Last 24 hours

My time here in Australia has come to an end and what a ride it has been! It is unbelievable that a year as gone already. Where did the time go?

I have had such an amazing time here. First, I must thank my hosting Rotary club, Rotary Club of Warwick Sunrise, for supporting me the whole way. I honestly don’t know where I would be without them. They have provided me with so many different experiences that I never had thought about doing. (Some throwbacks below.)

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People have asked me what has been the best thing about Australia? No it’s not the the touristy things I got to do, though they were certainly up there, but the people and I think most other past and present exchange students would agree. The people I’ve got the privilege to meet have been magnificent. I’ve learned so much from them all and hope to keep in contact with them. They all showed me various perspectives of an Aussie lifestyle even if they were just small things. My four host families have been the best. They all have been so nice and kind to welcome me into there homes for few months I stayed with them. Each of them gave me a new outlook of living in Australia’s inland small town, Warwick. I would also like to take the time to thank all my teachers and classmates at Assumption College for welcoming me and making sure I am settled in alright. Such great people all around!

I will truly miss everyone here and all the new relationships I’ve made. I now have an international network that I can reach out to whenever I’m just wanting to talk to someone. The friendships I’ve made at school as well as my safari allow me to do that easily. The memories I have now are unexchangeable and each are unique in there own way. When I say this, I mean even if I might have done something more than once they each brought along their own characteristics and chain of events. 

Many say that after your exchange you come back a whole new person, but I think you come back still as you. Only this new you, in this case myself, has grown mentally and emotionally into a more mature experienced person than the ‘me’ that left before. The new me has learned from my experiences, whether they be good or bad. I don’t think I am a whole new person by any means because I am still learning each and everyday and am continuously maturing into my own skin. 

I have evolved into a new way of living and have had to go through ups and downs to get to where I am now. If it were not for those downs I would not have risen back up to experience the high points in my exchange. I believe that they are crucial to an exchange even if they seem daunting to think about because it is at these times that you really learn about yourself and test your boundaries. I have definitely learned the most during those moments. I found that the high points are there for you to cherish, remember and use as motivation at your low points. This is something I have discovered and will use in my day to day life.

Something else, that I know almost all exchange students have gained, is self-confidence. I know for a fact that I have gained more confidence in myself. I might still have the heart of a shy, introverted person but I now feel way more comfortable in doing acts as simples as introducing myself to a new person and beginning a conversation. I am now able to speak in front of larger groups of people without having the fear of making a mistake or making a fool of myself. An even if I might have made a few mistakes along the way I am able to not dwell on it or to admit it and move on. Once you get the hang of it, and I am still striving to improve, it is as easy as 1, 2, 3. I am able to be myself because in the end that is what a big part of exchange is about: finding yourself.

Thank you everyone who has been involved in my exchange in some way or another. I’ve gotten to do once in a lifetime things that would not have happened without all your support and thank you for just reading my blog posts over this past year. It really means a lot to me. Don’t know what I would have done with out you all. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

This is Isabeau Hill, USA to Australia Rotary Youth Exchange Student for 2015-2016 signing off one last time!

 

 

 

 

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Last 24 hours

Post-Safari High (Part. 3)

Okay, this is the third and final part of my three week safari. I know it’s a bit late, but here it is now!

Once we arrived in Cairns it was straight to the campsite to set up tents. We woke up early, as normal, but this time we went on a day trip around the picturesque countryside. Some of the highlights were swimming at several pristine waterfalls, such as the famous Millaa Millaa, plus a little jungle trek to go into the raging Dinner falls. It was so much fun to be with the exchange students and experiencing the beauties Cairns had to offer. The scenic drive was also a wonderful thing to have done, as it was an experience in of itself! The jungle like surroundings magnificently wrapped the road seamlessly and comfortably.

Moving from one surreal experience to the next was spectacular. The Outer Barrier Reef was our day trip for the following day (Great Barrier Reef, that can be seen from outer space. Click here for more information: http://www.greatbarrierreef.org/). This was by far the best day of the whole safari! I know I’ve probably said it about a million times now, but this really was the best day. We took a ferry to the Outer Barrier Reef and the ride to and from was probably the worst time of the whole safari, only because I got super seasick. Not the throwing up version–though almost–but the kind where I felt like I was going to faint, which I almost did do. Definitely not a pretty sight to see. But excluding that, and it was worth it in the end, it was…so…I’m not even sure how to put it to justice using words…brilliant! I guess that’s all I can say to explain the entire experience. The Great barrier is a world of brilliance.

