Thursday, November 29, 2012

Who Loves the Wilderness?!

To add yet another experience to our bucketload of randomness here in Melbourne, Diana and I worked as "Wilderness Defenders" for The Wilderness Society (TWS), which is an Australian nonprofit that is independently run and gives a "voice" to the forests, oceans, and wildlife of this country.

Wait, maybe I should back up and tell you the full story of how we even got the job. When Diana and I were doing our first Friday Funday a couple weeks ago, we wrote at the bottom of our poster, "p.s. We are looking for jobs!" A guy from TWS approached us and asked if we really needed jobs and if we'd be interested in doing fundraising. Red flag. Usually those jobs are commission-based and involve a lot of rejection. The TWS guy then told us it was base PLUS commission and involved being on the streets talking to people (mind you, these are the people I avoided back home by crossing to the other side of the street if I saw them...). But again, we chalked it down to a new experience.

After a day of training, memorizing random facts ("Sir, did you know that 92% of Australia's forests have been destroyed since Europeans settled here and that one CBD is destroyed weekly?!"), and practicing our pitches ("Who loves the wilderness?! THIS GIRL!! Do YOU love the wilderness?!"), we hit the streets yesterday. Twenty minutes into our shift, Diana and I signed on a Kiwi and made our first commission.

We spent four hours being ridiculous and making people smile. "Hey sir, are you a superhero?..."No"...well would you like to be?!" There was a lot of rejection involved, too. Overall, I learned something important: I LOVE building rapport and entertaining people, but I do NOT like direct sales. I think the best part is that this job opened our eyes to different types of people and helped us to better understand them. For instance, maybe when I get back home I won't intentionally cross the street to avoid them but actually have a conversation with them. It's people like this that keep those nonprofits going. Supposedly 90 percent of their funding comes from signing on members just like we did yesterday.

And as it turns out, we only were Wilderness Defenders for a day. We were offered a new job for next week...stay tuned! This new job fulfills another one of my life goals!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Professional Dabbler?

After three weeks of nonstop activities in Melbourne, I hit a brick wall today. Literally all I wanted to do all day was have some "me" time, which included a workout and a good book to read. I chose Barefoot Investor by Scott Pape based on a friend's recommendation.

I spent most of the afternoon stretched out on the couch reading, but I found myself distracted. Since today was the first time in three weeks I was able to make some time for myself, it allowed me to do something I hadn't done in awhile: think/reflect/overanalyze. And for those of you that know me, going weeks without doing this is practically a miracle! For three entire weeks, I lived day-by-day and in the moment. It felt great! Yet, something was thoughts.

Today, the thought that kept popping into my mind was "next steps." For instance, what should I do for a living when I get home? I know I know, you're thinking, "That's not for a couple month's time, you nut!" but I'm excited/nervous about what lies ahead. I can do anything I want! The world is my oyster, as they say. However, that's what's keeping me up at night!! How do I narrow down what I should do? I have so many interests! There are so many jobs I can honestly see myself doing, but how do I choose which to pursue first? Am I destined to be a professional dabbler, changing jobs every couple years? Or is it that I haven't found one that suits me yet? Am I asking for too much? Is the secret to all of this just to make sure you're fulfilled as a person outside of work in order to ensure fulfillment AT work?

I understand work isn't rainbows and butterflies everyday, however, it should be something you wake up and want to do a majority of the time. I LOVE to work. And I love to work hard, which means it should be something I'm passionate about. So how do I focus those passions? Anyone have any suggestions? Anyone? Bueller?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Brighton Beach and Big Opportunities

Yesterday, we had every intention to get to the beach early in the day and enjoy the beautiful spring/summer weather Melbourne finally decided to bestow on us. However, when we arrived at the train station to take us there, we heard a very round Asian man yelling, "NO TRAIN! No train today. Bus only. NO TRAIN!!!" from across the tracks. Let me point out something here: he did NOT work for the city or the train line. He simply wanted to inform us that there was no train. As we walked up the ramp and over to the buses, he pulls out a random map from his pocket and continues to yell, "NO TRAIN!!! Take bus. NO TRAIN!!!" as we're standing about a foot from his face. We try to explain to him that we understood, but he continued to yell and point to his map. We thought this was the perfect time to walk away slowly..

