Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Mojo Surf Camp and Byron Bay



I can honestly say I’ve had one of the most exciting and thrilling weekends of my life. If you read my last post, you will know that my skydiving experience was both terrifying and rewarding. As much as I had to say about that, there is another part of my weekend that I didn’t get to write about!

The whole reason I signed up for this weekend trip was to try my hand at surfing. We stayed two nights at the Mojo Surf resort called Spot X in Arrawarra, New South Wales. The three of us who went skydiving missed out on the first surfing lesson, so as soon as we returned to the surf camp we were told that we would receive additional help before the afternoon lesson that day.
A- University of the Sunshine Coast
B- Mojo Surf Camp in Arrawarra
C- Byron Bay    

I was slightly nervous about surfing because I wasn’t sure how difficult it would be to actually get up. I grew up on the water boating, tubing, and water skiing, so I hoped my past experiences on the water would assist me with surfing. I’m pleased to say I think they did! After riding in the first wave laying flat on the board, I was ready to stand, or try to at least! With one or two failed attempts, I finally got it (the surf instructors were extremely helpful and it was kind of impossible to fall when they were helping)! After getting the hang of it, we were on our own. I had such a great time, and I felt like I was the girl from Soul Surfer (minus the whole shark attack thing)! The two-hour lesson flew by, and I did not want to get out of the water! I looked forward to getting back out there the next morning.

Friday night the group enjoyed dinner and spending time by the bonfire. There was dancing and music, and some people even brought marshmallows to roast. There were a few people who had never heard of s'mores, so those of us who did know had to explain exactly how fantastic they are (although words don’t really do them justice)!



Saturday proved to be another successful day on the water, and one of the ex-pros brought his dogs out on the water to surf with us! Honestly, the two dogs were much better than any of us, and they have 5 years of surfing experience. It was just too funny to see two dogs riding the waves on a surfboard!
After our morning lesson, the group got back on the big bus and headed north 3 hours to Byron Bay. We stayed at this very cool hostel called the Arts Factory, and it was truly one of a kind! Each room was different and painted a certain theme. A group of 10 of us stayed in Space Room (looked like we were in outer space). Saturday night we had a delicious pizza dinner, and went out to two different bars, Woody’s and Cheeky Monkey’s. Cheeky Monkey’s was really neat because everyone is allowed, and encouraged, to dance on the tables. It was a fun night!

The next morning several of us went to the Cape Byron Lighthouse, which is, “Australia's most easterly light being situated on the most easterly point of the mainland.”  The view was beautiful and it really felt like a piece of paradise. Pictures, again, just don’t do it justice.

After seeing the lighthouse, we hiked down back down to the main part of town and got to do a little bit of shopping. It is definitely a hippie town. There were lots of different shops with incense, long skirts, and tie-dye. We walked around for an hour or two before heading back to school.
I can honestly say I had one of the best weekends of my life. I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone skydiving, and I thoroughly enjoyed surfing. I am so grateful for all of the opportunities I have while I am here. I continue to savor every moment of my time left. It is hard to believe a moth and a half have already gone by. I’m looking forward to seeing my Mom and Dad in a few short weeks when they come to visit over mid-semester break!

I miss you all, and I hope all of my Elon friends had a great first week of class!

xoxoxox,
tessa

Sunday, 26 August 2012

I Went Skydiving


 This weekend was one of the most exhilarating and memorable weekends of my life. From skydiving from 14,000 ft. to learning how to surf for the first time, I can definitely say I pushed my limits.

The weekend started Thursday at 1p.m. when 50 USC students boarded a bus heading to SpotX Surf Camp, which happened to be six hours away. The drive went by quickly and we all enjoyed a delicious dinner before hanging out around the campfire. We got a quick tour of the facility and saw where we would be gearing up for our surfing lessons the following days.

 Friday August 24th was the big day. I was planning on skydiving and learning how to surf, two things I had never done before. My two friends Haley and Sophia joined me for a 7a.m. breakfast before we caught our ride to go skydiving. We drove 30 minutes to the airport near Coffs Harbour.

We nervously geared up while the instructors checked the weather and wind levels. We got the low down and were told that only two of the three of us could go up at one time. I certainly didn’t want to go up alone (I am terrified of flying on a normal plane, and I would be scared out of my mind to jump out of one without someone else by my side!) Sophia was sweet enough to volunteer to make the journey by herself after us.

Haley and I got on a tiny tiny plane, big enough for five at most. There weren’t even seats! We sat on a cushioned floor as we took off. Our instructors each had handy-cams to record the whole experience. 

I had a minor nervous breakdown on the flight up to 14,000 ft. A million thoughts were running through my mind, and after a few tears, and a comforting tap on the foot (thanks, Haley) it was time to take a leap of faith. The old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words” certainly applies in this situation. I was hesitant posting these first few shots of me jumping out of the plane, because, let’s just say, I don’t look my best. But they are here because they really express my feelings at the moment. See below.

