New Faces, New Places

Influences are everywhere…

After the hectic first two weeks where there were plenty of parties, I decided to take it on my own to attempt to influence those around me to facilitate students with better and more exciting parties. Back at CSU my passion was putting on events. I enjoyed the work and while here managed to swindle my way into volunteering with a night club in Stratford. The events we worked on all fell through but i met some good people along the way and had some very free nights out and about at some exclusive clubs.

I am a Yes Man, I will admit that. I enjoy saying yes to everything offered to me. It is probably how I ended up here in the first place. Go with the flow and continue to have no expectations; probably the best advice to anyone on these experiences really. Rhys, my friend who I grew up with also moved to London. It has been good having him around. Rhys managed to score himself a job with Dj and ex “Body-Rocker” (writers and performers of the song “I like the way you move”) Cas as a manager of Cas’ and his friend’s Cafe (Rhys has always wanted to run and own his own cafe). The cafe is located in Shoreditch just off Old Street Station and is called Shoreditch Grind. I have found myself there regurlarly for a cheap (and fantastic) coffee!

The outside of Shoreditch Grind. The image is from the internet but it now has an outside decking as well!

The inside of the Cafe

 

I have had two Australian friends visit me from CSU which has been really good. It feels great to have friends visit when you are so far away. Familiar faces make the transition a lot easier. It can be both a good and bad thing. It’s good because it reminds you that you do belong. We kind of lose ourselves amongst this process of globalisation, we pick up language and slang from all accross the world and eventually find ourselves losing some things we had. This is the bad part; yet it eventually gives us the time to re-evaluate who we are, where we are going and what we are doing in our lives.

Such is the time when my mate Paddy came to visit. We had a long adventure and a set of ‘to-dos’ for the trip. We went to a boat party, built a fort (the famous/infamous fort of bedsheets and my bedframe) three times, then bought ourselves Onesies to celerate inside the fort. Rules were made for the fort because without rules there would be chaos. Pictures are below of us in our onesies.

 

Me in my Penguin Onesie

 

The Fort was named “Fort Big Brecon Dawg” after a Welsh rapper from Brecon where my good friend Billy was from. He has recently invited us to spend christmas with his family. But that will be another story for another time.

 

For now, Stay classy Australia.

a little catch up

I feel like I have neglected my blog somewhat, so here are a few photos to catch up =] We have some pretty snow up Whistler way, the Ice-Hockey game, and Halloween 😀

Settling in… forgiven and not forgotten

Welcome to Bloggers Anonymous. My name is Jacob Gordon and it has been over 5 weeks since my last blog.

Since the last time we spoke I was about to venture into the London university life; and venture I did. I immersed myself within University of East London life. My first week was full of orientation and boring administration. Nothing too exciting to blog to the bloggees about. What was interesting was the amount of internationals at this university. There was over 200. O week was full of sharing cultural aspects of our countries and sharing specific stories of our experiences. I spent a lot of time with the swedish and they shared what was called Lördagsgodis, which is swedish lollies. My room, which I labelled the ‘Pizza Slice’ was exactly that. A small room in the shape of a Pizza slice. I did have a nice view however; which you can tell by the photos attached in the photo gallery.

 

I then met my friend to be, Tanika. Tanika is the other Australian from Queensland University of Tafe. Being a very opinionated and strong woman of 20, she shared a lot of ideals about Education as I did and yet we still continue to argue about other things. I then became good friends with one of my flat mates called Wayne. Wayne is from ‘South London’ and has taught me a lot of catchy slang such as ‘innit’, ‘alie’, ‘bruv’, ‘fam’ and one of my favourites ‘Oh my days!’

 

Orientation week, or as it is called here, Fresher’s week, involved events I wasn’t too impressed with, such as a silent disco, a terrible comedy event, trivia with three tables and a UV Black light party (which did impress). This same week I met my exchange liason called Carolyn who belonged in what was called the Cass School of Education. This is similar to the Schools of Education at CSU.

 

I learnt that I was to be placed at a school called Gallions Primary School. In my second week I went to the school and I love it, a lot. It has a creativity focus and is situated in a low economic area. Because of this, the school acts as a sanctuary for the children. Reception is where I am teaching, which is similar to prep and kindergarton. Below are some photos of my classroom.

