Do You Remember?

“Do you remember when we first met, I sure do…”

I haven’t posted in weeks and am now going to post thrice in one night. I need to learn to spread these out a little bit more, huh? I can’t resist writing about this because I feel that it is an incredibly important part of my experience here in Australia and also helps to explain my disregard for Recollections of a Wanderer over the past month…

I do not want to come home.

Up until my Spring break vacation to Cairns and the Gold Coast I had spent far too much of my time trying to connect back with my life in the States and looking past my time in Australia towards my return to Cincinnati and Louisville. It wasn’t that I was actively waiting to go home and wanted to leave Melbourne but simply that I was incredibly excited for the things I would have waiting for me when I got home. I no longer have that feeling. My excitement to return hinged primarily on the attachment I felt to the life I had in the States and now that I no longer have that attachment I also no longer have that excitement. It just so happens that those two were also main motivators (alongside wanting it for my own recollection) in the consistent and detailed posting of this blog.

It is impossible to identify the singular moment when I found myself not wanting to go home because it happened in stages of disillusionment with my life in the States and increasing feelings of belonging to my study abroad experience. I guess it all started when I made the choice to not do anymore serious travels here in Australia. I was running out of money due to unforeseen expenses and realized that I had already done more traveling than I had ever hoped to. I had explored New Zealand with The Group for two inexplicably amazing weeks, traveled across half the continent of Australia to see Kangaroo Island, Uluru, Port Douglas, and Sydney with my parents, driven The Great Ocean Road with some of my best friends here in Melbourne, learned to dive in Cairns while making friends from all over the world, and was reunited with a long lost friend in the Gold Coast. I am in no place to say that I haven’t seen enough of Australia and I just came to the realization that no matter how much travel I did there was always going to be something that I didn’t do or see. Not knowing where to draw the line, I took my relative unfamiliarity with Melbourne and its surroundings as a sign that I needed to take my remaining time in Australia to truly discover everything that the city had to offer.

With a new determination to get to know Melbourne and the weight of travel expenses off of my shoulders, the past few weeks I have been going all out in an attempt to enjoy as much of the city as I can before I leave. Concerts, nights out, food. You name it and I have been ‘splurging’ a bit more. This has definitely made my time here more enjoyable and I have noticeably become closer with people since doing so. Instead of being preoccupied with saving money to dive with sharks I have been spending more Tuesdays out at the Hawthorn. Rather than worry about the cost of a plane ticket to Darwin I will be visiting the Victoria Markets on the regular. Concerts and sporting events have taken the place of nights in hostels and day trips to the beaches and mountains surrounding Melbourne have become my new addiction. I have 50 days to explore as many hole in the wall pubs and uniquely Melbourne events as I can and I plan to use each day as best I can. So here’s to exploring a city with some of the best people you could ever find. However excitement over the opportunities I have here in Australia is nothing new for me. So how do explain this changed perception of my return?

I don’t want to come home because I am no longer under the influence of distance causing my heart to grow fonder. Over the past month or so I have been reminded in many ways of the reasons why I chose to leave my life in the States in pursuit of something completely new and unknown. Maybe I just took too much onto my plate. Maybe I just cared too much. I am excited about senior year and have no doubt that it will be a great experience but the year hasn’t even started yet and it is proving to be quite the stressor. My ‘school’ here in Australia has been more like a vacation than anything and it will have been a full 8 months without taking a serious class by the time I start back at Bellarmine. That definitely has me stressed out and while right now I can just kind of chuckle and say “I am so fucked” the reality of it is that I will be going from two incredible extremes; my joke of a class schedule at Swinburne and a semester full of nothing but senior level economics and business courses. That hanging over my head has me worried but the more immediate responsibilities of preparing Knights’ and Hillel for the coming semester is also proving to be difficult. I definitely underestimated the difficulty of trying to step into a situation I have been absent from for 6 months and all the unreturned emails and unanswered questions has reminded me why I wanted to step out in the first place. My front row seat on the roller coaster of finding a place to live next year also has me sick to my stomach. And I love roller coasters. But my determination to explore Melbourne and stress about the responsibilities waiting me when I return aren’t enough to cause me to not want to come home.

When I returned to Bellarmine at the beginning of January to say final goodbyes and watch my last few basketball games, I was hit with a very hard reality that life in the States would indeed go on without me. I always knew it would but to witness it was an eye opener for me. As I flew across the Pacific and began my life in Australia I was still being bombarded by communication from the States and this continued throughout my travels in New Zealand. Not to sound like an egotistical asshole, but it felt good. I felt like even though we were leading completely separate lives that I was still attached to the people I call my friends and family by a mutual interest in each other’s lives. But as soon as it was no longer the cool thing for people to miss Ben that interest stopped. Activity on this site dropped drastically and was only kept afloat by increasing numbers of posts and my own desire to have it further on down the road. I was under the false impression that the more you all knew about my life here the more interested you would be so I put incredible effort into giving as many details posts as I could justify. I went through the same experience when I left for Bellarmine almost three years ago. I struggled during the first semester of college not in the aspect of involving myself on campus but with not feeling connected with the lives of my high school best friends. Call it what you will, but I guess I just expected us to be exception to the typical “you always fall apart from your high school friends” rather than the norm. Thats not to say that I still don’t love and miss them and consider them some of my best friends but it just is meant that the level of communication that we had was disappointing to me. And the same thing has happened here. I honestly don’t know what I was expecting but it wasn’t what happened. I wasn’t expecting to Facebook and Skype for the entire six months I was here but eventually the incredible amount of “Skype soon!” messages and lack of actual Skype calls became a bit disheartening. I recognize that it is a two way street and of course I am bias to my own efforts but I just got the feeling that communication always had an ulterior motive. Whether it was kissing ass to a new President or to cuss and discuss housing, I couldn’t get over the idea that people’s “missing you” was more “I want something from you” than it was genuine effort to catch up on my life down unda. Some people who I considered my best friends at Bellarmine didn’t initiate a single conversation while others started to talk to me more than they do when I am actually in Louisville. Rather than try and understand it or go against what was evidently a natural tendency, I have just accepted it. I used to be terrified of the idea of being forgotten and not feeling attached to life back in the States but now I embrace it. If people want to talk to me and hear about whats going on in my life than they will find a way to do so and I’m not going to forsake my time in Australia to do it for them. It is almost like a natural selection and it has definitely opened my eyes about some of the people I am close with. Call me selfish or hypocritical if you want but I am tired of trying to talk to my friends and feeling like I am annoying them. Its a terrible feeling to have. One definite drawback to realizing that it is no longer cool to miss me is the conflict it poses when it suddenly becomes cool again as my return comes closer. After this post that may not happen at all, but I suppose that wouldn’t be so bad. It’d spare me the choice of whether to just forget the fact that you’ve just ignored me for the past six months or call you out on being either a terrible friend or terrible communicator. I need to stop thinking.

I meant every word that I just wrote to you and hope that you can begin to understand where I am coming from. But before you go getting offended take note that I never said I do not miss you. In fact, missing you is my motivation for writing this post in the first place. Because I miss you terribly and the feeling that it isn’t mutual is nearly unbearable. So please don’t take the above as an attack but rather an observation of someone who just had to get it off their chest and don’t take me not wanting to come back to the States personally. If you can, try to think about a time where you were excited for something while simultaneously dreading the circumstances in which that something would take place. If successful, you will know how I feel right now and subsequently also understand how confusing that mix of emotions can be. I am hopeful that this is just a phase that I will move out of as my return draws nearer but until then I hope you can respect the fact that I have no desire to end my time in Australia in order to return to the States.

Until next time, whenever and wherever that may be.

My Life is Now

“This is your time here to do what you will do…”

So much for keeping this thing up to date, eh? I’m not going to apologize for my lack of posts here but I do hope to become more consistent here on out. I know those may just be empty words at the moment but I do truly enjoy writing on this blog so I hope to get better at it.

It has been just over three weeks since I got back from my Spring Break vacation and life here has been simply fantastic. I did have an awkward moment where I realized I had paid much less of my housing than I had originally thought and that forced me to make a decision about how I wanted to spend my last two months here in Australia. Basically, I could live like a hermit with no social life so that I could travel when school was out or I could give up the idea of jetting off to an exotic beach and live it up in Melbourne with concerts, footy matches, and crazy nights. I opted for the latter as I have already done a significant amount of traveling here and in a way feel like I have yet to truly experience the city that I have been living in for the past four months.

THE VACATION HANGOVER… and a presentation partner from hell

The week that I got back from break was pretty laid back. Everyone’s wallet was still in a mild state of shock, there was school work that was due, and we were all pretty buggered from the vacations. I myself had a presentation due that Wednesday that proved to be much more work than I had intended. See, I had made sure to make it very clear to my group that I would be out of town for ten days just before we were to present. My group partner Brian and I had gotten all of our work done and turned into the group weeks before I left so that we could iron out the paper and presentation before as well. Unfortunately all it takes is one oblivious fuck waiting to do his entire portion of the assignment until after I have left to make all of that work completely pointless. When I arrived back from the airport I checked my email and saw that I had nearly thirty unread messages about how to format the paper, what the presentation should be, and so on. Even if I hadn’t just had the worst travel experience of my life I would have been upset by this because it meant rather than not having to work on the project like I had planned I would need to spend the next 48 hours trying to fix said oblivious fuck’s version of the paper. In an ironic twist the only one of us who was truly concerned about our grade was the oblivious fuck which actually made the presentation on Wednesday incredibly enjoyable. His complete lack of presentation skills aside, the kid was so nervous and worried about our grade that he could barely even sit down before we went and afterwards spent the entire class shaking. I thought it was absolutely hysterical as it was his fault we had to do everything so last minute anyways. Karma was on my side that day. With the presentation out of the way and no classes on Thursday or Friday, I set off determined to enjoy the weekend. The usual Thursday and Friday shenanigans took place but on Saturday we did something a little bit different when Elliot, Stephen, and myself joined Kiwi and Steve when they went to celebrate a friend’s birthday at a bar across town. The night started earlier than it should have and unfortunately Stephen wasn’t allowed to enter the bar so him and Elliot left while the rest of us partied the night away. It was a interesting night complete with pool, spontaneous crying, beer spitting, and failure to roll cigarettes (the cigs were NOT mine). After almost getting hit trying to hail a taxi we returned to our humble UniLodge abode and tried to find our missing friends. Sunday I slept in late and then ventured out to the Glenferrie Road Festival that was happening down the block. When I left it was a bright sunny day and by the time I left it was dark clouds and rain. Melbourne is worse about its weather than Ohio is. The festival was actually really cool aside from the creepy life-size Smurfs that were dancing on a stage. I ran into the girls and Kiwi where Kiwi brought to my attention that we had all made a deal the night before to go on a weeklong bender so I better rest up for. *facepalm* We grabbed some chorizo sausages and smoothies before heading back out of the weather.

