I’ve been away from this blog for over two weeks, for which I apologize. It’s not for the lack of exciting things that have happened that I haven’t been here, but I would say rather that it’s due to a pervasive feeling of disinterest in what’s been happening. It’s been hard for me to connect here; I’ve often felt like I’ve been managing, or coping through each day, rather than embracing it whole-heartedly. This is an uncomfortable feeling for me, and I have been increasingly unhappy with feeling this way, and with being here in general. I am at a crossroads; I am trying to decide whether to continue spinning my wheels in Australia, or to head home for good and spin my wheels there. It’s a very tough choice, because neither one makes me feel particularly comfortable. However, one way or another, I will make a decision soon.
In the mean time, it seems like a hundred new things have happened, and I have experienced so much in two weeks. I had the incredible joy to spend part of my mid-semester break snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef; words truly cannot express the intense and amazing beauty of the reef and the creatures that live there. I saw the most amazingly colorful fish; everything from white and black fish, to bright yellow fish, to fish with neon pink stripes. It was unbelievable, and I felt like I simply couldn’t close my eyes for fear of missing another beautiful animal. My favorite thing that happened, unsurprisingly, included swimming with a sea turtle. Juvenile green turtles inhabit the reef here, and it gave me a momentary wave of joy and sadness to see them again; it seems like such a long time ago that I was cradling them while we put them back into the water.
The rest of the break was spent wandering through Cairns; it increasingly strikes me as the most tourist-oriented place I’ve ever visited. I’ve noticed very few people who live in Cairns there, and an overwhelming number of people visiting from other parts of Australia and abroad. It certainly provides a very heady atmosphere, but it’s a strange place to visit and to keep coming back to. The highlight of spending time in Cairns this time was visiting the Cairns Botanical Gardens, which are incredible. They have a fernery, a part of botanical gardens that I’d never seen before, as well as a beautiful orchid house, and an area that is lush with tropical plants. It was a lot of fun to wander around with my camera there, and it was incredibly relaxing. (I also spent a lot of time wandering through there thinking about how the wild rainforest had been brought into a safe, cultural space for people to enjoy; so my academic brain was whirring the entire time).
Upon our return from mid-semester break, our students made their directed research decisions. Unlike in Mexico, where we did school and DR in tandem, the students here take their final exams and then begin directed research. I have five students in my DR group, which will be focusing on the future of tourism in the area. My students already have incredibly interesting ideas, and I’m excited to see where they take them. In between stressing about DR and exams last week, our students enjoyed three incredible guest lectures. We had two guest lectures in Socio-Econ, both of which pushed our students to think more critically, which I appreciate. Their favorite guest lecture, however, had us driving out to Lumholtz Lodge, where Margrit raises and rehabilitates orphaned tree kangaroos. She has one tree kangaroo she hasn’t been able to release because it’s blind, which gave our students the opportunity to pet and feed her. They were overjoyed that they got to experience these animals up close and personal, and their excitement was palpable. In the middle of this experience, we also learned the results of the election, which brought elation to many of us. It was quite the relief to have an end to the stress of the election, and to have such positive outcomes at that.
The rest of the week was taken up with studying and taking exams, which the students are grateful to have behind them. Ashley and I enjoyed a day off together, which involved practicing our portrait photography; she and I found several places near farms and took pictures of each other, which was a lot of fun. I managed to get very sunburned for the first time here, which is slowly fading. While the week was full of exciting events, I often felt weighed down both with the possibility of staying here for another semester, and with the idea of going home. I’m slowly sorting this out, but it’s a frustrating place to be in.
Now, with the first week of directed research starting, my DR group is heading to Mission Beach to brainstorm and team-build. It will be a very good experience, even including the 90 F weather, and the high humidity. I’m sure I will start being incredibly busy this coming week, which will be a good feeling.