The worldwide Augustana College experience

What I packed…

One of the biggest questions that people have when traveling is what to pack. There are plenty of lists out there on suggestions of what to take on an international trip, but here is a list and pictures of what I am bringing to Brazil in my purse, my suitcase, and my carry-on bag.

In my purse: Read more…

It’s Almost Here!!!

THE DAY IS ALMOST HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

We arrive at the airport at noon tomorrow for our flight to Dallas then to Rio! Yessenia, one of the other girls on the trip is coming over tonight, I doubt we will get any sleep in anticipation for this trip. Our bags are packed and we are ready to go. I can’t wait.

I will keep everyone updated every few days with all the exciting parts of our trip.

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50 hours…

until we leave! Our flight leaves at 3pm on Thursday so we are getting done to the final moments before the trip. I did some last minute shopping today picking up magazines to read on the plane and a cord so I can attach my camera to the tablet. So with that I have a picture of the weaving that I did for class. My piece isn’t nearly as intricate as some of the other pieces that my classmates made, but I am pretty proud of it!

The Navajo-style weaving that I made in Art of the America's

The Navajo-style weaving that I made in Art of the America’s

Brazil 2014!

At this time on Thursday we will be on the plane to Dallas to make our connecting flight to Rio! I can’t believe that we leave this week. Today I finished packing all my bags. My suitcase weighs 27 pounds, so I will have plenty of space for bringing home presents!

Up until this point I’ve already been blogging for the regular Augie Blog page in addition to writing for my own blog, so if you follow me there you might see some similar posts. My goal is to post every 2-3 days and include pictures from the day, so get excited!

Bird Is The Word

Up until the past two days we have been pretty lucky with the weather up here. Although we have had some foggy days we were able to get on the boat soon after we got it in the water. Once we got the boat ready to go, we started to get really busy with trips to nearby islands to process birds and survey nests. Traveling by boat is one of my favorite ways to get around, so I was pretty excited for our first day trip. I quickly learned how unbelievably cold it can get when we’re on the boat! The temperature around base is generally very comfortable, it can get chilly on foggy days, but once you get near the water the temperature gets significantly colder. Then add in the wind from speeding across the water and the spray that occasionally hits you and you’ve got yourself a chilly ride. Thank god for the big survival suite that I wear when we’re on the boat. Its like a snow suite that is bright orange and unfortunately makes me look 60 lbs heavier, but it sure does keep me warm! It’s well worth the trade off. Once you’re bundled up the rides are pretty amazing. It’s sad that most people that stay on the base don’t go anywhere outside of the surrounding areas. There really is so much more to see around here.

Since a majority of our work is done off base we have traveled to a handful of places so far. We’ve made trips to Saunders Island, the Witch’s Tit (an island in the bay), Booth Sound, and other islands in the area. Our time at Saunders Island was spent catching black-legged kittiwakes. Last year geolocaters were placed on a few of the birds so our goal was to recollect them. We were really successful re-catching the birds that had the locaters on them, and we were able to track their movement over the past year. While Kurt and Bridger were on the island catching the birds the rest of us processed the birds on the boat. I wasn’t paying attention when I was holding on to one of the kittiwakes and it ended up biting my face! It left a nice scratch from my nose down to my lip. I think it made me look really tough so I didn’t mind it, but I wasn’t too happy with it biting my hands up! Along with scratches I always ended up leaving the island covered in poop, my favorite natural perfume… I would make sure to take a burning hot shower as soon as I got home! On one of our trips to Saunders Island we went around to the other side of the island and it was like we had traveled to a different part of the world. We pulled up to a beautiful beach, it would have been perfect if the water was about 40 degrees warmer, a small waterfall, and soft green grass. It was like a piece of paradise placed within the arctic land. We ended up collecting most of the samples for my project, so I got to spend a few hours relaxing in the grass while Bridger rappelled down the cliff and collected the eggs. We also had a bit of success at the Witch’s Tit with catching puffins. Last year a handful of puffins were caught and released with geolocaters attached to their legs by Kurt and the High Arctic Institute, and we have been able to re-trap one of them so far. Since we’re stuck on base for the next couple of days due to high winds, we’re hoping to get back out there this week and re-catch as many of the puffins as possible. Unfortunately we weren’t as lucky when we made our trip to Booth Sound.

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Finding Falcons

My first week in Thule really has been an amazing one. I feel like everything I’ve done here has been a completely new experience for me, and I love it. While learning about birds and the area I’m also learning skills that could help me at home. Who knew I would have to come all the way out to Greenland to learn how to change a flat tire or drive stick!

