and cry. On 7/7/07, the LiveEarth concert is being held (check it out, and I'm out on the 9th. How incredibly sad it all is. This Thursday is my last day of school.

I need to get some warm clothes and walking shoes to take on the trip. Random.

This concludes my blog entry for today.


Monday, May 07, 2007

Easter Holidays, Hunting, and Two Months Left!

Easter Holidays were fairly quiet for me. My birthday turned out to be very mundane, but on Easter Sunday I went to visit my host auntie with my host mum in the Hunter Valley, and we went to Wollombi, a quaint, historic town nestled in a foggy valley - very green. So it turned out to be very relaxing and we had a few good laughs as well (as we always do).

But other than that, with my host brother gone, things became a bit depressing. My grandmother passed away, which didn't help me dealing with a lot of other things at the same time, including my sudden inclination to plan what I'd like to do after exchange (university, working, and much thinking about the dirty phrase "going home").

Although it was very quiet for a while, the day Jade came back from JP we went to the Morisset Rodeo for a good time - I had the Akubra in tow.

I moved in with my new host family, the McCormacks, the next day, just to the next suburb, and things are going very well. We have a trip to Canberra (Australia's equiv of Washington, D.C.) planned, and we've been pretty busy.

The weekend of the 28 and 29 of April I did something I've been wanting to do for a very, very long time. Kill something. Okay, that sounds very morbid and actually quite scary in relation to the state of my mental health. So I'll put it this way - go hunting for animals. I went to Werris Creek, near Tamworth, northwest of Newcastle (about a 3-4 hour drive) and had an awesome time. I've never been more dirty in my life really. We couldn't go shooting on the Friday night because it was raining (heaps of good rain for the region, but bad for our little hunting holiday). Early the next morning we had a roo rather quickly, and the boys felt they needed to initiate me, so as the cut the animal open and the rear hind off, Mitch wiped the bloodied leg on my. Absolutely appalled, I just stood there staring at the warm blood and fur on my sleeve. And he chased me around with it, attempting to put it in my face when I ran to a tree, and just as I was about to hide I felt the leg, flesh side first, hit me in my lower back (Mitch had thrown it over his head) and I was knocked to the ground! Once something like that happens, you just give up on any hope of being "clean" and roll with it - which is exactly what I did.

Spotlighting that night I got myself a roo - I think. Mitch was by the 4WD and I had gone out into the bus about 100 yards away to get this roo, I lined up the shot, saw Mitch load his weapon, and we both fired at EXACTLY the same time, so it really is a mystery who hit it. Nonetheless, I claimed it, and it was added to the list totalling (and I'm just guessing here) 10+ roos for the weekend. Before anyone who loves animals reads this, the kangaroo is a pest in most of Australia, over-populated and very bad for farms like this. As are the rabbits. And I'm just going to say foxes as well because we shot some of those too. I don't take vast amounts of pleasure out of killing animals, especially little joeys we find in the pouches after we shoot the mum, it is purely sport and management of a pest.

This past weekend I went to Nelson Bay on Saturday to hang out with Nic and Kristian, and we were blessed with beautiful warm weather (which is still sticking around; I'll go to the beach tomorrow for sure!). The next morning was the Fernleigh Track Challenge at Whitebridge (very near my school), a Rotary of Charlestown event demonstrating small electric vehicles. It was great to see some of the efforts, and it was another beautiful day.

Dance lessons are going well, by the way.

That just about sums up the past few weeks. Of course, every day is special, and I learn to appreciate each as time goes on and I realise how little time I have left. 17 days of school left today, for instance. I have nearly all the rest of my weekend in Australia fully booked out. We're planning farewell parties. It angers everyone when the subject of going home is brought up; how yes, we can stay in contact, but no, it won't be the same, and will we really visit each other as often as we can, even though we live all over the world? Thoughts of regret, and 'what I could've done differently' have crossed my mind so many times. But these are not happy thoughts, so I must just stay positive.

There is heaps going on in the next two months to make my exit very exciting. This weekend is the much anticipated concert in Maitland, Groovin' the Moo, featuring arguably the two biggest bands in Australia, Newcastle's own SilverChair and the very catchy electronic Sneaky Sound System - which has became a definite favourite of mine. It should be awesome, and everyone and their mother seems to have tickets!

