Friday, July 29, 2011

Back in America

I can't believe I haven't updated in nearly 2 months. I last blogged after my return from Melbourne, and the rest of my time in Australia was really just spending quality time with the friends I made there. I had just under a month left in Perth, so nightly gatherings at my house were expected. We would cook dinner, hang out, watch a movie and all fall asleep on my lovely purple couches. Doing nothing all together were some of my best memories of all of Australia. Almost every Shabbat we would all go to Chabad together, which ended up being a really nice way to spend Friday nightl. It was such a small gathering that it felt like a family dinner.

My last month in Perth was very rainy, which is the norm in the winter there. It isn't too cold during the day, but the nights are really chilly. I didn't do anything too thrilling in my last few weeks. One day my friends and I walked to Heirisson Island to see the Western Grey Kangaroos that live there. There are 6 kangaroos and you can walk right up to them. We, of course, got caught in the rain, and ended up walking nearly 5 miles in it! It was a really fun day though. Other than that, I really just worked and hung out with friends.

My last week was basically spent having good bye parties. One night was with a group of girls I was friends with, one night was "Dana's last shabbat" at Zai Zai's, and a bunch were just my usual group of closest friends. My last night, which was a Saturday, the family decided to throw a huge Australian themed party for me. They had all Australian themed foods (homemade meat pies, hot chips, pavlova, etc). It was so nice and a great chance for me to say goodbye to my Australian "family" and friends. They gifted me these beautiful blue sapphire earrings and gave a toast to me. It was so hard to say goodbye to the little girls, and obviously I cried a lot.

After that, a few of my friends headed back to my house to do final packing and goodbyes. Of course, my bags were way too heavy, so I just started throwing stuff out of the bags. Eventually we loaded into the new nanny's car (she moved into my house 3 weeks before I left) and drove to the airport. I think I cried the whole ride there. When we got to the airport, I was told that I could only bring one bag with me (I was carrying two). It also turned out that I was not scheduled to be on my flight from Kuala Lumpur to Abu Dhabi. I was freaking out, but we were able to work out the flight at least. My friends ended up taking my second bag home (I luckily had packed a Europe bag and a home bag, so I didn't have to do too much transfering). After a very tearfilled goodbye, I boarded my plane to Kuala Lumpur.

I got to Kuala Lumpur at 7am and expected to be able to check in and go to a lounge. Instead, I had to get my huge bag from the baggiage carousel and then wait in an hour long customs line. Then, I was told I couldn't check in yet because Etihad counter doesn't open until 5:30pm. This meant that my THIRTEEN hour layover was spent dragging my bags around. I also couldn't connect to the free wifi on my laptop. After a few hours of wandering and checking out things to do (fyi: NOTHING-though I did see some funny signs-chicken porridge, anyone??), I spotted a computer in the Burger King downstairs. I quickly converted some money and paid for internet. I was able to half-skype with my parents and a few friends (I can see and hear them, but they can't see or hear me, so I have to type my responses). 6 hours and lots of Malay dollars later, I was able to check in. The next flight was uneventful and Etihad turned out to be a pretty nice airline.

I got to Abu Dhabi for my 9 hour layover at midnight, which obviously meant I couldn't leave the airport. I thought I'd be able to sit in a lounge again, but they were so expensive and you could only sit in it for 4 hours. Since I had 9 hours, I figured it just wasn't worth it. Instead I sat in this ornate terminal and was able to use these free computers. They were ancient and hard to use, but at least I was able to pass a lot of time that way. The next flight was also uneventful and I was anxious to get to Paris to meet Lauren.

I arrived in Paris and practically flew off the plane to the baggiage area. I had one hour to meet Lauren off her bus, and had no clue where I was going, so I wanted to rush through the airport. I got directions to the bus terminal and got there with 15 minutes to spare. I waited and waited and no bus arrived. I called Lauren with one of my only Euro coins ( I forgot to activate my Euro credit card) and she told me the bus was running a few hours late. I grabbed a baguette and sat to wait. I got bored, so I walked around to see if I could find a free internet. I couldn't, but I bought a few minutes on a computer and was able to activate my card. I then bought a converter so I could plug in my laptop and buy some internet credit. I was able to skype with a friend in Australia while I waited, and then noticed that I had a dozen emails from my parents saying that Lauren was lost and in the center of Paris. It took a lot of miscommunication and a few hours, but eventually I found Lauren sobbing in the center of the airport. We reunited and took a cab to our hotel, which was pretty far from the center of Paris. We were just so happy to be together and be in Paris that all the stress of the past few hours/days were semi-forgotten. I was just so happy to be able to put my heavy bags down! We found a hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant (had excellent Pho!) and then crashed bag in our hotel, despite it being super bright out at 11pm.

I will continue the Europe tales in another post!


