Saturday, February 28, 2009

Are you taking the chilly bin?

It is snowing at home and I'm headed to the beach in just a bit. :-) Miss the snow!

Regardless, I am preparing to move in a few short hours. Moving from my current home to a location much closer to the Uni. Details to come regarding this decision, but just wanting to let you know that I'm still alive and things have been quite busy of late!

Word of the day: Chilly Bin. A portable cooler, as in "Are you putting the L&P* in the chilly bin when we go to the beach?"

(*L&P is an amazing soda. Lemon and Paoera or something of the sort.)

Much more to come, but hope all is well for you. <3

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Oh, Sydney.

As a forewarning, there is a lot of information to follow regarding my travels to Sydney and about the city. You may not be up for reading it all, and no worries if that is the case!

I regret that it has been so long since I’ve last written. We finally arrived in Sydney… bit by bit! But there had very limited, slow internet service. So here I will recount our lovely journey in Oz.

After our crazy arrival in Los Angeles, the other six girls had “confirmed” their flights directly to Sydney; however, the airline had overbooked the flight. Only one of the girls had a truly confirmed seat to Sydney. How lovely. The other five girls were easily booked onto a flight to Brisbane and then connecting to Sydney. When they arrived in Brisbane, apparently things were a bit hectic and the connection time was not enough. Nonetheless, they missed the next connecting flight and were able to reschedule for the following flight, about an hour or so later. All of this occurred as I was in LA due to the previously cancelled STL to LAX flight. At approximately 10:45 PM, I received a text from another friend who was (not planned, mind you) on the same flight from LAX to SYD that I was scheduled to take… *If you can still follow what I’m saying, then continue reading this paragraph. If not, feel free to skip ahead a bit! J* Anyway, she texted to say that there was a delay and that mechanical issues were occurring on the Boeing 747. Around 12:15 AM, she texted to say that they were finally getting ready to leave (over two hours late)! And come to find out, they had to stop in Hawaii due to concerns with the airplane! Layover in Hawaii for the night/day and then on to SYD about the same time that I was leaving from LA… ridiculous!!

I arrived in Sydney, Australia, at about 7:45 AM (Sydney time) on Valentine’s Day. Had a lovely time at the airport. Very nicely done and quite clean. Customs were simple, though lines were a bit longer than expected. Caught the KST shuttle from SYD airport to WakeUp! Hostel around 8:30 AM. I was very excited to find the shuttle, only after asking a gentleman for directions and having him direct me to his “ol’ mate.” J Enjoyed a lovely ride on the $14 shuttle. Sat by a nice college kid from Germany (and yes, Courtney, I told him about your study abroad adventure to come!) and had an enjoyable conversation. Turns out he was staying at the same hostel and graciously assisted me with my (too much) luggage.

WakeUp! was certainly an experience! A very lovely and clean location. You must have a key card to get to the floor on which your room is located, which is a comfort I do believe. Regardless, it was a bit strange staying in an 8-person dorm-style room occupied by 4 girls and 4 guys. But anyway, more on details to come!

Checked in, got my key-card, and finally was reunited with the other girls! All of my luggage had made the trip successfully, which is not possible to say for a few of my friends… (Don’t be too concerned. All luggage had arrived by 5 AM on departure day, if not earlier.) We had a nice, quick conversation in room 104 and soon departed for a day on the town! Headed straight to Central train station and took the City Train to the Harbour. Enjoyed views of the Harbour Bridge, Opera House, and much, much more! Wonderful! And rainy…

We took the ferry to Taronga Park, where we visited an absolutely incredible zoo!! We even took a gondola of sorts up above the tree tops to arrive at a point higher up the hillside of the zoo. What a view! Kangaroos, koalas, sheep (there is picture number one!), devils, gorillas, Kodiak bears, and even goats!! Then we enjoyed a great seal show. Didn’t get too wet, though we sat near the splash zone. Found our “valentine” presenting part of the show, but we were regrettably not able to meet face-to-face. Hahaha. We then headed to the gondola after getting lunch, relaxing, and seeing many various creatures. (Oh, and they had wild turkeys, hogs, and roosters, too.)

Following our nice day at the zoo, we took the ferry back to the wharf. We visited the Opera House, though tickets were not remaining… unless we desired Premium Seating for over $250 each. We then walked towards the train stations, but stopped at the center to find a street performer. Watched and laughed for a bit, then to WakeUp! Spent a bit of time cleaning up and then decided to dress up for Valentine’s dinner! We had a wonderful time walking (in the pouring rain) to our unknown dinner destination. Ended up finding a nice Thai restaurant. I ordered Pad See Eiw with chicken and flat noodles in a soy sauce. Very tasty. Stopped by a small store near the hostel to grab yoghurt and fruit bars for breakfast. And a bit of chocolate which provided nice entertainment for the rest of the evening! (We later learned that “real men” don’t eat chocolate. At least not if they’re from Holland.) After an enjoyable night out in Sydney, we headed back to the hostel. Three umbrellas for seven of us proved to be a bit of a task at times! J Then to the Side Bar. That is the name of the dance location just below the hostel (and part of WakeUp! as well). We enjoyed some nice conversation, though it was a bit loud. When they say that you “Mix with the World” at the hostel, they really do mean it! It was incredible to just sit and talk with people traveling the world, often without schedule or concern. I was highly delighted to hear stories of travel, home, and more. Sometimes people were a bit too friendly (such as the guy from the north island of New Zealand), but easy to dismiss them as well. Very much enjoyed the evening (and part of a White Russian) and then retired by 11:30 PM or so. It was certainly a long day… flying 14 hours and then touring, walking, and eating all day! What a wonderful first day in Oz!!

