Updated: Dec 16, 2020
As of this upcoming Sunday it will officially be three months since I've been in the US. My proudest accomplishment since being here is that I can officially say I have mastered public transportation! (No more FaceTime calls home crying to my mom about being lost, although that only happened once)
One on going adventure I never thought I'd have the experience of having in my life, is correcting the way people say my name. With a last name of Vander Lugt I am use to people giving me a look and butchering it, but with Megan as a first name I figured everyone knew how to pronounce it. Not the case here. In Australia it's pronounced "Meeee-gun" versus "Maygen." Gives me shivers when it's said wrong!
Update from our house hunt! My roommates and I moved into our new house at the start of the September. It's been great settling in and getting to know them more over these past two months. I did not know them, or even meet 1 of them, until we moved in. I lucked out, though, and they're great! We luckily were able to find a place close to public transportation. (I take the train/bus to work each day so that was a must on my list.) Apart from the location, the house also came completely furnished. I'm not talking just beds and a couch, but everything from bedding, silverware, and even miscellaneous cleaning products. With not planning on staying here long term, it saved us all tons of money versus having to buy everything individually. My two roommates are also teachers from the United States, both working through the same teaching agency I am hired through. 1 is from Ohio and the other from Missouri so we're representing the Midwest well. It's been nice to share stories (both good and bad) about students and daily adventures with people here who understand just how crazy a day can truly be!
Along the lines of teaching, the last 2 weeks of September I got a break from being in the classroom. Having Spring Break in September was a first for me! It gave me time to travel more around Melbourne and meet new people. Like you have seen in the pictures I've posted lately, we've been busy seeing and visiting new places. Here's the run down on what we saw and did over break:
CBD and Saint Kilda- CBD stands for Central Business District, or downtown. Lots of great brunch spots and wharfs to walk down. Saint Kilda is a suburb located on the beach. It's just south of the city center. Saint Kilda is know for always having something to do and a lively atmosphere. Shayna and I spent an afternoon there walking along the beach, checking out the amusement park (think super small, old amusement park), and penguin hunting! Saint Kilda beach is known for having a penguin colony leaving in the rocks. To our luck we were able to find 1!
Wilson Promontory- Wilson's was about a 4 hour drive from my house. Luckily my amazing roommate and chauffeur not only has a car while staying in Melbourne, but she's successfully figured out driving on the other side of the road. I sure got lucky! The two of us left left early in the morning with our packed lunches ready for a day of hiking and sight seeing. Although the drive was long, it was very beautiful. Most of the drive was throughout the luscious, green, hilly country side. It was my first time seeing cows since being home. I have never been so happy to see some! Our drive also consisted of keeping our eyes out for kangaroos and koala bears. Just like back home how there are "deer crossing" signs along busy roads, there's kangaroo and koala crossing signs here. Sadly we didn't spot any. I guess we did spot 1 kangaroo, but he wasn't alive... Anyways, back to Wilson's! Once we arrived we knew it was going to be a memorable day. The view just from the entrance gates were breath taking! After driving the coast and through hills for another 15 minutes we spotted a tall mountain. Sarcastically I stated, "What if the hike we picked makes us go up there?!" Little did we know it actually did... Megan, the novice hiker, picked the hardest hike the national park offered because it had the greatest views. Despite almost dying, the views at the top were truly remarkable. The world is going to have a hard time trying to beat that view! The day ended with a big burger, fries, and ice cream. It's all about balance, right?
Yarra Valley Winery- My roommate, 6 other Americans and Canadians, and myself spent a Saturday afternoon in Yarra Valley sampling wines. Vlad, our Russian guide, showed us around to the best wineries and chocolate stores. We had a great time and I made more friends- double win! A couple weeks later Christine, Shayna, and myself went to a free wine tasting in the city. We like our wine here!
Moonlight Sanctuary- Over Spring Break Shayna, Christine, Sarah, and myself went to a Aussie animal sanctuary. At the Moonlight Sanctuary we were able to see koala bears, kangaroos, dingos, emus, wombats, cockatoos, Tasmanian devils, and many other animals. Highlight of the trip was definitely hand feeding some kangaroos. So cute!
Great Ocean Road- One early morning my roommates and Christine, our honorary 4th roommate, packed up Shayna's little Suzuki for a road trip. The Great Ocean Road is must while being here after hearing from every local just how beautiful it is. With the 4 of us in the car and ready to head out in the morning, we started our drive. Technically the drive is 9 hours to Adelaide, another major city in Australia from Melbourne, but since we didn't want to spend money on a Airbnb for the night, or spend 18 hours in the car, we decided to drive halfway and then turn around and come home. Definitely worth it. Some of the most beautiful views! Only negative of the trip was the large amount of tourists, primarily Asians, that were also there. Luckily they didn't ruin too many pictures!
