Archive for the ‘Adventures’ Category

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Yellow Springs in Oz

November 30, 2009

After booking my hostel with Wicked Travel, I have now gained access to free internet in Australia. I didn’t think it existed, but her I am, typing away without that pesky 1 dollar every 15 minute restriction so many places insist on.

Byron Bay, where I have been for the last couple of days, so such a wonderful little town. It’s so much like Yellow Springs, it’s a little scary. Basically this is what Yellow Springs would look like if it had tourists and revenue. Everyday has been spent tangled in small adventures and lazing about in various places (beaches, trees, benches, the likes) reading Hell’s Angels by none other than the wonderful Hunter S.

Last night I proved my theory about backpackers versus locals fairly well by going to a well-occupied pub right next to the bus stop. A band called Thrillbilly Stomp was fiddling up a storm when I arrived, and I decided that a night of bluegrass might be just the sort of thing I needed after the failed punk show I was promised, but never happened the previous night (although the band that did play wasn’t bad and the show was free, so really it turned out well). After doing my usual lap around the pub to make sure I know where all the doors go and where what sort of people seem to be gathering, I ordered a Cooper’s Dark (holy crap it’s delicious) and perched atop a bench just to the left of the stage, under a streetlamp to drink and read.

I don’t usually get along with a lot of backpackers in pubs. They tend to be too loud, too over-excited, and too eagar to score to have interesting things to say or make me want to meet them. Some are okay, clearly, because I have met some really nice, interesting, complex people during my short stints of travelling about, but on the whole, I’m less than impressed. So I have resigned myself to sitting perched on that bench for a few hours, reading my book, and going to bed early so as to wake up, take a stroll a few kilometers away, and watch the sunrise over the lighthouse (also, the most eastern part of the Australian mainland).

But within a half an hour, a man had come over to ask what I was reading. He was fairly drunk, but had a very nice smile on his face, so I replied and we started chatting. His name was Pete and he grew up in Manly Beach, but moved to Byron Bay 24 years ago (something I was reminded of again and again as he drunkenly staggered through a conversation). He was also an avid Western reader and prided himself on his ability to name all of the American states and capitals (although he forgot Deleware). He told me about his kids and his travelling, but mostly about Westerns and his kids. I also met a friend of his from Brooklyn who was wearing an OSU Buckeyes hat, and another man named Mickey, whole lived in Melbourne for 44 years before moving to Byron Bay and also worked in the Hog’s Breath Cafe as a cleaner ago.

Eventually the other stumbled away, leaving Mickey and I to chat, and it was such a pleasent conversation. We talked about the Aboriginal situation in Australia in terms of still striving for that balance between sensitivity and over-compensation, the advantages of travelling and those of staying in one place, how he is finally going to buy a camper van and see the rest of Australia (he’s never been West or North, only South and East), and other such nice conversation pieces.

Round about midnight, I said good night to him, and went to the beach to watch the night time waves tumble about before deciding that bed time was now. My campsite was filled with partying backpackers and schoolies kids blasting music until 5 am, so waking up early for a hike was no longer the plan. But I did make it up to the light house and can now say that I have been to the most eastern point on the Australian mainland.

Next stop is Sydeny.

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Intermission

November 28, 2009

I meant to type up a short pre-departure note about my adventure to the north, but suddenly Monday morning was here, and I was eagar to leave. It was a decently eventful four days, starting with a night in Noosa and ending with seeing the Sunrise over the colored sands on Rainbow Beach. There was also the largest sand dun I’ve ever seen, river kayaking in Noosa, getting so sunburned I couldn’t sit properly, and Bine and I making total fools of ourselves trying and failing (miserably) at diving into the giant waves. We were fairly embarrassing, but it was so much fun and relaxing.

Now I wait to catch my 11:50 bus to Brisbane, so I can catch my 2:30 bus to Byron Bay and start my mostly solo adventures. I’m still nervous and excited, but I’ve resigned myself to the fact that even if i don’t go as far as I plan, I’m sure I’ll enjoy the ride.

I’ll be back in New York the 15th around noon, and then back to Ohio for Christmas.

