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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Oh the Australian Food

So as requested by my mother, here is the much awaited post on Australian Food.

1. Yogurt - I know it sounds ridiculous but the yogurt out here is flawless! I never really loved yogurt, and now I can't live without it. There are always two cartons in my fridge. With flavors like Apple Passionfruit Mango Peach, and Honeycomb Nectarine, who wouldn't always have yogurt around? And it's not just flavored yogurt, there is the entire fruit in there, seeds and all, so you know it's legit. It's better than legit, it's too legit to quit (please somebody name that movie).

2. Mi Gorheing - So even though it has a fancy name, it's just the oz version of ramen noodles, but better. Instead of just having the seasoning packet, it comes with peanut oil, this soy sauce stuff, dried onions, and chili sauce. And that's considered the cheap college food! It's amazing! It makes ramen noodle seem like eating wet cardboard. To make it even better, when your noodles are boiling, crack a few eggs in, I know it may seem gross at first but think of lots of asian dishes: They have egg in them! So it makes it amazing!

3. Sakata - These are these amazing disc shaped thin rice crackers about 2 inches in diameter. They come in all these amazing flavors like soy ginger, or chili lime, or barbeque, or just plain rice (which are the best ones). You wouldn't think something so plain would be so good, but I have serious issues not finished a package of them within the day, they are just that addicting.

4. Leechee Nuts - They are this little spiky red thing, that looks not that great. But you crack open the skin and there's this milky slimy looking thing. It looks slightly like giant fish eye or something, but they taste like heaven! Just avoid the huge seed in the middle. Too bad they are $8 kilo or else I would eat them everyday.

5. Bread - Everyone knows that in the US whole wheat, whole great, really good bread is always more expensive. Not the case out here, well at least at Coles grocery store. Everyday the fresh bakery makes the most amazing bread and then it goes on sale for 2 for $3.50. Total Bargain! The best one is Soy and Linseed bread. It's all whole grain with no sugar or anything. So good. Or whole wheat with seasame seeds. It's a good thing that white bread is more expensive because white bread instantly makes me fat. After eating a loaf of white bread I can look at my love handles and be like "Hey look, there's that piece of bread." So not good! So thankfully healthy stuff is cheaper.

As a general rule of thumb though, food in australia is about 2x more expensive than in the US. Take chicken for example: $10 for 2.2 lbs. That's $5 a lb. Not cool since chicken is my staple food in college!

6. Kebabs - So when I first heard of kababs I thought they were just like shiskabobs or something, just like meat on a stick. Oh I was sooo wrong. Kebabs are this wonderful creation. You take stuff like lamb, beef, lettuce, tomato, onions, sweet chili sauce, garlic sauce, etc etc and wrap it in this big pita flatbread thing: oh man they are amazing! It's like a rich mans burrito. They are so good! The first kebab I ever had was in Byron, and my life was changed from then on. I remember sitting on the curb, looking at the ocean thinking "Good thing there's not a kebab shop in Lismore, or else I'd be broke."

7. Vegimite - I've already written about it in previous posts, so no need for repetition. Just know it's really good! American's need to open their their "food minds" and try it more often (99% of american's hate the stuff). It's really is good.

8. Sausages and Rissoles - Sausages in the US are primarily a breakfast food. They are actually an exclusive breakfast food. Well here they are the cheap, good, barbeque food. If there is free food at the uni somewhere, it's sausages and bread. Oh, and coleslaw. Coleslaw is big out here, and it's really good. At the Uni Bar and party nights they have sausages. They are in casings, not just like free form sausages in the US, but these are legit, real sausages. They are really good.
Rissoles are just meat patties, but they have stuff in them too like onions and other veggies and stuff. They are made out of mince, so they cook and look differently than just a ground beef patty that you would make. They are pretty good too. Heaps of people have rissoles.

9. Veggie Patties - When I hear veggie patties, I think of vegans and tofu, and some soy imitation for vegetarian meat. They are not that at all. They are actually what their name says: veggie patties. They are made out of potatoes, corn, peas, and other veggies, all smushed together and crumbed on the outside. They are incredible! It's especially good to put coleslaw on top, and then a bit of barbeque sauce all on top of a piece of bread. So good!

Beet Root - So I normally don't associate beet root with anything, maybe Thanksgiving Dinner. I don't really think I've ever had beet root knowingly. Just haven't. Well out here, beet root come as a staple on all hamburgers. It's just like lettuce and tomato. Who would have thought of beet root as a condiment? Not me that's for sure. It's amazing though, I will never be able to eat just a normal burger after now. They put the most random things on their burgers here, and it always turns out flawlessly. Like hash brown patties, and pineapple, and egg and beet root. All on the same burger. It sounds intensely gross, but man is it ever good. The US is lacking in awesome burgers. You think Carls Jr. experiments with burger condiments, well just come to Oz.

