When It All Falls Down, we find love...

I stopped blogging when I stopped being me. When I could not figure out the difference between who was Christine and who was BeYonce...my alias.

As you may have guessed it, my trip to Australia is over and I'm back on solid ground in the U-S-of-A. Does it feel good to be home? Maybe.

Melbourne was amazing, but I certainly had my downfalls, problems, and defeats...or so it felt. That's why I stopped blogging. IT all became TOO much....not to mention the fact that EVERYTHING important to me was stolen; taken away; against my will -- including my laptop, American cell phone, little pink diary, and camera to capture the moments....

2012 is going to hit soon (the ball already dropped in Australia), so I think it might be good if I closed that chapter; just so I can open a new one without all the baggage.

After so much had been stolen, I had to convince myself that they didn't matter and all those materialistic things did not control my happiness. Quite the difficult task, especially when my life DID revolve around constantly being "connected" and "in" with media.

A warning sign of someone that is going to commit suicide includes "Giving away prized possessions." But what happens when those 'prized possessions' are taken? You can lose yourself.

I did not want to commit suicide or even have the thought cross my mind because I was too busy having another life. My laptop was stolen the same week I had final exams -- academics -- my purpose for being in Melbourne.
All my notes from lectures, unpublished photos, blogs, resumes, important documents, EVERYTHING, was on that laptop. I'll be honest, I haven't gotten over it. I don't think I will get over it until 1. Justice is restored by me getting compensated or my computer back (reported to the Victoria Police, who aren't too good at doing their job). I knew who did it within 2 minutes of it happening and I felt "helpless", because it was too late. My heart still beats when I think about the seconds after realizing what happened and I wish I had control. I wish I could have taken the elevator 15 floors down and bashed the windows of the car before it could get away....but I can't, I couldn't, I didn't, and now....I have nothing.

Moving on.
What happens after a successful suicide? Well, for one, a person dies and there's no resurrecting them. It's even worse when you mix those feelings with the abuse of drugs or alcohol. Life is never the same again.

I always viewed myself as a happy, optimistic, kind individual -- maybe the nicest...too nice, so I realized. That's when things changed. I will always be nice and expect kindness in return, but I learned that you can't put so much trust in what people should do and you can never EVER really let your guard down. At the end of the day 'man is a wolf to man' (Homo homini lupus - Thomas Hobbes) and people are selfish creatures that live for themselves. I think Beyoncé already said it: "Me, myself, and I, that's all I got in the end. That's what I found out..."

I'm sure a million questions might be running through your head while you're reading this and I wish I could tell you the whole story, but it wouldn't even be PG-13. We have to work on a need-to-know basis: beginning with everyone getting laid off at my first job (September) to running out of money and not wanting to have to ask my parents to 'top up' my bank account (October) to getting kicked out of my apartment a week after my birthday because I requested to pay rent 24 hours after it was due by a patriarchal short Italian guy that 'didn't live there' to going on a binge for the next month and a half until I landed on American soil just two weeks ago. Nothing about my life in Melbourne screamed glamorous.

One thing is for certain, I have stories. I don't remember all of them, but I met amazing people and lost quality friends. I lived in 6 places within 6 months of living in Australia on a low-budget of having no budget.

It's crazy how my life changed. They call it 'breaking bad.' Contrary to the fact that it's my friend's favorite television show, there's another definition she told me about. In an interview, Bryan Cranston (main character, Walter in 'Breaking Bad') coined the term as "when someone who has taken a turn off the path of the straight and narrow, when they've gone wrong. And that could be for that day or for a lifetime." I prefer the way my friend defined it: "It's when one thing so drastic happens that it changes your life" -- whether for the day or for a lifetime.

I can't tell you when my moment was, but it happened long before I was robbed. The name BeYonce was not self-assigned; it was given to me by someone that I love now more than anything and my only reason for wanting to return to Melbourne. Meeting her changed my world. My love is nothing romantic...but rather the love a mother has for a child or a sister or a real friend. It's funny because I've been called crazy and stupid so many times because unlike most people, I chose to love. Now, whether my life was changed for good or bad is subjective.

It's interesting how much a name, or things, can define a person or make someone feel 'together.' Because of my binge, there was no time to think; no time to eat; barely sleep; only move. It was fun. It was amazing. It was another life. It wasn't my life. No one is ever going to understand what happened over the past 2 months but my life will never be the same again.

