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Welcome to Saint Petersburg

The main reason I haven’t written a blog yet about Saint Petersburg I honestly don’t know where to start or how to put into words the magnificence of this city. So I suppose I will just try to start from the beginning and I will attempt to convey the awe I feel.

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I’ve found myself behind in my blog writing. Partly because we have done so much every day I have come home extremely tired and lacking the energy to write. (EDIT: As I have briefly skim read this blog I have noticed many mistakes. I seem to be replacing words with incorrect words. I apologise for the partial incoherence. I will fix it when I’m less on the verge of sleep). The internet here is also slow and uploading photos is time consuming and frustrating. However, the main reason I haven’t written a blog yet about Saint Petersburg is I honestly don’t know where to start or how to put into words the magnificence of this city. So I suppose I will just try to start from the beginning and I will attempt to convey the awe I feel.

The trip to Saint Petersburg was not without it’s adventures. I discovered a fish and meat deli inside the airport near our gate. I’m sure for Russians this didn’t seem unusual and perhaps some people thought it odd that I was taking photos, but I just couldn’t believe you could buy stacks of meat and raw fish within an airport! It truly fascinated me.

 

When we landed in Saint Petersburg I was happy that I had managed to put my grief to the side. It was still there but I am so glad that I could still feel overwhelming feelings of excitement and anticipation. Luckily not even a young creepy taxi guy could take away the excitement from me. When we left the airport he simply would not leave me alone. I was waiting near Stas while he went to the atm when a taxi driver came near me and asked if I needed a taxi. I said “niet, niet, niet, no, no, no.” I shook my head. He continued to ask me. I again kept saying no in English and Russian. He then proceeded to tell me that he was strong and could carry my bags. Well I assume he was saying this, as I don’t speak Russian, but sleezy smiles and pointing to his flexed muscle and then my bag was hard to missinterpret. After saying no for what felt like the 50th time he left me alone. Stas finished with the atm and we went to look for our prearranged taxi driver, which I soon spotted. He was a lovely man, he wheeled our two biggest bags which left Stas and I with just the two little carry on bags. We followed him hastily to towards the car park. THEN the creepy taxi driver returned saw me hastily walking next to my husband following a prearranged taxi driver and tried to cut me off to ask if I (by the way I don’t mean Stas and I. I mean just me) needed a taxi. I said “niet” very loudly and pushed passed him.

Once I was safely in the car, with the nice taxi driver and the creepy taxi driver far in the distance, my head didn’t know which way to face. At this point I wished I had a 360 degree head swivel, like the heads you see at carnival games. I wanted to see EVERYTHING! I will admit the first few minutes of the car ride were not interesting. The buildings were boring and plain but quite suddenly we landed amongst enormous and truly magnificent buildings. Stunning pillars held some of the buildings up. Others were just laced with decorative sculptures. I just cannot put into words the beauty of the buildings, statues and monuments. The detail on everything is incredible.

We wound our way through the city. Our lovely taxi driver told us little bits of information about the city and hints for our trip. If you know me well you would know that I am an extremely detailed planner and spend hours researching everything. I’m half tempted to upload the spreadsheet I made with hours of gather and compressed information and my colour coordinated map, just so everyone knows how good of a planner I am. Or I suppose how much of a neurotic planner I am, depending on how you look at it. Anyway I found an incredible airbnb for less than $50 a night in the historic heart of Saint Petersburg. The historic heart is made up entirely of pre-revolutionary buildings and situated between channels of water. Similar to Venice in Italy. The airbnb itself is really big, has everything we need AND is only one block away from the amazing Winter Palace. I’m not kidding; you can see the winter palace from our street. It’s incredibly close to the famous Church on the Spilled Blood and all the other amazing things the historic heart of Saint Petersburg has to offer.

View from our street. Winter palace in the background.
View from our street. Winter palace in the background.

 

 

When we first arrived at our airbnb we were early. So we went for a 30 minute walk around the neighbourhood while our host finished cleaning the apartment. I fell in love with the city and it’s beauty. The people here are so friendly as well. A lady on the street greeted us and chatted away. She spoke to me with a huge smile on her face. Stas told her I didn’t speak russian, to which she responded “It doesn’t matter a welcoming smile and voice is all that is needed.” The water channels create such a stunning scene and highlight the grand and old buildings around it. Bridges exist so people can cross the channels. Boats floated past and the people gathered in them looked very relaxed.

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We walked to the Winter Palace and I was immediately stunned by its incredibly splendor. I kept telling Stas that I truly felt that I was born to live in a palace, perhaps I will get my own palace in heaven one day. There were also horses with cinderella style carriages. I need to ride one of those at some point!

We headed back to our airbnb but only for a little while. We soon made our way to the Church on the Spilled Blood. Unfortunately the very top of it was being renovated, but it was still fantastic to see. Both the inside and the outside are filled with an incredible amount of detail! The pictures on the walls were actually mosaics made from tiny stones the size of my finger nail. The main alter was stunning. The gold was dazzling and so many gems sparkled in the light. The door on the alter was the most beautiful and detailed part in my opinion. We also saw the shrine which was made over the spot where Alexander the Second was mortally wounded.

 

Outside the church their were beautiful paintings and the artists hard at work. I very much want to purchase one of the paintings, perhaps I will before we leave. There was even a man playing music from wine glasses.

 

After this pleasant experience we had dinner at “Jamie Oliver’s Restaurant.” After a week of eating only Russian food I was dying to eat something that tasted normal. Not that I didn’t LOVE the food I had been eating. However, any fellow traveller would know that no matter how much you are enjoying the local cuisine their comes a point when you just want to eat something familiar. Unfortunately the food at the restaurant did not taste normal. The pizza I got tasted like what could only be described as Russian pizza. Imagine Russian tasting food then combine that with a normal pizza. The only thing is, it was supposed to be a normal pizza with pizza sauce, cheese, olives and beef. I suppose that makes sense considering I’m in Russia, and it probably serves me right for trying to order Australian tasting Italian Pizza in Russia.

Oh one last thing I want to add. We have visted a couple of supermarkets. They are all underneath beautiful old buildings you see in the street and they are like underground labyrinths. It truly is like a supermarket maze. They also aren’t very big rooms and the supermarkets in general aren’t like big supermarkets we have back home. Still we located everything we needed and it was like a free maze and hide and seek activity to find our way throughout the store and find all the items we needed.

Until I am not exploring or sleeping, goodbye.

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Goodbye Fireworks

The most fascinating thing I tried was smoked chewy fish and fish eggs. I actually enjoyed this, but not with the peach juice I was drinking. That is not a good combination.

As we neared Barnaul it was nice to know we were going to being staying where we had the first few nights, in Lera and Roman’s apartment.

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When we arrived Grandma Luda was waiting for us with home made Borsch. Grandma Luda had travelled to Barnaul the day beforehand for an appointment. Homemade soup, which has quickly become one of my favourite foods, and caring Grandma Luda was exactly what I needed to cheer me up.

Unfortunately the pausing of goodbyes didn’t last long. Today we had to say goodbye to Grandma Luda and also to Uliana, Alloyona and Arsenii. We didn’t get to spend much time with Uliana and her children mostly because it was always arranged to see her after we had been to the mall. The first time around it took up far longer than expected to get our things. The second time around deserves it’s own paragraph so keep reading below.

Our walk to the mall was very pleasant. It was starting to warm up outside. I was wearing a regular Australian hoodie and gloves, not a proper winter jacket. The trees were green and we got to walk right past the beautiful church I had seen from the ferris wheel the other day and then another beautiful church.

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Stas also pointed out how gas lines here don’t run along the ground. The pipe lines run up high through the air. Interesting.

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We didn’t spend very long at the mall this time because we wanted to be back home at least 30 minutes before Uliana arrived. We left the mall and started walking home. We turned down a street which we immediately knew wasn’t the street we walked up on, but we figured we were just one street over and would move across the next street at the following intersection. Sure enough we came across the other side of the fair we visited a few days ago and continued walking down the road. I noticed very cute little wooden buildings, which turned out to be drop toilets. Ew! They were far to cute to be drop toilets.

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Anyway we got to the edge of the fair and turned left because we were on a main road and our apartment was on a side street. So we figured our best option was to walk around the fair block until we spotted our apartment. On we marched. However after walking about one third of the way down of the third edge we soon realised this was not the same fair! How many fairs exist in Barnaul?

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Thank goodness for google maps! We had walked 25 minutes in the WRONG DIRECTION. We should have turned right, not left, but left felt so right! Like my pun? When we finally arrived exhausted back at the apartment we were 30 minutes late. Still nothing a cute baby and a good cup of tea couldn’t fix!

 

I also tried some rather interesting foods today. I tried zefir which is like a marshmallow crossed with a starburst lolly. I can here my mother’s voice saying ewww right now, but I enjoyed it. Although half of one was plenty for me or I would have made myself sick. I tried marmalade (and no it’s not the bread spread it’s a lolly). I tried halva, which is like a moist waffer. The most fascinating thing I tried was smoked chewy fish and fish eggs. I actually enjoyed this, but not with the peach juice I was drinking. That is not a good combination.

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Apparently you’re supposed to eat it with beer, which by the way, is on tap in the supermarket and comes in MASSIVE, bottles!

 

So overall our planned uneventful day turned out to be rather eventful.

Tomorrow we leave Siberia. Our first night here fireworks exploded near us which we could see from our window and tonight, on our last night here, they exploded again!

 

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A special hello and a special goodbye. Does Siberia know I love fireworks? It must!

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A Full Heart Means a Heavy Heart

I’m enjoying gazing out at endless fields filled with swirling mists, yet there is a lump in the back of my throat

Once again I’m writing whilst in a vehicle travelling from one destination to the next. This time I am happy to report that we caught a ride with Roman back to Barnaul and are not smashed into two small seats with all our luggage. We could even put our luggage in the boot/trunk for free ;).

It’s a perfectly lovely day outside. The air is cold but the sun is shining and warm. I’m enjoying gazing out at endless fields filled with swirling mists, yet there is a lump in the back of my throat. I can still picture Grandma Nina’s twinkling eyes as she hugged us and held my hand. As we left she prayed for us and said she has always believed in God even during hard times. I can still picture Roman (younger Roman) standing in his unit smiling his huge smile with his pink cheeks. Lera held Yeva up who waved goodbye to me over and over again until I shut the door. We walked across the dirt towards the wooden gate. The sun created a sense of hope and happiness, but it was bitter sweet as Grandma Nina waved at us from the window. Grandpa Kolya hugged me and stayed by the gate in his classic Russian hat and jacket. His smile was still lurking (although not as prominent as usual). I waved continuously from the car until he was out of sight. Thus the lump began to form and the tears began to fall as we sped off into the countryside.

We have one more day in Barnaul and then we are off to Saint Petersburg. I specifically planned our Saint Petersburg and Moscow visit for the second half of the trip. Planning a small immediate family only trip is a strategy my Aussie family have always used when we have to leave our American family and go back home to Australia. It always helps to cheer us up. I thought it would help Stas! I honestly didn’t think that I would need so much cheering up too.

I can’t believe after only just saying hello to everyone we are already starting to say goodbye. A few days ago I said my heart was full. Having such a full heart comes with consequences. A full heart means it feels extra heavy saying goodbye. But would I change it? Definitely not!

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Things I’ve learnt part 2 – PG (Parental Guidance Advised)

The second ever astronaut to orbit the earth, Gherman Titov, is from this area of Siberia, Altai Krai.

While the first few things I have learnt over the past couple of days are very tame it is advised that this post is rated PG (parental guidance advised) due to the last dot points. The past couple of days I have been sleeping A LOT! I like to think it’s because of all the new information I am obtaining and the constant attempt to understand the Russian language. Here are a few of the interesting things I’ve discovered.

  1. The second ever astronaut to orbit the earth, Gherman Titov, is from this area of Siberia, Altai Krai. There is a statue to commemorate him and a school was named after him in this tiny little village. Isn’t that cool!
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  2. Petrol here is a rip off. YES, more than it is back home. Here the pump will say it’s pumping petrol, when it’s not. Also the octane level is usually less than what it really is. On average people get ripped off about 10 to 15 litres every-time they fill up. People have done tests.
  3. Sugar and flour comes in MASSIVE 5kg and 10kg bags.
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  4. Vodka in Russia is less disgusting than back home. To do a proper Vodka shot you breathe in, do the shot, breathe out and eat a tomato.
  5. Smetanna goes with everything! Smetanna was that sour cream/regular cream I was telling you about in an earlier post. It goes with savoury food. It goes with sweet food. It goes with soup. It goes with bread. It goes with pelmini (a sort of dumpling). It goes with bleenni (a sort of crepe). It goes with prianiky (a sort of cookie). It goes with EVERYTHING!
  6. During WW2 letters and envelopes were combined into one. If you were to write a letter and then put it in an envelope it would likely end up lost. All letters were inspected during WW2, so if a normal envelope was used the seal would have to be broken and the letter would likely fall out later down the track. So special envelopes were used. You would write on the back of the envelope and then fold it into a triangle.
  7. Cigarette packets here look enticing. At the grocery store a lady in front of us purchased cigarettes and on the front of the packet was a picture of a tanned and oily male abs. Very different from our yellow cracked teeth pictures back home.
  8. Now this is the real kicker! I don’t know how this conversation came up, but Stas, Grandma Luda and I were talking about funny things over breakfast. Stas shared a story about how when his mum first came to Australia she was extremely confused reading the label on a juice bottle which said “no preservatives.” In Russia preservatives is the word for condoms. Perhaps because it preserves your way of life? But imagine reading a label on a juice bottle and seeing it say “no condoms.” No wonder she was soooooo confused!!!!
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Minus Summer and Add Snow

It snowed the last two days, only briefly but I still found it very exciting. I’m warming up to the idea of visiting during the winter (pun intended hehe).

The last couple of days I have been rugged up and wearing winter boots. It’s been around -2 overnight, which isn’t very cold EXCEPT it’s supposed to be summer! It snowed the last two days, only briefly but I still found it very exciting. I’m warming up to the idea of visiting during the winter (pun intended hehe). It would be fun to see this country blanketed in snow.

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This darling cat Marcus, was found during the winter a couple of years ago.

