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Yes, I know: this is not actually a predeparture blog, as I am already halfway through the semester. I can remember when I was sitting in my room in New York literally counting down the seconds until the middle of February, a month after everyone else had left for abroad or begun classes in Ithaca. And now, with everyone gearing up for Slope Day and finals, I am finally going on mid-semester break (also known as Spring Break, except that the seasons are reversed).
Just when I have started thinking of Sydney as my home, it’s time to leave again. So far, my study abroad experience has been a balance between exploring Sydney and traveling to other places. With the past few weeks being all about travel, it was nice to be home this weekend. There are still plenty of things I need to see and do in Sydney before I leave. This past weekend, we went jet boating around Sydney Harbour. Basically, you sit in a huge raft that speeds through the Harbour and gets you soaking wet as a way to “see the sights”. I’m not sure in what world this is a good way to see the Opera House and the Sydney Bridge as my knuckles turned white from gripping onto the railing of the boat for dear life and I did not once lift my head for fear of falling into the water. But at least I can say I did something new and different!
Being in Sydney is like being in a familiar, comfortable spot. When I go to get coffee in the morning, the barista knows what I am going to order (Long Black with a dash of milk and two Equal) and charges me $1.50 less than he is supposed to when his boss turns the other way. The woman I see running everyday on the same path waves to me as she tugs her dog away. The bus driver who remembers the time I ended up in the wrong place makes sure I know where I’m getting off this time around. The waitress at the Palace, a restaurant right down the road from our apartment, knows what we will order every Monday night and rings us up before we say a word. The woman at the gym knows that after two months, I am still debating purchasing a membership. The guy and girl at the travel agency know exactly what kind of trips to book us on (the cheapest and most entertaining ones around). Simply put, the little town of Coogee Beach in Sydney has become my home.
In two days, I will be off to Thailand, which will probably be more unfamiliar than anywhere else in the world. ThaiIntro, the company that specializes in tours around Thailand during Spring Break, has provided us with some tips for packing and travel within Thailand before we take off:
1. Pack an eye patch and a small sword: Is this a joke or serious? I can’t tell, and I almost don’t want to know.
2. Do not drink water from the tap: Okay, but what if I get really, really thirsty? How come everyone there can drink it but I can’t? Does that mean when Thai people come to America or Australia, they can’t drink the tap water?
3. Wear sunscreen: As we have been buying sunscreen almost weekly since we’ve been here (happy, Mom?), this shouldn’t be a problem. Especially because the low temperature of everyday is forecast to be 80 degrees.
4. Never argue with Thai people. Thai people hate to ‘lose face’ in public: Is this why I need the sword?
5. Never point your feet at a Thai person or at a statue of Buddha: Okay, so when talking to a Thai person, I need to stand sideways? What if I am talking to someone but to the side is a statue of Buddha? Which way is better to point my feet?
6. When visiting temples make sure you dress appropriately and cover your shoulders and knees: Considering cut-out shoulders and short shorts are the biggest trends, this should severely limit the amount of clothing I pack. That means more room in my suitcase to buy Thai items! (Just kidding Dad, don’t worry).
7. Always remove your shoes when entering a shop or a person’s house: Does this mean they have foot showers outside of every shop? What happens if someone steals your shoes when you’re inside? Is it okay to walk barefoot on the streets if that happens? I don’t want to lose my shoes!
8. Never touch a Thai person on the head: What??? Who does that??? Why would you touch someone on the head that you just met?! Why would you ever touch someone on the head in general?!
So, as everyone can see, I am clearly prepared for this journey to Thailand where I will visit temples, sleep on an overnight train, stay in floating bungalows, and ride an elephant through the jungle, among other activities.
Goodbye Sydney, and sawadee kah Thailand (hello, Thailand)!