And for the suicide warning signs that SCREAMED 'Christine is dying':

  • Withdrawing from family and friends.
  • Feeling trapped -- like there is no way out of a situation. <-- that's only how it starts
  • Experiencing dramatic mood changes.
  • Abusing drugs or alcohol.
  • Exhibiting a change in personality.
  • Acting impulsively.
  • Losing interest in most activities.
  • Experiencing a change in sleeping habits.
  • Experiencing a change in eating habits.
  • Losing interest in most activities. <-- I stopped singing...[well].
  • Performing poorly at work or in school. <-- I still have an exam to take from Melbourne in January
  • Giving away prized possessions. <-- debatable; although I gave away and tossed out clothes after losing 30 lbs in 2 months
  • Acting recklessly.
If you didn't notice, that's more than 3/4 of the list...without all the negative emotions. I was too busy flying and going with the flow to notice.
I'm glad it's over. I needed it to happen, but I needed to come home and get back to reality. I would tell people 'this is not my life.' It wasn't. It's not. It shouldn't be most people's life, but I can understand why someone would love it or how they would feel trapped.
Who knew the one song I was hooked on and would stop anything to watch the video would describe the relationship between Christine Victoria Edmond and Melbourne, Victoria, Australia...

We most certainly did.....
Oh, and Christine is alive...she was just dormant. ;)

Adventure happens when something goes wrong

in 3 words, i can sum up everything i know about life: it goes on."  - robert frost

I'll be honest. I don't like Melbourne Uni. I thought it would be great to go to a big school in the city like I wanted, plus the Uni is in the suburbs like American University. Unfortunately, it's not the same. It's worth getting adjusted to if I had an extra semester to spare. I love living in the city, though. A lot has happened in the past 48 days. We're in finals now, but I'll be back to talk about it.

One great thing: I'm officially legal to drink in the U-S-of-A. My birthday was October 11th and I celebrated my birth week with a bang. I have all of my friends in Oz to thank. Every night was something new. Conveniently, there was a bar crawl with the student exchange program, MUSEX. If anything, the one thing I like about Melbourne Uni is MUSEX. I even went to the gala at the end of the semester. Granted, it was only for the 3 free drinks that came with the tickets; nevertheless, I got to see people that I will probably never see again unless by chance.

I'll save the down side of living in Melbourne -- away from home, family, parents, and friends -- for the next time.

And it's been a bit of love and hell. Next time ;)

...capture this moment and hope it do[es]n't pass...*

Eleven hours in a car for an 8 hour trip with three (3) friends and 1 driver. We rented a Silver Ford Falcon for 3 days. We had 5 mixtapes (CDs) to keep us going on such a long ride. Honestly, I slept for a good chunk of the time, but when I was awake, the backseat driver in me came out...so I think I'll need to keep myself distracted when someone else is driving for a long period next time (especially when its not my parents).

Nevertheless, we arrived at the Sydney Central YHA Hostel. It's a "5-star hostel," so it's almost as good as a hotel, sans room service. There was a sauna and cinema in the hostel, as well as ScuBar - "Sydney's bar 'down under'" (literally). We got a room with four (4) beds to ourselves and crashed upon our 2AM arrival Saturday morning. Our Saturday morning start turned into a search for day parking, then a look for brunch (1PM).

We ended up by North Shore, where the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House are, so the food was quite expensive. After my first and last experience eating the traditional UK meal, fish and chips, we enjoyed a nice, cold beer in a brown paper bag on the side of the street -- classy. Seeing that I did not want my food, I thought the birds might be hungry, so the pigeons surrounded me...waiting....

Picture taken by Arianna F.
An aboriginal family/group was performing in front of the harbour. They called me to come up and join their music jam session (sesh), which was pretty fun. The guy playing the didjeridu (on right) also gave Washington, DC a shout out, naming the United States the best place he has been to.

Picture taken by Arianna F.

After making my first musical debut with the Aboriginal musicians, we headed to the infamous Sydney Opera House. We caught a glimpse of the Royal Botanical Gardens next to the Opera House, but the Harbour Bridge (World's largest, not longest, steel arch bridge) and sailboats captured our attention. 

Picture taken by Arianna F.
What better way to experience the Opera House when you're not seeing a show than to check out the washroom?! I'm pretty sure the toilets were heated and the bathrooms smelled like Bath and Body Works (I miss you...). Aside from checking out the loo, my friends and I decided we should get a coffee or beer at the Opera House -- when is that going to happen again!? Beer, it is.