Day two in Sydney began around 7:30 AM as we prepared for church. A nice breakfast at the hostel (our yoghurt and mango juice) and then we headed to the Christ Church of St. Laurence next door. It was a beautiful sanctuary and we had a very enjoyable time. A bit different than the services that I am used to back home, but certainly a happy experience. Much singing, open communion, and many new friends! We even met a gentleman who had been stationed at Warrensburg, Missouri, at one time! What a small world, indeed. Tea after the service and then out to listen to an absolutely gorgeous choir as they proceeded down the walk into the 10:30 worship service. Beautiful. Apparently one of the top choirs in all of Sydney. After church we headed back to the hostel to prepare for the rest of the day around the city.

Mid day we headed to the Market City and other market areas. Very busy and full of variety. Clothes, fresh fruit, purses, watches, Uggs (for only $40 or so), and much more. Picked up some fruit and veggies such as grapes, mango, and pears to take for lunch. Then to the city bus. We walked by 7-11 and purchased some cheese and crackers along the way. Also found some “Australian Turkish Delight” covered in chocolate. I must say that I haven’t eaten it all as of yet… a bit odd. Laughed at some random findings at the 7-11, including an Australian “Women’s Weekly” featuring Mrs. Obama as well as “20 Farmers Looking for Love.” Hannah got a kick out of that featured article!

Ticket for the bus was purchased at the 7-11 and then we headed to Bondi Beach (pronounced Bond-eye, NOT Bond-ee). It was still slightly raining, and overcast the entire time. Bummer. Regardless, we were determined to enjoy the beach! There had apparently been a shark attack just off Bondi on Friday… Besides, it was a bit chilly to be swimming! Had a lovely picnic with plenty of fresh fruit, cheese, and crackers. What a great choice!! Observed some of the countless surfers, a Rescue Training Trial, and the intense wave action. Many fun pictures of us jumping and acting silly. Got our pants soaked… Hannah saved me from nearly falling over in the surf as we jumped! The sky was getting darker, we were a bit soaked from the knees down, and it was quite windy. Headed to the toilets to clean up and found a South American Festival. Could only hear the intriguing salsa music, for the festival entrance fee was a bit more than we desired. A few markets were around for the festival with beautiful sundresses, boots, and Cuban music. Had a blast and then headed back to catch the bus to the city.

Arrived in the city and then walked around from the Wharf up to The Rocks and the Harbour Bridge. Ended up enjoying warm corn on a stick with butter and salt. Very “state fair” of them! The Rocks is a wonderful shopping area full of outdoor markets and little alleys (similar to Venetian canals without the excess of water!). Bought some Sour Rainbow licorice and enjoyed conversation with passing marketers. We quickly began to learn that we stand out a bit, even though there are many Caucasian folks around. Next we journeyed to Harbour Bridge and walked up several flights of steps to the level of traffic. Read a bit about the history of the bridge and then walked across. It was certainly a long way down to the water! Took about 20 minutes each way, but Hannah, Rachel, and I lost the other girls as we took pictures for a while. Really loved the view and had a nice time laughing, singing, and such.

After the bridge walk, we decided to find some ice cream or such as we walked back through The Rocks and alleys. Lovely city, Sydney. Mandi even climbed some trees around the Bridge Climb starting location. Found some gelato and settled on a location after searching for the best prices. Tirimisu Gelato was certainly yummy! Bought some red and white wines at one of the shops and decided it would be best to find a “BYO” locale for dinner. Cleaned up back at the hostel and then walked toward Chinatown. Walking toward Darling Harbour, we found a Japanese dining location and thought it fit for our desires. Shared a few soy beans, Teriyaki, and wine. A bit of educational chatting about wine from Jennifer, which was nice! Corking fee of $2 per person, about $5 total for each of us since we shared smaller dishes.

After dinner, we headed back to the hostel and had time to chat with new friends for a bit. Roommates of three of the girls were from Whales and England. They found our accents to be nice, which is quite odd! Also heard about the longest city names in the world, including one in Whales and one in New Zealand. Strange bits of education gained at unexpected times while traveling. How exquisite. Much conversation and then to the Side Bar for a brief time. Had to pack things yet and back by 11:00, a bit later then planned. Finished up by 12:00 AM and then to sleep for a brief time.

