Sunday, January 4, 2015

Back to Australia

I'm in Australia once again. I arrived in Melbourne the night before last after two very long days of travelling. Instead of flying through L.A. like before, this time I went east, stopping in Abu Dhabi. I had about a twelve hour layover there and I decided to go out and explore the city. It's very much like I imagined the middle east to be - hot and deserty with big palm trees - but I was surprised at how rich it is. The houses are huge and the cars are nice and the city is clean.

I admit I was a little nervous to go out on my own in middle-eastern country but everyone I met was very friendly and helpful and they all spoke English. All the signs were in English as well as Arabic and the public transportation is good so it was easy to get around. On the bus into the city, I met a Polish lady who had arrived the day before so I walked around with her for a bit since she knew her way around a little. Most of the shops were closed for New Year's (even though it was the second...) so there wasn't much to see but we stopped for lunch at a local restaurant and I got falafel and Greek salad, which was delicious and cheap, too! Actually, everything is cheap there. I spent about 80 dirhams (about 21 USD) all day on buses, food, and a taxi!

After lunch, we parted ways and I took a bus to see the Sheik Zayed Mosque or the "Grand Mosque". It is seriously one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen.

Inside the mosque

Pools surrounding the mosque

After seeing the mosque, I took a taxi back to the airport. My flight boarded a little before 9pm and I was asleep before we even took off since I hadn't been able to sleep at all on the first, 14-hour-long flight and I'd been awake for over 36 hours at that point. The flight was supposed to be about 13 hours long but when we approached Melbourne we were put in holding pattern for about 30 minutes before we began to descend for landing. As we descended, we flew into a black cloud and experienced some of the worst turbulence I've ever felt and it was obvious that the wind was pretty strong. Instead of landing, we went back up and circled around again. This happened several times and it felt as if the turbulence got worse every time. The crew gave us very few updates on what was going on which made things even worse, and at one point they even reminded us over the P.A. to "stay in our seats, with our seat belts fastened, and keep in mind where the nearest emergency exit was"! Eventually we flew out of the storm system and circled around for a while longer and although I would have rather been safely on the ground, the view below was pretty great and it was cool to be able to see the storm from the outside. Finally, the captain announced that the weather was too bad for us to land and we would be flying to Sydney. We flew to Sydney and then returned to Melbourne, more than 5 hours later than scheduled. 

I got a hostel for the night and then met up with a friend for coffee in the city. A friend from college had put me in touch with one of her friends and I was able to arrange to stay with them for my time in Melbourne so yesterday I took the train to a place called Mont Albert in the suburbs of Melbourne. It's a beautiful area and the weather has been perfect! I went to church with one of the girls from the house last night, which was great, and it was cool to see what church is like here. It was an Anglican church but it actually wasn't much different from churches I've been to and I really enjoyed the service. 

Today I haven't done much, except go for a run in the morning and then out with a couple of the girls to check out some local shops. The rest of the day, I've just been trying to figure out what I'm going to be doing here. I still don't have definite plans for any of my time here but I might do some traveling on the east coast before I go back to Margaret River and get a job for the summer. I've never not planned so much before and it's kind of exciting!