Friday, June 17, 2011

Coloring Newcastle: Blue

This is an excerpt from my creative writing portfolio Coloring Necastle. The premise behind my piece is that an instance at Newcastle reminds me of an adventure I've had studying abroad in Australia. Through the primary colors of green, red and blue, I aim to give Newcastle a little more color. Enjoy.
The chilly June breeze pushes my bangs across my forehead and into my eyes. My hands, freezing from the exposure, clumsily attempt to re-clip the loose strands of hair. I eventually give up. My walk along Nobbys Beach is almost over and soon I will be back in the protection of a warm car. I scan the horizon and locate a lonely boat, bobbing gently in the wake of each tiny wave. I wish I was on that boat, escaping from the shadow of a forsaken lighthouse that guards a desolate beach. As I continue walking through the cold sand, I decide to stick my toes in the surf one last time. I slip cautiously to the water’s edge and prepare myself for the ensuing numbness.

The day couldn’t be hotter as I lay on my sand-colored hotel towel, letting the sun’s rays cook my body before flipping over on my stomach, attempting to seek a cooler refuge. Raking my fingers through the sand, I accidentally brushed across his hand. It was so sweet of Brad to invite me down for a weekend at the beach, I thought. An instant smile spread across my face as I thought about yesterday’s festivities.  What I had thought would transpire as a casual weekend for four was instead invaded by a rowdy group of Evatt boys looking for a free place to stay after a crazy night in King’s Cross. It was an experience to say the least, trying to hide the fact that 15 people couldn’t comfortable fit in one double room. 

I absentmindedly rolled back over and sat up, adjusting my bikini top. I heard the lapping of the Coogee Beach waves mixed with the playful laughter of children. Talking to no one in particular, I informed the group that I was restless and headed toward the rocky coastline without waiting for a response. 

Maneuvering through the sea of sunbathers, I finally reached the water’s edge and didn’t care to stop walking till I was knee deep. Even on a perfect sunny day like today, the water was still a little cool for my liking. Growing up in the South, I’ve been spoiled by the warm water of the Gulf of Mexico. I waded parallel to the beach, continuing toward the steep bluff on the far side of the beach. Eventually the sea weed caused me to resume my journey on land. At last, the fine sand turned to slick rock. The natural tide pool at the base of the cliffs was deserted in comparison to the main stretch of beach. I carefully crossed the threshold to the lookout point. The spray of the salt water filled the air and I licked my lips, soaking in the quintessential beach taste. 

From my vantage point atop one of the rock outcrops, I spotted a dozen white-wash bungalows reminiscence of Greece clinging to the steep cliffs, threatening to cascade into the water below at the slightest sign of foundation instability. How was it that this little Sydney beach town could remind me of the only other time I had been abroad? 

“The crazy connections you make,” I murmured as I sat overlooking the ocean, unaware of the pasting of time.

It was a bittersweet feeling leaving the solitude of my marine observation point, but I had once again grown restless of my surroundings. A seagull flew too close to my head, perhaps the final sign that it was indeed time to move on. I turned in the direction of my half-drunk friends wasting away a beautiful Sunday afternoon on the beach. No doubt I would find them exactly as I had left, passed out with their sunglasses on. A bad decision they would visibly carry around with them for a week or so. 

The high afternoon sun had caused the sand to be an unbearable temperature. It scorched my soles and forced me to jog back.

The bottoms of my feet are finally starting to regain feeling as I turn my back once again to the water; for what is the last time. Although I have a high threshold for pain, the icy water is an easy victor. The sand begins to encase my wet feet as they head toward the car park. With each step, the weight of my departure from the beach, from Newcastle, from Australia, soon manifests into a reality. 

In a few short hours, I will be on a train heading to the Sydney International Airport. I stoop to the ground and withdraw a small glass jar from my jumper pocket. One last souvenir of my time abroad I think as I scoop the fine sand.
Cheers for now,

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Coloring Newcastle: Red

This is an excerpt from my creative writing portfolio Coloring Necastle. The premise behind my piece is that an instance at Newcastle reminds me of an adventure I've had studying abroad in Australia. Through the primary colors of green, red and blue, I aim to give Newcastle a little more color. Enjoy.
I catch a whiff of something familiar in the damp Newcastle air. The smell becomes more prominent as I continue in the direction of my exam room. The rich, earthy aroma of wood burning permeates the air. A small bonfire becomes visible as I turn the corner by the Aboriginal Learning building. Tendrils of smoke float toward me, beckoning me. I pause a moment and breathe in. The natural scent fills my lungs.

