Sunday, 29 May 2011

My Weakness is Showing

It happened.

No matter how much I pep-talked myself, how occupied my days were, or how deeply I dug down into my inner well of strength, I find myself writing to you today, more homesick and lonely than I think I have ever been.

I admit perhaps my biggest vulnerability is my fear of being alone. (And maybe now you are wondering why would anyone the sheer opposite of a loner want to take a 15 hour trip halfway across the world for a length of time; but I'd like to think there is a method to my madness.) I handle being away quite well in Orlando, I'd say, and in fact I have grown to enjoy my alone time. Nevertheless, I have always had my blackberry to keep me connected no matter where I am or what I am doing.

(And by now I know you are itching to find out what has been keeping me so occupied other than my full-time internship. Just hang in there a little--I need just a few more seconds to wallow in my own self-pity.)

I know I've probably complained a handful of times about blackberries--that's the phone not the fruit--but I have not had many in quite a while I'd say, because I am pretty much satisfied. So my next complaint won't be technical at all, it is more of a communication error.

As if the time difference is not bad enough, I've found that not as many people are interested in my well-being and status (not the facebook kind) as I thought. Granted, I of all people know that expectations do us no good but I just have to reiterate that there really is nothing worse than expecting one thing and getting another. So needless to say, I thought I'd feel a lot less lonely than I do in actuality. I thought getting connected would keep me connected. I thought I'd have something else to do with internet on my phone than sit on Twitter and "tweetwatch."

I was wrong, and it is fine. I just need some time to adapt to my new surroundings (and ideally some more money to spend enjoying what I see.) I certainly am excited about how much stronger and more appreciative I will be when this is all over.

As for what I have been doing, I took some time last weekend to go to the Taronga Zoo with Sam. More than anything we really just wanted to see--and ideally, touch--the Roo's and the Koalas. The touching part never happened, unfortunately, but we were pleasantly surprised when we happened upon the cutest little wallaby while walking through some sort of a green house. The little guy was just hanging out on a cliff above us literally within reaching distance, granted I was tall enough of course, & would not move no matter how close we got.

Despite not being able to touch the furry creatures, which we found out we could have done after all, we got some really fantastic photos. The zoo being just across the harbour from the CBD made for a really beautiful backdrop.

I also made time this weekend to visit the Blue Mountains. (Yes, Australia has one too. Sorry Jamaica, the name just was not creative enough. Although I have taken notice that there are more than a handful of similar names. I guess the Brits could not come up with as many names as places they took over.) I took the tour with five other people from the group this past Saturday and it was a beautiful, but cold, day to do so. We got on the steepest railway in the world that took us at a 54 degree angle past orphan rock, through a natural tunnel and down into the rainforest. There wasn't much to see down there besides vegetation and birds, but it was a nice little walk and I certainly learned something new. We also took a glass-bottom cable car across the valley, overlooking the Katoomba Falls and giving us a nice view of the three sisters. After walking the boardwalk through the forest, we took the steepest aerial cable car in the southern hemisphere back up to the top.

It was certainly a fun experience.

And somewhere between all the tourist things, I've found myself really enjoying my internship. Though I am not swamped with work, I get to speak to all sorts of locals and I find out all the good and bad things going on in Sydney. I get included in the editor meetings, I get to tag along on interviews at the Dr. Seuss Museum of Art, I get to interview the cute little 11 year old Bondi boy who is starring in Mary Poppins at the Capitol Theatre, and most importantly--I get to see my work printed in a news magazine with a readership of more than 30,000.

How could I want it better than that?

Sunday, 22 May 2011

And So My Journey Begins

My first week in the expensive city of Sydney has been eventful, to say the least.

It took me about three days to get over my jet lag--I often found myself falling asleep by 6pm and then waking up before the sun did. I didn't mind the waking up early part though because it really gave me a chance to get the most out of my days.

We spent the first few days doing orientations & sightseeing--don't do this, here is the CBD, lemonade is really sprite--the works. Oddly enough, during much of these I found myself relating plenty to Jamaica. Granted, I knew part of the reason so many things are similar to home is because of the British colonisation, but I didn't expect to be driving around in the hills of Sydney and thinking "Wow. This looks just like Norbrook."

Thanks to those comparisons, I got homesick quite quickly. It took me by great surprise as I have always been independent and alone. I'll admit, though, that it is extremely easy to miss Jamaica I am just not exactly sure why. I guess there is just something about the place that leaves me always wanting more.

As the days went on, my roommate Sam and I did our own exploring. The first feat we took on was trying to find a phone service called Crazy Johns, which is apparently the only service in Australia that offers Blackberry internet service. (Everyone here has an iPhone, unfortunately.) It didn't take much time for us to find the store, as Aussies are all really friendly and willing to help, and inside we were greeted with "do you want the one that works, or the one that doesn't?".

Apparently, the prepaid plan works for internet but will just automatically stop working if you dare make a phone call or send a text. (I know you are making a confused face now, which is the same face I made in the store. I have no idea either.) But anyone with sense would go for the one that works, right? Well, the problem there was that it was not a prepaid service; which meant I needed an Aussie resident whose credit they could approve and whose name would be put on the bill.

