Oz: A Weekend for the (Scrap) Books

I would not have started my last full weekend in Australia any other way than having a huge pile of chocolate chip pancakes drenched with Nutella and syrup. I am so going to miss my Friday mornings filled with my favorite breakfast food and the kind folks who prepare it.

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I spent my Friday afternoon with Nicole and Sierra in Perth. We had a bit of a photo shoot between King’s Park, which overlooks the city, and the Central Business District. I have given a sampling of my work below.

To finish the eventful Friday, we celebrated Jordan’s 22nd birthday by going into the city and it felt just like old times.

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Me, Geoffery and Nicole

Saturday brought beautiful weather and a fantastic road trip to The Pinnacles in Nambung National Park about two and a half hours north of Perth. The best way I can describe The Pinnacles is a desert of limestone formations. There are many theories as to how these formations ended up there, from the wearing away of lime-rich sand dunes to the petrification of a forest.

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There is a short walking trail in the park, but the best way to see the limestone desert is the road that goes through the area and allows people to park and wander about the rocks. My friends and I had a fun time running in and out of formations, trying to decide what they looked like.

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Sierra, Shelby and I

Brodie scheduled an AIFS farewell lunch for us at an all-you-can-eat Brazilian meat buffet in Fremantle on Sunday. The interesting part about this buffet is servers come around again and again with the options until you flip over your coaster to the red side, signifying that you are finished.  I have never eaten so much meat in my life. Although I came for the various meats, I could have consumed the lasagna they served all day. It was a delicious feast and it was great having almost everyone together.

Sierra and I took our location as an opportunity to take some photos around Fremantle. We found some great street art in the side streets, as shown below.

My last full weekend in Australia is one for the (scrap) books. I took so many photos, which I had wanted to do for a while. Now, it is time to get serious about my last final exam!

Oz: 2 Weeks & 2 Cities

Perth. Study. Fremantle. Study. This about sums up my second to last week in the Land Down Under.

I took my plans to visit these two cities as much as possible seriously: I was in one of them almost every day of the week. Brian, Sierra and I visited Perth Monday to make an appointment for Sierra’s tattoo and then went souvenir browsing. I say browsing because we simply scoped out the prices of souvenirs and decided we would check Fremantle the next day.

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Old vs. new architecture in Perth

My first final was on Tuesday, and it went fairly well. There was a series of practice quizzes throughout the unit, and our tutor said not to expect the quiz questions to be on the exam. Not knowing how else to study, I used those quiz questions as flash cards and reviewed the lectures. I am lucky I did not listen to my tutor, because many of the questions on the exam were exact copies from the quizzes. Now I am awaiting my grade less nervously than anticipated.

That night, a group of us went to Mexican Kitchen in Fremantle to devour half-price nachos. They were absolutely delicious and I am so going to miss half-price nacho Tuesdays. Of course before that Sierra and I souvenir browsed again and decided to wait to purchase items yet again.

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The best nachos ever

Wednesday was tattoo day! I got my closest friends to come for the important mark in Sierra’s life, so it was me, Brian, Sierra and Nicole in the parlor. Afterwards, we visited Toastface Grillah, a gourmet grilled cheese place I found on Google that had awesome reviews. The shack, I’ll call it, is hidden around the corner from the shops of the Central Business District and is not easy to find if you don’t’ know where to go.

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Grilled cheeses with swag

Toastface has a handful of grilled cheeses (although I think they were more like paninis) for under ten dollars. It was packed when we got there, and we had to wait for seating in the hip, plant and pillow-decorated outdoor eating area. I ordered a grilled cheese with roast beef and horseradish, and it was absolutely worth the wait. A lot of flavor was coming out of a very small place!

Surprisingly, I did not go into Perth or Fremantle Thursday and actually stayed on campus for the day to study, blog and relax. The week flew by and my last full weekend in Perth arrived!

Thailand: Thoughts and Tips

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I just returned from—dare I say it again—one of the best trips of my life. Brian, Sierra and I ventured around Thailand for seven days to do so many incredible things, from bathing rescued elephants to grabbing sushi from a local market. I have to say the best thing from the trip was seeing my plans turn into reality as well as my confidence in navigating one of the most culturally and linguistically different places I have ever been all by myself. I feel nothing but proud of myself for handling the whole trip, with little input but large encouragement from my friends, and gratitude that I was able to explore a small part of Asia. If I never left America again, I would not be able to complain.

