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Hello everyone!

Sorry it has taken me so long to write you all about Australia but it has been so hectic so far. 

Let me just say that Australia is very far away.  I thought I would be nervous on the flight over here but I wasn't really.  19 of us met up in LA to fly over to Australia.  So there were all these other students who were in the same predicament as me.  We all bonded so quickly.  I hardly slept at all on the flight and I ended up eating three breakfasts.  It seemed that we just kept going through morning over and over again because of all the time changes:-)  Oh by the way we are 16 hours ahead of you.  At least until day light savings in March and then I am not sure what the time difference will be but it will change again when you guys have your daylight savings in April or whenever it is.

When we arrived in Cairns we had a two hour class and then we had a break between five and seven.  Sara, Roberta and I went up to our room to take a nap and then we woke up around 11:30.  We couldn't believe we had slept through dinner.  It was pouring when we arrived.  And it was suppose to continue all week but the sun came out on the water when we went scuba diving and it was absolutely beautiful. (Michelle: here's my first piece of advice, when you plan your honeymoon don't plan it for the wet season over here cause it pours like you've never seen it pour before and I know how much you hate rain!)

The water was so blue and clear.  We went snorkeling first.  I thought I would be afraid but you put your face in the water and there is this amazing world below you.  The fish just swim right along beside you, and they are beautiful amazing colors.  There are huge bright blue starfish which just look amazing.  And hugiant clams bigger than you could ever imagine.  It's so colorful and beautiful.  When we were on the boat we could see the land with its green mountains rising up against a bright blue sky.  I also went scuba diving.  They take three to four people down at a time.  We went down about 12 meters.  I got to kneel on the ocean floor.  We touched all these neat creatures and plant life that lived down there.  We were down for half an hour but it flew by so fast I could hardly believe that we were ready to resurface.

The next day we went to the rainforest.  I was kinda disappointed at the rainforest.  It was pouring and I was so worried about watching out for leeches that it was hard to enjoy the scenery.  But when I was looking around it was beautiful mystical and greener than you can imagine.  Since it was pouring we really didn't get to see any wide life while we were hiking.  The sun came out in the afternoon though and were able to go to a habitat and walk among all the animals.  I saw all sorts of beautiful birds, kangaroos, wallabies, crocodiles, and emus.

We flew to Hobart the following day which was Monday Valentine's day.  I arrived at my house that night.  Hobart is situated in the mountains and the place is so hilly.  I am going to be in great shape from all the walking I do.  Situated at the bottom and center of Hobart is the bay.  At night the view is absolutely spectacular.  I will try and get some pictures of it for everyone to see.

I've spent the last couple of days exploring Hobart and meeting people.  There has been a barbeque at someone's house almost every night.  Australians are so friendly.  Everyone is welcoming and wants to talk.  I spent one evening talking for hours to Clifton, an Australian that I met. 

The only thing that has kept me from having an absolute blast has been my ear infection.  I am finally on meds for it, but it was really bad.  My flat mates were going to take me to the ER but I was too upset to go.  The infection gave me a really really bad fever and my skin felt like it was on fire.  SO the last few days I have been trying to take things kinda easy.

Classes start on Monday.  They do things really different here and I am having a lot of difficulty scheduling my classes.  You don't have to actually register for classes until about the third week of classes.  You just go to which ever classes you want and try to work out your time table.  You have lectures and tutorials for the classes.  I am trying to at least have a three day weekend but I am not sure it is going to work.

I would describe my house to you but as soon as I get batteries I will take pictures so that you can see it.

The one thing I learned since I have arrived is that Australia has nine out of the ten most poisonous spiders and the top ten most poisonous snakes.  I have already had an encounter with a spider but it was a harmless one.  It was big black and very ugly.  But I have seen pictures of the other spiders in the area and I pray to God that I never see them.

The air here is very clean and clear but the sun is much brighter and stronger than back home.  My flat mates are very nice.  Actually Kelly one of them goes to William and Mary and recognizes your name and picture.  Her name is Shawna Mitchell.  The two guys, Dave and Ian, are very nice.  I felt like I was in Towson the other day when I walked in and one of them was playing the guitar while the other one played half life on the computer:-)  It made me laugh to think that I could be halfway around the world and still feel like I am at home.

I haven't experienced too much of a culture shock yet.  The two things that have been the hardest to get used to are looking right then left when crossing the road. And that most stores close at five or six.  Not even the grocery stores stay open later than that.  Besides that they show American TV shows, play American music on the radio, etc.  I am sure that I will notice more difference once I start classes and meet more Australians.

The one thing that is taking a while to get accustomed to is the food.  It all tastes different than food at home.  Even the Kraft Mac and cheese!

I look forward to hearing from all of you!

Love, Michelle