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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The End: One Month Later...

I will never forget this amazing building. But I will always miss it.
First off, writing this post is going to be hard. Looking through all of the pictures that I was going to put into it I really realized just how special my time in Australia was. No...I take that back. How perfect my time in Australia was.

It is now a little more than a month since I returned home and I am truly starting to realize what people mean when they say that Studying Abroad is a "bittersweet" experience. I wont even lie, there are have been some times in the last few weeks (this last week especially for some reason) that I have found myself longing to
Another missed sight...
be  back in Australia; to wake up in Sydney again in my house on 2/48 Botany St right near the Pizza Hut and the 7-11. And when I say longing I mean that my heart literally aches to be back there. The first time it happened about a week ago, I was astounded. It really took me by surprise as I was lying in my bed in ULofts, trying to go to sleep. The only feeling that I can compare it to is depression.

Now before you go getting all worried about me, dont fret. I'm still happy to be back in Denver, CO. I guess there are just times that I wish I had the power to move my life (friends, family, belongings, and all) to Sydney, Australia and combine the life I had during Study Abroad with the life that I have at home. It's an impossible scenario sure, and that is ultimately why looking back on my time in Australia is so hard. It was such a life-changing, exciting experience that I now realize will never be replicated, even when I do eventually return to Australia someday. That is the part that gets to me the most...that no matter how many times I visit Australia again, it will never be the way it was during Study Abroad. It wont have the same people or friends, it wont be at the same point in my life, it wont have the same day-to-day routine...  :-(  I need to stop writing this sentence, it is making me too sad.

But instead of this post being about my bad case of SWD (Sydney Withdrawl Depression - it's a real clinical diagnosis...seriously), I would like to reflect on what really mattered while studying abroad: my friends and my unforgettable experiences.

If you knew me in Australia at all, you knew that I had a huge crush on TimTams
Petting a Koala was one of my must-do things while I was in Australia. Mission Accomplished!
A lot of time was spent on Coogee Beach. As my tan now fades, I miss it more and more.
My good friends Alan and Kevin on our way to my first rugby game. "Yeah bro!"
Two of my best friends on the trip: Soren and Rachel. Taken on our wine trip to Hunter Valley
Darling Harbor. Home to great food places, the world's largest IMAX, the Sydney aquarium,
where we went to get on our cruise ships, and a nice restaurant that still does not know
how to split a tab. Haha I will never let that one go.
Quite possibly the best picture I took on my entire trip and one of the
best pictures ever taken with an iPhone.
I think I made this walk over 100 times, easy. And now I sorta miss it...
Climbing the Harbor Bridge with my dad: an unforgettable experience for the both of us.
Halloween Cruise 2011 with some of my best friends on the trip: Myke, Ian, and Soren. Ridiculously
fun and memorable night.
The infamous tattoo. I got some of you SO good. 
My application picture for the next James Bond and the next
Mission Impossible. I'd say with a photo this cool, I have a strong
chance.
Ian and one of my best Australian friends, Sarah! This was the
last night that I was in Australia. 
The dangerous duo of Sydney. Taken at Rachel's birthday, another insanely fun
 and memorable night
One of the most classic pictures taken in Australia. Ian and I at Rachel's 21st birthday.
We both received modeling contracts after this picture was posted online.
Using an ice pick on a glacier in New Zealand. Im guessing
it was probably an awesome one-time experience.
Queenstown, New Zealand. The BEST place on earth (sorry Sydney).

Skydiving. 15,000 feet. Two mountain ranges. One lake. Queenstown, NZ.
What does that all add up to? One experience of a lifetime and one happy Jordan.
Conquer Pose: Coogee Beach
Conquer Pose: Minus 5 Ice Bar at -7.3 degrees.
Conquer Pose: Scenic stop, South Island, NZ
Conquer Pose: Queenstown, NZ
Conquer Pose: Milford Sound, NZ
Chappy, Kelsey, Jenny, Matt, Emily, Charlotte, Traci, Beryl, Kristina, Molly,
and Andrea. The group that made my New Zealand trip the best trip I
have ever taken or will probably ever take in my life. Thank you!
Alan, Rachel, Ian, Madeline, Michelle, Phylicia, and Caroline. The group (minus Soren in
this picture) that I spent most of my time with in Australia. Thank you for an amazing
experience and for your friendship!
Study Abroad is a funny thing. It seems so far away at first, punches you in the face once you are actually abroad, slowly grows on you, gives you the time of your life, then ends without warning. It teaches you great amounts about yourself: how you interact with other people, how you handle other cultures, how true to yourself you stay while abroad, and ultimately how you enjoy the highs while accepting the lows. It teaches you to appreciate what you have and who you have, but to not be afraid to try new things, get lost, and meet new people. But most of all, it teaches you that life isn't about how important you are or how much money you have, its about the people you meet along the way and whether or not you are happy with your life at the end of the day.