Long story short, we hopped on two buses that eventually took us to Melbourne CBD. From there, we still had to take another train to Brighton Beach (fortunately, this train line was still running that day). Before we rode that train, we decided to lay in the sun at a park downtown and drink champagne...just because we could. Around 4pm, we finally got on the train and rode to the beach. This beach is known for its colorful shacks along the water. These things are tiny and sell for a couple hundred thousand dollars! People store their beach stuff in these and that's about it. Below are a few of my favorite ones:

After a couple hours at the beach, we headed back toward the city. As we were about to hop on the train, one of the friends we've made here in Melbourne (Jaymee) called us and told us that she had a group of people we needed to meet. We were exhausted, but luckily the event our friend wanted us to go to was off the same train line as the one we were already on. When we got there, we found out the event was for a winery in the area and the entire inside of this art space was decorated as if you were outside at the winery having a picnic lunch. There was fake grass on the floor, picnic baskets hanging from the ceiling, blanket to sit on, bikes and large pieces of fruit everywhere, grape vines hanging down, and an abundance of wine and champagne. We met the event manager and complimented her amazing setup! We also met a few women entrepreneurs, both of which were a HUGE help to us and offered a handful of suggestions to Diana and me. We're meeting with both this week to discuss further. I love when independent, confident women get together and exchange ideas and help each other! 

Friday Funday: Movember Edition

On November 23rd, we had our second Friday Funday where we danced on the streets of Melbourne to make people smile. However, this time around, we were more prepared.

As many of you know, all around the world men participate in Movember during the month of November to raise money for prostate cancer and male mental health. For Friday Funday, we wore mustaches to support this cause. Let me tell you, people loved it! We raised $29.75 (almost six times more than last week!) and enjoyed every minute of it. We were sweating so much that our mustaches were falling off our face, so we had to improvise and keep using new pieces of duct tape to keep it on.  At one point, we were dancing with one arm up in the air and the other holding onto our 'staches. Priceless.

Our first $5 note (or bill as Americans would say) was given to us by a man and his friend watching our performance through the cafe window in their office building. He ran outside after about 20 minutes of Diana and I dancing and said, "My colleague and I have been laughing and smiling at you two since you started. We thought it was only fair to give you a tip for the entertainment provided!"

Toward the end of Friday Funday, a random guy called out to us and asked, "Do you two know Gangnam Style?!" Before his very eyes, we switched the song and busted out the dance moves to Gangnam Style. He was in hysterics! Best moment of the day by far. See video attached.

I think we're really onto something here... And the best part? We're having the time of our lives making people happy! We even came up with a tagline for our business while we were dancing: Your Smile is Your Best Accessory...Wear It.

We're still brewing up ideas for next Friday...stay tuned!

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Yesterday, we worked at the Queen Victoria Market for one last shift. To be completely honest, we needed produce to make Thanksgiving dinner. Well, and the fact that we genuinely enjoyed dancing and chatting with the customers, even though we would get in trouble. I don't think our supervisors realized that building rapport with customers actually encourages them to return time and time again...

We finished our shift at 2pm then ran over to the butcher to pick up a "turkey" (aka 2 kg chicken) for Thanksgiving dinner. We told the butchers we worked in the market and when they found out which stall they said, "Wow, you two must have been desperate!" Glad to know our intuition about how this stall is run was accurate. Because the guys at the butcher felt so bad for us, they gave us the chicken at a severely discounted rate.

When we got back to Rom and Kelly's, we drank wine, listened to Christmas music, and started prepping dinner. Since Kelly and Diana are American too, we decided to each cook a family recipe. I chose my dad's sweet and savory stuffing. Instead of cranberries, I substituted cherries since they're in season right now in Melbourne. It was a success! Diana made green bean casserole and Kelly made pumpkin pie. Although the meal wasn't quite as good as my dad's, I really enjoyed it as well as the company I was surrounded by.

