Thursday, August 22, 2013

Boomerangs, Didgeridoos, and Caves

It doesn't take long to wear out the (incredibly short) list of things to do and places to see here in Gladstone.  Unfortunately, after you accomplish those things, you have to drive about an hour and half up to Rockhampton to access a wider range of sights and tourist activities.  So my parents and I made the drive up to Rocky for the second time during their trip.  This time on our agenda?  Aboriginal Dreamtime Culture Centre and the Capricorn Caves.

The Aboriginal Dreamtime Culture Centre is an indoor/outdoor museum of sorts, that has multiple exhibits focused on aboriginal history and culture in Australia.  It was really quite interesting, and aboriginal history is something I'd really like to learn more about while we're here.  We even got to hear a live didgeridoo demonstration and try out our skills at throwing real boomerangs!

Dad was a natural, of course

This trip to the Capricorn Caves made for my third time on this tour.  However, I really do like these caves, and it's a great place to bring visitors.  Plus, each time I've been on the tour, I've learned lots of new things.  My favorite part of this cave system is the "cathedral."  This is a part of the caves that really does resemble an actual cathedral.  In more recent years, they've even added things like pews, an altar, and steps for a choir to stand.  Because of this, the caves have become a popular destination for weddings AND because of the amazing acoustics, they hold opera and choir performances here as well.  Some people even say that the acoustics in this part of the caves are better than the acoustics in the Sydney Opera House.  Pretty neat!

Some of the massive fig tree roots that extend hundreds of meters into the caves and below the earth

Supposedly a very rare and endangered type of fern
Part of the cave that has a similar form as the continent of Australia
The way out of the caves

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

8K Pride

This past weekend, I ran in Gladstone's own "Botanic to Bridge" 8K race. 

I should emphasize that I am not, by any means, a runner.  Some people enjoy running- saying that they love the "runner's high" and that it clears their minds.  I am not one of those people.  I've never experienced this so-called "runner's-high," and you better believe that my head is not clear when I run.  In fact, it's pretty much just the opposite- I am hyper aware the entire time I am running that I am indeed running, that it hurts, and basically reasoning with myself the entire time not to stop.  However, all that aside, I know what a great workout running is, so I'd been trying to run just once a week over the past few months and ever so gradually increasing my mileage. 

I've known about this race for several months and had the idea in the back of my head that it really would be fun to participate.  There isn't really much in the way of community events like this in Gladstone, so I really thought it would be a good experience.  However, as much as I hate to admit it, I didn't sign up until the last minute or even mention it to anyone, basically because I wanted a way out.  Isn't that terrible? 

At any rate, I signed up exactly one week before the race, and off I went on Sunday morning.  I was pretty nervous, as the furthest I had ever run was 4 miles... once... ever.  And the 8K race is approximately 5 miles.  I had just two goals for the race:
1.) No walking
2.) Finish under one hour

Sunday morning I met up with my friend, Jackie, and her husband.  It was fun to have someone to participate with even though we all ran separately at our own paces. 

How cruel is it to start a race with a giant hill?!
Jackie and I: BEFORE
Sea of blue
Aside from the giant hill to start off the race, and a couple other pretty steep hills, the race went surprisingly well!  I met my two goals (!), and I was so proud of that!  And of course, I'm really glad I decided to run the race.  It's crazy to think that I ran the farthest I had ever run before! 

Not that I was counting down or anything...
Pounding pavement
8K Finisher!
Jackie and I: AFTER - We did it!
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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Meeting Jenna {Snail Mail Collective}

Last month ago, I signed up for a blogger exchange called "The Snail Mail Collective."  This exchange was created by two great expat bloggers- Melyssa at The Nectar Collective and Chelsea over at Lost In Travels.  You can read more specifics about the exchange here.  But, the basics of the exchange are: you are paired with another participating blogger from a different part of the world, you spend a few weeks getting to know each other through emails and getting to know that person's blog, and then at the end of it, you exchange a $5 or under gift from your country that centers around the specified theme for that month. 

I was paired with Jenna from Hayya Bina (which is Arabic for "Let's Go!").  And I am SO glad that we were paired together and had the chance to get to know one another.  I really feel like I was able to learn a lot about her life and expat experience, and I'm happy to say that I really feel like I have a great new blogger friend :-)  Let me tell you a little bit about her! 