All in all the food here is incredible. I love it. I know that if I ever return to the US I will certainly be bringing some Australian Culinary traits back with me for sure. And beet root and vegimite will always be found in my cupboards.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

20 Years of Waiting are Finally Over

So I have lots to say today, but don't worry it's all really worth reading, I promise.

Looking back on my life, I realize that I have spent 15 years studying fish and marine life, and I have spent 15 years not getting the kind of education or classes I truly want until now. Yes, uni back in Utah was great and I took classes I wanted, but nothing could ever compare to the want and passion I have for marine life. For the first time in my life I truly feel like I am getting what I have always wanted out of life. It's the most amazing feeling to be sitting in a class learning about tidal upwellings, the corialis effect, marine taxonomy, etc. I love it.

For my wetland ecosystems class, it is accompanied by a 4 hour field lab! Yesterday we headed out to lismore lake. In reality it's a total mistake of a lake. The council built it for a waterskiing lake, but made the genius mistake of making it ABOVE the water table, which mean it would need constant maintenance. So they decided to scrap that idea and just make it into a bird sanctuary. Much better idea in my opinion. So the day consisted of wading through grass/water/mud stuff (and getting my legs scratched to an oblivion!) to get water samples, do pH testing, salinity testing, dissolved oxygen testing, learn to do plant sampling, and fish sampling. Awesome fun. At one point during the day, I was out holding this pole about 10 m from shore (we were during quadrec plant sampling) standing in about waist deep water, with lots of algae and plants surrounding my legs. All of a sudden I felt all these little pricks on my thighs, not painful pricks, nothing like a needle, but just little pokes. I looked down, and there was about 40 mosquito fish (little guppies) nibbling on my leg! They were just picking off stuff, apparently I had a lot of junk on my leg! It was kinda cool. I felt like I was in some high end spa where people pay thousands to get pedicures with fish cleaning, but then I opened my eyes and realized I was standing in the pouring ran, 6 inches of mud, and I smelled like a fermenting lake. Not really thousand dollar spa quality.

My Coastal Marine Ecosystems class was just as incredible. Monday was our into to the lab. When I walked into the lab my jaw hit the floor. I'm used to the lovely smelly basement labs of USU, with their chipping turquoise linoleum counters, florescent neon lights, and the jars of who-knows-what specimens. Those labs however taught me so much. I learned all my freshwater fish species in those labs, I played with madagascar hissing cockroaches in those labs. I LOVE USU. I owe everything to that university. Without them, I would not be here right now, so those labs will always have a place in my heart.
This lab here at SCU is on the 2nd floor of the biology building, which means three of the wall are solid glass panes, so the lab is light mostly by natural light, which if you have to be inside is the only way to go. Florescent lights are for sucks. I could never have a desk job. The lab tables are huge, about 6 m. long, and they are hard wood lamanated counters, to the lab is just beautiful! Each table has 2 plasma screens mounted in the ceiling, with cameras so you can project what you're doing on the table. They all have really modern lab sinks at the end, and each table has about 20 cushioned leather bar stools on either side, ant there are 8 lab tables, so this is a REAL lab. It's huge and amazing, and I can't wait to do some serious research here. Everything is really just perfect out here. It's an incredible feeling to have.

NEVER give up on going out and getting what you want. It is worth it. You will work hard, and you may have people say you can't, but YOU CAN! The world is yours for the taking, don't let it pass you by.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Echidna!

video

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Zebra sharks and Eagle rays. Need I say more?

Yesterday was my second day of diving. They had cancelled all dives after my first little experience until this week, so I've just been hanging out waiting for it to stop raining. I will say that I was a little nervous driving to Byron, I was totally psyching myself out and letting myself feel sea sick. After that second dive last week, I was not a very happy camper, so I had reason to be nervous. It was a beautiful drive. In the mornings here, there's always tons of this wonderful misty fog that's very mysterious. It was covering the whole valley and all the hills. As the sun was coming up, you could just see tops of trees sticking out of the fog. you couldn't even see power lines, which never happens! It was so nice to see the world just natural, without any of our man made atrocities I felt like I wasn't even on earth, like I was in some sort of place I only ever dream about. It made me so happy to just be out there.

