Monday, September 30, 2013

Moving on from Blogging

Hey everyone,
I know it's been an awfully long time since I last posted due to vet school business.  Unfortunately this isn't going to stop and will only get worse in the future. Thus, I am making this last post to say that I know I will not realistically have time to devote to this blog, so if you are curious on following out lives in Australia, friend me (Cassie ) on Facebook (David never goes on FB) if you haven't already.
Thanks so much and sorry to bail out!
-Cassie & David :)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The craziness of life

I sit here in the living room, a belly full of amazing homemade indian butter chicken with my wonderful housemates and their amazing, and in Rex's case damp from a recent bath, dogs watching "Julie & Julia" on TV thinking: "I haven't written in our blog for ages and people probably wonder if we are still alive!!

I'm going to sum up the past handful of months in a few dots points and later go back and fill in some of the juicy details.

-1st semester of second year vet went well academically but emotionally was a bit of a fiasco due to some confusing misunderstandings between friends as well as the added stress of trying to fundraise for working with a wildlife vet in South Africa with only the support of David and the "non-support" of most everyone else (in Australia). I put on a raffle, which was fairly easy to find stuff for, but extremely difficult to sell tickets for considering I hate selling things to people.
In the end I raised enough money (from the raffle, selling cookies, a $500 scholarship from uni, and mostly from donations from the amazing people back home that I attained a few years earlier) for plane tickets, travel insurance, and immunizations with a bit extra to cover some of the program costs.

-I went to South Africa and worked for 4 weeks with Dr. Peter Rogers in Hoedspruit.  I stayed with the most amazing family (the Burns) who owned a horse riding school, so I was able to get some courtesy riding lessons from some of the best teachers (in my opinion)!  When there wasn't much to do on the wildlife end I would work at the Provet Veterinary Clinic, which Dr. Rogers owns, but who only does the wildlife, Me-lani is the small animal vet.  The wildlife work was simply amazing, I absolutely loved working with Pete (Dr. Rogers) who was so fun, and getting to touch and experience all the different species that I did was incredible!  I was able to work with: lion, sable, eland, kudu, rhino, leopard, vervet monkey, white-headed vulture, brown snake eagle, squirrel, horses, buffalo, and got to see so many more animals!

On the side of the roads were large electric fences to keep animals in the reserves (mostly privately owned) and it amazed me how often you could see wildlife (zebras, giraffes, buffalo, impala, warthogs, monkeys, baboons) on the side of the road along the fences!  These are not small reserves!  We were just outside Kruger National Park and a lot of the area we were in was in the Greater Kruger.  I did get to go into Kruger, and saw lots of zebra, giraffe, impala, and elephant, all of which were very close up and it was amazing, but I was slightly disappointed that we didn't see more of some of the animals that I hadn't seen before.  While darting a rhino one time we saw a leopard out in the middle of the day, which is extremely rare!

The animals we worked on the most were rhinos, which we took DNA samples from (hair, nail, tissue, horn, blood) notched the ears for identification from afar, and microchipped each horn and one on each side of the neck.  This allows for identification of where the horns originated from if the animal is poached and the horns are taken and recovered.  I got to do so many rhinos, and I even was able to go up into the helicopter once to see the darting from the air first hand!!  I saw so many amazing animals from the air (even a herd of elephants!).

I will have to put pictures up later because to be frank, I don't feel like it right now.  So I will put more details up then.

After I left Hoedspruit I traveled to Mozambique to visit my good friend Shay (who was my maid of honor) who is working for the Peace Corps in a small place just North of Xai-Xai, which is a few hours north of Maputo, the capital.  I was there during her birthday, which we spent eating and on the beach, and we had such a great time just hanging out together.

-When getting back to Perth I started 2nd semester of 2nd year a few days after landing, so there wasn't much relaxing, but I did it anyway.  Luckily I was exempt from one class (Immunology) so I only have 2 classes this semester, which has been amazing for getting things done!  Luckily the friend issue I had last semester has kind of resolved, which is what I hoped for.

I haven't been doing as much uni work as I should be with having this free time, what I have been doing is getting small things done, trying to get car issues done**, being personally trained by my personal trainer housemate, going to soccer practice, and fundraising with the soccer girls for Uni Games, which we are going to (in Adelaide this year) during the September study break (23-30).  Oh, and I've started going to adult gymnastics with some friends (or at least went to one so far) where I did my first front flip!!  David and I are going to take Lindy Hop dance lessons when the next session starts.

**On my second day in South Africa David got in a car accident.  Luckily everyone was ok, and it wasn't his fault, but it left our car undrivable.  David had been taking the bus to work everyday until I got back and we were able to go car shopping.  We bought a little hail-damage 2004 Hyundai Getz for $3999, which is a really good deal!  But we are still in the process of getting the insurance dealt with, hopefully we'll get most of the cost of the car back.

So, all in all, life has had some ups and downs, and we do really miss our family and friends back home, but we really love our new "family" here in Perth and we are having a really great time!

