Australia, Nature, Outside

Lookie!!!!!

I saw my first joey poking out of his mom’s pouch!!!!

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My hosts this week have a fenced in backyard. To see over the fence I have to stand on my tippy toes to see over it. In the big empty space behind their yard, kangaroos can often be seen. We didn’t see any other there on Sunday or Monday, but there were two roos hanging around out there today for a few hours! I grabbed my camera and took about 50 pictures before they even moved once haha. Then about an hour later they were a little closer so I took about 30 more pictures that all ended up looking the same. And then a little while later they were much closer to the fence, and that was when I saw the joey!! I knew the pouch looked big on one of them, but since I’m not exactly sure how they are normally supposed to look I couldn’t be sure if there was a joey. I was so excited when there was!!

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No Worries!

The title of the post really has nothing to do with the content – people just say ‘no worries’ all day long so it’s floating around my head right now! It is a good phrase to keep in mind though – NO WORRIES!!

I think the best way to catch up on my adventures in Sydney and New Zealand is to do two separate picture posts – one for each place. I’ll share my experiences in each through a few of the pictures from each place. I will try to work on those in the next few days, because pictures take a long time to upload so it will take a little while to put together.

For now, I want to share about the fun I’ve had since getting back to Grafton!

 

On Friday night, M and C picked me up from the train station. The train was 30 minutes late because it only had one engine apparently (?), and I had tried to text M and let her know that, but my text didn’t go through! So they patiently waited for me for all that time so I was very thankful. I’m glad they didn’t leave me to find my own way home lol that would have been an interesting story though. I got back to M’s house and showered before falling into bed. The next morning, I woke up and did some laundry before just relaxing for a while. Even though I was just on holiday for 2 weeks, Frankie and I fit so much into that time that it felt really nice to just sit and do nothing on Saturday. After my laundry was finished, I went for a gorgeous run in the country. The weather had been kind of dreary for a lot of our time in Sydney and NZ, so I was super happy for the bright sun warming my back as I ran (and yes, I had sunscreen on!).

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When I got back, M and I went into town with C to have coffee with her mom. On the way back, we stopped to get a 1 day fishing license for me so that I could fish with C on Sunday. It was only $6 so that was good! After that, M and J and I went to a BBQ at J’s mom’s house. It was such a fun night and I loved meeting everyone there. J’s aunt was funny and nice and she was a retired teacher, so we talked about teaching (among many other things!) throughout the night. She had started off in regular education before going back to school and then teaching special education. I could tell that she had loved her work, and she talked to me about having passion and loving what you do, which is awesome to hear. She also gave me the advice of keeping the students guessing. She said that keeping them wondering about what you’ll do next is a great way to keep students engaged and interested. I told her that that was very similar to advice my mentor teacher gave me about making sure that I was excited to teach a lesson before presenting it to my students. I feel so lucky to be meeting such great role models throughout my teacher education.   The steaks that were being served were HUGE, and J’s mom said that they normally have bigger ones! The whole spread of food was delicious and it really was such a fun night. Everyone was so welcoming and I laughed until my stomach hurt at the funny conversations we had.

Sunset over the river from J's mom's backyard
Sunset over the river from J’s mom’s backyard

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This is J's aunt. In this picture, we're showing off our water lilies made of serviettes (napkins). She taught me how to do it and said that it was an important skill to take back to PA haha.
This is J’s aunt. In this picture, we’re showing off our water lilies made of serviettes (napkins). She taught me how to do it and said that it was an important skill to take back to PA haha.

The next morning, I woke up bright and early to go fishing with C and her husband, G. I walked over to their house and helped them finish packing up before we were on our way. I wore a hat, a longer-sleeved shirt, and tons of sunscreen to protect my skin. We drove to Yamba to put the boat into the water and hopped right in when we got there. C is slightly competitive, so M was joking and saying that I needed to catch the first fish of the day. Well, after we had been there for about half an hour, I did just that! My fish was 30cm (they have to be 25cm to keep them), so that was a pretty good size! I didn’t catch any more for the whole day, but I still get to say that I caught the first fish and the biggest fish (and believe me, I have definitely been saying it for the past few days haha. C and I have fun teasing each other). She actually ended up catching the most, but I’ve been leaving that part out when I tell the story. =P   We also saw two dolphins swim right by our boat! C and G said they had never seen dolphins from the boat before, so we were all impressed! We stayed on the water for about 3 hours before heading back to the dock. Once we got there, G cleaned the boat while C and I cleaned the 5 fish we had caught all together. As C was gutting them, tons of pelicans were lining up for the snack they were hoping for. We were watching the pelicans in front of us, and when we looked behind us there were suddenly tons back there also! We could have reached out and touched them, and they were super big! I ended up feeding some of the fish heads to them too, and that was an adventure haha. Even with all of my sun protection, I still got a pretty harsh burn on one of my arms and the tops of my legs. I had even put a towel over my legs after a little while because I was worried about a burn, but it still happened! I think it’s because my skin hadn’t seen sun since last summer lol. I’m sad about the burn, but hopefully it will be my only one of the trip! I’m so glad we went fishing and I had tons of fun.