Before the group’s arrival Bridger and I were hiking around the area looking for some of the known falcons nearby, so earlier in the week we took a trip up Dundas. The trail that people have made just goes straight up the side of it, so the hike was a bit of a pain in the butt at times! We made it to the top sweaty and out of breath, but it was worth it. The view on Dundas was incredible. It was a clear day so we could see for miles. We ended up walking around the whole top and after stumbling upon the rocky golf course up there we were able to find another pair of peregrines. We couldn’t see the nest from the edge, but we knew the general region we would have to come back to to find it. We also knew there have been gyrfalcons nesting on the other side of Dundas, but unfortunately we weren’t able to find any. Before we headed back down we sat and watched a seal swimming around in the bay. It was at that moment when it really started to hit me how fortunate I am to be able to spend six weeks in such an incredible place. There really are very few people that get the chance to come up here and its such a special part of the world. Although it’s not the summer weather I prefer, I would give up any summer to be able to come out here. I know there is still so much left for me to see, but I’m amazed by what I’ve already come across.

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Hello Greenland!

After two exhausting days of traveling, I finally arrived at the Thule Air Base in Greenland! Luck definitely wasn’t on my side when it came to flying on Wednesday as both of my flights were delayed, one leaving me stranded in Baltimore for a day. While getting deserted in a city or airport can be a nightmare, it happened at the most perfect time and allowed my sister to stop by my hotel and say goodbye before we both left for different parts of the world. I couldn’t have had a better delay!

Stepping off the plane and seeing the landscape around me was by far one of the most incredible things I’ve experienced. The land is so unlike what I’m used to, it was hard to resist the urge to hike up the closest hill, but that probably would have ended up with me being detained by one of the U.S. officers on the base. Despite the name, Greenland is anything but green. Although the land is mostly covered with snow and rocks, it is a beautiful part of the world, especially when the fog from the bay clears and you can see the area surrounding the base. Not only am I excited to explore the land near the air base, but I can’t wait to get the boat running and to view the area from the sea.

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Last Weekend in Sydney, Australia : Wine and Beaches

Dear Sydney,

It seems both achingly slow and extremely quickly that my time here as led to my final weekend in Sydney, Australia. Missing family, friends, and a significant other has let the time feel as if I’ve been here forever. In contrast, my internship and constant weekend plans and trips have let the slip away to where I’m not sure how I ended up suddenly being able to think, how did I do all of it already? Either way, my last weekend in Sydney has come and gone, and I must say it was a pretty well spent one.

It started with Friday when Lindsey, Ashley, and I woke up relatively early for a Friday (we don’t work Fridays here) and caught the first ferry out of Sydney Harbor to the Manly Wharf. I actually really enjoy taking ferries here even though they move much much slower on water than  I am used to on our boat at home. However, I think that is why I like them, if I am paying for the ride across the harbor, I would kind of like to enjoy the view and water as long as I can. Anyway, the ferry ride took about 30 minutes to get out to Manly Wharf, which is the closest water drop-off to the Manly Beach, which is now my favorite beach that I have seen during my time here. Getting off on the wharf, which is located on a peninsula jutting out into the water, you walk across the peninsula through a pretty touristy main street FULL of shops, seafood cafe’s, and beach rentals. It was very prettily decorated and had decorative fountains by your feet as you walked as well as green palm trees running along the center. Given all of this, it is pretty incredible that I managed to NOT shop along my way to the beach (which I think was the point of their location). When I got to the beach I was in complete wonder as to why this was my first trip to Manly since being here. It was absolutely stunning (pictures below). The beach was 3x the size of any other beach I have yet seen here, which immediately made me happy because I could finally go on legitimate beach walks. We posted up a little to the right of the main beach entrance plopped down in the softest sand I had yet had the pleasure to walk on, and poured on the sunscreen. It was not a blazing hot day by any means, it really doesn’t get that hot here like it does in Illinois because the humidity is never high enough for it to feel that stifling.  However it was the perfectly cloudless day with a nice light breeze. The perfect day to burn your skin off and have no idea it is happening until you get home that evening an attempt to shower (especially since the hole in the ozone layer is near here). So on went round one of sunscreen and we laid out for a solid 2 hours before I decided to move again. I was a little warm and so I dipped into the water for the first time and was pleasantly surprised to find how clear the water was. It was not as clear as Destin, FL where I traveled last year with Austyn’s family, but it was definitely second. I could see my feet 500 feet out and it was really great for swimming because it made it feel cleaner. Anyway, after my swim was walk number one along the beach and it took a full 30 minutes to go end to end which was really nice because I think walking on the beach is a different form of relaxation than laying out on the beach and I really enjoy it. After round 2 of sunscreen there was another hour of laying out during which time I very nearly stole a 6 month old little girl who thought I made funny faces and crawled over to my towel. Her name was Eden and I was extremely tempted to pick her up and play with her, but I figured that was probably frowned upon, especially since her father didn’t speak English. Going on 3:30 PM everyone started heading home because the sun really was strong and all of us knew were going to be fried (or fried even worse) if we didn’t leave soon. I did end up shopping along the way back, but since my shopping was gift oriented, I’ll leave those details out. The return ferry was again a really nice 30 minute chance for me to catch those last minute rays. I loved the smell of water and the wind the kept the heat at bay. Upon arrival back at the Sydney Harbor, Lindsey and I checked the availability of Opera House Tickets for the opera Carmen, and we were disappointed when they were sold out for the night. But we went home anyway to a great meal of steak, potatoes, and corn on the cob that Hailee had made for us. Given the sun had exhausted us all and we were to get up early the next morning for Wine Tasting, that was where the night ended and we all went to bed pretty early.

