09 Mar 2008

Welcome to Australia!

I've already been in Australia for over a week, but haven't yet written anything about the trip. This is somewhat due to the fact that I just got access to the internet a few days ago, but more because I haven't had a spare moment in which to write! Our orientation leaders have kept us really busy with fun activities every moment of the day. So, over the next few days as classes get started and things settle down, I'll try to catch up with a series of short posts. Be sure to check out Flickr to see more pictures than I have included here!

The four-leg flight to Australia took me from Burlington, through Chicago, San Francisco, Auckland, and finally to Sydney. The longest leg was San Francisco to Auckland, which took 12 and a half hours, but it was by far my favorite leg of the trip. We were on a spacious Boeing 747-200, which holds over 300 people, and has 67 rows and 3 columns of 3 seats each. The flight was operated by Air New Zealand. We were served wine with dinner and had on-demand entertainment in our seats including over 30 recent movies. I watched The Darjeeling Limited, Juno, and Ratatouille in between catching some zzz's.

I arrived in Australia at 8:30 in the morning, feeling relaxed and refreshed after 30 hours of flying and 3 or 4 hours of sleep. In order to avoid jet lag, I knew that I couldn't take a nap during the day, but it didn't end up being too difficult, as the sun and the activities kept me awake. The first thing I wanted when I got off of the plane was a shower and a change of clothes, which felt heavenly.

Coogee BeachCoogee Beach, from the orientation hotel roof

For the first three days, I stayed at a hotel in Coogee, a suburb of Sydney, with the 15 other Americans on my program. We were literally right on the beach, and coming from the 7ºF weather in Vermont it was heavenly to be in sunny, 70ºF Sydney. One thing you must be careful of here is UV exposure; I got burned the first day because I did not cover every part of my body. Sunscreen is a way of life in Sydney.

Party Bus

Our activities on the first day were just to get to know each other and the city. To do this, we took a bus tour. This would make one think of a boring trip spent listening to a tour guide drone on about ancient history, but our trip was nothing like that. We travelled in style on the open top of a party bus complete with beer and a dj spinning loud music. We drove all over the city and its suburbs, crossing the harbor bridge and getting many picturesque views of the harbor.

Sydney Harbor Bridge

After this, we took a walking tour of the city, experiencing many of the downtown neighborhoods and parks. The best part of this was of course an up-close view of the Sydney Opera House, one of the world's most recognizable buildings. The area surrounding it was vibrant; a skateboard competition was taking place on the steps and many people were having drinks at outdoor cafes or just hanging out near the harbor. We also took a ferry cruise around the harbor, which is not just meant for tourists, but is actually a valid mode of transportation around the various parts of the city.

Sydney Opera House