Tuesday, July 29, 2008

this crazy place i live

So I finally figured out the mystery of the time stamp. It indicates the time I started the post in Pacific time... which is only 17 hours behind whatever it is they call Sydney time. However, I have also figured out how to fix it so the time stamp on my posts are generally correct at this point. Now that I have figured out that rhyme and reason, I thought I'd tell you all about where I'm living.

As you all know already, I live in Alcatraz on Campus East which happens to be in Fairy Meadow, right outside of Wollongong. My block appears to be the most high tech in that our keys are actually cards (the same cards we use for our meal plan, which is very convenient), each room has its own phone, each room has its own heater, and we actually have a common room with couches. I live in a 5 person suite. As previously mentioned, there is a common room that houses a couch, a bar fridge (that almost no one uses because it is practically public property), a sink, and some cabinets. My common room also happens to be home to a small trampoline similar to the one Ryan had but never used. Occasionally (usually at the most inconvenient times for me) my suite mates will put the box from the trampoline on top of it to make a coffee table on which to play cards.

I live with 3 American guys and one other Aussie girl who happens to be the RA. Pretty much all RAs appear to do here is make sure no one leaves their rooms with glass bottles, tell people to quiet down, do rounds a couple of times at night and unlock doors when you're silly enough to lock your key in your room (I've only done that once thus far) so living with her is not the nightmare it would be back home.

My room is basically a glorified shoebox but it's all mine. There is a nice sized window that looks straight across to the self-catered building. The guys who live directly across the way have some sort of laser pointer type thing that is quite annoying so I keep my blinds closed most of the time. This may or may not change when it gets warm outside depending on how much of a pest they continue to be. I also have a desk which is gloriously huge. It doesn't have much drawer space but I don't have that much stuff here so it all works out. There's also a bookshelf on the wall which I'm currently using to hold a few books, a picture frame, and all sorts of other random crap I have. The best part has to be the wall unit. There are two areas that have bars on which to hang clothes and 2 adjustable shelves with shelf space above. There are also three drawers with a smaller cabinet. It would be the perfect place to put a tv... if you have an extension cord to plug it in. My bed is nothing exciting, just a metal frame with a mattress on it, but it is high enough that I can store my suitcases underneath it.

It's not the most exciting place but it's functional. The heater keeps the room luke-warmish with the occasional breeze from the badly sealed windows but it's my own little rabbit hole that no one else can bother. It is really nice being able to turn the lights on and off whenever I feel like it without having to worry about bothering anyone else. However, sometimes my light simply decides to turn itself off while I'm sitting in there. Strangely enough, it never does this when I go out and leave it on. I suppose ghosts and ghouls are moving around enough to trip the light sensor but I scare them away. This is the only logical explanation ;-).

Basically all Campus East has besides dorms and a few sports fields is the cafeteria. The food isn't very good and everyone knows it but come 5:30 everyone is queued up waiting to eat. It's really convenient if you are looking for someone but can't be bothered to hunt them down in their rooms because they will inevitably show up if you wait long enough.

This same building holds a tv room with a huge flat screen tv and couches where you can also hook in a dvd player which is nice because not many people here seem to have tvs in their room, except for one of my friends who has a set up similar to Adam and Mike's room with the ps3, huge monitor, and surround sound speakers.

This, in a nutshell, is where I live. Now I suppose I should go back to reading for class and other productive things of the sort!

Interesting Australia Fact: There are a few things that are exactly the same here as at home but have different names. Rice Crispies have Snap, Crackle, and Pop on the box but are called Rice Bubbles and Axe is in the same kind of container with the same designs and smells exactly the same but is called Lynx.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

end of o-week

So life is all sorts of craziness at this point which is good for me because it is interesting but bad for you because that means this post will not be even a little bit short.

On Friday I left for a wine and whale watching trip in Newcastle run through uni. I knew a couple of the people bu most weren’t from Australearn or Campus East so most of them were new to me. The bus ride was at least five hours which was a little ridiculous but we went over the Sydney Harbor and saw the opera house and I slept for pretty much the rest of the ride. The really unfortunate part was that I started to get sick Friday morning which is pretty much inevitable when I’m in a new environment, drinking this much more than usual, and sleeping this much less than usual. I pretty much spent Friday night going out to dinner and then crashing since I was dead tired.

Saturday started really fucking early due to the fact that one of the other girls in my hostel wakes up really early and is not at all quiet about it. After we got up and breakfasted we headed to the marina an hour or so away and went on a 3 hour whale watching cruise. We saw the water that the whales were spouting as well as their backs fairly frequently but there were almost no good picture opportunities. I got a crappy picture of the tail but you can barely see it. The dolphins were not much more photogenic but they were swimming right along the boat and jumping out of the water and playing with each other. It was really fun to watch.

