A Jillaroo in the Outback

After being at my friend Claire’s house for a wonderful week I am travelling on to the outback today.  In a few hours I am getting on a 8.5 hour bus ride deep into the country of the state of New South Wales.  I have arranged to work with one of New South Wales’ best cattle drovers for the next two weeks.  Here is the website: http://www.cattleahead.com.au/welcome/page1.php.  This essentially means I get to ride horses all day while I help to muster up cattle.  In America this work is defined as being a ‘cowgirl,’ in Australia though the term is a ‘jillaroo’ (the male form being ‘jackaroo).  I have always wanted to do something like this and am very excited about this new adventure, unfortunately because of my location I probably won’t have internet access through out my stay.  I promise to take lots of pictures and write lots of posts once I am back in the city again though. Let’s just hope I will not be acquainted with the Australian Outback’s more fatal charms like the world’s most deadly snakes, spiders, scorpions, etc.

After two weeks in the Outback I will travel to Sydney for a few days before returning to Melbourne for a final goodbye week.  At the end of this month I return home.

(I didn’t take this picture I took it off Google.)

I’m in Paradise

As a horse lover I have always wanted to live in a house where I could look out my window and see horses grazing calmly in my backyard.  Since Saturday I have been in Gatton, a town about an hour outside of Brisbane in Queensland, visiting a good friend from high school.  She happens to have a cute house five minutes from her university campus.  This house happens to also have three gorgeous horses in its backyard: Charlie, Henry and MB.  Charlie is my friend’s handsome Palomino horse who acts like marshmallow despite his huge size.  In the past couple days if we weren’t riding we were lounging in the living room watching the horses in the paddock.  And when ever we felt like riding we just walk outside, put on our boots and grab the horses!  Yesterday Claire and I went on a wonderful trail ride which ended in a huge field.  Charlie and I took of flying across the field; at one point it felt like his feet weren’t even touching the floor.  Today Claire and I had a lesson in the backyard.  I am in horse heaven!!


Why Are You Going to Adelaide?

The week before leaving on a four day weekend trip to Adelaide people kept asking me “Why are you going to Adelaide?” as if it were hole out in the middle of no where.  With the amount of people making this comment I was starting to worry I was wasting my money. Especially when I was asked to do an extra security screening at the airport and the security guy conversationally asked me where I was going.  When I told him he scrunched up his face, laughed and said “Adelaide?  What are you going to do in Adelaide?” I wanted to ask him if he was serious.  When I met up with Megan at the end of security line I relayed what the security man had said and started to wonder if there was some infectious disease across Adelaide that had left it a barren waste land of nothingness.  Why else would everyone be asking us the same bewildered question?

When I arrived in Adelaide it did not take long to understand the reason for the relentless question.  Adelaide city itself is fairly small, at least compared to Melbourne, and quiet.  There is not much to do and as far as I could tell the night life was lacking.  But even though it was quiet city it was still charming.  The amount of old Gothic cathedrals were astounding and could entertain an architecture junkie or photography fanatic for hours.  The fresh food market itself kept Megan and I entertained for hours!

It might not be the most bustling city in Australia but if you have  few days to spare I think its worth the trip.  Its charm won’t be lost on you.  The only thing I caution is not to book for your stay for too long.  On the fourth day I was itching to return to my beloved busy Melbourne.

The highlights of my trip were:

A half day trip to Sterling.  I hopped on the public bus and took a thirty minute ride outside the city to a small town called Stirling which held Sunday markets.  I love little markets like this and it was nice to see families conversing with each other one eye on their children the other on their dogs.  It reminded me very much of being home.  They sold everything at this market from art and clothes to food and special honey (I tried a concoction of Vanilla bean creamed honey.  It was fabulous!) I also treated myself to amethyst tear drop earrings as a little reminder of my Australia trip when I return home.

