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Endings!

I didn’t have internet while I was in Yamba for the week, so I got out of the habit of blogging and even taking pictures to some extent! It was a super relaxing week though and the beautiful views took my breath away. 

Now I’ve been back in Grafton for one last week and it flew by. I know that’s all I keep saying, but it’s true! It’s Saturday at 1 in the afternoon here and I’m almost all ready to go. I packed throughout the week, but as I told everyone, it was a lot easier to pack here because I really just needed to throw everything in a bag since I wasn’t deciding what to bring and what to keep home like I was when I was packing to come here. I’m allowed to take checked bags home so everything is fitting in those perfectly fine. M so nicely gave me an extra bag she had laying around so I don’t have to worry about fixing my broken one!

This morning I woke up and went for my last Grafton run before being picked up for breakfast with Heidi, Phyllis, and Chris at 8:30. We shopped in town for a little and we stopped at a few places to say some goodbyes before I came back to my host’s house. Now I’m mainly just charging my electronics until it’s time for my farewell dinner tonight! I’m going straight from dinner to the train station and then at 7am when my train gets into Sydney I’m entering the stressful situation of getting my luggage to my hotel and then myself to the airport all within 2 hours. I still think I’ll be fine, but I’ve been given lots of advice saying that I’ll never make it lol. I’m being stubborn though and trying it – so my fingers are crossed that it goes well!

It truly hasn’t hit me yet that I’m leaving. I remember thinking that 2 months was suchhhh a long time, and at this point it feels like I’ve been here for about a week! Even though I’m leaving Grafton now, I’m not leaving Australia as a whole until next week so I still have one more week of these gorgeous night skies and interesting plants and animals. I’ll be up at the Great Barrier Reef for this next week and I’m so excited that I even get to say that. =)

Wish me luck for tomorrow morning! As soon as I meet up with Frankie at the airport I’ll breathe a huge sigh of relief and everything will be smooth sailing from there. I can’t wait!

Australia, Outside, Travel

Recent Highlights

>>> I’m back in town for the week, although it’s already Thursday night so another week is almost gone!! Being back in Grafton means these are my running views:

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>>> Being back in town also means I get to go out to coffee (aka hot chocolate in my case) every day, and I can’t complain that Heidi and I have shared a caramel slice for the past two days!

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>>> It’s fall here:

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>>> I made Anzac biscuits a few nights ago!! The oven here at M’s house doesn’t work right now, so we went over to C’s for dinner and then to make the cookies. Dinner was DEEELICIOUS also and it was a lottt of food haha.

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>>> And then I promptly fell asleep in a chair while watching Australian Celebrity Apprentice after baking. Thank goodness there’s photographic evidence of that, but not of me actually making the biscuits!

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>>> While still staying with K and J, we went on a rainforest walk on Saturday and that was really fun! Actually we did tons of stuff on Saturday and squeezed in so much sightseeing. It was really foggy that day, but once we were in the rainforest it actually added to the effect and was quite pretty. I didn’t mind the rain at all. There were also some beautiful waterfalls along the walk.

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>>> In terms of teaching, I’ve been on the Infants campus (grades K and 1) for the past two weeks. I spent my first two weeks on the Primary campus (grades 2-6), and I’m spending my last weeks 2 there as well. Since I student taught in 6th grade, it was definitely good to spend some time over on the Infants side. There’s so much to see while I’m here and I feel like I’m running out of time!

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>>> Speaking of running out of time, I only have 2 weeks left here in Grafton!!!! I can’t believe it! This weekend C, M, B (an aide from the school) and I are traveling up to the Gold Coast! I’m really excited and glad to be getting to experience the Gold Coast while I’m here. We’re staying in a hotel for 2 nights and it should be really fun. When I get back on Sunday, I’m spending next week in Yamba, another coastal town around here, about 50 minutes from the school. Then that weekend, I’m spending Saturday in Yamba and Sunday I’m going up to Tenterfield with C and G and Heidi. My hosts in Yamba thought I’d be staying all the way till Monday, but we’ve had the Tenterfield trip planned for a while so I felt bad but I had to say that I could only stay till Saturday. Then that last week I’m coming back here to the first house I started in with M and J (which is where I am right now too). And THEN, I had originally been catching a train early on Saturday to head to Sydney, but now I’m getting a train later in the day so I have one extra day here. I had mentioned that I would love to go horseback riding back when I had first gotten here, and C asked around and found a teacher at the school who said I could come up and ride on that Saturday! Heidi is gonna ride with me and I’m excited about that too! So I have a full schedule until I go – both outside of school and in school – because I haven’t even been into a year 6 room yet! So I have to cram in a lot of observing/teaching in these last two weeks at the school. Then there’s one more week here in Australia, during which Frankie and I will be up in Cairns! I really can’t believe how little time is left here. I knew this would happen, but I still can’t stop saying it and thinking it haha. Time really flew by!!!