THE BENDER:

Monday was the start of the weeklong bender we had all agreed upon at the bar on Saturday. To kick start it off we went to the weekly trivia session at The Hawthorn that is just around the block from campus. We had a few drinks before heading out and then descended on the place determined to win the $100 bar tab that comes with first place. We might had one if Steve and I hadn’t been so distracted by the pool table (or if we knew anything about Australian sports) but alas we came in second to last place. Ironically this is the second best place to finish as we were rewarded with a bottle of wine. To drink the loss away, I suppose? It was my first time at trivia and it was great fun. Regardless of the result, hanging out with everyone and laughing at our horribly wrong answers was a perfect Monday night. Tuesday was the true party day. Since it was ANZAC day the next day there was no school so it was an absolutely massive night to go out. Everyone and their 15 year old siblings were out in the clubs and bars. The group pregame was held at Matt and I’s place but after an incredibly horrid venture out to the clubs we returned and just decided to play the game there, too. We definitely left way too late because by the time we got to the clubs all of the lines were stretched for at least a block. With no wait being less than two hours we just gave up and decided to return to my apartment to finish the night out. Wednesday was much more relaxed. Tuesday had gotten the best of all of us so we decided to take it easy, make pancakes, watch footy, and have a beer. By 2pm I was too hungry to wait for any more people to wake up and join. The decision that it was time for breakfast made, Kiwi, Steve, and I went to Woolworth’s to buy the fixings. It was positively fantastic. With more pancakes and bacon than we could possibly eat we sat down to watch the footy game. Kiwi was unknowingly the victim of a sick game of infectious-virus-hot-potato so he passed on the beer but Steve and I shared one over an ANZAC footy match. Great fun. Thursday was the day the bender ended. We were all just blown out, Kiwi had discovered that he was a victim of infectious-virus-hot-potato, and the clouds that had come during the Glenferrie Festival were still hovering over the city drenching all hope and happiness from the atmosphere. Actually to be honest I am not too sure what I did on Thursday or Friday of this week so we will just skip to Saturday, okay? Saturday morning I woke up and worked out before joining Kiwi and Stephen on an adventure to the Victoria Market. Now, this was my first time at the market which I am ashamed to admit so I was having quite an exciting time. Stephen’s Victoria Market cherry was popped that day as well and I think that Kiwi got a bit annoyed at us being so overly excited at food by the time the day was done. The plan was to grill out on Sunday so Kiwi and I grabbed three kilos of wings and I threw in some salami, limes, and steaks on top. When we returned to UniLodge we just hung out at my apartment and had a little party. The cookout on Sunday was probably one of the most unorganized things I have ever participated in. What was supposed to start at 1pm didn’t get going until 3pm and a combination of stubborn coals and poor lighting technique didn’t have us cooking until 4:30pm. I was starving by the time the wings started to come off the grill and they were absolutely delicious. Not quite like the wings back home but pretty damn close. The cookout was a great success once it got started and it was nice to just have time to sit around and talk with everyone. We also learned that Olle is a pyro.

THE GIRLFRIEND

The week of April 30th was a pretty big one around the apartment. It was finally beginning to sink in with everyone that school was quickly coming to an end so social life picked up a bit and the consequences of procrastination were beginning to lurk nearer and nearer. But procrastination be damned, Morgan was here! Morgan is my roommate Matt’s lovely girlfriend who came and visited us Melbournians for a few days beginning on the 30th. Matt hadn’t stopped talking about Morgan in the three months that we had been living together so I was very excited to finally get the opportunity to meet her. She was only here for a week and they would be in Sydney for part of that time so I didn’t get a whole lot of time to get to know her really well but it was still a great visit nonetheless. The beginning of the visit was understandably slow; a full day of flying and a 14 hour time change will do that to just about anyone. She rallied in the evening though and came out with us to trivia night at the Hawthorn. We were not nearly as successful as we were the week before and Morgan hit the wall about halfway through but it was still a good time. Tuesday was more interesting than any of us planned on it being. I was obligated to go to my Ethics class so that I could turn in a paper but while I was there I got a text from Matt that we had just gotten a new roommate named Fabio. At first I thought it was just a sick little joke he was playing on me but he insisted that it was not and upon my return to 322 I did indeed discover we had gotten a new roommate. I suppose worse things could have happened but this definitely put a kink in the lovely setup Matt and I had going in our apartment. Thankfully (sorry Matt) Fabio had been moved into the room on Matt’s side of the apartment so I was still more or less by myself but Fabio’s arrival was followed by a series of increasingly awkward situations. Do any of you know how awkward it is when a stranger tries to put their yogurt on your shelf in the fridge and because of said yogurt you cannot find your blackberry jelly for your peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Super awkward. Borderline infuriating in fact. But I digress. I did feel a bit bad for the guy though so I did what I could to include him in on the kitchen conversation Morgan and I were having but he was by no mean my priority. So while Fabio sat there awkwardly listening to our conversation Morgan and I did what we could to catch each other up on our lives until Matt came home. A frenzy of dinner, showers, and goon ensued before the three of us ascended to the next floor were Bronaugh was having the predrink. This was where the night took a turn. The predrink was a smashing success both literally and figuratively. By the time it was over there was a gaping hole in the wall next to the bathroom which someone had so eloquently labeled “glory hole” and I lost track of the smashing glasses about halfway through the night. Once we were all assured that we wouldn’t be the first ones inside the Hawthorn we set out for a night on the town. As far as the Hawthorn goes it was a great night which I was glad for because Morgan would only get to see one so it might as well be a good one. Wednesday went by without event as both Matt, Morgan, and myself were all anxiously waiting for Thursday to arrive. The two of them flew out for their little vacation to Sydney on Thursday morning and then that night I would be going to see City and Colour with Anna. I met her outside the Palais and we went to grab a few drinks before returning to watch the concert. I was a bit disappointed with the venue because it was all assigned seats and we didn’t get as good of tickets as I had originally thought but it was still a fantastic show. So fantastic that when we got back to my apartment I ended up buying tickets to see him again in July at Riverbend. We had a mini jam session and scheduling spree into the wee hours of the morning before calling it a night. Friday was spent cleaning up and preparing for the Cinco de Mayo celebrations that would be occurring on Saturday and I also managed to get a little bit of an essay written. It was either that or go to a house party that turned out to be not only an incredible bust but also sketchier than the ShapeUps the servers at Waffle House wear. Mmmm, Waffle House. Our celebration of Mexico’s independence on Saturday was a huge success. Complete with frozen margaritas and nachos, the day was quite exciting. There weren’t a lot of us but we made up for it. Since Spencer had left to go camping for the weekend we decided to sneak into his apartment with the help of one of his roommates. Initially we were just going to bring the 400 balloons we would be blowing up but then we decided we were starving so we brought nachos and we knew the nachos would make us thirsty so we would need drinks. In other words, we moved the party into Spencer’s apartment while he wasn’t there. The balloons got pretty tedious towards the end and it was just slightly awkward when his roommate came back while we were all still in there but we successfully filled his room and impatiently waited for his reaction upon his return. Matt and Morgan got back that night too so the party got a little bit of new life when they got back but it died down pretty quickly once the balloons and nachos were all gone. Sunday was more cleaning and I spent it all attempting but failing to get more work done on my essay. Morgan would be leaving early Monday morning so that night I said my final goodbyes and made tentative plans for a road trip to Boston sometime in the near future. Any takers?

The Beginning of the End

On Monday May 6, 2012 I had a terrible realization. Sitting in my Australian Politics class I was finally struck with the fact that I only had two more weeks left of class here in Australia. I understand that my classes here have been anything but challenging or time consuming but I never expected the time to pass by this quickly. It seems like yesterday I was meeting Adrienne in the Gold Coast and a week ago I was hiking through the mountains of New Zealand. I was happy to discover I hadn’t been focusing on the time and had just been living life but was just hit with a feeling of finality that I haven’t quite been able to shake since. I went the next few days trying to get some work done and attempting to write this blog but just kept hitting a wall where I had no motivation to do either. After my IB class on Wednesday I went with Kiwi and Fabio (who had awkwardly heard my discussion about the movie with Matt and then shadowed his way into joining only to follow maladroitly and silently for the rest of the night) to see The Avengers and it was nothing short of fantastic. We grabbed a meal/ticket special from the food court in Melbourne Central and then laughed our asses off for the next two hours despite being in the very front row of the theatre. I have no doubt I will end up seeing that movie again before I leave here. Skip to Friday and we have arrived at a day that would prove to be more than many of us could handle. It was Spencer’s birthday (he had saved all of our balloons for this occasion) so I planned for Anna to come for a surprise visit since she would be unable to make it to the party that night. Steve met up with us once we were there and the four of us just sat and talked about cars until it was time for Anna to head back. Then a few of us all met up at my place to enjoy some quiet beers together. At some point YouTube was pulled up on a computer and it never went away. LEGO comedic reenactments, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and bleeding body parts had us all in pieces for a good hour. Except for Fabio, who just stood there silently like a creepy statue. It was this afternoon that I gave up on Fabio. Up until this point I could understand his behavior or at least sympathize with it. He had moved into an apartment that Matt and I had obviously developed a balance in, Morgan was here when he first arrived, most of the times we crossed paths it was in a bigger group or party situation, and to be completely honest he is just in a completely different part of his life/mindset than the rest of us are. But if there was ever a place or time to try and bridge that gap it was in your own apartment with a handful of guys who are just sitting around and talking. I offered him a beer and for him to come sit with us but instead he accepted the beer, went and returned the vacuum, stood their silently while he finished his beer, and then went to his room without a word. My effort to make him feel more welcome ended there. But a creepy Italian wasn’t going to ruin the night, we had a birthday to celebrate! Steve said he had some snags he had to cook so we went up to Kiwi’s room for a bit of a barbecue before heading to Spencer’s for the real party. This was a party in every sense of the word. I have never seen a UniLodge apartment so packed or so loud. The place was absolutely insane and it was so much fun that almost no one even thought about going out to the clubs or bars. Although Matt did bitch out early with a piece of pizza (you can redeem yourself at a later point, good sir) the rest of us went on until almost 4pm at which point a Maccas run as the only sensible thing to do. Shrapnel in hand the party descended on those poor McDonald employees like an army and we took up almost the entire restaurant once we had all gotten our food. Before we were all done though Rod managed to get himself kicked out by beginning a wrapper fight with the other end of the restaurant. At least it wasn’t chocolate cake. I took a completely undeserved break from life on Saturday and did practically nothing all day except to venture out to the grocery store for food. Sunday was almost the same as Saturday except for I began work on planning out all the small trips and events that I hope to do before my time here in Australia is done.

BOOM! there ya go. That is my life up until May 13, 2012. Its not the most detailed of posts but I pray you will forgive me of that.

