Last night, I played the most intense ultimate Frisbee game of my life. So intense in fact, I split my chin. Now to all you rookies out there, don’t make the same rookie mistake I did and try and catch a Frisbee with your face, or you’ll get hurt. Want to know the best part of the experience though? Devin was the one who through the Frisbee. It cut straight through the air, right through the hands of another teammate. And there I was – realizing my opportunity to live in the spotlight – when sooner than I realized, I made contact with it. However, instead of it being with my hands or even my arm or a bigger body part, it hit my chin. Now because I’m so tough, I didn’t let it slow me down. However, at the end of that round my teammates came over to me, asking if I knew I had blood dripping down my chin. So there you have it – my first real experience with ultimate. I do have to say that even though my chin looks a little rough, the team is awesome and I am so excited to be a part of it.

Now, if I was asked to choose the more dangerous object between a Frisbee and a boomerang, I would totally choose the boomerang. Strangely though, I didn’t get hurt throwing it. Devin has become obsessed with going out into the field by the student village and throwing his boomerang. Mind you, there are trees, cars, and houses to potentially hit or lose your boomerang to, but that doesn’t stop him. Twice I’ve had to get up on his shoulders to retrieve his boomerang from a throw gone astray. The last time he went out to practice throwing, I went with him to try it out. I couldn’t get it to come all the way back to me, but it was still super cool. There are different flight patterns a boomerang can take and Devin bought one that makes two loops before it comes back to you. He’s gotten it to come all the way back to him multiple times, which makes him turn into a little boy – huge grin on his face and jumping up and down, while clapping his hands. Me on the other hand, I got it about one and half loops around before it landed a little ways away. Practice makes perfect though! Luckily I think I’ll have enough time here to perfect my throwing before I come home.

In class yesterday, my biomechanics teacher was explaining various equations about things like velocity and acceleration, and to complete those equations you use signs like “theta” and “omega”. Not very entertaining stuff, except when you have an Australian pronouncing those words. To my teacher, theta is theet-a and omega is oh-meh-gah, with the emphasis on the gah. Devin and I giggled every time he said them. Say it out loud, and I promise you will giggle too.

Monday afternoon, Devin and I found something wonderful. Fievel: An American Tale and Fievel Goes West – two childhood movies for $8! Oh my gosh, we watched An American Tale last night and it made us feel back at home instantly. Hopefully you can share our love for these movies too. If you haven’t seen either of them, then I’m sorry but you didn’t have a childhood. 

Despite how homesick I still am, it’s crazy how fast time is flying. It’s weird to think that the second week of classes starts tomorrow. I can honestly say I have only done about 30 minutes of studying outside of class, and that wasn’t even required. Now don’t worry mom or dad, or any other concerned adult, I will eventually have work to do – my class syllabi showed me that – but for now I’m relaxing without the schoolwork. However, all this free time has almost been too much. I’m craving to get a routine down because I think that is what is going to save me, because whenever I’m not with Devin or my friends, I have time to think about home and everything associated with it. I applied to shadow at the campus gym, I applied to be a student volunteer, and I could be joining the university’s ultimate Frisbee team. So I have a bunch of potential things to take up my time, but nothing has taken off yet. Another reason why I need a structured schedule with things to do is I need to actually start remembering the date. Since I still feel like I’m on vacation, I’m not paying attention to the date and now it’s almost August and I’m just like, “huh?”

After two late nights out Thursday and Friday, I decided Saturday and Sunday should be little lower key. So what did Devin and I decide to do? Well today we went to the Melbourne aquarium! We saw all kinds of aquatic life, like baby penguins, pregnant seahorses, and shark rays as big as my car. Here is a fun fact you can share with everyone for your Sunday: daddy seahorses are the ones who carry around the little ones in their tummy. Speaking of fun facts, I learned something else that is really interesting in my sports psychology class last week. We were talking about how even something as simple as colors can set someone off into a feeling a certain way, and then we got onto to the topic of fast food restaurants. My teacher shared with us that there was a study done that linked the color red with hunger. So think about all the fast food restaurants you know, and try and think of one that doesn’t have red in its logo. The only one I could think of was White Castle. Isn’t that crazy?

