Archive | May, 2011

A super quick update

28 May

It’s been almost a week since I last updated!  Sorry about that- it’s been a rough last week of classes.  I had three big assignments due Friday and actually managed to stay somewhat focused, at least for part of the time.  This is going to be the shortest post ever because I have to run and catch a bus but I just wanted to inform you all that I’ll be away this weekend on a Whitsundays sailing trip with my friend Jenny.  It should be a lot of fun and I’ll take tons of photos, as per usual.  Check back on Tuesday for a post about it.  Have a great weekend!

(Here is a picture of some kangaroos chilling next to my dorm.)

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Expanding my culinary horizons: curry + mexican night (not together)

22 May

Here’s the deal: I have more pictures of my cooking successes than I really know what to do with, so this is a special two-for-one post.  I put these two together because they were both joint ventures with my friend/hallmate Erin.  And just to be clear, these were two different meals on two different nights.

The first one was Thai panaeng curry.  We didn’t use a recipe, we just bought some curry paste at the store and followed the instructions on the jar.  You basically just make normal stir fry, then add in curry paste, coconut milk, and a little sugar.  It said to put in “fish sauce” too, but we thought that sounded weird so we left it out.  I can’t remember exactly what veggies we used (carrots, capsicum, baby corn, onions, bamboo shoots, ?), but it was quite delicious.  We put ours over jasmine rice, but when we make it next time I want to try and make coconut rice because it’s sooo good.

The second meal was a spontaneous Mexican night.  There are a lot of things I love about Australia, but one of the very serious shortcomings of this country is the scarcity of quality Mexican food.  I know it’s not Australia’s fault- we’re a long way from Mexico, after all- but it’s still disappointing.  Luckily, not only does Erin feel the same way, she also happens to be awesome at making both guacamole and pico de gallo.  She made both for this meal.  I made some mushrooms and capsicum (pepper) with kidney beans and taco pepper and shredded up some “tasty cheese”, which is what Australians call cheddar.  We also added lime and cilantro to our jasmine rice from the stir fry in a desperate attempt to replicate Chipotle rice (it actually wasn’t bad at all, though I think regular rice would have worked better.)  We thought about trying to make tortilla chips, but we ended up just going for burritos which I think was probably the right decision.  They were awesome.  I ❤ Mexican food.

Our last week of classes starts tomorrow.  How crazy is that?  It’s hard to believe that less than four weeks from now, I’ll be on a plane leaving Australia.  I made a promise to myself the other day that I will make the absolute most of this last month.  There are still a few things I still want to do before I leave here, and I plan to do all of them while still leaving time to study for exams and not fail my classes.  I’ve already booked flights to visit my friend Dane down in Wollongong for a weekend, and tomorrow my friend Jenny and I are going to book a Whitsunday Islands sailing trip.  It’s going to be a busy next few weeks, and I know it’s going to go by SO fast.  The plan is to have no regrets when I sit here four weeks from now and write my last Australia post.  Wish me luck…

Expanding my culinary horizons: rice milk porridge w/ greek yogurt and berries

21 May

I actually make this all the time because it’s so delicious.  I can’t take credit for coming up with it though… I got the recipe here from a cooking site called Veggie num num.  Don’t let the ridiculous name put you off- they have tons of awesome vegetarian recipes accompanied by equally awesome photos.  I’m planning on trying a few more before my time here is through.  Anyway, the porridge is great for breakfast or a snack, and you can really put anything in it.  I like adding frozen raspberries and a spoonful of greek yogurt, but to each their own.  Whatever you decide to add, I highly recommend the oatmeal/rice milk combo- there’s something about it that just makes the porridge way better than the stuff made with water or regular milk.  It’s also pretty good for you.  Just try it, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Tonight is International Food Night here at Rotary.  Everyone cooks a dish that serves 8 people and we have a massive outdoor potluck down near the office.  It should be really fun.  I’m making the pesto pasta I talked about a while back because it’s delicious and easy to make.  This time, I’m hand-making my own pesto (or attempting to) which should be an exciting undertaking.  Actually, I should really get started on that now… less than two hours until the dinner starts!  I’ll let you know how successful I am.  Hope you’re all having a great weekend!