After we got back on dry land we went to these giant sand dunes that were absolutely in the middle of nowhere. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. I was a chicken and wouldn’t sand board down but I did climb way far up and the sand was crazy soft. We also checked out a couple of beaches that were really nothing exciting. Before the dunes we stopped at this amazing lookout point. Never before have I seen so much random and beautiful scenery.

When we got back we had free pizza dinner that disappeared in 15 minutes max. Then everyone went to go get ready for a night out on the town. We finished eating at 7:30 and managed not to leave until 9:00. I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to send a group of college students to the pub the night before wine tasting but just about everyone went anyway.

The next morning was funny because A LOT of people had to face the consequences of what (or who) they did when they were drunk the night before. Needless to say (because otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about it here) I had nothing shameful to face the next morning so I thought it was all really funny. On our way to the first winery we stopped at this really small random zoo. There were white peacocks and these very pretty little birds that were total camera whores. I also got to pet some wallabies, one of which decided he should check if I was a yummy snack.

The wineries were okay… not really my cup of tea but it happens. It was an experience at the very least. There were some really good white wines and dessert wines but I decided against buying any. I’m very much against drinking stuff that expensive when something cheaper will do the trick at this point. Also, getting it home might have been a little tricky. The ride home was made pretty funny (and incredibly warm) by the wine tasting all day. The bus driver decided to have a heart and drop us at our individual dorms when we got back (an hour and a half late!) which is good because the shuttle to and from Campus East apparently doesn’t run on Sundays.

Today I have my first lecture. I have decided that I love all of college except for the going to class part. My professor seems pretty nice but this class is going to kick me in the face. He asked the class if several things sounded familiar… none of them did to me. We’re also reading Foucault. One thing working in my favor is that his accent is very easy to understand and he’ll let me take notes on my laptop. I suppose that’s two things. Good thing I gave up on the math minor, huh? Thank goodness I’m only taking three classes. I felt really bad because I was trying to talk to him and my voice is now all but gone. Oh well.

After my one class I managed to get hopelessly lost on campus trying to find the shuttle back. After spending 2 hours in the library while they tried to get my computer on the network I asked someone where said shuttle was and they gave me blatantly wrong info that I knew was wrong but smiled and nodded before leaving. I ran into Edwin after a while of wandering and after another few hours of entertainment he was able to point me in the right direction. I felt stupid since I’d been almost there, I’d simply took a wrong turn after walking out the doors.

Julie got me hooked on Veronica Mars. I definitely sat here watching 5 episodes but can justify this by saying that it kept me from talking and in turn was good for my voice. After I stopped watching I went to go find people at about 11. This entire campus is a ghost town right now. I suppose the crazy locals do actually need sleep. It was also really weird looking up at the stars because the big dipper was in the wrong place but what can you do? I could really go for something familiar at this point though… well I suppose this is way longer than a blog post need be but you can now consider yourself caught up on my life.

Interesting OZ fact: Platypuses are poisonous.

P.S. Mike is making a contest out of the blogs so each new post will have some random mention of him or his phenomenal television show, The Mike Mayer Show.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

o-week midpoint

So first of all, I'd like to say that this thing can't tell what time it is to save it's soul so completely ignore when it says I'm posting. It is currently 3:06 pm on Thursday July 17th. I'm probably going to go back in later and change the date on this sucker.

I have talked to a whole bunch of people from home which has been a blessing and a curse. I miss everyone a lot but I really am enjoying myself here, even w/ the preponderance of stupidity that occurs any time you get this many people living this close to each other. i have started doing the mundane things like laundry and cleaning my desk (for the millionth time since I've been here). Hopefully when o-week is done I'll be able to catch up on some sleep but I'm not that optimistic about it. I need to plan out my adventures for the rest of the semester so I can budget myself. Thank goodness I have a short class week but I also need to see how heavy my work load is going to be before I can make plans in clear conscious. If any one has any ideas for day trips and whatnot I'd love to hear them.

Really, this post was all about my interesting Australian fact of the day so I suppose I'll just get down to it.

Interesting OZ Fact: They don't have Tylenol here b/c it's bad for the liver. Please appreciate the irony and have a nice day.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wait... I suppose I really am at school...