As we were waiting to order, my eyes were set on a keyboard, stage, and microphone; as well as a beautiful Australian singer, performing for spectators of the Sydney Opera House. The pianist and another guy with him approached me, so I smiled, and we engaged in dialogue. About 4-5 questions in, I was offered a beer and a chance to sing in front of the Sydney Opera House.  WHY NOT (my motto while being in Australia). Who can say that they've gone to a country on exchange and been able to perform in front of a [inter]national icon, such as the Sydney Opera House. (Video of performance below)

Eminem:  Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity ; To seize everything you ever wanted in one moment ; Would you capture it or just let it slip?

The day continued to get better. We went to Sydney's 360 Bar and Dining, a restaurant with revolving floors so you get the view of the entire city,  for cocktail hour...but left with no cocktails or coffee. One of my friends from Belgium/the hostel that I went to Penguin Parade with on Phillip Island met up with my friends and I. It was so nice to have someone in the city to show us around! :)

Off to Darling Harbour for dinner. We only spent $10 on for our meals at Lizard Lounge. There were a lot of burger and fries (chips) options, but with all of the junk we had been eating throughout the road trip was enough for the weekend. Salad and kababs are never a bad idea.

It was Saturday night and we were in Sydney. I was prepared and excited to experience the Sydney nightlife. Unfortunately, my friends were exhausted and didn't have the energy to make it. So, I ventured alone to ScuBar. I didn't think it was too far of a distance to worry; after all, it was right "down" stairs. I bought myself a few drinks and danced the night away. Per usual, I met some cool people for the night and made one new friend from England that I already met up with again in Melbourne! ;)

The night ended for me at 6AM and I think it was all worth it. I mean, it's Sydney.
Three (3) hours later, I woke up to shower and check out of the room. I retold stories of my night with my friends over brunch and coffee. It was a beautiful day, so we headed to Bondi Beach -- one of Sydney's most famous beach.

Of course we entered the water for the sake of opportunity and felt the waves thrush as high as our knees, until the water began to come up too high. When in Sydney...

Bondi Beach in Sydney sounds like a great excuse for a new piercing. Arianna and I talked about getting our ears pierced together when we first met, so here was another chance to do something. We spotted a tattoo parlor across from the beach and headed over to create a memory. I got my left cartilage ear pierced and she got her tragus done. Afterward, we sat down at a Brazilian restaurant with a perfect view of  the beach.

 Our trip was coming to an end and for a day and a half, it was enough for now. I definitely think I'll be returning to Sydney. I'm not sure when, but we had something...

 *Eminem - Lose Yourself

It's better to Know than to Wonder

Take every experience as a new start. Trust your judgment.

Classes started on the 25th of July, and things are starting to get REAL. I really needed to get a job  in order to afford an Australian lifestyle for basic survival ($10-20/ avg. meal). So, I did at AegisDirect; and with many benefits. Essentially, I love my job. The atmosphere is great, as are the people. One point on the chart for Oz.

It took some time, but my schedule has been perfected. I'm taking four (4) courses/subjects:
  • Television and Popular Culture  - watch classic and modern TV shows that shape what we watch today and talk about it
  • Self and Other - psycho-social-political aspect of the relationship between Me and You and Everyone We Know
  • New Media and Future Technologies - we talk about the internet; new media vs. old media
  • Human Rights and Global Justice - talk about refugees; asylum seekers; and their rights to self-determination in political, medical, legal, social, and cultural aspects...interesting

My  group of friends at the Uni has grown. I've met several more Europeans and made some good friends from India (yup, we're staying away from most of the Americans around). To say the least, I may have found my "niche" with an excellent crowd (age 23.24.25); where my days and nights are usually long. We all contribute our own thing to the group and we have different outlooks on many things, but we always have fun. We go out and have fun; but with a touch of class. Home cooked  dinner (most of the time)and wine have become weeknight specials. Kindof like a family. One of my Italian friends (Arianna, from the hostel and Uni) made the most amazing tiramisu I've ever had. It was so good, I thought I'd take a picture so it could last longer…

I'm still curious about where all the Australians are -- or is that just me?
I also went to my first Aussie Rules Football (AFL) game - Collingwood versus Brisbane Lions. It took 5 minutes into the game to realize that I did NOT like/care about footy. Collingwood had already scored a point and I didn't understand why we needed to know how many 6-point and 1-point points were scored, separate from the total score...and I didn't see where the quarter/game time was, but that could be based on my inability to pay attention to the field after those first 5 minutes. Instead, my attention went to asking questions about the game and anything I didn't understand (sorry to the people who actually wanted to "enjoy" the game). Luckily (kindof), my friend and I were saved from 2 hours of boredom when our friend got kicked out for bringing outside beer into the stadium. I'm sure he was upset, but it was the perfect excuse to leave.
Too much has happened within the past few weeks. I was in a 24 hour musical where a show was written, produced, rehearsed, and performed within 24 hours. That means writers came together at 7PM the night before and we came in at 9AM to learn the script and music written specifically for the Mudfest 24 Hour Musical. I think it was quite a success. (SCENE: 1960s, Catholic school girls, abortion, acid trips, and grades becoming a determinant of the future).

