Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I have quite exhausted my vocabulary for descriptive words, so this post may be a tad more bland than others...

I finally experienced the biggest city in Australia this weekend! Something odd-Flights are not allowed to arrive or depart from the Sydney airport between the hours of eleven pm and six am. Which also meant that any trains or shuttles leaving the airport also shut down... As my flight arrived right after 10:30, this meant I got the joy of waiting over an hour for an overpriced taxi. Well worth it, though.

All the other girls in my hostel were getting up super early on Saturday to tour the Blue Mountains, so I went ahead and got up with them to begin exploring the city. I've never really appreciated what other people see in big cities- I find them intrusive, cluttered, and claustrophobic. However, I really enjoyed this city, which may have been because I did all my walking around in the early hours of morning before everyone was up and around...

Nonetheless, I really enjoyed myself. The harbours are filled with amazing ships and sailboats, and the city is surrounded with fabulous gardens. I took an early ferry across the harbor to a suburb called Manly and spent the first part of the morning on Manly Beach. From the ferry are fantastic views of both the Sydney Opera House and the Harbor Bridge.

Saturday night brought with it a trip inside the Opera House, where I saw King Lear (Shakespeare...). For the first time since I've been here I didn't get ready by throwing my hair in a ponytail and putting on whatever I thought would keep me the coolest without air conditioning. Although I have appreciated this, it was also nice to look nice again. The play was wonderful, and the Opera House intricately beautiful.

Sunday morning came the Blue Mountains, named so for the blue hue that they take on. I found out today that this occurs from all the eucalyptus found in the mountains. As the oils in the leaves evaporate, they create a blue haze, causing the mountains to appear blue in color. I spent right around five hours hiking through all the trails, both up and down all the mountains. I have Herculean lower body strength at this point.

Daddy and Kelly-you would have been extremely proud of me. I actually went almost to the edge of each cliff and guardrail with only minor heart palpitations at each one. (Here's one such lookout)

This formation is known as the three sisters. Legend has it that, once upon a time, there lived three beautiful sisters, of whom the local wizard was extremely jealous. So jealous, in fact, that he decided to turn them into pillars. Upon finding this out, our Prince Charming of course comes in to save the day. He chases the wizard until cornered, whereupon the wizard aims to get away by turning himself into stone, without thinking of the repercussions. Because of course, a stone has no arms, and therefore cannot hold his wand. Without the ability to use his wand, the wizard and the sisters were forced to remain in this way for eternity. And here they lie (stand).

Yet another weekend, yet another amazing adventure. This marked the end of seven weeks here, leaving me at this point with less than three remaining. I've thoroughly enjoyed all of my time here, and I hope to make the most of what I have left. Although I am very sad to leave, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little happy to come home as well. I will greatly miss all my kids, my colleagues, and Lauretta and Dave, and I hope to come back and visit them soon, but it will also be nice to be back with all my other friends and family... and Layla!

Love you all!!

Saturday, March 6, 2010


11:30 pm.

Generally speaking, this is not an odd time for a person to be awake. However, a person who is awake by 5:30 every morning tends to fall asleep every night much earlier.

Which actually, I do. For some reason, however, my sleep lasts a mere hour or two, before I am back awake, in my dark, silent room, staring at the ceiling for hours upon end. -To Ashley and Hayden, As with at home, my falling asleep generally occurs on the couch, during a movie.

I'm going to choose to blame this on the weather. The "Sunshine State" of Queensland has not been keeping up to its motto as of late, with six of the last seven days being completely overcast and dreary. No storms, no downpours, just a constant drizzle of mist and humidity. I'm thinking due to this I'm sleeping more than I should be, so my body's lovely way of not letting me sleep to much is to keep me awake at the most inconvenient times imaginable. Either that or my body just plain hates me. I'd like to believe the former.

Despite the weather, life in Brisbane remains wonderful. Although I am becoming a little homesick at times now, I am growing closer and closer to my friends here. My departure date is going to be one of the most devasting, most exciting days. My supervising teacher has taken me in as family, as well as most of the other staff at school. I will sorely miss the Australian ability to treat all people with such amazing hospitality.

