A little catch up

A little catch up

This is a little bit like going to your favourite cosy cafe somewhere to have a¬†nice warm beverage on a cold, rainy day and¬†just enjoying the company and the atmosphere. Except I’m in Melbourne and you’re sat¬†staring at a screen somewhere. So really it’s nothing like that at all… But¬†the premise is the same.¬†When you go to a cafe it¬†often isn’t THAT long since you’ve seen the person but just long enough to tell them about this one thing that happened to that bloke who knows a bloke two¬†Saturdays ago at a shop you went to once. This update is exactly like that, but with more blokes.

It’s been around two weeks since I last posted after my parents and brother left to go back home. I found¬†myself adapting pretty quickly back to the life of an exchange student here at Deakin but with some big changes to how I left it. I returned to find¬†some¬†odd, unfamiliar female things occupying half of the rooms in the flat who turn out to be not so much unfamiliar and more like people than things but still fairly odd I suppose (love you all).¬†My flat now is great, everyone is really social and it feels pretty comfortable and there’s just generally a good atmosphere around the place. I could get used to living around people like this, so that’s always good. Between settling down with my new flatmates and getting to know them there has been the small matter of attending classes.

The first week if I’m completely honest¬†felt like a waste of getting up earlier than strictly necessary in order to learn how to use a website I managed to work out on my own last trimester and to understand what the term ‘population’ means. This is not an exaggeration. So that was basically my first week of class, working out how to get around places I already knew. It was like a passer by had walked into your house and wanted to give you a tour. I understand why this was necessary, I’m not disputing that as I¬†study two first year units. I’m disputing the¬†decision¬†I made to go. So far from classes I have a stand out favourite.¬†The unit name is People’s of the World and it’s under the subject umbrella of anthropology. As someone who studies history with archaeology at university, perhaps this does not come as such a surprise. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, anthropology is the study of humans. Everything to do with humans. It isn’t the study of individuals (so it isn’t¬†going to help you work out why¬†so and so does such and such) it is rather the study of societies and civilisations. Every aspect of them. I’ve just survived week two and so far¬†I think the most interesting, most intense thing we’ve looked at is the¬†notion that humans don’t exist. There is scientific evidence to support the idea that rather than humans existing as we think they do and as everyone has just sort of bumbled along in life assuming that something like that is fixed and certain;¬†the idea of humans existing is¬†wrong. Completely false. We live in an environment, but are we ourselves environments occupying environments? An environment is something made up of many many different microbes¬†occupied by different species. Somebody, somewhere was bored enough to count (I’m pretty sure a scientist¬†sat with a microscope, his mate Darren, some beers and an abacus) and over 10’000 species occupy a ‘human’, and we¬†are certainly made up of so many different microbes…. So what in the world are we? Then there was another small question of does reality exist?¬†Did reality exist before these weird environments we refer to as ‘humans’ came along and played around with everything? Obviously the world was there, that hasn’t changed. But with no concept of ‘reality’ before humans, how could it have existed? After pondering this and many other questions, like yours at this moment, my head began going in circles. I’m not a scientific person (if you’re reading this and you’re¬†mildly more scientifically inclined¬†than I, this is probably blindingly obvious) but regardless of the accuracy of my summaries of these questions, I found it to be incredible interesting. So that’s my favourite class. The others are okay¬†but thus far none have peaked my interest anywhere near as much as anthropology, which was perhaps to be expected. Fortunate really, as I only changed to the anthropology unit from another unit¬†about the history of the Middle East a few weeks ago due to a class.

That’s the academic side of life taken care of for a couple of weeks. The first week was spent around the flat, I didn’t really have anyone to get out and do things with but I’ve taken steps to¬†try to correct that. When my parents were here I missed O’ week, which is the Australian equivalent to freshers week, so although I did miss out on making friends then, I would not have had it any other way. There are always opportunities to make friends. I’ve joined the Deakin University Study Abroad Club (DUSAC) and on the facebook page I can see posts from other exchange and international students most days where they’re asking if anyone would like to go and join them in doing something that they’re doing, so I’m looking to join in fairly soon. I also recently emailed the Deakin futsal club (futsal is like football/soccer but played on a smaller court, with smaller goals, with smaller teams, where the ball is allowed to be bounced off the walls – so basically indoor football, or outdoor with a walled court) with regards to joining them soon. I’ve played futsal on the outdoor court opposite the residence building here a lot in the past couple of weeks, meeting people from Australia, America, Japan and also Middle Eastern countries such as Kuwait (and may I add commanding their respect instantly with some outstanding goals if I do say so myself) and it’s really inspired me to get involved with Deakin’s futsal club.