On another note, any previous short-term 'like-affairs' mentioned in the past are now over. I've met a lot of guys since I've been here. None of them have made it very far because, of course, you need both physics and chemistry. It's funny because I've made good friends based on great chemistry and no physics. As expected, anything based solely on physics probably isn't worth my time.

Onto the next one....next: ROADTRIP TO SYDNEY 2011 ...of course there are stories ;)

So far gone

Enter into my world. It's been a crazy 6 weeks. The best week of my life was the first week in Australia - filled with adventure.  I was motivated to do more, get out more, experience more, and learn more. I learned a little something about myself. I realized who I can count on; who my friends are back home;  how to live my life when no one I care about is looking; that kisses are a precious gift that can't be shared with everyone; that chocolate is God's gift that can be shared (esp. Nutella); that no matter where I am, I'm only going to have fun being myself; that the people constantly around me should always bring positive energy; that nothing is impossible -- absolutely nothing.
My life has been crazy, which is crazy.
I anticipated a crazy experience and I got what I wanted.
Sex. Drugs. Rock n Roll. (well, less of some things than others *sigh*)

I'm ready for what's next. I'm ready to continue having fun while staying grounded. I want a partner to join my journey.

It all comes down to what girl I want to be and the way I want other people to see me. You too.

Chocolate. Wine. And sweet kisses..

I've learned not to rush here. I've learned to take it slow and I try to be careful. I try not to say too much too soon but I like to say enough so that my message is clear. I like just waiting for things to happen.

My days came closer to leaving the hostel. I didn't want to stop the adventures, but I did want some privacy. After an Open Mic Night in none other than U-Bar (the pub below the hostel), I spent the night with some friends who came to support my singing. It was the final call.

I went to the Royal Botanical Garden in Melbourne with some of my European (Poland, France, Belgium) mates from the hostel. It was certainly beautiful -- even though it's winter/wet. There's a lot of tea and trees I've never heard of or seen, but look really cool there.

 We watched the sunset from the garden, which gave a beautiful glimpse of the sun moving across the buildings. It was like something you would see in a magazine or on the movie screen. Moments.

I moved to my place in Carlton, Victoria. I live within a 10 minute walking distance (2 min tram) to Melbourne University. Glorious location! Not only am I convenient to the school, but I have Little Italy as my neighbor! The street I live on is filled with Italian restaurants and shops. People are eating outside on the sidewalk with heaters keeping the tents warm. In the middle of all this fun lies your local supermarket and cinema. Inside the apartment complex (sponsored by YMCA College Square) includes a gym, sauna, grocery store downstairs and Chinese carryout. I'm sure one of those things will be useful within the next five months that I'm here.

And I met my roommate. He seems to be a good man. He's from Korea studying his PhD in architecture. Quiet, Virtuous.

I keep in touch with my friends from the hostel. I hope that lasts longer than they think. I guess I understand. I've moved around a lot and learned what it is to have had true friends that would stick around or never lose touch. It's great. That's how I got to see many of my friends from Florida and Georgia when I went back a few weeks ago. We met up for some dancing over the weekend, which just became a trend for the following weekend (and may continue).

In between meeting new people and staying connected with friends, there was still this French guy that I had been hanging out with a lot through the past week and a half.

There we were, sitting. Enjoying the moment. I glanced at the time. 11:11PM (Make a wish). It was like a dream, and then the night ended.
Until the next time…11:22PM.

Living a Dream

SIX DAYS have past (Aus - UTC/GMT +10 hours) and of course there are more stories!

My new friends from Belgium and England (from the Penguin Parade!) made their way back to Sydney. Before they left, a fiesta was set in order! First, we went to Eureka Skydeck 88 (click!!), a A$17.50 semi-notworthit tourist attraction (A$10 extra for the Edge Experience), as well as Melbourne's highest building point.  It was definitely a beautiful site of the city and I appreciate the city even more because of the view. BUT all of my pics came out blurry. :(

Next trip - we would go to the Crown Casino! Since the Casino is open 24 hours, we headed out around 2AM. Gambling isn't my taste, but one guy we were with put in AUD$1 and got back 77 cents. I'm not sure how that worked out since Australia doesn't have pennies…but alright. 
Interesting Aussie fact: Prices will either be rounded up or down to the nearest 5th because, indeed, there are no pennies ($1 and $2 are coins).