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The Days of Jager and Surf Camp

Dear Sydney,

Thursday: So this past Thursday, February 13, the Brown-Forman office had their monthly brand awareness party in the office.  As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, at the beginning of February I changed all the decorations in the office to Jegarmeister. Apparently that also means that there is a “Building Brand Awareness” party for the brand of the month. I got to start the day festivities by attending lunch at a local New Zealand restaurant with the Jegarmeister team. I got to have a great BBQ pulled pork sandwich with thick cut bacon and the most flavorful mayonnaise.  I even got to try New Zealand Organic Cola, which I actually fell in love with. Best part though? It was free. :) Best word to a broke college student in another country. I learned more about the people on the team, where they came from, what their roles were, and why they were so passionate about the Jagermeister brand. After that, Ashley, Kim, and I got to get the party favors ready for all the guests who were to come late that afternoon. They might have been the coolest gift bags ever because they had 3 Jager branded, smokey double shot glasses and an ice cold Jager bottle (because you should ALWAYS drink Jager ice cold I learned). After that we got to set up the bar area for the Jager ice luge (an ice sculpture that allows you to poor the alcohol through it in order to make it ‘ice cold’), the Jager DJ stand, all the German (Jager is from Germany) finger foods, and the giant Jager game of Jenga. Once we got everything set up, the party started with the ‘Jegarettes” (hott girls in Jager outfits to get people excited and try the brand) rounding up the office and getting everyone into the main area where our fully stocked bar is. Then the head of the brand, Micheal Bouda, gave a 10 minute little speech about the brand, it’s goals for the year, their target market, and their plans for the brand and how they were going to bring it to life this year. It really helped pull the whole atmosphere together and encouraged everyone to try the food, grab a free cocktail, and play Jenga with the Jegarettes. Micheal Bouda played DJ for the day and everyone really had a great time. I got a free bottle of Jager, 3 shot glasses, and German food, was a great day!  (I attached photos below)

Friday: I got to go on a tour of the Sydney Opera House! Finally.. Oh my gosh it took ages to finally get to see the inside, but I wasn’t disappointed. We only got to go into 3 of the 4 main halls because the Concert Hall was being used for practice, but the three we saw were still really neat. (I attached photos of some). I learned a lot more about the Opera House itself too. Like that it was commissioned int he 1960′s by the Queen of England and there was a world wide design competition for the architecture of the building. A man from Switzerland names Jorn Utzon had the winning design and was one of the only architects to submit a design that had the two major halls next to each other on the pier instead of in front and behind each other. They actually began digging the hole and pouring the foundation before they even knew how to build the structure. It took years for them to figure out how to build the sail like shapes that are what distinguish the building most and they ended up at a 7 year project that cost $104 million instead of the budgeted 3 years and $7 million. Only by Utzon’s breakthrough on piecing the ‘shells’ together to form the roof was the project able to be completed. However, all the money and time invested really did pay off. What they learned and created for acoustics had never before been researched to such a level. It was ground breaking and the concepts discovered are continually used today. It was an amazing tour and I am so glad I got to go on it. After the tour ended we went back to the apartment and made a late lunch before we packed for Surf Camp. At 6PM that night we left from the middle of down town Sydney for 3 hours south of the city. We came to a small town of 500 people right on the coast next to our private beach for the weekend, 7 mile beach. We got there pretty late at night and upon arrival we were shown the most stereotypical view of a surf camp ever. (Photos below). We were given the rules of camp, the schedule for the next couple days, and then were shown to our ‘rooms’. There were 6 or 7 of us to a room each and we got to enjoy something I would be flatteringly referring to as a ‘cot’. There was unknown pieces of something on the bed, there were spiders on the ceiling, and there was no heating or cooling. I was off to camp in every sense of the word. Most of the group immediately dropped off their belongings and went to the beach to get drunk. I’m not a huge drinker and I was also exhausted so I attempted to get over my mental block of how dirty the bed I was going to lay down in was and tried to go to bed. Given the blanket grossed me out and most of camp came back hammered, I didn’t get much sleep.