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He was only a kitten shaking terribly in the snow. Grandma Luda put him the basement to warm up (the pipes create heat down there) and decided to find the owner in the morning. Unfortunately it was suspected he had been abandoned on purpose. Grandma Luda then happened to read an article about how having a pet cat brings happiness into your life. She called Grandpa Kolya and asked him to purchase cat food. Grandpa Kolya laughed and said “I guess we found his owner.”

We celebrated Roman’s twelfth birthday yesterday. The cake was delicious and Yeva had a fun time with the balloons. We also spent a long time trying to put together a map of the world. Unfortunately my much needed geography lesson was cut short. It took so long we didn’t finish it last night, but hopefully we will finish it today, standby.

 

We also went for another long walk yesterday, where we spontaneously purchased stacks of our favourite foods. We now have seven snow berry jam packets to take home, nine spice packets and a packet of tomato sauce. This may seem over the top to someone who hasn’t tried these delicious foods, but wait until I come home and you get a chance to try it!

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Update: Apparently it’s technically spring not summer yet. This makes more sense as to why it’s still snowing occasionally. It also makes the title of my blog irrelevant. Never mind!

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Village Life

Russia is a beautiful country. We saw  forests of pine trees and maple trees, farm fields, a quarry, and even old falling down factories from the soviet era.

Tselinnoye full name is Selo Tselinnoye meaning Village Tselinnoye, however everyone just says Tselinny for short. It’s not a very big village, but probably bigger than what you think. When I hear the word village I think of a tiny little place with about 200 people, there are definitely more than 200 people here. It’s very similar in size to Stockbridge (sorry for anyone who isn’t apart of my family and would have no idea what that means), except the houses aren’t as spread out and people still live in block apartments even out here in the countryside. Grandma Nina, Grandma Luda and Grandpa Kolya all live in a block apartment next to Roman, Aunt Ulia and Uncle Zhenya.

Aunt Ulia and Uncle Zhenya are both away at the moment, which is a shame but it does mean there is more space for us visitors. I find it very interesting because even when people live in these block apartments they still have vegetable gardens. Stas said as a child they practically relied on their vegetable garden for food. They also had other animals like cows, pigs, chickens and rabbits. Stas’ family do have a vegetable garden, but no animals.

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Still many people in Tselinny do have animals we saw some when we walked around the town. In fact in some places there was a very strong smell of cow poo. Apparently the cows are walked during the day into nearby fields and then returned to their pen at the houses during the night.

Another fascinating thing we saw in town was a war memorial. Most of the names listed were of soliders who died during WW2. WW2 soliders are highly respected in Russia and even in this small village they built a beautiful memorial.

We also saw many classic Russian cars, which was fun, the town church, log houses, a rather rickety old bridge, and a military enlisting building. In Russia it is mandatory for males to join the Russian military service. They are drafted for a minimum of 12 months. It’s scary to think that sweet little Roman will be conscripted in just 4 years.

After our long walk in town we returned home for lunch, but we didn’t rest for long because I was keen to explore the outskirts of town. So we left the apartment and walked the opposite direction. Russia is a beautiful country. We saw  forests of pine trees and maple trees, farm fields, a quarry, and even old falling down factories from the soviet era.

It’s sad to see such a run down area when the people here are so hard working. Stas was telling me that Tselinny should be quite a rich town. The quarry should generate vast amounts of income but the money ends up in the pockets of the local government and is not pumped back into the town. Still people here are generous, kind and hard working.

I won’t soon forget my exploration of this village, their interesting way or life, or the kind hearted people.

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Home is family

This was such an amazing moment in my life. I will remember it forever. It didn’t feel like I was being introduced to everyone for the first time, I felt that I was simply being reunited with family I hadn’t seen in a very, very long time.

As I mentioned in my last post we made it safely to Tselinnoye. When we arrived at the small apartment block we hustled through the old wooden gate and towards the door. Stas spotted his Great Grandma, Grandma Nina in the window and started running to the door. The door was flung open and there were many exclaims of excitement, hugging and squeals. I remember Grandma Nina grabbing my hand and hugging me multiple times over. Her voice was very high pitched and Stas’ was edging that way because they were close to tears. I was introduced to Grandma Nina, Grandma Luda, Papa Kolya and Cousin Roman (a different Roman). Don’t ask me how everyone is related and why Stas has multiple grandma’s. In Russian culture they don’t distinguish between great aunt’s and uncles, and regular aunt and uncles; or second cousins and first cousins. Everyone is just a cousin, Aunt, Uncle, Grandma or Grandpa.

Family reunions are always beautiful. This was such an amazing moment in my life. I will remember it forever. It didn’t feel like I was being introduced to everyone for the first time, I felt that I was simply being reunited with family I hadn’t seen in a very, very long time.

Grandma Nina turned 95 a couple months ago and they left the special “95” symbols on the wall so we could get a photo with Grandma Nina next to them, like everyone else did on her birthday. Grandma Nina grabbed my hands and told me she was very happy. She called me “her beautiful” and then said “now everyone has visited me.” I wanted to cry. She is such an incredibly sweet lady. Even though I can’t speak Russian, I’ve enjoyed watching Stas and Grandma Nina talk. Stas adores his Grandma and it is clear she also loves him very much. Luckily Stas has been translating some of her stories to me. They are incredibly fascinating. After her father passed away she and her siblings were placed in an orphanage. She managed to stay with her youngest brother, but the eldest two brothers were taken away. Over her life she tried to get in contact with them and came very close to meeting them twice, but unfortunately she was never able to meet them. She also built her own house, adding new rooms each summer. She recieved two medals for her service in WW2. Her stories and knowledge is truly fascinating.

Grandma Nina said that Grandpa Kolya, her son in law is a lovely man and has always been very respectful of her. She said that she wishes Stas and I to live our lives like Grandpa Kolya and Grandma Luda. They recently celebrated 50 years of marriage, very exciting!

I feel so at home here. Grandpa Kolya is constantly smiling! He seems like such a warm man. He also said some very wise words to Stas which we both appreciated. Grandma Luda is also so kind! She was so worried about us having a good time, and having food that I would like. There was no need to worry! I have LOVED all the food we had so far!

My favourite thing so far was probably borsch. It’s a soup and you add smitana, which is kind of a cross between regular cream and sour cream. It’s not sweet, but its not as sour as sour cream and its also creamier than sour cream. It’s delicious. I’m also a big fan of borsch. I also very much enjoyed the homemade apple jam. Honestly I could spend a long time talking about all the different foods and how delicious they are, but I will just upload a few pictures for you too look at so I don’t ramble on for hours.

 

 

 

 

I would like to mention though that I found another squishy bottle full of snow berry jam, a Russian berry. BUT! Guess what else comes in a squishy bag! You’ll never guess! Milk! Milk comes in a squishy bag and you can buy a plastic container from which to pour it. So fascinating and what a great way to cut down on the usage of plastic and cardboard.

 

Anyway, enough food and  back to family. Stas’ cousin Roman is only twelve but he has also helped to make me feel right at home. Every time we make eye contact we both smile at each other. Whenever he says hello to me, or I thank him for something he has a big grin on his face. Just the face I need to make me feel happy, comfortable and accepted into this family.

This evening has been especially fun because Lera, Roman (older Roman) and Yeva came down from Barnaul to stay a couple of nights. We all had a fabulous dinner together. I knew I would enjoy myself here in Sibera with Stas family, but I didn’t think that I would be counting how many days I had left here. I’m suddenly wishing that we weren’t spending as much time in Saint Petersburg and Moscow and were spending more time here. However, because Stas and I are blessed to live in a country where we are not poor I know that if we save hard we could visit again soon. I cannot express how happy I feel having met my Russian family. My heart is full.

 

 

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Hoping

We weren’t entirely sure which stop to get off. When we reached what we thought was our stop we quickly gathered our belongings and jumped off the bus, which promptly sped away. We found ourselves in the middle of no where at the side of a highway.

Before you read this post I want to fanatically state that I am having a FABULOUS TIME!!! But we all know I love to write a good dramatic story. So please enjoy my account of a rather tedious and dramatic day:

Unfortunately today has not been as pleasant as the past two days. I’m currently sitting completely packed into a small seat on a bus with two small suit cases, a hand bag, a pillow bag and a husband. We were originally going to arrive at our destination at 6pm but now we won’t arrive until 8pm. Let me explain how I ended up smashed into a seat with all my belongings digging into my leg running 2 hours late.

We woke up late this morning with plans to explore Barnaul, but first we had to register. In Russia when you are a tourist you have to register where you are and because we arrived on a weekend we had to wait until today, Monday. Usually your hotel will register your details on your behalf, but because we are staying with family we had to do it ourselves. So we wandered down to the post office. When we get to the post office they hand us a form that needs to be filled out. Only they don’t have copies of the form and they can’t photocopy it for us! ??? So we had to borrow the form, take it to a nearby shop and photocopy it along with every single page of our passport. This legitimately took so long. I think this process took an hour.

We weren’t even done with the registering process at this point, but we decided to go home for lunch and to fill out the form at home. So we had lunch which was pelmini. This is Stas favourite. They are kind of like a dumpling. I ate two kinds of dumplings and both were very yummy, until I found out one was filled with liver. Then I didn’t find it so delicious, what a shame! The mind is a powerful thing. After lunch we filled out the form (which took another 30 minutes) and then walked back to the post office… If you are thinking what I thought, which is “surely we just hand in the form and go” you would be wrong. If I thought these last two things took a long time I don’t know how to describe how long it took waiting at the post office.

Lera and Stas went into the post office while Yeva and I went for a walk, and then another walk, then another walk and then stood waiting. I will admit I didn’t mind waiting too much because Yeva is adorable and we both looked so cute rugged up. Yeva looked like a pink fluffy marshmallow and Aunt Annara looked like a red fluffy marshmallow. The air had such a chill it was hard to believe that the two prior days I was wearing shorts and sweating from the heat.

Anyway. I start to get frustrated messages from Stas. Apparently there were even more forms to fill out and when Stas asked to borrow a pen they told him he couldn’t borrow a pen and that he would have to buy one to fill out the form. So two hours later Stas and Lera finally return with two tickets from FINALLY lodging the forms, and a pen. Thank goodness!

We headed home, but seeing as it was now almost 5 o’clock we had well and truly missed the 3:15 bus to Tselinnoye. Tselinnoye is where Stas’ great Grandma lives and we were planning on staying there for a few days. Not to worry we sorted out a new plan where we would catch a 5:30 bus to a nearby town and then catch a taxi to Tselinnoye.

So we rush to the bus station, which looks and feels like a train station crossed with an airport.

We aren’t stopped by security even though my bag beeped. Apparently if you charge through and look like you know exactly what your doing and where your going they don’t stop you. I’m not sure how I feel about this lack of security, but I suppose in Australia we don’t even have security like this at stations. We grab tickets and make our way towards platform 5.

The bus arrives and we walk eagerly to the door.

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Stas asks the bus drive where exactly our bags go in the compartment under the bus. His response “did you pay for it?” Stas says “I didn’t know we needed too.” The driver starts to walk away. Stas calls out “how much,” but unfortunately the driver ignores him and keeps walking. So we haul out luggage onto the bus where a young lady looks at our ticket and snaps at Stas “I better not see a single one of those bags in the isle.”

So this is how we ended up packed into tiny little seats with all our luggage on our way to a country village, 2 hours later than planned.

Update: The bus ride, aside from being packed in like a sardine, was quite pleasant. I enjoyed looking out at the countryside. Farming fields, after farming fields stretched for miles, sometimes interrupted by a fores of beautiful trees. Russia is beautiful! Our internet dropped out so I couldn’t continue my store in live time, but I will recount it for you now.

We weren’t entirely sure which stop to get off. When we reached what we thought was our stop we quickly gathered our belongings and jumped off the bus, which promptly sped away. We found ourselves in the middle of no where at the side of a highway. A petrol station was the only thing in sight, other than fields. It was at this moment I thought perhaps it wasn’t the best plan to catch a bus to the middle of no where hoping that we would get off at the right spot, hoping a taxi would be there to meet us, and hoping we would actually have phone coverage in case the first two hopes didn’t pan out. Fortunately we see a black car at a lonely old bus stop in the distance across an intersection. So we haul our luggage down the highway and across the intersection. The man greets us in a friendly manner and we quickly climb into the car. The air is very cold now and my breath is creating clouds as I breathe. As soon as I open the door I am overwhelmed by the smell of cigarettes. It seems to be very common to smoke in Russia. I scramble around looking for my seat belt, which did NOT exist. So, I decided to remain optimistic. The taxi driver was Lera’s friend and I was hoping (again with the hoping) he would not drive like a crazy person. Thankfully he did not. Although he did drive quickly across the very VERY bumpy and old road. I found myself flying around in the back seat every time we hit a pot hole, or swerved around one. Still I felt oddly comfortable in the sliding around in the back seat in a country I couldn’t speak the language. I suppose it was the beautiful countryside that made me feel calm.

To put your minds at ease we arrived safely as Tselinnoye, but this story is for another blog post.

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Things I’ve learnt!

Do NOT take your shoes off in a shoe store and walk around in just socks!

Yesterday we went shopping in the nearby mall. I learnt a great deal about Russian life!

