Oz: Festival Day

You didn’t think my first week of classes was all work, no play, did you? I don’t work that way!img_1426

On the first day of classes, there was a mock tail night put on by the university village. The resident assistants showed us alcohol-free drinks we could make, and add alcohol into on our own (in a responsible way, of course). I really enjoyed the daiquiris, which were basically frozen fruit and ice. Because it was the first week of classes, I did not have a science lab or workshop that day, so I used my free time to go to the beach beforehand. Is anyone surprised?

Between Tuesday and Wednesday, I was pretty busy buying my expensive books and getting started on my plethora of pre-lecture homework and readings. I was lucky enough to score a new textbook for $100 less than its cost, thanks to a Murdoch buying and selling page. I am also lucky that Brian is in half of my classes, so we could figure out the first week together.

Thursday was super fun because it was Festival Day. This is held on Bush Court, the central area on campus. Clubs and organizations are not too popular here, but there were a few, including Quidditch, mixed in with many outside organizations aimed towards students. I also indulged in a Nutella crepe, which made my day.


I made some last minute plans with some of the group after classes finished Thursday. We headed into Perth to check out some spots the others wanted to see. This included a fast food place called King of the Fries. The name tricked them, because they thought the place would have a variety of fries, which it did not.


We spent most of the night at Elizabeth Quay at a really cool pop-up bar. We watched the sun set behind the city and then took a stroll across the bridge there.


We ended up stumbling upon the Cider and Pork Festival, which was really cool. All the food there was centered around—you guessed it—cider and pork. We sat on the grass there listening to a great vocal/guitar duo before heading back home. To our surprise, on our way out, we passed a music concert that was part of the PIAF (Perth International Arts Festival).

Thursday night was the perfect way to end a fairly stressful week. The best thing was knowing I did not have class the next day.



The Season of Falling

It is a picturesque autumn day here in Hempstead, New York. The leaves are vivid shades of orange and red, gently being picked off branches one by one and blowing in the light breeze. The sun is shining and the air wraps around me with a light warmth, almost making me forget that temperatures will soon be unbearably chilly.

It’s fall, and college students like myself like to compare this time of the year to falling grade point averages and diminishing motivation to get things done. It is days like today I flash back to summer and wish I were on a beach without a care in the world.

I have been pondering the incredible adventures I had this summer and how fortunate I am to have gained so many precious memories. From cruising along the Danube to driving to Boston for just a day, the trips on which I embarked during the summer were only a foreshadowing of the adventures awaiting me.

The main attraction this semester was my fall concert series, as I call it. I was fortunate enough to attend four concerts during the semester, and of course, I wrote about them.

Until I unveil my experiences, however, here is a summer throwback to my trip to Lake Wallkill with one my best friends. This is something I watch to help me get through this time in which everything is “falling.”


Budapest Day 2 Continued: A Show and a Cruise

I felt like a first class passenger on the Titanic Wednesday night. I don’t think that is something one says very often. Before I get to explaining that, let’s rewind a bit to the beginning of the evening.

When we parted ways with our lovely guide Claudia, Pop Pop and I freshened up a bit and headed to the Danube Palace, Duna Palota, to pick up our tickets for the Hungarian folklore show we planned to see. After we secured our tickets, we had some time to spare, so we stopped at an outside dining spot. The service was fabulous, my watermelon smoothie was refreshing and Pop Pop’s Snickers milkshake was delicious. The night was already off to a fantastic start.

Loving my refreshing watermelon smoothie

After our quick refuel, we entered the palace and awaited the show. I had no idea what to expect, considering I have never come near a performance like this. The advertisement says the performances at this palace are by the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble the Danube Folk Ensemble and the Hungaria Folk Ensemble. I am not sure who we saw, because there were about ten of the 90 people in the combined ensembles. Regardless of who it was, the performance was absolutely incredible! It was bursting with energy and everyone looked like they were having the time of their lives. Folk dancing may seem weird or boring to some, but I was entertained the entire time. It was a composed blend of arm flailing, leg turning, clapping, snapping, slapping, stomping, and twirling. There was singing, yelling and balancing bottles on heads while dancing. Not to mention, the band was amazing. The instruments used were a violin, cello, a guitar and piano of some sort. If you ever have a chance to see a Hungarian folklore show, please do yourself a favor and see it.