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The pelicans lining up in front of us...
The pelicans lining up in front of us…
and the pelicans that appeared behind us! You can tell by my face that I'm slightly unsure of the situation haha.
and the pelicans that appeared behind us! You can tell by my face that I’m slightly unsure of the situation haha.
You can actually see which pelican caught the head that I threw! It's the one in the very front with the bulge in its neck lol. gross!
You can actually see which pelican caught the head that I threw! It’s the one in the very front with the bulge in its mouth lol. gross!

When we got back from fishing, I showered and then packed up all of my stuff that had somehow exploded all over my guest room at M’s house. Packing it all up made me very worried for June 8th when I have to take it all back to America with me. I swear I didn’t even add anything to my luggage and it’s already so hard to fit into my bags! M took me over to the new house I’ll be staying at for the week with my new host, L. L lives with her husband, S, and her daughter CL. Her other daughter is away at college and that’s whose room I’m staying in. We talked all evening as dinner was cooking and then while eating it as well. S is actually from PA, so we had a lot to talk about. After dinner, we watched Dr. Who (hi Diana!) before heading to bed.

Today, Monday, April 29th, was an inservice day at the school. Here they call them Pupil-Free Days. Our topic for the day was the new Australian national curriculum. It’s starting next year with the implementation of the English syllabus. From everything I observed today, and from the answers I got through asking questions, much of how education is set up here is very similar to what I know about education in PA. Objectives and overarching goals guide teaching, and teachers create units/lessons that fit those goals. Some new changes brought about with the new curriculum include text requirements – in other words, teachers need to incorporate many different types of texts into their classrooms (media, sound, visual, etc.) – and new cross-curricular goals that are pretty specific. One of these cross-curriculum priorities is “Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia.” There are 13 of these ‘Learning across the curriculum’ topics, and it was cool to see how they were dispersed throughout the curriculum. There are also 5 general objectives that are worked into different parts of the curriculum as the basis to much of what is included. Although some of the specific elements of the curriculum are different than what I know, it was very understandable to me and it made a lot of sense. Overall, there were only minor differences in the way that the education is being set up. New South Wales created an English syllabus that we were looking at today that is based on the national curriculum. Morning tea was catered today, and I ate about 50 delicious dessert things. I really should have taken a picture because I’m not even sure how to describe any of the sweets they have here. All I can say is I loved every single one. —On a side note, before eating dinner, L, S, CL and I were talking. I’m not sure what I said before this, but I do know I started talking about all the desserts at morning tea. S was laughing as I was describing some of the different ones and he turned to L and CL and asked, “Is anyone else noticing how much Sarah likes food?” So, I can definitely say that my personality shines through wherever I am lol. S saying that made me think of my dad because my dad also always laughs about how much I like food. —  For lunch, C and I actually ended up cooking our fish that we caught yesterday! We were going to have it for dinner last night, but since we got back and my new hosts were expecting me, we just decided to cook it for lunch in the kitchen at school. It was my first time having homemade fresh fish and chips, and it was good! Here’s a picture of it! You had to be super careful while eating the fish because it had lots of small bones. After everyone started telling stories about people getting bones stuck in their throats, I kind of left the second half on my plate lol. But it was still really yummy!

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In the afternoon, the teachers split up into grade level groups and I actually did a favor for one of the teachers by recording myself reading some books. I had a lot of fun doing it and it will be cool for the students to be able to listen to me reading even after I’m gone. After school, L was doing a few things in the classroom so I took my journal out to a picnic table and sat and wrote. Another teacher walked by and commented on my gorgeous ‘office,’ and I couldn’t agree more. It was so peaceful to sit out there with the shade and the sun shining over the trees and the birds chirping and even the bugs buzzing! Even though I now have 5 bug bites on my legs…..but still! It was nice lol. When we got home, I went for a run around my new neighborhood and got to watch the beautiful sunset. Where I’m staying now, there’s a spot in the backyard where kangaroos can often be seen, so one of my goals while I’m staying here this week is to get a good picture of one. They said there’s even one with a pretty big joey in her pouch so I’d love to see that!

Views from my run today
Views from my run today

 

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Holidays!