Jenna and her husband are from the US, but they moved to the United Arab Emirates about a year ago to work as teachers.  Right off the bat, I was so excited that I was paired with a fellow teacher.  Not to mention, that the UAE is a part of the world that has always intrigued me.  I loved learning more about the Emirati culture, people, and other aspects of Jenna's experiences there.  Take a look for yourself at some of my favorite posts of hers:

-I always love stalking other people's weddings, so I loved this little bit of wedding reminiscing on Jenna and her husband's third anniversary.

-I found myself nodding my head in agreement during much of this post.  Jenna shares some great reflections on a favorite expat topic: the ever-elusive and changing concept of "home."

-While sometimes I feel like Australians do speak another language, I totally admire Jenna's experience with living in a non-English speaking country.  I'm super impressed by her efforts to learn as much Arabic as she can!  You can see a few funny language "mishaps" here:

-Jenna and her husband got to visit NEPAL!  So jealous!  Totally adding Nepal to my travel bucket list now.  Check out some of her awesome photos from their trip:

The final part of the Snail Mail Collective was to exchange small gifts from our respective countries.  Now, unfortunately, Jenna's package was a victim of how seriously SLOW the Australia Post can sometimes be.  Jenna sent her package on July 22, and I received it on August 16.  At the rate it takes mail (especially packages) to arrive sometimes, if I didn't know better I would really think that koalas were responsible for delivering mail.  No matter though, her package arrived and I was so excited when I opened it to find the sweetest letter from Jenna and the most beautiful scarf all the way from the UAE!

Jenna explained in her letter that the scarf is called a "shayla" and that it is something that women wear in the UAE to cover their hair and sometimes their face as well.  I loved that Jenna chose a black shayla to send since she mentioned that this particular color of shayla really identifies the gulf region. 


Love the details along the border!
I can't wait to continue to follow along with Jenna's adventures in the UAE, and I'm looking forward to wearing my beautiful shayla :-) 

*You can read about my snail mail gift to Jenna here!

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Expat to Expat Q & A {August Questions}

Linking up with Belinda and Bailie for this month's Expat to Expat Q & A!

Found Love. Now What?

1. What is your favorite food store in your city and why?
Well, to be quite honest, there aren't a whole lot of options.  However, I am pretty loyal to one food/grocery store here in Australia, and that is Woolworth's.  And since it's Australia and everything here is required to be abbreviated, I meant to say "Woolie's."  When I first moved, I was actually kind of nervous about what grocery shopping in another country would be like.  The first couple times, were a little overwhelming and did take like 2 hours, but I've since found that this store does for the most part have most things I need.  Don't get me started on Mexican food ingredients though...

Looks mostly the same as grocery stores in the US...
Except, I'm still getting used to seeing items like this:

2. For your answer to number 1 is it ok to buy the store brand items or do you pay extra for a name brand?

I've never been finicky about brand name versus generic.  I pretty much always just buy what is cheaper... and sometimes that is surprisingly the brand name.   
3. What do you think is the best way to get about your city? i.e. bus, bike, car, etc.
For being a small town, you would think getting around by foot or bike would be a good option here.  Unfortunately, this isn't the case.  Although it is a small town, things are pretty spread out, making a car absolutely necessary.  A bike could be useful in some instances, however, from about September through November, bike riding can be somewhat of a dangerous adventure.  You see, during that time of year, a native bird here- the magpie- is in the middle of its mating and nesting season.  These birds are extremely territorial during that time, and are known to literally stalk and even sometimes become aggressive to people on bikes or those walking/running.  It sounds made up, but it's true!  People brave enough to ride bikes during this time don't do so without ridiculous-looking zip ties poking out of their helmets as a magpie deterrent.  This is no joke, people!

 4.. Which store do you turn to for basics like toilet paper or cleaning supplies?

