Monday, February 25, 2013

Aussie arrival and the start of the great adventure!

Wow, what an amazing week! It has been jam packed nonstop awesome ever since I arrived in Cairns on the 17th and then Sydney on the 21st! So much has happened! I said goodbye to my best friend Tala and my family at LAX. I was so happy that they could all come and say goodbye to me one last time and it reminds me that I have great people waiting for me to come home to and of how very much I love and will miss the people I have left behind. They walked me as far as they could until they couldn’t go through security any farther. Then I walked over to my terminal to meet up with people from my program. I sat down in our large circle of GlobaLinks people and we all got to talking about each other and how excited we were. There was a feeling in the air of thick excitement and wanderlust, it was almost tangible. From there it was a night flight at 11:50 PM out of LAX and into Brisbane. I sat with too people on my program and was at the window watching as we took off and then landed in Australia. It was amazing to see the sunrise from 36,000 feet over Fiji on the flight. From Brisbane we took a flight to our four day orientation in Cairns. 7,513 miles and 18 hours later, we arrived at what was to be our home for the next four days, a quaint backpackers hostel called Gilligan’s. I had a room with 5 other girls in my program: Emily, Erin, Kayla, Kellie, and Jen. We all got along so well in our program and I came to the conclusion that it was because we were all similar people, driven, ambitious, loving travel, and wanting to make the most of our time in Australia.
Our first day was spent meandering around Cairns. It was a city surrounded by rainforest, extremely humid and with plenty of bugs to give you a stinging souvenir. It rained sporadically throughout the trip and weather was always unpredictable. We explored a market right next to our hostel.
There are so many foods here that don’t exist at home and it got my taste buds pumped for what was to come! After I picked up my phone that I ordered from Global Gossip, we went out to a dinner on the pier at Dundees. I got a steak with chips (aka fries) and a small salad. The 70 us took up the entire restaurant and our presence was somewhat overwhelming. After dinner, I went on a run with 2 new friends, Kaya and Brian. It was awesome to explore Cairns and have fun getting fit with these two. They are both so sweet and I feel like it is fait that I met them. Brian and I are basically life twins, we had a moment where we both did the same thing and it was just so random that I couldn’t believe it.
Day 2 was probably my favorite day thus far. It was everything I had dreamed about as I prepared for Australia. Australia is known for all of its unique animals. Marsupials can’t be found anywhere else and today was the day I got to experience them. After a session for orientation about I don’t even know what because I was jetlagged, we ventured into the rainforest and arrived at Rainforestation. First I went on an adventure through the rainforest on a jungle car. I would say it was very similar to the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, expect it was real life. After that we did some aboriginal art, I painted a kangaroo and I must say I am quite proud with my work. I got my face painted by an aboriginal man. He was wearing a tarp and no shirt and had white paint splotched all over his body. He put two lines under each of eyes and then dotted them. We had a delicious lunch and then were off to continue the adventure. I threw a boomerang (which I failed at), played a didgeridoo, saw an aboriginal dance performance and watched some men throw spears. The finale was the kangaroos, snake, and koala. I held a python and was proud of myself for literally not being scared at all, I smiled the whole time. I then hand fed kangaroos and was able to get so close to them. I even took some selfies with them. They were so calm and I wanted to take one home with me. We then went to see a crocodile, the largest in the world, as it lunged straight out of the water for a bite to eat. Then I held a koala. It was so soft and cute! Her name was Kara and she just absolutely adorable! When they took her off me she was still trying to cling to me. I am in love with these creatures!
Later that night I went on a run around town and ran into my friend, Connor. We discovered an elliptical and some other metal machines on the beach. I love Australia’s attitude towards fitness. They believe it is a preventative measure to healthcare and provide communities with free exercise classes. We decided to join in on a Zumba class with many more Australians, I’d say at least 300 people dancing their hearts out. I even went on stage which I would never do at home, but I feel myself getting more confident and wanting to do everything I can while I am here. I went for a night swim in The Esplanade and met an Australian woman who was so sweet. We swopped numbers and she told me that I was welcome in her home if I were to return. Later, I hung out with some people at Gilligan’s and just talked the night away.
The next day was our trip to the most spectacular natural wonder in the world, the Great Barrier Reef. I scuba dived and snorkeled through coral and sea life all day and I felt as close to a mermaid as I know I ever will. It was amazing to finally be here after seeing so many pictures of it. My scuba instructor also made the experience that much more special. After my first dive with him, he took off his mask and spoke “you are beautiful” under the crystal clear waters. Then he took my hand and twirled me around, it was truly magical. My next dive he took off his mask again to kiss me on the cheek. It is so crazy the difference between American and Australian boys. American boys would never have been this sweet. That’s definitely a cultural plus. At night I went to a night market with my new friends, Stephanie and Malcom.  We got some Chinese food and I had my first oyster, which looked odd but tasted so good! We explored the market and I bought a bad with “Australia” written on it and some kangaroos. It’s adorable and was only $4.
Then came the day I jumped out of the sky at 14,000 feet. It was probably the craziest thing I have done, but I wasn’t scared at all. I’m trying to find things that scare me and there are very few. I think I have become fearless (spiders being the one exception).  We drove into the jungle of Cairns and went into a plane that took us to dive and I decided to land on the beach. It was so amazing! I felt peace as I returned to Earth and landed on the soft, sparkling sand. The drive back was interesting. I got to listen to 5 Aussie guys have a discussion and observed how they spoke to eachother. There were a few terms I didn’t understand and the nature of the conversation was very lighthearted, complying with the Aussie attitude of “No worries!” Dinner was at CafĂ© China. It was a restaurant with spinning tables and huge amounts of food. The people at my table were all so much fun and it was a great conclusion to Cairns.
The next day we played around in the pool and I made one final trip to the Esplanade to say farewell to Cairns in all its glory. Finally I was off to Sydney, the place I would soon call home!

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