Alright hello everyone! Sorry that my blog posts have been sporadic and lame lately, my life has been quite the whirlwind as I enter the last week of my time here in Australia. But now that I have a second to catch my breath, let me tell you about what I’ve been up to 🙂

Garden Talk

So this week marked my last days at Lucas Gardens 😦 But before I get to the sad reflective stuff, I shall talk about the events of our final week.

On Wednesday, Lucas Gardens had the first of their many Christmas parties. Literally, this school celebrates Christmas like six times. Anyways, this party was held at a restaurant on a nearby golf course that is owned by one of the teachers at the school. A woman’s golf group puts on the party for the kids every year and they absolutely love it. In order to get all of the kids to the restaurant, girls from the high school down the street came to help push the students so that we didn’t have to make multiple trips. Once we all made it there safely and the high schoolers left (not gunna lie I was nervous that all my kids were going to start liking them more than they like me) we were served bowls upon bowls of hot chips (french fries) and the feast began. Side note, most of the students are not able to eat solid food or are tube fed so the majority of these hot chips were eaten by Kaitlyn and I. I’m fat. After the chips came the lasagna for the kids and we quickly fell back into our classroom duties of helping to feed students and catering to their individual eating needs. When they were done eating, the staff was served lunch (whoo!) and we got to indulge in the same lasagna as the kiddos. It was delicious, probably the closest thing I’ve had to a home cooked meal since I’ve been here. Besides the meals that I actually cook at home. You know what I mean. After all the eating, the Christmas Fairy made an appearance (not a thing in Australia or America, just a random old lady from the golf club dressed as a giant pink fairy) and then you know who, Mr. Santa Claus himself, paid the kids a visit. The. Kids. Love. Santa. The smiles on all of their faces when he walked into the room were absolutely radiant and I don’t think Santa has ever gotten so many hugs.

Santa then began the process of giving out Christmas presents to each kid which was just ugh so adorable. The teachers had previously given gift ideas to the ladies of the golf club, so each student was gifted something that they like or needed. There were firetrucks, socks, CDs, hats, toy keyboards and everything in between. I just can’t get over how adorable this whole Christmas party was. All the kids looked so stinkin’ cute in their little reindeer antlers and I just seriously have grown way too attached to them.

 

Christmas at Lucas Gardens definitely ranks as one of my top three days at work and I’m so happy that I was able to experience it. Thank goodness Christmas celebrations begin so early in Australia! (there’s no Thanksgiving to mark the beginning of the Christmas season)

On Friday, our last day, all of the teachers threw Kaitlyn and I an Aussie themed goodbye party with enough cookies, cake, and lollies (candy) for the staff of five schools. Everything there was exclusively Australian and we were even sent home with a package of TimTams each (major score!). Of course, out of gratitude to the staff, we had brought in a giant cake for everyone to share so there were sweets coming out of the roof at Lucas Gardens that day. I didn’t hate it. I think being all hyped up on sweets numbed me up a little bit and made the goodbyes just a tad less painful. I managed to choke back all my tears as I waved goodbye to my favorite kids for the last time so you could say it was a successful day. And I know you’re not supposed to have favorites but can you blame me?

Okay now for the sappy part.

We’re in love, it’s fine

I don’t even know where to begin when describing the immense impact that Lucas Gardens has had on my life. I am so grateful for the experience of working with all of the amazing students and teachers at LG and I could not have asked for more out of my internship site. I have learned so much about working with children, disabilities, physical therapy, and my own strengths and weaknesses. But most of all, I have come to love all of my Lucas Gardens munchkins. Not only are they the cutest kids in the world, but these kids hold more strength and determination in their little bodies than any person, child or adult, that I’ve ever met. Everyday I left school feeling like I cheated the students because I know that they taught me way more than I ever taught them. They have shown me that nothing is impossible and that there really are no limits to the things that you can achieve. They have given me a completely new perspective on people with disabilities. They have proven to me that learning is always possible and that with a little creativity, tasks that appear difficult become attainable. They have taught me to never, ever give up. Because taking one step or being able to press a switch or make a choice between two objects may seem like a small feat, but it in fact means the world. I know that these kids will have such bright futures because of the great work that everyone at Lucas Gardens does. I am beyond thankful to all of the teachers and staff at the school for dealing with Kaitlyn and I for the past seven weeks and for making our experience in Australia truly unforgettable. I’m honestly surprised that I was able to come up with this much to say about LG because my time there has literally left me at a loss for words. So to sum it up, thank you, Lucas Gardens, for changing my life in more ways than you can know.