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Fair Dinkum (also known as THE SCARIEST RUN OF MY LIFE)

I composed this post in my head during my evening run today. We got home at about 5pm, so I only had 20 minutes or so before it got dark. I reallllly wanted to squeeze in a 35 minute run, so I just took off and figured I’d try to get home before it got too dark. K had told me directions to get to an outlook overlooking the ocean, so that was my goal to get to. I had to follow the running path to a bridge, cross the bridge, run up a hill, turn right, go left on the fork in the road, and then follow the little path to the outlook. The running path follows the edge of the golf course here, and everyone had told me that there are tons of kangaroos on the golf course at all times. During my first run along the path, I hadn’t seen any out there, but I also must have been running pretty slowly because I didn’t even make it to the bridge that day. So today, I was running at a good pace and listening to a great playlist and waving to probably no less than 50 kangaroos that I was passing on the golf course! There were soooo many and it was so exciting! There’s a fence surrounding the golf course and I was kind of glad it was there. Back story – lots of people here have warned me to keep my distance from kangaroos. I always think of them like deer, so I wouldn’t have tried to pet one or anything! But people here must think tourists think it’s okay to just go right up to them, so I’ve been warned to stay away so I don’t get kicked or anything. So anyway, I’ve seen kangaroos lots of times now, including yesterday when I was about 6 feet from one as we were driving home and it was right beside the road in someone’s yard! I took a picture and I’ve loved seeing them. Okay back to the current story: I was happy that the fence was there because they really are big animals! It was getting darker as I ran, but I really wanted to get to the ocean so I pushed it a little bit and continued on my way. I heard thrashing in the woods as I ran across the bridge, and pulled my headphones out so I could listen while I ran. K had told me that if I heard noises in the woods it was just kangaroos moving around. I reached the hill and ran up it, following the directions the rest of the way. I had to run through some thick bush before I finally came out onto an AMAZING outlook! It was seriously beautiful! So glad I kept going. There was just enough light to take some pretty pictures and really enjoy the view:

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Looking back into the bush, it had quickly gotten darker! Here was my view looking back into the path I had to run on:

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Yes, you can’t even see the path because it’s SUPER DARK! I’m pretty sure I was more skittish about running in the dark because I’m in Australia, and I don’t know the animals well here, but I also didn’t want to trip or anything. I retraced my path and was running pretty fast to try to get home, I was watching out for cars and looking around myself for any dangers (whatever that could mean haha). It was getting darker by the second, but I could see the running path coming back into view (you had to leave the running path to get to the beach view). As I took my first few steps back on the path, I saw a dark shape a few feet from me and jumped about 30 feet in the air when I realized it was a huge kangaroo standing in the yard right beside the path!!!!! It just came out of nowhere and seriously made me jump haha. The start of the running path has you run straight through this section surrounded by trees on both sides, so I sprinted through this area looking every which way trying to see if more roos would jump out at me! I ran on the bridge (which I swear was creaking and cracking beneath me even though it was concrete lol) and continued down the path. For anyone that doesn’t know, I need to wear glasses when driving, watching movies, etc., so obviously dark conditions make it harder for me to see very far. Every single shape became a huge kangaroo to me, and I swear I’ve never run that fast in my life. I took my headphones out and sprinted home. Thank goodness I dodged all those scary tree branches and menacing stumps that had me jumping about as I finished my run.

All in all, it was quite a fun adventure. It’s particularly funny to me because on my first morning run, I did a 20 minute run (so ten minutes down the path before turning around), and I didn’t make it far along at all. (I did get lost on the way to the path that morning, but I still didn’t make it far considering how far I went this time.) This time, I did my entire run in 17 minutes! I could have sworn it was so much longer, but I must have been running so fast on the way home haha.

Oh, and about the title – fair dinkum means “seriously” or “forreal?” or “honestly” or “really?” or “really” or anything like that, so that was the title I had in mind when I composed the relaxing run post that was just supposed to be a quick few sentences about how many kangaroos I saw. Fair dinkum, as in I seriously saw like 50 roos! So as I ran up the last hill to get to the safety of the house, I added the end of the title on in my head. Fair dinkum, it was the scariest run I’ve ever been on!