Another half day trip to Hahndorf, a small but famous German style town outside of the city. This place was adorable!  I felt like I had magically appeared in Germany somehow.  All the the little shops with their thatched roofs and welcoming open doors poured German music and aromas out onto the sidewalk to lure you in for a quick look around.



The Great Barrier Reef

Over the Easter break I journeyed to Cairns where I snorkeled in The Great Barrier Reef.  I felt like I was in the Finding Nemo movie!  It was absolutely incredible.  The only thing I could have hoped for was better weather.  It was such a gray overcast day that the visibility in the water was not great.  It also made the water really rough which resulted in me drinking about a gallon of salt water.

The weather is all I can complain about and even then it could have been worse.  If you know me then you probably know that the ocean and I don’t get along so well.  I have a slight fear of swimming in the ocean, especially when I know there is a potential for sharks and guess what Australian oceans are known for?  But because I didn’t know when I was going to visit this specific wonder of the world again  I was not going to let the opportunity pass me.  Of course once I peeled on my wet suit, fitted the goggles to my face and set my finned feet in the water this gallant idea did not seem so brilliant anymore.  I was one of the last people to set off and I felt so bad because my friend was with me and had to wait for me to toughen up and get in the water.  I had at least told one the snorkeling instructors that I might freak out once I hit the water and one of them came to my aid and helped ease me into the water. They advised me not to put my face in the water until I was above the reef which was probably a smart idea so that I would have something below me when I looked down.

When I finally put my face in the water it was breathtaking.  Even with low visibility the reef was vibrant and buzzing with life. Almost immediately after putting my face in the water I saw something move out of the corner of my eye.  My head snapped in its direction my heart pounding and breathing harsh and labored.  I was fighting my automatic instincts by not moving and keeping my face in the water trying to make out the dark shape about 20 feet from me.  I did not see the tell-tale shark fin shape so I decided I could manage to keep myself calm.  I am very glad I did.  As my eyes adjusted to the underwater lighting I was finally able to make out the shape of a medium-sized sea turtle leisurely floating past the reef!  Unfortunately at the same time I saw the turtle everyone else did as well and started diving towards it to get closer.  It didn’t stay to pose for pictures and disappeared once the first snorkeler got too close.

After the turtle left I turned my attention towards discovering the reef.  It was so bizarre seeing the reef in real life after seeing countless pictures and footage of it throughout my life.  There were so many different kinds of fish and coral I lost count after noticing the first couple.  There were schools of tiny slender blue shimmering fish the size of my little finger.  There were much bigger fish called parrot fish with bizarre shaped mouths and funky pink and green patterning splashed across their bodies.  And the coral!  I never thought coral was interesting until then.  At one point we swam over a forest of brilliant blue twig-like coral. I remember being fascinated that such brilliant colors were all naturally made and that no matter how hard humans tried they would never be able to reproduce the colors nature created in that reef.

What was most incredible was the silence of the water.  At first I took the lack of sound to be eerie.  I think from years of knowing how horror films work I subconsciously kept waiting for something with big teeth and horrifying similar to a shark come at me from out of no where.  When I was able to convince myself that no such thing was going to happen the eeriness of the silence began to fade.  It was replaced by the most soothing of feelings. I watched all of the life and activity of the reef bustling around me- fish-eating, chasing each other, swimming, poking in and out of the coral- and it was all happening below me in complete silence.  I felt like I was in another world!

The Sound of Australia

The famous instrument of Australia is called a didgeridoo.  If you have seen any movie about Australia or based in Australia there is a usually a distinct sound in the background music but probably one that you cannot exactly place; that would be a didgeridoo.  The actual instrument is a bit bizarre looking.  Its just one long wooden tube usually decorated with aboriginal dot paintings.  Here is what it looks and sounds like:

The Horrible Bell Curve

As much as I love the University of Melbourne I am not happy with their grading system.  I am used to the kind of grading system where you get the grade that you earn.  I have just recently learned that is not exactly the case at Uni Melbourne.  I very well may have misunderstood something or gotten the wrong information but here is what seems to be case.  Apparently the Uni grades on the bell curve.  The only time I have experienced teachers grading on a curve is when not enough students do well and they shift the grades upwards; it’s always to help the students.  Here it seems that in order to keep up their prestigious reputation they need to fail a certain amount of students, at least according to some of the other students I have spoken to.

