Australia: The Land Down Under
This past week, I visited the Young family in Sydney Australia. Here are the day-by-day details of my trip! Brace yourself for a rather long post!
Friday, October 16th
I took an overnight bus from Massey to Auckland. The ride was around eight hours total, although it felt much longer. I was able to sleep a little, which was nice, since my flight left at 9:00 on Saturday morning. When I wasn't sleeping, I was studying a little for my upcoming exams. (Honestly, that's probably what I should be doing right now instead of writing this.) The top of the double-decker bus was packed, and it swaying back and forth was a little scary.
Saturday, October 17th
The bus arrived in Auckland at around 6:00 AM, and I made it to Auckland International at 7:00, via shuttle bus. Travelling by myself made me feel like such a responsible adult! Other than the flights to New Zealand and a bus ride or two, this was the first major "solo traveling" I've done. I'm actually pretty proud of myself. I booked everything by myself and re-discovered the ease of traveling without checking bags. ("It's the only way to fly!") Sure, you have to cut corners on what you bring, but saving the time and the money is totally worth it. Anyway, I feel pretty accomplished. (Am I a world-traveler yet?) Initially, I thought I was going to cut it close on my flight, but since I checked in online and didn't have to check any bags, I made it with plenty of time. Security and customs in New Zealand is so relaxed compared to the US, and I breezed through it in under ten minutes. I even had time to grab a cup of coffee (or "cuppa" as the Aussie say), freshen up from the bus ride, and relax a little before taking off. And by "relax" I mean "read about Māori history and culture for my first final this coming week."
This leg of the trip, I flew with Air New Zealand. Have I mentioned how much I love traveling with them? Everyone is so friendly, the planes are clean and comfortable, and the flight attendants look absolutely adorable in their colourful outfits. I don't think I would ever get tired of flying if I could always fly Air NZ. I highly recommend them! (Jetstar, on the other hand... let's just say they're less than stellar.)
Somewhere over the Tasman sea, I made a quick list of things to look out for in The Land of Aus.
- P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way. It's "allegedly" fake, but it can't hurt to keep an eye out for Nemo and the gang. (I discovered that the "mine" birds, on the other hand, are quite real and very common.)
- Anything related to The Man from Snowy River. It's a family favourite. Side note: Jim Craig's house is real! You can hike there!
- Waltzing Matildas. (We learned that song in elementary school, and it's quite catchy!)
- Aborigines and their Didgeridoos
- Kangaroos, wallabies, and koalas.
- Deadly spiders, snakes, and any other creature that could possibly kill me. (New Zealand doesn't have such creatures.)
- The Opera House. Because you couldn't go to Sydney without stopping there!
At around 10:30, I landed in Sydney. (Yay!) It's a good thing my flight arrived early, because we had to sit on the runway for around 30 minutes waiting on a gate to open. After skipping right past the baggage claim (hehe), I went through customs, having to convince the man at the desk that I am the same person that's in my passport picture, even though I look different. Then, I saw Mrs. Hannah waiting for me! (Yay, again!) We found Bro. Jason and the kids and drove out to the Gaddes's house for an Aussie barbecue. (Or maybe I should say, "barbie.") Mrs. Amanda made a delicious meal of roast, coleslaw, salad, pasta salad, hot dogs, watermelon, and... sweet tea! (Sweet tea might be one of the little things I miss most from home.) Also, I tried kangaroo meat, and it was delicious! We hung around their house for a while, mostly staying inside. It's much hotter in Australia than it is here in New Zealand. It was so nice to catch up with everyone and spend time with people from Cornerstone! We had a great time. Afterwards, Bro. Jason treated us to Max Brenner for dessert, and it was incredible! I had the best chai tea latte I have ever had, which is really saying something considering all the ones I've tried here. We all split a Belgian waffle with chocolate sauce, ice cream, and fruit. And we had fondue and all the fixings. (The closest Max Brenner restaurant to Tennessee is in Philadelphia. Anyone down for a road trip when I get home?) When we got home, the kids made me close my eyes and then took me to my room for the week, where they had left me gifts of chocolate! (Of course!) They were so excited to have me stay with them! After I read them a few books, we all went to bed.
|Don't these pictures just make your mouth water? The Youngs spoiled me so much!|
Sunday, October 18th
Church day! Having breakfast and morning devotion with the Youngs was so nice! It felt great to be in an actual home, with a family instead of in a dorm. First, we went to the Youngs' church for a morning service. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming to me! After the service, we had lunch with everyone from church, and I really enjoyed trying the different foods and talking to everyone. The church is very multi-cultural, and the people really are amazing. God is obviously at work there, and I'm so thankful I was able to be a part of it, even if just for a short time. At around 3:00, we had the afternoon service. When that was over, we rushed over to CBC in Sydney where the Gaddes family is. It felt so much like home that if I closed my eyes, I felt like I was back at Cornerstone. I was able to meet so many people there, too! Mrs. Hannah's family and all the ladies in the church were so eager to talk to me and get to know me a little. Plus, I was able to catch Mrs. Amanda up on the goings on back home. (In fact, I spent so much time talking to her that Bro. Jason told his family I was going home with the Gaddes family, which brought the kids to tears.) After church, Mrs. Hannah's dad treated us to dinner at El Jannah for Lebanese food and charcoal chicken. We had some amazing chicken with garlic sauce, chips (fries) with chicken salt (which is basically chicken-flavoured salt), and Max Brenner again for dessert! (They tried their best to spoil me rotten! I'm going to do some serious dieting to make up for all the incredible food I ate in Sydney. I probably gained five pounds in the five days I was there!) The kids were very sleepy on the way home, and rightfully so! Sunday was a great day, but it would wear anyone out. Plus, they needed to rest up for the upcoming day at the zoo!