Before we dove into dinner, we went around the table saying what we were thankful for this year. Every year I have a lot to be grateful for, but this year I am especially thankful for the travel opportunities I've had in 2012. I can't even imagine what 2013 will bring, but I know it's going to be epic. When you follow your heart and live your passions, life seems effortless...great things happen all the time.

Happy Thanksgiving to all those celebrating (and not celebrating). Don't forget to be thankful EVERY DAY :)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Lesson of the Day: Education Equals Opportunity

Today, Diana and I worked at Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne at a fruit and veg stand for 5 hours. In those 5 hours, we each made $40. Yes, that's $8/hour. In Victoria, Australia, the minimum hourly rate is around $15/hour, so we made about half that. For us, this was a "fun" job to add to our life experience and help us relate better to the people around us. For the others working at this stand, this job is their way of making money and supporting their family. They don't get to go home in a couple months and have the option to make more money. Instead, they have to learn to live off this paycheck.

With our $40 in hand, we repeatedly said to each other, "I'm so thankful for my education." Because of the opportunities we've had in our lives, we have the ability to have various jobs that make more than $8/hour. Even with massive amounts of student loan debt, I'm thankful for having two higher ed degrees. Without them, I wouldn't be able to do what I'm doing now.

This experience also brought to light the fact that we often spend money on things we don't need. Do I really need another pair of designer jeans or that new Apple product? No, I don't. Yes, it's nice to treat yourself sometimes. However, that "thing" you buy isn't going to make you feel better about yourself in the long run. Instead, it's about experiencing life to its fullest--and that doesn't even involve spending one cent.

In fact, another bucket list item of mine is to have a guy take me on a date where he doesn't spend a single penny. It teaches you to be creative and appreciate the world around you. There are SO many fun and free things to do all around you! This trip, I've tried to experience everything I can and a lot of it has been without spending crazy amounts of money. Yes, there's a few splurges here and there, but ultimately, it's simple things like reading at the beach or walking around that make me happiest.

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I just wanted to express how thankful I am for the life I have.

Top two things I'm grateful for:
1. Education- because education = opportunity
2. The ability to appreciate the little things in life.

When you're sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner, dig deep and really think about all the great things you have in your life. I'm pretty sure there's a lot more there than you even think and none of it entails having the "finer things" in life.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Our First Ever Friday Funday!

Life goal #842 (approx.) accomplished: set up shop on a street corner downtown and white girl dance for tips. Yes, I am being completely honest.

On Friday afternoon, Diana and I put up posters for our brand Be You! (like us on Facebook!), set out a CD boom box, and white girl danced our hearts out. For all of you that know me, I'm sure you've witnessed "the dolphin" and "the point" randomly at a bar when I'm in the right mood. Now just envision my terrible dance moves (along with Diana's) on the corner of Elizabeth and Collins Streets in Melbourne CBD (just think Michigan Avenue in Chicago). We've coined this new tradition as "Friday Funday."

Now you may be asking yourself, "WHY would she do something like that?!" The answer is simple: Be You. Dancing terribly makes me happy and being happy is contagious. So, Friday Funday is a way for Diana and I to transfer our happiness to others. If you look around, too many people are unhappy, and a lot of the time, they're unhappy because they are being something other than themselves. Or people are just pretending to be happy. I was guilty of it just a couple months ago! I was working a job I didn't love, was friends with toxic people, and pretending to love "settling down" in one place. It wasn't until I looked within and started to be myself that the gates to happiness opened.

Essentially, our brand Be You! is to remind everyone that it's okay to break out of the mold and do things that make you happy, even if others disapprove. To pay this message forward, Diana and I hung up two posters while we danced. One read: Friday Funday!; the other read: Be Spontaneous, Be Creative, Be _______, Be You! As pedestrians passed, we danced around, smiled ,and yelled, "Happy Friday!" And you know what? I think we changed quite a few people's days around. A handful of people came up to us and gushed about how happy we were and how it made them happy as well. An older lady sat on the bench and watched us for an hour, multiple people videotaped us, a guy in a wheelchair gave us hugs, some stepped in to dance, etc. We made an impact on more than a handful of people in Melbourne that day.