In total I got to scuba dive for about 50 minutes or so. In that 50 minutes it felt like “a whole new world” (Aladdin anyone?) The whole time I was trying to remind myself that what I was doing was real and not some dream. I thought I was in “Finding Nemo”.  All the fish swiftly swam around and such a large variety of them might I add. They had vibrant colors of blues, yellows, reds, oranges, browns, and much more. I was grateful that I had hired an underwater camera, seeing that I did not have an GoPro of any kind. I loved every moment of it. It was like the reef emitted this magical aura. I would do it again in a heartbeat! The pictures below only half describe the experience. I also saw a shark and sting ray while snorkeling during the times I waited for my assigned group’s turn to scuba dive.

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Day 19, we had said farewell to Cairns and drove to the Whitsunday Passage where in the distance we could see the tropical blue waters of the Whitsunday passage. There we set camp for the following two nights. On our free day, we had an opportunity to go ocean rafting. It was a day trip of swimming, snorkeling, and hanging out with the exchange students as a whole group. This day takes one of the top five days of the whole safari. We bonded even more, if that was possible, considering we were already such a tight knit group by then. Everyone had such a positive attitude that day and I think it was because we all knew that the end of the safari was coming close and so we were trying to make the most out of the remaining time we had together–not that we weren’t from the very beginning, just that it was more…obvious you could say. The unfortunate thing was that one of the students did not go due to the expenses, which was a shame.

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From Whitsunday we drove to Rockhampton and on out way there we had to say an early farewell to one of the exchange students who’s city was on the route to Rockhampton. There, the feeling of it all ending began to really dawn on us. We all knew it was coming but not as fast as it did. In Rockhampton we went to a local bowling alley and played a game of laser tag. I didn’t do so well, probably because we didn’t play with bumpers, hahaha. Another exchange student left that night because that’s where they were staying.

The last day was spent driving from Rockhampton to Brisbane, dropping people off along the way. It really was a sad ending because we had become one whole family and to leave them was hard. I would exchange anything to do the safari again and to be with the other exchange students again. 30 exchange students from 11 different countries all came together to for this safari. That’s crazy! For this I am forever grateful and thankful. Also a shoutout to our chaperones, SC and TC as well as our cook, X. Thank you for giving up your time for us.

Post-Safari High (Part. 3)

Post-Safari High (Part. 2)

We left off at the visiting of the 12 Apostles and the “Ship wrecked coast”. Now, we continue to head west to Adelaide, in Northern Territory, for a night. There we met a another group Rotary Youth Exchange safari group. They had just begun their safari, a week after ours. I got to meet another fellow American and also a student from Finland that was in our district but had decided to go on this later safari instead of the one I and the other students from the my district went on.

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In that meeting of another group, it made me really remember why I was on exchange and the whole purpose of  the YEP (Youth Exchange Program). These new international relationships are a big part of Rotary International, and through the YEP they can be made one student at a time. The two safari groups sat around in a “common room”, if you will, and talked and talked and talked. You don’t realize how much you have to share to the other exchange students until they’re there with you. I felt so happy to have these new bonds and so connected to them. It was so exciting too!

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, as one of the titles of my past blog posts was. We left the campsite to head to Spear Creek, a working sheep station where we watched a sheep sheering demonstration. It was really fascinating to learn about the whole processing of wool and where it all ended up in the world. After dinner, we all huddled together around a campfire until it was bed time. I really enjoyed that campfire because we started to bond closer together as a group. It had been a week of us being together and the campfire seemed to be a good way to knit it neatly together because as we all know campfires are such a communal thing.

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The next day we were up at ’em early, going to Cooper Pedy a place known for opal and being mostly underground! On our way we stopped at a salt lake, Lake Hart to stretch our legs out after being on the bus for about 5 hours or so.

The reason for underground living is due to Cooper Pedy being in the desert and because cold air remains lower on the ground people can live comfortably at about 27 degrees Celsius (80.6 degrees Fahrenheit). This way they don’t need an air conditioning system or a heating system. Now isn’t that convenient? A lot of people think, well then aren’t you worried that it might collapse on top of you? Nope, because it doesn’t rain enough to cause mud to form, which as we know is slippery and collapsable. They also dig deep enough before building the units. We got to go inside an underground home and I, honestly, would not mind living like that. The bills would be less an you wouldn’t have to worry about the outside appearance of your home seeing that is is just dirt.

Before visiting the house we got to go inside the Underground Church. It was cleverly carved out in the shape of a cross. It might be hard to see that in the images below.

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That night we slept underground. It was pretty comfy and we didn’t have to put the tents up, which was another plus.

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Underground living! (Photo credits: Emily Berentin)

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The opal in the town was what caused the settlement of Cooper Pedy. It is largely populated by the Aboriginal communities. I think this place really opened my eyes up and reminded me that Australia’s cultural heritage started from the indigenous peoples even if conflict occurred through that development and continued development to this day.

