Monday, November 3, 2008

Images of NZ...Kiwi country!

Cruisin' Milford Sound
Driving through N.Z....journey toward Milford Sound
I always get caught....damnit!
N.Z. Countryside
The most spectacular color of natural water I have ever was UNREAL!
Waterfall at Milford Sound
Jazz festival in Queenstown, afternoon wine and dine!
More countryside
Tasman Sea...and beautiful Katy
Lake Te Anau
Milford Sound
More Milford Sound
Shotover Canyon jet boat ride...a thriller

Monday, October 27, 2008

A little piece of Heaven...New Zealand

So, I managed to pull off one last mini-vacation on this major vacation of mine!  One of my very best friends (Katy Vestal) came to visit and within a few days of her stay I found myself on an airplane bound for the south Island of New Zealand!   I would say it was the best spontaneous decision I have ever made!  We just decided to go with the flow, making sure we visited a few key areas before our return back to OZ.   

We landed in Christchurch on a sunny day, which was a great surprise---we expected it to still be pretty cold.  The ride to our first hostel was exciting---maybe because it was so surreal.  I had wanted to visit New Zealand before I left for Australia....and I had written it off completely half way through my stay---so I was still in shock that I actually made it!  It is spring in New Zealand, and Christchurch is known for its many you can imagine all the flowers in bloom.  Little did I know it would only get better from here!

The next day we rented a car (El-cheapo is what it was classified as!), and decided to head south towards our first sought out destination--- Milford Sound.   From the beginning of our journey we were amazed with the scenery---everywhere we looked was simply stunning, something that can not be described through words or pictures, but can only be felt!  We stopped in a little Scottish town called Dunedin,  (pronounced DO-NEED-IN) and loved it.  We stayed over night and wandered around before heading closer to Milford Sound.   Our next destination...a small lake town by the name of Te Anau, another beautiful site.  We stayed in a hotel on the lake, and enjoyed our beautiful lakeside view!   After a nice rest we ventured to our first must-see destination--Milford Sound. 
The drive was once again stunning, after two hours we arrived at Milford Sound and singed up for a cruise to take us an hour or so off shore to get the best views.  We were able to enjoy scenery of mountains jetting out of the glistening water, see some wildlife and learn a little bit about the nature surrounding us.  Once again, it is too hard to capture the beauty of the land, and the vertical nature of the mountains is far more intense than imaginable.  If I had never felt complete equanimity before in my life, I definitely experienced it being at Milford Sound.

After our amazing day we headed back down the same road we came in on....but this time made the turn North toward Queenstown, the adrenalin capitol of the world!  We arrived in the early evening and checked into a hostel for the night, enjoyed some delicious sushi and decided to call it an early night.  The next day was quiet eventful, we met a friend--James, from England who had been living in Queenstown for a few months.  He showed us around, joined us for lunch and then we were able to catch some great live music in the park.  The next day started off early as Katy had booked a bungee swing.  We headed to Shotover Canyon where Katy joined some bungee enthusiasts.  It took some words of encouragement, but she took the plunge! 
Our next adventure on the Canyon was Jet-boating, and not just any jet-boating!  The company that took us for the ride is the only one able to operate on the canyon.  The boats operate in high speeds through the narrow canyon, nearly skimming the edges of the canyon, and doing some intense 360' was awesome and we both loved every second of it.  

After another night in Queenstown we hit the road again, heading back toward Christchurch so that we could fly out the next morning at 6:30 am.  Once we arrived we decided to head out for some Mexican food (which is my favorite, and exceptionally hard to find here in OZ).  Although the food was nothing to write home about, the drinks were!!!  I had the best margarita of my life, and Katy enjoyed some equally delicious drinks!  We called it an early night so that we could relax a little and get some sleep before our early departure.

So on the morning of our departure Katy and I subconsciously decided to sleep three extra hours, resulting in a missed flight and a slight upset stomach!  Luckily we managed to catch a flight later that day and everything ended up working out.  

I couldn't thank Katy enough for talking me in to taking the trip to New was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and the scenery could not be compared to anything I have ever witnessed in my entire life.  New Zealand to me was what I would imagine Heaven to be like.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

My two worlds meet...

