Journey Down Under

Beth Dietrich, a 2000 graduate of Grand Island High School, is currently studying in Australia, the land down under. Beth is going to be sharing her experiences on this page. You can email her at Please allow a few minutes for the pictures to load.

   Traveling through Thailand, I made a quick decision. I needed to be home for Christmas. I thought I didn't care that much, but I was wrong. So within a matter of days before Christmas, I called my sister and organized a master plan in order to surprise my family on Christmas Eve at Midnight mass.

The Journey began in Puhket, Thailand on the 20th and from there flew to Bangkok. After a short layover, we continued onto Malaysia and then Darwin, where we arrived at 5am on the 21st, completing the first leg of my journey. That whole day, I spent recovering in Darwin and the following day, the 22nd; I set off to Adelaide with a short layover in Alice Springs. After a 5-hour trip there, I found my way to a friend's house and spent the next day there getting everything ready to go home for good.

At six am on the 24th, all was done and flew towards Sydney where I had a 4- hour layover for my flight to LA. This was a fairly uneventful flight, and I even was able to sleep a bit. I was lucky however, because the rest of my journey wasn't so pleasant. After the 4-hour layover in LA, I continued on to Chicago, where all went awry. I went to dinner with a friend from school that met me at the airport, and when he dropped me off to catch my 8:45 flight, it had been cancelled. Well, after dealing with the airline for sometime, I was finally booked on a flight for Christmas morning at 7am. I was disappointed that I would not get to surprise everyone at midnight mass, but I quickly assured myself that Christmas morning would be just as good.

Well, Thanks to the white Christmas that we were blessed with, I arrived at the Chicago airport at 6am only to have the 7am flight cancelled. I was then transferred to a 10am flight, also cancelled; a 12:30 flight-cancelled; and finally a 1:25 flight. Delayed.. Until 4pm where they decided to reroute us to Rochester, and then Bus us back to Buffalo. So by this point, I decided that the surprise thing would not happen, especially because I could not even guarantee that I would get home on Christmas at all.

In any case, we flew to Rochester where we learned that the Buffalo airport would be opening monetarily, and we planned on flying there and letting us all off. Luckily, of the 5 planes that actually were able to get into the airport, we were one of them. I called my house, and finally was picked up around 9pm. only 26 hours after my initial plan.

So I would just like to say that I hope you all enjoyed your white Christmas. I did, I assure you, and however, I would have enjoyed it more if it didn't start until Christmas day, In which case I would have been able to properly surprise my family!! All in all, it worked out. Luckily the fact that I had been traveling for 5 days already gave everyone else a better outlook on their own situations! No one had any self-pity after learning of my long journey. So at least I was able to brighten everyone else's day at the airport! Too bad though, it would have been quite the surprise at my house if it all worked out according to plan!

    I do believe someone once told me not to drive in Thailand. Maybe we should have taken the advice! Well, driving has not been the problem, but I suppose things were going too well over all on the trip. To think that 5 people traveling though Thailand would all escape sickness free was silly. So I suppose we had it coming to us. Last night we went to the night markets in Su Ko Thai and tried all kinds of good street food. Well, we thought it was all good. Unfortunately there must have been something that was not cooked properly (be it the cockroaches, meat on a stick, spring rolls, or squid, we cannot be sure) and it caused on of the girls on the trip (not me) to come down with food poisoning today. So that was an adventure. We ended up (by accident) admitting her to a hospital for an hour or so where they gave her some pills for all of her symptoms, and eventually sent us on our way. So we decided to try and continue on to our planned destination. Well, after stopping twice on the side of the road so she could, well, run to the restroom we decided on stopping at the oldest town in Thailand. We finally found the only accommodation in town, which happened to be a fairly expensive hotel, settled in, and let her sleep while we went out to dinner.