The next weekend is Canberra, and the weekend after that perhaps a holiday up the coast, then the big trip for the month of June, followed by a plethora of parties to drag out the whole good-bye thing (that's the best way to do it), and then I'm out on the 9th. Oh and my parents are flying in somewhere in that time and I must also entertain them whilst they're in Newie and Sydney, which should be very weird, because they fly back on the 3rd and I six days its a really BIG HELLO oh my God look how much you've changed from them, then a good-bye see you in a week, then a hello welcome home, we're still unpacking too from them. And then I battle depression.

Pictures laterz. Ciao.

Monday, April 02, 2007


Yes. No strong 'r' sound here anymore. It's not a party. It's a paaaaaaahhhhhhhhhty!

Last Saturday I went up to the Hunter Valley to go shopping and get some real Aussie apparel. We ducked into the Hunter Valley Gardens to play a quick game of aqua golf (fun), and had a nice lunch. Twas beautiful day!

That night, Marysia, the inbound from Poland, had her 19th birthday party and it was a great time! I think everyone had heaps of fun :)

I've been busy with school and assessment tasks (I don't know why I have to do these), and I've recently taken up dance lessons (at this point, mambo, ramba, jive, and chacha, and a bit of waltz (yikes)) on Wednesday nights, and I suppose its also dancing night on Sunday nights, so the weeks go by very very fast!

And this past weekend was my birthday party festivities. With going to the Foreshore on Thursday night, organising on Friday and Saturday during the day, and partying through to near Sunday mid-morning, I can see that I'm quite tired. I've also lost my voice. I think we all have some good memories from this party.

My birthday is indeed on April 6th, and I couldn't have my party that Easter weekend because my host brother Jade is off to Japan/Korea on a holiday today. I'm sure I'll make plans for this weekend anyway, with all of the festivals around; perhaps I'll even make it to Sydney again as I had hoped.

Life is full and it's going to be sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo hard to move. I seem to be busy nearly every day!



Thursday, March 22, 2007

Singleton Rodeo and Rotary Conference

Another two weeks and things are busy!

Not this past weekend but the one before I went to the Singleton Countryfest with Jade and Mitch. A nice relaxing weekend, the festival comprised a rodeo and also the National Wife Carrying Competitions (World Championship to be held in Finland). It was truly a quirky Australian thing, with husbands (or partners) throwing their wives over their backs and navigating an obstacle course, culminating in a run through a deep pool. Also at the rodeo we picked up a little Kelpie puppy who we named Cougar, and is this ever a cute dog! Unfortunately we had to give it away as our neighbours wanted it, and we already have four dogs. We can still visit it, but!

Another boring week of school, blah blah blah, and then on Friday we had the Rotary District 9670 Conference held also in Singleton. On Friday night we stayed at a Singleton Rotarian's house (all the boys) and we got to meet the three new Brasilian inbounds! We should all have a great time together on the big trip!!!

Saturday morning we drove down to Myuna Bay which is on Lake Macquarie (so we pretty much went back and forth from Singleton to Newcastle) to just relax, enjoy each other's company, practise for a skit we were to put on the next day, and review things for the big trip. It was very humid and warm and we got some good rain, and the karaoke was fun as well!

Very early Sunday morning we drove BACK to Singleton to put on our presentation, which went extremely well and was enjoyed by all the Rotarians. Li Cunxin was the guest speaker as well, and he presented his emotional story compellingly.

Then on Tuesday I went into town and spontaneously decided to go surfing! It is not as easy as it looks, and I must admit I didn't even get up on a wave, but I will try again!!! Next time with a rash shirt on....

Its so hard to believe that I have less than four months left. I have no idea what it's going to be like to go home, but it does not feel like I've been here that long at all; even memories of living out west seem disconnected from me - like my time in Warren and my time in Newcastle are separate exchanges. I'm in the midst of brainstorming what to do after my final year of high school at home, and doing university overseas is looking really promising at this point, preferably in Europe, although there are quite a few factors that will contribute to my decision. The way I see it is that my further education is an investment I'll most likely have to make, so I mine as well earn that education in an environment that interests me and one where I can see a new part of the world as well. I'm so excited about my future!

I have a few busy weekends coming up, what with birthday parties (including my own), and I hope to get out hunting eventually, hopefully sooner than later. And I haven't been to Sydney in a while.....

Thanks for tuning in! If anyone reads this from home, please email me or myspace me or something so I can be kept updated! It does get lonely sometimes, and I haven't heard from many people from school the whole time I've been here....

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Allyn River Weekend

Great Success! (Borat, anyone?)

This past weekend was sooo amazing.

On Friday I went into town to meet up with Kristian, an exchange student from Denmark. We planned on going to the Allyn River, near Barrington Tops, in the Hunter Valley, to go Bush camping early Saturday morning, and luckily the rain held up for us and we did just that!

