Monday, January 31, 2011

Status: Landed

I am finally here! Really this place is amazing. I have discovered that Australia isn't all that bad and definitely has its benefits but I am definitely very happy here. From what I had kept hearing, everyone is really friendly in the US and I am ever so glad that, that stereotype is spot on. The amount of people my host family say hello to in the street, even people they don't know is amazing- there is definitely a great community vibe here in my lovely little town called Orcutt. The neighbours here even have street parties and my host family were invited to a farewell party for one of the nearby locals who is retiring and moving to Florida. This is the kind of thing I've wanted to experience my whole life, not that I've always known it but I think it's been there sub-consciously. It's not like Australians are completely antisocial but I've never really experienced a lifestyle where my family and the locals are very tight-knit.  We're more like a loosely knitted scarf with lots of holes in it in terms of bonding with those around us. For me I think this year is going to be about meeting new people and becoming more confident and outgoing. I met another girl at the 4 day culture camp we had in Los Angeles who is actually from my hometown, Perth and she would just start talking to strangers in the street about anything and everything and if she didn't get the desired response from someone she would just laugh it off and it would make for a great story to tell someone later. To be able to have a conversation with a stranger is definitely a skill I'd like to acquire as it makes mundane tasks like shopping trips, something really special and uplifting. And whilst I'm on the topic of 'socialisation'(I sound like I'm talking about puppy-training or something...), it's recently occurred to me that I've had little opportunity to meet new people in the last few years. At highschool I'm been with pretty much the same group of people since 8th grade and have rarely strayed from my friendship circle. My parents rarely introduce me to new people and I haven't gone to many classes/activities/events where I've had the chance to mingle with unfamiliar individuals. So it was such a change to meet all these new people at the culture camp I went on from the 4th-8th of January- there was lots to talk about as everyone was curious as to where each student was going in the states and what they knew about their host family so whilst it was a tad nerve-wracking I really enjoyed it. There are lots of fun things headed my way but for now I'll leave you with a couple photos of my culture camp from early January.
                                                  {All the aussie EF kids arriving at the hotel}
                                                {Where we had our morning 'culture' lessons}

                                                         {Johhny Rocket's Retro Diner}

                                                             {Robin William's impressions}

                                                             {Julie Andrews' star}

                                         {Christmas decorations were still up on Rodeo Drive}

                                                       {Lifeguard hut at Venice beach}

                                     {Santa Monica Pier where Hannah Montana movie was filmed}              

Monday, January 3, 2011

Bring on 2011!

Happy New Year y'all!

2011 is going to bring big things for me and I hope for you all too. I actually leave tonight at 11:45pm to jet off to the States! I have been waiting for this day for what seems a lifetime and luckily there hasn't been some dreadful accident or my death to prevent me from going! :D I just have a ridiculous amount of packing and organising to do today though. I'm trying to make sure I either bin things or take them with me, I want need to start afresh when I return home. I WILL become a new transformend and better 'Shivi' by the time the year comes to an end and I don't want to slip back into my old less confident, unsocial ways of being. The last few days have been spent buying gifts for my host family(I had planned to make them this totally awesome present but time has literally just slipped through my hands), transferring pictures, music and documents onto my new netbook I received as a going away present which is actually giving me a fair bit of grief at the moment(half the photos I transfer don't seem to show up), selling a couple of bento items on ebay from when I became foolishly obsessed with pretty lunches(check out my items here if you feel like helping out a sister in need), writing out some of my favourite recipes into a blank recipe book my friend gave me for Christmas and may another random tasks I want to get finished before I leave. Hopefully I'll update you all by the end of the week as after flying from the Perth airport to Sydney all of us EF exchangees meet up and fly to the 4 day culture camp in LA where we have morning culture lessons and afternoon excursions- one of which is to Disneyland! So this will be my last post in Australia(for a year anyway)!

Love love love,
Shivi xx

P.S. Just thought I'd brag and let you all know I attained an ATAR score of 94.55 for my year 12 exams(which is like a ranking so I think means I beat 94.55% of the students taking their final exams in Western Australia! Hopefully it's enough to get me a scholarship into the local university!