I posted a picture I snapped of a manta ray today. I love this picture because look how it’s smiling! Hopefully it made you smile too. It’s these little things, like this picture or the sweet song a bird chirps as it flies over my head, that keep my spirits uplifted while I’m here and still missing everything so badly back home. I’m not at all regretting my decision being here, it’s making me grow every single day already. The biggest lesson I’ve learned, and I know it’s so cliché, is not taking for granted the simple, little things. For everyone back home, it’s some of the best advice I can give, even if you’ve heard it a billion times. Go hug your mom and dad, or snuggle with your pooch. And if you’re in Bloomington, you could even go hug my parents and snuggle with my dog for me. Remember, it’s only weird if you make it weird. 

Many wonderful things happened last night, the first being that my Aussie mate, who actually studied at IU last fall, told me he loves and listens to Wagon Wheel regularly. To cope with the waves of homesickness, Devin and I have been listening to country music as well as Jimmy Buffet. Last night some of the Aussies we were hanging out with asked us to play a “real American song”. When I picked Wagon Wheel, not only did Devin squeal in excitement, Cam, my Aussie mate, did as well. 

The paint part of the paint party was pretty weak last night. The first problem was that they were balloons filled mostly with water and only a few drops of paint. Therefore, if you got hit, you mostly just became soaked and instantly freezing because the water that filled the balloons was cold. The other problem for me was since the water was cold, I felt bad intentionally throwing it a balloon at someone. I took a hit on my leg and that was good enough for me to bow out of the balloon throwing early. I uploaded a picture of the shoes to just to show how dirty I got – notice the lack of paint. If you look really closely though on my left shoe you can see a faint blood spot on the inside. Anyone who has been to a party with me knows how much I love to dance, and now as a result of that fact, I have a little scrap on my ankle to help me remember my first night out in Australia. It was crazy how closely the place we went to last night resembled a fraternity party. The music was the same, and so were the slick floors and stages. All I had to do was close my eyes and I felt like I was back at IU.

In case you don’t know, Hugh Jackman is Australian. This means everyone in Australia is super psyched about the new wolverine movie that is coming out. Hugh Jackman is literally everywhere – on TV, on poster boards on busses and in malls, and on every single Australian magazine cover. No matter where you look, you can’t escape a picture of Hugh with his shirt off, flexing and screaming. 

No longer am I restricted to a club or pub or bar because of my age, and tonight I’m going to be celebrating that fact. Every university here or a lot of them anyway, have their own “uni nights”, where clubs designate nights to either have no cover or really cheap drinks. Both are things that attract students trying to have a good time, but not spend a bunch of money either. Another school had a uni night this past Monday at a sports pub in the city, and a bunch of us from the village decided we wanted to go check it out. We thought it wouldn’t be too crazy, since it was a sports pub as well as a Monday night. Wrong. Since it was a Monday night, with no other pubs or clubs open, this place was the place where everyone was. The line was easily a block long, and the bouncer was letting in one person for every one person that left. Needless to say, we were home by 10:45.

Hopefully tonight is a little more eventful than that. There is an international student function for a couple hours where we all get to intermingle and meet our Aussie mates, which are Australian students who you are paired up with so they can show you the ropes and stuff. It’s the pre-party to our party, because tonight is Victoria University’s uni night, the school most of the students in the village I live in are attending. The theme for tonight is a paint party, and everyone knows how much fun paint parties are. A bunch of us went bargain shopping yesterday in order to get proper attire for getting covered head to toe in various colors, and we’re psyched. Don’t worry; there will be plenty of pictures taken.

Going to school here is going to make taking classes back at IU pretty difficult, as I only have classes three days a week. I didn’t have classes yesterday, and I have tomorrow off as well. I feel weirdly free, and I honestly have no idea how I will fill my time. I need for it to get warmer outside though so I don’t spend my time as a hermit, huddling against my heater in my dorm room for warmth.

One thing that is kind of inconvenient, but not a huge deal, is the fact I can’t watch my favorite shows online. Netflix doesn’t work down here and neither does Hulu. For instance, I wanted to watch The Colbert Report last night, so I went to Comedy Central’s website and found the link to the show. Then an error message popped up and said, “We’re sorry but unless you’re willing to drop the vegemite and move to the states, you are unable to watch this show down under, mate.” If you don’t know what vegemite is, it’s like their peanut butter here. They put it on sandwiches and toasts, but I haven’t been brave enough to try it because it looks like paste. Anyway, companies like NBC don’t stream overseas, for free anyway, so short YouTube videos have become what I watch. So far I’ve taken up my time with clips of SNL and Jenna Marbles on YouTube. Help.