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Dinner in itself was an adventure, since few people here spoke English. We ended up at this place where you actually cooked your own dinner (we figured we couldn't complain if it was our own fault we got sick) and then went to the local night market here. It was probably the most memorable for one reason, the Ice Cream Juggler. This man was great. He literally juggled ice cream and served it up for people, so for 10 baht (about 25 cents) we got ice cream and a show.

All in all, the out of the way stop ended up to be the best idea, without it, we would never have been able to enjoy all that this little town in the middle of nowhere had to offer (even though we still can't communicate with almost everyone here!)

We just got back today from trekking in Northern Thailand, and are about to leave for the golden triangle for a couple of days. The trekking was fun, but a word of advice to anyone trekking. First of all, bring toilet paper; they donít have any in most public restrooms. And while we are on the subject of restrooms, donít expect to be able to sit on a toilet either. They donít have them. Instead, there are porcelain bowls on the floor that you use, and then instead of flushing like you would normally, there is a bucket with water that you use. You pour some water down to wash away whatever you did, and then thatís it. I suppose it is better than a normal outhouse, but not much. On the trek we got to hike through the mountains, and best of all, ride elephants and raft down the river. The days were hot, but at night it got down to around zero degrees Celsius. So it was good that we had sleeping bags for we slept in small villages in little bamboo huts. It was really eye opening because when you enter the villages, you see all these little children running around. Children who will probably never leave the small little tribe that they grew up in. Most are uneducated, because many do not have schools, and they basically seem to run around and play most of the day when they re not helping their family. The kids though were very friendly and they loved to play games. Trust me, you have not lived until you have played volleyball with a group of Thai children. They are a riot. Just when I would start to think that these kids had it rough, and I could never relate to their lives, there they were ready to play a simple game with us when we walked by. Like I said, we are heading to the Golden Triangle today, and should be back to Chaing Mai, possibly in a few days to pick up the rental car and check email again. Then we are going to be on the road for about a week, but have no fear, we are all having a great time. We have all avoided the typical health dangers so far, so we will see.
   Just got back today from Mae Sai. Two days ago we took a 5-hour bus ride there, a small town on the border of Thailand and Burma. Once we got there, we found accommodations at a small bungalow situated on the river Mae Sai that divided Thailand from Burma. The next day, we rode up to the golden triangle and saw where Burma, Laos, and Thailand all meet. It was interesting to look at a map and see how close everything was. I had no idea that we were actually only about 100kms from China either. Today, before we headed back to Chiang Mai for one last night, we decided to cross the border into Burma. Why not, we figured. So we when ahead and got our passports stamped and wandered around Burma for the afternoon! Tomorrow morning we are going to pick up the rental car that we hired and begin our drive down to Phuket. Itís about a 1500km drive, so it will take about 5 days. So until then, I will not be able to get in touch. Hope everything is good with you all. And I will be sure to report in a little while!!

   Bangkok, which is a busy, hot, smoggy city; sounds appealing, huh?

We arrived from the airport around 2 a.m. and ended up crashing at the first hostel we found after the cab ride there. Some interesting facts about driving in Thailand, the cars have no speedometers, which is okay because there are no speed limits. Also, cabs here are not metered. So you can even barter for your cab fair. Consequently, I feel the best advice for travelers would be not to drive in Thailand.

On our first day of the city, we fell into the usual tourist trap. The Tut-tut drivers. These are little 3 wheeled motor scooters that drive all over the city, solicit you to give you a ride, and then offer you a tour of the city for only 10 baht (around $.25). So we get one, not realizing it and head around the city on this little tour, where they eventually take you to not one but two tailors and jewelry shops in order to try and get you to buy something. They make a ton of commission off of the deal, so they don't mind waiting around while you shop in overly priced stores. This we really didn't mind so much though because we were actually getting a tour of the city, and we were all too poor to buy anything anyways! So after about an hour of being under hostage of this Tut-tut driver, we ended up paying 200 baht in order to take a tour of the canals around Bangkok. So I guess they did win in the end. After that, we realized that we had been dropped off in a location where we didn't know where we were, so we ended up taking a bus ride, on bus #53 (which by the way was not listed on ANY of the bus schedules or maps) and found our way to Chinatown for lunch. A funny thing about Chinatown, it looks much like the rest of the city here. Who would have guessed!

