Tuesday, October 31, 2006


The last few weeks have been generally uneventful. This past weekend, I went to the Debutant Ball, which is esentially a presentation of all the teenage girls from girlhood to womanhood, and they have a boy partner who dances with them and it's all very formal. A tradition in Australia, it was interesting watching all of the work that they put into just one half hour of presentation; some of the dresses looked like wedding dresses.

The next night I had a seafood dinner sponsored by the Anglican Church my temporary host mother is minister of. Normally this is not noteworthy, but seafood - fresh seafood- is very, very rare in Warren. Luckily someone was just returning from the coast and brought enough prawns, oysters, crab, and ocean mullet for 60 people! I enjoyed the change from the everyday beef, lamb, and pork.

This Thursday through Sunday all of the inbound exchange students in this district are coming, of all places, to Warren. It's called the Warren Weekend Wander, and it's a chance for the kids on the coast who've exchanged here to visit the "bush." Well, it's nothing special to me because I live it everyday, but it will probably rise high to novelty status with all the students in Newcastle. We're sleeping at the racecourse, having some "bush tucker," and visiting a sheep shearing place. Luckily I've shorn before at my first host family's place. Finally, the kids are going to the Dubbo zoo - which is a really great open range type - and staying overnight in Dubbo.

Otherwise, it's just daily school and afternoon work for me! I really miss everyone at home, but what I miss most is the access to metropolitan areas and friends. I wish I had more people my age here. It gets very lonely.

Until next time.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What else has been happening?

I've given a basic overview of life here. But what have I actually been up to?

I've gone to the Warrumbungle Mountains, to a sports carnivale WAY out in the Outback in Bourke, to the Gunnedah AgQuip, to the metropolis of Dubbo (nearest large city at 40,000 people) quite a few times, and finally, to lovely Newcastle, among other things. I absolutely love Newcastle. The first time I went was for a one day Rotary briefing with the other inbound exchange students who, by the way, are AMAZING. So I didn't get to see too much of Newcastle. The next time I went was at the beginning of school holidays just a few weeks ago. Another exchange briefing, although this one longer, at comparatively tropical Tocal. The setting was beautiful, and I really got to know all of the other inbounds. I was lucky to stay with a Rotarian a few days before and after the actual briefing and they were nice enough to really drive me around Newcastle, go to the fish market, etc. Although around 500,000 people live in the Newcastle/Lake Macquarie area, it still retains a small-town, friendly feel. And it's right on the coast! How could you not like it? The only bad thing is that it's 5.5 hours drive from Warren. Not to worry; I'm moving to a suburb of Newcastle in January as part of my exchange!

The last time I was in Newcastle was this past week. I stayed with a lovely host family of another exchange student, and I finally had time to just see the area on a relaxed basis. They were so kind and took me to Nelson Bay where we watched dolphins, and I finally got to go swimming on Newcastle Beach!

Horse racing is pretty big in Australia. My second host family in Warren sponsored the Cattlemen's Cup horse race at the local course in early September. People really get dressed up and into the aura of hospitality more than the races themselves, but it was a great first race for me! There's a larger race, the Cotton Cup, coming up in November which I'll also surely attend.

Finally, I've been helping out at the Warren Nursery Cafe lately. Ever since I started work experience through school there, I've loved it! It keeps me busy when things can get a bit dull, and I find it a great way to meet people in the town.

I shall try to upload some pictures for view on the site here. Unforunately there are bandwith restrictions on this computer's connection, but as soon as I can I will.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

First Blog - Three months in!

Wow! Nearly three months into my exchange from the United States to Australia, and I'm first blogging now? I thought it'd be great to share my experiences with everyone, and I was still getting my thoughts together, getting accustomed to this place, up until just recently. I really feel the need to have something from my exchange that tracks my progress and adventures, so this should do just fine!

How should I recap three months in another country? There is too much to try to go into, too many feelings and events for me to tell about everything. I'll try to start from the beginning. I left Wisconsin on July 18th, 2006, and arrived in Sydney on July 20th. After a grueling plane ride (espeically being situated in the window seat next to two tin-tuna-eating Mexican travellers from LA to Sydney - bleh), I was surprised to find out I wasn't even that jet-lagged! A few days going to bed at 6:00p.m. and I was all set and refreshed. But I had a terrible head cold from all of the travelling and the shock into a relatively different climate. My first host parents met me in Sydney, but they had commitments there and couldn't join me in my official first hometown of Warren, NSW, population 2200 on the outskirts of Outback Australia in the middle of the state. Instead, I stayed with a lovely couple a few kms out of town until they got back. My first impressions were a bit depressing. Quite shockingly, this part, and most of, Australia, has been in drought since 2000, yet it rained the first four days I was in town (?). I wasn't believing that they were really in drought with all this rain, but alas, since then, it has rained only one or two days. The drive from Dubbo Airport to Warren was flat for most of the way. The landscape gets flatter, somewhat redder, and more arid the further west you drive. Only about 2 hours west/northwest of Warren, and you're well and truly in the Outback.

I must admit, my impressions of the actual town on those first few days is drastically different than my view of it now. I now find Warren a quaint, friendly, close-knit, and even optimistic town with rich (for young Australia) history and an interesting culture of its own. Each small town, and they are all small when you travel into the interior of the country, has it's own personality, and so do the people in general. For instance, the town of Nyngan only less than one hour's drive away, has people that are noticeably different-minded than Warren folk.

Somewhat unfortunately, the public schooling system has a bad reputation, or is recovering from it, and thus most parents send their kids out to boarding schools in larger towns and cities. Thus, only four students make up Year 11 at Warren Central School. Since the beginning of my stay, the number is down to three. And now that the term is over, the Year 12 kids, who we share a "senior study" with, have moved on and it's just us four. It is a bit lonely with so few people to mingle with in class and on break, but I make do. The schooling is different here, subtly mostly, but since it is such a small school, it's hard to mark it as a "typical" Australian school.

My homestead in Warren for the last three months has been Red Hill, a few kms outside of town on the way to Nevertire. It has fairly red dirt, and is nearly 2 metres above the rest of the town. I quite enjoy living on a farm, although I couldn't get much sleep because it's so quiet and dark. The stars are amazing though. It's mostly cattle on Red Hill, with a few wheat paddocks. I have no host siblings living at home with me, and my host mum is an AMAZING cook. We have a deliciously large meal every night, and heaps of red meat often (something I had to get used to).

I suppose that gives a really basic overview of my life here. I haven't added any noteworthy occurences and events, but I'll do that in my next entry. I'm actually switching families soon, and I feel that I should've taken more pictures and wrote about my experiences earlier. But I'm doing it now, and that's a start in the right direction. Right-o. Until next time.