Aha, the catch.

Luckily, I thought, my cousin was with me. And for $35 with unlimited internet and Vodaphone to Vodaphone (Crazy John's is like a sub-company of Vodaphone) I couldn't want it any better. Unfortunately, though, she was not approved. Why? Because she already has a Vodaphone. So here I am, writing this from my internet-equipped Blackberry, a week and a half in and unable to make a phone call or send a text.

I am going to Crazy John's today.

In addition to the phone service search, we also went around trying to find our internship sites, which for me was much more complicated than for Sam. By the time Monday came, I was already used to using public transport and had pretty much a good grip on how to get around in the CBD (downtown) and where everything was. My job, though, happened to be in the complete opposite direction where I hadn't been before. Since my "interview" was not until Wednesday, I decided to use my Tuesday to make some test runs, and I've always been good with directions so I figured it would be a breeze.

It wasn't.

I was walking back-and-forth on Bourke Road for hours, after it took me about three bus rides to get off at what I thought was the right stop. Then, 5pm came around, which meant the sun was saying goodbye to the city, and I found myself by warehouse and construction sites with no newsagency in sight. I immediately felt like this whole thing was a hoax and that the place I was looking for didn't exist.

The next morning, the day of my interview, I decided to take a taxi. I figured there would be no better way to find where to go than to get in one of those. Furthermore, considering the address is basically right on the street I live, I didn't feel like I needed to take the bus that the website told me to take because it unnecessarily went around the world and then left me to walk a long distance. The taxi was a good idea, even though it cost me about $12. (They charge based on how long you're in there, not how far you go.)

Going home wasn't as easy. Determined to find an easier way, I purposely hopped on the next bus I saw and somehow ended up in the ghetto after asking the bus driver how to get to Waterloo. I was not as much afraid as I was out of place. It was night-time and I was prancing through the town in my full white business suit, a huge salmon-coloured purse and heels, with no real idea of where I was going. Eventually, after about a two hour journey that began just down the road from where I live, I made it back to my place. The next day's journey was not so pleasant either. It took me about 45 minutes to walk to work. For those who know me, you know I hate walking, but when in Rome...

That evening my co-worker offered to help me get home. She takes the bus too but since she knew her way around she thought she'd accompany me.

We ended up in the ghetto again; but this time in a darker, more residential area and were walking through it much longer than I had the day before. That time, I definitely had to draw for my mace, but I did feel better knowing I was not alone.

By the third day, I figured it out--and I finally got a chance to actually enjoy the internship.

I am writing for a publication called the Wentworth Courier, which is a news magazine that covers the Eastern suburbs. In my first week I did interviews in person and on the phone, and managed to stitch together four stories that will be published in this week's issue.

Needless to say, I love the placement--and I cannot wait to see my name in the publication on Wednesday.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

How to Update a Blog in 10 Minutes

My grades this semester are a reflection of how much more effort I put into extracurricular activities and my social life than I did my schoolwork.

I am not blaming anyone at all, though, and I leave my junior year behind with my head held high.

Even though everyone knows how seriously I take my schooling, I have to say that though I may not have reached my full potential academically, I surely overcame a hell of a lot this term and am truly proud of myself.

For those of you who know me well, I am sure you know that this semster was more than a handful for me. I was enrolled fulltime, working my first job, pressured into joining a pageant (take a moment to absorb that last bit) . . . And sorting out what I needed to so could go abroad for the summer. All of this meanwhile trying to find internships for my last year and build up my portfolio by writing articles for the city's newspaper.

If it sounds like a mouthful imagine doing it.

The pageant took up almost too much of my time. We had practice every day for close to three months, sometimes going as late as two in the morning. Because of it, my Editing teacher actually looked at me one day and said "You are late to class every single day. What is it? Are you late to every class like this? If I was to write you a recommendation letter that's the first thing I'd have to say."

Needless to say, that made me feel quite shitty awful. But it being a 9 a.m. class on Monday and Wednesday made it slightly hard to be early, what with being up late mostly learning how to dance, walk and speak loudly.

I admit it was a huge commitment, and though many times I found myself wanting to quit, I didn't. I overcame my shyness, even just for a bit, and managed to string together all the bits and pieces of courage I had inside to sing before an audience. (Yes, that's right. For my talent I chose to sing. Believe it.)

Not only was it my first time singing to anyone at all, but it was also my first time on stage alone. My nerves were seconds away from getting the best of me, forcing me to walk right off the stage and throw away all of my hard work. But something put me on that stage. Something helped me keep my calm as I realised halfway through the first verse that my mic was not on. Something kept me going through the dance practices that reinforced why I have never joined a dance team, and in the end, I made it. I made it through the long practices, the choreographed dancing, the poised walking, the loud animated talking . . . and came out a better person.

Now, here I am; writing to you from Sydney as the current Miss CSA one day away from starting my very first internship with a weekly news magazine. I left the pageant with new friends, the semester with new skills and the country with new destinations before me.

To say it all came together in the end would not do enough justice.