Rachel Down Under!

Rach Down South

Posted in Australia, Georgia, Virginia by rssmith218 on June 3, 2012

Over the past few months, I have officially transitioned from Rach Down Under to Rach Down South, as I have left my digs in Bondi for a new life in Savannah, Georgia. During this move, I have unceremoniously neglected my blog, but now that I am finally settled into life “Down South”, I figure it is time to catch up on my last few months in Australia, Virginia, and finally- Georgia!

I rode the rainy Sydney summer through February and March, and during these last two months, I was mostly busy with work, although I did manage to fit in some remaining bits of Aussie joy. I enjoyed some freshly-speared fish caught right from Maroubra,

Perfect shot, James!

attempted to catch some waves out at Bondi,

Surf’s up, ladies! And yes, we did actually take these boards out into the water…

and experienced my first Korean bbq.

…complete with some special Asian drinks….thanks Shin!

I turned 24 to great fanfare,

(and some midnight tequila shots!)

became addicted to the local sushi shop,

and even ran in a Warrior Dash!

Compare before the race when we were still clean…

with halfway through while we were still crushing the course….

to the muddy end!

My last few weeks in Sydney quickly turned into a “Rach-a-palooza,” during which I said goodbye to my favorite Sydney hang-outs, bars, and of course, my mates. From Fancy Cocktail night and Roast-n’-Games night (neither of which I was sadly able to document), to the infamous Ladies Night and my final Goodbye Dinner, I truly sent Sydney out in style. You can see yourself from the photos…

Ladies night started out with a few glasses of bubbly at Katie’s…

…but quickly escalated into some full-on karaoke madness!

We were joined by my lovely housemates…

my fellow labmates,

and some of my favorite Sydney-siders!

My time in Sydney was also brought to a close with my final lab discussion group,

Thanks for the cake, Graeme!

and a final lab dinner at my favorite, Lebanon & Beyond…

….where Luke and Wills tried unsuccessfully to finish the cake! You can already see the defeat in Wills’s face….

After one last barbecue at Tamarama,

I said my final farewell to Bondi and began the long journey back to the States….

Finally home! Do I look exhausted or what?

During the short time I was home, I took in my favorite Virginia sights with a visiting Aussie…for once I’m not the biggest tourist!  I showed James around my hometown of Richmond, including Belle Island and Maymont Park….

…and we even snuck in a quick trip up to the mountains before my big move down to Georgia!

From the top of Old Rag!

After conquering Old Rag, I was ready for my next big adventure….Georgia! Welcome to the South, and more specifically, to Skidaway Island, my new home!

I’m living out at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, where there is plenty of solitude among the live oaks, Spanish Moss, and the beautiful views of the marshlands…..

Pretty gorgeous, eh?

There’s also been plenty of time for science,

which happily includes boating around the marshlands….

…and playing in the mud!

Even though I have spent a good amount of my time here wallowing around in the mud, I’ve also enjoyed some local Savannah events, such as the SCAD Sidewalk Arts Festival,

bringing in the Super Moon with a few cold Blue Moons down at the Skidaway dock,

and I even got to take in the Savannah sights in the company of my mom, who came down for a weekend!

I also had some Skidaway visitors that came from even further away to soak up the Southern lifestyle….hello to Luke and Jenna who came to visit all of the way from Australia!

Having trouble lighting that true American barbecue?

There we go!

And as long as we have the barbie on…why not try an American novelty- SMORE’S!

What do you think Luke? Pretty good?

The next morning, we awoke to a full day of sight-seeing around Savannah. We engaged with Savannah’s many squares….

wandered around Forsyth Park,

and took in the many mysteries of Savannah, including the existence of squirrels (!),

Savannah’s oyster tabby streets,

and salt-water taffy!

After a long day in the city, there’s only one thing to do…relax with a Gin and Tonic for some good ole’ southern porch-sittin’!

But our night was still young, and we soon headed to a minor league baseball Sand Gnats game, prior to a crazy night out in Savannah.

Go Gnats!

A big difference from Australia….$3 beers!

Our tour of Savannah continued the next day with a trip out to Fort Pulaski, where Jenna and Luke kept an eye out for Northern invaders….

We then headed to lunch out at Tybee Island, where we enjoyed some fresh Georgia shrimp- yum!

Our day of touring concluded with a relaxing afternoon at Tybee Beach…it’s not Bondi, but it has its own charms….

Finally, time to relax!

And lastly, it’s not a trip to Skidaway if you don’t get a little bit dirty with some fieldwork! Jenna and Luke joined us in the field for some heavy-duty mud digging…having fun, guys?

We made it back to the boat!

I was sad to see Luke and Jenna go, but like any good visit, I am left looking forward to the next adventure. The same can be said for my time in Australia. I’ve had an incredible year-and-a-half down under and I am left with amazing memories, great friends, and an appreciation for a vast and beautiful country.

Hopefully I will be able to return to Australia someday soon, but until then, I will enjoy my new adventure….Down South!


Off to LA!

Posted in Virginia by rssmith218 on July 29, 2010

It’s been a long day, but my bags are officially packed (!) and I am heading to LA in the morning! I’m excited to get started on this adventure! I’ll be in touch soon!

It was hard to get started….

But I’m finally ready to be on my way!

Timing is everything…let’s keep in touch!

