Goodbye for Now, Freo

Market street. Home of the beloved Orient and several other fine establishments.

Market street. Home of the beloved Orient and several other fine establishments.

Leaving a place you love is never easy.

Such was the case with Port Lodge, Fremantle, Perth, Western Australia….and then, finally, Australia itself. I finished my last final on the Thursday, Nov. 22 and I had scheduled my flight to Sydney for the 24th. I wasn’t really leaving for good, because I had a two-week luxury cruise around New Zealand to look forward to. (The cruise turned out to be awesome, but by that point I had already detached myself from Freo. It was definitely harder to board the plane from Perth to Sydney than from Sydney to LAX). However, I was still saying a lot of goodbyes. Final goodbyes.

Bather’s Beach

First, I said goodbye to Bather’s Beach. The site of my first encounter with the Indian Ocean, many afternoon cider sessions, and plenty of suntans on my obnoxious Australian flag beach blanket (which I had to leave behind. Sad). We sat in the sand with six packs and sunglasses, soaking up the brutal southern sun for the last time and watching the homeless man who lived in the bushes take his weekly bath in the ocean. Ah, Freo.

You can never have too much sunscreen.

You can never have too much sunscreen.

The Roundhouse

Next, I said goodbye to The Roundhouse. Our favorite place to gather and drink cheap wine from cheap plastic glasses before we stumbled to Newport on Wednesday nights. Claiming to be the oldest and most haunted building in Western Australia, The Roundhouse was the perfect spot to watch the ships sail into the harbour while trying to inconspicuously consume beverages among the odd late-night tourist who was actually attempting to appreciate the building’s historical significance. We are nothing if not cultured!

Note the authentic 18th century cannon. A must have for any pregame.

Note the authentic 18th century cannon. A must have for any pregame.

Port Lodge and Friends

Port Lodge was perhaps my hardest goodbye. I had grown very fond of the perpetually filthy kitchen, cockroaches, people constantly singing, and of course my tiny (cozy) room. I’ve experienced my fair share of shared-living spaces, but I’ve never felt nearly as close to them as I did with my fellow Port Lodgians. Despite less-than-favourable amenities, I think we all got along remarkably well. My Freo experience would have meant nothing if I wasn’t with the 30 other lucky kids who got my same acceptance letter last February. Thinking back on that moment, I’m appalled at myself for almost turning down a visit to arguably the (second) greatest country in the world. (Thankfully I had people who cared about me enough to tell me I was an idiot for even considering declining the offer. Whew).

The last picture I will ever take of Port Lodge. Oh, the memories.

The last picture I will ever take of Port Lodge. Oh, the memories.

I will never again have another opportunity to do hundreds of amazing things with 30 equally amazing people. As someone who once was extremely skeptical about people who came back from study abroad armed with the cliched statements like “It was the best five months of my life”, I have to apologise. I am now that person. Since I’ve arrived back in the states (a little over a week ago) I’ve tried to refrain from talking about Australia 24/7 to my friends and family. Really. When speaking with friends who spent the past semester stateside, I almost feel bad for talking about how awesome my life was (is). I just have to assume the person has silently acknowledged that my semester was a bazillion times better than theirs, and I have to bite my tongue in order the keep from further depressing them. It truly is a struggle.

That being said, it was nice to be back in the grand ‘ol USA. If anything, going abroad convinced me that the USA is definitely the best country on Earth. We just do things right here, and we rock. I missed my family and my dogs, and I even missed Missouri. Kind of. (Note: did not miss my bed. It’s still tilted at an approximately 27 degree angle and it’s highly uncomfortable to sleep on. You’d think someone could have fixed it after five months).


Anyone who has ever spent any time with me at all will know that I am terrible at goodbyes. I don’t really know anyone who is good at them, but I can assure you that my farewells are exceptionally bad. I prefer to either ignore them completely or give a really lame “Well, see ya later” kind of wave. But since I don’t really see the point in keeping this thing up, this is my last post. And as tradition dictates, a final act like this requires a final goodbye. I think it’s fitting that I end with a picture. I loved the Esplanade Park Ferris wheel. I never actually rode it (hell no was I paying $20 to sit in a claustrophobic car) but I loved how it looked against the bright blue Aussie sky. At night, it was a beautiful spectacle of lights and colors. No matter the time of day, you could see it from almost any spot in Freo. It was one of the first things I laid eyes on in Freo, and also one of the last. A fitting goodbye image in my opinion.