EV3406 field trip

19 May

Sorry for the delay in putting this up- I’ve had a lot of internet tv to watch lately.  (I’m only kind of kidding.)  This weekend was really fun but also really tiring.  We were at Orpheus Island Research Station for basically three days and at the end of those three days we had to analyze the data we had collected and present it in a 10 page report… hence the all-nighter I pulled on the last night.  It was worth it though because Orpheus Island was absolutely gorgeous and we went to some really cool places.  I took tons of pictures until disaster struck and my expensive camera was put out of commission.  (I’m still not ready to talk about it.  Soon.)  Anyway, I figured I’d give a general run-down of each day.  I’ll leave out the boring geomorphological data collection part and focus on the fun parts.

Friday

We met on campus at 3am Friday morning to board the bus.  That was not a typo- it was THREE O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING.  Forgive my language, but it was cold as shit.  Like, the coldest I’ve been in a long, long time.  Somehow the bus was even colder than outside… it was a rough night/morning for everyone, I think.  We got to the boat ramp around 5am and had to wait around outside in the freezing cold for the ferry.  It was 30 minutes late, and when it finally came it could only take 1/3 of our group, so the rest of us had to wait until it came back.  It was about an hour round trip over to the island and back, and the ferry made three trips.  Like I said, it was rough.  On the plus side though, I got to see a gorgeous sunrise over the ocean, made even better by the fact that six of the planets were aligned that night (apparently marking the beginning of the end… bummer) and Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter were visible as the sun rose.  It was pretty amazing and I of course took photos, even though my fingers were freezing off.

We finally all got over to the island and had some breakfast.  Thankfully, Scott realized that everyone would be exhausted so we had a pretty easy first day.  We got a tour of the research station, had an introductory lecture, and got to do a little exploring.  Here are some photos I took around OIRS.

Our accommodation:

The dining hall:

An awesome reef aquarium setup outside the wet lab:

After lunch we went for a walk around Pioneer Bay, which is where the research station is located.  It has a fringing reef with an extensive reef flat that we surveyed on Saturday.  On Friday though we just walked around and Scott told us important info about the reef and the areas we would be surveying.  We didn’t actually have to do anything except for listen, so I took photos (obviously.)  Here are a few of those.

After that we got to go snorkeling!  We were supposed to have three opportunities to snorkel over the course of the weekend, but due to time constraints and the tides, this ended up being our only one.  I wish I had known that at the time.  Still, I was one of the first ones in the water and the last one out and I got a few cool photos, so it was all good.

  

We got back just in time to catch a gorgeous sunset.  After that we ate dinner and I was in bed by 9:30pm.  That’s it for Friday.

Saturday

We got to sleep in a little, which was nice, and had a late breakfast while we waited for the tide to drop.  I guess I should mention that for everything we did this weekend, we had to work around the tides.  Boats can only get in and out of the island at high tide, and we could only collect our surveying data at or around low tide.  When the tide got low enough on Saturday, we headed out to Pioneer Bay to do some surveying.  We had to do three short transects and one long transect.  I realize that most of you don’t know or care what that means, but the point is that it was a lot to do in one day.  It ended up being kind of fun though- it was a beautiful sunny day so my group wore our bikinis and worked on our tans while we were out surveying.  It was also really cool to be out on the reef flat.  We saw stingrays, coral, giant clams, a lionfish (!), a pufferfish, and lots of other awesome reef biota out there.  Here are some photos from the day.

 
    

Saturday afternoon, disaster stuck my camera.  The photos from this point on were either taken with my underwater camera or with Lauren’s Nikon D500 (a much nicer camera than my D50 so it was exciting to use it… silver lining?)  Sunset that night was equally as awesome as the previous night.  Afterwards, we ate dinner and got started on our project.  We still went to bed pretty early, which in hindsight was not a great decision because we had to do that much more work the next night.  Which brings me to Sunday, the last full day.