   So after the first week of sailing, I decided to try my hand at a road trip through Tasmania. Tasmania, also known as Van Demian's Land (Devil's land) is a small island of Australia off the coast of Melbourne. It was the island where convicts were originally sent from Britain many years ago.
   In any case, myself, Joe (another American), Ben (an Adelaide Australian) and Antonella (Ben's friend from Italy) all hired a car and drove around Tasmania to see what the area had to offer. Well, we saw everything from beaches to mountains, snow to sunshine, and deserted landscapes to bustling cities.
   Probably the most interesting story to come from this trip originated in our efforts to return to Hobart in time for the Cadbury Chocolate Tour. We left early in the morning from Lake St. Clair which is about 300km from Hobart. Unfortunately, we forgot that we needed to get petrol before we left, and being in such little towns, no place was open at 6 a.m. when we left. So we drove a bit until we realized that we needed to get gas soon. Once the fuel light went on, we stopped at two places, neither of which was yet open. Once we did find one open, we were saddened to find that the unleaded pump was out of order. So luckily the man (seemingly the only man in town, or even for miles) told us of a power plant about 30kms up the road that may have some petrol. So onward we continued, until we reached the next town, where of course the old men at the power plant said they didn't carry it anymore. Yet, nice as they were, they led us to the nearby town only to find that the petrol station there wouldn't open for another 2 hours. So there we were, already driving on a nearly empty tank, following instructions as to how to get to the next town (another 30kms away) in order to hopefully find some fuel since the light had been on for a good 40kms or so. Well, half an hour later, after traveling in neutral downhill, we finally pulled into a service station in Ouse (Ooze as we fondly named it) and filled up our tank less the mere 6 liters we had remaining. So a quick reminder for those on road trips... make sure you keep a full tank; especially when you are traveling through remote areas!!!

   There were 4 college kids: three boys and myself. We planned a week on a sailing yacht plus a ton of unplanned random events that led to a great time. The 4 of us decided to hire a yacht in Brisbane and sail around for a week. The craziness started right away when the first night we tried to get into town. After dinner, we decided to take our dingy boat, "Tender to Tessa," and motor in to Dunwich, a town on the coast near where we anchored. All was well as we motored our little dingy 100, 150, 200 meters away from Tessa, our watery home. At this point, the engine on the dingy decided to die. So there we were, 4 college kids stuck in a dingy, in the dark, in the water, 200 meters from our boat and another 200 meters from the shore. For 30 minutes we struggled in trying to get the engine to start again, with little success. At this point I took on the mom role, and decided praying would be a good idea. Even with our recurring motto on the trip of 'everything will work out' and 'life is a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Book', I was still nervous that we wouldn't make it back to our boat without one of us having to get out and swim us back out to Tessa.

Well, after another 10 minutes or so, I looked around into the darkness and realized the best thing in the world. The current, as amazing as it was, carried us back to the Tessa within 20 meters. We couldn't believe it as we slowly drifted past the boat that we were trying to get to. We quickly dropped anchor and began trying to figure out how to get us back to the boat that was now nearly in arms reach. Well, after another 20 minutes of trying and fiddling with the engine, it started up, and we were able to make it back to our boat without any further incident. Consequently, we never did get to see the town of Dunwich, but none of us really cared by that point anyway...

Just how dangerous is blue-green algae?? It can't be that bad, can it? Well, we haven't any symptoms yet, so I am sure it will all work out. The week for 4 young people continued to provide interesting and ironic situations. One of the next best stories would have to be when we went to Harbor Bay to have a picnic lunch.

We started by sailing our boat near the shore, and anchoring not to far off the coast of the island. It was low tide, so we all climbed in the dingy, this time remembering the paddles that were on the boat, and began to row ourselves to shore. Well, in this process, the water became very shallow, so we decided to all get out and pull the boat up the rest of the way onto the sandy beach.

