Monday Feb. 6th, 2017
Today marks my first day in Wollongong, Australia. I feel so crazy writing that because c’mon it’s AUSTRALIA! I am literally on the other side of the world and kind of upside down. Today is Monday Feb. 6th and 10 am but in Minnesota it’s Tuesday Feb. 5th and 5 pm. It’s going to take a while to get used to that time difference. Getting here took as long as it sounds. The flight from LAX was about 14 hours. If I were a flight critic I would give the flight 6/10 stars due to the comfort of the seats. I probably slept 4 hours total and in chunks of 30 minutes at a time because there wasn’t much room to get comfortable and I ended up switching seats with Paul so I could have the window (Thanks Po!). Other than not being able to get much rest, the flight was great. The plane was huge and had tv screens on the back of every seat which had complimentary movies and tv shows. There were surprisingly a lot of good options, so I was watching TV (mainly Fixer Upper) the entire flight.
When Paul and I finally landed in Sydney we went through customs (which happened to be really fast, easy and high tech.) then found our ride to Wollongong. The University of Wollongong provides free transportation to students, so we had to find the meeting spot in the airport which was tricky because of the new environment. I was briefly upset until we found our driver who was an older man named John. He was so so sweet and funny. He cheered me up right away and welcomed us both to to the country. We thought we were late but John said he was still waiting for a few more students that signed up for the shuttle ride. We waited for about 5 minutes until all of us were together in a group, then John lead us to the shuttle. It felt so nice outside, the sun was shining and there were palm trees everywhere. I couldn’t help but smile. About 6 of us piled into the shuttle and John took us through Sydney. John felt more like a tour guide because he was explaining fun facts along the way and cracking jokes the whole time. He also brought us to a sightseeing spot that looked over all of Wollongong. IT WAS BEAUTIFUL. We could see all along the coast, the mountains, and the city ( I will add the photo I took at that spot in my photos section). That was just a quick stop to give us a taste of what Wollongong would be, then we continued to our individual destinations. We arrived at our airbnb second to last and John helped us lift all of our luggage out of the shuttle and brought them up the driveway. He told paul to take care of me and keep his eye on me because he said I look about 16. LOL Thanks John! I will probably be the one keeping my eye on Po. I gave him a hug because he was so kind to me and he ran to his car and grabbed a little gift bag for me. He said it was the only one he had and I think he gave it to me because he thought I looked like a little girl.
Paul and I had to grab the key out of the mailbox for our Airbnb because our host (Stewart) was at work. He told us he would be home late but to make ourselves at home. We were greeted by Stewart’s great dane dog named Frankie. Frankie is HUGE but a friendly giant. All he wants to do is cuddle and play. Paul and I were so happy to be staying with a dog because we knew we would be missing our pups at home (emphasis on Po) LOL. Paul and I were immediately struggling with the heat. It was 84 degrees and there was no air conditioning inside because Wollongong doesn’t tend to get too sticky except on rare occasions. We happened to arrive on one of those rare occasions where it was unbearably hot. We decided to sit outside because the breeze made it feel cooler. We saw that Stewart had a pool and were so excited so we got in swimsuits and put on sunscreen to prep for the pool. Paul went to open the pool gate but it was locked. We spent about 15 minutes looking for a key in the house, but then felt like we were weirdly intruding so we just decided to ditch the pool idea and try to cool off by sitting and doing nothing. That didn’t work so well and I ended up taking a cold shower to cool off and sitting in front of a fan. That kept me cool for about 5 minutes. Paul went on a walk around the area to explore and also try to find some food because neither of us had eaten for a while. I am not sure how he had the energy to do that because it was so hot and he was drenched in sweat when he came back an hour later. He brought back chips and ramen noodles. RAMEN NOODLES?! C’mon Po… On a hot day, ramen noodles was not the smartest idea so we made them and then put them in the fridge to eat cold later on. I basically ate a bag of gummy worms