I continue to wonder at the education levels of some of my students. I gave the Year 8s a mid-term test just to see how they were doing (Students here only get two grades a term, one final and one project!) and it is good for them that it cannot affect their grade, as a little over half would have failed. We are still doing what should be review for all of them, such as adding fractions, using order of operations, knowing what a multiple is. As I went through marking their work, I got so discouraged I had to stop halfway through before finishing the next day. Are they really this far behind, did I really present the material that badly, or do they really listen so little? For their sake, I hope it is the last two, for my sake I hope it is the first. The Year 11s and 12s are bored with their work and the slowness of the curriculum, which worries me that the Year 8s should be as well. However, with the upper levels, we have covered new material which they do comprehend, which solaces me again.

With next weekend comes Sydney (thanks again Daddy and Kelly!), which I am extremely excited about. I keep forgetting to look up Opera schedules, but I am very much hoping I am able to attend one. The Blue Mountains are meant to be amazing as well, so hopefully I will have some good pictures for you all next week.

12:00 AM
Ugh. I am so bored, I want to write, but my thoughts as well are unbelievably boring. Guess its time to give sleep another chance. Or perhaps I'll have another dull post in thirty minutes.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Butterfly Fish

I realized that I left out a picture of my favorite fish... unlike the mean fellow we were introduced to in Finding Nemo, these guys are the most romantic of all the fishes. This, along with one or two other variations of the butterfly fish, are one of the only who mate for life, and die very soon after the death of their partner.

This is yet another reason the Reef is such a whirlwind of emotion. It's hard to imagine such commitment in such a small, seemingly insignificant life. We humans have rational thought, emotions to fit any situation, and yet we can't live up to the expectations of those of an animal one tenth of our size.

What a beautiful idea. That it really can be so simple.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Great Barrier Reef

Because of Australia's lack of ability to keep up with 21st century technology, I have been without internet for the past ten days, and therefore unable to update you all on my goings-on. This weekend was rather without excitement, which leaves me completely free to travel back to last weekend... by far the most amazing experience I've had here in Australia... The Great Barrier Reef.

To attempt to even begin to explain is impossible. There is not a word to describe the smallness that you feel. You step on to the boat at a normal ratio to the world around you, then you gradually get smaller as you can barely see the coastline, lose the coastline, and become engulfed by the bigness of the skies and the greatness of the waters. As if you were not small enough at this point, you now go underwater and enter into a completely new world, a land of corals and sand and turtles and sharks and more species of fish than you can count, completely surrounding you, constantly reminding you of how much more there is that you can't see and don't know. Giant schools of the most vibrant fish glide past as if you aren't there, lazy turtles slip under your flippers, curious sharks circle to smell you out, and the vast stretches of abodes and niches made from the most amazing variety of colors and textures of coral lure you to explore the life that they contain. Such a humbling feeling. Twice in my life now I have been so struck by natural beauty that I have literally been moved to tears. The beauty and the magnificence is overwhelming and indescribable.

These pictures are but a small, sad, insignificant view, but they will have to suffice

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Well, its official.

I am absolutely, irrevocably, completely, 100% in love with each and every single one of my students. I have four separate classrooms full of the most beautiful, agreeable children one could imagine. There are of course the small instances of too much talking or other small cut-ups, but one mention of the wrong doing, and the students stop. No questions asked, no smart comments. They are all full of so much personality, I sometimes get worn out trying to keep up with them. But due to playful, light-hearted, and kind nature of these great amounts of personality, keeping up with them is something I am more than willing to do.

I've noticed this type of personality is very prevalent here. Australians lack that speedy, uptight, need to prove yourself attitude that seems to fit the stereotypical American. Not that I don't love my country, I do, I just think that we could learn a lot from this laid back lifestyle. Australians know how to laugh at themselves, they don't get offended over small issues that are overall irrelevant, and less of a sense of entitlement that... I'm again lacking for words, but my point is pretty clear.