That was the first two weeks of my time here at University of East London.

Pushing through.

It is rather fitting I am writing this blog post today, because it is about taking opportunities, pushing yourself beyond your limits, and making hard decisions. This has been a bit of a recurring theme with my exchange so far, and this week a few things have happened that have meant once again I have to figure out how to go forward, and, as John Lennon said, to do this you have to know which way you are facing. So many good things have happened to me here – both Really Big Things and Really Good Things – things that I would never have got to do back home, and now I have to decide whether I need to choose between some Really Big Things and some Really Good Things, because I am not sure if I will be able to manage both at the moment. *sigh* But before I get too melancholy about having to choose between the amazing and the awesome (could be worse, hey ;)) I want to take you back to Iceland again…with lots of photos in this one!

At Þorsmörk, ready to set out – I probably look relaxed because I haven’t tried to lift the pack yet!

So, when I left you last time I was in Þorsmörk, having just walked the Laugavegur trail. Here I had the option of continuing on towards Skógar (a further 27km) or taking the bus back to Reykjavík. I was a bit torn as I really wanted to do this stretch of the walk (it was reported to be *awesome*) but I also wanted to be back in Reykjavík for the weekend, as they were having their famous Culture Night on the Saturday night (it was Friday). Being unable to choose between the two, I decided to attempt to do the whole walk in one day, and then take the bus back to Reykjavík Saturday afternoon. Never mind I had only been walking 15km max the last four days, and that the walk over the Fimmvörðuháls Pass involved the steepest and most technically challenging part of the walk so far. I wanted the best of both worlds. (and to set your mind at ease, I did make sure it was possible to camp at the top if both my legs and spirit gave out – the Ranger said it was possible but conditions were exposed, cold and windy) So, I got up nice bright and early, ready to leave at 7am – as it was not geting dark until around 9pm, I thought that would give me heaps of time. 😀

The walk started out nicely. It was a lovely day and the scenery was beautiful. One last big river crossing (helped by a  strategically placed mobile bridge) and it was time to start the climb. I am not usually the best at hills, but today my legs felt great and I was barreling up the mountain.

A baby fox that was hanging around the campsite in the morning.

The last big river crossing of the journey. (mobile bridge not shown)

Climbing up – looking back from where I had come…

But, as I was soon to find out, this was the easy bit of the trail. The higher I got, the steeper it got, and the more *interesting* the trail became…

This is worse than it looks – it is less than 1m wide and drops off steeply on either side.

A number of spots along the trail had ropes or chains that you needed to use to help get up the steep parts.

And as it got higher I got a glimpse of what the bleak may have looked like with better visibility.

Eventually I made it up the worst of the climb (and by now it *was* starting to hurt) and I started the passage of the Fimmvörðuháls Pass. This was well above the vegetation mark, and was the closest to alpine walking I had ever done. It was wide and harsh and open and spectacularly beautiful. 😀

A waterfall on the way up.

Looking across the highlands.

Glacier!

The next stage of the walk took me through where the Eyjafjallajökull eruptions happened in 2010 – the ones that so disrupted all the European flights. As they had also had a (small) eruption earlier this year, the lava fields were still hot and steaming! It was a pretty surreal experience.

Steaming lava fields in the snow.

The path through the volcanic dust.

A mini crater amidst the snow.

From about here things started to get tough. I had already walked nearly 15km, with most of this being uphill, and a lot of it very steep. And I was starting to get pretty hungry. A couple of us, who kept crossing paths on the climb, had decided it would be a good idea to stop for lunch at the cabin at the top of the pass, which according to my map *should* have been about 1km from where the lava fields started, but I was soon to learn that maps are not particulary relevant when you are walking through an area that has been rapidly changing due to volcanic action. After walking past the main lava fields, I met up with a group going the other way, who told me I had another 3km at least until the cabin!. Two extra kilometers doesn’t sound like much, but when you are tired, hungry and thirsty it can feel very long indeed! And just because it had stopped going up didn’t mean the walking was any easier. This stretch of walking was through soft volcanic dust, rocky lava fields, snow, and glacial ice.

Some of the terrain at the top. Not easy to walk through!

You should just be able to see the amazing blue of the glacial ice.

I had to walk across this – see the yellow pole in the background?