Hello!!!!! I haven’t had internet for a little over a week now! When I actually type it out, it doesn’t sound very long – but it felt long! I still only have internet for a few hours here in our hotel in New Zealand. Then when I head back to Grafton I’ll have to see if the teacher I’m staying with this coming week has internet or not.

So a lot has happened during the school holidays, as they call them here. Frankie and I had an awesome time exploring Sydney and our now loving our time here in New Zealand! We did SO MUCH in a fairly short amount of time! I’d really need to upload pictures to truly show what we’ve been doing, but I’ll try to list it here just for now as a placeholder.

Since I last wrote…

Sunday – 10 hour train to Sydney, picked up by Frankie and her host

Monday – Dee Why Beach and Manly Beach (ate Manly’s famous fish and chips!)

Tuesday – Sydney. It was supposed to rain all day so Frankie and I brought our smaller cameras and wore rain gear. It ended up not raining too much, but it still wasn’t a super sunny and pretty day. I was still so amazed by the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, though, and seeing all the Sydney sights made me really realize I’m in AUSTRALIA!! On this day we saw the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, the Rocks, the Sydney Observatory, Darling Harbour, Paddy’s Markets, St. Mary’s Cathedral, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and the Royal Botanic Gardens. I think that’s all, but it was fun to fit so much into a day and check so much off of our to-do list.

Wednesday – Taronga Zoo and back to Sydney Harbour. We spent the morning and some afternoon hours at the zoo before getting the ferry back over to check out the Opera House and Harbour Bridge again. This day we had our big cameras, and I had really wanted to get some pictures of the famous sites with my big camera, so we headed there after the zoo. This was the day we found out we could buy a student daytripper pass that gave us umlimited bus, train, and ferry usage for a day for only $11!!! We were so amazing and also mad that we hadn’t found out about the deal sooner! Since we had it though, we knew that we could head across the harbour after going to the zoo, so we did just that! My favorite views of the bridge and Opera House actually came while we were at the zoo though, and we could see it across the harbour. It constantly took my breath away!

Thursday – Bondi Beach. Today was the day I found out my Gramma died. We spent a few hours in the morning at a Starbucks while I talked to my mom. My Gramma hadn’t been doing well for a while, but it’s definitely hard missing someone when you’re used to them being there all your life! I love my Gramma so much, and since she could never travel up to PA to come to us, I figure she now even gets a front row seat to my adventures in Australia! My mom told me to continue on to the beach and have a cookie and an awesome day like my gramma would have wanted. =) After collecting myself in the Starbucks, we did just that. Before we got to the beach though, we rode one of the busses we had to take for about 20 minutes in the wrong direction! We laughed at ourselves before getting off and trekking to the other side of the road to catch the bus going the right way. We felt pretty out of place in the middle of Sydney with all the business people while we were in our bathing suits under little dresses and carrying towels. Once we got to Bondi Beach, it was so cold!! We met up with another PSU student who traveled to Sydney during the school holidays so it was fun to talk to her and hear about how her experiences are going.

Friday – Back to Sydney. Since we didn’t have much more on our must-do list, we thought it would be fun to have a relaxing day in Sydney. With nothing in our plans except a semi-cheap lunch, we set out to catch the bus and then the ferry that would take us into the city. This day was probably my favorite of the week because it was so relaxed and we just walked around doing whatever we wanted. I love that we went to the harbour 3 times and I really felt like I got to just sit and enjoy the opera house and harbour bridge.

Saturday – It POURED this day and we did laundry, packed for New Zealand, and watched tons of movies haha. We thought about leaving the house a few times, but then decided that we wouldn’t spend any money if we stayed home, so we decided to do that.