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Outside of the Grand Palace

 

Since I won’t be posting about day-to-day activities of the trip for a while, I laid out some of the things I noticed during my Thai explorations.

1. Bangkok is not pedestrian friendly

Unlike many European cities where you can walk between famous spots fairly easily, there is no walking from humongous and ornately decorated Buddhist temple to the next in Bangkok, unless you’re prepared to do a very large amount of walking.

Also, people warned me that the only way to cross the street in Bangkok is to walk into the traffic, and the cars will simply swerve around me. I pictured the scene from Mulan when the grandmother walks across the bustling street with one hand over her eyes and the other holding a lucky cricket. However, I do not believe running in front of the traffic is completely necessary, most of the time.

2. Bangkok is not automobile friendly

I have never seen so much bumper to bumper traffic in my life. If you want to drive in Bangkok, you better have exceptionally high patience and no where to be, because just getting from one side of the city to the other will take over an hour. Your best bet is to hop on a motorbike or the BTS (sky train).

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3. BTS is the best

The sky train (basically the subway, but above ground) is reliable, cheap and easy to figure out. It is also clean and seems to run almost all the time with very little issues with service. Why does every major city have better public transport than NYC?

4. English is not popular

I was shocked by the amount of people who did not understand English. However, this is Asia, not western Europe. The people who did know enough English to communicate with me, though, were usually willing to help.

Tip: Have the address you need to get to in the Thai language or the taxi driver will most likely not be able to read the address you show them.

5. I felt safe

My grandparents will like this one. We originally planned to holiday in Bali, but we know several people who got mugged there and had unpleasant experiences. I expected Thailand to be slightly sketchy, but not as bad. To my surprise, I was completely wrong. I was never out at late hours of the night, but I always felt safe in Thailand, even when the sun went down.

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In the jungle

6. There is more to Thailand than Bangkok

I knew Thailand has beautiful beaches and waters, but I still always pictured Bangkok as the country’s main attraction. However, a good tour and a single day in Bangkok is all one needs. There is so much wilderness in Thailand to explore; just going to Bangkok gives the country no justice.

I could go on and on about my scratch-of-the-surface observations about Thailand, but that will have to wait for my later posts. Khob Khun Kaa (thank you) Thailand, for welcoming me with your beautiful sights, mouth-watering food and friendly people.

Oz: Classes are over, now I Holiday

My crunch time has officially been crunched. After diligently working on projects, presentations and papers, my two weeks of jamming assignments in is over and I am about to leave for a final holiday. I never expected to say this, but I am heading for Thailand!

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Planning this trip was not easy, as I ran into many road blocks trying to please my friends while scavenging for budget-friendly activities that had enough availability. After dealing with indecisive and fickle people, multiple trips and emails to a lovely STA agent and numerous rant sessions, I have planned a trip for Brian, Sierra and I in Bangkok and its surrounding area. This is the first time I have ever been in charge of and fully planned a trip to a country that does not speak English, and nervous does not begin to explain how I feel. However, as I have been reminding myself, everything happens for a reason and it will all somehow work out.

The next time I post, I will be back from Thailand, hopefully with a positive review. Cheers!

1 Year of Whitmanythoughts

A few days ago, a sweet little memory popped up on Facebook: my first blog post on Whitmanythoughts. I cannot believe it has been a year since I started writing about my travels. I feel like I have written so much, yet have so much more to share.

I have expressed over and over again how amazing of a year it has been and how thankful I am for all I have gotten to experience. From traveling around Europe for two weeks with my grandfather to skiing in Park City, Utah with my dad, it has been a thrilling ride.

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I often wonder what will happen to my blog after I finish my time here in Australia. I know I won’t actually be traveling for quite some time, so I won’t have so many new and exciting things to write about. I can definitely see my content changing a bit to adapt to my (not as cool) lifestyle back at home. I do want to focus on my feelings a bit more and incorporate them into my writing so it is not so cut and dry. In the end, I realize I control my blog and as long as I like it, everything is dandy. In reality, every day is a new adventure, and I know I will have things to talk about.

Plus, this is WhitmanyTHOUGHTS for a reason: I have oodles of thoughts and I want to share them. I have so many things constantly swirling through my mind that I would love to turn into “thought” posts. I am not looking for fame with this site, and I am so happy with the 100 followers that I have. Although it would be nice to turn this blog into something larger in the future, I am so contented writing for the sake of my own memory and for my family.