But for now, I’m off.

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Beating a cellphone with a microphone is the best way to dial

November 20, 2009

Since I’m sure y’all don’t want to just constantly read about me whining about my nerves and financial difficulties, here’s some other stuff I think about and even do.

Yes. It’s finally happened! A night worth blogging about.

But first, I want to chat a bit about a show here that is pretty epic. It’s called Hungry Beast and it’s a very liberal (in the American sense), alternative news program, but get this! It’s on regular TV stations. Not super expensive cable, where you’d need to spend a ton of money to get some obscure channel to watch it on, but normal TV. Now, I’m not going to preach about the virtue of this show, because, sometimes, it’s a bit bull shitty. The segments can seem too self-righteous (even for me!) and the jokes have been known to miss, but it’s a very well put together show with awesome design elements and lots of fucked up information that’s bound to make a few people want to change the world, even if it’s only for a few minutes until John Saffron’s Race Relations starts (which is a whole other TV issue).

The reason I bring it up is because Hungry Beast recently did an unauthorized interview with an Australian soldier serving in Afghanistan. It is maybe the best interview I have seen about the war, and worth 20 minutes of your day to view. We talk about the soldiers so much, but do we ever really hear from them? This soldier is extremely well-spoken and knows his shit.

And speaking of the war, guess what I did last night. I went to my first Leftover Crack concert! I went by myself, which, I must say, was a bit intimidating. I’ve only been in one pit before, and, while it was fun, it was pretty tame. Since Andy told me to expect something much rougher, not having someone to go with in case I got in over my head made me nervous, but I was not about to miss this show. So yesterday morning, I hopped a ride with Lauren to Narangba, where I was supposed to spend the night after the concert. I say supposed to, because the evening got a bit ridiculous fairly quickly.

First off, I left Lauren’s house still wearing my glasses, which was not part of the original plan. Glasses + pit = expensive. But I wasn’t about to make the 20 minute hike back to her place to put them away, so tough titty toe nails, they were coming with me. I took the hour long train ride into Brisbane, and wondered around looking for Melbourne Street. Give me a map, and I can find my way anywhere, but just tell me Melbourne Street to Boundary Street and I add about 30 minutes to any city walk. Eventually I headed in what I deduced to be the correct direction, but the final decision about were to go was based on seeing a super-punk couple walking down the same road. After wondering around Brisbane for a few months, I’ve learned that there can’t be many places multiple punks want to go at the same time. So I stalked them for a little while, until I got frustrated with their horribly slow pace, and decided to go ahead using my instinct. And I only took one wrong turn after that, and it wasn’t even 10 minutes before I realized that I needed to turn around.

After finally getting into the venue, I commenced my usual ritual when I go out by myself. Scope out three or four out of the way spots to loiter throughout the night and stand around awkwardly until something prompts me to move into the crowd. The place slowly began to fill up with punks. But not punks like I’m used to. Mostly it was just slightly grungy hipsters, which was nice, because that meant fewer spikes and studs to run into in the pit later on. Wheatpaste played first, and they used an electric banjo, accordion, trombone, and trumpet (all of which except the banjo were played by a cute blonde girl). It was like folk punk. I liked it, so I awkwardly loitered nearer to the stage and shuffled about a little.

Side note: I stashed my glasses cleverly on my person, so they were safe from harm barring ridiculous circumstances.

Jack Flash was next, which was also slightly folky, but not as musically interesting. But they got the crowd going much better. There were a lot more people dancing and I doe-si-doed with a couple of other girls. The bassist gave me an enthusiastic point and yell, because when he was trying to get the crowd to clap, I was the only on paying attention to him who bothered to oblige. We shared a moment. I danced with this guy wearing a button-down and a tie, who I later smashed into while skanking.