Awaiting the performance

Following this entertaining performance, we joined a massive group of people to walk from the palace to the river bank where the dinner boat was docked. I have never been on a dinner cruise before, although I have wanted to go on one around New York City for a while. The staff of Europa, the name of the boat, offered us drinks upon boarding and showed us to our seats. If this weren’t already a dream, a quartet set up on stage and started playing music. I was freaking out. How did I get so lucky to be on a dinner cruise on the Danube with my best friend? Our table was dressed with our place settings and an appetizer with two crackers and some sort of toppings. Dinner was a buffet with many options including two types of dumplings, fish, meat, potatoes, vegetables, salad and rice. The food was not the best I have ever had, but it was definitely tasty and plentiful. The dessert table looked fancy with individual small desserts decoratively arranged. Some of the desserts were garnished with chocolate butterfly wings, which I appreciated.

Spread your (chocolate) wings and fly

While eating, we talked to a woman from Norway. Apparently, she was a study abroad student in the ‘70’s and stayed in touch with some of her new friends from all around the world. However, they lost touch, but when Facebook came around, they reconnected. Now, as many group members as possible get together every two years to visit each other at one of their homes. They get to travel to a new country, have a personal guide and see old friends. That is definitely something I would love to experience in my life.

The parliament building from the boat

After dinner Pop Pop and I walked to the top of the boat and took in the breathtaking views of Budapest from the Danube. The banks of the river were already beautiful in the daylight, but at night, everything was lit up an absolutely stunning. The parliament building along with the Buda Castle and Victory tower were glowing like stars in the night sky. It was nice relaxing with beautiful views and fresh air.

After the cruise ended, Pop Pop and I strolled back to our hotel room and got ready to leave the next day. Oh, what a night!

Costa Rica 2016

I never thought I would visit Costa Rica. I never thought it would have the impact on me that it did. I am so thankful I got to experience the people, the food and the sights this country has to offer. Hopefully I will be back one day to see more.

Until then, I can play this video of memories over and over.

Costa Rica Day 4: Tuna-Tastic

Gone fishing, again! We were bubbling with anticipation as we ate breakfast at The Hookup before day two of fishing commenced. The sun was shining bright, which my father and I deeply appreciated.


Once we finished eating, we headed to Family and Friends and moved out to open water. After a long drive out, we cast our lines and began trolling once again. Unfortunately, we had an extremely slow morning. We would troll the water, see a tree or debris floating in the ocean, circle it and not find any fish. I spent a good part of the morning staring at the horizon waiting for a fish to bite. By noon, we still hadn’t caught a thing. We ate some Wahoo and chicken cordon blue with some fruit, rice and beans. Not too bad for being out in the middle of the ocean!

After lunch, we were energized and even more ready to catch some fish. We decided to head to another area, and after a bit of driving, the captain halted the boat. As I was half-heartedly getting up and out of the cabin, I heard someone holler, “There’s porpoises!” This is one of my favorite things to hear so I jumped up and went out to see for myself. What I found was not a few dolphins swimming together. There were at least one hundred porpoises splashing around, flipping and jumping through the air. This was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen and I had to stop myself from crying out of pure bliss.


When we discovered the dolphins, we knew there would be tuna near them. As soon as we dropped the line, we got a bite…and another one….and another one. It was the action we had been waiting for the whole trip. Between reeling in fish and capturing pictures and video of the dolphins, our boat was occupied and excited. I have never caught tuna before, so reeling one in was special for me. It’s comical because both the wahoo, which I wrote about in a precious post, and the first tuna I brought in were both not hooked in the mouth. The wahoo got caught by the hook in its side, while the tuna got hooked on its tail. This makes sense because tuna often kill or stun prey with their tails, so my tuna could have tried that on our live bait, and gotten hooked.



My dad was super stoked for me to reel a huge fish in,and even though I caught one tuna already, it wasn’t a difficult fight possibly because of the way it was hooked. My chance for another tuna came a few bites after my first, but unfortunately that one took my line. Luckily, I got one more chance and nailed it. The fish may not look that big, but I pulled in a 40-50 pound organism that could FIGHT. There were a few moments I didn’t think I would not be able to get it in, but with diligence, determination and some coaching from the crew, I reeled that bad boy in and boy was it beautiful.


My favorite part of the day occurred when we had a slab of tuna cut into sashimi for us to enjoy. The last time I had tuna right from the water was at least ten years ago. The fact that I caught the fish and was able to eat it just an hour later was so rewarding and tasty.


Speaking of tasty, I ate the most delightful dinner of my life Monday night. After we left the boat, we took some tuna over to El Galeon. They saw us pull up, they took our tuna and said they would have it ready for us. It was like a fancy drive through food drop-off!

It was pouring that night, and we were the only ones in the restaurant. The chef prepared us our freshly caught tuna as sashimi in two different ways, and then gave us each two tuna steaks prepared in two different ways. This may have been the best tuna I have ever consumed in my life, and I have eaten a lot of tuna! This may seem like a tuna overload for some, but I could eat tuna all day long. We were joking that I needed some tuna ice cream!

