Hello, everyone! Sorry it’s been a while since my last update. I think technology has been working against me lately. I am still waiting on my computer to be fixed, my flash drive disappeared, and Internet is not easy. Regardless, though, it’s been an incredible couple weeks here in Aussie land.

In between some of our many excursions, we have been doing a lot of research for our project while also working with Chinese and Australian students. It’s hard to believe we only have a few more days left in Australia.

Being in Perth has been quite a change of pace for us. In Asia we were constantly traveling to different places, exploring the sites, and touring various companies. Here it’s been a very different dynamic but fun all the same.

I was surprised to find how expensive things are here, especially food. As of today their currency is slightly higher than ours, leaving us with an even worse exchange rate. The food is very good, though, and some of the more authentic favorites of mine consist of kebabs, kangaroo, steak sandwiches, and of course the seafood.

Aside from working on our project, and spending time with some of our local Aussie friends, we have also had fun hanging out with many of the Americans who just arrived for the semester.

A few of our Aussi highlights:

Birthday marathon

Ironically enough, Rach, Ricky, and I all have our birthdays within four days of each other, so we spent the weekend celebrating. To kick it off, Friday night at the welcome dinner, Ian surprised each of us with birthday cakes and everyone sang us Happy Birthday. Following the dinner we all went out to Waterford karaoke bar close to school to celebrate Rachael’s birthday. After our failed attempt to get her on stage, she compromised with getting sung to by the owner who was dressed as Elvis.

Sierra-Cicerellos-sm.jpgExploring Freemantle

Today we hung out with the other American bunch and took the train to Freemantle for the day. We ate at the famous Fish ‘n Chips place Cicerellos, located at the center of Australia’s largest fishing boat harbor. It’s been around for over 90 years and is well known for its abundance of freshly caught seafood.

Later on, after putting our feet in the Indian Ocean, walking along the beach and watching the beautiful sunset, we headed for Little Creatures brewery and celebrated July 13.

Research and then some

Today was pretty uneventful. We spent a lot of time at “Uni” in meetings and doing research. In the evening Ricky celebrated his 22nd with some of our Aussie and new
American friends in Northbridge – probably the only place where there is life after 8pm. Most of Perth literally shuts down here after five, but Northbridge is a pretty happening place in the evening. I finally had my “bubble tea” fix, too – a very popular drink here in Australia.

Surfing in Yanchep

Ricky, Rach and I, along with the 40 other “Americanos,” spent a couple days in Yanchep National Park about 1.5 hours outside of Perth. It is one of the oldest conservation zones in Western Australia. Unfortunately the first day we got there it was raining, although that didn’t seem to matter because we mostly hung out in the lodge.

Each school teamed up, and we were all quizzed with some Aussie trivia. It was a lot of fun … mostly because Team SMU dominated the other schools. The winners got “tin-tams” (popular chocolate wafer cookies here), while the losing team was forced to eat vegemite. I tried it just for fun and now I can see why it was punishment for losing. I almost wanted to gag. I am not a huge fan. From their perspective, though, it is equivalent to our peanut butter and jelly craze. They think that is disgusting.

Sierra-rach-catching-a-wave-sm.jpgThankfully the next day we had great weather for some surfing in the morning at Lancelin beach. At first sight, I think we were all a little intimidated by the size of these waves. It couldn’t have been better though.

Sierra-surf-board-sm.jpgWe spent all morning surfing, and I honestly didn’t want to leave; I was having way too much fun – not to say I was any good because I probably spent the majority of the time getting tossed around by the waves.

In the afternoon Tash and Cameron (both student advisers at Curtin) along with Stephen (another student at SMU) joined me for a run around the park. It was cool to be able to see the wildlife along the way as well as the many kangaroos in the park.

The following morning we got a little taste of the rich Aboriginal culture. We learned about how the “Nyoongar” people lived here in Western Australia. These natives are a very innovative people, always traveling and never in one place for more than two months at a time. We saw how they constructed their “Mia” shelters and learned about the ways they used local plants and animals for food, medicine, tools and shelter.

Sierra-throwing-a-spear-sm.jpgAfter some spear tossing, throwing boomerangs and using sticks to make fire, we were introduced to some aboriginal dancing. The girls had to perform a dance for the guys and then vice versa; the guys had to dance for us. Apparently the men do the dance to impress the ladies; however, I think we were more amused than anything else. Seeing the guys do this barbaric looking dance was quite hilarious, to say the least.

We also walked along the Koala boardwalk to observe how they live in their natural habitat. We were fortunate to be able to see a lot of them up close and actually awake. They are usually only awake for no more than an hour a day. Our guide also played the didgeridoo (a traditional musical instrument) for us. It’s incredible the amount of sounds that can be created from this long piece of hollow wood.

Sierra-rottnest-island-sm.jpgRottnest Island

Today we took the train to Freemantle and then caught the ferry to Rottnest Island. It’s a famous island just 19k off the coast of Perth. It was named Rottnest in 1696 by a Dutch Explorer who called it Rottnest, which means “rats nest,” mistaking the Quokkas for huge rats he saw on the island. We saw many Quokkas on the island, and they did look something like an oversized rat.

It was a bit chilly out there, but the sun was peeking through while we were there. Ricky and I rented a tandem bike and road around some of the island. It was so beautiful – too bad it wasn’t summer here because the water and beaches were so pristine looking.

Sierra-rottnest-island-running-sm.jpg Rach and I had an easy fix to the cold problem though – we just went for our long run, while Ricky put his feet up at a pub on the beach and watched the sunset. It was very picturesque.

The ferry ride back was an experience in itself. The sea was a bit rough. There was a huge swell, but I think we enjoyed the excitement of being tossed around a little.

Sierra-Footie-sm.jpgAustralian Rules Football!!!

All the Americans got free tickets to go see a “footie” game today. It was the Freemantle (“Freo”) Dockers vs. the Melbourne Demons. We had great seats because we were seated right in front of one of the goals, which also made us prime targets for footballs flying at us. It was a great game once the Freos started to gain momentum and came back in a huge lead over the Demons for the second half. Aussie football is a completely different sport and a lot of fun to watch. It is much more intense and faster paced, which makes it that much more exciting. Too bad we don’t have it in the U.S.