At this point, I was getting pretty into it. I felt much less awkward, and the club was pretty well packed. There was still room to move about, but the stage area was packed enough to know it was going to be a decent wreck. And then, curtains closed, Leftover Crack started playing. Everyone surged forward, and it was pretty much a giant cluster fuck for the next hour and a half. They played some of my favorite songs, including ‘Gang Control,’ ‘Rock the 40 Ounce,’ and Star Fucking Hipster’s ‘Two Cups of Tea.’ They did not play ‘Soon We’ll Be Dead,’ which is a shame, because I’d have loved to jam to that with all the other little punk kids. Over the hour and a half, I managed to survive with minimal yet satisfactory damage. I acquired a jammed finger, elbow to the face, knock to the ground (which is a bit scary, but everyone was nice enough to pull me up), other various bruises, a cut inside my lip, drenched in someone’s vodka lemonade, and a strange boy with a Mohawk who was determined to climb up me in order to crowd surf. This last acquisition was the most confusing to me, as I was one of the shortest people in the pit. I only saw three other girls for a very brief period of time near the end of the show in the fray. They mostly lingered on the outside. Which is fine, but brings me back to the illogical move of that little punk kid to try and scale me. He wasn’t trying some not-so-subtle groping or anything. He just wanted to surf. Another proud moment was when a very tall boy was shoved straight into me at the end of a song. He turned around and said “Sorry.” I smiled at him and said, “Don’t be,” then shoved him back to where he was. He laughed, and later on shielded me from this extremely intoxicated man in a yellow t-shirt when he wouldn’t stop falling on me as he staggered around the area.

At one point, the show looked like it was over, and the crowd, of course, screamed for more. Stza stumbled out from behind the curtain holding a cell phone and a microphone. He asked who the phone belonged to, and tried to dial a number. the phone apparently wasn’t working, so he did the logical thing: he bashed it repeatedly with the microphone. Eventually he got tired of trying, calling his next move shit, and chucking the phone into the ceiling towards the bar. About 15 minutes later, someone was trying to hand the phone back to Stza. Sandy attributes this event to the fact that everything in Australia is a boomerang. But the band played a few more songs, and we all got our crazy on, which brings me back to my glasses. They wriggled free from their place during the last song, and somehow ended up on the other side of the pit. When I found them, they were covered in various liquids, but still in once piece. One of the arms is bent in an incorrect direction, which I will sort out tomorrow, but they are easily going to be saved.

So with an awesome show behind me and my check still stinging from that elbow I ate, I walked blindly back toward the train station, this time sure of where I was going. Sadly, BrisVegas is not a real city, and all trains stop right after midnight. The show ended at midnight, meaning I had no way to make the hour long journey back to Narangba. The next train wasn’t scheduled until 5am, so there was only one logical choice. That was to stroll around Brisbane looking for somewhere to sit a chill for free while dressed like a tattered punk poser and smelling like a room full of stinky punk boys. Brisbane is just pretentious enough to have dress codes to get in places, and most places require a cover charge after a certain hour. Of course, there is not a single diner anywhere, so there’s not really a good location to sit around for hours on end. So mostly I wandered and situated myself on the steps outside a bank with other punks who had made the same public transit folly I did.

So there I was, sweaty, dirt, wreaking of vodka, even though I was 100% sober, without the ability to see, without money, without a way to a bed, chilling on the steps of a bank at 3 in the morning with a bunch of good-for-nothing punks. I’m actually pretty pleased with how the situation unfolded.

At 4 I went back to the station and slept for a half hour on a bench, woken up by someone pulling a newspaper I’d fallen asleep on out from under my feet. I grabbed some Makkas breakfast, and, finally, at 5:03am boarded a train. I reached Narangba at 6, walked to Lauren’s and gather my things, deciding to travel home to sleep in my bed. So at 7:15, I got to the train to Caboolture, where I had to transfer RIGHTNOWTHETRAINSARELEAVING. So I chose a platform and hopped on a train…which promptly began moving in the direction I had just come from. I was on the very wrong train. When this train didn’t stop that the next station, I came upon the heartbreaking realization that I was on an express train back to Brisbane, Central Station, where I had just taken a 1/2 hour nap on a bench. Long story short (too late!) I left Brisbane at 5 am and arrived back home at 10:30ish am, havin turned a 1-2 hour trip into a 5 hour one.