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Moomba Festival 2016 either side of Melbourne’s Yarra River

I know I know, it’s about time there was a picture.¬†Last weekend I went to Moomba Festival¬†right in the heart of Melbourne with¬†my flatmates Stan and Kenny, who from this moment forth shall be known as THE BOYS. All in capitals. Not because they’re important, but because capitals are the only way I can get vaguely close to how loud and irritating they actually are in reality. THE BOYS are great, it’s one of those relationships (this is the part with more blokes than that one bloke that I vaguely referred to in the introduction). Moomba Festival is an annual celebration of Labour Day. I had no idea what Labour Day was but from a quick Google search just now I can tell you with confidence that Labour Day originates from the eight hour day movement, which advocates eight hours work, eight hours recreation and eight hours rest. Interestingly (or perhaps not) it’s held on different days for different states – something I did actually know. What better way to celebrate this than to hold an international water skiing competition on a river straight through the middle of what was basically an oversized funfair, with rides, prizes and everyone’s favourite terribly unhealthy foods? In the picture above behind the speed boat you can just make out a water skier, to the right of where the wake begins to fade you can just make out a thing in the water – that’s a ramp. The skiers would move from one side of the river to the other behind the boat at speed and then fly up the ramp and¬†the height of their jump was recorded.¬†THE BOYS and I happened to walk alongside that ramp on the river bank just as a British water skier¬†hit it and set the record for the day.¬†Other events were also held on the river, such as birdman rally. A competition¬†split into two categories – competitive and fun. Competitive birdman consisted of people trying out home made contraptions and seeing how far they could fly in the¬†air after jumping off a ramp. The fun category was aimed at the best looking, funniest entry and, well…. Here’s a video. It’s best to see for yourselves really.

I didn’t see that part. There were also parades at various times around the city. I didn’t see those either. But it was good to get out of the flat with some good company in THE BOYS and we had a good time out, which is all we wanted to do.

There is one final thing really that I’ve done which was exciting for me.

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AAMI Park pre-kick off

I went to AAMI Park to witness my first Asian Champions League match between “Not Bolton Wanderers” (Melbourne Victory) and “That team from¬†South Korea I played a season with on FIFA once” (Suwon Bluewings) with the anticipation filling the air and a bumper crowd screaming with passion for such a game of high importance (7,000 people turned up to a stadium with a capacity of 30,000) we took our (someone else’s with a better view) seats and stared¬†for an hour and a half at some solid South Korean defence work mixed with an incapable Melbourne Victory attacking line which of course resulted in a thrilling 0-0 draw. From the five matches I have seen Melbourne Victory play, I have still not seen a goal from open play.¬†On the one hand I want to get a Melbourne Victory shirt. On the other hand, I don’t want to spend $100 on a shirt of a team I haven’t yet seen score a goal that isn’t a free kick or a penalty. Unless it’s Bolton but that is very different. I promise.

Tomorrow night I’m returning to AAMI Park to watch Melbourne Victory Vs Newcastle Jets, but I’m not returning with THE BOYS. By the time I¬†have released this post into the wilderness¬†of the internet, I will either be at¬†the airport waiting for my girlfriend, Mags, to arrive or I will be on my way back home with her. It’s now been over five months since¬†we last saw each other¬†so of course tomorrow night I’m taking her to a football match. What more could a girl want to conclude her first full day in a city she’s heard so much about but seen very little of for herself?¬†Mags is here for a couple of weeks before she heads back and my next update probably won’t feature so much of the academic side of life. If you’re the type that despises all couples everywhere, you might want to avoid the next update.¬†I’m going to assume that there could be one or two pictures depicting two people being happy, some pictures of rocks and water and even some architecture. With two people being happy in front of it. All of it. It’s going to be horrible and I can’t wait!

I wasn’t going to write so much in this update but I suppose that’s what happens when you get knee deep in existential anthropological issues.

Thanks for reading, I look forward to providing the next instalment and I PROMISE there will be more pictures!