I'd like to thank anyone that had ANYTHING to do with my experience in Australia. Anyone I met, anyone that helped me to get there, anyone that read this blog, anyone that missed me, anyone that misses me, and most importantly, all of my good friends that I made over there. You are the reason that I will take all of my Study Abroad memories with me to the end of my days, and you are the reason that it is so hard for me to officially close the book on this chapter in my life.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart and I hope that our paths will cross again.

GOODBYE SYDNEY. I WILL BE BACK.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Seat 34C: The Journey Home


And this is why it feels good to be home ^^^

My last days in Sydney were fair to partly cloudy (pun intended), but on the last day, the weather was beautiful and I had a really relaxing time soaking everything in: the ocean, wildlife, downtown, the food...just everything that was about to change.

I will miss this view for sure
I had a lot of free time my last few days, so my roommate Ian and I traveled down to Coogee and stayed there for a few days, planning to go to the beach pretty much every day. That definitely didnt happen, but we still had some nice days to swim and snorkel and explore on the cliffs. Besides our hostel being somewhat sketchy (a pipe above our roof was leaking I guess?), it was a time to enjoy things for the last time. Nightlife in Coogee for the last time, beach for the last time, gelato for the last time, downtown Sydney, etc.

A Kookaburra that let me get really close to take a picture

The cliffs are always interesting!
The last car that I purchased in Australia  :-(  
On one of the more cloudy/crappy/raining/Isn't-it-supposed-to-be-summer-here? days we visited the pylon for what would be some of my final viewings of the bridge, skyline, and Opera House. The pylon is one of the large structures located at the corners of the Harbor Bridge that are about 3/4ths the height of the bridge.

Opera House with Sydney skyline panoramic

Harbor Bridge with Opera House panoramic

The most famous building in the world with the
most famous person in the world
My final night in Australia was probably one of my best. It was really bittersweet. On one hand, I was with my good friend, Ian, and my Australian friend, Sarah, having fun discussions and enjoying Sydney. On the other hand, I knew that this would be the last time for probably a very long time that I would see Sydney again. That is hard to think about. To leave somewhere that became your home so suddenly for 4.5 months and knowing that you are not coming back for the foreseeable future; it makes you sad despite the fact you miss so much at home. Writing this now, not even being home for a week, there is a part of me that wishes I was back in Australia. I think whenever you live somewhere for that long, and have an experience where you meet so many people, see so many things, and just do so much, a part of you will always stay there.

The coolest bar I went to on my trip: the 360 bar on the Sydney Skytower.
It's above the entire city, and slowly revolves 360 degrees so that your view is always changing.
To say I felt like James Bond would be an understatement.

Crazy lighting structures in the 360 bar
Opera House at night (slightly above the direct center of the picture)



My first time trying Absinthe. It was called a green fairy,
and no I did not hallucinate. It was a very good drink though.
Strong, but delicious.

Darling Harbor at night. Another place I will miss





My girlfriend wanted to say bye to me in Sydney. You may
recognize her, she's a Victoria Secret model, no big deal...































But after my fun night out, I knew it was time to go home. My flights were pretty uninteresting except for my Ambien trip on my Sydney to LA flight. I took an Ambien to try to get some sleep, and I guess my mind just did not want to sleep. So instead, I was basically tripping on the plane: seeing double, some bending walls, and dots in front of my eyes. I pretty much just went along with it and had a huge grin on my face for about half an hour then I dozed off for a little bit.

It was great to arrive at DIA and see my mom and dad, then go over to Jeramy and Ashley's and meet Lauren who was easily the person that has changed the most since I last saw her! She is so big and active, she definitely has a strong personality and is a very entertaining baby. I got to spend a lot of time with her on Thanksgiving as well, so I think she is starting to get used to me...again...now. In addition, I also had Chipotle as my first meal back (with a Corona), and my God was it good. No offense to Australia, but they have nothing that can touch Chipotle.

Basically heaven on earth right here
And of course I was overjoyed when my white, four-legged friends came to greet me as I came in the house for the first time. At first, they weren't sure it was really me, especially Kolby, but after a while of me playing with them, they realized it was really me.