Posted in Virginia by rssmith218 on July 28, 2010

Tomorrow is my last full day in Virginia, and as I look towards Australia, I have constructed a spreadsheet to help us keep in touch! Admittedly, this chart is more confusing that I had initially hoped, but I am trying to give an idea of how the timing is going to match up in Sydney versus all of the US time zones (sorry for those of you in the Mountain time zone, but hopefully you still will have a good idea of timing!).

Assuming that we are all awake from the hours of 7:00 AM to 1:00 AM (long day, huh?), the times I have highlighted in blue are when it would be most “cool” to try and get in touch, either via skype/gchat/vchat/phone. I will have a cell phone in Australia, but I don’t have a number yet and while I can receive all incoming calls for free, I have a feeling it will not be cheap for you to call in. So any of the above alternatives are probably a better bet for staying in touch. Hope this helps!

So Long, Richmond!

Posted in Virginia by rssmith218 on July 27, 2010

It is hard to give Richmond a proper farewell when the temperature is wavering between 102° and 106°F. Nonetheless, I have given it a good effort these past couple days and I have worked hard to stay hydrated in the heat while seeing high school friends, old friends, and even a weekend best friend (all the way from North Carolina!).

Saying goodbye to Richmond:

1. An afternoon of swimming at Texas Beach, a “beach” with its own facebook group and 118 current fans. As you can see from this google satellite image- maybe less beach and more hot river with hot rocks?

2. A failed attempt to see unknown R& B artist Joe Tan at Richmond’s Dogwood Dell; the show was cancelled before we got there, making our man Joe Tan as mysterious as his website. Tiff and I rebounded from this disappointment with margaritas in Shockoe Bottom!

3. Lani is in town! We spent the day in the city, beginning with a picnic lunch at Belle Isle and plenty of time spent swimming in the river and exploring the island.

Our original plan to explore other sections of the James was cut short by the heat and we retreated (where else?) to the air-conditioned Museum of the Confederacy and the adjacent White House of the Confederacy, the war-time home of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. The museum’s timeline of Civil War events brought me back to my Civil War-heavy AP US history class, and while I struggled to remember Antietam (Sharpsburg?), Sherman’s march to the sea, and Appomattox, Lani impressed even the most well-read Southern visitors with her knowledge of North Carolina’s ownBennett Place.

Despite its location on the VCU medical campus in busy downtown Richmond, the White House of the Confederacy quickly had me imagining Civil War-era Richmond. From the big table in the formal dining room where the South’s battle plans were first conceived to Davis’s upstairs office with an elaborate reception room for hopeful callers, the White House delivered a romantic picture of the Confederate headquarters.

Our return to a BROKEN air-conditioner in Chester merited a run for cold beers, and we attempted to raise our spirits and cool off at the same time.

4. Gelati Celesti! Coffee and Cream + Butter Pecan!

Only 2 more days in Virginia! Got to live it up while I’m still here!


Posted in Virginia by rssmith218 on July 23, 2010

I just returned from a daytrip to Stratford Hall, the plantation home of Thomas Lee (father to two VA signers of the Declaration of the Independence). The estate was more strongly publicized as the birthplace and childhood home of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, the man who showed his loyalty to Virginia by turning down Lincoln’s request that Lee lead the Union army against the Confederacy in the Civil War. A true Southern gentlemen, one could say.

Anyway, as you can see, Stratford Hall was very pretty (lots of brick!), and we braved sun, poison ivy, and “earth slides” in our exploration of the plantation.

By far, my favorite part of Stratford Hall was the fact that, as this sign alludes, the Stratford Cliffs are a geological phenomenon that is found in only 3 other places (Belgium, Austria, and LA?), and that the fossilized remnants of salt water crocodiles, rays, and sharks, among others, can all be found here- these are all creatures that I will be seeing in Australia! Who knew that I could also find them so close to home?

According to the Stratford Hall webpage on fossil discoveries, “Thousands of shark teeth found along this area of the Potomac attest to the frequency of the sharks, largest among them being Carcharodon megalodon, or Giant White Shark, with teeth measuring 7 inches or more”. Wow!

After about 10 minutes of searching….

We found two!

Can’t wait to see what type of shark teeth I’m going to find in Australia!

Two Things

Posted in Virginia by rssmith218 on July 21, 2010

1. It is hot in Virginia.

But it is NOT hot in AUSTRALIA!

2. I have an apartment in Australia!

Can you picture me here?

How about now?

And the livin’ is easy…

Posted in Virginia by rssmith218 on July 19, 2010

I am currently at home in good ole’ Chester, VA, but soon I will be Australia-bound! I have had a great couple of weeks at home; it has been a time full of much-needed relaxation, Primrose Paths (ask my mom to make you one!), homemade ice cream (4 flavors so far!) and hot, humid, Virginia summertime weather.

Yes, I am joining the masses and am starting a blog to document my adventures in Australia over the next year. However, I mostly hope that this blog will help me to keep in touch with friends and family- you! I will try to keep it updated, but will also aim to keep my entries short, sweet, and full of pictures! That being said, I will sum up my post-college life so far with the following:

Graduation…looking forward to a future far from Northwestern

Wagner Graduation Fest in Galena

Bears, how neat! Alex and I encountered 9 bears in one day- we were admittedly a bit scared….

Otherwise, just another day in the garden!

I am so happy that I have this time at home, but I can’t stop thinking about Australia! Soon!