Sunday, January 31, 2010

Koalas, kangaroos, and the Great Barrier Reef oh my!

Hey Everyone! Sorry I haven't written since I have arrived in Australia but I am here safe and having an absolute blast! This past week was spent in Cairns. On Wednesday we went to the Rain forestation Center and walked around and viewed the amazing rain forest. We had an opportunity to fed the kangaroos and also hold a koala. We also watched an aboriginal dance show and learned how to throw a boomerang. There are ants in Australia that have green butts that if you lick the behind of it its tastes kind of like a warhead, so I had to try that out too. We also had the great opportunity of getting a tour through the rain forest on an army duck. The experience was pretty overwhelming and simply amazing. Wednesday afternoon we met up in the park across the street from the hotel and learned how to play cricket. Our Australearn faculty helped explain it to us and we had the opportunity to put our skills, or lack of into action. It was really interesting and fun trying to learn and play a new sport.
On Thursday we had our free day where we had the opportunity to sign up for a tour of some sort or just relax. A group of about 15 or so of my new friends and I decided to take a bus to Palm Cove and go hang out at the beach for the day. The bus ride wasn't too long and the beach was so beautiful and not busy at all. It was a bit overcast at first but quickly cleared up. We played in the ocean, took pictures, and enjoyed our day of relaxation. I made sure to put sunscreen on throughout the day but still managed to head back to the hotel with a sunburn. Thursday evening we met up with the group for dinner at Shannigans and I had a kangaroo burger. It was tasty but hard to describe, similar maybe to beef but not as dense and the meat broke apart a little easier but overall a yummy meal.
Friday was our community day. We traveled to the Kuranda Center and helped plant trees that will produce food for the Cassowary bird. It was so great to have the opportunity to give back to the community and help make a difference. We got a tour around the center including the extensive worm farm. Friday evening was our own time to relax and hang out with our group. We had a little birthday dinner celebration for one of my new friends and then I spent time playing cards. Cards turned into about ten competitive players trying new games. I helped explain Froggy to some of the group and made my family proud with pretty much dominating most of the game with my partner.
Saturday was quite an adventure and definitely unforgettable. We woke up and had a nice breakfast at the hotel, walked a block or so to the marina and loaded up on a boat to go out scuba diving and snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. I had been anxiously anticipating and looking forward to this day all week. I have not tried scuba diving yet and was hoping to on this special day. After loading up the boat, having an introduction and welcome session with the crew and going over some safety tips we were free to move around the boat. We had about a two hour drive out to the reef so most of our group headed to the front of the boat. The waves were quite large and the brave select few, including myself, decided to sit in the netting at the front of the boat. As we held on for dear life it was like an intense roller coaster after every waves. Bouncing up and down and getting your body thrown around. It was a bit scary but also really fun and exhilarating. As we traveled farther and farther away from the shore the worse and worse the weather was getting. Overcast turned into to dark grey angry skies, the rain started as a sprinkle and quickly turned into sidways sleeting rain, and the waves, although fun quite large to start and got even bigger. We were driving through a cyclone and the weather was quite ridiculous. Despite the weather we fought through and got our blue power suits on to protect ourselves from getting stung by a blue bottle, which is a somewhat harmful small jelly fish. We did eventually have a chance to go out and snorkel for a little bit but the visibility wasn't very good because of the storm. They canceled scuba diving which was a big bummer because I was very excited to try that out. Although the weather was a bit crazy, our group really just took the experience for what it was, unforgettable for sure :)
Sunday, we loaded everything up and were off to the airport again. We had to say bye to our friends we had made that are going to different universities. A pretty short flight landed us in Sydney! On our way to our school, we drove by the Opera House and over the Sydney Bridge and it was just like the pictures and movies, but ten times better! The rest of the bus ride and once we arrived on campus, I was just in total shock and awe and amazement. ICMS (International College of Management of Sydney) is so wonderful and totally reminds me of harry potter. Overall I am doing great and honestly living the dream :) More to come now that I am here and getting settled in, Orientation meetings and stuff this week.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Roots and Wings.