A slow morning turned into a tuna frenzy with good friends, delicious food and everlasting memories. I could not have asked for a more tuna-tastic day.



Costa Rica Day 3: Flying through the Canopy

Rain, rain go away, come again another day…when I’m not in Costa Rica! The rain altered our plans a bit for the day, but what a day it was.

I hopped out of bed around 7 a.m. to head to the beach to ride some waves, but it was pouring out and we decided to wait for a bit. About an hour later, we set out for breakfast at a cute hotel restaurant hidden in a winding road off the main highway called Club del Mar. From there, we traveled to Playa Hermosa to check out the surf, which to our disappointment was nonexistent. So, we headed back to the resort and reconfigured our day.

After a quick change of clothes, we drove to the crocodile bridge, which is notorious for the crocodiles in the river underneath. We parked our car on the side of the road and walked to the bridge. I cannot believe what I saw. I know I said I felt like I was in a theme park ride before, but this was like real life Jurassic Park. There were about 20 crocodiles laying along the river bank and a sandbar in it. These were the most ginormous crocodiles I have ever laid eyes on. The biggest must have been 12 or 13 feet long. These were massive, and I can see how they have made humans their dinner multiple times.

View from Crocodile Bridge

After gazing at the crocs, we headed to an enormous gift shop. The prices were great, which did not help me decide on what to purchase, because I wanted everything. I found some awesome ankle bracelets, one of which I have on now. I love wearing ankle bracelets in the summer because it makes me feel like summer is actually here and that I have a beach vibe with me wherever I go.

Once we finished up with the gift shop, we headed to our big excursion of the day: zip lining. We came at the perfect time because a group was about to go out, and we were lucky they allowed us on because we had no I.D. and no reservation. Our group was about 20 people, consisting of my father and sister, a family, two couples and a group of guys. We got towed up the mountain side on a steep path with a tractor that sounded like it may give way any second, but who’s worrying, anyway?

Zipline family
Whitman family

The zip line course at Vista Las Suenos Rainforest Tours consisted of about ten lines through the canopy of the rain forest. Flying through the trees was like a view straight out of a movie. The trees were lush and green with purples and reds mixed in. The trees were of all different kinds, some rising straight from the ground and others with bark that looked like it was twisting into the air. My father pointed out how interested he was in how they picked the trees to use in the course. The tour was about one and a half hours. The only thing I regret about that is not having a video to show!

Zipline Sara2
“I said, what is that? A chicken coming in?”—Lady on tour.

We traveled back to the resort to change and grab a snack, and then I basically dragged my dad out of the room to go check the surf again. Instead of driving all the way to Hermosa, we went to Jaco, which is the really cool surfing town I mentioned before. We rented a board for myself from El Pana Surf Shop and were on our way. My dad could not believe his eyes when he saw how much the waves had grown since the morning, and he decided to rent a board as well.


With an increasingly hurt foot, a surf board attached to my ankle and a grin on my face, I paddled out and awaited a good wave. I definitely should have practiced my surfing beforehand, because I’m sure I was quite entertaining for the locals to watch. My dad was the only one who caught some waves, while I halfway caught a few and then slid off the board. Practice makes perfect, though, right? I was simply happy to be in the Pacific Ocean for the first time with my dad, getting some good, fun exercise in.

Jaco is such a cute, laid back town and I could definitely see my dad­, and I if I knew what I was doing, staying there to surf. My dad was glad I pulled him out to the ocean and so was I.

Per usual, we headed back to the resort for about an hour and a half, and headed to dinner around 7:30 p.m., where we at at El Galeon again. A morning that started off rainy gave way to another fun-filled day in Costa Rica. I can’t believe I will be leaving in just a few days, but that just means I need to continue to make the most of it.

Costa Rica Day 2: Gone Fishing

Gone fishing! Saturday consisted of fishing out in the open waters of the Pacific Ocean. This was super exciting for me because this would be the first time I fished off of a huge fishing boat and was in the Pacific Ocean. The only other time I tried fishing off of a boat like this was in Jamaica when I was in grade school, but that ended with my mother getting sick, my sister extremely nauseous, me slightly nauseous, and no fish.