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Wow alright, once everyone is done wiping their tears, aka me, I suppose we can move on to the next part of the blog!

*Nothing interesting happened from Monday to Wednesday*

Thursday was Thanksgiving! Yay for celebrating an American holiday while in Australia! Except not really because it doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving here at all (where are the changing leaves and annoying Black Friday commercials?) and not having a gigantic home cooked meal really defeats the purpose of the holiday. And no leftovers! It’s a true travesty. Anyways, BU threw us a Thanksgiving dinner party on Thursday night and it was a ton of fun. We had turkey (it was kind of weird, but turkey nonetheless), cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, salad, rolls, and stuffing (the stuffing was gross though) and we all ate and were merry. Did I mention that they had unlimited wine? A very fun night indeed. Towards the end of the party, there was a slideshow of pictures from the whole semester that all of us had submitted and of course, I cried. Reflecting on how unbelievably amazing this semester has been while being thankful on Thanksgiving really just got to me. Alas. Oh yeah! I won $40 because one of my pictures took first place in the “best landscape” category! I’m really liking this whole ‘BU gives me money when I win things’ thing that keeps happening here…

On Friday after I got home from an emotional day at work, I decided to head off to the Royal Botanical Gardens to do some reading and soak up the view. This was a good decision.

When I arrived back at our apartment, plans for the night began to take shape. Sidra, Natalie, Ruthie, and I along with our friend Danielle decided that we wanted to spend the night on the beach and then wake up for the sunrise and all of its beauty. So that’s what we did. At 10 pm we headed off to Bondi Beach carrying enough bags to resemble homeless people and create quite the debacle on the bus, but we eventually made it onto the almost deserted beach. We set up camp (quite literally, we had blankets and basically everything you could possibly need to camp besides a tent) and settled in to stargaze and discuss the wonders of life. Observation: the ocean is a lot warmer at night than you would expect it to be. Also the sand is COLD. Cold was basically the theme of our night. Haha I’m laughing just thinking about it. We were bundled to the extreme but that ocean breeze really cuts right through you. Regardless, we are five tough girls and we made it to sunrise. So take that, night beach, we conquered you!

 

After stuffing our faces with a delicious breakfast at Bondi, we plopped right back down on the beach for a much warmer nap. In total, we spent 16 hours at the beach that day and it was 16 of the sandiest hours of my life. I think there’s still sand coming off of my body from it. But so totally worth every grain.

When we returned from the beach, we all took much needed showers (we basically turned our shower into our own private beach due to all of the sand) and then crashed into a deep oblivion of sleep. Groggy and confused, we awoke two hours later and pretty much forced ourselves to get dressed and go out for a casual night on the town. We can’t waste a single second, there’s so little time left here! We ended up at the Opera Kitchen, a bar/restaurant underneath the Opera House. We got drinks and just had a relaxing night that obviously involved a photo shoot with the Opera House and it’s surrounding beauty.

On Sunday we ventured to Balmoral Beach, one of the many beaches along the Sydney Harbor. As all of the beaches here are, it was beautiful and a perfect relaxing end to our busy weekend.

Repping Green Day Construction. You’re welcome Dad

The best part of Sunday though was coming home to Facetime with all of my ridiculously crazy and amazing friends (the crazy is referring to you Jessie)(is that an acceptable shoutout for you?) as they were all at home hanging out WITHOUT ME :((( But that’s okay, I’ll be home with them soon enough. I can’t wait to be reunited with you guys! Love you all! Oh, and a special birthday shoutout to Kelsey! You rock my socks 🙂

Don’t fear, my Sunday story isn’t over yet.

Tori this part is for you.

My Sunday night adventure involved going to the main campus of Hillsong Church with Kaitlyn, a place we have been wanting to go for a while. Last weekend we attended a service at one of the regional campuses, but as this was our last opportunity to check out all of the hype, we decided to make the trek out to Balkham Hills for Sunday night service. Let me give you some background on this church. Like Willow Creek, my church at home, Hillsong is a modern style Christian church which, for lack of a better word, could be referred to as a mega-church. They play pop-style music and the venue is quite large. Hillsong’s claim to fame is their worship team, as they have come out with tons of albums and their band is currently touring all over the world. Everyone at the church gets super into singing and worship and there’s actually a mini mosh pit that happens during the beginning songs. It’s crazy, I’ve never seen anything like it. Being at the services is really energizing and tons of fun. Anyways, the real story lies in our journey to Hillsong. Here’s a play by play for you all.

