Stories from Sydney

Friday, June 26, 2009

Goodbye Sydney

Today is my last day in Australia and therefore this will be my last blog entry. It has been a great four and half months and I will be sad to leave tomorrow. On the bright side, I am very excited to see everyone at home! As much as I love Sydney, it was hard being away. Thankfully, I had my blog, skype, email, etc. to keep in touch with everyone. It made it a little easier being able to share my stories and hear about everything going on back in States.

I have certainly learned a lot over the past several months. A lot of what I learned was in the classroom. I really think I will benefit from my HR classes in my future career and my religion classes were very interesting. However, I believe the bulk of what I learned occurred outside of the classroom. I learned what it is like not having access to a car and having to rely on public transportation. I learned what it is like to travel internationally. I learned Australian slang, sports, money, and more. I'm sure there are many more things I learned and didn't even realize it!

On top of all the things I learned, I got to see so many amazing places. Sydney by itself is an incredible place, but I am so grateful I got to travel and see so much of Australia. From Melbourne to the Outback to the Great Barrier Reef, it has been a great adventure. Not to mention New Zealand which was also amazing! I've been able to sleep under the stars in the middle of the Outback, visit the iconic Uluru, go to the top of the highest buildings in Australia, climb the Harbour Bridge, attend performances at the famous Sydney Opera House, snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef, go skydiving, hike a glacier in New Zealand, spend a night on Milford Sound, and so much more.

Thanks to everyone who read my blog while I was's nice to know that people at home were thinking about me. I'm looking forward to this summer spending time with family and friends in Transfer, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and at Lambec! It will be a big adjustment from life in Sydney, but I can't wait to see everyone! Thanks again and I will see everyone very soon!


Monday, June 15, 2009

Beautiful Sydney

The last couple of weeks in Sydney have been lots of fun. With classes ending, I've had more time to enjoy the city. Although the weather has been getting colder, it has been nice to get out and enjoy all the beautiful things Sydney has to offer.

One of the big events that has been going on the past couple of weeks is a festival called Vivid Sydney. As part of the festival, they have been lighting up the Opera House in a display called 'Luminous'. We went to Circular Quay the first night of the display on May 26th to check it out and eat some gelato.

Another event of recent weeks was the jazz and blues festival in Darling Harbour the weekend of June 5th through the 7th. It was a free event with live concerts all weekend. I went to a couple of the performance on Saturday night. Also that day, Becky, Nate, and I visited the Art Gallery of New South Wales. It had exhibits of Aboriginal, Asian, contemporary, and European art. It was a nice relaxing Saturday.

After returning from Cairns, this past weekend has been pretty eventful. Friday night I went to see the Sydney Symphony perform in the Concert Hall of the Opera House. Before the performance, Becky and I got dinner in Circular Quay and enjoyed some more of the 'Luminous' display. Afterward, we met up with Nate and one of his friends to head to the Opera House. The concert was titled 'Romantic Perfection' and included Berlioz's Roman Carnival - Overture, Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor, and Beethoven's 6th Symphony. The selections were a lovely combination of beauty, emotion, and virtuosity. I really enjoyed the experience.

The next evening was our farewell cruise of the Harbour with IES. It was nice to visit and eat some h'dourves while sailing around on a beautiful night. The next night we returned to Circular Quay for the third time to see the last night of Vivid Sydney and a show called 'Fire Water' in the Rocks. The show was a reenactment of a convict ship that caught fire in the 1800's. After the show, we sat in our favorite spot in front of the Opera House to take some final pictures of 'Luminous'.

Yesterday was a gorgeous day outside, so Becky and I decided to take advantage of the weather and take a day trip to Watson's Bay. Watson's Bay is a short ferry ride from Sydney and has great views of the city and the ocean. We did a couple trials and saw some beaches, old forts, a lighthouse, and amazing scenery. We made it back to Circular Quay for sunset, which was a great way to end the day.

Here is the link to some more pictures:


Friday, June 12, 2009

Cairns & the Great Barrier Reef

My last trip in Australia was definitely a memorable one. From seeing wild crocodiles to snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef to skydiving, I had many experiences I am sure I will never forget!

We arrived in Cairns last Monday. It is about a three and a half hour plane ride north of Sydney, and it was much warmer there. Cairns is right on the ocean, but unfortunately does not have a beach. However, they have a giant pool so we relaxed there for the afternoon. We met up with some of friends from the University of Sydney and enjoyed the sun. That night, we all went out to dinner and walked along the marina and the boardwalk.