The evening sky opened up in front of me as my eyes adjusted from the harsh lighting of the bus. My night vision filtered in the stunning celestial display; the one perk of sleeping outside. For that night, I was roughing it more than this city girl had ever imagined. Setting up camp in the bush land of the Northern Territory with only the fire light to guide my way was a little more “Outback” than I was going for.

The tour group quickly unloaded the firewood we had collected from the side of the road. Within a few minutes, our Wonder Woman of a guide had a roaring blaze going and began to make preparations for dinner. The delicious meal of chili con carne and roasted vegetables was made over the ambers of our fire pit. I could barely see my plate and instead blindly shoveled the food into my mouth. The little sandwich I’d eaten for lunch seemed a distant memory.

After the rumblings of my stomach had been calmed, the next obstacle of the night appeared.  I’d never gone camping without a tent so the concept of sleeping in a swag was foreign to me. What I thought was supposed to be an individual-sized rustic shelter ended up being just a canvas “body bag” with a thin mattress for comfort and a head flap for protection. I was in the backwoods; there are wild animals out here. I didn’t feel too safe. Not to mention there were mice huddling on the outskirts of our camp, waiting to investigate these intruders.  

I layered on all the clothes I had packed and snuggled into my sleeping bag. Gazing upward, I located the Southern Cross constellation nestled next to the streak of stars that formed the Milky Way. What a sight! I took a deep breath of the cool air. A strong bonfire scent penetrated my nostrils, and I was asleep within moments.  

At one point in the night, I jolted awake, wide-eyed with terror. I told myself it was nothing, but my body was on high alert. I knew I hadn’t dreamt the small tug at the top of my head flap, a slight scurry near my left ear. I was petrified to roll over because I feared that I would come face-to-face with a mouse. I normally wouldn’t be afraid of little field mice but tonight was different. I was on their level; I was invading their home territory. My senses still prickled; I couldn’t sleep. Instead I attempted to think of something else, willing my mind back to the events of earlier that day and not of the impending attack of more mice.

It had been a long day of moving from one spot to another. The bus had picked me up at the ungodly hour of 6 a.m. I had hoped that I could catch some shut eye before the first hike but I knew that was futile. (I have very strict conditions in which I can go to sleep: it must be completely dark and completely quiet.)
So instead the early morning hours were spent staring out the window, watching the same salt bush pass me by every other kilometer as if the landscape was on one continuous loop. I switched my focus to my left and immediately envied my new travel partner’s bobbing head. I looked back at the road and waited to spot the annoying Outback shrub.

The hike through King’s Canyon was breathtaking. I had stood as close to the edge as I dared, just making out the little car park where I had begun my adventure two hours earlier. The red of the rocks was a sharp contrast to the blue sky above. A surprising dose of green was present as well in the form of a desert oasis termed the Garden of Eden. It was there, leaning against the trunk of a large tree, that I symbolically ate an apple. Although I wasn’t suddenly struck naked, I couldn’t help but wish that a past lover (the Adam to my Eve) could have experienced this trip with me. Looking up, I didn’t expect for that same cloudless covering to transform into the night time display that would catch my breath.

The sound of scampering feet had hushed but sleep still evaded me.

I smirk at how cranky I can get with little sleep. I wonder if the cramming for the three exams I have today will render the same attitude. I glance at my watch and continue walking to class only to be engulfed in another kind of smoke. The girl in front of me is anxiously smoking a cigarette as she shuffles down the sidewalk. I grudgingly fall in to step behind her until there is a break in the oncoming pedestrian traffic.   
Cheers for now,

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Coloring Newcastle: Green

This is an excerpt from my creative writing portfolio Coloring Necastle. The premise behind my piece is that an instance at Newcastle reminds me of an adventure I've had studying abroad in Australia. Through the primary colors of green, red and blue, I aim to give Newcastle a little more color. Enjoy.
I spread my fleece blanket on the grass next to the field. The sun begins its descent in the west and the last rays filter through the trees, casting shadows over the rugby players as they stretch. The biggest college game of the series is between my beloved Evatt House and our archrivals at Ted’s. When I first moved on campus at the University of Newcastle, I wasn’t aware of the fierce rivalry between these two dorms. I was told that speaking to a Ted’s resident was an offense. Back in the States, there’s nothing that compares to this on-campus competition. 