Like I said, goodbyes aren’t my strong suit. I probably owe it to myself to at least try to sum up how incredible of a semester I just experienced. But I really can’t do that. Pictures, notes, and memories will have to suffice. (All I know it that I now have a pretty awesome supply of cool screensavers and IPhone wallpapers. Yeah!)

So, finally…


I never did ride this thing...guess I'll have to come back. (to be continued...)

I never did ride this thing.


I hate to admit it, but I actually almost forgot about Thanksgiving this year. It’s hard when its 90 degrees F, the beach is right next door, and everyone is getting ready for summer vacation. In fact, my last final was today, which is surreal. While all of my friends back home are heading home to their families and my own family is gathering without me (tear.) I still haven’t really gotten into the spirit.

We did try, however. Our entire hall came together (well, some of us) to make Thanksgiving dinner for everything. Our hall supervisor, a native Australian who has never experienced Thanksgiving, cooke a couple of turkeys (they turned out surprisingly well), I made a green bean casserole, Matt made a delicious corn casserole, and Colleen made mashed potatos. For stuffing, we were lazy to we got some microwave crap that was just okay. And of course, someone made pumpkin pie and bought canned cranberries.

After dinner, we watched a slideshow of the entire semester that TJ had put together. It was kind of heart wrenching, and I realised how much I’m going to miss Australia. I have a little over 24 hours left in Western Australia before I leave for Sydney and New Zealand, (and then home!) and I’m really, really sad to leave.

Cliff Jumping

Freeee fallin’

We have less than a week left in Fremantle.

Because of this, everyone is frantically trying to cross things off of their bucket lists. One such thing is cliff jumping at Blackwall Reach on the Swan River. It’s about a 15 minute bus ride from Fremantle. The cliffs were at least 35 feet tall, some parts were taller, and a couple of people (definitely not me) jumped the 50 foot cliffs. Yikes. I went off a couple of times and it was definitely one of my most exhilarating experiences thus far.

The water was filled with these huge jellyfish, and you could see them all the way from the top. Apparently they were harmless and none of us got stung so I guess they were alright. Still kind of scary to be jumping off of a large rock into a jellyfish-infested river. We also saw a pod of dolphins, which was kind of cool, except for the fact we almost mistook them for sharks.

Thank god it's not a shark

What’s better, everyone who came jumped. Even Lauren (although she was peer pressured to the extreme. Even the guys fishing down on the river started cheering for her). I definitely regret not going cliff jumping before today. We had all semester, but we waited until the last week. So typical.

The group


I found out that Obama won the election in the middle of Denpasar Bali International Airport.

On Nov. 6 (US time), my birthday, we were all sitting along a wall, our bags squeezed around us, in the sweaty un-airconditioned terminal, waiting for our flight to board. Most of us were either hungover or suffering from Bali Belly. The television was turned to CNN, and the screen loudly proclaimed that Obama had won the necessary electoral votes to win the election.

While I wasn’t really in favor of Obama winning, it was very interesting to see firsthand his influence around the world. I kid you not, at every place we visited in Bali, whether it be a market stall, tour, restaurant or hotel, the first thing any Balinese person would say was “Where you from?”. We would always reply, “America” to which the Balinese person would always respond “Ahh! OBAMA!”

I had my doubts as to how much these people actually knew about Obama, but it’s astounding to think the first thing that comes to any foreigner’s mind is Obama.

Pretty interesting.

Bali Belly is Bad for Business: Day 1

Living like kings

Compared to Singapore, Bali is on the exact opposite end of the Asian spectrum. Whereas Singapore is clean, organised, efficient, and modern, Bali is dirty, chaotic, cheap, and a behind-the-times.

But I loved it.

Westerners and those who are accustomed to living in a structured society with lots of rules would probably hate Bali. In this section of Indonesia, you just have to throw caution to the wind (up to a point) and trust that everything will work out. And it did 100% of the time for us.

I’ll start at the beginning. Denpasar airport was fairly easy to navigate. Customs is a joke, except for the large red and yellow sign that proclaims in broken English, “DEATH PENALTY FOR BRINGING DRUG INTO BALI”. We weren’t worried about that. We had been told not to check luggage because drugs are sometimes planted in foreigners’ luggage, so I only packed a duffel (with plenty of space for souvenirs), and my Tory Burch.