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Great Ocean Road

Hi! So I just got back from my Great Ocean Road tour, led by Ride Tours’ owner, Todd. It was AMAZING! The Road is unbelievably beautiful. Like breathtaking, heart-stopping gorgeous. It was hard to tear your eyes away from the scenery. I didn’t really know what to expect on the trip, but I was really excited to escape a city for a few days. It was so worth the money to see the expansive stretches of pristine beaches, riotous waves crashing against the shore, limestone rock formations, rolling green hills and an amazing sunset. The first day was PERFECT weather. Blue skies, wispy clouds, cool temperatures. Even though the second day was rainy and blustery, it just made the sea even more romantic looking. I’ll go into more detail about what we actually did and saw:
Day 1, Todd picked us each up at our hostels before 8am. There were 2 girls from Virginia, 3 girls from Ireland, 1 girl from Canada, and 1 guy from Kent, UK. Everyone was really friendly, and I didn’t feel weird being on my own. Anyway, we first had a 2.5 hour ride to get to the GOR, so all of us slept. We stopped for tea and got to know each other, then continued on our way. Then we got to Logan’s Beach, which is where ‘right’ whales come to nurse each winter. Unfortunately, we were still a few days early to spot whales, but the views were nice. Then we stopped for everyone to buy lunch and so Todd could get supplies for our barbecue dinner, then continued on to Tower Hill to actually eat. Tower Hill is an extinct volcano with a sunken crater, so heaps of kangaroos, koalas and emus live in it. We ate at a picnic table and these 3 emus were circling us. We quickly spotted a koala sitting up in the eucalyptus tree. Apparently koalas sleep for 16-20 hours a day, and are very picky about the type of eucalyptus they will eat. They strip the trees COMPLETELY bare-if they pick every last leaf, the tree dies and cannot regenerate; if they leave even one leaf, the tree is able to repair itself. It was really interesting to learn about this, and even weirder to see totally bare trees. The parks will sometimes put plastic cones along the base of a dying eucalyptus tree to protect it and keep koalas from climbing up it. We went on a small hike and saw some kangaroos and wallabies jumping along in front of us. I, of course, was ecstatic to see koalas and kangas so close to me! After Tower Hill, we stopped for petrol and cheese samples from Cheese World (which has it’s cows/dairy plant right across from the shop). After this short stop, we were finally at the ‘Shipwreck Coast’ of the Great Ocean Road. This part doesn’t really hug the shore, but you can pretty much always see the ocean less than a kilometer from the bus. We kept stopping at lookouts to see the named limestone formations, including the Grotto, London Bridge, Bay of Islands, and Bay of Martyrs. Our final stop of the evening was at the 12 Apostles. There are actually only 8 rock formations, but apparently ‘they’ thought twelve sounded more biblical and would draw out a crowd. The sunset at the 12 apostles is well-known, and well worth seeing. The sky looked like pastel brush strokes. It was an unbelievable sight. After the sun goes down, the ‘fairy’ penguins come out of the water to sleep in the sand dunes. We watched a trail of them come straight out of the water, but it was too dark to get any pictures of them. After this, we made our way to the hostel to shower and cook a barbecue. Todd bought all of this vegetarian stuff for me (I know, I know) and we also had a really delicious green salad. It was a nice change from other tours I have done that do not serve a single green vegetable or fruit. He only bought wholemeal breads too, which I was so happy about (I had decided I wouldn’t buy a single meal on my tour to save money, so I had brought PB, sultanas, muesli bars, apples, etc with me). After talking around the dinner table for a while, we went to shower and then to bed early. The hostel was really clean and nice, but I was freezing from 3:30 til 6:30 when I got up. We ate brekkie (toast, cereal, fruit, tea—I made a few sandwiches for lunch, dinner and tomorrow’s brekkie) and then hit the road for another long day.
Day two was cold and gray, but that didn’t detract from the beauty of the Road. In fact, I thought it made the road look even more amazing-really misty, huge waves and a beautiful hazy horizon. We stopped at Loch Ard Gorge first, which was the site of a fatal ship wreck in the 1800s. It was easy to see how the ship, the Loch Ard, sunk. The waves were insane, the currents were wild, and the rocks were jagged all over the place. There is a story of the only two survivors finding shelter in one of the damp caves on the beach (which is really far down from the cliff/Road). After this, we returned to the 12 Apostles to see it in a different light. It was not as striking as it had been at sunset, though it was still d steps that lead all the way down to the beach. It is pretty steep and pretty far down, but it was a nice stop. I found amazing seashells (green and black zig zags, turquoise, purple, etc) and stuck my feet into the Southern Ocean (!). After this we drove for an hour through tall old-growth forests, and went on a Temperate Rainforest walk at Maits Rest. It was so cold inside the forest, but I loved it. The trees were mossy and 200+ years old. This might have been my favorite stop (beside the 12 Apostles sunset). The next drive took us through amazing green hills that were filled with mist (and sheep). On the right of the bus the whole day was the amazing ocean and we even saw a rainbow peeking through the gray clouds! [[[I kept oohing and ahhing over everything, and the guy from Kent was like ‘do you not ever see beaches where you are from?’ I was like ‘I live close to the beach in Florida and in Perth, but it is so different (and flat-the waves and the topography) compared to this.  He thought it was funny that I was so enamored with the sight of the waves. ]]] We stopped in Apollo Bay for lunch, which is a charming main street nestled in rolling green hills, and overlooking the Southern Ocean. Lorne is a nice beach town that is famous for a New Year’s Eve music festival, and a ‘pier to pub’ swim each January, which is apparently the world’s largest attended open water swim. We then made a quick stop at the ‘Round the Twist’ lighthouse, which knows fame from an Australian kid’s television show from the 90s, that was only really famous in the UK and Ireland. The Brit/Irish people on our tour were SO excited and sang the very strange theme song. Our last stop was at Bell’s Beach, which is home to Quicksilver and Ripcurl, and the site of the world’s largest surfing competition. We watched surfers for a while, then drove through Torquay, where the actual surf shops are. All that was left after this was a 1.5 hour drive back to Melbourne. The sun set on our drive, so we all fell asleep again. We dropped everyone off at their hostels and I checked back into mine. Overall, it was a GREAT trip. I am so glad that I chose to cut into my time in Melbourne and go on the tour.
Now I am just getting ready for bed. Tomorrow I am waking up at 6, going to the markets, going to the Botanical garden, and then exploring a few artsy alleys near Federation Square. I have to leave for the airport around 10:45 and then it’s back to the grind. I am excited to get back to Perth, because (so far) it is my favorite city in Australia and I have less than a month left to enjoy it.  It’s always nice to get away for a few days, but it makes ‘home’ just a bit sweeter. I don’t even like thinking about leaving my life here, even though I am excited to see you all. Okay, going to sleep!
1 month from today I will be in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Abu Dhabi on my way to the City of Lights!
BHAPpy, I’ll be in Florida in 40 days!
Dana xoxoxo
On the plane back to Perth, so I thought I would add a little addendum to last night’s post. I woke up at 6am today so that I could fit in a few things that I didn’t want to miss. The only problem was that I didn’t realize that Melbourne doesn’t get light until nearly half past seven! So, I walked to the Queen Victoria Markets which, while “open”, wouldn’t be fully set up until after 9am. I decided to speed walk down to the Botanical Gardens, which are pretty far from my hostel. I made it there at 7, and then realized they didn’t open til 7:30. Luckily, a guard opened the gates at 7:05, so I watched the sun rise while wandering around the gardens. I also made a quick stop at the Shrine of Remembrance, which sits high atop a hill and looks out over the city. The city was lovely at night-with Federation Square and all of the skyscrapers lit up. After the gardens, I made my back to Flinders Street, which has many small intriguing laneways. Some of the alleys are filled with cafes and shops, but a few are filled with amazing street art and graffiti. I had been told not to miss these, so I went up and down a few taking pictures. It was really cool to see the art covering walls, windows, trash bins, etc. After the laneways, I decided that I should get back to the markets to make my purchases. I walked around and looked at all of the food stalls, (which looked like an awesome way to shop for your food), while I waited for the merchandise vendors to finish setting up. I finally was able to buy what I wanted then I headed back to the hostel to get my bags and go to the airport bus. I was way ahead of schedule, so I walked down this one street so I could see the Old Victoria Mint and the Supreme Court. Then I sat in a cafĂ© and drank a chai latte to kill time. Finally I decided just to take the bus to the airport and wait for my flight while reading magazines. Now I am on my flight back-I just slept for a while and now I am bored-2 hours to go!
See you from Perth,
Dana xoxoxo

