Location: Melbourne, Australia
It is so odd to see so much dead grass around Melbourne; its like the NW at the end of July or early August. Yet were 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. Its 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 Id actually make it there. Its 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 dont 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 Id say this, and given that its not something Ive 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! Its 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-Im 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 didnt want to leave and risk losing a spot so pumped out the papers in double time!
Ill write more about Fiji later, I think Im 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 youre 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 Im glad its 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 Ive been revisiting places around the city, talking lots of pictures and saying goodbyes to friends.
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 weve had warm sunny days which has made studying a bit difficult since being inside or in the library isnt 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 Im 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 wasnt for Katelin bringing me Emergen-C in September I would not have made it. Theres 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 isnt 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 Ill 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. Im 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 Disneys The Rescuers Down Under on the 2nd to last day; I wont 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. Its 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 Ive ever met. I really dont think this man could ever be provoked to anger either. I guess philosophy just didnt 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. Cest 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 didnt 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? Id by em a drink!