All this seemed fine and well until we actually reached the shore. This was due to the large, red warning signs that were conveniently located on the beach. Blue green algae it warned us about. There we were, dripping wet from walking the boat up with our bare feet on the sand reading a sign that clearly warned us from swimming, walking on the beach, or having any direct contact with anything on the beach. It warned us that if we did come in contact with such things, that we should seek medical attention because of rashes, respiratory and visual irritations.

We were a sad group of people, and all we could do was laugh. We could not believe that all this actually was happening to us, only us, we decided. Then again, we found the whole situation a little dodgy to have the warning signs only visible from the beach when it was obvious that that was where people were going to be.

All in all, we were okay, and enjoyed a good chuckle at the cluster we had gotten ourselves into once again. So we did what anyone would do in our situation; take a picture of the sign, lay out our blanket, eat lunch, and then return to our boat. We figured that the initial walk in would have contaminated us already, so we might as well enjoy the beach while we were there! I mean, you only live life once. If we were going to get sick out of the deal, we might as well at least enjoy the day while we still could!!

   These are some pictures taken at Uluru during our travels. We had the opportunity to see it at sunrise and see the color change on the rock. This thing is massive and very important to Aboriginal culture. They have song lines running all throughout it, and have history and stories that pertain to each formation in the stone. Although it is a very sacred place in their culture, they permit climbers. While many in our group chose not to, myself and two others decided that with the utmost respect we would try and reach the top. It took us around two hours to get to the top and back down again, and it was probably the most amazing scenery, view, and humbling experience of my entire life.

It was amazing, but you can actually feel the power of the rock, the spirituality of the Aboriginals, and the greatness of the earth just by being near it. I truly think that this was the most important part of my entire trip so far, merely because of the sense that we need to take care of our earth, and give it much more respect than we do today. These pictures I hope can only give you a glimpse into the wonder that I experienced while I was there. Hope you enjoy.

   The first picture is of an Ibis. This is something like our own seagull slash pigeon, the same annoyances of the two. While we were in Brisbane, they would follow you around looking for food. We ate lunch at a small cafe, and this one in particular sat around waiting for food. It got a little impatient, reached up to our table, and stole all my chips (French fries) by knocking them onto the ground. So little to say, he wasn't the favorite animal on my trip!! One thing I wonder though.. If there is more than 1 Ibis present; are they then called Ibi or Ibises?

   The Coober Pedy art is from Coober Pedy (surprise) remember the place with all the stinkbugs?? Well, there was this old, deserted looking house that this artist supposedly lived in and created art out of junk from all over. You could also buy pet rocks, moon rocks, opal chunks, and other assorted rock type paraphernalia if you were so inclined. All you had to do was place the money in a small box near his driveway. It was all very eerie, but his work I though was absolutely intriguing. I don't think I could live where he was doing what he was doing.
   King's canyon was our last hike on the tour. It has some of the most beautiful scenery in all of Australia. (Also located in the driest part of Australia, itís a shame we got the average rainfall of the year on the one day we were there!!) It was amazing, and we even went swimming in a small watering hole with a waterfall.
   Oh, if you were interested in what I am going to be doing traveling anyways, here is my current itinerary:
- Nov. 6-13 - Brisbane--hiring a catamaran and sailing, scuba diving, and snorkeling in the great barrier reef.
- Nov. 14-21 - Tasmania--hiking, backpacking, the Cadbury chocolate factory
- Nov. 22-27 Melbourne and then Driving the Great Ocean road back to Adelaide
- Nov. 28-30 - Bangkok, Thailand
- Nov. 30- Dec. 6 - Thailand tour up to Chaing Mai
- Dec. 7-12 - Drive from Chaing Mai to Phuket
- Dec. 13-19 - Phuket (beach in Thailand)
- Dec. 20 - Flight to Bangkok, then to Darwin
- Dec. 21-28 - Darwin with friend Amy and her family for Christmas
- Dec. 29- Jan. 5 - Perth
- Jan. 6 - Sydney
- Jan. 7 - Home
   The last week is still tentative based on whether we can cancel our tour we have from Perth to Adelaide. Itís still a mess.