And funny enough, guess who we ran into while we were dancing on the street?! The opening act of La Soiree! (click here for a reminder of what this is). All of a sudden while we're dancing, I hear a man yell, "Go girls!" and then realized who he was! Of course we convinced him to take a photo with us :)

After about four hours of dancing, Diana and I met Rom and Kelly at the Bottom End for happy hour. A few of their friends showed up as well and we all drank champagne (it's free for ladies between 5-7pm FYI) and then we told them about our adventurous day. They loved it! We then gave them a taste of our dance moves as we walked from the bar to dinner. We set up our boom box and danced down the sidewalk (see video below).

After dinner, we decided to check off another bucket list item: karaoke! First, we went to a place called KBOX. It wasn't really what we had this place, groups rented out rooms and sang with their friends in small groups. Because there were only three of us that decided to go to karaoke, we party crashed one of the rooms. Diana stole the mic from the group of 7 dudes and 1 girl and then started performing "I Would Do Anything For Love" by Meatloaf. And don't worry, she didn't forget to incorporate a leg guitar move (yes, I said LEG guitar) and intense screaming into the microphone. I would not have been surprised to see her just drop the mic at the end of the performance and walk out. One of the BEST performances I've abs hurt from laughing so much!

After KBOX, we went to a dodgy karaoke bar in Chinatown to sing Toto "Africa." Our stay at this bar was short-lived and we left right after our performance. By the time we got on stage, our voices were nearly gone due to a day of yelling and singing, but we still entertained the crowd.

Our final stop of the night was a bar called Berlin Bar. One side of the bar represented East Berlin and the other side was West Berlin. The West was gorgeously decorated with fancy drinks while the East depicted a communist bunker and had only a few mediocre drink choices to represent life in Germany until the Berlin Wall came down in 1989.

This Friday will always have a special place in my memory. It was the day Diana and I unofficially launched our business and made $4.65 in the process, which didn't even cover the price of the boom box batteries but will provide us years and years of smiles and fulfillment :) Here's to many more Friday Fundays in many more cities around the world!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Outside-the-Box Entertainment, Melbourne Style

Imagine a double-jointed, half-naked man in white shorts, no shirt, a sweatband around his head, tattoos on his back, and blonde hair and full beard with his legs behind his head on top of a tower of gradually reduced-sized tins. Now, as he continues to hold his legs behind his head, he states, "It's crazy what people do for a living, isn't it? I always wanted to be 'Rubber Man' and now I am. So my advice for you is to follow your dreams--you never know what people may pay you to do one day."

Mind you, this same guy dislocated joints to fit through both 12- and 10-inch tennis rackets earlier in the show. The show is called La Soirée and a guy I met at the Melbourne horse races on Saturday surprised me with tickets last night. Let me line up the entire night for you...

So I meet Trent downtown and he takes me to Rialto, a gorgeous bar high up in a building in Melbourne overlooking CBD (Central Business District). We order a drink and watch the sun begin to set. I opt for a housemade macadamia nut vodka, which comes with a macadamia nut toffee treat on the side. Wow. The drink perfectly hints macadamia flavor and needs nothing else to enhance it, not even the sweet treat on the side.

Next up, we walk over to a intricately decorated entertainment venue in the heart of downtown near Southern Cross station. On our walk there, the sun was fully set and the city lights were in full effect. It was the first time seeing Melbourne at night and I couldn't help but notice how much the various architecture reminded me of Chicago, but even better.

Upon stepping inside the show, I knew I was in for an "outside-the-box" experience due to the abundance of gay men walking around. Great choice, I thought to myself. I'm a huge fan of guys taking chances on choosing where to take a girl.

Two hours later, I scratched off quite a few things from my bucket list that I hadn't even realized were on there. I saw a heavyset black man in red glittery lipstick and gold and green eyeshadow sing Rihanna; a European, Queen-obsessed man in a tummy exposing leather jacket crowd surf while singing "We are the Champions"; and a Spanish magician make a red handkerchief disappear in her fist and reappear in a very, ahem, private area of her body.