The players line up for the opening play, a line of red versus a line of blue. I fidget on the hard ground, attempting to find a comfortable position to watch the game from. The boys battle on in front of me, unaware of my plight. 

The Melbourne Cricket Ground was grand. The rows and rows of seating stretched around the oval field and up to the high rafters. With the capacity to house about 100,000 cheering fans, the MCG is in the top ten largest sport stadiums in the world. My home college stadium in South Carolina, Williams-Brice is only ranked 46th. The attendance for the game I attended (Richmond Tigers v. Essendon Bombers) was around 83,500 people, more occupants than a sold out game in Columbia could hold.

Since this was my first footy game, the rules were unclear. I quickly caught on to the scoring process: six points for getting the ball through the middle posts and one point for each side post. As AFL is such a physical game, the penalties were the most confusing part of the game. What I would have considered a blatant foul was loudly cheered for by the fans. 

The sweet elderly couple who sat next to me proved helpful for clarification. They had met at a local university in Melbourne and had been married for over 40 years. The couple was cheering against each other; the husband was a Bombers fan and the wife was a Tiger fan. The cute back and forth bickering reminded me of my parents and their sports loyalties. 

The wind blew through the stadium and I attempted to stifle a shiver. I would have loved to be wearing one of the team scarves that I saw frequently dotted across the rippling sea of fans. 

 The AFL teams seemed equally matched as the score seemed to rise proportionally for the first three quarters. It was only in the last minutes of the fourth quarter that the Essendon Bombers seemed to lose focus on the match. Taking full advantage of that, the Tigers swept through on to victory after scoring 16 unanswered points. 

I shifted in my seat and felt the tingle of numbness in my legs. A strange roar had come over the entire MCG. I strained to make out the words of the team cheer:
”Like the tigers of old
we’re strong and we’re bold.
Oh we’re from Tiger
oh we’re from Tigerland.
I spotted the couple that I had sat next to walking out of the stadium, hand in hand. I smiled to myself. With the final echo of Tigerland, the match was over.

The footy game against is 1-1. Evatt has the ball and is making headway toward the goal line. A brutal tackle leaves the balance of momentum in grave danger of going against us. The time is under a minute now. With one final push, the players in red crash into the blue line. Victory! I find myself up on my feet, cheering with my comrades about the last minute goal. My spirits high, I push with the crowd back to college, knowing the celebration will go late into the night.  
Cheers for now,

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Winding Down

Today marks the four month mark of my time in Australia. I can't believe how quickly time has gone.With only a week left in Australia, I'm starting to pack up and say my goodbyes. Saying farewell to my new Aussie friends is heaps hard and makes me think of all the great times we've had together. I'm going to try not to cry and sound cliche but these people are so amazing.

To honor this anniversary, I've decided to look back at what I was doing on all the 14ths of the month. Here it goes:

February 14th
It seems like just yesterday I was arriving on college with my four suitcases and immediately rushed into Aussie party mode; there was a giant Valentine's Day party at the on-campus bar that night. Right out of the 26 hour travel day, I was making new friends and embracing the Aussie culture. At Bar on the Hill, there was a giant blow-up Twister board which basically turned into a trampoline by the end of the night; FUN! I remember thinking how weird it was that the bar played music video because it's not that big in America. Also this was the first time I was introduced to the poor uni student drink of choice: goon a.k.a. cask wine.

All smiles on our first night in Australia
  March 14th
Ryan was halfway through with his visit on my one month anniversary in the Land Down Under. We still hadn't decided where we were going to go; Great Barrier Reef ultimately won out. We bought our plane tickets for the very next morning. Since we had to catch a train at 4 a.m., we stayed up all night watching Entourage and packing. Cairns is such a rainy tropical city.

The perfect day in Cairns
April 14th
It was a pretty chill Thursday spent recovering from the big victory party Evatt had the night before. We had beaten our college rival Ted's in a rugby game. Later I played in a net ball game for D Block. Also I was counting down the days till New Zealand-5!  

