Ashley's ~AUSSIE~ Update/Pics

By: Ashley Bono

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Saturday, 28-Jul-2007 07:43 Email | Share | | Bookmark
I'm HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!

Home sweet home! Backpacking with my friend Melanie was absolutely one of the best times of my life! I can't even begin to fit it into an update (so, if you want to know more just aske me)! After a 14+ hour flight, Ben picked me up at the airport in LA. Luckily, jet lagg was not nearly as bad as I expected it to be either. I was able to have lunch with my Uncle Jerry before flying another 3 and a half hours to St. Louis. My parents warmly greeted me (& Ben) at the airport, with a balloon and roses in hand! Mom's cooking never tasted so good as after several weeks of backpacking and eating mediocre food. Dad and I went SUV shopping yesterday (to replace the one that was totaled in October, right before I left), found 'the' perfect SUV for me, and bought it the same day! It's been a busy past couple of days but still wonderful!

For the last 5 and a half months, my life has been absolutely amazing, which I owe all to God! I'm loved every minute of it! I met tons of wonderful people, traveled ALL over Australia, and look back without regretting my choice to go. Sometimes I laugh and think, "I actually went there to study?!?!?" Between all the hanging out and evenings around Sydney plus all of the excursions I went on, I actually did get some studying done. Note, I did say 'some.' Haha!

Anyway, thanks so much to everyone who was praying for me while I was there and those who have welcomed me home! Below is a re-cap of my semester abroad! If anyone ever needs any details about traveling in Australia, don't hestitate to call me! For those in St. Louis, I'll be here until August 12th... my cell number is still the same. For those in Nashville, I'll be 'home' soon, August 12th! Can't wait to see everyone again... it's been too long! I missed you guys! (But I'll also miss Australia, my roommates, & the experience!)


STL to LAX: 2/7
LAX to australia: 2/12, arrived 2/14
hunter valley wineries/dolphins: 2/24 - 2/25
blue mountains: 3/1
surf camp: 3/2 - 3/4
jervis bay: 3/16 - 3/18
sydney opera: 3/20
melbourne/great ocean road: 3/30 - 4/1
new zealand: 4/5 - 4/15
the outback/alice springs: 4/24 - 4/29
wollongong: 5/9
keith urban concert: 5/15
cairns/great barrier reef: 6/7 - 6/14
(pack apt. & bum around sydney: 6/26 - 7/6)
melbourne/philips island: 7/6 - 7/9
backpacking up the east coast: 7/9 - 7/23
(sail whitsunday islands: 7/21 - 7/23)
whitsunday to sydney: 7/24
sydney to LAX: 7/25, arrive same day
LAX to STL: 7/26
STL to nashville: 7/12
belmont classes begins: 7/22

Monday, 18-Jun-2007 11:25 Email | Share | | Bookmark
<< Cairns (The Great Barrier Reef) + Sydney life >>

Katie, Ash, & me taking a break from rafting
cliff jumping... we looked like lemmings, haha
one of the rapids
View all 51 photos...
Well, it’s been a little more than a month since my last update… my apologies. The rest of May and first week of June was pretty bland, as the end of the semester was quickly approaching and I had two huge research papers to do: “What is the significance of historical context to the interpretation of a scandal?” for my Sex & Scandal class, and “How have the issue of gender stereotyping and R.W. Connell’s theory of hegemonic masculinity been present in and historically played a part of men in United States politics?” for my Cultures of Masculinities class. Yeah, I was pretty happy about turning them in!

Once the semester ended, I spent the first week of my “study break” in Cairns (pronounced, CANS), located in the northern part of Australia’s east coast (3.5 hour flight), with my friends Katie & Ashley. We did an all day white water rafting trip in the Tulley river’s grade 4 rapids for our first day! It was amazing! I actually loved it more than when I went rafting in New Zealand, plus the water was warmer. ☺ We had this crazy, funny, 60+, surfer guide named Fisherman. He knew the river like the back of his hand and definitely made the whole day more fun.

We pretty much had the worst nights sleep ever at our hostel though. It was comfortable when we went to bed, but we all woke up shivering with just a sheet to keep us warm. Ah, the joys of backpacking and staying in a hostel that ran out of blankets. However, Calypso Backpackers redeemed themselves with their surprising good, inexpensive food. I kept thinking the whole time I was in Cairns about how weird it was that I in some place warm and beachy without my family. Plus, I would have been staying in a real hotel and going out to actual restaurants if it was a family trip, haha! Oh the benefits of traveling with mom and dad! However, we didn’t let it ruin our fun.