You know what I learned from all this? I learned that it's so important to be open-minded and be with others that think outside-the-box. As I looked around at the crowd, I saw old and young, gay and straight, black and white (and everything in between), male and female, but the one thing that aligned each person in the audience was the fact that they were open to experiencing something new. And everyone did it with a smile on their face.

After La Soirée, we went to Cookie, a trendy bar in the area. It's a couple different levels and has a movie theater on the roof. Funny enough, we bumped into Diana at the same bar with her date. We did NOT plan this!!! Around midnight, we made our way home, exchanged stories, and couldn't help but think..."Yup, this is our amazing life."

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lesson of the Day: I Heart Maps!

A couple months ago, I remember meeting my friend Helene's colleague. She hosted a party at her house and while we were there, I noticed that she had an abundance of maps all over her house. I came to find out that she went on a road trip years back over the course of multiple years in which she drove all over the continental United States. I also found out that her favorite book/author was Rand McNally and she had tattoos of maps on top of her feet. At the time, I was a bit overwhelmed by her infatuation with maps.

However, I entirely understand her now. As I sat overlooking an old map of Australia on Friday afternoon, an intense state of excitement overcame me. I've always loved geography and travel in general, but it wasn't until I was looking at the map of Australia and planning my adventure that I fully appreciated how amazing maps are. They not only tell you where you are but also where you can go; sky's the limit! Maps = opportunity. They literally unfold another world to explore.

A Day at the Races

I flew into Melbourne early Friday morning and met up with my good friend, Diana. She was in Dubai and Singapore previously. For the next two months, we will be traveling throughout parts of Australia and New Zealand together.

We're lucky enough to be staying with friends of my friend Eileen, who also so happen to be one of the cutest couples ever! Kelly is American and Romney is Australian. Eileen and Romney have known each other nearly 20 years.

Kelly and Rom at Emirates Stakes Day
Romney picked me up from the airport, then we picked up Diana from the train, then we went shopping for fascinators (aka cool hats!) and dresses for Melbourne's Emirates Stakes Day that was happening the following day. Stakes Day is technically a "family day" at the horse races. To be completely honest, the thing Diana and I cared about most regarding the races was finding an obnoxiously large fascinator. The best part of buying a new fascinator? The fact that Diana and I would have to wear them onboard every plane from here on out due to the fact that they are hard to pack and take up too much room. SCORE! We'll be wearing them to Tasmania, Sydney, Christchurch, and Auckland (at least!). They'll be the most well-traveled, well-cultured fascinators. Here's the one's we chose:

We arrived at Flemington Racecourse, drank champagne on the lawn, ate finger sandwiches, placed bets (we chose the horse with the worst odds in one of the races called "Ready to Rip"), and mingled with everyone we could. At one point, Diana and I conquered a Buck's Party (aka bachelor party) and entertained a group of 10+ guys for over an hour with our random stories and smiles. I think the picture below sums up our goofy personalities:

The best part of attending Stakes Day was I was able to check off another thing on my bucket list: rock a fascinator at a horserace!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Little Bit of Venice Beach in Australia

This week, I took a side trip from Brisbane to Byron Bay all on my own. I crossed over from Queensland into New South Wales, changed timezones, and essentially shifted lifestyles. Byron Bay is a backpackers city full of independent shops, organic food, street performers, and beachside magnificence. There are virtually no Australians that live in the town and the ones that do live there have a false sense of reality.

Highlights of the trip (in no particular order):
1. Candlelit yoga at sunset overlooking the ocean.
2. Angus Stone at the Great Northern (see below, a little blurry, but it's "Broken Brights" from his new album).

3. Cashew, pesto, sundried tomato, and feta pie at Twisted Sista.
4. Meeting a Canadian couple and climbing up to the lighthouse (and the most gorgeous views up top!). We also saw dolphins in the water in the aqua-blue water.

