Times been flying by, and today started the 9th week of the semester. Classes may be coming to an end back in the States, but we still have two months left in our semester here in Freo. I’ve really tried to assimilate into Australian culture as best as I can, and over the last few weeks I’ve had so many great opportunities that have helped me appreciate Australia even more then I could have imagined.
Our first break of the semester came over Easter, and with ten days off we were able to take trips which allowed us to travel across the country. The first leg of our trip was in Melbourne which greatly differed from Perth’s laid-back lifestyle, and reminded be much more of Eastern cities back in the states. While the Central Business District is a great place to visit in itself, the uniqueness of Melbourne lied in the surrounding areas.I visted several suburbs but my favorites were Fitzroy which is known for its artistic culture as well as its vibrant nightlife, and St. Kilda which is where the best beaches are located and home to Fairy Penguins who live along the coastline. Although we did do a lot in our four days there, the highlights of my time in Melbourne was a tour of Rod Laver Arena which is home to the Australian Open and also watching a Melbourne Footy Derby between Geelong and Hawthorne at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, which is the tenth largest stadium in the world holding over 100,000 people.
After Melbourne we flew to Cairns, Northern Queensland which is one of premier destinations along the Great Barrier Reef. It’s location in the heart of Northern Queensland’s rainforest gives the city a very tropical atmosphere. While in Cairns we spent one full day out on the Reef, making stops at several different locations. I’ve snorkelled in Florida and on different islands in the Caribbean, but none of those places came close to the Great Barrier Reef. In a little over two hours in the water I saw all of the fish from Finding Nemo, a Maori wrasse which was as big as I am, a sea turtle, and even caught a glimpse of a Reef Shark out of the corner of my eye. The next day we went to A.J. Hackett: Cairns, which is one of the most popular bungy jumping sites in the world. A.J. Hackett famously introduced the world to bungy jumping after leaping off of the Eiffel Tower in 1987. While I didn’t really want to bungee jump I did do the MinJing Swing, which takes you up 45 meters (148 feet) and then sends you swinging 77mph over the rainforest’s canopy.
As the week wore down we made it home to Freo and went straight back to classes. We were however off on April 25 for ANZAC Day, which is as Australian as you can get. The Australia-New Zealand Army Corps or ANZAC for short, became famous for their actions during the Battle of Gallipoli during World War I. Nearly 25,000 Australians were killed or wounded during the battle, so in 1916 the first memorial was held for these soldiers a year after the battle was fought. This event has become incredibly important to Australians, as it signifies the first major combat assignment for the newly independent Australian Army. King's Park in Perth holds the largest ANZAC Day memorial service, drawing crowds of over 40,000 people, so I decided with several of my friends in our dorm to take the 12:15am train into Perth in order to attend this event. Although it was cold and we had to camp out in the park until the start of the service at 6:00am, we were able to stand along the front row and get a terriffic view of the ceremony. Aside from being so close to the WWI memorial, we were within arm’s length of Western Australian Governor Malcolm McCusker and Premier Colin Barnett. The ceremony was incredible, but the sunset over the city and the memorial made the trip all worth it.
We have some exciting trips planned for the upcoming weekends and I hope to attend a few more Australian Football games, which I've really taken an interest in, so I hope that the next few weeks continue to treat me well.