So it is October 26th, and I am done with school. I have spent the last 3 weeks feverishly writing papers so that I could enjoy the end of the semester as much as possible. So this means a few more emails for a bit, to get you all caught up on what I did on my pervious travels!! Coober Pedy, that is a good place to start. On our tour from Adelaide to Alice Springs, we stopped in an Opal mining town. This is no ordinary town by any means. Itís actually been probably one of the more strange ones to be honest with you. You see, the weather in the summer reaches into the upper 40's (around 110-120 F). Since the heat is so extreme, the people of Coober Pedy have found an interesting way to deal and live out there. They live underground. Yes, they dig big holes, and live usually about 20 feet below the surface. Now these homes are actually very popular with the people there, and they are actually very well maintained. Usually they are full size homes, with a kitchen, 2 bathrooms, a living room, dining room, and numerous bedrooms. Some or the richer families there even have indoor tennis courts! What is even more surprising is that these homes with indoor courts and all different kinds of luxuries are extremely inexpensive. Some homes have up to 30 rooms, and cost about the same as one semester at University. Now that is crazy. However, I guess there are a few downfalls to living there.
#1. The heat.
#2. Stink Bugs, little beetles, that are everywhere, and if you kill them, look out. You thought skunks smelled bad?!? These guys are worse.

I admit it. I cannot be trusted with a credit card, ATM card, or pretty much a bank account in general, especially in a foreign country. My only saving grace would be my lovely bank, who I am convinced is way too trusting for their own good. For not only once, but twice have they put money back into my account only because I asked them to. The first time, as you may recall was when the ATM stole $700. There is still no real answer about that whole deal, but whatever, they gave me money!! The second time was more recently. Ansett airlines, an Australian airline company here went out of business without refunding tickets, leaving me with a $300 plane ticket that was no longer valid. After a roundabout appeal with the airlines and then my bank, it was decided that my bank would give my account a temporary credit for the missing money in question. I can't complain. In less than 3 months I have lost my ATM card, lost $700 to a hungry machine, spent large mounts on hostels, food and traveling, haven't put any in (because I have no income to go in) and most recently just lost $300 to a fallen airline... and the bank still is willing to give me $1000 in total just in good faith. Now my next question is, the money I am losing out on for my flight home. With the same airline will I get my money back there? I guess I will just have to call my bank back AGAIN and file one more claim!!

I recently had a scare that really made me think about how lucky I am. A friend of mine got on a plane unexpectedly only a few short days ago to go home. Her father passed away from a heart attack while she was here. It was such a surreal situation, because less than a month prior, we were worried because he worked in the twin towers.

It is things like that that cause us to reflect on our own lives and reevaluate what is important. I am sure you all feel the same way with the situation going on now in the States. It is hard for me to relate to everything going on back there because of how far removed I am currently from everything. Everyday I read a news article about what is going on in the US and I continue with my daily life: class, hanging out with friends, and planning trips. I feel exceptionally lucky, but at the same time incredibly selfish. Who is to say that I should have this opportunity over someone else?

I have spent the last three months of my life experiencing new and beautiful things, things that some people may never get to see, and that I will probably never get to see again. I have met people who will stay with me, in my heart at the least, forever. I have learned about aboriginal culture and beliefs. I have traversed central Australia, crossed dry (and sometimes not so dry) riverbeds. I have climbed Uluru (Ayers Rock). I have snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef. I have seen the Sydney Opera House. I have watched the sunrise while swimming, the stars in the middle of the outback, and the sunset from a ferry in Sydney.