I finally got to share my new home with two of my very closest, Molly and Holley.  The girls arrived in Brisbane on Thursday the 21st of August, and departed a short 8 days later.  This was BY FAR the best birthday present I have ever been given.......In March when I found out the girls would be coming I could hardly wait, I was so excited and I thought the day couldn't come soon enough, but time slipped away from me and they have now come and gone.    We had the most AMAZING time together.  I am so gratefull that I was able to show them OZ, introduce them to my friends, and create some of our own experiences  in this great country.

We stayed the first night in my apartment and left the next day for Byron Bay/Nimbin so I could show them  a good Aussie experience.  We had a lot to catch up on, and more importantly we just needed to be together again to laugh and be crazy together, it had been too long.  We took the scenic route, which I am sure they loved just as much as I did, and always do!  We arrived in Byron and drove up to one of my favorite places---the light house and most eastern point of OZ.  The sky on that particular day was AMAZING, as it usually is--We hiked down to the Ocean as a storm seemed to be brewing.  With the wind behind us we didn't seem to care if the rain was going to crash down on us, or if lighting would strike--We were just living in that moment, and loving it.  We made it all the way down to the water, and on our way back the massive storm system seemed to have passed us by, making way for a little sunshine!  I think the fresh air, the hike, and everything about it was good for the three of us!   Another awesome experience!  We checked into our hotel, got ready and went out for our first night.  We had dinner at a small italian restaurant and enjoyed a nice bottle of wine and then headed out for a few drinks and some more fun!  
The following day we walked around town and hit up the beach for a relaxing day...another enjoyable time with my girls.  We ended up having another great dinner and wine followed by a long night of drinks and dancing (at least for Molls and myself...Holley couldn't keep up so we sent her to bed).

The next day we checked out of our hotel and headed to Nimbin, home to the ULTIMATE hippies, and pot smoking, pot dealing people I have ever come across in my 22 years!  It was an experience I wanted the girls to have.  We spent a few hours wondering around town and then headed back to the Gold Coast just in time to catch my roomies play in a band competition (They placed 2nd).  

On Tuesday night we decided to eat out at my restaurant to enjoy some great meals and the wine buffet for $5!  As you can imagine we ALL drank a lot and headed over to the casino for some more drinking, dancing, and gambling.....every once in awhile we get a little crazy---and that was what this night was for!  Molls, Holls, all four roomies and a few other friends had a great night together! 

The next few days went by SO fast.  We ended up spending the days exploring around the Gold Coast...I took them down to Surfers Paradise, we spent some time on a few different beaches, and of course we went to the animal sanctuary to feed the kangaroos and see the koalas!  I am sure one of the highlights for the girls.

I had the BEST time with my BEST ladies in my new and exciting world.........I missed them the second they left!  But I will be home in a short 67 I am living it up and enjoying EVERY SINGLE moment I have left in OZ!  


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Back to Gold Coast

          (View of Surfers Paradise from above)

I hit the ground running when I returned to the Gold Coast after my amazing trip in Sydney with my mom.  My first priority when I got back was to find a job, so I made it my mission and after applying for a few jobs--Mission accomplished.  I have been working 2 part time jobs, one at a restaurant called Grape Cafe ( and the other is with an agency that provides big venues with staff for banquets, parties....and whatever else they may need.  I love both!  And they are keeping me very busy.  

School started July 28th, so I have been trying to balance everything out.  I am enrolled in four courses this semester, two of which are post graduate classes---so I have my work cut out for me.  The two masters courses are "managing strategically" and "operations management."  The two under grad courses are "conference and convention management" and "entrepreneurship." So far I have found them all interesting, and I am in love with my managing strategically teacher--he makes three hours of class so interesting, which I am very thankful for.  His teaching style is very different...and its a nice change!   
     (Me, Mitch, Emilie, and Jac....on our balcony)
A few days after I returned to the Gold Coast we had a new roomie.  Her name is Emilie and she is from Sweden!  She is 23, and full of intellectual has been great to spend time with her and learn about her culture!  She is great. 

I got a plane ticket home BITTERSWEET!  See you all in November.

Much love!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Images of Sydney

It took me forever to put up my Sydney blog.  Partly because I lacked the motivation and partly because the blog was having some issues when I tried to upload images...which in return caused me some major frustration.  I finally decided to give up, and instead created a separate blog for some pictures of Sydney.  Enjoy!