Sunday – A shuttle bus picked us up at 7:15 am outside of Frankie’s host’s apartment. We had booked the shuttle earlier in the week because Frankie’s host went away for the week. We got to the airport and checked in for our flight. When I packed for these two weeks away, I packed more than I thought I needed because I figured I’d just pack light for New Zealand and leave the extra stuff I brought at Frankie’s house. Well, since her host was going away, we needed to take all of our stuff to New Zealand! This meant that my bag was STUFFED full, and when we got to the airport, we realized I’d have to check my bag because carry-ons could only be 7 kilos! Mine was like 15, so I had to pay $80 to check it at the last minute. I was not a happy camper. I called my mom and I was pretty upset, but she said not to worry about it. I think she thought I was hurt or something because of how upset I was, so when I finally told her what was wrong, she was like “Oh my goodness, you could have said something cost $1,000 and I would have been relieved!” haha. Traveling is definitely expensive and the money aspect is quite a stressor, but I’m trying to be conscientious while still treating myself and having fun. It’s a delicate balance, and I’d love to travel at some point with unlimited money lol but I’m sure everyone wishes that. At this point, I treated myself to a $4 chocolate bar and a $4 bottle of water (see, things are expensive! and they were in the airport, but still) to have on the plane. It ended up being really relaxing to sit and read my book while eating my yummy chocolate, so I’m glad I did that. I sat next to the window seat for this flight, and I think it really helped with my motion sickness! I definitely felt better on this flight than any of the ones before. When we landed in New Zealand, we got bus tickets to take us to the city from the airport, which was about a 40 minute ride. We knew we’d have to find transportation when we got there, so we were happy to find a clearly marked bus with a ticket that would take us to the city and then back to the airport for our return flight all for $28. Our hotel is right in the center of Auckland, and it’s so much fun to be so close to everything! I’ve never stayed right in the middle of a city, and it’s a lot of fun already. When we got up to our room, we were confused to see that it was a suite with a kitchenette and a little couch and TV in one room, and a king size bed and bathroom in the next room. We looked a little harder at our reservation and it actually says we requested a king size bed suite lol. In reality, we had just found a room on Expedia for a great price, so we booked it without really checking the details I guess. You definitely learn from experience lol. We don’t mind, it’s just funny that we’re basically on our honeymoon. After changing clothes, we went down to explore a little and look for dinner. We stopped in the Sky Tower lobby (which is right up the street form our hotel!) to make a reservation to eat there later in the week (!!!), and then decided on some italian for dinner. We split a salad and a pizza, and it was really yummy! After getting ice cream, we headed back to our room and took showers before heading to bed.

Monday (today!) – We woke up early and had some oatmeal in our room (which we bought last night for cheap breakfasts) before heading down the street to the wharf. We caught the ferry to Waiheke Island and it was beautiful! Exactly how I pictured New Zealand, and it really looks like a fake place because everything is so pretty! We went zip lining, which was AMAZING!, and then headed back to Auckland. We ate kebabs for dinner (which is kind of like a gyro), and had chips (french fries), and L&P lemon drink for dinner. That’s a very kiwi (a.k.a. New Zealand) dinner, because kebabs are to New Zealanders what pizza is to us college kids back home, and L&P is a famous New Zealand drink. It tastes exactly like lemon heads and isn’t good!! Now we’re hanging out in the room for the night and are excited for our plans for the rest of the week!

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Rainy Saturday

Last night was staff night at the Clocktower, a local pub. We went basically right after school (with a stop for a chocolate banana milkshake while visiting C’s mom hehe) and stayed till about 10pm. Everyone was again super nice and it was a lot of fun to talk and eat and enjoy.

Chocolate banana milkshake - It tasted exactly like a chocolate covered banana, yum!
Chocolate banana milkshake – It tasted exactly like a chocolate covered banana, yum!
My dinner last night (They have beetroot on everything here!)
My dinner last night (They have beetroot on everything here!)

I was so super tired last night for some reason, so I fell asleep right when I got home. It’s 2:20pm now on Saturday, and I’m sitting in the same recliner I’ve been sitting in for hours! I woke up this morning and did two loads of laundry (which they call washing here – laundry is the room you do your washing in), took a shower, and read a book on my kindle. It was a free book but it was really good and so of course I had to buy the next two in the series which cost money. But only $0.99 for one and $3.99 for the other so not too bad.

It’s a rainy day today so that’s why I’m getting to relax and do nothing. C and I were going to go fishing today, and M and J had mentioned going to a curry festival, but the rain is keeping us all inside and just relaxing. I really need a day like today, and as soon as my clothes are all dry I need to pack for my two week vacation! I’m packing my carry on bag and my little backpack. Tomorrow morning I’m catching the train to Sydney and then Frankie and her host are picking me up late at night when I arrive. We’re basically playing our trip by ear so it’ll be fun to see what we end up doing!

 

Some shots of my view today:

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Last Night’s Journal Entry and Today’s Fun

4/10/13    

9:23pm

I just got home from dinner at MB’s house. It was so much fun and we sat and talked for a few hours. It was MB, her husband G, her daughter S (who is in her late 20’s), and her daughter’s partner B. I loved sitting at the dinner table long after the dishes were cleared just talking. We talked about Australian specific things, American specific things, and just all around things! Topics ranged from native birds (which consisted of getting out the bird books for visuals) to current events to funny stories (which brought out the funny pictures as well) to slang/accents. It really was so much fun and a night I’ll remember for a long time to come. I kept thinking it was just the sort of thing I’m supposed to do here – have dinner with the locals and just talk and talk. We ate the lasagna (yum!) and the tiramisu (yuck! – because I don’t like coffee!) that MB and I made yesterday. We also had wine (I couldn’t even finish my glass lol I don’t like wine). When we talked about the Grafton floods, G mentioned that he had news recordings he could show. S asked him why the heck he had that and he paused and laughed before saying it was to show American visitors haha. S said that’s probably the most boring thing ever to watch. We talked about much more after that, so I completely forgot about it. Then, when I finally went to get my bag to go (G and B had gotten up just a few minutes before), G had the videos cued up on the TV haha! I am so easily entertained and love doing things that make people happy so I didn’t mind watching them at all. In the end, we were all there watching them and it really was interesting! Just funny that we actually did end up watching. It was seriously a great night!

