Whew!!! What a crazy and fun week it has been! Because words could never do justice to the incredible sights and animals I’ve seen this past week, I’ll try to include more pictures and videos than usual to attempt to share these phenomenal experiences.
Last weekend, the study abroad crew had the pleasure of visiting the extravagant and spectacular Caversham Wildlife park. The breathtaking experience included
feeding friendly kangaroos, as well as gawking at a plethora of other magnificent Aussie critters including wallabies, dingos, all kinds of birds (kookaburras, hawks, owls, cockatoos, parrots), koalas (who sleep 20 hours a day! Tough life.), Tasmanian devils, emus, quokkas, wombats, peacocks (who showed off for us and spread their amazing, vibrant, strangely pulsating green feathers. Apparently, that’s how they try to attract possible mates, I think it might have given some of the fellas a few tips on how to flirt with the ladies), various menacing dragon-like lizards, alligators, ducks, swans, lorikeets, camels, deer, foxes, as well as many farm animals: cows, chickens, goats, guinea pigs, rabbits, donkeys, horses, sheep, and adorable little fuzzballs that I eventually found out were baby bunnies. After spending a delightful morning checking out all of these fantastic creatures, we were treated to a “farm show” that included milking a cow, learning how to crack a whip, watching a man shear a sheep, and seeing how Kelpie’s (unbelievably smart dogs that are trained to function like a well-oiled machine) round up sheep. Caversham was truly an amazing, authentically Australian experience and we all had a magical day (even though I was a tad disappointed that they wouldn’t let me take my own ‘roo home with me!).
To complete an Australian animal-filled weekend, I used my free Sunday to
travel with a fellow P and O-er to witness the famed Perth Aquarium. Having a personal history of loving aquatic creatures and all marine life (aka fiiiishies!), I was beyond excited to see all the crazy and unique ocean organisms that Australia had to offer, and needless to say, I was absolutely NOT disappointed!!!! However, the day did not start out nearly as well as it ended and my lack of foresight nearly cost us a stellar day at the Aquarium. Allow me to explain; in order to get to the aquarium, one must take 2 separate trains, 2 separate busses, and trek the home stretch on foot. After successfully riding the rails and arriving at Whitfords, we realized that the next bus would not be arriving for another hour. We decided to just book it on foot and explore the city and headed out towards the only landmark we knew, the big, bad, blue ocean. Unfortunately, after an hour or so of strolling, we still had yet to have an ocean sighting and the hope of seeing the aquarium was beginning to trickle away. Thankfully, we saw a bus heading our way and climbed on. After a couple minutes, we figured it would be a good idea to ask the bus driver which stop to get off at, and he responded by informing us that we were going nowhere NEAR our final destination and that we were on the wrong bus! Whoops. We quickly exited but were promptly scooped up by the correct bus, and after a 15 minute ride, we hopped off and walked the rest of the way (thank GOD we didn’t try to walk the entire way, we weren’t even remotely close to making it there on foot). Anyhoo, when we finally made our way into the Harbour, we were surrounded by a quaint, cozy little beach town that featured a pristine beach with crystal clear water, beachside restaurants, and numerous local shops selling all kinds of trinkets. We ambled through the town until we eventually miraculously stumbled upon the AWQA, our glorious destination. Thankfully, the long journey was definitely worth it and we were blown away by the multitude of colorful tanks and unique fish! We were able to observe the deadly poisonous stonefish, venomous sea snakes, electric eels, various branches of surreal coral (that made is seem like I was tripping on acid or experiencing the insane effects of LSD due to the bizarre array of shapes, sizes and colors), camouflaged sea horses, the most deadly jellfish in the world (the box jellyfish), enormous crabs and lobsters, other intimidating shellfish, Nemo, Dory, sea turtles, mammoth manta rays, and gigantic sharks. The aquarium included one magical highlight that I will honestly never forget: an immensely massive tank that literally surrounded me as I walked through it. Basically, they carved out a small tunnel of glass that people can walk through (actually you just have to stand there as they had the brilliance to install a conveyor belt that slowly moved you in a GIANT circle around the entire tank) and it carted me around the aquarium as I was surrounded by all kinds of unimaginable creatures! My description comes nowhere near describing the profound levels of awesome that this particular tank had, but if you can imagine it was literally like being plopped into the middle of the ocean, surrounded on all sides by the biggest, most awe-inspiring animals in the world, with only thin glass separating you from them and the water. Absolutely unbelievable. I could have stayed in the AQWA all day, slowly circling the impressive tank until dizziness got the better of me, but after several hours of me acting like a kid in a candy shop and continually yelling “oh wooooow!!! Did you see this one??? Oh my GOD and what about the Shark??? And the sea turtle??? And LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THAT FREAKIN MANTA RAY!!!!!! This is AMAZING!!!!!” I figured it was time to count my blessings and call it a day. Afterwards, we stuck with the fish theme and snacked on some delicious sushi before we headed back home (thankfully navigating Australia without getting hopelessly lost). The Aquarium has been one of my favorite experiences thus far and to say that I was blown away would be the understatement of the century!
