The Semester Comes to a Close

It’s crazy to say it, but my semester of classes abroad have officially ended.  I’m a little bit late making this post because I’ve been studying for my finals, but classes ended May 25th.  I’ve taken 3 finals out of 4, and so far, so good.  On the last day of class, the JCU International Office hosted a completion gathering for all the international students finishing their time here at JCU.  It kinda felt like graduation, with recieving certificates of attendence and some small gifts.  Following the ceremony, they had a little party.

Photo Credit Kristof Schrader Photography. Thanks for the great pictures!

They had a jazz trio, free food, and free drinks for all of us.  It was truly a great way to end a semester of classes.  I have to say, I am completely amazed that it’s already been a full semester.  It seemed as though it was just yesterday that I was getting off the plane in Townsville.

Jules and I at the Completion Gathering. Photo Credit Kristof Schrader.

I may be close to coming home (June 20th), but I still have plenty more to do.  Since we have a couple of days after finals before we leave, Jules and I decided to take another trip up to Cairns.  Since the weather wasn’t great when we were there in April, we’re hoping it will be better this time.  The weather has actually changed quite significantly, with the daily highs only reaching to about 75 or 80.  We’re out of the wet season, though, so hopefully the weather will be beautiful.  After Cairns, we’ll be back in Townsville for 2 days, but then it’s off to Sydney and home!

 

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Labor Day Weekend

So yeah I know, it may seem weird seeing a post about my Labor Day weekend in the middle of May, but things are a bit different here in Australia.  Either way, we still had off school on Monday, so I wasn’t complaining.  Since we had a bit of an extended weekend, Jules and I decided to be a bit spontaneous.

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The home of the North Queensland Cowboys

On Friday, we decided it was time to see our first Cowboy’s game.  For those of you not from Townsville, the Cowboy’s are North Queensland’s rugby league team.  The shuttles to get there were a bit of a hassle, but it was definitely worth it.  I’m not going to lie, these guys made NFL players look like a bunch of babies.  It was a great game, with the Cowboys beating the St. George Dragons 30-6.

The next day, we chose to once again visit Magnetic Island.  So Saturday morning, we hopped aboard the ferry and headed on over.  Saturday, we figured it would be best to just relax and enjoy the weather.  We climbed around on some boulders, did some swimming, and sat on the beach.  Overall, it was a great day.

The next day, we picked up some snorkeling gear and headed over to Arthur Bay.  Arthur Bay isn’t accessible by the main road, so it’s fairly secluded.

We grabbed one of the few other people there to take a picture for us.

Although there weren’t as many types of coral as compared to the Great Barrier Reef, the visibility here was a bit better since the weather was nice.

You can’t get much clearer than that!

Since we were on our own time, and had pretty much all day, we were free to see what we wanted to see.

Jules trying to poke some fish…

One of the fish I was creeping on

Aside from the occasional jellyfish sting, (of course on the one place we didn’t have covered, our faces)  it was amazing.

Some of my favorite fish

After a long day of snorkeling, we headed back to Geoffrey Bay to feed the Rock Wallabies.  I know I may have put up some pictures of these guys the last time I went to Magnetic Island, but I can’t resist including some more.

He’s smiling!

He was a keen little guy

Unfortunately, at the end of the day, we had to head back home for school.  Finals are quickly approaching, so I guess it’s probably time to start studying.  We’ll see if I have time for some adventures in between tests.

Our visit to Cairns

So it’s been a few weeks since I got back from Cairns, but I figured it’s better late than never to catch you up on my time.  When we got into Cairns around 6 am, we had some time before we were able to check in to our hostel.  Even though it was early, Cairns luckily has Sunday morning markets, with massive amounts of fresh produce.  After that, we had breakfast in a delicious little diner, and had the first coffee since coming to Australia that wasn’t instant (ahhhhhh).

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Pete and Paul's Breakfast Diner

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The hostel we stayed in.

When we finished breakfast and checked into our hostel, we were free to explore what Cairns had to offer.  I have to admit, when I saw the countless souvenir shops, my inner 8 year old got the best of me.  We also got chance to see the night markets, filled to the brim with small vendors and plenty of food.

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Nervously trying the baby octopus.

Later that day, we headed out to Palm Cove, one of Cairns’ Northern Beaches.  The weather wasn’t great, but we still enjoyed ourselves.  That night, we settled in early for bed because the next day, we would be snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef.