May 14th
I was suppose to go to Port Macquarie with people from D Block but that fell through. With uni on cruise control until exams, I spent a lazy day in Newcastle lounging on the beach. It was quite cold compared to how the weather usually is but I made the most of it. Another countdown-5 more days till Melbourne and the Outback.

Melbourne is fabulous
 June 14th 
And now here I am four months later, sitting in the library because my computer cord blew up in the wall. With only one more week left in Australia, I couldn't be happier. I've accomplished so much in my short stay but I've made so many friends and memories.

Wow I have a good memory ;)
Happy four month anniversary to me!

Cheers for now,

Monday, June 13, 2011

Pray for Christchurch

Today another earthquake and aftershocks hit the city of Christchurch in New Zealand. This is the third major earthquake in the past eight months. 

My heart goes out to all the families who have lost their homes.

Christchurch is the oldest established city in the country and is known for their beautiful churches.

Please keep this city in your prayers.

Cheers for now,

Monday, June 6, 2011

Blah My Brain Hurts

Wow where has the time gone? It's already June and therefore the start of exam period. In Australia, exams span over three weeks. So you would think my exams would be nicely spaced out. I'd be able to study for one exam at a time with a nice break in between. Haha, WRONG!

Instead, I had a 4,000 word portfolio piece due today and three {count them 1, 2, 3} exams tomorrow.

To top off the exam funfest, my laptop charger decides to go haywire and literally blew up in the outlet. So now I don't have a computer for the rest of the 19 days I'm here. Good thing there is a computer lab across the street but still. No more watching movies in bed :(
How ya going?
So I'm letting you know in advance, don't expect a post tomorrow. After 7 p.m. I will be a brain dead zombie.

Hope everyone is having a much better Monday than I am!

Cheers for now,

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Fashion From Abroad: Rocking My Thongs

Get your mind out of the gutter.

In Australia, thongs mean sandals. The most common brand of thongs is Havaianas Australia {pronounced ah-vai-YAH-nas}. I have seen these sandals back in the United States but not to the degree they are in Australia. Literally everyone on college has a pair if not two or three.

These rubber flip flops are so comfortable and come in a variety of colors and patterns.

So many choices!
For sandals, I took my classic tan Rainbows with me to Australia.
Big Mistake!
People immediately knew I was American becuase my thong straps were so thick. Huh? One of the trademarks of Havaianas or any other brand of thongs is the thin straps.

Oh well I go through these trials so that my sratty readers don't have to make the mistake of looking like tourists abroad.

Funky Ad
I do admit Havaianas bring me back to high school when I had about seven pairs of Old Navy flip flops. {oh how I wish I could go back and tell myself not to leave the house wearing certain outfits especially the one time I wore baggy jeans under a skirt! I just gagged a little but you need to know that was a one time thing.} Only these sandals are a little more grown up.

I am debating about getting a pair before I leave. Does anyone have a pair of these kind of thongs ;)

Cheers for now,

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Craft Time: Alice Springs Stepping Stones

While I was walking around in Alice Springs, I spotted these adorable tiled stepping stones. I thought how much fun would it be to make my own Aboriginal-inspired design?

Sperrys & Mosaic Tiles
To make your own stepping stone, just find a base mold. I am thinking of moving away from the square look to maybe a hexagon. Fill the mold with quick setting cement that you can find at any old hardware store. Let set for 30 to 60 minutes then DECORATE! Craft stores sell bags of glass beads and tiles so let your creativity run wild. Store in a dry place for a couple of days.

I think the hardest part of this project is deciding where to put your finished masterpiece. How cute would this be in the garden at my new house in Columbia?

I might make a few for house warming presents for my sorority sisters. So many possibilites.

Cheers for now,

Thursday, June 2, 2011

What I'm Playing Thursday


I'm taking it easy today and linking up with Sarah Elizabeth at Belle in the City.

In Newcastle, a raging pre-drinks playlist is essential. Australians love therir techno beats and are more influenced by American music than I thought.

Here are a few of my favorite Aussie party songs: 

Dirty Talk
Wynter Gordon

Party Rock Anthem

Barbra Streisand
Duck Sauce

Price Tag
Jessie J

Calvin Harris

Enjoy darlings!

Cheers for now,