The next day we went sea kayaking and snorkeled around Fitzroy Island. The wind was on the strong side so we got quite the arm work out. It was so beautiful! We kayaked right next to a sea turtle too. Snorkeling was even more incredible! The corals were the most vibrant, stunning array of colors. Some looked almost neon. And, there were more varieties of fish than I could even count. A few jellyfish caught us off guard when we turned our heads and found one only a few inches away from our face. Yikes!

We took a two-day, one night tour. In Port Douglas, we drove through fields of sugar cane, then stopped by an animal and bird reserve and saw tree kangaroos. I didn’t even know those things existed. Hmmm. Our guide also told us about cane toad frogs, which were imported more than 100 years ago to get rid of some kind of insect hurting the sugar cane crops. However, they multiplied like crazy, consequently wiping out entire populations of native frogs and other species. Now they’re considered a terrible pest. Random fact, if you lick or roll up and smoke the skin of a cane toad, you would experience the same sort of ‘trip’ as if you took acid. What prompted someone to even try that sort of thing out?!?! Ewww. It is now illegal to posses cane toad skins, since it is considered to be a drug and also potentially lethal. So, NO licking cane toads anyone!

Later on, we took a walk through the rainforest and learned about how essential mangrove trees are to the forest and surrounding ecosystems. Man really does take advantage of nature sometimes, and that place was proof of it. We then took a boat cruise on the Daintree River in search of crocodiles… crocs!! We saw this HUGE, intimidating croc named Fat Albert by the locals. They are incredibly well evolved, intelligent, and cunning creatures. That night, we went to Cairns’ night market. While it was nice and touristy, it was not nearly as impressive or extensive as Paddy’s Market in Sydney.

NOW for my favorite part to share with you! So, I have this list of things I want to do before I go to Heaven. Anyway, scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef is on the list. Now, I can cross that off my list! ☺ Since the girls weren’t certified, I went by myself out for the day with Tusa Dive Company on June 12th. My first dive was at Saxon Reef’s Twin Peaks. There were sea cucumbers all over the place, tons of different kinds, and some as round as my calves! The fish were incredibly curious and active! At one point when I was looking around, I was swimming right next to a 3-foot reef shark without even noticing! On the second dive, I saw a blue-spotted stingray at the part of Hastings Reef known as the “Fish Bowl.” And, wow! There were GIANT clams anywhere from 1.5-4 feet in width! If you stoked the musclely area of it for a bit, the clam would suddenly snap shut, but it wasn’t threatening enough to crush my hand. I also found NEMO! Well, better yet, I found several clown fish playing and hiding in anemone.

We attempted to enjoy our last day at a beach but were unfortunately interrupted by windy and overcast weather. We went to a nice rest for our last meal in Cairns. I had a delicious macadamia crusted barramundi, a local fish hard to find on a menu outside of Australia. We then watched the State of Origin footy game between New South Wales, where Sydney is located, and Queensland, where Cairns is located. The game is similar to the Superbowl, but for Rugby Union. Exciting!

Since I’ve been back from Cairns, I’ve been doing little studying during my “study break.” There has been a lot of rain lately, making it gloomy & giving me little motivation to even open a book. But, let me note I only have one final and it’s not until June 26th, so I have plenty of time to study later! No worries, mate!

A few friends and I went to the Food, Beer, & Wine expo near the Sydney Harbor this past weekend and had a grand ole time snacking and taste testing. Tonight, Tiffany and I made Beer Cheese Soup, which was delicious!!! That sounded so much like an American dish to my Australian roommates. We got a good laugh out of that and, well, it kind of is. Haha! Still, it was yummy! Plus, it’s a recipe my mom got from a restaurant in St. Louis and therefore reminded me of home. ☺ I’m really looking forward to being home soon and seeing my family and high school friends before I head back to Nashville. I miss Nashville SO much! I love that city. However, I will also sincerely miss Australia since it now holds a special place in my heart.

The popular question people have been asking me lately is… When am I coming back? Well, here’s the plan. After my Marketing final, I’ll pack my bags and backpack Australia’s east coast with my Canadian friend Melanie until July 24th. Then, on the 25th, I’ll fly to LA to spend a day or two with my brother and uncle before finally flying to St. Louis. After some quality time back home, I’ll drive to Nashville with my mom & Roxy around August 12th to move into my new apartment and have a wonderful reunion with all of the friends I love and have missed SO much!

Thanks to everyone who has written me e-mails and sent me messages while I’m here. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I loved hearing from people. I’m so excited to see everyone again after nearly 6 months!! However, I still have a little more than a month here. So until then, take care & I’ll be sure to let you know how backpacking goes.