You can see the effects of this less stressful lifestyle in more than just their personalities. Every one I've met looks so much younger than an American of the same age. They all look extremely young and healthy. I've also noticed that I've yet to see a single woman with more than extremely simple make-up on her face. I may be attributing wrongly here, but I also think this stems from the simplicity of the lifestyle. With less stress, they first of all have less lines and imperfections to cover. I also think though that growing up in an environment where you feel good about yourself and lack violent stressors, it is much easier to be okay in your own skin and to lack those insecurities that so many people back home seem to have. At any rate, I think it looks much prettier.

A couple weird quirks I've noticed:

Steph-Just like in Ireland, they put butter or margarine on ALL their sandwiches. They also use MAYONAISSE as salad dressing. It makes me want to vomit. There must be something to this lack of stressful atmosphere, because I really don't understand how they are all so thin and without coronaries.

All public bathrooms have port-a-potty style locks on them. Instead of saying occupied, they say engaged. I know this is really dumb, but I am still amused by it. Not sure why.

When someone offers to give you a lift here, that does not mean I will come to your house and pick you up, or drive to your house to drop you off. That means, you walk to the closest intersection, no matter how far away, and I will hope the light is red and pick you up there. Same for getting dropped off. I'm dying to find out if this is the case on dates as well... I should probably find that one out by experience, what do you think, Hayden? :)

And this is just plain annoying... all TV shows are a season or two behind here. So I am re-watching House. Also, you apparently cannot watch shows on Fox online unless you are actually in the United States. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Speaking of Hayden's... A monsoon came at the school yesterday. There were literally parts of the school walkways that were a foot deep in water. Somehow, all of my Year 8s were able to make it to class dry and on time, except for a certain Hayden, who was late and completely soaked from head to toe, with extremely smelly feet and hair pointing in every direction possible from the water to top it off. It appears the correlation between the names and personalities continues....

I continue to miss all of you very, very much! I'm scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef this weekend, so hopefully there will be much exciting news come Monday (or Sunday to you guys)!

Parents-Because I will be in Cairns at the Great Barrier Reef this weekend, so I may have trouble getting in touch with you again; however, I am pretty sure there is free wi-fi where we are staying, so I should be able to call you Saturday or Sunday. If not, I'll send you an email and let you know a time I can call during the week so that you can make sure if you are at work you can answer your phone.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Two-Fifths In

I am now thinking and seeing in high school mathematics. Much easier on the brain than the theoretical mathematics I was so used to living and breathing.

This weekend started out and ended fantastically. Friday the school had a Valentine's fundraiser and sold roses, chocolates, etc., that the students could buy and give to each other. I received a rose, a box of chocolates, and two cards, which were quite adorable. One of the Year 10s had the gall write to me that I had pretty eyes... I chose not to respond to that one, although I still though it was sweet, in a non-pedophilic kind of way. I also have definitely let a few of the students become favorites, which I know is wrong, but I can't help! I think I do a pretty good job of not showing it, though.

As soon as we all got home Friday night, we all packed up and headed out to Byron Bay to go camping. Byron Bay is a nearby hippie, heady town with intoxicating and indescribable beauty. The skies at night are bright, and not from the litter of big city lights, but rather from the billions of stars that luminate it. During the day, the skies are an incredible piercing, deep blue, and the mountains and hillsides display every shade of green, from the very brightest of neons to the deepest, most lush forest greens. Even if I had been given the gift of words, there aren't enough to paint an accurate picture. The pictures as well don't begin to do justice either.

Of course, me being the most accident prone person there, survived a series of mishaps. Within about 15 minutes of being at the beach, I became the only person of our party to get stung by the infamous bluebottle jellies. So then I got to spend 30 minutes in the sick tent. Then, after preaching to everyone about making sure they were covered head to toe in sunscreen, not forgetting the tops of their ears and telling the horror stories of my grandfather who died of skin cancer, who but myself forgets to put a second coat on after lunch. I turned quite a lovely shade of crimson, and I still can't quite sit down or lie on my back. Very nice. Thirdly, and finally, I was sitting in the tent with just my head and legs poking out so as to stay out of the sun but still be able to talk to everyone, when what should climb up my dress and bite my butt, literally, but a raging Australia bull ant. The good news of all this is that we all got quite a good laugh and several moments of entertainment at my expense. So I guess it was worth it... Onlymaybenotreally. All-in-all though, the weekend really was amazing, and I'm extremely thankful that I only happened upon the bluebottles and not the box jellies!! And the pain wasn't so bad, so I guess the laughter may have been worth it.

