Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sydney! O-Week and Beach Ventures

It has been two weeks in Sydney, the place I have come to make into my home. The ride from the airport to my housing was quite entertaining. The 20 of us were drowning under bags until our arrival at Urbanest. My room is very nice. I have 5 flatmates, 4 of which were in my program and 2 I had roomed with in Cairns. The walk to school is about 30 minutes, but a little walking never hurt anyone. It is just different from my home campus at Chapman where I could roll out of bed and be to class in 5 minutes. I set right off to unpacking all of my things which took a substantial amount of time. When my first full day commenced in the city, it was straight off to tasks. I decided to open up a bank account with Commonwealth, one of the biggest banks in Australia to avoid the constant transaction charges provided by the lovely Wells Fargo.
I live in a sub region of Sydney called Haymarket, right next to Darling Harbour. It is a quaint area filled with precious restaurants on Cockle Wharf Bay and a place I have gone on a couple of relaxing walks around. Something new always pops out at me as a reminder to keep my eyes open. Paddy’s Market in Market City is a block down the street and an amazing display of the fresh produce provided by local farmers. It is also a bit cheaper than most other places here. A dozen eggs is $8 elsewhere, and I got some for $2.50. I believe I will get all my fruits and vegetables here for the remainder of my stay.
Speaking of food, I checked off almost everything from my Aussie Taste Testing Bucketlist. I completely my first Tim Tam Slam at Max Brenner’s Chocolate Bar, had my first meat pie at Harry’s famous Café de Wheels, tried the yeast-infested spread Vegemite and dined at Bill’s restaurant for a taste of his famous ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter. This is where all my research payed off. The Tim Tam Slam was amazing! Tim Tam’s are these Australian biscuits (cookies) that come in so many flavors that it is almost overwhelming. I have tried dark chocolate, original, white chocolate, honeycomb, double coated, carmel and white chocolate filled. To do a slam, I bit off the ends and sucked out the inner chocolate layer through a hot chocolate (aka pure awesome). I had a tiger pie at Harry’s which was absolutely amazing. It had mashed potato and peas on top and was filled with beef in a yummy sauce. It kind of reminded me of Thanksgiving. Bill’s hotcakes were to die for, probably the best thing I have put in my mouth, EVER. Aussie’s have an obsession for their BBQ’s. They consist of sausage on a slice of bread and some tomato sauce (ketchup) or bbq sauce. I have had my fair share.
                My first weekend in Oz was spent on an excursion for orientation through uni. It was quite the intriguing trip. We went to the Australian Reptile Park to bond with some more koalas, kangaroos, and see even more wildlife. I saw the adorable wallaby for the first time and just wanted to take it away. Then we were off to wine taste in the glorious Hunter Valley. I learned that I still hate all forms of alcohol, but was proud of myself for giving it a shot. Then there was a dolphin cruise with no dolphins and sand boarding down sand dunes in the middle of the dessert.  After boarding, we arrived at what was for me, my oasis. At first sight, I slipped right into my swimmers and frolicked along the golden sand to the heavenly waters of the Pacific. It was my first time in the ocean and I could have stayed there all day. I don’t think my smile ever faded the entire time. That weekend came to a conclusion with a long bus ride back home.
                The beginning of my first full week was O-week. A week of becoming orientated to uni life and accustoming myself to my new surrounding of the gorgeous campus I was soon to attend. All International students were greeted in the Great Hall, a magnificent building. During orientation, they named off countries and students attending would make some noise to represent their country. The U.S. had the most students for sure. There was also an aboriginal dance, only in Australia. After that we explored he campus. I love our Quadrangle. It is a glorious green space in the middle of a statuesque building that kind of looks like Hogwarts. I felt like such a tiny fish in a huge ocean. The campus is ten times bigger than my campus at home, but that is exactly what I wanted, something different and to go out of my comfort zone. The rest of the week was all about joining clubs and getting involved. I chose to join Bushwalkers club in order to have some more opportunities to meet people and explore Australia and the Wildlife Society to be able to volunteer with animals. There was a speed dating event to get to know other students and it was quite interesting. I got to know some pretty cool people and they all pointed out my accent.

Finally I had some free time after orientation! Of course, that meant I was off to the beach. My first Australian beach was Coogee. There were Giles Baths and a rock pool you could swim in as waves dramatically crashed against the rock walls of the pool. I sat on top of the outer wall of the pool and felt the ocean mist on my skin. In that moment, I had an epiphany. I finally felt like I was actually here and it all became real to me. The next 3 days were all about the beach. I did a gorgeous walk from Coogee to Bondi along the coast. There were so many beautiful sights to take in and beaches to swim in along the way. There was this one rock formation that jutted out across the ocean further than the others and I decided to go sit on the very edge. It was about 600 feet high I would say and at the bottom were rocks and waves. I could have sat there all day, I felt so peaceful. Someone said as I sat “You are so brave!” and I realized that most people would never do this in their life and that I have definitely become fearless to a certain extent.
The last weekend before classes started had a huge celebration, Mardi Gras. It was rainbows galore as people walked in a parade for gay rights and equality. I was there cheering them on and supporting the cause. It was indeed quite festive. Down the street was a Mardi Gras after party I went to with a couple new friends. It was probably one of the funniest nights so far for me. We danced the night away and there were so many laughs. I returned home to skype with two of my best friends: Nicole and Tala. I talked to both of them for so long and it just made me miss them even more. I realized that no matter the distance, true friends remain and nobody I meet will ever compare to them. There were calls every now and again between my family and I. My parents are both so worried, but I give them props because they are definitely better than I thought they would be and they don’t call me a lot at all.

I finally ventured on over to the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. They were two landmarks I had been picturing for so long and it was so surreal to actually be there. I didn’t realize how close they were to each other either. When I touched the massive, sparkling sails of the Opera House I definitely got way too excited and had a moment of feeling completely connected to Australian culture.  My Sunday night consisted of doing laundry for the first time since I had been here ($6 per load) and watching “She’s the Man” in the entertainment room of my apartment building with friends. It was comforting to watch a movie I had seen so many times at home. After a cozy night, it was straight into my first week of classes as university.

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