Living here in the student village has definitely made me appreciate my living situation back home. For instance, in my bathroom there are separate faucets for hot and cold water. Now this might not seem like a huge deal, however when you try to wash your hands or your face without scalding your skin, it becomes an issue. Washing my face now takes about three or four minutes because to be able to deal with the hot water, I have to pool cold water in my hands first. Then when I combine the two temperatures, the result is a lukewarm mixture. About every fourth time I do this maneuver I somehow forget about how hot the hot water is and inevitably burn myself. The good news though is that I can ice my hands under the cold water immediately! Another bathroom adaptation I’ve had to make is wearing flip-flops in the shower, which is another reason why I feel like a freshman living in the dorms all over again. 

The last time I wrote, I was a little discouraged about cooking and how eating here would be, because the little grocery located next to the village isn’t exactly top notch, but it’s super cheap. However, if I decide to make about a ten-minute walk, there is a mall down the street that carries a lot more fresh produce and food options. I don’t even know if I can accurately describe how massive this place is. I honestly think each floor is about a mile long – and there are three. Anyway, Devin and I found a fresh foods market on Sunday, and brace yourself: three oranges, a huge bag of grapes, and a big bag of carrots cost $3.89. In other words, being a vegetarian here is very cheap. I want to know how Australia makes their produce so cheap because the US needs to adopt their methods. I think there is some correlation between fresh food being so cheap here and the smaller size of the majority of Australians’ waistbands. An important note about the bags of carrots here – they don’t have “baby carrots” or bite size. These are old school, just plucked out of the ground carrots. I wanted to be able to paint the picture for you guys of me, munching on a carrot, exactly like Bugs Bunny. You’re welcome.

Yesterday was the first day of classes, and I think I’m really going to like it here. So far all the teachers I’ve met seem really neat and passionate about engaging students. The campus I’m taking my classes at is like heaven for any exercise related major. They have world-class testing facilities and labs, with all the machines and instruments being top notch. In both my resistance training and biomechanics classes they made it seem like we get to play with all that stuff too, so needless to say the inner nerd in me is very excited. Classes are a structured a little bit different here than at IU. For example, my Biomechanics lecture meets once a week, for two hours, and then I have one, hour and a half lab every other week. I made it through the first two-hour lecture without going crazy, and hey there’s only eleven more left, so here’s to looking at the glass half full.

This morning, when my motor learning teacher began talking to the class, I got really excited because he sounded like he was from the states. I instantly felt like I was a little closer to home. However, the first slide of his PowerPoint presentation, which he promptly started after he said hi, revealed he was actually from Canada. It’s funny because I’ve had a couple Aussies ask me if I was from Canada, and when this happened I laughed a little inside and thought to myself “Oh you silly person, how cute – mixing me up with a Canadian.” Well, this goes to show the joke is on me because I had no idea Canadians and Americans could sound so similar. Eh?

Okay I have to say something about the boy’s fashion here. It’s normal for guys to wear tight pants. I’m talking like, spandex pants. I don’t get it and it’s weird. Also, capris are a big thing here for guys. Some of their pants bunch around mid calf – this also makes me stop and stare, because I don’t even wear capris! These weird tight, capri pants aren’t just for going out in either. They are part of the normal, every day outfit for some Aussie boys. I’m not judging – you know, to each his own – I just don’t see how it’s comfortable. 

Well, I made it – the journey has officially begun. I’m sitting here in my dorm room and I have decided that the first order of business tomorrow is going to be decorating the walls somehow. I’m surrounded by white brick walls, and they make me feel like I’m being held captive in a cell. Not like I have any perception of what a jail cell is actually like, but these walls make me feel as depressed as I believe I would feel if I was in fact in jail.

I did my first round of grocery shopping this evening, and bought the necessary ingredients for the gourmet dinner Devin and I prepared, which consisted of peanut butter and banana sandwiches with a side of rice. Don’t get excited, the rice was prepared in a microwave. While I’m here, my diet is totally going to depend on my effort level, so I’m hoping that I’m feeling a little more peppy when it comes to making dinner tomorrow night. Also, while grocery shopping, I also bought bug be gone spray and lined every threshold I will be crossing with it, so hopefully I don’t have a run in with a cockroach ever.

