Rachel Down Under!

Who’s a winner?

Posted in Australia, Sydney by rssmith218 on August 17, 2011

What is the most Australian thing you can think of?

If you had asked me this question one year ago, I probably would have mentioned kangaroos, the Outback, and probably Steve Irwin. Over the course of this year, my view of Australia has obviously expanded beyond these clichés as I have traveled this great continent, made fantastic Australian friends, and learned more about the Aussie culture.

As a foreigner in the land “down under”, I find myself in a constant search for the true Aussie experience. I jump at any opportunity to do or see something “Australian” and so when my labmates mentioned that dinner at the local RSL club was, in their words, “the Australian experience,” of course I begged to go.

Thus, a couple of weeks ago, our lab went out to dinner at the local Maroubra Seals Club. Every Thursday evening (and I think on Fridays and Sundays as well), the club has, what else, a meat raffle!

We joined the local club members as we reveled in the $6 dinner (fish and chips, schnitzel and chips) and $3 beers, and bought numbers for the night’s raffle.

Check out how much meat was up for grabs!

My ticket!

You can see that I didn’t splurge on too many numbers, but it didn’t matter because both Christine and Nat won plenty of meat!

And even more, Nat!

So much meat…we put this towards a post-City-to-Surf bbq!

Meat, beer,  and great Australian company- I guess this is the heart of the true Aussie experience!




Why the Australian Census is awesome

Posted in Uncategorized by rssmith218 on August 13, 2011

August 9th = Census Day!

Festivals upon festivals!

Posted in Australia, Sydney by rssmith218 on August 5, 2011

The celebratory spirit of Sydney never seems to waver, and over the past 11 months I have attended more festivals than I can even remember, a good deal of which have already been recounted here. And yet, even in the chilly months of winter, Sydney continues to offer the opportunity to celebrate, as you can see below. Here is a quick view of some of the festivals I have attended over the past few months…..

1. Vivid Sydney Festival

Back in May, the Vivid Sydney Festival “took over the city after dark” and Sydney was transformed into a beautiful world full of colorful light projections, interactive light sculptures, and even a wild “fire dance.” I think the photos speak for themselves, but we enjoyed a night out in Sydney’s downtown checking out the many beautiful lights. Apologies for the blurriness of these photos.

Many of the downtown buildings had massive light displays projected onto them. Check out the Sydney Opera House!

The harbour was also lined by some spooky light sculptures….

….some of which were pretty hard for the marine biologists in the group to resist!

Lastly, FIRE! In perhaps the cheesiest part of the whole night, we watched this “fire dance” overlooking the Harbour Bridge. The flames jumped in rhythm to both Katy Perry’s “Fireworks” and Stravinky’s Firebird Suite, and then the audience was supposed to choose (by cheering) which song they wanted to hear again….would you guess that we listened to Katy Perry twice in 10 minutes?

2. Brazil Festival

My two Chilean housemates moved out back in February, and for the past couple of months, we have had a new Brazilian housemate, Luana! One of the perks of having international housemates is getting to experience different cultures, which is exactly what Thomas and I did last month at a local Brazil Festival.

Here, Luana introduced us to all of her favorite foods, including Brazilian rice and beans (Feijoada), Brazilian bbq, and churros, among others.

What are you eating there, Luana?

Rice and Beans- yum!

And of course, no festival is complete without a nice cold beer….!

3. Alpine Winter Festival

The Alpine Winter Festival is perhaps the silliest festival I have been to in Sydney. The festival is centered around a model German alpine village that is temporarily translocated to Bondi Beach.

I find myself complaining about the Sydney “winter”, but temperature is definitely relative, and on average, the weather stays in the mid-to-upper 60s (upper 20s Celsius). Thus, it seems extremely silly to see a fake alpine village in the middle of beautiful Bondi Beach.

It was particularly funny to watch Sydneysiders struggling to make their way around the tiny ice-rink, while simultaneously watching skilled surfers in the background taking on some of Bondi’s iconic waves.

4. Aroma Festival

Finally, this past weekend, we made our way to the Aroma Festival in the Rocks. The Aroma Festival was devoted to the “divine world of coffee, chocolate, tea, and spice” and I have to say after a full day of wandering the many stalls, I had my fill of each of these magnificent tastes and smells.

In the backdrop of Circular Quay,

we wandered through the hundreds of delicious-smelling stalls. The festival offered aromatic delicacies from all over the world, and we wandered from Australia (pavlova!) to Belgium (chocolate + waffles!) to the Middle East (baklava!) and beyond. Here are some photos from a day of indulging my sweet tooth!

Of course we had to start the day with some cold-drip coffee….


And now, why don’t we travel to Portugal for some chocolate mousse? Too good!

Soon we found ourselves in the Middle East, where, in addition to some Whirling Dervishes, we also found some amazing baklava….

Of course we had to try every type!


By the end of the day, I was floating on a caffeine and sugar high, but there are few things better than spending a day with friends and good food in the wonderful surrounding of the Sydney CBD.

Whew! Are you festival-ed out yet? Sydney’s abundance and diversity of festivals rarely cease to surprise. I’m already getting ready for the Festival of Dangerous Ideas which is coming up in September….