 

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Surfing

I had my first surfing lesson today!

I’ve been at my new host’s house since after school on Monday, and it’s been a pretty low key week. This host family consists of K and Jan, who have two 20-something kids who live overseas at the current time. Jan’s brother and sister stayed with us from Tuesday until this morning, so that was fun to talk with them as well. With the days being so short, and the drive to the school being about 45 minutes, there isn’t often much daylight by the time we get home. This means that even though I’m right on the beach I’ve only gotten to take some dusk/late evening walks down by the water. I tried to combat the fact that this early darkness was sabotaging my running time by setting my alarm to go for a morning run, but I ended up sitting on my bed staring out the window waiting for the sun to rise haha. Since we have to leave the house at 6:50 am, I finally ended up going out at 5:45 am (when the bats were still flying home overhead!) and only getting in about a half hour run before having to rush home and shower and eat breakfast. I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m complaining though because I love being out here! It’s just another different experience which is so much fun to have. I’m really happy with the fact that I’m moving houses each week, it’s a very neat way to meet lots of people and do so much. The house I’m staying in this week is gorgeous and I really can’t get over the fact that I can see the ocean through the trees in the backyard.

So every day this week we had been getting home right before dark. Until today! We left the school right at 3:00 to get home quickly and go SURFING! We went to Woolgoolga beach – which was SO beautiful – and I got some quick tips, and tried some quick jump-ups on the sand, before heading into the water. My host, K, had me do a few different small things, like leaning my weight on the board while jumping some waves and just paddling around to get used to the feel of being on the board. For the first few waves I tried to ride in (on my stomach still) I ended up falling off every one! I quickly realized that I was too far forward on the board, and I didn’t miss one after that! I couldn’t wipe the huge smile off my face while riding each one in to the beach. K went to the beach to grab the camera, and he didn’t want me going too far out without him, so I actually ended up missing the first few he tried to take a picture of because I was too close into shore! I went out a little further and then caught one last wave before the sun was setting. I think we were only out for about a half hour or so, and K said I did great for my first lesson. I’m glad we decided we’d just work on getting a feel for the board without standing today, because that made it really relaxed. I really don’t see how I’ll be able to stand on the board as a wave carries it lol, but apparently it’s possible.

Whether I end up being able to stand by my last lesson or not, it was still so much fun to try something new and it was really fun to ride the waves in on my stomach!

Missing the wave haha
Missing the wave haha
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Got it! 

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New Zealand [in pictures]

Frankie and I flew into Auckland on Sunday, April 21 and flew back to Sydney on Thursday, April 25, 2013. I spent Friday, April 26th on my third 10-hour train between Sydney and Grafton and then got right back into the swing of things in Grafton with Jane’s mom’s BBQ and fishing with Chris, both of which I’ve already shared here!

I’m so glad I got to visit New Zealand while I was down here, and I’m especially glad Frankie and I took the time to visit some islands surrounding Auckland. We hadn’t known where to fly into or what to do in New Zealand (planning everything was so new to us!), so we just chose Auckland because we had heard of it haha. It ended up being a lot of fun, but going out to the islands was a must to get a taste of what New Zealand has to offer in terms of nature and views. I would have loved to get to explore the South Island, but I’m happy to take what I can get and I really loved our trip.