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Home isn’t always a place…

Dear Sydney,

I will apologize upfront. Given my current mood, this is going to be pretty reflective and not so much informational. From last Thursday to today (Wednesday), a few things pretty cool happened, but what really struck me these last few days specifically are the relationships I have in my life. Not just the relationship I have with my boyfriend but all the good, bad, loving, blood, and friendship relationships as well. Through a series of events recently I have learned more about myself and those I choose to appreciate and surround myself with than ever before. My greatest discovery is that home is not always a place. Since I don’t really know how to explain it, I will start at the beginning…

Thursday: If you are a consistent reader you will have noted in my last post that I was to attend a Mardi Gras (Gay/Lesbian Pride) venue tour last Thursday night. As misfortune would have it, we didn’t end up going. Consequentially, lesson number one emerged. While some fellow friends took the lost opportunity for the new opportunity to go out to a beer pong tournament and dance the night away, I chose to stay in. I watched “The Block”, which is an apartment renovation show here in Australia, and then wrote in my personal journal about the week. The next morning Friday:  when my friends were still sleeping off drunk at 10 AM, I made my way to the beach alone. Contrary to the usual, the beach was relatively empty. I could have actually counted how many people were there. The waves were also the highest I have ever seen them. They were easily 2 average size people high and no one was swimming for the dangerous crashes they created. Both aspects added up to this quiet beach with steady and consistent sound of crashing waves. The day was cloudless and the sun was a light touch on the skin as opposed to an intruding force on the body. The light wind was welcome and made breathing come easy and deep. I’m not sure I fully realized it at the time, even though I felt the difference, but I was learning my appreciation for being alone. I’m not saying I hate people and I don’t enjoy communicating and experiencing other people, but I do have an appreciation for being alone now. I have slowly accepted it over my time here, more by situational force to than anything else, but when I had to start experiencing things without anyone from my comfort zone, my acceptance of the need to be alone at times began. The feeling started when I was not afraid to stay in and be with myself that Thursday night instead of staying with the pack, which is everyone’s natural tendency when living on the other side of the world from your home. It continued when I spent 3 hours alone on a beach with only the waves to talk to me. What I came to think about was the metaphorical beauty of it all. I was warmed and comforted by the sun, was romantically touched and relieved by the wind, was continually faced with the unrelenting waves of the ocean, and then there was me laying still among it all. Everything was in balance and it took me laying there and appreciating it alone without all the noise to recognize the need for every aspect. The sun was my family and friends. Their support, encouragement, love, and laughter are what warm me and give me comfort. The wind was my relationship. It  brings me someone to touch and hold as a physical presence as well as being what relieves me from my daily challenges and tames my more extreme characteristics. Without both the sun and the wind there is no balance. Much like the feeling of still air and harsh sun heat, or a hidden sun and the sting of biting wind, I need a balance of forces in my life. My family does not exist separately of my relationship, and my relationship separately of my family. They work together to give me happiness and peace. The waves were quite another character however. They feel like life to me, both expected and unexpected at the same time. Each crashing wave destroyed the still, calm silence in a way that felt like life’s challenges crashing onto the shores of my calm and peace. However, if I had no waves to break on me, I would not want to be there. Who goes to a beach to just lay on sand? Isn’t 50% of the reason you go for the water and waves? Similarly, life would be nothing and worth no journey if there was no excitement, pain, happiness, or sorrow that would break the endless calm. Lastly, there was me. In the middle of all this poetic beauty was silly old me. My towel, my bag, my disturbance of the sand all seemed like I shouldn’t have destroyed the balance at first. But the more I thought about it, I considered that if I wasn’t there, who would the sun warm and comfort? who would the wind caress and cool down? who would hear and experience the waves? Just as I needed all three to stay in balance, they needed me to be in balance as well. The most amazing part of all this, was all it took for me to learn this was that I needed to be alone. Leading to my first lesson; Home can be found in your own heart.

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