We ate breakfast at a place called The Hookup, and although my stomach was not currently happy with me, I just had to get caramelized banana and pecan pancakes. The reason I am mentioning breakfast is because while there, we saw a fisherman with a Manasquan shirt on, which is the other inlet we use at home if we don’t go out of the Barnegat inlet into the ocean. On our way out, we noticed the guy next to him had a shirt on with his boat on it, which was named “Ashley Nicole,” which are my sister’s and my middle names. Even more coincidental was that the boat’s home is Point Pleasant, NJ, which is a 15 minute drive from us. I encouraged my dad to speak to them, and when he did, we learned the two fisherman also happened to know my dad’s co-worker. What a small world.

fishing screenshot
Heading out to sea

Anyway, we hopped on the Family and Friends, the boat we would be using, and met our captain and crew. They were all so kind and they gave off such a welcoming and happy vibe. Our boat for the day was a 50 foot Blackwell and it was a beauty. Without hesitation, we headed out to the ocean. My sister and I sat up on top with the captain the whole time we were moving, watching the land escape us and the waves split under our hull. The weather was cloudy and rainy, which was actually great. We didn’t want to be bombarded by hot, unforgiving sun rays the whole time we were on the water.

We reached our destination and cast the lines. Unfortunately, my sister caught some motion sickness and rested herself in the master bed in the cabin. We were trolling, which I talked about in a previous post, if you want to learn more about that. To my surprise, we had a bite within moments of starting, and I was the first to go up for the fight. My dad was so enthused about this because all he wanted me to do was “feel the fight” of a huge fish, and that is exactly what I did. With some coaching from the crew, I reeled a gorgeous wahoo into the boat, and it was almost as big as me! I was pleased I was able to reel that big boy in, which was, of course, my first one ever caught. The crew filleted it right there on the deck of the boat, and it was very interesting to watch.

“Wahoo Daughter”

Now that I caught a fish, I was ready to see some porpoises. I do love these creatures; they are so keen, beautiful and majestic in their own way. One of my favorite memories to this day is when I got to swim with dolphins at Dolphin Cove in Jamaica my senior year of high school, which is what I waited to do since I was a child.

dolphon throwback.jpg
Swimming with dolphins two years ago

Fast forward a few hours, and we were not killing it like we had hoped. My dad caught wahoo, smaller than mine, and we reeled in a few other fish. I did see some porpoises, but they were gone in an instant. However, we did have a fantastic lunch composed of the wahoo I caught, yellowfin tuna, salad, rice and beans. Not a second went by without me thinking I was in a dream. After a few more hours of lack of bites, we headed inward towards the coast and tried bottom fishing. We hovered over a huge rock at the bottom and luckily we caught a magnificent yellowtail snapper. We stayed there for no longer than an hour and headed in.

Yellowtail snapper

By the end of the day, we caught:

  • 2 wahoos
  • Yellowfin tuna
  • Mahi mahi
  • Yellowtail snapper

We thanked the crew and hopped off the boat. We found the Ashley Nicole a few slips down from us, and of course we had to take a photo. We headed back to the room, relaxed and swam before dinner. We ate at the steakhouse on the Marriot’s campus, where I got a mouth-watering surf and turf dinner.

This world is so small

From there, we went back and resided to our rooms to rest. And by rest, I mean get annoyed that I could not post anything because the Internet hates me.

I easily fell asleep in my cloud-like bed, where I dreamed of fishing and the adventures to come the next day.


Costa Rica Day 1 Continued: Beach Town

Hanging out with some wild monkeys was fantastic, but the day was far from done!

After the monkey mangrove tour, we still wanted to explore the coast, so we made a turn off the main road to find a strip of private houses and small hotels along the beach. We stopped at Hotel Pelicano and grabbed some drinks to sip while we strolled the beach. My dad ordered lemonade, and it seemed really cool, so I also ordered one. The lemonade here is different from the lemon, sugar and water I am used to. The lemonade in Costa Rica is more of a slushie made with real lemon juice.


We got our drinks and walked through the hidden getaway and landed on the dark-sand beach. The sand here is the softest sand I have ever felt; it’s like a fine powder and easily gets stuck to your body. Closer to the shore line, the sand envelopes your feet so you’re a good few inches down.

Playa Esterillos

We sauntered down the shoreline looking for shells and sand dollars. Finding sand dollars is always exciting because we can’t find many at home. The coolest thing I ever found off of Seaside Park was a seahorse, which my dog ate a few years later. We discovered a handful of sand dollars, and now our goal is to get a few home in one piece. They are so fragile, some even broke in the bag at the beach.

The sand dollars that made it home!

There were beautifully colored shells in shades of pink, purple and coral we picked up. I wish we could bring some drift wood home because it would make for a great keepsake as well as decoration. Coconuts also lined the beach, as well as the occasional bonfire made of palm tree leaves.