  1. Do NOT take your shoes off in a shoe store and walk around in just socks!
    – It might seem silly to put your shoes back on only to walk about 2 metres BUT do it! Stas was off some where and I was walking around looking at different shoes. He then came back and saw my pile of stuff: hand bag, coat, and SHOES! His immediate thought was “oh no! There are Annara’s shoes but where is Annara?” So I made a note of this and kept taking my shoes on and off! UNTIL we left the store and then came back to the store again after now finding any shoes I liked. I tried on a pair while the lady went to find the right size in another shoe. When she came back I took my shoe off in the middle of the store and Stas said “OH NO! What are you doing?” I immediately thought “uh oh” and hoped all the way to where you sit down to try on shoes. I think this is the only time I’ve ever truely embarrassed Stas and it’s the first time I’ve ever seen him go red in the face from embarrassment! Good thing were already married! Anyway this shoe thing is important! Russians are very proper. When I was trying on dresses in another store they had special shoes to out on so you could step about 50cm out of the change room and look at yourself in the mirror. So I have definitely now made a mental note! Don’t take your shoes off in a store!
  2. Milk is better here!
    – The milk here is delicious!!! It’s so creamy and tastes fresh. Stas said it’s not overly processed. Now my dad would say that’s not good because I’ll get sick, BUT if he tried the milk here in his coffee he would change his mind and say “it’s worth the risk”! Actually no he would never say that, but he would understand more why I am taking the risk.
  3. KFC is also better here!
    – KFC here is very, very similar, except it’s fresher, less dry and less oily. So if your a fan of KFC come to Siberia!
  4. It’s easy to spend a months wage on clothes!
    – So things here are definitely cheaper and better quality than back home. Winter coats and winter boots back home are not very good! So I like to buy my winter coats and boots from overseas where they actually have snow and make their clothes properly. We got two winter coats, two winter boots, some walking shoes (I forgot mine), a couple of watches, some Russian t-shirts and a few other items. Things here were definitely cheaper but I think that’s actually just because everything was on sale because its no longer winter. All the name brand items were the same price as back home. This was a huge eye opener for me! We easily spent the equivalent of their months wage on shopping. When we left the store I was feeling extremely sheepish carrying so many bags knowing that our extremely kind hosts would see all our items. I also felt a little bit like we might be robbed, so we held onto our bags real tight! The reason why this was such a huge eye opener though, was because I don’t understand why people can live here? No wonder the area is run down! My winter coat (great quality I should add) was an entire weeks wage here! Phones cost the same amount, shoes cost the same. How can anyone live here? It makes me want to just hand people money.
  5. Shop assistants are nicer if they know you are English!
    – This is related to the fact that Russians here are poor. When we were looking in a small botique store in the mall, Stas asked the shop assistant how much the dress cost. She sighed and said in a very grumpy/rude voice “1200 RUB.” I then spoke to Stas in English asking him how much it was and her eyes lit up and all of a sudden she was very helpful. Don’t think ill of her! Appearing as a young Russian couple at first (young couple = even less money), it would have seemed that we were just wasting her time. And can you blame her eyes for lighting up when she realised we have money to spend? People need to make a living here! So I left the shop feeling happy with my dress purchase and the assistant was happy having sold the dress. It was a win-win.
  6. I’ve saved the best for last – YOU CAN BUY BEER FROM KFC!
    – That’s right in Russia you can buy two different kinds of beer from KFC. You can also buy energy drink. This is such classic Russia! I wonder if you even have to show ID to get the beer. Up until several years ago beer was technically classified as a “soft drink.” – Gotta love Russia!

That’s the end of the things I leaned while shopping in Russia. The evening was filled with reunions, and greetings. Ulia (Lera’s mother), Uliana and Allyona (whom I’d met in Australia when they were visiting), and Uliana’s husband were all waiting for us when we returned from shopping with cake and tea. That’s another thing you should know about Russians, they LOVE cake and they drink a lot of tea!

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Welcome Fireworks

We cooked shaslicks outside on a coal barbecue device, with all the utensils and plates in the back of the car.

I stared out the window onto the plains of Siberia. It was flat and their were fields after fields dotted with trees and buildings. I could feel the excitement filling within me like a bucket placed under a gushing tap. We landed but bounced into the air again, then bumped our way down the airstrip. It didn’t take long to disembark and everyone made their way to the tiny Barnaul airport. It was clear I was in Siberia, far away from those who spoke English. Most airports have signs in English as well as their native language, but not in the tiny Siberian airport of Barnaul. Luckily I know the Russian alphabet and I was able to locate the bathrooms while Stas collected our luggage.

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We were greeted by smiling face of Roman. Roman is Lera’s husband and Lera is Stas’ cousin. I gazed out the window at the countryside. Fact check: Most people think Siberia is only full of trees, wilderness, snow and bears. This isn’t true. Siberia is full of towns and people, just not really large cities. Barnaul actually has approximately 600,000 residents.

It was interesting starting out the window. There were many big apartment buildings, apparently this is how most people live in Russia. It is rare to live in a separated house. The buildings look somewhat run down and the area is derelict. A good reminder that Russia is still a developing country. An average income here is $400 a month, and yes the cost of living is significantly less here, but still many people are quite poor.

As we neared Lera and Roman’s apartment building I notice strange looking pipes and metal coverings on the ground. Apparently these are underground bunkers. They are used for storage. Stas informed me that as a child they relied on these underground bunkers during the winter. They would stockpile food during autumn and then eat it during the winter. Such a fascinating way of living.

When we arrive at Lera and Roman’s apartment the television was playing. I’m not sure what the actual name of the show was, but if I were to name it based on what it was about it would be called “strange things American’s do.” It was very funny! I could sense that possible American jokes were in my near future. We were then greeted by Lera and their baby Yeva. Yeva is hilarious and she wasn’t too sure about me at first. I would speak to her in English and her little brain tried hard to process what I was saying and doing. She would stare at me with a little frown on her face, but she warmed up to me eventually.

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Breakfast was a traditional Russian breakfast. We made little sandwiches with cheese and meat and drank tea. It was delicious and provided some good protein for the day. Although I will admit the protein didn’t stop a morning nap. The baby had a nap, so I figured I should too.

The afternoon and evening was so much fun! From the apartment building I could see a ferris wheel, which I was keen to ride. So we all walked across to the nearby fair. it was a lovely summers day and it was fun to watch the children walking around the fair. After the ferris wheel we got ice-cream which was put into a cone using a very strange device.

We walked around the nearby streets and stopped at the grocery store. I’d probably describe the grocery stores as more of a deli. They aren’t very big and seem to be all over the place. The first thing you see when walking in the store is an entire wall of alcohol, with a big section specifically for different types of vodka. Very interesting! There was also smoked fish in boxes, where you could just scoop out how much you want. The thing I found most fascinating was actually their sauce bottles. Their bottles for things such as mayonnaise and sauce all come in a squishy packet. This makes so much sense! You could squeeze out every last bit and make sure you don’t waste any, like tooth paste!

After our walk we went home for another nap (shhhh I was tired) and walking to the shops in Russia is stressful. You cross a multi-lane main road without stoplights and just hope that the cars stop for you like they are supposed to.

We woke up in time for dinner. Now dinner was a very fun experience. We cooked shaslicks outside on a coal barbecue device, with all the utensils and plates in the back of the car. Roman and Lera’s friends, Alina and Sasha, joined us. The language barrier didn’t dissipate the laughter and fun. There were many questions and comments about American’s and Australian’s. Everyone thought I probably found this experience of cooking outside from the back of the car very strange. I actually hadn’t thought about this. It seemed to have quickly accepted it as completely normal, even though I’d never done such a thing, but after contemplation I informed them that the only thing I found weird was the fact that no one brought chairs to sit on! Stas and I also discovered that in Russia you wear your wedding band on your right hand. You wear a ring on your left hand if you are divorced. It felt far to strange to wear our rings on our right hand, so Stas and I will just have to appear as a divorced couple in Russia. I had a really fantastic time at dinner. It was seriously so much fun, and the food was delicious!!!!

When we went home for bed I became startled by large banging noises. Was it a car back firing? No, gun shots, surely not! Although after our bad luck in Moscow I wasn’t convinced that I could rule out gun shots. Not until I saw brilliant flashes of light across the sky. FIREWORKS! What a lovely way to end my first proper day in Russia.

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A lot can happen in 38 hours!

We join the crowd of people outside the hotel. The police arrive. Then more police. Then an ambulance and their version of State Emergency Service. Then a swot team, sniffer dogs, fire engines. You name it they were there!

A lot can happen in 38 hours, including travelling to the other side of the world where you can’t speak the language, seeing probably the worlds largest teddy bear, becoming lost and confused on the streets of an unfamiliar city, and being evacuated from your hotel because of a terrorist threat!

My mind and head are dreary as I write this sitting on my Russian cousin in law’s couch, half asleep half awake, so I apologise for any spelling or grammatical errors.

The two weeks leading up to our travel was extremely full. I suppose this is what it’s like in the real world. Your work is still there when you leave and you can’t just put everything on hold for two weeks. So I tried to cram as much in as possible so I wouldn’t have work to do while in Russia. I was looking forward to an uneventful plane ride and trip. I welcomed sitting in a chair for 14 hours, 5 hours and then another 4 hours. This long haul was going to be a time for rest and relaxation. Fortunately every plane ride itself was uneventful. I slept like a baby for the 14 hour flight and woke up dazed and amazed to be looking out onto the Middle East deserts. A haze hung over the Doha city, and I think it may have been sand. Our transfer was smooth and we even got to see a giant teddy bear which resides in the airport.

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We catch out next flight and I sleep on and off again for the next few hours. When we finally arrive in Moscow I’m excited, but mostly hungry and exhausted. Stas described the Russian Border Control officers as very cold and they certainly lived up to their expectations. I fear their muscles were not strong enough to smile having never done so before. Still entry was smooth and we exit the controlled area into the big Moscow airport. The first thing on our agenda was food. I got Russian McDonald’s, it tastes very similar to McDonald’s back home and was half the price, so that was fantastic. Our next task was to locate a nearby hotel to rent a day room. With a 11 hours until out next flight, there was no way we were going to be sitting in the DME airport for that long, worth $80 to book a room in my opinion. Stas was convinced that we didn’t need to use a map or catch the shuttle bus located outside the front of the airport, we could simply walk. So off we went. I followed Stas who was confident in his direction. Turns out we did go the right way, but unfortunately the hotel was on the opposite side of a freeway. So back we went to the airport to try and cross over at stop lights and walk along the other side. We then spotted the shuttle bus and after trudging around for 15 minutes in heat for no reason there was no objection. The shuttle took 3 minutes to get to our hotel, and guess what? There were stop lights for us to cross the freeway. I suppose it wasn’t really a freeway then, just multi-laned road. We use the rickety old elevator to take us to the top floor of the Air Hotel. We slide our bags down the hallway and open our door to a room which has the distinct and lingering smell of old smoke. Ironically a sign lay on the bed clearly indicating no smoking. Classic Russia. We get comfy and I settle down for hopefully 5 hours of good sleep.

I wake startled by the wrapping on our door and shake Stas awake. He scrambles to the door and flings it open to be told by a lady that the hotel was being evacuated. ALL HANDS ON DECK. Stas and race around grab our phones and head down the fire exit. We had absolutely no idea why we were evacuating, but we weren’t going to risk using the elevator in case it was because of a fire. So down 9 flights of stairs and into the foyer we go. No one seemed stressed, but many people were gathered in the parking lot outside the hotel. Stas questions a nearby staff member about the evacuation. We were being evacuated because of a bomb threat! Oh boy! I’d been in Russia for a couple of hours and already something crazy was happening. 

Pretty much every kind of emergency service were investigating our hotel. The area was roped off and people began to become ancy as we waited and watched. Nothing much seemed to be happening inside the building.

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I hear a crack of thunder. Then more thunder and then lightening. Rain starts to pour down and Stas and I run for nearby shelter. I was not completely exhausted, being midnight our time, and wet. When the rain finally stopped we made our way back to the hotel and continued to watch. There seemed to be more activity now. It had been 2 hours and I longed to be asleep in bed. Thoughts such as “I want to risk the bomb and just be in my head while they hopefully sort it all out.” This thought obviously doesn’t seem very logical to the well slept individual, but trust me it seemed logical to me at the time. Luckily it wasn’t long after the rain stopped that they finished their search of the building. No bomb was found and everyone was allowed back inside. I reach our room and go straight to bed, for what would only be an hour. My potential 5 hours of sleep were turned into only 2 hours.

When my alarm goes off it felt like 3 am in the morning, because you know what? For me it was 3 am in the morning. Still, Stas and I drag ourselves out of bed and walk to the airport, this time without any incidents. I board the next flight very excited to be so close to our final destination and to be able to soon meet Stas family.

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Family Fun

We played a disgusting game with jelly beans. I don’t know what it’s actually called but someone said it was basically ‘Jelly Bean Roulette.”

My last night and morning in Stockbridge was so much fun. On Friday evening we had a big family BBQ. Almost my entire Michigan family made it. I just love hanging out with everyone so much! The food was delicious. I particularly enjoyed the rhubarb crumble.

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We played a disgusting game with jelly beans. I don’t know what it’s actually called but someone said it was basically ‘Jelly Bean Roulette.” It totally was! You spin a dial and it tells you what colour jelly bean you have to eat. You have a 50/50 chance of getting a delicious jelly bean or a disgusting jelly bean. Here are some of the flavour options: chocolate pudding or canned dog food, butter popcorn or rotten egg, coconut or baby wipes, lime or grass clippings, tutti-fruity or dirty socks. The most disgusting ones in order were: rotten egg, booger, dirty socks, canned dog food and vomit. I seriously wanted to vomit myself when I got these. I spat them back out immediately. The funniest part though it Cassie would chew on the disgusting ones, keep a straight face and the swallow them. It was bazar. She seemed to like the awful jelly beans. I really enjoyed watching everyone’s faces when eating them though. Especially mum (we all know she has great facial expressions). Luckily I did get some tasty ones.

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Another game we played that night was the card game cheat. This was also a lot of fun. It’s so amusing seeing who tries to cheat the most. I was super exhausted by the end of the night, but this didn’t deter me from making plans to having a cousin breakfast in the morning. So at 9am we headed out to the Munith Café for a good breakfast. Kristen, David, Jacquie, Ethan, Sara, Cassie and I all made it. Karlee and R.J. were still fast asleep, and Zac was in Utah. We had a fun time. It was hilarious when Ethan (half asleep and confused) asked Kristen where David was. He was sitting right next to her. We all laughed so hard when Ethan realised. Clearly someone needed some more sleep (but in Ethan’s defence David is a very quite person compared to us cousins).

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We then all hung out at Uncle Joel’s house with Grandma until it was time to leave. It’s always hard and sad saying goodbye to everyone. It’s definitely much easier than it used to be. I come back so frequently now that I know it won’t be long until I see everyone again. However this time I felt more sad than usual. On our flight from Detroit to Dallas I sat contemplating how much I hated living on the opposite side of the world to my family. I love Australia, but I love my family. Michigan and Australia both feel like home to me, so it’s hard to say goodbye.