P.S If there are any errors in this, please accept my sincerest apologies as quite frankly I really could not be bothered proof reading today.

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I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list…

I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list…

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls please take a seat, strap yourselves in tight and remember to keep your head, shoulders, knees and toes (knees and toes) inside this whirlwind of a blog update at all times. I haven’t yet figured out how but I am about¬†to talk you, the very lucky reader, through a whole month of my life including incredibly questionable revision techniques, travels¬†in not one, not two but¬†THREE¬†different Australian states, visits to some of the most iconic¬†places¬†people around the world associate with Australia and overly detailed discussion about food all intelligently broken up with pictures (which you can click to enlarge) to please your eyes and to trick your brains into thinking there isn’t THAT¬†much to read.

Now that I’ve appealed to roughly a fifth of my readers (thanks, mum) and put pressure on myself to actually explain all of the aforementioned¬†(I could just delete the ones I don’t do, maybe I did?)¬†let’s begin.

February was an incredible month. I must apologise for not updating at all during February but as I said¬†in my last post, I¬†simply did not have the time or the access necessary to provide an update. Going into this one I do feel like I have so much more to cover than ever before and hey, I don’t have a word limit here, I could just keep going but I know nobody wants to be faced with a wall of text. So, here’s a picture:

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Taken from the Shrine of Remembrance

On the off-chance you haven’t yet worked it out, this is me with the Melbourne skyline in the background. I’m going to begin this post (three paragraphs later) with a reminder that I am¬†going into my second trimester here at Deakin University in Melbourne on an International Experience Placement from Bangor University in North Wales. This month I finished the first of those two trimesters, meaning that I am now half way through my incredible journey. At the beginning of this month I had two exams to sit and with the requirements given to me being what I would describe as “exceedingly¬†achievable” my motivation was not at its highest. I had four¬†units/modules¬†which I was studying and two of those did not have exams and I knew I’d already done well in them and achieved the exceedingly achievable. Having received¬†results, I can relatively exclusively reveal that I achieved 84% and 76% in those two units – Australian studies and Capitalism respectively. I scored 71% and 65% in criminology and media relations – both of which involved exams. I would tell you what grades they are but as the Australian grading system¬†makes sense to roughly three people there’s really no point, but I’m very pleased with those. Especially when considering how much meaningful revision actually went into them. Criminology was okay in terms of preparation¬†but the type of exam was really throwing me. I’m used to writing essays in exams,¬†two or three per paper and that’s the exam. That’s the nature of history and archaeology. So to suddenly have to¬†write ten definitions, 5 short answers¬†followed by 2 essays all in 2 hours was something of a¬†challenge to me but one that I clearly rose to. Media relations was a completely different story. Eighty multiple questions followed by two short answer questions… So of course I worked out I needed to get 23 multiple choice questions right to pass the unit and once I worked that out that was the rest of my dwindling motivation gone. I read some conclusion chapters from a text book that was one edition earlier than the recommended text book then proceeded to revise social networking by talking to my friends on the internet.¬†As¬†Einstein said, “Learning is experience.¬†Everything else is just information.” and who am I to argue with Einstein? And he must have been right because I passed fairly comfortably in the end.

I can’t say I particularly recommend this approach.¬†After all, everyone learns differently…

The end of trimester three does unfortunately mean that my lovely lovely German friends (and even some of the British ones) have returned home.

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Germans departure means less of this

This leaves me with a grand total of five friends in the Southern Hemisphere at present but I see this as an exciting opportunity to throw myself out there at opportunities once again to meet some more people.¬†It was sad saying goodbyes particularly to Sarah, Julia and Ben for who knows how long? But I know I’ll likely see them again and I have so many wonderful memories with them.

I know that those of¬†you who have been following my adventure out here and keeping up with me elsewhere or keeping up with my family will know that the past 780 words have been not at all what you’re looking for. Which is why I put it at the start. As many of you know, my parents¬†and my little brother came over to visit me and it was an incredibly enjoyable three weeks and I know we all had a wonderful time. I could write a¬†lot about our time¬†over the past few weeks but…. Actually, no. I’m going to write a lot. “How was your time away?” “It was really nice thanks” doesn’t quite cut it¬†with our trip, I think it deserves more than that.