Sydney Opera house and Harbor Bridge from the water

Wollemi Pine in the Botanical Gardens 
The city of Sydney from afar
Cathedral where the Pope spoke for World Youth Day 2008
Image captured from the Explorer bus trip
Hunter Valley wine country
Wild Roo

Bondi Beach

Blue Mountains
View from our Balcony, sunrise through the clouds

Manly Beach

Hyde Park from our Apartment building....the park takes up two blocks.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Mom and I do Sydney

It all started at 4:15 am when my alarm went off.  The usual routine--shower, eat breakfast, and go!  I was flying out of the Gold Coast at 6:20 am to meet my mom in Sydney, her flight was to land at 7:00 am, so she would be waiting for me...BUT there was a twist.  Due to the wonderful service provided by airlines these days my mom ended up being delayed from Boise to San Francisco, causing her to altogether miss her flight to Sydney.  She was put on the same flight the next night--therefore my early morning arrival to Sydney was all for nothing!  And my first night was spent alone....which wasn't all that bad.  I admit, I enjoy my own company from time to time!

Our Studio apartment was located just across from the amazing Hyde Park situated in the center of Sydney--perfect location for us!   Studio 414 on 38 college was home for the two week 
stay in Sydney with an incredible view and a "homey" feeling.  For the first time in 4 1/2 months I didn't have to worry about
 waking up to shattered beer bottles, and sticky floors covered in some type 
of alcohol....YAY

I was finally reunited with my Mom on the 2nd morning at about 8 am, and despite her exhaustion we headed out for a look around the city, some breakfast and groceries.  

Our second day together in Sydney was spent wandering around Darling Harbour, Circular Quay, the Opera House and the Botanical Gardens.   All of which were pretty breathtaking.  The city itself has this vibe about it, a vibe that is indescribable and sensational at the same time.  The garden tour was pretty magnificent, huge, and unreal.  The plant life that exists in their gardens is insane---thousands and thousands of different types, all in one area.  They even had a tree planted that was considered endangered before a man who was o
ut in the "bush" discovered a group of them growing in the Wollemi forest of New South Whales.  Fortunately, the "Wollemi Pine," as it came to be known has made a comeback and Scientists around the world compare the finding of this tree to as if they had found a Dinosaur roaming around.

We ventured out to Manly beach on our third day in Sydney.  It was a fun town packed with beach side shops and cafes'.  The beach was beautiful, and the day itself was rather relaxing for both of us.

Sydney is known for its numerous markets, so on our third day we headed to a place called Paddy's Markets and did some shopping.  Paddy's Markets is situated in China Town, and is jam packed with souvenir vendors and lots of flea market type booths.  After a look around we headed into China town for some traditional food, despite being a bit skeptical...and landed upon the best fried rice and honey chicken I have ever had, in fact I could go for some now!

The next morning came fast, as we had a tour booked to see the famous blue mountains.  We ventured off through the city and into the "mountains" with a group of tourists and a tour
 guide.  Our first stop was for morning tea on a river, and then we headed further into the wilderness to get some incredible views of the Blue Mountains.  These "mountains" are not exactly what we would refer to as mountains in the USA because they are situated in a deep gorge, and instead of looking up at them---you get to look down at steep cliffs, and they are called blue because the tint of the gum trees makes them appear a blueish tint.  After making a few stops to check out the view we headed to a place to take the "steepest incline railway" ride, and to continue enjoying the scenic views...unfortunately for us the fog came in and the views were invisible, causing us to altogether miss the main reason I wanted to visit the Blue Mountains in the first place--which was to see the Three Sisters, a rock formation with an interesting story told by Australian Aboriginals!  Oh well--I guess I will settle for the ancient stories and the pictures.  We headed into one of Sydney's quaint outskirt towns to enjoy lunch and a quick look around. It was such a fun town with lots of beautiful stores, I hoped to  go back before the end of our stay, but we never made it.  After a few more stops to view waterfalls and Aboriginal rock art we headed to a National Park where we were lucky enough to spot a few wild Kangaroos, although I have seen them several times since I have been here--I have never seen them in the complete wild, so it was great!  Mom loved it!  After the National Park we headed back into Sydney and boarded a river boat near Olympic park that went to Circular Quay, where we took a train back to Hyde Park, and headed home after an amazing day in the wilderness.

