I have 12 days left in this country.
I’m sure you’ll understand that I don’t want to spend them blogging. I still have a lot of posts that I want to write that I’ve been putting off all semester, and I certainly plan to gift you with those when I get home.
But for now, I’m working at my internship, spending as much time as possible with friends, eating Tim Tams, finishing up a few papers, and trying to avoid being overly conscious of every plane flying overhead. So I’m going to put the blog on hiatus for a few weeks.
But before I go, I just want to share something that’s been on my mind.
I wasn’t nervous about coming here at all. I slept fine the night before I left and had no trouble boarding that plane in St. Louis. When I got to Sydney, I felt confident. Excited, yes, but also calm.
Now, as I face the return journey, I’m petrified at the thought of going back home.
At first glance, this makes no sense. But upon further reflection, I think I’ve figured out why.
When I came here, I had no expectations. I knew everything would new and different. I was expecting an adventure, simple as that. I didn’t know what my room would look like or who my friends would be or what the next four months would hold, and that mystery was all part of the fun.
On the other hand, I know exactly what to expect going back home. I know the stretch of I-270 between the airport and my house. I know the voice of Mike Shannon on the radio and the taste of a Sacred Grounds mocha. I know what St. Boniface looks like on Sunday morning and the sounds of my family’s big and glorious get-togethers. I’m going back to the place I grew up in. The place that’s familiar, always the same.
Except here’s the problem: It won’t be the same.
My family and friends have grown up and experienced their own adventures. Edwardsville probably has some hideous new mural on Main Street, and there might be a new tree in my backyard. Sparky’s will have come up with some ridiculous new ice cream flavour. The place itself has changed.
But more importantly, I’ve changed.
I’m not going to pretend I’m some sophisticated world traveller because I lived in another country for a few months. I’m not. But this experience, this living 9,000 miles from home for a semester, meeting new people, seeing new things, and experiencing completely new perspectives, has changed me in some way. In what way? I don’t have a clue. But I know it has, and the uncertainty scares me.
Of course I’m excited to go home. Intellectually, I know that home is home, no matter what.
But I can’t help but feel nervous about what I’ll find when I get there. Sure, it’ll probably be positive. In a few months I’ll be talking about what a great, wonderful life-changing experience study abroad was.
But for now, I just know that when I arrive back home, it won’t be the same home I left. And I know that even though my study abroad experience will technically be over, I’ll still have a lot of growing to do as a result of it.
Does that make sense?
I found this in Sydney near Wynyard. It makes me smile.
That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I like this place a lot, and I know you can tell from the number of times I’ve mentioned it.
A few Saturdays ago (yeah, I’m a little behind on the blogging), a bunch of us went down to the Rocks Weekend Markets, then spent an hour or several wandering around the Royal Botanic Gardens. We saw lots of tourists, lots of plants, and at least three couples taking wedding photos. Topped off with lunch at Breadtop and some bubble tea, it was a pretty perfect day.
Okay, okay, I went to Koala Park Sanctuary just so I could feed some kangaroos, pet some koalas, and look at some emus. Now that we’ve got that Australian cliche over with, y’all can stop bugging me. :)
Photos of me by Alicia.
They’re basically the same thing.
All of the important elements were there: fried everything (including cheesecake–Mmmm), booths selling useless junk, carnival rides, cooking shows, displays of cakes and crops, a lumberjack demonstration, etc. etc. etc.
There were a few uniquely Australian things too, though. I haven’t seen a polo match at any American state fair, and most of them don’t have contests for the best wool either.
Here are some photo highlights from the show:
This year, I went to Easter Vigil Mass in one country and Easter Sunday Mass in another.
Maybe it’s just me, but I think that’s pretty awesome.
As you may recall, I went to Easter Vigil at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Auckland. I then spent the night at the Auckland airport, wherein I found a surprisingly comfortable bench and actually got a few decent hours of sleep.
I woke up at 4 a.m. to check in for my flight. For the first time on the trip, I ran into a little problem: my carry-on bag was about twice the maximum permitted weight. I’d known this all along, but no one else had bothered to weigh it until now. Therefore, I had no choice to check the bag. Luckily, I was flying Qantas, so one checked bag was included in my fare. (If this would have happened on either of my earlier flights, JetStar and Virgin Blue would’ve charged me about a million dollars.) I handed over the bag and prayed it didn’t get lost–though even if it did, I was going back to Sydney and all my clothes anyway.