Oh, I don’t think Australians have side dishes! I’ve never had one since I’ve been here! (Mom, you will find this funny!)

And the stars here are AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I said so on the way over, and MB and G (who were driving me home) got out when we got to M and J’s (my hosts) house. They pointed out some constellations including the Southern Cross! The stars were so bright and clear and I seriously felt like I could touch them! The Milky Way was sprawled across the sky and I couldn’t stop staring. 

So today’s timeline:

7:45am – Get to school

3:30pm – Leave school and walk to MB’s house

3:50-5:06 -Relax on MB’s back porch with her and her daughter (I’m obsessed with her avocado tree!)

5:30-6:30 – Boot Camp! We walked to and from it as well, and it was all really fun! I’d like to do something like it at home. We did ABC tag, deck of cards, and some team running weaves. We were split into teams by when our birthdays were, and I was in the summer group! Haha I thought it was so cool that I was, since I’m really in the winter group with a December birthday, but here December is summer. It’s still fun to think of and so weird. I can’t believe Australians have Christmas in the middle of the summer!

6:45ish-9:15ish – Dinner and dessert and talking

9:30 – Home and writing this!

Lasagna!
Lasagna!
Tiramisu
Tiramisu

So I wrote that journal entry last night. Today as I thought about how my computer thinks it’s 4:54 am right now (and it’s really 6:54 pm here), some of the dates on my blog posts will be off. Posting this right now will still have it post as the 11th, but if I post a blog post on a Friday morning for example, it would show up as being posted on Thursday! Not that it really matters in the long run, but it could be confusing if I was really looking at dates and checking when I posted. Also, I’m sure it’s very easy to change the time on my computer, buuuttt I just don’t feel like it.

A few random things:

-I was told my accent sounded very soft and not as harsh as many American accents. The person even thought my accent was Canadian haha! Something that I think about often and that blows my mind (I mentioned this at dinner yesterday also and we talked a lot about accents) is that everyone here doesn’t see themselves as having accents and I’m here with an accent. It’s just so hard to imagine myself having an accent and to imagine these Australians with such obvious accents as thinking they don’t have accents! Today as I was reading with some students, I thought about myself as an American student at school at home with an Australian student teacher and I know I would have thought it was so cool. I’m enjoying being a novelty lol. Today I took a stapler back to the library and asked some older students if they knew where it went. Their reply was, “Woaahhh you have an American accent!” So of course I took a few minutes to answer their questions and ask some of my own.

-I went with C to have coffee (cough milkshake cough) after school again, and we met up with tons of people there. C’s daughter, H, just got back from a 6 week holiday in the States, so we met up with her and just a bunch of other people that she bumped into at the mall. It was really fun and H offered to take me to Byron Bay after the holidays when I’m back in town. H was so nice and I’m looking forward to hanging out with her after I get back from traveling. We had about 15 people at our little table, and I’m having so much fun meeting so many people. H’s best friend, T, had her 2 young daughters there and her mom came by as well. Another friend came with her three kids and I had fun talking to the teeny tiny Aussies. I asked if my voice sounded weird and E (3 years old) said uh huh. I was asking her what certain charms on her bracelet were, and she wanted me to repeat them back to her. She ended up saying lots of words and having me repeat them. She seemed to really like my accent haha or at least think it was weird enough to want to keep hearing it. Her little Australian accent was awesome!

-I had a lime milkshake, which one of the teacher at the school keeps saying I have to try. I was really skeptical of it at first but the coffee shop worker said it was the best one after I ordered it. And guess what??! It tasted exactly like a shamrock shake!! Of course, it was thinner than a shamrock shake, because that’s how milkshakes are here, but it was delicious! Now I’m thinking it’s called a lime milkshake because of the color and not the flavor, but I don’t know.

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-I just had a classic Australian dinner: meat pies and hot chips! Yum yum yum!!!!! Not the prettiest meal, or the healthiest (which is what M said when we were putting it together), but it was DELICIOUS! The meat pie was from the local bakery which made it even yummier.