We all had to wake up at 3:45 am to be on the the road and leaving at 4:00 in order to make the deadlines to Yulara, the Uluru national park, even earlier than our departure from Spear Creek. All through this time of waking up early and packing up fast we got good practice at being ready to go in 15 minutes. As unpleasant as it was to wake up so early we all knew that everyone had to get up so it wasn’t as hard. It was a team effort.

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Early morning drive

The beautiful thing about waking up early all the time was that the views are spectacular. I mean, how many people can say that they got to eat their breakfasts while watching the sunrise in the outback of Australia? Not many, well…not many tourists anyway.

We arrived at Yulara’s campsite around 4 o’clock, where we set up tents and got to meet the same safari group that we met with in Adelaide. Actually, it was in Adelaide that we were offered the chance to take a 15 or 30 minute helicopter ride around Uluru once we had got there. I immediately signed up for the 30 minute helicopter ride, which also included a fly around Kata Tjuta, a less well known rock formation across from Uluru. In fact, they were formed at the same time, about 900 million years ago, but are made up of two completely different types of rock.

We got to go swimming at their pool and shopping for gifts at their nice little shopping center. There was a bus that would come regularly to take us to different areas of the national park, which made it easy to get around, plus it was free. That evening we also all went to the Uluru Sunset-view. It was a spectacular sight to see! Seeing how flawlessly Uluru reflected the sunlight made look like it was almost glowing in a sense.

The very next day we all got out hiking shoes on and started our walk around Uluru. The tour guide was very informational, in a good sense, providing us with the Aboriginal stories for how the rock was formed. We would stop to look at the various different angles, curvatures, nooks and crannies that the rock displayed. It was crazy to see that just one area would look completely different from another spot. Everyone says the rock is big and I knew it was, but it took me aback a little to finally be standing next to it and touching it. It was quite remarkable. In total the walk around the whole rock was 10 km (6.21 miles) and about a 3 and a-half hour walk. It took us about 4 hours because the tour guide liked to show us what areas of the rock corresponded with the different parts of the Aboriginal stories. I suppose before I walked around Uluru I only thought of the formation of it in geological terms and the tour guide opened my mind up to another perspective that I now can acknowledge and learn from.

The image on the right looks like a brain or a sponge but it actually resembles an Aboriginal’s head from the profile. If you look close enough you can see the prominent brow ridge that many Aboriginals have. The nose, lips and chin follow it. I thought that was really cool to see and when I was on my helicopter ride the next morning I was able to trace back the images from what I saw the day before to what I was seeing from above. The same day as walking around Uluru we walked at Kata Tjuta ( or colloquially known as The Olgas). It is made out of conglomerate, a sedimentary rock that has granite and basalt cemented by a layer of sandstone. We were not able to walk around it but we took a 30 minute stroll through it to the sight seeing point. By then we were a little tired of walking, but I think I can speak for a lot of us that we were grateful to be walking around more because of us being on the bus for such long periods of time.

The helicopter ride definitely took the cake while at the national park. The view was breathtaking and the scenery was exquisite. I could not have asked for a better way to see Uluru and Kata Tjuta…though maybe longer on the helicopter? We could not fly around the two rocks for respect reasons. But one thing I found interesting about my time visiting Uluru was that the tour guide told us that the rock itself is not sacred to the Aboriginal tribe that owns it but rather a different areas of it are sacred spaces. I found that to be an interesting outlook on it because I had always thought the whole thing was sacred. Another thing I learned was that the reason why Aboriginals did not want tourists to climb the rock was not because it was for respect directly, but rather respect for their belief in bad karma. This meant that if someone got hurt on the rock one of the Aboriginals in the tribe owning the rock would also get hurt. This also applied to taking anything from the national park: bad karma can come to you and therefore the tribe. I made sure I made as small of a footprint as possible.

After our three day, two night stay at Yulara we went even more inland to Kings Canyon, which was actually used as the natural backdrop in “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” movie. The unfortunate thing was that it was too hot for us to walk on the path and so the long path was closed. We compromised to walk on the 20 minute path through Kings Canyon. If we had walked the perimeter it would have been a 3 hour walk. I will admit that I was not in the mood go on another walk but I got myself all geared up and mentally prepared ahead that I was even more disappointed no to walk especially once the safari was over I saw the awesome pictures that the other safari group, that we had met up with twice since then, got while they did they walk. We drove back to the campsite and it was voted that we would to “Priscilla” night, where the girls got a boy to dress up as a girl and to show to the other groups. That was pretty fun to do and to see how much effort the other groups put into the boy they got. It was also decided that we would to a little fashion/show-lip sync battle between the six boys.

