Bittersweet

I’m feeling so strange and conflicted. On the one hand, I am absolutely ready to be done. I’m burnt out, exhausted and ready to move on to the next thing. I am ready for the next adventure. I have done pretty much everything I wanted to do here in Brisbane. I’m ready to eat different foods, see different scenery and be done with Uni for a while. On the other hand, it’s painful and it’s scary to say goodbye. I love Brisbane. I love it here. It’s become my home. I have my routines, my favorite place to stop for sushi, I’ve figured out how to get pretty much anywhere on public transport, I know where you can get $3 drinks on a Wednesday night. I’m so sad at the thought that I might never ever in my life see this beautiful place ever again. Although I know that if I want to come back, all it takes is time and money. (Really, any problem can be solved with enough time and money…) I am bored, feeling stagnant, burnt out, ready for something new. And yet… I’m happy with where I am right now and I’m not sure if I want to go just yet. There’s this strange dichotomy in my mind: I feel like I just got here, and simultaneously, like I’ve lived here all my life. I’ve lived in Brisbane for 10 minutes and simultaneously 20 years. I am so glad my parents are coming over at the end of the program rather than during this break. Maybe it’s selfish, but those extra 20 days in Oz are going to be as precious as diamonds to me.   I will do my best to savor these last weeks in the land down under. I have 3 more full days in Brisbane, then 7 in Cairns, 14 on the North Island of New Zealand with my class, then 16 traveling all over the eastern half of the continent with my parents. A little over a month left in this beautiful, foreign-yet-familiar world. So all at once, I mourn and I rejoice, I smile and I cry, and I count down the moments left.

Last Night on Heron

Last night we went for a night snorkel. It was fun and kind of spooky to be swimming out to a shipwreck at night. As I was laying in bed, I could still feel the fins on my feet, the snorkel in my mouth and the gentle bob of the waves. It was then that I knew a part of me will never leave this island.

I have had a simply amazing experience. This is definitely my favorite field trip so far. To actually see the Great Barrier Reef is a dream come true. Honestly, every time I’ve gone for a snorkel there’s been a moment when I had to remind myself that I’m actually here. It’s not a dream, it’s not a TV show, I’m actually in the ocean with turtles, sharks, cleaning wrasses, parrot fish, giant starfish and coral as far as the eye can see. I have seen and learned so much. Twice this week I’ve woken up at dawn to the terns chattering, pulled on my wetsuit and slipped into the ocean. Let me tell you, there is almost no better way to start the day. I’ve spent every spare moment snorkeling. Honestly, I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t. Sleep has so much less value to me. I can sleep in Brisbane. I can sleep in Geneva and Ilion. I can’t see these amazing organisms there. This has also been my most productive field trip. For whatever reason, the more things pile up the more drive I have to get them done. The vast amount of work ahead of me is daunting, but it makes ticking things off my to-do list that much more satisfying. I am not ready to leave Heron Island. I don’t want to go back to buses and classes and grades and papers and presentations. I don’t even really want to go on to our terrestrial field trip. I honestly think I could happily live out my days here. Maybe it’s good that we’re leaving tomorrow, before the magic has worn off and I’ve gotten sick of this. (Though right now I doubt that could happen). Despite my protests to the contrary, the ferry back to the mainland leaves late tomorrow morning and I have to be on it. Thank God for memories, for pictures and stories and dreams. I’m leaving Heron Island tomorrow morning, but a part of me will be here as long as I live.   

“Love conquers all things; let us too surrender to love.” -Virgil

I have to admit it. It’s been eating me up inside not saying it aloud. I’m in love. It’s all I think about; it crosses my mind every minute of every day. I’m talking about Australia, of course. I am absolutely loving it here. Brisbane is simply amazing. I have never felt safer in a city. Last night, coming home from dancing at 2am, we were worried that we got on the wrong bus. It all seemed fine until we turned left onto a road that we usually turn right on, and then crossed the river. Minor freak out, though I told myself that it’s all part of the adventure and worst case we’d just have to get off and get on another bus. In the midst of this freak out, one Ozzie boy sitting across the aisle said basically, you’re screwed mate, this bus goes down to the West End not up into Ashgrove. So, we said, oh well. We’re Americans, first night in the city, you know how it is, we’ll figure it out. Thinking back, I probably would not have revealed so much about myself if I were talking to a stranger on a bus in Boston or New York. So, this boy gets off in the West End (obviously to continue partying) and the Ozzie boys sitting behind us say, don’t listen to that guy, he has no idea what he’s talking about. This bus stops in West Ashgrove, in fact we’re almost there. They then explain to us how to get back to the Woolworth’s near our house (I wasn’t naive enough to tell strangers exactly where I was living). They press the stop button so we don’t miss our stop and wish us a good night.

It was a simple thing, but it meant so much. Reassurance, guidance, genuine concern for our well being. How many Americans do you know who would do the same thing in that situation? At home, it’s stranger danger, keep your head down and your nose clean, if you need help you could maybe ask a cop or a store clerk, but not some rando on the bus. Here, it’s mateship. It’s taking care of each other. We’re all in the same boat (or at least the same bus). It was a beautiful introduction to that facet of Ozzie culture, and it’s an experience that’s making me fall absolutely head over heels. Love conquers all: language barriers, fear and worry, culture shock. If we surrender to that love, if we allow ourselves to love wholeheartedly and indiscriminately, if we look out for and take care of each other, we might like what we find out about each other and about humanity.