Thursday, 17-May-2007 12:12 Email | Share | | Bookmark
P.S.-- ROXY...

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P.S.-- For those of you wanting to know if my dog Roxy is still alive and well, check out the pictures I added. She's quite the mischievous and curious one... luckily Mom & Dad haven't killed her yet I miss that huggable, lovable, barking ball of fluff!! It's hard not to love her!

Thursday, 17-May-2007 11:50 Email | Share | | Bookmark

I came across this on a facebook group called "You know you have studied abroad in Australia when..." I found it was hilarious and also 99% true so I thought I'd pass it along to for your amusement. Enjoy! (Oh, and if you want me to explain something... just ask!)

> You regardless of the problem/issue at hand always say "No worries mate" (much to the annoyance of your friends)
> You consider TimTams a food group
> You end every other sentence with mate
> You get disappointed to find there's no beet root on your hamburger
> You say "Put another prawn on the barbie" (not shrimp!)
> You consider cockroaches pets in need of love and heaps of bug spray
> You refer to football as soccer
> You feel completely comfortable wearing thongs in a bar/pub/club
> You still drink ungodly amounts of cheap champagne pretending it's passion pop (aka. 2buck chuck)
> You miss having the option of full flush and half flush toilets
> You’ve tried Vegemite (once, never again)
> You no longer consider a word with 6 or more vowels odd (Woolloomooloo)
> You know what a thong really is
> You say "G'day mate" and don't give it a second thought
> You know that Hungry Jacks and Burger King is the same thing (only Hungry Jacks is better)
> You know what the term footy refers to
> You have the tendency to end all words/names with -o or -ie (Davo, Tomo, aussie, mozzie, breakkie)
> You know that saying "I'll go root with/for you at the 'footy' game" usually has unpredicted consequences
> You complain if you have more than 2 hours of class a day
> You know the correct word for mayonnaise is mayo, not maeyo
> You consider a three letter word too long
> You know that tomato sauce is really another word for ketchup
> You get angry when the final exams aren't worth 1/2 your grade (so much for slacking during term)
> You coordinate your weekends so you don't have to buy more than a "one day pass" for the bus
> You for some reason consider belts under your boobs fashion
> You know the difference between AFL, Union and League
> You know a random AFL, Union or League team song by heart (Swannies for example)
> You still don't get Cricket (but went anyway cos of the beer)
> You enter McDonalds and wonder why there’s no McCafe
> You know the expression "Onya" and use it correctly
> You consider everyone to be your mate
> You have traveled more across Australia than the US
> You line dry your laundry to save money
> You hear "Good day mate" from a random surf dude passing by on the beach
> You say thank you to the bus driver when departing
> You get violent around dinner time if the peanut butter/nutella is in limited supply
> You consider $12 for a 4 litre-goon standard
> You've surfed or perhaps in most cases helplessly paddled around
> You engage in profound conversations with the checkout guy/girl at your local supermarket
> You consider Sundays and Mondays proper party nights (well, any week night for that matter!)
> You have encountered spiders the size of a small dinner plate - and lived to tell the tale!
> You have eaten meat pie (@ Harry’s if you studied in Sydney)
> You walk into a shop and before the shop assistant has said anything you ask "How ya goin?"
> You have - or know someone who has - used an empty goon bag, blown up, as a pillow
> You say "Take it easy" in the most irrelevant situations
> You know that XXXX/Four EX is not porn rating
> You say tea instead of dinner
> You consider vegemite sandwiches a standard breakfast item
> You end all your emails with "Cheers"
> You still look for vodka, rum, tequilla and whiskey in cans when in the supermarket
> You get excited to see airplane movies because they won't be out here for at least another year!
> You’re suffering from severe withdrawal syndromes due to the absence of booze cruises
> You start a discussion or conversation with "I reckon..."
> You know what the term "It's happening at the Gabba" means (if you studied in Brissie that is)
> You miss watching Ready Steady Cook/Deal or No Deal/Neighbours/Big Brother & Thank God You’re Here
> You know that Tasmania isn't considered to really be a part of Australia, but New Zealand might be (that doesn't mean you can't make fun of their accents though!)
> You use 30+ sunscreen and wonder why you don't get tanned? (Ozone layer holes…blah! )
> You still say sunnies
> You mourned when Steve "Stevo" Irwin died
> You keep using the expression "Whatta?"
> You have snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef and/or found Nemo

> The tropical birds. At first you found it rather romantic to wake up to exotic birds chirping, however a couple of weeks later you were starting to wish you’d brought a shotgun
> The so-called ‘hot dogs’ in loaf bread you had at all the Uni. bbqs
> The sound of cockroaches as you were falling asleep and the little suckers finally dared to come out of their hiding places (preferably behind the stove, in the bathroom or under the bed… euuww!)