The next day, Becky and I went on a day tour of the Daintree Rainforest. We started our morning at a Rainforest habitat where we saw lots of birds, koalas, wallabies, kangaroos, crocodiles, and other animals. Our next stop was Mossman Gorge, part of Daintree National Park. It was a nice little hike through the forest and along a creek. After that we went to a restaurant for a buffet lunch. It was right on the beach and we had a chance to hang out for a while and enjoy the scenery. After lunch we went on a walk through the Daintree Rainforest. Our last activity of the day was a cruise along the Daintree River. We saw several crocodiles along with birds, snakes, and crabs.

Wednesday we took a trip out to the Great Barrier Reef. It took about an hour and half to get out to the reef, and it was a pretty rough ride. However, once we arrived it got a lot better. After getting our wetsuits, googles, snorkels, flippers, and noodles, we were ready to see the reef. At first, it took me a while to get used to being in the water. I had never been snokeling before, so it was a little scary! Also, I was frightened of the fish and coral...they were so close! After my initial fear subsided, I was able to enjoy the reef. It is an amazingly beautiful place. It felt like we were swimming in a tropical aqaurium! The fish were so vibrant and the coral, although not quite as colorful during the day, was also very pretty. We spent several hours snorkeling and then headed back for Cairns.

Thursday was another very exciting day....I went skydiving! Skydiving was unlike any other feeling. It's not particulary scary because you are attached to a professional who knows how to pull the parachute, land, etc. It is a very fun and exciting experience. I jumped from 11,000 feet, which is about a 40 second freefall. I screamed when we first jumped out of the plane, but the rest of the freefall was such a rush. After the parachute is pulled, it takes about 5 more minutes to float down to the ground, which gave me time to enjoy the beautiful scenery. We were right over the ocean, so I could see parts of the reef, islands, beaches, and mountains in the distance. It was a great location to skydive! The landing was smooth and the I got to spend some time in the afternoon hanging out on the beach.

Here is the link to some more pictures from my trip:

Now I have to focus on school for a while. I have three finals so I should do some studying. Two more weeks until I am home!


Monday, May 25, 2009

Mike's visit

A little over two weeks ago now, Mike came the whole way from Ohio to visit me in Sydney. It was great to see him and we had a lot of fun during the 10 days he was here.

When he arrived in Sydney, I went to the airport to meet him. However, I went to the wrong terminal! After about a half hour of anxious waiting, Mike came and found me. I was very excited to finally see him! The first day I showed him around the University of Sydney campus and Newtown, the suburb where I live.

Friday, we went downtown and saw the highlights of Sydney. We went to Circular Quay to see the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge then over to the Botanical Gardens. We also went to the Rocks, Hyde Park, and ended our day at Sydney Tower.

Saturday night we went to an Aussie rules football game at Olympic Stadium. It was cool to see such a unique Australian sport being played at the famous Olympic Stadium. Sunday we did a walk from Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach. It was a beautiful day and it was great to spend some time at the Ocean.

Monday, my weekend was over and sadly, I had to go back to class. Monday night Mike joined our trivia team then Tuesday night we went to the movies to see Angels and Demons. Wednesday night, Mike and I got dressed up and had a nice dinner in Circular Quay. Thursday we did some shopping at Paddy's market and then went to Darling Harbour for the night.

Friday, we took a nice day trip out to Featherdale Wildlife Reserve and the Blue Mountains. Featherdale was definitley a highlight. I had previously been there, but Mike got to fulfill his dream of petting koalas and kangaroos. We also saw dingos, little penguins, wallabies, wombats, emus, and many other animals.

After Featherdale, we took the train out to the Blue Mountains. Unfortunately, it started raining on our way there and continued raining the rest of the day. But we still had a great time! We went to scenic world, we were road a cable car across the mountains, a scenic railway down the mountain, and another cable car back up. We bought ponchos to keep us somewhat dry and hiked around in the woods for a while too. The other site we visited was the Leura Cascades. We got soaked, but we got to see some really amazing rapids and waterfalls!

Saturday was Mike's last full day in Sydney. We went to Paddy's again to pick up a few more things and walked around Sydney for the afternoon. Sunday morning we said our goodbyes and he headed back to Columbus.

Here is the link to some of the other pictures from his trip:

Some other updates since Mike left...Team Charity got first place in trivia! Sadly, it was the last one of the semester, but we went out in style. Also this week, Becky, Nate, and I went to see Luminous at the Opera House. They light up the Opera House different colors which change every few minutes. The event is part of Vivid Sydney, which lasts until June 21st.

Only one more month left in Australia! It's hard to believe I've been here for 3 and 1/2 months. It will be hard to go, but I'm looking forward to seeing everyone at home.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

New Zealand

I just got back from an incredible week in New Zealand! The scenery there was spectacular. Everywhere we went there were beautiful mountains, lakes, forests, and beaches. There were also a lot of fun activities to do along the way. We packed a lot into our 7 day tour of the South Island!

