Yesterday (Friday) a group of students and I all got a tour of the campus where we will be studying, Australian Catholic University. Our guide, Pat, was a very nice and knowledgable Australian native who also goes to school in the area. He showed us how to navigate the bus and train systems to get to the campus (about a 40 minute ride from our apartment) so we could get there on our own starting on Monday for orientation. The campus is very small but very lovely. The whole school is made up of commuters, so there are no residence halls, just academic and recreational buildings. However, in a small area they still manage to have a theater, pool, gym, and seminary, just to highlight a few things. I can’t wait to explore it a bit more next week.
After seeing the campus, Pat took us to the city where most of our shopping could be done. We went to this GIGANTIC mall and got everything from groceries to toiletries to appliances. Now this mall was fancy and complicated; we went up and down so many escalators that I lost track of how many floors there actually were (I think 3 or 4). I’m not sure that we could have navigated it without Pat pointing us in the right direction. In the end, we were all able to get most of the things we needed, incuding food to cook our own meals once we got back. We also got lunch while we were there, and let me say that mall Chinese food here is SIGNIFICANTLY better than mall Chinese at home. Since Australia is much closer to Asia than is America, their Asian food is equivalent to our Mexican food.
When we got back to the apartment, my flatmates and I decided to make ourselves some dinner like “real” adults. My one roommate, Carla, who is from Puerto Rico, jumped at the chance to cook us chicken and we paired it with some pasta and wine (yum yum). We then proceeded to sit in the kitchen and talk for almost 3 hours, bonding over everything from TV shows to stories about school and friends from home. These girls are quite characters, I will tell you that much. We are all pretty like minded and I think we shall get along swimmingly this semester.
Since it was Friday night, we decided that it was time to see the nightlife that the city had to offer. I should mention that I am the oldest of this group; most of the students here are in their junior year and are just turning 20 so I am the only one who can (legally) drink in America. Since the drinking age here is 18, I can understand the hype of being able to buy alcohol where you can’t back home. However, that makes this group a little party happy. Still, it was fun to dress up, go out with some girls, and have a good time.
We decided to take an uber cab to a place called Fortitude Valley, where there are lots of bars and clubs. The coolest part about uber is that there is an app that allows you to order a car to your location and a driver near you will show up in a few minutes. You also pay with your credit card online, so you pretty much don’t have to worry about having cab fare. Additionally, they don’t tip in Australia because its considered rude, so your cab fare ends up being about AUD $11 ($8 USD). This is really handy for a night out on the town.
We tried out a few bars and clubs, many of which involved dancing in a huge crowd of drunk people. My only comment about the dance culture here is that ALL Australians dance like goofy white dads at a barbecue. However, I’m sure similar (or worse) comments can be made about the way Americans dance. When going out, a nice bonus for girls is that many clubs will let you in for free while the gents have to pay to get in. One of the places we went to was called Prohibition, and was 1920s themed and very cool. After 3 cubs, I was pretty much danced out at 1am, so I headed back to the apartment with two other girls from our group for some much needed water and sleep.
Unfortunately, my body has not quite adjusted to the time change yet, so I was up at six thirty this morning. Luckily, this was just a few minutes before sunrise, so I threw on some pants, grabbed my camera and headed to the beach. Its just a short walk to Streets Beach, a little artificial beach that runs parallel to the Brisbane River, which wanders through the city in an “S” shape. On my way there, I passed two different street markets which I will check out later today when they are open. Streets Beach also has a walkway for bikers and runners that follows the actual river, and extends down towards a bridge into the city. Apparently I stumbled through a road race called Park Run while I was there, because there were a LOT of runners out this morning. I think that a lot of people here run or bike in the morning though, so I’m sure I would have seen many people out anyway. Also in this area is a garden (called epicurious) where you can buy fresh produce, a few restaurants, and several wading areas. Just before you get to the beach, there is a pathway with a sort of tunnel over it. The tunnel has these beautiful purple flowers growing on it and is extremely scenic; another good place to see bikers and runners about. (I’ll post more pictures of the beach later when I set up my computer, which I can now charge thanks to the very helpful maintenance man.)
Since this part of Australia is considered a subtropical climate, there are many new birds and plants that I have never seen before; all of them very colorful. I am working on learning thier names, and will post (more) pictures soon.
On my way back to my apartment, I passed a cafe called “cowch”, which did have a lot of couches. It seemed like a good time for first breakfast, so I got a macciato and a coffee & walnut muffin. Its important to note that most of the restaurants here are restaurants by day and bars by night, which is a cool concept. Also, everything here is either outrageously pricey, or seriously cheap. For example, I paid AUD $10 for breakfast, which is about USD $7. The movie theater down the street sells tickets for AUD $8, which is basically free compared to an American movie theater. On the flip side, one of the boys here paid AUD fifty dollars for a bottle of smirnoff, which would hurt many people to think about in USD.
Speaking of money, the currency here is very cool. “Notes” are typically found as fives, tens, twenties, and fifties and there are coins for $1, $2, fifty, twenty, and five cents. There are no pennies (so smart) so even though many things will be priced at X.99, its usually just rounded up to the nearest five cent amount. All of the coins have the lovely Queen Elizabeth II (England) on them; you can actually see her age if you line up your coins by the dates they were made (I wonder if she appreciates that…). I guess thats what happens when you have a living figure on your currency.
Today and tomorrow we have nothing scheduled, so I’m sure we will take some time to explore the city further and see some sights. Until next time, my friends.