Kristian, Linda (from Austria), Aleah (Wisconsin), Mum, Jade, and Mitch (Jade's friend) and I came along and did we ever have a great time. As the pictures illustrate, the Allyn River and Ladies Wells have some amazing water falls, rapids, and deep watering holes, perfect for swimming, jumping, and thus climbing. Almost the entire weekend was spent in the water. We pretty much got right into it, jumping first off of an approx 3 metre cliff into the water below, Jade of course showing off his diving skills, and I well, just jumping and hoping I hit the water. Being the intelligent human that I am, I thought I'd ask Kristian how to dive. "Just jump in but with your head first!" Right. I failed to put my hands over me head, and consequently ended up with a bloody nose.

Moving on to bigger things, literally, we climbed up some very slippery rocks to the larger jumpable cliffs, the smaller of which is 8 metres. Fair enough. I managed that one fine, albeit with some nice pains on my feet for hitting the water flat footed, and we promptly climbed even farther to the 10+ jump, in which you have to get a running start or else you, well, die. Quite a bit of coaxing was needed, but the fall was indeed amazing - you spend so much time in the air it's unbelievable.

More of jumping, using a rope at another well, and some sliding down the safer waterfalls ensued. On Sunday we needed water for hot dogs and the dishes, so me and Kristian walked the short distance to the waterfall closest our camp. I had the bucket, Kristian the saucepan, I removed my thongs, leaned over the waterfall, and as the bucket began to fill, I lost my balance and began the descent down the waterfall to the rocks below. Yes, it hurt. My tailbone, or coccyx, specifically. I still have a bruise. At the same time as I fell, Kristian stepped on a bee. Smart. The falls were so noisy that no one heard me fall or yell for help, so I just gritted my teeth, retrieved the bucket, and had the walk of shame back to camp. The fam's been getting a LOT of mileage out of this one. "We though someone had fallen in! HAHA." "We never catch the funny action on the vidcam!" Yeah.

More swimming before we went home, and as I was climbing up the on of the moist rock cliffs to have another go, I just peaked over and saw my friends, and lost my footing, sliding down the rock face, rather, falling, and again landing on rocks below, this time on my hipbone. Expletives ensued. HAHAHAHAH from everyone else.

Bruised, battered, dirty, I think it was the best weekend I've had in Australia so far.

Remember to check my web album, linked on the sidebar, for more pictures!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Nelson's Bay Cruise + Easy Country Sunday

Here's to frequent blogging!

After posting not-too-long-ago, I've managed to keep myself extremely busy! On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday I joined my entire Year 11 Class at the lovely Whitebridge High School on a 'Crossroads' camp on the lake near Swansea. I had a very awesome time. We listened to speakers about 'teen issues' (isn't that term sooo overused?!), and slept under the stars, made food over the campfire, mucked around, etc.! It was perfect timing as it allowed me to make some great friends and meet most of the class, and I now actually enjoy going to school as a social aspect of my life!

It overjoys me to have Australian friends!

After a short sleep on Friday night I went to Nelson Bay with my host family and Sara (Sweden) and Aleah (US) exchange students, and went on a great dolphin cruise! Although it was my second one, it was very spectacular as the dolphins were in abundance all around the ship, AND I was game enough to go into the 'net' (see photos), where I was harassed by my host brother, a theme that continued long after we left the water. But bruising goes away. And revenge is a bitch. Thats right out!

And for the movie review section of my blog, that evening I saw Ghost Rider. Very interesting that Nicolas Cage is in it; never imagined him as the cartoon/action type actor, but an impressive film indeed. It was what it was meant to be, that is a film, human version of the comic (which I have never read), with lots of action and some great effects, and nothing really more. For what it was, I give it 3.9/5 stars.

On Sunday we drove to a town near Kurri Kurri, which is near Cessnock, to visit Mum's sister and her son. The weather was beautiful in it's own way...very overcast, with fog and a slight mist, something that enhanced the relaxed atmosphere of a Sunday in the country. The land in this area is magnificent! Large hills/small mountains covered in fog, green as can be, with little pocket-like valleys dotted with quaint farms and little ponds. In contrast to the layed back day, I learned how to crack a stock whip! A nifty little scare tactic, a great way to make noise, and a very Aussie ability to have.

And now I'm getting ready to go camping on the weekend! I'm so looking forward to this! I'll take lots of pics!

