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I never knew the magnitude of American influence throughout the world until I being overseas. You could imagine my surprise to have to choose between McDonalds and Boston Market as my first meal in Australia. Of course it wasn’t the same as back home. Here their menus were extremely limited.

I also quickly learned that some of the words we use don’t mean the same down under. For instance a kebab is not meat on a skewer over there. It’s more like a wrap with a tangy sauce and some type of green vegetable that to me tastes like seaweed. I didn’t have many problems talking to Australians natives, but occasionally I had to scroll through a couple adjectives for them to know what I was talking about. For instance. An elevator is called a lift. Instead of saying thank-you they say cheers, instead of saying you’re welcome they say no worries. I also walked around with a pocket full of change for about two days before I noticed their single dollars are coins. The smallest denomination of folding money you’ll get here is a five-dollar bill. They also don’t have pennies, they round up to the nearest nickel. Coin currency consists of a dollar, two dollars, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents pieces. And their bills are colorful with a thin clear imprinted film in the corner. One of the biggest differences I noticed in prices was the cost of gas or petrol as they call it. Here, premium gas is around 95 cents a gallon. Big change from homes huh. They drive on the opposite side of the street here. I have learned to be more cautious when crossing the streets because I always look the wrong way

We spent two nights in surfer’s paradise and then a day on a farm. Now, when they said we were going to a farm I imagined a farm like my relatives had, which was a country style house lon a couple acres of land. This farm was equipped with out houses, cattle, horses a domesticated kangaroo and the fattest dog you would ever see in your life. It was a family owned establishment called Adora Downs, which sat on miles of rural land. They offered horseback riding and a hayride so one could enjoy the setting. They also had a tennis court, a pool, and a pool table. Pool in Australia is not like in the sates. In Australia the balls are about the size of golf balls and they play with 15 balls; imagine that. Fortunately they had plumbing, but there was no heat. We slept in cabins suited for up to eight people which were lined with the most comfortable beds I had slept on since being in Australia. Each had a heated blanket underneath a sheet and three more blankets snugly tucked to keep you warm.

The group met up in the dinner hall warmed by a large fireplace where we dined on delicious, chunky vegetable soup, tender juicy roast beef, mashed potatoes, corn, sweet potatoes, and we had cake for dessert. We sat at large round tables and engaged in fun, lighthearted conversations . . . until we started talking about politics. In the middle of our debate we decided to take a poll at which time an outspoken school teacher from California stood up and asked "who doesn’t likes Bush?" Only a handful of hands went up. Then one of the guys sitting at the table told us that bush was a slang term for female anatomy so she stood up again to rephrase the question and asked, "who doesn’t like President Bush?" That time we got a much larger response, which sparked conversations around the room.

After dinner we had a bush dance where we learned how to do some of Australians traditional dances. That night I slept so well I didn’t want to get out of the bed the next morning. That is until I heard the supper bell and smelled the good vittles awaiting. For breakfast they served eggs, sausage, thick sliced bacon, hash browns, yogurt, fruit, toast, and hot chocolate good enough to warm the soul. I had about 4 cups. The hospitable family was warm and generous and they made everyone feel at home.

From Adora Downs, a.k.a. Adorable Downs; we traveled to a the Forest Glen Sanctuary. Here I got to cuddle a koala. We learned about how the koalas live and got to see a baby koala poking out the pouch of its mother, and another one affixed on its mothers back. They also had a nocturnal cave that housed interesting animals where we saw wombats, kangaroos, deer, a coy pond and a rooster. I also got to hand feed some kangaroos. From there we traveled into Brisbane.

After a brief tour of the city, Mick turned us loose into the shopping mecca of Australia. Our time in Brisbane started in the city mall that hosts over 500 stores within its 6-floor structure. First we visited an opal store where we learned about Australians precious stones. The opal store had a beautiful waterfall tinkling down its wall of uncut opals with a value exceeding $20,000. When I left the mall I went in search of some of the buildings that were pointed out to us while we were on the tour bus and the puritanical garden, but I couldn’t find them. So I wandered the streets of Brisbane observing its architecture snapping pictures of interesting statues and cathedrals. I had gotten so caught up in the beauty of the city that I didn’t pay attention to where I was walking and I ended up getting lost. It took me about an hour to find my way back to the mall. When I had reached the mall, Mick was waiting for me. I was late getting back to the bus and they had sent the rescue squad out to find me. When we reached the coach, I was welcomed by applause and became a nominee for trash duty.