In other news, the Yankaroos participated in our first Footy game against Brothers United, a team with many experienced players and fierce competitors. Thankfully I was finally able to escape a Footy encounter without any trace of brutal injury; unfortunately the rest of our team was not quite so lucky. The Yankaroos experienced numerous bone-crunching hits, bumps and bruises, intense muscle cramps, and even a shattered nose after a painful collision. Indeed, Footy is not for the faint of heart. Anways, we had been informed that many of the players from this seasoned team had experienced troubled pasts, including violent attacks, drug and alcohol abuse, prison time, and other traumatic events that had shaped their lives. This information, coupled with the intimidating first glance that many of us received, struck terror in the hearts of several members of our American squad. However, our notion that these men were hardcore thugs and brutal savages could not have been more off-base or inaccurate. In fact, they were all incredibly friendly, acted like gentleman, and were great sports as a number of our players struggled with some of the rules throughout the game. In fact, during the rare lapses in play, I was able to engage several of their players in interesting conversations and learn a little bit more about the game and their background. Unbeknownst to us, this game actually had media coverage and was broadcast on a local radio station which is pretty stinkin cool if you ask me! Also, numerous fans showed up to cheer on both sides and the exciting atmosphere added to the thrill of the game. Brother’s United had a solid squad of players ranging from 15 years old to 50, including a number of unbelievable athletes who maintained a stunningly quick pace and who never seemed to tire throughout the entirety of the exhausting game. Coincidentally, Aussie chose to have its first absolute scorcher of a day on the afternoon that we all stepped onto the pitch to play our first footy game. Real cool Australia.
I played the majority of the game at the Ruck, meaning that after each goal I got to engage in a high flying aerial battle for control of the ball (similar to the jump ball in basketball, but with a large running start and full body contact allowed). In addition, as a member of the midfield, I got to partake in the majority of the game’s offense and defense, as well as many rambunctious tussles, tackles, runs, and monstrous boots of the footy. I loved every second of it! After the first half, we had held our own and were only down by single digit points, but many of us were experiencing massive fatigue (especially those of us in the midfield) due to the incredible pace of the game, the scorching heat, and our complete lack of any subs. Coming out of the halftime huddle, we continued thrusting all of our force and focus into the game and somehow managed to prevent them from opening up a double digit lead and pulling away. As the game reached its final moments (although we were unaware as they did not display how much time was left), we had pulled within 4 points and the game had reached a climactic battle where every possession was crucial in order for us to chase the lead. We expended every ounce of our waning energy to regain control of the ball and together we worked it up the field as the clock ticked away towards our inevitable doom of defeat. As we pelted towards the opposite end of the pitch, there was a massive pile-up and the ball squirted loose. I tore after it and managed to scoop it up amidst the chaotic heap of bodies. I broke free of the mob of defenders and booted a kick that soared between the goalposts, and as the ball sailed towards the back of the net, the final buzzer sounded to signal the end of the game! By narrowly beating the resounding final siren, my last second goal was allowed and the Americans were granted the well-fought, yet miraculous victory!!! Yankaroos 46, Brothers United 44! Following the heated match, medals, trophies, and awards were given out to each team and a cordial and congratulatory “hip, hip, hooray!” was enthusiastically bellowed by both sides. In addition to the individual medals we all received, the Yankaroos were presented with a magnificent gleaming cup. I also got a sweet trophy after being awarded the honor of “best team player” for my play throughout the match and my last second antics! All in all, twas a grand first effort for the Yankaroos and a phenomenal first experience for all of us playing in our first actual game.
-I was talking to a Gonzaga buddy who is studying nursing and I learned the medical term for the large tumor that has resided on my face for the past several weeks in the form of a glorious ripper (black eye): subconjunctival hemorrhage! Pretty sweet sounding huh? Also, I learned from my friend that occasionally if there is blunt trauma to the eye the vessels break and blood pools under the surface! This explains the gruesome, gory eyeball that has attracted so much attention recently. The good news is: I’ll be fine! She says that I’ll recover in no time and soon enough people will stop flinching in shock and screaming in horror whenever they see my face.
-On Wednesday evening, a large group of students from the P and O hotel took the train to Perth to participate in a "light the night" walk for Leukemia. It was an incredibly special event where all walkers are given a fluorescent balloon to hold in memory of loved ones affected by leukemia. The profound effect of hundreds of people all walking together in unison for such a noble cause with brightly lit balloons illuminating the pitch black darkness of the Australian sky was extremely powerful. The walk brought back memories of loved ones for all of us. I wore my tie-dye proudly and had the spirit of Bobs in my heart throughout the walk. The event definitely helped me reflect on what an amazing impact he has had on my life. Bobs, you will be forever missed.
-I’m getting up bright and early tomorrow morning (6 AM!) to spend the weekend on Rottnest Island, which I have heard is one of the highlights of Western Australia! Wish me luck on my island adventures!
Miss you all. Sending my love from down under.