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So much laughter was spread and just happiness all around that night. By now it was the 2nd of April and the nights were beginning to come earlier so the after dinner and after the fashion show we had another campfire, just as fun.  We got to sleep under the stars for the third in a row because we also slept outside while at Yulara. Don’t worry, no spiders. Though, there were dingos at Yulara that woke us all up at about 3 in the morning howling the first night. No one got bitten, at least to my knowledge.

A sleep in was granted for us that night due to itinerary changes, allowing us to sleep in until 8:30 am! Yay! Off to Alice Springs. There we swam at their water park, enjoyed a visit from the Reptile Center and met with the other safari group for the third and final time before our flight out to Cairns in the afternoon the next day. The morning before we left we got do an Aboriginal Dreamtime & Bushtucker Tour nearby. The tour was really good for me, personally, because I got to learn about the Aboriginals’ way of life, culture, food, and even throw a non-returnable boomerang, which I thought were pretty important things to do while living in Australia. We all got the chance to buy paintings from them and see what symbols meant what within each painting.

 

On the way to the airport we stopped at a place where we rode a camel. The getting up and getting down was an experience in of itself. The camel walked up about 50-60 meters and trotted back. It is like riding a horse except a little bit higher and bumpier but super fun.

Finally, we boarded the airplane to Cairns, which was about a two hour flight.

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Photo credits: Jess Su
Post-Safari High (Part. 2)

Post-Safari High (Part. 1)

Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about you. I understand it’s been two long weeks since I’ve arrived and ought to have been more onto it than I have been.

I’m still on my ‘post-safari high’, even though it has been two weeks. I was privileged enough to experience and share my times with 29 other students from all around the world! It was an exhilarating, enlightening, and certainly most memorable experience that has happened in my exchange year and, to be a matter of fact, in my life. I made so many new relationships and plan on keeping them throughout the years to come. I will never forget the wonderful times we all had together, the long bus rides, the early mornings, the late nights, laughs, cries and everything else you could possibly think of. I truly agree with the fact that the closest friends you will make will be your fellow exchange students. Even though it was only three weeks together, we really connected and merged as one big family by the end of it. I feel like I have known them all my life…or at least a good chunk of it.

Now, getting to the tour, we did it through an really nice organization called Terra Australis Tours. The students in Districts 9630, 9570, 9640 (my district) and another girl not with Rotary Youth Exchange, CV, from Switzerland who had heard about the safari met up at Brisbane airport to go to Sydney  to meet the students from District 9700. From there we started our journey hitting the ground running, literally, out of the rain for the first week!

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What a lovely shining day it is in Sydney, Australia!

We were planned to go Bondi beach, but seeing as it was raining changes were made to head to the Paddy’s Markets for some souvenir shopping and to kill some time before heading up to camp and setting up tents.

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The second day was for surfing and all the touristy attractions Sydney had to offer. The rain stayed with us for surfing at Manly Beach, but thankfully stopped while on the boat from Circular Quay to the harbor and for the rest of the day or, coincidentally, whenever we were out from a cover.

Manly Beach surfing was really fun and exciting. I did not get any better at it since that last time I had surfed, which was during my year 11 Alexandra Headlands retreat, last year. So naturally…I wiped out every time except for my last go, before we had to wrap it up. The instructors were helpful and taught us fun little tricks to try to stay balanced that I had not learned from my retreat. (Don’t have any pictures of me, but here are some of the other exchange students.)

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We spent a large amount of our time at Sydney Opera House and around the harbor. It was so sunny out and did not rain until a group of us got under cover at the Sydney Tower Eye, around midday. The Opera House was breathtaking, it did not cease to amaze me. I could not believe I was there, it happened so fast. The location of it is perfect and it has such a beautiful view from where its particular spot is on the harbor.

The Sydney Tower Eye was another location that I wanted to go to once Mikayla Meyer, another exchange student from USA, had talked about a tower that she had heard of the past time she had been at Sydney where you could go into and look over Sydney. A small group of us exchange students, that I did not know well at the time, but now am super close with, went around looking around for this tower. It was a bit of a scavenger hunt but on our way we had gone into a ‘secret’ alleyway that had bird cages hanging and an actual, full on car, hanging against another wall. We could not stay there too long lest we would lose more time than we could afford, we had a time frame to keep! Once we finally got our tickets and whizzed up in a super fast elevator we had made it. With relief and joy we all walked around the 360 degree view. I endeavored to find a raindrop-free windows to take pictures from.