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-Oh yes, so my Graduation Morning Tea is getting bigger and bigger! Today at the meeting with all of the staff someone brought it up so everyone was aware. This brought on conversations about finding me a cap and gown to wear, bringing all Australian dishes for me to try on that Friday, and having me do something at morning assembly. Some of the funny male teachers started talking about dressing their best for the occasion – which for some reason included dresses and fishnets. I’m half scared that they’ll go through with it haha – okay, not really, but everyone is being so funny about it. I’m so thankful that I got placed at this school because everyone really is so so so so nice. They so do not need to do this for me, and the fact that everyone is having so much fun with it already is just constantly making me smile. I already got word that a gown is secured for me lol, and MB spent some time after school creating a cap. Here’s a picture of her cap-making in progress:

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-Pretty views!!

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Photo Apr 10, 3 39 51 PM

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Saying Yes

So like I mentioned before, I have lots of plans for when I’m in Sydney and traveling around. While I’m in Grafton though, I have no plans whatsoever. I have a basic checklist (see a kangaroo, watch a cricket game, go to the beach), but nothing specific or planned out. Because of this, I’m just saying yes to every single thing offered to me. It’s a fun way to do lots of stuff and keep busy!

This week, I’m in a classroom where MB is the teacher. MB invited me to walk home with her yesterday after school and help her do some cooking! I love cooking anyway, but I would have said yes either way haha. We made lasagna and tiramisu, and I’m going over for dinner today to eat it! I’m also going to bootcamp with MB and some other teachers, and I’m not really sure what I’m getting myself into lol – people laugh when I tell them I’m going so that doesn’t bode well for my experience. Everyone does keep saying the instructor is a “piece of eye candy,” so that should be good haha. We shall see!

So after school today, I’ll walk home with MB and we’ll head to bootcamp at 5:30 and then have dinner afterwards. MB’s daughter is home from uni with her partner (what they call boyfriends and girlfriends here), and I met them yesterday so it will be fun to have dinner with MB, her husband, her daughter, and her daughter’s partner.

When I got home from MB’s house last night, M (my host) made an amazing dinner:

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And the puppies sat on my lap while I relaxed (i know it’s hard to tell, but that’s two puppies squished together) :

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And, oh yeah, can’t forget to share a picture of what C and I found in the garden this morning before school started:

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A witchetty grub!!! Yuck! And everyone said this one was small. Indigenous Australians really eat these things!

The magpies are up and sharing their morning calls, so it’s time for me to eat some cornflakes and get ready for school!

Australia, School

First Day in the School

Today was my first day in the school. It was so much fun! Everyone was so welcoming and so nice. I’m in a special education classroom this week that has kids ranging from Year 2 to Year 6 – with none of them doing work above a Year 3 level. Much of the work that the students did was individualized, with them working through different spelling lists and different math pages throughout the morning.

Here are a few major differences that I noticed today between the American schools I’ve been in and this Australian school (and I’m saying it in that specific way because I’m sure my experiences of schools in America are not all encompassing and I’m positive that my one day in one school here in Australia doesn’t make me an expert on the subject):

-Here, the students wear uniforms at this public school. Part of their uniform is a wide brimmed floppy bright blue sunhat to protect them from the sun.

-Recess and lunch here include every grade. Everyone was surprised when I said that we have recess and lunch by grade in most American schools. Recess here happens a few hours into the school day and all students eat a small snack at this time before having some time to play. Although the day started out sunny and beautiful, it started raining pretty hard right before lunch, so I didn’t get to see the students out in the play area. They were all squished onto the cement area, so I’m excited to see them all out and playing tomorrow (weather permitting!)

-The school is open to the outdoors! I keep calling it an open air campus or an open campus school, but I just googled both of those terms and one is a response to a tuberculosis outbreak and one is referring to students getting to leave during lunch. So whatever it’s called, it’s awesome! The classrooms are indoors, but all the hallways are outside. I told people that there are schools like this in Florida (my dad lived there and we’ve driven by his schools before), but that in PA they aren’t like this at all. They were really surprised to hear that you walk into the school and then can’t see the sky until you leave. Here, the students eat, play, and walk to different rooms outside!

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-The students were all very polite. Being polite is an important part of the teaching here. Doing what your teacher tells you is actually one of the school rules, and this way of thinking seems very different from what I’ve seen and learned about in the US. From what I saw today, the kids were polite and kind and always working to show their manners. The students chorally said good morning to each teacher today, thanked their peers for sharing after they read from their journals, and were expected to give their full attention while listening. I’ll be interested to see how these rules play out in some other classrooms in the school as well.

-At lunch, the students were to get quiet after a teacher blew a whistle, but they would not get quiet. The teachers ended up lining the students up in the way that they sit at assembly (which is the morning meeting type thing where the whole school sits with their teachers while some announcements are made and then they all sing the national anthem**), and they were reprimanded for their behavior. The teachers were very straightforward in the way that they talked to the students and it struck me as different than what I would have heard in America.

