Tumultuous Amsterdam

I’ve made the decision to go ahead and skip writing about the WU23UC for the moment. I will eventually,  but at the moment I am so bedazzled by travelling that it doesn’t leave much room to reminisce about that particular experience. It will come soon, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

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Amsterdam was by far one of my favourite experiences from my ‘non-frisbee’ related travels so far. Aesthetically speaking, the city is beautiful with its wide streets, bicycles, canals and architecture. But we’ve all seen beautiful cities,  right? Even being from Australia where our entire country is younger than some European buildings, I’ve seen my fair share.

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It was the people and the culture – although I must point out, i missed the true culture Netherlands has on offer due to not leaving Amsterdam for a more curious delve into the rural areas. Everybody I met, whether local or a traveller were beautiful. They were always friendly and polite, even with the language barrier. It made for an amazing experience in a great city.

We didn’t line up for the Anne Frank house in favour of renting bicycles and joining locals and tourists alike in the joy of cycling around Amsterdam.  We had them for a day and it really allowed us to see more than we could on foot. In typical tourist fashion we also found the ‘i Amsterdam’ sign and took several photos, including one rather amusing instance of my friend having to be carried down after finding she was stuck on the sign.

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The thing I would recommend is hiring a boat (you can drive it yourself!) and cruising along the canals. This was an amazing experience, we had wine and cheese and music.  Amsterdam was a whole adventure of stepping out of my comfort zone and finding that I actually quite liked it. Not in all ways though. 

My ‘last’ night in Amsterdam ended up being my longest as I discovered just how stressful it can be to lose ones wallet and passport on the way to catch a bus to Lyon. After hours of stress, some very good friends allowing me to use their houses and access their Skype accounts, i had two more nights in Amsterdam to figure out my situation.

I’m always pleasantly surprised when my faith in humanity pays off. Too often people are quick to assume the worst and I’ll admit, I was almost there. But with great advice from my travel insurance, kind directions from strangers and a policeman who made me a cup of tea – it turns out somebody had handed my passport and wallet  (with nothing stolen!) into the police. Yes, I am the luckiest person alive.

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So after my wonderful parents sending me money through Western Union, a freak storm that delayed trains and busses – i was finally on my way to Lyon.

Don’t worry Amsterdam, I didn’t want to leave either. I’ll absolutely be back one day though.

Let’s talk about Edinburgh

Without a doubt Edinburgh has been one of my favourite things about my trip so far. The city is so stunning and there is so much to experience. After the 10 hour journey from Dublin with the team, i felt the desire to go exploring by myself.  Thinking back on it now, i know that it was the smart thing to do.

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My day was already off to a good start when i found a coin on the ground, it was off to an even better start when i sourced a map. I didn’t have a plan of where i wanted to go and what i wanted to see which gave me the liberty to wander toward cool things that i saw in the distance. Fortuitously,  lots of the things i found interesting were the National Monument and Calton Hill in general, the Edinburgh Castle – we got there just before they fired the 1pm canon, it was great. I think i was most impressed by the architecture of the city.

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Europe and the UK really like to charge exorbitant rates to access their museums so i only visited the National  Gallery and the National Museum, because they were free.

The best part of Edinburgh though, was the amazing view from the top of Arthurs Seat. It was incredible.  The treck up the mountain was tiring but it was worth it for the view. We enjoyed it so much that we went once in the evening and then woke up and did it again before we left in the morning.

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An Irish experience

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It’s taken me a while to decide how i actually want to write this. I tried writing a list of what I’ve been doing, but i deleted that after a paragraph. I’m writing this from a small cafe in Edinburgh, but I’ll tell you about that later. Let’s talk about Dublin.

Although i can’t tell you what i expected when i got to Dublin, i can tell you that it definitely wasn’t what i experienced. There was always something happening in the city and yet it never felt busy. Coming from Melbourne i admit i expected some ‘office buildings’ yet pleasantly, discovered none. All the doors were painted different colours and the shops and bars were everything i could have hoped for. Speaking purely about aesthetics.

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Exploring wise i went to St. Michan’s church and crypts which was really cool because we were allowed to touch the hand of an 800 year old mummy from the crusade era. Evidently people used to do that for good luck, i washed my hands before lunch though so maybe my luck has gone now.

I went to the Dublin castle and the Chester Beatty library which were both amazing buildings. I personally preferred the outside of the castle to its interior, there is no denying the majesty of it though. I think the Chester Beatty library may have been better if i had more time, as it was we rushed out to meet for lunch.

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The tournament we played, Dublin’s Golden Cup was super fun. It was great to finally play as a full team against hard competition. Throughout the tournament we played Great Britain, France, Spain, Denmark and a Polish team. Our connections are definitely cementing and the experiencewas invaluable before London next week. We definitely have things we need to work on though. We ended up taking 4th place, beating our seed of 7th – can’t ask for much better than that.