We did eventually make it home safe and sound. Our flight out of Dallas was changed from 10:15 to 11:45. So by the time we were up in the air and had been feed it felt like 2am to me (I was on Michigan time). I was so incredibly exhausted. I basically passed out my half eaten food still sitting on my tray table. I woke up hours later with it gone and my tray table packed away. I pretty much slept the whole flight. It was also one of the longest flights in the world. Dallas to Sydney is in the top 5 longest flights and was a total of 17 hours. I’ve decided I don’t mind these long flights anymore. I have gotten used to them and I almost welcome the hours of sitting, sleeping and contemplating. I will say one thing though. Qantas is better than Virgin (take note long haul travelers). Dallas is also a much nicer airport than LA. A loop train will take you to all the different terminals. It’s super easy, convenient, modern and clean. BUT the Dallas international airport closes up at 9pm. This was a shock. All the stores and restaurants closed (including McDonald’s). So make sure you eat before then and be aware it’s not the type of airport you would want to be stuck in overnight.

So that’s the end of my 2017 Summer Michigan Trip. Now back to winter. (Although so far the days have been sunny and nice. I couldn’t ask for better winter weather. I even sat outside with a cup of soup this morning watching the world light up).

Stay tuned for more blog posts about my local life and upcoming trips away.

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Warren Dunes Camping Trip

On Friday the Fillmore gang headed down to Warren Dunes State Park for a fun filled camping trip. Warren Dunes is a usual camping spot for the Jon Fillmore family during the summer and I can totally see why. Lake Michigan is a short hike over the sand dunes or through a rich green forest.

On Friday the Fillmore gang headed down to Warren Dunes State Park for a fun filled camping trip. Warren Dunes is a usual camping spot for the Jon Fillmore family during the summer and I can totally see why. Lake Michigan is a short hike over the sand dunes or through a rich green forest. The campground is also lovely. You are surrounded by lush trees and plants. Each spot is enormous in size, so you have a lot of space. It’s a big campground. There are two separate loops with a general store in the middle. What made me laugh the most were all the trails to the bathroom block. Little hidden trails wound their way and connected all through the campground. It was rather confusing in the dark. I kept saying the trails reminded me of a rabbit warren.

Cassie and I stayed in Uncle Jon’s and Aunt Elizabeth’s camper trailer. Aussies, this camper trailer would have been like nothing you have seen before (unless you’ve had the privilege of camping in America yourself). The trailer slept 10 people in total. It came complete with two couch areas, two bedrooms, a kitchen table area, a kitchen, and fully equipped bathroom. The sides of the trailer even mechanically expand to create extra room. It really is quite awesome and in other words we were glamping (glamorous camping). Cassie, R.J, Uncle Jon, Aunt Elizabeth and I, all arrived early. When Uncle Joel and Aunt Kim arrived later that night they set their (equal in size camper) up next to ours. We officially had a small block for the whole Fillmore gang.

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We spent the first couple of days bike riding around the campground and the park. I rode another tandem bike with Cassie. I am glad to say that we have officially nailed our start. We can now easily glide off into the distance. I loved riding the trails and the forests.  When the sun is shining the inside of a forest always looks an incredibly fascinating green colour. Austin showed us his famous fishing spot. To find out exactly why it’s famous you really must speak to Austin. Anyway, Austin and I would catch little fish and then Cassie would feed them bits of sausage and then we would release them back into the water. It was a blast!

 

Catching and feeding fish:

 

On Saturday afternoon mum brought Grandma up who was also joining us on the camping trip (although she stayed in a nearby hotel). Some of us (including mum and Cassie) spent the afternoon hiking the beach trail. This was the trail that lead to Lake Michigan over the sand dunes. The start of the trail occurs at the bottom of an ENORMOUS sand dune that I still remember from when I was ten years old. It looks exactly the same. From the bottom it doesn’t look very high, but let me tell you it is! I remember arguing with my cousins as a kid saying “Oh come on, it can’t be that hard to get to the top.” I was horribly disappointed as I discovered it was in fact extremely difficult. This trip I knew better. I knew it would be tough getting up, and it was. I did successfully make it to the top however and I got to look over the glorious view. Behind me lay endless tree tops and a steep path that lead into the forest (the dune I just climbed). In front of me lay hills of sand with trails running through them. Behind these hills a big, blue, glittering body of water sat, aka Lake Michigan. The trails running all over the dunes reminded me of rabbit warren again. Okay so sadly this didn’t click until the end of the trip, but I suppose all these ‘rabbit warren’ like trails is why the park is called Warren Dune State Park.

 

We quickly started to head on down the path towards Lake Michigan. Some of the cousins ran down dunes as fast as I they could. Gosh they looked tiny when they were at the top of these hills before running down.

 

 

When we arrived at Lake Michigan I dove straight into the deliciously warm water. Lake Michigan looks like an ocean. It’s actually the fourth largest fresh water lake in the whole world. It’s basically a freshwater ocean. This made the water even warmer because your body expects it to feel cold like the ocean but it’s delightfully warm. I could have spent hours in that water. I swear I’m part mermaid sometimes.

 

Our journey back to the campsite was equally as exciting. We took the forest trail and hiked through, what looked like and smelt like, a rainforest. Everything was just so green and the happy animal noises made me also feel happy. This forest was quite unique though because in it were sand dunes. Parts of the trail was literally a sand trail. It was bizarre seeing sand inside a forest. R.J was our explorer of the trip. He ran up a couple of dunes within forests by himself. As the rest of us came slowly plodding behind R.J was already up and down sand hills that would have taken me at least 10 minutes to climb.

 

 

In the evenings we roasted hot dogs and smores over a camp fire. We also played many games such as ‘ladder golf.’ I really loved playing these games. I can also officially declare I am the undefeated champion at ladder gold. Perhaps that’s why I liked it so much.

 

We also made sure Grandma didn’t miss out on any fun. Uncle Jon devised a ‘granny mobile.’ While the rest of us road bikes mum jogged with Grandma in her mobile chair. We went all through the campground and through some back trails. We also took Grandma to see the big dune I remember from when I was 10. I raced to the top and raced down again like I was just a kid with my cousins. It was so much fun!

 

I thought it was hilarious seeing everyone bike ride with grandma. Kristen said us Fillmore’s are like a mob. We just take over a place where ever we are because there are so many of us. We sure experienced this at the nearby ice cream place when we all ordered ice-cream. My cone was SO ENORMOUS. I am 100% certain there is nowhere in Australia where you could purchase a waffle cone the size of your head. In fact it was so huge and filled with so much ice-cream I couldn’t eat it all.

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We also visited a fun park while we were there. I got to ride bumper cars and watch my family hit base balls. It was quite exciting. The funniest park was when I tried to stop Jacquie from over taking me in the bumper car race. I ended up hitting her flying sideways and then caused a massive traffic jam. Luckily I had so help to get me back on track.

On Monday we had a beach day. The cousins hiked over the sand dunes again to get there. I wore flip flops. BIG MISTAKE. The sand was painfully hot. I got blisters on my feet. But it was still a blast feeling like your on top do the world only to run down the dune to the bottom. We also tried jumping off them too see how far we would get.

I actually spent the entire time in the water. I told you I’m part mermaid. I just had a blast summersaulting through waves and swimming around like a fish. I wish desperately that we had warm freshwater lakes like this back home. Although I was a little bummed I missed out on snoozing on the sand I wouldn’t have given up that water fun for anything.

Sadly Cassie wasn’t feeling well on Monday night so she went home with Grandma and mum. Uncle Joel, Aunt Kim and R.J left on Monday morning. That meant it was just Kristen, Jacquie, Uncle Jon, Aunt Elizabeth and me left. I had a wonderful time with them. We decided to pack up the camper and then head to the beach. (Oh at this point I feel I must mention the delicious food we have had on this trip. Aunt Elizabeth made two tasty crockpot meals, and Uncle Jon had been cooking us blueberry pancakes and eggs for breakfast). So after a long delicious breakfast meal and a fairly quick packing up effort we were ready to go. Us girls biked down to the beach and Uncle Jon met us there with the camper. Today I spent a bit of time lazing on the beach, but of course there was still some water fun. Uncle Jon rented a stand up paddleboard. SUPER FUN! I had never tried it before, so that was really exciting. Apparently I was quite speedy on it. The most fun I had though was with my two cousins. Jacquie, Kristen and I all got onto this one person paddle board. We paddled around in the bay and even managed to stand up. Granted our standing up was short lived and ended up with Jacquie and I falling into the water, but you know what? That was actually what made it even more fun.

We then hit the road with a quick stop a Steak n Shake. Everyone you must try their fries with seasoning (delish) and their Oreo mint milkshake was amazing. I would definitely get both those things again. When we arrived back in Stockbridge it was 7:30 but still blazing hot. I love summer. I was sad my amazingly fun camping trip had come to an end, but I will admit it was nice to sleep on a proper mattress and have clean hair.

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Country Life

We also went walking through the fields with her other horse Bella. Of course I snacked on as many wild blackberries as I could find. YUM!

This week has been a lovely week! Although it hasn’t been quite as jam packed as our trip away or the weekend there has still been lot’s to do. I’m going to sound like my friend Rachel in this blog entry. Her blog entries always involve a lot of food talk. This blog is ‘Rachel style.’

One evening I went out to dinner with Uncle Jon, Aunt Elizabeth, Jacquie, Kristen, David, Austin and Cassie. We went to the backstreet. What a lovely family restaurant. Our waitress went to school with Austin. She is pregnant and engaged to a military man. She looked super cute. Then another lady brought out her grandchild to show us. Apparently her daughter in law wanted children badly but couldn’t. Then she finally got her wish come true. It was an adorable baby. The table even had a little handwritten sign that said everyone was welcome. It said it was a community restaurant and you could come alone and make new friends, or bring a friend with you. What made me laugh the most at dinner though was the fact that Uncle Jon still has me on his family GPS tracker. I love it. He asked me to get it last summer when I was here. He must have been checking to see where we were on our Mackinac trip.

I love spending time with all my cousins. When Austin is around too we always manage to come up with some grand ideas. We are still planning on purchasing a ‘Cousin Castle’ on a remote island. This time we discussed some other brilliant ideas that Austin had. In fact I think they are such good business ideas that I don’t want to discuss them on this blog. No one will steal my cousin’s idea. Let’s just say the first idea involved planes and the second idea involved people/investment. I’ll leave you to wonder.

After dinner we went to look at Aunt Elizabeth’s new horse called Bella. SHE IS GORGEOUS! She is a small horse which makes me like her even more, and she is just so beautiful. I am very excited for Aunt Elizabeth. She went our riding this evening. Austin also showed me a big fish he caught at the fishing spot. He is super thrilled about this fish. He put it in the little pond they have and it seems to be quite happy.

I seriously love watching Cassie and Austin. They are basically the same, but opposite gender. They crack me up! Cassie mentioned she also has a list of great entrepreneurship ideas. Austin apparently also has written down all his ideas too. They are going to meet and compare lists. Another funny incident happened which actually began with Sara (even though she wasn’t with Cassie, Austin and I). On our trip to Mackinaw City Sara asked us a bunch of fun questions that we had to discuss. Some were moral dilemmas, others were just fun. One question was “If you had the option to go to the moon for ten minutes (via teleportation) for free, or go to Europe for one year for free AND receive $1000 per month, which would you choose?” EVERYONE we have talked to said Europe, except Cassie. She was 100% down for the moon. We asked Austin this question just before he showed us the fish and he was legit the only other person that said the moon. It made me laugh so hard. They really are two peas in a pod.

Kristen took the day off of work on Monday. I’m so happy she did! We had a great day. I went to the coffee shop with her and Aunt Elizabeth for breakfast. Later in the day Cassie, Kristen and I went shopping at the mall. Then David joined us in the evening to see the latest Spiderman movie. We all loved it! I was so surprised! Cassie and I never like the same movies. It had action in it, but it was also quite humorous and had a proper plot. It wasn’t just people fighting each other and things blowing up. It also ended well. I like that. We then went to Olive Garden for dinner. I LOVE OLIVE GARDEN! It’s so delicious. You get unlimited soup too. So we all got full on soup and took our main course home as leftovers. We also go a free soup to go as well. I wish we had an Olive Garden back home! On the way home we spotted a deer with a fawn. We see lots of deer and fawns, but this one was so tiny. So cute!

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Mum preached at our Stockbridge church on Sunday. She is now officially an international preacher. I’m so proud of my mum. They happened to be doing a series on the minor prophets and back home we were also doing a series on this. It was so perfect! It was also lovely going to church there. I really enjoy going. I feel so welcomed. It’s like I have been welcomed to my home church after being away. A lot of this is due to Deb the current pastor of the church. She is doing a wonderful job, but it’s not just her. Everyone is very friendly.

Also on Sunday, after church and the tea party, Austin, Cassie and I discussed the plane plan in more depth. This is one of the entrepreneurship ideas I mentioned before. Intrigued even more? I’m still not revealing his idea! It’s too good. We then played the card game Cheat with grandma. She smashed! You just don’t expect my adorable little grandma to lie so much, but when it comes to card games she has no limits! It was a lot of fun!

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One evening I had a delicious venison potato pie that Aunt Kim made for dinner! Venison is deer, if you didn’t know. It’s quite tasty and popular in Michigan due to so many deer around. People who go shooting have their deer’s meat prepared so it can be cooked. Cassie wasn’t game to try the venison though. She thinks the deer are too adorable to eat. I just try not to think about that!

On Tuesday night we went to Jacquie and Zac’s house for a BBQ. There house is looking fantastic! They have out some new floorboards down and repainted the kitchen cupboards. I just love their house so much! I spent a long time swimming in their huge pool. It’s super deep and has a diving board. This year there was a new addition. Zac has turned Grandma Hettie’s old slide into a water slide. The slide is at least 50 years old and still going. Zac had also set up a game in the back yard called ‘Corn Hole.’ It’s also sometimes called ‘Bean Bag Toss’ but Corn Hole sounds much cooler. IT WAS A BLAST! It’s much harder than it looks but you can improve a lot with practice. Of course Cassie played an intense game of ‘RunAway’ and ‘Tug of War’ with Rouger the dog. She loves that dog so much. I got to try flying Uncle Jon’s drone. That was very exciting, although Cassie was better at steering it than me! Lastly I got to try venison steak. It was DELICIOUS! I want more as I am thinking about it right now. I’ll go back to Jacquie’s house any day!