Tuesday, 8-May-2007 05:55 Email | Share | | Bookmark
The OUTBACK: Australia's Red Center

with that smirk, I couldn't resist thinking he was cute :-)
this is what you do when you come to the outback, haha
we climbed to the top......phew!
View all 44 photos...
After arriving in Alice Springs, the very center of Australia, we (Katie, Ashley, Tiffany, Elizabeth, and me) walked around the promenade for a while. There were a lot of poverty-stricken Aboriginals. I would call them homeless, but it is usually by their choice. Apparently, the Aboriginal culture is not one focused around work, especially white man’s kind of work. So, they resort to selling their overly commercialized artwork to tourist on the street or local galleries. Some of the works are quite amazing. I was rather tempted to buy one but did not have $900 to spare.

The next morning we met up with guide Aaron and began our 13-person tour. There was lots of driving away from Alice Springs was involved over the next couple of days, seeing that the “hot spots” weren’t such convenient distance from each other. I sat up front most of the time, since I sometimes get carsick, chatting away the time with him about various things and admiring the beautiful, scenic drive. He was telling me about how some Aboriginals can be aggressive in Alice Springs. He then proceeded to show me his missing tooth, which was knocked out by a bunch of Aboriginals who beat him and a friend up for no reason as soon as they walked out of a pub. Also, I was surprised to find out that there had been a dozen killings by Aboriginals in the area. So, that goes to show the unfortunate racist tension in the area. Along the drive, we saw a number of wild one-hump camels native to the area, as well as wild horses and unfenced livestock. Ah, the Outback… where the animals roam free. We even made a stop along the Outback’s main road for a incredibly cheap camel ride at a camel and emu farm. Katie and I couldn’t stop laughing at how much we felt like 6-year-olds and were enjoying ourselves SO much regardless!

After cooking over campfire and having ‘roo tail for an after dinner snack, we slept outside under the starts in swags (padded bags you put a sleeping bag in), falling asleep and waking up to the sounds of howling dingoes– no joke! The ‘roo tail kind of tasted like a Six Flags’ turkey leg to me, but some people thought it tasted more like lamb. Let’s just say it wasn’t the best thing I’ve eaten here. Aaron coined my 4 girl friends and me “Team America” since we were the token American majority of the group. Everyone else on our trip was from England, Germany, Holland, and Switzerland. Our diverse group was fun… many funny, random conversations. Did you know none of them knew what a Root Beer Float or smore was? Haha!

The next day we got to King’s Canyon, an expansive range of rocky terrain, canyons obviously, and lush plant life. We had to hike to the top via what Aaron called “Heart attack hill,” and it was just that… phew! It was a nice day of wandering outside and being pointed out various aspects of the area that were important to Aboriginals. I think I must have killed 100 flies out of the 30 billion that lived there during the trip. They only really bothered me when they dove into my ear, landed on my face, or tried to aim for my eyes, annoying! Thank God for fly nets. We all looked ridiculous in them but were incredibly appreciative of them.

We then headed toward Uluru, or as white man calls it Ayer’s Rock. I would humorously call it the “the incredibly big red rock in the middle of nowhere in Australia.” Along the way, Aaron and I spotted a third Thorny Devil lizard on the road since the first day… one we didn’t see in time and accidentally squished (oops) and we barely missed the other. He pulled over, picked it up, and brought it on the bus for us to see. I must say it was the coolest looking lizard I’ve seen yet! Before we got to Uluru, we could see “The Olgas” in the distance, which if you use your imagination is a splitting image of a sleeping/drunk Homer Simpson on his lying on his back.

Once at Uluru camp, we pitched tent. The next day we did a self-guided 9.4 km walk around the base of Uluru… wow, it’s big! The dirt around the area was a shade of blood red and very different to anything we had seen. There were lots of really neat sections of the rock that had been eroded by the wind and rain (check out some of the pictures). The weather that day was surprisingly comfortable. Aaron walked us around part of it the next day, talking about specific ceremonial areas of the Aboriginals’ sacred Uluru. We saw a beautiful sunset that night, one that challenges numerous ones I’ve seen in the Caribbean. I woke up the next day to watch a gorgeous sun rise before our long trek back to Alice Springs.
Camping in the Outback was quite the experience, one I am glad I did and was able to enjoy so much. However, it was incredibly creepy when I stepped out of my tent one morning only to find slither tracks from a snake all around it. Ah! Luckily, I didn’t see a snake the entire trip. In the end, it was a great trip and I had tons of fun with Team America exploring the Outback!

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