Our trip started last Saturday when Becky and I flew from Sydney to Christchurch. We wandered around the city that afternoon, visiting Cathedral Square and the Christchurch Botanical Gardens.

Sunday morning was when our tour started. Our tour group was about 35 people, coming from all over the world including England, Korea, Scotland, Denmark, Australia, and the U.S. It was great to meet people from so many different nationalities.

The first stop of our tour was the beautiful Lake Tekapo and the Church of the Good Shepherd. This was our first taste of the fantastic scenery of New Zealand. The snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps provided a stunning backdrop to the lake. Next we traveled to Lake Pukaki. There we could see Mt. Cook, New Zealand's tallest mountain, in the distance. We then continued on to Mt. Cook village where we did a hike to Kea Point. That night, we stayed at a ski resort by Lake Ohau. That night was one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen. We ended the night by spending some time hot tubing under the stars.

The next day we left Lake Ohau to continue towards Milford Sound. Along the way, we stopped at Mirror Lake and The Chasm. We then arrived at Milford Sound (which is actually a fjord) where we boarded the Milford Mariner, the boat for our overnight cruise. That night we journeyed out to the Tasman Sea and then back into Milford where we anchored for the night. It rained overnight, which meant when we woke up there were waterfalls everywhere! Although the weather was not very pleasant, it was awesome to see. We also did a tour around the sound on a smaller boat that morning. Towards the beginning of our ride, we got caught in a hail storm! Luckily the hail stopped and we continued. We got to see some wild seals which was really cool!

After leaving Milford, we drove down to Queenstown where we spent two days. The first night we went out for dinner with our tour group to Lonestar (not the same as the one in the U.S.) and then to Minus 5 Ice bar. The next morning Becky and I planned on sky diving, but it was too cloudy. Instead, we rode the gondola (not the boat, more like a ski lift) up the mountain. There were some incredible views of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu. We even saw a rainbow! We also did the skyline loop hike further up the mountain which had some beautiful views as well. Later that night we walked around Queenstown Botanical Gardens and saw the sunset.

Thursday we left Queenstown to head for Fox Glacier. Our first stop of the day was at the Kawarau River and the site of the world's first bungy. Also on the way, we stopped at Thunder Creek Falls and a couple places along the Tasman Sea.

Friday morning we woke up bright and early to hike Fox Glacier. We walked up 700 stairs and along the side of a mountain in order to reach the glacier, but it was definitely worth the hike to see it! It's not everyday you get to hike on a glacier. That afternoon we traveled on to Hokitka where we visited a jade factory and the beach. That night we arrived at Flock Hill Sheep station, where we spent the night.

Saturday morning we got to see some of what goes on at a sheep station. Some of the workers showed us how the dogs round up the sheep and then how to catch sheep to sheer. After having morning tea, we drove back to Christchurch where our tour was ending. That afternoon we took a nice relaxing boat ride down the Avon River and visited a museum. Finally, Saturday night we had one last dinner with the group and said our goodbyes.

Our last day in New Zealand, we visited the Kiwi House and Aquarium. The kiwi we saw was adorable! After some souvenir shopping, we were on our way to the airport and then back to Sydney.

Here are the links to some of the pictures I took:

After such a nice break, I'm back to class tomorrow. I have a few days to cram in my homework and then Mike is coming to Sydney on Thursday! It should be lots of fun!


Friday, April 17, 2009


Last week, I spent my spring break in the Australian Outback. After spending a couple of months in Sydney, it was great to see another side of Australia. The "Red Centre" is an amazing place, and I'm sure I'll never forget my time in Central Australia.

On Sunday, we flew into Ayers Rock Airport. Ayers Rock (also know by its aboriginal name, Uluru) is one of Australia's icons. Uluru rises 348 meters above the surrounding desert, making it a highly visible landmark. Iron minerals in the rock give it a red color, although the shades of red change throughout the day based on the position of the sun.

The first night, we went to a sunset dinner. Our bus took us out in the desert where the was a three course meal awaiting. After champagne and h'doeuvres at sunset, we had a buffet including kangaroo steak and barramundi and then a yummy desert bar. There was also a speaker who explained some of the stars and constellations. She pointed out the Southern Cross (which is on Australia's flag), Orion, and approximately half of the Zodiac signs. The other half are currently visible in the Northern hemisphere. Then we got to look through a telescope to see the rings on Saturn.

