I am writing this post from St. John’s College at the University of Queensland. I’m still getting used to having the sound of my typing overshadowed by the squawking of white cockatoos outside my window. It’s hard to believe that the exotic birds my grandma kept as pets in her living room are like pigeons here. Well, it was hard to believe that until I saw the disgusted/mildly amused faces of the locals as I was running around trying to photograph them. I make the same face at tourists who take pictures of blackbirds or sea gulls back home.
Well, I’ve survived my second full day in Australia. I haven’t been bitten by a snake or spider or eaten by a crocodile. Success!
Where to start, where to start… I suppose I’ll start at the very beginning (a very good place to start). The first thing I learned once I landed on Aussie soil is that border patrol here appears to be good for a hearty laugh and not much else. “Customs” boiled down to a beagle named Bagel that was supposed to sniff out contraband in our bags. When I arrived at customs, I was in line behind a fellow Carl who had beef jerky in her bag. Like a good law-abiding American, she declared it and the customs officer brought Bagel over to take a whiff. She sniffed around diligently and then looked up at the officer, tailing wagging, tongue panting, and said (in dog language, of course), “I love you because you are my master! Master, what am I supposed to do?” And the trainer asked my fellow Carl which pocket the beef jerky was in and she pointed it out Bagel. Bagel sniffed for a second and then looked at the officer again and said “Master, I love you! But I do not understand!” And then the trainer took the beef jerky out of the backpack and put it in front of the dog’s nose. And then Bagel understood! She got really excited and ran around in circles. And then Bagel got a treat. And that was the extent of the custom’s inspection. If you ask me, I think Bagel is still a little confused about the whole ordeal.
And so, after our thorough customs inspection, we took a bus to our home for the week at the University of QLD. We had most of the day yesterday to explore, and so a group of us walked into Brisbane (our campus is in a suburb). Coming from Minnesota, we were naturally dead set on donning our swimsuits at the very first opportunity. We found a man-made public beach (pool?) right next to the river and happily splashed about and lay on the sandy beach for a bit. After we were quite sure we were no longer in Northfield, we continued walking around the area. But of course, after not very long at all, we became homesick and were forced to break out the Frisbee for a quick throw-around to remind us of home.
Today, we had two lectures (both given by men named John. I’m not sure if I’m just growing to expect that all Australian men are named John or what, but I’m pretty sure the man who runs the college we’re staying at and our bus driver are both named John too) – one entitled “A short 50 million history of the largest island in the world” and the other entitled “A separate creation” – and visited a koala-and-other-native-fauna sanctuary. To get to the latter, we took a lovely ferry ride up the river. On the way, we passed several hundred picturesque river houses, most assuredly none of which I will ever be able to afford. But a girl can always dream…
I’m gonna admit I sound like the biggest, fattest American tourist here, but the kangaroos and koalas were among the best parts. The kangaroo petting zoo was a bit ridiculous, as the kangaroos were all too full to eat any of the kangaroo-food we had to offer them, but as far as I know everyone in our group emerged head-butt free. I’ve heard horror stories about head-butting kangaroos, so I’ll take this as a win. And then there was the pay-sixteen-dollars-to-get-your-picture-taken-holding-a-koala adventure. The thought of holding a real, live koala (I am in Australia, after all) was admittedly exciting, but I didn’t know if I could do something quite that gaudy. I struggled with this for a while. Then I decided ,“ah, screw it”, threw my dignity to the wind and shelled out sixteen bucks. I’m gonna go ahead and say it was worth it.
My elementary school baseball team was called the Wombats. Of course, at the ripe old age of seven, we had absolutely no clue what a wombat was and after a couple of years, our team name changed to the Bombers. Cool, guys. As it turns out, wombats are quite the vicious herbivores. Apparently, wombats, who live in burrows, have exceedingly tough skin on their backs so that if a predator makes the mistake of thinking a wombat looks like lunch, the wombat will simply stand up in its tunnel and crush the predator to death against the ceiling. And jeez, seeing this big guy today? I believe it. He was a solid creature.
Oh, what else…
We were laughed at by kookaburras –
We saw the favorite relaxing position of the Tasmanian devil –
And we determined that, against all odds, platypuses are real, live creatures (I’m still not convinced about wolverines or ligers) –
All in all, a successful day, I’d say.
Australia is a bit behind the times in terms of internet access, so I won’t be able to stick to a blogging schedule (but let’s be real – when have I ever successfully stuck to a blogging schedule?). We’ll be in Brisbane until Saturday, at which point we’re heading off to begin our real adventure – exploring the Great Barrier Reef.
Until next time!