Cassie and I have matching bathers:

You may think this is actually sounding like a pretty full week. We did have a lot of fun, but some of it was relaxing. One day is bucketed (like I’ve never seen before) with rain. It was really relaxing to sit by the window. It was pouring hard but still lovely and warm. We went to visit Aunt Elizabeth’s colt (baby boy horse) called Shock. He is such a cute little horse. He is shedding a lot though and you can see he is going to be much darker than he is right now once he is done shedding. We also went walking through the fields with her other horse Bella. Of course I snacked on as many wild blackberries as I could find. YUM!

We also went to see the latest Transformers movie. You’re not going to believe this but the road that connects Stockbridge to Chelsea (which is a about a 20 minute drive) was used in the movie! Seriously they spent about a month filming a part of the movie on M52. The shut the whole road down and everything. I thought this was so cool. I took photos on M52 before going to the movies later that day. Cassie and I also turned the car we have been borrowing from Uncle Jon into a roofless car. It’s a convertible Chrysler car. I felt so fancy! I also 100% felt like I was in a transformer car! It was so cool, but scary at the same time! It’s like the whole car come apart and then gets put back together. Cassie and I kept attempting to convert it but panicking because we thought it would get stuck and we would have a car coming apart and not be able to get home. So we kept getting half way converted then panicking and putting it back. Eventually we fully converted it. All you have to do is hold down a button for about 30 seconds and it converts just like that into a roofless car. It was pretty nifty. I  also quite enjoyed the movie. It was playing in an old style theater. I also ate a whole bucket (American sized bucket) of popcorn to myself. I know I was being a piggy! But I couldn’t help myself. It had real butter on it, not the pretend butter!

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Fillmore Royalty

We all dressed up and wore white gloves and beautiful hats. The high tea even came complete with a maid service thanks to the lovely Cinny (a lady from church).

If you know anything about the Fillmore girls you will know that we love to have tea parties. Jacquie even mentioned this in a facebook post a few days ago. For my nineteenth birthday we had a princess tea party. It was complete with proper tea cups, ball gowns and a maid. I missed Kristen’s elegant bridal shower. That was a bummer. BUT this time it was Sara’s turn for an elegant tea party. Sara is marrying my cousin Ethan (but Sara has been a part of our family for so long now. I just think of her as my cousin already). I am so thrilled she will soon officially be my cousin. Anyway in her honour a tea part was prepared. It was much more extravagant and wonderful than I had imagined.

A laced gazebo with tables and chairs neatly set up underneath was placed on Kristen’s lawn. The place settings were complete with elegant china and silverware. Tea food was provided (I particularly liked the lemon slice) and of course there was black tea. But the mimosa’s were my favourite. The amount of orange juice to champagne was just right. Everyone had designated seating areas. I was lucky and got to sit next to the bride-to-be. White lanterns hung from the gazebo and flowers were placed around the area We all dressed up and wore white gloves and beautiful hats. I LOVED IT! I sipped on my tea with my pink finger in the air feeling very fancy while chatting. It was a hot and humid day, but a light breeze swayed through the trees cooling us down. I definitely felt like I was on Downtown Abbey (which is currently my favourite t.v. show). The high tea even came complete with a maid service thanks to the lovely Cinny (a lady from church). It was an absolutely delightful afternoon. Now we just have to wait for the wedding.

 

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Hartwick Pines

We stopped at Hartwick Pines State Park to visit the lodging museum. It was darker in the forest but beams of sunlight still shone through making the forest floor look bright green.

Today we headed for home, but this didn’t mean the fun ended here. In fact copious amounts of fun actually occurred once we were back in Stockbridge. Sara drove back with Ethan. This mean it was just Karlee, Gabby, Cassie and I in the car. It was a bummer losing Sara, but we still had a bunch of fun!

We stopped at Hartwick Pines State Park to visit the lodging museum. This park was beautiful. Honestly the forest was just gorgeous. It was darker in the forest but beams of sunlight still shone through making the forest floor look bright green. It was a hot day, but cooler in the forest, and birds chirped from above. We wandered through the forest to the lodging museum. It was a really neat museum. They had people dressed up as lodgers and workers and all the displays were really interesting. Did you know the buildings were often packed up and moved to new locations? Often there were places big mining camps were located that you would never know about now. The chapel was also made from wood logs. It was really interesting to see. I’ve never seen a wood logged chapel. We couldn’t go inside, though, due to a wedding which was going on.

 

 

 

We hit the road again and honestly the time just flew by. We told funny stories and chatted the whole way. I introduced Gabby and Karlee to Collective Noun (youtubers). It’s more of an Aussie thing so I think Gabby will appreciate it more. Hopefully I have found Collective Noun a new die-hard fan. We also stopped for a happy meal. I loved my toy. It was a minion that separated to reveal a plastic puck. You could then use the two minions to play an air hockey game. I suppose it would be called table hockey. I also introduced Cassie to McGriddles. McGriddles are: bacon + cheese + omelet egg in-between two maple flavoured pancakes/french toast. So unhealthy, but so amazing!

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When we got back to Stockbridge we decided to take Aunt Kim’s car through the carwash. It was quite dirty from the road. Gabbi, Cassie and I were SUPER PUMPED! Gabbi even offered to pay for it because it was her idea and she really wanted it to happen. She cracks me up. I totally get the thrill of the car wash though. Aunt Kim’s car also has glass sun roofs so we could watch the rollers above our heads. It was very exciting. We then SLOWLY drove through the dryer section. Apparently Karlee goes through it too quickly it leaves waxy marks on the car. So we were cautiously slow. BIG MISTAKE! We were so slow it shut off just after we go past the front windshield. Sooooooo….. We ended up with an extremely waxy/streaky looking car. We thought this was halrious! Seriously we all laughed and laughed all the way back to Karlee’s house. We then laughed harder when we observed the outside of the streaky car. Then we laughed even more when we realised it didn’t even wash the back of the car. It was still covered in dust. It was an epic fail for the carwash.

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It was rather a kid like day, but I love kid things. I enjoyed my happy meal, my minion toy and the car wash very thoroughly. It was sad to return back to Stockbridge after so much fun away with everyone. However I know there is still a lot of fun to be had around here.

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Mackinac Island/BEST DAY EVER!

When we reached the island my initial thoughts were OH MY GOSH SO CUTE! The shoreline was lined with adorable and luxurious Victorian style lake houses and shops. We pulled into the harbour and walked through an archway into the CUTEST TOWN in the whole world.

BEST DAY EVER!!! I know I said this about two posts ago but seriously this was also the BEST DAY EVER!!! Yesterday we went to Mackinac Island. Due to a sleeping fiasco Cassie and I were awake at 5:30 am and ready to go to the Island. We were going to go by ourselves and meet everyone else over there but we ended up waiting for everyone else, so we didn’t leave until 11:30ish.

I was told that you can basically do everything on the Island in one day? I have no idea how this would be possible??? I think you would need at least a week to do the Island properly. There was so much to do! It was amazingly fun. We managed to pack in so much as well. Literally a day packed full of fun.

We caught a little ferry called Felicity to the Island. It was about a 15 minute ferry ride. We passed underneath the Mackinaw bridge. This meant in about 30 seconds we went from being on Lake Michigan to Lake Huron. Two great lakes in 30 seconds. We also saw the old (and tiny) light house on the way. AND we saw a pirate ship. It was so cool. It wasn’t a real pirate ship, but it was designed to look just like an olden day pirate ship. People take tours on it.

When we reached the island my initial thoughts were OH MY GOSH SO CUTE! The shoreline was lined with adorable and luxurious Victorian style lake houses and shops. We pulled into the harbour and walked through an archway into the CUTEST TOWN in the whole world. It looked like Disney World and the atmosphere reminded me of Disney World. The street was small and full of walkers, bike cyclists and horses with carriages. There are no motorised vehicles on the island. Imagine that! NO MOTORISED VEHICLES. This means luggage is transported via bikes and horses. And even the rubbish is collected via a horse and cart! This really helps to create the atmosphere. The street is also lined with adorable Disney like shops squeezed together. AND even the street lamps had bunches of flowers hanging from them.

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We decided our first stop would be the Fort. The fort was once the islands protection. Controlled switched between the British and Americans. Eventually the Americans maintained control and eventually the Fort was turned into a heritage site and a museum. Americans really do know how to do museums well. They had people dressed in old style clothes and uniforms. They even had a gun shooting demonstration. The only thing I didn’t like the look of was the big hole where soldiers were jailed for offenses. That just looked horrifying to stay in.

We spent a decent amount of time at the Fort so we got lunch immediately after. Of course it was peak tourist season and peak eating time. It was difficult to find a lunch spot for eleven people, so we opted for a pizza picnic outside. This turned out to be a highly enjoyable event. I’m really glad we did this. We sat under a tree in the shade. We could see the water with ships bobbing around, main street with bikers and horses passing by. And behind us was the Fort. However, my favourite spot to gaze was a huge thick forest that lay to the right of the Fort. A small opening made it look mystical. Cassie and I both agreed that goblins would definitely live up there.

With full bellies we made our way through the equally adorable looking backstreets to the butterfly house. I’ll repeat the BUTTERFLY HOUSE! It was a house full of ferns and butterflies. They even landed on you. It was so magical. I felt so happy and gleeful. I could have gazed at the fluttering butterflies dancing about for hours. In fact it would have been the ideal place for a nap if there was a comfy couch in there. In the gift shop Cassie and I found some salt and vinegar flavoured crickets. We couldn’t believe how real these fake snake crickets looked. Turns out they were real crickets! Slightly horrified I almost bought and ate them and also slightly disappointed I didn’t.

Our next activity was bike riding. Cassie and I got a tandem bike. You should all be glade we came home unscathed. Starting a tandem bike for the first time ever in the middle of the main street was a terrifying event. Horses and carriages were bumbling past. Bikers were flying by. People were jumping in front of us onto the street. We wobbled our way the first few feet but we were soon up and rolling. It was a hot day and the lake wind on my face was welcomed. I wish you could have been there. It was so amazing. On the left was Lake Huron and on the right were thick beautiful forests with occasional Victorian lake houses. It was an 8 mile bike ride around the whole island and we stopped half way for a rest. I went down to the lake and watched Gabbi and R.J. skip rocks (quite successfully I might add). I can now also say I have officially been in two of the world’s great lakes, Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. This is actually really neat, I find this quite exciting. The only thing I didn’t like about the bike ride was Cassie loved flying along. I like to toodle down paths slowly and fully enjoy the scenery. I was on the back of the tandem, though. So I got to look around a fair amount because I didn’t have to worry about steering. I think Cassie enjoyed that I had to put all my trust in her too. She could keep me upright or take me down with her. It was all up to her.

After the bike ride we strolled down the streets and explored some of the shops. Cassie, Gabbi, Karlee and I went into a haunted museum. THIS WAS AWESOME! It was the perfect amount of scary. It was enough to make us jump and scream a few times but not too much. The best part was when a noise squealed next to our ear. We all screamed and R.J. grabbed my back which terrified me even more. It was pitch black so I had no idea what grabbed me.

We also went to Sanders fudge store and of course we HAD to get some fudge. It was completely necessary. It’s basically a requirement when you visit the island. Cassie is now addicted to fudge! She talks about it all the time. And ice-cream is required during summer, so we got ice-cream too. During this part of the day Cassie smacked me really hard on the back. Then she patted me a few times. I KNEW she put a sticker on my back. Turns out she had actually done it at the butterfly house. I HAD NO IDEA! I asked her why she then patted me so hard on the back just now, because that’s what gave it away. She had no idea why she patted me so hard. She agreed it was a mistake. She is funny. I removed the sticker.

When we were gearing up to leave I was exhausted. I wished I could have stayed on the island. It costs a fortune, but maybe one day. I think the island would be so lovely once all the day trippers are gone. It was warm and peaceful, yet still alive with activity. I can see myself bike riding around the island and swimming in the lake during the day, in the future. Then I can wander down the streets and stores in the evening.

You may think our adventure ended once we left the island, but it did not! We sat on the top deck on the way home. We got a little wet due to the wind. It was rather thrilling.

We then quickly got ready for dinner. This time we crossed the Mackinaw Bridge to have dinner. I HAVE NOW PEEN ON THE UPPER PENINSULA. I can also officially say I have been to the U.P. (that’s how the real Michiganders refer to the Upper Peninsula). We had dinner at a restaurant with a live band, but we didn’t stay long. Cassie, Karlee, R.J. and I all left early because we were just so tired from such a fun day.

I was glad to climb into my bed and I fell asleep very quickly!

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Traverse City

Cassie and I went down to the Ferris wheel and rode that. We got to see the whole city and harbour from above. It was fantastic.

So I feel the need to explain last night’s escapades. It all started when our air conditioner didn’t work. This meant that mine/Sara/Cassie’s room actually ended up heating up instead of cooling down. This resulted in multiple wacky dreams. Sara even had to get up and soak her hair in water. Meanwhile my muscles were so incredibly sore. I ALWAYS forget that tubing means that your muscles ache real badly for the next three days at a minimum. Tubing is so much fun that I think the pain part just leaves my memory and only fun memories remain intact. I actually couldn’t move for five minutes at one point from sore muscles. THEN when it neared early morning I dreamt that I woke up and found bananas and apples in our room. I was thrilled because I had been waking up starving. Turns out this wasn’t true, but when I did eventually get food in the morning it was delicious. I got Cajun benedict. It reminded me of New Orleans, especially because it was very hot and humid outside. I could tell today was going to be a very hot day.

Cassie and I purchased necklaces from our hotel gift shop. THE SHOP OWNERS WERE SO NICE. I mean almost freakishly nice. I just can’t believe how sweet and kind they were. They reminded me of someone from a fairy tale who act sweetly to unsuspecting strangers before they are turned into stew or something, BUT they were so kind I couldn’t imagine they had a mean bone in their body at all.

It was a WONDERFUL day. So relaxing and fun! We walked around Traverse city for a little while and explored shops. Then we split up. Cassie and I went down to the Ferris wheel and rode that. We got to see the whole city, cherry festival and harbour from above. It was fantastic. We then made our way down to the little beach and spotted a dog jumping competition on the way. It was so cute. Basically dogs had to run down a plank and leap into a pool of water while catching a toy in their mouth mid-air. One adorable puppy got too scared to jump but was still excited about the activity and attention. Eventually he belly flopped into the water.

