Sunday, March 6, 2011

My Computer Has More Lives Than Sephiroth

So, my computer died for two weeks, then decided to work again! Well, at least it's working for the moment. Rejoice, that means you get a blog update! A lot has happened since my last update, but I'll try to cover it all.
Let's start with Cairns weekend. That was the weekend before last, where we got to go up to Cairns, the city about an hour and a half north of us, and spend the night. We spent Saturday morning at a tree planting (we planted about 3000 trees in a reforestation area!) and then got to go to the Yungaburra markets, which were excellent. There were some beautiful things there, from handmade pottery to jewlery, to soap, and of course, lots of fruit and veggies. I was sorely tempted by stall owned by someone who grew their own vanilla, and had a gift set with vanilla tea, vanilla sugar, and a little mug and tea strainer. The vanilla tea and sugar sounded delicious, but I was good and held off, since I'm trying to save up a bit for my trip to Sydney (More on that later!) After the markets, we went back to the center for a much needed shower and to pack. Then, Leslie, our student affairs manager, and the interns, Hester, Amy, and Allison, drove us up to Cairns.
Checking in at the hostel was a production and a half. Since there was a huge deposit needed for big groups, we had booked our room separately by cabin, but, since our numbers aren't quite even, one of the girl's cabins needed to fit into a six person, which was a few dollars more. We hadn't decided beforehand who'd be in the six-person, but it ended up being my cabin. They needed so much information to check us in! They wanted to see a passport, have a home address, a phone number, an e-mail, and a contact person for all twenty-two people, so it took about an hour before we got into our rooms.
The hostel itself wasn't terrible. We stayed at Gilligan's Backpacker's Resort, reportedly one of the nicer hostels around. The room was clean, there was a nice view, and the bathroom wasn't bad, though you could tell the difference between a Hostel and a Hotel...For example, they don't provide any soap for the bathroom! And there were no comforters or other warmer blankets on beds, which were bunk beds. But, all in all, it was better than I expected.
We didn't stay long at Gilligan's, and a large group of us headed off to see the town. It was quickly very clear that the travelling in a huge group thing wasn't going to work, so Denise, one of my cabinmates, and I headed off on our own. It was a ton of fun. We browsed around all of the touristy shops, looked at kangaroo leather, priced opals, oooh-ed over how soft sheepskins were, and got gelati's (Which were delicious!).
At six, it was time to meet back up with the group, which meant heading back to Gilligan's. Nobody was quite sure what they wanted for dinner, so we ended up heading to Night Market. The only food there was so sketchy looking Chinese restaurants and one burger and coffee place. I wasn't up for Chinese, so I got a chicken sandwich (Which they call a chicken burger here)...minus the beetroot, of course. It was really good, and I had really missed being able to choose your own food, instead of having only one choice.
After that, almost everyone else wanted to go get some alcohol to "prepare" for the night at the bar. I definitely wasn't into that, and really wanted to take a look around Night Market, so I ventured off on my own for awhile. Night Market was really amazing! It seemed like you could get anything there, from opal necklaces, to t-shirts, to aboriginal art, to ten dollar massages! I walked and browsed for about an hour, and still don't think I saw everything. I had promised that I'd be back after an hour, so I headed back to the hostel after that.
So after that, and yeah, I can hardly believe I went too, I went to bars. First, we headed to Gilligan's bar. That was my favorite of the night...It was early, so it was very quiet, there was live music, and the bartender gave me two free cokes when I told him I didn't drink. It was a little bit strange being there, since I don't drink at all and the smell of beer makes me pretty nauseous, but it wasn't too bad. The other SFS students were great...They kept asking to make sure I was having a good time!
We spent about an hour and a half there, then headed to somewhere called the Woolshed. I didn't like it as much...It was very cramped, without much room to dance, people were spilling beer everywhere, and creepy, drunk Australians kept coming up and trying to dance with me...Not my idea of a good time. Thankfully, we didn't spend much time there, and after about an hour, headed back to Gilligan's.
At this point, there were a few people who were a little inebriated, so me and a few others who hadn't been drinking much tried to keep everyone together and heading in the right direction. It was kinda like herding cats! But in the end, everyone got back and into Gilligan's.
