Monday, 27 June 2011

The End Where I Begin

My last week in Australia has lent itself to a lot of analysing and reflection, as it should have I suppose.

I am not quite sure why it would take until my very last few days for me to realise what a feat I have overcome, but I am glad to acknowledge it nonetheless.

Here goes...

Those who go across the world for short programs always come back home feeling like they experienced the best thing life has to offer. They tell everyone how much fun they had, how amazing the place was, and how they would love to go back if the opportunity lent itself. But until now, I have never stopped to analyse these sentiments from a more realistic perspective, to where I ask questions like "what about homesickness? Culture shock? Adjustment issues?" Surely it can't be all peaches and cream.

Well, I've had my turn now. So what do I have to say?

To begin, going abroad alone for lengthy periods is not something that everyone can manage, especially when it involves venturing to a more expensive city. Is it worth recommending, though? Absolutely. You will learn things about yourself you never knew existed and walk away feeling like you can overcome anything. You will learn who cares enough to reach out to you, who to not depend on, and even be surprised by some unexpected people who offer you not only their support, but their respect as well--just for doing what you are doing. You will learn how to survive on your own, how to adapt appropriately to whatever circumstance is laid out before you, and most importantly, how to appreciate the life you left behind.

I came to this country expecting absolutely nothing, and left with much more than I could ever dream. I have grown so much from this experience that words could not even begin to categorise or describe my sentiments. I have grown more from this than I have throughout my three years of college, and if you have been following my blog then you know just how much that is. I am truly proud of myself for diving into the unclear waters and, though apprehensive at first, swimming in it until I reached the shore.

With all of the setbacks and frustrations, the days of feeling more alone than anyone ever should and the days of crying just because it feels right, I would not go back and change anything if ever I could. At my weakest moments I prepare myself for the toughest battles--after which I become stronger than ever before, with a mind incapable of going back to what once defeated me. And no matter how much I hate depending on public transportation, or how much time I wasted waiting around for false promises, or how tired I grew of the food selection, I know already that I will surely miss this place that I have called home for the past six and a half weeks.

I grew to love it in its own sense; the helpful bus drivers, the cafe worker who automatically brought me ice every day at lunch, the cold weather that helped me sleep well at night, the internship placement that provided me with great clips, my genuine co-workers who helped me find my way, and all who have made the trip even just a little bit easier. You will not be forgotten.

But now, it is time for me to go. And hopefully one day I can return--stronger, older, richer, and with someone whom I can share the experience.

Until then ...




Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Fins and Things

If there is any part of this six week trip that has made me feel the experience was worthwhile, it was my past weekend trip to Cairns.

I have always been the type to get more excited about natural beauty than architectural. Though I can certainly appreciate the intricacies of buildings a thousand times my senior, there is something far more magical to me about observing untouched, natural perfection.

What's more, I managed to off three things from my bucket list in just one weekend. Granted it was costly, but undoubtedly worth every last penny.

My unforgettable experience began on Friday. I took the day to observe my new surroundings. My flight into the small city got in far too early, yet not early enough for the tours, so since I'd had nothing planned, I figured I would familiarise myself with the quiet city of Cairns that reminded me so much of home.

The hotel was located on the esplanade, right along the main street. I decided it was as good a time as any to explore the various souvenir shops along the road to shop around for the best deals. (I know I said no more souvenirs but I saved myself for last. And where else would I want a souvenir from if not The Great Barrier Reef!?). I also managed to stop for an expensive lunch. I finally found some fish and chips that was not made with Barramundi--the equivalent of Barracuda--which I swear I did not like before I even found out what it was.

I went to bed early that night in preparation for my day on the sea.

Saturday was the day. How many people do you know who can say they scuba dived for the first time on the Great Barrier Reef? Though it is perhaps plenty more fun to scuba dive there when you are certified, no one forgets their first time; especially in a place like that. The ironic part, though, is that I plan to get certified this summer when I go to Jamaica.

It's a pity the trips weren't reversed.

At any rate, the reef was unlike anything I had ever seen. It was just radiating with life and colour every where I looked. I made the great decision to hire an "HD" underwater camera for the trip, and was able to snap some real killer photos of the reef and the marine life. Having the photos allots me the opportunity to experience it all over again. Unfortunately, I never encountered any sharks, eels or turtles, but I did catch some beautiful fish and it was an amazing experience.

I've snorkelled countless times, in many different places. But this was the real deal. Nothing beats that moment when I'm 10 metres under water and realise--I am breathing.

Nothing perhaps, except skydiving.

Jumping 14,000 feet out of that airplane yesterday gave my life a whole new meaning. And no, it is not because I was seemingly plunging head-first to my death--although I must admit that the friendly staff surely made me feel better about risking my life.