What we were most worried about, however, was if the place we booked (online, of course) was actually going to pick us up like they said they would. We didn’t worry for long. Once we stepped outside of the terminal, a line of eager looking drivers, all holding papers with names scribbled on them in marker, began vying for our attention. I spotted one with Matt’s name on it (spelled wrong), and we approached him. Honestly, the look on his face made it seem like he had just won the lottery. He ran to meet us as the others looked on with jealousy.

We piled into two vans and made our way to the Pat-Mase. Still unsure if it was even a real place, we temporarily forgot about that once we entered the roads…


“Two-lane” really means “four-and-a-half-lane”

In Bali, there are no road signs except for the odd, yellow diamond-shaped sign with a single, large, exclamation point on it. Whatever that means. Streets are never labeled. Standard rules of the road do not exist. Drivers routinely ignore lane markings (if any exist at all). The road is filled with motorbikes who are all bent on cheating death.

Basically, we were all pissing our pants with fright. The best part of the drive was when we were crawling up a windy mountain road behind a struggling cement-truck. We watched as the car in front of us passed it. I said, stupidly, “There’s no way we’re going to pass right now”. Not two seconds after those words left my mouth, our driver passed. On a blind curve. On a narrow two-lane mountain road. His only safety precaution was tapping the horn slightly. Holy shit.

Luckily we survived. Throughout the rest of our trip, we realised that driving in Bali is scary if you come at it from a western perspective. To the Balinese, driving is simply just interacting with other drivers and using the road to your advantage. There are very few traffic lights, so in order to make a right turn (they drive on the left side of the road), you simply edge your way forward, honk your horn, and expect the oncoming lane to slow down. And they do. At least, for the most part. Out of curiosity, I looked up the number of fatal crashes in Bali compared to Australia. It’s about double. No surprise there!

Living Like Kings

…or rather, like sultans. We are in Bali, after all!

In Bali, you can pretty much buy anything/do anything/eat anything for less than fifty dollars. The most expensive thing we did all week was a 13-hour, all-inclusive tour of Bali. More on that later. Our private-villa was a little over $20/night per person. That’s about 1/3 less than what we paid for the crappy hostels during our south coast trip a couple of weeks ago. Our villa had three bedrooms, each with a beautiful King bed, private shower/bath, and plasma TVs. We had a private pool and an even more gorgeous community pool right outside that was almost always empty, free wifi, free room service (none of the meals were over $6.50 US), and someone came TO OUR VILLA every morning and made us breakfast. Not to mention free shuttle service from the markets, or pretty much anywhere else we wanted to go.

The Pat-Mase was incredible. We figured it would be legit because apparently it was affiliated with the Swiss-belhotel. Although none of us actually looked to see if that was even legit. That’s Bali for you. Even the sketchiest things turn out to be completely fine.

Anyway, once we checked in, we immediately changed into swimsuits and sat by the pool until late, drinking Bintang (indonesian beer). Our plan was to stay up until 4:30am and turn on the ND-Pitt game, but we all fell asleep, and woke up to a win. Good day all around.

The Catch

Based on our experiences thusfar in Bali, it would seem that Bali is the epitome of tropical perfection. That is, of you ignore the rampant poverty, political unrest, and poor infrastructure. Despite all of that, there is one thing that darkens the sun-filled bliss of Bali.

Bali Belly.

Before we arrived in Indonesia, we were warned by every single Australian we spoke to about this horrible infliction, described simply as “The Worst 24 Hours of Your Life”. This intestinal sickness is caused by pretty much anything. You could probably eat air for your entire stay and still get it. We were told to avoid all vegetables (almost impossible to do), carry around hand-sanitiser, and whatever we did, DO NOT DRINK THE WATER. This even amounted to sanitsing our hands after using the toilet, refusing drinks with ice, and keeping our mouths closed while we were in the shower. Luckily I only took luxurious baths, so I was in the clear. Still, the threat of Bali Belly loomed over us thickly.

Bali Billionaires

Too good to be true.

Bali. Leaving tomorrow. Spending my 21st birthday there. Staying in a three bedroom villa here, with a private pool. Need I say more?

Didn’t think so.

Road Trip Day 3: The End

[insert Australian stereotype]

The day of the ND-OU game. We woke up (well, most of us) at 8am to find a place to watch the game. After striking out at several places, we found a café-wine-bar-combo that graciously allowed us (eh, sort of. They kept shooting us nasty glances) to take up their patio and set up our laptop to watch the game. Whatever, we bought food, so they couldn’t complain. We watched ND absolutely dominate. I can honestly say we are probably the only people who watched the game in such a unique setting.

