Who knows which way the wind will blow or where I'll be tomorrow, but this is about my journey in this life. The life I have been given is a beautiful & blessed one. Below you will find posts about my journey. This is my journey, this is "Life as I Know It."

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Oprah House…No, the Opera House!

Another Disclaimer: One, I apologize, again, for the lack of posts. Two, this will be a lengthy blog as it covers a 4 day trip. I apologize for the length, but it’s for my benefit as well. If anything, at least check out the pictures once I get them uploaded—free internet that’s timed, takes too long!

Early Saturday morning (December 4th) we headed to the airport to fly to Sydney! We got up around 3am only to get to the airport and be put on a later flight. So I know have $130 dollar credit to Virgin Blue (that was nice of them), but I don’t know if I’ll ever get to use it! We arrived safely to Sydney and headed to the Travel Lodge, our home for the next 4 days! Oh and if you didn’t know, Oprah and her 300 fans are headed to Australia... While Oprah is in town, they will be naming the Opera house, the Oprah house…really!? Anywho, here’s an update about my trip to Sydney!

Day 1: Saturday, December 4th
·      Walked around Sydney and saw the following:
o   The Anzac Memorial: Anzac stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corp. The memorial honors the 30,000 Anzac soldiers that were injured or died during a mission in WWI.

o   The Sydney Tower: It looks like a needle.
o   Hyde Park: A Beautiful park just minutes from our hotel, which is home of the Anzac memorial and lots of greenery.

o   St. Mary’s Cathedral: a beautiful cathedral that we did not enter, we just took pictures. The two towers on the end (See picture) were completed in 2007 for the Popes arrival to Sydney and for his stay at the cathedral.

o   Sydney Hospital: There’s a lovely hog out front in honor of a person (I have since forgotten his name) and if you rub his nose it supposedly brings you good luck.

o   Parliament: The oldest parliament in Sydney. It wasn’t that pretty, so I didn’t take a picture.
o   The Mint Building: They print money there.
o   The Barracks at Hyde Park: The name is self-explanatory.
o   The Rocks: An old part of Sydney with historical buildings, shops, and cafes.
o   The Rocks Market: It occurs every Saturday and Sunday! This market had lots of crafts, jewelry, clothes, etc. I finally found my Australian ornament there!
o   The Opera House: It was a little hazy when we got to Sydney, so the Opera House didn’t look too magnificent, however, the next day in the afternoon sun it looked absolutely amazing!

o   The Sydney Harbor Bridge: It was huge! It is hard to believe that I will be climbing to the top on Tuesday (December 7th).

o   The Old Government House: looked and observed, then headed back to the hotel.
·      The Evening:
o   Darling Harbor: Ate at Nick’s Seafood Restaurant. It came highly recommended from the front desk and Deanna’s Guide Book. Deanna had smoked salmon, Jess had fried shrimp, and I tried a fish fillet (the name of the fish starts with a B… ) Saw the first round of Darling Harbor fireworks to celebrate the Christmas season and the LED Christmas tree!

Day 2: December 5th, 2010
·      Took a bike tour of Sydney:
o   I saw some of the same things I did yesterday, but got a little background on some of the buildings and heard a lot on the history of Sydney.
o   Mrs. Macquarie’s Bench: A wife of one of the kings whom the people of Sydney attempted to please with a variety of things: a street named after her, an entire town, and a bench. She was never satisfied with either of these due to her loyalty and love to England.

o   The Botanic Gardens: I had pictured tons of flowers and color; however, it is more greenery than anything else. There are tons of paths around the gardens leading to several different places. It was very pretty and calming; some grass spots had an amazing view!