I'm really glad I ventured out and traveled to Byron on my own. I met so many people that added to my life journey. Everyone is going in a different direction, but oftentimes there's a reason people cross paths. Whether it's to learn something good or bad, those that take something from a conversation with another person gains the most from life. When you travel, you realize just how many people there are in the world. You may cross paths with them for a split second or an extended period of time, but either way, anyone and everyone can impact your life. It's how you choose to react that defines what type of person you will be, what kind of presence you will exude to others, and how you can aid in others' journeys.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"We Just Have to Help Each Other"

I look at my watch. It's only 8pm. I can't go to bed yet, I tell myself. What if I go to a local bar in Byron Bay and have a glass of wine? I agree that if I last til 10 then I can go back to the hostel and turn in for the night without being embarrassed. I head to the Great Northern, sip on a glass of domestic red wine, and listen to Harry Healy playing live in the background (I found out later that he is a face of Byron and has been playing at that bar for over 15 years. In his prime, the bar was packed with groupies; now, he was lucky to have 20 people in the room. Maybe he needs to change his song lineup...).

So I'm sitting there alone, something I would never do in a Chicago bar, when I see a couple walk in the door, head to the bar, and dreamily look into each other's eyes. They grab their drinks, look around for a seat, and we lock eyes. They ask to sit down next to me and of course I'm all for it.

The next four hours include in-depth conversations about everything and anything. More of the couple's friends join us along the way. We exchange travel stories, love stories, surfing stories, etc. I come to find out that the guy was a famous surfer and used to be on the Nestle Milo product packaging. He also teaches yoga in Indonesia and surfs all around the world. He told me countless stories of his travel days but the most important information I learned from him was, "We all just have to help each other." He said that so many people around the world helped him get to where he was that he just wanted to pay it forward to others.

Long story short, I trusted my gut and knew I was surrounded by genuine, good-souled people. They offered up their king-sized bed in their spare bedroom overlooking the lighthouse and ocean. They said they would feel better helping me out and letting me stay with them. I Googled them, located myself on a map, and made sure people knew where I was (don't have a heart attack, Mom and Dad!).

All of us sat on their balcony overlooking the Southern Hemisphere stars. It was a beautifully clear night and Orion was in perfect view. They pointed out the constellations and planets and all of the Milky Way. I can honestly say my breath was taken away.

Then they cooked me an organic late night meal and put on a pot of tea. I turned in for the night and as I slipped into bed I could see the lighthouse beam through the bedroom window. In the morning, we parted ways and I knew I had had a true Byron Bay experience.

Believe me, I don't do things like this very often, but my gut told me it was okay. I truly believe you get what you give. Had I seen someone out by herself and had a great conversation with her, I'd welcome her in, too. As I learned that night, "We just have to help each other."

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Eat First, Feed Later

Kangaroos, that is.

On Saturday night, I met up with two Brisbane/Gold Coast girls that my parents randomly met in Texas. My parents were traveling for my mom's job and the Brissy girls were traveling all around the U.S. at the time. Story has it that the girls were climbing on statues that were not supposed to be climbed on when they bumped into my parents. My mom called me right after they parted ways and told me she met two girls from Brisbane that "spoke funny, but were very friendly." Leave it to my mom to get their phone numbers and email addresses. But hey, if it eased her mind for me to get in contact with Rebecca and Krystle, then I was on board.

Back to the story. So I met up with Rebecca and Krystle on Saturday night and they cooked me a traditional Aussie dinner consisting of kangaroo meat, lamb, pumpkin, mint peas, and pavlova for dessert. I'm always down to try new things so I was eager to try kangaroo. Overall, not bad. It's kind of like steak..

After dinner, Rebecca took me to my first Australian concert: Ball Park Music at Tivoli in the Valley. It was fun to experience the concert with her because her passion for their music was so apparent. Here's a taste of what I heard last night:

On Sunday, I had my best touristy day in Brisbane thus far; I wouldn't change one thing about it. I started off the day trapezing. See video below:

I'm pretty sure I could do that all day! I felt so free as I swung through the air. I guess all those years in gymnastics paid off :)

After trapezing, Eileen and I went to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Some of the highlights included holding a koala, feeding a kangaroo, and seeing a tasmanian devil and platypus in person. When the zookeeper first put the koala in my arms, she nonchalantly mentioned, "This is Violet. Violet tends to be a diva. Make sure to keep your hands still and she won't get angry." Awesome! Just before that, they tried to give me a different koala but the koala wasn't cooperating due to her need for a man, nicely put.