Paradise City

“Take me down to the paradise city, where the grass is green and the girls are pretty…”

Sorry for the delay folks, life Down Unda has been a bit interesting as of late. I last wrote you about my trip to Cairns where I got my scuba certification. But that was only half the trip…

Before I began my travel from Cairns I tried to contact an old friend from high school Adrienne who was studying at Bond University in the Gold Coast. I didn’t hear back from her before my flight to Brisbane left and still didn’t hear anything before my flight to the Gold Coast left so I was a bit worried I would end up needing to get a hostel. Thankfully though when I got off my plane in the Gold Coast my phone turned into a complete and total spaz as all the messages she had sent me while I was enroute arrived. That was a weight off the shoulders. But I still had to find my way there. The Gold Coast is a very spread out area so its main public transit is the bus system, which I never quite got ahold of while I was there. In fact it confused me to no end. I bounced around the airport from desk to desk for a few minutes before coming across someone who could tell me what buses I needed to take to get to Bond University. The buses came relatively quickly and pretty soon I was on my way. There was a bit of a mixup after my first bus dropped me off because I actually had to change busstops but that would turn out to be nothing compared to my experience going back to Melbourne. Before I knew it I was walking up to the Varsity Shores gate and giving Adrienne a hug after almost 4 years of not seeing her. She took me to her house where I met her roommates, Cara and Avery, and some of her friends, Jessica and Nick. The place was incredible, especially compared to UniLodge. It was basically a town house  complete with garage and back patio. Even had air conditioning, too! It was like living in the lap of luxury. I took the upstairs hallway (sketchy I know) since no one lived up there and just kinda turned it into my bedroom. It was really great to catch up with Adrienne. We never really got a lot of time to talk but what when we did it was exciting to hear about everything she had been doing. For both of us to end up in Australia at the same time without any coordination was a pretty huge coincidence. That night was pretty relaxing and we all had a few drinks while we sat and talked.

The combination of Cairns nightlife, three days of scuba diving, and incredibly early mornings finally caught up to me on Thursday morning. Actually just make that Thursday as a whole. I had purposefully not planned anything for my time in Surfer’s Paradise and took full advantage of my schedule or lack thereof on this day. I joined the girls on a walk in the morning (big pimpin’) through Bond’s campus and the lake and small shopping center that are right past campus. The campus itself was gorgeous. Large, open walkways and lots of space in between buildings. Complete opposite of the Swinburne campus stuck into as small a space as possible. We returned to the house where we lazied about, the girls ‘studying’ for exams and myself being completely lost in The Lacuna. I walked back to the shopping center in the afternoon to get out and pick up a box of goon from the liquor store. Ballin’ on a budget at its finest. Thursday night was a huge night to go out (one of the few things that was consistent with the Gold Coast and Melbourne) so we got ready and did a bit of predrinking before catching a bus to East. Now, I knew full well before I arrived that I was going to be visiting during Bond’s study week before finals but this was the first time that it was obvious. Not to say that the place was dead, but just not what I had expected. Adrienne and her friends kept telling me that East was usually completely packed (free champagne for girls will usually get people in the door) and that most people were either traveling or being nerds and not going out so they could study. Psh, you’re in Australia. Go have a drink and get your groove on. It was still a lot of fun though and a lot different from the night scene in Melbourne.

Friday morning I was determined to not spend ALL day being lazy. The morning run/swim fell through though so I asked Adrienne how to get to Surfer’s Paradise, made myself some sandwiches, and headed out for adventure! The day started off really nicely and the trip to the beach was interesting. I took the same bus we had taken last night but walked through a large outdoor shopping centre that led all the way to the beachside park. The beach was really nice but incredibly windy. The wind made for some great surfing conditions but wasn’t so amicable for book reading or even just sitting down. I actually wasn’t on Surfer’s yet so I followed Adrienne’s instructions to “walk towards the tall building” along the beach. However simple the instructions may have been, they worked perfectly and after about an hour walk I arrived in Paradise. The walk itself was one of the best parts of the day. In addition to the surfers of varying talent perpetually bobbing up and down to my right, I passed a few businessmen, pleated pants rolled up to their knees, carrying their socks and shoes in a plastic bag they had obviously just ate lunch out of. Not a bad lunch-time cafeteria if I do say so myself. Tourists and their spawn littered the beach in the swim zones, of which there were about 6 during my walk. The most curious thing I came across though was a wedding gown photo shoot. Not only was there no groom in sight but what would possibly make a person think an overcast day on an incredibly windy beach is a sufficient setting for a photo shoot. Maybe the groom felt the same way I did and was still asleep in the hotel room. Yeah, lets go with that. Too depressing to think about a woman putting a wedding gown on and only saying ‘I do’ when the photographer asks her if she has sand in her mouth. When I got to Surfer’s, the weather was beginning to take a turn for the worse so I took shelter along the esplanade and ate lunch. Peanut butter and nutella sandwiches are not only delicious but are also the perfect seagull bait. I had one particularly determined little shit who never let me or my food out of his sight. Then a crazy woman playing the accordion racked up and started dancing to whatever voices she was hearing in her head. But not even a seagull companion and being serenaded by a bat-shit crazy woman could keep me once the rain subsided and my sandwiches were gone. I took a few cliche tourist photos before venturing away from the beach into the stores and restaurants. It reminded me of a cross between Virginia Beach and Niagra Falls. The souvenir and clothing shops and seafood restaurants reminded me of Virginia Beach but the Ripley’s Believe It or Not and Hard Rock were totally Niagra. As is tradition in the Rubenstein clan, whenever there is a Hard Rock within reasonable distance we must go and visit. The weather was once again sunny so I grabbed a pint of Fat Yak and sat outside on the patio people watching and jamming to the tunes. For those who are dedicated readers of this blog, do you remember the girl from the Metro with her chips? This Hard Rock patio was my Metro train and Fat Yak was my Smith’s Original chops. It was magnificent. I explored the area for a little while longer but soon found myself walking away from the really tall building and back to my bus stop. The walk back was much less enjoyable. Halfway through it started to rain and I was in no way prepared. I left the beach in hopes of finding a covered pathway of some sort but soon after I did this the rain ceased. Too lazy to move back onto the beach and actually quite grateful to not be facing that brutal wind any longer, I continued my walk home through the parks that ran parallel to the beach. When I got back to Adrienne’s, I had dinner and got ready to go out to experience the Surfer’s nightlife. During all of that I planned a trip to Byron Bay for the next day just so that I could see more of the area while I was here. The process to get ready was a lengthy one but once everyone was ready we grabbed a maxi (big ass cab) that took us WAYYY out of the way to a club called Melbas. This place was much more like the night scene in Melbourne. The place wasn’t packed by any means and the fog machine sounded more like a fog horn when it went off, but it was a really good night. I was more comfortable with Adrienne and her group of friends so I was a lot more loose and relaxed. But every club must close. It was raining when we walked out of the club and since there was another hour or so before the late bus started running we just hailed a cab that took us back to Adrienne’s.

Saturday morning was hurried. I overslept my alarm so rushed to get dressed and packed in time to catch the bus that would take me to Surfer’s Paradise so I could catch the shuttle to Byron Bay. I made the bus no worries and only had a few minutes wait before the Byron Bay Express came through the bus terminal and picked me up. When I got off the shuttle in Byron, I was completely and totally lost. The information centre was completely useless and I ended up wandering around aimlessly until I found someone who knew the basic layout of the town and was also willing to give me a few directions. They pointed me towards the beach and I set off. This was by far the nicest beach I had been on in my time in Australia. The sand was bleach white and free of almost all seeds and shell fragments. Just pure, white sand that went on forever. The shore was fairly steep as it is at most surf beaches and the part where I had walked out was almost deserted despite it being a glorious day. I took a little nap in the sun for about three hours before continuing on towards the lighthouse that overlooked the beach. The walk was fantastic. I couldn’t have asked for a better day and the beach curved out to a peninsula where you could climb up and look out down either coast or down to where the surfers were trying to catch the big waves. On my way I decided that the sandwich supplies in my backpack didn’t quite sound appetizing so I grabbed some fish and chips and a milkshake from a oceanfront restaurant. Since the little devil spawns who had ordered before me refused to leave the takeaway tables in peace, I continued on with my walk until I got to the top of a hill overlooking the other side of the bay. When I got there I realized that once again I had a hot lunch date, this time in the form of a rather large lizard who was extremely interested in my fries. I named him Spike and kept him occupied with many a fried potato during our date. Spike and I were rudely interrupted when a couple came by and, seeing a french fry eating lizard as an invitation for social interaction, proceeded to tell me that they had been walking for five hours and had only just now gotten to their current location. This made me jump a little as I was planning on having a leisurely stroll to the lighthouse and back with more than enough time to catch my shuttle back to the Gold Coast. I hastily finished my lunch, said my farewell to Spike, and set off on a desperate mission to the light house. Up until this moment I had been walking around barefoot but my newly discovered time limit forced me to put my shoes on. I was making good time until I hit the nude part of the beach. For reasons beyond my understanding, the ground suddenly got really sticky and I wasn’t able to walk as fast. Weird, huh? Not to be tempted from achieving my goal, I trudged onwards up the hill that the lighthouse stood on. All the side paths be damned, I was determined to see this lighthouse. When I got to the top, it proved to be worth it. Not only was the lighthouse itself really cool but the viewpoint that it had from the top of the hill was astounding. I could see the entire coastline that I had just walked up, the town of Byron, and way off in the distance the skyscrapers of the Gold Coast. The couple who had shook  me into such a scare about the time must have been moving at a snail’s pace because I had made the trip that took them two hours in under 30 minutes. Slightly bitter about rushing through the walk, I set back down the hill from where I came determined that if I saw the couple again I would inform them to not assume everyone is as lethargic and dilatory as they are. The walk back was much more enjoyable. I explored some of the side paths that offered some great views of the cliffs and coastline. The most Eastern point of the Australian continent was also right along the path as well. When I passed it I couldn’t help but think about how this was the closest I was going to be to the States for another two months. It was a weird feeling. Spike was still where I had prematurely ended out lunch date but was not nearly as friendly now that I didn’t have french fries. The sun was beginning to set as I finished my walk up the beach. I went a bit further past where I originally walked onto the beach and went through the small park that comes up the edge of the beach at the main swim area. With an hour or so to burn but no sun to keep me on the beach I wandered into town where I bought my usual shot glass and explored the shops. It was a weird mix of surf/hippie culture and had everything from gems worth thousands of dollars to the tackiest Australian souvenirs you can imagine. I made a sandwich while I waited at the bus stop and once the Greyhound pulled up I got in the queu, gave the driver my name, and took my seat. It was 7:00pm when I got on the bus and it was a good three hour drive so I turned the iPod on and dozed off. The ride went quickly (a three hour bus ride is nothing compared to what I did in New Zealand) and I walked around Surfer’s Paradise for a few minutes before catching the bus that would take me back to Adrienne’s. When I walked in, I immediately heard the celebration going on upstairs. They were all celebrating Jessica’s birthday combined with a final big weekend out. I had picked up a bottle of vodka in Byron to give them as a thank you present for letting me stay in their house that I was going to leave on the table when I left in the morning but thought they might find it more useful on their big night out. I had a drink or two with them before they left for the club but wasn’t going to be joining them that night. The long day in Byron and the early morning bus to the airport were enough to keep me in that night. Besides I had felt a bit self conscious about the past few nights because I felt that Adrienne was more worried about whether I was having fun than she was about herself. Thats no way to spend your last weekend anywhere so I just let her and her friends go out and do their thing without having to worry about me. It turned out to be a good decision, too. It took me awhile longer than I thought it would to pack and it was nice to get to bed relatively early. I got a few laughs when the group returned from the club though as I could hear perfectly the discussions about what to eat, what to drink, and whether or not they had woken me up.