Hope that wasn't too much for you!  I'll put up some Africa photos soon, but until then if you have access to my Facebook I have a lot of them up there. :)

Love, Cassie

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Horse practical in Dunsburough

For vet school I have to complete 5 weeks of farm practicals before 3rd year. 3 one week pracs and one extensive 2 week prac. During this summer (Christmas) break I did one 1 week and one 2 week prac, so I only have 2 weeks left, one of which I'll be doing during the study break in April.

My first prac I did a week down at Mirravale horse riding school in Dunsburough, which is about a 2.5 hour drive south from Perth. David and I went down a day early and did some camping before he dropped me off for the week. Below are some pictures of our trekking around the area as well as some shots from my prac. It was a really good week, everyone was really nice! They gave me money to buy groceries for brekkie and lunch and then they cooked for dinner each night. There was another girl staying there, from Denmark (the country... there's also a Denmark, Western Australia so clarification is needed) who was working as both an au pair and at the riding school.

It was the same work everyday, which went about like this: Get up, bring in the horses from the back paddocks, feed them, get selected horses ready for first ride/lesson of the day by brushing and applying tack. Break bread (they get donated bread each day from the local bakery that they break and let sit in the sun so it hardens for the horses to eat), help get customers ready for their ride, when they come back, help them off, take tack off horses, brush them, exchange for horses for the next ride etc.

That's about it. It was really neat though, I got pretty good at brushing and putting tack on/taking it off. I learned a lot, and got to see a lot of the different personalities of the horses.

Our First Aussie Christmas

Now that we're finally telling you about our honeymoon...

David and I spent our first Christmas "alone" and in the southern hemisphere; our first summer Christmas. Our housemates Em and her boyfriend Vijay also stayed here, so we spent Christmas with them. We opened presents in the morning while eating homemade apple and cinnamon oatmeal (by Cassie) and chocolate pancakes (from Vijay). The dogs got some pressies as well and at the time we were fostering 3 kittens, so they weren't forgotten.
Later we had a Barbie (BBQ) and some of Vijays friends came over and we had our friend Iain come over, cause he had just gotten back from Canada and was all alone at home.
I also made gløgg (Norwegian mulled wine) even though it was hot, and apple pie while listening to Christmas music cause it just didn't feel like Christmas being so hot! Em said it didn't feel like Christmas cause it wasn't hot enough. :P Haha

The next day (Boxing day) David and I went to the beach near our house (it was very busy) and had a picnic/played frisbee, read, and walked along the beach.
It was a wonderful relaxed holiday.

The first picture is of our Christmas party at work. Sue, in the middle, is the practice owner. :)

Honeymoon in Bali continued...

We flew to Lombok to Mataram airport (or that’s what our tickets said), so when we got off and got outside after getting our luggage, it was a bit of a shock to be surrounded by people trying to be the ones giving you a ride, and a guy insisting that we were not in Mataram! We had tried previously to find out about how much it should cost to get from the airport to the docks where we needed to catch the public boat to Gili Meno, but no one really seemed to be able to tell us, but one lady said that she thought it should be about RP 80,000. We had trouble getting a hold of the place we were staying on Gili Meno before we left, and even after we got a hold of them (in retrospect) I am not sure about it cause it wasn’t the voice of the guy who runs it. Anyway, we tried and tried to negotiate around RP 100,000 for the ride, but all of the men around us insisted that no one would take us for less than 300,000, so after a bit we finally gave in cause we couldn’t find much else. The ride was nice, and the guy in the van helped us with the language etc. It was about a 2.5 hour drive to the docks.

When we got to the port, we found out that the public boat had already gone (it only goes once a day) and that being the cheapest option by far, we were a bit angry that we missed it. One guy at the office, which was a bit makeshift cause apparently the main office was under construction, was going to make a deal with us that for RP 450,000 ($50) he would give us a ticket to Gili Meno and back and the trip back to the airport via van. We hesitated for a while, and tried negotiating but he was firm and said that was the rate. So after much deliberation we decided to take it cause it seemed like a good deal considering everything and what we had paid so far. He wrote us out some receipts and wrote down his phone number, and made sure he knew what date we planned on coming back so he could be there with the van to pick us up.

We got on the boat, and some guys picked up our luggage and us (to help us onto the boat without getting our feet wet, which I thought was kind of funny at first, until they cornered us on the boat and wanted money. Now we had already had a very stressful day and had spent a lot more money than we had expected to. We were very angry, and David only gave them a very small bill and I said that they weren’t getting any more because we hadn’t asked for them to do that, and that that was very unkind. This made me very angry, and after a bit of arguing they finally left (probably cursing at us); I didn’t care. We decided that we were just going to walk to our hotel once on Gili Meno cause we had already spent a lot of money on transport and didn’t feel like spending any more, plus it’s not a very big island. We were glad we walked cause it wasn’t far. When we got in we were greeted by Paul, a very nice man in his early 60’s from Yorkshire (I loved his accent!!). He gave us the key to our room (John, named after the Beatles singer, it’s a theme there cause the owner loves the Beatles) and we talked for a bit. He told us of a little place just a minute’s walk away where the wife of the house has a little place to eat and that it was lovely and very cheap. He was right, we went there to eat and it was wonderful. They were a very nice couple, and we found out that her husband took people out snorkeling in his boat for a decent price, so we decided that later on in the week we might have to go with him.
It was a good end to a horrible day.

