Birthday Extravaganza

So we went out Thursday night to celebrate take two of 21. We went to Ivy for the first time which was unbelievable in appearance but the crowd there wasn’t what we were used to or what we wanted to be around. We ended up leaving around midnight to meet up with Kenny’s friend Matty who I had met my freshman year when he visited UNC (he didn’t remember me… cool.) But he ended up being heaps of fun and we stayed out until about 3 am at Frankie’s Pizza. 3 AM. WE HAD TO BE AWAKE AT 5 45 AM TO CATCH A 6(ish) AM TRAIN. So we leave at 3 am, I meticulously and drunkenly review my bags, eat a banana so I avoid a hangover in the morning, have a nice conversation with Al and next thing I know, I’m pissed at Bennett for waking me up at 7:45 am. We missed three trains and our $160 for absailing and canyoning in the blue mountains was non-refundable. Shit.

We do our best to get out of the apartment as quickly as possible, throwing all of our stuff together and just miss the next train. We ended up getting to Katoomba at about noon just in time for lunch (maybe we planned that?) and a quick absailing (basically hanging from a rope and descending down a cliff) crash course that literally consisted of put your hands here and here and lean back and jump. The other kids in the program had been absailing all morning in incremental heights to get used to it before absailing down a waterfall and all we had was that lesson. Cool.

Equipped with wetsuits, helmets and floatation devices we began our trek through Empress Canyon. it was probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. We were wading through rivers and jumping off cliffs between cliffs into tiny little pools. I couldn’t stop laughing – my adrenaline was rushing and it was all so beautiful in a way I had never seen before. It was nature at it’s purest and most primitive, seemingly untouched by man. Some of the ferns in those canyons grow 1 cm every year and they were huge. Then we got to the absailing. I was pretty ok with it all until I was next after Bennett on top of the waterfall and realized I HAD NEVER DONE IT BEFORE. I literally had no idea what I was doing and the guides just had the Aussie no worries, just go with it and see what happens attitude. I legitimately made a fool of myself, almost falling over the cliff with one leg in the air at first and slowly but surely figuring out how to absail. I guess going for it is really the best way to learn, huh? I was able to really appreciate the experience once I finally got the hang of what I was doing and I had this moment of “Wow. I am hanging from a rope with a waterfall crashing on my head with a view of the Blue Mountains. In Australia.” Pretty sweet if i do say so myself.

The rest of the weekend was pretty fun. We had class friday night, saturday night and sunday morning which was pretty boring for the most part but at least we were all together. We went to the Blue Mountains on Saturday and I had such high expectations. I absolutely love hiking and being in the mountains – it generally brings me such peace of mind – so needless to say I was excited. Unfortunately, I was let down…the Three Sisters and the mountains themselves were breathtaking and just unbelievable, don’t get me wrong, but there was no sense of peace. There were massive overlooks with hundreds of tourists snapping pictures and sort of pushing each other out of the way and it really kind of cheapened the whole experience for me which I was really sad about. It’s kind of funny how easily people can take away the beauty of nature when simply trying to admire it. I snapped a couple of photos and went into downtown Katoomba to have a look around. There was a 20’s themed festival going on and everyone was dressed up Gatsby themed.

Sunday was pretty cool because I was so excited to return home, or back to BU. I was excited that I got excited and I’m so happy that I finally feel at home in Australia. On our way home, we stopped at Featherdale Wildlife Par and got to pet koalas and kangaroos and see wombats and wallabies and all kinds of animals. Koalas literally feel like a fro. So cool. We were all too tired to go to the Chinese New Year but it was ok – we couldn’t wait to see the friends we’ve made here….that we were apart from for a grand total of 3 days. I have my interview with the UNHCR this Tuesday and I’m so excited to see how that goes!

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