The reason I’m rambling on and on and on so much is that I still haven’t gone to bed. Wooooooo.

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There’s a zombie on your la-hawn

October 26, 2009

Yesterday was the best day I’ve had on the Sunnie Coast by far. I got to dress like an idiot and parade around the street of Brisbane with hundreds of other kids, also dressed like idiots and scare unsuspecting commuters on the way home. It was the official Zombie Walk in Brisbane, and it was legend–wait for it–ary. Seriously, so much fun. Kat and I were the only two in Varsity brave enough to venture out into the big scary world and shake up our usual routines. When we arrived at the Wickham Park (after a 1.5 hour train delay at Nundah), we really weren’t prepared for the magnitude of the situation we were entering.

I was dressed in my short pirate leggings and recently cut up Die Ignorant t-shirt, being the zombie of civil disobedience. Kat, having never experienced a proper Halloween, what with being German and all, didn’t really plan out what or who she was, but looked smashing, nonetheless, wearing my tattered tights and all black clothes. Upon our arrival at the zombie meeting place, we rushed to throw on our make-up. First pale the face, then blacken the eyes, then eat the blood capsules. Use all the extra make-up on arms and legs, so as not to look like your head was the only thing decomposing. About the time we were wrapping up our transformation, a large amount of the horde had assembled, and, suddenly, we were hugely under-dressed. The costumes were among some of the more innovative I’ve ever seen, ranging from bloody, decaying business men to zombie Santas to zombie brides. Former men, women, children, and even the odd dog filled the park, and we knew that today was destined to be absurd.

We found a spot near the front of the chaos, but there was no hope of finding the actual front of the mob. There were simply too many zombies. Looking back, we couldn’t see the end of the horde; just a never-ending throng of undead. The march was underway, and the unsuspecting townsfolk watched in shock , awe, and–probably–horror. There were bloody hand prints smeared on everything we passed: shop windows, city buses, ATMS. We even saw a zombie taking money out of an ATM. What a perfectly mundane activity being completed by a brain-munching entity. People snapped photos of us, news stations sent cameras, and almost every window revealed someone paying close attention. As we passed occupied shops (most doors pulled closed and locked with the employees trapped inside), we banged on the glass and moaned for brains. We reminded those silly enough to wait for a bus on a parade route that zombies will approach you and beg for things if you try and ignore them. We stopped into the bottle shop and, in a very orderly fashion, bought booze for the night’s festivities.

We massed at the Brisbane Valley Festival, which is an annual event held in Fortitude Valley. Waiting for us was a stage with some excellent live music, and, of course, Thriller. Some zombies had learned the whole thing and danced with talent that would have made the original dancers proud. They received thunderous applause from both living and undead alike (the stage was, after all, infront of some lovely cafes full of patrons). And as the cheering died down, what did the DJ switch to but the Time Warp! The zombie horde went nuts. Hundred of zombies through their hands in the air and did the Time Warp like it was the last time they’d ever get the chance. We all shouted the words and timed our movements the best we could. I couldn’t stop smiling the entire song, and Kat, who has never even heard of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, caught on quickly and was jumping around with the rest. When the song was over, most of the mob collapsed on the pavement, rising again to jam along with the next tune, which was, of course, the Monster Mash. The music went on, and Kat and I tore it up, dancing and singing and laughing. Sadly, there was one casualty: my small camera. While dancing some strange combination of skanking and swing, my camera lept (or was lifted) from my pocket and never seen again. But I can’t even feel too sad about that, because it was my lame little camera, and the fun outweighed the loss. I just stole Kat’s pictures later on to make up for it.

When the music stopped, we toured the festival briefly before hopping a train back to the Sunnie Coast, recieving all manor of looks from humored to appauled by our fellow commuters. One older lady in particular seemed horrbly offended by the zombie presence on the train, since Kat and I were not the only zombies who caught the 6:30 train. At our change over in Caboolture, we scared a woman when rounding the corner, and continued to be oggled while we shared coffee. We ran into more of the horde at the station and made small talk, eventually making it home, at last, to our showers and living lives.