Heading out on the boat, it was beautiful. There was only about a 1 meter swell, and no current, so i did not get sea sick going out at all! Bonus #1! Visibility was mediocre though, only about 4 meters. I was hoping for something like 12 m, but visibility had no effect on the amazing things I saw. After about 2 minutes of being underwater, all of a sudden I saw out of my peripheral, this long animal, I turned and looked, and there was my zebra (or leopard) shark. I have LOVED zebra sharks my whole life. Every time I go to an aquarium and they have one, I am plastered to the glass. I can never tear myself away from them. They are so beautiful. They are even better in real life. I was so amazed just to watch it swim, it was amazing. I had the best mix of emotions, just total joy and gratitude for being in the right place at the right time. It was just one of those moments that no matter how hard you try to explain, nothing does it justice. It's one of those emotions that only you understand, and should probably just keep to yourself for sake of total nerdy embarrassment if you try to explain it.

So we kept diving on. I also saw tons of wobbegongs. They are gorgeous sharks. They have beautiful coloration and tassels, and are just a lovely shark. They are magical to watch swim. They move like liquid glass. It's the only way to think of how they move. Just imagine what liquid glass would move like. When we were diving, there were two large rocks with a channel between them, so we went down to swim through it, and we swam through a school of banded butterflyfish, yellow and black striped, they were gorgeous. When I looked down, there was a 2 meter (at least) wobbegong who was enjoying the calm water in the channel. His head was wider than my body, so he was a big shark. Everyone calm down, they eat really small fish, shell fish etc etc. As we were finishing up the dive, once again I looked to my right, and there was another zebra shark! Talk about the most glorious dive ever. Who gets to see two in one dive? Who gets to see one ever in the wild!! I don't know why I am so blessed, but I am truly grateful for it!

The second dive was just as awesome. We went to a place called the Split Bommie (Bombie, Bommy? who knows..) anyhow, and it was packed with fish! There were schools of snapper and sturgeon, tons of clownfish swimming in their anemones, lobsters hanging out in crevices, butterfly fish chasing each other around rocks, angelfish chillin out, just endless fish. My heaven. There were also beautiful knife fish, and some little black girabaldi, just like the ones that I had painted on my wall. It's so funny, I pretty much painted on my wall an Australian reef. So far I have seen every fish that I had painted. I love how subconsciously I was doing all these things in my life that related to Australia and brought me here. Funny how that happens. Well, at the beginning of this dive, the only thing I hadn't seen was a spotted eagle ray (my ultimate favorite ray). That fact was no longer true at the end of the dive. Watching a spotted eagle ray swim is better than anything. They fly, it's amazing. They look more graceful than any bird in the air ever could hope to look. THey are gorgeous. The same emotions that I had for the zebra sharks happened here with the eagle ray. Total unexplainable joy.

I love Australia.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A weekend to remember

This weekend was one I will never forget in my life. I am always so amazing at the things that happen in my life, the opportunites that the Lord places in my life. I believe it was friday night, we were all headed to a pub to see some friends play guitar and bass. Don't worry everyone, I was not going to drink, I was the designated driver for the night. Even though alcohol is practically a lifestyle here, I have no desire at all to give in. Anyway... I was just sitting there listening when this girl approached me and said "Hey can we talk in private?" I of course said sure. She pulled me over to an empty table and said "I heard from one of your friends that you are Mormon. I am an inactive mormon. I was raised mormon." I of course was so excited! We automatically became friends right then and there. She then just began to cry and tell me her story.

"I became inactive and started drinking and smoking. I really want to stop and I have decided to become active again, and I have been praying to have someone come into my life for support, because there is none here. I have been wishing for someone to come into my life to show me the way back to the gospel"

When she told me that I just felt to blessed to be part of this wonderful religion. I felt so blessed to be in the right place at the right time, and living a life where I would be able to help someone like that. Living a worthy life is so worth it everyone. To anyone who will ever read this: living a life in line with the precepts and principles you have been taught and know are right, whether you are religious or not, will bring blessings into your life. You will be able to serve others in ways you never thought you would. It will bring you more joy than anything else temporal ever will, so always lead a good life. It sounds simple, but when it comes down to it, black and white can be hard to decern, so know where you stand. I am so grateful to be who I am, and to be born with the morals and knowledge that I was.

As the night went on we became better friends. I am so excited to get to know her more. So also as the night when on, my friends got slightly more tipsy (obviously) and Mark decided it would be a good idea to start irish dancing, and then challenge me to do so as well. Little did he know that I did Irish for 8 years ha ha. So when he was just skipping around, I did a few irish leaps, and jaws hit the floor. I don't think anyone expected me to be any good, let alone get the air that I did. It made me really happy to dance again. I do miss dancing, so who knows maybe out here I will get into out here!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Going down, going up, throwing up.

This past week I decided to shell out and get my dive certification here in Byron Bay. Awesome idea! So the first two days were lots of theory and pool time.