Melbourne Day 1

Last week went by really fast. On Friday night I went to Chabad with some friends. It was really small, and felt like a family dinner. I’m used to the Chabad at UF which hosts hundreds of students every Shabbat, so this was pretty interesting-people from all over the world, of all ages. The rabbi’s wife was so sweet and welcoming, it was a nice experience.
On Saturday, the dad’s parents came to town, so we had a barbecue for dinner. Then the five year old slept at my house and we went to bed at 7pm. It was so nice to get a full night’s sleep. We woke up the next day and went to brekkie with the grandparents at Tarts (best soy chai lattes). The mom came home from Singapore in the afternoon, so I hung out with a friend in the CBD.
On Monday, I packed for Melbourne and babysat, and then a few friends came over to cook dinner (shakshuka) and hang out since I was leaving for 5 days. They ended up staying til the middle of the night, and since my taxi was coming at 5am, I didn’t sleep at all. I went to the airport and had a very uneventful flight to the east coast. When I was disembarking from the plane, this girl said hello to me and I realized I had met her at this party a few weeks ago. She is from Paris and is also spending a few days alone in Melbourne, so we decided we should stick together.
I went to my hostel to check in then explored the area and the Queen Victoria markets. The markets were dingy and just like every other market I have ever been to, pretty much. Then, I walked to the tram and took it all the way down to St. Kilda to meet my friend. Her hostel’s travel consultant told her that it would be cool to go see the penguins that come onto the St. Kilda pier every night at sunset, so we hurried to walk down to the beach before the sun set. On the way we passed Luna Park (who also owns Coney Island!), and we walked the long way, along the beach, to get to the pier. It was starting to get really cold, but we sat on the pier until we saw the penguins emerge from the water. They are each about one foot tall, and a bit blue-ish. They are so cute!!! And they bark at each other, which is a funny sound to hear coming from a penguin. Anyway, then we grabbed a quick dinner and coffee to warm up, and then I headed back to the tram. On the tram, the police harassed me because I didn’t know how to buy a ticket. He was threatening to fine me, and embarrassed me in front of a tram full of people. I said it was an honest mistake and immediately offered to pay the fare, but it took him almost five minutes to relent. Eventually I paid the $3.80 and made my way back to my seat. Finally I made it back to my hostel and relaxed until I went to sleep.
Today I woke up and realized I pretty much had to cram all of Melbourne into one day. I walked down into the CBD and wandered in and out of shops, then met up with my friend for more exploration. We started at Federation Square, which is this really amazing complex (architecturally), which stands opposite the largest train station (Flinders Street Station), which stands opposite St. Paul’s Cathedral. It is such an interesting intersection. Anyway, then we decided to hop onto the free City Circle Tram, so that we could see some of the sights along the Yarra River, such as the Docklands, New Quay and Harbour Town. There were such unique buildings and sculptures everywhere (including a Cow up a Tree sculpture, which I loved). We hopped of the tram to get coffee and then decided to walk up and down the pedestrian bridges that span the Yarra River, between the north and southbank of Melbourne. We went into the aquarium so my friend could buy a ticket to walk underwater with sharks on Saturday. Then we explored a few famous laneways (Centre Way and Degraves St). After that we grabbed lunch (Indian for me) and then split ways. I walked up to Fitzroy, which has a major road, Brunswick, that is famous for vintage shops and boutiques. I wandered in and out, but the sun was starting to set (at 4pm), and I didn’t want to be lost that far out in the dark, so I tried to find my way back to the cbd. Of course, I got lost, but that I meant that I got to see St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Parliament House, Princess Theater, and Fitzroy Gardens. I wish I hadn’t felt rushed, but I just ran out of time. I hopped onto the tram and then walked back to my hostel. I am just relaxing tonight-I leave for my tour of the Great Ocean Road at 7am, and it will be a long two days. I am so excited for the tour. I really like Melbourne a lot, but it is basically like any other large city. The buildings are really nice to look at, the food is pretty cheap, there is a lot to see, but I’m pretty glad that I didn’t just stay in the city for my whole holiday. I mean, I definitely could spend more time exploring all of the gorgeous parks and gardens, but really I saw what I wanted to see. On Saturday morning, before my plane, I will walk to the Botanical Gardens and explore them.  Alright, more updates about the Great Ocean Road coming soon! Until then,
Dana xoxoxo