 There's not really anything similar to Target or Walmart here, which is where I bought those items in the States.  Here, I usually buy basics like TP or cleaning supplies at the grocery store, or sometimes even the pharmacy (which they actually call "the chemist" here).   
5. Where do you think is the best place in your city to get a cup of coffee (or beverage you prefer) and catch up with friends?
Since Australia has a lot of British influence, morning and afternoon tea/coffee are a pretty big part of daily life here.  So for a small town, there are a surprising number of coffee shops to choose from.  I myself don't like coffee, but I've become quite a chai tea latte aficionado since being here.  My favorite coffee place is probably "The Hungry Cow."  I love this place because it has tons of outdoor seating, and their chai lattes are great.  They also have a really great lunch and dinner menu as well. 
David sitting on one of the many cow seats you can actually sit on at the Hungry Cow
Plus these questions from Emma, at Adventures of a London Kiwi:
  • What was your “eureka, I’m practically a native” moment?
Truthfully, I don't think I've actually had one of these "eureka" moments yet, in fact, someone jokingly called me "fresh off the boat" just the other day.  I do still feel like a fish out of water most of the time.  Although when I do meet someone from the US who has just moved here, then I do feel pretty "native" in some ways. 
  • Does your real accent get in the way?
Yes! I notice this mostly at work.  Although, it's not so much the "accent" that gets in the way, but more the difference in American English vs. Australian English.  There are SO many words and phrases that differ in these supposed "same" languages.  I can't tell you how many "stupid moments" I've had at work when someone asks me something or asks me to do something for them and I have no idea what they're talking about.  Same goes for when I'm communicating with students.  If I tell them to throw something away, go to the restroom, use an eraser, write the letter z or h, or share markers- I get blank stares.  I'm still learning to instead say: put your rubbish in the bin, go to the toilet, use a rubber, write the letter "haych" or "zed," share your textas. 

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Heron Island With the Parents

July 28-30, 2013

I was so excited that my parents had decided they wanted to include a stay at Heron Island as part of their visit!  This was the second visit for David and I (you can read about our first visit here), but we were just as excited as the first time.  I could go there a million times and not get sick of it- it really is paradise.  Heron Island is a coral island (coral cay) in the Great Barrier Reef.  Conveniently, it's very close to where we live- just a two hour ferry ride. 

This is the first view you get when you step off the boat.  UN. REAL.


We also saw this when we first arrived. 

Shadow?  A darker area of rocks or sand?  Nope.  This is a school of fish.  Crazy, right?  See that line down the middle?  That's the school of fish being parted by this:

I'll get back to this school of fish/shark experience a little later...

We woke up at sunrise on our first morning there to go on a guided reef walk.  A reef walk is a little like tide-pooling.  Basically you are walking around during very low tide with a marine biologist who points out all kids of coral and reef creatures.  It's pretty neat!  This was also around the time that David realized he forgot his bathing suit (OOPS!), so he was off scampering around trying to find a bathing suit in the one gift shop on the island.  I was about 80% sure he would end up with a speedo... luckily they did have some swim trunks, but he missed out on the reef walk :-(

Sunrise over the reef.  One of the few times I haven't been mad about being up early enough to see the sun rise.


Clam | Sea Star | Sea Cucumber
It's crazy how far out you can walk and not even have the water touch your knees

Sea Hare

We spent most of the rest of the day snorkeling right off of the island and exploring the reef.  So unbelievable to be swimming around in one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.  Last time David and I visited Heron Island, we borrowed a friend's underwater camera, so we were able to get much better photos on that trip (you can check them out here), but we did still get some good ones this time.  The highlight of course, was swimming with a sea tortoise- so cool!

A bit hard to see here, but this is a sting ray

Below, you will see what it looks like to swim through a school of fish.  No big deal, right?

And this is what it looks like to swim through a school of fish with a couple of SHARKS!


A pretty freaky experience.  These were reef sharks and lemon sharks, which supposedly are completely harmless and uninterested in humans, but STILL.  Come on, it's a shark!  Not sure I trust them completely... at least they had plenty of food...

I know this post is already pretty darn photo heavy, but there are just too many photos of this beautiful place.  So, if you're still with me, here are the last handful that I just couldn't bare to leave out. 

Hard to tell its size from this photo, but this is a giant Grouper that lives under the jetty.  The staff said it probably weighs close to 300 pounds!

Low tide again.  Pretty crazy to see people out SO FAR in the ocean just walking around.


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