“Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore…” (or Florida, for that matter)!
Well, I’ve made it to Sydney! I flew from Gainesville to Miami, from Miami to LAX, and then across the ocean to continent down under. At the flight gate, there were two dancing mascots from Qantas airlines to help us get excited about our impending 14 hour journey over the Pacific (I admit, it worked). When I first saw them, an actress from Modern Family was getting on this flight and she was having her photo taken with them. But I didn’t know she was a celebrity until much later, so I thought a whole swarm of people had rushed over with their cameras just to take pictures of the dancing kangaroo and koala.
Once I landed in Sydney, I was whisked away in a MacQuarie shuttle and taken to the MacQuarie University Village. I was assigned to live in townhouse 44, room 3. I was amazed at the size of my room and closet, and I even had my own bathroom. I’m right by the road, so there is traffic noise, but I’m also opposite a little park and Trafalgar Square, which houses a cozy little supermarket. Things didn’t immediately seem very different from the States. But if I looked a little harder as we drove onto campus, and spent a little longer walking around the Village, I began noticing a lot differences. What stuck out most to me was how many trees there were! They’re all over campus and in the villages, even in the medians and on golf courses in the suburbs. And they’re not small shrubby trees, but tall and full trees that seem to have been around for a long time. There are trees whose bark appears to be stripped that give off a distinctive, almost pungent odor–I think perhaps these are eucalyptus trees.
Something else that amazes me is the diversity of bird life right outside my window! I haven’t been here for even 24 hours and already I’ve seen 13 species. This morning I took my binoculars and went out for an early walk (~6:30am). I had some incredible looks at several species: there’s the Gallah, a reddish parrot frosted in soft blue, the Masked Lapwing, a tall plover with long yellow waddles coming down from either side of its beak, and of course the most iconic Australian bird, the Laughing Kookaburra! As an aspiring ornithologist, nothing filled me with more delight than seeing all these life birds!