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Time Flies

I don't know where time is going, but it is running away way too fast! I leave Perth in 37 days and I am so sad thinking about leaving my life here. I was talking to the dad about it yesterday, and my experience here has been the best of my life. I have an actual real life in Perth-it's different from studying abroad or traveling. I drive a car, I have a job, I have my own house, and most of all, I have good friends and a new amazing family that treats me like one of their own. I am basically obsessed with the little girls and the parents, as well as the aunt and her family, plus zaida and granny. I know these next 5 weeks will fly by.

The last 3 weeks have been very busy. The dad went to Bali for a few days with his friend, so I was with the mom and the girls all the time. The Sunday he was away, I got a hysterical phone call from the mom that she had cut off her finger. I raced up to the house to see the kitchen covered in blood and the mom in shock. She had accidently sliced her finger with an immersion blender, so her dad raced over to rush her to the ER while I waited with the girls. The two year old was totally oblivious to the chaos, and all she said was 'I want icy pole!" (popsicle). That was a crazy crazy day that had started out so nicely with a friend and I leisurely making brunch.  Anyway, her finger is mostly better now, but she did have to have reconstructive surgery that day in the ER. She couldn't drive for 10 days, so I was her chauffeur and her nanny (I washed her hair for her while the dad was in Bali).

I accidentally crashed their BMW that I always drive into this yellow pillar in a parking garage, and I freaked out and called them crying. They were more freaked out that I was crying than the fact that I put a small hole into their front bumper. Luckily (?) the mom had put a small hole into the back bumper the week before, so they weren't upset with me at all. They are the best.

On Mother's Day, we had gone out for a lovely brekkie at 'Tarts'. It is a really nice cafe that is just a short walk from our street, on the other side of Hyde Park. We each had a chai latte for some reason, even though none of us ever ordered those before. Now, we ALWAYS drink chai lattes everywhere we go. I am obsessed-they taste like autumn in a cup. I bought some so that I can make it every morning before I walk to their house in the cold.

The girls watch 'Annie' and 'Mary Poppins' every single day now, so I basically always have those songs stuck in my head. The five year old thinks its hysterical to get songs stuck in your head, so every day when I leave, in addition to saying 'cheese!' (which is her I Love You, to me), she yells 'Jordan!' (this song from one of her favorite kid shows-3rd and Bird). Now the two year old yells 'Jordan' when I leave too, even though she has no idea why the five year old says it. The two year old also screams my name and tackles me when I walk into the house now. She says my name in the cutest way possible and then gives me 'fishy kisses'.

The five year old now goes to this Anglican private school, instead of the Jewish day school, because they have the best academic record in Perth or something. Every Monday, I pick her up from Chapel and then take her straight to Hebrew School. It's a funny transition to go back-to-back, but she just tells everyone that she does NOT believe in Jesus (or his naughty brother, Jesus Christ-she somehow got mixed up and thinks that these are two different people and that JC is naughty because when people are angry they yell 'Jesus Christ!', while the priest at her school always tells her that Jesus was so kind). The Chapel lesson is the funniest thing I ever saw, with every child (except for mine) marching around and singing and dancing to Jesus musicals. I had to choke back my laughter the whole time.

I have been going out heaps more in the past few weeks, even though I have been busier with work. It is getting cold here, so going out at night is really nice. I also regularly say 'no worries', which seems to be my one totally Aussie phrase that I say without thinking about it. I haven't done anything new in the past few weeks-another trip to King's Park, more Freo, etc. Lots of reading when I have time. Heaps of Jillian Michaels workouts. Same old, but never a dull moment.

Alright, going to live up my last 37. Have a wonderful day!

Kangaroo Kisses,
Dana xoxoxo

Saturday, May 7, 2011


I come home July 14! That's just 67 days, folks!

But first, I get to spend 1 day in Malaysia, 9 hours in Abu Dhabi, and 10 days in Europe! I fly into Paris and out of London, so I will obviously be in those two cities, but I haven't decided how I want to break down the days. I am so excited that I get to end my 7 amazing months abroad with a trip to Europe, but I am also really sad to be leaving Australia. The mom cried when I booked my trip and now time seems to be flying past a warp speed. Anyway..

Since our trip to Broome was canceled, the parents felt really bad and offered to pay for my round trip tickets to Melbourne (which is on the southeast coast of Australia). I will be there from May 31-June 4 and will be going on a 2 day Great Ocean Road trip! I am really excited because I hear Melbourne is a super trendy, fun city. It's supposed to be really cold there during that time of year, but I can't wait!

The last two weeks have really been spent trying to get my flights settled, researching for my trips, etc. I've also been enjoying the gorgeous weather by reading and running in Hyde Park. It's been in the mid-20s (celcius, that is!-low 80s Fahrenheit) every day with a breeze and clear blue skies. I love it!

I've also been cooking a lot. The mom is trying to send me back to America ready to be a good Jewish wife/mom. I roasted a whole chicken this week (like shoved the lemons/garlic/rosemary inside the chicken, kinda thing), and made us yummy curry honey mustard salmon for shabbat. We also did a lot of baking. The five year old LOVES to bake, and there was this show called 'Junior Masterchef' that we used to watch together every week. This week we plan to make French onion soup, and then grilled fish with homemade pesto. It is really fun for me to experiment in the kitchen and try new recipes, though touching raw chicken was NOT my favorite thing.