So, at risk of d√©j√† vu and maybe 6 and a bit paragraphs later, I’m going to start at the beginning. Melbourne. The most liveable city in the world. Much of what we did I’ve already done and already written about – we did Phillip Island, travelled on trams with ease around the city, went to a free¬†outdoor concert¬†performed by Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, they did a walking tour and visited Melbourne Museum whilst I sat an exam, we visited the Shrine of Remembrance, Federation Square, Docklands, Fitzroy and St. Kilda amongst other places. The city of Melbourne and it’s nearby areas treated us well.¬†If you want to know more about Melbourne, my other posts will go into more detail. Whilst they were here we did things I hadn’t done before here such as¬†do a tour of the MCG and a tour of Parliament House. Parliament House was made much more interesting by the tour guide who was so full of life and knowledge it almost felt as though the walls of the building itself were¬†talking to us about¬†the past events which had taken place and what they’re used for.

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‘Bogan Burger’ at The Napier Hotel, Fitzroy.

I apologise for the lighting in this picture but you get the idea. I did promise overly detailed discussion about food and there’s a picture of food here so here comes the discussion. This burger was not food, it was art. This masterpiece consisted of two steak fillets, two rashers of bacon, a fried egg, beetroot, cheese, pineapple, hashbrown and a potato cake sandwiched between two floury bread¬†buns served with thick potato wedges and some salad. If you look at the size of the plate and try and mentally compare that to my head that gives you a vague idea of just how big that thing was. I ate most of it, finished the beer and could walk at a normal pace the next day. From memory, Dad had a kangaroo fillet and mum and Simon both went for paella. I think. Magnificent food.

We flew from Melbourne up to Sydney in the state of New South Wales where we visited some of the most iconic sites in Australia.

We¬†took a tour of the Sydney Opera House, we walked over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, we spent hours at Bondi beach¬†taking a beating from nature as she hit us with wave after wave letting us bob around in the water with many others, we caught a firework display at Darling Harbour where ‘Love month’ was being celebrated, we saw stunning sunsets, we visited¬†Paddy’s market where they had everything from authentic kangaroo testicle bottle openers to massage parlours, we travelled on buses, trains and ferries, Simon tried to eat an ice cream (he get it up his nose, over both hands and pretty much everywhere in between) and we even had a meal up the Sydney Sky Tower.¬†That was posh. The Napier Hotel was better and it’s put dad off towers in a non grumpy way because he’s given grump up for lent.

For just £250 per person (ish) you can climb one of the Sydney Harbour Bridge arches but why do that when you can walk along the path and then simply walk up about 200 steps up a pylon for around $10 per person to get the same views and save a few hours? Top travel tip there.

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View from the Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylon

The Sydney Opera House tour was good.¬†The Opera House is a result of a competition to design it. The bloke who won the thing (I think he was Danish) had no idea how to physically construct it and a lot of time was taken once he’d won the competition to work out how to build the thing but it was still built quicker than Pontio. Pontio isn’t even pointy. Less glamorously than the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge was constructed by the same company from Middlesbrough who constructed the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle – Dorman Long. I have now ran out of facts I know from the top of my head that are relevant. The other iconic spot we visited in Sydney – Bondi beach, was just wonderful. The sand was perfect and the water was just the right temperature when we went. Sort of like when you’ve been in the bath a while and you feel the water start to go cold but it still feels nice…. Okay so it was nothing like that. But it was nice. After a cooling break from the hot weather in the sea we walked along the coast¬†before getting across to Bronte beach. The water there was different to Bondi in that it was relentless. Big, strong, powerful waves hitting every maybe 15 seconds or less, leaving you tired and clinging onto your shorts for fear of a potentially embarrassing malfunction. Public transport in Sydney was pretty easy to use. Ferries were included in Sydney’s public transport system and like Melbourne’s MyKi system, Sydney uses Opal to be used on trams (not as good as Melbourne’s trams), buses, certain ferries and trains. There was something exciting about catching a ferry which was part of a public transport network and the ferries helped us get out to Watson’s Bay for the sunset behind the Sydney skyline as well as to some other beaches.

Apparently fireworks in Sydney are quite frequent, and when we were there there happened to be a display one night at Darling Harbour¬†as part of the ‘Love month’ celebrations which were largely taking place at the harbour.¬†Earlier in our visit we had visited Darling Harbour to find a huge buzz around the place with boat races on the harbour. We went to the tourist information¬†centre¬†nearby to find a Welshman working there making him the second Welsh person I have met whilst out here in Australia.