Flying from Sydney to Auckland - Sunday, April 21, 2013
Flying from Sydney to Auckland – Sunday, April 21, 2013
Exploring on our first night there - Sunday, April 21, 2013
Exploring on our first night there – Our hotel was right in the middle of the city and it was so cool to walk out our door and be right in the middle of everything – this actually isn’t a picture in front of our hotel, but it was taken right up the street outside the Sky Tower Hotel – Sunday, April 21, 2013
Ferry from Auckland to Waiheke Island - Monday, April 22, 2013
Ferry from Auckland to Waiheke Island – Monday, April 22, 2013
Before zip lining - Monday, April 22, 2013
Before zip lining – Monday, April 22, 2013
I was so excited!! - Monday, April 22, 2013
I was so excited!! – Monday, April 22, 2013
Waiheke Island - Amazing views - Monday, April 22, 2013
Waiheke Island – Amazing views – Monday, April 22, 2013
Waiheke Island - Zip lining - Monday, April 22, 2013
Waiheke Island – Zip lining – Monday, April 22, 2013
A true kiwi dinner after zip lining - kabobs (like gyros/wraps), hot chips, and L&P drink (a famous New Zealand drink that tastes like lemon heads and is carbonated - yuck!) - Monday, April 22, 2013
A true kiwi dinner after zip lining – kabobs (like gyros/wraps), hot chips, and L&P drink (a famous New Zealand drink that tastes like lemon heads and is carbonated – yuck!) – Monday, April 22, 2013
Sky Tower - Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Sky Tower – Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Our Orbit reservation, the restaurant in the Sky Tower - Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Our Orbit reservation, the restaurant in the Sky Tower – Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Sky Tower - Orbit - Frankie got chicken - Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Sky Tower – Orbit – Frankie got chicken – Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Sky Tower - Orbit - I got salmon - Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Sky Tower – Orbit – I got salmon – Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Sky Tower - Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Sky Tower – Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Sky Tower - We got to watch it turn from day to night as we ate dinner, and we got some great day shots before dinner and night shots after! - Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Sky Tower – We got to watch it turn from day to night as we ate dinner, and we got some great day shots before dinner and night shots after! – Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Auckland, Breakfast on the wharf - Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Auckland, Breakfast on the wharf – Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Devonport - We chose to spend our day taking a tour of Devonport, we took a fairy to get there and then were bussed around to different sights and viewpoints - it was a great day! - Wednesday, April 23, 2013
Devonport – We chose to spend our day taking a tour of Devonport, we took a fairy to get there and then were bussed around to different sights and viewpoints – it was a great day! – Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Devonport - Wednesday, April 23, 2013
Devonport – Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Flying back to Sydney - My bag has wheels, but only the littlest handle to roll it by. This means you have to lean over to roll it and it's terrible! So I invented a new way to roll it using my scarf and it was a great fix. -Thursday, April 25, 2013
Flying back to Sydney – My bag has wheels, but only the littlest handle to roll it by. This means you have to lean over to roll it and it’s terrible! So I invented a new way to roll it using my scarf and it was a great fix. – Thursday, April 25, 2013
Australia, Travel

Sydney, Australia [in pictures]

I was in Sydney from Monday, April 15th to Friday, April 19th. Frankie and I did so much with our time there and it was an absolute blast! Here are some pictures from the trip – I really will try to narrow it down and only include one or two from each day!

Dee Why Beach - Monday, April 15, 2013
Dee Why Beach – Monday, April 15, 2013
Manly Beach - Amazing and famous fish and chips! - Monday, April 15, 2013
Manly Beach – Amazing and famous fish and chips! – Monday, April 15, 2013
We went everywhere by bus... - Tuesday, April 16, 2013
We went everywhere by bus… – Tuesday, April 16, 2013
...so naturally we took pictures at the bus stop. - Tuesday, April 16, 2013
…so naturally we took pictures at the bus stop. – Tuesday, April 16, 2013
First day seeing the Opera House! - Tuesday, April 16, 2013
First day seeing the Opera House! – Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Paddy's Markets - We walked through the city and loved walking through Darling Harbour as we came to Paddy's Markets - Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Paddy’s Markets – We walked through the city and loved walking through Darling Harbour as we came to Paddy’s Markets – Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Opera House - Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Opera House – Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Opera House - Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Opera House – Tuesday, April 16, 2013 – We did so much in this day that would take too many pictures to show! In addition to everything pictured here for Tuesday, we also explored the Rocks (the historic part of Sydney), went to the Sydney Observatory, went to St. Mary’s Cathedral, ate lunch in Darling Harbour, and walked the Harbour Bridge.
Art Gallery of New South Wales - Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Art Gallery of New South Wales – Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Art Gallery of New South Wales - Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Art Gallery of New South Wales – Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Royal Botanic Gardens - Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Royal Botanic Gardens – Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Royal Botanic Gardens - Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Royal Botanic Gardens – Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Taronga Zoo - I loved that you could see the city from the zoo - Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Taronga Zoo – I loved that you could see the city from the zoo – Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Taronga Zoo - Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Taronga Zoo – Wednesday, April 17, 2013
We got to get right next to a koala! - Taronga Zoo - Wednesday, April 17, 2013
We got to get right next to a koala! – Taronga Zoo – Wednesday, April 17, 2013
 Taronga Zoo - My favorite view of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge - Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Taronga Zoo – My favorite view of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge – Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Bondi Beach - Frankie and I met up with Brigid, another PSU student teacher abroad - Thursday, April 18, 2013
Bondi Beach – Frankie and I met up with Brigid, another PSU student teacher abroad, and we all bought sweatshirts because it was so cold! – Thursday, April 18, 2013
Bondi Beach - Blue lips and arms inside my dress, but still smiling! - Thursday, April 18, 2013
Bondi Beach – Blue lips and arms inside my dress, but still smiling! – Thursday, April 18, 2013
Bondi Beach - Cold AND windy! haha - Thursday, April 17, 2013
Bondi Beach – Cold AND windy! haha – Thursday, April 18, 2013
Exploring Sydney again - Friday, April 19, 2013
Exploring Sydney again – Friday, April 18, 2013
Sydney - Friday, April 19, 2013
Sydney – Friday, April 19, 2013 (Side note: I’m learning a lot about the Aboriginal culture and there are so many layers to the history of the people here in Australia. A lot of it is interesting and rough and just something that not many people know about. Even in the school I’m placed in, there was talk during our pupil-free days about making sure Aboriginal students feel proud of their heritage and an Aboriginal man from the community came in to talk to the teachers and answer questions and so on.)
Sydney Harbour Bridge - Friday, April 19, 2013
Sydney Harbour Bridge – Friday, April 19, 2013
Sydney Harbour Bridge - Friday, April 19, 2013
Sydney Harbour Bridge – Friday, April 19, 2013
Opera House - Friday, April 19, 2013
Opera House – Friday, April 19, 2013
Opera House - Friday, April 19, 2013
Opera House – Friday, April 19, 2013
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Kayaking in the Clarence River