Today is Mother's Day here, so we went for a lovely brekky at a place called 'Tarts'. It is a delicious outdoor cafe, and we had the BEST chai lattes. We were literally drooling over how delicious they were. They must've been topped with pumpkin pie spices, because  I felt like I was transported straight to autumn. Well, it is autumn here, but I mean't October/November time. I feel like the holiday season should be upon us! I keep waiting to hear Christmas music in all the stores! We got the mom flowers and tonight we are having a picnic. It should be a good day!

The dad is going to Bali this coming week, the mom is going to Singapore the following week,  I go to Melbourne the week after, and then their new GP (general practitioner) practice opens the Monday I get back, so it should be a busy couple of weeks. I will be working a lot more and will try to update when I have anything exciting to share.

The poor little two year old fractured her arm last week, but despite that she has been 'happy as Larry' (as they say here). She was so good when they changed the cast (plaster) the other day and has really just been happy as can be. I love her more than ever, and she has really become so attached to me. What will I do without my two bubbas?? I'll miss these girls so so so much!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Kangas, Koalas and Wombats, Oh My!

I am officially going to Tulane Law!!! After weeks of research and decision making, I finally decided that I think I will be happiest and most successful there. I am so excited to move to New Orleans and begin a new chapter of my life.

The last few weeks have been pretty uneventful. I have been babysitting heaps more, mainly because the five year old is on school holiday. I have also babysat for a different family, for Zay Zay's girlfriend's daughter and for the little bubba. Granny, the aunt and the bubba just went to Richmond, VA for a few weeks, and will be stopping in NYC for a few days, where Brooke will babysit for him! My girls want to skype with Brooke and bubba that night.

The rest of the days have been spent on very long walks, doing law school research, and exploring Perth. I have been trying to go on new and interesting walks each day, for about an hour, so I have been to King's Park a few times, Hyde Park a few times, down to the CBD, etc. My ipod died, so its been a bit difficult to last for an hour, so switching up the location is totally necessary.

Pesach was such a neat experience. I am so glad I got to be a part of a South African/Australian Passover. Shul was very interesting-its an Ortodox shul, so men and women are separated, but there is a bimah in the center and a choir sings all of the prayers instead of a cantor. Zayzay is the lead of the choir and it sounded almost like a barbershop quarter in the way it was all sung. I loved the sound of it.

The seder was very similar to ours: read the English around the table, and did approximately the same amount of Hebrew that we do at home. I helped Granny make some of the Pesach food, just to see how it differs from home. We made boiled and FRIED (weird!!) gefilte fish. I had never heard of fried gefilte, but they are basically just fried little fish ball thingies. We made the matzoh balls with her, but she made the soup herself.  I thought it was pretty awful soup (compared to mommy) but everyone else loved it. The soup had just shredded chicken in it (no veg) and was very very oily (I didnt eat any at all really). The matzoh balls were okay (I ate one small one to be kind) but were made with vegetable schmaltz and tasted pretty fatty. They weren't fluffy and airy and incredible like my mother, the amazing cook! The rest of dinner was delicious-yummy brisket/tsimmes, veg tsimmes, pickled veggies, a huge salad (that I made), and roasted potatoes. For dessert I made coconut macaroons, and granny made halvah ice cream, fruit salad, weird almond cookies and stewed apples. Overall, a yummy dinner, but a pretty noisy atmosphere. The kids (my girls, bubba, plus bubba's 3 cousins on his dad's side) were running everywhere, kids were being taken home periodically, some of the adults were a bit unattentive, etc. which made for a very disorganized seder (ironic, no? doesn't seder mean 'order'?). The only songs that sounded the same were dayenu and hadgadya. Anyway it was very nice to feel part of the family, though I missed home a lot.

The next night's seder was at Zay Zay's house. His food was MUCH better and I really enjoyed the more intimate seder that we had. I made matzoh crack for the family, and the uncle basically proposed marriage to it. He said it was the best thing he had ever tasted! (Melt 1 cup butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar in micro for 2 minutes, spread over 4 sheets of matzoh and bake until bubbly about 12 mins, let cool for 1 minute then spread 1 cup of chocolate chips over the top and refrigerate for an hour).

I had such a long week this week. I babysat several of the nights and most of the days, and went out with m friends to an Allied Health (all of the uni's medical students) social on Thursday night at Metro City night club. It was pretty fun! On Friday, the parents went to stay at a hotel for the dad's birthday this weekend, so I stayed home alone with the girls for 2 nights. It is hard work being a single mother! We did all kinds of SciTech activities (which we picked up last week at SciTech, before lunching at Wagamama and drinking hot chocolate at SanChurro Chocolateria...mmmm!). We made bouncy balls, had touchable bubbles, strawberry cream smelly bubbles, bath crayons, painted easter eggs, etc. We also made icing and then decorated a birthday cake for the dad. It was so much fun being with the girls non-stop and I love them even  more now. They behaved so well for me and even slept til nearly 8:30am one of the days!! That never happens when their parents are home, so I was very happy about that. On Sunday I took the girls to the hotel to swim with the parents, and I went home to go for a walk, go look for birthday presents for the dad, and straighten my newly short hair. I went back to their house in the arvo for my very first easter egg hunt. It was so cute and there was so much chocolate. The five year old was HOARDING it and then devoured a huge chocolate bunny. This shop, Chokeby Road, sells beautiful chocolates, and the mom went all out. The mom got me my own teeny tiny easter basket, and I had a lot of fun watching the girls hunt for the eggs. The parents even got me a lovely bracelet for taking such good care of the girls. Since it was the dad's birthday, he invited me to go for drinks at the Queens with a few of his mates. I knew them already and it was a lot of fun.