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Our last nightin Dublin was a designated ‘team night out’ and we began the night at an Irish pub called Murray’s.  They had a live band playing who were amazing, toward the end of the night one of my teammates convinced the band to play Land Down Under and 4 of us sang it for the bar. After that they had Irish dancers on stage, they needed volunteers for a dance and by that stage we were drunk enough to oblige happily.

The rest of the night was spent dancing into the morning.  Luckily it made the 12 hour transit to Edinburgh much more bearable.

An intrepid adventure

In two days I will embark on another adventure abroad. In fitting style, I decided now was the most pertinent time to revive this blog. After dusting it off I am hoping to finally put it to good use as a medium for my thoughts and photos during my travels. I always laugh at myself when I attempt to return to the blogging lifestyle, “this time will be different” is the catch-cry of the apathetic but I’ll endeavor to do my best this time.

Initially I’ll be heading to Dublin, then to London to play Ultimate Frisbee in the World U23 Ultimate Championships, then I’ll be traipsing on to Amsterdam, France and potentially Italy. The loose planning of the end part of my journey is starkly juxtaposed with the fact that too much spontaneity terrifies me. It’ll be a real shock to the nerves and the emotions but to be honest that is probably what I need.

Anyway, I’ll be updating this blog sporadically as things of interest happen to me so if you are also interested then this would be a wonderful way to keep updated. You can hear about my couch-surfing attempts and the strange people I meet along the way.

Excluding the Mosquitoes, it’s pretty alright.

Although I have known this for quite some time, it recently dawned on me that it is entirely possible to have a love-hate relationship with a place. It may seem obvious to some; indeed I have subconsciously acted upon it for what must be a good portion of my life, but it is not something you generally vocalize.

The view from the jetty I was sitting on.

The view from the jetty I was sitting on.

I am in my hometown, Portland, for a few weeks until I move back to Melbourne to start work and placement and reintroduce myself to the real world. Yesterday, I was sitting on the pier staring out over the water (this sounds like the beginning to a movie, alas it is not so exciting) and it dawned on me that I do love this place, as much as I have always convinced myself that I hated it. After pondering this for a while I asked myself: “Is that what makes this home?”. The ability to simultaneously love and hate the place I grew up? It is not the only place I have lived, but I don’t feel the same attachment to those places.

It was super windy which created a lot of ripples on the surface.

It was super windy which created a lot of ripples on the surface.

When I was in the US and contemplating returning back to Australia – I immediately knew that I wanted to come to Portland first. There was no consideration given to returning to Melbourne straight away. Despite everything that has happened here it is still the place I want to be when I need to reset. There is no struggle here; as soon as I return it is like I was never away. Everything fits right back into place. There is a certain rhythm to it and it is comforting to know that if everything falls apart – there is a place I can return to that hasn’t changed entirely. Despite all that, this is not a place I want to live permanently or even return to as a retirement possibility. Perhaps it is more a safety net than anything else? That is still substantial though, still worthwhile.

Not entirely fictional, but not entirely honest.

This is a story.. musing.. thing? I wrote whilst in the US. As the title suggests it is not an entirely fictional summation of my feelings however I have taken artistic liberty and embellished occasionally. These things happen, often it makes for a better read though. As with anything I write; it does not have a title.

You asked me if I was ready and at first I looked to you with only confusion. Ready for what? In my heart I knew; I guess it was the vagueness of your question that led to my realisation. I took my time answering. I know you hate that but condensing every thought and emotion into words is never easy when the appropriate words do not exist. How can you ask me to quantify emotion? 

I cannot articulate the turmoil I feel – the combination of relief and anguish that drives me to permanent exhaustion. I have always found emotion unbearable. 

You are never satisfied by trivial answers; you demand my honesty and will take no less. Even now I can see you watching me. Anyone else would feel trepidation at the length of my silence but you understand. If not, your façade is welcomingly believable. I can only sigh and look to you with what I can only imagine is a look of utter despair. No. My simple answer leaves you unsatisfied. You mirror my thoughts by asking ‘why’, the question I hate merely for its appropriateness. 

I do not know what I can say that will express what I feel. That in itself is not unusual. Words are never enough. I search for a way to be concise although brevity is not what you want. You will make me explain myself despite knowing the difficulty it causes. Give me a moment, I need time to think. You are temporarily sated but you watch me, fixated, allowing no escape. 

The easy answer is that by integrating myself so thoroughly; leaving everything behind will be painful. That answer does not incorporate everything though. It ignores the fear I have – of going home, having to re-establish myself there with the knowledge of how much I have changed, having to commit to a routine that I cannot currently fathom. 