P.P.S. This is my 50th blog post! Snaps for me!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

My Christmas Day

Christmas Eve wasn't the best for me as we were all tired, stressed and not in the best of moods and quite frankly the night finished off with me in tears. I ended up going to bed very late as I knew I had to finish making these pesto sausage rolls as we were already behind schedule in terms of cooking for the big day. Actually when I went to bed it was Christmas Day which in that case started very nicely with mum and myself wishing each other a "Merry Christmas" and saying "Night, night" just before we went to bed. Mum was sleeping on the mattress in my room as my aunt and uncle who were visiting for Christmas were on a bed in her room.

My brother woke up very early on Christmas morning and my aunt and uncle were all up and ready at 7am to go to the beach, so eyes half closed I threw on a dress, I think(I can't even remember I was that tired). It was the first time we've ever gone to the beach on Christmas day and it was nice to see everybody wearing Santa hats and a family with no young children what-so-ever about to have a water-gun fight. After a quick walk along the beach we headed back to the car before it got up to the day's maximum of 41 degrees celcius. When we got home I showed my brother, Roy some of the presents Santa had left him before my Dad came over to take him to church where each year Santa makes a visit on his very own helicopter- now that's not something you see every day! Meanwhile back at my mum's house my Dad let his Jack Russel called Sorcha stay over. We gave her one of her presents which was a squeaky dog plush toy which she loved- I haven't seen her that excited about a toy in forever! She was wrestling it around like crazy with many a hair shed from her new toy, I'm not even sure if it has still lasted! 

Although I knew we had a truckload of food that needed to be made that day I wanted breakfast to be special. After all it is the first meal of the day and sets the scene for the rest of Christmas. So I made some delicious quinoa pancakes from a shake bottle mix which tasted very healthy and earthy and were much nicer than the normal white flour pancakes you buy. Plus as they're not wheat based they don't taste as stodgy.

Then we got to the good bit- present time! I had some really nice presents this year- my aunt and uncle bought me some hand-knitted fingerless gloves for my exchange which I'll definitely be needing as it's been getting down to 1 degrees celcius at nights where I'm going to be staying(more on that soon, I promise!). Knowing that I love recycled and eco-friendly products my aunt bought me some jewelery that was all recycled and made from refurbished computer parts- I absolutely love them and they're my sort of colour too! From my mum I received a nintendo dsi xl in bright red and the 'rhythm heaven' game for it and some other goodies which I may showcase at a later date. Unfortunately because we ordered some presents online this year, they didn't arrive in time for Christmas. I actually had to leave an IOU under the tree for my mum this year as I'd ordered this hypnosis relaxation CD from the US which is still yet to arrive. Three of my Christmas presents from mum are also making there way over here but it looks like mum may have to ship them to me in America.

We had planned a Christmas lunch but we were still cooking food come 5 o'clock. I mentioned in the previous post we were to have a vegetarian Christmas this year so we spent hours making this Sweet Potato and Leek Roulade which in the end turned out fairly sloppy and barely resembled the recipe photograph whilst the egglpant parmigiana with boccocini we made took half the time and tasted a lot more delicious. This was probably the first time I've had a proper Christmas dinner at a dining table(usually we go to our friends' house and just have a barbeque/buffet sort of thing outside) with the whole sha-bang - fancy cloth placemats, napkins, candles, plates/bowls reserved for special occasions only and decorations here and there. Now my aim in life is to have a repeat of that but with a traditional Christmas turkey. After the lovely meal we had a cracker-pulling ring where you crossed hands and pulled a cracker with the people either side of you- I definitely recommend you try it some time.

By this time it was getting late but before we all tootled off for the night my aunt and uncle brought out some old photo albums of my mum and my aunt when they were little which my mum hadn't seen probably in over 20 years! I could totally see the resemblance between my mum and my now-deceased grandmother- as an adult my mum looks almost identical it's uncanny! The albums were falling to pieces though and many photographs were missing and all the little photo corners were peeling off- definitely in need of some TLC.

Despite the 40C+ heat on the day and realising by the end of the night we'd actually had one of our air-conditioners on 'warm' I think we were all pleased with how it turned out and it was definitely nice to have my relatives over for Christmas as opposed to it just being me, my mum and my brother. Sometimes you kind of wonder what Christmas really means when you're not religious and no longer believing in Santa Claus but come Christmas morning you can feel there is something different in the air and it's a time of joy, laughter and unity throughout the community.