Sunday

Sunday was… an experience.  If I had to choose a phrase to describe the day, I would pick “extreme geomorphology.”  We surveyed a different reef on the windward side of the island.  More wind means higher energy, which means waves, which made getting there tricky.  We had to travel by boat early in the morning when the tide was high and the ocean was calmest to a place called Cattle Bay.  We unloaded all of the gear there, then Scott took us on a hike into the rainforest-y interior of the island.  I’m still not really sure why.  Apparently we were looking for a lake, but we ended up not finding it and after most people in our 45-person group got bitten by green ants (not pleasant) Scott decided we should probably turn back.  After that, Scott and two grad students took a boat with our gear around to Iris Point, the reef we would be surveying.  The waves were too rough to take us there by boat, so we had to hike there.  This basically involved rock scrambling for about 30 minutes, then scaling a cliff, then climbing down the other side of the cliff.  It was kind of awesome but I really can’t understand how/why we were allowed to do any of it.  I didn’t take many photos on the journey (I was too busy fearing for my life) but here are a couple.

After lunch on the beach, we started surveying.  We did two long transects on Iris Point.  To be honest, it was kinda boring.  The high wave energy makes it difficult for much to live there, so it was a lot of coral rubble and coralline algae.  Like I said, boring.  I only took a couple of photos throughout the day.

We got back to the research station around sunset, ate dinner, and got cracking on our report.  It was not a fun night.  We had to do most of the part as a group, which is always kind of difficult.  Let’s just say that by 2am or so, tensions were running high and we were all a little bit pissy.  The discussion and conclusion section were individual, and three of the four of us (myself included) ended up staying up all night to finish.  “All night” in this case, though, means until 4:45am.  That’s when everyone else had to wake up to start packing the boat, which I guess brings me to Monday.

Monday

I submitted my report via email around 5am.  Scott asked me, along with the other unfortunate all-nighters, to be on the first ferry which was leaving at 6am since we were already up.  It meant that we would have to sit in the cold on the shore for three hours waiting for everyone else, but that to me sounded better than cleaning the bathrooms in the cold, so I waded out to the ferry and was on my way while it was still dark outside.

The sun rose while we were on the ferry.  It was an amazing sunrise, but it was hard to appreciate it because I was clutching my backpack (with my laptop inside) to my chest and holding on for dear life as the boat got tossed around by swells.  It was VERY rough that morning… there were a few times that I really thought we were going to tip.  I took this video to try and capture it on film, but I don’t think it comes across very well.  Let me just say: it was terrifying, and experiencing it on 0 hours of sleep certainly didn’t make it any better.

When we finally got to the mainland I kissed the ground, took a quick photo of the sunrise, spread out a towel, and promptly fell asleep on the grass.  I slept until the bus came, then slept the entire bus ride.  We finally got back to campus around noon and it was back to reality.

So all-in-all, a good experience.  It’s pretty amazing that I even had the opportunity to do something like this as part of a class- it’s definitely not something we have back at UVA.  I’m also infinitely impressed that Scott was willing (and had the energy!) to give up two of his weekends for field trips.  I really appreciate it because they were both a lot of fun.

That’s all for my field trip posts!  There’s only a week left of class (so hard to believe), then a week-long study break, then finals.  After that I say goodbye to Australia and do some traveling.  It’s going to be a very exciting last few weeks- I’m in the process of planning some pretty sweet trips, which I’ll tell you all about soon.  Check back this weekend for a new post. 🙂

www.pinkpangea.com

16 May

Some of you may remember that I mentioned a few weeks ago that I had been asked to guest write an article for a website called Pink Pangea, a “community for women travelers.”  Well, it has finally been published (on the front page!)  I wrote about the road trip since it’s the most exciting thing I’ve done so far, so if you’re interested and not completely sick of hearing about that trip, you can check out my article here.  If you don’t feel like reading more of my ramblings but want proof that I am now basically famous, see the screenshot below.

In other news, I’m finally back from Orpheus Island!  I survived scaling a cliff, snorkeling with reef sharks, and a harrowing boat ride back to the mainland as the sun rose this morning.  My camera, unfortunately, was not so lucky… I don’t feel like writing about it now (the pain is too fresh) but I will soon.  I took a ton of photos but today is going to be pretty busy for me so I’ll do a full post about the field trip at some point tomorrow or in the next few days.  Check back for that.