My German friend is back in town now, so we had planned to go to Caversham Wildlife at Whiteman Park on Anzac Day. Caversham charges a single all-inclusive fee, and you get to cuddle and pet all of the animals that you want. (The rest of the zoos in Australia will charge an entrance fee plus cuddle and photo fees). We even got a free clip-on koala with our admission. Anyway, we high tailed it straight to the kangaroo pen, which was a massive area with maybe 100 kangaroos roaming about. We immediately started cudding the cute and friendly kangas and even found a mommy kanga with a bulging pouch. The joey wasn't visible yet, but the mommy loved us and followed us around. We held hands with another baby joey and just really loved being with all of the kangaroos. Since it was early, they were all hungry and wide-awake, so they were a lot of fun to be around. We heard that later in the day they are so full and tired that it just isn't as exciting. We were glad to have been one of the first visitors inside! We then headed to see some kookaburras (unfortunately, NOT sitting in an old gum tree, but instead in a large cage). The koala enclosure didn't open until 10:30, but we wanted to be first in line, so we headed over and lucked out by being let in early with just three other people. We got to play with the mommy koalas (all of whom had joeys in their pouches). We learned that all marsupials have pouches and their babies are all called joeys. The joeys are born and move straight into the pouches, where they grow for about 6 months. I learned a lot and loved petting the koalas, though they were much more interested in their fresh eucalyptus plants than us humans. After the koalas we decided to get in line for the wombat show. I didn't expect a wombat to be so large, but it was 30 kilos (~60 pounds)! It was so cute and looked like Phil, my pug. We were first in line, so we got to go on the stage for pictures first. We also got to touch some blue tongued lizard, a weird possum bushy tailed thing named Luna, and a wallaby joey. We got to look at this carnivorous owl wich a dead mouse hanging out of its beak and a large snake. After the show we headed back to the kangaroos to play some more. This time we actually saw a joey emerge from the pouch! It kept going back to nurse from the pouch and I got to look inside a kanga pouch. The joey kept trying to climb back inside, but the mommy kanga kept walking away. The joey then walked up to this large male kangaroo and it reminded me so much of the Dr. Suess story "Are You My Mother?". Anyway, I took a million videos and pictures of the joey and the mom, so if I can figure out a way to post them here, I definitely will. After another hour with the kangas, we headed to the farm area to pet some donkeys (one kept making silent heehaws!), llamas, rabbits, pigs, guinea pigs, ducks, turkeys, goats (one fell off a rock and onto my left foot), sheep, cows, camels, etc. I love animals, so this was another amazing morning in Australia.

After nearly five hours at Caversham, we decided to head to the nearby Swan Valley to check out a few wineries/breweries. On this one road are dozens of them, so we figured we would just stop at any that looked interesting. Well, being easter weekend (or maybe its always like this?), there were many places offering free tastings, so we decided to hit up as many as we could. We first went to the Margaret River chocolate factory, where we tasted delicious mini chocolate buttons (dark was my favorite, followed by the milk. The white was way too sweet). Then, we headed to Lancaster Wineries, where we got to sample at least half a dozen wines, as well as this incredible creamy spicy cheddar. We also walked through the vines and took pictures. This was a beautiful winery and I am so glad we stopped. We then headed to this brewery, but we weren't impressed, so we left without buying a beer. I did climb this incredibly large, gnarly tree outside though. I have never seen a tree like this, with one trunk, but each huge branch fanning out and touching ground, creating huge natural archways. It was so cool. After monkeying around, we headed to this coffee sampling place. We got to try 3 different coffees, each made in a French Press.The coffee (or koffee, as they called it) was so watered down from the French Press, it was barely drinkable. We did sample some yummy chocolate covered espresso beans, but even they were weak.The atmosphere at this place was kool though, and they roast their own beans on site. Not worth purchasing any koffee, but it was an interesting place to stop. Our last stop was at this honey farm. The owner couple was so sweet and attentive. I ended up purchasing a jar of honey and some lip balm. I liked supporting the locals, and also the honey in the super market here is horrendous, and this was delicious! We finally headed home, full of delicious samples, and very happy with such a lovely day. The weather was perfect, our timing at Caversham was perfect, the samples were all perfect-I'd call this day one of my top days in Australia so far!

I babysat last night for Zay Zay, uploaded my pics and named my videos. I came home and woke up this morning feeling totally exhausted. I guess this week was so go-go-go that I wiped myself out. I relaxed while my friend went to Freo Markets, and then mustered up the energy to go for a long walk to the CBD. I wandered in and out of some of the Asian Markets and some of the shops, but most were closed since it is a public holiday (which makes it a 5 day weekend-Good Friday kicked off the public holidays, Sunday was easter, Monday was Anzac Day and I have no clue why today was also one). I then came home so that my good friend could pick me up for a spontaneous arvo of lazing by the river. We picked up coffee (me) and ice cream (her) and then lounged in the grass by the Swan River. It was a gorgeous afternoon. I came home very ready to cook dinner (Pesach ended tonight!), so I first had a teeny taste of peanut butter (oh how I missed it for 8 days!) and then made this amazing pasta dish. I boiled 1.5 cups of orrechette spinach pasta, then drained it and mixed in 4 tbs of non-fat cream cheese, 1 can of artichoke hearts quartered, 1 can of cannelini beans, minced garlic, and then a few handful of spinach to wilt at the end. I then added a small sprinkling of garlic basil cheddar to finish it off. I also heated up a bit of a frozen seafood mix and stirred it into my portion of the pasta. I LOVED this meal (alongside some roasted asparagus) and cannot wait to eat the leftovers tomorrow.