This past weekend my roommate and I decided we needed a break from the city and spent 2 days and a night out in the Grampians National Park. Our hostel was situated at the edge of a cute little town, as well as many trails. Like we've learn to expect now, there were also tons of kangaroos just chilling in our backyard. On Saturday afternoon, after the 3 hour drive there, Shayna and I laced up our shoes and filled up our water bottles and set out on a hike. Our hostel "cleaner," Tim, gave us very detailed directions on how we needed to turn left, than right, then take the left trail, to go straight, and right, and up to the top of this peak. Needless to say we have no idea if we actually made it on the hike he recommended, but the one we took was probably more beautiful.
Unlike the hike we took about a month prior at Wilson's, this one came with mountain, valley, and lake views. The path at times just ended, though, and a good part of the hike was Shayna and I sliding, scooting on our butts, and jumping from rock to rock. We definitely felt it the next day, but the views were worth it. On our way back from our hike we circled through town for ice cream to reward ourselves for a well accomplished day. I had a kind called "Hokey Pokey," while Shayna got "Passion Fruit." Both were new to us, but excellent. Can't really go wrong with ice cream... We ended the night by going to a couple wineries and bar/restaurant for dinner. Exhausted from the day and drive we had an early night in. The next day we got up early to find the weather wasn't nearly as nice as the previous day. It rained throughout the night so fog and a light mist greeted us as the door. After a quick breakfast and awkward conversation with a very open hostel guest, Shayna and I were off on more adventures. On today's list was to see waterfalls. We made our way up a windy hill to a spot called Mackenzie Falls. With a sign saying, "2km hike" (equivalent to about 1.5 miles) we didn't expect anything too strenuous. On our way down we saw two men very out of breath and holding their sides. Being arrogant and naive, Shayna and I joked how they were overreacting and how this hike was a piece of cake. The joke was on us after we say the 1,000 wet, steep, and curvy stairs. Going down was not too bad, but I definitely toned my butt on the way up! The waterfall was beautiful and definitely worth it. On our way down the mountain we tried to stop at a few look out points, with due to our high elevation and the fog, we didn't have great views. In fact, the fog was starting to creep us out and play tricks on our mind. I was just waiting for Slender Man to pop out from the trees and get me. A kangaroo ran at 1 point through the trees that gave me a heart attack and made Shayna and I decide to move to a lower altitude where we could actually see things. On our way down we stopped at another waterfall and stumbled upon a hike called Mt. William. Since we had only hit 10,000 by noon and only "almost" killed ourselves that morning, we decided another hike was needed. This one was also shorter, but came with many warnings telling us how it was strenuous and for experienced hikers only. Exactly me, right?! My Mount Everest and Kilimanjaro hiking roommate thought so! After 10 minutes of steel, were talking 120 degree angle hiking up a hill, we ran into an older lady walking down. She shared how "this is only the beginning, and it's a nice leisurely walk soon." Relieved that we wouldn't die, we trekked on. After 10 more minutes of still hiking at 120 degrees, Megan loudly complained. A very fit guy responded that it was that way all the way up. Great. With being so high we were climbing in the clouds with some strong winds and very cold rain/mist. I've never been in a hurricane, but it has to feel similar I feel. We eventually made it to the top, which ended up being a plane navigation tower. With being in the clouds we couldn't see anything, but felt successful. The climb down was more beautiful with great views. Made the hike well worth it. After a view more hikes and trails that day, Shayna and I were on our way home. For the first time since being abroad we saw and drove past a feedlot full of cows. Every other time I had seen any livestock is was in a large field or hill. Needless to say the sight and smell made me feel back at home. Never thought I'd miss that!
The weather is only getting warmer here. As I write this I'm sitting outside getting a tan in 90 degree weather. (You should be jealous) Today I don't have school due to the Melbourne Cup. Australia is HUGE into horse racing and betting. We're talking at least 1 Tabs (the place you watch the races and place bets) every mile. Not exactly my thing, but I'll take the day off. On Thursday 1 of my students passed out from heat exhaustion at recess, so maybe the warm weather isn't all fun and games... it can get to be 110 here in the summer (December-February) so I'm sure I'll be missing the snow at some point! Meanwhile, though, I'll enjoy my nice tan in November.
Here's to more adventures in the next several months. I already have my eyes on many trips I hope to go on, several out of this country. I'll keep them a secret for now, but will attach pictures of my latest adventures for you all to enjoy.
XOXO from Melbourne, Megan