While getting our papers back the other day our tutor explained that some students who got the second highest grade mark, H2A, should come and speak to her.  She said that not everyone could get the highest mark because of the bell curve and that some of the students who were given H2A’s had work worth an H1.  She thought that by talking to those students and explaining to them that their work was worth a higher grade it would make them feel better.  I don’t know if it worked or not but it would have been me I don’t think I would have been happy to learn that I did not get the grade that I earned.

Rippon Lea Estate

As much as I love the city sometimes its nice to get away for a bit and breathe some fresh air.  When my grandmother came to visit me a few weeks ago I brought her to the Rippon Lea Estate, a place I had been wanting to visit for a while.

Despite being outside of the city it was actually really easy to get to.  We took one tram line straight down from the Uni Melbourne stop for about 45 minutes and then only had to walk for another 5 minutes before arriving at the subdued green wrought iron gates of the Estate.  The reason I had been wanting to visit this place is because upon reading about it the estate sounded very similar to The Old Westbury Gardens, one of my favorite places in the world.  The antique house and sprawling gardens did not disappoint.

I do not know why old houses like these fascinate me so much but I enjoyed the very detailed tour that we got of each of the rooms.  I marveled at some of its frivolities like the gigantic ballroom and old Hollywood pool.  My favorite part of these estates though are the grounds and as I said this one definitely did not disappoint my expectations.  I love walking through the grounds and picturing being one of the children growing up with that kind of backyard.  The grounds in Rippon Lea, in particular, were obviously designed with the children in mind.  They had a fantastic waterfall which you could climb to the top of or hide in the secret passage ways carved through the middle of it.  There was even a towering tree house which overlooked the entire estate.  My inner child was absolutely dazzled by this as I had always dreamed of having an elaborate tree house as a child.

After thoroughly walking the grounds of the estate my grandmother and I laid out a little picnic and enjoyed the crisp Melbourne fall weather.  Once our bellies were full and bodies were tired of walking we passed out in the sun for a leisurely nap.

If you are in Melbourne for long enough I recommend visiting the estates.  It’s a quiet and calming day trip retreat from the city.



Echo 360

One of the great things about University of Melbourne is their use of Echo 360.  This is an online program which provides a recording of class lectures cued to the lecture slides.  As I have just finished finals I found this technology immensely helpful as well as impressive.  As far as I know my school at home offers nothing quite as complex as this.  All I have had to study with in the past is basic power point slides.  It was a great study tool especially considering how much I struggled with Logic this semester.  Unfortunately this program also gives some students a reason to not show up to class but I would warn against falling into this trap.  One of my friends who did this was in the library for days listening to and watching all his lectures before his exam!

Weeding out the Tourists

The quickest way to label yourself a tourist is to mispronounce the name of the city in which you live.  Melbourne above all is a good example of this.  An American would read the name and pronounce it the way it is spelled “Mel-born.”  In Australia though the name is pronounced “Mel-bin.”

When I first arrived I was constantly saying “Mel-born” and a knowing smile would appear on the mouth of whomever I was talking to.  Now, four months later I am the one with the knowing smile when I talk to some one who pronounces it “Mel-born.”  I am officially a local.

My Classes: The Good, The Bad and The Horrendously Ugly

Out of the four classes I took this semester, I would recommend two, strongly discourage one, and am indifferent to the other.