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“Did you come over the hill?!”

September 25, 2009

First off, let me mention that I found another connection to Barney Stinson and Dr. Horrible:
In season 1, episode 15 of How I Met Your Mother, Barney transforms from a hippie about to join Green Peace to the womanizing, suit wearing bro he is today using a transformative montage that is exactly like…
In Dr. Horrible, when he moves from a small time evil-doer to a major evil superpower, and he suits up in his new red lab coat.

Count it.

More records from New Zealand (which I’m sure will be the subject of this blog for quite a while, since nothing ever happens at the Sunshine Coast).

On our 3rd (?) day in New Zealand, the girls and I stopped off at this little town right before Nelson and saw a very awesome, very old little brewery town, where we had a beer tasting and saw a very old airplane. While we were having our lunch in the parking lot (because we had rented a camper van with a ‘kitchen’ in the boot), a man approached us, and asked us where we were going. “West,” we said, and he told us not to before we went north to a pub, whose name is escaping me right now. But it was promoted as on the Lonely Planet’s top 10 best pubs in the world, so off we went in search of glory and beer.

3 hours and one very tricky mountain later, we arrived at the pub, hidden behind some trees in a remote area with nothing else around. We approached the bar, only to discover that it was closed until September 14th, two days after we were set to be on the west coast. We walked around the complex, finding a giant tire swing, a really cool cell phone pole, and generally eccentric and nifty decore.

But the problem remained that we were three hours north of where we wanted to be, and there was only one way to get to the West coast, which was back the way we came, another 3 hours over the huge mountain. So we decided to check out the little town marked on our map, Collingwood, because, hey, we’ve made it this far, right? Since the town is on the map, we assume it has to be big enough to give us a reason to get out of the car for an hour or so. And we were a little bit right.

The town was tiny. Like Plain City tiny, with one main road and no cars anywhere. We parked the car in front of a library where a bunch of 13-or-so-year-olds were hanging around. Yes, the town is so small that the place to be for misguided and bored youths is the library. Our van, which was a Wicked Camper (not this one, but an awesomeer one), attracted the attention of all of these youths. When we left the van, they asked us tons of questions, especially after finding out that we were from Germany and the US. “Do you have KFC?” “Did you come over the hill?” “Do you drink?” “Do you smoke?” “Are you from Amsterdam?” It was adorable. They told us that the beach was pretty cool, so we checked it out for a bit. It was kind of gross, but my standards have been raised quite a lot by Australia.

I went back to the car at one point to grab my uke, and the kids, including some who had not been there before, were all still loitering around. They asked me to play a song, and I said “no” and they pestered and pestered, until I decided to play one of the 2 songs I know all the way through for them, ‘Such Great Heights’ by Iron & Wine. When I finished they were like “Cooooooool! Play something else! Something we know!” and one of the boys yelled “Play ‘Enter Sandman’ from Metallica!” Okay, the ukulele does not lend itself to Metallica. I laughed, and eventually the Germans came back, and we asked where there was to get dinner around town. They pointed to what turned out to be the only restaurant in town, which was pretty tasty, but way expensive.

Then we started our 3 hour drive back down the mountain, finally parking at a McDonald’s and sleeping for the night.

Next up, I guess I’ll do a birthday post, since people keep telling me it’s a big deal.

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Jam sessions in Mooloolaba and beyond

September 6, 2009

Last night was ridiculous. I know that I am prone to describing things as ridiculous, but, really, last night was ridiculous.

The night started with a wedding on the sand volleyball court, and ended with a jam session in Maroochydore with A Danish girl and four middle aged Australian siblings who had never been together in the same city before. Before that, the Danish girl, Bena, and I hitchhiked from who-knows-where to Mooloolaba, leaving the group of rude German boys we’d been wondering around with behind to find their own way home. When we got to Mooloolaba, Bena and I, because I was carrying my ukulele, since we were supposed to end up at a giant beach party, were invited by a street performer to join her. So we played for a drunken crowd for a while, and then got invited to Maroochydore to have a jam session with four siblings who had never been in the same city before this week.