Lastly, since I stayed up all night last night (I’ll explain later) and need some happy music to cheer me up, and since this is the unofficial road trip theme song and is thus slightly related to this post, here is a great song that you should listen to.

Amurrica

11 May

I don’t usually do this, but this post is going to be a bit of a rant.  What’s the point of having a blog if I can’t use it to blow off some steam every once in a while, right?

So on my field trip this weekend I had a minor encounter with some anti-American sentiment.  This is something I haven’t really mentioned before for a few reasons: I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t really come across it before, and when I have, I tried to ignore it.  Also, I much prefer posting pictures of my food and videos of beautiful places to talking about serious issues.  But like I said, I need to rant a bit.  I also do happen to think that this is important and worth mentioning.

We were sitting around the campfire and next to me an Australian guy was talking to an American girl who transferred here to JCU.  I sat and stared into the fire while I overheard a conversation that went something like this:

Guy: “So as an American, what do you think of your country?”

Girl: “I feel like I have such a different perspective after coming here.  Honestly, I never want to go back.  I hate it.  Americans are so ignorant and stupid.”

Guy: “I just can’t believe that the entire country think they’re the shit.  It’s just so arrogant.”

Girl: “So arrogant.  Americans are arrogant too.”

This continued for a while.  I can’t remember the rest of what was said because I was concentrating very hard on not throwing them both into the campfire.  Just kidding… but it did really bother me.  The unfortunate fact is that the American stereotype here (and in most places around the world) is that we are loud, obnoxious, and ignorant.  I have indeed met some Americans, both at home and abroad, that I would describe as loud, obnoxious, and ignorant.  I’ve also met Americans who are respectful, lovely people that are intelligent and well informed.  Right now there are more than three hundred million people living in the U.S.  In case you missed it, that number was THREE HUNDRED MILLION.  How can you possibly attempt to stereotype that many people?!  It’s outrageous.

I’d also like to point out that pretty much every time I’ve heard something negative said about the U.S., it has come from another American.  It’s bad enough that this negative stereotype exists, but what really gets me is when I hear other Americans perpetuating it.  It also sucks to see some of my fellow studiers-abroad (??) playing into the stereotype by acting loud, obnoxious, and ignorant.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I understand where the American stereotype came from, but I wish that more people would realize how absurd it is to apply it to all Americans everywhere.  I happen to love America.  I don’t agree with every political decision and I recognize that there are a lot of shitty people there, but there are also a lot of really awesome people doing incredible things to make the world a better place.  It’s cheesy but it’s true.  That’s really all I have to say, so here’s a picture I took at the Washington Monument a few years ago.

Tomorrow night I leave for my field trip to Orpheus Island.  I’ll be back Monday afternoon, so check back after that to see cool photos.  Have a great weekend!

EV2401 field trip

9 May

This weekend was my camping trip for my Australian Landform Processes and Evolution class.  It was very relaxed in terms of assessment- the only thing we actually had to turn in was a packet with our notes from a couple of the sites we visited.  The general goal was, as my professor Scott put it, to have fun and learn a few things along the way.  I think that sums it up pretty well.

It was a three day (more like two and a half) trip so I’m going to do a quick summary of each day with relevant photos.

Friday

We left Townsville around 1:30pm.  The class is actually split between Townsville and Cairns so the Cairns people drove all the way down to Townsville (about a 5 hour drive) to meet us and then we all left together.  That must have sucked.  They had their own van so the Townsville people piled on to this small bus that basically became our home for the next few days, and we all drove southwest towards our campsite near Charters Towers.  This took about an hour or two, though I can’t be sure… the whole drive is a blur to me since I was exhausted from staying up too late the night before finishing a paper.  We stopped at a few places to talk about geomorphology but I honestly can only remember one of them- the Burdekin River, which is a super important seasonal river into which all of the streams and rivers we looked at on this trip eventually drain.  Here are a couple photos I took on the way to the campsite.  The last one is a flood marker from the banks of the Burdekin.  Scott told us that the 2011 marker hasn’t been added yet but it should be somewhere around the 2009 0ne.  Pretty crazy.