Sunday morning was depressing. The weather was terrible and it marked the end of my vacation. I grabbed a quick breakfast and talked to Adrienne for a few minutes before slinging my backpack over my shoulder, saying goodbye, and setting off to the busstop. This would prove to be the beginning of the most stressful day of travel of my life. I left Adrienne’s house in plenty of time to catch the 7:36am bus but it never came. I was there at 7:30am and not a single bus came by until the 7:55am rolled up. I bought my ticket and took the 10 minute ride to Pacific Fair where I disembarked and walked a block to the stop that the airport bus would be arriving at shortly. My flight was scheduled to leave at 10:00am for Sydney but I got to the airport around 9:15am. In the States that would be cutting it way to close but for a domestic flight in Australia I still had plenty of time. I was sitting behind security by 9:25am and cracked open a magazine while waiting to board the plane. About halfway through the magazine I thought to myself, “Hmm, the plane should be boarding by now.” Well no, Ben, your plane shouldn’t be boarding because it has been delayed by twenty minutes. Twenty minute delays happen. No big deal. I went back to my magazine and before I knew it I was staring at the back cover and STILL not on the plane. Another twenty minute delay? Ugh, alright. I never got on the plane. After five twenty minute delays the flight was cancelled entirely and I was sent back through security to pick up my bags. The bags didn’t come for 45 minutes and after that it was a stampede to the service desk to find the next flight. I got to cut in line because I was going to Melbourne so this brightened my day a little bit until I was told that I would be put on a 5:00am flight leaving out of… wait for it… Brisbane. Bitch I’m not in Brisbane how am I supposed to fly out of there. The answer to that question would be a 3 hour bus ride. I said before that a 3 hour bus ride isn’t that bad but that was in a circumstance where I was not only expecting to be on the bus but I was also supposed to be on the bus. When I go to fly, don’t put me on a bus. The bus didn’t get to the airport for another hour so by the time I actually boarded it was almost 1pm. The bus ride was uneventful but when we arrived at the airport, got dropped off at the wrong terminal, and still had to stand in line for an hour I was anything but pleased.The polite demeanor I had when all of this started was barely holding on and all I wanted to do was get back home. I checked my bag, got my boarding pass, and went to the gate where I took the closest possible seat so I could just get on my fucking plane. The entire plane could probably hear me sigh in relief as we took off. My relief didn’t last long though as I soon discovered that the high school swim team members sitting behind had never been told that if you put your headphones in and turn music on even if you think you are speaking normally you SOUND LIKE THIS TO EVERYONE ELSE ON THE PLANE. No, I didn’t murder or inflict emotional damage on any teenagers but it was very tempting. The final bag pickup and shuttle/train to Hawthorn was quick and painless. By the time I got back to the apartment I was exhausted and wanted nothing more than to have a shower and go to bed. Goodnight, world.

_

All in all, my vacation to Cairns and the Gold Coast was absolutely fantastic. It was some of the greatest days I have spent here in Australia and I met so many amazing people. I made new friends from all over the world, from Melbourne to Israel and Sweden to Germany, who I am so incredibly excited to see and travel with once again. Being reunited with Adrienne made me realize the importance of maintaing communication with people who are important in your life. My vacation was simultaneously one of the biggest adrenaline rushes I have ever had yet relaxing. I was surrounded by the most gorgeous nature anyone could imagine, too. In short, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Sure as hell beats out the yearly migration to Panama City in the States. A final thank you to Adrienne for your hospitality and I look forward to catching up with you again soon. To all my ProDive buddies, when are we going to Julian Rocks?!

Till next time readers 🙂

Under the Sea

“We got no troubles, life is the bubbles, under the sea…”

Hello again my Dear Reader,

When we last spoke, I was packing my back for my Passover break and setting off to Cairns and the Gold Coast. I am now unfortunately back Melbourne sitting in the closet that UniLodge has the stones to call a bedroom and trying to avoid the reality of school by typing this post and planning my next adventure. Not to have a repeat of when I first got here, I am determined to catch up my Recollections before I leave for my next trip. I left Melbourne on Thursday morning. Matt had gotten up insanely early to catch his flight to Sydney to meet his dad so I wolfed down some yogurt before slinging the backpack over my shoulder and locking the apartment up. It was a weird feeling to actually close my bedroom door as I rarely ever do so since it is just Matt and I in the apartment. However as soon as the door closed to 322, I felt the excitement start to grab hold of me. It had been too long since I had left on the Glenferrie to Southern Cross to Tullarmarine trek and I was so extremely anxious to finally be leaving. You would think that with all the tourists and international students that Melbourne has that people would get used to seeing individuals walking around train stations looking like they are about to go summit Mt. Cook but as always I was the recipient of half of Metlink’s customer’s stares that morning. Fuck ’em. The trip to the airport was uneventful and while the $28 return shuttle always hurts a bit when you buy it all you have to do is think about your final destination and it seems worth it. Before I knew it I was in the air on my way to Brisbane. I am always amazed at how quickly layovers seem to go. Mine was about an hour and a half in Brisbane but it felt like I was there for mere minutes. Granted I wasn’t stuck with a 12 hour layover and had a great book to pass the time but I was pleasantly surprised when my plane was announced as boarding. I shot a quick text to a few friends I knew were already in Cairns to let them know I was close and took my exit-row seat for the second time that day. The flight was short, we had hardly reached cruising altitude before beginning our descent, and after picking my backpack up from baggage claim I waited in the glorious late-afternoon Cairns sun for the shuttle that would take me to my hostel, Gilligan’s backpackers.

Gilligan’s is easily the nicest hostel I have come across in my travels. The place was absolutely massive with the facilities of a hotel and rooms that could easily pass as hotel-worthy if not for the four bunk beds they had shoved into each one. My room had a private bathroom (unheard of in the hostel world) and a balcony that overlooked the pool and bar. Sweet as. When I stumbled through the door a few of my roommates were already in the room and I was immediately struck with how friendly they were. Not to say that people in the other hostels I had stayed in weren’t friendly but these people completely dropped their conversation to begin a new one with me. It was really quite awesome. I unpacked and made my bed when some more of my new roomies came through the door. I took my leave though so that I could meet up with Cody, Quintin, Meagan, and Rachael who had arrived in Cairns the day before me. I met up with them in the Maccas along the Esplanade and from there we went to Woolworth’s to find food. It had been brought to my attention that the following day was Good Friday and I was told that almost the entire city shut down during this day so that it would be nearly impossible for me to find food unless I bought it that night. Hello, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I managed to grab the last half-loaf of bread in the entire Woolworth’s store and it was very obvious that the holiday backpackers that had taken over Cairns were in a panic over the possibility of going a day without food. The five of us decided that a barbecue would be a fun dinner to have the next night so we got all the fixings for that as well. But you aren’t a backpacker or self respecting man if you don’t have beer with a barbecue so we wandered around Cairns for a few blocks before we found a bottle shop. I parted ways with the other four since we were staying in different hostels and returned to Gilligan’s to shower and cash in on the free meal hostel guests got in the bar. I asked for a few reviews on the meal before diving in and the unanimous decision was to upgrade to the fish and chips for $4 or else I would be stuck with a plate of rice and meat that could make Taco Bell pass as a five star restaurant. I wasn’t going to try and prove the reviews wrong. The gang came over to Gilligan’s right about when I had finished my dinner so we all grabbed some 2-for-1 drinks and a booth for a few minutes. They all had a free meal at another restaurant though so we left Gilligan’s and headed down the street to the Woolshed, another popular bar and the home to a sweet as plate of nachos. Natalia, Colleen, and Nicklaus (more Swinburne students) were there  so we joined them for a drink before going back to Gilligan’s in search of another 2-for-1 drink special. It never returned though so we simply called it a night. When I got back to the room there was very little that could have kept me awake, not even the club music blaring just below the balcony. I was out.

 we be grillin’ yo.

I am going to take a moment to introduce you to the people who I met on the boat now. Mikael, a backpacker from Denmark, who would be my cabinmate and dive buddy. Chris and Jess, a couple from Melbourne who I would hang out with a lot the next few days. Michelle, recently moved to Canberra. Dafna, an Israeli dive instructor who is hilarious. Katie, a student who is finishing her studies in Australia. Tess, a Dutch girl studying English in Australia. Anna and Chris, a German couple who provided some great comic relief throughout the trip. James and Charleen, a couple who would share I would share my late night trips to the top deck with and many a laugh. Sam and Raph, my two dive instructors for the trip. Ben, the ‘safety guy’ on the boat. Alli from the Galley, the cook on the boat. And so many other people, too many to name!