It was a very different scene than earlier that night. The music was pounding, and everybody was dancing, and drinking more. I had another soda, and danced a bit, but called it quits pretty quickly, and me and three other girls headed back to our room.
Unfortunately, there was a surprise waiting for us there. Apparently, the management had double booked our room! We walked in on two very drunk women, laying in two of our beds. One of the women had on a dress hiked up to her armpits, and nothing on under it! Talk about awkward...Though that might be a bit of an understatement. They were very nice about it, though, and left to tell the desk people, who re-booked them. We surreptitiously went down ten minutes later and got new sheets.
Sunday wasn't quite as exciting after all of the excitement of Saturday. Denise and I broke off from the group again, and ended up getting brunch at a cute little cafe (I had another chicken sandwich...I need to branch out more! But it was good!) and then wandered through shops again. Around one, we found a little sitting area and I curled up for a nap in one of the chairs, while Denise read. We had dinner early, at an Italian place, where we and another girl had pizza, then headed to meet up with Leslie, and went back to the center.
Monday, everyone we soooooo tired, but the school must go on! We were out in the field all day, and then found out that we were going camping the next day. We had to scramble to get our tents ready, and to get packed! But it all got done, and we headed to Chillagoe early Tuesday morning.
Chillagoe is about two hours west of where we are, and is considered Outback, but wasn't really what I pictured the Outback to be like! It was covered in chest high grass, with all of the eucalypt trees everywhere. It looked a bit like the African savannah more than it looked like a red dirt desert! It definitely didn't help that it was pouring rain when we got there.
As soon as we arrived, we had another case of "the school must go on". We didn't even get to set up tents before being whisked away for a couple field lectures. We didn't get back to the campsite until dinnertime! After dinner, we got to put up our tents (another production :p) and then stayed up late chatting and playing games. Two of the four girls in my tent decided to sleep in the vans, since it was still pouring rain and the tent was a bit wet, which meant there was plenty of room to spread out, and I ended up sleeping really well.
The second day is a blur of lectures...I couldn't really tell you what they were about, except that I really wanted them to stop at that point! We got to swim in one of the creeks, which was really cool, especially since they had rope swings out into the water. It was alot of fun! We went out to dinner at the pub, on SFS, and I got a big steak which was amazing.
After dinner, a bunch of people stayed to have some drinks, but me and a few others left with the teachers and interns to go back to the campsite. We had a lovely time stargazing! Siggy, our ecology teacher, had a constellation wheel, and we spent more than an hour trying to find different ones. We found alot! Gemini, Orion, Sirius, Taurus, Hydra, Leo, Cancer, the Pleodies and more! The stars out there were amazing, crystal clear and everywhere. We even saw some shooting stars!
We packed up the next morning, and headed back to the center, with a few stops. That's when one thing that made this whole Australia experience happened. We were driving along when Siggy, who was driving the van I was in, spotted a road-killed wallaby. The wallaby and kangaroos were everywhere out there, and it was really sad to see one dead on the side of the road. She stopped, and got out to pull it off the side of the road. After she did that, she checked it's pouch. It was a mother, and she found a joey.
Siggy brought the joey back to the van. She knew I was pre-vet, and we'd had a few conversations about animal rescue before...she handed it right to me! I spent the next half an hour with a baby wallaby joey under my shirt, keeping it warm. It was such an amazing experience! It curled up there, and kept kicking and squirming, and really didn't like being out of the warmth if I took it out! We got it to the wildlife rescue, where they said it had a fairly good chance of surviving. They said they would keep us updated, but we haven't heard anything so far. Hopefully, no news is good news!
We got back to the center with no further mishap. We had less than a day there, and then, on Friday afternoon, we got picked up by our host families for our weekend homestay. I had a wonderful weekend with the couple I stayed with, Dave and Penny Shaw, who are an older couple who own a cattle ranch. They had a dog named Dottie, a bunch of chickens, and two horses. Penny especially was great. We had quite a few good conversations, and she drove us all over, doing touristy stuff like going to the tea factory, and the milk and chocolate factory.
Okay, that's pretty much the last week and a half...If I don't stop now, I think I'm going to get carpal tunnel! Hopefully, compy will stay alive, and if it does there will be more updates soon. TTFN, Ta Ta For Now!