Kolby and Katy!
Next on my list of exciting returns was...you guessed it: my PlayStation. Let's just say that it has gotten quite a workout the last few days. And the games I just got are some of the best I have ever played, no exaggeration.
The games and movies that I got. Overwhelming in the best way possible
Ohhhhhh baby...it's been too long.
Lastly, it was so exciting to see all of my friends again. And I got to see friends that I hadnt seen for a LONG time...like two years. Several of my Mormon friends returned home from their missions while I was away, so seeing them and roaming around Highlands Ranch again, kinda felt like being back in high school. Fun times. And then there are my DU friends, who I was extremely excited to see and on Tuesday night we were able to have a party after going to the $4 movies and Buffalo Wild Wings. It was definitely a night that I will not forget anytime soon.

So...my time in Australia has now ended. That means that this blog is about to come to an end as well. I think I will do one more reflection post about a month from now, but other than that, it is time to say goodbye. I hope you all have enjoyed my stories of Australia, I know that I have enjoyed sharing my experiences with you. So there is really only one thing left to say:

G'DAY MATES!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Rath's Reviews: Warrior

I will start off by being honest. I am not a huge fan of sports movies. In my opinion, they are always either classics or terrible and I forget about them more easily than any other movie genre I can think of. I would have to say that my favorite sports movies, in order, are Space Jam, Remember the Titans, and Never Back Down. All three movies are memorable and I love each one in a different way. Space Jam is silly and reminds me of a time when sports had a lot more to do with fun than making money. Remember the Titans was just a great movie overall, with strong characters and a fantastic story. And Never Back Down is a bit of a wild card, but it is such a cool movie that is fun almost every time I watch it.

After seeing Warrior, I think I can confidently add one more movie to the list above. It is not a cool sports movie, or even a fun one, but I'll be damned if it's not an emotional one. The story is set up throughout the near-perfectly paced film and it basically goes like this: two brothers who are not very fond of each other are both into MMA fighting. They have completely different lives and backstories other than the fact that their father was a drunk and ruined the family. There is clearly a lot of drama between the entire family, especially since the mother has passed away. To make a long story short, both brothers need money, and somewhat unknown to each other, they end up in the same 16-man, bracket-style, MMA tournament fighting for $5 million. As Im sure you can guess, they end up fighting each other in the championship. Supposedly the movie is based on a true story, but I really wonder how much of it is true. I believe that two brothers maybe fought each other (I dont follow MMA), but I dont really believe all of the drama that unfolds behind the scenes. But that doesn't matter.

Tom Hardy as Tommy on the left and Joel Edgerton as Brendan on the right.
Random UFC ref in the center.
I do believe that Tom Hardy, who plays the younger brother, Tommy, is going to be a star very soon. You might recognize him from Inception, and he is, in my opinion, the best actor in this film. You can catch him next summer as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. Joel Edgerton plays the other brother, Brendan, and also does well as the father-husband-school teacher who decides to get back into fighting. Nick Nolte is in the movie as the boys' father, and to be honest, I think his character is the only negative of the movie. He is obviously an essential part of the movie since he is Tommy's trainer and the boys are kind-of sort-of working towards forgiving him for his alcoholic past. But I think the movie sometimes gets confused as to whether it is a brother drama or a father-son drama, and it is clearly a brother drama all the way. I guess what Im saying is that Nick Nolte got too much screen time and there should have been more time exploring the brothers' backgrounds.

Introducing: Tom Hardy's shoulders. I mean seriously, those would make
Dwight Howard blush. Can't wait to see him as the new Batman villain.
Daddy issues aside, the movie does a phenomenal job at everything else. Every fight is a memorable, bone-crunching, emotional event. The conversations between the brothers had me polarized and the reveal of Tommy's background in the Iraq war were astonishing, and they are all laid out perfectly. In the final event, most of the story is given to us by ESPN commentators and CNN updates, which I would usually hate, but here it works well. Even the must-have training montage that every single sports film has is done creatively and powerfully here. It does not overstay its welcome, but it also doesnt make it feel like they all the sudden got ready for the fight of their life.

"Here...smell my hand! SMELL IT!"
The thing Warrior succeeds at most though is that final fight. The movie makes each brother likable and unlikable, and you are rooting for each one for different reasons. It's a feeling that I have never really felt before in a movie: rooting for both of the good guys and both of the bad guys at the same time. It's hard not to become emotional during the final fight (although that wasnt the only time I was emotional) mainly because you dont know how to feel. What is Tommy going to do if he doesnt win? What is Brendan going to do if he doesnt win? And ultimately, Who is going to win? These questions and more are all racing through your head as you watch this beautifully choreographed fight play out with pitch perfect music and commentary. It is certainly not a scene that I will forget the next day.

I was surprised by Warrior. I had heard it was good, but honestly, good doesnt cut it for me in sports movies. I want a classic film or its not really worth my time. Warrior is maybe not a classic, but it gets so close and pacts such an unusual emotional punch that it might as well be.