Next up was Adelaide. We flew from Sydney over to Adelaide which took around 2 hours. We picked up our luggage and Konstantinos the taxi driver took us to the hotel.¬†We actually found it a little difficult to find things to do in Adelaide so ended up visiting the South Australian Museum which was incredibly interesting. The museum held artefacts about settlement,¬†the aboriginal way of life and other lifestyles and cultures from other islands such as Fiji and Papua New Guinea. After that we struggled. We looked around some shops¬†and¬†walked along the river.¬†The Fringe Festival was in Adelaide though and the buskers lining the streets were often people who were performing at the festival at a later date trying to draw in a larger audience and work for some extra money. We listened and watched to a few of these performers but one Canadian lady stood out. We’d found ourselves a comedy show¬†in the middle of a closed road and everyone who watched cried from laughing, it was great fun.

We made a short walk from there to look at the Adelaide Fringe Illuminations which looked great and each display on each building had a different theme. They were displayed onto a couple of museums and the university, too.

We picked up a hire car in Adelaide and drove across to Kangaroo Island which quite simply, was stunning.

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View from Prospect Hill, Kangaroo Island

The island itself was beautiful and we saw wild kangaroos, wallabies, koala bears and various species of seal. It was amazing.

We had a couple of days there taking in all of the sights¬†the whole time being followed by a tour bus and a grumpy elderly couple. Kangaroo Island was incredible – we all agreed it was a particular highlight of the time we all had together and it’s somewhere I don’t think I would have had the opportunity to visit had my family not decided to come and spend time here, so I feel very lucky indeed for that reason.

We left Kangaroo Island to go and¬†spend a night in Victor Harbour where we simply got food and Simon and I had a swim in the hotel with the pool, jacuzzi and sauna all to ourselves which was¬†lovely. We left Victor Harbour the next day to drive down to Mount Gambier. There were some amazing salt flats on the way which used to be lakes so they were interesting but that was the only interesting thing of note. Literally the only thing. Unless you’re particularly interested in fields, straight roads and have a hatred of all civilisation everywhere ever. If that’s the case then Victor Harbour to Mount Gambier is the drive for you! The next day we drove from Mount Gambier to Port Fairy after seeing the Blue Lake and a Sinkhole garden at Mount Gambier. The Blue Lake was a lake that was blue. The Sinkhole garden was a garden situated at the base of a sinkhole. Hope I’m not wasting anyone’s time here. From Port Fairy we drove down to Apollo Bay. This was the exciting part and the whole point of all of this driving.

The Great Ocean Road. It was a stunning drive taking in iconic rock formations such as The Twelve Apostles (or at least the seven that remain due to erosion breaking up the others), The Arch, The Razorback, London Bridge, Thunder Cave and that other one…. The name of which¬†escapes me. I have been looking forward to doing the Great Ocean Road for so long and it really did not disappoint and I’m grateful for the opportunity to have finally gone. From Port Fairy we continued along the Great Ocean Road taking in some of these sights before¬†spending the night at¬†Apollo Bay and travelling back to Melbourne.

I had missed the city of Melbourne whilst travelling around. It’s such a lively city it’s hard not to. To get food that evening¬†in Melbourne we walked down two streets and came across a silent disco walking tour, a wonderful atmosphere¬†around Chinatown with the Chinese lanterns lit up, a fitness instructor up on a stage with a crowd of passers by joining in her routine and being encouraged to bump bottoms with the person next to them¬†as well as a salsa dancing class on Federation Square amongst¬†buskers oozing talent along the way. As we walked back I couldn’t help but think that as much as I’m going to miss my family, I’m not ready to leave this wonderful city just yet. Saying goodbyes wasn’t enjoyable but there’s plenty to look forward to. I find it amazing that although I’ve done so much I’ve still only covered that small corner of Australia.¬†How much more of that map I can cover remains to be seen!

I’m hoping to update this blog one more time this month and then my girlfriend is here and we’re heading up to Sydney for a few days in the time she’s in this part of the world. It’s currently 26 degrees in my room and my family have just returned home to -1. I think I’ll stay here for a bit until Britain decides to warm up a bit, that seems like the sensible thing to do.

I’ll be writing again here soon, thanks for reading!