4:00 pm. Kaityln and I depart the BU SAC and head to the bus stop

4:04 pm. I should have eaten more before this…

4:05 pm. Ugh I forgot my waterbottle #foreverthirsty

4:10 pm. Two busses pull up in front of us. One says 607, the other says 610. We get on the 610.

4:32 pm. Kaitlyn and I spend a lot of time on busses together…is that all our friendship consists of?

4:44 pm. We drive over the Harbor Bridge! Check that off my bucket list

5:06 pm. Hmm I wonder when we’re supposed to get off the bus

5:08 pm. Kaityln goes to ask the bus driver if he will tell us to get off when we get to the correct stop

5:09 pm. The bus driver informs her that we are in fact on the wrong bus, that we just missed the bus that would have fixed our predicament, and that he would attempt to fix the situation in a different way. Fun fact we were supposed to take the 607 bus that was literally right in front of us when we got onto the 610. Cool. Confusion ensues.

5:11 pm. The bus driver tells us to get off the bus. We talk with him for a minute to try to figure out where to go from there, but his suggestion involves us waiting 40 minutes for the next bus. Being impatient and trying to make a 6 pm service, we opt for a different route that we found online.

5:15 pm. It starts to rain

5:16 pm. We get on a new bus. This bus is super new and fancy. We praise the Sydney suburbs for having great public transportation and begin getting excited for the service at Hillsong.

5:22 pm. Kaitlyn again goes to ask the bus driver if she will inform us when to get off the bus (notice how I never am the one to ask anything, public confrontation is not my area of expertise). Again, the bus driver tells us that we are on the wrong bus and that we should get off at the next stop and catch one of the other busses that stops there.

5:23 pm. It’s still raining. No busses in sight

5:30 pm. 30 minutes until church starts.

5:35 pm. The bus comes! This bus is probably the weirdest bus I’ve ever been on, the seats were gray and leathery and we were 2 of 4 people on the bus.

5:37 pm. WE’RE ON THE WRONG BUS AGAIN

5:39 pm. Still raining. Picture two girls in dresses standing on the side of the road in the suburbs, soaking wet, looking lost. That was us. We’re just trying to get to church.

5:41 pm. Executive decision to take a cab to Hillsong

5:44 pm. No cabs anywhere. Getting wetter by the second.

5:45 pm. Why won’t anyone pick us up and take us to church? I thought church people were supposed to be nice. The rain is getting to us. Copious amounts of laughter begin.

5:46 pm. I call a cab

5:51 pm. Cab shows up after what feels like an hour. We get in completely soaking wet, looking like lab rats, and smelling like wet dog. The cab driver looks at us with a very quizzical expression and asks us why we were walking to church. We simply say that we suck at directions. He understands.

5:59 and 48 seconds. We pull up to the church!! WE MADE IT!! I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see a building in my whole entire life.

6:02 pm. We find seats and try not to touch anyone as to not get them wet. My hair continues to drip water down my neck for the entire duration of the service.

8:00 pm. Service ends and everyone is ushered outside for the Christmas lights ceremony and fireworks. Like what church sets off fireworks? Thankfully we were handed ponchos because it was still raining (although it wouldn’t have made a difference, I was still sopping wet from earlier) and found a spot on the lawn outside of the church.

8:10 pm. This happened.

8:20 pm. The fireworks finish and everyone is just in a great mood. We begin to wonder how we’re going to get home.
8:23 pm. We decide to ask one of the security people the quickest way to get back to Sydney on public transportation and he tells us to take a bus to the train station and then take a train back to the CBD. This is exciting to us because we love the trains.
8:24 pm. We get a second opinion on how to get home from another church employee. She says that we have to walk 20 minutes down the road to the nearest T-way station to catch a bus back. Of course the two people we asked had different opinions. SOMEONE PLEASE JUST GIVE US A RIDE.
8:27 pm. Alright, we’re going to trust the woman’s directions because she seemed a lot more confident.
8:28 pm. Is everyone positive that they don’t want to give us a ride home?
8:30 pm. We begin the dreaded walk to the T-way in the rain. Thank God for those ponchos. Literally.
8:36 pm. I hate this part right here…
8:50 pm. Salvation! We’ve found the T-way stop! I’m either crying tears of joy or there’s just a lot of rain water on my face, I can’t tell.
8:55 pm. We get on the bus, the right one this time (yay go us!), and it is the warmest, most amazing feeling.
10:00 pm. Finally back at the BU SAC. Never riding a bus with Kaitlyn again.



 

So yeah, I guess that’s my week! I’m going to go enjoy my last few days left in Australia (aka watch Nashville while eating TimTams) and indulge in the sun and 18 year old drinking age. See you back in the States!

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