The next morning came early, but what morning doesn’t? I grabbed some jelly sandwiches for breakfast, packed up the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and apples that would be my lunch, and threw on my boardies to get out the door by 7:30. I was nervous and not quite sure what to expect from the ProDive experience but one thing I definitely wasn’t prepared for was their shop and training facility to be two different places. The shop was 100 meters away from Gilligan’s and I had seen it while we were walking around the city the night before. Upon my arrival though I was soon realized that it would be impossible for me to start my class at 8am if the shop didn’t open until 9am. The questions of the Universe are never ending. I began a semi-frantic search around Cairns for the training facility, ducking into every cafe and convenience store in search of directions. Every person I approached looked at me like I was on crack except for one sweet lady selling cinnamon rolls from behind a counter. She pointed me in the right direction and even called me dear. What a sweetheart. The place was about three blocks away and I still got there before 8am but when I walked through the door I was informed that I didn’t have to be there until 8:30am but I was more than welcome to tea and biscuits. By biscuits they meant chocolate chip cookies so I was quite content for the half hour I was waiting. It is funny to think about everyone walking into the classroom that first time as perfect strangers since we all grew so close, but I took my seat in the classroom and watched as the rest of the group trickled in with their steaming styrofoam cups and crumbling cookies. Our trainer, Sam, joined us shortly after that and jumped straight into the course. Armed with caffeine and booklets, he clicked a few buttons and let us watch instructional videos for 4 hours only interrupting in 15 minute intervals to clarify the video and allow us to fill out the quizes on the back of our certification pamphlet. Around noon we were released for lunch and our diving physical. It is quite difficult to answer a busy nurse’s questions with peanut butter still sticking to the roof of your mouth but I guess I had all the right answers because I passed. Also found out I have a resting heartbeat of 58 beats a minute. I can fux wyt dat. After popping my ears for the doctor and reassuring her this wasn’t an elaborate plan to kill myself, I was granted physical clearance to dive. Just one step closer. We ended up losing one of the group members in this process but once it was all over they immediately threw us in a pool for the swim test. Slipping in the bathtub is more of a swim test than the one they gave us. We were allowed to use a mask and snorkel for the lap part of the test and 10 minutes of treading water is only uncomfortable if you are holding back a fart the entire time. And even then its only a mildly uncomfortable experience. We took turns holding the snorkel while we treaded water and introduced ourselves, where we were from, and why we were taking this course as our long plastic mic made its rounds. Before the swim test the group had been split in two to make it easier on the instructors and I was placed with a new instructor named Raph. From here on our Raph was my man. When our swim test was over Raph went through the basic steps of setting up the scuba equipment. It was simple enough but even on the last dive of the trip I was shaking my head at myself for missing tiny parts here and there. Not one to waste time, Raph had us geared up and in the pool moments later to begin the teaching us about dive techniques and such. I was paired with Mikael, a backpacker from Denmark, as my dive buddy. The other members of our group were Chris and Jess (a couple from Melbourne), Michelle and Kat, and Anna and Chris (a couple from Germany). We would get to know each other pretty well by the time this was all through. To be completely honest, I forget what all we did on which day but we learned a plethora of things including how to clear our mask of any water (just tilt your head up, press gently on the upper frame of your mask, and exhale through your nose) and locate our regulator (the thing we breathe out of) should we lose it. We also practiced buoyancy and continued breathing techniques (blowing bubbles to make sure you never hold your breath and blow up your lungs). The pool is about 4 meters deep at ProDive so we practiced descending and ascending for awhile, too. When the class was over we all piled into the shuttle and got dropped off at our respective accommodation still more or less strangers. I joined up with Cody and the rest of the gang for the barbecue for some much needed relaxing. I had just spent more time in a classroom in a day on break than I do in a whole week during class so a beer was just what I needed. We barbecued in the park next to the Lagoon, which is just one big swimming pool along the shore, and stuffed ourselves with snags and chips and beer. Yumm. It was then decided that going for a swim would be a good idea so we jumped in for a little while before the need for sleep hit all of us like a ton of bricks. Sleep would have to wait for me though for when I returned to my room all of my roommates were sitting on the balcony with cases of goon and bottles of beer scattered amongst them. Hell, I can sleep when I’m dead. I stayed up and talked with them for a few hours before finally giving in to slumber.

 the ProDive training centre

It is pretty much a safe bet that every time I start a new day, I am going to say that the morning came too early. So I might as well stop saying it, right? It’s almost like saying “Hey” and “What’s up?” because it happens so often with the exact same outcome that people should just stop saying it altogether and get to the fuckin’ point. Ah, my point. Right. The shuttle picked me up this morning and I once again got to experience Raph’s crazy driving. Nothing like a trip in a speeding maxi-van to wake you up in the morning. Chocolate cookies were once again my hot date for class but instead of the boring videos we got a briefing on all the different types of dive equipment there were and then got to go straight into the pool to try some of it on. It was pretty cool because we just got to snorkel around trying on different masks and flippers while attempting to free dive down to the bottom of the pool with good technique. After that we strapped on the BCDs and tanks for awhile to practice more technique and just get us more comfortable in the water. After this we took a vote on where to go for lunch which turned out to be an all-you-can-fit-into-a-plastic-box Chinese place that was actually quite good. Damn Gilligan’s fridge ate mine before I could eat the rest of it though. After lunch we stopped to get some gelato before heading to the store where we were assaulted with one of the best designed and operated business strategies I have ever come across. The first day of class we were given basic rental equipment that we would of course associate with the awkwardness and uncomfortableness that comes with diving for the first time. The second day we were given top end equipment to try on armed with a new sense of confidence that came with some (albeit little) knowledge and experience from the day before. And then BAM! we were standing in front of a wall of nice new top end equipment ready for purchase. It worked and I ended up walking away with my own snorkel gear which I am actually incredibly excited about because there will be lots of opportunities for me to use it the rest of my time in Australia. Oh by the way Mom and Dad, I bought snorkel gear. Our shopping itch scratched, we were put back into the classroom to watch the final two videos and take the exam. When the exam was over, we were free to go. I walked back to Gilligan’s and did some packing before I met up with Alex and Angela, some friends from Melbourne, who had just arrived in Cairns. I hung out in their room for a few minutes before returning to my room to relax, finish packing, and catch up on sleep. So much for sleeping when I’m dead.

 sunset over the Great Barrier Reef on my first night on the boat

When 5:30am rolled around though I was really glad I had stayed in that night. I staggered out of bed and may as well have been drunk on sleepiness. I gathered my things as silently as I could and by the time I was downstairs checking out I was gripped with excitement that I couldn’t even be bothered to think about closing my eyes in fear of missing something. Kind of reminded me of New Zealand and those long bus rides. This time we were supposed to go the shop so I opted out of the shuttle and walked the short block from Gilligan’s. I could tell I wasn’t the only one fighting off the excitement. I dropped my backpack in a storage closet in the back of the store, shrugged into my book bag, and waited impatiently for everyone to check in. I was surprised at how many divers who hadn’t been in the class were coming on the boat with us. All told there were 32 people going out on the boat. I caught the crazy-Raph shuttle to the docks where I caught my first glimpse of my home for the next 72 hours, ScubaPro. We hopped onboard, were assigned cabins and safety numbers, and given the run-down on life aboard ScubaPro while the crew was preparing for departure. I was bunked with Mikael and we did a bit of moving in until we felt the ship begin to move. Then it was a bum rush to the sun deck to make sure you got all the best views. The view soon took a backseat for many passengers of the boat as they were preoccupied with trying to keep breakfast from exploding into the conveniently placed brown bags throughout the boat. The initially crowded top deck was soon vacated as almost everyone searched for low, middle ground in an effort to limit their spewage. I was thankfully not one of the passengers stricken by this sea sickness and this was when I met Dafna, an Israeli who is a certified scuba instructor. We chatted it up with the occasional peak down below to see what the damage was. Between the random auditory signs and trips to the water fountain to fill water bottles by those who remained immune to the illness below, I came to the consensus that it was bad. Very bad. It was never-ending, too. Not until the boat had arrived at the first dive site and anchored did people finally begin to show signs of life again but even then there were those who would be queasy for the entire trip. To make sure none of us got ahead of ourselves in our estimation of personal diving prowess, we were immediately slapped with an extensive dive preview by Raph followed by a highly supervised equipment set up. The lycra suit that they gave us to protect from jellyfish was absolutely freezing and still cold from the wash basins when we went to put it on. You didn’t really have time to be self conscious about how you looked in it but since everyone was wearing it you also couldn’t feel too embarrassed. If everyone looks ridiculous, then no one does. Now that we all looked like singed smurfs in spandex, it was time for the weight belts. I got a pretty neon green one with 4.5 kilograms of weight strapped on. There is no convenient or elegant way to go about this process but if you didn’t break a toe in the process it was deemed a success. Up next was the BCD, which is the vest that your tank, regulators, and whatnot are all attached to. Tank strapped level with the handle, first stage screwed in, emergency sausage clipped on, air on, 200 bar, and octopus strapped in. Good to go! Once the BCD was on we would do a buddy check to make sure everyone’s equipment worked properly. Our group was the last one ready on almost every dive so after we watched the other groups jump in we walked single file to the dive deck where we were signed into the water, washed our masks out (the greener the cleaner!), and took turns stepping our one giant step into the Big Blue. It was fantastic. Just floating on the surface, chin shoved into your chest to see into the water, eyes darting in twenty directions at once was such a thrilling experience. The first dives we did were pretty elementary, which was to be expected. Our descent was guided by the ropes that the boat was anchored to. The line was actually really cool. On the ocean floor were a set of four massive concrete blocks that were permanent residents of the Great Barrier Reef. Stretching up from these blocks was a rope upon which a ring and buoy were attached to. The boat would throw a second v-line into the water with a hook on its end. Hook + ring + massive concrete blocks = really cool area to explore. The rope itself was interesting, covered in algae that attracted many fish looking for a meal. We still saw a lot of cool things but these dives would be spent repeating all the techniques we learned in the pool but this time 10 meters deep in saltwater. Flooding the mask was easily the least popular of these activities. Contacts made this one especially uncomfortable. Raph took us on a brief guided tour of the reef afterwards and once we surfaced we practiced various surface rescue techniques before leaving the water. One thing that ProDive got right was the food on board. Sam had told us that we wouldn’t need to bring any sort of snacks with us and he was absolutely right. Every time we got out of the water some sort of food was waiting for us and there was all you can eat biscuits and fruit. It was glorious. The food was really good too! After lunch we had our second dive debrief and went through the same process of assembling, checking, and putting on the gear. Actually almost all of the certification dives were similar and only varied in the one or two tasks that we did on the ocean floor before going on the brief tour of the reef. That dive was our last of the day so we dissembled all of our gear and I threw my six pack in the fridge for that night. Even though we were done diving, they still let all of us back in the water to snorkel in the afternoon. This was a lot of fun. You have so much more freedom with snorkeling than you do with scuba diving. You may be limited by how long you can hold your breath but you move much more quickly without all that equipment on you. I also really enjoy free diving so this was my chance to enjoy that while trying to see as much as possible. When we climbed back out of the water it was dinner time! After dinner was over we got a bit of a show when the scraps were thrown into the water. Fish were everywhere and a shark even surfaced to see what all the commotion was about. I watched as the certified divers got ready for their night dive and was almost glad I wasn’t able to go because it would have been freezing. Once everyone was back out of the water we all crowded into the lounge area to hang out. A deck of cards surfaced eventually and I spent a few hours playing various games with people. Bedtime was early for most and it wasn’t too long before there were only a handfull of us left but even we called it a night around 1am. I had an awful sleep though because our cabin was a sauna so the 6:45am wakeup call came way, way too early.

 The cabin that I split with Mikael on the boat.