o   Witnessed a gay and lesbian celebration at one of the bays as we biked. I did not realize I was biking though one until I saw the rainbow flags at the end of the path. Interesting, very interesting.
o   Chinatown: We entered through the gates of Chinatown; the guide informed us that it is thought that all who enter leave as friends. I never knew this before, but the red symbolized prosperity. I must say that I have seen TONS of Asians here in Australia, out of all tourists, they are the ones I see the most—they are everywhere!
o   Side note: I dropped my camera on the bike tour. I even had a pouch to keep it in. It was open and it went crashing to the road. Luckily, it was not broken. My camera is still operable, the only thing that’s wrong is that it won’t shut fully! Phew, I got lucky on that one!
·      The Evening:
o   Walked around the Circular Quay for a bit and then went to find somewhere to eat. We ended up finding a Chipotle inspired restaurant minutes from the hotel, with help from others on the trip who ate there previously. Finally, MEXICAN FOOD! I was extremely excited and impressed with the food; it definitely hit the spot and was delicious! After dinner we headed back to the hotel to catch some sleep because we had an early departure for a Blue Mountain Tour!

Day 3: December 6th, 2010
·      Tour to the Blue Mountains:
o   It was a small group: a few couples from London, as well as a lady, a family from Thailand, others from the Asia area, a couple from Perth, Australia and us!
o   Olympic Park: The tour made a pit stop at Olympic Park, host of the 200o Olympics! We saw the Olympic stadium and the eternal flame that was lit at the opening ceremony in 2000! It was a sight to see and I was in awe that I was in a stadium that Olympic athletes once stood and competed in…Crazy!

o   Featherdale Wildlife Park: Went to a wildlife park, saw a crocodile feeding (it was nothing like the Crocodile Man Tour I went on in Costa Rica, but still pretty cool), and a variety of animals. The coolest part? Completing my “passport” of Featherdale Wildlife Park and a free cappuccino—love free stuff!

o   Common Ground Café: We stopped on the way to the Blue Mountains and a little town that had a Common Ground Café! Deanna, Jess, and I were extremely excited because it had the same name of the infamous Common Grounds in Waco, TX. If only it had the amazing coffee! The food was delicious and all organic! The café is a Christian based and profits benefit their cause—turns out there are a few in the States, just with different names!

o   The Three Sisters: This is based off an Aboriginal tale. There were originally 7 sisters, however, 4 have since eroded, leaving the 3 standing. The story goes somewhat like this: there were three sisters in a tribe who loved three males in another tribe. The males couldn’t stand being away from the sisters, so they came to take their lovers away. Turns out there was danger and a witch doctor was scared for the Three Sisters’ lives; he used his magic wand to turn them into stone, with hopes to turn them back after the danger had passed. The witch doctor one, didn’t survive the battle or two, has turned to a bird and is continuing to look for his wand today.

o   Katoomba Falls: Took a scenic skyway that overlooked the Katoomba Falls. We were lucky to see them because rain and fog settled in!

o   Scenic Railway: Deanna, Jess, and I rode the steepest railway in the WORLD. Yep, that’s right.

o   Rain: When we got to the rain forest, there was a downpour that never stopped. Being the adventurers we are, the three of us ventured to explore the short path…in the pouring rain! For the most part we were dry, however, my shorts were definitely wet.

o   Blue Mountain Chocolate: We stopped at this little shop that recently won a very impressive and exclusive chocolate award. I had some hot chocolate, which was made with real chocolate! It was insanely good, but I couldn’t finish it because it was so sweet!
o   River Cruise: Took a ferry to the Circular Quay in Sydney to finish the trip! It was extremely windy, but it was a very pretty ride and a great end to the day!

·      The Evening:
o   Once we arrived back at Circular Quay, we headed to the Rocks area to eat Chinese food. We ate at Wok On In. It wasn’t the best Chinese, but it definitely fulfilled my craving for Chinese food! While eating we met a professor from Wakeforest, which is kind of ironic considering Baylor and Wake are fairly similar and I had a cousin who recently graduated from there!

