Dear Friends and Family,
We just completed four days of orientation and have the Blue Mountains scheduled for next Saturday. Central Sydney is close to our housing and previous students have preferred seeing urban attractions in small groups or on their own. As such, we are exploring the wild side and outer reaches of Sydney proper.
WEDNESDAY – March 7 ARRIVALS AND INTRODUCTIONS 1:00PM – 7:00PM
From the airport, we took them straight to the famed Bondi Beach. There were a few weary eyes from an early start in Auckland, but things perked up once they saw the hustle and bustle of Australia’s most iconic beach. Per the article below, ice cream sampling is a pastime that many enjoyed. Hiking the Bondi Cliffs on the southern end of the beach was another favorite. From Bondi, we headed north to get everyone settled into their new apartments. Our home base is the northern hub of Crows Nest -- voted Sydney’s most livable suburb. Crows Nest boasts one of Sydney’s best supermarkets along with award-winning ethnic restaurants. All the students live within walking distance of the town square. We have five apartments total for Sydney which made for a lot of running around on my part in the days prior to their arrival. Upgrading mops and brooms (so there are no cleaning excuses), replacing queen beds with bunkbeds or singles, and ensuring the little things having enough dish soap and toilet paper on hand. It’s not glamourous-- however, allowing students to have their own apartments is what makes this program unique.
THURSDAY – March 8 WILD LAKES DAY 1:00pm – 8:00pm
Lake Narrabeen is the Northern Beaches freshwater jewel. Here, the legendary kookaburra sits in the old gum tree. We found a nesting pair and stood beneath these Australian favorites as I sang the kookaburra song my grandmother put me to sleep with. Upwards of 140 bird species frequent the area and we identified as many as possible. A meandering trail followed the lakeshore and many in the group made the two-hour journey around it.
Next, we headed to a sand between the toes excursion at Dee Why Beach. After a hearty meal at a beachside burger joint, the adventurous trudged through a foot or more of water around a brackish swamp/lake. The normally dry trail had flooded weeks earlier but that did not stop our exploration. After heavy footing it we emerged onto the bright sands of Dee Why and the crashing surf. The heavy winds brought in sorties of “blue bottles” – an innocent name for a nasty critter – the Portuguese Man of War. We side-stepped a deluge of stinging tentacles and dipped our feet in the Pacific Ocean. In que with the setting sun, hundreds of lorikeets (a colorful parrot species) poured into the town in search of their favorite perch. The cacophony meant the humans below could only listen, not talk; this was their roost and we impinged on their conversation at our peril. With camera in hand, Max hopped on Thomas’ shoulders to get a face-to-face shot of colorful birds on the limb. It was a fitting end to a wild and wonderful Northern Beaches day.
FRIDAY – March 9 INTERNSHIP INTRODUCTIONS 8:30am – 4:00pm
In small groups we headed into the big city to visit internship hosts. Andrew and Thomas were no sooner through the door of Virtual Room before Mark, their supervisor, strapped them into virtual reality goggles with wires connected to the ceiling. From where I stood, it looked like a couple dudes stumbling around in padded rooms waving hand controls. In their world, they were children of the universe tasked with saving humankind. Once trained, they will become Game Masters and monitor players from a main computer.
Max and Sarah met with the head photographer of an urban chic studio that creates photographic portfolios for the modeling community of Sydney, members of the Sydney opera, and some family shoots. Sylvia and Lauren got a mile-a-minute rundown from two enthusiastic employees at the Public Relations firm they are interning. They will have a fun mix of networking from the office and delivering customer products to high profile businesses in the city. Emma and Kendall got a rundown of the doggie duties they will have at Paw Republic. Thomas got an introduction into the fast-paced world of digital marketing where he will work. Staton met with the editor of the City Pages newspaper and will start on his first article next week. Drew is off to the Hunter Valley today two hours north of Sydney assisting on a wine tour. He will help the owner of the company on marketing and making sure guests are comfortable and well-fed on the tour. Madison and Julia are prepping for work with a local restaurant in Crows Nest. Clarissa visited the center for disabled people in West Sydney and will work with mentally challenged adults. She will run workshops and assist on field trips.
A diverse set of job duties for a diverse set of people.
SATURDAY – March 10 WARRIEWOOD AND MANLY 1:00pm – 8:00pm
After a busy day in the city, we headed forty-five minutes north to the wetlands. Our driver insisted on stopping at Upper Crust Pies – the Northern Beaches premier pie joint. You won’t find grandma’s apple pie here. Pies in this part of the world get stuffed with anything that fits in a frying pan, oven, or a dog dish (kidney pie—yukk!). Chicken curry and Mexican were two of the favorites. Gassed up on pastries, we arrived to Warriewood Wetlands – a hotbed of birdlife and creepy crawlies. Five minutes into our walk we encountered the legendary “flying foxes” – basically dogs on the wing. With wingspans equal to outstretched arms, bats hang from ironwood trees in the day and forage for fruit and insects at night. No less than hundred hissed and barked at each other as they settled in for a day’s rest. If that didn’t dissuade the faint at heart, our next encounter came close. Warriewood is home to a couple of the Deadly Dozen – Australia’s most poisonous residents. On a grass knoll across from the boardwalk we encountered a red-bellied snake. This stout four-footer allowed a short glimpse before slithering into the dense brush. I told the group that days earlier I had seen one and when I went home to google Warriewood snakes the first three pages were all stories on how this menace had taken over a popular children’s park and sent mothers with strollers screeching to high ground. Three-foot eels, long-necked turtles, and colorful waterfowl added to our species count. All this a stone’s throw away from a Target superstore.
We finished our day and Long Reef and Manly Beach. Manly is a toned-down version of Bondi with upscale restaurants, an international beach volleyball scene, and a town square filled with walks of all life.
SATURDAY – March 17 BLUE MOUNTAINS 9am – 6pm
Our Blue Mountains Day will feature an hour and forty-minute drive up to Katoomba in the heart of the park. Students will choose a leisurely hike to the Three Sisters lookout or challenge themselves on a three-hour canyon trail.
Next, they will enjoy the comfort of the Visitors Center and an introduction to Aboriginal culture and dance. Following an overview of the local geography, boomerangs and paint are provided and students will decorate them in traditional patterns or their own unique designs. (They can take their creations home.) Finally, we will end our day in the auditorium with a performance by Aboriginal dancers. Students will journey to a time when the Songlines reigned and the serpent creator gave birth to the land.