I think my luck in the southern hemisphere is beginning to wear out. My flatmate Rina and I decided that there was no better place to study for finals than Australia, so we packed up and left for the Dunedin airport on June 10. Prior to heading to the airport, Rina decided to go to the student health center to try to figure out why one of her glands was insanely swollen, and after getting their feedback we spent an hour before our flight driving around to doctors and chemists in order to get her ailment figured out. Little did we know that this was only the beginning of our traveling difficulties. We had done little planning of this trip, and had only a general outline of what we wanted to do and see while in Brisbane and Sydney. Upon arriving at the airport, we were asked the seemingly obvious question of “do you girls have visas for Australia?” We were both in shock that we hadn’t even considered the fact that traveling in foreign countries typically requires a visa, but luckily we were able to get them on the spot at the airport.
Once we finally got into Brisbane, we discovered that our New Zealand cell phones did not have coverage in Australia, and therefore we were unable to use them to get in contact with Rina’s friend, Shira, who we were going to be staying with in Brisbane. After exchanging our NZ dollars for a much smaller sum of Australian dollars, we used a payphone but ended up getting Shira’s voicemail. After asking a stranger to use a cell phone, we were on a train heading toward downtown Brisbane where we were planning to meet Shira. As Rina explained to me, Shira is always on “Shira time” and is chronically late, so we ended up walking around and waiting for her for quite awhile. It was totally worth the wait though, and we were able to get a tiny taste of Brisbane. Rina and I were both overwhelmed to be in a real city, not just tiny Dunedin. One of my favorite parts of Brisbane was that everything is based around the river that runs through it – we took water taxis to and from Shira’s apartment. It was a nice alternative to the typical public transportation!
Went to a farmer’s market in Brisbane and spent the day with Shira, then caught our flight to Sydney. We had been planning on staying with Rina’s other friend, Beckie, who lives in Sydney, but plans fell through and we ended up having to book a hostel an hour before our flight. We arrived around 10 pm and after taking another train we hopped off into the pouring rain and waded our way to our hostel. Rina learned, upon staying one night in her first and only hostel ever, that she does not like hostels much, so we ended up getting a cheap hotel for the same price for the next three nights. We spent the rest of our time in Sydney exploring – saw a Latin dance show at the Sydney Opera House, went to the aquarium and wildlife center, walked all over, stopped for cupcake breaks, and drank lots and lots of coffee. We flew back to Brisbane for a final night with Shira, which included a pizza making party with some of her study abroad friends, as well as a trip into town to see Jennifer Coolidge (the busty blonde from Best in Show, Legally Blonde, etc.) do a standup comedy show. Met her and got her autograph, and had a lovely last night in Australia.
Our flight back to Dunedin was supposed to get us back a day before one of Rina’s last exams – plenty of time to settle in and do a bit of study. However, the Chilean ash cloud had different plans for our itinerary. Our flight was canceled, which resulted in us spending about 4 hours and $50 worth of coins using the internet to try to figure out different ways of getting back to Dunedin. We contemplated several different options, some more ridiculous than others (Singapore is NOT closer to New Zealand) but eventually found a flight from Brisbane to Wellington and then another one from Wellington to Dunedin that would get us in at 10 am the day of Rina’s 2:30 pm exam. Luckily Air New Zealand had more flying confidence than the other airlines, and we were able to make it to Wellington at midnight the night before her exam. Although the Wellington airport typically closes in the wee hours of the morning we were escorted to a “special area” that we were allowed to stay in until the airport reopened. We entertained ourselves for 9 hours before our flight, pumping ourselves with caffeine and slowly going delirious in the process. While booking our tickets from Wellington to Dunedin we had a bit of a laugh and decided to book our tickets under the titles of Dame Rina Cohen and Lord Allison Lodine, which became increasingly funnier as the hours rolled by. Finally made it back at noon, and Rina had a good 2 hours to prepare for her 50% final exam. No big deal.
It was strange to be back in Dunedin and see people start packing and leaving the life that I’ve been so used to for the past five months. I was one of the last to pack up and leave, and by the time everybody had already left and the flat was empty I was ready to leave. Had a lovely final day and evening with my friend Gen. We ate fish and chips and drank Speight’s while chatting about everything under the sun, then met another friend for a BYO dinner at an Indian restaurant, then attempted to hit up some of our favorite bars, although it was a Wednesday night and most people had already left town, so it was a quiet night, but the perfect end to my time in Dunedin.
I’m currently waiting in the Dunedin airport for my flight to Wellington in an hour. My alias for this flight is Captain Allison Lodine. Looking forward to spending another week with Abby, and for seeing Wellington, Taupo, and more of the north island. I’m also really looking forward to summer in Portland in a week!