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Ashley's Adventures Down Under

After years of hearing about the international travels of friends and family, I'm finally off on my own adventure. I will be spending a semester studying at the University of Melbourne from July through Nov. I've elected for the online journal instead of mass emails and will do my best to keep this updated!

Diary Entries

Tuesday, 21 November 2006

Location: Melbourne, Australia

It is so odd to see so much dead grass around Melbourne; it’s like the NW at the end of July or early August. Yet we’re still about a week and a half from the first day of summer which begins on December 1st. Of course, this is one of the driest continents in the world. It’s easy to forget that fact when you live in a well groomed city with gorgeous gardens. Rainfall is supposed to decrease by about 40% in the next couple of decades; scary.

On the 24th of October I bought tickets to Fiji. Who goes to Fiji? I always joke about going there when the rains get to me in winter, but never thought I’d actually make it there. It’s cheaper to fly there than from Portland to Hawaii! However, we scheduled our trip during a week of finals, which meant that Joy and I would have to do a little studying on the beach, but what a small price to pay!

Halloween in spring was odd. On the actual evening it was pretty chilly, not too far off from a mild night in Washington or Oregon. My roommate Liz went as a brunette Hedwig, the main character from the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, while I donned her white lab coat and went as a lab assistant. A couple of our fellow IES-ers organized a party at a local café which is where we went. I had to get up early the next day for finals work, but it was nice to experience a bit of tradition. Aussies don’t celebrate Halloween much of course, just the occasional costume party. I missed trick-or-treating, or at least seeing little ones running around in costumes. Liz and I watched Arsenic and Old Lace as well as Goonies-kind of Halloween themed movies to keep the spirit alive.

I never thought I’d say this, and given that it’s not something I’ve dwelled upon a lot, but there is a culture that advertises Christmas even earlier than we do! Without Halloween and Thanksgiving to keep them in check, the Aussies put up decorations and displays ridiculously far in advance. As of early October I noticed stationary and wrapping paper displays in Meyer, the big department store. Amazing. 3 weeks ago the big aluminium tree was put up downtown-not pretty. I greatly prefer a doug fir. I wonder is a gum tree would look better….

Instead of four days of reading period as we have at UPS, the Uni gives its students a whole week! It’s called swot vac, short for something vacation. Mine was spent working on take home essays and a paper for Australia Now. I had about a week and a half to do it all before I left for Fiji and I feel that it went pretty well. Sadly, and to my great frustration, my computer crapped out on me. In other words, it was shutting down giving me messages saying there was an internal error, beginning physical memory dump, and so on. Naturally I flipped out big time given my highly excitable nature in regards to electronic devices. Fortunately there is an internet café that does PC repairs attached to College Square so I bolted there. Sadly, though it was working moderately well a couple of days ago, the hard drive is officially dead. I was wearing black yesterday when I took it back to the techie and had this confirmed-I’m in mourning. Not really-I got a good 4 yrs out of that baby. So anyways, I was forced to write my papers on campus and amazingly, felt that having to use the computer labs increased the speed of the process. Since they were usually full, I didn’t want to leave and risk losing a spot so pumped out the papers in double time!

I’ll write more about Fiji later, I think I’m still trying to digest it while saying my goodbyes. I had my last final and the only test on the 16th. Many exams are held in the Royal Exhibition Building about 15 minutes away from my apartment. It was a bit intimidating because you’re testing with about 2000 students and the room is enormous. Absolutely gorgeous. I walked in about 15 minutes early and NO ONE was talking. This was my philosophy final and I’m glad it’s done. My friend Elena who was also in the class with me celebrated by going to a South American café where we tried the worlds best hot chocolate. Mine had chilli in it which was fantastic. Since then I’ve been revisiting places around the city, talking lots of pictures and saying goodbyes to friends.

Friday, 17 November 2006

Location: Melbourne, Australia

Spring in Melbourne has thus far proved to be gorgeous. The flowers are out and the eucalypt are flowering; everything smells sweet and fresh. Like the Northwest however, the weather has been quite temperamental. Raining one moment and sunny the next. About a month ago we had a day that was 36.6° which is in the high 90s F. We also had a rather strong wind that day, as is characteristic for Melbourne; according to my Australia Now professor that is common of the area in the spring and summer. Mostly we’ve had warm sunny days which has made studying a bit difficult since being inside or in the library isn’t necessarily my first choice.

After my Cairns trip I had a week from hell: an essay, a presentation, and a big project for my conservation biology class. It reminded me none too fondly of UPS and how I always feel like I’m running around like a chicken with its head cut off. My roommate Liz also had a ton of stuff due so we suffered together. If it wasn’t for Katelin bringing me Emergen-C in September I would not have made it. There’s only so much caffeine this little tummy can take!