for lunch that I had from the flight. We also didn’t know the wifi password for a majority of the day until I stumbled upon a little card in our room with the info on it, and Paul found the router with the info at the same time. We got wifi and felt such a huge relief because we didn’t have much for about 4 hours. It was just us in Stewart’s house with his dog and the extreme heat. The first thing I did was call my parents on Facetime and let them know I was safe and doing great. Then I messaged Stewart letting him know we made it to his house and then asked him where the pool key was. His response was “Push and pull the door.” WOW. All we had to do was push the door open with this little lever and then we had access to the pool. We sat around all day staring at the pool not realizing there was no lock (Australia:1 Paul and Zoe: 0). We jumped right in that pool and everything was good in the world again. My headache went away and Paul finally got cooled off from his walk. Nothing has ever felt better. We swam for about an hour but then it started to get cloudy because a storm was coming in. We dried off and opened all the windows in the house to get a nice breeze. We ate our chilled ramen and then decided to unpack a little bit. Stewart came home early which was a huge surprise, and I was in a nightgown, whoops. Keep in mind it was only about 5 pm at the time but it was the first thing I grabbed out of my bag. Paul and I met Stewart and talked for a while as he showed us around his house. It’s a very nice house and we already spent most of the day exploring it but he showed us the details and how everything works. Stewart seemed happy to have us and has so far been a great and easy going host. He is more like a roommate now rather than a host because we will be living with him for 5 months. Stewart had to take off for soccer practice, or as they call it, football practice. Paul and I decided to nap and woke up on Tuesday at 5 am. Yay for jet lag.
Tuesday Feb. 7th, 2017
We couldn’t go back to sleep so we decided to wake up for the day and watch the sunrise. It felt much cooler because it rained all through the night and didn’t stop all day. It was about 70 degrees which felt perfect and refreshing from the day before. Paul made himself a coffee and made me some really yummy vanilla honey tea. The tea was amazing. We also had cereal because Stewart provides that to all of his Airbnb guests (SO SWEET RIGHT?!) anyways we did that, I unpacked all of my suitcases which took a while because I brought lots of clothes and shoes. We have huge closet space it’s better than anything i’ve had in the US so we kinda hit the jackpot with that. While I unpacked, Paul was in the living room journaling. I decided to join him and that’s what I did for a while that morning. We still did not have any mode of transportation other than our own two feet so we hung out inside all day and enjoying the tropical breeze from the windows. We needed to figure out how we were going to get around places whether it be a bike, car, bus, train, who knew.
Luckily, Stewart came home and took us on some errands with him. He normally brings Frankie to the beach to swim and run in the off leash section of the beach. Paul and I walked Frankie along the beach while Stewart took a swim in the ocean pool. The ocean pool looked really cool because it was basically a pool connected to the ocean just separated by some rocks and filled with ocean water. I love everything about the beach. The sounds, the smell, the scenery, the attitudes and people. Everything about Tuesday was lovely. Paul ran with Frankie and I stayed and dipped my sandals in the ocean. The waves crashing against my feet lifted my spirits greatly after sitting inside all day. We walked to find Stewart but we didn’t have a great plan of meeting back together so Paul and I sort of walked mindlessly along the ocean and sidewalk until we found Stew waving his hand outside his window. He said he called me a few times but I didn’t activate my phone at that point. After we got back in the car we went to Aldi to get groceries. Apparently it’s the cheapest grocery store around but it was really nice and had a lot of fresh food and a lot of options. Stewart didn’t wear shoes in the store and I thought he was crazy until I walked in the store and most people were not wearing shoes LOL. Thats Australia for ya. Then we came home, made some pasta and talked with Stew for awhile until we went to bed. I fell asleep pretty early like around 9:30 pm and woke up around 7 am. Crazy huh.Out of the ordinary for me considering I usually fall asleep around 2 or 3 am.