Eventually I started to feel I was making progress. I found the “new” cabin, where I would have stopped to camp if I chose, and I was also able to fill up my water bottle here. And then, there was the “old” cabin. 🙂 Somewhere to stop, sit down and get out of the wind, which had picked up massively in the last hour. The cabin was dirty and full of rubbish, and had obviously not been looked after for quite some time, but it marked a major point in the day. Here I met up again with some of the people I had crossed paths with on the way up – a couple of Czechs and a Slovakian – who very kindly insisted I eat a hot lunch with them – curried chicken and rice – awesome!

The new cabin – note the rope!

The last stretch of “volcano dust”.

Lunch stop! *grin*

The lunch stop was also going to be the place where I made the decision whether to keep going or cut my losses and set up camp. Now, when I say “lunch”, it was already after 4pm by the time we finished lunch, so it had been 9hrs since I left that morning, and from our calculations it was about 12kms further until we got to camp. But as there was still 5hrs of good daylight left, the rest of the walk was all downhill, and the top of the pass definitely did not look like an appealing place to camp (especially the cabin!) I decided to give it a go. Worst case, I had a tent and I could just find a place to camp on the way down. 😀

I am not going to say too much about the walk down, except that it was tough. Really, really freaking tough. My feet were hurting, my shoulders were hurting, my back was hurting – in fact, most of me was hurting. I have done a fair bit of endurance stuff in my past, and it had got to the stage where the body had had enough and now it was up to the mind. I now had to set mini goals – if you make it to this landmark you can have some water – if you make it to this spot you can take off the pack for 5 minutes – if you make it to there you can have something to eat. Then I started counting my progress by poles instead of landmarks. And then by steps. And finally, I sang out loud but I kept losing track of what I was singing – I think at one stage it took me about 30 minutes to get through one complete song. :/

On the bright side the walk down was very beautiful. There were two alternate paths to take down – one that was a trail that took you past around 15 waterfalls, or the main track, where you went past around five of them. Considering I was walking alone and pretty buggered, I decided it was the safer option to take the main track. But really, who is going to complain about only seeing *five* waterfalls? 😀

A bridge I stopped at on one of my rest breaks.

Following the river along the trail to camp.

One of the many awesome waterfalls on the way down.

Finally I made it into camp just after 9.30 at night. I don’t believe I have ever finished a walk in such bad shape as I did that night. I had been on my feet over 14 hrs and had not eaten or drunk enough and had been carrying a pack that was way too heavy. Seriously. Bad. Planning. But I had made it. :)) My first task was taking my shoes off, and to my dismay my feet felt just as bad – if not worse – outside of my boots. Unfortunately I had scored a pair of massive blisters on my big toes which made it extremely painful to walk – even without shoes on cold soft grass. After getting my shoes off, the next step was to set up the tent, fill up my water bottle, get off my sweaty clothes and crash out in my sleeping bad and try and get some food into me. I was shivering like anything, but my skin was dry and burning hot to touch. Not good. It took me a little bit to realise I had managed to get myself rather dehydrated and probably had a mild case of heat exhaustion. That totally explained my difficulties on keeping enough concentration on the way down to even finish a simple song. 😦 I decided not to cook, but made myself get a decent (but not massive) amount of water down, and finished off the rest of my scroggin to get my sugar levels back up somewhat. Then I fell into a deep, deep sleep.

*Disclaimer – the next bit of the post involves images of my feet, which are not pretty at the best of times – let alone after 5 days of hiking – feel free to skip it if you want!*

Some blister fluid post “op”.

I woke the next day feeling substantially better, having slept for over 12hrs. Unfortunately my feet were still buggered, and there was no way I was going to be able to walk properly, let alone wear shoes, in the shape they were in. So there was only one thing to do. Pop the blisters. So I set out to work, sterilising some safety pins and my skin (with alcohol wipes, and squeezed the fluid out of those nasty buggers. Strangely enough I had only managed to get blisters on my big toes, and they were so full of fluid my toes looked deformed. But releasing the fluid made a world of difference – an immediate release of pain. 🙂 And of course I remembered to leave the skin intact to protect the delicate tissue beneath. 😉