 

After relaxing on the beach for a while Cassie and I grabbed a black cherry soda. I really enjoyed it. It was quite unique and delicious, Cassie on the other hand hated it. I was surprised. We then relaxed at the boat harbour. I really felt at home today. I think it was the combination of being used to Michigan landscape and being close to the water. Whenever I am close to water I feel right at home, calm and happy.

After we met up with the rest of the mob we spotted a street piano. It was really neat. This city feels quite artistic and lively. Gabby played the piano for a little bit.

We then packed up our cars and hit the road again. We were on our way to Mackinaw City. This time Cassie and I managed to stay awake for the car ride (well Cassie did sleep for some of it). Once we arrived at the hotel we pottered around the shore area and found a place to eat. R.J. was keen to eat as quickly as possible so we could all get in the pool. Cassie somehow managed to eat an enormous burger. She couldn’t come close to getting her mouth around the whole thing, but she ate all of it. I don’t know how she fits so much in that tiny little body!

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Sadly I found the pool too chlorinated to swim in. I came back to shower very quickly and that was a whole new fiasco. I 100% couldn’t figure out how to turn the shower from the bathtub tap to the shower. I spent about 10 minutes trying to change it. In the end I opted for a bath. Hopefully tomorrow will be more successful. I did get to do something fun though. I got to watch baby birds and their mama bird nestled above our door on the balcony in our hotel room. They were so adorable! Oh and when we were walking to the restaurant I spotted a giant hotdog on a building next to a flag, #OnlyInAmerica

 

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Australian Invasion of Cherry Festival

We arrived in the afternoon and the Australian invasion of Traverse City began. We spent several hours exploring the nearby cherry festival.

Currently I am sitting on my bed in the luxurious Park Place hotel in Traverse City. I road tripped down here with Karlee, Sara, Cassie and Gabby (Karlee’s previous exchange student who is visiting with her family). Gabby’s parents (Malcom and Anna), Uncle Joel, Aunt Kim and R.J came down in a separate car. Gabby’s family are from Canberra Australia. They are such a nice family, and so fun! I love hanging out with them.

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We arrived in the afternoon and the Australian invasion of Traverse City began. We spent several hours exploring the nearby cherry festival. We tasted some great cherries. I love cherries. It was a blast! Cassie, Anna and Gabby attempted a cherry pit spitting contest. Cassie managed to get 15 feet and 4 inches. I was quite impressed, of course some people got around 50 feet. So in comparison to others it was a bit of a fail. Still it is much harder than it looks. I tried later with Cassie. I made about 5 feet (fail). Some of the other activities at the Cherry festival were pie eating contests, fair activities, jam tasting, and beach volleyball. Cassie found a certain jam she wants to buy and just eat with a spoon, but she restrained herself. Also Gabby and Karlee entered the pie eating contest. They did not win sadly. I really loved walking around the festival and enjoying the atmosphere. It was such a fun day with the Joel Fillmore family plus other Aussie’s. I’m so grateful they invited us on this trip!

The cherry festival:

Pit spitting contest:

Traverse City:

In the evening the kids played games in the hotel room. We played spyfall. You might not have heard of it BUT it’s a great game. We had a lot of fun. I can’t wait for more fun tomorrow.

Added note 1: It was nice and warm again today. I am seriously LOVING the summer weather! I don’t even want to think about going home to winter, and I don’t need to. It’s only day 2 of our trip. YAAAAWHOOOO!

Added note 2: More fireworks just exploded outside our window. Independence Day celebrations continue. Also R.J. and I just discovered you can see the clock tower from our window, neat.

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4th of July/BEST DAY EVER

We all know how much American’s love their guns. So how could you even have a Fourth of July without some gun shooting? Before dinner I watched Austin and Zach attempt to make a watermelon explode. They packed explosion powder into a (sadly) delicious looking and giant watermelon.

BEST DAY EVER!!! Seriously I had so much fun today! I am so happy right now! I wish I convey my excited and happy feelings literally over this computer, so you could all understand that I really do mean it was the BEST DAY EVER! Today was the 4th of July, aka Independence Day. I have been longing to be in the USA for Fourth of July for years now, and I finally made it!

I woke up in my comfortable bed to the sound of summer and happy chirping birds outside my window. I opened the blinds and looked out into a glorious summer scene. The world was bright and happy. The grass was a rich green colour and the cornfields stood still and golden. Birds danced around the trees. When I made my way to Aunt Kim’s house for breakfast the air felt cool and warm at the same time. Summer warmth was lurking but the evening breeze was still about. Less than a minute later I spotted a chipmunk running around in the grass. IT WAS SO CUTE!

After breakfast our first stop was the nearby 4th of July parade. I even spotted a few deer along the way to the parade. We sure are in Michigan. We sat right near the presenter who was dressed up as Abraham Lincoln. The parade had a lot more cars in it than I expected. To be honest I’m not sure why that surprised me, we are in the land of cars. It makes perfect sense that a parade celebrating America would be filled with huge trucks and expensive cars. There were other floats too, including some horse and carriages. My favourite floats were the ones with kids who had decorated their bikes from top to bottom in American colours, and a little dog in a remote control car. Oh, also, I got and elephant ear from a nearby stand. It wouldn’t be very American to not purchase some sort of deliciously unhealthy snack. An elephant ear is basically flattened fried dough with cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top.

The plan for lunch was to get fried chicken that the local firemen grill. This is a Fillmore tradition and has been for a long time. Mum was all set for this chicken and keen for us to try it. Unfortunately they ran out of chicken by the time we got in the line. So, sadly no firemen chicken for us. Still Aunt Kim somehow managed to magically make a splendid spread of food appear on the table. The only bad part was we didn’t have much time enjoy eating it. I made Cassie eat her hotdog whilst walking across the field. Our next stop was to Uncle Jon’s house for some boating adventures. The adventure actually began when I spotted a squirrel leaping from branch to branch.

I WAS EXCITED! I LOVE going out on Uncle Jon’s boat. Uncle Jon, Aunt Elizabeth, Kristen, David, Austin, Megan (Aunt’s girlfriend), Zach, (Austin’s roommate), Cassie, and I were all there. Even Jacquie managed to join us later. It was extra fun today because the small passage from the boat harbour to the lake was lined with American flags, and armed with a 5 year old child with water guns. We went back and forward several times and each time a battle occurred. Sadly we only had water bottles for weapons. We soon got started on tubing. The good tube had broken so after some failed tubing attempts and multiple bodies being airborne Uncle Jon decided to buy a new tube. Tubing was much more successful after this. My favourite trick we managed to achieve (new trick) was to stand up with one foot on one tube and the other foot on the other tube. Of course no one lasted long when attempting this. I didn’t mind splashing into the water, though, and bobbing around in my life jacket. The water was so warm, like a bath tub, but slightly cooler. It was perfect. The last part of the boating adventure was watching Uncle Jon and Kristen water ski. I’d never actually seen someone water ski up close so that was neat. Kristen even managed to drop one ski and just ride with both feet on the one ski.

So I do feel the need to add three things that happened during tubing. Number 1, I almost killed my sister. So basically we were falling out the tube. She starts screaming at me “GO FORWARD. GO FORWARD. YOU’RE TOO FAR BACK. KEEP GOING.” Then I hear muffled yells and pushes forward. Turns out the yells became muffled because I was suffocating her in the tube, and the pushed forward we’re actually elbows attempting to push me off. But she is alive, so don’t worry. Number 2, Zach whenever he fell, fell very dramatically. His arms would fly out and he would sort of fall like a star fish. Number 3, I got completely stuck trying to climb onto the tube at one point. I ended up with one leg in the tube, one leg under the tube, half an arm on the side of the tube and one arm dangling in the water. After several minutes of dangling and exhaustion I managed to haul myself up by grabbing Cassie’s life jacket.

Now if I said to you what’s something that’s popular in America but seems crazy to Australians what comes to mind? Were guns one of those things? I am guessing it was. We all know how much American’s love their guns. So how could you even have a Fourth of July without some gun shooting? Before dinner I watched Austin and Zach attempt to make a watermelon explode. They packed explosion powder into a (sadly) delicious looking, giant watermelon. With gun shots still ringing in my ear I watched as watermelon pieces flew up into the air and spread out around the field. Apparently the explosion powder didn’t really work, but I thought it was pretty nifty.

Next we went back to Uncle Jon’s house for some food. And guess who had left over firemen’s chicken? That’s right we didn’t miss out after all! It was quite tasty too. It was cooked to crunchy perfection. The chicken wasn’t the only near miss I had that day. Earlier I almost stepped onto a 2 meter long slithering snake. Okay, so yes it is true, that grass snakes aren’t poisonous. But it felt like a near miss because my inner Aussie was telling me “YOU ALMOST DIED!” A couple other things to mention is Aunt Elizabeth did a wonderful job decorating for Fourth of July. Her pot plants all had little flags in them and even their dog, Cocoa, had an American bandanna tied to him.

Lastly our day finished with fireworks. I’m sure you are aware fireworks on Fourth of July is a must. Even if you don’t specifically go somewhere to see fireworks I can guarantee you will see them somewhere. People just setup fireworks in their backyard. The whole country is lit with fireworks on the nights of July Fourth. I was glad it wasn’t stormy or rainy. It was a perfect and warm evening. The atmosphere was great too. Everyone drove onto a big oval and found a spot to set up chairs. More food carts and stalls were about. There was also a big hut with a live band playing. I LOVED IT! It felt somewhat similar to the Christmas Eve event Blackwood Hills Baptist puts on back home (minus the Christmas part). I will also admit I actually got another elephant ear. THIS ONE WAS DELCIOUS! Nice and doughy, yum. Then I sat down on a rug with the whole Michigan Fillmore gang and watched fireflies flicker about until the fireworks began. THEY WERE spectacular fireworks too. I LOVED IT! I felt so happy and magical watching them. And I am so thankful to my family for making the whole day so much fun!

Sadly my day of American celebration has come to an end, but it was perfect. We did everything! 4th of July parade, tick. Chipmunk, squirrel, snack, and deer spotting, tick. The firemen’s chicken, tick. Elephant ears, tick. Boat/outdoor fun, tick. Gun shooting, tick. Fireworks, tick. So day one of my 2017 America trip has been successful. Tomorrow I am off on a road trip with the Joel Fillmore family. More adventures await.

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We have arrived!

I’m not sure if I am just getting so used to travelling on long haul flights with my mum and sister, or what, but our flight flew by! Excuse the pun! 😀

We have arrived all safe and sound. We had the smoothest flight over, ever! We flew Qantas (they are better everyone). We flew to Sydney, walked to the bus to connect to the international airport. Quickly got Cassie’s tax refund on a camera purchase then boarded our next plane. It was a huge plane, one of those double decker planes. It made for a smoother less turbulent ride, I think. It was a long flight 16 hours. That’s the longest flight I have been on that I can remember, but it went so fast! I’m not sure if I am just getting so used to travelling on long haul flights with my mum and sister, or what, but our flight flew by! Excuse the pun! 😀 We disembarked in Dallas speed through border control and customs and then caught a speedy train to the domestic terminal. We had just enough time to change into summer clothes before boarding out last flight, which arrived early. Can you believe it? Seriously smoothest trip over ever! We literally had no problems.

Now I am nestled happily in my bed at Grandma’s house. Cassie is in the Den room. Ethan and Sara are living here also. Mum is staying at Uncle Joel’s house with grandma. It does feel a little strange staying here without mum, but I feel happy and snug in the familiar bed.

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Why Hello Warmth

FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER I will be celebrating 4th of July. I can already taste apple pie and see fireworks flashing before my eyes. 

I am off to the USA again, tomorrow. Goodbye winter and hello summer! I’m looking forward to swimming in warm fresh water lakes and lounging about next to cornfields. I can’t wait to taste wild black berries again and camp among pine forests. I am excited to see the fireflies dance around during dusk. AND FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER I will be celebrating 4th of July. I can already taste apple pie and see fireworks flashing before my eyes.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve felt the need to comment daily on the weather. Truly we have had the most glorious winter EVER! It’s not quite shorts weather, but the sun has been gloriously warm, and there has been no wind or rain. I’ve been bike riding every day since I got my new bike. Cassie and I even spotted a koala migrating from one tree to another on one of our walks. It’s been wonderful.

You’d think there would be nothing to complain about, right? Well sadly I have found two things to complain about due to the glorious weather. The first reason is actually quite serious. In Australia a rainless winter means bush-fires during the summer. The second reason is it doesn’t feel quite as exciting leaving Australia for Michigan if the weather is already nice here. Luckily I have good news all round. The wind and rain is coming. I kept saying I hope the weather would turn sour once we left and my wish was granted. I leave on Monday and guess what the weather is going to be like from Monday onward? Wet and windy. I feel quite satisfied that I can enjoy my last two days here in Aussieland rain free, and then wave goodbye to the storm clouds as I pass through them on Monday morning.

Stay tuned for holiday updates.

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Super Sister

How could she know how to do my questions without ever having done the topic? How could she understand the question in just 30 seconds flat? I’d been trying for hours.

So if you didn’t already know my sister is a genius. I am serious. She is so smart its almost scary (but not quite!). I’ve found international finance quite difficult this semester (thankfully it’s all over now). Formulas and funny little equations mean nothing to me. I sat in class day after day listening to my discouraging teacher say repeatedly “this is easy.” My sister is studying finance but unfortunately she hadn’t done my topic, which meant no help for me. Or so I thought.

One afternoon I was sitting on the couch, with my mum, trying to understand how my teacher came to a certain answer. Eventually we figured it out, but our method wasn’t working for the next question. Cassie wanted to help but as I mentioned the topics we were doing she admitted she had never done those topics. I left the couch area for a couple of minutes only to return to my sister gleefully yelling “I’ve got it!” “What????” I asked perplexed. “I know how to do your questions,” she said. I stared at her in disbelief. How could she know how to do my questions without ever having done the topic? How could she understand the question in just 30 seconds flat? I’d been trying for hours. Because she is a super genius, that’s how! She somehow just looked at my question and knew exactly how to do them. Oh and it’s also worth noting the method mum and I devised wasn’t even correct. It was just a fluke we got the correct answer the first time. So this meant for the rest of the semester Cassie was my number one teacher for finance.