We finished the weekend by going to the local markets. Every day there is a music and arts type festival/market. It's very similar to Kentuck, only year-round. Actually, perhaps a mix between Kentuck and Wakarusa. It's extremely music oriented.
-Mom and Jeff-I found this great piece of green amber that exactly matches my necklace, and I got to watch the guy (who looked creepily just like Joseph) finish putting it together as a ring. Now I just need a pair of earrings to complete the set... :).
I think my favorite part was watching one tent make juice out of sugar cane. In case you have never seen it, sugar cane looks identical to bamboo, and these guys were running it through a strainer and adding a touch of ginger. The result was amazing.

I've waited again until I was too tired to start writing, so I'm sure I've left something out. Everything is still amazing, and I still miss you all very much!! This Friday I leave for the Great Barrier Reef, so there will be much to tell come Monday!!

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I just got on a bus, started daydreaming, and missed my stop. This resulted in my freaking out when I realized I had no idea where I was, followed by my riding around the city pointlessly for way too long. I don't know what possessed me to think that I would be safe in a foreign country alone with my absent mind.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Week 2 winds down... Week 3 Begins

I finally a chance to get out by myself and explore the city this weekend. I got down into the city, got completely lost and roamed around, and it was absolutely amazing. Brisbane's downtown is a dichotomy between big city bustle and exotic, beautiful, peaceful landscapes. I spent around two hours perusing through markets, museums, and infinite bus stations to find myself in the middle of the Botanic Gardens, a complete oasis in the center of the skyscrapers and traffic. Once inside, the city of Brisbane disappears, and all you can hear or see are the noises and sights of the Gardens. Unfortunately, I got too carried away with myself there and got quite a nice sunburn. Good news is it faded pretty quickly.
School is also going well. For some reason today my Year 12s and Year 8s decided to completely switch personalities, so I had to deal with demonic 17 year olds and angelic 12 year olds. Oh, I had to work my first extra-curricular activity last week. This school is set up like Hogwarts. The school is divided in to six houses named after founders of Clairvaux MacKillop, and they each have their own color and symbol and they all compete against each other, only they get along better and they don't shoot spells or fly on brooms. They still get really into the competitions and house points, though. They had a "Swim Carnival" (a swim meet) last Tuesday, and all the teams swim against each other and have their own chants and what not. It was actually pretty fun. My house came in pretty far down :(. I am growing so attached to my fellow teachers and to the students, leaving is going to be so difficult! Well, so long as they start acting right again.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I am completely appalled by the schooling of some of the students here. After having so many courses on how bad education in the States is and what needs to be done to fix it, and comparing it to other countries, I had always assumed that we were one of the worst or slightly behind others. I have been proven extremely wrong. I literally taught a lesson to a group of Year 8s (as in , 8th grade) yesterday on adding WHOLE numbers. No decimals, no fractions, just regular, whole numbers. The saddest part-some students were still struggling today. I think I learned that in second grade... if not first. I'm terrified to see how they respond when we start multiplication. There is one student in the class who is extremely mischevious, very naughty, as they would say here, has a shock of disheveled hair, doesn't do his math, and his name is Hayden. I am waiting at every second for him to burst out with a "HYUEH" or start spazzing out or quoting Larry David. It actually gets a tad distracting :).

My Year 12s are really awesome. One class is a little better than the other, but I think that is generally how it goes. The kids have so much personality, especially when it comes to making fun of my accent! They all try to copy it, but they're not so good at it. I've answered these questions so many times: Do you have a gun? Is the KKK still around? Are frat parties really like what we see on TV? Is Las Vegas like in the movies? etc... And they are of course all appalled at my preconceived notions about Australia.