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I loved kayaking! It was so peaceful and fun to be in my own little boat. I had never been in a kayak before, and my host dad for the week had me get in and paddle out and then back before asking if I was ready. I felt really confident after only going a little ways down the river and I really did love it! I didn’t mind wearing a life vest at all, and my host dad asked that I wear one for my mom’s sake haha. He also had me wear a long sleeve shirt because of the sun and he kept apologizing for being a mom about it. I told him I was sure my mom would appreciate it lol and that I could still use some parenting every once in a while so it was okay 😉

I do realize these pictures are all virtually the same but I liked them all! We explored the Clarence river and the bush along the bank on one side. We went down under the main bridge connecting North and South Grafton before turning around to head back to where we put the boats in the water. It was a lot of fun and I’d love to go kayaking this summer when I get home at some point too!

Australia, Celebrate

Graduation Celebration – In Australia!

Photo May 03, 3 28 56 PM

 

Today was my graduation morning tea celebration! When the staff at my school heard that I was missing my Penn State graduation, they immediately started planning a mini celebration for me here. I had only been here for two days when people started planning and getting things together, and they picked this Friday as the date because we had a two-week holiday break after my first week and they wanted to do it on the same weekend as my real graduation in Pennsylvania. The cap I’m wearing is made by Maria, the teacher I worked with during my first week (and the same one who I made lasagna with during that week) and the gown was brought in by someone. The cap is made of black thick paper and there are Aussie flags on top with a piece of rope as the tassel and a cork to top it off! At the start of morning tea (which is like a snack time in the morning – all the kids eat some of the things from their lunch and then have some time to play before going back to class for another chunk of time before lunch), Maria told me to go into her room – which is right across from the staff room – and she gave the cap and gown to me to put on. I had never even seen it before and was already surprised and excited to wear that. Then she instructed me to walk into the staff room as she recorded me. All of the sudden I heard graduation music playing and as I walked in the room everyone was standing around the table smiling and watching me ‘walk’ during graduation. It was really nice and funny and fun. I got a certificate – shown in the top left corner of the picture above – and I love what it says. I was also presented with a gift bag that had an Australian flag cape and an Australian flag umbrella hat (many people quipped that I should be sure to wear it next time I go fishing!). It also had a drinking glass with the name of the school engraved on it and some Australian candies inside. Oh and someone brought a little koala to stick to my gown also! The plan had been for everyone to bring in Australian food so I could try everything – and there was SO much food! There was yummy punch and pavlova and lemington with creme and more and more lemington and honeycomb chocolates and fruit and vegemite on toast (the only gross thing there!) and fairy bread and my pumpkin cookies and some cheese dip in a bread bowl and more stuff that I can’t remember and kangaroo meat!!! I wasn’t sure I really wanted to try it, but I had promised everyone I’d try whatever was on the table – and it was actually delicious!

I can’t get over how nice everyone here is and I’m so thrilled that they took the time to put this little celebration together. It really is sad that I can’t walk in my graduation at PSU this weekend and it’s hard to think of myself as a college graduate without the closure that the end of a semester offers. My Aussie graduation was a small way to feel that I did graduate and to celebrate that! This graduation morning tea will definitely be something I always remember as I think back to how people that I didn’t even know very well went out of their way to make me feel special and celebrated. I’m still glad that I get to walk in my PSU master’s ceremony at the end of next year, but this Aussie celebration will definitely be a hard one to beat!

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