After that little issue was resolved, I bought a cup of tea and a sandwich and tried to pretend the 4:00 on my phone was actually referring to 4:00 in the afternoon. This worked surprisingly well until I looked out the airport window. Oh. Right.
I considered sleeping on the plane. But then I remembered I was flying Qantas, which meant I got all the free movies, TV, and games I wanted. I broke the Solitaire record for my seat, then watched “Secretariat” instead of sleeping. An hour or so into the four-hour flight, a lovely hot breakfast was served, free of charge. I sure didn’t see Virgin Blue and JetStar doing that on my other flights. The meal came with a Cadbury cream egg for dessert. Happy Easter to me.
Basically, I spent the entire flight reflecting on how wonderful Qantas is. Sure, it’s a little more expensive than the other carriers, but I think it’s almost worth it. (Especially when you can pay part of the fare with frequent flier points as I did.) Seriously. Free meal, free movies, free Cadbury egg, free checked baggage, free pillow and blanket. It’s like flying back into the 1950s or something.
I arrived in Sydney at 8 a.m. and picked up my (thankfully, not lost) bag from the exact same carousel that I picked up my luggage from when I landed at the airport on February 11. Is it weird that I remember that?
Then I caught a train from the airport to the city, hoofed it to St. Mary’s Cathedral, and was only a few minutes late to join Ariana for Easter Sunday Mass.
I stowed my luggage in a corner, found my seat, and realised an hour ago I was sitting on a plane. In other words, I went through customs and quarantine, picked up my luggage, got some Australian currency from the ATM, bought a train ticket, caught a train, and walked to St. Mary’s Cathedral–all within an hour. I’m still not sure how that happened.
In fact, that’s how I feel about my entire break. It was at times improbable, but always incredible. I took four planes and one train and got a few stamps on my passport. I saw the sun rise four times. I met people from all over the world. I lived out of a suitcase, sharing rooms with complete strangers for two weeks.
What’s even more amazing is I met people who were doing this for seven, eight months. Just taking their backpacks and going wherever the road may lead. I don’t think I could do that. I’d miss having a home to go back to. All the amazing things I saw and did would start to run together, and none of them would be as spectacular anymore.
For me, two weeks was plenty. Of course, there’s still much more of Australia and New Zealand I want to see. I didn’t make it to the Outback, I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about Tasmania, and it takes a lot more than five days to properly experience New Zealand.
Nonetheless, these two weeks were quite a beautiful journey–and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
Best break ever, indeed.
Okay, here’s the deal. As much as I’d love to tell you every detail of my five days in New Zealand, I only have three weeks left in Australia and I’m waaaay behind on blogging. So I’m just going to give you a quick highlight reel of the awesome stuff I saw and did. If you want to know more, well, as I said, I’ll be home in three weeks.
For now, I’ll only say the country is just as brilliant and green and wild and beautiful and enchanting as you’ve always imagined.
Hot Water Beach
Wherein I dipped my feet in hot water pools created by digging holes in the sandy beach, then went for a walk with a couple of Danish women from my tour group.
I’m just going to leave these photos here for you, k?
Somewhere along the road
Pretty scenery this way. And everywhere else, too.
Buffalo Beach, Mercury Bay
Wherein I had the best fish and chips possibly ever, watched the sun set on a beautiful beach, slept in a hostel by the ocean, and watched the sun rise again the next morning.
Twin Kauri Scenic Reserve
Wherein I hugged a giant Kauri tree.
Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway
Wherein I explored an abandoned gold mine and crossed a really, really wobbly bridge.
Wherein I pretended I’d seen more than zero “Lord of the Rings” movies and just generally had fun saying “Matamata” a lot.
Wherein parks are built around bubbling mud pools and steam vents come out of people’s back yards. The entire town smells like rotten eggs and I’d never seen anything quite like it.
Rotorua is home to lots Maori people, and I had a wonderful cultural experience/dinner there.
In Rotorua, I also went zorbing. My tour guide described it best when he said, “Zorbing is like your first time. It’s wet, warm, and over in 30 seconds, but you’d do it again in a heartbeat.”
Wherein I went on a cave tour and saw a magical array of glowworms, but didn’t take photos because really there’s no point.
Wherein I watched the sun set and that’s about it, because I didn’t have time to go kayaking or skydiving.