Coming from Lewisburg, PA, a small college town, I thought urban living would take a while to adjust to. Like my first day abroad, reality exceeded my expectations.
First, I never thought public transportation could be integrated so easily into my travels. In NSW, it’s as easy as loading up an Opal transport card, tapping it on the sensor on the bus, then going anywhere in the city.
Also, the food scene was diverse yet comfortable. In the first week, I’ve had everything from Thai dim sum to Japanese bento to Australian meat pies to French crepes. You will never find the city food lackluster, but your wallet may scream at you after a few purchases.
On Saturday, Arcadia in Australia took its students to Maroubra Beach for a light brunch and two-hour surf lesson. The windy day magnified the waves and made them look daunting. After changing into wet suits, we broke up into two groups and dragged our long surfboards to the edge of the water. After a fifteen-minute briefing with two surfing instructors, we were off.
The waves jostled my surfboard like a paper flapping through the wind. Water sprayed into my face and seeped into my wet suit. My surfboard tumbled and knocked me off my feet several times. I swallowed a huge gulp of seawater. Before I knew it, rounds upon rounds of waves crashed down on my flailing body. I washed up to shore like a beached dolphin feeling dehydrated.
This was my first attempt of getting into the water.
I waited for my senses to recover and headed back into the water. I managed to get 100 feet out into the water and climbed onto my board. I was able to body surf for a few minutes before a giant wave pushed me back to shore.
An hour passed and one of the instructors offered to help me out into the water. The instructor stabilized my board so that several waves would not wipe me off balance.
What came next seemed to have happened within 15 seconds. The instructor turned my board so that I faced the shore. He told me to do exactly as he instructed. Suddenly, a wave swept under me.
I tucked my hands under my ribs. Pushed myself into up into a push-up position. Thrusted my right leg out, shoved my left foot past it. I had almost stood up - and I lost my balance and fell off the board. Close.
My second attempt was successful. Instead of thinking too hard about my center of gravity, I mounted on my board without hesitation. I stood up for 2 seconds. But hey, I did it.
An Arvo (Afternoon) on Palm Beach
On Sunday, I traveled to Palm Beach, a staggering three-hour bus ride, to meet friends of Lara, whom I met a week ago. They greeted me warmly, and many actually complimented my American accent.
The waves were treacherous like the day before but didn’t stop Lara’s friends and me from getting into the water. I went into the water with courage as monstrous waves attempted to wrestle me under their depths. I watched as most of Lara’s friends went 300 feet out into the water. It was amazing that they could swim that far against the current.
We had a BBQ of Australian sausages and white bread, a traditional Aussie snack. Suddenly, a rainstorm hit us. We huddled under a small tarp. The rain made the air chilly, which was something I would never have expected while in Australia.
Around 3:00, the group decided to go back to Manly to rest before church. Two churchgoers offered us time to rest in their apartment before church. After the service, I introduced myself to other churchgoers over dinner. I waved goodbye to my new friends and headed back to UNSW by ferry and bus.