The next few days were filled with lots of walking and new discoveries. Did I mention a couple of dates (just one guy:)? One thing is for certain, things seem to go pretty fast here. Perfect pace for me. What are the chances.

On the road to adventure and the State Library (free internet!), I journeyed into a different part of Melbourne. I went to Melbourne's well-known Queen Victoria Market. It's much comparable to Flea Markets in flea markets in places like Fort Lauderdale, FL (Swap Shop).  There were cool deals and I heard QVM is the best place to get fresh produce and eggs. I decided to eat lunch there at a corner café. If you're gluten-free, enjoy almost every café and restaurant in Melbourne, as they seem to have adopted special meals.

I stumbled upon the University of Melbourne and decided to explore the campus, confiscate a map, and see what I can learn within an hour. I was informed that UMel. is THE uni (short for University in Oz) in Victoria. I also heard it was THE uni in Australia, but I could be wrong.

The campus was so beautiful and perfect. It reminds me of a college campus you would see in a movie or on Boy MeetsWorld. The theme: Dream Large (not big…lol). I like it.

More adventures came throughout the week, but I'll let you take in the first three days. ;)

I'm really just looking for the thrill of it (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGUU7CiK7YU).
Melbourne, Australia is #2 most livable place on Earth (The Economist).  Good life decisions.

All She Ever Wanted

I could probably name all of the streets in Melbourne CBD (Central Business District) by now. Every street is followed by a little street or lane and chances are, I have been on that street. I understand that trams are the way around the city, but I really prefer walking around and getting to know my surroundings. I probably walk about 5-7 miles everyday. If something catches my eye, I just go without thinking.

The best thing about being in a new city is that everything is new. The people, the streets, the shops, the smell. It's all fresh. I love new things. I love to learn and soak up information. Since I don't really have plans and everything is situated (housing, money, etc), I just use my days to enjoy the city (although I need a job...).

Thus, I made my way to the State Library. I passed by the most beautiful "museum" with artistic architecture. I admired the building and continued to find the library. When I crossed the street, I realized that somewhere along my path I had missed the library. The beautiful building was the library.

After indulging on some free internet, I was invited over for dinner by the girl that I am renting the apartment from. On my way to my new apartment, I encountered a strange experience. I felt as if I was being followed. Indeed, I was.

Through a 20 minute conversation (yes, I let it last that long), I learned that the man was from China and he had been in Australia for 10 years. I was asked a series of questions such as: Am I African, what are my origins, do I like white/black men and what is my preference, and do I like/know Obama (I get that a lot). Statements were made such as: Americans are violent/dangerous, love pornography (he stated repeatedly), obese, racist, politics are corrupt, we have the most homeless people in the world (?), and white men have many girlfriends.

With a lighthearted spirit, I could do nothing but laugh. Is this what we are really thought of as Americans?? As someone from France told met: America makes the best as well as the worst.

Let's do better, America.

After eating a delicious homemade Malaysian meal, I took the tram and headed home. The cool thing about the tram is that if you stand, you can still rest your butt/rear.

By the time I got back to the hostel, I immediately wanted to go to the bar downstairs -- so I did, alone. 

I found that even though I go to the bar alone, I never leave alone. There's always an adventure. And tonight, the mission was to play in the park, then fly a kite on the beautiful boardwalk. If I move to Melbourne, I know where I need to live. In an apartment on the Yarra River (doesn't that already sound expensive?). It's gorgeous. We played in the park like children and (again) I felt like I was in a Skins episode. Perfect.

 I love this city.

Ignite the light and let it shine

Within 36 hours of coming into Australia, love for the city and adventures is an understatement.

After my 4AM excursions, I woke up on Sunday at 2PM. It took 15 minutes of being awake before I was summoned to go on a road trip with two wonderful gals from England and Belgium. We made our way to Penguin Parade on Phillip Island, home to the world's smallest penguins and one of the largest Little Penguins population. I have so many pictures from the exhibition and landscape, but I don't have the USB for my camera. :( I will get them up ASAP, but you can check out the website linked in the mean time.

Might I remind you that it is winter in Melbourne, so the summer clothes I brought are not helpful during my outdoor escapades. As my new mates were adding layers of clothes in the bathroom, I found a sign that I found quite amusing hanging:

Take from it what you will. All I know is the staff said that syringes are best placed in the yellow box than on the floor where people can step on them.......

It had been about 40 hours since I arrived in Melbourne and I still hadn't eaten anything. After seeing penguins, I finally gained an appetite and we headed to Australian franchise: Red Rooster. They sell tasty chicken that is roasted -- not fried.