-**One teacher I met this morning told me that every exchange student had to go up and sing the national anthem on their first day in the school. I didn’t believe him, but it made me laugh to think about me actually having to do that. I could barely understand the kids when they were singing the national anthem! I’ll have to look up the lyrics. I’ve never had any trouble understanding anyone (except when they use slang terms and I have to ask what they mean lol I’ve been discussing slang with lots of people and it’s so interesting – I love asking what different words mean), but the kids were singing and not enunciating and I seriously had no idea what they were saying hah!

Everyone was super nice – when some of the staff heard that I was missing my college graduation, they started planning a morning tea for me on the Friday that coincides with my graduation. It happens to be on the first Friday in May, which is the first Friday after the two week holiday. I’m looking forward to that. =)

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After school, I went with C to have coffee with her mom. I bought some juice boxes at the store near the coffee shop (because I’ve been craving juice!), and I tried some more uniquely Australian food: milkshakes (their milkshakes are much thinner than ours – so not too different, but still different enough to count as trying a new Australian food) and musk stix. The milkshake was amazing – I had a Caramel Malt one – and the musk stix were DISGUSTING! Seriously tasted exactly like soap! M says it’s something you had to grow up on, which is what they’re also saying about Vegemite, so I’m slightly suspicious about trying more Australian foods lol. Just kidding, I’m always up for trying anything, but it is funny how I keep hearing that all the gross stuff is only liked by Australians because they grew up with the taste. But I did love Tim Tams and the milkshakes so I guess we’re tied with 2 loves and 2 hates in the Australian food category.

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C keeps trying to think of something super Australian for me to eat, and she keeps trying to convince me to eat witchetty grubs (blech!) and turtle soup – I don’t think she’d really let me eat either lol but she keeps joking about it. People keep mentioning eating kangaroo, but C says she wouldn’t even eat that. I wouldn’t want to either! Kangaroo here are like our deer at home though so I guess it isn’t too crazy to eat it, but it still seems weird! I don’t think kangaroo is something that people here regularly eat, but  it’s sold in the supermarket and it’s served in some restaurants (probably more for tourists).

After C dropped me at home, I went on a run. There wasn’t an amazing sunset that I saw tonight, but I did see some awesome trees including this one below! I couldn’t stop staring at it, it’s awesome. Dad, I thought you would love this tree, too!

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I showered and settled in to eat dinner (M is an amazing cook!) before writing this blog post, and my bff was attached to my side tonight! She was acting crazy and really hyper and, of course, adorable. Every time I sat down she would race across the room and fly into my lap. The only reason she’s not laying across my computer right now is because she’s eating her dinner!

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It’s 8:00pm here right now and I think I’m going to head to bed! I’ve liked getting up early (not 2am early, but even 5am was nice, although 6 would be fine too – I think I might be turning into a morning person!), and it’s nice to relax while eating breakfast and getting ready. Well, if I pick up my Kindle right now I probably won’t go to bed till midnight anyway, so we’ll see!

Uncategorized

Yamba, NSW

The weather ended up being gorgeous today so we drove to Yamba, NSW, which is around 45 minutes from Grafton I think. M and C took me, and they mentioned that Yamba is a beach that locals frequent often and visit during holidays.  There are tons of beaches in Australia that are very popular with tourists, so it was fun to see one that’s popular with the locals. I remember reading some advice from a previous student teacher who taught abroad in Australia, and she said to make sure to not plan everything down to the minute and to just let locals show you around without a schedule for at least some of your time here. With today consisting of checking out a non-touristy town and its various beaches, eating at a small cafe in a very small town, doing some quick shopping in some little shops, and walking C’s dogs while exploring the neighborhood, I definitely feel like I’m living out that past student teacher’s advice. I know my time in Grafton will be completely different than my time in Sydney, and it’s neat that I get to have such different experiences. I really feel like my entire time in Grafton will be lead by whatever anyone is willing to show me. C already has plans to take me fishing this Saturday before I leave for Sydney, and she’s also planning for all of us to go up to the Gold Coast for a weekend. And ever since I mentioned that I might like to try surfing, she’s been talking about the various people she knows, including her son, who have boards that I can borrow and who could even give me a lesson or two. They say there’s a great beach up at the Gold Coast where I could get some surfing practice as well. Eek! Of course I’m definitely going to try it, but being that far out in the water is a little teeny tiny bit nerve racking! It’s 2:18 in the afternoon and I already feel like I had a completely full Sunday. That could have something to do with the fact that I woke up for the day at 2am. Hmm. Anyway, visiting Yamba was so much fun and I’m excited that I’m spending the week there at some point during my stay. A husband and wife that teach at the school live there, and they’ve invited me to stay for a week. It will be great to be so close to a beach and to be able to take some awesome walks while I’m there. Here are some pictures I took from the day (it was pretty overcast, and actually raining at times, but the views were still beautiful on the coast – once we got back to Grafton we saw that it hadn’t rained at all here and the weather was a nice warm temperature. I just looked at the temperature and it says 66 degrees F, but I swear it was hotter than that while I was just chasing two Golden Retrievers around for an hour with 4 tennis balls – it was a really good workout and I was HOT by the end of it, I would have guessed it was around 75 degrees or so – but I’m bad at guessing as we can all see since it was only 66 lol)