Even though I was slightly stunned when the wakeup call first came, I was so excited about getting back into the water that by the time I hit the dive deck I was wide awake. Today we got a little bit more freedom in the water. Instead of using the ropes to descend we did a free descent, letting air out of our BCDs to make us sink to the bottom where we once again got on our knees to practice dive skills. We did a little bit of compass work where we followed a bearing for a certain distance than returned to our starting location but that was really easy. “We only have one dive left until we are certified!” That was all I could think about when I climbed out of the water after the morning dive. It was hard to believe that it was already the fourth day of my trip but I was really excited to finish the class and go out by ourselves. The second dive of the day was great except for the fact that we had to completely take our mask off, put it back on, and clear it. No fun. Raph also issued a challenge for us; to descend to exactly 16 meters. No more and no less. If you went below or not deep enough than you would be punished and if you succeeded your reward was to not get punished. I managed to do the 16 meters exactly and the rest of the group did too but Chris got a bit carried away and went too deep. When he showed me his guage I flooded my mask on accident because I started to laugh. Lesson learned. When we came out of the water we were officially certified as Open Water divers! Hooray! We did a little ceremony where we got our cards and then were almost immediately sent up to the top deck for the third dive’s briefing. I was lost as soon as Ben started talking. Chris joined up with Mikael and I for this dive so we went downstairs, threw on the gear, and jumped in the water. It was a really weird feeling being alone down there. It was exciting, but to not have a professional who dives the reef every week down there with you was a bit freaky. I spent most of the dive staring at my gauge worrying about how much air I had left and staring at my compass trying to figure out where the fuck we were. On land, the briefing described all sorts of coral formations but in the water they all look exactly the same. At least to me they did. This meant that the three of us soon had absolutely no idea where we were or where we were going. I can’t say that I was all that surprised that it happened and looking back on it its pretty funny to think about, but in the moment it was a tiny bit distressing. We followed a bearing up into the shallows and without even realizing it basically surfaced (this isn’t good). I was really bad at not realizing that the ocean floor is anything but flat and that even if you were following the floor you would still be descending/ascending as you went. Today we ascended and before I knew it I saw Mikael’s tank out of the water and I could have lifted my hand above the surface easily. We surfaced, signed that we were okay to the boat, and talked over what we were going to do next. Everything but our orientation was fine so we descended back down with a pledge to be extra conscious of our depth this time. We headed back through the shallowed parallel to the boat for awhile before we once again were lost (the fishes were so pretty… we couldn’t resist the urge to follow them). We did a second surface, signed to the boat, and came across Jess who had been out snorkeling. She told us that she thought she had seen a shark so we immediately went back down in search of it. We did indeed see a shark but we also saw TURTLES! Up close and personal, too. One was busy munching on coral and really couldn’t be bothered with us and the other was just swimming along not giving two fucks about anything else in this world. We found our way back to the mooring line and did our third and final ascent of the dive. Once we had signed out of the water and put our equipment up, Sam approached us about the Adventure certification that we could do now that we were Open Water divers. The Adventure would let us dive to 30 meteres as opposed to 18 meters with Open Water and only consisted of three extra dives; a night dive (which we could do anyways), a deep dive to 30 meters, and an optional specialty dive. I said I was definitely interested and after our snack Sam sat all the Adventure diver wannabes down and went over some of the difference between Adventure and Open Water. He talked about nitrogen narcosis, which is where you basically become drunk as your body begins to take in too much nitrogen and also about some of the safety procedures that come with deeper(er) diving. We got a little time to enjoy the sun after the meeting before dinner and then we suited up for the night dive. But as always a dive briefing had to come first. Since we were in the Adventure course this counted as a certification dive so I was once again in the lounge with Sam, whose twisted sense of humor really made its presence known. It was all well and good at the start, he was just talking about the glow sticks and flashlights (NOT a torch) we would have and the different signals we would use once we were in the water. Then the topic of sharks came up and his speech went something like this…

“Now guys, since we are so close to the Continental Shelf we do get a lot of different tropical fish in these waters. This means we get a lot of sharks. I know you have seen the black and white tipped reefers but at night the reef can attract some different species. If you see this, *holds flashlights close together* it is your dive instructor so pull your lights away. If you see this, *holds flashlights a few inches apart* it is a stingray laying the sand. If you see this *holds flashlights half a foot apart* it is a reef shark. If you see this *holds flashlights a meter apart* it is a bull shark. If you see this, *holds flashlights AS FAR APART AS POSSIBLE* it is a tiger shark, which is one of the most aggressive sharks in the world. Now, if you see this *holds flashlights AS FAR APART AS POSSIBLE* then I need you to immediately signal to me and we will form the Iron Circle, where we will all face inwards in a circle, link arms and not give the shark anything but our tanks to touch. Sharks always will rub up against their prey before they attack it and will normally do so two or three times before going in for the  kill, so if we can form the iron circle fast enough they will not attack us because they will only feel our tanks. If we can’t form the Iron Circle though and you feel or see your dive buddy move suddenly once or twice you need to *pounds table with his fist and starts screaming* SWIM FOR YOUR LIFE THEY ARE ALREADY DEAD!”

Holy shit I was terrified. Looking back on it now, we all should have been smart enough to know he was completely fucking with us but his seamless transition made it almost impossible to detect when exactly he started to bullshit us. No one had to change their pants but it definitely took a moment or two for the heartbeats in the room to slow down. While he was telling that story you could have heard a mouse squeak or a pin drop, but you wouldn’t have had the chance because even the mouse was sitting in wide-eyed fear and no one would dare drop a pin in case it was enough to attract the shark that was going to kill your dive buddy. You don’t want that on your conscience. Once Sam reassured us that there would be no Iron Circle-ing he sent us out to the dive deck to get ready. I was so excited. Not even the cold suit and shark stories could keep me out of the water. Jeff was going to be our guide for the night so when we were all ready we followed him into the water. It was eery. The water was almost pitch black but we could see the lights of some of the dive groups who had already begun their descent. We swam to the mooring and followed the ropes down to the blocks where Jeff gave us a bearing we had to follow, go a certain distance, and then come back. It wasn’t hard at all but definitely was a freaky feeling leaving that circle of light everyone’s lights provided. The tour began after that and it was so amazing. Sam had told us that the predators in the reef were actually very smart and that we shouldn’t be surprised if a fish suddenly disappears in a puff of sand once we shine our flashlight on us. This only happened to me once and I admit I felt a bit guilty afterwards. At least it wasn’t Nemo. Jeff took us to see Brian, a massive turtle who always goes to sleep underneath the same coral ledge. He was about the size of two picnic tables and the crew told us he has a tail almost a meter long. After that we did what Jeff called a blackout, where we all pressed our flashlights into our chest and swam in the complete darkness. It wasn’t total darkness since we still had our glow sticks on our tanks but it was pretty damn close. This was easily the coolest and freakiest part of the dive. You could see fluorescent algae that would light up as people kicked through the water. With each little kick of a fin you could see an arch of tiny little lights. I was actually really impressed with how much I could see. Don’t get me wrong, it was almost pitch black but once your eyes adjusted to it you could begin to see the outlines of coral, divers, and who knows what else. That was the freaky part, not knowing exactly what it was that you saw in the dark. The dive ended shortly after we brought our flashlights from our chest and I was impressed that Jeff knew the reef so well he had guided us back to the concrete blocks without any aid of artificial light. When we climbed out it was absolutely freezing. The water was easily warmer than the air and the wind cut right through that suit. Couldn’t get my gear off fast enough. Now that everyone was back on the boat, it was time for Ben’s game he had been talking about all day. The whole boat gathered into the lounge and none of us were prepared for what happened next. At first it was all clean humor consisting of taking a broom from behind your head, under your legs, over your shoulders… I forget the exact order but it was something I could not do. A few rounds of random goldfish facts, some pictionary, emergency sausage assembly, and the good ‘ol Ocean facts were thrown in there as well. Dafna managed to argue or cheat on almost every question and this would continue through the whole night. Things started to get interesting when the snorkel and toilet paper rolls were brought out. With a mask covered by tape a person had to stick the snorkel between their legs from behind and then be vocally guided by their partner to the toilet paper roll they were holding. Crude humor at its finest. But nothing could come anywhere close to the card game. Don’t ever touch the deck of Uno cards on the ProDive boat. The name of the game was Suck and Blow and the idea was that one person had to suck a card to the face and pass it to the person next to them without dropping it. This involved a process of the second person beginning to suck while the first person began to blow and so on and so forth. Not only did we not begin in a boy-girl-boy-girl assembly we also played elimination which meant that you were inevitably going to get that awkward moment. I was quickly eliminated (I guess my heart just wasn’t in it) but was glad to be a bystander as the game quickly went downhill. The card always fell at precisely the perfect (or wrong, depending on how looked at it) moment to make the game absolutely hysterical. But what happens on the boat stays on the boat, so I won’t go into any more details.

The next morning was brutal. We had all stayed up just a little too late, may or may not have drank just a little too much, and we were in the water by 6:30am (and I thought the 6:45am wake up was bad!). This was going to be our deep dive for the Adventure divers. We swam out to a coral wall that we used to help our descent and then followed Sam down to the ocean floor a full 30 meters underwater. We played the 7 game where Sam held up a number and you had to hold up the number that would add up to seven. This was his way of determining if anyone was going through narcosis, which no one was. We watched our gauges for awhile and then set off to explore the reef. This was easily the coolest dive we went on the entire trip. Sharks, stingrays, a turtle, clownfish, a school of bumpheads, and countless other things plus the reef itself was the brightest and most beautiful I had seen the entire trip. Definitely worth getting up for. When we got out of the water we had about an hour and a half to get out of our suits, dry off, eat breakfast, clean our dishes, put our suits back on, and jump back into the water. We also had a dive debrief in there somewhere. This was going to be our specialty dive for the Adventure certification. I chose to do photography and rented a camera to use since my camera is only 10 meter approved and we would be going deeper than that. I jumped in and soon realized why they don’t let you take a camera on your certification dives for Open Water. I was nearly oblivious to everything that was going on around me. I lived my dive through the camera screen which resulted in some great pictures but I wish I had been better about putting the camera down and just enjoying the dive. I also noticed I ran through my air a lot more quickly than I had before since I was concentrating on the camera instead of my form and breathing. Sam guided us around the other side of the reef and I was bummed that I didn’t get to see any sharks or turtles to take pictures of. I got lots of pictures with Nemo and some really great ones of the other divers, though. After this second dive we were officially Adventure divers! We didn’t have much time to celebrate though. I was barely out of my suit and dry before Sam sat us back down to explain the reef to us and let us loose for one final dive. I managed to get a camera for this dive as well so Mikael, Chris, and I set out in hopes of not getting so hopelessly lost like we did the day before. It worked out pretty well, although I did accidentally descend a bit too far. Oops. I got some great pictures but unfortunately it died a little over halfway through the dive. Managed to get one of a black tip that was swimming past us though so that was sweet. When we got out of the water for the final time we were met with the cleaning crew. Hang up your lyrca here, dump your BCD here, wash your snorkel here, and strap your tank up there. Yes, sir! It was bittersweet to go down into the cabin and pack everything up. I didn’t want to go but was excited about the next part of my trip in the Gold Coast. A lot of people armed themselves with sea sickness medicine for the ride back in so it was a much more enjoyable trip than the ride out. I got some snooze time in on the top deck but was rudely interrupted multiple times by ‘rain.’ Jerks. Ben told us that there would be drinks at the Rattle and Hum along the Esplanade at 7:30pm so that gave us about 4 hours to do with what we pleased once we got back to Cairns. I checked back into Gilligan’s and ended up sharing a room with Anna and Chris by complete chance. I suffered quite heavily from land legs though and found myself a bit wobbly for a good two days. I did some souvenir shopping and got my bags ready for the flight to the Gold Coast the next day and then met up with Anna, Chris, Mikael, and Kat to head over to the bar. We were some of the first ones there so we grabbed drinks, ordered some food, and just sat around talking about our favorite part of the trip and where we were all traveling to next. Slowly but surely almost everyone from the trip made it and as our table grew more food and drinks were passed around. It was great fun. The Rattle and Hum scene wasn’t good enough for Sam and Raph though so they gathered us all up and took us to the one and only Gilligan’s. It would be an easy stumble home. Just kidding, Mom. We ended up not going in because a few people didn’t have their international ID on them so we walked back through town to the Woolshed. The rest is history. Lets just say that if you go to the Woolshed and don’t dance on the tables, its a disappointing night. No one is really quite sure how things happened that night but all we know is it involved shaking hands, bottles of Carlton, and lots of techno music.