So on Monday I registered for my lectures and yesterday was able to register for almost all of my tutorials and fix the schedule that I fucked up on Monday. It's crazy... I signed up for 4 classes and got told that it would transfer to too many credits back at AU so I only have 3 classes and 2 of them only meet one day a week... even though it's 2 different times in one day. Oh well. But yeah... I only have class Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday so I have all of Thursday and Friday as well as the weekend to go traveling. My bank account is not going to like this adventure even a little bit but oh well. I really don't want to get a job but I might have to in order to avoid complete broke-ness. Either that or I'm going to have to work my ass off when I get back to the states in order to recuperate but honestly I'm here once, maybe twice if I can honeymoon in Fiji, so I might as well take advantage of it. This also means that I will be able to get most of my traveling done during the semester so at the end I have some time to fuck around and just do whatever w/ friends, maybe go home w/ some Aussies to see how the real people live as opposed to college students living in tiny little cubbies. I also got around to checking out the bookstore. I bought my books (thank goodness there were only 3 of them b/c textbook are approx 20% more expensive here than at the AU bookstore and I really don't have an opportunity to go shopping online so that's where that's at. I also got myself a new zippy. I think I am in love. It is soft and warm and dark blue so even I won't be able to destroy it so easily. It's slightly small in the hips but the bigger size wasn't really any better so yeah... it happens. I finally got the internet issue all settled finally and for real and so all email is going and coming from my home email address. It requires more quota but for the broadband in my room I have about 20 gig so I think I'll be fine. On that note, 'tis almost time to go eat. I'd like to add that here, dinner is from 5:30 to 6:30 so the other side of the world eats as early as we do at home - we can't be completely crazy.

Interesting Australia Fact: Supposedly Australians don't grind at clubs - although I definitely saw some Aussies grinding, but they were with Americans so that might explain it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

First Post in OZ!

So I have officially made it to Wollongong. So much has happened I don't know how I'm going to make this concise without leaving out important details! This is going to just turn into a list of topics but lets see what we can do...

Flying: So I still really hate flying although Qantas certainly is far better than any other airline I have ever flown. I managed to get here without almost missing a plane or much in the way of delays, nothing more than an hour or so and given there were 5 separate flights (one was a few days later) that's not too bad. The planes in OZ (which is what the Aussies call Australia and is significantly shorter so it's what I will be calling Australia as well) are much bigger than at home. The international flight was fucking huge but even the flights from Sydney to Cairns (pronounced cans) and back again was only a 3 hour flight and it was set up 2 seats, 3 seats, 2 seats. And they still feed you on shorter flights! Something really stupid though... I checked in at Newark and they gave me boarding passes all the way through but when I got to San Fran they made me exchange my last 2 boarding passes for Qantas boarding passes. Why did they issue the initial ones in the first place anyway? Also, customs was a pain because we landed in Sydney, had to clear customs, gather our suitcases, re-check our suitcases, and get to our flight to Cairns in a relatively short time. One of my checked suitcases made it with me, the other didn't but it showed up the next day.

Cairns: So we spent 2 full days in Cairns and a half day at either end. The half days were pretty much just eating and unpacking/packing. The first full day we went to the Great Barrier Reef. The boat ride there was tons of fun even though it was a bit chilly. I went out snorkeling on the reef and for the first time in my life I didn't like it. When went to Michaelmas Cay and the coral was so close to the surface of the water I was convinced I was going to kick it, severely injure myself and single-handedly destroy the reef all in one stroke so I started panicking which made it really hard to breathe or swim. I did, however, use my entire underwater camera and saw a sea turtle. There was also a lot of purple coral which was really cool. The next day we went to RainForeStation which was really cool because there were Aborigines who showed us the didgeridoo, how they throw spears to hunt, and how to throw a boomerang. I, for the record, absolutely suck at throwing a boomerang to the point that it kind of hurt my hand. We also got to hold koalas (which are incredibly cute and cuddly), feet and pet kangaroos (which are incredibly lazy and apathetic), and see tons of other animals including qualls, wombats, wallabies, crocodiles (or maybe they were alligators?), and I held a snake! In Cairns we also had a few sessions about being in OZ and they were explaining to us that not only is drunk driving not allowed, neither is drunk biking, drunk skateboarding, drunk rollerskating, etc. My favorite piece of advice following this was "If you're going to be riding something drunk in Australia, you better make sure you know their name."