I want to relieve a humorous moment we had. One day I was sitting staring sadly at my textbook. I was staring at this formula: 19578589_10209508306332932_888521638_o

That meant to me as bout as much as it means to you, i.e nothing. Cassie took one look at it and then went on to explain something which I swear was in German. I recognized a few of the words, but I didn’t actually know what she was staying. Okay I’ll admit she wasn’t speaking German, but she was speaking the foreign language of Finance. I stared at her blankly. “Ok, Ok, hold on,” she said.  About a minute later she presented me with a piece of paper. “Here,” she said confidently whilst beaming, “I think this will help you.” I took the piece of paper and looked at. Apparently I looked so upset Cassie felt the need to say “this will definitely help you” to encourage me. My mouth turned upside down. My eyes got big. My brows turned into an enormous frown. According to Cassie I looked even more dismayed than before. She said it was sort of a mixture of confusion, discouragement, sadness and frustration.  This is what was on the bit of paper:

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The only thing this paper did was make me feel like there were more complicated formulas I needed to remember that made no sense. I looked at Cassie with my sad eyes and said “this doesn’t help me.” “Are you sure?” she said, “I’m certain it will help you.” I stared at my paper blankly. I then said jokingly “explain it to me in terms of bananas. I like bananas.” She paused for a moment, “alright,” she said, “imagine you own a banana stall. You go out and try to sell bananas to people, but first you need a bit of equity. Now us ‘Walding Family’ are your equity because we are close by and also help out with the banana stall. The ‘Fillmore Family’ is your debt, because they provide capital but they are far away and can’t help. Therefore they provide more of a loan. Now this formula looks at the Weighted Average Cost of Capital. Or in your case the Weighted Average Cost of Banana Stall. Basically we are looking at the rate of bananas the Walding Family and Fillmore Family require in return for proving capital for the banana stall business.” She went on to explain this in great detail, much to my excitement and amusement. NOW I will have you know that I fully understand how to calculate the average weighted cost of capital:

Average weighted cost of banana stall = ((Walding Family) divided by (Walding Family plus Fillmore Family) times required bananas) plus ((Fillmore Family) divided by (Walding Family plus Fillmore Family) times required bananas) times (one minus bananas required for tax).

And there you have it people. Cassie successful explained Weighted Average Cost of Capital in terms of bananas. And this is not the only thing she explained in terms of food. She explained a risk formula in terms of chocolate. She also explained currency swaps in terms of Ethan and Austin (my cousins) lending me money. I don’t quite remember that one. All I remember is Austin was in France and gave me money, but I repaid Ethan who was in India.

Anyway there are two points to this story:
1) My sister is a Super Genius and
2) Anyone can understand finance. Just sometimes you need to break it down in to bananas and chocolate.

 

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The Return

Usually I would be battling a combination of 110km winds and pelting rain (not fun). The only thing I have been battling lately is the urge to blow off all my work and play outside. 

So I realise I’ve been MIA for the past few weeks. To say I’ve been overloaded and stressed with the amount of uni work and other work lately, would be an understatement. Currently I’m in the middle of exam week, but let’s not go into this right now….  All that matters is I have returned. Hello to my friends and family! 🙂

It’s been a glorious autumn and start to the winter. Today it felt like a warm spring day. The sun was shining. I was out and about in a t-shirt. Usually I would be battling a combination of 110km winds and pelting rain (not fun). The only thing I have been battling lately is the urge to blow off all my work and play outside.

It feels like forever ago, but my autumn fun began with a Russian Market. Stas’ little cousin Allona has been attending a Russian dance class. She performed at the Russian community center along with other older dancers and musicians. I LOVED IT! I got to hear and see traditional Russian music and dances. I got to try traditional Russian food. I also got to look at all the little Russian crafts that were for sale. It really was a wonderful day, and of course, only increased my excitement for my future visit to Russia.

Russian Community Center:

Russian Dancers

Although the days are still sunny and warm, the nights have become quite cold. Almost all the leaves have turned now, but I enjoyed the gorgeous colours for as long as I could. I have embraced walks with my two little doggies, and I went on a long walk with Sammi, her twin sister Mezzi and her fiance Dereje. Sammi and I have been good friends since year 9, but I hadn’t seen her in a while. It was wonderful seeing her again. My family have also been embracing plants and nice weather. We went plant shopping which was great! And Cassie has been working on her vegetable garden, which now includes a fruit tree.

Enjoying the walks:

Autumn is here!:

Buying plants:

When the nights weren’t too cold yet I went out on the annual Flinders Business School Pub crawl. Let me start by telling you about the night and then later tell you what I have come to realise. I went with Stas and my friend Jess. Our other two friends Anna and Ellie met us in the city. We had a pretty cheap (but good pizza) to start out night. Then we went for a walk down Rundle Mall. Rundle Mall is our major shopping area in the city. No cars can drive down this street. It was truly ALIVE that evening. It almost looked like a miniature times square. Buskers performed up and down the road. Everything was lit up. It was beautiful and a very fun atmosphere. We then headed back to the pubcrawl and eventually we ended up at some club called Super Califronia. Apparently every few months they have a free glitter artist. So guess who got pink glitter stuck all over her face? Mwa, of course! We danced for a while and I showed off my sparkling face.

Rundle Mall:

Stas, Jess and I at the Mall Balls:

Super California + Glitter = feeling pretty:

Okay now let me tell you what I have come to realise. I AM WAY TO OLD to be going out to town. Basically everyone on the pub crawl were 1st years. I’m in my 5th year. I even tried to turn up to a club an hour before it even opened Seriously who opens a club at 10pm? SOOO LATE! This was legite when I was planning on leaving to go home.When the club did open I was the first one inside. I stayed for an hour. When I left it was just starting to get crowded. There was also a line of about 200 people outside and a two hour wait. Seriously who would wait that long? I was ready for bed when some people hadn’t even turned up yet. This is when I realised that would be my last pub crawl and my last night in town. And I’m okay with that. I’m embracing the in bed by 10pm lifestyle and I like it!

Stas’ little sister turned 11 HAPPY BIRTHDAY DARLING!!! I was invited to the birthday celebrations by the birthday girl personally. It was a very fun day! It was tropical themed. I helped out with the party games. Can you believe Stas actually won twister? That’s right my bulky and inflexible boyfriend (no offence honey) beat a bunch of 10 to 11 year old flexible girls at twister. I WAS VERY IMPRESSED.

I’d also like to mention my own sister had a birthday. SO HAPPY BIRTHDAY SIS!!! Cassie and I have been having a great semester studying together. We are both old souls too. When the parents went out with their friends we played miniature connect four with the cat. We were in bed before the parents even came home. Very amusing.

The connect four gang:

And of course there was a trip to Kangaroo Island among all this fun. It was my mini break before exam preparations begun. This time on the Island I discovered some beautiful handmade wooden tables and sculptures. They weren’t even too expensive. I love how I can always discover something new there. There were also many wallabies (mini kangaroos) everywhere. I felt sure that I would see a whale this trip to Kangaroo Island. I just knew it! I was 100% certain it would happen from the start. I kept my eye out, but sadly I didn’t see one. I was honestly surprised. I even said to my grandma as we boarded the ferry to go home that I was sure I was going to see a whale. Never-mind. BUT guess what? On the way back to the mainland the ferry went sailing right past a beautiful whale. I only caught a couple glimpse of it’s tail but I was thrilled!!! I KNEW I was going to see a whale.

Kanagaroo Island Beauty:

I love the design on this table!:

This handmade coffee table has glitter and sparkly things in it! LOVE IT!:

There is a whale out there:

Now for my last bit of excitement, I HAVE A BIKE! I’d been wanting a bike ever since I got back from America, and now I have one. It’s a beautiful blue colour and I am having SO MUCH FUN riding it! Cassie and I go for walks/rides together. She walks the dogs and I peddle alongside her. Then when Dolly dog gets tired we pop her in the basket of my bike. It really has been so, so lovely! My grandpa has been trying to get me bike riding for YEARS!!! He finally succeeded. If I were him I would be very proud of myself.

Dolly ready for her walk”

MY NEW BIKE!!!!:

So as you can see I haven’t really been missing, just missing from my blog site. Hopefully that won’t happen again! And even though I might still be in the middle of exams I can already feel the excitement of this years summer coming. Today marks the day of increasing day light. I can see lots of swimming and bike riding in my near future.

This is what the sunsets have been like recently:

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International Dilemmas

The more I heard about Russia the more my eyes widened with excitement and an un-removable grin was pasted on my face. Then… the nightmare of trip planning begun.

Image result for Russia Vs AmericaFor those of you who don’t know, my boyfriend is Russian. He moved to Australia when he was twelve. He has come to America with me a couple of times. He met my extended family and we explored America together. We have been to Michigan, New York, New Orleans and Montana. We even went to college at Montana State University for six months. So my boyfriend and I figured it was about time I went to Russia to see his family and explore his roots! Thus the excitement and thrill of planning a Russia trip began. We had planned on going this July for around a year, but due to the fact VISAs can only be acquired three months in advance, we didn’t make anything official. When April finally came around we organised VISAs and began to official planning process.

The more I heard about Russia the more my eyes widened with excitement and an un-removable grin was pasted on my face. I was going to see the beautiful church buildings, palaces, grand museums, market places and medieval villages. Then I found out my boyfriend’s family lived in a village in Siberia. I couldn’t believe it! I would see the fast paced Moscow and St. Petersburg life, as well as the country lifestyle. There were forests to explore, rivers to splash in and Altai Mountains to look at. I honestly couldn’t wait.

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Then… the nightmare of trip planning begun. Seasoned travellers have all experienced travel problems, but I’m telling you mine were getting ridiculous! We seriously ran into every obstacle we could along the way. Let me dot point everything that went wrong for us.
1. Ticket prices went up (by a lot).
2. A few days later checked prices, went to book two hours later, and prices had gone up again!
3. Then I found out my elderly grandma in Michigan has cancer. Questions about whether I should be going to Michigan in July, instead of Russia, arose. So we delayed buying tickets. It was decided I would still go to Russia to meet Stas’ elderly great grandma whom I have never met.
4. I monitored airfares for a month to find the cheapest time of the week to purchase. Thursday turned out to be the cheap day. I went to book on Thursday but prices had gone up AGAIN!!!
5. Then the St. Petersburg terror attack occurred. Questions around our safety arose. We decided we would go but just not take the subway.
6. Then we found out Stas’ great grandma fell and broke her shoulder. Seeing her was the main reason for our trip. We didn’t know if she would even be okay for us to come in July. So we delayed buying tickets, but she seems to be doing okay now.
7. Went to buy tickets again, but thought I may have caught glandular fever from my sister, so we delayed. Prices went up again. (There is a reoccurring theme here isn’t there?)
8. We contacted a travel agent. She said she would get back to us in two days. We never heard back from her.
9. Finally I went to buy tickets. The prices were acceptable and I began filling out our details, only to discover that you couldn’t do a split payment (my mistake). Then I had to wait for money to be transferred from my boyfriend’s account to my account, so we had enough money in the one account to buy tickets.
10. FINALLY I purchased tickets!!!! But wait for it… Wait for it…. The payment was unsuccessful. I am not kidding! I half paid. Confused? So was I! Basically my bank approved the payment so the money was no longer accessible to me, but China Southern Airlines didn’t finalise the payment so they didn’t get the money. This left us with no tickets and no money to buy tickets with. The money wouldn’t become accessible to me for a whole week.
11. Then, that’s right, the tickets went up again. In fact they went up by so much money they if our payment didn’t finalise and the money was returned to me there was no way I could afford plane tickets!
12. We sent multiple emails and called multiple times to the airline company with no success.
13. Then the payment was finalised and the money was deducted from my account, WOOOHOOO, we should receive tickets now right? Wong! We received an email saying the tickets were not able to be issued. I’m starting to fall to pieces now. I’m in week 11 currently at Uni. Aussie students know what that means!
14. We responded asking the airline to reissue the tickets. They accepted and asked us to confirm passenger names and passport details. I sent them the required information. Stas was sure everything had worked out. I told him not to hold his breathe. Sadly this was good advice. We received an email saying the name on my passport didn’t match what they had on file and they could not change this. They could not issue the ticket in my full correct name. My middle name was missing in their records. They then reminded me that I may be denied boarding if the name did not match that of my passport.
15. At this point I am so stressed. I can’t sleep. I am having panic attacks. I am behind in all my classes. My boyfriend and I are fighting. I’m emotionally wrecked. I am seriously just exhausted.
16. I reached the stage of defeat. I requested the money be refunded. But sadly my hellish nightmare doesn’t stop here. They said the money would be refunded to my account in 15 to 30 business days!!!! What is this??? Which means we have no money to book alternative flights.
17. Then I started receiving phone calls. First they asked if I could speak Chinese. I said no, so they called me back. They called me back asking if I wanted to reissue the tickets or refund the money. I said refund the money. They said I need to respond to their email. I said I did respond and they re-responded. They just repeated the line saying I needed to respond to their email requesting a refund. I again said I had they had in fact responded to my email. They then told me to respond to their email. This parrot like conversation confused by a language barrier continued for a few minutes. They then hung up. Two hours later someone else called and I literally had the exact same conversation.

So now finally I have covered a step by step documentation of my awful ticket buying experience, which is technically still not over. I am still waiting for my money to return to me. So what to do now? We’ll I’m a religious person, and when so many things started to pop up I began to get concerned that it was a sign from God. I asked God for more and more signs and I kept hitting more and more roadblocks. The final straw for me was when I said “okay God bless this trip if it’s meant to be or show me a clear sign I shouldn’t go if you don’t want to me. We’ve had so many things go wrong with these tickets. It seems like everything is fine now. But if one more thing goes wrong, I won’t go.” Then BAM they couldn’t even issue a ticket with my correct name. So I believe that yes I am supposed to go to Russia, but just not this July. Some of you might not believe it’s God giving me a sign. Maybe you think it’s the universe telling me my plans are not what it wants? Or perhaps you are thinking this is all just stereotypical travel problems and it’s all just one big coincidence? Even if it is the latter I have never had so many problems crop up in trying to purchase a plane ticket before, and yes I do travel internationally quite frequently. The stress of the plane ticket purchasing problems completely sucked the excitement and fun out of the trip! Which was actually really, really sad. I wanted the joy and excitement at the thought of going to return but it just wouldn’t.