Day 4: December 7th, 2010
·      The Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb and Manly Beach:
o   The Bridge Climb: I successfully climbed and conquered The Sydney Harbor Bridge! The bridge is the largest single span arch bridge in the world and is 503 meters long and 134 meters high. Our group consisted of: Deanna, Jess, and I, a couple from Melbourne, a couple from Perth, a couple from New Zealand, a couple from Germany, and a father and his daughter! It was about a 3-hour process, with a majority of the time preparing for the climb. We had special suits, a hat, and various other equipment that was necessary for the climb (a harness, radio, etc). Once all of that was ready, we set out to conquer the bridge! The beginning part was the worst because it was mesh, so you could see all the way down. However, I was not bothered by the height at all during the climb! Our tour guide, Lauren, was an amazing guide and so much fun! The views during the climb were spectacular! You could see for miles and miles; it was definitely a worthwhile experience that I thoroughly enjoyed and will never forget! Some facts about the bridge: only 16 people died in the making of the bridge. Please remember that this was at a time where they had no safety equipment or precautions. If I remember correctly it took 6-7 years to paint the completed bridge. The bridge is held together by 3 ½ ft long rivets (there are a total of 6 million rivets) and is entirely made of steel! The workers would be on the top of the bridge, heating the rivets in an oven, and then would proceed to just toss them to another worker in the middle of the bridge that caught them with a bucket! CRAZY!

o   Manly Beach: After a successful bridge climb, the three amigos (Deanna, Jess, and I) took a ferry to Manly Beach to relax and lay out. This is exactly what we did when we got there: we laid out, got some sun, and took a good nap. Oh and I should mention…we got some color! After about an hour or two at the beach we walked around Manly and had dinner near the beach. We caught the ferry back to Sydney and grabbed some Gelato from Gelatissimo before heading back to the hotel. Just to inform you: we have become gelato regulars, eating it once a day while in Sydney!

Day 5: December 8th, 2010
·      Shopping in Sydney:
o   David Jones: this is a HUGE department store in Sydney. There are a total of 9 levels and it is split into two different parts. This was extremely overwhelming, even for a girl who loves shopping! There were at least 2 floors designated to woman’s wear and there were clothes EVERYWHERE—I didn’t know where to begin! Needless-to-say, we didn’t spend too long in David Jones! And it is important to note that the window display at David Jones was SPECTACULAR! For every different window, there was a Christmas carol! It was absolutely amazing!
o   Lunch was spent at Westfield Mall—Sydney and then headed back to the Travel Lodge to meet up with a few others and head to the airport! Soon enough we were on our way and back in Brisbane to spend our last night at The Medina!

Friday, December 10, 2010

I Went to Camp!

Disclaimer: I apologize for the lack of posts the past week or so. I have not had internet and I actually had class work to complete (yes, there is work involved on this trip!) 

As I mentioned previously, I would be attending camp with my year 9 students. Well, my last week at Whites Hill State College included two days at the school and three days at camp. Monday and Tuesday were spent preparing for my students Michael Jackson performance. All of the year 9 students participate in different groups and the last week of school they perform. I was “in charge” of one group and assisting them with their choreography to Bad. I am no dancer, but I sure as heck tried hard!