If you have the time, I have also attached a video of the whole skydiving experience. It includes the interview before, during and after the jump. The first 30 seconds of the 60 second jump were petrifying. I finally accepted the fact that I was falling at 120mph and I decided to try to force a smile. It worked, and I even enjoyed myself the rest of the fall down. At 5,000 ft. Julian, my instructor counted down 3, 2, 1 and the parachute opened! I was SO relieved.

 Click here to view my Skydiving Video

The overall experience was completely worth all of the fear and nerves I had built up. I had such a great time, and although I am not dying to go back up and take another jump (umm Haley haha), I am so glad I did it. It was a wonderful way to start my weekend away from school. The following hours of that day were filled with surfing and more bonfire fun. I will write another post all about surfing in the next few days. Stay tuned!

Much Love,

Tessa
xoxoxoxo

Monday, 13 August 2012

Fraser Island



University of the Sunshine Coast offers several weekend trips throughout the semester. I signed up for two of the trips; one of them was to Fraser Island. It was a fantastic experience and I had non-stop fun and adventure for two days. We were given very little information prior to the trip. We got one email telling us to pack a warm jumper (sweatshirt) and our thongs (flip-flops). We were also told that the bus left the station at 5:45 am on Saturday morning, but that’s about it. I had no idea what we would be doing or seeing, but I enjoyed the surprise.

Around 5:30 am Saturday about 30 of us made our way to the bus stop. I knew a few of my fellow Elon students, but there were many new faces as well. We board the bus and head North. Many of us fell asleep for the 2.5 hr journey up to Hervey Bay. From there we board the ferry, which took us to Fraser Island.



We departed the ferry and met up with our tour guide, Craig who would be with us for the next two days. The group boarded a large bus and we were off. I was very surprised when we went from driving on smoothly paved roads to the sand rollercoaster, as they called it. We were off-roading in a 40-person van. Good thing Craig told us ahead of time that seatbelts were necessary, and he advised anyone who gets motion sick to sit towards the front. I made sure to get a seat at the very front of the bus, and I am so glad I did!

We knew immediately we were in for an adventure, and the excitement only continued when the bus lost its 4 wheel drive. Everyone had to get off the bus on the side of the sandy road and wait for a mechanic to come. While we were waiting, Craig asks the boys to help him push. They gave a good effort, but the bus didn’t budge. The mechanic came, and we were back on the road.




Day 1 was full of different activities. One of the first places we went was to Lake McKenzie, which was beautiful! The water was freezing, and some brave souls decided to go swimming. I was happy just dipping my toes in the icy water. The sand is also supposed to have great exfoliating properties, so many of us decided to rub it all over our arms and faces. I think it may have worked! From there we enjoyed a deli-style lunch with cookies and tea to follow. We then made our way to the rainforest where we could hike two separate trails. One of them took us to Eli Creek, which is a freshwater creek with a flow of 80 million liters/day. We were encouraged to take a drink from the creek, and it tasted like bottled water! Very refreshing. That was a cool experience, and that combined with my earthy outfit made me feel like I was really getting in touch with my inner nature mama!



I was exhausted by the end of that day. We went back to the resort and were given our room assignments. After that we enjoyed a great pizza and pasta dinner before heading to bed. 



This was the first time we got to fall asleep with a heater! Our dorms on campus don’t have heat or air-conditioning, so during the freezing night, we just have to bundle up in as many layers as possible.



The next day we were up by 6:30 getting ready for another full day of adventure. We got to go to the Maheno Shipwreck which was fascinating. I found some information online that better explains the shipwreck.

“The Maheno - is the most famous of Fraser Island's wrecks and has become a landmark attraction. Built in 1905, the SS Maheno was one of the first turbine-driven steamers. She plied a regular route between Sydney and Auckland until she was commissioned as a hospital ship in Europe during World War One. She also served in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. 

In 1935, she and her sister ship the Oonah were sold to Japan for scrap. The rudders of the boats were removed and they were being towed to Japan. When they reached Queensland Waters, a cyclonic storm snapped the tow chain and the Maheno drifted helplessly onto Fraser Island's ocean beach.”



The group then hiked to the top of Indian Head, a large landmark, which is also the most eastern point on the island. From the top, you can see for miles and overlook the bay below. When we were at the top, we got to see a humpback whale jump out of the water and turn on its side. It was so exciting!



There were a number of Dingo sightings throughout our two days on Fraser. For those of you who don’t know much about dingos, they appear to be friendly, average sized dogs, but they are actually extremely vicious and aggressive. Just a few weeks ago, a tourist who was camping on Fraser woke up to a number of dingos eating is leg and face. Craig said it was the tourist’s own fault because he was so drunk and passed out on the trail in the middle of the night. Yeah, maybe so.