I am sitting here in Chicago on Jenn and Kaitlyn's "couch" as we have called it but rather it is just an air mattress and my bed for tonight and I am soaking it all in. It is my last night in the United States. I will not be back until May 15th. The excitement and overwhelming feelings are really getting to me now. I anxiously laid in bed last night trying to remind myself of all the fun and amazing memories I will make, while at the same time realizing that my friends and family will be missing from my life for the next four months. It seems quite unreal to imagine my life without the people who have made it so complete for as long as I can remember. The whole studying abroad experience especially now is bittersweet. I am out of my mind excited and words really cannot explain exactly how happy I am that I am doing this and how appreciative I am for being given this amazing opportunity. But at the same time, as the days draw to an end before I leave, I have realized just how much I love the amazing people in my life. I have been so blessed with the friends and family in my life. Friends who have enriched my days and given me memories that will last forever. These supportive people continue to amaze me and I am really happy that I got a chance to say good bye to many of them. I am at a loss for words to explain just how much my family means to me and how much I will miss them in the next couple months. They are all amazing individuals who have helped shape who I am today. Although it will feel like a small part of me is missing I know that with their love, support, and luckily skype :) that I will not only enjoy my time in Australia, I will make sure to live my experience to the fullest and keep my family close to my heart at all times.

My mom has said to us that she hopes to give us "both roots and wings" throughout our lives. I think my parents have done just that. I feel like my roots have helped stabilize me in my surroundings and given me strength, hope, and deep faith and love within my family and friends. I feel rooted and strong in who I have become and I give so much credit of that to my family. And now with my wings I am ready to spread them and explore the next phase of my life. I have strength, courage, and confidence to embark on this adventure with Steph Beattie and Michael Hall at my side. In less than a day now I will be boarding an airplane with my carry one and luggage but also my roots and wings.

- Hodding Carter -

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The time is now... well almost

After a restless night of sleep, I lay in bed this morning and realized that tonight would be the last night that I sleep in my comfy cozy bed with my baby blanket surrounded by reminders and memories of my childhood and life for the next four months. Its overwhelming and honestly just crazy that the time is pretty much here. Like a lot of big moments and events in your life it seems like you plan and organize, and worry and work, and then its here.

For example, I remember in high school when I had the interesting yet rewarding opportunity to help plan junior year prom. As Amy Wall's right hand man, we started in the fall visiting possible locations and then making phone calls and organizing every last detail. Some of the staff, teachers, and specifically our advisors did help us with some things but so much of it was our time and effort that it really felt like 'our baby.' And then prom rolls around and in just a couple hours all the work and anticipation built up is here and then gone.

Although my upcoming adventure to Australia can be relatable to my prom experience in some ways, I am very pleased to say that while the anticipation and work built up was comparable the trip will not be. Australia will not only be life changing and an experience of a lifetime lucky for me it will last more than just a couple of hours.

So as I sit here in my bedroom, realizing that my time left here at home is short, I am eagerly anticipating this next step in my life that is sure to be an adventure. I have lots to do today, with final packing, and organizing to finish up my time here in Elk Rapids but I think I will sleep soundly tonight in my comfy cozy bed at home.

Rusted Root- Send Me On My Way

"I would like to reach out my hand
I may see you, I may tell you to run
You know what they say about the young
Well pick me up with golden hands
Oh may see you, Oh may tell you to run
You know what they say about the young

Well I would like to hold my little, hand
How we will run We will. How we will crawl we will.
I would like to hold my little, hand.
How we will run we will. How we will crawl.

Send me on my way, on my way"

Friday, January 15, 2010

There's No Place Like Home . . .

And so here we are... the start of my blog that will be my opportunity to share with others my next four months that will be spent in Australia. I have to admit it all started back in 5th grade... I was in Mrs.Cole's class and had to write a research paper on a topic that I found interesting. I choose Australia. My little afro self with a big gap in between my front two teeth ;) researched to the best of my ability and got my first glimpse at Australia. I researched and learned the basic components of this vast land mass and now, some ten years later am leaving in just nine days to make it my new home for the next four months.

During the past two and a half amazing years that I have spent at Albion College, I have loved almost every minute of it. I have found amazing friends, made ridiculous and unforgettable memories, been a part of a team that is like my family, found sisters in delta gamma that accept me and embrace exactly who I am, and so much more. Loving my time at Albion has made the decision to study abroad at first a very hard one, but then I realized that it is because of all of the amazing people, memories, and experiences that I have had that has enriched my life and made me who I am today. I was compelled and inspired by not only Albion but also all of my friends and family to go ahead and pursue my fifth grade dream of studying abroad.

It is now, as my dearest travel companion Steph Beattie says "single digits away," that in just nine short days we will be in Chicago O'Hare airport waiting to board the airplane having no idea just how much we will learn, discover, and experience during the next four months...

"The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time." - Abraham Lincoln