Saturday, 28 November 2009

Where women glow and men plunder

First, I want to wish everyone a happy belated Thanksgiving - I hope that the food was good and the company was great! Interestingly, my day was not without celebration (I expected to be giving up Thanksgiving dinner and 4th of July festivities when I came here, so I am now interested to see how they handle the latter here...). My college has a disproportionately high percentage of Americans, so there was a nice Thanksgiving feast at night. In fact, there was even a luncheon put on by the American Students Union for which I was signed up, but science took precedence.

That is okay, though, because the past week has been full of celebration for me - lots of birthday festivities (both mine and others'!) over the weekend, a few formal dinners this week, a house potluck, and an epic celebration of a successful dissertation defense in our lab. Lesson learned this week: do not say to your supervisor (we'll call mine Veona Vatt to stop this from showing up on Google searches of her name) that you "cannot believe you are double-fisting in front of the Veona Vatt." I don't know which part is more embarrassing - that I used the term "double-fisting," which is taken completely the wrong way here, or that I called her "the Veona Vatt" to her face. In my defense, she handed me both of the drinks.

Anyway, as I said previously, I wanted to use this post to revisit/document my Australia trip from this summer. My original intention was to travel around Europe (cliche, I know, but all the cool kids were doing it) before starting graduate school. However, when I found out I would be in England for a year, I decided to go somewhere else. That coupled with the fact that one of my best friends, Ryan, was studying in Tasmania over the summer led me to Australia to join him and others. Spoiler: the trip was amazing. I think a big part of the reason why (other than the fact that it was in Australia) was that I went with some of my best friends from high school (Casey, Michael and Ryan) and my best friend from college (Meena). To put an end to any speculation, I did kind of date one of them for a while before Australia. However, when things got complicated, Ryan and I had to break up (it was for the better.)

Right, Australia - we flew into Sydney, and only stayed one day at the beginning of the trip, though we returned for a few more days at the end. On that first day, we took a ferry ride up to a town called Manly and walked through some parks and along the harbour on our way back. The hike was good, but not great; however, I feel the need to mention it because it has been brought up so many times since, mostly as a synonym for "boring" and "torture." (The others didn't like it so much, I thought it was nice. And it gave us some nice pictures because of the name of the town.)

This was the view from our ferry to Manly. I suppose I didn't have to include this picture because I could have just given you this link. Maybe this will be my contribution.

Like I said, the name gave us some great pictures. This was my favorite because it makes me giggle every time.

The next day, we headed up to the Gold Coast, which is supposed to be one of the more popular destinations for Australians themselves because of its nightlife and beautiful beaches. While I don't mean to complain, you have to keep two things in mind: I had just lived in San Diego for 5 years and we were traveling during summer months at home, which meant it was winter down under. Basically, I am trying to say that the Gold Coast wasn't exactly sparkling when we were there. In addition, we all started to get sick or were still jet lagged, so we perhaps didn't take advantage of the nightlife as much as we could have. Nevertheless, I think we made the most out of it by arranging a few tours. After somewhat wasting a day by walking around and getting a feel for the city we were staying in, we went to Lamington National Park the next day, which I thought was beautiful. The drive up was a bit windy, but it was worth it in the end - we drove through at least three different ecosystems (quickly became the word of the trip) and got to go on a stunning rainforest canopy walk at the top. This was also the first time we spotted a kangaroo in the wild, though I will explain later why that stopped becoming a positive thing later on in the trip. The next day we went to Currumbin, which is a wildlife sanctuary on the east coast. Though I have to say that the San Diego Wild Animal Park is better, Currumbin had kangaroos that we could pet, so it was automatically memorable.

Strangler figs: these trees are just plain cool. They are effectively parasites that start their growth from the top of another tree, stealing nutrients from the host. Eventually the host tree rots away and the surviving fig tree is hollow.

This is a picture from the very top of the canopy. You can't really see, but we were 30 meters above the ground at this point on a relatively wobbly platform attached to a strangler fig (remember, they are hollow) and the winds were the strongest that I ever felt. Such a thrill. One of my best memories from the whole trip. (photo credit: Meena)

We only had a bit of time with the birds, but I thought it was really fun. It reminded me of the bird sanctuary in Jamaica, though that was much cooler I have to admit. Remind me to tell that story one day. (photo credit: Michael)

There are probably better pictures of us with the kangaroos, but this is one of the few pictures we have of everybody together. And no, the kangaroos are not dead. However, that will not always be a given - as I said, the subject of kangaroos gets a lot more unpleasant later. (photo credit: Some guy at Currumbin with Michael's camera)

I think I will actually stop there for now about Australia because this post is getting a little long (real reason: I have report due on Monday that I should work on ((yes, I do work while I am here!))). However, the next few stops on our trip were by far the best, though admittedly they would have been better if Casey could have stuck around. Just as a preview, we went to Cairns (Great Barrier Reef) and then to Alice Springs, where we took a 3 day tour into the red desert, before returning to Sydney for a few days. Just looking through the pictures so that I can find some to put up is already making me miss it!

Anyway, in running news, I ran 9.2 miles today at about an 8:30 pace, which I am pretty happy with. I would ideally like to get my pace to around 8 flat on the long runs so that I can run a sub-1:40 half-marathon in Mississippi with my sister in January, but I don't see that as being too likely. I will be ecstatic with anything under 2 hours to be honest, but I suppose you should always aim high (unless you are a sniper). Also, yesterday I went on a morning run along the river with a friend, and we saw the sun rise and all of the rowers practicing. Needless to say, I am hooked. I will try to take my camera along on one of the runs and take pictures.

In conclusion, here are my lists for this post:

My order of preference of numbers 1-5 (reverse order):
5. 2 (such a cop out of a prime number - this is normally a special distinction but 2 gets it just for coming after 1 and before 3... ugh.)
4. 1 (I hate that if written a certain way, it can look like two different letters)
3. 4 (it still blows my mind that 2 plus 2 equals 4 AND 2 times 2 equals 4)
2. 3 (this is what a prime number should look like)
1. 5 (the mirror image of that dirty, dirty number... it's a yin-yang kind of thing to me)

Things I like to do in my free time
1. Go to a bookstore (most relaxing thing ever, and you can read any kind of book you want for free)
2. Read funny and/or profound quotations from famous people (and, yes, I am very embarrassed by this, don't make fun of me)
3. Blast music on my iPod and try to learn how to dance in front of the mirror or by watching YouTube videos
4. Research alternate life paths/major changes in my life (note: this generally comes after I have already made the change)
5. Click through all of the bookmarks on my browser about 10 times (ESPN -> BBC -> CNN -> Gmail -> repeat) until I settle on something that interests me

Quirks about me that very few people know:
1. Only 6 people on my phone do not have both their first and last name in there (mom, dad, Poonam, Punita, Ryan, and Stephanie)
2. I once almost cried because I stepped on a snail (but I'm a man, and we don't do that - though I mourned its death for a good 2 hours)
3. My favorite color growing up was purple, though now I tell people it's blue
4. I take great pride in having very round fingernails. I often let them grow to be too long so that I can more precisely clip/file them
5. When I make a list of things to do, I always include "Make a list of things to do" just so I can cross it off when I am done


  1. Hey, read OUR (me and Jenna) blog too!


    I promise you will be inspired and hungry!

  2. your conclusion was really...really long.