Sunday, 9 June 2013

Meanwhile in Australia ...

Hey everyone,

I know it's been too long but finally here it is - the next update on what I've been doing in and around Sydney. The reason for this is a very busy schedule for my university assignments but the semester is over now - more on this further down.

At the end of April, I went to the Central Coast with Laura, Franzi and a few other friends. The family I am staying with are close friends with an elderly couple that lives in the area (Central Coast meaning the central coast of the state of New South Wales). While the couple is away - working in Dili, East Timor - they like to have someone looking after their home near Avoca Beach: a great opportunity for us to go on a cheap weekend getaway! Here are some photos:

The huge balcony in the middle of a forest
The living area bathed in light
Avoca Beach - courtesy of Raine & Horne
Now the reason why I included a picture of Avoca Beach from the internet is that while the others enjoyed a free day on the beach, I stayed at home and worked on an assignment for university.

In retrospective, I must say I have never studied as much for university in my life as I have here in Sydney - even three years of undergraduate studies in Paderborn look tame when compared to one semester at The University of Sydney. Even though I only had four classes, the readings (which I didn't even do most of the time because the assignments demanded my full attention), preparation and assignments kept me busy for the entire month of May and the beginning of June until now. 15 assignments later - ranging anywhere from 500 to 3,500 words (that's 12-15 pages), I am now rediscovering the feeling of what it means to enjoy free time.
Let's see if this makes sense for you: you fly over to Australia, participate in average seminars and endure teaching that is not in the slightest better than at universities in Germany, you are overwhelmed with assignments that seem impossible to complete in time, sacrifice all your free time of at least 3 weeks just so you can do well - and you pay a fortune for it. I have to say: to me, it doesn't make sense at all. However, the experience of living in Sydney, of feeling a sunny 20°C on your skin in the middle of winter, the blue sky and a light breeze while you're strolling along the harbour, the friendly people and just being in an awesome country make all these drawbacks acceptable.

One of my assignments - design a poster! This counted for 5% of my final grade - in Paderborn, that's a whole class.
The ones of you who know me in person probably know me as someone who does not put up with injustice or a certain kind of teachers - which is not to say I disrespect them. Some of the teachers here, however, I have found to be particularly fond of themselves and rather self-involved, playing nice and pretending to be friends with their students. I don't know what this is like in your part of the world - but I have made it pretty clear that I don't want to see my teachers outside uni. Because my time outside uni is my time off - and as such I like to spend it with friends.

Talking about friends: a couple of weeks ago, I met Hugo - a really nice guy from France. He was only in Sydney for two weeks or so - so we figured we'd do something together. And so we went over to Manly one day to go on a short hike. This is some of what we saw:

Leaving Sydney on the Manly Ferry

Waterfront houses in Manly

Shelly Beach with Manly in the background

Sunshine over the Northern beaches

Towards the end of May - and in the middle of the busiest time at uni - I turned 22. As birthdays and birthday celebrations are not a big thing in Australia - as opposed to Germany - I was quite surprised to find the whole hallway covered in red balloons in the morning:

Birthday Down Under =)
Self-made chocolate chip cookies, a bucket of M&Ms and a birthday card =)

Instead of having a big birthday party, I decided to go out for dinner with a few friends and postpone the big celebrations till mid-year break. So we went to an African restaurant around the corner - very interesting and new but also very tasty. The vegetarian dishes were apparently not as good but it was an interesting experience.

Also in the middle of the busiest time of the semester - but a very welcome distraction - came Sarah to visit me on her way to India. "On her way" is probably slightly exaggerated but why not take the opportunity and visit Australia when you don't have to worry about accommodation. The two weeks went by way too fast but it was great being able to show someone around Sydney and say: "THIS is where I live. Can you see why I don't want to go back?" =) Apart from Newtown - which Sarah liked even better than Berlin! - she was thrilled to be visiting Sydney's School of Wizardry:

Proud to announce: Ms Heise has been admitted to Hogwarts.

Ms Heise enjoying a taste of magic cider on the roof-top terrace of Manning Bar.
Bad timing as far as uni assignments are concerned - perfect timing for Viv'd! Vivid is Sydney's biggest festival of light with various artists composing light shows with background music. For the Rietberg people: it is sort of like Illumina - except bigger, better and with the Opera House ;-) Here are some impressions:

Water taxis operating throughout Vivid

Opera House - Finding Nemo style

Opera House - Luna Park style

It's incredible how many people went to see Vivid while it was on - it actually only finishes tomorrow but especially the weekends were so crowded that the Aboriginal artists playing their didgeridoos could barely find a spot to sit.

Another thing that I introduced Sarah to - and that marked the end of the semester for me - is the Australian coffee break before class with Nikki. Coffee - mostly Latte - and bananabread are the two essential ingredients to survive class without major damage:

Coffee and Bananabread with butter - so good :)
Bananabread for those of you who don't know is a kind of cake that comes in a loaf. It contains bananas and lots of sugar, is toasted and then served with butter. If it wasn't for bananabread - I probably wouldn't have survived the semester. =)

And finally - free time. Today, I went to White Bay with Roberta (my landlord) to take Stella for a long walk. On the way back, I was able to take the most stunning sunset photos:

Stella at the beach

Anzac Bridge

Sydney's skyline at sunset

Boats on White Bay

And at the end of the day - time to rest and take a nap.

Playing Hot Dog in front of the heater

A dog's life is so hard after all...

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