This week hasn't been too exciting... I've spent most of my time writing out lesson plans for the term, so I don't have anything too exciting to share.

I love and miss you all very much!!!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Week 2 Begins

So I have survived my first week in Brisbane. I have made friends with several of the teachers at school now, who have thankfully offered to give me rides, so I'll no longer have to ride the detested bus that likes to never be on time.

This weekend I was able to experience a lot of the culture. Saturday we went to South Bank, the downtown area, and walked around to all the markets and what-not. I didn't get to see all the museums and gardens that I would have liked to, so I think I'm gonna try to go back by myself one day next weekend. Sunday was by far my best experience so far. We went to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, which is sort of like a zoo, but with very limited captivity, which made me happy. The animals roam around as they wish, for the most part. They do keep the venomous snakes pinned up! The kangaroos roam have an enclosure, but they can get in and out of it if they please, and the other animals are much the same, to the point that if you go to the little cafe area, you have to protect your food from the lizards, birds, and other creatures roaming around! The kangaroos were probably my favorite, they are all extremely good natured and just want to be pet and fed. As you can see from the picture, we were also allowed to cuddle koalas, which are the most adorable, cozy, lazy balls of fur you can imagine. Ashley- I took several pictures of the dingoes for you!!

I start my first actual class tomorrow. I have been given a Year 8 and a Year 12 to be in complete charge of, and the Year 8's meet for the first time tomorrow, wish me luck!!!

Daddy and Kelly-please tell Layla hello for me again, please!
And can someone also make sure Nana and Papa are getting these?

Love and miss you all very much!!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I have survived my first day as a teacher at Clairvaux MacKillop College. High schools here unlike anything I have ever seen in the States. Every two weeks, the teachers and the students are given a timetable which lays out for them what time they will go to which class for the ten day period. Every two weeks, a new one is given. There is absolutely no rhyme nor reason within each time table or between. The days vary from class to class with no pattern or consistancy. I am going to have extreme difficulties with this one.

The school also has a very different curriculum. Rather than having students take Algebra 1, then Geometry, then... etc., the students take Year 9 math, Year 10 math, ... etc., each being a mixture of the different branches of mathematics and increasing in difficulty with each year. A system I think the US could learn a lot from. I have been given charge of a Year 8 and a Year 12 to run completely alone and as I like. I cannot decide if I am more nervous or excited. It feels so amazing to be doing this. I feel as if I am finally in my element, and I am even more confident now with my career choice.

The students are extremely well behaved. I of course was asked several times where in the States I was from, had students try to copy my accent, and was asked if I owned a gun or if the KKK was still in existence. I really wanted to "give 'em the mickie", as they would say here, but I decided to not tease and just told them the truth. My supervising teacher introduced me as the "Yank" so I had to explain to everyone also that there is a difference! They stereotype just as we do... everyone in America to an Aussie is a Yank, apparently.

So much happened, I could go on for days, but I am worn completely out. Lauretta and Dave dropped George and I off at a mall earlier, and we missed our bus and ended up walking over 3 kM home. Sorry, I don't know the conversion rate and I'm too lazy to look it up right now :).

I miss you all very much, and next time I begin to post I'll make sure I'm not at the line between incoherency!

Oh... toilets do not flush the opposite way here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Days 2 and 3

Happy Australia Day to all!