We got to the campsite around 5pm and everyone set up their tents.  I brought my tent from the road trip so I had my own little space, which was really nice.  There were some real characters around camp- a lot of crusty old Australian men who clearly had been there living out of their tents/vans/RVs for years.  The whole area was crawling with cattle too.  There were fences and cattle grids around the campsite, but they clearly were ineffective.  After we settled in, we made dinner and a campfire.  It was a totally clear night so the stars were out in full force… there’s very little light pollution out there so it was pretty incredible.  Some of you might now that I’m a closet astronomy nerd, so I pretty much laid by the fire for hours looking for constellations before finally heading off to bed.  It was a good night.

Here are some photos I took around camp.  The first two are from a different (cloudy) day but the second two are from Friday.

Saturday

On Saturday we woke up, ate breakfast, and got on the road around 8:30am or so.  We stopped at a bunch of places, many of which are too boring to describe here, but there were a few notable ones.  One of our field sites in the morning was a basalt flow, and to get there we had to cross a river.  On the drive there, Scott told us that we didn’t have to cross if we didn’t want to.  He first described the river as “mid-thigh height”, then as “waist height”, and finally he confessed that it might be more “nipple height.”  Upon our arrival, we found that because of all the rain we had this wet season, the river was actually quite deep (shoulder height on me) and rather fast.  I foolishly assumed this meant we wouldn’t be attempting to cross… but Scott and the other professors decided that it was no problem.  We ended up using a tow strap and a winch to secure a safety line across the river, and then everyone crossed the river by holding onto the line for dear life.  Also, one of the girls who crossed didn’t know how to swim.  It was ridiculous.

In the afternoon, Scott announced that we were heading into “outback country.”  We said goodbye to paved roads and green grass as everything gradually became dry and brown and dusty.  There were cows everywhere, and we saw the odd kangaroo every once in a while (mostly in roadkill form, unfortunately.)  We also caught a glimpse of some camels, which I found very exciting.  Did you know that Australia has the largest population of feral camels in the world?  It’s true.  They were brought in from India and decided that they liked the outback a lot, and now they’re everywhere… just a fun fact for you.  You’re welcome.

We ended up stopping at Red Falls, which is a pretty awesome waterfall on some private property.  We hiked down to the falls to get a better look at the geology and to talk about the geomorphology of the area, and then we got to go swimming!  It was very refreshing, and the view wasn’t half bad either.  Here are some photos.

I should also note that besides camels and kangaroos, we saw wild emus and an echidna.  It was an exciting day for the Americans on the trip.  Also, when we got back to camp Scott organized a beer run into Charter’s Towers, making this officially the greatest field trip I’ve ever been on.  So that was Saturday.

Sunday

On Sunday we all got up very early and broke camp so we were on the road around 8am.  In the morning we stopped at few rivers but nothing too exciting.  We did see another emu and this time I got a photo, so here’s that along with some miscellaneous ones.

In the afternoon we climbed to the top of Mount Fox, a scoria cone that formed when light volcanic material settled and solidified around the volcanic vent.  Scott described it as “a moderately steep hill.”  In reality, it was a very steep mountain covered in thick vegetation and loose volcanic rubble.  It only took about 25 minutes to reach the top, but by the time we made it back down to the cars everyone was very sweaty and covered in scratches.  It was worth it though because the view from the top was pretty spectacular.  Photos don’t really do it justice, but here are some anyway.

(Those little white things are the cars and the bus.)

And that was pretty much it.  After that we headed towards home.  We briefly passed through the rainforest, then drove along a steep cliff for a while, and then stopped near Ingham to say goodbye to the Cairns people.  We got back to Townsville around 6:30pm and I was able to catch up on some much-needed sleep.  It was a really fun weekend.  I’m super excited for this upcoming weekend too- I have yet another field trip with Scott (he teaches two of my classes.)  This time I’ll be staying at a research station on the Great Barrier Reef, where I’ll do some reef-walking and some snorkeling and just generally enjoy being near the ocean.  I’ll almost definitely update at some point before then, but if not check back in about a week to hear about that trip!