The funny thing is, about keeping a time frame that is, well…let’s just say we had to rush out of there to make it back to our designated meeting spot by 4:00p.m (keep in mind we were told to be 10-15 minutes earlier) before going to camp. It’s hilarious to even think about it because the entrance to get to the ticket table for the tower was inside a giant plaza with gourmet restaurants and pricey shops, escalators and stairs jutting about the whole building, and business people dressed up in suits and dresses who were on their lunch breaks. Like mad men, we ran around the whole building trying to find the doors out of the plaza, quite obviously not remembering where we had entered when we arrived. To be fair, it was already a hunt to just look for the elevators up to the ticket table while in the plaza alone. We ended up having to ask people where the exit was and shortly sprinting our way to the instructed direction. Up and down we went. Passed crowds of people. Trying to avoid pushing people over, while at the same time laughing at how ridiculous we probably looked. One of the many times we were on stairs/escalators pardoning our way around people, a man had asked us if we stole something. I managed to husk out as smoothly as possible, “No! We’re going to miss our tour bus!” Before we were off again. Hahahaha, such a fantastic time. In the end we had made it on time, in fact we were 5 minutes earlier than 4:00p.m.

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We started on the road for our first long drive (5-6 hours) to Albury for our upgraded accommodation we had payed for because we were sick of sleeping in swimming pools. It was used as a break in between Sydney and Melbourne. A 5-6 hour drive now feels like nothing because and average day would be about a 9-10 hour day.

We passed the border of Victoria, the first border cross of 4 for our safari.

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I do not take credit for this photo. (We did not pass this particular sign, it looks nice.)

Arrival in Melbourne was at about midday and we were back in tents. Fortunately, they had dried while we were out around the city. We hung out around Melbourne’s Southbank (there is a Southbank in Brisbane as well) and its shopping center. By this time, the fourth day, I had remembered everyone’s name and where they were from. I’m pretty proud of myself for that. I’m getting better at names!

The full day we were in Melbourne was spent to roam around the city and see its touristy attractions. We were not assigned to groups so we all split up from Queen Victoria Markets entrance. My group mingled around at the markets before going on a free light rail for a small distance before walking to Federation Square, passing through cute small alleyways with wonderful boutique shops hidden away. I had told myself that this was the real Melbourne before all the high skyscrapers and industrial buildings were implemented. We went into a ACMI (Australian Center for the Moving Image) and spent longer than expected there. There were so many interactive things that visitors could engage with and you could learn more all at the same time. Plus you can see a real BAFTA Award and Oscar! I loved it!

The next spot we went to was Hosier Lane, which is alleyways that are for public art and graffiti. I will be honest, I’m not a big fan of graffiti on buildings but to have a lanes dedicated to this kind of artwork was truly a sight to see. So many different things were created and written in various colors of popping pinks, greens, yellows, reds, blues, greys, whites, and much much more. On our way there we had past more cute alleyways but also Flinders Lane Station and South Bank again.

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The final ‘must-do’ was Eureka Skydeck. For this we did not have to run straight out in order to make the tour bus on time. We could take our time a little bit. The view was just as good. I think I enjoyed the view more of Melbourne than Sydney because it was a bit clearer to see out. I, along with 5 others, went on the what is known as the ‘Edge’. Basically, it is a cube that can pull out about 3-4 meters from the building and all the sides, and floor, were glass. Again, the view was awesome. It began raining then too, as you can see below.

From a full on day in Melbourne is was time to pack up camp and head onto the road once again. This time we began our journey through the Great Ocean Road to our campsite in Cape Otway National Park. There were many scenic sights along the way, as one would imagine, on the Great Ocean Road. I took so many photos that by the time we got to the Great Ocean Road border crossing I had no space left on my phone for more photos. As tedious as it was, I fixed that problem.

Cape Otway is known for it’s “harry bums”, which means a koala. They’re called this because whenever you spot a koala you look up and see a harry bum of theirs’. It was the second time I got to see koalas in the wild. The first time was when I with my second host family.:

I loved them. They’re so cute and fluffy. But we were reminded that they’re not pets, would not be suited to be pets and do attack when agitated. They’re claws are their defensive mechanisms and they’re sharp when used properly.

Last event  I will mention so I can give you a break. Almost there!

We got to cross into South Australia, second border crossing of 4, when we left Cape Otway National Park to Warranmbool.

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The 12 Apostles was a towards the top of my list to see while in Australia and I finally got to see them along with “Ship wreck Coast”. Unfortunately, my phone decided it wanted to go flat so I had to use other people’s cameras but the following photos are not mine, they’re Emily Berentin’s. The 12 Apostles are now 7, the latest one fell down in 2005. These limestone towers are still as gorgeous and as magnificent as they were when there were 12, so if any you are interested in going, I highly recommend it before they’re all gone.