The first time I breathed through a regulator I felt like a mixture between Darth Vader and like I was about to get some dental work/surgery done. Odd feeling. When I first put my head under the water, my lungs felt like they would explode because, oh yeah, I was holding my breath. Totally the opposite of scuba. Go Hannah. When I finally gasped for air, I was half expecting to breath in a mouthful of water, and have to come coughing up out of the water (we were in the shallow end), but no water hit my lungs (obviously). It was the most liberating feeling of my life. I have spend a good 8 years or so snorkeling, and a good 18 years swimming, used to fighting for air, swallowing water. etc etc. If I could have any super power in the world, anyone who knows me, knows that I would totally pick gills. The ocean is my love in life. It means the world to me. So after the first initial shock of "holy crap I'm breathing underwater", the complete bliss set in. I felt so peaceful and just a total sense of belonging in the water. Truly incredible.

Today was our first day or open water dives. Let's just say that the bliss did not continue. On the boat ride I felt totally fine, no sea sickness or anything, just happy to be heading out to Julianne Rocks. There was about 3 meter swells so the sea was pretty rough today, but we figured it would be alright (bad mistake #1). When we got out there and attached to the mooring line and started to put on our gear, that's when the sea sickness hit. It was like automatic awful. So the dive instructors just got me in the water asap. After doing the traditional backward-fall into the water with gear dive move, I felt totally fine just being in the water. When we started diving down the mooring line, I continued to feel just fine. we got down to the bottom, around 8 meters, and I felt completely happy, just so excited to finally be a "fish". As we were heading down, a batfish came and hung out next to me, seeming to just say "welcome to my reef". It made me heaps excited! I love batfish. They are amazing. We saw loads of stingrays, some schools of yellow damselfish, around a few thousand fish. It was magical. There was also a big blue parrot fish that followed us for a while, chomping down on his coral. There were some reef clownfish, some moorish idols, and some silverfish and everything. Visibility was only about 2 meters, so that was a little disappointing. After only about 20 minutes we headed back up unfortunately. The currents were a bit strong. I thought the dive was going to end fairly well, until we got to the 5 meter safety stop. The moment we got there I instantly felt nauseous, and started the whole dry heaving/verge of barfing motion. All I could think was "I will not last three minutes at this safety stop". The second my head broke water, I spit out my regulator and proceeded to just dry heave a whole lot. I only had a few rice crackers that morning, so I was just dry heaving lots of stomach acid up. So not fun. It is a different experience spewing with your face in water. I think I like it better if I had to choose between that and a toilet.

When getting certified, we do two consecutive dives, so one right after the other. We headed back to the dive center to grab new tanks (and sea sickness pills and an apple). The same scenario went down, fine on the ride out, slightly feeling queazy putting on gear, and just fine once in the water. The swell had gone down so we all though visibility would be better, currents would be calmer etc etc. Descending this though continued until we got about 3 meters away from the mooring line. Then it hit us like a brick wall: the E.A.C. Yes, for all you Finding Nemo watchers this is the same EAC, East Australian Current that holds all the turtles. It's a brutal current in real life. It hit us, and automatically threw us around the other side of Julianne. The dive instructors were all trying to get us to swim perpendicular to get out of the current, but to no avail. We were getting thrown around, and panicked. It was super fun. Not. After about 10-15 minutes of getting dragged by the current we all decided to surface. Once again, the 5 meter barf line hit. This time was even better though. We were now on the opposite side of Julianne and had to wait for the boats. And the swell had kicked right back up. So there we were, a little clump of divers going up and down, up and down. Somehow during the dive and ascent, the apple that I had eaten between dives had decided to compact itself back into a whole apple in my stomach, then proceed back up. There was no force behind this barf, just a giant mass that I could feel every centimeter of the way back up my throat. When I finally managed to throw it up, it was just this apple mass like "would you like to eat me again?" It was awful. So I just proceeded to spend the entire time floating, waiting for the boat, ralfing my brains out. I can't even remember the last time I threw up, so I hope this was my one time for the next 10 years or so.

The second dive did have it's beauties though. I saw a guitarfish, about 2 meters long. It was lovely. Also a whole school of sand rays, just hovering above a sand bank in the current. There was around 40 or so rays. It was quite a sight. I also saw a big black bull ray, about 1.5 meters across. He was big! Absolutely gorgeous though. The good thing about Julianne is now I know that there is tons of sea life out there waiting for me to explore it! I am very excited to go out again. Back on shore the dive masters said that if we could dive in that, we could pretty much go anywhere in the world and dive. They said it was the worst dive conditions to possible imagine. I just wanted to scream "WELL THEN WHY DID YOU TAKE US OUT THERE?! WE'RE BEGINNERS! THIS IS SUPPOSED TO MAKE US FALL IN LOVE WITH DIVING, YA IDIOT!" But i obviously kept my mouth shut. I am grateful for the experience so I know what it can be like, but I pray that I never have to go back into water like that again.