Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sun, Sand, and Scheming for Wi-Fi

February 10 – 12, 2014

By Gabby Ray

We drove back from the mountains to Brisbane on Sunday after spending nearly a week in isolation learning from Aboriginal Australian teachers. This week is designated as time for independent research. Our group is spread across eastern and southern Australia because some of us traveled farther than others, based on our respective topics. Three other students and I decided that our research did not depend on visiting a specific location, so the choice was either to stay in Brisbane, a city in which we will be spending the next four weeks, or to explore another Australian city.

Easternmost Point in Continental Australia
Evidence of Crabs!
The four of us decided to go to Byron Bay, a small beach town just south of the Queensland/New South Wales border. Our ride on the crowded, sweaty Greyhound bus from Brisbane to Byron Bay on Monday was yet another rude awakening, a reminder that we were back in an urban setting. We arrived around 5 pm, right in time for a sunset dip in the ocean, which was just the opportunity we needed to wash off the last of the stubborn red ochre paint leftover from our time at camp.

We rented an apartment very close to the beach with cafés (otherwise known as free wi-fi) all around it, and a fish market directly next door (which proves to be both negative and positive). We’ve spent most of each morning and afternoon in these cafés, doing research for our independent projects and downloading sources to read while on the beach later in the day when the sun isn't so hot. We have been spending our nights doing a lot of cooking (mostly fish and shrimp from the market next door) and watching the Australian coverage of the Olympics.

On Wednesday, we took a very old, hot bus to visit Nimbin, a little town about an hour and a half inland from Byron Bay. We had heard of the small farming community from one of the aunties at the camp, who lives on several hundred acres right outside of Nimbin proper. We were only in town for the afternoon, but that was enough time to track down a couple of the auntie's art pieces I really wanted to see.

Byron Bay itself has a very distinct feel to it, all beach-town stereotypes aside. The people here seem to be much younger than in any other city we have been to in Australia, and it seems we run into the same characters everywhere we go. Backpackers from all over the world—but especially Europe—gather here, both seeking and contributing to the vibrant, easygoing character of Byron Bay. It has been very comforting to be in a place like Byron, where the people are exceedingly friendly and inclusive.

It will be difficult to leave this wonderful pocket of the coast, but I know that much awaits us during our stays with our host families in Brisbane.  I have been gearing up to live with a busy, young family, and I am becoming increasingly excited to have in-depth conversations with my Australian family, to be welcomed into their lives.  Hopefully there will not be too much vegemite in my future...


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