“Americans are so weird” – Every Australian that walked past us

After our victory, we hopped in the cars again and drove up the coast to another national park. We set up on the beach there for a few hours, relishing our last hours of mobility before we had to go back to Transperth trains and busses.

This trip was easily one of the coolest I’ve ever taken. Australia has given me the opportunity to see more off-beat wonders in one semester that most people will possibly ever see in a lifetime. For such breathtaking natural beauty, south west Australia is remarkably desolate. In our nearly ten hours of driving, we rarely ever saw other cars. Greens Pool and Elephant Cove were both deserted, despite beautiful weather. In any other location, it would have been packed with families and tourists and annoying salespeople. Instead, we experienced pure, natural beauty. It was refreshing. Even better, I traveled with people who appreciated it just as much as I did. No one complained that we didn’t stay in five-star accommodations or that we mostly subsisted on peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches. Budget-wise, the entire trip cost each of us $128, plus food costs (which were very very low). That included two nights’ lodging, car rental, and gas. Not too shabby.

Last semester, during our pre-departure meetings, our study abroad coordinator forbid us from driving cars while in Australia. Well, sorry to disappoint, but I would highly encourage everyone to break that rule. I wouldn’t trade this trip for anything in the world. After all, rules are meant to be broken, aren’t they?

Australia Road Trip Day 2: “Wow”

How much longer to we have to pretend to like each other?

Day Two:

Since there were nine of us, we split up into two rooms for the night. My room got up exactly at 8am. Without even trying to, we were dressed, showered, drinking coffee and ready to roll by 8:12am. As Jeb put it, “We may have jumped the gun a little”. Someone went next door to the other room and found all of the others still fast asleep. Typical.

Eventually, we packed the car and set out for the Valley of the Giants.

Valley of the Giants

This is not as comfortable as it looks.

We came back to the hotel a few minutes later to find everyone up and packing stuff in the car. We left for the Valley of Giants treetop walk around 9:15am. It was about 45 minutes away. The drive over was absolutely breathtaking. Rolling hills that were green beyond belief, and the clearest blue sky I’ve ever seen in my life. At one point, we crested a hill and caught a glimpse of the ice blue ocean and a couple huge rocks. Adventure Car screamed in excitement

The Valley of the Giants is basically a forest of really old, really tall, and really awesome trees. As an avid lover of all things arboreal, I was pretty excited to go. As we drove down the road to the national park (after our GPS-from-hell led us down a dirt road and tried to kill us), we gazed up at all of the enormous trees and kind of lost our breath. Also, the whole scene reminded us all of Jurassic Park…after someone mentioned that, I literally couldn’t shake the feeling we were about to see a T-Rex pop out of the trees.

“Enjoy the tingles!”

The trees, called Tingle Trees, were awesome. It was worth the $12.50 to walk along the treetops and later explore the canopy beneath. Although I tried very hard (and failed) not to laugh when the lady at the window said “Enjoy the tingles!” The tree top walk was a little scary, because the cables that suspended the metal bridge had a tendency to sway and shake when you walked on them. I never felt unsafe, but I was so glad it wasn’t windy that day! We descended, and began to explore the bottoms the trees, which were cooler in my opinion. The tree bases were giant, and the roots were so large you could literally walk right through them. Which we did, and subsequently documented on camera. Weirdly, they were anal about us walking around the trees, because apparently the roots are very fragile. As Jack put it, “I highly doubt trees as fucking old as this can possibly die from humans walking next to them”. He had a point.

Dinosaur World

Do they have live dinosaurs here?

We left a couple of hours later. On the way to the trees, we passed Dinosaur World. It claimed you could see real dinosaurs and pet lizards. We were sold. On the way to Greens Pool, we stopped at DW to check it out. We entered the lobby, all nine of us, and you could tell the owner rarely ever saw this many people. We asked how much it was to see the ‘saurs and he said “12.50”
Sorry, no. We were poor, so we politely declined. Desperate to keep us there, he lowered the price to $10 for all nine of us. We left anyway after brief conference. As we walked out, he yelled after us “Go to the beach! Looking at seagulls WON’T COST YOU A CENT!” Yikes.