Around 5 pm we caught the ferry back to the mainland. It was a quiet bus ride home. I had a wonderful time, and it was a thrilling and exhausting adventure!







Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Sporty?




I came to Australia with a group of people who are extremely athletic. From dance team, to club tennis, my friends know how to stay in shape. I have found inspiration through them as they wake up at the crack of dawn (or causally around 10) every morning to get their daily exercise. Knowing how beneficial exercise can be, I decided to go along on the various workouts. Whether jogging around the loop with Alexandra, mom-walking with Haley, or jumping in a freezing cold pool to swim laps with Andie, I would venture to say that I am becoming sporty.

I have accepted the fact that my sister Haley got the athletic gene in our family, and it has become apparent through my history of team sports. There was one situation a week or so ago where my friend Jenny and I were swimming towards a sandbar with 10 other friends. We couldn’t figure out why everyone else was getting farther and farther away from us until we realized we weren’t really swimming anywhere. (Mom, you are going to hate this, but I am fine and you can skip this next section). Suddenly we hear over a loud speaker the lifeguards on shore. He said, in his cute Aussie accent, “May I have your attention, two female swimmers, you are drifting into the rip. Conditions are decreasing and if you need lifeguard assistance please raise one hand.” Jenny and I are frantically trying to get away from the rip by swimming to the side as we were instructed. This was probably not the best time to inform Jen that I had only been on swim team for one day! We are slowly making our way to shore when the lifeguard comes back on the mic and asks, “Are you strong swimmers?” We finally let the waves bring us into shore and we are safe on land again. We have learned our lesson and from now on we will only swim between the red and yellow flags.


My experience on swim team (for one day) taught me that the shark team swimsuit wasn’t worth the laps I had to swim to earn it. My mom calls that event, “Our donation to the Y.” So maybe swimming wasn’t my thing. In 6th grade I tried my hand at basketball. I lasted almost ½ the season before I called it quits. Throughout the rest of middle school and high school I tried softball, soccer, lacrosse, gymnastics and one year on the tennis team! I even went to a Crew interest meeting, but nothing came of that. Throughout my years on various athletic teams, I have learned that I do not like contact sports, and I am still searching to find that one activity that I love. I think my history of inconsistency with athletic teams mirrors my current state in determining my future. I have tested out many different majors by taking a class or two in Biology, Psychology, Sociology, declaring Business Management, and switching to Strategic Communications, but I really still don’t know what I want to do with my career! Everybody tells me that I have plenty of time, and nobody really knows what they want to do, but times-a-ticking! I know I’ll figure it out someday, but it would be nice to know now.

In the attempt of becoming healthy, comes a change in diet. I briefly mentioned this in my last post, but I am working hard to buy healthier food options such as salad and chicken, rather than cereal and instant noodles. With these healthier food choices comes more work. I am used to the convenience of cereal or pasta where you simply have to add milk or water, and you are set. Here I am learning that patience is a virtue and these tasty and healthy meals are worth the extra time and prep.
Cadillac prepares his famous Taco Pie. It was delicious and I hope to have more in the near future!

With limited options, I am forced to get creative with my meals. At home, I am used to having a fully stocked fridge at my fingertips with anything I could possibly need or want. Here, I forget that I don’t have everything I am used to, and if I go out and buy lettuce, fruits, and cheese, to make a salad, I also should have bought salad dressing. Here is a snapshot of a delicious salad I made for lunch today. I added kiwi, pairs, red beans, and tuna for some protein. At home, Mom makes tuna salad with lots of different ingredients to make that fishy taste unrecognizable. I scoured the shelves of the refrigerator only to find mustard. Instead of salad dressing, I was able to use oil and salt. It was something new and different and trying new things is all a part of this experience!






I recently deleted a folder on my computer that I hadn't used in years. I didn't know that it contained my entire iPhoto library. I was feeling upset having deleted all of my pictures so Haley, Alexandra and I decided to make brownies to cheer me up. Unfortunately they did not turn our as planned. See attached.  We first realized that the ovens here measure temperature in Celsius, not Fahrenheit, which explains why I have burnt many of my meals. And without measuring cups, we just estimated how much oil and water to add. This was the result. (Just as a side-note, I am taking my computer to the Apple Store in Brisbane this weekend hoping they can recover my pictures! I will keep you updated:)
We tried so hard to have brownies and ice-cream. We certainly tried our best:)
(But really, how did we completely screw up brownies?!)


I am continuing to enjoy taking long walks with friends and admiring the beautiful scenery. Here are some pictures from a path where we walk Classes are going well, and I am looking forward to a trip to Brisbane this weekend! I miss you all so much:)
Love,
Tessa