The following couple of weeks I was amazingly lazy. I slept in as most of my classes started at 12pm, napped, read a lot for pleasure and a little for school, watched tv and movies, bummed around with friends… As my other friend Liz would say, I was “a waste of space”. It felt fantastic. Never before in the month of October had I felt so relaxed. At UPS, October brings midterms and all of that glory. In high school, though the work load isn’t really comparable, I still remember studying a bit. Also, cross country districts were in October so we had longer and longer work outs which took up entire afternoons. I found that I really excel at being a bum. I think I only let myself do it because I know I’ll never have a chance to do that. At home there are the jobs and other responsibilities which are usually enough to keep me from being completely relaxed.

So October passed gently and pleasantly, with the exception of that miserably hot day. I putted around on the internet looking for post graduation job ideas. I’m pretty sure I graduated from high school about two days ago, but no matter. Our last day of classes was the 27th of October. I was ready for it. On reflection, I think I made excellent decisions in what I chose to take. Australia Now was a fantastic introduction to the country: history, culture, social issues today, growing multiculturalism and so on. We had a couple of amazing speakers: Gary Foley, an Aboriginal rights activist and now professor and Robyn Davidson who as a 20 something year old traveled from Alice Springs to the West coast with a couple of camels. We got to watch part of Disney’s The Rescuers Down Under on the 2nd to last day; I won’t deny that that made my day.

I also loved learning more about this wonderful country through its art in Aussie art history. The lecturer just read off of a script which made the lectures pretty terrible, but I still feel like I got a lot out of the class. It was so interesting to see the visual reflections about the harshness of life by the colonial artists and artists of the 1800s. I am always amazed to think about how young Oz is; the First Fleet arrived in Botany Bay (to be Sydney) in 1788. It’s not even three hundred yers old! Excuse me; it has not known Caucasians for 300 yrs. No one is even sure about how long the aborigines have been here.

Asian philosophies was probably my hardest class. I loved learning about Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism and so on, but fell down on the response papers and tutorials where we had discussions. We had a tutor who has to be the most lethargic individual I’ve ever met. I really don’t think this man could ever be provoked to anger either. I guess philosophy just didn’t click with me, I go no pleasure out of directed discussions debating whether or not we have souls and the like. Perhaps because my scientific background screams for evidence. However, I feel it was a good class to take to get me away from bio and art.

Conservation biology was a lot of fun. It was team taught so profs from the genetics department came in to talk about conservation genetics; botany profs discussed forest management. The most disappointing aspect was that the so called marine conservation lecture just covered fisheries. As we had already had 2 lectures on fisheries already I was irritated. C’est le vie. I think that marine conservation or really any conservation will be the way to go when I get back to academics after however long of a break I take. This class really identified some of the challenges though, such as the need to make a management plan for a species with little information and very swiftly. Most of the case studies we looked at we of Australian species so although I didn’t take the Australian flora and fauna class as I wanted to originally (too low of a class to transfer) I learned heaps about Aussie species. My favorites for names are bilbies, numbats, and potorros, all of which are marsupials. Numbat? Seriously, who came up with that? I’d by ‘em a drink!

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Recent Messages

From Alyssa
Actually it IS the driest inhabited continent in the world. (The only one worse is Antarctica.)

By the way, sorry your computer crapped out on you. :( And I don't know how many photos I have that everyone else DOESN'T have, but I'll definitely give you them....
Response: Thanks friend! I'm back home and going through Oz withdrawl-sucks.
If you get the opportunity to go to Indian food again, see if they have Peshwari Naan bread. They don't have it here in the US and it makes me so sad. But it has raisins and coconut inside, and it's sooo good.
Response: Nice! Thanks, I'll check it out.
From Linds
I am in the lib and it is raining! So glad you have amazing pics up to keep me from doing my homework. I miss the land of OZ... give it a kiss for me and I will kiss (more like kick) the lib for you :)
Response: Lol. I rather miss our library. Hope all is well! I will do my best to provide as many distractions as possible.
From Tia Judicita
You're doing an outstanding job of painting pictures with your words. Thanks for the effort. Summer's over here. Boo-hoo. Finally got the septic tank filled and covered. And now we wait for the grey drizzles. When do you come home? We send love and wishes for more great adventures. Judy
Response: I'm glad you're enjoying it! I'm sorry about the grey drizzles, I'm not looking forward to coming home to that, which occures on 26th Nov. Love to you both!
From Linds
Hi Ash! Thanks for calling on my b-day... it was so sweet of you :)
I am sure you are having an amazing time... so good you haven't posted in almost an month! Miss you babe
From Christine
I miss you! Your trip is sounding great. Craig and I just got back from a friend's wedding in NYC (we flew home safely on 9/11) that was a complete extravaganza. Do you need anything from "home"?
Response: Thanks for the offer! The only thing I really need are bananas, but you can't bring them in the country! Hurricane Larry wiped out the banana crop a few months ago so they're really expensive. If you've been to NYC I hope that means you're healing rapidly!
From evah
I had a really good birthday- thanks for calling, it was great to hear your ugly voice! I'm sorry you weren't along to see me embarass myself. You would have had enough material to make fun of me for life.
Response: Damn it! I need to hear stories. Either from you or I'll get them out of Laura. Your choice. Bwahahaha
From Amy
Well, I thought I'd sent you a message, but obviously I failed. Just wanted to thank you for all the wonderful travel experiences. It allows those of us who are a little more stationary to experience another part of the world remotely. Great job. Have fun.
Love, Cuz
Response: No, I did get it! I just have to click to have the messages shown on the web page. Give my love to the boys and Kira.
From Kirsten
Hi Ashley,
Thanks for the great updates with so much detail! The photos are fabulous also. Glad things are going well - did the job come through? The four of us are heading off to the beach tomorrow for a camping adventure - staying in a yurt which should be fun. I am thinking about next summer (hard to imagine now I know) and organizing a family get-together at Sun River again. Right now things are still pretty open but will fill up fast I'm sure. So.... are you interested in coming and if so, do you have a preference for when?
Take care, Love K
Response: I am visiting a store tomorrow to see how it's run and chat with the manager-keep your fingers crossed please. I hope you four are having a blast!
From Amy
What fun! Thanks for all of your updates, it allows those of us not as mobile to travel the world with you. What other Australian specialties have you acquired a taste for???
Response: The cuisine here is so international, it's not easy to determine what is Australian. They do eat a lot of meat. Lammingtons are cake things and tasty. I think the name is the best part though... They have passion fruits in most grocery stores and markets. That's all I can think of at present.
From Alyssa
your roommate down there is better than me? Thanks! Grr!
Response: Fool! No one could be better, or louder ;), than you. I consider you my housemate, not roomate. Let's work on the terminology here missy.
From Tia Judicita
I am hopeless. The 2 things I wanted to ask you I forgot until I sent the last message. First, are you still able to use your old e-mail address? Second, the photos were fabulous. Loved the one of your mom and me and the kids ones were precious. Will have copies made. Thank you.
From Tia Judicita
Great update Ash. Classes sound quite interesting. Don't you love the accent. I assume the job at Thresherman's is waiting tables, yes? Glad to hear that your knee felt OK after running. Christine had surgery yesterday. They found a little piece of the bone had been sliced off but not detached. It was its moving around that was causing her pain. She'll be hurtin' for a while. Bought a new couch - Terra Cotta. It's sunny here so I'm happy. Excuse structure of this message. Love, Tia J