The Greens Pool

Rock climbing in a swimsuit is harder than you’d think

I really can’t say much about the Greens Pool. Words literally cannot describe the feeling you get when you first lay eyes on the pristine beach, the giant perfectly smooth rocks, and the clear turquoise water. Then, you become even more awestruck when you realize Antarctica is just on the other side of the Great Southern Ocean. Then, you realize how old these rocks must be for them to be that smooth, and the sand that pure. So I took a million pictures in the hopes that one of them would capture what I was seeing. None of them did. For about an hour, we climbed the rocks and acted like five year olds. The beach was absolutely deserted. There were maybe about twenty people total throughout the day. It’s incredible to think that so few people know about this amazing place. At the same time, it was nice being able to enjoy the view without a million other families jostling you.

Eventually we got hungry so we made sandwiches. We forgot to bring knives, so we used our fingers to scoop up peanut butter and jelly and spread them on slices of dollar bread. We popped open some beer and sat on the beach, basking in the warm sun. We spent the day lounging on the beach next to a really big rock. Every once in a while, someone would sigh and exclaim how lucky we were to be here, or how amazing our lives were, or similar, to which we would all heartily agree.

Cliche picture? Check.

It’s ours. Aaaall ours.

Elephant Cove

Discovered “Panorama” on my camera!

After a few hours, during which the boys went “duning” or dune surfing, we decided to pack up and drive the two minutes over to Elephant Cove. As if our brains could handle any more incredible geological formations. For such an awesome spot, we had the entire cove to ourselves (with the exception of the guy smoking at the back of the cove, obviously loving life as well). The cove was fairly small, but it housed dozens of giant rocks that actually did kind of look like a herd of elephants. The water, protected from the rough waves by the rocks, was calm and clear. We posted up on a rock and watched the sun set off in the distance, illuminating the ocean mist and creating a breathtaking scene. We left just before sunset, hoping to get on the road before dark.

Doesn’t get much better than this.

We hit the road a little before sunset. The plan was to drive the 2.5 hours to Bunbury, where we had a hotel reservation. Unfortunately, our GPS-of-death had other plans for us. At one point, it informed us of a shortcut that would shave at least twenty minutes off of our drive time. It involved driving on 7km of dirt road. After five 5km, the other car lost faith in us an turned around to safety. Since our name was indeed Adventure Car, we decided to go forward the next 2km. Unbeknownst to us, the GPS had realized it was wrong and reconfigured it’s route. It told us to follow a windy, one-lane dirt road for 40 km. No thanks. We turned around. As revenge the GPS then decided to play tricks on us, and tried to get us to “Turn Left Now!” off of a cliff.

Eventually, we made it to Bunbury safely without running off of a cliff, or running into any of the many suicidal kangaroos who were bent on sacrificing themselves for their country. Yikes.

Well, that’s not a good sign.

Road Trip 2012: Australia’s South Coast Day 1

The Open Road. Left handed-streets are kind of freaky.

We made it!

After a weekend of dirt roads, kangaroos, shady hostels, and the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen, we lived to tell the tale. Despite being expressly forbidden to rent cars and drive them by the folks back at ND, we decided to throw caution to the wind and embark on the most spur-of-the-moment road trip ever taken. Pretty sure we started planning about twenty hours before we left. But was it worth it?


Day One: Five Hours to Denmark

Lots of room back there

We set out from Fremantle around 3pm. Colleen and Matt had a hotel booked in Denmark, which was about 5 hours drive south. Nine of us piled into two cars, Car A and Car 1 (affectionately known as Adventure Car and Awesome Car…and also by two other, more negative nicknames). Adventure car, mine, had the GPS so we led. The drive was pretty easy and fairly uneventful. We stopped near a random field of sheep (SO. MANY. SHEEP.) to watch the sunset before driving the rest of the way.

That night, we were pretty tired so we made some PB&Js, drank a little, and then passed out, promising each other we would wake up at 8am the next morning to head out.

Road Trip

No, I don’t know who this family is. Thanks Google images!

The Open Road.

In thirty minutes, 8 of us are hitting the road. Two cars. Three days.
We are going to Denmark, WA, on the Australia’s south coast. It’s about five hours drive from Fremantle, which isn’t too bad of a drive, except for the fact we will be driving on the LEFT side of the road. Yikes. We might have to practice in a parking lot beforehand so we don’t mix up the windshield wipers with the blinkers. Yes, they are on opposite sides.

But, we are also going here so I guess we can’t complain:

The south coast has a ton of stuff. The picture at the very top is of the Valley of Giants. Hundred of unbelievably tall trees, all of them hundred and hundreds of years old. They have bridges from tree to tree where you can walk. We are definitely doing that.

There are also some really awesome rock formations along the way, as pictured above as well. Definitely checking those out!

We get back on Sunday. Look forward to some awesome pics!