There is nothing that I can compare this experience to so far. I have a hard time believing that my time at school here is coming to a close. Now is the time that I have to work hard, finish papers, and prove that I came here for something other than a vacation.

I guess what this rambling all comes down to is that we need to all count our blessings, because like my friend, they can be taken away as quickly as they were given.

Does the word 'reservations' mean anything to you? Apparently at the Calypso Inn Hostel in Cairns it doesn't. Why you may ask? Let me tell you.

A group of us from the states booked at the same hostel in order to catch a two-day tour together. When we arrived, we were greeted with the news that half of our group was going to be moved to a nearby hostel, because there were no more beds there, even when they had reserved them in advance. At first, we were a little surprised, yet since they had made alternate plans for us, we didn't fuss too much.

The next best thing came about when Joe, a member of the group, returned to his room one evening only to find a large man covered in tattoos lying on his bed. After questioning the man on why he was there, Joe proceeded to go to the front desk to ask what was going on and where all his stuff was. When he got there, he stood confused as he watched the employees behind the counter read the book that was lying on his bed earlier that day. Apparently they decided that two people checked out of the room he was in, and therefore they proceeded to clean it and strip the beds. Instead of stripping the two beds with nothing on them, however, they stripped Joe's; you know, the one with all kinds of clothing and travel brochures that made it obvious that he was the one who left for good. So they threw out his pillow, book bag, clothes, and everything else of his. After this was all explained to him, he was given his things back (after picking them out of the garbage, of course) and told to return to his room and just take another bed. You know, one of his roommateís beds; and just explain to them when they returned what had happened and that they should just take a different bed as well. So Joe had to return to the room with the large, scary man and sleep in one of his roommateís beds.

The thing was, that even complaining about it really didn't do any good because "policy" wouldn't allow refunds. Even for Americans who couldn't make it to Australia because the airlines weren't flying. But that is another issue in itself. So just a word of warning to anyone planning on staying at a hostel... Don't rely on actually having a place to stay if you make reservations. By all means don't expect to have your stuff remain in your room, even if you have paid for multiple nights. You never know if someone else will be in your bed when you return!

So, because I don't have enough to deal with in Australia while planning for vacation, I thought it would be a fabulous idea if I could lose $1400 Australian. Yes, that is right. I am currently MISSING approximately $700 US funds. (Mom, don't cry) Let me sum up.

So here I was, at the Bank SA ATM on campus. I needed to take out a large sum of money to pay for my airfare to Bangkok. I proceeded to put my card in, type in my pin number, and find out what the maximum withdrawal was for that ATM. Well, the max was $1400, so that was what I went for. The machine gave me back my card, told me to take it, then the money, then the receipt as normal. Unfortunately, however, everything came out, except the money. I stood there in shock for a few minutes trying to figure out what just happened. The money slot definitely opened, yet there was definitely no cash to be seen. The next step was to enter the Bank SA on campus to see what had just happened. I asked if they could check to see if that withdrawal had been made to my account or from the ATM, and they said "sure!"... Until they saw that I had an HSBC card and didn't belong to their bank. So basically, they were of no service and said to check back on Monday to see if the ATM till was off and see if they charged my card because they could not check the ATM right away because they weren't associated with that ATM. Right, the Bank SA on campus was not associated with the BANK SA ATM just 50m away. Got to love it. They really tried to help by suggesting to go to the HSBC down a couple of blocks and have them check my account there. But funny thing about international HSBC... They can't communicate internationally to other HSBC's!!! Now can someone please explain to me the purpose of being an international company if you are not affiliated with your other branches in other countries?

Anyways, as I left I tried to hold back hitting the workers behind the counter who proceeded to laugh at my situation. Yeah, Monday I am definitely going back with about 4 large Australian guys to get my money, let me tell you!