So would I recommend the walk from Þorsmörk to Skógar? Abso-freakin-lutely – just make sure you are more prepared than me and have a much lighter pack – or are craploads fitter than I am! It was some of the most spectacular and diverse scenery I have ever walked through. And as a reward for those of you who got past my feet (well done!) I will leave you with a picture of one more waterfall – the one at my final campsite, which was the first thing I saw in the morning after waking up – the beautiful Skógafoss. :))

Canada O Canada, Toronto road trip

Two fellow exchange students from New Zealand shared the same birthday weekend, so a large group of Aussie’s and Kiwi’s decided to hire a couple of cars and voyage into Toronto, Canada to celebrate. None of the group realised that we were entering another country, so we didn’t even think of activating ‘global roaming’ on our precious iPhone’s – that we all heavily rely on for our day-to-day function. Being unable to log onto to Facebook was just horrific and inhumane for most of us, but the biggest thing we were missing was map navigation. We struggled, but after five to six hours of driving on the wrong side of the road, and going the wrong way, we finally arrived into the city. Being caught in a traffic jam for an hour pleasantly reminded me of being home in Sydney, my rapture promptly ended when I had to pay a ridiculous amount of money to park the car, just one of the many benefits of living a big city life.

We were happy to ditch the cars the next day and explore Toronto by foot. We walked and walked and stumbled upon CN Tower (Toronto’s version of Centrepoint Tower), a miniature version of New York’s Times Square and world-class shopping centres. We also had the pleasure of spray-painting some random guy promoting his clothing line and encountered a few thousand zombies! I’m not sure what the zombies were about, but there was thousands and thousands of people dressed as zombies parading down the main streets of Toronto. After all the excitement we finally made our way back to the Hostel and went for a night out on the town.

On our final day in Toronto, we decided to head to Casa Loma, a majestic Canadian (but European designed) castle complete with decorated suites, secret passages, an 800-foot tunnel, towers, stables, and 5-acre estate gardens.

The time in Canada was short and sweet. I highly recommend a trip to Toronto if you’re ever in the area.

S

The Saskatchewan Roughriders


The Saskatchewan Roughriders are the most famous sports team in Saskatchewan. The ‘Riders’ play in the Canadian Football League (CFL). The Riders have an incredible fan base, anywhere you travel in Canada you can find Riders gear, anything and everything you can think of can be found with the Riders logo on it.

Rider Pride

Attending Rider games is a completely amazing experience. The atmosphere is electric. From the moment the team runs on the field the crowd is just nuts! Fireworks, the teams mascot – Gainer the Gopher, the fourth quarter stretch and the cheerleaders all add to this experience. Rider fans also tend to sport watermelon head-wear, just another tradition.

Gainer the Gopher

As the Riders field is in an open air stadium, braving the elements to attend a game is also one of the fans biggest challenges. Saskatchewan has a huge range of temperatures, from 30+ degrees in summer to -40 in winter. I attended a game a couple of weeks ago where the weather was hovering around the -7 mark, with flurries of snow every now and then. Needless to say I was RUGGED UP. I was referred to as the ‘Pillsbury Doughboy’ a mascot for a baking company, made out of dough, looks something like the Michelin Man. Being outside for three hours in anything below zero requires some serious dedication, and layering of clothes. I had something like 7 layers of shirts on that day!

All Rugged up for the game

I attended a charity auction and Darian Durant (Roughriders Quarterback, guy that throws the ball) and Weston Dressler (Roughriders Slot Back, guy that catches the ball/makes touchdowns) happened to be in attendance. These two guys may possibly be the most famous people in Saskatchewan. I was lucky enough to get pictures with both of them. So I may have felt like a bit of a big deal. They were very friendly and have a big game this weekend so people were very excited to see them around.

Darian Durant

 

Weston Dressler

The last month of Uni has been crazy, with mid-terms and assignments. It’s starting to slow now, which is kinda nice! I’m also heading to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers in a couple of weeks that I’m super excited about!

Bye for now, from chilly Canada
Sarah

Now it’s your turn.

Now that you have read about how fantastic the exchange experience is it’s time you started to think about exchange for yourself.  CSU Global is now taking applications for exchange in Session 2, 2013.

Find out all you need to know about how to start planning at  http://www.csu.edu.au/special/global/student-exchange/outgoing .  You can also email your questions to alwood@csu.edu.au.

Application closing date is December 1 2012!

In the words of Mark Twain – throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  – Explore. Dream. Discover