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That last shot is the Clarence River from J’s mom’s backyard. Her house is right on the river and I can’t wait to eat dinner there one night and hopefully catch an amazing sunset.

P.S. ELYSE: Thank you so, so, so, so, so much for letting me borrow your camera!

Australia

Shopping World and Jet Lag

Yesterday, I had my first experience of Shopping World. Seeing as Grafton is such a small town, their big mall is pretty impressive. C, C’s mom, and J all thought that I would think Shopping World was small, but I thought it was just as big as my hometown mall, if not a little bigger.

A few bullet points:

-I wonder if all Australians drive like they’re race car drivers? Driving on the wrong side of the road is already an experience in itself, and to fly down those small country roads I could swear we’re going 100 mph. In reality, we were going 80 kph (about 50 mph), which was the speed limit. Just riding in a car is such an experience because everything feels so backward!

-C’s elderly mom had quite a few hilarious quips during the day. First of all, J was talking about how she swam with sharks. When she took out a picture to show the cage she was in while being underwater with the sharks, C’s mom couldn’t stop laughing. When she finally did, she barely managed to explain to us that she had though J was actually SWIMMING with the sharks – like holding onto their fins and stuff. She didn’t think it was very cool anymore that J was just in a cage while sharks swam around. J joked that everyone else thought it was cool except for C’s mom. It had us all cracking up. C’s mom also had a few comments about C’s driving: on the way home, as we’re turning around each roundabout thing (there’s one at every intersection it seems), C’s mom quips, “We’re not in a bloody hurry!” To hear the way she said it, I couldn’t stop laughing. She said her nerves were on edge the entire drive.

-Everything is so expensive here!! M was telling me that the prices are so high because nothing is made in Australia and the country has a relatively small population so prices aren’t reduced due to such high demand like they might be elsewhere. I was going to buy some makeup to replace some of mine that was running out, but I think I might try to last the 9 weeks with the scrapes that I have to not spend $30 on one small jar of makeup. Although the tax is included in the list prices, so I guess that’s good. Also the money is interesting here! They have really small $2 coins so that was excited when I found a few of them in my wallet. I expected them to only be worth a few cents but I felt much richer when I realized they were worth $2!

-I woke up at 4:45am yesterday morning and couldn’t go back to sleep. I felt pretty homesick for a while, but I know that getting out and doing things will be the cure for that. We went to the mall around 10 and were back right around noon. I’m not usually one to be back from an outing before noon on a Saturday, so it was fun to have already done something by that time. After we got home, I went in my room and read for a while. I was thinking I might take a nap since I woke up so early, but I didn’t realize I actually fell asleep until M knocked on my door around 7:30. She felt bad for waking me, but she had thought I was awake since my light was on. She had been bringing me dinner and she said to just come out and eat it whenever I wanted. I ended up washing my face and brushing my teeth to freshen up before heading out to eat. She made a Moroccan chicken dish and it was delicious! We watched Bridesmaids and part of Failure to Launch before heading to bed around midnight.

-Now it’s today, Sunday, and I woke up this morning at 2am! I haven’t been back to sleep since and it’s 7:21am! So the clocks were turned back last night which means I got a grand total of 3 hours of sleep last night. I’m not tired at all though! I’m sure this will mean I’m ready for a nap in the afternoon though. This is really the last day I can do this because starting tomorrow I’ll be in the school all day. That means I’m hoping I go to bed at a reasonable time tonight and I don’t see the clock time until at least 6am tomorrow morning! Jet lag is weird.

-I think M and C mentioned heading to a beach today if the weather was nice. It is supposed to rain today but it’s holding out so far so that’s good! I want to go for a run right now but I don’t have a house key so I don’t know if I should wait for my hosts to wake up or what. Matt and Ryan just FaceTimed me and it was fun to see them. Crazy how much I miss everyone and I have quite a while to keep missing them, with 9 weeks here still! I’m definitely looking forward to staying busy by being in the schools and traveling during the two week break coming up. Frankie and I have so much to see and do and it should be awesome!