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Looking down the beach at Palm Cove

Early the next morning we headed to the Marina to get on our boat, the Ocean Free.  The Ocean Free is a 30 foot sailboat that gives a more personal touch to the reef experience.  Instead of going on a huge boat with 150 other snorkelers, we had a crew of 3 and 15 passengers.

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Our boat at the marina, looking small compared to the others

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Enjoying the water.

If you combine the amazing service, relaxing sail, and beautiful scenery, you have a recipe for a great day.  Although the weather wasn’t great (super windy and a bit rainy), the captain (and owner) ensured us that, “I can’t do anything about the weather, but I can make you have the best day in it.” If you ever make it to Cairns in your life, I’d highly recommend this company.

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Choppy water and all, sailing was so relaxing.

We sailed about 2 and a half hours out to Green Island, where we explored the island for an hour or so.  After lunch, it was time to snorkel.  The water was a bit choppy which cut down the visibility, but it was still beautiful.  It was definitely something I’ll never forget.

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Looking stylish in our stinger suits (protecting us from irukandji stings)

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On the shores of the coral cay, Green Island

The next day, we visited our second World Heritage Site in two days: the rainforests of North Queensland.  We hiked Mt. Whitfield, a conservation park just outside of Cairns.  Once again it was simply beautiful.  The type of scenery was just so different from anything I’d seen before.

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The rainforest!

Although we were only in Cairns for a short time, it was one of the most memorable three days of my life.

My Easter Adventure!

In the preparation for leaving for lecture recess, I nearly forgot to catch you all up on my Easter break travels.  After two days of failing to understand the public holiday bus schedule, Jules and I finally decided to jump on the ferry and go to Magnetic Island on Sunday.

The Magnetic Island ferry.

When we arrived, we settled into Foresthaven, a quiet little hostel in one of the less traveled bays.

Foresthaven Hostel

We then hopped on a bus (getting it right this time), to Bungalow Bay Koala Village.  We took a tour of the exhibits, and were able to hold crocodile, feed a cockatoo by letting it take a seed from my mouth, and see a wombat.  The highlight, of course, was seeing and petting a koala.

Petting Matilda the Koala

Holding Barbie the croc!

The night was topped off with a visit to Alma Bay, and a delicious meal at the cafe.

Alma Bay just after sunset.

The next morning, Jules and I woke up early to buy some lunch food at the grocery store (cheese quesadillas since we forgot a cooler for hot dogs) and called a scooter rental company.  After a crash course in scooter driving for Jules, we were off on our scooter adventure.  Along with the spectacular weather, we got to see the beautiful scenery Magnetic Island has to offer: sandy beaches, crystal clear water, and vivid plant life.

A view of Radical Bay

The island has a bunch of forts remaining from WWII, so we got the opportunity to visit some of these.  We also got to see some of the local wildlife, including a wild koala and Rock wallabies.

A little rock wallaby with a joey.

The wild koala we saw on the Forts walk.

The day was ended with a bit of a surprise.  As we were driving to one of the bays, we were pulled through a random DUI checkpoint, in our scooters.  We were all clear of course, but it was an interesting experience.  It must have been the intimidating helmets that tipped off the cops….

Our little moped gang.

Anyway, I’m heading off to Cairns now for lecture recess, where I’ll be hiking in the rainforest and snorkeling the reef.  Until then, g’day.

More of the Australian Experience

Since I’ve arrived in Townsville, I’ve been doing all I can to experience what Townsville, and all of Australia has to offer.  These past two weeks, however, I experienced a part of Australia that I didn’t really try (or want) to experience: healthcare.  About two weeks ago, I came down with a crappy case of pink eye.  I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, being how accident prone I am, but I wasn’t expecting to have to deal with the health system this fast.  If it had been a common cold, I would have had no problem just not going to the doctors and letting it pass, but I figured I should probably get this checked out.

Since I’m studying abroad, international students are equipped with OSHC, or Overseas Student Health Care. This covers doctors appointments, and other basic services.  When they gave us the card, the University told us that in the nearby hospital, there was a clinic, UniHealth, that accepts the OSHC cards.  Before we walked over, we decided it would probably be best to call to make sure they would accept walk ins.  Much to my dismay, they did not, and the nearest appointment was a week later.