I do have so much to still share. I have posts from my weekend getaways in Italy last summer as well as my extended trips in Australia this semester saved in my computer, yearning to see the light. Although I won’t be “traveling,” I have so many exciting things coming up in the second half of the year, from summer at the shore to a Fall Concert Series 2.0 to hopefully spending some time with international visitors…but I will just keep it at that.

My global travels may soon be over, but the adventures continue. Life is beautiful.  It is not always perfect, but one thing I have been reminding myself is that life does not give me obstacles that I cannot handle. Here’s to the last year of travel, here’s to my time left in Australia and here is to the next year of Whitmanythoughts.

Whitmanythought1: This has been the most epic year of my life and I am so thankful.

Whitmanythought2: How do I still have friends on Facebook with all the posts I share?

Whitmanythought3: Can I just keep travelling for another year?

Oz: The Final Countdown

I remember saying in March that I felt like I only had two weeks left in Australia even though I knew I had so much time. In early May I would wake up with my heart racing because I felt time ticking. Now I wake up with headaches due to the amount of information I need to memorize for finals and the two massively important projects I need to turn in within a week. This only means one thing: one month remaining.

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Taking in the beautiful coast of southern WA

I honestly thought I would be much more emotional coming on the one month left point, but I honestly think I am too panicked about my schoolwork to worry too much about  leaving. All I can say is I simply cannot wrap my head around the fact that my time in the Land Down Under is almost up.

Am I sad? Yes. Am I going to miss Australia? Of course. Am I ready to go home? Probably. It has been such an eye-opening experience living in a new land. However, living in a country and traveling in a country are very different things—it’s not always fun and games. Okay, it was mostly fun.

I am not dwelling on the future quite yet. I am going to spend the next month (take out about half of that for studying and completing assignments) immersing myself in my beautiful surroundings. Not that I ever have, but I will not take my time left here for granted. I am going to make an effort to go into Perth with nothing to do, just to take this sweet place all in.

Here is a little something new I want to try. At the end of my posts, I want to jot down my thoughts at the end of writing (As I have said, this is WhitmanyTHOUGHTS for a reason). Here it goes:

Whitmanythought 1: Why haven’t I been able to fall asleep before 2 in the morning?

Whitmanythought 2: How do I only have a month left in Australia?

Whitmanythought 3: Only one week left of hard work and then you only have two finals until you’re done. Stay strong. Also, stop stressing about your upcoming trip.

Oz: Game Time

I believe I just encountered the most relaxed weekend of my semester here so far. My weekend consisted of a mix of homework and night adventures in Northbridge for some time away from my piles of work.

However, Sunday ended up being a great day to experience some Australian culture: I attended an Australian Football League game. Australian football/Aussie rules/footy is played on an oval field with a whopping 18 members per team trying to kick the oval-shaped ball between two tall goal posts. Players can kick, throw and run with the ball. My best way to describe it is a mix between American soccer and football.

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Apparently AFL is hugely popular in Western Australia specifically. It is usually more difficult to enjoy a sport while unaware of the rules, but I had a fantastic time spectating and rooting for the Fremantle Dockers, despite the rain that fell most of the time. On the bright side, we won! For some reason, I only had a slight idea of attending an Australian sporting event while here, and I am not sure why I did not make it more of a priority. I am so thankful that Murdoch University Village snatched some student-priced tickets!

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To end the night (and put off homework), my roommate and I enjoyed some churros and hot chocolate for dinner at San Churro, which is where I ate for my birthday. I was not planning on going out, but I knew that the next 10 school days would be a scramble trying to complete two projects and two papers before my next scheduled trip, so I thought I would treat myself. Can you guess where I am going next?

Oz: Week 12 of Classes

This week proved how small the world really is. I was able to spare a night from my university work Wednesday and spend time with a friend I met in Berlin last summer. He showed me around the less touristy party of Northbridge, which is a neighborhood of Perth. I felt lucky to be able to experience different bars that the locals know.

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An impromptu photo shoot (Photo: Nicole Remus)

I felt luckier, though, due to the fact that I was able to make a connection ten months ago all the way in Germany, and follow through with it all the way in Australia. Andrew told me that last summer when I mentioned I may be studying abroad in Perth, he didn’t think I actually would, since it is so easy to declare travel plans, but even easier to not follow through with them. Alas, here I am! We discussed that although it is incredible to see the world, the things we remember the most are the times spent with other people, and I could not agree more.

This is why I love travelling—exploring new places and meeting new people. You never know the stories behind the strangers you are passing or are coincidentally participating in something with, and you never know if you will see them again. However, if you open your eyes and mind, all these outsiders may seem just a tad bit closer.