After a while, we decided to head home, but we had to make one last stop in the town of Jaco, which is a little surf town on the beach. We checked out some board rentals and the waves and we definitely wanted to come back to surf as well as shop.

jaco screenshot
Town of Jaco

Once we got back from our day of adventure, we relaxed a bit and headed to dinner at a gorgeous restaurant on the marina at the Marriot, called El Galeon. If anyone is wondering El Galeon means “the galleon” which was a sailing ship used between the 15th and 17th centuries, originally for war and later for trade. We had some great calamari and I ordered one of my favorites: scallops.

After some typing on my lap top as well as frustration that the internet wouldn’t let me post, my bed called me so I could rest for the exciting day to come.

From the Big Blue to the Concrete Jungle

On the water in the morning and by afternoon, walking through a bustling fair on 8th Street, NYC. That was my Saturday. If that could be my life regularly, that would be one successful life.

A trip to NYC is not something I will write about often, as I attend school in Long Island and frequently visit, especially when I have an internship. Plus, I am not trying to write a blog about my adventures in NYC. If that were the case, this blog would be named “Sara in the City.” However, Saturday filled me with the epitome of satisfaction and I am eager to share it with you.


Saturday started off with a beautiful ski on the Toms River. This was my first run of the season. The water was cool and the air was warm. The whole group was there: my dad, my dad’s father, Pop Pop, and my dad’s best friend, Mario. We hit the water like we hadn’t stopped for almost a whole year. The entire time I was skiing I was singing and squealing like a kid who just opened the most epic present ever. I was pleased with the duration of my ski, and even more pleased with the fact that I kicked a ski off so effortlessly, risking hurting my already inflamed and bruised toe. Our ski trip was a short one, as Pop Pop and I had an exciting day planned for us: We were headed to see Les Miserables on Broadway with my grandma.

I was in such a light and cheerful mood after my ski that I decided to run a mile along the water before hopping in the shower and rushing to get ready for Pop Pop’s 9:25 am arrival at my house. There’s nothing like some action on the water and a brisk jog to start the day off right.

Running Route

We decided to take the bus to New York, which takes only 1 hour and 15 minutes from the NJ Transit terminal in Toms River to Port Authority in the city. My grandparents chatted with me the whole way up, and I could tell they were beyond thrilled to be seeing this with me. This was a super special trip for all of us because they tried persuading me to see this show with them when I was a child, but what eight-year-old girl wants to view a show about a war in France? Not this one. It took me until I saw the premiere of the motion picture of Les Mis with my high school theater group to fall head over heels for this show. For those of you who do not know, Les Miserables is about the hunt for a man who broke parole, and his adopted daughter who falls in love with a university student fighting for revolution in France during the 1800s. A movie description from IMDb can be found here. Ever since I realized how moving this show was, it was my dream to see it with my grandparents. Although this was my third time seeing it on Broadway, this was just as special as my first time seeing it, and I knew this would be the last time I see it before it ends its run on Broadway.

Carmine’s Bread Pudding

Prior to the show, my grandparents were enthused to take me to Carmine’s, a  famous family-style Italian restaurant. The incredible thing about this place is that one plate of food can serve multiple people. Although the restaurant says a plate of pasta can serve three to four people, each dish can definitely serve at least six. We met a nice family there; apparently the father had gotten out of jail not too long ago, and had been saving money to take trips with his two children. It was a very inspiring and unusual encounter. We ended up giving them our dessert because there was no way we would finish it.


We finished dining and headed over to the Imperial Theater to see the astounding musical. As assumed, it did not let me down and I think I can say the same for most of the theater, as all I heard were awe-struck sniffles around me at the end. We headed back to the bus station and headed home to end our fantastic day.

Grandma and I

Why did I want to tell you about this? This was simply another appreciated visit to my favorite city to add to my list, but for others, NYC is a huge trip. The thing about Saturday that made me so overwhelmed with joy and gratitude is the fact that I was able to wake up to a sunny, bright day, hop into the water, get some exercise, and then two hours later be breathing in the hustle and bustle of New York City. I often struggle with myself about what exactly I will do when I am done with school and where I will live. I am in love with the fast-paced, colorful city life, but my heart is also anchored in the ocean. Saturday showed me what life could be if I work hard enough and ensure that I continue doing what makes me happy.

“Step with care and great tact, and remember life’s a great balancing act!”

-Dr. Seuss

That’s what Saturday was: a balancing act. I morphed the two things that fill me with passion into one day. To be able to do that brings me great joy and appreciation for what I have done and can do in life. Being aware of what is possible will hopefully help me achieve my goals and balance my passions as I journey through this beautiful life.