Wednesday Feb. 8th, 2017
Woke up, ate breakfast, facetimed home, and hung out with Po and Frankie. We planned to catch a bus to ride around town but it was still pouring. When the rain finally stopped late afternoon we did end up getting out of the house. Po and I walked over to Uni (That’s what they call university here). The walk was not too long its probably 4 blocks away but the problem was that there were lots of hills. I am not a huge fan of long walks when it’s hot outside so I was not a happy camper. But, Po did walk really slow and at my pace so that was helpful. I was still crabby most of the walk and dripping with sweat. When we made it to campus about 25 minutes later it was so beautiful. There were huge trees shading the whole campus and really gave off the rainforest vibe. There even is a mini rainforest in the middle of campus! I definitely will check that out sometime. There are also rivers throughout the campus and mini ponds with bridges that cross over them, which made the school really beautiful. The buildings are nice and close together and clearly labeled so I don’t think I will have trouble getting around. We went to campus to explore but mainly to find an ATM to take out some australian money. Po took out money but I didn’t because Bremer bank has fees for taking out money in foreign countries. We walked back and had dinner and went to bed pretty early. We were exhausted.
Thursday Feb. 9th, 2017
Po and I finally got a chance to get out of the house for a while. It was the first sunny day here and I was more than excited. I woke up around 8 am (WOAH) and Po was already up but I still had to eat breakfast and get ready for the day. I called a cab and it got here within 5 minutes! The cabs here make it feel like you are in NYC because they arrive so quickly there is minimal wait time. The cab drove us to a currency exchange downtown and I exchanged all of my US money for Australian money. Then, from the currency exchange we went to target. Everything is downtown and really lose together, kind of like an outdoor mall. It’s really neat and nothing like anything I’ve seen in America. You can walk indoors or outdoors, and outside they have escalators! Crazy to me. Po got flip flops in target and it was really interesting because the Target here is laid out completely different and looks more like a modern clothing store. They have much less products because it isn’t a Super Target. Then we walked around the mall for a little bit looking to find beach towels and we found some in a store called Best for Less. The store is most comparable to a TJ Maxx in the US. We continued to walk the mall and decided to get some food before we headed to the beach. Po got McDonalds because he wanted to see if it tasted the same and he said it did! The only difference I noticed is that McDonald’s in Australia serves loaded french fries with gravy and other sauces. UPGRADE! I got a smoothie and got the basic strawberry banana but to my surprise they don’t ice their smoothies here! My smoothie was warm and not very good. We both ended up throwing ours away and just headed to the beach.
We called another cab and got dropped off right in front of North Wollongong Beach. The beach was nice because it wasn’t as crowded as I expected it to be. There were probably 25 people there at most. Everyone was really quiet and cheerful so it was nice to be in that environment. Po and I went in the ocean for a while and chased the waves, which is my favorite thing EVER. I love the ocean and riding the waves. I got out for a while and tanned because that’s also my favorite thing. It wasn’t too hot at all. I could have sat there all day. There was a nice breeze and nice sun, it was perfect weather. I went back in the water for a while and ended up losing my new sunglasses. OOPS! That was sad, but luckily I brought an extra pair thanks to my great foresight that I get from dad (Shoutout to Michael!) We decided to get out and Po went into the nearby building to find a bathroom where he discovered he was sunburnt.Yikes. We left ASAP to come home with another cab. I felt kinda bad because we got the cab full of sand, but what could we do! We got home around 3:30 pm to find that we were both tomatoes. Completely red, burnt, and in pain. We sat around for the rest of the night barley able to move. Po’s was much worse than mine, and I am also used to having a sunburn and don’t really mind the pain because I know it will turn into a beautiful tan. (I know what you’re thinking… This is not good and a terrible way to think of sunburn, this is how you get skin cancer… blah blah blah, I know) We both put sunscreen on twice but we made the mistake of going in the water right away so it came right off. We skipped dinner and went straight to sleep because being out all day was exhausting.