I end this with these beautiful views. Thank you for reading all the way through it if you made it to here. You’re all the best.

To be continued…

 

Post-Safari High (Part. 1)

“Crackers” of this March

**”Cracker” is Australian slang meaning something that is great**

Okay, I owe you an update for this past month. I am going to keep it one blog post per month at the bear minimum, seeing that I have been doing that for the previous few months. I do apologize for this, I just am so busy with all the things going on here.

Because my school is Catholic we have Study of Religion as a mandatory class, I’m not too sure if I have told that you before. The name makes it much less attractive than it might be. When I first heard that I had to take this subject it was the one thing that I dreaded and even after I started attending the classes I thought it was boring. But I think I was too busy worrying about how boring it was and hating it that I never really acknowledged the different things that one might be able to take away from the subject. Now that I am a bit more “experienced” in the Study of Religion class I am finding myself becoming more aware of what various fields can be delved into. I will be honest and say that I don’t enjoy having it as a subject but I’m acknowledging more of it. Right now, we just completed a unit about sacred texts and how they are applied to different religions. For this we, my year 12 and the year 11 Study of Religion, went to the Brisbane Chung Tian Temple, a Chinese Buddhist temple, to learn about Buddhism and how their sacred texts help them transform themselves to a higher realm. It was marvelous to see the inside of it, unfortunately we were not allowed to pictures of the inside but I managed to take photos of the courtyards and outside.

The only annoying thing was that the whole reason for the excursion was to prepare for an exam on it so we had to take notes the whole day, which made it less enjoyable. On our way back to Warwick, a 2 ½ hour drive from Brisbane, we stopped in Ipswich, suburb of Brisbane, to have a Macca’s run. It was pretty crazy because there were 70 or so of us all rushing in to get evening tea/dinner.

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Macca’s stop!

After a long wait my Rotary badge arrived! I initially didn’t know I was going to receive one but I am so happy that I did! It might seem insignificant to announce that but once I got the badge I really felt like part of the Warwick Sunrise Rotary Club. It is not that I didn’t feel welcome or as one of them before but the badge made it official, I guess.

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On the same day Warwick Sunrise Rotary Club also had our meeting, but instead at  Gardens Galore we had it at the local ambulance, thanks to Patrick Devine setting that up for us! We got to get a tour of the facility as well as how it all was conducted at a time of emergency. Very fascinating to see how it all worked and how they have to cover a lot of ground, not just Warwick.

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School has been a hassle at times, in terms of having to get exams done a week before the rest of the students due to my leaving for my Australia Tour this coming up Sunday! I had to get ahead in studies but I know it was worth it, no doubt about it. Assumption College, I feel, is probably one of the better schools in regards to keeping closer relationships with students and staff. Whereas at the Warwick State High School there are so many more students, 1000 or so, so you don’t get to necessarily be with all your friends in each class. I think that is one of the things I am really going to miss once I go back to Central High School. Nevertheless, Central High School is a nice high school and I don’t think I could go to any other high school if I had the choice.

I got a package from my aunt back at home! The funny thing was that I thought she had sent it a whole two months before and assumed that it was just taking a long time but she had not sent it until the beginning of March! I was waiting all that while for nothing. I have to laugh at myself for that foolishness. Once it did arrive it did not get dropped off at my host family’s house but at the Warwick Post Office in town so after school one day I got to pick it up. Ella, my host parent’s granddaughter, eagerly helped me open it. Shout out to my aunt, thank you so much! I’ve enjoyed all the new goodies I’ve received and will surely be using them for my tour! By the way, she did not send me the laptop but instead the keyboard skin on it.

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That weekend Warwick Sunrise also had a book sale. It was the first one they had and from what we got and the books we sold it was a success but, of course, that did not come without hard work prior to the opening. My host parents, along with other Rotarians of the club, worked tirelessly to collect, sort, and promote the book sale. I am so happy that I am able to be so much involved with my hosting club because I don’t know how else I would be able to extend my gratitude toward them. I feel truly honored to be accepted as one of them.

This weekend was the annual Warwick Show! Every town has a show where they show their town’s “memorabilia”. In Warwick’s show ground area, in which it is held, there were stations that had the town’s agricultural things such as, the wool contest, the floral art pieces, baked goods displayed and much more. We, host family, spent a couple hours there. Some aspects of it reminded me a lot of the agricultural building in the Minnesota State Fair. I enjoyed every moment of it, except for the heat. The sun was blazing down on us with no reluctance. It was similar to their rodeo held in October but much less busier because there were mainly local people.