The consensus is that it I should go to Michigan to visit my grandma and Stas will go to Russia to visit his. I am sad I won’t be exploring such a marvellous and unique culture. I am also sad that I won’t be meeting Stas’ family members. But I love Michigan. I love my grandma. And I love my family in Michigan! So while I may have lost one thing, I have gained another. I will admit that I am most sad for Stas and the fact I won’t be accompanying him to Russia. I want to honour him in the way he has honoured me by coming to America. But like I mentioned the world is against me going right now. I am comforted knowing he can now spend three to four weeks with his family, instead of just one. He also won’t have to worry about translating conversations constantly from Russian to English and English to Russian. He doesn’t need to worry about entertaining me. He can just spend quality time with his family.

Today my travel advice books arrived in the mail. (Side note I always use the lonely planet books. They are by far the best. I highly recommend even if you are an experienced traveller.) At first I was sad. I flicked through the pages of the things I could have seen. But then you know what? I started to get excited! Because I haven’t given up my trip to Russia, I have just rescheduled it. I’ll be able to save more money, which means we can stay everywhere for twice as long (YEEEHAAAA) and see twice as many things. Plus if you know me you would know my favourite part of a holiday is the planning/looking forward to the things I will be doing. Now I can spend the next year looking at all the things I want to see. I can plan out where I want to go. Instead of just 5 weeks of excitement I will have a whole year!  So lookout Russia it might not be this July but I am planning a magnificent trip and I AM COMING!!!

Image result for St Petersburg

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Aussie Slang – Wanna talk like a true Aussie?

This is a blog on how to master the good old Strayan slang. In the land down under we like to shorten everything we can! Think of the words dero and suss. Not sure what I mean by dero or suss? Well keep reading!

This is not a blog on how to speak with an Aussie accent. This is a blog on how to master the good old Strayan slang. So work on your Aussie accent and then come to this blog for tips on how to sound like a true Aussie. Start with the ‘for beginners’ section if you just want quick hacks, but if you want to fool real Aussies into thinking you’re one of them read the other two sections.

At this point you may be wondering why I, of all people, am doing an blog on Aussie slang. My American accent would probably have you thinking I should be writing a blog on American slang. Let me assure you that I grew up in the Land Down Under, I know all the slang, and my American roots means I have had the unique opportunity to spot the difference in slang language. With the help of my father (and family) I have put together a nice little guide on how to speak like an Aussie.

Image result for Australia

Beginner:


In the land down under we like to shorten everything we can! In fact some words such as ‘dero’ have always been said as the shortened version in my life. I legite had no idea it was actually short for something. I just thought that was the whole word. And to be honest often these shortened words do start to take on a new meaning of their own, thus actually becoming a separate word. The word ‘suss’ is a great example of this. Not sure what I mean by the word dero or suss? Well keep reading!

If you want my beginners advice on how to master Aussie slang follow these three easy steps:

  1. Pick a word
  2. Shorten it (often to just the first syllable)
  3. Add an ‘o’ or ‘i/ie/y/ee’ sound to the end.

Here are some examples:
Barbie = Barbecue
Dero = Derelict. Usually said with the word ‘heaps’ in front, as in he was ‘heaps dero.’
Unco = Uncoordinated
Devo = Devastated. Also usually said with the word ‘heaps’ in front, as in ‘heaps devo’.
Uni = University
Chrissy = Christmas
Rego = Registration
Footy = Football (Aussie Rules Football not American Football)
Vegies = Vegetables
Boyfie = Boyfriend
Girlfie = Girlfriend
Mossie = Mosquito
Cocky = Cockatoo (type of bird)
Budgie = Budgerigar (type of bird)
Sunnies = Sunglasses
Agro = Aggressive
Breakie = Breakfast
Brickie =  Bricklayer
Postie = Postman
Muso = Muscisian
Vego = Vegetarian
Mayo = Mayonnaise
Blowie = Blowfly
Tradie = Tradesman
Lippy = Lipstick

Then there are the hybrid words. These words still end with an ‘o’ or ‘ee’ sound and are short for something but they are actually a word used to shorten two or more words combined. For example:
Fairo = Fair enough
Righto = Your right/ This is right/ That was right/ True/ Correct
Rightio = Means the same as righto. Also one of my favourites because it has both the ‘o and ‘ee’ sounds.
Povo = Poverty stricken. Usually said with the word ‘heaps’ again, as in ‘heaps povo.’
Smoko = Going for a smoke. Could be used to ask where the ‘smoko’ is, as in where can you smoke/where is the smoke room?
Bottleo = Bottle shop
Ambo = Ambulance workers
Metho = Metholated Spirits
Trackies = Track suit pants
Truckie = Truck driver
Garbo = Garbage collector (this is an unusual one because we say ‘rubbish’ not ‘garbage’ or ‘trash’.
Servo = Service station
Sickie = Usually said as ‘pulling a sickie’, meaning they are faking being sick to get out of doing something.
Chewie = Chewing gum
Salvos = Salvation Army (charity organisation)
Surfies = Someone who surfs a lot
Pokies = Gambling machines
Relli = Relative
Rello = Also means Relative

We don’t just shorten words we shorten names too. In Aussie land we often refer to our mates by their shortened last name. My last name, Walding, becomes Waldo. My boyfriends last name, Oxenham, could become Oxenie, but it is more likely to become Oxi. Oxenie has too many syllables.

You may ask at this point how do I know whether the word should have an ‘o’ or ‘ee’ sound at the end. As an Aussie I can feel the word. I sense what sort of ending it should have. My advice to Non-Aussies would be to say the word out loud with an ‘o’ and then an ‘ee’ sound. Pick whichever is easier to pronounce.  We’re all about making things easy.

Now it’s true that not all words can be shortened. Honestly I can’t really give any advice on how to know if a word can or cannot be shortened. It’s quite random. For example we don’t shorten the word ‘formation’ to ‘formo.’ Or ‘fireman’ to ‘firey.’ As an Aussie we just know what words are appropriate to shorten. However, if you just start shortening words and adding the ‘o’ or ‘ee’ sound your already doing good. And, honestly, the word ‘formo’ doesn’t even sound that ridiculous. If you said ‘formo’ I would think it a little odd, but wouldn’t question it.

Intermediates 

Now we start to move on to some words that are shortened but not necessarily ending in ‘o’ or ‘ee.’ We have:
Gday = Good day

Image result for Gday

Maccas = McDonalds
Xmas = Christmas
Chook = Chicken
PJs = Pajamas
HJs = Hungry Jacks (called Burger King in America)
Crock = Could mean crockadile or the shoe brand.
Spag Bol =Spagehti Bolagnaise
Straya = Australia. This is how the older generation naturally pronounce Australia (I’m not kidding), but if someone from a younger generation say Straya they would be someone who is heaps dero.
Ranga = Someone with orange hair, meaning they looking like an Orangutan.
Roo = Kangaroo
Kanga = Kangaroo
Cab Sav = Cabernet Sauvignon (type of wine)
Crook = Ill/sick, as in I am quite crook
Daks = Meaning trackie dacs, akak track suit pants
Carn = Come’on. You would yell this while cheering on a team, i.e. ‘CARN ADELAIDE.’ (Remember we don’t pronounce the letter ‘r’. So it sounds like ‘cahn’.)
Pash = Kissing passionately

No advice on how to know if a word has this sort of ending, just add these words to your memory bank.

Alrighty now your starting to get a feel for how we talk. Let’s move on to some of the more complicated speech. Here comes that word ‘suss’ again. Suss is actually short for suspicious. You could say something like ‘yeah that was heaps suss’ or ‘he was heaps suss looking.’ However as I mentioned earlier the word suss also has its own separate meaning. It can also mean to ‘check out/look at/ investigate’. In Australia you will often hear people say ‘I’ll suss it out’, meaning ‘I’ll check it out.’

There is also this complicated word we use ALL THE TIME! It’s ‘yeah-nah.’ Confused? I would be. Yeah-nah can mean yes, or no, depending on the context. If the word is said by it’s self then it most likely means no. For example if you said to someone “want to go grab a bite to eat?’ They may responded with ‘yeah-nah.’ This means no. If you were to say to someone “I heard you went on a holiday, did you have a good time?’ They might say ‘yeah-nah, it was great.’ This means ‘Yes, it was great.’ Yes I know its confusing. I didn’t even realise us Aussies did this until I went to America and confused the heck out of my cousins. Just try to sense whether the person looks hesitant or open. Hesitant = yeah-nah means no, and open = yeah-nah means yes.

Here is another great one ‘as’. We often finish a sentence with the word ‘as’. For example ‘it was funny as’, ‘it was far as’ or ‘ he was dero as’. I discovered this one when I was telling a story to my wonderful cousin, Austin, in America. I told a great story while he listened to me intently. I promptly finished it by say ‘yeah it was funny as’. He stared at me wide eyed waiting for the ending of my sentence. When I said nothing he looked confused and said “funny as…” and I said “yes funny as.” More confusion. He then frowned and said “funny as what?” and I said “no that’s it, just funny as.” He frowned even harder and then all of a sudden it clicked, I made zero sense. So don’t be thrown off by mid-sentence endings. Saying ‘funny as’ is a way of emphasizing it really was VERY FUNNY.

Also Reckon is another word used ALL THE TIME. It means ‘I think.’ So you would say ‘I reckon we should do this,’ or ‘I reckon that’s true.’ So don’t ever say ‘I think.’  Always say ‘I reckon.’

Advanced

Wooohooo if you’ve made it this far you’re doing well. Just a few more things to learn and you’ll be ready to blend in with us Aussies.

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Now in this section we come to some classic Aussie sayings.
She’ll be right mate = everything will be fine
Chuck a Uie = Make a U-turn
Working flat out for your country = taking a nap
Dead Horse = Tomato Sauce, aka Ketchup
Ooaroo = Goodbye
Mad as a cut snake = Very angry or crazy (maybe both)
No worries = No problem
Rug up = bundle up/ wear warm things
Whats the haps? = Whats been happening?
Load of crock = Everything is untrue or everything they are saying is false
Full as a goose = Very full/ eaten too much
Porkie Pie = Lie
Snag on the barbie = Sausage on the barbecue
Never-Never or Whoop Whoop = Outback/ Middle of nowhere
Shark biscuit = Someone in the water looking very much like a shark may attack them
Blowing froth off a beer = drinking your beer very slowly
Bent as a banana = Dishonest person
Fast as a hack rabbit = very fast
Dead battery = flat battery

Some of these sayings I believe, originated in Ireland. We had quite a few Irish people immigrate to Australia. It’s possible that these saying could be found in America too, but Australia was founded much later than America and is a smaller country. Thus Irish immigrants and Irish slang became apart of our country and vocabulary quite rapidly. I would imagine in America the slang did not disperse or catch-on quite as easily.

Vocabulary Builder
Feel like you’ve committed all the above sayings to memory? CONGRATULATIONS! Looking to expand your Aussie vocabulary? Why not try saying some of these common Aussie words:
Mate = friend or if in a physical fight your opponent will often call you mate
Lad = guy friend
Sheila = girl friend (not usually said these days)
Chemist = DON’T SAY DRUG STORE!!! You may end up visiting the police.
Oi = Excuse me, hello, stop, watch out, really it could mean anything depending on the context.
Bathers = Swim suit
Thongs = Flip Flops
Bloke = Male acquaintance you like
Bl**dy Oath = Wow/ really/ no way
‘Em = Them
Coppers = Police
Jumper = Hooded sweat shirt
Uggs = Ugg boots
Bludger = Someone who skips school or work (usually school)
Ferral = Disgusting
Grog = Alcohol
Mobile/ Mobile Phone = Cell Phone
Petrol = Gas
Esky = Cooler
Loo = Bathroom
Dunny = Bathroom
Toilet = Bathroom
Ace = Doing great
Buggered = Physically tired
Cark it = Broken/ Dead
Car Park = Parking lot
Footpath = Side walk
Docket = Receipt
Fairy Floss = Cotton Candy
Jelly = Jello
Jam = Jelly
Op Shop = Thrift shop
Sunbake = Sun bathe
Bogan = Dero and bogan mean similar things, but they are different. Dero would be someone who is on drugs and unhygenic. Bogan is more like someone who doesn’t try hard, dresses slack and drinks a lot of alcohol.

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^^^BOGAN^^^

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^^^DERO^^^

WHAT NOT TO DO:
Don’t EVER say ‘root.’ Americans often say they ‘root’ for their team. In Australia this means the F word. I’m not kidding. Let me put it in context. It’s quite possible you would hear a bogan say “yeah I rooted her last night.” It doesn’t sound nice does it? Most people would never talk like that, but I assure you we all know what the word ‘root’ means. So just stay away from this word entirely, please!!! If you do choose to say the word ‘root’ let the eyes of this koala stare into your soul!

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Also this is more on the accent side of things but I really feel like I need to include it in this blog. In America there is a common misconception that we put a letter ‘r’ at the end of the word ‘no.’ Many times I have heard people say “what are you saying? How do you say no? Is it nar? It’s nar! I’m saying it nar, nar, nar!” I stare at them stunned for a moment before jumping in desperately trying to help the poor fellow. I usually rapidly say “OH NO it’s definitely not nar.” I am then shut down by a nearby American who usually slaps the one saying ‘nar’ on the back stating “you’re saying it! You sound just like an Aussie.” I am then completely ignored and the American goes around saying nar beaming proudly.

Okay so American to American saying ‘nar’ somehow must sound like how Aussie’s say ‘no’, but American to Australian it sounds RIDICULOUS! Trust me! Think about it, we don’t pronounce the letter ‘r’ at all, in any words. For example ‘star’ becomes ‘stah.’ Why would be put a letter that we never pronounce on the end of a word for no reason? If you want to try and say ‘no’ like an Aussie here is my advice. Try and make the sound of the ‘o’ come from the back of the throat. When Americans so ‘no’ they almost turn their lips into a circle like they might be going to put a ‘w’ sound at the end. Australians don’t do this. Try not to move your lips too much, have the sound come from the back of the throat, and pronounce it nu-oh.

Or if you want to make everyone have a good laugh and put a smile on an Aussie’s face go ahead and say ‘nar.’ I can guarantee we will laugh! And don’t worry we will be laughing with you, not at you, because we are quite a friendly and welcoming bunch.

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***Edit: Apparently we do call firemen fireys. Say what??? I know. So there you go. You probably can shorten almost any word and have it sound right.