Wednesday: Travel, Camp, Beach, and Surfing.
On Wednesday, Robyn (my mentor teacher), Jill (another teacher), Ben (another teacher), Craig (another year 9 teacher), and two other student teachers that Jill had previously. We headed to the Bryon Bay area of New South Wales and stayed at a camp there. For those of you in the USA, “camp” is not like our summer camps. Camp is a time for students, if they paid, to come together as a class and hang out in a setting other than school. There are planned activities and events, including formal dinner on the last night! Wednesday we got to the camp, got settled in the cabins, and then headed to the beach for a swim and a surf lesson! The teachers made sure that everyone had a sun shirt, sun hat, and sunscreen on—this included me! I am not use to all of this skin protection, because back in the states we slap on sunscreen and call it a day! Once we got to the beach, half the students swam, while half the students learned to surf. I am proud to say that I partook in the surf lessons for both groups. I can officially say I learned to surf in Australia—Chris Bernard you best be proud! Now the process of getting there was quite tricky and I did not stay on for too long, but I did it! Wednesday evening the students put on a talent show and I must say, some of my students are talented, some however, are not.
Bus Ride to Camp!
Learning the ways of surfing!
One of the Instructors and me after a successful attempt!
Thursday: Beach, Lunch, Scavenger Hunt, Girl time, and Formal Dinner.
            On Thursday we had a morning swim session at the beach that ended up being cold, wet, and rainy! No fun for me, but tons of the students enjoyed their time! Later on in the day students went on a scavenger hunt around camp; they were separated into color groups! I can proudly say that although my team did not win, they certainly did an amazing job! The late afternoon was dedicated to girl and guy time! The girls had a guest speaker on how to handle various situations and a beauty session, where they learned all about how to apply make up and various techniques! The girls were very into the lesson and they had a great time! Thursday evening was spent preparing and attending formal dinner. My students dressed in semi-formal attire and all of them looked handsome and gorgeous! Teachers matched up the boys and girls and it was his duty to knock on the girl’s door and formally invite her to dinner! It was precious to see and I loved to see my students all dolled up! Dinner was served at the made up “Hibiscus Inn,” where we served fried chicken with marinara sauce, salad, and potatoes. For Dessert: cheesecake and ice cream! All of the students had an amazing time and I enjoyed serving them! After dinner our night was spent learning 3 different Australian dances...Yes, I did participate! It made the night and my day was officially complete!
Scavenger Hunt!
Some beautiful ladies!
Robyn and me! :)
Learning to dance after Formal dinner!
Friday: Breakfast, Beach, Lunch, and Return to Brisbane.
            On Friday we had a pancake and bacon breakfast before packing up and heading out! The breakfast was delicious and definitely filling! Afterwards, students packed up and prepared to go home, prior to heading to the beach for a little while. While the students were at the beach, Robyn and I (along with the cooks for the trip) stayed back and made sandwiches for our picnic at Byron Bay. Once the students returned, they cleaned up, the bus arrived and we were off to Byron Bay for lunch. Lunch was short and sweet; the students and Robyn had prepared a gift for me and gave it to me in front of every one…those who know me, know I’m emotional…Whelp, I cried. I didn’t ball, but I had a few tears! I was extremely thankful for the gift and my time at Whites Hill State College; I will definitely miss the staff and my students! We then headed back to Brisbane on the charter bus by 3:30 pm!
all the kiddos! 
Lauren and Josephine!

Friday Night: Christmas Spectacular at Hillsong—Brisbane!
            As soon as I returned from camp, I started a load of laundry and jumped in the shower to get ready for the Christmas Spectacular at Hillsong. Jess, Deanna, and I took a bus directly to the church this time and arrived right on time! We were lucky to be at the performance; one of Jess’ students had 3 extra tickets and gave them to us! Now, when I heard Christmas Spectacular I expected Christmas Carols and the Christmas story…this was not the case. The show incorporated Cinderella with the message of Jesus and some Christmas carols. There was also some high school music inspired songs in this act. I enjoyed the costumes, songs, and what not, it was just a different way of portraying what I thought was going to be a “Christmas Spectacular.” It also did not help that there was a family in front of us with some uncontrollable kids that were obnoxious (this included the parents, too). However, it was a nice Christmas treat and the three of us enjoyed hearing Taylor Swift’s Romeo and Juliet as we exited. I also ran into another teacher at Whites Hill that was at camp with me, Jill. It was such a joy to see her face and give her one last goodbye hug!
After the Christmas Spectacular!
            Overall I had a successful time at Whites Hill State College and learned so much from Robyn and from my students. They truly embraced me and welcomed me and I will miss them all! We head to Sydney SUPER EARLY Saturday morning; we depart the hotel at 3:30am…that’s way too early for me!

Until next time,