So on Sunday night I returned from another amazing adventure, one that I have been wanting to go on for years. On Wednesday morning I went to Cairns with 5 of my American friends who are all SCUBA certified. From Thursday morning to Saturday afternoon we lived on a boat and went diving at the Great Barrier Reef.
The trip was SO much fun and we got to see so many cool things. We did 11 dives in total and each dive was about 40 minutes. We saw jellyfish, sharks, corals, anemones, turtles and dozens of different species of fish. Two of our dives were night dives where we used flashlights (or as Australians call them, torches) so we could see. It was interesting what the nightlife was like underwater. We ended up seeing 2 sharks on one of our night dives (or maybe we just saw the same shark twice, not sure).
Only 3 of our dives were ‘guided,’ meaning that we were only with an instructor for 3 dives. For the other dives we were in buddy groups. The first dive was guided so we could get a feel of the water, and our first night dive was guided as well because only one of us had been on a night dive before. Another dive one of the instructors, Sam, asked if we wanted him to go with us (just for fun) and I am so glad we said yes! We ended up seeing a turtle and were able to play with it! The turtles are so friendly and we got SO up close. It is interesting that the wildlife was so untroubled by our presence underwater, we were not seen as a threat at all, perhaps at sometime just an annoyance.
The key was to approach the animals slowly so they do not swim away and so that they do not feel threatened. As I write this I am still in awe that I actually got to do this. Definitely a few of the best days of my life and I couldn’t have spent it in a better place with better people. It is hard to put in words the beauty of the reef, and even the photographs do not completely capture the magnificence. The Great Barrier Reef is an amazing piece of nature and it is a shame that it is being destroyed by human activity and global warming. Being able to see a part of the reef before it is further damaged is a privilege in itself and I will remember it for the rest of my life.
Now back to the real world and tons of schoolwork,
So far there are two days that have stuck out as extremely culturally different: Australia Day and the Superbowl. January 26th was Australia Day- sort of like our 4th of July. When I say sort of I mean not at all. In America, the 4th of July truly is a national holiday and you are insane if you don’t celebrate it or at least attend a barbecue. Here, it’s fine if you do nothing. Which is basically what I did, I just had a lazy Sunday. My Australian friends warned me not to get my hopes up and told me that it wasn’t a big deal, yet I was still disappointed. I ended up spending the night stargazing on campus near the lake and talking about our time in Australia so far with two of my American friends. Which wasn’t bad it was just different. ‘Superbowl Sunday’ here was actually Superbowl Monday and the game kicked off at 9:30am. I watched the game on a projector screen on campus while doing homework– a very different superbowl watching experience than what I am used to. It didn’t help that I wanted the Broncos to win and they got slaughtered.
On a more positive note, 2 weeks ago I went to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary with some friends. It was amazing. I got to pet kangaroos, hold a koala, watch a crocodile get fed and walk around various other animals! It was a unique experience and they would have nothing like it in America. There were children running free from their parents petting the kangaroos and very little regulation, however no one was doing harm to any of the animals. I spoke to one of the volunteers and he said that most of the kangaroos were born and raised here. The koala I held was a bit over a year old. I got a picture with her as well. That zookeeper said that each koala only gets held for pictures for 30 minutes a day, and after every 3 days they get ‘a day off’. So they are not handled too often. I have always wanted to see those animals and the wildlife is a huge reason why I came to visit Australia. I looked into volunteering there, but they have a 6 month service requirement and I will only be here for 4 months. It was still a great experience and I had an amazing day.
Interacting with wildlife was one of my main goals during my time here and another one of my goals was to get SCUBA certified. I started the course and have 2 more dives left until I am officially certified! During our first session we had a few hours of classroom/theory stuff and then worked on a lot of skills in the pool on campus. The week after that we went on our first actual dive near Cook Island about an hour away from campus. The first dive wasn’t so great because I could not see a thing due to my mask fogging up. The water visibility wasn’t clear already and I literally could barely see what was next to me…it was equally frustrating and scary. I switched masks for the second dive and it was AMAZING!!! Being underwater for an extended period of time and actually getting to swim with the fish and other animals was so cool. It was a shore dive so we just jumped into the water from the shore (pretty self explanatory) and next week we have a boat dive. I hope the weather is nice and that the visibility is better. The dive instructors are awesome- so nice, informative and helpful. Diving is tiring but it’s an extremely good time and it’s addicting. It also helps that one of my best friends, Meaghan, is my dive buddy I cannot wait to get back into the water again and can’t stop thinking about it!
On Friday there is a spring festival/gala to celebrate the Chinese New Year, organized by the Chinese Student Association on campus. I’m going with most of my Chinese class. Someone in our class is performing a Chinese song so that should be fun. And after that there is some sort of Valentine’s day event. Luckily I have a red dress with hearts on it which can dually function for both events because you are supposed to wear red to celebrate the Chinese New Year.
My images still aren’t loading so I’ll attach a link to my flickr page. I update it every few days, adding photos and descriptions underneath them. Enjoy!