All in all, it was a pretty worthwhile night, since I’ve come away with a nice little story. The above is an abridged version, but I think it gets the point across.

Look forward to a rant on marriage that has been inspired by events in the last month or so. It’s still stewing, but should be ready soon.

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16 August 2009

August 20, 2009

So, I know that I have vanished for a while, but I am back with a whole new set of stories. This weekend, a group of sixteen students went on a trip to Fraser Island, which is one of the o-em-gee! things you have to see during a stay in Australia. As you have probably reasoned out, I was one of the lucky 16, and got a guided tour, lodging, and food for under 300 bucks, which is a pretty decent deal. The other 15 students were all either German or Swiss-German, which got a bit bothersome at times, because while everyone was fluent in English, there was really no reason to not speak German. I, however, know a small amount of Latin and a laughable amount of Spanish, so I usually was left to my own devices, but it gave me time to take lots of pictures.

A little background on Fraser Island: it is the largest sand island in the world (a full three times the size of the second largest), and belongs to the international heritage thingy, which basically means that it is so one of the kind, all the other places in the world have to be like, ‘whoa, Fraser Island, props.’ In addition, Fraser Island has arguably the freshest water in the world, which was absolutely delicious. Much better than anything bottled. There are also no actual roads on the island, just sandy paths cars fit on, so when we were driving inland, we had to be careful not to smack our heads on the ceiling of the truck. While most Australians (especially here on the coast) have seen Fraser Island tons of times and are, thus, totally unamused by it, I thought it was one of the prettiest places I have ever been, only matched by Sedona.

Our tour guide was rather enthusiastic and knowledgeable (even if he did seem to have an issue with determaining appropriate levels of personal space and stole my hat once), and so we got the chance to learn a lot. For instance, he showed us how to spot pipies, which are basically muscles, crack them open, and eat them. Even though I’ve never much cared for muscles, I figured I wouldn’t get the chance to catch and eat them on the world’s largest sand island ever again, so capture, crack, and slurp I went. Super salty from the ocean and sandy from the…well…sand, it was about as gross as I thought it would be, but a new and interesting experience, for sure.

We saw a decent amount of animals, including whales, sharks, dingoes, turtles, manta rays, and eagles. We also saw a dead turtle and a big whale carcass, which was very sad, but (secretly) super cool. My roommate, Anna, and neighbor, Kat, saw and nearly stepped on a snake, too.

I climbed these rocks barefoot and wearing a sundress, which made me feel a little like a dirty hippy, but mostly just happy. The view was spectacular. That’s where we saw whales and sharks.

We also went on a walk through a subtropical rainforest, which was even better than Malaney, which I did at the start of my study abroad. The creek that we walked around was so clear, it just looked like a more distorted path (side note: The first time I saw the creek, I thought that I was hallucinating from not being properly hydrated. Turns out I’m just paranoid, not insane). We saw massive pine cones, which only grow on Fraser Island, and lots of other neat plants.

I got a big splinter here, but it was okay, because these rocks were made out of rusting sand, so the cool outweighed the ouch.

We also saw a ship-wrecked, pre-WWI former cruiser, which has been decaying for over 30 years. The ship was fated to become Japanese scrap metal (so, bullets), and while they were towing it to Japan, a cyclone caught them, and the link snapped. They called for help, but since the engines had already been removed from the ship, there was nothing to be done, and it just crashed on the beach.

Possibly my favorite place we visited, though, was Lake Berabim, which was a huge fresh water lake that we swam in. The water was absolutely clear and stunning. Standing shoulder deep I could see my feet, that’s how clear it was. The sand was white, the sun was warm, and the afternoon was perfect.

So, this post has been more scattered than usual, but the only amusing anecdote I really have from the story involves underage teens dressed in foliage and the shady acquisition of a poker chip, so I feel like it might be a to-be-told-upon-appropriate-occasion sort of story. Thus, that’s all for me for now.

Remember to check out my photobucket for all the other pictures I’ve been taking, and that I’m always down to set up a skype date (although I have been known to miss them when I’m not careful and set them up for too early in the morning).

Cheers!