The next day we decided to take a trip to a different set of markets, known as the Glebe Markets.  This part of Sydney was something that reminded me a lot of the Haight/Ashbury district of San Francisco.  Lots of hippies, lots of love, and some very cool/interesting things to look at.  The market on Glebe was more of your typical flea market, with a variety of different vendors and things to buy.  Although a very low key day, we still managed to see another  great part of the city.

Another day at the Markets.  
Mom and myself headed to Circular quay for an "aroma festival" where about 100 booths were set up with different coffees, sweets, herbs, spices, and  a few other things for people to enjoy. Next to the aroma festival is the Rock's district, which is the old traditional style Sydney.  With a plethora of shopping, and another market we found a lot to do in the Rocks.  We also hit up a psychic for my first ever reading---very interesting, and although I may not be a complete believer, what she had to say definitely hit home for not only myself but also for my Madre'. After our reading we decided to take the ferry to a place called Watson's Bay, where we enjoyed an amazing seafood dinner with a spectacular view of the Sydney Harbor.   

We decided to spend the next day at the Harbor for a day of tourist"ing."   With a plethora of attractions, we were able to keep busy the entire day.  We visited the Chinese Gardens, the Aquarium, and the Wildlife Sanctuary.  The Wild Life Sanctuary 
was my favorite for a few reasons--first of all they had most of the wildlife that lives within the Australian continent, and among them is this massive/deadly bird known as the Cassawary Bird--it is in fact the most dangerous bird in the World.  Even as it sprinted behind a strong glass wall, I was scared!   It was fascinating to see as it chased after pray.  Another interesting component of the Sanctuary had nothing to do with the we walked around looking at everything we noticed an area with vending machines, and among those vending machines
was a "french fries" machine--NO JOKE!  It was rather ironic, considering for the most part I have found Australia to be much healthier than America in general...yet here I stood in front of a vending machine capable of making french fries in 90 seconds--hot and ready to eat!  The Aquarium and the Chinese gardens were also amazing, but lets face it--without the french fries I couldn't dare rank them above the sanctuary!

We set out toward Bondi Beach on an explorer bus and were once again able to see some incredible parts of Sydney.  The beach was amazing, but the town itself didn't really meet my expectations...for being such a popular and talked about place in Sydney, it was noth
ing spectacular and it seemed a bit rundown to me.  

We booked another tour, this time to a place called Hunter Valley, which was home to Sydney's wine country.  This ended up being one of my favorite days...we ended up meeting and visiting with a few amazing people from Norway and fact I think my Mom wouldn't have minded giving my hand in marriage to a dread locked, handsome, and motivated Norwegian boy, we fell in love for a day!  We enjoyed some delicious wines, and a perfect lunch, and we both came home with a few bottles for later!  

Of course I can't forget to mention that we did do some shopping, checked out a few museums, and got plenty of walking in on our trip.  It was a great trip, and I was so SO glad to have been spending it with my Mom.  We had a blast, and it was great to be together again after being away for a few months!  I am glad I could share with her what I have learned about the Australian culture by giving her a hands on tour!  

I miss you already Mom!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Semester end in sight...

Well, as I sit here pondering the fact that I am nearly done with my first semester of school in another country, I really can't believe it! Although I have had some tough moments--and at times I feel like I have been here forever, it is hard to believe that four and a half months have come and gone. All the while, great--and some AMAZING friends have been made, life long memories have been created, and I have learned a hell of a lot about myself, the world, and others.

Monday marks the beginning of Finals for me. My first final is at 8:00 am in Facility/Venue management--it is a 2 hour test, consisting of 4 essays....rough! I am pretty sure my hand, and brain will be exhausted by the end. And next tests aren't until Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday of the following week!

I will be saying goodbye to the exchange students who are only here for the semester.....including Lacey, whom has become one of my dearest friends. There are only a few of us sticking around for the entire year. On the 29th, I am heading back to Sydney (as I predicted when I wrote my Sydney blog) to be reunited with my Mom....and I am SO excited. She will be here for two whole weeks, and I can't wait for her to experience Sydney, and the Australian way of life........I will write all about it.

I would upload more pictures, but as some of you may already hard drive is in computer heaven! And I am still trying to figure out if any of my data that was on the computer is retrievable...cross your fingers for me!

Love always,
and I hope the summer is being good to you all!