Saying goodbye to my parents was easily the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I have this last image of them in my head, waving to me from the hotel as Devin and I drove away in our taxi, and I break down every time I let myself picture it. I know the first night is the hardest, but I couldn’t have imagined how hard it would be. Even with Devin here it is still unimaginable difficult, so that just goes to show how much more of a mess I would be without him here. Instead of bawling by myself, I have someone’s sleeve to blow my nose on and watch Flight of the Concords with to distract me. I realized today that instead of taking a baby step, like maybe going to an out of state school for college, I decided to take three huge leaps and go half way across the world for five months. Go big or go home right? But seriously, a piece of advice for all my friends who might want to study abroad or flee the country: take into consideration that you will go through the phase of “oh my gosh, what the hell was I thinking, get me back home” fairly fast. It’s easy to get caught up in the amazement of it all, and don’t get me wrong, I am super excited for everything that lies ahead for me, but right now, all I can think about is the easy way of life I left back home.

Today was the first awful day of weather Devin and I have experienced so far. It actually feels like winter here in Melbourne. In Sydney today, it was 70 degrees and sunny. This afternoon when we flew into Melbourne, we were welcomed back with 46 degrees and a steady rain. I’m terrified Melbourne is going to be like Indiana weather, in that it has the ability to change 30 degrees in one day. But if that is the case, I guess I’ll feel a little more at home then I thought. 

A great success was achieved last night, and it was discovering that I can text everyone back home through GroupMe. Since we’ve been here I have been trying to get my iMessage to work but my phone just froze every time I tried to send one. If my phone was trying to screw me over, it almost did, but then I realized I could use GroupMe, so the current score: Maddie – 1, Phone – 0. Before I left, I was brilliant and downloaded the app Viber, which was going to let me text and call for free by using WiFi. Unfortunately, I didn’t do anything else with it, like register the app with my phone number, so when I tried to get it to work here in Australia, it said it sent me a SMS message with my confirmation code. In airplane mode, which is what I have my phone in to avoid getting charged a bazillion dollars while I’m here, you don’t receive SMS messages; thus, my issue with trying to communicate before I realized GroupMe was the answer. So what I’m trying to say is, you can holla at chyo girl problem-free now. 

Last night we decided to hit up more of the local scene for dinner, so we chose a pub tucked away in an area called The Rocks, right near the Harbor Bridge. We chose a great night to go local because there was a huge rugby match and the pub was packed with terrifying men who were very opinionated on which team they wanted to win. I don’t understand how people voluntarily play the sport because it is the most brutal game ever. It’s like football, minus the pads and pauses between downs. All of the players are frightfully large, each muscle in their body popping off their huge frame. I decided the thing that is so scary about them is that instead of just focusing on one part of their body to get big, these guys focus on making their lower body just as huge as their upper body. There were two reasons why everyone in the pub could tell we were Americans: one – every time a guy got knocked down, we instantly looked away, cringing, which happened every five seconds, and two – we left after about 15 minutes after the game started.

We went on another tour today, this one up in the Blue Mountains. Our first stop was at a wildlife sanctuary, specializing in everything Australia. This was the best kind of sanctuary because you could pet and feed the animals! I pet wombats and wallabies, fed a kangaroo that had a little joey in her pouch, and attempted to stuff a quokka in my pocket. If you don’t know what a quokka is, the picture I posted with this entry shows their cuteness – they are referred to as “the world’s happiest animal”.  The rest of the tour consisted of amazing scenery, an aboriginal performance, and a trip down the world’s steepest railroad.

The aboriginal performance was such a neat insight into their culture, which has been around for over 60,000 years. After the performance I went up and asked one of the men, who was covered head to toe in a mural which he painted on his body to explain the circle of life, how he assimilates into modern day society. He explained that he lives what is considered a normal, modern day life, but once a week he and his friends travel back into the bush to study their ancestors. He then pointed out all the scars on his body and told me each scar comes with a symbolic meaning and a sign of growth within his aboriginal tribe. How neat is that?