The next morning was a good morning. I had to check out by 10am but so did Chris and Anna so we all went down together. We ran into Kat in the lobby who told us about her night and then Jeff walked in so we said hi to him. We let those two go off on their own and the three of us walked down the street to a little coffee stand, threw our packs down, and ordered some high quality caffeine. A ten minute coffee stop turned into a three hour conversation but thats what happens when the company is great, the conversation is good, and the sky can’t make up its mind on whether it wants to rain or not. We talked about everything in those three hours; from tv shows and food to books and traveling plans. The only thing that stopped the conversation was my shuttle to the airport so I packed my bags up, said my farewells, and walked back to Gilligan’s to catch the bus. Not two seconds after I had climbed onto the bus did Cody, Quintin, Meagan, and Rachael walk in right after me. We hadn’t really discussed departure details with each other so we were all surprised. When we got to the airport we were treated to another surprise when we realized that all of us were leaving on the same flight to Townsville. Unfortunately we were scattered about the plane but it meant we got to share our pre-departure waiting time together. I ran into Chris and Jess on my to get Hungry Jack’s so I caught up with them for a little bit before returning to my chicken nuggets and french fries. The flight to Townsville was short and uneventful. I was actually taking the same plane to the Gold Coast so I said goodbye to the group and walked right back onto the plane I had just walked off of. Two hours later I walked out into the early evening of the Gold Coast, Australia.

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So, that’s my Cairns experience. It was really a fantastic time and I am so excited about the opportunity to continue diving while I am here in Australia. I even have some awesome new dive buddies, too! The update on the Gold Coast will have to wait for a day or two, I have this thing called school and laundry that need my immediate attention. Love and miss you all, talk to you soon!

Stolen From Some Great Writer

“I’ll never put my finger on, just what I wanted to say, my motivation changes, when things turn out this way.”

IT IS COMPLETE! My 1,500 word masterpiece is finally finished and no longer hanging over my head like a black cloud intent on ruining my Spring break. Since I made you all listen to me talk about writing it and then complain about finishing it once I had started, I figured you might be curious as to what exactly the assignment was. So I just included my paper below. The essay question is: “Is citizenship more than just one’s legal status?” If the vagueness of the question had you scratching your head then the outline for the paper would have you slamming your head against the desk. “1,500 words” was the only useful piece of information included in the outline and it was only after several weeks of harassing my tut professor that he finally divulged the precious source and citation count he would be looking for. As excited as I was to finally have this information I wanted to throw a small fuzzy animal from the top of a building when I realized he expected 7 sources and 12 IN TEXT CITATIONS. 12 citations in 1,500 words. That is ridiculous. There is no room for original thought in that amount of space but I am aiming to please so I did the best I could. Without further ado, I present to you my Australian Politics paper entitled “Australian Politics Essay 1” (a true title will be thought of 5 seconds before I print it out). Enjoy.

*Note* This was not actually stolen from a great writer

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Australian Politics Essay 1

          The concept of citizenship has been around since the dawn of man. Even where there was no word for it, the practice of identifying with a community has always been a part of human nature. As our civilizations modernized, lines were drawn on maps and governments all over the world began to use citizenship as a way to operate day-to-day life. Citizenship was treated as a privilege that not everybody got and the method of becoming a citizen differed with every nation. The rights and responsibilities that came with citizenship were different as well. In today’s world, citizenship comes with a passport and rights to things such as free speech and voting; but that is not all citizenship is. “There is much more to citizenship than legal status and negative rights (Chesterman, p8),” and to narrow down citizenship to a person’s legal status would be to ignore all of the responsibilities, privileges, and emotional fulfillment that come with being a citizen.

To this day there is no singular definition of citizenship that wholly encapsulates the concept. To each nation, government, and person citizenship can have completely different meaning and this makes it hard to determine what citizenship is and is not. Andrew Heywood, author of Politics, defines citizenship as, “a relationship between the individual and state based on reciprocal rights and responsibilities (Heywood, p446),” but Chesterman, author of Defining Australian Citizenship, goes a step further to say that, “citizenship consists essentially of shared membership in a political community and commitment to its distinctive embodiment in the constitutional system and laws and practice of the particular country (Chesterman, p3).” There are many people who have attempted to define citizenship, but the best way to approach the idea of citizenship is to admit that “citizenship as a concept is ill-defined, poorly understood, confused and confusing (Dodson, p193).” In this approach one recognizes that citizenship is a much more complex subject than simple legal status and it cannot be acceptably summarized in a single definition due to its multi-faceted and personal nature.

Regardless of the country, every government in the world has some regulation on who does and doesn’t get to become a citizen. Many nations require you to live in the country for a certain number of years before applying to become a citizen and after that you must pass a test in order to successfully gain citizenry. In Australia, one must live here permanently for 4 years before applying for the citizenship process, which includes providing all required forms and a citizenship test or interview (Application Process for Australian Citizenship).” Once completed, a new citizen has access to a myriad of freedoms and responsibilities that T.H. Marshall divided into three categories: civil, political, and social (Marshall, p8). Civil rights Marshall used the term negative rights to describe and protect an individual from having things taken away from them. Freedom of speech, assembly, justice, and religion would fall into this category. Political rights are the rights and responsibilities that come with being a member of a political community. These would be the right to vote, run in public elections, and hold office. Finally, the social rights category includes education, public welfare, and is defined by Marshall as the right “to live the life of a civilized being according to the standards of prevailing society (Heywood, p441).”

All of these rights are formally gained when one becomes a citizen, but at what point does one truly become a citizen? Despite the tests and paperwork you have to fill out to formally become a citizen, citizenship ‘exists in a substantive form’ regardless of one’s legal standing (Chesterman, p5). The community in which a person lives has little regard for that person’s official legal standing. Just like you cannot tell someone is a Christian when they walk down the street, you cannot tell if someone is a citizen. The community sees the individual’s activity and involvement on a day-to-day basis. This is what they judge a person on, not whether or not they passed a Top 10 Facts test about Australia.

In 1994, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Committee on Migration adopted this approach to citizenship when they defined citizenship as “both a legal relationship to the state and a spiritual sense of commitment to the state (Joint Standing Committee on Migration, p37).” This spiritual commitment to the state is that feeling in your gut when you see your nation’s flag, the hairs that stand up on the back of your neck when you hear the national anthem, and the swelling of your chest when you see war monuments erected for your nation’s fallen soldiers. Citizenship does not just magically appear, either. It is an emotion that must be nurtured and built up through experiences both good and bad. Just like one’s life is a complex relationship between self, community, land, and country; citizenship is too.  To be a citizen is to be a part of a nation and every nation has a unique culture full of traditions and institutions. One cannot reduce a nation’s culture down to a singular aspect and therefore you cannot reduce a nation’s citizens, who live and participate in that culture, down to one aspect either. This includes their citizenship.

Australian citizenship, although not formally adopted until 1949 with the Commonwealth’s Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948, still existed before both the Act and the Commonwealth (Chesterman, p4). It even existed when Australians were still considered to be British subjects. An Australian’s devotion to his country and community made him more of an Australian citizen than a piece of paper calling him a British subject. Melbourne and London are just less than 17,000 kilometers away from one another (Googlemaps.com). A sense of pride in the nation of Australia far outweighed a piece of paper declaring you subject to a country halfway around the world. Life in Australia and Britain were so different and detached from one another there could be no way for an Australian to be a true British citizen because, “citizenship requires active identification of shared norms,” which Australian and Britain did not have outside of both being ruled by the Crown and the language that they spoke (Ignatieff, p6).

British subject was just a formal identification that people used for themselves and in no way represented where they were from or the life they led (Chesterman, p5). Australian citizenship was around far before the Commonwealth was formed and the term British subject dropped. An Australian’s citizenship “was not fully encapsulated in, or reducible to, dependent British subject hood (Chesterman, p5).” The quality and existence of an Australian’s connection with his or her country exists independently of the formal title given to it. This is true for all nations.

It is not just the concept of citizenship that is more than a legal status though. All the rights and responsibilities that come with citizenship also have an emotional value to them that surpasses the legal jargon. But these emotional attachments are different for every individual. In Australia, it is the law that a citizen must vote or face a fine while in the United States voting is a completely voluntary act (Australian Electoral Commission). This causes the citizens of the two countries to view voting differently. Australians are more likely to view it as a hassle, something that they have to do, while US citizens will be more likely to view it as a source of pride. In both cases, however, voting is viewed as more than a simple legal matter. The act of voting itself invokes a reaction just like using one’s right to free speech or receiving a welfare check does. For me, even being able to walk into the line that says “United States of America Passport Holders” in the airport has a deeper meaning than the physical passport in your hand. It is that feeling of being back where you belong, back in the country that you call home (Lynch, p9). For every legal right that comes with citizenship comes a human emotion of being part of a greater thing. Belonging to a community that accepts you and protects you. This community knows that “citizenship is not just a legal status, defined by a set of rights and responsibilities, but also an identity, an expression of one’s membership in a political community (Kymlicka, p192),” and so it does not rely on the government’s standard for citizenry but rather its own measure based on one’s involvement and actions within the community.

Citizenship is not a human concept; it is a human experience. As it is with any experience people will interpret meaning, reason, and purpose from the experience of citizenship on an individual level. Where some may take the right to vote as the ultimate privilege others may feel that it is second to the right to a fair trial. The personal nature to which people connect with their citizenship and everything that comes with it makes it a much deeper relationship than simple legal status.

Bibliography

  1. “Application Process for Australian Citizenship.” Australian Citizenship. Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship, 2012. Web. 02 Apr. 2012. <http://www.citizenship.gov.au/applying/how_to_apply/conferral_app_process/&gt;.
  2. Chesterman, John, and Brian Galligan. Defining Australian Citizenship: Selected Documents. Melbourne: Melbourne UP, 2000. Print.
  3. Dodson, Michael. ‘First Fleets and Citizenships: The Citizenship Status of Indigenous Peoples in Post-Colonial Australia’, p193
  4. GoogleMaps. Google, 2012. Web. 3 Apr. 2012. <www.googlemaps.com>.
  5. Heywood, Andrew. Politics 3rd Edition. Houndmills, Basingstoke, England: Macmillan, 2007. Print.
  6. Ignatieff, Michael. Blood and Belonging: Journeys into the New Nationalism. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1994. Print.
  7. Joint Standing Commission on Migration. ‘Australians All: Enhancing Australian Citizenship.’ 1994.
  8. Kymlicka, Will. Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights. Oxford: Clarendon, 1996. Print.
  9. Lynch, Phillip Reginald. People Make Nations. Canberra: [Govt. Pr.], 1970. Print.
  10. Marshall, Thomas H., and Thomas B. Bottomore. Citizenship and Social Class. London U.a.: Pluto, 1992. Print.
  11. “Voting within Australia: Frequently Asked Questions.” Www.aec.gov.au. Australian Electoral Commission, 2012. Web. 02 Apr. 2012. <http://www.aec.gov.au/faqs/voting_australia.htm&gt;.