Friday Feb. 10th 2012
It feels like the week flew by. Po was too burnt to move so I walked down to the pharmacy and almost passed out from heat exhaustion. I went to get Po some Aloe Vera and Cortisone cream. The pharmacist explained to me the best method to get rid of a sunburn is to take as many cold showers as possible because it removes the heat from your body. So that was about $15 australian dollars which I would say is not a bad deal for both medicines. The Pharmacy here is nothing like Walgreens. It’s TINY. Definitely way smaller than my bedroom at home, but the employees were very kind and helpful and personable. I walked back, which is uphill and this is when I almost passed out. The combination of having sunburn while in the sun, being 90 degrees, and also walking uphill was too much for the zozo. I had to take 2 breaks walking up the hill, and if you saw this hill you would know that’s ridiculous because it probably one block. I made it back and went straight to the shower to cool off. I loaded cortizone all over my face like the pharmacist said, so that I wouldn’t peel or blister. Po went for the Aloe. Then I sat in the living room with the fan pointed directly at me. LOL i’m such a princess (not in a good way).
PS. While I write this, I have sweat dripping down my whole body. Forehead, back, arms, legs, stomach, everywhere. I wanted heat, and I got the HEAT! Thank you Australian sun.
The rest of Friday was pretty relaxed. Jaimie, Stew’s girlfriend came for the weekend and it was really nice to have a girl around. The first time I saw Frankie wag his tail is when he saw her so that was cute af. Po and I ate dinner and went to bed pretty early again.
Saturday Feb. 11th, 2017
I woke up around 9 am (Still really early from me and I think it’s still jet lag). Po, Stew and Jaimie were already awake and ate breakfast. Stew and Jaimie planned to go to the beach for a while with Frankie and then go to Aldi so they offered Po and I to come. The beach was so fun and happy. I dipped my toes in but that’s about it. We went for a short period of time so I didn’t bring a swimsuit or anything. Po and I were still really burnt at that point. We loaded on sunscreen and just hung out for about 30 minutes while Stew and Jaimie swam in the ocean. Then we headed to Aldi to get some groceries. We came back and swam for a little bit to cool off. Jaimie and Stew had plans to go to the mall because it’s all air conditioned and was something to do. Stew said he wanted to get a massage and it’s so funny to me and po because here they pronounce massage like ma-sage with emphasis on the ma and the a sounds like apple. (mahhhhh-sage) so funny. They also say garage like that. I can’t stop laughing about it.
Anyway they invited us along but the boys ended up backing out and me and Jaimie just went. It was really nice to have girl time. We walked around the mall and there was just so much to see and buy I was too overwhelmed and came home with nothing. They did have really cute clothes though. They are all so cute and way cuter than back home. They have boutiques here rather than big large department stores so it’s more fun and unique choices. Jaimie took me to get this REALLY YUMMY salted caramel shake. I wasn’t sure if I would like it because I don’t love caramel or salty sweet things but I gave it a try and haven’t stopped thinking about it since. I even went back with po later in the week to get another. It was so so so so yummy. Reminds me of caribou coolers at home with no coffee flavor. Anyways we stopped in a store called Coles it’s basically like Target without clothes. It has so many more food options than Aldi and just reminds me of home so I liked it. She got some groceries and we headed home.
Stew and Po were napping so I decided to read and get in and out of the pool to cool down. It was about 100 degrees that day so it was extremely hot. We ate dinner and then Stew and Jaimie invited us to go with them on an errand that was near a k-mart. They knew we needed bikes and they were going by there anyway so they offered us to come (they helped us so much this weekend it was unbelievable). In k-mart we found bikes that were suitable to try out and they came in huge boxes and unmade so Po knew he was going to have to put them together because there was no way I was going to! It took us a while to pick those out and figure out how to get them in the car. That was a whole to do. Jaimie bought cables for her car roof because she knew she would need them in the future anyway. We picked up the bikes at an unloading dock and propped them onto the car. It took so long to figure out the bungee cables and Po ended up breaking one so that was nice. We eventually got it and went home and just took it all apart. We were tired and fell right asleep.