If you are looking for a engrossing story, a great sports movie, and a somewhat unique movie experience, I would take a swing at Warrior.


Pros:

  • Phenomenal story that is presented logically and over the course of the entire movie
  • Top notch acting by all; makes it all the more emotional
  • The fight scenes are expertly done. They feel dangerous, real, and intense
  • Follows some sports movie cliches, but either does them so well or so little that it doesnt matter
  • That final fight is truly an experience. The movie comes down to that one moment, and in that one moment it is perfect
Cons:

  • The dad story line is necessary, but it distracts from the true drama of the movie. It should have had a less prominent role, or been explained via less screen time
  • Still has some sports movie cliches in there
  • The ending is abrupt. It's fine as is, but I would have liked a little more closure

Rath's Review Score: 8.5/10

Sunday, November 13, 2011

An Obscure Halloween

Such a hipster picture. Black. White. Up. Down. Face. Body. Just so obscure man...
So many of you might know that I get pretty into my characters for Halloween. 3 years ago I was DU's best Joker from The Dark Knight, 2 years ago four of my friends and I were making everybody laugh as gay cowboys, and last year, Pierce and I were Pauly D and The Situation from the Jersey Shore, respectively. So how was I going to celebrate Halloween this year in a country that doesn't really celebrate it and on a budget? Easy. Be a hipster. Now for those of you who dont know what a hipster is, let me explain. They are basically all of those odd characters that you see walking around downtown Denver who think they are better than you because they know of a band that you dont, or because they are an art-eest, or because they are unique in their fashion choices, etc. Hipsters are fans of the obscure...that is, if something is too "mainstream" then they dont like it. If you dont know who I am talking about, just go to a Starbucks and observe pretty much anyone using an Apple device.

Earlier in the first few weeks of being down here, my friends and I booked a Halloween Cruise, so this is where we would let out our inner hipster-ness. In order to do so, I poked the lenses out of my 3D glasses, bought a scarf from goodwill, and wore some ridiculously tight, black pants. Seriously, these pants were so tight, they almost did the walking for you. In order to get into the character, I tried to remain serious at all times. Judging by the pictures you will see, I'd say I did a fantastic job.

Before I get to all the pictures, I'll talk briefly about the cruise. The cruise ship itself was HUGE. Much larger than the harbor cruise ship we had the first few weeks here. Even better, the weather was great, and it was actually a joy to be outside. And to top it off, there was an open bar and a phenomenal DJ, not to mention we got free entry into a club on the harbor once the cruise ended. It was a great time so enjoy the pictures!

Three hipsters and John Daly...
A hipster and a cat...
Inside the cruise ship...pretty damn big
Harbor Bridge at night
Going under the bridge
Soren (left) is a rambunctious hipster. He is almost too mainstream for me and
my obscurity
Clearly John Daly has a drinking problem...
Some friends of the hipster. But still not smiling. It's too mainstream.
The Sydney Opera House at night. You probably haven't heard of it before...
it's a pretty obscure building. 
Clearly something very shocking just happened. No. Seriously. I remember it and it
was shocking. 
The scarf actually grew on me. I kinda like it.
Darth Maul! Maulin! I was actually way excited to see this costume. It was
the best one on the cruise in my opinion.
A hipster and a spider web.
Not sure what I was yelling about here. Knowing me, I was probably
excited to dance or something. Not very hipster, I apologize. Notice the
ridiculously tight pants cutting off circulation.
Ian seemed to forget that bunny ears are way mainstream...hes new to the hipster game.
I swear this was the only time I smiled that night. I think I was testing it out since
someone told me it was obscure. But it quickly felt too mainstream so I never did it
again.
Myself, Myke, Ian, and Soren. A very memorable night for sure!

The night was clearly a blast, and one that I will remember for a long time to come! Much like most of my trip to Australia. 

Its weird realizing that in less than a week of me writing this, I will be home. Within a day of travelling, I will go from the life that I have established here in Australia for four and a half months, back to my life in Colorado. It's sad actually. A lot of the people that I have met on this trip I will probably never see again, and it will be a long time before I have the opportunity to come back down to Australia and New Zealand again. It has been an incredible experience and I have learned a ton about myself. This time away has really been one of the only times in my life that I have been on my own. DU doesnt really count since it has become such a huge comfort zone in and of itself. It has been challenging, and ultimately, I think the best thing that I have realized while down here is how good of a life I have back home. How great my family is, how great my friends are (girls and boys), how great my living arrangements are, and really just how great my routine back home is. That isn't to say that Australia didnt excel in those aspects, it's just that I realized that overall, my life back home is highly desirable. 

Now there's an obscure thought...

See you all soon! And this time I mean it for real!