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Have Love Will Travel

“… I might take a boat, I might take a plane, I might hitch-hike, or jump a railroad-train.”

I am leaving you all again. After I finish this final week of classes, including my midterm in International Business, I will be getting on a plane to Cairns to start my Spring Break. Or Fall Break if we are getting technical.

I fly to Cairns on Thursday, April 5th out of Melbourne at 10:00am. In order to save some money I booked indirect flights so I will have an hour and a half layover in Brisbane before catching another plane to Cairns at 1:40pm. The times are all local and there are a few time zone changes in there so the times jump around a bit. I will arrive in Cairns at 4:10pm Thursday night. For those of you who are interested, my flight information for my travel to Cairns is listed below and you can follow my planes on Virgin Australia’s website I am sure.

Melbourne to Brisbane: Virgin Australia, Flight #DJ321, Departing 10:00am, Arriving 12:10pm

Brisbane to Cairns: Virgin Australia, Flight #DJ785, Departing 1:40pm, Arriving 4:10pm

I have already booked my first three nights in Cairns at a popular hostel called Gilligan’s. You can take a look for yourself here. I arrive Thursday night and will hopefully be able to meet up with other Swinburne students who are staying at Gilligan’s during that time as well. There are quite a few of us who are going to Cairns for the break and I know five or six other students who will be staying in Gilligan’s so that worked out nicely. Beats going to Cairns all by myself for the entire trip.

Friday April 6 to Tuesday April 10 I will be participating in an open water dive certification course. Friday and Saturday will be spent in a classroom learning the science, technique, equipment, and rules of diving along with practice dives in a pool. The mornings are early and the days are long but it will be all worth it come Sunday when I leave for a three day, two night live-aboard sailing trip to finish my certification. While out on the boat I will do a total of nine dives; five certification dives and four pleasure dives. One of the night dives is even a night dive! I am beyond excited about this trip and these next four days are going to stretch on forever because of it. I will do my last dive Tuesday morning around 11:00pm before returning to Cairns where I will stay one final night before traveling to the Gold Coast.

My flights to the Gold Coast on Wednesday April 11 are also indirect, below is the information if you wish to follow the planes.

Cairns to Townsville: Virgin Australia, Flight #DJ1642, Departing 2:55pm, Arriving 3:45pm

Townsville to Gold Coast: Virgin Australia, Flight #DJ1832, Departing 4:15pm, Arriving 6:15pm

See Mom, told you I was going to have more than 24 hours from my last dive to the time I got onto the plane. Now you have nothing to worry about 🙂 When I get to the Gold Coast I will take a bus to Bond University where I will meet up with a friend from Cincinnati who is studying there named Adrienne. Her and her roommates have been very generous and are letting me stay at their house which is a short bus ride away from Surfer’s Paradise Beach and the city. The timing worked out perfectly so that I will be there during her exam study period so we will be able to do a lot more together than if she had classes. A free place to stay and a free tour guide. Won’t hear me complaining.

My time in the Gold Coast will be very relaxing. For my five days and four nights there I don’t have much planned other than going to the beach everyday, maybe taking a surf lesson or two, and going out to the famous bar scene. No big trips, itineraries, or sightseeing. Just me, the beach, and a cold brewski. Not that my life here is all that stressful to begin with, but its always nice to be able to completely detach yourself from things for a little while.

Take for instance this woman who was on the metro when I was coming back from seeing Wrath of the Titans this evening. She was sitting on the bench with a bag of salt and vinegar chips and a Coke in her hand and she was in absolute heaven. This isn’t a commentary on the metro’s cleanliness or safety because it is far above average on those conditions but I was amazed at how focused she was on those damn chips. It was her and that purple, crinkly bag in her world. That was it. The Coke intervened in a jealous fit of carbonation every once in awhile, but other than that this woman gave no fucks about anything else that was happening around her. When one chip left the hand another would soon replace it and there it would wiggle between her fingers as it anxiously anticipated its consumption. Needless to say I was fascinated by this and even now am struck with a feeling of admiration for this woman’s ability to simply enjoy the moment. It was beautiful. That is what I hope I get to experience with a beer while in the Gold Coast.

Since I don’t have any plans to tell you about while I am in Surfer’s Paradise that leaves us with my flights home on Sunday April 15. See information below.

Gold Coast to Sydney: Virgin Australia, Flight #DJ516, Departing 10:10am, Arriving 11:40am

Sydney to Melbourne: Virgin Australia, Flight #DJ842, Departing 1:00pm, Arriving 2:35pm

Those are my plans for Spring Break 2012. In my opinion it sure as hell beats out Panama City Beach with a bunch of high schoolers. Unless I discover that my IDC 301 course has essay work that doesn’t require the use of academic sources, I will not be taking my computer with me on this trip. Even if I do, I won’t have internet to update this blog anyways. I may post on here again out of boredom or while procrastinating but if I don’t than assume that no news is good news.

As always, I love and miss you all very much. Don’t be strangers, okay?

Grand Optimist

“… you give him burdensome times, and he will escape unscarred.”

Hello strangers, friends, and family. It’s been too long.

My life here in Australia has been a bit unexciting as of late, but that will all change very soon. This week I spent going to class, finishing my part of the International Business presentation I have due the Wednesday I return from break, and ‘ballin’ on a budget.’ Classes were good but quite boring as usual. Definitely glad that only three more days of school separate me from break. In those three days though I must finish my Australian Politics essay because that is one thing I do not want to have hanging over my head while I am trying to relax.

Monday I did the training consultation at Swinergy that came free with my membership (so not really free) and I have my workout walkthrough at 8:30am tomorrow morning. So no raging for Benny this Saturday night. Tuesday was my good friend Elliot’s birthday so after footy practice a bunch of us went to the predrink at his apartment before heading out to the Hawthorn. I also discovered on Wednesday that my International Business professor will be gone for three weeks after break which means that I will be presenting in front of a substitute. This could go either way. Either the sub will be extremely easy and not wanting to cause a stir by giving us a bad grade or they will be a hard ass who thinks this is their time to prove their toughness to the professor. Hopefully they are the former as I would really rather not threaten even more Australians while I am in this country. Thursday was a productive day in which I finished up the restrictions of investment in Korea section of the presentation and paper. I was actually quite surprised at my level of productivity so here’s hoping I still got some in me for that damn Politics essay. Friday was a good day. We finally got ‘Australia’ worthy weather with a hot sunny day so a big group of us decided to head on over to our beloved St. Kilda beach for some fun in the sun. The water was noticeably colder from when we were there a few weeks back but that didn’t stop us. Towards the end of they day, as we were throwing and skipping foam stress volleyballs at each other across the water (it is really fun actually), we noticed that there was a dog wading into the water who was following said foam volleyballs very intently. Intrigued, we threw one in the pooch’s direction and watched as it chased it down and tried to run away with it. How rude. We managed to get it back and quickly discovered it knew “Come” and “Drop” which made it much less time consuming to get the ball back. I could have played fetch with that dog for hours and hours. It was hysterical to watch it chase the ball down because when it would come up to the ball it would belly flop onto the ground and slide so that it wouldn’t run past the ball. It loved to swim too so when we needed a few seconds to wash the slobber off of our hand we would throw one into the water. When the owner came to take him home the dog would only follow him if he had the foam volleyball. I would lie if I didn’t quickly run through a “what if…” scenario involving me running away with the volleyball with the dog chasing after me as the owner was left standing very confused on the beach but, knowing how frustrating it is to have a dog that doesn’t follow directions very well coughcoughGingercough I just handed the volleyball over to the owner. Friday night my friend Natalia had a barbecue so Ben, Olle, and I walked over to her apartment where we spent a few hours trying to grill kangaroo burgers in the dark, drinking beer and sangria, and giving the girls a hard time about anything and everything. It was Colleen’s birthday at midnight so I stayed to sing her happy birthday and then called it a night. Saturday has been uneventful. The weather isn’t quite nice enough to go back to the beach and by the time I realized that it was too late to go to the footy match so I have spent the day sending emails, reading The Lacuna (which I am STILL reading because I barely ever read anymore), and beginning to write this Politics essay. But blogging > essay writing so I decided to do this instead. Tonight I’ll go out to celebrate Colleen’s birthday but not too late because I gotta get up early in the morning to be led through my new workout. We’ll see how that goes. Then it’s only four short days until Cairns and Surfer’s Paradise!

So like I said, my life is far from jet-setting around Australia at the moment. But there is nothing like news from home to cheer you up when you realize you’ve been in the same city for over a month. And this past week was chock full of good news. First, I found out that my dear friend Katie Hayes successfully moved to California to move in with her husband. Although it made me incredibly sad when I realized I wouldn’t get to see her before the big move, I know that this is something she wanted more than anything else in the world and for that I am ecstatic for her. Plus, now I have an excuse to go to California! Second, my best friend Tom Milan somehow managed to survive to be 21 years old. Between the shenanigans our group of friends get into and just a generally reckless lifestyle this was a major achievement. Congratulations, sir, and I look forward to travel stories over Guinness in the future. Third, I was once again struck speechless by the reaction to the “We Never Left” blogpost I wrote about Bellarmine basketball when Peter Kremer contacted me and offered me a basketball signed by the 2011 National Championship team. I emphatically accepted of course but was still in disbelief that a post on this blog had gained so much recognition and support. The last, and arguably most important, bit of news that received this week had me giggling like a little boy at my computer screen. Last week Knights’ Nation, an organization that I am deeply involved in at Bellarmine, had elections during which I applied for the position of President and on Thursday our current President Katie Cannon informed that I had been granted the position! My term started right then and there when she asked me to fill out our allocation for Fall 2012 and I did the entire sheet smiling and laughing at myself for being so excited. Ever since then I have been finding myself staring off blankly into space while I try to come up with new ideas and events for Knights’. Call me obsessive or weird if you want to but that was truly a great moment.

Running Bull, you are one of the reasons that I started this blog. Whether it is because you’re so intimidating I was scared not to or not, you will never know. The point is that I am so happy for you and the opportunity that you have to start your life somewhere new and exciting. I miss you terribly and I know that waiting 45 minutes for you to show up for lunch will seem like nothing now that we are so far apart but I also know that this is what you wanted. And because of that this is what I wanted, too. I wish you the best of luck and know that I am here for you if you ever need anything. I will talk to you soon and try to keep the sarcasm to a minimum, okay? Not everyone understands it as well as I do. 😛

Coach. I miss you.

Hmm, 100 more words and this could have been my Politics essay. Minus the 10 sources of course.

How are all of you? What did you do today? Whatever it was, I hope that you were smiling while you did it.