Oz: My First Music Festival

Australia’s hot new music is broadcasted on Triple J radio station, which is filled with different sounds—incredible tunes—that I never heard until I moved here. I am so fortunate that I was able to attend my first music festival partly sponsored by Triple J and see some of my new discoveries in the land down under.

Getting to Groovin’ the Moo was not an easy process. I was supposed to attend with an acquaintance I met, and we even paid for an Airbnb. Unfortunately, he cancelled, I lost my accommodation money, and I was stuck with two tickets. However, I very quickly sorted the situation out because my roommate, Seirra, was more than happy to purchase the ticket and we bought bus vouchers, which were charted by Groovin’ the Moo. Once we got there, all the issues I had melted away and I experienced one of the best and longest days of my life.

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In front of the Cattleyard/Triple J stages

Upon arrival, all I could say was “Wow,” as I saw the main stage and another area covered in a giant tent which reminded me of the circus appear before my eager eyes. There were four stages at Groovin’ the Moo (Cattleyard/Triple J, Moolin Rouge (the circus-like structure), Mootown and Silent Disco), the Cattleyard/Triple J stages being the largest. These stages were on one huge, main platform, only being separated by a divider so that acts can perform one after another on alternate sides, which worked out beautifully.

Sierra’s and my day began with some incredible food truck munchies: I bought a vegan doughnut and Sierra got some tasty fries. I did not expect there to be a vast array of food trucks at the festival, and it really pleased me when I realized I would not be eating overpriced, run-of-the-mill venue food.

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After our delicious treats, we headed to Moolin Rouge stage to await our first favorite Performer, Amy Shark. Amy shot to fame with her song “Adore You,” which rose to the number two spot on he Triple J Hottest 100 Chart in 2016. Luckily, we arrived at the tent at the right time, because we were front row for her performance! She was so talented and sounded completely the same in person as she did on recording.

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Amy Shark

Our luck grew when we were able to meet her and receive her autograph at the artist signing table. She told me she liked my shirt and was such a pleasant person to meet. She is heading to America soon for a small tour and I am so excited for her!

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Amy Shark and I

After this meeting, Sierra and I moved over to the main stage almost three hours before our next two favorite artists, Tash Sultana and Milky Chance. We were again extremely lucky that we arrived when we did, because after the fist performer we saw at the stage, the crowds did not dwindle and steadily grew. Before we knew it, we were in the second row of a wild mosh pit. If I have any advice for people attending general admission shows, it is to not enter the main crowd if you cannot handle being pushed, shoved and touched by random people. It is not fun. The only reason I survived the hours of waiting was due to the fact that two people in front of Sierra left the crowd before it got too packed and I shoved her onto the barricade. That’s right—we found ourselves front row again for our two favorite performers!

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Tash Sultana

 

The hours of standing and alternately watching people on the stage in front of us and musicians on the other side of the stage via giant screen was worth it. After what seemed like forever, we were enveloped by the sweet music of Tash Sultana. Tash is a singer, songwriter and looping artist from Melbourne. A looper is a tool that allows one to record herself singing or playing an instrument multiple times and layer the recordings together. Man, does this girl know how to jam! She does not even need to sing; I could listen to her on the looper working her magic all day long. When she performs, it’s like all my worries fade away and it is just me captivated by her beautiful music. Tash is by far one of my favorite musicians I have ever seen live, and that says a lot because I have seen a fair share of artists.

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Milky Chance

Luckily, our final favorite performer played on the same stage as Tash one act later. Milky Chance is a German electronic/alternative/folk group whose single “Stolen Dance” lead the men to the number one spot on music charts in several countries in 2013.  Seeing Milky Chance in person is even better than hearing the band’s recorded music. The lead singer’s on-stage presence was so much more animated than any video I had seen of him. I also did not expect his adorable German accent to draw me in so much. Between Tash and Milky, I was in music heaven.

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The Wombats

The festival ended with Sierra and I shoving our way out of the mosh pit to find some food. After we finally sat down in the barely lit grass, we returned to the Triple J stage to watch The Wombats, another notable and pretty famous band, and back to Moolin Rouge, to see Dillon Francis, an American DJ.

Sierra and I got back to Perth city around 12:30 at night and had probably the best idea that day, which was to take an Uber home. I cannot believe I experienced my first music festival and that the experience was as incredible as it was. This without a doubt will be one of my favorite shows I have ever witnessed.