Since I had conquered jet lag from staying up until 4AM the night before, I had no trouble falling asleep at a reasonable time (by 2AM) after seeing the penguins. With a bar downstairs, it's hard not to pop in and see what's happening and who's there. The bar has a pool table and a small alleyway for smokers to convene (the "hip" spot). One thing I've noticed is that everyone rolls their own cigarettes here. I don't smoke cigs (and at $13/pack, no one here should either), but it's definitely a difference from the U.S., where you will rarely find anyone rolling their own cigarettes (too classy for that!).

Since my appetite was back, I decided to go for a snack at 7/11 (there's one on every corner). I bought a Vitamin Water for AUD$4 (about $5-6) and the other drinks were around the same price. : 0 I looked at the shelf of chips and was confused. I had never heard of any of the brands...where were the LAYS?!!?! Of course Doritos made their presence without as many options.

Day 2 of Australia: I am going to Belgium. That's the consensus. So now that my next trip is decided, I'm ready to continue this one :)

Also, I plan on improving my French now that I am surrounded by so many speakers of such a sexy/romantic language.

Here Comes the Sun

Enter the city of Melbourne, Victoria and checked into my hostel, NOMADS (A$22/night), at 1PM (UTC/GMT +10 hours). I stuck to myself for about 5 hours. I didn't really think I would enjoy living in a place with no drawers or dressers for more than one night. Did I mention that I am staying in a room with 9 random strangers from all over Europe, Australia, and Asia? Nomads. Backpackers. And me -- "the American." Now, ask me how many times I've heard the pick up line: "I've never met an American girl before." HA! Anyways, there is no elevator, so I had to lug both of my 50lbs suitcases up the stairs -- until I rescued that is. :) Some guy helped me bring my bags upstairs to the reception desk while I checked in. Then, while I was struggling in the hallway, two gentlemen ran to my side to help me bring my stuff to my room.

It took me a few minutes. I sat, looked around, and thought "what did I get myself into." I took a few minutes to cry (I know, I'm a cry baby, but I needed to get the homesickness out of the way). I felt lonely, broke, and I had no sense of direction (no technology to help!!). Then, I sucked it up and was ready for the new world. I changed my clothes and took a MUCH needed hot shower and got dressed for success. I had no idea what I was going to do or where I was going to go, but I had not eaten since breakfast on the airplane at 4AM and I was limited to AU$60.

I decided that my first stop should be somewhere that exchanged money, then I needed a phone. Apparently things close early on Saturday (so I thought), so I was limited to exchanging my money at the Crown Casino.

Underage, sheltered [me] has never seen a casino. I was certainly impressed and surprised that there was such a high Asian population all over the casino.

Nevertheless, I made it all the way to the casino without any of my American money...so I had to walk back to my hostel and back to the casino to exchange.  

After exchanging money, I felt better about life and felt as if I could accomplish things (money can kinda make you happy). Off to find a new cell phone. Long story short, I bought a prepaid phone for $50 on Saturday and couldn't figure out how to activate it until Sunday night.

I also went to see an apartment and figured out where I am staying for the semester -- so nice w/ a sauna, gym, and home theatre in the basement. Since I didn't know how to use the tram (metro) system, I decided to walk from where I was staying. I figured it would be a great way to check out the city as well....

5.2 km (3.1 miles) and some later (decided to make several detours)...I made it.

I decided to take advantage of new drinking age legality and headed to the bar downstairs, which is also run by the hostel. Still no food in my system since 4am on the plane, I had a few beers -- fell in love -- then was headed for bed around 8 (jetlag)...

Somehow, I was convinced to go out (it's not that hard for me to say yes to doing things). And the adventures continued. In attempt to find a place to party for someone's final night in Australia before going back to Belgium, we roamed around the city of Melbourne for hours and I made it to my bed at 4 o'clock on Sunday morning (still on an empty stomach).

WELCOME TO AUSTRALIA (so glad I could join you, mates!)


**No worries - Common phrase used...so chill


5 flights, 23 hours of flying, 17 hours in airports (thanks to layovers) -- and we're HERE.

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, to be exact.

I've anticipated this moment for 5 months with preparation that was just time consuming. I'll be honest, it was so hard to say goodbye to my family. Tears were shed...all mine. It was hard for "daddy's little girl" to part at the airport, but as he said, I had no choice and so now I'm here.

Sure, it felt like a sad melodic series of songs playing in the background of my life as I continued my trip; but the music picked up and the tempo is upbeat -- maybe dubstep even.