Wollongong: So it feels like after a zillion years and a ton of jetlag later I finally made it to UOW. The dorm I'm in is pretty crappy in quality and incredibly confusing. It makes Letts-Anderson-Centennial look simplistic. There are four different groups of building in Campus East and they are called: Trenchtown, Alcatraz (where I live), Slums, Hospital, and Post Grad. Welcoming names, yes? Alcatraz is apparently the nicest one. We have heaters in all of our rooms and you have to key into the main room (which is usually left open anyway) and then your individual rooms. The lights here all have motion sensors so if I'm just sitting at my desk for too long it turns the light off on me which is gonna be crazy annoying when I'm actually doing work but I got a lamp so it's okay I suppose. The outlets are weird - you have to switch them on before they'll work. But I suppose that's good for energy usage and whatnot except for the fact that I just leave them on if they have anything plugged in. The toilets also have 2 flushing options - half flush or whole flush. Yay environmental friendliness. Light switches are also upside-down. What you'd expect to be on is off and vice versa. The first night here we went to a bar. It was really odd being able to just walk up and order something. I haven't been carded yet since I've been here which makes me a little sad but I'll survive. A younger guy even bought a bunch of us girls drinks. I have even found a beer I like which is quite the accomplishment but in the mixed drinks here a rum and coke is half rum, half coke so that's not what I'm used to. They drink SO much here and SO often. I don't think I've gone one day in the gong w/o drinking anything at all. Tonight there's a pub crawl that I'm gonna check out for a bit, even if just to see where a bunch of the bars are. I've met a lot of awesome people here both from the states, locals, and people from all over the world.

Classes: Classes start next Monday. I finally figured out how many classes I should be taking (only 3! woot! I'm on my way to a 4 day weekend every weekend!) so now I need to do some juggling with what I'm signed up for and what I need to be signed up for. The whole process makes me feel kind of like a freshman all over again though, which really sucks. The time difference keeps messing me up b/c I can only call home fairly early in the morning or late at night at home. All those times that would be convenient during the day on either side involves one of us sleeping - or at least should be sleeping.

Internet: So the deal with me and internet is that I have basically unlimited internet but I'm still going to try to be on fairly sparingly and only check Facebook every now and then but my email will definitely be checked regularly. I decided I'm not going to forward my usual email to my UOW mail because I really just can't be bothered and this one has the notifications. Perhaps the stereotype about lazy Americans isn't completely wrong.

So I think this post is way long enough so I'm gonna sign off for now but I hope that gives you guys a good idea of what's going on here. I can also receive phone calls and text messages for free so if you want my mobile number I'll definitely pass that along.

Interesting OZ Fact: Not all buildings are required to be heated.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Less than 36 hours to go

So there are now less than 36 hours until I leave. I'm officially almost completely packed. My checked luggage is perfect in dimension and weight. My carry-on, however, is 23 lbs when only 15 are permitted. I gave up on try to fix it. I don't even know how much my computer bag weighs but no one is going to question me on that one... I think... so that should be good. This, however, gets added to the list of reasons I hate flying.

So I have been getting assorted text messages which made me realize something absolutely vital to people trying to contact me... which I think will be just about everyone reading this... I will not have my cell phone. It will be staying in NJ and will be off. I will probably have a skypein number but nothing is definite at the moment, I have to figure out the internet thing first. I will be forwarding my school email as well as my gmail to my University of Wollongong email, which does not effect my internet quota so I will be checking that regularly after my two week no home contact period is over.

I have also discovered that Facebook is very bad for maintaining my quota and I don't think any of my instant messengers are going to be too good. I haven't even gotten there and I'm already tired of this whole quota concept. BTW... I don't even know how much 100mb of internet really is. Annoyed!

Interesting Australia Fact: To get prescription medications into the country you need an extra prescription or a letter from your doctor but they are both basically useless when you get into the country if you need more.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I might be freaking out a little bit

So there are now 3 days until I leave and if I get one more email from my adviser, I might just cry in the corner. So apparently the school's internet is only for educational purposes and just about everything, including gmail, eat up the quota like woah. I really think I might be going to another planet... and not necessarily in that fun sort of way. But I am excited b/c there is this orientation trip whales and wine where you go wale watching and wine tasting all in the same weekend... it seems pretty cool. I also have my mailing address (see below)! I'm not taking all the decorating stuff from home so some post cards from all the awesome places everyone will be and cool things you're doing would brighten up my life. The address is:

Heather Bauer
Campus East
PO Box 219
Fairy Meadow, NSW 2519

Interesting Australia Fact: many cell phones have FM radios built in

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

It's all got to start somewhere...

So we are currently at T minus 5 days before I'm headed to the other side of the planet. I, in typical Heather fashion, am just about ready - except for the whole putting it in suitcases part which will probably get started for real tomorrow. I made the blog and it looked so sad without any posts so I figured I'd write the disclaimer for the blog.

I know you all desperately want to hear about what it's like down under. I'm gonna try to write as grammatically correctly, frequently, and focused as possible but things happen and capitalization is probably going to be the first casualty. I'll at least do my best to keep each post concise. On that note, I will not be offended if you don't read. Now would also be a good time to let you guys know that I'm going to try to stay fairly incomunicato for the first 2 weeks I'm down there so I can get properly settled. However, it would be very exciting to have lots of emails and things to reply to! So that about sums it up for post number one!

Interesting Australia Fact: "rooting" is their equivalent of the f-word.