I fell in love. Not with a person or place, but with a feeling. The limitation of my language constrains me. I use love for the lack of a more appropriate term. I am unfamiliar with passion – be it love, fear or hatred. The fluctuations of emotion I experience here can only be explained by passion. It is such an alternative to my usual apathy that the thought of its loss is devastating to me. I do not want to lose who I am. The desire to articulate this is overwhelming but I fear that you will be unable to understand. 

Who was I then compared to who I am now? It seems like such a time ago.

The reality is that I will miss this place when I am gone. I will miss the people, the scenery, the community and the lifestyle. I am afraid that this will become nothing but fodder for nostalgia. I could be content with that, although not happy with normalcy.

You have grown weary of my musings. The silence has prolonged and although it is not yet uncomfortable; my time is up. I look at you again: what I have become here is not who I was before and I am not ready to lose that. Passion has enlightened me to a greater desire for knowledge and emotion. I am afraid of the certainty of my future, for the trap I face is avoidable but deceivingly easy to be consumed by. I fear the inevitability of forgetting and being forgotten. I have found meaning in relationships that I previously could not comprehend, will replicating that elsewhere be as satisfying?

I am rambling, I always do when I justify myself to you, although you are accustomed to that by now. I want to provide the answer you desire; that which will lead to absolute comprehension. I am not ready, I say, because everything I have learnt is trivial. I have glimpsed a potential for greater meaning but I am not yet close enough to achieve it. I am not ready; and I am terrible at goodbye.

On photos and sandwiches…

So as it turns out – I am appalling at keeping any semblance of a consistent blog. I would apologise but realistically, that just means I am having too good a time to write about. This is more or less the truth (we’ll go with more because it implies I’m the king of good times). Although it has been many (many) months since my last post I am still not going to update you on everything I’ve been doing. There are two reasons for this:

1. Mostly it has been a lot of drinking. There are only so many stories you can tell about drinking before your audience becomes hazy-eyed and starts musing about the wonders of water. (Been there, done that).

 

2. My general ability to tell riveting stories is somewhat underwhelming. I often have to inform people that my story has ended. I don’t want to put your through that.

Honestly, there is no purpose to this post which pretty much means that it could digress into anything. The risk is what makes it exciting. I might start reciting poetry soon. You really never know. I have decided that when I finally get home, this will be more of a once-in-a-while storytelling blog rather than a ‘here are the mundane goings on of my life’ blog. It is a giant cop-out on my part seeing as it confirms my inability to commit to anything for a long period of time but that is ok, life goes on.

I never quite understood the people that felt the need to inform the world (or even just their friends) of everything they did in a day. So you had a sandwich? Awesome. I don’t want to see a photo of it though. In saying that; I did actually have a delicious sandwich today: avocado, lettuce, sprouts and ham. That bad boy was so good. Unfortunately (and I know you’re all torn up over this one) I didn’t manage to get a photo of it. Some things just don’t stick around quick enough.

This leads me onto another thing that I have discovered I’m terrible at: taking photos. I was in New York for almost a full week over Thanksgiving break and took zero photos. For my part; I’m ok with this because it means I was having too much fun to be bothered to take photos but it leads me to realise that I have taken very few since I’ve been here. While I recognise and enjoy looking at a good photo, I don’t believe it replaces the feeling of experiencing a moment. Indeed, it often has the disillusioning effect of making something disappointing in ‘real life’. Photos can be edited; people want you to think the photo they took is the most exciting thing ever. Therefore, people edit photos. I tell you, it was a real shocker to me when I realised Time Square was not naturally Sepia toned. Quite the eye-opener.

On that note; I will leave you to ponder these thoughts because I honestly have no more to say. Peace out.

The mundane happenings of life.

So I thought I would just do a brief post to update ya’ll (American, right?) on the little things I am doing that don’t really deserve their own individual post. That way you get to digest it all in one rather than trying to find them all.

Firstly, I am now a proud member of the Humboldt Ultimate Frisbee team. We are called the ‘Hags and it is probably the best sport I have ever done. I have been playing for 3 weeks. Week one was spent in intense muscle pain which personally, I would say the equivalent is a broken bone (no exaggeration, I promise). Week two was spent with a pulled groin muscle from doing mad tricks (read: running for the Frisbee) and week three has so far gone without injury. Fingers crossed though, since it’s only Monday. Being part of the team means that we get to travel to other colleges to compete in Tournaments. The first tournament will be on the 28th of September and I’m actually super excited for it. I don’t have any photos yet but I will definitely provide some of the tournament. I still don’t fully understand the rules but I assume that comes in time. Hopefully. I am actually more fit now that I have come to America than I was when I left. That means that those of you who said I’d get fat living here (I’m looking at you sister) are totally wrong. I win.