January 26 is Australia's national holiday, so today Lauretta and Dave took us to meet their "mates" and have a cook-out. By the way, I have yet to eat kangaroo... contrary to popular belief, it is not a regular dish here. Lauretta has lived in either Sydney or Brisbane her entire life and never tasted it. So today we went to a little park with Cricket "fields" and cooked out and played cricket all day. I have also now experienced my first Australian sunburn-yes Mother, I was wearing sunscreen, as well as a straw hat, the sun is just that brutal here! So turns out that Australians are excellent cooks, and that Americans are awful at Cricket. It's very similar to baseball in that you have fielders, a batter and a pitcher, which they call a bowler. Instead of running bases though when you hit the ball, there are two batters who stand at opposite ends of the field, which is just a narrow strip, and however many times they can run back and forth, that i show many runs you get. Striking out doesn't actually get you out, you just lose five runs, and each team of batters gets twelve chances to score as many runs as possible. So when Dave and I teamed up, we ended up with -28... Pretty embarrassing! My only redeeming quality was that I was able to tag three people out while I was bowler! Also, you are supposed to keep your bat with you when you run, but George and I are so used to baseball we kept throwing ours, so we lost some points that way.

George and I found out last night that there is another girl from the States (Ohio, specifically) who is also in COST and staying with Brisbane, she just lives about ten minutes away. So today she came with us, and I think she is going to start traveling and sight-seeing with us as well.

Dave took George and I to the beach yesterday, and it was quite amazing. The rip tides get really bad, however, so they have about 20 ft -although they measure in meters- areas blocked off where you can swim every mile or so. Apparently, and this should make Hannah rest easier, more people die from rip tides than sharks and jellies combined.

A couple odd things... it isn't popular here to have air conditioning. In San Fransisco, I understand this, as it never gets above like 65. However, in this 85-90 degrees, it's brutal. I wake up in the middle of the night sometimes because the heat is so suffocating. Apparently at the school I'm at, some of the classrooms have air conditioning, but poor George has none anywhere in his school. At night the air is pretty cool though, so its nice to go sit on the back porch and have dinner. I would definitely take the heat any day to be able to be here!

Also, people in Australia don't tip. When you go out to dinner, you pay for your food, and that is that. I have never felt so awkward in my life getting up from a table without tipping, but Lauretta said that if you leave more than just your extra change, it can almost be considered an insult to the server, because its as if you are saying that they are poor. She and Dave met in Ireland, and she said the same holds there. She worked as a bartender for a while, and she said some of the only people who tipped were Americans, and it was usually an absurd amount.

One last thing... if anyone ever offers you beetroot dip, I suggest strongly that you decline.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hello to all my friends and family!

Australia is amazing so far. As you know, I do not fly well, and I was terrified that I would not survive the flight due to heart failure or lack of oxygen as a result of multiple panic attacks. And although my flights to both Dallas and Los Angeles were awful, the flight to Brisbane was amazing (also partly due to my Ambien, which I could not be more thankful for, Kelly!) Each seat had its own private television screen (set on the back of the seat in front of you), and the airline had an On-Demand type cable selection. There were choices of about 30-40 movies and 20-30 television shows, so I was able to catch up on Curb Your Enthusiasm, which I was pretty excited about.

My housemates are terrific. Lauretta and Dave could not be nicer if they tried, and George as well seems like he is going to be extremely easy to live with. As I was told, Dave is a tremendous cook. All we have had yet are burgers for lunch, but they were unlike any burger I have ever experienced. I do feel a little bad though, because Dave was born in the Czech Republic, and learned to speak English in Ireland, so I have the worst time trying to understand him! Lauretta ensures me that he is used to having to repeat himself and it does not bother him, but I'm not so sure... This is such a multi-cultural house... Lauretta was born in Sydney, Dave was born in Czech but knows Irish English, George has a Yankee sound, and I of course am representing the Southern drawl.

I am not nearly as nervous as I thought I might be. Lauretta and Dave are so personal and friendly, they make it very easy to adjust. Also, Lauretta said that since she moved to Brisbane, she has not had much time to travel, nor Dave, so they are very excited to take George and I sightseeing and on other adventures not too far away.

Although I can make phone calls pretty cheaply using Skype, the money still adds up. That and with trying to figure out time differences and when is best to call everyone, I figured that this would be the most efficient way of keeping in touch with everyone. I am going to try to update several times a week. I love you all very, very much, and I wish you could be here with me!

To Daddy and Kelly, please also give Layla a hug and a kiss for me, and make sure she knows I miss her as well!

Also, I do not know Nana or Papa's email address, can one of you forward this link to them?