Monday, October 19th
Zoo day! After a delicious breakfast, we walked to the train station to go downtown to Circular Quay (which, oddly enough, is pronounced like "key"). Then, we took the ferry across the harbour to Taronga Zoo. Riding on the ferry was so neat! It gives you the best views of the bridge, the Opera House, and the city, plus you can't beat the feeling of the ocean breeze and the warm Australian sun on your skin. Even though it started out cloudy and dreary, the weather turned out perfectly for a day in Sydney. Now, I've been to a number of zoos, and this one was by far my favourite. When you arrive, you can ride something like a ski-lift to the top of the hill, soaring over the exhibits. Then, you work your way through the zoo. We saw everything from kangaroos, koalas, wombats, and platypuses, and the proverbial lions, tigers, and bears. (Oh my!) Afterwards, we rode the ferry back to the city. We walked to The Rocks, the old part of town, and then to the Sydney Opera House. It was incredible! It's amazing actually seeing it in person. Throughout this whole semester, I've experienced and explored places that I'd only seen pictures of before, which is so cool! Standing in front of the opera house (which is huge, by the way) is an incredible feeling, and I would love to go back some day and see a show inside of it. After a walk through the beautiful botanical gardens, we had dinner at Harry de Wheels, an authentic Aussie pie and hot dog stand. I had The Tiger, which is a beef pie topped with mashed potatoes, peas, and gravy. (It tasted a lot better than it sounds and looks, believe me!) We walked through the central business district, rode the train, and went home for the night, all of us worn out from a day walking in the Australian sun. When we made it back to the house, I was able to Skype Ben for a while before I went to bed. (Yay!)
Tuesday, October 20th
Mrs. Hannah, her sister Bekah, myself, and the three kids loaded up and drove all the way to Katoomba to see the Blue Mountains. It was absolutely gorgeous! The mountains really do look blue, almost like the Smokies. First, we hiked to the Three Sisters, a famous rock formation. The stairs down to it were steep, and each adult (do I count?) walked down holding the hand of one of the kids. The view was outstanding! Afterwards, we hiked back to Echo Point, before (attempting to) hike to Katoomba falls. We didn't make it all the way, at first, so we decided to go to town, grab some lunch, and then go to Scenic World; an attraction with three scenic rides, including the steepest train in the whole world! We rode everything, and the kids did great. When hiking back to Scenic World, we got a little lost. Instead of the 15 minute walk the signs were telling us about, we ended up hiking way out of the way. It took us close to an hour to get back, and we must have climbed down at least 300 stairs on the way. Still, it was worth it. First of all, I needed to work off all the chocolate and goodies I had eaten. Also, the hike itself was beautiful! The kids did so great! Even though we walked around six miles that day, they hardly complained. (When they did ask for a quick rest, Jacob, the youngest, always said, "No rest for the wicked!")
Wednesday, October 21st
Beach day! It was my last full day in Australia, and we decided to do something relaxing. Mrs. Hannah took me and the kids to Bondi Beach, which is a beautiful, sandy beach in eastern Sydney that's popular for surfers and sunbathers alike. It was a bright, sunny day for the most part. (Don't worry, Mom. I put on plenty of sunscreen!) We spent two hours on the beach building sandcastles, jumping in the waves, and watching the surfers. (Side note: I came to New Zealand with the hopes of learning to surf. Unfortunately, time and money are both running out! At least I got to snowboard!) Surfing looks like so much fun! Mrs. Hannah and I both want to try it, and hopefully I'll be able to one day. At one point, it tried to rain, but it held out long enough for us to get home. We had Thai food for lunch, bubble tea for dessert, and relaxed out at the house until it was time for church.
Thursday, October 22nd
Sadly, the day of my departure came too quickly! We spent the morning at Sydney Olympic Park, home of the 2000 Summer Olympics. I love watching the Olympics, so it was pretty cool to see the torch and everything. Before going to the airport, the Youngs took me to IKEA. (Yes, I know we have those in the States, but I've never been!) We had a very Swedish lunch in their cafeteria and walked around the showroom. IKEA is a pretty magical place, and it felt like I was walking through the pages of a magazine! Bro. Jason called our trip around the showroom "speed coveting," which is very true. I want so many things from that store! I could spend hours in this store, not to mention thousands of dollars I don't have. I loved looking at all the displays, especially the tiny floor plans! Everything is so efficient and organised. If anyone else wants to discover IKEA, I would love to road trip to Atlanta or Cincinnati to explore with you when I get home. (I'm so weird.) Afterwards, it was time to head to the airport for my flight back to Auckland. I could already tell the kids were going to be upset when I left, but nothing prepared me for the buckets of tears that came. Bless their hearts! They started bawling the minute I got out of the car. I wish I could have stayed longer, but school and finals wouldn't allow it. To end my journey, I flew back to Auckland, stayed overnight in a hostel, and rode a bus back to Palmy Friday morning.
I'm so thankful to the Young family for letting me stay with them and for taking time out of their schedule to show me around New South Wales. They were so generous, and I loved spending a week with them! Thank you!
As time goes by, I find myself becoming more and more excited about coming home! I'll be home in just over two weeks, and I can't wait! (Tennessee, here I come!) This week, I'm preparing for my Maori final on Wednesday. When that's over, I'll begin focusing on my Nutrition and NZ Environment finals on November 7th and 9th. Then, I'm heading back to the U. S. of A.!