In any case, the best they could tell me was to check my account online or call my bank back at home. You know, to tell them that I never actually really received my $1400, and hope that someone would actually believe me. Thank goodness for technology, too. Really, it's good to know that when I have a problem like this, I can easily get online, check my account, check my withdrawals, and see exactly where and when I took out money... THREE DAYS AGO. Yes, you heard correctly, in this fabulous day and age where you can do anything online in an instant, you could only check your bank statements from 3 days prior. No good for someone missing $1400 however. Again, starting to stress I decided to call HSBC. They have a toll free customer service number, so surely they will be able to help. Not so much. What do I get? Yes, I withdrew $1700 US Funds that day from my savings. So where did it go? Because I know I took out some from another ATM to pay for my flight, and then paid by credit for some other travel arrangements that day, but I am pretty sure it wasn't $1700 worth. So I ask her, "can you tell me where it says I withdrew that money from?" And of course, in the sweetest, most helpful tone she replies; "No, I'm sorry, but if you check back with us in a couple of business days, I am sure we can find out for you."

Fabulous, in a couple of days I just lost $1400 and all you can tell me is sorry?? So, that is my current situation. My recommendation for you all now is, never trust ATMS. I will be sure to let you all know where my money went in "a couple of business days." Hope everything is going better for you all than me currently! Any recommendations on what to do would be greatly appreciated as well!


It was called Alpine Day, and that was all that we were told. It had been hyped up at our college for the past few weeks. "You'll never forget it!" they said.
"Be prepared for battle."

What kind of battle, we did not know, but we knew we had to fight. The day came, and at 8 a.m., we were all in the dining hall, drinking orange juice and champagne as a sort of farewell and good luck breakfast. We then all crowded around the pond to hear stories of past Alpine Days, and of what our mission would entail.
We would be hunting Yetis that day. Yetis.

After being quickly briefed as to our game plan, we were herded, as unknowing freshers (freshmen) always are, onto a large bus with the windows blackened so that we could not see out. Where we ended up, I could never find again, and I do believe that was their plan.

Once we arrived at the planned destination, we were sent on a wild Yeti chase. We went through fields and streams and up hills, all in search of the infamous yeti. It began raining, it became muddy; but that would not keep us from our goal. The yeti must be killed; the yeti must not win. The day included much fun despite the wet, muddy weather. In fact, it was all the better to climb the hills and mudslide back down because of it. Mud wrestling and tug-o-war ensued. By the end we were all famished. Luckily, there were reinforcements to feed us by lunchtime. After a quick lunch and a short wait, the bus returned to take us home after a successful yeti hunt. We had succeeded, and it was time to be rewarded.

The ride home was filled with song, until the freshers were kicked off the bus in the city. Muddy and tired we ran home, proud to say we had beaten the yeti. We had accepted the challenge, and we survived. The Yeti was a formidable foe, but we did not let that stop us.

It was a great day for St. Mark's residents that day, and a day that none of us will be sure to forget.

By now you may be asking. What is this great Yeti that I speak of? What is this foe that could bring out the entire college of St. Mark's at 8 a.m. on the weekend? Only to have us return bruised, bloody, and covered in mud? These are all very good questions, I agree.

However, secrets cannot be divulged. For the sake of the Yeti, and the entire future St. Mark's freshmen, that is one question that I cannot answer...

You need to understand the past in order to prepare for the future and appreciate the present...

What else would one expect from a group of four girls traveling to Sydney for the weekend with no plans other than the plane tickets?? Well, it was quite a fun time, and I am proud to say that you are now speaking to a girl who will be featured in two separate brochure guides in Sydney!

See, on the plane we began thinking about where we wanted to stay while in Sydney. (A little last minute, but that's okay, too) In the flight magazine on the airplane, there was an ad for the hotel backpack for about $12 U.S. a night plus free shuttle from the airport. So that's where we ended up. Funny thing was, once we got there, they were having a party with free food and drinks in order to get some pictures for the new brochure... So, of course, being the scene makers that we are, we managed to get our pictures taken outside the building with our backpacks, inside eating and talking, and inside in a large group picture. The photographer really liked us - what can I say.