Thankfully, with help from the international office, we found another clinic a bus ride away that would accept the policy.  I got an appointment that day, and the process was really quite fast.  I got antibacterial eye drops that would clear up my eyes in two days or so.  Or so I thought…

As the week went on my eyes got worse, so we went off for another appointment.  Unfortunately, it ended up being viral, so there was no medication that could cure what I had.

The Australian sun, though beautiful, was a little rough on the eyes.

So for a week, I dealt with the quite annoying symptoms, nearly  being blinded with the bright Australian sun.  Although it was an unfortunate happening, it did give me the experience of working with another country’s healthcare system, something I will remember for my whole life.  But there’s no need to worry now, everything has cleared up just in time for spring break.

Just a sneak peek at where I'll be spending my Spring Break.

I’ll be snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, so I’ll be sure to take plenty of pictures and blog when I get back!

 

Catch up time!

So yes, I know, I’ve dropped the ball with the whole blogging thing.  I’ve been wanting to post for a few weeks now, but either I keep forgetting or when I do remember, I don’t have the time.   Well there’s a lot to catch up on.  Since I last blogged, classes have started.  So far, they’re going pretty well.  Although they’re not all quite like I expected, I guess that’s what studying in another county is about.  It’ll take a while to get used to the way they do classes.

We’ve also taken time to climb Castle Hill.  It’s mountain that sits up against downtown Townsville and looks over The Strand.  We walked the goat path, which was a fairly steep hiking path straight to the top.  The view of Magnetic Island was absolutely amazing.

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We’ve also been looking around for churches, and we’re currently going to Townsville’s Cathedral.  As you can see, it’s quite a beautiful place.

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Although the semester started off without a drop of rain, the rainy season finally kicked in last week.  From last Thursday to Sunday, we got 15 inches of rain.  Since campus is higher in elevation that the rest of Townsville, we didn’t get much flooding. But the floods, along with a “mini-tornado,” that went through town, caused some pretty bad damage in some places.  On some of our bus rides we were able to see where the tornado went through.  But no need to worry, campus is safe and sound.

Since its been raining, we’ve had the chance to visit Townsville’s aquarium called Reef HQ.  What’s interesting is that Reef HQ has a massive reef enclosure, where they’ve taken coral samples from the Great Barrier Reef and made a sample reef.  The top is open to the air, and they have machines that mimic the surf on the reef.

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The view from on top of the reef exhibit.

Something else cool about Reef HQ is that they have a large turtle hospital, where they take injured Green Sea Turtles and rehabilitate them to be reintroduced into the wild.  We were able to take a tour and see some of the turtles.

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This week, finally, it cleared up after about 2 weeks of rain.  Jules and I got a chance to head down to the beach, including one time at night. We were surprised to see that where they set up swimming enclosures, they light up the beach.  It was nice to be able to sit and enjoy the beach without having to worry about getting burned.

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So I hope this did an ok job at filling you in.  I’ll definitely try not to go so long without writing a blog again.

Cheers!

O-week

I’ve been super busy since my last post.  Last Saturday, we spent a day at the Strand, which is the most popular beach in Townsville.  Since we are in the middle of Box Jellyfish season, you can only swim in the stinger enclosures.  They have two areas netted off to swim in on the beach, but the nets aren’t 100% guaranteed to keep out stingers.

There is also a filtered pool called the Rockpool.  It’s still ocean water, but it’s just put through finer filters so there is no chance that Jellyfish can be in there.  We hung out there for a while, then stopped at one of the many fish and chips shops on the Strand for dinner.

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The Rockpool at the Strand

On Sunday, we headed down to Ross River, a river that runs nearby campus.  It’s slow moving and warm, so it was great to swim in.  There were also rope swings tied to some trees on the bank that we got a chance to use.

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These are the trees with the swing. You can kinda see the rope hanging from the right branch

The rest of the week has been filled with orientation meetings, games, and events.  Although I’m adjusting to the time well now, I still find myself getting tired around 11 with all of the stuff I’m doing during the day.  In addition to some University sponsored events, we’ve had events that are just with our Hall, like a tavern night, lawn bowling, and a toga party.  This weekend, O-week is finishing off a music festival.  It’ll be nice to have a relaxing weekend before classes finally start up again on Monday.