Response: Actually the job is more serving from behind the counter. The bone was sliced off?? I'm just glad she os now on the road to recovery!
From Alyssa
You probably won't find a toilet that doesn't just suck the water right down, I'm sorry to break it to you. I never did, ha.
From Catherine
try to take a picture of a pigeon! :D
From Tia Judicita
Hi Ash,
Loved reading your first 2 entries. You've been busy! I hope you're happy with your classes and that you find a great (fun) job. Squeeze in as much fun and discovery as you can - it will seem to be over in a flash. Love you, Judy
From Linds
I am so excited to be reading about the city I now love! Keep up the writing... I love the reminders about the Aussie lingo :)
Response: Thank you so much for the idea of this journal!
From Catherine
Hey assley!
souns like you're having a great time, i'm so excited for you!!
when my australian friend was here, we tried vegemite, and it was weird! but i'm glad you "rather" liked it. ;)
Enjoy yourself, keep us updated!

From Diana
I am jealous. Live it up!
From Alyssa
You know I hate you after reading this, right? Cause now I miss Melbourne heaps! Oh well, I've only got 17 months till I go back, haha.

Your Melbourne Welcome program sounds cooler than mine was. We did the Aussie trivia (which I kicked butt at) but didn't go to the Museum OR a footy game. I'm so jealous. You'll enjoy the footy. It rocks. And I told you the tram was freakin awesome.

Hope you got a cool roommate -- cause my first one wasn't so cool. Have fun!
Response: I know, I know. But you are getting out of the States for an entire YEAR. I have a cold so didn't go to footy, but will soon. I miss you!*does seal impression*
From goonie
Hey ADawg! I guess you're having a blast so far. I've been thinking of your ugly face- but not too often. Keep it real!
Response: I thought of you for about 1 sec the other day and felt ill after picturing your ugly face. KIDDING. How are you? Did you see Pirates yet? It is here, but I have yet to find a theater that it is showing at.
From Nicole
I'm so excited for you. I miss you very much. Thinking of you lots!

Hugs & Kisses, Nicole
Response: I miss you too! Hope work and the heat are treating you ok. Love you!
From Mom
Hi Sweetie.

You are having a grand adventure, I trust! Bonding with the people and the wildlife...

I sent out the insurance check today for $1,006(#251) and a second check to IES for insurance, as well. It was for $170.00 (#252).. \

Am so looking forward to hearing about your adventures.

All is well and very hot in Portland.. well actually, it is cooling down today.. a bit of a soft sprinkle, but it has been very hot!

Talk to you later.

Love, Mom
From mom
Hope you are enjoying the penquins (sp) darling daughter.
Response: The penguins were adorable. I will actually post an entry soon, we just got internet access today. I love you!
From asslldritt
assley! how goes it down unda'? i miss you! make sure to write about all of your adventures, and if they're too embarrassing send 'em in an email! : D
Response: Hahaha. I do nothing embarassing. It's fantastic here, are you COMING?