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!!!