I've already made some Aussie connections during my flights and while waiting. I met two lovely ladies from Melbourne that live close to the University I will be attending. They provided me with a laundry list of places to go from shops to grocery to little cafes with the best cupcakes. :) They also gave me information on the neighborhoods, streets, and suburbs to avoid, although the city is relatively all safe (dark/sketchy allies and all). They were helpful in many aspects and it's comforting to know there will be more people like them all over the city of Melbourne.

**And if you are ever flying into Australia (which you should at least once), I highly recommend flying with Virgin Australia. The scene:

Enter the gates to be greeted by a friendly pilot with a huge grin on his face and the staff by his side. Purple and green lights with soft music playing in the background like "How Deep Is Your Love" by the Bee Gees (classic.). Champagne in the background on a magnificent marble-like bar. Enter first class to see the exclusive seating, already sipping on their glass of bubbly as the other guests are waiting to be seated. Each seat with their own television, headset, blanket, and pillow. Perfect room temperature. Your choice of watching a movie (Inception, Happythankyoumoreplease, Friends with Benefits, others.), television channel (E!, Discovery, Disney, Travel, Australia-Channel), or just a random TV program (Good Luck Charlie, Family Guy, others). Or you can choose listening to music (Adele, Florence and the Machine, MGMT, Kanye West, Rihanna, and a variety o other genres); play a game even (Zuma, Pac-man, Car racing, Bejewled, others.); or connect your own media (read books and shopping coming soon).
 Nevertheless, 14 hours was well worth my travels (the food wasn't too bad either).

Customs and Borders:
Easy. BUT don't bring any type of handcuffs into Australia, it's a crime and you can be charged.

Thus, my journey into Australia has been pleasurable (despite having to throw away clothes at LAX in order to meet weight requirements for my luggage --> we won't talk about it).

Until I find housing accommodation, I will be at one of Melbourne's most popular hostels located in the CBD (Central Business District): NOMADS.

Wish me luck!

P.S. One of the VAustralia employees def let my luggage limit slide...so I didn't need to throw away my NEW shorts and Express Jeans o____0

In the Hot, Hot Rays

[[just some thoughts]]

It's called: Growing Up.

Every little big decision I make, my parents are consulted (Nation of Wimps article -- if you're in my generation or [plan on] having kids, I suggest reading). Of course they're a fountain of wisdom and know so much more than I do, but a little self-reliance never hurt anybody.

We are so small. I looked out of the airplane window on the way to Los Angeles to see monstrous mountains that could probably swallow the airplane whole. The houses look like monopoly pieces; the cars replicate the game of Life, but with more traffic; yet, we act as if fate is in our hands. I tried to pinpoint any large/celebrity houses. Perhaps there were none in the area we flew over, but aside from what appeared to be high schools and skating rinks, there were none to be found.

We are so small in this world; this universe; this galaxy that is so large. It makes me think about what rights people think they have to storm into another man's territory and take what does not rightfully belong to them. Whether it's a mass murder genocide, stealing the lives of innocent people, or taking a pen from someone's desk because 'they won't miss it.' What gives people the right to be selfish enough to believe that they can just take what they want? We are all the same. The mountain can still swallow us whole. We can drown in the sea without help nearby. So if we are all so vulnerable to the same falls and destruction, what gives anyone the right to feel superior?

The Great Adventure

This is it.

The beginning of a new chapter. The journey that I have been anticipating for the past 7 months is becoming a reality in the next 5 days. From packing to prepping, it feels the most real today. I am already anticipating being homesick and I miss my family already.  I'm trying to get myself in the mindset that this is what I need and it's healthy for me to leave and explore a new world ...alone.

The road that I will travel may feel like it's alone, but I know I'm not alone. I have the support and love of my family, friends, and an open heart to new friends and adventures for security. I also trust in God, who I know will never leave me.

If you didn't know, this is my first time "away." Sure, I've been to the occasional church trips (Tennessee 04' and New York03') and sleep-away summer camp (which lasted a week); however, I have always been with friends and gone for no more than a week! I have never been separated from my family for a trip, especially this long. Even leaving for college (American University) has resulted in being only 1.5 hours from my house in Maryland and my dad working in Washington, DC…so I saw him every.single.day. Anything I needed, my family was there.

Applications. Housing (still searching). Passports. Visas. Airplane tickets. Packing. Shipping. Trips to the Embassy. Lots and lots of Learning.
*deep breath*
It's taken a lot of preparation to get to this point and I still don't feel ready! I will be studying for five (5) months down under -- in Aussie land (Melbourne, Australia). The University of Melbourne will commence courses on July 24th and I will begin my journey on July 7th, 2011 from Los Angeles, California. I will be staying in a hostel for a few nights until my housing situation is settled, which is probably going to be an awesome experience.