Our week on Gili Meno was filled with lots of eating out (because we didn’t really have a choice, and also because it was so cheap and good, why not!! At one place that we frequented was a cat (we dubbed her Dr. Penelope James Nubbins) that would cuddle up to us. She was named Nubbins because she had a nub of a tail that all of the cats on the island seem to have. Their tails look as if they’ve been broken, cause they all stick out at strange angles and are varying lengths. We asked about this and were told they are born that way...interesting.
We also took a day trip to Gili Trawangan, the largest and most touristy of the three Gili islands (Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air). We rented bikes and cycled around the island, it was lovely! We stopped at one deserted restaurant/hotel on the very quiet, almost deserted part of the island and had some shakes by the beach. It was lovely, and much rewarding cause it was very hot out! We then stopped at another place once it started to get a bit more busy again and had a delightful lunch and I went for a bit of a dip in the water while David read. We also visited a book store cause I needed another book to read, then we had some drinks before getting back on the public boat back to Gili Meno.

We also did some scuba diving, which was my second time (1st in Thailand) and David’s 1st time! It was just us, and we had an introduction lesson then one dive. We saw some sea turtles resting on some coral, and had such a wonderful experience!

We did end up going snorkeling with the husband of the lady who has the small restaurant at her house near where we were staying, and he and his two sons took us out onto their boat and took us to three dive sites, it was amazing! David and one of the sons saw a shark, but I didn’t. There are reef sharks there, but at this time of the year stay in deeper water cause it’s cooler, but even so, we heard they are timid and swim away from people. We also saw some more sea turtles! One of the locals who was I assume a guide for some tourists had caught one and was holding it up for the tourists to see cause it had a cut shell. I swam over and scolded him and told him to let it go and we shouldn’t touch the wildlife, and one of the tourists sounded kind of ashamed and said yeah, let it go. I think they were enjoying it until I brought to light that it was bad, and then they felt bad. I am glad, I hope I taught them a lesson that day. That was one thing I didn’t like about it there, the locals don’t care about holding wildlife and stepping on coral or dumping their garbage in the sea, there’s not a great deal of understanding about how to care for their environment (in my opinion anyway). I hope to help change that someday.

Anyway, the snorkeling was amazing! Another day we rented some snorkel gear and went out right from this restaurant (they kept our things there for us) where we had eaten earlier. It was amazing, David and I had a blast, we floated around for about an hour, and at the end I swam for about 5 minutes with a sea turtle!! It was just me and him floating in the currant together, I was so close, I could touch his shell (but only did once to see if I could :P). He had to come up twice for air while we swam. I could have stayed with him all day, but the tide was taking us further from the beach where David and I left and and David didn’t know where I went, so I decided I should turn around. Amazing.

Overall we had a very relaxing time, walking around, eating, swimming, eating, watching movies in our hotel room, eating. :P Oh, and the place where we stayed had a bird park which we visited before we left, it was neat, there were some really interesting birds in there, some I had seem before, and quite a few I hadn’t (the strangest ones were from Papua New Guinea, no surprise there, they have a lot of strange looking animals there! :P). They even had a crocodile.

We left Gili Meno with a very good taste in our mouths, and a love for the peace and quiet of the islands. Then we had to return, which we weren’t looking forward to because we started to think more and more about how we might have been scammed by that guy at the docks on our way there. Sure enough, when we went to get on the boat they made us buy another ticket, and when we got back, there was no van waiting, and no one could get a hold of the guy, they said someone in his family died, I wouldn’t put it past any of them that that wasn’t true and he made sure not to be around on the day we got back. We finally had to give in and buy another ticket back to the airport, but this time we had information and knew that we shouldn’t pay more than RP 150,000 total to go to the airport (so we were ripped off a bit on the way from it too). We weren’t in a hurry, so we had plenty of time to try and figure things out, and this seemed good, so we got on a van with a swiss brother and sister. They were very nice and we had a lovely drive to the airport, chatting with them most of the way. Needless to say, even though we found we had been scammed, the way back was much less stressful than the way there. That’s one thing I lament about the Balinese people is that they are very nice, but it’s really difficult to tell when they are honestly being nice, and when it’s to try and get more money out of you. I think we saw plenty of both, sadly I think more of the later than the former.

We might have lost around $200 in being cheated throughout our trip, but we try and not let that bother us, that’s just what happens when you travel to places like Bali, if you’re a tourist, and you don’t know how much things should cost, or the best way of getting places, you’re bound to be cheated. If we ever go back to the Gili islands, we are going to take a speed boat from Bali, that’s the way to go. It’s not much cheaper than the way we did it, but it would save HEAPS of stress. I might even be willing to get sea sick for that cause. :P

Overall, we had an amazing time, and even though we are not set back a bit in funds here at home, we wouldn’t change a thing we did (other than the Lombok fiasco), we had an amazing honeymoon!!! Thanks to everyone who helped make it possible!!