Sunday Feb. 12th, 2017
Sunday was a slow morning and day. Po spent the morning putting together our new bikes and I read my book (Bared to You by Sylvia day…. I am obsessed!!!!) anyways I ended up finishing my book that day while Po did the bikes. When he finished Stew helped us pump the tires with his car tire pumper thing and we took the bikes for a ride. I have to admit, I haven’t rode a bike in years. I thought it would be a lot easier jumping back into it than it was. I had a little breakdown but luckily Po was patient and really calmed me down. We decided to head home and try again later. We ate dinner and then tried again and this time I did a lot better. The first time I was kinda scared about the bike falling apart, and me falling off and all this other stuff so it was all mental. This time I really focused on not letting my worries get to me and just see if I could bike far without being scared and I did! We went to this little area where they have cricket matches and that was cool. I was proud of myself for trying again with the bike and not giving up. Though, I knew it wouldn’t be a way of transportation for me. There was no way I was riding on the left side of the street with cars acting like I was a confident biker. I had to figure out a different way to transport. They also say transport here alot so thats different! I was clearly pretty out of shape and had to take a lot of breaks on the bike even though we were still in the neighborhood. There are so many hills here it’s kinda impossible. Anyway we came back home, ate, and slept. Not a very productive day, but Po was still kinda under the weather from his sunburn so I understood.
Monday Feb. 13th, 2017
Monday was a really great day. Po feels like a completely different person from when we first got here. His sunburn has healed almost fully and now he’s just peeling. He is back to his fun, happy, adventurous self that I love. I am really grateful for that. It made my life a lot happier and fun. He woke up before me and took a 3 mile walk to the botanical garden and back. When he got back I was ready to go explore the bus system and I was glad he was willing to come along. We hopped on the bus right at the bottom of our street and it was $1.30 each because we were students. The free bus doesn’t start until next week for orientation week at school. We rode the bus to campus and then hopped on another bus to take us to the city center. The city center is basically where everything happens. That’s where the mall is, and all the restaurants, and everything good. So we went there and got some things we needed like nail clippers and body wash etc. We had a cute lunch at a burger place called Grill’d. It’s basically healthy burgers they say. Not sure what that means. I got a veggie burger and it was OKAY. Nothing near as good as what I would get back at home. We ordered chips which we call fries so that was funny. Po got a hard cider and I took drinks of it in public so technically that was my first legal drink yay! The food was ok.
Then we did a little bit more shopping and this is when I took him to get one of those salted caramel shakes. SO YUMMY. Just as good the second time. We got them in this little chocolate cafe place. We finished some shopping, I got the second book in my series, and headed home. The bus system was pretty quick and straightforward. We got to campus and had to hop on another bus to bring us to Keiraville which is the suburb we stay in. We forgot to press the button to get off the bus in time so we missed our stop and had to walk up THE BIGGEST HILL EVER. not exaggerating I swear it was more like a mountain. So the second bus ride was kinda pointless because we had to walk anyways. We came home and read a little because we were both tired from the long day. I crashed and took a nap around 3. I rarely take naps so this is crazy for me. I woke up around 6 and po jumped in the pool to record some gopro film. Then cleaned our room, got our laundry of the liners, and made the bed. The bed feels more homey now. Then po made fajitas for dinner and I made some rice so that was good. We talked with Stew for a bit and came back to bed to chill and hangout. Today was a really great day. Very productive, fun, and enjoyable. Exactly what I came here for. The weather has been great for 2 days around 75 and sunny. There’s a slight breeze and not much humidity so it is really awesome weather. Now we are in bed getting ready to sleep and wake up tomorrow for another fun day.