But actually I don’t win. I’ve been in the US for about 3 weeks now and it has been hot the entire time. I was told when I got here that we’d have about three days of sunshine before it started raining. It has not yet rained and I have had a permanent sunburn since I arrived. I even bought sunscreen (they laughed at me when I bought it, but it’s almost empty) but sunscreen does not protect my pale-ness. I am a bad Australian.

I haven’t done any travelling yet but we have avid plans to go places on weekends. ‘We’ is our little motley crew that has been established. Altogether there is a permanent group of 6 Australians, 1 Finish, 1 Saudi Arabian and lots of Americans. Here is a hint, if you ever want to make friends in America – just start talking. People flock to the Australian accent over here.

My housemates are awesome. I actually got super lucky because we all get along fabulously and (shocking when you’re talking about college kids) we all clean up after ourselves. I still need to buy decorations for my room because it’s super lame at the moment but I bought a potplant the other day (another hint; don’t ask for a ‘potplant’ here because they will think you mean something entirely different) which has lovely orange flowers. That is currently the only décor in my room. I kind of want a gold fish.

Things I miss; vegemite and milo. There is nothing to have on my toast here! Also, chocolate that tastes like Australian chocolate. I’m totally baking a cake tomorrow for my friends birthday. It’s going to be delicious.

That’s all from me because I have class soon. I shall update you all when something exciting happens.

Journey to Prairie Creek

This pretty much sums up what we walked through, although the trail is a lot nicer here.

This pretty much sums up what we walked through, although the trail is a lot nicer here.

Firstly, I apologise that I haven’t posted in a while (since I’ve got here really). I have been settling into classes and life in Arcata which – while impressively relaxed, still takes some getting used to. I will update you all on the mundane happenings of my life in a later post. This is mainly because I don’t want to bombard you with a whole bunch of unnecessary (I can never spell this word properly, thanks spellcheck!) reading.

This is the bus that took us to Prairie Creek. It's exactly like the ones in the movies.

This is the bus that took us to Prairie Creek. It’s exactly like the ones in the movies.

So about two weeks ago Humboldt took all the international students on a field trip to a place called Prairie Creek, CA. Apparently this is near the area where Bigfoot is rumoured to live. By the end of my trip I will have tracked him down and got a photo – so be ready for that. Anyway, we got on our Humboldt busses and took the 40min (approx.) journey to Prairie Creek.

I actually climbed up on a log to get this photo. I'm turning into an athlete.

I actually climbed up on a log to get this photo. I’m turning into an athlete.

The scenery here is impressive, back home the forests are predominately Eucalypt forests with a groundcover of mostly ferns and small native grasses. The forest we went to consisted of giant redwoods spanning from ones you could hug to ones you couldn’t even see the top of. There were a lot of ferns too but these ones are different, with leaves that are very different to ours (I’m pretty sure I have a picture somewhere so if you are particularly interested in the difference in fern leaf structure – hit me up). Honestly though, the main difference I found was how green everything is here. Apparently it hasn’t rained since February and still there is green and water everywhere. They’ve filmed sections of Star Wars and Jurassic Park in the area where I’m living and I can see why.

Here is some water and also some ferns for all you fern enthusiasts out there.

Here is some water and also some ferns for all you fern enthusiasts out there.

Having grown up near forests and having (warning: brag) an amazing ability to orientate myself in a forest without a map I was elected to assist in leading the hike (I know guys, my ego didn’t need the boost but I gladly accepted the challenge). We ended up taking too many photos and dawdling behind the main group so my skills were required (nobody got lost, just delayed).

It was a really fun experience, there is a huge difference in the people here from those that don’t speak English very well to those that do. It’s so funny the way people figure out how to communicate without much language (hint: it’s a lot of pointing to things and miming) but somehow we all managed it.

This is a tree. Aptly named "Big Tree"

This is a tree. Aptly named “Big Tree”

I’m looking forward to exploring the area a bit better and going camping. It’s such a picturesque place.

I’m sorry about the overuse of brackets but I’ve decided a running commentary on what I’m writing is required.

This is an Elk I saw on the side of the road.

This is an Elk I saw on the side of the road.

Finally I know what Australian’s sound like!

So after four days of only hanging out with American’s and other international students I met more Australian’s today! It’s really strange, now that I’ve been listening to different people speak I finally know what other people hear when I talk. When you live in Australia and are permanently surrounded by other Australian’s you don’t really notice it. I actually laughed cause it’s such a strange thing for me.

 

So everyone else is arriving on campus today including a whole two of my housemates! Only two more to go until we are all here. So far everyone has been really nice. The only annoying thing is that people eat dinner really early around here so I keep accidentally missing it. I maintain that 6:30 is not an appropriate time to stop dinner.

 

Anyway I have nothing interesting to say today. Peace.