I'd just like to announce that I am having an extremely AWESOME, INCREDIBLE time in Australia!

See ya on the flip side,

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Latest Happening

The month of January and a good chunk of February have gone by and I haven't blogged! The longer I go without, the harder it is to remember everything, but I shall do my best for the sake of memories after my exchange, and for the select few people who read this blog.

A few things have happened since my last post that have helped me to grow as a person. I finished off school holidays at the end of January, the middle two remaining weeks of January being spent with friends and getting to know my host family, the Parkes. I spent quite a bit of time at Newcastle Beach, in and around the CBD (Central Business District), and my exchange student friend Nic from Belgium came down from his host city and stayed in Newie for awhile so we had a good time. There were a few farewell parties I attended, and I had a pretty good time at the Brasilian inbound Livia's party, where I met the Joyner family (her host family at the time). We then all went to Sydney together on the train uber-early in the morning to see her off to the airport, and it was sad and very funny at the same time (i.e. Livia doing strip tease dancing, minus the strip, right in front of the terminal). I got to go to Paddy's Markets and a little around Sydney that day, but it was unbelievably hot (42C!).

And then we come to Australia Day. I watched the fireworks in Newcastle, all was well. We were walking home and got punched by a group of six or seven boys. Nic had to get stitches, it was a big mess, and caused a lot of problems. But, we're both fine now, and we've learned a lot from the experience and are moving on.

I spent a weekend with the Joyners, and had a really fun time with them. And then I started school! Whitebridge High School has been extremely kind, welcoming, and open to accepting me, there's a great mix of kids and teachers, and everyone seems to get along so well. Sure, you have a few groups who would be a bit more exclusive than others, but in general the aura of the group is that of acceptance of everyone.

I was living in Valentine with the Parkes, so my bus commute consisted of two buses, around an hour commute to school, and I had heaps of trouble getting the right buses for the first week or two of school. I actually felt quite foreign at this point :).

I moved in with the Joyner's about two weeks ago now, for various reasons. A new suburb, a new bus schedule :). Three buses and around 1 hour 20 minutes. Yay. I suppose words really can't explain how grand of a time I've been having with them since I moved here. My first weekend living with them I went camping and joined the Hunter Valley Traditional Archery Club; a new sport for Carl! I'm looking forward to the fortnightly meetings. I also went to Blackbutt Reserve (close to Newcastle) and saw the koalas, and me and my host brother Jade have been building a bar and entertainment area in the rumpus room, for the benefit of those who party at this house :). My host mum took me to Redhead Beach....a place so close to my school, but I had never been there before!

And this past weekend we drove down to Tuggerah (Central Coast) to shop and then the Australia Reptile Park (a la Steve Irwin style). Aside from getting charged by a koala (he roared at me!) and put into a threatening position with a kangaroo whilst taking a picture, I had an interesting and exciting time. Of course I was the one chosen to feed the dingos (video proof!). It was an very entertaining way to spend a Sunday!

Other then that, my time has been filled with school. Since my host family is involved in gymnastics and dancing, I've been able to observe these things and even try my hand!

Wow, I'm having a massive brain block!!! It's so hard to remember things!!!

The past three days I've been at Crossroads Camp with my entire year 11 class in Swansea, and its been such an amusing time! I've met a lot of my classmates I hadn't even seen before, and made some more friends, so I feel like a part of my school now!

pass judgement on them. What I can say is that Australia is a beautiful going on. I suppose that this blog doesn't really give a complete view of my exchange. I've left cultural observations out....they're hard to explain in a culture similar to ours in America, and I really don't want toI'll leave it at that for now, I think it brings everyone up to date on what's country, with beautiful, friendly, funny, enthusiastic and open people. What is it like to BE in Australia? The roads in Newcastle particularly are all over the place, not a grid system like America. It's quite confusing to the uninitiated. There are homes and small suburbs scattered all over the place, melding into each other and somehow it all WORKS! It's fabulous. The weather is beautiful. Shorts and t-shirt weather most days. The sun is harsh, but it's so nice to be warm all of the time, when the climate at home at this point is freezing!

The Australian sense of humour has not taken a lot of getting use to personally, as being placed in situations leading up to this exchange where I have had to mix with many different people has given me experience in understanding and interpreting something such as humour in everyday language and life in Australia. But for some, it could seem confronting. I love it!

I'd like to invite those who take an interest in my blog to check out the pictures I take on my Picasa album. The url is I'll continue to post limited pictures on the blog directly, but for additional photos, please refer to the album. Enjoy!

More later. I will blog more often!