Our lunch was at a golf course, and a fun fact for all you golf players is that 18 holes only costs $30. So there’s something I have found here that is cheaper than back home, and I don’t care at all about it. Anyway, throughout lunch we got to know the other passengers on the tour, including an adorable mom and daughter duo. The mom, who was 85 years old, was here to meet her great grandchildren. She was such a neat, adventurous woman – for her 75th birthday she went skydiving, for her 80th, she went parasailing, and for her 85th, she went hang-gliding.

Also at lunch, I asked our tour guide how Australia got its name. Turns out, it was originally called New Holland because the Dutch were actually the first who discovered Australia, but unlike the British, they wanted nothing to do with the land. However, back in the time of Aristotle, they were convinced there had to be some kind of land in the southern hemisphere to balance out the large land masses that took up the northern hemisphere. Therefore, it was hypothesized there had to be a mass of land floating below the equator and it was called Terra Australis Incognita aka “Unknown Southern Land”.  You are welcome in advance for the history lessons you are learning from this blog.

I thought I was going to lose it this afternoon when I found out our tour included a gondola ride 270 meters over the valley, a railroad that travels down the side of a mountain at a 52 degree angle, and a cable car ride back up that same steep cliff. I hate heights, but I’m trying to deal with my wuss tendencies, which is why I put myself through all three “thrill rides”. Turns out, they were the perfect amount of thrill for me, but for everyone else, they found it rather boring. If the railroad car had been going any faster though, I honestly would have passed out from sheer terror. It started out all calm and nice, and then bam, a 52-degree decline. But hey, I didn’t pass out and I have pictures to prove it, so go me.

Today started with a walking tour of Sydney and for three hours we learned about the history of Sydney as well as Australia. You see, up until mid 18th century, England had used America as a dumping ground for its inmates. However, after the war England needed to find a new place to send the unwanted – that’s when Australia was founded and used for. In 1787, England sent over a fleet of 11 ships to start the colonization of the land, and nine months later they landed safely ashore at what now is Sydney harbor. I won’t bore you with all the details, except for one: rum was the currency here until some 40 years after they first landed. So that is where Aussies say their love for the drink originated. They do love to have a good time, and that's been very noticeable because as we're walking home from dinner each evening, the pubs are packed, no matter the day of the week. Needless to say, things are looking up for my 21st. One thing that is weird though is I came here with the notion that Fosters, which in the states is advertised as the Australian beer, was really big. Most Aussies I’ve asked though just giggle when I say that, but they've  but guess what the big beer here is though? Corona. So unoriginal.

While on our tour, we ran into this big group of screaming children on a field trip. Even though I could have gone without the screaming, these kids were super adorable because they were all dressed in costumes. Our tour guide explained that the children were dressed up as the roles as the white folk who first came here. So there were prisoners, with potato sacks and straw hats, and navy officers, complete with the red jackets and pants as well as white wigs.

One thing to do in Sydney that is really popular is climb the Harbor Bridge. Along with the opera house, the bridge is considered an icon to them, and rightfully so because it is huge! You’re strapped in and simply trek up to the top of the bridge. I’m not sure how long it lasts, but it’s only $200.  That’s how they advertise it – only $200. It costs a lot to be adventurous here in Australia, because while looking through a tour brochure, I saw the price per person for skydiving starts at $398. Now it would take a lot to get me to actually go skydiving, like drugs or knocking me out, but because of the price, that is going to be my excuse for not doing it. Instead I’ll save that money for something more practical, like a shopping spree or something.

To get a little sneak peek into how my family communicates, here is a good story:

We’re always on the lookout to find a restaurant to eat dinner at, and on our tour we passed this restaurant that looked really yummy. We decided that it could be a potential dinner option, so my mom as well as myself committed the name to memory, but my dad not so much. Later this afternoon, my dad asked my mom what the name of the restaurant was, and she told him. This happened once more about an hour later. Finally, just about 45 minutes ago, my dad asked again what the name of the restaurant was, and my mom just stayed quiet. She decided that because my dad hadn’t been listening, she was going on strike. To get around the silent treatment, my dad decided to use his camera, which has a telephoto lens that allows you to zoom in a great deal, and take a picture of the restaurant’s sign from our hotel window. Isn’t he creative? That’s how Stephen gets stuff done.