Going back to my safari, I am going to be going to so many different locations. Attached is the itinerary of it if you guys would like keep up with me on my journey TOUR HIGHLIGHTS. I start up in Sydney, make my down the east coast to the southern coast to Melbourne and Adelaide. Then I go up to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef. I end in Brisbane on the 9th of April. That is just a rough outline of it. We will be stopping in between many other spots. In total the tour is three weeks and it is a camping tour meaning that we will be driving mainly. I will definitely make a blog post or two about the tour afterwards. So pumped!

This is Isabeau Hill, signing off for another month. Until next time!

 

“Crackers” of this March

Back at it!

School has now been back in session for about four weeks. It feels actually pretty fast, we’re already halfway through term 1!  I have the usual assignments and exams but I’m not going to let those worry me much because I’m looking forward to my Australia Safari that’s coming up in March. I just received my duffel bag that I am to pack all my items in. All of the other exchange students going will also be having the same bag. I think it’s a very cute and smart idea.

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Just last weekend I spent my Saturday with Emma in Brisbane. I really like being in Brisbane. I would consider this only the second time I was ever in Brisbane rather than merely driving through it. Some of the areas that we drove through, particularly driving into the heart of the city, reminded me a lot of what downtown Minneapolis looks like. I got to go to GOMA (https://www.qagoma.qld.gov.au/), an art museum and Queensland Museum (http://www.qm.qld.gov.au/) while Emma took her French lessons in West End (region of Brisbane). The nice thing about these places were that they were free—except for a temporary and newer, “Medieval Power” exhibition at the Queensland Museum, which I went to and learned a lot from—and they were right next to one another so I didn’t have to walk far. I’ll have to be honest and say that the art museum was my favorite. I’m not much of an art geek myself but I really enjoyed looking at the art on such large canvases. There were all different styles and of different things with so many colors to accompany each and every pieces’ uniqueness. I even had enough time to relax at the Queensland Museum’s café.

After hanging around the museums and Emma’s classes were completed we went for a drive to the ‘valley’ where Brisbane’s Chinatown was. There, the Chinese New Year Festival was taking place. Markets were lined up along either side of the road and towards the center there was a decorated stage set up for performances being done. The whole atmosphere of the Chinese New Year spirit reminded me a lot of when my mom, two of my sisters, a brother and I were living Hangzhou, China—each stand being all crammed together with lots of talking and bustling about.

Emma and I scavenged around an Asian Food store looking for nibbles and we found lots of different items: seaweed, candy, biscuits, sauces, and much more. We ended up leaving the pace with a whole packet of Asian sweet cookies, Hello Panda crackers and a water-combo drink. We also tried to look for a moon cake but couldn’t find one, I enjoy the red bean filled moon cakes. They are traditionally eaten during the Chinese Moon Festival. That festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese Han calendar on the night of the full moon between September and October on the Gregorian calendar. I was tempted on buying some items there but I thought otherwise. I have to save it for the safari.

We watched a few Chinese-traditional dances along with the traditional lion dance. As I watched the lion dancers I was thinking, “I bet they are very hot under all that material!” It was a warmer day—80-85 degrees Fahrenheit. They were sweating a lot when they bowed and revealed themselves from underneath the costume. They did a great job though, very enjoyable. The Chinese-traditional dancing was also nice to watch. It made me miss dancing. It was only the second day of the annual Chinese Festival being run and already heaps of people were there to experience and enjoy the festivities.

On top of that Emma also took me to one of the coldest ice-skating rinks I’ve ever been to, not exaggerating, to go ice-skating. I knew once I got moving I would no longer be cold so I quickly got onto the ice. When I started to speed up I was even starting to break a little bit of a sweat I got that warm. I loved to it! That was a Saturday well spent. Thanks Emma!

A week before this was Assumption College’s opening mass. It’s purpose is to welcome the new year  7 and congratulate the new year 12 for their final year at Assumption. The thing about me is that I’m only a sophomore in high school and to be amongst all the year 12 of Assumption’s class of 2016 has changed my mindset to thinking that I only have 1 year left of high school because I’ve also been recognizing myself as a year 11/12 for about 7 months. Nope, I actually have 2 more years, hopefully I’ll be able to condense that to a shorter time though by doing PSEO (Post Secondary Enrollment Options: http://education.state.mn.us/MDE/StuSuc/CollReadi/PSEO/). It’s basically a program where I can gain college and high school credits while taking college level classes. If I am successful I can complete high school sooner.

Earlier in the month I made my host parents a Minnesotan tator-tot hot dish. Because Australia does not have tator-tots I hade to make do with actual potatoes and used a healthier recipe with fresher ingredients. I told them where it originated from and how it came to be, they seemed pretty interested on how someone might think of a dish like that.