Monday morning we drove to Uluru. We did the Liru walk along the base led by two aboriginal guides and two translators. Along the way, they shared dreaming stories, taught us how to build a fire, showed us how some traditional tools were created, and even let us try spear throwing. Later that afternoon we did the Valley of the Winds hike at Kata Tjuta, also known as the Olgas. After a long day of hiking, we went to Mount Connor Bush Camp, where we were spent the night. After relaxing around the campfire, we literally slept out under the stars. The night sky was beautiful and we even saw a few shooting stars.

Tuesday morning we hiked to watch the sunrise. Even though we had to wake up at 6:30, it was definitely worth it!

Later that day we went to Kings Canyon where we did yet another hike around the rim of the canyon and down to a waterhole known as the Garden of Eden. That night we stayed in Safari tents and made s'mores around the campfire. Australia doesn't have graham crackers, but we made do with some cookies and of course chocolate and marshmallows.

Wednesday we had a pretty long drive from Kings Creek Station down to Alice Springs. Once we arrived in Alice Springs, we checked into the Desert Palms Resort, where we stayed for two nights. Also that night, we rode a camel to dinner. The camel ride was a lot of fun! For dinner, I had kangaroo steak again and I also tried some camel.

Our last day of the trip, we explored Alice Springs. We did some shopping and climbed Anzac Hill and Billy Goat Hill. Then we spent some time relaxing at the pool. Thursday night we had dinner and attended a digeridoo concert. For dinner, I had kangaroo steak again! The digeridoo concert was interesting, although it's not music I would listen to everyday. Finally, we went to the casino near the resort where I lost $2 playing slots.

I am very glad I got to make a trip to the Outback. It was really hot, there were flies everywhere, all of my stuff got covered in red dust, and I was exhausted from so much hiking, but I loved it. Seeing Uluru, sleeping under the stars, watching the sunrise, and many other experiences were simply incredible.

Now I am back in Sydney and the city life. It was weird coming back to Sydney, it was almost like being home. However, Sydney will never be able to compete with Transfer! Yesterday, Becky and I went to the Surry Hills Festival in one of Sydney's suburbs. There was live music and stalls with jewelry, art, clothes, food, and much more. Last night we met up with Wesley Buckwalter, a friend from PA. We went to see the Opera House and Bridge and the went out for dinner and drinks in the Rocks.

The next couple of weeks I have a lot of school work to do, but I also have another trip to look forward to...New Zealand! Becky and I leave in under two weeks for a 9 day trip.

Last, but not least, here are the links to some of my pictures from the Outback:


Monday, March 30, 2009

Taronga Zoo and Ghost Tour

Last Saturday, Becky and I spent the day at the amazing Taronga Zoo. It was a gorgeous day and we had a great time pretending to be little kids again! The first thing we did when we arrived was attend the bird show. It featured owls, eagles, a condor, and cockatoos, all of which flew right over our heads.

Next we went through the wild Asia section where we saw langurs, a tapir, a biturong, and elephants. After that, we trekked to the African waterhole where there were zebras, ostriches, and giraffes. Next was the seal show, definitely a highlight of the day! They had some adorable tricks. It made me feel like I was back at Sea World. Some other highlights from the zoo include the koalas, meerkats, gorillas, and, of course, kangaroos.

After a long day at the zoo, we met up with our friend Nate and had dinner at a cafe in the Rocks. After that we got milkshakes in Circular Quay and watched the lights go out for Earth Hour. Earth Hour is a global movement where major cities turn off lights to raise awareness about global warming. For instance San Francisco turned off the lights to the Golden Gate Bridge and New York turned off the Coca Cola sign in Times Square. Here in Sydney, they turned off the lights to the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Additionally, they encourage residents to turn off lights and appliances in their homes. It was a cool event to witness and be a part of! Here is the link to pictures I took at the zoo and Earth Hour:

Sunday we spent the day at the beach, again taking advantage of the amazing weather. The waves were enormous and I refused to go in the water. However, I took a lovely nap and actually did some homework!

This weekend, Becky and I took part in a ghost tour of the Rocks. We did the "Dark North" tour led by Ghost Host James. Along the way, he told us stories that combined the history of the area with the supernatural. We heard about the bubonic plague, a vicious gang, someone who jumped off the Harbour Bridge, someone who was entombed in the concrete of the Bridge, and many more. It was not all that scary, but I think I prefer it that way!

After our tour, we went to dinner at a restaurant called Pancakes on the Rocks. They had amazing pancakes! I ordered Bavarian apple pancakes which came with baked apples, cinnamon sugar, and ice cream on top. I love that they come with ice cream! I'm looking forward to going back tonight for my friend Nate's birthday.

In exactly one week I leave for the outback. Be sure to check for updates after that trip!