Here's to a new beginning. Here's to new adventures. Here's to positive thoughts. And yes, I know it may not always be fun, joyful and full of happiness. I expect to feel homesick and miss my family/friends (I love you all!!); but I know that 18 hours away, they'll be waiting for me to return home as me, but better.

And I vow to be better.
Most of all, I anticipate good things…and I invite you to join the journey for the next 5 months. :)

And away we go…………...

Flight Schedule:
Washington, DC --> North Carolina
North Carolina --> California
California --> Sydney, Aus.
Sydney, Aus. --> Melbourne (final destination.)

What really matters

My favorite part about being in Florida has nothing to do with an activity necessarily. It's all about the opportunities. A visit to the  Orlando Premium Outlets and especially the Orlando Fudgery Fudge were more appealing for me. In my attempt to not spend money, the outlets find ways to make you forget that and I walked away with a few bags. I also walked away with a free piece of delicious chocolate peanut butter fudge made right before the eyes of an audience of approximately 20-30 people.

What did it take to win this free piece of fudge? Participation in the fudgery show by posting that "I love the Orlando Fudgery Fudge" on Facebook. Simple, right? Agreed.

What time is it?? FUDGE TIME.

Chocolate is good and chocolate with peanut butter is even better, but I wouldn't say it was my number one favorite part about being in Florida. One of my best friends, Dawn, lives in Florida and the other, Brendan, lives in New York City. I made a trip to New York in the beginning of summer (May 22nd), but I was unable to see him when I went. I had not seen Brendan since we were 15 years old and lived in Florida.

My trip to Orlando, Florida allowed me to see my best friend that I had not seen in almost 6 years for the first time and we're still the same. Brendan decided to take his vacation to Florida the same time as my family and I. Since Dawn still lives in the same city we all lived in, they traveled to Orlando together. It was truly a blessing to have both of my best friends in the same place as me (it's never happened).

Even though our acquaintance was limited to a trip to iHOP at 1 o'clock in the morning and having to walk back at 3AM, it was worth every second.

A true friend lasts a lifetime.

"Friends are friends forever, if the Lord is the Lord of them. And a friend will not say never, cause the welcome will not end...I know That a lifetime's not too long to live as friends."
-Michael W Smith

Where Dreams Come True

The beach is glorious and a great way to spend free time…if you enjoy the sun and putting on lots of SPF! After the beach, finding entertainment options for a family of six within a reasonable budget was the next task.  Florida loves attractions and making their guests happy, so it was not impossible (thankfully).

Next stop: Walt Disney World.

There are 6 Walt Disney World amusement parks (4 themed and 2 water). We are still going for reasonable, so a trip to Disney everyday is not at all recommended. For four adults and two children, a day at Blizzard Beach cost about $300. The great thing about this park is that even with all the food locations inside, outside coolers and food seem to be permitted. Unfortunately, we didn't know that, so we left the park in search of junk food to satisfy our hunger.

Largest food chain in America: McDonald's to the rescue…so we thought. There was no dollar menu. Value meals began at 7.99  (and that wasn't for chicken. Of course we left and found something more reasonable, but if you are at Disney World, realize that commercial food in the same vicinity is probably double the normal price.

Anyway, Blizzard Beach turned out to be fun. We went on every single water ride in the park that we were allowed to do. I even tried to get on rides for 12 year olds, but was turned away (for obvious reasons). My mother joined in on all of the fun as well; including "Summit Plummit", a 120 feet high slide that "has a 12-story drop and speeds riders down the mountain at 50 to 60 MPH".

We got to the front of the line and it took 10 people to jump us in the line before my mother decided to go down the slide (it was such a long walk down). She sat, stood up, said 'no', then after praying, she went down the slide and vowed not to do it again.

Disney is definitely a great day adventure, especially when you're with kids that love the Disney Channel (myself included), but there are other options. Orlando is loaded with miniature golf. I also saw this pattern in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, so it may be a popular tourist attraction.

I have never played miniature golf, nor did anyone in my family. There was a great deal with CiCi's Pizza ($5.99 value) and mini golf ($9.99 for 18 holes), where eating and playing 18 holes would only cost $12.99 and we even got it for only $9.99. Why not get a great workout after dinner with mini-golf? So that's what we did.

Disney and mini-golf were great family recreational activities and a lot of fun in general. All of these family vacations are making up for my missing summer quality time…and it's definitely a good time. :)