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The result: I think next time I’ll make it with less chicken powder and more potatoes. It was a…bit salty, in fact, as I write this blog post I can taste how salty it was. Thankfully we had vegetables that were able to cover up some of the saltiness, hahaha. I will probably be doing some baking as well because I found a fun, no bake, oatmeal cookie rolls.

I also became an aunty to my new nephew George who was born in January. His parents are my oldest brother, Matthew and his wonderful wife, Katie. I woke up one day and found an image of George on my phone just born! He is super adorable and I love receiving all the fun baby updates on social media and emails of him. I can’t wait to meet him when I get back, he’ll already be 5 months old then.

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Photo credits: Kerry Dixon (new grandmother to this cuteness)

I’m taking gymnastics classes at a gymnastics club (https://www.facebook.com/Warwick-Gymnastics-club) near to where I live every Monday night and I am able to see my host sister, Molli, and catch up with her then. I’m really enjoying the classes because we work on flexibility, strength, and endurance. This coming up Monday will be the fourth lesson, I wonder what we’re going to focus on then. Last week we focused on abs!

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Walking to gymnastics!

Last night was a birthday party for a past exchange student from Brazil, who is now going to university Brisbane. I went with my host parents and met other Rotarians and families to celebrate it at the Devine’s home. A Rotarian from Warwick’s evening club grilled a full pig on the barbie. I believe they called it a,”Pig on a spit”.

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That had been the first time I had been there since I left at the end of November of 2015! It feels so long ago.

Well that’s a wrap from the girl down under!

 

 

 

Back at it!

Good things must come to an end…temporarily

Got back from a wonderful holiday get away at the Gold Coast with NA today. I enjoyed the beach and it’s many attractions there. We were at an apartment complex across from the beach at Coolangatta. Below was the view from my room.

NA so graciously drove me to the Warner Bros. Movie World, one of the many on the Gold Coast area, to meet up with an inbound exchange student, Martina. We spent our Sunday riding roller coasters, indulging in sweets and walking around the theme park. It is repeatedly compared to Universal Studios in California, USA. Many say Movie World is a down sized version of it. I thought it was very big considering that I have never been to Universal, though I sure hope to in the future. The only bad thing about my time there were the lines to go onto the rides being so long but on the same token the rides were my personal favorite during my visit. I really liked being able to catch up with Martina and to see how she was doing as well. There is a picture of me by a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream parlor, unfortunately after having a filling lunch and lollies before and after lunch I was not able to fit any more food in plus it was very expensive. Their bottles of water were $4.50! I couldn’t wrap my head around that price.

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NA also took me to a couple of shopping malls for me to browse around in. At the Tweed City shopping center I purchased my first article of clothing, unless you count socks for my school uniform as one, since I have arrived which was a lightweight denim summer dress at a shop known as, Cotton On. I’ve been looking for another summer dress for a while now and thought it was about time to buy one. Hopefully I won’t be buying too much more clothing because I still have my safari that is coming up and am saving up for souvenirs.

I, of course, went to the beach because let’s get real: when you’re by the beach you go to it especially if it isn’t an easy access luxury where you live. You take advantage of it! Let that be advice for anyone who has been by a beach but did not go. The waves were pretty strong that one morning but not as strong as the sweeping current. Every time a new wave crashed an even stronger current would start sweeping me across the surf. There were not as many surfers out in the area that I was at and if there were they would be out further where the even larger waves would take them into shore.

Just today NA drove me to the Wildlife Currumbin Sanctuary (http://www.cws.org.au/). I’m so grateful to have gone there because I got to hold my first koala bear! It was so much lighter than I thought it would be because their fur made it look a lot heavier than it actually was. Their claws looked sharp but for the short time I was holding it I couldn’t feel them on me. I could’ve held him/her (not sure of the gender) all day long, super adorable.

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Excuse the shininess to my face it was raining!

There were a shows being held around the sanctuary and so NA and I attended some of them. Unfortunately, it had began raining 15 minutes after we arrived so we had to be under shelter for the 3 hours we were there. Nevertheless, we made the most of it. We watched a sheep get sheered, a bird show, which was suppose to be outside but ended up being inside and a “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” performance by some dressed up people as Australian animal characters. I believe that was for the younger audience. I liked it either way because it was cute and had a good meaning to it. (Click on the images for a better look.)

Alas, all good things must come to an end. As of tomorrow I open up the books and put away the swimsuits. It is the beginning of a new school year for Assumption College. I will become a year 12 student and with that comes a year 12 leadership camp for the incoming year 7 students of Assumption so that will be nice to look forward to. In no time my safari will come up and I’ll be on the road, once more, on a holiday.

Catch you later!

Good things must come to an end…temporarily