Blog Down Under - Lauren's Semester in Australia
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Click here to see the photos from the entire Semester in Australia
Hello from my kitchen table in Monroeville, New Jersey, United States of America! Let me just dive in to a few lists...
There are many reasons I am happy to be here:
- I’m going to get a waitressing JOB and earn MONEY!
- The shower in this house is full of all the shampoos and conditioners I couldn’t afford in Australia or New Zealand (AWESOME).
- I now own MULTIPLE pairs of jeans—some of which are bigger than the ones I brought traveling so that means they FIT (also awesome).
- There are pretzels in the cupboard (they don’t really sell pretzels in AU or NZ).
- My family and friends are here! (Or at least some of them—also this list is not in order of importance, p.s.).
But there are also reasons I’m confused about being here:
- I miss summer. I just left the beautiful first few months of it in New Zealand.
- I now need to find a new way to be energized, because traveling daily to new places I’ve never been is done...for now.
- In my head, “going home” from New Zealand was going back to Croydon, Australia. But I’m home now. Indefinitely.
- It’s strange to be somewhere indefinitely.
- I miss my Australian family. I misjudged how close to them I would get.
- I liked my way of life that involved significantly less Internet and phone.
Now there’s always going to be thousands of reasons to be here, and there’s always going to be thousands of reasons to be somewhere else. And every time you live in a new place, it will just split your heart up that much more. But I think I’ve learned that the heart regenerates itself—it hurts to leave pieces of your heart all scattered around; but when you do, the places where your heart was split slowly grow again, and they grow bigger than before. So my heart might be all over—New Jersey, Chicago, Sydney, a bit in NZ—but even though it confuses the head, I know I’m a bigger person for it—and more capable to love even more. Okay, you can stop making fun of me now. I know it’s cheesy, but if you have lived multiple places before, I think you also know it’s true.
My time in New Zealand was INCREDIBLE. Here’s a brief overview. We went with our program to see everyone else off at the airport Saturday afternoon and then picked up our rental, bright blue Toyota Camry from the airport. The five of us climbed in and so started our 14-day driving tour of NZ. We started in the North Island and drove all the way down to and through the South Island.
40. You know you’re somewhere cool when there’s falling rock signs.
And these signs were EVERYWHERE, so yes, it would be safe to assume everywhere was beyond cool. Most of our trip was driving and gawking at the scenery outside the window. Every drive was scenic. You never wanted to sleep in the car because you might miss the rugged coastlines, the beaches that were indescribably blue and turquoise and green, the rolling green hills and meadows, the snowcapped mountains, the Southern Alps, the sheer cliff faces, and more. It was all there. Often the view out of the left side of the car was just accented by the very opposing view on the right. Cliffs and waters, lakes and mountains, and every other combination. NZ was never on my list of top 10 places to go, but now that I’ve seen it, I think it should be on everyone’s.
41. New Zealand is the first place to see a new day.
Because of its proximity to the International Date Line, we see the sun before anyone else in the world in NZ. And coolest was that day we had to be up and driving at 4 a.m. to make our way south to something calling the Tongariro Crossing—a 7-9 hour hike (that we did in 6 hours 30 minutes) through a mountain pass that is listed as one of the top 10 treks in the world. Naturally, as we were driving, we got to watch the sunrise. So we were part of the first few people to see Thursday, November 25.
42. Road trip Thanksgiving on a budget with Lauren and roommate Kelly Dando = pretzels, Diet Coke, and chocolate.
Newsflash: Thanksgiving is an American holiday. But being American, we all splurged on Thanksgiving Day and bought Domino’s pizza. It was a great day, only to be supplemented by the fact that my roommate and I decided to really spoil ourselves by buying super expensive, hard-to-find pretzels as well as some chocolate and Diet Coke. It was heaps of awesome.
43. Always clarify what you mean when you ask “Can we stay with you?”
Through some contacts of my dad’s, we stayed 10 of the 14 nights with church people and other families in NZ. It was one of the greatest parts of the trip. In one town, the whole church youth group took us out to see Glowworms, drove us around downtown Wellington, and bought us all NZ candy to try—and they obviously were beyond happy to do it. The family of God is incredible.
44. NZ has more sheep than people.
True story. Four million people live in NZ—for reference, 4 million people also live in Sydney alone. We even got to stay on a sheep/cattle/deer farm in the middle of nowhere, South Island, New Zealand and the 10-year-old daughter there let us feed her baby lambs. For most of the time that we drove, we would see more sheep on the drive than people. But that’s actually a fact we read about, not just one we made up.
There is much more to describe about what we did, but it could get boring for people who weren’t there, or maybe I’m just copping out because we did SO MUCH. But thanks so much to everyone for sticking with me over the last few months, I have LOVED being able to share this experience with you guys in some way.
Another fun list. Things we’ve done wrong...on the left side: (We drove on the left side of the road and the steering wheel column is on the right.)
- signaled turns with windshield wipers (because the turn signal is on the RIGHT, not the left)
- reached into the backseat for the seatbelt
- ignored the mantra, “WIDE right, TIGHT left”
- drove up the curb
- gotten seriously confused and panicked even when people drive on the correct side
- shifted with the blinker
- looked to the right for the rearview mirror
- walked to the wrong side of the car
- ridden the rumble strips
- gotten stuck behind a house
- forgot to make way for pedestrians
- gotten stuck behind cattle
- gotten stuck behind a lamb
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