UNIB 20016: Same-Sex Desire: From God to Genes

I highly recommend this class to anyone!  It is a fairly easy class as far as what it asks of you for graded work (although I did not really enjoy writing 3 essays, 1,000 words each for the final.  I thought one would have sufficed.)  The class is really fascinating and is structured in a way I have never seen before.  It is called a University Breadth subject and what this means is that one topic is taught from across multiple disciplines.  In this case, we learned about homosexuality from Health, Law, Genetics, Religion and History Departments.  Every week we had a different lecturer come in from their respective departments, each an expert in their fields.  It was really fascinating and very engaging.  The readings are all collected from recent news and are usually short and interesting read.

Grades consisted of:

  • 20% online quiz
  • 20% 1,000 word mid-semester assessment
  • 60% 3 different 1,000 word assessments

UNIB10002 Logic: Language and Information

Stay far far FAR away from this class unless you are a Philosophy/Maths major (and even then I would not really recommend it) or sickly masochistic.  I took this class for the sole reason that I needed one final math requirement and my friend had taken it at my home university, enjoyed it and remarked upon how easy the class was.  What I learned in the first three weeks of the class is what my friend learned in one semester of logic at home.  This did not bode well for me at all. Within a month I was confused and after two months hopelessly lost in the class.  I am not sure why this class is labeled as a Year 1 course, my classmates and I agree it was an unfair trick to play on unassuming new students.  This class in unbelievably hard and overly complicated.  They were too overly ambitious in trying to cram so much information into one semester: linguistics, philosophy, computer science and I couldn’t even tell you what else.  Towards the middle of the semester I got so frustrated and fed up with the class that I didn’t go to lecture for a week.  This of course was a bad idea because then I only fell more behind.  Thing is, I was not the only one.  The classroom on the first day was at capacity, and it was a big lecture hall, slowly through the semester fewer and fewer students showed up.  On the final day of class there were only 13 students in the entire lecture hall.  No one was happy with the class or its instructors by the end of the semester.  I will just be happy if I pass this class.

Grades consisted of:

  • 50% mid semester exam
  • 50% final exam

 POLS20011: Sexual Politics

Because I am a gender studies minor I found this class thoroughly fascinating but I can understand how this class might not be for everyone.  Our lecturer was very well-informed and has actually written many books on the topic but, in my opinion, she comes across too strong sometimes.  She once made an offhand comment about how she chose to be a lesbian and that people have a choice in their sexuality.  This caused an absolute uproar in class.  She was also extremely unapproachable which I found thoroughly confusing and frustrating.  As I am minoring in the subject, the area interests me a lot and I would have loved to have one-on-one chats with the professor.  There were a few times where I wanted to speak to her after class and realized how hard it was to talk to her.  First of all, unlike most professors who wait until the entire class has filed out to make sure no one has any questions for them, this lecturer packed up her stuff and zoomed out of class while the front rows of students were still slowly filing out.  There were many times when she was so quick I didn’t even have a chance to stop her.  Other times when I actually did manage to catch her she continued on her pace, I was expecting she would stop so we could have a conversation, and made it distinctly clear each time I tried that she did not really have time for a chat.  I was pretty shocked at her lack of one-on-one communication skills (she seemed almost awkward) because she is a brilliant public speaker.  She is thoroughly engaging although her absolute lack of knowledge of power point can make classes a bit frustrating at times.  For the most part though she can keep the class laughing and she allows for and facilitates questions and a little discussion during the lectures, which I enjoy and missed in my other classes.

Grades consisted of:

  • 50% Mid-semester assessment
  • 50% Final Assessment

ANTH20001: Keeping the Body in Mind

This class I was more or less impartial to.  The assessments were easy and the topics were fairly interesting.  I was not a huge fan of the way the class was run though.  We had one lecture once a week for two hours and then a one hour tutorial.  I think the topic material was unique but the delivery kind of fell flat with me.  If you need to fill in your schedule with an easy class and this one would be fine to take.

Grades consisted of:

  • 40% mid-semester assessment
  • 10% oral presentation about mid semester assessment
  • 50% final assessment