Me and my friend have just been relaxing and watching the Harry Potter dvds that I have. Its been storming on and off this evening, so its nice to just sit inside watching movies and writing this post. She goes back to Germany this week, which makes me want to go home too. I am loving my time here and am very excited for the next few months, but I do miss a lot of things about home! I think I will end it here. Hope you all are well and thanks for reading such a long post!

Dana xoxo

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Rotto, Uluru, Rotto again

Hi! So I am back from a very exciting few days away that was bookended by two trips to Rottnest Island.

Last Sunday we woke up early to catch the ferry over to Rotto. I loved the ferry ride and feeling the breeze from the water. We road along the Swan River and saw beautiful homes before cutting out to the Indian Ocean and crossing over to Rotto. We got off the ferry and walked toward the most famous (and most beautiful) beach called 'the Basin'. The water was unbelievably clear and we even saw some dolphins. We had packed a picnic because we were warned how expensive Rotto can be. After lying on the beach for a while we went in search of the pub and some quokkas. We found a small group of the quokkas which are like extra-large rats or very small kangaroos. They have a rat-like body (thats how Rottnest got its name-the settlers thought the island was overrun with large rats), but hop like kangaroos and use their hands like the kangas. Anyway, we tried going to the main pub, but it was closed due to a concert later that evening. We found a different pub and just relaxed until the ferry was set to leave. It was such a nice day and watching the sun set on the water was beautiful.

Monday I worked, then packed for our trip to Alice Springs/Uluru (Ayer's Rock). Tuesday we woke up and cleaned then took a taxi to the airport. It was an easy 3 hour flight, and Qantas was a great airline to fly. We took a shuttle to the hostel, which was super funky, but very clean. We quickly put our stuff down and headed out with our cameras to Anzac Hill to watch the sunset. We passed so many aboriginals (who smell terrible, its so unfortunate) and this was my first real encounter with them. After the sunset we headed back to the hostel, which is known for its cool bar and cheap menu. We then packed smaller bags for the tour and headed to bed early because we had to be on the bus by 6am. We woke up and got on the bus, along with four German girls, two 18 year old Dutch boys, an older German couple, an Italian man and eleven Taiwanese tourists. It was the tour leader's second tour ever, but everyone at the hostel raved about him, so we were pretty excited. During the drive, I saw a Red Kangaroo about 50 meters from the bus window! It was massive, but I was thrilled to finally see my first wild kanga! We also passed a rock that tourists always think is Uluru, but it isn't, so it is nicknamed Fuluru (fool-uru). Anyway, after a 700 kilometer trek, we arrived at King's Canyon for a 4 hour hike. The first leg of the hike is called 'heart attack hill' because it is so steep and takes around 20 minutes of constant climbing to summit. My friends and I led the pack, with the Italian and the Dutch behind us, the Germans just behind them, and the Taiwanese a good 15 minutes behind at all times. The views were gorgeous. At the halfway point there is a water hole called Garden of Eden, that is literally just an oasis in the middle of a very dry canyon. We swam in the water and cooled off before continuing the hike. Eventually we made it back to the bus and headed to Yulara. We set up camp and I helped the tour guide cook dinner while some of the guys built a fire. When the sunset and it grew dark, the stars became visible and were unbelievable. It was unreal how well you could see every constellation, some planets, and even the Milky Way Galaxy. Everything was so clear, it was truly outrageous. I take the five-year old to the Planetarium all the time, so I was really good at pointing out and naming a lot of the things in the sky, so it was fun to share that with the group. Anyway, after dinner we got into our swags (an insulated sleeping bag), with no tent, and were supposed to go to sleep. The only trouble was, I didn't expect to be surrounded by so many hard-shelled insects, so I started to panic. One crawled across my face (luckily I was wearing a fly net on my head) and I scrambled up and out of my bag and didn't lay down again. I was too freaked out (I even kept my sneakers on in the swag for a quick getaway). The Dutch boys and the tour guide thought this was the most hilarious thing they had ever seen and made sure to make fun of me for the rest of the trip. I stood up for the next few hours and finally tried going back to sleep, but my heart was racing and I pulled an all nighter. It was a good thing that the stars were so beautiful, or I would have been really really bored. The group was woken up at 5, so we watched sun-up and ate breakfast, then got back on the bus and headed to the Olgas (Kata Tjuta). This is a really impressive rock formation, comprised of 36 domes. It is 16 miles from Uluru, but all in the same Kata Tjuta National Park. We went on a 10 kilometer hike, which was much more gravelly than the day before, so you had to be more careful about how you stepped. Also, the flies were horrendous at the Olgas. Thank goodness for a fly net!!!! This was also a nice hike, and my friends and the Dutch boys sang Christmas and Disney songs (I have no idea why) to pass the time, and finished the hike almost an hour before some of the others. We then headed to a new campground to shower, eat lunch and set up camp. Then, we headed back to Uluru to do a quick walk, see the cultural center, cook dinner and watch the sunset. Unfortunately, it was cloudy, so we didn't get to see Uluru light up in the sun, but we were able to see a pretty nice sunset. We went back to the campgrounds to sleep, and again there were so so so many bugs. One of the German girls said that she heard I didn't sleep all night, and wondered if I wanted to sleep on the bus with her. So, to the laughter of some of the guys, we packed up our sleeping bags and set up beds on the bus benches. I slept so well!! I didn't get to see stars, but it was cloudy, so sleep was very nice. We woke up at 5 again to go watch the sunrise at Uluru. It was cold and buggy, so I had my flynet over my hoody, and the hoody pulled shut so you could only see one eye. The tour guide didn't stop laughing for an hour at how stupid I looked, but I didn't care, as long as I wasn't eating flies for brekkie!! We then made our way to the Uluru base again for a 10 kilometer base walk around the entire rim of the rock. It was a bit anticlimatic after the exciting hikes we had done the two days before. The actual climb was closed due to windy conditions (as well as the Aborginals having strong dislike of people climbing their sacred and spiritual rock-the visitor guide says "the climb is not prohibited, but we prefer that, as a guest on Anangu land, you will choose to respect our law and culture by not climbing."). I wouldn't have climbed due to insensitivity/guilt and due to the difficulty of the climb (30+ people have died on it due to heart attacks or falling!!) and you aren't harnessed to anything. Anyway, our reward for the base walk was a hot brekkie of baked beans, toast, sausages (for those who eat pork), tinned peaches, yogurt and spreads. The other days had just been bread and spreads. It was nice to taste fruit again (even if it was tinned), as I had craved it after each hike. After breakfast we knew it was time to head back to Alice Springs and had a 4 hour bus ride to look forward to. Everyone else can sleep on the bus rides, but I have trouble, so I just looked out the window and relaxed. It was a lot more green than I was expecting in the 'Red Center'. Apparently, since December 2009, they have had a wet season that has lasted far longer than ever expected. I had also finished my book on the first day (Ape House, by Sara Gruen-also author of Water for Elephants. I liked Ape House much better, and lent it to my friend on the trip, who also devoured it in one day!), so the bus ride felt like forever. Luckily, we stopped after 2 hours to look at this spiky lizard dragon thing on the side of the road, and then again at the 3 hour mark to make lunch and go for a camel ride. Me and my friend road a camel called Helly. It was $6 for 3 minutes, and the camel ran with us on it for the last part of the ride. It was histerical and so worth the small amount of money. We also got to see llamas, a dingo and three little kangaroos. This was my first time seeing a kangaroo really hop. I loved it, obviously! We soon arrived back in Alice Springs, where we checked into our rooms (they had accidentally overbooked so they had to give us private doubles instead of the 6 person dorm style rooms we had paid for. This was a lovely surprise!). We then walked around Alice Springs and then headed back for a final tour dinner at the hostel bar. It was so nice and we all drank cider and beer before calling it an early night. The next day, one of the German girls and I shared a cab to the airport. She was coming to Perth and didn't know anyone here or where to stay, so my family offered her to stay at my house for a few days. It is always nice having company here, because sometimes it can be lonely in my house at night. The dad picked us up from the airport and then let us borrow the car for the rest of the day.