To be honest, I'm glad I ate kangaroo Saturday night before going to Lone Pine yesterday. It may have created an image in my head hard to shake otherwise. As I held out my hands to feed the kangaroos, I couldn't help but wonder where exactly that meat came from on the animal that I ate on Saturday.

After Lone Pine, Eileen took me to Mt. Coot-tha for gorgeous views overlooking Brisbane:

On our way down from Mt. Coot-tha, we ventured over to Queensland University. Eileen knows me pretty well, so she drove me around campus telling me all about the history and significant events that occurred on the grounds (Gardisil vaccination, anyone?). I love higher education and am a huge supporter of gaining knowledge both inside and outside the classroom if you have the means and the drive. I love traveling and visiting universities around the world. However, doing this points out one thing time and time again: I wish I would have gone away to school. I stayed local for both undergrad and graduate school (except for studying abroad in England and Ireland). There are so many great universities out there. When I have kids one day, I hope they have the opportunity to attend a school outside of Illinois, maybe even outside the country.

The final stop on our eventful day was New Farm. From this area of the city, Eileen and I hopped on a CityCat and rode it to South Bank for dinner. Here's a view of Story Bridge from the CityCat:

The sun was just starting to set as we made our way off the CityCat to Little Grey Street in South Bank, Brisbane. This area of the city is known for its alfresco dining, so we chose an Italian place on the corner that had heaps of gluten-free options. We sat outside, people-watched, sipped wine, and recounted the successful day we just had. Today was one of those days I wish I could bottle up and save forever. I've been having more and more of those days over the past couple years and they are especially apparent while traveling.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Halloween Around the World

Even from the time I studied abroad in London, I knew that Halloween was not as widely-celebrated in other countries as it is in America. In fact, I remember going to a Chelsea vs. Leicester City football game on Halloween 2007 in London...not very Halloween-like...

Growing up in America, Halloween equated to visiting pumpkin farms and apple orchards, working one's way through hay mazes, and making/buying costumes to go trick-or-treating. Overall, this time of year brought together communities and was a fun way to meet neighbors. Then, as high school and college years approached, Halloween became an extended bikini season with an abundance of nurse, schoolteacher, and other cliche "sexy" costumes (cue cringeworthy flashbacks right

I spent the entire last week with an Aussie family up on the Sunshine Coast. The family is made up three spunky, beautiful, curious girls. Since they have never been exposed to American culture and it was Halloween week, I decided to pass down some of my favorite holiday traditions.

Most importantly, we had to get the girls a pumpkin to carve, so we went to their local IGA grocery store to scope out the goods. We found one that seemed suitable. After we brought it home, I had each of the girls draw out what they wanted the pumpkin face to look like. Then, it was guts-picking time! The girls reached right in and instantly I saw each of their faces turn into the biggest "yuck!" expressions I'd ever seen. Proof:

On the night of Halloween, I took the girls trick-or-treating. In the process, I found out a couple different things about Australian Halloween vs. American Halloween:

1. In Australia, people only dress up as evil things. No Disney princesses around these parts!
2. In Australia, you don't trick-or-treat until after dinner when it's dark. As a kid, I remember it being a rule that kids had to be in by the time it was dark. Is this still the norm? Or was this just what my parents told me? (love you, mom and dad!)
3. In Australia, they actually abide by the phrase "TRICK-or-treat." I saw a card trick and had to stick my hand in goo to fetch out a plastic spider in order to get lollies (candy).
4. And that brings me to my next difference: in Australia, all candy, no matter if it's a chocolate bar, fruit something-or-other, licorice, etc., is called "lollies." When I think of lollies, I think lollipop. Nope, not the case here.

Mummy, clown, zombie
Eye on the prize
I'm glad I was able to share my Halloween traditions with the girls as well as have them teach me a thing or two.