The next day we did the bridge climb. Let me tell you, if you ever have the chance, do it!!! It was so much fun, it was a beautiful morning and we had a great time. And we will also be in the ads for that, since they had a photographer taking pictures for the next program as well. SO... we definitely made our mark in Sydney.

We also learned to master the buses, the train, the ferries, the cabs, and learned how not to get lost wandering around...

After the bridge climb, we wandered the city and eventually made it to the zoo where we saw animals that ranged from tigers to peacocks to koalas and echidnas. It is amazing how unimpressive it is to be at a zoo and see animals after you have seen them in the wild. Granted it is, in some cases, better for the animals, but I still felt that they were getting a raw deal.

For dinner, we went to Manley Beach and had fish and chips while watching the sunset. You can't get much closer to perfection when you see that. The next day we took a tour that showed us everything in the area. We saw the Olympic sites, and drove up to Katoomba where we saw echo point and the three sisters, scenery you couldn't even imagine. It was unbelievable. Even though we were all so tired from the day before, we couldn't help but be amazed with everything and completely awestruck.

On our last day there, we toured the Opera House, and wandered the wharf. There were little stands set up all along the water with local artists selling and bartering their goods. I was so proud that I was able to talk a guy down $6. Granted, it probably should have been even less than that, but hey I still got it at a better price than someone else!!

All in all it was an amazing trip that I will never forget for many reasons. It seems as though everything that comes next is better than what just happened the day before. And the thing is, everyday is good. I have experienced something new each time I wake up and by the end of the day, I can totally understand why people never want to leave. It is so relaxed and easygoing. No matter what the issue, it seems like people just let it roll off their backs.

Quick example... yesterday I went running around the city. I passed by a car with its door open. A man on his bike was riding by not really paying much attention... Low and behold, the biker ran right into the door, and smashed the window to pieces! Both men just stood there, smiled shared a mutual chuckle; apologies were made... and off the biker went!!! No harsh words, no nothing... It was so odd. Now that is a bit of an extreme, but the idea remains.

So I think I have rambled enough. Take it for what it is worth, and I will talk to you all later!!


The Difference between America and Australia

Some things in Australia just don't make sense...
Jumper Ė Sweatshirt
Dodgy -- Sketchy, Shady, Questionable
Winge Ė Whine
Yakka Ė Hard work
Shout -- "Drink is on me!"
Pudding -- a cake; not something made by JELLO
Toilets -- not restrooms, not ladies' rooms, not washrooms. Just direct and to the point.
Aussie BBQ -- Consists of schnitzel (why I don't know), sausage, bread (not rolls) and lettuce (salad some might call it)
Sharps Containers -- in every bathroom, still haven't figured out why
Two buttons on the Toilets -- one 1/2 a flush the other a full.
McDonald's Ice Cream - 40 cents Australian, yes, that means 20 cents US. Anyone want to take a guess on what I am going to be eating a lot of?
Crosswalks -- couldn't think they could be fun?? Yours never played music did they? Crossing the street now has theme music.
Outlets -- not only do you turn the appliance you want on, you also need to turn on the outlet
Uni -- College or University
College -- dormitories. Run much like frat and sorority houses. Take that, as you will!!
Happy Hour -- One at every pub, every night. Usually lasting 2 to 3 hours.
Heaps -- used like our lots.
Moulin Rouge -- movie of times. EVERY other song on the radio is a remix of it
Maid at the college -- NEED to be in your room solely to change the garbage at 9:00 a.m. Forget the idea you don't need it. It's their job.
Late night Pizza -- one place, AUS $3.90 for a pizza enough for two. Yes that's right. That means it's only about 90 cents US for a full meal. You can't get much better.
Courses -- I have am taking 3 classes here, spending 9 hours between lecture and tutorial time. And I am getting nearly the same credit as if I was taking 6 classes with 19 credit hours. I truly feel that the US is behind and needs to figure out a system like Australia. Nothing beats this, let me tell you.

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