Perth has such gorgeous, cloudless weather, so we decided to head up to King's Park to walk around and take pictures. She has an amazing Canon DSLR, and let me try taking pictures with it, so I had a great time walking around the cliffside park. We then went to Subiaco and drove around the river a bit. I had to babysit that night, but went to sleep immediately after I got home. I was so exhausted from not sleeping much on the tour. The parents best friend called them on Saturday morning and asked if they wanted to go to Rotto on her friends boat the next day, but they were unavailable, so their friend asked if I wanted to go (along with my friend). We, of course, accepted and got to excited when we heard that the boat owner is the fifth richest man in Australia!

Sunday we woke up and I drove us down to to Cottesloe beach for brekkie. I had amazing porridge (oats) with bruleed banana and toasted pecans on top. So yum! Then, we headed over to Fremantle to catch the boat. I was picturing a super-yacht, but it ended up being like a 39 foot older yacht. It was still nice, but not what I was expecting. We passed the guys house (I mean compound-10 million dollars at least!) on the river, so I totally expected a brand new, huge yacht. Apparently, the guy is just down to earth and has a lot of memories attached to the boat. Anyway, it was super nice of him to have us all on-it was a totally random mix of twenty-people. I was glad that not everyone knew eachother-it meant more mingling and less awkwardness. It was a gorgeous day and the ride out to Rotto was gorgeous and filled with champers (champagne). We anchored and I literally did not leave the water from them minute we anchored until we pulled up anchor a few hours later. I missed home boating a lot, but it was still fantastic to be back on a boat and in such clear, cool water. We then motored over to the pub side of Rotto and sat and watched the sunset and ate dinner. It was a perfectly lovely day and my friend who is staying with me said it was her best day in Australia in the 4 months she has been here. I agreed, it was amazing!

Monday it was back to the grind (if you can call playing with two adorable and sweet girls, 'the grind'). I work a very full day on Mondays, usually 7am until 10pm. I took the girls to the SciTech place after school, so that broke up the monotony of a long day. The little two year old knows every single word to Katy Perry's 'Firework' and this other song 'Hurry hurry hurry, now quick quick quick'. It is so so so cute and I could just eat her up with how funny she is. Tuesday I babysat then finally got to use part of my coupon for a haircut. It included dye, style, cut, head massage, etc and felt phenomenal. The hair dresser actually used to cut Isla Fisher's hair back when she grew up in Perth. He pretty much did whatever he felt like, and now I have really short hair. Its actually not that short, but in a ponytail it is so short and cute. I like it a lot!! Today I babysat for their business partner's daughter and it was the worst babysitting experience of my life. The two year old screamed for 5 hours straight and I wanted to pull my ears out of my head. I was never so excited to see a babysitter mother pull into a driveway as today. Then, I came home and my friend and I went to Grill'd for burgers. They were delicious as usual. Now we are watching Now and Then and relaxing before I go babysit for the bubba cousin tonight.

This was a very long post. I applaud you for making it through the whole thing! Does anyone have thoughts on Tulane versus UF law? Those are what I have pretty much narrowed it down to.

Kangaroo kissies and BHAPpy,
Dana xoxoxo