We made a few more stops at long stretches of beach as we continued to travel north. We unloaded our bags in King’s Port and took a ferry to Fraser Island. This is the largest all sand island in the world measuring 130 kilometers long 10-20 kilo wide. We went to the dingo bar for dinner. When finished, we were told to scrape our plates completely because the purest breed of wild dingo-dogs had been running loose on the island. Feeding is a big safety concern because they do not want the dingoes to become accustomed to getting food from humans. We were also advised to travel in groups and warned that if we should come in contact with a dingo, to stand upright and let the dingo pass so it doesn’t sense aggression from us. Fortunately, I have not seen any aside from the numerous pictures posted displaying the warning.

From there we headed toward Rock Hampton where we visited the Dreamtime Center. Here, we got demonstrations on how to throw a boomerang. We then walked to the theatre where we saw demonstrations of didjeridoo, a traditional Aboriginal musical instrument. Our host explained how the instrument was a tree branch hollowed out by termites, described how the branches were found and how you can get different sounds from the instrument. Next we watched demonstrations of aboriginal dances performed to celebrate a successful hunt, among other celebrations. Then we toured through the gift center, which was in a cave of thick stone. Across from the gift center was a cultural section, which displayed traditional clothing, hunting equipment, and art. Traveling with Contiki was a good experience. I now have friends from Canada, Japan, Germany, England, Australia, France and the Netherlands. For most traveling within our group English was not their first language but we got through the communication barrier just fine. One thing that amazed me was that no matter how broken their English was, everyone knew the words to my Jackson 5 cd. American music dominated the airwaves. While I listened to the radio I noticed that the music was uncensored. I also noticed the lack of censorship on the television. After seeing how unfiltered media seemed to have minimal effect on its viewers it made me question all the censorship and the plea for more censorship in America. I am convened that it is not the media; it is our culture that is violent. After all, our culture was started with violence. Australia was the only country where independence was decided through a vote, rather than war.

I spent the next couple of days in leisure. We spent alot of time on the coach stopping at tourist attractions. We played games and watched movies to help the time pass. As we drove through towns Mick would grab the mike and tell us more about the towns. We drove through MacKay, the sugarcane capital of Australia and it seemed as if the tall plants were waving at me as the wind danced through the crop. After trekking up the east coast we finally settled in the Whitsunday for 3 days. The Whitsunday includes many islands but we spent our time on long islands; closest to the main shore. We arrived at dusk and were greeted by a wealth of wildlife and beautiful views. We were advised to use one of the two pools on the resort instead of swimming in the ocean because it was stingray season. The resort offered a host of water activities, trails, and recreation as well as great food. We dined on a buffet style dinner that was compiled of many delicious foods. We could choose from lamb chops, pasta, two types of rice, fish, ash there was too much stuff to name. The desert buffet was also plentiful. After dinner most of the group went over to the bar area where there was live music. A couple friends and myself opted to play doubles on the ping-pong table. Now I haven’t played ping-pong in years, but our team effort would have made forest Gump proud. The second day on long island was dampened by rain. Overcast clouds hampered the view so I spent most of my day playing games and lounging. Day three was wall-to-wall sunshine. I woke up early so I could get in all the activities I didn’t do the day before. After eating a hearty breakfast I packed up my equipment and walked a 3.5-kilometer trail. As I tracked through the rainforest I saw lizards, exotic birds, --wallabies small kangaroos, and lots of butterflies. After tracking for about an hour I came to a clearing on a cliff I estimate to be about a mile above sea level to a breathtaking view of some of the other islands of Whitsunday’s. I continued on the trail and came to a crossroads so of course I went the wrong way and ended up on a piece of secluded beach on which I noticed some of the same islands but from ground level. I walked along the shore collecting some rocks and shells. Then I turned around and backtracked. The secluded beach was only about a 10-minute walk from the rear of the resort so I decided to go back there to watch the sunset

Throughout the tour there were many excursions one could opt to do ranging from skydiving, bungee jumping, and rafting to a skysail ride over the rainforest or a day in the tjapukai aboriginal cultural park. Threes something for everyone on this tour.

When we reached our final destination of Cairns we were greeted by enormous stretches of rainforests whom treetops pierced the clouds. This was probably the least attractive of the places we visited, but it was the most active. There are tons of things to do here. I went for a skysail, which carried me over the treetops of the rainforest. I got to look down at the rainforest and saw beautiful views of the city. After the skysail I ventured into a quaint little town called koruna village. This village hosted lots of shops including the best souvenirs shops, a butterfly sanctuary, an aviary, opal jewelers and lots of aboriginal craft shops which displayed the finest aboriginal art vie seen throughout my vacation. From there I took the bus into the city of Cairns where I visited yet another mall.



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