I just could not help but be humbled as I looked around at the world below me. In that very moment, nothing else existed. I was flying high above all of my sorrows. I was inhuman almost. Defeating gravity--defeating every thing. If only for just those few moments, I...was...unstoppable. And as my instructor tapped me on my shoulder and said, "welcome to my life" I had no other reaction but to be silently taken aback as I looked around and wondered what I have been doing with mine why I have managed to miss out on this for 20 years. But now I have photos and a DVD to remember it forever.

I know they say to never look down, but when you are that far up, figuratively and literally, there is no where else to look--and the view is certainly not disappointing. After all, the world can be such a magical, thrilling and welcoming place if you would just get out of the office...and go see it.

Monday, 13 June 2011

A Cold and Rainy Combination

My emotional high this week came from the fact that my story made the front page of the Wentworth Courier--the biggest publication in the Eastern subs.

That's right. I came all the way from America to land a front page spot!

Now, I assume these are common happenings for a journalist, but I also assume that each time it still brings the same sense of fulfilment. There's nothing better than seeing your hard work pay off in the form of something you can be proud to show.

Aside from that, it has been another week of bad weather and mostly staying indoors. It has also been the coldest week thus far; making a nasty cold-rain combination.

On such dreary days it is hard enough to get out of bed much less wait at the bus stop until the bus driver decides he wants to show up. It hasn't been so bad going to and from work, since buses run more frequently during the week. But going to church this morning was a pain. I had to stand in 20+ km winds and rain for half an hour, because the bus before was earlier than scheduled. (Which by the way only ever happens whenever I am on time or a second late--but never while I am early.) I ended up being about 20 minutes late for the 9 am church service and missed the first and second readings and the Gospel.

Have I ever mentioned that I hate public transportation?

It was faith and determination alone that got me out of bed in that weather, so I am glad that at the very least I got there in time for communion.

Thankfully, the church is huge so no one paid much attention to my lateness. In fact, there were people who showed up after I did and simply stood by the entrance. Last time I managed to slip right into the seats closest to the entrance, which is probably where they wanted to go, but this time I had to walk to the middle section because the choir filled those seats. (They apparently only sing on the second Sunday of the month.)

Nonetheless, I've got to take some time to obsess over the beauty of the church. If there is anything in Sydney that reminds me of England, besides the names of course, it is St. Mary's Cathedral. The architecture is so intricate and it is just absolutely gorgeous both inside and out.

Unfortunately, no photos are allowed inside so I will have to rely on memory and language alone to do it justice, meanwhile you get to judge the book by its cover.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Work, Souvenirs and Such

My days have become routine.

I wake up, I go to work, I go back to my apartment and I go to sleep. There really is nothing much more to my weekdays than that.(Other than the occasional supermarket visit or something of the sort, of course. And I am thankful that I get to go out and do interviews on occasion, and at the very least I remain quite updated on the happenings in the Eastern subs.)

Nevertheless, this past week has been very dull. I was all alone in the apartment this weekend as all of my roommates took off on their own adventures. I came home on Thursday evening to see suitcases at the bottom of the steps and the next thing I knew I was alone. I went to sleep that night before Sam got back, and when I woke up the next morning she was not in the room. So what did I do?

I went to work.

When I came back from work there was a note on my bed. Sam had gone surfing. She would not be back until Sunday.

I will admit, I did enjoy the alone time and I actually came to appreciate it. (I did not, however, enjoy the dishes that were left in the sink downstairs.) I spent Saturday in bed--all day. No, not because I am lazy. It was a very rainy and cold day, and what is more soothing than hearing the pitter-patter of the rain drops as you lay comfortably under the sheets and nod off into dream land?

Absolutely nothing. I know.

On Sunday morning I went to the internet cafe and Skyped my family. All at once. Literally. They were all talking at once and trying to hog the camera and conversation and it was just the cutest thing. (Yep. They miss me.) After the call I suddenly felt better about my life. Later that day I went to the movies with my cousin and we watched X-men.

Did I ever mention the movie theatres here are amazing? Yeah. Muvico (Cinemark) has nothing on these high-society movie theatres. They even have a special "Gold Class" club, where you can basically pay more to have something like your own theatre. You get to enter this special section in the theatre which is basically a lounge--bar and all. Granted, since even the regular tickets are expensive ($16 for one)you can certainly expect those Gold Class tickets to be twice that. It is a great place to go on a romantic movie date though, in style. And your date definitely cannot call you cheap for that one.

Mondays are my days off, so I got a chance to blow all of my money buying souvenirs yesterday at Manly. I am not nearly as worried about the money I spent as I am about finding space in my suitcase for all the goodies when it is time to go back. It is no secret that I am one to over-pack. I still have not even gotten anything for myself as I am waiting for the trip to the Great Barrier Reef to treat myself. (Don't act surprised. You know the mermaid would have to wait for the swimming trip to get a t-shirt, or perhaps a bathing suit. Grin.)

Speaking of the GBR, have I told you how excited I am for that? Skydiving, snorkelling, scuba diving and zip-lining all in one weekend!

Oh the thrills.