Up by 4:50 AM so that we could catch the KST Shuttle that we had called to arrive at 5:55 AM. Too much luggage… much discussion about wash kits, weight limitations, and more amongst our roommates! Humorous, really. Down to the front desk and found the last piece of Rachel’s luggage that had finally arrived! Just in time for our departure. Checked out by bringing our pillow case and key card to the desk and they returned our $20 NZ deposit. Caught the Shuttle on time and headed to various hotels on the hour journey to the Sydney Kingsmith International Airport.

Said quick goodbyes and headed opposite direction of the other six girls. I was to fly on Air New Zealand while they flew Quantas operated by Jet Star or something of the sort. Managed to find Check-In Station J just fine and the nice lady working the desk was able to help me out. She was even kind enough to allow me to go nearly 3 kilos over the weight limit… and thankfully. Received my customs form prior to departing Oz for NZ, completed security in a minute or two (quite simple, really), and headed to Gate 56. Took a break for a muffin and tea, found a nice place to relax, and had plenty of time. Saw the other girls rushing to their gate about 40 minutes after I had arrived at the gate. Security had taken 5 times as long for them, yet their flight was an hour earlier… Luckily they made their flight and were safely on their way.

Chatted with two Canadian guys as we awaited our late-to-depart flight. They were traveling to NZ after spending about 3 months in Australia. While on the plane (which was nice, large, and very clean), enjoyed talking with a gentleman from the Bay of Plenty area in the north island of NZ. Very friendly and loved to hear about the United States. The flight offered music of your choice as well as nearly 20 movies, a map of current location, and much more! All included! Enjoyed some Hokey Pokey ice cream followed by tea for lunch on the ANZ flight. A new one for me, but “quite magical” as they would say here in NZ.

Arrived over the west coast with black sand beaches around 2:40 PM on February 16, New Zealand time. I found it to be a lovely coast and rolling green hills.

More updates to come!! Must say I’m loving NZ so far! Arrived at my homestay location today, February 19th, around 8:40 AM. Getting settled in and will update on my time in Auckland in a while! Much love and blessings to you, friends!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The toilet flushed as I sat down.

The day has been a bit like this title: unexpected, ironic, and not always what you plan.

Flight from STL to LAX was cancelled... caught the next one, two hours later. Had great bonding time with new and old lovely friends! :-) Sat by a gentleman from Egypt on the way to LA. Great conversation and very interesting.

Then... the change in arrival time in LA caused me to not be able to confirm my connecting flight. So (while in STL) we went ahead and changed my LA to Sydney flight to tomorrow... at 10:13 PM. I get to stay in LA for a day with a wonderful family (relatives of one of the girls who is traveling with us!). Upon arriving at the airport in LA, we found out that the other 5 girls have tickets that have not been correctly confirmed for LA to Sydney... they are now on a flight to Brisbane and then on to Sydney. Will arrive around 9 AM on Friday, I believe. Crazy! But one of the girls is confirmed and headed directly to Sydney currently... gracious.

So I'm now at the family's home. We went to Jack in the Box to get a tasty (and gigantic) strawberry banana smoothie! Super fun! :-)

I believe that's all for now. Will fly out tomorrow night, arrive in Sydney on Valentine's Day around 7:50 AM (supposedly), and will have a blast! Let's hope I don't get lost... :-)

Oh, and too bad my brother's not in LA today... He's (ironically) in Missouri visiting me instead. :-( Strange!

G'night, friends!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Headed South!

Leaving on a jet plane today. At 5:05 PM, Central Time, United States of America. Excited, (nearly) packed, and getting tired! Had a wonderful day with my brother in town (so great to visit with him!) and just relaxing... Visited Columbia for lunch with lovely amigos as well! :-)

Phrase for the day:

"Two sammies short of a picnic --- used to describe a person who is 'a bit thick'"


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Oh, Sweet Missouri

Departing in TRES DIAS!!! How lovely. :-)

Although packing is a bit of a challenge currently, I'm getting (and remaining) very excited. "Don't take too many clothes." That's what I hear. We shall see.

Trying to research things to do in Sydney, but also looking into history and such regarding Auckland. We have the movie "Whale Rider" sitting on the counter here at home. Perhaps should watch it; however, I believe it is in the plans to watch during IES Orientation. (Which, by the way, sounds amazing!!)

I believe that is all for now. Need to choose which book(s) to take for the plane ride.

So soon!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

One Week!

I leave in one week. Yes, I'm very excited. Yes, there is a LOT to do before next Wednesday. Yes, I'll miss family and friends.

Right now I'm focusing on the Dental Admission Test, which is tomorrow. I pray that it goes well and that the fever I have currently disappears quickly!

I'm also in the process of packing. Well, beginning to do so. My clothes are in nice stacks all around me... hahaha.

That is all for now. Just wanted to post an update in order to get into the habit of doing so! Have a good one.